Saturday, September 20, 2014

"Effective Educators" and public schools under attack in Wisconsin

Dear Wisconsin Politicians and Department of Public Instruction,

It is now time to pronounce standards and accountability based education reform dead.  No more high stakes tests tied to the common core standards.   The common core standards are political and not educational standards.  They are NOT supported by research or “internationally benchmarked.”  No more “school report cards” and call for a moratorium on “Educator Effectiveness.” Stop punishing teachers for the invalid and eugenics influenced test scores produced by the children they are supposed to teach. 

You cannot continue to insist that teachers close the achievement gap.   Poverty, racism and classism devastate a child’s chances at academic success.  Great teachers are necessary but the research is clear—out of school factors far outweigh in school factors. The American Statistical Association has stated that using test scores to punish and reward teachers should not be pursued at this point in time. “Educator Effectiveness” will create the illusion that we can figure out which teachers will help close the achievement gap

Just so you know, the teachers that I work with daily are offended and concerned.  They have been blamed for everything that is wrong in this state and country relentlessly for the last 10 years.

As I stated above, the achievement gap is the direct result of poverty.  Poverty is the direct result of bad social and economic policy with roots stemming from systemic racism and classism.  Bad social and economic policy is the result of politicians and lobbyists.  Systemic racism and classism is exacerbated by attacking and defunding public schools in favor of “accountability” schemes that only help testing and data companies get rich on what’s left in the public education budget. Defunded public schools that serve our most vulnerable children and communities will continue to add to the achievement gap.

If you really want to make a dent in the achievement gap stop talking about distractions like teacher effectiveness, standards, and new accountability scams. Address the fact that our public schools have been funded INEQUITABLY since their establishment and that Walker’s “choice” and “charter” programs are simply attacks on the public school system.  

He is a corporate education reformer backed by the billionaire Koch brothers who have nothing but disdain for “government” (public) schools. Walker has no intention of “reforming” public schools—he is systematically dismantling OUR schools.

Be bold and come out in favor of EQUITABLY funded public schools from the North Woods to Madison.  Support community based public schools and make sure that small towns clearly understand that Walker will destroy WI’s public schools and that in turn will devastate small communities where public schools serve as the social and economic center of these communities, Or for those that like high school sports we’re talking about the end of Friday night football.

Teachers are not the problem.  Walker and others who continue to defund public schools and social programs that help children in poverty steal the opportunities desperately needed for success in school.  Call them on their real motives to privatize public schools.  Come out in favor of authentically assessed, equitably funded public schools and do away with the test and punish blame machine.

80% of standardized test scores can be predicted by simply knowing the socio-economic status of children.  In the latest study of teacher effectiveness only 1-14% of test score movement was related to classroom teachers.

The achievement gap is a poverty gap that creates an opportunity gap for our most vulnerable children.



Friday, September 12, 2014

"That's the kind of student I am."

Dear Teachers everywhere,

Please read the following excerpt from a student essay.

The type of student I am? Well I would say I love to ask questions.  I question some of the weirdest things, like why is a chair called a chair? Or, why do we have bones, weird things like that. 
I love to learn so many new things.  I remember things fast. We think I might have a photographic memory.   
I pick up dance steps really fast and when I see words I can close my eyes and picture the exact same thing with every little detail.  That's the kind of student I am. 
I love to read books with lots of facts.  I just think that some of the facts are really amazing, like the facts in Ripley's Believe It or Not books and National Geographic magazines.  I just love to learn. 
I love to write scary stories because you have to add so much detail.  I can really get into it when writing.  I really like to add deep details in my stories to help the reader better visualize.  Writing is one of my favorite subjects. 
My strengths in school are probably every subject because I love school and I love to learn.

This was written by a brand new 6th grader during the first week of school.

Read it "closely."
Savor it.
Think about it.
Reflect on it.

Imagine the student standing or sitting in front of you.  Are you ready?

Have you written your personal learning objectives? PLOs

Have you written your student learning objectives? SLOs

Are your data walls ready?

Have you made sure there is fidelity between your lesson plans and the common core standards?

What about coherence?  Seriously. have you thought about coherence?

Oh and don't forget about alignment and rigor!

And, have you planned instruction based on data?

Great! You are well on your way to being an effective educator.

But what about being an inspired teacher?

Are you ready to engage in relationships with children who want to ask questions about why we have bones and "weird things like that?"

What are you going to do with students with "a photographic memory?"

Can you "dance?"

How many copies of Ripley's Believe it or Not do you own?

Do "details help you visualize?"

Do you "love school" and "love to learn?"

Inspired Teacher or Effective Educator? Time to choose!

Thursday, September 4, 2014

Wisconsin State Journal: Gov. Walker and candidate Burke snipe about education. Who Cares?

My comment after this pathetic article.

Charters, choice, teachers, standards, blah, blah, blah.  Our achievement gap is simply a measure of the opportunities we fail to provide children living in poverty. 

The Wisconsin State Journal and other mainstream media outlets need to stop with the distractions.  Start informing us about the concerted effort to privatize WI public schools.  Ask what candidate will commit to equitably funding public schools.  Ask the candidates if they have the courage to do away with racial and socio-economic segregation. Please do your job and ask the questions that matter and demand answers.  And just in case the Wisconsin State Journal doesn't have reporters with the energy to do their job then look elsewhere. 

There are stacks of books and journal articles that document the socio-cultural and economic contributors to the "achievement" gap.  And there are plenty of people with the expertise who are more than willing to help readers understand that systemic racism, tortuous poverty, and 15 years of school reforms based on standards, tests, and punishments are the real reasons why public schools have a tough time meeting the needs of ALL children.

Stop printing petty distractions that just keep your comment section buzzing with ill-informed and ignorant bantering.

Ask our two candidates a simple question:

“Do you support Wisconsin’s promise (Please see WI Constitution) to provide for ALL children of this state an equitably funded system of public education?”

Check out Bridge to Grace's video for The Fold! Official theme music for Busted Pencils.

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

Mike Petrilli defines "radical."

Ok.  It's officially old news that the Lee County school board in Florida first voted to opt out of standardized testing and then voted to opt back in. How did this happen?  I don't know and I'll let others speculate.

However, what has me going are the ridiculous comments made by Mike Petrilli in the September 2nd issue of Florida Today.  While cheerleading for the opt in crowd, Petrilli uttered,

"We all know that there are downsides to standardized testing, that there have been some unintended consequences, but saying that we should stop testing entirely, that we shouldn't even provide information to the public about results, is a very radical idea."

Really?  Radical?  Why is it "radical" to "stop testing entirely?"  Is there anything positive associated with high stakes standardized testing other than the large amounts of cash the industry generates and then donates to shoddy think tanks like the Thomas B. Fordham Institute?

And this stupid idea that the "public" demands results needs a serious reconsideration.  Wasn't Lee County school board's vote to opt out and all of the hours of testimony from the "public" in support of opt out , the "public" saying, "we don't want useless and harmful testing practices to continue with our children?"

So that's what Petrilli considers "radical."  It is "radical" when communities reclaim their public schools and demand harmful testing practices stop.  It is "radical" to stop wasting tax dollars on testing companies,  It is "radical" to stop testing companies from funding think tanks that promote education reform—test and punish.

No, I think what Mr. Petrilli really thinks is "radical" is when the "public" attempts to end his miserable career as lead cheerleader for a failed education reform policy.