Archive for May, 2018

Texas Attorney Offers Cold Hard Facts: Underfunding Creates Conditions that Contribute to School Shootings

May 31, 2018 Comments off

In an op ed that appears in today’s TribTalk section of the Texas Tribune, attorney George S. Christian presents some cold hard facts on school funding and funding for health care that should give pause to his fellow Texans. In the op ed Mr. Christian cites the following factors that contribute to schools NOT being the “safe and nurturing places they should be”:

  • Declining state financial support of public schools has seriously undermined their ability to provide adequate counseling to students and school employees.
  • (Y)ears of state budget cuts have adversely affected our ability to identify and treat people with mental illnesses
  • Underfunding of public schools: “We cannot hope to sustain the Texas Miracle and build a peaceful, open and secure society free of fear if we do not possess a first-class and well-financed K-16 education system.”
  • Underfunding of teacher salaries: “If we want high-quality professional work, and most agree that we do, we have to pay a professional rate for it.”
  • (A) depressingly high rate of poverty, well above the national average, with even higher rates for children.

Mr. Christian elaborates on each of these points, and concludes with this, which echoes the title of his op ed piece, which is “Safety in Public Schools Shouldn’t Be A Partisan Concern”:

Churchill knew that if you don’t give people the hard facts, they won’t understand what job has to be done. Let’s face the hard facts together, and together surmount them. Let’s turn away from the divisive political discourse that pits Texan against Texan, group against group, party against party, the state against local communities, and change the political discourse. Elections matter, but people matter much more.

But here’s a hard fact Mr. Christian overlooks: it’s POSSIBLE that for some politicians elections matter a lot more than children, and for some voters low taxes matter more than anything… and in both cases selfishness overrules altruism.


Jay Matthews Analysis of Special Education Based on Flawed Premise: NAEP Tests Are “Gold Standard”

May 31, 2018 Comments off

Yesterday’s local newspaper, the Valley News, reprinted a Washington Post article by Jay Matthews that asserted that special education as it is currently conceived in failing. In the article Mr. Matthews draws on the opinions and findings of Kalman R. “Buzzy” Hettleman who has served two terms on the Baltimore City school board and been deputy mayor of Baltimore and Maryland state secretary of human resources. Assuming that Mr. Hettleman’s political experience gives his perspective credence, Mr. Matthews writes:

Hettleman does not believe that most students in special education are truly disabled. Fewer than 20 percent, he says, have clearly defined conditions, such as Down syndrome, severe autism, or visual and hearing impairments. The rest, he says, are struggling learners, especially in reading. Their difficulties were sadly not identified and addressed in the crucial early grades.

So as a last resort, he says, they “are dumped into special education. Reading experts estimate that, in the absence of timely interventions, between 50 and 75 percent of struggling readers wind up unnecessarily in special education.”

The notion that schools over-identify Learning Disabled students is not completely off base, nor is the idea that their difficulties were not identified and addressed in early grades. But the underlying cause of all of this pressure to “dump students” into special education is our continued belief that the rate of learning is constant and linked to age… a belief that is reinforced by our reliance on standardized tests that “measure” performance based on that premise.

(Mr. Hettleman) says school officials are reluctant to be candid about how far behind special-education students are. The gold standard of education statistics, the National Assessment of Educational Progress, reported in 2017 that only 11 percent of fourth-graders and 7 percent of eighth-graders in special education were proficient in reading. The parents he has worked with and the ones I know often aren’t told those scores.

“Rather, school systems conceal actual performance through grade inflation; social promotion from grade to grade, though the student is not close to meeting grade-level standards; bogus graduation diplomas; and other means,” he says.

The so called “gold standard” Mr. Matthews and most education writers and policy makers revere is based on the premise that age-based grade cohorts are the only way to group children and their “progress” is best measured by standardized multiple choice tests.

The best way to address the “struggling learners” who are allegedly not identified in the early grade levels it to recognize that not all children who are five years old have the same skill sets and give children the time they need to develop those skill sets. Let time be the variable and learning be constant….

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This Just In: AZ Governor Believes in God AND Evolution! The AZ State Superintendent Only Believes in God…

May 30, 2018 Comments off

The state of Arizona is currently engaged in a “debate” that one might have believed was resolved decades ago. As reported in the Arizona Capitol Times, In reviewing the state stands for science, Diane Douglas, the State Superintendent of Schools, has modified the word “evolution” with the phrase “theory of evolution”, eliminated “…multiple references to evolution entirely from existing high school science standards, replacing them with terms like “biological diversity” and phrases like “how traits within populations change over time,” and eliminated any references to the Big Bang theory altogether. The article by Howard Fischer goes on to say:

Douglas has admitted she supports the teaching of “intelligent design,” a concept that life forms have developed in such a complex way to essentially require planning by a higher power, presumably a diety.

But she has insisted that her personal beliefs have nothing to do with the changes. And Douglas pointed out that her proposed standards make no specific mention of intelligent design.

The Governor of Arizona, though, has a different perspective. While he believes in God, he also believes in evolution and, like most thoughtful and spiritual individuals, sees that they can readily coexist. The public was invited to weigh in on the changes proposed to the science standards in Arizona, and they weighed in to such an extent that the web page crashed. Prior to the crash, though, public sentiment opposed the direction Ms. Douglas wanted to head.

So what will students in Arizona learn in their science curriculum going forward?

It will… be up to Douglas and her senior staff to decide whether to rescind any of the changes she wants to make or keep them as is when she forwards the plan to the state Board of Education, which will make the final call.

While Ducey has no formal say over the final standards, his views could make a difference. That is because he appoints all but one of the members of the state Board of Education who do have the last word, with the lone exception being Douglas herself.

Stay tuned… the Scopes trial redux might be on the horizon…

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