Archive for June, 2018

Looking for an Alternative to the Mother of All Standardized Tests, the SAT? Try GPA!

June 25, 2018 Comments off

When it comes to standardized testing, no test has a better reputation for fairness and equity than the SAT. Yet, as Diane Ravitch reported in a recent blog post:

There is an emerging consensus among researchers that high school grade point average is a better predictor of success in college than scores on the SAT or ACT.

Many colleges assign greater weight to the SAT because it presumably predicts how well student from an obscure high school will do in a competitive environment better than any other metric. But if the predictive value of the SAT is vanishingly small and the value of the GPA is higher, it begs the question of why parents spend millions of dollars per year to upgrade their child’s score on the standardized test.

Hopefully studies like the ones completed by Education Northwest, one of 10 regional educational laboratories that do applied research to improve academic outcomes for students, will get the attention of college admissions officers, guidance counselors, high school teachers and administrators, and— most importantly–= parents and the use of standardized tests as an entry into college will become a thing of the past. More likely, though, is the probability that the last ones to learn about this reality will be the politicians who see standardized tests like the SATs as an objective means of assessing “performance” and knowledge” which means students will continue to be subjected to multiple choice tests for the foreseeable future.


Opiod Epidemic Makes Life Even MORE Complicated… and MORE Costly for Schools

June 24, 2018 Comments off

Earlier this week, Politico published a post that described how the opiod crisis is impacting public education, and it isn’t a pretty picture:

SCHOOLS BLINDSIDED BY OPIOID EPIDEMIC: America’s biggest public health crisis since AIDS has seeped into cash-strapped schools. Educators are on the silent front lines of the epidemic at a time when many already feel overtaxed as a result of budget cuts and chronic shortages of school counselors, psychologists and social workers.

Here’s what our reporting found: Teachers console children whose parents have died, gone to jail or disappeared as foster care rates increase, often resulting from drug abuse. Sleep-deprived youngsters come to school hungry and dirty, describing drug busts in their homes. Sometimes, the abusers are the students themselves. Overloaded school counselors struggle to assist hundreds of kids and parents.

Adding to the stress,fights over scarce school funding and teacher pay mark many of the same states engulfed by opioid addiction.Overdose deaths from opioids and other drugs have risen significantly in West Virginia, Kentucky, and Oklahoma — all states where teachers walked off the job this year. In Arizona, another state of teacher labor unrest where school funding dropped more than a third since the Great Recession, heroin overdose deaths are increasing.

“There’s a lot of talk about the opioid abuse and drug abuse in the state, but then we’re not funding the basic programs that would really help with our side, kids at school,” said Patrick Ballard, a school psychologist in Lexington, Ky.

Schools must educate children preoccupied by other things. “If you don’t feel safe and you can’t get a warm shelter and meal, how are you going to focus on a math test?” said Jan Rader, the fire chief of Huntington, W.Va., who regularly responds to 911 drug overdose calls to find children on the scene. “We spend a lot of time talking about getting people into treatment and into detox and all of that. But our kids, it’s our next generation, and they are suffering.”

Janine Menard, a high school counselor who serves as board chairwoman of the Arizona School Counselors Association, said prevention programming has become an afterthought in her home state as Arizona’s ratio of counselors to students has slipped to 1-to-924. She oversees about 1,600 students at two schools, where she’s seen engaged parents seemingly slip into what she said she assumes are the trenches of drug abuse.

“It’s like a Band-Aid. You just take care of the student with behavior problems and what’s happening at the moment,” said Menard, who watched in frustration in May at the state Capitol in Arizona as legislators voted down an amendment that would have sought to lower the ratio to 1 to 250.

— Speaking of drug prevention education, Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) said in an interview that he believes it should be mandatory for students of all ages, starting in kindergarten. He said he’s frequently approached by teachers and other school employees who describe opioid-related problems.

— “Thank God for the school system, the teachers, the teacher’s aides, service personnel. We’ve almost basically asked them to step in where parents, and communities and the social structure of an area hasn’t been able to do their job, and do it for them,” Manchin said. Read more from your host here.

It is heartening to see a Senator praising the public schools… but it would be even better to hear any political acknowledge the ultimate action needed to solve this problem: more money for public education and public health services. 

Teasing out the ides offered in this post underscores that reality. If voters want public schools and public health agencies to cope with the existing problems and prevent future problems they will need to hire more personnel for BOTH, and that will come at a cost to taxpayers… and from where I sit every dollar we spend on prevention and treatment is a dollar that we do not have to spend on prisons. But, alas, prisons are profitable and public school and public health personnel are a “drain on our tax dollars”.

What We Learned from the NPE-Schott Foundation Report on Privatization of Public Funds

June 24, 2018 Comments off

Here’s the most telling quote: “No state has added extra dollars for charters or vouchers. They simply take money away from public schools, which most students attend.” School funding is a zero sum game… and public schools are losing.

Diane Ravitch's blog

The Network for Public Education and the Schott Foundation for Public Education released a report grading the states on their support for public education and documenting the extent to which states are allowing the privatization of public funds.

The report can be found here.It will be regularly updated to reflect changing events.

The livestream of the press briefing, featuring John Jackson, president of the Schott Foundation, Carol Burris of the Network for Public Education, and me is on the Schott Foundation Facebook page.

Here is my perspective on what we learned.

Currently, 9% of American students attend private and religious schools; 6% attend charter schools; and 85% attend public schools.

The public does not realize that every dollar spent for a charter or a voucher is a dollar subtracted from public schools. No state has added extra dollars for charters or vouchers. They simply take money away from public…

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Santa Fe Public Schools adding more safety measures

June 23, 2018 Comments off

Unlike Denver, Santa Fe is working on prevention, talking to children, and avoiding “realism”. They see that fear is a dead end….

As state lawmakers discuss how to make New Mexico schools safer, one local district is taking matters into its own hands.

Source: Santa Fe Public Schools adding more safety measures

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“Slap in the Face” to Poor Americans: House GOP Passes Farm Bill Attacking Nation’s Hungriest Families

June 23, 2018 Comments off

How does a “farm bill” impact schools?

While the requirements focus on adults, children, too, will be harmed, because when parents lose SNAP, there are fewer resources available for food for the family. Going forward with policies that reduce food assistance to poor children flies in the face of research showing that SNAP not only reduces short-term hardship but has a positive effect on children’s long-term health and educational outcomes.

And how does the bill impact corporations: it lines their pockets!

Source: “Slap in the Face” to Poor Americans: House GOP Passes Farm Bill Attacking Nation’s Hungriest Families

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What Else Could Denver Teachers Learn in One Day?

June 23, 2018 Comments off

Over the course of 29 years as a public school superintendent I developed or oversaw the development of scores of staff development days. While I know that teachers often grumbled and often thought their time would be better spent teaching children, may colleagues and I viewed this time as important in terms of defining the direction we wanted our schools to head in the future and in defining our priorities.

Until the early 2000s we never spent a minute on how to deal with school shootings. Following Columbine, though, the federal and state legislatures and local Boards began to feel that the development of plans for school shootings was a priority… so much so that grant money that once flowed for things like drug and alcohol prevention was overtaken by grants for hiring SROs, training EMTs, and providing “tabletop exercises” for towns deal with emergency evacuations in the event of disaster events like school shootings.

I read last week of the Denver Public School district’s day-long exercise to address the invasion of their schools by a shooter.

“We’ve staged a shooter inside a school,” said Michael Eaton, Chief of the Dept. of Safety for DPS. “We have actually put bullet casings around the building. We have actors that have makeup on with flesh wounds.”

Denver Public Schools wanted the shooting exercise to feel real. First responders were called to Vista Academy not knowing where the shooter was or how many people were injured. The actor portraying the shooter and responding officers used guns that fired blanks or training rounds filled with paint.

“We are testing our emergency response coordination and communication with both our Department of Safety as well as Denver paramedics, Denver fire and Denver police,” Eaton said.

I only hope that Denver spent as much time coordinating services with the various social service agencies in their city that provide preventative care to students who might think that shooting up a school is a good idea. Or better yet… instead of spending time and money hiring actors to put on make-up with flesh wounds use a day to interview students to find out how they are experiencing school and what actions would be needed to fully engage them. Or even better yet, spend a day communicating with parents to determine how their children perceive their experience in school. The time we are opening cultivating fear would be far better spent cultivating parent and student engagement.


A Former Trump Administration USDOE Official Makes Sense on School Violence

June 22, 2018 Comments off

I was pleasantly surprised to read an article I agreed with regarding school violence in Real Clear Education, a right-leaning publication… especially when I discovered that the article was written by a former official from the DeVos/Trump Administration! Unlike most of the politically charged information that emanates from USDOE, this op ed piece by Stanley Buchesky avoids any politicization of the slaughters that occurred in public schools over the past school year. Instead of offering costly, impractical and unrealistic solutions to the problems of school shootings, Mr. Buchesky focussed on the real issue behind gun violence: the lack of an emphasis on social-emotional instruction in public schools. He opens his op ed piece by suggesting that gun control and profiling of potential shooters are both dead ends. he gun control issue is deemed a dead-end because “...the country is so divided that no changes will realistically reduce school violence” and profiling hasn’t worked because even when the signs are clear and unequivocal that someone might be a shooter nothing can be done to prevent them. Mr. Buchesky concludes his opening section with this:

Numerous studies by the CDC, the Department of Education, and even the Secret Service havedetermined risk factors correlated with school violence. They’ve found that there is no “typical” profile for a school shooter. However, one finding stands out: Most violence in schools is committed by students or former students with mental health problems.

A common knee-jerk reaction is that we should find these people and prevent them from access to guns. But, that doesn’t address the underlying mental health problem or tendency toward violence. In fact, such an approach might prevent people from seeking help if they know they will be tracked.

If we really want to prevent violence, we need to address mental health and work toward healing and social-emotional development.

Typically this kind of “soft” issue is left for families and churches to address. But Mr. Buchesky implies it should fall within the responsibilities of schools. Writing under the heading of “Social Emotional Learning (SEL)”, Mr. Buchesky offers the following:

SEL is the best tool we have available for violence prevention. It teaches relationship-building and fosters connectedness — protective factors that counter the effects of Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs). And research shows that teaching SEL alongside traditional academic skills significantly improves overall academic performance.

As common as it is to see a therapist or take anti-depressants, mental health treatment remains a stigma, especially for children. But SEL is mental health by a different name, and because it can be beneficial for all students, it removes the stigma. I call it “surreptitious mental health.”

If we can teach children to express their thoughts and feelings, ask for their needs and wants, and resolve conflicts verbally, we can dramatically reduce violence.

The Left and Right can easily coalesce around this issue. If SEL can prevent violence and improve academic performance, why isn’t every school district making it a top priority?

Unfortunately Mr. Buchesky dodges the elephant in the room on this topic: money to pay for these services…. and that may be the reason that the Left and Right are NOT coalescing around this issue…. especially when his boss and the POTUS seem enamored of solutions that harden schools instead of providing “surreptitious mental health.”  The fact that an individual who was the “Managing Partner of The Edtech Fund and was the Trump Administration’s “Beachhead” team CFO for the U.S. Department of Education from January to June, 2017” is making this kind of suggestion is heartening… but the fact that he is a former member of the USDOE makes me think it may not become the policy of the current administration.

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