Archive

Archive for the ‘Uncategorized’ Category

LATimes Offers Good Overview of Disintegration of Desegregation

July 9, 2019 Leave a comment

Today’s LATimes article (link below) describes the slow erosion of efforts to integrate public schools and the predictable result: schools across the country are more integrated now than ever. The takeaway from the article is that no one running for President seems willing to make the issue a centerpiece of their campaign and so it is unlikely to be solved unless some billionaires decide to make racial and economic justice their cause. apple.news/AcpfFBC92RjePQvKusOVMOQ

Advertisements

Charter Schools Acknowledge Flaws, Flaws that Prove “No Excuses” Approach to Discipline Fails

July 6, 2019 Leave a comment

After reading Eliza Shapiro’s article this morning in the NYTimes I came away with the sense that MAYBE the tide is turning against charter schools in NYC and, if so, it could be a harbinger of a shift everywhere. The article’s title, “Why Some of the Country’s Best Urban Schools Face a Reckoning”, is misleading at best. It implies that the charter schools who are facing “a reckoning” are “some of the country’s best urban schools”, which perpetuates the NYTImes narrative that charter schools are better than traditional public schools. The article, though, pulls no punches because the data on charter schools indicted that while many of the charters flagged in the article have trumpeted their successes they have papered over their failures. The first two paragraphs set the stage:

When the charter school movement first burst on to the scene, its founders pledged to transform big urban school districts by offering low-income and minority families something they believed was missing: safe, orderly schools with rigorous academics.

But now, several decades later, as the movement has expanded, questions about whether its leaders were fulfilling their original promise to educate vulnerable children better than neighborhood public schools have mounted.

From there, Ms. Shapiro describes how zero tolerance discipline policies ended up emphasizing conduct at the expense of academics, demonstrates that many of the criticisms leveled against the charter schools were warranted, and indicates that both the Governor of NY and the legislature have resisted any further expansion of charters in NYC because of the deficiencies in the programs. Ms. Shapiro describes the new political reality in this paragraph:

Last month, Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo, a Democrat who has been a crucial supporter of charters, declared that the State Legislature would not lift a cap on the number of new charters issued citywide. By halting charter growth indefinitely, Albany lawmakers have begun to erode the schools’ foothold in the country’s biggest school system.

Will the charter’s loosening foothold in Albany and NYC have an impact on their expansion elsewhere? My belief is that it will except in those parts of the country where charters are unapologetically used to segregate children based on race, religion, and wealth…. and as long as Betsy DeVos has her hand on the tiller and neoliberalism reigns in the Democratic party the resegregation and monetization of public schools will continue and charters will be the vehicle for that trend.

The Unshakeable Myth of Horatio Alger Lives On… Facts Notwithstanding. But Then So Does Sorting Students by Age and Standardized Testing

July 5, 2019 1 comment

It is difficult to NOT to sound haughty and dismissive when I react to large swaths of the population in our country who cannot accept the fact that unregulated capitalism works against their needs. Today’s NYTimes, for example, had an article by Patricia Cohen titled “Southerners, Facing Big Odds, Believe in a Path Out of Poverty“. The article describes how most Southerners see no need for any kind of government assistance because they cling to the Horatio Alger myth that “anyone with enough gumption and grit can clamber to the top”. It also describes how those holding this belief are unshaken when confronted with facts illustrating that social mobility in their region is the worst in the country and worse than it has ever been. And what was even more astonishing was to read research showing that that this optimism persisted and even increased in the face of segregation. Social scientists di find one factor that DID make a difference: an individual;s political viewpoint:

Whether people think opportunity is equally available, though, often depends on their political viewpoint.

Liberals are generally more pessimistic than conservatives about the ability of poorer Americans to hoist themselves up economically, and they are more inclined to support government programs meant to ease the route. Tell them that social mobility from one generation to the next is less than they thought, and their support for public assistance increases.

For conservatives, none of that is true. Learning that they have overestimated the odds does not increase their support for government intervention, but causes it to drop even further.

To this New England liberal, this conservative unwillingness to face facts seems backward! How could anyone NOT want to change an economic system that reduces the odds for their children to have a better life? But then I reflect on my own life experience and realize that I often ignored cold, hard facts when I applied for jobs and worked hard in my teens and in my workalike to “clamber to the top” thanks to “gumption and grit”. I could easily create a narrative based on this personal experience that anyone who applied themselves, persisted, and accumulated the prerequisite skills could realize their dreams without any help from the government. But this narrative would have to overlook the reality that I was born as a white male into a family where both parents had college degrees and were able to provide me with food, clothing and shelter throughout my youth.

In the early 1990s I read a book by Joel Barker titled Paradigms, a book that drew on the then arcane research of scientist Thomas Kuhn in his 1962 book The Structure of Scientific Revolutions. Barker posited that the collective rules that govern our thinking, our paradigms, can often block us from seeing potential business opportunities and can often lead us to cling to ideas that are outdated and unsubstantiated by facts. I showed the video that accompanied the book to faculty members and administrators in the district where I was working at the time, linking Barker’s message to the changes we were making as we converted our “junior high schools” to “middle schools”, our budgeting toward a school-based approach as opposed to a centralized one, and our student grading system towards a mastery approach. The conversion to middle schools was relatively easy, challenged primarily by budget constraints that made inter-disciplinary team organization scheduling very complicated. The school-based budget was also relatively easy to accomplish: most of the Principals readily accepted the idea that they could allocate a pool of money among accounts instead of having the central office mandate budget lines for supplies, texts, workbooks, and equipment. The student grading system, though, seemed impervious to change. I hoped that we would move away from a bell curve to a j-curve, away from letter grades that compared students to each other toward a system that measured each individual against a series of performance standards, a system that used time instead of mastery as a variable. What I found was that the imprint of the bell curve and the rules that accompanied that imprint, were seemingly impervious to change.

The lesson I learned from this is that some mind shifts can occur fairly rapidly, especially when the benefits of the shift are relatively painless to achieve. But when a mind shift requires a corresponding change in deeply imprinted paradigms like the bell curve, a mind shift can be measured in generations unless some kind of shared experience compels us to think differently.

Facial Recognition Invading Public Schools

July 5, 2019 Comments off

I wrote about this over a year ago when it was first proposed… and I stand by my analysis of how this relates to the second amendment and how it impacts politicians from the school board upward:

But creating this “safe” environment is presumably worth it because when they are old enough, these same schoolchildren will be able to acquire any weapons they wish to purchase— that is, unless they “pose a threat”.

And here’s the conundrum: if a school superintendent, school board member, or state politician argued AGAINST “safety measures” like any of the above they would be out of a job or out of office because of their failure to “do something” to stop the violence. As I think most readers believe, the “something” that is needed is to provide more “soft services” in schools: more classroom teachers; more social workers; more counselors… but if one seeks these kinds of initiatives in response to gun violence one is deemed to be soft in the head…

Source: Facial Recognition Invading Public Schools

Categories: Uncategorized

Dealing with Test Anxiety vs Dealing with “Evaluative Situations”

July 3, 2019 Comments off

A few days ago, as NY students entered the Regents gauntlet, the NYTimes health section featured an article by Dr. Perri Klass titled “Helping Students with Test Anxiety”. The article offered several insights on the phenomenon, ultimately suggesting that the best way to help students avoid test anxiety is to help them develop self-awareness:

Programs in schools that increase students’ understanding of emotions can be very valuable, she (Daniela Raccanello, a developmental and educational psychologist in the department of human sciences at the University of Verona, Italy) said, and can help promote positive emotions and decrease negative ones. Through one such project, she said, Italian students learn to understand their emotions; though the project focuses on traumatic events such as earthquakes, it offers children coping strategies that may help in other stressful situations.

The article also noted that test anxiety is related to our culture that overemphasizes the importance of tests. Quoting Shannon Brady, an assistant professor of psychology at Wake Forest University, Dr. Klass writes:

“It’s important for us as a culture to stop framing tests as inherently negative,” Dr. Brady said. Parents need to help their children get away from what she called “contingent self-esteem,” the sense that they won’t be loved or valued if they don’t do well.

We tend to celebrate children for good grades and test scores, but it’s important to reinforce that “you are valued for a number of things and even if you have a bad day in one of those domains, you are still a person of worth,” Dr. Brady said.

Easy for Dr. Klass to write, but as she notes near the end of the article, the practical reality today is that teachers as well as students feel intense pressure as a result of the over-emphasis on standardized test scores. Quoting Nathaniel von der Embse, an assistant professor of school psychology at the University of South Florida, who was the first author on a 30-year review of test anxiety published in 2018, Dr. Klass writes:

Dr. von der Embse said that he had seen a resurgence of interest in the question of anxiety around high-stakes testing over the past 12 years, particularly around the No Child Left Behind legislation. “We really can’t talk about test anxiety without talking about environment and particularly teacher stress,” Dr. von der Embse said. Many schools use student test scores to evaluate teachers, he said, and this can create a high stress environment in which the teachers’ stress is communicated to the students. “You might be able to equip your child with individual strategies for handling stress, but if the school is not coordinating their messaging around testing and supporting their teachers, it’s going to be a stressful environment.”

But while Dr. von der Erbse sees the test regimen driven by NCLB as exacerbating test anxiety, he see the opt out movement as wrong headed. Why?

But Dr. von der Embse does not believe in parents opting out of the tests. “We face evaluative situations throughout our entire lives, it’s best to learn how to handle them,” he said.

I agree that it is impractical and wrong to shield children from “evaluative situations”, because they will be faced throughout their lives. But in my life, apart from tests related to academics, the “evaluative situations” have to do with face-to-face interactions with other people, workplace performance, and work ethic in general. If it is important to help students learn “how to handle evaluative situations”, it strikes me that standardized tests are not the best means of accomplishing that end.

 

NYTimes Article on School Shooting Hero Hoax SHOULD Reinforce Reporters’ Need to Follow Protocols Set By Schools

July 2, 2019 Comments off

An article by Nicholas Bogel-Burroughs in today’s NYTimes reports on a hoax perpetrated by a caller to a national news outlet who characterized his “heroic” deeds in an article that they published following a school shooting at Santa Fe High School in Texas. Here’s the opening paragraphs of the article that describe the incident:

After last year’s mass shooting at Santa Fe High School in Texas, a man calling himself David Briscoe described how he had heroically barricaded the door of the classroom he was teaching in and instructed students to lie down and cover their mouths as gunshots rang out nearby.

But the school district said Monday that the story was false, and no one by that name had ever worked for the school.

Multiple news organizations included quotations attributed to Mr. Briscoe after the May 2018 shooting that killed 10 and wounded 13. He said he was a substitute English teacher and that the massacre took place on only his third day teaching at the school.

The article describes the detailed accounts “Mr. Briscoe” provided of his role in the shooting and his continued efforts to get the media outlets to publish follow up articles. When a reporter for one of the media outlets starting looking into “Mr. Briscoe”, though, it appeared that there was no such person. The Superintendent of the school district offered a rationale for the media’s mistake:

The district’s superintendent, Leigh Wall, said on Monday that the apparent hoax was an example of how fast misinformation can spread, “especially when the amount of detailed information available is limited.”

I think the superintendent was being too kind in her assessment of the media. There was a time when newspapers, magazines, and other media outlets would accept the district’s request to hold off on reportage of an incident until all the facts were in and when they DID report on the incident they would cross-check their findings with the school district. This clearly did NOT happen in this school shooting… and because there is intense pressure to get the news FIRST, getting the news RIGHT takes a back seat. The result: a non-existent substitute teacher’s account of an incident gets impacted in the minds of readers before a factual account is reported.

At it’s root, this kind of reporting is the result of the need for profit which, in turn, leads to fast, sloppy, and cheap news coverage. Maybe it’s time for some media outlet to seek slow, accurate, and expensive reporting. It would cost the reader more money but ensure that WHAT is reported is verified.

The “Downshifting Dilemma” Described for New Hampshire Residents is a National Phenomenon

July 1, 2019 Comments off

For decades public school administrators and school board members have hit their heads against the wall trying to explain to property owners that every tax cut that occurs at the Federal and State level has an adverse impact on local property taxes… and as a a result the most regressive and inequitable tax of all has the highest burden.

In New Hampshire this legislative session, the Democrats who controlled the House and Senate approved a budget that shifted the tax burden away from property taxes. Alas, the GOP Governor, Chris Sununu, vetoed the bill. The results of the veto were described in a Advancing New Hampshire Public Education (ANHPE) blog post as follows:

As you may have heard, on Friday Governor Sununu vetoed the budget proposed by the Committee of Conference (“CofC”), which had passed the House and Senate on purely party lines.  Unfortunately, this means that everything the CofC put in the budget is back on the table and potentially on the chopping block – including the $138 million in new school aid and $40 M in municipal aid that districts and towns were hoping to see.  The veto leaves school districts in a quandary as they make staffing and other decisions for the school year ahead.

The quandary they face is that IF they proceed to implement the budgets they adopted this Spring in anticipation of some consistent level of funding they could end up shifting the more of the cost for operating schools onto the shoulders of taxpayers since the continuing resolution passed to keep the State government operational includes a 4% CUT to state funds. 2/3 of the districts in the state face this dilemma… and the property poor districts, who have the most to gain from the passage of the funding, have the most to lose as a result. And here’s the kicker: voters in those districts who stand to lose the most often fail to recognize that the tax limitations they seek at the State level translate into higher property taxes. ANHPE describes this as “the downshifting dilemma”:

The Governor has justified his veto in part by saying that he doesn’t want to raise taxes on businesses.  Those who crafted the CofC budget dispute this characterization and argue that they’re simply blocking an additional decrease in business profits taxes, which were already reduced last year.  Whichever way you view it, the fact remains that the State’s chronic underfunding of schools results in a downshifting of costs to the local level, leaving property taxpayers to pick up the tab.  When districts take an additional hit (like the 4% reduction in stabilization funding), property taxes will most likely rise.

But this kind of downshifting is not limited to the New Hampshire. The federal special education law has NEVER been fully funded. That means that State’s have been asked to cover the difference in the federal funds promised to implement the mandate for special education and the federal funds allocated for that purpose. Here’s an excerpt from a cover letter to a February 2018 report by the National Council on Disability (NCD) describing how this shifts costs downward:

Over the past 42 years, the Federal Government has recognized and supported this right through providing billions of dollars in special education funding to assist the states in meeting their responsibilities in this area. NCD has repeatedly called on Congress to fully fund IDEA. The Federal Government’s failure to meet its promised funding obligation has stressed many state and local budgets to the point where many districts routinely struggle to meet student needs. In 1975, Congress promised to cover 40 percent of the average cost to educate a child with disabilities. Congress later amended the law to say that the Federal Government would pay a “maximum” of 40 percent of per-pupil costs. Today, the Federal Government pays less than half of what it originally promised in 1975.

And what happens when a state or school district does not get the funding promised at the federal level? They need to look elsewhere for cuts because special education funding is mandatory. Here’s how the NCD report describes what happens:

The lack of federal support to meet the original commitment Congress made to meet the excess cost of special education places considerable pressure on state and local budgets, resulting in a range of actions including:

  • ■  One state placing an illegal cap on IDEA identi cation of students
  • ■  Districts and schools limiting hiring of personnel and providers, which contributes to high turnover and shortages in the eld
  • ■  Districts and schools restricting service hours
  • ■  Districts and schools reducing or eliminating other general programs

In effect, we are willing to diminish and/or compromise services and standards to special education students or reduce services and standards to ALL students in order to avoid paying higher taxes.

But special education is not the only place where FEDERAL cuts result in downshifting. If federal spending is reduced in roads, or oversight of environmental regulations, or oversight of consumer safety, the needs associated with those expenditures do not disappear… and the costs for those expenditures face the same pressures.

Would we want to loosen our safety standards for roads, the environment, or consumer safety in order to save money? I fear that we are heating an affirmative answer to that question at all levels of government… and I fear that our quality of life is diminishing as a result of the affirmative answer we are hearing.