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Posts Tagged ‘funding equity’

A Collapsed Roof is the Goal of Betsy DeVos… Will the Supreme Court Allow the Blizzard to Begin

February 20, 2020 Leave a comment

NYTimes columnist Sarah Vowell wrote a somewhat humorous but ultimately damning op ed article on a Montana lawsuit that could ultimately overturn the intention of the framers of Montana’s recently revised constitution and, in doing so, create a precedent whereby State funds can be funneled into sectarian schools. The suit brought against the state by a parent seeking $150 of state funding to help her underwrite her costs for parochial school hinges on this question: is the small amount allocated to school districts in the name of equitable funding fungible and, if so, can a parent use the funds to provide a de facto voucher for their child to attend a parochial school.

In the article, Ms. Vowell, a Montana native, describes the history of the $150 per student allocation which emanated from a early 1970s constitutional convention, and describes how the loss of that relatively small amount of funding would send shock waves throughout the state and especially hurt this schools who receive the supplement to help offset their lack of a local tax base.

She concludes her article with this synopsis of the situation, which is the basis for the title of this post:

The public schools the framers (of the State constitution) conjured ask the taxpayers to splurge on fairness, not privilege, to pull together, not away. That beekeeper, those clergymen and moms chartered a state in a republic where a first grader on horseback is supposed to be as big and important as the mountains. As the Supreme Court justices ponder whether to upend all that over what appears to be a $150 trifle, I’ll pass along this lesson of Montana winters: A collapsed roof starts with a single snowflake.

Conservatives Discover Mastery Learning, the Flaws in the Carnegie Unit… Can Their Abandonment of Standardized Tests be Far Behind?

February 18, 2020 Leave a comment

I make every effort to read every perspective possible in my education feed, and as a result I received an article from The Hill by Margaret “Macke” Raymond titled “The Diploma Dilemma”. Ms. Raymond, who is the founder and director of the Center for Research on Education Outcomes (CREDO) at Stanford University recently authored a policy briefing of the same name as part of the Hoover Education Success Initiative. And what is the dilemma as Ms. Raymond sees it?

Despite evidence that our students’ performance is flat or declining on many levels, our high school graduation rates have continued to rise significantly over the past six years. This paradox may not be widely known or understood, as politicians and policymakers have consistently trumpeted the steady rise of graduation rates. The casual observer would be led to believe that public education is improving because more students are being granted a diploma.

The truth is, in most states, there is a critical chasm between the rising graduation rate and the underlying knowledge and skills of large shares of degree holders. Many students, especially low-income students and students of color, are inadequately prepared to take the first step of college, training, military service or employment, let alone have the foundational knowledge needed to improve their lives in the future.

The truth is that US public schools are not as bad as standardized tests make the out to be or as good as graduation rates make them out to be… except for those underfunded schools serving low income students and students of color. The data on this truth have been evident for generations and yet nothing has been done to address it. After decrying softer grading standards, seat time as a metric, and “low expectations”, Ms. Raymond offers this idea to close the gaps at the high school level:

So what’s needed? States and school districts need mastery-based approaches to capturing and rewarding high school learning to ensure that students earn a high school diploma that provides a fair and clear signal of its value. Better and more frequent measures of high school students and courses would illuminate the pathways that students follow, and the benefits gained from them.  Linking course passing with known requirements for post-high school options will improve the success that holders of a U.S. high school diploma can achieve. In order to realize these things for our students, school systems leaders will invariably be placed in a diploma dilemma —strengthening requirements will almost certainly mean falling graduation rates in the short-term. 

Ms. Raymond’s prescription sounds very familiar to this blogger. In the early 1990s I attempted to launch a district-wide initiative called “Teaching for Mastery” based on the premise that TIME needed to be the variable and LEARNING needed to be the constant. Here’s what I learned from that experience: changing the dominant paradigm as a Superintendent was beyond my reach. Indeed, Ms. Raymond seems to miss the entire point of mastery learning, which is that TIME must be a variable if LEARNING is constant and so time-driven metrics like standardized testing and graduation rates tied to a student’s age are meaningless.

Our current system was implemented in the 1920s and it was designed to sort and select students with no regard or expectation that ALL students would master the K-12 curriculum. There was an expectation that many of not most students would fall short of the standards and find work in the fields or factories. And thanks to labor unions many of those jobs paid well and enabled workers to have good life. That economic paradigm disappeared in the 1970s and 1980s and it isn’t coming back any tie soon. When oh when will our education paradigm change? When will TIME be a variable and LEARNING constant?

Trump and DeVos Want to Undo Public Education

February 14, 2020 Leave a comment

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This powerful USA Today op ed lays bare the GOP/Trump/DeVos agenda, which is to eviscerate public education. Derek Black concludes his essay with these two paragraphs:

When the nation sought to lift poor whites out of illiteracy and blacks into citizenship at the end of the Civil War, Congress demanded that state constitutions guarantee uniform school systems that provided education to all children. To fund them, they mandated taxes. When the nation was struggling to break free of its Jim Crow discrimination, public education was chosen to lead the way — even as resistors explicitly tried to end public schooling (and replace it with vouchers).

Trump and DeVos have a vision of private education and individual freedom that is more than misleading; it’s dangerous. They are sowing the notion that a fundamental pillar of our democracy is antiquated and oppressive. The truth is that many kids will lose what little freedom they have — and the one social thread that still binds us together will fray even more — if we buy what they are selling.

This Just In: Higher Compensation = More and Better Teachers

February 12, 2020 Leave a comment

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The Deseret TImes (UT) article above includes this unsurprising news: if teachers get higher compensation more undergraduates will be drawn to the profession!

An Envision Utah survey of 4,000 college students confirms what you probably already knew: teacher pay deters many young people from pursuing the teaching profession. And another survey shows it’s the biggest thing we could change to help former teachers come back.

Pennsylvania’s Horrible Charter Law May Finally Be Repealed

February 9, 2020 Leave a comment

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This Forbes article describes the absolutely horrific charter school law that enriched fly-by-night on-line businesses while stealing millions from local public schools. On the books for 20 years thanks to GOP leadership in the Statehouse and/or legislature it now appears that the Democratic Governor has the votes needed to eliminate the law. Good riddance!

Sometimes, I Wish I Was Wrong

February 3, 2020 Comments off

After the election of Donald Trump and observing his Cabinet appointments, I posted a series of predictions of where I saw the country headed. One of those posts predicted the end of segregation efforts, particularly in the area of housing. I wish my predictions about Mr. Trump and especially his USDOE Secretary Betsy DeVos has been wrong… but as the title of this NYTImes article by Richard Rothstein, “The Trump Administration’s New Housing Rules Will Worsen Segregation”  indicates, Ben Carson’s leadership at HUD has been disastrous for those who advocate the placement of low income housing in affluent communities.

If poor African American families are able to live in the same neighborhoods and attend the same schools as affluent whites it can break down racial barriers faster than any government mandate. Moreover, if those who advocate school choice as a solution fail to simultaneously advocate choice for housing, they are disingenuously or misleadingly offering a hollow choice because unless poor children of color have a ready physical means of resigning close to the schools of their choice they will miss out on the benefits that occur from the locality of those schools. As Mr. Rothstein asks:

How can we ever develop the common national identity essential to the preservation of our democracy if so many African Americans and whites live so far from each other that we have no ability to understand and empathize with each other’s life experiences?

Any politician who runs on a platform of unity should embrace government funding that provides low income housing in affluent communities and promotes legal action when communities attempt to construct de facto walls around them by passing zoning regulations that preclude this possibility. Instead of debating “free college for all” the progressive candidates should focus their time and energy on equitable school funding for all. Not everyone in the nation has been to college or aspires to college, but I daresay there is anyone in the country who doesn’t aspire to living in a community where everyone looks out for everyone else.

Diane Ravitch Accurately Eviscerated Test-Based “Reformers”

February 1, 2020 Comments off

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Nearly 20 years after NCLB, RTT, and now Betsy DeVos there’s been no progress made in the improvement of public schools as measured by test results… and this is the case even though the schools directed all their time and energy and instruction toward the tests! This comes as no surprise since the correlation between poverty and test scores has been well established for over 50 years and the low spending on those schools has persisted.

Will anything change in the future? Doubtful given our obsession with spreadsheets and low taxes.