Archive for the ‘Elementary and Secondary Education Act’ Category

Backing Away: the President’s Budget Proposal

Thursday, April 20th, 2017
diverse community of parents and children at a Colorado elementary

diverse community of parents and children at a Colorado elementary

A notice in the NEA Education Insider, April 9, 2017, reminds teachers that the President’s budget proposal  drops the “U.S. Department of Education funding by $9 billion or nearly 14 percent. The Trump/DeVos agenda calls for voucher schemes that provide billions of dollars for private schools while slashing funding for afterschool programs in public schools, Pell Grants, teacher professional development, and class size reduction.” In addition, such a budget would cut federal food programs for children and health care initiatives that keep children ready for school.

So to go along, three House of Representatives Republicans introduced bill HR 610 on January 23, 2017. It will begin the de-funding process of public schools and effectively start a school voucher system to be used by children ages 5 to 17.

The bill will do just what the president’s budget requests – revise the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA) of 1965 which is the nation’s educational law and provides equal opportunity in education. Compare the budget proposal above with the comprehensive program that covers needs for struggling learners, ESL classes, classes for minorities such as Native Americans, Rural Education, Education for the Homeless, School Safety (Gun-Free schools), Monitoring and Compliance and Federal Accountability Programs. The bill would also abolish the Nutritional Act of 2012 (No Hungry Kids Act) which provides nutritional standards in school breakfast and lunch. For our most vulnerable, this may be the ONLY nutritious food they have in a day. The bill has no wording whatsoever protecting special needs kids, no mention of IDEA and FAPE.

Moreover, to support Pell Grant defunding, on Tuesday, April 11, Betsy DeVos, Secretary of the U.S. Department of Education and cabinet member of the current administration, withdrew an Obama administration Education Department policy that requires taking into account the past practices of college loan servicing companies before awarding contracts. It seems that Ms. DeVos is aiding the lenders to make money. There is abundant evidence that the industry doesn’t serve the college graduates and American families trying to get ahead. Rather Americans are burdened by unfair loan practices.

What’s the purpose? School “choice.”

Backing away from support for 86% of American children in public schools is to ensure money for school “choice,” especially with vouchers. Betsy DeVos has been looking at models to provide vouchers like the tax-credit model in the Florida Tax Credit Scholarship Program which has been in effect since 2002. The program offers corporations and wealthy individuals a one-to-one credit on their taxes when they donate to one of several nonprofit “scholarship granting organizations” that have been established in the state for distributing vouchers. For example, a corporation that owes $50,000 in Florida taxes, can donate that entire amount to a scholarship program instead, depleting their tax bill to zero. Nearly 100,000 low-income students in Florida attend private, mostly religious schools, and could benefit from these vouchers. But, the voucher model also reduces state revenues by $50,000 from one corporate taxpayer (in the example), thus eliminating funding that could be used for the almost 3 million Florida public school students.

The research on improvement in student achievement by using vouchers to attend a recommended private or parochial school is not absolute, some school moves help, others don’t. However, The New York Times article by Dana Goldstein, April 12, 2017, “The Hidden Costs in Special Education School Vouchers” does expose features of vouchers that often don’t show better results. Parents must understand all the specifics of the voucher applied for. The protections for special education students from the 1975 federal civil rights law Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) may be waived once a scholarship voucher is accepted, as in the John M. McKay voucher program in Florida and, at least, seven other states.

On top of that problem, two assistants have been hired to the USDOE. The president hired Carlos G. Muñiz as general counsel to the Education Department. He is perhaps best known for representing Florida State University in a lawsuit brought by a student who accused the former star quarterback James Winston of raping her in 2012.

Ms. DeVos hired Candice E. Jackson, to be the acting assistant secretary for civil rights. She represented one of the women who attended a news conference before a presidential debate in October to impugn Mrs. Clinton’s treatment of sexual assault victims.

Title IX civil rights must be overseen for students of all ages, pre-K through college – the people for whom the President often reminds us he wants to assure a place in a great America – and then backs away from funding public schools and hires people to back his vision.

Take Care Schools urges you to call your representative and ask him/her to vote NO on House Bill 610 (HR 610).

 

 

 

Projects to Overcome Problems

Saturday, September 3rd, 2016

Nightly, Project XQ, one of PBS The Newshour sponsors, advocates a new concept to refocus, recharge, rethink American high schools. The XQ premise is that high schools were designed for the economy of the early 20th century and must be redesigned for the needs of students in the 21st.

In fact, as the 2016-17 school year begins, the lack of equitable school finances; the oft times weak teacher/principal/curricula efforts; the resistance to efforts that alleviate poverty and economic segregation; the opposition to accountability and governance; and the need for early childhood education provide the news articles about schools found daily in the media.

Let’s begin, though, with some good news. In the New York Times, August 28, 2016, “The Good News About Educational Inequality,” a report from the National Center for Education Statistics confirms that the achievement gap in reading and math between Kindergarteners in 1998 and 2010 has narrowed and the achievement of 4th graders on the National Assessment of Educational Progress exams holds the gain. Even with the distance between high and low income families and economic segregation, the effects hold for both groups.

Why? It is easier to find affordable high-quality early childhood education. Low-income homes have books and parents read with their youngsters. The nation has realized that the first few years are consequential for learning.

We cannot, however, take the stakes off the long term table.

In this post, Take Care Schools shares suggestions from KQED (local PBS affiliate) articles about relief for the neighborhood segregation in schools in Oakland, California. Since court-ordered desegregation was never successful country-wide, schools stick to improving the quality of the neighborhood school in hopes of more students choosing to attend – health clinics at the site, wrap around services for the students and families, low class -size, transportation.

Or the district may rewrite its method to be assigned a school. Right now, like in many districts across the county, Oakland public school students are allowed six choices of schools to attend. However, the priority for selection is 1) siblings at the school and 2) families living in the neighborhood. Then, other students are admitted until capacity. It hasn’t made change in the number of majority white or black/Hispanic schools. Perhaps the regulations may be rewritten to assure that 60-80% of the students admitted to each school (K-12) qualify for free/reduced price lunch. In that way the school populations would mix.

Furthermore, Understood.org, a group seen in the New York Times, August 4, 2016, provides excellent information for parents of special needs students, another category of student for which support from school districts is hampered by budget limits, supply of credentialed teachers, and administrator awareness of the diverse student needs in the school.

To conclude, Project XQ, founded by Russlyn Ali and Lauren Powell Jobs of Emerson Collective who see the current American high school as frozen in time, is determined to offer the next student generation high schools that adapt to our changing world. An ideal opportunity would provide generous time to master the fundamentals of literacy; collaborate; expand the horizons for the curious, original thinker; and encourage lifetime learning. Sound good? Sound necessary? Sound hard to overcome resistant thinking?

The question is: Does the education world start with local change, address the low-income issues that absorb all of a school’s energy? Or look at school change as an act of social justice? Shake off our fear of difficulty and move forward to innovate?

 

 

School Days 2015-16

Monday, August 17th, 2015
rural California high school

rural California high school

A new school year begins country-wide, but few newly credentialed teachers frantically interview, cross their fingers, hope to find a position before the first day students appear. It’s the school districts that are frantic. Why?

School districts wouldn’t be the in this situation if there were enough teachers who remained at their assigned school. But, as you have heard many times, new teachers often leave after five years. New hires are few because experienced teachers who move to a new state have licensing trouble. Higher Education teacher preparation lags.

Districts wouldn’t be in trouble if sufficient budgeted funds for the school year were settled before October of the new school year. Does it make sense for a legislature to fight and schools to wait?

Districts would not be on the horns of this dilemma if salaries were high enough to make new teachers jump to replace retiring faculty. Right now, the only money perk in most school districts is health benefits. Do you hear ca-ching when a teacher sees the salary schedule and must repay debt for an education, buy a house, support a family?

Schools would not be in turmoil, even schools that are low-performing, if teachers had the opportunity for substantial professional development and leadership roles to “own” the school.

The final reason teachers are fed-up is testing. Not that students shouldn’t be tested, but the school districts and the states are unable to stand back and make testing decisions that benefit students first and parents, teachers, administrators last.

The latest protest confuses the Common Core State Standards (which strive to close the achievement gap for public school students in this country) with the fury about testing that has overwhelmed certain schools from the highest-achieving to the lowest-performing.

The disapproval is based on the number of tests that students take during the school year, an average of 113 country-wide. Critics blame the federal government under which the No Child Left Behind Act (NCLB), a Congressional measure, is still the law and mandates accountability for students, teachers, schools, and districts. But only seven (7) assessments are required under federal law. They include the reading and math yearly assessments, testing to measure the fluency of English Language Learners, and assessment for Special Education. Anything else is designated by the state and district where the protest should be directed.

Teacher concern is based on the time used for assessment. According to the National Education Association (“Thousands of Students Opt Out of Common Core Tests in Protest” Associated Press, Christine A. Cassidy, April18, 2015), 30% of school year time is devoted to test preparation, proctoring, and reviewing results. In the view of this blog, analysis of test scores is valid, if time is set aside for such work and if teachers have the power to make curriculum decisions based on those results.

Another teacher criticism of assessment is the weight of student testing proficiency (which can be up to 50%) included in the teacher’s yearly evaluation. This year in revision of NCLB, the Elementary and Secondary Education Act, not yet made into law, the Senate allows states to determine the weight to give tests when evaluating teacher and school performance. Oh, great!

In the end, parent protest to opt out of testing has reached a crescendo in states that use PARCC assessment, like New York and Colorado. On the other hand, in California and other states, opting out is legally authorized and is rarely used. Also, California has determined that schools will not be held accountable for results this year. However, in the spring 2015 California Assessment of Student Progress and Performance, a substantial number of 11th grade students in four high-achieving high schools in affluent areas of the state opted out. One high school with 37% low-performing students had a high rate of opting out. California has 9,324 public schools (2015 statistics).

Try these three (3) actions. Strongly advocate for alternative assessments at sessions of state and district school boards. Insist on funds so teachers have time to learn to analyze the assessments. Concede that teachers be paid to take time to assure assessment provides adjustments to learning. That’s how the achievement gap will close.

Three Ways to Help a School

Wednesday, April 22nd, 2015

Believe it or not the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions voted last week to bring its revision of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA), better known to teachers in the 21st century as the No Child Left Behind Act (NCLB), to the Senate floor.

Understand, only the Senate’s committee has voted for any change – not the entire Senate — and reconciliation must occur with House of Representatives legislation. ESEA has not been revised—disagreement has reigned over options and policy — since NCLB was passed and signed in 2001. The original bill was designed to be revised every seven years to address poverty and unequal education in America.

Why hasn’t complete revision yet been made? These days, why does this blogger suspect politics — not success for students — is the culprit? Look at who is the current president. Look at the mean-spirited lawmakers who run the current Congress.

It can be said that the latest is an amazing reconciliation among 22 members of the Senate committee. Committee leaders, Patty Murray (D-Washington) and Lamar Alexander (R-Tennessee), must have patiently twisted recalcitrant arms after hearing enough from the public who, I’m thinking, said “We’re not going to take it anymore!” At least I wish they had.

According to Randi Weingarten, President of American Federation of Teachers, the legislation “moves away from the counterproductive focus on sanctions and high-stakes test, and ends federalized teacher evaluations and school closings.” Opinion, p.2, New York Times, Sunday, April 19, 2015.

So what will help a school succeed, if a low-performing school no longer spends the day on high-stakes tests and teacher evaluation? The country is full of foundations researching and reporting on good educational programs that succeed in low-performing neighborhood schools. One foundation study that has caught my eye is the series of reports from The Wallace Foundation relating to the need for valuable leadership in a school. Since the possible – notice, I said possible – revised ESEA legislation will support strategies for under-performing schools in impoverished neighborhoods, it behooves districts to train new principals to be those leaders. Read the reports! They emphasize the ways for a district to expand the number of quality principals. They provide tools to achieve leadership quality.

Once strong leadership is established, and once high-stakes testing is no longer the be-all and end-all of the school year, an abundance of programs can help teachers improve student behavior and academics. Articles from workshops and education magazines have shared math projects, said to improve both confident behavior and student academic success.

Have you, high school teachers, been introduced to Build, a program that leverages both reading and math literacy? Districts using this model can be found on both coasts. In a ninth grade course, students form a partnership of four and divide responsibilities to design and produce a product, design a business plan with a budget, marketing plans, and consumer services. One product I read about was a bracelet made from melted toothbrushes decorated with motivational slogans. Sweet, as kids say. Designed in 1999 for East Palo Alto schools by Suzanne McKechnie Klar, by now students even make pitches to venture advisors.

A larger project motivates middle school students in a school with math abilities from kindergarten to eighth grade levels. It’s called School of One and it’s expensive. However, it uses computers for teaching, not playing computer and video games, it does more for teachers than design, administer, and score tests. At one school, on any day, you may see four seventh grade math teachers work with 120 kids, some individually, some small group, others working on a group math project. The teachers’ computer program analyzes the quizzes from the previous day, organizes the period for the day, and students check the monitors when they enter to know what their station is. At the end of the day, they take quizzes again which tell the teachers what the student should do the next day.

Critics have said that such a model is disruptive and hard to organize. So? It’s disruptive when students are not being taught at their level. The organization is geared to improve their achievement. New Classroom Innovations Partners can support introduction and management. Again this teaching model can be found across the country.

Three strategies to implement if school boards no longer have to spend time on high-stakes tests and sanctions: good school-site leadership, and two math models to improve achievement for all the graduates in the 21st century. Cross your fingers!

 

 

 

Small, Not Large

Saturday, November 1st, 2014

Do you know that only 2000 schools in the United States produce 60% of the dropouts? Those schools can have about 3000 students each. The number accounts for middle and high schools since any statistician knows that students begin to drop out as young as 14.

The 2000 schools (often called dropout factories) are found in low-income neighborhoods where the students come from families with little education in their experience. The students have had poor academic success during the elementary school years so that by now they are below and far below on assessments for proficiency in math and reading. However, the National Education Association (NEA) has a lofty goal to create great public schools by 2020.

How will this happen? Here is an example. In New York City since 2002, large high schools have been remodeled to provide small high schools with academically rigorous curriculum and a personalized learning environment, long considered necessary to help poor-performing students improve. These small high schools, about 100 students per grade level, have reached their goal of increasing the number of students who graduate and go to college.

The nonprofit MDRC (Manpower Demonstration Research Corporation) with sites in New York City and Oakland, California, has reviewed data collected by the National Student Clearinghouse. The review has found that in spite of family income, race and ethnicity, and previous low academic achievement students from the small schools have graduated and gone on to college, four year college as well as community college. In addition, the small high school model costs less per student mainly because students do not need five years to graduate. Find out details of the model at www.MDRC.org.

Now, to ease the number of students who dropout by middle and high school, the emphasis on pre-school programs implemented in many states can address the issue. As of 2011 the federal and state governments have allocated $30 billion. However, children entering pre-schools from low-income families have shown poor literacy and math skills. In addition, programs want to avoid “fade out” of skills learned as has been noted for the premier pre-school project Head Start.

With its emphasis on services for low-income children, MDRC has research on a project focused on enhancement of social and emotional behaviors for small children. Teachers need resources, so the study programs have funding for professional development and coaching. The outcome leads to more instructional time in the pre-school day. The most important point of the study shows that pre-school youth read better by grade 3, a goal of the current federal Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA), when their instructional time focuses on math. This means more than teaching shape names and counting and recognizing 1-20. Many pre-schools and daycare centers have opted for a model called Building Blocks based on views held by the National Science Foundation and that meet standards from the National Council of Teachers of Mathematics (NCTM). Young children manipulate hands-on materials and computer-based designs. For details:  http://gse.buffalo.edu/org/buildingblocks/index_2.htm.

We need to change our outlook. Small is the word whether size of the child or size of the school.