"A child's learning is the function more of the characteristics of his classmates than those of the teacher." James Coleman, 1972

Sunday, July 21, 2019

PA School District Threatens to Remove Parents' Children for Not Paying for Lunch

The chairman of the School Board is Joseph Mazur.  The Board's phone number is 570-288-6551. 

From CNN:

(CNN)The Wyoming Valley West School District in Pennsylvania sent out hundreds of letters this week telling parents who had lunch debt to pay or their children could go into foster care. 
The letter, which was reviewed by CNN, told parents that there have been "multiple letters sent home with your child" and that no payments had been made. 
"Your child has been sent to school every day without money and without a breakfast and/or lunch," the letter read. It also said failure to provide children with food could result in parents being sent to Dependency Court. 
"If you are taken to Dependency court, the result may be your child being removed from your home and placed in foster care," the letter read. 
CNN has reached out to Wyoming Valley West School District, but has not heard back.

Sunday, July 14, 2019

Tennessee's Racist Governor, Bill Lee, Commemorates Nathan B. Forrest

Along with Tennessee's governor, Trump voters yesterday commemorated the contributions of Confederate general, war criminal, and first Grand Wizard of the KKK, Nathan Bedford Forrest.  On Wednesday, Lee signed the proclamation:
"I signed the bill because the law requires that I do that and I haven’t looked at changing that law," Lee said Thursday.   
He declined to say whether he believed state law should be changed to no longer require the governor to issue such proclamations or whether he had reservations about doing so.
So egregious was this act that even Ted Cruz called out Tennessee's governor this week.  Now when your governor is to the right of Ted Cruz, you know you're in trouble.

This latest assault on decency is a reminder of how far we haven't come in so much of the South (and elsewhere).

Now for the quiz: What does Tennessee have in common with Mississippi and New York?

Answer: All three are among the ten states with the highest levels of segregated schools.

See excellent piece today in the NY Times.

Wednesday, July 10, 2019

Gerald Coles Documents the Re-emergence of the Phonics Zombies

…it is the sign of a competent “crap detector” that he is not completely captivated by the arbitrary abstractions of the community in which he happened to grow up. Teaching as a Subversive Activity, p. 17
Midway through the first decade of this century's widespread reading instruction malpractice that was enforced by No Child Left Behind and funded by the corrupt Reading First program, the U. S. Department of Education released a long-awaited study that identified the most effective reading programs used in American schools.  

The direct instruction and phonics zealots, who had seized control of the federal Reading First billions in 2002, could not have been more unhappy with the results.

The study, released by the What Works Clearinghouse, found that the balanced program known as Reading Recovery, which Bush II's chief reading ideologues had singled out as dangerously "non-scientific," was the only program in the study "found to have positive effects or potentially positive effects across all four of the domains in the review—alphabetics, fluency, comprehension, and general reading achievement:"
. . . .That program, Reading Recovery, an intensive, one-on-one tutoring program, has drawn criticism over the past few years from prominent researchers and federal officials who claimed it was not scientifically based. 

Federal officials and contractors tried to discourage states and districts from using Reading Recovery in schools participating in the federal Reading First program, citing a lack of evidence that it helps struggling readers. . . .
That was then, this is now, and just as the phonics zombies have been re-animated repeatedly over the past century by the spirit of corrupt and oppressive fanaticism, the phonics zombies have once more been turned loose to restore a fearful order and intellectual rigor mortis among poor black and brown children everywhere.

Fortunately, Gerald Coles has once more activated his dedicated crap detection unit, which Coles has grown over the past 30 years for just such occasions. Coles has penned an astute synopsis of the current state of affairs in the latest not-so-great awakening of the phonics zombies, and it is a must read for everyone, whether or not you have read his very important book from 2003 on the hegemonic ideology of reading "scientists." Here's a clip from Cryonics Phonics: Inequality’s Little Helper:
. . . . As I noted at the beginning of this article, the new insistence that phonics-heavy reading instruction can provide the pathway to academic success, regardless of the poverty afflicting students, spotlights the beginning-reading program in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania. Reporting on the instruction in Bethlehem, journalist Emily Hanford insists that hundreds of scientific studies have “shown over and over that virtually all kids can learn to read,” if they are taught to read with a method in which “explicit, systematic phonics instruction” is central.

The 60-plus years of the resurrection and failure of phonics to overcome the impact of poverty on educational achievement leaves the question of the “science” purportedly supporting phonics. Can it be that phonics instruction does indeed have substantial scientific evidence favoring it, but it has not been deployed properly in the classroom?

It’s not apparent what “science” Hanford has in mind, but having written about the research on reading, learning disabilities, and dyslexia since the late 1980s, beginning with my first book, The Learning Mystique (1987), what’s clear about this so-called “science” is that much of it is contrived evidence to “prove” pre-existing conclusions. For example, Hanford is much taken with the research on dyslexia, which has searched for neurological dysfunction in beginning readers. However, she fails to consider the decades-long confusion in this research of correlation and causation. That is, the brain functioning of poor readers (“dyslexics”) is different from that of competent readers, but that is largely because of a difference in competence. Similarly, for example, readers able to read Czech will show brain functioning different from those who cannot, but that is not reason to brand the latter as “czechlexic.” (See my essay on the deficiencies of this research in “Brain Activity, Genetics, and Learning to Read” in Handbook of Early Childhood Literacy, Joanne Larson and Jackie Marsh, eds., 2012).

Hanford frequently references the “science” on the side of heavy-phonics-and-skills-instruction-for-reading-success, but offers nothing about the evidence on the other side of the dispute. Neither does she explore the purported “scientific evidence” the George W. Bush educators used to push through the mandated skills-based instruction, purportedly based on “the findings of years of scientific research on reading,” that subsequently failed children who were victims of it. (For a thorough review of this bogus “evidence” see my Reading the Naked Truth).

Thursday, July 04, 2019

Joe Biden's Lies and Unacknowledged Contribution to Resegregation

Joe Biden has said that "there are a lot of people who would say it [busing] hasn’t been the best remedy to integrate schools."  The people who say that, of course, are, like Joe Biden, opposed to busing, for whatever reason.  In the end, the reason does not matter because the documented racist result is the same, regardless of intent or motivation.

Whether Joe and the "lot of people" are correct in their claim that busing is an ineffective way to desegregate schools remains debatable, but the issue of busing presents us with at least one incontrovertible truth: those who have opposed busing have made significant contributions to the resegregation of schools.  That would include Joe Biden and anyone else whose intentions could be suspect or as pure as the driven snow.  The manifestations of racism are determined by policy talk and implementation, not by intentions.  We all know what the road to hell is paved with.

Richard Nixon, who was president when Joe Biden got started on the national political stage, knew that opposition to busing was an effective way to appeal to racists, both Southern and Northern, who were enraged by Lyndon Johnson's Great Society initiatives.  Anti-busing was an important piece of Nixon's "Southern Strategy," with Nixon going so far as to instruct his Attorney General, John Mitchell, to send him only Supreme Court candidates who were opposed to school busing.

Nixon got his conservative majority on the Court, which immediately went to work in 1974 dismantling, by a 5-4 vote, a busing plan in Detroit (Milliken v. Bradley) that was based on one in Charlotte, NC (Swann v. Charlotte-Mecklenburg Board of Education) that had been tested and found constitutional by the Supreme Court just a couple of years before.

First elected to the U. S. Senate in 1972, Joe Biden was watching all this unfold and making his own political calculations at the time.  Even if his heart might have been somewhere else, in the end Biden's words and deeds followed Richard Nixon and the racism he inspired:
Joe Biden, the youthful and telegenic senator from Delaware, also played an important role in this history. According to historian Matthew F. Delmont in his indispensable book "Why Busing Failed," Biden labeled busing a "bankrupt concept" that defied "common sense" and would go on to sponsor anti-busing amendments in the Senate. Biden faced the dilemma of Northern liberals of the era who generally supported national civil rights legislation, yet found themselves on unstable ground when these issues struck closer to home. Biden chose, like many of his political contemporaries, to be on the wrong side of history. In 1974, the year after Biden came to the Senate, the Supreme Court -- in Milliken v. Bradley -- struck down a busing plan in Detroit, saying it was "wholly impermissible" to bus white children who lived in the suburbs into inner-city schools to integrate schools. 
As a result of the Milliken decision, the white rush to the suburbs picked up steam, and school desegregation efforts in subsequent years were further neutralized by court decisions and legislative efforts, like the stringent Senate bill introduced in 1975 by Jesse Helms and supported by Joe Biden.

The chart below is an update from data gathered by Gary Orfield.
In a detailed analysis of busing's effectiveness (spoiler alert--it works), Nikole Hannah-Jones shows that Biden lied about his role in the anti-busing wave of the 70s and 80s:
After Mr. Nixon’s win in 1968, white Democrats were trying to hold on to their white voters. Mr. Biden favored busing for integration when he ran for election in 1972, but changed his mind seemingly because of a Delaware school desegregation case that was working its way through the courts. In his autobiography, Mr. Biden recalled his confrontation with a crowd of white constituents teetering on the brink of violence over the issue. 
Mr. Biden flipped. Between 1975 and 1982, he teamed up with ardent segregationists in Congress, including Mr. Eastland, to support no fewer than five antibusing measures. Despite Mr. Biden’s recent claims that he only opposed busing ordered by the Department of Education, the bills tried to curtail the ability of federal courts to order busing and even to limit busing in places where courts had already ordered it.
 Lying is a big issue, but the bigger issue here is Biden's ignorance or disregard for the devastating effects that the demise of busing has had in terms of efforts to achieve integrated schools.  Biden's decades of opposition to busing helped to lead us to where we are today, with the resegregation of urban schools, in particular, now almost complete.  

Even during the 8 years of Obama-Biden, they did nothing to stop or slow this resegregation trend in the years just before Trump.  In fact, their support for the even-more-intensely segregated charter schools skyrocketed during the Obama years and led to the further debasement of public education. After looking like a fool at the recent debate and spending a few days on defense, now Joe has moved to a cautious offensive position, declaring just today that "I don't have to atone."   Maybe not, Joe, but you do have to acknowledge reality.  Or maybe not.

Wednesday, June 26, 2019

Research Debunks Mischel's Conclusions from "The Marshmallow Test"

50 KIPPsters, 1 teacher, in NYC 8th Grade classroom 2015.  Source PBS Newshour story on self-control
KIPP Model schools have long used Walter Mischel's research on delayed gratification among children to justify an indoctrination program aimed to manipulate economically-oppressed children to behave as corporate ed reformers would like: work hard, be nice, use self-control, and wait until your just rewards come to you, even if that happens to be NEVER.  As I wrote in my 2016 book,
[t]he philanthrocapitalists and their think tank scholars quote liberally from the work of Walter Mischel (1989, 2014), whose experiments with delayed gratification among preschoolers provide the dominant metaphor for another generation of paternalist endeavors.  In Mischel’s experiments, children were offered a single marshmallow immediately or two marshmallows later if they could delay their reward.  The test, which came to be labeled “The Marshmallow Test,” represents the potential to delay gratification in order to gain a larger reward later on.
        At many of the KIPP, Aspire, Achievement First, and Yes Prep schools, children wear t-shirts emblazoned with “Don’t Eat the Marshmallow.” Mischel’s (2014) latest work, The marshmallow test: Mastering self-control acknowledges KIPP’s prominent role and places it within the context of recent research on improving self-control.  David Levin has made Mischel’s book a central component in his Coursera massive open online course (MOOC), Teaching character and creating positive classrooms, which was first offered with co-instructor, Angela Duckworth, in 2014. 
The Atlantic reported last June on new research showing that Mischel's conclusions were flawed.
. . . .Ultimately, the new study finds limited support for the idea that being able to delay gratification leads to better outcomes. Instead, it suggests that the capacity to hold out for a second marshmallow is shaped in large part by a child’s social and economic background—and, in turn, that that background, not the ability to delay gratification, is what’s behind kids’ long-term success. . . .

. . . .This new paper found that among kids whose mothers had a college degree, those who waited for a second marshmallow did no better in the long run—in terms of standardized test scores and mothers’ reports of their children’s behavior—than those who dug right in. Similarly, among kids whose mothers did not have college degrees, those who waited did no better than those who gave in to temptation, once other factors like household income and the child’s home environment at age 3 (evaluated according to a standard research measure that notes, for instance, the number of books that researchers observed in the home and how responsive mothers were to their children in the researchers’ presence) were taken into account. For those kids, self-control alone couldn’t overcome economic and social disadvantages. 
The failed replication of the marshmallow test does more than just debunk the earlier notion; it suggests other possible explanations for why poorer kids would be less motivated to wait for that second marshmallow. For them, daily life holds fewer guarantees: There might be food in the pantry today, but there might not be tomorrow, so there is a risk that comes with waiting. And even if their parents promise to buy more of a certain food, sometimes that promise gets broken out of financial necessity. 
Meanwhile, for kids who come from households headed by parents who are better educated and earn more money, it’s typically easier to delay gratification: Experience tends to tell them that adults have the resources and financial stability to keep the pantry well stocked. And even if these children don’t delay gratification, they can trust that things will all work out in the end—that even if they don’t get the second marshmallow, they can probably count on their parents to take them out for ice cream instead.

After Months of School Neglect, Bullied KIPP Student Attempts Suicide

Thursday, June 20, 2019

Continuing Comments on "A Former KIPP Teacher Shares Her Story"

Published in 2012, "A Former KIPP Teacher Shares Her Story" has been viewed over 111,000 times.  Here are the two most recent comments, especially worth noting now 7 years after the piece was posted…

As the wife of a current KIPP teacher I am pleased, yet saddened to read this as I've watched my husband, a 10 year social studies teacher who previously taught at a school ranked as one of the top in the country by US News & World Report, struggle mightily in his first year. He came to KIPP with such optimism and a strong desire to make a difference in urban ed. All he's been met with is constant criticism, but zero resources and actual lies from his admin. He teaches two grade levels, 7th and 8th, and even though the school has been open 8 years, there was no curriculum. Literally no materials to work with. He has created everything from lesson plans to assessments to state test questions on his own. His 8th graders only have text books, because he secured a donation from his prior school district. Even after all this, he has been told he doesn't seem vested and that his teaching style isn't a fit for succeeding on the rubric. We now completely understand why they've never had a social studies teacher last longer than a year and the last 2 were gone in the middle of the year. I definitely believe there are students benefiting greatly from KIPP's work, but there must be some way to actually support teachers and build a work place suitable for a career. Currently it seems they only want to deal with fresh grads who are easily manipulated. They can suck the life out of them for a couple of years and start over again.
Anonymous1:11 PM
I was a long-term sub at a KIPP school in California. Although they had positions open and I was encouraged to apply, I never did. The school could be best described as a shabbily run prison. The principal was far too young and inexperienced to be running anything of such vital importance, and this was reflected in how he dealt with the students. He was condescending, hyper-critical, insulting, and just plain mean. It was apparent that his interest in the position ended with his own administrative ambitions and that the students were merely obstacles on that path. To address your comment that some students seem to be benefiting from the KIPP model, I can tell you that the few students I observed who seemed to be doing well with the endless crush of meaningless busy-work that defines the KIPP curriculum and the constant beratement and humiliation dished-out by administrators and some teachers would likely do well under any conditions. These kids obviously came to KIPP with strong executive function skills and cognitive ability... they certainly didn't learn them after arriving. It was heartbreaking to watch... simply because these hard-working, intelligent kids were blinded to the bigger picture by their own poverty, I doubt they realized that they would do well in a school that uncovered, then nurtured and developed their aptitudes and abilities to their fullest potential. Instead, with each day at KIPP, they became more and more institutionalized; incapable of novel or creative thought, out-of-touch with their own emotional lives, and utterly convinced that this was the best opportunity available to someone of their socioeconomic class. KIPP is the complete antithesis of everything education should be, and it in no way works in concert with how human beings learn (through relationships).

Friday, June 07, 2019

If Vouchers Don't Measure Up, Just Change the Measure

I have thought for some time that the biggest threat to the hegemony of the testing accountability complex will come from the school privatization movement, whose own researchers know in dark center of their whoring hearts that charter schools and voucher schools more often than not produce lower test scores than the public schools they are replacing.

We have evidence that this now could be happening, as Trump's feds and states like Florida and Tennessee are beating the bushes to find any and all positive correlations between clean living, hard work, and voucher school attendance. 

An interesting piece from the Conversation, with good links, too:
For the past couple of decades, proponents of vouchers for private schools have been pushing the idea that vouchers work.

They assert there is a consensus among researchers that voucher programs lead to learning gains for students – in some cases bigger gains than with other reforms and approaches, such as class-size reduction.

They have highlighted studies that show the positive impact of vouchers on various populations. At the very least, they argue, vouchers do no harm.

As researchers who study school choice and education policy, we see a new consensus emerging — including in pro-voucher advocates’ own studies — that vouchers are having mostly no effects or negative effects on student learning. As a result, we see a shift in how voucher proponents are redefining what voucher success represents. They are using a new set of non-academic gains that were not the primary argument to promote vouchers.

How success is defined is particularly important now in light of the fact that Florida and Tennessee – which are both controlled by Republicans – have created new publicly funded voucher programs in May 2019.

In April, a large-scale study — conducted by voucher advocates — found substantial negative impacts for students using vouchers to attend private schools. . . .
Read on.

Friday, May 31, 2019

What the KIPP Model Has Spawned

If you know anything about schools based on the "No Excuses" KIPP model, you have probably heard the motto, "there are no excuses," "failure is not an option," success at any cost," and "KIPP is a family", etc.  

If you know more about these schools inspired by the "success" of KIPP, you may have heard something about student intimidation, humiliation, extreme disciplinary measures, ostracism, isolation.

And if you have read my book based on my research and two dozen interviews with former KIPP teachers who have decided to share their horror stories about working there, then you know about documented cases of abuse, where children were forced to sit outside in the heat or the cold for hours, students who forced to bark like dogs, wear garbage cans on their heads, stand in front of the student body and apologize for having to use the bathroom at the wrong time.  

You will be familiar with school leaders who pound tables, load children into U-Haul trailers, and even throw TVs through plate glass windows out of anger.

You will know something, too, of how students are prepped for VIB days (Visitors in Building) and how potential troublemakers have been corralled and taken the basement where they can't be seen by influential visitors.  

You will have read about the Ivy League banners that festoon hallways of elementary schools, and you will know that KIPP Model schools are laser focused on test results that will get children into college.  You will have some understanding of how parents choose to focus on the promise of college and economic success, rather than the suffering of their children and the stealing of their childhoods by corporate school leaders whose mission is branding and expansion of the school brand.

It will not be too surprising, then, for viewers to see the obvious influences between the KIPP Model and the T.M. Landry School in Louisiana.  Look and see.  Make your own list of similarities and influences.