The Power of Free, Self-Selected Reading

Eternal Testing Boondoggle in Florida

The CEO at the FL Department of Education(sic), Pam Stewart, just sent a memo out to tell districts they are probably going to have to spend more of their limited funds on computers for… wait for it… testing. Florida is increasing testing this year under the common core mandates. They are testing more grade levels and adding more EOC exams. This means less time for teaching.
Last year high schools were shut down for testing either fully or partially for 100 days. One Florida middle school principal said it was 90 days for his school. He even held a press conference.
Now Florida has more testing!
But back to Pam Stewart. She informed districts that Pearson was changing testing hardware/platform requirements and that districts needed to take this into account when “making purchasing decisions.”
Billions are being diverted -ongoing- just to keep up with the demands of testing. This comes -as usual- at the expense of teaching and learning.
Pearson and computer companies are loving it. There is a constant demand for the “latest” computers with the main purpose of “more testing.” This is insanity.

World War One Historiography: Are we getting closer to the truth 100 years on?

Originally posted on booksareenough:

The prevailing view on World War One- pushed by the “court historians” has been deeply seared into the minds of generations of people around the world. Even in Germany, children have been led to believe it. But is there counterpoint to the accepted view? Is there valid counterpoint? The answer to both questions is yes. But what is the “accepted” view?

As the tale goes, Germany was to blame for the war and the Kaiser was killing babies by impaling them on his pickelhaube. There have always been some challenges to this view but they have never taken hold due to the fact that victors get the spoils AND the best press. There is a legacy to protect. What if the last 100 years of foreign policy was built on the legs of a scarecrow?

It is not the intent of this paper to do an exhaustive look at the…

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May 25th 1935

Originally posted on booksareenough:

If I could go back in time, it would be to a chilly day at Forbes Field in Pittsburgh to see Babe Ruth hit the last three home runs of his career. He would retire a few days later but not before putting on a display for the ages. Ruth was 41. There were about 10,000 in the stands and the game lasted a little over two hours.

 To me this is the most holy day in the history of the game, as time stood still. Ruth would go 4-4 and drive in 6 runs for the Boston Braves- in a losing effort to the Pirates.

Ruth’s first shot went about 385 feet into the lower deck in right field- a high fly. The next home run was also to right but went about 500 feet into the upper deck in right center- more of a line drive and deep…

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Skandera and Huffman: Defenders of the Status Quo

Politicians Hanna Skandera (New Mexico via Jeb Bush) and Kevin Huffman(Tennessee via Jeb Bush) are mad. They see a threat to the educational testing complex that gives them their power. Politicians like Skandera and Huffman need the hammer of test scores to scapegoat schools, manipulate data and public opinion and continue to divert money to privatization.
Hanna and Huff, as we affectionately call them, wrote a creepy opinion piece in the Washington Post. It sounds oddly like a press release from the Jeb Bush foundation which is run by Jeb and Patty Levesque.
Let me give you a few quotes from their political diatribe and then comment on them. Hanna and Huff say…

1.”In classrooms across the United States, higher academic standards are inspiring students and teachers.”

Response: They waste no time insulting teachers and kids. These two really hate teachers and public education. Common Core is creating more testing and profits for education companies. They are inspiring big business to think of new ways to pilfer tax dollars. Teachers inspire, parents inspire and kids inspire- no need for Common Core.

2. “Students are more engaged and excited in school, raising their hands more often, asking more questions, thinking critically and solving problems instead of just memorizing facts.”

Response: Common Core is making kids raise their hands more and ask more questions? Is there evidence of this miracle? I call bullshot on this one. This is also an insult to teachers. Do they think we really need Common Core to get kids to think critically and problem solve? Do they hate us that much? Or are they admitting the test based system they backed for years is a failure and we need more tests? Huh?

3. “Teachers feel more motivated, creative and empowered to develop new and better ways to reach their students.”

Response: Another insult. We do not need Common Core to think of ways to reach students. Common Core is a test driven boondoggle. Our job is always about reaching kids and saving lives, despite the test based nonsense from Hanna and Huff. Teachers are sick of giving tests up to 100 days a year- tests they do not make.

4. “Astonishingly, the unions seem to think that they can ask for more taxpayer money while simultaneously weakening measurement and accountability. This is the very course of action that has led the United States to its middling level of performance on international benchmarks.”

A. Huff and Hanna are the ones asking for more tax dollars to test kids even more at the expense of learning. They scapegoat schools for the ills of society.
B. No Hanna and Huff- our middling level of performance on international tests is both irrelevant and a result of the US being a world leader in child poverty. These tests are little more than poverty measures. Adjusted for poverty, our kids score at or near the top of these tests. Does it matter? No. (See Bracey, Cremins, Krashen)

Jeb Bush uses his “Chiefs for Change” to avoid the political spotlight and his Common Core albatross. They speak for him. Oddly Hanna and Huff are simply pushing the old status quo of test and punish. They are scared that their world of cocktail parties is about to end. More and more people are aware of the scams and canards they push.

The opinion piece in The Post is a desperate attempt to save the status quo and a testing empire that has helped keep poor and minority students under the boot of political opportunism. Hanna and Huff do not trust teachers. Their policies crush morale, take away teacher autonomy and turn schools into testing centers. Is this the goal? Making things so onerous in public schools that kids flee is part of the agenda.

I will use Bing Crosby- not Common Core

Originally posted on booksareenough:

While some teachers will force kids to read a speech over and over in some tantric “close reading” idea from David Coleman, when I discuss World War II we will listen to the December 21st, 1944 Kraft Music Hall episode. This show was a weekly “must listen” for millions of Americans. 

The 1944 Christmas episode took place as the Battle of the Bulge raged in the Ardennes Forest. Bing Crosby opens the show with his usual Adeste Fideles in Latin- followed by the English version. The radio audience in the studio and around the nation is asked to join in. A special request goes out for all of our men in uniform to join in as well. What a powerful moment to listen to almost 70 years later.

Bing salutes the over 100 WAVES in attendance with a special arrangement of “Jingle Bells.” There is also a performance of the…

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Randi Weingarten and Arson?

I am tired of AFT boss Rhonda Weingarten prattling on like a popinjay about her “opposition” to the high stakes testing addiction and test and punish mentality. Why? Because she is engaged in political doublespeak of epic proportions and she supports test based ideas that harm kids- poor ones the most. I prefer spending billions on nurses, libraries and the general welfare-the billions common core steals each year.
Weingarten bows down to the corporate boondoggle engulfing education at every chance she gets. This is a lady who recently said the job of teachers is to, “prepare kids for the SAT.” I am sure her friend David Coleman was pleased. Sorry, but that is never my goal. Shame on you Rhonda.
Weingarten also pushes common core- which was test driven from the start. As educators know, standards become the curriculum -which are both driven by what is tested.
Common core continues to divert billions to testing, its infrastructure, consultants and assorted materials. Poor students are hurt most by Weingarten’s obsession with common core.
I have written extensively about common core and why we do not need it. It is a non-solution to a non-existent problem. Weingarten has followed Jeb Bush and other assorted cartoon characters down the path of corporate gangsterism.
Weingarten claims common core is suffering from “implementation” problems. AFT said the same thing about NCLB. With both NCLB and common core, AFT (and NEA) had a “let’s get it right” campaign. This type of appeasement never works. Let be very clear when I say that common core is being implemented exactly as designed. Weingarten has positioned teachers and kids as those waiting to be eaten last, by the crocodile.
The next time you hear Weingarten talk about a testing obsession, remember that she lit the testing fire and keeps watch over the its eternal flame. She is a master arsonist.

Scapegoating of Schools in India

The “Indian Express” refused to post my comment to this article. I guess they do not want discussion or value free speech. This might be part of their problems.
Schools- once again – are being scapegoated for the ills of society. Let me be clear that economic policy and government actions trap the poor – not schools. This article trots out the usually myths of merit pay (tried for a 100 years and never works) and high standards. Let me leave you with a quote from educational historian Lawrence Cremins…

“…to conclude that problems of international competitiveness can be solved by educational reform, especially educational reform defined solely as school reform, is not merely utopian and millennialist, it is at best a foolish and at worst a crass effort to direct attention away from those truly responsible for doing something about competitiveness and to lay the burden instead on the schools.”

The readers of the “Indian Express” deserve better and should speak out against repression.

Memo on the Florida Testing Empire

The time spent on testing and every aspect of it is astounding. Florida created a new website dedicated to this obsession. Some might think the Florida Department of Education is a vast criminal empire in collusion with another criminal empire- the Jeb Bush Foundation. Do some research and see if this is true or not. There is an odd closeness between all of the Bush groups, DOE and the legislature- not to mention some media too. 

The entire DOE has become a shill for charters and the educational testing complex. We can only hope it crumbles under its own weight. The Board of Education is a mirror of the Florida Chamber of Commerce. 

Pam Stewart recently approved a charter chain under federal investigation. There are no rules for the enemies of public education. They have the keys to the state. 

The DOE changes the rules for school grades, cut scores and almost everything else on a regular basis. It is all political and the scam is obvious.  Those is power – with a lot of money at stake- are not blind. They know damn well what they are doing. 

It appears the goal of DOE, the legislature and the Jeb Bush Foundation is to craft a canard of failing schools and constant crisis. Why? So these same groups can dust off the lie of “choice.” They need a way to dig up Jim Crow and make him look presentable. This is not a hard thing to do in Florida. George Wallace once won a presidential primary here. 

But, the above mentioned groups want it both ways. They claim their agenda is working on good days and demand more of their agenda on bad days. It is almost laughable.

The whole ball of wax is based on one thing- test scores. These test scores are basically meaningless but they have become the basis for all decisions in Florida. Test scores are the crown jewels of a phony accountability system. 

You see – in Florida- teachers are not trusted. The state and testing companies know best. The state imposes its will and then blames teachers when things do not go as planned. These are the same teachers who have little say in how to evaluate their own students. 

Florida is not unique in pushing the test score lie but they are a leader. Parents, students and teachers must keep the pressure up in order to hasten the end of this corrupt empire. 

How do students get the “struggling reader” label?

The reasons that most students get labeled as “struggling readers” should shock you. Students are the victims, but who are the culprits?

Problems begin at home. Small children who are read to and spoken to a lot avoid many early problems. Small children who grow up in homes full of books also avoid many early problems. Poverty is one of the main reasons why problems develop. This is why local library programs are so valuable. When a parent works all the time- they have little time to read to, and with, their children. Before many students come to school- they are not book lovers and lack an appropriate vocabulary base. Students who have been read to a lot and have been surrounded by books- encouraged to explore- get off to a good start. 

Schools should be able to lessen the effects of poverty by giving kids access to books and plenty of time to read. Schools can put students on the road to becoming book loving citizens. But what happens? Students are tested to death from the start and many are labeled as struggling. In Florida, for example, there is a law that all kindergarten students must be tested in the first few months of school. Guess which kids score poorly on the test and get labeled as struggling readers?

What happens to our newly labeled struggling readers? They are put on computer programs, given a heavy dose of phonics and forced to do some packaged program of instruction – “Fundations” anyone?

Our “struggling readers” fall further behind. The students who need to read real books the most- are often denied that right. I know many great teachers who feel it is seen as a subversive act to get books into the hands of kids. It takes a brave teacher to ignore what the state and district force on you when you know it is harmful.

As our “struggling readers” reach  middle school- what happens? Many are put on computer programs like “READ180.” Sadly, our middle school students continue to be denied the access to books and time they need to read them. 

Schools are forced to reinforce the effects of poverty! Only brave teachers fight the insanity to save kids. By middle school, even kids not in poverty are falling behind those kids who have been book-loving students from a young age. Students not in “intervention” classes get to read while those in intervention classes are forced to do skill-drill-kill and sit in front of flickering computer screens.

Students who are book loving students from an early age do just fine. Why are states and districts giving billions to educational materials companies to buy packaged programs and computer programs? What a boondoggle! Many kids could be saved early on with Reading Recovery but it is often called “too expensive” as districts throw billions to READ180 and READING PLUS. 

Our “struggling readers” enter high school and the same old thing happens. The students who were stuck on computer programs for three years in middle school are given more of the same. Many fail to graduate. Reading researcher Richard Allington pointed out that students should be reading REAL books for at least 60 minutes for each 90 minutes of a literacy block. Good teachers- who know what works and know our job is to create book loving citizens – are constantly fighting against the insanity forced on them and students. 

Students who claim to “hate reading” have one thing in common. They have never been given the time to read and access to books they are entitled to. When a loving teacher who refuses to be bullied by directives gives a kid that first book that excites him/her- the life of that student is changed forever. 

Sadly, some students are not allowed to find that first home run book until high school.

But wait! There is another culprit here. Testing. Students who score (for example) a 244 and not 245 on some standardized reading test are labeled as “struggling.” Is this a scam or what? Cut scores are political hammers that are used to create and continue what David Berliner and Bruce Biddle called the “manufactured crisis.” 




Choice- Florida Style

The Florida Legislature, Governor Rick Scott and CEO Jeb Bush are big fans of choice unless…

1. You are a woman

2. You do not want to be forced to take an online class to graduate from public school

3. You want to go to a public school that is not forced to test 90-100 days a year

“Choice” is a political term only applied when monied interests want.

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