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Category Archives: literacy

Where should literacy start—at home or in school?

According to Zero to Three.org, “Literacy often begins early, long before children encounter formal school instruction in writing and reading. … Many young children begin to learn about writing and reading well before they start elementary school. ”

In addition, Parents.com says, “Reading is an addiction that parents should encourage well before their baby’s first birthday. … When you read to children, they’re getting your full attention, and that’s what they just love. Nothing—no TV show or toy—is better than that. Reading to babies is also a great way to immerse them in the sounds and rhythms of speech, which is crucial for language development.”

We also hear a lot in the media about Finland’s PISA ranking, and how great their public schools are, but where does literacy start in Finland for most children? Stuff4Educators.com says, “Finland has a completely transparent alphabet code and most parents teach their children to read pre-school, as it’s easy to do.”

In addition, Stanford University psychologist Brian Wandell said, “Historically, people have assumed that all children’s brains come adequately equipped and ready to learn to read,” just as with learning to speak, which occurs naturally without much training.  But, he said, “Sometimes, there is a natural distribution of capabilities. Reading is probably the hardest thing we teach people to do in the education system.  There are some kids who are just going to have a hard time.” – The DANA Foundation.org – Your gateway to responsible information about the brain.

But, surprise, surprise: “People who read ‘lots’ and fiction ‘lots’ outscore those who read ‘lots’ but fiction only ‘somewhat’ or ‘not much’. This is because a wider range of vocabulary is typically used in fiction than in non-fiction writing.”  – Economist.com

However, the mandated Common Core language arts and literacy standards puts more emphasis on reading nonfiction even though we know that fiction uses a wider range of vocabulary and leads to a higher level of literacy and a higher level of literacy equal college and career readiness.

And that is why I have a problem with the term “school to prison pipeline”, and the corporate education reform movement that blames only teachers for children who are not college and career ready starting as early as kindergarten and the impossible NCLB mandate that 100% of 17-18 year olds be college and career ready before high school graduation—no country in the world has achieved this at any time, even Finland.

If there is a prison pipeline, it starts in the home and not in the schools and it is linked to literacy, because “75% of prison inmates are illiterate.” – Invisible Children.org

The BBC reports, “that falling behind at the very beginning of school can be the starting point for permanent disadvantage.”

Therefore, parents and/or guardians, if you want to help your child to be college and career ready and have a better chance to stay out of prison, start reading to your children early and don’t wait until kindergarten for teachers to do your job for you. Parenting is more than just giving birth, feeding the child and providing a TV to entertain the kids in addition to a place to sleep. Instead of letting your children become addicted to TV and texting, get them hooked on books before they start kindergarten. In fact, reading is a healthy addiction that every child should have starting at an early age.

_______________________

Lloyd Lofthouse is a former U.S. Marine and Vietnam Veteran,
who taught in the public schools for thirty years (1975 – 2005).

Crazy is Normal promotional image with blurbs

Lofthouse’s first novel was the award winning historical fiction My Splendid Concubine [3rd edition]. His second novel was the award winning thriller Running with the Enemy. His short story A Night at the “Well of Purity” was named a finalist of the 2007 Chicago Literary Awards. His wife is Anchee Min, the international, best-selling, award winning author of Red Azalea, a New York Times Notable Book of the Year (1992).

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What would happen to the Corporate RheeForm War against Public Education in the U.S. if every American knew the few facts in this post?

Value Added Measurement (VAM) uses the results of student tests linked to the flawed Common Core Standards that are being forced on the nation’s public schools to punish teachers for students who–-for a variety of reasons that seldom if ever have anything to do with the actual teaching—are not learning.

In fact, VAM totally ignores the student learning factor and places ALL the blame on teachers when reputable studies have repeatedly proven that time spent in the classroom and teaching represents less than 30% of the factors that lead to a child’s learning.  The other factors that make up two-thirds of what causes a child to learn takes place outside of school in the home/family environment, and poverty DOES play a vital role when it comes to a child learning what is taught by a teacher in the classroom.

Even the results of the International PISA tests prove that poverty is a major factor, and to make my point, I’m using several different reputable sources.

FIRST: A Stanford study found:

“There is an achievement gap between more and less disadvantaged students in every country; surprisingly, that gap is smaller in the United States than in similar post-industrial countries, and not much larger than in the very highest scoring countries.

“Achievement of U.S. disadvantaged students has been rising rapidly over time, while achievement of disadvantaged students in countries to which the United States is frequently unfavorably compared – Canada, Finland and Korea, for example – has been falling rapidly.

“U.S. PISA scores are depressed partly because of a sampling flaw resulting in a disproportionate number of students from high-poverty schools among the test-takers. About 40 percent of the PISA sample in the United States was drawn from schools where half or more of the students are eligible for the free lunch program, though only 32 percent of students nationwide attend such schools.”

SECOND: The Economic Policy Institute validated that the Stanford report was correct.

THIRD: Mel Riddle, the Associate Director for High School Services at NASSP (National Association of Secondary School Principals), compared the results of the PISA and focused on children who lived in poverty to discover that children living in poverty in the United States are improving and doing better than their socioeconomic peers in the other OECD countries.

Mel reported: “PISA results have provided ample fodder for public school bashers and doomsayers who further their own philosophies and agendas by painting all public schools as failing. For whatever reason, the pundits, many of whom have had little or no actual exposure to public schools, refuse to paint an accurate picture of the state of education.

“A closer look at the data tells a different story. Most notable is the relationship between PISA scores in terms of individual American schools and poverty.  While the overall PISA rankings ignore such differences in the tested schools, when groupings based on the rate of free and reduced lunch are created, a direct relationship is established.”

FOURTH: The Center for Public Education looked closely at the time American children spent in school compared to other countries and asked and answered several questions.

For instance: Are students in India and China required to go to school longer than U.S. students?

According to data from the OECD and the World Data on Education, students in China and India are not required to spend more time in school than most U.S. students.

Do other countries require more instructional hours for students than the U.S.?

According to the OECD, the hours of compulsory instruction per year in these countries range from 608 hours in Finland (a top performer) to 926 hours in France (an average performer) at the elementary level, compared to the over 900 hours required in California, New York, Texas, and Massachusetts.

Are U.S. students receiving less instruction?

The data clearly shows that most U.S. schools require at least as much or more instructional time as other countries, even high-performing countries like Finland, Japan, and Korea.

In conclusion, I ask again: What would happen to the Corporate RheeForm War against Public Education in the U.S. if every American knew the few facts in this post?

_______________________

Lloyd Lofthouse is a former U.S. Marine and Vietnam Veteran,
who taught in the public schools for thirty years (1975 – 2005).

Crazy is Normal promotional image with blurbs

Lofthouse’s first novel was the award winning historical fiction My Splendid Concubine [3rd edition]. His second novel was the award winning thriller Running with the Enemy. His short story A Night at the “Well of Purity” was named a finalist of the 2007 Chicago Literary Awards. His wife is Anchee Min, the international, best-selling, award winning author of Red Azalea, a New York Times Notable Book of the Year (1992).

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Proof that any fool can get elected, and that public school teachers should really be running the United States

This post will compare the qualifications it takes to become a public school teacher to what it takes to qualify to run for a political state or national office and end up in the White House as president or a member of the U.S. Congress.

TEACHERS

Kindergarten and elementary school teachers must have at least a bachelor’s degree. In addition, public school teachers must have a state-issued certification or license.

The 2011–12 Schools and Staffing Survey: First Look

In 2011-12, on average, both public and private school teachers had about 14 years of experience. On average, teachers in traditional public schools had more teaching experience (14 years) than teachers in public charter schools (9 years).

The percentage of public school teachers with a master’s degree as their highest degree was larger in traditional public schools (48 percent) than in public charter schools (37 percent) and private schools (36 percent).

“As a group, teachers score relatively high in prose, document, and quantitative literacy; there are no significant differences in scores between male and female teachers or between elementary and secondary teachers. About half of teachers score at Levels 4 and 5 (the two highest levels) on the three literacy scales, compared to about 20 percent of other adults nationwide. … The NALS data present teachers as a labor market bargain, comparing favorably with other professionals in their literacy skills, yet earning less. And we need to recognize that we pay teachers considerably less than other professionals with comparable capacities for dealing with prose, document, and quantitative literacy tasks.” – ets.org

ELECTED REPRESENTATIVES

As you read this section, you might notice that there are no literacy or education requirements to run for a public office. It’s possible to be a high school dropout and be illiterate and become President, a state governor or a member of the U.S. Congress.

In the United States, a person must be at least 35 to be President or Vice President, 30 to be a Senator, or 25 to be a Representative, as specified in the U.S. Constitution. Most states in the U.S. also have age requirements for the offices of Governor, State Senator, and State Representative. Some states have a minimum age requirement to hold any elected office (usually 21 or 18).

How Elected Officials Scored On American Civics Literacy

In each of the following areas, for example, officeholders do more poorly than non-officeholders:

  • 79% of those who have been elected to government office do not know the Bill of Rights expressly prohibits establishing an official religion for the U.S.
  • 30% do not know that “life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness” are the inalienable rights referred to in the Declaration of Independence.
  • 27% cannot name even one right or freedom guaranteed by the First Amendment.
  • 43% do not know what the Electoral College does. One in five thinks it either “trains those aspiring for higher political office” or “was established to supervise the first televised presidential debates.”
  • 54% do not know the Constitution gives Congress the power to declare war. 39% think that power belongs to the president, and 10% think it belongs to the Joint Chiefs of Staff.
  • Only 32% can properly define the free enterprise system, and only 41% can identify business profit as “revenue minus expenses.” – Fellowship of the Minds.com

And in the education wars, who is telling whom how to do their job?

_______________________

Lloyd Lofthouse is a former U.S. Marine and Vietnam Veteran, with a BA in journalism and an MFA in writing,
who taught in the public schools for thirty years (1975 – 2005).

Graphic OCT 2015

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We owe it to our children to combat Poverty and Racism in the United States

An older friend of mine who is in his 80’s once told me that he’d rather be wealthy and unhappy than poor and hungry. Then there is the old curse of racism.

Racism exists when one ethnic group dominates, excludes, or seeks to eliminate another ethnic group on the basis that it believes are hereditary and unalterable, and in history there is no end to examples of racism. To this day, examples of racism may be found in Europe, Australia, Africa, the Middle East, Asia, North American, etc.

For instance, the persecution and murder of millions of Jews by Hitler’s Nazis during World War II, and the list of ethnic cleansings can be traced back to 350 AD in ancient China when 200,000 people with racial characteristics such as high-bridged noses and bushy beards were slaughtered. The history of racism through ethnic cleansings is so long and brutal, it might make you sick to your stomach if you click on the link in this paragraph and scroll through the list.

In addition, a long history of racism exists for the United States. American natives, Asian Americans, Hispanics/Latinos, Black or African Americans, and even Whites have been victims of racism/discrimination. For Whites, the Mormons and Jews have faced persecution in the United States, and Smithsonian.com says,  “The idea that the United States has always been a bastion of religious freedom is reassuring—and utterly at odds with the historical record. … The real story of religion in America’s past is an often awkward, frequently embarrassing and occasionally bloody tale that most civics books and high-school texts either paper over or shunt to the side.”

The Chinese, for instance, are the only minority in the U.S. to have had national legislation passed that was one of the most significant restrictions on free immigration in US history, prohibiting all immigration of Chinese laborers. It was called the Chinese Exclusion Act, and it was signed into law on May 6, 1882, and wouldn’t be repealed until 1943. In fact, Asian Americans have been denied equal rights, subjected to harassment and hostility had their rights revoked and imprisoned for no justifiable reason, physically attacked, and murdered.

The Latino community has also faced discrimination, and according to Pew Research.org, Latinos are the 2nd most discriminated against ethnic group after African-Americans. Sixty-one percent of Latinos say discrimination against Hispanics is a “major problem.”

For Black or African Americans, Pew Research.org reports that 88% of Blacks felt that there was discrimination against African Americans. Even 57% of Whites think that African Americans are discriminated against.

If you remember what I said in my first paragraph, you might have an idea of where I’m going with this, but don’t read me wrong. I think we must always be on guard and protest acts of racism and discrimination, but if history teaches us anything, we know that racism is always going to be around in one form or another, and I think it would be easier to face this curse in strength: educated, literate, and middle class or wealthy and not feeling helpless because of illiteracy, poverty and hunger.

In a previous post Suspensions and Expulsions in the US Public Schools—what does that 3.3 million really mean, it’s obvious that I failed to reach some readers with what I meant to say instead of what they thought I wrote. Some readers of that post became angry and some accused me of having racist tendencies, and then I was locked out and shunned by one group.

I haven’t changed my mind. I still think that poverty and/or single parent homes are the main culprit behind the number of suspensions and expulsions in the public schools, and I pointed this out and provided links to the research in my other post about suspensions and expulsions to support what I wrote.

While racism might be a factor in some of the suspensions and expulsions of Black or African-American children, there was no evidence that this was the case for Asian-Americans and Hispanic/Latinos—both minorities with a long history of being the victims of racism and discrimination—and even if it were true that some suspensions of Black or African Americans was motivated by racism, what could we do to identify individual cases and stop this unacceptable behavior?

CHART UPDATE with two more columns on Jan 10

But we can make an effort to reduce the suffering caused by poverty and illiteracy, and there are proven methods that work. For instance, a transparent, national, early childhood education program that would be managed by the democratic public schools where we’d have a better chance to keep an eye on these programs working with our youngest and neediest children to make sure racism, segregation and discrimination doesn’t rear its evil, horned face behind a wall of secrecy.

The foundation of a strong middle class is access to education for every child beginning in the first few years of life. Sadly, millions of children in this country are cut off from quality early learning. Children in countries as diverse as Mexico, France, and Singapore have a better chance of receiving preschool education than do children in the United States. For children in the U.S. who do attend, quality varies widely and access to high-quality programs is even more limited in low-income communities where it’s needed most.

We already know from decades of evidence that the education reform movement’s opaque and secretive corporate Charter schools are contributing to a resurgence of segregation. This is wrong, and it will lead to more racism and discrimination—instead of less.

If we bicker with each other over how many—difficult to prove and even harder to stop—suspensions of Black or African American children in the public schools is influenced by racism, we are allowing ourselves to get sidetracked from dealing with a challenge we can do something about, and that is to combat poverty and illiteracy.

Like my 80+ year-old friend said but with a revision to his thinking, “I’d rather face racism from a position of strength with an education, a high level of literacy and in the middle class instead of living in poverty, illiterate, feeling angry and powerless.”

UPDATE on 1-11-15

One more thing—looking at that chart, I have to ask this question: With the obvious racism and discrimination that Asian Americans faced and still face, how did they achieve those numbers beating out even the Whites in every column? In addition, the Asian-American unemployment rate is the lowest of all racial groups. The Asian American divorce rate by race is also the lowest at 8% while Whites are the highest at 27%, African Americans are 22% and Hispanics are 20%. There’s more I could add to this list, but that’s in another post I wrote at https://crazynormaltheclassroomexpose.com/2013/05/11/what-parenting-method-works-best/

  • In addition read this post on Marie Corfield’s blog about the segregationist practices of New Jersey’s Charter Schools.

UPDATE on 1-20-15

AARP Bulletin asked, “What can be done to make black youth less vulnerable and fully integrated into mainstream America?” Kareem Abdul-Jabbar replied, “The main problem is the reluctance to educate black Americans. Since the Civil War, people have been indifferent to it—including black Americans.”

_______________________

Lloyd Lofthouse is a former U.S. Marine and Vietnam Veteran,
who taught in the public schools for thirty years (1975 – 2005).

Runner Up in Biography/Autobiography
2015 Florida Book Festival

Crazy-is-Normal-a-classroom-expose-200x300

Honorable Mentions in Biography/Autobiography
2014 Southern California Book Festival
2014 New England Book Festival
2014 London Book Festival

His third book is Crazy is Normal, a classroom exposé, a memoir. “Lofthouse presents us with grungy classrooms, kids who don’t want to be in school, and the consequences of growing up in a hardscrabble world. While some parents support his efforts, many sabotage them—and isolated administrators make the work of Lofthouse and his peers even more difficult.” – Bruce Reeves

Lofthouse’s first novel was the award winning historical fiction My Splendid Concubine [3rd edition]. His second novel was the award winning thriller Running with the Enemy. His short story A Night at the “Well of Purity” was named a finalist of the 2007 Chicago Literary Awards. His wife is Anchee Min, the international, best-selling, award winning author of Red Azalea, a New York Times Notable Book of the Year (1992).

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Measuring the Success or Failure of Public Education in the United States through Literacy: Part 3 of 3

In Conclusion, in case you are wondering why I included Mexico in this comparison, the PEW Research Hispanic Trends Project reports that “The number of Hispanic students in the U.S. public schools nearly doubled from 1990 to 2006, accounting for 60% of the total growth in public school enrollments over that period. There are now approximately 10-million Hispanic students in the nation’s public kindergartens and its elementary and high schools; they make up about one-in-five public school students in the United States. Most if not all of these students come from the poorest population in Mexico, and they bring with them the same attitudes toward education they held before they came to the United States.

Ranking functional literacy in English speaking countries and Mexico

1st Place: In the United Kingdom, 80% read at Level 3 or above.

What explains the UK having such a low functional illiteracy rate? The Guardian.com reports that the “UK publishes more books per capita than any other country.” Does this translate into the UK being a more literate society? If this is one reason, it might be a cultural difference between the other major English speaking countries with similar cultural heritages.

2nd Place:  In the United States, 65% read Intermediate Level or above.

3rd Place: In New Zealand, 55% of adults read at level 3 or above

4th Place: In Australia, 53.6% of adults read at level 3 or above

5th Place: In Mexico, 64% of adults do not have a high school degree or its equivalent, and the The World Bank estimates that in 2012, 52.3-percent of Mexicans lived in poverty in their home country compared to 15% of the U.S. population, who live in poverty— and 25.6%, or about 12 million are Hispanic, and 35% or 6 million of the 16 million children who live in poverty in the U.S. were also Hispanic. In fact, in Mexico, over half of Mexican youth at age 15 are functionally illiterate and cannot solve simple equations or explain basic scientific phenomenon. WorldFund.org

In addition, the New York Times reports that many of these children who come from Latin America are boys between ages 15 and 17 when they arrive in the United States, and they come from some of the poorest regions in those countries. Do you think these children arrived in the U.S. functionally literate in their own language?

Return to Part 2 or Start with Part 1

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_______________________

Lloyd Lofthouse is a former U.S. Marine and Vietnam Veteran,
who taught in the public schools for thirty years (1975 – 2005).

Crazy-is-Normal-a-classroom-expose-200x300

His third book is Crazy is Normal, a classroom exposé, a memoir. “Lofthouse presents us with grungy classrooms, kids who don’t want to be in school, and the consequences of growing up in a hardscrabble world. While some parents support his efforts, many sabotage them—and isolated administrators make the work of Lofthouse and his peers even more difficult.” – Bruce Reeves

Lofthouse’s first novel was the award winning historical fiction My Splendid Concubine [3rd edition]. His second novel was the award winning thriller Running with the Enemy. His short story A Night at the “Well of Purity” was named a finalist of the 2007 Chicago Literary Awards. His wife is Anchee Min, the international, best-selling, award winning author of Red Azalea, a New York Times Notable Book of the Year (1992).

To follow this Blog via E-mail see upper right-hand column and click on “Sign me up!”

 

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Measuring the Success or Failure of Public Education in the United States through Literacy: Part 2 of 3

Literacy is the ability to read and write. In modern context, the word means reading and writing in a level adequate for written communication and generally a level that enables one to successfully function at certain levels of a society.

The standards of what level constitutes “literacy” vary between societies.

In the United States alone, one in seven persons (i.e., over 40 million people) can barely read a job offer or utility bill, which arguably makes them functionally illiterate in a developed country such as the US.

In 2003 the National Assessment of Adult Literacy (NAAL), conducted by the US Department of Education, found that fourteen percent of American adults scored at this “below basic” level in prose literacy. More than half of these persons did not have a high-school diploma or GED. Thirty-nine percent of persons at this level were Hispanic; twenty percent were Black; and thirty-seven percent were White.

Now, to compare the five countries listed in the post to the United States.

First – Mexico: The OECD reports that 7.2 years is the average years of schooling of adults in Mexico.

Second – Canada: In 2012, Indicators of Well-being in Canada reported that 22% of adult Canadians had less than a high school education in addition to 16.5% reading at Level 1 or Below Level 1. Canada has five literacy levels. Canada’s Below Level 1 and Level 1 are equal to Below Basic in the United States. 83.9% of Canadians read at levels 2, 3, and 4/5. If Canada measures literacy the same as the United Kingdom, then 48.5% are ranked at Level 2 and below and are functionally illiterate.

Third – United Kingdom: The Telegraph reported that one in five Brits is functionally illiterate—that’s 20% that read below level 2, the common definition of functional illiteracy, and the OECD reports that the UK is ranked 22nd for literacy and 21st for numeracy out of 24 countries. BBC.com

Fourth – Australia: Uses the same five level literacy skill level rating system as the UK and Canada, and in 2006, almost 46.4% of adults read at Level 2 or below and were functionally illiterate. abs.gov.au

Fifth – New Zealand: The distribution of literacy skills within the New Zealand population is similar to that of Australia, the United States and the United Kingdom. Analysis of New Zealand Data from the International Adult Literacy Survey reports that 45% of adult New Zealanders were in Levels 1 and 2 for prose literacy. EducationCounts.govt.nz 5731 and EducationCounts.govt.nz 5495

Sixth – United States: 14% or 30 million were ranked below basic on the 2003 National Assessment of Adult Literacy (NAAL), and 49% of adults who ranked below basic had less than/some high school but did not graduate from high school or earn a GED/high school equivalency. The United States has four literacy levels compared to five for the UK, Canada, Australia and New Zealand. 87 percent of American’s read at basic or above.  65 percent read Intermediate and above. As reported by the OECD, one in six adults (16.6%) in the United States scored below level 2, in literacy.  nces.ed.gov

Part 3 Continues on November 19, 2014 or start with Part 1

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 _______________________

Lloyd Lofthouse is a former U.S. Marine and Vietnam Veteran,
who taught in the public schools for thirty years (1975 – 2005).

Crazy-is-Normal-a-classroom-expose-200x300

His third book is Crazy is Normal, a classroom exposé, a memoir. “Lofthouse presents us with grungy classrooms, kids who don’t want to be in school, and the consequences of growing up in a hardscrabble world. While some parents support his efforts, many sabotage them—and isolated administrators make the work of Lofthouse and his peers even more difficult.” – Bruce Reeves

Lofthouse’s first novel was the award winning historical fiction My Splendid Concubine [3rd edition]. His second novel was the award winning thriller Running with the Enemy. His short story A Night at the “Well of Purity” was named a finalist of the 2007 Chicago Literary Awards. His wife is Anchee Min, the international, best-selling, award winning author of Red Azalea, a New York Times Notable Book of the Year (1992).

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Measuring the Success or Failure of Public Education in the United States through Literacy: Part 1 of 3

There are many ways to measure the success or failure of public education in the United States, and one way is to compare functional Illiteracy in the United States to similar English speaking countries and Mexico, because culture plays an important role in children’s attitude toward education and literacy.

It’s arguable that the four MOST similar countries/cultures in the world, when compared to the United States, are Canada, Australia, New Zealand, and the United Kingdom, because they share an Anglo Saxon heritage, culture, and the same language. In addition, almost 80% of the U.S. population is white alone (in 2013, 77.7% were white), and the more than 13% who are African American, who have been in the U.S. for several generations, due to slavery, are no longer linked to an African cultural heritage. If you doubt that, consider that 78% of African Americans are Protestants and 5% are Catholics and—forced—immigration from Africa stopped and/or slowed drastically after the Civil War in 1865. What this means is that African Americans with roots that reach back 150 years or more are culturally American. If interested in this topic, I suggest you read a study out of Yale: African vs. African-American: a shared complexion does not guarantee racial solidarity

The United Nations defines illiteracy as the inability to read and write a simple sentence in any language, and it’s arguable that English is one of the most difficult languages to learn—if not the most difficult—if it is your second language. To understand this, I suggest you read 10 Reasons Why English is a Hard Language

The BBC asked, How many hours does it take to be fluent in English?

Huan Japes, deputy chief executive of English UK, a trade body for language colleges, says a rule of thumb is 360 hours—120 hours for each of three stages—to get to the standard the government expects benefit claimants to reach. …

Dr Elaine Boyd, head of English language at Trinity College London, says, “If someone is really highly motivated, they can learn really quickly. It’s common for children under the age of 11 to be very immersed and be fluent in about six months.” …

Philida Schellekens, a language consultant, says that when she researched English language learning in Australia a decade ago the figure of 1,765 hours was used. That could mean four years of classes. It signifies the standard needed to do a clerical job in an office.

In English Spelling Confuses Everyone, Professor Julius Nyikos, a linguistics expert born and raised in Hungary, learned numerous languages in his elementary school, high school, and university training. He came to the US in 1949 and, after a few years of studying English, was able to continue his profession as a linguist that he began in Europe. He spent many years as a professor at Washington & Jefferson College in Pennsylvania studying the languages of the world. In his scholarly article for the 1987 Linguistics Association of Canada and the United States Forum, titled “A Linguistic Perspective of Functional Illiteracy,” he made the statement, “It would be both ludicrous and tragic if it took lawsuits to jolt us into the realization that neither the teachers, nor the schools should be faulted as much as our orthography [spelling], which is incomparably more intricate than that of any other language (emphasis added). If English is not the absolute worst alphabetic spelling in the world, it is certainly among the most illogical, inconsistent, and confusing. This is due to the developmental history of the present.”

Part 2 Continues on November 18, 2014

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_______________________

Lloyd Lofthouse is a former U.S. Marine and Vietnam Veteran,
who taught in the public schools for thirty years (1975 – 2005).

lloydlofthouse_crazyisnormal_web2_5

His third book is Crazy is Normal, a classroom exposé, a memoir. “Lofthouse presents us with grungy classrooms, kids who don’t want to be in school, and the consequences of growing up in a hardscrabble world. While some parents support his efforts, many sabotage them—and isolated administrators make the work of Lofthouse and his peers even more difficult.” – Bruce Reeves

Lofthouse’s first novel was the award winning historical fiction My Splendid Concubine [3rd edition]. His second novel was the award winning thriller Running with the Enemy. His short story A Night at the “Well of Purity” was named a finalist of the 2007 Chicago Literary Awards. His wife is Anchee Min, the international, best-selling, award winning author of Red Azalea, a New York Times Notable Book of the Year (1992).

To follow this Blog via E-mail see upper right-hand column and click on “Sign me up!”

 
 

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This is my PURGE post, and it isn’t a movie review

Sunday, I walked downtown to see The Purge: Anarchy, and while watching the film and walking home afterwards, I couldn’t stop thinking about the unnamed New Founding Fathers mentioned at the beginning of the film—who were in their ninth year as the leaders of the United States. In case you forgot or never knew, the U.S. Constitution limits a U.S. president to two, four-year terms. Therefore, with the current U.S. Constitution, there’s no way one president can stay in office nine years. But in this film that’s set about a decade in the future, the United States is led by a cabal that calls itself the New Founding Fathers that’s more like the Politburo of the old Soviet Union. There is no mentioned that the United States still has a Congress or Supreme Court.

Let’s get the synopsis of this film out of the way first with no spoilers. In the film, a vengeful father comes to the aid of a mother, her teenage daughter, and a defenseless young couple on the one night of the year that all crime, including murder, is legal.

We never learn who the New Founding Fathers are, but who else could they be but Bill Gates, the infamous Koch brothers, the Walton family, Eli Broad, Rupert Murdoch and a few other ruthless billionaire oligarchs who either inherited their fortunes or earned the money through crooked trickery and the corruption of elected officials.

These billionaires are the same people who are currently spending hundreds of millions of dollars to mislead America as they reinvent the United States into something that will obviously resemble the country in this film—where the agenda of the New Founding Fathers is to get rid of the so-called vermin at the bottom who were probably born into poverty through no fault of their own.

Who are the working poor? According to a January 2014 Pew Research report most poor Americans are in their prime working years. In 2012, 57 percent of poor Americans were ages 18 to 64, and only  9.1 percent were age 65 and over, while poverty among children younger than 18 was 21.8% in 2012, and is worse today.

In addition, research from the Brookings Institution says, “If you’re born into a middle-class family, there’s a 76 percent chance you’ll end up middle class or even wealthier. Born into a poor family? Only a 35 percent chance.

Brookings offers three simple rules to end up middle class, no matter how low you start out.

One: graduate from high school
Two: work full time
Three: marry before you have children

It’s easy to tell a kid who lives in poverty that they have to graduate from high school to have a chance to move up to the middle class, but to insure that this happens, all children must start kindergarten with a love of reading from day one—reaching high school with a high level of literacy is the key to being a lifelong learner.

To make this happen, we must start with a national early childhood education program for all children as young as three, and this is something that Obama plans to ask Congress to vote for during his last year in office.

What do you think the odds are that Congress will approve anything Obama asks for in 2015? Why didn’t President Obama start with a national early childhood education program when he had the votes in Congress instead of first starting with the flawed and brutal Bill Gates funded Common Core agenda?

Bill Gates—who I’m sure would be one of the New Founding Fathers if this film were to become reality—seems to be doing all he can to make sure children who are born to poverty stay in poverty.

I’m almost done reading “The Teacher Wars, A History of America’s Most Embattled Profession” by Dana Goldstein, and it was Bill Gates who derailed any meaningful improvement in the public schools by spending hundreds of millions of dollars to implement a Machiavellian “rank and yank” system called Common Core designed to punish children and teachers.

The tragedy is that there are proven, positive methods to improve public education, but President Obama and Bill Gates are all but ignoring those solutions for something malignant.

The programs I’m talking about are already being used in most developed countries with dramatic success. They’re known as Continuous Quality Improvement programs where teachers are mentored to become the best they can be instead of being ranked by annual student standardized tests and then yanked out of the classroom based on the results.

In fact, high-achieving nations like Finland and Shanghai, China already require that every teacher must go through a year-long residency in a mentor teacher’s classroom.  Teacher programs that do this already exist in the United States but they are only turning out a few hundred teachers annually and aren’t getting the funding they should have.

Research from Urban Teacher Residency United, a national network of nineteen programs, reveals that principals consistently rate urban teacher residency graduates as more effective than other first-year teachers and nationwide, urban teacher residencies have an 87 percent retention rate at four years, compared to the loss of nearly half of all new urban teachers over a similar period of time, and two thirds (66 percent) of Teach for America (TFA) recruits, who only have five weeks of summer training before being tossed in urban classrooms to sink or swim. (The Teacher Wars, A History of America’s Most Embattled Profession by Dana Goldstein)

By the way, in 1975-76, I was fortunate enough to go through a paid, year-long residency in a mentor teacher’s fifth-grade classroom, and I went from there to teach until August 2005 in public schools with a childhood poverty rate higher than 70 percent along with violent street gangs that dominated the streets around those schools, including the elementary school where I was an intern.

In conclusion, I think we should purge from all political power those who would most likely become the New Founding Fathers of the United States, before they get a chance to create the nightmare world we see in this film. After all, the billionaire oligarchs mentioned earlier in this post already seem to be working hard toward that goal.


If we don’t invest in early childhood education, we pay the price as a nation. Sesame Street can’t do it alone.

_______________________

Lloyd Lofthouse is a former U.S. Marine and Vietnam Veteran,
who taught in the public schools for thirty years (1975 – 2005).

His third book is Crazy is Normal, a classroom exposé, a memoir. “Lofthouse presents us with grungy classrooms, kids who don’t want to be in school, and the consequences of growing up in a hardscrabble world. While some parents support his efforts, many sabotage them—and isolated administrators make the work of Lofthouse and his peers even more difficult.” – Bruce Reeves

lloydlofthouse_crazyisnormal_web2_5

Lofthouse’s first novel was the award winning historical fiction My Splendid Concubine [3rd edition]. His second novel was the award winning thriller Running with the Enemy. His short story A Night at the “Well of Purity” was named a finalist of the 2007 Chicago Literary Awards. His wife is Anchee Min, the international, best-selling, award winning author of Red Azalea, a New York Times Notable Book of the Year (1992).

 

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A Bloody Rain of Terror on Teachers: a book review of Diane Ravitch’s “Reign of Error”

After reading “Reign of Error” by Diane Ravitch with a highlighter and flagging pages with Post-it-Notes, I finished with a question: Why would anyone want to teach in today’s toxic public-school environment? The answer to that question is vital.

If Americans who value our freedoms; the democracy we fought and bled for, as citizens we must have a say in how our public schools operate; teach and treat our children. Every teacher, parent and future parent in America must join forces and fight to keep the public schools from being destroyed by a malignant cancer that President G. W. Bush called “No Child Left Behind” and President Obama calls “Race to the Top”. Both of these Washington D.C. based programs supported by Congress demand that teachers are successful with 100% of the children and nothing else is acceptable.

This means that if a school improves scores—for example—by even 50% from 25 to 75, that school would still be considered a failure and all of its teachers branded as failures. Then those public schools may be closed and turned over to the private-sector where profit driven vampires may be allowed to suck out the profits as if it were the blood of a victim while the law is powerless to do anything.

If you read “Reign of Error”, you will discover this is exactly what happened to public schools in Chicago and New Orleans. In a few of Chicago’s public schools, for instance—that were more successful than the private-sector for profit schools replacing them—even the angry parents of the children who attended those improving public schools couldn’t stop the closures.

You see, “No Child Left Behind” and “Race to the Top” only punishes the public schools for not achieving the impossible goals set by the President and Congress but ignores the private sector schools that are replacing them.

The situation between the public schools and the private sector that’s moving in is similar to having Woody Allen age 77 fighting a 20-year old Mike Tyson at the height of his boxing career, but Allen has to wear gloves and can’t hit below the belt while Tyson is bare fisted and can hit anywhere he wants.

Sad to say, an old former friend of mine was seduced to the dark side—he was influenced by more than thirty years of corporate; private-sector propaganda into believing the public schools were broken and now he sides with the test-students-to-death mentality and blame teachers when 100% of the kids don’t show dramatic improvement with those test scores. This former, old friend firmly believes the only way to educate our children is through private sector, assembly-line, CEO mentality, corporate schooling. He thinks this is “school choice” but once the public schools are closed, there will no choice.

Halfway through reading “Reign of Error”, I sent this former friend I have known for almost sixty years an e-mail urging him to read Ravitch’s book. A few days later he wrote that he visited Amazon; read the 1-star reviews from critics of public education [there were eight when I last looked compared to one-hundred-thirteen 5-star reviews] and that was all he needed to make his mind up—he refused to read the book.

If you know anyone with a closed mind like his and a world view that sees everything through a black-and-white filter, don’t waste your time as I did. Individuals like my old, former friend are a lost cause, but we may still have a chance to save America’s public school before it is too late.

It isn’t as if I wasn’t aware of what was going on in the public school. After all, I successfully taught in the public schools for thirty years alongside many other hardworking teachers, and I have stayed in touch with colleagues and friends who are still in the classroom—they say it’s getting worse and not better. When I talk to them, I hear the stress; the pressure; the depression, and the sense of defeat. It doesn’t matter how great or hard working a teacher might be, they are all painted with the critic’s corporate-funded brush that says we must get rid of incompetent teachers [but not one study had indicated how many teachers in America are incompetent], and to do this we must strip all teachers of job protection; we must get rid of the unions who might fight for a [good] teacher’s rights; we must turn the schools over to corporations and non-profit organizations with highly paid CEOs who will make all the decisions and who have the power to fire teachers and administrators for any reason at any time—all without government oversight and supervision.

After reading “Reign of Error” I now have a complete picture of what has been going on for more than thirty years, and I taught in the public schools through most of that era, but I had no idea it was this bad.

We must fight to stop the special interests that are directed by billionaires and religions driven by idealistic beliefs that stem from racism; libertarianism; conservatism; neo-conservatism; progressive agendas, and fundamentalist Christian beliefs. Thirty years ago these wealthy individuals and organizations were critics of the public schools but they were not working together and the voters defeated them at the ballot box repeatedly.

That all changed starting with President G. W. Bush’s “No Child Left Behind” and then even worse, President Obama’s “Race to the Top”. The critics found another way to achieve their goals; bypassed the voters and bought presidents, members of Congress, governors, mayors, and state legislatures, and to win elections outspent the candidates they couldn’t buy.

Today those groups and individuals in the private sector have a common goal and that goal is to strip democracy from the public schools and turn those schools over to “them” so they can teach the kids any way they want without any rules, oversight or restrictions.

The American people must fight and resist—for example: the Koch brothers; the Walton family and the Gates Foundation—to preserve America’s freedoms from a corporate CEO mentality; an autocratic and dictatorial thought process. How would you like Wal-Mart teaching your kids—a corporation that teaches its lowly paid workers how to apply for welfare/food stamps?

To learn more about the Walton family’s campaign against the public school in America, I suggest reading this post about Education that appeared on Walmart1percent.org.

Do you want America’s schools run by someone like the libertarian Koch brothers; the conservative Walton family; the progressive Gates family, or neoconservative Rupert Murdock who owns and controls Media Corp, the second largest media empire in the world?

Or do you want America’s 13,600 public school districts teaching more than 50-million kids to be managed by democratically elected school boards who answer to parents/voters as they have for more than a hundred years?

Ravitch’s book proves beyond a doubt for any open-minded person that our public schools have been slowly and steadily improving and are not failing, but that there’s still room for improvement. In fact, Ravitch closes her book with several chapters with suggestions to improve the public schools more than they have already improved in the last century. I agree with Ravitch’s recommendations.

When we look at more than a century of progress in the country’s public schools starting in 1900, there is nothing but progress as the high school graduation rate climbed from 3% to reach 90% in 2012.

Be aware that the numbers the critics report are the ones they want you to know—like the on-time graduation rates for 17/18 year olds which is also at its highest point in the history of this country, but they won’t tell you that last fact.

The critics don’t bother to mention that 15% of the 25%, who did not graduate on time, went on to graduate by age 24—most of them within a year.

What this proves is that the public schools are not social promotion factories as critics claim. High schools have minimum standards for high school graduation. Students must take and pass a given list of classes; earn enough credits in addition to passing a competency exam to prove they have the right to earn a high school diploma. And many of the students who did not qualify to graduate on time meet those requirements and graduate a year or more later. That additional 15% adds up to 7.65 million more high school graduates, who didn’t graduate on time but did graduate.

But “No Child Left Behind” and “Race to the Top” demands that every child finishes first and on time—something that has never happened in the history of any country in the world. These two Washington DC programs supported by the critics of public education are impossible to achieve and are nothing more than a bloody path to guaranteed failure.

As I was reading “Reign of Error”, at first I wanted to go into greater detail sharing what I had learned.  But there is so much information from mostly primary sources supported by charts and a chapter by chapter detailed index, that there was no way I could do the book justice. All I can suggest is that if you love America; if you are a true patriot who supports the U.S. Constitution and the Bill of Rights, you must read this book with an open mind. But be warned, the politicians that belong to the private-sector critics; billionaires and corporations calling for school reform, will do all they can to discredit this book to achieve their goals. They already achieved that goal with one former, old friend of mine, and I’m sure there are many more closed-minded fools just like him.

Ravitch is not against charter schools that teach at-risk kids. In fact, in “Reign of Error” Ravitch points out that the concept of charter schools came from Albert Shanker, who was the founding father of the charter-school movement, and the president of the American Federation of Teachers from 1974 to 1997 [AFT is one of America’s two largest teacher unions with about 900-thousand members]. However, once the private -sector reformers and vultures arrived, the charter school concept was hijacked and changed. Now, as Ravitch points out in Chapter 16, [the 5,000] charter school run the gamut from excellent to awful and are, on average no more innovative or successful than public schools.

Shanker’s basic concept was that the charter schools would have a charter for a set period of time while still being part of a public school district; would work with the students who were at high risk of failure, and at some point its work would be done.

Discover Born into Poverty

_______________________

Lloyd Lofthouse is a former U.S. Marine and Vietnam Veteran,
who taught in the public schools for thirty years (1975 – 2005).

His third book is Crazy is Normal, a classroom exposé, a memoir. “Lofthouse presents us with grungy classrooms, kids who don’t want to be in school, and the consequences of growing up in a hardscrabble world. While some parents support his efforts, many sabotage them—and isolated administrators make the work of Lofthouse and his peers even more difficult.” – Bruce Reeves

Lofthouse’s first novel was the award winning historical fiction My Splendid Concubine [3rd edition]. His second novel was the award winning thriller Running with the Enemy. His short story A Night at the “Well of Purity” was named a finalist of the 2007 Chicago Literary Awards. His wife is Anchee Min, the international, best-selling, award winning author of Red Azalea, a New York Times Notable Book of the Year (1992).

To follow this Blog via E-mail see upper right-hand column and click on “Sign me up!”

 

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Born into poverty

On November 2, in a comment for one of my Blog posts, Dienne wrote, “You also conflate [meaning ‘confuse’] being ‘poor’ with deep poverty and clearly you have no experience of the latter.” Source: The Ravitch Transformation—an educated awakening

After I read Dienne’s comment, I thought she was right.  It took a few days before the light went on inside my head, and I called my 82-year-old sister, who said we were all born in poverty—I also arrived in poor health with a severe learning disability. I knew about the poor health and the learning disability but I had forgotten about the poverty because it was my life and as a child—and even later—I never thought about being poor or disadvantaged even though we were. I just didn’t think about it.

When my mother met my dad, she was a single parent with two young children—my older brother and sister. She met my dad before World War II, and survived with the help of the federal Food Stamp Program that issued the first food stamp in 1939. Source: Snap to Health.org

My sister was born in 1931; my brother 1935, and me in 1945.

Before the Food Stamp Program, California—always a progressive state—had a welfare system that served single women and children in the 1930s, and my mother took advantage of that lifesaver too.

Due to the Great Depression [late 1929 – early 1940s], my mother and father dropped out of high school at age 14, but they left with a lifesaving skill known as literacy. Both were avid readers. My dad read westerns and mysteries. My mother read romances but without the graphic sex. The romances she read went as far as holding hands and that was about it. During the Great Depression, unemployment reached 25%.

Before World War II, my dad was unemployed most of the time, and he was an alcoholic who often vanished for weeks at a time when on a drinking binge. He worked a number of odd jobs: for instance, at Santa Anita race track mucking out horse stalls; trekking into the local LA mountains to fill huge burlap bags with oak leaves he sold to nurseries, and in an ice cream factory. At one point he was so desperate he was caught breaking and entering and charged with burglary. I found the arrest record among my mother’s papers after her death.

During the war, he worked at the Long Beach Shipyards but that job ended with the war and the curse of unemployment returned leading to more serious drinking and long absences. To survive, my mother earned what she could from housekeeping and doing laundry.

A few years after I was born, a family friend—my Catholic godfather—helped my father get a job in a concrete company where the workers belonged to labor unions. The higher pay allowed my parents to buy their first—unfinished—house.  

That house was in Azusa, California. When we moved in, it had no doors; no windows, and no finished walls. The only room in the house that offered privacy was the one bathroom that had plywood nailed to the open two by four framing. The outside of the house was wrapped in tar paper—so I lived in a tar-paper shack.

Each pay day, my dad drove home in his used, rusty pick-up truck loaded with windows and doors for the house. The furniture came last.

Then—just as it looked like we were joining the blue-collar middle class—there was a strike when the union demanded better pay and benefits followed by unemployment when my dad was fired along with others after the strike ended.

I was born into poverty and my father earned good money in construction when he worked and when he didn’t work—which was often—he collected unemployment and drank. He stopped drinking in his late 50s and died at age 79. My mother died at 89. My brother, who spent 15 years in jail, lived to be 64, was an alcoholic, a smoker and illiterate. My brother and his large family lived in poverty and bought food with the help of food stamps.

But I was the youngest, and my mother made sure I learned to read after the public schools tested me and said I was too retarded to learn to read or write.

At home, using a wire coat hanger as a painful motivator, my mother taught me to read; I graduated from high school; joined the U.S. Marines; fought in Vietnam and went to college on the G.I. Bill breaking the cycle of poverty that I was born into. Because I learned to read—against the odds—I’m hooked on books and have been learning about the world from National Geographic Magazine for as long as I can remember.

Yes, Dienne, I did not grow up in extreme poverty but I tasted the poverty and didn’t notice the so-called bitterness. Maybe that explains why I felt more comfortable teaching children who lived in poverty during the thirty years I taught in the public schools—I wanted to be a catalyst that might help lift some out of poverty by teaching them to read and write like my mother taught me. I just couldn’t use a coat hanger, but I could tap into the tough pit-bull discipline the Marine Corps instilled in me.

I have a problem with Dienne’s comment about me having no experience with “deep poverty”, because I doubt that many Americans have much if any experience with deep/extreme poverty like we find in India or Africa. According to a piece published in the Washington Post, “The number of [U.S.] households in extreme poverty is 613,000, or 1.6 percent of non-elderly households with children.”

But almost 50 million people in the U.S. live in poverty, and 43% of those whose literacy skills are lowest live in poverty.  Source: News With Views.com [Note: You may want to click this link and read the post to discover one of the challenges teachers in America’s public schools face—something they have little or no control over regardless of the unrealistic goals and demands that were set by Presidents Bush; Obama and Congress]

To break the poverty cycle, there must be an early intervention starting the moment a woman living in poverty discovers she is pregnant. The intervention must include proper nutrition [including health care that I would have never received if my dad had not been a member of a labor union] and by age 18 months, the child must be introduced to books, magazines and newspapers with weekly trips to the library where there are active literacy programs that could be adapted to serve these children. The intervention should include mandatory workshops for the parents to teach them how to be better parents. This intervention must include regular supervision that only relaxes its vigilance when the child is reading at or above grade level after sixth grade.

Next Sunday, December 8, 2013, I will post my review on this Blog of Diane Ravitch’sReign of Error” [already posted on Amazon]—a book that I highly recommend every literate American read and every illiterate American listen to. We must declare war on ignorance of public education in the U.S., because there is a deliberate campaign backed by billionaires who inherited their great wealth [the Koch brothers and the Walton family, for instance] or were born into the middle class and then became billionaires [Bloomberg & Bill Gates], who have one goal: destroy and strip the democratic process from public education in the U.S. These individuals have no clue what it’s like to live in poverty and how it impacts a child’s ability to earn an education and escape poverty. I was a horrible student in the public schools, but I was also an avid reader—I just didn’t read what teachers assigned as homework. Ravitch not only exposes the plot to destroy America’s public schools but she also offers a detailed road map to improve the public schools more than they have already improved in the last century.

_______________________

Lloyd Lofthouse is a former U.S. Marine and Vietnam Veteran,
who taught in the public schools for thirty years (1975 – 2005).

His third book is Crazy is Normal, a classroom exposé, a memoir. “Lofthouse presents us with grungy classrooms, kids who don’t want to be in school, and the consequences of growing up in a hardscrabble world. While some parents support his efforts, many sabotage them—and isolated administrators make the work of Lofthouse and his peers even more difficult.” – Bruce Reeves

Lofthouse’s first novel was the award winning historical fiction My Splendid Concubine [3rd edition]. His second novel was the award winning thriller Running with the Enemy. His short story A Night at the “Well of Purity” was named a finalist of the 2007 Chicago Literary Awards. His wife is Anchee Min, the international, best-selling, award winning author of Red Azalea, a New York Times Notable Book of the Year (1992).

To follow this Blog via E-mail see upper right-hand column and click on “Sign me up!”

 

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