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Tag Archives: Diane Ravitch

Do High Stakes Tests Cause Children to Commit Suicide to Escape the Stress?

First from FairTest – November 2013:

  • Laela Gray, an eight-year-old Florida girl, became a poster child for high-stakes testing trauma after she was told she could not advance to fourth grade because she scored 181 instead of 182 on the third grade state reading test
  • Many teachers say pressure to prepare students for more rigorous Common Core tests means the youngest children are now required to do work that is wildly age-inappropriate.:
  • Common Core tests are meant to be harder to pass. In New York State, scores from the first administration of Common Core-based exams dropped dramatically from the previous year’s test results. Drops were particularly enormous in districts serving large numbers of English language learners and students with special needs.
  • Even kindergarten is no longer a refuge from the test preparation craze. New York kindergartners are bubbling in standardized exams based on Common Core math standards so there is test data to use for their teachers’ evaluations. Their teachers report that many of these young children don’t even know how to hold pencils yet and don’t understand how to fill in bubbles on test answer sheets.

And from rethinking schools.org we discover, “Under threat of losing federal funds, all 50 states adopted or revised their standards and began testing every student, every year in every grade from 3 – 8 and again in high school.”

Then there is this from The Washington Post: For the last year a revolt against high-stakes standardized testing has been growing around the country, with teachers, principals, superintendents, parents and students speaking out about the negative impact on education of this obsession.

Now, let’s look closer at child suicide rates:

The American Foundation for Suicide Prevention says, Younger groups have had consistently lower suicide rates than middle-aged and older adults. In 2013, adolescents and young adults aged 15 to 24 had a suicide rate of 10.9 per every 100,000 in that age bracket.

But if you click on the previous link and scroll down to Suicide Rates by Age from 2000 to 2013, you will discover that the suicide rate of children aged 15 to 24 were not always 10.9. In fact, in 2000, the suicide rate for ages 15 to 24 was 10.2 and for the next three years, the suicide rate declined to 9.9; then 9.8 for 2002, and a low of 9.5 for 2003 before it leaped to 10.3 for 2004 and started to climb right along with the corporate education reform agenda and the high stakes tests linked to the No Child Left Behind (2001) and then the Common Core Standards (2010).

After the Common Core appeared in 2010 followed by its high stakes tests, the childhood suicide rate climbed to 10.5 and then to 10.9 where it held steady for three years in a row: 2011, 2012, and 2013.

The suicide rates for children that were less than age 14 has also climbed since 2000 when the rate was 0.5—a rate that held steady or dropped until 2013 when the rate shot up to 0.7 per 100,000 children for the first time.

In this post, I want to demonstrate the dramatic increase in child suicide rates to discover how many children are committing suicide due to the alleged stress caused by No Child Left Behind (NCLB – 2001) and Race To The Top (RTTP -2009) in addition to the Common Core State Standards (CCSS – 2010) and the PARCC tests that followed.

In 2000, the U.S. Census reported there were about 41 million children ages 5 to 14, and 39.1 million children ages 15 to 24. In 2000, 205 children ages 5 to 14, and 3,988 young adults ages 14 to 24 committed suicide.

Thirteen years later, in 2013, the U.S. Census reported that there were 40.9 million children ages 5 to 14 and 43.5 million young adults ages 15 to 24. In 2013, 286 children ages 5 to 14—a dramatic increase of 39.5 percent since 2000—and 4,741.5 young adults ages 15 to 24—another dramatic increase of 18.9 percent since 2000—committed suicide.

If we look at the numbers starting with 2011 when the child suicide rate hit 0.7 and/or 10.9 per 100,000, an additional 243 children ages 5 – 14 and 2,260.5 young adults ages 15 to 24 committed suicide possibly because of the added stress caused by NCLB, CCSS and PARCC.

What else can possible explain the DRAMATIC increase in child suicide rates? Could it be the divorce rate that leads to broken families? Let’s find out. In 1980, the annual divorce rate was 5.2 per 1,000, but in 2000 it was 4.2, and by 2009, the annual divorce rate was down to 3.5. With these dramatic drops in the divorce rate, how can we blame the increase in childhood suicides on divorce, and in 2012, the CDC reported that the divorce rate was down to 3.4 per 1,000 total population? Infoplease.com and CDC.gov

Darn, if we can’t blame it on the divorce rate, what do we blame it on—the increased CO2 levels in the atmosphere?

The answer is simple: Children, starting in kindergarten—where these high stakes testing are also appearing in some states—to 12th grade, spend most of their time second to the time spent at home where they sleep about a third of the day in addition to spending several hours of their free time daily outside of school having fun texting their friends, social networking, playing video games and watching TV—while they are stressing about those tests that might cause their favorite teachers to be fired and their local public schools closed.

Let’s look closely at what was happening to the public schools starting in the 1980s to 2013 to learn how this happened.

First—there was the fraud behind A Nation at Risk, a report released in 1983 during the Reagan years in the White House (Have you ever read The Enduring Lies of Ronald Reagan?). This was the beginning of the alleged claims that the public schools were failing our children and the nation was at risk. But in 1990, the often ignored Sandia Report offered proof that A Nation at Risk was misleading and that the public schools were actually improving.

Second—on May 19, 1999, President Bill Clinton said the government has to do a “far, far better job” with the $15 billion it sends to schools every year, and Clinton announced he was sending Congress his blueprint for how to spend those funds. “We know fundamentally that if we are going to change the way our schools work, we must change the way we invest federal aid in our schools,” Clinton said, and the pressure on children, teachers and the public schools increased even though NAEP Reading and Math tests that first started in 1969 revealed steady annual improvements in the test scoresDiane Ravitch says, “The point here is that NAEP scores show steady and very impressive improvement over the past twenty years.” – For the details, read Reign of Error: The Hoax of the Privatization Movement and the Danger to America’s Public Schools by Diane Ravitch

Third—the No Child Left Behind Act of 2001 (NCLB) mandated the impossible: All children must be college and career ready on time by high school graduation even though no country on the earth had ever achieved this goal and has never tried. In fact, the United States is one of the top-five countries in the world for the ratio of college graduates, and there are almost three qualified applicants who are college graduates for every job that requires a college degree. Why do 100% of 17/18 year olds have to be ready for college?

Fourth—President Obama’s Race to the Top made the demands on the public schools worse.

Fifth—adopting standards and assessments that prepare students to succeed in college and the workplace and to compete in the global economy;

Sixth—building data systems that measure student growth and success, and inform teachers and principals about how they can improve instruction;

The results:

High Stakes Tests Make Kids Sick – UFT

The Alliance for Childhood revealed that parents, teachers, school nurses, psychologists, and child psychiatrists reported that the stress of high-stakes testing was literally making children sick. – EdWeek.org

TeacherBiz.com says, High-stakes tests: bad for students, teachers, and education in general.

The Alliance for Childhood reports that “There is growing evidence that the pressure and anxiety associated with high-stakes testing is unhealthy for children–especially young children–and may undermine the development of positive social relationships and attitudes towards school and learning. … Parents, teachers, school nurses and psychologists, and child psychiatrists report that the stress of high-stakes testing is literally making children sick.”

Who do we hold responsible for the deaths of thousands of children pressured to take their own lives? If you want to discover who these monsters are, I suggest you read Common Core Dilemma and A Chronicle of Echoes by Mercedes K. Schneider.

Then there is the testing industry. Learn about The Testing Industry’s Big Four from KQED’s Frontline.

PBS says, “Even without the impetus of the No Child Left Behind Act, testing is a burgeoning industry. The National Board on Educational Testing and Public Policy at Boston College compiled data from The Bowker Annual, a compendium of the dollar-volume in test sales each year, and reported that while test sales in 1955 were $7 million (adjusted to 1998 dollars), that figure was $263 million in 1997, an increase of more than 3,000 percent. Today, press reports put the value of the testing market anywhere from $400 million to $700 million.”

In addition, The Washington Post reports Big education firms spend millions lobbying for pro-testing policies.

Are high stakes tests that rank and punish public school teachers and close public schools really about improving education or are they about increasing profits for big corporations in this age of legalized avarice and greed?

“It’s probably safe to say that statewide assessment will not produce any startling revelations about what can be done by teachers with pupils to help children learn more effectively.”  – Beers and Campbell (1973)

What was true in 1973 is still true today!

To learn more about the problems of using student test scores to evaluate teachers, click on this link that will take you to an Economic Policy Institute report on this issue.

“Because education is both a cumulative and a complex process, it is impossible fully to distinguish the influences of students’ other teachers as well as school conditions on their apparent learning, let alone their out-of-school learning experiences at home, with peers, at museums and libraries, in summer programs, on-line, and in the community.

“No single teacher accounts for all of a student’s achievement.”

_______________________

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 FREE Promotion July 2016

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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Saving Public Education and Democracy—teachers, parents and children, you are not alone

Do not let Corporate Education Reformers like Michelle Rhee, David Coleman, Bill Gates, the Walton family and Arne Duncan eat our children for a profit. The resistance to save the transparent, nonprofit, democratic public schools in the United States survives, thrives and grows daily. And regardless of what you might hear in the media, the teachers’ unions did not start this movement or fund it.

1: The movement started in earnest with Diane Ravitch (find her blog here). She was appointed to public office by Presidents George H. W. Bush and Bill Clinton. She served as Assistant Secretary of Education under Secretary of Education Lamar Alexander from 1991 to 1993 and his successor Richard Riley appointed her to serve as a member of the National Assessment Governing Board, which supervises the National Assessment of Educational Progress; she was a member of NAGB from 1997 to 2004. From 1995 to 2005 she held the Brown Chair in Education Studies at the Brookings Institute.

2: The National Center for Fair & Open Testing (FairTest) works to end the misuses and flaws of standardized testing and to ensure that evaluation of students, teachers and schools is fair, open, valid and educationally beneficial.

3: United Opt Out: The Movement to End Corporate Education Reform—The central mission of United Opt Out is to eliminate the threat of high-stakes testing in public K-12 education. We believe that high-stakes testing is destructive to children, educators, communities, the quality of instruction in classrooms, equity in schooling, and the fundamental democratic principles on which this country is based.

4Badass Teachers Association: We are a community of teachers, professors, and educators running from Kindergarten all the way to University. We are also parents, your neighbors, and your friends. We are members of your community, and we care deeply about that community. We have come together to push back against so-called corporate education reform, or the Educational-Industrial Complex and the damage it has done to students, schools, teachers, and communities.

5: The first national conference of the Network for Public Education (NPE) was held at The University of Texas at Austin on March 1 and 2 in 2014, and about 400 people attended. About 600 people attended the second annual conference of the NPE held in Chicago on April 25 and 26, 2015.

6: Momma Bears: Someone jokingly called one of us a “Momma Bear” for having the courage to stand up against politicians to defend our children’s public schools. We realized that’s what we were!  Since then, we’ve met many other people who didn’t realize they were Momma Bears, but they are.

Momma Bears defend and support children and public schools.  Momma Bears realize that quality public education is a right for every child.  There are greedy corporations and politicians eager to destroy and profit from our American public school system and vulnerable children.  Momma Bears are united in defending and protecting our young and their future from these threats.

7. USAS: Public education is under attack.Corporate-backed behemoths like the Walton (Walmart) and Fisher (Gap Inc) foundations are pouring millions into manufacturing a new pro-corporate education reform consensus on our campuses, propping up groups like Teach for AmericaStudents for Education Reform, and countless sponsored academic research programs. Their goal? To privatize our public education system, turning over a major public good into private hands, in the process smashing the only organized force that has dared to stand up to them: teachers’ unions.

United Students Against Sweatshops (USAS) is a grassroots organization run entirely by youth and students. We develop youth leadership and run strategic student-labor solidarity campaigns with the goal of building sustainable power for working people. We define “sweatshop” broadly and consider all struggles against the daily abuses of the global economic system to be a struggle against sweatshops.

8: EduBloggers: The Education Bloggers Network is an informal confederation of more than 200 education reporters, advocacy journalists, investigative bloggers, and commentators.  Members of the Education Bloggers Network are dedicated to providing parents, teachers, public education advocates and the public with the truth about public education in the United States and the efforts of the corporate education reform industry.

9: Students Against Testing: Students Against Testing was created to be a strong force against the score-obsessed education machine known as standardized testing. At the same time, SAT also exists as an advocate for bringing positive, creative and real-life learning activities into the schools. SAT believes that for the reasons stated below urgent action from the student body itself is the most direct way to counteract the boredom and petty competition that currently plagues the schools.

10. Parents Across America (PAA): Parents Across America is committed to bringing the voice of public school parents – and common sense – to local, state and national debates.

PAA was founded by a group of parents active in their communities who recognized the need to collaborate for positive change rather than remain isolated in local battles. Since the top-down forces that are imposing their will on our schools have become national in scope, we need to be as well.

_______________________

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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President Obama’s Failure of Leadership

Recently, the National Center for Fair & Open Testing reported on the release of a dozen years of 12th grade NAEP scores revealing the test-based accountability era of G. W. Bush’s No Child Left Behind and Obama’s Race to the Top with its seriously flawed and Machiavellian Common Core Standards has had no discernible effect on the test scores of seniors.

“How much more evidence do federal and state policy-makers need that driving schooling through standardized exams does not increase educational quality?” asked Fair Test Public Education Director Bob Schaeffer. “It is time to abandon failed test-and-punish policies and adopt assessments that have been shown to improve teaching and learning.”

Second, I read What, Me Worry? By Kristin Sainani writing for a Publication of the Stanford Alumni Association.  The Stanford piece discussed two kinds of stress:  Good Stress vs. Bad Stress, and how chronic stress shrinks the hippocampus (one of the brain’s key memory centers), impairs cognitive function and increases risk of mental illness.

Sainani quotes Kelly McGonigal, PhD, a health psychologist, author and Stanford Lecturer who says, “I’ve become even more convinced that the type of ‘stress’ that is toxic has more to do with social status, social isolation and social rejections. It’s not just having a hard life that seems to be toxic, but it’s some of the social poisons that can go alone with stigma or poverty.”

Echoing McGonigal, Robert Sapolsky—the Stanford John A. and Cynthia Fry Gunn Professor and Professor of Neurology and Neurological Sciences and of Neurosurgery—adds: “I’d say that, overall, the most corrosive type of social stress in our Western world is low socioeconomic status—i.e., poverty.”

At this point, you might be scratching your head wondering what Sainani’s Stanford piece has to do with President Obama’s “Failure of Leadership”.  For an answer, I’ll refer you to Chapter 10 in Diane Ravitch’s “Reign of Error”. The title of that chapter is: How Poverty Affects Academic Achievement.

Ravitch’s chapter starts with: “Reformers often say that poverty is an excuse for ‘bad teachers.’ If all teachers were great, then all children would score well on tests, and there would be no achievement gaps between children of different groups.”

Sainani’s Stanford piece based on highly reputable scientific studies of stress and its effects on the brain proves beyond a doubt that Ravitch was right and the fake education reformers were wrong.  Children who live in poverty are already under “Bad Stress” and long days of test prep followed by flawed and stressful Common Core testing only adds more stress to children living in poverty and there are 16 million of them in the United States.

Third: there is a popular myth—due to the hundreds of millions of dollars spent by the fake education reformers promoting the Charter school sector with (cherry picked) misleading facts—that Charter schools are superior to public schools, but the second study out of Stanford (the 1st was in 2009) proved that myth wrong. Stanford’s Credo Center for Research and Education Outcomes National Charter School Study of 2013 revealed that for reading, 19% of Charters were worse than the public schools; 56% were no different and only 25% were better. For math, 31% were worse; 40% were no different and only 29% were better. It was mentioned that this was an improvement over the 2009 study but that improvement was—in part—because of the bad Charters that were closed after the results of the 2009 Stanford study was released.

How long has this Charter movement been with us?  longer than twenty years

In addition, The Public School Advantage Why Public Schools Outperform Private Schools by Christopher A. Lubienski and Sarah Theule Lubienski published by University of Chicago Press (2013) used sophisticated analytical tools to discover that even though private school children arrive in kindergarten a little bit more academically prepared than their public school peers, public school students make up the difference over the course of elementary school.” The Lubienskis also revealed that traditional public schools hold a slight edge over the Charter sector.

Last, there’s the fact that private sector Charter schools supported by the same tax revenue used to support the public schools may be opaque with their finances while public schools must be transparent with every penny spent, and Bill Moyers and Company reported Charter Schools Gone Wild: Study Finds Widespread Fraud, Mismanagement and Waste.

Sabrina Joy Stevens, executive director of Integrity in Education, told BillMoyers.com, “Our report shows that over $100 million has been lost to fraud and abuse in the charter industry, because there is virtually no proactive oversight system in place to thwart unscrupulous or incompetent charter operators before they cheat the public.” The actual amount of fraud and abuse the report uncovered totaled $136 million, and that was just in the 15 states they studied.

In addition, an NBC4 investigation reported: “In 2013, 17 charter schools in Columbus (Ohio) closed, joining 150 other charter schools around Ohio. It’s a failure rate of 29 percent. $1.4 billion has been spent since 2005 through school year 2012-2013 on charter schools that have never gotten any higher grade than an F or a D.”

What does all this show us?  It reveals that both Presidents G. W. Bush and Barack Obama’s fake education reform movement through No Child Left Behind, Race to the Top and the Common Core Standards have failed miserably, but President Obama and his Secretary of Education, Arne Duncan, continue to ignore the mountain of growing evidence while promoting the corporate, for profit Charter school sector.

In conclusion, this is more than a failure of leadership. It’s a Constitutional crime.

The oath of office of the President of the United States: “I do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will faithfully execute the Office of President of the United States, and will to the best of my Ability, preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of the United States.”

The White House is not a platform for pushing the agenda of a few powerful and wealthy oligarchs while ignoring overwhelming evidence that proves that agenda wrong. The President’s job is to serve all the people by defending the Constitution and not ignoring it.

_______________________

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

His 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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Who does a better job supporting public schools—you decide

Conservatives are the loudest critics of public education, so let’s see if their governance lives up to their claims by looking at the ten best and worst public schools by state.

Education Week issues annual state report cards based on six areas of educational policy and performance on a 100 point scale. The score for the final grade will be in parenthesis behind each state. (edweek.org)

The ten states with the worst public schools:

Nevada (65.7), New Mexico (66.6), Mississippi (68.9), Louisiana (69.9), Arizona (70.2), West Virginia (71.6), Arkansas (71.8), Alabama (72), Oklahoma (72.2), California (72.4), and South Carolina (72.6).

Six of the states with the worst public schools are controlled by the Republican Party (GOP):

Two—West Virginia and California—were controlled by Democrats.

Political control of New Mexico is split between a GOP governor and the Democratic controlled State Senate (28D – 14R) and House (37D – 33R).

Arkansas has a Democratic governor while the State Senate (21R – 14D) and the House (51R – 48D) is controlled by the GOP.

Next, the 10 states with the best public schools:

Massachusetts (91.4), New Jersey (88.2), New Hampshire (88), Connecticut (87.5), Minnesota (87.3), North Dakota (86.9), Vermont (86.4), Maryland (85.9), Virginia (84.8), and Iowa (84.2).

Virginia’s governor and lieutenant governor are Democrats, the state Senate is split evenly and the state House is controlled by more than 2 to 1 by Republicans.

 In New Hampshire, the state Senate is controlled by the GOP by a slim margin (13 R to 11D) but the governor is a Democrat and the state House is controlled by the Democrats by a (221D [55%] to 179R [45%])

New Jersey has a GOP governor, Chris Christie (who’s a declared critic and enemy of public schools and is doing all he can to turn New Jersey’s successful public schools over to private sector profiteers and robber barons—the wolves of Sesame Street) but the Democrats control both the state Senate (24D to 15R) and General Assembly (24D to 16R). Note that four of the previous governors were Democrats and the state has voted for Democratic presidents for the last twenty-two years. Christi is a popular governor who won 60% of the vote in November 2013. The Democratic challenger had 38% of the vote.

Six of the best states for public education are controlled by the Democratic party: Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Connecticut, Minnesota, Vermont and Maryland.

Two states: North Dakota (clearly controlled by GOP for 119 of the last 125 years) and Iowa (where the Democrats have a slight majority in the State Senate—26D – 24R) is controlled by the GOP, but Iowa was controlled by the Democrats from 2006 to 2011 and the state went with Barack Obama in the last two presidential elections.

In conclusion, the GOP’s score is 6 of the worst state and 2 of the best, compared to Democrats with 6 of the best and 2 of the worst. This indicates that the GOP’s policies regarding public education earned a 25% Fail compared to a 75% C for the Democrats.

In addition—if you think this one issue isn’t enough—this isn’t the only comparison where the GOP’s political agendas seem to fail when compared to the Democrats.

In another post—Conservative Red versus Liberal Blue–a new way to see politics in America—published August 22, 2012, the GOP governed 15 of the 20 states with the most obesity; 8 of the top 10 states listed as the most racist; 7 of the 8 most politically corrupt states; 7 of the 10 most violent states; only 2 of the top 10 least violent states, and 2 of the 10 smartest states.

In fact, GOP presidents from Eisenhower (1953 – 1963) to G. W. Bush (2001 – 2008) added almost $11 Trillion to the national debt compared to $256.5 Billion for Democratic Presidents—not counting Obama because he’s still in office and inherited two wars from President G. W. Bush, and the biggest financial disaster and increase in unemployment since the Great Depression.

Knowing what you know now, who party do you trust to run the states and America and why?

_______________________

Lloyd Lofthouse is a former U.S. Marine and Vietnam Veteran.

His latest novel is the award winning Running with the Enemy. Blamed for a crime he did not commit while serving in Vietnam, his country considers him a traitor. Ethan Card is a loyal U.S. Marine desperate to prove his innocence or he will never go home again.

And the woman he loves and wants to save was trained to kill Americans.

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Democracy versus the Corporate Oligarchs

In a republic and/or democracy where eligible adults vote, the majority of voters decides who wins seats in Congress, and when elected—representing the people—Congress votes on bills/laws; the majority wins.

This is how it works in Congress. This is even how it works in the Electoral College during presidential elections—the presidential candidate who wins the majority of votes in the Electoral College becomes president. It doesn’t matter who wins the popular vote.

For instance, when President G. W. Bush was 1st elected, everyone didn’t vote for him. In the 2000 presidential election Bush had 271 electoral votes to Al Gore’s 266; more than 51 million Americans voted for Gore but their candidate lost and those voters had to live with President Bush for four years—the man they didn’t vote for.

Then in 2004, Bush won the White House a second time with 286 electoral votes to John Kerry’s 251; more than 59 million Americans voted for Kerry; they didn’t get the president they wanted.

That’s the way a democracy works, but that’s not what’s happening in the United States today when it comes to public school reform.

Teachers Union Exposed, an anti-teacher website, thinks it’s wrong that the two teacher unions should pay for lobbyists to represent the majority of their union members in Washington D.C.  Their reason: a minority of teachers don’t agree with political activity of the two unions.

Teachers Union Exposed claims “Unions don’t reflect members’ politics. … Over the last 20 years, the American Federation of Teachers (AFT) has given more than $28 million in campaign contributions; the National Education Association (NEA) has given almost $31 million.”

Teachers Union Exposed (I wonder who is behind this Website) points out that looking at polling data from the 2003 National Education Study, only 51 percent of teachers who are also union members identify as Democrats. The rest identify as Republicans (25 percent) or Independents (24 percent)” … and the “Harris Interactive poll from 2003 showed that 83 percent of Republican teacher union members felt that the union was more liberal than they were.”

How many Republican teachers are there? The NEA has 3.2 million members and the AFT 1.5 million. Do the math and that means 970 thousand (20.6%) of the 4.7 million teachers felt the union was more liberal than they were.

Big deal! How many Americans felt that President G. W. Bush was more conservative than they were? The same question could be asked about President Obama: how many Americans feel that he isn’t as conservative as they are?

It’s an established fact that in a democracy elected leaders can’t please everyone. But what happens when someone who isn’t elected spends money to influence the government and elections?

I’m talking about corporate oligarchs. Throughout history, oligarchies have been tyrannical (relying on public obedience and/or oppression to exist) or relatively benign, and corporations are run by CEOs who are not democratically elected.

For instance, Diane Ravitch posted Researchers Reveal Funding Network for Washington Charter Law and exposed the undue influence of oligarchs in an election. Ravitch says, “a small number of very wealthy individuals and organizations bought a policy of their choosing. This subverts democracy. It subverts the principle of one man, one vote. These are not reformers. They are plutocrats who use their vast wealth to buy what they want.”

The Ravitch post is long but worth reading. To keep it short, the plutocrats Ravitch writes about spent more than $35 million on one campaign in Washington State to support a YES vote on proposition 1240 in 2012—legislation that would benefit private sector charter schools paid for by taxpayers. Voters in Washington state had defeated similar propositions three times in the past, but the oligarchs refused to give up.

For a comparison, the leaders of the democratically run teacher unions spent $59 million over twenty years representing the majority of their members—who elected them to run the unions—in Washington D.C. That breaks down to $2.95 million annually, but the oligarchs spent more than $35 million for one proposition in one state.

Therefore, why is it okay for these alleged tyrants to spend fortunes to influence and manipulate voters but if the democratically elected labor unions that represents millions of teachers do it with a lot less money, it’s wrong?

In fact, one of the oligarchs, Bill Gates, has spent about $200 million to turn public schools over to corporations—private sector schools the taxpayers support.

That means one day the13,600 public school districts in the United States with more than 90,000 school teaching over 50 million children run by democratically elected school boards might vanish and America’s children would be turned over to billionaire oligarchs who run/own corporations. To discover how much Gates and his billionaire oligarch partners stand to gain from privatization of the public schools, click Big data and schools: Education nirvana or privacy nightmare?

In her post Ravitch listed about 20 oligarchs who donated money directly—or through nonprofit foundations the oligarchs financially support—to insure proposition 1240 passed and it did by a slim margin of 50.69% to 49.31%.

Who do you really think represents the interests of most Americans and their children: 4.7 million teachers—willing to die to protect children—who elect their union leaders, or 20 (alleged tyrants) billionaire oligarchs—protected by private security?

Discover more on this topic @ New Yorkers Denounce Cuomo’s Stacked panel to “Review” Common Core

_______________________

Lloyd Lofthouse is a former U.S. Marine and Vietnam Veteran.

His latest novel is the award winning Running with the Enemy. Blamed for a crime he did not commit while serving in Vietnam, his country considers him a traitor. Ethan Card is a loyal U.S. Marine desperate to prove his innocence or he will never go home again.

And the woman he loves and wants to save was trained to kill Americans.

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Arne Duncan, the US Secretary of Education, (seriously) needs Tutoring

On her Blog, Diane Ravitch reports: “According to Duncan, our kids are dumb. Their parents spoil them. The kids don’t work hard enough. Furthermore, our culture stinks: No one takes education seriously, except Duncan, of course.”

How does Arne Duncan—with President Obama’s obvious support—want to fix this problem?

The answer: close the public schools and turn America’s children over to CEOs and corporations cutting parents out of the k – 12 education process. For instance, the Walton family of Wal-Mart infamy. Do you really want Wal-Mart teaching your kids?

Ravitch says Duncan was a basketball player, and we know that Obama loves this game. We now know that Duncan and President Obama have several things in common: For instance, they are both from Chicago (the University of Chicago was the birthplace of neo-conservatism in the United States and both Duncan and President Obama attended this university); President Obama is 52 and Duncan is 49; they both enjoy basketball and want to destroy America’s democratically run public school districts—all 13,600 of them (a goal of the neoconservative movement in the US: See Capitalizing on Disaster: Taking and Breaking Public Schools by Tara M. Stamm)

“President Obama chose Arne Duncan, who, previous to becoming CEO of the Chicago Public Schools, had little experience in education. Together they have promoted policies that are the antithesis of his campaign promises. Rather than supporting teachers as professionals, he has attacked teachers as the central problem, and along with Duncan, applauded the mass firing of teachers in Falls River, Rhode Island.” (Zezima, 2010, Buffalo State.edu, digital commons)

Arne Duncan should learn a few facts, and I volunteer to be his teacher. Send him to my house, and I will tutor him as only a former U.S. Marine can; I have a multiple-subject life credential and successfully taught in the public schools 1975 – 2005.

If Mr. Duncan accepts my offer, I won’t let him go home until he proves that he’s learned what I’ll teach him.

For instance, he will learn that the public schools have done and are still doing their job, and I will do this by mostly focusing on American adults 18 and over.

After all, more than 92% of Americans attend or attended public schools.

The U.S. Census reported that in 2010 there were 308,746,538 Americans and 234,565,071 were 18 and over. Eighteen is the legal age of an adult. For the rest of this post, I’ll use 234.6 million to represent all adults in the U.S.

Reading Worldwide.com says, “62% of all adults (145.452 million) in the United States own a public library ticket, no matter if they use it for borrowing poems, cookery books, or DVDs, consult legal references or use the public computer for filing online job applications. This figure was issued by the American Library Association (ALA) located in Chicago.”

Bookweb.org reported that approximately 62 million Americans are avid readers (age 18 and over). That’s 26% of adults.

In 2003, 29% of adults read at the basic prose level (68 million); 44% at an Intermediate prose level (103.2 million) and 13% at the proficient level (30.5 million).

Only 14% of American adults read below basic (32.8 million). If those numbers are similar to 2013, that means those adults are functionally illiterate, leaving 201.8 million adults reading at basic or higher.

If you think—like Arne Duncan and President Obama—that the majority of parents and public schools in the United States aren’t doing what they’re supposed to be doing (parenting and teaching), here are a few mind blowing facts:

There are more than 80,000 book publishers in the United States that generate revenues of $23.7 to $28.5 billion, and in 2001, for instance, consumers purchased 1.6 billion books—this does not count used book sales. In 2004, Americans bought 150 million old books. In addition, 90% of the 15,000 public libraries in the US spend more than $444 million on books annually (parapublishing.com).

In fact, 80% of Americans 16 and older say they read at least for pleasure; … [only] a fifth of Americans (18%) said they had not read a book in the past year (pew internet.org—the general reading habits of Americans).

Paid newspaper circulation for 1,387 newspapers in 2010 was about 43 – 45 million; (State of the Media.org); in 2012, there were 7,390 print magazines with a combined paid and verified average circulation per issue of more than 312.4 million subscribers (statista.com).

This means that the majority of adults had supportive parents when they were children and as children they learned what the public school teachers taught them.

Regardless of the parenting methods used, it’s obvious that a majority of American parents are doing a much better job of parenting than Mr. Duncan and President Obama think. But how do we discover who the parents and children are who are not succeeding and the reasons.

In a nationwide study of American kindergarten children, 36% of parents in the lowest-income quintile read to their children on a daily basis, compared with 62% of parents from the highest-income quintile (Coley, 2002).

Children from low-SES environments acquire language skills more slowly, exhibit delayed letter recognition and phonological awareness, and are at risk for reading difficulties (Aikens & Barbarin, 2008).

Students from low-SES schools entered high school 3.3 grade levels behind students from higher SES schools. In addition, students from the low-SES groups learned less over 4 years than children from higher SES groups, graduating 4.3 grade levels behind those of higher SES groups (Palardy, 2008).

In 2007, the high school dropout rate among persons 16- 24 years old was highest in low-income families (16.7%) as compared to high-income families (3.2%) [National Center for Education Statistics, 2008].

Children from lower SES households are about twice as likely as those from high-SES households to display learning-related behavior problems. A mother’s SES was also related to her child’s inattention, disinterest, and lack of cooperation in school (Morgan et al., 2009).

“Many factors were found to predict at-risk status that were independent of the student’s sex, race-ethnicity, and socioeconomic background.

Controlling for basic demographic characteristics, the following groups of students were found to be more likely to have poor basic skills in the eighth grade and to have dropped out between the 8th and the 10th grades:

  • Students from single-parent families,
  • students who were overage for their peer group, or students who had frequently changed schools;
  • eighth-grade students whose parents were not actively involved in the student’s school, students whose parents never talked to them about school-related matters, or students whose parents held low expectations for their child’s future educational attainment;
  • students who repeated an earlier grade, students who had histories of poor grades in mathematics and English, or students who did little homework;
  • eighth-graders who often came to school unprepared for classwork, students who frequently cut class, or students who were otherwise frequently tardy or absent from school;
  • eighth-graders who teachers thought were passive, frequently disruptive, inattentive, or students who teachers thought were underachievers; and students from urban schools or from schools with large minority populations.” (nces.ed.gov)

There’s an old Chinese Proverb that says, “Teachers open the door, but you (the student) must enter by yourself.”

Mr. Duncan, if you and/or President Obama don’t understand what this ancient Chinese proverb means maybe what we told our daughter when she was seven will help: “It doesn’t matter if your teachers are incompetent, boring or incredible and amazing, it’s your responsibility to learn”, and our daughter earned straight A’s in the public schools from 3rd to 12th grade graduating with a 4.65 GPA. She will earn her bachelor’s degree from Stanford June 14, 2014.

When she needed help, public school teachers were always available and she often took advantage of that help.

Mr. Duncan and President Obama are you wolves pretending to be sheep—are you closet neoconservatives with a goal to destroy public education in the United States? If the answer is yes, then teaching you the facts in this post will be a waste of time because you already have your agenda.

_______________________

Lloyd Lofthouse is a former U.S. Marine and Vietnam Veteran.

His latest novel is the award winning Running with the Enemy. Blamed for a crime he did not commit while serving in Vietnam, his country considers him a traitor. Ethan Card is a loyal U.S. Marine desperate to prove his innocence or he will never go home again.

And the woman he loves and wants to save was trained to kill Americans.

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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).

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