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This post is dedicated to Laporshia Massey.
From Parents United for Public Education in Philadelphia:
Our hearts are breaking over the death of beautiful 12 year old Bryant Elementary student Laporshia Massey, who died following an asthma attack that apparently started at school. We grieve for her entire family and the Bryant community.
According to the City Paper, Laporshia became ill during the school day. No nurse was scheduled. Laporshia called a family member, telling her repeatedly, “I can’t breathe. I can’t breathe.” A staff person drove the sixth grader home.
Seeing his daughter’s state when she arrived home at about 3:15 p.m., [father Daniel] Burch says, he immediately gave her medication and then rushed her to the hospital. She collapsed in the car, at which point Burch flagged down a passing ambulance in the middle of traffic. Burch says his daughter later died at the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia, which could not confirm any details, including the time of her arrival, due to privacy constraints.
“They told her school was almost out, and she’d get out of school and go straight home,” says one district source, who requested anonymity because she was not authorized to speak to the press. “She went to the teacher,” who told her “there’s no nurse, and just to be calm.”
In January 2012, the District moved to a 1:1500 nurse to student ratio, the maximum allowed by state law. Previously the District had held to a 1:750 nurse to student ratio, which still meant the majority of public schools lacked a full-time school nurse. Ratios are established by the Pennsylvania Department of Health, rather than the Department of Education.
The District currently has 179 school nurses serving 331 public, private and Catholic schools. Only 82 public schools have full-time nurses, according to a Philadelphia school nurse organizer; one Catholic school also has a full-time nurse, paid for from the District’s budget. The rest are allocated at the 1:1500 student ratio.
To read this post in full, go to Parents United for Public Education.
No nurses, no counselors, no librarians. Where did all that Race to the Top money go?
Our children are becoming the most vulnerable rather than the most protected in our country. What are our priorities?
Making Food Last Republicans are pushing to scale down the food stamp program, which now assists nearly 48 million Americans.
As a self-described “true Southern man” — and reluctant recipient of food stamps — Dustin Rigsby, a struggling mechanic, hunts deer, doves and squirrels to help feed his family. He shops for grocery bargains, cooks budget-stretching stews and limits himself to one meal a day.
Tarnisha Adams, who left her job skinning hogs at a slaughterhouse when she became ill with cancer, gets $352 a month in food stamps for herself and three college-age sons. She buys discount meat and canned vegetables, cheaper than fresh. Like Mr. Rigsby, she eats once a day — “if I eat,” she said.
When Congress officially returns to Washington next week, the diets of families like the Rigsbys and the Adamses will be caught up in a debate over deficit reduction. Republicans, alarmed by a rise in food stamp enrollment, are pushing to revamp and scale down the program. Democrats are resisting the cuts.
No matter what Congress decides, benefits will be reduced in November, when a provision in the 2009 stimulus bill expires.
Yet as lawmakers cast the fight in terms of spending, nonpartisan budget analysts and hunger relief advocates warn of a spike in “food insecurity” among Americans who, as Mr. Rigsby said recently, “look like we are fine,” but live on the edge of poverty, skipping meals and rationing food.
Surrounded by corn and soybean farms — including one owned by the local Republican congressman, Representative Stephen Fincher — Dyersburg, about 75 miles north of Memphis, provides an eye-opening view into Washington’s food stamp debate. Mr. Fincher, who was elected in 2010 on a Tea Party wave and collected nearly $3.5 million in farm subsidies from the government from 1999 to 2012, recently voted for a farm bill that omitted food stamps.
“The role of citizens, of Christianity, of humanity, is to take care of each other, not for Washington to steal from those in the country and give to others in the country,” Mr. Fincher, whose office did not respond to interview requests, said after his vote in May. In response to a Democrat who invoked the Bible during the food stamp debate in Congress, Mr. Fincher cited his own biblical phrase. “The one who is unwilling to work shall not eat,” he said.
To read this article in full, go to the New York Times.
During the shutdown, while Congress kept all their staffers and their private gym remained open but the Women, Infants, and Children program (WIC) which helps pregnant women and new moms buy healthy food and provides health care referrals was closed until further notice; the military kept rolling along but the National Institute of Health stopped answering hotline calls about medical questions, its seasonal flu program was put on hold and there was a “significantly reduced capacity to respond to outbreak investigations”, one special “non-profit”, tax exempt organization benefited.
From the Washington Post:
This makes a rich,”Nonprofit” even more powerful, when they “sneak” their HQT language, once again, into a budget bill. Yes, for those of you who were not aware of what happened, Teach For America was able to continue the resolution that notes that all of its novice recruits, who train to work with children over a one-week leadership and four-week teacher preparation program, are highly qualified across all disciplines, including special education through 2016.
Unobtrusively slipped into the debt deal that Congress passed late Wednesday night to reopen the federal government after 16 days and allow the United States to keep borrowing money to pay its bills is a provision about school reform that will make Teach For America very happy.
In language that does not give a hint about its real meaning, the deal extends by two years legislation that allows the phrase “highly qualified teachers” to include students still in teacher training programs — and Teach For America’s recruits who get five weeks of summer training shortly after they have graduated from college, and are then placed in some of America’s neediest schools.
On page 20 of this bill passed by the House, it says:
SEC. 145. Subsection (b) of section 163 of Public 5 Law 111-242, as amended, is further amended by striking 6 ”2013-2014” and inserting ”2015-2016”.
The law that is being amended includes the highly qualified provision, which Teach For America and other school reformers had persuaded legislators to pass a few years ago.
Under No Child Left Behind, all children are supposed to have highly qualified teachers, school districts are supposed to let parents know which teachers are not highly qualified, and these teachers are supposed to be equitably distributed in schools. They aren’t. It turns out that teachers still in training programs are disproportionately concentrated in schools serving low-income students and students of color, the very children who need the very best the teaching profession has to offer. The inequitable distribution of these teachers also has a disproportionate impact on students with disabilities.
To read this post in full, go to Valerie Strauss’ column.
TFA, Inc. was also in the news in the Harvard Crimson:
Don’t Teach For America
“Education reform” that helps only your resume
Last month, I got an email from a recruiter. An associate of Teach For America, citing a minor leadership role in a student organization as evidence that I “have distinguished [myself] as a leader here on Harvard’s campus,” asked me to meet with Harvard’s TFA representative on campus. Dropping phrases like “race and class,” “equal opportunities,” and “educational injustice,” the recruiter promised that I could have a significant impact on a classroom in an underserved community.
I have thought for many years about teaching high school history. But I stopped replying to this email after a few exchanges.
I am not interested in TFA.
For one, I am far from ready to enter a classroom on my own. Indeed, in my experience Harvard students have increasingly acknowledged that TFA drastically underprepares its recruits for the reality of teaching. But more importantly, TFA is not only sending young, idealistic, and inexperienced college grads into schools in neighborhoods different from where they’re from—it’s also working to destroy the American public education system. As a hopeful future teacher, that is not something I could ever conscionably put my name behind.
Princeton alumna Wendy Kopp originally founded TFA with the mission of filling teacher shortages in U.S. public schools. The program, which helps young college grads find placements teaching in public schools after they graduate from college, combines the persistence of a five-person recruiting team with the cache of a competitive on-campus-interview process. It has quickly become one of the most popular destinations for Harvard seniors after graduation.
Clearly, some Harvard students still believe that TFA’s model of recruiting young idealists, throwing them into five weeks of intensive training, and then placing them into schools in neighborhoods very unlike the ones they came from is truly the answer to everything from income inequality to underfunded public school systems. Perhaps they even think that teaching is such an unattractive profession that bright college graduates should be bribed with a feel-good resume booster to fill the vast shortage of competent teachers in the United States.
But it has become increasingly clear to anyone who thinks critically about teaching that there’s something off with TFA’s model. After all, TFA alumni repeatedly describe their stints in the American public education system as some of the hardest two years of their lives. Doesn’t it bother you to imagine undertrained 22-year-olds standing in front of a crowded classroom and struggling through every class period? Indeed, most of the critiques of TFA in The Crimson have focused on students’ unpreparedness to teach.
However, unpreparedness pales in comparison to the much larger problem with TFA: It undermines the American public education system from the very foundation by urging the replacement of experienced career teachers with a neoliberal model of interchangeable educators and standardized testing. If TFA intended to place students in schools with insufficient numbers of teachers, it has strayed far from its original goal. As an essay by Chicago teacher Kenzo Shibata asked last summer, “Teach For America wanted to help stem a teacher shortage. Why then are thousands of experienced educators being replaced by hundreds of new college graduates?” Journalist James Cersonsky notes that veteran teachers and schools alike may suffer from this type of reform: “Districts pay thousands in fees to TFA for each corps member in addition to their salaries—at the expense of the existing teacher workforce. Chicago, for example, is closing 48 schools and laying off 850 teachers and staff while welcoming 350 corps members.”
To read this article in full, go to the Harvard Crimson.
Now it seems that Gates is having second thoughts about his ideas on education, at least for the rest of us. He has finally admitted, in so many words, that our children are simply guinea pigs and maybe in ten years, after a generation of students have move through the public school system that he has had a hand in deforming, we’ll all see if it was a good idea or not.
From the Washington Post:
“It would be great if our education stuff worked, but that we won’t know for probably a decade.”
That’s what Bill Gates said on Sept. 21 (see video below) about the billions of dollars his foundation has plowed into education reform during a nearly hour-long interview he gave at Harvard University. He repeated the “we don’t know if it will work” refrain about his reform efforts a few days later during a panel discussion at the Clinton Global Initiative.
Hmmm. Teachers around the country are saddled every single year with teacher evaluation systems that his foundation has funded, based on no record of success and highly questionable “research.” And now Gates says he won’t know if the reforms he is funding will work for another decade. But teachers can lose their jobs now because of reforms he is funding.
In the past he sounded pretty sure of what he was doing. In this 2011 oped in The Washington Post, he wrote:
What should policymakers do? One approach is to get more students in front of top teachers by identifying the top 25 percent of teachers and asking them to take on four or five more students.
Actually, that’s not an approach any educator I know would think is a good idea, but Gates had decided that class size doesn’t really matter. Earlier, he had put some $2 billion into forming small schools out of large high schools, on the theory that small schools would better serve students. When the initiative didn’t work out as he hoped, he moved on by spending hundreds of millions of dollars on teacher evaluation systems that in part linked teacher assessments to student standardized test scores, an approach that many assessment experts have warned against.
Now he says that the success of his experiments on public education won’t be known for a decade, but we already know that evaluating teachers by student test scores is a bad idea.
Education reform should not be driven by private philanthropists with their own agendas, however well-intentioned.
To read this article in full, go to Valerie Strauss’ column.
So, let’s see if Bill’s musings on education are working for our students now.
To begin with, the school districts of Chicago and Philadelphia where the grand experiment began look more like the wastelands of Iraq than Pleasantville, USA with schools closing dozens at a time leaving neighborhoods and communities without a center, public school funding is being sucked up by corporate owned charter schools leaving children vulnerable to violence when gang territories are merged, other students being pushed out of charter schools when they become too much of a financial liability just to return to public schools with nothing left in them including necessary staff such as nurses and counselors and not enough special education teachers for all of the students who were “counseled out” of charter schools.
How is that working out for us? Should we cut our losses now and tell Bill to stick to sculpture parks and public libraries?
Let’s take a look at the Common Core Standards, another Bill fave, with its endless testing and data mining of students’ personal information to be housed indefinitely in computer vaults created by Murdoch and Gates.
How are parents feeling about that now?
This week, a group of Florida parents, supported by parents and educators nationwide, released an executive order, demanding an end to Common Core and the parentally unauthorized student data mining that’s taking place in every state.
As parents, we claim the privilege of directing our childrens’ educations, free from SLDS (state longitudinal database tracking systems), free from Common Core-aligned testing, standards, or “model” curriculum; free from private trade group EIMAC/CCSSO data collection, free from federal micromanagement, free from federal “accountability”; free from the both student and teacher data mining and tracking that is offensive to individual liberty and to Constitutional, local control.
As parents and teachers, we claim the privilege outlined in the Declaration of Independence that government is by consent of the governed. We, the governed, have not been asked nor have we approved these unvetted standards and systems. Therefore, any governance of children or school staff under the Common Core agenda is simply invalid.
Why: The promises of the promoters of the Common Core Standards do not add up. The evidence is overwhelming, and increases daily, that the Common Core agenda damages where it claims to serve; yet those who push back against the Common Core agenda are disrespected by school boards and in hearings around the nation. This is outrageous. We are the children’s parents; children are not the government’s human capital” despite what the Department of Education repeatedly claims.
Along with the executive order, parents have issued a longer, referenced document that explains the reasoning behind the executive order. This document is entitled “Welcome to the Common Core Fuzzy Math: Common Core Equals Conditions Plus Coercion Plus Conflict of Interest.”
Here is a partial list of all the parent-educator groups working to fight the federal-and-corporate partnered machine of Common Core.
■Colorado: https://www.facebook.com Mesa County Citizins/Businesses Against Common Core Curriculum & Colorado Parents Against Common Core
■Florida (Central): https://www.facebook.com/groups/CentralFPACC/?fref=ts
■Louisiana: http://www.facebook.com/StopCommonCoreLa andhttps://www.facebook.com/pages/Stop-Common-Core-in-Louisiana/325178490918603?fref=ts
■New Mexico: http://www.facebook.com/StopCommonCoreInNewMexico
■New Jersey: https://www.facebook.com/groups/220888071386355
■New Jersey: http://www.facebook.com/groups/363967600385017/
■New York (State Island specifically): http://www.facebook.com/groups/638305829518125/
■New York (Long Island specifically): https://www.facebook.com/groups/141680156005331/
■South Carolina: https://www.facebook.com/StopCommonCoreInSouthCarolina?ref=stream
■South Dakota: http://www.facebook.com/SouthDakotansAgainstCommonCore
■Washington State Group: http://www.facebook.com/groups/WAstateAgainstCommonCore/?fref=ts
■Washington State Page: http://stopcommoncorewa.wordpress.com/
■Special Education Group: https://www.facebook.com/groups/249171258560458/249174031893514
Gee, I don’t know Bill, looks like you’re in the minority on this one.
Bill’s been so busy paying for research papers to prove his ideas are right, funding charter school initiatives, pouring money into one faux roots group after another and creating the NSA of public schools with inBloom, that a few key aspects of education were forgotten like…libraries.
To view the interactive map above, go to the Google map.)
“This map marks the cities, towns, communities, and states that have made the decision to either eliminate certified school library positions (indicated in blue) or require one school librarian to work with two (2) or more school library programs throughout the week (indicated in red).
Although hundreds of studies show the impact that School Librarians have on student achievement, these school districts believe otherwise.
Let’s compare the student achievement scores without a school librarian in a year or so to discover what thousands of library supporters already knew.
School Librarians DO make a difference!”
But Nancy White said it best….
• “In these schools, who will teach the children how to effectively search for information?
• In these schools, who will teach them how to discern the good information from the questionable?
• In these schools, who will model for the children how to persist in their information-seeking tasks?
• In these schools, who will select engaging books that can capture the imagination of students and promote a lifelong joy of reading? …”
When it comes to Bill Gates’ report card, I don’t think anyone can say it better than the US Department of Education itself, a place staffed by Bill Gates and Eli Broad disciples:
The U.S. Education Department routinely awards millions of dollars in grants to states and organizations, but it seems that it doesn’t have enough money to maintain its “Doing What Works” Web site.
Here’s a description on what it used to offer, from a department website page:
Videos, slideshows, and tools for using proven teaching practices. Based on findings from the What Works Clearinghouse. GO (http://dww.ed.gov/)
Subscribers to the Doing What Works site recently received the following e-mail:
Dear subscriber: The U.S. Department of Education has suspended operation of the Doing What Works website. We sincerely regret this unfortunate event. You can still acquire many DWW media and materials through other channels. Please email firstname.lastname@example.org for specific instructions on how you can gain access to DWW media and materials. Sincerely, The DWW Team
The site has already disappeared.
According to Massie Ritsch, the department had no money for Doing What Works. He said in an e-mail:
The ED office managing Doing What Works did not have sufficient funding to continue operating the website and producing new material, but we are working to place the archive of resources on another site for educators to use.
I won’t mention the irony in the fact that department spends millions on school reform that has no proven record of success but ran out of cash for its Doing What Works website.
Submitted by Dora Taylor