Nurses don’t want to strike. But going to the hospital and being cared for by an overworked, underpaid, unsupported nurse is not going to improve your health.
Railway workers would certainly rather get on with their jobs than contend with the bosses or Congress. But having no paid sick leave and a lack of adequate pay will not help move goods across the country any better, either.
Instead, we are at the mercy of employers to step up and do so. And when it comes to the poorest but most important workers – the ones without which our country would grind to a stop – employers are often extremely reluctant to do so.
Roughly a quarter of the private workforce — more than 33 million people — have no paid sick days so they can take care of themselves if they get ill. Even worse, more than 80 percent of private sector workers have no access to paid leave so they can care for a family member.
And it’s indisputably a racial and class phenomenon.
Higher-paid, professional workers almost universally have paid sick and family leave. But, of course, most of these workers don’t just lack pigment on their collars, they lack it on their faces, too. Among the lowest-paid quarter of the workforce, the majority of whom are Black and Latinx workers, only half of them have any paid sick days, and just 7 percent have paid family leave.
So workers of color, the poor, and disproportionately women are much more likely to lack sick and family leave than those who are paid more, have white skin and are male.
And before you explode with indignation, let it be known that this could be rectified any day our government sees fit.
Our representatives could stop holding water for groups like the railway companies that pulled in $20 billion in profits last year alone. Our government could represent us, the people, instead of businesses that could afford to do better but don’t because we aren’t holding them accountable and our Congress and the President refuse to stop them or even let us force them to do right by subjecting them to a strike.
It is past time for our government to begin respecting the rights of workers to organize and collectively bargain for better treatment.
We just suffered through a pandemic where these so-called essential workers had to put themselves in the most danger just to keep society running while the rest of us stayed home and were unequally protected.
If these workers are truly essential, they at least deserve sick and family leave. Otherwise, it is all too obvious how bogus the term is.
The U.S. can no longer run on the unrespected work of an underclass of the poor and people of color.
Because, Brother, you don’t understand how teaching works!
So let’s begin with the reasons why this idea is still attractive.
First, we want to let students know what they’ll be experiencing in class on a day-by-day basis.
It’s a reasonable request to a degree. How many times have students walked into the classroom and the first thing that comes out of their mouths are, “What are we doing today?”
However, experienced classroom teachers know that this isn’t the real question. Most of the time when a student asks this they aren’t interested in what we are doing. They’re interested in what we AREN’T doing.
I hear this question most often in my last period classes because the students are exhausted from a full day of academics. They want to know if I’m going to tire them further or if there might be a chance at a breather here and there.
The second reason this practice is attractive is for principals.
You can’t say “Learn how to use nouns!” And WOOSH students can distinguish nouns from pronouns with pinpoint accuracy. You can’t put hands on a student’s head and say “Reading Comprehension!” And suddenly they pick up a book and start reading Shakespeare with absolute fidelity.
Yes, you can post these things on the wall. But what good does it do?
Students may see it and think to themselves, “So that’s what the teacher is trying to get me to know!” But how does that help?
When I took piano lessons, my teacher never told me the lesson was on the chromatic scale. She just gave me a few pieces to practice and helped me over the parts where I was stumbling.
Moreover, even if she had told me that, it wouldn’t have meant anything to me. Because I didn’t know what the chromatic scale was!
So much of education is skill based. We learn HOW to do something. We don’t spend much time on WHAT it is or any theories of how it all comes together. And even if we did, that would come at the end, not the beginning.
When I teach my students how to write a single paragraph essay, for example, I have them write three drafts – a prewriting, a first draft (heavily scaffolded with a planner) and a final copy.
They often complain that this is a lot of writing and want to know why I’m making them do all this when they feel they could probably skip one or two steps and still come to almost as good of a final project.
I ask them to trust me. I tell them this is the best way, and that they’ll understand later. And since I’ve spent so much time creating a relationship of give-and-take, of trust, they often just get on with the work.
What I’m really doing with all these drafts is getting the format of the single paragraph essay embedded in their minds. They’re memorizing it without even knowing it.
Moreover, writing multiple drafts is good practice when you get to more complicated and longer essays. It forces you to re-evaluate what you wrote previously and it encourages you to improve it before you are finished.
Finally, it instills a process into your mind. You start to feel like this is the right way to do something and you resist taking the easier road because the way you were taught has lead to success in the past (and it will probably serve you well in the future as things get more complex).
Do you really think I should stop and explain all that to my students before we begin? Do you think it would help?
Absolutely not! Children (like tech entrepreneurs and business tycoons) often think they know everything when they really know nothing. If you explain everything to them at the beginning, they can get contrary and refuse to do all you ask to demonstrate they know better. This often leads to dead ends and reteaching – if possible.
Large-scale independent studies in Indiana,Louisiana, Ohio and Washington, D.C., show that students who used vouchers were as negatively impacted as if they had experienced a natural disaster. Their standardized test scores went down as much or more than students during the Covid-19 pandemic or Hurricane Katrina in 2005.
They lose the friends, teachers, and communities where they grew up. It’s like yanking a sapling from out of the ground and transplanting it to another climate with another type of soil which may not be suited to it at all.
Vouchers have nothing to do with helping kids escape struggling public schools.
School vouchers overwhelmingly go to kids who already attend private or parochial schools.
Vouchers have nothing to do with more efficient schools.
Let’s get one thing straight – voucher schools are businesses, often new businesses just opening up. And like any other start-up, the failure rate is extremely high. According to Forbes, 90% of start-ups fail – often within the first few years.
For example, in Florida, Grace Christian School, a private institution that refuses to enroll LGBTQ kids has received $1.6 million so far in taxpayer funding. In Indiana, more than $16 million has gone to schools banning LGBTQ kids—or even kids with LGBTQ parents! That’s roughly 1 out of every 10 private schools in the state with just this one discriminatory enrollment.
Meanwhile thousands of parochial schools that receive public funding use textbooks provided by The American Christian Education (ACE) group. This includes the A Beka Book and Bob Jones University Press textbooks. A Beka publishers, in particular, reported that about 9,000 schools nationwide purchase their textbooks.
In their pages you’ll find glowing descriptions of the Ku Klux Klan, how the massacre of Native Americans saved many souls, African slaves had really good lives, homosexuals are no better than rapists and child molesters, and progressive attempts at equal rights such as Brown vs. Board of Education were illegal and misguided. You know – all the greatest Trump/MAGA hits!
It is the surrounding factors – like that most voucher schools don’t have to use certified teachers with the same quality degrees as public schools, that they don’t have to use the same kind of high-quality curriculum or pass the same kinds of public scrutiny.
All-in-all, it was a good night. Especially in an election cycle where Republicans had every advantage. The President’s party usually loses seats during the midterms, and just last week it seemed that Joe Biden would be no exception. However, now that the dust has cleared, the losses seem to be minimal to nonexistent.
The Critical Race Theory panic (A.K.A. – teaching actual history) will fade to just another wing nut conspiracy theory thrown to the Republican base to generate support instead of an actual policy proposal to restrict academic freedom.
However, we will have to monitor our representatives as if they were little kids sulking by the cookie jar. They will almost definitely try to sneak in some garbage legislation to hurt our students and enrich their corporate buddies.
This almost always concludes with two types of plan.
First, there is the serious venture made up of things like increasing spending to meet student need, wraparound services, early intervention, reducing class size, redistributive justice and cultural competence – a plan that looks the reality in the face and makes bold attempts to come to terms with it.
Then there is the cheap knockoff proposition – a buzzword-laden scheme where someone is trying to convince you their half hearted proposal is actually a solution to the very real problem of educational inequality.
The first plan that is centered around actually fixing disparities makes no mention of test scores – or at least relegates them to obstacles. The second is built all around them – as an essential component of the overall scheme.
This is because the second feel-good-accomplish-nothing plan is essentially performative.
Therefore, it is constructed around standardized test scores as a metric of success.
Planners think: We’re going to do A, B and C to make our schools more equitable. And how will we know we’re doing it right? We’ll use our standardized test scores!
For example, a beginning chef needs to know how to use the stove, have good knife skills and how to chop an onion. But if you give her a standardized test, it instead might focus on how to make foie gras – something that would only come in handy at a high end French restaurant.
The fact of the matter is that standardized tests do NOT necessarily focus on the most important aspects of a given task. They focus on obscurities – things that most students don’t know.
This is implicit in the design of these exams and is very different from the kinds of tests designed by classroom teachers.
When a teacher makes a test for her students, she’s focused on the individuals in her classes. She asks primarily about the most essential aspects of the subject and in such a way that her students will best understand. There may be a few obscure questions, but the focus is on whether the test takers have learned the material or not.
When psychometricians design a standardized test, on the other hand, they aren’t centered on the student. They aren’t trying to find out if the test taker knows the most important facts or has the most essential skills in each field. Instead, there is a tendency to eliminate the most important test questions so that the test – not the student – will be better equipped to make comparisons between students based on a small set of questions. After all, a standardize test isn’t designed for a few classes – it is one size fits all.
New questions are field tested. They are placed randomly on an active test but don’t count toward the final score. Test takers aren’t told which questions they’ll be graded on and which are just practice questions being tried out on students for the first time. So students presumably give their best effort to both types. Then when the test is scored, the results of the field test questions determine if they’ll be used again as graded questions on a subsequent test.
“As a consequence of the quest for score variance in a standardized achievement test, items on which students perform well are often excluded. However, items on which students perform well often cover the content that, because of its importance, teachers stress. Thus, the better the job that teachers do in teaching important knowledge and/or skills, the less likely it is that there will be items on a standardized achievement test measuring such knowledge and/or skills.”
If we are guided in large part by standardized test scores, we aren’t guided by authentic learning. We’re guided by a false picture of learning. Therefore, the most effective way – perhaps the only practical way – of raising test scores is to teach directly to a specific test. And not only the test, but the specific version of the test being given that year.
So if we do somehow manage to raise test scores, we haven’t improved academics at all but a mere semblance of it. And thus the equity we might celebrate in such a situation would be just as false.
You got a good score on the MAP test. Hurrah! But that doesn’t mean you know anything of real value except how to take this particular MAP test which, itself, will change after the next round of questions are field tested.
And if we insist on evaluating the equity of our schools on these test scores, we will only make things that much worse.
We end up chasing the psychometricians. We try to guess which aspects of a subject they think most students don’t know and then we teach our students that to the exclusion of more important information. And since what students don’t know changes, we end up having to change our instructional focus every few years based on the few bread crumbs surreptitiously left for us by the state and the testing corporations.
That is not a good way to teach someone anything. It’s like teaching your child how to ride a bike based on what the neighbor kid doesn’t know.
It doesn’t matter – as long as we can keep them coming.
The young and dumb.
Or the old and out of options.
Entice retired teachers to come back and sub. Remove hurdles for anyone from a non-teaching field to step in and become a teacher – even military veterans because there’s so much overlap between battlefield experience and second grade reading.
If you have a hole in your pocket and you keep losing your keys, wallet and other vital things from out of your pants, the first thing you do is sew up the hole! You don’t keep putting more things in your pocket!
But that’s only true if you’re actually interested in solving the problem.
Like any other profession, the longer you practice it, the better you usually get. For example, no one going under heart surgery would willingly choose a surgeon who had never operated before over a seasoned veteran who has done this successfully multiple times.
It is a political and economic plot against increasing the average intelligence and knowledge of voters, stealing government funding for personal gain and refusing to increase the quality of a government sponsored service.
In August, the national Education Association (NEA) sounded the alarm that an additional 300,000 educators had left since the report was issued. And it’s only getting worse. An NEA union poll found that 55% of educators were considering leaving education earlier than they had originally planned.
In my own district, there are several teachers who have taken leaves of absence or are sick and had to be temporarily replaced with long term subs. We’re located in western Pennsylvania south of Pittsburgh, just across the river from a plethora of colleges and universities with teacher prep programs. Yet it was pretty difficult to find anyone to fill these positions or serve as day-to-day subs.
There is so much we could be doing to encourage seasoned teachers to stay in the classroom beyond increased pay.
What we have here is a crisis that cuts to the very heart of America’s identity as a nation.
What do we want to be? A capitalist experiment in school privatization whose only regulation is the free hand of the market? Or a nation supported by a secure system of education that took us to the moon and made us the greatest global superpower the world has ever known?
“Teachers, we are operating on a lockdown. Please keep your doors locked until we tell you it has been lifted.”
Before me a sea of wide eyes and scared faces.
I slowly walked toward the door continuing the lesson I had been giving before the announcement. The door was already shut and secured but I nonchalantly turned the extra deadbolt.
“Click!” it sounded like a gunshot across the suddenly silent room.
I continued talking while making my way back to the blackboard pretending that nothing out of the ordinary was happening.
That’s just life in the classroom these days.
According to Eduction Week, there have been 38 school shootings in the US this year resulting in injuries or deaths. That’s up from 34 last year and the highest it’s been since the media source began tracking such things in 2018.
During the height of the Covid-19 pandemic, there were only 10 such shootings in 2020, and 24 each in 2019 and 2018.
That comes to a total of 130 school shootings in the last five years.
“Mr. Singer, can I go to the bathroom?” DeVon asked.
“I’m sorry,” I said. “We’re still under lockdown. I’ll write you a pass as soon as it’s lifted.”
It seems like nowhere is safe.
Three of this year’s shootings were in my home state of Pennsylvania.
Every few years we do this. Teachers huddle in classrooms and try to react to a shooting scenario. We either barricade ourselves in our classrooms or try to find an escape route. We help train police and local medical personnel.
At this years training, teachers were given a talk by a law enforcement “expert” who regaled us with his time working as a Blackwater mercenary in Afghanistan. He told us how difficult it was to make decisions under fire but that sometimes you had to make the hard decisions.
“Some of you teachers have kids in wheelchairs in your classrooms. You think you’re going to get your whole class out of the building and to safety!? You have to ask yourself, how are you going to get that kid in the wheelchair out? What are you going to do if a child flips out or is too scared to move? I know it’s not nice to think about, but sometimes you have to make decisions that will save the most people – not necessarily everyone.”
It made me want to vomit. But he wasn’t telling me anything I didn’t already know.
I like to believe I’d pick the child up out of his wheelchair, throw him over my shoulder and carry him to safety. I hope I could calm down a child having a panic attack and whisk her out of the building.
“Democrats are pushing woke ideology, racism, and sexuality on children in the classroom. As your governor, I will ban this on day one…”
Yikes. This is like promising to ban sorcery in school – another thing we don’t teach.
This isn’t the Republican Party I remember when I was growing up.
Instead of personal autonomy and free trade, today’s GOP solemnly swears to eliminate a series of racially and sexually motivated phantasms that are like shadows under a child’s bed. I suppose it’s easier to get rid of something that’s never existed than to fix the real problems we actually have.
But let’s be honest – for some folks this kind of unhinged messaging works.
Many Republicans claim anti-male discrimination is wide spread. Men are blamed for so many things in our society they’re forced to turn to porn and video games because they have no other options, Green claimed.
And women have become “… too weak and pathetic to take care of themselves. They want a great big giant government to take care of them. It’s such a hypocrisy. They claim they want the future to be female, but they aren’t capable of taking care of themself.”
How did we get here? Public schools that teach sexual politics.
They insist that even mentioning LGBTQ people exist is grooming children into a sexuality they wouldn’t otherwise have.
First, believing this shows massive ignorance.
No one can really be coerced into a sexuality they didn’t already possess. As you grow and mature, you have sexual preferences. It’s not really a matter of nurture – it’s nature. People are born this way.
Second, stubbornly refusing to acknowledge that there are other ways to express your sexuality is not going to make people ignore their innate inclinations. The idea seems to be that if kids never find out there are other options, they’ll simply be satisfied with heterosexuality – how they’re told to think and feel.
And finally, it is extremely unfair to LGBTQ people. We already live in a culture that celebrates cis hetero-normativity. Trying to erase everyone else causes real harm and trauma to both people who are different and to those who are not but never get to fully understand the entire spectrum of humanity.
Teachers are not making kids gay, but they are telling kids that gay people are real. We are trying to stop bullying and homophobia. And let’s be honest – that’s really what Republicans are objecting to here.
They want it to be okay to hate gay people.
Sorry. Not in public school.
3) Teaching kids to be trans
This is where the backlash against using appropriate pronouns and recognizing trans people is coming from.
As much as Republicans hate gay people, they absolutely despise and fear the trans community.
Once again they conflate acknowledging the existence of the other with coercing students to become the other. Just knowing that trans is an authentic way human beings can live is seen as a threat. But if this kind of knowledge makes you trans, you almost certainly were trans already.
-Median household income for Black people, at $43,862, is 37 precent less than that of white people, at $69,823.
-Census data shows Black couples are more than twice as likely as whites to be denied a mortgage or a home improvement loan, which leads to just 59 percent of the median home equity white households have, and just 13 percent of Black wealth.
-A Black child born today can expect to live four years less than a white one.
An estimated 55% of male and female teens have had sexual intercourse by age 18, according to the CDC’s National Center for Health Statistics (NCHS).
However, these percentages have declined since 1988 when 51% of female and 60% of male teens had engaged in sexual activity.
If public schools are teaching kids to bump uglies, we’re doing a bad job.
Are kids more sexualized today than in the past? Probably. But that’s a result of the culture. When you sell teenagers shorts with the word “juicy” on the butt, don’t complain about public schools.
Some schools offer sex education classes, but they are focused on health and wellness. There is no encouragement to have sex. In fact, many such classes are still teaching abstinence only instead of safe contraception.
The idea that public schools are teaching sex is just dog whistle politics. It is Republicans trying to scare parents that public schools are instilling values they don’t share. It is blaming public schools for social ills that the schools didn’t cause and don’t control.
Looked at calmly and rationally, all of these fantasies are just scare tactics to get the gullible to react emotionally on election day.
They want to terrify responsive voters into giving GOP candidates the power to stop a host of things that never really existed. They want an excuse for doing nothing to solve the actual problems of the day.
There’s a reason they spend so much time railing against woke education – they want to ensure America remains asleep.
A fitful sleep – tossing and turning in various Republican nightmares.
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These assessments were based on explicitly eugenicist foundations – the idea that certain races were distinctly superior to others.
Colleague Lewis Terman made the goal clear in his book, The Measurement of Intelligence, that these “experimental” tests will show “enormously significant racial differences in general intelligence, differences which cannot be wiped out by any scheme of mental culture.”
In 1923, another psychologist, Carl Brigham, took these ideas further in his seminal workA Study of American Intelligence. In it, he used data gathered from these IQ tests to argue the following:
“The decline of American intelligence will be more rapid than the decline of the intelligence of European national groups, owing to the presence here of the negro. These are the plain, if somewhat ugly, facts that our study shows. The deterioration of American intelligence is not inevitable, however, if public action can be aroused to prevent it.”
The practice was even upheld by the US Supreme Court in the 1927 Buck v. Bell decision. Justices decided that mandatory sterilization of “feeble-minded” individuals was, in fact, Constitutional.
Of the ruling, which has never been explicitly overturned, Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes wrote, “It is better for all the world, if instead of waiting to execute degenerate offspring for crime, or to let them starve for their imbecility, society can prevent those who are manifestly unfit from continuing their kind…. Three generations of imbeciles are enough.”
In 1964, a Department of Education report found that the average black high school senior scored below 87% of white seniors (in the 13 percentile) on standardized assessments. Fifty years later, the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) found that black seniors had narrowed the gap until they were merely behind 81% of white seniors (scoring in the 19th percentile).
Is that really the kind of progress you want to champion?
The reason for the disparity has nothing to do with the learning students of color (and the poor whose scores are similar) achieve nor their worth as human beings.
“Traditionally constructed standardized achievements, the kinds that we’ve used in this country for a long while, are intended chiefly to discriminate among students … to say that someone was in the 83rd percentile and someone is at 43rd percentile. And the reason you do that is so you can make judgments among these kids. But in order to do so, you have to make sure that the test has in fact a spread of scores. One of the ways to have that test create a spread of scores is to limit items in the test to socioeconomic variables, because socioeconomic status is a nicely spread out distribution, and that distribution does in fact spread kids’ scores out on a test.”
The scores have to fall into categories – Below Basic, Basic, Proficient and Advanced, for instance. If too many students cluster in the middle, the results are invalid. We need the scores spread out – even if we must resort to non-educational factors to get there.
Family income is not something the tests ignore, says Popham. It is an essential component specifically tested for in question construction. In fact, he claims that between 15-80% of the questions (depending on the subject area) on norm-referenced exams are linked to socio-economic status (SES).
Thus minorities with higher percentages of impoverished people are selected against. Not because of any explicit racist ideology – but to get the pretty bell curve standardized assessments require.
“Too often, test designers rely on questions which assume background knowledge more often held by White, middle-class students. It’s not just that the designers have unconscious racial bias; the standardized testing industry depends on these kinds of biased questions in order to create a wide range of scores.”
For example, Choi recalled a 10th grade student in his class asking him about a standardized test question. “With a puzzled look, she pointed to the prompt asking students to write about the qualities of someone who would deserve a “key to the city.” Many of my students, nearly all of whom qualified for free and reduced lunch, were not familiar with the idea of a ‘key to the city.’”
So when they get such a question wrong, it isn’t necessarily because they don’t know the concept being tested, but they don’t understand what was being asked in the first place.
“Compare two 1998 SAT verbal [section] sentence-completion items with similar themes: The item correctly answered by more blacks than whites was discarded by the Educational Testing Service, whereas the item that has a higher disparate impact against blacks became part of the actual SAT. On one of the items, which was of medium difficulty, 62% of whites and 38% of African-Americans answered correctly, resulting in a large impact of 24%…On this second item, 8% more African-Americans than whites answered correctly…”
In other words, the criteria for whether a question is chosen for future tests is if it replicates the outcomes of previous exams – specifically tests where students of color score lower than white children. And this is still the criteria test makers use to determine which questions to use on future editions of nearly every assessment in wide use in the US.
We no longer profess eugenicist ideas of racial purity embedded in our assessments as self evident or based on science. But they’re there none-the-less.
Today, the very concept of intelligence being quantifiable remains in question.
In “The Mismeasurement of Man,” evolutionary biologist Stephen Jay Gould challenged many of these ideas – in particular those of Terman. Rather than see intelligence as a genetic trait, Gould envisioned it more abstractly and thus shattered the idea that any mere number could capture human value.
But after reluctantly subjecting my classes to the MAP and being instructed to analyze the results with my colleagues, we noticed this contradiction.
In many cases, scores did not match up with teacher expectations for our students.
In about 60-80% of cases, students who had demonstrated high skills in the subject were given scores below the 50th percentile – many below the 25th percentile.
These were kids with average to high grades who the MAP scored as if they were in the bottom half of their peers across the state.
Heck! A third of my students are in the advanced class this year – but the MAP test would tell me most of them need remediation!
If we look at that data dispassionately, there are possible explanations. For one, students may not have taken the test seriously.
And to some degree this is certainly the case. The MAP times student responses and when they are input fast and furious, it stops the test taker until the teacher can unlock the test after warning them against rapid guessing.
However, the sheer number of mislabeled students is far too great to be accounted for in this way. Maybe five of my students got the slow down sloth graphic. Yet so many more were mislabeled as failures despite strong classroom academics.
Nice for them. However, I am not some rube reading this in the paper. I am not examining some spreadsheet for which I have no other data. I am IN the classroom every day observing these very same kids. I’ve been right there for almost an entire grading period of lessons and assessments – formative and summative. I have many strong indications of what these kids can do, what they know and what they don’t know.
I am a Nationally Board Certified Teacher with more than two decades experience. But Northwest Evaluation Association (NWEA), a testing company out of Portland, Oregon, wants me to believe that after 90 minutes it knows my students better than I do after six weeks!
Time to admit the MAP is a faulty product.
But it’s not just that one standardized test. We find the same disparity with the PSSA and other like assessments.
Nationally, classroom grades are better than these test scores.
By contrast, teacher-created tests are just the opposite. They are designed almost exclusively to assess whether learning has taken place and to what degree. Comparability isn’t really something we do. That’s the province of administrators and other support staff.
The primary job of teaching is just that – the transfer of knowledge, offering opportunities and a conducive environment for students to learn.
You can’t give a person a blood transfusion if you can’t accurately measure how much blood you’re giving her. And comparing how much blood was given to a national average of transfusions is not helpful.
You need to know how much THIS PERSON needs. You need to know what would help her particular needs.
When good students get bad test scores, it invariably means you have a bad test.