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Thursday News: Students Say “Enough” to Gun Violence; “Team of Sycophants”;...

by Lowell Here are a few national and Virginia news headlines, political and otherwise, for Thursday, March 15. “Trump Wants Them Out of There”: After...

Video, Photos: Students Walk Out Around Virginia to Protest Gun Violence

Thank goodness for these students, that's all I have to say! First, check out the student walkout today at Warwick High in Newport News...

High School Voter Registration Challenge Launched in Fairfax County

Fairfax County’s 30 high schools are eligible to compete in a challenge to register high school seniors to vote—a challenge organized by the League...

Corporate-Favored Education “Reform”, and What It May Mean in 2013

With the fights over high-profile, controversial bills related to reproductive rights laws in the General Assembly last year, a number of other seismic bills slipped through the media coverage cracks. On the education front, a bill allowing for tax credits to be granted to individuals giving scholarship donations to private schools passed through relatively easily and is expected to pass state constitutional muster. What this means, ultimately, is that tax dollars normally received into the general fund for public education will now be diverted to private schools that have more discriminatory leeway. It is expected that this controversial policy will survive legal challenges. 

Much has been made in the coverage of education issues nationally of the so-called “Education Reform” movement. It's taken many forms, from the carrot-stick approach of the Obama/Arne Duncan-favored “Race to the Top,” to a straight-up, market-based voucher program, such as the one passed in the state of Louisiana last year where the per pupil funding follows the pupil to any public or private school. All of these plans claim to have the student at the center of any reforms. Neither really gives much say to the teachers, or parents who want their students to have the best teachers rather than the smartest sounding business plan. In both cases, the less power the teacher has, the better. While vouchers place teachers at the whim of market forces while also allowing for taxpayer-funded vouchers to be spent on religious education (as the Virginia bill is expected to do and the Louisiana bill did to wacky extremes), “Race to the Top” has quietly imposed upon school systems a number of controversial classroom “innovations,” including more high-stakes testing (despite the President's own admonishment of “teaching to the test”), the expansion of privately-run charter schools (who are in turn given low oversight of their activities, and have proven to be no better, if not worse than public schools), online schools (many of which, while attractive to technophiles and pitched as good options for students who have an attention deficit, are ineffective at best), and merit pay programs that demand job instability for teachers in exchange for school funding.

The danger of Herman Cain’s 9-9-9 plan

...is the economic illiteracy of most Americans.  This became clear when we discussed the Republican debate in my classes, especially with my Advanced Placement students, after the Republican debate on Wednesday.   A number of students thought Cain was persuasive, and thought his plan made sense.  Some of their parents also seemed to like the idea.

Why?  Because when the parents do their taxes they are often middle class people whose incremental tax rate is either 15% or 25% or 28%  (I have only a few students from families whose incremental rate would be 33% and none that I know of in the top bracket of 35%).  Thus a 9% personal income tax rate seems appealing.

What too many fail to realize is that it would be achieved by eliminating most deductions, thus raising the effective tax rate they would pay.  We are in the 28% bracket, but the effective income tax rate on our adjusted gross income was only 17% this past year because of the deductions we are allowed.

And that says NOTHING about the impact of a national sales tax of 9%, which would clobber lower and middle class families, while largely exempting the upper classes.  Hell, 9% is even lower than the current 15% Capital Gains rate that enables many wealthy to pay lower effective tax rates than their employees, eg:  Warren Buffett paying at a lower rate on his income than his secretary -  who also has to pay payroll taxes on most of her income.

A few more thoughts:

Race to Nowhere – an invitation to a viewing on...

If you are interested in what stress is doing to our students, there is a movie you MUST see.  It is Race to Nowhere   I saw it at a Church in Fairfax County.  I showed some clips to my students, who asked me to arrange a screening so they could see it.  Here's a trailer:  

That screening is tomorrow night at Eleanor Roosevelt High School in Greenbelt Md, just off the BW Parkway.

We have plenty of room.  The film's producer, Vicki Abeles, is flying in from California to lead the post-screening discussion.  She was motivated to make the film after seeing the impact of stress upon her daughter.

If you are interested, you can buy tickets online here  If you don't make up your mind until the last minute, tickets will be available at the door.  

Doors open at 6:30.  Film will start within 15-20 minute, and last just under 90, and then the discussion.

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The power of Race to Nowhere

can be seen in the discussion post-screening in this video

I was there for this discussion.  After seeing film, this is also why I decided to try to show at our school.

If you want to attend our viewing in Greenbelt MD on April 26,  buy your tickets here,.

For more about the film, explore this website

If you care about kids, please see the film when you can.

Peace

A Saturday morning pause

in the transition to the school year.  Students will arrive on Monday.  I now have 192 on my roles for 6 classes, that number being held down because one is a special program with only 21.  The numbers in order read 21-30-37-38-38-28.  I have 39 desks, and it is possible all will be filled in some classes.

The biggest story in education is the LA Times on value-added scores of LA school teachers, the paper publishing names & picture of teachers with the scores  I have been asked by several people to write on the subject here, but since I am not myself a psychometrician and there are real technical issues, I have been attempting to leave it to other people.  And there is a wealth of commentary on the subject in the last few days, too much for me to have absorbed.  

Perhaps I will write about that issue, or other issues that concern me.  I am never unconcerned about matters affecting schools, teachers and most of all students.  But this morning my reflection is also on broader issues.  

So I invite you to continue reading as I offer my morning mental meanderings in the brief period before I again become fully immersed in school and students.

Some things are simply not negotiable

which is why we removed them from government action by protecting against such action in the Constitution and its Amendments.

Speech and religion are both supposed to be protected.

We do not allow either to be suppressed either by the Government, nor by people no matter how many who might object.  A heckler's veto is not supposed to be able to deny someone's speech, otherwise whoever can yell the loudest can prevent the expression by anyone with whom s/he may disagree.

Yes, our rights are never absolute, because if they are in conflict there becomes a need to balance.

Hurt feelings however should never trump guaranteed rights.

Someone who does not understand that is not, in my opinion, fit for public office of any kind.  Those who would bow to a mob mentality are thereby encouraging more shrillness, larger mobs, greater attempts to suppress expression or belief, and thereby undercutting one of the basic principles of this nation.

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Providing Medical Care at School

Several days ago I read this on providing medical care at school.

school nurse

I sent the link out to a number of significant political, governmental and policy people, saying

I thought this might be something for you to consider.  I am motivated to send this on in part by my experience of volunteering in free medical and dental clinics in Virginia, both in rural areas like Wise and Grundy, and in more urban areas like Roanoke and NoVa.  I am also motivated to share this because as a teacher in Greenbelt MD, perhaps a 20 minute drive from the Capitol, I encounter too many students with unaddressed health issues.

In rural areas if a child needs a basic medical visit it often means missing a day of school.  That can be true for students in magnet programs in cities.

A child with dental problems cannot concentrate.  A child with vision or hearing problems will not function as efficiently.

And a child on the road to obesity will not have as productive a life, and will incur far more downstream medical problems and costs.

Thus I urge you to read this piece and consider how it might point at things within your power to address.

Please keep reading.