Important Research for our Schools – Study Unlocks Why Decrepit Schools Mean Poor Test Scores

Poetic Justice is reblogging a very important article written by Cornell Chronicle writer Susan Kelley about the research findings of Dr. Lorraine Maxwell. Please read and share with other concerned educators, parents, grand parents, and community members.

If we would put financial resources into our classrooms instead of into faulty tests, oppressive teacher evaluation systems, data collection systems, computer learning schemes,  and the privatization of our schools, we would finally see the results we have been searching for the last two decades. We would see happy, joyful children exploring new learning everyday.

Here is the article:

Social scientists have known for several years that kids enrolled in run-down schools miss more classes and have lower test scores than students at well-maintained schools. But they haven’t been able to pin down why.

A Cornell environmental psychologist has an answer.

Lorraine Maxwell’s study of more than 230 New York City public middle schools found that a school’s social climate – from its academic expectations to the level of communication, respect and engagement among its students, teachers and parents – is a major missing link.

Maxwell, an associate professor of design and environmental analysis in the College of Human Ecology, found a chain reaction at work, stemming from poor building conditions. Leaking toilets, smelly cafeterias, broken furniture, classrooms that were too hot or too cold, moldy walls and plaster falling off ceilings made students feel negatively about the school’s norms and expectations. That negative perception of the school’s social climate contributed to high absenteeism. In turn, that contributed to low test scores and poor academic achievement.

“School buildings that are in good condition and attractive may signal to students that someone cares and there’s a positive social climate, which in turn may encourage better attendance,” Maxwell said. “Students cannot learn if they do not come to school.”

Her study, “School Building Condition, Social Climate, Student Attendance and Academic Achievement: A Mediation Model,” appears in the Journal of Environmental Psychology’s June issue.

In an earlier, related study, Maxwell asked a handful of middle-school students what difference they thought a school building makes.

“I will never forget one boy,” Maxwell said. “He said, ‘Well, maybe if the school looked better, kids would want to come to school.’ And that sparked me to think, ‘OK, they notice.’”

Maxwell’s latest study analyzed 2011 data from 236 New York City middle schools with a combined enrollment of 143,788 students. The data included academic performance measures and assessments of physical environments done by independent professionals in architecture, and mechanical and electrical engineering. Maxwell also analyzed surveys on how parents, teachers and students felt about the school’s social climate; that dataset developed by the New York City Department of Education is the largest of its kind in the United States.

Maxwell found that poor building conditions, and the resulting negative perception of the school’s social climate, accounted for 70 percent of the poor academic performance. She controlled for students’ socioeconomic status and ethnic background, and found that while these student attributes are related to test scores, they do not tell the whole story. School building condition is also a major contributing factor, Maxwell said.

“Those other factors are contributing to poor academic performance, but building condition is significantly contributing also. It’s worth it for society to make sure that school buildings are up to par,” she said.

Buildings also have symbolic value, Maxwell said. For example, government buildings in Washington, D.C., and in state capitals are well maintained, with gold-leaf roofs, Greek columns and polished marble stairs meant to inspire awe, she pointed out.

“Those buildings are kept well. Why? They give us a certain impression about what goes on inside and how much society values those activities,” she said “So you can understand why kids might think a school that doesn’t look good inside or outside is giving them a message that perhaps what happens in their school doesn’t matter.”

The study has serious implications for policymakers, Maxwell said. They must understand that school conditions are especially important for kids in minority and low-income communities.

“Those students are already potentially facing more of an uphill battle, and sending more positive messages about how the larger society values them is critical,” she said.

 

 

 

How the NYC Department of Education Bullied and Drove Away an NBCT Pre-K Teacher

I am reblogging this from Diane Ravitch.

This is how bad our schools have become. They are children-unfriendly and teacher-unfriendly.

“I left not because I was in an under represented community and not because many children had challenging issues but rather because the lack of support and understanding about what it means to be a teacher was draining the life out of me.” ~ a NYC pre-K teacher who chooses to remain unnamed.

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Diane Ravitch's blog

This is a letter that I received:

I have been following you for the last 10 years and am in awe of your continued efforts to turn public education in the right direction.

I read your article this morning about a teacher who had had enough.

It could have been my story.

I am a retired NYC Department of Education pre-k teacher in an under represented community. I taught pre-k for 16 consecutive years in the same school. I was fortunate that I was able to introduce many innovative programs to support my students not just in academics but the more important social/emotional piece that schools often neglect.

I brought to my classroom American Sign Language, Yoga, Mindfulness, Cooking and Baking, Caterpillars into Butterflies and as much art and music as I could fit in a day.

My students thrived. Sadly, each year it became more and more difficult to…

View original post 418 more words

CBE and ALEC Preparing Students for the Gig Economy

This is a must read for all teachers, parents, and students. Do we really want our children reduced to “gigs” and data points?

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“Career and College Ready?”

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CBE 101

First, a brief background: Competency based education (or CBE) has been a rapidly developing alternative to traditional public education. While proponents tout it as “disruptive innovation” critics examine how disruptive translates into “dismantle”, meaning that CBE is a system by which public schools can, and will be, dismantled. This is not ancillary. It was designed to create a new privately-run profiteering model by which education can be delivered to “the masses.” Think: Outsourcing.

CBE delivers curriculum, instruction and assessments through online programming owned by third-party (corporate) organizations that are paid for with your tax dollars. Proponents of CBE use catchy language like “personalized” and “individualized” learning. Translation? Children seated alone interfacing with a computer, which monitors and adjusts the materials according to the inputs keyed in by the child. See Newton’s Datapalooza here.

So gone are the days of “credit…

View original post 1,379 more words

Why Do I Teach?

How can I say “no” to them and walk away?

Last week, the dark child brightened up.
Yesterday, the angry child smiled.
Just today, the sad child laughed.
And tomorrow, the child beyond hope, will graduate.

Each child a new challenge.
Each challenge a routine and a painful burden.
Each burden, mine to bear for a brief period of time –
my special chance to help God perform His miracle
in each child.

We teach because we are called to teach.
We teach because the children need us now.
We teach because we need to love them.
We teach because it is life to us.

How can we say “no” to them and walk away?

A Lone Teacher Talks Back: An Educator on the Impact of Teacher Evaluation

As far as Poetic Justice is concerned, all metrics need to be eliminated from the evaluation process. This may be a radical thought in this age of teaching reform, but it is not a radical idea to those who are pure educators.

This is what a valid teacher evaluation checklist would look like if I were in charge of my own building. This is what my own personal self-evaluation looks like:

1. Are the children safe?
2. Are the children the focus of the classroom?
3. Does the teacher recognize and respond to the individual needs, strengths, and giftings in the class?
4. Is the teacher helping, not harming her students?
5. Is each student regarded as more than a data point?
6. Is the teacher connecting content to the life experiences of his students and their collective situations?
7. Is the teacher sensitive to the backgrounds and cultures of her students?
8. Is the teacher striving for synthesis of content into her students’ learning schema?
9. Is the teacher doing much more than just delivering prescribed content to a prescribed time table?
10. Is the teacher using her own teacher created lessons and materials?
11. Is the teacher respecting and cherishing student voice?
12. Are writing and reading considered a joy by the teacher and by the students?
13. Is there present a pedagogy based on love, joy, and compassion?
14. Is the teacher actively growing in her own professional development?
15. Is the teacher sharing and contributing to her colleagues successful practice?
16. Is the teacher aware of her craft as an art as well as a science?
17. Are ALL assessments used to help the student and to inform instruction?
18. Is there a holistic dimension to assessment taking into account cognitive as well as affective domains of learning?
19. Is creativity regarded by both students and teacher as the highest form of learning?
20 Are the children safe?

This checklist is is direct opposition to the findings at this weekend’s Network for Public Education convention report and is in opposition to current evaluation systems. Poetic Justice is not saying all data is irrelevant; I am saying that data is only one small part of a teacher’s toolkit.

I left a career in the business sector expressly because I wanted to help children. I wanted to devote my life to the welfare of humanity not to some corporation’s bottom line. Today’s approach to teaching and learning is far more dehumanizing than even the approaches I experienced in business. At least in the business sector, the customer was always considered and any harm to that customer could result in litigation.

My plea is for those in educational power positions, to please consider the harm being done to children and teachers when only metrics are considered important.

 

Please join a FaceBook page I administer with the Walking Man – Dr. Jesse Turner Teachers Are More than Test Scores.

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#OptOut4Justice from Mark Naison

The Opt Out movement needs to become more than just a rebellion against high stakes testing. The Opt Out movement needs to fight the injustices of so-called education reforms that strip our children and our teachers of their humanity.

Please watch and share this video created by Michael Elliot and Shoot4Education if you are in agreement.

 

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Silent and Compliant

What we have in our schools today is not my idea of a healthy, holistic, nurturing education. We need to return to a paradigm where we cherish children, creativity, and the teacher-artist.

 

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Silent
Compliant
Nonviolent
Invisible

Do our students even really exist anymore?
Or have they each become
just a data point?

Dead
All dead
not one alive
willing to risk
willing to scream
for their lives.

We have hidden
them all
and thrown them away – the outliers.

All that is left
are the silent
compliant
nonviolent
invisible children.