ALEC (the American Legislative Exchange Council) is an organization founded in 1973 to promote free-market ideas throughout society. ALEC has about 2,000 members who belong to state legislatures. It is funded by major corporations. Its purpose is to write model legislation that members can bring back to their state, to spread the gospel of ALEC. It supports charters, vouchers, online charters–all forms of privatization. It opposes collective bargaining. It does not believe in due process rights for teachers or any form of job security for public employees. It does not support local control, as it promotes laws that allow state commissions to override decisions by local school boards if they deny charters to private groups.So far 16 states and DC have adopted the rule that children who are not proficient readers by third grade are to be flunked. The irony is that in Finland, they don't begin reading in school until age 8 and by the time their students reach the age of 15 and testing in the international PISA study, they far surpass American readers in 30% less time. So what could children be doing in school while their brains mature and make them ready for reading? Wood shop, of course.
Among its proposals is the third grade reading guarantee, in which children are flunked if they don’t pass the third grade reading test. What this has to do with free-market capitalism is beyond my understanding. It is punitive towards little children, putting more faith in a test than in teachers’ judgement. There is no research to support this policy, but we know already that zealots are unimpressed by research or evidence.
The situation om American education is one in which conservative politicians, responding slavishly to ALEC are putting our nation's future and the intellectual lives of our children at serious risk.
Former first lady Barbara Bush is turning 90 and as a long time advocate of literacy, is putting her faith in some new technological device which she assures us will increase literacy among kids.
With all due respect, I wish her well. But we would do better for our kids if single moms (young fathers, too) got a living wage, enabling them to work only one job, giving them time to read to their children and to themselves. There is no substitute for being read to, and I do not mean by a machine. There is a very strong statistical connection between poverty and poor performance in schools. The policy makers want teachers to fix what they refuse to fix themselves. When it comes to reading, a study in Ohio in 2014 concluded that 20% fewer 3rd grade students from economically disadvantaged families were able to read at proficient levels than those who came from families not facing poverty. In math the divide between 3rd grade students in the two distinct economic classes was even greater, with almost 30% fewer economically distressed students testing "proficient."
Today in my ESSA box making class, we began making lids, bottoms and latches for our Scandinavian bent wood boxes.
Make, fix and create...