"I know no safe depository of the ultimate powers of the society but the people themselves; and if we think them not enlightened enough to exercise their control with a wholesome discretion, the remedy is not to take it from them, but to inform their discretion by education. This is the true corrective of abuses of constitutional power." - Thomas Jefferson 1820

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Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Taxpayers Need Superman's X-Ray Vision (and a Password) to Access this Public Education Project information.

Yesterday we blogged about the disappearance of information about "Vision for Missouri Public Education". We had previously read the plan and it contained language reminiscent of what is contained in Race to the Top.

We wondered how the plan was coming along so we searched the website where this information was contained. Accessing the site, we discovered it had been taken off the internet. When you access the link, you are taken to this. The logo appears as well as a login box for your username and password, with no instructions on how you can access any further information about the program. We questioned why it was now password protected as it had a glowing report in a newspaper article.

Searching further today, I was able to find a cached copy of the original document from the Missouri Association School Boards' (MASB) and Missouri Association of School Administrators (MASA). Now you, dear taxpayer, can see what these organizations and DESE have in mind for your students and schools. Here are some excerpts:

  • To build trust and support for public education.
  • To create a unifying vision and transformational principles around which coalitions will form to change the education culture in the state.
  • To provide guidance to local school districts as they develop strategic improvement plans for improving educational opportunities in their communities.
  • To provide a world-class educational experience for all of Missouri’s students.
  • To ensure our students are competitive in a global economy.
Let's compare that to the main goals of Race to the Top:

  • Adopting standards and assessments that prepare students to succeed in college and the workplace and to compete in the global economy;
  • Building data systems that measure student growth and success, and inform teachers and principals about how they can improve instruction;
  • Recruiting, developing, rewarding, and retaining effective teachers and principals, especially where they are needed most; and
  • Turning around our lowest-achieving schools.
I suggest many of the goals listed in our state program encompass the more specific goals of Race to the Top. Look at the second goal in the Missouri plan: "To create a unifying vision and transformational principles around which coalitions will form to change the education culture in the state".

What could that mean for your student and your school? Whose vision and transformational principles are they going to apply? The vision and transformation contained in Race to the Top? I believe this is the plan the state is intending to implement as Chris Nicastro, the Commissioner of Education stated in our state's first proposal for RTTT funding on page 40:

"Implementation of the reform plan described in this proposal will not stop if the state does not win Race to the Top funding...In the absence of Race to the Top funding, the state and its partners would continue moving forward but will do so over a longer time-period and, in some areas, will have to adopt a more incremental approach".

"Vision for Missouri Public Education" is that incremental approach. Ms. Nicastro has made her intentions perfectly clear. This is the vision she has for our state.

This vision is costing millions of dollars (funded by stimulus) consisting of teacher and superintendent training. New standards are being drafted and teachers and administrators need to be trained. Are these goals set forth by MSBA and MASA underfunded? How much are these implementations going to cost? The Race to the Top programs were underfunded to the tune of $150 Million. I don't see anywhere on this page how much the projected cost will be. This will be expensive; look at the number of groups involved in setting the vision for the students:

To accomplish this task, there will be seven groups working on various segments of public education. They will include:
  • Teaching, Learning and Assessment
  • Supports for Early Learning and Student Success
  • Human and Organizational Capital
  • Governance, Leadership and Accountability
  • Climate, Culture and Organizational Efficacy
  • Financial Resources
  • Physical Resources
No wonder the MASA, MASB and DESE don't want you to know what they are planning and how they are spending tax payer money. We'll research if we can legally get them to start posting their updates on a site accessible to taxpayers. After all, it's our children and our money.

Missouri Education Watchdog has some ideas on how to save money and deliver quality schools to students that will accomplish the first goal in "Vision for Missouri Public Education":

To build trust and support for public education.

We'll talk about that tomorrow. And it won't cost millions and billions of dollars and it won't relinquish educational control of our children to Chris Nicastro's idea of reform:

The Race to the Top has provided an unprecedented opportunity for Missouri to bring its citizens together, to identify common goals and to develop a plan for a decade of educational reform designed to give Missouri’s children a competitive edge in tomorrow’s international competition. Our vision for reform embraces the notion advanced in the book, Nudge, where Thaler and Sunstein outline the need for “choice architects” to subtly steer choices toward positive results while leaving people, districts and schools “free to choose.” We know that if Missouri’s public schools are to be the best choice for our citizens, they must produce the best results. This Race to the Top competition has provided the “nudge” Missouri needed to pick up the pace.

We are being "nudged" to "choices" we don't want. The PARENTS are the "choice architects" for their children, NOT the Federal government, Race to the Top mandates, Vision for Missouri Public Education goals, Chris Nicastro, DESE, MASA and MASB. It's time to "nudge" back. We'll start tomorrow.

I'll give you a hint of our educational plan. The word "parent" actually appears in our vision for students. Now THAT'S transformational.


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