"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

"There is a growing technology of testing that permits us now to do in nanoseconds things that we shouldn't be doing at all." - Dr. Gerald Bracey author of Rotten Apples in Education

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Thursday, September 23, 2010

Arne Duncan and the Tempest in the Teapot

Readers of this blog are cognizant of the dangers of common core standards, Race to the Top, Vision for Missouri Public Education, or whatever name you place on the federalization of public education. It not only comes in the guise of the above programs, it also comes in the current push for charter schools by this administration.

Some people not familiar with the methodical takeover by the schools via stimulus money which bypasses state legislatures, or inane competitions by states for federal money being dangled like carrots on a string, may think I am overreacting or haven't thoroughly researched this subject.

Well, to any doubters out there, take a look at this article quoting Arne Duncan. Not only does he want your child from cradle to age 20, complete with a longitudinal data system to track your family and your child's progress, he now wants to make your child into a "good environmental citizen". I think the tempest in the teapot Arne Duncan has been creating is about to come to a full boil with his new statements and intentions for public education students.

Mr. Duncan is intent on pushing educational propaganda for programs not proven accurate. For example, one goal of the administration is to spend billions on wind power. Obama has stated he wants the United States to emulate Spain's energy program. However, what Mr. Duncan and other greenies fail to mention is that these programs are more expensive than traditional energy sources and for every green job created, 2.2 traditional jobs are deleted.

Duncan stated,

“Educators have a central role in this. A well educated citizen knows that we must not act in this generation in ways that endanger the next,” said Duncan. “They teach students about how the climate is changing. They explain the science behind climate change and how we can change our daily practices to help save the planet. They have a role in preparing students for jobs in the green economy.”

“Historically," Duncan said, "the Department of Education hasn’t been doing enough to drive the sustainability movement, and today, I promise that we will be a committed partner in the national effort to build a more environmentally literate and responsible society."

When did it become the responsibility of this Department to support a sustainability movement? WHO is going to teach students how our climate is changing; scientists who pushed theories for financial reward and now have to admit some of their data is not scientifically accurate? Why are we pursuing a green economy at the expense of proven energy systems when it has been proven green jobs are not financially sustainable and harmful to existing industries?

Duncan goes on to state:

"I want my department to help advance the sustainability movement through education."

This isn't education. This is propaganda, pure and simple. It is just one example of the danger of common core standards. This type of curriculum is what will be taught to your child under this Administration. This is not the school of critical thinking; it is the school of teaching distorted theories as factual information.

It is past time for parents, taxpayers, and legislators to say ENOUGH. Our children should not be taught false theories to fulfill an administration's goals. That's not education. That is indoctrination. I have an idea. Let's take the educational goals of this administration and "pour them down the drain". Tip that teapot over and fill it up with new goals. Take the Federal government out of the mix and place the education of children back to the parents. School choice is what parents want and students deserve, not spending millions of additional dollars for the Department of Education to push its political agenda.

(ht: a watchdog)

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Are Parents "Waiting for Superman"...or Lex Luthor?

You may have read about the new movie being released in select theaters, "Waiting for Superman". This movie shows children trying desperately trying to get into charter schools so they can flee their failing public schools. Neal McCluskey has a superb article in Cato today about surface premises in the movie, and the underlying facts about charter schools that are not addressed in the film.

Initially charter schools were a viable alternative to below par schools, particularly in the inner city. Charter schools could use creative curriculum to reach students left behind in traditional schools. But as McCluskey points out, with common core standards being adopted, charter schools will operate with uniform, government-imposed, national standards as in every public school in America. So why would parents want the exciting chance to place their children in charter schools when the charter schools have to operate under the same common core standards as public schools? Does that make sense? No, it doesn't if you are talking about providing educational excellence. It does make sense if certain organizations are making money from charter schools, though, doesn't it?

That's where the hidden agenda of charter school nags at me. Who is making money by creating charter schools? Who is behind the funding of some of these charter school organizations? The Gates Foundation is a huge proponent of charter schools. Why would Bill Gates want to fund the charter school movement?

To institute common core standards and to link the consortia from state to state, a huge nationwide computer network will need to be established. Computer programming will have to be created. Who will reap the benefits from these changes being rushed through by the Obama administration? It won't be the teachers, administrators, parents or children. The only segment to reap benefits are these organizations pushing for charter schools.

That's my theory, but think about it. Forty years of increased federal spending (180% increase) has shown no measurable increase in test scores. So, why would the government create even stricter standards and take away local/state control of education? This will cost billions of dollars and more bureaucracy. Is this what our kids need to learn? Money funneled to charter schools which don't create choice for parents, but rather, funding for quasi-public schools? What kind of a plan is that?

Check your town's film listings and if you can, go see "Waiting for Superman". Some "watchdogs" here in St. Louis are going when it debuts here in early October. As you are watching, think of what information the filmmaker is giving you and how it is being presented. Do charter schools really give parents choice? Is there any difference between charters and public schools in function and curriculum? My educational mentor told me years ago..."every school, organization, professional has a vested or financial interest in your child's education. Some of these individuals and organizations truly act in the interest of the child, and some do not. It is up to you as a parent to understand this and pick the entity which will really help your child".

That's some of the best advice I've learned on this journey. Just keep this in mind and don't get swept up by Clark Kent. He may really be powerless. Or then again, he might just be masquerading as Lex Luthor.

Sunday, September 19, 2010

On the Taxpayer Dime: The Lucrative Financial Life of some Missouri Superintendents

KMOV recently ran a series of stories on highly paid superintendents in the state. The highest paid superintendent is Dr. Tom Williams in the Kirkwood School District. His annual salary is $242,000 for his base and $42,000 in other benefits. The Kirkwood School District has 5,000 students.


The School Board president stated Kirkwood community is a proud community. The reporter asked if KSD wanted to have "bragging rights" to have the highest paid superintendent, which the president denied. The president stated KSD sees Dr. Williams as an investment and district residents have high expectations for its students.

The Hazelwood School District superintendent, Dr. Steve Price, makes $235,000 plus benefits, and 180 sick days even before he started on his job. It is the second largest district in the county with 19,000 students and nine assistant superintendents. The Hazelwood spokesperson believes he deserves a high salary because of the number of students in that district.

The Hazelwood spokesperson raises an interesting argument. Why does Dr. Williams make so much money for such a small district? How did the KSD Board come to the decision to become the district with the highest paid superintendent? The reporter noted that Ladue, Clayton and Parkway South had higher ACT test scores with lower paid superintendents.

While the Kirkwood School Board should be honestly answering these questions to KSD taxpayers, I imagine Brentwood residents would like to know why the Brentwood superintendent makes such a high salary:


Brentwood School District Superintendent Charles Penberthy makes $216,000 a year plus benefits. The number of students in Brentwood for the two elementary schools ,one middle, and one high school totals 803. Neither Dr. Penberthy or a spokesperson would appear on camera to answer questions on the basis for his high salary for such few students.

We are not casting dispersions on any of these superintendents. I don't believe KMOV questioned their capabilities or integrity as superintendents. Taxpayers are demanding answers from their school boards regarding fiduciary responsibility in a recession.

KSD is having a tax rate hearing Monday night. At the last tax rate hearing, approximately 80 people attended, with the vast majority in opposition to an increase. Long time residents stated they were unable to pay any more taxes to the school. They had been long time supporters of KSD, but they stated they were being taxed out of their homes where they had lived for fifty years. The Board raised the rates then, and I expect it will raise them again after the hearing Monday night.

The people who pay the taxes who support the schools are becoming increasingly angry when they do not receive valid answers from valid questions. What does being "proud" have to do with behaving fiscally responsible? Taxpayer pleas to reduce spending are not heeded. Citizens would like to see Boards make a conscious effort to control and/or cut the budget, rather than expand them. These Boards are microcosms of what is occurring on the Federal level.

Provide us the answer to the question: Why are these superintendents receiving such high salaries, especially in the time of a severe recession? The financial resources to fund the schools are not infinite. It's OUR money and taxpayers are tapped out.

School Boards are made up of elected officials and are answerable to the taxpayers. Citizens are demanding the truth and transparency of the decisions made behind closed doors. All parents have high expectations of their school superintendents. Just because Kirkwood is a "proud" community doesn't mean it's a rich community. Taxpayers do not have the money for stunning salaries and benefits for schools. That's the lesson plan for ALL these districts paying hefty salaries for public officials.

No More Spelling Tests!!!

Here is another fine example of our public schools "dumbing" down our children. This is what one local area watchdog encountered on "curriculum night" in the Rockwood School District. Missouri Education Watchdog can't agree more with this parent. Although this post was written last year, the district is fully phasing in this new procedure for the 2010-2011 school year.

Check out this article from STL Today. As you can see, some school districts feel the need to do away with weekly spelling tests since they “waste” instructional time. I can think of quite a few of things that "waste" instructional time, but that is another post.

As an educator, this is simply yet another "researched" strategy that schools will try for a few years only to find out down the road that maybe a little practice and memorization are not a bad thing, in fact many students do retain the words and are able to build their vocabulary. Homework and practice is an effective instructional strategy. We must remember all students do not learn the same way. There is simply not a "magic bullet" approach to learning. Simply abandoning time tested strategies for the next latest and greatest fad is irresponsible. Students need to be able to apply what they've learned as well as master high frequency words and be exposed to new words on a regular basis. They also need to be held accountable for learning specific words.

My guess is that the district is looking for ways to increase reading instruction and math time due to high stakes MAP testing. Social Studies and Science have already been cut to the bare bones. There is nothing else left to cut except spelling time. This is just another end result of the federal mandate known as No Child Left Behind. How many kids are going to be left behind with this new approach? Remember the whole language approach? Generations of children were not taught phonics only sight words. I know many parents who had to pay for private tutoring to help their children learn how to read while school districts again looked for the "magic bullet" for success. If this is happening in your school district, let them know your thoughts. YOU are paying for this nonsense. YOU still have a powerful voice in the education of your child. Let that voice be heard!
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