"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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Friday, October 1, 2010

Fw: Oprah, Obama, and SUPERMAN

Can you spot the error in the title and the supposition set forth by the Waiting for "Superman" team in the below email? I received this email today entitled "Oprah, Obama, and SUPERMAN". The email reads: "Together WE can fix education". If you think you as a taxpayer or parent is part of the "WE", you are mistaken. The "WE" are Oprah, Obama and Superman: The media/celebrity and venture capital money, the administration, and the Federal Government. This is similar to Race to the Top, Vision for Missouri Public Education, or other educational programs the government is crafting. Parents and taxpayers have no input and this newest theory creates even more federal control over local school districts and state boards of education.

Here's a sentence from the email:

Go to the Get Local page and click on your city. Then contact your campaign manager to get involved. We can't solve this crisis in education nationally without acting locally.

I may contact the campaign manager in the St. Louis area. It would be interesting to find out how I can make a difference locally when I have to operate under federal mandates and had no input as a taxpayer in the planning process. This seems like a task even Superman couldn't handle.

Subject: Oprah, Obama, and SUPERMAN

It's possible. Together we can fix education.
Follow Waiting for "Superman" on <span class=Facebook" style="border-style: none; padding: 3px 3px 3px 6px;" align="ABSMIDDLE" border="0"> Twitter
Hello Superheroes,
Did you see Oprah last week? She dedicated two episodes to Waiting for "Superman." The movie has been getting incredible press, including coverage on NBC's Education Nation. The movie's director, Davis Guggenheim, has participated in many events, including a special town hall meeting on MSNBC. Even the President is talking about the movie.
Now it's your turn to start talking:
Contact your local campaign manager
It's simple. Go to the Get Local page and click on your city. Then contact your campaign manager to get involved. We can't solve this crisis in education nationally without acting locally.
Don't forget to tell everyone you know to see the film as it opens in nine more cities this weekend!

The Waiting for "Superman" Team


Thursday, September 30, 2010

Quiz for the Day..."Can Monopolies be Tweaked into Self-Perpetuating Excellence"?

We have been blogging about "Waiting for Superman", the most talked about documentary yet to be seen by the majority of Americans. From what we glean from the trailers, MSNBC, Fox News, and other media outlets, it is a compelling movie following inner city students in their educational struggles and dreams.

It will be appearing in St. Louis within the next few days. We do know quite a bit about it from the media frenzy...it bashes teachers' unions and extols the virtues of charter schools.

Let's look beyond the hype and ask some fundamental questions. Who or what organizations are behind the charter schools? Cato has an article about the money and push behind the charter school phenomenon. Bill Gates and other billionaires want to see charters replace traditional public schools. But what no television anchor or Oprah will ask....aren't charter schools still public schools operating under the same mandates as public schools? The answer to that is "yes". So much for the argument that charter schools can be "transformational" and on the "cutting edge".

If you accept the premise, then, that charter schools cannot truly be innovative because of the restrictions placed upon them, then the next argument moves to "we need more money to improve education". Here is CATO's contention that the vast amount of money thrown at this problem won't improve US education scores:

"And that brings us to the hurdle facing Gates, Buffett and their well-intentioned friends: Improving education is among their top goals, but our schools have swallowed many trillions of additional dollars in recent decades without improvement. So even if they donate every penny to this cause, it might not do the slightest bit of good. Unless, that is, they recognize that the system itself is the problem — that monopolies cannot be tweaked into self-perpetuating excellence".

If charter schools operate under public school mandates, then they are also part of the problem: a monopoly. Andrew Coulson was correct when he stated our schools have swallowed many trillions of additional dollars in recent decades without improvement. This recent CATO article illustrates the massive amount of spending with no improvement and decrease in some test scores and a disproportionate increase in enrollment in terms of spending. The charts are quite telling on the fallacy of believing "more money means better education".

The Federal government rolled the dice in this monopoly game 40 years ago, and is attempting to do it again in the new plans of Race to the Top, Vision for Missouri Public Education and the push for more charter schools. The vast amount of funding has not increased student achievement, although it has apparently helped to create teaching and support staff positions.

Who do you think this new Gates/Buffet plan will help? Do you really believe this is to help students? How will it help when charters have to operate under public school mandates? The government is controlling education. It's a tighter monopoly than it has been in the past. When did monopolies help the taxpayers...or your children?

It's time to stop playing the monopoly game. Look at the image above...we've given the Federal government a "chance" card for 40 years. We need to cash in that card. It's time to "boot" the Department of Education out of the states' constitutional rights to educate their children. It's time to free our children from the prison of mandates far removed from local input. Give parents, students and taxpayers REAL school choice. Give parents tax credits so THEY can make school choices for THEIR children.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Missourians Will Have to Wait a Long Time for Superman!

Missouri Education Commissioner Chris Nicastro has partnered with the Missouri Association of School Administrators and the Missouri Association of School Boards to move forward with a “bold” new initiative called the Vision for Missouri Public Education.

The Missouri Association of School Administrators has their 2009-2010 Legislative Platform available for all to see.

Here is what they oppose:

MASA opposes:
• Diverting state funds from the public schools by any means including tuition tax credits/vouchers;
• Mandating open enrollment of students;
• The erosion of public school funding to expand Charter schools;
• Mandating programs without appropriating the necessary funds to implement and sustain the programs; and
• Imposing property tax reductions, freezes or limits.

Correct me if I’m wrong, there is nothing “bold” about this. Once again, we cannot continue to do the same thing year after year and expect different results. Missouri can do better!

In a time when our education system is not working, the Commissioner partners with groups that want to continue with the status quo!

It is in our opinion at Missouri Education Watchdog that Republican lawmakers in Missouri cannot and should not support such an initiative. IF we are to have any chance at true education reform in Missouri, school choice is where we need to begin!

Many Republican lawmakers in our state receive a hefty portion of their campaign contributions from school choice organizations. Those organizations need to start to hold some of these politicians accountable for their decisions in Jefferson City! As we speak, Missouri is in the process of overhauling the current education system using millions of federal tax dollars to do so. Yet school choice is not even on the list. How many unfunded mandates are going to be placed on Missouri's public schools through these new initiatives?

These new initiatives were never voted on by taxpayers or the state legislature. We at Missouri Education Watchdog believe these mandates will result in higher taxes for Missouri families. All Missouri families deserve the right to choose which educational institution fits the needs of their child.

Again, I refer to the Vision for Missouri Public Education logo and ask myself "Why are we taking on this initiative?" More of the same will net the same results at a much higher price tag. It's time to think "outside" of the box. It's time to allow all Missouri families to choose the type of education they want for their children. After all, it's your money.

Monday, September 27, 2010

"Waiting for Superman"...and the REST OF THE STORY

Where is dear Paul Harvey (or his equivalent) and the "rest of the story" when we need him most? The "Waiting for Superman" movie is exploding all over the airways and Internet in terms of conversation among the media. It has been touted as providing the answer to educational "reform", but we believe it is more of educational "control".

Our previous post detailed what Molly P, our contributor who is a teacher, thought about MSNBC's recent discussion about educational problems. Talking two hours about teacher tenure and believing setting up charter schools is the answer for failing public schools does not even address the underlying issue.

What is the underlying issue? Let's go back to the pesky Constitution. Amendment X is clear:

"The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved the States respectively, or to the people."

The Constitution does not grant Federal authority over public education. This was left up to the states to educate their citizens. This is the underlying issue that Democrats, Republicans, the media, Bill Gates, and others seem to either misunderstand or ignore. All this prattle about "Waiting for Superman" doesn't include the premise that the $4.35 Billion "reform" package thrown together by Arne Duncan is unconstitutional. This is the educational version of the health care legislation.

Arne Duncan says he believes his reforms will ensure local involvement. With all due respect, I believe this is nonsense. The Race to the Top proposal is clear: to receive money, states must sign on to common core standards and adhere to the other mandates set out by Duncan and Company. Noncompliance will not be tolerated nor funded. And even if your state isn't awarded Race to the Top funding, your local/state control will probably disappear. Missouri renamed and moved Race to the Top objectives to another program, "Vision for Missouri Public Education."

We technically didn't receive any RTTT money to achieve these goals, but if you peruse the DESE website, you will see Missouri is receiving millions and millions of dollars to achieve these goals. Here is an excerpt from the latest DESE release about the latest federal assistance given to failing school districts:

"Schools in Kansas City, St. Louis and southeast Missouri were selected by the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education to receive a first-year share of the competitive grant awards in order to implement one of four intensive school-reform models identified by the U.S. Department of Education: turnaround, restart, school closure or transformation".

Pay attention to those four highlighted phrases. These concepts mirror Race to the Top language. The charter schools are under the same federal mandates as the public schools. How can a clear thinking person believe charter schools can be daring and innovative when they are under the same exact mandates as public schools? Also, these millions of federal dollars bypass the state legislature for dispersal. How's THAT for local control?

If you were distressed about the Health Care takeover from this administration, you should be as equally concerned about the educational takeover.
Where are the Republican state and national legislators on this issue?

Arne Duncan needs to tell the truth about the control his plans give to the Federal Government. This control strips away power from the states, taxpayers, parents, teachers and students. That is the "rest of the story" you won't hear in "Waiting for Superman".

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Waiting for What???

Thousands of teachers nationwide were invited to participate in Education Nation’s town hall meeting on Sunday, hosted by NBC’s Brian Williams. This was a two hour event aimed at allowing teachers from across America have their voices heard and participate in a live web cast and chat. First, you had to register for this event and you were asked to provide one really “BIG” idea that would transform education in America in 100 words or less. OK…I’ll take the bait! Why not allow parents to choose where their child goes to school? After all, parents pay the hefty taxes that support the public schools in our communities. IF parents could choose and the tax dollars followed the child, eventually failing schools would be forced to either improve or close. If these failing schools were not receiving funding, maybe they would take a hard look at why they are failing instead of playing the blame game. In fact, school choice would “transform” education in America to coin a phrase commonly being thrown around today. While we’re at it, throw in some local control and less intrusion from the government! Those were my “BIG” ideas for MSNBC.

Did I honestly think they would even touch on the subject? Not really, but there is always “Hope” that the folks at NBC could “Change” their way of thinking.

As the web cast began, it became apparent to me that this would be just another “Waiting for Superman” Oprah love fest from the left. In fact, the entire two hour time frame was nothing more than arguing the merits of charter schools and going back and forth with the teacher tenure idea. Teacher tenure dominated the entire two hour block.

Wow, I really had my expectations set high with this educational program. Certainly MSNBC could do better than this. With 40.9% + students in America at or below the poverty level and 50% of Missouri students at that level, arguing for two hours about tenure seamed fruitless. In fact, as I waited patiently for my comment to go through, I monitored what teachers across the country were saying. They were begging for NBC to bring up a slew of other issues such as the new National standards, special education, standardized testing, the loss of art, music, and P.E. time due to testing, No Child Left Behind, and parent accountability. Occasionally NBC host Rehema Ellis would post that all comments were being heard and they would get to our issues. Unfortunately, that never happened.

According to MSNBC, thousands of teachers were logged on and participating in the chat. At one point, they said they had received over 8000 comments and couldn't keep up. I too logged on and my comments never even made it to their system. This was supposed to be representative of teachers across America. It became clear to me that unless you were a charter school teacher from New Jersey or New York City, your voice would not be heard. There were a few other teachers thrown in the mix for good measure, but its intentions were clear.

I kept holding out hope that one audience member would have the courage to bring up some other issue besides charter vs. public or teacher tenure. I was wrong. Maybe this is what MSNBC really wanted to happen. Instead of having a great debate about the real issues and how to fix the problems, it pitted teachers against each other in the audience. Brian Williams kept attempting to steer the conversation back to the “Superman” movie and the teachers kept arguing about tenure.

One of the best comments came from a teacher who at the start of her comment, claimed Brian Williams had bonded with her through a mutual teacher they once had in school. She proceeded to state her case and what she believed would help reform education in America. You could hear him agreeing with everything she was saying. As she was wrapping up, she stated that she would NOT be seeing “Waiting for Superman” as her research brought her to the conclusion that this movie was nothing but a propaganda machine of the left! WOW! Can you say ZINGER? Williams didn’t know how to react. It was a beautiful moment. The left media was speechless for a mere second. This is a rare treat in today’s society.

I have to say the single best comment at the microphone came from a retired inner city teacher who had seen the movie. Here is what she had to say.

"Waiting for Superman depresses students into thinking they will never make it if they don't win the educational lottery."

Again, Williams didn't know how to react to that comment. He quickly thanked her and said they needed to move on. Back to the tenure issue!

MSNBC's intent on this issue was good. I wonder what they had hoped to accomplish, because in my opinion, major issues weren't even discussed. I am certain of this...teachers across America are sick and tired of the media bashing. I have always been proud to be a teacher in this great country and still am. It is disheartening to me when people now find out what I do and simply comment by saying "I'm sorry" or "Sorry to hear that" about the profession I chose and love. There are serious problems in America with regards to education and no amount of bickering and bashing is going to fix them.

If there is any hope for fixing the education system in America, we can no longer continue to do the same thing year after year and expect different results. Many will argue that the key is more funding. History proves this wrong. Since 1970, spending on public education has increased by 180% while test scores in reading and math have flat lined. Parents again were left out of today's debate. If we are to begin to fix the problems with education, it must be a shared responsibility between teachers, parents, students, lawmakers, and the entire community! My hope is that the next time MSNBC decides to give teachers a voice; it will truly put its money where its mouth is and explore other options like giving parents a choice.

You can watch the continuing "debate" on MSNBC this week, or follow it online here. Make up your own mind. Do you hear the word "parent" or "taxpayer" mentioned in a decision making role? Does "choice" ever come up in these discussions? Is this what $4.35 Billion buys?
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