"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 15, 2010

The Obama Administration should win a Nobel Prize for its Extraordinary Foolish Educational Policies

This is one of the reasons public school education is doomed.

Robert Weissberg in American Thinker dissects parts of Race to the Top that illustrate the reason this is not about education at all, but about perceived racial and other injustices:

Their latest education-destroying innovation is eliminating the disproportionate suspension and expulsions of African-American students. This is not empty rhetoric; it is included in the Obama administration's $4.3-billion Race to the Top initiative, and schools that fail to mend their ways will lose federal funds and face expensive litigation at a time of shrinking education budgets. In fact, the future is already here, as schools are increasingly being targeted in resource-draining civil rights complains about disciplinary unevenness (see here).

I can attest from personal experience this has been occurring in the school districts my sons attended. I was told by a minority teacher in my son's middle school that there was "one measure of discipline for minority students" and "one for the non-minority students". She indicated she was disgusted with the district's policy of not disciplining minority students as harshly as the non-minority students; she asked "what message does that give to the minority kids"?

It is not only targeted to African-American students, but also to students with disabilities:

Actually, racial disparities are just the beginning. Obama's Secretary of Education, Arne Duncan, has also called for proportionality for disabled students (see here), and while "disabled" might conjure up images of wheelchair-bound students, this category also includes those with below-average intelligence, often compounded with psychological problems inclining them to disruption, if not violence (see Tomsho and Golden, "Educating Eric: A Troubled Student was Put into Regular Classes. Then He Killed the Principal. Wall Street Journal, 2007, May 12-13).

My older son could not pay attention in a geometry class in 10th grade because of disruptive students. When we had a meeting with the teacher and administration, we were told nothing could be done because those students (behavioral disordered) had an IEP. They had a paraprofessional with them, but neither the aide or the teacher could get these four students' behavior under control. Mind you, our son had an IEP because of his hearing impairment and the teacher told us IEP's were designed to help students who really wanted to learn like my son. She said it was not designed to allow them to take advantage of the system with bad behavior such as the trouble-making students, but she had no control of the situation. Because of the disruption these four students caused, my son was given permission to return to the resource room so he could concentrate.

What and who do these policies protect? I understand adolescents have turmoil just because they are adolescents. I understand students with special needs present unique situations. When these incidents become everyday occurrences and disrupt the learning experience for the majority of the students, the disruptive students must be removed from the classroom. Courtesy, respect for authority, and a willingness to learn should not expected only from particular groups of students based on racial makeup or disabilities. Why should students who want to learn be penalized by those few who want to be disruptive and don't want to learn? What is going to happen to the students who are allowed to misbehave with no consequences?

But, rhetoric aside, the measure will undermine education for many education-hungry blacks in racially mixed schools by subverting school discipline. To be impolite, given a choice of helping blacks versus draping a destructive policy in feel-good historical rhetoric, Obama elects the anti-education option. This sin is inexcusable -- a sign of moral depravity, not just inept policy-making.

Mr. Weissberg is correct. These policies are a sign of moral depravity. Welcome to the reality of public education.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

The Battles in the Academic Asylum as fought by David Horowitz...and local watchdogs

Here's an article from one of my favorite writers, Robin of Berkeley from American Thinker, writing about David Horowitz. I agree with Robin, he is a fearless modern day Paul Revere:

One of Horowitz's burning passions is restoring sanity to our schools. For years, he's launched a virtual one-man campaign to expose the extreme left-wing bias among university professors. Horowitz figured out early on what the radicals were doing: earning their Ph.D.s, infiltrating the universities, and brainwashing students into radical ideology. With tenure-for-life academic positions, the radicals then brought like-minded professors into the fold and shut out conservatives.

Robin talks about David's zeal in exposing the left progressives' agenda in higher education. As she writes in American Thinker:

he has made it his life's mission to expose the Left's extreme agenda. Like a modern-day prophet, Horowitz forecast that a Shadow Party, masterminded by George Soros, would seize control over the Democratic Party.

We posted about Horowitz' fortuitous email I received which provided the answer to the question I posed in a previous blog, when and why is the State Department involved in education? Horowitz detailed the donors to the Clinton Foundation and their stated progressive left goals:

Clinton Foundation donors Peter Lewis, Bren Simon, and George Soros are also members of the Democracy Alliance, the nonprofit that would create a permanent political infrastructure of nonprofits, think tanks, media outlets, leadership schools, and activist groups—a kind of “vast left-wing conspiracy” to compete with the conservative movement.

Read the entire article at American Thinker. I'll leave you with the last paragraph:

Horowitz is a warrior, a real man, not the feminized kind that our universities spawn. He sticks his neck out for women treated as subhuman under radical Islam, and for college students, who are pressured and bullied. He's an unwavering, tenacious voice of sanity in the academic asylum.

If Horowitz can almost singlehandedly take on higher education, make it your resolve to watch your schools on the local and state level. The academic asylum is not limited to higher education any longer. It's even at the kindergarten level.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

The Tangled Web of Sex Ed Curriculum, IB and the Helena, Montana School District

I received some information from an International Baccalaureate (IB) watchdog about five high schools discontinuing IB curriculum:

October 12, 2010 - On TAIB's Home page, we attempt to track the number of IB programs that are eliminated, as well as authorized, here in the United States. This is not an easy task as the IB numbers fluctuate throughout the year. Thankfully, one of TAIB's Texas watchdogs has created a program to identify which schools have been dropped. Over the weekend, five American high schools finally rid their schools of this program. They are:

Pinecrest High School, Southern Pines, North Carolina
North Augusta High School, North Augusta, South Carolina
Calhoun High School, Calhoun, Georgia
Bernards High School, Bernardsville, New Jersey
Hunter High School, West Valley City, Utah

If you want to know more about IB and its principles from the IB Watchdog group, you can find it here. You can also access the official IB site from this link as well.

What really caught my attention was the reference on the site about the Big Sky Tea Party and its fight in the sex ed curriculum which caused quite a stir this past summer in Helena. We wrote about this proposed curriculum in July. We wrote back then:

The arrogance of this board is astounding. I have been in written communication with a mother from this district who has a kindergartner. She confirmed to me that this curriculum was done "behind closed doors" for the last 2 years, and there was only one parent on this committee who had a student in the district. The other members were educational professionals with older children; children who would not be affected by these new standards.

The fact this was done behind closed doors reminded me of the health care legislative process. The secrecy was troubling. The idea that parents and taxpayers were not involved raised red flags. The Big Sky Tea party was concerned about these facts as well:

The Big Sky Tea Party has taken the position that the Helena School Board’s proposed ASCD Whole Child curriculum should be rescinded in its entirety on the following grounds:

- The process used by the Helena School Board is a direct violation of Montana State Constitution Article II Section 8 (Right of Participation) and Section 9 (Right to Know).

- ASCD Whole Child is directly associated with International Baccalaureate, or I.B., which is based upon United Nations’ established philosophies with an emphasis on development of “global citizens” while intentionally diminishing the importance of national heritage.

- I.B. education systems and the associated federal funding usurps governing control of the local school system away from local citizens and transfers it to federal agencies.

- The specific curriculum proposed by the Helena School District and the intent of I.B. systems violates individual parental rights and control to raise their children with the values and principles of their choice.

Therefore, the Big Sky Tea Party Association strongly urges citizens of the Helena area to insist upon cessation of any further attempts to implement the current health enhancement curriculum and also to remove any existing portions or segments of the ASCD Whole Child curriculum that may already be in place from the Helena School system.

Further, we urge the Board of Trustees to re-examine ASCD Whole Child and I.B. curriculum with an emphasis on researching and educating themselves on the negative impacts upon American heritage and culture. Should the Board of Trustees move forward with implementing the proposed curriculum, refuse to remove existing and terminate any plans for future expansion of I.B. style curriculum, the Big Sky Tea Party urges the citizens of the Helena area to use your power of the vote to begin systematically replacing the existing board members with candidates that will uphold traditional American and Montana rights, values and sovereignty.

You can find the rest of the article here.

The Big Sky Tea Party refers to ASCD in its statement and here is a description of the educational organization:

Founded in 1943, ASCD (formerly the Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development) is an educational leadership organization dedicated to advancing best practices and policies for the success of each learner. Our 160,000 members in 148 countries are professional educators from all levels and subject areas––superintendents, supervisors, principals, teachers, professors of education, and school board members.

It appears it consists of the same type of people who are creating curriculum and mandates like Race to the Top and Vision for Missouri Public Education. Did you notice who is missing? Parental input is not mentioned in these plans. You can access its website here and scroll through its intentions for your children.

There is a connection between IB curriculum and ASCD. It focuses on taking control from local and state boards and giving it to federal agencies.

Could this be the same focus we are seeing in the push for celebrating "International Education Week" in Missouri at the expense of the study of the US Constitution? We've adopted common core standards in English/Language Arts and Math in Missouri even before they have been developed. Montana now has (the school board voted to adopt these sex ed standards tonight) standards developed by professionals with an agenda to displace local and state control, and the school board chose not to involve parents in this agenda. This is an agenda which concerns one of the most personal aspects of their children's lives and impacts directly on parents' personal belief systems.

But remember, what we are seeing here is the belief pervasive in public education today; parents are "inconsequential conduits" that channel money away from public schools.

Monday, October 11, 2010

On the Taxpayer Dime: The Lucrative Life of some Missouri Superintendents...Part Two

This is part 2 of the lucrative financial life of some superintendents. Part 1 chronicled the enormous salaries and benefits of several St. Louis area superintendents as reported by KMOV-TV. A brief recap:

  • Thomas Williams, Kirkwood School District, is the highest paid superintendent at $284,000 with benefits, with one of the smallest populations (5,000 students).
  • Steven Price, Hazelwood District, earns $235,00 plus benefits with 180 sick days granted to him even before he accepted the job.
  • Charles Penberthy, Brentwood School District, earns $216,000 plus benefits for a district numbering 809 students.
We wrote in our previous story:

"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".

We stand by our contention. Now let's talk about Part 2 which delves into more information on these lucrative salaries and benefits of some superintendents.

Here is a story published by the St. Louis Post-Dispatch on October 10, 2010. It reports on the incentives Missouri superintendents have to retire early and then be able to obtain employment in Illinois...thereby enabling them to receive pay from Illinois AND retirement benefits from Missouri at the same time. They are also eligible to take a lump sum from their districts, retire, then become employed again in the same district for financial personal gain.

Read the article and ask yourself if these maneuvers make sense for taxpayers. It's a great gig for the superintendents, but not so much for the people paying the bills for these public officials. Wouldn't you love to have lifetime health benefits for the rest of your life, and not have to pay for any of it? Jeff Spiegel, Ferguson-Florissant superintendent had that written into his contract at a potential cost of $218,000 to those taxpayers.

This is an excerpt from the Post-Dispatch regarding the lucrative funding and benefits afforded to superintendents:

Year by year, Missouri's educator retirement system has grown to be among the most lucrative in the nation. And the financial windfalls of the 1990s prompted the Legislature to expand benefits further, fueled by the retirement fund's swelling coffers.

From 1995 to 2001, the Legislature passed bills improving teacher pensions six times — every year except one. Each change cost hundreds of millions of dollars.

The goodies included early-retirement incentives in 1995, an 8.7 percent increase in base benefits in 1998, quicker cost-of-living increases in 2000 and a longevity bonus in 2001.

Now however, the piper must be paid:

The increases skidded to a halt in 2003, when the system reported that it had assumed its investments would return 8 percent a year but they had averaged less than half that over the prior five years.

Now, that system is facing severe economic strains because of the sputtering economy that has wiped out $5.3 billion in assets. The state is exploring options that would slash benefits for future teachers and superintendents.

The proposal on the table would reduce pensions for retirees with 30 years of experience to 60 percent of salaries, compared with the current 75 percent. And the normal retirement age would rise to 62, from 60, which could keep superintendents around longer.

But all the proposed changes would affect only those entering the system in the future. It will be decades before the provisions have a shot at increasing superintendent longevity.

So, it will be DECADES before superintendents can't pull these financial shenanigans any longer. The school boards who agree to these type of contracts should be voted out for financial malfeasance. A commenter on the Post-Dispatch site summed it up:

Public employee pensions like this are not only unsustainable, they are unconscionable.

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