"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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Saturday, April 9, 2011

Springtime and the Education of the Heart

I was walking my dog in the cul-de-sac across from my subdivision tonight and noticed something different on the block. Homemade signs, streamers, and balloons were tacked to the majority of the homes. They all had the same message..."Welcome Home ****" and "We Missed You!"

I wondered if the signs were for a soldier coming home from the war, but as I walked along, I noticed some of the family members were listed on the "welcome home" greetings. A woman I've seen walking previously came along with her dog and told me this was to welcome home a family due home tonight. The young son (age 4) has been receiving chemotherapy treatments for nine months in Virginia and the family was returning as the treatment was finished.

She told me the neighbors were extremely supportive of each other and they were thrilled the family was finally returning. As I resumed my walk, I thought this was a lovely tribute to this family and showed how much the neighbors cared for each other.

It's imperative to remember the people involved in life's challenges and not lose sight of what is most important in life. This is from a previous posting, "Thanksgiving and the Education of the Heart":

This was a visible way for children to show the thankfulness they have for others and the understanding of the importance of each individual. That's the education of the heart. There is no mandate, testing assessment, or money needed to teach children what's most important in being a successful student or person. The government can't demand it. The student has to will it, nurture it, and become it under the guidance of adults who want to help shape the character of that student.

It was a wonderful reminder to see messages from the heart in a suburban St. Louis cul-de-sac tonight.

Friday, April 8, 2011

Parents AND Bloggers Challenge Standardized Testing

A reader alerted me to a group of parents concerned about the standardized testing their children are allegedly mandated to take by their individual states. This is what she reported from Florida and Texas:

Here in Florida, there are consequences for not taking the test. The student does not go to the next grade level or is given an plan as if a disabled student. Keep a child home because of the testing is an unexcused absence, which also has consequences. In Texas, parents report that unexcused absences come with a court date for contributing to the truancy of a minor, $500 a day penalty, and a truant officer.

She invited me to join the Facebook group, "Parents Against Standardized Testing". There are many articles from around the country about parents concerned about these mandates (which may not actually be legal mandates in some states) and if you are concerned about this issue, access this site. Check out the discussion board on the site as well.

Althouse posted "Bloggers Challenge President on Standardized Testing":

Mr. Obama criticized “high-stakes” tests last week at a town-hall-style meeting, contrasting them with less-pressured tests his daughters took in their Washington private school....
Anthony Cody, a teacher in Oakland, Calif., who writes a blog for Education Week, suggested that the president was disavowing the policies of his education secretary, Arne Duncan, which include expanding student testing to evaluate teachers and developing new tests to be given several times a year to measure student progress.

Cody writes:

...The Obama campaign relied on the energy of millions of us, activated by a call to our hopes and dreams. We were exhausted by eight years of Bush, seven years of No Child Left Behind, and Obama promised a fresh start. We have not seen that fresh start in education. Instead we are seeing a deep entrenchment on the part of the Department of Education, finding ever more creative ways to pretend that making the tests more frequent will somehow make them benign. Those of us who are experiencing the effects of these policies are not deceived. We see how they are destroying schools, and stealing opportunities from children....
Last week, President Obama reminded us all why his election gave many of us so much hope. In 338 words he spoke of how he wanted his daughters, Sasha and Malia, to have their learning tested. He described a low-stakes, low pressure environment, with the results used not to punish them, their teachers or their school, but simply to find out what their strengths are, and where they might need extra support. He spoke of the need to avoid teaching to the test, and the value of engaging projects that would make students excited about learning. President Obama has made sure his daughters can learn this way. If only Department of Education policies would allow students in our public schools this same privilege!

Be sure to read the goldmine quotes from the readers. Apparently taxpayers ARE paying attention and are tired of the billions of dollars wasted on programs that don't work and don't educate children. As one reader wrote:

The Dept. of Education does what again?

Thursday, April 7, 2011

Is This Document An Example of Quality Teaching in the Rockwood School District?

Many NEA organizations have been stating quality teachers are being squeezed out because of debate over teacher tenure. Below find a copy of the Rockwood NEA link. If this page with its numerous grammatical errors (including misspellings and run on sentences) is indicative of quality education in the Rockwood District, I am wondering if that bar is set a bit low.

This is the page as it appeared on April 6, 2010 at 8:30 AM. Please let us know the problems you spot in this document. I had an interesting thought: perhaps the Rockwood District doesn't test spelling any longer because the teachers don't know how to spell themselves. Is this informational page an example of quality teaching in the Rockwood School District? (Do you spot the irony on the magazine cover as it relates to this particular blog entry?)


General Information

The Rockwood National Education is a progressive group of teachers representing approximately 1,350 teachers in the Rockwood School District. The teachers of Rockwood daily provide educational opportunities for about 22,000 students. The heart and soul of any school district is the classroom teachers. While school districts may have the monitary resources to provide technology, operate school facilities, and transport students, it is a quality teacher in every classroom that directly relates to the success of students and to the success of the Rockwood School District. A computer, smartboard, textbook, do nothing without a quality educator developing lesson plans to teach the student.

Contrary to popular myth the RNEA does not support and defend poor teachers. The organization does however provide and encourage continual teacher development while securing do process for its members. The organization also provides moral support to Rockwood teachers in these often educationally politically turbulent times. The RNEA above all else is an organization that promotes quality world class education for all students of Rockwood, the goals of the organization never run contrary to this core belief.

At the center of what the RNEA has accomplished besides the great education its members afford Rockwood students is the Current Agreement. This document represents over 30 years of volunteer time and dedication from Rockwood teachers for Rockwood teachers to work for the continual improvement of the working conditions of teachers in the Rockwood School District and attemp to provide teachers with benefits and salary they deserve. Rockwood is a school district that proudly acknowledges its awards from it continually being Accredited with Distinction form the State of Missouri, having many school continually recognized as Missouri Top Ten in Missouri Assessment Program testing, having many schools ranked as Missouri Gold Star schools, and many schools ranked as schools of excellence nationally.

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Utopian Collectivism in St. Louis area schools. Find out if Your Human Capital is Learning to Minimize His/Her Individuality.

Do you remember a previous posting on this site about the Rockwood School District and other area districts in the St. Louis area teaching morals in the classroom? We were concerned about Dr. Marvin Berkowitz's being hired by several districts to teach lessons and theories in morality as these values have been traditionally reserved for parents and religious institutions to teach children.

A brief summary of Dr. Berkowitz's beliefs that are being implemented in public classrooms in the Midwest:

He described a “teaching tool” that would help children explore their feelings and solve problems. This “tool" involved the children sitting in a circle, rating themselves on how they are feeling, and then being asked to share, with the entire group, what their problems were. Their peers would then be called upon to help solve said problems.

American Thinker dissects this type of children centered problem solving dynamics and have named it for what it is: Utopian collectivism.

Play the "game." Stay "in step with the group." Mind "the leash." In one illustration of how these collectivist metaphors are set into action, a Tools of the Mind counting exercise requires children to take turns regulating and inhibiting each other's behavior. In TOTM's "mature, dramatic play," teachers "help children plan, and stay true to their plans in a way that emphasizes inhibitory control..." The Vygotskyian method exploits little minds and turns play into a job performed to communal specifications. Children comply. Acclimation to the centrally planned society begins at three years old.


In kindergarten and preschool classrooms all over America, tiny young humans are being taught to regiment each other's behavior. Obedient little collectivists are learning to submit to group wishes in order to be judged "correct" -- politically correct.

Instead of focusing on pizza sales, wrapping paper drives, swimming pool initiatives, and selling bedding plants, perhaps the Parent Organizations should be asking the important questions of their schools:
  • Did this school sponsor training from Dr. Marvin Berkowitz?
  • Does this school sponsor character education?
  • If this school does sponsor character education, please explain in detail what type of character education is taught to children.
  • Does this school/district employ constructivism as a learning theory?
If you don't think this type of theory is being pushed in your school, you might be surprised. I understand many teachers in the St. Louis area (especially the younger ones) are excited and thrilled about this "collective" method of teaching:

The room buzzes with little voices. Little children engage in "mature, dramatic play." An adult helps the children "regulate" and "monitor each other's compliance" with "rules and assigned roles."
Each child knows his or her place. Each child does the group's bidding, nothing else.

Orwell's 1984? No, a scene played out in thousands of classrooms across America. The drumbeat of collectivism begins in preschool. And a long-dead Soviet psychologist helped define that drumbeat.

It's no wonder there is a huge push for universal preschool. You know, it may "all be for the kids" after all. It's just not exactly what you might have in mind for your human capital. Call your district today.

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Teaching American History Grant on the Chopping Block

The latest stop gap budget proposed by House Republicans contained $12 billion in spending cuts. Among those cuts was $119 million for the Teaching American History Grant. The TAH is "designed to raise student achievement by improving teachers' knowledge and understanding of and appreciation for traditional U.S. history. Grant awards will assist LEAs, in partnership with entities that have content expertise, to develop, document, evaluate, and disseminate innovative and cohesive models of professional development. By helping teachers to develop a deeper understanding and appreciation of U.S. history as a separate subject matter within the core curriculum, these programs will improve instruction and raise student achievement."

The president has asked congress to protect education funding, but they have already proposed numerous cuts to programs that have traditionally been protected like:

Even Start Family Literacy program: $66.5 million
• Striving Readers program: $250 million
• Literacy Through School Libraries: $19 million
• The National Writing Project: $25.6 million
Education Technology State Grants: $100 million
• Ready-to-Learn Television: $27.3 million
• Tech Prep State Grants: $102 million
• Foreign Language Assistance: $26.9 million
• Mathematics and Science partnerships: $180 million
• Civic Education: $35 million
• Elementary and Secondary School Counseling: $55 million
• Smaller Learning Communities: $88 million
• The Obama administration's $50 million high school graduation initiative, which is a fairly new program
Teacher Quality Partnerships: $43 million
• New Leaders for New Schools: $5 million.
• Teach for America: $18 million appropriation.
• The National Board for Professional Teaching Standards: $10.6 appropriation.

All together congress has proposed cutting DOE funding by $5 billion. By grouping them, as I did, you can start to see that perhaps there is some redundancy in the DOE's programs. Obama did suggest that related programs be grouped together into single funding streams that offer more flexibility.

There will be those who complain bitterly about the loss of such programs, but I hope people keep the bigger picture in mind. I am a personal fan of American history and, as much as I hate to see a good program like TAH cut, if it gets us closer to a world with a smaller or non-existent DOE in Washington, then I think we let it go. Other groups like Vacation Liberty School or the Pillar Foundation will step in to fill in the gap and keep our teachers and students well versed in American History. Without that knowledge it will be easy for the latest group of progressives to move their agenda forward.

Monday, April 4, 2011

An Education for the St. Louis University 18-24 Year Old Voting Group in Election Procedures.

There is a remedy to the 18-24 year old group voting dilemma. According to an article in the SLU student newspaper:

The Missouri Legislature has officially resurrected the controversial Voter ID Bill. This bill, if passed, will require all who plan on voting in the state of Missouri to present a valid Missouri ID at the polls, regardless of their home state.

The writer does not like this move by the Legislature:

We, as the next generation, are told that we are the future and we need to vote to become an active part of society, but then we’re excluded from doing so, finding ourselves at a politically helpless but seemingly apathetic dead end. Yes, it makes sense that those who will be most affected in the long-term should have the right to vote, but those who are affected in the short-term have a right to the benefits of law, too.

If you are not a permanent resident in your dorm room or apartment, you can register in your hometown and obtain an absentee ballot for your state or locality. Questions: should part-time residents have a vote in the locality where they are not considered full-time? Should those who hold driver licenses in other states have a "right" to vote in a different state?

Dual state residents (such as snowbirds) find a way to vote. They use absentee ballots in the state where they hold permanent residency. They accept the fact they can only vote in one locality or the other. These voters apparently don't see themselves as "politically helpless" and don't view a rule as having to have one permanent residence to vote as an "apathetic dead end".

Even snowbirds and college students have a right to the benefits of law. It just takes some planning to request your ballot and mail it back in time to be counted.

Sunday, April 3, 2011

Check Your Underlying Assumptions

Wisdom tells us to examine the underlying assumptions of any argument before agreeing with it. That way, when offered two options, neither of which is palatable, one can sometimes show that the underlying assumptions behind the two options are flawed and a third more agreeable option will make itself apparent.

The President, the US Department of Education, DESE, even the Missouri legislature are pushing for changes to education to "prepare students for the workforce of tomorrow." There's a lot of talk about whether this approach to learning is appropriate, whether it is communistic in nature, who should design it etc. But let us for a moment examine the underlying assumption behind it.

Why should the federal or state government CARE if students are educated? Because an uneducated child frequently becomes an unemployed adult and the government (on all levels) has instituted safety nets, otherwise known as entitlement programs (welfare, WIC, food stamps, public housing, free lunch etc.) to catch these people. All of these programs cost money and those out of work people don't contribute to the economy, which doesn't increase the tax base, which makes the government harder to run.

If we peel back one more layer, however, we come to the assumption that better educated children will lead to employed adults. Education will reduce unemployment, boost the economy and overall aid the operation of government. But the Economic Policy Institute says THIS assumption may not be valid. The argument frequently given is,

"[T]the jobs problem is not a lack of demand for workers but rather a mismatch between workers’ skills and employers’ needs. Another version of the skills mismatch is also being told about the future: we face an impending skills shortage, particularly a shortfall of college graduates, after the economy returns to full employment.

The common aspect of each of these claims about structural problems is that education is the solution, the only solution. In other words, delivering the appropriate education and training to workers becomes the primary if not sole policy challenge if we hope to restore full employment in the short and medium term and if we expect to prevent a (further) loss of competitiveness and a further rise in wage and income inequality in the longer term."

An EPI Briefing Paper challenges this critical assumption and throws into question whether we are shoving a whole lot of money towards the wrong solution for the wrong problem. The paper, citing the work of several Federal Reserve Banks and researchers, found:

  • There is no one education group—particularly not the least educated, as the structural argument would suggest—fueling the rise of long-term unemployment in this recession. If there has been some transformation of the workplace leaving millions of workers inadequate for the currently available jobs, then it was not based on a major educational upscaling of jobs.
  • The challenge the nation faces as high unemployment persists is not better education and training for those currently unemployed. The problem is a lack of jobs.
  • It is hard to find some ever-increasing need for college graduates that is going unmet: college graduates have not seen their real wage rise in 10 years, and the pay gap with high school graduates has not increased in that time period. Moreover, even before the recession college students and graduates were working as free interns, a phenomenon we would not observe if college graduates were in such demand.

EPI contends not that we don’t have enough people with the right skills to fill the jobs in the American workforce, but rather that we don't have enough jobs to employ the people looking for work. This makes the question not, “How do we best educate people for the jobs of the future?” but rather, “How do we create jobs in the future?”

We know that small businesses are usually the ones that develop jobs that bring the nation out of recession. In other words, jobs are created by people recognizing and then working to fill a demand for products or services. Even more simply, the best way to get people working is for them to make their own jobs, not wait around for someone else to create them. Education certainly plays a role in this process. It can provide a foundation of basic skills like math, communication and maybe even a little science. To prepare students to succeed in an entrepreneurial society, it should promote creativity and an urge to look beyond oneself to find what others want and then meet those wants.

Looking at the current trend in education towards group think, group projects (where individual achievement and creativity are reigned in) and standardized testing (of what we already know) it does not appear that we are preparing the students of today for the needs of tomorrow. To claim that we can even know what skill sets are going to be needed tomorrow in a dynamic, entrepreneurial economy is illogical on its face. If we knew what was needed then some entrepreneur would already be working to supply it. The whole argument for preparing our students for the workforce of tomorrow falls apart if the underlying assumption that we can identify skill sets that are going to be needed tomorrow is false. We are chasing a phantom. We may find that we have a fabulous education system where everyone scores really well on the tests and yet our unemployment numbers continue to rise. We may push a whole generation into the debt of post secondary education with little or no hope of getting a job to pay off that debt. Maybe, before we plunk our money on the table, we should spend a little time checking the underlying assumptions.

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