"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 16, 2011

*Deja Vu! It's More Closed Invitational Meetings Regarding Education Reform in Missouri!

Senator Claire McCaskill will be hosting several Education Roundtable Discussions across the state in order to obtain input and a clearer perspective from educators, administrators and parents with regard to our nation’s education policy. Due for reauthorization, The Elementary and Secondary Education Act, sometimes referred to as No Child Left Behind, will be a hot topic in Congress later this year. These Roundtable discussions are not open to the public, and it is the intention of Senator McCaskill for members of local PTA’s to make up the audience. (emphasis added)

From the "News and Events" Section of the online MOPTA newsletter: PTA has long been an advocate of reauthorizing the Elementary and Secondary Education Act. PTA’s public policy regarding this issue can be viewed on the NPTA website at http://www.pta.org/public_policy_agenda.asp .

The newsletter states MOPTA is pleased the Senator is taking the time to listen to parent’s concern with regard to education. I guess it just doesn't want ALL parent concern to be heard since these roundtable discussions are not open to the public.

If you are not a member of the MOPTA, here is their platform for your review:

2011 Legislative Priorities

Missouri PTA Supports…

  • Legislation that protects and calls for local control of schools.
  • A constitutional amendment permitting passage of school bonds by majority vote and raising the ceiling of indebtedness to 20%.
  • Legislation that protects a third party, such as when a parent or legal guardian reports abuse or suspected child abuse at a school or school event, from civil liability when the third party is acting in good faith.
  • Legislation to increase funding for programs and services aimed at the prevention of child abuse, neglect and maltreatment.
  • Opposition to tax credits or tax deductions for tuition paid by a parent or sponsors for nonpublic elementary and secondary school children.
  • Enforcement of legislation requiring school districts to have policies that promote increased parent involvement in their children's education.
  • legislation that will maintain or generate local and state funding for public education.
  • State funding for renovation and construction of essential school facilities.
  • Legislation strengthening laws to limit and restrict projects that reduce funding to public education through tax increment financing, urban redevelopment corporations and enterprise zones.
  • Legislation and other efforts to cause class size reduction in Missouri schools.
  • Legislation supporting mandatory statewide recycling and additional laws for the promotion of programs to provide incentives for individuals to make a greater effort to stop pollution and conserve natural resources.
We know a big topic of discussion will be for the reauthorization of ESEA; but as the above is the legislative platform of MOPTA, some of these items may be discussed as well.

If you have differing ideas on YOUR goals in education, I suggest you contact McCaskill's office and advise her of your opinions. If I were there, I 'd ask:

  • How can parent involvement increase in schools when standards and assessments and possibly even curriculum is being written by a non-governmental consortia? Calls for local control are fine and dandy, but until our state legislature repeals the decision of the State Board of Education, ALL local control is ceded to the Smarter Balance Consortium.
  • Why should the debt ceiling be raised? Studies have shown that increased spending has not increased test scores.
  • Why shouldn't tax dollars be allowed to be applied to tax credits for education? It's the taxpayer's money, not the federal government's. If you truly want parental control, you would support taxpayers spending money as THEY see fit for their student.
  • Promoting increased parental involvement is fine but in what manner do you want their involvement? They have no say in setting curriculum or policies; do you want them mandated to show up for conferences and help out in wrapping paper sales?
  • Will mandating recycling make Missouri students "globally competitive"? Is that what our cutting edge in education reform looks like in Missouri?
The St. Louis Business Journal has mentioned closed "invitational "educational meetings between elected officials and lobbyists. Just like the private invitational "Waiting for Superman" screening in Jefferson City for legislators, I'm sure the reason the public was not invited to the MOPTA roundtable discussions was based on space limitations. Since there is no room for regular citizens at these educational discussions, send your thoughts to the Senator. I'm sure she'd love to hear from individual citizens just as much as she will enjoy hearing from this lobbying group.

*The reference to Deja Vu may be found here.

Friday, April 15, 2011

The NEA Doesn't Think a $10,000,000,000 Infusion in Education is Sufficient

Here's the NEA's position on Federal proposals regarding the budget:

The House of Representative is expected to pass very shortly a budget proposal for fiscal year 2012 (which begins October 1) that will result in more joblessness for the middle class and more tax breaks for the wealthiest in our country. The middle class continues to struggle to find work, pay more for health care, and worry about their children’s education and future. Seniors continue to worry about their retirement security. Yet, the House budget provides rhetoric rather than solutions.


NEA on Education Funding: Restore/Increase Funding to Help Ensure Great Public Schools for Every Child

NEA believes that, particularly in these troubling economic times, investing in education makes both good fiscal sense and good public policy. Funding targeted to quality public schools will see the greatest return on taxpayer money and will strengthen the entire economy.

The NEA is supposedly concerned about public education. What has the Public Education Sector received this past year? States received a portion of the stimulus funding of $10,000,000,000 from the Education Jobs Fund, a fund to support education jobs in the 2010-11 school year. This money was distributed to states by a formula based on population figures, and states can distribute their funding to school districts based on their own primary funding formula or districts' relative share of federal Title I funds.

How many jobs were created or saved with $10,000,000,000 from the Federal Government? You can see the jobs saved from this document from the NEA. This particular graph breaks the money given and jobs saved by Congressional District.

This graph breaks the information down by state and district receiving funds.

According to the congressional, state and district maps it doesn't appear as if many jobs were created; the money apparently went to save education jobs...or did it? The graph doesn't indicate how many education jobs have been lost because of the downturn and in fact, some states used the money to plug up shortfalls in other areas of their budget.

What do you think is going to happen next year when there will be no federal money to shore up education jobs and the bill for implementing common core standards and assessments will be presented to the taxpayers? Will we have fancy graphs next year showing a zero contribution for federal money received and millions of dollars expected from the states to fulfill mandates and pay for education positions they can't possibly fund?

The NEA's position paper on the budget proposal states: the House budget provides rhetoric rather than solutions.

Our question: what do you think this stimulus money provided for Education in the long term? It "saved jobs" (perhaps) but doesn't seem to have been a solution for the worsening state budgets for 2012. The American people were told stimulus monies would help the economy and education. Was that rhetoric or a solution?

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Arne Duncan is From the Government and He is Here to Help You

In its effort to clarify student data privacy rules for researchers and education officials alike, the U.S. Department of Education proposed several changes to the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act, or FERPA, on Thursday and named its first chief privacy officer.

"Data should only be shared with the right people for the right reasons," U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan said in a statement on the proposals. "We need common-sense rules that strengthen privacy protections and allow for meaningful uses of data. The initiatives announced today will help us do just that."

There is a pesky problem standing in the way of sharing student data between states and Federal Agencies: present FERPA standards. If these standards are not altered, the data necessary to supply the workforce cannot be shared.

The DOE promises your student's data will be secure. Really? What's happened the last several weeks or years regarding cyber information?
  • TJX, the parent company of T.J. Maxx, Marshalls, and other retailers, has not acknowledged how data on more than 45 million credit and debit card users who had shopped at the company's retail locations was stolen and sold to fraudsters. (May 9, 2007)
  • A data breach involving online marketer Epsilon, whose clients are a Who’s Who of major banks and retailers, was only the latest in a string of hacking attacks aimed at getting email records for more thefts. Companies that have said they were exposed since then include banks Citigroup Inc and Capital One Financial Corp, and retailers Walgreen Co and Best Buy Co. (April 5, 2011)
  • According to U.S. investigators, China has stolen terabytes of sensitive data -- from usernames and passwords for State Department computers to designs for multi-billion dollar weapons systems. And Chinese hackers show no signs of letting up. "The attacks coming out of China are not only continuing, they are accelerating," says Alan Paller, director of research at information-security training group SANS Institute in Washington, DC.

    Secret U.S. State Department cables, obtained by WikiLeaks and made available to Reuters by a third party, trace systems breaches -- colorfully code-named "Byzantine Hades" by U.S. investigators -- to the Chinese military. An April 2009 cable even pinpoints the attacks to a specific unit of China's People's Liberation Army. (April 14, 2010).

The data sets from the National Data Education Model are set and ready to be used on your student. Don't worry if there is a cyber security attack on the Longitudinal Data Systems; information to be gleaned from an attack would only include some of the following:
  • Base salary or wage
  • Blood type
  • Height and Weight
  • Dwelling Arrangement
  • Health Care History
  • Health Care Plan
  • Identification Results
  • Immunization Status
  • Insurance Coverage
  • Overall Health Status
  • Residence Block Number
  • Social Security Number
  • Voting Status
The United States Government cannot stop cyber attacks from China; why should taxpayers believe student privacy is secure because of a change in FERPA legislation?

If you believe this information is secure, you will also believe the following:

According to the No Child Left Behind Act, by 2014 every child is supposed to test on grade level in reading and math.

Not every child can test on grade level in reading and math. It's an admirable goal, but impossible to achieve. That's not going to happen. The goal for data systems is to beef up privacy protections. Like the NCLB goal, it sounds great, but if the government cannot stop foreign countries from hacking into military computers, do you believe the DOE can safeguard student data from hackers?

Read this sentence in the second paragraph again: We need common-sense rules that strengthen privacy protections and allow for meaningful uses of data. The problem with that sentence? Strengthening privacy protections don't safeguard the privacy and the "meaningful uses of data" should raise questions for anyone concerned about the constitutional right to individual privacy that your government is determined to document and share.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Will Your School Celebrate "Day of Silence" on April 15?

April 15 is not just the deadline for paying taxes; it's also the "Day of Silence" promoted at public schools by GLSEN, the Gay, Lesbian and Straight Education Network. The organization states 8,000 schools are participating, although no list of schools is provided.

What is the purpose of a Day of Silence and how does it work?

The Day of Silence is a student-led national event that brings attention to anti-LGBT name-calling, bullying and harassment in schools. Students from middle school to college take some form of a vow of silence in an effort to encourage schools and classmates to address the problem of anti-LGBT behavior. The event is designed to illustrate the silencing effect of this bullying and harassment on LGBT students and those perceived to be LGBT.

Who sponsors this event?

GLSEN, the Gay, Lesbian and Straight Education Network, is the leading national education organization focused on ensuring safe schools for all students. Established nationally in 1995, GLSEN envisions a world in which every child learns to respect and accept all people, regardless of sexual orientation or gender identity/expression. For more information on GLSEN’s educational resources, public policy agenda, student organizing programs, research, public education or development initiatives, visit www.glsen.org

The above link is the official website for GLSEN. Here is some information on GLSEN and its founder Kevin Jennings from another website that questions Kevin Jennings' teachings and purpose:

GLSEN’s stated mission is to empower gay youth in the schools and to stop harassment by other students. It encourages the formation of Gay Student Alliances and condemns the use of hateful words. GLSEN also strives to influence the educational curriculum to include materials which the group believes will increase tolerance of gay students and decrease bullying. To that end, GLSEN maintains a recommended reading list of books that it claims “furthers our mission to ensure safe schools for all students.” In other words, these are the books that GLSEN’s directors think all kids should be reading: gay kids should read them to raise their self-esteem, and straight kids should read them in order to become more aware and tolerant and stop bullying gay kids. Through GLSEN’s online ordering system, called “GLSEN BookLink,” featured prominently on their Web site, teachers can buy the books to use as required classroom assignments, or students can buy them to read on their own…

What we discovered shocked us. We were flabbergasted. Rendered speechless.

We were unprepared for what we encountered. Book after book after book contained stories and anecdotes that weren’t merely X-rated and pornographic, but which featured explicit descriptions of sex acts between pre-schoolers; stories that seemed to promote and recommend child-adult sexual relationships; stories of public masturbation, anal sex in restrooms, affairs between students and teachers, five-year-olds playing sex games. One memoir even praised becoming a prostitute as a way to increase one’s self-esteem. Above all, the books seemed to have less to do with promoting tolerance than with an unabashed attempt to indoctrinate students into a hyper-sexualized worldview.

You have two very different stated purposes of GLSEN, the organization responsible for promoting "Day of Silence" in public schools. Research the organization and Kevin Jennings and determine if you believe your school district should be allowing this to occur in your local schools.

Is the purpose of "Day of Silence" to promote tolerance or is it to promote an alternative agenda?

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

As Teachers are Laid Off, There's Still Money in Education Budgets to Send Teachers to the "White Privilege Conference"

Most taxpayers realize the country, states and localities are in severe distress when it comes to paying for government programs. Public school teachers and administrators are being laid off to balance district budgets. Teachers still employed are being asked to pay for many of the materials needed in their classrooms, such as construction paper and other supplies.

But you can't cut out white guilt in Minnesota:

The Lakeville schools are sending a delegation of teachers to the 12th annual "White Privilege Conference" at the Bloomington Sheraton from April 13-16. The district is shelling out $160 a pop -- plus $125 a day for teacher subs -- for this "white guilt" festival.

Organizers say they expect attendees from a number of other Minnesota districts.

The conference is "built on the premise that the U.S. was started by white people, for white people," according to conference materials. Its mission is to get participants to confront their biases in a "journey in understanding white supremacy, whiteness, privilege, power and oppression," and to "agree to take action in [their] own circle of power."

In the mission statement, it says "It is not a conference designed to attack, degrade or beat up on white folks." Well, if you are starting from the premise that the US was started by white people, for white people, and you believe that "White Privilege is the other side of racism", it seems to be that white people are being judged by the color of their skin versus the content of their character.

Here's the flyer giving you information on how to make your reservation. Your high school, undergraduate or graduate student can obtain Academic Credit for attending this conference. And what will your student learn? You can find out in "What is White Privilege?". Check it out and learn what teachers and students will be learning about white people, and presumably, what teachers will be teaching their students in the classroom.

You might want to determine if your school district has signed up to send teachers to the conference. Does this conference further sentiment from a June 2008 Washington Times editorial on Obama's election (Obama's Victory is Proof of Racial Healing)?:

To to the media, politicians and all the others who operate from a fear-based paradigm, I say stop it. The voters have proven you wrong. And, please take note that America is really evolving on the issue of race. Based on Obama's victory, there is strong and compelling evidence that racial attitudes are changing for the better and perhaps forever in this country. So stop stoking the racial fires that have divided this nation for so long and support the change that is occurring before our eyes. This nation is healing as it relates to race. Why not embrace and nurture it? It's good for us and good for the world.

Is a conference on "white privilege" something to embrace and nurture for racial healing or is it continuing to stoke racial fires? What do you think? Should these theories be taught in schools?

Monday, April 11, 2011

Is Your Child Allergic to Tyranny?

Is this an example of the Nanny State once again impinging on individual rights? Lunches from home are banned at a Chicago public school:

Principal Elsa Carmona said her intention is to protect students from their own unhealthful food choices.

How to opt out? Only students with allergies are allowed to bring a homemade lunch to school, the Chicago Tribune reports.

Is this an extension of the mandates present in the Health Care Law? A student MUST buy his/her lunch even though he/she doesn't want what the school is offering. It seems as this is forced participation...does this sound familiar? Perhaps students should bring doctor notes stating: "This student is allergic to tyranny and is allowed to bring his/her lunch from home".

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Are "Fa Sho", "Crunk" and "Imma' " Accepted Vocabulary Words on the MAP Test? They are in the Ferguson Florissant School District.

If you are a regular reader of this blog you know we have questions regarding standardized testing, particularly the MAP test. Many districts have completed one week of the federally mandated tests, while other districts will be starting this week.

The Joplin Globe reports MAP is just starting in Joplin and how intensive the process of the annual testing has become:

At many local school districts, preparation for the MAP goes on all year. The test helps drive curriculum, and students have been taking practice tests throughout the year.

The MAP assesses students at various grade levels in communications arts and mathematics, and gives parents and educators a means to compare students across districts. State and federal agencies in turn use it to grade schools, with implications for accreditation at the state level and for compliance with the No Child Left Behind Act at the federal level.

“It’s a high-stakes test,” Joplin Superintendent C.J. Huff said.

It is high-stakes in terms of the school's point of view since it can affect accreditation and compliance for NCLB; and how do the schools respond to this pressure? The Globe reports:

West Central Elementary School offered a weekly “boot camp” for its students over several weeks, said Denise Legore, the school’s principal. The students, dubbed “privates,” are led by community members and mentors with either the rank of “sergeant” or “lieutenant.” The children sang in marching cadences and this year wore dog tags. They negotiated an obstacle course where they have to answer a question in order to move on.

I thought this was a bit odd. Children singing in marching cadences to prepare for a test? It apparently doesn't happen just in Joplin. It's happening in the Ferguson-Florissant School District as well. I received this question from a mother of a third grader in that district about the "Map Walk" sheet sent home with her child (you can find the words to the "Map Walk" at the beginning of this article):

Someone please read this and tell me what the heck is going on at my child's school. What kind of grammar is this? And why are they teaching my child this? ....
and what does "crunk" mean?

I was stunned at the sheet she referenced. There were misspellings, incorrect grammar, and rap slang being taught to students. I looked up the definition of "crunk"in an online rap dictionary:



  1. To have a good time. Long as everybody get crunk in the drop -- Lil Bow Wow (Bounce with me [2000].
  2. To get crazy drunk. Originally, this term comes from the words crazy and funk. As opposed to popular opinion, crunk has had no relation to being coked up and drunk until recently. Because if its similarity of terminal sound with the word drunk many rappers have used it in reference with being crazy and under the influence. This and the intrinsical association with hard partying has brought about its association with alcohol.
  3. A style of music most commonly made by rap artists from the southern states, aka the Dirty South. Some crunk artists (or groups) are Lil' Jon, Pitbull, Lil' Scrappy, Trillville, and David Bannerand also [[[lil'joe the prince of Crunk]] n N b o Crunkmusic
  4. At a high level, as in volume: "He got the speakers in the trunk with the bass on crunk." (Mos Def, from "Mr. Nigga" on Black on Both Sides).

I doubt many mothers of 3rd graders would be elated to see this come home in their child's backpack. This mom has contacted the superintendent and the State Board of Education to determine if this is accepted educational practice.

I wonder how "boot camp" for MAP preparation is received in Joplin. I hope the cadences used there (I'm still trying to come to terms with this technique) are grammatically correct and don't teach 3rd graders street jive (courtesy of the Urban Dictionary). Maybe that concerned mother should have her student do the "Map Walk" right out of the classroom when testing time comes around.

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