"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, May 28, 2011

HHS Secretary Needs To Be Schooled In Child Development

Following on yesterday's post that mentioned the Feds are supplying $500m for "early learning programs" we must ask again, have we really identified an education problem that needs fixing? Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius referred to a series of studies that suggested that half of five-year-olds surveyed weren’t ready for the rigors of Kindergarten learning: “A number of children were missing the social and developmental skills which would allow them to sit in a classroom or play with others or listen to a teacher for any period of time.”

This response to that statement comes from a licensed clinical psychologist with 20 years experience:

Spending $500 million to get five-year-olds to sit still is like getting a Democrat to stop spending other people’s money. In theory it sounds good—really good—but it simply goes against nature. The natural inclination for most five-year-olds is to be extremely active. Normal pre-schoolers spend much of their day practicing their gross and fine-motor skills, with boys being especially active learners. They are not inclined to sit still, shut up, and listen to a teacher for anything but short periods of time.

Having had one of those boys myself, who didn't like to sit still, I must agree the doc. The primary problem, if there even was one, was not that he was not learning in class. In his case it also was not that he was a distraction to the other students. The real problem I heard at many parent teacher conferences was that he didn't "seem to be paying attention." I always followed this observation with the question, "Does he know the answer when you ask him a question?" which was almost invariably followed by a sheepish "Yes," and then usually a large "but"; "but he needs to be making notes" or, "but he's going to miss some of the things I say if he doesn't listen." What was really missing was the usual body language cues that our culture associates with paying attention: making eye contact, sitting still etc. He was still learning in his periphery.

This RTTT early learning program is being justified by a study that showed kids who start in pre-school programs are more likely to graduate high school. The only thing that shows is that reports can be found to justify almost anything. Studies have also shown that children who are far ahead of their peers in terms of reading in kindergarten are usually ranked level with their peers by third grade. In other words, unless you have an education program that will consistently support faster learners, any gains achieved early on will be lost by third grade.

Look at the program, "Teaching Your Baby To Read" which promises to teach infants as young as 10 months to read. If getting an early start is key, maybe we should all be teaching our infants to read. But take a closer look at that program and you will find it merely taps into an infants innate ability to make associations in the language development process. Show them a picture of a cat and say the word "cat" and they will learn the thing that is furry with four paws, whiskers and pointy ears is called "cat." Show them the word Cat on a sign, repeat it aloud and they will learn that those shapes mean cat. Show them the word dog, say Cat, and they will associate the word Dog with cat, because they don't have the cognitive ability to make the distinctions between the two words. Most people would recongize this process as the "whole language" curriculum that was favored for a while in so many schools. They would also realize that this flaw in "whole language" instruction is why it was dropped when it produced so many high schoolers who couldn't read. Your baby won't actually read, he will only know the specific words you have helped him to memorize. He will not be able to master new words on his own.

If you put some kids in an early school program, they will only learn what they are developmentally ready to learn. Anything else will just be smoke and mirrors.

It would seem far more logical that what the government wants from this program is to have children begin at a very early age to demonstrate the "behavior" the government wants: to be docile and cooperative. The next thing you know we will have an epidemic of ADD and ADHD because so many teachers are finding kindergarten students without the ability to "sit still" and "pay attention." The number of Adderall prescriptions will rise in response to this epidemic as will the government funding to investigate why so many children have this "disease." And it will be conviently forgotten that we created this problem by forcing all kids to fit into one norm, by a randomly assigned date.

Friday, May 27, 2011

What Does Your Legislator Believe About Education?

It's difficult to explain to people what's happening in American education. It's multi-layered and it's imperative to take the time to research what has happened in American public education since the Department of Education was established. The most telling bit of information about the DOE may just be that in four decades, educational spending has increased 190% and the test scores have flatlined. The investment on taxpayer money is just a bit underwhelming and the taxpayer might want to start questioning why the Federal Government is driving education when it clearly is not providing results from its "leadership". (And the fact that it is clearly unconstitutional).

The transformation from local control to state control to federal control is just about complete. This transformation has occurred in many instances without a single vote in state legislatures. How can this happen?

Missouri has a blueprint for education, Educated Citizenry 2020 that took two years to craft and is the plan for educational services and mandates in the state. We've written how they mirror the goals of Race to the Top...the ideas have just been renamed since the senators and representatives hate RTTT. However, not much noise was made this year in Jefferson City about Educated Citizenry. In fact, one senator has stated EC2020 is just "gathering dust on the shelf".

That seemed strange to us. Missouri taxpayers paid for a plan that took 2 years to finish and it's gathering dust on the shelf? Maybe that is not an accurate statement. Even though the goals of this plan were not passed in this legislative session, it's interesting that some of the goals (many were in Race to the Top requirements) will be realized through federal grants and mandates, appointed officials and court decisions:
Republican politicians on the state and national levels appeal to conservatives when they proclaim they are for less spending and local control. I'm not the only one who raises an eyebrow and wonder what these politicians are selling voters when their actions do not hold true with their words. Read what Neal McCluskey of Cato says about this recent announcement of RTTT money for pre-kindergarten in his piece 'Race to the Cradle':

The first part of this is irksome in large part because many congressional GOP members — the people who are supposed to be reining in unconstitutional, out-of-control federal adventuring — voted for the continuing resolution containing this expansion of the simultaneously worthless but dictatorial Race to the Top. The potential rewards for winning states are much smaller than the first go-round — $10 million to $50 million, versus $20 million to $700 million — so the bribery might be less powerful. But it is unconstitutional, politically charged bribery nonetheless, and it most certainly did not need to happen. No one, as far as I know, was clamoring for it, except maybe for a few people in the Obama administration.

Change the scenario to the state level and you can understand what's happening in the Missouri educational system: "It is unconstitutional, politically charged bribery nonetheless, and it most certainly did not need to happen. No one, as far as I know, was clamoring for it, except maybe for a few people in the Obama administration."

Until the politicians can explain why they are:
  • allowing the common core standards to be implemented,
  • accepting Federal grants that circumvent the legislative process,
  • sign onto plans such as Educated Citizenry 2020 that mirror Race to the Top goals
  • refuse to implement state laws protecting student and family privacy to circumvent the invasive Personally Identifiable Information to be gathered by the DOE;
....I'll have to agree with McCluskey when he writes:

That this new RTTT exists — and made it through a GOP-majority House – sure isn’t a good sign for things to come, either in education or beyond.

If a national or state politician states that he/she is for less spending and local control, he/she needs to prove it to the voters. The talk won't cut it anymore. We have your record, voting history and list of action and/or inaction. So, in the run-up to the 2012 election, those voters interested in education and the current landscape we find ourselves in would like for you to ponder these concerns voters may have in the next few months:

  • If you are addicted to Federal money, tell us.
  • If you believe centralized education is preferable, tell us.
  • If you are unable to stand up to a State School Board that gives up control of state educational standards and pursues RTTT money, tell us.
  • If you want universal pre-school and want children to be mandated to start school in pre-school, tell us.
  • If you believe invasive personal information on students and families should be shared with various agencies and private organizations for their purposes and you believe this will help in the educational process of the child, tell us.
  • If you are not willing to address the power of the legislature to stop the implementation of common core standards and the expansion of the longitudinal data system, tell us.
  • If you think charter schools operating under the same mandates as public schools is real reform, tell us.
  • If you think mandating spending more and more money that we don't have will improve education, tell us.
  • If you believe the expansion of No Child Left Behind will truly reform education, tell us.
  • If you believe the Federal Government should be mandating how educational services are delivered and agree that local districts should have little to no voice in educating of Missouri children, tell us.
You are our elected officials and we deserve to know what you believe about education. Stop telling us you believe in the Constitution...and start proving it. If you believe the above, then tell us how you believe these are constitutional.

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Look for ROI in Education

For many families in the Midwest, May means graduation. As is often heard in commencements speeches, this is a time of endings and a time of beginnings. Everything that the school has, or has not prepared its students for is about to be discovered. Those leaving high school have spent a year discovering whether they have the documentation, skills and funding (more on the later) for continuing on to college. Those leaving college have either investigated the same for advanced degree programs or are discovering whether all the money spent on their degree has given them anything desirable to an employer. If education is “an investment”, then we should all be paying close attention to its Return On Investment (ROI).

Harambee Elementary school is in a metro Minneapolis district that has invested heavily in integration programs. Parents there are discovering that their children have been well “educated” on diversity, but at the expense of stronger education in core subjects like math and English. Two out of the metro area's three integration districts have failed to make the academic progress required under federal law. As was reported in the Star Tribune,

A "community cultures specialist" tours classes to make sure students are working across racial lines and learning about multiple world view perspectives. Kindergartners use crayons in numerous shades of skintone to draw accurate pictures of themselves. "We don't shy away from having conversations about race and the way we treat each other," said Harambee Principal Kristine Black.”

According to the Star Tribune, school officials reportedly said that,“[s]tudent achievement wasn't an explicit goal of the integration schools in the beginning.”

John Bennet at the American Thinker rightly questions,

“Many people with common sense would hear that and think that the school was designed to fail. If ‘student achievement,’ of all things, ‘wasn't an explicit goal,’ then where does student achievement fit in to this school's mission? As an implicit goal? As an incidental goal of proper indoctrination? The liberals don't intend schools to fail; they just have a set of priorities that predictably result in failure or mediocrity. Their obvious priority is to indoctrinate students and produce rigid multiculturalists. Reading and mathematics might be taught in the process.”

This skewed focus in our schools is readily apparent to any parent who is paying attention. Thomas Sowell, in his piece The Education Mantra said,

“If you look at the fields in which American students specialize in colleges and universities, those fields are heavily weighted toward the soft end of the spectrum…. Too many of the people coming out of even our most prestigious academic institutions graduate with neither the skills to be economically productive nor the intellectual development to make them discerning citizens and voters.”

Sowell further noted that this problem is not unique to America. In fact, it is so prevalent in third world countries, where they have many people with diplomas but no jobs, that they call them the “educated unemployed.”

Nor, he warns, is this a new problem. Its roots can be seen back as far as the early 19th century where education that did not focus on either useful skills or critical thinking produced people with just enough intelligence to promote wave after wave of cultural hatred.

“A scholarly history of 19th century Prague referred to ‘the well-educated but underemployed’ Czech young men who promoted ethnic polarization there-- a polarization that not only continued, but escalated, in the 20th century to produce bitter tragedies for both Czechs and Germans... In countries around the world, people with degrees in soft subjects have been sources of political unrest, instability and even mass violence.”

Let us turn back to our new graduates, especially those leaving high school and commencing college. Today’s student faces a college tuition that is similar in size to a mortgage. The job market is bog-like, and inflation continues to undermine real earning power. They should be loading up on courses that have the greatest ROI. Yet liberals continue to flood curriculum and credit requirements with soft subjects or those that have no real world earnings potential. The Chronicle of Higher Education had an article entitled, Master's in English: Will Mow Lawns which featured a man with that degree who has gone into the landscaping business because there is no great demand for people with Master's degrees in English. This softening was happening in our higher education decades ago but, as we see in Harambee, it is now reaching into the elementary schools. A parent, when asked what he thought his children were getting out of school said, “My children have gained a certain level of confidence and they're comfortable around all types of people." This will provide little comfort to them when they find themselves earning little or no money and facing a mortgage-like student debt. They will become slaves to their creditors.

The National Inflation Association (NIA) has produced a one hour documentary called “The College Conspiracy” The film talks about the rising cost of education and what is driving it. It also chronicles some graduates who are stuck in this perpetual credit slavery, including one woman who got her DDS degree using students loans. In her paperwork is a projected earnings chart that showed how much she was assumed to earn annually into the next two decades and how this rising salary would help her pay off her $106,000 in loans. Of particular interest was that by year 20 it was projected that she would be earning upwards of $400,000. While that might be a reasonable salary trajectory for a dentist in Manhattan, it certainly is not for someone serving a fairly rural area where she never met a single salary target on the government’s page.

Gerald Celente, of Trends Research Institute says, in this film, that a college degree is not necessary to succeed. My own informal research has found that many companies view a college degree as an indicator that a person has the drive to learn and the self discipline to succeed, but it is not a prerequisite to employment. That is radically different from what the President and education reformers say. They say schools should be providing the skills that companies are looking for, so students can get a job upon graduation. There is a vast disconnect here. And since businesses expand and grow through the development of new and proprietary intellectual properties, even they would have to admit that they don’t expect students to come to them with the exact knowledge they need to succeed in their particular business. Nor would they have any interest in colleges teaching their proprietary skills to those who could potentially go work for their competitors.

So parents, if your child does not already know about ROI, take some time before they get to school this fall and teach them about it. While they may enjoy Jewish Rock 'N' Roll History, it may not make economic sense for them to take a course on it at today’s college prices. Colleges don’t have a “Value Menu” yet for their courses, but maybe we could suggest they start one.

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

A Bad Romance Novel: The Relationship Between Taxpayers and the Department of Education

If you follow education "reform" closely it will make you a bit crazy from time to time. Why crazy? Maybe public education systems are just like any area the government has its fingers into...the bureaucracy becomes so burdened with regulations, mandates, budgets, funding being moved from one pot to another, crony capitalism, that the regular citizen finally throws up his/her hands in frustration trying to determine the fundamental truth of what is occurring and if these regulations are actually helping students.

Some taxpayers insist the reason public education is failing is because there is not enough funding. This is in direct opposition to the fact that since the Department of Education (DOE) has been established, spending on education has increased 190% over four decades for flatlined test scores. So if we discount the argument that money is the answer for educational reform, we still are faced with the question: why are test scores not improving?

I've thought for some time that one of the reasons our test scores are abysmal is because of the centralized education model and No Child Left Behind (NCLB) mandates districts have been forced to adopt. I've wondered if it would be possible for my school district to stop the marriage between it and the Federal Government. My district receives a whopping 2% Federal money, but yet, it has to adhere to 100% of the mandates the Federal government demands. Why should a district be forced to adopt mandates for a paltry 2% budget supplement?

The DOE still insists more mandates, more centralized control and more money is needed so that more schools don't fail. Lindsey Burke of Heritage has written an excellent piece in exploring Arne Duncan's statement that 82% of the nation's schools may not be sufficiently educating children. Her reasons for this failure are quite different than Duncan's:

However, all the Department of Education’s murky 82 percent estimate demonstrates is the shortcomings of federal education policy when it comes to evaluating actual academic standing or improving academic achievement. Decades of growing intervention in local schools has led to increasing red tape levied on schools and school districts in order to comply with and receive federal funding. The federal government’s accountability tools are very blunt, yet they undermine and distract those closer to students who are equipped to judge students’ academic needs more precisely.

The quest for education funding and compliance with federal mandates has shifted states’ attention upward to Washington and away from the parents and taxpayers to whom they should be most accountable.

Bingo. She goes on to make more excellent points:

... a Virginia school district calculated that the additional cost associated with training staff on the new provisions of NCLB “is equivalent to the cost of hiring 72 additional teachers … ten … instructional assistants … [and] four additional assistant principals” who could have had direct “interface … with the community’s children.”

Additionally, for years Washington has taken state tax dollars, “running that money through the Washington bureaucracy and sending it back to states,” rather than allowing it to flow directly to schools. As a result, a significant proportion of those dollars never makes it to students.

Thus, it’s no wonder that hundreds of programs and billions of federal dollars later, the nation’s students have made virtually no academic gains.

And while the Obama Administration claims that its proposed education reforms will be “fair and flexible and focused on the schools,” the plans simply promote the same federal regulation that the federal government has pushed for more than five decades.

The Democrat AND Republican politicians on both the state and national levels, are traveling down the same road and are expecting different results. How is that for political astuteness?

I had a written exchange with a couple of educational wonks about this article on Delaware trying to meet its obligations to the Race to the Top mandates it signed onto. It hasn't been easy or cheap. The question posed by the person forwarding the article: "Too big to fail"? Answers to that question included: "Too big to succeed, the goals are impossible, funding is inadequate, parents are removed from the process, too centralized to care".

This chapter in educational history should be written down in the future as a science fiction or a horror novel. It almost reads like a bad romance novel. Picture this: imagine the DOE as a suitor in a relationship. The suitor is trying to talk the leading lady (the taxpayer) into buying into promises of taking care of her and her future children by providing a strong educational foundation. She does a background check on the DOE's record of achievement! She discovers the department can't deliver, won't deliver, is broke, lies, and is so full of rigid mandates, nothing innovative can't and or couldn't develop in the relationship.

If the intended is smart, she'll cut the suitor off cold turkey. The suitor will provide nothing the intended needs or wants, and in fact, the suitor will end up saddling the intended with so much debt, she will probably have to declare bankruptcy if she continues on with the relationship. Why would she want to keep the suitor around? She would be better off living her life on her own.

Stop the unhealthy and crazy love relationship between the taxpayer and the DOE. Maybe then we'll restore sanity into the educational delivery for children.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

"Education is the Wild West and There is Alot of Money to be Made". Is this the underlying philosophy of education "reform"?

Yesterday we wrote a piece likening Bill Gates to Pac-Man as he eats educational stakeholders in his quest for his educational vision. The taxpayers, parents, students, unions, teachers, administrators, state educational offices, etc are being replaced for Gates' vision of US public education models.

Gates is spending a fortune paying governors and states so they will adopt common core standards, which will then necessitate the expansion of the state longitudinal data systems. Software companies will reap the windfall, as well as Pearson, an educational publishing company that partners with the Gates Foundation. With the mandate of these new assessments having to be completed on line, the computer and assessment companies will realize an infusion of cash. Where this cash will come from is still a question that hasn't been answered; most observers believe the computers mandated will have to be bought by individual school districts which are presently strapped for cash. The districts won't be able to ask their states for assistance as they are pinching pennies themselves.

With the standards and assessments being controlled by private consortia, the ability for the taxpayers to have any say in what their children will be taught (or not taught) is extremely slight, if not impossible.

Susan Ohanian has been following Gates' educational quest for many years and she has posted extensively on The Gates Foundation providing huge infusions of cash to states for their purposes. Ohanian has written an extensive supplement to the latest NY Times article on Gates' involvement and she chronicles how this influence has just about taken over the constitutional rights of states to set educational policy, and how we are on the verge of a national curriculum (which, by the way, is illegal):

In June 2006, Joshua Benton of the Dallas Morning News reported that within the Texas Education Agency, contracts often were not competitively bid but depended on whom one knew at the Gates Foundation. Diane Ravitch was on target in a July 30, 2006 Los Angeles Times piece: "In light of the size of the foundation's endowment, Bill Gates is now the nation's superintendent of schools. He can support whatever he wants, based on any theory or philosophy that appeals to him." This was positioned as an opinion piece and there was no follow-up from the education press.

Dillon's mention that National Governors Association and the Council of Chief State School Officers (CSSEO) received "millions of dollars" is rather like identifying half a dozen root canals as "a dental procedure." Since January 2008, Gates has shelled out more than $35 million to the Council of Chief School Officers and the National Governors Association Center for Best Practices, the two primary organizations charged with drafting and promoting common standards. Daniel Goldman's Bill Gates' School Crusade (Bloomberg Businessweek, 7/15/10) was one of two articles I found revealing that the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation "bankrolled the development of the common curriculum standards." Golden observed that our U. S. Department of Education and the Gates Foundation "move in apparent lockstep" on an agenda which is "an intellectual cousin of the Bush administration's 2002 No Child Left Behind law."
These are just a few of the examples she offers on who the Gates Foundation has been funding in education. Here is her connection to the "school choice" industry and the Gates Foundation:

We--you and I--are paying for Gates' pet projects. Kenneth Saltman points out something few people seem to realize: For every ten dollars given by the Gates Foundation, four dollars is lost from the public wealth in taxes. The philanthropist’s dollars would otherwise go to the public in the form of taxes. So a big chunk of all that money Gates is spending to get teachers on script, destroy tenure, and standardize curriculum is actually OUR money; Bill Gates is using our tax dollars to mold America. And part of the plan--well on its way-- is to de-professionalize teachers. Saltman calls on readers "to stop applying business metaphors and logic to educational thinking derived from discredited market fundamentalism." Such terms as choice, monopoly, turnaround, efficiency need to be dropped in favor of public language and assumptions. Taxpayers are subsidizing (as tax-free) an organization bent on undermining their best interests. [See Kenneth Saltman's The Gift of Education: Public Education and Venture Philanthropy and Philip Kovacs' edited collection, The Gates Foundation and the Future of U. S. "Public" Schools.

This is a takeover of education. Gates and others can couch it in terms of choice and turnaround schools, etc, but the fact remains, these models of providing education and the delivery and setting of standards/assessments/curriculum is being set by private companies, the National Governor's Association (NGA) and the Council of Chief State School Officers (CCSSO).

Capitalism is a great theory and when it works as it was intended to do, it helps this country operate in a positive business manner. However, the Gates idea of education and setting certain companies in line to deliver the services is crony capitalism:

A description of capitalist society as being based on the close relationships between businessmen and the state. Instead of success being determined by a free market and the rule of law, the success of a business is dependent on the favoritism that is shown to it by the ruling government in the form of tax breaks, government grants and other incentives.

Ohanian goes on to describe the web of players in this crony capitalism venture. It's stunning and here are just a few of the organizations:

The National PTA received $1 millon grant to mobilize parents for the Common Core Standards in four states. -- Dec. 2, 2009 The May 18, 2011 Education Week (which gets its own Gates funding, as in $2,534,757 in 2005, another $100,000 in 2005, and $1,997,280 in 2009.) ran a ¾ page ad from ASCD. It was presented in the form on an opinion piece by Executive Director Gene R. Carter offering strong support of the Common Core. The ad doesn’t mention that The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation awarded $3 million to ASCD> "to support that group's efforts to help education leaders and educators themselves understand the standards and implement them." -- The Journal, April 5, 2011

You might just want to rethink if your local PTA really needs funds for pet projects when the national organization is pushing "reform" which takes parental and taxpayer control away and lines up with crony capitalists. The American Federation of Teachers (AFT) and National Education Association Foundation (NEA) have also received substantial amounts to support Gates' agenda, which has evolved into the Department of Education's agenda. She has many more organizations and think tanks listed funded by the Gates Foundation.

When did it become appropriate for billionaires to set educational policy? Has it been occurring in incremental steps and this is the last grasp of control? There is a theory why this "concern" about the "educational crisis" is being addressed by the billionaire community. When the dotcom bubble burst, the next area to make money was in...education. It probably has less to do with a desire to "help the children" as it is to "make money". In fact, Scott Joftus, closely aligned with Bill Gates and his foundation since the early years of 2000, had this to say about education in an article aptly titled "Is the Stimulus Really "No Consultant Left Behind" "?:

That metaphor is an apt one for the market as well. In the fall of 2009, Mr. Joftus was contacted by a former contractor who was working for Global Partnership Schools, a new school turnaround venture funded by GEMS Education, a Dubai-based company founded by entrepreneur Sunny Varkey. The caller was hoping to obtain copies of Mr. Joftus’ contract for school improvement services in Kansas.

“You know we’re in a new era when school turnaround firms in the U.S. are being funded out of the Middle East,” Joftus said. “To me, that says there’s money to be made. I call this period the Wild West in education.”

"There's money to be made...and school turnaround firms in the US are being funded out of the Middle East...there's money to be made". Does anyone still believe this is all for the children?

Bill Gates is eating the Constitution and buying the players to implement the change HE wants for HIS ends. He and his cronies will become quite wealthy and powerful. The taxpayers, students and parents...schools, administrators, teachers....well, they'll be operating under one man's vision. And the irony is our tax dollars are funding a plan in which we had no voice and works against individualism and true education. This is not how a republic is to operate, is it? And why is our government complicit in this plan?

Bill Gates is the Pac-Man of Education Reform. He's Eating the Constitution.

Remember the Pac-Man game? It introduced Americans to video games, replacing arcade games such as pinball, foosball and skeeball. What's the difference between current video games and the old fashioned mechanical games?

Video games are computerized and do not having moving parts, such as balls or pucks. Everything is contained in a screen and the movement is a blip. You are controlling the movement but it's more of a passive control and takes only fingers on a stick or pad to create movement. Physical movement is minimal in video games; the game itself is in a screen, rather than involving balls and a person directing that move in an overtly physical manner. Video games perhaps could be considered activity through a simulation setting vs actual physical action.

Is that what is happening in education? The taxpayers, parents and students have for quite some time been in a simulated educational program. Taxes have been paid into a system in which taxpayers have little to no voice and minimal effect. Parents can complain about objectionable material taught to their students but since it is set by the state and not the district, these objections are often futile for change. Students are taught to the test so the school won't lose funding and the real goal of education is whittled down to basic test questions. School "reform" options are crafted by lobbying groups and PACs, not the local communities in which they are located.

Teachers, administrators, superintendents and state educational agencies discover they are further drawn into the simulation of education. Their hands are tied by No Child Left Behind, students are not tested or taught to as individuals, rather as subsets, and federal regulations strangle innovation. Throw Common Core standards (heavily funded by Bill Gates) into this equation, and the perfect video game of public education emerges.

Bill Gates has become the Pac-Man of the United States Public Education system!

He's been named as a gobbling Pac-Man as early as 1991:

Hey everyone. I've just posted my latest project called Pac-MANager (which moves Bill Gates around as Pac-Man as he tries to "eat up" the competition) on PSC, which includes a lot of stuff that different people on this forum helped me with -- thanks all!

Back then Gates was eating up business competition. Now he is eating the traditional stakeholders in education: students, parents, taxpayers, school districts, etc. that he considers competition to his educational vision. How is Gates sating his appetite for educational control?

We and other bloggers have been writing about Gates' idea of philanthropy. Unlike previous philanthropists, these new philanthropists drive the reform, rather than leaving organizations to do so. The New York Times published findings from a graduate student who has studied how Gates is taking over education:

For years, Bill Gates focused his education philanthropy on overhauling large schools and opening small ones. His new strategy is more ambitious: overhauling the nation’s education policies. To that end, the foundation is financing educators to pose alternatives to union orthodoxies on issues like the seniority system and the use of student test scores to evaluate teachers.

In some cases, Mr. Gates is creating entirely new advocacy groups. The foundation is also paying Harvard-trained data specialists to work inside school districts, not only to crunch numbers but also to change practices. It is bankrolling many of the Washington analysts who interpret education issues for journalists and giving grants to some media organizations.

Bill Gates is not stingy with his money and the vast amount given to various entities buy acquiescence for his vision:

The foundation spent $373 million on education in 2009, the latest year for which its tax returns are available, and devoted $78 million to advocacy — quadruple the amount spent on advocacy in 2005. Over the next five or six years, Mr. Golston said, the foundation expects to pour $3.5 billion more into education, up to 15 percent of it on advocacy.

Given the scale and scope of the largess, some worry that the foundation’s assertive philanthropy is squelching independent thought, while others express concerns about transparency. Few policy makers, reporters or members of the public who encounter advocates like Teach Plus or pundits like Frederick M. Hess of the American Enterprise Institute realize they are underwritten by the foundation.

It’s Orwellian in the sense that through this vast funding they start to control even how we tacitly think about the problems facing public education,” said Bruce Fuller, an education professor at the University of California, Berkeley, who said he received no financing from the foundation. (emphasis added)

What does this vast amount of money buy?

The foundation paid a New York philanthropic advisory firm $3.5 million “to mount and support public education and advocacy campaigns.” It also paid a string of universities to support pieces of the Gates agenda. Harvard, for instance, got $3.5 million to place “strategic data fellows” who could act as “entrepreneurial change agents” in school districts in Boston, Los Angeles and elsewhere. The foundation has given to the two national teachers’ unions — as well to groups whose mission seems to be to criticize them.

“It’s easier to name which groups Gates doesn’t support than to list all of those they do, because it’s just so overwhelming,” noted Ken Libby, a graduate student who has pored over the foundation’s tax filings as part of his academic work.

What might be an effective method to demonize teacher unions?

While the foundation has given money to both the American Federation of Teachers and the National Education Association, totaling about $6.3 million over the last three years, some of its newer initiatives appear aimed at challenging the dominance that unions have exercised during policy debates. Last year, Mr. Gates spent $2 million on a “social action” campaign focused on the film “Waiting for ‘Superman,’ ” which demonized Randi Weingarten, the president of the federation.

"Waiting for Superman" and screenings for legislators were concerns we wrote about in this past legislative session and the multi-million dollars poured into the school choice movement. "Waiting for Superman" was touted as a grassroots movie, but the mass infusion of cash and influence is far removed from grassroots philosophy. Most of the grassroots comments from various blogs about "education reform" mention the desire to abolish the Department of Education and not so much about charters, trigger options and the redistribution of teachers. The movie and school choice movement have been shown to be a carefully orchestrated public relations move:

A document describing plans for the group, posted on a Washington Post blog in March, said it would mobilize local advocates, “establish strong ties to local journalists” and should “go toe to toe” with union officials in explaining contracts and state laws to the public.

But to avoid being labeled a “tool of the foundation,” the document said the group should “maintain a low public profile.”

The Gates Foundation has been exposed for what it is: a version of the Pac-Man game eating all the unnecessary and cumbersome stakeholders in its way for the quest of remaking the United States educational system:

Gates Memo to Support "Race to the Top"

Note that Gates tells applicants what questions will be asked--and what the answers must be. This is their view of education in a nutshell.

The Gates Foundation had already handpicked 15 states to receive $250,000 each to help them apply for Race to the Top funds: Arkansas, Arizona, Florida, Georgia, Kentucky, Louisiana, Massachusetts, Minnesota, New Mexico, New York, North Carolina, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Tennessee, and Texas. Now, probably because of whining of "unfair," they're offering a bone to the other 35 states --if they can answer "Yes, master," enough times.

See the Gates memo here.

September 23, 2009

This is how our government is operating. It used to be tycoons like Gates wanted to eat their business competition for a larger piece of the business pie; now they want to control the government in which they operate. This is a Pac-man version of our constitutional right to self-govern being eaten up by special interests. Taxpayers have been co-opted in the past by educational unions (even the retiring NEA counsel states it's not for the children or because it has a vision for great public education for every child) and now it's Bill Gates and his funding of think tanks, professors, software companies, governors and even the Department of Education. Watch this video by retiring NEA counsel Bob Chanin, and substitute Gates' names and organizations he's funded:

The United States Public Education System has become one big huge power grab by special interests such as the Federal Government (isn't this interesting how it has become a special interest), the unions and the corporations. In the meantime, the student, taxpayer and parents are not receiving a quality education focused on education and use of these taxes is not free of these special interests. Education is centered not so much on teaching sound educational material; rather, much of education today teaches politically correct theories and is delivered in a way that will make hedge funders, venture capitalists, and technology companies quite wealthy.

This is a great history lesson on how not to let control of your local school district be given to a state agency, then a federal agency and then to a consortia controlled by Gates money. Stop the money train to all these organizations (government, union and private), bring it down to the local level (where it belongs) and then maybe, just maybe, the dialogue can begin about authentic educational reform.

Monday, May 23, 2011

Deadline for Comments on FERPA: Midnight EST, Monday, May 23.

You have just a few hours to make your comments and object to changes to the existing FERPA regulations.

Contact the DOE straightaway.

Regulations could be loosened and information provided to various agencies (federal and private) being provided information from your student and family such as:

  • 1. Political affiliations or beliefs of the student or parent;
  • 2. Mental and psychological problems of the student or the student’s family;
  • 3. Sex behavior or attitudes;
  • 4. Illegal, anti-social, self-incriminating, and demeaning behavior;
  • 5. Critical appraisals of other individuals with whom respondents have close family relationships;
  • 6. Legally recognized privileged or analogous relationships, such as those of lawyers, physicians, and ministers;
  • 7. Religious practices, affiliations, or beliefs of the student or the student’s parent; or
  • 8. Income (other than that required by law to determine eligibility for participation in a program or for receiving financial assistance under such program).
If you believe the government should have access to this information, there is no need to fill out a comment card. If, however, you believe this is an overreach of governmental regulations, then take 5-10 minutes and record your opinions. Be sure to print a copy of your comment with the comment number, your comment may take awhile to surface.

Sunday, May 22, 2011

The Waiver Solution to ESEA

No Child Left Behind is about to be left behind, but what will replace it. The Chairman of the House Educaiton and Workforce Committee, Rep. John Kline, R-Minn, says there is little chance they will have Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA) legislation ready by the August deadline. Infact, Rep. John Kline, R-Minn., chairman of the HEWC said, in an interview with The Associated Press, he has been, "very, persistently clear that we cannot get this done by summer... It is just not going to happen."

There is agreement that the NCLB legislation is counterproductive. Under its rules, even schools that are making improvements can be labeled as failures. Arne Duncan predicts more than 82% of schools will be deemed failing by next year. However, a study by the Center on Education Policy in April found that 38 percent of schools failed to meet adequate yearly progress in 2010, meaning the number failing would have to more than double to meet that prediction. Senator Tom Harkin of Iowa said that a senate bill, "will include systems for teacher and principal evaluations; metrics for success that include student growth and school gains; and some federal accountability and intervention in the bottom 5 percent of schools, as well as those with significant achievement gaps." This bill may be before the committee before the July recess.

"Schools are going to be accountable for what? And to whom? That's an ongoing question." These are questions Rep. Kline says are being debated and need answers before legislation is passed.

Because of the President's deadline there will be pressure to pass Something by August, even if it is just a series of small bills that address small portions of the problem(s). Failing the passage of such legislation, which is itself problematic, there is another option - waivers. This administration is terribly fond of waivers, as anyone who is watching what is happening with the new Health Care Law should be well aware. They are giving out health care provision waivers daily, in copious numbers, for various unionized groups. Arne Duncan has similar power to grant waivers to schools deemed failing under NCLB. In 2009 he granted 300 such waivers ("Duncan Issues Far More NCLB Waivers Than Predecessors," April 27, 2011.) In order to keep their teacher union supporters happy, they can just keep granting waivers and have in fact been encouraging districts to apply. Problem solved, right?

Don't forget that tomorrow, May 23rd, is the last day to respond to the revised FERPA reporting. The document details and the specific language of the FERPA revisions the Department of Education is requesting may be found here:


Click on the "comment due" wording and it will take you to the comment form OR

The comment form may be found here:

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