"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, August 20, 2011

What Do Tiger Mothers and Tiger Educators Have in Common?

This is from Ann Althouse about children coming of age between the 1950's through the 1970's.

"I am a child of the 1970s. What that means, in short, is that my childhood summer vacations were spent..."

"... languishing in front of the TV watching Phil Donahue and eating Boo Berry until my skin turned purple. Nobody cared if I read. Nobody cared if I wore sunscreen, or pants. I was like a house cat; my parents barely even knew if I was still living with them or whether I had moved in with the old lady down the street who would put out a bowl of food for me. In the '70s, parenting was like a combination of intense crate-training and rumspringa, so I would typically spend June through September burnt to a crisp and wandering listlessly around the city, verging on scurvy." Writes Samantha Bee, who's now got 3 little kids and is tired of today's overachieving "tiger mother" style of parenting.

I did my childhood summers in the 1950s and 60s, and I can tell you my parents did not get the slightest bit involved in my activities. There was a community pool that we had tags to get into if we felt like going. We had bikes. What we did with these things was entirely up to us, and there wasn't a word of criticism if we chose to watch TV all day or a hint of praise if we read books or went outside. My parents never made the slightest show of putting any effort into good parenting. Looking back, I can discern that they had some principles that they stuck to, but these principles were things like self-reliance and personal autonomy, so it was hard to notice, and they didn't pontificate about these principles, which I'm only inferring they had.

The phrase of the mother being tired of the "tiger mother" style of parenting got me thinking; as parenting styles have changed through the decades, how have the educational practices changed from the 1950's through the 1970's? What do you remember about your schooling that seems to be radically different from today's method of education?

I looked in my elementary school yearbook and was stunned to discover each class had at least 34 students per classroom! There are concerns about such a large class student population in today's schools as teachers and parents believe their children cannot receive a solid education with such a class size.

I don't know what has happened to many of my classmates, but I know many have successful careers in engineering, law, business, writing, nursing, and owning their own businesses. I remember we were ability grouped in reading and English. We had no peer groups to work on our "self esteem". In fact, I don't remember any adults who actively worked on student self-esteem issues. I believe the adults thought if we were successful in school, that would bolster our self-esteem. We earned it by hard work in school and doing our best.

Now districts utilize peer groups to help the children talk about their feelings and conflict resolution classes. What has changed so dramatically in just a few decades that we now have to have classes and interventions so children can feel good about themselves? We felt pretty good about ourselves with not much adult involvement or direction. We weren't subjected to endless assessments to satisfy federal mandates as the DOE did not exist.

Perhaps education was approached as parenting was in the 1950's -1970's...the children were given a framework in which to operate but they weren't analyzed to the nth degree or given excessive homework that leave students stressed and sleep-deprived. Does the move to fit all students, districts and states into a one-size fit all model (common core standards) create more headaches for administrators, teachers and most importantly...students? Has the increased pressure on students created more pressure on parents to become "tigers"?

What do you think? Is the constant attention to children by tiger mothers and tiger educators (educators obsessed with increased testing and assessments) helping or hindering students?

Friday, August 19, 2011

More Millionaire Pension Information for Missouri Teachers, Administrators and Public Employees

We recently relayed information from Taxpayers United of America detailing the millions of dollars of estimated pensions of administrators and teachers in St. Louis County. The group was scheduled to make subsequent stops in Jefferson City, Springfield and Kansas City detailing the wages and estimated pensions from administrators, teachers and public state employees in those districts.

The reports include state employee wage and estimated pension information. The data was gathered from FOIA requests.

Here is the organization's mission from its website:

Taxpayers United of America is now fighting tax increases and reckless spending in states surrounding Illinois, and is planning to assist taxpayers and local taxpayer groups nationwide.

The organization has published its findings on this information:

From the Kansas City press release:

“Heading the list of Jackson County public school Teachers’ Top 100 salaries and estimated pensions is John Covington of Kansas City Sch. Dist. 33, pulling in generous total wages of $250,000. When Covington retires, his pension is estimated to start at $195,000 a year — $16,250 a month. Over a normal lifetime, he will collect an astounding $8,385,000 in estimated total pension payments.”*

Jim Hinson of Independence Sch. Dist. 30 receives total wages of $208,600. When Hinson retires, his pension is estimated to start at $163,950 a year — $13,662 a month. Over a normal lifetime, he will collect $7,049,850 in estimated total pension payments.”

“In the State of Missouri, unemployment is 8.8%, the average wage is $45,000, and the median housing value is $135,000.”

From the Springfield press release:

“Heading the list of Greene County public school Teachers’ Top 100 salaries and estimated pensions is Norman Ridder of Springfield Sch. Dist. R-XII, pulling in generous total wages of $156,193. When Ridder retires, his pension is estimated to start at $124,645 a year — $10,387 a month. Over a normal lifetime, he will collect an astounding $5,359,724 in estimated total pension payments.”*

“Vern Minor of Republic Sch. Dist. R-III receives total wages of $147,676. When Minor retires, his pension is estimated to start at $118,257 a year — $9,855 a month. Over a normal lifetime, he will collect $5,085,051 in estimated total pension payments.”

From the Jefferson City press release:

“Heading the list of Jefferson City public school Teachers’ Top 25 salaries and estimated pensions is Brian Mitchell of Jefferson City Sch. Dist., pulling in generous total wages of $180,400. When Mitchell retires, his pension is estimated to start at $142,800 a year — $11,900 a month. Over a normal lifetime, he will collect an astounding $6,140,400 in estimated total pension payments.”*

“Julia Sharpe of Jefferson City Sch. Dist. receives total wages of $136,500. When Sharpe retires, her pension is estimated to start at $109,875 a year — $9,156 a month. Over a normal lifetime, she will collect $4,724,625 in estimated total pension payments.”

“Arthur Allen of Jefferson City Sch. Dist. receives total wages of $119,030. When Allen retires, his pension is estimated to start at $96,773 — $8,064 a month. Over a normal lifetime, he will collect $4,161,218 in estimated total pension payments.”

The report also chronicles other highly projected future pensions in Missouri government:

“Of the Top 100 Missouri government pensions, Willis Magruder, formerly of Truman State University, receives an estimated annual pension including Social Security of $185,531 — $15,461 a month.”**

“Dean Hubbard, formerly of Northwest MO State University, receives an estimated annual pension including Social Security of $172,245 — $14,354 a month.”

“Nicholas Bartulica, formerly with the Mental Health Department, receives an estimated annual pension including Social Security of $145,525 — $12,127 a month.”

** Until 2011, State Employees contributed zero toward their pensions. After 2011 they will contribute 4%.

All pdfs from these districts detailing the top 100 Millionaire Pensions can be accessed from each individual district page listed in the links above.

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Missouri's Eyes Are Back On Joplin As They Start The School Year

One of the realities of a recession is that it forces companies to scrutinize every aspect of their business and identify waste and inefficiency. It forces the evaluation of existing norms. Hardship spurs creativity and innovation. The good news (or bad news depending on how you look at it) is that recession teaches companies how much they can pare back their workforce and capital expenditures yet still make a profit. For most companies, once those cost saving measures are instituted, they tend to stick around, even after the economy bounces back. After all, who chooses to add padding back to their budget?

The EF5 tornado that tore through city of Joplin Missouri forced them to re-evaluate their norms and look for innovation in education. It is a testament to their resilience that they have found the means to open the school year for their students just 87 days after several of their school buildings were damaged and their high school was destroyed by the storm. Utilizing an empty shopping mall, an unused school building and even a MODOT building, they have offered their students a sense of continuity in extremely tumultuous times.

See Video Here

Certainly it will be stressful, as the one teacher said. It will be a little disorienting for the students. A free laptop courtesy of the United Arab Emirates, one of the few examples of a foreign government coming to the aid of the United States, will go a long way towards easing some of that stress. (We should keep an eye on what, if any, quid pro quo is expected from that generosity.)

It will be interesting to watch Joplin this year to find out what parts of their existing education system were not missed, what parts suffered from either their absence or alteration and, which of these changes forced by circumstance, become permanent. We may gain a better understanding of how adaptive both students and teachers are; how much or how little state of the art facilities matter; or what role the home situation plays in student success. What is likely to come out of this forced “experiment” is a deeper appreciation of the role community plays in educating its children.

Joplin may prove to be one of the most significant towns in America as they demonstrate what the local community can do for themselves, even when the deck seems stacked against them.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

This Chinese Education Video Provides an Educational Look at how RTTT and Common Core Standards Might Operate in the United States

With all this hoopla about education in China generated by the PISA exam, here is what China is thinking about talking about its own education system. The very first part of the video focuses on stop math Olympics used for middle school entrance and the rest of the video is about reform in rural schools.

Arne Duncan wants us to be more globally competitive. To do so, we are being mandated via Common Core standards into a nationalized push for standards, assessments and curriculum. We've been told we need to be competitive with the Chinese and become Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) ready. Every child is expected to go to college and America will be great again...if only we radically transform the public education system in this country to become more like China.

Chinese educators in this video are commenting how their students absolutely detest the "math Olympics" they were subjected to in class and in after school tutoring. The pressure for children to score well is intense as these scores determine middle school placement. The Chinese extol the fact American students are good math students because they study it because they LIKE it, not because they have to study math. At the 4:42 mark, the educator remarks: "But in other countries, it is purely a personal pursuit based on interests".

At the 4:57 mark he continues talking about the Chinese high stakes testing for placement by saying: "I''m completely against it using filter for advancing students and evolution schools, it is wrong....But I'm not against those with GIFTS in math or have a strong interest in math to pursue these endeavors."

China has decided to do away with this high stakes math testing into prestigious middle schools to make the playing field more level between rural schools and city schools. Entrance exams do not contain the math Olympic questions since it was not fair for rural students who did not have the opportunity for extra study.

But then again....the video goes on to report some parents are still exposing their children to the Math Olympics tutoring. They are going against the "common" and expected way of educating their children. How does the Chinese education official respond to this knowledge? What will happen to those going against the mandates of the state? He tells the reporter at the 8:10 mark: "In the past, it was an added bonus point, now it is not allowed, if a principal does it this way, he will get fired...if a teacher does it, he'll need to write a confession, he continues the wrong way, and starts supplemental classes...any policy decision, according to democratic centralism, most of the comrades will follow...But there will always be people not following the rules, then it would require institution, discipline and laws to enforce it." There is no tolerance from the common expectations of administrators, teachers, parents and students.

The latter half of the video talks about the redistribution of highly effective principles from highly effective city schools to failing rural schools. It is reminiscent of America's Race to the Top mandates.

What might happen if, in America, students, parents and teachers do not follow the "common" method of education? We might look to how China handles their troublemakers. If we're determined to become global in our approach to education, we might as well just follow China's example, right?

We're on our way to the Chinese method of educating students via RTTT, Common Core Standards and other federal educational mandates. These "educational reforms" trumpeted by this administration, Arne Duncan and progressive conservatives seem to follow the definition of "democratic centralism" used in China:

under the leadership of
Joseph Stalin from 1928, democratic centralism was much more “centralist” than “democratic,” as party congresses became infrequent occasions for rubber-stamping decisions made by the top party leadership.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

The Top 100 Millionaire Teachers and Administrators in St. Louis County

Kirkwood School District has the highest paid superintendent in the state but is number 2 when it comes to the amount of pensions paid out in the state according to this St. Louis Today article quoting information from Taxpayers United of America:

At least 100 former or current St. Louis County school district leaders will make more than $4.3 million after retirement in taxpayer-supported pensions, and another 100 workers for the State of Missouri will make more than $2.3 million over their lifetimes in pension earnings, according to lists released here today by an anti-pension advocacy group.

The Taxpayers United of America, in the middle of its Midwest tour, stopped in St. Louis this afternoon for a press conference before heading on to Jefferson City, Springfield, and Kansas City this week, then California, Virginia and Kentucky later this year.

Taxpayers United Vice-President Christina Tobin and Director of Outreach Rae Ann McNeilly said the lists expose "the top government salaries and pensions" for public school and state workers.

"St. Louis County public school teachers and Missouri government employees are pulling in huge salaries and will have lavish, gold-plated pensions when they retire," Tobin said in a prepared statement. "Meanwhile, Missouri taxpayers are suffering through the worst economic climate since the Great Depression."

Just how large are some of these pensions?

The Parkway School District topped the educators list, with 15 employees - mostly or all administrators - making the top 100, at an estimated annual cost of $1.7 million, or $73 million over the lifetimes of the workers.

Kirkwood schools came in next, with 13 employees on the list at a cost of $1.5 million per year, or $63 million over their lifetimes.

In total, the top-100 educators averaged about $115,000 each annually.

The study's top overall payout went to Parkway's former superintendent, Robert Malito, who is collecting an estimated $175,448 in retirement, or about $7.5 million over his lifetime.

Wow. Can you believe this? Look at this list of teachers and administrators and be prepared to be amazed at the amount of tax payer dollars that are being spent for pensions that a private industry worker cannot even believe to expect through his/her 401K. Wouldn't most privately employed retirees be eager to retire at $175,000 a year in his/her retirement?

The next time your school district comes to you for a tax increase and tells you it's "all for the children", take along this list and determine how much some of your district employees are being paid out over their lifetimes. No wonder public education costs so much these days.

For a detailed report on how teacher pensions are fast becoming a trillion dollar taxpayer liability, read the Forbes article "The Teacher Pension Nightmare".

Monday, August 15, 2011

This is the Most Entertaining Explanation of the Education Reform Debacle to Date

This is a humorous (albeit dark) explanation of the education reform plan that has been many years in the making. It lays out the major players and their influence in American public education. The "educational reform movement" has truly been bi-partisan, and according to this scenario painted by the movie, the American people are dealing with power hungry philanthropists and politicians from both sides of the aisle.

This comes to you from "Gates & The Land of Oz; OII, NCLB & RTTT".


Gates & The Land of Oz: OII, NCLB, & RTTT

Guardian of the Emerald City Gates

Guardian of the Emerald City Gates: “Who rang that bell?”
Dorothy, Scarecrow, Cowardly Lion, Tin Woodsman: [all four together] “We did!”
Guardian of the Emerald City Gates: “Can’t you read?”
Scarecrow: “Read what?”
Guardian of the Emerald City Gates: “The notice!”
Dorothy: “What notice?”
Guardian of the Emerald City Gates: “It’s on the door – as plain as the nose on my face! It… oh… “

Guardian of the Emerald City Gates: [gasps] “The Wizard? But nobody can see the Great Oz! Nobody’s ever seen the Great Oz! Even I’ve never seen him!” [All Oz quotes, as taken from IMB, Favorite Quotes of the Wizard of Oz]

Based on the No Confidence Vote by NEA for the past two years awarded to Arne Duncan, you would think he was the man behind the curtain in the Land of Oz. This surreal classic tale is rife with reality in the Department of Education, and the Neo-Corporatocracy hostage government. Today I am writing to expose the REAL man behind the curtain of NCLB and RTTT in the Land of Oz.

Duncan as "Wicked Witch of the West" and Dorothy as "Public Schools"

Duncan’s role suddenly switches to become the Wicked Witch.

Wicked Witch of the West: “Ring around the rosie, a pocket full of spears! Thought you were pretty foxy, didn’t you? Well! The last to go will see the first three go before her! And your mangy little dog, too!”

Public Ed Caught in Storm of Century Between Forces of NCLB and RTTT

Public education is caught F5 storm of century, 2 fronts which have been building pressure like a freight train crashing down on children and teachers, NCLB and RTTT. Who is behind the scenes of this storm?

I’ve found the data, that 4 letter word teachers across the land have all begun to hate… the data that exposes the man behind the curtain of NCLB & RTTT…

Wizard of Oz: “Do not arouse the wrath of the great and powerful Oz. I said come back tomorrow.”

The evidence that backs up my dogmatic thinking came yesterday from a site called AllGov- Everything Our Government Really Does.

What is lurking behind the curtain of the Department of Education, NCLB, and RTTT?

The Office of Innovation and Improvement [OII]

Overview: “Located within the Department of Education, The Office of Innovation and Improvement (OII) manages various grant programs, ranging from charter schools to dropout prevention, and coordinates the public school choice and supplemental education services that are provided under the No Child Left Behind Act. In managing these grant programs and implementing new educational reforms, OII attempts to improve student achievement, increase parental awareness, and prepare the educational system, both technologically and instructionally, for more advanced learning.

What it does: The Office of Innovation and Improvement was created in order to help manage the spending of money created by the No Child Left Behind Act. In addition, the OII decides how to distribute the funds of its 28 grant programs (see below). When distributing these funds, their main goal is to improve student achievement, increase parental awareness, and keep the education system up to date. The OII is also responsible for administering earmarks, which are funds allocated by Congress to be spent on predetermined projects.

The Flying Monkeys of Earmark Funds governed by OII:

OII Grants and Initiatives

Who is lurking behind the curtain of OII, pulling the strings of NCLB & RTTT?

“James H. Shelton III has served as assistant deputy secretary for innovation and improvement since April 2009, putting him in charge of the U.S. Department of Education’s Office of Innovation and Improvement. In this position, he oversees the $650 million Investing in Innovation Fund. President Barack Obama pledged to prohibit government employees from doing business with former employers.

However, Shelton was granted a waiver to deal with the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, for which he worked for more than five years prior to joining the Obama administration.” – [All-Gov, DOE, OII]

Clearly, James H. Shelton, III worked under the Bush Administration to govern the funding for Bush’s schtick, NCLB, and through the waiver was a hand-me-down to then govern the funding of Obama’s carrot RTTT.

But Shelton is just one of the many Flying Monkeys, leaving Duncan to act as the Wicked Witch.

Based on Shelton’s 5 years at the Gates Foundation, we know who the real man behind the curtain is now.

Bill Gates is Behind the Curtain in the Land of NCLB and RTTT

Wizard of Oz: [speaking in a booming voice into microphone]

“I am the great and powerful… “
[then, realizing that it is useless to continue his masquerade, moves away from microphone, speaks in a normal voice]

Bill Gates is exposed as the man behind the curtain who pulls all the strings for NCLB & RTTT.

Gates, Duncan, and the Flying Monkeys Hold Public Ed Hostage

The Great and Powerful Oz, the Wicked Witch of the West, and the Flying Monkeys are still alive, all of them covering the skies of every state in a Murder of Flying Monkeys, snatching up the PUBLIC, locking them up behind the Gates of the Emerald City, forever to be kept out of public education. Truth is stranger than fiction!

Sunday, August 14, 2011

The Three R's of Education Today: Redistribution, Retribution and Repudiation

The three R's used to represent what children learned in school: Reading, 'Riting and 'Rithmetic. Those three R's were the basic principles and goals for public education, but we are under new rubrics in the educational arena. The modern and not so improved three R's currently coming from the Department of Education (and other Federal agencies) are Redistribution, Retribution and Repudiation.

What is Redistribution in Education? The USDA is involved with the Department of Education and the USDA will be providing for breakfasts and lunches schools served in public schools through the "Community Eligibility Option". The official announcement states:

Section 104(a) of the Healthy, Hunger Free Kids Act of 2010 amended section 11(a)(1) of the Richard B. Russell National School Lunch Act (42 U.S.C. 1759a(a)(1)) (the law) to provide an alternative to household applications for free and reduced price meals in high poverty local educational agencies (LEAs) and schools. This alternative is referred to as the Community Eligibility option.

To be eligible, LEAs and schools must meet a minimum level of students directly certified for free meals in the year prior to implementing the option; agree to serve free lunches and breakfasts to all students; and agree to cover with non-Federal funds any costs of providing free meals to all students above amounts provided in Federal assistance. Reimbursement is based on claiming percentages derived from the percentage of students directly certified. (emphasis added)

The claiming percentages established for a school in the First Year are guaranteed for a period of four school years and may be increased if direct certification percentages rise for that school.

The law requires that the Community Eligibility option be phased in over a period of several years. As a result, the Community Eligibility option is available in eligible LEAs and schools in three States selected by Food and Nutrition Service (FNS) for the school year (SY) beginning July 1, 2011. An additional four States will be added for each SY beginning July 1, 2012, and July 1, 2013. The option is available nationwide to all eligible LEAs and schools beginning July 1, 2014.

It is currently offered in Illinois, Kentucky and Tennessee. Here is a question and answer document on the program in the Springfield, Illinois district. It verifies this is open to all students in the pilot school (regardless of income) and the process will require no paper work from the parents as the information will be pulled from...a database on families. The data will come from such government records recording homeless students and Head Start (school records), and Food Stamps and Temporary Assistance to Needy Families (Health and Human Services Department).

This is just the start of the longitudinal data base at work. It will identify needy families so the government will be ready to assist families at a finger stroke. And even if your family is not in that economic group, your child can still receive a free breakfast and lunch. It's as if it's a continuation of the free lunches in the summer for some communities. What benevolence on behalf of our cash strapped Federal government. Oh, but not so fast. Remember, the state will have to pay for what the Federal government won't cover. We know our states have cash to make up any deficits arising from this bill, right?

This is redistribution of resources that doesn't stop at the food line. Clinics are springing up in schools as well, so now the parents don't have to worry about feeding or obtaining medical care for their children. This article is about the $14 Million Federal Grant just for the state of California to expand its school medical clinics. When and if the Pre-K Race to the Top Initiative is enacted, your state will also be required to care for children from birth.

Retribution is parceled via impossible mandates and unrealistic goals. If a state can't meet these unreachable benchmarks, the DOE can mandate "turnaround models" which operate under Federal mandates. The Department of Education does not exist to "help" states. The Federal Government should not be directing any programs for the states in the first place. There is no "partnership" between the Federal government and the states. The states were given the authority to check the Federal government's encroachment in state decisions, and the Federal government should not be dictating and mandating to states' educational policies. It doesn't have the authority to set these mandates and the retribution it throws around is untenable.

And what does Repudiation represent? It is the repudiation of the rights of local communities and states to set educational standards for their own citizens. It represents the reality of a totalitarian democracy.

The three R's just aren't what they used to be. Does anyone think this new version will help children learn more effectively?

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