"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, October 8, 2011

No Child Left Behind? How About "No Constituent Left Behind"?

This a clever take on the politicians' rantings and ravings on assessing teachers based on student scores. You would think poor scores would automatically mean poor teachers. That's what all the politicians tell us, right? They don't advance the conversation to consider individual cases, such as a teacher having a group of learning challenged students, or students whose first language is not English, or students who enter the classroom seriously under performing.

But why be bothered with those pesky issues that make students different than other students, let's go on the premise we can measure the effectiveness of teachers based on student assessments; it's all about the DATA. What should be acceptable to solely measure the effectiveness of teachers should work for other professions....right?

Welcome to a blog about measuring the effectiveness of...politicians....based on the same type of criteria for teachers. From Persephone Magazine:


My fellow Americans, and friends from other countries who have to deal with us, we are facing a national crisis. Our politicians are failing us while sucking the taxpayers dry, and it’s time we did something about it. I’m proposing new legislation on behalf of all Americans: No Constituent Left Behind.

The overarching goal of NCLB² (Political Boogaloo) will be for all elected officials to attain and maintain 100% approval ratings in order to keep their offices, by 2024. Politicians are elected to do a job, as measured by the satisfaction of their constituents. It’s time we forced them to break away from the Republican and Democratic unions and hold them accountable for their job performance, just like hard-working Americans in the private sector. If a customer service rep only pleased 40% of the people who asked for help, would that customer service rep be able to keep his/her job? Of course not!

We’ll need to collect copious amounts of data in order to prove or disprove the effectiveness of NCLB², so I propose a three-tiered plan. Triangulated data is the best kind, and since I have three collection sources it means everything I infer from the results are facts. I believe this is called “political science.”

1. Weekly high stakes constituent polling, paid for by each elected official. In addition to satisfaction levels about the candidate in question, constituents will also be polled on their quality of life. Officials with constituents who are living in poverty, lack adequate services and resources or just don’t like him/her will be marked as failing.

2. Monthly standardized tests for all elected politicians covering U.S. history, civics, international law, current events, census data, economics and ten random questions from the U.S. citizenship exam. To ensure fairness, these tests will be graded by political figures from other countries. All costs, including the cost of reporting the results to the public, will be paid by the elected officials.

3. Transparent morality monitoring. Since being a good politician means more than passing laws and kissing babies, we’ll need the ability to check in on our elected officials 24/7. To make sure we have all the information we need, this monitoring will include drug and alcohol testing, camera surveillance, GPS monitoring and regular reporting of each official’s Internet history. This, also, will be paid for by each elected official.

Refusal to comply with any of these regulations will mean all federal and local tax dollars marked for that elected official’s constituency will be redirected to those officials who comply, and the non-compliant official will be immediately fired.

All federal and local tax dollar distribution will depend on the results of these data collection measures, and how each elected official improves from one data collection period to another. For an official to make adequate progress, they must improve in each category. Failure to improve in one area means failure overall, and sanctions will still be enacted. Which will be paid for by the elected official.

The sanctions will be as follows:

1. When a politician fails to make adequate progress the first time, he or she will be required to make themselves available to each individual constituent to answer questions and explain their action plan for improvement. At this state, 10% of all federal and local tax dollars will be redirected to better performing politicians.

2. The second failure to meet expectations will result in the elected official paying each individual constituent $10 from their own pocket, as well as offering the face time mentioned above. At this stage, the official is considered under political probation.

3. The third failure will result in immediate termination and replacement. In the event a replacement can’t be found through the election process, a pool of recent college graduates from a program called “Govern for America” will be called into service.

We’ve let these mediocre officials (many of whom do not come from top-tier schools) lead us face-first into petty bickering matches, a debt ceiling and an never ending financial crisis. It’s time we stood up and demand our elected officials know what they’re doing. The only way to measure that is to make sure they can make 100% of the people the represent happy 100% of the time. Officials who fail even one of the people they represent are a blight on our national landscape.


Well, what's good for goose (teachers) should be good for the gander (politicians), right?

If all children are to be 100% proficient by 2014 according to NCLB mandates, the mandates from NCLB² for the politicians should also be reachable:

The overarching goal of NCLB² (Political Boogaloo) will be for all elected officials to attain and maintain 100% approval ratings in order to keep their offices, by 2024.

Do you think the politicians will be able to reach such a goal? If they don't, should we fire them all and start all over with a new crop? Teacher effectiveness ratings based on student assessment scores is the protocol for many politicians, so this same protocol based on constituent assessments should be used for politicians' effectiveness rating as well.

I love this idea!

Thursday, October 6, 2011

What Does the $30B in the American Jobs Act For Teachers Mean?

The White House just released a report Teachers Jobs at Risk. The report is used to justify the $30 billion included in the American Jobs Act, that we "must pass", to retain or rehire teachers.

Neal McClusky at the Cato Institute said it well in his blog:
But perhaps we are on the verge of education employment Armageddon. The administration’s report, after all, says that 300,000 elementary and secondary jobs were lost between 2008 and 2011, which seems like a big number. The report doesn’t say whether that was net or total, and it is probably a worst-case scenario, but still, that feels huge.

Huge, that is, until you see what it’s out of. In 2008 the total number of school and district employees was 6,318,395. That means a 300,000 loss was just a 4.7 percent trimming — far from humongous. To put that in students-per-employee perspective, using the latest total enrollment estimate such a cut would have taken us from a ratio of 7.9 students per employee in 2008 to about 8.2 to 1 today. In other words, it would have created a student-to-employee situation we haven’t seen since all the way back in…2003.


But what if we lost another 280,000, which is the scenario the administration if trying to scare us with for the current school year? Add that to the 300,000 worst-case loss between 2008 and today, and it would be a total edu-jobs loss of 580,000. In percentage terms that would be a 9.2 percent drop since 2008, and in student-per-staffer perspective an uptick to 8.6 kids per employee, a proportion we last saw in just 1998.

That’s regretable, perhaps, but considering the gigantic staffing increases over the decades — a near doubling since 1969 — and stagnant achievement scores, we should probably be asking why we’ve let cuts be so small up to now. And lest we forget: The nation has an over $14 trillion-and-growing debt, which threatens all of us like a gigantic asteroid hurtling toward Earth. In light of that, using taxpayer dollars to keep public schooling a perpetual jobs factory not only flies in the face of educational logic, it is fiscal and economic lunacy.

It's Confirmed! Totalitarian Democracy Alive and Well in Education.

We change the quote at the top of the MEW page from time to time and our current heading reads:

Is this Arne's Duncan plan for public education?

Totalitarian democracy is a term made famous by Israeli historian J. L. Talmon to refer to a system of government in which lawfully elected representatives maintain the integrity of a nation state whose citizens, while granted the right to vote, have little or no participation in the decision-making process of the government."

We may have been on to something other than common sense understanding of what is happening in public education; we now have a legal opinion confirming what we've been writing and saying in this blog.

Read this from Utah's Republic:


DOE Transition to Tyranny

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

The Trouble With Data

Several weeks ago, I listened to our high school principal extol the virtues of data that they will use to "guide" every one of their decisions on how to run the school. They were already collecting buckets (my word) of data that would help them tailor the curriculum and teach to the needs of students. Decisions would not be based on anecdotal evidence, nor clouded by penchants to emotional responses. From the facts, the proper course would be clear. The data would keep the school on a course for continual improvement.

My ocular muscles got quite a work out that evening. I won't even cover the fact that his school has no ability to alter the curriculum. Neither does the district school board or, I'm beginning to believe, even DESE.

Touting the virtues of data seemed just a little too Madison Avenue for promoting the longitudinal database that is working its way into the educational landscape.

This data is something we want. It's something we need. It will make us better. Cooler. Whenever they ask for it, we should be only too happy to supply it to them. WE LOVE DATA!

I wonder what the principal would do with the data I have on my son. He struggled all last year in science, barely passing the course by the skin of his teeth. In fact, by the numerous test scores (data) he accumulated, it seemed clear that he was either not putting in the effort, or was just not able to grab the basic science concepts. This was so obvious, according to the data, that he was bumped off the advanced science track for the following year.

Imagine our surprise then when we received his MAP scores for science last week and found that his scale score put him 12 points above the minimum to be categorized as being in the top Advanced achievement level. According to the MAP folks this means he has a "thorough understanding of the content at this grade level." His Terra Nova score put him better than 80% of the students nation wide.

The MAP test is designed to assess each student's comprehension of the Show Me Standards and has been the benchmark against which teacher performance is measured in this state so we must assume that it is accurate, or at least close.

So here are two sets of well documented, publicly recognized data that are in complete contrast to one another. Decisions with long range implications were made based on at least one set of these data; that my son would no longer be on the honors track in science. The other set of data not only says he could hack honors science, but he might actually have a knack for it. Unfortunately, the decision about which high school science course he would take was made way back in February when scheduling requests were due and the MAP data was not available until 10 weeks into the new school year.

What conclusions can be drawn from the data? We could probably conclude that the difference is not due to test taking anxiety, otherwise both scores would be low. We could conclude that my son chose not to work in this teacher's class, but decided it was worth the effort to do well on the MAP test. I love my son, but I don't give him enough credit to think up that effort scenario.

We could guess that the teacher was not teaching to the test which, to some, may be a plus. My son could have performed poorly on the unique information she was teaching, but gleaned enough to pass the MAP test. This would mean, however, that she was trying to teach almost twice as much material as the other grade level science teacher. I'm all for pushing kids and striving for more educational exposure, but my son's grades (and those of many other parents of advanced students who had this teacher) would indicate that this teacher is not very good at covering so much material. Given that academic performance in this particular year pegs a child's long term high school course placement, this approach to teaching the subject should have been rejected.

It would be difficult, if not impossible, to get at the truth of this data at this point. No one is doing the type of data comparison or analysis that would be needed. Once a child leaves one school for another, nobody bothers to look at the data. The old school will choose to accept the MAP score because that data has actual cash value. The parents , unless they have another child rising through the ranks, will not push for an inquiry and simply be glad to shake the dust from that school off their shoes.

Contrary to what the high school principal claimed, the data used to determine course placement did not tell the whole story so proper conclusions were not reached. Nor will anyone ever get that teacher to adjust her lesson plans because no one is looking at the comparison of her kids' classroom scores versus MAP scores. Those kids are gone. The damage is done.

The more I read about the education machine in this country, the less I worry about these kinds of decisions. I quizzed my son prior to the science final and was satisfied that he knew the information. The MAP scores confirm that. The loss is only a year until he can get his confidence back. Then I am sure he could take on the honors track again if he chooses. The kids whose parents aren't paying attention, however, may be permanently lost to science.

So the principal will have to excuse me for yawing and rolling my eyes when he touted hiss school's reliance on data for their decisions. That is an addiction that will prove as useless or destructive as any other addiction.

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

What Makes a Republican a Republican when talking about Education?

This is one of the most coherent articles explaining why supporting centralized education (as many of our state legislators support) as proposed by the present (and past) administration is NOT a conservative viewpoint.

Emmett McGroarty raises the crucial questions in this debate: Both candidates believe that public education should be accountable. The real question is accountable to whom? Should it be bureaucrats in Washington? Or should it be parents acting through the local decision-making process?

In the past (Thing 1 Bush presidency) and current administration (Thing 2 Obama presidency), parents and tax payers have had no voice or decision making ability. The current plan set forth by Arne Duncan will just give us more of the same dreadful policies.

Thing 1 is the same plan as Thing 2, except that Thing 2 has even more mandates for states, teachers, administrators and students. Is there any difference between Republican and Democrat politicians or have they all become elitists?

McGroarty starts the dialogue explaining the differences between conservative and not so conservative Republicans. Maybe the same type of article should be written explaining the difference between moderate Democrats and progressives. There are elitists in both parties selling out the American children, taxpayers and public education.


The big-government Republican instinct

By Emmett McGroarty,Executive Director of the Preserve Innocence Initiative of American Principles in Action.James Bell, Preserve Innocence Policy Advisor. - 10/03/11 04:22 PM ET

Conservatives who have been closely following the Republican debates have been looking for the candidate who rejects the “Big-Government” instinct that tempts many-a-contender. The key for primary voters is finding which issues separate the conservatives from those who are not so conservative.

In the recent Republican debate, that issue was education.

Education is a big public policy issue that gets scant media coverage during the primary season. One reason for this is that many Republicans have surrendered on the Constitutional principle that education is a local matter, where it is closest to parents.

For example, the policies of George W. Bush and Barack Obama – No Child Left Behind (NCLB) and Race to the Top (RTTT), respectively – are indistinguishable in the overall direction they take the country, towards increased federal control. To the media, that elitist-Republican surrender gives the illusion of a non-newsworthy consensus. But if you talk to Republican voters outside Washington, it’s clear that there’s a smoldering resentment about NCLB and RTTT.

In the debate, Rick Perry, who has a history of fighting the federal education takeover, accused Mitt Romney of “being in favor of the Obama Race to the Top … and that is not conservative.”

Mitt Romney blustered: “I’m not exactly sure what he’s saying. I don’t support any particular program he’s describing. I think that the President – I think the Secretary of Education Arne Duncan is doing a good thing by saying, you know what, we should insist that teachers get evaluated and schools have the opportunity to see which teachers are succeeding and which ones are failing and that teachers that are not successful should be removed from the classroom.”

Both candidates believe that public education should be accountable. The real question is accountable to whom? Should it be bureaucrats in Washington? Or should it be parents acting through the local decision-making process?

George W. Bush and Barack Obama believe that education must be made accountable to centralized bureaucrats. President Bush’s NCLB pushed a web of unfunded bureaucracy onto the states by creating a federal underpinning for state standards and tests and instituting a system for direct federal intervention to save “failing schools.” And Barack Obama’s Stimulus Bill gave us RTTT, a heavy-handed $4.35 billion funding program for which states could compete if they first committed themselves to national standards and tests.

Now, despite lacking legal authority to issue conditional waivers, Secretary Duncan has warned states that he will only waive the onerous NCLB sanctions unless they demonstrate their adoption of national standards ,run out of Washington.

The conservative view on education accountability and decision-making is consistent with, and flows from, the Constitutional framework. Herman Cain, Rick Perry, and Jon Huntsman oppose both NCLB and RTTT, and have thus demonstrated their commitment to this principle. Michelle Bachmann, Ron Paul, and Gary Johnson have gone even further – calling for the abolition of the Department of Education.

In his RTTT battle with the Obama administration, Rick Perry articulated the conservative position with clarity when he rejected national standards, tests, and curriculum: “We would be foolish and irresponsible to place our children’s future in the hands of unelected bureaucrats and special interest groups thousands of miles away in Washington, virtually eliminating parents’ participation in their children’s education.”

It’s time for all candidates to reject big-government forays into education and adhere to the truly conservative position.

Emmett McGroarty is the Executive Director of the Preserve Innocence Initiative of American Principles in Action, a 501 c (4) advocacy group affiliated with American Principles Project, a 501 c (3) public policy organization. James Bell is the Preserve Innocence Policy Advisor.



Monday, October 3, 2011

Kirkwood School District to Discuss "Free" All Day Kindergarten. Be Careful what you Wish for.

Kirkwood School District will be debating if it should provide "free" all day kindergarten. Astute folks realize this won't be "free", it will be coming out of the budget. While parents will not have to pay the $3,600 cost out of their own pockets, the taxpayers now will have that privilege.

Missouri Department of Elementary and Secondary Education (DESE) published what it envisions for an optimum Pre-K program that aligns itself with Pre-K RTTT mandates. Examining the Pre-K Race to the Top mandates Missouri recently signed onto, kindergarten parents might want to re-think their delight about not having to pay for Pre-K programs for their human capital. Constitutionally minded taxpayers might question why the State School Board and the Governor agreed to sign onto mandates that once again, take away local/state control and will cost the taxpayers even more money.

Here is the Executive Summary on the Pre-K RTTT program. Most (if any) of the $60,000,000 Missouri just received for funding will not come to Kirkwood, that funding is reserved for "low performing schools". Why be concerned, then, about these mandates when Kirkwood won't receive any of this funding to offset the additional cost necessary in the KSD district?

KSD is under the same mandates for the schools that received the money even though KSD will receive no financial assistance. Grades 1-12 are also under RTTT like mandates (we are under Common Core mandates even though we received no RTTT money for grades 1-12) and we have very little local/state control over students' education. When those Common Core standards take effect in 2014, your state/school will not be able to set their own standards or assessments. Welcome to the world of nationalized education.

Why be concerned about these mandates? They come with many strings in terms of teacher/administrator staffing, unfunded mandates and what your student learns. However, the idea of your child attending all day kindergarten with someone else paying for it sound pretty enticing, right? Kindergarten is a great concept for many parents, but what will your human capital be learning?

Do you know kindergartners in Charlotte-Mecklenberg School District took 52 tests...and why?

This is just one of the districts in states across the country -- with the support of the Obama administration-- that are implementing new evaluation systems that link teachers’ pay to test scores.

Linking teachers' pay to test scores is one hallmark of Pre-K RTTT. This will occur in KSD as well...even though we won't receive any funding from Pre-K RTTT! If you think your child's kindergarten will consist of creative playtime, learning ABC's, and learning social skills...it might. But it very well most likely also consist of enormous testing to determine if the school is in compliance of federal mandates.

Is that why you send your kindergartner to school, to test them so the school can determine the worthiness of a teacher's teaching skill? Do you believe a kindergartner can be tested effectively at 5 years old? Your child is also being tracked in a P-20 pipeline, preschool to age 20 and into the workforce to determine if his/her skills are sufficient for the workforce.

To establish a solid baseline, your kindergartner better get off to a fast start. No pressure there, right? Should we be targeting kindergartners for the workforce? For more information on how education really works today and why it is not about your child, but rather the system, read this article from democraticunderground.com. This is a truly a bipartisan issue: both Democrats and Republicans are selling you and your children for the future workforce and a nationalized system of education.

Forgive me if I am not delighted Kirkwood District is considering having the taxpayers foot the bill for kindergartners and this vision. Taken from a tweet on Twitter:

"School is not about creativity. School is about compliance" - So sad but true. Ending NCLB & RTTT would help a lot.

(For more information on this vision and its connections that have less to do with education, but more for the system, read utahrepublic.org where the above chart was obtained.)

Sunday, October 2, 2011

The Sunday Education Weekly Reader: 10.02.11

Welcome to the Sunday Education Weekly Reader. We've collected stories this week about kindergarten protocol, an economic theory from Elizabeth Warren, the curriculum of victimhood, Doug Lasken's take on the GOP, and a question for readers on fascism and if it is alive on the campus of the University of Wisconsin.

You might want to rethink about sending your human capital to kindergarten unless you like your child being tested...with 52 different tests. What happened to providing creative playtime and learning social skills?


Would you want this woman teaching her version of economics in your school district?


Does this sum up the state of education "reform" today?

"Programs provide content related to implementing strategies to combat discrimination, oppression, and economic deprivation and to promote social and economic justice" and prepare students to advocate for nondiscriminatory social and economic systems." Victimhood now defines entitlements by group to be awarded through communal sharing.

Are students considered victims rather than having the capacity for self-determination?


Here is Doug Lasken's latest piece on the lack of coherent vision from the GOP.

Is the GOP's educational vision the same as Obama/Arne Duncan's plan? Do we even have a two parties in the country as it relates to education? Why are the "conservatives" lining up with the "progressives" in education "reform"?


For our quote of the week, we're going to talk about the definition of fascism. Read this story about Professor James Miller at the University of Wisconsin and determine if you believe it is an example of "educational fascism".

Definition of FASCISM

often capitalized : a political philosophy, movement, or regime (as that of the Fascisti) that exalts nation and often race above the individual and that stands for a centralized autocratic government headed by a dictatorial leader, severe economic and social regimentation, and forcible suppression of opposition


Have a good week.

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