"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, November 19, 2011

Nancy Pelosi's New Childcare Goal is a Compelling Reason to Make Sure She is Never Speaker of the House Again. Ever.

Hotair had this posting about what Nancy Pelosi envisions for American children:

Pelosi told The Washington Post that at the top of her to-do list as the reinstated Speaker would be “doing for childcare what we did for healthcare reform.”

Yikes. If the government does for childcare what it did for healthcare reform, then that would mean government educational mandates for families and children with no real individual and/or local choice or directives in public education. That doesn't sound appealing (or Constitutional) to me, does it to you?

That's what is currently happening via Common Core standards on the K-12 level. Nationalized assessments, standards and curriculum take the pesky and constitutional duty of allowing individual states and districts from making decisions for their students. A centralized government is being foisted onto states and districts via mandates in the educational and health areas. To complete the educational circle, Pelosi wants to expand governmental intrusion (no, "assistance") in the pre-K realm now. She states:

“I could never get a babysitter — have five kids in six years and no one wants to come to your house. … And everywhere I go, women say the same thing” about how hard it is to find the kind of reliable care that would make their family lives calmer and work lives more productive. When it comes to “unleashing women” in a way that would boost the economy, she says, “this is a missing link.”

Pelosi wants to "unleash women" in a way that will boost the economy, not "nudge" them into becoming full-time mothers who nurture, teach and love the next generation. I suppose "human capital" is deemed wasted if a woman decides she wants to direct her own children's upbringing instead of turning them over to some governmental employee for pay. Pelosi makes it clear. Women are to be used in the workplace to help the country rather than stay at home to raise the children who are the family's (not the government's) primary responsibility.

How do you think farming out young children to daycare works out so the women can "boost the economy"?

Studies show that children who spend longer hours (30 hours/week) in daycare are more likely to exhibit problematic social behaviors including aggression, conflict, poorer work habits and risk-taking behaviors.

Read our previous post on "Democrats Abroad" and the platform they want the DNC to adopt on behalf of children. It seems as if Nancy Pelosi is totally on board with her vision of the government providing childcare so the women can help the economy instead of their families. What does the resolution call for and where the principles for the resolution originate?

WHEREAS education is a human right and public responsibility to provide all children and young people with the opportunity to realize their full potential (Universal Declaration of Human Rights, Article 26, UNESCO).

Health care reform is education reform is healthcare reform is education reform....it's all the same. It's centralization not based in the Constitution, but in UN declarations. There's been pushback and legal challenges by grassroots groups against healthcare "reform"...where is the outcry for the education "reform" that will only create more control and less individual freedom?

Friday, November 18, 2011

MO Chamber of Commerce Comes to the Wedding Late and Sits on the Wrong Side of the Church

Talk about being late to the party.  The MO Chamber of Commerce announced it's 2012 legisltive agenda.  With an overall focus on the worker they have also announced the need to focus on education,
“We can pass business friendly bills all legislative session, but if we fail in education, none of that matters... Our education system is the key to our future workforce. For that reason, the Missouri Chamber is preparing to take an aggressive position on education reforms 2012.

The Missouri Chamber board of directors approved a broad agenda of education reforms, many focusing on empowering the local community in its education future.

The Missouri chamber will support expanding charter schools statewide in failing school districts.

"We will support allowing charter schools to be established in any district throughout the state where the school district is unaccredited or provisionally accredited."

In addition, the Missouri Chamber will support establishing a system of merit pay for teachers.
Perhaps they just got Bill Gates' memo, that there is money to be made in education.  Too bad they didn't get Arne Duncan's memo about local control for education content going away.  They also need the report that shows merit pay does not influence student outcome.

Their platform also states, "The Missouri Chamber also will push to eliminate the state-imposed teacher tenure system."   That sure sounds great, but it was a mandatory part of the RTTT grant program.  Even though MO did not win a grant, because we spent so much money writing the grant proposal and because we asked school superintendants to sign off on the terms proposed in the grant, most school districts are implementing RTTT requirements and that includes tenure.

Their last plank, "The Missouri Chamber will also advocate that Missouri’s education system be fully funded on all levels," is a little vague.  Are they suggesting that k-12 education is not fully funded with 52% of the state budget going towards education?  Are they suggesting that college be fully funded by the state?  If all this is so they can have competent competitive workers, where is their share of the funding for the training of their future employees?

Looks like the MCC needs a little education.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Teachers - Is This Your Replacement?

McGraw Hill happily announced the nationwide distribution of their new on-line language arts software.  
Glencoe Writer's Workspace, [is] the company's first online language arts program for middle and high school students. The program offers students rigorous language arts instruction that meets the Common Core State Standards (CCSS), English language proficiency standards and college and career readiness standards in an exciting, interactive online environment. 
Writer's Workspace helps develop students' writing fluency and proficiency to handle the demands of high stakes assessments including the ACT and SAT and mastery of the Common Core State Standards. It also supports English Language Learners and students in need of intervention and provides personalized instruction to help all learners acquire the language usage skills necessary to be effective communicators. 
This program is so good it provides reading and writing instruction via a "dynamic platform" that is accessible "anytime, anywhere."  Even the grading process has been taken over by the Online Essay Grader.  The teacher's only job is to track homework and provide immediate feedback on submissions. But since the Essay Grader will be assigning the grade, it's not clear what benefit the teacher's feedback is.  As we noted here kids are pretty good at figuring out what the program wants and soon won't need feedback from a live person.

Teachers - Are you as excited about this on-line education?  Does it make you wonder why you spent all those years and dollars getting an education in teaching so you could count homework and provide extraneous feedback?

McGraw Hill is rolling out the Language Arts version this year.  Math is coming soon because both subjects are part of the CCSS, which by the way haven't been finalized yet.  Interesting how an education publisher has already developed software that "meets the CCSS" before those standards have been developed or announced. How is that possible? Hmmmm.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

A Little Good News

To hear the education reformers talk you'd think we are churning out a generation of expensive student clunkers. Bill Gates says our student performance is flat and our percentage of college graduates compared to other countries is decreasing. The President says we rank 24th (out of 30 countries) in math and 17th in science. Expensive programs haven't worked and we still have an achievement gap.

So I thought I'd share a little good news with you. The Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA) test that everyone likes to use to compare our students to those in other countries does show America's average scores rank 24th and 17th respectively. But looking at average scores for comparison is like "ranking runners based on average shoe size or evaluating the high school football team on the basis of how fast the average senior can run the 40-yard dash."- Gerald Bracey. A more meaningful statistic to pull from the PISA tests is America's ranking when it comes to top scorers.  The average student is going to work for someone else.  The top scorer is going to innovate, take risks and create jobs.  Isn't that the person we should be focusing on if the goal of education is to create the people who will save our economy?

So guess where America falls in terms of top scorers on the PISA.  We only have 25% of the total number top scoring students. Countries like Japan, Korea and Finland, which we always seem to be pointing to as the ones we should be emulating, scored 13%, 5%, and 1% respectively. The numbers given by PISA state that only 1.5% of American students scored at the highest level compared to top performing New Zealand (4%) and second place Finland (3.9%.) But it must be remembered that America has far more students taking this test than those countries.  This means that our 1.5% is something like 70,000 kids,  compared to about 2,000 for New Zealand and Sweden. Japan was second with about 33,000 top performers.

What is the economic impact of that many well educated top performers?  Japan has always performed well on these tests but that didn't stop her economy from tanking in the 1990's. Richard Rothstein believes, "The threats to a dynamic 21st century economy are likely to come from a failure of macroeconomic policy, regulation of speculation, and investment in education, not from inefficiency in the investment we already make."

Gates' claims have been disproved by the test centers he sites for his statistics. Our graduation rates have actually doubled over the last four years with the greatest gains seen in the minority community. Ireland has a higher college graduation rate, but that hasn't worked out so great for her economy.

Our politicians would do well to keep these statistics in mind when they are speaking (down) to us about the deplorable state of education in this country. We do have enough well educated people in this country who recognize their manipulation of the numbers. Certainly we have our challenges, but American education is not on the edge of the cliff of collapse.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Beware the BIRT

Today we share with you a piece by Mike Adams from Townhall.com.  His concern about the loss of freedom of speech on college campuses is another warning about the indoctrination happening in our bastions of higher education.

"I wish George Orwell were alive today. He could have seen just how right he was on such a wide range of issues. If he were still with us, I would show him an email written by University of Kentucky (UK) President Eli Capilouto. I’ve reprinted the email below. But in between each paragraph I’ve interjected some sarcastic observations.
Each fall, we welcome to campus a new class of UK students, whose wonderful backgrounds and aspirations add to the already accomplished campus community we are striving to build each day and each year. Sometimes, however, we also experience the unwelcome presence of broader societal shortcomings that insert themselves in our midst.  Each of us has to work every day--individually and collectively--to overcome the harm or prejudice that can unfortunately find expression at times in our campus community.  This can happen at many levels and among many groups.
This seems to imply that not everyone is welcomed on the UK campus – particularly if they represent “broader societal shortcomings.” The statement seems a little judgmental but also a little vague. Could it mean poor people are unwelcomed? Could it mean black people are unwelcomed? Maybe it just means short people are unwelcomed.
We encourage each person in the UK community to pledge to do his/her part on a daily basis to help protect and nurture our community.  Just as success has many mothers and fathers, so does our progress toward a more diverse and inclusive campus.

Whenever someone says “success has many mothers and fathers” I know I’m listening to a bunch of socialist garbage. It takes a village to raise a child, my fanny!

Toward this goal, several months ago we began the process of establishing a Bias Incident Response Team (BIRT).  In the next few weeks, BIRT will publish a protocol for students, to guide you in the process of what to do and what will follow whenever you are confronted with a negative bias situation.  This team includes representation from Student Affairs, Institutional Diversity, Student Government, Campus Police, Facilities Management, Institutional Equity and Equal Opportunity, Human Resources, Public Relations and Undergraduate Education.

Just what exactly is a “negative bias situation”? Is it when you try to walk into the African American Center but they won’t let you because you are white? It is when you try to enter the Women’s Center but they won’t let you because you don’t have breasts? Or is it when you try to walk into the LGBT Center and see a sign that says “No breeders allowed”?

Coincident to the formation of this committee, UK Police are investigating a flyer left last week outside the door of the CARES office building on South Limestone.  CARES, the Center for Academic Resources and Enrichment Services, offers a comprehensive academic support system as well as enrichment services to aid in increased retention and graduation rates of underrepresented students.  Last year, the center with its Student Support Services helped more than 1,200 students.

In other words, UK is about to ask the police to get involved in the regulation of “negative bias situations” (read: free speech) because of a piece of litter found outside a door. This had better be good. So let’s find out if it contained free speech or that other kind of speech (hate speech) that isn’t free.

Simply put, the flyer contained hate speech, the kind of speech that is antithetical to the values of diversity and inclusiveness that we embrace and which should define us at the University of Kentucky.

I knew it! Now, let’s find out what kind of hate speech it was.

It is a reminder about the urgency and importance of our efforts with this committee.
Please know that we will exhaust every avenue available in trying to identify the responsible parties of such incidents.  And we will pursue to the fullest possible extent these acts of hate and negative bias in the campus community.  An affront to one group or one person in our community should be understood as an affront to us all.

Good to know they are conducting an investigation. I want to find out what the note says.

Meanwhile, "if you see something, say something!"  Silence is acquiescence to the forces of hate and negative bias.  We keep each other safer when we take action, especially by immediately reporting what we know or observe to one of the following offices:
Campus Police: (859) 257-5770
I called the police but they did not call back.
Institutional Diversity: (859) 257-9293
Institutional diversity answered the phone but they didn’t know what the note said. It was just some kind of hate speech. They sent me over to Marketing and Communications. They didn’t know what the note said, either.
Student Affairs: (859) 257-6545
Institutional Equity: (859) 257-8972
Human Resources: (859) 257-9555
No luck at these three.
Please accept responsibility for helping to keep our community safe and welcoming.
Sincerely, Eli Capilouto
Since the UK president’s name was on the email I thought I would call his office to find out who left the “hate speech” note and what it said. But no one knew. Eight days into my investigation, I got a call back from Marketing and Communications. They told me the note said something derogatory about President Obama. Through persistence, I was able to ascertain the content of the note without making the university administrator engage in actual hate speech. Here’s what the note said: “PRESIDENT OBAMA IS A NIGGER.”

It’s certainly crude and it’s certainly hateful. But, like it or not, it’s free speech. But, not according to the administration at UK. They call it hate speech that is not protected. And they are ready to mobilize nine offices at UK, including the university police, to stop it. Otherwise, it would be anarchy at UK!

At UK, the thought police can sniff out a racial slur on a piece of litter on the ground outside an administrative office. And they can mobilize an entire campus to make sure that all the litter at UK is free from “negative bias.” They only allow clean litter at UK. Now, maybe they can focus on cleaning up their athletic program.

Speaking of athletic programs, the UK thought police should relocate to Penn State. If they can find a racial slur on a piece of litter, maybe they can find a child rapist in an athletic facility. Every campus community should be “safe” and “welcoming” for vulnerable populations. I’m talking about children. Let the adults fend for themselves."

Monday, November 14, 2011

Poverty vs the SAT

Last week there was a hearing on Capitol Hill on the latest ESEA bill. DC is still trying to "fix" education and the bill's 800+ pages shows us that they are working very hard to do that.  They are even trying to return control to local school districts. But things are on and off the table so frequently it looks more like the dinner rush hour at the Cheesecake Factory than a measured attempt to make public education better.  The problem may be that they are looking at everything on the dessert menu, when the problem lies more in the liver and onions main course.

University of Texas physics professor Michael Marder has looked at the data (something reformers love to use when it suits their agenda) regarding education and economics. His charts point to something that almost no one in the education debate wants to address, though it may be one of the most significant factors in education "success."

Dr. Marder looked at Texas data to see how the corporate model of standardized testing and charter schools was affecting there. The chart below plots poverty concentration against percentage of students meeting the SAT college readiness criterion. Each dot represents a single high school. The size of the dot represents the number of students who tested at that school and the color of the dot represents the ethnic/racial makeup of the school.

The chart clearly shows an inverse correlation between SAT scores and poverty. As the poverty rate goes up, as defined by qualification for reduced prices lunches,  SAT and ACT scores go down. In Texas,  and in most other places, race and ethnicity correlate with lower incomes and lower test scores. Not surprisingly, schools made up of primarily rich students do better on these tests.

Dr. Marder found this correlation in public schools and also looked for it in charter schools.  Given that charter schools were originally established under George Bush as a tactic to help low income struggling students one would hope that the correlation would at least be less for charters. In fact there does seem to be less correlation but that is because Texas charters, regardless of income level, don't come close to preparing their students for the SAT. Most are close to 0%. The idea that public schools are bad is false. For well-off white kids public schools are pretty good. Students from low income families just aren’t achieving college readiness at the level of their more wealthy peers.

This is not a condemnation of charter schools, as some have seen it. It IS an verification of something that almost every teacher in the public school system knows. Children from certain cultural backgrounds are less likely to succeed, as academic success is currently defined. This cultural influence is seen at all ends of the academic performance spectrum.

The U.S. Department of Education’s statistical and testing arm, the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES), released its latest “progress” report November 1st: The survey measured fourth- and eighth-grade scores on the National Assessment of Educational Progress, or NAEP.  A graph depicting the NAEP scores, published by Associated Press as percentage figures in the print edition of the Washington Times shows, at most, a two-percent change in both math and reading scores between 2009 and 2011. However, a standard three-percent margin of error for such statistics means, realistically, that scores did not change at all in these two years. While the report did not break out scores for Asian minorities, the who have historically done considerably better than whites, blacks or Hispanics, the statistical flat line should apply to their scores as well indicating that Asians are still doing better at the same comparative rate.

It would be interesting to find out how many Asians were in the poor performing schools and whether their scores were typical of the low income school in general. My guess is that they are not, especially if they are less than 3rd generation American.

So who wants to have a conversation about how you motivate a culture to elevate the importance of education?  To start with you have to figure out why the poor are poor.  Ultimately you have to be able to accept the findings, which may be political toxin, which is why most politicians will never address the real causes of the "performance gap."

Sunday, November 13, 2011

The Sunday Education Weekly Reader: 11.13.11

Welcome to the Sunday Education Weekly Reader for 11.13.11.

This week we'll be highlighting:
  • an example of the growing jobs in online education companies...that really don't require much knowledge in education
  • an opinion that LOWER taxes, not HIGHER taxes ensure a better education for students
  • how the cradle to grave agenda gearing up
Do you need a job? Interested in working for private industry that uses taxpayer money? Check out a job posting for Apex Learning, the leading provider of digital curriculum for secondary education to the nation's school districts. Don't worry, you don't have to be particularly innovative or know much about educational theory in many of these jobs.

A description for an Account Executive in Education reads:

The selected candidate will prospect for new business for Apex Learning digital curriculum within the assigned territory, focusing on sales of packaged solutions.

"Packaged solutions" is the future of education via Common Core standards and a nationalized curriculum. Remember that the next time you are sitting at a school board meeting and the Board members emphasize how the district aims to provide "individual instruction" to your human capital.


Why is the cost of educating children in the private realm so much cheaper than the cost of public education? Are these programs that provide vouchers for private schools a better plan for student achievement and Constitutional law?

Is it true that lowering taxes actually improves test scores?


The government wants to give out more money for education! (The Department of Education apparently hasn't read the previous linked article). It wants your child in pre-school now. THAT'S the ticket for students to become STEM ready. That's right. Those Pre-K teachers are the answer for our dismal educational test scores.

Here is a proposed government program and newly created DOE department for your human capital beginning at age 3. The government just can't wait to go into Pre-K programs for child assessments and data mined information. I don't think this is what Mr. Rogers must have had in mind when he talked to young children.


Educational thought of the day is from the book The Double Comfort Safari Club:

Mma Ramotswe thought about this. Having the right approach to life was a great gift in this life. Her father, the late Obed Ramotswe, had always had the right approach to life--she was sure of that. And for a moment, as she sat there with her friend, with the late-afternoon sun slanting in through the window, she thought about how she owed her father so much. He had taught her almost everything she knew about how to lead a good life, and the lessons she had learned from him were as fresh today as they ever had been. Do not complain about your life. Do not blame others for things that you have brought upon yourself. Be content with who you are and where you are, and do whatever you can do to bring to others such contentment, and joy, and understanding that you have managed to find yourself.

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