"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, December 31, 2011

Teaching Human Capital Widgets to Behave More Like Humans

What is the most important subject a student studies in school today?  It might surprise you what one school believes is the path to success for a student.

Arne Duncan would have you believe math, science, and technological courses are THE paths for students to succeed.  Patrons of the arts bemoan the cuts taking place in music and visual arts.  English teachers are concerned that fictional readings are being phased out in favor of non-fiction; there's no time to read for pleasure or to tweak creative thinking.

Shop classes are a blast from the past as technical, hands on skills are frowned upon in this era of computerization.  Even though we're told that childhood obesity is a pervasive problem in the United States, physical education classes are being cut because the new assessments are taking too much time for children to play.

Some education gurus insist classes be taught for:
  • healthy eating
  • bullying
  • sex education
  • diversity training

It seems as if every group has its own agenda for what's important for human capital.  These small human capital widgets need to perform and be trained for the workforce so they can become productive workers for the Department of Education, Department of Labor, and Department of Health and Human Services.  Happy and productive workers mean a happy and productive country.  Does this sound a bit like China's view of its citizens?

It does to me.  A child's individuality and personality is being wiped away for the efficiency and good of the country and a specific agenda. In the quest to never be judgmental toward anyone (regardless of behavior or actions) and being raised by parents and in a society with this same attitude, students are lacking an important skill.  What is that missing quality in some students that is all important in 'life skills'?  According to a state school in England, these students have not learned...manners.

The school has decided that etiquette must be taught to state students not to necessarily give them a moral center and to treat others as they would like to be treated (I suppose that's too much like the Golden Rule)...it's to make them more employable.

Students will learn such skills as:
  • posture
  • dressing for success
  • how to eat properly
  • clear speech and voice training

In fact, there are etiquette lessons for three year olds in Britain to ensure proper behavior as they grow up so they can become useful citizens.  From a commenter on etiquette lessons for the 16 year olds:

This ties in neatly with the PMs idea about improving family life.  However, it seems to also take it as read that families no longer have the input into their children’s upbringing that they once had.

This situation and the one that Mr Cameron seeks to improve have arisen from several generations of poor parenting.  Whilst he is to be commended for trying to change this situation by using an interlocutor, I believe that he will be disappointed with the outcome.  There needs to be an understanding of how this process of family degradation developed.

The fact that many parents do not now have the time or the inclination to help their children through the ways of natural parenting is not only sad but it is also a dereliction of duty.  Teachers, social workers and the police do not and cannot offer a separate way of teaching children that will allow parents to abrogate their responsibilities.

Will this be another new social program adopted in schools, teaching behavior and good manners traditionally reserved (and expected) for families to impart?  What purpose do families serve (other than paying taxes and supplying the children for the public education system) if students do not even know basic etiquette?  How can parents be held accountable so the schools can return to teaching academic subjects instead of teaching students how to behave so they can land a job and then keep it?  There actually is some accountability in this situation as the parents are being asked to pay toward the classes their children have to take because the parents did not/could not/would not teach them appropriate social behavior.  The parent's lack of initiative and/or laziness is costing them financially and should be a source of embarrassment for the parents and students.

Miss Manners must be aghast at this serious breach of etiquette by parents.  It takes time away from the academic teaching to their children, and instead focuses on how to make them behave responsibly so they can become employable.  Teaching etiquette is reserved for the parents, not the state.  Parents should want what is best for their child so he/she will become a worthwhile and decent person.  The state wants the student to behave well because that is what's best for the state to succeed.   Learning and integrating etiquette in daily life for the purpose of becoming a decent and caring person is much different than learning it to advance the cause for the workforce.  

Here's a question about the data to be gathered on students on the longitudinal data base to be provided to the workforce: how will rating manners and etiquette fit onto a spreadsheet?  The skills learned from the touted 21st century goals in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Math) may fit well in data collection...human behavior and/or personal skills, not so much.  Maybe human capital widgets really aren't widgets at all.   

Thursday, December 29, 2011

Teachers Sing about "Common Core Magic". Are They Under a Spell?

Teachers appear once more on youtube singing about Common Core standards.   This version from South Dakota is described as a...Blues song written collaboratively by Scott Simpson and South Dakota 9-12 English Language Arts teachers working on disaggregating and implementing the new Common Core State Standards. 

According to the song, teachers have the "Common Core Blues", feel stressed out and confused, but ultimately, they know the standards are the answer to educational woes.   

Read the lyrics and remember, teachers, taxpayers and students have been sold out by the politicians, unions and special interests to get these standards adopted.  As professionals, teachers should be rising up and refusing to be trained in unproven, untested and unconstitutional methods of educating children using taxpayer money. 

Collaboration and using standards in South Dakota (that are also used in Alabama and Philadelphia PA) won't necessarily 'create success'.  The song says the teachers are looking for "Common Core Magic".  That might be one kind of magic teachers don't want to conjure up.  It creates bureaucratic nightmares, underfunded mandates and loss of any local and/or state educational control.  This video about common core standards invokes the use of prayer, but prayer won't help this disastrous educational edict.  It's beyond redemption.

Here are the lyrics and the video:


Got to get me some standards

Some standards I can use...
Yeah, I'm here with my computer
And my DIS-AG-GRE-GATIN' shoes
I got 'em bad, I got 'em good,
These Common Core Blues...

Well, I'm just an English teacher searchin'
Sittin' waitin' for a sign
You know there's somethin' heavy on my brain...
And it's standard 11-12 RL9
Gotta keep pushin', though my head hurts,
Keep tellin' myself, it's all gonna be fine!

We come from 'cross South Dakota,
Our training is the key.
We're here for COL-LAB-O-RATION,
COL-LAB-O-RATION for our posterity.
So we're singin' this here blues song
Just to save our sanity.


Gotta check out all this info 
Common Core magic's what we seek,
Gotta toss the dusty garbage
From our lessons, oh, are we gonna tweak!
Gotta spread the word to all the peeps
Rusty relics are gonna FREAK!

In preppin' my lessons
I gotta shift into rewind
I want 'em to KNOW, UNDERSTAND & DO
So we won't be drivin' blind.
No, I don't wanna leave 'em,
Don't want to leave all those students behind!

Oh, but Time, she's against me
Tryin' to align standards I can use-
Gonna, pray to the inservice gods
Pray, pray to the inservice muse...
Please please give us the time,
The time to plan, align and light the fuse!

Cause those students are comin' in
From 'Bama, Philadelphia PA
They're bringin' all sorts of skill sets
(Who can make sense of this anyway?)
Well the common Core Standards
Are gonna hook us up, hook us up for success today.


Many have been here before...
Many will come this way again.
Challenges? Yeah, we can name a few!
But now, fellow teachers, we must begin!
Continuity, communication, and materials...
Finish this by..wait, finish this by WHEN?

See, I gotta tell you somethin'
It ain't easy to make a change!
This whole process 
Is really kinda strange.
How am I gonna use this
Back down home, on the Range?

Guess I gotta change my way of thinkin'
With this new Common core...
Gonna have to help ALL my students
To face the world with a roar!
Yeah, yeah-bring it on DOE...
What move is in store?

Chorus 2X

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

The Department of Education Just Won The Data Jackpot

Emmett McGroarty, executive director of the Preserve Innocence Initiative of the American Principles Project and Jane Robbins, a senior fellow with the APP, wrote a great opinion piece that was featured in today's New York Post regarding the new access the Federal Dept of Education just granted itself to a wide range of data about your children.  We are including it here in its entirety for your convenience.
Would it bother you to know that the federal Centers for Disease Control had been shown your daughter’s health records to see how she responded to an STD/teen-pregnancy-prevention program? How about if the federal Department of Education and Department of Labor scrutinized your son’s academic performance to see if he should be “encouraged” to leave high school early to learn a trade? Would you think the government was intruding on your territory as a parent? 
The government will have the ability to look at
any data they want to regarding your child.
Under regulations the Obama Department of Education released this month, these scenarios could become reality. The department has taken a giant step toward creating a de facto national student database that will track students by their personal information from preschool through career. Although current federal law prohibits this, the department decided to ignore Congress and, in effect, rewrite the law. Student privacy and parental authority will suffer
How did it happen? Buried within the enormous 2009 stimulus bill were provisions encouraging states to develop data systems for collecting copious information on public-school kids. To qualify for stimulus money, states had to agree to build such systems according to federally dictated standards. So all 50 states either now maintain or are capable of maintaining extensive databases on public-school students. 
The administration wants this data to include much more than name, address and test scores. According to the National Data Collection Model, the government should collect information on health-care history, family income and family voting status. In its view, public schools offer a golden opportunity to mine reams of data from a captive audience. 
The department’s eagerness to get control of all this information is almost palpable. But current federal law prohibits a nationwide student database and strictly limits disclosure of a student’s personal information. So the department has determined that it can overcome the legal obstacles by simply bypassing Congress and essentially rewriting the federal privacy statute. 
Last April, the department proposed regulations that would allow it and other agencies to share a student’s personal information with practically any government agency or even private company, as long as the disclosure could be said to support an evaluation of an “education program,” broadly defined. That’s how the CDC might end up with your daughter’s health records or the Department of Labor with your son’s test scores. 
And you’d have no right to object — in fact, you’d probably never even know about the disclosure. 
Not surprisingly, these proposed regulations provoked a firestorm of criticism. But on Dec. 2, the Department of Education rejected almost all the criticisms and released the regulations. As of Jan. 3, 2012, interstate and intergovernmental access to your child’s personal information will be practically unlimited. The federal government will have a de facto nationwide database of supposedly confidential student information. 
The department says this won’t happen. If the states choose to link their data systems, it says, that’s their business, but “the federal government would not play a role” in operating the resulting mega-database. 
This denial is, to say the least, disingenuous. The department would have access to the data systems of each of the 50 states and would be allowed to share that data with anyone it chooses, as long as it uses the right language to justify the disclosure. 
And just as the department used the promise of federal money to coerce the states into developing these systems, it would almost certainly do the same to make them link their systems. The result would be a nationwide student database, whether or not it’s “operated” from an office in Washington. 
The loosening of student-privacy protection would greatly increase the risks of unauthorized disclosure of personal data. Even the authorized disclosure would be limited only by the imaginations of federal bureaucrats.
Unless Congress steps in and reclaims its authority, student privacy and parental control over education will be relics of the past
Read original: http://www.nypost.com/p/news/opinion/opedcolumnists/how_the_feds_are_tracking_your_kid_xC6wecT8ZidCAzfqegB6hL#ixzz1hrKISgfc.

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Will the Joplin & Kirkwood School District Playbooks of 'Educational Equity' Doom Private Preschool Providers?

It's government to the rescue.  Or is it?  Joplin Missouri suffered a devastating tornado earlier this year.  Lives were lost, properties destroyed and services delayed.  A result of the tornado was a disruption in child care provision as many private centers were destroyed.

Private business owners tried their best to adapt to these circumstances such as day care center owner Diana Heckmaster.  From the Joplin Globe:

She and her daughter own The Learning Tree, which opened in a temporary location at 101 Plaza Drive after the May 22 tornado.  At her old location, she was licensed for 56 children, with 46 enrolled. At her new home, she’s licensed for 48, but is at 30 with no waiting list. She said she expects to be licensed for as many as 88 children after a state inspection in January.

This private citizen should be patted on her back for her nimbleness and plan of action after a disaster.  The government should be delighted it has private taxpaying citizens contributing to the pot of state funding.  But alas, this is not the case:

The Joplin School District has announced plans to expand its day care openings to accommodate up to 600 children by next August — 425 more than the district serves now.  Orem said that if the district saw a need to go beyond the 600 children planned for next August, it would expand further. The district would likely have to hire at least 20 more teachers for 600 children, Orem said, to fulfill required provider-to-child ratios. The day care would be open to the community, not just district employees who have children that age.

Why does the district believe there is a need for the government to provide day care for its students?  The article states that 24 of the 35 centers have reopened.  One day care provider said that many residents left the area after the tornado and many centers are not at capacity at this time.  

Apparently the district believes only public education can provide what small children "need" and it is exists to help those parents who don't want to pay for childcare.  The bureaucracy's only goal is to help students and families:

Orem said there are many benefits for children who attend early childhood centers, including better pre-reading skills, more extensive vocabularies and stronger basic math skills.

She said the district’s goal of improving graduation rates is also tied to day care, since children who attend day care have higher graduation rates.

Told that some local providers didn’t see the need for the school to create spots for up to 600 children, and that they were worried the school might undercut their business, Orem said: “We’re not trying to take away from any preschools or day care or home care. We were told that there has been a need and there were waiting lists with people taking buses to Webb City and Carl Junction and parents weren’t working, or that licensed day care was too (expensive).

“I understand the day cares’ position. I know that they want to keep their day cares full and we are not trying to compete with them at all. We just want to make sure the need is filled. There was a need before the storm and a need now, and it’s going to take time to build back.”

I would like to read those studies she cites on educational progress for children in day care centers.  I've read studies where daycare has been shown to not be beneficial to young children, and in fact, any gains made by children are negated by third grade.  You can see how this is advancing.  My school district (Kirkwood) implemented "free" kindergarten this past month at an initial cost of $850,000. 

You can figure out the scenario.  When the test scores for 5 year olds aren't where the consortia believe they should be, we will institute "free" preschool.  This universal "free" preschool was seriously debated in our long-term educational vision for the state, Educated Citizenry 2020.  One senator involved in the plan said "it is gathering dust on the shelf".  I'm not sure that is true.

According to the article:

The at-risk students at Joplin Early Childhood qualify for federal Title I funding so their families don’t have to pay for services.  

The families don't pay for the service, but taxpayers do.  This isn't fair to middle class parents, though, (this was the "educational equity" argument from our superintendent to open the "free" kindergarten program to all students) so now the districts must offer this to families who can afford unmandated programs:

Orem said children from middle-income families have the hardest time finding quality day care because low-income families qualify for Head Start and other programs, but middle-class families do not.

Look for what's happening in Joplin (with the excuse of a tornado) and brace for it coming to your district soon.  It's wrapped in these terms and beliefs:
  • "educational equity"
  • the government is responsible for the cost of educating ALL children (regardless of income) from birth 
  • skewed or nonexistent studies on the benefit of preschool education tied to long term educational benefit
  • the cessation of private companies providing childcare services since it is now "free" to all families
  • the arrogant attitude of public school bureaucrats stating the public system will provide better pre-reading skills, more extensive vocabularies and stronger basic math skills
Start recognizing the circular arguments and half truths from the districts:
  • these programs are not "free"...the cost is funded by the Federal government, state government and/or the district via taxes
  • the government does not necessarily provide better services than private industries 
  •  by using taxpayer money, districts are relegating many private day care providers to the unemployment line, and the taxpayers will have a double taxburden supporting more public employees AND unemployed private employees.  

From two other day care providers:

“You look at the providers that have lost everything and they’re still trying to open back up, and if the school is going to open it up, I don’t know if there’s going to be enough kids,” Gould said. “It could put some of us that are small-business people at a different standpoint.”

Kid’s Corner, 2602 S. Wall Ave., also was destroyed in the tornado. Owner Terri Malcom said the center is rebuilding on the same location and hopes to open in April. It is licensed for 60 children.

“It will hurt us bad and they’re going to use our own tax dollars to do it. Doesn’t feel very fair.”  


Monday, December 26, 2011

What did your kids (or kids you know) receive for Christmas? Will those Gifts Make them Creators or Consumers?

Blogger David McElroy has an article about the Christmas presents children receive and how these presents reveal what adults expect of them.   He has some interesting thoughts on how children learn to create (or not).  

I remember one of my favorite gifts at Christmas when I was seven years old.  It was a small collapsible metal desk with a matching chair.  What wonderful memories I have about that desk!  I spent countless hours at that desk writing and creating art.  It represented a blank slate where ideas and creativity were allowed to come forth.  What sort of toys caused your imagination to percolate?  

From David McElroy:

The gifts we give children shape them and reveal what we expect of them

by David McElroy

For many children, the passing of years is marked by when they got for Christmas. There was the train set when I was 3 (which you see above), walkie talkies and a “spy kit” when I was 9, chemistry set and electrical experiment kit when I was 11, and books for most years thereafter. The things I got seemed to reflect who I was and how the people around me saw me. I wonder how much our childhood gifts shape us?

I’m thinking about this because of different presents I’m seeing for kids around me today. Two contrasting examples stand out, because they represent entirely different approaches, at least in my mind.

A couple of my friends have a beautiful and charming young daughter named Linnea. Among Linnea’s Christmas pictures this morning, there’s a whole series of her with her 36 new containers of Play-Doh. She looks happy, and it makes me imagine all the things she’s going to pull out of her little imagination and bring to life with those little pieces of modeling clay.

A 12-year-old neighbor of mine named Joseph came running over to me excitedly a couple of hours ago to tell me that he had gotten an iPhone 4S for Christmas. He knows that I have an iPhone and he’s told me about wanting one before, so he couldn’t wait to tell me about his.

Nobody could accuse me of not thinking the iPhone is a great gift. (An iPhone that I gave someone four years ago stands out as the Christmas present I’ve been most happy to give so far.) But as I thought about different things that kids can get — and what those things represent — that Play-Doh looked better and better.

It’s not really fair to compare what you give a 12-year-old and what you give a 3-year-old, but these still represent different philosophies, it seems. One represents being more passive — consuming content — while the other represents a blank slate that can become anything. Many of the things that kids receive today — smartphones, gaming devices, media players and so forth — are all about being passive. I wonder if that is going a long way toward creating a generation that’s more comfortable consuming content than creating it.

Linnea’s parents are both artists. They don’t do it for a living, but they’ve both made films and have creativity and insight about the world around them. It seems to me that the dozens of containers of Play-Doh reflect that creativity — and they reflect that they want her to create, rather than just be a passive consumer.

I don’t object to kids getting iPhones — although it surpasses everything I could have even imagined when I was 12 — but I wonder whether we help them in the long run with presents like that. Maybe I’m wrong. Maybe it’s not a big deal. But I just know something inside me says they’d be better off with someone that would encourage them to make things instead of consume things.

Decades after I got that train set when I was 3, I still have parts of it. The engine and tender sit proudly on a bookshelf near my desk. That’s it below. I used and abused it as a kid. I pulled the engine out. I broke parts of it. I fixed what I broke. The cow-catcher from the front is missing today. I learned to imagine it was something more than it was. I made up (and even recorded) stories that would embarrass me for you to hear today.

But that train and others that followed were things that required my imagination. They helped shape me. They made me a creator rather than just a consumer. I think that’s a good thing.

Linnea might not still have her Play-Doh decades from now. (I suspect it will have dried out by then.) But I suspect she will keep a sense of imagination that will be fostered by parents who want her to be creative. Joseph will be a consumer with his iPhone, but there will be no lasting impact. I know which one I think got the better present today, even if Joseph wouldn’t understand that.

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