"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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Thursday, October 25, 2012

Hydra Lernaia AKA Race to the Top: Camdenton MO Superintendent Needs to Study Greek Mythology

...or Race to the Top.  The monster with many heads.

The Camdenton MO School Board met this week to discuss whether to apply for Race to the Top funding.   The funding would be supplied to Camdenton schools directly from the Federal Department of Education.  Since the State of Missouri didn't win its two proposals for Race to the Top funding, the DOEd decided to bypass state agencies directly and award monies to districts and establish yet another version of Race to the Top.

Sit with that thought for a moment.  The Federal Government has bypassed a state agency to give money directly to local districts.  Why do we even need state agencies to be the middle man for federal funding to schools?  Why not just let the Federal government take over local districts and dictate how/what those districts teach?

This is the scenario this endless round of "free" money from the Federal government creates.  But the secret the superintendents don't tell the taxpayers is it's not free.  It creates underfunded mandates and never ends.  The taxpayers are on the hook for the mandates (not set by their local districts) and the funding of the programs when the funds run out.  This has all been accomplished without a vote by the taxpayers.

Here is some advice to Superintendent Tim Hadfield, Dr. Gail White, Board Member Selynn Barbour and Pat Gilman of State Fair College, proponents of this district RTTT grant:  study Greek mythology and Hydra Lernaia:

HYDRA LERNAIA was a gigantic, nine-headed water-serpent, which haunted the swamps of Lerna. Herakles was sent to destroy her as one of his twelve labours, but for each of her heads that he decapitated, two more sprang forth. So with the help of Iolaos, he applied burning brands to the severed stumps, cauterizing the wounds and preventing regeneration. In the battle he also crushed a giant crab beneath his heel which had come to assist Hydra. The Hydra and the Crab were afterwards placed amongst the stars by Hera as the Constellations Hydra and Cancer.

Race to the Top is education's modern Hydra Lernaia.  It keeps coming back in various forms, mandates and financial carrots to cash strapped districts unable to satisfactorily accomplish impossible Federal educational goals.  It's no wonder Common Core wants to focus on scientific text.  If students/teachers/administrators/board members were exposed to the truths via mythological stories about monstrous programs in their everyday lives designed to take away personal/professional autonomy to create a managed workforce, they would have brought fire to the first Race to the Top program and burned the RTTT monster to a crisp.

The MexicoLedger.com covered the Camdenton School Board meeting:

Before the full discussion about the grant, community members expressed their concerns with Race to the Top. Many had unanswered questions. Nancy Osborne of Camdenton asked what type of involvement the federal government would have in the district if they were chosen as a recipient and what type of involvement teachers have had in writing the grant proposal among other things. "Money is not going to make students read. Teachers teach students how to read," Osborne said. Another resident, Brenda Goodman, asked what happens when the grant money is spent. She raised concern about the federal government's involvment, as well. "I don't like federal government intrusion on local school districts," Goodman said.

Various other residents spoke concerning their lack of information on the topic. Some board members echoed their concerns. "What message are we sending to them [teachers] that we aren't including them?" John Beckett said. Board Member Jim Besankez questioned how much extra work this grant would create for teachers.

The Camdenton School Board is following the Nancy Pelosi style of governance.  It wants to sign onto the program before it knows what's in it or how much it will cost the taxpayers.  Questions on specifics remain unanswered.  You can't finance a personal budget as does Pelosi or this local school board, but your government can spend your money with impunity on untested, unproven and underfunded theories/practices.

Here are the questions and issues the Camdenton School Board should have focused on instead of listening to yet another head of Hydra Lernaia Race to the Top talking heads, from truthinamericaneducation.com:

Making school districts directly beholden to the federal Department of Education undermines, rather than advances, local control.
  • Announced by the US Department of Education (USDOE) on May 22, 2012, this program is designed to bypass states and go directly to local districts to persuade them to accept strings-attached federal grants. In this way, USDOE can undermine sovereign state decisions with which it disagrees.
  • The competition consists of a $400 million fund that will lure applications from eligible districts or groups of districts (defined as those serving at least 2,500 students, 40% or more of whom qualify for free or reduced-price lunch).
  • Districts will be expected to “create plans for individualized classroom instruction aimed at closing achievement gaps and preparing each student for college and career.”
  • “Eligibility . . . will be determined by a district’s demonstrated commitment to RTT’s four core reform areas.” These core areas include adopting standards acceptable to USDOE and building massive student-data systems.
  • Among the 17 categories of vague promises the competing districts must make is the requirement that they show they can track students from pre-K through college, and tie student outcomes back to individual teachers.
  • One of the more bizarre requirements is that competing districts promise to implement evaluation systems that consider student outcomes – not just for teacher and principal performance, but also for district superintendents and school boards. Is USDOE suggesting it can fire school boards if it deems them inadequate? Where does Arne Duncan get the authority to tell individual districts how to do their job?
  • The competition “offers competitive preference to applicants that form partnerships with public and private organizations to . . . offer services that help meet students’ academic, social, and emotional needs . . . .” So local schools will have to answer to School Superintendent Duncan for whether students are well-adjusted socially and emotionally.
  • This district-level program is a full-scale assault on state sovereignty. It is a power-grab through which the federal government will skirt citizens’ elected statewide bodies and negotiate directly with school districts to embrace federal policy. It will also undermine the state governmental structure by grouping school districts together on policy decisions and thereby making it more difficult for the group do disengage from federal programming.


  1. The community is concerned about the federal government controlling their district as they should be, why then are they not concerned about International programs like IB? This program is probably more dangerous to the welfare of the district than the federal government, neither of which I would want involved in my school district! Parents must wakeup to what is going on in their districts! Fire Superintendents and school board members that bring such programs to their districts!

  2. Reminds me of the foreword to Richard Mitchell's "The Graves of Academe":

    "...They suggested a single theme. They were all more or less about the same thing, that special and unmistakable kind of mendacious babble that characterizes not politicians or businessmen, not Pentagon spokesmen or commercial hucksters, but, always and only, those members of the academic community who are pleased to call themselves the "professionals" of education. Those pieces, taken together, seemed to me at least a skimpy outline, or, better, scattered reference points suggesting something much larger and more momentous than a mere collection of ponderous inanities. It seemed to me that I could, from certain of those small articles, make out the murky form of the hidden monster whose mere projections they were, breaking here and there the oily surface of some dark pool.

    As a result, I abandoned the collection and undertook the task of describing, by extrapolation from one visible protuberance to another, and with a little probing, the great invisible hulk of the beast, the brooding monstrosity of American educationism, the immense, mindless brute that by now troubles the waters of all, all that is done in our land in the supposed cause of "education," since when, as you see, I can rarely bring myself to write that word without quotation marks, or even fashion a sentence less than nine or ten lines long, lest I inadvertently fail to suggest the creature's awesome dimensions and seemingly endless tentacular complexities. I will try to do better. The somber subject requires clarity...


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