"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, January 21, 2012

Follow Up Story on Slaves Picking Oranges in Math Lessons

Do you remember the outcry about the math word problems for third graders which used slaves picking oranges?  The example was used to integrate history lessons into math, one of the goals of common core standards.  The parents of the students were outraged that slaves would be used in the math problems and that math shouldn't be taught in that manner.  We agreed but wondered if this was because of the push of common core standards and that history must be worked into mathematics because the time to study history has been reduced in the classroom.

Reading between the lines, I believe we were correct.  This first article from The Atlanta Journal-Constitution details some of the challenges the teacher faced:

The math assignment was sent home with more than 100 students. Among its 20 questions were word problems on slaves picking cotton and oranges. Some mentioned Douglass: "If Frederick got two beatings per day, how many beatings did he get in one week?"

“This is an unfortunate incident,” Rollins said. “I don’t believe the teacher wanted to expose those kids to anything offensive. Gwinnett County teachers are dedicated. They work hard and try on a daily basis to do the right thing.”

But mistakes can occur because the burden on teachers to create lessons, tutor kids, analyze data and complete paperwork can be daunting, especially in a district the size of Gwinnett County Schools, the state’s largest system.

Beaver Ridge principal Jose DeJesus issued a letter to parents this week on the school’s website informing them about the situation and reassuring them that teachers “embrace diversity” and are not biased.

“Our third graders have been studying famous Americans and had been reading about Frederick Douglass, a former slave,” DeJesus wrote. “These particular questions were an attempt at incorporating some of what students had been discussing in social studies with their math activity. First, let me say that I understand the parents' concerns about these questions. While I encourage our teachers to create cross curricular lessons, my expectation is that those lessons be appropriate and provide true connection between the subject areas. That did not occur in this case and we are working to ensure that this does not happen again and that this situation is handled appropriately.” (emphasis added)

The second ACJ article identifies the teacher who "resigned for personal reasons":

A Gwinnett schools investigation found former Beaver Ridge Elementary School teacher Luis Rivera was the author of a third-grade homework assignment that used slave beatings to teach math concepts.

In a statement to school officials obtained by The Atlanta Journal-Constitution Thursday, Rivera, a teacher at the school since August 2008, apologized and said some of the questions he wrote were in “poor taste.”

Rivera’s 20-question homework assignment used slave beatings and picking cotton to link lessons about ex-slave and abolitionist Frederick Douglass to math computation. One of the problems read: “If Frederick got two beatings per day, how many beatings did he get in one week?”

Rivera told officials he was following the district’s curriculum, which asks that teachers explain what Douglass had to overcome to succeed and become a hero.

Beaver Ridge teachers are asked to create cross-curricular assignments and assessments and Rivera said he was attempting to do so.

“As a minority myself, I understand the trials and tribulations associated with being a minority,” he wrote. “There was no intent to harm, or to offend. Rather, I was trying to make connections for the students, while completing my assignment of cross-curricular integration.”

The homework assignment also had questions about Mary McLeod Bethune, Susan B. Anthony and Paul Revere.

The teacher used poor judgment, but I believe Mr. Rivera when he stated he was trying to complete an apparently difficult juggling act of combining math and history lessons so as to fulfill his mandated assignment.  He should be held accountable for his insensitivity, but not blamed for trying to teach in a cross-curricular integrated mode as required by his school district.  The parents of Beaver Ridge students should read Truth in American Education to understand the travesty of common core standards and why this may very well happen again:

Some parents of Beaver Ridge students who received the assignment asked that counseling be made available for kids.

At a Gwinnett school board business meeting Thursday, Henry White, who does not have children, called the incident an "egregious act of assault on the minds of a kid by an adult" and also recommended counseling.

With all due respect to Mr. Henry White, this incident is "an egregious act of assault on the minds of a kid by the NGA, CCSSO, Governor Sonny Perdue, the Georgia State Board of Education and the adoption of the Common Core standards".  

Perhaps if the parents and Mr. White understood the impossible position the common core  standards place teachers, they would demand a return of local control and the cessation of nationalized standards and assessments.  Maybe then an education integrating history facts with math problems isn't what is considered an excellent educational model in their school, and such nonsensical teaching mandates can be thrown in the trashcan.   

The teacher's poor judgment isn't why the kids may need help, the "one size fits all" mode of education is what will lead them to mediocrity and failure.

Here's a video report from wsbtv.com on the teacher's personnel file obtained via a Sunshine Request in which he was described as an "exemplary teacher" and served on the Black History committee:

Friday, January 20, 2012

Hansel & Gretel In Teach For America

We all remember the story of Hansel and Gretel. They got lost in the woods and came across a house made of gingerbread.  Facing a candy smorgasbord in the midst of their incredible hunger was too much for them.  That was all it took for the evil witch to trap them. Only through their own cunning were they finally able to escape.

Today's Gretel is a recent college graduate wandering the business sector looking for a job and often not finding one. Along comes Teach For America who promises them the equivalent of a house made of candy.  TFA would train them, with the minimal waste of time, guarantee them job placement in a system that supplies health care and maybe even pension benefits, pay for their masters degree and maybe even their housing. Not only that, but they would work with them to get a student loan forbearance and pay their interest for the two years of their service. For many, this is too tempting an offer to pass up.  But like Grimm's Gretel, they soon find themselves trapped and facing a fiery oven.

This is not the picture TFA paints of those in their program. According to them, their ranks are filled with shiny happy people performing miracles in inner city and rural schools.

One recent teaching graduate I talked to was approached many times by TFA.  She ultimately declined to apply, but many of her friends did, and ten of them ultimately joined the ranks. None of them have stories that align with the slick image TFA's media department paints of their corp's members.

The internet is full of anecdotes, blogs and message boards filled with stories of woe from TFAers; about being ill prepared for teaching in the hard core classrooms they were sent to, about incredibly long days preparing lesson plans the TFA-way that they never got to use because the behavior issues in the classroom were so bad, about administrative leaders who were forced to take them in because of district contractual agreements who, in protest, did little or nothing to support them, about facing teacher certification exams that contained basic teaching concepts they knew nothing about.

The graduate I talked to was told she would be perfect for the teaching position she applied for in one school, but unfortunately the school was required to hold 10 positions open for TFAers, so they could not hire her. This may have been an easy way to let her down, but there are plenty of stories of other people who have heard the same line.

It would be one thing if the TFA teachers coming in actually were better teachers, but the graduate told me of a friend of hers who got in to TFA (primarily because of the financial benefits) with an undergrad degree in elementary education which qualified her to teach grades k-6.  TFA told her they didn't have any positions open in that grade range, but they would like to place her in a middle school teaching math. The new recruit informed them that math was, unfortunately, her worst subject and that she in fact was short one math course in her program. Undaunted, TFA pushed her on to take the math praxis (which she barely passed) and threw her into a 7th grade math class. TFA is counting on her personal ambition to overcome any guilt about not being the best candidate for the job. What does that say about TFA's ethics, or that of their corps?

TFA likes to brag about their record on keeping their corps members in teaching and their alumni in education in general.  But a closer examination of their own reports shows that they are playing games with the numbers. Barnett Berry, head of the Center for Teaching Quality, based in North Carolina, looked at the reports TFA points to to support their claim that 2/3 of their graduates are working in the field of education after their two year commitment.
TFA alumni are defined as those who have finished the two-year commitment. But only 87.1 percent of members completed their commitment in 2007, and dropout numbers were higher in earlier years. Yet that 13 percent or higher drop-off is not factored in. What’s more, the field of education is loosely defined to include everything from working with a nonprofit advocacy group to getting a graduate education degree. Finally, there is no sense of whether those who responded to the survey tended to be recent alumni, perhaps only a year past their initial commitments and more likely to be in graduate school or teaching for a third year, or older alumni who have moved on to other careers.
The bottom line was, that the best that could be claimed from reading the stats in TFA's reports is that 16.6% of their recruits were teaching k-12 after their 2 year commitment. The graduate I talked to said the TFA program absolutely killed any desire to stay in teaching for one of her friends.

Many of the alumni remain in the field of education by taking the higher paying administrative jobs in education like principals and superintendents. Their two years in the classroom, plus the carefully polished clout of TFA, catapult them over others who have spent years in the system and know, with great certainty, about the challenges of running a school. A higher percentage of them lead charter schools than public schools perhaps because charters can get around some of the more difficult problems of public schools, like dealing with students who willfully resist participating in the education process.  Those students are sent back to the public school to deal with and the TFA principal gets the cushier job of presiding over the students who really want to be there, and usually at a higher salary too.

This is hardly surprising since TFA's main strategy is to recruit leaders from college and the community (they do have older recruits looking for  a second career). The fact that these people are motivated to find high paying, high visibility jobs is not surprising. Many TFA recruits come from political science and pre-law programs so it is also not surprising that alumni who leave the field of education, often run for public office. That's the TFA profile.

Comment sections after many stories about TFA are filled with confessions by former corps members recalling daily crying sessions after another fruitless day of teaching, unanswered requests for help from TFA and incredibly long grueling hours. So if TFA puts their pretty posters up at your school with promises of the "sweet" life, better look in the windows first to see if there is a cage in there waiting for you.

GLSEN releases its Curriculum for Elementary Students Aligning with Common Core Standards for English Language Arts

Long time readers of this blog know we have been calling for the legislators to provide relief from the implementation of the Common Core standards.  

If you, as a parent, appreciate your elementary student being taught about LGBT issues through Common Core standards via English Language Arts, you applaud Missouri's adoption of Common Core standards.

If you, as a parent, believe this is an issue to be taught at home at an age appropriate time determined by you, then the Common Core curriculum is not curriculum you should support.  It probably won't do much good to talk to your school principal if this is adopted, nor DESE.  This will be implemented by our 26 state consortia for students to learn and teachers to teach.

From the article in Education News:

The GLSEN toolkit outlines its application within the Common Core States Standards for English Language Arts and the Mid-continent Research for Education and Learning (McREL) Standards (4th Edition).

What happened to schools telling children to be nice to everyone because they were  a human being?  Why are we demanding children to be nice to everyone based on their sexual orientation to the world? Students should be taught to be respectful to each other because of a shared humanity, not because of a particular trait. 

“Our latest research on bias-based remarks and bullying in America’s elementary schools provides new understanding of the experiences facing our youngest students,” said GLSEN Executive Director Eliza Byard. “Ready, Set, Respect!is a new instructional resource informed by our findings to address homophobia, gender expression and LGBT-inclusive family diversity at the elementary school level.”

Ready, Set, Respect! contains suggested lesson plans that focus on name-calling, bullying and bias, LGBT-inclusive family diversity and gender roles and diversity. The templates are designed for teachers to use as either standalone lessons or for integration into existing curriculum content or school-wide anti-bullying programs. The toolkit also contains helpful tips for teaching more inclusively and intervening in bullying and promoting respectful recess playtime and physical education.

Do you just possibly think there is a different agenda present in this push to teach 1st graders about these issues?  The 68 page report from GLSEN may be found here.

Thursday, January 19, 2012

The Education Reformer Cabal (Rhee, Duncan, Gates) Gets Called out at a Data Quality Campaign Conference. It was NOT Appreciated.

The Data Quality Campaign group had a meeting in Washington DC yesterday about the data to be extracted and supplied by public school children.  From the DQC website:
Over the next three years, the DQC will continue to assist states in developing data systems based on the 10 essential elements and in using the information to improve student performance. To help ensure that states benefit from their infrastructure investments, the DQC will focus on two high-priority needs: building demand for the newly available information and helping state agencies assist all stakeholders in harnessing this powerful source of information.

Students are now seen as possessing powerful sources of information for the state agencies.  They are not kids eager to learn, they are now to be data driven widgets to supply the workforce.  Visit the website and surf around.  You can see the tentacles grabbing the data starting in Pre-K on your human capital, sharing it with other states and federal agencies.  Do you still think the common core standards (enacted and necessary for data to be shared across state lines) are state led when the data is mandated to be shared with the Federal government?

In 2005, the Data Quality Campaign (DQC) identified the 10 Essential Elements of a Statewide Longitudinal Data System to provide a roadmap for state policymakers as they built statewide longitudinal data systems designed to collect, store, and use longitudinal data to improve student achievement and outcomes. In 2007, through the America COMPETES Act (Public Law 110–69), the federal government codified twelve “Required Elements of a P-16 Education Data System.” In 2009, through the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA), the federal government required states, as a condition of receiving State Fiscal Stabilization Funds, to commit to building a data system which consists of these elements. The subsequent cycle of the federal Statewide Longitudinal Data Systems (SLDS) program, known as the FY 2009 ARRA grants, required that any statewide longitudinal data system supported with the funds must include the 12 COMPETES Act elements. States are required to report annually on their progress in implementing a statewide longitudinal data system that includes the 12 COMPETES elements.

Anyone who still believes the adoption of Common Core Standards was state led must write on the board 100 times (do they still have chalkboards in school?) the definition of "coercion".  In fact, the adoption of common core standards should not be labeled state "led", it is state "coerced":

The intimidation of a victim to compel the individual to do some act against his or her will by the use of psychological pressure, physical force, or threats.

DQC provides the roadmap.  The states didn't come up with the road map.  States are following a script.  That's not leading any reform.  DQC is partially funded by the Bill Gates Foundation.  That's a clever way to make more money, isn't it?  Fund a company which provides services as a result of the mandates from the Federal Government....and the taxpayers have to pay for the mandates.  This is the new definition of entrepreneurship.  Don't use your own money to risk success.  Use taxpayer funding to provide money for mandated programs you helped create that will ultimately provide your company with increased business.

One brave retired math teacher (who should know something about numbers and how research is gathered and interpreted) showed up yesterday at the DQC conference providing information on data quality and information about some of the speakers.  He gave pamphlets to attendees on how data is easily skewed so education reformers such as Michelle Rhee and Arne Duncan can make their claims that data and technology are imperative to ensure education excellence.  The DQC didn't want any other research other than theirs presented.  He was asked to leave by a policeman and he complied.

So much for the critical learning and research skills these same education reformers claim they want to impart to students.  The lesson really is: If you have enough money, lobbyists and politicians in your pocket, your data is what you want it to represent.

From GFBrandenberg's Blog:

So much for freedom of speech…

…  if it goes against the agenda of the ultra-rich and their acolytes, one might somehow suspect.
There I was, in a neatly pressed and clean suit and tie, having registered early on-line. I had still had my registration documents (not much) and was holding some pieces of paper, just like many others there. The problem is that I was giving some of those papers out.

At a conference on data quality.

What is this world coming to?

I was giving out a leaflet discussing — data quality and information about some of the speakers. Not positive towards a couple of the speakers, to be accurate. Someone in the conference administration asked me to give up the leaflets, which I declined to do. Soon I was talking to security officers, who told me that I was not allowed to be in the hotel, at the specific request of the tenant — that is, the “Data Quality Campaign” management.

Guess that someone over there reads my blog pretty carefully? Just wonderful … wish I didn’t have readers like that.

Let me also point out that DCQ is a Gates-funded group. Arne Duncan, and Michelle Rhee are both on the agenda of this conference today as speakers… I have been highly critical of them and have given the press and the public access to a lot of data that I could only find by pretty hard searching myself, and that most likely, most other people wouldn’t have found out on their own. Data which shows that the goals and methods and conclusions of this Gates/Duncan/Rhee group are all mistaken at best or perhaps malign.

Nobody beat me up or anything, but I was only able to give out a dozen or so leaflets while I was standing near the front of the auditorium, just outside the Kinko’s where I had my leaflets copied. (Most expensive Kinko’s I’ve ever been to! DAAG! 20 cents per page, per side!) So these things I was giving away were worth forty cents each, plus tax. Man, I was being generous! (Or that’s what I should have said, but didn’t think of saying at the time.)

I wasn’t interested in getting into a shoving match or being picked up or arrested.

So I walked outside and gave out a few there and went home and then wrote this.

You can read the "subversive" pamphlet hereWhy would DQC be so concerned about a retired math teacher's data?


Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Begging at the Education Appropriations Altar

Yesterday, the MO Education Appropriations Committee held a hearing to hear public petitions and testimony regarding Missouri's spending on education. The full gambit  of what MO spends money on, that it considers education, was not discussed.  Rather, several state and local groups came forward to  o on record either requesting that their funding not be cut or that they might receive an increase. The witnesses who testified represented a wide array of interested parties which, knowing that this hearing did not cover the full education budget for the state, makes me very curious about what else we fund.

The Missouri Kidney Foundation was one such petitioner. In the big picture the money they receive is small and it does go towards educating Missourians about kidney disease and treatment/insurance options, but it seems strange to be paying them out of the Education Budget as opposed to, say, the HSS Public Health Services budget.

The Missouri Association of Sheltered Workshop Managers representative was warmly welcomed by the Committee.  From their website, "The MASWM is comprised of a group of professional leaders dedicated to enhancing Sheltered Workshops in Missouri, programs for the people we serve and the business services we provide. The association is a leader in the field of disability awareness through education, advocacy and active involvement in the legislative process." Sheltered workshops are independent local businesses (e.g. thrift store, packaging plant, light assembly) who employ persons with disabilities giving them a dignified way to provide for themselves because, as one site said, they "would rather earn money using their abilities than be given money for their disabilities." Considering the small stipend they receive from the education appropriation versus the $100 a day they would cost the state to keep them in adult day care, this seems to be money well spent.  Look for the businesses in your county here and check out what they do.

The appropriations committee's job is difficult, balancing the needs and the budget available to support such operations. A clear sense of their mission is necessary to accomplish this. Several of the witnesses from yesterday will challenge the committee to keep that mission in mind and be consistent in their decision making process.

For example, MOREnet was there making a modest request for $317,000, (given that their funding in previous years had been as high as $16 million.)  MOREnet members provide connectivity services like internet access and networking to the states schools and libraries. Their goal is to" explore and deliver new ways to enhance learning opportunities."

Speaking immediately after them was Parents as Teachers who has experienced sharp declines in their funding recently. Through their representative's testimony and follow up questions, it was made clear that one of PAT's major goals in to have parents engage with their children. The was met by a field of heads bobbing affirmatively on the committee agreeing that this was very important.

Juxtapose this with the previous testimony from MOREnet who bragged about how they were able to supply the Joplin dorms, which housed families dislocated after the tornado, with internet access in only a couple days. Their representative noted that he was sure those parents appreciated being able to have Nickelodeon back for their kids so quickly.

So, parents who had a unique opportunity to reconnect and engage with their children after a disaster, were quickly resupplied with the heroin of cable access so they could plop their kids down and disconnect from them again.  This seems somewhat at odds with the head bob inducing goal of PAT.

That conflict of purpose for education is a little easier for the committee to resolve since MOREnet does provide internet access and computer networking services to our state's schools, both k-12 and post secondary, which certainly falls in their bailiwick of education funding.

The request from an other petitioner, Teach For America, will prove a little more challenging for the committee in terms of staying consistent. Their upbeat and positive presentation painted a picture of a program that will help students in Missouri's poorest performing schools. The whole story is more complex and poses a real problem for the state. We will have more on TFA later this week.

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Here's a Brilliant Educational Reform Idea. (Not Really).

Many states, including Missouri, have toyed with the idea of lowering the age of compulsory schooling to age 3.  That's one way to ensure the implementation of universal pre-school.  Educated Citizenry 2020 lists this as one of the long term educational goals for our state and follows Arne Duncan's long term vision on the importance of early childhood learning and expansion of services.  

Access to college and higher education has been a hot button issue of late as well.  The Obama administration believes not only early childhood learning is important, so is higher education learning.  From The Nation:

On June 8, President Barack Obama visited Northern Virginia Community College. He rolled up his sleeves and tooled around under the hood of a hybrid car that students were learning to repair. Later, he gave a speech on the importance of more Americans gaining access to higher education—not just at four-year universities but at community colleges and occupational training programs too.

A Harvard  University report found higher education was required of many jobs in the near future, but only required a post-secondary certificate or associate degree.  It disputed that many jobs required a four-year college degree.  From a report entitled "Pathways to Prosperity":

The president’s remarks departed significantly from the “college for all” rhetoric that frequently dominates the education policy debate. That conversation burst open in February, when the Harvard Graduate School of Education released a report called “Pathways to Prosperity.” The report noted that of the 47 million American jobs expected to be created between now and 2018, about two-thirds will require some sort of education beyond high school, yet a much smaller proportion will require a four-year college degree. About 14 million of these new jobs will be in “mid-skill” occupations that require just a post-secondary certificate or associate’s degree: jobs such as dental hygienist, construction manager and electrician. Such occupations can provide a path into the middle class; indeed, 27 percent of workers with occupational licenses earn more than the average recipient of a bachelor’s degree.

This causes consternation with some education reformers who believe every student should attend college regardless of income, desire or intellect:

The Harvard report—warmly embraced by Secretary of Education Arne Duncan—set off a storm of criticism from self-declared education reformers, who rose to defend the “college for all” approach. “While I agree that all students could benefit from more exposure to the world of work, I vehemently disagree with the [Harvard] authors’ main argument: that we already tried preparing all students for college and it didn’t work,” wrote Kati Haycock, president of the Washington, DC, think tank Education Trust, which focuses on closing the achievement gap and was a major player in advocating for No Child Left Behind and, more recently, the Obama administration’s Race to the Top grant program. “Most schools still resist the idea that all kids can and should be college-ready. By continuing long-standing, unfair practices of sorting and selecting, they create what is essentially an educational caste system—directing countless young people, especially low-income students and students of color, away from college-prep courses and from seeing themselves as ‘college material.’”

Mandates are in the works for universal preschool and the Washington DC council may be taking the first stab at mandating mandatory post-secondary education.  A bill has been introduced that will mandate that everyone apply to at least one post-secondary institution and take either the SAT or ACT. It apparently doesn't matter if the individual doesn't want to attend a post-secondary institution, he/she will be compelled to apply to a college, trade, seminary or vocational program.  

So much for allowing parents and students to determine what's best for the student.  Your government is nudging (and perhaps legislating) students (who are now adults) into decisions post high school.  Do you suppose if the student is accepted into a program he/she will be required (and pay money he/she may not have) to attend that institution?

From westofroanoke.com:

Washington, DC, Considers Making it Illegal Not to Apply to College
Washington, DC - The thirteen members who make up the Washington D.C. council, are poised to consider legislation requiring all students in the city’s public high schools to apply to at least one post-secondary institution before graduating.

The three page legislation, titled, College Preparation Plan Act of 2012 was introduced by the council’s chairman, Kwame R. Brown (Democrat) on January 4, 2012.

According to the District of Columbia’s official website, the bill has been referred to the District’s Committee of the Whole, meaning all thirteen members of the council will soon be required to vote on the unprecedented legislative act.  The thirteen member council is comprised of eleven Democrats, two independents and no Republicans.

Among other things, the bill states:
“To require that all students in Public High Schools apply to at least one post-secondary institution before graduating; to require that all Public High Schools instruct students on the application process, how to apply for financial aid; any relevant materials needed for parents; any other preparation courses necessary to streamline a transition to post-secondary education; to require OSSE to gather information on the number of students that actually attend a post-secondary institution; and to require that every student take the SAT or the American College Testing program (ACT) before graduation.”

The bill also states that “The Mayor shall create a plan that ensures that each student will apply to at least one post-secondary institution before graduation (“plan”). The plan shall include a mandatory workshop. The mandatory workshop shall include the following:
(A) Instructions on how to apply to post-secondary institutions;
(B) Information on how to apply for financial aid;
(C) Information to help students identify the most effective post-secondary institutions, including those with a high graduation rate;
(D) Any relevant materials needed for parents; and
(E) Any other preparation courses necessary to streamline a transition to a post-secondary institution.”

Monday, January 16, 2012

A Death March? The Takeover of American Education by the Elites

To understand how and why American taxpayers are paying into an public education system that really isn't a public entity any longer, you should read this post from Potter-Williams Report detailing the privatization of public education.  There is not much add to this excellent article on the total co-opting of education by the elitist party made up of Democrat and Republican politicians, except you might want to ask your "conservative" Republican state and national legislators why they support an organization backed by George Soros dollars:


March of the Education Elite

A ruling class of education entrepreneurs has been hard at work for thirty years capitalizing on the dissatisfaction with government schools. The lucrative enterprise began back in the early eighties when the Department of Education issued a “A Nation at Risk,” a doomsday report which declared the nation’s students were falling behind the rest of the world in achievement testing.

Education reform then became a political football which Republicans grabbed from its traditional guardians, the Democrats, and took to the end zone; thus starting a movement toward privatization of the public schools. According to online website edutopia:

James Harvey, a member of the commission that produced "A Nation at Risk," expresses concern about the uses made of the report and the direction it has given to school reform. Today, he says, "educational decisions have been moved as far as possible from the classroom. Federal officials are now in a position to make decisions that would have been unimaginable even two years ago. They've established the criteria for disciplining schools, removing principals and teachers, and even defining appropriate curriculum for American classrooms."
So how did the federal government end up with so much power when Republicans are so opposed to big government? Easy. Elitist conservative right and elitist liberal left joined forces to transform the system from the ground up.

Eventually, Democrats joined with Republicans in this new ed-business and the shake-up of the different camps continues to the present day. 

How did opposite political parties converge to create the widespread public/private partnerships in education now present in cities across the country? This alignment began in earnest in 1989 when Teach for America, the well-funded teacher recruiter organization, came into being. 

TFA consists of an elitist culture of college grads gleaned mostly from top universities. Its purported mission: to “ensure kids growing up in poverty get an excellent education.” Sounds admirable until you look at whether the achievement gap has changed. According to Wendy Kopp, founder of TFA, “the needle” hasn’t moved much in the last 20 years. So, why is she still in business? Because she has a good thing going.

The touted teacher corps spawned several high rollers in the ed-biz during the last two decades. TFAers created non-profits and charter schools across the country. KIPP (Knowledge Is Power Program) charter schools founded by TFA alums and now run by Richard Barth, Kopp’s husband and founding principal of TFA, hold a seat at the head of the table. The New Teachers Project became an arm of the TFA when TFA alum Michelle Rhee, took charge of the non-profit. TNTP has contracted with schools across the nation.
All this didn’t happen by accident. Kopp honed her skills while at Princeton when she helped revive a fledgling business journalism magazine put out by the Foundation for Student Communication. Her summer jobs consisted of making appointments with investors, and asking for money.

As a result, she was an excellent beggar when it came to hitting up corporations for money to keep TFA going. So, with so many high-powered business connections, why did she take donations from George Soros’ Open Society Institute out of Baltimore, Maryland? It’s well known Soros’ money goes to leftist causes. Was Kopp acting as a bridge between liberal Democrats, conservative Republicans, and Leftist billionaires? Does one’s sense of decency go out the window when millions of dollars stare her in the face?

2005: A pivotal year for comingling of political parties in education reform

When Kopp was in the process of organizing staff for her newly created non-profit back in the fall of 1989, she hired a Harvard grad introduced to her by her brother. Whitney Tilson knew finances, and he helped Kopp set up the business. After a few months with TFA, Tilson left to become a hedge fund manager and investment entrepreneur. 

The year 2005 proved to be a pivotal year for the formation of a left/right coalition in creating money-making opportunities in the world of education. 

In Steven Brill’s Class Warfare: Inside the Fight to Fix America’s Schools Whitney Tilson calls himself a lifelong Democrat, but he co-opted the education message of the right: charters, vouchers and anti-union.
In 2004 he was invited to a fundraising party for then Illinois state Senator Barack Obama at the New York City apartment of George Soros. A year later in June 2005, Tilson again met up with Senator Barack Obama who was helping Tilson and two other financiers start an ed-biz known as Democrats for Education Reform (DFER). Today DFER and Michelle Rhee’s StudentsFirst highly influence the school reform movement. 

The same names come up again and again in the tight knit club of education “reformers.” Rhee was recruited out of Cornell by TFA in 1992 and went on to manage the TFA spinoff TNTP. Rhee’s experience with TNTP brought her up close and personal with local school districts across the country. Much like Kopp, she had natural ability to fundraise from billionaire investors and to persuade superintendents and principals to contract her consulting organization to help with hiring new teachers.

Meanwhile the state of New York was undergoing a major makeover in how politicians, unions and policy setters conducted public school business. For two years Joel Klein, head of NY public schools held off a contract with Randi Weingarten, President of American Federation of Teachers. The standoff led to an arbitration hearing in the summer of 2005 where Michelle Rhee agreed to testify about teacher tenure. This self-proclaimed lifelong Democrat had joined forces with conservatives and opposed the unions’ stronghold on government schools. There’s no indication Rhee has ever denounced her Democrat affiliation even though she now looks like a Republican.

Also during 2005, Klein was influential in shutting down a contributor of the No Child Left Behind program. Democrat and education guru Diane Ravitch had worked on the NCLB bill signed into law in 2003 by George Bush. However Klein (also Democrat) threw her under the bus, therefore causing Ravitch to retaliate and claim poverty itself was the most important factor in whether a child achieves in school, not just bad teachers and accountability—as Klein, Rhee and Obama repeat often.

And in 2005, the first ever Aspen Ideas Festival was held, and Michelle Rhee, Wendy Kopp, and Sacramento Mayor Kevin Johnson (now Rhee’s husband) sat on an education panel together. [note: a search for a video of this panel came up blank, but Johnson spoke of this meeting in a 2008 panel discussion at the Harvard “Business Summit”; see video here]

Well before Rhee ever became DC schools chancellor; well before she and Kevin Johnson married in 2011; and well before Barack Obama became president, they all either knew each other or were acquainted with each other’s work.

So far all the people reviewed here are Democrats. Yet, Klein had become good friends with Republican Governor Jeb Bush of Florida. Bush had implemented new education rules which raised achievement levels and Klein wanted to know more about it. It didn’t take long before more Republicans and Democrats threw party loyalty aside and became pals..

Eventually, Rhee took Democrats to task for sticking with the status quo mostly held by the teachers’ unions. Even Obama praised her in his debate at Hofstra University before the 2008 elections. She obviously was on his radar most probably all the way back to 2005 when she hit the public circuit in the high profile arbitration hearings with the AFT. Is Rhee doing Obama’s bidding on the transformation of education? 

Moving Toward Centralization By Way of Elitists

The “bipartisan” outcome of the back and forth between traditional enemies has led to systemic change in how the federal government now controls much of the conversation when it comes to school reform. Like James Harvey of “A Nation at Risk” said, “Federal officials are now in a position to make decisions that would have been unimaginable even two years ago.” 

The DoED issued a Core Curriculum now used by 42 states, as well as a standardized sexual education curriculum. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan has called for longer school days including Saturdays in some places. Don’t states and municipalities have specific needs which may not match the national guidelines? 

Obama ramped up his education spending when he carved $100 billion out of the stimulus bill to dangle money in front of starving school systems. Why? To help poor children achieve? Or to make the old localized systems beholden to a centralized authority?

This alliance between leftist elitists and conservative elitists is not moving away from big government; in fact, it’s moving at warp speed toward bigger government.

To get an understanding of elitists’ mindsets, here are some examples. From Jacobin website:

While visiting a KIPP school in New York City early one morning, where fifth graders were busy with drills at 7:00 a.m., Kopp quietly lamented, without a touch of irony, that her own child of the same age was still in bed. Thus, in the KIPP model, we are presented with the solution to the nation’s educational inequalities: for poor children to succeed, they must willingly submit to Taylorist institutionalization.
Elitism by its very nature causes its adherents to separate from the common masses. In elitists’ minds, they ‘have arrived’ due to their intelligence, financial stability and eagerness to succeed; but here’s the flip side to their self-congratulatory kudos:  anyone who isn’t successful must be too ignorant or too poor or have no motivation to achieve beyond their pitiable state. 

In his book Indoctrination: How 'Useful Idiots' Are Using Our Schools to Subvert American Exceptionalism, Kyle Olson shows his elitist stripes when he writes:

Education reformer Michelle Rhee, the former chancellor of Washington DC schools has said it perfectly: Schools should operate from the position that parents will do nothing to help with their child’s education. Blaming parents is no virtue and accountability is no vice…The blame lies with administrators who are unwilling to remove ineffective and burned-out teachers. The blame lies with teachers unions that are more concerned with increasing pay and benefit levels for their members than they are about teacher quality.
Olson finds it repugnant to blame parents but has no problem blaming unions, administrators, and teachers. Why? These kids weren’t dropped by a stork somewhere out in a cornfield.  If teachers are responsible for kids’ lousy grades, what exempts the people who brought the students into the world?  Whether Olson knows it or not, he’s promoting socialism. The individual parents are not responsible; no, it’s everybody else’s fault; it’s society’s fault.

He states “the blame lies with teacher unions that are more concerned with increasing pay and benefit levels for their members than they are about teacher quality,” yet he and other Rhee followers constantly equate higher salaries with increased performance. Maybe the unions are dangling some carrots of their own to get teachers to jump through hoops. Rhee can do it, but unions can’t?

The education entrepreneurs know there’s no money to be made in blaming parents—the only thing blaming parents will get you is a lot of grief and anger. Olson, Rhee, Kopp, Obama, Tilson, and all the rest of the self-appointed education engineers would be run out of every last school district if they presumed to tell inner city mothers and fathers they are doing a lousy job. It’s better just to get the tikes away from the useless, good for nothing parents and bring in TFAers and longer school days for the lower feeble minded common ruck while the ruling class get to nurture their little ones. 

The march of the education elites goes on. They alone will know what’s best for children, parents, principals and administrators.

Sunday, January 15, 2012

The Sunday Education Weekly Reader 01.15.12

Welcome to the Sunday Education Weekly Reader for 01.15.12.  Today we feature:
  • Rahm Emanuel's bullying tactics to push his agenda for schools (we thought bullying in schools and work environments had been banished)
  • Sex education (a national curriculum) in the classroom coming soon to your school?
  • George W. Bush on his thoughts about the 10 year anniversary of No Child Left Behind

Nancy Pelosi should call astroturf out when it's evident from the left.  Here's a story about Rahm Emanuel and his method of operation he utilizes to ram charter schools through in Chicago.  

The most disturbing revelations of Chicago's Millionaire Mayor One Percent was the use of paid outside agitators to hold signs, march, and speak in favor of closing public schools and Board of Education officials forging documents to push out homeless students from one school. All of the revelations have come out since New Year's Day, although many of the details had previously been published in Substance, some as early as last summer, when Substance first exposed what is now widely known as Rahm's "Rent A Preacher" scheme.
 Things became even more serious on the evening of January 6, 2012. State Representative Esther Golar said she was at the meeting about the proposed closing of Walter Reed School in Englewood, which is set to receive Guggenheim students, and saw people arrive on a bus. She said she talked to them and discovered they were from a halfway house and were paid $25 to come to the meeting. 

It looks as if community organizing is still alive and well in Chicago.  That's one way to push charter schools through in Illinois.

 Education Week reports:

A new set of standards outlines the minimum that students should learn about their sexuality from their earliest years in school until they leave high school.

The standards, developed over the last few years by dozens of health and education experts, say that by the end of 2nd grade, students should be able to use the proper name for body parts, including male and female anatomy. By the end of 5th grade, they should be able to define sexual abuse and harassment. By the end of high school, they should be able to describe common symptoms of and treatments for sexually transmitted diseases including HIV, according to the standards released today with the backing of four national health education groups.

Is this within the purview of your school and federal government to mandate such courses to teach to your child?  You might want to call your school board to determine if such a curriculum will be offered/mandated in your public school system.  Ask your superintendent if such a course will help your human capital to become STEM ready.


And finally, the best for last.  George W. Bush talked to TIME magazine about the 10th anniversary of the bipartisan and largely failed policy of No Child Left Behind.  It's a short piece but quite telling.  This paragraph caught my eye:

So when NCLB is finally re-authorized, what changes would you like to see?
Progress toward excellence. [Former Secretary of Education] Margaret Spellings recognized that in order to be able to accurately judge, you need to measure progress toward the absolute. But what I’m worried about is the pressure to have too many goals or measure the wrong thing.

With all due respect to the former president, this is one of the worst policies ever in education and has been a sorry blueprint for students, teachers and administrators.  It's been a colossal failure for increasing academic achievement and billions of dollars are down the drain.  He should not only be worried about too many goals and/or measuring the wrong "thing", he should be penitent NCLB was ever passed and these goals and measurements have been put in the hands of the federal government, the NGA and the CCSSO.  

Taxpayers are forced to pay taxes for services in which they have no voice.  And he's actually PROUD of this?


Education thought for the week:

Teachers open the door.  You enter by yourself.--Chinese proverb


Republicans Applauded by a Democratic Lawmaker for Supporting Obama's Educational Agenda

On the heels of our last posting, Republicans are Supporting the Federal Takeover of Education, a blogger in Nashville confirmed (from a Democratic congressman's lips) the alliance of conservative Republican legislators and Obama's educational plan.  From Enclave:

Democrat Jim Cooper celebrates conservatives supporting President Obama on charter schools

Congressman Jim Cooper has been making the interview rounds. Yesterday he met with the press and characterized the feather in Obama's domestic cap as charter schools:

In domestic policy, it's amazing what you find here. If you talk to folks in Nashville, some of the most conservative folks in Nashville who are, for example, charter school advocates, real education reform advocates, are thrilled with Obama. Thrilled. And [Education Secretary] Arne Duncan has done a great job, and this isn't just Race To The Top money, but it's an amazing change in policy at the federal level with very little fanfare, that Congress didn't have anything to do with, really.

Those of us who are not "real education reform advocates", that is those of us who question the warping influence of venture philanthropy wealth in public education, are not quite as thrilled as the conservatives and Rep. Cooper is with President Obama move to the right. (Photo credit: The Entrepreneur Center). 

We aren't the only ones mystified about this marriage of conservatives and progressives.  Charters (privatization) and amazing changes at the federal level (nationalization of standards and unconstitutional powers to the Department of Education) are the educational reforms du jour.  Both of these "reforms" take power away from the taxpayers. 

Are you starting to believe this is an alliance of the elite?  No wonder Congressman Cooper, Jeb Bush, Obama, Arne Duncan, School Choice Week, and other educational reform proponents are celebrating.  It's fun having all the money and power.  The taxpayers are mandated to pay for unproven, untested, underfunded and unconstitutional mandates that result in a financial windfall for the companies providing services for the mandates.

Congressman Cooper states the change in federal policy had very little fanfare.  He's correct.  The circumvention of existing FERPA laws was accomplished via regulatory action allowing invasive personal data on children to be shared with other federal agencies and private organizations.  Instead of celebrating, Congressman Cooper and other state legislators should be fighting tooth and nail to make certain their citizens are not forced to share their personal data with the government.
I'm not holding my breath. 

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