"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, March 3, 2012

Take this Educational Survey on School Reform from a George Soros Funded Think Tank

Don't you just love it?  Republican and Democrat politicians in various state and federal positions tout school choice as parent driven.  They tend to minimize or ignore the fact the parents have no control over WHAT their children are learning.  They don't mention the Common Core standards are used in charter schools and do not function much differently in educational content delivery.

If the primary reason traditional schools are failing is the educational content (the alleged reason for the implementation of Common Core standards), then why does the need exist to close traditional public schools and open charters and utilize trigger options, which will teach the same content?  The syllogism should read:
  • Major Premise: public schools do not operate under state standards stringent enough for students to prepare for the global economy;
  • Minor Premise: public schools must be under the auspices of stringent common standards so all students can be prepared for the global economy to successfully compete in the workforce;
  • Conclusion:   public schools must cast aside state standards and utilize common standards so they can succeed in the workforce.
If that's a valid syllogism, then why the big push for charter schools and the trigger option?  Why fire all the teachers and administrators or open charter schools with public funding if the premise is it's rotten standards that placed the US in an educational decline?  The other arguments about rotten teachers, administrators, educational equity disparities should be considered secondary arguments. 

Below is a survey from the Fordham Institute you might want to complete and give your opinion on school "choice".  Some interesting facts about Fordham you might not know:

  • Fordham is headed by Chester Finn, former employee of William Bennett who headed up Ronald Reagan's Department of Education.  Finn is on Bennett's radio show regularly.
  • William  Bennett defied Reagan and increased the Department of Education's budget. (search "William Bennett" within the document).
  • Fordham is now teaming up with the Center for American Progress (as indicated in the survey), a George Soros funded organization. 

The survey is embedded in an email:

The Thomas B. Fordham InstituteCAP Image
Dear xxxxx,
As part of our efforts to advance education reform, we are conducting a very short survey on the importance of certain school reform issues in your state. We would appreciate your answers to these questions, and it should not take you more than a couple of minutes to complete the survey. Note that we are working with the Center for American Progress on this project so it’s possible that you may receive a similar survey from that organization. Please fill out the survey only once.
Thank you – we appreciate your time!
The Thomas B. Fordham Institute is the nation's leader in advancing educational excellence for every child through quality research, analysis, and commentary, as well as on-the-ground action and advocacy in Ohio.
Find us online: http://support.edexcellence.net/site/R?i=oGlCNVCBRnj7LjLfp8fG6A http://support.edexcellence.net/site/R?i=nb8rzzPmzTpGDnSiLGHmRQ http://support.edexcellence.net/site/R?i=sebnR4FUemB3KJc3pM0yRQ

Thomas B. Fordham Institute
1016 16th Street NW
Washington DC, 20036

It's good to know which organization(s) fund such surveys.  Knowing this push is from a Soros funding group for "advancing educational reform", shouldn't  that make a fiscally and constitutionally responsible politician question the motive for such "reform"?   

Did you notice none of the questions had to do with restoring local control or reducing Federal control and spending in education?

Friday, March 2, 2012

Community Education - It's Not Just For Pottery and Dance Classes

Springfield MO is testing a pilot  program for a community school.  This is not continuing education for adults, this is a full service community center housed in the public school. Their integrated focus is on academics, youth development, family support, health and social services and community development.  The belief is that such an approach leads to improved student learning, stronger families and healthier communities. Community schools combine various departments like Mental Health, Social Services and possibly family court services (as is done in St. Louis) to offer a range of supports and opportunities such as workshops for parents, and after-school programs for students - before, during and after school, and on weekends.

21st Century Community schools have been around since the 90s. The idea for them is a lot older and sprang from the 60s generation when communal living was experiencing a surge.  Arne Duncan, who is the former CEO of Chicago Public Schools, was a supporter of "schools as centers of community life".  Since his appointment to the post of Secretary of Education, community schools have become part of the national education agenda.

They are promoted to the community who benefits from access to school resources such as: teachers, computer labs, gymnasiums and classrooms. They offer an afterschool program model that provides services to students attending high-poverty, low-performing schools such as academic enrichment activities that can help students meet state and local achievement standards. Other programs like drug and violence prevention programs, literacy, counseling programs, art, music, and recreation programs, technology education programs, and character education programs all are designed to reinforce and complement the regular academic program and are available to students and parents.
[Springfield Associate Superintendent] Ben Hackenwerth said the community school strategy is to provide a holistic approach to students’ education and development. Such a school provides additional support and activities to help students succeed academically and stay on track to graduate.
“This is all about student success,” he said. “Supporting the families, engaging the communities … that’s why we’re trying this.”

Springfield Superintendent Norm Ridder and the school board have expressed support for piloting this approach locally.
Missouri has held 6 grant competitions for these 21st century community schools. Last year, of the 52 grants received by the state, 36 were from schools and, of those, 19 were awarded.  In comparison, only 10 were received from community based/non-profit organizations, and two from faith based organizations.  Four community based groups and one faith based group received awards.  Awards totaled $9,225,447.

The vision of the school of the future is one size fits all, and we know that to make that happen that size is going to be very large. School will become the Walmart of family life.  You can go there to do any number of things, from learn to read and write, to avoid drugs and alcohol or seek treatment for drug and alcohol abuse. You can receive mental health counseling, parenting classes and participate in basketball games. Keep in mind that any treatment you get there, if not paid for by your insurance, will only be protected by FERPA regulations, not HIPPA.  That means that any mental health notes or medical diagnosis done by school staff will be part of your child's record and will be automatically included in the longitudinal database of information sent to Washington.

School will provide the food the family eats (by design as these programs are targeted to schools who have 40% or more on reduced price lunch programs) and teach the family values and character. And best of all, because these are 21st century schools which are focused on providing the workforce for the 21st century, they will ultimately offer courses to aid people throughout their working careers.  It's the school for a lifetime.

So why do I find myself thinking about the Eagle's song Hotel California?

Last thing I remember, I was
Running for the door
I had to find the passage back
To the place I was before
"Relax," said the night man,
"We are programmed to receive.
You can check-out any time you like,
But you can never leave!"

Read more about community schools history here

Thursday, March 1, 2012

Did a TSA Note About Possible School Bus Terrorism Come Home in Your Child's Backpack?

Eight school buses have disappeared within the last year in St. Louis and Jefferson counties (Missouri).  Could school buses be used in terroristic attacks?  The TSA is concerned about missing school buses and possible criminal use.

From School Transportation News 02.29.12:

The Transportation Security Administration (TSA) reminded student transporters to be on the lookout for suspicious persons lurking around the school buses or facilities as local and federal investigators continue to look for eight buses that were stolen in the St. Louis and Jefferson counties area in the state of Missouri over the past year.

The reminder came during a teleconference held in mid-February with industry stakeholders from the state and national level as well as the private sector.

William Arrington, GM of TSA’s Office of Highway and Motor Carrier, said that, after the last school bus stolen, video footage showed an unidentified man entering various school buses for more than an hour as if he was looking for a particular type of vehicle.

Investigators are not saying at this point why they think the buses were targeted but added that increased security tied to Super Bowl XLVI on Feb. 5 in Indianapolis included additional searches of school buses in the area. No security breaches occurred, and the event went off without incident. Still, Arrington said the thefts demonstrate that school buses remain the targets of criminal activity, at the least.

The article gives indicators to look out for when looking at school buses.   

The National Terror Alert published several articles dating from 2006 about stolen school buses and drivers with questionable credentials: 

Would you recognize a new face sitting in the drivers seat of your child’s school bus?
Do you give any thought to the person who picks up your child and transports them to school and back home each day?
If not, you might want to start.
School Bus Terrorism – A Practical Analysis
Chris Dorn has a complete analysis of the threat.
In this paper I will discuss one specific aspect of terrorism: attacks including school buses as targets or weapons. I will assume a basic knowledge of terrorism and terrorist groups. Thus I will not discuss in detail the motivations or specific tactical movements of terrorists. I will be dealing in strategies and methods that apply to anti-terrorism in a particular area.
Read Analysis

Wednesday, February 29, 2012

What To Do About the Bullies

The problem of bullying is age old.  I believe the realists would say it is endemic to the human condition. So long as we are not conditioned to rein in our jealousy of others, there will be those who lash out over perceived slights, inequities or the desire to make others feel small so that they can feel bigger.  Bullying often stems from fear and the belief that, if I get you first, then I will be safe. Bullying goes beyond the school yard scuffles or name calling.  It is the systematic and relentless targeting of a particular child for abuse (physical or verbal). Schools will forever deal with the problem of bullies because the ability to control those drives comes with maturity which children, almost by definition, do not have. The question for the adults is: What can/should a school do about bullies?  What would a realistic policy regarding bullies look like/contain?

We are developing a tool kit for school board candidates and one of the issues we want to address is the idea of anti-bullying policies. Certainly there are plenty of examples of bad policies (New Jersey comes to mind) but, what would a good one look like?  We'd like to hear from our readers what you would want a school board candidate to know about bullying.  Should it be a zero tolerance policy? (probably not) Should everyone involved in a fight receive some punishment (i.e. does everyone share some responsibility for the fight)? Should the school recognize the right of every student to defend themselves if attacked? (some don't) What tools can a school use to administer consequences for bullying?

We'd like to hear from our readers in the comment section, even if it's just to relate what your school does that doesn't work.

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Arne Duncan Surrounded by Conspiracy Theorists. Oh, the Horror! **UPDATED with Resolution and Amendments.

Utah lawmakers are reconsidering the implementation of Common Core standards by the State Board of Education.  South Carolina is looking to possibly rescind its Common Core implementation and Arne Duncan did not take kindly to that state debating whether to reclaim its constitutional right to educate its own citizens.

Duncan called such a notion from South Carolina lawmakers "a conspiracy theory in search of a conspiracy".
We'll have to see if Duncan calls out more legislators as they study the ramifications of an educational reform  full of Federal mandates that bypassed state legislatures and were implemented without public vote.  The Utah lawmakers are the latest legislators determining if these unproven and untested standards are unwise, unfunded and unconstitutional.  

From the Salt Lake Tribune:

Lawmakers plan to discuss Wednesday formally asking state education leaders to reconsider their adoption of Common Core academic standards.

**UPDATED 02.29.12:

This bill: provides that the state may exit any agreement, contract, memorandum of understanding, or consortium that cedes control of Utah's core curriculum to any other entity for any reason
This concurrent resolution of the Legislature and the Governor urges the State Board of Education to reconsider the board's decision to adopt the Common Core standards.


Excellence vs Equity in the Classroom. Inflammatory Classroom Techniques?

"Heresy!  I say, "Heresy"!  Focusing on "excellence" rather than "equity" in math education?"

A fellow traveler in education circles sent and remarked (above) on an article from Educational Leadership praising the long discarded teaching technique of ability grouping in the classroom:

A school in Arizona was able to curb the exodus of its top students to nearby charter schools by clustering students in the classroom. In cluster grouping models, all students in a grade level are grouped according to their ability and achievement levels. A cluster of either gifted or high-achieving students -- one or the other -- is in every classroom, along with only two or three other clusters. The method allows teachers to spend more time with individual students and gives gifted students a better chance to excel, according to Dina Brulles, director of gifted education services at Paradise Valley Unified School District in Phoenix, and Susan Winebrenner, founder and president of Education Consulting Service. 

Common Core Standards. The Death of Exceptionalism and the Individual. Welcome to the Religion of Arne Duncan. Universalism.

This is a most biting and wonderful article on what Common Core standards represent from Canada Free Press...think fascism, entitlement mentality, anarchy, equal outcome, and waste of taxpayer dollars:

Searching deeper into the Core Standards, the true intent is clear, “all children can and should learn to high achievement standards.“Policymakers must “endorse, fund, and recognize assessment regimes that accomplish this goal,”Universal Design and Universal Design for Learning. Really? All children can learn to high achievement standards? Our minds, IQs, learning styles, and God-given talents are so equal now that everything is possible by government fiat?

Apparently, standardized tests “fail to produce a valid and reliable measurement of what significant minorities of students actually know, especially students with disabilities, English language learners or those from varied cultural backgrounds. Without accurate measurement, accountability systems are not only ineffective, they are unethical.”(Core Standards)

It will be a fascistic world in which every person will be forced into a government-dictated and enforced, dumbed-down mold, where everybody is equally intelligent, equally capable, equally trained, equally able, and equally educated with a diploma on the wall that is not worth the paper with the fancy intaglio printing. 

Forget Arne Duncan's spin of Common Core standards that they are state led, will enable students to become more competitive, teachers will be able to be more creative, all students will be equal in opportunity to go to college and schools will operate and make decisions on a local level.  He promises equality and liberty for all students so everyone can attend college, even though some students have no proclivity or intellectual abilities to go to college.  What can we deduce from Duncan's spin?
 Goethe, a classical liberal, warned us that democracy is incompatible with liberty. 

“Legislators and revolutionaries who promise equality and liberty at the same time are psychopaths.“Political centralization would lead to the destruction of culture. (Hans Hermann Hoppe, Ludwig von Mises Institute) 

Is this the purpose of Common Core standards?  To make us all common and destroy our individual spirit?   

Monday, February 27, 2012

DESE Circumventing the Legislature Again. DESE Wants to Implement an Early Childhood Program Costing...$1.6 BILLION...Just for Missouri.

Nightmare in Jefferson City Part II

The first nightmare for taxpayers was in 2010 when DESE applied to Race to the Top funding twice.  It was estimated to cost $400 Million to implement everything Arne Duncan and the Department of Education mandated, but alas, the $250 Million grant to accomplish the $400 Million plan was never received.

DESE failed to convince the Department of Education to give it money to accomplish unconstitutional educational mandates so it did the next best thing.  It went ahead and signed onto to institute the mandates without ANY Race to the Top funding.

How smart is that?  Commissioner Chris Nicastro signed onto common core standards, estimated to cost at least $350 Million according to the Pioneer Institute.  That's just for one of the components of Race to the Top.  To make it even more surreal, DESE estimated it would be at least $900 Million in the red this year.

DESE loves to apply for money from a Federal Government that is now $16 Trillion in debt.  Again, how smart is that?  DESE applied late last year for a $60 Million preschool grant for children ages 3-6.  Missouri once again didn't get the grant.  Hit the replay button.  DESE doesn't care.  DESE will still go full steam ahead and start implementing programs assessing 3 year olds.  Do you know what assessing 3  year olds mean?  It means fitting them in a box, in a system, labeling them as failures or successes at 3 years of age.

Why is the Missouri Legislature allowing DESE to create more debt for taxpayers and the state?  Check out the budget spreadsheet.  It's much, much worse than $60,000,000 we didn't receive.  The total needed to establish education for 3-6 year olds in Missouri is $1.6 BILLION involving not only DESE, but also the Departments of Social Services and Mental Health.  This is a nightmare.  We're already in debt, can't pay for common core and now DESE wants to implement programming costing over a billion dollars.

Even more egregious than that, why is DESE allowing 3 year old children to be tracked and a baseline established for them so they can be trained for the workforce? 

Where is the Legislature putting the brakes on this runaway train of incompetence and saddling taxpayers with more debt?  Why are taxpayers being held hostage by appointed officials who are unaccountable to the taxpayers paying their salaries and for their poor decisions?  But don't blame it ALL on DESE.  Governor Jay Nixon's signature is on this application as well.

Will the Legislature please step in and curtail this abuse of spending taxpayer money that doesn't exist for programs that are unconstitutional?

 From the DESE website:

News and Updates

Early Childhood Assessment Pilot
The Department's Office of Early and Extended Learning will soon be conducting a pilot project to identify an assessment model for use in preschool programs and kindergarten classes (children ages 3-6). The model would include both formative and summative assessments, including measuring status at kindergarten entry. A steering committee will guide the project. There will be a meeting of individuals from public schools and community-based early childhood programs March 30 in Jefferson City. Registration for this meeting is full. Individuals unable to attend this meeting will have an opportunity to learn about the pilot during the Early Childhood Assessment Webinar scheduled for April 13. Information on this webinar will be available soon on the Department’s webinar page at dese.mo.gov/webinar/. The application to participate as one of the possible pilot sites will be available shortly after the webinar. Information regarding the Early Childhood Assessment Pilot will be posted on the Office of Early and Extended Learning Website at dese.mo.gov/eel/.

State's youngest learners will still gain from early childhood education efforts
The Department of Elementary and Secondary Education received word in December from the U.S. Departments of Education and Health that it did not receive a $60 million grant to develop a coordinated, statewide early learning system over the next four years.  Although it may take longer without the grant funding, Missouri's work to enhance early childhood programs will continue.  The comprehensive plan developed collaboratively through a partnership of six key agencies is outlined in the grant application below.

The National Governor's Association Wants to Bypass Congress...Again

 From the Hill:

President Obama met with a group of Democratic governors on Friday and discussed plans to work around Congress toward policy goals.

This has been done before when the National Governor's Association crafted Common Core state standards and circumvented Congressional process.  Just ask Arne Duncan how to get an agenda through without Congressional approval.

Why the outcry now?  Why wasn't there concern when education started on the path toward nationalized standards and curriculum?

Sunday, February 26, 2012

The Best Reason Ever to Home School

Have school officials, Family and Children's Services and Canadian police lost their mind?  From HotAir:

Father is arrested for child's drawing of a gun in school. Father is detained, strip searched and his toy gun that shoots foam darts is confiscated.

The Sunday Education Weekly Reader 02.26.12

Welcome to the Sunday Education Weekly Reader for o2.26.12.  The visual soundbites from Twitter:

  • One of THE BEST articles explaining how common core will empty out taxpayers' pockets via higher property taxes.  Why aren't you hearing how these underfunded mandates will be paid for by state legislators?  Obama Education scheme will hit local property taxes.

  • Following up on the last tweet, governors are delusional about Federal control of education and the expense.  And snarky, too.  Catch the comment from the Connecticut governor.  The taxpayer is paying for it financially and constitutionally for this misguided way of thinking. Blog: Governors Talk Funding, Federal Role in Education   

  • If you're a teacher, just be sure you teach the gifted kids....Teachers divided over validity of scorecards: “If you're saying that my students are successful, that's good eno...  


Today's "educational thought for the week" concerns tragedy and the human spirit.  Do you wonder how the human spirit will be measured on a data set?  Maybe US schools aren't concerned about wisdom, it's "just the facts", ma'am.

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