"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, May 12, 2012

More Unnecessary Duplication and Expansion at DOEd

The proliferation of federal employees is like a rodent infestation problem.  You can attack one nest to eradicate them, but if you don't plug the holes where they are coming into your house, more are bound to appear and multiply.

The President embarked on a campaign to reduce waste in the federal government by eliminating duplication in federal agencies. Good news/bad news there. Less spending yes. Creation of a behemuth agency with no potential for redress also a possibility.  We've already seen how that works out over at EPA.

Education was an area found with many opportunities for cutting waste. For instance, the GAO found:
  • Thirteen agencies fund 209 different science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) education programs - and 173 of those programs overlap with at least one other program.
  • At least 15 major financial literacy programs - including three new ones established by the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act. 
The Administration has tried to enact efficiencies.  Last year they, along with Congress, addressed four of the GAO's 81 problem areas, and worked on 60 more, but duplication still exists.

And while they are busy getting rid of these overlapping programs, Arne Duncan is over at the DOEd coming up with new ones.  This week he and Kathleen Sebelius met with the Healthy Schools Campaign, a nonprofit group based in Chicago, and Trust for America’s Health to consider "a few small changes they believe could improve students’ academic and physical well-being and work to close achievement gaps." (Ed Week)

Among those changes are:
  • The Education Department should expand the work of the office of safe and healthy students and appoint a deputy assistant secretary to the office so it is better equipped to handle emergency situations, such as an outbreak of the H1N1 flu, and provide guidance to states, school districts, and universities.
  • The department should appoint a school nurse consultant who can share information with state school nurse consultants and promote school health services and school nursing.
Duncan is looking to expand the DOEd into the area of health, completely ignoring the fact that we have a Center For Disease control who already has plans for infectious disease outbreaks that are implemented through the already existing public health service.  A clear case of unnecessary duplicative federal programs and an equally unnecessary expansion of the role of the department of education.

Funding a consultant at the federal level to promote school nursing and school health services is an ironic twist since many schools are having to cut their nurses or share them because there isn't the funding available for them. How is it our federal government has money for stuff like this in education when our local schools do not?

Further down the list of recommendations is this beauty:
  • The department should identify best practices for training teachers about standards related to health and separate standards for integrating health into data tracking and school accountability. Health and wellness also should become part of the criteria for competitive-grant programs for teacher and principal training, parent-engagement strategies, and state longitudinal data systems.
Here is another pathway for getting your private health information into the SLDS. The fact that the government will already have access to your health information through the mandatory electronic medical record system implemented a couple years ago should make this bullet point unnecessary. Are they perhaps going after the health data that doesn't make it into that system because people aren't going to the doctor for it. The fact that it says the school will now be accountable for student health is extremely worrying. DOEd will hold out the carrot of competitive grants to get schools to stand in line to create this system. Will the teacher training include training to spot unreported health issues so they can be entered into the SLDS?  Doesn't that make your teacher also your health spy?

Additional recommendations include changing the rules to allow schools to receive Medicaid funding for all health services they provide (necessary for the expansion of the Community Schools Program).  HHS has already written, but not implemented, that rule. Then there's the National Prevention Council, led by members of President Obama’s Cabinet, who want to explore the potential roles that schools can play in supporting children’s health and wellness. Keep in mind it's just a short skip and a hop from "supporting" to "overseeing" which would make parents and their pediatrician secondary players in children's health.

The financial watchdogs need to be on capitol hill asking the question "Doesn't DOEd need to follow the administration's mission to avoid duplication of federal programs?  Where do they expect to get the money for these new positions and programs?  How do they justify an expansion of their role beyond education like this?"

All these recommendations seem to fly directly in the face of Mr. Obama's mission to reduce government duplication of effort. Someone needs to show the administration they have a hole over at the DOEd that needs to be plugged.  Perhaps Mr. Duncan and Ms. Sebelius didn't get the memo about not recreating existing programs.  Or maybe they did get the memo, just a different one.  Perhaps their memo said that they would be the foundation of the new behemuth agency for Human Development that will be responsible for all aspects of human growth, from birth to death. Somehow that doesn't make me feel any better.

Friday, May 11, 2012

ALEC's Decision on Common Core Standards a Pig-Headed Decision?

ALEC's decision on the anti-Common Core standards issue

It's a decision that isn't really a decision.  

Washington, DC – Today, the board of the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), after considering anti-Common Core legislation introduced by the American Principles Project (APP), Goldwater Institute and the Washington Policy Center last summer, delayed a decision on whether to endorse the legislation until their next meeting.
“ALEC’s delay in endorsing the resolution is troubling and plays into the strategy of the multi-billion dollar private entities that are pushing the Common Core,” said APP’s Emmett McGroarty.  ”This issue has been before ALEC for almost a year.  The resolution was approved by the ALEC Education Task Force overwhelmingly last December, and ALEC has discussed it at three of its national meetings.  The well-financed private entities and the federal government are moving forward with their implementation of the Common Core, and Americans have been cut out of the process.”
Dr. Tony Bennett, the Indiana Superintendent of Public Instruction, presented the pro-Common Core case to the board of ALEC.   Dr. Bennett is also on the Board of Directors of the Council of Chief State School Officers (CCSSO), one of the two trade associations managing the Common Core Standards (along with the National Governors Association).  Additionally, he is the Chairman of Chiefs for Change, an initiative of Jeb Bush's Foundation for Excellence in Education.  The Foundation for Excellence in Education and CCSSO have received $1,000,000 and $70,000,000, respectively, from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, the primary force financing and pushing the Common Core.
Robert Scott, Texas Commissioner of Education, presented the case for the resolution to the board, which then deliberated behind closed doors.  State Rep. Dave Frizzell of Indiana, ALEC’s National Chairman, reported that the board found that there was much to like about the legislation but decided to send it back to the Education Task Force due to concerns about some of the language.  He stated that the board would forward the details of those concerns to the task force.
What is there to "like about the legislation"?  It's bought and paid for by special interests and controlled by special interests as well.  It's tainted and circumvents the legislative deliberations.  If ALEC likes legislation developed and controlled by special interests which is then foisted on the American taxpayer and taxpayers and states are mandated to live by those special interests' plans, that may tell us all we need to know about ALEC.  
Why should some "concerns about the language" kick it back to the Education Task Force?  If the process is rotten, it doesn't matter if the language is changed or not. 
It's lipstick on a pig.  Change the lipstick or the language, the educational reform model is still the same pig.   And that pig is getting fatter every day with Jeb Bush and Bill Gates money at the trough. 

Adj.1.pigheaded - obstinate and stupid
obstinate, stubborn, unregenerate - tenaciously unwilling or marked by tenacious unwillingness to yield

Thursday, May 10, 2012

ALEC Board to Vote on Anti-Common Core Standards.

So what's your bet on the vote?

There's a big vote tomorrow regarding common core standards:

  • It's not a vote by the taxpayers to determine if they want them in their states.  
  • It's not a vote by local districts to determine the educational direction for their students.  
  • It's not a vote to rescind the standards by the state boards.
  • It's not a vote by state legislatures to refuse funding for the unfunded mandates created by the standards.
  • It's not a vote by Congress to refuse funding for the unfunded mandates.
Those would be the reasonable and constitutional votes by the entities if the rule of law had been followed instead of circumventing the voters and Congress to implement the standards.

The vote tomorrow will be taken to affirm the anti-common core resolution ALEC'S Board adopted last year.  From EdWeek:

You may recall that both my colleague Catherine Gewertz and I have written about a resolution at ALEC opposing the Common Core State Standards. The common core, unlike other issues such as model legislation supporting charter schools and vouchers, has caused some dissent in the conservative policy shop. Without getting too deeply into the details, the group's Education Task Force approved the anti-Common Core resolution, but the group's board of directors did not. Now, ALEC is set to consider the resolution again at its meeting on Friday, May 11. 

That reconsideration is being watched very closely. Stephanie Banchero of The Wall Street Journal wrote on May 8 that the group's deliberations could deliver a big hit to common core. Then on May 10, with a headline that read "'Common Core' Education Fight to Test ALEC's Conservative Chops," two other conservative think tanks, the American Principles Project (based in Washington) and the Pioneer Institute (based in Boston), directly appealed to ALEC to approve the resolution opposing the standards, which 46 states and the District of Columbia have agreed to adopt.
Both think tanks have produced a "white paper" (jargon for a "report") and a resolution that a state could use as a model to oppose the common core. 

In a press release accompanying the report and resolution, Liv Finne, of the Washington Policy Center (yet another conservative think tank) stated directly that: "The ALEC board should approve the resolution. ... At stake is whether the government responds to the people or to other interests." Emmett McGroarty of the American Principles Project said the report details how the common core was created by "private interests and trade associations" and strongly promoted by the U.S. Department of Education. Finally, the Pioneer Institute's executive director, Jim Stergios, said three federal laws would be violated by the common core's tests.

Will the ALEC Board fulfill its mission for smaller government?

According to the organization's website, members share a common belief that "government closest to the people" is "fundamentally more effective, more just, and a better guarantor of freedom than the distant, bloated federal government in Washington, D.C."

Or will ALEC follow the lead of a pro-common core Democratic and Republican governor?

Not to be outdone, Delaware Gov. Jack Markell, a Democrat, announced May 10 that he was "available to defend" the common core on May 11, the day of ALEC's vote. Markell wrote a 2010 op-ed piece with Indiana Gov. Mitch Daniels, a Republican, praising the standards initiative. He believes that the standards will positively impact America's place in the world. 

Does it  matter to these governors that these standards are privately crafted, privately owned and if you believe Jim Stergios, they violate three federal laws?  Does it matter to the governors and state boards who agreed to these standards they create more bloated federal control?  Does it matter to ALEC?  Does it matter to you?

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Rethinking Reform

Current education reform discussions revolve around modifications to the existing system of education delivery.  They rarely touch on what is being delivered. Though there is a big push to develop a set of "Common Standards" which would cover the "what", those standards still really on focus on creating efficiencies in the delivery of education. If everyone is learning the same things, from the same source materials, we get economies of scale and measurable production line improvements. This is why charter schools are under tremendous pressure to teach the same thing as public schools, so only the delivery method is modified. Efficiency. Even discussions like linking teacher pay to student performance still focus on evaluating how well a particular cog is working in an existing system and not evaluating whether the system itself is working to produce the best product.

If you have just under twelve minutes to spare, this video is a creative way to show the rut we are stuck in and a different way of looking at education.  It is worth the time to get your head out of the box the so called experts and bureaucrats want you to remain in when thinking about education. Even thought the video is two years old, the narrator covers many of the terms we use on MEW; school-to-work, standardized assessments, 21st century skills readiness, globalization. He also spends a bit of time looking at the increased incidence of ADHD and offers his own theory which does have some support in expert papers.

There is also a longer video of Sir Ken Robinson's speech on changing the paradigm in education.  See it here.

School has become an extension of business.  That's why the Clayton high school  principal who recently resigned over her creation of a fictitious Facebook page is receiving $140k in severance pay. She works in the business of education and had a business  contract.  What she did was not illegal and not covered in that contract, so she is still, under business rules, entitled to severance pay. Gates, Google, the DOEd all want to gather data about future consumers, (I mean students), because it is a valuable business tool. Using the school system to gather that data just makes good business sense.

The question no one is even asking now is, do we even have the right goal for education?  Is the business model the right one for education? After watching the video, what do you think?

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

The Nanny State Demonstration Program

I happened to be in Massachusetts this weekend so I can't help but comment on their newest ban on sweets.
Bake sales, the calorie-laden standby cash-strapped classrooms, PTAs and booster clubs rely on, will be outlawed from public schools as of Aug. 1 as part of new no-nonsense nutrition standards, forcing fundraisers back to the blackboard to cook up alternative ways to raise money for kids. - Boston Herald
The irony of this coming from state where there is a Dunkin Donuts LITERALLY every two blocks should not be lost on your typical Massachussan. The Department of Public Health and Education is even suggesting schools do away with whole milk and white bread to combat an obesity epidemic affecting a third of the state’s 1.5 million students. Dr. Lauren Smith, of the Massachuseets Department of Public Health said,
“We’re not trying to get into anyone’s lunch box. We know that schools need those clubs and resources. We want them to be sure and have them, but to do them a different way. We have some incredibly innovative, talented folks in schools who are already doing some impressive things, who serve as incontrovertible evidence that, yes, you can do this, and be successful at it.”
They're not trying to get into anyone's lunchbox, they're trying to get into their grocery cart. The DPH is pushing schools to expand the ban 24/7 into weekends and evening events as well. There are already limits on the type of foods allowed for WIC purchases. How far behind can a general ban on sugar, fat or salt be?

Massachussetts is a state on the liberal front lines for everything. They are the second largest demonstration program for the nanny state in the country, coming in just behind California. They have banned the following and more:
Those who think parents are not qualified to raise their children believe that such nanny state bans are the best way to raise children properly. They provide the necessary boundaries that otherwise intelligent parents would not know to establish.  But watching what such suppositions do to the community is disheartening.

I watched a town sponsored soccer league game for 9 year olds, in a well off town of mostly highly educated white collar workers (and quite a few tiger moms).  These parents had been retrained to be observers of those who will actually raise their children. The soccer field became an eerily silent gathering that felt more like a Stephen King novel than a fun family event.  You see, cheering had been banned in this league. 

Initially it was an attempt to quell the pushy parents coaching from the sidelines.  It has morphed into an all out ban on any type of shouting from the sidelines, justified by saying such noise confuses the kids and makes it hard for them to hear the coaches. (These kids will never make it into international football, where the vuvuzela challenges the concentration of even the passive fan.)

Midway through the second half, I watched this ominous exchange. One parent, caught up in the excitement of watching her son play, spoke in a voice just above a conversational tone, "Go Josh." In the next moment a look of panic crossed her face. She turned to the league director who was standing a few feet away and quickly apologized, "I guess I wasn't supposed to say that." He curtly responded, "Nope."  The rest of the parents shrank a little further down in their lawn chairs, pursed their lips a little tighter and kept their silent vigil over the movement on the field. It wasn't even a game, since scoring had also been banned.

That these children retain any enthusiasm for sports is a testament to natural human competitiveness.

One of the greatest teaching tools we have is feedback and these kids are being systematically deprived of it. Mom and Dad can say, "Good game" after the fact, but it can't help but feel like too little too late.  They learn to seek the approval of the official, their coach, or in school, their teacher. Their parents are being relegated to silence on the sidelines.

They will also learn the double speak of adults. While the kids' legs got exercise in the soccer league, the only muscles their parents used was their eye muscles to provide generous rolls at all the rules: No unhealthy snacks (the kids don't eat the apples and carrots brought), no bottled water (but Gatorade is ok), no cheering a goal (though every kid on the team knows what the final score was).  In the nanny state, life goes on, we just don't talk about it.

Monday, May 7, 2012

Are Your School Board Members Independent Thinkers or Parrots? Time to Find Out.

DESE and Local School Board Response to Arne Duncan's Educational Mandates?

Do your state and local board members understand Common Core standards and the ramifications in the push for privatizing public education?  You might just want to forward these three pieces against the standards and massive privatization to your state and local Board members and compare their responses.  My local district's response so far has been almost identical to the DESE statements from Jefferson City.  

Do ANY state or local educational bureaucrats responsible for your child's education truly understand the standards or are they just propagating the information paid for by Gates and other companies making billions on "education reform"?


University of Oregon professor Yong Zhao's 2009 book Catching Up or Leading the Way sent a jolt through our educational system. He questioned the use of tests and "accountability" from the unique perspective of someone educated in China, now living - and raising children - in the USA. His next book, World Class Learners: Educating Creative and Entrepreneurial Students, is due out soon, so I asked him to share some thoughts about some current issues.......

Question: What will be different five years from now if the current plans go forward?

Yong Zhao:
It's always dangerous to predict the future. But if history is any indication, judging from the accomplishment of NCLB and Race-to-the Top, I would say that five years from now, American education will still be said to be broken and obsolete. We will find out that the Common Core Standards, after billions of dollars, millions of hours of teacher time, and numerous PD sessions, alignment task forces, is not the cure to American's education ill. Worse yet, we will likely have most of nation's schools teaching to the common tests aligned with the Common Core. As a result, we will see a further narrowing of the curriculum and educational experiences. Whatever innovative teaching that has not been completely lost in the schools may finally be gone. And then we will have a nation of students, teachers, and schools who are compliant with the Common Core Standards, but we may not have much else left.

Read the rest of the interview here.

From Ze'ev Wurman in Betrayed:

Common Core research is "just another piece of misleading advocacy"

By Ze'ev Wurman

"What Schmidt is doing here borders on the dishonest."
- Ze'ev Wurman

Last week Bill Schmidt, of Michigan State University, rolled out in a highly publicized national press event the “key conclusions” from his recent research. We can’t see any of the underlying research, as Schmidt did not publish it. Its supposed findings, however, already got so much uncritical exposure and praise from the usual suspects that it is important to put Schmidt’s words in their proper context. And that context seems more problematic than organizations like Achieve, or Chiefs for Change, who sponsored this research, would like us to believe. 

.........Bill Schmidt centers his argument around two themes: that the Common Core standards are similar to those of the A+ countries; and that states with standards more congruent to the A+ countries show bigger progress on the NAEP. To make the last claim work, Schmidt redefines “congruency” to include cut-scores for no logical reason. Both claims are unsupported by his own data and, in addition, his own data is riddled with errors.

Yet, the
Chiefs for Change already tout that, “Dr. Schmidt’s research shows that state leaders are on the right track. Common Core State Standards have the potential to raise student learning and performance across America. Most importantly, they are competitive with the standards found in the highest achieving countries.”

What Dr. Schmidt presented is just another piece of misleading advocacy research, brought to you and paid for by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and channeled through the friendly services of Achieve (which received a recent $375K grant for advocacy from the Gates Foundation), the
Foundation for Excellence in Education (which received a recent $1M grant for advocacy from the Gates Foundation), CCSSO (which received $9.5M last year from the Gates Foundation to promote the Common Core), and Chiefs for Change (funded by the Foundation for Excellence in Education).

Read the rest of the article here.

Ze'ev Wurman worked over 30 years in the high tech industry, most recently as the Chief Software Architect with Monolithic 3D, a semiconductor start-up in the Silicon Valley. He has a long involvement with mathematics standards and assessment in California and served on the 1997 Mathematics Framework Committee and on the STAR Mathematics Assessment Review Panel since its inception in 1998. He was a member of the 2010 California Academic Content Standards Commission that evaluated the suitability of Common Core’s standards for California. He was a member of the Teaching Mathematics Advisory Panel to the California Commission on Teacher Credentialing. Between 2007 and 2009 Wurman served as a Senior Policy Adviser to the Assistant Secretary for Planning, Evaluation, and Policy Development in the U.S. Department of Education. Wurman has B.Sc. and M.Sc. degrees in Electrical Engineering from the Technion, Israel Institute of Technology.


This is from a writer in The Republic in Columbus, IN alerting readers to the privatization push in education.  This writer focuses solely on conservatives pushing this reform and seems to be blaming them for these measures.  The last time we looked, Michelle Rhee, Arne Duncan, Bill Gates, David Coleman and even the President were not considered conservatives...and yet, they are embracing this increasing privatization:

A headline on the front page of the Republic on May 1st, read “Officials: Web ISTEP gaffes fixed”. The first sentence was “The Indiana Department of Education said it believes a contractor has fixed the problems that kicked as many as 9,000 students offline during computerized ISTEP tests last year.”

I know, that doesn’t sound all that captivating but hang on — there may be more to this than you think.

The article cited was about the test problems and hoped for solutions created by CTB/McGraw-Hill. Now, everyone who went to public school in this country must have heard of McGraw-Hill. They published all sorts of text books with emphasis on science and technology. But what’s this CTB stuff? CTB has developed as a result of NCLB.

Are you still there? NCLB is No Child Left Behind. CTB is part of McGraw-Hill that does the tests and assessments required by NCLB and makes huge profits in the process. Where do they get the money for these huge profits?

From you and me.

Bet I have your attention now.

One of NCLB’s unintended consequences was to change the standardized testing industry from a 5 billion dollar a year business to a 15 billion dollar a year industry. Where did that extra 10 billion dollars come from? From the states’ department of education and school boards. In other words, our tax dollars. The states’ books might look better, but less of our money is going to the public education of our children.

....Indiana has a few problems with the privatized testing services. That’s not the real issue, people.

Governor Daniels’ talking points on education follow the mission statement of the Foundation for Excellence in Education, a group headed by Jeb Bush, who claims to be a “limited government conservative”. His group promotes private school vouchers, online courses, reading tests etc. All non-public.

You can start referring to this as the industrial-education complex.

Read the rest here. 


Forward these articles to your state and local officials.  Ask them what they think about this massive private intrusion and direction of public education that taxpayers are beholden to pay for....that many writers, educational professionals and citizens increasingly have come to believe are doomed to fail.  

Determine if you are getting the parroted answer from DESE statements, or even better yet, from the Department of Education.  You want to bet a box of crackers what your officials will say?

Sunday, May 6, 2012

Stanford Business Common Sense Study, Innovative Teachers (Homeschooling Parents) and #firearneduncan in the Sunday Education Weekly Reader 05.06.12

Welcome to the Sunday Education Weekly Reader for 05.06.2012.  Some visual soundbites from twitter:

  • Stanford Business creates video on how intervention strategies can help children in school.  Listen carefully.  Parse it down into common sense language.  Do we need professors and professional studies to now instruct teachers/parents that if they support and nurture children and instill values, that's the child's best chance at success?  Really?  And Arne Duncan says it's all about being data driven and common core standards.  Shocking on so many levels....Video: Prof. Cohen explains how a carefully timed social-pscyhological intervention can close the achievement gap -

  •  Interesting thoughts on homeschooling.  Teachers can be innovative.  Just like public education teachers, right?  (That's a bit of dark humor for the day)...Parents aren't qualified to homeschool a child... WRONG!

  • On the heels of the last tweet, a psychologist writes about teachers who are able to circumvent the system by helping children "meet their minds".  What's going to happen to these caring teachers when these students can't "meet their data requirements" via Common core standards and those caring teachers can't just close their doors and authentically teach?  The teachers will get fired on those data results... Hooray for teachers who help children meet their minds: I ask her about "No Child L...


Educational thought for the week to impart to students?  Is Julia a victim or a strong, confident woman?  Contrast and compare the qualities of being a victim vs a person of abilities.....

The Life of : Julia's QUALITY OF LIFE depends on what GOVERNMENT PROVIDES. She can DO BETTER if she depended on her OWN POTENTIAL.
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