"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

Search This Blog

Saturday, May 19, 2012

What Should Second Graders Learn? Academics or IB's Solutions to Poverty?

From a PYP Exhibition

The following curriculum concern was posted on a Facebook page for other readers/bloggers to post to their email, Facebook or blog sites:

I send congrats to my 2nd graders' class for winning the competition of learning all the 10 Spanish states- It saddens me they are not singing about the United States- they are still counting fingers and toes to do simple math- yet they have lots of time to spend memorizing Spanish states-this is for the Spanish class- I will also lose two hours of my life to hear the various topics of the PYP Exhibition on Wednesday- I looked at my daughters script for her Poverty topic- Basically it was helping a poor family by giving them a bag of supplies and sending an organization to help them-(they don't tell the kids who has to pay for that bag of supplies)-I told her this was basically putting a bandaid on the problem and training this family how to break the cycle- work- finish school- It will make for an interesting evening if all the other projects have the same theme as hers-

                 Primary Years Programme Curriculum framework

The exhibition

Students aged 10 to 12 who are in their final year of the programme are expected to carry out an extended, collaborative inquiry project, know as the exhibition, under the guidance of their teachers.

The exhibition represents a significant event in the life of both the school and student, synthesizing the essential elements of the programme and sharing them with the whole school community. It is an opportunity for students to exhibit the attributes of the student profile that have been developing throughout their engagement with the programme. It is a culminating experience marking the transition from the PYP to the Middle Years Programme (MYP).

Schools are given considerable flexibility in their choice of the real-life issues or problems to be explored and investigated in the exhibition.

Do real-life issues make kids STEM ready?  Is this 2nd grade curriculum (heavy on global education and short on academics) helping students in basic math facts? Educating students to acquire technical/STEM degrees was a major Arne Duncan educational goal. Is this IB's  goal?  Taken from the Exhibition Guidelines pdf, IB's stated goal (page 4/25):

The International Baccalaureate (IB) offers three high quality and challenging educational programmes for a worldwide community of schools, aiming to create a better, more peaceful world.

Second graders studying about poverty and learning the answer is to send an organization to help poor people might tweak student guilt and compassion, but it won't equip them to become scientists, engineers, computer gurus or mathematicians.  Teaching them how to teach others not to fall in that poverty trap might be a good start in breaking the poverty cycle.  Does IB teach lessons that empower students to learn to take of themselves and not rely on institutions for basic needs?  

Traditionally, parents are to instill compassion into children, not a governmental institution.  Schools were to educate children in academics so they could become competent self-supporting adults and compassion sprang from morals instilled by parents.  Schools were not in the business of  teaching children compassion to become community organizers and fulfill a global, bureaucratic and/or corporatist idea of economic/social justice. 

Friday, May 18, 2012

Data Driven Decisions For Control or Cover

David Clemens of the National Association of Scholars has a great piece about the new "data driven" culture in education. Like him, I think if I hear one more person tell me that their process is data driven I am going to scream. Data, on it its own, is like the wind for a sailboat. It can be used to move you, but without sophisticated equipment and navigation knowledge it tends to just push you in one random direction. Like the wind, data can be manipulated to move you in any direction you like. The data itself is not as important as the person using it to steer.  When anyone tells you their process is data driven, take a good look at who is at the helm.  (to complete the sailing metaphor) Watch when they pull the tiller hard to windward, you are about to jibe and could get smacked in the head by the fast moving boom.

Higher Education and the Perfect Data Storm
David Clemens teaches English at Monterey Peninsula College, where he founded and coordinates the Great Books Certificate Program. 

Consensus has it that we are living in the Age of Big Data.  When our college president was hired, he declared himself “data driven”; during interviews for vice president of academic affairs, all three finalists announced that they, too, were “data driven” (though none could articulate a clear image of what higher education might look like ten years from now).  So what does “data driven” mean?  Every day, our digital helpmeets dump petabytes of data into our cringing neural pathways.  We are besotted with data; we’ve never had so much of the stuff.  But to be data driven sounds uncomfortably like Captain Ahab (who was whale driven).

The words “data driven” are gang members; when I hear them, I can be sure the words “outcomes” and “a culture of evidence” are slouching around nearby and will shortly make an appearance.  Often, data is announced (as if newly arrived from Mount Sinai) in totals, aggregates, medians, percentages, rates, multipliers—but then the data just piles up in corners and collects under the bed. 

Frankly, I don’t have much confidence in data’s probative value.  Even though digits and stats supply a comforting sense of measurement, certitude, and solidity, data alone is still the smallest particle of information, no matter how much of it accumulates.  Data by itself is inert, like Frankenstein’s monster, patched together and waiting for a lightning bolt.  Sometimes it waits a long time.  It may seem irrefutable, but until data is analyzed, it just lays there.  Remembering Christmas presents from his childhood in Wales, Dylan Thomas recalled receiving “books that told me everything about the wasp, except why."

“Data driven” is a gift from the vocabulary of business.  On his blog, Evan Miller, President, CEO, and co-owner of Hertzler Systems Inc., writes:

As one colleague put it to me recently: “Most people have tons of data everywhere you turn, but most of that data isn’t accessible or usable.” This is an important incongruity: We say we want to be data driven, but most of us are not.

He continues:
Data may be cheap but not usable and therefore of little value. Often we don’t agree on underlying assumptions used to classify or assign meaning to data so the data are not reliable or valid [my emphasis].

In these situations very talented people may spend hours and hours of precious time to cut, paste and scrub data so that it becomes usable. The result is expensive data that appears too late to provide timely guidance.

In education, data always arrives too late, like Inspector Clouseau, blundering into a scene, oblivious to what’s really going on or who the villain is.  The kind of information data yields is retrospective, not predictive.  Correlation, as we know, is not causation.  To this, I would add mathematization is not explanation. I just learned “mathematization” is among the “bottom 20% of lookups” in the online Merriam-Webster’s Dictionary; what exactly does this tell me? 

Education managers and institutional researchers gather bushels of data, look for patterns, devise schema from which they make models that they hope are predictive in order to guide decisions and behavior.  But error in any of these moving parts can create failure.  Incomplete or irrelevant data, patterns that are Rorschach blots, rickety schema, or Rube Goldberg models all leave data driven managers concussed by reality.

Even analyzed data is haunted by forging, fudging, trimming, and cooking, along with confirmation bias and egocentric thinking.  Data at my college concludes that we have a low transfer rate to four year schools, a big no-no these thrifty days.  Turns out the data only includes transfers to state schools. The data is blissfully unaware of transfers to private or out-of-state schools, yet I can name former students currently at Columbia, Saint Mary’s, Shimer, Willamette, Redlands, Mills, and California Lutheran.  So the picture painted by the transfer data is not remotely congruent with reality even though serious budgetary and program decisions will be based on its inaccuracy. 

While knowing full well data’s vulnerability, education managers cannot resist the temptation to be data driven because data absolves them of responsibility; to be data driven lets them say “the data made me do it” (hat tip to Flip Wilson).

As with so many things, Neil Postman was prophetic about the data tsunami.  Even before Big Data, he wrote:
Like the Sorcerer's Apprentice, we are awash in information, without even a broom to help us get rid of it. The tie between information and human purpose has been severed. Information is now a commodity that is bought and sold; it comes indiscriminately, whether asked for or not, directed at no one in particular, in enormous volume, at high speeds, disconnected from meaning and import. It comes unquestioned and uncombined, and we do not have, as [Edna St. Vincent] Millay said, a loom to weave it all into fabric. No transcendent narratives to provide us with moral guidance, social purpose, intellectual economy. No stories to tell us what we need to know, and especially what we do not need to know.

Without such narratives, we discover that information does not touch any of the important problems of life. If there are children starving in Somalia, or any other place, it has nothing to do with inadequate information. If our oceans are polluted and the rain forests depleted, it has nothing to do with inadequate information.
I am going to make a radical suggestion about data and higher education:  colleges and universities will be better served if they avoid kneeling at the altar of data and instead fill key positions with people driven by intuition, experience, values, conviction, and principle.  A good place to start would be looking for leadership guided by a transcendent educational narrative.

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Do Common Core Standards Dictate the Necessity for a National School Board and National Superintendent?

This is from the chief architect of Common Core standards & new leader of The College Board.

Anngie wrote yesterday how the Republican legislators voted to expand charter schools across Missouri.  This is even as a 2010 study, "Charter Schools in Missouri: Student Achievement and Best Practices" by Missouri senators came to a conclusion on page 3/40:
The diversity among charter schools and traditional public schools does not provide evidence to allow a confident or accurate assertion that one type of school consistently outperforms the other.
What's changed between 2010 and 2012?  Charters will now be under the same common core mandates as traditional public schools, so that pesky diversity argument can be cast aside.  Since all the schools are "common", maybe Missouri taxpayers can begin the grand experiment of charters and the results will provide sufficient evidence on the grand experiment of the success (or not) of charters compared to traditional public schools.  

Currently the verdict is not in on whether charters make gains over traditional public schools.  However, it is a fact that Imagine Schools had to close in St. Louis for dismal test results, regardless of any diversity that existed between Imagine schools and the St. Louis City schools.

The Republican legislature voted overwhelmingly for charter expansion.  They have bought  into  the StudentsFirst premise that charters are a magic bullet.  They will be the panacea to failing students.  They are "choice" for parents.  They may be "choice" to get your child out of a terrible school setting into a school demanding more discipline and signed contracts for parents/children for behavior/expectations checklist, but the education will be the same as the traditional public school.  The educational delivery will be different but the education will be the same due to common core standards.

I've asked this question to some folks who like the charter school option:

Is anyone concerned on this thread that local districts have little to zero control over WHAT your child is learning? Even though you are forced to pay taxes into that local district? That educational power has been given to a 26 state consortia controlled by private interests. For instance, is it okay that your child learn the global warming "theory" is all due to man? Is it okay with you that if your child can't learn math in the manner the assessments are structured, your child is just out of luck? Does it bother anyone just a little bit that your child's educational decisions by private corporations cannot be held accountable by taxpayers? Does it bother anyone that this is really the educational version of Obamacare or Solyndra? Government money has been given to private organizations to direct our life choices in health, energy and now, education?
Is anyone concerned WHAT is being taught to children OR is all about "choosing" a school that teaches the same material as the traditional public school?

The point is, while we are spending money on yet another educational model of charters, when we don't even have enough money to fund the existing model, the transfer of power of education is occurring from union domination to corporatist domination.  As my buddy Van tweeted yesterday about our charter post:  

The choice to choose what govt/biz-partners chose for you to choose -aint the choice of a Free Market fb.me/1R7e8369Z 

When will folks understand the people who are paying the taxes and sending their children are paying into a system they can't access in terms of decision making?  That's not choice, that's just more of the same of what we have now, except other power brokers are taking our tax money and making the decisions for us and for our children. 

I don't want to spend much more time on writing about the charter school argument because that's not the elephant in the room.  This honor belongs to David Coleman, chief architect of the common core standards.  He sold his company to McGraw Hill which now stands to make millions of dollars on the standards Coleman wrote. What did Coleman's company provide which made it so attractive to McGraw Hill in terms of providing text for common core?

Grow Network (Grow.net, Inc.), a privately held company...is a leading provider of assessment reporting and customized content for states and large school districts across the country

Coleman, with help from Arne Duncan, Bill Gates, Michelle Rhee and others have coerced most states into these standards using financial threats and promises of reform based on unproven and untested standards.  Just a handful of states did not sign onto the standards, so how can this group of elitists complete the plan of the takeover of education?  Mind you, I didn't label this takeover of just "public" education.  Coleman and company are in effect taking over public, private and homeschooling education.  How?

Coleman was recently named as head of the College Board, which is responsible for constructing the SATs. According to EdWeek:

Coleman told Education Week that he hopes to align the SAT to reflect the common standards, a move that would help ensure, he said, that students who do well on the exam possess the skills that colleges and universities are seeking.

Aligning the SAT with the common core would touch on a piece of the college-readiness formula that higher education's support of the common assessments does not reach, and it's a highly sensitive piece: college admissions. Shifting the college-entrance exam to embody the new standards would involve the same significant shifts that mark the standards themselves.

Top education leaders—including U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan, a big fan of the common standards—are on record in the College Board's press release as commending Coleman's selection as the organization's new leader.

If you privately school or home school, this move toward aligning toward the common core standards will dictate how/what you teach children so they can pass the SAT to gain college admission.

Pretty nifty, eh?

Schools Matter blogged about Coleman's power play and the takeover of education:

The testing industry: self-appointed non-elected national school board?

The hiring of David Coleman as its next president is consistent with the College Board's aggressive push into the K-12 assessment arena. Unlike the university admissions testing market where the Board has little or no growth potential due to the end of the baby boom echo and competition from ACT, K-12 has been flush with money and demand for more exams as a result of programs such as "Race to the Top" and NCLB Waivers.

Under Gaston Caperton, who was hired with the goal of "growing the bottom line" for the company, the Board aggressively expanded its Advanced Placement program of high school courses and tests, introduced the controversial middle school ReadiStep pre-pre-SAT, and promoted its SpringBoard curriculum as well as services to align high school subjects with its tests.

Coleman's pledge to align the SAT with the Common Core Standards is the next logical move in the testing industry's drive to dominate public U.S. public education with "one-size-fits-all" products in its self-appointed role as the country's non-elected, national school board. 

Bob Schaeffer, Public Education Director
FairTest: National Center for Fair & Open Testing
ph-    (239) 395-6773    fax-   (239) 395-6779
cell-   (239) 699-0468
web-  http://www.fairtest.org
Charters are replacing the traditional public education model under the assumption they will improve test scores in an alternative educational setting....with the same mandates as traditional public schools.  This is promoted as "authentic" choice.  Parents are happy to get their children out of classrooms filled with discipline problems. This "choice" pacifies parents and they believe their children are receiving an education promoting critical thinking skills.  Educational content won't vary much from traditional schools, so it seems to be just a difference in education delivery, not content.  

In the meantime, many folks are missing the most important announcement from yesterday and the realization an important door in education and America is closing.  The cries of  "I'll home school" or "I'll put my child in private school" to escape the national standards will be useless and hollow at the nearest SAT testing center for your child when he/she applies for college.   

Your children (publicly, private or home school educated) better know the material used for common core assessments and answer in the way public school students have been taught to answer or else college might not be an option for their future.

Anyone see a way out of this trap of national standards, national school board and national superintendent?  The takeover of American education is about complete.

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

MO Lawmakers Make Way For More Charters

Yesterday the senate passed SB 576 which expands opportunities for charters within the state. In addition to allowing them in unaccredited and provisionally accredited districts, the bill allows local school districts to sponsor charter schools (meaning they could now be anywhere in the state.) The bill also attempts to make charters more accountable so that problems, like those with Imagine Schools in St. Louis, do not happen again.

Some interesting provisions in the bill (awaiting the governor's signature):

  • A description of the charter school's policies on student discipline and student admission, which shall include a statement, where applicable, of the validity of attendance of students who do not reside in the district but who may be eligible to attend under the terms of judicial settlements - a nod to the continued limbo of the Turner decision.
  • A description of the charter school's grievance procedure for parents or guardians- these don''t always exist for the parents in public schools. Nice to see they will be required by charter schools.
  •  The sponsor of a charter school shall give priority to charter school applicants that propose a school oriented to high-risk* students and to the reentry of dropouts into the school system. If a sponsor grants three or more charters, at least one-third of the charters granted by the sponsor shall be to schools that actively recruit dropouts or high-risk students as their student body and address the needs of dropouts or high-risk students through their proposed mission, curriculum, teaching methods, and services. One constant complaint about charters is that they cherry pick their students and toss those students who are problematic. This would give some priority for schools who would like to specifically help those students. It does not guarantee that such charters will exist, but it will be interesting to watch whether any apply.
*For purposes of this subsection, a "high-risk" student is one who is at least one year behind in satisfactory completion of course work or obtaining [credits for graduation, pregnant or a parent, homeless or has been homeless sometime within the preceding six months, has limited English proficiency, has been suspended from school three or more times, is eligible for free or reduced-price school lunch, or has been referred by the school district for enrollment in an alternative program high school credits for graduation, has dropped out of school, is at risk of dropping out of school, needs drug and alcohol treatment, has severe behavioral problems, has been suspended from school three or more times, has a history of severe truancy, is a pregnant or parenting teen, has been referred for enrollment by the judicial system, is exiting incarceration, is a refugee, is homeless or has been homeless sometime within the preceding six months, has been referred by an area school district for enrollment in an alternative program, or qualifies as high risk under department of elementary and secondary education guidelines.
  • At high risk schools Student performance shall be based on sponsor-approved comprehensive measures as well as standardized public school measures. A glimmer of reality for these students? They may not be able to meet performance targets of regular public school students.  This language might give the charter schools a little wiggle room to set separate (and more appropriate) performance targets for the most challenging students.
Some areas for concern:
  • Proposed or existing high risk or alternative charter schools may include alternative arrangements for students to obtain credit for satisfying graduation requirements in the school's charter application and charter. Alternative arrangements may include, but not be limited to, credit for off-campus instruction, embedded credit, work experience through an internship arranged through the school, and independent studies. This will merit close watching. Charters may be tempted to use as many of these as possible with their toughest cases in order to meet graduation targets. Those students may not have been pushed hard enough in their regular academic work and may graduate with lower actual skills as a result.
  • Charters must define what services they can provide for children with disabilities. Such services must comply with IDEA guidelines. It does not require that charter schools provide these services. This has been a problem with charters in other states like Louisiana where none of them accept children with disabilities because they do not have the staff to work with such children.
  • The charter application must provide clear documentation that the education program and academic program are aligned with the state standards and grade level expectations. This means the same Common Core Standards that are in the regular public schools. Same material, just a different location for delivery. Not necessarily an improvement.
See full text of the bill here.

All of the accountability measures mean that someone must be watching what charters are doing. Don't count on your legislator or DESE to be that on top of things. Now that charters could be coming to your district, it will be incumbent upon district tax payers to keep an eye on what the school board is doing with its charter school and use the tools provided by this type of legislation to address problems.

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Who are the "Elves" behind Common Core Standards, Longitudinal Data Systems and Workforce Development? ALEC, Bill Gates and Others Revealed.

Shh! We're not REALLY lobbyists.

The following is from an email (reprinted with permission) I received from Kris Alman, a physician in Oregon, who has been following the educational reform that includes Common Core, charter schools, longitudinal data systems, etc.  She was replying to the  EducationNext piece by Michael Petrelli in which he defends "conservatives" such as Christie, Daniels and Jeb Bush and their support of common core standards. 

Many educators, writers and citizens understand there is little difference between Democrats and Republicans, progressives or conservatives, when talking about educational reform.  Dr. Alman explains the marriage of the parties and how this enables political and corporation power and influence to the detriment of students and taxpayers.  

I believe the ALEC schism reflects the "neo" in conservative and liberal economics of the 21st Century. Neocons and neoliberals are fighting over a bigger piece of the "free" market pie. I made it very clear in my testimony last week to the Oregon Education Investment Board.

Neoconservative economics (a wikipedia link) shows several points of disagreement with classical liberalism and fiscal conservatism.

This blog post describes it well on the conservative side, concluding:
So which is the true “conservative” resolution? The one that tells states what to do and demands a one-size-fits-all approach (pulling out of the Common Core)? Or the one that trusts states to make up their own minds—without interference from Washington? If you chose the latter, you will be relieved to know that Mitch Daniels, Bobby Jindal, Chris Christie, Tony Bennett, and Jeb Bush—Common Core supporters all—agree.

Jeb Bush, now sucking at the teat of internet-based education, banks on this political capital . He has taken lessons from brother Neil, who made big bucks on Curriculum on Wheels (COWs) with NCLB money. Yet... as Mother Jones points out, if accountability measures were used, this enterprise would have had the plug pulled a long time ago!

Now MoJo may not be a magazine that you might read. But here is a key point.
To that end, you have to get policymakers to buy in—and that's the area where Bush has excelled. Bennet Ratcliff, a political consultant who once produced ads for Bill Clinton and now does PR work for Bush's foundation, says Digital Learning Now is all about "advocating for policies in the states and in districts that would promote digital learning. For instance, it could be talking to boards of education, it could be talking to state chiefs, it could be talking to governors, district [superintendents], legislators." None of this, he hastens to add, constitutes lobbying: "I do need to be very clear about that. This is an advocacy and education effort about digital learning. What we are not doing is lobbying." When I asked him who was actually doing the talking, he replied, "Elves."

Consider the muscle power of the Lumina Foundation, the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and Carnegie Corporation of New York with "Core to College."

Carnegie Corporation has 8 pages of grants (25 per page) going to the rightest of corporate education education reforms. I have included a few relevant ones below--esp. the one to Western Interstate Commission for Higher Education (WICHE). When Gates sponsored an SLDS project for the WICHE states in 2008, he put corporate reform koolaid in the water cooler of all of Oregon's educational state agencies.

Neoliberal economics is firmly rooted in the very blue state of Oregon. After all, everybody wants a stable pay check and recognition for their strong work.

Who represents Oregon on the WICHE Commission? Dr. Camille Preus, Oregon Commissioner of the Department of Community Colleges and Workforce Development was appointed as one of 13 members of the USED National Board of the Fund for the Improvement of Postsecondary Education; Tim Nesbitt, former AFL-CIO labor leader, appointed as top aid to Governor Kitzhaber on Education Reform; Ryan Deckert, former D-state senator and currently Oregon Business Association President.

http://www.luminafoundation. org/newsroom/news_releases/ 2011-12-19.html
The partners developed Core to College with the assistance of Education First Consulting, which will provide continuing project management. Rockefeller Philanthropy Advisors, the program’s fiscal sponsor, is responsible for grant decisions and all aspects of ongoing grant administration.
Colorado, Florida, Hawaii, Indiana, Kentucky, Louisiana, Massachusetts, North Carolina, Oregon and Washington will each receive $200,000 per year for three years, pending annual reviews of progress against goals.

http://rockpa.org/page.aspx? pid=580
The desired outcomes of this grant activity include a statewide definition of college readiness, postsecondary institution use of CCSS assessments as a determinant of a student’s readiness for credit-bearing course enrollments, and K-12/postsecondary sector alignment to the CCSS around academic courses and sequences, data and accountability, and teacher development.

Linda Darling-Hammond, Stanford professor and senior advisor for the Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium, was asked to be an expert witness for Colorado's Lobato v State School funding. She testified, “It would be hard to believe” Colorado can successfully implement new content standards “without investments.” http://www.ednewscolorado.org/ 2011/08/19/23271-lobato-819-a- high-profile-witness

http://www.ednewscolorado.org/ 2012/04/17/36874-a-lobato- debate-in-the-house
On Dec. 9 Denver District Judge Sheila Rappaport ruled in favor of the plaintiffs in the Lobato v. State suit, finding the state’s spending formula for K-12 schools does not meet constitutional requirements for a “thorough and uniform” school system.
Estimates of what it might cost to meet Rappaport’s ruling run between $2 and $4 billion a year on top of the roughly $5.2 billion the state and districts now spend for basic school operating costs.
Critics of the Lobato ruling fear it it will force lawmakers to slash other government programs in order to increase school funding.

On the Oregon Department of Education website:
Note: Currently the cost for the SBAC Interim and Formative Assessments is above what the Oregon legislature has funded in the past.

When inadequate school funding went to the Oregon Supreme Court, the Quality Education Model was slapped down.

The Court held that each provision of this inconsistent constitutional clause should be read separately and enforced separately: i.e. the legislature is obligated to appropriate the amount of money that is necessary to meet the quality educational goals, but if it doesn’t meet this obligation, it should issue a report that admits to the under funding and explains to the public why it did not meet its obligation and what impact the under funding will have on the state’s public education system.

**That's why any new unfunded mandates coming from state lawmakers who ride the corporate tidal wave of reforms is irresponsible. In Oregon, the Democrats are the enabling party in control. They don't give a rip about how much new standards, assessments and longitudinal databases cost local schools; how much it tears about the social fabric of communities; how much it narrows opportunities; how much it destroys morale of children, parents and teachers who want to support public education.

Dr. Yong Zhao explains it far better than me in his "Ditch Testing" blogs. http://zhaolearning.com/2011/07/17/ditch-testing-part-5-testing-has-not-improved-education-despite-all-the-costs/


**MEW note:  Dr. Alman's opinion on how the Oregon Democratic controlled legislature operates mimics the Republican controlled legislature in Missouri:

They don't give a rip about how much new standards, assessments and longitudinal databases cost local schools; how much it tears about the social fabric of communities; how much it narrows opportunities; how much it destroys morale of children, parents and teachers who want to support public education.
Those elves certainly have worked their way into politics and taxpayer pockets, haven't they?  We find ourselves living in a bad fairy tale.

Monday, May 14, 2012

Letter to Michelle Obama from a Montana Educator

What did Moynihan  predict 47 years ago about society?
A commenter in the Missoulian wants the First Lady to come up with a program to "make marriage cool again", as she believes the break down of the traditional family structure has led to poor academic achievement.  She believes the First Family epitomizes Norman Rockwell-esque family values, in fact, she writes no one in America embodies these values more than the President and the First Lady.  She writes:

I’ve often heard the statistic that the best predictor of academic success is classroom size. I disagree. From 47 years of personal observation and experience, it’s the two-parent family.

Read here in The Missoulian how the writer wants Michelle Obama to emphasize traditional relationships to children as a precursor to academic success.

I suspect the First Lady believes governmental control and programs (she emphasizes food control/choice in school and increased  physical activity paid for by federal grants in school that can be tracked) are the keys to academic success, not family structure.   Her passions seem to lie with "Let's Move" and her $4.5 Billion Healthy Initiatives Bill directing how/what children must eat in school.  These "choices", along with tracked physical activity will help children learn more and behave better in school.

His social prophecy, which columnists Rowland Evans and Robert Novak labeled “The Moynihan Report,” was released as a seemingly bland government report in March 1965 by the U.S. Department of Labor, Office of Policy Planning and Research under the title “The Negro Family. The Case for National Action.” At the time not even Moynihan saw the implications of his analysis for the wider society. His report isolated the problem to the African American community; only later did Moynihan see that the incipient trend would have society-wide implications.

By 1970 the out-of-wedlock birth rate had climbed to 38% among African Americans and was rising for all groups. Moynihan eventually came around to the idea that the trend that affected all groups.

By 2008 everyone else caught up to the out-of-wedlock birth rates that had provoked a panic in Moynihan in 1965. For all Americans the out-of-wedlock birth rate hit 41% and among African Americans it was 72%.

From the Moynihan report:

The fundamental problem, in which this is most clearly the case, is that of family structure. The evidence — not final, but powerfully persuasive — is that the Negro family in the urban ghettos is crumbling. A middle class group has managed to save itself, but for vast numbers of the unskilled, poorly educated city working class the fabric of conventional social relationships has all but disintegrated. There are indications that the situation may have been arrested in the past few years, but the general post war trend is unmistakable. So long as this situation persists, the cycle of poverty and disadvantage will continue to repeat itself.

The thesis of this paper is that these events, in combination, confront the nation with a new kind of problem. Measures that have worked in the past, or would work for most groups in the present, will not work here. A national effort is required that will give a unity of purpose to the many activities of the Federal government in this area, directed to a new kind of national goal: the establishment of a stable Negro family structure.

This would be a new departure for Federal policy. And a difficult one. But it almost certainly offers the only possibility of resolving in our time what is, after all, the nation's oldest, and most intransigent, and now its most dangerous social problem. 

Moynihan and the commenter agree stable family structures are important for children and society.  Even if the writer has some good ideas on promoting marriage to help students succeed, I wouldn't look to the First Lady for help in talking to children about getting married and delaying having children until they are married.  

Moynihan believed the Federal government should make some sort of national effort to establish a stable family structure.  As we've written previously, can the Federal government mandate marriage and stability in family structures?   It's a tongue in cheek posting, but think about it:  

If there  are mandates on student personal behavior taught in school (healthy eating stressed and food controlled by adults, physical activity data tracked, sexual education introduced in kindergarten) then why not mandate parental behavior to help ensure a child's outcome in society?  Would it be labeled "Character Education for Adults"?  

Then again, that might involve a judgment in adult choices...but don't we make that judgment when smoking legislation is adopted for private businesses?
  "No Smoking" is for the "good for society" and those affected by second hand smoke.  Aren't children educated for the "good for society" and affected by poor choices of their parents as well? 
Encouraging Americans to accept personal responsibility to provide stable relationships doesn't seem to be high on Mrs. Obama's list.  Making decisions for schools/parents or "nudging" them to do the "right" thing with government funding and mandates for food and exercise that are supposed to make a discernible difference in educational results, well, that's another story.

Sunday, May 13, 2012

Nice Posting from Shreveport Blogger: And So it Goes in Shreveport: Will Common Education Standards Nationwide Solve America's Education Problems or Is It Another Obama Power Grab?

Cross posting an article on Common Core.  Here's hoping more folks will start waking up, asking questions and getting these standards out of our states.

What Gift Can you Give Birthmothers on Mother's Day? The Sunday Education Weekly Reader 05.13.2012

A sweet baby. 

Happy Mother's Day on this Sunday....and did you know yesterday was Birthmother's Day? 

There are many ways to honor mothers, whether they be mothers who gave birth, are adoptive mothers or even those women who are caring for children in foster or family situations as legal guardians.  Here are two very disparate ways to mark the very special roles women have played in our lives.

New York Senator Kirsten Gillibrand thinks it would be a great idea to donate to Pro-Choice groups to further a political agenda.  From HotAir:

“This Mother’s Day, I can’t think of a better way to honor all the mothers in the country — past and present — than with a contribution to EMILY’s List,” Gillibrand writes. “They’re the ones working tirelessly to elect the pro-choice Democratic women who are making sure that our freedoms are protected for generations to come.”

 “So, this year, join me in commemorating Mother’s Day with a contribution to EMILY’s List to help elect the Democratic women who will continue to secure our rights,” the senator continues. “On Mother’s Day, let’s get women involved and make sure they know who is truly fighting for them – the pro-choice Democratic women EMILY’s List is working each day to elect to office. Make this Mother’s Day extra special. Honor mothers around the country with a contribution to EMILY’s List.”

The fundraising appeal features a photo of the New York senator with her children — even though Emily’s List requires all candidates it supports to back taxpayer funding of abortions on children who could have been born to other mothers. Instead, Emily’s List supports denying millions of women like Gillibrand a Mother’s Day.

 I’d been thinking it might be nice to take mom to an upscale restaurant on Sunday to celebrate, but no, on second thought, spending that money to help thin out the population of the next generation probably is better. Look at it this way: In years to come, the restaurants on Mother’s Day will be that much less crowded. Easier to book.


Here is an alternative Mother's Day celebration to honor the women who dealt with their unwanted pregnancies in a vastly different way.  From Lifetime Adoption Foundation:

Education for a Lifetime: Giving Back to Birthmothers

I often hear from Adoptive Families (and even Extended Adoptive Families) that they would like to do something for birthmothers, but what can possibly equal the gift they gave of a child?

Many birthmothers have benefited from
Lifetime Foundation Education Scholarships. They have far more birthmothers apply every semester than they can possibly fund. All are worthy, all have given the gift of a child, and all are seeking to better their lives through education.

The recipients from last semester represent a broad array of educational pursuits, including medicine, graphic arts, social work, law enforcement, and many more. Visit
www.LifetimeFoundation.org today to learn more about how you can help give a lifetime gift to a birthmother, the gift of education. 

Dear Lifetime Adoption Foundation,
I would like to start out by thanking you for the scholarship you have awarded me and the opportunity that you have given me. Since I was a little girl I had always dreamed of going to college. Now thanks to all of you I have been able to begin living my dream. A college education is not a cheap thing; however to me it is essential that I live out my dreams and graduate college. 

This scholarship has helped me immensely this semester. It helped with my tuition and with my books. I think that if it wasn't for people like you in the world, my dream would have never come true. My parents aren't helping me pay for college at all. I am on my own, which is why I continue to works as much as I can and save every penny that I make, so when I transfer to a major university I have some money to get me started. This scholarship has changed my life for the better. After the adoption, I didn't have much self worth. But after my first semester of college coming to an end, I have regained my confidence and know that I am a very intelligent, determined woman. 

There are no words that could ever explain how grateful I am for the gift you have given me. This scholarship is my savior financially and my support, by knowing that there is people like you that believe in the good that I can do. Thank you so much again. You will never know what you have done for me.



As a woman blessed to be a mother via the adoption process, I'm grateful to the birthmothers of my sons who saw beyond their immediate circumstances and placed their faith in strangers to provide a home for their baby.  As birthmothers, adoptive mothers or guardians, we have accepted the responsibilities of loving and caring for these babies in our own ways.

Happy Mother's Day to all women who understand children are indeed gifts. 
Site Meter