"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, June 23, 2012

A Peek into the Real Intent of Common Core?

 ….Hitherto the plans of the educationists have achieved very little of what they attempted and indeed, when we have read them …we may well thank the beneficent obstinacy of real mothers…But the man molders of the new age will be armed with the powers of the omnipotent state and an irresistible scientific technique: we shall get at last a race of conditioners who really can cut out all posterity in what shape they please…They know how to produce conscience and decide what kind of conscience they will produce… The Abolition of Man, 1943  (from  What Would the Founders Think?)
Is this the scenario with Common Core assessments and ideology of standards?  Instead of "party-state" control of content, in the United States, it's "venture capitalists-state funded" control of content.
"The [Chinese] education system in the party-state is trying to lock up the minds of children, using an untenable set of ideology from Marx and Lenin to brainwash the children. If you don’t buy into that stuff, you will be given a zero score and you will fail the exam."
Jing Chu, described by New Tang Dynasty Television as an “internet writer,”  in response to reports that students who wrote anything critical about the Chinese government in essays on their college entrance exam received a zero

Question: Who sets the ideology in Common Core standards?
Answer: It's not your local school board.

Friday, June 22, 2012

MISIP 5 Formally Approved for Implementation This Fall

The Department of Elementary and Secondary Education (DESE) gave their final presentation to the State Board of Education regarding the Missouri School Improvement Program (MISIP) this week. The plan includes all of the tools for measuring school and teacher performance to help each district prepare their Annual Performance Report (APR) which is a tool used by the state to determine a school district's accreditation.
"Schools will have multiple ways of achieving the standards including showing student progress and/or evidence of student growth. Because accreditation is based on multiple years of data, MSIP 5 will be used for accreditation purposes beginning in the 2014-2015 school year. School and district APRs generated during the transition from MSIP 4 to MSIP 5 will be used to inform each school and district of its progress toward meeting or exceeding the state targets."
The main stream press has provided few details on the program, so we are providing more detail here from the presentation made to the SBE.

 MISIP5 Policy Goals
  • Promote Continuous Improvement and Innovation 
  • Establish the State's Expectations
  • Distinguish Performance of Schools and Districts
  • Empower All Stakeholders
 MISIP Performance Standards will cover the usual:
  • Academic Achievement
  • Subgroup Achievement
  • College and Career Readiness (K-12 only)
  • High School Readiness (K-8 only)
  • Attendance Rate
  • Graduation Rate (K-12 only) 

The plan also calls for regional meetings to:
  • Identify Lowest 5% performing schools and provide drastic intervention and assistance
  • Ensure EVERY school is “Good Enough”
  • Ensure EVERY school Gets Better
DESE's vision of accountability

Note - Even DESE calls the upcoming Common Core Standards Federal Standards. Local districts are responsible for formative assessments which tell the teacher whether the students are learning the material so he/she can make adjustments within the unit.

The rest of the presentation simply demonstrates that they are trying very hard to quantify the means of deciding whether or not the school system is working. Eating a bowl of granola will provide less crunching than the numbers generated for school performance.

One  significant change is that the metric will now use multiple years of data to measure academic performance which is meant to reduce volatility. In addition, Subgroups (which include ethnicity, English Language Learners, Free & Reduced Lunch etc.) will be reported on individually with separate targets (in some cases,) although accountability will be applied to a supersubgroup so that no individual subgroup will be systematically eliminated due to its small size.  This last requirement is meant to level the playing field between districts.

To view the full presentation click here

At 100 pages, the presentation is a lot to cover. In a Nancy Pelosi-esque way, we will have to start using the system in order to see what is in the system and whether it works as designed.

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Common Core is a Money Making Venture and Social Justice. Is this the Educational Reform Taxpayers Want?

Forget the Arne Duncan "Happy Dance" and verbal spin about his plan of education reform.

Common Core and Race to the Top mandates are not about making students STEM ready or globally competitive.  It's about:
  • making preselected suppliers wealthy
  • centralized educational control
  • educational equity
That's it.  It's capitalist cronyism disguised as choice, centralization of power, and social justice played out in schools.

Here's an exchange a friend of  mine (who knows about Common Core Standards and how they are untested, unproven and underfunded) had in an airport and passed along:

I struck up a conversation with the guy next to me while eating dinner at the bar in the Chicago airport during my layover. It turns out he is an education consultant/trainer on his way to Minneapolis for some big charter school conference tomorrow. I played dummy and started to ask him questions. He brought up common core and said, "I hate curriculum stuff. It is really boring. But that is where the money is. The thing is a pot of money." I asked him what it would cost the average school district to implement it. His answer, "That is a really good question. There will be some software and training, but I really have no idea."

The reference to the "pot of money" is reminiscent to Scott Joftus' remark many years ago about education reform being the "Wild West" in terms of making money.   The answer about the cost for the average school district is similar to DESE stating "it won't cost much" for taxpayers. 

The educational equity goals are paramount in Common Core standards and RTTT mandates.  Oak Norton in Utahns Against Common Core discovered interesting information about the standards as they relate to social justice:

I was at a Meet the Candidates event last night and someone told me that Phil Daro, one of the writers of the math standards, said they wrote Common Core specifically for social justice. For those that don’t know, social justice is a buzz word that means redistribution of wealth or helping the poor at the expense of the wealthy. I did a couple of web searches and found a teacher’s website (who seems to get it) with this video where Phil says it right at the end.

Common Core set minimum standards for all students which means minimal learning for those who could accelerate. Thus social justice is achieved by holding down the achievers to the level of the lowest common denominator and by forcing them to learn what you want them to learn instead of letting them become individualized and accelerating their education as they can.

Nowhere is this going to happen more than in Utah where we adopted math standards in an integrated fashion instead of discrete years. If you’ve not read about that problem yet please click that link. Otherwise watch Phil’s video clip. I’m not sure who he’s speaking to but they are an easily entertained bunch. :)

Here's the clip from Oak's site:

When you attend your child's mid-year conference, understand that his/her progress is not about him/her at all.  It's "progress" based on Common Core standards of "show me the money" and attempting to make everyone the same. 

Americans' confidence in public schools is down five percentage points from last year, with 29% expressing "a great deal" or "quite a lot" of confidence in them. That establishes a new low in public school confidence from the 33% measured in Gallup's 2007 and 2008 Confidence in Institutions polls. The high was 58% the first time Gallup included public schools, in 1973.

Over approximately four decades, confidence in public schools has declined 29%.  Could this decline have anything to do with the more than three decades old Department of Education and its centralized mandates?  Can we now determine federal involvement in education has been a failure, academically and financially? 

Do you think that by making schools money making ventures for private companies using taxpayer money and constructing a program of "one size fits all for students" will "reform" education?  Do you think Gallup will see an uptick in citizen confidence or will Common Core standards create a race to the bottom in polling and real learning?

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

School Boards Aren't Getting The Message

 Cool Hand Luke

There seems to be an epidemic of communications breakdown between government and the people. It goes all the way to the President, who gave over 100 speeches in which he tried to get the public to see the beauty of the Healthcare bill.  He was largely unsuccessful. It was seen in the state likes Arizona where the immigration law SB 1070 was supported by the majority of the AZ population, but is being prosecuted by the Justice Department.  It can even be found at the local school board level where in Rockwood, for instance, the public did not vote in sufficiently large numbers to pass the latest bond issue Proposition R, but the school Superintendent has decided the problem was that the people were swayed by the media and so the district needs to hire a consultant to tell them why they voted wrong.

Proposition R was a $43.2 million "no-tax increase" bond issue to support technology, safety measures and infrastructure and maintenance of current Rockwood facilities.  The Rockwood School District (RSD) spans more than 150 square miles in total and is the fourth largest district in Missouri. RSD has 19 elementary, six middle and four high schools, in addition to separate campuses for two early childhood complexes, two Centers for Creative Learning (gifted students' programs), and an Alternative High School Education location. The district encompasses the communities of Wildwood, Eureka, Ballwin, Chesterfield, Ellisville, Fenton, Manchester and Clarkson Valley.

The no-tax increase descriptor is a favorite one for government officials because it gives the measure the aura of being free. In fact, any bond issue has cost for the issuer. The principal repayment requires cash, as does the interest payment, which is paid to the bondholders.  And then there is the cost of the company that handles the bond issuance for the organization.  Calling it a No-Tax Increase was Rockwood's way of selling the bond to the public. Apparently they weren't buying. One commenter on Rockwood's own website said, "Does this interest come from the interest fairy or does it come from my tax money?"

Failure to pass the bond issue has left the school board with a budget deficit that must be addressed. But here they are no different than the state, the country and even other countries like Greece and Spain. The public here (and in Germany) seems to be screaming that the time is now to start really tightening the belt and looking at budget cuts as the means to get us to a balanced state. That was the message that was sent by 46% of the voters in Rockwood in April (the measure needed 57% of the vote to pass but got only 53%.) That was not the message received by the school's top administration.

Superintendent Bruce Borchers stated at a June 7 School Board meeting that “the community needed to be refocused with effective data.” Refocused on what?  Education. To him, the vote against Proposition R was a clear indication that the community was not focused on education. In order to address that he has proposed hiring a consultant to "engage the community."

So a public who said, "We do not believe you are spending our tax money prudently," will now have to pay for a consultant to tell them why their priorities are wrong. Spending money to convince you to spend more money. Sounds like the logic for the stimulus plan.

Borchers claimed that the public was swayed (incorrectly) by media coverage on Prop R.  Apparently he didn't think they could read Rockwood's own finance website which said Rockwood has only 85% capacity in elementary schools, with a forecasted decline of 5% by 2013/2014 and 7% by 2015/2016. Middle schools are at 80% capacity and will only fluctuate +/- 1% in enrollment through 2016. High schools are at 90% capacity with enrollment projected to increase < 2% through 2016. Combine that with the understanding that a bond issue, while perhaps not requiring a tax increase, was not cost-free and meant that tax money would be used to service debt instead of providing services directly to students and you have a public who was very well informed.

I would say that the public was directly focused on education. Most of the money was going to be used on construction projects like replacing gymnasium floors, updating fire sprinkler systems and build outs of library space or nurses stations. While it would certainly be nice to have shiny new facilities with everything totally up to date, such improvements do not improve student education on a dollar for dollar cost basis.

Rockwood is in their second round of "listening tours", but they don't seem to be very good at the listening part. If money is so tight and these projects are so necessary, why then did they vote 5:2 to extend the Superintendent's contract and provide a raise, in an economy where most people still are not seeing raises in their pay?

The Rockwood School District Stakeholders offered this advice:

simply listen
  • listen – without an elaborate complicated “process” that takes 6 to 9 months.
  • listen -  without delivering  “key messages”, which you have already done through the Guiding Change Processes of  2010 & 2011,  and the Superintendent’s Listening Tour of 2010.
  • listen without a formal presentation.
  • listen without an immediate rebuttal.
simply listen
  • hold a number of meetings with stakeholders during the months of June and July
  • have a fair number of Board Directors and Superintendent Cabinet personnel present at each meeting to hear and acknowledge the stakeholder input
  • provide a variety of meeting locations and times  (early morning, mid-morning, afternoon and evenings)  reaching the different segments of our district community
  • record the stakeholders’ input so there is public record of the feedback
seek  answers

Rockwood is not alone in its deafness to the voters. Washington School District, which touches on three counties, Franklin, St. Charles and Warren, also failed to pass a $65 million bond issue which included a 46 cent property tax increase this past April. They are looking to go back for another bite at the apple with hopes to get a slightly revised proposal on the November ballot. They too are holding listening sessions with the public. So far, they have focused on educating the public more about the need for the money to build new schools as well as renovate a building for an alternative education site, and make technology improvements districtwide. They have not yet begun discussions on program and service reductions and reorganization should the bond issue not pass the next time.
WSD Superintendent VanLeer said, "We also need to talk about what will be cut if a bond issue fails again. We will need to spell that out to voters."

It seems few school boards focus on this last statement. The first option is to go to the public and ask for more money because, it is all for the children. Then the only option presented to the public is how much more money the board wants and maybe how to finance those wants. It is an all or nothing vote. If you don't vote for the money, then you are misinformed or against the children. 

Like charter schools, this is really not a choice.  True choice would require the boards to seriously look at different ways to fund their wants/needs. Realistic program, service, and staff cuts should be developed that would reach the same goal. Then the public could weigh those changes against the new wants/needs and make an informed decision about which changes they wanted and how they wanted to pay for them.

RSDS recommends that school boards ask these four questions at their listening sessions if they truly want public direction on which way to go.
  • What do you value in your school district?
  • What do you want changed in your school district?
  • What are you willing to do without in your school district?
  • What are you willing and not willing to support in your school district?

 Then, of course, the school board has to listen to the answers.

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Will the Cambridge, MA Government Control Your Food Choices...in Private Restaurants?

Banned French lesson phrase for Cambridge, MA restaurants?

This is a follow up on our previous post The Regulation (not Education) of Food "Choices".

The City of Cambridge, Massachusetts is pondering banning soda and sugar-sweetened beverages in restaurants. This is because high intake of soda and other sugar sweetened beverages increases the risk of diabetes and obesity.  The government will make it easy on the citizens.  No thinking required.  No decisions to be made. 

The city will save you from yourself.  I imagine the founding fathers are rolling over in their graves.  Americans are independent thinkers, not dependent on a centralized authority to tell us what we are allowed to eat or sell in a private restaurant.

Remember these "choices" are not only for food.  The government has also sourced out educational standards to private companies so your local school board and state don't have to make educational decisions and be held accountable for results.  Just think of the memo linked here as the federal takeover of state/local educational decisions.  Soda and cake decisions taken away in the future by governmental agencies, standards/assessments and curriculum decisions taken away now.

 Just what is the difference from this proposed ban on sugary drinks and the prohibition on alcohol?  History has not treated prohibitionists kindly.  The zealots determined to save others from the effects of alcohol are often portrayed as busybodies even if their original intent was admirable:

Many women, notably the Women’s Christian Temperance Union, had been pivotal in bringing about national Prohibition in the United States of America, believing it would protect families, women and children from the effects of abuse of alcohol.

 How do you think history will view the Epicurians who are redefining food choices as moral choices?  Can they save us from ourselves or will they go down in history (like the Prohibitionists) as interfering with individuals' freedoms to make their own choices? 

But let's look at the bright side of governmental control.  Maybe a new job opportunity will be the construction and operation of illegal soft drink stills so the unemployed soft drink distributors and employees can make some money when their livelihoods are reduced by governmental regulations.

Monday, June 18, 2012

Jeb Bush, Levesque, Obama, Duncan. No Difference in Educational Philosophy Between Republicans and Democrats. Some Floridians are not Happy with this Bipartisanship.

A trio of elitists applauding the implosion of public education. Is Levesque standing in the wings?

Here's a crosspost of Grumpyelder's blog on what's happening educationally in Florida with Jeb Bush and the boondoggle of common core standards and high stakes testing.

Pay close attention.  This playbook will be coming with a vengeance to your state as well.  Political operative Patricia Levesque (Governor Jeb Bush’s deputy chief of staff for education), is pushing untested, unproven and unfunded mandates to taxpayers and insisting they are superior to what was previously put in place by the Florida state educational department.  Constant assessments will not provide better education to students.  They will provide more money to the testing companies but this is not educational reform benefiting students.

Look into the crystal ball of Florida education.  It's your story in your state if it adopted Common Core.  Your cast of characters will change but the script is the same.


Floridians are rejecting Jeb’s education schemes

Jeb Bush doesn’t get it,  Last week he got defensive because most conservatives wouldn’t go out of their way to nominate him for …  pretty much anything.  Sure he tried substituting Ronald Reagan’s name for his own, but everyone saw through the ploy.  He claimed the GOP had become too conservative and unwilling to to compromise.

The truth of the matter is people are tired of the GOP putting different packaging on the same schemes the democrats are selling and claiming to have a better product. Sometimes it’s the dems repackaging a GOP scheme.

Either way the end result is the same.

The Eighth Amendment to the Constitution gets trampled, the Tenth as well when it’s done at a Federal Level, government expands it’s reach  and Americans get screwed.

This is true of education and Jeb is beside himself over the idea the Floridians both liberal and conservative are demanding a second the legislature take a second look at the scheme he’s been hawking since before he left the Governors Mansion..  To make matters worse for Jeb, he’s been trying to peddle the scheme nation wide for Barack Obama..  He’s having success with the State legislatures, but like in Florida, a growing number of  parents, teacher and taxpayers are saying NO– or more like Hell No.

Last week The Florida School Boards Association agreed and  passed a resolution opposing the current use of the Florida Comprehensive Assessment Test

This kind of rejection isn’t good for Jeb political future or his wallet, he’s got big money riding on the states accepting Obama’s Educational Program .. Realizing people weren’t listening to him he sent in  Patty Levesque–
If Florida wants students to be the most prepared in the nation for Common Core State Standards and equipped for success in the classroom and in life, we must ask students to show what they know.

It is unfortunate that school boards are spending time and resources passing resolutions against the FCAT when they could be working to better inform parents, equip teachers and prepare students to reach higher.

“Patricia Levesque is the Executive Director for the Foundation for Florida’s Future. She served as Governor Jeb Bush’s deputy chief of staff for education, enterprise solutions for government, minority procurement, and business and professional regulation. Previously, Patricia served six years in the Florida Legislature in the Speakers Office and as staff director over education policy.” Foundation for Florida’s Future

The nice thing about having a charitable foundation is everyone assumes charitable foundations that promote things like education are above reproach.  Patrica Levesque has been a  front person for Jeb’s education schemes for years.

Common Core is the Nationalization of Public School Curriculum.. But they can’t say that because the concept itself is a violation of Federal Law and an insult to the 8th and 10th Amendment in The Bill of Rights..

Instead what they plan on is a set of National Standardized Tests,,  The won’t tell school districts what to teach, but if kids don’t pass the Federal Tests the districts lose funding and individual schools may get shut down.. If schools get shut down, Jeb and Obama have plenty of friends in the Charter School Business ready, willing and maybe able to help out..

You notice I said  ”maybe able”  because there have been some reports that many of the charters just aren’t that able to show they can do a better job than public schools …  Bob Sikes wrote about one of those schools that just happens to be owed by Frank Biden, Vice Presidents Biden’s brother  Why Mavericks Charter Schools Got Some ‘Splainin’ to Do..  


What's apparent in Florida is that this isn't about education "reform".  It's about centralized control and crony capitalistic ventures using taxpayer money for your profit and your children as the tokens.

The Regulation (not Education) of Food "Choices"

A Scottish student gives this public school meal a low rating.  It meets nutritional standards...but will students eat it?

The political elites in Scotland and the United States have a common goal.  It's the quest for and maintaining governmental control.  Governmental authorities publish talking points of healthy eating and the problems of obesity, but when it comes down to it, the underlying belief from these elites (and bureaucrats) is a centralized governmental authority should handle all decisions about food consumption and production for its citizens.

The first story from BBC News details findings on food nutrition on outside of school food purchases:

School pupils in Glasgow who buy lunch outside school are likely to be consuming too much energy, fat and salt, a survey has found.

The Glasgow Centre for Population Health study bought 45 lunch items around five secondary school areas.

It found 37 samples did not comply with one or more of the nutrient standards for fat, saturated fat and salt.

The study concluded that more needed to be done to encourage healthier "stay-on-site" lunchtime eating among pupils. 

What "encouragement" (or "nudge") does a government provide to encourage healthier "stay-on-site" lunchtime eating?

This study concluded that several factors needed to be addressed if healthy eating was to be increased amongst secondary school pupils.

These included the use of licensing and planning powers to control the number and concentration of take-away food outlets near schools and the possible introduction of taxes on unhealthy foods and subsidisation of healthy foods. 

Glasgow City Council, which commissioned the research, said it was further evidence that its stay-on-site healthy eating initiative - The Big Eat In - was a better option for pupils.

One option entertained is to penalize the take away food outlets by restricting what they can cook and/or institute a tax on "unhealthy foods" near the school because these private businesses don't support the governmental nutritional standards.  A private business can be told what/how to cook food and/or suffer financial penalties if these standards aren't followed. 

What do these Scottish "food fixes" have to do with America?  A governmental board can't penalize a private business for food choices and service in America....right?  It seems as New York City is toying with the same mandate ideas as Scotland:...except this mandate would include adults.  From Hot Air:

Like I said a few weeks ago, this was always the goal of the otherwise dumb soda regs. A restriction on portion sizes makes no sense when it’s limited to one kind of beverage and a select few types of vendors except as a way to inure the public to more draconian regulations down the line. Ban big sodas now, let people get used to it, and then if/when the city’s obesity rate dips — for whatever reason(s) — flog the hell out of those statistics as proof that dietary nannyism works and should be pursued more aggressively. No surprise, then, that the city health board might be thinking about bold new frontiers in keeping you from stuffing your face.

What is surprising is that they’re doing it so soon. This strategy depends on going very slowly at first so that initial worries about a slippery slope will ease. Instead, sounds like they’re ready to turn this into a slippery water slide. Bad move:
“The popcorn isn’t a whole lot better than the soda,” said Bruce Vladeck, a senior adviser at Nexera Consulting and one of the mayor’s appointees to the 11-member board.
The board yesterday agreed to put Bloomberg’s big-soda ban up for a public hearing July 24, but also talked about the merits of limiting other high-calorie treats.
A large tub of movie-theater popcorn has up to 1,650 calories.
“There are certainly milkshakes and milk-coffee beverages that have monstrous amounts of calories . . . and I’m not so sure what the rationale is not to include those,” said member Dr. Joel Forman, a pediatrics professor at Mount Sinai.
The rationale for skipping milkshakes — for now — is, I guess, that there’s some nutritional benefit to milk-based drinks whereas soda is pure crapola. But of course, it’s not the milk that’s doing the heavy caloric lifting in the average latte syrup bomb, it’s the sugar. Why not drop a portion-size restriction on Starbucks too and let customers supplement their lost milk with a cup out of the carton at home? (Why not just ban the sugar and syrup altogether?) Answer: Because the well-educated diet-minded liberals who sneer at soda consumption kind of enjoy their morning mochaccinos, and if the state starts coming after that now, then Bloomberg might have a real backlash on his hands. Paternalism’s for the rubes, not for the overclass

 Paternalism’s for the rubes, not for the overclassThere you have it in a nutshell.  The mandates coming from Scotland to control children's consumption of food outside of school or NYC controlling sodas, milkshakes and popcorn for adults as well as children has more to do with governmental control than teaching and allowing personal responsibility and freedom for individuals.   Regardless of what the authorities claim about food choices, the fact is, the choice is taken away and we are mandated to certain items.  It's not OUR choice, it is what we are being "allowed".  (That's the same premise school "choice" operates under as well).

What happened to a Scottish girl who blogged about cafeteria food at a public school paid for by taxpayers, while the Scottish government explores mandates to penalize private restaurants?  Her blogs (started by her and her dad as a writing exercise) were eventually banned by the local council but then overturned after public outcry:

Martha began publishing photographs of her Lochgilphead Primary School lunches on 30 April.

She gives each meal a 'food-o-meter' and health rating, and counts the number of mouthfuls it takes her to eat it.

An Argyll and Bute Council spokesperson said: "Our school meal provision is fully compliant with nationally agreed nutritional standards.

"Young people make a choice from at least two meals and salad, vegetable, yoghurt and cheese options are available each day."

A culture that redefines food choices as moral issues will demonize the people who don’t share the tastes of the priest class. A culture that elevates eating to some holistic act of ethical self-definition - localvore, low-carbon-impact food, fair trade, artisanal cheese - will find the casual carefree choices of the less-enlightened as an affront to their belief system. Leave it to Americans to invent a Puritan strain of Epicurianism.

It will tell you what and how much to eat and it is following legal standards.  It's not concerned if you are still hungry or what you are hungry for that day and individuals shouldn't be concerned about making personal choices.  It is controlling your choices and telling you its choices are good for you.  


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