"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, September 1, 2012

Why the Republicans Don't Want Common Core Rescinded.

You are invited to the educational reform party masqueraded as Common Core and School "Choice"

Common Core allows State Longitudinal Data Systems to share information.  The information does not only include state wide assessment scores and educational data, it will include invasive personal data on students and families.  This data will be used to track children from birth into careers.  This data will be supplied to various Federal agencies and private researchers/companies determined by the DOEd.  Why is it agreeable to Republicans to gather this information and disseminate your personal information for workforce development?

The party won't address Common Core and the power taken away from states because there's a lot of money to be made in these assessments and data.  We've written about Scott Joftus and referring to education as the "Wild Wild West" and an enormous amount of money to be made in education.  It's not about the kids; it's about the ed tech bubble and fortunes to be realized.  

As I wrote last week in a story about LearnSprout, another quickly growing San Francisco startup tackling the same issue, data integration is a major headache for schools and developers. Accessing student data — from attendance records to grades to addresses — can currently be a weeks-long, labor-intensive, error-prone process that discourages schools from working with ed tech companies.

“Moving and managing data is one of the biggest things holding education back today,” said co-founder Tyler Bosmeny. The company’s traction, he said, shows how badly developers and educators need tools that integrate and normalize student data.

Some of the schools integrated with Clever include large charter school networks like KIPP, ASPIRE, and Green Dot, but the company said 50 percent of its schools are in traditional districts. Clever charges over 30 software companies, such as Mastery Connect, TenMarks, Sokikom, for access to its API so that those software companies can process student data and charge school districts for their educational services.

The company, which was founded by Bosmeny and two Harvard classmates, Dan Carroll and Rafael Garcia, was inspired by Carroll’s experience in education. After completing two years with Teach for America, Carroll managed technology and innovation for a Denver charter school and “lived this problem” with data, Bosmeny said.

Clever’s growth not only speaks to the current issues facing schools and developers, it indicates the founders’ desire to show the potential of education startups. While K-12 education has, more recently, attracted investment, investors have historically eschewed the field. To their knowledge, Clever’s founders said they think they’re the first K-12 startup accepted to Y Combinator.

“We really want to show that education can be a valuable business if you approach it the right way,” said Bosmeny. “We hope we can take away the barrier and prove that education is a real market and there’s a lot of room for innovation in this space.”

What this TFAer took away from his experience was not how to teach kids, but what was needed on the business side of education: the gathering and posting of data.  This Harvard graduates has a first hand knowledge of what data needs to be gathered, not how to educate children.  He "lived with the problem of data".  Did he "live with the problem of educating a child"?

When you hear legislators extoll the value of TFAers, remember that many of them do their two years, leave the profession and apply their business degrees to figure out how to make money from the educational machine.   

Common Core standards (written by private companies) have mandated this enormous data retrieval.  The mandates have created  a niche for private companies to compel states to spend money on these systems.  The states have to provide the data; the private companies are delighted to supply this need.   THIS is why the Republicans are loath to rescind the standards.  If there are no standards, there is no vehicle/mandate to require this data.  No data means no private start ups to gather the data.  It doesn't matter to the Republicans that these private start ups are using Federal and state money for their "entrepreneurial" ventures.

The drought is over and capital is flowing to innovators in K-12, postsecondary, and consumer learning. That’s the conclusion of a report from GSV Advisors including industry veterans Deborah Quazzo and Michael Moe. They examine the “near spontaneous explosion of entrepreneurial activity in education.”

...With more capital flowing, GSV points to four remaining challenges the primary obstacles to scale can be classiļ¬ed as the following:
  • People: New talent is being attracted to education but there is still a short supply of management and engineering talent.
  • Product: There are limited early adopters to support product evaluation and iterative development.
  • Potential: Education is a huge segment of the economy but strangled by layers of policy and bureaucracy, and anti-market bias, and inefficient decentralized procurement.
  • Predictability: Traditional political and budget vagaries have been exacerbated by the Great Recession, disruptive technologies, and new philanthropies.
How did the spontaneous combustion occur? Page 10 of the report is the “Magic Chart” that summarizes the coalescence of four change forces: advancing technology, maturing markets, innovation friendly education policy, and improving human capital. I would add a global overlay; the doubling of education expenditures in India and china is building demand for new learning tools, and viral apps quickly develop a global presence.

The "challenge to Potential" is being addressed and answered by Arne Duncan's policies and the Republicans' support of Common Core mandates and LDS.  The standards, assessments and curricula are becoming quite centralized, cutting out those pesky standards for education (which are state powers, not powers delegated to a centralized bureauracy) that are impediments for these education venture capitalists. 

The "Magic Chart" needs the innovation friendly education policy (school "choice") and the improvement of human capital.  The companies don't care how children are educated or what they learn, the companies just need to show improvement on the assessments these educational venture capitalists have fashioned.  Human capital are widgets.  Your children are pawns in a money making scheme masquerading as education.  The Republicans touting themselves as constitutionalists are masquerading behind the education reform mask as well.

Republicans don't want this business segment to disappear.   Common Core allows this private segment to tap into taxpayer dollars.   This is the reason you hear Republicans clamoring for school "choice".  It's "for the kids" is secondary or non-existent. 

Friday, August 31, 2012

The Enduring Myth of College Degree Protection

If you just got through paying for the first semester of college, you may not want to read this article.

The Georgetown Center on Education and the Workforce published a study last week that broke down the impact of a college degree on future employment. The conclusion: Those with a bachelors degree show some advantage over those with just a high school diploma, but most of the job gains are found with those who have advanced degrees.  The Atlantic said it this way, "We are in a grad school economy."

The Washington Post's Dylan Matthews looked at the GCEW study and found that they lumped together those with a regular bachelors degree and those with advanced degrees to come up with this chart.

In addition, Matthews sites an analysis done by the Economic Policy Institute that showed 98.3 percent of the job gains in that combined group went to the advanced degree holders. Lawrence Mishel of EPI said of the GCEW report, "... the report does not address the effect of education on the amount of job losses and gains in the economy. What it does address is how the limited number of jobs available in the recovery was allocated to people with differing education levels."

This chart from EPI shows that have bachelors holders have suffered much worse joblessness than normal during the recovery. With an unemployment rate of 4.1 percent they are doing better than high school diploma holders, but still worse than they were prior to the recession.

Both Democrat and Republican candidates are now touting the benefit of a college education and want to see more high school grads go into college. But the fact that the college talent pool did not quickly get picked up during the recession shows that there is already an abundant supply of them in the labor market. Having more people with degrees is not going to change that dynamic and could actually work to depress wages for those degree holders.

The hard thing for some people to grasp is that the economy has the greatest impact on the number of jobs and a degree does not necessarily shield you from that impact. Mishel puts it this way, "[W]hen the financial crisis hit and the housing bubble burst, there was a major decline in the demand for goods and services and therefore, employers responded by producing fewer goods and services and laying off staff and cutting back on hiring. Even if  everyone working in construction in 2007 had a college degree construction employers  would still have radically cut back employment."

In the  New York Times August 25, 2012, they quote the Associated Press:
“About 1.5 million, or 53.6 percent, of bachelor’s degree-holders under the age of 25 last year were jobless or underemployed, the highest share in at least 11 years. In 2000, the share was at a low of 41 percent, before the dot-com bust erased job gains for college graduates in the telecommunications and IT fields.

“Broken down by occupation, young college graduates were heavily represented in jobs that require a high school diploma or less.

“In the last year, they were more likely to be employed as waiters, waitresses, bartenders and food-service helpers than as engineers, physicists, chemists and mathematicians combined (100,000 versus 90,000). There were more working in office-related jobs such as receptionist or payroll clerk than in all computer professional jobs (163,000 versus 100,000). More also were employed as cashiers, retail clerks and customer representatives than engineers (125,000 versus 80,000).
“According to government projections released last month, only three of the 30 occupations with the largest projected number of job openings by 2020 will require a bachelor’s degree or higher to fill the position — teachers, college professors and accountants. Most job openings are in professions such as retail sales, fast food and truck driving, jobs which aren’t easily replaced by computers.”

A college degree used to be your ticket into a secure well paying job. The numbers just don't show that to be the case anymore. 

Technology has certainly affected the market, automating many jobs that the relatively unskilled labor pool used to do. Technology is also advancing exponentially. The existence of a given technology today allows for the creation of many new forms technology tomorrow that could not have been thought of before. There is no perceivable end to this expansion which means that the potential for technology to start taking over jobs of those with college degrees is also rising.  Technology, starting with the wheel, has been a means for relieving man of the burden of providing for his own existence. Every invention, from the phone which meant you didn't have to physically be in the presence of the person you wanted to communicate with, to the dishwasher has freed up time for mankind to pursue other goals.

It has been, and I believe always will be, the realm of the dreamers to come up with those new pursuits that will fill the newfound time. The current trend in employment seems to support that the future will still be dominated by the dreamers, those who can plumb the depths of current knowledge and find something new and valuable: the masters, the Phd candidates. The mantra of education preparing students for; a) the workforce of tomorrow, b) the economic engine of the state or c) the global economy assumes that we have a clear vision of where those jobs are going to be and where technology is going to take us. Those pushing Common Core take for granted that we know what that knowledge base and skill set needs to be. That's a risky assumption.

If our education system is to produce many successful people, it would appear that they need to focus on teaching people how to be one of those dreamers.

Thursday, August 30, 2012

RFID Chips in Students and Longitudinal Data Systems...Is this Tracking Really "For the Kids"?

Your child's new school picture?

All is not well for a Texas school's plan to track students via RFID chips...the same chips used to track cattle.  From WND:

A rebellion is developing in Texas against a plan by a school district in San Antonio that would monitor the exact location and activities of all students at all times through RFID chips they are being ordered to wear.

A “position paper” from groups including the American Civil Liberties Union, Electronic Frontier Foundation, Big Brother Watch, Citizens’ Council for Health Freedom, Constitutional Alliance, Freedom Force International, Friends of Privacy USA, the Identity Project and Privacy Activism said no students should be subjected to the “chipping” program “unless there is sufficient evidence of its safety and effectiveness.”

“Children should never be used as test subjects for technology, no matter what their socio-economic status. If schools choose to move forward without complete information and are willing to accept the associated liability, they should have provisions in place to adhere to the principles of fair information practices and respect individuals’ rights to opt out based on their conscientious and religious objections,” the statement said.

The San Antonio plan was reported by Spychips, a website run by RFID expert Katherine Albrecht and Liz McIntyre.

“San Antonio’s Northside Independent School District plans to incorporate RFID tags into mandatory student ID cards. One school district in Brazil has incorporated the tracking tags into uniforms. In both cases, the goal is to keep students, teachers and staff under constant surveillance,” the report said.

“RFID is used to track factory inventory and monitor farm animals,” said Albrecht, director of CASPIAN and co-author of “Spychips.” “Schools, of all places, should be teaching children how to participate in a free democratic society, not conditioning them to be tracked like cattle. Districts planning to use RFID should brace themselves for a parent backlash, protests, and lawsuits.”

According to the San Antonio newspaper, all students in the district’s John Jay High School and Anson Jones Middle School would be subject to chipping.

At that point, Supt. Brian Woods said, “We want to harness the power of (the) technology to make schools safer, know where our students are all the time in a school, and increase revenues. … Parents expect that we always know where their children are, and this technology will help us do that.”

WOAI television reported district spokesman Pasqual Gonzalez said the two schools have a high rate of truancy, and the district could gain $2 million in state funding by improving attendance.

Did you read in the district's statements that this technology is being used to improve education and learning?  No, it's for classroom management and for more money to the district.  Longitudinal data is to be used to provide workforce information to employers, not so much to improve education.  This data is for human capital management and monetary gain,  just as the RFID chipping will produce.

Tracking human capital through RFD chips and tracking students via the Longitudinal Data System sets requesting over 300 pieces of data from students and families should raise serious legal and ethical issues.  The RFID student chipping is a school district decision while longitudinal data system information will be gathered due to the Common Core standards being implemented.

Where's the outcry from these privacy groups about this invasive data gathering?  If  “children should never be used as test subjects for technology, no matter what their socio-economic status", neither should their educational and personal data be used for their suitability for specific jobs in the workforce.

Children are not cattle, neither are they capital to be groomed for workforce needs.

Link here for the RFID School Position Paper against chipping students. 

Here's an excerpt about chipping children from Would You Implant Your Child With a Tracking Device?

Implanting a tracking device into our children is merely an invasion of privacy and alienation of human rights. If it's allowed by the parents, where would it stop? School coaches would need to make sure their athletes aren't getting into trouble. Government employees should definitely be kept on a tight leash so they don't divulge secrets. We wouldn't want them to keep unsavory company.

Perhaps we could include a low-volt shock to correct bad behavior. Don't make faces at your sister, Johnny. Finish your homework, Martha. Watch your language. Change your clothes. I don't like your hairstyle. Fix it. Fix it! FIX IT!

Where would it stop? The crazy idea that we can protect our children by belittling them, by lowering their status to the same classifications that we give farm animals and pets is ridiculous, insulting, and demeaning.

Let's put an dog collar on you and place you inside an electric fence for a week. Then you can tell me how great it was that no one snatched you out of your yard. Sure, you wouldn't be able to go out to coffee with your friends, but you'd be safe. You'd have to send people out to run errands for you, but you'd be safe. You might miss out on some great adventures, but, you know, at least you'd be safe.

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

San Francisco Fed Proposal for Charter School Funding

Published in the Fall 2011 Bridges publication of the St. Louis Federal Reserve was an article by Ian Galloway of the San Francisco Federal Reserve reviewing a working paper that proposes a charter school tax credit, similar to  Low Income Housing Tax Credits, as a means to end the perpetual cycle of experimentation, hit or miss successes that currently plagues the charter system.
Credits would be allocated to the states, which, in turn, would award them to high-performing charter schools. Upon receiving the credits, schools would sell them to private investors and use the proceeds to fund wrap-around services or intensive classroom-based initiatives. The price paid for the credits would be based on the investor's level of confidence that those services and initiatives will deliver the academic results necessary to stay in program compliance and avoid credit recapture. Compliance requirements would be specific, measurable goals demonstrating low-income student achievement. These standards would have the dual benefit of allowing the government to monitor improvement while also allowing the school to evaluate its own programs and adjust them as needed.
A similar plan was proposed last year by the MO Senate to allow tax credits to those who fund private school scholarships as an option in the Turner Fix. In that instance, the intent was to find a way around the Blaine Amendment in the MO Constitution which prohibits the use of public money to fund religious education. The bill died in the Senate.

Galloway goes on to say, "As policymakers seek to balance their budgets going forward, a charter school tax credit program could offer a fiscally responsible method of funding human capital development because funding would only flow to schools that work."  The Fed can perhaps be forgiven for using the phrase human capital development since their sole focus is financial analysis and policy. The rest of us find labeling our children as "capital" distasteful. Their entire plan seeks to address a social policy question, "How do we provide everyone with a good education?" through the application of creative financial instruments. 

Some lip service is paid to the social issues that affect student performance,
There may be ancillary benefits to a charter school tax credit as well. Low-income student performance is influenced by a host of factors, many outside the direct purview of school. As a result, investors may find complementary community investments to be an effective way to protect their tax credit investment. These investments, combined with the funds raised by the tax credit program, could be sufficient to transform entire neighborhoods, as the HCZ has done in New York City.  [HCZ - Harlem Children's Zone]
 However, note the viewpoint HCZ takes towards its roll in educating children,
HCZ provides program participants with a continual pipeline of reinforcing social and educational services throughout childhood. The pipeline begins with Baby College, targeting children up to age 3, and continues with in-school, after-school, social-service, health and community-building programs.
This is your community school with a data pipeline that starts at birth. The message is clear. In some communities, parents are the worst thing that could happen to a child. Our only choice is to take over the teaching and raising of that child to try to mitigate the parent's/culture's influence.

The paper, as I said, looks at this whole issue from the financial perspective. The article opens with a review of the cost of NOT educating children.
Over their lifetimes, dropouts cost the government, on average, $292,000 in lost tax revenue, public assistance and incarceration expense, and earn $700,000 less than they would with a diploma.
They refer to the plan as an investment plan, and as such apply the venture capitalist's goals, "A charter school tax credit would also ensure that every dollar spent on the program is tied directly to a positive, measurable education outcome." The focus is ROI, with a side benefit of providing a flexible enough atmosphere to make more individualized education possible.

The last statement in Galloway's article is the most provocative. "This affords schools the freedom to address local needs without the often onerous, and potentially restrictive, oversight that comes with direct public funding." So  "specific compliance requirementswith "measurable goals demonstrating low-income student achievement" won't be onerous? And if "These standards would have the dual benefit of allowing the government to monitor improvement" how is that less oversight than exists in publicly funded schools? Sounds like the Fed is trying to have its cake and eat it too. What they are proposing seems more like legalized money laundering that is supposed to clean the money of requirements for education. I just don't think a single credit sale is going to remove all of the DESE, ADA, and USDoE requirements that will be used as the benchmark for the accountability they are promising their investors.

Silly Feds. Funding is not the problem with education. Ideology and public policy are.

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

What's Going On at CNN?

Why does CNN keep deleting readers' comments about the administration's plans for education reform?

Diane Ravitch had an interview with Randi Kaye about education and it has been an interview to remember, maybe not so much because of the interview itself, but the firestorm created when commentors responded on the site.   The web director or someone at CNN kept deleting the comments criticizing Kaye's questions and general tone of the interview. The questions Kaye asked Ravitch sound as if they came from a StudentsFirst, ACLU or Department of Education press release.

From  "Read These Comments Before CNN Deletes Them":

As readers of this blog know, CNN posted Randi Kaye's August 18 interview with me a week after it aired.
I heard there were about 35 comments, and they were suddenly deleted.

People started posting comments again, possibly 20 or so, and then they too were deleted.
People went back for a third round and posted the following comments.
A reader (Teresa H from Oregon) copied the entire batch of them, on the off chance that they might also disappear.  (I copied and added the last three.)
Isn't this ridiculous?
Why is the web editor at CNN deleting your comments?
Other readers said that none of the comments after Michelle Rhee's interview had been deleted.

You can read the readers' comments at the first link.  As of 8.28.12, there are 62 responses...maybe CNN has thrown up its hands and is allowing this interview (or playbook) of pushing charters, the "failing school" narrative and merit pay to play out.  Here is a reader's response summing up the interview and issue quite nicely:

After watching this video, I am dismayed that Ms. Kaye would not be willing to listen to both sides of the issue. She clearly had an agenda in this interview Ms. Ravitch, that public schools are bad and are failing the country. Ms. Ravitch was consistent in her argument about which test scores should be used to measure student achievement and the neutral/negative impact of merit pay. All Ms. Kaye was willing to rebut those statements with were individual examples out of a potentially limitless supply. Please CNN, present both sides at the same time. Give Ms. Ravitch the opportunity to debate Ms. Michele Rhee for more than a 5 minute segment. The truth about America's public schools is out there, if you only choose to look.

More and more people are asking questions about the lobbyists, education reformers and investors who suddenly have an interest in becoming "globally competitive" and "turning around failing schools".  "IT'S FOR THE KIDS!"...is the battle cry.  But it really isn't.  It's for the elites to make money while using taxpayer funds and their children. 
FOX hasn't had meaningful discussion about education reform as owner Rupert Murdoch is heavily invested ($360 Million for a 90% stake) in Wireless Generation and the success of Arne Duncan's education reform means his investment was a wise one.  If the clamor against education reform becomes too loud and too many questions are asked on how taxpayer money is being used to prop up privatization, he, Michelle Rhee, Bill Gates, David Coleman and other investors lose millions of dollars. 

Here's an article from the WSJ (another Murdoch interest) reporting on Murdoch's Wireless Generation investment and his reasoning for doing so.  Not one of the readers' comments agrees with Murdoch's contentions, but at least the WSJ didn't delete them.

But CNN?  What's in it for that network?  Why did it delete comments multiple times that didn't agree with its preconceived narrative? 

Monday, August 27, 2012

Why does the Post Dispatch Want More Funding for Education?

Where is education funding going?  To schools or bureaucrats?

There is an editorial in the St. Louis Post Dispatch this morning bemoaning the lack of money for education.  Here is an excerpt:

When St. Louis businessman Dave Spence, the Republican candidate for governor, visited the Post-Dispatch editorial board last month, he clearly had done his homework in one key area.

For months, this page has been arguing that Missouri's incredibly low rankings in terms of education funding are at the root of many of the state's ills, not the least of which is a moribund economy.

The numbers tell the story. Various rankings put the state among the lowest in the nation, somewhere between 45 and 47 in higher education funding. And while K-12 funding continues to slowly rise from year to year, it's not keeping pace either. National studies of education funding always put Missouri in the lowest third of states in the nation.

Mr. Spence agreed with us. But he offered not a single solution to the problem.

We asked, in as many ways as we could think of, how he would increase education funding, or even whether he definitely would commit to doing it. He said he'd find some efficiencies. Maybe. That's it.

The Post Dispatch consistently argues that the state needs more money for good education.  I ask in forums, on this blog and in conversations with others...why is that the STL city schools receive $16,000 per student and my district spends $12,000 per student, yet my district consistently scores much higher than the STL city school district?  Is the first response to educational reform and an increase in test scores answered by throwing more money at the current educational system?

I don't think it is and I suspect Mr. Spence doesn't think it is either.  Let's look at how much money has been spent on federal programs for education.  From Lindsey Burke of the Heritage Foundation in "Reducing the Federal Footprint on Education and Empowering State and Local Leaders":

In fiscal year (FY) 2011, the federal government will spend nearly $25 billion on the more than 60 competitive grant programs and some 20 formula grant programs that currently fall under NCLB.[1] This wide range of programs strains school-level management as states and school districts must spend their time completing applications, monitoring federal program notices, and complying with federal reporting requirements.[2]
Demonstrating compliance with the numerous programs through which federal education funding flows has required significant work by state and local education agencies over the decades. According to a 1994 report by the General Accounting Office (GAO), the burden on states to comply with federal regulations caused states to hire 13,400 employees to oversee these programs. The GAO noted that in 1994, while just 7 percent of education funding was provided by the federal government, 41 percent of the paperwork burden imposed on states was due to compliance with federal regulation.[3]
No Child Left Behind, the eighth ESEA reauthorization, compounded this federal-compliance burden and further entrenched the role of Washington in education policy. Estimates from 2006 found that the new guidelines and regulations created by NCLB increased state and local education agencies’ annual paperwork burden by 6.7 million hours, at a cost of $141 million.[4] According to Representative John Kline (R–MN), chairman of the House Education and the Workforce Committee, the federal burden has continued to grow since that time. “States and school districts work 7.8 million hours each year collecting and disseminating information required under Title I of federal education law. Those hours cost more than $235 million. The burden is tremendous, and this is just one of many federal laws weighing down our schools.”[5]

One Virginia school district reported that “the cost of setting aside a single day to train the roughly 14,000 teachers in the division on the [NCLB’s] complex requirements is equivalent to the cost of hiring 72 additional teachers.”[6]

Representative Duncan Hunter (R–CA), chairman of the Early Childhood, Elementary and Secondary Education Subcommittee, made similar observations:
Currently, the paperwork burden imposed by the Department of Education is larger than that of the Department of Defense, the Department of Energy, the Department of Housing and Urban Development, the Department of the Interior, and the Department of Justice. From 2002 to 2009, the Department of Education’s paperwork burden increased by an estimated 65 percent—an astounding number that continues to grow.
In addition to program compliance, states and school districts must monitor the numerous program regulations handed down from Washington. The U.S. Department of Education has issued guidance on K–12 education programs in more than 100 separate instances since NCLB was authorized in 2002.[7]
Washington’s ever-expanding role in education—evident most recently in No Child Left Behind—has been paralleled by a significant growth in non-teaching staff at the school level. Since the 1950s, the number of teachers as a percentage of school staff has declined from 70 percent to approximately 51 percent. Over the same time, administrative support staff increased from 23.8 percent to 30 percent.[8] In the mid-20th century, public schools employed 2.36 teachers for every non-teacher on their rolls; today, the ratio is closer to one-to-one.[9]

Moreover, the federal government is an inefficient provider of education funding; it filters taxpayer money from the states through the Department of Education, back down to state education agencies, and, ultimately, to local schools. Each step along the way diminishes the funds that are available to serve the needs of students. A 1998 estimate suggested that just 65 cents to 70 cents of every education dollar leaving Washington makes it into the classroom.[10]

Burke details how funding could be cut to many of the 150 federal education programs creating mandates for state agencies and local districts, control handed back to the states (although I didn't see a mention of the elimination of common core which is a concern) and how education could become more effective in terms of dollars and test scores.   She puts forth recommendations on education reform (read the article for the specifics on the A-Plus program):

Recommendations for National Policymakers
  • Allow states to opt out of federal K–12 programs authorized under the Elementary and Secondary Education Act and direct funding to the programs of their choice. Congress should give states more freedom in how federal education dollars are spent so that state and local leaders can use those resources in a way that will best serve student needs. The A-PLUS approach would create direct accountability to parents and taxpayers, aligning the incentives of states with the needs of families, not compliance with Washington. By allowing states to opt out of ESEA and consolidate the many federal programs operated under the law, state leaders would be able to direct funding to the most pressing education needs. It would also reduce federal red tape, limit the bureaucratic compliance burden and associated man hours and paperwork, ensure transparency, and provide direct accountability to parents and taxpayers.
  • Reduce the federal footprint in education by eliminating and consolidating programs. In conjunction with measures such as A-PLUS, federal policymakers should streamline the many programs operated through the Department of Education. Instead of funneling money to the states through more than 100 competitive and formula grant programs operated by the Education Department, federal policymakers should scale back the number of programs and consolidate funding among many others. The vast majority of competitive grant programs operated within the Department of Education should be eliminated,[25] and formula grant programs that are similarly structured should be subsumed under Title I of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act. In addition to the numerous competitive grant programs, there are also a handful of miscellaneous programs that should be eliminated entirely: the National Writing Project, Advanced Certification of Teachers, and Reading is Fundamental are a few examples of the miscellaneous ESEA programs that should be cut. These programs should not be under the purview of the federal government.
  • Simplify Title I and consolidate formula funding programs to better target funding to needy students. The Title I funding formula should be simplified using a set per-pupil allocation to ensure maximum funding reaches poor children, rather than diluting it due to formula complexity and administrative requirements. Many existing formula grant programs should be consolidated to more efficiently target funding to needy students. Eleven of 18 formula grant programs base funding on the number of low-income children in a state, similar to how Title I dollars are allocated. Following program elimination called for by the Obama Administration, these programs should be consolidated with Title I, and the formula should be simplified to ensure maximum funding reaches poor children.[26]

    Instead of requiring states to complete numerous applications for these federal funding streams, program consolidation would simplify state application to Washington for funding for disadvantaged student populations, reducing the paperwork burden. It could also mean a reduction in reporting requirements, further reducing the time local schools must devote to bureaucratic compliance, which could instead be spent on classroom instruction or time with students.
Congress should also permit states to make Title I funding portable, allowing funding to follow a child to the school of his parents’ choice—public, private, virtual, or otherwise.

Whether or not you agree with Burke's opinions, she makes a strong case that the Federal Government is mandating programs creating massive state debt.  Four decades of federal intervention hasn't moved test scores (they are stagnant) but it sure has decimated state budgets and created a bloated administrative bureaucratic level that is financially unsustainable.

If the Post Dispatch would get past the tired old mantra of "more money, more money, more money for education" and ask "why do we need more more money to pay for programs that don't work?" a serious and substantive  discussion could ensue and the start of real education reform could begin.

The Post writes:

We asked, in as many ways as we could think of, how he would increase education funding, or even whether he definitely would commit to doing it. He said he'd find some efficiencies. Maybe. That's it.

Maybe Mr. Spence could articulate some of the efficiencies noted in Ms. Burke's article.   I don't know why Missouri wants to spend more money for mandates voters never get to vote for while it's obvious the Federal government's educational mandated programs aren't working.

Sunday, August 26, 2012

First Day of School: Euphoria. Second Day of School: Worries.

After the first day euphoria of sending students to school, find out what's in the plan for YOUR human capital.

I remember, when as a young mother, I was excited about the first day of school for my children.  This cute blog, Wee Wonderfuls, captures the spirit of what many young mothers feel on the beginning of the school year:


August 24, 2012

first day of school!

Kindergarten! Here's a peek at her goofball backpack. And thanks to the very helpful etsy seller, ScooterbugsBaby, she had a cutie dress to wear in the knick of time. The first one I bought (from Retro&Me) was super adorable but at the last minute I decided to save it for Christmas.

Phoebe love love loves kindergarten, as I knew she would. Everything about it is cute. Teacher is cute, room is cute, other kids are stinkin cute, craft projects coming home are cute, her packing her own snack is cute. It's going to be a great year!

and THIRD grade! This one secretly likes school too. He grumbles as all proper 8 year old boys should but he spent a lot of time setting up his new desk this week. And might have actually said homework is fun. Hope his friends aren't reading this.


Now I just need my brain and the weather to catch up with this back to school business and we'll be all set!


Maybe these children go to private school and the mom feels great about the standards, assessments (or lack thereof) and the curriculum she pays for.   Maybe she trusts the school is helping her children with their individual strengths and weaknesses.  

If she is in a public school with increasing federal centralization and mandates, this first day of school might contain additional worries other than the fun dresses and backpacks.  Unlike several decades ago when school boards had authority and could respond to taxpayer concerns, today's schools are controlled by private consortia held unaccountable to voters...while at the same time, using taxpayer funding for these mandates and policies.   

Entitled "Three Ed Reforms Parents Should Worry About" in The Washington Post's Answer Sheet, the writer highlights the education reforms parents need to know what's in store for their kindergartners and older students:


If you ask most Americans what they think of their child’s school, by and large, they think it is really pretty good. Although most parents see room for improvement, few think that the “sky is falling” on the roof of their neighborhood public school. When their son or daughter comes home with poor grades, most of the time they understand that their child’s effort had something to do with it. Parents, I find, are quite sensible in their perspective and do not automatically fault the teacher.

It is unfortunate, then, we are lambasted with sweeping condemnations of public schools and the teachers who work in them. It creates cognitive dissonance between our faith in what we know and experience, and our opinion of public schools in general. You can see that ‘belief gap’ in polling. 

Although I agree that we should all make a serious commitment to improving education, I worry that reformers, many of whom have built careers and fame by constantly disparaging our schools, are successfully promoting changes that are not in the best interest of students. It may be that the “cures” they propose are far more harmful than the problems they seek to address. Here are the three reforms that I think parents should worry about the most.

(1) Excessive testing.

I strongly believe that the assessment of student learning is an important part of schooling. Assessment helps inform teachers, schools and parents about what students know and have yet to learn. Aggregate assessment information informs teachers and principals about the efficacy of their programs and their curriculum. What has occurred, however, in the past decade, is that standardized assessment has grown exponentially — especially in the younger grades. This year, New York State fourth graders, who are nine or ten years old, were subject to 675 minutes (over 11 hours) of state testing. And this did not include test prep and field testing. Both a NYSUT survey of teachers as well as an informal survey of teachers and parents by www.newyorkprincipals.org found that young students were breaking down in tears and suffering from anxiety due to testing. 

Excessive testing is unhealthy. Students begin to identify with their scores. Last June, I was appalled when I heard a 7th grader tell his mom, “What do you want from me? I’m only “a two.”

(2) The use of test scores for purposes which are not student-centered.
Student test scores should be used to help parents and teachers determine what a student knows and does not know. They should not be used for other purposes, such as evaluating teachers in order to dismiss them or to give bonuses. They should not determine which school should be closed or be rewarded. When that happens, the relationship between the child and the teacher, and the child and the school changes. Some children become more desirable than others. Some children might be looked upon as getting in the way of achieving a goal. This is not because teachers and principals are bad people; it is because they are human. They may be overly concerned, but I know outstanding, thoughtful teachers who are worried that their relationship with students will change when they are evaluated by test scores. They want to educate students, not test prep them. 

Now that all of the teacher, principal and school evaluations are based on growth models, yearly testing, I predict, will continue to expand. Each time that happens, precious learning time is lost.

(3) The amassing of individual student scores in national and state databases. 
State and national databases are being created in order to analyze and house students’ test scores. No parental permission is required. I wonder why not. Students who take the SAT must sign off before we send their scores to colleges. Before my high school’s students could participate in the National Educational Longitudinal Study, they needed written permission from their parents. Yet, in New York, massive amounts of student data are now being collected and sent beyond the school without parental permission —end of year course grades, test scores, attendance, ethnicity, disabilities and the kinds of modifications that students receive. This data will be used to evaluate teachers, schools, schools of education and perhaps for other purposes yet unknown. Schools are no longer reporting collective data; we are now sending individual student data. Although the name remains in the district, what assurances do parents truly have that future databases will not be connected and used for other purposes? The more data that is sent, the easier it will be to identify the individual student. 

Eleven states have agreed to give confidential teacher and student data for free to a shared learning collaborative funded by Bill Gates and run by Murdoch’s Wireless Corp. Wireless received $44 million for the project. With Common Core State Standards testing, such databases are expected to expand. Funding for data warehousing siphons taxpayer dollars from the classroom to corporations like Wireless and Pearson. Because Common Core testing will be computer-based, the purchase of hardware, software and upgrades will consume school budgets, while providing profits for the testing and computer industries.
Although all of the above is in motion, it can be modified or stopped. Parents should speak to their local PTAs and School Boards, as well as their legislators. They should ask questions regarding what data is being collected and to whom it is sent. 

I think it is time to get Back to Basics. Let’s make sure that every test a student takes is used to measure and enhance her learning, not for adult, high-stakes purposes. Basic commonsense tells us that student test results belong to families, not databases. Remind politicians that the relationship between student and teacher, not student and test helps our young people get through life’s challenges. Finally, let’s return to the basic purpose of public schooling — to promote the academic, social and emotional growth of our children. It is the role of schools to develop healthy and productive citizens, not master test takers.
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