"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 8, 2013

A Teacher Explains Common Core Data Collection Factually and Creatively

Connecticut teacher Paul Bogush wrote an article explaining the connection between Common Core and data collection.  It is a multi-layered issue and difficult to understand. The puzzlement (and the derision of those thinking there is a connection) of readers on this subject is apparent.  I picked this up from twitter:

My time on tells me kids will get iris scans? What? I don't see any standard on retina security.

It's obvious this twitter user believes those who question/want to stop common core propagate conspiracy theories.  How do you explain common core and the connection between longitudinal data systems in 140 characters or less?   Bogush does a good job explaining why common core and data collection is intertwined both in the article and in his response to a teacher in Sweden asking about how a national system will work in the United States.

You can find A post for the Common Core Lemmingshere.  He prefaces the article:

Please realize that despite its length, this post is a quick overview of where the data on your kids’ is going.  I would need days to research, edit, and truly understand all the connections in order to produce a refined post.  So please take this rough attempt to outline where your kids’ data is going as just that, a rough attempt!

He does a great job trying to make a complicated relationship between corporate entities and the government understandable.  It's full of facts.  But let's jump to the Swedish teacher's question and his more creative explanation of Common Core standards, data retrieval and the public/private partnership:


Please… Could you, very briefly, tell a foreigner what this CCS is all about? Is it more than just a way to standardize teaching/education with the aim to ensure a “lowest common denominator”? I just don’t get it with all this data collecting you’re talking about.

Here we have a national standard, in the form of a common curriculum and also common syllabi (for pre-school, elementary, secondary and upper secondary respectively)… All schools (public as well as private) must follow these… We also have standardized national test in some subjects… and all grades are public (which means you may find a specific person’s grades if you search for them)…

But as a teacher I am very free to interpret the syllabi, and as long as I don’t leave out any of the “central content” I may choose the ways of teaching as much as I want to – taking into account all the various individuals that my classes consists of and provide for them all

It’s generally considered to be a good way of ensuring that all students get an education as equal as possible – leaving no kid behind… but also ensuring that “high performing” students are challenged and given the opportunity to constantly develop new knowledge and improve their skills.

It’s NOT a way of holding anyone back, or trying to conform our children… in fact teaching, and allowing, our students of all ages to be critical is stated in the national curricula.

So… CCS… please tell me what it’s about – something very different from our Swedish system (which though criticized in many ways still is something the vast majority of teachers want to keep)?
All the best,

Tough one to summarize Magda!

Let’s say Handelsbanken and TeliaSoneradecided decided to give money to non-profit groups who decided to standardize a system to collect data on every Swedish child. Then they needed a way to collect the data so they decided to form other groups with very friendly names that sound like they represent state governments, but are in fact corporate sponsored. Then these groups hire a couple people to tell every Swedish child what they should learn and at what age. Let’s say these same people were behind creating other schools that would undermine public school teachers and public schools. Everything will depend on whether or not a kid passes this test. So schools tell teachers what to teach and how. After the first tests come back and they find out what scores high and low, they will then know what kind of writing scores the highest and teach every kid to write in the same way so that they can get high test scores. The groups behind this are attempting to tie teachers salary to their kids test scores so that they will be even more inclined to teach to the test. 

So businesses have created what will be taught, how it will be tested,and therefore how it will be taught. The more we do it, the more money they will make. 

The data is collected all along the way to be able to sell more stuff to help kids get higher schools, and I believe more devious things, which I will not write about due to they simply have not happened yet. One example though, lets say you kids score low on a test, but your kids excel in your class. The companies can see this in the data they collect and then you will be called in for grade inflation.

You have to remember that we have states just as large as Sweden. So nationalizing a curriculum can make total sense in a country like Sweden, and many, many others. But with a country as big and diverse and rich and poor as the United States, expecting every kid who is 8 years old to be able to do the same exact thing is a bit crazy.

Friday, June 7, 2013

Now That Data Mining is on the Public's Radar....

...let's revisit a MEW column on student data mining first published on December 28, 2011 via Emmett McGroarty and Jane Robbins of American Principles Project.  From The Department of Education Just Won The Data Jackpot:

Emmett McGroarty, executive director of the Preserve Innocence Initiative of the American Principles Project and Jane Robbins, a senior fellow with the APP, wrote a great opinion piece that was featured in today's New York Post regarding the new access the Federal Dept of Education just granted itself to a wide range of data about your children. 

Would it bother you to know that the federal Centers for Disease Control had been shown your daughter’s health records to see how she responded to an STD/teen-pregnancy-prevention program? How about if the federal Department of Education and Department of Labor scrutinized your son’s academic performance to see if he should be “encouraged” to leave high school early to learn a trade? Would you think the government was intruding on your territory as a parent? 
The government will have the ability to look at
any data they want to regarding your child.
Under regulations the Obama Department of Education released this month, these scenarios could become reality. The department has taken a giant step toward creating a de facto national student database that will track students by their personal information from preschool through career. Although current federal law prohibits this, the department decided to ignore Congress and, in effect, rewrite the law. Student privacy and parental authority will suffer
How did it happen? Buried within the enormous 2009 stimulus bill were provisions encouraging states to develop data systems for collecting copious information on public-school kids. To qualify for stimulus money, states had to agree to build such systems according to federally dictated standards. So all 50 states either now maintain or are capable of maintaining extensive databases on public-school students. 
The administration wants this data to include much more than name, address and test scores. According to the National Data Collection Model, the government should collect information on health-care history, family income and family voting status. In its view, public schools offer a golden opportunity to mine reams of data from a captive audience. 
The department’s eagerness to get control of all this information is almost palpable. But current federal law prohibits a nationwide student database and strictly limits disclosure of a student’s personal information. So the department has determined that it can overcome the legal obstacles by simply bypassing Congress and essentially rewriting the federal privacy statute. 
Last April, the department proposed regulations that would allow it and other agencies to share a student’s personal information with practically any government agency or even private company, as long as the disclosure could be said to support an evaluation of an “education program,” broadly defined. That’s how the CDC might end up with your daughter’s health records or the Department of Labor with your son’s test scores. 
And you’d have no right to object — in fact, you’d probably never even know about the disclosure. 
Not surprisingly, these proposed regulations provoked a firestorm of criticism. But on Dec. 2, the Department of Education rejected almost all the criticisms and released the regulations. As of Jan. 3, 2012, interstate and intergovernmental access to your child’s personal information will be practically unlimited. The federal government will have a de facto nationwide database of supposedly confidential student information. 
Read more here at the original posting How the Feds are Tracking Your Kids.

One concerning aspect of the re-regulation of FERPA is the data sharing of individual information between federal agencies and private researchers.  Would the Federal Bureau of Investigation want your student data?  If it did, you wouldn't have any idea it was being shared.  It's not illegal anymore to data mine individual student information and share it.  Worried yet?

From The Classic Liberal and The Federal Gestapo:

John W. Whitehead, founder and president of The Rutherford Institute, and author of "A Government of Wolves: The Emerging American Police State," examines the FBI's evolution from a mere law enforcement agency to the harbinger of the total surveillance state.


Thursday, June 6, 2013

Are These Common Core Aligned Reading Materials Appropriate for 3rd Graders for Content and Message?

Illustrations from the book “The Librarian of Basra,” among the graphic war texts approved for New York third-graders.

This may be old news to some of you as it is dated March 2013. From nypost.com and New York approves war-oriented reading textbooks for third-grade classrooms:

Tales of war, bombs and abduction — coming to a third-grade classroom near you.

City and state education bureaucrats have given the green light to an English curriculum for elementary schools that includes picture books with startlingly realistic portrayals of war — to be read by 8-year-olds.
They include “The Librarian of Basra,” which contains drawings of fighter planes dropping bombs on a palm-tree-lined Middle Eastern town.

The article details two books approved by the state and districts: 

Similarly, “Nasreen’s Secret School” depicts the abduction of a young man from his home in Afghanistan by soldiers and discusses Taliban rules that forbid women to go out in public alone.

“There’s no way in hell that I find it appropriate for third grade, let alone elementary school, on so many levels,” said a Queens elementary-school principal who was shown one of the books by colleagues outside the city.

“We don’t have to bring the message of war with it. We don’t have to bring in guns and bombs,” said the principal. “My assumption is that some person would have read the material and gone over it and approved it, but I don’t know in what world they could have been living.”

The books are part of a new English curriculum created by Expeditionary Learning, a non-profit arm of the group Outward Bound.

The content was commissioned by the state Education Department for grades 3 to 5 as part of New York’s unique bid to adopt a statewide curriculum.

Last month, that curriculum was recommended by the city’s Department of Education as one of two options for students in grades 3 to 5 because it aligns with new national standards known as The Common Core.
Read more here.

Are these books recommended in your community?  What are 3rd graders reading in your schools?  Will these books make kids globally competitive?  Are they emotionally appropriate for this age group?  Are they content appropriate?  Do they show any political bias? 

The "Librarian of Basra" book is indeed on a Common Core aligned list for 3rd grade reading:


Expeditionary Learning Common Core Curriculum Grade 3-8 ELA ...

4. Module 4. The Hope Chest. Karen Schwabach. One per student. Expeditionary Learning Common Core Curriculum. Grade 3-8 ELA & Literacy: Trade Books ...

The book is about a librarian who saves books as she fears the books would be destroyed in war.  What one reviewer wrote on the Amazon review site in 2008 addresses a message that other reviewers did not notice.  She states those reviewers did not understand all the facts of this story and she questions the author's point of view and perspective.  From amazon.com review:

This review is from: The Librarian of Basra: A True Story from Iraq (Hardcover)
First, I'll name the things I love. As a raving book lover, I appreciate the subject of a librarian who loves books so much that she goes to such great lengths to save them. I love that others have enough respect for the books and the incredibly rich history of Iraq to help her. Like other reviewers, I love the example of this heroic and strong Muslim woman. She was literally saving history. This book has so much going for it.

Unfortunately, I had two giant problems with this book. I just read all currently posted reviews (33 at present). I'm saddened that not one reviewer has pointed out two very significant lines of text on page six. "Government offices are moved into the library. Soldiers with guns wait on the roof." One reviewer who disliked the book's message even said, "If our service men and women did destroy a library, it was either by accident or because it was harboring Saddam's military goons or material." Well, yes, exactly, but somehow everyone who reviewed this book seems to have missed that very important piece of information. The library WAS housing government activity and those cowards knew that their country's books, indeed its very history, would then be in danger. They ran away from the offices in the library and left its contents behind to be bombed. Thankfully, this noble woman was there to save the irreplaceable. Unfortunately, because the author does not elaborate at all on this point, everyone seems to be missing it. Sadly, those most likely to miss the point are children, the intended audience. Many adults have reviewed this book noting how much they personally love it. That's truly wonderful and I feel the same thing about many of my kids' books but this book was, in fact, written for children and it does them a disservice by rushing past an extremely important point. The author had a chance to perfectly emphasize the abundance of courage that Alia Muhammad Baker showed. Originally, she was most likely worried that the library would suffer collateral damage. Indeed, she was worried about the library being lost to "the fires of war" even before the government offices moved in. Once they did, she had to know that the library would be an actual target and that a strike could come at any time once the war began. Her bravery for going back into that building to rescue books time after time even after the bombs started falling becomes even more laudable when viewed in this light. She was in very real danger because of those offices.

Also, I would have liked it depicted that the books were being hidden from looters and vandals. Instead, it was clearly illustrated and stated that they were being hidden from soldiers. The only conclusion that those reading the book can draw is that soldiers would have destroyed the books. "The soldiers leave without searching inside. They do not know that the whole of the library is in my restaurant, thinks Anis." Heartbreaking and infuriating, period. I guess now is the time to mention that my husband is a soldier. My husband, who has personally funded my kids' 500+ book personal library and my ever growing book addiction, is a soldier. The fact that this book about such a noble woman was written and illustrated in such a way that children come away thinking that soldiers are the kind of people who intentionally destroy books is abhorrent to me.

I'm so anti the Iraq war and anti-Bush I have a countdown calendar for his presidency on my kitchen counter. But I am the wife of a soldier and the mother of his three children and I am far too offended by the low points of this book to read it to my kids. Soldiers don't vote to go to war. Presidents order them to go, for better or for worse. Soldiers join the ranks to serve their country and hope that if and when they are ordered into battle that it is for a noble cause. And if the cause is noble, how grateful our country is to have them there. They don't get to pick though. Whether they agree or disagree, off they go without voice. I am my husband's voice tonight and I am offended beyond measure.

For a moment, let's stop talking about politics and start talking about soldiers. Most of them are dads. My particular soldier wept openly when his babies were born, changes diapers and does pigtails like a pro, built a giant sandbox despite his intense distaste for sand, and has tickle fights and reads stories nightly...when he's not on 12-15 month deployments to a country he'd rather he had never set foot in. He probably knows more than 50 of our kids' books by heart, as he has been reading to them since the day they were born. He does voices that would rival the best audio books. He lovingly and perfectly tapes back together books with torn pages or loose binding, a fact of life for favorites. Every week I send a new kids' book from Amazon all the way to his trailer in Iraq, where he videotapes himself reading it. When the kids get their weekly Daddy video and their new book, that's the highlight of their week. Just picture their confusion if I were to read them this book. Now picture the child who doesn't know a soldier. There is no confusion, just the misguided notion that soldiers would have destroyed the books if they had found them.

Please think twice before you read this to your kids. At the very least, be prepared to have a discussion about what the Iraqis perceive to be the American soldiers' intentions versus the reality of what the soldier is really there for. Soldiers don't care if there is a mile-high pile of books behind a door. They're simply hoping there aren't armed combatants ready to take their lives and prevent them from returning home to read their children some bedtime stories. 

While many are concerned about the war theme in this book, maybe this reviewer's comments create another concern: author bias and the unfavorable view of soldiers to 3rd graders. If you have children in school using Common Core aligned text, it is imperative to ask for the list in your district and review approved books for content and message. 

Here is a lesson plan from the other book mentioned in the nypost.com article, Nasreen's Secret School.   Following is a review about the book that I chose because of the age of the reviewer's children and their emotional reaction.  Is this appropriate for this age group?  Should this be listed as a Common Core aligned reading list for 3rd graders?

This review is from: Nasreen's Secret School: A True Story from Afghanistan (Hardcover)

Customer review from the Amazon Vine™ Program (What's this?)
I selected this book in hopes to give my boys a little bit of exposure to what other children experience in another part of the world. Since my elementary aged child does not like school, I was hoping that it would impart some notion to him that there are kids all over the world who would LOVE to attend school and simply don't have the opportunities like he does. (yeah, I know...the whole I walked 10 miles in the snow to get to school story)

I was pleasantly surprised that both boys, 5 and 8 listened intently to the story but instead of my son being appreciative of the chance to attend school, my boys were both deeply saddened that the main character, Nasreen's parents were missing and that she had to sneak to attend school and was so sad that she never spoke.

I thought that the book was a nice change from the standard children's books that usually read here in the US and perhaps the writing style was due to the translation and the fluidity of both languages being lost in translation but I felt in some areas of the book, the writing was a tad choppy - even for a kid's book and it was written a bit too simple if you will. I am still glad to have had the chance to share it with my kids although when I've offered to read it to them again, they both decline saying that this book makes them too sad.

Wednesday, June 5, 2013

Privacy Freedom Fighters Honored at EPIC. Senators Rand Paul and Ron Wyden Included as Champions of Freedom.

Focusing public attention on emerging privacy and civil liberties issues

I was fortunate to attend the Electronic Privacy Information Center's (EPIC) dinner in Washington DC to honor individuals fighting for individual privacy rights.  From EPIC’s Champion of Freedom Awards Dinner 2013 Washington, DC:

Join Electronic Privacy Information Center (EPIC) for the annual Champion of Freedom Awards Dinner

2013 Honorees: Sen. Paul Rand (R-KY), Sen. Ron Wyden (D-OR), Martha Mendoza of the Associated Press, and Susan Grant of the Consumer Federation of American.

Lifetime Achievement Award to Hon. David Flaherty Author, Professor, Privacy Official, and Advocate.

I was able to meet Senator Paul and give him Missouri Education Watchdog's concerns on privacy issues.  Please contact Senators Paul and Wyden and thank them for their concern and work on privacy matters. 


To: Senator Rand Paul
From: Gretchen Logue and Anne Gassel
            Missouri Education Watchdog and Missouri Coalition Against Common Core
Date: June 3, 2013
RE: Common Core issues and data gathering
Dear Senator Paul:

I was here in town to hear you speak and I want to pass on information regarding data gathering and privacy concerns in the public schools.  The US Department of Education provided funding for states to set up longitudinal data P20 systems to track individual students from Preschool through age 20 or into the workforce.   Subsequent to setting these data systems up, the USDOEd through the regulatory process changed FERPA which previously provided privacy protection for this data.  Those changes now        allow this data to be shared with various Federal agencies and private entities.   As you are aware, EPIC has filed a challenge to this regulatory action. 

As it stands, parents have no control to question the gathering of this data or its review on their minor children.  There is no process in place to ensure its accuracy.  Future policy based on this data becomes highly suspect.  In addition, security breaches to this sensitive data can compromise a child’s credit rating before they even have a chance to get a credit card.  Inaccurate data can also impact a student’s academic path.  Parents are gravely concerned about this situation given the manner personal data was used in the current IRS decisions for non-profit status to certain groups.   Data in the wrong hands can become a weapon.

Enclosed please find several articles about data gathering, educational data systems and the government’s blatant personal disregard for personal privacy:
  • 04.15.13 MEW article on tracking infants from 24 hours old in Illinois via the Illinois Data Warehouse  System.
  • 05.26.13 MEW article on teacher advising students of their Constitutional right not to answer questions about their alcohol and drug use which would be tracked individually and revealed to school personnel.  The teacher was disciplined for mentioning this refusal should be protected under the 5th Amendment. 
  • 05.21.13  MEW article on the dangers of gathering individual student data from a clinical psychologist.  It should be noted that a waiver from HIPAA was granted to the school districts with the changes in the FERPA law.
  • The Georgetown Law Journal looked at privacy concerns related to government collection of student data.  At no point in its review did the Journal make the case that the government had a right to collect the data, only that government had the desire to collect the data. We believe the government has an obligation to demonstrate a right to collection of individual personal data that can impact a child from the day he/she is born.

We appreciate you signing Senator Grassley’s letter and we encourage you to work for legislation to re-establish the original intent of FERPA.   Thank you for your attention to this matter.  Please feel free to contact us with any questions.

Gretchen Logue
 Anne Gassel


Please consider a donation to EPIC for the work it does to protect individual privacy concerns.

Tuesday, June 4, 2013

What Will It Take To Get Answers From DESE?

Some folks down in the East Newton school district still have questions about Common Core and are willing to do whatever it takes to get answers from DESE. They have scheduled a meeting this month and invited DESE to attend.  Here was the first response from DESE.
-----Original Message-----
Sent: Fri, May 31, 2013 2:58 pm
Subject: Letter from DESE in response to our invitation

Dear Bobbi:

Thank you for the invitation to participate in your community meeting at East Newton. I’m sorry I took so long to get back with you as I have been on vacation.  I checked with Dr. Cooper, assistant commissioner, to see if the department would be expending more resources on individual community meetings across the state.  He indicated that our open meetings were held on May 2nd and we would not be presenting at other meetings at this time.  We have an abundance of information on the department’s website at the following link: http://dese.mo.gov/divimprove/curriculum/CommonCoreMeetings.html In addition, on that site are PDF links to the lists of the questions that came out of each of our 8 regional meetings held on May 2, and I am told that it will soon have a link to the answers to all of those questions.  If there is information that is not included about which anyone might have additional questions, please feel free to email those questions to me or to the Department atcommunications@dese.mo.gov.

Thank you again for the invitation,

Mike Wutke, Ed.D.
South Central Area Supervisor

Not to be put off so easily, the local organizer promised DESE to do whatever they could to facilitate DESE's attendance, even covering the costs if necessary.
Subject: Common Core Meeting
To: Mike.Wutke@dese.mo.gov, mccrackint@mail.enr6.k12.mo.us

Dear Mr. Wutke,

We are so sorry to hear that you don't have the funds to attend.  We would like you to come very much and we would be so happy to pay for expenses so that you could  represent DESE at this meeting.  Would you please reconsider?

Thank you for posting others' questions on the website but we already have questions, what we are lacking are answers.  Since this will be implemented in the fall it is not much help to get answers sometime.  This is an important matter affecting our children and their education and  we are taking this very seriously and we trust that you take it seriously too. Please either come and/or send a representative, we will have a chair for you.  Let us know about the expenses you incur and we will be happy to assist in that matter.


In fact, the folks in southwest Missouri are so interested in hearing some answers from DESE that at least one individual has volunteered to drive to Jefferson City, pick up the official(s), drive them down, pay for a hotel room and even cover their meals.

Still they await a response from DESE.

The organizers are continuing with their plans for this event to discuss Common Core on June 21st, in the East Newton High School Gymnasium at 7:00 p.m. They are even advertising it on a local radio station. A number of presenters are scheduled to speak including someone from Representative Kurt Bahr's office and the Missouri Coalition Against Common Core.  These parents hold out so much hope that DESE will send someone to attend that they plan to have a chair on the dais for DESE.  We'll just have to wait and see if there is anyone sitting in it.


Monday, June 3, 2013

Welcome to the Classroom of 2021

After reading this article about tablets in school I couldn’t help but picture the classroom of the future and wonder whether teachers have tried this exercise for themselves.

Welcome to the classroom of 2021

The teacher has loaded the common cartridge for the morning.  All the students are sitting at their desks where the new pressure sensitive chairs read how they are sitting and adjust the digital material on the white board to try to keep their attention as long as possible.  The camera at the front of the room observes that a student in the back row has stopped watching the white board and is looking at something outside the window. Noting that her student file says her hobby is dancing, the cartridge selects a video from the massive support database that includes some children dancing to continue the lesson. The change is registered as effective as the student is now back to looking towards the front of the classroom.

By 8:45 the class has moved on to reading. Student 165789-F3 is working on her reading assignment on her school assigned tablet. The rest of the students are reading a paragraph about William Jefferson Clinton to fulfill their non-fiction reading requirement. The paragraph talks about how proud he is of his daughter who has just been elected state representative. The passages the software has chosen for 165789-F3 do not include any references to a father as she has never known her father and is unlikely to be able to answer a prompt about one.

In the seat next to her, student 178946-W2 has automatically been added to the school dinner program because the system has noted that his mother lost her job ten weeks ago and has not found new employment. His name is added to the late bus list and his homework adjusted downward because he will not be getting home until later now. His mother’s WIC funds have been adjusted to reflect that she will no longer need to provide this meal for her child.  All of this has seamlessly happened in the ether world to her state issued debit card.  The teacher gets an alert from the district of this change and tells 178946-W2 of his new schedule. She senses a slight welling of tears when he learns that he will have to be at school for an additional two hours in the afterschool program instead of at home and she promises to stay and get him settled in with the other kids there today.  This does not seem to have much of a calming effect on him. Though she knows all kinds of intimate details of his life, she is a relative unknown to him. His only relationship with her is to get suggestions for other websites he can log on to when he is stuck or as someone who can get broken tech fixed.

It’s 9:00 and already the teacher has had to log a tablet repair order and move student 49861-J4 to a different assessment station since the camera on the one he was at stopped working and was unable to complete his weekly formative assessment without knowing when he had turned his face from the screen, bored or frustrated with the questions for even a moment. The teacher is glad the camera is not registering her frustration. This is the 5th tech repair report she has had to make this week, and it’s only Wednesday.

Little 562890-R3 raises her hand and asks to be allowed to go to the bathroom for the second time today. The teacher sighs but allows her to go. As she walks out the door her student ID registers her move in her student file, triggering a visit to the community counselor in the office be scheduled to make sure there are no physical or emotional problems causing her frequent trips from the classroom. Sensors in the bathroom read her ID and assure that she has made it to the bathroom, how long she is there and log any other IDs that might be in there with her.

Back in the classroom the children have gathered for the morning math lesson. Today they will be covering shapes, whole numbers through 12,  angles, fractions (denominator only), and some idea of the area of a circle. The lesson requires them to draw a truck reflecting these concepts, talk among their group and agree on which part of the truck best represents the angle and the denominator.  The teacher goes around the classroom with her tablet and marks off the elements of the preset rubric designed for this assignment for each student.  She is glad she has this tool as she is not sure herself how to explain how we know the area of a circle to second graders who only know the bottom part of 22/7th.  

She notices that the group in the front of the classroom has already completed the assignment. No surprise there. Student 498615-J4 is part of that group and has secretly been getting supplemental lessons after school. That information isn’t in the system so she can’t accuse his parents directly, but there seems to be no other way he could be so advanced in his skills compared to the other students. Even if she had proof she wouldn’t say anything because he is helping her keep her job with his scores on the assessments. The other students are happy that 498615-J4 is part of their group. They always get good scores when they agree to his answers.

The teacher graduated in 2018. Her degree in global studies made her a great candidate for teaching. She wishes she had more credit hours in statistics though, which would help her make sense of her classroom and the daily reports she receives about her students.  It is hard for her to imagine the olden days when teachers, like Mrs. Jones down the hall in 5th grade, didn’t have all the SES data on their students to help them in the classroom.  How in the world would you pick the right lesson cartridge from the network if you  didn’t know things like how many single children you had or which ones slower progression might be due to low birth weight?

Mrs. Jones has just announced she is retiring at the end of this year. She, at age 36, is one of the oldest teachers in the school. Unlike some of her predecessors she is not moving on to an administrative role. She seems kind of wistful about it all. At lunch, she joins the younger teachers less and less in their conversations about  which website has the best digital master teachers and what the latest glitch in software has been. There was a time when Mrs. Jones talked more, tried to engage the other teachers in exploring other curriculum materials, questioned whether what they were doing was right for the children. That was before the closed door meetings with district administrators. Since then, Mrs. Jones has said little to the other teachers. When asked what she plans to do after she leaves, she has vaguely suggested something with homeschooling although it is unclear how much longer that will even be legal.  Nonetheless, she appears to be looking forward to leaving the public school.

If they haven't already, teachers really should be thinking about the future education reformers have envisioned for them.

Sunday, June 2, 2013

Can the Left and the Right Find Enough Common Ground to Work Against Common Core?

An thought provoking article by Anthony Cody asking Is the Tea Party Right About the Common Core? appeared in Education Week:

Yesterday's Washington Post carried a banner story about growing Tea Party opposition to the Common Core. We learn that across the country, Tea Party activists have been organizing around opposition to the Common Core, and have succeeded in blocking or delaying the standards in at least nine states.

There has been a contemptuous reaction from the highest levels of our educational system. Arne Duncan has implied that opponents are tin-foil hatted paranoids: "It's not a black helicopter ploy and we're not trying to get inside people's minds and brains," he said last week. A week before he responded to questions at Capital Hill, saying "Let's not get caught up in hysteria and drama." And of course corporate-funded conservatives like Jeb Bush, and the Fordham Institute are still on board all the way.

The problem they have is that the substance of the Tea Party criticism of Common Core standards is solid.
And it aligns pretty well with what many of us a bit more to the left have been saying for years. Let's take the arguments, as presented by this Washington Post article and elsewhere, and check them out. 

Read more here.

Should Police Departments Offer Iris Scans for Children?

Mexico launches national ID cards for children

From Granby police offer iris scans under child identification program sponsored by Hampshire County Sheriff's department:

Over the next couple of months, parents will be able to have their children's irises scanned under a child identification program sponsored by the Hampshire County Sheriff's Department.

Police Chief Alan P. Wishart Jr. said consent forms to participate in the program are being distributed through the schools and can also be obtained at the Police Department.

"Like fingerprinting, it is another way to identify children in case of abduction," Wishart said.

Iris scanning was scheduled to be done at a recent Passport to Safety program at the Granby Junior Senior High School, but there was a conflict in scheduling, Wishart said. The scans would become part of a national database.

Here are a couple of questions: Should scanning be done on children and these records become part of a national database?  What agency (private or public) is maintaining the database?  Should parents ask more questions on exactly where these records will be stored and who/what agency has access to them and for what purpose?  Are these scans available to be shared with various federal agencies for their purposes?  Will private companies have access to these scans? 

A teacher comments:

"My goal is to try to collaborate with community program providers," she said.  Gail M. Ouimet, kindergarten teacher and coordinator, said the safety event was made possible with a couple of grants.

From an earlier masslive.com article Passport to Safety event planned for families in Granby  on iris scanning planned to take place in the school:

(The event) is made possible with a grant from the state Department of Early Education and Care of the state Executive Office of Education to Granby through the Holyoke Chicopee Springfield Head Start
Parents were upset that iris scans were done on their children without their knowledge in Polk County Florida.  Is the issue that permission was not obtained?  Do most parents want their children's biometric information in a national data base and have no issue with the retrieval as long as permission is granted?  Do parents know (or are concerned) where that information is going and who/how it will be used?  

Maybe the iris scans from Granby will be incorporated into a database similar to the "Baby Talk" data set crafted by Illinois.  The Illinois State Board is implementing the compilation of data first on Head Start babies and data gathering will expand each year to include more children.  Who knows where all this data is going on our children and how it will be used?

Please note: The information in this post is copyrighted. The proper citation is:

Logue, G (June 2013). "Should Police Departments Offer Iris Scans for Children?".  Retrieved (date) from the Missouri Education Watchdog site: http://www.missourieducationwatchdog.com/
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