Saturday, April 23, 2011
She contacted other parents in her school and began an effort to petition the state board of education to remove the book from the approved textbook list. This scenario, of parents banding together to demand that their voices be heard, is being repeated in schools across the country. They do not choose to homeschool their children or put them in private schools because they cannot in good conscience allow the indoctrination of any child to continue. They reject the message they receive from administrators that they are alone in their objections. And they find allies in other parents who only needed someone to sound the trumpet.
It is one thing to be a watchdog. But we also need people to act.
Do you remember this famous scene from the Graduate?
One Word: Plastics. It was a great opportunity according to Mr. McGuire (Walter Brooke) as he talks to the young graduate, Benjamin Braddock (Dustin Hoffman) in 1967.
Times have certainly changed in four decades. Now "plastics" is tossed around in the same sentence with the words "boycott" and "petition" by elementary children on Earth Day. Here is the video with the song performed by children at Riverwood Elementary in Cordova, TN:
"The sky is high and the ocean is deep,
But we can't treat the planet like a garbage heap,
Don't wreck it, protect it, keep part of it wild,
And think about the future of your great-grandchild.
Recycle, bicycle, don't you drive by yourself,
Don't buy those plastic products on the supermarket shelf.
Boycott, petition, let the big business know,
That is, we mess it up here, there's nowhere else we can go.
Don't shrug your shoulders, say "what can I do"?
Only one person can do it, and that person is you!"
I have a couple of thoughts about this little ditty: plastics are recyclable materials, like paper. When did a recyclable material become the target of boycotts? Do we want students to boycott and petition paper producers because the production of paper can cause pollution and add to trash collection? How many thousands of people will be unemployed if boycotts/petitions/regulatory actions are undertaken to weaken the industry?
Isn't STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Mathematics) a HUGE push by this administration so the United States can become more globally competitive? I guess a student from this school could study boycotting and petitioning instead of learning how to become a scientist to help in our manufacturing abilities. That will certainly help our country be competitive, right?
Maybe the better idea for these children and teachers on Earth Day is not to malign an industry but to learn how to take care of resources and learn how to recycle instead of marginalizing a product. And perhaps the teachers should clue them in to how if industries are shut down, jobs are lost and the government has to pay unemployment to the people who lost the jobs it helped phase out.
Benjamin Braddock was seduced by Mrs. Robinson (Anne Bancroft). I wonder if these children have been seduced by political correctness.
Friday, April 22, 2011
Here's a modern fable explaining how education in this country works for students and taxpayers. Put it in terms of people in the "goose class" or the "gander class". Here is the meaning of "what is good for the goose is good for the gander":
(British, American & Australian old-fashioned) What's good for the goose (is good for the gander). (American & Australian old-fashioned) something that you say to suggest that if a particular type of behaviour is acceptable for one person, it should also be acceptable for another person .
Question regarding this administration's plans for teacher evaluations: whether to base teacher evaluations on students’ standardized test scores — and if so, to what extent. How do the schools serving the children of President Obama and Education Secretary Arne Duncan handle this important school reform issue?
Retired teacher Bill Schecter decided to find out.
The issue of linking a teacher’s salary and pay to how well students do on a standardized test has come to dominate the national education debate.
With the Obama administration’s support, more states are passing laws to connect teacher pay and test scores, even though experts on assessment say it is a bad idea.Knowing that the Obama administration’s policies support linking teacher pay with test scores, Schechter wondered what Sidwell Friends School, the private Quaker school in Washington where Obama’s two children are enrolled, does regarding teacher pay-for-performance.
Schechter wondered the same about the Arlington County public school system, where Duncan’s children attend school.
What did Mr. Schecter discover?
Mr. Duncan's school district: “Arlington school district teacher, March 31, 2011: ‘We do not tie teacher evaluations to scores in the Arlington public school system.’
President Obama's school for his daughters: “Sidwell Friends faculty member, April 1, 2011:
“ ‘We don’t tie teacher pay to test scores because we don’t believe them to be a reliable indicator of teacher effectiveness.’ ”The cast of characters:
- Goose = the average American taxpayer and/or citizen
- Gander = the elite class not mandated by the same rules as the average American taxpayer/citizen
Thursday, April 21, 2011
A boy came home from school and complained to his mother that he hated the ridiculous dance they were making him do in PE. Like most of us who have suffered through a course of square or line dancing in school gym class, she brushed off his complaint and told him to just put up with it and it would be over soon. But then he said something that caught her attention. He said they would be broadcasting him on the news doing the dance and that was making him really uncomfortable. So she investigated further and found that the dance he was practicing was part of Michelle Obama’s Let’s Move program and was going to be simultaneously performed in middle schools across the country at 1:42 EST on May 3rd. Middle Schoolers will be hip hopping to Beyonce’s song Move Your Body demonstrating how fun physical activity can be.
The goal of Let’s Move is to curb childhood obesity in one generation through simple steps: 1. Creating a healthy start for children 2. Empowering parents and caregivers 3. Providing healthy food in schools 4. Improving access to healthy, affordable foods and 5. Increasing physical activity. It is also part of the Health and Human Services multimedia campaign designed to promote the Affordable Health Care Act. This highly coordinated marketing campaign, it was discovered through a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) lawsuit, will cost a total of as much as $200 million over the next five years. When that much money is invested in something, there is tremendous pressure for that something to succeed.
Back to mother and son. The student was told by the teacher, when he said he didn’t want to be part of the dance, that he would be given a zero for the day. It was only when the mother asked the school if he could opt out of the Let’s Move dance that she was given the option of him doing a separate square dance. The administrator expressed his surprise that she would have an issue with this. It had not occurred to them at school that, parents might not want their children used as propaganda tools for an administration’s agenda or, that parents might never have envisioned their child’s face plastered on a national website as a gratis endorsement of something they had not specifically agreed to when they signed the waiver allowing the school to use photos of their child at the beginning of the year. The school viewed it, as another mother did when alerted to the situation, as just a fun exercise promoting healthier lifestyles and no big deal.
Schools had to be selected to be filmed participating in the flash dance (think flash mob). In order to be selected they had to apply. In order to apply they had to agree to use very specific language and marketing materials developed for this event. And in all of this, no one ever mentioned that they should probably also get parental approval for the kids to participate and be filmed. This particular school had a history of being concerned about parental approval. They required parental permission for students to see the movie “Blind Side.” But broadcasting students being forced to dance (as this one child surely would be) seemed to raise no red flags.
Perhaps I and the other mothers are being overly sensitive. But when you hear about a school in Chicago that has banned lunches from home, Arkansas schools putting BMI on the report cards and legislation introduced in Missouri (HB 59) that would establish a Coordinated Health Board Program whose simple goal is to “to prevent obesity, cardiovascular disease, and type II diabetes in elementary and secondary students” through coordination with PE departments, food services, district administrators and parents, you can’t help but be sensitized to these things. The messages are good, the goals are good, but the people responsible for implementation, and as was noted above, success, are the wrong people. Children’s health issues should be addressed between the parent and a qualified pediatrician, but the latter is only minimally mentioned in the Let’s Move program and not at all in the MO legislation.
And when I read statements from HHS describing their goal in this broader health campaign as, “Health and program-related messages are processed by the target audience according to a particular reality, which he or she experiences. Attitudes, feelings, values, needs, desires, behaviors and beliefs all play a part in the individual’s decision to accept information and make a behavioral change. It is by understanding the importance of these characteristics that health and program-related messages can be targeted to the beneficiary in effective ways.” I can’t help but feel manipulated. If a program was really good, why would I need to be manipulated into seeing its benefit?
So am I being overly sensitive about the flash dance? Would you want to be notified in advance?
Wednesday, April 20, 2011
Superintendents and teachers are apparently quite concerned about changes being pushed through by DESE and the State Board of Education regarding MSIP5.
Here is the link for the proposal. From the Missouri State Teacher Association (MSTA) website, MSIP5.com:
The latest version of the Missouri School Improvement Program, or MSIP 5, sets accreditation and performance standards for Missouri schools. Commissioner of Education Dr. Chris Nicastro declined to meet with educator organizations before pushing the document through the State Board of Education in March. MSTA and other education organizations have opposed both the content in MSIP 5 and the lack of educator input in its approval.
MSTA created MSIP5.com to provide information, news and discussion of the proposal. The site lists options for submitting comments to the department during the comment period, which began April 15. MSIP5.com also has a list of concerns that educators have expressed with the proposed rules, and how the proposal could hurt students and schools.
“Apparently, Commissioner Nicastro and the department do not like it when information is gathered that opposes what they are trying to accomplish,” states MSTA Executive Director, Kent King. “If the department really wanted to hear from the public, including teachers, about MSIP 5, they would not have tried to get the site taken down.”
From the site on April 15, 2011:
MSIP determines accreditation and performance standards for Missouri schools. The document addresses academic achievement, subgroup achievement,college readiness, and attendance and graduation rates. The proposal leaves out subjects such as music, physical education, library staff and counselors, which contribute to a well-rounded education. The document was also pushed through without input from educators.
The State Board of Education approved MSIP 5 at its meeting in March, without a chance for the public to comment on the proposal. A public comment period on the proposal was to start April 15.
Does DESE not like educators and citizens commenting on DESE's decisions? Why was no input allowed from educators and taxpayers? This goes to a deeper question. Why were common core standards adopted by the State Board of Education in July 2010 when these were to have been voted on (per the agenda) in August 2010?
Do you see a pattern emerging here? Is there any oversight regarding DESE expenditures and decisions? Did you know that MSIP5 is predicted to cost the state (and districts) $1.2 million a year, which may be a recurring cost? (page 1068) As DESE is expected to face a $900,000 deficit next year, where is this money going to come from?
Trying to shut down questions and scrutiny does not make for good transparency in government. When did it become a crime for taxpayers and organizations to provide news, information and discussion about government programs? The Secretary of State's office made the correct decision in the interest of the taxpayer in this instance.
The power of the State Board and DESE must be examined...perhaps it is time for the Legislature to consider amending the Constitution so that State Board members and commissioner are elected by the citizens, rather than being appointed by the Governor. It is time for them to be accountable to the taxpayers; apparently they believe they can do whatever they want as shown by the Common Core decision and the attempt to shut down free speech.
Tuesday, April 19, 2011
We are nearing the end of the legislative term. The 96th General Assembly session ends May 13th. Bills not in the final stages of approval by now have essentially no chance of passing this term. For our readers benefit we have listed below bills in both houses which relate most directly to education and have had activity within the last 3 weeks.
SB 13 Requires the Joint Committee on Education to oversee a task force on teacher compensation and effectiveness
SB 37 Establishes the "Students First Interscholastic Activities Act" to allow each student of high school age the opportunity to seek to participate in interscholastic activities. (MEW will have more on this and MSHSAA's opposition next term.)
SB 54 Creates the Amy Hestir Student Protection Act and establishes the Task Force on the Prevention of Sexual Abuse of Children
SB 81 Beginning in fiscal year 2013, the Office of Quality Schools within DESE may ensure that each Regional Professional Development Center provide professional development educational assistance for fine arts.
SB130 Creates the Early High School Graduation Scholarship Program for public high school students who graduate from high school early
SB 147 Requires school districts to include certain information in their school accountability report cards (e.g. gifted program, # of applicants for teaching positions with specialties in math and sciences.)
SB 164 Establishes the Missouri Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics Initiative within the Department of Higher Education
SB 175 Modifies restrictions on the use of organized labor on public contract projects
SB 180 Among similar provisions, designates the month of October as "Walk & Bike to School Month," and the first Wednesday of October as "Walk and Bike to School Day."
SB 200 Modifies the ability of state educational institutions to issue bonds and incur debt
SB 228 Modifies the composition of the board of directors of the Kansas City School District
SB 240 Modifies the requirements for school anti-bullying policies. The definition of "bullying" is modified to include discrimination and to include actions that substantially interfere with a student's educational performance, opportunities, or benefits, or that substantially disrupt the orderly operation of the school.
SB 242 Allows a pupil to enroll in an adjoining school district if the student's residence is located closer to a school in the adjoining district or in cases of transportation hardship
SB 243 Establishes the "Sharing of Services and Increasing Efficiencies Act" to allow school districts and other entities to achieve efficiencies
SB 247 Modifies the elementary and secondary education funding formula
SCS/SB 253 – Beginning with the 2011-2012 school year, summer school attendance to be included in average daily attendance will only count attendance hours based exclusively on academic areas of study or hours required by a student's individualized education program. Curriculum must be based on core subject areas.
SB 291 Modifies provisions relating to charter schools
SB 329 Allows students to enroll in another school district or charter school for purposes of attending virtual courses or programs
SB 391 Requires the school board of each school district and charter school to establish an evaluation system for teachers and teaching
SB 400 Modifies provisions regarding the crime of sexual contact with a student while on public school property
SCS/SBs 369 & 370 Establishes procedures for resident pupils of an unaccredited school district to enroll in another school in the same or an adjoining county.
SB 345 Creates the Council on Digital Inclusion.
HB 556 Disability History And Awareness Month In Public Schools (more on this later)
SB 99/HB738 Highlights: By 6/12, DESE must develop an evaluation instrument to evaluate superintendent performance. When school districts consolidate or, a district undergoes an annexation or has a boundary line change that results in an increase in the number of enrolled pupils by 10% DESE must grant the new district a waiver from Missouri School Improvement Program review for three years. A superintendent, assistant superintendent, administrator, or central office personnel may not receive a total compensation package, as described in the act, that exceeds the amount of the district's total average salary for tenured teachers by two and one-half times. In addition, the average administrator salary must not exceed twice the amount of the district's average salary for tenured teachers. Any district that violates these limitations will have an amount equal to one percent of school funding provided through the foundation formula withheld.Many of these bills will not pass this term, but will be reintroduced in the next session. It is useful to see where the legislative interest lies regarding education. Clearly school district actions to deal with funding shortfalls, charter or alternative schools and staff evaluations are high on the list. If you would like to learn more details about the status or language of these bills, you can go to house bills and senate bills.
I found this paragraph particularly interesting:
In an interview after the hour-long roundtable discussion, McCaskill said she thinks Washington's role in education should primarily be one of support, while main decisions are best left to local communities. Noting that federal financing for education is not likely to grow any time soon, given the recent emphasis on cutting the budget and the deficit, she said whatever dollars come from Washington have to be used in the wisest way. (emphasis added)
It sounds good, right? Main decisions are best left to local communities while the Federal government pays for those local decisions. Does anyone think this is really happening? Common core standards allow NO local decisions, or even state decisions. We are now in a consortia that will be making standards and assessment decisions and the Federal government is busy crafting a national curriculum framework.
If states did not sign onto Common Core standards, the Federal government threatened states' Title I money could be withheld. How's that for local control? Does that sound like a support role...or coercion by the Federal branch? McCaskill says money received by the districts should be used in the wisest way. How can districts use money in that way when stimulus money given to schools was prescribed by the Federal government for specific projects determined by the Feds? Was the senator aware that the monies did not go to schools based on what the school needed, but what was ordered by the DOE?
More from the Beacon:
The meeting came on the first day of a four-day education tour of the state that McCaskill is doing while the Senate is in recess, as part of what her office called an "opportunity to gather common-sense ideas on a variety of education-related topics to bring back to Washington."
I'm thrilled she wants to gather "common-sense ideas on education-related topics". I would suggest she ask for common-sense ideas from regular parents who have to pay the taxes and supply the children for the system she wants to improve. Perhaps she should expand her "invitation only" list to include all concerned parents from all districts.
If the Senator would hold another town hall meeting as she did last year, she would hear from the "average" parent who has no lobbying or special interest ties....you know, a "regular" American taxpayer. It is this group of people, the "regular" American taxpayers, who are paying for these educators and federal officials making decisions for their children and pocketbook. And again, this group has limited or no voice.
Monday, April 18, 2011
We are reprinting a charter school article by Diane Ravitch from the Nieman Watchdog, a blog from the Nieman Foundation for Journalism at Harvard University. Missouri legislators are pondering the role of charters in Missouri. Bills have been filed wanting to expand charters out of the Kansas City and St. Louis city boundaries and changing the sponsorships of new charters.
There has been a multi-million dollar push for charters from lobbying groups such as School Choice Week. and the Children's Education Council in Missouri. As we have stated, charters at their inception were viable options for students from failing schools because of their innovation in teaching and curriculum. With the institution of common core standards, this innovation has been taken away, and the same standards and assessments will be used in both charters and traditional public schools.
Before the votes are taken on charter expansion in Missouri, we ask the legislators read Ravitch's article. Ask the hard questions of the organizations wanting this expansion and how it will truly reform education and not just the delivery of the educational services.
If we really are the "Show Me" state, the politicians owe it to their constituents to ask these questions and honestly look at the answers instead of advancing an agenda that may be based on skewed data and furthering special interests rather than improving education.
By Diane Ravitch
Be skeptical of miracle schools. Sometimes their dramatic gains disappear in a year or two or three. Most such claims rely on cheating or gaming the system or on intensive test prep that involves teaching children how to answer test questions. These same children, having learned to take tests, may actually be very poorly educated, even in the subjects where their scores were rising.
Whenever a school has a dramatic increase in test scores in only one or two years, ask questions about the participation rate: How many kids started the school? How many were tested? Were low-performing students held back in a previous grade to inflate the scores? Reporters should also check to see if there has been any verification to make sure that there was no cheating (e.g., a high erasure rate, changing scores from wrong to right). Who graded the papers? Did teachers have access to the test questions before the test was given? If so, they might have taught the test questions during practice sessions.
Ask questions of charter schools about skimming, excluding, winnowing out low-scoring students. Ask about the proportion of special ed students, and watch for numbers of spec-ed that do not include the most severely disabled. Many charters take children with the mildest disabilities while leaving the most challenging spec-ed to the regular public schools. Ask about the proportion of Limited English Proficient/English Language Learners (LEP/ELL) students. Most charters have exceptionally small proportions of LEP/ELL as compared to local public schools.
Whenever a district has a dramatic increase in test scores, look for cheating, gaming the system, intensive investment in test prep. Testing is NOT instruction. It is meant to assess instruction, not to substitute for it.
When a charter school reports miraculous results, be sure to ask about the attrition rate. Some highly successful charters push out low-performing kids and their enrollment falls over the years (and the departing students are not replaced). Recently Arne Duncan hailed a “miracle” school in Chicago—Urban Prep—where all the students who graduated were accepted into college. But 150 students started and only 107 graduated. The 107 graduates had much lower test scores than the average for Chicago public school students. The school did a good job of getting the students into college (perhaps that was a miracle) but they were not better educated than students in the regular public schools.
In another instance, one of the “amazing” schools singled out by the 2010 documentary “Waiting for Superman” admits 140 students, but only 34 graduated. That’s a 75 per cent attrition rate. Some miracle.
One of the central claims made in “Waiting for Superman” is that 70 per cent of eighth grade students in the USA read “below grade level.” That statistic is wrong. Someone misread the federal testing program data. The relevant figure was “below basic.” Twenty five per cent of eighth grade students are “below basic,” not 70 per cent.
What is the state’s passing mark on its tests? In some states, a student may be considered proficient by answering correctly only a minority of the questions on the test. There have been instances of states lowering the passing mark (New York and Illinois, for example), to raise the proportion of students marked proficient. New York dropped its passing mark in some subjects and some grades over a four-year period, leading to ecstatic press coverage about rising numbers of students who were proficient. When the game was revealed by an independent audit (a rarity), the state had to admit that almost all the previous gains were phony.
Be aware of the source of research about school choice. Many advocacy organizations release “studies” that have not been peer-reviewed, with the intent to proving that choice is successful.
Look at what has happened in Milwaukee, where researchers used to argue about whether vouchers were working. The argument is over. After 20 years of vouchers, even voucher advocates admit that students in voucher schools are doing no better than students in regular public schools and students in charters. And all three sectors are doing poorly. The theory of vouchers and charters is that competition will cause achievement to go up in public schools, and a rising tide will lift all boats. But according to the latest National Assessment of Educational Progress, black students in Milwaukee public schools score below black students in Mississippi, Alabama and Louisiana. And voucher students do no better! So voucher advocates now say that the goal of vouchers is not to improve test scores but to increase parental involvement or to provide choice for its own sake. That is called moving the goal posts.
Have you looked at the broad range of charter studies? With only one exception, they show that charters on average do not produce better academic results than regular public schools. The one exception was Caroline Hoxby’s study of NYC charters. In that study, which was not peer-reviewed, she claimed that students who attended charters for nine years would close the Scarsdale-Harlem gap. The press gave that study huge attention and credibility, but no one noticed that there were very few students who had attended a charter in NYC for nine years or that Hoxby did not provide a number for the students who had closed the gap. It appears that her study was an extrapolation, and it was an extrapolation based on NYC and NY state’s inflated and unreliable test scores (see above). When NYC’s charter scores are reported, they range widely from very abysmal (a six per cent pass rate) to exceptional (100 per cent pass rate).
Follow the money: One of the funders of “Waiting for Superman” was Philip Anschutz, a billionaire who gives generously to free-market, pro-voucher think tanks. Another funder was previously CEO of a string of for-profit postsecondary institutions.
Follow the money: Check out the groups promoting charters and high-stakes testing and policies that link teacher evaluations to test scores. In particular, who is on the board of Democrats for Education Reform? Why the huge interest of Wall St. hedge fund managers and big real estate moguls in charters? What are the connections among DFER, Education Reform Now, Stand for Children, the state CAN organizations (e.g., ConnCAN), and a host of other groups promoting privatization and de-professionalization? Also NewSchools Venture Fund? And the big foundations: Gates, Walton, Broad.
Since no high-performing nations are pursuing such policies, why are these well-funded groups promoting policies that have so little evidence behind them?
Why has the Obama administration embraced the accountability policies of the Bush administration? Why does the president publicly say he is against standardized testing at the same time that his administration is demanding more emphasis on standardized testing?
Why has the Obama administration embraced choice, which was a staple of the GOP agenda?
Why do the corporate reformers promote merit pay, even though study after study has shown that it has no effect on test scores?
Principles for reporters: Be skeptical; don’t believe in miracles; follow the money.
*Thanks to Ms Ravitch for this last sentence and for the title. These principles hold true for reporters, legislators and citizens.
Sunday, April 17, 2011
"Banned in Boston" was a phrase employed from the late 19th century through the mid-20th century to describe a literary work, motion picture, or play prohibited from distribution or exhibition in Boston, Massachusetts. During this period, Boston officials had wide authority to ban works featuring "objectionable" content, and often banned works with sexual or foul language.
Here we are in 2011 and apparently certain beverages are grouped together with those items from the late 19th century deemed "objectionable" by the government. Boston Mayor Menino is banning sugary drinks on government-owned property. The basic gist of this order per Mayor Menino:
“I want to create a civic environment that makes the healthier choice the easier choice in people’s lives, whether it’s schools, worksites, or other places in the community,” Menino said in a statement after the ban was announced.
Is this the purpose of government? Why should a mayor be making decisions on what people can drink on government property? Should government be making our choices for us in what we care to drink? It seems as if Cass Sunstein's version of "Nudge" has arrived in Boston to take over drink machines and fountains. Is "Nudge" the blueprint for governmental decisions these days vs the Constitution?
Well, if you are on jury duty in Boston, you might just want to pack a Coca-Cola if that's your pleasure. Just hope the court system doesn't know about The Little Village School's policy on bringing your own food from home and confiscates your property and denies you your right to consume what you choose to drink.
(There is a bit of irony in this story. Link onto the story and check out the first two advertisements listed. Priceless!)