How Is The Money We Spend On Education Actually Spent?

Last week Investor’s Business Daily posted an editorial explaining how the proposed tax bill might impact educational spending.

The editorial included the following chart:

As you can see from the chart, the number of administrators in education has risen much faster than the number of teachers and students, while test scores have remained essentially the same. It is definitely time that we examined our priorities in education spending,

The editorial also points out how the tax bill under consideration might impact education spending:

The National Education Association blasted the GOP tax reform plan saying that eliminating the state and local tax deduction for those who itemize taxes would be a severe blow to schools, putting 250,000 education jobs at risk.

“It would,” says NEA president Lily Eskelsen Garcia, “jeopardize the ability of state and local governments to fund public education. That will translate into cuts to public schools, lost jobs to educators, overcrowded classrooms that deprive students of one-on-one attention, and threaten public education.”

There are other provisions in the tax bill that might worry teachers’ unions, such as letting parents use 529 college savings plans to pay for elementary and secondary school costs. That would help make private schools more affordable — a small step toward encouraging school choice.

But it’s the so-called SALT deduction that has the unions up in arms. Why? Because getting rid of it might force high-tax states — which benefit the most from the deduction — to cut taxes and rein in their own spending.

Of course, that’s pure speculation on the NEA’s part. States won’t be obligated to change anything if the SALT deduction goes away.

I think we need to understand that the Trump Administration is generally a goal-oriented group and sometimes their goals are very subtle. The Secretary of Education is a proponent of school choice, and it seems as if the tax proposals might also encourage school choice. The public schools are not doing their job of educating our children, and parents are becoming more willing to find alternative solutions. The amount of children being home-schooled has rapidly increased in recent years. Part of this is due to the fact that test scores have not improved, and part of this is due to the fact that the schools are teaching children values that in many cases contradict the values of their parents.

It would probably be a really good idea to take a look at where our education dollars are being spent. Somehow our students managed to learn more before there was a federal Department of Education.

 

Taxes Have Consequences

For some unknown reason, politicians love to spend other peoples’ money. And they love to raise taxes to get more of other peoples’ money to spend. However, raising taxes does not always work–sometimes it has unforeseen consequences. The Laffer Curve taught us that.

Last Friday, Investor’s Business Daily posted an article about the soda tax in Philadelphia. It just hasn’t gone as predicted.

The article reports:

That 1.5 cents per ounce doesn’t sound like a lot, but it is. The Tax Foundation notes that it’s “24 times the Pennsylvania excise tax rate on beer.”

“The high tax rate on nonalcoholic beverages makes them more expensive than beer in some cases,” the nonpartisan think tank wrote.

Some people, suddenly facing absurdly high costs for colas, root beers and other soft drink favorites, are turning to alcohol instead.

Probably not what was envisioned with the tax. And the tax has been put on diet drinks as well as sugared ones. So, if they had hoped to alter people’s consumption away from sugar-filled soda toward less-unhealthy, non-sugared alternatives, it was a failure.

Tax increases never sound like much–they are sold that way. Remember the luxury tax that went into effect in 1991 that nearly killed the boat industry. The tax was only supposed to impact the rich, but it caused a serious recession as the impact of the tax began to trickle down.

The article at Investor’s Business Daily further reports:

“Beverage tax collections were originally promoted as a vehicle to raise funds for prekindergarten education,” the Tax Foundation said, “but in practice Philadelphia awards just 49% of the soda tax revenues to local pre-K programs.” The majority of the money goes to government employees’ benefits and local schools that already have funding.

…the tax didn’t bring in the money the city thought it would. The city budgeted a “conservative” $46.2 million in revenues from the tax for fiscal 2017. At current projections, they’ll come up $6.7 million short. Many people are leaving Philly to do their shopping, while others have switched to other beverages, leaving a big unexpected hole in the tax revenue estimates.

“In July, city officials lowered beverage tax revenue by 14%, leaving the prekindergarten programs that the tax promised to fund in jeopardy,” the study said.

Meanwhile, local Coca-Cola and PepsiCo operations laid off nearly 150 workers and pulled some brands off Philly shelves. And angry local businesses are suing the city over the tax.

Raising taxes is never the answer. Cutting spending usually is.

What Are We Really Teaching Our Children?

Yesterday PJ Media posted a story showing how skewed our education system has become. The story deals with a group of college graduates who were interning at a company. The didn’t like the company’s dress code and drew up a proposal and a  petition to change it.

The story reports:

The next day, all of us who signed the petition were called into a meeting where we thought our proposal would be discussed. Instead, we were informed that due to our “unprofessional” behavior, we were being let go from our internships. We were told to hand in our ID badges and to gather our things and leave the property ASAP.

We were shocked. The proposal was written professionally like examples I have learned about in school, and our arguments were thought out and well-reasoned. We weren’t even given a chance to discuss it. The worst part is that just before the meeting ended, one of the managers told us that the worker who was allowed to disobey the dress code was a former soldier who lost her leg and was therefore given permission to wear whatever kind of shoes she could walk in. You can’t even tell, and if we had known about this we would have factored it into our argument.

They just don’t get it–their argument was not the problem–their actions were.

The article concludes:

The reality is that colleges — the educational institutions that are theoretically supposed to prepare these kids for the real world — did these students a disservice by treating every petition or pet cause as valid, allowing the inmates to run the asylum. When the students hit the real world, WHAM!

The real world doesn’t have ‘safe spaces.’

American Educators Have Totally Lost Their Minds

On Tuesday, The Washington Post posted an article about a school in New York that cancelled its annual year-end kindergarten show.

This is a screenshot of the letter sent to parents followed by the text of the letter:

KindergartenShowApril 25, 2014

Dear Kindergarten Parents and Guardians,

We hope this letter serves to help you better understand how the demands of the 21st century are changing schools, and, more specifically, to clarify, misperceptions about the Kindergarten show. It is most important to keep in mind is [sic] that this issue is not unique to Elwood. Although the movement toward more rigorous learning standards has been in the national news for more than a decade, the changing face of education is beginning to feel unsettling for some people. What and how we teach is changing to meet the demands of a changing world.

The reason for eliminating the Kindergarten show is simple. We are responsible for preparing children for college and career with valuable lifelong skills and know that we can best do that by having them become strong readers, writers, coworkers and problem solvers. Please do not fault us for making professional decisions that we know will never be able to please everyone. But know that we are making these decisions with the interests of all children in mind.

Sincerely,

Ellen Best-Laimit

Angela Casano

Keri Colmone

Stefanie Gallagher

Martha DeMartini

The elementary school my children attended did a lot of plays. The plays were a chance for children to work on their memorization skills, their singing skills (if they had them) and to learn about different things. There were plays about outer space, Mary Poppins, and Alice in Wonderland. Those plays were part of their learning experience. It is a shame these teachers have decided that participating in the arts is not valuable for children–it is.

A Dissenting Opinion From The Co-Chairman Of The North Carolina Academic Standards Review Commission

CO-CHAIR OF THE NC STANDARDS COMMISSION DISSENTS ON FINAL MATH RECOMMENDATIONS

Wilmington, NC, December 30, 2015 – In an open letter to her fellow commission members, Tammy Covil expressed dissatisfaction with the commission’s final vote on recommendations she states will result in nothing more than a rebrand of Common Core.

Ms. Covil serves as co-chair of the North Carolina Academic Standards Review Commission. The commission was formed by the General Assembly in 2014 to review and recommend replacement for the state’s K-12 math and English language arts standards, formerly known as Common Core. Their final report is due to be released today.

“Having spent so much time and energy on such an important endeavor, I felt it necessary to recount the events that transpired over the past 15 months. Sadly, much of what occurred behind the scenes undermined our final recommendations,” Mrs. Covil stated. “Although I am disappointed that we were unable to complete our charge to the degree that the legislature had intended, I am proud of the work that went into vetting the standards. There is more than enough evidence in our findings to warrant replacement of the math standards.”

The following is the text of Mrs. Covil’s dissenting opinion:

Commission Members,

As co-chair of the North Carolina Academic Standards Review Commission, I wish to inform you that I will not endorse this commission’s final recommendations.

Although one would have expected the overwhelming evidence of Common Core’s shortcomings to have convinced even the most biased individual toward the obvious conclusion of replacement, it became clear to me long before the final vote that many of the appointees had no intention of producing substantive changes to North Carolina’s academic standards.

The General Assembly appointed us to act in good faith on their legislative mandate to repeal and replace Common Core. To say that many of you disregarded your duty as an appointed member is an understatement. Some of you not only snubbed this obligation, you appeared to be actively working against it.

Over the past fifteen months, this commission entertained testimony from a multitude of education stakeholders, most notably two highly regarded experts in the field of standards development and a child brain development specialist. These experts offered compelling evidence that exposed the developmental inappropriateness and academic inefficiencies of Common Core. They provided detailed examples and cited comprehensive research to support their claims. Most of this testimony confirmed the North Carolina commission’s findings. Sentiments expressed by classroom teachers through multiple feedback opportunities and survey data further cemented the need for standards replacement.

In contrast, the education non-profits and lobby groups that were insistent upon coming before the commission to extoll the virtues of Common Core offered little more than vague platitudes, regurgitated talking points, and skewed data. Many of them failed to grasp the difference between standards and curriculum. Nor did they understand that rigor is delivered through instruction, not a standard.

What was evident in their testimony, however, was the extreme desire to protect Common Core at all costs. As was quickly determined, this was all being driven by the expectation of financial gain; one that only a nationalized curriculum could generate. Unfortunately in education, money tends to cloud sound policy decisions.

Nonetheless, their agendas and biases were exposed, yet summarily ignored.

Perhaps the most revealing aspect of this entire exercise was exhibited in the unwarranted and vicious attack on Dr. Scheick and his math group, most of whom possess more individual teaching experience than those who wrote the Common Core math standards combined. The fact that certain commission members waited until the final meeting to reveal their true colors is evidence of their intent to undermine this commission’s work from the beginning.

Even the media was stunned by this duplicitous about-face.

As you are well aware, Dr. Scheick and his team labored tirelessly for months to vet the math standards. They took to the task of ensuring that the state’s standards would meet the criteria mandated in Senate Bill 812. They did so in a very short period of time and under less than supportive circumstances. Not only were North Carolina’s math standards carefully scrutinized, they were compared to other states’ standards (both pre and post Common Core adoption), as well as other countries in order to balance global competitiveness.

How were they rewarded for their efforts? They were treated to a dog and pony show orchestrated by certain members who rarely participated during the monthly meetings, refused to offer any assistance during the math review process, and who failed to attend any of the teacher focus group meetings, despite the fact that they insisted upon them in the first place.

Impugning the character and teaching credentials of Dr. Scheick’s math team and holding the validity of their recommendations to a higher burden of proof than your own State Superintendent is the height of hypocrisy.

Interestingly enough, none of the commissioner members disputed the findings, which are quite damning, to say the least. Had anyone harbored doubt or disapproval of the findings, it was never expressed. Those of us committed to the task at hand noted this lack of cooperation and apathy.

Unlike Common Core, the Minnesota math standards have a proven track record of success. According to the math team, the Minnesota math most closely aligned with the criteria outlined by the legislature. Since it was determined in the findings that the Common Core math standards are fundamentally flawed, tweaking them would actually require more work than adopting a new set of standards and building upward. Why this was considered an unreasonable recommendation is beyond me.

Likewise, and despite the fact that 60% of high school math teachers expressed a strong desire to return to the traditional math sequence of Algebra I, Geometry, and Algebra II, the commission inexplicably chose to abandon this recommendation. There was virtually no professional development prior to implementation of Integrated Math, nor were there textbooks or an appropriate curriculum available to teach it. As a result, most teachers were forced to haphazardly piece together a curriculum in the hopes that it would meet course expectations. For all the talk about ensuring teacher flexibility, you could not even agree to make a recommendation that would allow teachers the option of the teaching the material in the format that they are most comfortable – So much for teacher advocacy.

Ultimately, the majority decided to punt their responsibility for offering a solution to this quagmire back to the very same department that created it. Abdicating your responsibility in this way not only implies an aversion to leadership; it indicates contempt for the educational well-being of North Carolina’s 1.5 million students and the 95,000 teachers shackled by these standards.

Rather than side with the most important stakeholders in education – teachers, parents and students – many of you predictably and shamefully cow-towed to education elitists, corporate interests and big government.

For those who so emphatically feigned concern for the costs involved in replacing Common Core with a more appropriate set of academic standards, you have failed to consider the lost funding that will result due to frustrated parents pulling their children out of the state’s public school system in protest over your decision to maintain the status quo.

Maybe that is the answer, as nothing else seems to break through the bureaucratic inertia within public education like the threat of funding cuts.

Tammy J. Covil

 

What Really Happened In Raleigh On Friday

As I have stated in previous articles, I attended the final meeting of the Academic Standards Review Commission (ASRC) in Raleigh, North Carolina, on Friday. The ASRC was formed to make changes in North Carolina academic standards to improve the education of children in the state. Test scores have gone down under Common Core, and it is becoming obvious that some on the material included in Common Core is not age-appropriate or helpful to students.

Lady Liberty 1885 also attended the meeting. She interviewed Jeannie Metcalf, a member of the Commission, who walked out during the final part of the meeting and did not return.

When Lady Liberty asked Mrs. Metcalf if her leaving was due to what happened to Dr. Scheik during the math recommendations portion of the meeting, she replied:

Yes that is right.
First if all I was embarrassed and ashamed for the way Dr. Scheik was being treated. That group had 6 months to “vet” his recommendations.

Secondly my fears that I’d had from the beginning, that we were set up to fail, were quickly being realized. I was furious and wasn’t going to participate any longer in that sham. And McCroy, Tillis and Berger are entirely to blame. NO ONE on this committee should have had any ties to DPI. (June Atkinson signs the paycheck for 5 of the members and she’s the president of the group that gave us common core.)

Andre was the plant for the chamber and the business community who loves common core, plus his wife works for SAS which handles all the testing in NC.

The committee should have been filled with retired educators, parents, public officials who vocally and publicly opposed common core so that from the getgo we’d have been looking for replacements instead of renaming.

The failing fall on those mentioned above. I would have liked to have replaced the ELA standards with Sandra Stoskys and the math standards with James Milgrams. Quick, easy and we’d have had the highest best standards of any state. What a squandered opportunity. And again, this was the intended result FROM THE BEGINNING.

The children of North Carolina will pay the price for the political gamesmanship involved in selecting this committee. This is not the end of the fight for the education of North Carolina’s children; however, parents and teachers need to speak up to defend our children and grandchildren. We are in danger of raising a group of children who are stressed out by overtesting, mathematics made more confusing than necessary, and English reading assignments that are not only inappropriate for their age group, but contradict the values they are being taught at home.

An Amazing Story From A Middle School Teacher

The following was written by a friend of mine who teaches Middle School. My hope is that they are many more teachers like him and many more students like his students.

Sharing a Wonderful Experience

I know many of us grow weary and worried for the future of our great nation. This is often amplified when we look at our younger generations and the fruit of our educational system. It can certainly be food for depression. However, I would like to share a dose of superb sunshine and positive encouragement I recently received while working with two classes of middle-school students.

I was presenting material on folk literatureoral traditions. We were specifically studying fables. I had selected two pieces which create an opportunity for challenging and discussing some of the troubling modern thinking. The first selection was “The Grasshopper and the Ants.” The second was “The Scorpion and the Frog.”

The students were given the first passage to read for homework. In addition to reading the selection, the students were to answer one question, were the ants right in their response to the grasshopper? They were to write three brief paragraphs which would include their answer and support for their answer. On the following day, I asked the students to get into one of two groups – those who thought the ants were wrong, and those who thought the ants were right. We then proceeded to have a structured debate with opening comments, rebuttal statements, a period for questions and answers, and closing statements. It was an absolute joy to see the majority, about 4/5, of my students supporting the ants. Through the course of the debate/discussion, my students further impressed me with their passionate arguments supporting the rights of the producer/worker to reap the rewards of his labor. When presented with the counter argument that the ants should have at least been a little helpful to the starving grasshopper, a few students promptly set the record straight by arguing that the ants had tried to help by warning the grasshopper and encouraging him to do some work in preparation for the coming winter. When asked if it would be right for some outside force, The Grasshopper Protection Society of the Universe, to pressure/force the ants to give a portion of their goods to the grasshopper, my students responded with a resounding no. They did acknowledge that the ants could choose, on their own, to give some of their goods away, but the choice belonged to the ants. Even when applying to real-life situations – one of which was the sharing of academic success with under-achieving students – my students argued that those who worked for successful outcomes should benefit from their work and choose how to help others. They submitted that if others wanted to be successful they need to work for that success.

A real encouragement came when similar results occurred in my second class.

The second fable, given for the next day’s assignment, dealt more with the influence of our nature – i.e. the scorpion stings and kills the frog saying he had to because that is what scorpions do. The question for my students was, did the scorpion have to do what he did. Again, we had a group discussion – not a debate, but a sort of panel with a randomly selected student to represent the frog and another to represent the scorpion. At the conclusion of this discussion, I presented the students with a final question, what is stronger and more important – your nature or your power of choice? My students warmed my heart with a unanimous outcry that our choices are the most powerful.

Again, similar outcomes for both classes.

While this year has been a good year already, these two days were extraordinary! Our country will be great if these young people have anything to do with it. Find them, and encourage them.

Poverty Is Not The Result Of Lack Of Spending On Education

Yesterday John Hinderaker at Power Line posted an article about a speech President Obama gave at the Catholic-Evangelical Leadership Summit on poverty at Georgetown. Evidently his speechwriters had a very casual relationship with the truth about poverty.

The article reports some of the President’s statements:

“Those who are doing better and better, more skilled, more educated, – luckier – having greater advantages are withdrawing from the commons,” he said. “Kids start going to private schools….

…kids start working out at private clubs instead of the public parks, an anti-government ideology then disinvests from those common goods and those things that draw us together.”

That led fewer people to care about public institutions, Obama explained, leading to government cuts to important public functions – making the nation less equal.

Obama insisted that there needed to be more investments in public schools, public universities, public early child education and public infrastructure, insisting that funding these organizations both “grows our economy and spreads it around.”

Yes, there have been government cuts–but not to education.

The article includes a few charts:

Screen Shot 2015-05-12 at 4.20.06 PM

Screen Shot 2015-05-12 at 4.21.07 PM

Note that enrollment is basically flat, but expenses are increasing. Also note that enrollment numbers are given in millions, expenditure numbers are given in billions.

The article concludes:

So where is the “disinvestment?” Where is the “anti-government ideology?” Obama’s comments represent rank ignorance; either that or cynical demagoguery. In truth, the cure for poverty is well known: graduate from high school, get a job–any job–and get married. But the real solution doesn’t fit the left’s agenda.

Government dependency leads to poverty–it doesn’t lead to either wealth of success. The best thing a parent can do for their child is let their child see them get up and go to work every morning. That sets a great example.

 

The North Carolina Academic Standards Review Commission

The North Carolina Academic Standards Review Commission met today in Raleigh, North Carolina, to discuss the Common Core Mathematics Standards.

The Academic Standards Review Commission was established by General Assembly of North Carolina Session 2013 Session Law 2014-78 Senate Bill 812.

Section 2(c) of the Bill states:

SECTION 2.(c) The Commission shall:

(1)    Conduct a comprehensive review of all English Language Arts and Mathematics standards that were adopted by the State Board of Education under G.S. 115C-12(9c) and propose modifications to ensure that those standards meet all of the following criteria:

  1. Increase students’ level of academic achievement.
  2. Meet and reflect North Carolina’s priorities.
  3. Are age-level and developmentally appropriate.
  4. Are understandable to parents and teachers.
  5. Are among the highest standards in the nation.

(2)   As soon as practicable upon convening, and at any time prior to termination, recommend changes and modifications to these academic standards to the State Board of Education.

(3)   Recommend to the State Board of Education assessments aligned to proposed changes and modifications that would also reduce the number of high-stakes assessments administered to public schools.

(4)   Consider the impact on educators, including the need for professional development, when making any of the recommendations required in this section.

The Commission shall assemble content experts to assist it in evaluating the rigor ofacademic standards. The Commission shall also involve interested stakeholders in this processand otherwise ensure that the process is transparent.

Today was the second meeting of the Academic Standards Review Commission I have attended. The last one (last month) dealt with the Common Core Language Arts Standards. Today’s meeting dealt with the Common Core Mathematics Standards. The presentations at both meetings were done by people from the Department of Public Instruction (DPI)(a department that is strongly supporting Common Core). There has been (so far) no discussion of any alternate standards. It was also mentioned in today’s meeting that the Commission does not have any money allocated to it, and thus cannot call any experts who might refute the value of Common Core.

I have never been so disappointed in government. When the North Carolina legislature passed the legislation that created the Commission, they passed it in response to complaints by parents about the Common Core standards (and the curriculum that goes with them). The parents were not looking for a worthless commission that would do nothing but hear from supporters of Common Core, put a rubber stamp on it, and go home. (I do need to say at this point that there were some members of the Commission that were asking genuine questions and were trying to look past the one-sided promotional presentation they were subjected to.)

All in all, the meeting of the Commission was a well-orchestrated and controlled dog and pony show that accomplished nothing except to show the extent to which the North Carolina DPI supports Common Core. I would strongly suggest to the Commission (and to the DPI) that if you truly want to improve the education level of North Carolina students, you study the MCAS  (Massachusetts Comprehensive Assessment System) program instituted in Massachusetts during the early 1990’s. Massachusetts has more than ten years of test scores that show that MCAS works. Common Core has no reliable test scores that show that has actually accomplished anything. Normally, I would never suggest North Carolina follow the example of Massachusetts, but this one time Massachusetts got it right, and they should be listened to. I would also like to note that many of the local school boards in Massachusetts have opted out of Common Core in favor of MCAS.

 

 

One Pediatrician’s Take On Common Core

The following was posted on Facebook on the “Stop Common Core In Mississippi” page:

“I just left our pediatrician. He walks in and says, “Common Core.” The look on his face tells me he is concerned. “I have been swamped the past two weeks with concerned parents who think their child needs medication to survive this new program,” he says. “I have a parent who is a teacher who is now homeschooling her children to avoid this mess.” “I know,” I say. “We have been ringing the bell as loudly as we can,” I say. “Many of the standards, especially the math standards are developmentally inappropriate and are biased against left-brained thinkers.” Our legislature had the chance to fix this last year. Next year is an election year. Keep ringing the bell. The Common Core has to go.” Lauren Emswiler Watson

Lauren is MS Senator Michael Watson‘s wife… and also a teacher.

I have heard from other teachers that much of the material in Common Core is not age-appropriate. The only way to get rid of this program is for parents and grandparents to get involved. It’s up to you to go to your local school boards and make yourselves heard. Otherwise you will simply have to live with the results–a generation of frustrated students and a data mining program that a totalitarian state would be proud of.

Looking Past The Obvious In The Internal Revenue Service (IRS)Scandal

It has become an accepted fact that under Lois Lerner the IRS targeted conservative groups. However, if you look at the IRS BOLO (be on the lookout order) relating to the targeting, there is another group of organizations that is targeted.

According to an article in yesterday’s Washington Post:

According to the inspector general’s report (pp. 30 & 38), this particular IRS targeting commenced on Jan. 25, 2012 — the beginning of the election year for President Obama’s second campaign. On that date: “the BOLO [‘be on the lookout’] criteria were again updated.” The revised criteria included “political action type organizations involved in … educating on the Constitution and Bill of Rights.”

The article points out that the BOLO is not “viewpoint-neutral.” It does not target groups obfuscating or denigrating the Constitution–only those educating Americans on what the Constitution says. Learning about the Constitution is seen as a danger to America. Wow! We’ve come a long way from our Founding Fathers, who believed that educating future generations on the Constitution was one of the things necessary to preserve our Republic.

The article further reports:

This is a new low for American government — targeting those who would teach others about its founding document. Forty years ago, President Richard Nixon went to great lengths to try to conceal the facts of his constitutional violations, but it never occurred to him to conceal the meaning of the Constitution itself, by targeting its teachers. Politicians have always been tempted to try to censor their political adversaries; but none has been so bold as to try to suppress constitutional education directly. Presidents have always sought to push against the constitutional limits of their power; but never have they targeted those who merely teach about such limits. In short, never before has the federal government singled out for special scrutiny those who would teach their fellow citizens about our magnificent Constitution. This is the new innovation of Obama’s IRS.

The article concludes:

Five years ago, Obama, our constitutional law professor-in-chief, presented his first, ringing Constitution Day proclamation: “To succeed, the democracy established in our Constitution requires the active participation of its citizenry. Each of us has a responsibility to learn about our Constitution and teach younger generations about its contents and history.” Quite so. Perhaps this year, Obama could explain why his IRS would target those who answered this call.

Teach your children well–your future and theirs depends on it.

What Are Our Children Learning?

I have posted a few articles on Common Core and on the AP U. S. History course for high school students. There are some real questions as to what the curricula associated with these standards and programs is actually teaching, but now we have strange curriculum showing up in other areas.

Yesterday John Hinderaker at Power Line posted an article quoting Minnesota teachers on how their schools teach literature classes.

The article included the following description of how Edina High School in Edina, Minnesota teaches literature classes:

Acceptance and inter-cultural understanding can be fostered through the use of powerful texts, discussion, analysis, and exploration in the classroom. An English curriculum grounded in social justice rests on a belief based in equity—that each person should have access to resources regardless of race, gender, ability, age, socio-economic status, or sexual orientation.

Why is our educational system trying to divide Americans instead of focusing on the things we have in common that made this country great?

The article includes a comment from Woodbury High School:

At Woodbury High School, the [literature] course is primarily structured chronologically. Social, economic, cultural and political frameworks of the readings are sometimes explored explicitly through eight critical lenses: feminist, deconstruction, new criticism, new historical/biographical, reader response, post-colonial, psychological and Marxist theory. Students apply critical literary elements such as figurative language, symbolism, and motif to find author’s intent.

What about teaching them the uniqueness of the U.S. Constitution instead?

John Hinderaker sums it up:

This is mis-education, worse than not attending school at all. Any child of normal intelligence would gain more from staying up late at night and reading books with a flashlight under the covers than from being subjected to such cant. For many students, such palpable bullshit is likely to ruin literature forever.

After the Constitutional Convention in 1787, people gathered outside Independence Hall in order to learn what had been created. A website called ourrepubliconline.com reports:

A Mrs. Powel of Philadelphia asked Benjamin Franklin, “Well, Doctor, what have we got, a republic or a monarchy?” With no hesitation whatsoever, Franklin responded, “A republic, if you can keep it.”

Unless we do a better job of educating our children, we won’t be able to keep it.

Another State Wakes Up And Smells The Coffee

Last Saturday, Townhall.com reported that the Missouri legislature has voted to end the Common Core educational standards in the state of Missouri. Common Core is a set of educational standards (not necessarily a bad idea) that has become controversial as people have realized some of the underlying aspects of it. Some of the problems with Common Core are invasive data collection with no privacy guarantees, a very politically slanted companion curriculum, and lessons for younger children that are not age-appropriate. As more and more people become aware of the contents of this program, more parents are contacting their legislators and asking that it be removed from their children’s schools.

The article at Townhall.com explains the current status of Common Core in Missouri:

House Bill 1490 (HB1490) passed through the state senate on May 1 by a 24-8 margin. It had previously passed the house by a 132-19 vote. Since the Senate version differed from the House version, the House had an opportunity to accept the amendments offered by the Senate, but refused. That sends the bill to a joint conference committee, with members of both chambers, to work out the differences in the bill and finalized the version going to the governor.

A spokesman for Rep. Bahr, the bill’s chief sponsor, said, “The conference was requested by the floor leader since the house passed a four page bill and the senate sent back a 44 page version. He did not feel like there would be enough time for all 150 house reps to pour over all of the new information in the bill to pass it speedily and also doing their duty.”

The amendments do not stop the bill from taking important steps to re-establish local control of education and end involvement with Common Core in the state. HB1490 states that “[each] local school board shall be responsible for the approval and adoption of curriculum used by the school district.” It also would sanction “work groups composed of education professionals to develop and recommend academic performance standards” which would ultimately be used to replace Common Core by the 2016-2017 school year.

It is time for all states to return control of their schools to the local school boards and educators. They are the people who know and understand the needs of the community. If you are a parent of a school-age parent and your state legislature is in session, please learn about Common Core and call your state legislators to ask that it be removed from your state. Your children are depending on you.

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And All This Time You Thought Common Core Was About Education

Yesterday the Daily Caller reported that Bill Gates will shut down his Gates Foundation (and Carnegie Corporation) financed nonprofit educational-software company InBloom Inc. permanently.

This was the company that was going to compile large amounts of information on students.

The article reports:

The strategy driving inBloom had been to create a huge database connecting local school districts and state education bureaucracies with behemoth education companies.

To accomplish this goal, the nonprofit had hoped to provide a smorgasbord of data about students. What homework are they doing? What tests are they assigned? What are their test scores? Their specific learning disabilities? Their disciplinary records? Their skin colors? Their names? Their addresses?

The Atlanta-based company had originally signed up nine states for the database. It planned to charge school districts between $2 and $5 per student for the privilege of participating in the student data collection scheme.

The intrusive data collection of student information was not the only surprise in Common Core. (also note that the school systems would be paying for the privilege of having their students’ privacy violated)  Upon investigating the curriculum which is aligned to Common Core, parents found lessons that were age inappropriate, lessons that were historically inaccurate and slanted, and literature for junior high reading that bordered on pornographic.

A few states are already are already responding to parental concern about Common Core and are backing away from using the standards and curriculum. Hopefully all states will move in that direction and then move to set up standards that work for them.

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What Are We Doing To Our Children?

Fox News posted a story today about some of the lessons given to fourth grade students at Pasodale Elementary School in El Paso, Texas. One of the lessons cited was the story of a wife finding a strange hairclip under her bed with a different color hair in it than her hair. The second lesson deals with a mother learning about the death of her son. In the second lesson, the entire situation does not even accurately describe how the military brings the news to the family of a fallen hero. These are not age-appropriate subjects for fourth grade students.

The article reports:

Today on Your World, parenting expert Dr. Deb Gilboa said she was “shocked” by the material.

She said, “This teacher either didn’t read the assignment before handing it out, or had not enough life experience to realize that there’s no correct answer to these questions.”

Last year in Arizona, FoxNews.com reported that students at Playa Del Rey Elementary School were asked to read the same passages. In that instance, the teacher hadn’t read the assignment and immediately apologized.

Dr. Gilboa noted that kids already see messages they’re not old enough to comprehend, but parents shouldn’t have to worry about that coming from a school.

The article does not state this, but I strongly suspect that the material is part of the suggested lessons included in the Common Core.  There are a number of textbooks that have been written to be compatible with the Common Core curriculum. The best thing that could happen for American students would be for the Common Core curriculum to be thrown out and states be allowed to set their own standards. Hopefully the textbooks adopted after the demise of Common Core will not include the kind of fourth grade lessons shown above. These lessons should be categorized as child abuse.

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A Graph Tells The Story

Yesterday the I J Review posted the following graph:

education-trends-national

So what does the graph tell us? More money does not equal better education. More employees do not equal better education.

The article concludes:

There is no connection between more funding and better education results; but the stagnation in educational quality has come not only with more funding, but increased federal control over education.

Decentralize control over public education and give parents and educators more options. You have the data that spending America into a huge amount of debt for all manner of feel-good social spending projects doesn’t work, now do it for the children – especially since they’re paying for it.

Why are we supporting a federal education bureaucracy that does not work? Let’s give the money back to the taxpayers.

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Oklahoma Moves To Ditch Common Core

Yesterday National Review Online posted an article announcing that Oklahoma is preparing to withdraw the state from the Common Core standards.

The article reports:

The bill to get the Sooner State (out) was hugely popular in both houses. House Bill 3399 was approved by the state house in a 78 to 12 vote before being sent to the state senate for amendments. On Tuesday, the state senate voted 37 to 10 in favor of the bill. The bill will now go to the House for another vote before being sent to the governor’s desk.

Oklahoma was one of the first states to adopt the Common Core standards in June of 2010, after a vote by the state board of education. However, the Sooner State later dropped out of the Common Core’s standardized testing consortium in the summer of 2013. Fallin then issued an executive order in December directing the Secretary of Education to make sure the federal government “does not intrude in Oklahoma’s development of academic curricula and teaching strategies.”

Evidently Governor Fallin took a closer look at the curricula and teaching strategies.

The problem with Common Core is not the idea of setting standards–we all want high educational standards for our children and grandchildren. The problem with Common Core is the curricula and teaching strategies–the method used to teach math to elementary children is so complex that people with advanced degrees struggle with it. Some of the reading material recommended in the curricula is not age-appropriate for any age. One textbook recommended to be used with Common Core for high school history describes America as the aggressor in World War II. Again, the problem is not the standards–it’s the curricula and teaching strategies.

I hope that more states will follow the example of Indiana (which has already opted out of Common Core) and Oklahoma.

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Giving Our Children Information They Don’t Need While Not Telling Them What They Need To Know

Camille Paglia posted an article at Time Magazine yesterday entitled, “Put the Sex Back in Sex Ed.” It’s a rather odd concept, but she makes some very worthwhile points.

The article states:

Fertility is the missing chapter in sex education. Sobering facts about women’s declining fertility after their 20s are being withheld from ambitious young women, who are propelled along a career track devised for men.

The refusal by public schools’ sex-education programs to acknowledge gender differences is betraying both boys and girls. The genders should be separated for sex counseling. It is absurd to avoid the harsh reality that boys have less to lose from casual serial sex than do girls, who risk pregnancy and whose future fertility can be compromised by disease. Boys need lessons in basic ethics and moral reasoning about sex (for example, not taking advantage of intoxicated dates), while girls must learn to distinguish sexual compliance from popularity.

The first paragraph is something that was not an issue thirty years ago, the second paragraph involves issues that parents used to handle thirty years ago. Ms. Paglia is looking for a scientific approach to sex education in biology classes and a practical non-agenda driven approach to life issues in single-sex classes. This makes sense. Many parents are not telling their children the truth about the emotional and physical cost of abortion or the emotional differences between men and women.

Please follow the link and read the entire article. This is a very common-sense approach to an issue that has our society needs to deal with in a way that helps our young people grow up to be healthy and productive adults.

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What Did Your Child Learn In School Today?

Today’s Daily Caller posted an article about a quiz given to a ninth-grade Health Class in New Canaan, Connecticut. The quiz is entitled, “How WELLthy Are You?”

Some of the statements in the quiz:

“I vote for pro-environmental candidates in elections” is one of the statements.

“I write my elected leaders about environmental concerns” is another one.

Still other statements in the section include “I report people who intentionally hurt the environment” and “I try not to leave the faucet running too long when I brush my teeth, shave, or bathe.”

For example, the “Spiritual Health” section contains this hopelessly confused religious statement: “I have faith in greater power, be it a God-like force, nature, or the connectedness of all living things.”

The article further reports:

A score of 35-40 points in each category allegedly indicates that New Canaan ninth-graders are “practicing good health habits” and “setting an example” for “family and friends to follow.” It is mathematically impossible for ninth-graders to achieve this score in the “Environmental Health” section if they “rarely, if ever” vote for “pro-environmental candidates” or write to “elected leaders about environmental concerns.”

I have no problem with encouraging high school freshmen to protect the environment and to be politically aware. I do, however, have a problem with telling them what their criteria should be when they vote. The article points out that the students are told that they do not have to answer all of the questions. I would like to suggest that they not be asked to answer any of the questions, and we go back to spending health class encouraging good individual health habits. This quiz sounds more like brainwashing than a quiz.
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Where In The World Is Carmen Sandiego?

Where In The World Is Carmen Sandiego?” was an educational computer game that we used to help our children learn geography. I don’t think he’s doing it to teach us all geography, but that is the gist of the Edward Snowden story right now.

I still have not figured out whether Mr. Snowden is a hero or a goat. I do have a few general comments on the entire episode, however. Mr. Snowden is a product of the American education system. He is a high school dropout. He is young–he is not necessarily mature enough to make the decisions he is currently facing, nor does he have enough knowledge to make those decisions.

Consider this. Mr. Snowden grew up in an education system that does not value America or American values. He has been taught on one hand not to trust the government and on the other hand that the government will take care of him and solve all of his problems. He finds himself working at a job that increases his suspicions of the government (and who knows how many “Matrix” movies he has watched), and he has no idea what to do. He starts exploring the InternetWikileaks websites–and decides Wikileaks has the right idea, so he gets in touch with them. At that point he has started a runaway train that cannot be stopped.

Mr. Snowden will never again enjoy the freedom that we have as Americans. He has been so miseducated in America that he has no idea what he has lost. Admittedly, the present Administration has a lot to answer for in terms of spying on Americans and friends and foes of America, but unfortunately, that is all too easy to do in today’s world. I think spying on innocent Americans is wrong–I don’t think it requires fleeing the country with four computers. I wonder exactly what was on those four computers.

As I have said, I have not yet concluded whether Mr. Snowden is a hero or a goat, but his choice of countries to align himself with has me leaning toward goat.

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Common Core — Coming To A School Near You

Last night I attended a forum on Common Core at the Worcester Public Library. The forum was sponsored by the Back to Basics Caucus, a coalition of school committee members from across Massachusetts. The speakers were Sandra Stotsky, an ELA Curriculum Author, and Ted Rebarber, a Costs and Accountability Expert.

Common Core is a controversial initiative to align curriculum standards among all 50 states. It is being attacked from both the left and the right for many reasons, but mainly because it is seen as a top down Federal takeover of state and local education programs. It is a “one size fits all” curriculum.

Yesterday’s Wall Street Journal posted an article by James Gass and Charles Chieppo (I have not linked to the article because it is subscribers only) entitled, “Common Core Education Is Uncommonly Inadequate.” The story they tell hits very close to home–it’s about Massachusetts, where I live and sent my children to school.

The article in the Wall Street Journal cites the changes in Massachusetts education during the 1990’s. Education in the state was reformed in 1993, and SAT scores rose for thirteen consecutive years. In 2005 Massachusetts scored best in the nation in all grades and categories on the National Assessment of Educational Progress. They have repeated that performance every time they have taken the test.  Massachusetts is doing very well educationally right now.

In 2010 Massachusetts joined Common Core, which is supposed to be fully implemented by Spring of 2014. Common Core has some serious problems–scholastically and legally.

The Wall Street Journal states:

…Three federal laws explicitly prohibit the U.S. government from directing, supervising or controlling any nationalized standards, testing or curriculum. Yet Race to the Top, a federal education grant competition that dangled $4.35 billion in front of states, favored applications that adopted Common Core. The Education Department subsequently awarded $362 million to fund two national assessments and a “model curriculum” that is “aligned with” Common Core.

Academically the standards for Common Core are lower than those currently in effect in Massachusetts–so why in the world would we want to change? Therein lies the question.

The Heritage Foundation posts a picture that is worth a thousand words:

commoncore_1_450

The article at the Heritage Foundation concludes:

American education is at a crossroads: One path leads toward further centralization and greater federal intervention. The other path leads toward robust education choice, including school choice and choice in curricula.

Common Core takes the path toward centralization, and state leaders should seize the moment to resist this latest federal overreach. National standards and tests are a challenge to educational freedom in America, and state and local leaders who believe in limited government should resist them.

Common Core was put together without the input of the teachers who educate our children. Some of its backers are the Gates Foundation and the Pearson company.

At the present time there are no reliable cost estimates for the change to Common Core. There is no cost-benefit analysis.

The thought of putting all local education under the control of Washington is scary. We have local school committees that are elected–they are accountable to the voters. We need to make sure that the local school committees control local education. Anything else is destined for failure.

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A Scary Video

My husband posted this on Facebook. It can be found on YouTube. Please watch the video until the end–there is a surprise twist in the last few seconds. It is scary to know what is happening with our tax dollars. Keep in mind that the man speaking is in his third year of college. Notice how well he has mastered the English language. This is a disgrace.

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Changing Education In Louisiana

Baton Rouge, LA, September 3, 2008 -- Presiden...

Baton Rouge, LA, September 3, 2008 -- President George W. Bush and Governor Bobby Jindal greeting EOC employees, during disaster recovery efforts for Hurricane Gustav. Jacinta Quesada/FEMA (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Governor Bobby Jindal took the oath of office as Governor of Louisiana on January 14, 2008. He has worked hard to bring ethical reform to the state and has now brought education reform to the state.

The New Orleans Times-Picayune posted an editorial on April 8 about the education reforms the governor has enacted and is enacting. Hurricane Katrina devastated New Orleans in 2005, and as the people of the city returned, they had to find a way to educate their children. Before Hurricane Katrina, New Orleans schools were among the worst performing in the state. The state took over most of the New Orleans schools after the Hurricane.

The editorial reports:

Since the state took over most schools post-Katrina, that is changing. Recovery School District students, including charter and traditional campuses, posted their fourth consecutive year of improvement last year. The proportion of students scoring at grade level or above grew to 48 percent in 2011 ­– more than double the percentage in 2007.

That progress has come as most city schools became public charter schools, a concept that the governor’s legislation would expand statewide.

The new education reform legislation Governor Jindal would expand the program that was successful in New Orleans throughout the state.

The article concludes:

Gov. Jindal’s reforms are the most far-reaching since the Foster administration, when BESE crafted accountability standards that included high-stakes tests for students and performance scores for schools. This reform effort goes beyond that, though, by making teachers accountable for students’ progress and giving parents far more educational options for their children.

Some teachers went to Baton Rouge to protest the changes to tenure. But others have expressed an understanding that the current system isn’t working.

“If I were not doing a good job as a teacher, I should be fired,” Kaycee Eckhardt, who teaches ninth-graders at Sci Academy, a charter high school in eastern New Orleans, told a reporter. “We’re not building machine parts here. We’re talking about the lives of children. If you have an ineffective teacher in the classroom, you’re hurting kids.”

That is the bottom line.

Gov. Jindal is right to be bold. Despite those earlier reform efforts, Louisiana students still lag behind their counterparts in most other states. Implemented wisely, these reforms could make students more competitive — and improve their lives and the state’s economic future.

One of my daughters and her Marine husband were stationed in New Orleans during the time of Hurricane Katrina. They saw the devastation and they saw the road back. They still own a house there and are hoping to retire there, but one of their concerns was the school system. It sounds as if Governor Jindal is doing a fantastic job of addressing that concern.

 

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Taxpayer-Funded Inflation

Yesterday Smartmoney.com posted an article explaining how government student loans and grants have caused an increase in college tuition. The article points out that federal aid for college students has increased 164% over the past decade, but many potential students still find the cost of a college education unaffordable

The article points out:

Lesley Turner, a PhD candidate at Columbia University, looked at data on aid from 1996 to 2008 and calculated that, on average, schools increased Pell Grant recipients’ prices by $17 in response to every $100 of Pell Grant aid. More selective nonprofit schools’ response was largest and these schools raised prices by $66 for every $100 of Pell Grant aid.

The article further states:

After adjusting for differences among schools, the authors find that Title IV-eligible schools charge tuition that is 75% higher than the others. That’s roughly equal to the amount of the aid received by students at these schools.

Studies like these suggest that if one goal of government is to make college affordable, aid should become more thoughtful instead of merely more plentiful. And the total cost of federal spending on college isn’t fully known. That’s because spending on loans dwarfs that on grants. Student loans recently eclipsed credit card debt.

The article reminds us that with high unemployment and the unavailability of the high paying jobs that graduates need to pay off their college loans, the taxpayers could wind up paying the bill for a lot of college tuition loans.

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