What Are We Teaching Our Children?

Yesterday NBC4 in Ohio posted an article about a recent assignment given to students at Roberts Middle School in Cuyahoga Falls.

The article reports:

Last week, students at Roberts Middle School in Cuyahoga Falls were told to choose who should survive an apocalypse on earth. It was an assignment called “Whom to Leave Behind.”

Students were told to pick 8 out of 12 people to save. Some examples included a homosexual professional athlete and a militant African American medical student, WKYC reported.

Parents say the assignment is insensitive and inappropriate, especially for middle schoolers.

“What does her being Muslim have to do with it,” said Bernadette Hartman, referencing another description on the list. “What does being female have to do with it.”

Hartman says her son received the controversial assignment in an 8th-grade social studies class last week.

What in the world is the purpose of this assignment? How does it advance the learning of the students?

The article further reports:

The Cuyahoga Falls School District’s superintendent said the district is taking this seriously and will conduct an investigation.

For parents, they hope this never happens again.

“I think the whole curriculum needs to be more monitored so opinions of the faculty aren’t injected into the classroom,” said Petron.

The superintendent tells WKYC the teacher met with the school on Thursday and will meet with the district on Monday. He added he’s not sure when the investigation will be complete.

I wonder if the assignment was intended to teach the children that people of all backgrounds have worth. If that was the intention, I don’t think that was the result. To me, the assignment seems to place a value on people according to their race, their religion and their gender. That seems more divisive than unifying. It’s time to teach our children things they can actually use–how to write a resume`, how to balance a checkbook, basic life skills like budgeting, nutrition, basic math, and reading. This assignment seems to be a waste of everyone’s time.

On a lighter note, this assignment reminds me of an old joke:

A lawyer, a doctor, a little boy and a priest were all out on a small plane for an afternoon flight when the plane developed engine trouble. In spite of the pilot’s best efforts, the plane started to go down. Finally, the pilot yelled out to his passengers that they’d better jump, grabbed a parachute and bailed out.
Unfortunately, that left only three remaining parachutes. Grabbing one, the doctor said, “I am a doctor and I save lives, so I must live,” and he jumped.
The lawyer then grabbed a parachute and said, “I am the smartest man in the world. I definitely deserve to live.” Then he jumped.
Looking at the young boy, the priest said, “Son, I have been fortunate to have lived a long and full life. You are young and have your whole life ahead of you. Take the last parachute and live in peace.”
Handing the parachute back to the priest, the little boy said, “Don’t worry, Father. The smartest man in the world just jumped out with my backpack!”

The labels we put on people are not always accurate.

Responding To Union Extortion

On Saturday, PJ Media posted an article a recent lawsuit filed by seven in California.

The article reports:

Less than a week after that ruling, Janus v. Association of Federal, State, City, and Municipal Employees (FSCME), seven California teachers have filed a class-action lawsuit to recoup unjustly forced fees.

“This lawsuit will enable teachers like me to recover the agency fees that we were wrongly forced to pay against our will,” Scott Wilford, the plaintiff in the new lawsuit, told Education Week. Wilford filed the lawsuit in the Central District of California’s federal court on Tuesday.

Wilford and six others filed the class-action lawsuit against the National Education Association (NEA), the American Federation of Teachers (AFT) and others. The suit seeks “redress for the defendants’ past and ongoing violations of their constitutionally protected rights. The defendants have violated the representative plaintiffs’ constitutional rights by, among other things, forcing them to pay fair share service fees as a condition of their employment.”

The AFT, like other unions, used “non-political” agency fees for its annual convention in 2016, at which Hillary Clinton spoke.

It is not news to anyone that union dues were used for political purposes. It does seem unfair that people would be compelled to support candidates and causes that are against their political ideology.

The article concludes:

As Thomas Jefferson wrote in the Virginia Statute for Religious Freedom, “To compel a man to furnish contributions of money for the propagation of opinions which he disbelieves and abhors, is sinful and tyrannical.”

The Supreme Court put an end to these ill-gotten gains last month, and Wilford, Friedrichs, and their fellow plaintiffs deserve an apology if nothing more. Wilford and Friedrichs especially deserve something, since their case was blocked for two years by a deadlocked Supreme Court.

Unfortunately, it seems unions are unlikely to give even that, as they staunchly attacked Janus as an unjust decision. Some contrition, and a direct settlement for Wilford and Friedrichs, might save the unions a huge headache — and a multi-million dollar lawsuit. Instead, it seems they’re in for the long haul.

Stay tuned. I suspect this is just the beginning.

Some Thoughts On The North Carolina Superintendent Race

I have met Dr. Rosemary Stein on a few occasions. As a pediatrician, she truly cares for children. She is aware of their physical needs, their developmental needs, and their emotional needs. She has consistently opposed Common Core because it includes things that are harmful to our children. She is running for Superintendent of Public Instruction in North Carolina.

Lady Liberty posted an article today about the race for North Carolina Superintendent of Public Instruction. The article included the following statement from Dr. Stein:

My husband and I started a pediatric clinic 16 years ago. Our clinic provides the best possible care to our patients regardless of the parents’ circumstance in life. Several years ago, we read the Sunday paper in which a list of the top 100 students in the area was printed. Not a single one of our patients was on that list.” said Stein. “This lead us to begin the process of determining why our kids were not succeeding in school.”

During our investigation of this problem, we realized that our children were not able to read at grade level, and in some cases not at all. To solve this problem and not misdiagnose ADD, we began to investigate better methods of teaching reading and math. It was clear that North Carolina was no longer using traditional phonics based reading methods and classical mathematics instruction.”

Today, our children are forced to learn using a curriculum based on Common Core. This method of instruction is developmentally inappropriate.” stated Stein. “It does not teach to the child’s brain development. In fact, because Common Core teaches things to the child at the wrong developmental period of their brain development, it is actually harming their brain development.”

This path is the primary factor in my decision to run for Superintendent of Public Instruction. It is my intention to return North Carolina to the Classical Education model that was used so successfully in America decades ago. It is proven to be developmentally correct for the brain development of the child.”

This lady would be a wonderful gift to the parents and students of North Carolina. She deserves the vote of everyone who cares about our children’s education.

Numbers Don’t Lie

Last year in North Carolina the Academic Standards Review Commission (ASRC) was charged with replacing the Common Core State Standards (CCSS). The North Carolina General Assembly voted to replace Common Core, and the ASRC was expected to come up with alternatives to Common Core. Unfortunately, that did not happen. Although the findings in the ASRC draft report of the commission (located  here) clearly indicated that the standards needed to be replaced– such issues as age-appropriate materials, lack of teaching materials, and excessive testing were mentioned–the ASRC simply ignored their own experts and did not replace CCSS. So what are the results of Common Core in North Carolina, and what are the alternatives? The results are awful, and there is one vetted and time-tested alternative.

The test data from the ACT tells the story of Common Core in North Carolina:

     Beginning in 2011, graduating seniors across the nation averaged a 20.6 in English, 21.1 in math, 21.3 in reading, 20.9 in science, and 21.1 composite. By comparison, North Carolina students averaged a 21.2 in English, 22.4 in math, 22.2 in reading, 21.4 in science, and 21.9 composite. Obviously, North Carolina scored well among the states and things were looking up.

     However, since 2011, things have gone downhill. 2015 graduating classes looked like this: (NC/National) 17.6/20.4 for English, 19.5/20.8 for math, 19.2/21.4 for reading, 19.0/20.9 for science, and 19.0/21.0 composite. Moreover, this is not just a dip in the scores. They have been steadily declining during the five-year period. Obviously, something is amiss or, at least, not what is being claimed. While National scores have remained fairly flat, North Carolina’s have tanked.

     Since the focus is on readiness for careers and college, other data is included in the ACT report for who is ready for what. Some of the key pieces of data in the report are the “benchmarks” which depict the level at which a student should perform in order to succeed at a specific career or a given college. The benchmarks are listed for each of the subject fields tested, i.e. English, math, reading, science, and composite. Benchmarks are useful for selecting a particular college, getting scholarships, determining career fields, etc.

     For the graduating classes of 2015, a full twenty-five percent of North Carolina students scored a benchmark in English of 0 to 12 (range of 1-36). Another seventeen percent scored 13 to 15, and twenty percent scored 16-19. This means that a total of sixty-two percent of our students in 2015 scored benchmarks that might, repeat might, get them into a community college. Only nine percent scored in the top two brackets, 28 to 32 and 33 to 36. For the math benchmark, the figure was sixty percent in the lower three brackets, reading was fifty-five percent, and science was fifty-four percent. In order to succeed at any of the major North Carolina Universities and colleges, current ACT benchmarks are NC State 24 to 29, UNC 21 to 26, Wake Forest 29 to 31, Campbell 17 to 27, East Carolina University 20 to 24, and UNC-Charlotte 20 to 25. If a student with an ACT of 19 were to apply to UNC-Charlotte, it is estimated that they have a fifty-five percent chance of success while the same score would only have a twenty-three percent chance at Campbell University.

     Along with the falling scores, there has been little to no progress in closing the learning and achievement gaps for minority students. Students of color are worse off with the CCSS standards, not better. Their parents ought to be outraged at the lack of appropriate content.

     As for “career ready” there is a “World of Work” map for careers that supposedly matches ACT scores with various occupations. Given the narrow aperture that the rest of the ACT/CRS process uses, one can only imagine how well the map works in determining a career for students not planning to attend college. What ever happened to guidance counselors working with parents to help choose a career?

     In conclusion, our public education system imposes a set of standards on its students and their parents, has designed a testing apparatus totally aligned with the standards and developed to supposedly reveal what career students should consider or what college to attend, and touts this as an improvement. However, data gathered and reported by its own testing shows the results to be dismal and failing. How can the Chamber of Commerce and other interested parties believe that they will be getting better employees for their members? How can colleges believe that their incoming classes of students will not require more remedial classes?

So why in the world are we stuck with Common Core? There is a lot of serious money behind Common Core. Bill Gates is one of the primary forces behind Common Core. As I have previously reported:  On September 21, 2013, (according to The Washington Post), Bill Gates stated, “It would be great if our education stuff worked, but that we won’t know for probably a decade.” It is becoming very obvious that it doesn’t work! Just for the record,The Daily Caller reported in March 2014 that the children of Bill Gates attend a private school that does not use Common Core standards. Common Core for thee, but not for me.

So what is the alternative? The North Carolina Education Coalition has created the North Carolina Education Plan. It is based on two vetted and very successful standards in two different states–Mathematics based on the Minnesota Standards (which the draft resolution of the ASRC recommended) and English Language Arts (ELA) is based on the Massachusetts standards as developed by Sandra Stotsy, credited with developing one of the country’s strongest K-12 ELA programs in Massachusetts.

Common sense would dictate replacing something that has failed with something that has been successful. Unfortunately, in the North Carolina academic hierarchy, money has become more important than educating our children. Many of the people in charge of education in North Carolina have a vested monetary interest in Common Core. We will not get rid of Common Core unless parents stand up and demand that public education in this state be controlled by common sense rather than money. We also need to replace any people involved in education in North Carolina who will make a profit through the implementation of Common Core.

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

 

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.

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.

The Lack Of Logic In The American Educational System

 A letter from a friend:
Why California Schools are the pits
 
We moved out here 2.5 years ago as a military family.  We don’t have a choice as to where we are sent, so we just go.  Our main concern was the California schools and unfortunately, they have not proved themselves to be anything but ……”messed up.”
1.  During our first year here, in order to deal with budget cuts, the schools were forced to layoff new teachers.  Their definition of a new teacher follows the” last in, first let go.”  This, however, included many teachers with 10+ years experience IN the district.  Mind you, there are teachers who are way past their teaching prime and are not adequately preparing their students for upward movement.  (This is not only an opinion shared by parents, but also by teachers.)
2.  During our second year here, we were sent a teacher who was cut from her school.  While that is not an uncommon practice, what is sad  is that she was” Teacher of the Year” in the school she was cut from.  It was definitely our gain, but is it logical?  She was once again cut from our school at the end of the second year.
3.  During our third year here, once again faced with huge budget cuts, the PTO has been asked to pay for BASIC educational tools – art, walkie talkies for our playground duties, busing for having High School students come over as teacher’s aides, Success Maker programs, field trips and a host of other literary companions to give a rounded education to our students.
In addition, the new principal noted that the 1980s decor in our front office was neither inviting or pleasing to anyone.  She took money out of her OWN pocket and proceeded to paint, add chair rail, and also refinish the countertops and cabinets.  She also plans to have the floor redone and purchase a new desk.  All from her funds!  Yesterday she was called to the School District office to be reprimanded for using her own money and volunteers to redo the office.  They stated she was taking away jobs from their maintenance employees and that she needed to apologize and discontinue the work that was being done for free and instead pay $90 an hour in labor, plus materials, to finish any and all work. 
Does this make sense?  We don’t have enough money for educational items for our students, BUT we are being forced to spend additional money on items that would have been DONATED by parents and staff at our school. 
Yes, California, your logic is a tad “illogical.”
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