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Sunday, January 25, 2015

Dad Gone Wild | Is there really a point to it all?

Dad Gone Wild | Is there really a point to it all?:


eliot“Where is the wisdom we have lost in knowledge? Where is the knowledge we have lost in information?” — T.S. Eliot
That quote by Eliot has been resonating lately with me. I find myself reading about and looking at all this focus on rigor, high quality seats, and test performance, and asking myself, what does it really mean? Please don’t get me wrong. I’m a huge proponent for education, but I find myself questioning our focus. Ten years after a child leaves school, does it really matter if they scored a 20 or a 21 on the ACT, or if they are in the top 20% versus the top 5% of their class? If all that rigor does somehow translate into financial success, are our children equipped to really experience all that life has to offer? Does getting into Harvard make you any better at navigating the challenges life throws at you than say, going to Tennessee State would? If a child’s developmental years are all spent chasing some high-performance metric, how will they live when things settle into the mundane day-to-day rhythms that life always brings, or is this the generation that will break those rhythms and do nothing but exceptional things 24/7?
Perhaps that’s what it will be. Maybe the next generation will do nothing but create exceptional businesses and tackle exceptional challenges. They will read only exceptional books and listen only to exceptional music. I certainly hope not because they’d miss out on the joy of dancing around the living room to “Shake It Off” with your five-year-old or chuckling at an old episode of “Benny Hill.” It’s just that I look at this constant drum of high achievement, and I can’t see a translation to real life. I can’t help but think that we are squeezing children for their data points while leaving them ill-equipped for life. In fact, my Spidey sense tells me that we are setting unrealistic expectations and setting children up for failure. We are, in essence, producing a whole generation of former high school quarterbacks incapable of reproducing the glory days of their youth and thus failing to find joy in their present adult life. The truth is, that while we all seek excellence, the majority of us will live average lives and there should be pleasure in that. This average life has served me well.
Yesterday I was engaged in a conversation with a fellow parent about a proposed switch in high school math curriculum. They threw out the fact that their child was excelling at the current math curriculum, maintaing a 100 in AP Calculus. My first thought was, of course they are, and then it suddenly dawned on me, we only have two kinds of students in our system: those who are excelling and those the system is failing. If there are others, we certainly don’t talk about them. When was the last time you had a conversation with another parent about their child who was getting B’s and high C’s, playing in the band, not first chair but certainly enjoying it, and Dad Gone Wild | Is there really a point to it all?:

Ignoring One of the Big Problems With Charter Schools - Pacific Standard

Ignoring One of the Big Problems With Charter Schools - Pacific Standard:

Ignoring One of the Big Problems With Charter Schools

A top official in the New York State Comptroller’s Office has urged regulators to require more transparency on charter-school finances. The response has been, well, non-existent.


 Add another voice to those warning about the lack of financial oversight for charter schools. One of New York state's top fiscal monitors told ProPublica that audits by his office have found "practices that are questionable at best, illegal at worst" at some charter schools.

Pete Grannis, New York State's first deputy comptroller, contacted ProPublica after reading our story about how some charter schools have turned over nearly all their public funds and significant control to private, often for-profit firms that handle their day-to-day operations. The arrangements can limit the ability of auditors and charter-school regulators to follow how public money is spent—especially when the firms refuse to divulge financial details when asked.
Such set-ups are a real problem, Grannis said. And the way he sees it, there's a very simple solution. As a condition for agreeing to approve a new charter school or renew an existing one, charter regulators could require schools and their management companies to agree to provide any and all financial records related to the school.

"We're the fiscal monitors. We watch over the use or misuse of public funds. This isn't meant to be anti-charter. Our job is not to be pro or anti."

"Clearly, the need for fiscal oversight of charter schools has intensified," he wrote in a letter to New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio. "Put schools on notice that relevant financial records cannot be shielded from oversight bodies of state and local governmental entities."
It's a plea that Grannis has made before. Last year, he sent a similar letter to the state's major charter-school regulators—New York City's Department of Education, the New York State Education Department, and the State University of New York.
He never heard back from any of them. "No response whatsoever," Grannis said. Not even, he added, a "'Thank you for your letter, we'll look into it.' That would have been the normal bureaucratic response."
We contacted all three of these agencies and the mayor's office for comment. None of them got back to us.
The charter-school debate in New York, as elsewhere, is politically fraught. De Blasio's cautious stance on charters has put him at odds with New York Governor Andrew Cuomo, whose financial backers include some big-dollar charter-school supporters. The state comptroller's office has faced repeated lawsuits from charter groups and operators challenging its authority to audit charter schools.
To Grannis, though, his efforts aren't about politics. His office is "agnostic on charters," as he put it. His office also audits the finances of traditional public-school districts, he pointed out.
"We're the fiscal monitors. We watch over the use or misuse of public funds," Grannis said. "This isn't meant to be anti-charter. Our job is not to be pro or anti."
Grannis has not yet gotten a response from the mayor's office about the letter he Ignoring One of the Big Problems With Charter Schools - Pacific Standard:

Teachers Were Never The Problem - In These Times

Teachers Were Never The Problem - In These Times:

Study finds that in one third of U.S. states majority of public school students come from low-income households. (Southern Education Foundation)

Teachers Were Never The Problem

Poverty still lies at the root of the U.S. ‘education crisis.’

Social science research over the last few decades has shown that two thirds of student achievement is a product of out-of-school factors - and among the most powerful of those is economic status.
Google the phrase “education crisis” and you'll be hit with a glut of articles, blog posts and think tank reports claiming the entire American school system is facing an emergency. Much of this agitprop additionally asserts that teachers unions are the primary cause of the alleged problem. Not surprisingly, the fabulists pushing these narratives are often backed by anti-public school conservatives and anti-union plutocrats. But a little-noticed study released last week provides yet more confirmation that neither the “education crisis” meme or the “evil teachers' union” narrative is accurate.  
Before looking at that study, consider some of the ways we already know that the dominant storyline about education is, indeed, baseless propaganda. 
As I've reported before, we know that American public school students from wealthy districts generate some of the best test scores in the world. This proves that the education system's problems are not universal–the crisis is isolated primarily in the parts of the system that operate in high poverty areas. It also proves that while the structure of the traditional public school system is hardly perfect, it is not the big problem in America’s K-12 education system. If it was the problem, then traditional public schools in rich neighborhoods would not perform as well as they do. 
Similarly, we know that many of the high-performing public schools in America's wealthy locales are unionized. We also know that one of the best school systems in the world—Finland's—is fully unionized. These facts prove that teachers' unions are not the root cause of the education problem, either. After all, if unions were the problem, then unionized public schools in wealthy areas and Finland would be failing.
So what is the problem? That brings us to the new study from the Southern Education Foundation. Cross-referencing and education data, researchers found that that a majority of all public school students in one third of America's states now come from low-income families.  
How much does this have to do with educational outcomes? A lot. Social science research over the last few decades has shown that two thirds of student achievement is a product of out-of-school factors–and among the most powerful of those is economic status. That's hardly shocking: kids who experience destitution and all the problems that come with it have enough trouble just surviving, much less succeeding in school. 
All of this leads to an obvious conclusion: If America was serious about fixing the troubled parts of its education system, then we would be having a fundamentally different conversation.  
We wouldn't be talking about budget austerity—we would be talking about raising public revenues to fund special tutoring, child care, basic health programs and other so-called wrap-around services at low-income schools.  
We wouldn't only be looking to make sure that schools in high-poverty districts finally receive the same amount of public Teachers Were Never The Problem - In These Times:

How to Get Your State Democratic Party to Oppose Common Core - Living in Dialogue

How to Get Your State Democratic Party to Oppose Common Core - Living in Dialogue:

How to Get Your State Democratic Party to Oppose Common Core

 By David Spring M. Ed. and Elizabeth Hanson M. Ed.

Yesterday afternoon, a miracle happened in Washington State. The Washington State Democratic Party became the first Democratic State Party in the nation to pass a resolution opposing Common Core! This is huge because Washington State is not only the home state of Bill Gates. It is also the home state for the SBAC Common Core test. If Washington state pulls out of Common Core, it could bring the entire project crashing to the ground.
We realize that several Republican controlled states have already rejected Common Core. But it is much easier for a Republican controlled state to reject Common Core than for a Democratic controlled State to reject Common Core. All Republicans have to do is call it “ObamaCore” and blame the entire thing on those “Damn Democrats” and Republicans will jump at the chance to get rid of Common Core. For example, the Washington State Republican Party passed a resolution opposing Common Core over a year ago.
But not all states are Republican states. Nor do children come with D’s or R’s stamped on their foreheads. For a Democratic state to pass a Resolution opposing Common Core requires going against a sitting Democratic President and also going against nearly your entire Democratic Party political leadership – who are all aligned with Obama and Arne Duncan just as Common Core tests and Common Core books are (supposed to be) aligned with Common Core standards.
A Brief Lesson in Political Organizing
For parents and teachers living in Democratic controlled states and wanting to escape from the death grip of Common Core, we would like to explain how this miracle happened – so that you can use this process as a template to pass a similar resolution in your (Democratic) state.
First, we have been working on this issue for nearly a year. So it will take a lot of patience and determination to overcome the wealthy billionaire controlled wing of the Democratic Party. Do not expect overnight success. You should write a well organized resolution that takes no more than one page. Our successful resolution is at the end of this article if you would like to read it. Feel free to copy it. Unlike Common Core, it is not Copyrighted!
Second, it is helpful if at least some members of your group are already members of your state’s Democratic Party. One of us, David, has been a Precinct Committee Officer (PCO) in the Democratic Party for more than 14 years in East King County, near Seattle Washington. The other of us, Elizabeth, is a new PCO for a different legislative district in North Seattle, Washington. Even if you do not like your local Democratic Party, and you think they are evil, you should join it and start attending monthly party meetings in your legislative district. You will find that Democrats are not as evil as you may have been led to believe. Many of them are parents and teachers just like you. They care about our kids and about the future of our country just like you.
Third, it is helpful if you have passed other resolutions at various levels of the Democratic Party in the past and have at least some idea of how the process works. We have previously passed SIX resolutions in the State Democratic Party before the Common Core Resolution. These include resolutions in favor of a State Public Bank, restoration of Glass Steagall Banking Regulations, Getting the Money out of Politics, and Restoring a Fairer GED test. So this was our seventh successful resolution. But it was also by far the hardest to pass.
Fourth, it is essential to start at the legislative district level. Start with your own legislative district. Attend several monthly meetings. Get to know the other folks attending the monthly meetings. Find out who are parents and teachers and whether their kids are struggling with Common Core. Most kids are having a terrible time. Ask these parents and teachers to help you pass a resolution in your legislative district. After How to Get Your State Democratic Party to Oppose Common Core - Living in Dialogue:

Data Mining Students Through Common Core

Data Mining Students Through Common Core:

Data Mining Students Through Common Core

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Data Mining Students Through Common Core
Awareness is growing rapidly about the recent initiative to bring Common Core Standards to schools across America. Although the standards were supposedly proposed by the National Governors Association (NGA) and the Council of Chief State School Officers (CCSSO) — giving the illusion that the agenda is “state-led,” it was the federal government that endorsed the plan by offering $4 billion in grant money through Obama’s Race to the Top program to cooperating states. Representative Blaine Luetkemeyer(R-Mo.) recently decided to take action and write a letter to U.S. Department of Education Secretary Arne Duncan and is currently seeking co-signers from congressional colleagues. Congressman Luetkemeyer addressed several issues of concern with Common Core — and in the last half of his letter he emphasized the crux of the problem: data mining.
“We understand that as a condition of applying for [Race to the Top] grant funding, states obligated themselves to implement a State Longitudinal Database System (SLDS) used to track students by obtaining personally identifiable information,” Luetkemeyer said. “We formally request a detailed description of each change to student privacy policy that has been made under your leadership, including the need and intended purpose for such changes.”
Parents might reasonably assume that the “personally identifiable information” collected for the database will include students' test scores and perhaps other measures of academic proficiency. But they would be much less likely to imagine that the federal government envisions something far more extensive and invasive than merely tracking academic performance. According to the Department of Education’s February 2013 report Promoting Grit, Tenacity, and Perseverance: Critical Factors for Success in the 21st Century, “Researchers are exploring how to gather complex affective data and generate meaningful and usable information to feed back to learners, teachers, researchers, and the technology itself. Connections to neuroscience are also beginning to emerge.” (Emphasis added.)
So far, nine states across the country have already agreed to adopt the data mining process, with parents having no say in this decision. Schools in New York, Delaware, Colorado, Massachusetts, Kentucky, Illinois, Louisiana, Georgia, and North Carolina have committed to “pilot testing” and information dissemination via sending students’ personal information to a database managed by inBloom, Inc., a private organization funded largely by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.
This digital warehouse boasts on its website that it "partners with education technology companies, content providers and developers to support the creation of products compatible with this infrastructure." Presumably this means information sharing. On the "faq" page of the website, one of the questions is: "Will inBloom give away or sell confidential student and teacher data to Data Mining Students Through Common Core:

The Washington State Democratic Party’s Central Committee passed a resolution opposing Common Core State Standards | Seattle Education

The Washington State Democratic Party’s Central Committee passed a resolution opposing Common Core State Standards | Seattle Education:

The Washington State Democratic Party’s Central Committee passed a resolution opposing Common Core State Standards

common core2
This is the first time a statewide Democratic Party committee has taken a public position against the Common Core and it happened in our great state.
David Spring, a Parents Across America member and active in the Democratic Party in East King County and who was one of the education advocates who organized this effort, said:
This was a huge victory for the children, parents, and teachers of Washington State to have the Washington State Democratic Party – the first Democratic Party in the nation to vote against Common Core. It is our hope that this is the beginning of the end for Bill Gates in the Common Core scam. This was the grassroots – the rank and file of the Democratic Party – who said NO to Common Core. They deserve all the credit, along with you teacher activists.
The resolution as it was passed.
Resolution Opposing Common Core State Standards
WHEREAS the copyrighted (and therefore unchangeable) Common Core State Standards (CCSS) are a set of controversial top-down K-12 academic standards that were promulgated by wealthy private interests without research-based evidence of validity and are developmentally inappropriate in the lowest grades; and
WHEREAS, as a means of avoiding the U.S. Constitution’s 10th Amendment prohibition against federal meddling in state education policy, two unaccountable private trade associations–the National Governors Association (NGA) and the Council of Chief State School Officers (CCSSO)–have received millions of dollars in funding from the Gates Foundation and others to create the CCSS; and
WHEREAS the U.S. Department of Education improperly pressured state legislatures into adopting the Common Core State Standards and high-stakes standardized testing based on them as a condition of competing for federal Race to the Top (RTTT) stimulus funds that should have been based on need; and
WHEREAS as a result of Washington State Senate Bill 6669, which passed the State legislature on March 11, 2010, the Office of the Superintendent of Instruction (OSPI) adopted Common Core State Standards (CCSS) on July 20, 2011; and