Archive for the ‘Education Reform’ Category

CCSS and RTT – an Introduction to Marxism 101

Last month a friend of mine sent me a link to a document which I knew I had to read. The title of this document is “Common Core State Standards and Race to the Top – An Introduction to Marxism 101.” The manuscript was prepared by Jenni White, Lynn Habluetzel and Jo Joyce, part of the Restore Oklahoma Public Education project (website).

With 179 footnotes in 19 pages of text, this is a document that needs to be read and then put into the hands of every school board member to help them understand that what they’re being told about CCSS not being part of any national agenda, is false. This paper does an excellent job of pulling everything together from a history of education as it used to be, to the corruption brought into the system by John Dewey and company.

After the paper concludes on page 19, several appendices follow comparing traditional and progressive education (including specific pages on differences in the approaches to math and English education). Specific contrasts are also made between Karl Marx and Thomas Jefferson, and John Dewey to Ben Franklin. There is also an amazing chart on page 20 of the document which shows the flow of money and cooperation between Race to the Top and a huge assortment of entities, many of which are mentioned in the document.

You can access the document at the link above, or get the pdf here. Please send a copy of this to your school board members.

Common-Core-State-Standards-and-Race-to-the-Top-An-Introduction-to-Marxism-101

Truth in Education Website

A great new website has arrived that shows the interrelated nature of all the education reforms that have come out such as NCLB, RTTT, CCSS, and other wonderful acronyms you didn’t realize were ruining your child’s education. :) I strongly encourage you to spend a little time on this site and see how Bill Gates and Pearson publishing are gearing up to produce a national curriculum to accompany the CCSS which are essentially turning into national standards.

http://truthinamericaneducation.com/

Be sure to see how the Gates Foundation has *bribed* many organizations to buy into their reforms. On the list are Achieve and Fordham, 2 organizations I previously trusted to be objective but not any more.

http://truthinamericaneducation.com/?page_id=311

I also strongly encourage you to check out their “tool kit” with important links to resources on stopping CCSS. Please use your influence with legislators and school board members to help them understand why this is a bad idea. Some think that this is all being done in a small box. It’s not. It’s vast and interconnected from many different points. The CCSS is only one part of a plan to allow the feds to control education and lose what little local control we have.

http://truthinamericaneducation.com/action-center/tool-kit/

You can also read about Race to the Cradle here as the government gets involved in Pre-K funding.

http://www.cato-at-liberty.org/race-to-the-cradle/

Parent Alliance for their Children’s Educations

Kristen Shumway contacted me with a great idea recently. She lives in Alpine School District but the idea is worth sharing for other parents to get organized similarly. There are so many issues related to curriculum choice at our schools that having a body of local parents involved in this way makes a lot of sense especially if other parents at the school know about the group and can share concerns and ideas. These groups could easily become the “go-to” group for curriculum and activity choices as they become the involved parents who are most concerned with their children’s educational material. The Investigations math failure (click for new article from MD) and similar constructivist programs which Alpine School District and others continue to use K-12 continue to be shown an utter failure around the country. ASD has no studies to support the use of these programs and ignores the studies showing vastly superior programs such as Singapore, Saxon, and a few others. Parents need to mobilize at the local level and get the information out to parents in their own schools. I’m not sure if Kristen realizes the scope of what she’s sort of offered to do, but I’m so glad parents like her are getting involved.

Kristen mentions below that she will hold a meeting in her home, but I’m hopeful she’s overwhelmed with people like YOU :) wanting to do this at their own school and she’ll need a bigger meeting location.

Here is her email and contact information:

I would like to begin forming parents’ groups that would be associated with each high school, and the elementary and junior high schools that feed into it.  For example, my kids go and will go to PGHS.  I would like to start a group that could discuss the district issues, national tests, etc. per high school and its feeder-schools.  (According to a friend of mine, school districts on the East Coast are usually set up this way.)

I am hoping that by creating parent groups per high school we could create nascient “school board training groups” where parents could get educated, practice their skills, and exercise their voices on behalf of the people they care about most–their own children. Over time, if this idea takes off, these groups could start pushing for change on local levels, be elected to boards, and hopefully unite, creating a force that could give parents more voice in the education of our children.  Ideally, we could push for decentralized, smaller school districts.

As I see it, there is little strength among parents because there is no gathering and training place.  If parents have a problem, they have to come up with their own network.  PTA’s are really just an extention of the teachers’ interests to a large extent.  But a PACE group (Parent Alliance for their Children’s Educations) would be a group where we could disperse information and discuss goals for our own schools–tapping some of the positive energy Charter schools enjoy.  Also, parents could address problems/concerns and then prepare their solutions to be presented as powerfully and unitedly as possible.

We need a positive focus on building and improving.  Obviously there is a lot to fight against, but people are more powerful when they are fighting for something. I think these groups would be amazing training for citizenship and political activity as well.

So please send me your ideas and comments.  I would like to include them in a meeting I will be organizing at my home. Let me know (by email or phone) if you would like to be involved and how.    Anyone who would like to come help with ideas for creating a structure, defining goals, etc., is welcome.  Afterwards, I will post the results, and we will go from there.  We will need individuals who are willing to spearhead things in their schools.  This is a start-up so don’t count yourself out.  Anyone with the desire to improve their school for their children can gain experience along the way, just like the rest of us.

Kristen Shumway 801-701-0641

Sheldon Shumway 801-556-3431

kristen dot shumway at gmail dot com

Closing the Door on Innovation

A diverse group of individuals has written up a manifesto and petition of sorts on why the Common Core State Standards are a bad idea. I encourage everyone to read this and then add your name to the supporter list.

http://www.k12innovation.com/Manifesto/_V2_Home.html

Here is their press release:

Broad Coalition Opposes National Curriculum Initiative by U.S. Dept. of Education

Over 100 leaders sign manifesto against nationalization of schooling

Stanford, Calif. & Fayetteville, Ark. – A broad coalition of over 100 educational and other leaders representing diverse viewpoints released a manifesto today opposing ongoing federal government efforts to create a national curriculum and testing system.

The manifesto, entitled “Closing the Door on Innovation,” is available at www.k12innovation.com. It argues that current U.S. Department of Education efforts to nationalize curriculum will stifle innovation and freeze into place an unacceptable status quo; end local and state control of schooling; lack a legitimate legal basis; and impose a one-size-fits-all model on America’s students.

Congress is now preparing to debate renewal of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act, the main law authorizing federal aid to K-12 education. Meanwhile, the U.S. Department of Education has been quietly funding efforts by two assessment groups to develop a national K-12 curriculum, along with a national testing system that tests every public-school student multiple times each year. This federal initiative will create a national system of academic-content standards, tests, and curriculum. It is in line with the goals of a manifesto released on March 7, 2011, by the Albert Shanker Institute that calls for a single nationalized curriculum in every K-12 subject.

“A one-size-fits-all national curriculum based on mediocre high-school standards will stifle the educational innovation essential to closing the racial gap in academic achievement,” said Abigail and Stephan Thernstrom in a joint statement on why they signed the new manifesto. Abigail Thernstrom is vice-chair of the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights and a former member of the Massachusetts Board of Education; Stephan Thernstrom is a professor of history at Harvard University.

“Closing the Door promotes what is for high schools the most important innovation in a century,” said signatory Blouke Carus, leading children’s magazine publisher, math and reading textbook developer, and chairman of the Carus Corporation. “Our schools need to offer each student a choice among six or more challenging and rigorous high school curricula, as do other, higher-performing countries.”

“The federal government’s effort to impose a national curriculum on all schools spells trouble for the educational system,” said Richard Epstein, law professor at New York University, also a signatory. “No one in Washington can craft a curriculum that works well throughout this diverse nation. Once errors are built in at the national level, corrections will be ever more difficult to make at the local level. Only decentralized control over education can prove nimble enough to root out errors and spur innovation. Washington bureaucrats should not trumpet their own omniscience, but should become more cognizant of their own fallibility.”

“To some, a national curriculum sounds like a redemptive cure-all for the shame of our public schools’ failures,” said signatory Shelby Steele of Stanford University’s Hoover Institution. “And a national curriculum gives the education establishment elite a powerful warrant for ‘doing good.’ But we must not discard the proven constitutional discipline of our federalist system. Decentralization has been the engine of educational innovation. We shouldn’t trade our federalist birthright for a national-curriculum mess of pottage.”

“National curriculum becomes, in effect, a nationalization of what teachers teach,” said former Attorney General Edwin Meese III, another signatory. “We must always evaluate policy proposals in light of principles like rule of law and the logic of our constitutional system. The Education Department’s sponsoring and funding of national curriculum runs counter to both laws of Congress and the wisdom of the Founders.”

The coalition of leaders releasing its counter-manifesto today opposes both the Shanker Institute Manifesto and the U.S. Department of Education initiative on a variety of grounds:

•These efforts are against federal law and undermine the constitutional balance between national and state authority.

•The evidence doesn’t show a need for national curriculum or a national test for all students.

•U.S. Department of Education is basing its initiative on inadequate content standards.

•There is no research-based consensus on what is the best curricular approach to each subject.

•There is not even consensus on whether a single “best curricular approach” for all students exists.

With federal education law coming to the top of Congress’s agenda, the U.S. Department of Education’s push to create national curriculum and assessment is becoming a hot topic.

The manifesto opposing a national curriculum was organized by Bill Evers, research fellow at Stanford University’s Hoover Institution; Greg Forster, senior fellow at the Foundation for Education Choice; Jay Greene and Sandra Stotsky, professors at the University of Arkansas; and Ze’ev Wurman, executive at a Silicon Valley start-up.

The NEA Agenda in their Own Words

It’s not about what’s best for the children. Note the UEA members in attendance as well.

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hPy9G6PJIPk[/youtube]

Better Local Control – Triple the School Districts

A few years ago, Brett Moulding, the state director of curriculum invited me into his office to chat with me. He started off with, “Oak, you’re very involved in your children’s education. How do we get more parents involved like you are?” I replied, “Easy, just implement Investigations math statewide.” However, I think there is a better way than ticking off tens of thousands of families. :)

It seems like these days everyone likes to use the phrase “local control of schools,” especially those who find it a convenient war cry against any state legislator trying to inject their voice into the education system. Does anyone truly think we really have local control of schools? What would local control even look like?  We’ve come a long ways from Little House on the Prairie, but who should be setting policy and curriculum at the local schools? Parents? Teachers? The district? The state office of education? Legislators? Children? :) I would like to propose an idea for consideration (thanks to Jed Norwood for his assistance in pulling these numbers together).

This chart shows the population of Utah over the last 60 years. We have quadrupled in size from about 700,000 citizens to about 2.8 million. Yet over that span of time we have only increased the number of school districts from 40 to 41, and that 1 has caused a lot of controversy.

Utah Population vs. Number of School Districts

This graph is basically a duplicate of the first but the Utah population is divided by the number of school districts to calculate the average number of citizens within a school district.

Utah Population per School District

Just for sake of comparison, lets look at the predominant religion in this state. The LDS church over this same 60 year period has grown from just over 1 million members to almost 14 million. Instead of amassing power in the 180 stakes that existed back then, they divided it out to over 2,800 stakes.

LDS Church Population vs. Number of LDS Stakes

Look at the effect. Instead of a rising population per stake, the number of members per stake actually decreased somewhat significantly over that time span. This decentralizing of power allowed the members of the church to have better local control, local representation where members can communicate with their leaders easier, and the church still maintains economies of scale by having stakes associated with each other.

LDS Population per Stake

What would Utah look like if the education system followed the LDS church’s program of splitting its power to maintain local leaders and close contact with its members? Interestingly, about the same number of students per district compared to members in an LDS stake.

 

Current System What if Scenario
Utah School Districts 40 116
Residents/District 67,412 23,827
School Board Members 205 580
Students/District 13,228 4,561
LDS Members/Stake 4,825

Obviously changing anything involves pros and cons and figuring out the details of such a transition. For some smaller districts, they might not even be affected because they may only have 1 high school. Big districts like Alpine, Jordan, Davis, Granite, could see themselves broken into 8-10 districts, dramatically reducing the size of the district, and bringing local control back to the people.

Pros

  • Current board members in ASD (Alpine School District) spend 15-20 hrs/week on district work. If the district split into several pieces, each board member of the new districts may only spend 2-3 hours/week on district work opening the door for greater public participation instead of only those who can make such a huge time commitment.
  • One board member in ASD is over 24 individual schools due to the geographic size of the district and will be getting 2 more schools soon. How is that fair to the board member or the public who expects their board member to be responsive to their school needs? Splitting districts brings the public better representation.
  • Because of the time commitment and being stretched thin, board members are reduced to “yes-men” because they just don’t have time to dig into anything more than at surface level.
  • Instead of 7 board members in ASD there may be 40+ depending on if the new boards had 5 or 7 member compositions. That means you’re electing someone who is truly local to you and you wouldn’t need a partisan election where you choose neighborhood delegates to go vet candidates for you. Right now, with the size of the district, we’re electing people who we don’t really know where they stand on anything.
  • To run for office would be much easier in a smaller area. It would be far less expensive to cover a couple precincts rather than a dozen or more.
  • By cutting the size of the district, we could probably eliminate completely the staff at district offices and give teachers a modest raise. If we gave principals of the schools their own budget to control and they worked with the School Community Council to set school policy just like charter and private schools, we could run very efficient, lean schools and increase teacher salary.
  • Privatizing busing and maintenance would then allow districts to focus on education and contract out for those services.
  • School community councils should be given more power to serve as a local school board at the individual schools. They should be given power to hire and fire the principal based on community feedback, and to deal with discipline problems with students or teachers at that school. That way we actually wind up with 300 or more school board members in a district the size of Alpine. The schools are always saying they want more parental involvement, this would finally do it. Give the schools to the parents and let them own them. That includes curriculum and content. Let them decide if they want 9th grade English to be filled with reading books on diversity and tolerance or else classics of literature.
  • Parents finally have to look into curriculum choices for themselves and be more involved at the schools.

Cons/questions

  • The big one deals with the tax base and figuring out how to split it. Initially splitting the districts, they could just share the pool of the same district money on a per student basis. After that there could be a plan worked out for a conversion to where parents with children in school pay for their education like they used to, and other citizens without children in school stop paying in property tax to cover the education of other people’s children. This will also greatly incentivize parents at local schools to make sure their children are getting the best education because those parents will be writing the checks themselves.
  • With that last point, some people are shouting for joy and others are screaming “what about the poor kids?” Those families who haven’t the money to attend school could rely on generous people in the community to donate to aid in the education of the children. If you don’t think this will happen, then you have no hope in the charity of others. I believe good people will step up and donate rather than pay a tax that takes money from them. Disagree? Look at the LDS church’s Perpetual Education Fund which has been very well funded by generous people all over the world. Surely we can believe there are generous people in our communities that will step up and help educate children. Giving comes from the heart and when it’s done this way it benefits the giver and the receiver is grateful instead of our current system where the “giver” hates paying taxes and the “receiver” believes it’s an entitlement.
  • How do you then set up a new high school somewhere and have it pull some of the population from surrounding area middle and elementary schools? This could be done similar to the way a charter school is set up. It would also help make sure the parents were ensuring administrators were held accountable for the costs of that development because it’s coming out of their pockets.
  • “What about economies of scale,” I hear everyone screaming. The LDS church has plenty of economies of scale because it has agreements with large companies to provide for its wards and stakes. The Utah state office of education could do the same thing. I also do not think charter and private schools suffer much in decreased purchasing power.

There are certainly more pros and cons and I invite you to list them in the comments. These were just the primary items on my mind while writing this article.

Legislative input?

Now for the really sticky issue. I have had a few people ask me over the last week that if this is a good idea (and they have said it was), then what about the legislature stepping into things that affect local schools? This is not a clear cut issue.Yes I favor local schools as outlined above. However, right now many are currently under the control of individuals who I question their common sense and/or associations. District implementations of programs by fiat like Investigations math has destroyed thousands of lives. Even after we got the state office of education to review the program and remove it from their approved curriculum list along with Connected math, ASD has continued to fully use both of these harmful programs. This requires the intervention of the legislature to set programs into place using common sense and get the curriculum scales balanced before they hand control over to the parents to have true local control. At least that’s my opinion.

King for a Day

If I had to say how I think things should play out it would be as follows:

  1. Immediately implement partisan school board elections at the state level and temporarily at the district level
  2. Keep state board terms at 4 years since they cover twice the geographic area that state senators cover, but reduce district board member terms to 2 years since they have areas more comparable to state representatives.
  3. Legislature appoints citizens review boards for strong academic curriculum and standards to remove garbage programs like Investigations, Connected, and Interactive math for which there are no studies to support them
  4. Shatter the districts into fragments as described above
  5. Turn over control of curriculum to the locally elected boards and make parents accountable for their children’s education
  6. Leave district school board elections partisan, but have local schools have non-partisan races since you should be familiar enough with people in your area that you can have that be non-partisan.
  7. Allow schools to compete for students and their money based on performance. Allow teachers to teach more students if they can handle it and the students want in that class because of the superior job that teacher is doing. Those teachers get paid more.
  8. Those that have children in the schools and actually pay to have their children schooled there are the only ones that vote on board members for the school and district.

Incidentally, this would be closer to what Jefferson envisioned as a way to correct problems that arise when you don’t have local republican government.

“The article… nearest my heart is the division of counties into wards. These will be pure and elementary republics, the sum of which taken together composes the State, and will make of the whole a true democracy as to the business of the wards, which is that of nearest and daily concern. The affairs of the larger sections, of counties, of States, and of the Union, not admitting personal transactions by the people, will be delegated to agents elected by themselves; and representation will thus be substituted where personal action becomes impracticable. Yet even over these representative organs, should they become corrupt and perverted, the division into wards constituting the people, in their wards, a regularly organized power, enables them by that organization to crush, regularly and peaceably, the usurpations of their unfaithful agents, and rescues them from the dreadful necessity of doing it insurrectionally. In this way we shall be as republican as a large society can be, and secure the continuance of purity in our government by the salutary, peaceable, and regular control of the people.” –Thomas Jefferson, The Jefferson Cyclopedia, Pg. 213

For those saying “how can Oak use a quote that contains the word democracy!?!?” please visit this page of quotes on Republics and Democracies which was one of the first posts on this site.

Weigh in and let me have it below! :)