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Detroit Schools: 7% Proficient in Reading, Union Calls Strike

 

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(Editor: www.thereportcard.org The teacher’s union, a wholly owned subsidiary of the Democratic Party, or perhaps the other way around, has orchestrated a “sick-out” to protest school conditions. But the biggest problem is total lack of teacher accountability in a school system where on 4% of students are proficient in math and 7% are proficient in reading. Detroit is a symbol of what is wrong with the educational bureaucracy and the teacher’s unions. The same rate of failure is on public view in Los Angeles, New York, Chicago, Atlanta etc. ad nauseam. School choice, charter schools and vouchers, are the only hope. America’s once great public schools cannot seem to reform themselves).

 

Wall Street Journal

January 23, 2016

 

As if Flint’s water crisis wasn’t bad enough for urban Michigan, on Wednesday 88 of Detroit’s 100 public schools shut down, after 800 some teachers called in sick purportedly to protest their abject working conditions. Many Motown schools are a picture of poverty, but the root of the rot is the lack of accountability for failure.

Unions orchestrated Wednesday’s teacher “sick-out,” the latest of more than a half dozen this school year, to coincide with President Obama ’s visit touting the White House auto bailout. Their goal is to draw political steam from Flint, flog supposed Republican racial animus—95% of students are black or Latino—and impel a bailout.

Media accounts of Detroit schools have documented rodent infestation, caving ceilings, black mold and putrid air. Emergency manager Darnell Earley, who previously ran Flint until being redeployed this month to Detroit by Governor Rick Snyder, has become a scapegoat. But the collapse of Detroit’s schools has been decades in the making.

Enrollment has fallen by two-thirds since 2000 due to population flight and charter-school expansion. Public schools have lost about 71,000 students in a decade while charters have gained 23,000. About 53% of Detroit students attend charters compared to 20% in 2006.

Detroit Public Schools have $3.5 billion in liabilities including $1.3 billion for pension and retirement health benefits. Since 2009 the public school system has been under the guardianship of a state emergency manager. Although 100 schools have since closed, deficits persist. This year’s $215 million hole is nearly a third of the district’s general fund revenues.

 

The district has repeatedly borrowed to balance its budget in lieu of making capital repairs and improvements. Legacy costs have diverted money from instruction, while good teachers have left for charters that offer more freedom and class discipline. Seniority-based layoffs force out promising young teachers while tenure protects the worst. Collective bargaining agreements block reforms like longer school days. The union contract also prohibits strikes, so instead teachers call in sick.

No surprise then that Detroit has ranked at the bottom of 21 large urban public school districts on the National Assessment of Educational Progress since 2009. Last year only 4% of Detroit eighth graders were proficient in math and 7% in reading. A Stanford University Center for Research on Education Outcome study last year found that Detroit charter students on average gained 65 days of learning in math and 50 days in reading per year over their public school counterparts.

Mr. Snyder has proposed spinning off Detroit Public Schools’ debt, which would be paid down over time with state aid. A new debt-free district would be created with state funds. Financial engineering and more aid may forestall bankruptcy, but they won’t improve math scores.

Detroit schools need radical reform, and the expiration of the teachers’ collective-bargaining agreement in June gives state guardians an opening. One model is New Orleans, which converted nearly all of its schools to charters after Hurricane Katrina. Strict accountability should require low-performing charters to close. Detroit’s poverty is real, but it doesn’t excuse continuing educational failure.

 

 

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Supreme Court Case: Teachers Challenge Unions on Free Speech Rights

 

Rebecca Friedrichs, Plaintiff

Rebecca Friedrichs, Plaintiff

 

(Editor: www.thereportcard.org Individual teachers are challenging a California law that forces all teachers to pay union dues whether or not they agree with how the union spends the money and even if they don’t belong to the union. The Rebecca Friedrichs, the teacher’s bringing the suit claims that the Teacher’s Union espouses radical views and uses union dues to proclaim those views. Ms. Friedrichs states: “As someone who has taught in the public schools for 28 years … in my view, every individual has the right to choose the organization that advocates on their behalf,” Friedrichs said. “I admire the history of unions and the spirit in which they were born. But in recent years, unions have become what they used to fight: powerful, entrenched organizations.” It should be pointed out that ever since Jimmy Carter allowed teacher’s unions to exist and collect dues, the Democrats have stood behind the unions and in return the unions have backed Democratic elected officials. This is often to the detriment of students. Last year, the NEA alone spent $40 Million to influence state and local elections. The case has been heard at the Supreme Court and an opinion will be issued).

 

Wall Street Journal January 12, 2016

Americans need cheering up these days, so we’re happy to report that the First Amendment had a good day at the Supreme Court on Monday. The Justices are hard to predict, but a majority seems prepared to rule that it is unconstitutional for governments to coerce workers to pay agency fees to government unions.

That’s our happy judgment after Monday’s oral argument in Friedrichs v. California Teachers Association. Individual teachers are challenging a California law that forces all teachers to pay union dues whether or not they agree with how the union spends the money and even if they don’t belong to the union.

The union and state claim this is fair because all workers benefit from collective bargaining, so some workers shouldn’t be allowed to be “free riders” by paying no fees. But Justice Anthony Kennedy made short work of this in questioning the union counsel.

 

“It’s almost axiomatic. When you are dealing with a governmental agency, many critical points are matters of public concern. And is it not true that many teachers are—strongly, strongly disagree with the union position on teacher tenure, on merit pay, on merit promotion, on classroom size?” the Justice said. “The term is free rider. The union basically is making these teachers compelled riders for issues on which they strongly disagree.”

Justice Antonin Scalia made his own views clear when he asked counsel for the plaintiffs Michael Carvin whether it would be okay to pass a law “to force somebody to contribute to a cause that he does believe in?”

Mr. Carvin: “No, it’s not, and that’s because the bedrock” free-speech principle” is “not whether or not you vividly oppose what they’re saying, it’s because you don’t wish to subsidize it.”

Justice Scalia: “Exactly.”

Concerning the High Court, we follow the Berra Rule that it’s not over ’til it’s over, but Monday’s portents were excellent.

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The Real Thanksgiving Story

 

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(Editor: www.thereportcard Nathaniel Morton recorded the account of William Bradford of the journey of the Pilgrims, our courageous founders. Although they are much maligned on campus, and in the mainstream media, they gave true meaning and texture to what became the First Amendment. One cannot read these words and fail to understand what makes us exceptional and the hope of the world.  The Wall Street Journal has printed this chronicle and editorial since 1961, and everyone, particularly young Americans should learn it by heart).

 

The Desolate Wilderness

 

Here beginneth the chronicle of those memorable circumstances of the year 1620, as recorded by Nathaniel Morton, keeper of the records of Plymouth Colony, based on the account of William Bradford, sometime governor thereof:

So they left that goodly and pleasant city of Leyden, which had been their resting-place for above eleven years, but they knew that they were pilgrims and strangers here below, and looked not much on these things, but lifted up their eyes to Heaven, their dearest country, where God hath prepared for them a city (Heb. XI, 16), and therein quieted their spirits.

When they came to Delfs-Haven they found the ship and all things ready, and such of their friends as could not come with them followed after them, and sundry came from Amsterdam to see them shipt, and to take their leaves of them. One night was spent with little sleep with the most, but with friendly entertainment and Christian discourse, and other real expressions of true Christian love.

The next day they went on board, and their friends with them, where truly doleful was the sight of that sad and mournful parting, to hear what sighs and sobs and prayers did sound amongst them; what tears did gush from every eye, and pithy speeches pierced each other’s heart, that sundry of the Dutch strangers that stood on the Key as spectators could not refrain from tears. But the tide (which stays for no man) calling them away, that were thus loath to depart, their Reverend Pastor, falling down on his knees, and they all with him, with watery cheeks commended them with the most fervent prayers unto the Lord and His blessing; and then with mutual embraces and many tears they took their leaves one of another, which proved to be the last leave to many of them.

 

Being now passed the vast ocean, and a sea of troubles before them in expectations, they had now no friends to welcome them, no inns to entertain or refresh them, no houses, or much less towns, to repair unto to seek for succour; and for the season it was winter, and they that know the winters of the country know them to be sharp and violent, subject to cruel and fierce storms, dangerous to travel to known places, much more to search unknown coasts.

Besides, what could they see but a hideous and desolate wilderness, full of wilde beasts and wilde men? and what multitudes of them there were, they then knew not: for which way soever they turned their eyes (save upward to Heaven) they could have but little solace or content in respect of any outward object; for summer being ended, all things stand in appearance with a weatherbeaten face, and the whole country, full of woods and thickets, represented a wild and savage hew.

If they looked behind them, there was a mighty ocean which they had passed, and was now as a main bar or gulph to separate them from all the civil parts of the world.

 

And The Fair Land

 

Any one whose labors take him into the far reaches of the country, as ours lately have done, is bound to mark how the years have made the land grow fruitful.

This is indeed a big country, a rich country, in a way no array of figures can measure and so in a way past belief of those who have not seen it. Even those who journey through its Northeastern complex, into the Southern lands, across the central plains and to its Western slopes can only glimpse a measure of the bounty of America.

And a traveler cannot but be struck on his journey by the thought that this country, one day, can be even greater. America, though many know it not, is one of the great underdeveloped countries of the world; what it reaches for exceeds by far what it has grasped.

So the visitor returns thankful for much of what he has seen, and, in spite of everything, an optimist about what his country might be. Yet the visitor, if he is to make an honest report, must also note the air of unease that hangs everywhere.

For the traveler, as travelers have been always, is as much questioned as questioning. And for all the abundance he sees, he finds the questions put to him ask where men may repair for succor from the troubles that beset them.

His countrymen cannot forget the savage face of war. Too often they have been asked to fight in strange and distant places, for no clear purpose they could see and for no accomplishment they can measure. Their spirits are not quieted by the thought that the good and pleasant bounty that surrounds them can be destroyed in an instant by a single bomb. Yet they find no escape, for their survival and comfort now depend on unpredictable strangers in far-off corners of the globe.

How can they turn from melancholy when at home they see young arrayed against old, black against white, neighbor against neighbor, so that they stand in peril of social discord. Or not despair when they see that the cities and countryside are in need of repair, yet find themselves threatened by scarcities of the resources that sustain their way of life. Or when, in the face of these challenges, they turn for leadership to men in high places—only to find those men as frail as any others.

 

So sometimes the traveler is asked whence will come their succor. What is to preserve their abundance, or even their civility? How can they pass on to their children a nation as strong and free as the one they inherited from their forefathers? How is their country to endure these cruel storms that beset it from without and from within?

Of course the stranger cannot quiet their spirits. For it is true that everywhere men turn their eyes today much of the world has a truly wild and savage hue. No man, if he be truthful, can say that the specter of war is banished. Nor can he say that when men or communities are put upon their own resources they are sure of solace; nor be sure that men of diverse kinds and diverse views can live peaceably together in a time of troubles.

But we can all remind ourselves that the richness of this country was not born in the resources of the earth, though they be plentiful, but in the men that took its measure. For that reminder is everywhere—in the cities, towns, farms, roads, factories, homes, hospitals, schools that spread everywhere over that wilderness.

We can remind ourselves that for all our social discord we yet remain the longest enduring society of free men governing themselves without benefit of kings or dictators. Being so, we are the marvel and the mystery of the world, for that enduring liberty is no less a blessing than the abundance of the earth.

And we might remind ourselves also, that if those men setting out from Delftshaven had been daunted by the troubles they saw around them, then we could not this autumn be thankful for a fair land.

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Ten Reasons Why Parents, and Scholars, Hate Common Core

 

Common Core Math Damage

Common Core Math Damage

 

(Editor: www.thereportcard.org Long ago and far away in the Golden Land of America, parents trusted their children’s educators to educate them and open the door of opportunity. If parents or teachers were having a problem, it was resolved by parent teacher meetings and open discussion. Americans were the best educated population on the planet. But now the educational bureaucracy, and their pilot fish suppliers are an elite class. THEY know what is best for our children. THEY shall determine our children’s future. THEY will dictate to the masses how our children shall be indoctrinated. How else to explain the universal and intense dislike of Common Core, yet America’s educational overlords keep CCSS in place in 46 states. These educrats say parents who oppose Common Core don’t want high standards, but the truth is that the standards are no good. But the ground is beginning to crumble beneath them. These elitists may be swallowed up as were the worshippers of the Golden Calf 3000 years ago).

 

 

By Joy Pullman   Heartland Institute

 

This is the year new national Common Core tests kick in, replacing state tests in most locales, courtesy of an eager Obama administration and the future generation’s tax dollars. It’s also the first year a majority of people interviewed tell pollsters they’ve actually heard of Common Core, four years after bureaucrats signed our kids onto this complete overhaul of U.S. education.

Common Core has impressed everyone from Bill Gates to U.S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan. So why do 62 percent of parents think it’s a bad idea? For one, they can count. But their kids can’t.

  1. The Senseless, Infuriating Math

Common Core math, how do we hate thee? We would count the ways, if Common Core hadn’t deformed even the most elementary of our math abilities so that simple addition now takes dots, dashes, boxes, hashmarks, and foam cubes, plus an inordinate amount of time, to not get the right answer.

There are so many examples of this, it’s hard to pick, but a recent one boomeranging the Internet has a teacher showing how to solve 9 + 6 the Common Core way. Yes, it takes nearly a minute.

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Despite claims to the contrary, Common Core does require bad math like this. The Brookings Institution’s Tom Loveless says the curriculum mandates contain “dog whistles” for fuzzy math proponents, the people who keep pushing ineffective, devastating, and research-decimated math instruction on U.S. kids for ideological reasons. The mandates also explicitly require kids to learn the least efficient ways of solving basic problems one, two, and even three grade levels before they are to learn the traditional, efficient ways. There are ways for teachers to fill in the gaps and fix this, but this means a kid’s ability to get good math instruction depends on the luck of having an extra-savvy teacher. That’s especially a downer for poor and minority kids, who already get the greenest and lowest-quality teachers.

  1. The Lies

The American Enterprise Institute’s Rick Hess recently wrote about Common Core’s “half-truths,” which Greg Forster pointedly demonstrated he should have called “lies.” These include talking points essential to selling governors and other state leaders on the project, such as that Common Core is: “internationally benchmarked” (“well, we sorta looked at what other nations do but that didn’t necessarily change anything we did”); “evidence based” (“we know there is not enough research to undergird any standards, so we just polled some people and that’s our evidence“); “college- and career-ready” (“only if you mean community-college ready“); “rigorous” (as long as rigorous indicates “rigid”); and “high-performing nations nationalize education” (so do low-performing nations).

  1. Obliterating Parent Rights

Common Core has revealed the contempt public “servants” have for the people they are supposedly ruled by—that’d be you and me. Indiana firebrand Heather Crossin, a mom whose encounter with Common Core math turned her into a nationally known activist, went with other parents to their private-school principal in an attempt to get their school’s new Common Core textbooks replaced. “Our principal in frustration threw up his hands and said, ‘Look, I know parents don’t like this type of math because none of us were taught this way, but we have to teach it this way because this is how it’s going to be on the new [standardized] assessment,” she says. “And that was the moment when I realized control of what was being taught in my child’s classroom — in a parochial Catholic school  —  had not only left the building, it had left the state of Indiana.”

A Maryland dad who stood up to complain that Common Core dumbed down his kids’ instruction was arrested and thrown out of a public meeting. See the video.

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Parents regularly fill my inbox, frustrated that even when they do go to their local school boards, often all they get are disgusted looks and a bored thumb-twiddling during their two-minute public comment allowance. A New Hampshire dad was also arrested for going over his two-minute comment limit in a local school board meeting parents packed to complain about graphic-sex-filled literature assignments. The way the board treats him and his fellow parents is repulsive.

 

The bottom line is, parents have no choice about whether their kids will learn Common Core, no matter what school they put them in, if they want them to go to college, because the SAT and ACT are being redesigned to fit the new national program for education. Elected school boards pay parents no heed, and neither do state departments of education, because the feds deliberately use our tax dollars to put themselves in the education driver’s seat, at our expense. So much for “by the people, for the people, of the people.”

  1. Dirty Reading Assignments

A red-haired mother of four kids read to our Indiana legislature selections from a Common Core-recommended book called “The Bluest Eyes,” by Toni Morrison. I’m a grown, married woman who enjoys sex just fine, thank you, but I sincerely wish I hadn’t heard her read those passages. I guess some people don’t find sympathetically portrayed rape scenes offensive, but I do. So I won’t quote them at you. If you have a perv-wish, Google will fill you in. Other objectionable books on the Common Core-recommended list include “Make Lemonade” by Virginia Euwer Wolff, “Black Swan Green” by David Mitchell, and “Dreaming in Cuban” by Cristina Garcia.

There are so many excellent, classic works of literature available for children and young adults that schools can’t possibly fit all the good ones into their curriculum. So why did Common Core’s creators feel the need to recommend trash? Either they want kids to read trash or they don’t think these are trash, and both are disturbing.

  1. Turning Kids Into Corporate Cogs

The workforce-prep mentality of Common Core is written into its DNA. Start with its slogan, which is now written into federal mandates on state education systems: “College and career readiness.” That is the entire Common Core conception of education’s purpose: Careers. Job training. Workforce skills. There’s not a word about the reasons our state constitutions give for establishing public education, in which economic advancement is largely considered a person’s personal affair. (Milton Friedman takes the same tack, by the way.) State constitutions typically mimic the Northwest Ordinance’s vision for public education (the ordinance was the first U.S. law to discuss education): “Religion, morality, and knowledge, being necessary to good government and the happiness of mankind, schools and the means of education shall forever be encouraged.”

Common Core makes no promises about fulfilling public education’s purpose of producing citizens capable of self-government. Instead, it focuses entirely on the materialistic benefits of education, although human civilization has instead long considered education a part of acculturating children and passing down a people’s knowledge, heritage, and morals. The workforce talk certainly tickles the ears of Common Core’s corporate supporters. Maybe that was the intent all along. But in what world do corporations get to dictate what kids learn, instead of the parents and kids themselves? Ours, apparently.

  1. The Data Collection and Populace Management

Speaking of corporate cronyism, let’s talk about how Common Core enables the continued theft of kids’ and teachers’ information at the behest of governments and businesses, furthering their bottom lines and populace-control fantasies at the expense of private property and self-determination.Well, I coauthored a 400-footnote paper on this very topic. I’ll just summarize the list of direct connections between intrusive data-mining and Common Core from my favorite passage (in the section starting on page 52):

  • The documents that ‘created the (dubious) authorization for Common Core define the initative as curriculum mandates plus tests. The tests are the key instrument of data collection.

Common Core architect David Coleman has confirmed that special-interests deliberately packaged data mining into Common Core.

 

  • Common Core creates an enormous system of data classification for education. It’s probably easiest to think of it as an enormous filing system, like the equivalent of the Dewey Decimal System for lessons, textbooks, apps, and everything else kids learn. That’s by design.
  • States using the national, federally funded Common Core tests have essentially turned over control of what data they collect on children to private organizations that are overseen by no elected officials. Those organizations have promised complete access to kids’ data to the federal government.
  • Common Core and data vacuuming are philosophically aligned—they both justify themselves as technocratic, progressive solutions to human problems. The ultimate goal is using data to “seamlessly integrate” education and the economy. In other words, we learned nothing from the USSR.
  1. Distancing Parents and Children

A recent study found that the Common Core model of education results in parents who are less engaged in their kids’ education and express more negative attitudes about schools and government. Does it need to be noted that kids desperately need their pre-existing, natural bond with their parents to get a good start in life, and anything that attacks this is bad for both the kids and society?

In addition, math even highly educated engineers and math professors can’t understand obviously has the effect of placing a teacher and school between a child and his parent. Parents are rife with stories about how they tried to teach their kids “normal” math, but it put pressure on the tots because teacher demanded one thing and mom demanded another, which ended up in frustration, confusion, and resentment. That won’t make a kid hate school, right?

  1. Making Little Kids Cry

It’s one thing to teach a child to endure life’s inevitable suffering for a higher purpose. It’s another thing to inflict children with needless suffering because you’ve got a society to remake, and “it takes a few broken eggs to make an omelet.” One is perhaps the essence of character. The other is perhaps the essence of cruelty.

There have been reports nationwide from both teachers and a litany of child psychologists that Common Core inflicts poorly designed instruction on children, thus stressing them out and turning them off academics. This video, courtesy of  Truth in American Education and a Louisiana mother, shows a second grader crying over her math homework. A SECOND GRADER. You know, when the little people are still learning addition?

Below, find a picture from a New York mother and photographer Kelly Poynter. This is her second-grade daughter, utterly frustrated at her math homework. The little girl is a cancer survivor, Poynter explains, so she doesn’t lack persistence or a fighting spirit. Incomprehensible math problems downed a child that cancer couldn’t.

Common-Core-tears-300x199

  1. The Arrogance

So imagine you’re a mom or dad whose small child is sobbing at the table trying to add two-digit numbers. Then you hear your elected representatives talking about Common Core. And it’s not to offer relief. It’s to ridicule your pain—no, worse. It’s to ridicule your child’s pain.

Florida Senate President Don Gaetz said of Common Core: “You can’t dip [Common Core mandates] in milk and hold them over a candle and see the United Nations flag or Barack Obama’s face. They’re not some federal conspiracy.” Ohio House Education Chairman Gerald Stebelton (R-Lancaster) called Common Core opposition a “conspiracy theory.” Wisconsin state Sen. John Lehman (D-Racine) told a packed audience state hearings on the topic were “crazy” and “a show.” Delaware Gov. Jack Markell (D) has called opponents a “distract[ing]” “fringe movement.” Missouri Rep. Mike Lair put $8 into the state budget for tinfoil hats for Common Core supporters.

 

Since when is it okay for lawmakers to ridicule their employers? Aren’t they supposed to be “public servants”? What part of “this math is from hell” sounds like “I think Barack Obama wrote this math curriculum”? Those lawmakers must have encountered an early form of Common Core in school, because they can’t comprehend their way out of a paper bag.

It gets even worse. I thought racial slurs were wrong, but Education Secretary Arne Duncan has no problems slinging those around in his disdain for people who disagree with him on Common Core. You may recall that he dismissed them as “white suburban moms who—all of a sudden—their child isn’t as brilliant as they thought they were.” So only white moms hate crappy curriculum?

 

And then parents have to endure a litany of pompous, sickeningly well-paid experts all over the airwaves telling us it’s a) good for them that our babies are crying at the kitchen table or b) not really Common Core’s fault or 3) they don’t really get what’s going on because this newfangled way of adding 8 + 6 is so far above the average parent’s ability to understand.

  1. The Collectivism

It’s easy to see Common Core appeals to those anal-retentive types who cannot function unless U.S. education has some sort of all-encompassing organizing principle.

But there’s more. Common Core supporters will admit that several states had better curriculum requirements than Common Core. Then they typically say it’s still better for those states to have lowered their expectations to Common Core’s level, because that way we have more curricular unity. That’s what the Fordham Institute’s Mike Petrilli told Indiana legislators when he came to our state to explain why, even though Fordham graded Indiana’s former curriculum requirements higher than Common Core, Indiana should remain a step below its previous level. One main reason was that we’d be able to use all the curriculum and lesson plans other teachers in other states were tailoring (to lower academic expectations, natch). Yay, we get to be worse than we were, but it’s okay, because now we’re the same as everyone else!

 

Tech companies are uber excited about Common Core because it facilitates a nationwide market for their products. Basically every other education vendor feels the same way, except those who already had nationwide markets because they accessed pockets of the population not subject to mind-numbing state regulations such as home and private schools. But the diversity of the unregulated private market far, far outstrips that of the Common Core market. There are, you know, actual niches, and education styles, and varying philosophies, rather than a flood of companies all trying to package the same product differently. The variety is one of substance, not just branding. In other words, it’s true diversity, not fake diversity.

What would you rather have: Fake freedom, where others choose your end goal and end product, but lets you decide some things about how to achieve someone else’s vision for education, which by the way has to be the same for everyone everywhere; or genuine freedom, where you both pick your goals and how to achieve them, and you’re the one responsible for the results? Whoops, that’s a trick question, moms and dads. In education, no one can pick the latter, because our overlords have already picked for us. Common Core or the door, baby.

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Dirty Politics Issue Forth False Accusations Against Kim Kendall in BOCC District 2 Race.

Today, The Report Card received a mailer that claims that Kim Kendall supports Common Core.  The last few days have seen a slew of negative mailers targetting the opponents of Jeb Smith, claiming they are “not conservative”.  Today’s is just the latest. kimkendall

It is really disconcerting that candidates have to stoop to such tactics.  It shows a real disdain for the intelligence of the voters in St. Johns County.  Inasmuch as a County Commissioner has no oversight on education policy, it is irrelevant in the larger scheme of that race. It also smacks of real desperation on the part of those behind the mailer that they have to issue forth blatant and easily verifiable mis-information. Ms. Kendall has been endorsed by John Stemberger, one of the most pre-eminent leaders in the social conservative movement in Florida.  Stemberger is solidly anti-common core.  Stemberger said of Kendall:
“I have personally known Kim for several years and she is precisely the kind of citizen we want in local and state government.  Kim is principled, conservative and uses traditional values to lead.” 
Lastly, we at the Report Card have deep experience on this, having had many discussions with Kim Kendall, she has been resolute in her opposition to Common Core, Race To The Top and all Federal intrusion into education.  From our perspective,  readers of  The Report Card should rest assured that Kim Kendall is a strong, principled conservative who would make a capable and valuable leader in the County Commission.  We hope the voters relegate the baseless acccusation to the same trash bin in which the mailer belongs.
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In Hoc Anno Domini

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(Editor: Vermont Royster wrote this Christmas editorial for the Wall Street Journal in 1949 and it has been published annual since that time). www.thereportcard.org

When Saul of Tarsus set out on his journey to Damascus the whole of the known world lay in bondage. There was one state, and it was Rome. There was one master for it all, and he was Tiberius Caesar.

Everywhere there was civil order, for the arm of the Roman law was long. Everywhere there was stability, in government and in society, for the centurions saw that it was so.

But everywhere there was something else, too. There was oppression—for those who were not the friends of Tiberius Caesar. There was the tax gatherer to take the grain from the fields and the flax from the spindle to feed the legions or to fill the hungry treasury from which divine Caesar gave largess to the people. There was the impressor to find recruits for the circuses. There were executioners to quiet those whom the Emperor proscribed. What was a man for but to serve Caesar?

There was the persecution of men who dared think differently, who heard strange voices or read strange manuscripts. There was enslavement of men whose tribes came not from Rome, disdain for those who did not have the familiar visage. And most of all, there was everywhere a contempt for human life. What, to the strong, was one man more or less in a crowded world?

Then, of a sudden, there was a light in the world, and a man from Galilee saying, Render unto Caesar the things which are Caesar’s and unto God the things that are God’s.

And the voice from Galilee, which would defy Caesar, offered a new Kingdom in which each man could walk upright and bow to none but his God. Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me. And he sent this gospel of the Kingdom of Man into the uttermost ends of the earth.

So the light came into the world and the men who lived in darkness were afraid, and they tried to lower a curtain so that man would still believe salvation lay with the leaders.

But it came to pass for a while in divers places that the truth did set man free, although the men of darkness were offended and they tried to put out the light. The voice said, Haste ye. Walk while you have the light, lest darkness come upon you, for he that walketh in darkness knoweth not whither he goeth.

Along the road to Damascus the light shone brightly. But afterward Paul of Tarsus, too, was sore afraid. He feared that other Caesars, other prophets, might one day persuade men that man was nothing save a servant unto them, that men might yield up their birthright from God for pottage and walk no more in freedom.

Then might it come to pass that darkness would settle again over the lands and there would be a burning of books and men would think only of what they should eat and what they should wear, and would give heed only to new Caesars and to false prophets. Then might it come to pass that men would not look upward to see even a winter’s star in the East, and once more, there would be no light at all in the darkness.

And so Paul, the apostle of the Son of Man, spoke to his brethren, the Galatians, the words he would have us remember afterward in each of the years of his Lord:

Stand fast therefore in the liberty wherewith Christ has made us free and be not entangled again with the yoke of bondage.

 

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Excellence in Education’s Mary Laura Bragg Defends Common Core Standards

Mary Laura Bragg Excellence in Education

(Editor: www.thereportcard.org The Common Core Standard has generated significant controversy about whether it helps or harms learning. The Report Card published a report from the Pioneer Institute critical of Common Core. Here, Mary Laura Bragg of Excellence in Education, a proponent Common Core defends their effort.)

 

Responses from the Foundation for Excellence in Education (ExcelinEd)

 

Criticisms from Pioneer Report:

 

  1. 1.     The Common Core Standards Are of Mediocre Quality and Rest on Questionable Philosophies

 

ExcelinEd:

 

Last month, Jim Stergios, executive director of Pioneer Institute, said that “[Pioneer Institute’s] view is that Common Core has a real place in Mississippi or maybe a mid-performing state but certainly not Massachusetts.” This is a conversation worth having. Maybe not all states need to join Common Core, but this is a far cry from the anti-CCSS hyperbole the institute puts out on a daily basis.

 

Despite all of their “constitutional,” “parental rights,” “high cost,” and other arguments, it is clear from this statement that Pioneer sees merit in at least some low-performing states adopting the standards. This begs the question, then – why is Pioneer going on road shows with Sandra Stotsky, William Evers, the American Principles Project, and others to fight Common Core across the nation? Why are they praising Alabama for dropping from the consortiums? Alabama is certainly at Mississippi-level for states Common Core has a “real place” in. Pioneer Institute has also been very active in the efforts to repeal Common Core in Utah, a state that is mid-performing by most measures.

 

Their opposition does a great disservice to students in Mississippi and “mid-performing states” who will benefit from these higher standards.

 

Benchmarked against the skills today’s students need to be prepared for college and 21st century careers, Common Core development involved governors and education commissioners from 48 states and were designed by a diverse group of teachers, experts, parents, and school administrators.

 

  1. 2.     The Common Core Standards/Race to the Top Effort Violates Three Federal Statutes and Eliminates State

 

ExcelinEd:

 

In a 2010 post, Stergios says that Massachusetts winning Race to the Top (RttT) is “good for Massachusetts. Very good.” Not only does he think RttT is “very good,” he wonders why its announcement was made in August, which is “not a great news cycle,” and says that mid-September would have been “perfect with the kids back at school and lots of parents thinking about education.” This does not sound like someone who thinks RttT violates three federal statutes and eliminates state autonomy.

 

He says that Massachusetts residents should take this “very good” announcement with a grain of salt because of all of the spending the state has foolishly spent since reforms started in 1993. Additionally, he says that the money will “help in a crises” but that it doesn’t do enough because “so much of it is going to go to professional development, textbooks, and adjusting all the districts to the new national standards” that will “cost tens of millions of dollars.” So, despite all the talk about unfunded mandates, it seems like Stergios knew the day that they received RttT funds that a small portion of the $250 million funds would be going toward these standards.

 

Pioneer says that Common Core “lays down broad prohibitions on Department [of Education] involvement in curricula decisions.” We agree. The first red herring to address here is the fact that the USDOE had no involvement in the creation of the standards. Beyond that, neither USDOE, the assessment consortiums or the standards themselves are involved with curriculum – they revolve around standards. To get around these red herrings they throw out another one: “a change to common K-12 standards will inevitably result in change in curriculum, programs of instruction, and instructional materials to align with the standards.” Despite the fact that these standards are voluntary, let’s indulge this line of reasoning. If it were true, then I.D.E.A, E.S.E.A., and basically every federal education program created in the past 50 years violates the constitution.

 

RttT led to many states implementing teacher evaluations and lifting charter school caps. Does the Pioneer Institute oppose those reforms as well, as they say they do Common Core, because they are part of this program?

 

  1. 3.     The Common Core Standards Scheme Requires a Governance System that Will Further Impair State and Parental Right

 

ExcelinEd:

 

Common Core is not a national mandate – states voluntarily choose whether or not to adopt the standards and (unlike Medicaid) retain full authority for implementation, preventing the possibility of a federal takeover.

 

  1. 4.     States and Their Taxpayers Will Incur Substantial Costs to Implement the Common Core.

 

ExcelinEd:

 

Most states are already transitioning to online assessments.  Florida’s State Board of Education adopted a timeline for the state to transition to online assessments separately from Common Core State Standards.  There is a natural textbook adoption process that states undertake on a regular basis and most states have, or should have, a process by which they regularly update their standards.  For example, Florida updated its standards in 2008 when it adopted the Next Generation Sunshine State Standards.  It is likely that the cost of administering assessments increase with Common Core State Standards at least in some states.  However, the question and focus should be is it good public policy?  Is it good for students?  State’s annually or biennially have to prioritize funding.  This is no different.

 

  1. 5.     The Common Core Standards System Intrudes on Student and Family Privacy.

 

ExcelinEd:
Pioneer says that tracking student learning data “from birth through their participation in the workforce” will lead to “a dystopia of authoritarian control.” They say that a component of CCSS is “its collection and dissemination of personal student data.” They then use some out-of-context quotes from people in hopes that you will buy into their dystopian premise.  I imagine Massachusetts standards rely heavily on student data to help drive resources.

 

 

Criticism from Paul Horton to address:

 

  1. 1.     Our first reservation has to do with whether all students are beginning on the same starting line. State funding for education has been incrementally reduced and we have no reason to believe that more resources will be placed in those schools that currently receive substandard funding. Will Illinois’ “Spotlight Schools” be given more resources to insure that they can meet minimal standards before assessments are introduced?  If not, will one-size-fit-all standards simply reconfirm what James Coleman found over forty years ago: that test scores will correlate most closely to economic class and abundant resources?

 

ExcelinEd:

 

More funding is not the answer to this issue.  What’s important is how the current funding is used.  Florida is routinely criticized for underfunding legislation; in fact, Florida expends $2,700 less per pupil than Illinois does.  But when you consider that, using NAEP data, Florida’s low-income students at grade level or higher outperform Illinois’ low-income students at grade level or higher by 8 points in 4th grade reading, 6 points in 4th grade math, 6 points in 4th grade science, and 8 points in 8th grade math, then it’s hard to argue that money is the answer.

 

But if you need further proof, then note that the percent of Florida Hispanic 4th graders reading on grade level or higher in 2011 is 12 points higher than the same students in Illinois. And the percent of Florida Hispanic 4th graders at grade level or higher in math is 11 points higher than the same students in Illinois. The percent of Florida’s Hispanic 4th and 8th graders scoring grade level or higher in Science is 13 points higher than the same students in Illinois, and 9 points higher when you compare urban populations.

 

  1. 2.     A second concern has to do with assessment. Assessment prototypes are still being formulated, but many private companies are rushing products into the educational market place in advance of the scheduled 2014 date for completion. (See the video overview of development of assessments: http://media.all4ed.org/webinar-oct-2-2012). In Kentucky, a state that has rushed into standardized assessments, scores have dropped precipitously. According to the Louisville Courier-Journal, “Achievement gaps among low-income, minority, limited English and disabled students…continued to persist.” (November 2, 2012). If assessments are formative and summative, that is, if they are based on portfolios that clearly demonstrate in-class writing, reading, and speaking progress, and make use of common grade-level rubrics that teachers are trained to use, we might be able to make significant progress. This requires time and careful training to roll out, perhaps three to four years, if done carefully. We firmly believe that standardized tests, which may be a much cheaper way to assess Illinois students, will not accurately reflect student progress because some schools will struggle with literacy, while better funded schools will use the Common Core Standards to push toward the upper limits of the normal curve.

 

ExcelinEd:

 

What is described here is good practice that all good teachers already do, but you have to assess all students at the end of the year to determine, “how it’s working for you?” The bottom line: how do you know if schools are struggling in literacy or math if you don’t assess them? Time and time again we see success stories with schools, and in some instances, districts as a whole, beating the odds and closing the achievement gap amongst low-income, minority, limited English students and those with disabilities. In ALL of these cases, the one factor that emanates amongst them all is they believe ALL kids can learn. Another factor is that they have high expectations for all students and will do whatever it takes to ensure every student reaches their God-given potential – they’ve got grit, and they expect kids to have it too. Kentucky’s scores didn’t drop because they administered standardized assessments.  Kentucky’s scores dropped because they administered more rigorous assessments than what they had used in the past.

 

  1. 3.     A third concern involves, not surprisingly, costs.  Can the State of Illinois afford “authentic assessment” that requires human beings to score essays using rubrics? Many of us have us have graded AP exams that are very expensive to grade…

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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History Gone

(Editor’s note: Will Fitzhugh has published the Concord Review since 1987. The Concord Review is the only journal in the world for academic papers of secondary students. Many of the essays are history related. In Mr. Fitzhugh’s exclusive story, he deplores the disappearance of history from the high school curriculum. David McCullough, Pulitzer Prize winning author of John Adams says that American students ignorance of history is a threat to national security. Concord Review authors have gone on to attend Harvard, Oxford, the University of Chicago, Columbia, Dartmouth, Stanford and Yale. Obviously, the study of history was beneficial to them. Regardless of emphasis on math and science, the study of history should be strengthened not weakened.)

Will Fitzhugh

The Concord Review

Will Fitzhugh Concord Review

I majored in English literature at Harvard, and had such wonderful professors as B.J. Whiting for Chaucer, Alfred Harbage for Shakespeare, Douglas Bush for Milton, Walter Jackson Bate for Samuel Johnson, and Herschel Baker for Tudor/Stuart Drama. In my one year at Cambridge after graduation, I had the benefit of lectures by Clive Staples Lewis, F.R. Leavis, Joan Bennett, and R.T.H. Redpath.

But in high school and in college I didn’t read any history books and I didn’t think twice about it. Many years later, when I was asked to teach United States History at the high school in Concord, Massachusetts, I panicked. I read Samuel Eliot Morison’s Oxford History of the American People to get started and I have been reading history books ever since (thirty years), but I never knew enough history to be as good a history teacher as my students deserved.

When I asked my colleagues what my students in U.S. history had to know, they told me that the Commonwealth of Massachusetts required every student in high school to take a year of U.S. history, but they didn’t have to pass it (how is that for a high bar?).

Since 1987, (I left teaching in 1988) I have been the editor of The Concord Review, the only journal in the world for the academic papers of secondary students, and we have now published 1,022 history research papers by high school students from 46 states and 38 other countries. This has only increased my understanding that high school students should be not only encouraged to read complete history books (as I never was in school) but assigned them as well. It is now my view that unless students in our high schools get used to reading at least one complete history book each year, they will not be as well prepared for the books on college nonfiction reading lists as they should be. 

However, at present, in part thanks to the New Common Core, history is disappearing rapidly from our schools. There is no time for U.S. History (it won’t be tested) or for English history or the history of China or any other history. Now it won’t matter so much that the first name of half the Social Studies teachers in U.S. public high schools is “coach.” If the students don’t need to know any history, why should their teachers?

Nevertheless, as adherents to the ideas of E.D. Hirsch know well, understanding what one reads depends on the prior knowledge of the reader, and by reading history books our high schools students will learn more history and be more competent to read difficult nonfiction material, including more history books, in college.

When I discuss these thoughts, even with my good friends in the education world, I find a strange sort of automatic reversion to the default. When I want to talk about reading nonfiction books, suddenly the conversation is about novels. Any discussion of reading nonfiction in the high schools always, in my experience, defaults to talk of literature. It seems virtually impossible to anyone discussing reading to relax the clutches of the English Departments long enough even to consider that a history book might make good reading material for our students, too. Try it sometime and see what I mean.

I realize that most Social Studies and History Departments have simply given up on having students read a history book, even in those few cases where they may have tried in the past. They are almost universally content, it seems, to leave the assignment of books (and too much of the writing as well) entirely in the hands of their English Department colleagues.

One outcome of this, in my view, is that even when the Common Core people talk about the need for more nonfiction, it is more than they can manage to dare to suggest a list of complete history books for kids to read. So we find them suggesting little nonfiction excerpts and short speeches to assign, along with menus, brochures, and bus schedules for the middle schoolers. Embarrassing.

Nevertheless, if asked, what history books would I suggest? Everyone is afraid to mention possible history books if they are not about current events, or civics, or some underserved population, for fear of a possible multicultural backlash against the whole idea of history books.

But I will offer these: Mornings on Horseback by David McCullough for Freshmen, Washington’s Crossing by David Hackett Fischer for Sophomores, Battle Cry of Freedom by James McPherson for Juniors, and The Path Between the Seas by David McCullough for Seniors in high school.

Obviously there are thousands of other good history books, and students should be free to read any of these as they work on their Extended History Essays or the very new Capstone Essays the College Board is beginning to start thinking about. And of course I do realize that some history took place before 1620 and even in countries other than our own, but these books are good ones, and if students read them they will actually learn some history, but perhaps more important, they will learn that reading a real live nonfiction history book is not beyond their reach. I dearly wish I had learned that when I was in high school. 

Cicero wrote that “For what is the life of a man, if it is not interwoven with the life of former generations by a sense of history?” I guess for our students, the Common Core of minimal reading and math is too important to give them time to cultivate the kind of life Cicero recommended.


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“Bully”: See the Movie, Bullying is Getting Worse

by Bill Korach

 

Bullying has been around since there were children and schools, but today bullying has gotten worse, much worse. “Bully” the new documentary by Lee Hirsch, himself  a childhood victim of bullying, is a must-see film.  This writer remembers bullies and bullying from the 1950’s, but there were limits in those days, and there was often a decent older kid or responsible adult to stop it. The trends are alarming: 3 million children were absent from school last year because they feared bullies. The Josephson study conducted in 2011 among 40,000 school children found that 42% of children said that they were bullied, 24% said they do not feel safe at school. Last year 25 kids took their own lives because of bullying. “Bully” tells heart wrenching stories about kids whose families have been forced to move because of bullying. There are also stories where moving was no longer an option because their child committed suicide. “Bully” captures a student’s beating on a school bus where the boy is kicked and punched, but the driver does nothing. When the parents present the evidence of the tape to a school administrator, she tells the parents: “Why, those kids are good as gold.” In other words, the school administrator is in complete denial.

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Suicide due to bullying is up by 50% over the past 30 years, and for every suicide, there are 100 attempts. Years ago, bullying pretty much took place at school, but with Facebook and MySpace cyber bullying is now a regular occurrence. Megan Meier, a 13 year old hanged herself after neighbors set up a fake MySpace site purported to belong to a non-existent young man. Megan was first befriended by the hoax site and later mocked and insulted by the non-existent young man who Megan believed to be a friend.

The writer’s younger son was mocked and bullied in an affluent suburban Westchester, NY  community because his older brother was autistic. Classmates and neighbors would mimic my older sons autistic mannerisms and mock our younger boy in school and as he walked home. 18 years later, he still carries the pain of those times. Bullying is an ugly, cowardly behavior that has been growing like a cancer because children today are not taught right from wrong. They are taught that things are all relative.

In New Kensington, PA a group of atheist bullies are asking the school district to remove a Ten Commandments monument from the Valley School property. The monument was donated to the school by The Fraternal Order of Eagles in 1957. The ACLU has been retained to threaten the School District with a lawsuit if the monument is not removed. Perhaps the removal of prayer from our schools, and Decalog monuments from the public squares of America has something to do with the rise and severity of bullying in America.

Atheist Bullies Sue to Remove Ten Commandments from School

In the 1954 best seller “Lord of the Flies” a group of English school boys crash land and make their way to a desert island. Without adult supervision and moral instruction, they descend into bullying and savagery. The title, “Lord of the Flies” is a translation from the Hebrew, Beelzebub, the ancient name for Satan.

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Public School Federal Costs Rise 375% Performance drops 25%

Just what are parents and Americans getting for their money? Schools are spending much more and kids are learning much less. Check this video to see what happens when spending skyrockets and scores plummet

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