Stuck in the Muck: Trapped in Outcome-Based Reforms that Don’t Work

If President Trump drained the swamp, we would still be stuck in the muck.

Cartoon provided by Ben Garrison. Visit his site at GrrrGraphics!

Still waiting on leaders to fix health care? And how many decades have we listened to talk about fixing the education system? But, did you know that both these systems are suffering from the same problem?

“Make America great again”? We can’t do that without understanding what changed America. Until then, we spin our wheels, dig ourselves in deeper, and allow the expanding swamp to be refilled.

The problem? We switched drivers — from leaders believing in progress to those driven by outcome-based data, money, and their own arrogance. Our drivers own the world and dictate the rules.

We the People? We don’t know which way to turn. But even if we did, we can’t move forward because we’re stuck in the muck.

Health care, social security, the justice system, the environment, education, on and on — all the major social problems are being kicked down the road. And we are stuck in debt up to our eyeballs while our social safety net develops ever-widening holes.

Most of the holes were created by us and what we don’t know.

In the health care debate, what aren’t we hearing?

“The physicians say the increased use of quality metrics to assess provider performance is having a negative impact on quality of care. Far fewer (22 percent) see quality metrics as having a positive impact on quality.

Nearly half (47 percent) of physicians and just over a quarter (27 percent) of nurse practitioners and physician assistants say the recent trends in healthcare are leading them to consider an earlier retirement.”

Source: NPR Suicides are up. Tracking outcomes isn’t what these people needed us to do.

Physicians and teachers are facing the same problems.

Where we once had community hospitals (schools), we now have health care (charter) management organizations. They control a data-driven system with an eye towards cost-cutting through technology. The technology industry and health treatment (education market) industries are flourishing.

People? We aren’t doing so well. Not only are teens and middle-aged men killing themselves at alarming rates, Americans in general are not as happy as we once were.

We know we need to address heath care. But we seem unaware of how desperately we need to consider real education reform as a national priority.

If we can’t gain control of our own local school systems, what hope do we have of solving our other more complex problems?

When leaders put Standards Based Reforms (SBR) in federal education law, we were trapped in the education metrics of outcome-based reforms.

Once we drop the fallacy that Standards-Based Reforms are a silver bullet, true education reform will be possible.

Statistics now prove what many believe. Standards don’t ensure student achievement. The focus on monitoring outcomes ignores the problems created by separate and unequal schools.

The misconception is that setting “higher, better” standards improves schools. It doesn’t.

Do you know why No Child Left Behind (NCLB) didn’t improve schools? SBR. And the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) perpetuates the same problem. SBR.

“Now we risk setting national curriculum standards instead of recognizing that children need us to identify their individual strengths and weaknesses and work with them to attain a level of mastery of the classroom curriculum as outlined in a locally agreed upon instructional framework.

This isn’t a philosophy that gets away from being held accountable to a standard; it’s one that is responsible for meeting the needs of the individual student along with educational standards.” The Crucial Voice of the People

That is a description of standards-referenced education, not standards-based (NOT the Outcome-Based Theory).

But the country is stuck because our tax dollars for education continue to be spent on SBR, not invested in us.

“We’re stuck because our focus, our funding priorities, and our personal beliefs and attitudes are failing to serve our country.

We are stuck in the standardization of children ditch because we set test scores as our goal—in law and in the minds of Americans.” The Crucial Voice of the People

Metrics rule. Plus, we have not listened to people with a passion for teaching and compassion for children.

“In the last several years, with the continuing emphasis on using data to drive instruction, I find myself increasingly skeptical about what we do to ‘benefit’ students. …

Data seems to be the driver of much educational policy today, even when it means we force students into increased time with their weakest subjects, and excluding content that might intrigue them.  We marvel at the lack of engagement while we simultaneously impose rigid interventions…

I’m very concerned that our fixation on data has become more important than the engagement of students in topics that might lead them to important self-realizations of competency…  It often feels like teachers are working in a system designed for disengagement, while at the same time being evaluated on their skill at maintaining engagement!

Regardless of my knowledge or enthusiasm, I’m still expected to march as a good soldier with what I see as an archaic system…

Our current models mean we–teachers, administrators, and students–fixate more on ‘grades’ than learning.  I can no longer grow as an educator when I feel confined by parameters that fail to prioritize self-discovery and lifelong learning–for all of us.” — Cindy McDonald (A Now Retired Teacher)

We are losing compassionate and passionate public servants. Our public services are trapped in the metrics of Outcome-Based Reforms because we aren’t controlling how our money is spent.

The more automated our human services become, the less service we are providing to humans. People are getting frustrated and blaming the government.

But consider this. The government is not run by people representative of us. Our government is run by the rich, ultra-rich, and the greedy who are willing to look the other way when it comes to using our lawmaking process for their own benefit. Palms are being greased. The “grease” keeps the swamp slimy.

And it is the arrogance of these ultra-rich people, telling us what is best for us, that we should no longer tolerate.

We’re the ones that need to roll up our sleeves and drain the swamp.

To clean House, we need an election revolution every two years until we’re no longer stuck but rather making real progress again.

Start in The House.

In writing about the House of Representatives, James Madison said, “They in a word hold the purse” (Federalist No. 58).

The Constitution: Article I SECTION. 7 “All Bills for raising Revenue shall originate in the House of Representatives…”

“The greater the power is, the shorter ought to be its duration” (Federalist No. 52: Madison). Thus, Article I SECTION. 2 “The House of Representatives shall be composed of Members chosen every second Year by the People…”

One solution offered in Restoring American Happiness is greater public financing of health and education. And we must invest wisely.

We need to control the purse…

“As the people are the only legitimate fountain of power” (Federalist No. 49: Madison), we are central to our own progress as a nation. And to restrain the House requires “above all the vigilant and manly spirit which actuates the people of America, a spirit which nourishes freedom, and in return is nourished by it (Federalist No. 57: Madison).”

Call it an electoral revolt or call it an election revolution. Call it what you will. It is what our nation’s fathers directed us to do. It will nourish progress.

We filled the swamp; we can drain it. And we can refill it with representatives that will invest in the human side of both health care and education….or we drain it again…in two years time.

Politically Motivated Bad Behavior

Bad behavior is routinely accepted — to a degree. Rudeness, bullying, and intimidation — to the point of an armed showdown with authorities — is where many draw the line of civility while others argue that this type of uncivil “disobedience” has become a necessity.

by Amelia Templeton OPB

by Amelia Templeton OPB

Are actions without regard to how they affect others really what the People must now do to lobby for change?

Currently, the armed occupation of the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge appears to be almost over. But, this type of fighting over hotly contested political issues will more than likely go on like it has in the past — politically motivated but without party affiliation.

“The right has no monopoly on the kind of people who’ll justify violence or extremism based on what they think are infallible beliefs.”

This time the confrontation with the government of the People began over land rights and mandatory minimum sentencing policies. Other times, as reporter Rocky Barker explained, “I saw environmental activists hound foresters and range conservationists” and “it wasn’t long ago that ecoterrorism was the big fear…”

“What makes the harassment, threats, intimidation, bullying and disrespect worse is that it happens routinely around the West.”

It’s happening routinely around the world!

In Barker’s article, he went on to elaborate on the fact that congress and the executive branch are the ones making and executing the laws while federal employees are the ones on the front lines taking the heat when heated disputes arise over public policies.

What creates “the heat”? Friction.

indexWhen we have two opposing views and the sides are unwilling or unable to make an honest attempt to listen to, clearly see, and do their very best to understand the opposing point of view, compromise becomes impossible. Frustration results. Absolutism rubs people the wrong way… creating friction.

Eventually, frustration results in bad behavior. That said, there is no excusing disobedience that crosses the line to terrorism. But there is good reason for all of us to try to comprehend why we continue to see acts of violence perpetuated by frustrated individuals.

We need to look more closely for the root cause of the frustration in this country over public policies.

As Alexis de Tocqueville, the French aristocrat who came to America in the early 1800’s to see our great republic, observed…

“Americans frequently change the laws, but the foundation of the Constitution is respected.”

He warned…

“I think that in changing their administrative processes as often as they do, the inhabitants of the United States compromise the future of republican government.

Constantly hindered in their projects by the continuous volatility of legislation, it is feared that men will in the end consider the republic as an inconvenient way of living in society; the evil resulting from the instability of secondary laws would then put the existence of fundamental laws in question, and would indirectly bring a revolution…”

He also predicted that we would move rapidly into despotism — ruled by absolutism. Have we arrived at that point in time?

Political revolution, by definition, is a fundamental change in a political organization. In the 1800’s, Americans frequently changed the laws? Now? I don’t think so. I think the laws are being changed on us, not by us. In the 1800’s, the foundation of the Constitution was respected? Now? I think the foundation is being ignored, eroded, and misconstrued.

But, this is the political season of seasons. There is no better time than now to ask our representatives and potential representatives to step up to the front lines and explain what they see as the foundation of our country.

My personal views on federal lands, the Constitution, and the tactics it takes to be heard are in opposition to the armed occupiers of Malheur National Wildlife Refuge, but, I would also hope something good could still come out of this disastrous, misguided attempt at “civil” disobedience.

The people of Burns should be heard.

Waitress Linda Gainer “is one of many people who say the occupation has torn her community apart. Gainer has fed nearly everyone involved with the standoff: occupiers, FBI agents, journalists, visiting environmentalists and others, but has received criticism for permitting the occupiers to buy food from her cafe.”

“People say that we’re unpatriotic, we’re terrorists,” she said. “You shouldn’t go around and say nasty things about people just because you don’t agree on something.”

Another view:

The Malheur occupation has broken down that spirit of cooperation, said Vanessa Leathers-King, 33, whose great-great grandfather was the first in her family to ranch in the county. She divided the community into three groups: Bundy allies, federal government allies, and a lot of people who identify a bit with both — like her.

“I believe there is a lot of government overreach that is affecting this way of life, affecting small towns,” Leathers-King said. “The part I don’t agree with is taking illegal action to change it.”

Even so, she feels her neighbors have labeled her an occupation supporter, and she pulled her son out of school after students bullied him for being a “Bundy-lover.”

We’ve all heard the old saying that “absolute power corrupts absolutely” but we don’t seem to be able to recognize the destructive nature of absolutism itself — in each of us.
In the case of this armed occupation, one dead so far. One community divided. The total damage? Unknown. The chance for something good to come out of this—up to us.images

Test Refusal Justified

Not only is refusal —or “opting out”— of standardized testing justified, it is necessary. Here’s why: the “reform” process of No Child Left Behind failed and the system failed to respond, or even acknowledge, the crux of the problem despite the repeated attempts of many to help make the law better.

Many parents in low-income communities endured the senseless, useless, time-consuming, curriculum-narrowing, opportunity-limiting implementation of the No Child Left Behind standardized testing regime. Quietly? No, not all of them. Many wrote letters to representatives, editorials to newspapers, dozens upon dozens of researched papers, and even books!

We dissenters attended meetings; we petitioned, protested, and marched. We should have seen things change for the better during the last decade but instead; the next generation of parents got “higher standards” and “next generation assessments.”

This was from Idaho in 1999 when "achievement standards" were introduced as "exit standards."

This was from Idaho in 1999 when “achievement standards” were introduced as “exit standards.”

The “silver bullet” of standards and testing tied to “accountability” was sold to the public as the path to school improvement. No proof then; no proof now.

Familiar words? Same promise?

Familiar words? Same promise? Different year – 2011.

We should be outraged.

Not paying attention or has the information been very tightly controlled?

Not paying attention, or, has the information been very tightly controlled?

Last straw? Prompted by tactics and threats aimed at parents that have refused to allow their children to take the “next generation” Common Core aligned tests, I reached a tipping point and directed my words of condemnation at a school district administrator —who had written a disturbing letter to parents and guardians. My letter in response included questions that should have been allowed to be asked, and been answered, in an “open, large scale forum” on education reform BEFORE it happened to us.…Let me step off my soapbox …. and cut to the chase for you readers. …

The concern for compliance with rules and laws mandating testing participation was clearly stated in the districts’ letter, “…the district must ensure compliance with State and Federal laws.”

QUESTION: how do these laws and codes supersede the civil rights of parents as guaranteed by the Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment of the Constitution of the United States?

Also in the letter was an expression of consideration, “I fully understand every parent’s desire to make educational decisions they think are best for their child…” But… the tone of the letter was meant to discourage parents from doing what they felt was best. How can there be “full understanding”?

FURTHER QUESTIONS: How do parents decide what is right without a full disclosure of information?

With the “next generation assessments” being computerized, being “adaptive” in nature, and teachers not being allowed to view the tests unless specifically certified by the company or state and then not being allowed to discuss the test, what are parents or guardians consenting to when they allow a child to be tested through the new testing consortium? ( COPPA-Children’s Online Privacy Protection Rule  requires schools obtain verifiable parental consent for their children’s personal information to be entered during the testing process.)

Are our data exchange projects with other states still ongoing?

With student data being linked with information from agencies outside the State Department of Education, will parents or guardians be given the chance to give consent to each transfer of their student’s data?

In informed decision making on this matter, all facts are required to decide if the decision to refuse this testing will severely impact the quality of education in the district, as stated in the letter. Does the risk outweigh the impact of lost instructional time, lost instructional dollars, and loss of control of curriculum content as well as private student information?

There is a reason the dissenters to high-stakes testing have not been sufficiently heard.

Here’s an example:

Bill & Melinda Gates Foundations are major sponsors and this piece was essential for the Common Core State Standards Initiative package deal.

Bill & Melinda Gates Foundations are major sponsors and this piece was essential for the Common Core State Standards Initiative package deal.

With the push for development of longitudinal data systems during the pit of the Great Recession, many issues surrounding the Common Core State Standards Initiative and its “next generation” tests were not fully vetted in the arena of public opinion partially because it became a “best practice” to “not engage in large scale, open forums.”Screen Shot 2015-04-15 at 2.04.25 PMThe not-to-be open debate on education reform could have benefited the public’s understanding of No Child Left Behind, the Common Core State Standards Initiative and its “next generation” assessments.

Now, the public should consider why test refusal is necessary:

1) No Child Left Behind is the federal law upon which the nation was convinced they must comply with high-stakes standardized testing. Thirteen years later, that nonsensical overstep by the federal government has yet to be challenged in our superior courts. Disregarding research about appropriate uses of standardized tests and with no regard for objections raised by the people affected by the law, the law remains in place and the reauthorization process is far from transparent. Consent by the People has not been deemed to be of importance therefore leaving civil disobedience as the next step in a parent’s duty to defend what they think is best for their children.

2) The Common Core State Standards Initiative was never about “just” the standards. There was always the intent to develop the “next generation assessments” to correspond with the Common Core Standards. Our American Reinvestment and Recovery Act (ARRA/TARP) dollars served as the seed money for the two consortiums to develop these tests. What has always been missing from any public discussion was the intent of the two private, non-profit groups that hold the copyright for the standards — the Council of Chief State School Officers (CCSSO) and the National Governors Association (NGA). The intention was/is to “direct the collection of student data to a single reporting office within the U.S. Department of Education through the reauthorization of ESEA” (the Elementary and Secondary Education Act) otherwise know as No Child Left Behind. This is item #10, on page 9, of the CCSSO/NGA “new deal” for ESEA reauthorization.

3) What should be respected and understood about a parents’ refusal to comply with the rules, regulations, and laws set down for them by their elected representatives, who have not represented their views, is that they feel a strong moral responsibility to do what is right for their children. Many parents feel forced or coerced participation in testing is wrong, and is potentially, and in reality, driving a wedge between them and their child, their teachers, their school administrators, their neighbors, communities, and the larger society who can’t comprehend or understand their stance. What we should understand as citizens is that it is morally reprehensible to turn a blind eye to rules, policies, and laws judged to be wrong for children by their own parents.

4) As ordinary law-abiding, tax-paying citizens, we pay our taxes because we know it is the cost of maintaining a civil society including “free” public schools. In a representative form of government founded on the Consent of the People, our choices in this manner should include having “large-scale, open forums” where a meaningful exchange of ideas could occur, or, civil disobedience as a second choice when the first choice has been denied us.

With No Child Left Behind testing mandates, the Common Core State Standards Initiative, and their “next generation” tests and all that go with them, the choice was made for us.

Our “consent” in the decision-making process was denied.

Civil disobedience through test refusal is a parental right in need of supporting.

Politicians put parents and children in the middle of the mess they created through a corrupted political process. There was always a better way.