A Nation Misled

How can we reach the goal is we continue to be misled as a nation?

How can we reach the goal if we continue to be misled as a nation?

Do you know the history behind our nation being misled? Many have asked WHAT brought us to this point in education reform where we blame teachers rather that support improvement in their profession, where we close schools and move students around rather than improving all schools, and where education policy is controlled by lobbyists for foreign corporations rather than the crucial voice of the local people.

We were misled.

In 1991, then vice president of Sandia National Laboratories, Lee Bray, was asked to be in charge of overseeing an analysis that “sought to provide an objective, outsider’s’ look at the status of education in the U.S.”

The Sandia researchers did what they do best — they thought things through and questioned their findings. They did an honest analysis that was never used to guide national education policy from that moment going forward. It —the Sandia report brief titled Perspectives on Education in America — still has not served to lead us in the right direction because “…it was definitely suppressed” according to Lee Bray. We need to right that wrong.

So, WHAT information did the Sandia Report provide?

On International Standardized Test Comparisons:

“The utility of these assessments to educational improvement in the United states is negligible.” Some of the reasons presented included;

  • “Student tracking is common in many countries,”
  • Since these tests are single-point comparisons, “curriculum timing and content are essential issues,”
  • Cultural differences in that “some cultures place great emphasis on exams,”
  • “The educational needs of immigrants cannot be ignored.”

On Future Workforce Needs:

“If business needs workers with higher skills by the year 2000, it is the adult population that must be trained.”

“Forecasting workforce skills beyond one or two years into the future is highly speculative.”

On What Were Then Only Proposed Changes (Education Reforms):

“Some proposed changes appear to be in conflict.”

"There is little agreement on what changes must occur." Sandia Report missing from the nation's view.

“There is little agreement on what changes must occur.” The Sandia Report was missing from the nation’s view and allowed us to be misled on the state of our education system and reforms.

The Sandia report went on to summarize the primary challenges facing education and the barriers that can impede educational improvement.

One of the barriers to improvement is inadequate information. That’s where we stand today — a misled nation.

Tough Choices or Tough Times

Tough choices? Not for our lawmakers. They never entertained the alternative to the Tucker plan so they had no real choices to make. Tough times? Yes, especially for those of us that had kids in impoverished districts while this cow manure came down on us.



Susan Ohanian can tell you all about the High-Powered Panel that put together and endorsed the 2006 release of another creation from Marc Tucker’s think tank, National Center on Education and the Economy (NCEE). This one was labeled – Tough Choices or Tough Times. Same theory, same plan, new wording.

In “Tough Choices,” a dozen or so problems were identified. Then, the Tucker gang offered 10 steps necessary to development of their system. I’ll just use the first one to demonstrate the problem I see with “the think” coming out of this tank.

Step 1: Assume that we will do the job right the first time.

That is a great statement. Totally agree. Details?

The Tucker Plan: Create a set of Board Examinations based on a set of standards set at the “expectations” that are “no lower than the standards for entering community colleges in the state without remediation.”tough-times-ahead

Common Core Controversy followers; does that sound familiar?

Just a Parent’s Plan (mine): Let’s assume “we must do things right the first time; let’s call it the ‘R rule.’

We must be wiser in choosing how we educate. We are obliged to consider the potential effect our decisions have on children before we put them into action in the classroom. And we have got to receive feedback and take it seriously. It’s time to acknowledge that what we do in first grade sets the stage for the reading, writing, and math skills children need for the rest of their lives. Our actions need to speak to that fact. Mistakes can be devastating” (The Crucial Voice, page 12).

“First grade must be a successful experience for all children. The only way to ensure success ‘happens’ for all is with proper guidance and personalized attention to the learning and developmental needs of the child. That will only be accomplished through exceptional, specially trained teachers in small classes” (page 90).

Tough Choice? For parents, I don’t think so.

What I hope is that our toughest times in education reform are now behind us.


Getting ready for the Labor Day weekend, I found myself scurrying through a grocery store parking lot where I happen to spot a nail. I blasted past it. About four strides later, I stopped myself. What was I thinking? Well, I wasn’t.

That nail was poised to wreak havoc on someone’s day and I could prevent that.

I backtracked, found the nail, and threw it away. My only regret; I didn’t save it as a reminder.

There are always going to be those that don’t care enough about others to lift a finger to help. But those of us that do care — that isn’t who we are. We were put on this earth for a reason. Our shoulders might get tired of carrying our load but there will come a day when our hearts will feel light and we will rest knowing we did all we could to make things better.

Until that day, we must fight like hell for what we believe to be the right path! We must stop the damage being done in the name of education reform. It is #NotAcceptable .

Learning should not be drudgery for young children. It shouldn’t be creating stress for young families. Common Core is doing exactly that. It is #NotAcceptable .

No Child Left Behind is the federal law anchoring a national belief in test-based “accountability.” It didn’t work; it won’t work. It is a decade long failure and for it to continue to be the education law of the land is #NotAcceptable .

Today, and everyday, I need to ask myself, what can I do to prevent problems in the lives of our youngest Americans and their families? #ICare

Start by Caring

Start by Caring

Business-Model of Education Reform: The Real One

Understand the real business model? You may not have heard the whole story.

“The best-run companies start with their people, trusting them as human beings and trusting their capability and their potential. In essence, “they are people sensitive.” They understand the importance of training your people well and letting them do their jobs.

To be “people sensitive” starts with individual attitudes. The process of educational improvement begins in the minds of those that desire to do what is best for the nation’s children. It requires being open-minded and cooperative.

Has the business world applied what they know and become a good team player?

Has the business world applied what they know and become a good team player?

And there are some business model rules we might do well to follow. “We must learn not to tamper with success,” not in practice and not in policy.

We need to remember that most school districts in this country have settled the question of what to teach and how to best go about it. So in the 43rd Annual Phi Delta Kappa International (PDK)/Gallup poll on education, we shouldn’t be surprised that 71 percent of Americans say they “have trust and confidence in the men and women who are teaching in public schools.” And the poll, titled “Betting on Teachers,” also found 73 percent of Americans preferred education policies that “give teachers flexibility to teach in ways they think best” over those that “require teachers to follow a prescribed curriculum so all students can learn the same content” (Bushaw).

For immediate impact in the schools that need our help, we need to look at “the people side of schooling.” And if we believe that “organizational management should be based on observing problems from the bottom up and not from the top down” then isn’t it the teacher in the classroom and the family at home that should be managing the education of public school children?

Can a business model serve us well?

After all in any given classroom, the teacher becomes their own manager. They plan the lesson, guide the students, and evaluate themselves and their students. And as the business model points out, “The highest form of self-management is intrapreneurship” and “if teachers are to become intrapreneurs, “they must be given the freedom to act on their own.”

“To achieve excellence, one focuses not on the mission, but on the culture.” And it is “freedom factors” that “are the foundation for enabling school people to satisfy their higher-level needs. Only when we are able to produce a school environment that meets these needs will we be able to achieve excellence.” This is not what we have created with a test-based, competitive culture. And parents that are out to “give their child every advantage” have added fuel to the fire of competition while modeling a culture of selfishness for their own children.

But now ask yourselves — if training of teachers and leaders is the key to success, who is doing the training? Who set the standards for professional development? What principles are they based on? Are those in charge following the will of the people? Did “they” move forward with “reforms” with our consent?

Excerpts taken from James Lewis, Jr., book Achieving Excellence in Our Schools…by Taking Lessons from America’s Best-Run Companies published by J.L Wilkerson Publishing Company in 1986.

Fooled Again?

Learn from yesterday, live for today, hope for tomorrow. The important thing is to not stop questioning.” Albert Einstein

When did we stop questioning “the powers that be” in education reform? Or, did we ever stop?

Learn from yesterday. In every meeting I attended about  “reform” since 1999, the authorities were questioned – even challenged – most often by multiple “un-associated” individuals. But the prevailing direction of “change” was never altered from that which officialdom had predetermined. The pretense of an “open” decision-making process prevailed and official “duty” was preserved — on paper. I don’t care to say what I learned, then. But now is the time to see things differently and question the lessons learned.

Live for today. Today presents another chance. That chance at setting things right means looking back at what did not work and why. Those that believe we can maybe get the political process to work this time might not have been fooled in the past; they may be new at this “game.” But those of us who have been-there, done-that have a duty to voice our distrust of the process and question the “powers” by asking that they prove us wrong – demonstrate that they even understand our view. Have you ever heard the powers talk about public opinion and how we see our own schools?

Hope for tomorrow? That depends on what we do today. I hope we don’t let ourselves be fooled the same way, again.

Happy April 1st.

What Lessons Were Learned?

What Lessons Were Learned?

What Failed?

A Mind is Too Beautiful to Waste

A Mind is Too Beautiful to Waste

The beliefs — test-based accountability, financial flexibility, and “choice” — the principles, the pillars, upon which No Child Left Behind (NCLB) promised “to close the achievement gap” have FAILED. The theory was hailed by state education officialdom prior to NCLB. So all-in-all, this grand experiment concocted by those unwilling to listen to people in the trenches had decades to “work” to “close the achievement gap.” It failed; it’s a FACT!

People across America are waking up to the reality that testing itself is wasting instructional time and our money. Parents are seeing that test-based accountability led to a narrow and boring curriculum for their children. It is one of the reasons many left the traditional public system to home-school. Many are also using the “choice” part of this failed equation. But the reality is that “choice-based reform” has not led to reform. And it must be remembered that test-based accountability was used to declare schools as failed thus trumpeting the need for “choice” through a charter system. Failed and double failed!

But what of flexibility? Ah, that began as a token gesture of local control. Giving the local people the ability to spend Title I (federal education dollars for low-income students) in a manner they saw fit was actually part of the original 1965 law. But back then it was understood that the money would be directed to serve the needs of those low-income students. When the states became convinced that test-based accountability was the way to go, the stage was set for federal dollars to be spent on this new focus. The public was duped and double duped.

It is time to view education differently – accountability, flexibility, and choice have failed to deliver on what it promised. And in the process, it did damage. Face that fact. Riding on accountability, flexibility, and choice as reform strategies is like riding a dead horse. Have a little respect. Dismount and bury it!

Don’t Fail

Fail, failing, failed — “Don’t Fail Idaho” is the new theme of advertisements on radio and other media here in this state. For me, it is a risk to even use the word (especially in a title) because many people won’t read past that word. The education reform war has created hyper-sensitized people making it less likely that we can even have a casual conversation about education. And that is exactly what we all should be doing every chance we get.

In a waiting room yesterday, I ran across an old acquaintance I’d worked with on a fundraising committee for a youth project many years ago. Believe it or not, I did not broach the education topic – at first. We talked about agriculture, our food supply, our land, rodeo, and politics. When we did get to education, he admitted he didn’t know much of what was going on in that arena but said, “It sounds like what I’m experiencing.” He moved closer to hear what I had to say.

My point: If we can’t get past some obstacles, establish a connection and some common understanding that we share a problem, we can’t expect to establish the kind of public support needed to overcome the forces we must in order to reclaim the public school system and re-instill some sanity to a “reform” effort. A dissenting voice can’t compete with a moneyed interest any way other than with people power.

Will this person I talked with jump right in the fight? I doubt it, but the next time he hears the “Don’t Fail Idaho” propaganda, I can bet you he will think twice about which “side” they represent. He will doubt. He will question what the best way to improve our schools really is. I bet he will compare any further effort to privatize schools to what he knows was the outcome of privatization of the prison system and he will relate it to a further takeover of our land and food supply — and he will make the connection to children.

Failing to Make the Grade

Failing to Make the Grade

Don’t fail to engage. Anyone know the rules for engagement?

Whoa on “Reforms”

The following story was anonymously left in the mailbox of Dr. Emory Cowen of the University of Rochester and relayed to us through Dr. Seymour Sarason:

Common advice from knowledgeable horse trainers includes the adage, “If the horse you’re riding dies, get off.” Seems simple enough, yet, in the education business we don’t always follow that advice. Instead, we often choose from an array of alternatives which include:

Stop the "reforms."

Stop the “reforms.” They failed and are killing US.

1. Buying a stronger whip.
2. Trying a new bit or bridle.
3. Switching riders.
4. Moving the horse to a new location.
5. Riding the horse for longer periods of time.
6. Saying things like, “This is the way we’ve always ridden this horse.”
7. Appointing a committee to study horses.
8. Arranging to visit other sites where they ride dead horses efficiently.
9. Increasing the standards for riding dead horses.
10. Creating a test for measuring our riding ability.
11. Comparing how we’re riding now with how we did it 10 or 20 years ago.
12. Complaining about the state of horses these days.
13. Coming up with new styles of riding.
14. Blaming the horse’s parents. The problem is in the breeding.

Dismount! As Dr. Sarason wrote: “Instead of doing any of these, we decided to dismount. We began to look at what we needed to do for kids and their families to help them help themselves.”

The Quest for Clarity

How do we have conversations and bring about clarity of ideas when we don’t speak the same language? I’m talking about the language of education reform. It is too full of codes and triggers. The general public, the people whose education system we are talking about, can’t possibly be clear about what is really happening to their system. And how can they possibly crack the “code”?

I know that I personally can’t help with deciphering everything but I can help with one item of reform that we should all try real hard to understand – The Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA) of 1965. I will say right up front, Harold “Doc” Howe II, the commissioner of education in charge of enacting the law said, “I doubt that anyone could have dreamed up a series of education programs more difficult to administer . . . but ESEA was not designed with that in mind.”

It was designed to provide equal access to quality educational opportunities. It was going to “level the playing field,” as we like to say. And it was going to accomplish this by addressing the needs of children from low-income families. I believe this would be along the lines of the idea that “a rising tide lifts all boats.” When we improve the educational opportunity for the under-privileged, we improve opportunity for others in the process.

But the “process” can’t be explained in a blog or a three minute testimony.

So, please don’t get thrown by a person’s choice of words. “Turnaround” doesn’t ALWAYS mean the Race to the Top ways, “indicators” or even “assessments” don’t ALWAYS mean standardized tests, and even “always” rarely really means “always.” You get my drift. And also keep in mind that if you are talking to a teacher, they have been hyper-sensitized; they have been in the trenches of the education reform wars for far too long.

Right now, the right education battle is the one for clarity. We win that battle; all children could have a shot at being a winner.

When someone pulls your trigger or you find yourself wondering “what is this person talking about?” – my advice is to slow down. Ask questions and listen to the answers. Isn’t that the very thing we would expect from good students?

Beware: Education and Immigration

Things happen for a reason. Sometimes seemingly unrelated things happen to me. Once in awhile, you need to put two and two together, and, if you see red flags flying, ask questions especially if bipartisanship on the part of Congress is in the equation. Will we see “unintended consequences” of “immigration reform” play out in the “education reform” arena?

In the aftermath of 9/11, restrictions on foreign worker visas for temporary (lower-paid) science, technology, engineering, and mathematics-related (STEM) jobs had some large corporations seeing the need to help improve U.S. public education in order to help fill their needs. As part of a grant sponsored by a corporation, I was invited to be part of a team from my district attending a Leadership and Assistance for Science Education Reform (LASER) Institute. It was one of the best learning experiences of my life – very hands-on – so much fun!

So, a decade or so later, I’m riding the Metro in D.C. and strike up a conversation with three young women, engineering interns from Puerto Rico. They all had attended what they described as their top-notch engineering university for their bachelor’s degrees and they talked freely about the costs there versus here. I was thinking it was about a tenth of what it costs our U.S. students.

And then there is the election of Idaho U.S. house representative, Raul Labrador – the winner in my district, twice now. He introduced The American Innovation and Education Act. It is immigration “reform” allowing citizenship to those STEM master’s and doctoral graduates who have a job offer here in the U.S.- to keep their talent here. They say it will be to fill jobs that can’t be filled by Americans. Really? Or is it just one more way to hire for lower wages since these foreign students paid less for their undergraduate work? They can probably afford to take jobs for less pay.

Beware these words: “Our journey is not complete until we find a better way to welcome the striving, hopeful immigrants who still see America as a land of opportunity; until bright young students and engineers are enlisted in our workforce rather than expelled from our country.” President Obama

The first part of the sentence is true to the principle upon which this country was founded; the second part??? I don’t know; they are two different things in my mind. Is this picking winners and losers? Are these students the more privileged of other countries and already have a head start – in the competition with our own students? Will there then be any reason to genuinely help the public education system, as I believe LASER was trying to? Eyes and ears should be on this one as it passes through Congress.