CBE: The Trojan Horse that Will Destroy Public Education

Are we looking at a classroom that is conducive to learning, or the delivery system for Competency-Based Education?

At one point in time, many of us saw Common Core as the Trojan Horse sent to destroy public education. But buried deep within its belly is CBE — Competency-Based Education. It is outcome-based education reform by another name —in another form. Just the same, it stinks of decay and ruin. No, the stench is worse.

Read on as my guest, a parent, explains the problems with standards-based assessments and the fallacy behind the label “competency-based education.” The following Facebook comment was spurred by an article about standards-based grading.

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In the real world, subjective assessment varies from person to person, group to group. Book and movie critics, for instance, vary widely as do reviews of plays and performances. Conversely, the correct answers to calculus and physics problems are the same regardless of the “assessor.”

For subjective subjects, a simple grading rubric for assignments used for the past 100 years or more allows the student to understand the keys to success for that assignment and to meet stated requirements. This is an important skill to master; in business one boss’s idea of success may not be consistent with another, and learning to flex your focus or style to please the assessor is a vital life skill.

The Standards-Based Grading article ignores this reality and instead hammers home the need for generic, uniform common core curriculum and regulated, dictated grading so as to strive for identical educational experiences.

Does this not take away the creative and unique ways individual educators can inspire and challenge and mold students according to their own God-given gifts for teaching?

Can we all not remember that special teacher in our schooling that changed us or “turned us on” to a topic that eventually brought us into a career path?

WHAT ARE WE BEING SOLD? Competency-based education?

CBE (Competency-Based Education/Standards-Based) reduces the teacher to a sidelined coach, while the message is delivered by the standardized computer message or electronic text.

Since the days of Greek philosophers the concept of students being instructed and led through thought-provoking discussion to debate and challenge each other has been a successful model. Now suddenly, whether 100 or 2,800 years old this method is no longer valid? Because of iPads and Chromebooks? They are just tools, like wrenches or shovels or chisels or paint brushes; used to make a masterpiece.

The educational masterpiece itself is created by tapping the potential of students for creation of beautiful self-expression and thoughtful debate. Educators who groove on passing knowledge to students are crucial to the process. The educator/lecturer should never be just a sidelined coach that allows the computer to do the instruction.

God help us if we buy into this philosophy.

Further, God help us if we think rote memorization of fundamental math facts and spelling words are not needed and deny they are essential building blocks in the formative grades for advanced skill set proficiency in the latter grades. Writing an essay on a piece of literature requires actually being able to write (penmanship) and to create sentences with appropriate structure and grammar, and to be able to spell words as they flow from the mind quickly.

And, none of the dangers pediatricians are warning of today with regard to limiting device time because of negative impacts on neural network development are mentioned in the Standards-Based Grading article.

Parents: please read and educate yourselves on CBE. It is designed to make students “worker bees” that generation by generation are dumbed down, dependent on the Federal government and unable or unwilling to challenge the “Powers that Be.”

Let’s not forget Jefferson, Franklin and the Founding Fathers were able to gain independence from the England and halt imperial expansion with firepower yes, but overwhelmingly with the Power of the Pen.

Truly free people must have free thinkers, not cookie cutter worker bees that just want enough jingle for a pack of smokes and a Red Bull. The elitists would be happy to write-off most of our kids in this way

Will you stand by and let them?

Or do you believe in the American dream as I do? That any child, from any home no matter how humble, no matter your skin color or your parental educational level or marital status …. ANY child can use the public education system to the fullest extent – extra credit if necessary – to be ANYTHING they want to be. And if they do, and if they make good choices, in three generations their entire family line can be pulled from poverty and be self-actualized. TRUTH: as long as we fight these ambitious, young, deceitful politicians that seek to suppress your child’s potential.

Are you going to let them do that to your child???? Your grandchildren? Our nation’s next generation?

Stay tuned folks, get informed, participate and show up to make your thoughts known. Let’s engage in thoughtful, respectful exchange of ideas, organize, and do something to CHANGE the overreach by the state and Federal government into our local education system. You can make a difference.

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Thank you to writer, Alyssa Collins (pen name). “Alyssa” is a full-time working mom and a conservative. She isn’t taking the wrongful action of our government/corporate directives in our schools lying down.

“I’ll be organizing routine meetings at local restaurants in the near future to fight CBE, Competency Based Education.”

Top Education Expert Has A Question for Betsy DeVos

Having begun his career in education in 1952, Marion Brady’s professional life spans not only the decades but also the rungs of the ladder of educational success. Having taught at every level as well as contributing to serious academic thought as a consultant and writer, Marion Brady IS an education expert. The following words are some of his most recent thoughts on the state of education reform in America. The addition of my own remarks will be noted in brackets [VMY]…Please consider his thoughts and the question he has for Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos…

The Darwin Award is an annual tongue-in-cheek honor recognizing individuals who’ve contributed to human evolution by removing themselves from the gene pool—doing something stupid enough to kill themselves.

If there was a comparable award for countries, the United States would be in the running. I’ll explain.

Photo of Secretary of Education Betsy Devos by Gage Skidmore from Peoria, AZ. [DeVos rose quickly to national political power over education reform through the authority given her by Congress in the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA). VMY]

Worldwide, the rate of environmental, technological, and demographic change is more rapid than it’s ever been, and is accelerating. If we want to maintain our way of life, we must understand the changes, manage those that can be managed, and adapt to those that are beyond our control.

Because problems can’t be solved using the same kind of thinking that created them, understanding, managing, and adapting to change require an ability to think in new ways.

Education expert Marion Brady. [Marion climbed the ladder of success as most of us do, one rung at a time, gaining the valuable insight only experience provides. VMY]

In the 1960s, thoughtful federal education legislation and funding for research encouraged educators to think freshly, and new instructional materials in the physical and social sciences and humanities began to appear that emphasized “learning by doing” rather than merely trying to remember secondhand, delivered information. The materials went by various labels—“inquiry,” “discovery,” “active learning,” and “constructivism.”

Traditional schooling had emphasized a single thought process—the ability to recall secondhand information delivered by textbook text and teacher talk. The new “inquiry” instructional materials required kids to use dozens of thought processes—to analyze, categorize, infer, hypothesize, relate, synthesize, imagine, predict, sequence, extrapolate, value, and so on.

Unfortunately, that departure from traditional expectations generated a “back-to-basics” backlash. Leaders of business and industry high-jacked the backlash and used their clout with federal and state politicians to engineer a souped-up version of traditional schooling. No Child Left Behind, the Common Core State Standards, Race to the Top, and high-stakes standardized tests, brought back traditional schooling’s emphasis on learner ability to merely recall (and sometimes) apply existing information.

The business and industry-initiated reforms didn’t just bring back an emphasis on memory work to the neglect of all other thought processes. Progress, today’s policymakers say, has to be “measurable.”
Kids, teachers, administrators, schools and school systems must be sorted and ranked based on standardized test scores.

The “measurable” fad has made meaningful education reform impossible. The measuring is done by machine-scored standardized tests that can’t evaluate complex thought, can only count correct or incorrect answers. Questions that appear to require thought are really guess-what-the-writer-of-the-test-item-was-thinking. That’s a skill, but not a particularly useful one in the real world.

Today’s test-based “reforms” are preparing the young for what was, rather than the world as it is and is becoming. That isn’t just stupid, it’s a recipe for societal disaster.

*Those responsible* for the reactionary policies that continue to block the use of teaching materials requiring the continuous use of complex thought processes owe America a satisfactory answer to a question:

The pursuit of life, liberty, and happiness requires the routine use of myriad interdependent thought processes too complex and idiosyncratic to be evaluated by standardized tests.

Given this fact

—given the cost to taxpayers of those tests—

—given the time devoted to preparing for them—

—given the life-altering consequences of their scores for learners, teachers, and schools, and

—given their role in perpetuating intellect-limiting conceptions of learning—

why is it not morally unacceptable, ethically indefensible, and practically unwise to continue their use?

If a satisfactory response isn’t forthcoming, those who take seriously the responsibilities of citizenship will encourage and support the “opt-out-of-testing” movement.

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*To begin a much longer list*: Lou Gerstner; Edward Rust, Jr.; Bill Gates; Jeb Bush; Arne Duncan; Mike Bloomberg; Joel Klein; Kati Haycock; Bob Wise; Betsy DeVos; the officers of the Business Roundtable; the U.S. Chamber of Commerce; Education Trust; Democrats for Education Reform; the American Legislative Exchange Council; the Gates, Walton, Broad, Bradley, Dell and other foundations; members of Congress, and most state legislators.

[ Traditional versus “Inquiry”: Was it possible for those camps to coexist within a more balanced system? What if? But now, now we must stop the bleeding. ASK for your representatives to ANSWER the question. If you get no response, refuse to allow your child to be part of the test-based “measurable” fad. Refuse all forms of commercially developed standardized testing. Opt Out.)

America: Why Not Stop the Corporate Abuse of Children?

For decades corporate abuse of children in our classrooms has gone unchecked. Sound overly dramatic? Think again.

The global education corporations running the show know exactly what they are doing.

They read information like this, Stressed out: the psychological effects of tests on primary school children, and continue about their business.

“The overall prevalence of test anxiety in primary school children is on the increase and it is fairly common for children at the end of primary school.”

Yes! Magazine Test-based accountability systems include competency-based, “personalized” learning, and social/emotional learning (SEL) to name a few.

The article tells parents and teachers what they can do to reduce test anxiety. But is accepting this advice the right thing to do?

Is the emphasis on testing justified?

Think about the results. Both quality time with parents and instructional time with teachers is lost to corporate rule in our classrooms.

Tests are taking precedence over commonsense.

Is this abuse of children, or not? Still believe all the testing is necessary? Well, consider this. If the quality of instruction is what is important, have the tests improved instruction?

“Is High-Stakes Testing Working?”

As Jonathan Supovitz reminds us, the cornerstone of U.S. federal education policy (NCLB 2.0/ESSA) is test-based accountability systems….based on theories.

The truth?

“The data from high stakes tests are…. insufficient for individual-level accountability and provide meager information for instructional guidance.”

Misuse is abuse.

So have you heard, “the tests are not good enough”? Do you believe “better tests”— the next generation computer-adaptive, personalized, more frequent (embedded) tests — are the answer? That has not been determined. Yet the testing has been bought. And, there are plenty of valid reasons to just say, “stop.”

“Research has long indicated that test anxiety impairs student performance. More recent research indicates that taking a test in a CAT [computer-adaptive test] format can affect the ability estimates of students with test anxiety. Inaccurate measures of ability are disconcerting because of the threat they pose to the validity of test score interpretation.

Society has placed a high value on test scores; yet, their interpretation may not be valid.

What these “new, better” test do—with certainty— is profit corporations.

“…test sales have grown from approximately $260 million annually in 1997 to approximately $700 million today — nearly a threefold increase.” [or higher, now]

Profits up; student achievement flat. Test-based accountability isn’t being done “for the students,” as they say.

Has the public simply missed seeing the signs of corporate abuse in education reform?

CITIZENS: look closer, please. The abusive nature of testing is going way beyond whether or not a child can read and do math. In this data-driven world, every child’s future is at risk of being determined by an algorithm.

The venture capitalists of 21st Century Schools pushed technology into classrooms to collect every bit of data they can — on the whole child.

The worlds’ “leading learning company,” Pearson (U.S. division McGraw-Hill), continues to lead us. Our lawmakers continue to follow. It’s coercion. It’s corruption. It’s corporate abuse of our political system…..and of our children! And there is more to come.

Pearson Acquires ADHD Testing Company BioBehavioral Diagnostics

On August 27, 2013, global education company Pearson plc announced it had acquired BioBehavioral Diagnostics (BioBDx) and its flagship Quotient System, a computerized attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) assessment and management system approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) in 2002 to aid in diagnosing ADHD. Financial terms of the transaction were not disclosed.

For Pearson, the acquisition provides an entry into health care markets, . . .

Do you think the data collected on school children now could be used against them when it comes to …say… insurance costs in the future?

We are taking immediate steps to strengthen support for current Quotient customers and expand our outreach to healthcare professionals,” … “We also look forward to introducing the Quotient ADHD Test to mental health and education professionals in both clinical and school settings.”

“ADHD is the most common neurobehavioral condition in children, and symptoms persist into adulthood in approximately 60 percent of cases.”

Knowing that ADHD “may have serious consequences” including “job failure,” can you see where data collected today could affect a child’s job prospects in the future?

Byron Hewett, Chairman and CEO of BioBDx, said,… “Our team has deep expertise in the diagnostic world, and we believe Pearson will benefit from that expertise in the years to come.”

No doubt, Pearson will benefit. The question is, should they benefit off American taxpayers in the name of public education reform? And is there any stopping them?

Protecting America from corporate abuse is about to get a lot harder

“From Enron to the financial crisis to climate change, the last two decades have seen abuses and failures of private industry on a world-historical scale.”

When Big Corp buys Congress, laws will perpetuate — not help solve — our problems. Everyone knows that, right?

But does the public understand the gravity in losing our public education system to the global corporate elite?

“Future Ready Schools” is supported by OUR U.S. Department of Education in the effort to have superintendents “commit to foster and lead a culture of digital learning.” Is this the public-private partnership we want to invest in?

Is this news that Americans have not heard? Is that why America is letting its public schools be taken over by groups like “Future Ready”……

….who are working to replace teachers with technology while calling it “a transition to personalized, digital learning”?

 

Folks, if you say “no” to these corporate abuses, forcing Congress to represent us is the only peaceful “check” on corporate power we have left….It won’t be easy. Congress needs to undo what they have done.

“Congress Passes Psychological Manipulation in an Education Bill”

Sound far-fetched? Not any more, it doesn’t. The education industry is showing their cards for all to see. And for the author of this article, Anita Hoge, this is deja vu….in nightmare form, I’m sure.

As a parent, she fought against outcome based education in the ‘90’s. She filed a complaint using the Protection of Pupil Rights Amendment to stop the psychological and psychiatric testing and treatment in our classrooms . Well, IT’S BACK! And she is back in the fight. Here’s why:

“Speaker Paul Ryan pushed the passage of Every Student Achieves Act legislation through Congress along with Senator Lamar Alexander, Chairman of the HELP Committee.” …

Anita’s call to action…

“Parents — the social, emotional, and behavioral aspects of your children are being monitored, evaluated, and CODED.”

Where does the information go? What will it be used for, and by whom?

We don’t have the answers, do we? But we all know that data CAN’T be fully protected. That puts children at risk…for life. Seriously.

So Anita, parents, and citizens across the United States are requesting….

“…an immediate injunction to stop the implementation of social, emotional, and behavioral standards and interventions that have been codified in the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA).”

“…Secretary DeVos to immediately take steps to prohibit teachers from carrying out the intrusive psychological and behavioral techniques named in the legislation to be used in on America’s children in American classrooms.”

“… President Trump call for an immediate injunction to stop the implementation of ESSA by Secretary DeVos and to request a repeal of ESSA.”

After 15 years of No Child Left Untested, I don’t know why America hasn’t stopped the corporate abuse of children in our classrooms.

“…corporate abuse of our political system has led to abusive testing practices in our classrooms.”

THAT is the God’s honest truth!

 

DeVos Distractions & The Pursuit of Truth

Betsy DeVos joins the Lamar Alexander D.C. charter/voucher/privatization team. (Photo: Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)

Anticipating the Title IX speech by Secretary of Education DeVos, the media last week was abuzz .Their verbiage included words like “overturn,” “roll-back,” “scrap,” “rescind.” They stirred it up and the protests grabbed our attention. But, does that help direct us towards solutions, or create distractions? What’s the truth of the matter?

In pursuit of the truth, please consider this. DeVos is a shrewd political operative, more so than our typical political appointee. She has the means to create distractions.

POLITICO 2016 A Look at Betsy DeVos Charitable Giving (Campbell Brown needed “charity”?) The Partnership for Educational Justice joined forces with 50CAN who previously merged with StudentsFirst (Michelle Rhee’s original anti-teacher/pro-charter organization). The organization’s names are changing quickly as their power grows!

DeVos’ Title IX speech was impressively delivered. But the reporting that followed, some of her words, and the relative scarcity of facts within her speech fueled controversy.

The real controversy?

Those unfamiliar with Title IX, and the 2011 Office for Civil Rights (OCR) directives under the Obama administration, would be hard-pressed to find the time necessary to piece together the truth. Before last Friday, I felt under-informed on the issue.

So Friday morning, I spent 40 minutes before work searching for information. On Saturday, between putting up tomatoes, baking cookies, cleaning house, fixing dinner, and walking my dog, I spent hours reading a variety of news sources, listening to DeVos’ speech, and reviewing its transcript.

Can we really expect most people to have the time to dig for enough facts about public education to make a thoroughly informed decision? … Anyway…

Let me be clear at the onset: Title IX federal anti-discrimination law, which includes protection from sexual harassment and violence, is a serious matter. By insinuating that DeVos is creating distractions, using Title IX  in the process, is not to say that the issue isn’t important or deserving of the media’s attention.

But the public needs less hype and more facts. Here’s what I can now tell you.

During the Obama administration, the Office for Civil Rights (OCR) sent out a letter requiring colleges and universities to use a “preponderance of the evidence” to determine innocence or guilt in sexual violence or harassment cases. As the FIRE (Foundation for Individual Rights in Education) explains…

…a “preponderance of the evidence”…merely requires that it is “more likely than not” that someone is responsible for what they are accused of…it is our judiciary’s lowest standard of proof…50.01% certain that the accused person is at fault….a “more likely than not” standard…

…in a real court for any crime, no matter how minor, the more familiar “beyond a reasonable doubt” standard must be used, which means that the judge or jury must be virtually certain of your guilt.

So the question becomes, do the directives sufficiently protect the accused person’s right to due process as well as the victims’ rights?

The letter also resulted in creation of situations where  …

…a judicial process …[could result in]…a student found innocent in a hearing [being] retried, even if the charges against him or her had already been proven baseless.

At the time, this letter was also criticized for failing to clarify free speech rights as previous OCR letters had done.

Did Betsy DeVos’ speech clarify those issues?

Well, yes, but…in all honestly, if I hadn’t read the FIRE article before listening to DeVos I would have been distracted by the stories she told. They were stories gathered from DeVos’ listening sessions with people. Listening is good. But it was the number of stories she told that I found distracting from the issues.

Was this DeVos’ best attempt at informing the public?

If clarity of the issues and swift resolution were the secretary’s main objectives, her inflammatory language and anti-Obama, anti-government rhetoric sprinkled into the speech certainly didn’t help. They were added distractions.

Truth be told. The problems aren’t that difficult to explain (explain, not solve) especially if your job depends on understanding the laws. Yet, they weren’t clearly explained. Reason enough to question whether or not there is something more to this story. Betsy DeVos isn’t stupid.

So what is the bigger picture? 

As Frederick M. Hess & Grant Addison wrote,

“The balance and tenor of her remarks was just right.”

That’s EXACTLY right. DeVos did appear “just right.” She appeared “re-framed.” She was delivering her new image!

The secretary softly spoke well-chosen words. And her actions on the Title IX topic thus far —listening sessions, collecting opinions and stories—were the right way to go. She used the process just right.

But keep in mind; this is exactly what we experienced with President Obama’s secretary of education and the president himself — the promise to listen yet their actions only furthered the political agenda of the ruling elite.

The agenda is privatization of pre-K-12 public schools.

The truth: If you follow today’s Orwellian nature of the media and politics, you can feel the school choice movement advocates drooling over DeVos’ speech. People like Frederick M. Hess want the Trump/DeVos school choice agenda to appear dead. All distractions are welcomed.

They want the media talking about anything other than vouchers, charters, and the federal funding of them through ESSA (the Every Student Succeeds Act) and tax laws.

After all, creating distractions is standard operating procedure in American politics.

And all too often, what the country is hearing about education reform is scripted talking points, not the truth.

Now, that leaves the long-standing reform agenda in the hands of Trump, DeVos, and Congress. And America seems willing to follow these leaders.

As stated in Americans Have Given Up on Public Schools. That’s a Mistake…

Our secretary of education, Betsy DeVos, has repeatedly signaled her support for school choice and privatization, as well as her scorn for public schools, describing them as a “dead end”…

and claiming that unionized teachers …“care more about a system, one that was created in the 1800s, than they care about individual students.”

The agenda hasn’t changed. The following is one of the most succinct and accurate description of the agenda that I’ve ever read.

New Directions, Federal Education Policy in the 21st Century, 1999.

Note the reference to funding portability, vouchers, charters, testing, and the lack of respect for preserving the system. And there is always the promise “to educate children.” But what is the truth here? Do we think we can deliver on the promise of education as a public service — absent a public system? That IS privatization. Is that what we want?

1986 to today, the agenda remains the same.

Clearly we have not taken a better way forward.

In total, we’ve had 30 years of propaganda behind this never wavering political agenda.

There is a better way. It starts with refusing to blindly follow the leaders. It begins when we quit taking a wait-and-see attitude about ESSA — the law DeVos will execute.

ESSA was pushed through congress by Lamar Alexander without open public debate. This is the same man who proposed the first federal voucher legislation in 1992 as then Secretary of Education. He’s leading us full circle. It’s time to stop the spin.And thanks to the same media I am lambasting in broad strokes, I can connect some dots. My apologies to honest hard-working reporters who I am dumping into the same barrel as a bunch of bad apples (astroturf).

But our general lack of trustworthy media coverage of education issues is leaving America inadequately informed on KEY ISSUES. It has left us ill-equipped in the propaganda war being waged on public schools.

The truth: Betsy DeVos came into this politically appointed position with no intention of strengthening and improving the system.

Her history is one of disrupting already struggling public schools, dismantling them —and the system (community) surrounding them— and supporting privately run charters instead. That’s what she did in Michigan. Are we going to wait and see if she does the same to the country?

Many “school choice” proponents, who themselves write for the media, want you to believe that the Trump/DeVos/Alexander funding for school choice initiatives are going nowhere this year. Well, guess what is already in ESSA? Betsy knows. Alexander knows.

HERE’S THE KICKER!

If Congress fully funds ESSA —without restrictions on charter expansions—they fund the way forward for the Trump/DeVos/Alexander school choice/privatization plan.

If Congress includes tax credits —under any variety of names – opportunity, scholarship, tuition, etc. —as part of tax “reforms,” they fund the Trump/DeVos/Alexander de facto voucher/privatization plan.

What say you, Betsy DeVos?

“…we live in a country where an open debate of ideas is welcomed and encouraged.

But good intentions alone are not enough. Justice demands humility, wisdom and prudence.

[Justice] requires a serious pursuit of truth.”

Hear, hear; let’s do THAT!

Renegade Researchers: In Education Hell

Education hell has nothing to do with the afterlife. The hell created in our schools, in the name of education reforms, is a result of the fight between rhetoric and reality.

A living hell is created when the same empty rhetoric is used on the public over and over and over again. And it works!

It’s crazy! If you aren’t part of the education oligarchy —those who make the rules creating this education hell— your facts don’t count. It doesn’t matter what you know; it is who you know. Throw in who has been bought and what media is manipulated and you have created the hell on earth called education reform. And it isn’t reform!

But in education hell, the truth doesn’t matter.

Here’s an example from 1992.This is an article with the message to readers framed from the beginning with the words “Renegade Researchers.” And as you read, it sets up the false scenario of The Renegades versus The Scholars.

The word “renegades” implies “traitors” yet they are referred to as “the defenders of America education” (as if that is a bad thing?).

“I’m interested in a focus on the worst kids in the worst schools. Given the fact that everyone agrees that the bottom third of our kids are awful, they get very little spent on them.”

Was that the voice of a renegade?

Yes, a pesky researcher named Harold Hodgkinson (then director of the Center for Demographic Policy). And the counterattack from “the scholars”?

“The critics are wrong in saying the schools are just as good as they ever were. That is deeply damaging; it inspires complacency and a false sense of self-esteem.” A quote from then Assistant Secretary of Education, scholar, Diane Ravitch

The scholars were fighting for reforms based on developing “higher standards.”

Those ever-changing but “higher” standards formed the theoretical foundation of our education reforms for the last 30 years. Marc Tucker, the president of the National Center on Education and the Economy (NCEE), has been the “unofficial consultant to the cadre of officials” who coerced the nations’ schools into using this reform theory.

Tucker is the artful dodger. He claims to be a researcher but is counted as a scholar. (It’s a bit murky if you haven’t read the script and don’t know the actors.)

But as the news article goes on to explain, “Many scholars argue that the researchers are right to say that schools have NOT gone downhill, but are drawing the wrong conclusions.” (?)

It’s true, but it’s irrelevant,” said Tucker. “Doing as well or slightly better than we used to do is doing appallingly badly relative to the rest of the world.”

From the Sandia National Laboratories – The Sandia Report.

How is “appallingly badly” defined? In the case of Mr. Tucker and his education and the economy argument, his scholarly opinion was NOT based on solid statistical analysis.

The late, great statistician Gerald Bracey, as well as the Sandia National Laboratories researchers and others, demonstrated the flawed thinking of “the scholars.” Did the public know that? Nope.

Financed by the Department of Energy in 1991, Sandia research engineers ( not professional educators) were given our education statistics and asked to provide an “outsider’s’ look at the status of education in the U.S.” They did; those damned renegade researchers! They gave us their honest opinion.

The condition of education? Buried as quickly as possible! And the game continues, hide the truth and put out the spin. But the Sandia Report is not forever buried and forgotten. Gerald Bracey, for one, tried to keep the truth alive. He wrote.

David Kearns, former CEO of Xerox and then deputy secretary of education, said something along the lines of, “You bury this or I’ll bury you.”

And Bracey continued to point out the role of the media…

In February 1992 an international comparison in mathematics and science appeared. With enthusiastic help from Secretary of Education Lamar Alexander and Assistant Secretary Diane Ravitch, the media gave it a highly negative spin. (The 10th Bracey Report on the Condition of Education, Page 2)

Vouchers and tuition tax credits were being pushed then. Vouchers and tuition tax credits are being pushed now.

This was all happening under the Bush administration —the first Bush administration under which Lamar Alexander served as secretary of education. Yes, the same Lamar Alexander that now controls the Senate Education Committee.

Was the manipulation of the media effective?

“The debate, both sides say, has crucial implications for education policy. The revisionists argue that exaggerating the crisis in all American schools distorts policies that should be focused on poor schools where children are really failing.”

So looking back at the Renegade Researchers article, by prefacing the above statement characterizing the renegades as “revisionists,” the author taints our view of what is said next — policies “should be focused on poor schools.”

That targeted focus is what the education venture capitalists — those looking to make a profit off of school children— never wanted the public to focus policy (or resources) on. REAL reforms would focus on the smaller number of schools needing attention. It’s a smaller market share. REAL public policy solutions wouldn’t have us restructuring the whole system like we are.

It looks like the media manipulation produced the desired results.

So What Can We Do?

Don’t take it anymore! Fight back against the lies. In his own way, Gerald Bracey did. He didn’t take being called a “revisionist” lying down. He continued to speak up.

Proudly remain, or become, a renegade researcher.

Few researcher are in the same class as Gerald Bracey, but, we are living in the same education hell.

Unfortunately when this debate was going on in 1992, I was just a public school parent unaware of the political shenanigans interfering with the progress we were making in my high-poverty schools. It was a living hell because schools and teachers were being asked to do things that made no sense! Way back then!

This problem isn’t going away on its own. As another parent researcher recently asked, “what new hell is this?”….. More rules, regulations, policies all promoting “higher” standards, different tests, altered accountability mechanisms, and technology to track a child’s every move…on the keyboard…..yes, all reality.

Anyway, I now have an answer to her question, what “new” hell is this? It’s not new; it is the same education hell where politically driven rhetoric overshadows reality. The lies have “crucial implications for education policy.” We are wasting money by doing the same wrong things over and over and over again.

So, as Duane Swacker reminds us in his book, Infidelity to Truth: Education Malpractice in American Public Education,

“…truth is ‘the control of belief by fact.’… Yes, truth matters!”

What we can do is insist that this never-ending political tit-for-tat debate ends NOW. Enough of the lies! Demand the truth be told and that our reality now guide education policies.

The education law of the land right now—the Every Student Succeeds Act—is based on decades of lies. If truth matters, let’s demand the facts be made transparent.

With standards-based education “reforms” in place since 1992, what have we got to show for having lived through, and paid for, this education hell? I honestly don’t know.

I do know one thing. It burns my ass to think that not one person involved in the lies surrounding the Sandia Report has ever worked like hell to set the record straight —for the public.

Oh, and speaking about truths, how are we doing with “closing the achievement gap”?

If education reform was really about closing the achievement gap, why did we change policies when we were making progress? Was it about something else?

FACT: We aren’t talking about what we were doing right in the 70’s and 80’s.

Pay for Success: Main Streets’ Payout to Wall Street

“Pay for Success” sounds good. And the argument for Pay for Success is made more inviting because federal, state, and local governments are cash-strapped. The public will only have to pay for programs that are successful — as determined by metrics and independent reviewers. Pay for Success appears viable and inviting.

These financial transactions are basically “Social Impact Bonds.” Those with large sums of money invest in “social innovation.”

But with BIG MONEY betting on making money from “innovative” education reforms, with early childhood education being the flavor of the year, what impact can we anticipate?

What unintended negative consequences are foreseeable?

HERE’S THE PROBLEM INVESTORS INTEND TO SOLVE: Head Start programs can’t accommodate demand for their services. Funding was cut in 2013, restored (?) in 2015, but damage was done. (I know my state still has a waiting list — demand is high, good market.)

HERE’S THE PROBLEM TAXPAYERS SHOULD CONSIDER: The same “investors” both created the problem and plan to solve it. Instead of lawmakers expanding, strengthening, and improving Head Start as the economy improved, private investors are taking the lead on early childhood education —eventually using our money.

Click to enlarge and TAKE NOTE: The First Five Years Fund ( FFYF ) focuses on increasing FEDERAL investments in early childhood education through “messaging”(????) etc.

Still sound like a good deal? Read on.

As explained in “Wall Street’s Latest Public Sector Rip-Off: Five Myths About Pay for Success by Kenneth J. Saltman,

“…investment banks pay for public services to be contracted out to private providers and stand to earn much more money than the cost of the service…The Every Student Succeeds Act [ESSA] of 2016, the latest iteration of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act of 1965, directs federal dollars to incentivize these for-profit educational endeavors significantly legitimizing and institutionalizing them.

Hum. Make the scheme legal and cement profiting, for Wall Street banks and other investors, into the inner workings of the institution of public education.

Legitimize. Institutionalize. Privatize.

Who got incentivized?

Doesn’t it seem like this combination of millionaires and billionaires could outright provide preschool services if they wanted to? Make no mistake; this is about investments. Will this group be pocketing Pay for Success money? We have to wait and see. But by the time the deal is done, it is done. Chances are we won’t know much about the full deal — until it’s too late.

But we do know the messages being spread. Pay for Success functions as an “accountability” mechanism. Accountability? Just like under No Child Left Behind?

“In theory,… the government only pays the funder if the program meets the metrics. If the program exceeds the metrics, then the investor can receive bonus money making the program much more expensive for the public and highly lucrative for the banks.”

Who sets the metrics?

Recall the cheating scandals over test scores — the “metric” central to No Child Left Behind (NCLB now ESSA)?

We learned a lesson. Didn’t we?

But supposedly, Pay for Success is a better way for us to go forward because…

“it creates a ‘market incentive’ for a bank or investor to fund a social program when allegedly there is not the political will to support the expansion of public services.”

What? When? We don’t want to pay for public services?

Now their marketing says we do support investing in early childhood education. What a difference three years makes! Survey says….We have a unifying issue! Invest now!Legitimate surveys have always shown we support a PUBLIC school system.

People pay their taxes (and expect corporations to do so as well) in part because they want the government to deliver good services to the people who need them.”

This really is another example of Us versus Them — Main Street versus Wall Street. And Wall Street is running a new game. We pay; they play.

“[Pay for Success] Contracts are so convoluted and complicated that what normally would take a month to do takes two years and with financial arrangements so complicated that a university professor in financial management ‘still needed help understanding the financing.’”

Shades of “credit default swaps” — those Wall Street “innovative financial instruments” of Main Street destruction.

If you read Saltman’s whole article, be forewarned. The facts about their propaganda centered on early childhood education services is enough to make a person gag … Suddenly Wall Street cares about Main Street? Right. They are for Us.

Is Pay for Success promising better education at a lower price than what we now pay? Sounds too good to be true?

 

Their game is going to be tough to follow. Please try.

ESSA gives authority to Pay for Success through the Secretary of Education (Betsy DeVos). It also gives her a funding stream for start-up costs for new charter preschools. In addition, there is a focus on rural schools. And ESSA provides transportation costs for the first year of those charters. After that, you will pay out of your state and local pockets of public cash for increasing transportation costs. That in-turn will create a market for more online rural schools. The quality of education?

Remember, this portion of their game started back during the recession.

So let’s go back to that Wall Street induced Great Recession. It was tighten-your-belt time. Crisis. Definitely. Budgets had to be cut? Absolutely. What’s the first to go? The big-ticket state item — education. But every time this happens, local people step up. Most of us willingly fund education. In most states preschools are funded for at least the most needy. Only six states don’t support Head Start or other early childhood education.

Do we need more access to quality preschools? Probably. But is Pay for Success the best investment for taxpayers?

In Why “Pay for Success” Financing Could Cost Taxpayers More Than They Bargained For by Rachel M. Cohen, she writes…

“New Profit—a ‘venture philanthropy fund’ with a board that boasts Bain Capital executives and other investment leaders—launched an advocacy arm in 2007, innocuously named America Forward. When Barack Obama was elected president in 2008, the group recommended that his transition team establish a ‘social innovation fund.'”

President Obama went for it. He even established “the first-ever White House Office of Social Innovation.” Jared Kushner, President Trump’s son-in-law, now leads that office. Kushner’s plans? To remodel our workforce training programs….OUR public programs.

President Obama’s Social Innovation Fund is administered by the Corporation for National and Community Service. Who knew?

“…three foundations have played particularly significant roles: the Rockefeller Foundation, Bloomberg Philanthropies, and the Laura and John Arnold Foundation…. all three foundations have funded the Government Performance Lab at Harvard, established in 2011, that helps implement and expand Pay for Success initiatives. Jeffrey Liebman, who served in the Obama administration as the deputy director for policy at the OMB, runs the Harvard center.”

To be clear, we have a privately-funded private school performance lab reviewing the metrics for Pay for Success. Remember, it is private investors who will be paid for “success.” How independent will the reviews be?

And in case you didn’t catch this fact, the law began under Obama’s administration and the person heading the lab worked for the Obama administration. …. My head is spinning faster than a revolving door!

Disruptive “innovation”? A cycle in need of stopping.

The people coming up with these schemes have so much money they don’t know what to do with it. What these people know is that they don’t want to pay their fair share of taxes. So through OUR lawmakers, they set-up tax credits, loopholes, and under-the-radar innovative financial instruments to be legal tax-dodgers ….. The result: we can’t fund quality social services, our way. That’s how they create problems — for us.

And Ms. Cohen goes on to point out…

“…at its worst, Pay for Success can leave taxpayers paying substantially more than if their governments had just funded programs directly….”

What are the chances they can demonstrate real success? Well, investors are hedging their bets. By choosing to invest in already successful programs (the ones we already know work), their risk becomes minimal. And there is nothing innovative about their “new products” other than the funding mechanism and a new name for some old programs we previously had to cut.

So let’s remember, this plan unfolding before us is about the public service of educating young, very impressionable children. It isn’t just money at risk. Childhood is.

With Pay for Success funding early childhood education programs, we are putting our trust in a financial scheme headed by the same investors who caused the Great Recession — Goldman Sachs, Bank of America, J.P. Morgan, da, da-da, da. Think they have changed their ways? They would like you to think so.

What I don’t understand is the country discarding a successful education system that was the envy of the world for almost 200 years— until the education oligarchy took over.

We need to stop this lopsided deal for expanding public-private partnerships. It is taking total control over educating all our youngest citizens and placing them into a workforce/military development system. And with funders now teaming up with the charter alliance, this has gone too far! It’s a double whammy!

With only 17% of charters shown to outperform public schools, coupling of the First Five Years group with the Charter Alliance is risky….for children and taxpayers alike.

The game is rigged. The cards are stacked against us. We know that.

There may be some circumstances where Pay for Success is a viable idea. Preschool in particular and public education in general is NOT one of those circumstances.

“…the model is appropriate only for a narrow cohort of nonprofits that meet two related criteria: they must be able to effectively deliver and measure their social impact; and they must be able to translate that impact into financial benefits or cost savings that are traceable to the budgets of one or more institutions or government departments.

Although the potential social benefits of PFS [Pay for Success] appear to be real, one cannot ignore the likelihood of unintended negative consequences….

Haven’t we subjected our country’s children to enough “unintended negative consequences”?

It is time to knockdown the house of cards.

Pay for Success is only one item that is wrong with The Every Student Succeeds Act. Demand congress repeal ESSA before the trump card is played. 

 

Think Tanks, Fake News, Astroturfing, and Lies in the Era of Trump and DeVos

The powerful influence of think tanks, fake news, astroturfing, and lies in our policymaking process is nothing new to us. In the past, the influence of lobbying was frequently discussed in the news. But until recently, we didn’t hear much about how think tanks, fake news, astroturfing, and lies impact politics. Yet, their dominance over policies runs deeper than the D.C. swamp where most reside.

Think tanks got their name during the WWII era. They are non-governmental policy research organizations — or they are supposed to be.

“Think tanks conduct and recycle research that aims to solve policy problems and not solely to advance the theoretical debate.”

Maybe there has been a bit too much “recycling” of research.

Whether or not think tanks work as originally suggested, for “the common good,” comes into question particularly when money enters the equation. Remember, these are the groups in D.C. giving policy advice…during the lawmaking process. Where their money comes from does matter. Foreign powers buy influence at think tanks.

“Some scholars say they have been pressured to reach conclusions friendly to the government financing the research.”

Remember the old saying about computers? Garbage in, garbage out? By definition,

“poor quality input will always produce faulty output.”

Poor policy advice results in laws that do harm. Plus, many of the non-profit organizations that house think tanks do have outright political agendas. And too many people are not aware of the pre-determined plans of these organizations. As NPR wrote in What to Think About Think Tanks?,

“This has nothing to do with right-wing or left-wing politics. It has to do with giving the audience more – not less – information to help them evaluate the speaker.”

If think tanks are swayed by money and political ideology, are they producing “fake news”?

Where did fake news come from?

Bending the truth for political gain is certainly nothing new – it’s propaganda, and the record of its uses stretch back to ancient times.”

“Propaganda and Internet fake news do, however, hold similarities: both are methods of distorting the truth for emotional persuasion, seeking to drive action.”

Some claim that the term has now been co-opted by politicians and commentators to mean anything they disagree with – making the term essentially meaningless and more of a stick to beat the mainstream press with than a phenomenon in itself.”

I don’t see the term “fake news” as being meaningless. I see the danger of it —confusion in the public mind!

And when fake news is fortified by astroturfing, we shouldn’t be surprised that our country is failing to address problems with real solutions. The country can’t see the truth through all the lies.

The corporate-elites controlling education policies in this country have been “buying and selling school reform” for decades (Hired Guns on Astroturf). How is a citizen supposed to know whom to believe? Even well-meaning activists are being deceived into working for policies they actually should be against. It isn’t the first time we People have been used, our tax-dollars used against us, or we have been lied to. … And there is no reason to believe we have seen the last of it.

So that brings me to the main topic of Think Tanks, Fake News, Astroturfing, and Lies in the Era of Trump and DeVos.

I’ll use the charter school/voucher debate to demonstrate how the game is being played. This isn’t a new topic; it’s just finally on the national stage. The Trump White House is simply following in the footsteps of the previous three administrations when it comes to federal funding of charter schools….and expanding school choice HUGELY.

President Trump openly supports this expansion and Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos supports not only the Charter School (School Choice) Movement but is also pushing for public funds flowing to private schools through vouchers.OR….by using the ALEC “scholarship” and “tax credit” laws already in place in several states.This is a school-choice tax credit plan that didn’t fly in 2013. But the plan is to get it done. The choice network thinks they can —with the help of 50CAN. Thankfully some parents across America are watching!

To grow astroturf, you add more money and hire more people.

Credit: POLITICO

What’s the harm? These billionaire-sponsored organizations have the capacity to control the news cycle. They can make things happen, or not, before most of us are even aware of what is happening. That level of domination of information doesn’t allow the real grassroots activists to prevail in blocking the corrupted lawmaking process at every turn. Too many twists and turns are an obstacle to citizen participation.

A disinformation campaign can quickly and easily be launched using both fake and legitimate, but naive, news outlets. In this example, here’s how things lined up then unraveled for the federal “opportunity” school-choice tax credits (thus far):

  • End of April-First part of May —- Speaker of the House Paul Ryan pitched “Tax Reform.”
  • Mid-May – a snag – A report was released by the American Association of School Administrators containing an analysis of tax credits.
  • Then came the poor reception for the Trump budget.

Things got messy for the think tanks. They should respect good research, solid evidence; right? Instead, the network went into control mode.

Between social media, the web of news outlets using think-tank experts for article and quotes, and the charter school networks, the disinformation campaign took off.

“School choice” laws facilitate the flow of funds to charter and private schools. The dollars follow the students, leaving existing schools without those dollars, even when chances are (based on research) the school of choice will be inferior.  This tax credit IS a school choice law.

The public loses part of its tax base. The “charitable donor” (those with money to invest) makes money. Research says: public schools do lose money in this deal. Experts, what do they say? School Choice think tank experts like Rick (Frederick) Hess aren’t stupid. They want to cool down the chatter.They don’t want TrumpChoice to become a political battle anything like ObamaCare. Their propaganda campaign spread from D.C. to Idaho faster than a western wildfire. Sincere concern or propaganda? You decide. The choice network stands on the principle of “competition.” Consider this: Maybe it’s better to show the country how competition really “works” —right now, on the national stage—instead of waiting until no one is looking and let the Scholarship Tax Credits slip quietly into law.

Photo credit: Washington Times

That is how The Quiet Revolution in American education reform has been waged and won —to date.

A general rule that has been followed is DO NOT ENGAGE. And for heaven’s sake, not on the main stage! Education reform was not supposed to be a major topic at the presidential level. Not really. The passage of the Every Student Succeeds Act just prior to the presidential campaign season helped ensure that what was wrong with No Child Left Behind would not be discussed. It still needs to be. The problems weren’t fixed.

This is how the rulers approached putting data collection systems in every state during the Great Recession. Where was the outrage? From a Best Practices Brief
http://nces.ed.gov/programs/slds/pdf/best_practices.pdf

So, IF the era of Trump and DeVos brings national conversations and debates about real problems, real solutions, and the news reports include perspectives from the real grassroots activists in the trenches of education reform, we might just drain the swamp ourselves.

Fight fire with fire. Engage.

P.S. I have always stood upon the principle of providing quality learning opportunities for all children through a publicly funded, publicly controlled public education system free from the corrupted forces of politics. If a hired gun wishes to have a civil conversation with me, wording questions in a way that sounds accusatory is not the way to do it. Putting words in my mouth? Wrong! That is a smear tactic.   I’ll represent my own views, thank you.

Corporate-Elite Totalitarianism: Creeping or Leaping Toward a Totalitarian State?

Some people believe the United States is already a totalitarian state. If that is our reality, it doesn’t mean we can’t regain our status as a republic.

Corporate totalitarianism means total control by corporate interests…. What’s happening in the United States today is a corporate coup of the U.S. government, and anyone who isn’t grieving that must not be looking.”  Corporate Totalitarianism, or Not, Opinion by Marianne Williamson

We must look, and look deeper.

We can’t beat back what we don’t understand.

Totalitarian power by definition is considered to be…

“…of or relating to a political regime based on subordination of the individual to the state and strict control of all aspects of the life and productive capacity of the nation…”

I’m sure that during the Kennedy presidency, foreign totalitarian regimes were the concern. But what JFK stated then can be used in the fight we must take-on today. To win this battle, our citizenry …

“[It] requires skilled manpower and brainpower to match the power of totalitarian discipline.”

He was discussing education. We must educate people to recognize and resist conformity for the sake of conformity. We need brainpower? Not a problem.

But, whom are we matching wits against? And how powerful is their discipline, their control over us?

That is where my passionate support for public education keeps me digging for answers. I don’t like what I have found.

When the public education system is completely controlled and directed to focus on the “productive capacity of the nation,” then we are concentrating our manpower and money on one of the corporate-elites’ endpoints — the production of their manpower supply. This is where we must focus our brainpower. This is where the corporate-elite coup must be stopped.

Children do need to be employable. The public education system helps fulfill that goal. I get that.

What I don’t get is the public’s willingness to let education be narrowed and controlled —made into a test-and-sort system— to fill corporate workforce needs. What don’t people understand about the importance of control of the public education system?

But back to the question of who.

We know that currently under the rule of law corporations are considered people (people who never die?). However, corporations alone can’t pull off this coup.

Organizations of all kinds with a variety of political ideologies have jumped on the “education reform” bandwagon. They are the ruling elite — ultra-rich individuals and foundations of all structures, sizes, and attractively deceptive names. And they are hiring people just like you to work on promoting and selling their agenda. (Recognize astroturf?)

Are we sure we want these groups — under the guise of philanthropic efforts and state control — in control of our productive capacity?

In The True Believer: Thoughts on the Nature of Mass Movements, Eric Hoffer explains that—

“… propaganda articulates and justifies opinions already present in the minds of the recipients.”

Now, think about this: How many parents have been frustrated at one time or another with something that happened in their public schools?

How many business owners have been frustrated at one time or another by hires who didn’t seem adequately prepared for work?

Same question, professors and college students, etc. etc. … I’m NOT saying there is a HUGE problem; I’m saying there are some underlying unaddressed social tensions associated with public education. There has always been a constant desire to improve schools — as there should be. But that fact has been used against us.

Hoffer illuminates how leaders play on our emotions —

“…leadership articulates and justifies the resentment damned up in the souls of the frustrated.”

Because of frustration, we are vulnerable to massive changes not always of our choosing. With education reform as we have called it for the last 30 years, the massive changes aren’t fixing the real problems. The pseudo-reforms are only feeding the corporate State. (And, yes, that is state with an authoritatively capital “S.”)

America was given a choice long ago, but it was an “either/or” choice. (America’s Choice: High Skills or Low Wages) That’s a propaganda technique that creates a false dilemma. You have only two choices and you MUST pick one. It looks like we did. And these same education elite-D.C.-think tankers moving us to make that choice also took control of our system. We are implementing their plan.

The State — Big Money running what we used to call Big Brother (our government) — is no longer a republic. As Chris Hedges explains in Our Invisible Revolution,…

“Our shift to corporate totalitarianism, like the shift to all forms of totalitarianism, is incremental. … The ‘consent of the governed’ is a cruel joke. Barack Obama cannot defy corporate power any more than George W. Bush or Bill Clinton could.”

WE can defy them. You see, I believe this because of what I see. I see a corrupted federal education law that must be stopped. It can be stopped.

The “new” education law, the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA), is a perfect example of persisting totalitarian creep into the education of the next generation. ESSA continues the marketable propaganda of No Child Left Behind — accountability, flexibility, and choice — while moving the corporate-elite agenda of privatization forward by leaps and bounds. The law, and those executing it, further corporate-elite control over what is becoming their workforce development system.

Between the Koch Brothers outright contributions, the ALEC (American Legislative Council) laws they push, and their funding of astroturf groups, these brothers will be hard to contain.

And now, it is obvious that the public education system is being used for other purposes. Here’s how.

We bought the plan to focus education on a narrow set of skills (standards). Once the State dictated a couple sets of standards it didn’t take long before others followed. Now, we are poised to lose control of civics (social studies) education. (The Koch Brothers Sneak into School. It’s real. It’s legal….and you are paying for it.)

The ESSA law establishes a Presidential Academy for civics instructors. Innocent enough? Perhaps. BUT when accountability for education is being left up to “the State,” who’s to say? How narrow will the civics instruction be? Who will be controlling the content? And who is training “our” educational leadership?

Convinced that this is some serious stuff?

Well, let’s look further at totalitarianism. It can be defined as…

“…tending toward monopoly.”

Big Money has monopolized education policy — from State to Federal and Federal to State — including local policies through the training of parents and school board members. This is the problem many of us have with Common Core National Standards. They aren’t just standards. They are based on a vision for a totalitarian workforce development system paid for by the public but privately controlled. The corporate-elite created the Common Core System. (America’s Choice?)

So, who is in control of the education of the next generation?

“Controlling information and controlling dissent are part of what goes into maintaining a totalitarian state,” said Jerrold Post, director of the political psychology program at George Washington University.

See why the public education system is such a big piece in the game?

The anti-Common Core groups are fighting hard. The anti-high stakes testing groups are still battling after over two decades. Anti-charter/voucher groups are on the rise. Their individual efforts deserve our respect and admiration, but it hasn’t been enough to stop the coup.

To date, federal education law continues under the control of the corporate-elites. We are still only minor players.

“Through their control of politicians, political parties and corporate media, they do everything necessary to make sure that political candidates who resist them get nowhere near the levers of power.” Marianne Williamson

We, the populace, are rising. But,…

“An uprising that is devoid of ideas and vision is never a threat to ruling elites.” Chris Hedges

That is where the ideas and visions of JFK can still serve us well.

The fight for equal educational opportunity has been brought to the schoolhouse steps before.

Totalitarian discipline did creep into education law. But we don’t have to comply with it. Civil disobedience is needed at every opportunity.

Reinforcements are a must. All the groups out there saying they are fighting against corporate-elite rule need to recognize where their strength and numbers are needed most. We know the corporate-elite takeover is real. We have the brainpower to match theirs. What we lack is the collective manpower focused where we can make a huge difference right now…. and in the future.

Join forces. Help stop the escalating takeover of our public schools.

Education Lessons JFK Left Behind

100 years after the birth of John Fitzgerald Kennedy and with his birthday falling on Memorial Day, it seems fitting to look back in tribute at the education lessons JFK left behind.

President Kennedy recognized that our country

“requires a citizenry that understands our principles and problems. It requires skilled manpower and brainpower to match the power of totalitarian discipline. It requires a scientific effort which demonstrates the superiority of freedom. And it requires an electorate in every state with sufficiently broad horizons and sufficient maturity of judgment to guide this nation safely through whatever lies ahead.”

Final Special Message to the Congress on Education, January 29, 1963

Today, are this nation’s needs any different than when JFK made his proposals to congress?

In 1961, Kennedy’s first appeal to Congress on behalf of public schools was for support of his “twin goals”:

“a new standard of excellence in education and the availability of such excellence to all who are willing and able to pursue it.”

By April 11, 1965, over two years after JFK’s assassination, his “twin goals” became the aim of national education policy when President Johnson signed the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA),

An Act

“To strengthen and improve educational quality and educational opportunities in the Nation’s elementary and secondary schools.” 

Kennedy emphasized the need to address “depressed areas” and “slum neighborhoods” where children are known to have: poor diets, unaddressed speech, dental and visual disorders, and where older students are in need of job guidance and proper recreational activities.

The first titles of ESEA addressed Kennedy’s concerns for a spectrum of disadvantages:

Title IEducation of Children of Low Income Families to provide financial assistance to support educationally-deprived children.

Title IISchool Library Resources, Textbooks, and Other Instructional Materials to provide for access to educational materials for all students in the State.

Title IIISupplementary Educational Centers and Services to provide services not currently offered but deemed vital to educational improvement made available to the entire community.

Kennedy stressed that unlike in the health and agricultural fields where they “have established the worth of systematic research and development,”

the education profession “lags behind in utilizing the results of research.”

To remedy the problem;

Title IVEducational Research and Training; Cooperative Research Act to provide research, training, and dissemination of information aimed at improving the quality of teaching.

With variability in quality and access between the states recognized as a problem, ESEA’s last title clarified the intent of federal education law.

Title VState Departments of Education aimed to stimulate and assist in strengthening the leadership resources of State educational agencies.

In each education-focused special message to Congress, JFK expounded further and further on how he saw the proper federal role. He declared,

“Let us put to rest the unfounded fears that ‘Federal money means Federal control.’” And he held up the Northwest Ordinance of 1787, the Morrill Act of 1862 (establishing the Land-Grant College system), and the National Defense Education Act of 1958 as examples where “the Congress has repeatedly recognized its responsibility to strengthen our educational system without weakening local responsibility.”

And the 35-page law, the 1965 ESEA, was completed with a statement limiting the boundaries of federal power:

“Federal Control of Education Prohibited

Nothing contained in this Act shall be construed to authorize any department, agency, officer, or employee of the United States to exercise any direction, supervision, or control over the curriculum, program of instruction, administration, or personnel of any educational institution or school system, or over the selection of library resources, textbooks, or other print or published instructional materials by any educational institution or school system.”

With the passage of ESEA, the major ideas that Kennedy and his advisers believed would strengthen and improve public schools were preserved — temporarily.

Today, both our federal boundaries and guiding principles are unclear.

So in memorial of President Kennedy’s birthday, May 29, 1917, let us recall how he wished to succeed in improving and strengthening educational opportunities for all the nation’s children.

Acknowledging that the quality of the students depends on…

“both the quality and the relative quantity of teachers and facilities,”

he emphasized class size, teachers’ salaries, and adequate classrooms as common problems particularly in need of assistance in states with limited financial resources.

Focusing on teachers, JFK felt…

our immediate concern should be to afford them every possible opportunity to improve their professional skills and their command of the subjects they teach.”

He believed “teachers would profit from a full year of full-time study in their subject-matter fields. Very few can afford to do so.” The funding then proposed was to “begin to make such opportunities available to the elementary and secondary school teachers of this country and thereby accord to this profession the support, prestige and recognition it deserves.”

And quoting Thomas Jefferson,

Let us keep our eye steadily on the whole system,

Kennedy asked that his final education proposal “be considered as a whole, as a combination of elements designed to solve problems that have no single solution.”

The nations’ goals were to be met “on the basis of three fundamental guidelines:

  1. An appraisal of the entire range of educational problems…;
  2. A selective application of Federal aid – aimed at strengthening, not weakening, the independence of existing school systems and aimed at meeting our most urgent education problems and objectives…; and
  3. More effective implementation of existing laws…”

To honor limited federal involvement in education, the “appraisal” is a necessary first step because,…

federal “participation should be selective, stimulative and, where possible, transitional” and “the proper Federal role is to identify national education goals and to help local, state and private authorities build the necessary roads to reach those goals.”

Today, we will only be able to finish building the necessary roads by first removing the roadblocks.

We must look back and recognize that our country

“requires a citizenry that understands our principles and problems.”

Do citizens clearly understand the problems?

Are we standing on the right education reform principles?

Did “we” change our goals?

Improving schools requires we understand the problems, understand the principles, and set the right goals. That is the lesson left behind.

Consider this. President Kennedy’s twin goals were a force that led our nation well for decades. But the changes to the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA) over many more decades has taken us further from meeting those twin goals of quality and equality.

Congress lost its footing. They overstepped. And they landed on a very slippery slope.

In 1965, it was JFK’s twin goals that LBJ ushered into this law.

Title I funds clearly were part of the War on Poverty.

The 1994 Clinton administration introduced “other purposes” — unchecked.

Those “other purposes” included basing the “quality” of education and access to it firmly upon standards and the tests associated with those standards. School Choice Programs were put in under Title I. Transportation costs were not included.

By the 2001 Bush administration, the whole law (NO CHILD LEFT BEHIND) was clearly Outcome-Based with accountability for all schools under federal control, flexibility with spending our federal dollars out of control, and school choice included in a variety of places. It was in sections under parental involvement, accountability, and supplemental services. The funding to assess transportation costs as well as picking up that cost in certain cases were included.

This is what NCLB Title I said ( “disadvantaged” ) but NCLB clearly had all public schools march to the same drummer – standards and testing – one-size-fits-all.

In a last-minute rush, the 2015 Obama administration signed into law the Every Student Succeeds Act. The law was renamed so many times in the year preceding the push that the public couldn’t keep up and the writers wrote “achieves” instead of “succeeds” in the final version. ESSA is not what the public was told it would be.

Title I officially has the federal government involved in the basic programs of all schools still based on the principles of NCLB with a ramping up of school choice at every turn, including pre-K charters, with the Secretary of Education given more power to start-up charters as well as providing the first year of transportation costs.

Don’t you think its time we all took a step back, stopped the federal overreach, and corrected the mistakes that have been made?

The education lessons JFK left behind for this nation provides us solid ground upon which to stand. That platform was built where practical knowledge of improvement practices met the need for equal access under the law.

I hope more of you will make the time to read and contemplate President Kennedy’s three messages to Congress on education (the only links in this blog). All real reformers should stand on the solid principles they provide before continuing to fight in the American education reform wars. That war is currently dividing the nation along ideological and political lines while allowing the dismantling of a longstanding system that served us well.

Let us read, understand, remember, and use the education lessons JFK left behind.