Reality Check

How many Americans care about preserving the institution of public education?

REALITY: Not enough!

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******Reality******

Proof? No Child Left Behind (NCLB) was Introduced in the House by John Boehner on March 22, 2001 and its destruction of public schools has gone on, and on, and on for 14 years — even though its faults were immediately recognized.

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UPDATE: December 5, 2015— NCLB was changed after 15 years to another faulty law – ESSA (Every Student Succeeds Act). Everything here STILL APPLIES – unfortunately.

Recognition of the major flaw in the laws has not deterred lawmakers or the education system from putting detrimental “reform” practices into our schools and system. That is the reality as demonstrated in this September 2001 article by Gary Ratner, Director of Citizens for Effective Schools.

“Its approach— increasing accountability — does not address the fundamental need: providing effective teaching, challenging curriculum and family support for all students.”

What is NCLB?

“[NCLB]…is essentially just federal reinforcement of the states’ decade-old ‘standards, assessments and accountability’ movement…

…But history shows that approach is wholly inadequate…

…More of the same will not work…”

insanity

And Ratner and his organization developed a coalition of other like-minded organizations and individuals. They tried to draw attention to the problems with NCLB and to offer better solutions. One attempt was a full-page open letter to President Bush and Congress.

“The current Act fails to remedy the underlying problem: the need to dramatically improve the level and quality of Industrial Age teaching and family support for the millions of students the system never previously expected to perform well academically.”

Gary’s efforts, and those of many others, have continued. But the thing about Gary Ratner is that he actually organized and presented better ideas to Congress in 2004, wrote a better critique of NCLB than congressional members ever attempted, and even went so far as to take a chance on working with me at the grassroots level. That’s gutsy!

His efforts have been never-ending. Scroll down to the beginning of his news page and see for yourselves the long history of his involvement in this fight.

REALITY: Critical thinking, intelligence, knowledge, persistence,….dare we say “grit”….are what we want to see in American students but we ignore those characteristics in our citizens when it comes to lawmaking.

REALITY: Congress doesn’t give a damn what any of we minions want or what we need in education reform laws.

“No Child Left Behind” failed to live up to its name…period. After experimenting with the theory of standards, testing, and accountability, or as Parents United for Responsible Education (PURE) wrote, after…

“…experimenting with our children — a whole generation of children, we know we left children behind”…

11752044_10203403321202540_2176278363644672217_n…the reality is, it’s time to STOP.

REALITY: We have never offered quality-learning opportunities to all children. No Child Left Behind only made that reality worse for children in low-income communities because it focused dollars on a standards-based system not on providing what children need in order to be able to take advantage of learning opportunities —when they are offered. Instead, competition created a race for scores. It produced scores without skills and instilled temporary knowledge in students without offering all of them opportunities to apply their knowledge. And NCLB once again proved that enforcement of “higher standards” is not the best first step in school improvement.

So in 2007 as the OFFICIAL deadline for reauthorizing the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA) approached —when NCLB should have been laid to rest—Ratner continued the effort to draw public attention to the real issues with NCLB. Screen Shot 2015-07-30 at 1.07.33 PMScreen Shot 2015-07-21 at 11.02.20 AMScreen Shot 2015-07-21 at 11.02.02 AMScreen Shot 2015-07-21 at 11.01.09 AMSo what are we doing now? REALITY: We are pretending to turnover control of school improvement back to the states while insisting we still follow standards, testing, and accountability as the guiding principles for school improvement. We continue to ignore longstanding research on Effective Schools.

Should we expect that anyone in Congress has read and understood Gary Ratner’s attempt to assist in public development of skilled leadership, producing leaders knowledgeable in the common elements of effective schools, or have reviewed the 45 page University of the District of Columbia Law Review article on restructuring this broken law?

REALITY: We have set really, really low expectations for Congress.

Realistically, we are not going to agree with every aspect of any one person’s view. But, there is so much here to work with and, tragically, identifying problems and solving them is not how Congress has approached ESEA reauthorization at all. Congressional representatives —many of whom were in Congress for the signing of NCLB—should be able to explain why the law failed and how what they have now written fixes the problems. They haven’t.

REALITY: They don’t get it, so they can’t get it right.

The children in public schools need the public to support them. They are not represented by Congress. Children can’t win the war against the influential in public education let alone hold the line against those behind the scenes who are the REALLY BIG movers and shakers in the lawmaking process. Those people are the ones that had no qualms about experimenting on the children who became the modern-day Lost Generation. That generation, who are now young adults, are the “product” of both NCLB’s education policy and financial policies that created the deep money pit of the Great Recession. Together, those policies created by Congress undercut the future for our youth.

REALITY: The influential are not looking out for our future.

Will we? We can. #SunsetNCLB #GetESEArightphotography-quotes-reality-welcome-to-reality-Favim.com-581101We didn’t get ESEA right. Are we going to wait and see how ESSA “works”? Knowing the major flaw of NCLB is still the basis of ESSA, let’s do the right thing and end the era of education reform insanity. #RepealESSA #MakeESEAright

Remember the Fallen

Historically, Memorial Day honored those who died in the Civil War. But the meaning of the words “remember the fallen” has expanded over time as more and more fell.American-Quotes-about-Memorial-Day-2015-Images-Wallpapers-Photos-300x232

Growing up in a small town where both my parents were born and raised, Memorial Day was a big deal. We all went up to the cemetery and visited the grave-sites of our family members. It was a time to remember all those who had died. Many were veterans. All were Americans who at some point in their lives had made some sacrifice, large or small, for their country. Perhaps this was true because it was a special moment in time in our country’s history.

Rosie The Riveter LogoIn those days, the members of the family that had not served directly in the military were still active on the home front working in the factories, writing letters of support to the troops, sending care packages and buying war bonds. Just history?

In this era, World War I and Korean War veterans who had given their lives still had family who remembered them. And World War II survivors, just like my father now, continued to give to support other veterans including those of the many wars that followed.

There was something that everyone could do in the cause for freedom. Has that really changed?

From our Declaration of Independence to the long and continuing march for equal treatment under the law, many have fallen in the crusade for freedom and equality. Many were not in the military.

Military might alone cannot sustain a free people. We must also fight to maintain the ideals of freedom within our own people through traditions and education.

With the United States being a unique blend of political ideologies – a representative democracy – a republic based on democratic ideals, it is a shame that politics has tainted the word “democracy”; but it has. In some political circles its use turns people off as if the speaker doesn’t understand that the U.S. is a republic. What John Dewey meant by his use of the word “democracy,” I can’t say for sure but his statement fits our needs non-the-less.

 “Democracy must be consciously promoted and transmitted to each new generation. The freedom of a democratic society enables the school to promote greater democracy and the society to improve education.”

Regrettably, we have allowed our education policies to “narrow the curriculum” and then we scratched our heads in wonder when we realized civics education has been lacking.

“With its focus on professional skills and the know-how to pass state tests, the U.S. educational system is falling down on its job to help young people become vital members of society.”  Professor William Damon

Falling down on the job — for how many generations?

The battles for freedom will be never-ending. What we should be very worried about are the Lost Generations we created. Now, they need all of us to do our part to better prepare them for the battles ahead. We need to ensure the foundations of freedom are solid for the next generations to stand upon. Make this day mean something more than a holiday.quotes-1097

On Memorial Day, which of the fallen will you choose to remember?

Because  I happened to watch the movie “Selma” last night, I’m remembering the many fallen in that battle for freedom.

Remember All the Fallen

Remember All the Fallen

Education and the Economy

Our rulers in Washington D.C. are determining our national destiny based on their view of education and the economy. The D.C. know-it-all groups pay to have articles, blogs, and books written. They get promoted. They get in the news. They are the influential – pushers of their propaganda.

But I ask you – oh, wise readers of blogs – WHO is in the best position to know what will improve both education and the economy – those viewing the situation from their thrones or people on the ground? Consider this story and decide for yourself.

This was my reality check yesterday.

While packing my groceries into the trunk of my car at the employee-owned grocery store I frequent, I was thinking about what the parking lot was like during the pit of the Great Recession. … Homemade enchiladas were being peddled from both ends and the best corner for panhandling was never devoid of a person and a sign. … Yesterday, neither practice was in sight. Things are looking up!

That thought had no more than left my mind when I caught a glimpse of a young man walking past me. I can’t recall if I smiled at him or was just smiling at my own positive thoughts but the next thing I heard was “ma’am.”

This very slender, clean, polite young man with humble mannerisms and old-looking clothing proceeded to explain that he and his sister needed to get back to the farm they are living on outside of Parma, Idaho, which is a very small rural community that I later found out was roughly 28 miles from this grocery store. He didn’t think they were going to get all the way home without running out of gas.

He said they were getting about 350 miles out of a full tank and were now figuring that they only had about 27 miles left and the farm was on the other side of Parma. I asked him what his plans were for getting gas since there was no gas station in this area. He didn’t really know.

So rather than giving him money, I had them follow me. As I watched them in my rear-view mirror, it looked like they were looking for something in their vehicle.

When I got out at the gas station, the young man quickly held out a handful of change they must have collected from every corner of the old beater they were driving. This I do remember bringing a smile to my face as I passed by him saying, “Nah, that’s O.K. I’ll be right back.” I prepaid for enough gas to ensure they got home.

And there was enough time for a quick conversation at the pump.

“Do you have a job?” Yes, I’m getting paid $300 a week to work on this farm and they provide a house. But I haven’t gotten paid yet because my boss can only pay me when he gets paid.

“Seems like enough to get by on?” Yes, it is when they provide a house so I don’t have to pay any rent. And I just got my sister moved here so it’ll be….his voice trailed off ….. his sister sitting in the vehicle looking embarrassed.

“You’ll have to watch how you manage your money. Are you good at math?” No – and his eyes went down for the first time in our conversation.

“Did you graduate from high school?” No, I dropped out when I turned 17 and went into doing framing in Montana. I had to get started in life early but I looked into getting a GED at a community college once, but…

...yes...

…yes…

…. Gas was in; conversation was over. I extended my hand to this young man who was by no means a lazy beggar or a complainer. I felt the strength of his handshake and felt confident that it matched his resolve, and we parted ways; “I encourage you to pursue that diploma again.” – “I will.”

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Will it do any good to write to our leaders?

To you political rulers of education and the economy,

This young man of the Lost Generation doesn’t need your standards. This young man doesn’t need your high-stakes testing. This young man doesn’t need your accountability schemes. This young man needs a financial literacy course. He needs someone to assess his talents and the deficits in his education and help him fill the gaps. He needs a hand up. He needs a break. He needs a fair shot.

I don’t know what life dealt him – the reason he had “to get started in life early” – I didn’t ask. He had left it behind; that’s good enough. And he didn’t need to finish his sentence about how “it’ll be….” I know how that goes. I have heard it before from those in my hometown when they lost manufacturing jobs. I heard “Don’t worry. You know us. We’ll be O.K.”

We true Americans have plenty of GRIT. What we haven't gotten is a fair shot at education and the economy because the rules have been set by those who rule the world.

We true Americans have plenty of GRIT. What we haven’t gotten is a fair shot at education and the economy because the rules have been set by those who rule the world.

You D.C aristocrats, you want grit? Get off your damned thrones and come have a looks-see. We’ve got plenty of grit to be found. You don’t need to produce it in us. You need to quit theorizing, experimenting, and pocketing our hard-earned dollars.

You think you know best what our children need? You think you know better what this young man needs than the people around him?

Some days I wonder if I have it wrong. Not today – today, I know you people who own the world got it wrong if it is us you even care about.

60 minutes The Giving Pledge http://www.cbsnews.com/news/giving-pledge-new-billionaires-club/

Listen to why the people who own the world think they know best what to do “for us.”

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To the ordinary people fighting to take back America’s schools,

Please do. You can get it right when you quit playing follow the leader. Change the leaders!