Obama’s Education Platform

I never liked Senator Obama’s education platform. It’s nothing personal. It’s just that too much of it reflected the outcome-based theory that is the basis of No Child Left Behind and the cause of the “unintended consequences” this country experienced as a result of its adoption.That doesn’t mean that Mr. Obama didn’t put forth some good ideas. He did.

Senator Obama spoke of…

an education agenda that moves beyond party and ideology, and focuses instead on what will make the most difference in a child’s life.”

And his  stance on education was most thoroughly and clearly expressed in Ohio.

“Closing the achievement gap that exists in too many cities and rural areas is right. More accountability is right. Higher standards are right.

But I’ll tell you what’s wrong with No Child Left Behind: forcing our teachers, our principals and our schools to accomplish all of this without the resources they need is wrong.”

And “…we have to make sure that subjects like art and music are not being crowded out of the curriculum.”

So at that moment in time, September 9, 2008, he stood firmly on the failed theory that standards and tests reform schools, but, he grasped the idea that resources —supporting children, families, and school personnel— were required to not only achieve test scores but to also provide a broad and varied curriculum that defines “quality” education. He almost had a clear vision for real reform.

But thus far, he has done what those before him did; he focused on the easier path of standards and testing.

His ideas back then,

“…a new Service Scholarship program that will recruit top talent into the profession, and place these new teachers in overcrowded districts and struggling rural towns, or hard-to-staff subjects like special education, in schools across the nation.”

“…more Teacher Residency Programs … especially in math and science.”

“…expand mentoring programs that pair experienced, successful teachers with new recruits.”

“…access to quality after-school and summer school and extended school days for students who need it.”

As the New York Times wrote,

In his last major educational speech of the campaign, Mr. Obama said: “It’s been Democrat versus Republican, vouchers versus the status quo, more money versus more reform. There’s partisanship and there’s bickering, but no understanding that both sides have good ideas.”

And he made the choice of Mr. Arne Duncan for Secretary of Education because as the director of educational policy at the Business Roundtable, Susan Traiman, said;

“Both camps will be O.K. with the pick!”

The Business Roundtable accurately represents one camp.

Political camps? What about reform philosophy? What about Obama’s education platform?

Mr. Duncan once wrote,

“When organizations and individuals harness their resources to support children and families, both schools and neighborhoods benefit….By inviting parents and diverse stakeholders into the school reform effort, we can collectively raise education to the next level in our neighborhoods and across the country.”

Problem? The political camps aren’t inviting everyday parents or welcoming diverse ideas. Their ideology is set. And obviously there is no understanding of the fact that the people working day-to-day with the children are the ones who are in a position to best identify and support “what will make the most difference in a child’s life.”barack-obama-quotes-4

We folks who care about our children shouldn’t need an invitation.That door should be open; these are our schools. And I’d be willing to bet that none of us invited the Business Roundtable to come save our schools! These groups could go away and not be missed.

But the politics of education reform isn’t going away any time soon; the camps have dug their trenches. What we can do is minimize the damage.

President Obama’s introduction to A Blueprint for Reform: The Reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act included these words,

“We must recognize the importance of communities and families in supporting their children’s education, because a parent is a child’s first teacher. We must support families, communities, and schools working in partnership to deliver services and supports that address the full range of student needs.”

But the Blueprint did not reflect the rhetoric. It more accurately reflected the Joel Klein and Michelle Rhee camp which is a big one! It reflected the plans of those who support an illusion of reform based on testing, labeling, closing, and chartering our schools. four pillars of ed takeoverMeanwhile, a concept expressed by both the president and his secretary of education, that of community-based school improvement that was once favored by these men, was written into the Blueprint in a manner doomed to fail. The choice of wording was divisive.Screen Shot 2015-05-14 at 2.44.08 PMAny education writers savvy to the politics in this country would not have stated the community education concept like that! These words had to have been written intending to draw fire from the right-wing. They are a politically divisive choice of words that takes a great concept and makes it sound like a federal take-over of our children.

So this is where we need to ask, was this administration sabotaged or simply swayed by the prevailing politics of “reform”?

I always wondered, but I’m no longer sure it matters. What matters is where we go from here. We could still follow the Obama vision even though he hasn’t.

Accountability?

“…in Washington [it] starts by making sure that every tax dollar spent by the Department of Education is being spent wisely. When I’m president, programs that work will get more money. Programs that don’t work or just create more bureaucracy and paperwork and administrative gridlock will get less money.”

I want you to hold me accountable. And that’s why every year I’m president, I will report back to you on the progress our schools are making because it’s time to stop passing the buck on education and start accepting responsibility. And that’s the kind of example I’ll set as president of the United States.”

Accountability?

“In the end, responsibility for our children’s success doesn’t start in Washington, it starts in our homes. It starts in our families. Because no education policy can replace a parent who’s involved in their child’s education from day one – who makes sure their children are in school on time, helps them with their homework after dinner, and attends those parent- teacher conferences. No government program can turn off the TV set or put away the video games or read to your children.”

Accountability?

“But we can help parents do a better job. That’s why I’ll create a parents report card…

…we need to hold our government accountable. Yes, we have to hold our schools accountable. But we also have to hold ourselves accountable.”

Yes We Can. By all means, let’s call for accountability.

Words for Sale

World Press Freedom Day: today, May 3, 2015. But do we have freedom of the press or are words now for sale for propaganda purposes?

...and the sign said...

…and the sign said…

While other places in the world fight for freedom of the press, here in the United States our press sells words to the highest bidders.

Until recently, I did not know about the covert actions behind the No Child Left Behind propaganda machine. As Jim Hightower wrote:

“Just a bad apple,” said the Powers That Be, “an aberration” in an otherwise honest system.

The New York Times wasn’t so kind in their article titled All the President’s Newsmen.

“…the Jan. 7 [2005] edition of CNN’s signature show can stand as an exceptionally ripe paradigm of what is happening to the free flow of information in a country in which a timid news media, the fierce (and often covert) Bush administration propaganda machine, lax and sometimes corrupt journalistic practices, and a celebrity culture all combine to keep the public at many more than six degrees of separation from anything that might resemble the truth.

…[Armstrong Williams] had just been unmasked as the frontman for a scheme in which $240,000 of taxpayers’ money was quietly siphoned to him through the Department of Education and a private p.r. firm [Ketchum, Inc.] so that he would “regularly comment” upon (translation: shill for) the Bush administration’s No Child Left Behind policy in various media venues during an election year.”

This gets even sleazier.

It was USA Today that broke the story and their article began by saying,

“Seeking to build support among black families for its education reform law,…”

Consider those words one more time. … “to build support among black families.” They targeted a race demographic for propaganda purposes.

The No Child Left Behind (NCLB) propaganda campaign did such a number on the country that civil rights groups and others, including our half-black president, continue to believe in the basic premise of NCLB. The country needs to take the time to evaluate the theory of NCLB based on the scientific method.

But here is a theory pertaining to NCLB in general. It is possible that Bush #43 was just walking in his daddy’s footsteps and following Bush #41’s executive order to advance privatization:

“…in order to ensure that the United States achieves the most beneficial economic use of its resources, it is hereby ordered as follows:

Section 1. Definitions. For purposes of this order: (a) “Privatization” means the disposition or transfer of an infrastructure asset, such as by sale or by long-term lease, from a State or local government to a private party.

(b) “Infrastructure asset” means any asset financed in whole or in part by the Federal Government and needed for the functioning of the economy. Examples of such assets include, but are not limited to: roads, tunnels, bridges, electricity supply facilities, mass transit, rail transportation, airports, ports, waterways, water supply facilities, recycling and wastewater treatment facilities, solid waste disposal facilities, housing, schools, prisons, and hospitals.”

Looking at the good side of all this corruption of power, at least in this incidence the actions were taken using government money which more times than not leaves a paper trail for journalists to uncover.

But now, we have “journalism” sponsored by philanthropists. Ever hear of Solution Journalism Network?

As reported from the Education Writers Association 2015 Conference,

“News is spreading that the Boston Globe is going to join the Seattle Times and BRIGHT in taking the “solutions” approach to education journalism, with funding from Gates and others.  That’ll allow the newsroom to hire a second K-12 education reporter (not yet named) and let longtime Globe reporter James Vaznis to do more in-depth pieces.”

I only stumbled upon this because of my recent personal experience with a Boston Globe Common Core op-ed that was printed in my hard-copy newspaper but not in its online version. When there is no way to comment quickly in order to debunk or dispute the words stated as facts, it’s frustrating. It’s not the first time.

A couple of weeks back I called my paper, the Idaho Statesman, because I wanted to comment on an article but couldn’t find it in the online version. Their later explanation was that it was a mistake that couldn’t be corrected.

Today, with another Common Core article, marks the third time that I clearly recall this happening. Despite being called a conspiracy theorist and “nutcase,” it takes getting hit over the head several times before I observe a pattern. Many time in the past, I thought it was my inability to find the articles. Now, I understand the growing pile of notes on my desk. They represent the lies I’ve seen printed which I have been unable to help correct.

This could be “an aberration” in an otherwise honest system; it could be my newspaper. It‘s owned by The McClatchy Co. (third largest in the U.S.). The articles in question were from two different sources —Boston Globe and the Associated Press (AP). The only connection between those two is the fact that the CEO of McClatchy, Gary Pruitt, is the head of the AP. That doesn’t prove anything. But let’s theorize a bit more.

If these omissions to online access are intentional, what demographic group is being targeted for the message? My guess in the case of Common Core is the older voting block.

But, I’m personally done with chasing facts today. If we can’t use what we already know, what good is it?

Screen Shot 2015-05-03 at 2.08.50 PM

Specialty: drive adoption throughout an organization.

Screen Shot 2015-05-03 at 2.09.18 PM

Specialty: sets education agendas in motion.

Screen Shot 2015-05-03 at 2.09.33 PM

Specialty: accelerates results through decisive actions.

I uncovered the people behind the Common Core propaganda machine with the thoroughness and integrity of a journalist true to their trade. I just wish I had the advantages of being a journalist — pay, a copy editor, and wide access.

It’s hard work fighting against the media machine armed only with the truth. But it’s a small price to pay.

Freedom of the press — a Constitutional Right in the United States of America — has been rendered meaningless by the highest bidders — the people who own the worldScreen Shot 2015-05-03 at 2.26.55 PM

Opportunity in America

As a nation, we demanded an accountability system for our public schools; President Bush gave us the accountability law “No Child Left Behind.” And he didn’t change it.

President Obama asked us to identify our lowest performing schools; we did. And the change we needed didn’t happen.

NOW, will we continue to allow the dismantling of the public education system —through the plans of well-financed lobbying groups— by keeping in place current policies that failed us. Will the country turn its back and walk away from “under-achieving schools”— knowing that the system failed to best serve a generation of students?

OR, will we fight like hell for the children left behind by the misguided decisions of our leaders?

It is our responsibility as a nation to not just identify and label schools, but to address the needs of our students throughout our land.

Despite what some want to believe, “equal educational opportunity” has never been offered in America. I believe that too many Americans have a hard time defining what it means and envisioning what it looks like. If I’m correct in that assumption, wouldn’t it make sense to stop rushing ahead without first establishing a vision for OUR education system?d894a74dd1d729fdd5438740d86b4b20

We can begin as a nation by going back to the idea of providing excellent education for all as envisioned by the creators of The Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA) of 1965. It provides a framework for what we now need. We need federal education law that we can all read, understand, and be a part of executing effectively and efficiently.

Americans seem to understand that children living in poverty have unmet needs that directly affect their ability to learn — such as those expressed by President Kennedy —“poor diets, unaddressed speech, dental and visual disorders.”

Meeting known resource gaps between the children of the poor and those of higher socioeconomic classes was precisely the main focus of ESEA.

Americans seem to understand that in most communities there are children from a spectrum of socioeconomic backgrounds and that it isn’t fair to offer opportunity to one group while undercutting another. Equal opportunity means offering them all a fair shot at obtaining a quality public education. Isn’t that why most of us want a public education system to exist?

Meeting the grander twin goals of quality and equality in educational opportunity was the primary guiding principles, the original aim, of ESEA.

indexAmericans seem to understand that the educating of a child occurs in a variety of community settings, that each community is unique, and that it makes sense to use resources that already exist while recognizing the need for assistance when and where it is necessary.

Meeting the need for a wide range of learning opportunities within a community, based on the belief that community improvement leads to educational improvement, was the philosophical basis of ESEA.

Americans seem to understand that a public system of public education requires a strong public institution that is both responsive to ever-changing educational needs and responsible for continuous improvement to safeguard against institutional entrenchment.

Meeting the needs of this large and diverse nation requires that all public education personnel —the public servants of the system, from teachers to counselors to leadership at all levels— be well-educated, trained, and informed in order to strengthen and improve the functioning of the institution. That was the method by which ESEA could guide fulfillment of our duty to establish and ensure equal educational opportunity in America.

The vision and framework are historical.

What is necessary right now is for each of us to call or write our U.S. representatives and request they reinstate the original aim of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act.Screen Shot 2015-01-14 at 3.52.56 PM

For America, this is what opportunity looks like.

The opportunity afforded us by the reauthorization of ESEA provides US with the chance to get it right.

(End note: A similar essay was published in Education News as ESEA and Opportunity in America )

Title I & ESEA Reauthorization

Does Congress and President Obama understand how Title I money was meant to be used? Looking at what they have proposed to date, it is a question in need of a good, clear answer.

A requirement in the original Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA) was that a president-appointed advisory council report yearly to the president. The National Advisory Council on the Education of Disadvantaged Children was to review the laws’ progress with the programs and projects Title I funding supports.

In turn, the president was to report the findings to our Congress along with comments and further recommendations.489596

To do this responsibly and hold our government “accountable,” we all need to understand Title I. Title I is the touchstone of the original ESEA.

The federal formula funding was distributed for assistance of “children of low-income families.” The directive was to address the needs of “educationally deprived children,” which the architects understood would include more than just the low-income children given that the schools where the most funds would flow were “inherently unequal.” Needs are going to vary from community to community but potentially all students in schools in low-income communities are at risk for being underserved.

Title I was to address the disadvantages CHILDREN face — economically, educationally, mentally, or physically “disadvantaged”— that were being ignored, or in some cases created, by state and local agencies.

The goal of ESEA was to provide equal access to quality education — that is how “equal opportunity” was defined.

To do so, we have to recognize the barriers “disadvantaged” students and their families face in our communities, schools, and classrooms and fully address those problems directly. Title I dollars flowed to meet the needs of CHILDREN from low-income families….PERIOD. The other five titles of ESEA addressed the needs of low-income schools, communities, and states.

This is our ESEA history. In 1966, less than a year into ESEA’s implementation, President Johnson received his first report from the Council. They reviewed and summarized the programs. They gave examples including one district reporting that health examinations had been conducted for the first time showing that 45% of the children tested were anemic.

Now, how do we expect these disadvantaged children to have the same standards-based outcomes at the same time as healthy children?

As President Obama expressed in Selma,

“Americans don’t accept a free ride for anyone, nor do we believe in equality of outcomes. But we do expect equal opportunity,…”

To fulfill our duty to America’s children, effective schools must be established in every community where they do not currently exist. Understanding that those communities with the highest concentrations of poverty have children at greatest risk of being educationally underserved, their needs should be our first priority.

At President Obama’s request, we have identified the lowest performing schools throughout our land. It is our responsibility as a nation to support their improvement, as a short-term goal, while providing a long-term strategy to prevent the wide gaps in opportunities, and therefore educational achievement, that we have experienced in our past and that continue to plague our nation’s children today.

In addition to providing the best in educational opportunities to every child, now is the time for a plan that views appropriation of funds as a national strategic educational investment and expects communities to make wise use of all education resources.

And let it be acknowledged that the urgent need of children begs for some emergency measures.

Let us not lose sight of the purposes of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA):

* To establish equal access to quality education,

* To strengthen and improve all schools.

Here’s the beginning of an alternative a plan to what Congress currently is cooking up:

Title I – Education of Children of Low Income Families to provide formula-funded financial assistance to local education agencies in support of children from low-income families in order expand and improve community efforts to meet their learning needs.

Execution: To address learning needs requires a “needs assessment.” School staff (principals, counselors, aids, and teachers) and parents (or other adults involved in these high-needs children’s lives) will be the first to collectively identify those needs. Those identified needs will then be brought to the attention of the larger group of community stakeholders (civic, non-profit organizations, foundations and concerned individuals) to be further defined, measures for success indicators established, and existing resources in the community identified. “Gaps” in resources will be identified and brought to the attention of state education officials so that no identified need goes unaddressed. State officials will be responsible for identifying their resources and establishing indicators of their success and to continually monitor and report on their ability to meet their responsibility. Needs assessments will be done using the existing government assessment tools.

Emergency measures: Those Title I schools now designated as chronically low-performing or “priority” schools will be guided through the assessment and improvement processes with cooperative funding (“set aside” Title I money) and staff from the state and local districts with a “support team” provided through the U.S. Department of Education.

Schools identified as chronically low-performing need strong, effective, democratic leadership to take these schools through a successful school improvement process. A federal leadership program (Academy) will be

“designed to enable people who are already experienced principals and other school leaders, knowledgeable about how schools work and the special problems they face, to learn how to turn around the expectations, beliefs and practices of school stakeholders in low-performing schools. The expected focus of the Academy would be on how to improve instruction and change schools’ culture” (Ratner, The “Lead Act,” H.R. 5495/S 3469: Briefing Paper).

Accountability: Using the indicators of success as designated for targeted results through the school improvement process, the “appropriate objective measurements” will be used to judge the “effectiveness of the programs in meeting the special educational needs of educationally deprived children.” Local and state officials will have established the parameters (what and how often) of those measurements and will make those facts transparent to the community and state, respectively. An accounting of expenses and results of the uses of Title I money will be reported to federal officials for review. National monitoring of achievement gaps through the random use of the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) will continue unchanged. Results of progress by the nation and cost /benefits will be reported annually to the President, Congress, and the Nation.

Currently, with ESEA reauthorization discussion being more about a “national accountability system” and “choice,” and less about disadvantaged children, I worry that we have lost our way on the march towards equal educational opportunity.

But then I remember — “WE the People” and the “highest of ideals” that were put into law in 1965 — there is hope.

[The preceding was a modified excerpt from addendum 1 of The Crucial Voice of the People, Past and Present: Education’s Missing Ingredient, second edition, by Victoria M. Young, © 2012]

Keeping PACE & ESEA Reauthorization

“We must support families, communities, and schools working in partnership to deliver services and supports that address the full range of student needs.”482045From A Blueprint for Reform: The Reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA), 2010

Sounds great! But the Blueprint was written to fail. Parents became an afterthought, the funding was backwards, and privatization was stamped all over it. The plan designated formula funding for wants, experiments, and pushed a political, ideologically driven, education industry agenda while leaving student needs to be filled through competitive grants. And the time-proven, research-based, essence of the original ESEA was hidden behind verbiage sure to raise political conflict. Written to fail.

But, never mind. The Blueprint isn’t really a big obstacle because the real responsibility for ESEA reauthorization is in the hands of Congress. The best thing that could happen right now would be for the people in this country to decide if they agree or not with the proposals coming out of the House and Senate.

And we deserve to know if the president is clear in his own mind as to what principles he stands upon. When the law lands on his desk, by what standards will he judge it? He has given us mixed signals.

Does the Obama administration firmly believe that education is a “shared responsibility”? Will policy reflect that concept? Does the administration comprehend how parents, families, and communities were once central to federal education policy? Do they know how parents are treated in dysfunctional districts, the under-performing ones that they say they want to “turnaround”?

In education policy in general, we parents have not just been directed to the back of the bus, we’ve been shoved out the rear door and left on the curb.

The reality over the years has been that parental “involvement,” “engagement,” “participation” — whatever the flavor of the year happens to be — has been more of a sound bite than sound policy. In too many districts, No Child Left Behind’s parental participation requirement was implemented on paper only — schools meeting rule compliance without doing the right things.

Knowingly or not, President Obama clearly expressed a focus for ESEA reauthorization — to support partnerships that deliver services and supports that address the full range of student needs.

Then under the heading Rigorous and Fair Accountability and Support at Every Level (p9), the presidents’ Blueprint went on to state;

“States and districts also will collect other key information about teaching and learning conditions, including information on school climate such as student, teacher and school leader attendance; disciplinary incidents; or student, parent, or school staff surveys about their school experience.”

In those words, we have a new beginning for an accountability structure originally envisioned in Education Counts.

“The information system needed to develop education indicators should be organized around major issue areas of enduring educational importance.”

If parental, family, and community support for students isn’t of enduring educational importance, I don’t know what is.

So with a focus and a way to monitor improvement, all we need is a research-based proposal to finally make right the school improvement portion of ESEA to ensure it is truly inclusive of parents, families, and communities.

That’s where “Keeping PACE” comes in. The Keeping Parents and Communities Engaged (PACE) Act was sponsored in the 111th Congress (2009-2010) by former Senator Edward Kennedy. It was introduced into the Senate Education Committee and never went any further.

The problem with Keeping PACE as it was proposed is that, like the best ideas in the Obama Blueprint, it was a competitive grant proposal for something that impoverished communities badly need — it’s not a want; it’s not an experiment. It is a need. Parent and community engagement must be given the priority that only adequate and fair formula funding can do.

Screen Shot 2015-02-21 at 5.11.23 PMWe have research-based best practices for family and community engagement. Research shows there is “…strong and steadily growing evidence that families can improve their children’s academic performance in school. Families also have a major impact on other key outcomes, such as attendance and behavior, that affect achievement.”

Fund what works!

The basic idea of Keeping PACE is this: Title I money is used to hire Parent and Community Outreach Coordinators to coordinate already existing community resources to support students, their schools, and their families making schools the centers of communities through education and services focused on a community’s identified needs.

“It isn’t just about more programs. It’s about leveraging existing resources to help students succeed in the classroom.”

“Wise use of existing community resources” was one of the basic foundational philosophies of the community education concept that was the essence of the 1965 ESEA.

Fund what works!

One of the faulty assumptions of No Child Left Behind is that struggling schools “just lack motivation” so they need punishment and competition to spur them to improve. Not true. They lack the resources to build a strong foundation for success. They lack the “capacity” to do their jobs.

Capacity building is any process that increases the capability of individuals to produce or perform; it enables all stakeholders to carry out their tasks to the best of their ability.”

To enable federal education law to support improvement in the struggling schools in this nation, we need publicly trained and educated leadership who understand the community education concept so they will work WITH families and communities. Plus, we need our U.S. Department of Education to disseminate information that has been researched with the utmost integrity so that it does NOT have to carry a disclaimer like this:

The expectation should be that all information disseminated by our government agencies is fully vetted and represents research of the utmost integrity.

The expectation should be that all information disseminated by our government agencies is fully vetted and represents research of the utmost integrity.

Bottom line, we need the big money out of education policy and we need to take “meaningful, practical” steps like Senator Obama suggested in 2008.

With a resurrected and improved Keeping PACE Act, a new emphasis on leadership training, and renewed prominence of dissemination of “research-based” best practices in community organizing for improvement, we can take a giant leap forward in building community partnerships that support and serve students.

We the People need to demand that Congress and President Obama make the most important student supports — parents, family, and community — a priority in ESEA reauthorization. Speak Up!

Did We Set the Wrong Goal for Education?

Quote from the presidential debates. www.hlntv.com

Quote from the presidential debates. www.hlntv.com

President Obama has said all along that the goal of No Child Left Behind (NCLB) is the right one. He also said he would listen.

Please consider these words:

“An Act

To close the achievement gap with accountability, flexibility, and choice, so that no child is left behind.”

That is the official wording of NCLB. “To close the achievement gap” is the main goal. How is the “achievement gap” being measured? Standardized test scores. Predictably, that process has been corrupted into insignificance. Why?

It’s Campbell’s Law (paraphrased):

The more an indicator is used for decision-making, the more subject it will be to corruption and the more likely it will be to distort and corrupt the processes it is intended to monitor.

Educating children – the educational process – was corrupted due to the intense and limited focus on test scores because the law set that singular goal.

Now consider, what are the chances that President Obama has an in-depth familiarity with the creation of federal education law? That history isn’t even taught to professional educators!

So this is probably what President Obama doesn’t know or fully grasp:

“An Act

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

That is the aim of the first federal education law in this nation, the 1965 Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA), and NCLB was the first version of that law to change the goal.

Strengthening and improving educational quality and opportunities is a far-reaching goal. Flexibility was inherent in ESEA because of its broad objectives. The individuality of states and schools was naturally protected because of the general nature of the law and because its writers were guided by President Kennedy’s words about the federal role in education.

“Let us put to rest the unfounded fears that ‘Federal money means Federal control.’”

“Control” —the governing of our schools— was a state and local responsibility and the federal government was willing to partner in ensuring equal opportunity through financial support, dissemination of information, and assistance in training education personnel.

“Accountability” was based on “assessments” of projects and students, which naturally varied depending on the identified needs in a given area of the country. There were many commonly identified problems but there was nothing “standard” about their solutions in individual classrooms for individual students. Testing was tailored to track progress and it was not “high-stakes.”

Standardized “achievement” tests alone can never do justice to the complexity of judging educational quality or in monitoring equal opportunities.

President Obama does know this:

http://www.epi.org/publication/perspective_on_standardized_tests/

President Obama’s Perspectives on Standardized Tests Commentary • April 1, 2011

Today, “…the fierce urgency of now” are words that should be echoing across our country.

The clock is ticking on the end of No Child Left Behind. Both the House and Senate are fast-tracking bills that do not make this law “right” for school children. If Congress can not be stopped (which I would encourage people to try), President Obama is our last hope. What will he base his judgment on?

Should the president insist that the goal be reset and that “accountability” will not occur based on yearly-standardized achievement tests controlled from the federal level?

If he listens what will he hear — chatter and confusion, or a clear message?

Playing Both Sides

Considering the politics of America in general and education reform in particular, it is no wonder progress as a nation is stalled. Ordinary Americans — the real engines of advancement — are being played for fools.

rhetoric-is-the-art-of-ruling-the-minds-of-men-art-quoteBuzzwords have been used to persuade us into following one reform path or another and to repel us from uniting for our common good.

Here is a non-education “reform” example — “climate change.” Buzzzzzzzz!

Have you heard the buzz?

Have you heard the buzz?

I’m from Michigan and witnessed first-hand how industry polluted our rivers. Having played frequently in the Kalamazoo River downstream from factories, I’m sure my body must be filled with all kinds of pollutants. We talked about the problems in those kinds of human terms. The problems eventually required federal funds (our tax dollars) to cleanup after the moneymaking polluters.

It was a pollution problem and We the People were making headway in calling the polluters into account …. until it became a “climate change” problem and we all got sucked into a political battle rather than the moral battle of right versus wrong that pollution was and is. And divided we fell prey to the politics of “climate change” because we let the powers that be change the conversation.

In the American education war, three of the big trigger-words have become “equality” (for the right), and “turnaround” and “improvement” (for progressives). Yeah, really. Buzzzzzzz! And off you go!

Please think about this: Do we believe that there are some schools in this country needing improvement and for the sake of the children in them, we should focus support on improving those schools? Are there not schools in your state that have consistently had a bad reputation as far as academic achievement or safety issues? What about schools that parents (even teachers) have repeatedly avoided putting their own kids in? Don’t we somehow need to turn those schools around to make them more acceptable, even desirable?

When the Obama administration decided on four “turnaround models,do you think ALL the alternatives they could have chosen from have been made known to the public? I know they haven’t, and those alternatives won’t get a fair hearing on the stage of public opinion because they talk about “improvement” and “turnaround” processes. The public’s well has been soured (or polluted).

Please consider this: if I am one of the “good guys” (truly have children’s best interest at heart), will you reject what I say if I use a word that repels you? Or can you choose to stand and fight against your inner feelings recognizing that what you feel has become a conditioned response?

Until we stand strong for better public schools for all, we will go down divided by silly details like our choice of words. Allowing both sides to be played against each other is allowing children to be left behind.

ANSWERS LIE in the TRUTH

Good questions have been asked. The answers only appear elusive while in reality the answers to “education reform” have been overlooked, forgotten, ignored, and/or buried. And oh so many aspects of reform are misunderstood.

Prompted by Thoughts From a Former KIPP Teacher: Testing, Common Core, and Charters are Myths, I now firmly believe we have got to have a “come-to-Jesus” talk about the standardization movement!

Worth Searching For

Worth Searching For

First, is there a need to improve some schools? Yes, the inequality issue is to die for and least we forget, some have! I think we all know that the “gap” between rich and poor & minority is real – common ground that should be a common cause.

So, here is what pulled my trigger today — a misunderstood word —EXPECTATIONS. I tried to at least partially clarify the concept in a short blog many months ago. (Please read)

Today, I shot forward in this article to read something much more disturbing.

“…focusing on standards as one of many means to bolster achievement in high poverty/high minority schools is a way to strive for equity.  Unfortunately, as Diane Ravitch has accurately pointed out, the implementation of the standardization movement over the last 20 years has fallen short.”

Implementation fell short? Yes, but that is not the bigger thing wrong here.

Whoa to standards-based “reforms”!

Overlooked, forgotten, or ignored are the Effective Schools Correlates  which seems strange to me given that I very firmly believe the philosophy behind the 1965 Elementary and Secondary Education Act is based on the REAL community education concept which produced the “effective schools” studied by Ronald Edmonds and others.

Why has it gotten forgotten?

The Modern Community Education Movement was shoved to the side of the road and almost completely buried by the Standards Movement that rose to the occasion when the “crisis” in education caught the public’s attention in the 80’s and that movement rolled on unchecked and not questioned enough…even today.

We need to talk about what standards can and can’t do in depth but for the time being, consider this; * effective schools had variable standards*. “Standards” themselves were not the key factor in the high-poverty/high-minority/high-performing schools that were dubbed “effective.” THE standards never deserved THE “focus.”

Why haven’t we talked about all this sooner?

“We can’t. We’ve got internal political problems.

If we had taken more time to analyze data as the Sandia Research Laboratory engineers did in the 90’s, we probably would have put the brakes on and questioned our focus on standards and testing. It might have occurred to us to discuss what we were doing right to produce the National Assessment of Educational Progress math scores that “had been steady for whites and rising for blacks and Hispanics.”

Talk about buried. I called Sandia Laboratories long ago searching for the Sandia Report. I asked them to put the report up on the Internet. I had a nice chat with a young man and we laughed over the fact that surely with the technology, and engineers at Sandia, they could scan the report and get it online. They never got back with me. Instead, I found a summary on micro phish at a private college library and spent some time copying the 50 page summary page by page.

I appreciate the view of the KIPP teacher that wrote the blog about testing, Common Core, equality and the acknowledgement made that No Child Left Behind-like “reforms” drive the focus to test scores. I’m sure for most people it didn’t open a can of worms like it did for me. It is so important, if you want the right answers to lead us forward, that we understand the history of American education. The history is convoluted but the truth, in my humble opinion, is more politically powerful than the politics of reform IF the truth gets a full and honest hearing.

I want to hear what others see as the truth starting with President Obama and Secretary of Education Duncan. How do we make THAT happen?

As John F. Kennedy said at the 1963 Commencement at American University,

Our problems are manmade; therefore, they can be solved by man.”….or woman!

STOP!

We have been on one crazy trajectory for 30 years and it is time to stop!

It was never supposed to be like this in education reform but very few Americans know the history behind No Child Left Behind (NCLB) so they don’t see it as the Core of the problem. There is a very, very brief outline found on the Independent Temporary Education Movement (ITEM) Actions website. But, here is the short of it:

The real problem with the “outcome-based theory” occurred on a national scale when NCLB became the first reauthorization of ESEA (Elementary and Secondary Education Act) to mandate yearly standardized tests, for all students in grades 3-8 and once in high school, in order to establish a national accountability structure requiring the labeling of schools based on standardized test scores.

National “accountability”? Really? How did that work out for US?

That is why we must STOP and change the law because it is our duty. Petition the White House for a response (sorry, the petition is gone?). NOW! We only have until April 16th to get 100,000 signatures! (Update: we failed.)1796523_626373187411401_1384101833_n

Read more of the story about the petition at EducationNews.org or TruthOut. The issue is non-partisan. All “sides” need to take action.

Congress has not done their duty; we must if we wish to make things better for children in classrooms now. Let the president know that THAT is the fierce urgency of NOW!

Hear Yourself, Mr. President

“Smarter government, “invest in the best ideas,” “partners for progress.”

“It’s about listening to what our scientists have to say, even when it’s inconvenient—especially when it’s inconvenient. Because the highest purpose of science is the search for knowledge, truth and a greater understanding of the world around us. That will be my goal as President of the United States.” December, 2008.

487817Hear yourself, Mr. President, and listen to a variety of perspectives as you said you would. “The time has come for a president … who will listen to you and learn from you even when we disagree…. I will be that president for America.” — Obama, after winning the Iowa Caucus

What makes “smarter government”?

Hear this: Some of the best ideas come from our own past by way of new and sometimes unlikely messengers. It is time for reflection on your part. What do you see as the proper role of the federal government in education?

The control and operation of education in America must remain the responsibility of State and local governments and private institutions. This tradition assures our educational system of the freedom, the diversity and the vitality necessary to serve our free society fully.

Let us put to rest the unfounded fears that ‘Federal money means Federal control.’ From The Northwest Ordinance of 1787, originally conceived by Thomas Jefferson, through the Morrill Act of 1862, establishing the still-important and still-independent Land-Grant College system, to the National Defense Education Act of 1958, the Congress has repeatedly recognized its responsibility to strengthen our educational system without weakening local responsibility.” JFK 1965

This was about partnering on way more than early childhood education.

In far too many places, local responsibility has been shirked. We need a return to the “proper Federal role of assistance and leadership.”