Teaching Our Children Bad Science: Next Generation Science Standards Flawed

Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS), a product of Achieve, Inc., are being used throughout the U.S. public school system. I have just reviewed the final NGSS standards on areas related to the teaching of climate change. Here are my conclusions:

1. General. On the subject of the NGSS for climate change and man’s role in influencing the climate, I firmly believe these standards should not be allowed within our education system. These areas for teaching our children are so deeply flawed as to raise concerns about how other sections in the proposed curriculum standards were developed.

2. Use of Invalid and Disproved Science. Starting in middle school and through high school standards, the subject of causes and effects of climate change are based on the disproved greenhouse gas theory and are heavily reliant on global climate models that have been shown to be wrong whenever they are compared with real world data. This is in effect, teaching bad science in violation of the scientific method.

3. Standards Are Based on False Assertions of Mankind’s Impact on Climate Change. These standards falsely assert that mankind has a “major” impact on the Earth’s climate. The reality is of course that mankind’s role in climate change is little to none especially when compared to solar activity and natural cycles of greenhouse gas production which are far, far, larger than the minuscule effect on climate coming from man’s industrial output. The global climate models referenced have not been shown reliable, far from it, they are unreliable.

4. Specific Standards Sections on Climate Should Be Removed Completely. The entire section in the middle school devoted to “Weather and Climate” and in the high schools standards titled, “Earth Systems,” “Weather and Climate,” and “Human Impacts” should be completely removed and rewritten to reflect what the primary causes of climate change are instead of the flawed and unreliable greenhouse gas theory.

5. These Climate Standards Do Not Reflect the Most Important Factors in Climate Change. In the process of revising these educational standards, the predominant role of the Sun, natural climatic cycles, and other natural forcing factors should be taught instead.

I am genuinely concerned that should these standards be taught, we will in effect be teaching our children how to use bad science in place of good science, how to be politically correct vs. being scientifically accurate, and in the long haul, deceive themselves and others as to the true nature of how the Earth’s climate behaves.

RELATED COLUMN: Common Core-frustrated teacher’s resignation letter: ‘My profession … no longer exists’

What do IRS Form 990s tell us? Public education is being wrested from the public!

One of the panel discussions in which I participated at the first annual Network for Public Education (NPE) conference was on investigative journalism. I chose to use my twelve minutes to only touch the surface on using IRS 990s (the tax forms for nonprofit organizations) as a research tool.

In this post, I would like to continue my tutorial. The information I include here I learned by my own wits and through the suggestions of others. My purpose is to assist those who wish to utilize information from tax forms in order to support their arguments in fighting corporate reform.

This will be one dry read– but a useful read for those seeking to improve their knowledge of nonprofit tax form navigation.

The Nonprofit Tax Form Search Engine

First of all, let me introduce a wonderful search engine for locating those nonprofit 990s: citizenaudit.org

One can search any term, including organization names and even names of individuals. I suggest putting quotation marks around search terms so that the search results include the exact term.

Sometimes the search engine boots out “404-not found” or a page noting “0 results.” If I am sure the org or person exists, I refresh the search and often get a result.

The search results include both the 990s for the organization itself and also a list of other orgs that connect to the search term.

Keep in mind that the common name of an organization might not be the formal name used on the tax forms. For example, “American Federation of Teachers” (AFT) is actually “American Federation of Teachers AFL-CIO Parent Organization” (Go here then here to see the AFT tax forms.) Also keep in mind that many nonprofits have other nonprofits associated with them. For example, the search results for the term “American Federation of Teachers” yields numerous tax forms for the local-level unions.

Search engine users should check to be sure that they are viewing forms for the intended organization. This is especially important for organizations with generic-sounding names, such as “Education Trust”.

(For an organization with such a generic name as Education Trust, I find it helpful to search for the CEO– in this case, “Kati Haycock”. Searching for the CEO yields a more precise search result.)

Finally, the listing of 990s for the organization is followed by a cross-referenced listing of other nonprofits whose 990s include the searched term. For example, a search of “Center for Union Facts” includes a cross-listing for the Gleason Family Foundation.

The cross-listings are helpful in identifying donors to the nonprofit of interest.

One can also use the search engine to investigate individuals’ involvements. For example, “Gideon Stein” is tied to Eva Moskowitz’s Harlem Success Academies and Green Dot charters (renamed Future Is Now). Another example is “Steve Barr”, who is connected to both Green Dot charters (renamed Future Is Now) and Parent Revolution (a spin-off from Barr’s Green Dot).

Navigating the 990

The 990 form was changed in 2008 (a different form is used for more recent returns). For my discussion, I will take my examples from more recent 990s.

Page One

The first page of the 990 includes the fiscal summary (Part I) and the signature block (Part II). The first info I note is the calendar or tax year of the return. For example, this 2011 Harlem Success Academy 5 form is actually for July 1, 2011 to June 30, 2012. I also look at the organization status. Most are 501(c)3 nonprofits. (This info is printed near the top of the form, in small print.)

Click here for types of 501(c) nonprofits, and here for the difference between 501(c)3 and 501(c)4.

Next, I notice when the form was filed (bottom of first page, next to preparer signature). In this case, the 990 was filed 04-23-13.

I might need to know these dates to determine if I am reading the correct form for, say, receipt of a Gates grant, or to determine when a key individual joined or left the organization.

The first page also includes a brief mission statement of the organization.  (In this case, the reader is referred to Schedule O for continuation of the mission statement, which would not fit in the space provided. This is Eva Moskowitz’s school, and Eva usually has a lot to say.)

Other info on page one includes information on the current year and the prior year financial summary of the org. I can see how much the organization has gained or lost from one year to the next. I can see the org’s total assets (line 20) and whether the org is spending more than it is taking in (revenue less expenses– line 19).

It is possible for a multi-million-dollar organization to slowly be spending more than it is gaining in revenue (see AFT’s 2012 990 as an example). Thus, an organization might say that it can do without certain reform-connected donations; however, if the organization has been consistently outspending its revenue over the course of years, then in order to forego the questionable donations, the organization must compensate by either curbing its expenditures or otherwise raising its revenues.

In comparing organizations that share common board members, it is also useful to compare organization addresses. For example, the supposed “grass roots” Los Angeles Parent Revolution shared the same CEO and, initially, the same physical address as Green Dot charters.

Page Two

The second page (Part III: Statement of Program Service Accomplishments) has a more detailed mission statement (one can still need that Schedule O in order to elaborate– page 2 has a box to check if such is the case).

Page 2 includes information on the top three greatest expenses for the organization that tax year. (Grant money also needs to be identified here if such is part of a specific expense.) This information is important in determining the organization’s priorities. I find the descriptors on this page very helpful in determining an org’s prioritized actions (and, more important, the motives behind the actions).

From page 2 of the Harlem Success Academy 5 return, I learn that Moskowitz spent $2.8 million educating “approximately 241 students” (she reported using no earmarked grant money). That’s approximately $10,300 per student. PLUS she reported earning $3.65 million in revenue– thus exceeding her expenses by $850,000. (No other priority expenditures were noted on the page.)

In contrast, a review of page 2 of the 2012 990 for Education Trust shows me that Ed Trust did not earn revenue from its top three ventures– which underscores its dependence upon philanthropic cash as noted in this post.

Pages Three and Four

Pages 3 and 4 of the 990 are Part IV: the checklist for required schedules.  This section includes 38 “yes/no” questions about activities of the nonprofit. A “yes” response requires a detailed answer– a “schedule” must be completed.

Applicable schedules are in alphabetical order at the end of the 990.

If a “yes” is indicated yet the associated schedule is not part of the return, or if it is left blank, something is fishy.

Of particular interest is item 4, on lobbying (requiring Schedule C). The American Legislative Exchange Council, known for  neglecting to note its lobbying activities on this 2009 990 and some others, sometimes acknowledges its lobbying (as it did in on its 2012 990) but then notes that its lobbying cost nothing.

Fishy. ALEC is a corporation-legislator dating service.

Also of interest is item 23, a reference to a subsequent section on compensation from unrelated organizations (Part VII, question 5). An answer of “yes” requires completing Schedule J, which is the document that enabled me to know that Eva Moskowitz’s salary is partially funded by another nonprofit, MRM Foundation/Julia Greenblatt (recorded on the 2012 990 for her charter management organization, Success Academy Charter Schools, Inc).

Pages Five and Six

Of interest on page 5 (Part V: Statements Regarding Other IRS Filings and Tax Compliance): Item 2a indicates the number of employees; 4a is about “interest in or authority over a bank account in a foreign country” and could be useful for unmasking foreign-run charters. (The item requires naming the foreign country.)

Page 6 (Part VI: Governance, Management, and Disclosure): Item 1a is a count of the voting members of the governing body, including clarification on how many are “independent” (not compensated as an independent contractor, and more).

Item 2 concerns multiple family/business relationships; item 3, delegation of management duties to a management company. These items help determine conflicts of interest.

Item 8 asks whether meetings are documented. If an organization is engaging in questionable practices, including bypassing their own protocol, such info might come in handy if the organization denies having a record of a certain meeting. A discrepancy between the organization’s “nonexistent” documentation and its reporting on its 990 could be useful for enforcing records requests.

The second section f this part includes questions of enforcing conflict of interest policies (requiring explanation on Schedule O). I find that most 990s post some generic declaration in this section regardless of the activities in which they engage. A pat conflict of interest policy does not preclude information that flags conflicts of interest elsewhere on the 990.

Pages Seven and Eight

Page 7 is Part VII: Director, Employee, etc. Compensation. Here’s where one can find board members, officers, and employees; their hours, and compensation, if any.

Also included in Part VII (Section B) are the five highest-compensated “Independent Contractors.” For Moskowitz’s Harlem Success Academy 5, for example, one learns that Moskowitz paid her management company $282,630 to “manage” this co-located school of 241 students.

Those listed as independent contractors must provide an address– which, for the self-employed, is often a residence. In the case of Los Angeles Parent Revolution CEO Ben Austin– who was also an independent contractor for Green Dot charters– his address was listed as Beverly Hills even as he portrayed himself as a grass-roots “Los Angeles Parent” in his astroturf Revolution (see Schedule A of this 2007-08 990 for Austin’s Beverly Hills address– note that this return follows an older format).

It is this Section B on the union-bashing Center for Union Facts (CUF) 2012 990 that one reads of CUF CEO’s Richard Berman paying his own company a disproportionate amount of money as a “contractor.”

Also, in this section are three questions regarding excessive or unrelated compensation requiring Schedule J (discussed above re: Moskowitz’s salary from MRM Foundation).

Pages Nine thru Twelve

On page 9, Part VIII: Statement of Revenue, one can see info on government grants and other gifts.  Page 10 includes Part IX, a complete breakdown of spending. I found this information particularly useful in my writing on Moskowitz. I could compare her spending breakdown to her assets as recorded on Part X: Balance Sheet, item 1o, land, buildings, and equipment, less depreciation (depreciation is a write-off). (Land, buildings, etc., is detailed on Schedule D, Part VI.)

The 990 has additional information, much more than I discuss in this post; however, what I have included is information I have found useful in exposing the extravagant and questionable spending of so-called reform-promoting nonprofits.

The 990 PF

Private foundations complete a 990 PF. The primary interest in 990 PF’s is likely the listing of the foundation’s contributions in the form of grants and loans. For example, the Walton Family Foundation (WFF) is known for its support of “choice” (charters and vouchers). This WFF 2011 990 includes the details of numerous loans made to charter schools (often in the form of an unsecured “revolving fund”).

The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation has extensive 990s that list all grants paid out in a given year. An example is this Gates 2012 990. It is worth noting that Gates grants are not always fully paid in the year in which they are issued. Thus, one can compare grant information from the Gates grants search engine to the disbursement information for a specific year as noted on Gates 990s to roughly determine grant payment installments.

Time for My Exit

If I include Walton and Gates in my 990 PF discussion, it is only fitting to include the last of the Big Three, the Eli and Edythe Broad Foundation (here’s its 2012 990).

Let’s close this post with a bang.

From Broad (as in Broad Superintendents Academy), most of the larger, six- and seven-figure donations are for education privatization, not the least of which is $3.5 million to Students First, $2.3 million to KIPP charters, $1.5 million to Success Academy Charters, over $1 million dollars to the Council of Chief State School Officers (CCSSO), $775,000 to Green Dot charters, $600,000 to New Schools Venture Fund (whose CEO is now the proposed US Undersecretary of Education, Ted Mitchell); $345,000 to Parent Revolution, $334,000 to Rocketship charters; $300,000 to Teach for America (TFA), and $215,000 to Education Trust.

What can 990s tell us?

Public education is being wrested from the public. It is being handed over to those who wish to make major money by those who have major money.

Let’s continue to write about it, using evidence to support our work.

IRS 990s never looked so glamorous.

RELATED COLUMN: Common Core-frustrated teacher’s resignation letter: ‘My profession … no longer exists’

A Word of Encouragement Can Go A Long Way by Lawrence W. Reed

The Empire State as a whole (with wide swaths outside the Big Apple being notable exceptions) is a bastion of big, activist and ambitious government. The state is ranked dead last among the 50 for economic freedom as measured by the Mercatus Center. New York City is now run by a mayor who thinks that competition and choice between government schools is a bad thing, so he’s declaring war on the city’s better-performing charter schools. No question about it, New York needs a lot of work.

New York is a tough nut to crack, but some really good nutcrackers are hard at work there. And they have FEE connections too!

In mid-February at the request of Professor Clair Smith, I delivered two lectures on the campus of St. John Fisher College in Rochester, NY. Clair secured his B.A. in Economics at Grove City College in Pennsylvania (as did I). He later earned his Ph.D. in Economics, as well as a Master’s and a juris doctor degree, from George Mason University in Virginia. Prior to his move to Rochester, he taught at Pennsylvania State University and Bowling Green State University. As an undergraduate student, Clair attended his first FEE seminar in 1997 and was inspired to accept a summer internship with us shortly thereafter. Now at St. John Fisher, he is inspiring young minds with his own lectures on liberty and free markets and through lectures from a stream of visitors he brings to campus.

“I think I always had an intuitive appreciation for markets,” says Clair, “but the powerful speakers at the FEE seminars provided a systematic way of thinking about the market process. They offered forceful examples of the maladies that can result from misguided efforts to ‘fix’ market outcomes.”

We encouraged Clair at an early, formative moment in his life and it’s now paying handsome dividends.

A few days after Rochester, I spoke in Albany to more than 150 students at the New York State convention of Young Americans for Liberty (YAL). They all knew what a challenge New York is but that didn’t dampen their enthusiasm for taking it on. No matter whom I talked to at the convention that day, the attitude I witnessed was the same: “We’re not giving up, not by a long shot. In the battle for liberty, we’ve just begun to fight!” Those bright, articulate young people went back to their campuses around the state armed with material from FEE and with a passion to change the world—and that includes New York. I expect to find more of the same excitement when I speak at the Texas State Convention of YAL in April.

Of course, there are numberless good people and organizations all over New York just like Clair Smith and Young Americans for Liberty. Someday, New York will turn the corner. Minds will change and policy with it. The state will move in the only direction it possibly can—up the scale of economic freedom from its current rank in the cellar. When that happens, it will be because of the contributions of all who worked for the right ideas in a tough place.

At FEE, we specialize in encouragement. When our speakers visit schools and campuses, they do more than just impart wisdom and pass out literature. We cheer, hearten and embolden all friends of liberty. We let them know we support them and want to help them succeed. We praise them for their dedication. We assure them they are not alone and in return, we’re encouraged too! Not a day goes by that we’re not engaged—in multiple ways and places—in the simple but profoundly important act of encouragement.

How can anyone not like such job as this!

Thanks for all that you do for liberty and for FEE.

Sincerely,

Lawrence W. Reed
President, FEE

196 Pro-Common Core Groups paid for by Gates Foundation

Recent news articles have focused on groups testifying and rallying FOR Common Core, specifically a veteran group, “Mission: Readiness.”  After research, this turns out to be a front group, paid by the Gates Foundation and the same Cabal that supports Common Core for obvious financial gain.

Mission: Readiness is one of “Five missions with One Voice” as the web site states:

http://www.councilfora strongamerica.org/members-in-action

It wouldn’t look good for Microsoft/the Gates Foundation to be defending itself when the benefit of Common Core so clearly inure to them.  This is pay for play if there ever was…Crony capitalism at its worst. Creating front groups to obfuscate who really promotes Common Core is just one tactic used to slip this abomination of Common Core under the radar.

Directly paying off organization which should have safeguarded the kids and public is another.  Over$300 million in payments were made to the National PTA, Fordham Foundation, Jeb Bush’s Foundations, US Chamber of Commerce, Michigan State University, Tennessee State Collaborative on Reforming Education, ConnectEDU, Inc., NEA Foundation for the Improvement of Education (to support Common Core implementation in Kentucky), Center for American Progress (Soros front group), Alliance for Excellent Education, Inc., National Congress of Parents and Teachers, Council of Chief State School Officers (CCSSO), Kentucky Department of Education, Committee for Economic Development are all named as recipients of money from the Gates Foundation with the stated purposes listed as supporting Common Core, the gravy train for tech companies and Pearson, PLC.  This is from the Gates Foundation web site:  http://www.gatesfoundation.org/search

Just type in grants Common Core which yielded 196 results. These are all Common Core grants:

American Federation of Teachers Educational Foundation
Benchmark Education Company
Council for a Strong America- (five front groups above mentioned)
New Venture Fund
Americas Promise-The Alliance for Youth
Louisiana Department of Education
DePaul University
George Washington University
Aspen Institute
Scholastic Inc.
Battelle For Kids
The Achievement Network
University of Florida
University of Michigan
Education Commission of the States
The College-Ready Promise
Rockefeller Philanthropy Advisors, Inc.
Arkansas Public School Resource Center, Inc.
Regents University of CA Los Angeles
BetterLesson, Inc.
Center for Applied Linguistics
Forsyth County Schools
School District of Philadelphia
Albuquerque Public Schools
Pennsylvania Dept. of Ed.
Council of the Great City Schools
Massachusetts Business Alliance for Education
Council of Chief State School Officers
Georgia Department of Education
Student Achievement Partners, Inc.
University of the State of New York
James B. Hunt Jr.  Institute for Educational Leadership and Policy Foundation, Inc.
Education Commission of the States
Foundation for Excellence in Education
NEA Foundation for the Improvement of Education
The Fund for Transforming  Education in Kentucky, Inc.
Council of State Governments
Summit Public Schools
National Association of State Boards of Education
American Enterprise Institute for Public Policy Research
Fund for Public Schools, Inc.
National Catholic Education Association
Motion Math, Inc.
NYU
Stanford University
And so many more …

Legislators involved in charter schools who stand to gain from their ties with Jeb Bush through the Foundation for Florida’s Future include Senator John Legg, Senate President Don Gaetz, Speaker Will Weatherford, Rep Erik Fresen, Rep Seth McKeel, and Senator Anitere Flores.  These legislators have a serious conflict of interest and should recuse themselves and allow the will of the people to supersede their personal gain.  They are now standing in the way of SB 1316 and HB25 being heard in the State Legislature.

The Republican Party of Florida issued a united strongly worded resolution opposing Common Core:

image005

For a larger view click on the image.

Yet Governor Scott and leadership legislators have looked the other way with the promise of money and support from the Jeb Bush/ Microsoft team.  March 13, there is an award banquet and fundraiser for Jeb Bush’s Foundation for in Tallahassee to poke a stick in the eye of Floridians.

My personal projection is that Governor Scott will be defeated unless he complies with the wishes of his base.  Rejection of his base will be his demise.  He must be reminded that this is NOT just an ISSUE for us, it is our children and our future.  We will NEVER sell out our kids.  There is NO greater issue than the future of our children.  Rip them from the bosom’s of their mothers at your peril!

RELATED STORIES:

Gates is Funding U.S. Department of Education Directly

Common Core-frustrated teacher’s resignation letter: ‘My profession … no longer exists’

FL Common Core: A Schneider Debriefing on Weingarten

On Sunday, March 2, 2014, I participated in a much-publicized Common Core (CCSS) panel with four other individuals as part of the Network for Public Education (NPE) first annual conference in Austin, Texas. (A 40-minute video of the CCSS panel can be found here; a five-minute video excerpt of my seven-minute opener can be found here.)

[youtube]http://youtu.be/4abuqu3tmeQ[/youtube]

One of the panel members was American Federation of Teachers (AFT) President Randi Weingarten. Weingarten was the only panel member in favor of CCSS. The rest of us, including moderator Anthony Cody, were against CCSS.

In this post, I would like to reflect upon my involvement on the CCSS panel, especially in connection with Weingarten. Much of what I have written is not available on video because the events and/or reflections occurred outside of the CCSS panel itself. Some of what I have written involves responding to Weingarten’s words here since there was neither time nor opportunity to do so during the panel session.

My Position on Weingarten

First, a clear word on where I stand in regard to Weingarten. I think she chooses to be involved with the likes of Bill Gates and Eli Broad because she likes them. I believe that the money they bring is a reason, but a lesser reason, for her sustained relationship with them. These two men bring with them power, and connections, and influence. Weingarten likes to be “at the table,”– their table. And their table is one that promotes the privatization of public education.

I believe that Weingarten’s continued involvement with Gates and Broad and their extensive network of moneyed, powerful cronies is destroying the union. The destruction shows itself in every pro-privatizing decision that Weingarten makes– and such decisions appear to be countless. It seems that every time I dig deeper in researching a Weingarten decision, privatization is the winner.

I believe that Weingarten is at least partly motivated to continue her Gates/Broad relationships because she always has an eye to the “where next” of her own career. She became a teacher temporarily in order to become a teachers union president; she was willing to jump into Hillary Clinton’s open senate seat in 2008 after having just been elected AFT president, and she continues to seek the next avenue in her career rise. The result is that Weingarten is willing to sacrifice the health and security of the union for her own career aspirations.

It is always my hope that Weingarten will forsake her allegiance to her corporate reform connections and focus on the well being of the union. However, with each new decision she makes, what I must face is the reality that Weingarten must be pushed into a political corner in order to eke out a couple of drops of concession that are for teachers (and, by extension, for the union) and against her beloved corporate reform connections. This reluctance showed itself in the CCSS panel regarding discontinuing Gates money for the AFT Innovation Fund (more to come on this) and it show itself in Weingarten’s dealings with New Jersey in the week prior to the NPE conference. (See this link for Weingarten’s letter to NJ Governor Chris Christie accompanied by my “deeper dig.”)

I have heard the excuse that being AFT president is a “difficult” job, insinuating that Weingarten should be excused for her reckless and repeated union-damaging decisions. I do not excuse her. She sought the job of teachers union president; based upon AFT’s 2012 990, she makes almost eight times my salary (W-2 and/or 1099 MISC have her compensation at $454,416), and she was elected to serve public school teachers.

If elected to serve us, then let her be accountable to us.

Schneider Has a Weingarten Vendetta (??)

I have actually had the term vendetta used to describe my interactions with Weingarten. First of all, a vendetta involves seeking revenge for a single wrong, perceived or actual. I am not seeking revenge. What I am doing is exposing Weingarten’s continued pro-privatizing dealings as I learn of them in the course of my research.

Yes, I am angry at Weingarten’s wrecking of my union and my profession. However, I am not cruel in my dealings with her.

Pointed, yes; cruel, no.

It’s called accountability. Perhaps she will begin to think about how her corporate-reform-friendly bent will come back to haunt her in my posts and elsewhere. (The education blogger network has become a force in its own right, and the press should provide a healthy pressure on those whose decisions impact the masses.)

Allow me to present some behind-the-scenes dealings to underscore my balanced motivations in interacting with Randi Weingarten.

When  I agreed to participate on NPE’s CCSS panel, there was no mention of Weingarten as a panelist. So, I did not agree in an effort to have a “showdown” with Randi Weingarten. Anthony Cody invited me to participate because of my extensive writing on CCSS.

On December 30, 2013, I received an email from Cody telling me that Weingarten had accepted an invitation to appear as part of the NPE CCSS panel and that she did not yet know I also invited.

I phoned Cody to be sure that my appearance would be no surprise to Weingarten. I wanted her to experience no daytime-television-sensationalized shock at my being there. Cody assured me he had no such intention and that Weingarten would know that I was a panelist long before the event.

People with vendettas do not guard their opponents against shock.

On February 4, 2014, Cody asked my thoughts on the format for the CCSS panel. I asked him if Weingarten would be the only pro-CCSS panelist. He said yes; so, I proposed that she begin a structured seven-minute presentation time and be allowed three additional minutes at the end.

People with vendettas do not offer generous concessions.

One of my fellow bloggers told me that she assumed Weingarten demanded the extra time. Weingarten did not. I suggested we incorporate it since she was alone in her position; the remaining panel members agreed.

But there is another piece to this story. There was some email discussion over a conversational format for the panel. I did not believe this would work well with five people, and I noted as much. “Conversational hijacking” was too much of a possibility, and some panelists might be completely omitted from the discussion. However, my principal concern was for my own self control. I phoned Cody and told him as much: In an open format, I was much more likely to rip into Weingarten, and I did not want this panel to degenerate into the dregs of an ugly encounter. I asked Cody to “save me from myself” (my exact words). He assured me that he felt more comfortable with the structure originally proposed and to which Weingarten had initially agreed. (She later wanted the more open format.)

People with vendettas do not ask others to help them maintain control against potentially unruly, “vendetta-related” upset.

Prior to the NPE conference, I had not met Weingarten. I wanted to do so in a low-key manner. So, after serving a chauffeur on Saturday night (the first conference night and the night before the CCSS panel), I introduced myself to Weingarten, who was at the Mariott at a reception for NM Governor Howie Morales. The reception was ending– it was 10 p.m.– and I walked up to her, said my name, explained that I wanted to introduce myself before tomorrow, then excused myself and left. No fanfare. No showing off in front of a group of friends. Just a moment of ice breaking in an effort to make tomorrow’s introduction a smoother moment.

People with vendettas do not “break the ice” via low-key introductions.

So, yes, my intention was to confront Weingarten’ pro-CCSS position but to do so in a professional and controlled manner.

(An aside: Before I published my open exchange with Weingarten in November 2013, I not only informed her that I was writing an open letter to her; I sent the letter to her and gave her a full week to respond if she chose to prior to my posting the letter. Then I sent the finished post to her prior to publishing, including her response, and told her the exact time and locations of the posting. And let us not forget my December 2013 defense of AFT against the Center for Union Facts. No vendetta.)

Schneider Was Too Controlled (??)

Allow me to address the pendulum as it swings to the other side, namely, that I was too controlled. Some audience members expected me to rip into Weingarten. First of all, my intention was to destroy her logic for supporting CCSS– not her. I believe that this was accomplished not only by me but also by the other three anti-CCSS panel members.

There were some addiitonal Weingarten statements on which I would have liked to comment in real time. Nevertheless, time did not allow for all panelists to say all that they wanted during the panel. We had a schedule to keep.

That Sunday afternoon, I was able to elaborate on my position regarding the influence of philanthropy dependence  (the money as well as the power and connections) as such concerns Weingarten and others receiving philanthropic “assistance” to a packed room as part of the philanthropy panel discussion. Plus, I am writing my candid “debriefing” as part of this post.

Should Randi Weingarten and I ever engage in a one-to-one discussion of AFT involvements with those known to actively promote the corporate reform agenda, my discussion will be much more direct– never cruel– and likely without much raising of my voice– but like the skilled and precise slicing of a surgeon’s scalpel.

The Weingarten-BAT Incident

In this post, I wish to respond to Weingarten’s words during the CCSS panel. First, allow me to sidestep to her auditorium entrance.

Her privatizer-friendly positions make Weingarten a polarizing figure. And she is very much the politician, seeking to be regarded as a member of whatever group whose opinions she is trying to sway.

(In planning for the NPE conference, fellow blogger Jon Pelto created a group for conference panelists. A number of bloggers were on this list and were trying to arrange a bloggers meeting. At one point Weingarten entered the conversation and asked, “So am I a blogger? Or just a participant?” I wanted a clear boundary. I responded, “Randi, you are a participant.”)

On the morning of the NPE CCSS panel, Weingarten wore a BAT (Bad Ass Teachers) t-shirt.

Apparently Weingarten passed the BAT table and asked for a t-shirt. A BAT took her photo and created a meme. The entire event disturbed blogger Kris Nielsen, who responded on March 3 with this post. The next day, March 4, blogger Denisha Jones answered Nielsen. I particularly like what Jones notes here:

…Taking a picture of Randi Weingarten in a BAT t-shirt did not make BAT’s suddenly reverse their stance on CCSS. And let’s be clear, Randi Weingarten put on the BATs t-shirt. BAT’s did not put on a Randi Weingarten t-shirt and allow themselves to be photographed. [Emphasis added.]

The BATs did not endorse Weingarten. One simply gave her a t-shirt.

I am careful about my associations. My education reform writings have made me popular with a variety of groups, some of which I would not otherwise choose to ally. Anyone may choose to reblog my work. However, I am careful where I choose to become actively involved, be it webpage, or magazine, or blog, or speaking engagement.

And I never don a logo in order to mimic belonging.

Weingarten’s Opener (And My Written Commentary)

In her opening remarks, Weingarten equates “national standards” with CCSS.  She admits that she “believes in national standards.” However, the push for CCSS is that they are not “national”– they are “state-led.”

If the public were fine with “national” CCSS, there would be no push to “rebrand” in an effort to trick the public into believing the standards are unique to individual states.

In my opener, I state that “national standards” does not equal CCSS, and that “national standards” must be voluntary.

In her opener, Weingarten also acknowledges that AFT “was approached” to “review” CCSS.

Not “write.” Not “develop.” Only “review.”

Not to mention the passive voice, “was approached.” Top-down.

She adds, “There was a bunch of give and take, and they changed the standards in a lot of different ways.”

Note the top-down “they.” “They” have the power. “They” have the final word. And in the end, “they” decided to make CCSS rigid.

Weingarten admits that she believes CCSS is “inappropriate for K thru 2″ and that she knows this “because people have used them how inappropriate they are.”

No mention of the need to pilot before implementing. No mention of the damage to student, teachers and schools for forcing implementation of untested CCSS.

How about grades 3 thru 12?

Weingarten jumps to the “real problem is the testing, which comes from No Child Left Behind (NCLB).”

The real problem is that all of Race to the Top (RTTT) attempts to be a “standardized NCLB”– rigid standards so that curriculum and test makers can pattern their wares after the CCSS template. Testing is the offshoot of the CCSS hub.

Weingarten states that the “problem” is that “testing has conflated with everything else that happens in school.” She does not admit her contribution to the destruction brought about by testing dependence, not the least of which is her taking money from Gates for VAM and not declaring VAM problematic until the month following the expiration of the Gates grant. Neither does Weingarten acknowledge her contribution in tying Newark teachers into VAM (see Newark link above).

Weingarten maintains that it is the testing emphasis that makes “people feel like they have no voice whatsoever.”

It is not the testing alone. It is the entire spectrum of reforms intentionally and strategically pushed down the collective school and community throats by US Secretary of Education Arne Duncan and the National Governors Association (NGA).

Weingarten focused her argument on “finding a way to break through on the fixation on testing and the fixation on test scores.”

The way to destroy the CCSS tests is to destroy CCSS. In my opener, I offered the advice for teachers to form committees and to start shuffling CCSS around. Doing so sabotages CCSS as a template for testing.

The through answer is to obliterate CCSS. No CCSS, no CCSS tests.

AFT and Gates Money

During Weingarten’s second time speaking (recorded at end of video), Weingarten attempted to defend AFT’s accepting Gates money by noting that it was one percent of the total AFT budget. (According to the AFT 2012 990, AFT spent $190 million from July 2011 to June 2012. About.com has AFT’s annual budget at “over $170 million.”) She offered the audience the concession that at the July convention,she would ask members to vote on a five-cent dues increase in order to continue the AFT Innovation Fund. She asked the audience if that would be okay. The audience applauded.

Weingarten implied that “so little” Gates money does not matter. However, it apparently does since not accepting “the next round” for the AFT Innovation Fund means a dues increase. The current Gates grant for the Innovation Fund and CCSS ($4.4 million) expires in May 2015.

Note: There was no mention of returning any Gates money. There was also no agreement to not accept Gates money in the future– just not for the Innovation Fund.

The Gates money matters to those who take it. However, the connection to Gates and the power that such connection brings matters to those benefiting from his circle of power more than does his money.

A five-cent annual annual dues increase for all 1.5 million AFT members yields $75,000 in additional revenue.

A two-dollar annual dues increase for all 1.5 million AFT members would yield an additional $3 million in AFT revenue.

I would like to challenge Weingarten to offer AFT members the total amount that AFT dues must rise in order for her to say no to all corporate-reform-associated philanthropic money given to AFT.

I would also like to challenge her to stop making contributions out of AFT money to those who openly advocate the corporate reform, corporation-benefiting, test-driven, teaching-profession-undermining agenda.

In Closing

At the close of the NPE CCSS panel, Weingarten spoke last. She reiterated that she likes CCSS and added that her reason was “personal” and connected to her time “as a teacher.”

Two points:

First, as the president of a national teachers union, the “bottom line” for continued support of CCSS cannot be “personal.” Weingarten is the leader of 1.5 million union members. Support for any program must put union membership ahead of personal preference.

Second, Weingarten concluded her time “as a teacher” in 1997. Thus, she has been away from the classroom for seventeen years. In a conversation over dinner, Chicago Teachers Union (CTU) President Karen Lewis observed to me, “I have been away from the classroom for only three years, and I am out of touch with what is happening there now.”

I returned to the public school classroom in 2007 after teaching at the university level. My 2007 return is worlds away from what I know as a classroom teacher in 2014.

For me, CCSS is indeed “personal,” for it is very much associated with my daily classroom experience. But may I always offer a more detailed, factual, research-based reasoning for railing against corporate reform and its ardent supporters than to simply note, “It’s personal.”

RELATED COLUMN: Conspiracy Fact: Obama Budget to Cement Common Core

Ted Cruz: Ten Policy Changes To Fundamentally Transform America Back

We agree with all of what Senator Cruz is proposing, with two exceptions – Congress needs to enforce the Constitution, not defend it and the Flat Tax proposal. Congress needs to get out of the tax business altogether and should repeal the Sixteen Amendment and replace it with the Fair Tax (HB 25).

Senator Cruz did not directly address pro-family policies and national security in his remarks. These are two key areas that must be restored if America is to be fundamentally transformed back to its former greatness.

 reports, Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX)  today advocated “a straightforward and bold, positive agenda to inspire the young, to inspire women, to inspire Hispanics, to inspire everybody” during his speech at the Conservative Political Action Conference. Here are the ten items he called on Americans to do going forward:

1. “Defend the constitution. All of it.”

2. “We need to abolish the IRS. We need to adopt a simple flat tax that is fair [so] that every American can fill out his taxes on a postcard.”

3. “We need to expand energy in this country and create high-paying jobs all over America.”

4. “We need to expand school choice. Every child deserves an opportunity to have an excellent education, regardless of your race, your class, your creed, where you come from – every child deserves a fair chance at the American Dream.”

5. “We need to repeal Dodd-Frank.”

6. “We need to audit the Federal Reserve. Unaccountable power in Washington debasing our currency, driving up the cost of food and gas and the basic stuff of life is hurting Americans who are struggling across this country. And I’ll tell you what else it’s doing: It’s fueling the abuse of power by petro-tyrants like Putin.”

7. “We need to pass a strong balanced budget amendment. We need to stop bankrupting our country.”

8. “We need to repeal every single word of Obamacare.”

9. “We need to stop the lawlessness. This President of the United States is the first President we’ve ever had who thinks he can choose which laws to enforce and which laws to ignore. He announces just about every day one change after another after another in Obamacare. It is utterly lawless. It is inconsistent with our Constitution, and it ought to trouble everyone – Republicans, Democrats, Independents, Libertarians.”

10. “We need to end the corruption. We need to eliminate corporate welfare and crony capitalism. If you come to Washington and serve in Congress, there should be a lifetime ban on lobbying. And we need to pass a strong constitutional amendment that puts into law term limits.”

Here It Is: The NPE Common Core Panel Video

I plan to write a reflection on my NPE Common Core panel experience. However, allow me to first post this 40-minute video, which, I am guessing, includes each panelists’ opening remarks prior to the 30-minute question and answer segment.

 

Each panelist was afforded seven minutes to speak, in the following order: AFT President Randi Weingarten speaks first; then, University of Chicago Lab Schools History Instructor Paul Horton. Third to speak is “Teacher-Turned-Activist” Geralyn Bywater McLaughlin; then me (Mercedes Schneider). Fifth is “Educator, Writer, Activist, and Father” Jose Luis Vilson. The segment ends with a five-minute speech by Randi Weingarten. (It was my suggestion that Weingarten be allowed a second opportunity to speak since no one else on the panel would be on her side regarding Common Core. Common Core Panel Moderator Anthony Cody and the remainder of the panel agreed that this would be fair.)

Equipping Florida Parents to Expose Jeb Bush’s Florida Education “Miracle”

The purpose of this column is to provide a brief summary for Florida parents regarding the failure of the spectrum of so-called education “reforms” introduced and advanced by former Governor Jeb Bush (1999 – 2007).

I have written this brief, two-page “talking points” Word doc to complement the contents of this post. Thus, parents can use the “talking points” as a quick reference in school board meetings and legislative hearings and use the contents of this post for a more detailed explanation of the talking points (complete with links to references supporting each point).

In this post, I address the spectrum of Florida education “reform,” including school letter grades; graduation rates; charters, vouchers, and virtual schools; teacher evaluation; third-grade retention, and “declaring” Florida high school graduates as “college ready.”

A – F School Letter Grades

A major problem with the school letter grades is their susceptibility to manipulation. In fact, former Florida Superintendent Tony Bennett was forced to resign in August 2013 after emails implicated him in fixing a charter school letter grade during his time as superintendent in Indiana.

Letter grade formulas are also endlessly manipulated. Politico notes, “In Florida, for instance, the legislature has tinkered with the A-F school grading formula at least two dozen times in recent years. … Last year, alarmed that so many Florida students failed a new writing exam, the state board of education quickly lowered the passing score to boost more kids over the bar.”

A letter grade system that changes from year to year is useless. The Florida Department of Education (FDOE) tries to promote school letter grade changes as good and also presents information on “improvement” based on their ever-changing letter grade calculations, but don’t let them fool you. Tell them that you know school letter grade comparisons are meaningless unless tests, and scoring, and all other parts of the formula (including student information) are kept exactly the same from year to year.

In 2012, FDOE botched its school letter grade calculations for 213 schools and had to correct them following publication.

Graduation Rates

Florida’s graduation rate has been among the lowest for years.  In 2001-02, Florida’s graduation rate was among the bottom five states. In 2010-11, it was among the bottom seven (three states did not have rates calculated).

The 2010-11 calculation is a better measure for state-to-state comparison since the 2001-02 rate was not calculated uniformly for all states.

For 2012-13, Florida reports its overall graduation rate as 75.6%, up from  70.6% in 2010-11.  This article attributes the rise in Florida school district graduation rates– which varies widely from district to district– to an emphasis on college preparedness–and the ACT test. Yet Florida was in the bottom six states for its average ACT score of 19.8 in 2012.

(For comparison sake: Alabama has a 2012-13 graduation rate of 80% and a 2012 average ACT of 20.3, and it does not promote establishing charter schools or grading teachers using student test scores.)

Charter Schools

Based upon the unstable, ever-changing Florida school letter grade system, Bush-favored charters are not faring well. In 2012, more Florida charters scored A’s– and more scored F’s. (This article includes a caveat regarding FDOE’s having to correct 213 school grades that it incorrectly calculated. When calculation formulas are constantly changing, errors in calculation are much more likely.)

FDOE does not properly regulate Florida charter schools. The USDOE was informed of Florida’s lack of charter oversight in this September 2012 audit. One result of this lack of proper oversight is this story of a Florida charter school that paid its principal of only 180 students $519,000 after the school was slated to close and paid her husband $460,000.

Lack of charter accountability before the public coupled with the ability to manipulate school letter grades enabled Former Florida Superintendent Tony Bennett to change an Indiana charter school’s letter grade– a charter founded by someone who donated millions to Republicans– including $130,000 to Bennett.

Vouchers

As is true for Florida charters, Florida vouchers also lack proper oversight. One Florida voucher program, the McKay Scholarship Program, supposedly provides vouchers for special needs students. However, McKay schools have no curriculum requirements and no accreditation standards. Thus, there is zero accountability for those teaching Florida students receiving McKay Scholarship money.

Florida also has a tax credit voucher program known as the Corporate Tax Credit Scholarship Program, in which businesses donate money to send lower-income students to private schools in exchange for tax credits. The use of tax credits is a “back door” means to paying public money for students to attend private schools.

There is a current legislative push for Florida sales tax revenue to bypass the state and to be sent directly to “scholarship organizations.” Again, this is an underhanded way to use public money to finance private school education in Florida.

The final flaw regarding Florida voucher “success” is that no means exists for evaluating the effectiveness of Florida vouchers. Florida legislators wish to expand the corporate tax credit voucher program. Only one– Florida Senate President Don Gaetz– is pushing for voucher school accountability.

Virtual Schools

Lack of proper oversight is the common theme for Bush-promoted “alternative learning” in the form of charters, vouchers, and now, virtual schools. One for-profit virtual learning company in Florida, K 12, was investigated in 2012 for a cover-up regarding its using uncertified teachers and having certified teachers sign for uncertified teachers’ class rosters– which made it appear that some teachers had classes of up to 275 students.

The quality of education via virtual schools (also known as online schools or cyber charters) is highly suspect. Oversight is definitely needed.

Teacher Evaluation

Evaluating teachers using student test scores (known as “value added modeling,” or VAM) does not work.  Directly attributing “pieces” of student learning to specific teachers in specific classrooms via student test scores is a mathematical impossibility– this shows up in huge “margins of error” for teacher scores. (The margins of error for many Florida teacher VAM scores is so large that it is like saying, “We think the bullet hit the bullseye; however, it could have completely missed the target.”)

Moreover, in 2012– the same year that FDOE botched school letter grade calculations– FDOE miscalculated its teacher evaluations. FDOE had to retract the information only hours following its release.

In 2014, FDOE “flunked” a number of its Teacher of the Year winners and finalists using VAM. This is what happens when professional contribution and quality human interaction are replaced by numbers input into a mathematical formula: Common-sense-defying foolishness.

Third Grade Retention

Jeb Bush tried to erase social promotion in the third grade by holding back number of third graders. It did not work. Instead, Florida ended up failing a disproportionate number of minority students. Having these students repeat third grade offered the illusion of testing gains for fourth graders taking the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP). (Third graders do not take NAEP.) In short, if more lower-performing students are kept out of fourth grade, then the resulting fourth-grade NAEP score improvement is misleading.

Read here about parents’ rights to exempt children from mandatory retention in Florida. Unfortunately, some students must be retained for two years until retention is determined to be itself a failure.

Hiding Bush’s Failure: The “College Ready” Declaration

In 2013, the Florida legislature passed a bill that declares high school graduates as “college ready” and places all in for-credit college courses. In doing so, the legislature has decided that ignoring a problem will make it disappear. What such legislation allows Florida to do is to state publicly that all of its graduates are “college ready”– whether they really are or not.

The point of such “college ready” legislation is to absolve Florida policy makers (including former Governor Jeb Bush himself) from any responsibility associated with their numerous decisions regarding the ever-changing school letter grades– or lack of accountability for Florida charters, vouchers, and online schools– or inaccurate, damaging teacher evaluation policies– or arguably-abusive retention legislation. After all, it certainly would make the failure of the Jeb-Bush-promoted Florida education reform “miracle” obvious if Florida graduates required remedial coursework in order to enter college.

In Closing: Accountability Needed

Florida legislators and other officials in positions of authority need to be held accountable for their decisions regarding the education of Florida’s public school students. My intention in writing this post (and the attached talking-point Word doc) is to equip Florida parents to do just that.

The Jeb Bush Florida Education “Miracle” is a sham, Florida parents. Tell all who will listen that you know so. Hold Florida’s elected officials accountable for what they are inflicting upon your children.

Alma Deutscher 8 years old ילדה בת 8 גאון לא יאומן

INTERMEZZO WITH ARIK, a classical music program of the Israel Educational Television. Season 1 Ep. 330: The Sweeper of Dreams, with Alma Deutscher. Host: Professor Arie Vardi. Piano: Tal Samnon.

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ABCDEFGH[/youtube]
Directed by: Jacky Barkan
Producer: Mustafa Abu-Ras
Israel Educational Television ( הטלוויזיה החינוכית)
Released: 05 Jan, 14. Running time: 28:39
The program without English subtitles can be seen on the website of Israel Educational Television: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YbfWUU…
The English subtitles were added by Guy Deutscher.

Republican Party of Florida resolution asks Governor Scott to stop Common Core using Executive Powers

Pam Stewart and many others including John Thrasher, John Legg, Joe Negron, Erik Fresen, Anitere Flores, Don Gaetz, Kelli Stargel, and Will Weatherford are being asked to remove themselves immediately from serving on the Jeb Bush Foundation for Excellence in Education as there is a direct conflict of interest with their position and the state’s interest in examining Common Core.

Clearly, the Republicans of this state do not agree with the implementation of standards created and funded by the federal government and corporate entities, like iBloom, who stand to gain billions by the takeover of education nationwide via Common Core.  Below is the RPOF Resolution condemning Common Core in Florida:

image002

 

I received the following reply to an inquiry on Common Core to the Florida Department of Education:

Dear Ms. Quackenbush,

Commissioner Pam Stewart has asked our office to respond to your correspondence regarding Common Core.  On behalf of the commissioner, we would like to thank you for contacting us.

In the early 2000s, members of the National Governor’s Association (NGA) and Council of Chief State School Officers (CCSSO) were provided research on education standards across the country and how standards from state-to-state compared to the standards of the highest performing countries on internationally benchmarked assessments. Additionally, with the high percent of high school graduates required to take remedial courses upon entering post-secondary institutions or training upon entering the workplace, there was an agreed upon need to provide consistency among states in the definition of college and career readiness. Governors and state school chiefs agreed to the need to address these issues that could negatively affect our nation’s economy and prosperity.

Led by a small group of state school officers, the decision was made to address this need by working as a team to develop research-based high quality education standards in English language arts and mathematics rather than have each state continue to work in isolation resulting in inconsistent, overall poor quality, and varied student college and career readiness rates. The standards that were created define the knowledge and skills students should have within their K-12 education careers so that they will graduate high school able to succeed in entry-level, credit-bearing academic college courses and in workforce training programs. The standards:

  • Are aligned with college and work expectations;
  • Are clear, understandable and consistent;
  • Include rigorous content and application of knowledge through high-order skills;
  • Build upon strengths and lessons of current state standards;
  • Are informed by other top performing countries, so that all students are prepared to succeed in our global economy and society; and
  • Are evidence-based.

The number of standards is fewer; however, the standards focus on much deeper understanding of content, critical thinking, rigorous problem solving, and applied learning, as opposed to shallow understanding under previous state standards. For example, students are required to master Algebra 1 and English 10 – both validated as essential levels of knowledge to success in life.

The Florida State Board of Education first adopted state wide education standards called the Sunshine State Standards in 1996 and has been a leader in the United States for ensuring all students have access to education standards and assessments that match those standards. The current set of English language arts and mathematics standards are the third set adopted by Florida. Recently changes to these standards, which were adopted by the State Board of Education. If you would like to look at the changes they can be accessed at: http://www.fldoe.org/eduaccsummit.asp. A decision on the assessment to be used has not yet been made.

Implementation of state adopted standards occurs at the local level; however, the state is committed to supporting local districts and schools in any and all capacities possible during the transition.  Per Florida statute, all school districts are funded through the state legislature. Districts then make appropriate allocations to support local schools during the implementation process. School districts continue to have jurisdiction over the curriculum they chose to teach the standards and teachers continue to have the jurisdiction to determine the instructional methods used in the classroom that best fit the needs of their students. The state is working with districts to ensure they have the capacity to administer the aligned assessments and provide quality instruction to Florida students. Full implementation with aligned assessments will occur during the 2014-15 academic year.

If the Bureau of Standards and Instructional Support can be of further assistance, please contact me at 850-245-0758 or via e-mail at Katrina.Figgett@fldoe.org.

Sincerely,

Katrina Figgett

Parents, teachers, concerned citizens and the RPOF are stating in increasing numbers that will never abandon the children of Florida by ceding control of education to corporations and Washington D.Cc politicians and bureaucrats who ARE mainlining our children with what has been called “educaiton propaganda.”

Republican voters are asking Governor Rick Scott to use his executive powers if necessary to stop Common Core in Florida.

Common Core’s Little Green Soldiers Fighting Climate Change

Remember the children singing praise songs to Obama back in 2008?  Remember young teenage boys marching in formation and shouting out thanks to Obama for their promising futures?

The appointment of Arne Duncan as Secretary of Education initially was seen as a savvy bipartisan move.  But under his watch the Department of Education has become a propaganda arm used to influence the next generation to accept the idea of catastrophic man-made climate change as per the UN, the Environmental Protection Agency, and such groups as the National Wildlife Federation.

In a multi-pronged approach, the Department is teaming up with various non-profit and government organizations and curriculum companies to promote “fun” contests and activities for students, while promoting the next phase of Common Core “State Standards”—in science.

For example, the Department’s latest Green Strides newsletter (February 28) announced three contests for K-12 students who display their agreement with the government’s position on climate change.

In that newsletter, the Department of Education announced that another federal agency, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, and its National Environmental Education Foundation, have “launched an exciting video challenge for middle school students called Climate Change in Focus.”  In this contest, middle school students are asked to make a video that “expresses why they care about climate change and what they are doing to reduce emissions or to prepare for its impacts.”  To win loyalty to the EPA, it is announced that winning videos will be highlighted on the EPA website.  The effort sounds like the kids’ cereal box promotions of yore: the top three entries will receive “cool prizes like a solar charging backpack,” winning class projects will receive special recognition for their school, and the first 100 entrants will receive a year’s subscription to National Geographic Kids Magazine.

Another contest, National Wildlife Federation’s Young Reporters for the Environment, invites students “between the ages of 13-21 to report on an environmental issue in their community in an article, photo or photo essay, or short video.”  Entries should “reflect firsthand investigation of topics related to the environment and sustainability in the students’ own communities, draw connections between local and global perspectives, and propose solutions.”

Students are also encouraged to make nominations for “Champions of the Earth,” a “UN-sponsored award for environment, Green Economy, and sustainability.”  Among the 2013 laureates are Martha Isabel Ruiz Corzo, who orchestrated a public-private biosphere reserve status for a region in Mexico, and Brian McLendon, of Google Earth.

Students already get exposed to climate change and sustainability in textbooks which are bought with taxpayer funds, as well as in videos and online materials produced by taxpayer-supported Public Broadcasting.  Many students, of course, have had to sit through Al Gore’s documentary, An Inconvenient Truth.

Quite obviously, a middle school student does not have the necessary scientific knowledge to make videos about climate change—a particularly challenging scientific problem.

The Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS)—the next phase of Common Core—will make the situation worse, however.  Students will be even less capable of distinguishing science from propaganda.  These standards, like those for math and English Language Arts, were produced by Achieve, a nonprofit education group started by corporate leaders and some governors.

As in the standards for English Language Arts and math, the NGSS are intended to be transformative, or as Appendix A states, “to reflect a new vision for American science education.”  They call for new “performance expectations” that “focus on understanding and applications as opposed to memorization of facts devoid of context.”

It is precisely such short shrift to knowledge (dismissively referred to as “memorization”) to which science professors Lawrence S. Lerner and Paul Gross object.  The standards bypass essential math skills in favor of “process,” they asserted last fall at the Thomas B. Fordham Foundation blog.

Common Core standards, in all disciplines, are written with a lot of fluff to conceal their emptiness.

Lerner and Gross discovered “inconsistency between strong NGSS (and Appendix C) assertions and what was actually found by the mathematicians, among others, of our reviewing group.”

(The Common Core math standards themselves have garnered much criticism among teachers, parents, and students; focusing so much on “process,” they make simple problems bizarrely confusing, as a collection of examples illustrates.)

Lerner and Gross condemn the “Slighting of mathematics,” which does “increasing mischief as grade level rises, especially in the physical sciences.”  Physics is “effectively absent” at the high school level.

“Several devout declarations” appear, however, the authors sardonically point out, as they note this one from Appendix C:

In particular, the best science education seems to be one based on integrating rigorous content with the practices that scientists and engineers routinely use in their work—including application of mathematics.

Lerner and Gross attack the “practices” strategy, as an extension of the “inquiry learning” of the early 1990s, which had “no notable effect on the (mediocre) performance of American students in national and international science assessments.”

With some sarcasm, they write, “It is charming to say ‘. . . students learn science effectively when they actively engage in the practices of science.’”  However,

Students will not learn best if they practice science exactly as do real scientists.  A firm conclusion in cognitive science contradicts that claim.  Beginners don’t and can’t ‘practice’ as do experts.  The practices of experts exploit prior experience and extensive build-up in long-term memory of scaffolding: facts, procedures, technical know-how, solutions to standard problems in the field, vocabularies—of knowledge in short.

Not only do the Next Generation Science Standards shirk the necessary foundations in math and science knowledge, but they explicitly call for including ideological lessons, such as “Human impacts on Earth systems.”  For grades K-2, students are to understand, “Things people do can affect the environment but they can make choices to reduce their impact.” In grades 3 through 5, students will learn “Societal activities have had major effects on the land, ocean, atmosphere, and even outer space.  Societal activities can also help protect Earth’s resources and environments.”  This is from part ESS3.C of the NGSS standards.

“Human impacts on Earth systems” are huge topics, when approached legitimately.  They present quandaries to scientists at the top levels.  Yet NGSS imposes them on kindergartners.  The objective, of course, is not teaching legitimate science, but indoctrination.

Amazingly, ten states have already voluntarily adopted the Standards.

Such efforts, coordinated by the Department of Education, threaten the future of science itself.

More questionable social engineering comes to Hawaii’s public schools

News Release from Rep Bob McDermott, February 27, 2014

Representative Bob McDermott is in the process of reviewing the latest arrival from the mainland to be thrust upon the Hawaii public school system. This new program is called Teaching Tolerance.

On the heels of the controversial Pono Choice sex education curriculum, comes another, grant-funded program. This time it is for training teachers to impart the concept of “tolerance.” While everyone agrees with the principle of tolerance, it seems that Hawaii has historically already done a better job with it than those now purporting to show us what values we should adopt. Also, like Pono Choices, there is a disproportionate focus on normalizing homosexuality.

McDermott said, “I support tolerance. But there is a difference between tolerance and forced acceptance of sensitive and controversial issues that violate one’s faith, creed or moral code.”

One workbook example actually singles out, in a negative way, an “exclusionary fundamentalist Christian home.”

“Where’s the tolerance for people who hold faith-based morality?” asks McDermott.

The Teaching Tolerance Program is a product of the Southern Poverty Law Center based in Alabama. It is a K-12 teacher training for a “literacy-based anti-bias curriculum.” One of the problems is how it is being implemented. Teachers, who are required to develop this type of curriculum, can now get a turn-key solution for free. In fact, the promoters, with the full blessing of the Hawaii Department of Education, will pay teachers $250 for attending the pilot training. This raises all sorts of ethical issues. Are Hawaii teachers being bribed to promote a specific point of view in these materials to their students?

A preliminary review of the materials by McDermott’s staff shows that while tolerance of race, gender and physical disabilities are discussed, almost 25% of the example scenarios deal with gay acceptance. As he did during the Pono Choices debate, McDermott asks why the gay population (which is no more than 4% of the general population) is consistently disproportionately represented in these new teaching materials.

Rep. McDermott added: “There is something fundamentally wrong with the Department of Education imparting a version of ‘tolerance’ on our children, without first consulting the local and diverse families that already make Hawaii the most accepting and loving place in the world.”

REFERENCES:

TT: LGBT-inclusive Best Practices Now Available

TT: Toolkit for In Bounds

TT: Michael Sam, Masculinity and Teaching Tolerance

TT: LGBT

Common Core Could Impact Special GOP Congressional Race In Florida

The one issue that conservative grassroots activists around the country seem to come together and rally against is Common Core, or socialized education.

This  issue  could very well sink any Republican congressional candidate’s campaign, if they were to support the federal education standards.

National conservatives like Senator Marco Rubio, Allen West, as well as author and Fox News Contributor, Michelle Malkin, have all railed against Common Core education standards, further fueling the existing and growing nationwide groundswell of support to block Common Core.

Read Marco Rubio Opposes Common Core Education Standards

Common Core education standards are being embraced by state legislator around the country, including the folks up in Tallahassee, Florida. In 2013, Florida state representative Debbie Mayfield (R) filed a bill to stop Common Core in Florida. Florida Governor Rick Scott, who was a big supporter of the standards, took a baby step back on the matter, and withdrew Florida from federal Common Core testing.

Senate Majority leader Lizbeth Benacquisto, who is currently a candidate for the U.S. Congress in the upcoming Republican special primary election to replace Trey Radel in FL-CD19, co-sponsored SB 1076, a state Senate education bill that was signed into law last year.

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Lizbeth Benacquisto

During the recent forum which included Benacquisto and the three other Republican candidates in the race, Benacquisto stated that she adamantly opposed Common Core education standards.

I’ll be darned if I am going to let the President decide what my child should learn. There is no benefit to a once size fits all curriculum for every state, in every neighborhood. What Common Core does is remove the sense of individuality and creativity, and purposefulness of the learning experience. It is a failed policy that we will repeal if we are in Congress. With a daughter that is in the school system, it is a fight that is personal to me. – Lizbeth Benacquisto

But in reading the education bill Benacquisto co-sponsored in the Senate, the bill provides “requirements” for the “transition to common core assessments.”

Is Benacquisto completely against Common Core?

Here is how page 3 of the bill reads:

“… requirements for a statewide, standardized assessment program aligned to core curricular content in the Next Generation Sunshine State Standards; providing requirements for end-of-course assessments; providing requirements for instruction for students with disabilities; providing for transition to common core assessments in English Language Arts and mathematics; providing requirements for assessment scores…” – SB 1076

In response to our inquiring on Benacquisto’s co-sponsored education bill, her campaigned outlined that “The Career and Professional Education Act (1076) was a bill that required expanded career education in Florida, added resources to increase the high school graduation rates,directed Florida’s public colleges to develop bachelor’s degree programs that cost $10,000 or less, and added dollars to reward teachers who demonstrate exceptional results in the classroom,” adding that “it was a comprehensive bill that gives more control to communities.”

In addition, Benacquisto’s campaigned pointed out that 1076 “was OPPOSED in the state senate by 7 of Florida’s most liberal Democrats.”

To her credit, Benacquisto has sponsored several pieces of legislation that allow families to choose where their children attend school, as well as giving “low-income” students, through scholarships, the same school choice opportunities. To add to her pro-education position, Benacquisto has just co-sponsored SB 1316, which is an education bill that mirrors the House bill Representative Debbie Mayfield Common Core-blocking legislation.

Activist Cindy Kucharski of North Fort Myers penned a letter to Benacquisto, questioning why Benaquisto was “supportive of this agenda in the past” and her co-sponsoring of the “Common Core implementation in Florida schools.”

If you are not instrumental in actually stopping Common Core by submitting a senate bill to do so by tomorrow, I cannot in good faith vote for you in June if you should be the candidate. – Cindy Kucharski

During the forum, Paige Kreegel outlined what Common Core really was, and stated that he would “not vote for it,” and would do everything he could to try to stop it,” if he was in the Congress.

While Michael Dreikorn echoed what Kreegel said, Dreikorn enlightened attendees of the fact that Common Core already passed in Florida, and warned about the intrusive data mining that will occur under Common Core

Businessman Curt Clawson implied that both the Department of Education and Common Core needed to be gutted.

“We can take care of Common Core and the Department of Education all in one swoop” – Curt Clawson

This bill, which was passed by the conservative Republican-led Florida legislature, and signed into law by Governor Scott, seems to a pretty good bill that addresses many of state’s education needs, but does open the door for Common Core education standards.

EDITORS NOTE: The featured image and this column originally appeared on The Shark Tank.

Elementary School Spiral: A Cautionary Tale by Jenna Robinson

Vouchers are back in vogue, but higher ed offers us lessons about a K–12 tuition spiral.

Twenty-five years ago, education secretary Bill Bennett advanced the idea that government student aid was largely to blame for the steady increases in college tuition. Since then, higher education reformers have been sounding the alarm about the tuition spiral. The public has finally started to pay attention, now that average tuition and fees at private universities have topped $30,000 per year.

K–12 school choice proponents should take heed. With the increasing popularity of vouchers, it’s possible for the same problem to crop up in private elementary and secondary schools. There’s even a proposal before Congress to launch a federal voucher program for poor families that would allow them to send their children outside their designated districts.

Before jumping on board that proposal, though, voucher proponents should hear this cautionary tale from higher education.

Reformers have amassed considerable evidence for Bennett’s now-famous hypothesis in the past quarter-century. College tuition has increased more than 500 percent since 1985, compared with a 121 percent gain in the consumer price index during the same period. At elite schools, the problem is worse. Fifty years ago, the annual cost to attend Harvard was less than $2,500, which is about $19,000 in today’s dollars, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. A year at Harvard now costs nearly $60,000, including tuition, room and board, and fees.

The mechanics of college pricing are to blame. As the availability of student aid increases, either via grants or low-interest loans, demand for education increases—particularly at previously unaffordable “elite” institutions. Colleges then raise tuition enough to capture some of that aid. The problem is systemic; even colleges that are not “greedy” will eventually raise tuition to compete with peer institutions and bolster their reputations by hiring more prestigious staff and adding or upgrading facilities. Aid is then increased to “keep up” with tuition hikes, feeding the cycle.

But endless tuition hikes are not a foregone conclusion. Scholarly evidence shows that some types of aid and some segments of higher education seem to be somewhat “immune” to the tuition spiral. In Introducing Bennett Hypothesis 2.0, Andrew Gillen summarizes those findings.

First, he says, “Not all aid is created equal. . . . Aid programs that are restricted to low-income students are less likely to allow colleges to raise their tuition.” Most voucher proposals get this part right. But here again, K–12 reformers can learn from higher education’s mistakes. The federal Pell Grant program, which once served only students in poverty, has now been expanded to middle-class students—mostly due to political pressure. Voucher programs are susceptible to the same problems.

Second, Gillen shows that tuition caps weaken the link between aid and tuition. In the current market, the existence of “free” public education exerts considerable pressure on private schools to hold tuition down. “Free” public education acts as a tuition cap. Allowing parents to take their voucher money outside the child’s traditional neighborhood zone counteracts that tuition cap. If public schools can capture voucher money to then spend on teachers or programs, it will be that much harder for private schools to compete without raising their own tuition. (In reality, any additional funding poured into public schools exacerbates this problem—but that subject is beyond the purview of this article.) Allowing parents and students to choose their public schools would address the problem; giving them additional money to do so would introduce another.

Third, Gillen notes, “Price discrimination allows private colleges to raise tuition in response to aid at an individual level.” But in order for colleges to do this, he explains, they must know each student’s ability to pay. This means that providing colleges with students’ financial background, as the federal government does via the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA), will lead to more aid being captured. “Ending [this] counterproductive practice,” Gillen says, “would curtail price discrimination, which would increase the effectiveness of aid in improving affordability.” The lesson here for K–12 is that parents’ financial information, which they will necessarily disclose to government officials in order to qualify for vouchers, should never be shared with private schools.

Ultimately, all schools, whether public or private, want to improve in order to better serve students and to bolster their reputations. The incentive to increase spending in pursuit of that goal is already very strong. Implementing vouchers in the wrong way simply gives schools another avenue to do so. Vouchers advocates should proceed with caution.

ABOUT JENNA ROBINSON

Jenna Robinson is director of outreach at the Pope Center for Higher Education Policy.

Ten Bills, Ten Solutions to save America

Russ Vought, Political Director for Heritage Action for America, notes, “During the State of the Union address, President Obama called for 2014 to be a year of action. We agree, but Americans deserve action that will take the nation in the right direction. That’s why, with no clear goals or mandate from the Washington Establishment, we hosted the first Conservative Policy Summit.

On February 10th, Heritage Action brought together leaders to highlight conservative bills that would improve the lives of hardworking Americans. 10 speakers. 10 solutions.

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Conservatives must lead through action. And we are. Heritage Action brought these leaders together on February 10th. The Conservative Policy Summit highlights the bills they have introduced, showing Americans a winning conservative reform agenda. Watch important discussion about our nation’s most pressing issues and learn about the conservative answers.

 

Privacy – Rep. Matt Salmon (R-AZ)
Social Welfare – Rep. Jim Jordan (R-OH) 
Health Care – Rep. Tom Price (R-GA) 
Health Care – Rep. Phil Roe (R-TN) 
Energy – Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX)

Housing – Rep. Jeb Hensarling (R-TX)
Transportation – Rep. Tom Graves (R-GA)
School Choice – Sen. Tim Scott (R-SC)
Higher Education – Sen. Mike Lee (R-UT)
Religious Freedom – Rep. Raul Labrador (R-ID)

EDITORS NOTE: The featured image is courtesy of Claude Covo-Farchi. The use of this image does not in any way that suggests that Covo-Farchi endorses Heritage Action or the use of the work in this column. This file is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 2.0 Generic.