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:

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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.

Trail Life USA and Tread Lightly! Announce Outdoor Preservation Partnership

Orlando, FL – Today, Trail Life USA (TLUSA) takes another major step in building its outdoor adventure program by announcing a partnership with Tread Lightly!.  Together, Tread Lightly! and TLUSA will promote outdoor education, awareness, and habitat restoration projects that will preserve wilderness lands and teach environmentally friendly practices for all outdoor activities.

“Our partnership will teach outdoor stewardship and provide lasting benefits to our communities,” said Mark Hancock, Chief Operating Officer of TLUSA. “‘To be a good steward of creation’ is a key tenet of our Trailman Oath.”

This partnership will give thousands of youth a first-hand experience in natural use programs.  Tread Lightly! has become a provider of outdoor education and conservation practices since their founding in 1990. “Our programs will work together to teach the best ways to experience the outdoors so that future generations are able to enjoy the beauty of the outdoors,” Hancock said.

Tread Lightly! is a vocal advocate for the best practices in outdoor use and is a leader in conservation and sustainable outdoor recreation. Their federal partners include the US Forest Service, Bureau of Land Management, National Park Service and Army Corps of Engineers.

The key concepts of Tread Lightly!’s natural use program are:

Travel Responsibly – on land by staying on designated roads, trails and area. Go over, not around, obstacles to avoid widening the trails. Cross streams only at designated fords. When possible, avoid wet, muddy trails. On water, stay on designated waterways and launch your watercraft in designated areas.

Respect the Rights of Others – including private property owners, all recreational trail users, campers and others so they can enjoy their recreational activities undisturbed. Leave gates as you found them. Yield right of way to those passing you or going uphill. On water, respect anglers, swimmers, skiers, boaters, divers and those on or near shore.

Educate Yourself – prior to your trip by obtaining travel maps and regulations from public agencies. Plan for your trip, take recreation skills classes and know how to operate your equipment safely.

Avoid Sensitive Areas – on land such as meadows, lake shores, wetlands and streams. Stay on designated routes. This protects wildlife habitats and sensitive soils from damage. Don’t disturb historical, archeological or paleontological sites. On water, avoid operating your watercraft in shallow waters or near shorelines at high speeds.

Do Your Part – by modeling appropriate behavior, leaving the area better than you found it, properly disposing of waste, minimizing the use of fire, avoiding the spread of invasive species and repairing degraded areas.

The combined concepts of Tread Lightly! and TLUSA will be put into action this spring as materials are distributed to all TLUSA units across America.

For more information on Trail Life USA, go to www.TrailLifeUSA.com.

For more information on Tread Lightly!, go to http://www.treadlightly.org.

Minding the Campus: “Slut Walks” to Pass USF Freshman Composition

“Real learning takes place outside the classroom,” the late communist history professor Howard Zinn famously said.  Zinn practiced what he preached and led his students at Spelman College and Boston University on marches and protests.

The 1960s saw plenty of teach-ins and marches by students and some radical professors.  But even then it would have been hard to imagine how the staple of first-year coursework, Freshman Composition, would be used to turn students into activists, subverting the idea of “composition” itself and leaving some students free of any ability to write.

Little Writing, But Plenty of Activism 

Indeed, as I learned from reading an article in the journal Hybrid Pedagogy, freshman composition provides an opportunity to display “bravery.”  In “Social Action and the Status Quo: Bravery in First Year Composition,” Susan Gail Taylor refers to the Rhetoric in Action project at the University of South Florida where she was then teaching as a graduate student.  The project asks students to engage in activism and then offer their “personal narrative of social action experience.”  Although the website states that students should use the “writing process” and “academic conventions,” much of what they do seems to go far beyond “composition” as traditionally known.  Students, instead, are asked to share first-person experiences in “multiple genres,” such as “letter, website, video, artwork, flyer, pamphlet, panel, demonstration.”

Taylor has given her students assignments at “Take Back the Night” and “Slut Walk” events.  She has had them videotape themselves discussing how they have overcome personal challenges.  Some students appear to resist, but Taylor tells colleagues, “I’ve developed a few ways to counteract possible hesitation and prepare my students to inspire others with their actions. For instance, I typically choose a social issue and have students organize and lead flash mobs in efforts to raise awareness.”

In “brief moments,” of flash mobs–90 seconds to 3 minutes–“students are faced with the power of their own voices (both literally and figuratively).”  (One wonders about the “power of the voice” of the student who disagrees with such causes.)  Students, Taylor claims, “are challenged to step outside of a traditional essay that discusses action and instead are tasked with becoming the action, thus inciting them to discover their own capacity for bravery and resistance.”

Bravery?  In her YouTube video of the SlutWalk on September 16, 2011, her mostly female students chant, “what I wear does not mean yes.”  The male voices make an odd counterpoint towards the end, as does the image of a couple guys reluctantly tagging behind a few paces. Taylor writes under the link: “They made awesome choices in their posters, they were loud and they were proud. Rhetoric was definitely in action! :)”

[youtube]http://youtu.be/TIP7GdBWzcw[/youtube]

She explains her pedagogical purpose: “I want to show students how the power of language and the power of action can intersect: they select our chants and the information we use, they design the posters (which I provide), and they choose the locations– all in an effort to have even one person be affected by their work.”

Well, yes, this is a form of persuasion, but certainly outside the bounds of legitimate rhetorical persuasion.  Such an assignment seems to verge on illegality or coercion, and certainly has little to do with the “art of persuasion,” as described in Aristotle’s Rhetoric–the foundational text.

Taylor, however, does not seem to be outside the current academic mainstream.  The 35,000-member National Council of Teachers of English publishes, among  other books, Writing Partnerships by Thomas Deans, which tells composition teachers how to combine “writing instruction with community action.”

Deans traces the recent evolution of composition: “As a discipline, rhetoric and composition has adopted the broadly defined ‘social perspective’ on writing,” having “evolved from studies of the lone writer to more contextual understandings of composing; from a narrow, functional definition of literacy, focused on correctness, to a broader definition; from an exclusive focus on academic discourse to the study of both school and non academic contexts for writing; from presuming white middle-class culture as normative to analyzing and inviting cultural difference; and from gatekeeping at the university to facilitating the advancement of all students.”

Betraying the Original Purpose 

Freshman Composition was intended to provide remedial help to students as campuses opened up to a broader mass of students–to the chagrin of traditionalists who wanted to maintain standards. It has been a service course, intended to equip college students with basic writing skills, to be transferred to other classes and then into the workplace. Advanced students could opt out by demonstrating their ability in writing tests, usually some variation of the standard five-paragraph essay. Increasingly, though, students have required remedial help for a course intended to be remedial. I know from teaching such courses that the remediation goes back to sentence-level grammar.

At the same time, I’ve seen the changes Deans notes: the emphasis on group work and peer review, the politically contentious topics almost exclusively from a leftist perspective, the addition of “visual literacy” as a category of literacy, and the multicultural sensitivities, not only in topics, but in language use.

The shift away from composition instruction to activism is evidenced in articles published in the organization’s journal, the College Composition and Communication and in the journal Pedagogy.  Similar books, such as Composition and Sustainability: Teaching for a Threatened GenerationRhetoric of Respect, about “academic-community writing partnerships” and  S.U.N.Y. Press’s Making Writing Matter: Composition in the Engaged University, offer strategies for transforming classrooms into activist sites.  A professor writes in the foreword to Affirming Students’ Rights to Their Own Language, “For many of us, the assertion of student language was inextricable from our national and international quest for social justice.”  Major textbook publishers, like Bedford, are responding to market demand with single-themed readers on SustainabilityMoney Changes EverythingFood Matters, and Composing Gender (the last with a cover photo of a female ballerina holding up a male ballet dancer).  The upcoming annual meeting of the Conference on College Composition and Communication is filled with panel discussions on activism; a featured speaker is Black Panther-turned professor, Angela Davis.  Her biography notes her “activism,” from when she was a “youngster” to her work today as an advocate of “prison abolition.”

The radicalization is finessed by statements like Deans’–that the field is expanding beyond a “narrow, functional definition” and shifting from “gatekeeping” to “facilitating the advancement of all students” (emphasis added).  In plain English, this means that standards for writing are being eliminated.  Furthermore, writing itself is being replaced by visual and auditory forms of persuasion, often in mobs.  These are called “brave” actions.

Deans attempts to spread a patina of academic legitimacy over such activism by claiming there is a “coherent and substantial theoretical framework” for it. He cites the progressive education theorist and philosopher John Dewey and Marxist theorist Paulo Freire.

Deans also ludicrously claims that such activism goes back to the ancients.  He states that Aristotle’s Rhetoric was intended to “intervene in the public sphere,” (maybe), and not necessarily be used in today’s “school settings,” but he ignores the fact that freshman composition is being to taught to young people who should be acquiring knowledge and skills.  That is why they are in college in the first place.  He also misleadingly refers to Isocrates, Cicero, and Quintilian in the same way of needing “to connect rhetorical practice to civic responsibility.”  He even uses the “sweep of U.S. history–from Thomas Jefferson and Benjamin Franklin to Jane Addams and John Dewey”–to support “experiential learning.”

Indeed, if we did go back to Jefferson and Franklin, two men who did have a sense of civic responsibility, we would find an opposite approach, one that values study, introspection, imitation, and debate before taking on the adult duties of “civic responsibility.”  Franklin in his autobiography describes how he educated himself by imitating the master stylists in the Spectator, by reading widely, and by debating his peers in the Junto club.  In such education, the effort is made to gain a perspective outside one’s own limited circle.  Shouting in mobs is the opposite of what Aristotle, Jefferson, and Franklin had in mind.

We have radical professors promoting the idea that students’ own language is good enough, that there are no models for them to read and emulate, that they are to be change agents, participating in mob actions and demonstrating their “bravery” for credit.  The end results are sure to be confused, narcissistic, indoctrinated illiterates.

EDITORS NOTE: The feature photo is from the “Slut Walk” Tampa Facebook page.

Questionable Investigative Practices by the Florida Department of Education: A Tale of two Schools

Akin to the disparity in disciplinary actions of two teachers, Mr. Emmanuel Fleurantin and Mrs. Brenda Muchnick, due to Adobegate, there seems to be a disparity of actions undertaken by the Florida Department of Education concerning cheating in two Miami-Dade high schools: Miami Norland Senior High School and North Miami Senior High School.

In a recent Miami Herald article, state Rep. Daphne Campbell decried the treatment of North Miami Senior High School in that the school still has a grade of “Incomplete” though it was cleared of cheating by the school district.

On January 28, 2014, Rep. Campbell sent a letter to Florida’s Commissioner of Education urging the state to replace the high school’s “incomplete” status and issue a letter grade, which would have been given in December.

“This is ridiculous,” Campbell is quoted as saying in a press release. “There is no reason why a school should have to wait to receive a report for their institution.”

FLDOE maintains that the “Incomplete” was given and is still in place as a state contractor that highlights highly unusual test scores again zeroed in on the school.

A school district investigation found nothing wrong or unusual, but the FLDOE is still reviewing the latest round of test results and can’t comment until the investigation is over per state law.

What lingers is a question of fairness: How is it that Miami Norland Senior High School has had significant instances of cheating the past two school years but yet was awarded school grades of “A” and Florida School Recognition Program and federal (RTTT, SIG) funds with no impediment or controversy, but North Miami Senior High School was suspected of cheating the past two schools years, eventually cleared, but has had its grades and incentive funding delayed to the angst of the school community?

For whatever reasons, did the FLDOE give Norland a free pass and decided to stick it to North Miami the past two school years?

By examining the evidence, the answer seems to be an overwhelming “yes.”

With the assistance of cheating, undertaken by Mr. Emmanuel Fleurantin and Mrs. Brenda Muchnick, and perhaps other persons unknown, Miami Norland’s school grade went from a “C” for the 2010-11 school year to an “A” for the 2011-12 school year.

As a result, total federal funds (SIG, RTTT) given out due to a grade influenced by cheating was $100,560; the total state funds per FSRP was between $130,000- $140,000; the total overall combined federal and state incentive funds were $230,560- $240,560.

Each teacher at Miami Norland Senior High School received $1730.41 from all three payouts.

During the 2011-2012 school year at Miami Norland Senior High School, there was proven, not suspected cheating as in North Miami’s case, cheating per student and teacher testimony and evidence in the form of cheat sheets and confessions. The only questions were the size and the scope of the cheating and who were all the people involved.

The Auditor General of Florida and the Miami-Dade Office of Inspector General was in possession of this evidence as of early May 2012 and the Florida Department of Education knew soon thereafter as I confirmed with FLDOE personnel over the phone in September 2012, which was three months before the high schools grades were released in December 2012.

If the Florida Department of Education handled the case at Miami Norland Senior High School the same way that it did at North Miami Senior High School, the “A” grade would not have been awarded in December 2012 and the payouts would not have occurred; rather, Miami Norland Senior High School would have received an “I” in the summer of 2012 and when the investigation concluded on Monday, August 26, 2013, with the issuance of the Final Miami-Dade OIG Report, the “I” would have been changed to an “F” and none of the $230,000-$240,000 in combined federal and state incentive funds would have been disbursed.

Yet Norland got the grade and the money and North Miami had to wait almost nine agonizing months to get their school grade and incentive funds.

For the 2012-2013 school year, history repeated itself for both schools.

As stated by the Test Chairperson at a faculty meeting on October 22, 2013, Miami Norland Senior High School led the State of Florida in FCAT invalidations as 13 student exams were invalidated for the 2012-2013 school year, a year after Adobegate, yet the school has not been assigned an “I” for “Incomplete” for the 2012-13 school year per past state practices.

In late December 2013, Norland was given an “A” and state incentive funds are scheduled to be paid out whereas North Miami has an “Incomplete” and left to twist in the wind once again.

Why did the FLDOE not award Norland an “Incomplete” and/or invalidate the “A” as there was confirmed cheating?

One would think what befell North Miami, though the school was eventually cleared of cheating, the past two years from the FLDOE would be appropriate for Norland as cheating on grand scales has actually been confirmed the past two school years.

Perhaps the Legislature should examine these split decisions handed out by the FLDOE and pass a law setting clear and consistent guidelines for the FLDOE to follow concerning schools and suspected standardized test cheating to prevent other schools from suffering the injustices that North Miami has endured the past two school years while Norland, and perhaps other like schools, were awarded school grades and incentive funds with impunity.

Florida State Board of Education adopts Common Core over the protests of citizens

The Florida State Board of Education (FL SBOE) meeting on Common Core State Standards was held in Orlando on February 18th. Concerned citizens attended to speak and wave signs in protest. Nearly one hundred signed up to speak and implore the Board to reject Common Core in Florida.

I must say, I was so proud to be among the dedicated and articulate speakers at the State Board of Education hearing clarifying why we are vehemently opposed to Common Core. The impassioned testimony at the State Board of Education meeting in Orlando showed a disappointing and at times disgusting lack of respect on the part of the Chair, Gary R. Chartrand.

Here is the video link to the entire meeting: http://thefloridachannel.org/videos/21814-state-board-education-meeting.

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Gary R. Chartrand

It is worthwhile to listen to the entire testimony. Every single speaker was excellent! You will be shocked at Chartrand’s conduct.

You may wish to start after the full hour of awards, group photos and self-adulation, for which the board had plenty of time. About 1 hour 10 minutes in, Mr. Chartrand begins the public comment and alerts us that instead of 3 minutes, he will only allow 2 minutes each and that no clapping would be allowed.

After people began respectful clapping for a speaker at 1 hour 16 minutes, it was my turn to speak. Chartrand interrupts me and again stops the proceedings to admonish the audience. I began by saying, “I object to the reduction of time and the lack of respect for the speakers who have traveled long distances for an opportunity to express their views.” It is then he starts an argument with me, interrupting me again in an intimidating manner. The audience responds as well. He interrupted other speakers as they had difficulty chopping their well-crafted 3 minute speeches to just 2 minutes.

It is a continuation of the arrogance shown by the Florida Department of Education, State Board of Education, the Governor and some members of the state legislature. Those who are against adoption of Common Core have been polite but are being ignored. Many of the groups attending brought the experts to them, yet the FL SBOE said our facts were wrong. We said parents should be in control. They stated the federal government knows best what to do with our kids.

The State Board of Education in a unanimous vote, adopted the Common Core Standards with the minor changes they added many termed this putting “lipstick on a pig.”

Far from being discouraged, the group gathered to talk about their next moves, and resolved never to allow Corporate Cronies who have greased the skids to sell our kids for their quest for money and power. They may have the money, but we have the truth and we will never sell our children out to the progressives who want a compliant citizenry called “Human Capital.”

We must redouble our efforts against this tyrannical child abuse called Common Core. Join our efforts. Our ads are spreading the word across the nation. You can help by going to www.ivbe.org and make a tax deductible contribution to our ads which are now playing in Florida and Pennsylvania. Contact the Governor: (850) 488-7146  or email him by clicking here: http://www.flgov.com/contact-gov-scott/email-the-governor/

I encourage you to tell him what you think about Common Core and its mainlining of our children with government propaganda. You may wish to ask your state representative and senator to stand up for our kids and vote for one of the bills to STOP COMMON CORE!

Various bills are now being considered on Common Core in the State Legislature. Rep. Debbie Mayfield (R-FL District 54) has introduced HB 25 but has met resistance as the leadership has opposed it. The leadership under Senator John Legg who owns charter schools and Senator Don Gaetz (R-FL District 1) who has close ties to Jeb Bush, the Foundation for Florida’s Future and Foundation for Excellence in Education. In a Tampa Bay Times article Gaetz is quoted as saying:

Top choice for 2016 is Jeb Bush: Gaetz said Florida’s former governor is the Republican Party’s strongest choice for president in 2016, even as a new poll by Democratic-aligned Public Policy Polling said most Florida Republicans prefer U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio to run over Bush.

“I’m a Jeb Bushie,” he said, adding Bush’s book on immigration reform “will turn heads.”

Patricia Levesque is the Executive Director for Jeb Bush’s Foundation for Florida’s Future. She served as Governor Jeb Bush’s deputy chief of staff for education. Previously, Patricia served six years in the Florida Legislature in the Speakers Office and as staff director over education policy. Her husband is The Senate counsel, George Levesque. Entangling relationships seem to trump the will of the people.

Twenty-seven County Republican Executive Committees have resolved against Common Core, not to mention the Republican National Committee, and both the Florida and National Federation of Republican Women. It is curious why Rick Scott has chosen not to listen to the conservatives who recognize Common Core is unconstitutional as it is a federal takeover of education supported by President Obama, Secretary Arne Duncan, the Center for American Progress (established and funded by George Soros)and establishment Republicans, like former Governors Mike Huckabee and Jeb Bush.

Jeb Bush endorsed Rick Scott’s campaign for reelection and this is what Rick Scott said:

“I am grateful to have the support and friendship of Governor Jeb Bush. His time as governor built a strong foundation for Florida’s future by making our education system more accountable and our state’s economy more attractive to job creators. His positive vision for Florida continues to inspire us today as we work to cut taxes and get our economy back on track.”

Meanwhile, the same people who are listed as contributors to Jeb’s foundations are supporting Rick Scott’s campaign. They also stand to gain Billions from Common Core. They have paid hundreds of millions to quiet opposition to the national takeover of education. The list of grants and contributions is publicly available on the web sites of the foundations. The National Education Association, PTA, State Boards of Education, various media outlets, Fordham Institute, and Jeb Bush’s Foundations were all recipients of generous awards from Microsoft, the Eli Broad Foundation, GE, and Pearson PLC, the textbook company whose third largest shareholder is the Government of Libya.

Gary Chartrand, Chair of the Florida State Board of Education stated at the meeting that he calculates that the expense of just getting initially set up with computers and bandwidth for the required implementation of Common Core would run over $2.5 Billion. Federal funding they received was only $700 million. No budgets were ever submitted or reviewed by state legislators or the State Board of Education to approve the adoption of Common Core.

It was approved by the State Board of Education with no dialog about the expense to the taxpayers of the state.

RELATED COLUMN: Obama Asserts Federal Control Over Discipline in Public Schools

EDITORS NOTE: Rob Bluey reports, “In a letter to the National Education Association’s 3 million members, President Dennis Van Roekel issued a sharp critique of Common Core. It marks the first time NEA has voiced concerns about the standards, a key initiative of the Obama Administration.”

I am sure it won’t come as a surprise to hear that in far too many states, implementation has been completely botched. Seven of ten teachers believe that implementation of the standards is going poorly in their schools. Worse yet, teachers report that there has been little to no attempt to allow educators to share what’s needed to get [Common Core State Standards] implementation right.  In fact, two thirds of all teachers report that they have not even been asked how to implement these new standards in their classrooms.

Common Core Standards Threaten Our Children’s Schools
[youtube]http://youtu.be/1DOCH1YT6Uk[/youtube]

Common Core: George Soros and Hillary Clinton want your kids

“Conceived as the Democratic answer to the Heritage Foundation,” the George Soros-founded and funded Center for American Progress (CAP) was considered Hillary Clinton’s think-tank at its inception in 2003.  President and CEO John Podesta, once Bill Clinton’s chief of staff, was seen as its nominal head.

CAP was viewed as “a kind of Clinton White-House-in-exile – or a White House staff in readiness for President Hillary Clinton,” according to Nation reporter Bob Dreyfuss in his illuminating 2004 article entitled, “An Idea Factory for the Democrats.” Many of those mentioned have since populated the Obama administration, while CAP has become the president’s favorite think-tank.

Dreyfuss, who quotes Hillary Clinton, writes, “We’ve had the challenge of filling a void on our side of the ledger for a long time, while the other side created an infrastructure that has come to dominate political discourse. The center [CAP] is a welcome effort to fill that void.”

Podesta who has fulfilled the need for a “progressive counterpart” to the conservative Heritage Foundation is now back at the White House as presidential advisor.  Neera Tanden the former aide to Senator Clinton is now CAP’s president. Before Podesta’s recent departure, the policy initiative known as Common Core became a major public education project for CAP.

Explaining the Plummet in Test Scores under Common Core

But students’ test scores are plummeting under Common Core, especially in New York State. What is the solution proposed by the Center for American Progress?  A longer school day, of course. Never considering that the standards themselves might be flawed, they make the unsubstantiated assertion that drops in test scores show that the standards are more “rigorous” and therefore require more time.  That’s their argument in their recently released report called “Redesigning and Expanding School Time to Support Common Core Implementation.”

One thing is for sure: the standards have never been tested, and even proponents like Dr. Dana Rickman, director of policy and research at the Georgia Partnership for Excellence in Education, have admitted that “It isbelieved they will lead to improvement.”

Are we to trust the beliefs of those promoting Common Core, like the authors of the report?  One of them, Tiffany D. Miller, associate director for school improvement, has among other things been a fundraiser for the Democratic Party.

Two of the report’s authors come from the National Center on Time & Learning (NCTL): David A. Farbman, a senior researcher, and David J. Goldberg, vice president for national policy and partnerships.  NCTL itself, however, is an outgrowth of the Center for American Progress.  It was “launched in October 2007 at an event at the Center for American Progress in Washington, D.C. featuring Senator Ted Kennedy,” and grew out of the work of a Boston-based nonprofit, Massachusetts 2020, which led the first statewide expanded learning time grant program in the country, according to Wikipedia.  NCTL was formed to expand that work to more states and to develop policies at the federal level.

The report serves this effort: to expand the role of public schools, fulfilling Secretary of Education Arne Duncan’s vision of “community schools” on a national scale.  These would pretty much replace home life by offering such things as homework help, three square meals, and health clinics.

The “report” masquerades as a legitimate report.  But when one looks at the sources and methods used, it is clear that there is no real review of evidence.

Questionable Sources and Grandiose Claims

The first paragraph signals more hype than evidence with the grand claim, “Implementation of the standards, as currently planned in 45 states and the District of Columbia . . . means that the vast majority of students will soon be held to the highest set of English language arts and math literacy expectations in U.S. history.”  This grandiose statement comes from the Fordham Foundation, itself a promoter of Common Core and recipient of funds from the biggest Common Core funder, the Gates Foundation.

The report is full of such sweeping, unsupported assertions and such frequently bandied terms like “deep” and “deeper,” as well as “critical thinking.”  In Common Core promotional material such terms have become commonly accepted truisms; they are repeated by proponents as if they were proven measurements. (These are unstated references to Bloom’s taxonomy.)

The generalities abound: “Replacing lectures with interactive learning between teachers and students, especially learning to a richer and higher level, will require more classroom time, as teachers will have to personalize their attention to individual and small groups of students.”

The report’s authors quote a Chicago teacher who has been told that she needs to be a “facilitator” instead of a teacher in order to properly teach the Common Core standards.  The source for the quotation is Catalyst Chicago, published by the Community Renewal Society, another progressive advocacy organization.

The report’s authors continue to bandy about terms that imply intellectual sophistication: “High-quality expanded-time schools are already using the opportunities inherent in longer classes to build in individualized instruction, critical thinking, and problem solving. . . .”

The authors refer to a report by the “policy group Achieve”: “Teachers will likely need more instructional time in order to teach more rigorous, higher-level content in more depth and to integrate literacy skills into their lessons.”  Achieve is the well-connected non-profit that was the architect for Common Core.

For math, the authors write, “Common Core will bring a shift in focus from briefly and superficially covering many topics to studying fewer topics in much greater depth.”  The authorities they cite are Common Core proponents: Educational Testing Service and EngageNY, of the New York State Department of Education, which has adopted Common Core.

For math, the authors claim that fractions will be introduced at earlier ages, but that as time goes on students will draw upon their accumulated knowledge to solve increasingly complex problems—hardly a new practice in education.  What they don’t mention is that algebra is being moved to ninth grade from eighth grade, and that the standards impose tasks on young children far above their maturity levels.

Masking the Real Aims

Part of the overall (but often unstated) goal of Common Core is closing the “achievement gap.”  Proponents like to hide the fact that slower learners will have endless opportunities to learn the material under the cover of “deeper learning.”  Consider these two sentences in the report:

“Allowing students to both try and fail and requiring them to find more than one route to success will mean providing them with more time to explore and learn on their own than is the norm in today’s classrooms. Students will then be asked to explain their reasoning, a process that consumes time but fosters still deeper learning.”

Such demands to demonstrate deeper learning have led to bizarre math.  Much of the parental opposition to Common Core has been instigated by the math homework. To truly understand how convoluted the new math is one needs to see the examples.  One sign at an anti-Common Core rally at the Georgia state capitol, on February 4th, did this and exclaimed, significantly, “Parents Can’t Help.”  Indeed, parents are being cut out in more ways than one.

The sign set side-by-side a long multiplication problem under traditional math and then under the new Common Core math.  One glance will show how math is being unnecessarily complicated in the demand to have students “explain their reasoning,” while allowing credit for those students who get the wrong answer but provide pleasing explanations.  (In English Language Arts, more time is to be spent on “deep reading” and “deep discussion.”)  This is one way to close the “achievement gap.”


Cherokee Tea Party Patriots-Woodstock, GA’s Photos

Indeed, the CAP report states that the aim of a longer school day is to close the achievement gap: underprivileged students need time to catch up.  However, the authors also claim that a longer school day is needed to teach the more rigorous standards.  They want it both ways.

“Collaboration”: More Money for Failed Progressive Teaching Methods

Another reason for the longer school day is for time to “collaborate”—hardly a new idea in education,” as references to such practices as “cooperative reading” in the 1990s indicate. “Intra-student communication and collaboration” will presumably prepare students for what they will encounter in higher education and the work force.  But this requires more time, even as the students seem to be left to themselves: “Having regular opportunities for student collaboration necessitates many group projects and the continuous integration of a technique known as ‘turn and talk,’ where students discuss the topic at hand with each other and seek to gain insights from their peers.”

Teachers are supposed to be “facilitators” to their students, and spend their time analyzing student data and determining which teacher fits best with which “cohort” of students.  Extra time is needed for teacher collaboration and “professional development,” presumably to improve teaching.  But as is the common wisdom among teachers, such “collaboration” is a means to control teachers, to make sure they don’t go off script and improvise.

Of course, the longer school day means spending more tax-payer money for keeping schools open and more pay for teachers. According to the report, the Department of Education is already spending money on longer school days through School Improvement Grants.  Flexibility waivers allow funding to be set aside for tutoring under the Supplemental Educational Services program for “whole-school expanded learning time.”  The 21st Century Community Learning Centers waiver also allows in-school expanded learning time.  No doubt, there are cases where students require extra time and extra help.  But it seems that the longer school day will mean for most students time to sit in groups endlessly discussing preselected topics with their peers, devising byzantine ways to explain through drawings and stories their thinking on otherwise straightforward math problems—all while gaining little actual knowledge.

Collaboration, facilitation, critical thinking, etc., are the hallmarks of progressive, student-centered teaching methods that have long been demonstrated to be counterproductive.  As Jeanne S. Chall stated in her 2000 seminal survey, The Academic Achievement Challenge, “The major conclusion of my study in this book is that a traditional, teacher-centered approach to education generally results in higher academic achievement than a progressive, student-centered approach.”  She found this to be particularly true for students who came from low-income and middle-income families, and had less school preparation.  Unlike the authors of the CAP report and the reports which appear in their bibliography, Chall was a scholar, a Harvard University education professor and was recognized in the New York Times as “having written the definitive analysis of reading research.”

The traditional teaching methods that Chall describes are also much more efficient.  But then again, efficiency and real education are not what the Center for American Progress is about.

FL: Sarasota County School Board wants more money to pay teachers for doing less?

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Sarasota County School Board members. Front row: Caroline Zucker, Shirley Brown. Back row: Dr. Carole Todd, Jane Goodwin and Frank Kovach. For a larger view click on the photo.

The School Board of Sarasota County is pushing for the extension of a 1 mill tax on all county property holders on March 25th. They are using school funds to lobby in favor of and promote the 1 mill tax. According to their official Report on the Uses of Referendum Funds since 2002, ”This vote allows the District to maintain existing programs, provide additional programs and continue the District’s commitment to quality education.”

In a previous column I questioned whether the School Board is really committed to a “quality education”. School Board Member Caroline Zucker responded to my column in an email stating, “There u go telling incorrect info.” I replied, “What is incorrect?”. To date Zucker has not answered my question.

Historically the revenue from the 1 mill tax goes directly into teacher’s salaries (see the District Report on the uses of referendum funds since 2002).This is why the School Board holds a special off cycle referendum at a cost to the School District of $.5 million. Doing so suppresses the vote.

However, teachers come out in droves to vote for their pay raise, and the union promotes the referendum via teachers and parents as a must have do-or-die effort to insure a “quality education.”

What the referendum does is make for a “quality union salary and benefit package” for teachers and administrators. For their $.5 million investment the School Board gets an ROI of an estimated $30+ million annually for four years. Not a bad deal but will it lead to a better education for Sarasota County public school children?

There are two issues. The first is that the School Board is all in with Common Core. This means that teachers have little or no control over what is taught, how it is taught, when it is taught and how it is tested. Parents are totally out of the picture. Common Core cuts out the ideal of local control of the education process, leading to a top down approach designed and implemented by the US Department of Education.

Terrence O. Moore, an assistant professor of history at Hillsdale College, states, “The Common Core Standards control the testing and curriculum of public schools and a large number of private schools in over forty states in the nation. Sold to the public as a needed reform, the Common Core nationalizes absurdity, superficiality, and political bias in the American classroom. As a result, the great stories of a great nation are at risk, along with the minds and souls of our children.”

So, teachers will be given what they must teach – in effect and in practice – Sarasota County teachers will be getting paid more, if the referendum passes, for doing much less due to Common Core.

The second issue is the children themselves. Which does research show truly enhances student achievement – teacher salaries or the child’s family?

Rod Thomson in an op-ed writes, “The debate over extending the extra tax for Sarasota County schools needs to be seen in light of the much larger debate over the future of our children and grandchildren and their opportunities for improved lives. In that context, the extra money taken by the school district is not just a waste of taxpayer money. It is a feel-good but ultimately empty distraction that allows us to vote for something without taking any action on the actual underlying, fundamental causes of poor student achievement and lack of upward mobility. But those root causes are hard to correct.”

“An extensive Harvard study was recently released titled ‘Where is the Land of Opportunity?‘ The four researchers concluded that the largest predictor of a child’s positive ability to move up in life is a family with both parents at home. For lack of upward mobility, they wrote, “the strongest and most robust predictor is the fraction of children with single parents. This study piles on top of a snow-capped mountain of data pointing to what all of us really know to be true — the metaphorical elephant in the living room. And spending more money on programs and salaries is simply irrelevant to the driving factor of family,” notes Thomson.

So why doesn’t the Sarasota County School Board recognize this disconnect between teacher salaries and student performance? Why they want to get reelected. Who gets out the vote for them? Why the teacher’s union of course. Are they buying votes? All we can say is that since the referendum was first introduced only one school board member wasn’t re elected – Caroline Zucker. But she ran again and was elected.

Three school board members are up for reelection in 2014. Perhaps that is why they are pushing the 1 mill referendum?

EDITORS NOTE: Stephanie Simon from Politico writes that with states such as Florida, Texas, and Washington state recently deciding not to require courses such as chemistry, physics, Algebra II or a foreign language for high school graduation, they are thumbing their noses at Obama’s call for a “rigorous college-prep curriculum” for all students, supposedly embodied in the Common Core State Standards.

Florida: Hillsborough County School District ignored ESE issues

At last Tuesday’s school board meeting the Hillsborough County School Board received a letter from school district training Specialist including Corie Holmes who said he was told to ignore issues. The letter documents a lack of resources for exceptional students dating back to the 2007-08 school year.

If you want to see issues being ignored first hand you only have to go to the now infamous video of the Hillsborough County School Board Meeting for February 14, 2012 (at the district website). This would have been the next meeting after Isabella Herrera’s tragic death that began on a school bus and Superintendent MaryEllen Elia’s first opportunity to openly and honestly inform the board and the public and discuss it at a board meeting.

A special needs student, Isabella Herrera died from respiratory distress on January 26, 2012 that began on a school bus. The aide and bus driver failed to call 911 or seek assistance at the pediatric clinic that they were parked in front of. The event went virtually unreported to the public for 9 months during a campaign year when 4 incumbent school board members were trying to get re-elected. The death of Isabella Herrera was only revealed after the death a second special needs student Jenny Caballero. Conceivably the second death of Jenny Caballera would never have occurred had appropriate action taken place after the death of Isabella Herrera. But that didn’t happen.

Typically at each board meeting, the Superintendent is given the opportunity to bring up any important issues. At the February 14, 2012 school board meeting one Elia talks about SAFETY and recounts an entire episode at Bloomingdale High School which she describes as “a bizarre accident” and “This truly was an accident” and “I can’t stress enough that this could have been a lot worse if not for the quick thinking and actions of teacher Melissa Gentile.” But Elia never mentions a word about Isabella’s death.

Here is something even more egregious about this February 14, 2012 Board meeting- it turns out that this is the same Board meeting that Veleria Fabiszak spoke at and warned: “Its about accountability and justice and training…My daughter nearly died at the hands of Hillsborough County School District.” (this occurs at about 1:09:00)

The incident Fabiszak is referring to occurred on February 3, 2011, when Fabiszak said she picked up her daughter Chelsea from school and found she had a broken femur, and urine soaking her entire lower body. Fabiszak says she was shocked to learn no one knew, and therefore never called 911. Fabiszak believes Chelsea could have died that day and she repeatedly spoke out at school board meetings, warning members of outdated education procedures for special needs students.

At the February 14, 2012 school board meeting Board Member Griffin says: “I want to know what is going on…this cannot continue, whatever the situation is, whatever the resolution is, we have not met it…but I want to have some answers on this and I want it within the next week.”

What is particularly disturbing is that if you check the Board Digest for this meeting it shows comments from every Board member EXCEPT April Griffin. It is very disconcerting to see what they chose to put in and what they chose to leave out, both of which suggest an attempt to misdirect.

Note that Elia’s comments about the student at Bloomingdale came just BEFORE Veleria Fabiszak’s comments and Elia would have easily seen Veleria in the audience with her daughter Chelsea and known what Veleria was going to speak about as Veleria had previously appeared and informed the District about this near fatality of her daughter.

How is it that the digest shows Elia’s comments about the student at Bloomingdale at length steering attention to another incident at another school while also deleting any comment from Board member Griffin emphatically stating “I want to know what is going on…this cannot continue”. In fact, the Board Digest ends after Elia’s safety comments and does not record any of the discussion over Ms. Fabiszak’s comments even though the board meeting continued for at least an hour more. Obviously this digest is a joke and does not even deserve to be called a “Digest”; it is designed to mislead and misrepresent.

There is at least one other person present at this board meeting that logically would have known about Isabella Herrera’s death but also failed to disclose it, and that person is the Chief Facilities Officer Cathy Valdes (re transportation). Logically, John Franklin, General Manager of Transportation, would have reported the incident to Cathy Valdes. Furthermore, a week earlier on February 7, 2012 John Franklin, General Manager of Transportation, told the Sheriff’s detective that he would have to get a subpoena to get the Herrera bus video. This typically would have come from and/or in concert with his boss Cathy Valdes. Cathy Valdes would have been reporting to her boss Elia.

We reported last week how, despite a Facilities Division plagued with tragedies and insecure schools, MaryEllen Elia and the School Board instead promoted Cathy Valdes to now be Deputy Superintendent while they fire teachers who have to deal with those inadequate and insecure schools.

Everyone should watch this video and comprehend what is taking place here. How could anyone sit there having full knowledge of the recent death of Isabella on (January 26, 2012) and first misdirect the board to an accident, then ignore a parent warning of her child’s near death, then ignore a Boardmember demanding to know what is going on, and then post a digest that completely misrepresents what just took place.

Superintendent Elia, Chair Olson, and Cathy Valdes would have been sitting there with full knowledge of Isabella’s death pretending that they had nothing to add to the discussion. And Olson, as Chair, would have been in control of the discussion and able to direct/misdirect the Board’s discussion. Some wonder what kind of a person would fail to speak when faced with all of this? But don’t forget that it was also an election year and four incumbent board members were trying to get re-elected and the ramifications for those four. Three of those four are consistent Elia supporters when they vote. Is this why Elia never disclosed the death of Isabella Herrera?

You can just imagine these three exchanging glances as this unfolded before them at the Board meeting and the probable conspiracy to cover up the death of Isabella Herrera. Olson, Elia, and Cathy Valdes had an obligation to Hillsborough County students and residents to say what they knew and they failed to act.

Allen West: If Governor Scott does not “renounce Common Core” he will lose in November

Dr. Karen R. Effrem, MD from the Florida Stop Common Core Coalition (FSCCC)writes:

“During the [Educational Policy] conference, Colonel West also did an interview with the Report Card, and had a stern warning for Governor Scott and the Republican establishment that seem to be trying to do a stealth implementation of Common Core without really changing anything:

“Colonel West stated: ‘If Gov. Scott does not clearly renounce the Common Core for Florida, he WILL lose the upcoming election. The Republican Clubs and the Republican Executive Committees are overwhelmingly opposed to Common Core.'”

Chad Lincoln in a Facebook post states, “It’s rumored that Scott is going to wait for Crist to take a hard position. Then Scott will match it and take the issue to the sidelines.”

FCCC gives the following update on education related legislation for the 2014 session:

STANDARDS HB 25 by Rep. Debbie Mayfield (R – Vero Beach) still has not been heard in committee and there is no senate companion bill YET.

On the other side, Rep. Janet Adkins and the K-12 Subcommittee passed the “Common Core Cover-Up” bill, AKA “Lipstick on a Pig” bill, PCB TKS 14-01, that merely removes references to Common Core from statute and changes the name to the Next Generation Sunshine State Standards or Florida Standards.  This matches the cosmetic and “minor” changes that the commissioner is presenting to the State Board of Education for rubber stamping on February 18th.

full hearing report,including a link  video of testimony by Randy Osborne,  Catherine Baer, and Meredith Mears, and media coverage are available on our website.

DATA COLLECTION HB 195 by Rep. Jake Raburn (R-Valrico) and SB 189 by Senator Dorothy Hukill (R-Port Orange) had their first hearings in committee this last week.  These identical bills seek to ban the collection of biometric and other sensitive data on students.  We are grateful for the efforts of these legislators and look forward to working with them to make this legislation the best that it can be.

Nationally, support continues to pour in for our statement against the deceptive data privacy letter from Commissioner Stewart and 33 other chief state school officers.  We are up to 8 national and 36 state groups from 29 different states.

CURRICULUM SB 864 by Senator Alan Hays (R – Umatilla) that seeks to put curriculum decisions at the local level was just filed a few days ago.  We appreciate his efforts.  A detailed analysis will be coming soon.

EDITORS NOTE: The featured image is courtesy of Gage Skidmore.

RELATED COLUMNS:

Out of Control – Florida Bureaucracy Demands Testing Paperwork for Dying Boy

Update – Boy Dies While Family Still Hassled About FCAT

S.Res.345: A resolution strongly supporting the restoration and protection of State authority and flexibility in establishing and defining challenging student academic standards and assessments

The Agenda of Racially Sensitive ‘White Guys’

Over at a place called Diversity, Inc., founder and CEO Luke Visconti runs a regular column titled “Ask the White Guy.” Recent advice columns have concerned “Why is Trayvon a White-on-Black Crime?” “Can a White Man Speak with Authority on Diversity?” and “Do Blacks Need to Relax Their Natural Hair to Get Promoted?”

No kidding. There is also another white guy who profits from his presumed sensitivity to racism as he makes the rounds on college campuses, coming next to Princeton. His name is Tim Wise and he has written a book titled, White Like Me: Reflections on Race from a Privileged Son.

Diversity, Inc., as to be expected, weighed in on Seattle Seahawks football player Richard Sherman’s claims that accusations that he displayed thug-like behavior in an interview immediately after he made a game-saving deflection is evidence of racism. But Sherman’s statement to a FOX reporter, “I’m the best corner in the game! When you try me with a sorry receiver like [San Francisco 49er Michael] Crabtree, that’s the result you gonna get! Don’t you ever talk about me! … Don’t you open your mouth about the best or I’m gonna shut it for you real quick!” is hardly sportsmanlike behavior.

But as usual, Diversity, Inc., seeks out racism. In this article they allow Sherman’s quotes about online comments to end the article: “mind-boggling the way the world reacted,” Sherman said. “I can’t say the world, I don’t want to generalize people like that because there are a lot of great people who didn’t react that way. But for the people who did react that way and throw the racial slurs and things like that out there, it was really sad. Especially that close to Martin Luther King Day.”

(Democrats are now studying ways to monitor “hate speech,” including online comments to which Sherman referred; this bone-headed idea came from a project for a geography class at Humboldt State University.)

Even after his team won, USA Today referred to this incident in the headline, “Seahawks’ Richard Sherman is full of smiles, not quotes, after Super Bowl win.”

Companies like Diversity, Inc. who capitalize on the fear of discrimination lawsuits continue to exploit minority communities, as such white guys like Norman Mailer and Howard Zinn did in the 1950s, 1960s, and 1970s.

In his 1957 essay, “The White Negro,” Norman Mailer advanced the idea of “Hip,” “the sophistication of the wise primitive in a giant jungle.” According to Mailer’s hipster theology, God is “located in the senses of his body, that trapped, mutilated, and nonetheless megalomaniacal God who is It. . . . not the God of the churches but the unachievable whisper of the mystery within the sex, the paradise of limitless energy and perception just beyond the next wave of the next orgasm.”

Mailer rationalized the behavior of the psychopath: “The psychopath murders—if he has the courage—out of the necessity to purge his violence, for if he cannot empty his hatred then he cannot love, his being is frozen with implacable self-hatred for his cowardice.” Mailer presented the case of two eighteen-year-old thugs beating up a candy-store keeper. Such murder is not therapeutic because it’s not murder of an equal. Still, wrote Mailer, “courage of a sort is necessary, for one murders not only a weak fifty-year-old man but an institution as well.”

Howard Zinn, the late communist history professor too saw the “Negro,” specifically, the “ghetto Negro,” as someone who could fulfill his aims of tearing down capitalist institutions. In a 1969 essay titled “Marxism and the New Left,” Mailer wrote, “Marx envisioned the industrial proletariat as the revolutionary agent because it was in need, exploited and brought together in the factory. The Negro is in need, exploited and brought together in the ghetto.” The New Left, the “loose amalgam of civil rights activists, Black Power advocates, ghetto organizers, student rebels, Vietnam protestors” would then recruit the ghetto “Negroes” to revolutionize “cities, universities, corporations.”

The respectable middle class was seen as the biggest obstacle to a communist revolution. The 1960s was the time when the black community was making its biggest inroads into the middle class and into higher education. Radicals like Zinn did not want blacks to acquire middle class status and values. Some professors argued for admission of low-achieving black students to their campuses over high-achievers. The New Left’s promotion of “smashing monogamy” and welfare dependence encouraged the decline of the black family.

Mailer gained notoriety and rationalization for his own thuggishness that included stabbing one of his wives and championing killer Jack Abbott, who would go on to murder again. That led to sales of his books. Zinn enjoyed the benefits of a tenured position in academe and sales of his books. Visconti and Price today rake in consulting and speaking fees for hammering on the distorted and depressing charges of never-ending and ever-present racism.

There were some black leaders during the Civil Rights era who objected to such stereotyping and presumptuousness.

In his speech before the 84th Annual Session of the National Baptist Convention, in 1964, Reverend Joseph H. Jackson, President of the National Baptist Convention, indirectly criticized such agitators. He advised that “Negroes must still make their own leaders.” The leaders should come from the fields of politics, civil rights, religion, and business:

“We have athletes and comedians. Let us still applaud our athletes when they achieve on the field of competition, and let us join with others and freely laugh at the jokes that our comedians give. But we must not confuse these various fields. There must not develop any dictatorship of any one field, and athletes and comedians must not make the mistake of assuming the role of political, religious, and cultural leaders. We as a race must see to it that each man serves in his field, and we must not allow the white community to pick our leaders or to tell us what Negro we should follow.”

Jackson advanced a more measured approach to ending racial injustice and cautioned against a “spirit of revenge, blind emotions, and uncontrolled temper.” Reminding his audience about how direct action led to “mob violence and vandalism,” he suggested instead using the vote and respectful debate.

Like Frederick Douglass, Jackson expressed hope that the American founders’ ideals would be fulfilled:

“America was born in a struggle and as a struggle for freedom, and for the opportunity to develop the highest resources of mankind. The Declaration of Independence and the Federal Constitution were the results of our fathers’ attempts to put on paper the ideals that inspired the birth of the nation, and those principles by which and on which the nation was erected and sustained. There have been errors, mistakes, and gross sins committed against this American venture, but this high venture has not been repudiated or negated.”

You will not see mention of Jackson in Howard Zinn’s A People’s History of the United States, widely used in high school and college classrooms. You will not likely hear mention of him at the Diversity, Inc., workshops and conferences. Students on college campuses are not likely to hear a respectful reference to him from speakers like Tim Wise. Conservative black leaders like Allen West are not treated respectfully by liberal white journalists. It seems that such “white guys” still have an agenda.

EDITORS NOTE: The featured image is from ANUNews.net.