Archive for August 2012
Is the federal government just unwilling to call anything what it really is?
“Career and College Readiness” and “Education for All” both mean creating a mediocre standard that narrows the high achievers and raises the low achievers to a common, narrow, mediocre standard that aims no higher than nonselective community college.
“State-led” doesn’t mean the states rather than the federal government promoted it; it means the states are supposed to believe they had a hand in starting it before the federal government took it over.
“No Child Left Behind” means no (or very few) decisions by teachers or administrators will be left to their own judgment.
“Rigorous standards” doesn’t mean rigorous compared to the best; it means rigorous compared to the worst. It means mediocre nationalized standards, which are lower for many states and higher for some, depending on the state and the school subject.
“Data sharing” means data baring. It means standing privacy-stripped before a web of citizen surveillance you didn’t vote for and can’t repeal. (Ask around: what do P-20 and State Longitudinal Database Systems mean? Why is E.P.I.C. suing the Dept. of Ed over privacy?)
“Sustainable Development” means giving plants and animals equal rights with humans, and making property rights a thing of the past.
So, today I’ve been studying the latest euphemism: Communities That Care.
Such a nice sounding name. Would any community be against it, or want to be one that doesn’t give a hoot?
But the more I study what Communities that Care (CTC) is all about, the less I like it.
Like Common Core, Communities that Care is a youth-oriented, government promoted, data collecting, reform program. (Common Core says it’s creating better schools. Communities that Care says it’s cutting down on youth crime/substance abuse.) In both cases, voters don’t get to vote on the programs, and state legislators don’t get to discuss adoption of the programs. A tiny group (city council, or school board) gets to sign the rest of us up for it.
Like Common Core, Communities that Care is presented first of all as free money. (With Common Core, the first introduction to it was Obama’s Race to the Top grant; with Communities that Care, our city’s first introduction to it is the appealing form of a $10,000 grant from the Dept. of Health and Human Services.)
But when you look beyond the words, in both cases, these federally funded, “progressive” programs are ways for the federal government to control localities.
Well, look at this, http://www.sdrg.org/ctcresource/Community%20Assessment%20Training/Trainer%20Guide/CAT_TG_mod2.pdf
The document is called Using the Communities That Care (CTC) Youth Survey.
It assumes guilt. It assumes kids are drinking and doing other detrimental things.
It also falsely assumes that having guns in a community increases crime. I’ve known all my life –haven’t you?– that in towns/countries where there are high numbers of gun owning citizens, there’s more often less, not more, crime. http://gunowners.org/op0746.htm
Obviously, the authors of this CTC document are believers in having only the government own the guns, and that young people can not be trusted around guns. Well, many people would disagree.
Here’s what the document calls “risk factors”:
Risk Factors and Scales in the Communities That Care Youth Survey
Availability of Drugs
Availability of Firearms
Community Laws and Norms Favorable toward Drug Use, Firearms and Crime
Transitions and Mobility
Low Neighborhood Attachment and Community
Family History of the Problem Behavior
Family Management Problems
Favorable Parental Attitudes and Involvement in the Problem Behavior
Academic Failure Beginning in Late Elementary School
Lack of Commitment to School
Friends Who Engage in the Problem Behavior
Favorable Attitudes toward the Problem Behavior
Early Initiation of the Problem Behavior
Perceived Availability of Drugs and Handguns
Laws and Norms Favorable to Drug Use and Handguns
etc. etc. etc.
But that’s not all!
Some things about the Youth Surveys are creepy. See survey here: http://www.sdrg.org/ctcresource/CTC_Youth_Survey_2006.pdf
Some of the questions seem to assume guilt. They introduce substance abuse, depression, suicide and other ideas to the minds of the youth who take the surveys, even those who may be so innocent that they don’t even understand the question. (Why can’t we write our own, better questions if we really need this type of data for our local police or youth groups?)
What are the chances you would be seen as cool if you a) smoked cigarettes b) began drinking alcoholic beverages regularly c) smoked cigarettes d) carried a handgun [Shouldn't this be an essay question at the very least? There is no room in multiple choice]
Used derbisol in your lifetime? [what the heck is derbisol and how do I mark a multiple choice quiz to say huh?]
We argue about the same things in my family over and over. (Yes, YES, No, or NO) [what a question.]
Well, I’m not going to spend much time fighting Communities That Care. Let the local city council make this choice. As a parent, I’m not going to let them survey my children, anyway.
Reblogging from Boston Globe’s Rock the Schoolhouse:
An Expert’s View of Common Core’s Focus On Nonfiction Texts
by Jim Stergios August 30, 2012
The Common Core national standards are increasingly controversial, with Utah, Indiana and a number of states that had adopted them now reconsidering. A recent New York Times education blog notes the following:
Forty-four states and United States territories have adopted the Common Core Standards and, according to this recent Times article, one major change teachers can expect to see is more emphasis on reading “informational,” or nonfiction, texts across subject areas:
While English classes will still include healthy amounts of fiction, the standards say that students should be reading more nonfiction texts as they get older, to prepare them for the kinds of material they will read in college and careers. In the fourth grade, students should be reading about the same amount from “literary” and “informational” texts, according to the standards; in the eighth grade, 45 percent should be literary and 55 percent informational, and by 12th grade, the split should be 30/70.
And seeing itself as a potential vendor, the Times chirps cheerfully:
“Well, The New York Times and The Learning Network are here to help.”
There’s been a lot written on the loss of literature in curricula around the country. And there is good reason for that. As I noted in testimony to the Utah Education Interim Committee:
Massachusetts’ remarkable rise on national assessments is not because we aligned our reading standards to the NAEP. Rather, it is because, unlike Common Core, our reading standards emphasized high-quality literature. Reading literature requires the acquisition in a compressed timeframe of a richer and broader vocabulary than non-fiction texts. Vocabulary acquisition is all-important in the timely development of higher-level reading.
But even if you agree with the idea of refocusing our classrooms on nonfiction texts, what is the quality of the offerings suggested by Common Core, a set of standards copyrighted by two Washington-based entities (the Council of Chief State School Officers and the National Governors Association)?
I can think of no one whose opinion might be better informed on the topic than Massachusetts’ own Will Fitzhugh, who founded The Concord Review in 1987 and has received numerous prizes and appointments as a result of his work there. For those who aren’t familiar with The Concord Review, it is a quarterly journal that has now published 1,033 exemplary history research papers (average 6,000 words), on a huge variety of topics, by high school students from 46 states and 38 other countries. The journal accepts about 6% of the papers submitted.
In a January 2011 piece highlighting his work, then-education reporter Sam Dillon of The New York Times noted that Fitzhugh
showcases high school research papers, sits at his computer in a cluttered office above a secondhand shop here, deploring the nation’s declining academic standards…His mood brightens, however, when talk turns to the occasionally brilliant work of the students whose heavily footnoted history papers appear in his quarterly, The Concord Review. Over 23 years, the review has printed 924 essays by teenagers from 44 states and 39 nations…
Fitzhugh is deeply concerned by the fact that the majority of students pack up their duffelbags and computers, and head off to college without ever having completed a genuine research paper on history. The Concord Review has been a labor of love that seeks to change that sad state of affairs. In a piece entitled “Skip the Knowledge!” published inEducationViews.org at the start of August 2012, Fitzhugh articulated his view on the value of Common Core in getting students to be truly college-ready in reading and writing non-fiction texts:
It is not clear whether the knowledge-free curricula of the graduate schools of education, or the Core experiences at Harvard College, in any way guided the authors of our new Common Core in their achievement of the understanding that it is not knowledge of anything that our students require, but Thinking Skills. They took advantage of the perspective and arguments of a famous cognitive psychologist at Stanford in designing the history portion of the Core. Just think how much time they saved by not involving one of those actual historians, who might have bogged down the whole enterprise in claiming that students should have some knowledge of history itself, and that such knowledge might actually be required before any useful Thinking Skills could be either acquired or employed. If we had followed that path, we might actually be asking high school students to read real history books—shades of the James Madison era!!
Keep Poor James Madison, back in the day, spending endless hours reading scores upon scores of books on the history of governments, as he prepared to become the resident historian and intellectual “father” of the United States Constitution in the summer of 1787 in Philadelphia! If he had only known what we know now thanks to the new Common Core, he could have saved the great bulk of that time and effort if he had only acquired some Thinking Skills instead!
In a piece entitled “Turnabout,” which came out Tuesday, Fitzhugh goes further.
The New Common Core Standards call for a 50% reduction in “literary” [aka fictional non-informational texts] readings for students, and an increase in nonfiction informational texts, so that students may be better prepared for the nonfiction they will encounter in college and at work.
In addition to memos, technical manuals, and menus (and bus schedules?), the nonfiction informational texts suggested include The Gettysburg Address, Letter from Birmingham Jail, Abraham Lincoln’s Second Inaugural Address, and perhaps one of theFederalist Papers.
History books, such as those by David Hackett Fischer, James McPherson, David McCullough, Ron Chernow, Paul Johnson, Martin Gilbert, etc. are not among the nonfiction informational texts recommended, perhaps to keep students from having to read any complete books while they are still in high school.
In the spirit of Turnabout, let us consider saving students more time from their fictional non-informational text readings (previously known as literature) by cutting back on the complete novels, plays and poems formerly offered in our high schools. For instance, instead of Pride and Prejudice (the whole novel), students could be asked to read Chapter Three. Instead of the complete Romeo and Juliet, they could read Act Two, Scene Two, and in poetry, instead of a whole sonnet, perhaps just alternate stanzas could be assigned. In this way, they could get the “gist” of great works of literature, enough to be, as it were, “grist” for their deeper analytic cognitive thinking skill mills.
As the goal is to develop deeply critical analytic cognitive thinking skills, surely there is no need to read a whole book either in English or in History classes. This will not be a loss in Social Studies classes, since they don’t assign complete books anyway, but it may be a wrench for English teachers who probably still think that there is some value in reading a whole novel, or a whole play, or even a complete poem.
But change is change is change, as Gertrude Stein might have written, and if our teachers are to develop themselves professionally to offer the new deeper cognitive analytic thinking skills required by the Common Core Standards, they will just have to learn to wean themselves from the old notions of knowledge and understanding they have tried to develop from readings for students in the past.
As Caleb Nelson wrote in 1990 in The Atlantic Monthly, speaking about an older Common Core at Harvard College:
The philosophy behind the [Harvard College] Core is that educated people are not those who have read many books and have learned many facts but rather those who could analyze facts if they should ever happen to encounter any, and who could ‘approach’ books if it were ever necessary to do so….
The New Common Core Standards are meant to prepare our students to think deeply on subjects they know practically nothing about, because instead of reading a lot about anything, they will have been exercising their critical cognitive analytical faculties on little excerpts amputated from their context. So they can think “deeply,” for example, about Abraham Lincoln’s Second Inaugural Address, while knowing nothing about the nation’s Founding, or Slavery, or the new Republican Party, or, of course, the American Civil War.
Students’ new Common academic work with texts about which they will be asked to Think & Learn Deeply, may encourage them to believe that ignorance is no barrier to useful thinking, in the same way that those who have written the Common Core Standards believe that they can think deeply about and make policy for our many state education systems, without having spent much, if any time, as teachers themselves, or even in meeting with teachers who have the experience they lack.
It may very well turn out that ignorance and incompetence transfer from one domain to another much better than deeper thinking skills do, and that the current mad flight from knowledge and understanding, while clearly very well funded, has lead to Standards which will mean that our high school students [those that do not drop out] will need even more massive amounts of remediation when they go on to college and the workplace than are presently on offer.
“Turnabout” may mean many things, including fair play, a reversal of direction or evenwhat we might call a turncoat. (My own favorite reference is to Hal Roach’s screwball, gender-bender comedy of the 1940s.) But the more serious people look at it, the more Common Core is looking like an attempt to revive that merry-go-round of ed fads that have never worked in American education–and are best abandoned.
We were watching Paul Ryan’s incredible Republican National Convention speech last night on t.v. when I got a text message that a reporter who was at the convention wanted to talk to me. Me?
I had submitted the idea to “Eliminate Common Core Collective Education” at the GOP website when they were soliciting grassroots input a few days ago. So the reporter was fast, and the article’s published, and here’s the link to that article: http://blogs.edweek.org/edweek/campaign-k-12/2012/08/common_core_state_standards_di.html
But the link to my educational topic for the GOP input is gone now; I guess, since the convention’s going on, they don’t want more platform input. But here’s the text of what I wrote, which was seconded by 39 people in the one day that it was there before they took down the site:
ELIMINATE COMMON CORE COLLECTIVE EDUCATION
I. COMMON CORE IS NOT ACADEMICALLY SOUND
It is a fact that the only math professor on the official Common Core Validation Committee, Dr. James Milgram, flatly refused to sign off on the standards as being valid. The math standards lack a coherent sequence and do the opposite of what they claim to do (make USA students more internationally competitive). The Asian Tigers have Alg. I in 8th grade. Common Core has it in 9th. By junior high, Common Core places students one to two years behind what they should be.
In the English department, Dr. Sandra Stotsky, who also served on the Common Core Validation Committee, also refused to sign off on the standards being adequate. They are not legitimate college prep because they slash narrative writing and classic, time-tested story reading to make room for info-texts. This is almost like book burning in its refusal to make generous room for literature in American classrooms. Under mandate.
Dr. Kirst of Stanford University said his concern was that the standards call 4 year, 2 year, and vocational school preparation the same thing. Is college prep to be dumbed down? Yes, absolutely. That is how we will make all our students common.
This Harrison Bergeron-esque attempt to make all students equal and common is absurd.
II. EDUCATION WITHOUT REPRESENTATION:
Local educational decision-making capacity is severely reduced by Common Core.
Common Core is education without representation: the federal government incentivized its adoption by states but the public did not vote on the initiative, did not know what it was until after state school boards and governors implemented it, and has no means to amend the standards, as they are under NGA/CCSSO copyright. (Source: http://www.corestandards.org/terms-of-use )
There is no means provided for voters to recall Common Core standards-setting administrators. And the Dept. of Ed put a 15% cap on how much states can add.
We can do better.
So, I hope somebody read it. I hope the truth about Common Core comes out for all citizens, teachers, and within both parties, as more and more people study what it does and does not do.
Yes, the data collection push is out of control.
Data collection issues and privacy rights were the last thing on my mind, until last April, when I learned what Common Core was (besides educational standards that are communizing America’s education). When I learned that common core tests gather kids’ data that is nonacademic, personally identifiable, and longitudinal –meaning it goes from preschool through adulthood and is tracked by the government and researchers who will not need permission to study it– I was horrified. But the data collection desperation of agencies worldwide, continues. For example:
- Just this morning I got an email from a company that contracts with a company I work with to translate foreign documents. They wanted to purchase –in any language– full blogs, full email accounts, and other writings, for a secret client that they said needs a lot of data to practice a new spellchecker. Nuts! (I’ll post the full “job” email* at the bottom.)
- This week, I learned about a German man, Malte Spitz, now an international data privacy freedom fighter. Here’s part of his story (for full text: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/07/25/malte-spitzs-ted-talk-_n_1701775.html )
In 2006, the EU issued the Data Retention Directive, Directive 2006/24/EC. This allowed European phone companies to store user data for six months to two years — including phone numbers, addresses, the times emails and data were sent, as well as users’ locations. Since then, several countries have either rejected or declared unconstitutional this legislation. In 2010, Germany’s Federal Constitution Court suspended the directive, calling it “inadmissable.”
The directive does state that the content of users’ text and voice conversations are not to be stored.
Police agencies could request information from mobile phone companies to access user data, but only via the court system. Spitz filed a suit against his phone company Deutsche Telekom in order to receive his own stored data.
After reaching a settlement, Spitz received a CD of his records in the mail. “At first I thought, okay — it’s a huge file,” he said, “But then I realized, this is my life. This is six months of my life […] You can see where I am, when I sleep at night, what I’m doing.”
- Then there’s Joanne Weiss, Chief of Staff of the U.S. Dept. of Education, who openly admits to “data-mashing,” meaning blending the databases from different federal agencies. She also has said she wants to be helpful to states who want to “partner” and share data.
- Then there’s John Brandt, our Utah Technology Director, CCSSO chair, and NCES member (translation: he’s a fed). He openly admist on his powerpoint online, that the Dept. of Education can be one of the recipients of Utah’s inter-agency data mashing.
- Then there’s “Communities that Care,” a nice-sounding euphemism for a federal lure to give up local data via a program that on the surface, is all about preventing teen drug use and crime. But it’s also a way for the federal government to access what we are thinking, both via ongoing youth surveys, and via archived family and individual data kept by the city.
- My own doctor said that he was offered thousands to share data with the government about his patients. He opted not to accept the money because he believes in patient privacy.
Why are governments so desperate to gather so much private data on citizens? So desperate that they’re overriding Congressional FERPA laws, so desperate that they’re cutting out parental consent.
To read more about this topic:
Department of Education Being Sued for Invasion of Privacy: http://epic.org/apa/ferpa/default.html
Oregon Senator’s Website: http://www.merkley.senate.gov/newsroom/press/release/?id=457f640a-2995-49c4-b386-27ca44c639a8
Federal Surveillance of data via Common Core tests: http://www2.ed.gov/programs/racetothetop-assessment/sbac-cooperative-agreement.pdf
TrapWire Surveillance: http://thenewamerican.com/usnews/constitution/item/12473-trapwire-the-federal-govt-is-literally-watching-every-move-you-make http://thenewamerican.com/tech/item/12635-trapwires-alleged-corporate-and-government-connections-grow
SmartMeter Opt-Out: http://thenewamerican.com/tech/energy/item/12344-privacy-and-health-concerns-on-%E2%80%9Csmart-meters%E2%80%9D-growing-globally
Many thanks for your interest in our program and for providing your experience in translation. Unfortunately we are not looking for a translation service at present; however, as mentioned in our advert we are collecting many versions of data on behalf of a client of ours. This data will be used to assist them in the development of their language tools. If this is something which you think you can assist us in, then please review the details below.
Below you will find some frequently asked questions which will provide you with more data on the program. Please read carefully to check if your language is available.
Note: We are only accepting languages which are available on the list at present.
We aim to collect a large amount of data for each language, so we hope we can collect a minimum of 150,000 words from each person participating. If you think you can reach this number, please let us know. If not, then please continue to save your data and contact us again in the near future.
Unfortunately everyone who contacts us may not be able to join this program, however, if you do know of someone that has their language included, please pass our information to them. We encourage all people to review their language / data.
On reading the FAQ, please reply and let us know what type of data / language you can provide to our program. We can then work on the collection process.
Please note, we do allow participants to donate more than one language if available.
We look forward to working with you.
Kind Regards, Lionbridge Data Collection Group
1) What languages are available? In our program we are now looking for the following languages: English UK, English US, Basque, Bulgarian, Croatian, Estonian, Finnish, Galician, Hungarian, Kazakh, Lithuanian, Romanian, Serbian (Latin and Cyrillic), Slovak, Slovenian, Turkish, Ukrainian, Arabic (Standard), Brazilian Portuguese, Chinese (Simplified and Traditional), Czech, Dutch, French, German, Greek, Italian, Japanese, Latvian, Norwegian, Polish, Portuguese European, Spanish European, Swedish, Indonesian, Latin American Spanish, Danish and Thai.
2) What if my language is not on the list? We are beginning with the languages listed above. However, we may begin collecting for your language in the future. Please begin to save your emails / reports etc. Also, you may know of a friend / colleague who may be able to join now. If so, then pass on our information to them.
3) Who gets my data? We are collecting all data in conjunction with a client who requires a large amount of words to help develop their language tools e.g. spellchecker. No other party will have access to your data
4) What data can I include? a. Email – you can include personal emails which you have written in your own language b. Reports – If you are at college, you can include draft reports which you have written for college (i.e. these are the first writings of your reports, not the final delivered version to your lecturer). If you are a journalist, you can include drafts of articles you have written. Note draft articles should contain both grammar and spelling mistakes i.e. they are not proof read. c. Letters – any letters which you have written in your native language d. Blogs – If you have created a blog and write regular updates, this could be included.
5) If I send email, what happens if I include personal email? Once you send us your email, we will first change all of the email addresses and numbers to firstname.lastname@example.org <mailto:email@example.com> and 000 to remove any personal identification. Your name / signature however will remain on the email if included.
6) Can I use any email account? Yes you can use most email accounts which can be setup either on the internet or at home. Note we are having some issues with exporting from yahoo.
7) How much data to I need to send you? We are looking to collect 600,000 words from each person; however we understand that this is a lot of data for one person. Therefore to assist you we are willing to receive as low as 150,000 words: – On average 2,000 emails. – 200 pages
8) What if I do not have enough data? Don’t worry if you don’t have enough data right now. You can begin to save your data and join our program at a later date. Also, remember, if you have emails and reports, you can join both to reach the required number. We can help you with this.
9) How long do I have to collect the data? We appreciate it can take time to get this detail together and to assist you we will be providing step by step instructions. This program is running until September 30th 2012.
10) Do I get paid for my data? Yes you do! For every 100,000 words you send to us, we will pay you $110.
11) How do I know my data is secure? On acceptance of your data, you will sign a data release form to say that our client can now use your data. No other party will have access to your data.
A neighbor told me that Heber’s city council was considering applying for a $10,000 grant.
Accepting the money would join our city to “Communities That Care,” a federally promoted anti-youth-problems program.
Now, everyone likes money. And everyone is opposed to youth doing drugs and crime. So what’s not to like?
A little research shows that “Communities That Care” raises serious anti-gun issues, as well as possible data privacy issues.
So, here’s the letter I sent to city leaders:
I’m writing to let you know that I’m one of those Heber residents who is now researching Communities that Care, so that we have plenty of information to make an informed decision for our city about whether it’s a good or a bad move for us. My gut feeling already is that it’s a bad idea. Why?
I used to write grants full time. One thing I learned is that there are no free grants. It’s not just money; the grantor always has an agenda and a reason for putting his or her money where the grant is going. The grantee has a duty under contract to fulfil the obligations of the grant. Before we apply for a grant, we need to know exactly what that agenda is. The money will be spent, but the agenda lingers. If our residents’ values truly match those of the grantor, that’s good. If not, it’s bad.
My preliminary research is showing me that a collectivist, socialist mentality is behind “Communities that Care,” which places the community (both local and national) above the family/parents. Why do I say this? A great portion of the program deals with data collection on teens and their families. Data will be collected through archives of the community, and also through surveys administered to young people on an ongoing basis. Who has access to this data other than our own community, and why? (Federal databases are currently being “mashed” and shared, according to sources such as Joanne Weiss, chief of staff of the Dept. of Education. So we don’t have any guarantees that privately collected data will remain with the entity that originates that collection. And Communities that Care is a branch of the federal government.
As you know, questions in surveys can and do present agendas. We may or may not find our values reflected in the way the questions are written. Sometimes, the way a question is asked does not give room for a response that accurately matches local reality. We need to read the survey ahead of time, find out who writes the survey, and who has authority to change or amend the questions on that survey. We also need to make sure it’s not a mandate; some parents may not want children taking surveys for data collection that may be used for purposes other than that which was originally intended.
Communities that Care is not an unknown entitity with an unknown agenda: the Dept. of Health and Human Services runs it; it’s the federal government. Let’s make sure we are true experts on all the possible future consequences to our city, before we consider signing on the dotted line.
P.S. Gun Rights Alert: I just now, while writing to you, searched and found a document online from Communities that Care called “Community Assessment Training: Collecting Archival Data” http://www.sdrg.org/ctcresource/Community%20Assessment%20Training/Participant%20Guide/CAT_PG_mod3.pdf
It says, among other things, that a “risk factor” for problem behavior indicators is “community laws and norms favorable to the use of drug use, firearms and crime”. Firearms are considered to be in the same basket of bad behavior risk factors as crime and drug use? Not in Heber.
The same chart shows “parental attitudes” and even “constitutional factors” as possible risk factors. Does this sound neutral, parent-friendly, gun-owner friendly or big-government friendly, to you?
Innocence Alert: I also found a survey used for a Communities that Care program in Massachusetts. http://esb.plymouth.k12.ma.us/attachments/2e3d9da3-cc55-4720-a79b-793eb5219c40.pdf One question there was how often the child had “Used prescription stimulants, such as Ritalin or Adderall without a doctors’s orders during the past 30 days?” The question did not allow the child to say “What the heck is Adderall?” or “It was actually 31 days ago,” or “my doctor has no qualms about prescribing whatever I’m willing to pay for.” There are all kinds of problems with these types of impersonal questions, including introducing innocent non-users to the idea that they could experiment with prescription drugs.