Archive for October 2012

Education isn’t Neutral   Leave a comment

What does Obama really mean when he says that he created education reforms in 46 states during his presidency?

Words need context.

The word “education” and the concept of “education reform” as Obama and others use the terms, rest on our false assumption that reforms are positive in all contexts.

Many education reforms are being done under the public radar, without public knowledge, without any vote or citizen agreement, and they actually negatively affect student/citizen privacy –as well as harming certain academic –and also non-academic– outcomes.

We misplace our trust when we buy the idea that “education reforms” never make things worse, or never indoctrinate, or never promote dumbing-down, or  never push unconstitutional or ungodly agendas, or that educational systems are never used to promote nice-sounding surface ideas that ultimately prove harmful.  This misplaced trust will hurt us.  Why don’t more people study and pay attention to what the government is doing to our educational freedoms and educational standards?!

Violations of good education are happening behind the unassailed assumption that “education” always means “good for children”.  But it doesn’t.  We have to study what the people behind the reforms stand for, to see where their trajectories are taking our children and ultimately, this nation. (Arne Duncan, David Coleman, Bill Ayers, Linda Darling-Hammond, Sir Michael Barber, Bill Gates, Joanne Weiss, Michelle Rhee…. the cast of characters is long, colorful and frightening.)

Obama and his cast of educational characters speak about pouring more money into “education” as if that is always beneficial.  Well, that all depends on what they’re buying.  (With our tax dollars and without our consent and without constitutional authority.)

Many assume he’s just talking about buying pencils, salaries and books.  But new reforms do include indoctrination, corporate enrichment and yes, even dumbing down in some cases.

The recent Common Core reforms include DELETING most classic literature at the high school level, DELETING cursive for all ages, DUMBING Algebra I to 9th grade rather than introducing it to 8th graders, ending FERPA’s previously protective parental consent requirements before agencies and business people can access private student data; pushing the assumption that the United Nations are a positive force on earth; pushing the “green” extremist political agenda, and pushing most anything Bill Gates/Microsoft touches.  To name a few.  The data surveillance bothers me the most.  Even though I am a lifelong English teacher and hate the fact that they’re slashing the literature increasingly, as the children work toward graduation.  The closer to graduation they get, the less literature they will be allowed to read and write.  It’s got to be info-texts, they say.

There are some ideas that some parents and teachers might like, and some we definitely don’t, but the fact remains that we never get a chance to weigh in on them via a vote.  That’s what nationalized education means: the elite at the top determine what is good and true for all.  Oh, for the days of local control over education to be back in my state again!

Wearing the shield of “education reform,” guess what the education reformists on the left have wielded?

- a war on student data privacy

- a war on classic literature

- a war on traditional, time-tested math

-a national set of educational standards that is without an amendment process, so nobody can change anything.

-a national set of standards that are under copyright by an unelected group called CCSSO/NGA

-a national set of standards that the Dept. of Education has put a cap on; you can’t teach more than 15% above the Common Core

-a war against transparency;

Parents and teachers are in the dark; very few people know what all the consequences of adopting Common Core really are. And it’s deliberate.  The Common Core is supposed to be “state-led” (because it’s illegal and unconstitutional for the executive branch to supervise or direct curriculum).  So they are trying to make it appear to be so.  They even invite people to help “write” the standards, even though the public license on Common Core says that CCSSO/NGA are the “sole developers” and “no claims to the contrary shall be made.”  The half-truths are empowering the radical transformation and, ultimately, indoctrination of our kids to be government-centric collectivists stripped of the ability to self-determine, or to soar.

May I share the words of a great American?  Ezra Taft Benson (who served as the Secretary of Agriculture under President Eisenhower in the 1950’s-1960’s and later as a Latter-day Saint prophet) said:

“As a watchman on the tower, I feel to warn you that one of the chief means of misleading our youth and destroying the family unit is our educational institutions. President Joseph F. Smith referred to false educational ideas as one of the three threatening dangers among our Church members… if [parents] have become alert and informed as President McKay admonished us last year, these parents can help expose some of the deceptions of men like Sigmund Freud, Charles Darwin, John Dewey, Karl Marx, John Keynes, and others. Today there are much worse things that can happen to a child than not getting a full college education. In fact, some of the worst things have happened to our children while attending colleges led by administrators who wink at subversion and amorality.”   – In Conference Report, Ezra Taft Benson, 1970

President Benson also warned that communism was and is still a great, satanical threat.

How could communism ever become a real threat unless somehow people were taught to like its principles?  How could it ever take root in freedom-loving America unless it were widely promoted as something good, diseminated via an information dissemination system (like government schools?)

One-size-fits-all is the name of the common core/socialist game.  Individuality is marginalized or deleted; all is collective that is considered good.  It’s the redistribution of educational funding and educational sovereignty. Common Core is a huge step toward socialism in America today, accepted because it’s sugar coated with pretty words: “education reform,” “rigorous standards” and “common core.”

I noticed that a political flier for a local Utah representative came in the mailbox yesterday.  It touted as one of the candidate’s bragging points the fact that this candidate/incumbent had “protected public education from extremists.”  I think he was referring to me, and the whole anti-Common Core crowd, thousands of us that will soon be millions, I venture to guess, as the truth trickles out almost completely unaided by mainstream media.

But my point is this: the candidate did not protect the public as he claimed to have done.  He didn’t protect public education from extremists — Arne Duncan, Bill Ayers, Bill Gates, Michelle Rhee, Linda Darling-Hammond, Sir Michael Barber, and the rest got their wicked way.  This local candidate did not understand who the enemy of quality education and educational sovereignty is.  He thought the extremists were those who want us to sticking close to the spirit of freedom and individuality as supported in the U.S. Constitution.  This is why I could not vote for him.  I did a write-in vote.  But he’ll win anyway, because most people do not have time to really care.  And the Common Core’s moment of impact hasn’t happened for them yet.

The Blaze Reports: Common Core Uniform Doesn’t Fit American Students   Leave a comment

The Blaze, Glenn Beck’s TV, radio, magazine and internet site, reported yesterday about Common Core.  It’s a well written, important piece.

Thank you, Glenn and Casey.

http://www.theblaze.com/contributions/common-cores-uniform-doesnt-fit-american-students/

Common Core’s Uniform Doesn’t Fit American Students

by Casey Given,  policy analyst covering education and labor issues at the Americans For Prosperity Foundation.

“Throughout the presidential debates, Barack Obama repeated a statement that may sound strange to the average American. Speaking on education, the president twice noted that his administration has been working with 46 states to implement school reform. While he did not explicitly cite the initiative by name in either of the first two debates, Obama was referring to the Common Core State Standards – a national curriculum that 46 states and the District of Columbia have adopted over the past two years.

Though only given passing mentions, it’s a small miracle that the president has made any reference to this underreported effort at all. Both candidates and their parties have largely remained silent on Common Core until now. In fact, one recent poll by the D.C.-based nonprofit Achieve shows that 79 percent of Americans know “nothing” or “not much” about Common Core. As a result, millions of parents across the country send their children to school every day without any idea that American education as we know it is drastically changing.”

Full text here: http://www.theblaze.com/contributions/common-cores-uniform-doesnt-fit-american-students/

Mysterious Academic Blog Brings Up Powerful Points   Leave a comment

Who is this mysterious someone who’s spending so much time and energy analyzing Common Core’s math –anonymously?  It’s got to be a professional, an academic.  It must be someone who cannot come out and say “The Emperor is wearing no clothes” without losing his/her career standing.  I am sure it’s an educator.

The passion with which he/she is attempting to enlighten Americans about the absurdity of Common Core math, added to the fact that he/she is remaining anonymous, feeds into  Elizabeth Noelle-Neumann’s “Spiral of Silence” theory that I was talking about earlier this week.  http://whatiscommoncore.wordpress.com/2012/10/26/whats-going-on-utahs-nsa-center-and-the-utah-data-alliance-of-schools-collecting-data/

But anyway, I wanted to share the anonymous analysts’ analysis.  Enjoy:

Full text here:  http://ccssimath.blogspot.com/2012/10/dodgy-beginnings.html?m=1

CCSSI Mathematics

An independent look at the Common Core State Standards for Mathematics

2012-10-12

Dodgy beginnings

In legal argument, every assertion cites authority: when lawyers know they are losing, they attempt to cloak weak arguments in language such as “it is clear that’’, glossing over the insufficient basis for why; strong assertions cite controlling authority, such as a prior ruling of the U.S. Supreme Court.  The same citation requirements hold true for judicial opinions.  The American common law system is grounded in its constitutions and legislation, but also on the principle of stare decisis, which means a strong legal opinion will cite another, preferably higher, controlling authority for coming down on one side or another.  In the absence of binding authority, non-binding or persuasive authority is relied on: someone made an argument that won a case in another jurisdiction, the judge cites that decision and the law expands to a new jurisdiction.
Opponents of such decisions with weak legal precedent may deride them as “judicial activism’’, but judge-made law is a fundamental component of how our system works, and indeed, how the legal system has managed to survive.  Of course, a judge may instead reject another non-controlling decision and cite an alternative argument for ruling differently.  Thus, competing legal doctrines scatter like leaves in the wind until a higher court decides to consolidate and resolve contradictory rulings.  It is often possible (and enlightening) to trace a winning argument in a high court ruling down through various lower court decisions and ultimately arrive at the original language source, which can be the unprecedented argument of a jurist publishing research (and personal opinions) in some obscure law journal.
Thus judge-made law, sometimes with questionable origins, becomes the law of the land and not always for the better. Toward the other end of the infallibility spectrum lies the scientific method, where studies confirm or refute hypotheses, and objectivity, transparency and replicability are the hallmarks of reliability. CCSSI boasts of its firm foundations: “the development of these Standards began with research-based learning progressions detailing what is known today about how students’ mathematical knowledge, skill, and understanding develop over time.’’ (p.4) When we first started this blog, we naïvely thought CCSSI’s language original; now we are discovering, in fact, that almost none of it is.  As we analyze each of Common Core’s standards, we repeatedly ask ourselves: what is the underlying basis for the choices that have been made and where does the language come from? We’re certainly not the first to raise these questions.
Stanford University Professor R. James Milgram, who sat on the Validation Committee, expressed concern with a long list of CCSSI’s standards, writing that “[t]here are a number of standards…that are completely unique to this document’’ and “there is no research base for including any of these standards’’. Ideally, we would know from where and based on which research on its efficacy, each phrase, each standard arises, so that we could corroborate or attack the source. We are bracing for the worst: what if, in fact, the education pundits have issued mandates for math pedagogy based on dodgy research?  We already suspect what we will ultimately find: the “studies’’ are actually individuals’ Ed.D. theses based on broad cognition hypotheses and corresponding latitudinal studies of limited numbers of children.
A central difficulty in our investigation is that, unlike in jurisprudence, original sources are not cited individually for each standard and prove difficult to trace, and it is becoming apparent that pieces from widely disparate sources were lumped together to form what is now called Common Core. This is the snarl we at ccssimath.blogspot.com are trying to untangle. CCSSI instead lists a “Sample of Works Consulted’’.  When we started reading the end-referenced journal articles and other research, we were able to find some of the language and sample problems that provided the source material for CCSSI, but those too lacked specific footnoting, and also listed references at the end, apparently the accepted technique in such publications.  Frankly, we are appalled with such weak referencing.  Reading end-references sometimes led us to earlier iterations of the same language, which led to more references, ad infinitum. What we found in common, though, in every reference, was a plethora of vague, unsubstantiated language, mostly based on vague, unpublished educational research.
For once, we’d like to see the raw data of the actual research. One standard we have previously singled out for criticism is K.OA.3: “Decompose numbers less than or equal to 10 into pairs in more than one way, e.g., by using objects or drawings, and record each decomposition by a drawing or equation (e.g., 5 = 2 + 3 and 5 = 4 + 1).’’ and its corresponding example in Table 1: “Grandma has five flowers. How many can she put in her red vase and how many in her blue vase?’’ On our blog, we have rudimentary tools to analyze the searches that bring traffic to the site.  Subsequent to the publication of that blog post, far and above the most common search sending us traffic is this standard, which we interpret to mean that kindergarten teachers are both trying to make sense of it and wondering how to implement it.
Readers of our blog know we don’t advocate posing a problem just because you can. Educators smugly confound students with some challenge and find self-satisfaction that at the end of the day, students can now solve it, but to what end?  Perhaps in the linear progression underlying Piagetian cognitive development, any problem will suffice because you can see where you start and where you need to go, and you can easily ascertain (through the ubiquitous test, say) which students have crossed the threshold of competence, but true mathematics learning is not linear. How do we know that linear thinking pervades current notions of mathematics learning progressions?
Because educational circles give plenty of recognition to those authors. An influential pair of reports from the National Academy of Sciences, the 2000 “How People Learn: Brain, Mind, Experience, and School: Expanded Edition’’ followed by the 2005 “How Students Learn: History, Mathematics, and Science in the Classroom’’, claim to know “how the principles and findings on learning can be used to guide the teaching of a set of topics that commonly appear in the K-12 curriculum’’, specifically in our case, mathematics. One section of How Students Learn, written by Sharon Griffin, an associate professor of education and an adjunct associate professor of psychology at Clark University, begins:

After 15 years of inquiry into children’s understanding and learning of whole numbers, I can sum up what I have learned very simply. To teach math, you need to know three things. You need to know where you are now… You need to know where you want to go (in terms of the knowledge you want all children in your classroom to acquire during the school year). Finally, you need to know what is the best way to get there…

Were it so simple.

It is the pervasiveness of one-dimensional thinking of this sort that holds important “developmental milestones’’ that impedes effective mathematics curriculum reform. Now, this language may seem to mirror what we have been stating in this blog (see our blog post Concept of Area, Part 3, where we advocate “a well thought-out sequence that understands where things belong, understands where you are coming from and where you are going, and poses the right problems to foster the real thinking processes that we so strongly believe are the hallmarks of an effective education’’), but for several important differences.  One, we are looking at math education from a 12+ year cycle, not one year.  We want to instill not-easily-compartmentalized skills at an early age that will already be familiar, if not firmly established, and retrievable when the math becomes truly difficult.  Griffin highlights a common fallacy of American math education, that a teacher only needs to know what is going on in the classroom that year.
How is the elementary classroom teacher with minimal mathematical skills going to handle the student that gains an insight that is years ahead of the rest of the classroom?  Second, mathematics is not just about “acquiring knowledge’’; math at many levels is not necessarily as clean as one right answer, and those tensions can and should be introduced at a very early age.  Everyone can be trained to go from point A to point B and a test can quickly check that, but the deeper understanding that comes with facing a dilemma cannot necessarily be measured. Seeing that math is not always black and white is an ability that education pundits themselves frequently lack; they don’t really understand the deeper mathematical connections and have no long term vision of an effective mathematics education. Returning to K.OA.3, a trainable, but rote task of questionable learning value, CCSSI actually points us to its origins, another NAS report, “Mathematics Learning in Early Childhood: Paths Toward Excellence and Equity’’ (National Research Council, 2009). Here is the source language, as it appears in the Mathematics Learning report:

In take apart situations, a total amount, C, is known and the problem is to find the ways to break the amount into two parts (which do not have to be equal). Take apart situations are most naturally formulated with an equation of the form   C = A + B   in which C is known and all the possible combinations of A and B that make the equation true are to be found. There are usually many different As and Bs that make the equation true.

And the grandma’s vase problem?

Put Together/Take Apart Situations
In these situations, the action is often conceptual instead of physical and may involve a collective term like “animal”: “Jimmy has one horse and two dogs. How many animals does he have?”
In put together situations, two quantities are put together to make a third quantity: “Two red apples and one green apple were on the table. How many apples are on the table?”
In take apart situations, a total quantity is taken apart to make two quantities: “Grandma has three flowers. How many can she put in her red vase and how many in her blue vase?”
These situations are decomposing/composing number situations in which children shift from thinking of the total to thinking of the addends. Working with different numbers helps them learn number triads related by this total-addend-addend relationship, which they can use when adding and subtracting. Eventually with much experience, children move to thinking of embedded number situations in which one considers the total and the two addends (partners) that are “hiding inside” the total simultaneously instead of needing to shift back and forth.
Equations with the total alone on the left describe take apart situations: 3 = 2 + 1. Such equations help children understand that the = sign does not always mean makes or results in but can also mean is the same number as. This helps with algebra later.

Even in these short excerpts from the report, several absurd generalizations pop out:

“…children move to thinking of embedded number situations in which one considers the total and the two addends (partners) that are “hiding inside” the total simultaneously instead of needing to shift back and forth.’’ They do?  We certainly never thought about numbers this way. “This helps with algebra later.’’ It does? We’d like to see these hypotheses tested in a controlled longitudinal study. Although the report committee lists more than a dozen members, the lead authors were Doug Clements of SUNY Buffalo, Karen Fuson of Northwestern University and Sybilla Beckman of the University of Georgia.
  These three authors also figure prominently in several of the other CCSSI source publications.  Professor Clements’ educational background tops out with a Ph.D. in Elementary Education from SUNY Buffalo, Karen Fuson is professor emeritus of Northwestern’s School of Education and Social Policy, and while Sybilla Beckman of the University of Georgia is the only math Ph.D. of the lot, her research area stands out on UGA’s web site as “mathematics education’’, rather than a substantive area of theoretical or applied math. Individual emails to each of the three authors were unreturned.  We don’t feel singled out for neglect, though.
  Even Milgram “repeatedly asked for references justifying the insertions of these or similar standards…but references have not been provided.’’ This particular sections we cited, the entire report, and education reports in general illustrate a pervasive problem in education research: unfounded statements and the lack of scientific method.  Such baseless statements appear all throughout these so-called education studies, then they are often taken for gospel because of the authors’ perceived expertise.  Research methods that reach conclusions about what goes on in children’s minds based on observations of watching children at work would be laughed out of the scientific community; it’s inferences based on anecdotal evidence. Nonetheless, baseless conclusions form the justification for including “decomposition of numbers’’ in CCSSI’s kindergarten standards.
Not that none of Common Core’s references lack any substance.  “Informing Grades 1–6 Mathematics Standards Development: What Can Be Learned From High-Performing Hong Kong, Korea, and Singapore?’’, a study prepared by the American Institutes for Research, with the headlining author of Alan Ginsburg, long time and now retired Director of Policy and Program Studies for the U.S. Dept. of Education, the same Ginsburg referred to in CCSSI’s introduction, highlights “four key features’’ of the composite standards of “high-performing Asian countries’’.  We refer the reader to the original text rather than try to summarize them here.  We certainly agree with the sentiment against believing that “that merely replicating these composite standards is sufficient’’, but what we cannot find, though, is the adaptation to CCSSI’s goals of any of the composite features.  Instead, we find the inclusion of standards with questionable beginnings. That puts CCSSI (and American mathematics education reform efforts) into the realm of wishful thinking, rather than basing itself on either hard data or emulating a proven success.
- – – – – – – – – – – – -
Interesting!

What We Must Teach Our Children   Leave a comment

Parents are under command to bring up their children in light and truth (see D&C 93:40).  Parents cannot leave decision making about teaching up to school boards school teachers (or Sunday School teachers) alone; these other teachers are here to assist parents in an ultimate responsibility that rests primarily on parents.

It is not enough to educate children academically– reading, math, geography, languages, history, music– we must also make sure they know how to identify light and truth.

The following teachings were suggested by President Hinckley for parents to teach  their children: http://www.lds.org/pa/library/0,17905,7461-1,00.html

Teach them to develop good friendships.

Teach them the importance of education. Youth will be amply rewarded for their efforts to obtain an education. The Church will also be blessed by their increased capacities and skills.

Teach them self-respect. The First Presidency and Quorum of the Twelve Apostles encourage modest dress, and discourage tattoos and the piercing of the body other than the minimal piercing of the ears by women for one pair of earrings.

Teach them to stay away from drugs. Those who use illegal drugs or misuse legal drugs lose self-control.

Teach them the virtue of honesty.

Teach them to be virtuous. Sexual urges must be controlled with self-discipline and respect.

Teach them to look forward to the time when they may be married in the house of the Lord.

Teach them to pray. It is a miracle that we can approach God in prayer and be heard.

Ken Parkinson or Mark Openshaw for State School Board?   Leave a comment

Vote Ken Parkinson. 

I saw Ken Parkinson’s dedication and selfless service when I worked with him at Freedom Academy in Provo.

Incumbent Mark Openshaw, on the other hand, has never responded to a single email I’ve sent him.  And there have been many.

What kind of leader do you want on our State School Board?

Ken Parkinson.

Dear Superintendent Menlove   Leave a comment

Dear Superintendent Menlove,
Congratulations on your new role as Superintendent of Utah Schools.
As a Utah teacher with an up-to-date credential, who has taught high school English, 3rd grade, and Freshmen and Remedial English at Utah Valley University, I’m writing to ask four questions:
1.  Why have Utah education leaders allowed classic literature to be minimized –and almost eliminated– by the time our students reach 12th grade, under the new Common Core?
I do not believe that increasing the amount of informational text and decreasing the amount of time-tested classic fiction that we expose students to, is a good idea. (Neither do many of my colleagues and friends, including, notably, Professor Alan Manning of BYU, an English Language/Linguistics expert who told me he is also alarmed at the damage Common Core is going to do to our educational system.)
2.  Why was the theft of classic literature from high school seniors and others done without transparency?  The decision remove so much classic literature from our schools has been done without any sort of vote or vetting, and without a request for input ever being put out toward lifelong educators like me or Professor Manning, and without parents being told what kind of transformation was happening to their children’s literacy program –without their consent.
3. Why have we accepted a cap on learning?  I have learned that Utah is under a mandate not to add more than 15% content to the Common Core minimum standards, and that the Common Core is under copyright by a nonelected group called CCSSO/NGA.  This troubles me; we should not have given away our voice over our own educational standards.  We should not allow anyone to put a cap of 15% or any other percent, on what we teach our students.  This seems like a sovereignty issue as well as an educational issue, to me.
4. Why won’t Utah Technology Director, Utah Data Alliance Director (and state database-combiner) John Brandt answer a teacher’s or a parent’s questions?
It is of great concern that our students are being tracked with personally identifiable information, not aggregate data, by a State Longitudinal Database that  creates a permanent record of nonacademic, family, health, psychological, and academic data for every child in Utah.  This, too, has been done without parental knowledge; the only reason I know is that I asked the Utah State School Board if it was true.  I asked them if I could opt out of this P-20 surveillance of children.  Their email indicated that the answer was no; there is no way to opt out of the tracking.
I have repeatedly emailed Utah Technology Director John Brandt to ask him about the data collection issue, and he will not respond to me nor to other citizens’ emails.
These issues are deeply troubling.  Please let me know what you understand about these issues, and what you plan to do to right these wrongs.
Sincerely,
Christel Swasey

You Are Invited: Public Information Meeting About Common Core – Provo, Utah   Leave a comment

  • If you live in Utah, please come to this informational meeting about Common Core at the Provo Library next week.

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