Does Our State Superintendent Truly Care About Student Privacy?

Readers of our blog and our research know we have worked very hard to describe the ways in which the state government is working toward feeding the federal government individual student data collected from public schools thanks to our state's love for federal programming (see the bottom of this post for links).  You might remember one of our more nationally popular memes (it was re-tweeted by Anthony Cody of EdWeek) was the Four Pillars of America's Education Takeover:

The Four Pillars show the relationship of the State Longitudinal Database System (SLDS) to all other major education 'reforms' endorsed by the Obama Administration since 2009, now being utilized in nearly every state in the Union.

Today, I got an email message from the CEDS (Common Education Data Standards - the group creating the 'common' identifiers that all states can use to share student data across state lines) and I wanted to share it:

The National Center for Education Statistics (NCES) is pleased to announce the release of Common Education Data Standards (CEDS) Version 4.  CEDS is a national collaborative effort to develop voluntary, common data standards for a key set of education data elements to streamline the exchange, comparison, and understanding of data within and across P-20W institutions and sectors.  CEDS Version 4 includes a broad scope of elements spanning much of the P-20W spectrum and provides greater context for understanding the standards' interrelationships and practical utility.  Version 4 includes 1,346 unique elements including 236 new elements and 85 updated elements.

A new resource is available with the release of Version 4: CEDS Extend. Now users can view NCES Handbook data elements alongside CEDS elements as part of the CEDS searchable data elements and the Domain Entity Schema.  Also included in this release are 15 tutorials on using CEDS Align and Connect as well as an expanded list of publications describing how to use CEDS (and more examples are coming).

Version 4 of CEDS can be found at the CEDS website:  http://ceds.ed.gov

The CEDS website includes three ways to view and interact with CEDS:
  1. By element: Via the Elements page, users can access a searchable glossary of the CEDS "vocabulary," including names, definitions, option sets, technical specifications, and more.
  2. By relationship: Through the CEDS Data Model, users can explore the relationships that exist among entities and elements-viewable both through a logical data model.
  3. By comparison: Supplemental tools enable users to take the next step and put CEDS into practice. CEDS ALIGN allows a user to load his or her organization's data dictionary and compare it, in detail, to CEDS and the data dictionaries of other users' organizations. This facilitates alignment with CEDS and across systems, paving the way for easier sharing and comparison of data. CEDS CONNECT enables users at different levels to consider "connections" such as metric definitions of data points, policy questions, or federal data reporting requirements by establishing the data elements necessary to answer a given connection, as well as recommend logic and routines for analysis.
Guess what?  All these 'elements' this email lauds so happily, are named fields that can be used to directly identify YOUR public school CHILD in a national database - fields like, "voting status" or "religious affiliation".

Julia and Lynn have gone to nearly all of Oklahoma's P20W (P = PreK, 20 = 20 years, W = workforce) meetings where participants discuss ways in which Oklahoma can comply with the federal government's need for student data.  They have taken notes and have audio recordings of these proceedings to prove these people care not at all about your children, but simply what your children can provide the federal government in terms of information about themselves and your family all to create newer and better (and more restrictive) federal programming none of which is needed to educate children.

Here was the kicker for today.  Just a few hours ago, Lynn sent me a Facebook message with the following link, "Formal Response To The Chief State School Officers' Letter On Student Privacy".  The response was from a group called Education Liberty Watch, run by a woman named Karen Ephraim M.D., whom I have interviewed for School Reform News, and who happens to be a clinical psychiatrist.  I have personally followed Education Liberty Watch for a number of years and have been educated on a much deeper level about the issues inside public education than I have with commercial publications such as EdWeek (who provides education news by taking money from Bill Gates, among others)  Dr. Ephraim took the letter - signed by 34 Chief State School Officers - and dissected it thoroughly - as any good physician would.

I am not going plumb her analysis here because I essentially agree, and you can read it yourself through the link I have provided.  Though this letter really means nothing much at all in reality - in exactly the same way Governor Fallin's Executive Order on Common Core meant nothing in reality - as Dr. Ephraim points out, these Chiefs very stridently inform Secretary Arne Duncan;
We are writing today to confirm that the consortia will not share any personally identifiable information about K–12 students with USED or any federal agency.
As I read over the 34 names, I didn't find Dr. Barresi's name on the list anywhere!

I guess in one way I'm comforted, as I am fairly well exhausted of the OSDE's constant attempts to fool or finesse the facts about Oklahoma's school 'reform' platforms and programs.  However, it sticks in my craw that - even though the governor saw fit to at least try and 'finesse' the facts about data sharing and education reform through her CC Executive Order - Dr. Barresi didn't even BOTHER to try this time.  She just flat didn't sign the letter at all.

But then, after all, she is the one that hired John Kraman, the Executive Director of Student Information who has worked for The American Diploma Project and Achieve - the Washington, DC epicenters of these new federal education programs!  In fact, Mr. Kraman has told Lynn and Julia that he is here to do one job - create Oklahoma's State Longitudinal Database System - giving him little luxury to worry about the students involved.

Truly, this is WORSE than OBNOXIOUS!  This callous disregard for the CHILDREN involved in this massive data sharing 'collaboration' among states and the feds.  Though I advise EVERYONE to become educated on this topic, I certainly don't advise you joining any of the CEDS email strands or other the CEDS 'Sandbox' news alerts.  The disregard for the privacy of children and their families by this group that seems to WORSHIP data as a deity, is truly frightening.

Maybe Dr. Barresi didn't join the other 34 Chiefs because she knew the letter didn't mean much in the real world of state/federal entanglements, but then again, maybe her most expensive OSDE hire (Kraman) tells everything we need to know about where her loyalties lie.


The State Longitudinal Database and Child Privacy - YouTube

An Analysis of Recent Education Reforms and the Resulting Impact on Student Privacy http://www.scribd.com/doc/94149078/An-Analysis-of-Recent-Education-Reforms-and-the-Resulting-Impact-on-Student-Privacy

How Much Data is Enough Data; what happens to privacy when bureaucracies exceed their scope?

What Oklahomans Need to Know About The P20 Council

The Politics of Common Core Part 2

Recently I gave you a rundown on the way I see the basic politics at play for the upcoming legislative session here in Oklahoma.  Since that time one very important thing has happened - Speaker of the House T.W. Shannon has declared himself to be considering a run for Senator Tom Coburn's Senate seat.

This changes things a bit.  If Shannon declares himself as a candidate for the seat, he would most probably leave his post as Speaker to campaign.  If he leaves his post as Speaker, we're not certain who would carry his bill, nor can we be certain who the next speaker would be.  There are several we have heard of that have indicated their interest in the post (among others) and the new Speaker's relationship with the governor may put he or she at odds with the grassroots desire to stop Common Core.

Currently, there are SEVEN bills relating directly to the Common Core - 5 in the House and 2 in the Senate.  

Two are simple repeal bills that delete the ONE PARAGRAPH in the 32 page SB2033 that made Common Core law in Oklahoma.  These are:

HB 2786 - authored by Representative Jadine Nollan 

HB2849 - authored by Representative Dan Fisher

There is no reason to think we cannot pass these bills with sufficient enough citizen pressure. Though our main opposition appears to come from two term limited senators - one, Clark Jolley has higher political aspirations and the second, John Ford, has to return to his small community of Bartlesville where a Common Core forum will occur tomorrow night (1/28/13) that has gotten media attention from the Tulsa World and the Pat Campbell show.  For the rest of the non-term-limited senators, we must remind them that this is an election year for some.  If we can't prompt them nicely to do as we ask, then they needn't be re-elected.  In fact, it is our plan to push FULL FORCE FOR REPEAL.  

We have heard these bills may have trouble in Committee because they provide no 'back-up' plan for standards outside the Common Core - they repeal the standards, but put nothing in their place.  In fact, we have long provided TWO OPTIONS:
1.  Return to PASS until new standards - developed by actual Oklahomans - can be created.  Don't forget, the stink that helped cause all this education 'reform' nonsense in the first place was created when it was learned that state superintendents across the nation, including Sandy Garrett, had lowered the cut scores on the yearly state tests (an 'A' would have been 85 and up, rather than 90 and up, for example) in order to make it easier for kids to do well on their exams in order to satisfy the requirements of No Child Left Behind.  So was NCLB repealed?  Oh no instead the feds simply began to apply a whole new set of mandates for states through Race to the Top and NCLB waivers to make up for the bad law!  What is it that's said about insanity?
2.  Dr. Sandra Stotsky, known for her participation in writing the 2001 Massachusetts' educational standards that made MA's standards some of the very best in the entire country (as determined via standardized testing), has released her standards FOR FREE on line.  She has made it possible for EVERY STATE who would like to use them to use them without copyright or strings of any kind.  Why not start with the best?  Oklahoma educators can certainly add or subtract as desired, but these are FREE AND EXCELLENT as opposed to poor and untested!
Senator Eddie Fields has authored TWO bills.  One is a repeal bill that also includes direction to the State Board of Education to remove all alignment in the standards to the Common Core, stop Common Core assessments and require the state board to revise their agreement with the feds that will allow Oklahoma to get out from under the standards.

SB 1146 -  authored by Senator Eddie Fields

Fields' other bill would establish a task force the purpose of which would be to "review curricular standards approved by the State Board of Education and make recommendations to the Legislature regarding new curricular standards."

SB 1310 - Establishing Curricular Standards Task Force

Speaker of the House Shannon's bill prevents the Department of Education from entering into any agreements with the Federal government that would align Oklahoma standards to the Common Core - directs the OSDE to amend any agreements with the feds so that Oklahoma may be released from using the Common Core standards.  Shannon's bill reads similarly to Fields'.

HB3331 - authored by T.W. Shannon

Representative Gus Blackwell also has a bill that repeals the standards and then puts in place the "Local Curriculum Standards Pilot Program" in which ANY school district could adopt their own standards (even if they do not align with state standards) for five years.  After that time, there will be a comparison made among schools using the state standards and those using their own local standards using standardized, criterion-referenced tests.  This is a truly LOCAL CONTROL of education bill.

HB 3167 - authored by Representative Gus Blackwell

Representative Jason Nelson also has a bill.  This bill starts by preventing federal control over state standards.  It requires any agency using federal money or programming - including those collecting data on students - to amend existing agreements to extricate themselves from any agreements that would cede control over K-12 education from outside the state. This bill would not repeal the Common Core, but instead, puts the standards on 'pause' for a full year during which the state assessments will reflect PASS and not CC.  It directs the state board to examine the English/LA and math standards, and then compare them with PASS in 9 different areas.  A written review of the comparison must be submitted to the House, Senate and Governor for their own review.

HB 3399 - authored by Representative Jason Nelson

Though, again, we will push for repeal, this is an excellent bill if a repeal is made completely unfeasible by Senator John Ford not hearing repeal bills in his committee and these bills not finding another avenue for hearing.

Now that you have bill numbers, IMMEDIATELY begin calling, emailing and visiting your Representatives and Senators.  Tell them you expect them to vote FOR any and all of these bills (overlapping bills are sorted out by the legislative legal staff after session ends and they know which ones the Governor will sign) and that you will be watching for their vote.

If you are still unaware of who those people are, please go here.  This is the link to the opening page of the Legislature.  On the bottom of that page is something that says, "Find My Legislator".  USE THAT!  Type in your address information and you will be rewarded for your time with a list including the names of your local Representative and Senator.  Once you have that - USE IT!  If you can't figure out how to navigate the website for our state legislature, watch this tutorial I made before Christmas.

As we begin session in February, begin to watch for emails from us (if you haven't signed up for email alerts from us, you can do so on the front page of our website in the top right hand corner) giving you an update on where the bills are in the process and asking you to make targeted legislative contacts.

As Lynn points out, there are NUMEROUS bills and shell bills regarding TESTING and school code - as well as a couple of bills regarding student privacy and data collection - one on which we are assisting Representative David Brumbaugh.  

It is going to be extraordinarily hard to keep on top of ALL that is going on at the Capitol this year, but we MUST.  In our opinion, the federal government is completely out of control.  We have the most control over our government from our own back yard.  We MUST do what we can right outside our backdoor!  We must make our state government work for us!


Mo Money

Last week, one of the bloggers I follow, okeducationtruths, released a blog about vouchers and, more specifically, Jason Nelson's bill on vouchers.  I added my two cents because, even though we don't always agree, the writer is a great listener and quite accommodating of opinions, and I LOVE that!  

I'm not going to get into the voucher thing here (if you're interested, you can find my comments at the link above) but I am going to paste my answer here to okeducationtruths last post.  It's a post I've wanted to do here on our blog for quite a long time, so it just seemed the right time to make this happen. 

I've had very definite opinions on money in public education for quite a long time and I would like people to hear them.  If you don't agree, that's fine, tell me why not.  I truly do LOVE hearing peoples thoughts.  In fact, the first line of response to okeducationtruths is:

First, I actually love that we don't always agree.  As I've told Nicole a number of times, if we always agreed the world would be a very dull place AND we'd have learned nothing to expand our horizons!

I think your points are excellent and well taken here - especially the point about not being able to add up tax dollars like chits.  True, however, there is an actual proportionality of tax dollars required by each tax payer that goes toward public education (your property tax bill has that fully delineated).  This is the amount of money I was referencing in this case.

Your comment, "I do have a problem with the mentality that everything can be done better when left to private markets", is also interesting to me.

I can come into agreement on that as well for the most part.  In fact, I think the most nefarious thing about this whole latest 'reform' package is the fact that it IS private companies/philanthropists (without any educational expertise on any level in a whole lot of instances - the Chamber of Commerce?  Come the heck on!) making these pronouncements instead of ideas unfolding in a more 'democratic' style.  "He with the gold makes the rules" as it were.  That is NOT American if you ask me.

Here's where I think I get the most frustrated.  I was not for state question 744.  I am not for pouring more money into schools.  The idea that we should somehow be equating money with educational 'rigor' (ack, I can't believe I said that word in a sentence!) or outcomes of any kind is a red herring.  (PS I totally appreciated hearing the definitions provided for both Red Herring and Straw Man!)

I am constantly attacked for what I'm about to say, but I think it speaks to my conviction (or stupidity!) that I keep on message: we put men on the moon when computers took up rooms and rooms, most advanced mathematical computations were done on slide rules and the federal government had yet to really sink their hooks into the educational system.  There are home schooling families out there that use little more than books and flashcards to give their kids a well-rounded, classical education, that has been shown to produce better overall results than public education. 

I studied lots of ins and outs of spending as I researched my arguments against 744 and here is what I found (in general terms).  It takes a HUGE amount of money at the state level to administer federal grants for which we get - after administration costs - pennies on the dollar, yet our state goes running to FedEd constantly for all kinds of programming.  Much of this programming has never been tested or tried - or has been proven NOT to provide much, if any benefit (Head Start, for example) yet we do it because we get 'free' money.

Oklahoma legislators are very fond of riding public education with a heavy hand.  A very large number of education laws are passed because someone in a district needs/wants that very thing they ask of the entire state.  Most laws won't/don't translate well to another district, but suddenly, all districts must fall under the edict.  We have mandated public schools into near complete commonality and the poor house, as most state education laws end up in the unfunded category.

That said, there can be no way that the largest (well second now behind health care I understand) budgeted item in the state needs MORE money to succeed.  (Yes, as a teacher, I DID buy a number of my own things and as a science teacher I was often begging for supplies, just for the record.)  What we do need, however, is an enormous AUDIT of programming, unfunded mandates and job descriptions at the state education level.  We MUST return money to classrooms from the administrative level so science teachers can buy microscopes (instead of watching online videos about Paramecium, the novel idea would be that kids actually get to see them for themselves!) and any other amount and/or kind of tool necessary to teach kids.  There is money in the system, it just needs to be reapportioned and why shouldn't we demand that this happen?  Why must we use federal money when it comes with strings and gives us only pittance for our beseeching?  Why must districts go to the state for money when their 'customers' are right in their own backyards?  Our cities are run in this fashion.  If schools were administered at the district level instead of the state level, it would certainly be a lot easier to reapportion unnecessary funds and redirect money into classrooms...but then do the powers that be really want that? 

Educational Equity doesn't always come wrapped up in a perfect little box labeled "money".  We need to get out of this rut, expand our horizons and realize that few things in life are ever really 'equal' and that equal education is really a subjective term - for parents and even communities.  The only reason we love the word 'equality' in education is because it happens to be the only thing we can use to make that label mean the same thing to everyone - the objective quantity of dollars and cents.  Sadly, true equality in education is only going to come when schools/districts can do for their 'customers' what is actually best for them and NOT best for the state.


Oklahoma Politics and The Common Core - Part 1

As we approach this upcoming legislative season, we must have a basic understanding of the Oklahoma political waters if we are to understand the possibility of repealing Common Core.

First, let's review the political landscape:
Saturday, January 18, 2014, the Oklahoma GOP State Committee adopted a resolution against Common Core, which included a direction to Floor Leaders of both the House and Senate to schedule any Common Core bills that pass committee for legislative hearing.  Though the National Republican Committee passed a similar resolution and the Oklahoma GOP includes their disdain of the Common Core in their platform, grassroots Republicans, tired of having their protestations appear to fall on deaf ears, packed the Committee meeting until there was standing room only, simply for a chance to make their voices heard on the issue by the majority party.


  • Governor Fallin is head of the National Governor's Association (NGA).  The NGA is partnered with every other private organization funded by the Bill Gates Foundation (CCSSO, Achieve, The National Chamber of Commerce).
  • Though Fallin produced an Executive Order (2013-40) which addressed Common Core, the document merely served to notify Oklahomans of her resolve to continue use of the Common Core, while offering little more than platitudes to constituents concerned about protection from Federal strings and student data collection.
  • According to Pat McGuigan, longtime Oklahoma journalist, Mary Fallin has a 70% approval rating.
  • According to Follow The Money, Fallin raised over 4 million dollars for her campaign against Jeri Askins in 2010 and has a bit over 2 million now.  With her new powerful out of state friends (not including her top in state donors, Chesapeake and Devon), her war chest will be amazing.
  • T.W. Shannon has been the go-to cover boy of nearly every Oklahoma organizational magazine since his election by the House last year, lauded by FOX news and Red State as Oklahoma's "Rising Political Star".
  • Landing a speaker birth at CPAC in 2013, fairly well cast in stone T.W.'s meteoric rise as a public figure.
  • Though Representative Gus Blackwell had every reason to believe T.W. Shannon would allow a hearing of his early-in-session-2013 bill requesting a task force to study the costs of the Common Core after it sailed through Committee without a single 'no' vote, the bill was not allowed to move to the Floor Calendar Committee.  Later, Shannon allowed Representative Blackwell a House Interim Study that took on all aspects of the Common Core.
  • Though early in his tenure Speaker Shannon appeared to ride the rapids of Common Core, he suddenly overturned his kayak and began to swim upstream, Tweeting out and Facebooking messages that pointed to 'federal intrusion' with Common Core and the idea that he was not very comfortable with the initiative after all.
  • Late in the session (2013), Shannon worked with Representative Dennis Casey to add anti-Common Core language to a House bill headed for the Senate Budget Committee, over which State Senator Clark Jolley presides. Unfortunately, the actual language of this addition was never made public, and there was some confusion regarding the actual bill to which it was attached.  
  • Senator Bingman makes his living in oil and gas.
  • Senator Bingman was elected in 2006.  This means he was a senator under the leadership of a Democratic governor while part of a Republican legislative majority.  One could possibly assume a posture of loyalty to current Republican leadership
  • Last year, Bingman told Pat McGuigan at Capitol Beat - when asked about the intensity of the fight in the House against the initiative, "The discussion on Common Core has been more ‘elevated’ than in the Senate.” Bingman noted that Senate Education Chairman John Ford supports the Common Core. However, he added, “There are some concerns about implementation and costs.” 
  • Recently, at a Chamber of Commerce sponsored legislative breakfast (1/13/2013) Senator Bingman told the crowd that, although he was for Common Core, he didn't want the federal government intervening in the standards.
  • We have worked with House members since 2010 and have some good relationships there.
  • Many House members - after initially knowing little to nothing about Common Core like an overwhelming majority of legislators all over the country that passed them into law or school code - have become very well-educated on the topic over the years.
  • Currently, there appears to be significant support for overturning the measure within this body.
  • Representative Ann Coody is still the head of the Common Education Committee.  A bill to repeal the Common Core was filed in the House by Representative Sally Kern in 2011.  Chairman Coody refused to hear it in Common Ed.  Since it wasn't heard, Rep. Kern re-filed the bill in 2012.  AGAIN Rep. Coody refused to allow the bill a hearing, this time saying that since Senator John Ford wouldn't hear it in the Senate Education Committee, there was no reason for her to hear the bill either.
  • We can only hope Coody has been enlightened by the number of phone calls this past summer/fall telling her exactly what we've told her the past 3 years.  Will she have been 'enlightened' enough to be willing to at least grant Common Core bills a hearing in her committee?
  • We have not worked with members of the Senate as we have with members of the House.  We know most all senators at some level, but we have really good relationships with a much smaller percentage.
  • Several Senators can be key here this year.  Senator David Holt (he used to be my senator but is still Lynn's) has always been good to hear us on this issue and take time to discuss our thoughts.  He is on the Education Committee.  Senator Ron Sharp (now my Senator) is also on the Education Committee and, as a former educator, is very much against the Common Core.
  • Several influential senators can also be key for proponents.  Though both are term limited, Senator Clark Jolley (head of the Senate Appropriations Committee) and Senator John Ford (head of the Senate Education Committee) are both extremely loyal to both Governor Fallin and State Superintendent Janet Barresi and have both echoed their support for the Common Core on a regular basis - no matter constituent calls to the contrary.  
  • Senator Jolley has been heard saying that anyone opposed to Common Core is "smoking crack" and Common Core opponents believe "Obama wrote the Common Core on the grassy knoll".  
  • Senator Ford has been credited with saying - even before start of the 2014 session - that he will refuse a hearing for any Common Core bills in the Education Committee.  This is nothing new.  He was extremely vocal about Kern's bill in both 2011 and 2012, saying that, even if the bill should pass a floor vote, he would NEVER hear them in his Committee.
  • Dr. Everett Piper, President of Oklahoma Wesleyan University (ranked as #8 by US News and World Report for western regional colleges) has been extremely vocal about his desire to see Common Core go the way of the Dodo.  Oklahoma Wesleyan sits directly in Senator Ford's back yard. 
  • Currently, Dr. Barresi has at least 2 primary challenges and 5 or so Democratic opponents.
  • Many of the legislators that saw her (the first REPUBLICAN to sit in the Superintendent's seat for 20 years) as the Perseus of the education community, have been so disappointed in her 'reign' that 20 of them have thrown their support behind Republican challenger Joy Hoffmeister.
  • Though frequently flaunting her position as a Chief For Change in Jeb Bush's Foundation for Educational Excellence (FEE), an investigation by the Washington Post revealed that Dr. Barresi stamped her name to numerous Oklahoma education 'reform' measures actually written within the FEE in Florida.
So, what does all this mean?  How can we make sense of all this information? I'll get down to brass tacks in Part 2! 


Anti-Common Core Resolution Passes Oklahoma State GOP Committee

The "Resolution To Protect Oklahoma's Education System" was passed today (January 18, 2014) by the Oklahoma GOP Committee during their regular meeting.  This resolution records the will of the Oklahoma Republican Party Executive Committee to direct Republican floor leaders to both slate Common Core bills for hearing in Committees as well as Republican Committee chairs to allow a hearing for Common Core bills so that an HONEST debate on the issue may be had and citizens may be directly represented by their lawmakers.

Grassroots Republicans felt it important to elucidate this point since a Common Core repeal bill was blocked from committee hearing by both House Education Committee Chair, Representative Ann Coody and Senate Education Chair, Senator John Ford during both 2011 and 2012.  Last year (2013), a bill was written mid-session by Speaker of the House T.W. Shannon, but failed to gain a hearing in the Senate.  

In addition to stressing the necessity for transparency, the Resolution echoes Governor Fallin's Executive Order (2013-40) "to safeguard against any threat of federal intrusion" and to honor and comply with its fifth directive declaring that Oklahoma Academic Standards will "not jeopardize the privacy of any Oklahoma student or citizen" by urging the cessation of state and federal funds to continue development or usage of the State Longitudinal Database System.

The resolution should assist Governor Mary Fallin and State Superintendent Janet Barresi in understanding clearly the will of the majority of grassroots Republicans on the issue of the Common Core State Standards Initiative (AKA Oklahoma Academic Standards) during this election year. 

ROPE would like to thank Cyndi McArtor, Chairman of Delaware County for sponsoring this resolution as well as Holly Gerard and others for their efforts in creating and editing this collaborative work.  


Past Tense America

One of the things I truly love about schooling my kids at home is that I have the opportunity to also learn things I wasn't taught myself.  In the morning, I read the kids a classic poem (or two...or three) and/or a portion of a classic text.  This morning we read the Pied Piper of Hamlin by Robert Browning.

After the reading (sometimes as we are reading, if paragraphs are difficult for those under 12 to understand easily) the four of us discuss the reading.  What was the author trying to say?  What does this word mean?  What is the moral of the story?

I direct the conversation and steer the kids toward the meaning of the text or words if they are not grasping an understanding themselves.

This was the way school was taught years ago.  This is the way my mother, a now-retired English teacher with at least three Master's under her belt, used to teach her public middle school classes.  She LOVED the classics.  Why?  You HAVE to THINK to understand what words such as "gilder", "ermine" and "pottage" might mean today by determining their context in the passage or the sentence.  You HAVE to THINK to then understand the entirety of the passage or poem.

These texts give you the opportunity for endless learning - looking words up in a dictionary, determining context in a sentence, determining the purpose of the poem, studying about the writer....I could go on and on.

Dr. Terrence Moore of Hillsdale College has written a book called, "The Story Killers" about this very thing.  I suggest to anyone who doesn't understand the damage our new "shallow and fewer" standards are doing to the learning process of children, read this book.

I am posting two classic poems below - one by Emerson and one by Browning.  Both poems extol the virtue of what I will call "Past Tense America".
A Nation's Strength - By Ralph Waldo Emerson

Not gold, but only man can make
A people great and strong;
Men who, for truth and honor's sake,
Stand fast and suffer long.

Brave men who work while others sleep,
Who dare while others fly -
They build a nation's pillars deep
And lift them to the sky.
Reading this particular poem really brought home how far America has fallen (to me) since Emerson's time. Look at the words of that poem.  Do we "stand fast and suffer long" today? No, we want the quick, drive through version of EVERYTHING from religion to food! 
I Hear America Singing By Walt Whitman

I hear America Singing, the varied carols I hear:
Those of mechanics, each one singing his as it should be, blithe and strong;
The carpenter singing his as he measures his plank or beam;
The mason singing his as he makes ready for work, or leaves off work;
The boatman singing what belongs to him in his boat; the deckhand singing on the steamboat deck;
The shoemaker singing as he sits on is bench; the hatter singing as he stands;
The wood-cutter's song; the ploughboy's on his way in the morning or at noon intermission or at sundown;
The delicious singing of the mother, or of the young wife at work, or of the girl sewing or washing;
Each singing what belongs to him or her and to none else,
The day what belongs to the day - at night the party of young fellows, robust, friendly,
Singing with open mouths their strong melodious song.
Whitman is not describing white-collared executives sitting behind a desk with an iPad below their hovering fingers.  Whitman is not describing Professors in Ivory Towers decrying the goodness of America as they simultaneously take research funds (hand over fist) from private corporations who have made their fortunes from the American work ethic and free enterprise system.  

No, Whitman is describing America in past tense.  An America in which calloused hands provided a tale of untold riches to anyone that shook them.  An America in which students were taught the value of independence through reliance on one's own efforts, and the benefits reaped by America because of the values therein instilled. 

Our education 'reform' measures (ie; Common Core) will never work in present-tense America because we are now the America of the soft underbelly that expects and deserves instead of works and perserveres.
Our education 'reform' measures (ie; Common Core) will never work in present-tense America because they are based on punishments and not an embracing of learning for the sake of learning. 

Our education 'reform' measures (ie; Common Core) will never work in present-tense America because we desire results without effort - critical thinking without foundational knowledge - tests (assessments) that teach instead of teachers who teach.

Our only hope will be a Great Awakening of learning in our country, and until (and unless) we extricate ourselves from the cycle of government instilled poverty of effort, we will never summit that Everest.



Today, I hear that Eric Cantor "...Hits Critics of Expanding School Choice".

This was interesting as I was given to understand that school choice was dead.  Hadn't heard that?  Take it from me - it's true!

How exactly are we going to offer students anything different - anything outside of Common Core - at any given public school in America?  How?  Forty-seven states have signed on to the Common Core.  Countless publishers and technology providers are pushing out countless materials all aligned with the Common Core, making it nearly impossible for anyone to find educational materials outside that sphere.  All state tests (at least 47 of them) - and now the ACT - will be geared to the standards.  All curricula is being written to align with the Common Core, essentially forcing all educational outcomes to be more or less the same.  Isn't that what nationalization of anything strives to do?  Where is the choice? 

It is absolutely IMPOSSIBLE to produce an orange from the union of two pears.  Why is this concept so hard to understand?

Oh, yes, I guess you could CHOOSE to move your kid to a newer school across town - we humans always seem to believe new = better - but I remember hearing about a number of brand new schools built in rough areas of towns (to the tune of several million taxpayer dollars) that not only continue to fight vandalism but still-slumping student performance. 

Yes, sadly, you can change the building, but changing the building doesn't change the kids - good parents and teachers change kids.  Maybe someday taxpayers will recognize that and finally stop voting for bond issues that raise their property taxes to create pretty buildings that still continue to churn out marginally prepared/educated students.

Maybe a school across town feels like a safer option for your child.  Great, move him there.  You will get the same type curricula to fulfill the same set of standards with very little wiggle room as everyone has to pass the state tests in order to make sure their schools are graded C or above in order to prevent a state takeover of that school (yes, that is a good question, what IS the function of the local school board anymore?).  Your child will also have countless points of data collected on him as he sits in his seat, which will most probably stored in a 'cloud' somewhere, which will most likely be auctioned off to the highest technology bidder who will then produce educational materials from that data, that will collect even more intrusive data about your child.

Eric Cantor
...chided President Barack Obama for not including new money for the D.C. voucher program in his budget requests. (The administration has generally focused on funding existing slots, not bringing in many new students, despite what the program's supporters see as overwhelming demand.) 
He then said
"School choice is a threat to the status quo," Cantor said. "School choice protects families and children, not bureaucracies."
It is this kind of double-speak - this kind of ignorance of the way education and the Constitution works - that drives those that consider themselves 'conservatives' over the edge.

According to Cantor, Americans must go to the federal government to provide money (mother may I) to create educational programming for the communities found inside our states, and that situation will then create parental choice at the local level.  Seriously?  I can hardly even write that with a straight face!  Cantor must not be familiar with the conservative notion that government functions best closest to those that support and (ostensibly) benefit from it (taxpayers). 

This ignorance is exactly the reason legislators DO create the very bureaucracies they claim to hate that serve us up Common Core (and the other nationalized standards - and the associated data mining) and then feel good about telling parents and taxpayers that this method provides CHOICE in education.  Until legislators (and taxpayers!) themselves become educated about how government works, we will keep getting the same ignorant pontifications about the same ignorant (and liberty-sucking) government we have now, tomorrow. 


Garbage. Seriously, just garbage.

The new exciting article for today that made me crazy..."CareerTech director wants to link education, workforce to strengthen Oklahoma's economy.  Oklahoma's CareerTech Director Robert Sommers wants education and business officials to work together to create good jobs in the state and to prepare Oklahomans to fill them".

Not long ago, I wrote a blog entitled, "Made in the USA? Why Common Core Standards Will Never Produce A Stronger America". If you didn't read it (and if you didn't, shame on you ! LOL), my thesis was this,
our current education 'reform' nonsense is not going to prepare any kids for the current, non-technical, public service jobs available today and they shouldn't anyway as that is the job of the hiring company
This interview with Robert Sommers, Governor Fallin's current appointment to a newly created secretary position, "Secretary of Education AND THE WORKFORCE", explains how public schools (taxpayers) should be training kids for jobs (as though they are automatons) and to attend the four year college of their choice (to put more and more kids into the real world in debt without a job in Women's Studies, the major from the college of their choice).
“High school diplomas without any career technical instruction or additional well-rounded technical training really leaves you with an opportunity to continue education, but not very many living-wage job options,” Sommers said. 
“You have to have high academic, plus technical skills, foundation skills — those manifest themselves in CareerTech credentials or college degrees — and that's become the new minimum,” he said.
Gosh, I guess Sommers isn't acquainted with the way it used to be done (and often still is in rural America).  Kids left school at 8th grade (rather than being housed in an educational detention facility until the construct now called 12th grade), went out and found either a tutor (if they were wealthy enough) or a skilled tradesman under whom to apprentice until he could go out and open his own shop.

Even after America became mired in the Industrial Revolution and the notion that machines could do much of the work a set of matched mules or 2 guys on a saw could do, businesses - even those that became enormous industrial giants (FORD for example) - trained those that came to work for them ON THEIR OWN DIME.  These businesses didn't go to the local taxpayer with their hand out and say, "Pardon me ma'am, spare a farthing so I can train my line crew?"

When did American business become encumbered by the idea that it was the duty of the PUBLIC to pay a good portion of their business expense for them?  When did the head of IBM decide it was perfectly fine to join the Chamber of Commerce, give them a big fat check and get them to break the arms of taxpayers to fund their corporate expenses?  Have we ALL become idiots?


The only voice of reason in this whole article is Oklahoma Businessman Bob Funk, who says,
“Because of the emphasis that has been placed on our students to get a college degree, we've seen a dramatic decline in the number of qualified workers needed for skilled labor jobs,” said Bob Funk, chairman and CEO of Oklahoma City-based Express Employment Professionals.
“We have good-paying jobs that are ready for people, but it's not easy to find the workers to fill jobs in industries like welding, CNC machine programming, CDL truck driving, accounting and IT.”
Funk said educators and leaders should emphasize the opportunities available to young people looking for work in fields that are too often overlooked.
“My advice to job seekers, especially to those without college degrees, is to be sure you learn a skill or a trade, otherwise this economy is very tough,” he said. “Keep applying yourself to the opportunities you do have and work toward the career you want no matter what it takes.”
Well, YES!  Nowhere did Bob say, "Go out and spend your parents money on a useless degree at a college that will warp your world view simply because American education elitists are trying to turn America into a culture of simmering wimps in order to make big bucks and you're too ignorant to see it", but he probably would have driven the point home a lot quicker had he!

I've said it once and I'm sure I'll say it again another hundred times - AMERICANS SHOULD NEVER USE PUBLIC EDUCATION TO PREPARE STUDENTS FOR JOBS!  Public education is to provide basic skills and a set of basic knowledge to those unable to have that provided for them in their homes.  It is not to build a skilled workforce for big business.  Period.


Common Core State Standards Now Performing As "The Ring" in The Hobbit

As a practicing Christian, I find Ted Baehr's MovieGuide an indispensable help when trying to decide what movies I'll let my kids (all 12 and under) watch.

I actually subscribe to their email list and I got an email this morning that contained an analysis of The Ring from The Hobbit.  The article, "The Limits of Control: A Deeper Look Into the Hobbit's Worldview" was quite an interesting read for first thing this morning. 

The author explains - well, I might add - the personification of The Ring in the Hobbit. 

Frankly, the concept is absolutely basic, yet we never really strive for 'basic' as humans, so the concept remains difficult for us to grasp.  Humans tend to over-analyze any aspect of an issue before addressing the thing sitting in the open right under our noses. 

Life is about wrong and right, period.  A simple concept to be sure, but humans tend to botch it because we won't understand the nature of universal truth.  We don't really want to if truth be told, because truth abhors the human notion of, 'if it feels good do it'.  

Gone are the days that young people understand they shouldn't say, "My bad" when asking forgiveness for a wrong they have personally committed, for example.  When I was growing up, in the dark ages, you were taught to say, "I am sorry" with emphasis on the I part.  Why?  Because YOU were the one that committed the faux pax. 

It hurts, taking responsibility for yourself and your own actions, though.  It is much easier to turn over as much of your life as possible to someone who will simply run it for you.  Why make decisions for yourself when those decisions might not bring enjoyment or happiness?

The rise of government intervention into the lives of individuals today is a direct result of this shirking of responsibility.  The less society takes responsibility for themselves, the more the law clamps down.  It is true that John Adams once said about the Constitution, 
“Our Constitution was made only for a moral and religious people. It is wholly inadequate to the government of any other.”
Why?  Because those with morals - whether directly as a result of religion or not - will be more likely to govern themselves than those who do not.

Common Core is yet another instance of others running the lives of those that are percieved as being unable or unwilling to do it for themselves.  Those that most greatly desire the ubiquitous structure of something like Common Core are those mostly disinterested in the hard work it will take to change community schools on their own - as individual parents, teachers and citizens. They much prefer to live their lives in subservience to some faceless entity that will shoulder all the blows of life - something they can place blame on for the failures in their lives other than themselves (which, as I pointed out, brings some level of discomfort).

The simple truth is that life is hard if you do it right.  Consequently humans seem always on the lookout for that 'ring' to make everything easier by usurping the individual freedom of decision making through the power of mindless tyranny. Very sad, really, when you think about it.


Made in the USA? Why Common Core Standards Will Never Produce A Stronger America

Since 2010, the Chamber of Commerce, the Council of Chief State School Officers and the National Governor's Association (all private, dues-paid organizations - all who owe some debt of gratitude to the Bill Gates Foundation for helping them to fund their efforts to shove Common Core down the throats of American students and parents) have told us that America MUST have every student on the same educational page utilizing the Common Core State Standards in order to produce college and career ready Americans.  America must use Common Core in order to graduate students from high school.   America must have high school graduates become college graduates because American companies will be unable to fill job openings from a pool of any other than college and career ready graduates.  American students not college and/or career ready will lie impoverished in the street with neither a job nor career.

This idea of nationalized standards intertwined with college and career readiness has been proposed at many different times across American history really, but not so fully as when Bill Clinton became president and used friend Marc Tucker's (president of the National Center on Education and the Economy) seminal work, Tough Choices Or Tough Times, as the basis for his administration's education and economic policy.
First, a vision of the kind of national — not federal — human resources development system the nation could have. This is interwoven with a new approach to governing that should inform that vision. What is essential is that we create a seamless web of opportunities, to develop one's skills that literally extends from cradle to grave and is the same system for everyone — young and old, poor and rich, worker and full-time student. It needs to be a system driven by client needs (not agency regulations or the needs of the organization providing the services), guided by clear standards that define the stages of the system for the people who progress through it, and regulated on the basis of outcomes that providers produce for their clients, not inputs into the system.
This idea is silly of course.  Without either college or career ready national standards, America was exceeding every country in the world in nearly every area possible - including putting men on the moon - until 1964 and LBJ's great Elementary and Secondary Education Act. 

I have attempted to refute this silliness since 2010, however a recent interview with Mike Rowe (creator and director of the recently-ended Discovery show, Dirty Jobs), gave me the impetus I needed to meet these charges head on.

For nine years, Mike Rowe traveled across the United States working various manual and skilled labor jobs (at the request of viewers) while recording his efforts for the show.  You could say that Mike has actually made studying 'jobs' his vocation and he speaks eloquently and intelligently about the issue. 

In the interview, he asks why it is that we as Americans are asking students to leave high school and attend college, where they inevitably become indebted to study a vocation for which they may never even be able to find a job that will allow them to repay their indebtedness.
“We’re lending money we don’t have, to kids who will never be able to pay it back, for jobs that no longer exist. That’s crazy, right? That’s what we’ve been doing for the last forty years.”
He also explains that today, there is a plethora of skilled trades open and in demand. 
"In fact, there are 3 million jobs out there (in the US) that companies are having a hard time filling."
Of these, only 8-12% require a college degree.

Additionally, a recent interview with John Ratzenberger (Cheers), describes his reasoning for wanting to create a new series called, "Made in America"..."We're running out of people who know how to make things. The average age of someone who knows how to actually make something in manufacturing is 58 years old."

Goodness.  It seems to me as though neither JOBS nor CAREERS are the problem here.

So, what is the problem?  Why would we be sold a bill of goods telling Americans that we must have COMMON standards by which to educate our children for college and a career?

Well, I think it might have something to do with the fact that we tax many businesses at such an exorbitant rate, many can make better profit by using cheaper labor and materials from overseas, so overseas they go - taking their jobs with them.

How about the fact that for years, powerful labor unions have destroyed business after business (look at the American steel industry) as CEO's - too fearful of a work stoppage and their all-important bottom line - cave in to union demands of more and higher wages and pensions than can even be supported by the returns it generates.  

What about the fact that we simply don't teach the basics in public grammar school anymore.  Goodness, we don't even call it 'grammar' school anymore because we rarely teach grammar to young children anymore - it's passe' - it's not as exciting or stimulating as allowing young children to experiment with spelling and word usage in a non-graded journal of their own creation.  We don't teach kids how to sit still and copy letters, or sit still and write cursive, or, well heck, SIT STILL.  After all, in our world of creativity and repudiation of all that is boring, why in the world would we want to foster skills that train children to be patient and still and quiet?

Then there's the post WWII era mentality of, "our kids will have better than us", which gave rise to a generation of kids that believed they deserved to leave college and enter the workforce behind a desk with a six figure salary.  A generation, which itself, spawned a generation with an entitlement load of even greater toxicity level.  Today, many young people can't be bothered to be at work on time or respond to the needs of customers or bosses because work ethic has taken a backseat to the instant gratification afforded by everything in their lives, from fast food to personal communication.

Face it:  many kids today don't WANT to have a job in a warehouse - even if that job would more than sustain them.  This is viewed as 'grunt' work by our current coddled and entitled generation who has been told they 'deserve' everything from a big screen TV to phones and cars.

Yes, Marc Tucker and his ilk have done their job.  They have made "dirty jobs" a thought as unwelcome as the loss of an iPhone.  They have turned America into an amorphous, squeamish, bloated, government-dependent nightmare from which those of us who value "work" and all that can provide in life from money to wisdom can't awake.

So no Virginia, common national standards are not solution to the problems this country has with college or career - WORK is.