Thursday, September 29, 2011

20 Things Students Want the Nation to Know About Education

NBC sponsored Education Nation is billed as a national summit on education. Panel after panel discussed and debated a wide variety of topics. Perhaps I am one more in the pool of parents, community members, or taxpayers who never heard of it. Could it be this important pool remains at the fringes of the national discussion?

Thanks to Lisa of the Innovative Educator blog, I learned that there was at least a student panel. This insightful blog is reposted below.

20 Things Students Want the Nation to Know About Education

It's rare for education reformers, policymakers, and funders to listen to those at the heart of education reform work: The students. In fact Ann Curry who hosted Education Nation's first student panel admitted folks at NBC were a little nervous about putting kids on stage. In their "Voices of a Nation" discussion, young people provided insight into their own experiences with education and what they think needs to be done to ensure that every student receives a world-class education. After the discussion Curry knew these students didn't disappoint. She told viewers, "Students wanted to say something that made a difference to you (adults) and they did. Now adults need to listen."

Below are the sentiments shared by these current and former students during the segment.

  1. I have to critically think in college, but your tests don't teach me that.
  2. We learn in different ways at different rates.
  3. I can't learn from you if you are not willing to connect with me.
  4. Teaching by the book is not teaching. It's just talking.
  5. Caring about each student is more important than teaching the class.
  6. Every young person has a dream. Your job is to help bring us closer to our dreams.
  7. We need more than teachers. We need life coaches.
  8. The community should become more involved in schools.
  9. Even if you don't want to be a teacher, you can offer a student an apprenticeship.
  10. Us youth love all the new technologies that come out. When you acknowledge this and use technology in your teaching it makes learning much more interesting.
  11. You should be trained not just in teaching but also in counseling.
  12. Tell me something good that I'm doing so that I can keep growing in that.
  13. When you can feel like a family member it helps so much.
  14. We appreciate when you connect with us in our worlds such as the teacher who provided us with extra help using Xbox and Skype
  15. Our teachers have too many students to enable them to connect with us in they way we need them to.
  16. Bring the electives that we are actually interested in back to school. Things like drama, art, cooking, music.
  17. Education leaders, teachers, funders, and policy makers need to start listening to student voice in all areas including teacher evaluations.
  18. You need to use tools in the classroom that we use in the real world like Facebook, email, and other tools we use to connect and communicate.
  19. You need to love a student before you can teach a student.
  20. We do tests to make teachers look good and the school look good, but we know they don't help us to learn what's important to us.

The students are ready to talk to us. How are we going to make time to listen and incorporate their voices into the policies and decisions that affect them?

Nnamdi Asomugha, Cornerback - Philadelphia Eagles
Shadrack Boayke - Brentwook, NY
Colton Bradford - Mobile, AL
Ron Daldine - Auburn Hills, MI
Rayla Gaddy - Detroit, MI
Katie Oliveria - Las Vegas, NV

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Date change for South Carolina parent protest: October 8 at 10 AM

South Carolina parents moved the date of the protest in response to parents, students, teachers, and community members, who have expressed interest in joining the event on a more convenient day.

The new date is Saturday, October 8, 2011 at 10am on the front steps of the South Carolina State House in Columbia SC, facing Gervais Blvd.

Parents object to high stakes assessment that converts classrooms into test prep and testing centers and the denial of parental rights to waive testing in order to protect the health and well-being of their students with complex medical conditions.

Monday, September 26, 2011

NUT Report: New standardized health and sex education test heads to Washington D.C. and South Carolina

The No Unnecessary Testing or NUT Report is written by Sandra.

“Teaching to the test for health, too?” asked Nakisha Winston, head of the PTA at Langdon Education Campus in Northeast Washington D.C.

Earlier this month, the Washington Post reported that Washington D.C. school students will be the first to take a new health standardized assessment to measure what they know about "human sexuality, contraception and drug use" as well as nutrition and mental health. Students will take this 50 question health and sex education assessment in addition to "reading and math (grades 3 through 8 and 10), composition (4, 7, 10), science (grade 5) and biology (grade 10)" in April 2012.

The test was developed by the Office of the State Superintendent of Education based upon sample questions "devised by" the Council of Chief State School Officers (CCSSO).

The Washington Post reported that parents want to know more about the test and expressed concerns about more testing requirements. D.C. school officials say the test is in response to legislation; however, the bill sponsor said the legislation required only an annual report and not the creation of another standardized assessment. Officials recognize that parents may have differing opinions on this initiative.

In an updated Washington Post report, D.C. officials clarified that assessment results will only serve to report percentage of questions answered correctly and will not provide individual scores, nor affect teacher evaluations.

According to the CCSSO Health Education Assessment Project (HEAP) website, South Carolina "utilized the item bank, collaborative editing and online testing capabilities, to develop and field-test several assessment forms at the elementary, middle and high school grade levels in preparation for a statewide health assessment." Searches reveal zero South Carolina media coverage on this topic. The Washington Post article points to the CCSSO website as the reference for the information.

The test bank of questions can be reviewed at the HEAP website.
Take a brief pop quiz of questions taken from the test bank here.


The CCSSO website is not likely a place where parents will visit to get information on their state's initiatives.

  • Are South Carolina parents, community members, and taxpayers in the dark as to the priority, legislative requirements, and costs related to this additional test?

  • Will South Carolina parents be advised and have a right to opt out during field and final implementation in accordance with SECTION 59-32-50. S.C. Code of Laws Title 59 Chapter 32 or will the absence of the word assessment lead to enforcement of taking the assessment?

  • Will compliance-only prevail for parents who object to sexual education assessments for personal reasons?

Currently, South Carolina has no legislation that allows parental right to opt-out of any standardized tests. This apparent legislative vacuum has led to compliance-only enforcement, including for students who have complex medical conditions. S.C. education officials second-guess doctor's recommendations that students not be tested to protect their health and well-being.

Parents will be protesting on the steps of the South Carolina Senate Building on October 3. Perhaps South Carolina legislators will break their silence, explain their position on parental rights, and have something to say about this new test to parents then.

UPDATE: Date change for parent protest. New date is Saturday, October 8 at 10 AM.

Previous posts related to South Carolina parent opposition to excessive testing:
The State Op-Ed: South Carolina parent asks why students cannot opt out of high stakes assessment
South Carolina parents to protest high stakes assessment
A letter from a 12 year old---
Bringing Parent Opposition and Resistance Out of the Shadows
South Carolina Parents Challenge Standardized Testing
NUT Report: No parent involvement wanted

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Blackboard LEARN security vulnerabilities

Sandra is back after a three week blogging hiatus.

The Australian edition of SC Magazine, which focuses on IT security, reported that Blackboard Learn had serious vulnerabilities. The report revealed that "security vulnerabilities have been found in the world’s most popular educational software - holes that allow students to change grades and download unpublished exams, whilst allowing criminals to steal personal information." Initial concerns reported to Blackboard by Australian university managers were ignored or dismissed, which led to the publication of an advisory by AusCERT, a non-profit security organization funded by Queensland University. Blackboard then responded with its own advisory.

Blackboard Learn is used widely by U.S. universities and by the U.S. military. Inside Higher Ed also reported on the security concerns:
Matthew Maurer, a spokesman for Blackboard, told Inside Higher Ed via e-mail that the article was correct that there was a security flaw, and that this problem was not unique to Australian universities. But he said that the article (which has been circulating among some American IT officials) had an "exaggerated fashion" in describing the problem. "There's not a single reported case of exposure, just the theoretical," he said. Maurer said that many of the issues were very quickly fixed, and that the company is now providing information to colleges and universities so they can see that there are not serious problems remaining.

While there may not have been a single reported case of exposure, there was a significant security flaw. Universities purchasing online learning systems and students paying tuition to access online courses should have assurance that the products do not have this level of security holes to begin with. Security issues affecting other U.S. online education initiatives remain a concern.

Previous postings on this topic:

Student Data Collection: Purpose, Costs, Risks?
Education Reform and Privacy Concerns Collide

Saturday, September 24, 2011

Explaining the New Math

Years ago when I got out of the service unemployment was high, and no one really wanted Vets, the general assumption was we were all crazy– a slight exaggeration.  The construction industry was a little different, cray was normal and it paid well, provided you were willing to get paid for what you produced, instead of the time you put in…   The only problem was you were on your own for things like insurance, and the winters were rough on cash flow.   That was when I started learning there was more money in selling the materials, then there was in nailing it together..

A couple years later I was managing a lumber yard.  One evening I wrote a guy up for 160 feet of baseboard molding, and set him to the kid in back to get loaded up.. and went back to what I was doing..  A couple minutes later the came to and asked how many pieces he should give the customer.  The kid was eighteen and had graduated from High School less than a month before..

I looked at him and said ” You’ve got sixteen footers back there, the stuff’s in ten piece bundles, the customer has a racks on his truck, so sixteens are fine.

The pride of the local school system just stood there for a full minute looking at me, then he said “Yeah, but how many pieces do I give him?”

I had to explain to this kid, who had just Graduated High School that ten times sixteen equaled 160-

Over the years I’ve heard people complain about the lack of very basic skills kids have when they finish High School.  Educators have demanded and gotten more money, smaller class sizes and the latest and greatest in modern educational tools.  The result is a lower quality finished product than we had fifty years and hundreds of billions of ago.  Now we’ve gotten to the point that everyone is blaming everyone, the parents blame the schools and the teachers,  In turn the schools and the teachers blame the parents.

Every year the experts come up with a new solution, but it will cost money.  Somehow the experts don’t get blamed– they just get more money out of the deal.. Before we go any farther, take a look at the video..

I’m not so sure if I’d have been able to solve a simple multiplication problem if I’d been taught bu any of those methods.  However that’s what the experts say works.. at least while they’re selling the school districts new curriculum models, and very expensive books to go with them.

I sat my almost eleven year old grandson down and we watched the video together, he’s been taught everyone of the algorithms except the lattice method.. Then he laughed a little..

He told me last year as Florida’s FCAT  Testing Season was approaching his teacher was having a really hard time getting her students to understand the clusters, thingamajigs and whatever’s the new math calls for..  She was getting desperate.  Finally she said “Screw this”, and started erasing  everything on the black board.

Then she said.. “You don’t have to show your work on the FCAT, let me show you how to do this stuff right.  It didn’t take long for the class to figure it out, when it was taught the way it had been for generations.. before the experts made it better.

Friday, September 23, 2011

Waving along failure

VIA The Foundry

The President Barack Obama is slated to give a speech tomorrow lauding the benefits of granting waivers to states for the burdensome provisions of No Child Left Behind (NCLB). Obama, unhappy with the pace at which Congress is undertaking NCLB reauthorization, has decided to grant the conditions-based waivers to states to fulfill his own timeline and push his own policy preferences. States have felt the federal heat from provisions in NCLB that require all children to be proficient in reading and math by 2014. And as that deadline approaches, many states could find the temporary relief promised through the waivers a welcome reprieve.

But any temporary relief states might receive will ultimately be swamped in the14 long term by new onerous burdens from increased authority in the Department of Education, as opposed to Congress.

Read the Rest 

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Key Conservative Smacks Romney for Siding with Arne Duncan

VIA  Scathing Purple Musings

Bob Sikes. 
There are few conservative commentators with the juice that Red State‘s Erick Erickson has. In a post this afternoon, Erickson clearly distinguished the clear differences between the education policies of presidential candidates Mitt Romney and Rick Perry. Erickson sees that Romney supports the Barack Obama-Arne Duncan reforms while the Perry  bristles at the intrusion of the federal government into state’s school system.
Romney said today at a campaign stop in Florida that “I think Secretary Duncan has done some good things. I hope that’s  not heresy in this room.” Erickson is skeptical of Romney’s position and writes:

Monday, September 19, 2011

DOJ Protects Teachers With Unacceptable English Skills

VIA Judicial Watch

Public school teachers with unacceptable English pronunciation and grammar are being protected by the Obama Administration, which has forced one state to eliminate a fluency monitoring program created to comply with a 2002 federal education law.

Singling out teachers who can’t speak proper English in American schools—funded by taxpayers, no less—discriminates against Hispanics and others who are not native English speakers, according to the Department of Justice (DOJ). As a result it violates the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the teachers must remain in their current position.  

Unbelievable as this may seem, it’s a true story reported this week by Arizona’s largest newspaper. Ironically, the state launched the fluency monitoring program to comply with the bipartisan-backed No Child Left Behind Act, which requires states to create standardized tests that show public school students are reaching proficiency in core subjects like English, math and science.

With only a small proportion of low-English proficiency students (reading between the lines they are referring to illegal immigrants) passing the state’s standardized reading test, Arizona education officials started to look at the teachers in those classrooms. They found a common thread in dozens of districts throughout the state; many instructors don’t speak proper English and, in fact, teach in Spanish, using Spanish-language materials. Some have “unacceptably heavy accents” that causes them to mispronounce words. Others use poor English grammar.

Here are some examples of state monitoring reports listed in the article; a teacher who asked her English learners "How do we call it in English?" and teachers who pronounced "levels" as "lebels" and "much" as "mush." Last year a monitor documented teachers who pronounced "the" as "da" and "lives here" as "leeves here."

Protected by the power of their union, no teachers have been fired for fluency issues. They have simply been reassigned and districts are required to develop “corrective-action plans” to improve their English. However a group of teachers took their case to the feds last year, complaining that their accents were getting them removed from classrooms.

This is the sort of issue that makes the Justice Department’s bloated civil rights division salivate. Predictably, the agency took swift action, threatening to file a civil rights lawsuit if Arizona didn’t get rid of its teacher fluency monitoring program. As a result, thousands of children in the state’s taxpayer funded schools are stuck with teachers they probably can’t understand.

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Corporate Education Reform’s Coming Constitutional Crisis

Via Scathing Purple Musings
By Bob Sikes

Will it turn out that common core standards meant everything? And that it was a rising republican star who signaled the beginning of the end game?
A quick Google search this morning combining Marco Rubio and Arne Duncan netted 47 hits. A letter Rubio sent to Duncan has gone viral and conservative heavy weights are taking notice. In his letter, Rubio questioned Duncan’s authority on NCLB waivers based on three existing statutes. In addition, Rubio pointed to the federalization of common core standards as particularly troubling:
Furthermore, I am concerned that the administration’s requirements for granting a waiver from NCLB would entail states having to adopt a federally-approved “college and career ready” curriculum: either the national Common Core standards, or another federally-approved equivalent. I am also concerned that the U.S. Department ofEducation has created, through its contractors, national curriculum materials to support these Common Core standards. Such activities are unacceptable; they violate three existing laws: NCLB, the Department of Education Organization Act,
and the General Education Provisions Act. All three laws prohibit the federal government from creating or prescribing national curriculum. If you believe that conditional waivers tied to content standards do not violate these laws, I invite you to explain the reasoning underlying that belief.
Rubio is not alone in conservative circles. Writes influential CATO institute analyst Andrew J. Coulson:

Saturday, September 17, 2011

The State Op-Ed: South Carolina parent asks why students cannot opt out of high stakes assessment

In a September 7, 2011 Op-ed published in South Carolina's newspaper, The State, parent Sarah Johnson asked why the carefully organized individual education plan (IEP) for special education students is pushed aside and "a seventh-grader who is reading on a first-grade level due to a low IQ will be tested on the seventh-grade level. That means he is being tested on material he has not been taught and on levels he cannot comprehend. This is not only unfair and cruel, but completely useless to the teacher and student."

Johnson says that South Carolina "spends millions of dollars on these tests, when we could instead just let our teachers use work samples, or a running record of achievement, or countless other methods to show a student’s progress. We need to eliminate the state standardized tests and use the money where it is actually needed: in the classroom. The less time spent on preparing for and administering The Test, the more time there is for valuable teaching and learning."

She was informed that the school district does not have the authority to excuse students from testing; but last year her son, a special-needs student was allowed to sit out based on her parental refusal.

Read the entire Op-Ed here.

Friday, September 16, 2011

South Carolina parents to protest high stakes assessment

UPDATE: Protest date changed to Saturday, October 8, 2011 at 10 AM.

Grumpy Educators has ongoing reporting on the experience of South Carolina parents regarding opting out of mandated testing for their children with complicated medical issues. Their experiences are not unique to South Carolina, but repeated in many states across the country. The requirements under NCLB mandate that schools implement testing. The U.S. Congress did not vote that every student was required to take a test. In South Carolina, there are no laws that require students to take the tests and no laws that allow waivers from taking tests. South Carolina does not seem to have regulations or oversight on charter schools operating in their state either. Nevertheless, parents who requested their children be excused from testing have been harrassed, threatened, and medical advise affecting their children has been ignored.

What is it that South Carolina is enforcing?

Parents plan to protest on the front steps of the South Carolina State House on October 3 at 10:00 AM to make it clear to South Carolina legislators that the system of high stakes assessment impinges their parental rights, puts the health of their children at risk, and turns schools into test prep and testing centers instead of environments for learning for all students.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011


Teachers in the Stimulus Plan

The president claimed that school districts are laying off teachers in droves, and therefore we need to allocate federal stimulus money to save those jobs. The problem is, the statistics do not bear him out (what a surprise). The Bureau of Labor Statisticsshows a 16% increase in the number of elementary and secondary teaches in the last 10 years. Yet this is in an era of declining birthrates. The US birthrate hit an all time low in 2010 (the latest year for which we have statistics) and has been steadily declining for the last 12 years. This is significant because the number of teachers is tied to the number of students, and is not an indicator of a healthy market. The fact that the number of teachers (supply) is rising while the number of students (demand) is dropping is a sign of an unbalanced business model. If proper corrections were made, the number of teachers should be dropping.

Rockwood school district, as part of their community budget discussions last fall went to great lengths to show that the student population, around 22,000, has not changed significantly in the last 15 years and no increase is predicted for the next five. The extra staffing that was identified was in the administration, not the classroom teachers. Cuts were proposed in those areas.

Some school districts have developed the habit of laying off teachers at the end of the year and not rehiring them until their enrollment period has closed and they know exactly how many students they will have. While an unnerving way of doing things for the teachers, the result is that most of the teachers are re-hired the next fall. So the "droves" leaving is not an accurate statement.

It is irresponsible for a district to hire more teachers when the number of students has not increased. It is similarly irresponsible to retain teachers when the number of students has decreased. With the rise in charter schools and homeschooling, the number of students in public schools is decreasing. But since the number of students is a relatively static amount, the need for teachers is merely shifting between public and charter and private.

The bigger question that should be asked is, "How is providing federal dollars for teachers an economic stimulus?" Teachers do not participate in a corporate system that generates a profit. School districts do not pay corporate taxes. They do not add to the economy other than in the sales tax they pay on products they purchase in order to operate. The amount of products they purchase is tied to the number of students they educate, not the number of teachers they employ, (e.g. if they employ more teachers, they do not order more text books.) Keeping teachers in positions where they are not needed through federal spending would be like the government employing travel agents who were losing their jobs to book-yourself internet sites in the 90's. It just perpetuates their dependence rather than encouraging them to get training in the up and coming market sectors.

Instead, the President proposes artificial means to add employees to a market that is not changing, is not a profit generator - yet (see posts on for profit charters), and which must charge customers who do not actively use their services in order to operate (i.e. property taxes). How is this model a positive to the national economy? If, as the President says, this money is an investment, and most investors want a return on their dollar, how does this poor business model return anything to its investors?

Looking at this investment, the enormous loans to the solar manufacturer Solyndra who just went bankrupt, and the bailout of GE (who in 2009 opted to purchase turbine parts from China rather than a US company, even when that company agreed to match China's pricing thus forcing the closing of the US plant and the laying off of 302 workers) we should start questioning the wisdom of our current investment advisor, this administration.

Monday, September 12, 2011

The Single Best Idea for Reforming K-12 Education


VIA Forbes

Steve Denning, Contributor
RADICAL MANAGEMENT: Rethinking leadership and innovation

I have been asked for my “single best idea for reforming K-12 education”. When you only have one shot, you want to make it count. So I thought I would share my idea here, in case anyone has a brighter insight.

Root cause: factory model of management

To decide what is the single best idea for reforming K-12 education, one needs to figure out what is the biggest problem that the system currently faces. To my mind, the biggest problem is a preoccupation with, and the application of, the factory model of management to education, where everything is arranged for the scalability and efficiency of “the system”, to which the students, the teachers, the parents and the administrators have to adjust. “The system” grinds forward, at ever increasing cost and declining efficiency, dispiriting students, teachers and parents alike.
Given that the factory model of management doesn’t work very well, even in the few factories that still remain in this country, or anywhere else in the workplace for that matter, we should hardly be surprised that it doesn’t work well in education either.
But given that the education system is seen to be in trouble, there is a tendency to think we need “better management” or “stronger management” or “tougher management”, where “management” is assumed to be the factory model of management. It is assumed to mean more top-down management and tighter controls, and more carrots and sticks. It is assumed to mean hammering the teachers who don’t perform and ruthlessly weeding out “the dead wood”. The thinking is embedded in Race to the Top and No Child Left Behind.
These methods are known to be failing in the private sector, because they dispirit the employees and limit their ability to contribute their imagination and creativity; they frustrate customers, 

Your Teacher Said WHAT?

VIA Education Week
By Nancy Flanagan on September 5, 2011 9:55 AM

If I were a betting woman, I'd put serious money on the Common Core Everything--not just standards, but assessments and a curriculum package that can be delivered on-line--soon becoming the mandated norm for nearly all public schools in America. In the politicized process of making the tools of schooling "common," the nation will be continuously subjected to a lot of blah-blah about the absolute necessity of all states having identical "goalposts," the scientific accuracy of value-added / student growth profile measurement and the vital importance of "rigorous" curricula.
In the end, not much will have changed. Good schools will still be good schools, terrible schools in poor neighborhoods will still be failing--and "delivering content" via technology will still be promoted as the Next Big Thing, an exciting option to make education for the masses more "personalized" and "efficient" (read: cost-effective). No bang, for really big bucks.
It's a devilishly clever game plan: Positioning the standards as a "state" initiative led by governors, painting the new standardized assessments as more "authentic" and funding their development "competitively"--and then simply letting "the marketplace" produce aligned curricular resources.
Nothing national about it, no sir! It was practically spontaneous, this sudden, coordinated interest in national common standards, re-created by someone other than teachers, and aligned with new tests and the materials necessary to standardize learning for all children in publicly funded schools. (Sarcasm alert.)
I'm more or less agnostic about the Common Core standards. I can see modest value in a voluntary standards framework, a thin set of content goals--suggesting that 5th grade would be a good time to teach multiplying and dividing fractions, for example. I was on a team of teachers who created model curriculum units last summer, cross-walking the current Michigan Grade Level Content Expectations with the Common Core standards.

Friday, September 9, 2011

The Government has your kids spying on you

No I haven’t been drinking
This is part 2 of  Data Mining our kids, with an added twist

Back when I went to school we were taught that in terrible places like Russia and the other communist controlled dictatorships behind the Iron Curtain, the government made school kids spy on their parents.   The kids were supposed to let their teachers know what they listened to on the radio or if their parents talked about the government… of course the kids were told this was so the government would know what they could do to help the students family help the student learn better.
We were told that only happened in communist or fascist dictatorships..  We were told that was one of the things that made us better than them.  Fast forward 50 some years, the modern computer’s been invented, Barack Obama’s in the White House and we start to find out it not only can, it is happening here– under the guise of  Obama’s Race to the Top Program Education Reform…
Yesterday my grandson handed me a Dear Parents letter from his elementary school.  The pleasantly worded letter told me about a program called pearsonsuccessnet.  All I had to do was log in with a username, and a password they provided and I could see everything that was going on in his classroom.  Sounds great, who wouldn’t want to know exactly what their kid is doing in school?
I decided to think about it before I logged in, if you’ve been following Sandra in Brevard’s websiteGrumpy Educatorsor if you read part one of this blog,  you’ll know why.  I decided to take a look at their website from the outside first, it only took a second to confirm that Pearson was the same famous testing company  Before I get into that here’s a little more background .
As you saw in yesterdays blog,  Bill Gates developed a program the makes extensive data collection on student possible, it shouldn’t come as any great surprise to find out Gates and Pearson have partnered, putting them both in a position to profit nicely from Education Reform.   They stand to profit nicely enough Bill Gates has seen fit to spend several billion dollars lobbying for it’s passage..   One of the key aspect of the program is that with enough date you can do longitudinal studies.. Of course like Hitler, Stalin. Mao and Richard Nixon you can also compile lists of people you consider potential enemies..

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Data Mining our kids– with a added twist, part I

For the most part this is going to be a repost of Sandra in Brevard’s Grumpy Educator Post Data Mining: An Education Reform Strategy with me sticking my two or three cents worth into her report. 

The short version is the Federal Government is going to start compiling an electronic dossier on every child in the country, starting the second they enroll in school. There are some at the department of education that believe it should start at birth. This is part of Obama’s idea of Education Reform. 

I’m reposting it now because I got a pleasant letter from my grandsons schools. The program is more extensive than I thought when I read this.. and this didn’t make me happy. Tomorrow I’ll tell you what the letter said, and what I discovered with just a little bit of research. For now some back ground from Sandra..

 If you buy a book through Amazon, rent a movie through Netflix, or have a Facebook account, your information and choices are "mined" to market new products catered to what the data reveals about you. In these large databases, your choices are compared with others and a book you liked might be offered to others who seem to have similar tastes or interests. Specialized algorithms are developed that "mine" in an effective process to sell products.

Wikipedia defines algorithms in part this way:
"Algorithms are essential to the way computers process information. Many computer programs contain algorithms that specify the specific instructions a computer should perform (in a specific order) to carry out a specified task, such as calculating employees' paychecks or printing students' report cards."

NY Times contributor Seth Freeman wrote this week a clever article this week titled "Me and My Algorithm" of which he said:

If this is a case of my algorithm, my cyber personal shopper, coach, guardian angel and avatar, knowing me better than I know myself, I really do need to figure out why I, a guy, get repeated offers — tied to a e-mails on vastly different subjects — for mastectomy bras and for something called a vaginal ring. Is the idea that these items make lovely gifts? Since articles I have written have circulated through the Internet by e-mail, it could easily turn out that my algorithm will soon get the opportunity to read what I have had to say about it here. What, I wonder, will it think?” (1)

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

As summer winds down

Let's think of course offerings for the coming year.  How about Bee Keeping 101?

Reprint courtesy of  the Missouri Education Watchdog


Since the Department of Education is determined to make us "global" in our educational pursuits and interests, perhaps schools should take a page from Britain's educational planof....beekeeping. The subtitle reads:

Learning to look after bees has transformed the behaviour of unruly pupils, says headteacher

In PE, the children study the waggle dance 
that scout bees do to tell the other bees where nectar is to be found. In cooking lessons, they use honey in their recipes, and in geography, they learn how different parts of the world make use of bees.

Business advisors have helped the children open a shop selling honey in the school playground. The pupils weigh the honey and work out pricing, write ads for the shop and design branding for the jars.
An unexpected benefit has been the effect the bees have had on behaviour. Baker says they have had a "massive impact" on challenging pupils:

"One of the big things for me is getting children to think of others, and to be aware of their responsibility to others. With some children, you can't get them to understand that in relation to other children, but you can show them using bees, chickens or plants."

One pupil was a regular visitor to the school's behavioural support house because of his violent outbursts of kicking, punching and throwing furniture around. While he struggled with academic work, he discovered that he excelled at the the practical side of beekeeping: making the wooden frames that go into the hive, and dismantling the hive to access the honey.

When the Guardian's bees expert, Alison Benjamin, visited the school, the pupil told her: "The bees made me peaceful and calm."
"It's not just him, other unruly children have also risen to the challenge. They have finally found something they like to do at school and they are good at."

The introduction to sociology, psychology, capitalism, science, art, animal husbandry, geography, consumer science (home economics), and wood shop (is it still called that?) is all wrapped up in one course. It would be less expensive and more "hands on" than the expensive computers needed in schools and most importantly, such a class involves participation in the educational process:

Baker wholeheartedly recommends beekeeping: "When I first looked into it, I was thinking of the curriculum. But it has had unexpected spin-offs – it has given parents and children a common interest, improved the behaviour of disaffected pupils, and worked on the two extra 'r's' in the curriculum: respect and responsibility."

Do you think such "respect and responsibility" can be enhanced through a virtual online course? Maybe we should ask the kids who are in a beekeeping club at Maplewood Middle School in suburban St. Louis their thoughts on that question.


Sorry folks, Sandra's still on vacation and will be for the next few weeks.  SDLGretchen from the Missouri has been kind enough to help out.  Personally I enjoy reading Gretchen's posts, she a damn good writer -- You can find an entire collection of her material here.

Thursday, September 1, 2011

A letter from a 12 year old---

Sandra's on vacation-- she deserves it, she's spent more hours over the last eight months reporting on the educational idiocy being proposed than most people spend working at a job they get paid for in a year. Fortunately for her readers Fishygal will filling in most of the time, but from time to time over the next couple weeks, you'll be stuck with me..

Recently Sandra's been focusing on a couple children being forced to take standardized tests under the NCLB law and state regulations designed to enforce the law. The two children have complicated medical issues and were forced to take the tests, by the bureaucracy, in total disregard of medical opinion.

I have my own (legal) ideas about how to deal bureaucrats who'd intentionally harm a child to enforce poorly thought out regulation. I also have an opinion of NCLB and the proposed Obama/Gates/Bush Education Reform insanity...;best left for another time..

Getting back to where I belong....

The 12 year old at the center of one South Carolina family's objection to mandated standardized testing speaks for himself and thanks all those who are supporting the efforts on his behalf and that of his family.

First of all I thank you for all you have done for me. The PASS test was horrible. They forced me to do the test and my blood went to 344. I never ate anything either so it was not my fault. I'm so grateful you are helping me out. I really am happy that something is being done. I have been hit by kids, made fun of, and embarrassed. My diabetes bag was called a purse, and once a kid took off his shoe and threw it at my head. Before I was taking a medicine that made me sleepy, so what happened? My teacher jerked me up by my arm and I had to stand in a corner, she then gave a kid that hates me a squirt gun. If I fell asleep I would be shot with it. I cried myself to sleep standing up. All my school life has been a living nightmare that was made for me. My mom put me in SCVCS so I'd be safe. I wasn't even safe there. This test is wrong for everyone not even LIKE me! No one should take this test! Why do they so called "need you to take it"? What is this for? Nothing! Zero! Again, thank you so much! Thank you God for everyone who is supporting me. Thank you again.

Anthony Herrera


In defense of the other kids-- that's what kids do, right or wrong it's instinctive for them to pick on another kid they perceive to be different..It's the parents,teachers, police officers or other reasonably responsible adults job to intervene, and stop it.

 WTF did this teacher do? She handed another kid a squirt gun and told him to use it on a child that already has difficulty coping. Add that teacher to the list of bureaucrats I mentioned above. This sort of abuse needs to be stopped now. NCLB started it, it was screwed up and complicated at the State House Level and at the local level, they can really muck things up; you just read the letter.

Get the Federal government out of it, traditionally and Constitutionally, Education is a local issue. Tell your Congressional representative to keep DC out of it.

Tell your Rep to forget about reaffirming No Child Left Behind.. and not to even think about the Administration's Reform Schemes.

Tell your legislature to inform Washington they can shove the bribe money and the crap that comes attached to it.. On a local level, odds are you can get the local School Board Member's email addresses in a matter of minutes.

If you're a blogger, you know what to do; Anthony's Mom needs the help.

For more information look here and here.