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Member since: 2003 before July 6th
Number of posts: 40,465

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Senate Proposal Cuts Off Duncan at the Knees

There are other less incendiary articles, but I chose to post this one here simply because the idea of cutting Arne off at the knees satisfies a visceral need. I hope people will call their reps to urge support for "The Every Child Achieves Act of 2015."

Suck It, Arne

That "Hands off, feds" attitude runs throughout the bill. State plans are acceptable unless proven naught by the USED, and the feds only have 90 days to do so. The Secretary must approve a state plan within the 90 days unless the department "can present substantial evidence that clearly demonstrates that such State plan does not meet the bill's requirements." To whom will such evidence be presented? A peer review board composed of "experts and practitioners with school-level and classroom experience."

Yes, unlike the waiver system that requires state bureaucrats to bow and scrape for Duncan's official okey-dokey, now the secretary must go before actual educators and prove to their satisfaction that a state plan is not acceptable. And if they say it's not, the state still gets to appeal and resubmit. This strikes me a huge shift of the balance of power.

Also, "the bill affirms that states decide what academic standards they will adopt, without interference from Washington." The feds can't mandate a set of standards, and they can't "incentivize" one, either. "States will be free to decide what academic standards they will maintain in their states."

And! The bill does away with any federal requirement for states to develop and implement a teacher evaluation system. It even axes the definition of a highly qualified teacher.


I'd like to see his website

deliver some clear, unambiguous, detailed statements on issues. I can read his speeches there. Right at the top of the page, without even clicking on the whole speech, a line pops out that makes me shudder:

“What if we tackled our biggest problems by using data-driven strategies, instead of conventional wisdom, or the way we’ve always done it?”

While it's a great sound bite, it's also uses a phrase that has been used as a privatization weapon for public education...I know, because I've been dealing with the destructive policies that phrase drives in my profession for more than a decade, and it gets worse every year. "Data-driven strategies" is a phrase used to reduce students to test score data and teachers to numbers crunchers.

When I click on the speech itself, he begins promoting "data-driven government" in his opening lines.

Now don't mistake me. I'm not "anti-data." I'm anti-misuse and abuse of data for political purposes, and after being under attack by exactly that for more than a decade, I don't take the phrase "data-driven" at face value any more. It pushes all of my alarm buttons.

This from "on the issues" also concerns me; the bolding is mine:

O`Malley adopted the manifesto, "A New Agenda for the New Decade": Write New Rules for the Global Economy

The rise of global markets has undermined the ability of national governments to control their own economies. The answer is neither global laissez faire nor protectionism but a Third Way: New international rules and institutions to ensure that globalization goes hand in hand with higher living standards, basic worker rights, and environmental protection. U.S. leadership is crucial in building a rules-based global trading system as well as international structures that enhance worker rights and the environment without killing trade. For example, instead of restricting trade, we should negotiate specific multilateral accords to deal with specific environmental threats.

Goals for 2010

Conclude a new round of trade liberalization under the auspices of the World Trade Organization.
Open the WTO, the World Bank, and International Monetary Fund to wider participation and scrutiny.
Strengthen the International Labor Organization’s power to enforce core labor rights, including the right of free association.
Launch a new series of multinational treaties to protect the world environment.

This is what I got on education; a mixed bag. Some sounds good, others raise red flags for this teacher; red flags bolded:

O`Malley adopted the manifesto, "A New Agenda for the New Decade": Create World-Class Public Schools

Now more than ever, quality public education is the key to equal opportunity and upward mobility in America. Yet our neediest children often attend the worst schools. While lifting the performance of all schools, we must place special emphasis on strengthening those institutions serving, and too often failing, low-income students.

To close this achievement and opportunity gap, underperforming public schools need more resources, and above all, real accountability for results. Accountability means ending social promotion, measuring student performance with standards-based assessments, and testing teachers for subject-matter competency.

As we demand accountability, we should ensure that every school has the resources needed to achieve higher standards, including safe and modern physical facilities, well-paid teachers and staff, and opportunities for remedial help after school and during summers. Parents, too, must accept greater responsibility for supporting their children’s education.

We need greater choice, competition, and accountability within the public school system, not a diversion of public funds to private schools that are unaccountable to taxpayers. With research increasingly showing the critical nature of learning in the early years, we should move toward universal access to pre-kindergarten education.

Goals for 2010

Turn around every failing public school. (Using Chicago's privatization language...ugh.)
Make charter schools an option in every state and community.
Offer every parent a choice of public schools to which to send his or her child.
Make sure every classroom has well-qualified teachers who know the subjects they teach, and pay teachers more for performance. (Merit pay based on test scores)
Create a safe, clean, healthy, disciplined learning environment for every student.
Make pre-kindergarten education universally available.


I'll be paying attention. At this point, I'm not embracing him. I'm not comfortable at this point with the number of red flags.

I'm not an anti-vaxxer, but

I personally find the current polarized frenzy to be ludicrous.

It's not the simplified black and white that the simple would like it to be. Very, very few issues are.

When DUers tell someone who refuses a small pox vaccination for their child that:

their child ought to be isolated from the general public: http://www.democraticunderground.com/10026191344#post6

that his choice affects everyone and will spread: http://www.democraticunderground.com/10026191344#post55

that he's potentially putting others at risk, making him despicable, selfish, and ignorant: http://www.democraticunderground.com/10026191344#post87

when routinely vaccinating for smallpox ended in the U.S. in 1972, just WHO is ignorant?

When politicians decide to make vaccinations an issue, and the masses follow along obediently, lining up to battle it out because a small fraction of people want to refuse vaccinations, despite the fact that all 50 states require vaccinations for children entering public schools...while shoving the much larger problem of poverty, and much more frequent other categories of child neglect and abuse under the rug, I'll damned well say:

I'm not an anti-vaxxer, but if you are so damned concerned, where is your outrage and energy addressing those other much more frequent and widespread neglects and abuses? Refusing vaccinations is just one. Is it that neglect and abuse aren't an issue until they spread to others? Is that it?


I believe that

there are currently two standardized tests developed for the CCSS: PARCC, and the "Smarter Balanced" test. All of the 46 or so states that have adopted the CCSS will be giving one of those two tests.

My state, and therefore my district and school, will be giving the Smarter Balanced test, so I don't know anything about PARCC. We haven't seen the Smarter Balanced test, but there is a practice test available online that we've been exploring. There might be a practice test online for PARCC that you could take a look at.

As far as "teaching to the test" goes...that's been the norm since the introduction of high stakes testing, first at the state level in some states, and then at the federal level with NCLB. States that wanted a waiver from NCLB had to 1. Adopt CCSS or another set of FEDERALLY approved standards...good luck with finding "another set." 2. Use high stakes tests based on those standards for both accountability systems and educator evaluation systems.

In other words, NCLB hasn't really gone away; it's been fed some steroids and re-branded.

The very existence of high-stakes tests ensures that there will be teaching to the test. When you threaten people, they are going to circle the wagons.

As the high-stakes testing mandates have grown more powerful, so has the focus on "data driven" instruction. Teaching to the test.

None of this is new. It's just, as I mentioned above, been re-branded.

As far as the CCSS, or any other set of standards, or any test goes? It's not the standards, nor the test that are at the root of the problem. It's the misuse and abuse of those standards and tests. It's the high-stakes. And that misuse and abuse is embedded in the mandates that the public education system must abide by. Mandates created by politicians and corporate power mongers. Non-educators.

Your concern, the concerns of all advocacy groups, should be about the political manipulation of the system through high-stakes tests rather than about one set of standards or one test.

As far as the difficulty of the test goes? I can't speak to PARCC, but I can say that the practice version of the Smarter Balanced test is certainly no walk in the park. Since there are no correct answers given, I've been in meetings with teachers taking and discussing that practice test...highly educated professionals who can't agree on correct answers to many items. That's often because of the prompts to choose the best example/s or sentences providing evidence for something, when all of the choices provide that evidence. The argument then becomes about which is "best," and how many "best" examples there are, since the prompts leave the number of possibilities open-ended.

For the record, teachers have been speaking out against high-stakes testing and the damage it does to public education since it first reared its ugly head back in the 90s at the state level. We spoke up loudly enough when GWB took office and it went federal that his Sec of Ed called us "terrorists." And all along, the general public bought the story about how those high stakes tests were needed because we were mostly incompetent, and the nation needed to bust teachers' unions and fire all those bad teachers.

If parents and the rest of the general public had listened, had "had our backs," from the beginning, we wouldn't be in the current situation. I hope someone is listening now.

This quote:

"Sometimes, educators are better at starting new things than we are at stopping things – several decades of testing ideas have sometimes been layered on top of each other in ways that are redundant and duplicative, and not helpful."

This is problematic. He is saying that he's an educator. He's not. And, his stuff isn't "new." His, and Obama's, "things" are continuances, extensions, and enrichment of the policies in place when he was appointed. They are even more destructive to public education than the precursors.

So, in one sense he's correct: HE is not very good at "stopping things," especially since ending the destructive toll taken on public education by high stakes testing was never his goal. If actual educators were in charge of education policy, you'd see them "stopping things."


any candidate who actually stands for something, who actually stands a line and fights to move it for us, who actually represents us...that candidate can't WIN!!!!

We can't WIN unless we support someone who doesn't represent us! We MUST get behind the nothing-candidate, or we'll LOSE. Don't you get it?


Well, that opens a great can of worms.

Our constitution, and our courts' interpretation of, for good reason, has historically leaned liberally toward protecting rights even when that means that some people who are guilty of various things get away with it. This is a good thing for a host of reasons, and might make an interesting thread all by itself for someone who has the time to sit with it.

No rights are more sacred, really, than parental rights. There has to be an abundance of evidence, and legal hoops jumped through, to interfere with parental rights. It's a bi-partisan thing. It also highlights the dark side of "choice" that Democrats don't like to air: women who have proved over and over again that they are unfit to be parents, who have had children taken away from them repeatedly, still have the right to produce more, and keep every succeeding child until that child has been damaged enough to meet the burden of proof...again.

What does this have to do with school shootings? How about this: schools, and society, can't force parents to get their kids mental health services when needed, or for that matter, to get family counseling themselves.

A concrete, current example happening IN MY CLASSROOM this year:

A middle school student with a long history of mental health issues and referrals to DHS has been spending his time, instead of working on any academic task in any of his classrooms, drawing page after page of graphic illustrations of him with a gun. Shooting. Others and himself. When approached by others who try to talk to him, he mimes shooting.

We've been having regular meetings since the very first day of school. Every official agency has been contacted. His parent has been contacted. His parent's response? The school is going too far, trying to interfere with his 2nd amendment rights, and taking the boy's "foolishness" too seriously. The parent COULD lock up all the guns so the kid can't get to them, but then, how is he supposed to protect the kid? That's what the guns are for, and he's not going to remove access to the numerous guns in the home. This man is more concerned with perceived threats to his guns than he is with his son's mental state.

In our numerous meetings and contacts, we have set up free counseling for this student with a local therapist. Dad refuses. His first excuse? He doesn't have the money or time to drive the kid to town to see a therapist. When we offered to provide the transportation, he says their family schedule is too busy to make time.

The meetings continue. It's not like we're not doing anything. But at this point, there is no way to force the parent to address the issue. If or when this boy explodes, it will somehow be "the school's fault;" he'll have been bullied, or have been an outcast, or...

He hasn't been bullied. He is somewhat of an outcast among his peers, because they are afraid of him. Partly because he is violent himself, and likes to throw punches and kicks, and partly because they have seen his "artwork."

Of course, we could also point to our for-profit health care system which limits access to care, including mental health care, for many...but until we can ensure that our children are raised in safe, socially/emotionally healthy environments and are allowed to get care when they need it, it won't really matter. After all, we have a community standing by to offer MY student whatever support he needs, and we're not allowed to deliver that support.

And there are many other things we could do before taking that drastic step of intruding on parental rights. We could make every school a small, safe community with plenty of staffing to ensure that kids can't fall through cracks. We could put health services, including mental health services, ON campuses and ensure that all students, and their families when necessary, have full access to whatever care is needed. We could focus our education system on growing the whole child, instead of making schools too-large, too-anonymous, too-over-crowded crucibles of high-stakes testing stress.

As a matter of fact, we could see the bigger picture and do that for our society, focusing our time, talents, energy, and resources on closing class gaps, on making sure that there are abundant, many-layered safety nets and supports for all people. Of course, that would interfere with the neoliberal agenda, and we can't have that.

How misleading.

1. Schools can't "eliminate" Halloween.

2. Schools are not obligated to celebrate holidays; that's not their function.

3. Public schools are there to serve the needs of all students, whether they are allowed to celebrate various commercial or religious holidays or not, and make no mistake,

4. Halloween is a commercial holiday.

5. This article is about inclusiveness, which IS an obligation of public education.

6. "Harvest festivals" are not commercial holidays, are not, and don't have to be, linked to Halloween, and are often celebrated at schools as an inclusive seasonal festival that can integrate all subjects learned.

7. One of the things that SHOULD be taught in health class is how deadly sugar is. THAT's a Halloween related lesson that would certainly fit a "current event."

8. As a teacher who has, in years gone by, had to spend all day in a classroom with 30+ over-sugared, costumed, over-stimulated children trying to focus on the actual learning that was SUPPOSED to be happening until the afternoon "celebration," I was thrilled when I moved to a state/district/school that had the PTA hold an after-school through evening festival, removing Halloween from my professional day, and leaving it up to parents whether or not their child would attend without missing actual school days.

9. As a teacher who, before the move, planned an actual seasonal festival for my class INSTEAD of the Halloween party etc. when I had students who couldn't participate, I remember being inundated by other teachers who dumped their kids who couldn't "do" Halloween on me, overwhelming my space and resources.

10. I also remember how much fun my students had with their harvest festival throughout the day; all while still learning, without excluding any students who had the right to a public education on that day.

That's a hard one,

considering that I've read thousands upon thousands of books. I've never thought of any title as being "life changing," but that the reading of so many broad, diverse things has.

And I think that anything "life changing" would probably be highly personal, and might not be for anyone else.

The earliest "life changing" book I can remember was when my 4th grade teacher read My Side of the Mountain to us. I bought it from our book order when it came around, and have had a copy of it for almost 5 decades now.

It was life-changing because it was the first time I recognized myself. It resonated like a tibetan singing bowl in my soul. I wanted to BE Sam Gribley. I wanted to leave behind my life and live in a tree, alone and uninterrupted by human interaction. While I loved the book, I was horrified when his family found him in the end, moved to the mountain, and started to "civilize" it, making him move back into a house.

It was the first clue to who I was, and who I am: a Lone Wolf, an introvert, who craves solitude like air.

Another? The Bible. I picked it up when I was 16 to read because I was tired of being made to feel inferior by new people in my life because I hadn't been raised "Christian." I read it straight through, beginning to end, twice. I compared it to what I heard being said in the church I was pressured to attend, by the pastor and the attendees. I noted the contradictions in the Bible itself, and between what it said and what was being taught in the church, and how the church members lived their lives. Then I left it behind. I still have a copy on the shelf somewhere, along with my Boomer Bible and other similarly blasphemous versions.

Those 2 Bible readings added greatly to my background knowledge in understanding and negotiating western culture, traditions, idioms, etc.. It also sparked a life-long interest in comparative religion, a study in which I've amateurishly dabbled.

There are plenty more, but not for this post. The time spent sorting through memories of books read is well worth it, though, and will probably continue as I move on with the day.

Nader and Rand?

I threw a shoe at my tv last night. Why? Because some local fucking Republican was airing a campaign ad about how Republicans will make sure that we help people "the American Way" by "pulling ourselves up by our bootstraps." Ridiculously transparent propaganda. As one of the outliers in that false myth, I know that people don't dig their way out of poverty with bootstraps.

I fucking hate political propaganda that encourages people to, en masse, adopt false memes. And, of course, EVERY campaign season, we are fucking BURIED by them, from both sides.

Nader is a false boogie-man pulled out every fucking campaign season to attack the left, blame them for the 2000 selection, and try to bully/scare people into voting for fucking neo-liberal corporate dems. Every political campaign needs an "enemy" to promote the "lesser evil" meme, because, god knows, there are very, very few candidates worthy of supporting on their own merits in these days of corporate ownership of the whole process. So faithful partisans always have to have an enemy to bash, and devote so much of their time and energy into doing so.

I, for one, think that time and energy would be better spent cleaning our own house, so to speak, but then, I AM a lone wolf when it comes to politics.

One of those enemies I've read more and more vitriol against the last couple of years has been "libertarians." Rand Paul, while a Republican, seems to be a favorite example of a "libertarian." To see him linked with Nader in an OP for a double whammy of "evil" is not surprising. Just discouraging. As for the point? Nader suggesting a marriage of the left and right? Not going to happen, but it's not a surprising suggestion. After all, those of us on the fringe of mainstream corporate politics are always looking for ways to break up the corporate status quo.

For the record, I do not now, never have, and probably never will, hate Ralph Nader, blame him for the 2000 selection, or make my voting decisions based on what he says or does. I've also never voted for him.

For the record, I don't give a fuck about Rand Paul. While I don't like him, I also don't plan to spend any energy giving him time and attention in any kind of forum.

I care about issues, and about what the Democratic Party is doing with them. That's ALL I care about, and that's what drives my voting decisions.

I'm never going to vote for a Republican. Never. Efforts to convince me that they are "bad" are a waste of time. I already know that. Efforts to marginalize the left, or to bully them into line? With this far-left Democrat, those efforts are not only an utter failure, but tend to have unintended consequences...the more I see, the less I respect or listen to those voices.

I'm looking for candidates to vote FOR, and that has to be based on their positions and records on issues...not on their opponents.

But that's just me.

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