December 23, 2013

Why I blog. And don't.

I homeschooled my kids for many years before my older son decided he wanted to try public high school and a year later my younger son's learning challenges became too daunting for us to work through at home. And it was with a very heavy heart that I saw them get absorbed into the mainstream mind-controlled culture that school is.

I still remain a staunch anti-school mom, so it has been hard for me to justify fighting against Common Core, since in my heart I truly believe that even the previous means of educating our children was not in their best interests. And in my arguing against CC some may take it as acceptance of public education as it has been till now.

Not the case.

My concerns about schooling are wonderfully described by John Taylor Gatto in his last book, Weapons of Mass Instruction wherein he writes:
Think of school as a conditioning laboratory, drilling naturally unique, one-of-a-kind individuals to respond as a mass, to accept continual ennui, envy and limited competence as only natural parts of the human condition. The official economy we have constructed demands constantly renewed supplies of leveled, spiritless, passive, anxious friendless, family-less people who can be scrapped and replaced endlessly, and who will perform at maximum efficiency until their own time comes to be crap; people who think the difference between Coke and Pepsi, or round hamburgers versus square ones, are subjects worthy of argument.

I truly feel that school is not the best place for our kids and that it is filled with problems. Some of the issues surrounding the Common Core exacerbate the problems though, to the point that it's worth spending my time to keep abreast of them, and occasionally posting here to help educate others.

Admittedly there are days when I think that since I am opposed to the idea of mass schooling in general that I should just resign myself to the reality of what it is and accept that if we use it we need to work within the confines of it. And so I ignore my Google Updates, the Facebook groups and the tweets and blogs, and don't post here for a while. But then something makes it through and wakes me up to the overt problems that CC is causing and I start reading and posting again.

I hate that both of my kids love school and would have a fit if I pulled them out to homeschool again, and that they ended up entering school at a time when all these "reforms" are happening and their privacy is being irretrievably eroded. But I remain a firm believer in unschooling, and that means putting my children firmly in charge of their own educations. So here I am, taking it day by day.

December 21, 2013

The Weekly Quote

It would be great if our education stuff worked,
but that we won’t know for probably a decade.

~ Bill Gates
The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation

December 19, 2013

Connecticut's educational standards

Back in November an opinion piece appeared asking "Is college-and-career-ready" an adequate standard, as measured by Connecticut's constitution?" The piece makes a good argument for NO. However the part of the article that interested me most is how Connecticut's standards have historically been developed...
From their inception, the drafting and adoption of Connecticut academic standards was an inclusive, public process. The State Department of Education invited teachers from across the state to collectively draft standards in their areas of expertise. SDE would then solicit public comment from all sectors, including parents, teachers, school administrators, superintendents and school boards. There could be as many as 50 iterations, and the process could take as long as three years.

Since this process was directed by a state agency, it was subject to open meeting and Freedom of Information laws. The product was an educational framework that was created by Connecticut educators with input from everyone connected to our public schools.

The Common Core State Standards, by contrast, were developed behind closed doors by two private, non-governmental organizations: the National Governor's Association and the Council of Chief State School Officers. There was no public comment. The organizations even refused to release the drafters' names until there was public outcry. The entire development process remains shrouded in secrecy. NGA and CCSSO are not subject to any sunshine laws that governmental bodies must obey.

When the standards finally reached Connecticut in 2010, they were presented as a fait accompli to state officials, who were given two months to adopt them -- under threat of being disqualified from federal Race to the Top money if they failed to do so. Rather than question the inadequacy of these standards as measured against Connecticut's constitutional requirements, the State Board of Education, here in "the Constitution State," acquiesced to federal pressure and adopted these substandard standards...

The Common Core State Standards were developed in a rushed and undemocratic process, far from Connecticut's students, parents, educators, and officials.

December 17, 2013

You are invited to a Connecticut
Parent Teacher Community Forum
on the Common Core Standards

The Teacher's Union in Connecticut is sponsoring a Parent Teacher Community Forum on Common Core entitled: Common Core Standards: Look Closer. Understand More.

Saturday, January 25th, 2014
8:30am - 2:00pm
Continental breakfast and lunch provided.

Cromwell High School
34 Evergreen Rd.
Cromwell, CT

Keynote Speaker: Sandra Alberti, Student Achievement Partners (founded by the lead writers of the Common Core State Standards).

The stated intention of the forum is to:
  • Provide a common understanding about Common Core Standards and Smarter Balanced Assessments.
  • Demonstrate Smarter Balanced Assessments and allow opportunities for hands-on practice tests.
  • Encourage career and college readiness for students, as well as the importance of citizenship.
  • Allow all stakeholders to engage in meaningful discussions about Connecticut’s implementation of Common Core Standards/Smarter Balanced Assessments.

The recommended attendees are:
  • Parents
  • Community Members/Organizations
  • Policy Makers – State, Local, and Agencies
  • Educators – Teachers, Support Professionals and Administrators
  • School Board Members
  • Students – Middle School and High School levels
  • Union Leaders and Union Staff

Register for this event on the CEA website or by calling the AFT CT (American Federation of Teachers Connecticut) Office at 860-257-9782.

Sponsored by:
  • American Federation of Teachers Connecticut
  • Connecticut Association of Boards of Education
  • Connecticut Education Association
  • Connecticut Federation of School Administrators
  • Connecticut National Association for the Advancement of Colored People
  • Connecticut Parent Teacher Student Association
  • Connecticut State Department of Education/School-Family-Community Partnerships Department
  • Latino and Puerto Rican Affairs Commission
  • Urban League of Greater Hartford

December 16, 2013

Homework in Kindergarten

There is a Facebook group called Inappropriate Common Core Lessons that I belong to. Mostly people post things that they have moral or ethical problems with, and there is an occasional example of how the math has changed; nothing I've ever felt was significant enough to repost here. Came across this though. This is homework someone said her kindergartener came home with:

People in the group are debating whether it's appropriate for a kindergartener, whether kids that young are up do doing this kind of work. They are talking about fine motor skills and parental involvement.

The reason I posted this here though, and the problem I have with this and want to raise is, Why are kindergarteners getting worksheets for homework?

December 14, 2013

The Weekly Quote

There is a tendency nowadays to hark back with nostalgia to the mythical good old days, usually imagined as about forty or fifty years ago... Thus, those who now sharply criticize the public schools speak fondly of an era when most schools were racially segregated; when public schools were not required to accept children with physical, mental, and emotional handicaps; when there were relatively few students who did not speak or read English; and when few graduated from high school and went to college... Indifferent to history, today's corporate reformers insist that the public schools are in unprecedented crisis.

~ Diane Ravitch
Reign of Error: The Hoax of the Privatization Movement, and the Danger to America's Public Schools

December 13, 2013

PISA (The Program for International Student Assessment)

The PISA scores for 2012 were recently released, and the social networking sites and blogs are abuzz with the results, so I'm giving them a mention here. I hate to do so, since I hate that standardized tests were used to formulate this data, but since the data does exist, and others are using it, it makes sense to point out how well Connecticut continues to do. You can get more info about PISA and what it all means here.

"What Is PISA?
"The Program for International Student Assessment (PISA) is a system of international assessments that allows countries to compare outcomes of learning as students near the end of compulsory schooling. PISA core assessments measure the performance of 15-year-old students in mathematics, science, and reading literacy every 3 years.

"Reporting PISA 2012 Results
"This report presents performance on PISA 2012 in mathematics, science, and reading literacy from a U.S. perspective. Results are presented for the 65 education systems, including the United States, that participated in PISA 2012 and for the three U.S. states—Connecticut, Florida, and Massachusetts—that participated as separate education systems. These three states opted to have separate samples of public-school schools and students included in PISA in order to obtain state-level results."

You can see from the lower right of the chart that Connecticut scored 514. And that puts us in 18th place out of the 65 systems that were tested. And if we take into account that there were ties, we are in the top quarter. Of the world.

So clearly what we are doing is working. We just need to get it to work for everyone in the state, since the problem we have in Connecticut is not an achievement gap, but a resource gap.

My 13yo recently came home from 7th grade to exclaim that his school recently got a "huge pile of money" and so everyone is getting his own Chromebook. Personally, I think that "huge pile of money" would have been better spent on a few more teachers in a hard pressed area like Bridgeport. THAT is how we fix our problem in Connecticut, not futzing around with our Curriculum.

December 11, 2013

Connecticut State Department of Education 2012 Survey of Connecticut Superindentents

Here is a link to a report with the results of a 2012 survey taken of Connecticut Superintendents. You can find answers, given in percentages, to questions such as:
  • What is the student enrollment in your district?
  • What is the percentage of Black/African-American students in your district?
  • What is the percentage of Hispanic / Latino students in your district?
  • What is your anticipated per pupil expenditure level this year?
  • Is SDE [State Department of Education] helping to close the achievement gap in your district?

Some of my favorite answers are:

26. SDE [State Department of Education] issues regulations:
     a. too much – (66.9%)
     b. as much as necessary – (33.1%)
     c. infrequently – (0.0%)

37. CAPSS recently released a report with recommendations to transform Connecticut’s
education system. Select the top three recommendations you think are most important:
  1. Start with Early Childhood: Make quality early childhood experiences
    available to all three- and four-year-olds in order to get all children ready to
    learn as they enter kindergarten. (65.9%)
  2. Retool Assessments and Accountability: De-emphasize standardized tests
    and create new methods of assessments to give students choices for how and
    when they demonstrate their knowledge and skills. (44.7%)
  3. Raising the Bar: Establish globally competitive, internationally benchmarked
    standards in language arts (reading, writing, speaking and listening), science,
    social studies, world languages and the arts. (42.3%)
49. SDE has a record of helping districts turn around schools.
     a. yes – (2.5%)
     b. somewhat – (51.7%)
     c. no – (45.8%)

December 9, 2013

From Connecticut's 8th District

Senator Kevin Witkos represents the 8th District towns of Avon, Barkhamsted, Canton, Colebrook, Granby, Hartland, Harwinton, New Hartford, Norfolk, Simsbury and Torrington. And on November 26th, 2013, he shared his thoughts about the Common Core. He starts by explaining what the Common Core State Standards are, and finishes with his opinion about it...
The intention of the CCSS is positive – the goal is to make students more prepared for higher education and careers on a global level. However, I do have concerns about the control of education and associated costs.

These standards were created by a national group and do not directly take into consideration what we have found to work here in Connecticut. While teachers have some flexibility in how they teach, they are still being asked to teach differently than they ever have before. This change could limit their teaching style and force educators to pull lessons that do not match the standards exactly. The CCSS have also never been piloted or tested, so there is no way to know for sure if they are age-appropriate or effective.

Schools could also be pushed beyond their budgets to comply with the standards. Our schools need to invest in new professional development and training for teachers, new textbooks and materials, and new classroom technology to meet the demands of the CCSS. By next year, every school district in Connecticut will also replace the Connecticut Mastery and Connecticut Academic Performance tests with a computerized test based on the CCSS. More computers will be needed in each school so that students can take the new test, which means significant spending.

Over the next few school years, we should all watch our children’s academic performance closely. New lessons, new goalsand new strategies could impact each student very differently. Shared education standards are not a bad thing, but the effects of a brand new approach are not known yet. One thing is for sure, our classrooms are changing, and I hope it is for the better.

December 8, 2013

A Newspaper Editorial

Very happy to see this editorial in my town's newspaper this week. It means that word is getting out!

December 7, 2013

The Weekly Quote

The old labels don't mean anything.
Republican doesn't mean anything.
Democrat doesn't mean anything.
It's the huge money and everybody else.

~ Alton Davis
former Michigan Supreme Court justice

December 3, 2013

A Teenager's Viewpoint

This has made its way around the blogosphere quite a bit now, but in line with trying to keep this blog a clearinghouse of sorts, I'm posting it here as well. The young man is well spoken and "shows how his freedom to choose his path in life is eroded by Common Core". The 30 minutes or so is worth it.