How Education ‘Reform’ Serves Everyone But Our Kids

Originally posted at TownHall.com

It’s the quintessential tragedy of education reform today. Paychecks – not children – are the golden ticket of a movement that has been hijacked by consultants and experts with years of business experience yet none in the classroom. Bureaucrats and reformers talk a big game about closing achievement gaps, raising high school graduation rates, and improving accountability and performance mechanisms for school districts and classrooms. Yet they fail to deliver when the time comes to put visions into workable, applicable plans. Paychecks are cashed while schools are shuttered and children are left holding the textbooks, unable to read them.

For a case in point, look at Newark, New Jersey, where massive philanthropic gifts have done nothing to stem budget shortfalls, school closures and teacher layoffs. Just this week, The New Yorker released a 12-page expose on Cory Booker’s vision for Newark Public Schools. Consistently one of the most underperforming school districts in the country, Newark has been in immense need of transformational reform for years. Booker, a national advocate for school choice, sought help from an unlikely source – CEO of Facebook Mark Zuckerberg, who pledged $100 million with a requirement for matching funds to enact Booker’s plan.

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Think the NSA and IRS are bad?

Originally posted at Rare.us.

For the last twelve months, we’ve watched conservative Republicans in Congress rail against unconstitutional NSA spying and the targeting of tea party groups by the IRS. Many question why government needs access to all of our information in the first place.

Yet, largely unnoticed and with bi-partisan approval from Congress, a large and powerful infrastructure is actively collecting the data of millions of American kids every single day.

According to Politico, “(Education) tech companies of all sizes, from basement startups to global conglomerates, have jumped into the game. The most adept are scooping up as many as 10 million unique data points on each child, each day.”

“That’s more data, by several orders of magnitude, than Netflix or Facebook or even Google collect on their users,” Politico adds.

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No Winners or Losers, Just Mediocrity

Originally Posted at Smart Girl Politics - SGPAction.com

It’s October 2014. Hot dogs are cooked, peanuts are ready, and stadiums have perfected their version of Take Me Out to the Ballgame. Ten teams have risen above the pack and are set to begin battle in the Major League Baseball playoffs. 

However, Bud Selig has called a press conference three days before the first pitch that he says will change the landscape of America’s past time forever.

He enters the room flanked by Warren Buffett, Michael Bloomberg, and Bill Gates. Determined, they adjust their microphones and eye the reporters. “We know many of you are excited to begin playoff competition, a tradition that spans families, franchises, and generations,” Selig says. “However, after long thought and input by trusted advisors, we’ve decided that this level of competition is unhealthy. Every team has worked hard for 162 games, shown up to practice and double headers in the heat, and should be rewarded for their participation. We’ve decided to award every team, and every player, with an award of achievement rather than allow just one team to celebrate winning a World Series championship. As fans, this makes all of you winners.”

The room is silent. Reporters and fans start checking their clocks and calendars, ensuring it isn’t actually April 1st.

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An Open Letter to Arne Duncan from a "White, Suburban Mom"

Originally Posted to RedState.com

Secretary Duncan,

Given your recent comments, it should come as no surprise to you that someone like me, a “white suburban mom,” would be opposed to Common Core. Every parent has the right – the duty – to be responsible for their child’s education, and to raise concerns when they feel the system does not meet their needs. This is not political silliness. This is good parenting.

However, given your description of my appearance and my lifestyle as some sort of pejorative slur, your claims that I am “politically silly,” your assumption that I am preoccupied with some label of “brilliance” for my child, you may be surprised to hear that my opposition is rooted much deeper than the color of my skin, the location of my residence, or any declaration of potential brilliance for my son.

As both a mother and a former teacher, I’m concerned that these standards were not piloted. They were not internationally bench-marked, as you claim. They came in the form of federal grants (aka bribes) intended to incentivize cash strapped states to accept curriculum standards sight-unseen. I’m concerned that unfunded mandates for local classrooms will increase burdens on teachers, while limiting their abilities to be innovative and creative for individual children.

I’m concerned with expensive programs, new resources, and a large testing consortium creating a “common” standard of performance with little motivation for competition, challenge, or excellence. Despite lacking full implementation, it has already been reported that the $350 million spent on national testing consortiums has not resulted in the gains promised to the states in the first place. I don’t believe that standards should be tied to requirements for longitudinal data tracking systems, or national assessments, or No Child Left Behind waivers.

I believe in the power of public education. I believe that teachers deserve our trust and the freedom to create classroom environments and lesson plans that uniquely challenge their students. Simply “teaching to the test,” rather than teaching students to enjoy the process of learning, would be a tragic unintended consequence of Common Core.

Every child has the potential for excellence. But that excellence, and yes, “brilliance,” looks different on every child – because NO child is common.

I call on you to rescind your statements, and apologize to those parents, grandparents, community members, educators, administrators, analysts, and legislators who rightly raising concerns about your program (which the American Federation of  Teachers compared to Obamacare, by the way).

We deserve our concerns to be addressed in a manner free from insult and innuendo. If you cannot find it in yourself to do this, you are welcome to join this “white suburban mom” for dinner, where my 6 year-old can explain to you what The Golden Rule means.

Regards,

Whitney Neal