Archive | July, 2015

Common Core: Sharing Responsibility for Education?

20 Jul

 Could we also PLEASE pass and enforce laws that hold parents and students accountable for attendance, cuts, disciplinary actions, homework, and their own education-especially at the middle and high school levels? You know, I think large numbers of secondary students would be just as absent and uncaring about their education, as they would be if they were taking their classes online, rather than the classroom. What then? Would we blame the “boring” online course for students not completing their requirements?

Placing the vast majority of school accountability on teacher performance provides for those unwilling to admit larger problems a scapegoat, since bureaucrats have stripped 90% of the authority away from classroom teachers.  Common Core advocates want to ramp up rigors, then how about ramping up expectations, discipline, authority of teachers, and accountability for parents.  While you are at it, why not tighten up what is ramped up?

In fact, parents cannot discipline their children at home for messing up in school. They are told they can be arrested for any physical contact. The easy route is parents excuse their kids when they cut classes, like it is no big deal. Taxpayers should be angry over the tax dollars thrown away when students do not come to school.  Children are not the center of the universe in education, but they should be the focus.  The former has lead to an entitled group that fears little and has even less accountability.  The latter brings with it what is best for all, including the students and holds them accountable.  Yet, all we hear about is how bad teachers are and why they should be fired.

If we really want to hold teachers accountable, then culture has to change to allow teachers more authority over their classrooms, grading, and policies that enhance learning.  At those junctures, teachers with tools to succeed may result in surprising results.

Schools must get tough on attendance and students being must come to school prepared to learn. Families are not doing their jobs, like they did in the recent past.  Some of this is not their fault.  The federal government creates classes of people, demarcates them further by divisiveness, and then points fingers.  You see, with government taking care of nearly 60,000,000 families with all sorts of social entitlement programs, school is just another of the entitlements.  Perish the thought that those who serve on fixed incomes at schools with expect students and families to work together with them.  Most teachers,truly believe schools are where kids go to learn.  Subverting this belief are parents who do not see that the primary educational functions belong to them.  Without that, it is neither fair, nor just, to hold teachers accountable for things within which they cannot make a difference–especially when students are not in class.

Bureaucrats have gotten in the way of teaching–my teaching, your teaching.  So, I am speaking out. These same bureaucrats, with their policies, have gotten in the way of student learning, by enabling them to be irresponsible. Think about it. Why has the culture changed to allow the vast majority of students the freedom to feel empowered to cut school, or class, with seeming near-absolute impunity?  Government gives them a pass.  Schools give students and parents multitudes of chances, in the hope that one day they’ll come around.  Love should be unconditional, yes.  But should education be unconditional?

I am “all for” holding teachers accountable. But the question is, “Hold teachers accountable for what?” Student learning?  If so, get them in class and get them to do their work.  If bureaucrats and parents won’t do it, why are teachers held accountable for that reality?  Likewise, if they do not come for “good” reasons, why should teachers be held accountable if students have to work to support their families, or teenagers choose to have sex and make their lives messier?  I could go on!  Teachers are told to understand the plights of today’s families, accept every definition of family, and treat everyone as equals.  While practicing this, teachers are going to be evaluated when outside influences and cultural plights get in the way?  This is bureaucratic insensibility in what is completely a socialistic system called “education.”

In addition to holding teachers accountable, I am also all-in for holding bureaucrats and families accountable. While we are at it, why not restrict students’ behaviors so that it hurts?  Why is one political party allowed a stranglehold on policy in some states?  I know I am speaking to the wall, because bureaucrats are fearful that someone would feel bullied, offended, or singled out for improvement.  Litigation threats stifle truth and any real significant movement forward.

As an educator, I ask for more authority. But please do not hold me accountable as a teacher for students and families who are not Americans, or are here under the radar.  We are compelled to serve all students, even if it means citizens receive less attention.  However, if you must evaluate us, may we teachers hold you–THE BUREAUCRATS accountable for the lack of achievements of the same group and diminution of assessment scores?  May we tie student assessment scores to YOU and YOUR tenure in office?  May we have a voice on policies that place teachers in nearly impossible situations?

Hey bureaucrat, “If you want some evaluative authority, give some evaluative authority.”

HR-5: EXCEL is a Verb as Well as a Proper Noun

8 Jul

HR-5, has anyone stopped to consider a few simple truths?

Any program that has as its aim closing “achievement gaps between groups” is set up already  set up to fall short.  There are only a few ways to close gaps, which is actually code for federally-required test scores.

First, pack money into programs and focus on ELL, special education, non-English speakers, immigrants both legal and illegal, the homeless, impoverished, and others who are labeled as low-achievers.  Ho…w insulting is that to be labeled as such.  However, once we label, we fund.  Remove the funds and people are racists and haters.

Second, disregard those from Asia and do not even mention them in any minority discussion.  Ask yourself, why do the Asians do so well in our schools, both public and private?

Third, focus less on those considered high achievers because, as one of my professors stated back-in-the-day, “they have resources and will do fine no matter what.”  Focusing less on high achievers does help to close the gap.  But this is not a fair closure.  Here is why.

Focusing on raising assessment scores for low-achievers, while allowing any level of disregard of higher achievers is not socially just.  It is discriminatory.  If the higher achievers decline just a bit; and the lower achievers grow just a bit, we are back to an AYP and API, but under different names.  Thus, in one way or another, we arrive at the reality in public education.

Rather than pushing the excellence envelope for high achievers, actually widening the gap AND pressing for low achievers to succeed, our nation focuses down on those declared in greatest need.  We do not mind practicing this in competitive athletics.  Why not in academics?  If our students are going to be competitive, as the bureaucrats want, then let them compete and excel.  If the gap widens, then let it widen.  Develop alternative schools and programs.  Let the gap widen in other areas that kids excel in.  It is mere socialism to disadvantage one or more groups over others–when they are meant to excel and achieve.  Is this NOT the purpose of “The Every Child Achieves Act of 2015”?  Unfortunately, it is not.

Is there any wonder why parents opt to place their kids in private or charter schools?  As long as political correctness rules, and schools do not diversify their reality and programs, there will truly be no solid answers–aside from spending–for the problems created by government and culture.

We cannot have it all, which is why a one-size fits all does not fit.

Groups are NOT all the same size.  Either are individuals.

Core Beliefs of a Common Culture

3 Jul

Stepping back from the edge of a problem is often wise practice.  Retracing our history, enables Americans to gain perspective.  Therefore, as we glean much from our past, a historical perspective informs our nation’s present understanding.  Viewing the historical values that unite our nation from the beginning, provides a larger scope within which we connect a national sense of belonging and pride.  From the beginning, the colonies that seeded our great nation, posited education’s prominent place in the developing American experience.  Passing onto colonial American children the values and virtues of homogeneous enclaves and communities, where the colonists lived, was paramount.  Education was local and left to the states, because they simply knew their people better and were much closer to the needs of local constituents.  Over time, immigrants assimilated into the already established culture.

As the United States came into existence in late eighteenth century, there were shared common beliefs across America’s states and these could be found within American schools and in her curriculum.  Certainly, there were differences.  Yet, our new nation was marked intentionally, incorporating both commonalities and distinctions of American civic and moral culture.  Moreover, public education in the United States began in a tradition rooted in the westernization of the works of Greeks, such as Aristotle and Plato.[1]  Now, many read social justice advocates and gay rights activists, believing a large government can foist upon a nation new sets of precepts.

U.S. education during the colonial days signaled that the essence of national character sprang from the belief that the divine purpose of educators of the day was to mold children in the ways of common culture, based on moral and religious colonial philosophies.[2]  Mission, purpose, and calling are hallmarks of American education.  Prior to the colonial period, education had flourished in Europe—largely due to the impacts of the Reformation and Renaissance—and character and moral education played important roles.  Today, in contrast, educators would be hard-pressed to find vestiges of the roles that once helped to define American culture.  In fact, it is not far-fetched to conclude that some culture-shapers are no longer tolerant of American culture of the distant or recent past.  Enter Common Core . . .

Education in Europe and the American colonies was embedded with theology—the “queen of the sciences.”  Over time, this queen has been dethroned by the secularization of public education—compartmentalized away from corporate culture–which is quite dissimilar to “corporate America.”  “The Founding Fathers of our nation believed that schools would be the crucibles within which there would be a melding of academics, civic virtue, and religious and moral instruction.[3]  The mission to produce more godly creatures grew out of a three-fold framework:  (1) The Holy Bible, upon which education was originally established in the colonies,[4] (2) the deistic and theistic religious beliefs of the colonists, and (3) the importance of the teachings of philosopher John Locke, and others.[5]

Locke’s stated educational goals included virtue, wisdom, and learning.  The teachings from this framework were plain in the lessons of colonial texts, such as Pilgrim’s Progress, Franklin’s Poor Richard’s Almanac, and McGuffey’s Readers.[6]  If the very foundation of one’s society is separated from generations that follow, how then do we expect new generations to live? [7]

America is born of a Judeo-Christian heritage.  We should never apologize for this.  Our laws, the reasons we are extremely beneficent toward other nations, have a First Amendment protecting religion, and that fact that we understand unconditional love are all testimony to this heritage.  Today, some would be hard-pressed to find this heritage in some corners of contemporary culture, particularly in areas of morality, entertainment, leisure, and in the American public education system.  Unlike the past, when students were taught values from great literature, including the Judeo-Christian guide, the Bible, today’s students must navigate a vacuüm, often attenuated by classroom teachers, biased curriculum, and a culture continuing to find purpose in changing secularism and amorality.

Removing moral purpose creates a moral vacuüm.  If one’s work becomes moral purpose then what exists outside of work?  Unfortunately, telling students they must be educated to compete in a global economy is no replacement for deeply held values.  For example, today’s students are called lazy.  So what do bureaucrats decide?  They propagate an entirely new educational accepted point of view. Truthfully, what some call lazy, others call student boredom.  The brains of teenagers are still developing–another commonality often misunderstood by Common Core advocates.

Most public schools today, as corporate entities, and are self-declared moral-free institutions.  This is especially at American universities and colleges.  Education institutions have become satellites of secularism, whose purpose is the valuation and promotion of deeper cognition and employment after high school.  The nation now refers to this as “college and career-ready.”  How does this secularism square with aimless students somehow finding moral purpose and achieving excellence in school, especially with families also undergoing redefinition?  How is this accomplished when the very moorings of marriage and family are undergoing such radical redefinition.

The reality is the production of workers for the next decades from within a system such as Common Core is going to challenge the very notion of educational progress.  One might ask, “What is the nature of this challenge?”  The sets of values of the past are different from those of the present.  Changing education policy and drafting new education legislation is one thing.  Actively seeking the undoing, or repudiating of past education toward a new purpose, has become more of the federal government’s business.  It is flat-out the wrong direction for America’s schools

The question we must consider is whether Americans want the federal government, it’s ideas and policies—along with political secularists—filling this void.  Conversely, America would do well to consider whether to more deeply engage her people and their states and local governments.  An educational system which had rotated and spun tightly for years, is now wobbling quite badly.  Our schools are far from perfect.  But why strive for growing ever more imperfection wit Common Core?  The bottom line is that in a vacuum, there is room for anything.

[1]. Ernest J. Zarra, III.  “Pinning Down Character Education.”  Summer 2000.  Kappa Delta Pi Record.  Vol. 36, No. 4, pp. 156.  Cf.  Thomas Lickona.  “An integrated approach to character development in the elementary school classroom.”  In Moral, character, and civic education in the elementary school.  Jacques Benninga (Ed.).  (New York City, New York:  Teachers College Press, 1991, pp. 67-83.)  Cf. also, J. L Elias. 1989.  Moral education:  Secular and religious.  (Malabar, Florida:  Robert E. Krieger Publishers, 1989.)

[2]. R. J. Nash.  Answering the “virtuecrats”:  A moral conversation on character education.  (New York City, New York:  Teachers College Press, 1997.)   Cf.  Robert Bellah.  Habits of the heart:  Individualism and commitment in American life.  (New York City, New York:  Harper and Row Publishers, 1985.)

[3]. Nash, Answering the “virtuecrats”:  A moral conversation on character education.

[4]. R. H. Hersh, J. P. Miller, and G. D. Fielding.  Models of Moral Education:  An appraisal.  (New York City, New York:  Longman Press, 1980).  Cf.  H. A. Huffman 1993.  “A character education without turmoil.”  Educational Leadership 51 (3), pp. 24-26.

[5]. J. L Elias.  Moral education:  Secular and religious.  (Malabar, Florida:  Robert E. Krieger Publishers, 1989.)

[6]. Ernest J. Zarra, III.  “Pinning Down Character Education.”  Kappa Delta Pi Record, pp. 155-156.  Cf.  Ernest J. Zarra, III.  “Character education:  An analysis of state history-social science and English-language arts curriculum frameworks and content standards.”  Ph.D.  Dissertation, University of Southern California, Los Angeles, California, 1999.

[7]. Francis Schaeffer.  “How then should we live?”  The complete works of Francis A. Schaeffer:  A Christian worldview.  Volume 5, Book 2.  1982.  (Westchester, Illinois:  Crossway Books).

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