Sunday, November 17, 2013

One pissed off white suburban mom

You know what? I really want to thank U.S. Education Secretary, Arne Duncan, for pointing out that the only reason I am against Common Core is because I am a white suburban mom who has  realized my kids aren't geniuses. WHEW! Thanks for that Mr. Duncan. Here I was thinking that Common Core was a reboot of No Child Left Behind, another one size fits all set of educational standards that failed spectacularly. But clearly, as you so succinctly pointed out- it is ME who is missing the point- what with all my "helicopter mom" antics and happy ignorance of my children's poor education.  I am thrilled that you find it "“fascinating” that some of the opposition to the Common Core State Standards has come from “white suburban moms who — all of a sudden — their child isn’t as brilliant as they thought they were, and their school isn’t quite as good as they thought they were.”  (P.S. what kind of sentence is this? Seriously- YOU are in charge of education?)

(If you haven't read the article- please read it here- I am not exaggerating or joking)

I was apparently completely wrong in thinking that the Common Core State Standards (CCSS) were developmentally inappropriate,  micro-managing attempt to guarantee that teachers will teach to the test and attempt to turn otherwise bright, imaginative students into fact regurgitating drones that are unhappy, frustrated and worst of all- NOT LEARNING. I guess I was wrong about the fact that CCSS is a program that is paid for by billionaires, and "researched" by people who have zero educational background.  And I must have misunderstood that  states have been threatened  to implement this very flawed set of standards or lose federal funds.
And when you said "The Common Core has become a rallying cry for fringe groups that claim it is a scheme for the federal government to usurp state and local control of what students learn. An op-ed in the New York Times called the Common Core “a radical curriculum.” It is neither radical nor a curriculum. … When the critics can’t persuade you that the Common Core is a curriculum, they make even more outlandish claims. They say that the Common Core calls for federal collection of student data. For the record, it doesn’t, we’re not allowed to, and we won’t. And let’s not even get into the really wacky stuff: mind control, robots, and biometric brain mapping"  were you referring to the DOE, February 2013 report that has pictures of the exact biometric devices you are claiming you can't use? I don't know about mind control- but YOUR department put this study out. (See page 44, article 11)  I am really confused now.  This coming from the same man who said that the best thing to happen to the education system in New Orleans was Hurricane Katrina. WHAT THE HELL??

And I must be completely delusional to think that white suburban mom's are the only concerned parents. Apparently no other race or ethnicity or socio-economic group  is worried and angry about CCSS. And dad's well- what do they even care?  Let's not even consider special needs students who will be expected to perform right alongside their peers, regardless of ability. I mean- your goal is "preparing for a global economy" - and apparently these children, the ones with autism, ADHD, dyslexia, etc. etc. etc. do not fit yours and your billionaire backers molds.

My kids may not be geniuses, but they are smart. They are capable of learning- yes, even my son with Autism. I have watched my daughter work her ass off to maintain an A average. She wasn't coddled, she wasn't told she was great no matter what she did. She was, and is held to a higher standard, and her hard work and perseverance and continually good  great report cards are evidence of that. I have watched my son work hard to understand concepts, and have modified curriculum for him, to help his differently functioning brain understand concepts. I do not feel like I was "punched in the gut" by the horribly low standards my kids were being held to. Because they weren't.   But maybe that is just my "delusional" belief.

Mr. Duncan- your rude, racist, sexist remarks are disgusting and have pissed off many, many people. Not just we white suburban moms. . And YOU are in charge of our children's education? It terrifies me to think where my very intelligent children will be when they graduate if this ridiculous set of standards continues to permeate and destroy our schools. Good teachers are leaving their jobs because

Sunday, November 10, 2013

What's that holiday between Halloween and Christmas?

It's November- time for family, and being thankful, and of course time to start thinking about Christmas.... NO!!! 

This year Christmas was starting before Halloween!  I really hate that. Let me eat my turkey and pumpkin pie dammit!  Going into a store and hearing Christmas carols BEFORE Thanksgiving makes me want to punch an elf.  I know I am not alone.  As much as I love the holiday season- I really, really hate that it starts so damn early.

So in the spirit of upcoming Turkey Day- here are a couple of  Thanksgiving Carols...I am sure you can figure out the tunes on your own. Enjoy!  


Tur-KEY roasting on an open fire,
Gravy cooking on the stove.
Thanksgiving carols being sung by a fire,
Our eyes as big as Oreos.
Everybody knows some turkey and some cranberries
Help to make the season bright.
Tiny tots with their eyes all aglow
Will find it hard to sleep tonight.
They know Thanks-GIHHHHVVV-ing’s on its way,
And that means lots of white and dark meat on a tray.
And every mother’s child is gonna try
To see if they can eat everything on the table and not die.
And so I’m offering this simple phrase
For kids from 1 to 92.
Although it’s been said, many times, many ways,
Merry Turkeyday


I’m dreaming of a Thanks-giving
Just like the ones I used to know.
Where the turkeys glisten
And children listen
To hear someone at the do’.
I’m dreaming of a Thanks-giving
With every mouthful that I bite.
 May your days be merry and bright.
                                         And may all your Thanksgivings-es 
                                                        be all right.

Here's hoping that you will be singing these LOUDLY the next time you are in a store that insists on Christmas carols too damn early.  Who knows, maybe it will catch on! 

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

PARENTS!!! What do you know about Common Core?


First of all- let me give you a brief overview of what (we are being told) Common Core is:

The Common Core State Standards provide a consistent, clear understanding of what students are expected to learn, so teachers and parents know what they need to do to help them. The standards are designed to be robust and relevant to the real world, reflecting the knowledge and skills that our young people need for success in college and careers. With American students fully prepared for the future, our communities will be best positioned to compete successfully in the global economy.

OK- sounds great, right? We all know that our education system needs to reflect the world's demands and to be relevant and successful in a global economy, right?   And thanks to No Child Left Behind- we are on our way- and Common Core is just another step to achieve these goals. 

No Child Left Behind was an abysmal failure.  Underfunded, poorly administrated, it concentrated on TEACHER performance and test taking. It didn't address the very real issues of poverty, special education, overcrowded classrooms and frustrated teachers.  Schools were expected to meet AYP (annual yearly progress) with no consideration of circumstances that would affect this progress that was beyond teacher and school district control. 

Common Core State Standards (CCSS)  were developed by an organization called Achieve and the National Governors Association, both of which were generously funded by the Gates Foundation. Yes- Bill and Melinda Gates, There was little, if any  public engagement in the development of the Common Core.

This was not a grassroots initiative, nor did the ideas come from the states or from TEACHERS (who are the real innovators and push change in education). ​In fact, it was well understood by states that they would not be eligible for Race to the Top funding ($4.35 billion) unless they adopted the Common Core standards. (Education historian Diane Ravitch) So under threat of lost funding, something a majority of public schools cannot exist without- this set of fundamentally flawed, UNTESTED standards were rammed through -now in 46 states.

In the interest of looking at both sides- I can say one positive thing about CCSS. The small percentage of children who happen to move state to state won’t have to worry about getting caught up or being too far ahead of their new peers. The standards will be aligned in all of the states that have adopted them. Whoopty friggin do.

Let's talk about  developmental appropriateness. The developers and  promoters of the standards claim they are based in research. This is a lie.  For example, there is no convincing research showing that certain skills or bits of knowledge (such as counting to 100 or being able to read a certain number of words) if mastered in kindergarten will lead to later success in school. Two recent studies, one from a lab at MIT and another from U.C Berkeley  show that direct instruction can actually limit young children’s learning. At best, the standards reflect guesswork, not cognitive or developmental science. Children cannot run before they can crawl- it's as simple as that.

Teaching a child how to think critically is important- of course. But years and years of research and studies and child development models and theories have shown that their brains MUST be developed enough to even take on the kinds of things CCSS is expecting.

Take ELA in Kindergarten. These 5-6 year old children are to be writing persuasive arguments. When do they learn sentence structure, grammar, punctuation, and most importantly at that young age, spelling? Sight words, counting and following directions are an integral part of the kindergarten day. Writing persuasive sentences as to why they do not want to eat their vegetables is not.

ELA is to be included in science and social studies- which in an of itself is not a problem. Cross-curricular teaching is a great way to reinforce topics. But- instead of reading classic literature by authors such as Twain, Dickens, Steinbeck, Paterson, Hinton and many  more, kids will be expected to read "informational text". Currently a 50-50 split, but looking to go 70-30 by the high school years. Informational text is an important thing to learn, sure, but the emphasis on informational text over literature is ridiculous. 

Let's take a look at the math standards under CCSS. Many of these standards require that students are  able to explain why a particular procedure works. Not inherently bad, but confusing as hell.  It's not enough for a student to be able to divide one fraction by another. They must also "use the relationship between multiplication and division to explain that (2/3) ÷ (3/4) = 8/9, because 3/4 of 8/9 is 2/3."  Forcing this higher level mathematical thinking on young children when they are not ready to learn it yet is counterproductive!  Mathematics Professor R. James Milgram of Stanford University, the only mathematician on the Validation Committee, refused to sign off on the math standards, "because they would put many students two years behind those of many high-achieving countries." For example, Algebra 1 would be taught in 9th grade, not 8th grade for many students, making calculus inaccessible to them in high school. The quality of the standards is low and not internationally benchmarked.

Now, let's look at CCSS and Special Education. Holding students, such as mine to a higher standard is also not a "bad" thing. When a student (like mine) was never given the opportunity in elementary school to learn what they are now doing in the 6th grade, when I was told he CAN'T learn (utter bullshit BTW) is subjected to these standards you know what happens?? A vicious cycle of test re-takes, misunderstood assignments, frustration, tears,and  increased anxiety. These are the things that I have to watch my child go through.  

Because CCSS standardizes all learning, it ignores any variables to the unique learning styles of the individual child. The thinking patterns of individuals with ASD are extremely different from the way in which neurotypical people think. Because of this, too much emphasis is placed on what they ‘can’t do.’ While impairments and challenges do exist, greater progress can be made teaching these individuals when parents and teachers work on building the child’s strengths and teach in a manner that is aligned with their basic pattern of thinking. Thinking in pictures, patterns, words and visually are hallmarks of the autistic mind. As Temple Grandin said, "The word thinker may be poor at drawing but have a huge memory for facts such as sports statistics or film stars." Or in The Boy's case- dinosaurs. Yet he has to consistently DRAW pictures for standards bases assessments- setting him up for failure. Common Core State Standards are untested, biased, inferior, and  detrimental to children with Autism, Dyslexia, ADD, ADHD and other alternate thinking and learning minds. 

If teachers asked themselves "Are students, all students, but especially students with disabilities, being given an ‘appropriate’ education with Common Core State Standards?"  I would fall over if any actually said "Yes."  Because they are NOT.  And when a teacher tells me "Either we use a pass/fail grading system in ELA or he just fails" my faith in educators is even more shaken than before.  

 How many parents are aware of The State Longitudinal Database System (SLDS) or the P20? Have you even heard these terms before? The SLDS,  is a comprehensive database compiled on each child, teacher and parent. This data is not aggregate data, it is linked specifically to the child. MY child. YOUR child. This data will follow the child through to their adult years into the workforce.  Sounds like something straight out of an Orwell novel doesn't it?  According to the United States Department of Labor, this SLDS will “Enable workforce data to be matched with education data to ultimately create longitudinal data systems with individual-level information beginning with pre-kindergarten through post-secondary schooling all the way through entry and sustained participation in the workforce and employment services system.”  This means that the public schools will be supplying the U.S. government a digital record of our children's statistics, aggregate information down to personality traits starting in kindergarten all the way through high school. And the President is already talking about an Early Learning initiative that will affect our PRESCHOOL AGE CHILDREN! 

 AND- are you sitting down for this? ALL of this data can be shared with just about anyone without parental consent thanks to the president's revisions to FERPA in 2011. Under this revision there are several different ways that all of your child's information can be shared- WITH JUST ABOUT ANYONE.  Scared yet?? If you weren't worried about the "rigorous" , developmentally inappropriate educational goals being set for your kids- how does having your kid's (and your) entire history, such as health conditions, parent voting status and political affiliations, blood type, religion, etc. make you feel? Teachers and administrators can also add notes about personality, effort and any other information they want to add. And all of this is available to just about ANYONE- without YOU consenting or hell, even KNOWING about it.  How about the use of physical devices that are slated to be used? Facial expression cameras, "posture analysis seat," "pressure mouse," and "wireless skin conductance sensor?"  These are propsed by the DOE- and you can actually see pictures of them in their February 2013 report! How's that for Orwellian? 

This invasion of privacy makes the NSA spying look like a game. Our children, that we do anything to protect, are now under the watchful eye of the U.S. Government. You have seen the news about conservative groups being targeted by the IRS, right? How about a child from a conservative family? Or a child from a liberal family, or a family who embraces an alternate religion? How will they be pigeonholed in school? What are the ramifications of this data collection on our children when they grow up and enter the workforce?  I don't know about you, but this literally makes me sick to my stomach. 

It is our job as parents to protect our children and demand they not be a part of  giant data collection project that will collect personal information and then sell it to for profit corporations. I don't know about you- but I question how the hell selling my child's personal information to corporations has any bearing on  how and what they learn? Do you really want your child TRACKED from the cradle to the grave? I would be willing to bet the answer is a resounding HELL NO! 

Parents- your voice, your input is being systematically eliminated from your child's education.  Teachers are leaving their profession because they cannot bear to "teach" in this manner. Children are anxious, overwhelmed and stressed. Parents assume that because the word "reform" is attached to all of this that it is all good.

A one size fits all attempt to standardize every school in the country is WRONG. Corporations have no business in our schools. Stand up to intrusive, doomed to fail government education "reform". Learn all you can about Common Core practices and learn about Opt Out options. This is not the future of education- it's the destruction of it.