Tag Archives: CCSS

National Teacher Survey Demonstrates Growing Support for Education Reforms

I have mentioned previously that I am a huge fan of the Association of American Educators. I am also a dues paying member. If you are a conservative in education, I believe you should be a member of this organization even if you are forced to pay union dues. The AAE conducts an annual survey of its members, and unlike the unions, it actually listens to it’s member survey. This has been sitting in my inbox for sometime. It was originally posted on the AAE website last month.

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Alexandria, VA – Today the Association of American Educators (AAE), the largest national non-union educators’ organization, released its 2014 Membership Survey about high-profile education and labor policies. Survey results show progressive stances toward education and labor reform, particularly with regard to education spending, school choice, technology, safety in schools, Common Core State Standards, and collective bargaining.

With policymakers considering new ideas in education across the country, it’s critical that educators’ opinions and experiences are taken into account as these reforms are debated and implemented. As a member-driven organization, AAE brings an authentic teacher voice to the education reform dialogue, providing invaluable input from professional educators across the country.

“AAE takes policy positions directly from member feedback,” stated AAE Executive Director Gary Beckner. “The opinions expressed in this survey are those of real educators, not bureaucrats or union leaders with partisan political agendas.”

With regard to proposed ballot initiatives designed to increase education spending via tax increases, AAE members stress fiscal responsibility:

  • 63% of survey respondents do not support the failed Colorado amendment that would have increased income taxes to raise nearly $1 billion for public schools.

While the education establishment sees school choice as a threat to their unionized monopoly, AAE teachers support certain laws that advance school choice and promote options for both teachers and students:

  • 82% of members support public school open enrollment.
  • 59% of teachers agree with Wisconsin’s Parental Choice Program, allowing low-income students public funds to attend a school of their choice.
  • 72% of AAE members support Arizona’s Empowerment Scholarship Accounts (ESAs), which enable students to leave their assigned public schools, taking 90% of the state dollars with them. That money, deposited into ESAs, can then be used to access a multitude of education options that better meet their children’s needs.

As new technologies make flexibility a reality for all stakeholders, states across the country are implementing policies that offer and encourage online learning. AAE members embrace new technologies as a means to better prepare students for the 21st century:

  • 93% of AAE members incorporate technology in their daily lessons.
  • 65% of teachers would support a blended learning environment where students spend part of their day with a teacher and part of their day on a computer.

In the wake of several tragic school shootings, teachers are vocal about school safety measures:

  • While 75% of surveyed members feel safe in their school, teachers report increased safety procedures in their buildings.
  • 61% of AAE members support a proposed policy in Arkansas that would allow educators access to a locked concealed firearm after a training course.

Experts continue to debate the value of the Common Core State Standards (CCSS). Support for the standards has declined in 2014 with AAE members split on the initiative:

  • 51% of survey respondents have an unfavorable opinion of CCSS.
  • 30% of teachers believe the Common Core will make the U.S. more competitive on a global scale. 47% of teachers believe they would have no effect, and 22% assert that CCSS would have an adverse effect.

Collective bargaining and labor reforms are also considered by AAE member teachers:

  • 64% of those surveyed would prefer to negotiate their own contract so that they can negotiate a salary and benefits package that best suits their lifestyle.

“We are proud to represent educators who are thoughtfully considering education reforms,” stressed Beckner. “We hope these findings will be a useful tool for policymakers and administrators on all levels.

Complete results of the survey can be found at www.aaeteachers.org/natsurvey.

The Association of American Educators (AAE) is the largest national, non-union, professional educator’s organization, advancing the profession by offering a modern approach to teacher representation and educational advocacy, as well as promoting professionalism, collaboration and excellence without a partisan agenda. AAE members are forward-thinking professionals who are committed to student-centered reform efforts including school/teacher choice, accountability and technology. AAE has members in all 50 states and welcomes professionals from all education entities. Membership is $15 per month which includes $2 million professional liability insurance, employment rights coverage, professional development resources as well as a host of other benefits. Visit aaeteachers.org for further information.

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Filed under Association of American Educators, Teacher Unions

A Monstrous Story for a Monstrous Curriculum: The Ugly Heart of #CommonCore

Photo by artur84 from FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Photo by artur84 from FreeDigitalPhotos.net

This is a guest post by Dana R. Casey.

I am a high school English teacher. I became a teacher because I believe that literacy, which goes beyond just reading the words on the page, is an absolute necessity for maintaining our Republic.  Proof of that is found in the many laws against reading certain texts, or against reading altogether, that have been passed down by every tyrant since literacy became available to the general population. A few examples of such tyrannical laws are the Taliban banning reading for any female or laws against teaching slaves to read or the Soviet Union’s banning of such books as A Wrinkle in Time, Where’s Waldo, and To Kill a Mockingbird. The communist Khmer Rouge in Cambodia so hated literacy that just wearing glasses was cause for execution. Literacy leads to freedom and tyrants know it.

I have been teaching for over twenty years. Generally, I have been given either no curriculum or curriculum that was focused on skills, not specific texts. I would have to get those skills taught in whatever way I wanted to get there and with the texts that I chose. Sometimes I was given more direction and that direction was generally pretty good, including texts, key terms, supplemental stories, and suggested writing assignments. These directions were created at a school level by the teachers in the school. I helped write some myself. Mostly, I have had a lot of freedom in how I could achieve the learning goals.

Not anymore.

Today I was in a professional development session for my school district. Our school system has swallowed Common Core whole. Why wouldn’t they? The federal system has said that it is “voluntary”, but “voluntary” means that the district gets cut off from major federal funding if it does not adopt the standards, so “voluntary” is subjective. Here is what the Washington Post reported Sen. Charles Grassley has to say about Common Core:

Current federal law makes clear that the U.S. Department of Education may not be involved in setting specific content standards or determining the content of state assessments. Nevertheless, the selection criteria designed by the U.S. Department of Education for the Race to the Top Program provided that for a state to have any chance to compete for funding, it must commit to adopting a “common set of K-12 standards” matching the description of the Common Core.

The Washington Post also reported, “The Republican National Committee recognizes the CCSS for what it is — an inappropriate overreach to standardize and control the education of our children…”

For those of you who may be unfamiliar with Common Core, it is a set of standards created in the private sector but pushed onto states by the federal government and largely financed by Bill Gates. The cost of implementing the program runs from millions to billions, depending on the state. It is untested and unresearched. It has been criticized for being not as rigorous as proponents claim, clearly biased to a liberal perspective, so much so that many see it as indoctrination, and it is being forced on the states in spite of the fact that a federal curriculum is unconstitutional, violating the 10th Amendment of the U.S. Constitution which established the principle that “…the “power” to oversee education belongs to the states. This longstanding principle of local control of education is reiterated throughout our laws and government codes.”

All of that sounds like something that makes NO connection whatsoever to most parents or teachers or American citizens as to why they should fight this federal intrusion into education. Here, I am going to provide you with a concrete example that shows the ugly heart of Common Core. There is something deeply dark and offensive in this lesson, created to support Common Core. It is a lesson designed to corrupt essential human decency.

The unit – sorry “module” – that I am using as an example is centered on To Kill a Mockingbird with the theme of “How individuals demonstrate individuality in the face of outside pressures.”  At the beginning of all of this, it looks good. I love the book; it is a great American classic and I have taught it many times. The module includes 30 days of lessons associated with the novel and multiple additional short reading assignments. However, as I looked this module over, I became more and more concerned. For me to break down the many problems with this module in detail would take quite a while, so I am going to show you an example of one lesson, on one short reading assignment, that left me speechless with horror.

This assignment in the module includes a short story by Guy de Maupassant, 19th century writer famous for The Necklace. Again, this seems rather innocent; de Maupassant is often included in high school texts, but not this particular story of his and, more importantly, not with this particular writing assignment.

The short story is The Mother of Monsters (link below). A quick summary of the story is that a gentleman on vacation is introduced to The Mother of Monsters, a local oddity described as a “peasant” and the “Devil”. Her story is that she finds herself pregnant while she is working as a simple serving girl. She binds her body with boards and cords to hide her growing belly. Her child is born horribly deformed. She takes care of the child, but resents it, until a sideshow man comes along and offers to buy the “thing” and to pay a yearly stipend for its use.  Once she realizes how much money she can make, she repeats her pregnancy pattern by birthing monster after monster after monster of intentionally deformed children to sell to showmen. She lives a “bourgeois” life as a result.

The narrator is reminded of this “Devil” when he later sees a popular “Parissiene” strolling on a beach followed by admirers. Her three children are also all deformed because she wants to maintain her trim figure throughout her pregnancies, so she keeps her corset tightly cinched. Peasant and lady. Different, yet the same. Both The Mother of Monsters. Both display a level of selfish evil that most humans would revile.

Now, as a high school story, this story may have a lot of meat to chew on for discussion…for maybe 11th or 12th graders, but this is a story assigned to incoming 9th graders, students who are 13, 14 or 15 years old. Students this age are not ready to handle the truly disturbing elements of a story which reveal some of the most perverse sides of human nature. That is bad enough; however, it gets worse. You may wonder what this story has to do with To Kill a Mockingbird and the theme of individuality.  Here is the writing assignment associated with this story:

Write an essay that compares the cultural experience reflected in To Kill a Mockingbird and The Mother of Monsters and explain how this experience helped a character demonstrate individuality in the face of outside pressure.

Individuality! Outside Pressure!!!! These women chose to deform their children for their own selfish gains or selfish vanity! The first pregnancy of the peasant woman we might forgive out of mercy, based on her ignorance, but the purposeful birthing of the rest of the 11 children that she intentionally deformed is unconscionable and unforgivable. The same holds with the Parisienne.

To judge these women as demonstrating their INDIVIDUALITY in the face of outside pressure is absurd and defies human decency. It is like insisting that Jeffery Dahmer was expressing his individuality through cannibalistic murder. Additionally, it is not a major leap to conclude that if deforming your children in order to express your own individuality is acceptable, then killing your children to protect your individuality (or selfish inhumanity) is perfectly fine too. This story paired with this assignment is a repulsive perversion of the concept of “lesson”; it is a corruption of anything descent and good.

There is something deeply repulsive in this lesson, especially as it is aimed at students as young as 13. I have been told that I must teach this module. I can make some adjustments, but not too many. I am struggling to find a way NOT to perpetuate the ugliness found here.  I am certainly NOT going to teach this story, though I may find myself in trouble with the system as a result. Some things are worth refusing to do even if there is a cost.

This is what is going on in our schools. This is what you need to see with open eyes. They are doing more than trying to increase rigor; they are indoctrinating our children into one way of thinking—their way! Many will argue that the Common Core is “not curriculum” and this example is curriculum, but example after example after example of curriculum inspired by the Common Core seems to contain disturbing or clearly biased elements. It is not irrelevant to look at the fruit of the tree which produced it and the fruit of Common Core is rarely healthy and is often clearly biased.  Schools should teach how to think, but never what to think. This is why we must fight what some are trying to sell us as “hope and change” to America as seen in Common Core.

Link to the story “The Mother of Monsters”:  http://www.classicreader.com/book/1238/1/

Dana R. Casey is a veteran High School English teacher of more than two decades in an East-coast urban system.  She is a life-long student of theology, philosophy, and politics, dedicated to the true Liberalism of the Enlightenment, as defined by our Founders and enshrined in our Declaration of Independence, Constitution and Bill of Rights.

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Filed under English/Reading/Literacy, Guest Post, National Standards (Common Core)

Wisconsin State Superintendent Offers Veiled Threat to Opponents of Common Core

Karen professional photoSubmission by Karen Schroeder of Advocates for Academic Freedom

The state of Wisconsin has held three out of four public hearings on Common Core Standards. State Superintendent Tony Evers must be feeling the heat because he offered legislators a veiled threat that any rejection of Common Core Standards may be taken to the Supreme Court. This threat outrages citizens across the state who are trying to protect their right to exercise local control of schools.

Kim Simac, Wisconsin State Director for Concerned Women for America, Chairperson for Northwoods Patriots, and one of the major community organizers in northern Wisconsin, stated, “Superintendent Evers’ threat to jump directly to the Wisconsin Supreme Court should any legislation or decision be made to opt out of CCSS exposes his lack of confidence in the standards themselves. Those supporters of CCSS should have an arsenal of evidence that proves excellence and superiority in the product. Obviously they do not.”


Wisconsinites opposed to Common Core will not allow Superintendent Evers to blame conservative legislators for the tax dollars to be wasted on any legal action intended to undermine Wisconsin’s statute regarding local control of schools or intended to render irrelevant the concerns expressed by citizens. Sondra Maanum, Chair of the Barron County Republican Party, explained that “our legislators were elected to defend and protect the state constitution and our state laws. If Tony Evers thinks he is going to use our tax dollars to fight us, he better be well prepared for the consequences.”

Superintendent Evers is apparently realizing that his claim that it would take years to write and implement alternative standards has been effectively refuted by experts who have been testifying against Common Core. Alan Scholl, Executive Director and Vice President of American Opinion Foundation, invited citizens and organizations like Advocates for Academic Freedom to bring Dr. Sandra Stotsky and James Milgram among others to testify. Both were members of the Common Core Validation Committee and both refused to sign off on the standards that they believed would not adequately prepare students for college.

“Evers’ threat is predicated on the platform of using the federal government, through the Supreme Court, to force upon a state and its people, a federal mandate in education. This is as totalitarian a prospect as any yet suggested,” stated Mr. Scholl. Scholl, Maanum, and Simac represent many Wisconsinites who believe that the veiled threat made by Superintendent Evers is a blatant abuse of federal power by a state official. Scholl explained that using federal power to force a curriculum that is formulated and shaped precisely to any forced standard leading to dictated outcomes is an intolerable challenge to individual liberty and the sovereignty of states.

It is essential that those who oppose Common Core be willing to provide solutions, to promote funding for those solutions, and to support legislators who are willing to represent what is best for the children of Wisconsin. The solutions most often recommended by citizens include immediate implementation of the standards used in Massachusetts before they adopted Common Core. Massachusetts students had excelled in math, science, English, and reading for years before they adopted Common Core Standards.

“Grassroots will be certain to work hard for legislators who recognize the perilous path Common Core Standards present” promised Kim Simac. “I know I will be spending my efforts engaging hard-working activists who will pound the doors and give 100% for legislators who will stand up to support Wisconsin state rights.”

As President of Advocates for Academic Freedom, I have traveled the state discussing Common Core, our focus has been upon solutions and funding for those solutions. Without exception, my audiences have expressed a willingness to support spending some of our state surplus to purchase math text books that are not aligned with Common Core, sets of grammar books for each English classroom, and reading materials that focus upon decoding skills. These audiences are insulted and angered by the thought of using their tax dollars and the legal system to circumvent local control of schools and to silence the public.

According to Sondra Maanum, “Wisconsinites hope Governor Walker and the legislature will put in place some oversight to prevent the DPI from circumventing local control of schools in the future.”

Wisconsinites are defending their right to control local schools. They have witnessed the challenging fight to prevent federal overreach when a powerful state department of education intervenes. Citizens do not want precedence established that would undermine state statutes which guarantee local control of schools.

Superintendent Evers is abusing his power and ignoring state statutes.

http://www.leadertelegram.com/news/front_page/article_d19329f8-3c6b-11e3-b0c9-001a4bcf887a.html

http://www.thewheelerreport.com/wheeler_docs/files/1016will.pdf

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