Tag Archives: Race to the Top

OBAMA’S TEACHER-PREP PROGRAM WILL REGULATE PROFESSIONAL CHOICES

This is a guest post by Karen A. Schroeder, President of Advocates for Academic Freedom.

To be successful, teachers must be dedicated professionals who have the right to decide what age group to teach or when to earn an advanced degree. These professional decisions are being relinquished through new federal guidelines claiming to strengthen teacher-preparation programs.

Generations of teachers have been struggling to protect their profession from those who want to make teaching a trade. Now teachers must battle federal policies adopted by state legislators. The Obama administration will use tax dollars to pressure states to surrender their right to define teacher-preparation programs. The study indicates states will be creating their own set of standards, but like Common Core, those standards better meet federal guidelines.

If states adopt Obama’s plans for teacher education reform, states’ rights will be sold for a few federal dollars. Hopefully, teachers and the public will reject this federal overreach before the policies are ingrained in the system. When the states sold their autonomy over education by allowing Common Core Standards to be imposed upon the classroom, teachers and citizens began having difficulty trying to remove them.

Race to the Top dollars were used by the Center for American Progress (CAP) to shape Obama’s new teacher-preparation policies. One major motivator is that “most preparation programs pay no attention to the needs of schools or school systems when it comes to the production of graduates in specific grade level and subject areas.”  The CAP document explains that there is a massive oversupply of newly prepared elementary teachers. They recommend linking teacher-preparation programs to the needs of the state to “force better alignment between supply and demand.”

This radical redesign of the purpose of teacher-education programs should concern parents, teachers, and state leadership. Forcing prospective teachers into their “second choice” will result in under-performance in the classroom, an injustice to students and teachers.

When teachers begin their college-preparation programs, they expect fewer jobs than graduates. This fact motivates teachers to be competitive, to be creative, to become the best applicant available for the job. The profession benefits because the most talented people are hired. Forcing teachers to fill a state need will require guaranteed employment. Both processes will undermine the benefits that come when people are allowed to define their own dreams and to fulfill those dreams.

Concerned that few new teachers are interested in being certified to teach upper grades, the federal government would be better served to ask prospective teachers the reasons. A myriad of answers could be expected to include:  teacher-preparation programs do not prepare teachers for the impact that social, political, and economic issues have on the classroom; an emphasis on developing greater expertise in the subject they teach would be appreciated by many middle and high school teachers; and the use of data to identify failed teachers and failed college programs often holds teachers accountable for failed federal policies.

The issue of certification may be irrelevant if federal policies are adopted by states.  New federal teacher- preparation plans include limiting a teacher’s ability to earn an MA degree in the field.  The study notes that some states require teachers to “obtain a master’s degree within two or three years of initial licensure to get full certification at the higher level.” Center for American Progress claimed there is evidence of a weak relationship between having a master’s degree and being an effective teacher. The study describes several state solutions to this dilemma. New York piloted a policy that prohibits “ineffective” teachers from obtaining professional certification and continuing to teach.

The definition of an “ineffective” teacher varies greatly and often ignores the impact that failed federal policies have on the classroom, the role that failed federally aligned curriculums play in discouraging academic progress, and the role that excessive testing plays in limiting time spent on instruction. Many issues that impact student academic success must be acknowledged. Most teachers want accountability, but they want it to be fair.

Major improvements to college programs and teacher licensure programs are needed, but teachers must be involved in the process. When states surrender their authority and accept federal guidelines as their own, teachers typically become less relevant to the process. There is time for teachers and the public to get involved because these regulations will not be ready for implementation until 2016.

http://www.americanprogress.org/issues/education/report/2011/03/01/9329/race-to-the-top-and- teacher-preparation/  p.8, 14, 21

http://www.ed.gov/sites/default/files/our-future-our-teachers-accesible.pdf p. 14, 16, 21

http://www.americanprogress.org/issues/2012/01/pdf/teacher_preparation.pdf  p.37

Karen Schroeder is President of Advocates for Academic Freedom, a member of the Wisconsin Educational Communications Board, has a Master’s Degree in Special Education, and is an educational consultant Karen can be reached at kpfschroeder@centurylink.net or by calling 715-234-5072.

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Filed under Federal Department of Education, Guest Post, Teacher Preparation

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)

AAETeachers 10/28/2013 Federal Update

The Association of American Educators publishes an update on what is happening in Washington, D.C.

Inside you will find the following:

House Education and Workforce Committee Passes Bill Protecting Students from Sexual and Violent Predators

NCLB waivers to Texas and Puerto Rico.

Race to the Top Update

Department of Education Celebrates Connected Educator Month

http://www.aaeteachers.org/index.php/blog/1168-federal-update-october-28-2013

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