Tag Archives: education

Common Core, why I support it and you should too

 

Common Core State Standards.jpg

So it was pointed out to me that while I have repeatedly ripped apart the Anti-Common Core people showing their positions to be contradictory, baseless or just the worst in typical liberal/populist propaganda, I have never pointed out why I like the Common Core Standards. So here goes.

 

First let’s define what we mean. Common Core Standards (linked here) are a collection of standards drawn up by the National Governor’s Association (NGA). They cover reading, writing, and mathematics. They do not define what will be taught, what goes into textbooks, or do they create worksheets. It does not have anything to do with allocation of resources in the school or how teachers teach. There are some recommendations about how to make math a more pragmatic, real life application approach to math, but most of the complaints in the media have nothing to do with the Common Core math standards. These are based on the current administration and their education department interference – Race to the top.   These two different concepts should not be combined.

 

Before we get back to why I love the standards I can already tell I’ll have some objections to the above paragraph. But I heard Common Core was a federal take over…no you’re thinking of the White House’s Race to the Top program which like the list of the previous 60 years of federal education programs boils down to we’ll require schools to do random things (some stupid, some okay) and throw money at them. Race to the Top does require states to adopt Common Core, but no state is required to follow Race to the Top, just as no state has to adopt Common Core, and many states were getting ready to adopt Common Core before Obama even got into the White House. But I heard Common Core requires this or that stupid text book. No, those textbooks and those text book companies were always stupid. In fact studies have been done that the new text books that say “Common Core Compliant” are actually the pre-Common Core versions (word for word) with a new sticker slapped on. But on the news I saw this terrible worksheet a student had to do and they said it was Common Core. You must not watch the news much as those stupid worksheets have been around for decades before anyone thought of Common Core. But the teachers and school administrators are saying everything they’re doing is because of Common Core. Here’s a hint, most teachers and school administrators are either liars or incompetent (in many cases both)…there’s a reason we had to come up with bare minimum standards for them to follow, namely, they were too dumb to be trusted on their own. Repeat after me Common Core is properly only used to refer to the Common Core State Standards. It is not Race to the Top, it is not textbooks, it is not the behavior of teachers. It is only standards. They may call all these other things Common Core…but if you call a fish a bird it doesn’t mean that it’s a bird. The only thing that is actually Common Core is the Common Core State Standards. Everything else is not Common Core and you should berate anyone who says otherwise for their ignorance.

 

Okay back to the standards themselves.

 

Common Core is a set of standards created out of an initiative from the governor’s council.  It has two main parts Math Standards and English Language Standards (Reading and Writing).  Things like as a Student will be able to do X at Y grade level.

An example standard reads (this is for reading at the 11th and 12th grade level):

CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RL.11-12.7 Analyze multiple interpretations of a story, drama, or poem (e.g., recorded or live production of a play or recorded novel or poetry); evaluating how each version interprets the source text. (Include at least one play by Shakespeare and one play by an American dramatist.)

That’s all it is as can be seen here http://www.corestandards.org . (Again please go read them).

 

It was meant to replace each state’s individual standards so there is more consistency and a higher standard throughout the US.  It also allows for states to use only one standardized test (which saves costs for the states as development costs are now shared for one test) and also allows for us to actually see which states are meeting requirements.  In most cases (but not all) the standards are higher than what the state had before.  Are the math standards high enough? No. But they’re higher than they were before in most cases and states, schools, teachers, and students can always go beyond the bare minimum of the standard.

 

Beyond suggestions of the kind of reading (as in primary sources, or analysis papers) and questioning to be done at each grade level there are no History, Government, Science or other kinds of standards.

 

There is almost no content requirements to be narrow on.  The only Common Core standards even remotely related to Social Studies and Science are the language ones that more or less boil down to “Read Primary Sources”.  It requires only a few works that HAVE to be read by students: They have to read something by Shakespeare, the Declaration, the Constitution, the Bill of Rights, Gettysburg and I Have a Dream. That’s it. Other than that it’s pretty much open game for teacher selection so a bad teacher could still choose bad works to try and indoctrinate, but as the standards focus more on the higher level skills (Analysis, Evaluation, Synthesis) if they’re actually teaching the standard then they should be teaching students how to question and analyze (after that it’s up to free will of the student).

 

Why do I think this is all a good idea?

Well first of all teachers are like most people. Most of them will do the minimum required of them. As the standards before Common Core were much lower in almost all the states…this at least means that the minimum they have to do will be higher. Some might complain that this will amount to teachers only teaching to the test…but that is a problem with the teacher not the standards or test. A bad teacher will always teach to the test because that is the minimum they can get away with…and if you don’t have a test it’s not like they’ll suddenly go in great teacher mode, no, they’ll show videos and talk about their feelings all day. Great teachers will have no problem with these standards as their teaching is probably already well above the minimum. (Oh, and to the recent string of whiny teachers who thought that anyone should give a shit about their screeds about how education was becoming nothing but testing…you have no one to blame but yourselves. Even if you were among the competent teachers, which I seriously doubt, you were among the teachers who were voting for unions and supporting them when they protected your inept colleagues. Teachers are to blame for not beginning to police their own long before this.) Standards/testing have always been around to determine if everyone is getting an average amount of data from the course – whatever that is – so this statement of teaching to the test is silly.

 

I like this because it is better economics. Not only in the fact that we’ll save overhead costs in not having to have 50 different state tests…but because this will lower a bar for people who have children. If standards are equal everywhere then you never have to worry about “but if we move to this state will Sally fall behind” greater mobility in geography will translate to greater economic prosperity everywhere.

 

When and if the standards are implemented even half-way competently you’ll have a justification to fire bad teachers who can’t even teach to the test to the minimum standards. Further this will be a fair basis by which we can judge which students need to be held back.

 

Further despite bizarre claims to the contrary, these standards are a great thing for school choice movement. These people are apparently not actually paying attention to one of the biggest problems with the school choice movement: bad schools. The central claim of the school choice movement is that bad schools will go out of business …but regrettably that implies that every parent wants their child to learn. Regrettably I can tell you that some parents just want their kid to get a diploma, or worse they’re just looking for a baby sitter…whether they learn anything isn’t even a concern. And thus schools with really low standards that won’t bother them with homework or parent-teacher calls or requests to meet to discuss Johnny’s progress are very popular with this group. And these excuses for schools give liberals ammunition against the entire school choice movement. And independent testing can help separate them…but testing alone won’t do it because you also need high standards. Why? Well there are some alternative schools that are set up to cater to students who have trouble—they look for the students who have flunked out of three or four schools already…as might be expected the pass rates on tests of these schools are rather low…but they did take a group that everyone else got 0% and in turn got 30% to pass…to only look at the pass rate is say that these schools took toxic waste, turned it into water and you want to complain they didn’t turn it into wine. High standards (and the school creating curriculum to match those standards) help differentiate these schools which are seeking to help the high risk student from the paper mills which just seek to give every student a diploma and collect their funding no matter what they learned. These standards will get the terrible schools out of the market and will strengthen the school choice movement as a whole.

 

And on a personal level I certainly won’t mind if elementary and middle School teachers are finally required to teach basic grammar so that I, in Senior English can actually focus on poetry and philosophy…and not, you know, my usual fair of “How to use a comma.”

 

Now the problem is that each state is implementing Common Core in a different way.  Some are adjusting their history and science standards, and some (usually the liberal ones) are adding PC blame America BS into the standards.  Also several companies that make teaching material, handouts, textbooks and such are also making liberal tripe and giving their product names like “Common Core History.” The implementation and the products which bear the name Common Core are in a lot of cases really dumb and should be opposed–Not because it is being called Common Core but it is bad regardless of what you call it.

 

I would compare this to trying to teach Shakespeare.  In the hands of bad teacher the high moral, hilarious comedy, and near libertarian critique of corrupt government could become a diatribe of trite feminism, bad psychoanalysis, and cheap Marxism…but it is the teacher not the Shakespeare that is to blame.  In the same way Common Core is perfectly fine…it’s the idiots trying to put it into practice that are the problem.

 

Let’s deal with a few pointed criticisms about the Standards themselves. Some critics claim that the standards aren’t high enough to get students into high end colleges…well no kidding, they’re minimum standards, they’re what every student should learn and every student isn’t going to MIT. Others, usually the same organizations that claim they’re not high enough…please make up your mind…but even if they’re still not high enough (and that is the case in some places) they are almost always well above the previous state standards and I know of no state that adopted Common Core that found their standards dropping.   Besides which you need to start at a basic minimum and then each year you can start raising the bar. This could go a long way to stopping the graduation of students who can not read, write or comprehend English or Math.

 

Some complain that the problem with the standards is that they were written in an undemocratic way without public feedback and comment at every level…yes because all the regulations we have from the government with that level of feedback are just so wonderful…and all documents that were composed without public comment (like the Declaration and Constitution, which the CCSS require students to read) are just so terrible and like Common Core should be abolished because of their anti-democratic methods of being created. Also private companies were hired to help write the standards…and as we are a good capitalist nation we hate private companies…wait, no.   The problem with this set of complaints is that it never actually asks if the standards are any good. They are. It doesn’t matter who wrote them or the process of them being written, unless you can point to me where the standards themselves are lacking this is just a demagogue tactic to whip up baseless hatred of the standards.

 

The Common Core reading list has books on it that are terrible! Yes the suggested reading list has some books on it that I would never teach. But here’s the thing, I don’t have to teach them. It’s an extensive list of suggested works that you don’t even have to follow. All it says is that the books are of the level we’re looking for at certain grade levels, when planning for your English course, try to have the books you pick to be on par with the ones listed here. Yeah the list does include some real tripe, but I hazard to think what any educational institution would have cut if they tried to make the list more restrictive…better to have the list be broad and then have parents judge the teacher’s by the books they pick (and if you don’t like the books get your kid a new teacher or new school) or a new book.   If you cut the list down to just Shakespeare and the other classics it might give truly inept teachers the appearance of knowing what they’re doing. Better to not restrict the freedom of teachers, and even suggest a few pieces of dung, and then you can easily spot the bad teachers by the ones who pick those worthless books.

common core

Yes just look at how terrible some of those suggestions are…clearly signs of how evil the Common Cores Standards are.

 

So to sum up. Just about everything you hear complaints about isn’t the actual Common Core standards. The Common Core standards themselves are fine and will, if implemented lead to some but not all of the reforms we need to make in education (while making some of those other reforms easier to implement).

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Filed under Common Core, Education, People Are Stupid, politics

Let’s deal in fact and reality: Race to the Top: Bad. Common Core: A Step in the Right Direction.

 

And people who do not get this distinction are idiots.

You know I am having a harder and harder time taking anyone in the media seriously these days. The entire left wing of the media keeps repeating bullshit that history and economics and common sense and experience have disproved a million times over. But now the right wing is getting equally stupid. Namely in the fact of their anti-Common Core crusade to insanity.
There are so many preposterous points I don’t where to start.

But let’s start with the oh so repeated line of “One size education doesn’t fit all.” It’s the idea that having standards will destroy any and all freedom in education. Bullshit. That’s the nicest I can treat that sentiment. Bullshit. You are an absolute idiot if you believe that having a minimum standard in any way, shape or form ruins a teacher’s ability to teach. Now initially as with any raising of the bar, teachers at the high grades will have trouble getting all the standards in because their lower grade counterparts never bothered to meet any standard and that will, for a few years take up a good deal of their time…but I fail to see how that will be any different from the present when I’m having to teach Seniors how to use a comma, who Julius Caesar was, or what a platypus is (these are not random things I thought of, these are all real moments from my high school Senior English course). Yes the transition might be difficult, but it will be worth it, because at the end of the transition student will be coming into my class knowing the basics and having the skill to discuss Shakespeare and Aristotle and allowing me to teach them how to analyze a paper (or better a news article or a politician’s) to find the truth rather than how to write a simple sentence. Please tell me how that restricts my freedom as a

Common Core State Standards.jpg

Common Core has been blamed for everything short of shooting Kennedy…and essentially all of the charges against it are without any basis in reality.

teacher? Further saying that a minimum standard impedes freedom is saying that your students have a right not to learn anything. No. There should a bare minimum in reading, writing and math that students know at certain grade levels. And nothing in the Common Core standards (please actually read them) is too far ahead of the abilities of an average student, even a below average student. Or do you think that
“Conduct short research projects that build knowledge through investigation of different aspects of a topic” is too much for a 4th grade student (if you do think that’s too much for that age, you clearly have never heard a child expound on the near graduate level knowledge they all seem to possess about dinosaurs). Or if you think that “Find a percent of a quantity as a rate per 100 (e.g., 30% of a quantity means 30/100 times the quan11tity); solve problems involving finding the whole, given a part and the percent” is too much for a 6th grader…then you clearly needed the Common Core standards when you were growing up because you never learned the basics of math. I’m sorry there is nothing in the Common Core standards that is too high for any grade level. In fact, before Jim DeMint sold the soul of the Heritage Foundation to populists, the Heritage Foundation’s complaint about Common Core wasn’t that it was too hard, or a one size fits all lie, or new math or anything like that…no back in early 2012 before Heritage’s education department became dependent on clueless pundits, Heritage complained that the standards weren’t high enough (which is still an invalid complaint because the standards are higher than what most states had before).  You can’t complain that standards aren’t high enough but that standards are bad for education at the same time without being a hypocrite…and DeMint’s Heritage (which still has not sold out on economic and foreign policy, but is beginning to lack everywhere else) is just that.

Having standards sets the lower end but any teacher is allowed and encouraged to go beyond that minimum bar in any way they feel best. Granted to meet and exceed this minimum bar we will need better teachers across the board, but we had to start somewhere because to have good teachers you need a minimum standard to judge them by, and to have a minimum standard you need good teachers. So either we could get into an endless chicken and the egg debate of which we should do first, or we could just pick on, which we did.
Then of course there are the media outlets, like the Daily Caller which quoted a study as showing that Common Core doesn’t work:

The study, conducted by the Brookings Institution, compared standardized test scores for all 50 states over the last five years. It found that states using education standards that are most dissimilar to Common Core tended to score the highest on math.

Actually the report was (A) talking about how far the state standards were from Common Core in 2009 and how they were doing now, and (B) the states with 2009 standards least like CCSS showed the most improvement over the 4 years since switching over…which would suggest that switching led to better growth. But, even that is going to far as the study actually said:

Table 3-2 reveals no systematic relationship between the states’ MSU ratings and changes in NAEP from 2009–2013. Indeed, states with standards most different from the CCSS (rated 1) gained the most on NAEP (2.25). States with standards most like the CCSS scored the next largest gains (1.94);

The report also makes the statement (in big bold letters):

States that more aggressively implemented the CCSS registered larger gains from 2009–2013.

But again, I won’t claim that this report highly endorses Common Core. It doesn’t. It claims that with very little data on hand only a minimal amount of growth can be shown or even expected. It further questions if this growth is worth all the money and effort going into putting Common Core into place. It however does not say what the Daily Caller claims. And I’ll admit that this is a high cost for minimal gains…at first. But this is the first step in having real across the board minimum standards to actually preventing students from falling behind. This is the first step of many that need to occur, the first step to culling bad teachers and bad schools from the system. The first step to making sure students are held back to ensure they understand before being promoted to the next level. The gains we see from this one single step are minimal, but they are an investment on a system of reform that will pay vast dividends. And when your opposition, as the Daily Caller as clearly put itself in the Anti-Common Core camp, has to blatantly lie about a study showed to make it’s point, you have to question whether or not the anti-Common Core line has any validity.
Oh but then there’s the new math. Common Core is teaching new math and that’s terrible (but remember thinking one size fits all is also terrible, so if you’re utterly confused on the exactly what the anti-Common Core people are arguing for, don’t worry, that only means you have a brain). So let’s first forget that there have been new math programs for decades and that this is nothing new. Let’s also forget that Common Core is just standards and does not require any of this. Now like a good anti-Common Core person we’ve forgotten reality let’s deal with the evil Common Core Math.

Now with most of the examples you see on the internet they’ll show you one worksheet where you can’t see if there were more worksheets that explained it in greater detail, or even what publisher they’re from. I’ll wager most of these evil worksheets are from minor text book publishers or that their idiocy predates Common Core…
But I was happy to see one worksheet that’s making the rounds that actually does have a copyright in the corner. The anti-Common Core people made a mistake in including the copyright information in the corner because it shows them to be a bunch of idiots and liars.

Math Coach CornerNow initially looking at this sheet you’d think someone had just gone insane and why can’t we just go back to the old way of learning math. However, if you type the name Donna Boucher (which who copyrighted this) into a search-engine you come up with her website Math Coach’s Corner where you find that worksheets like the one you see there are probably not meant as a first round of teaching but designed to help students find alternate avenues to doing the same problems if the traditional approach doesn’t work—because as the anti-Common Core folk like to correctly state one size fits all does not work for everyone, but strangely when you try not to go with one size fits all methods you get yelled at, because the hypocrisy of the anit-Common Core bunch knows no bounds. Pick a side anti-Common Core people. Now if a teacher started with Boucher’s methods that would probably be foolish, but as there is no context for the worksheet as it is shown on any site I’ve seen it on, nor any of the background of the lesson showing how to use it there is no way to tell if this is a teacher doing this on the first go around or merely showing their students another way of doing things. Further, ever since the day I taught in a lecture on Romantic poets that “The Romantic poets of early 1800’s England viewed the character of Milton’s Satan in Paradise Lost as a heroic figure” and then got accused by a parent the next day of “teaching students to worship the Devil,” I tend to take parent’s statements that no other information was offered with just a grain of salt. I’m sure there are idiot teachers out teaching math incorrectly, (but that has nothing to do with Common Core), there always have been, however I’m also sure that there are teachers out there that are using things like Boucher’s worksheets because they understand ‘not one size fits all’ and are trying to expose their students to different ways of doing things. Without context it’s hard to tell when and where this worksheet was used and if it was done in the correct context or an incorrect one. But any way you want to look at it, Common Core isn’t to blame. So just because a worksheet doesn’t seem to make much sense remember there are probably more worksheets that explain things, and there was probably a lesson to go with it.
I would also point out that some of these new math worksheets have made me going “Oh, thank God, I thought I was the only one who did it in their head that way!” While a few other of these ways that I have seen on videos get explained so fast you’re not sure if you’re watching an Abbott and Costello routine…but when I’ve listened to them I find myself thinking, “That’s genius!”* Just because it’s new doesn’t mean it’s bad. The proof will be if it actually helps students. Yeah, there are some dumb methods out there too, and quite a few of these worksheets I can’t figure out what they’re getting at. But NONE OF THIS IS REQUIRED BY COMMON CORE and some of it may be simply be a lack of context.

Then of course there are all the complaints about the fact that textbooks have been changed to meet Common Core and thus they now have terrible information. But if you actually read the standards or the very limited material that has actually been put out by the people who actually wrote the standards, the incorrect stuff doesn’t appear anywhere in the real standards. I suspect that it’s more likely the anti-common core bunch found a few idiotic textbooks and are claiming that it is representative of all of common core because Common Core has made them so terrible. Also fun fact. All those common core textbooks you hate? Did you know that a study was done comparing those new textbooks to the old pre-Common Core textbooks. Guess what, the textbook publishers just took the old textbooks and slapped Common Core stickers on it. They’re the same—same text, same problems, same answers, same process. Why didn’t you complain about them before since there was no difference? Oh that’s right, you don’t really care about education, you were just told to hate this by some pundit and dutifully and blindly followed.

Then of course there is the problem that a lot of things that are actually part of Obama’s idiotic Race to the Top program are being called Common Core. People will say “Well this teacher, or that union, or such and such school board said that this terrible plan was part of Common Core.” So? What do I care what idiots say. Morons say that the Constitution says that guns aren’t an individual right…but amazingly I don’t listen to morons I actually go and read the Constitution and see that no, the 2nd Amendment clearly states it as a “right of the people.” With Common Core I don’t care what the morons say is Common Core, I have a brain and can actually go and read the Common Core Standards and see, nope that idiocy isn’t there. And if I were talking to those teachers/unions/schools I would chide them for their complete and utter inability to read and point out that this is why we need the standards so we can see who doesn’t meet the standards as teachers…and then fire them. If you play their game here that all these things that have nothing to do with Common Core are Common Core just because idiots believe it’s Common Core, then you have to agree that Obamacare is Constitutional because 5 corrupts pieces of scum in black robes said it was when it isn’t, or that when Obama says he supports capitalism you have to agree to that because most of the country was dumb enough to buy it. You can play that game. I’ll be over here in reality where word have meaning and facts are things you should go by.

I could go on about how I am really bothered by the liberal/populist/socialist argument that because big business was involved thus it must be evil permeates every anti-Common Core debate…or how parents never seem to be complaining that schools (or parents) aren’t teaching  children how to learn from failure or how to pick themselves up, only that “Common Core made my halfwit child cry!” (Okay maybe I added the halfwit part, but it’s accurate.) I could go on on all of these things, but they all come back to there has yet to be a single valid critique of the actual Common Core standards.

And this all culminates in the problem that I’m now having trouble taking just about any problem aside from the ones I already know about seriously (the economy and foreign policy) because I just can’t trust that anyone is doing even the slightest amount of research.

*If anyone wants me to I’ll go over the video I’m thinking about and showing how the math process they show as being terrible is actually quite ingenious…however this blog was getting long as it is.

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Filed under Common Core, Education, People Are Stupid, Problems with the GOP

Real Change in Education: Part I

 

There is a lot of brouhaha over Common Core right now. Education Personally I am tired of idiots blaming every stupid Obama Administration policy, every idiotic Dept. of Education directive, every factually incorrect statement made by a book publisher, and every dumbass move by an individual state on the Common Core.  The Common Core is minimum standards dealing with math, reading and writing and a nation wide test that comes with those standards.  Is it as high as we really need?  No, but it is higher than what most states used to have. …but guess what, any state that adopts Common Core can put in standards that exceed it.  Also the Common Core standards were a state pushed initiative, not a federal one, so stop saying this is overreach by the federal government—it isn’t.

We are conservatives, we’re supposed to be the informed and educated people…but if we keep stupidly blaming things that have nothing to do with the Common Core on the Common Core then we appear uninformed.

This link above goes to the actual Common Core standard.  Read them before you attack them. 

We don’t blame science because liberals shout their BS religion of global warming.

We don’t blame the Constitution for the fact that liberals violate our rights in the name of the Constitution.

Common Core State Standards.jpg

Common Core Standards are good..the problem is that any idiot publisher can put the words “Common Core aligned”

Then why should we blame the Common Core standards, read them there is nothing wrong in them because some idiot liberal states are doing a lot of things that aren’t in the Common Core (but using its name).

The standards are fine.  Read them and tell me if you find anything objectionable…it’s certain that liberal states and the way they’re implementing them/adding to them that is the problem.

If we don’t attack the right thing, if we don’t understand who the enemy is, then we won’t win.

But since some people need to attack something in education let me suggest 9 other things we could focus on that would actually lead to better schools.

 

1.Get Rid of Useless Professional Development

Tied to a lot of complaints about Common Core is the whining about it will cause teachers to teach to the test.  This (A) assume that one on can only teach the standards and nothing else and (B) that teachers can only teach in one way.  In reality there is a simple truth—Bad teachers will only ever teach to the test, good teachers will always teach what is on the test and go beyond. The reason you have standards is that you’re trying to limit the damage done by bad teachers.  I know everyone likes to point out all the terrible points of No Child Left Behind (and there are many) but the fact is that putting in testing put in a lower bar that even bad teachers had to meet.  This was a great thing because you at least had a standard, any standard, in some parts of the country finally and not just bad teachers skating students without any concern for whether or not they learn anything.  And teaching to the test is teaching the minimum standards which is what we want if the standards are high enough.  Tests are supposed to reflect the items learned – duh!

If you actually want teachers to not teach to the test then get better teachers, don’t get rid of the test.

And how do you get better teachers?  Well the first thing you need to do is get rid of the things that drive good teachers out.

One of those things is professional development.  What is professional development, you ask?  Standards vary from state to state, but professional development is a requirement that to keep your teaching credential you have to take so many hours of professional development or courses so that you can continue to improve as a teacher.  It sounds like a good idea, that teachers should continue to refine their craft.  But while it sounds really nice, it isn’t.  What it turns into is taking state approved courses on teaching strategies that no competent teacher would ever use or lectures on information that has no discernable use in education.

For instance I had to take a two week professional development course last year on “Structured English Immersion” to keep my Arizona teaching credential.  Structured English Immersion is fancy teacher speak for “how to teach English to kids who don’t speak English.”  It cost me several hundred dollars to take this course.  I teach high school and not a single thing discussed in this waste of my time and money could ever even theoretically be used in a high school course. Professional development is supposedly there so we can learn the most up to date research on child development and teaching practices…but strangely enough the most recent study listed in the course material was published during the Bush Administration (no…I don’t mean W.). Yeah real cutting edge right there.  Not to mention the entire tone of the course was that you have to coddle children who don’t speak English and not encourage them to actually learn English, speak in English, read English and use English in every aspect of their life (you know, what actually works).

All other professional development is like this.  For instance I’m also going to have to take a few college courses between now and then (again out of pocket) to keep my credential up.  Now while I’m going to try and pick courses that relate to my field, most teachers pick college courses that relate to Education…Education courses are a lot like the above described Structured English Immersion…outdated bullshit that will never help you reach students.

And we charge teachers for this…because teachers make so much money that they can just easily drop money on things like this without any worry.

Or maybe a lot of good teachers realize they can get jobs in other fields that don’t attempt to fleece them at every turn (you don’t want to see my fees that I also have to pay to keep up my teaching credential).

But, some schools pay for their teacher’s professional development, so it’s not like every teacher is getting fleeced (they’re just losing time).  A lot of public schools have in-service days every year to ensure their teachers get their hours.  On average they’ll hold about 5 of these days a year…now let’s say your school of 700 students has 20 teachers, each teacher making $52,000 a year on average (over the course of about 190 contract days, or about $273.68 a day), so to have those teachers take out 5 days out of the year for this sort of in-service professional development costs the taxpayer $27,368.42 a year for a school of only 20 teachers (plus of course the costs of time it took to set this up, to bring in someone to do the training or have a teacher trained to do the training, and the costs that administrators will also participate in this stuff…so let’s round it up to $30,000).  $30K a year for each school in America paid with taxpayer dollars (2009/2010 – 98,817 total public schools = $2,964,510) wasted on irrelevant information that won’t help you be a better teacher.

How about this, let’s just require every teacher to get a subscription to the Journal of Higher Education and Kaplan which will actually keep them abreast of research in education and save about $29,000 a year by not having this bullshit.

The fact is this is a scam.  It’s a scam for states to make money off approving the courses, off of charging teachers over and over again, for the colleges that make money after forcing teachers to participate.  In all my years teaching I have had nearly a month of my life taken up in professional development…not one iota of it was worth a damn.  Teachers get better by teaching, by observing other teachers, by talking with their colleagues and by self-reflection.  THEY DO NOT LEARN BY SITTING IN STUPID COURSES HEARING OUTDATED MATERIAL THAT IS NOT RELEVANT TO THEM.  This is a scam for states and colleges to make money and nothing more.  It wastes taxpayer money and drives out competent people from the field who have better things to do than deal with this stupidity.*

 

2.  Fire Administration.

Administrators are something that schools tend to pile on.  Superintendents. Assistant Superintendents.  Principals.  Vice Principals. Deans. Counselors.  This list could go on for a very long time.  In fact since 1970 non-teaching staff has grown by 138% while student enrollments have grown only by about 8%.  Any test standard you want to look at for quality of education has remained about the same in that time.  So all those paper pushers seem to do nothing…but they do get paid. And if you think teachers getting paid 52K a year is high, you should see what administrator’s charge.

I think it is safe to say that 90% of school administrators and non-teaching staff are there only to fill out federal/state/local red tape.  Get rid of the red tape and get rid of most of the administrators.  They serve no real purpose.  And the few that do serve a purpose are grossly overpaid.

And more often than not they serve as a hindrance to good teachers rather than help.  The fewer administrators you have I promise you, you will see an improvement in the quality of education.

At the very least the next time your local school tries to pass a bond or tax ask them how many administrators have been axed and how many have taken major pay cuts.  If everyone doesn’t fall into one of those categories then vote anything they want down until they make serious cuts of useless people.  Do it for the children.

 

3.  Hold Back Students Who Aren’t Making the Grade

This year Arizona is making a lot of news by saying they are probably going to hold back a whole 1,500 third graders who aren’t ready to move onto 4th grade. 

Lots of people are whining about how this hurts the poor students who are already struggling…What people should be bitching about is that we’re not holding students back in grades K-2 and 4-11 as well—and in all 50 states and all U.S. territories.  If children don’t understand something they need to be held back in the grade they were having problems in until they get the needed understanding.  I don’t care about complaints of self-esteem…trust me students will feel much better about themselves if they aren’t constantly behind and constantly feeling like they’re too stupid to get it.  And holding them back a grade can help in preventing this.  Not everyone progresses at the same rate mentally and some students (a lot of them in fact) need to be held back.

And the added bonus is that teachers in higher grades will now no longer be wasting time going over concepts from previous grades because half the class should have been held back at some point or having to waste half their day on the kid who should have been held back two or three times.  This means all the students will get more out of every single course.

Coming tomorrow suggestions 4-6

 

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Ron Paul is championing home schooling…God help us all…

I think we are all very happy that Rand has not inherited his father's raving lunacy.

I think we are all very happy that Rand has not inherited his father’s raving lunacy.

I believe so strongly in the homeschooling movement that I have just announced my own curriculum for homeschooling families. Please visit this revolutionary new project at http://www.ronpaulcurriculum.com.–Ron Paul on the-free-foundation.org

Ron Paul is championing home schooling.

 

Usually I would say this is a good thing.  Homeschooling can be one of the most rewarding forms of education around (so long as the parents are involved and also willing to put in the time and effort needed).  For instance I always recommend The Well-Trained Mind: A Guide to Classical Education at Home by Susan Wise Bauer for anyone considering homeschooling… it is a reasoned, balanced, and in depth curriculum for homeschooling that stresses critical thinking and reading primary sources.

And at first glance the program Ron Paul is pushing seems to be that…what with things like:

  • It should be an academically rigorous curriculum that is tied to primary source documents — not textbooks. Textbooks are screened by committees. They dumb down the material.

  • If your child completes the entire curriculum — which runs from K through 12 — here is what he or she should be able to do, again quoting.

  • Speak in public and speak confidently

  • Write effectively

But then you see things like:

“It should provide a thorough understanding of Austrian school economics.”

And I think as a Chicago school monetarist, isn’t that just as bad as Keynesian indoctrination…maybe teach them Keynesian, Chicago, and Austrian principles and trust that reason will work…(and then I remember that if we’re trusting reason, that would lead them to the Chicago school, and those Austrians can’t have any of that).

But it gets worse….

  • It should teach the Biblical principle of self-government and personal responsibility, which is also the foundation of the free market economy.

Ummm… am I the only one that remembers the self-government things can more be traced to Athens, and Aristotle, and the Enlightenment?  Certainly many of the ethics of the Bible lead to the ethics or capitalist democratic-republics…but the Bible wasn’t enough for republican limited government—there were other parts involved.

So this leads one to take a closer look at the person actually in charge of the project that Ron Paul is championing?  Well on the page of instructors is this guy named Gary North.

And this is where it gets fun.  And by “fun,” I mean unspeakably terrifying.  I pulled this quote off of Gary North’s own web side, garynorth.com

So let us be blunt about it: we must use the doctrine of religious liberty to gain independence for Christian schools until we trak up a generation of people who know that there is no religious neutrality, no neutral law, no neutral education, and no neutral civil government. Then they will get busy in constructing a Bible-based social, political, and religious order which finally denies the religious liberty of the enemies of God. Murder, abortion, and pornography will be illegal. God’s law will be enforced. It will take time. A minority religion cannot do this. Theocracy must flow from the hearts of a majority of citizens, just as compulsory education came only after most people had their children in schools of some sort. But religious anarchy, like  “democratic freedom” in ancient Greece, is a temporary phenomenon; it lasts only as long as no single group gets sufficient power and accepted authority to abandon the principle.

I’m going to give you a few seconds to re-read that.  Several times.  Because I’m sure you’re thinking he can’t actually be advocating a complete theocracy that will destroy all opposing religions.  But yes, yes he is. This guy wants a Christian Caliphate to wipe out all the non-Christians.  This guy makes Sarah Palin and Rick Santorum’s rhetoric look stable (I’m not sure if Ricky is stable, I suspect he may be in favor of this, but at least he has the good sense not to say it aloud).  Gary North is the psycho-Christian that the entire left thinks all Republicans are.  This is the Taliban of Christianity.

And this is the guy Ron Paul wants to create a home schooling system for the next generation.

Take a moment to think about this.  If the Paulbots had had their way, Gary North might have been Secretary of Education.  Even though Ron Paul never stood a serious chance, that he even came as close as he did, that should scare the shit out of you.

Now what is more frightening is when you consider how many Paulbots there are who follow the word of their master blindly (I mean they overlooked the racism and the anti-Semitism).  We have enough issues in this nation trying to fight the left without also having to fight blindly following groups of libertarian-theocrats (yes I know, those terms should be opposed to each other just on the face of it, but let’s be honest here, in real life, people are a mass of contradiction).  Think of it Paulbots, but now they’re also motivated by religious fervor—if this gets any traction, it is possible it could be more insane than Westboro.

I’m not saying everything this man is going to put out is wrong, nor should homeschooling not be considered if you have the time and resources…but I don’t think anyone should blindly follow whatever program Ron Paul and Gary North put out.

Ron Paul is brining his insanity to education

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Filed under Anti-Semitism, Education, God, Long Term Thinking, Teaching

In Defense of the Common Core Standards for Education

There is a move on the right to hate the upcoming common core standards.  And it’s not without justification.  No Child Left Behind partly due to the additions liberal Ted Kennedy made to the bill, and partly due to ineptitude on implementation by the Bush administration left a foul taste in a lot of people’s mouths over any federal reach into the education field.  Also there is understandable mistrust with the Obama administration trying to take the lead in the common core.  And there is the fact that the standards aren’t high enough.

That being said, the Common Core,  which are being adopted by the majority of the states in the union are a step in the right direction.

Why?

Well let’s deal with them in terms of their more common complaints.

Inaccuracy 1: The first is that this is a move by the federal government.

That is not entirely true.  The Common Core was originally endorsed by the National Governors Association.  It was originally a move by states in coordination with one other, without a great deal of help by the federal government.  The NGA may have announced the implementation of the Common Core in 2009  but most of its development occurred in 2008 before Obama was even elected.

Now the Obama administration has made adoption of the Common Core a requirement for certain grants.  And I’m sure that Obama would love to rewrite them in his own image. But that does not change the fact that these standards were not a move by the federal government, but rather by the states working together (i.e. that federalism we conservatives love so much) and if the states continue to drive this and not let the federal government dictate their wording this federal overreach will be halted.

Inaccuracy 2: That it will cut literature out of the curriculum, changing it all to non- fiction technical documents.

This probably is the most egregious claim.   The claim goes “A new school curriculum which will affect 46 out of 50 states will make it compulsory for at least 70 percent of books studied to be non-fiction, in an effort to ready pupils for the workplace.”

Now very technically this is true.  However what you’re probably thinking it means is that 70% of the things read in an English course are to be non-fiction.  This is not correct.  The Common Core calls for 70% of all of student’s reading in a year to be non-fiction.  Ignoring electives courses, every student should probably be taking an English, a Social Studies, a Math and a Science course in a year.  That means that the English course only takes up 25% of year…so actually the assumption here is that somewhere in the Math, Science, and Social Studies courses is where you would find that extra 5% of literature (probably mostly in Social Studies where literature helps illustrate a time period).  That’s not even mentioning good English courses do include at least some non-fiction reading.

Or in the dense wording on the Common Core Website:

The percentages on the table reflect the sum of student reading, not just reading in ELA settings. Teachers of senior English classes, for example, are not required to devote 70 percent of reading to informational texts. Rather, 70 percent of student reading across the grade should be informational.  

Further this claim goes that the Common Core calls for the elimination of classic works of literature.  Again wrong on two points.  The first is that all of the articles I’ve seen include that classic titles like Catcher in the Rye and To Kill A Mockingbird will be eliminated from the curriculumOn page 107 of the suggested literature title list you see, low and behold To Kill A Mockingbird (also keep in mind it says suggested, not required titles, the reading list makes it quite clear it is only a suggested to list to give an idea of where the quality of each year’s reading should be). Also I have issues with calling Catcher, a story of a self important whiny teenager bitching about how terrible life is, a classic.

 common core

Also take a look at some of the information texts suggested by the Common Core.

My god, what a collection of liberal tripe!  Common Sense! The Declaration and the Bill of Rights!  How dare we suggest students should read those!

Go and actually look at the reading list.  There are speeches by Reagan, plays by Shakespeare, novels by Hawthorne and Bronte, poetry by Whitman and Eliot.  It’s183 pages of suggestions!  It’s not exactly a limited list.  And by no means does the Common Core not suggest you should go off list.  Teachers are encouraged to, just so long it is on par or superior to the suggestions.

Keep in mind there are teachers out there who think Lovely Bones and Twilight are acceptable reading for high school courses! They’re not. This at least puts in writing a nation wide bare minimum.

Inaccuracy 3: This will only encourage teaching to the test.

Inaccuracy 4: The standards are not high enough.  

These two are tied together.  There has been for years the idiotic statement that teaching to the test hurts education.  Bullshit.  Good teachers teach.  And if you’re teaching appropriately then high quality education, in any subject area, will teach a student how to pass a test—especially low end tests like the ones that all states give.  If you teach them to read, to think, and to know the subject matter they’ll pass the test.  It’s people who only teach to the test that have their students fail.

“But,” teachers complain, “testing takes up time in class.”  Well, to do your job, and teach you need to test to see if students are learning the material.  You need to test. The complaint is that now you’re taking up time with two tests, the test for the state and the test for your class.  Trust me, there is overlap between those two, a good teacher uses the state testing to see how their students are doing in their own class and not retesting them on the same material.  But you know that would require actually looking at the test, and test results and actually doing your job of taking the time to see how best to teach your students.  And, sadly, so many teachers nowadays aren’t really there for teaching, they’re there for a job that pays them for 12 months but only requires that they work 8 and a half.  A good teacher teaches above the test, and their students pass.  A bad teacher complains about teaching to the test because that’s a bar they usually don’t try to reach, and their students don’t do as well.*

The other complaint is that the standards are not high enough.  This is partly correct.  However it ignores that standards in this sense are supposed to be a bare minimum bar—a point that should be met by even the worst teacher.  States can have standards above the common core, and teachers should go beyond that.  These standards are there to correct for the fact that a high school diploma is only worth what the bare minimum that it takes to get it.  And yes these standards are low.  But guess what a lot of the previous state standards were EVEN LOWER.  I live in Arizona where the previous state standard for High School English is more or less the standards for Middle School English under the Common Core.  There are numerous examples in other places.  This does nothing but raise the low end of the bar.  Good teachers must still go above that bar; anyone who just remains at that bar is a terrible teacher.

Would I like to see the Common Core standards be higher?  Yes.  Would I like to see less federal and more state input?  Yes. Would I like a lot of things that the Common Core doesn’t do?  Of course.  But it raises the minimum bar from where it currently stands and if states hold the line (as many seem to be doing in a lot of other aspects) and don’t allow the federal government to take over then this is a step in the right direction.  It doesn’t solve all the problems we face, but it does solve a couple of them.

What everyone needs to remember is that standards and testing exist in this field because there are bad teachers.  If teachers wanted to mercilessly purge their own ranks of inept teachers, if they wanted to act like professionals and not rely on unions to protect the incompetent, if they wanted to work in such a way as to be worth more than 40K a year, then maybe we wouldn’t need to bicker about standards and testing.  But teachers do not police their own.  They protect and defend the worst. They make the issues about money and benefits rather than address their failings.

*This in no way negates the importance of the student in this.  Responsible students who care about their education will pass even with the worst teachers.  However, strangely most students are children, it’s odd how that works, and it is the requirement of good teachers to drag immature people across the finish line.  That does not negate the responsibility of the students to choose to succeed.  And of course there is parental responsibility in all this as well.

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The Sad Life of Julia Part II: The teen years

Now Obama ignores Julia’s age from 4-16…probably because those are years that Julia will have to suffer under incompetent teachers who will teach her nothing due to Obama’s staunch opposition to school choice, vouchers, and charters and his complete subservience to treasonous teacher’s unions (yes I said treasonous…I’m a teacher, I’ve seen the effects of their constant protection of low standards and corruption among teachers and the education system in general…and they are actively working to ruin this nation…it’s either treason or stupidity of such a level it is effectively the same thing).

But let’s get back to the slides

 

Yeah, she may take classes she needs to take, but as her union Elementary school teachers never bothered to teacher her grammar or arithmetic, her union Middle school teachers never bothered to teach her algebra, the scientific method, basic logic or how write an essay, and her union High School teachers are just as stupid, the course may have the right name on it, but she still isn’t learning anything.

Also as Obama has continued to crack down on school choice, her parents could get her into a better school than the one she is in but she is not allowed to transfer there.  Which is a little odd as even very liberal Juan Williams acknowledges that school choice is the “civil rights issue or our time.”  Good thing President Romney will be for it so there is a chance that our Julia may get educated. 

Oh, by the way, since those “tax cuts for the rich” which are actually reforms of the tax code which would actually have the rich paying more (through the reduction of loopholes combined with a lowering of rates) never went through, the economy of America shrank even more.  Which means a lower tax base to provide for public education, which translates to having more kids in every class as no one can afford 20:1 ratios anymore which further ruins Julia’s education.  And Obama’s lack of action on border control continues to let billions of tax payer dollars be wasted on educating the children of criminal migrants (I’m told the term illegal alien is now racist).

(Also does anyone find it ironic that Obama is constantly bitching about tax cuts for the rich when he himself extended the Bush tax cuts and chose not to push for the tax increases from his own debt commission…not to mention his favorite new rule, the Buffett Rule comes from a man whose company avoids taxes and lets its upper management make bizarre anti-Semitic statements).

 

Now Julia is off to college and oooh a $10,000 credit…for 4 years…that’s $2,500 a year (yeah, it’s not 10 grand every year it’s total!)…that might cover books and a bit of room and board…won’t cover room and board in whole, won’t cover tuition.  I have to ask, if Head Start was such a winner program back in the early years and her school was part of “Race to the Top” as stated why isn’t she earning any merit scholarships?  Could it be that those programs don’t actually achieve any tangible results and haven’t helped Julia be anything but a waste of space and volume who needs government assistance to know a whole in the from?…well… I mean I’m a high school teacher who has dealt with a lot of seniors, trust me for a college bound woman who makes high grades there is money available.  Colleges offer scholarship money for a myriad of things (merit, athletics, need) and there are also private sources of scholarship…but in Obama’s world (who apparently has been in office for at least 15 years? Clearly the result of some kind of coup) there is only the government there to help you.  And of course there is the time honored tradition of community college, saving, and paying your own way.  No one can get into or pay for college on their own, they must have Obama.   What would we be without Obama?  How did we survive before he graced us with his presence?
But rather than talk about tax credits or the lack there of, or interest rates on those loans…let’s talk about why college costs so much….hmmm let’s see college costs have grown faster than inflation for over 20 years…hmm maybe it’s the increasing government loans (read subsidies) to students.  Well the general rule is that when you subsidize something the price goes up, and so it was with colleges.  The government says it will give loans and colleges increased their tuitions by almost the same amount of the government increase.  This in turn has not only increased college cost far above their benefits, but it has created a culture of pointless research and focused on “publish or die” rather than actual teaching being the focus of college…but why would you care about such things when you can give tax credits for over priced education that will only drive the cost of college up even more and probably decrease the quality of said education.

Oh, and let’s not forget that the majority of students need to take remedial English and math in college and probably more than that just to be capable of participating in college (that is where our current education system is)– and Julia has demonstrated that she is part of the majority and not the exception.  Maybe that has something to do with those union teachers putting how Julia feels about herself being a priority over actually being good at something.  And let’s not forget that the spate of anti-bullying laws will probably not do anything to take down the rate of bullying, but will certainly teach children to never stand up for themselves and always seek the protection of government.  Thanks Obama.

Government and unions have made education low quality and overpriced…Obama certainly didn’t cause this, but he is certainly doing everything in his power to make the quality of education worse and costs higher.

How else is Obama ruining Julia’s adolescence?  Well his economy destroying policies are certainly making it all but impossible for Julia to get a job.  (Now the best way to help Julia would be to end minimum wage laws…but I don’t see even Romney able to get that passed, so next best option would be to never raise them, which I think Romney will probably do…oh to all of you Paulbots who are about to complain that he tied Massachusetts minimum wage to inflation, please remember that the Massachusetts legislature wanted to raise it even more and the inflation thing was the most he could get to hold them back).  Of course Obama’s stimulus policies matched with Bernanke’s insanity over at the Fed will continue inflation to the point where the economy will hurt even more.  So not only will college cost a fortune but she won’t have jobs or experience to get a job to help pay for it.  Sucks to be Julia in her adolescent years.

Of course all of this is a bit silly to discuss because after 15 years of Obama’s policies (at a rate of 5 trillion in debt for every 3 years in office) we’ll be another $25 trillion in Debt (assuming China keep bankrolling us) which may very likely induce Weimar Republic level inflation.

So tomorrow we will deal with Julia’s college years…all 7 of them…no nowhere does it say why it takes Julia so long to finish college only later to become a web page designer (a field that historically requires no college education).

In the mean time I would like to introduce you to Dawn, the anti-Julia.  You remember when Obama said that Republicans are heartless and stupid for telling people to pull themselves up by their bootstraps “when they don’t have bootstraps”…well Dawn proves that when you don’t have bootstraps you make your own and then you pull yourself up by them…and if you do that then others (not government) will help you in your quest because people, especially Americans under capitalism, are the most charitable people in the world.

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