Monday, January 19, 2015

The Student SUCCESS Act or NCLB Lite?



Just recently, I was asked to critique the Student Success Act. The SSA is on track to become the re-authorization of the NCLB - President George W. Bush's re-authorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA) installed by LBJ in 1964.  If you'll recall, the Obama Administration has been loathe to re-authorize NCLB as they have found it much easier and more effective to supplant state control of education by creating federal interventions into local public education by means of enticements (Race to the Top, etc.).

Unfortunately, while I believe there are a few good things about the SSA, the upshot is that the federal government apparently still doesn't understand it's Constitutional role. The entire bill is political in nature and wholly unnecessary. The Constitutionally proper thing to do is to repeal NCLB entirely, thereby putting the confederation of states we call the United States, back in charge of educating their own children in the manner their taxpaying citizens see fit. Obviously, the federal government has no Constitutional authority here and the interventions in public education at that level cannot possibly be better than anything a state would choose for its' children, as the state is closer to the voter/taxpayer/parent than any bureaucrat in a chair in Washington, D.C. Any federal level intervention in public K-12 education can do nothing but remove the ability of parents to fully direct their child's education according to their own desires and what is best for each individual child.

I reviewed the floor summary of the bill and as such, will arrange my comments according to the layout of that document.

Returning Responsibility for Student Achievement to States, School Districts, and Parents, While Maintaining High Expectations

  • Academic Standards: By dictating FROM the federal government that states MUST use standards, this bill opens the door to Common Core (1). As we have found under RTT, states will most often use the PATH OF LEAST RESISTANCE and choose a set of standards being pushed by either private vendors or the feds. Either way homogeneity in standards is the likely outcome. * I am most often offended by this bill's often use of the phrase, "States are ALLOWED". WRONG. States have ALL the power. Period. Reading the Constitution comes in handy here.
  • Academic Assessments: By dictating FROM the federal government that states MUST test students over their standards - even going so far as to dictate the grades in which students should be tested - you have changed NOTHING under the current NCLB law. In fact, the last sentence of the paragraph dictates that 95% of students must be tested. Again, no different than NCLB. This one prevision in NCLB PREVENTED PARENTS (2) from opting their children out of state testing if they so desired. Schools made the argument that it was a federal mandate to test their student, therefore, opting out was not an available option - TO PARENTS - the people who have ALL CONTROL over their children in every legal sense of the word. How is this NOT egregious? ("states retain the OPTION", "states...are ALLOWED")
  • Accountability: Removing AYP is a GOOD THING. However, the bill still dictates a system be used by which to grade school performance. This is the A-F metric used here in Oklahoma. As we have shown previously, the metrics in ANY school grading effort are ill-defined at best and excessively punitive at worst. If students take a national proficiency test like IOWA (4), parents will know how well THEIR child is doing in relationship to other students of the same age. Parents don't need to know how well their school is doing, just how well their individual CHILD is doing. The grading system can't help but open the door to cheating as surely as did the AYP score. A composite or average score of IOWA test scores could be used for each grade for parents wishing to identify schools with high performing students - which is the issue.
  • School Improvement: Though SIG grants are eliminated (a GOOD THING) and the legislation mandating school improvement mechanisms is repealed (a GOOD THING), the bill still dictates states use a system of school improvement interventions for poorly performing schools. This is ridiculous to continue at any federal level for two reasons: School turnaround efforts have been shown NOT TO WORK (5) and open enrollment and school choice would likely eliminate the issue of poorly performing schools altogether. In addition, set-asides were a hotly contested item in Oklahoma's Common Core repeal by administrators who often use this money for uses other than that outlined for the set-aside, schools become dependent upon the money and then use it as an excuse for why laws (in this case the NCLB waiver) must be kept.
  • Parent Information:  Parent information should not be dictated at the federal level. This is a BAD THING. This entire paragraph supports the State Longitudinal Database System (SLDS) which is pulling TONS of personal, private data from individual students through individual district schools through the state to the federal government (6).  ALL personal, private student data  (7) should be kept at the STATE level only. The DOE has access to NAEP (8) scores and that's all they should have under the guise of 'protecting' students and 'informing parents'.
  • State Laws On Parent Authority: reiterating that federal law cannot impact state laws dictating parental rights is a GOOD THING.
  • Funding Flexibility:  Again, the feds ALLOW states? At any rate, it appears that there will be block funding for "special population" programming.  While block granting is a good thing (though not better than not taking the money from taxpayers in the first place!) 'special population' programming is a BAD THING. Again, this supports the SLDS and collects information on groups the federal government gets through the Census and only serves to collect MORE data on students (9) at the personal level without providing states anything they shouldn't already know more about and be more prepared to deal with.
  • Schoolwide Programs:  This eliminates the 40% poverty threshold...anytime the federal government DIVESTS itself of public control it is a GOOD THING.
Eliminating Ineffective Federal Programs and Investing Limited Taxpayer Dollars Wisely
  • Authorization Levels:  Unless I know specific numbers, all this section says is that the feds won't give the states back some of the money it takes from taxpayers to apply to the education of their children. Baloney - leave the money in the pocket of the taxpayer so they can decide which SCHOOL/DISTRICT/STATE can provide the best education for their child. Leaving money with the taxpayer provides SCHOOL CHOICE.
  • Eliminated Program:  GOOD THING.
  • State and Local Innovation:  Creates a NEW Local Academic Flexible Grant. BAD THING. This GROWS GOVERNMENT. Again, leave thee money in the hands of the taxpayer - don't take it from him and give it back with strings attached. After school activities are for PRIVATE and COMMUNITY organizations - including churches - to take on. *In addition, the grants will can be used for "efforts to protect student safety". BAD THING.  Protecting student safety is a program called Safe and Drug Free Schools. Among other issues, it comes complete with a database that tracks bullying - including LGBT (10). The Safe and Drug Free Schools initiative is responsible for collecting data at the federal level from LOCAL districts. Oklahoma has hundreds of fields in our SLDS devoted to Safe and Drug Free Schools data. Many of these fields are subjective and include BEHAVIORS which then go onto a student's permanent record, harming their ability to be a success in the future when electronic transcripts are easily shared among schools and, thanks to the holes in FERPA (11), with anyone who can be identified as school-associated, including volunteers.
  • Private Sector Initiatives: Dictates that states must reserve 10% grant monies to use in private sector, but again, leave money with the taxpayer.
  • State and Local Spending Decisions:  This looks as though it amounts to a block grant in essence. This is a GOOD THING, but not as good as leaving the money with the taxpayer. The section the goes on to say that to 'protect the traditional federal role in education' federal money 'supplements' state money. First of all THERE IS NO TRADITIONAL FEDERAL ROLE IN EDUCATION. Secondly, state money has always come first - except in Title 1 - so that part makes little sense.
  • Department Bureaucracy: GOOD THING because it reduces employee positions associated with eliminated or consolidated programs.
  • Program Evaluations:  BAD THING.  Directs Secretary of Ed to work with Institute or Education Sciences (IES) to perform evaluations on federal education initiatives. This portion of the bill absolutely ENSURES the further collection of student level data (12) in the name of 'accountability'. The only data collected at the federal level - until we rid ourselves of the DOE altogether - should be the NAEP.
  • Earmarks:  Stops earmarks to comply with House earmark ban. GOOD THING.
Strengthening Programs for Schools and Targeted Populations
  • Education of Migratory Children
  • Prevention and Intervention Programs for Children and Youth who are Neglected Delinquent, or At-Risk
  • English Language Acquisition, Language Enhancement and Academic Achievement
  • Rural Education
  • Indian Education
  • BAD THING.  NONE of these categories should be addressed at the federal level. Look at the wording used, "TARGETED". The federal government should not be targeting any "population" or "category" for any kind of data collection. Separating people into groups and then providing separate funding streams to facilitate the collection of data is completely wrong. The Prevention and Intervention Programs for Children and Youth...is the worst because of the individual, personal student data collected - information about guns, weapons and very subjective categories of behavior (see citation #9) - do not belong on a personal, electronic, shareable, record at the federal level when all information is best left to states to collect IF NECESSARY. In 2010, Congressman John Kline sent a letter to Arne Duncan (13) accusing him of creating a De Facto national database (establishment of which is against federal law). If Chairman Kline felt that way in 2010, this continued data collection should have stopped at that point and definitely should not be continued at the federal level. In fact, there is a Federal Law that prohibits the collection of data (14) that could be considered a national database.
Supporting Local Efforts to Measure Teacher Effectiveness
  • Highly Qualified Teachers: GOOD THING. Repeals federal requirements for teacher certification.
  • Teacher Evaluations:  BAD THING. Teacher evaluations KEEP COMMON CORE ENTRENCHED (15) because the data collection models often point back to specific ways of teaching CC. Also, these systems include the collection of behavioral data on students which compromises student privacy (16). This kind of data is also subjective and can be used by school administrators as an excuse to fire teachers for ideology. There is no reason for the federal government to prescribe this action for states. Principles are hired by local school boards. These individuals are trained/certified to conduct evaluations on teachers in order to make employment decisions. This kind of law REMOVES LOCAL CONTROL by circumventing the school board process made up of local parents and community members.
  • Uses of Funds:  Frees up existing  funds to be spent on whatever system the state imposed for teacher evaluations. Evaluation same as above - money needs to go back to the state and let local school boards make decisions on teacher employment.
  • Teacher and School Leader Innovation:  Consolidates remaining teacher quality programs into a new grant - Teacher and School Leader Flexible Grant. BAD THING. As with the previous grant program creation evaluated (Local Academic Flexible Grant), this grant will also GROW GOVERNMENT and cut out local control. States will apply, feds will say what to do with the money and parents will get caught in the middle. As Lindsey Burke of Heritage Foundation writes in "The Dead Hand of Federal Education Reform" (17),
    • Completing grant applications, monitoring the federal program notices and complying with reporting requirements siphons away huge amounts of educators' time and money - resources THAT WOULD BE MUCH BETTER DEVOTED TO THE CLASSROOM.
  • Teacher and School Leader Academies:  The U.S. already has enough issues with teacher preparation not being rigorous enough (18) while charging students a pretty penny for tuition. All that is really needed is a long-term (one school year?) on-the-job-training (student teacher) assignment. No money is required for this kind of preparation.
  • Teacher Liability:  Anything included under this category would be unnecessary as this is a state matter provided for by individual state law.
Engaging Parents in their Child's Education
  • Charter Schools
  • Direct Student Services
  • Magnet Schools
  • Family Engagement Centers
  • BAD THING. None of the above are needed as what parents demand/expect of/for their children's education is SOLELY A LOCAL MATTER. Again the federal government  is going to dictate to states that they set aside money for competitive grants which are better off left to private organizations or churches in the community. (19) Again, the federal government should not be taking taxpayer money and then doling it back out to them through another state tax-supported government office. *The Family Engagement Centers are particularly noxious as these are the kinds of places where excessive data collection is occurring (20). The school is not and should not be the center of the family (21) - the FAMILY (or the church) - is the center of the family. 
Supporting Impact Aid
  • Payments for Federal Property
  • Payments for Federally-Connected Children
  • Timely Payments
  • The only one here I have an issue with (though, again, Constitutionally, all the money collected for education at the federal level should be returned to the state and ultimately taxpayers in order that they may be better able to educate their children) is the Payments for Federally Connected Children. Again, the reason is personal data collection on children. My goodness, just read the verbiage used in this paragraph..."count children", "counting children".
Maintaining and Strengthening Long-Standing Protections for State and Local Autonomy
  • Secretary's Authority. It would have been best to scrap ALL of the current NCLB law and simply enact this section as law.  GOOD THING.
  • Private School Students: BAD THING. The Blaine Amendment (22) is the exact reason why the federal government should have absolutely NO SAY in PRIVATE EDUCATION ever. This is a local/parent/state matter. The Blaine Amendment has caused considerable issues with school choice - federal intervention in state matters often causes similar ills - therefore this section should be left out completely and all references to private education repealed.
  • Military Recruiters: Germane?
Providing Services for Homeless Students
  • Improved Collaborations
  • School Stability
  • This portion of the bill refers to the McKinney-Vento Homeless Assistance Act. BAD THING. This section should be removed. Data collection on the homeless is provided by the Census. Allowing the federal government to collect data on homeless children, is again, providing the federal government with more data than they need on individual children and states. This is a STATE/LOCAL issue best addressed through local private charities and churches and state-run facilities. See citation #9 for all the information on M-V data collection. For the money states get for this particular grant, schools must take time and resources away from classroom activities in order to collect the data required. Associations with organizations at the local level are in the best position to help with the least amount of red-tape, providing better services, faster.

CITATIONS

(1)  Is Common Core Meant To Blow Up The American Educational System? 
(2)  FairTest.org - How NCLB Relates To Opting Out Of Tests: 
(3)  Oklahoma's A-F Grading System Gets An "F"
(4)  Seton Testing services including IOWA tests: http://www.setontesting.com/iowa-tests/
(6)  An Analysis Of Recent Education Reforms and The Resulting Impact On Student Privacy:
(7)  Does Our State Superintendent Truly Care About Student Privacy? 
(8)  National Assessment of Educational Progress:  https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/National_Assessment_of_Educational_Progress
(10)  Office of Safe and Drug Free Schools database in EdFacts:  http://www2.ed.gov/about/inits/ed/edfacts/edfacts-overview.pdf
(11)  Federal Register; FERPA
(12)  Surveys and Programs Listed under National Center for Educational Statistics;
(13) Letter from Congressman John Kline to Arne Duncan
(15)  Seven Reasons Why Common Core Repeal in Oklahoma Isn't. 
(16)  I'm Outraged and You Should Be Too - Private Student Data On Google Docs For All To See
(17)  The Dead Hand of Federal Education Reform: 
(18)  Training Our Future Teachers:  http://www.nctq.org/dmsView/EasyAs
(19)  Whiz Kids: http://www.whiz-kids.org/
(21)  A Review of the Partnership for 21st Century Skills White Papers

Sunday, January 11, 2015

Common Core Conservative Re-Tread? Smart Oklahomans Won't Buy It!


WOW! Welcome to the New Year in Oklahoma, where we find the liberal Oklahoma news media ringing in their year with a tired and somewhat expected re-tread of 'Common Core as pillar of Conservative doctrine' by reproducing a blog from a former Mitt Romney spokesman, "Common Core popular in many quarters" by the Daily Oklahoman!

Goodness! Does this article coincide with the Governor Fallin-appointed Steering Committee's commencement into the re-write of Oklahoma's educational standards, ostensibly away from Common Core? Well, interestingly, yes, yes it does. Has the calendar changed over to a new year, signifying that Oklahomans will now forget the happenings of last year - including the REPEAL of Common Core - as easily as they have forgotten the color socks they wore last Tuesday?

Sadly, I imagine this thought to be the reason the Common Core indoctrination/re-education machine has begun to spin again. 

Here, former "conservative" presidential candidate Mitt Romney's former spokesman, Shawn McCoy, articulates a theme only summarized by the statement, "Conservative friends, if  “fellow Conservatives" like Jeb Bush, Mitt Romney and John Kasich LOVE Common Core, then YOU should too!" 

Yes, McCoy isn't shy in his assertions; he comes right out and says he knows for a fact Common Core is loved by all "Conservatives" because it has NOT been an election issue. McCoy tells us, "…election results nationwide have proven Common Core's popularity". To back this theory up, we’re told that 'fellow' "Conservative", John Kasich, supports Common Core and he won his state's gubernatorial election by a landslide. He "even received 26 percent of the black vote". WHAT?

This statement makes my eyeballs bleed. At what point do you consider an essentially unchallenged election as a scored point for Common Core? Please note the very first line in this article from Human Events,
Ohio Gov. John Kasich trounced a disastrous Democrat for his November re-election win, but in 23 of 88 counties Kasich received fewer votes than he got in 2010.
Later in the article, we’re given even more information about this less-than-stellar win for Governor Kasich
An Oct. 1 Quinnipiac University poll found 25 percent of likely Democratic voters planned to pick Kasich over FitzGerald. Election results suggest Kasich won tens of thousands of Democrats who would have supported a credible Democrat challenger. Every down-ticket Democrat running for a statewide executive office received more votes than FitzGerald in almost every county.
So, honestly, the Democratic challenger was SO bad that “Fox News exit polling indicated 26 percent of self-identified liberals and 25 percent of Democrats voted for Kasich” and we’re to believe that Kasich won reelection not only because Common Core didn’t matter, but because it’s popular with “Conservatives”, leading to the unspoken thesis that all “Conservatives” support Common Core?

Man, I haven’t had a ton of logic in my studies, but I can assure you THIS notion amounts to a zero sum logic game.

While there’s no great exit polling on this race like Kasich’s, it might be instructive to look at “Conservative” Oklahoma Governor Mary Fallin’s reelection bid.

In 2010, Mary Fallin ran for Governor against Democrat Jari Askins. Fallin received 625,506 votes (60.45%) against Askins - a strong Democratic candidate who left the post of Lt. Governor for her gubernatorial run.

In 2014, Fallin received 460,298 votes (55.8%) against an outgoing state Representative, Joe Dorman (338,239/41%), whose campaign began after a late announcement.

During her first term, Governor Fallin served as the Chairman for the National Governor’s Association – one of the progenitors of the Common Core – and made all of President Obama’s NCLB education ‘reforms’ the center of her education ‘reform’ initiatives. Why, would Governor Fallin lose 26% of the vote for her second term, if Common Core didn’t matter and conservatives supported this and other education ‘reform’ efforts?

Then there’s the case of former Oklahoma State Superintendent Janet Barresi, a Jeb Bush Foundation for Excellence in Education, Chief For Change, who supported all Governor Fallin’s initiatives. She lost her bid for reelection in the primary election where she came in third out of three, below a candidate that didn’t even mount a campaign.

I ascribe most of McCoy’s faulty logic to the idea that Romney, Kasich, Jeb Bush and Fallin are conservative. In fact, back in 2013, as former “Conservative” Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee came out in the Common Core camp, I wrote a blog about conservativism and what it means to be a conservative (I refer to the unrepresentative label as “Conservative”, I refer to the actual philosophy in lower case without quotes). I went on to contend that because Common Core is antithetical to the definition of Conservativism, there is no way conservatives can support Common Core.  

I know as long as Common Core lives ANYWHERE in the nation and as long as voters are not well enough educated on the principle of conservatism to understand they’re being played, this argument will arise again and again. We simply must educate others about what it means to be conservative if we’re to prevent Oklahoma from producing a Common Core re-tread that real conservatives don’t want and the state doesn’t need.

Congratulations Joy Hofmeister...?


Tomorrow, January 12, 2015, Oklahoma's new State Superintendent of Public Instruction, Joy Hofmeister will be sworn in for duty. I'm not sure whether to Congratulate Joy or the state of Oklahoma first.

I may choose for Oklahoma to receive heartier congratulations actually, as Mrs. Hofmeister will have a doozy of a time cleaning up the OSDE after the door slams behind the last superintendent, making entrance to the job of State Super, decidedly un-super for at least the near future. In fact, Mrs. Hofmeister may need




before


yet either way, there is no denying that tomorrow can't help but bring a new day for public education in Oklahoma.

Though I could probably write a more significant statement about our outgoing state superintendent, I'll not. Instead, I'll make note of a few significant lessons learned under the tenure of Dr. Barresi because to forget history is to doom it to repetition:
  • public school reform should NOT come from ex-presidents and/or private foundations outside the state of Oklahoma and then forced onto teachers, parents and schools as though written on a tablet by God simply because there might be a federal level post in it for someone somewhere
  • micromanagement is NOT the way to achieve public school reform, as teachers tend to leave the profession in droves when assured that after a four year college degree and successful state certification they have no real clue about what to do in their classrooms, and as such, must be told what to do during every minute of every day 
  • continuing to force administrators/schools to test their students over and over using methods that not only do not work, but can't provide the data the state insisted it have in order to comply with state law, did NOTHING but create animosity among everyone from school personnel to parents
  • deciding the top position in public education meant, not only dismissing everyone with an opposing view, but name-calling and publicly flogging dissenters, creates such animosity that you come in dead last in a race where one candidate didn't even mount a campaign 
Today, as I write this missive, I have more hope than I've had in four years about the state of public education in Oklahoma. Unlike her predecessor, Mrs. Hofmeister has already made numerous attempts to reach out to ROPE (even having us appear before her transition team board), and, while we might not agree on every issue, we have been treated with dignity and respect during every encounter. This ALONE is more than we ever received under the previous OSDE regime and that ALONE raises our hopes immensely.

In that vein, we have asked Superintendent Hofmeister to consider a few items, including:
  1. Invite a presentation from Iowa Basics and/or Standford testing to present options for the next test cycle outside the Common Core sphere.
  2. Request a full audit of the OSDE and publish the results on line.
  3. Form a committee (to include parents) to review the standardized tests Oklahoma students will take to assure that PASS are being tested and there are no behavioral test questions (as per HB3399)
Again, Mrs. Hofmeister has listened and we'll be happy to assist her with our requests in any way she should ask.

In closing, this year, ROPE's legislative agenda is not centered on a single issue, but several issues relating to our main philosophy of educational freedom and parental rights. This year, we will be asking you to follow us as we
  1. Try to stop the grading of teachers via surveys and high stakes testing better known as TLE. Here is a blog from principal Rob Miller and our blog covering the issue.
  2. Upgrade school choice in Oklahoma to include ALL those who would like to participate. We believe the way to do this is through the establishment of Education Savings Accounts.
  3. Continue to fight for privacy protection for students from data collection.
I'm sure something will come up along the way - it always does - but these are our main interests for legislative calendar 2015. In addition, we will continue to watch the standards re-write process and report what we know. Our newly ELECTED superintendent needs to be involved in this process. This will be a trick as the current standards re-write committee has locked the office of Superintendent out of the meetings, so it will be necessary to watch and see how Mrs. Hofmeister's imput is added and speak out vociferously if she is not.

Don't forget to continue to follow us on Facebook and/or sign up for our email alerts on the homepage of our website www.RestoreOkPublicEducation.com. We look forward to working with Mrs. Hofmeister during the next four years, and we look forward to being able to call on you for help during this years' upcoming legislative session (between February and May). 

Sunday, January 4, 2015

I'M OUTRAGED AND YOU SHOULD BE TOO! Private Student Data On Google Docs For ALL To See!


For years now, ROPE (and others like Kaye Beach) have been warning parents that not only are public schools NOT the place to expect student privacy to be considered sacred, but that public schools are now sharing student data publicly. Just this week, I've become privy to information that absolutely PROVES this to be the case once and for all. Before I continue, I need to thank a current Oklahoma City teacher (who shall remain nameless) for this information - and also Howard Houchen and Kaye Beach - for contributing to this blog. This teacher - as other teachers in the OKC public school system - has been told that she must upload her students' information to Google Docs. She has refused. She, like fellow teacher Nikki Jones from Tulsa, has chosen to stand for children and their privacy and innocence! We thank her very much.

I will warn you, this is not going to be my typical long, researched to the nth degree blog. I simply want to post the screenshots here and give basic explanations. Frankly, I do NOT want to post this blog as, once I do, all the names of the students in the documents plastered on the web for everyone to see will have an arrow pointed in their direction. For that, I am truly sorry. I don't see any other way to break this story, however.

As many of you know, Teach For America (TFA) has been recruited to a very high degree in Oklahoma in order to make up for the 'teacher shortage'. If you take the time to research TFA, you'll find that many concerns have been raised about the program. This should be an addition to the growing pile.

This is a screenshot of the home page for the Oklahoma Teach for America Corps. It can be found at this address:  http://wechangetheodds.weebly.com/

Please note the tabs at the top. Please notice that Jefferson, Roosevelt and US Grant are not only former US presidents, but current Oklahoma City Public Schools.

For purposes of explanation, I have clicked on the "Jefferson" tab. Here is a screenshot of the partial page under that tab.
These are a portion of the TFA Corps members assigned to Jefferson.

I decided to click on Thomas Joyce - he looks quite colorful. Here is the screenshot resulting from that click.

Yes, as a Constitutional Conservative, I'm a bit miffed by the quote, however, please note that his name is in red type. Here's what I found when I clicked on his name.


Yes, that says, "Data" and "Data 2".


This is what I found when I clicked on "Data". Yes, these are spreadsheets of his students with their full names and grades.



This is what came up when I selected "Data 2". I will not show what is behind the green boxes as these often have student ID numbers as well as full names and grades. As a teacher, I was not allowed to have my students switch papers for others to grade as this was a violation of their privacy. WHAT THEN IS THIS? I AM OUTRAGED AND YOU SHOULD BE TOO!

Of course this was the same for TFA teacher after TFA teacher listed on this site for all three schools. Just so you'll know I'm not making this up, here's the tab from Roosevelt:


Going further, here is the screen shot for one of these teachers, Dalton Goodier.

Good news. He knows Tomas Paine. However, when you click on his name, you get this:


And when you click on "Data" you get this:


I'm going to leave this picture very small here, as there are student names, grades and ID numbers visible (since redacted). Not only that, but some are SPECIAL EDUCATION STUDENTS.

There was another TFA participant, Julie who even had phone numbers visible on her documentation:



Now. Do you understand? Is this where you want your child's information - on a Google Doc for ANYONE TO READ (and/or some public education watchdog publishing on her blog)? Please, please immediately find out if your child's teacher is storing your child's data on GOOGLE DOCS and tell them you want this data removed IMMEDIATELY. This is DEFINITELY in violation of our states new Parental Rights law, HB1384 or the OSCN Network Title 25. This should be lawsuit worthy.

ADDENDUM 1/5/2015: We revealed this issue at a private meeting this morning. Soon after, the Google Docs site went black. No one without the original web address will be able to find it - however, if you went to the website to verify our post, you will be able to. So will I and anyone else who did the same thing. In fact, anyone who is a Google user, could have pulled it into their Google Docs account and used it, edited it, or shared it.

Though we didn't delve into much of what is wrong with Google Docs and other 'cloud' based, shareable media in this meeting, one meeting participant added that many schools he knew of used Google Docs and the documents were all offline so no one could see them. I told him Google Docs were easily hacked. He observed that he didn't know anything about that. Unfortunately, just because school officials don't know about it, doesn't mean it doesn't happen.

Schools today are using technology at such rapid rates that training and understanding of the media is getting lost in the shuffle. Sadly, so is the privacy of our state's kids.

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Sexually Inappropriate Literature Just Got Much Harder To Use In One Oklahoma District


Several weeks ago, I penned a blog about a mother in Edmond, Oklahoma who was upset about the sexually inappropriate texts being assigned/required in her child's high school. In order to give parents an idea of the steps through which this mother went in order to bring attention to this situation and stand for and on behalf of the needs and best interest of her child, I included the letter she had written to her school board members.

The blog was read thousands and thousands of times and sparked MUCH discussion about what is and isn't appropriate for students and even what constituted the definition of a child. 

This week, I heard from the mother about the results of her meeting with the Superintendent of Edmond Schools regarding this issue. She was satisfied with the outcome. Here is her email:

Dear Jenni,
Bob and I met with Dr. Goin and Mr. Towne (Superintendent and Assistant Superintendent, respectively). Both men were very gracious and understanding.
In a nutshell, starting next year, letters will go out giving parents notification and a choice of books their child is  to read. They will notify the parent/guardian of the content of The Kite Runner and The Glass Castle and will have another book to choose with a curriculum and teacher.  The student will not go to a library or leave the room to study on their own. 
I emphasized that the books contain sexual acts with children. By federal and state law,  this is illegal to possess. It could theoretically be challenged in court. Plus, they are teaching it to minors. They listened. I also mentioned Oklahoma Statute HB 1384 and parents have the right to question curriculum because they are in charge of their child’s education and health.  They both acknowledged this bill and welcomed and encouraged parents involvement and participation. 
I ended my argument that if we allow darkness in, we should allow light. Lastly, in my opinion,  they did not follow policy #3600.  Someone really dropped the ball.  Despite varying opinion on the content, opinion is not above policy or the law
So,  I am relieved we have a better choice. Thank you for bringing this to light. God bless you.
Stephanie

This was GREAT news. There were a few points that weren't great news however:
  • Stephanie actually got hate mail for speaking out on the issue. Can anyone please tell me how this kind of activity is 'tolerant'. It never ceases to amaze me that those that scream the loudest for 'tolerance' tend to be the biggest offenders of 'tolerance' when their opinions are those being challenged in any way. 
  • NOT A SINGLE ONE OF THE SCHOOL BOARD MEMBERS RESPONDED TO THIS PARENT'S EMAILS. Seriously? Not one? Here is the list of the Edmond Board Members. I sent two members personal emails asking them to respond on the issue. These are women who came to ME when I started ROPE years ago asking how they could be more responsive to the community. I am absolutely astounded as to how these women can hold their heads upright after this. Parents APPOINT (elect) members to sit on the board IN THEIR STEAD. When Board members refuse to even respond to inquiries and concerns of the parents they serve they should be drummed off the Board to find something more suited to their schedules/desires.
As I stated in the last blog - parents - not the school board, not administration - parents are the entities fully in charge of the education of their children. I hope this mother's courageous actions have given you the courage to act out on behalf of your children should that be necessary. It will never matter what happens on the campus of your child's school - using your money by the way - if you aren't paying attention to the procedures, curricula and policies being utilized in the place where your child occupies the best part of their day and year. Be encouraged! Get involved and stay involved in your child's education and make it work for them! 

Sunday, November 30, 2014

Complaints About Sexually Inappropriate Reading Material In High School Part 2 - Garbage In - Garbage Out


Though Part 1 of this post (One Mad Momma Takes On The Edmond School Board Over Sexually Explicit Books Assigned To Sophomores) has been viewed over 15 thousand times, I have been very disturbed to see the amount of comments making excuses for the material described by the mother's letter. I tend to believe few people have actually read her letter - which explains the comments about wanting to burn or ban books - but many commenters have read the book and still felt it appropriate reads for their children.

Those who believe I'm for book burning or banning or censoring, etc., please note the following points about the first post:
  • The mother was responding by trying to educate her school board that it was breaking their own 'rule' about how books are adopted for students.
  • The mother never suggested that the books be 'banned', or 'burned' or anything else, she merely provided information to suggest that these books were not written in a style appropriate for HIGH SCHOOL children.
  • The mother approached the school board of this particular district in order that they understand her concerns - which is not only well within her rights as a taxpaying citizen - but her duty as a parent.
The themes of these books (The Kite Runner and The Glass Castle) are difficult to be sure, and yes, there are difficult situations all around us in the world today. Should kids understand rape? Certainly - in order for them to be able to protect themselves. We start at the earliest ages telling our children they should allow no one but their parents to touch the parts of their body that clothes are meant to cover.

Here's the rub. What kind of language do you use to convey that message? What kind of imagery do you invoke to create this level of understanding? NOT that found in these books. NOT for high school students.  I'm going to publish some parts of the books below. This is not WRITTEN (note I say 'written' - I'm saying nothing about the difficulty of the 'theme') in a manner appropriate for young students to read - college aged and above, fine.

I'm going to print some of the more concerning passages from these books in order that readers understand exactly the issue at hand.

These passages are from the Glass Castle:

p. 82 - Empty beer cans and whiskey bottles and a few half-eaten tins of Vienna sausages littered the floor. On one of the mattresses, Billy’s father was snoring unevenly. His mouth hung open, and flies were gathered in the stubble of his beard. A wet stain had darkened his pants nearly to his knees. His zipper as undone, and his gross penis dangled to one side. I stared quietly, then asked, “What’s the funny thing?” “Don’t you see?” said Billy. “He pissed himself!” Billy started laughing...

p. 86 – Billy smushed his face against mine, then grabbed my hair and made my head bend sideways and stuck his tongue in my mouth. It as slimy and disgusting, but when I tried to pull away, he pushed in toward me. The more I pulled, the more he pushed, until he was on top of me and I felt his fingers tugging at my shorts. His other hand was unbuttoning his own pants. To stop him, I put my hand down there, and when I touched it, I knew what it was, even though I had never touched one before.”

p. 103 – One night when I as almost ten, I as awakened by someone running his hands over my private parts. At first it was confusing. Lori and I slept in the same bed, and I thought maybe she was moving in her sleep. I groggily pushed the hand away. “I just want to play a game with you,” a man’s voice said.

p. 146 – Erma [the grandmother], who’d been drinking since before breakfast, told Brian [approx. 9 year old brother] that his britches needed mending. He started to take them off, but Erma said she didn’t want him running around the house in his skivvies or with a towel wrapped around him looking like he was wearing a goddamn dress. It would be easier for her to mend the britches while he was still wearing them. She ordered him to follow her in to Grandpa’s bedroom, where she kept her sewing kit. They’d been gone for a minute or two when I heard Brian weakly protesting. I went into Grandpa’s bedroom and saw Erma kneeling on the floor in front of Brian, grabbing at the crotch of his pants, squeezing and kneading while mumbling to herself and telling Brian to hold still, goddammit. Brian, his cheeks wet with tears, was holding his hands protectively between his legs. “Erma, you leave him alone!” I shouted. Erma, still on her knees, twisted around and glared at me. “Why, you little bitch!” she said. 

p. 161 – Of course I went. I’d never gotten inside the Green Lantern, but now I’d get an up-close look at a genuine prostitute. There were lots of things I wanted to know: Was whoring easy money? Was it ever any fun, or was it just gross? Did Kathy and her sisters and her father all know Ginnie Sue Pastor was a whore?... Ginnie Sue offered us seats at the table. She had heavy breasts that swayed when she moved, and her blond hair was dark at the roots...

These are excerpts from the Kite Runner:

p.7 – “Hey you!” he said. “I know you.” We had never seen him before. He was a squatty man with a shaved head and black stubble on his face. The way he grinned at us, leered, scared me. “Just keep walking,” I muttered to Hassan. “You!  The Hazara! Look at me when I’m talking to you!” the soldier barked. He handed his cigarette to the guy next to him, made a circle with the thumb and index finger of one hand. Poked the middle finger of his other hand through the circle. Poked it in and out. In and out. “I knew your mother, did you know that? I knew her real good. I took her from behind that creek over there.” The soldiers laughed. One of them made a squealing sound. I told Hassan to keep walking, keep walking. “What a tight little sugary cunt she had!” the soldier was saying, shaking hands with the others, grinning...

p.72-76 – “Whatever you wish.” Assef unbuttoned his winter coat, took it off, folded it slowly and deliberately. He placed it against the wall. I opened my mouth, almost said something. Almost....Assef motioned with his hand, and the other two boys separated, forming a half circle, trapping Hassan in the alley...”I don’t know,” Wali was saying. “My father says it’s sinful.” He sounded unsure, excited, scared, all at the same time. Kamal and Wali each gripped an arm, twisted and bent at the elbow so that Hassan’s hands were pressed to his back. Assef was standing over them, the heel of his snow boots crushing the back of Hassan’s neck...Assef knelt behind Hassan, put his hands on Hassan’s hips and lifted his bare buttocks. He kept one hand on Hassan’s back and undid his own belt buckle with the free hand. He unzipped his jeans. Dropped his underwear. He positioned himself behind Hassan. Hassan didn’t struggle. Didn’t even whimper. He moved his head slightly and I caught a glimpse of his face. Saw the resignation in it. It was a look I had seen before...

Ironically, there is also this passage:

p. 116 – My mind flashed to that winter day six years ago. Me, peering around the corner in the alley. Kamal and Wali holding Hassan down. Assef’s buttock muscles clenching and clenching, his hips thrusting back and forth.

The author of the book himself, makes plain that what he saw, he can't unsee. It haunts him even in his waking hours. How do you then justify allowing children (they are under 18) to read such clear word pictures as to give them the ability to 'see' things they can't 'unsee' from reading such explicit writing? You really believe the world is such a horrible place that most kids are going to be exposed to this kind of thing? I don't. I think kids take in what you give them. If it's garbage, you get garbage out, if it's light, you get light. If you don't believe me, look at Ferguson Missouri - look at how the instances of rape, aggravated assault and murder of children by children have increased as the availability of internet porn and explicit video games have cornered the market.

Here's the worst part - these passages are needlessly graphic. I will convey exactly the same 'theme' below:
My mind flashed back to that winter six days ago. Me, peering around the corner of the alley, watching in horror, as Hassan was cruelly raped.
You're telling me the words I used above don't convey the feelings of the author on page 116? Absolutely they do. We can still feel his self-loathing, his disgust, we just don't have to have the mental picture associated with the act.

Unfortunately, we're seeing this kind of thing more and more. Just recently, it was found that several of the books on the Common Core ancillary list were replete with this kind of imaging - books like The Bluest Eye and Dreaming in Cuban - have come under fire recently for the imagery invoked by this same style of writing - a style that many find inappropriate for underage youth.

Readers are certainly entitled to their opinions - and they certainly have the right to address their school boards on this issue - but society has become decidedly more coarse in near direct proportion to the amount of non-light-bearing forms of entertainment available today. There are ways to educate children in the 'ways of the world'. Providing them with such graphic images is not the way to do that and produce healthy children for a healthy society.

Friday, November 28, 2014

Complaints About Sexually Inappropriate Reading Material In High School Part 2 - Garbage In - Garbage Out


Though Part 1 of this post has been viewed over 15 thousand times, I have been very disturbed to see the amount of comments making excuses for the material described by the mother's letter. I tend to believe few people have actually read her letter - which explains the comments about wanting to burn or ban books - but many commenters have read the book and still felt it appropriate reads for their children.

People who believe we're for book burning or banning or censoring, etc., please note the following points about the first post:

  • The mother was responding by trying to educate her school board that it was breaking their own 'rule' about how books are adopted for students.
  • The mother never suggested that the books be 'banned', or 'burned' or anything else, she merely provided information to suggest that these books were not written in a style appropriate for HIGH SCHOOL children.
  • The mother approached the school board of this particular district in order that they understand her concerns - which is not only well within her rights as a taxpaying citizen - but her duty as a parent.

The themes of these books (The Kite Runner and The Glass Castle) are difficult to be sure, and yes, there are difficult situations all around us in the world today. Should kids understand rape? Certainly - in order for them to be able to protect themselves. We start at the earliest ages telling our children they should allow no one but their parents to touch the parts of their body that clothes are meant to cover.

Here's the rub. What kind of language do you use to convey that message? What kind of imagery do you invoke to create this level of understanding? NOT that found in these books. NOT for high school students.  I'm going to publish some parts of the books below. This is not WRITTEN (note I say 'written' - I'm saying nothing about the difficulty of the 'theme') in a manner appropriate for young students to read - college aged and above, fine.

I'm going to print some of the more concerning passages from these books in order that readers understand exactly the issue at hand.

These passages are from the Glass Castle:

p. 82 - Empty beer cans and whiskey bottles and a few half-eaten tins of Vienna sausages littered the floor. On one of the mattresses, Billy’s father was snoring unevenly. His mouth hung open, and flies were gathered in the stubble of his beard. A wet stain had darkened his pants nearly to his knees. His zipper as undone, and his gross penis dangled to one side. I stared quietly, then asked, “What’s the funny thing?” “Don’t you see?” said Billy. “He pissed himself!” Billy started laughing...

p. 86 – Billy smushed his face against mine, then grabbed my hair and made my head bend sideways and stuck his tongue in my mouth. It as slimy and disgusting, but when I tried to pull away, he pushed in toward me. The more I pulled, the more he pushed, until he was on top of me and I felt his fingers tugging at my shorts. His other hand was unbuttoning his own pants. To stop him, I put my hand down there, and when I touched it, I knew what it was, even though I had never touched one before.”

p. 103 – One night when I as almost ten, I as awakened by someone running his hands over my private parts. At first it was confusing. Lori and I slept in the same bed, and I thought maybe she was moving in her sleep. I groggily pushed the hand away. “I just want to play a game with you,” a man’s voice said.

p. 146 – Erma [the grandmother], who’d been drinking since before breakfast, told Brian [approx. 9 year old brother] that his britches needed mending. He started to take them off, but Erma said she didn’t want him running around the house in his skivvies or with a towel wrapped around him looking like he was wearing a goddamn dress. It would be easier for her to mend the britches while he was still wearing them. She ordered him to follow her in to Grandpa’s bedroom, where she kept her sewing kit. They’d been gone for a minute or two when I heard Brian weakly protesting. I went into Grandpa’s bedroom and saw Erma kneeling on the floor in front of Brian, grabbing at the crotch of his pants, squeezing and kneading while mumbling to herself and telling Brian to hold still, goddammit. Brian, his cheeks wet with tears, was holding his hands protectively between his legs. “Erma, you leave him alone!” I shouted. Erma, still on her knees, twisted around and glared at me. “Why, you little bitch!” she said. 

p. 161 – Of course I went. I’d never gotten inside the Green Lantern, but now I’d get an up-close look at a genuine prostitute. There were lots of things I wanted to know: Was whoring easy money? Was it ever any fun, or was it just gross? Did Kathy and her sisters and her father all know Ginnie Sue Pastor was a whore?... Ginnie Sue offered us seats at the table. She had heavy breasts that swayed when she moved, and her blond hair was dark at the roots...

These are excerpts from the Kite Runner:

p.7 – “Hey you!” he said. “I know you.” We had never seen him before. He was a squatty man with a shaved head and black stubble on his face. The way he grinned at us, leered, scared me. “Just keep walking,” I muttered to Hassan. “You!  The Hazara! Look at me when I’m talking to you!” the soldier barked. He handed his cigarette to the guy next to him, made a circle with the thumb and index finger of one hand. Poked the middle finger of his other hand through the circle. Poked it in and out. In and out. “I knew your mother, did you know that? I knew her real good. I took her from behind that creek over there.” The soldiers laughed. One of them made a squealing sound. I told Hassan to keep walking, keep walking. “What a tight little sugary cunt she had!” the soldier was saying, shaking hands with the others, grinning...

p.72-76 – “Whatever you wish.” Assef unbuttoned his winter coat, took it off, folded it slowly and deliberately. He placed it against the wall. I opened my mouth, almost said something. Almost....Assef motioned with his hand, and the other two boys separated, forming a half circle, trapping Hassan in the alley...”I don’t know,” Wali was saying. “My father says it’s sinful.” He sounded unsure, excited, scared, all at the same time. Kamal and Wali each gripped an arm, twisted and bent at the elbow so that Hassan’s hands were pressed to his back. Assef was standing over them, the heel of his snow boots crushing the back of Hassan’s neck...Assef knelt behind Hassan, put his hands on Hassan’s hips and lifted his bare buttocks. He kept one hand on Hassan’s back and undid his own belt buckle with the free hand. He unzipped his jeans. Dropped his underwear. He positioned himself behind Hassan. Hassan didn’t struggle. Didn’t even whimper. He moved his head slightly and I caught a glimpse of his face. Saw the resignation in it. It was a look I had seen before...

Ironically, there is also this passage:

p. 116 – My mind flashed to that winter day six years ago. Me, peering around the corner in the alley. Kamal and Wali holding Hassan down. Assef’s buttock muscles clenching and clenching, his hips thrusting back and forth.

The author of the book himself, makes plain that what he saw, he can't unsee. It haunts him even in his waking hours. How do you then justify allowing children (they are under 18) to read such clear word pictures as to give them the ability to 'see' things they can't 'unsee' from reading such explicit writing? You really believe the world is such a horrible place that most kids are going to be exposed to this kind of thing? I don't. I think kids take in what you give them. If it's garbage, you get garbage out, if it's light, you get light. If you don't believe me, look at Ferguson Missouri - look at how the instances of rape, aggravated assault and murder of children by children have increased as the availability of porn and explicit video games have cornered the market.

Here's the worst part - these passages are needlessly graphic. I will convey exactly the same 'theme' below:
My mind flashed back to that winter six days ago. Me, peering around the corner of the alley, watching in horror, as Hassan was cruelly raped.
You're telling me the words I used above don't convey the feelings of the author on page 116? Absolutely they do. We can still feel his self-loathing, his disgust, we just don't have to have the mental picture associated with the act.

Unfortunately, we're seeing this kind of thing more and more. Just recently, it was found that several of the books on the Common Core ancillary list were replete with this kind of imaging - books like The Bluest Eye and Dreaming in Cuban - have come under fire recently for the imagery invoked by this same style of writing - a style that many find inappropriate for underage youth.

Readers are certainly entitled to their opinions - and they certainly have the right to address their school boards on this issue - but society has become decidedly more coarse in near direct proportion to the amount of non-light-bearing forms of entertainment available today. There are ways to educate children in the 'ways of the world'. Providing them with such graphic images is not the way to do that and produce healthy children for a healthy society.