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December, 2014

  1. starting from scratch — what ?

    December 18, 2014 by Tunya

    Starting From Scratch — Just Another Education Ploy?

    Arne Duncan, US Secretary of Education, in recent meetings in Missouri regarding Ferguson said he was exploring how education can help improve conditions. This indicates that Washington was getting the message that perhaps school problems might have contributed to the incidents, turmoil and protests.  Not the least of these reports must surely have been this one from Deborah Andrews, which triggered some shame and blame in the highest corridors of power — Blacks locked out of reading

    Pointed out in her article is the glaring statistic that while 50% of white students read at the proficient/advanced level, only 15% of black students achieve that level.  No need to wait, she says — at least start now with improving the reading levels without having to wait for some inquiry commission to report back in Sept 2015!

    Duncan sees restrictive school zip codes as a problem, wants more  Early Childhood Education (ECE) and wants to start “from scratch” to build better relationships between police and young people.

    While I see the question of zip codes as a huge problem that displaces parents from making choices for their kids — a consumer issue — I do not see ECE as helpful in its present guise (too loaded in favor of provider benefits). I do think starting from scratch is a good strategy, not just for relationships but also for education as a whole. Now, where did we hear that before?

    Jeb Bush, in a November speech to the 2014 National Summit on Education Reform, said:

    *** “Even if we don’t all agree on Common Core, there are more important principles for us to agree on. We need to pull together whenever we can. It starts with a basic question: If we were designing our school system from scratch, what would it look like?

    *** I know one thing: We wouldn’t start with more than 13,000 government-run, unionized and politicized monopolies who trap good teachers, administrators and struggling students in a system nobody can escape.

    *** We would be insane if we recreated what we have today.

    *** So let’s think and act like we are starting from scratch.”***

    Briefly put, this is the current school system baggage he wants to leave outside the discussion room:

    √    1) Government-run; 2) Unionized; 3) Monopoly; 4) Politicized schools (GUMP)

    Oops!  It seems Bush forgot the parents who are also trapped in these GUMP schools!

    Left-out parents and consumers need to reclaim education for children. How can we customize for the needs and talents of children without parents involved? How can we be sure any new approach is NOT just another stall to keep the status quo — keeping the self-serving and political producers who through incrementalism and permeation (Fabian socialist methods) have evicted parents from their primary role in education? 

    The most promising development in reclaiming who the proper drivers should be in education is the work behind Education Savings Accounts (ESA) as in Arizona and Florida.  Dare we ask the parents in Ferguson if they would take a 90% education dollar and go shopping for their children’s education?

    [This essay was published on the Education Consumers Clearinghouse listserve 18 Dec, 2014.]


  2. Education Savings Accounts Are “more” fair

    December 16, 2014 by Tunya


    [CBC had an item about a new facility — over $28 million to help address some of the needs of autistic students in BC.  Of course, some people feel this disproportionately favors those close to Richmond and the Lower Mainland.  I though I would introduce the topic of ESAs that would, IMO, be a more fair way to help all those who qualify in that category.]


    MORE Education Choices Are Needed For All Children & Families

    Here is Pieceful Solutions School in Arizona designed for autistic students —

    There’re two stories here: First, a successful school for autistic children — privately run since 2008.

    Second, the financing is mainly done through a scheme in Arizona of public money going directly to parents to choose the educational programs they see fit for their child. 

    The Arizona program, Education Savings Accounts (ESA), has been in place since 2011 and trusts parents will use the money in their accounts wisely.  It helps parents choose and helps enterprising people start needed schools and services.

    And, ESAs allow parents to shop and choose independent, private programs that will cater to their child’s needs and talents.

    And here is a short lesson on why we need more parental choice; and why parents need to actively promote choice for all students — Give Me A Choice

    Florida is the second state in the USA that has recently approved Education Savings Accounts.  Of course, in the overall matter of choice, there are a good number of States that have voucher programs where public money goes to the school of choice, private or public.  And let’s not forget Alberta has had charter schools (public schools without school board or union prescriptions) for 20 years  —


    [This is supplementary to the above.  My post to CBC story was posted one day, deleted the next. I checked submissions policy and found I had too many links, so I shortened the story.  By the time I tried again, comments were closed.  So I hunted for the story elsewhere:  Here is it on Global News —   This is my amended post to this media.]

    MORE Education Choices Are Needed For All Children & Families

    Here is Pieceful Solutions School in Arizona designed for autistic students —

    There’re two stories here: First, a successful school for autistic children — privately run since 2008.

    Second, the financing is mainly done through a scheme in Arizona of public money going directly to parents to choose the educational programs they see fit for their child.  They get 90% of the amount their child would pull if he was in a public school and categorized for special funds.

    The Arizona program, Education Savings Accounts (ESA), has been in place since 2011 and trusts parents will use the money in their accounts wisely.  It helps parents choose and helps enterprising people start needed schools and services.

    In some cases parents can use the funds to customize programs for their child from a wide variety of services, therapies, talent development, etc. — far beyond school or tutoring programs.  Here is another video on ESAs in Arizona —

    This facility in the Lower Mainland for autistic students is a step in the right direction.  But, for families unable to access this resource, or with other developmental issues besides autism, perhaps they can explore through their associations and more lobbying of government how ESAs could be developed so that parents can shop in their local areas for resources or even enable new customized services and education to be created. 


  3. Australia & reading wars

    December 13, 2014 by Tunya

    [published in Invisible Serfs Collar on topic — Rejecting Reading to Avoid . . . ]

    Polarization Defines The “Reading Wars”

    It’s a persistent annoyance that educators divide so readily into opposing camps.

    This certainly does not happen in any other field where practitioners call themselves “professional”; Medicine, Engineering, etc. seem to have evolved standard practices, which on the whole govern their behavior with their clients.  Why is Education so different?  Probably, it’s not a real profession?

    At any rate, the Reading Wars are again flaming — this time in Australia.  

    Education was an election issue during the campaign after which a new Coalition government was elected last year, replacing Labor. The National Curriculum was seen by many as having been unduly shaped by Fabianism — an active movement aimed at bringing about socialism through gradualism and permeation.  Julia Gillard, once an Education Minister and then Prime Minister of Australia, was a member of the Fabian Society.   

    The new government launched a Review of the curriculum and produced a Report in August 2014.  Among the headlines were these two:  “Australia to require the phonics method” & “Education minister orders universities to teach phonics or face losing accreditation.”

    It wasn’t long before divisions and cleavages sprang to the  fore from activists within the education field. 

    As one who has long been baffled and exasperated by educator lack of agreement on standard practices and the dumping of methods, which do work, I think a close look at the dynamics as playing out in Australia would be very revealing.  Especially for those of us who see political groups using schools as fronts for their agendas.

    Let’s just look at one example:

    Here is a critique from a prominent teacher educator and a prolific writer of papers and books on Literacy — from a critical theory point of view (ie, leftist) — Direct Instruction is not a solution for Australian schools

    Right away the author, Allan Luke, mischaracterizes phonics and direct instruction as “operant conditioning” and “deskilling” of teachers.  It didn’t take long for some commentators to strongly object: 

    –  Having had my mind poisoned against DI during [teacher training] I never considered it until I searched for evidence for what worked with children for whom nothing seemed to work!

    – Direct Instruction does not deskill teachers.

    – . . . mountains of research show DI to be effective when implemented well . . . DI is simply sound instruction.

    – Every year I present lectures to teacher education students and find that they are already indoctrinated with the mantra “constructivism good, direct instruction bad”. When I show them the results of these meta-analyses [Hattie], they are stunned, and they often become angry at having been given an agreed set of truths and commandments against direct instruction.

    – I am sick of DI being labeled as a right-wing conspiracy and watching failing students just getting failure as an education.

    If we could just untangle this enigma — find the real reasons for withholding proven reading methods — then maybe we can get back to teaching children, all children, the basic skills they need for fulfilling educational experiences.





  4. Teacher union influence in politics

    December 11, 2014 by Tunya

    [Tom Fletcher, legislative reporter wrote about the dubious value of school boards under influence of teacher unions.   Protest letters cam in from a teacher unionist and trustee, denying this influence.  I wrote:]

    Teacher Unions In BC Shape Education Politics & Trustee Elections


    When Tom Fletcher writes his reports for the Black Press newspapers he does so from a provincial and general perspective. What he says may not ring exactly true in each area the newspaper publishes. What he says about teacher union involvement in trustee elections does generally apply. He says: “This has been going on for so long in B.C. it is seen as normal.”

    One of the worst examples occurred in 2008 when Victoria teacher union actually proceeded to obtain signed pledges in return for financial support. Burnaby teacher union followed suit with a list of 10 pledges they wanted in exchange for their support. Here are some of those “expectations”:

    – work to prevent privatization of education

    – elimination of standardized data collection (FSA)

    – support the Charter for Public Education

    – promote social justice and equity 

    – support teacher professionalism

    – are willing and able to speak out publicly on these issues





  5. Frustrated ! Education Behemoth unchecked

    December 2, 2014 by Tunya

    A new reader comes to the blog — Invisible Serfs Collar is dismayed by the difficult reading. My reply below. She says:  

    "I have never been angrier at someone attempting to write about such an important subject. I will blame you for every child subjected to Common Core and destroyed. If you wrote better, more people would understand what is really happening."

    So Frustrated!

    I see what’s happening.  A client has been directed to the blog for some help on the topic — lurking dangers in 21st Century education, or something like that — whatever. 

    The blog posts may be frustrating because they are part of a long conversation that has been going on for a number of years.  And, some familiarity with the book — Credentialed to Destroy: How and Why Education Became a Weapon — is a plus.

    The client so anxiously and enthusiastically wants to embrace the knowledge.  But, it takes a while to get the substance and significance of the message.

    Granted the writing is nuanced, to put it mildly.  An obsession with all the complexities of a seeming conspiracy and the implications for mankind does not make for easy research.    What is being tracked is a movement that is slick and stealthy — a lot of coded language, backroom planning, coercion, and haste.

     For example, see the title of this book often referred to by Robin — Guided Evolution of Society, Banathy, 2000.  Doesn’t that sound like deliberate manipulation of man’s journey?  Robin goes so far into her probing that she does not just stay on top of current developments. She actually checks the references, credentials and favorite heroes of some of the current leaders who both write and provide “training” workshops in transforming communities and schools.

    For example, one of the scariest “heroes” of some of these leaders is A N Leontiev who wrote texts in the 30s in Russia on the steps to take in transitioning to “socialist, communist society”.  Imagine my alarm when someone in my neck of the woods (Vancouver, Canada) is starting up a service to bring forth community round tables for consensus-building and whose references include academics who participate in studies of Leontiev!

    Yes, it’s frustrating to see no blueprints arising from Robin’s writings.  But through following her revelations I was able to twig on to this “community organizing” coming to my neighborhood!  Will be watching.

    There is much pent-up demand out there for clear and straightforward analysis and especially, for guidance as to WHAT TO DO. 

    JoeJoe:  If you are into school reform, think of the 100s of books along this vein — What’s Wrong With Schools And What To Do About It.  Have any of these done any good?  The main thing they do is cause the system to close ranks even tighter against the reformers and parents.

    Robin unearths so much darkness that it is with some dread, no doubt, that she proceeds.  What is so extraordinarily astonishing is that she still persists in digging away, despite the nasty stuff uncovered.  This is what she says: I try to bring sunlight to the issues.  It’s the best disinfectant I can think of.

    I know it’s frustrating not to see one killer cudgel that will slay the common core monster.  But, it’s disintegrating even now in large part due to terminal internal faults and critiques such as Robin’s.

    Perhaps the best introduction to this conversation is to read all the Reviews in on the book.  I agree:  More clarity is desirable and some have complained about the style but not the content.  If a new, updated issue were to be published with a comprehensive index, I would gladly buy another copy.

    JoeJoe: Please give it a try.  We need more people with eyes-opened-wide!