What's in Those Public Records Anyway?


Some of the records the PDC cited in its Report of Investigation
regarding Spokane Public Schools and bond/levy and other elective campaigns

Some of the other records sent to the PDC regarding
Spokane Public Schools and bond and levy campaigns.

PDF of March 1, 2014, article:
Legislature should look into PDC's investigation of Spokane Public Schools


Friday, January 28, 2011

Argument against CCSS; Support HB1891

[Updated Feb. 14, 2011 to reflect legislative changes.]

Thank you to everyone who has contacted legislators about voting no to the adoption of the Common Core State Standards (CCSS). If adopted, the CCSS will cost taxpayers a great deal of money, hand over our classrooms to national and federal interests, and they won't help our children learn better.

Ask your legislators to make sure HB1891 gets a hearing, and also to support it with their vote.

Keep those phone calls, emails and letters going to Olympia.

(If you can, please also speak out against SJR8212 and SB5522 and SB5639, which are separate but related. Collectively, these bills eliminate the elected position at OSPI (the superintendent) and replace it with a position appointed by the governor. They also eliminate several education agencies and replace them with one agency run by the governor. It's a complete centralization of authority.)

I've already spoken with several legislators. Some seemed to understand the issues, while others make arguments that are based on weak assumptions. It's helpful to have ready arguments. In a conversation with them, the sand can shift quickly.

I wrote myself some argumentation to help combat these weak assumptions, and to encourage legislators to closely examine what they've been told by others in Olympia who have a vested interest in the CCSS being adopted. If you would like to use these arguments, please do. Feel free to forward the arguments to other parents, teachers and advocates, and to legislators. If you have suggestions for improving them, please let me know.

***********************************

Adoption of the Common Core State Standards: Debunking the Myths
By Laurie H. Rogers


Myth: The CCSS will provide stability.

This statement is made without support. It’s an assumption, not a conclusion based on evidence. It implies – illogically – that we should change everything in order to have less change.

If the CCSS are adopted, there will be more instability, not less, as the state is dragged into adopting another set of standards. This statewide instability would take place just a few years after taxpayers spent more than $100 million on the development and implementation of math standards (including materials, professional development and testing) that are clearer and more rigorous than those in the CCSS.

There also is indication that adopting the CCSS/common assessments – and perhaps someday common textbooks – will never provide stability. Supporters of the CCSS have called it a “living document,” indicating that change is expected. This will be change over which our state, districts, legislators, teachers and parents will have little or no control.


Myth: Adopting the CCSS will improve education in WA.

This is an assumption that is not based on evidence.

Public education is in a bad way. The future of our nation is in jeopardy because of our weak public education system. However, there is no data or history to support the idea that adopting common standards and common assessments will fix things.

According to the Thomas B. Fordham Institute, as well as various analyses done by professionals in Washington State, the CCSS for math are weaker and less clear than Washington State’s current math standards.

Some argue that the differences between the CCSS and our current math standards are negligible. That’s a subjective statement frequently made by people who haven’t compared the two, or who have a vested interest in seeing the CCSS adopted. The differences will not be negligible to teachers using them or to students.

It won’t be better for students or teachers if legislators adopt standards that are worse – particularly in math.

The CCSS are an untested, unproved product. There are no tangible, measurable results anywhere in this country, no evidence to support allegations of their efficacy. Our children and teachers are the subjects of this federal education experiment. It would be irresponsible to mandate that we all rush to adopt an untested product.


Myth: The CCSS/common assessments initiatives will bring money to the state.

This is another assumption, not based on strong evidence. Most states have not received money for Race to the Top, despite making many of the changes required by the federal government, including adopting the Common Core State Standards.

Even if Washington State adopted the CCSS and got all of the money it could get for Race to the Top, half of that money stays at the state level. The amount going to districts is a few dozen dollars per student per year, and there is no guarantee that ANY of the Race to the Top money will actually go to classrooms.


Myth: The CCSS/common assessments initiatives will cost less than the standards and assessments we have now.

This is another assumption, not based on the evidence. It is certainly an unknown. OSPI was directed by SB6696 to provide detailed reports and costs to the state legislature by January 1, 2011. OSPI failed to meet that legislated deadline, and – as of Jan. 26 – has not delivered all of that material. Why is OSPI having such a hard time supporting its claims with hard evidence?

Once a state signs on to “common” initiatives over which it has no control, it also will have no say in how much those initiatives cost. Whatever OSPI’s claims are for costs, they have no meaning down the road. Future costs won’t be up to Washington State.

One thing we know is that – in a time of tightened budgets – the CCSS/common assessments will cost the Washington State taxpayer a great deal of money. The $2.16 million asked for by OSPI to implement the CCSS is just the tip of an iceberg. This request does not include district costs, and it’s a small fraction of the taxpayer money spent on previous standards implementations. Adopting the common core state standards/assessments WILL cost taxpayers hundreds of millions of dollars in implementation, curriculum adoptions, professional development costs, and other related expenses. We simply can’t afford it.

Additionally, it must be noted that the money to build our current standards is already spent. The money to build our current assessments is already spent. There are no savings to be had – not until the state MIGHT make changes at some unknown point down the road. It’s “creative accounting” to call that nebulous assumption “saving money.”

Washington’s much-criticized assessments have been a money hog, it’s true. Ironically, the people in charge of that also are leading one of the consortiums of states developing common assessments for the CCSS! Inexpensive, rigorous tests already are developed and available to states. Washington State just has to agree to adopt them.

No taxpayer will understand spending hundreds of millions of dollars to adopt standards that are untested, expensive, and demonstrably less rigorous in math than what we have now.


Myth: The CCSS/common assessments will provide greater public accountability.

This is an assumption not based on tangible evidence. It doesn’t increase public accountability when we turn our public education system over to people we don’t know and with whom we likely will never be able to speak. Adoption of the CCSS will result in a dilution or complete loss of local decision-making and parent input on what our children are learning, and less real public accountability. Here is some evidence on that.

The process used in Washington State to “provisionally” adopt the CCSS cut the public out of the process until it was all but too late. The public was told one thing, even as a completely different thing was happening.

Gov. Gregoire and Superintendent Dorn signed a Memorandum of Agreement on the CCSS with no public notification. A few months later, they were pushing districts to sign on to RTTT (and the attendant CCSS) before the standards were even written.

When public input finally was solicited, it was after the CCSS had been provisionally adopted. OSPI’s public “surveys” were heavily biased toward their permanent adoption. Does the legislature have copies of feedback from OSPI’s public presentations on the CCSS? If so, there should be comments in there to the effect of “DO NOT ADOPT THE STANDARDS.” We who said that had to write in our comments. The OSPI survey was solely about adding 15% content, and not about the wisdom of adopting the CCSS at all.

I’ve been trying for 18 months to get answers from the national business and political interests pushing the CCSS, and from the U.S. Department of Education. I have not received responses from most of these people, much less answers. The Dept. of Ed appears to be ignoring a Freedom of Information Act request about the CCSS.

If Washington State adopts the CCSS, this is our future. The public will have no control over what happens with our children in the classrooms that we fund with our money.

Yes, our public education system is weak. The answer is not to give away more control – it is to regain control at local levels, and hold those local people accountable.

Something needs to be done, but not this. Not the CCSS. Not RTTT. Not the centralization and federalization of public education. Not the removal of the people’s voice and our vote. We need MORE voice, more choice, and more options for parents and teachers. Competition is good for education. The CCSS/common assessments will add to costs, lower standards, eliminate choice, and ultimately not help children learn better.

Adopting the CCSS will take Washington State’s public schools in exactly the wrong direction.


Legislators must vote for HB1891, and against SJR8212 and SB5522 and SB5639. Please help put a STOP to the adoption of the CCSS in Washington State, and to the complete centralization of our public education system.


Laurie H. Rogers
author of "Betrayed: How the Education Establishment Has Betrayed America and What You Can Do about it"
http://betrayed-whyeducationisfailing.blogspot.com/
wlroge@comcast.net

Friday, January 21, 2011

CCSS: Ask legislators to BLOCK permanent adoption

Block the Permanent Adoption of the Common Core State Standards in Washington State


To all who oppose the Common Core State Standards: Now is the time to let the legislature know how you feel. The first bill authorizing the permanent adoption of the CCSS has hit the education committee HB1443 Click on the bill and read it. Please call your legislators and tell them you are against HB1443.

House Education Committee: http://www.leg.wa.gov/House/Committees/ED/Pages/MembersStaff.aspx
Find your legislators: http://www.leg.wa.gov/pages/home.aspx
Hotline that gets you to everyone in one phone call: 1-800-562-6000

Tell them you don't want unknowns in Washington DC to tell Washingtonians how to educate our children. Please tell them to vote “No” to HB1443.


The Common Core State Standards are known by the acronym CCSS. These are national learning standards organized by the NGA and the CCSSO and supported by the Department of Education. In an effort to “encourage” states to adopt these national standards, the ED supposedly gives states a leg up on Race to the Top applications if they adopted the CCSS.

Several states are backing away from the adoption of the CCSS over issues of money, quality, state sovereignty, and local control. Ask your legislators to
1) vote no to HB1443, and
2) actively prepare or co-sponsor a bill to block the permanent adoption of the CCSS in this state.

Key Points

Last year’s SB6696 requires a “legislative review” of the Common Core State Standards before they can be fully adopted. (The CCSS were provisionally adopted last year by Superintendent Dorn.)

Legislators must 1) vote no to HB1443, and 2) prepare a bill this session to block the permanent adoption of the CCSS.

Bob Dean waslchronicles@hotmail.com  has prepared a sample bill he’s happy to share.


Objections to the CCSS, In a Nutshell


Expensive: In a time of tightened budgets, the CCSS will cost the state and districts a great deal of money -- no one seems to know exactly how much. It’s certain that the $2 million asked for by OSPI to implement the CCSS is ridiculously low – just the tip of an iceberg. This request does not include district costs, and it’s a small fraction of the taxpayer money spent on previous standards implementations.

Untested: The CCSS are untested and unproved, with no student data to support them. Our children and our teachers are the subjects of this new, federal education experiment.

Weaker: According to the Thomas B. Fordham Institute, as well as various analyses done by professionals in Washington State, the CCSS for math are weaker and less clear than Washington State’s current math standards.

Redundant: Washington State taxpayers just spent $1.6 million developing rigorous math standards in 2008. Districts also spent a great deal of taxpayer money on professional development for these new standards, as well as on curricula, conferences and other related costs. The CCSS will initiate another round of expenditures, without any indication of how they will improve student learning or help teachers.

Loss of local input and control: Adoption of the CCSS will result in a loss of local decision-making and parent input on what our children are learning.

Bottom line: The CCSS will cost taxpayers an as-yet unknown amount of money in implementation, adoption of new curricula, and professional development – and they will neither help our children learn better, nor help our teachers teach better. They are counterproductive and a waste of taxpayer money.

History:


SB6696:
Signed into law in 2010, SB6696 was designed to force Washington State to apply for the federal Race to the Top "grant" initiative (RTTT), and to make changes in public education according to a federal vision. Initially, SB6696 would have forced Washington to adopt the CCSS sight unseen, with the word "shall." At that point, the CCSS weren’t even written.

That language was changed to require a legislative review. In 2010, after heavy lobbying around the state and school districts by Gov. Gregoire and Superintendent Dorn, Dorn “provisionally” adopted the CCSS. When OSPI presented on the CCSS in Spokane, they were “full steam ahead” on the CCSS and on the RTTT initiative, even though they could not or would not answer questions about process or long-term effects on students and teachers.

HB1443, introduced to the House Education Committee Jan. 21, 2011, is a wide-ranging bill that also authorizes OSPI to permanently adopt the Common Core State Standards.


Taxpayer Money:
Adopting the CCSS is “supposed” to give states a leg up in competing for Race to the Top grants. Many states have not received RTTT money, even after falling in line with the federal vision. RTTT grants sound like “found” money, but they are still paid for with taxpayer money. Public education does not need more funding through RTTT. It needs to spend the money it gets in more appropriate ways.

According to the U.S. Department of Education, as of January 2010, the country was projected to spend $664 billion (from all sources - federal, state, local and other) on K-12 education. That number doesn’t include later infusions of “emergency” funding, much of which never made it to the classrooms or even to school districts. As you know. Gov. Gregoire redirected $208 million in Edujobs money to the General Fund. The RTTT deal is that 50% of any money WA gets will stay at the state level with OSPI.

Clearly, something needs to be done, but not this. Not the CCSS. Not RTTT. Not the centralization and federalization of public education. Not the removal of the people’s voice and their vote. We need MORE voice, more choice, and more options for parents and teachers. Competition is good for education. The CCSS, however, will add to costs, lower standards, eliminate choice, and ultimately not help children learn better.

Please ask your legislators to 1) vote no to HB1443, and 2) prepare a bill this session to block the permanent adoption of the CCSS.

The House Education Committee is located at http://www.leg.wa.gov/House/Committees/ED/Pages/MembersStaff.aspx

Call the Legislative Hotline at 1-800-562-6000, or find a list of state legislator e-mail addresses at http://www.leg.wa.gov/pages/home.aspx

If you have any questions, please contact Laurie Rogers at wlroge@comcast.net

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

"It isn't the culture, stupid"

By Barry Garelick
 
(Originally published December 15, 2010, on EducationNews.com: http://www.educationnews.org/commentaries/104502.html
Republished on the Betrayed blog with permission from author Barry Garelick.)

The news [in December] that Shanghai students achieved the top scores in math on the international PISA exam was for some of us not exactly a wake-up call (as Secretary of Education Arne Duncan characterized it) or a Sputnik moment (as President Obama called it).

We've seen this result before. We've seen the reactions and the theories and the excuses that purport to explain why the US does so poorly in math. In fact, there are three main variations used to explain why Chinese/Asian students do so well in international exams:
  • Version 1: They are taught using rote learning and then regurgitate the results on exams that test how well they memorize the procedures of how to solve specific problems.
  • Version 2: They are taught using the reform methods of a "problem based approach" that doesn't rely on drills, and instills critical thinking and higher order thinking skills
  • Version 3: The teacher or the culture produces the proper conditions for learning
It’s hard to know where to start with these, so let’s take them in order.

Version 1: In a letter to the N.Y. Times (http://www.nytimes.com/2010/12/09/opinion/l09test.html?scp=8&sq=PISA;%20math&st=cse ) the writer asserts that low scores on PISA may be indicative of a system that rejects the traditional "drill and kill" and direct instruction approach to teaching math. Low scores are evidence that we are not using the educational techniques deemed to be ineffective by the education community.

The letter writer also stated that our system focuses on critical thinking and "authentic" problem solving and—in a Patrick Henry-like liberty-or-death finish—argued that if it's a choice between higher test scores in basic skills and a "well rounded critically minded student," he would take the latter. Alas, he concludes that we aren't doing that very well either.

Version 2: This version is a backhanded way of saying that math education is bad in the United States because the various education reforms (e.g., differentiated instruction, inquiry-based learning, discovery learning, problem-based learning, student-centered learning, collaborative learning, small groups, the list goes on) were not properly implemented nor understood by teachers. They do this by talking about how they use student-centered, problem-based approaches.

In fact, Jonathan Plucker, an education professor at Indiana University states this in an interview with CNN. (http://edition.cnn.com/video/#/video/bestoftv/2010/12/09/exp.am.intv.plucker.cnn?iref=allsearch ) He states that the Chinese have a "vastly different curriculum; much more problem based. Not as much drill and kill as people seem to stereotype as the Chinese are having kids memorize things for tests.”

It never occurs to the people posing these arguments that math education in the US suffers because of the reforms and the textbooks written for them. Nor does it occur to them that what they think they see being practiced in China are not the reforms that they bemoan are not being practiced here.

Version 3: This is the “It’s the culture, stupid” argument that usually carries the warning “Don’t try this at home.” Dr. Plucker mentions culture as well, as does a paper I happened to find online the day the PISA results were announced—a paper by Chap Sam Lim that focuses on how math is taught in Shanghai, the region which achieved the highest math scores of the 60+ nations participating in the PISA exam. (http://www.merga.net.au/documents/MERJ_19_1_Lim.pdf ) The author states that “We need to take note of cultural differences, so that we know what to adopt, how to adopt and what we need to modify. Merely adopting foreign practices into our own culture may not necessarily work as well as we might hope.”

This argument is based on the observation that the education-valued culture manifests itself in ways that are unlikely to happen here: long school days, after-school math “clubs” in which math facts and procedures are drilled (pointed to by some as evidence that students in China are engaging in rote learning), long hours studying and teachers who know the subject matter extremely well. The “it’s the culture” argument, fails to acknowledge, however, that the Chinese/Asian value of education is not just about hard working and respectful students.

The culture is also responsible for the adoption of a coherent and effective curriculum—one that requires well-written and logically sequenced textbooks and good solid instruction. Singapore's math program is an example of such a program that despite differences between US and Singaporean culture, has managed to work well where it has been implemented here. This doesn't mean the techniques and methods used in Singapore and China will be ineffective here. Nor does it mean that teachers here will be unable to teach it.

The “culture argument” also paints a picture of U.S. culture as totally oblivious to educational values and ignores the subcultures that place a value equal to that seen in China and other countries. Those are the students whose goals are to enter the top universities in the US, who work very hard and take AP classes and exams. Some of the parents of those students have protested against the adoption of substandard math programs such as Investigations in Number, Data and Space, and Everyday Math. These are the parents who have been told by school boards that the traditional method of teaching math may have worked for some, but not for all. Those are the parents who have discovered that the traditional methods of teaching math (in the 50’s and 60’s) work very well indeed, and are similar in some respects to how it is taught overseas.

The Lim paper points to some of the techniques used in teaching math in Shanghai: requiring students to master proofs, providing a variety of mathematical questions rather than having students answering variations of the same drill repeatedly and teachers challenging their students by asking students questions such as “Why?”, “How?”, “What if?” The drills may not be apparent to observers (like Dr. Plucker who remarked that there is no "drill and kill") because they may not be held in class; they may occur after school in tutoring centers, or at the students’ homes.

The amount of time that students in China put in to studying and working problems is considered on the one hand to be an artifact of the culture, but is rarely seen as a form of drilling. But regardless of where the drills occur, the fact that they do occur does not undermine the effectiveness of the curriculum. Nor does procedural fluency take a back seat to conceptual understanding and problem solving.

What Will Happen Next

What will happen next is likely a call to look at how the top scoring nations are doing it and what we can be doing better. But the wake-up call and Sputnik moment has already happened. We've already looked. The Department of Education in 2005 contracted to have a report done on Singapore's math program. (See http://www.keysschool.com/Documents/SingaporeReport.pdf ) And in 2006, a Presidential National Mathematics Advisory Panel was formed to examine how K-8 math education could be improved in the US (See http://www2.ed.gov/about/bdscomm/list/mathpanel/report/final-report.pdf  ).

Let's hope we stop bickering about what's happening overseas and take a look at what we've already done. At the very least, it will save the taxpayers some money. And it might even help some kids learn math.


Barry Garelick is an analyst for a federal agency and is also the co-founder of the U.S. Coalition for World Class Math. (http://usworldclassmath.webs.com /)


Note from Laurie Rogers: If you would like to submit a guest column on public education, please write to me at wlroge@comcast.net. Please limit columns to not more than 1,000 words. Columns might be edited for length, content or grammar. You may remain anonymous to the public, however I must know who you are. All decisions on guest columns are the sole right and responsibility of Laurie Rogers.

Monday, January 10, 2011

Seattle parent hopes "Betrayed" lights fire against reform math

Note from Laurie Rogers: Reform math, excessive constructivism, and persistent administrator denial and obstruction have sunk this great country into a mathematical Dark Ages, severely limiting the futures of millions of children and devastating our supply of STEM professionals. Every week, I receive emails from perplexed, frustrated and angry parents, teachers and community advocates. A Seattle parent wrote to me Jan. 7, 2011, to comment on my book "Betrayed." Her email is republished here with her permission:

[From personal email, Jan. 7, 2011]:

"Dear Ms. Rogers,

"I just finished your chapter on curriculum. It feels like you and I have traveled the same road, bumping our heads against the same barriers. We just happen to be on opposite sides of the state.

"My frustration started when my sons attended Seattle public high schools. One attended a new, academically challenging small high school in the shadow of the Space Needle. I was told that the Core Plus math curriculum would use engaging math problems that would relate better to real-life situations. It sounded good, but he was very frustrated and needed after-school tutoring and an additional outside tutor to figure them out.

"Our other son attended another popular public high school in Seattle. I asked his math teacher if he liked the Integrated Math curriculum and he said there were better choices out there. That led me to Where’s the Math? and Cliff Mass, the University of Washington science professor who is a critic of reform math. The declining math pass rates he showed for entry-level students at the University of Washington indicated that the math problem went far beyond my kids.

"The more research I did, the worse it looked. I read the 2007 studies of William Hook, the University of Victoria researcher who compared Saxon Math in Calif. to reform programs. He found stunning improvements from Saxon Math, even in economically challenged districts. I also read the National Math Panel report, which panned the use of overly long textbooks without a clear foundation in authentic algebra. I visited our neighborhood elementary school and noticed their Everyday Math textbooks were long and complex, devoting entire chapters to the use of calculators.

"I started writing to our Seattle School District Board members, asking why they were using reform math. They had different administrators come and go, choosing reform textbooks from the elementary through high school level in all Seattle public schools. Then they would leave the district and the kids with the consequences of these decisions.

"I directly challenged Dr. Terry Bergeson in Olympia, the former state Superintendent of Public Instruction, who spent a fortune on supplemental materials to train teachers on reform math. Her failed WASL test was also expensive and gave kids credit for showing their work even if they got the answers wrong. How does that help when they test into remedial math courses in college?

"We recently had the chance for a better textbook at the high school level in Seattle. Like many parents, I wrote the Seattle School Board again to argue for the Prentice Hall books over the Discovering series. Although our director Michael DeBell voted against Discovering, he was unable to convince the other directors. That decision ended up in court with an initial judgment for the parents. The judge ruled that the district’s adoption of the Discovering series was arbitrary and capricious. But instead of replacing the books with better ones, the district is appealing.

"I am sad to see so many parents fleeing public schools for expensive private ones in Seattle. Yet the administrators go along and keep making the same arguments for reform math. I hope your book can light a fire under them.

"Thank you."

Georgi Krom
(1971 graduate of Spokane's Lewis and Clark High School)


Note from Laurie Rogers: If you would like to submit a guest column or commentary on public education, please write to me at wlroge@comcast.net. Please limit comments to not more than 1,000 words. Columns and commentaries might be edited for length, content or grammar. You may remain anonymous to the public, however I must know who you are. All decisions on guest columns and commentaries are the sole right and responsibility of Laurie Rogers.

Monday, January 3, 2011

"What I see" - Parent volunteer tells heartbreaking tale

By Breann Treffry, school volunteer and parent of three, Spokane, WA


We’ve heard much recently about the United States slipping in the education ranking of developed nations. Having been a product of the American public school system, I knew, like many other American parents, that the education it provides is, shall we say, lacking in certain areas. What I didn’t realize - until I enrolled my own children, immersed myself in their schools, classrooms, curricula, and classmates, attended school board meetings, and heard the stories of other concerned parents and teachers - is just how lacking that education truly is.

From home, it can be hard for parents to understand the damage that’s being done to our kids until it’s too late and our children suddenly require remediation, tutoring, or have their hopes for their future crushed when they discover they’re woefully unprepared for college. When I initially began volunteering at my kids’ school, I admit, it was to monitor the education my own kids were receiving. In these last years, however, the education all our kids are receiving has revealed itself as the train wreck from which I can’t look away. Moral duty compels me to share what I have seen that every parent should know.

While I have either personally witnessed or have reliable sources who have witnessed these atrocities within Spokane Public Schools, they are in no way isolated to this little town in eastern Washington. The trend is nationwide.

  1. Cursive writing is no longer taught.
  2. I see high schoolers who cannot read cursive because they were never taught to write in cursive.
  3. I see math curricula that do not teach standard algorithms, but rather create dependency on calculators and technology.
  4. I see curricula that drive a wedge between students and their parents by fostering a dependency on peers through excessive group work.
  5. I see math curricula that prevent parental involvement by excluding the methods we were taught and teaching only “new math.”
  6. I know parents who can’t help their elementary age children with math homework because it doesn’t make sense to parents or students.
  7. I’ve seen the light come on for students who have struggled for years - after their tutors or parents show them standard algorithms.
  8. I have heard teachers ask parents to “please, please” not teach their children standard algorithms.
  9. I know teachers who have offered classes for parents on how to understand the “new math.”
  10. I know kids who “get in trouble” in class when they use the algorithms they learned at home.
  11. I’ve heard parents and teachers remark that math has “changed so much” since we learned it; but, of course, math doesn’t change. Two plus two still equals four.
  12. I see 12-year-olds who cannot add or subtract, let alone multiply or divide, yet have been pushed through to the next grade regardless.
  13. I’ve heard teachers telling students, “You have to draw pictures to show your work” in math.
  14. I see third and fourth graders who draw literally hundreds of marks or pictures to figure a single math problem because they haven’t been taught efficient methods, and still get the answer wrong.
  15. I’ve seen eleventh graders who cannot divide a 3-digit number by a 1-digit number without a calculator.
  16. I see elementary school classrooms with a calculator in every desk.
  17. I know teachers who have been told not to try to engage struggling and difficult students in lessons but to let them be content with picture books in class.
  18. I know teachers who have been reprimanded for criticizing district curricula or policy.
  19. I see teachers paranoid and intimidated over teaching traditional math like standard algorithms and facts drill in their classrooms.
  20. I’ve heard district administrators openly discussing “problem teachers.”
  21. I see students in classrooms where the teacher taught algorithms and drilled math facts excel the following year over students from classrooms where the teacher did not.
  22. I know volunteer tutors who’ve been refused because they teach traditional math methods rather than “fuzzy” math.
  23. I see students who are “good at math” in tears over their math homework.
  24. I’ve heard a teacher tell students, “Abraham Lincoln fought and died in the Civil War.”
  25. I see an appalling rate of high school graduates who require remedial math courses in college.
  26. I’ve seen students who successfully test into college-level math ultimately struggle and learn that they need remediation after all to fill in the holes in their math education.
  27. I see kids being taught daily to a level far beneath their capacity, and being told that they just have to sit there.
  28. Alternately, I see teachers struggle to provide additional challenges for those kids using only “district-approved curricula.”
  29. I see third graders singing preschool songs as a class.
  30. I’ve seen district-provided material that tells teachers to spend more individual instructional time with lower-performing students than with higher-performing students.
  31. I see students who mock and taunt adults in the school, with no significant consequences.
  32. I see students with multiple truancies that result in no consequences.
  33. I see unexcused absences that go undisciplined.
  34. I see late work given full credit.
  35. I see students receive extra credit points through no effort of their own, for example, when the teacher calls them by the wrong name in class.
  36. I’ve seen implementation of a grading system where it’s often impossible to achieve either the highest or the lowest grade.
  37. I’ve seen materials that tell teachers to train students not to question teachers or other students, not to raise their hand when they have the right answer, and not to take the lead in groups.
  38. I see academic learning time used for social exercises designed to make sure everyone a) feels good and b) realizes that they’re a small part of a large group.
  39. I’ve learned that - despite what the district has claimed - the WASL (now the MSP or HSPE at the high school level) is not required, not at any grade level and not for graduation in the state of Washington – rather, there are several ways to meet the graduation requirement.
  40. I see students’ love of and excitement for learning turning to drudgery and perceived failure.
As much I want to spare my own children from these wrongs, it’s just as wrong for adults to sit quietly by as the next generation, with eyes wide and full of hope and excitement, receives what has become the empty promise of an American public education. The essence of public schools is education for all, yet our schools are falling far short of the claim that they will prepare students to compete as adults, let alone in a global market.

I ask parents and teachers, what have you seen that just doesn’t sit right with you? What have you been told to teach or not to teach? What have your kids brought home that didn’t make sense, but you feel you can only assume that the schools must know best? Any one of these seemingly little things as an isolated incident might not mean much but for our children’s sake, do not discount it. These incidents add up to one giant failure across the country, putting the United States at the bottom of the list. http://www.geographic.org/country_ranks/educational_score_performance_country_ranks_2009_oecd.html#maths

Parents and teachers, you are not alone. Get together, talk, stand up for our children. It’s their future and our nation’s future that are at stake.


This article also was posted Jan. 5, 2011, on EducationNews.org at: http://www.educationnews.org/commentaries/105500.html



Note from Laurie Rogers: If you would like to submit a guest column on public education, please write to me at wlroge@comcast.net. Please limit columns to not more than 1,000 words. Columns might be edited for length, content or grammar. You may remain anonymous to the public, however I must know who you are. All decisions on guest columns are the sole right and responsibility of Laurie Rogers.