Sunday, October 17, 2021

ICYMI: Days Of Rage Edition (10/17)

The anti-crt movement is rapidly changing form into the anti-public education movement. Well, maybe not so much changing as revealing. Things are heating up across the country, and this week was a big week for reads in the Big People Media. 

Enrollment jumps in charter schools--with biggest gains in the worst sector

Valerie Strauss at the Washington Post hosts Carol Burris. Charter schools were earlier this year boasting about their huge pandemic gains. Turns out that those gains were overwhelmingly in the cyber-school sector, the well-documented mostly-failing part of the charter world.

This virtual classroom company made millions during the pandemic while students languished

Buzzfeed, of all places, has a blunt takedown of Edgenuity, the 800 pound gorilla of online education, and how badly they fail to provide what they promise.

Moms for Liberty and "parents rights"

A Washington Post piece about one of the momming groups that really captures how critical race theory is now in the rear-view mirror as they start agitating for conservative control of public education.

When parents scream at school board meetings, how can I teach their children?

NY teacher of the year Jennifer Wolfe looks at the fallout from raging parents

With equity resolution, Birmingham schools push back against state critical race theory ban.

A few districts are displaying some spine and resolution. It remains to be seen how this plays out, but it looks as if Birmingham schools have elected to be on the front lines. From AL.com

The Great Resignation Is Accelerating

Derek Thompson for the Atlantic, looking at how millions in the country are just dropping out and walking away. 

The 'Great Resignation' is finally getting companies to take burnout seriously. Is it enough?

Jamie Ducharme at Time magazine takes a look at how business is adjusting (or not) to the great walkaway.

Williamston parents upset about plan to give kids library cards

Well, there's a headline that doesn't bode well. This particular story is from Michigan. Keep them books away from them kids!

The early history of edtech

If you still haven't gotten a copy of Audrey Watters's Teaching Machines, you need to get that done. But in the meantime, here's an excerpt from the book at Edutopia.

Texas school district reinstates book by Black author amid critical race theory claims

More Texas mess. On the one hand, the story has a happy-ish ending. On the other hand, why was this ever even a thing in the first place?

Ohio state education board repeals anti-racism resolution

Jan Resseger has some bad news from Ohio, where the state board has decided not to be against racism after all.

"The Truth About Reading" is missing truths and backstory

Nancy Bailey takes a look at an upcoming documentary about reading--and what it doesn't include.

The Book We Need Now

Nancy Flanagan has read Clint Smith's book, and she's here to explain why you should, too







Saturday, October 16, 2021

NC: Further Suppressing Education

North Carolina has not been a great state for education for many years, and as the fight over all the things lumped under the banner of "critical race theory" has heated up, they've been doing their part to fan the flames.

Lt. Governor Mark Robinson set up a website to collect reports of naughty indoctrinatin' going on, then issued a report that seemed more interested in buttressing a pre-selected agenda than taking a look at what they had actually collected. Bad stuff, the task force alleged, was rampant out there.

So the Johnston County Board of Commissioners decided to take action. That matters because in North Carolina, thanks to a Depression-era law, the state pays for operating the schools, and the county pays for the buildings and other facilities. School districts cannot levy taxes or raise their own money. Which means that state and county government have considerable say in how schools are run.

In June, Johnston County's Board of Commissioners decided they had thoughts about the teaching of indoctrinaty stuff in the county schools. The board decided they would withhold $7.9 million in funding until the school district banned critical race theory. 

They tried. In July the revised the code of ethics to say “instructional staff and other school system employees will not utilize methods or materials that would create division or promote animosity amongst students, staff and the community." Johnston County school board meetings were hit with protests, including a "visit" from Rep. Madison Cawthorne urging them "to stand up to [Governor] Roy Cooper" and reverse their mask mandate. Cooper has been blocking legislative attempts at gag laws for schools.

So they tried again. And came up with one of the more repressive, China-re-education-camp-style policies in the country. Here's how it comes across in the News Observer

The new Johnston policy tells teachers not to undermine foundational documents, which include the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution. 

“All people deserve full credit and recognition for their struggles and accomplishments throughout United States history,” the policy says. “The United States foundational documents shall not be undermined. 

“No employee of Johnston County Schools will make any attempt to discredit the efforts made by all people using foundational documents for reform.”

There's more.

The policy also tackles the sensitive topic about how to teach about historical figures. “All people who contributed to American Society will be recognized and presented as reformists, innovators and heroes to our culture,” according to the policy.

Every historical figure is a hero??!! Andrew Jackson? Great guy. Aaron Burr? Heck of a fella. Presumably all of the founders were very heroic in how they held slaves. What possible educational benefit can there be to requiring schools to teach two-dimensional versions of our very human forebears? 

Also

The policy says “teachers will instruct and educate students about legal policies and avenues of actions.” The policy also says its goal “is to foster positive relationships between our students and the local government entities who provide services to their community.”

“Any group who encourages students to act outside of the law, places this relationship in peril, and is not productive to the goal of Social Responsibility,” the policy says.

Two thoughts. First, I am repeatedly amazed at the magical powers that some folks believe teachers have. Second, what requirements will be placed on local government entities to help foster these relationships.

It's worth noting that not all of the commissioners were on board with this extortion-based curriculum development plan. Said Commissioner Tony Braswell, "We were outside what I think our lane is." Yes, that's correct. And it's worth noting that this sort of propaganda, this Only Good Stuff version of history that the commissioners dragged out of the district in the name of promoting patriotism, and which Commissioner Ted Godwin called "as basic as Mom, the flag, and apple pie," is the kind of thing we would expect from China or North Korea. It's bad education, bad history and bad patriotism. It's terrible policy, and a terrible way to get policy implemented. Here's hoping that teachers in the district ignore it.





Friday, October 15, 2021

Bad Laws in Texas: The Opposite Side of the Holocaust

Look, this is what you get when you hastily pass a sloppy law. Particularly if it has to do with schools.

I feel sorry for Gina Peddy, the Carroll Independent executive director who was caught on a recording telling teachers that, if they have a book about the Holocaust, they should make sure to have one "that has an opposing, that has other perspectives."

Speaking of both sides

Carroll Independent School District, located in a "mostly white suburb 30 northwest of Dallas," has a reputation for being a great school district. But this is not the first time they've been in the news. Back in 2018, partying students from the district posted a video of white high schoolers shouting the N word, and one Black parent decided she had had enough. Families stepped forward to share the many tales of racist insults against Black students. It took them two years to address their racism issues (and in the meantime more offenses occurred), and that involved a plan to require diversity and inclusion training as part of the curriculum. It took aggrieved white parents a couple of days to put together a political action group and to start packing board meetings to shout the now-familiar claims of Marxism and leftist indoctrination. 

Carroll's official motto? "Protect the tradition."

And it has only been a week since CISD was in the news for reprimanding a teacher for having a copy of This Book Is Anti-Racist in her class library (a mom said the book violated her family's "morals and faith." Teachers in the district were supposedly told to sort through their classroom libraries and root out anything that some parent might find offensive. District leaders were trying to avoid any possible trouble; instead, they found themselves in NBC News coverage.

So Gina Peddy is not exactly the first person in the district to step in it. 

This is what you get when you add a vague and ill-considered bill to a community that already has racism problems. Texas jumped on the teacher gag law bandwagon back in June with a bill that lists a bunch of specific does and don'ts for teachers, with some attempts to balance the slate as they dictate curriculum from the state house, including items like a requirement to teach "the history of white supremacy, including but not limited to the institution of slavery, the eugenics movement, the Ku Klux Klan, and the ways in which it is morally wrong." 

But the law also includes the usual litany of anti-crt items-- no teaching that meritocracy is racist, no suggestion that slavery was integral to America's founding, and certainly no use of the 1619 project.  But you can't have a school policy of forbidding students to bring these things up. But a teacher may not be "compelled" to discuss "a particular current event or widely debated and currently controversial issue of public policy or social affairs." And that leads to this part:

A teacher who "chooses to discuss" any of the verbotten topics, events, or issues shall, "to the best of the teacher's ability, strive to explore the topic from diverse and contending perspectives without giving deference to any one perspective."

That's the part of the law you can drive a truck through. Other states that have copy-and-pasted their way to similar laws have included disclaimers, a list of some topics that don't have to be "balanced" that could include the Holocaust, but Texas hasn't done that. If it's controversial in any way, teachers are required to provide all sides and forbidden to favor any side.

If you've worked in schools, you know that a certain not-uncommon breed of administrator is driven by a prime directive--don't get in trouble. Don't get dragged into court. Don't get a bunch of phone calls. 

I've said this all along-- what these bills will do is drive some administrators to tell staff, "Look, just don't do anything at all ever that could possibly get parents stirred up. Just stop doing all of it." You can stiffen their spines a bit if they can be certain that the law is on their side, but this law is an open invitation to rain grief down on the district. 

So CISD has a "rubric" for deciding if a book should be anywhere near a school. It sucks. Nothing inappropriate (ie explicit, because we don't want people complaining about sexy seahorses here). The author should not have a visible bias (aka point of view or voice)--this rule guarantees really boring texts. And multiple points of view must be represented and not "a single dominant narrative" which is really nuts, because every well written work of fiction does just that. This rule alone rules out a book from "Green Eggs and Ham" (the anti-eggs side is presented, but ultimately the do-eat point of view dominates the narrative) to "Hamlet" (the murdery side of the narrative dominates). The rubric also contains the guiding question "How would the use of this book be perceived by all stakeholders." meaning that if even one person is upset, then that book needs to go.

NBC News quotes the GOP senator who wrote the bill objecting to this mess:

State Sen. Bryan Hughes, an East Texas Republican who wrote Senate Bill 3, denied that the law requires teachers to provide opposing views on what he called matters of “good and evil” or to get rid of books that offer only one perspective on the Holocaust.

“That’s not what the bill says,” Hughes said in an interview Wednesday when asked about the Carroll book guidelines. “I’m glad we can have this discussion to help elucidate what the bill says, because that’s not what the bill says.”

Except it kind of is. And waving the vagueness away with a reference to matters of "good and evil," as if that's a clear distinction that we can all agree on is lazy, and sloppy, much like the law itself. 

When you draw a line that is vague and broad and hard to see, some district leaders are going to just try to stay as far away from it as possible so nobody gets In Trouble. If you listen to the recording, Peddy doesn't sound like some sort of calculating evil book-burning Nazi; she sounds like a floundering bureaucrat, whose superiors have tasked her with passing down the rules that are unclear and contradictory. I can just imagine the leaders of the district sputtering "Oh my God--we're in NBC News! Somebody fix this damned mess!"

It doesn't matter whether Texas legislators thought they were drawing a clear line in a defense against Badness (because everyone surely agrees on that) or whether they were deliberately trying to create a vague law that would better intimidate teachers; the result is the same. Bad legislation plus bad district leadership results in really, really bad directives for teachers. And, yes, this is all on top of all the problems we already have with racist and inaccurate textbooks, many aimed at the Texas market. But that's for another day. Today, let's just grow enough of a spine to teach just one side of the Holocaust--the truthful one.

Update: And the superintendent of CISD has issued a statement saying, in part, "We recognize that there are not two sides of the Holocaust," a sentence I would not have imagined any school superintendent would ever have to issue. But here we are. If you think we've seen the last of this type of fiasco, I have a bridge to sell you.

US News, Please Knock It Off

 US News was once a magazine, but these days it's arguably most famous as a Ranker of Things, especially schools. They rank colleges and high schools annually, and despite the fact that these rankings are hugely questionable (see here, here and here), they are uncritically reprinted, quoted, and used by the fortunate top tier as a marketing tool. 

So I'm sure from their perspective it makes sense to extend the brand by ranking elementary and middle schools. This is just as bad an idea as you think it is, and raises some big questions.

How do they do it?

I first guessed a system that used darts, a blindfold, and the broad side of a barn. But no--it's worse than that.

Scoring was almost entirely rooted in students’ performance on mathematics and reading/language arts state assessments.

So, standardized test scores from 2018-2019. But also demographics worked in by soaking the test results in a sophisticated stew of argle-bargle fertilizer, because US News employs data strategists instead of journalists:

As a note, we hope readers benefit from the sophistication of our analysis. The U.S. News rankings team produced multivariate regressions that assessed student performance in the context of demographics and their states. We believe that is more useful than simply looking at test results to evaluate schools, because this process resembles to a certain extent how education administrators and researchers consider school performance. But our rankings do provide considerable weights for scores themselves, too, because we believe parents value environments where most children arrive prepared to learn and teachers can provide a culture of enrichment.

So, we try to take into account where test scores are affected by the fact that non-wealthy, non-white students tend to do more poorly on these tests, but at the same time, we know that lots of parents value environments that are wealthy and white. 

What next?

Parents should use these results to get "insights into a key element of school quality." Parents can use "rankings, our data and word-of-mouth research" to shop for schools, and it's a close-to-honest statement that ranks US News ranking as tied for first place with "Talk to the ladies at the hair salon." 

As many Wags on Twitter (a fine band name) observed, we can look for US News to continue to expand its brand. First obvious choice is rankings for pre-schools, but why stop there? America needs to know--where are the top-ranked playgrounds in the country? Whose mini-van back seat is producing the leaders of tomorrow? Which were the top-ranked fetuses of the year, and which uteruses are the best? Top-ranked sperm? 

My dream is that the world greets this latest rank adventure with a massive yawn, but they won't. People love rankings, love them so much that too many don't even pause to ask, "Rank based on what, exactly?" Nobody anywhere is going to benefit from the sophistication of their analysis; the best we can hope for is that schools do not follow the lead of colleges and some high schools and start trying to game the system ("Sorry, Mrs. Potts, but your child is going to bring down our ranking with their test scores, so we're booting little Pat out of kindergarten.")

Just stop, US News. Just stop.


Wednesday, October 13, 2021

What Is The Christian Educators Association?

2021 is the year of many things, including open season on public education. One group is continuing its work of trying to chip away at the teachers unions. 

The Christian Educators Association is not a new player (you may have heard the name before--we'll get to that shortly). They were founded as the National Educators Fellowship in 1953 by Dr. Clyde Narramore, an author of over 100 books, most focusing on psychology. He even had a syndicated radio show with his wife Ruth. His shtick was psychology steeped in Christian belief, and he eventually launched and led the Rosemead School of Psychology which has since been folded into Biola University, a private evangelical Christian university in La Mirada, California (we'll meet them again). Biola was founded as the Bible Institute of Los Angeles by the president of the Union Oil Company of California, based on the model of the Moody Bible Institute, later broadening their programs (including an education department).

For most of their early existence, they were responding to the idea that school children in the US "have no moral and spiritual training" other than bits they got as a side effect of public education. CEA wanted to encourage educators to meet that need (with Jesus). The organization provided fellowship and encouragement and mutual support for a few hundred Christian educators across the country, but mostly in California.

In 1984 they changed the name to Christian Educators Association International, and in 1991, then-leader Forrest Turpen continued restructuring the group to be "an alternative to teachers' unions, at a time when unions were embracing values more and more hostile to the Biblical worldview." I was teaching then; I'm not sure what exactly they were upset about (Outcome based education?) Turpen led the group from 1983 till 2003, expanded membership, and went after the secular unions. As always, the mission was unequivocally evangelical; when he died, friends noted his "dogged determination to see the gospel proclaimed to the children of this nation." After his death, CEAI set up the Forrest Turpen Legacy Grant, asking teachers "Do you dream of impacting your school for Christ?" Grants were awarded for Bibles, tracts, t-shirts, and transportation costs to visit the Ark Encounter, all for various school clubs.

CEAI became increasingly aggressive. Under new leader (and former Ohio public school teacher) Finn Laursen, CEAI launched the Daniel Project to provide schools with modern day Daniels:

Christ-centered teachers are nominated, selected and funded to participate in Daniel Weekends to help them rekindle their passion, calling and courage to transform their schools with God’s love and truth.

Totally cool because, as Laursen explains here, the founders totally wanted religion in schools. He also makes the claim that in the past, the US schools were first in math and literacy and "the envy of the world," by then in the sixties the Supreme Court took prayer out of school. And as another CEAI writer puts it, "By not honoring God in our schools, We have allowed unbelief to be sown into the lives of our children. And when a nation sows unbelief it reaps a harvest Of brokenness, division and moral decay."

Laursen took one other step to make CEAI a more aggressive advocate, and this step may be why you recognize the name. 

In 2013, CEAI joined in a lawsuit being brought by a photogenic California teacher to challenge California's fair share rule that says non-members must still pay the union a share of dues to cover some costs of the union activities from which they benefit. The teacher was Rebecca Friedrichs, who was a CEAI member, and the case was rightly seen as an attack on unionism, especially because Friedrichs was willing to get in front of any camera to talk about how bad the union was. The case was bumped all the way to the Supreme Court, where Friedrichs and the CEAI were about to win when Justice Antonin Scalia died, leaving the court tied at 4-4, which left the union-favoring ruling of a lower court in place. Well, until the Janus decision won the point that Friedrichs and the CEAI had tried to score, giving teachers and others across the country the opportunity to become freeloaders benefiting from union work that they refused to support.

Rebecca Friedrichs made a new career out of her legal adventure, and has built a brand around anti-union activism. CEAI got a new chief in 2017--David Schmus, who has a BA in Political Science from Pepperdine and a MA in Biblical Studies and Theology, as well as a CTEL/CLAD Cross-Cultural Language teaching certificate, from Biola University. Schmus was in charge when the Janus verdict came down to cheer that "Our teachers...are now free."

Like many groups, CEAI has been using the pandemic to chip away at teachers unions. Here's a video of Schmus speaking about the pandemic last year while the Tinkly Piano of Sincere Concern plays; he comes across as a decent guy, and he allows that maybe going back to school is not the best choice in your community right now, but still, good Christians aren't ruled by fear and if the way your union is responding to all this doesn't suit you, maybe come to CEAI. 

The group touts two "wings." There's the protection wing, which offers liability insurance and a Job Protection Benefit, in case you're persecuted for your faith. They promise "whatever situation you face, we will walk through it with you, praying with you, and counseling you, all from a Biblical worldview." The there's the ministry wing, where "we equip Christian educators to transform their schools." The site offers resources on how to transform their classrooms without getting in legal trouble; some of them are pretty bold; he believes, for instance, that the establishment clause of the First Amendment just means the feds can't pick a religion but states ought to be able to have at it. I am curious how they would stand up against the current slate of "no controversies and teach all sides" laws.

CEAI also has some groups that it teams up with, like Teach 4 The Heart, a Christian teacher group run by a woman who graduated from a private Christian school, attended a private Christian college, taught for four years at another private Christian school, and then set up this group.

My attention was drawn to this group because they are apparently busy recruiting these days. My old local union has lost some members to them. From the grapevine, I've heard stories like a pretend parents group giving teachers gifts of chocolates wrapped in CEAI sales pitches. They are, of course, a regularly bemoaned depository of freeloaders--folks who are adamant about not paying union dues, but want to get the benefit of the protections that unions are legally required to provide. One also wonders how such a relatively small mostly-Californian group is able to stay on top of pertinent laws in all fifty states.

It's not clear how big they actually are. In 2018, they reported 8,000 members which is not exactly a national tidal wave. I have no doubt that during the pandemic various anti-masking anti-vax folks have moved to CAEI, though I am also told that CEAI only accepts those who are willing to certify their love of Jesus. But that tiny 8,000 number does raise a question-- given the relatively inexpensive membership dues, how is this outfit funded?

The dues are $239/per year, or $20/month (there is a free "join the movement" option). If we assume even 10,000 members at the yearly rate, that's $2.3 million, which is not a lot of money to operate a national union that promises legal protection for every member. But their 2020 report at the ECFA (a sort of BBB for ministries) shows a total revenue of $1,202,480, with $179, 612 in donations, and expenses of a mere $1,176,026. That appears to be only a small bump over previous years. I'm not sure how much service you can provide your members with that kind of money-- thoughts and actual prayers?

I will say this for CEAI-- this is no dog-whistling sneak-religion-in-the-back-door kind of group. Their message is up front and clear. Quit that secular union. Spread Jesus in your classroom. Given their numbers, they may not pop up in your neighborhood, but then again, we live in interesting times, and there are plenty of other groups around much like them. Keep an eye peeled.

Is Teaching An Art Or A Science? Well...

This debate surfaces from time to time, and often the debatiness of it stems from particular interpretations of what "art" and "science" are. Or rather, what they are not, as people often bring these terms up in order to dismiss them.

"Science" is subject to a great deal of misinterpretation, with folks tending toward the notion that science is a matter of cold, hard settled facts. Science, this theory goes, tells us exactly how things always work. We see this conception of science every time someone talks about the science of reading as if SOR tells us that if we do exactly X with every student, every student will learn to read, every time. 

The appeal of this view is understandable. It's human to desperately want a set of instructions that tells us exactly how the world works, that shows us that if we put in X, we always get Y. Some people turn to religion for this kind of certain set of rules, and some people turn to science.

But this mechanistic view of the universe was pushed out a hundred years ago, replaced by chaos theories and quantum physics and relativity. And science itself is better understood as a way to look for answers, to test and revise and work slowly toward the Truth without necessarily the expectation that you're ever going to get there. The universe is shifting and moving and fuzzy.

And so is a classroom. You can't put in X and always get Y, because the ground shifts every day. Not just different students in the room, but students who change from day to day, as does the teacher. If teaching can be reduced to an equation, it's an equation in which most of the variables change every single day. 

Yet teachers do work scientifically. Every lesson involves hypothesizing (this should help the concept make sense), testing (let's see how they react), and revising (bloody hell--I need to take those sentences off the worksheet). Teaching is methodical, and teachers strive to reduce the number of variables in play (I'm going to teach this lesson as if my girlfriend didn't dump me last night, as if that kid in the third row doesn't annoy me, as if last period wasn't a disaster). 

So if by "science" you mean that teaching is a set of settled, lab-proven inputs that always get you the desired outputs (so simple that it can be reduced to, say, a bunch of computer algorithms), the no, teaching is not a science. But if you mean that teaching is a process that involves an unbiased development, testing, and revision of various techniques and tactics to achieve a desired measurable outcome, then sure, teaching is a science (with a huge caveat around that "measurable outcome part), albeit a science occurring within a chaotic system that is so complex that currently only a human brain can navigate it.

When people bring up the idea of teaching as art, they may be signaling the idea that teaching is just about getting all touchy feely and following your muse, that a great teacher must follow their gut.

But the thing about art is that there is no art without skill. You can't paint a great painting if you don't know how to manipulate paint. You can't play a jazz solo if you don't know your way around your instrument. Skills do not guarantee great achievement--you can be flawless and dull. But you can't make art without some sort of skill set. In fact, the kind of art that you are able to envision is usually limited by your actual skill set. 

Good teachers do not wander into their classroom every day and just wing it. They have to know the material. They have to know the skills of presenting the material, of gauging reaction, of spotting results. At the same time, they need to be flexible, adaptable, expressive, human. For me, teaching was always very much like performance--engaging, working with, responding to an audience. But even in the world of jazz, you don't just grab an instrument and do whatever. You have to be able to make notes, and while there is room to be creative and artful, there are also structures to follow. Excuse the language, but I always think of this story (relayed by Winton Marsalis, among others)- excuse the language:

Saxophonist Frank Foster called for a blues in B-flat during a street concert with other musicians when a young tenor player began to play "sounds that had no relationship to the harmonic progression or rhythmic setting," causing Foster to stop him:

"What are you doing?"
"Just playing what I feel."
"Well, feel something in B-flat, motherfucker."

So, for me, teaching is science and art and craft and keeping one foot in the moment and one foot on the larger picture of the past. It's assessing, exploring and adjusting with a clear head and also following inspiration and creation with a full heart. You can't reduce it to a repeatable formula, and you can't just pull it out of your butt. Like learning, teaching is one of the most fully human activities that we can participate in, and bigger than any box we try to cram it into. 


Sunday, October 10, 2021

ICYMI: End of the Yellow Brick Road Edition (10/10)

Final weekend of the balancing act that is doing live community theater during COVID. It's been a blast, but I look forward to getting my evenings back. In the meantime, I have some reading for you to wile away your Sunday afternoon (or whenever it is that you peruse this list).

Black Children Were Jailed for a Crime That Doesn’t Exist. Almost Nothing Happened to the Adults in Charge.

This story is so much worse than the headline suggests. It's a pro-publica investigative piece of events back in 2016. It's long, but it's the "if you read only one piece on this list" piece for the week. 

New Chicago Public Schools CEO Must Address the Catastrophe of Student Based Budgeting

Chicago has a new schools boss, and Jan Resseger is hoping he'll get rid of SBB, the funding model that cements inequity while opening the door for voucher-style shenanigans.

Nice White--Resentful--White Parent Syndrome

Nancy Flanagan has noticed what lies behind much of the current panic over CRT+Everything.

In East Texas, Cleveland ISD Needed Money. The State Sent Charter Schools Instead.

In Texas Monthly, Bekah McNeel reports on the gazillionth example of a state using a local district's challenges not as a call for assistance, but as a marketing opportunity for charters.

Here's how education reform can support teachers instead of undermining them.

With an op-ed in the Pennsylvania Capital-Star, Gerald K. LeTendre makes a World Teacher Day pleas for help for teachers, and offers some specific recommendations.

Special Ed questions on charter school apps violate federal law, complaints allege

In Colorado, some parents believe that certain application questions are just a filtering mechanism. Chalkbeat has the story.

The Problem with Cute Kids

Janet Lansbury offers some thoughts about how cuteness can be used to minimize children.

Two WV fathers sue state officials over charter school laws

Well, this should be fun. West Virginia is just getting its charter sector up and running, and here come two dads with a lawsuit alleging the state's Charter School Board's ability to overrule local taxpayers is a big no-no.

Why the first Varsity Blues trial really matters

Who better than Akil Bello, writing at Forbes, to explain all the layers and issues in the trial of parents who played the system to get their unqualified children into the college of their choice.

Banned school books focus on sex and race because of parents, not students

Anne Lutz Fernandez writes at NBC Think about the curious phenomenon of book bans that never seem to focus on violence 


Friday, October 8, 2021

PA: A Bad Teacher Transparency Bill

Pennsylvania Republicans want to jump on the teacher transparency train, motivated no doubt by nothing but good thoughts and in no way pandering to the mob currently demanding that we root Evil Indoctrination out of schools. HB 1332 requires districts to post a bunch of instructional stuff on line; it has just passed the House, and will probably sail through the GOP-controlled Senate as well, but it's a particularly bad example of this sort of bill, and it deserves to die on the statehouse steps. Let's talk about why.

First, the bill is both redundant and vague. Here's exactly what the bill requires districts to post:

...all curriculum, including academic standards to be achieved, instructional materials, assessment techniques and course syllabus for each instructional course offered...

Curriculum is publicly adopted by school boards. Academic standards are adopted by the state and already available on line (perhaps the law wants to see which standards apply to which parts of which courses, but the bill doesn't say that). Instructional materials can mean virtually anything a teacher ever uses in the classroom; does the bill want a list of textbooks (again, publicly adopted by the board) or every worksheet and handout, text of every lecture, pictures of stuff drawn on the chalk/white-board, homework assignments--the list can go on forever, but it doesn't even start here. Assessment techniques--so the school just has to say "there will be tests and worksheets and an occasional pop quiz" and that's it? Also, how do copyrights and IP rights factor into this? This is a bill that says, "Put up some of the stuff that is already publicly available, and throw in some more whatever-ya-got."

All of this must be posted within thirty days of the adoption of a new curriculum. It does, at least, apply to both public and charter schools. Private schools get a pass.

But in addition to being vague, the bill has also skipped over the important "or else" part of any law. It says absolutely nothing about how compliance will be judged or enforced.

Let me tell you a story. Back in 2002, I was the president of our local, and we went on strike. In Pennsylvania, there's a law that says the school year must be finished by a certain date, meaning that a strike must end by a certain date in order for the school to get its full lawful year in. The teachers and the district wanted to determine what that date would be early on and, just for fun, to find out what the consequences would be if we went over. Both the district and the union made calls to Harrisburg. Not only could we not get answers to any of our questions, but we couldn't even find a department in Harrisburg that would admit to being responsible for overseeing the rule and compliance with it. We finally had to just settle on a date between ourselves; it was one of the first things we settled in that strike. 

So for this bill--which is only 17 lines long, and that includes definitions of terms and the "this act will take effect in 60 days" part--who is going to decide whether or not a school district has complied fully and accurately? Will there be some sort of accountability if a district doesn't actually follow the syllabus of record? Will someone check to make sure that the online material is complete and accurate and enough to satisfy the law? 

And if the districts is found--somehow, by somebody--to have failed to comply, which department in Harrisburg is going to scold them, and what will the penalty be, exactly?

Mind you, I don't particularly want to see these things in a bill, but the fact that they aren't there suggests that this is not so much a serious bill as just a stunt.

And being just a stunt would be okay, except that this is going to create a crapload of electronic busywork for a bunch of teachers. In some districts, the work required by the bill is more or less done already, but in some districts, a bunch of teachers will now be required to use their copious free time to pull together the whole mountain, chapter, and verse for their courses.  The bill specifies that chief administrators are responsible for getting this stuff put up, but that task will simply be delegated. And these days, don't teachers just really need One More Damn Thing to do. The best response of schools will be to not take this requirement seriously and just quickly post whatever, but educators are too often good soldiers and rules followers--some districts are going to take this seriously and demand a bunch of extra time from teachers, or, worse yet, spend taxpayer dollars to compensate teachers for extra time spent on this.

In Pennsylvania, districts are regularly required to craft Strategic Plans, which often involve big committees and lots of meetings (I participated in every one of these when I was a teacher) and in the end it generates a large, complex planning and steering document that sits on a shelf somewhere and is never viewed again by a single living soul. It's thousands of person-hours building a bridge to nowhere. This smells like more of the same. 

Democrats in the House smelled something else as well.

“This bill will drag education right into the middle of the culture wars,” said Rep. Dan Frankel, D-Allegheny County, “Your neighbor, her grandfather in Florida, your crazy uncle and his best friend in California can all weigh in on what the schools are teaching your child. Let’s be clear.”

“This bill isn’t about transparency for parents,” Frankel said. “It’s about bringing the fights that get started on Fox News to the kindergarten classroom near you. ... This legislation is an invitation to the book burners and anti-maskers to harass our schools and our teachers.”

GOP Rep Aaron Bernstine countered the fear that this will fan the lies about what teachers are doing in classrooms because the Truth will be there on line. Except that A) as noted above, there won't necessarily be much of anything on line and B) the crowds getting whipped up about Indoctrinatin' have shown that they can find Evil Naughtiness in just about anything that teachers do. 

I'm a big fan of transparency in schools; taxpayers and parents deserve to know how their money is being spent and their kids are being taught. Schools cannot fight off the current mob by simply trying to hide their work. But this is a transparency bill without any transparency, creating a huge pile of busywork that won't even help people who are sincerely interested in finding out more about what the school is up to (though lots of them use antiquated techniques like Emailing The Teacher and Asking Their Child). It let's the GOP tell the mob, "See, we made those public schools 'fess up" and it let's the mob do online searches to see if anything turns up from that List Of Evil Books they got from their favorite anti-mask anti-"CRT" pro-open school anti-a bunch-of-stuff group. 

In short, this is a bill that doesn't do anything useful, a not-really-a-solution in search of a problem, a political stunt whose only concrete result will be a bunch of extra work cutting into teachers' teaching time. This doesn't serve anyone but some politicians and the mob. 




Thursday, October 7, 2021

OH: Protect Our Children From Everything

You may have seen the opt out form floating around education-related social media, and it appears to have come from a special group in Ohio. Meet the Protect Ohio Children Coalition, "putting daylight on the darkness of Critical Race Theory (CRT), Comprehensive Sex Education (CSE), and Social Emotional Learning (SEL)." Their mission is stated plainly on the site

Children have a legal right to an academic education that protects their innocence, free from comprehensive sexuality education and radical indoctrination. We will not tolerate the radicalization of children in our schools. We will equip and support individuals who are monitoring and evaluating school boards. We will assist in replacing radical school board officials through the election process.

I'm not familiar with the "protects innocence" clause in education law, but their point is still clear. Their goals are clear, too--drive this stuff out, and drive out anybody who supports it in any way. The front page of the site offers an easy link to their anonymous tip form--well, actually it's a "mailto" link, so you'll be sending them an email with your eddress on it, so not exactly anonymous. 

There's a map and list of districts with "confirmed" indoctrination going on. And a reminder that Ohio now gives parents the right to demand that schools and teachers drop everything to let parents examine almost all materials (I say almost because even though the Ohio law lets parents inspect every survey or questionnaire before its given, and every bit of instructional material, somehow--somehow--the Big Standardized Test escaped demands for transparency). 

There are tips on how to make public records requests, and an explanation of the "tsunami strategy," a method for swamping school board meetings and legislative hearings. 

There are also guides to each of the objectionable indoctrination things. The CRT page cites Hillsdale College and Trump's 1776 Report, and explains how BLM came from CRT and CRT came from Karl Marx, plau an anti-CRT article from Christopher Rufo, the OG of anti-CRT noisemaking. The CSE page reminds you that CSE includes strong components of pedophile grooming techniques. And the SEL page is mostly a reminder that this argument is not new (see also "values clarification" and the "soft skills" portion of Outcome Based Education). It's bad because it's an attempt to change students' beliefs and values--that's an old issue, rooted in the not-unreasonable fears that hit a parent when you realize you are entrusting your child to the care of someone who may or may not share your own values. They did manage to surprise me with their article linking SEL to "occult roots." 

And they have a link to the infamous opt-out form. The list of things the teacher may not expose a child to is long. There's a big list of "divisive concepts" and materials that the child must not be exposed to, from "revisionist history" to Edgenuity. No personal analysis or attempts to affect the "child's attitudes, habits, traits, opinions, beliefs or feelings concerning: political affiliations; religious beliefs or practices; mental or psychological conditions; or illegal, antisocial, self-incriminating or demeaning behavior." That is a really, really broad net to cast. Also, no advertising groups that have anything to do with sexual orientation or gender identity, even if you try to sneak it through "under the guise of 'bullying.'"

The sex stuff opt-out form is separate, and includes everything from every group associated with LGBTQ+ that you've ever heard of. Also, no instruction about abortion, birth control, sexual activity of any kind, sexual orientation, or transgenderism, etc etc etc.

The form requests "alternative academic instruction" for the child, and that the form be put in the child's permanent file, and ends with the warning "Any instruction contrary to this notice will be the subject of further action to protect my child."

Who are the folks behind this? 

Top of the crew are Diane Stover (Program director) and her husband John. The Stovers have long been active in Ohio conservative circles, including Ohio Value Voters, another group they created and led. They've got a background in IT and real estate; plus, she's a Sunday School teacher and he's a Baptist deacon. The Stovers were also among the witnesses testifying in favor of Ohio's anti-teaching naughty stuff law; she urged the legislature "to protect children from the indoctrination of harmfulk ideology in our schools."

Other board members include Cathy Pulz, who headed up the Upper Arlington Education Coalition that, among other things, fought back against gender neutral bathrooms in school (she also testified in favor of the gag bill). Also, Linda Harvey, president of Mission America, a Christian pro-family organization. Mission America hosted a podcast about the dangers of CRT, with Johnathan Broadbent, another board member, as guest. The final member is Jen Burr, who testified in favor of open, maskless schools as a board member of Ohio Parents for Traditional Education (they have a Facebook page that has gone private). There are connections to the Tea Party, Citizens for Free Speech--the usual crew.

CRT continues to be a catch-all for every complaint about public education ever, while also trying to generate discontent with public education, the better to fuel new attempts to simply get rid of it and replace it with a good-luck-you're-on-your-own marketplace even as taxpayers send money to religious schools. From complaints about critical race theory (which came after complaints about closed schools and mask mandates) we've moved on to the old refrain against everything that schools might teach that some conservative christianists disapprove of. 

It would be a mistake for public education to take the stance that parents should shut up and sit down, but it would also be a mistake to let a small, vocal, albeit well-organized group intent on turning the clock back to a whitewashed version of 1955 decide what schools should do. The notion, as expressed by Mike Pompeo, that "parents should decide what their children are taught in school" is one more dismissal of educator expertise and a sure recipe for educational stagnation. I absolutely get the visceral fear of having your children grow up to be something foreign to your own beliefs and experience, but I don't get the notion that "don't let me children learn anything that I don't know myself" is a solution to anything. This is not freedom; this is a clumsy attempt to tie freedom up and gag it. Plus, I'll bet dollars to donuts that even as I type this, children are online googling items from the list of forbidden subjects. Good luck with that opt out thing.

OH: One More Push To Defund Public Education

Ohio is once again making an effort to surpass Florida in its hostility to public education. This time, it's the Backpack Scholarship Program, yet another voucher bill intended to have tax dollars "follow the child" and not fund the public education system. 

This bill (HB 290) is the education savings account super-voucher approach, providing $5,500 for elementary and $7,500 for secondary students, with the family having the option to spend the money on a wide variety of education-flavored goods and services (those amounts are set to grow at the same rate as the statewide average goes up--see here to see why that's a tasty dodge for privatizers). It applies to  any and all students, including those already enrolled in non-public schools, so that right off the bat public schools will lose money without any commensurate drop in student population. And I repeat--there is not even the pretense of "this is just a small program to help rescue The Children from being trapped in failing zip school codes." This is "free government money for everyone!"

The proposal calls for the treasurer of the state to run the program. There are no accountability or oversight rules in the law--just a requirement that the treasurer come up with something, later.

The list of eligible areas on which the voucher can be spent looks like the assortment that come up in these bills in other states-- tuition, tutoring, testing, industry credentialing course, educational services, textbooks, curriculum, fees for summer school. And as always, the law contains an explicit "just cause you're taking government money, that doesn't mean the government can tell you how to run your school" clause.

There are some convoluted money items, allowing for various rollovers of voucher funds, like passing unused voucher money from Child A on to Child B.

But the real poison pill can be found in line 258-- (Sec. 3310.25 C), which says that if a family is at or below 200% of the federal poverty line, the children cannot be charged a tuition higher than the voucher amount. Meaning that your Lexus-level Private Schools will still have plenty of motivation to keep Those Peoples' Children out of their school. 

You can learn more about the bill here at its very own website, where one of the things that you'll learn is that the website "is brought to you by the Ohio Christian Education Network and the Center for Christian Virtue." That makes sense--the Ohio Christian Education Network helped write the bill (though truthfully at this point all these bills require is a little cut and paste from the last batch).

Backers of the bill are barely managing to muster the usual talking points. “Will it put more pressure on public schools? Probably,” said Rep. Riordan McClain (R-Upper Sandusky). “Will it make [public schools] more accountable to parents then they are today? Probably.” That's pretty lukewarm, but hey-- conservatives who want to get rid of public education get what they want, and private religious schools get the access to public tax dollars that they want, and off in to the side, the usual crews are raising a ruckus about masks and CRT and everything else they can use as a means of discrediting public schools. 

Call it a voucher or a backpack or an ESA--it allows the state to say, "Hey, we gave you some money to go get an education, so we're done. It's all your problem now" as another shared common good is gutted. Not good for Ohio or any other state.



Wednesday, October 6, 2021

A Handy Guide To SCOTUS, Schools, and the Wall between Church and State

When I first met Dallas Koehn, he was approaching the end of his rope with education in Oklahoma. Now he's in Indiana, but when he moved, he took with him a background in history, teaching, and consulting (imagine--hiring a consultant who actually works in a classroom). Koehn has been blogging for years at Blue Cereal Education, where he applies a nice combination of insight and sass. 

All of those qualities--the deep knowledge of history, the writing skill, and the sass--are on display in his new book A Wall of Education: What the Supreme Court Really Says (And Really Doesn't) About The Separation of Church and State in Education). It's an extension/collection of his regular "Have To" History posts on the blog, where the history teacher him just has to break down significant historical stuff.

The book is a chronological collection of every SCOTUS case related to the long-storied wall between church and state where it runs through schools. That may sound like a tough row to hoe, but Koehn makes it tolerable--even entertaining--through a couple of devices.

For one, each section lets you go as deep as you like. Koehn starts with Three Big Things--the basic "what you need to know about this case" boiled down to three bullet points. Then there's the background (how we got there), the arguments, and the decision, plus why it mattered, all clearly labeled so that you can skim as you wish. At the end, he gives you the opinions and dissents from the judges themselves. With each case, you are free to dig as deeply as you wish (or not).

This is all aided by Koehn's relaxed, plain-language voice. It's pretty easy to imagine these capsuled explanations as class presentations. Take this paragraph, selected by me pretty much at random, from his discussion of Lee v. Weisman:

Justice Antonin Scalia, joined by Chief Justice William Rehnquist and Justice Clarence Thomas, had a number of problems with the majority decision, most of which centered around--wait for it-- the focus on "coercion." Being Scalia, this wasn't the only problem with the decision. Everyone participating in it was a big stinky dumb doo-doo head. But coercion came up the most in his mocking, sputtering rebuttal. (Quote from Scalia follows)

There's a lot of scholarship here, and a lot of understanding conveyed in ways that don't require you to be a legal scholar, but which makes the musing of legal scholars a bit easier to follow. Reading the volume through, in order, one gets a real education on the ubiquitous "Lemon Test," and you can see, almost in real time, the slow erosion of the wall as folks on the religious side keep probing and pushing, sometimes more honestly and sincerely than others. 

Koehn divides cases into major in-depth chapters and quicky "worth a look" sidebars. It makes a great reference book for those of us who aren't lawyers, like having easy access to a legal historian who speaks regular English. I know I'm eventually going to be irritated at the lack of a table of contents or index, but there is a very handy grouping of cases by subject area in the back, as well as a list of further resources. 

Koehn's own inclinations are easy to spot, but he is fair and even-handed in his treatment of the various parties in these cases (kind of like any experienced well-read professional educator handling a controversial topic). The book is self-published, but available at plenty of on-line outlets. It's a hefty 400-ish pages, but reads quickly and provides a quick look-up source for all the cases you'd want to know about. I recommend this book as a worthwhile addition to your education policy library.

Tuesday, October 5, 2021

The Missing School Choice Argument

Sometimes it's what people don't say that tells you a lot about their position.

Proponents of school choice rarely-if-ever talk about one of the great obstacles to school choice.

Private school admissions.

For instance, private schools that explicitly or implicitly forbid LGBTQ students (and faculty). Or private schools that resist admitting students of color. Or private schools that have religious requirements. Or private schools that have erected barriers of price, thereby blocking poorer families from access. (And that's before we get to a whole other class of obstacles, like the parochial school that told my divorced friend that her children would probably be better off in a more suitable surrounding--presumably one better-equipped for children from a "broken home.")

When the private or charter schoolhouse door is locked, it is most often the people inside who have locked it. Why are choice fans not after them to open their doors?

When cries go up that students have to be rescued from their "failing schools" and must be released from being trapped in their zip code, why do none of these complaints ever address the people who already have lifeboats in the water, calling on them to carry more children to safety?

Why not demand that the pricey privates use their endowments to extend more scholarships? Why not insist that the Catholic Church use its billions of dollars to welcome more students into its huge chain of private schools? Why is nobody giving Eva Moskowitz grief about the families she chases away from Success Academy? Why is there so little talk from choicers about all the seats going empty because charters refuse to backfill and replace students who leave? We know most of the tricks that schools use to make it "school's choice"--why aren't choicers who are in it For The Children out there hollering, "Knock that off right now"?

Why do so few voucher systems include any safeguards for students and families, so few guarantees that when they find the school that's the "best fit," their "right" to make that choice will not be violated by the school itself? 

Heck, why not demand better wages for American workers so that more parents could afford to keep one parental unit out of work to home school instead?

School choice is, after all, widely available right now--except for the barriers of school's admission policies and tuition price tags. It is within the schools' power to fix both of those so that school choice would be more readily accessible to families. And yet, nobody in the school choice movement raises their voice to make this argument. 

I don't know, but I can guess at some of the arguments. 

"Even if private schools open their doors wider, we'd still be asking parents to pay for school twice." But nobody pays for school twice, because nobody pays the full price to send their child to school even once. I pay my property tax, and some other undefined amount of school tax through state and federal channels. It does not remotely add up to the price per pupil--even less so if we're talking about more than one. And if we accept this argument, then we open the floor to folks who want to argue that their kids are grown and why should they be paying any money at all for school taxes?

"It would cramp the school's style to just fling open the doors." Sure. But either we are in favor of a system that takes responsibility for educating all children, or we don't. If private schools want to exist outside of that all-children system, they don't need to take the money that's paid by taxpayers to maintain that system. That makes no more sense than saying, "I want to build a nice private park, but I want the government to give me public tax dollars to help pay for it." 

But here's the thing--if actual choice were the main concern here, advocates could argue for vouchers etc at the same time they lobbied for more open access to private schools. But for many, it's not about choice- it's about taxpayer-funded choice, or transforming a public system into a privately owned-and-operated system. It's not about access to choice for students; it's about access to tax dollars and the education market for entrepreneurs and vendors. In the most extreme cases, it's about ending tax-supported public education.\

There's a whole world of ways to provide more choices to students (including choices within the public system itself). Why do choicers insist that we should only talk about one particular approach?

Sunday, October 3, 2021

ICYMI: Applefest Edition (10/3)

 Once a year, my small town closes the streets, brings in a ton of vendors, runs a whole passel of events, and calls it a festival, and it's pretty cool. Like the Harvest Homes of a century ago, it serves as a city-wide homecoming. It's not quite the same this year (the apple pancake breakfast was take-out only), but it's something. In the meantime, here's your reading list for the week.

Fighting back in Arizona

Trevor Nelson at Public Voices for Public Schools tells how activists are fighting back against the folks in Arizona trying to use the pandemic to sow more chaos, disruption and destruction of public schools.

What 150 studies have to say about motivating students

Jill Barshay at Hechinger looks at a meta-study of student motivation, Surprise--students are motivated by the same things as other humans.

How for-profit charter schools open the door for private investors to exploit public education

Jeff Bryant has been digging again. Here's a pretty appalling look at how some loopholes are being exploited by some shady actors in the edu-biz world.

Teaching children and teenagers philosophy and social justice

An intriguing and unusual slant on teaching the thinky stuff. From the blog of the APA

Why charter schools are not as "public" as they claim to be

Kevin Welner has a new book about charter schools coming out--here's a piece of what his research discovered about how charters actually enforce school's choice, not school choice.

Teach two years, climb ed ladder, score $5 mill contract

The indispensable Mercedes Schneider with an astonishing story of corruption amongs the TFA grads in Rhode Island

Racism matters to our students, so it must matter to us

Jaty Wamsted doing a guest turn at Maureen Downey's spot on the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, talking about the real place of critical race theory in the classroom.

Behind the teacher shortage, an unexpected culprit: covid relief money

From NBC news. Some folks think that covid money is being used to poach teachers from other districts.

Koch-backed group fuels opposition to mask mandates

The Washington Post got its hands on some leaked documents, and you will be shocked--shocked--to learn that the Kochtopus is doing a new version of its Tea Party fueling work in the world of anti-maskers.

Junk Mail Yet Again

The Koch-backed Freedom Foundation wants to once again encourage teachers to quit the union. Grumpy Old Teacher breaks it down.

How America screwed up the great school reopening

The New Republic tells the tale of how we came up short.


Friday, October 1, 2021

PA: Another "Mom" Group Involved in School Board Elections

Today PennLive reports that an Open Schools group is throwing big bucks into school board races in the state.

Back to School PA is a PAC that intends to drop a ton of money all over the state to back school board candidates who want to make sure that schools are open for in person learning. The money behind the group comes from Paul Martino, a venture capitalist who has been busy mostly in the world of sports and gaming, but on the subject of opening schools was just an angry parent. If watch him talk, he has swallowed the entire Learning Loss panic.

Nope.

Martino is teamed up with Clarice Schillinger, who previously organized Keeping Kids in School PAC, which grew out of Parents for In Person Education. That PAC backed 94 candidates in various primary board races (mostly in the southeastern corner of PA) and 92 of them were successful. Schillinger also helped float a multi-family lawsuit against a school district in an attempt to force it open (that was under "Voice for Choice--Open Our Schools")

If it seems as if they know how to play this game well, that may be because of Schillinger herself/ Although she is invariably described as a "mom," her last full-time job was as a staffer for a Republican Senator. Previously she worked as an executive assistant for the county housing authority and for Delamor Enterprises, a company that operates some McDonald's in the Chambersburg area. She just finished a BA in human resources from Penn State (Class of '20). These days she works as a system administrator at Charles River Laboratories.

In short, Schillinger has not been sitting around the house in her apron baking cookies to sell in order to raise money for her cause. Like most of the "moms" in front of these groups, she's politically seasoned and well-connected. The "mom" nomenclature is an odd journalistic choice, as if Bill Gates were routinely described as a "dad interested in helping schools."

The story of this latest group is that Schillinger and Martino just kind of bumped into each other on line, discovered a shared passion for forcing schools to be open. Just a mom and a rich guy who happened to connect.

The Open School movement might be easier to support if that passion for open school buildings resulted in demands that school districts put appropriate safeguards in place, upgrade ventilation, cut class sizes to ease social distancing--all the kind of stuff that makes it possible to open schools safely. But that never seems to be the case, and it's not the case here. Teacher requests for adequate ventilation are dismissed as an unfair moving of the goalposts.

If it seems like there are a ton of these groups, well, there are. Back To School PA Pac has a whole page you can use to contact the group in your county. And if it seems to you that schools in PA are actually mostly open already, Schillinger hints that they might all close right after the election in November. 

So one more mom group. It's hard sometimes to tell whether this keeps happening because women are routinely stripped of their professional role, or because these groups want to use the word "mom" as cover, masking professional well-organized activism with the notion of nice homebodies who are just trying to make some nice, sincere amateur grassroots noise. But whatever you believe about such groups, Pennsylvania has another of them, and they are coming for a school board election near you.