Monday, July 31, 2023
Sunday, July 30, 2023
So Good a [Lost] Cause (Part 1)
DeSantis officials push back on Byron Donalds’ criticism of African American history standards
Most of Florida work group did not agree with controversial parts of state's new standards for Black history, members say
Meanwhile, NBC reports that maybe not everyone on the super-duper commission that created the standards agreed with the final product.
Who is Terry Stoops and What is the Purpose of the FLDOE’s “Academically Successful and Resilient Districts” Office?
Also ay NBC, Tyler Kingkaide takes a deep dive into Hillsdale College and their work at promoting Christian nationalism in education.
Surprising Conversations: Talking to Early Childhood Parents About Gender and Education
From the blog Educating Gender, an interesting look at how some gender issues play out in real classrooms, and how real parents connect to them.
Saturday, July 29, 2023
Thursday, July 27, 2023
Sunday, July 23, 2023
As you read this, we have decamped to the Curmudgucation Institute Field Office in Maine, where the living is easy and the internet connections are spotty on a good day, so posting will be thin here. But I do have a few pieces of reading for you from the past week. Enjoy.The Vermilion Education One-Man Show
I've pretty much never seen a school takeover that went well, but the one in Houston has turned out to be particularly ugly. Josephine Lee at Texas Observer has a great story on the ongoing baloney party.
More Memphis charter schools could face closure after state’s failed turnaround effort
Friday, July 21, 2023
Wednesday, July 19, 2023
Tuesday, July 18, 2023
|These guys all seem to have a distinctive look|
Hillsdale has long had a charter school initiative called the Barney Charter Schools, and more recently they've been behind the launch of many "classical" academies around the country.
Jordan Adams is a Hillsdale grad ('13), which means he was a Hillsdale student when they were launching the Barney schools, and eventually became their Associate Director of Instructional Resources, supposedly teaching at charters for a year or two (though I can't find confirmation of that). I'll let you draw your own conclusion about his fitness for the role:
“I mostly focus on the history and Latin curricula, figuring out how things are taught in a fourth-grade or eleventh-grade classroom,” said Adams. He looks forward to experimenting with more accessible resources for teachers: “When you’re a first-year teacher, you’re just trying to stay one day ahead of what you’re supposed to be teaching. You don’t have time to sit down and read a long text about teaching. But maybe if there’s a short video that is clearly titled and easy to access, you might conceivably watch it while you’re making dinner.”
If only there were a place to go where you could study teaching so that you knew what you were doing on more than a day by day basis. Adams's original undergrad plan was to work at a think tank, then he went to grad school for a Masters of Humanities. One more educational amateur rediscovering the wheel. But apparently reinvented it well enough to move up to interim director of curriculum for the Hillsdale College K-12 Education Office, a job he was holding back in October of 2022.
Adams was part of the crew that screened the Florida math textbooks that DeSantis accused of being too indoctrinatey.
Adams is no longer listed in any current capacity as employed by Hillsdale, though there is no peep about his departure. Not sure what we can make of that.
As was the case in Sarasota, Pennridge added the Vermilion contract to the agenda 24 hours before the meeting,
What I realized and what I’ve seen boards do is if they get in there, the dog has caught the car, and they don’t know what the first thing is to do.
Well, that and they discover that running a school district involves a lot of detail work and nuts and bolts and keeping the lights on and you don't always have supreme power to just insist that your own ideology become the rule of the district.
The idea is that the other side, the powers that be, they cannot keep up with all of it. Oftentimes, they’ll be one small thing, one thing at a time and they can rally people around that. They can’t counter everything. Everything should be up for debate. We should be moving on multiple policy areas and it should be happening quickly and efficiently.
This includes things such as the percentage of students who are not proficient in a given grade or subject based on available tests, and if they’re going to throw the 2022, 2023 scores at you, or at your board, ask for the 2019 as well because I guarantee you, things were better but not that much better before the lockdowns.
They should demand a standard operating procedure for selecting curriculum, including what the curriculum review process is, how it’s planned out and what the status is of each in each of those areas. They should demand the policy and procedure overseeing instructional materials that teachers use to supplement the official district recommendations. It’s not just enough to pay attention to the official curriculum, teachers generally have great autonomy in bringing additional things into their classrooms.
And it should include information, we want information. Did the board approve this? Was it the superintendent who approved it? Whose name is on the signature line? All contracts and invoices for any services provided to the district. It should demand every policy and procedure related to controversial issues. Anything related to student tracking by identity, any past surveys given to students.
You should ask for material purchase orders for programs, texts, or subscriptions from the last five years. Yes, purchase orders for anything that’s bought that’s related to programs, texts, subscription services, you should get. This is publicly available, but they can provide it for you. Every admin and admin staff salary and what their responsibilities are. You should get from the superintendent the names of the positions with whom the buck stops for academic or discipline failures in the district. Whether this is by a school, whether this is by district-wide, also known as an enhanced org chart, where you get into the specifics of how this thing is organized and who’s responsible for what.
Based on your positions and your salaries, this is how any small business in our community would have to be run. Have all the stuff at the ready, accounted for, already organized, and know where it’s at, so that all you have to do, really, all you should have to do is either hit print if you’re old school, or file share to share this with the board. That’s it. If you don’t have that in place, we have some problems and we’re going to start putting that stuff in place right away.
You start looking under the hood at this, and you realize it’s a circus. Nobody is doing anything, and they’re raking in the cash from the state, from taxpayers. They’re funneling off to their friends. It is all over the place. It is an absolute disaster. What we’ve encountered so far is the tip of an iceberg. It truly is.
It’s very easy to talk about the trajectory that the country is going in and education in general. Bring it back and think about the individual child because that child has one life to live. They have a one-shot education. They’re highly impressionable. One thing that they experience the wrong way when they’re in second grade could, well, can take them in a whole different path for the rest of their lives.
You had your chance. You’ve been running the education system in the country for decades now. You’ve made all the shots. It’s not only is it just staying, it’s getting worse.
Managing your image through all this. In working with some of the boards, you need to come across as being competent. You can speak slowly and deliberately about things. You just don’t want to give an image that, yes, you’re not confident. That’s the main thing. Maybe it’s not even necessarily positive. Just don’t give an image that you’re not confident in doing something. Portray confidence, and that matters. Also, be relentless about it and be calculated. Like I said, the stakes are way too high to not be very thoughtful and thinking through everything very carefully. Be empathetic.
There are 20%, I think, increasingly younger who are very unhinged, frankly. Then there are 20%, I think, who are great teachers, who are keeping their heads down, who know– Look, if there’s a strong union, you don’t stick your neck out at all within those communities.
This is the ongoing plague of the education world--amateurs with a level of confidence unjustified by their limited understanding of the work angling for power to inflict their particular reality-impaired vision on schools and students.
Monday, July 17, 2023
No Labels is supposed to be some sort of centrist break from the raging politics of left and right as a champion of "common sense," and I'm not going to wander down that political rabbit hole (other than to note that saying you're all about common sense while seriously considering Joe Manchin as a Presidential candidate plays about like a vegan eating a hamburger).
But they've got a platform, and it uses four points to address "America's Youth" and so education, and that's our beat here at the Institute, so let's take a look, shall we?Idea 11: As a matter of decency, dignity, and morality, no child in America should go to bed or go to school hungry.
If America wants to maintain our lead in the technologies of tomorrow, we’d better spend less time on waging culture wars in our schools and more time focusing on promoting, rewarding, and reaching for excellence.
Almost six in 10 Americans say they are living paycheck to paycheck. Inflation is arguably the biggest driver of this insecurity, but far too many Americans also lack the knowledge and tools to become financially independent and get ahead.
Sunday, July 16, 2023
School privatizers want vouchers (well, more vouchers--we already have tax credit scholarship vouchers) in Pennsylvania so very, very, very, very badly. So badly that they redesigned to voucher program they've been pushing for years so that it would be more palatable to Democratic Governor and Voucher Sort-of-supporter Josh Shapiro.
They whipped up a letter from a bunch of right-wing privatization supporters, which was kind of an odd choice, because what Democratic governor in a purple state wouldn't jump at the chance to be seen as a partner of Betsy DeVos?
They even came up with a way to say that they wouldn't take any money from public schools to fund their $100 million voucher plan (spoiler alert: they totally planned to take it from public schools).
They were so sure they had it in the bag. And then Shapiro broke their hearts and/or stabbed them in the back, depending on how sad they felt.
But they haven't given up yet, because in Pennsylvania it's a not-unusual thing to have budget drama drag out months and months and months past the nominal budget deadline (yeah, it's hard on actual citizens in the state, but oh well).
So the push is still on. Witness, for instance the group Commonwealth Action, a group that appears to exist for no reason except to push this voucher scheme. They've got a single-page website whose only content is there 24 second video. They've got a mailing address--which appears to be a Staples. And a Twitter account that has only existed since May of 2023 (they did spring for the blue check) and has tweeted 56 times so far.
Their Facebook page is even fresher-- it appears to have become Commonwealth Action on June 30, 2023. But before then...
From November of 2014 on, they were Keystone Community Action. That website has gone dark, but the Wayback Machine internet archives tell us that KCA was an equally thinly described group, though the name Mike Herbert is attached. Before that, starting in February of 2013, they were We The Taxpayers, Inc, an organizational name that has turned up in Florida and Georgia, but not PA. So far, I'm not sure who these guys (or this guy) is--though whoever it is has some graphic design skills.
Earlier on, the group was busy pushing Shapiro's budget, but once Shapiro detached himself from vouchers, they became all voucher bill, all the time.
Their video captures the gist of their argument:
Shapiro said he liked vouchers, then didn't back them. "Josh Shapiro is choosing special interests over kids." Low-income and minority students deserve a chance to escape those failing public schools. "Governor Shapiro, don't turn your back on our most vulnerable kids."
These are the questions to ask this mysterious group and everyone who supports their plea For The Children:
1) What regulations would they like to see requiring private schools to accept any and all voucher students? After all, the voucher doesn't do much good if the school the student chooses won't let the student in.
2) What will they propose to mitigate the effects of private school tuition costs" The proposed voucher will not begin to cover the tuition costs at the pricier private schools in PA.
3) What sort of accountability and oversight do they propose? After all, it would sure suck if some student used their voucher to escape a failing public school and found themselves in a failing private school, or a school that isn't even meeting the state standards that public schools are required to meet. And since vouchers are taxpayer funds, don't the taxpayers deserve a full accounting of how those funds were spent?
4) Do you support allowing private schools to use the kind of discrimination that is not allowed in public schools? Do you support vouchers going to religious private schools? Why should taxpayers pay for religious training--isn't that a parental right and responsibility?
5) Presumably not every student will be able to escape the failing public school. What do the supporters of this program propose as a way to rescue those students who are still at the school? Does it make sense to deal with a sinking ship by only providing as lifeboat for 10% of the passengers?
6) Who are you? And what are your actual goals in promoting this policy? Are you even someone worth listening to, or are you just one more education amateur no idea what you're talking about?
Of course, to have this conversation, you would have to find the mysterious Mr. Herbert or his associates, or just settle for one of the other many privatization supporters wailing and crying foul over Shapiro's unexpected sudden change of direction. I recommend they have Betsy DeVos publicly pressure him some more. Seems like a super tactic.