Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Huckabee and Homeschoolers (Part 2)

My previous post addressed the revision to homeschool law restricting the rights of homeschool parents in Arkansas signed by Governor Huckabee. Recently, Huckabee told one homeschool supporter, that the catalyst for the revision to the homeschooling law was legislation he strongly supported in 1998, Smart Start.

With the implementation and success of the Smart Start program some legislators wanted to reverse what we had done for homeschoolers in 1997 and put in place
very severe restrictions.
Huckabee’s answer perplexed me. Why would a program designed to improve public education in 1998 cause a legislator to seek a reversal in homeschool laws just one year later? Is it possible that homeschoolers pose a problem to the complete implementation of the desired education reforms and restricting them, at least a little more, would move them closer to complete inclusion in the education reforms sweeping the country? Let's find out.

Mike Huckabee is very proud of Smart Start and other major reforms in education while he was Governor.

"In 1998 I announced an initiative we called Smart Start, the first of several major reform efforts in Arkansas that were to focus on not only increasing funding but, more important, improved results. Later the K-4 Smart Start Initiative would be joined by Smart Step for grades 5-8. Ultimately we launched Next Step, which was the full implementation of a reform strategy that included grades 9-12.

It was a priority for me to develop more accessible and effective preschool programs and to make dramatic changes in both access and affordability in higher education. We developed a seamless curriculum from pre-K through college so that there was
coordination and continuity throughout the educational process." (From Hope to Higher Ground, by Mike Huckabee, p. 43-45)

This "seamless curriculum pre-K through college" is more commonly known as "P-16." A primer on P-16 can be found here.
"Imagine a system of education where every child enters school ready to learn, here all third graders read at or above grade level, where all students have taken algebra by the end of the 8th grade, where high school exit exams test sudents at the 12th-grade level and are aligned with college admissions requirements, where all young people graduate from high school prepared for college or work, and where every student who enters college finishes college.
In short, imagine a European style education model here in America.

Education has been a signature issue for Mike Huckabee. While his resume is impressive, it signals that he has accepted many of the liberal reforms of those seeking to remove local control in education in favor of national curriculum and standards. The primer on P-16 was written in 2001 by the Education Commission of the States (ECS). Mike Huckabee was chairman of the (ECS) from 2004 to 2006. During his tenure, he did not challenge or attempt to undo any of these reforms, preferring to concentrate on music and art in education. In 2004, he participated in the task force for "Redesigning the American High School" chaired by Democrat Governor Mark Warner of Virginia. This task force was funded in large part by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation which seeks to align education standards both nationally and internationally.

Phyllis Shafly wrote about the Governor Warner's Commission and their report,

"The National Governors Report of December 2004 (when Virginia Governor Mark Warner was chairman) makes clear that the purpose is to use the public schools to build a planned economy.

The report speaks approvingly of "using schools to feed workers into selected corporations," "identifying their state's key industries and needs for skilled workers in order to define a common agenda between their workforce and economic development programs," "the integration of education, economic development, and workforce development policies," "seamless connections between the components of the [education] system and with the skill demands of the workplace," and "connecting workforce development to economic needs."

It's hard to see any difference between the 2004 National Governors Association plan and the earlier plans floated when Bill Clinton was President. The plan uses a lot of mumbo-jumbo to change America from free enterprise to a planned economy, and to turn public school students into a compliant workforce for multinational corporations.

Governor Huckabee also joined ACHIEVE.
"A coaltion of states dedicated to aligning K–12 curriculum, standards, assessments and accountability policies with the demands of college and work."
Originally, 13 governors in the coalition agreed to adopt uniform high school standards developed by the American Diploma Project (ADP), an initiative of ACHIEVE. Achieve hopes to to have all 50 states adopt the same standards and testing in education. There are now 30 states in the coalition. Once all 50 state adopt the same standards we will have in effect a de facto "P-16" national standard in curriculum and testing.

Schafly's correct, many of the reforms encompassed in P-16, reinventing high school, ADP, and related reforms that Huckabee and other governors have endorsed are strikingly similar to the Outcome-Based-Education and School-to-Work initiatives introduced during the Clinton administration. The terminology has changed with different states adopting different aspects at different times, but the intent is the same - a smooth transition from preschool to the workforce to compete in the global economy.

HSLDA spoke against such initiatives in 2002 in reference to the 107th Congress and legislation regarding education and the reauthorization of programs in School-to-Work,
Although STW was not reauthorized in the last Congress and received no funding, we oppose any efforts to create educational requirements that force students into studies that are based on workforce needs rather than academic excellence, and which promote any system that encourages employers to recognize skills mastery over academic excellence."
HSDLA rightly understands that homeschoolers have strong reasons to be concerned about all such education reforms which create a seamless transition from preschool to the workforce, especially one that uses state exams as the benchmark for earning credentials. (HSDLA fought some of the restrictions of P-16 in Indiana in 2003.)

The goal in the Clinton administration and carried into the Bush administration, is to make sure that "no child is left behind" in the global economy. For the P-16 "seamless transition" to work as designed all learners must be included. Quoting again from the P-16 Primer,
"[P-16] Is inclusive. Since a P-16 system has as its goal that all learners will master challenging material and achieve at high levels, it creates an environment that expects success from everyone – the gifted and the ordinary, the rich and the poor, the white and the black and the brown, the young and the not-so-young, urban and rural, the native and the immigrant. A system that allows no throwaways is a system in tune with U.S. needs. "
To me, it is no accident that the 1998 education reforms passed by Mike Huckabee led to more stringent regulation on homeschoolers in 1999. Education reform advocates know that for the system to work as designed, ALL learners must be included. What happened to homeschoolers in Arkansas should be a red flag to homeschoolers in every state that any attempt to align standards and curriculum across state lines must include homeschoolers. So they incrementally chip away at the freedom homeschoolers have with the goal of bringing them under the "P-16" uniform standards.

Some may think exempting homeschoolers from the requirements or ignoring the standards is all that is necessary to protect homeschooling. Cathy Duffy, one of the best-known and most respected names in home schooling provides an excellent reason why that's not a realistic option.

"Some people suggest that private and home schools can work around the standards by first teaching the required content, then adding worldview-focused curricula to the mix. Others suggest ignoring the standards but providing students with a solid liberal arts education with the expectation that they will then be intelligent enough to "outsmart" the tests.

Unfortunately, neither solution is realistic.....

Testing is likely to become more and more problematical. If private schools and homeschools try to ignore the standards and implement a classical liberal education (or any other alternative curricular agenda), their students might test poorly as tests become more and more narrowly focused on details dictated by the standards that would be unlikely parts of their educational program. As the standards movement gathers steam, pressure will be exerted upon private schools and home schools to adhere to the same standards and tests as government schools."

Well the standards movement is gathering steam and unfortunately for Arkansas, the result was the passage of Smart Start which lead to increased restrictions imposed upon homeschoolers just one year later.

This year the federal government brought the P-16 reforms into federal education policy through the passage of the America Competes Act signed by President Bush. (See Section 6401) Phyllis Schafly wrote about the impact of this expansion of federal education beauracracy earlier this year, "Look Out for Another Big Spending Boondoggle",

P-16 is a rather new term meaning that Big Brother government is now supervising the next generation from preschool through the 16th year of education (i.e., college graduation). We used to think kindergarten through 12th grade was the scope of government schools here.

The federal movement toward national standards is moving forward, endorsed by our current "compassionate conservative" President that many homeschoolers supported. Do we want to continue the trend by electing another "authentic conservative" who appears to support the very same policies?

The only safeguard for homeschoolers against standards movement is diligently electing leaders who see education reform for exactly what it is -socialism. Conservative homeschooler must stand against the trend to create workers to compete in a the global economy. Exempting homeschoolers from education reform is not enough. If homeschoolers are serious about protecting the right to direct the education of our children, we must elect a President who opposes any federal involvement in education.

This is the second post in a series on Huckabee and homeschoolers.
My previous posts on Huckabee and homeschooling
Part One. The Huckabee Homeschool Hustle
Part Two. Huckabee and state reform
Part Three. Huckabee and federal policy
Part Four. Huckabee and global citizenship
Huckabee responds
Ned Ryun's statement on homeschooling.
Ned Ryun's statement on HSLDA.

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