Tuesday, June 22, 2010

MI adopts National Standards

Michigan says good-bye to local control of education.
The State Board of Education unanimously adopted today the Common Core Standards - a set of rigorous, college and career-ready K-12 curriculum standards that states across the nation are considering adopting to bring consistency in education across the states.

With this action, Michigan formally adopts the final Common Core Standards that are internationally benchmarked in English Language Arts and mathematics, formalizing Michigan's agreement to integrate the standards into the state's public education system.
The standards will determine the curriculum and the assessments given to students and will be fully implemented by 2014 and the federal takeover of parents primary responsibility, the education and discipleship of their children, will finally be complete. Unless of course parents rise up and refuse to take the state wide exams that are central to implementation of these standards. I'm not optimistic but I'll keep blogging anyway.

For an understanding of how this will affect homeschoolers, read The Employability Olympics.

Here's a list of states that have officially adopted the Common Core (as of June 18, 2010)

Hawaii, Kentucky, Maryland (adopted draft standards 5/25), Michigan, Missouri, New Jersey, North Carolina, Ohio, Utah, West Virginia, Wisconsin, Wyoming

Fordham's Chester Finn, Jr. thinks those that oppose this are "paranoid." He is currently working on a project which is

"devising a workable governance structure for the “common core” that keeps it firmly in state—and lay—hands over the long run."
We already have a workable governance structure and it's called the US Constitution and the Tenth Amendment which says
"The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people."
Education isn't a federal issue and federal dollars shouldn't be spent, including Obama's Race for the Top. Period. If the US Constitution isn't good enough to protect us (and it apparently isn't) then I don't hold out much hope for something Flinn and the Fordham people devise.

HSLDA accepts the notion that these are standards are developed by the states (I don't) and says,
"HSLDA has worked with Congress to include language in federal education legislation that completely exempts homeschoolers from federal control. This language also protects homeschoolers from being required by states or local school districts to take tests or use curriculum that has been created for public schools. If a concerted effort were ever made to force homeschoolers to align their curriculum to national standards, HSLDA would lead the fight to stop such an egregious attack on parental rights in education.
But that is a very narrow view. Even if homeschoolers are exempt from the national standards, we will still be affected by the standards. As I previously established, employment and training opportunities will be based on a child's performance on the standardized tests which are based on curriculum and "soft skills." Those that are without the credentialed diploma will be at a strategic disadvantage in college and career placement.

Many homeschoolers in Michigan are voluntarily taking the state test (a combination of ACT and WorkKeys) even though we're not required to do so because there is money available for college. With student loans now a part of the federal bureaucracy even more pressure will be put upon homeschoolers to comply just as they are currently putting pressure on the states to adopt the Common Core Standards.

I hope HSLDA works as diligently as they did in the early nineties where they didn't wait but instead helped inform homeschoolers and identify the "dangerous pitfalls" of national standards and eventually defeated them.

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Monday, June 21, 2010

Time to Stand Up to National Standards

The Heritage Foundation is speaking up against National Education Standards.
"National standards would also further remove parents from their children’s education. Instead of being able to petition their local school boards or state leaders for changes in academic content, parents would have to lobby bureaucrats in Washington, DC, if they wish to see changes in what their child is learning.

This is perhaps the most worrisome part of the shift toward national standards. If imposed, parents and taxpayers will no longer be able to retain one of their most significant tools for education reform: the power to shape their schools’ academic content, standards, and testing.

Instead of moving toward a system of rigid national standards, which would represent an unprecedented federal overreach into education, states should empower parents with information about school performance and increase transparency about academic achievement. And ultimately, parents should be able to use that information to choose a school that meets their child’s needs. We know what works in education, and it begins and ends with parents–not the federal government."

Amen and amen!

I'm excited to see a prominent conservative group like Heritage speak up. Common Core State Standards is moving forward with individual states deciding whether or not to adopt the standards. I just hope it's not too little, too late.

I've talked to many think tanks and politicians and they all seem to think this is "inevitable." Not me. I believe this can be defeated but it won't happen unless parents and professing conservative politicians and others begin to speak up and say, "enough."

(HT: Debbie for sending me the link)

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Wednesday, June 09, 2010

The Employability Olympics

Many states are beginning the process of adopting national standards renamed Common Core State Standards to make them sound "state-led" as their new education standard. Michigan Governor Jennifer Granholm has expressed her support for the standards in a video on the CCSSI website.
"I strongly support the Common Core State Standards Initiative because all students - all students - no matter where they live deserve access to rigorous, internationally benchmarked standards that is going to enable them to compete in the global economy. Common standards that are consistent across states that allow us to share best practices and better align resources within and across states." (emphasis added)
All students means all. Once these "best practices" are in place homeschoolers will eventually be forced into accepting the "internationally benchmarked" standards or be isolated from consideration in college and career placement necessary to compete in the global economy.

Diplomas will come with a distinction levels (gold, silver, or bronze) which, based on tests and curriculum, will indicate to universities and employers the student's academic level and their next step in the pathway from school to career and their aptitude at the "soft skills" necessary to compete in the global economy.

Here's a quote from the Michigan Department of Energy, Labor, and Economic Growth that explains more about the credentialed diploma and what it will do.

"The Michigan Certificate is based on WorkKeys® assessments developed by ACT, Inc., the nation's leading job skills assessment system and focuses on three "real world" foundational skills that employers view as critical to success in the majority of jobs in today's workplace: Applied Mathematics, Locating Information, and Reading for Information....

Levin said Michigan has exceeded ACT's national worker credentialing standards by adding Employability Skills training in ‘soft skills" such as teamwork, communication, conflict resolution, critical thinking and problem solving.The Michigan Certificate complements any traditional academic credential such as a high school diploma, postsecondary degree or certification, or GED. It's a portable credential, recognized by thousands of employers worldwide for more than two decades. Certificates are awarded at four levels based on an individual's performance. Individuals with higher scores are prepared for a greater range of jobs or training programs.

This isn't just specific to Michigan. This is happening in every state at various levels. Forty-eight states agreed to the draft of standards and are now seeking going through their state's approval process.

Any guesses where a dogmatic conservative Christian homeschooler will place on the "soft skills" assessment? We're not even going to qualify for the employability Olympics because the only way to get the credentialed diploma is to submit to the state exam based on the Common Core State Standards. But that is exactly why we homeschool and fought to keep our rights as parents to direct the education of our children free from busy-body politicians who think they know what's best for my children.

I don't educate my children to compete in the Employability Olympics to get a job in the global economy. That may be your goal Governor Granholm and President Obama's goal, but it isn't my goal. My children are not commodities to be tracked like cars on an assembly line and shipped to various locations as workers in the global economy. They are people with dreams and their dreams will not bow to to your standards.
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Thursday, June 03, 2010

Prayer for Sono Harris

Please pray for Sono Harris who was recently diagnosed with Stage IV colon cancer. Her son, Joshua Harris, has more information on his blog.

She's also doing all she can to fight the cancer. Mom is pursuing alternative treatment (a special diet called the Budwig Protocol that has met with some success) and all of us remain hopeful that by God's grace she can and will beat it.

Right now the future is completely unknown. There's no timetable, no certainty. I've thought many times during the past few weeks that this cancer has simply highlighted and heightened the reality that is always true of our lives: we never know how much time we have and each day is a gift. So as 1 Peter 1 puts it, we're grieved by this trial, but we're rejoicing in the living hope we have through the resurrection of Jesus Christ. Regardless of what happens in Mom's body, the new life she has through Christ that first transformed her 37 years ago is imperishable and grows stronger day by day.

On a personal level, the Harris family has touched me from the very beginning days of my homeschoooling to the early days of blogging. Gregg Harris's book and workshops introduced me to the idea of "delight-directed learning" and challenged many of my ideas about education. And in 2006 Alex, Brett, and the army of Rebulutionaries rallied to my defense and we nearly defeated a prominent liberal edu-blogger in the Wizbang blog awards.

The best-selling Christian books Do Hard Things and I Kissed Dating Goodbye written by the Sono and Gregg's sons have also been read by most of my children and have encouraged and challenged them on many levels.

It's my privilege to now stand with them and cry out to God for Sono's healing and grace upon the Harris family.

Wednesday, June 02, 2010

Nightline on Unschooling

Last night, ABC's Nightline aired Free Range Children, with JuJu Chang the same reporter from Good Morning America story, and a different family (although there is a small clip from the GMA family fighting on the lawn.)



Chang prides herself but doesn't show the child missing on his multiplication. So what! I once asked a public high schooler in our area when the War of 1812 was and he stared at me blankly as my own sons broke down in laughter and helped him. Putting a child on the spot doesn't prove anything about what they know and more importantly what they'll become.

My thoughts unschooling are unchanged after viewing this video (you can read it here), but I do wish more homeschoolers and unschoolers would just pass on doing these shows. There's really nothing to be gained and much to lose by participating in edited stories produced by a reporter with an agenda to shape public opinion against homeschooling.

Children are not trophies to be displayed nor are they performers ready on cue to validate our parenting or persuade others. I suggest we stick to doing what we do best, spending lots of time enjoying our kids, the results will speak for themselves.

You can leave a comment about this segment on the Nightline Facebook page.

(Thanks Nancy from Facebook for the tip!)

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Tuesday, June 01, 2010

National Standards Out June 2

Common Core State Standards, otherwise known as National Standards, will be officially released tomorrow. All other previous content from the website has already been removed leaving a single message,
"The Common Core State Standards will be available at this link Wednesday, June 2 at 10 a.m. Please check back at that time."
Now it will be up to individual states to adopt the standards. With dollars in hand, the Obama administration is working overtime to get the states to "compete" for the money and to adopt the standards. Maryland has already decided to adopt them but Virginia has opted out. Time will tell what the others will do.

Neal McCluskey, Associate Director, Center for Educational Freedom at the Cato Institute was asked by Education News, "Is it safe to call these standards Federal standards as opposed to state standards?"
They definitely will not be state standards, if by that we mean standards set by each state. States that adopt the standards have to take them all, and the standards must constitute at least 85 percent of an adopting state’s overall mathematics and English language arts standards. It is probably also not entirely accurate to call these federal standards as they are not being written by the feds. They are, however, much closer to that than national-standards advocates would have us believe: It is federal money that is pushing many states to sign onto the CCSSI effort, and we have seen since the ESEA was first passed in 1965 that what Washington funds, it ultimately tries to control.
To coincide with the unveiling of the new national standards, The Cato Institute has scheduled a debate tomorrow to discuss the question, "Is there good reason to believe that national standards will improve educational outcomes?"

It's an interesting debate to a question that should have been asked a long time ago; however in the in the end, the answer won't matter. Too many people aren't paying attention and those that are largely support the reform. This isn't about improving education but an effort to improve Obama's image in the short-term and to increase federal control in the long-term.

And once national standards are place it will then be the federal government's duty to make sure that all children receive an education that is "college and career ready" and adequately prepares them for a job in the global economy. Anyone want to guess what will happen to homeschooling?

Update: Valerie Strauss at the Washington Post had a list of other states planning to opt out of the Race for the Top money which may make them less inclined to adopt Common Core State Standards. The states are Alaska, Idaho, Indiana, Kansas, Minnesota, Oregon, South Dakota, Texas, West Virginia and Wyoming.