Monthly Archives: November 2013

More About The RSU 50 Vision Committee…

ImageThe second meeting of the RSU 50 Visions committee is Monday, December 2nd from 5:30-7:30 at Katahdin High School.

The RSU 50 Visions Committee Task Force is working with Great Schools Partnership on ways to further consolidate within the RSU, and many scenarios were brainstormed and put on the list at the first meeting.

Notes from the meetings are supposed to be made public on the RSU 50 website, but have not as yet been made available. The committee will present a proposal to the RSU Board within the next few months. The committee is made up of all four principals, the superintendent, board members and community members.

Each community in the RSU can seat a citizen representative, and here, several vacancies remain!

Meetings are open to the public.  Please consider attending — this is an opportunity to be heard about what we believe is best for kids and communities.

We will keep you updated here, and on our Facebook page.  Join the conversation ….

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What’s YOUR Vision?

What's YOUR Vision?

The next meeting of the RSU 50 Vision Committee will be held Monday, Dec. 2nd at 5:30pm at Katahdin High School. The public is welcome!

Representatives are still needed for Sherman and Stacyville, and perhaps other communities in the RSU?

These decisions will shape not only the future of our children’s education, but our communities as well. Please contact your local town office to volunteer and ensure that the voice of your community; of each town in the district, is heard.

Thank you, and see you there!

Let Us Be Thankful

imageHappy Thankgiving!

Diane Ravitch's blog

Let us be thankful for life and health.

Let us be thankful that we live in a free and democratic society.

Let us be thankful for the parents who love and cherish their children.

Let us be thankful for the children, filled with dreams and hopes and the joy of childhood, and let us pledge to protect them.

Let us be thankful for the educators who help children and young people grow, develop, learn, and come to love learning.

Let us be thankful for those who are able and willing to defend the rights of children to have a childhood.

Let us be thankful for those who defend the right of all people to live a life free from want, free from fear, free from insecurity.

Let us be thankful for the parents and educators who fearlessly defend the children in their care against those who want to experiment on…

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Parents’ Information Night

Parents' Information Night

5:30pm @KMHS

Learn more about Standards Based Education as it pertains to your KMHS student…

My View: Why Parents Are Rejecting Common Core

Diane Ravitch's blog

This is an article I wrote for CNN.com, explaining why there is strong parent resistance to Common Core testing.

The pushback is not so much against the standards as against the decision to make the tests so “hard” and set the passing mark so unrealistically high, that most students failed.

In a democracy, public officials have to remember that they were not hired to impose their dogmas on everyone and that government functions best when it has the consent of the governed.

The most important lesson to be learned from the growing backlash is the importance of critical thinking. Right now, public officials defend the CCSS by calling critics names and trying to discredit them as extremists and ideologues.

Why not listen, engage in honest dialogue, and demonstrate a willingness to think critically and reflect on the objections, rather than smearing those who ask questions?

One of my intellectual…

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The Common Core, in a Nutshell….

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“It’s not rocket science. It’s simple. It’s money.”

“…Pearson publishing spent large sums lobbying for the legislation to create new tests, new curricula, and new teacher evaluations, and then wait on the other end with their hands out receiving the millions of dollars to deliver the new tests, new curricula, and new teacher “training” needed to implement the polices for which they lobbied. Achieve, Foundation for Excellent Education, the Business Roundtable, and testing companies like ACT pushed for and wrote the CCSS standards to reflect their own educational a nd business interests, micromanaging the outcomes of education for children toward their own agendas. Nationalized testing and standards have been part of the corporate-government dialogue ever since NCLB. Efforts to push for more and newer testing methods (via PARCC and SBAC) are led by Bill Gates, along with inBloom, and other tech savvy data- interested corporations. Most of these corporations are members of the conservative-led American Legislative Exchange Council (such as State Farm, Walton, and Lumina), who have their own vested interests in having access to “big data.” The governing boards for PARCC and SBAC are political and economic footballs for the politicians who serve on their boards. The federal government uses abusive, intrusive, and invasive techniques (ironically, in the name of “equity”) to serve the interests of the corporations with whom they partner. Additionally, some of these same corporations are being paid handsomely to collect the 400 points of data embedded in both CCSS and the new PARCC and SBAC tests that go along with it.  And when our schools, our children, and our teachers “fail” to meet the expectation set forth by the aforementioned corporate interests, hedge fund corporations and billionaires line up to fund the charter schools and other forms of “reform” designed to privatize our public schools, because there’s profit to be gained. These same private interests promise to “fix” the problem, which, of course they created in the first place. This, despite research that has shown again and again how and why such “reform” efforts have failed our children.

It’s not rocket science. It’s simple. It’s money.”

Common Core Unrest Obvious in 17 States

88e274d39361ccf2ba235741f45f98c9“[Maine Governor] LePage’s effort to distance himself from Common Core was evident last week, when he disavowed support for the standards and, in a separate move, issued an executive order saying the state would not divulge personal student information to the federal government.”

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Proponents of the Common Core State Standards (CCSS) are fond of saying that CCSS “has been adopted by 45 states and the District of Columbia.” However, it seems that they refuse to mention the CCSS resistance that has found its way into state offices–often resulting in formal hearings.

Below I offer the latest in CCSS unrest from 17 states, compliments of my esteemed fellow teacher, Vicky Johnston. Each of the following CCSS, “state of the states” articles is from September-November 2013, thereby representing fresh unrest.

For each state, I include an excerpt from the linked article. Follow the link for additional details.

Over one-third of the states whose governors and state superintendents signed the CCSS Memorandum of Understanding as part of US Department of Education Race to the Top (RTTT) funding are now percolating with CCSS misgivings.

That is what happens with top-down reform.  The “bottom”– those directly affected by the “top’s” decisions– eventually…

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What happens when we turn the educational hierarchy upside-down?

With the locus of control shifting further and further away from the classroom, external curriculum modules and standardized assessments attached to the Common Core dictate what is happening in classrooms. In an attempt to implement a one-size-fits-all education reform model, the individual needs of students and communities at the district level are being plowed over, leaving students, teachers and schools pressured to comply with a top-down hierarchy that many feel is inescapable: a hierarchy that sadly puts teachers and students at the bottom.

“Maybe Washington can take a page from the Finnish National Board of Education, and re-imagine how we look at the educational framework. Here’s how the Director General, Timo Lankinen, represented the Finnish education system:”

an educator's re-education

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There is no doubt that the federal role in U.S. public schools has increased dramatically over the past decade with the adoption of No Child Left Behind and its equally intrusive successor, Race to the Top.  Local and state control has eroded significantly as mandates (surreptitiously disguised as incentives in the latter) force states and local districts to give up control of assessment and curriculum.

With the locus of control shifting further and further away from the classroom,  external curriculum modules and standardized assessments attached to the Common Core dictate what is happening in classrooms. In an attempt to implement a one-size-fits-all education reform model, the individual needs of students and communities at the district level are being plowed over, leaving students, teachers and schools pressured to comply with a top-down hierarchy that many feel is inescapable: a hierarchy that sadly puts teachers and students at the bottom.

Maybe Washington…

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Video

High School Senior Deconstructs Standards-Based Education

A Maine School Board Chair Explains Why The Common Core Is A Disaster

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A Maine school board chair explains why Common Core is a disaster

Daid Lentin, chairman of the School Administrative District 60 board of directors, in letter to Portland Press Herald, ME – Many educators and citizens of all political stripes are worried about the hasty implementation of the standards for good reason.

The standards were adopted by agreement among the nation’s governors, and were developed with strong support from Secretary of Education Arne Duncan and many corporate and wealthy education reformers. But there was little public or educator engagement in the process.

And all states are expected to fully implement the standards without any prior field testing, which was disastrous for the last major reform push, No Child Left Behind.

Much of the focus is on high-stakes testing and not education. But we already have good national tests on which Maine’s children do well.

Finally, where’s the money for implementation? How can any reform work while our schools suffer repeated budget cuts? Standards don’t educate. Teachers and parents educate, but they can’t succeed if they can’t get support.

Until we address the real issues affecting school performance, it’s a fair concern that the Common Core will be another expensive boondoggle that is a windfall for corporate testing services and a disaster for everyone else.

— David Lentin

Anthony Cody: Is Common Core a Fiasco?

Diane Ravitch's blog

Another insightful essay about Common Core by Anthony Cody. His earlier essay–10 Reasons to Oppose Common Core–was widely reposted and tweeted.

This is how a fiasco begins, he writes:

“The fiasco begins with a grand idea, planned with a bold vision. People set their sights on a goal beyond any they have ever achieved before. They look at failed efforts of the past, attempted by lesser beings, and decide that nobody before was as smart or capable, or felt the urgency they possess. The fiasco thus begins with high hopes and bold projections. But things do not go as planned.”

But they never do go as planned, and utopian hopes eventually come back to earth as the bold vision flounders, and people lose faith. He compares Common Core to a poorly done production of “Peter Pan,” where the audience is urged to believe in the impossible.

Cody writes,

“But the…

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A Reader Writes: On Standards-Based Grading….

An articulation of community questions surrounding Standards-Based Education submitted here, by a community author….  A Parents’ -Information Night is scheduled for 5:30 Nov. 25  at KMHS.

Apple_Detail1_400 Standards Based Grading/Common Core/Proficiency Based Grading at KHS

“Who here thinks standards based grading is stupid?”  This was a question asked by the principal when addressing the freshman class about standards grading a couple of weeks ago at KHS.  Naturally, when kids don’t have enough information about a topic, they are going to agree that it is “stupid” if asked the question.   Hence, all the hands that went up in the room.

Students were told that standards based learning and grading is “good learning” and is “not going away.”  Yes, this may become a good learning system when teachers are confidently trained to teach to the standards, when students are confidently taught how to learn and work to “meet the standards,” when administration has a report card created for teachers to report to and students to work for, when administration has a standards based diploma created for students to work for, when educators, students, and parents know where this is going and how to get there!  Students were told that administration is “working on” what their report card and diploma will look like because they “want to get it right.”  This is understandable, but shouldn’t we accomplish that before teaching and grading with a new system? This year cannot be an experiment!  This is our freshmen’s first look at high school, and right now, they don’t feel there is good learning in some of their classes as they struggle with knowing what they’re working for to “meet the standards.”  They feel that some teachers are clear about what they are teaching and how they meet the standard, whereas others clearly are not.  Students do not see where they are being given assignments that align to a certain standard and they are not being challenged to move on – what do they move on to?  They need the standards written out for them.  One student said, “If I knew what I was working for (standards and how to meet them), I would try harder.  I need to have it written down so I can see it and keep referring to it.”  Other students have echoed this and the information has been promised to them, but has not been done as we enter the second quarter of school.

In an attempt to explain the style of standards teaching, an analogy is being used of how elementary students work in “stations” and that the group/station setting is what standards teaching will look like as students work on meeting a standard and move on (each group/station would be working on something different).  This is not making sense to the kids, high school learning is not comparable to elementary learning.  Some learning styles will be disrupted by this type of teaching and teachers will need training to be effective.

Students are very confused about what they are even doing in science right now, let alone understanding how they meet a standard in the class.  There needs to be more communication with students – for instance, they did not know they were having a test the day after progress reports came out, they had not turned in any work at that point for a grade – how did they receive a grade?  How did they know what they were being tested on?  Then they are told they can re-do again and again and again as long as it takes to get a grade of “meeting the standard.”  Material that is successfully taught, should not need to be re-taught and re-taught and re-taught so that students can meet the standard after multiple tries!!!  Clear communication is a must between teachers, students, and parents!  Students are also struggling in their Global Studies class with not understanding what they are working for in terms of standards and are not clear on what the curriculum is.  They are concerned with the many assignments created on the iPad that they struggle to follow.

We know that proficiency based grading/standards is being mandated by the Department of Education, effective school year 2014-15.  It may be a great system and be beneficial to our children’s education eventually.  For this school year, the DOE is not ready and our school is not ready.  Our freshmen have not had a solid start to their high school years and they are feeling frustrated.  At the “Standards” meeting on Monday, November 25, have your questions ready and expect some solid answers…………………..our kids deserve it!

“What the Research Says… ….or Doesn’t Say, About School Consolidation

path-to-the-red-school-house-jack-brauerMore pertinent research on the issue of School Consolidation can be found here:

http://educationnorthwest.org/news/1119

Mark Your Calendars….

ImageThe next meeting of the RSU 50 Vision Committee Task Force will be held on December 2nd, @5:30pm at KMHS.

The committee meets every other Monday, at 5:30, and both meetings for the month of December will be at KMHS.

The Vision Committee Task Force is crafting various scenarios that could well represent the future structure of education in our area.  Decisions about infrastructure and education are highly consequential, and the effects so far-reaching…

Hope to see you there!

Meeting tonight!!!

mad_hatters_tea_party_post_cards-r1e0b171350fb422ea94be55e5c107a4f_vgbaq_8byvr_512The first meeting of the Visions Committee, charged with developing a plan for the RSU (including further consolidation) will be held @5:30 today, at SACS.

The public is welcome.

I wish I could be there myself, but we are celebrating our eldest son’s 13th birthday today.

If any of you are willing to share your notes with me — neatness does NOT count, I’m happy to have your chicken scratches.  Thank you in advance….

P.S.  I apologize for the short notice.  I just found out myself.  I’ll do my best to find out about future meetings with more advance notice.

Some Kids “Aren’t Brilliant”? This Duncan Blunder Is Bigger Than It First Appears

So let’s get this straight: When it comes to enlisting parental involvement in school closures, and online education, and vouchers, and charters, Duncan is doing so because he believes in “the extraordinary potential that every child has.”

“…However, when it comes to parents’ knowing that CCSS is the problem and not their children– when it comes to parents fighting CCSS because they see their children “falling though the CCSS cracks”– Duncan insults both children and parents and clings like a needy lover to CCSS.”

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Anthony Cody: 10 Reasons to Worry About the Common Core Standards

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Diane Ravitch's blog

Anthony Cody summarizes here the ten major reasons to be concerned about the Common Core standards.

Cody describes the closed-door process for writing the standards and the extremely limited review of them, which he rightly calls undemocratic.

He notes the exclusion of early childhood education experts (and might have also added the exclusion of language acquisition experts, disability experts, and regular classroom teachers), from the development of the standards. He points out that the standards are “market-driven” and aim for standardization of tests and metrics, and are indifferent to the varying and individual needs of students. They are “market-friendly,” not “student-friendly.”

And here are the clinchers:

“Error #9: The Common Core is not based on any external evidence, has no research to support it, has never been tested, and worst of all, has no mechanism for correction.

The Memorandum of Understanding signed by state leaders to opt in to the…

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Nancy Carlsson-Paige and Randi Weingarten: Stop Testing Little Children!

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Diane Ravitch's blog

Nancy Carlsson-Paige and Randi Weingarten have co-authored a terrific article about why little children should not be subjected to standardized testing.

They write:

Young kids learn actively, through hands-on experiences in the real world. They develop skills over time through a process of building ideas. But this process is not always linear and is not quantifiable; expecting young children to know specific facts or skills at specified ages is not compatible with how they learn. It emphasizes right and wrong answers instead of the developmental progressions that typify their learning. 

Young children need opportunities to engage in active, age-appropriate, play-based learning. They need to figure out how things work, explore, question and have fun.

Such experiences have been shown to have significant educational and social benefits for children. And studies show that early childhood education provides a high rate of return for society’s investment.

They explain that standardized testing is…

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You Asked For It!

111014_heirloom_apples_flying_fox_sm_-20301Questions and concerns surrounding the Common Core State Standards Initiative (CCSSI), Standards-Based Grading System, nearing fever pitch….  …. and, “Please post more about that”…   (OK — I can take a hint…   )

I was very sorry to miss the talk at KMHS on this very topic.  It couldn’t be helped, and I hope they will hold another.  It is an issue parents need to study, certainly.  In the meantime, look for more posts about this in the near term on our Facebook page as well as herein, and, please, join the discussion with your own thoughts and experiences.

You may have noticed, when you visited the page on EPS Funding, (“Everything You Ever Wanted To Know About EPS But Were Afraid To Ask”), a Common Core Widget to the right  of your screen — a concise and convenient reference, to be sure, but not exactly a “snap” to embed here (maybe if the computer would cooperate..! Ahem!)

Browse the widget, or download the app yourself here (then, maybe, tell me how on Earth you did it?). Anyway, this link is a good start….. http://www.masteryconnect.com/learn-more/core-app.html

Welcome to the discussion!.

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“Food” for Thought: High-Stakes, Standardized Testing…

“When we want the elephant to grow, we feed the elephant; we do not weigh the elephant.” ~Indian Proverb

Everything You’ve Ever Wanted To Know About The EPS Funding Model… ….But We’re Afraid To Ask…

tumblr_maekpoNZkV1rpbbf5o1_500How inequity is baked in to the EPS School Funding Model; how EPS became hijacked as a spending cap…..

For thoughtful, comprehensive and independent analysis of Essential Programs and Services, click here:

http://forum.mdischools.net/state/EPS

Great Things Come in Small Packages…

Image“…trying to make all schools like our largest ones may be disadvantageous to small schools.  The “one best system” of education envisioned by many businessmen and lawmakers may be counterproductive to producing effective small, rural schools.  When organizational members of small schools strive to become like large schools, not only do they develop an inferiority complex, they also lose sight of their strengths — their potential for developing positive relations among adults and students, for attaining a sense of community, for developing relevant educational programming, and for knowing students so well they do not need to be labeled…..”

“…small schools are not necessarily weak schools.  In fact, it seems to me, now, that rural schools are some of our finest American educational institutions.  Instead of being unfortunate institutions in regions too isolated to be harvested by the consolidation combine, small, rural schools are often places where educational excellence flows naturally.  Instead of being weeds in the educational landscape, rural schools are often vines that bear rich fruit and healthy nourishment for young people. ”

~ excerpted from Leadership for Rural Schools:   Lessons for All Educators

by Donald M. Chalker

Wendell Berry on School Consolidation

berry_conversation_wendell_portrait“There can be no greater blow to the integrity of a community than the loss of its school or the loss of control of its school — which always means loss of control of its children.  The breakdown of discipline and academic standards in the schools can only originate in, and can only cause, the breakdown of community life.  The public school, separated from the community by busing, (for whatever reason), government control, consolidation and other “advances”, has become a no-man’s land, a place existing only in reference to itself and to a theoretical “tomorrow’s world”.  Neither teachers nor students feel themselves answerable to the community, for the school does not exist to serve the community. “

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wendell-berry.png.662x0_q100_crop-scaleMy own children were bused to school from the first grade on.  Their daily bus ride to and from school took about two hours of every day. This meant that they were under school discipline – expected to sit still, etc. – about a third again as long each day as their schoolmates in town.  It also meant that they were under home discipline two hours a day less than the town children; that they had much less time for chores, homework and free play.  In my opinion, all this bus travel was damaging to the lives of my children both at school and at home.  Moreover, the grade school that my children attended was nine miles, and their middle and high schools twelve miles, from home, well beyond the range of close or easy parental involvement.  School consolidation thus involves a great expense of time and money that might be better spent in the education and upbringing of children.”