Category Archives: Educational quality

The Best-Laid Schemes o’ mice an’….. School Boards?


One of our earliest posts, and one to which our readers keep returning…..

“How many secretaries does it take to screw in a light bulb at RSU 50?”  Punchlines invariably poke fun at the top-heavy nature of RSU 50’s administrative offices.  (“They’re not laughing WITH you….”)  Laugh, cry or both – you just got heckled.  “It’s in the RSU #50 plan approved by the State.”, protested the Superintendent at last week’s Board meeting, (as though divinely etched on a chunk of rhyolite and lugged down from Katahdin).  Fair enough.  That settles it then.

Or does it?  What does the plan say students should be assured in the way of educational opportunity?  What sort of savings were taxpayers to expect?  Read it an’ weep…. “They aren’t laughing WITH you…..” Please share your thoughts in the comments section, or email me to join us as an author.

What’s “On The Table”? School Divestment and Closure…

rearrange-deckchairs-and-ignore-sinking-1Here, we offer up the Futures Task Force’s own analysis of the scenarios purportedly being considered.  “Purportedly” as the recent public forum revealed a fierce resolve toward further consolidation, and bussing of children — regardless of the cost, against which the research (none of which is cited by this committee) and our own experience with RSU “growing pains” so clearly warn us.

Read the draft analysis, as released by the FTF itself RSU50Scenarios

In the coming days, we will examine them further, so watch this space!

They are your children, your tax dollars and your schools …and YOU are integral to these decisions.


Teachers Need a Seat at the Table | Rethinking Education

there_is_an_apple_on_the_table-1“…schools that include teachers as equal players are the ones that soar above the others in terms of student achievement. Those are the schools where teachers love to work, where they are energized, hopeful that they can meet the needs of their students, not just devoted to them but confident that what they do will make a difference…” ~Kathreen Harrison


via Teachers Need a Seat at the Table | Rethinking Education.

Where are the block buildings and the dress-up clothes? | Rethinking Education



“…Reading will come easier to most if we just wait for the appropriate developmental stage. There is a reason Russia and Finland don’t present formal reading lessons in kindergarten.”

“Parents need to speak out to their local school boards and administrators if they do not want their kindergartens to be watered-down second and third grades. Childhood is precious. It doesn’t come twice in a lifetime. The work of young children is play. There is an enormous amount of learning that takes place in the worlds of dress-up and block building and outside pretend play.” ~Kathreen Harrison


What a worthwhile read! …a dose of wisdom, that is just what the doctor ordered. The piece, in its entirety, is available here:

Where are the block buildings and the dress-up clothes? | Rethinking Education.

School Board Candidates Should Show Serious Engagement With Current Topics in Education | Rethinking Education

This should be required reading for School Board members, and those considering a seat!  ….as should Kathreen Harrison’s blog, “Rethinking Education”, featured on the Bangor Daily News’ Blogroll.

How might her suggestions help us improve education in RSU #50?

image“‘…an understanding of history, civics, geography, mathematics, and science, so they may comprehend unforeseen events and act wisely; the ability to speak, write, and read English well; mastery of a foreign language; engagement in the arts, to enrich their lives; close encounters with great literature, to gain insight into timeless dilemmas and the human condition; a love of learning, so they continue to develop their minds when their formal schooling ends; self-discipline, to pursue their goals to completion; ethical and moral character; the social skills to collaborate fruitfully with others; the ability to use technology wisely; the ability to make and repair useful objects, for personal independence; and the ability to play a musical instrument, for personal satisfaction.’~Diane Ravitch

“Many Maine school districts mention 21st century skills in their mission statements and strategic plans – yet most of our plans of study, and classrooms, remain essentially as they were half a century ago. We have adopted the rhetoric of school change while remaining fundamentally unchanged.

School boards, administrators, and teachers all contribute to setting the direction of a school district, however a district’s school board is the final decision-maker. If we want the less forward-thinking of our schools in Maine to catch up to those many years ahead of us in the direction of positive school change, we need school board members who are familiar with the educational landscape outside their own towns.

I suggest that potential candidates for school board should be required to visit exemplary schools in Maine and elsewhere before announcing their candidacy. They should be asked to share with the electorate their vision of excellent schools and their ideas for how to help schools achieve that vision. They should be required to demonstrate an informed engagement with topics in the national educational dialogue.

Decisions made by school boards impact the lives of students in their care. Those decisions should be based on knowledge about education. I urge school boards to adopt policies that will guarantee rigorous debate and informed decision-making.”

via School Board Candidates Should Show Serious Engagement With Current Topics in Education | Rethinking Education.


Why Corporations Want Our Public Schools

Why Corporations Want Our Public Schools

Our public education system has become a profit opportunity. Children and taxpayers pay dearly….

Visions and Values: A Close Reading of RSU 50 Mission and Purpose

ImageIf you needed “close reading” to fill out your Buzzword Bingo card, “You’re welcome!”

Perhaps it’s found some utility here, too, as I look closely at RSU 50’s Mission and Purpose statements.

I hope you will do the same!  Revise them… Revise my revisions, too, if you like — I can take it:)  In the end, these statements should well reflect your own core beliefs.

To that end, the Visions Committee invited attendees to their Public Forum to offer revisions, and I will pass along any suggestions you make here.  Here’s my own!

I love language…. Language matters, and words spark associations and frame the issue for the reader.  Has anyone read, “Don’t Think Of An Elephant” by George Lakoff?  (You just thought of an elephant, didn’t you?  Well, the book will tell you why….).

RSU 50 Vision Statement (The Schools We Strive For)

“ProvideCreate” an equitable, challenging, engaging and personalized student  Student-centered education system, which fosters cultivates, or nurtures  excitement a passion for learning that prepares as each student prepares for  citizenship,  local, national and global, college, and careers. and global citizenship.”

Anyway, in my own view, “provide” suggest passivity suggesting that there is a “receiver” or “consumer”…. …how about “create”; there is more room for students, families and communities.  I would put citizenship first, and of course include local as well as global.

RSU 50 Mission Statement (What We Do To Get There)

“Develop and advocate for uphold sustainable student-centered educational policies, and build mutually-beneficial, strong community relationships, supported by effective school leadership, challenging rich curriculum, proven instructional practices, expert, professional educators and diverse individualized, student-centered learning models provided in and cultivate a culture of respect between students, teachers and communities in a safe, healthy, and respectful environment built on strong community partnerships.”

I probably would have put “expert professional educators” closer to the top.  I don’t mean to suggest that teachers do not need to use “proven instructional practices” — teaching is a profession, and it has been said that there is no “…recipe for being a great teacher”.  It stands to reason that a great teacher practices his/or her art well.

RSU 50 Core Beliefs (What We Act Upon)

1)  “We believe students success are our top priority, and their voices will be heard.”

2)  “We believe that it is the responsibility of each school  to provides a safe, caring, and supportive learning environment that fosters innovation, creativity, wellness, teamwork, and self-expression for everyone through diverse experiences.  This is achieved by celebrating the preserving the unique character of our communities, where families and schools are in partnership.

3)  “We believe success full human potential, or “best bloom” is attainable for all students, holding them to high expectations.  This is achieved by providing instruction by high-quality teachers who will provide students with skills, behaviors and knowledge to be productive citizens by modeling civic responsibility, social justice and multicultural understanding.”

None of these represent a more stark divergence from current policy than number one, and it is my fervent hope that it is intended to rebuke, and not simply obscure, the behavior of the RSU 50 Administration and Board in response to respectful, public, and constructively critical civic engagement on the part of students.  Citizenship lies at the heart of public education, and respect for the pupil is paramount.  Last Spring, the only reference made by the Board to a student surveymonkey petition, hand-delivered to the Superintendent besides “We never saw it!” was, “It wouldn’t have mattered anyway!”.   As student “Letters to the Editor” have been, by all accounts, almost punatively received, “Timbered Classrooms” is proud to provide a safe space for everyone.  We also welcome a change of heart on the part of policymakers.

On to number 2: “..preserving the unique character of our communities” is wonderful for everyone. It is also, sadly, substantively impossible under the looming threat of liquidation of Katahdin; the impact of which on the “unique character of ITS communities” are as resonating as they are costly.  (Even if we at “Timbered Classrooms” were not so fortunate to have an impressive depth of educational expertise among our readers, the Superintendent’s refreshing, yet surprising candor about his intentions here is hard to refute.)  I hope policymakers will honor this second one, and consider scenarios that not only make sense, but are popular with our readers; keep K-12 on both sides, and consider merging the two buildings on the Katahdin side if necessary.  Invest optimally and equitably in every child in every school.

O.K.  Number 3:  What?  I crossed out “success”?  Who can be against “success”?  Don’t worry!  I’m not anti-success here, but it is a bit of loaded word.  What does “success” mean?  Is it a child’s potential as an educated person?  A truly educated person is surely “college and career ready”, but does this work in reverse?

I would like to add one word, and I don’t care where: Excellence.  Its absence struck me…. Surely there is room?  As it isn’t necessarily about money, and small schools enjoy an advantage here.  Excellence, its lifelong pursuit and its joy.

Many thanks to the Visions Committee for taking written revisions, though I am a bit late on my homework!

My school system is abuzz with the Common Core: is this a good thing? | Rethinking Education

To be fair, the switch to Standards-Based Education, and the Common Core does treat poor children as though they were rich in one aspect:  they have to pay handsomely.  With towns and the State slashing even the most vital areas, where do we find the resources?  Our thanks to Kathreen Harrison for this spot-on piece:

tiger-bee-inside-an-apple-ivan-rijhoffMy school system is abuzz with the Common Core: is this a good thing? | Rethinking Education

“I don’t like it when wealthy children are treated to one kind of education and the rest are treated to something different. It makes me suspect the children of the lower and middle classes are probably getting a rotten deal.  Here’s how three of these private schools introduce their schools to prospective parents. Note that while these extracts are admittedly brief, when I browsed the websites I found no mention at all of either standards-based education or the Common Core.”

“…we need to refrain from burdening our teachers with ever-increasing rules and regulations. Our focus should be on attracting and training top students to the teaching profession, candidates who find fulfillment in exploring their intellectual and artistic passions with young minds. To attract these students we need to give teachers conditions in which they will thrive: abundant time for thinking, planning and collaborating with their colleagues; salaries that compete with those of pharmacists, lawyers, and engineers; respect from administrators and the public; freedom to do the best work of which they are capable.

The Common Core is not the answer. If it were, the schools for training the future elite would be embracing it, and they are not. Instead they are heavily promoting  intellectually and artistically rich communities. All students deserve schools like these.

Read the full, and thought-provoking post here:

My school system is abuzz with the Common Core: is this a good thing? | Rethinking Education.

Dear Legislators: What’s the point of issuing education mandates that you’re not going to fund? | Rethinking Education

…a question that cries out for an answer.  Many thanks to Kathreen Harrison for posing it, and outlining what so many of us may not know about what requirements entail:

Snail house. French children's book

 Dear Legislators: What’s the point of issuing education mandates that you’re not going to fund? | Rethinking Education.

“…The Maine Legislature passed LD 1422 in 2012. This is the law that mandates that schools transition to a standards-based education system. The transition does not come cheap. One superintendent estimated the total costs involved in standards-based education were at least approximately $60,000 per year; another district administrator said they had spent roughly $500,000 on professional development regarding standards-based education implementation. Yet the state decreased its financial contribution to education just at the time it passed this expensive mandate. The intent is for the local taxpayer to pay more……”

What Is Common Core: 101

Many thanks to “COMMON CORE” for this.  While reading it, I couldn’t help but ask myself, “When reformers speak of the education of their OWN children, do they sound like THIS?”   Read on, and you’ll see what I mean:


“It costs money to educate beyond minimal workforce training. In this 2013 document put out by the NCEE (National Center on Education and the Economy) we learn that it’s not important under Common Core to have high educational standards in high school; it’s seen as a waste of time to educate the high school graduates past Algebra II. They’re pushing for an emphasis on the lowest common denominator, while deceptively marketing Common Core as a push for “rigorous” academics.

Read these Common Core proponents’ lips: “Mastery of Algebra II is widely thought to be a prerequisite for success in college and careers. Our research shows that that is not so… Based on our data, one cannot make the case that high school graduates must be proficient in Algebra II to be ready for college and careers. The high school mathematics curriculum is now centered on the teaching of a sequence of courses leading to calculus that includes Geometry, Algebra II, Pre-Calculus and Calculus. However, fewer than five percent of American workers and an even smaller percentage of community college students will ever need to master the courses in this sequence in their college or in the workplace… they should not be required courses in our high schools. To require these courses in high school is to deny to many students the opportunity to graduate high school because they have not mastered a sequence of mathematics courses they will never need. In the face of these findings, the policy of requiring a passing score on an Algebra II exam for high school graduation simply cannot be justified.”


common core logo

This post is an introduction to many issues  included in this simple question: “What Is Common Core?” 

Parents and retired teachers, it is up to us to stop this thing.  Teachers who are currently teaching, or principals, or others who work in the education sales industry dare not speak up too loudly or risk losing their jobs. 

This post aims to be as unmistakably direct and clear and documented as possible.    I will add questions and answers  to this page, so please visit again.   Feel free to use it in any way you like without asking permission.


No one knows.  They are an unpiloted experiment.  Time will tell.  But people who are financially invested in Common Core  say yes  to the question, while people who aren’t financially interested, and who study and analyze the Common Core standards, say no.


Dr. James Milgram (Stanford University emeritus…

View original post 3,812 more words

Visions and Values; Pondering the Public Forum…

6a00e5509ea6a1883401901d26bffd970bMany thanks to everyone who came out to the Visions Committee’s Public Forum last night, and sharing your core values with those who will be making some very serious decisions, and soon.

If you were there — read on!  I welcome additions/corrections in the “Comments” section; if not — read on!  It is not too late to let the Committee know how YOU envision the future of education here.

Table discussions revolved around changes in the community and the economy in addition to schools, and a gallery of post-it notes illustrated the feelings; the values of the people present.  Just before adjourning, we were given copies of draft Vision Statement, Mission Statement and Core Beliefs on which to scribble suggestions.  Here they are!  Any suggestions YOU make to revise them will be shared with the committee…..

RSU 50 Vision Statement (The Schools We Strive For)

“Provide an equitable, challenging, and personalized student education system, which fosters an excitement for learning that prepares each student for college, careers and global citizenship.”

RSU 50 Mission Statement (What We Do To Get There)

“Develop and advocate for sustainable educational policies, effective school leadership, challenging curriculum, proven instructional practices, and diverse student-centered learning models provided in a safe, healthy, and respectful environment built on strong community partnerships.”

RSU 50 Core Beliefs (What We Act Upon)

1)  “We believe student success is our top priority, and their voices will be heard.”

2)  “We believe each school provides a safe, caring, and supportive learning environment that fosters innovation, creativity, wellness, teamwork, and self-expression for everyone through diverse experiences.  This is achieved by celebrating the preserving the unique character of our communities, where families and schools are in partnership.

3)  “We believe success is attainable for all students, holding them to high expectations.  This is achieved by providing instruction by high-quality teachers who will provide students with skills, behaviors and knowledge to be productive citizens by modeling civic responsibility, social justice and multicultural understanding.”

“*Core beliefs will be reviewed based on the work provided tonight.  Please feel free to add comments as well.”

The emphasis on that last bit is my own.  The Committee will be revising the above statements based on what they hear from YOU.  The next meeting date is, as yet, unavailable, but when I find out I’ll post it.  It doesn’t matter how you choose to contact the Committee — either directly, or, of course, if you want to post here I will see that they have it….  But please, get in touch.  Have your say.

Our children; their children…..

Taking leave from our focus on School Consolidation for a moment, this articulates the most disturbing aspects of Corporate Education Reform; the CC$$I…. Many of us have not only noticed that Bill Gates, Obama, et. al. send their children to schools that do not align to the inhuman, soul-less Common Core.  (Private schools advertise themselves as an “escape” from it!)  But also that what elite parents expect could be emulated in our own schools.  The Common Core is expensive, and designed more to fill the coffers of corporations than serve children.  CC authors fear equity, and do not believe in it.Image~The Hidden Agenda of Corporate Ed Reform~

Here’s the hidden “story” many of us have observed, that the Reformers are trying to suppress. During the 1980s and 1990s US educational researchers and teachers figured out how to help all children succeed. Professional educators were becoming highly innovative, we understood the importance of joy, curiosity, flow and creativity– how the brain learns and constructs knowledge, how to motivate all students and how to help them develop their skills.

We were part of a learner-centered revolution in education, where “lifelong learning” and a “love of learning” were the guiding lights of our profession. Magic was happening and by the end of the 1990s the power elites became aware of our success and it might threaten them if educators continued moving in the direction we were going.

So then they did three things- First, they looked at what worked and made sure their kids got that kind of education in elite private schools. Next, they invested in profit-making charter schools and education software to make money by implementing some of the principles we developed. And finally, they started to set up all these standards and testing schemes (NCLB, RTT and Common Core) to shut down the successful learning that had been happening in public schools.

Why? Because they don’t want us giving away a quality education for free. They want to control it, limit its distribution and sell it. They fear a world where all kids (regardless of race or social class) would be able to compete equally with their children. They’re afraid of what would happen if America’s public schools became breeding grounds for greater liberty, creativity, skill development, critical thinking and equality.

~Christopher Chase
The Art of Learning

Related: The video the corporate reformers do *not* want you to see, a 1993 ABC News Report on “The New American Revolution in Learning.” They focus on motivation, multiple intelligences, flow, research on how the brain works, the trouble with standardized testing. Shows all the great learner-centered reforms the powers that be have been trying to shut down in US public schools…


…a driving force….

...a driving force....


“We worry about what a child will become tomorrow, yet we forget that he is someone today.” ~ Stacia Tauscher

Rate this:


“If we don’t stand up for children, then we don’t stand for much.” – Marian Wright Edelman


The Kids Who Need……

The Kids Who Need......

Civil rights hero launches ‘American Child’s Education Bill of Rights’

JAMESMEREDITH“We all must work together to improve our public schools, not on the basis of profit or politics, but on the basis of evidence, and on the basis of love for America’s children.” ~James Meredith

The Education Bill of Rights identifies 12 basic education rights for every American child, all based on his career as a social activist as well as discussions with thousands of students, parents, teachers and education experts across America.

Meredith said that billions of dollars now spent on standardized testing and “so-called education reforms” can be better spent to help children…

Read James Meredith’s “American Child’s Education Bill of Rights” in their compelling entirety, here:

Civil rights hero launches ‘American Child’s Education Bill of Rights’.

Arne and Karen Duncan’s Letter To Their Own Children…

1654975_14427854_lz“What Arne and Karen Duncan want for their own children appears to me to be quite different than what Arne is allowing to happen in public education.

It is either clueless, naive, or he is hypocritical indeed….”

Arne and Karen Duncan’s letter to own children…cringeworthy with harm done to public education.


What the Best and Wisest Parent Wants……


“It’s Not Me, It’s You…” ~ Breaking Up With Common Core


“It’s not me, it’s you….”

This “letter” was submitted by Grace – a high school junior in Rhode Island.  …her writing is testimony to the highly creative, original and thoughtful work that will suffer most under Common Core.  By coincidence, her letter happened to be received on the same day that Pete Seeger died.  There is a deep and powerful poetry in that fact.  If you watch this video and then read her writing, you’ll know why.

Breaking Up With Common Core – Home.

for the love of learning: Test your public education savy

henriettebrowne“Despite my disdain for multiple choice tests, I have to admit that this may be the only meaningful way to use them.” ~Joe Bower

for the love of learning: Test your public education savy.

So how did YOU do? 

Curmudgucation: A Peek at CCSS 2.0

Laughing_Apple_by_Fiore_chanOscar Wilde famously said, “If you want to tell people the truth, make them laugh; otherwise they’ll kill you.”. 

On that note, here is Peter Greene’s hilarious take on the future of the Common Core:

“*In response to continued complaints that focus on testing has squeezed out many valuable phys ed and arts programs, we are proud to introduce the Physical Arts program. For this program, offered during one day of the 9th grade year, students will draw a picture of a pony on a tuba and then throw the tuba as far as possible….”

Read his entire post, in all its irreverence, here:

Curmudgucation: A Peek at CCSS 2.0.

Opportunity knocks!


Hired to facilitate our newly-joined communities in developing a vision for the RSU, Craig Kesselheim of Great Schools Partnership announced in his recent presentation of his desire to form a working group to begin its craft.  According to Mr. Kesselheim, this committee could comprise any number of people…  Wait, let me check my notes… Continue reading