Wednesday, March 26, 2014


Don't rejoice too much when the news announces that certain states have rejected Common Core, the nationalized curriculum that has been inching its way into local school districts for decades now.

According to skilled researchers such as this blogger -- http://betrayed-whyeducationisfailing.blogspot.com -- Common Core philosophies prevail everywhere, even if the actual textbooks and worksheets are withdrawn.

Note all the links she provides in this latest expose on how educrats say one thing but do another when it comes to responding to concerns expressed about Common Core curriculum by parents and taxpayers.

Bottom line for Nebraska: caveat emptor.

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Tuesday, February 21, 2012


The effort to trim the school board at the Omaha Public Schools down from 12 members to 7, for demonstrable benefits, proceeds in the Nebraska Legislature. See:


Looking forward to some refreshing change at the top in OPS. Note the comments below this update. What a great idea, to change Nebraska law so that a non-educator could become the next OPS superintendent.

To effectively change the culture in a huge bureaucracy like our state's largest school district, we need someone with experience OUTSIDE of that culture. Duhhh!

No big corporation with assets and revenues in the multi-millions insists on having someone whose skills are sharply limited at the helm. For example, does a telecommunications company insist on having only a lineman as the CEO? Does a giant trucking company limit the chairmanship only to someone who has driven a truck most of his or her career?

Nooooo. So why would we think that only a teacher would know enough to lead the way with one of the largest school districts in the country, one in which a sizeable percentage of the kids are dropping out and not graduating? That's crazy.

Isn't it the definition of insanity to keep doing something over and over and OVER, the same way, not changing anything, when it never works?

It's time to change Nebraska law so that you don't HAVE to be a certified teacher to become a school superintendent.

Why WOULDN'T we want leadership now from someone with broader life experience outside the classroom and the school petri dish?

Why WOULDN'T OPS benefit from the wisdom and horse sense of a retired business guru, a retired general, some superstar who started off life in the ghetto but overcame those disadvantages and knows how to inspire OPS staff to help a whole generation of kids follow suit?

Furthermore, we ELECT important public officials, don't we? So why WOULDN'T we prefer to ELECT our high-paid school superintendent? Wouldn't that be a way to signify that the electorate is, after all, in charge, and not the teachers' union?!?


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The battle in the Nebraska Legislature to get some common sense put back into the way we treat unexcused absences in public schools has gotten some national play:


The writer is a CNN correspondent. This is her personal parenting blog.

It is interesting and amazing to find out that each time your child is tardy, by even one minute, it is computed as one hour of an unexcused absence. Those add up along with days of illness, family vacations, even school-sponsored sports and academic competitions that take place during the school day, such as the girls' golf team at the State tournament, or the swimming team competing clear across the state . . . so parents, beware, and yumpin' Yiminy, contact your state senator STAT to pass Sen. Fulton's fix of the truancy law and stop this insane micromanaging.

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It was really eerie at that Nebraska State Board of Education hearing in the 1990s. I was the ONLY citizen who testified AGAINST learning standards. I pointed out that, at the butcher shop, "standard" was a grade of beef "below good." Surely, citizens of the Beef State would "get" that standardizing our educational programs with those of lower-performing states and Third World Countries was a really dumb idea.

But noooooooo. Standards flew through that board, and the State Legislature, and all local school boards, 'til poof! We're stuck with them today, and the lousy, nosy "assessments" that go with them. Because we accept federal education dollars, we have to dance to the federal education tune, which is nationalizing our schools through these boilerplated "standards" and "assessments" that are magically the same throughout the land.

Finally, people are understanding that we have turned our once-proud American educational system into the Nazi / Soviet / Japanese model of workforce training:


To be fair, this didn't start with Obama. Both the GOP and Democrats have had a hand in school deform. It goes 'way back to LBJ's payoff to organized labor with the formation of the U.S. Department of Education in the 1960s and Johnson's ESEA (the Elementary and Secondary Education Act -- a huge influence in local schooling today, to our peril) . . . plus the replacement of phonics with "Whole Language" to teach reading in the 1970s . . . and set in place with the ever-flowing federal money flow through America 2000 / Goals 2000 / School to Work / No Child Left Behind federal legislation of the 1990s and '00's.

As they progress through school, kids are "assessed" -- meaning, inspected like a side of beef -- and "sorted" into those who get to join the ranks of the elite and get the cool courses to help them get in to the top schools. Meanwhile, everybody else is a "Smurf," prepared only to take the minimal donkey-work jobs that the government's central planning thinks will be needed. In the meantime, the feds keep collecting every molecule of "data" on each student and his or her family and our possessions and our attitudes, to figure out what Americans think, and why, and how to "remediate," or change our ideas so that we can goose-step along to the federal marching tune. Sigh.

Best thing Nebraska could do right now is thumb our noses at every dime of federal education funding from here on out. Pay our own way! Also, drop-kick these learning standards to the curb, and get back to teaching the content and skills that we know -- allllll by ourselves -- will turn out educated people who are literate, numerate, capable American citizens.

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Wednesday, January 25, 2012


Major dislike of LB 1144, introduced by State Sen. Brad Ashford of Omaha. It would create "career academy schools" to train students in vocational trades instead of delivering a full, liberal-arts high school education to each student. This dislike is not just because voc ed is tremendously expensive, and increased school spending is the last thing we need in this day and age. There are many more reasons this is a bad idea.

The idea has been around in the U.S. since at least the School-to-Work Opportunities Act of 1994. It was promulgated along with that terrible, horrible, no good, very bad Goals 2000 law. These two concepts dangled federal start-up grants to lock school districts into a destructive and expensive concept of denying some of their student populations a full education in exchange for training them for a blue-collar job after high school.

School-to-Work and "career academies" are a sad repeat of the huge mistakes made in the former Soviet Union, Germany and Japan. For decades, kids there were "sorted" at an early age -- dumb, smart, dumb, dumb, smart -- and directed to either be Smurfs -- given only workforce training -- or, for a small number who really are smart, and/or whose parents are Politically Correct, tracked for a real education so that they can become elites.

The Smurfs would get only rudimentary reading, writing, history, science and math preparation, less than half of the curriculum the rest of the students would be getting. Employers would get really cheap labor for the half-days these dumbed-down kids would spend in the workforce, doing apprenticeships for very low wages.

What about American equal opportunity? This concept would destroy that.

Now, I'm for tech ed as much as anybody. Of COURSE there's a certain percentage of students who would flourish in a technical career and not so much in college. Of COURSE we have to be realistic, that not all kids are academically strong, and we need to do everything we can to keep them from dropping out.

But this isn't the answer. Improving our schooling, all the way back to the early grades, where the academic deficiencies begin, is the answer.

The biggest hazard is a civil rights issue: there's a basic right to choose your own future, and work toward it, in this country. If millions of dollars are spent preparing career academies, you'd better BELIEVE they would find youth to fill those slots.

Just GUESS what the numbers would be in inner-city Omaha, for the percentage of students who would be sorted into the career academies vs. those who would be "sorted" into a traditional liberal-arts track that can lead to the executive suite, medical school, law school and so forth.

Regardless of their potential, talents or interests, the vast majority of the students in low-income areas would be tracked into the career academies.

This idea patronizes them and their parents, selling these kids' futures short -- "well, at least they can get a JOB after graduation" -- instead of delivering a quality, well-rounded, in-depth education that would leave their options open. Those options do, indeed, include a career in the vocations -- but it should be the employers, not the schools, doing the technical training and bearing the high cost -- and technical job training should never, ever replace bona fide education.

What's happening now is that technical employers are having to re-educate their new hires in the 3 R's -- reading, writing and arithmetic -- before they are even ready to be trained in their technical skill. Kids are coming out of schools as it is, unemployable because of a lack of academic skills. So if we cut their time in school in HALF, what do you suppose would be the result?

I don't relish the thought of driving over bridges built by people who only got half a high school education. Yikes!

If schools remained schools, and workplaces remained workplaces, we'd all be better off.

Schools are for turning out well-prepared, well-rounded citizens first, and future employees second. Right? Right!

It would short-change high-potential kids trapped in inner-city schools, building class envy and resentment to a fever pitch.

Career development and "sorting" begins as early as kindergarten, and the kids are put under enormous pressure to do well on standardized tests so that they don't wind up in the Smurf pigeonhole and cut their school days in half, with greatly dumbed-down curriculum, so that they can work at apprenticeships for pittance wages all afternoon.

Hmm. Harping on careers. Big pressure for state assessments. Who needs geometry, chemistry and Shakespeare if you're "only" going to work in construction, auto shop, health-care product assembly, or food prep?

Sound at all familiar with what's happening in our schools today?

Look what happened to those economies that went to the workforce development model. Look at the payroll taxes, particularly in Germany, as the cost of this workforce training is passed on to consumers by the businesses in the form of higher prices, instead of directly to taxpayers, to hide the financial boondoggle, and educational short-changing?

What a terrible idea in the Information Age, to lock kids out of dreams like owning their own businesses or being doctors, just because the government has provided these expensive voc tech academies, and SOMEBODY has to be enrolled in the programs using all that equipment.

Sigh. Here's hoping financial realities will kill this bill.

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Tuesday, January 24, 2012


Here's a good article on the immense savings that could be had if we ended collective bargaining with teachers' unions, paid teachers as the professionals they are, and lived happily and more cost-effectively ever after:


Ironically, this was in the news the same day as the announcement that the Millard Public Schools will now allow MINIATURE HORSES in schools as "service animals" for special ed kids. Meanwhile, there are tons of things that school officials say they "can't afford" that those of us who are for serious academics count as necessities, not frills.

Long past time to say "NAYYY!" to school overspending, and ending collective bargaining would be a great first step.

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Warning to those who are interested in the "parent revolution" going on here and there, including at longtime failed schools in California:


Parents in failed public schools in disadvantaged areas are forming unions, obtaining the right to restructure their public school as a charter school, hire their own "directors" (instead of principals) and operate on tax money supposedly under their own administration, curriculum selections and philosophies of education.

Whoa! Watch out! That's what President Obama did back in his community organizing days in Chicago. And it was a total waste of time. After power and control was wrestled out of educators' hands, and given to parents, they reformed the schools in charter schools. Taxpayers still paid the freight, but the say-so shifted to the parents -- most of whom weren't even high school graduates and had very low academic skills themselves.

You can't teach what you don't know.

Inevitably, the bill for schooling went up . . . but student achievement stayed the same, over many years. So they went back to the way things were. Everybody lost!

Much better outcomes can be obtained by detaching from an educational system that has failed your child, and enroll that child in a private school run by bona fide educators. That's why we all should fight for more tax breaks to induce people to donate money to tuition assistance funds to help poor kids get into the private schools that equip them much better for success.

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Thursday, January 19, 2012


Look at the convergence of these three things:

1. The Catholic archdiocese can't afford to keep subsidizing tuition for so many needy kids in inner-city Omaha and has announced a process which will probably result in closing six schools. That will dump hundreds of kids into the Omaha Public Schools system which is already overloaded and ineffective.

2. Nebraskans for School Choice and others are pushing hard this legislative session for L.B. 50, which would give state tax credits to qualifying businesses and individuals for donating money to tuition assistance funds -- a much-needed income stream for private schools here.

3. We have all these nice, big, fairly wealthy churches in west Omaha, and many of them are doing a ton of mission work . . . but how about joining forces to open a really great Christian preschool and grade school in North Omaha? Charity begins at home! Plus, there are beaucoup excellent retired teachers in every congregation who could work part-time or even volunteer in this group effort, and show how great the results can be from Christian education. The churches could provide start-up funding and then ongoing tuition assistance could be had if L.B. 50 were passed.

People? LET'S DOOOOOO THISSSSSSS!!!!!!!! :>)

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Why in the Sam Hill doesn't Nebraska have enabling legislation to set up charter schools? They give disadvantaged kids a much better shot than public schools do, a mountain of evidence reveals:


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Next week is School Choice Week! Woo hoo! Here's an on-point newsletter from Nebraskans For School Choice. Click the link in the lower right-hand corner:


The best thing for Nebraska education would be to start loosening up the death grip of the government and union monopoly, and inspire some innovation and competition from the private sector.

The best way to do that is to get some incentives and inducements in place to get some much-needed capital into the in-baskets of the private school community.

And the best way to do THAT is to pass a tuition assistance scholarship law in the Nebraska Unicameral. That would spur individuals, foundations and nonprofits to donate money to offset tuition for low-income students to attend private schools.

Nebraskans For School Choice has a new newsletter out that has the key state senators' contact information, and a fervent plea for you to push for this much-needed change in our ed landscape.

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Wednesday, January 11, 2012
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Good to see that two state senators have proposed minor changes in Nebraska's irksome new truancy law in the early days of this legislative session:


That's a hopeful sign that a resolution to the truancy problem may be possible. The parents' group opposing the criminalization of truancy has expressed a mixture of encouragement that their voices are being heard, but dismay over the continuation of what they see as the erosion of parental sovereignty over children. They decry the substitution of the criminal justice system over parents as the authority figure in school attendance matters.

Now, truancy is a "status offense." A "status offense" is something that a minor child might do that wouldn't be a crime if that person were an adult. It should be noted that a status offense such as truancy previously hasn't been handled in the court system per se, involving the county prosecutor with real-world consequences. Previously, school attendance problems have been handled at the local school level, allowing educators to use their best judgment as to how to solve the problem, and when needed, they have gotten the juvenile court system involved.

It's true that truancy -- the deliberate, anti-social form -- is associated with other status offenses, such as smoking cigarettes and drinking alcohol out of the supervision of both parents and educators, and even crimes, including theft and vandalism. But not all "truancy" is like that. So prosecuting families whose kids are dealing with chronic illnesses and miss school days, or who go on trips, or obtain special, out-of-school educational experiences -- BUT MAINTAIN PASSING GRADES or in some cases, the best grades in the school -- is a waste of time, and drives a big wedge in the already-shrunken level of trust between home and school.

The stiffened-up attendance regulations are likely to drive successful, high-achieving students to private schools so that they can participate in the complementary educational experiences that are so important. For example, a few years ago, a national champion equestrienne who needed to compete in other states to gain points toward her goal was forced to leave the public school in Elkhorn to go to Skutt High School.

Why? Because she was going to miss about 20 days of school over the course of a year, and Skutt has more flexible attendance rules, which are based on the educators' judgment of the credibility of the excused absences, not an inflexible state law.

This young woman was an A student, and continued to be an A student, as well as being highly involved in extracurricular activities at Skutt and a cheerleader. She handled the many days of absences very well, because she and her parents made sure she stayed caught up and maintained good communication with her teachers.

The students she left behind at the public high school missed out on a great classmate. Now, how would it have been to have had that girl PROSECUTED for "truancy" violations, with an A average?!?

It is hoped that the parents' group will continue to inform the public, and that the tweaks in the truancy law can be amended to everybody's satisfaction.

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Norfolk businessman and former city mayor Jim Scheer has been reelected president of the Nebraska State Board of Education.

Omaha attorney and former state senator Mark Quandahl is vice president for 2012.

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Monday, January 09, 2012


Did you see this good story in The World-Herald on Sunday? Nice, balanced account of how the lefties want social studies class to focus on the warts in our society (racism, sexism, upism, downism), while the righties want the kiddies to be taught a little about the warts, but to mostly study the documentation of American exceptionalism:


Hopefully, we'll get good social studies standards. But there's a risk with all this standardization of education: this year, the standards might include the Federalist papers, the Constitution and all that good stuff that most citizens want the kids to learn. But in 10 years, or 20, there may be a complete shift in political thought, and the educrats might be able to expunge all that good stuff out of the standards, and put their pro-Whatever stuff in, heavy on the racism, sexism, upism, downism, and light on the stuff that made America's system so great.

To prevent that, it's really important to make the point, over and over and over, that kids really need the foundation of any discipline -- including civics -- before they can handle thinking about the warts that developed on the corpus. Learn the basics before you learn the problems. In med school, you don't start by studying the odd diseases that can occur -- you start by studying the human body. After you "get" the biology, you can "get" what can go wrong.

Hope that's how it plays out in the important arena of social studies, and creating citizens who will preserve, protect and defend our nation's future because they understand where it came from and how it works.

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Thursday, January 05, 2012


Here's a well-written synopsis from the Family Research Council of parents' rights and schooling in the United States.

It points out what an anachronism it is, in this day and age, to have something as important as education being tightly run as a government monopoly.

Three cheers for the parents and taxpayers who are waking up to the fact that choice and competition in education, as in everything else, is best:


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This chart is a sad commentary on something that, unfortunately, is easily observed in many public schools today. Single parents -- chiefly single mothers -- are more likely than married parents to have their kids get in trouble for behavior problems in school, and they and their children come under scrutiny and even attack by educators more often than traditional households.

This is from the Family Research Council:


As we work through the current Nebraska truancy law issue, it's important to keep this in mind. Let's make sure that we aren't using a bureaucratic, micromanaging rule as a club against single moms, who need all the support they can get to keep on doing the best they can for their kids.

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Hope any Nebraska mom or dad worried about the schools fiddling with their kids' hearts and minds improperly with anti-parent policies or actions, including the truancy issue, will make use of these good articles from the Rutherford Institute, particularly the bottom two under "Commentary":


The Rutherford group is a civil liberties legal defense and public education organization. It has an excellent track record representing plaintiffs in cases in which units of government, including schools, have violated basic constitutional rights.

Keep 'em in mind as this Legislative session goes on. They know what they're doing. Friends are . . . our friends!

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Wednesday, January 04, 2012


I keep humming that song about "Luckenbach, Texas, with Willie and Waylon and the boys" every time I think about the proposal by Omaha State Sen. Scott Luckenbach . . . darn, there I go again . . . LAUTENBAUGH to reduce the size of the board of the Omaha Public Schools.

There are 12 people on it now. They are unpaid. Some have been on the board for many terms. Most of them are devoid of business experience. They are mired in groupthink and rarely, if ever, vote against what the OPS management wants. It's a pretty sad, strange situation.

But some people are grousing about Lautenbaugh's proposal in the Unicam to reduce the number from 12 to 5, and to pay each person $20,000 in order to get more people with business experience. Under his proposal, board members would be limited to two 4-year terms, which might reduce the groupthink, and reduce the power of the superintendent over the board representatives, since they won't be serving for long.

I was wondering what to think about this, recognizing that the Omaha City Council and the Douglas County Board each has seven members, as does the state's second-largest school district, the Lincoln Public Schools. OPPD and MUD have eight members each. But a lot of very well-run big businesses in the Omaha area have 11 or more directors, including the Union Pacific, ConAgra and Berkshire Hathaway.

So I was leaning toward liking Luckenbach . . . I mean, LAUTENBAUGH's . . . idea, only upping it to seven board members instead of five. Even at that, a lot of pro-OPS people will squawk. They want to keep the status quo, I guess.

But here comes the smoking gun that backs up Lautenbaugh -- there, I got it right the first time -- and establishes that the most successful urban school districts in the nation have a school board of five, seven or nine members. And here's the proof:


So if the unsuccessful scores OPS is havin' has got us feudin' like the Hatfields and McCoys . . . maybe it's time we got back to the basics (not of love, but of sound school governance) -- and pass that smart proposal in the Unicam 'fore we got blue eyes cryin' in the rain. . . . :>)

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Speaking of education books that mention Nebraskans, you really need to read Education for the New World Order by B.K. "Bev" Eakman, someone I've met and like:


That book came out in 1991, a few years after the late Nebraska Sen. Ed Zorinsky's sudden heart attack and death after a performance in the annual Omaha Press Club show. I always was mildly suspicious of that death, since the former Omaha mayor was so vibrant and able to handle stress so well.

But I digress:

The book mentions Zorinsky several times because the Nebraska senator had caught on to the dumbing down of books in school and had testified before a joint hearing of House and Senate education subcommittees. He understood how the education system's Whole Language "innovation" -- teaching reading by NOT teaching reading -- was actually CAUSING illiteracy in children.

Zorinsky was beginning to speak out against the ever-expanding reading remediation and special education systems that were sucking up more and more tax dollars to no avail, since they weren't making kids more literate any more than the regular classroom was. In fact, what was going on was educational malpractice -- the schools mistaught reading and created disability in students, who then needed to go to these expensive, and ineffective remedial and special ed programs, at higher and higher costs to the taxpayer and lower and lower results for each child's learning curve.

Zorinsky tried to start a commission to investigate teacher education, since no teachers knew how to teach reading with phonics, the obviously best method. But Zorinsky was so strongly opposed by the education cartel that his attempt was dead in the water.

According to the book, the senator was hearing a lot of complaints about poor reading instruction from his constituents, and saw parallels all around the country. In April 1985, he began introducing legislation about illiteracy, including starting a national commission to figure out why illiteracy and reading disability were growing so fast. He got 30 co-sponsors, so it should have been a breeze to pass. But again, his fellow politicians, who received huge campaign contributions from the education cartel, fought him off.

Zorinsky testified at a hearing on Oct. 1, 1985, that top reading professionals in the U.S. all agreed that teaching phonics to young children was the key to reading, but that most schools didn't teach with phonics because almost no teachers' colleges taught future teachers how to teach reading with phonics-ONLY methods.

At another hearing, on March 20, 1986, organized in large part by Zorinsky, a New Hampshire school superintendent from one of the poorest school districts in the country testified that when his district switched from Whole Language reading methods to phonics, the per-pupil cost for reading supplies dropped from $16 a year to $2.25. Meanwhile, the reading scores in that district "dramatically increased" and were consistently above state and national averages.

Numerous other witnesses presented proof of the superiority of phonics. Still, nothing was done because the other members of Congress blocked it.

In 1986, a year before he died, Zorinsky did get an amendment passed which directed the U.S. Department of Education to compile a list of beginning reading instruction programs and methods, including the average cost per pupil, and whether or not these programs aligned with the recommendations in a 1985 federal report, Becoming a Nation of Readers. Reportedly, this list has never been published.

You really have to get this book, and read about the valiant, five-year battle by Nebraska's senator.

Even more important would be to read Chapter 20, which details how Nebraska was pretty much tricked into participating into what would become the national assessment that is effectively nationalizing our schools -- the National Assessment of Educational Progress, or NAEP.

A Nebraska state senator, his aide, and apparently some other Nebraskans, insisted on seeing a copy of the test questions before allowing the NAEP to be given to schoolchildren in the Cornhusker State. They finally saw that the questions did not, indeed, measure reading comprehension, but were weird, trick questions designed to expose the child's values, attitudes and beliefs.

The chapter also shows that the Buros Institute for Mental Measurement at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln apparently figured in the creation of the nation's data trafficking system for collecting and storing privacy-invading information on children and their families in the guise of reporting "school data" on each child. The system was called ESIDS -- the Elementary and Secondary Integrated Data System.

Don't know if it's still called that, but know it exists, know that Nebraska has Red Chinese-style electronic portfolios on each student, know that government agencies and perhaps even multinational corporations can data-mine in that system, and know that UNL had a big role in the development of this gigantic, federally-funded data-mining proposition.

The book alleges that the assessments would first be "soft-sold" to Nebraskans as achievement testing until everybody was used to the idea of statewide assessments, the system was in place, and the individuals who would squawk at this wide-scale privacy invasion would come forward so that their opposition could be neutralized, usually by mild or overt threats to the people's own children and their academic fortunes.

Then the questions would morph over to those that would disclose each student's (and thus each family's) attitudes, values and beliefs.

Do you see this same step-by-step system in place with Nebraska's new truancy law?

EW! EW! EWWW!!! But get this book, and see what you think.

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Postscript to the story about Project INSTRUCT installing "mastery learning" in Nebraska in the 1970s, according to p. 204 of The Deliberate Dumbing Down of America by Charlotte Iserbyt:

The then-assistant superintendent for instruction for the Nebraska Department of Education, Ronald Brandt, raved about the program. It is very possible the state department assisted the Lincoln Public Schools in obtaining the big federal grant, and approving and organizing the mastery learning system -- no doubt using the rural schools around Lincoln as guinea pigs.

Anyway, no surprise here, if you watch educrats for long: Brandt went on to become the ececutive editor of Educational Leadership, the publication of the Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development (ASCD).

They call that "the revolving door." The educrats all like to "innovate" on the local or state level with a new "program" and then use it to catch a higher-paying, higher-status, national job. But meanwhile, back at the ranch, the "innovation" makes education worse, not better, for kids. Into the fray comes ANOTHER educrat who installs ANOTHER bogus "innovation" and ALSO uses that prestige to land a cushy bigger job -- while nobody realizes the new program doesn't work, either.

See who's left holding the bag?

The ASCD is one of the most influential education organizations in the world. Everybody who's anybody gets its publication. Through that pulpit, Brandt helped promote outcome-based education (today's "standards-based education" -- they changed the name when everybody hated it, but didn't change what it does) and its gurus. All of them were quoted reverently in Nebraska, and many came here to speak and lead workshops with Nebraska educators, no doubt referred by Brandt, throughout the 1990s as outcome-based education (OBE) became entrenched here.

So former Nebraskan Brandt was a key player in morphing our school systems into becoming government nannies instead of institutions of education.


But do not despair. We can change this. Living well (with traditional schools free of OBE) is the best revenge.

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Tuesday, January 03, 2012


Love a California state law that gives control to parents when 51% of them vote that their lousy schools aren't cutting the mustard any more. Then the parents can work together to get the reforms they need. Or they can set up a charter school, or do whatever they think will work to turn things around.

An easy way to do this in the Omaha Public Schools would be for parents, nonprofits, churches and other concerned citizens of the five worst grade schools in OPS to join this national group:


. . . and then lobby the Nebraska Legislature for enabling legislation to allow for a parent takeover of schools at the bottom of the heap. Let's define it as, say, math and reading test scores in the bottom 20% of the state. Then, following a due-process election and under health and safety constraints, of course, funding for kids who want to switch to the new school setting would follow them wherever they want to go.

The five worst grade schools in OPS are clustered in North Omaha. They could work together to make meaningful economies of scale.

Since Nebraska doesn't have charter school enabling legislation, then our new law could redirect the property tax and state aid for all students who elect this new schooling plan to fund a newly-formed private school, a lawfully-formed parent cooperative school, a multi-family attendance center homeschool, or perhaps to the Catholic archdiocesan schools under contract.

If OPS really is spending $12,000 per pupil per year, as reported, then woo hoo! A solid private grade-school education can be had in Omaha for less than half of that per pupil, counting transportation to and from. It could work!

Of COURSE it wouldn't make sense for MOST schools in Nebraska . . . but for all those of us who can't wait a single more minute to improve things for the kids who need good schooling the most, LET'S DO THIS!!!

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Beware of this book, if you want to understand what is going on in K-12 education. Then again, it's a fascinating read:


It has 462 pages plus that will blow your mind. Ironically, I found something that explains the basis for Nebraska's truancy law while I was looking up background information in this book on the Hatch Amendment,which is supposed to protect pupil and parental privacy in schools and uphold the parents as the No. 1 arbiters of what happens to kids in school.

What does the Hatch Amendment have to do with truancy? I think Nebraska's new truancy law violates it, bigtime. But while researching, I lit on this startling connection, starting on p. 202 of the eBook (it's 203 in the printed book):

A farmer testified in 1984 before the U.S. Department of Education's Region VII hearing on the Hatch Amendment, protecting pupils' and parents' rights in school. His little girl was in a rural school somewhere near the Lincoln (Neb.) Public Schools. LPS had a federal contract for $710,000, approved by the U.S. Ed Department in 1975, to introduce Project INSTRUCT to area public schools, including this farmer's little girl's school.

So that was 36 years ago. Keep that in mind.

Project INSTRUCT was one of a few "models" for outcome-based education -- code-named "mastery learning" -- now code-named "standards-based education" -- around the country. You know all the learning standards and assessments to measure how well the kids have mastered them? This is where all of that comes from. That's the system that almost all of our schools are operating under today, because of the federal money that comes with compliance.

But this farmer, Stephen Broady, said that his daughter suffered "emotional change" as a result of what he called "psychological manipulation" and "behavior modification" that undergirded Project INSTRUCT. He called it "a deliberate attempt to make children conform to an artificial environment which is more suited to the thinking of the school than to the needs of the children."

Whoa! Ignoring the needs of the children to force compliance with senseless governmental rules! Does that sound like the impact of Nebraska's micromanaging truancy law, which is hurting good students with good grades from good families and who don't NEED scary, criminalized government intervention in their studies . . . or what?

Broady proceeded to obtain the Project INSTRUCT evaluation report from the LPS superintendent's office. He found out that the same behavior modification techniques were to be used on anybody else who came in contact with that school, besides just students. That meant parents, the media, all administrators and teachers, paraprofessionals, volunteers, and even prospective employees.

So educators were being told to allow no behavior that didn't synch with the highly-structured behaviors that were part of Project INSTRUCT . . . even from the students' PARENTS?!? Compliance and conformity first, in other words. They trump everybody else's rights and needs.

The idea was that the quality of the education would increase if the Project INSTRUCT methods were consistent. Ironically, according to test scores, reading achievement went DOWN, and stayed DOWN.

But across Nebraska and the whole country, everybody's still using those methods! And learning capacity and progress are both still DOWN compared to the quality that we had in the 1970s . . . before school started becoming a prison and educators were forced to become wardens.

Same book reports on p. 198 that mastery learning was piloted in Omaha from 1969 to 1971. I think that was in the Millard Public Schools, though it doesn't say so in this book.

So when you are struggling to understand why Nebraska lawmakers cling to the truancy law despite the fact that threats and government programs don't help kids learn better, and illegally violate personal privacy rights of students and parents to boot . . . take heart in knowing that at least this kind of stuff has been around for over 35 years. Might take that long to get rid of it again, but at least it isn't some big, new monster that came out of nowhere.

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Monday, January 02, 2012


Duh, duh, duhhhhh. Parents who distrust public schools and don't think they are able to help their children overcome poverty and illiteracy don't attend parent-teacher conferences anywhere near as often as middle- and high-income parents. Parents of kids who are doing well or at least OK in school come to the conferences full of hope that their kiddies will not only make it into college, but excel there. It's a lot easier to vote with your feet when you're feeling positive about school.

Here's a long, scholarly article about it, though this stuff isn't rocket science:


The World-Herald published a good chart today that showed the direct link between parent-teacher conference attendance and school poverty characteristics. The schools in the 'burbs had statewide reading assessment scores exceeding 85%, conference attendance rates of 80% or better., and relatively low rates of poverty.

Meanwhile, the inner-city basket case schools have much higher poverty rates, only 30 percent or so of their kids reading at grade level, and dismal conference attendance rates by inner-city parents of 12.5% to 15.6%.

Everybody's wringing their hands about those "deadbeat" inner-city parents, since we all know that parental involvement is a huge correlate to student success. But it's no surprise why they don't show up.

How come schools don't "get it," that people don't like to come to a place where they're going to get scolded and feel emotionally beat up -- to hear year after year that their kid isn't cutting the mustard -- to see their child's best hope for a future smashed into the ground because the schools have failed to teach the kid to read well enough to do well in school?

When school does its basic mission -- teach kids to read, write and figure -- then parents will show up.

When will schools learn that the best way to get conference attendance up over 80% is to scrap that lousy Whole Language reading junk, and teach kids to read and write with intensive, explicit, systematic phonics?

Remember, close to 100% of the kids in a phonics-ONLY kindergarten classroom -- even a half-day program -- at all income levels, even in the poorest neighborhoods -- are reading by Christmas of the kindergarten year. Phonics is far, far cheaper, takes only about 20 minutes a day, and it's a real head-banger why OPS didn't go for it many, many years ago.

Maybe NOW . . . just to get those conference attendance rates up? Stranger things have happened.

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Longtime Omaha politician Dick Galusha had a great Public Pulse letter in The World-Herald today. Although his politics are left-leaning, his stance on education's needed focus is great. Galusha says that we need to keep a tight focus on the effectiveness of what we're doing with students when they are ages 4-8, the primeau reading years. Couldn't agree more:


Suppose we differ in "how" that should come about, though. I say that the more we've invested in taxpayer-provided, government Head Start, school-based preschool, and all-day kindergarten, the worse and worse things have gotten in OPS.

The very best thing that could happen in Omaha would be for every church to "adopt" a neighborhood and either provide on site, or help fund, quality preschool and private half-day kindergarten programming from the private sector. THEN the kiddies could read by age 6, and they'd be off to the races on their learning curves.

The government has shown that it does a lousy job in the itty bitty years. That's not government's job, anyway. Government nurseries were how they did things in communist Russia and China. Ew, ew, ewwww. It's long past time to rescue the sandbox set from the improper setting and overly structured environment of the government school system, and get them back into the arms of parents, grandparents, churches and other private sector folks, who do early childhood ed right.

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Resolving to post a lot more often from now on. So let's get cracking:

Really liked Nydra Karlen's Public Pulse letter about the absence of meaningful school choice under Nebraska law. The competition that would be introduced in Omaha through enabling legislation for charter schools would be a big help for the disadvantaged kids trapped in ineffective schools.

Scroll down to her letter:

She also points out how the education bureaucracy, when faced with a problem, tends to "paper" over it with more and more layers of programs and regulations and "solutions" . . . instead of getting rid of the problem with a fresh, new, data-proven solution.

The meta-analysis of Omaha's education problems is convincing, that the solution is in the private sector, with privately-run schools. The private sector has shown that it does a better job with needy kids, utilizing better leadership, management and skill players (teachers) who know how to use the right curricula, rather than leaving kids in the government infrastructure that has failed so many of them for so many years.

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