Wednesday, April 19, 2006
PART III: WHO DROPPED THE BALL?
THE STATE ED DEPARTMENT, AMONG OTHERS
THIS WEEK: SPECIAL REPORT
ON THE CRISIS INVOLVING
THE FUTURE OF THE OMAHA PUBLIC SCHOOLS
AND THE TRANSFORMATION OF NEBRASKA EDUCATION
INTO “LEARNING COMMUNITIES”
Part III: Who Dropped the Ball?
The State Ed Department, Among Others
Third in a series.
How did Nebraska’s education system ever reach this explosive crisis? Citizens, educators and politicians of all stripes are hurling charges and counter-charges in local, state and national arenas regarding racial segregation and discrimination in the state’s largest school district. We’re about to amputate the arms and legs of the Omaha Public Schools, dividing it into three parts along basically racial and income lines.
No wonder everyone’s so angry and frustrated: dropout rates are several times higher among black and Hispanic youth than among whites. Significant numbers of low-income and minority students read and do math well below grade level. There’s little or no chance for college for most low-income, minority kids out of OPS.
That’s in stark contrast to the good and even outstanding academic achievement of their suburban peers in the same district. It looks like racial injustice per se, but OPS spends significantly more per pupil on its inner-city charges than on kids in the wealthier ‘burbs.
So the question is, how did we let this enormous achievement gap fester?
How come we’re getting ready to spend more money and establish more governmental infrastructure on the inner city schools if we already know more money and more government doesn’t fix it, and we can tell by just looking at the inner-city private schools, which spend less and have little or no bureaucracy with the same demographical challenges?
Most of all, why didn’t we put smarter public policies in place long ago to prevent this whole debacle?
Meanwhile, as we squabble over the widespread dissatisfaction and turf wars among the various districts and voter groups, we’re being pushed in a hush-hush, rush-rush free-fall into a Brave New World-style “learning community.” Unless it is stopped in its tracks, Nebraska will wind up as one statewide school district that’s closely “benchmarked” with what’s going on with other school systems around the country and the world: nationalized and even globalized schools.
It’s not a conspiracy; as one longtime Nebraska education official says, it’s just the federal government’s attempt to bring some commonality to the hodgepodge of local school systems. And that may not be all bad, although of course local control is the hallmark of American education, which was the best in the world as long as local control ruled.
Now, it’s on the way out. And it’s almost schizophrenic, how Nebraska is being yanked by the nosering into a highly centralized, consolidated school structure with LB 1024. That’s the opposite of what we all know is best: small, family-centered schools with close relationships between parents and teachers and strong principals enforcing simple rules of behavior and effective instructional practices.
That’s just what rural Nebraskans had, until the Legislature last year nuked our Class I country schools. All the evidence in educational research holds that smaller schools and smaller districts are the best for students of all demographics and ability levels.
Now, with this “learning community,” students of astoundingly diverse ability levels, cultural backgrounds, and even ages are going to be grouped together with an almost impossible mandate to make their educational experiences “equitable.”
Schoolwork will be done in groups and “teams” so the able student will become the teacher and the behavior cop of the less able. No child shall be left behind, but no child shall be allowed to get ahead, either.
“Zero tolerance” will enforce a surrealistic Political Correctness where you’ll be afraid to say just about anything in such a diverse, multicultural environment. A kid in the cafeteria who says he hates tacos may just get himself beaten up as a racist.
If the Advanced Placement Calculus kids get computers to do their complex equations, by golly, the remedial arithmetic kids had better have them, too, or it won’t be “equitable” and there’ll be a lawsuit.
It’s a recipe for disaster.
And it’s all our fault, of course. We’re the ones who put the politicians in place who have allowed all this.
But significant blame also rests with the Nebraska Department of Education, and its governing board, the State Board of Education. The “learning community” concept that will basically “program” our young people, instead of educating them in the traditional sense, comes straight from the state. The whole idea is to “tool” the kids up for certain jobs, like cogs in a wheel, so that when they’re done with school, they’ll fit right in to the global workfoce, anywhere in the world. You can trace the development of this new purpose of K-12 education in documents from the State Ed Department and the State Ed Board over the past several years.
Did you know all this? Bet you didn’t.
Of course, state educrats are just passing it along from national and international educational forces. But the buck didn’t stop where it should have stopped, to spare us from the distortion and damage we’re suffering now. Instead of representing the best interests of Nebraska families and children, state officials just caved, over and over and over.
They had options. They could have gone to the public, gone to the Legislature, gone to the governor, and sought help for developing a better way.
But they caved. And now we’re stuck.
The only answer may be to withdraw from federal funding, which would deprive Nebraska schools of about 8% of their budgets, including the lion’s share of the remedial money they now use to try to help low-income kids, through Title I. So it’ll probably never happen.
We’re circling the drain, folks.
Get a load of the latest posting on the State Ed Department’s website from State Ed Commissioner Doug Christensen, www.nde.state.ne.us. It’s called “A ‘Flat World’ Look at Education: Developing a Global Mindset.” Combined with his other recent postings on “essential education” and the “new high school,” the wraps are off the purpose of the “learning community” that LB 1024 would create in the Omaha metropolitan area: job training.
Now, instead of a high-school diploma, Nebraska kids will have to get a “certificate of mastery” from government schools as proof they’ve met “specs” and are ready for higher education or their first job.
They’ll be “tracked” by a new statewide student and staff record system that debuts this October, will contain highly personal and perhaps damaging information, and can be shared with various outsiders, including, presumably, college admissions personnel and future employers.
Teachers and principals will have no say in what kids learn, but will just “guide” them and “facilitate” the process. If you squawk, you’ll be “remediated” in endless “staff development,” or be bought out with an early retirement package.
To get that certificate, a student will have to go through a dumbed-down, anti-intellectual, computer-delivered curriculum with “embedded assessment” – built-in testing and remediation on the computer that will block you from going on to the next section until you have “mastered” whatever the state wants you to “learn.”
You can’t “master” it unless you “agree” with it. Let’s say you don’t agree with “tolerating same-sex marriage” or “protecting the environment over allowing despicable capitalist exploitation.” But the curriculum demands that you do. You “flunk” your mini-test. You keep “flunking” that kind of stuff. What will happen? You’ll go to an “alternative youth center” where your views will be “remediated” . . . until you cave.
All this has come about because “equity” has taken over schools. It’s not “equitable” that some kids can ace physics, and some can barely read at the third-grade level. So, to keep schooling “equitable,” the focus has to shift off individual achievement and content-based curriculum, and onto things that ANYBODY can “get” – certain attitudes, feelings, opinions and beliefs that the central planners think are important to turn out good future workers.
It’s right there on Nebraska Education Department materials: the curriculum in the 21st Century “learning communities” now being put together will indoctrinate you with a global mindset with certain “interpersonal and cultural proficiencies” as well as “personal dispositions/values proficiencies” as defined by the state.
State education officials are responsible for transforming Nebraska’s schools into clones of the 1990 United Nations World Declaration on Education for All (signed by former President George Bush) and the Dakar (Senegal) Framework for Action (signed by former President Bill Clinton). Those two global agreements, respectively, yielded the Goals 2000 and No Child Left Behind federal education laws and restructuring paradigm.
This has been documented and reported by education watchdogs such as www.EducationNews.org, the Eagle Forum’s Education Reporter (http://www.eagleforum.org/educate/index.html), Allen Quist (www.EdWatch.org), B.J. Eakman (www.beverlye.com) and Berit Kjos (www.crossroad.to), but almost nobody’s paying attention. They’re all still tag-teaming over the red herring and ego trip of State Sen. Ernie Chambers over “segregated” schools.
It’s a red herring to the max. The real issue is the “learning community.” It’s got to be stopped.
If you go back and look at the Goals 2000 goals, you can see them playing out in the counter-intuitive things that are gradually being put in place in Nebraska: “free” universal preschool and all-day kindergarten in the utter absence of evidence those are good for kids because of the Goals 2000 goal, “all children shall come to school ready to learn”; despicable revisionist history that denigrates the United States and capitalism because the federal government is now in charge of “citizenship” education under Goal 3, and defines that as “world citizenship” rather than “American citizenship.”
All the way down the line, we’re radically reforming definitions of what school is all about. We’re aligning standards with curriculum, and curriculum with assessments, and assessments with newly-formed graduation requirements and postsecondary entrance benchmarks.
Result: de facto nationalization of our schools, not far away from globalization, too, since so many other countries are doing the same thing. See http://www.ibe.unesco.org/countries/countrydossiers.htm for an eyeful on how other countries are aligning their curriculum with this globalized education process just as Nebraska is.
True, Nebraska went along with yielding control over school goals and curriculum to the federal government under duress, as did the other states. You mean we were forced? After all, the 1994 Goals 2000 law said aligning your state’s education system to the national goals was “voluntary.”
The dirty little secret, though, is that the funding bill that went along with it, H.R. 6, declared that if you didn’t comply with Goals 2000 and, now, NCLB, you would lose all your federal education funding. Even though that amounted to just 7% or 8% of Nebraska’s total K-12 spending, it was a pretty penny, so Nebraska caved.
But they didn’t TELL us they caved.
Both the State Ed Department and the elected State Ed Board have done a shockingly bad job of informing the public about how the $2.2 billion annually spent on K-12 public schools in this state is being allocated, how the $5.3 billion we have invested in school facilities is being managed, and how the nearly $1 billion and counting in school debt is affecting Nebraska’s overall budgeting and taxation outlook.
A lot of the excess spending has gone to put all this in place, not for doing a better job on delivering the 3 R’s – not by a long shot. Just look at the test scores, and that’s obvious.
Even less, our public servants have failed to inform us about the direction we’re going in the future. Voters and taxpayers have been flying blind for years.
“Schools for the planned economy” is why we “had” to have statewide learning standards a few years ago. This is why we “had” to have that cheesy statewide writing assessment. This is why we “had” to demonize school choice, charter schools, privatization, homeschooling and all the other alternatives that might have really helped poor kids learn better: because then it wouldn’t be as easy to place them within “the system.”
If the systemic change that is behind the “learning community” set up by LB 1024 hit you like a ton of bricks, blame your state ed department and state ed board, because they’ve been putting the pieces together for this quietly, under the radar, for many years.
For a look at the dollars flowing through public education in this state, see the statewide totals or your district’s annual financial report on http://ess.nde.state.ne.us
For a look at how closely the State Education Department is cleaving to the planned transformation of U.S. schools into one consolidated, nationalized system, see the latest article by State Education Commissioner Doug Christensen on www.nde.state.ne.us
Finally, for an eye-opener on the Nebraska Student and Staff Record System, which will create dossiers on the microrecord level for all students and educators in the state, including private schools, and can be cross-linked and released to third parties for various purposes, see http://www.nde.state.ne.us/AdminDays05/Administrator%27s%20Days%202005_files/frame.htm
So if we can’t pull out of federal funding to escape all this, what’s the answer? Not shift kids to private schools. After all, a lot of this applies to private schools, too, if they are accredited. And it’s likely that the “net” of regulations will require homeschooled students to get their “certificates of mastery” if they want to work or go on to college, too.
Is there a way out? There is. What is it? Stay tuned.
Thursday: What do low-income, minority and non-English speaking kids really need?
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