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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