Sunday, March 10, 2013

Obama's Civic Marshall Plan: Planks For Education Reform

"State-led" Common Core Initiative:
Plank 1: Grade-Level Reading – 

Enhance the role of states in improving literacy instruction; support and invest in enhancing the quality of teacher education and professional development; invest in high-quality early education; and invest in ongoing research and evaluation.

(In February, Obama announced his plans to expand access to the Universal Pre-k program, mostly for those who are from moderate to low-income families.   He also requested an expansion of Head Start in order to provide additional childcare for toddlers.)
Plank 2:  Chronic Absenteeism -

Changes in policy and practice can help increase attendance and decrease chronic absence, including: requiring the inclusion of the percentage of students who are chronically absent as part of the Civil Rights Data Collection, under the Department of Education's Flexibility policy....chronic absenteeism should be part of the diagnostic analysis and improvement strategy implemented within priority and focus schools as well as included as an indicator in federal grant programs targeting low-performing schools, such as School Improvement Grants, 21st Century Community Learning Centers, and Race to the Top....A policy framework for chronic absence would include tracking individual student attendance and absence in longitudinal student data systems....

(Claiming to curb "chronic absenteeism" will be the federal government's excuse for the need to track students ultimately from birth through career.  The Department of Education has already begun to track students starting in preschool using a longitudinal student data system .  Arizona has been awarded over $10M in grant money since 2007 to design, develop and implement this data system.  This system is being promoted in conjunction with the CCSS by the group called Data Quality Campaign.   The DQC is funded by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and partners with the National Council of State Legislators, the National Governors Association, Achieve and many others pushing the CCSS.)
Plank 3: Early warning indicator and intervention systems –

Continue to support development and use of early warning indicator and intervention systems in elementary, middle and high schools...Through learning and teaching summits, we can accelerate efforts to spread early warning information and intervention systems to states, school districts and schools, particularly low-performing schools.

Plank 4: The Middle Grades –

District, state and federal policies should strengthen the structures, norms, and processes for continuous improvement within these grades while increasing academic rigor.

 (See the Common Core Standards and decide for yourself if they are "rigorous" standards.)
Plank 5: Adult and Peer Supports –

We should strengthen supports for wraparound services.  Students need to be surrounded with the developmental resources they need to be ready to learn, succeed in school, and graduate.  These resources are especially important for children growing up in high-poverty neighborhoods...Schools and communities should partner with nonprofits, volunteers and full time national service members to implement a cohesive youth system to address the strengths and needs of each student.  They should also devote resources... to fund evidence based student supports as a core function of schools that educate large numbers of students who live in poverty.

 (In January 2010, Obama signed an Executive Order creating the Council of Governors with the intent of "strengthening the partnership between federal and state governments involving the National Guard of the various States; homeland defense; CIVIL SUPPORT; synchronization and integration of State and Federal military activities in the United States; and other matters of mutual interest pertaining to National Guard, homeland defense, and CIVIL SUPPORT ACTIVITIES." Governor Brewer is a member of the 11 Governor council. Remember when Obama said about AmeriCorp, "We've got to have a civilian national security force that's just as powerful, just as well-funded?"

Recently, Obama  announced the School Turnaround AmeriCorp Initiative   which is a collaborative effort by the Corporation for National and Community Service (CNCS) and the U.S. Department of Education (ED).  The CNCS is a partner of the America Promise Alliance which means that your tax dollars are funding the marketing of the CCSS whether you want it or not. "This partnership will support the placement of AmeriCorps members in persistently underachieving schools across the country. Grants will be awarded to organizations that implement programs that utilize AmeriCorps members to engage in evidence-based interventions to increase educational achievement, high school graduation rates, and college readiness for students in our nation’s lowest-performing elementary, middle, and high schools...Members may receive a living allowance and other benefits while serving." 

Volunteers will also qualify for an Educational Award upon completion of their service.  Which begs the question, what qualifications does a volunteer need to have to "increase educational achievement, high school graduation rates, and college readiness" if they, themselves, haven't completed their own education?  Or are these partner programs more for mentoring or Obama's jobs plan, as opposed to helping them understand their school work?)


Plank 6: Transition Supports –

Research has shown that transition years, when students move from the middle grades to high school, can be particularly perilous.  We should scale best practices, which show that caring, knowledgeable and committed adults who set high standards and assist students in meeting them, coupled with supportive school conditions, are critical to helping students make successful transitions.

(By "adults" we're sure they mean PARENTS, right?)
Plank 7: Effective Schools –

We need to support the reform and redesign of low-performing middle and high schools... states and districts should use the emerging ACGR data- along with other available graduation rate, promotion, and early warning data- to locate the districts and schools that produce most of the non-graduates in the state. Early warning systems should be used, along with enhanced student supports through the integration of community partners and organizations to make sure the students within these schools attend, feel engaged with school, learn how to succeed in school, and pass their courses.

 (more data collecting and community organizing)
Plank 8: Compulsory School Age –

Compulsary school-age laws must be part of comprehensive reform efforts.  In the past few years, most states have raised their compulsory school age to 18 and created incentives for students to stay in school.  Some state laws are still out of date and fail to reflect the fact that most jobs today require a high school diploma plus some postsecondary education.  Many of the school age laws were written before or around the beginning of the 20th century when many young people needed to leave school to begin working...research shows that raising the compulsary school age reduces the number of students who drop out.

(Will this really have any effect on drop out rates?  )

Plank 9: Pathways to College and Career –

Preparing students for college and career is a critical responsibility of our nation’s K-12 education system. Policymakers should reform the Carl D. Perkins Career and Technical Education Act to more effectively align secondary and postsecondary institutions and employers to train students to meet the demand of regional and state labor markets; encourage efforts to integrate technical and academic courses; and support state efforts to link student college completion, transcript, and employment data to evaluate the effectiveness of these programs.  
Plank 10: Dropout Recovery –

Efforts to recover and re-engage young people who drop out of high school have increased in some communities.  These efforts can be improved and expanded by using data to gain a clearer picture of who the opportunity youth are and what services and academic supports they need to get back on track.  Other efforts should reduce administrative barriers to cross-sector collaboration to improve coordination between education, work-force, and social support programs to help opportunity youth re-engage with school.  Leaders in this area should expand availability of high-quality alternative pathway programs that re-engage dropouts and off-track youth in education and job-training; allow education funding to follow opportunity youth who enroll in a re-engagement program.

(Governor Brewer's AmeriCorp Education plan called for a "cross-stream collaborative efforts by the Commission, State Office and the ADE, as well as AmeriCorps*State, AmeriCorps National Direct, AmeriCorps Tribal, AmeriCorps*VISTA, Senior Corps and K-12 Learn and Serve programs."  And of course, more data collecting.)

Notice that none of the Planks clearly mentioned the important role of parents in helping to teach or guide their children to reach their highest potential.

But, then again, the government doesn't think we can function at all without their help.