Archive for the ‘Education’ Category

South Dakota allowed another one-year extension to No Child Left Behind

July 7, 2014 3 comments

educationI was looking through the Aberdeen News website and took notice that South Dakota gets year extension on No Child Left Behind (NCLB). The reason South Dakota “gets” a one year extension to NCLB is because Governor Daugaard and Education Secretary Schopp are committed to the centralization of education through Common Core. But this post isn’t about Pierre supporting further federal and special interest group control of public education. Rather this post is about the letter sent to Secretary Schopp giving South Dakota permission to be exempt from NCLB another year.

Education Week Blog has a copy of the letter in question. It is written by Deborah S. Delisle, Assistant Secretary for Elementary and Secondary Education at the DOE. Here is one paragraph I would like to point out:

Our team has reviewed South Dakota’s request and, pursuant to section 9401(d)(2) of the ESEA, I am pleased to extend South Dakota’s ESEA flexibility request for one year, through the end of the 2014–2015 school year. My decision to extend South Dakota’s ESEA flexibility request is based on my determination that ESEA flexibility has been effective in enabling South Dakota to carry out important reforms to improve student achievement and that this extension is in the public interest. I have also determined that South Dakota’s monitoring next steps have been adequately addressed. This letter also provides my approval of South Dakota’s proposed amendments to Principles 1 and 2 of its ESEA flexibility request. A summary of South Dakota’s approved amendments is enclosed with this letter, and South Dakota’s approved request will be posted on the U.S. Department of Education’s (ED) website.

I have added emphasis to some of the words I find relevant in this paragraph. Notice how much power Assistant Secretary Delisle has. This is a bureaucrat that was appointed to this position in 2012. The Senate confirmed her nomination in April of 2012 with a voice vote. The voters have no direct recourse if they are unhappy with her decisions or directives. As a political appointee she gets the benefit of massive amounts of power; but unlike elected politicians she has no accountability to anyone she will impact with her decisions.

Looking at the emphasized words above it is quite clear that Ms Delisle is more than happy to show how much power she has. From reading this is appears the decision to return taxpayer dollars to South Dakota for use on public education rests squarely upon her shoulder. She has the power to decide if South Dakota’s Department of Education bureaucrats have placed enough burdens on our teachers to warrant receiving federal dollars. I think even supporters of Common Core should be wary of so much power in the hands of a DC bureaucrat.

Perhaps now is the time for South Dakota to break this reliance upon DC for funding public education. Maybe during the 2015 legislative session there will be enough backbone from South Dakota’s limited-government controlled legislature to get rid of Common Core from South Dakota. Of course that would mean the state would have to stop funding misguided economic development programs and instead fund public education (my thoughts on this are posted here). I doubt that will ever happen… But its a nice thought.

Young adults are not in as bad of shape as the media has led us to believe

July 6, 2014 Comments off

For the last few years it seems the mainstream media loves to report that Millenials will never leave the house. This is nothing new. It always seems to be the way of society to show how the young generations are more lazy or ‘just not as good’ as the older generations. Luckily Pew research has provided some numbers to show this hype about Millenials is just that: hype.

To see what is happening with these Millenials see the chart below:

Chart Source: Pew Research

Chart Source: Pew Research

Yes, the “Not living at home” category has gone down over the last few years. But more importantly the “In college, living at home” has greatly increased. The reason this distinction is important is because the data often touted by mainstream media to “show’ millenials are continuing to live at home comes from Census data. As Derek Thompson of The Atlantic points out, the Census data counts young adults in college as “living at home’. This despite the fact most of these students are actually living in a dorm or other means near campus.The ‘Not in college, living at home’ has remained fairly even over the years. No, millenials are staying home after high school, just more of them are choosing to enter college.

Does that mean the millenials are in great shape? Not necessarily. This new data doesn’t actually prove anything. I’m passing on this data more to dispute a common theme of the mainstream media more that to actually prove anything. The increase of millenials in college will likely exasperate the student-loan debt that has already been getting out of control thanks to federal intervention in higher education financing. No matter what I have hope the millenials as a generation will learn to avoid the mistakes the Bush/Obama years. They certainly are becoming educated enough to do so.

A visual aid to understand where Bill Gates used his money to implement Common Core nationwide

May 15, 2014 1 comment

Any discussion of Common Core has to involve the massive amounts of money that are involved. Common Core is a story that involves corporations such as Pearson that are looking to make millions (billions?) of dollars from the new education standards. But that is a post for a different day. Today is a short post about one of the richest people in the world, Bill Gates, who has funded the implementation of Common Core as a huge nationwide experiment in education.

Last fall Mercedes Schneider created a series of blog posts that showed exactly how much money Bill Gates has used to implement Common Core. This is both directly and indirectly through his foundation the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.  There is a massive amount of information to absorb in the posts by Schneider. Luckily Erin Osborn released a visualization of the information from Schneider’s posts. I have included the chart created by Osborn at the end of this post.

For those that don’t mind actually sifting through the data (and there is a lot of it), here are the links to each of Schneider’s original posts and a total of how much Gates spent in each of these areas. To keep things simple I used the titles used in Osborn’s chart.

When added up it comes to a total of $282,386,373 that Bill Gates has used to implement Common Core across the nation. I have no problem with anyone spending their money. But I do have a problem with that money being taken and used dishonestly by public institutions; which makes it appear our education system is up for sale. The many businesses and lobby groups on the list are merely middle-men making a few bucks off the sale of the US Education System.

My point in highlighting the money spent by Gates is not to demonize him or money. Instead it is to show where much of the money used to create Common Core came from. Many proponents of Common Core still falsly attribute the creation of Common Core to the State Governors. No, the Governors didn’t create Common Core, but their organization (NGA) definitely got paid well to promote it! So, now I would ask proponents of Common Core one thing: “If the Governors have been dishonest about how Common Core was created, can we trust anything they say about Common Core?”

Bonus Question: Do we want to trust the future of American Education on the mastermind who brought us Windows, and thus also brought us the Blue Screen of Death?



Click on Image to make it bigger – Chart created by Erin Osborne

Some takeaway notes from the Common Core event in Eureka

May 14, 2014 5 comments
Dr Pesta speaking at a Common Core event in Eureka, SD

Dr Pesta speaking at a Common Core event in Eureka, SD

This last Saturday there was a Common Core event in Eureka, SD, titled Dangers and Threats to American Liberty and Education. The event featured Dr. Duke Pesta, who is the FreedomProject Education Academic Directory. Before going on it is worth noting this event happened just after the ND event, in which Dr Pesta’s character was personally attacked by a ND Department of Public Instruction (DPI) spokesman. It should be noted that the DPI spokesman attacked Pesta personally instead of actually trying to offer proof that Pesta was wrong on any particular portion of Common Core. Having seen his presentation in Erueka I can attest the fact he provided sources for all the information he provided. All sources can be found on the FreedomProject Education Common Core page. Since Dr Pesta included so much information I will just focus on a few takeaway notes from his presentation.

Over the period of two hours Dr Pesta went into great detail about various aspects of Common Core. Most of the presentation was spent looking at the implementation of Common Core. A common assertion used by those advocating Common Core is that is was created by the Governors. I have always found this to be an odd claim, and one that has been debunked many times. Even it if were true that the Governors ‘created’ Common Core (which it wasn’t) I agree with Dr Pestat that it would be odd to trust a group of politicians who have little or no direct experience in education to create new standards. In South Dakota do we have enough trust in the education standards knowledge from Governor Daugaard to create new education standards? It is mind-boggling that anyone could even consider it to be true that the Governors created Common Core.

The true source of the standards, according to Dr Pesta, is two DC lobby groups. The first is the National Governors Association (NGA). The NGA is not a place where governors meet and come up with great ideas. Actually the NGA is a way for special interest groups (including the Federal government and corporations) to lobby laws and regulations directly with state Governors. Many politically active Democrats within the state love to demonize a similar group ALEC, which overlooking groups such as NGA (they also ignore NCSL & CSG). This comes directly from the NGA website about corporate sponsors in the NGA:

With an annual contribution of $20,000, companies that participate as Corporate Fellows invest in finding solutions to tomorrow’s public policy challenges.

Twenty thousand dollars is small change for large corporations to pay to get direct access to the nations Governors. It should also be noted that the NGA meetings are done in secret. This from the NGA website:

Like most associations, NGA’s meetings are the business meetings of the organization. These are meetings for NGA members – not meetings for the general public.

So corporations can pay to get direct access to the meetings, and federal agencies are allowed to attend and lobby, but we the people are not welcome at these meetings. The very fact that many Common Core proponents, including SD Governor Daugaard, mention NGA as a source of Common Core should make anyone wonder about who really pulled the strings on this massive education initiative.

The other source of the standards is the Council of Chief State School Officers (CCSSO). CCSSO is a non-profit that brings politicians, state and federal education bureaucrats, and businesses together to create education policies. Effectively they are a lobby group for corporations that have an interest in the education industry.

One of the craziest things about the NGA and CCSSO being the ‘source’ of Common Core is that these two lobbying groups actually own the copyright on the standards. As Dr Pesta pointed out, the individual states are not allowed to remove or change any parts of the standards once adopted. All the states can do is add up to 15% of unrelated standards. Yet none of that extra 15% will be on the standardized testing. If a state wanted to change any of the standards they would have to pressure the copyright holders (NGA & CCSSO) that changes were needed. It is unlikely the lobby groups would make any changes that were not first approved by their corporate sponsors.

During his presentation Dr Pesta made a statement I think is worth repeating: “By definition education is standards”. The very steps taken to create a curriculum and test on the material is in fact a type of standards. What people are truly pushing for when advocating Common Core is national centralized testing standards. Along that line I thought is was appropriate for Dr Pesta to mention that Common Core is No Child Left Behind “on steroids”. Both federal initiatives handcuff teachers into utilizing outcome-based education. Teachers are going to have to teach to the tests. That is not the best way to get the best potential from each student. Actually high-performance students will fare quite poorly under such a system. Dr Pesta noted it is easy to lower to the standards to get more people to achievement, but it is hard to raise them for a few students that make the rest look bad.

Dr Pesta also noted that few teachers or administrators were surprised by the changes being implemented in Common Core. This is because education has been headed this direction for the last few decades. To parents just waking up to what is going on in the schools this appears to be a huge change. Yet to teachers and education administrators this is simply one more little step in the direction they have been headed. Those of us opposed to Common Core must keep this in mind. When we ask schools to reject Common Core we are asking them to stop everything they have been doing for years and go a different direction. Parents have not been involved in education for a long time. Having parents suddenly getting involved and attacking Common Core will make teachers and school administrators feel as if they are being attacked. Anyone opposed to common core has to find ways to fight against Common Core while maintaining a good relationship with teachers. In the end we all want what is best for our children. Attacking those that are willing to make their career out of teaching our children is the wrong way to go.

As I close this post I would like to thank Dr Pesta for coming to a small South Dakota town in order to pass on the information he has collected about Common Core. I would also like everyone reading this to take the last piece of advice Dr Pesta gave the group. He said that nobody, including him, should be trusted as the source of information for all things Common Core. Each person should research for themselves what he and others are saying about Common Core. I think that is great advice for almost any subject.

PS. I forgot to take a head count at the event. But the headcount I was able to get from my phones pictures (mostly blurry dang-it) I count just under 60 heads. Not bad for a small town event.

Categories: Education Tags: ,

Education spending in South Dakota

May 8, 2014 14 comments

Education spending was a big topic in Pierre during the 2014 legislative session. Since the budget cuts in 2011 there have been legislators in Pierre trying to restore those cuts. At that same time there are many legislators that say the school districts must learn to use the money they get better. It is often brought up that the legislature does not get to say where money is spent in the school districts, that power falls within the realm of the school boards. It’s a debate that will likely continue for every legislative session going forward.

Which side is right? This post won’t provide any answer to that question. Anyone trying to say they have THE answer to such a complex issue is likely someone with an agenda trying to sell something they can’t possibly deliver on. But this post will at least attempt to bring forth some information to use when considering the question and some thoughts I have about areas that need to be looked at.

First I would note that public education funding by the State is included in the South Dakota Constitution. As a libertarian I would have preferred a different method of education than our current public education system. However even more than libertarian, I am a rule of law person. As such I believe the South Dakota Legislature should be following the state Constitution in matters of public education. Specifically Article 8, Section 1, of the SD Constitution says this:

Uniform system of free public schools. The stability of a republican form of government depending on the morality and intelligence of the people, it shall be the duty of the Legislature to establish and maintain a general and uniform system of public schools wherein tuition shall be without charge, and equally open to all; and to adopt all suitable means to secure to the people the advantages and opportunities of education.

This portion of the SD Constitution basically tasks the legislature to ensuring public schools are properly funded. So the question isn’t really if public schools should be funded by the State, but how much money should come from the state to each school district and how should that money be used.

Over the last thirty years there has been a trend of ‘throwing money’ at public education. Some would debate that the extra money being spent on education has provided a good return.  The chart below shows trends in American Public School Spending from 1970-2012 (chart taken from this CATO post). It can easily be seen that spending has skyrocketed with little or no actual increase in education quality.

Chart Source: CATO

Chart Source: CATO

It could be argued that the NAEP tests are a poor metric for measuring education quality. I would agree with that argument, but since we live in a country where bureaucrats love to try quantifying education returns I’ll have to use their numbers while looking at the subject. And according these numbers it would definitely appear that as a country we are ‘throwing money’ at education with little or no positive results.

Is South Dakota doing better? As a state I feel we do pretty good with our public education system. There is a chart to see how SD is doing as well. Below is a chart showing the percentage change in dollars per pupil (inflation adjusted) since 1972.

Image Source: Cato

Image Source: Cato

Due to the differences in data used this chart can not be directly used to correlate findings with the national chart. Yet in this SD chart it can clearly be seen that spending per pupil in SD has increased dramatically since 1970. Yet our SAT scores (adjusted for participation and demographics) have gone down slightly.

The above charts could lead someone to believe as a state we are overpaying for our public education. It could also be used to show that as a state we are spending education money incorrectly.

Teacher pay comes up quite often. According to the NEA the national average starting teacher wage in 2012-1013 was $36,141. The NEA also said the  South Dakota starting teacher was in that same time-period was $29,851. That pay puts South Dakota only behind Montana ($27,274) in having the lowest teacher pay when looking at the whole nation. This is definitely an area worth looking at. But does that mean the state should give more money to school districts so teachers can be paid more? Or does this mean school districts are prioritizing other budgetary areas over teachers pay? Or a combination of both?

Below is a chart I compiled through the Kids Count website. It shows the per-pupil education expenditures from 2004-2010, comparing South Dakota expenditures to that of the national average (these numbers are adjusted for regional cost differences).

Chart Source: Kids Count

Chart Source: Kids Count

Looking closer at the 2010 numbers it can be seen that South Dakota has a ranking of 21 in Per-pupil education expenditures.


Chart Source: Kids Count

By these numbers South Dakota was actually in the top half of the country in spending per pupil as of 2010. Our ranking has likely gone down since the 2011 budget cut. But even a 10% cuts put South Dakota well above the $7,042 that the fiftieth ranked state Utah spends per pupil.

As I said at the beginning of this post I won’t offer any single answer to education spending in South Dakota. But here are some areas I think parents, legislators, and school board members must look into going forward:

  • Simply increasing the money spent per student doesn’t seem to actually impact any education outcomes. Maybe instead of looking at how much money is spent it is time to instead look at HOW money is spent by each school district.
  • Decreasing the amount of money spent per pupil as a state is also likely a bad idea. Some districts within our state can likely increase their quality with less money, some districts may actually need more money. Each district should be looked at individually, instead of as a whole.
  • Teachers in South Dakota are paid very poorly when compared to the national average. Yet our spending per student is nowhere near the bottom of the list. Are school boards properly prioritizing teachers over pet projects?
  • As South Dakota continues to implement Common Core will it further solidify the ongoing trend of spending more money on education with little or no results? Standardization has administrative costs that will take away from spending on actual education and teachers.
  • Perhaps investing more money directly in teachers and giving them the ability to get the best out of each student will provide a  better return on investment than trying to get every student to meet one set of arbitrary standards.
  • The legislature alone cannot ‘fix’ problems with public education in South Dakota. It will take a mixture of work between parents, teachers, school boards, the legislature, and many other parties to find solutions.
  • All of what I said above could be completely wrong and end up heading the state down the wrong direction. That is why it is important there are many stakeholders voicing their opinions on this topic. No single person or group will have THE answer. There is no single answer.

One last thought as I close this post. The charts above should not be used to prove anything. Statistical data NEVER proves a point. Rather such data should be used as a discussion point within a much larger conversation. If South Dakota truly cares about public education, we as a state must decide if we will continue down the current status quo path of continually throwing money at education with no regards as to how the money is used.  Alternatively I hope that we as a state will determine it is time to find the best way to spend our money.

Common Core event in Eureka this Saturday

May 5, 2014 Comments off
Eureka, SD in relation to Aberdeen, SD

Eureka, SD in relation to Aberdeen, SD

This upcoming Saturday, May 10, there will be a Common Core event in Eureka titled “Dangers and Threats to American Liberty and Education”. The event will include a presentation from Dr. Duke Pesta, who is the FreedomProject Education Academic Directory. This event looks like a good opportunity to learn more about the dangers of Common Core. The South Dakotans Against Common Core group has created a Facebook event page. The flier for this event is included at the end of this post (or you can download the pdf here).

Here are a couple of tidbits about the FreedomProject Education group from their about page:

Rooted firmly in Judeo-Christian values, FPE’s live, online school offers a complete classical education for students from Kindergarten through High School, free from public school spin and Common Core indoctrination.

FPE offers an education similar to that received by America’s Founding Fathers, promoting liberty, citizenship, and independent thinking. Elementary students (kindergarten through fifth grade) are offered complete grade packages, while Middle and High School students have the option of taking individual classes or enrolling as a full-time student.

I think it would be worth it for anyone to make the drive to Eureka to attend. Eureka is W-NW of Aberdeen; about 1 1/2 hour drive.

CommonCore_Eureka 051014jpg

Categories: Education Tags:

Abbott and Costello understood the Investigations math used with Common Core

April 9, 2014 1 comment

Common Core continues to be quite a contentious issue nationally and locally. As a part of the Common Core Standards implementation has also been the transition to “Investigations” math. There are some parts of Investigations I quite like. But one part I don’t like is the idea that having a correct answer is less important than the steps taken to get an answer. Tests used with investigations can actually give a higher score to an incorrect answer with all work shown than a correct answer with no work shown. Today while watching old Abbott & Costello videos I found the perfect situation for Investigations math to be used. Here is the YouTube clip of the Abbott & Costello routine “28”:

And there you have it. By using Investigations math Costello would have gotten a high score by showing 13 x 7 = 28. Costello was decades ahead of the education system and he didn’t even know it!

Since I’m posting old videos I think its worth once again posting this classic Tom Lehrer bit of satire talking about the “New Math” movement back in 60’s.

Categories: Education Tags: ,
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