Category Archives: Federal Department of Education

Education Department Releases Pamphlet Regarding Pregnant Students

by Brian Koenig

The U.S. Department of Education, under the guidance of ED Secretary Arne Duncan, has released a “Dear Colleague” letter with a pamphlet to support academic achievement for pregnant and parenting students under Title IX.

The document was submitted to school districts across the nation to offer information on “school retention” issues relating to problems with young parents and pregnant mothers. While the directive focuses primarily on secondary schools, it also applies to post-secondary institutions that receive federal financial assistance.

“We need to do more to help the hundreds of thousands of students who become mothers and fathers each year graduate from high school ready for college and successful careers,” Mr. Duncan affirmed. “We must support pregnant and parenting students so that they can build better lives for themselves and their children.”

The letter offers some interesting advice (or directives, rather), such as the illegality for “schools to exclude pregnant students (or students who have been pregnant) from participating in any part of an educational program, including extracurricular activities.”

So the Education Department is mandating that pregnant students cannot be excluded from anyextracurricular activities, including interscholastic sports (it’s in there). The “female student playing football” charade has already surfaced. The verdict on pregnant female students being permitted to play football is in: If she wants to be the high school’s next star quarterback, she’s made the team.

The safety concerns regarding this particular provision are just playing hooky for the day.

A dramatic scenario, maybe, but the point is clear: Political correctness trumps sound reasoning.

But, naturally, there’s more: “[A] student who is pregnant or given birth may not be required to submit medical certification for school participation unless such certification is also required for all other students with physical or emotional conditions requiring the attention of a physician.”

In effect, they must be treated the same as other students.

Sort of. But not really, because… Schools must offer special assistance to pregnant students, such as providing a “larger desk,” or allowing “frequent trips to the bathroom,” or  permitting “access to elevators” that may otherwise not be available to other students.

Antagonism is not lost on today’s education system.

And don’t forget this directive also applies to post-secondary institutions, such as colleges and other higher-education institutions. So if Joe Fratboy decides he needs a couple of months off school, he must not be “discriminated” against. Moreover, whether Joe Fratboy takes time off from his studies, his absences must not be penalized. That, it sure seems, is what the ED indicates, considering this applies to pregnant students and “young parents” of post-secondary institutions as well as secondary schools.

Sure, some of the pamphlet’s provisions are vague, and up for slight interpretation, but they surely chain the hands of school officials. The Department of Education is, as usual, discounting the “common sense” factor in achieving academic success. After all, as the pamphlet notes, “When a student returns to school, she must be allowed to return to the same academic and extracurricular status as before her medical leave began.”

Thanks, Mr.Duncan, for another brilliant maneuver.

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Common Core Standards and the Federalization of Education

By Karen Schroeder, President of Advocates for Academic Freedom

Common Core Standards are a federal program in which the federal government will define the curricula and the academic standards for each subject taught in the every school setting. These Federal Standards will basically eliminate local control of schools and provide unfettered access to curricula by the Federal Government and by the United Nations eventually. To date, 46 states have adopted Common Core Standards. The cost for implementing these standards may require a new method of taxation that is more accommodating for federal control of the educational system.

President Obama’s federal program Race to the Top provides bonus points to states that institute common learning goals. Common Core Standards represent about $16 billion in new unfunded mandates. It imposes mediocre standards upon the states which must be accepted or the states are threatened with loss of present funding. Federal mandating of these standards bypasses any congressional scrutiny and the state legislative process as well as violating the public trust by preventing any school board, parental, or teacher approval of these programs.

The federal government has been encouraged to implement these standards by educational policy experts because, as A New Civic Literacy: American Education and Global Interdependence provided by the Aspen Institute explains, “decentralization” of education (local control) makes educational change difficult to introduce.” Therefore, policy experts recommend that the federal government be given the responsibility to assure the implementation of global interdependence. Advancing global interdependence has replaced the original educational goal and that is why our schools are failing academically, but schools are succeeding to advance our population’s acceptance of surrendering our border, our right to secure elections, and respect for our founding documents.

Common Core Standards have been written for math and English and are currently being written for social studies curricula. The standards for this subject are key to the successful advancement of the social and political policy of global interdependence which these standards are intended to help implement. According to A New Civic Literacy the “students in our public schools constitute the nation’s greatest and most attractive sucker list. Everybody with anything to sell—a global perspective—would naturally like to get at this market of future American adults, and get them as early in life as possible.” The document identifies teachers of social studies and the publishers of text books as key points of leverage. Because of the importance of this access to the American public, these policy experts defined education as “the most important subject we as a people are engaged in.”

Teachers, parents, and some legislators have been discouraging the implementation of Common Core Standards because the standards are weak. They eliminate oversight by school boards, teachers, and parents and any control parents and educators would have over academics in the classroom. The Wall Street Journal reported on May 8, 2012, in “School-Standards Pushback” that South Carolina Governor Nikki Haley is concerned that these standards will “relinquish control of education to the federal government” and that Emmett McGroarty, executive director of American Principles in Action, called the standards “mediocre and costly to implement.”

Many are concerned that the Common Core Standards, once successfully implemented, will provide unfettered access of our educational system by the United Nations. Some textbooks and curricula for our public schools have already been written by UNESCO and the International Baccalaureate program that is currently in many school districts across the United States. Grabbing additional access is a natural next step. Once they write the curricula, they must have authority to develop all testing tools. They will decide who becomes a teacher and what preparation will be provided for that teacher. The International Baccalaureate curriculum upsets parents and teachers because the focus includes sustainable development, abortion rights, gay marriage, universal disarmament and social justice curricula.

The UN involvement in the American educational system has already been facilitated by treaties signed by American presidents from both parties. Those documents include but are not limited to: Universal Declaration of Human Rights, Treaty on the Rights of the Child, Civic Education: Classroom Connections, and Agenda 21.

EdWatch.org published “Marc Tucker’s New Education Initiative” written by Professor Allen Quist in 2007 in which the professor explains that experts representing the National Center for Education and the Economy (NCEE) seem to believe that it will be easier for the public to accept a new method of funding education once schools are burdened under these unfunded mandates. According to professor Quist, the NCEE suggests that regional development authorities be created and given power to tax removing all remaining local control of schools. Once the federal government has total control of education, what will happen to school choice?

For effective educational reform, citizens must unite around a single mission: eliminate federal mandates and federal funding of education and reallocate those funds to the states.

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Karen Schroeder is the President of Advocates for Academic Freedom (AAF) which is a proponent for a return to fact-based curricula, accountability, and academic excellent in public education. Karen was appointed to the Governor’s Educational Communications Board on May 1, 2012.  She provides seminars designed to inform and motivate citizens to reclaim their responsibility to become involved in the decisions made at the local and state levels of the educational system. Karen is regularly interviewed by Wisconsin radio personalities. 

With a BA degree in education and a Master’s Degree in Special Education, Ms. Schroeder has taught in suburban public schools for thirty-six years. During her teaching career, she became a free-lance writer to provide citizens with information revealing the impact of social and political policies on the educational system. Her works are published in the Eau Claire Journal and numerous other newspapers across Wisconsin.

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@CatoInstitute: Gov. Romney, Federal ‘Incentives’ Mean Federal Power

Governor Romney’s education plan emerged on Wednesday, May 23rd. Governor Romney has a real opportunity to provide bold leadership on the topic of education reform, but the reality is he is going to stick to the same status quo approach of the past 40 years. Real reform involves trusting the states to make their own choices with regards to education, but the elitists in the Republican party would not dare attempt that approach. Real reform involves abolishing the Federal Department of Education, but that was once heard from that crazy, right-wing-zealot Ronald Reagan. Below is an excellent piece from Neal McCluskey over at Cato.org that we thought very worthy of cross-posting. It sums up the disappointment in the Romney education plan quite nicely.

In a speech today, presumptive GOP presidential nominee Mitt Romney will lay out the foundations of his education platform. Based on an outline of his proposals released byEducation Week this morning, Gov. Romney seems just a little less disinterested in the Constitution — and the 40-plus years of proven federal education failure – than the man he seeks to replace. And no, calling what you want federal “incentives” neither absolves them of being unacceptable federal intrusions, nor makes them any less coercive.

The heart of what Mr. Romney wants in elementary and secondary education is federal enticements to get states to implement everything from “open-enrollment” policies for schools, to individual school “report cards,” to encouraging “talented individuals to become teachers.”

As I wrote last week, while “incentive” sounds kinda harmless, an incentive program is really all that No Child Left Behind is. No state has to do anything in NCLB. It only has to follow the law if it wants the federal money attached to it. The funding is only an incentive, but it is so big an incentive it is irresistible, even with the law being a huge millstone around the neck of American education. And, of course, taxpayers had no choice about furnishing the ducats to begin with. (Well, I suppose they were incentivized by a trip to prison…)

Where Romney’s K-12 offering is most enticing is his proposal that federal money be attached to low-income and special-needs children and made portable even to private schools. (Portable, that is, “in accordance with state guidelines,” a proviso the outline doesn’t flesh out.) But the very real threat, as with all federal funding , is federal control. What Washington funds it will regulate — though usually for political show, not efficiency or effectiveness — and that is something we should strenuously avoid for  private schools when states can implement more varied — and less regulation prone — choice mechanisms such as education tax credits. And, of course, the Constitution gives the federal government no more authority to deliver school choice than to dictate curricula. That is, except in Washington itself, and to his credit Mr. Romney is proposing to save the D.C. voucher program that Mr. Obama, for whatever shoddy reason, seems determined to suffocate.

The good news about Gov. Romney’s outline is that it directly addresses the primary problem in higher education, and one of its primary causes: insane tuition inflation fueled by massive federal student aid. Indeed, though he will no doubt get flayed for it by the higher ed establishment, who will publically deny it like so many naked emperors, Mr. Romney’s outline is refreshingly straightforward in identifying the root problem:

Governor Romney realizes that more spending will not solve the problem of tuition increases – to the contrary, it has helped fuel the problem. When Washington puts more money into student aid programs to help families and individuals pay for higher education, colleges and universities raise tuition rates.

So what grade does Mr. Romney get on education, at least from this initial outline? About a 30 percent for K-12, and a 90 percent for higher ed. That works out to 60 percent — a woeful D-minus – but that’s probably a tad bit better than most presidents would have gotten since the 1960s.

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DOEd – The Master of Loopholes?

This article is cross-posted from Missouri Education Watchdog.

The DOEd has just released their draft regulation for the latest round of the Race To The Topgrant competition. Many have noted extensively how they no longer seem to care that they are forbidden by law from developing national standards. Duncan and his representatives have repeatedly stated that they are not doing that. Rather, it is state consortia (which DOEd incentivized the creation of through the first RTTT) who are developing standards (which they require states to adopt to receive second round awards in RTTT).  But it is this latest round of RTTT that is by far the biggest power grab by a federal department who was originally only designed to be a clearing house for education information. In it, DOEd seems to have perfected the technique of loophole optimization by taking on things that are so far afield from public education that no one could say they are in opposition to their original mandate to focus on education delivery.

Applicants for this RTTT award will be Local Educational Agencies (LEAs).  DOEd has drilled down below the states directly into your school board through this version of RTTT. Here are some of the requirements for receiving this latest award.

At least forty percent of participating students across all participating schools (as defined in this document) must be students from low-income families, based on eligibility for free or reduced-price lunch subsidies under the Richard B. Russell National School Lunch Act, or other poverty measures that LEAs use to make awards under section 1113(a) of the ESEA.

Clearly this round is meant for a very specific type of school district. Only those districts who are in urban areas or extreme rural communities will meet this qualification. However, high poverty, high needs schools must follow very prescriptive rules based upon federal and state guidelines which limits their ability to innovate. This would seem to fly in the face of the grant competition’s goal of inspiring innovation. It does exploit a loophole that then allows the feds to funnel money to urban areas which, coincidentally I guess, tend to vote one way.

The next requirement is where the DOEd seeks direct control of your school board and superintendent.

  • Applicants must demonstrate a track record of commitment to the core education assurance areas (as defined in this document), including, for each LEA included in an application, an assurance signed by the LEA’s authorized legal representative that–

The LEA has, at a minimum, designed and committed to implement no later than the 2014-15 school year–

  1. a teacher evaluation system (as defined in this document);
  2. a principal evaluation system (as defined in this document);
  3. a LEA superintendent evaluation (as defined in this document); and
  4. a LEA school board evaluation (as defined in this document).

An assessment of the LEA school board that both evaluates performance and encourages professional growth. This evaluation system rating should reflect both (1) the feedback of many stakeholders, including but not limited to educators and parents; and (2) student outcomes performance in order to provide a detailed and accurate picture of the board’s performance.

See, now your school board members will be rated and their performance will be tied to student performance. One does not set out to create a rating without the intent to use it as a means to take action. If your district’s students continue to perform poorly on the standardized assessments, something may need to be done about your school board members. Your vote for them will be greatly diminished if not negated.

And nothing can come out of DOEd without the requisite requirement to provide DATA.

The LEA has a robust data system that has, at a minimum,–

  1. An individual teacher identifier with a teacher-student match; and
  2. The ability to match student level P-12 and higher education data.

def. Student Performance Data – information about the academic progress of a single student, such as formative and summative assessment data, coursework, instructor observations, information about student engagement and time on task, and similar information.

Individual districts, not the state, will now supply this information directly to DOEd. If it has the ability to match teachers to students and track students beyond P-12, it is not sanitized for your protection. While the regulation states that such data have, “regulatory protections in place that ensure Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA) compliant privacy and information protection,” it still maintains that such data be made accessible and usable by stakeholders. The more broadly this data is disseminated to stakeholders (who are very broadly defined by DOEd) the less control they have over it and the less secure your private information is.

Asking individual school districts to be sophisticated enough to develop the necessary software encryption to protect such information is unrealistic. Most likely they will have to go to a private vendor to purchase an existing software package. Who could be waiting in the wings to provide that little piece of business?

One of the last sections is titled “Competitive Preference Priority–Cradle-to-Career Results, Resource Alignment, and Integrated Services.” The federal government has stated openly that their goal (by giving preference priority to applicants who agree to this) is to be involved in your children’s lives from cradle to career (HHS takes over the grave part.) At this point does this even look like school anymore?

In this section of the draft regulation, they state they will be looking for:

Whether the applicant has formed a coherent and sustainable partnership with public and private organizations, such as public health, after-school, and social service providers; businesses, philanthropies, civic groups, and other community-based organizations; early learning programs; and post-secondary institutions to support the plan described in Absolute Priority 1. The partnership must identify not more than 10 population-level desired results for students in the LEA or consortium of LEAs, which may span from cradle to career, that align with the applicant’s proposal and reform strategy.

Here is your community school.  In addition to providing a basic education for children, your school district will now be evaluated on:

family and community results (e.g., students demonstrate social-emotional competencies, students are healthy, students feel safe at school and in their communities, students demonstrate career readiness skills through internship and summer job opportunities)

This is a gargantuan power grab by the federal government that, sadly, some individual school districts will actually ask them to do. It seems unfathomable that school board members, superintendents and tax payers would want the federal government this involved in the running of their schools, just for the benefit of a few dollars.  Nowhere in the grant application are districts required to show fiscal feasibility of maintaining any program started with RTTT funding. If DOEd isn’t going to ask for this, maybe the taxpayers should, because they will be the ones on the hook for increased “school” (and I now use that word loosely) funding.

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Performance Review System That Works Without Merit Pay

We came across this article on a Maryland county school system (Montgomery County Schools) that has hit on a performance review system that seems to work. The teacher union is even on board, which is a miracle in and of itself.

Helping Teachers Help Themselves

This article also demonstrates how the Federal Department of Education hampers and harms districts that want to innovate. This school district sends 84% on to college, and accounts for 2.5% of the black population in America that passes the Advanced Placement test. The problem? They weren’t eligible for Race to the Top funds because the brilliant minds at the Federal Department of Education have determined that review systems must include a data component. This system doesn’t, and while we are somewhat friendly to the concept of merit pay, it’s not proven, yet. This system works, WITHOUT merit pay and they are being punished because they’re not doing it the way the Federal Department of Education says.

This should come as no shock to anyone that knows anything about Arne Duncan, our current Secretary of Education. Mr. Duncan never taught a day in his life, has no degree in education, was never an administrator, and has no degree in educational administration. It continues to amaze me how people listen to this clown. Maybe our next President can choose a PTA President for Secretary of Education.

It’s examples like these that demonstrate top-down educational policy from Washington, DC is the PROBLEM. We here at CTA believe that the Congress in Washington should end the Federal Department of Education, and at the very least we should gut it and severely limit it’s ability to dictate educational policy to the states.

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New Education Reform Bill You Should Be Aware Of

While it doesn’t go all the way with regards to eliminating the unconstitutional Department of Education, we were excited to see this yesterday. Rep. Duncan Hunter introduced legislation on the House floor that would eliminate 43 programs from the Federal Department of Education. Please consider contacting your US House member and encourage them to support HR 1891 Setting New Priorities in Education Spending Act. For more information here is a Press Release from the Education and Workforce Committee. Also a brief video of Rep. Hunter introducing the bill is below.

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