Friday, August 15, 2014

What's all the fuss with Common Core?


I really don’t understand what all of the fuss is when it comes to Common Core.  We all want what is best for our children.  Common Core is the best we have in terms of educating our children and preparing them for higher education and/or a job that pays a living wage.

A high school diploma needs to mean something.  It should represent the mastery of some standard, basic education.  Currently, it means very little.  Students can graduate from high school in Mississippi and have more or less knowledge and skill than students who graduate from high school in Florida.  Yet these students are expected to compete in a global market for jobs.  Students from different states attend college together and they present themselves with very different skill sets.  Few of them are prepared for the rigor of a quality university education.  For decades, we have produced graduating classes full of students who cannot read or write.  A mere 25% of our students graduate from high school ready for a college education in the 4 core subjects of science, reading, math, and English.  http://www.broadeducation.org/about/crisis_stats.html

Students in this great nation of ours currently rank 17th in science, 14th in reading, and 25th in math, when compared to 27 other industrialized nations.  http://www.broadeducation.org/about/crisis_stats.html  The purpose of Common Core is to make us competitive again.  The standards are hard, really hard, actually.  To me, that is encouraging.  I want my children to be challenged in the classroom.  I don’t expect my daughter to walk out of her classroom at the end of the school year knowing how to be kind, courageous, and compassionate.  Nor do I expect the teacher to have time to teach my daughter impulse control, resiliency, and perseverance.  It is my job to instill these traits in my child.  And, while these traits will make my child likable, they will not prepare her to succeed in education or get a job that pays a living wage. 

Ask yourself:  what is the goal of education?  Do you want your child to have fun and make friends?  Or, do you want your child to be prepared for the real world s/he will face upon graduation?  I want both for my children.  I want them to learn at school.  At home, I provide them with opportunities for fun and socialization. 

I hope you take time to read the Common Core Standards.  http://www.corestandards.org/read-the-standards/.  You will see that each year builds upon the last.  As such, Kindergarten is now an academic year of learning, rather than a social year of getting accustomed to being in a classroom.  Introducing students to academic rigor at a young age sets a great foundation for their future academic successes.  Kids will learn, at a very early age, that hard work leads to achievement…the kind of achievement that provides a real, true sense of joy.  Our young children will learn that achievement is actually fun.  Before long, their hard work will become habitual.

Will our kids struggle?  Will our kids feel some pressure?  Will our kids fail?  You bet!  Life is struggle, much of the time.  Anything worth achieving requires a lot of hard work.  If our kids are not struggling, they are not being challenged.  It is hard to watch a child struggle, but it is necessary preparation for success in life.  Failure, even at a very early age, will allow our kids to learn to take criticism and move on to the next challenge with a sense of the kind of hard work needed in order to succeed.

Our kids’ struggles and failures are a sign that the standards are working.  These standards are significantly more difficult than the hodge-podge curricula used in the past.  The point of the standards is to improve education.  Kids who were getting A’s under the old curricula may experience lower grades under the new, more difficult standards because they don’t know them yet.  Give it time.  Be patient with them.  They are learning a whole, new way of thinking. 

Will some companies make a lot of money because they are in the business of writing and selling Common Core aligned tests?  You bet!  Is there another way to create a set of tests that will allow us to compare proficiency on a national scale?  Districts can’t write these tests.  They don’t have the resources.  Hiring a few companies to write tests that will be used by many school districts is affordable and it just makes sense.

Is Common Core a federal takeover of education?  No!  The Common Core standards do not have implementation requirements.  Instead, each state and school district has the authority to determine how the Common Core standards will be implemented.  This implementation includes the choice and administration of standardized tests. 

Are the Common Core aligned standardized tests “high stakes?”  I am not sure where this term originated.  What is “high stakes” about determining whether a Kindergartner has mastered the foundational skills necessary to move onto the first grade?  Isn’t that something a parent would want to know?  I know that most of the teachers at my children’s school are not stressing the importance of these tests to the students.  The only conclusion I can draw is that the parents themselves are putting the pressure on these youngsters.

We have a national standard set by Common Core.  Why can’t we have a test that measures students’ proficiency against other students in the nation?  These tests allow us to concretely determine whether our children are mastering the skills they need in order to succeed.  The tests are not flawed simply because our children are performing poorly on them.   A low test score likely means that the child is struggling to master these new, rigorous standards.  When this happens we need to take an active role, contact the educator, and determine how to best support his/her teaching efforts in the home.

Are we testing too much?  Many teachers and administrators believe that too much classroom time is being used on testing.  Thus, there is too little time left to teach.  I intend to discuss with my district administrators the feasibility of decreasing the frequency of testing by removing some of the interim tests.

On a closing note, I challenge you to read the Common Core standards, before judging them further.  http://www.corestandards.org/read-the-standards/  When I hear discussions about Common Core with my piers, I almost always hear the talking points that I hear on the news.  I challenge you to draw your own conclusions, without the “aid” of biased news sources and politicians motivated by money. 

I wrote this after reading “An Open Letter to My Son’s Kindergarten Teacher,” by Philip Kovacs.  http://www.huffingtonpost.com/philip-kovacs/an-open-letter-to-my-sons_b_5621485.html

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Women for Obama?



If you are a woman or a man who loves a woman (wife, mother, daughter, sister, niece, friend, etc.) and you believe that the Republicans are waging a war on women, you are being duped.  The war on women is a ruse, created entirely by those would prefer to see Obama in office.

According to the Obama Campaign, Romney has little regard for women.  Apparently, the latest evidence of this is Romney’s “binders full of women” comment during this week’s debate.  In response to a question about equal pay for women, Romney stated that he had few female applicants for his cabinet positions when he first took office as Governor of MA.  As a result, Romney reached out to women’s groups, seeking referrals of qualified female candidates.  He was given “binders full of women.”  It was an inarticulate way of proving, from past practices, his desire to include women in the workforce and at the very highest levels. 

I’ve heard a lot about this war on women since the campaign started.  I just can’t grasp how the Republican Party is the party waging the war.

ABORTION

Romney does not believe in abortion.  Some people do and some people don’t.  Romney believes that it is up to the Court to overturn Roe v. Wade.  He is also aware that an amendment banning abortion is not an option as long as the majority of the population believes it is okay. 

I heard an Obama campaign official say that Romney is in favor of legislation that would overturn Roe v. Wade.  Yet, there is no such thing as legislation that would overturn any United States Supreme Court (SCOTUS) decision.  Only a constitutional amendment could do that.

On a personal level, Romney opposes abortion.  As a leader he knows (as do you and I) that a constitutional amendment on this issue is just not feasible.  The amount of popular support needed to pass a constitutional amendment is enormous.  Three-quarters of BOTH houses would have to pass a bill.  Then, it has to be ratified by three-quarters of all states.  The process is daunting and rarely used.  There is just too much popular support for abortion to even consider it a reality.  Why, then, do Obama supporters talk so much about it?  It’s a nonissue.

Romney is against public funding for abortion.  Abortion should be paid for in 1 of 2 ways.  It should be funded out-of-pocket by patients who can afford it, or it should be funded by charity.

There is no issue as divisive as abortion.  There is no compromise on this issue – you either believe it’s about women’s rights or you believe it’s about the rights of the unborn.  There are people who firmly believe that forcing a woman to complete an unwanted pregnancy is akin to slavery.  Others firmly believe that abortion is murder.

By using tax dollars to provide financial aid to women who can’t afford abortions, government forces people to pay for what they believe is murder. 

Instead, supporters of a woman’s right to choose could make charitable donations to organizations that provide financial assistance for abortions.

Under this system, we take government out of the equation.  We allow choice for all.  Women can choose to have or not to have an abortion.  Citizens can choose to fund or not to fund abortion. 

BIRTH CONTROL

Birth control is, apparently, another battle in the war against women.  The notion that Romney is trying to limit women’s access to birth control is ludicrous.  Remember a few months back when Obama tried to force Catholic organizations and schools to provide birth control to employees and students?  Luckily, we have a 1st amendment that protects against government telling churches what to do.

I saw a YouTube video, posted on FB, by Women for Obama.  It was an Obama campaign ad talking about all of the horrible things Romney/Ryan would do to women.  They talked about how Romney backed a bill that would allow employers to deny women access to birth control.  It was based on quotes from back in February when the Catholic Church thing was in full swing.  It is downright untrue.  It is also really insulting, as a women, to be fed such crap.  Romney is not against access to birth control, he in favor of religious freedom.  At no point during the ad did I hear anyone talking about personal accountability and personal choice.

Our Constitution provides individuals with a right to access to birth control, but not a right to the provision of birth control by our employers.  Women have so very many choices.  We can pay for it out-of-pocket.  Or, we can work for an employer that chooses to provide it as part of health care coverage.  We could rely on one of the many public programs that make it accessible and affordable.  What we should not do is force employers to provide it.  This is especially true when the employer is the Catholic Church.

This is not about the teachings of the Catholic Church and it is not about the rights of women to procure birth control.  This is about the 1st Amendment/Freedom of Religion, and personal accountability.  The thought of government being able to force a religious organization to provide a medical treatment that goes against one of the very basic tenets of that religious organization is a very scary thought indeed. 

THE MANIPULATION

Life is about choices.  Government should not be responsible for the choices made by individuals.

This whole discussion is incredibly demeaning to women.  Women are smart.  We are resourceful.  We are perfectly capable of weighing and measuring our employment and benefit options and making the decisions that are best for each of us, individually.  Using government to pass laws protecting women from their own choices is downright insulting to all of us.

I have to say that I often feel like I am at war with my President and his party.  They seem to think that we are fragile, docile creatures in need of the protection of government to get things likes educations, jobs, and birth control.  I have a higher opinion of myself and the rest of the women in this country.  We don’t need special laws or special considerations.  We just need to work hard to get ahead.  We just need to make good choices and take responsibility for the choices that are not-so-good.  It’s as if my President believes I am incapable of success without his help.  So, he “helps” by passing laws.  Every time government passes laws, they are taking a choice away from you.  As such, every time government passes laws, they are restricting your freedom. 

We need to see through the manipulation and not fall for the trickery.  We are just too smart to be so blatantly misled!  We need to focus on what matters in this country right now.  We need economic reform and we need it now. 

Monday, September 24, 2012

Corporate Greed - what is it?


Apparently, it’s the point at which critics believe the line between an acceptable amount of profit and an unacceptable amount profit is crossed.  Critics, however, cannot give you an exact percentage of profit that is too high.  It’s more of a feeling that they have – you know that feeling when corporations actually become magnificently successful.  Corporate successes are derived from a mix of hard work, brains, special talents, and risk-taking.  I always thought I lived in a country that celebrated these traits.

I wonder how many people that criticize corporations for being money-hungry, people-hating monoliths own stock in those corporations.  Or, how many of them own shares of mutual funds that hold stock in those corporations?  If so, they profit personally from the very thing they decry.  Put your money where your mouth is, people. 

How many of these critics work for corporations?  If so, they shouldn’t work for them – no one is forcing them.  They should stop supporting and benefiting from a system that they believe is unjust or somehow unfair.

Keep in mind that corporations are required by law to maximize profits for their shareholders.  If they do not, the highest corporate officers in the company can be held criminally liable, in some instances.  So, if you have a problem with profit being the almighty goal of corporations, change the laws that govern them.  I am not talking about agency “regulations.”  I am talking about the most basic law of corporations.  At least, that is what our SCOTUS (Supreme Court of the United States) case law tells us.

Saturday, August 11, 2012

Personal, but mostly political




So, the title of this blog would make you believe that this is a political blog.  It is.  But, voting with my feet has been a life altering process; one that is teaching me an awful lot about myself and even more about my family and friends.  As a result, this blog will reveal some personal, as well as political reflections.  After all, voting is a very personal choice.

I hope that you will comment on my posts.  I also hope that we can all avoid name calling and negativity.  There is just too much nastiness in politics.  I hope to learn from your views.  I can't learn if you don't share them.  

I’ll get to a political reflection first.  As you read this, understand that my overall philosophy is that government should leave me alone and refrain from forcing me to pay for other people’s mistakes.

I really could not stomach spending any more of my life in the State of New York because of the immense waste created by government inefficiencies.    There are 690+ school districts in New York while there are only 63 (that’s right – SIXTY-THREE) in the entire state of Florida.  The immense size of NY government -  the Triborough Amendment, Wick’s law, property taxes and the associated “cap,” public employee unions, pubic employee pay, public employee benefits, public employee pensions – including the state income tax exemption, trans fats bans, property taxes, proposed super size soft drink bans, salt shaker bans, the abysmal condition of state and local Republican Committees, property taxes, the appalling apathy of many public employees, property taxes, and the exceedingly liberal ideology of the overwhelming majority of residents - are just a few of the reasons I voted with my feet.  New York is a Nanny State.  Oh, did I mention property taxes?

We moved to Florida at the end of July.  The kids started in their new school on August 8th.  While Florida certainly is not perfect, my research and experiences in the State convince me that it is a hell of a lot better than NY!  When ranking states by Fiscal Policy, New York is 50th while Florida is ranked 15th.  For Regulatory Policy Rankings, New York is 40th, Florida is 21st.  For Economic Freedom Rankings, New York is 50th, Florida is 14th.  For overall Personal Freedom Rankings, New York is 48th, Florida is 14th.  These facts are all according to the Mercatus Center.

It is not our lot in life to live in NY.  We have choices.  While the decision-making process has been excruciatingly difficult at times, we have decided that we want our children raised in an environment that encourages personal accountability, rather than reliance on government.  We believe that Florida offers more opportunity in this regard. 

Stay tuned for more on those darned property taxes and a bit on the size of government, as well!