Only 37% of Illinois Students Passed PARCC’s Reading and Writing Assessment

Fox Illinois reported earlier this month that only 37 percent of 3rd-8th graders in Illinois passed the PARCC’s reading and writing assessment.

Nearly two-thirds of Illinois students in 3rd through 8th grade are not up to standard for reading and writing, according to the state administered PARCC test and some parents said it would be best to go back to the basics.

“Every student is different and my opinion is if you really want to show a difference in any kind of testing at all, turn the classroom back over to the teachers, let the teachers teach, get the testing out,” Mike Foster, parent of an Illinois student said.

But not all agree that the testing should be what the standard is based upon for students to be considered.

“Minimize the standardized testing. It’s ok to have certain guidelines and make sure they’re adhering to certain minimal guidelines. But overall just let the teachers teach,” Foster said. Administrators said they are working hard to make sure their students don’t run into similar problems so every student can be ready for their future.

Predictably, the Illinois State Board of Education blamed the result on the test’s difficulty.

Read the whole article here.

Common Core is taking these students in the wrong direction. This story from Illinois brought to mind two articles that we’ve highlighted at Truth in American Education, both are from 2016, but nothing significant has happened since with the ELA standards to diminish their relevancy.

The first article was written by Jay Matthews who warned about the direction of writing instruction under Common Core in The Washington Post.

The Education Trust, a nonprofit that advocates for students from low-income households, has been peeking recently at what is happening inside classrooms, an intrusion rarely done because it is expensive and tends to expose unattractive realities.

The organization collected 1,876 school assignments from six middle schools in two large urban districts in two states. The idea was to see how well English, humanities, social studies and science were being taught in the new era of the Common Core State Standards. The results are distressing and show that the instruction students are getting — particularly in writing — is deeply inadequate.

“Only four percent of all assignments reviewed pushed student thinking to higher levels,” one report said. “About 85 percent of assignments asked students to either recall information or apply basic skills and concepts as opposed to prompting for inferences or structural analysis, or doing author critiques. Many assignments show an attempt at rigor, but these are largely surface level.”

“Relevance and choice — powerful levers to engage early adolescents — are mostly missing in action,” it said. “Only two percent of assignments meet both indicators of engagement.”

Here are even more depressing numbers: 18 percent of the assignments required no writing at all. Sixty percent demanded just some note-taking, short responses or a sentence or two. Fourteen percent required students to write a single paragraph — whoopee. Only 9 percent went beyond that.

The second article was written by D’Lee Pollock-Moore, an English teacher and department chair at Warren County High School in Warrenton, Georgia,  writing for the Atlanta Journal-Constitution‘s Get Schooled Blog she critiqued the Common Core ELA Standards. She said the reading standards neglect to teach the basics.

The Common Core fails to teach students the basics from kindergarten through 12th grade. Foundational reading skills end in fifth grade, yet middle and high school teachers still teach foundational skills like fluency and syllabication. This lack of foundational standards in the upper grades creates an achievement gap that can never be closed.

She also addressed how Common Core addresses writing:

Not only are we missing the basics in the lower grades, but we’re also missing the foundations in middle and high school.  Students need to be taught how to write an email, how to create a blog or website, and even how to write a professional letter and resume (and not every child takes a business class to learn these skills).  Does Common Core acknowledge these necessary and fundamental skills? No. You will not find any technical writing standards in the 6-12 Common Core Curriculum. This is why we still have to teach 12th graders how to write a thank you note or how to sign their name for a legal document (don’t even get me started on the cursive writing debate — there is no cursive writing standard in Common Core).  Students used to learn key job skills in English class, but now only college-readiness standards are important. What about the future welder who needs to learn how to read a welding manual?  Are his needs not as important as the future lawyer?

Is it any wonder Illinois students (and students across the nation) are struggling?

Will Altering Growth Mindsets Improve Student Performance? Research Says No.

As schools are transformed from academic institutions into mental-health facilities, various theories have arisen about how to engineer students’ personalities to improve their performance (or to create the Ideal Citizens desired by the government, but that’s another topic). One theory that has swept schools in the U.S. and globally is called “growth mindset.” But Science Daily reports on a new study from Michigan State University and Case Western Reserve University which finds that altering students’ mindsets in this way has no meaningful effect on anything.

The theory, associated with Stanford University psychologist Carol Dweck, goes as follows: An individual with a “fixed mindset” believes his intelligence and talent are fixed traits and not particularly responsive to hard work and perseverance, whereas an individual with a “growth mindset” believes his basic abilities can be developed and improved with effort. “This [latter] view,” according to proponents, “creates a love of learning and a resilience that is essential for great accomplishment.” So the idea is for teachers to spend precious class time on “interventions” that create a growth mindset in students and increase their achievement.

But the new meta-study finds that such interventions generally don’t work. 

The study involved two massive meta-analyses (aggregating and assessing the results of hundreds of previous studies). Both analyses – with a combined sample size of almost 460,000 students – evaluated whether growth-mindset interventions improved academic achievement.

The answer, as one author told Science Daily: “Our results show that the academic benefits of [growth-mindset] interventions have been largely overstated. . . . [T]here was little to no effect of mindset interventions on academic achievement for typical students, or for other groups who some have claimed benefit substantially from these interventions . . . .”

Overall, the meta-study concluded that “on average, academic achievement increased when the growth mindset programs failed to change students’ mindsets and didn’t increase when the growth mindset programs worked [i.e., when they did change mindsets].”

Some of the studies examined in these meta-analyses have found that growth-mindset interventions are more effective with economically disadvantaged students or those at high risk of failure. But the metastudy authors cautioned that only a few studies reached these conclusions, and so should be viewed skeptically.

Other researchers have challenged, specifically, Dweck’s own research. Speaking to Buzzfeed, Columbia University statistics professor Andrew Gelman described Dweck’s seminal 1998 study as “riddled with poor statistical practice.” Timothy Bates from the University of Edinburgh has tried repeatedly but unsuccessfully to replicate Dweck’s results. As he told BuzzFeed, “People with a growth mindset don’t cope any better with failure. If we give them the mindset intervention, it doesn’t make them behave better. Kids with the growth mindset aren’t getting better grades, either before or after our intervention study.” 

Bates cites the essential difference between showing that students who work hard generally have better grades, and showing that students who have been exposed to mindset-alteration generally have better grades. He says the former idea is really “a very conservative, old-fashioned one: ‘If you don’t work at it you won’t get results’” – but that in her (highly lucrative) talks, books, and Brainology computer program that is sold to schools, Dweck argues that adopting her interventions will massively improve academic achievement. (She denies conflicts of interest, since her research is funded not by her profits but by grants and her university; she also points out that she disassociated herself from Mindset Works, a company she co-founded.)

Dweck has challenged Bates on his replication efforts, but he’s not alone in calling out her research. BuzzFeed quoted other psychology professors and statisticians who have cited numerous serious errors with her findings – some of which constituted statistical impossibilities, and all of which, of course, bumped up the “success” numbers for her interventions.

Much of Dweck’s work illustrates the phenomenon of “cascading amplification,” discussed in our book Deconstructing the Administrative State: The Fight for Liberty. One study gets cited in subsequent research, which in turn is cited in even more research, ad infinitum. Before long, whatever the first study claimed – even if it’s problematic at best – becomes gospel. Thus it is with Dweck’s early studies.

But regardless of whether these mindset interventions “work,” the deeper question is whether the government, through schools, should be engaging in essentially psychological manipulation. A teacher’s encouragement of a child to boost his confidence is a far cry from putting that child on a sophisticated computer program and fed images designed to reshape his attitudes and even his personality. Accepting such a role for government opens the door to more and more “interventions” – which may be much more insidious than a digital pat on the back. 

But if the education establishment isn’t worried about that, maybe they’ll at least balk at spending money for useless programs. The metastudy may help persuade them.

Group Therapy Comes to School

NPR has a story on group therapy that is now offered at Cresthaven Elementary School in Silver Spring, Md. that they say is one of several schools that now offer students “training in how to manage emotions, handle stress and improve interpersonal relationships.”

This is social-emotional learning on steroids.

An excerpt:

At Cresthaven, some fifth-graders like B. get an intensive 12 weeks of such training, a course called the Resilience Builder Program. Created by psychologist Mary Alvord, it’s a form of group therapy designed to help students who are struggling with trauma or cognitive disorders — or everyday anxiety caused by things like bullying or moving schools..

“I think it’s so critical that kids know they have the power to make changes. While we can’t control everything about our lives, we can control many facets,” Alvord says.

If students can learn this kind of resilience, the ability to adapt to emotional challenges, she says, “I think the whole world gets better.”

Alvord offered the program to Cresthaven on a pro-bono basis.

When Alvord offered to bring the Resilience Builder Program to Cresthaven pro bono as part of a research project, Sklias selected a group of students she thought could benefit from it. It has been used especially with students dealing with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder or anxiety or trauma — officially, students with “social competence deficits.” She met with parents, and many agreed to sign up their kids.

Not quite out of the goodness of her heart, the students who now participate are now part of a research project. Also, while the school did the group recruitment and did get parental consent for student participation, one has to wonder how much data on students’ social competencies did the principal have to access before recruiting students. Was that data collected with parental consent?

I’m sure there are lots of students who can benefit from group therapy, especially those dealing with trauma, but this is just another example of schools expanding beyond their primary mandate to educate students on academic subjects.

Read the whole article.

A Dataless Report on Social-Emotional Learning

The National Commission on Social, Emotional, and Academic Development with The Aspen Institute released a report in March entitled “The Practice Base For How We Learn: Supporting Students’ Social, Emotional, and Academic Development” which is a “Consensus Statements of Practice from the Council of Distinguished Educators.” (AKA propaganda)

What struck me as I read through this is that it lacks footnotes and references. It lacks any mention of studies done. The only “data’ mentioned is another statement out of The Aspen Institute.

You’d think they would at least give lip service to being evidence-based.

They say the research is coming.

You can read it below. Let us know what you think of the report by leaving a comment.


Five Problems With Shifting to Competency Based Education

Photo credit: Bartmoni (CC-By-SA 3.0)

Former executive director for the Gates Foundation, Tom Vander Ark, wrote a piece for Forbes that plugged both competency-based education (CBE) and personalized learning.

Here’s an excerpt:

There are two big ideas behind the shift to competence in formal education. First, students should show what they know. It’s not about turning work in, earning points, or showing up to class, they should demonstrate in several ways that they have mastered important knowledge, skills, and abilities. Assessments in a competency-based system inform student learning as well as teacher judgments about concept mastery.

Second, students should progress when ready–after they’ve demonstrated mastery of important concepts that build a platform for future learning. For the system to promote equitable outcomes, it’s important that students receive timely, differentiated support based on their individual learning needs. The “move on when ready” commitment prevents passing learners along with a weak foundation which could prevent them from achieving higher level knowledge and skills.

Vander Ark noted that “it’s important that competencies not be a checklist of low-level skills.”

That’s all well and good, but the problems with this approach go beyond that. Here are five problems that came to mind as I read through his piece.

First, Vander Ark suggests that CBE is this brand-shiny new thing that has never been tried. That simply is not the case. CBE is just a repackaging of Outcome-Based Education (OBE), an education fad that was tried and found wanting by parents in the 90s.  No thanks.

Second, boiling education down to a list of competencies will diminish how much students actually know, not increase it. CBE is the enemy of a well-rounded education. What will get missed? Anything that is not assessed will be fair game for exclusion. Who decides what is essential in this system? Not the teacher. I shudder to think how this approach will hurt a student’s ability to grasp classic literature or their understanding of civics.

Third, is competency the sole goal for students? I suppose if you want to boil education down to learning skills instead of acquiring knowledge it would be, but for most parents “competency” is likely not at the top of their list.

Fourth, Vander Ark asserts that assessments are the only true measure of whether a student is competent. I would argue that is not the case.

Fifth, personalized learning the way Vander Ark promotes it can only be accomplished by sitting kids in front of computers for their instruction. Teachers will no longer teach, they will be facilitators instead. There are all sorts of problems with putting kids in front of a screen all day from limited social interaction to a diminished attention span.

No thanks.

I understand there are better ways to approach classroom instruction, but let’s consider ways that will benefit students not education tech companies.

An Open Letter to Bill Gates on Preparing Students for Algebra

Photo credit: World Economic Forum (CC-By-SA 2.0)

Dear Mr. Gates,

You recently said, “Math is one area where we want to generate stronger evidence about what works. What would it take, for example, to get all kids to mastery of Algebra I?”

I believe I can answer your question. There have been two significant math studies done in the last decade, reaching very similar conclusions. The first was the National Mathematics Advisory Panel Report of 2008 commissioned by President George W. Bush. Here are some of their conclusions: students’ difficulty with fractions (including decimals and percents) is pervasive and a major obstacle to further progress in mathematics including algebra. The panel suggested curriculum should allow sufficient time to learn fractions, and teachers must know effective interventions for teaching fractions. Preparation of elementary and middle school teachers in mathematics needs to be strengthened; using elementary teachers who have specialized in elementary mathematics could be an alternative to increasing all elementary teachers’ math content knowledge by focusing the need for expertise on fewer teachers.

Another problem is that many textbooks are too long (700 to 1000 pages) and include non-mathematical content like photographs and motivational stories. Key topics should be built on a focused, coherent progression, and continual revisiting of topics year after year without closure should be avoided.

Lack of automatic recall in addition, subtraction, multiplication and division is a serious deficiency as is a lack of proficiency with whole numbers, fractions and certain aspects of geometry and measurement, which are the foundations for algebra. Of these, knowledge of fractions is the most important foundational skill not developed among American students.

The panel advised that algebra problems involving patterns be greatly reduced in state tests and on the NAEP assessment. Also districts should ensure that all prepared students have access to an authentic algebra course by 8th grade, and more students should be prepared to enroll in such a course by 8th grade.

The second important study, “Early Predictors of High School Mathematics Achievement” was published in June 14, 2012, and an article about it, entitled “Fractions are the key to math success, new study shows,” was posted at the Univ. of Michigan’s Institute for Social Research on June 18, 2012. Robert Siegler, a cognitive psychologist at Carnegie Mellon University, was the lead author of this study which analyzed long-term data on more than 4,000 children from both the United States and the United Kingdom. It found students’ understanding of fractions and division at age 10 predicted algebra and overall math achievement in high school, even after statistically controlling for a wide range of factors including parents’ education and income and children’s age and I.Q.

Univ. of Michigan researcher Pamela Davis-Kean, the co-author of the study, said, “These findings demonstrate an immediate need to improve the teaching and learning of fractions and division.”

Dr. Siegler stated, “We suspected that early knowledge in these areas was absolutely crucial to later learning of more advanced mathematics, but did not have any evidence until now.”

I know how interested you and your wife are in improving education, especially in math, for our students. As a state school board representative, I understand the importance of getting our teachers and students on track immediately. I believe we can succeed, though, if we will follow the advice given in these two studies. I would certainly be glad to discuss this subject with you or your staff.


Betty Peters
Dothan, AL

South Dakota Gubernatorial Candidates Weigh-In on K-12 Education

(From Left) Democrat Billie Sutton and Republicans Kristi Noem and Marty Jackley

The Rapid City Journal asked the three leading candidates in South Dakota’s gubernatorial race about education. The candidates are State Senate Minority Leader Billie Sutton (D-Burke), Congresswoman Kristi Noem (R-SD), and South Dakota Attorney General Marty Jackley who is a Republican.  I wanted to highlight a couple of the topics that are of interest here: Career and Technical Education (CTE) and Universal Pre-School. After that, I take a look at what the candidates tout on their websites about K-12 education.

Career and Technical Education

All three candidates were supportive of CTE. Jackley focused on post-high school, but Noem and Jackley addressed what happens before college:

Both Noem and Sutton responded by emphasizing what happens prior to college.

“I think we try to connect students who have an affinity for technical trades at a younger age to apprenticeships and training,” Noem said.

Sutton pointed to a bill he introduced last session to create a grant funding schools that share technical education resources, such as a mobile lab for engineering or manufacturing classes for high school students in Gregory County.

“Sioux Falls has a CTE high school, and that’s great,” Sutton said, “but our rural communities don’t have the resources to do it on their own.”

Universal Pre-School

South Dakota currently does not fund pre-school, and we’ve noted that education reformers pushed early childhood education.

Said Sutton, “There’s just a lot of kids in South Dakota who don’t have access to Early Childhood Education,” repeating a common pledge to provide a pathway for publicly funded preschool.

“Last session I introduced a bill just to study the impact of pre-K because so often we hear fellow legislators dismissing all these studies that suggest it’s a great return-on-investment,” he said. “But even that was killed in committee.”

Noem agreed of the importance of educating children prior to kindergarten. Yet, the state’s budget doesn’t have a “lot of extra money” rolling around.

“We need to go in with our eyes wide open,” she said.

She also suggested a bigger philosophical question at play.

“We should not have the government doing the job that parents and families should be doing.”

In an education initiative released Friday morning, Jackley called for expanding ECE to “under-resourced communities.” On the phone, he also framed the question in personal terms, saying he and his wife chose to have their children benefit from preschool.

“There’s no disputing that early childhood education is critical to brain and social development.”

But he also noted that as a low-tax conservative, he would work with the legislature to prioritize education funding while “remaining fiscally responsible.”

Noem’s comment that it is the parents’, not the government’s job to provide early childhood education is spot on.

What they promote:

I was curious what the candidates promoted on their campaign websites.

Billie Sutton:

Sutton’s website addressed CTE in K-12 education:

One of the most important elements of economic and workforce development is education. It is through carefully designed educational experiences that students find their fit in the workforce. Our high schools offer great opportunities to present career and technical exploration earlier, and the need is especially strong in rural South Dakota. In Billie’s hometown of Burke, the school district partnered with three others to buy four mobile units with a grant from the Future Fund, each offering a career & technical class like manufacturing, engineering, biomedical engineering, and welding. This is the kind of innovation we can bring to all our schools, urban and rural, so all our students get exposure and experience to job opportunities before making post-secondary decisions.

Billie’s plan for a stronger economy includes developing CTE grant programs to encourage schools to be collaborative and innovative in creating these opportunities for students and in connecting them with the post-secondary options that put them on the path to jobs. We must give schools the resources to build partnerships with tech schools and industries to give opportunities to students of all interests. Billie will work with educators to develop tech experiences for our students and explore more ways students can earn high school and college dual credit while gaining work experience in the community.

I should note that Legislative Democrats in South Dakota have been opposed to repealing Common Core. I don’t have Sutton’s voting record in front of me, but I doubt he stands for local control in education in any meaningful way.

Kristi Noem:

Noem had more to say on her website about K-12 education:

South Dakota students consistently produce good test scores, graduate on time, and meet college readiness benchmarks. But many schools struggle to make ends meet, jeopardizing the long-term success of South Dakota’s K-12 education system. As governor, I will be committed to balancing the needs of families, teachers and administrators, and taxpayers as we prepare students for college, the workforce, and citizenship.

Empower families. When it comes to raising kids, family is better than government. As a conservative, I will protect the rights of parents to choose the educational path that’s best for their child, whether it’s homeschooling, public schooling, or a private education. Regardless of a family’s decision, I will work to ensure all students have equal opportunity within the education system.

Do more with every taxpayer dollar. Public education policy is too often evaluated by expenditures, rather than student success. That’s a mistake. We need to focus on creating a better system, not a more expensive one – a goal that can and should be accomplished without taking necessary resources out of classrooms. As governor, I would:

  • Work to centralize and standardize purchasing, giving local schools more options to cut costs by taking advantage of the state’s massive buying power;
  • Encourage schools to share resources and expand long-distance learning opportunities;
  • Assist local school districts in pursuing private funds to mitigate the cost of capital projects;
  • Continue leveraging the state’s AAA bond rating to help schools borrow at a lower cost;
  • Reform the Department of Education, adopting a model that promotes much closer collaboration with locally elected school boards; and
  • Improve transparency in school district budgeting, as proposed in my Sunshine Initiative.

Create a culture of performance. From teachers and administrators to school board members, South Dakota is fortunate to have many talented people dedicated to student success. I want to elevate high-performers while expanding continued learning opportunities for those running our classrooms and school districts. As governor, I will pursue public-private partnerships to financially reward rockstar teachers. For instance, I’d like to collaborate with local businesses to sponsor a robust “Teacher of the Month” program. Additionally, my administration will explore opportunities to improve overall performance through evidence-based school board training and teacher mentorship programs.

Reject Common Core and federal overreach. In the U.S. House, I helped get legislation signed into law limiting the federal government’s role in our education system. As governor, I will take advantage of those flexibilities, continuing to reject Common Core and seeking appropriate waivers and grants to customize South Dakota’s education system.

Promote civic education. Our republic only works if citizens are active and informed. The next generation of South Dakotans must understand the foundations of our nation, the tremendous sacrifices made to protect our constitutional rights, and the freedoms, liberties, and responsibilities we have as citizens. In collaboration with school districts, I will work to expand civics and U.S. history programs and encourage schools to include the citizenship test as part of their graduation criteria.

Encourage kids to explore in-demand jobs early. South Dakota already faces severe labor shortages, and even greater demands for a skilled workforce are on the horizon. As governor, I would work to:

  • Provide career counseling and information regarding in-demand jobs beginning at the middle-school level;
  • Inspire students by expanding experience-driven learning opportunities before college;
  • Coordinate resources to identify and help at-risk children plan for their futures; and
  • Dramatically increase shared-learning opportunities among high schools, technical schools, universities, and employers to better manage the transition from home to post-secondary education to the South Dakota workforce.

Noem’s support of public-private partnerships, workforce development, and CTE are dog-whistles for education reformers. Also, her support of the Every Student Succeeds Act and falsely claiming it provides flexibility for states is unfortunate.

Marty Jackley:

Here’s what Jackley had to say about education on his website.

  • Work side-by-side with educators, administrators, parents, school boards, and students. My primary opponent has announced opposition to collaborative task forces such as the Blue Ribbon Task Force for Teachers and Students that was convened in 2015. A Jackley administration, however, will welcome these stakeholders to the table. These voices deserve to be heard, and volunteer task forces do not grow government—they bring expertise to government and make it more efficient.
  • Equip South Dakota educators and institutions with adequate funding to ensure competitive salaries and safe, secure learning environments so every learner has a highly trained, well-prepared, skilled adult guiding them along the educational journey to reach their maximum potential. We will support educational institutions with flexibility to customize systems and processes to best serve a broad spectrum of education needs necessary for entering a modern, vibrant workforce. As your attorney general, I have already brought $28 million in education funding to the state through the tobacco settlement—without raising taxes—and I am committed to expanding education funding opportunities without raising taxes.
  • Expand South Dakota’s K-12 system to include adequate early childhood educational opportunities for the most under-resourced communities by working with both public and private entities to support our youngest, most vulnerable learners. Putting learners on a path for success early in their journey reaps rewards for the individual as well as economic stability and sustainability for communities.
  • Provide equitable educational experiences for Native American students. This is paramount to sustaining a vital aspect of our state culture and heritage. As a board member of Jobs for America’s Graduates I am dedicated to preventing dropouts among young people who have serious barriers to graduation and/or employment. As Governor, I’ll work with our public and federal education systems to break the gridlock on best serving students in under-resourced communities. I will also reach out to leaders of the nine tribes to listen and learn about how we can work together to best serve all children.
  • Engage our entire pre-kindergarten to graduate-level education community to create a pipeline of opportunity that propels our citizens toward increased economic opportunities. Students must be exposed early to employment options that both leverage their unique talents and capitalize on their personal interests. They must be counseled during their K-12 experience to efficiently access the advanced training and educational opportunities that make best use of state and personal financial resources. For students to appropriately access employment opportunities that boost our workforce and economy, we must continuously improve the educational experience by pairing the most effective instructional methods with modern technologies to support a more personalized, competency-based learning experience that powerfully engages learners and sets them on a path for success both personally and professionally.
  • Empower our institutions with partnerships that capitalize on our strong South Dakota work ethic and can-do nature. By working together, we can empower people, streamline resources, and ensure relevant and meaningful learning opportunities successfully launch our learners to appropriate secondary learning institutions in our technical institutes and university systems.
  • Create incentives that encourage in-state placement. Our Opportunity Scholarship and Build Dakota programs are strong. We should continue to provide financial aid to South Dakota students who are committed to remaining in the state after receiving their postsecondary education.
  • Reduce barriers to teacher innovation. I will work with the South Dakota Department of Education to reduce the negative impact of ineffective mandated programs that don’t work well for rural states (ex. school improvement regs, Smarter Balanced testing) and to creatively, but appropriately, leverage federal dollars for programming that benefit our educational community.
  • Defend the rights of parents to educate their children on an even playing field. I support higher education opportunities for homeschool graduates, including SB 94 which would have expanded Opportunity Scholarship eligibility for homeschool students. In addition, students who need access to additional educational tools, such as the South Dakota Virtual School or classes offered by the e-learning center at Northern State University, should not be turned away because they are homeschooled.
  • Partner with local law enforcement to keep our schools safe. As your attorney general, I have seen firsthand the meaningful relationships our resource officers have formed with teachers and students. I will continue to work with law enforcement to ensure our schools are adequately protected and our students have methods to report potential threats to their safety. These kinds of decisions will be made together with administrators, teachers, parents, and students.

So Jackley promotes a preK-12 “pipeline”… just wonderful… His comment about reducing regulations on school districts is encouraging however.


Sutton, suprisingly for a Democrat, has the least to say about education. All of the candidates have bought into the workforce development model of education. Noem and Jackley at least appear to support parental rights. Noem says she’s anti-Common Core, but support of ESSA tarishes her record. Jackley seems to understand that state mandates on local school districts is problematic.

I’m writing this to inform our readers, especially those in South Dakota, about where the candidates stand, not to make an endorsement. Each candidate holds a position or has a record regarding K-12 education that is problematic for me (however like most of you I’m not a single issue voter). I would encourage our South Dakota readers to meet the candidates and ask questions as you get an opportunity. I would be curious to hear what Jackley has to say about Common Core, how Noem plans to address Common Core, and why Sutton supports Common Core. All candidates still need to weigh in on parental opt-outs and student data privacy.

If you live in South Dakota and receive additional information, please feel free to send it to me at

Having Elementary Teachers Specialize Probably Isn’t a Good Thing

Chalkbeat reported on a New York City Schools initiative to have more elementary school teachers specialize in math; an effort geared toward making more students ready to take Algebra.

Two recent studies released, Chalkbeat notes, indicate this will likely hurt more than it helps.

Chalkbeat‘s Alex Zimmerman writes:

The expansion comes as accumulating research casts doubt on the approach. A study recently published by the peer-reviewed American Economic Review found that students perform worse on both high- and low-stakes tests after elementary school teachers specialized in subjects including math.

To measure the effects of reconfiguring elementary school teaching, Roland Fryer, an economics professor at Harvard who has studied schools extensively, randomly assigned 23 Houston elementary schools to departmentalize instruction in math, science, social studies, and reading.

At those schools, principals assigned teachers to teach what observations and statistical measures suggested were their strongest subjects. But after two years of specialized instruction, students lost over a month of learning compared with their peers who attended schools that did not make the changes.

Zimmerman discusses another study:

A second recent study based on statewide data from North Carolina also points to the potential pitfalls of specialization. That research, which has not been formally peer reviewed, looked at teachers who transitioned from being general classroom teachers to specialists and compared the effect on student test scores.

While the researchers found some positive effects in science, specialization hurt student learning in many subjects and grade levels — including fifth grade math.

“This is the second study — in different locations and with different research designs — to show some negative results for subject-area specialization,” write Kevin Bastian, a researcher at the University of North Carolina, and Kevin Fortner, of Georgia State University. “It is fair to conclude that specialization is not yet leading to its theorized payoff.”

Read the whole thing.

NYC Schools told Zimmerman that what those studies found is not true in New York City, and they cited a non-peer reviewed study whose author said was theoretical. (This is what “evidence-based” apparently now means.)

Another instance of dataless reform, but sure, jump right in.

Students Don’t Need Computers in the Classroom

Photo Credit: Lexie Flickinger (CC-By-2.0)

J.R. Wilson, one of the founders of Truth in American Education, sends out a daily email with interesting links related to education and he finds some good articles that don’t show up in my Google Alerts or Feedly. An article in PC Magazine is one such article. John Dvorak wrote an opinion that seems contrary to the purpose of the website.

Who Needs Computers in the Classroom? Not Students

I agree. Here’s an excerpt:

The computer can be—and is—used as a testing station. It does that well. Papers can be written on the computer. The student can learn keyboarding and some programming skills. It can expedite the submission of papers and speed up the writing process. But as a raw teaching tool, the computer has never been that good.

If there is nothing else available and you have one teacher per 200 students, then maybe it’s better than nothing. But the machines are expensive and need constant replacement. In short, the whole computers in the classroom idea was a Silicon Valley scam to dump computers and complex networking gear on some suckers with a government purse.

The money is better spent on sincere and hard-working teachers whose job it is to teach and can do a better job than a Windows 10 rig.

So what needs to be done? At this point in history, kids do need computer literacy skills and one classroom filled with machines where computer literacy and coding is taught. This lab would also be available to students to do homework and write papers if they have no equipment at home.

The architecture would be internet-centric, but not dependent. Students would have their homework as storage on personal USB thumb drives.

Read the rest.

I disagree with using the computer as a testing station, at least for standardized testing, but the rest I think is spot on. Kids don’t need computers in the classroom. Students don’t need the school to provide laptops or tablets for students to take home.

It’s a waste of money that doesn’t help teach kids or raise student achievement.

Bill Gates Can’t Leave ESSA State Plans Alone Either

Photo credit: World Economic Forum (CC-By-SA 2.0)

The Associated Press reported this morning that Bill Gates has poured millions into trying to influence state plans required under the Every Student Succeeds Act.

AP’s Sally Ho writes:

Billionaire philanthropist Bill Gates saw an opportunity with a new federal education law that has widespread repercussions for American classrooms.

His non-profit, Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, has given about $44 million to outside groups over the past two years to help shape new state education plans required under the 2015 law, according to an Associated Press analysis of its grants. The spending paid for research aligned with Gates interests, led to friendly media coverage and even had a hand in writing one state’s new education system framework.

The grants illustrate how strategic and immersive the Microsoft founder can be in pursuit of his education reform agenda, quietly wielding national influence over how schools operate. Gates’ carefully curated and intersecting web of influence is often invisible but allows his foundation to drive the conversation in support of its vision on how to reshape America’s struggling schools systems.

Critics call it meddling by a foundation with vast wealth and resources. The Gates Foundation says it’s simply helping states navigate a “tectonic” shift in responsibility for education — from the federal government to more local control.

Read the rest.

We call it meddling because it is. My gosh, it must be nice to be able to buy education policy. Since the millions and millions of dollars he poured into Common Core was a colossal waste he thought he would try to be more influential at the state level.

I wish educrats would use the critical thinking skills they believe Common Core will impart to students and ask one simple question. Have Gates-funded reforms have actually worked?

Largely no, but they have dollar signs in their eyes. It’s hard to say no to that cash and Gates has plenty of it.