Truth in American Education has a New Mission Statement

Since its founding Truth in American Education (TAE) has mainly focused on providing information about and addressing issues related to the Common Core State Standards (CCSS), assessments of those standards, student privacy/FERPA/state longitudinal data systems, Race to the Top, and the reauthorization of ESEA/NCLB (now ESSA).  The CCSS has been the common thread in those issues.  These have been the issues of concern that brought folks in agreement to TAE.  It has been the feeling of TAE’s founding core for quite some time that we have accomplished what we set out to do—provide information and bring about awareness of the issues.  There is still a lot more to do that includes continuing to address related issues.  The TAE’s founding core feel the time has come to formally broaden our focus.

The Truth in American Education founding core group has approved a new mission statement.  This mission statement does not fundamentally change TAE.  In many ways it expands our focus while providing guidance for how and what issues are addressed.

This mission statement puts our focus on parent rights, local control, and providing students a classical liberal arts education.  TAE’s founding core is of the belief that bringing control and decision making back to the local school community and parents is best done by working and providing information at that level.

In the eyes of Truth in American Education, promoting local control involves encouraging parents, taxpayers, voters, and local communities to stand strong in efforts to regain, retain, and exercise rights to make decisions for themselves.  This precludes undue influence by corporations, foundations, private groups, non-elected groups and individuals, and special interest groups.  Legislative mandated local control with established qualifiers or requiring federal approval of such a plan is not acceptable.

Here is the new mission statement:

About Truth in American Education

Truth in American Education is a national non-partisan grass roots advocacy organization composed of parents and citizens.

Truth in American Education Mission Statement

Truth in American Education’s mission is to address education issues related to: parental rights, local control of schools, and classical liberal arts education.

In pursuit of our mission, Truth in American Education members will research, share information, network, provide mutual support, and actively work towards:

  • Identifying and/or providing resources to support parents in their efforts to protect their rights with regard to directing the education of their children; and
  • Bringing public school control and decision making back to the level of the local school community of parents, with minimal state interference and without federal influence, financial coercion, or regulation; and
  • Promoting a classical liberal arts education to transmit knowledge, culture, and traditions in order that the next generation may develop the wisdom and virtue necessary to be self-governing citizens in a republican government.

Truth in American Education defines parents’ rights as the right and responsibility to make determinations regarding their child’s upbringing and education, including decisions about: academic training, transfer of religious and moral values, and the child’s physical health and mental wellbeing.

We believe regaining local control will require parents, taxpayers, voters, and local officials to stand strong in demanding this constitutionally protected right. We reject the undue influence of corporations, foundations, public/private partnerships, private financial investors, and special interest groups in our public education system. 

We believe the Tenth Amendment of the U.S. Bill of Rights, as well as U.S. Supreme Court opinions, support and affirm the mission of Truth in American Education.

Denis Ahern (1950-2019)

I am sorry to have to inform our readers that Denis Ahern (he went by the pen name Denis Ian when writing here), a regular contributor at Truth in American Education, has passed away. His friend and co-author for many of his articles, Michelle Moore, said he was found yesterday morning in his favorite spot, his writing desk. He was 68-years-old and is survived by his wife Megan, three sons (Dennis, Ian, and Brendan) and six grandchildren.

Denis was raised in New Rochelle, NY and Graduated from Iona Prep and received his Bachelor and Masters degree’s from Iona College. He was a  Social Studies teacher for many years at Mamaroneck High School retiring in 2006. In retirement, he devoted himself to educational advocacy that included writing at TAE.  

Denis brought a unique writing voice to TAE. I only knew him through our emails and his writing, but through that I could see his passion for students and was heartbroken over the kind of education they were receiving.

He once wrote, “There is no virtue in making children so brave that they might withstand the idiocy of adults.”

I could not agree more.

Denis and I emailed each other Saturday night over his last piece that we published yesterday. He wrote, “Not sure if you’d be interested in this piece … because you’re probably sick of me.”

I never was, and wrote back, “No actually I love it when you share articles with me.” And I did. He brought a perspective, experience, and voice to TAE that was very different than my own and I was happy to share that here.

Denis will be missed.

Funeral arrangements have not yet been announced, but I will update this piece when I learn more.

Update: Michelle emailed the funeral arrangements.

Denis’ wake will be this Thursday from 5pm-9pm at the Craft Funeral Home (40 Leicester St, Port Chester, NY 10573). His funeral will be this Friday at 10 am at Church of the Resurrection (910 Boston Post Road, Rye, NY 10580).

Do Gender-Based Toys Keep Girls Out of STEM?

Some Michigan lawmakers want fast food restaurants to stop giving gender-based toys.
Photo credit: Brian Charles Watson (CC-By-SA 3.0)

This is a little outside the purview of what I typically write, but I wanted to address an article I read today that is education-related. 

As you all know with the shift to workforce development with its hyper-emphasize on STEM there is a push to direct more toward STEM fields. In my home state of Iowa, Governor Kim Reynolds had headed an initiative to expose more girls to STEM. 

I’m not a fan of the over-emphasis on STEM or the shift to workforce development, but don’t have a problem with engaging girls to think about STEM careers. The issue for me is how it has replaced classical education for all students.

That said, this push for girls in STEM took a ludicrous turn when Michigan lawmakers used this as an excuse in a move to encourage fast food chains to stop providing gender-based toys.

From Fox News:

Receiving a free children’s toy at Michigan fast-food joints may soon require restaurants to ask the kids which ones they’d prefer, at least if lawmakers successfully go through with a petition to stop “gender classification” of kids’ meal toys at fast-food franchisees.

Earlier this week, the state House of Representatives introduced a motion requesting that chains stop offering “boy toys” and “girl toys” on the grounds that such classifications “limit children’s imagination,” going so far as to argue that such restrictions can prevent young girls from taking an interest in the STEM (science, technology, engineering, math) fields, KWCH reports.

Instead, the lawmakers want children to be offered a “choice” of toy without traditional gender labels.

I could comment further on the non-education implications of this legislation, but that wouldn’t be appropriate here. For now, they are pushing a resolution encouraging fast food chains to act on their own volition. Could it be forced later on? I would not be surprised. 

Out of all of the problems Michigan faces this is what some lawmakers want to spend their time on?

Frankly, if a fast food chain wants to stop giving toys like this away I could not care less (in fact I thought most already did, but my kids are way past the Happy Meal age so I don’t know for certain). Using STEM as an excuse is nonsense. There are a variety of reasons more boys pursue STEM careers than girls, but I doubt fast food toys are high up on the list.

An Election Day Reminder

Today is election day, and I want to remind you of your civic duty (if you have not taken advantage of early voting in your state) to get out and vote.

On the line are 35 seats in the U.S. Senate, 435 seats in the U.S. House, 36 Gubernatorial offices, and 6,073 state legislative seats. And this does not include the states that vote on their state’s school chief and state school board members. 

Every single election can have an impact on both federal and state education policy. 

So let your voice be heard at the ballot box.

While there are no perfect candidates who on the ballot:

  • Has the best record on respecting local control in education?
  • Has consistently fought against top-down education reforms?
  • Believes in and fights for parental control?
  • Fights for student data privacy?
  • Rejects a workforce development model of education? 
  • Rejects tying private schools and homeschoolers to public school education reforms? 
  • Promotes educational freedom?

Very few of us will have perfect options, but we’ll need to discern who is the best choice of the options we are given on the ballot.

We don’t endorse here at Truth in American Education, but you are certainly welcome to sound off on who you are supporting today in the comments section.

College Students Paying for Coffee With Their Personal Data

This post is not K-12 education-related per se, but I was emailed a story at NPR about a coffee shop, Shiru Cafe, near Brown University in Providence, RI jaw-dropping.

Students get free coffee, but only if they give up personal data.

Chaiel Schaffel reports:

(Sarah) Ferris (an assistant manager) will turn away customers if they’re not college students or faculty members. The cafe allows professors to pay, but students have something else the shop wants: their personal information.

To get the free coffee, university students must give away their names, phone numbers, email addresses and majors, or in Brown’s lingo, concentrations. Students also provide dates of birth and professional interests, entering all of the information in an online form. By doing so, the students also open themselves up to receiving information from corporate sponsors who pay the cafe to reach its clientele through logos, apps, digital advertisements on screens in stores and on mobile devices, signs, surveys and even baristas.

According to Shiru’s website: “We have specially trained staff members who give students additional information about our sponsors while they enjoy their coffee.”

Specifically, the sponsors are companies who want to inform students about future career opportunities. 

Unreal. How long do you think before we see something like this at a high school near you? It’s not like student data isn’t being mined other ways. Good grief.

Read the rest.

The Concord Review: Encouraging Good Writing by Publishing Good Writing

I wanted to draw your attention to an interview that Pioneer Institute did with Will Fitzhugh, the founder of The Concord Review. Will established this quarterly journal that publishes history papers written by secondary students.

When he founded it its goal was to “recognize and to publish exemplary history essays by high school students in the English-speaking world.”

“In 1987 I was teaching history at the high school in Concord, Massachusetts and I heard a lot of talk about low reading skills and poor writing ability and ignorance of history among secondary students,” Fitzhugh recalled. 

“It seemed to me that if I could start a journal for the best history essays by high school students that I could find, it could attract some good papers and also serve as an inspiration to other students who might not realize how hard their peers are working,” Fitzhugh added. 

The Concord Review has published over 1,300 papers from students all over the world in 118 quarterly issues since 1987. 

According to The Concord Review‘s website, many of their authors have sent reprints of their papers with their college application materials, and they have gone on to Brown (27), University of Chicago (23), Columbia (21), Cornell (16), Dartmouth (22), Harvard (125), Oxford (13), Pennsylvania (23), Princeton (67), Stanford (51), Yale (107), and other institutions, including Amherst, Bowdoin, Bryn Mawr, Caltech, Cambridge, Carnegie Mellon, Duke, Emory, Johns Hopkins, McGill, Michigan, Middlebury, MIT, Northwestern, Notre Dame, Reed, Rice, Smith, Trinity, Tufts, Virginia, Washington University, Wellesley, and Williams.

Will has found a way to highlight and encourage good writing from students, by publishing it. Well done Will, keep up the good work! 

Watch his interview below:

Study Shows Classroom Tech Reduces Exam Performance

Photo credit: Brad Flickinger (CC-By-2.0)

An Educational Psychology study showed that dividing attention in the classroom reduced student exam performance.  

Two researchers, Arnold Glass and Mengxue Kang, from Rutgers University, studied 118 college students to determine how using electronic devices (laptop, tablet, and cell phone) for non-academic purposes impacted their exam performance.

In a two-section college course, researchers allowed electronic devices in half of the lectures. Their findings were interesting.

First, they noted that electronic device use did not impact short-term comprehension of the lecture measured by quiz questions given. 

Looking at long-term retention was a different story.  Students who had divided attention saw significantly reduced long-term retention of the classroom lecture, which impaired subsequent unit exam and final exam performance by about a half-a-letter grade (5 percent).

That isn’t surprising, but what is surprising, is that students did worse even if they did not check their devices.

The researchers wrote, “This is the first-ever finding in an actual classroom of the social effect of classroom distraction on subsequent exam performance. The effect of classroom distraction on exam performance confirms the laboratory finding of the social effect of distraction.”

“This ubiquitous use certainly changed the social character of the class from an occasion for joint attention to more like a group of individuals in a waiting room occasionally looking up. It meant that for the few students who tried to direct attention to the instructor there was distracting activity on both sides and in front of them,” they continued.

They noted that students tend to “retain more from face-to-face social interactions than they do from nearly equivalent instructional situations (e.g. involving video or other online instruction) that do not involve social interaction.”

This study is something that K-12 schools should consider when crafting policies related to electronic devices in class, even if students use those devices for educational purposes.

Do​ Advanced Placement Classes Help Students?

Photo Credit: J. Sanna (CC-By-2.0)

More students are taking Advanced Placement (AP), and more students are failing as a result as well, but some question whether taking AP helps students when they get to college. Are there better alternatives? 

The collective research on the subject is non-conclusive.

Amanda Zhou at Chalkbeat reports:

A new review of research provides a stark reminder that we simply don’t know the answer to that or a number of other important questions about AP courses, even as the program has become a more common part of the American high school experience.

Suneal Kolluri of the University of Southern California looked at over 50 studies of AP tests and classes that examine how they have expanded and whether they’ve equipped students with “college-level knowledge and skills.”

“AP is such an important element of high school for kids and teachers, and we don’t really understand how it’s impacting student experiences,” said Kolluri.

Unsurprisingly, students who score a 3 or higher on an AP exam do better in college. But, remarkably, there is virtually no research pinning down cause and effect — that is, whether taking AP courses actually helps students succeed. The association could be due to factors like a student’s high school quality or their own motivation.

Read the rest.

Since the research is inconclusive, one has to ask why schools are pushing AP over dual-enrolling in community college classes or taking a career tech class? 

My wife and I homeschooled all three of our children. All three of our kids, when they were juniors and seniors in high school, took classes at Des Moines Area Community College for high school AND college credit. My son went on to receive his EMT training, my oldest daughter finished an Associates Degree and graduated with honors from Hannibal LaGrange University in May.

My youngest daughter, and our last child at home, just graduated from high school with a CNA certification (taking that class from Central Campus with Des Moines Public Schools). She is well on her way to completing the general ed college credit she needs to enroll in a respected nursing program in our state (students have to earn general education credit elsewhere before transferring to the program).

There are other ways to get a leg up on college credit and college preparedness. College Board should not have a monopoly. 

(Video) Alternative Math

I watched a short film yesterday entitled “Alternative Math.” The description of the video says, “A well-meaning math teacher finds herself trumped by a post-fact America.”

Obviously, the plot is intentionally ridiculous, and, generally, we don’t see schools respond to parents like this fictional school acquiesced to the parents’ demands.  Also when parents complain about bias they’re not referring to something like math which is straightforward (except for the asinine way basic math is being taught due to Common Core).

That said, it literally made me laugh out loud. I’m thankful that in my brief time teaching I never encountered parents like this.


Brown Is Fourth Ivy League School to Drop SAT/ACT Essay Requirement

Sayles Hall on Brown University’s Campus in Providence, RI.
Photo Credit: Ad Meskens via Wikimedia Commons (CC-By-SA 3.0)

Brown University announced that it will join Harvard, Yale, and Dartmouth Universities as the fourth Ivy League school that will no longer require the ACT writing or SAT essay test.

8000 schools nationwide offer free school-day SATs, but those do not include the essay portion of the SAT Logan Powell, Brown’s Dean of Admissions, explained. He said this could discourage talented students from applying to schools that require it.

Powell participated in a committee in 2013 convened by The College Board, who administers the SAT, that recommended the institution of free school-day testing.

He noted many students from low-income families take advantage of free SAT testing offered during the school day. This enables those who might encounter difficulties taking standardized tests on a Saturday — when the SAT and ACT are traditionally offered — to avoid challenges such as finding transportation, taking time off from work or applying for a fee waiver.

“Given the significant growth in free school-day testing, it’s important to enable students from low-income families to take advantage of the tests already offered by their school districts and not place an undue burden on them to go in separately outside of normal school hours,” Powell said. “Our goal is that for any talented student interested in Brown, the application process is not a deterrent — and we don’t want this test to be a barrier to their application.”

Undergraduate applicants can still submit their SAT essay or ACT writing scores should they choose, Powell added. And the University also recommends that applicants submit a graded paper from a humanities or social sciences course as part of their application.

The shift in testing requirements is one of a wide range of efforts at Brown to ensure that financial considerations do not prevent talented students from applying to or enrolling at the University.