As Kasich Leaves Office, He Promotes Education as the Workforce Pipeline

Ohio Governor John Kasich in Des Moines on 6/24/15.
Photo credit: Dave Davidson – Prezography.com

Ohioans dodged a bullet with Ohio Governor John Kasich leaving office. As he leaves he laments what he was unable to accomplish in the name of education reform and workforce development.

Jeremy Pelzer with Cleveland.com reports:

Outgoing Gov. John Kasich on Monday mulled openly about the future of Ohio’s economy, saying that the state’s K-12 education system needs a “fundamental restructuring” that involves more direct involvement by the business community.

Kasich, speaking to the board of JobsOhio, the state’s non-profit economic development corporation, said Ohio children need to learn skills that businesses need so they can get good-paying jobs as adults.

“And who can do that better than business? Who can explain this to kids better?” Kasich asked.

The governor lamented that two of his proposals in recent years to directly involve businesspeople in K-12 education were shot down. One was to put two non-elected businesspeople on every school board in the state so they could offer guidance on school curricula. The other sought to require Ohio teachers to shadow a local businessperson before they could renew their teaching licenses.

Fortunately, the Ohio Legislature had the good sense to realize those proposals were utter nonsense. If a member of the business community wants to serve on the school board they can run for office. Also, what in the world were teachers supposed to gain by shadowing a local businessperson? What a colossal waste of time. 

His proposals would have doubled down on stupid. The purpose of education is not workforce development. It’s not the job of K-12 schools to feed the workforce pipeline.

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.

Workforce Development Pushed in Kansas Regardless of Governor’s Party

Kansas Governor-Elect Laura Kelly

Kansas will have a Democrat Governor when Governor-Elect Laura Kelly is sworn in, and it seems like a workforce development project started under outgoing Governor Jeff Colyer (R-Kansas) will continue under the new administration:

The Hays Daily News reports

When he lost his bid to secure the Republican nomination for governor, those invested in the council’s work — including some who were part of a similar, unrewarded effort 10 years ago — realized they would need to complete their assessment by the end of this year. Now, as Gov.-elect Laura Kelly prepares to take office, council members are bolstered by the thought of delivering their recommendations to a longtime education ally.

“We’re happy,” said Diane DeBacker, a former Kansas education commissioner who oversees the council, “and I guess I have confidence that Laura Kelly will continue something like this.”
DeBacker, director of business and education innovation in the state commerce department, outlined suggestions she anticipates the council will offer.

They include giving thought to training in soft skills, like communication and collaboration, and navigating liability concerns to allow students to experience what the work world is like before they graduate.

One idea is to create a road map for private businesses that want to work with technical schools to develop skills the employers need. DeBacker said the gold standard is at Topeka’s Washburn Institute of Technology, where students learn to handle heating, ventilation and air conditioning equipment.

When it comes to taking action over K-12 education at the state level, there, unfortunately, isn’t much difference between Republicans and Democrats even when there are significant differences in terms of rhetoric.

Meet the new boss, same as the old boss. 

EU Spreading the “Gospel” of Workforce Development to South Africa

A missionary from the European Union traveled to South Africa to share the gospel, but not the Gospel that you might think.

Instead, he’s bringing the gospel of workforce development and a managed economy. South African students, he says, needs to focus on skills.

The South African news site, Business Day, reports:

A top EU official is very concerned about the mismatch between SA’s education system and the skills required for the job market.

Stefano Manservisi, director-general of the European Commission’s directorate for international co-operation and development, says the country must take steps to bridge the skills gap — the difference between the skills required and those employees have attained.

They continue:

According to the EU’s Directorate for International Co-operation and Development, the union’s bilateral co-operation with SA, which runs from 2014  to 2020, focuses on employment creation, education, training and innovation. The total EU allocation over this period is €268m. 

 
Key projects under the bilateral co-operation include the Primary Education Sector Policy Support Programme, which supports the government’s objective to expand the provision of early childhood development opportunities, to improve curriculum implementation in schools, and to strengthen the initial training of teachers in SA. This has led to an increase in the number of universities training teachers for early grades and the number of students enrolled in such programmes.

Not only are the spreading the message, but they are funding it as well.

The thing is, “gospel” means “good news” and this is anything but. If South Africa wants to ruin its primary and secondary education system then they will adapt this advice. If they want to preserve it then they should go see what has proven to work. 

Common Core, Workforce Development, and Assigning Blame

Photo Credit: Alpha Stock Images by Nick Youngson (CC-By-SA 3.0)

I read an article by David Cantor in The 74, about whether schools adequately prepare students for the “age of the automation.” I understand the concern about a  shift in our economy that is coming, and it will be disruptive. Those who beat this drum overlook the fundamental question – is preparing students for the workforce the role of K-12 education?

I submit no, workforce development is not the goal of education, a well-rounded education in math, literacy, science, civics, and the arts is the goal.

Kids are not human capital. 

That’s not to say I am against certification programs within K-12 schools. My daughter had the opportunity to become a certified nurse’s aide through our local school district. I also think to offer dual high school-college credit is a great idea and helps students avoid accumulating massive student debt. I support vocational education.

I am not opposed to those things if that is what the student and the family want. That isn’t what is going on. Kids are not receiving a well-rounded education as a result of this push for workforce development. They are being shortchanged.

Those of who are concerned about this get the blame apparently because the savior of workforce development, the Common Core State Standards, have been a failure. Why? Because we opposed them and so they were adopted unevenly. Also, the NAEP assessment questions may not line up to the standards (the ACT either).

Cantor writes:

Political resistance and bureaucratic obstacles resulted in uneven adoption of the standards among states. Researcher Tom Loveless at the Brookings Institution found small gains on the National Assessment of Educational Progress in states that more fully implemented the standards. He has also reported on the larger pattern of stagnation on the national exam.

Several factors, including questions of how well NAEP items lined up with the standards, made it impossible to conclude that they had a causal effect on outcomes, however.

In Arizona, where the state education chief led a successful effort to repeal the standards, local industry played a countervailing role, said Lisa Graham Keegan, chief executive of the state’s Chamber of Commerce foundation and a former state superintendent.

“The biggest contribution business makes is to encourage the jump” to better standards and tests, she said. “They’re saying, ‘We need to employ kids with these sets of skills, and you’re not helping them get them.’”

They can’t possibly admit there was no data that backed these standards up; they did not emulate success in states and countries doing well in math and literacy (to this day I’m still not sure what countries Common Core used as a benchmark). 

They can’t possibly look in the mirror and admit that their grand experiment, and that is what this was, an experiment, went bust and they are the ones to blame. 

Top down reforms never work. 

DeVos Speaks to Conservative High School Students

Photo Credit: Gage Skidmore

U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos spoke at the Turning Point USA High School Leadership Summit on Thursday in Washington, DC.

I wanted to highlight a couple of excerpts of her speech.

She first addressed educational freedom:

Way too many in the education world believe they need more involvement, more intrusion, more mandates, more money, more government.

But what do we believe? We believe in more freedom!

We are committed to expanding education freedom for all families across America. You’ve probably heard me described as “pro-school choice.” Well, I am, but choice in education is not defined by picking this building or that school, using this voucher or that scholarship. And it’s not public versus private. Parochial versus charter. Homeschool versus virtual.

It shouldn’t be “versus” anything, because choice in education is bigger than that.

Choice is really about freedom! Freedom to learn, and to learn differently. Freedom to explore. Freedom to fail, to learn from falling and to get back up and try again. It’s freedom to find the best way for you to learn and grow…to find the engaging combination that unleashes your curiosity and unlocks your individual potential.

You and your families already exercise freedom when you make choices about next steps for education after high school. I suspect many of you are going through this process right now.

You compare options, and make an informed decision.

If you choose to go to Georgetown, are you somehow against the Wolverines or the Fighting Irish? Well, you’re not — except when they’re on the basketball court.

If you decide to go to George Washington University, are you somehow against public universities? Of course not!

No one criticizes those choices. No one thinks choice in higher education is wrong. So why is it wrong in elementary school, middle school, or high school?

Truth is: there is nothing wrong with that! There is nothing wrong with wanting to pursue the education that’s right for you!

First, how about educational choice within public schools? She talks a lot about freedom from mandates and flexibility, but we are still waiting to see something, anything tangible headed in that direction from the Trump administration.

States still have to play “Mother, May I?” Utah had a request for flexibility denied. Schools still face top-down mandates. Parents still face difficulty in many school districts and states when attempting to opt their students out of assessments.

When are going to see real freedom from centralized control?

Secondly, federal programs can never truly expand freedom; they can only ultimately restrict it. Have we ever seen federal money come without strings attached? No. I favor school choice, but it should not come from the federal level. DeVos highlights choices that students have in college, but she neglects to mention all of the federal regulations colleges face from allowing federal student aid.

No thanks.

She then gives a nod to workforce development and personalized learning, she said:

It’s time to reorient our approach to education. We need a paradigm shift. A rethink.

“Rethink” means we question everything to ensure nothing limits you from pursuing your passion, and achieving your potential.

You – and all students – deserve learning environments that are agile, relevant, exciting. You should be able to pursue customized, self-paced, and challenging life-long learning journeys.

I recently visited a SkillsUSA conference where students competed with each other in a wide range of activities they had learned about: developing computer games, building homes, welding, baking, graphic design – to name just a few. They were all clearly excited about what they were doing!

And last week, I met a 70-year-old man who was in his fourth career. His first was a helicopter pilot in Vietnam. He went on to work in the defense contracting industry, followed by another career in banking. He found retirement to be quite boring, so he learned the necessary skills to drive big rigs across the country. And he said his fourth career is his best one yet!

So be open to possibilities that aren’t pre-planned. I suspect some – or maybe many — of you feel like your life thus far has been ordered for you. Class to class, grade to grade, graduation to graduation. But you will find that nothing – not your families, your careers, your faith journeys — is as predictable as it seems.

So what you learn is about much more than just acquiring “skills” or diplomas. You are your most important resource. Your education is about you. It’s about your aspirations and abilities. Your passions and pursuits. Your ingenuity and what you do with it is what gives life to your education.

We’ve had too much “rethink(ing)” in education circles, we need to go back to basics. Schools need to address classical education. It’s not just about a student’s interest. It’s not about skills. Kids need content, and the pendulum is swinging wildly away from that.

The Public/Private Takeover of Education

U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos at AEI Conference on 1/16/18.

U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos at AEI Conference on 1/16/18.

The proposed merger of U.S. Department of Education and U.S. Department of Labor will hurt our kids, and U.S. Education Secretary Betsy DeVos wants parents to concede to the public/private takeover in education. Unfortunately, we are well on our way. Facts are facts, and regardless of what state you live in, initiatives for Public/Private takeover are common and homogenized for all states.  Let’s take my state of Minnesota for example.   

Standardized testing requirements and opt-out:  In May of 2017, the Minnesota Business Partnership pressured our Minnesota Senators to financially incentivize school districts, so that schools would earn more money when students tested at a higher percentage beyond the Federal 95% participation requirement.  During the hearing, it was postulated that Minnesota Comprehensive Assessment (MCA’s)/Pearson participation would soar to near 100% as others noted the outcome would remove parental voice and rights to opt out their children out of the federal-corporate corruption.   

Additionally, our legislature gave away the parental authority of writing a parental opt-out letter to the MDE, who was tasked with writing a “Commissioner’s Opt-Out Letter.”  Thanks to early ESSA documents Minnesota jumped into line with labeling opt-out kids as “non-proficient”.

Ultimately that changed, but only after intense testimony and parents taking a stand.  Later, it was discovered the MDE didn’t update their commissioner opt-out form so that schools and parents could understand the new law, creating mixed messages for parents and the public on the latest MDE changes.  

Local control has taken on an entirely new meaning, as reports came in that school boards bullied parents into believing they had no right to opt their child out of standardized testing without themselves going through a senseless barrage of red tape paperwork.  

Data collection:  In Minnesota, our state statute governing education and technology dates back to 1980, with relatively few updates since according to Minnesota legislator Eric Lucero who chief authored several data protection bills.  Yet, even after five years of pounding the pavement at the grassroots level, legislators can’t seem to get a bill passed due to the collusion of businesses and big industry involvement in our education system as seen this past legislative session.  

That’s not to say businesses and business leaders are “bad.”  That’s not to say that learning a trade is “bad.”  What is in serious question is the level of comingling of both government and business affairs in education as young as preschool, hence the further invasion of unethical data collection on children as young as three.  Why?  So they can cram a child into yet another cookie cutter mold to fit a corporate model.  How’s that for innovation?

World’s Best Workforce:  This is our own Minnesota duplicate of Federal education laws:  Goals 2000, School-to-Work, No Child Left Behind and lastly, Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) and business organizations and foundations (aka Chamber of Commerce) which was pushed on our schools which before it was fashionable to the degree we see today.   

U.S. Congress:  One of the saddest moments in education regarding the recent, and incredible, “happy bi-partisanship” under the Obama administration was through the passage of Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA).  Not only did Congress codify Common Core in ESSA, but this version of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA) allowed furthering the highly controversial and manipulative Social Emotional Learning (SEL).  SEL is nothing more than glorified psychological profiling, making teacher’s unlicensed social psychologists when they actually should be teaching, as well as replacing logic with emotion when approaching subjects and problem-solving.  

FEPA, FERPA, and SELDS:  Did you ever in your life wonder how our government can keep up with their own acronym creations?  We have legislators running education roundtables that don’t even know what ESSA means, nor its implications regarding both family and education data privacy.  President Trump did sign new guidance guidelines for state education agencies and school districts on their responsibility to protect student privacy when facilitating college-admissions tests such as SAT and ACT.  However, this has still left grassroots education leaders fed up with years such a disorganized top-down government agenda in education.  

Here’s a hint:  Please stop trying to reinvent the wheel with more initiatives.  While encouraging on the surface, there is still very far to go, being that our state has signed onto nearly every Federal Education initiative available (just follow the money).   We have not yet heard anything on how FERPA will be given back to the parents, rather than a school entity and global industry who is controlling where a child’s data goes and who it gets sold to.  President Trump’s campaign promise was to dismantle the Federal Department of Education and get rid of Common Core, not merge more departments and create an even bigger form of government in education.  

All this being said – and this is so small in comparison to the larger issues at hand – I have seen nothing concrete on the dismantling of Fed Ed and how that will be handled, only that there is a proposed merger between the two departments.  Frankly, this tells me nothing as a parent, a concerned citizen and active grassroots participant.  

I will end my comment here with a quote I told our Minnesota Education Chair last summer upon testifying before committee: “Madam Chair, with respect, it’s about Liberty.” I believe Ms. DeVos needs to hear just that. Fed Ed doesn’t need reorganizing – it needs dismantling and dismantling should NOT include a merger with the Department of Labor.

What we need is a REPEAL of the workforce law in our education system, pull back the latest version of ESEA, then dramatically reduce the reach of the USDED.  Sprinkle in FERPA reform and we may just have a chance at dismantling a system that has broken local control and parental voice.

Betsy DeVos: Education and Labor Merger Will Make Us More Like Europe

Betsy DeVos at CPAC 2017

U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos speaking at the 2017 Conservative Political Action Committee
Photo Credit: Gage Skidmore

In an op/ed written last week for Education Week, U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos said that merging the U.S. Departments of Education and Labor would emulate what she saw during a trip to Europe.

Education and workforce policies have always been intimately linked, yet for decades the federal government has addressed them separately with two different departments. President Donald Trump recently announced a bold plan to remedy that with a new Department of Education and the Workforce that would reduce the federal footprint in education and make the federal government more responsive to the full range of needs faced by American students and workers. It would also help catch us up to how students in other countries pursue their education.

I saw such approaches during my first international trip as the U.S. secretary of education to schools in Switzerland, the Netherlands, and the United Kingdom. Each country takes a holistic approach to education to prepare students for career and life success.

She addressed how the Netherlands use taxpayer funding for private schools (no mention of the likely strings attached though) and how the United Kingdom offers schools similar to charter schools. She then turned her attention to Switzerland to bring it back to workforce development.

Switzerland is known for its robust apprenticeship program, with more than two-thirds of high school students engaged in one of the roughly 300 government-recognized apprenticeships. We saw the efficacy of this approach at Asea Brown Boveri’s plant in Zurich. ABB is one of many companies that partner with the country’s education system to offer students experience in high-earning fields like machinery and electronics. Students are exposed to many rewarding career paths, but they also have the choice to pursue an education at a traditional university. It’s not an “either/or” decision—as the Swiss say, “there are no dead ends in Switzerland’s education system.”

Hey, students, you can do apprenticeships, but only one that the government recognizes.

What could possibly go wrong there? Also, there’s no mention of how Europe tracks students and decide by middle school whether they will be on a university track or a vocational track.

Do we really want to emulate Europe’s managed economy with its high unemployment?

The countries that Secretary DeVos visited have highly centralized education systems, but she made no mention of that fact.

The U.S. shouldn’t seek to emulate Europe.

Where Do Michigan GOP Gubernatorial Candidates Stand on Common Core?

From left: Dr. Jim Hines, Lt. Gov. Brian Calley, Attorney General Bill Schuette, and State Sen. Patrick Colebeck

The Michigan Republican Primary is on August 7, where do the candidates stand on Common Core?

Here is a quick snapshot.

Jim Hines

Hines is a surgeon and is one of the lesser-known candidates running for the Republican nomination for Governor in Michigan. He recently discussed Common Core during for a story in The Detroit News.

They report:

But Hines’ primary issue is education, with a focus on school choice, local control, better reading skills and a back-to-the-basics curriculum that scraps common core. He also wants to see better training for skilled trades, such as the training offered to inmates through the Michigan Department of Correction’s Vocational Village program.

“I believe that the foundational issue is probably education,” Hines said. “Once that’s where it should be, then we’ll see jobs improving, wages going up and a lot of other changes.”

On his website, he says, “The goal is for children to learn a body of knowledge, not for programmed responses to be elicited by a test.”

He wrote a post on Common Core on his campaign’s blog:

I’ve been asking my patients who are teachers what they think of the K-12 Common Core State Standards. This system for education seeks to establish what is believed to be “the core” that everyone should know.

This plan, driven by policy-makers, attempts to set the same standards across all the states.

In response to my questions, a majority of my teachers have expressed their opposition to Common Core. They are concerned that teachers feel pressured to teach to the test so kids will do well. This allows teachers to meet government goals, but does not ensure the students are genuinely learning.

I believe we need to let teachers teach a curriculum that has been approved by the parents not just what a test calls for. The tests should accurately assess the learned content, not govern what is being taught. The goal is for children to learn a body of knowledge, not for programmed responses to be elicited by a test.

Their focus should be on developing minds, not just trying to meet a certain expectation. Education should not be seeking to produce cookie cutter kids.

Read the rest.

Brian Calley

Calley is the current Lt. Governor of the state. He makes no mention of Common Core in his education agenda, in fact he pushes the same workforce development model we have seen with so many candidates, Governors, and education reformers. On the homepage of his website, the campaign states, “Brian supports the repeal of Common Core in favor of a more flexible, locally-controlled educational system.”

Governor Rick Snyder is a proponent of Common Core, but Calley was silent on the subject for years, and has advocated for education policies promoted by the Common Core cabal. He was challenged back in 2014 during the Michigan Republican State Convention for the Lt. Governor nomination by a anti-Common Core opponent. At the convention Congressman Justin Amash said Calley would push back against it.

One issue where there seemed to be a division was over the issue of the Common Core education standards, which Snyder supports. U.S. Rep. Justin Amash, R-Kentwood, told the crowd that Calley would push back against the policy.

It would have great to see him oppose it prior to being challenged in 2014 and before running for Governor.

Bill Schuette

Schuette, who is the current Attorney General of the state, says he supports local control on his website, but his education platform does not scream that to me. His primary concern is improving literacy in the state, and he promises his plan will “give school leaders more flexibility in how they use funding, so they can prioritize reading initiatives that are the best fit for the situations inside their individual schools.”

He did promise to end Common Core when he launched his campaign, but there is no mention on his website. He also dicussed his opposition to Common Core in an interview with WBCK Radio.

Patrick Colebeck

State Senator Colebeck has also been a vocal opponent of Common Core. He introduced a repeal and replace bill, but his actions since have grassroots activists scratching their heads.

Karen Braun at Stop Common Core in Michigan wrote:

Senator Patrick Colbeck is running for Governor.  He has been consistent in his assertion that he opposes Common Core but his actions are confusing.  He is the sponsor of the weak Senate bill to repeal Common Core that allows politicians bragging rights but provides no substantive change in the classroom.   He supports the “revised”social studies standards that are predicated on Common Core and build upon them.  He supports a digital credential in STEM which is also built around the Common Core and common next generation science standards.  He supported the so called, data Pupil Privacy bills, which do not protect student data built around the data codes in Common Core and other national standards.    But now that it is election time, Colbeck continues to assert his opposition to Common Core.  Clearly he realizes, Common Core is not dead.

Braun discussed his involvement in the recent STEM bill here.

As a member of the Senate Education Commitee, Colbeck is one of the “engineers” of the STEM bill which credentials students for career pathways and helps build the P-20 competency-based education system.   The problem is that most people don’t know the components of a P-20 system.  P-20 is a new national invention supported the Governor desperate to ‘re-invent’ our education system from prenatal to career.   So when most people read the bill they only see “lines and angles” unless the engineer explains to them what his design will create.  Colbeck is unwilling or unable to do that.

Disclaimer

Just a note: I’m providing this as a guide, it is not even remotely exhaustive, and I encourage any Michigan voter reading this to do their own research and get out to meet the candidates. Also, this is not meant to be an endorsement of any candidate.

Video: How Corporations and Big Government Collaborate

The Heritage Foundation this morning hosted a panel discussion with Emmett McGroarty and Jane Robbins with American Principles Project and Erin Tuttle with Hoosiers Against Common Core to discuss their book Deconstructing the Administrative State: The Fight for Liberty.

Recent congressional hearings on social media regulation are yet another reminder of the seemingly unceasing expansion of the administrative state. In their new book, McGroarty, Robbins, and Tuttle examine the political philosophy and tactics behind this “seismic shift” of power from the people to unaccountable technocrats.

This morning’s panel discussed how corporate America is complicit in this expansion which is something we have noticed with Common Core and the push to replace classical education and the well-rounded education it provides with workforce development and career pathways.

You can watch the entire panel discussion below: