Sunday, March 15, 2015

School Rejects Censorship as a Matter of Principal

Texas is known for a lot of things – but pushovers aren’t one of them. The Freedom From Religion Foundation (FFRF) learned that the hard way when it picked a fight with White Oak High School. Using its small-town playbook, the atheist activists fired off a warning to the district complaining about a principal that reads a scripture as part of his morning announcements.

Dan Noll’s “Thoughts of the Day” had never been controversial before, so when a student recorded the audio and sent it to the Left’s attack dogs, it caused quite a stir. But if FFRF thought a little letter would scare Superintendent Michael Gilbert, they had another thing coming. In a response that should bring a smile to the face of every Christian conservative in America, Gilbert took it to the Left’s bullies with this fiery response.

“Let me be clear, this is an attempt to draw us into a contest of words for the sole purpose of giving the FFRF a large amount of free press/recognition that they and their very few members (1,200 in Texas) do not deserve. This group and others like it, are wanting us to provide them with negative quotes to use in the promotion of their agenda. We can and will make the adjustments needed to ensure our students experience a morally sound, positive character based education. There are a multitude of options to provide our students, faculty and staff the opportunity to express their First Amendment Rights as provided for in the United States Constitution. Let me also be clear that we have not (in my opinion) violated anyone’s rights and/or subjected anyone to undue stress. Bible studies and scriptures are allowed in schools.”

Then, with perfect pitch, he wished the Foundation well. “I’m sorry you feel (this) way,” he said. “I will be praying for you and your staff daily.” At a time when most educators are tripping over themselves to do the Left’s bidding, Michael Gilbert’s courage is exactly what the doctor ordered. Our ten-gallon hats go off to the Superintendent for teaching these liberals a lesson in religious liberty!


Concerns Grow About Common Core Standards

For the majority of states that adopted the Common Core national standards in 2010, this is the school year in which testing begins. And the haste with which Common Core was adopted and implemented has caused problems, adding to a host of concerns already surrounding Common Core.

In an article last month in Education Week magazine, reporter Liana Heitin reported that some Common Core expert reviewers felt rushed in their review of the standards. Heitin interviewed Hung-Shi Wu, professor emeritus of mathematics at the University of California, Berkeley, and a member of the Common Core development team. Wu concluded: “The amount of time given to the high school standards was definitely inadequate.”

This is consistent with Dr. James Milgram’s ongoing critique of the standards since their development in 2009. Milgram, who serves as professor emeritus of mathematics at Stanford University, was one of five members of the 30-person Common Core validation committee who refused to sign on to the standards.

A Pioneer Institute report coauthored by Milgram detailed that, by seventh grade, Common Core mathematics standards leave American students two grade levels behind their peers internationally and do not prepare them for admission into highly selective four-year universities and STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics) programs.

“If you came to college with only an Algebra II background and you wanted to major in a STEM area, you have a 1/50 chance— a 2 percent chance— of ever obtaining a degree in STEM… This level of preparation is simply insufficient,” said Milgram.

According to Education Week, teachers also are struggling with how to teach to the Common Core math standards.

“Each standard has so many ideas built into it, you really have to sit down and think through all the implications of that,” said math teacher Bobson Wong. “I could easily make each of these courses a two-year course.”

And recently, reports surfaced that the Common Core architects left what some consider holes in the standards.

Richard A. Askey, a professor emeritus at the University of Wisconsin-Madison and former member of the math standards’ feedback group, later noticed an omission of a geometry standard in Common Core. In fact, according to Education Week, Askey said “the process toward the end was so hurried that an entire high school standard was left out of the final draft.”

“There’s no formal mechanism in place for a wholesale review of the common core, but it’s likely that states will—as they always have—review their standards at times and decide whether they need to be altered,” the Education Week article said.

When Common Core was created in 2009 by Achieve Inc., with oversight from the National Governors Association and the Council of Chief State School Officers, its adoption immediately was tied to federal incentives through billions in competitive grants and waivers from provisions in the No Child Left Behind law.

By 2010, 46 states had signed on to the standards and agreed to implement them fully by this school year. Over the last two years, states have begun to realize the costs of quickly signing on to Common Core. By 2015, 15 of the original 46 states that agreed to Common Core have made efforts to withdraw from the standards and aligned tests. Four exited the standards completely—Indiana, Oklahoma, South Carolina and Louisiana.

The haste of Common Core’s adoption is felt across the nation—but the extent is not yet realized. The alignment of college entrance exams, such as the SAT and ACT, and advanced placement courses cause concern over the “voluntary” nature of the standards.

Yet, there is still hope. Many states are putting forth measures to reclaim autonomy over their standards and are beginning to practice competitive federalism, thoughtfully considering their state standards, Common Core and other state standards to make a set of standards and tests that are best for their students’ college or career readiness.


‘Tebow’ laws may not be such a good idea

By their very name, the “Tim Tebow” bills increasingly winning favor with state legislatures imply there never would have been a Heisman-winning quarterback of that name for the University of Florida Gators had not the Sunshine State’s lawmakers passed a measure back in the 1990s letting home-schooled kids like Tebow play for public school teams.

The specter of potential Tebows being victimized and sidelined forever by denial of equal access for home-schoolers to government schooling’s perks has helped advocates in 30 states shatter this supposed barrier to shared athletic glory and potential riches. Virginia’s General Assembly recently became the latest to climb aboard the equal-access bandwagon.

This trend is troubling on several levels. One is the practical reality that home-schooled athletes don’t need free passage to public school sports in order to hone their athletic skills, meet NCAA requirements and win full-ride scholarships to play ball in college. In fact, the flexibility of their daily schedules can give them an advantage over enrolled student-athletes who have to sit in classrooms all day.

Examples abound of home-schooled athletes winning scholarships. Last month, a home school graduate from Georgia accepted a full scholarship from the U.S. Military Academy to be a punter on the Army team, according to Fox News 5 of Atlanta. John David Mote had played his high school football for the Georgia Force, a team of home-schooled kids from the metro area, before going on to Georgia Military College, a two-year institution.

Mote will become the fifth home-schooled athlete to play for Army.

Increasingly, private travel teams for sports such as soccer, baseball and track rival interscholastic competition as a way to snag Division I or Division II scholarships. In fact, in a March 11, 2011, Forbes article, youth sports expert Bob Cook ventured, “If you’re serious about a pro career or athletic scholarship, in most cases it’s your elite travel schedule, not how you did for your Podunk High against rival Bugtussle, that determines whether you’re noticed.” He told of a home-schooled girls’ basketball player who won a Division I scholarship without ever playing a minute of prep ball.

Granted, government schools have the edge in financing pricey team sports such as football. However, given extensive video documentation of speed, strength and agility, plus clinics, camps and networking opportunities to market athletic skills, it is hard to believe a Tim Tebow could fail to win the attention of recruiters even without having played prep ball. In addition, home school football squads now are expanding and are even competing against public school teams.

What is most worrisome about win-one-for-Tebow laws is the harm they could do to the academic excellence cultivated by home-schooling parents determined to teach their children free of statist controls.

It took decades of struggle for parents to secure this intellectual independence, sometimes after staring down the threat of prosecution. Now a strong, highly vocal contingent within the home-schooling movement is seeking special privileges for their children, sometimes not just sports and clubs but selected courses as well, in the very public schools the pioneers of home schooling wished to avoid.

This assertion of a home-schooling entitlement to public school perks will probably come at a price. Those coming over part-time from home schooling will have to submit their courses of study and test scores to official scrutiny. Sooner or later, political pressure will mount to bring all home schooling under intense tracking and regulation, jeopardizing this highly productive form of parental choice.

One of the great strengths of home schooling has been the ability of parents to do more with less. By creatively assembling a wide array of clubs, regular field trips and, yes, fitness and sporting activities for kids, they put the lie to critics’ claims that home-educated children would lack sufficient “socialization.” Now, however, the drive for Tebow laws suggests they need to be in the regulated cocoon after all. That’s a costly fumble.


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