A “Perfect Vision of Society” Via Centralization… Again
“While everyone recognizes the benefits of knowledge, there are those who misinterpret our collective advancement as an invitation to exert control over society, and to impose a centralized structure onto the masses of people doing their own things, working, living, and pursuing happiness in their own ways… But neither the historical record nor the teachings of economics have deterred those who think they can do better, and time and time again, would-be planners and technocrats emerge to try to implement their perfect vision of society. Historical examples include Vladimir Lenin and Woodrow Wilson. More recent examples include Cass Sunstein, whose book Nudge is all about how planners can subtly manipulate people into behaving the “right” way, as well as any number of scientifically-minded people who think that Big Data can solve all mankind’s problems.” (Logan Albright, The More We Know, the Less We Know) Indeed! This is what those in power are imposing on the people of Minnesota.
FEDERAL CONTROL: Once again, our Minnesota Legislature chooses to intentionally dance to the tune of the federal government, their private financiers and its manipulative centralized reform system leaving our schools, teachers and parents held hostage to this latest plan. While implementing academic points, snooping private-school ombudsmen, furthering Preschool for ALL, regulating federal testing, and replacing academics with social and emotional learning (SEL) are possibly new elements to many Minnesotans, the bulk of the ESSA has been hatched over the last 50 years. Inclusively, ESSA brings back favorites like Outcome-Based education, GOALS 2000, and School to Work, while at the same time, portions of the Minnesota World’s Best Workforce, embedded in the ESSA State Plan, harken back to No Child Left Behind. Outcome-Based is repackaged as Competency-Based education, also known as SEL. School to Work has been aptly renamed College and Career Ready Standards, that evil twin sister to the repugnant and unpopular “Common Core”. Each state “wrote” their “state plan” from an existing federal DOE template. The plans are hardly original in ideology and collectively aligned to the feds and every other state with small changes.
How did our local school districts become federalized? For four years, MACC has been writing about just this topic. Since 1970, federal funding escalated, flowing to state DOEs and state school districts. 1994 saw GOALS 2000 and flexible standards. The U.S. Department of Education remunerated groups like the The Center on Civics… which were directed to rewrite curriculum and revisioning history, government and civics, establishing a national curriculum with the help of textbook companies. The goal was to teach students that America is a democracy, not a constitutional republic, thereby teaching socialism as a better way. Socialism is Big Government and centralization of authority. Increasing funding in 2002, No Child Left Behind required the adoption of a common set of english and math standards correlated with achievement goals along, measured by standardized testing for federal accountability. With the accepted funding, all federal policies were required and our state laws were amended to federal. Thirdly, federally-funded colleges of education were required to prepare teachers under the flexible national standards and curriculum as well as new modes of teaching, namely collectivism and constructivism (no truth, no facts, construct your own reality). This tied teacher education and training firmly into the federal reforms. States then passed laws that only teachers prepared by colleges of education could be hired to teach in public schools. Lastly, the Common Core “State” Standards brought inflexible standards, copyrighted by federal lobbyist organizations, promoted and incentivized by the U.S. Department of Education and its like-minded financiers.
Consequently, centralized authority accumulated as state laws were overturned by federal and through the acceptance of federal funding. It is not a requirement for states to follow federal education policies. We, in Minnesota, have given our authority and sovereignty away. The states and the local school districts, by United States Constitution and Minnesota Constitution, still have the authority to say, “No!” to federal dollars and federal policies.
PROCESS: The ESSA State Plan was developed by the Minnesota Department of Education (MDE) and over 100 stakeholders. Those stakeholders appear to all swim in the same politically shaped fishbowl. http://education.state.mn.us/mdeprod/idcplg?IdcService=GET_FILE&dDocName=mde071837&RevisionSelectionMethod=latestReleased&Rendition=primary
Community meetings were also held in various parts of the state. Parents, teachers and citizens were given opportunity to offer concerns in hopes of amending our State Plan prior to federal submission. However, numerous parents voiced many concerns over (testing in particular), which apparently fell on deaf ears after the initial draft release. After the hearing testimony, it appears that testing was amended. Initial ESSA Draft Release, July 2017 http://www.senate.mn/committees/2017-2018/3091_Committee_on_E-12_Policy/Early%20Draft%20Minnesota%20State%20ESSA%20Plan%20for%20Legislative%20Review_July17%202017.pdf
Read the newest ESSA State Plan version.
STATE GOVERNMENT ACCOUNTABILITY: A legislative education committee was convened for a 2-hour hearing which included an MDE presentation of their plan and testimony from stakeholders and the public. The hearing occurred in mid-July 15 days prior to opening the draft for public comment. Authorizing the State Plan prior to a published draft via the Omnibus Education Bill, the legislature voted to pass the State Plan. Certainly, portions of the plan were in working stages and one could understand the intent, but the Plan had yet to be officially released. It was released two days prior to the legislative hearing. In other words, it appears the legislature voted to authorize the MDE plan before it was finished. Here is the language related to moving ahead with ESSA and aligning with World’s Best Workforce, from Sec. 53 of the Omnibus Education Bill, passed May 2017. https://www.revisor.mn.gov/statutes/?id=120B.11
COMMISSIONER OF EDUCATION MUST SUBMIT ESSA PLAN TO LEGISLATURE.
The commissioner of education must submit the state plan developed pursuant to the Elementary and Secondary Education Act of 1965, as amended by the Every Student Succeeds Act, United States Code, title 20, section 6311, to the education policy and finance committees of the legislature at least 30 days before submitting the plan to the United States Department of Education.
Alignment with World’s Best Workforce measures.
The state plan must be consistent and aligned, to the extent practicable, with the performance accountability measures required under Minnesota Statutes, section 120B.11, subdivision 1a, to create a single accountability system for all public schools.
This process seems to be quite out of order as the legislature relied completely on the MDE as a third party consultant. At the hearing, very few legislators questioned the plan with the exception of the Chair, Rep. Sondra Erickson, who was making notes to discuss with the MDE at a later date. We appreciate involvement and engagement from our legislators! Perhaps many of the legislators had never read the139 page plan due to the draft coming out only 2 days earlier. I believe many in Minnesota would prefer to see our legislature take a more hands-on approach, considering their Constitutional duty.
MINNESOTA CONSTITUTION: According to Article XIII of the Minnesota Constitution,
“Uniform System of Public Schools: The stability of a republican form of government depending mainly upon the intelligence of the people, it is the duty of the legislature to establish a general and uniform system of public schools. The legislature shall make such provisions by taxation or otherwise as will secure a thorough and efficient system of public schools throughout the state.” https://www.revisor.mn.gov/constitution/#article_14
What stands out in your mind as you read this Constitutional law, which our legislators are sworn to uphold? “Stability of republican form of government”? “Depending mainly upon the intelligence of the people”? “Establish general system of public schools”? Important to note, a nationalized education program is Socialist and MACC has certainly shown for years that the standards and curricular systems are inferior. As with any centralized system, the plan is heavily regulated and certainly not “general” which would give the majority of decisions to the local area.
STATE CONTROL: Minnesotans have another problem and we may be the only state in the nation. Not only has Minnesota’s legislature authorized the centralized education system but additionally authorized a state accountability structure to further control and regulate Minnesota schools and school boards. The Minnesota World’s Best Workforce, statute 120B.11, was passed in 2013 down party line, heavily DFL at the time. However, under Republican leadership, the accountability practices of the MWBW are now embedded into the ESSA plan to, “Create(s) a single accountability system for all public schools”.
The intrusive MWBW is the most local control-busting piece of legislation to hit our school districts. According to the ESSA State Plan, “the MWBW aligns budgets and decision-making to the overall state goals”. In other words, our state MDE will direct and lead each school district. That’s not local control! In the end, the feds took over the states through federal grants and policies adopted into state law. Then the state took over the school districts through same methodology, using federal and further state law, amending district policies to match. What some call school district “local control” is not the true local control that America once had.
Four years ago, MACC members across the state attended their local school district meetings to hear the first “school district accountability plan” for the MWBW and to protest giving up local authority to the state. That MWBW plan had been advanced through “stakeholders”, not necessarily the public. The MWBW was the former curriculum statute for Minnesota. Amended, in particular, was the complexion of the curriculum committee for each school. In the pre-2013 statute, a curriculum committee could be composed of teachers and parents for a particular school. But now that we have the cookie-cutter curriculum and standards in every school, curriculum committee members are invited, review for the entire district, meeting in large groups. Here is Statute 120B.11 entitled, “SCHOOL DISTRICT PROCESS FOR REVIEWING CURRICULUM, INSTRUCTION, AND STUDENT ACHIEVEMENT; STRIVING FOR THE WORLD’S BEST WORKFORCE”.
Statute 120B.11 Subd. 4. Site Team. “A school must establish a site team to develop and implement strategies and education effectiveness practices to improve instruction, curriculum, cultural competencies, including cultural awareness and cross-cultural communication, and student achievement at the school site, consistent with subdivision 2. The site team must include an equal number of teachers and administrators and at least one parent. The site team advises the board and the advisory committee about developing the annual budget and creates an instruction and curriculum improvement plan to align curriculum, assessment of student progress, and growth in meeting state and district academic standards and instruction.”
Historically, note the language of this same statute only 13 years prior, in 2000, and merely titled, “School District Process.”
“A district advisory committee, to the extent possible, shall reflect the diversity of the district and its learning sites, and shall include teachers, parents, support staff, pupils, and other community residents. The district may establish building teams as subcommittees of the district
advisory committee under subdivision 4. The district advisory committee shall recommend to the school board districtwide education standards, assessments, and program evaluations. Learning sites may expand upon district evaluations of instruction, curriculum, assessments, or programs. Whenever possible, parents and other community residents shall comprise at least two-thirds of advisory committee members.”
The 2000 version is much closer to “true local control”. The curriculum, instruction, assessment and program committee is gathered from the school district parents and community residents, all who reside in the district, pay taxes for that district and whose children are directly affected.
The 2013-2017 version of Statute 120B.11 is a great loss of local control. The bulk of the committee is made up by teachers and administrators, many who may not reside inside the school district. An administrator or teacher who is also a parent have been that “atleast one parent” invited to the committee, but might not reside in the district. Under MWBW language, there is the possibility that no one on the committee to discuss standards, assessments, curriculum, instruction, etc. might even reside in the district and be directly affected.
Now that we have established WHO is in charge, WHAT are the performance measures of the Minnesota World’s Best Workforce mentioned in Subdivision 2 above? The performance measures dictate to schools what they must do, at the very least, starting with data collection to measure various components to include academic achievement gap, rigorous course taking and enrichment experiences, performance on MCAs, graduation rates and college and career readiness. All of this requires lots and lots of testing.
“Subd. 1a.Performance measures.
Measures to determine school district and school site progress in striving to create the world’s best workforce must include at least:
(1) the size of the academic achievement gap, rigorous course taking under section 120B.35, subdivision 3, paragraph (c), clause (2), and enrichment experiences by student subgroup;
(2) student performance on the Minnesota Comprehensive Assessments;
(3) high school graduation rates; and
(4) career and college readiness under section 120B.30, subdivision 1.”
Where does that leave us? The ESSA Titles I, II, III, etc. are set as place holders within the grant. And all to promote a “perfect society” transforming students into their cookie-cutter visions. They frame all the questions and give the people a few answers from which to choose. This is not diversity or equity. (More to come on diversity, equity and cookie-cutter visions!)
Public commentary is now open until August 31st. This is our opportunity to be involved! The public comment link may be found here. http://www.surveygizmo.com/s3/3743085/Minnesota-Every-Student-Succeeds-Act-State-Plan-Public-Comment-Survey