Category Archives: College & Career Ready Standards

MACC CALL TO ACTION! ESSA Federal Grant Hearing

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MACC CALL TO ACTION: ESSA Federal Grant Hearing

MDE’s DANGEROUS STATE PLAN for ESSA Act FEDERAL GRANT
LEGISLATIVE COMMITTEE HEARING
Wednesday, July 19, 2017, 1:00 – 3:00pm, Room 5, State Office Building, St. Paul

NOW: Email House Education Committee Chairs:
Rep. Sondra Erickson rep.sondra.erickson@house.mn
Sen. Eric Pratt sen.eric.pratt@senate.mn

Tell them “NO” to the “MCA student failure labeling” when parents refuse the federally-aligned tests.

Opting out is a parent’s prerogative to protest the adoption of federalized standards, curriculum, data collection and aligned testing. To mandate the federal tests for ALL students is to close the FINAL DOOR ON LOCAL CONTROL, thus federalizing our Minnesota schools and contradicting our own state law.  Opting out of federal testing and/or curriculum remains a parent’s right!

When the No Child Left Behind Waiver, Race to the Top K-12 and Race to the Top – Early Learning Challenge federal grants were submitted in 2010 and 2011, we at MACC had not yet understood the dangers inherent in these federal regulations. Our limited actions in 2013 involved reading the federal law/grant applications and corresponding changes in state law, as well as, listening to archived deliberations of the legislative committee. We now have a great opportunity!!!

NEXT WEDNESDAY, a legislative committee from the House and Senate will convene to review, hear testimony and adopt the MDE State Plan for the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA). The ESSA is another federal set of intrusive regulations from the already burgeoning Elementary and Secondary Education Act of 1965, which contains over 1,000 pages. Many of us attended the MDE ESSA public meetings and met like-minded individuals with similar concerns. Unfortunately, our and many others’ input fell on deaf ears. The MDE did not embed public input into our state plan.   This time, the legislature is in charge of looking over the plan prior to adoption and submission to the feds.

At issue: Linking MCA Federal-Accountability Testing (which aligns to the federal standards and international curriculum) to student proficiency. Students will now receive points for exceeding, meeting or partially meeting proficiency. What’s new? If parents opt their kids out of testing, the student will receive no points and declared, “not proficient”. What will the labeling and consequences of “not proficient” mean for some of our highest-achieving students whose families annually choose to opt out.
Why is MACC concerned with the MCA testing and the ability to opt out?
1. The federal accountability testing (MCA for Minnesota) is the last nail in the coffin to fully realize a federalized education program for America. A federalized education program is unlawful, unconstitutional and leads us down that road where “the state” is the final authorizer and arbiter of educating and raising children.

2. By adopting the ESSA testing refusal point system failure-rating, Minnesota laws will now sanction and penalize parental voice. Only those approved parental voices who compliantly praise the federal testing program will be allowed.

3. By adopting the ESSA, Minnesota will be fully adopting all the federalized standards, including the Common Core standards and College-and-Career Ready Standards for English and Math. These standards are fully embedded in ESSA, unless the MDE has an exception for Math, as well as the next iteration, Competency-Based Education, the online-only option for schools. The ESSA federal tests align to these federal standards.

4. The online education companies are run by 3rd-party corporate entities from far, far away. This move will “lock down” testing, as well as remove parental engagement regarding standards, curriculum and aligned testing.

5. The MCAs tests align with the 3rd-party corporate national curriculum.

6. The Minnesota statute 120B.11 (Minnesota’s World’s Best Workforce) has already diminished a parent’s role in curricular engagement through mandating huge 30-member curriculum teams which heretofore were intimate curriculum meetings between a few teachers and parents.
7. Testing is in fact a part of curriculum. Testing is curriculum. Curricular decisions to review and opt out, found in Minnesota Statute 120B.20 will be diminished if not annulled.

8. Further reason that Minnesota parents may want to opt their children out of MCAs is that the MCA’s are a Pearson product. Pearson states directly on their website that they align with the United Nations Sustainability Development Goals. This alignment structures and embeds international curriculum and testing content into Minnesota school curriculum and tests.   Pearson represents neither local control or parental rights.
This is just how dangerous removing that last bit of local control and parental authority over testing and curriculum will be! MACC invites you to reach out and contact Rep Sondra Erickson and Senator Eric Pratt, Committee Chairs for the ESSA Plan Hearing, at your earlier convenience. Consider contacting your personal representative and senator. A quick email from each of us will make a dramatic impact.
Thank you in advance for advocating for Minnesota’s children!

 

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Recess Stifling Childhood Creativity? School Playgrounds for Hire: What Happened to Free Play at School and Is Adult-Directed

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Recess Stifling Childhood Creativity? School Playgrounds for Hire: What Happened to Free Play at School and Is Adult-Directed

By:  Anne Taylor

In October of 2015 school playgrounds and “Playgrounds For Hire” became the topic of numerous news articles.  This subject made waves because parents in the city of Minneapolis had to petition to have recess brought back to their elementary school.

Yes, PARENTS HAD TO PETITION that recess be brought back to Minneapolis public elementary schools.

In an interview with TC Daily Planet last winter, a Minneapolis public school teacher commented “I would like to see more recess because studies show that more play time makes kids more attentive. It is hard for them to stay focused without play or movement. In fact, it leads to more behavior problems.”

The American Academy of Pediatrics agrees calling recess “a crucial and necessary component of a child’s development.”  Simply put, studies show recess offers children important cognitive, social, emotional, and physical benefits, yet many schools continue to cut down on breaks to squeeze in more lessons, which may be counterproductive, it warns.

For years now we’ve been hearing more and more how recess is being taken away from our children in school.  While many of us remember having recess through 8th grade, children today don’t experience this much needed and necessary play beyond pre-school.  Recess is being cut for a myriad of reasons, from an increase in standardized testing and cut-throat academics, (including those in grades K-4th grade) to punishment for bad behavior and even low grades.

A parent reported that one affluent middle school in the western suburbs tried revoking recess to students if they had missing assignments and/or grades that fell below a “C.”  Students in this middle school were only offered time outside on alternating days and was dependent upon outside weather.  Which in our state, translates to May or possibly June.  Following lunch, students are sent back to their classrooms and given an opportunity to finish homework, play games, watch a movie, check-in on their iPhones (ie: social media) or chat among friends.  As one student puts it, “It’s like a prison not being able to go outside all day.”

In October 2015, an Edina, Minnesota school piqued the interest of many on the usage of playground “recess consultants” to the tune of up to $30,000 in the name of making kids’ playtime “more inclusive.”

According to the Minneapolis Star Tribune “Playworks” consultants organize recess-time activities, such as foursquare and jump rope, that are “overseen by adults and designed to reduce disciplinary problems while ensuring no children are left out.”

“Playworks” is currently operating in over 20 areas across the state of Minnesota.  This includes contracts for hire by a number of school districts, as well as providing services to youth organizations such as the YMCA of Greater Twin Cities and Hennepin County Human Services and Public Health.  According to an article in the National Review, with “the constant correction and micromanaging of kids’ social interactions, Playworks effectively turns the playground into the principal’s office — which would definitely result in fewer reasons to go.”

Many have argued that there are already adult staff and parent volunteers on the playground that monitor recess, so why burden school districts with such micromanagement and added cost?  Has our view of recess changed?

In the Orono school district, a playground program dubbed “Recess Rocks” teams up with teachers, parent and grandparent volunteers to monitor kids’ behaviors at recess.  The focus is on acts of kindness on the playground (such as reward stickers) for good behavior.  They also offer what they call a “buddy bench” should a student have no one to play with allowing other children the opportunity to come forward to play with a student.

While many like the idea of encouraging parent/family involvement at their school, some have concerns.  One parent states, “We expect our kids to act a certain way and they do not get rewarded when they do.”  Another responds, “Crazy.  Recess is not recess if it’s structured by adults.”

In Minnesota, several charter schools are working with the organization LiiNK Project, another 3rd party business.  Recently, LiiNK Project has received notoriety for increasing an academic-focused recess plan for its positive results in a Texas elementary school for having increased academic-focused recess play, while doing so multiple times throughout the day.  While the school claims to have seen positive academic results and less behavior problems, when did it become the schools motto to become character developers and under who’s list of regulations?

Once again, we are seeing the intrusion of such play where even that has a cost of freedom while outside of the classroom, leaving more opportunity for both ‘mining’ and ‘minding’ the behaviors of child on a playground.

I think we can all agree that there are some behaviors that are simply not tolerable – both verbal and physical.  But being told that hearing phrases like “you’re out!” is hurting kids?  How far have we gone?  Isn’t that the nature of sports and learning not everything in life IS fair?

The theory of imaginative, unstructured play can be found extensively in Waldorf education where unstructured recess play is undoubtedly a necessity.  According to Seacoast Waldorf School in Maine, ”Today, the average American child spends just four to seven minutes in unstructured outdoor play each day…Four to seven minutes. That’s just 23 to 42 hours a YEAR (out of an average of more than 4300 waking hours, translating to less than 1% of a child’s ‘awake time’ being spent outdoors!).”

Pediatric occupational therapist Angela Hanscom and author of the nonfiction book “Balanced and Barefoot” writes her discovery that by decreasing “children’s time and space to move and play outdoors, we are seeing a simultaneous rise in the number of children that are presenting with sensory deficits. The number of children that now need occupational therapy services to treat their sensory systems is on the rise.”

She goes on to say that “…less time outdoors on a regular basis, more and more children are walking around with underdeveloped vestibular (balance) systems. In other words, they have decreased body awareness and sense of space. Teachers are reporting that children are falling out of their seats in school, running into one another, pushing with more force during games of tag, and are generally clumsier than in years past. In fact, the more we restrict and coddle our children, the more unsafe they become.”

With Minnesota weather ebbing and flowing in varying degrees from muddy, cool springs to harsh temperatures for weeks on end in the teens and below zero, we might want to take in to account that even for famed ‘outdoorsman families,’ children still need time away from the confines of a concrete classroom setting with free and unstructured play during ALL seasons.

One wonders why consulting companies are trying to reinvent the wheel on the theory of play during recess.  The only goal then would be to monitor social, emotional learning and character while on a playground on school time.  A place that was once known as a sanctuary to children of all backgrounds, somewhere along the lines a group of ‘experts’ decided 3rd party  companies could be up for hire to take over the very basics of childhood pedagogy:  The freedom to just ‘be.’  Play now must come with monetary rewards.  After all, the Common Core thread is about creating successful human capital (money, money, money, money) within limited parameters, and once again, a one-size-fits-all approach now follows children to the playground and beyond.

Minnesota Teachers Reassure on Opt Outs!

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Minnesota Teachers Reassure on Opt Outs!

By:  JMLmom

We hear stories about parents having trouble when it comes to opting their children out of testing.  I’d like to share a story of cooperation and understanding regarding a parent’s choice to opt out of testing, surveys as well as homework assignments outside the scope of our family values.

Yesterday, I got a letter from a parent in a Minnesota school district and I have to say that it was so deeply encouraging and uplifting. This parent asked us not to disclose her name or the school district, so we will not disclose that information. However, the information that we want to share is that teachers are being supportive and thankful for parents who opt out their children.

At my oldest child’s parent-teacher conference, I spoke with her English teacher about opting my child out of these tests. Her teacher said he is frustrated because he isn’t able to teach the way he feels the children need. You have to move through everything so fast, some children are left behind. He said he is very frustrated and feels that this testing is a waste of time and money. The teachers I have talked to about this feel the same way, but their hands are tied.

When I submitted my opt out letters on behalf of my children, I was nervous how the letters would be received. I soon received my answer. One of the teachers sent me this letter:

Dear xxxx,

In my opinion, the letter you submitted regarding testing is outstanding! Thank you for sending it and thank you for your constructive words about your reasons.

I will file this with the testing coordinator this week, and I will keep a copy in my file in case any concerns arise.

Thanks,

M Teacher

And then another message from another teacher,

Thanks so much for the eloquently written letter you sent on behalf of “X” opting out of testing. Nicely stated.

Thanks

K Teacher

Each of the teachers were very supportive.   It was great to see us all come together and agree on something so important. Just knowing that my children’s teachers are supportive of my choice, makes me feel more at ease. My advice to everyone would be to have this conversation with your children’s teachers. Let them know that your decision has no reflection on them as a teacher but is more so about your child and the over the continuous testing mandates.

For more information about Opting Out, see our tab “Refuse the Tests” at http://www.MNagainstCC.com or on our facebook page, Minnesota Against Common Core and Refuse the Tests.

College Students Question the “Safety” of SafeConnect

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College Students Question the “Safety” of SafeConnect

SafeConnect, owned by Impulse Point, LLC is a university network system utilized across the nation and in Minnesota.  In order for students to connect to the internet while on campus, students log on to the SafeConnect system.   So what’s the problem?

In working with SafeConnect, students are reporting that the system gives full administrative control over a student’s personal computer to software developed by a company called Impulse Point.  This means that Impulse Point, if prompted by government, could covertly and remotely turn on a student’s webcam, access all documents and files on a student’s computer, and modify or delete any piece of information on the student’s computer.  Although Impulse Point claims not to be used for these purposes, the fact that it has the capability to take these actions should be concerning, particularly in light of published Snowden documents.

Impulse Point runs additional programs like Identity Connect.  http://www.impulse.com/identityconnect/  Impulse Point appears as a “TierOne Partner” with VistaOne.  https://www.vistaone.com/amx/impulse-point-safeconnect/  VistaOne has a number of partner companies including Riverbed, Palo Alto, Procera,  and Synergy.  https://www.vistaone.com/amx/tierone-partners/

Students and professors across the US are beginning to look into programs, such as Cisco Clean Access, SafeConnect and others.   These companies are employed by universities to satisfy the legislative mandates of securing a private network for their college.

In 2004, all universities in the United States were required to maintain a private Internet network under the Communications Assistance for Law Enforcement Act.   Additionally, the Higher Education Opportunity Act of 2008 set forth guidelines making it necessary for all schools to “combat unauthorized distribution of copyrighted materials via illegal downloading or peer-to-peer distribution of intellectual property,” as a condition of obtaining Federal Pell Grants for students and participating in other federal financial aid programs.  http://www2.ed.gov/policy/highered/leg/hea08/index.html

To understand the scope of colleges and universities using SafeConnect within the last three years, the following schools came up on a simple search within that time frame:  Inver Grove Heights Community College, MN; Augsburg College, Minneapolis; Coastal California University, Yeshiva University, NYC; Sacramento State; University of New Haven; University of Nebraska-Lincoln, La Salle University, University of California – San Diego and Santa Cruz; University of Missouri – Kansas City; Presbyterian College, SC; University of North Florida, American University, Georgetown University, University of North Dakota, and Boston University are using SafeConnect to secure private network and fulfill legislative mandates.  No doubt there are many other colleges who employ SafeConnect.

According to the SafeConnect site, “SafeConnect acts as a gatekeeper to the university’s Internet network.  Any user who tries to access the New School network must first pass a security check — a log-in page asking for the user’s New School ID.   Network access controls allow large networks that serve many users and devices to set rules about who can and cannot log on. Before SafeConnect green-lights a user onto the information super-highway, the program runs a check to see if his or her device has installed current anti-virus software or up-to-date security patches.”

The New School Network, New York City.  http://www.newschool.edu/information-technology/wireless-network/

Recently, students at Augsburg College in Minneapolis authored a petition against SafeConnect, a university internet network system utilized in universities across the nation and in Minnesota.

SafeConnect Petition

Students of Augsburg Against SafeConnect  state that SafeConnect is a program that runs at full administrative privileges, under the SYSTEM account, meaning it can do anything the operating system can do.  Students and faculty have signed the petition.

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SafeConnect 2

SafeConnect 3

SafeConnect 4In In In       “Safe”Connect Part II:  We’ll take a look a closer look at how the program actually works and remotely takes over one’s computer.

SafeConnect appears to be a program designed for covert remote access to a student’s personal computer.  Should universities and colleges be able to install spyware/remote access tools on a student’s personal computer?   Students have a right to privacy regarding their own personal property and particularly in a university setting where many students live on campus.  
Students, Take Note!