Category Archives: Curriculum

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.

White House Announces Transition to Openly Licensed Education Resources for Schools

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White House Announces Transition to Openly Licensed Education Resources for Schools
 The White House announces the Federal Government is to *begin to model the transition to openly licensed educational materials at scale in U.S. K-12 schools. We look forward to engaging with the national and global community to identify opportunities for open licensing to accelerate educational equity for all learners regardless of their financial situations or geographic locations.* This is aligned to Article 26 of the United Nations Declaration of Human Rights.
Is this the move toward a national and/or international curriculum?  What could go wrong?
Reposted from Missouri Education Watchdog

Openly Licensed Educational Resources: Providing Equitable Access to Education for All Learners

by Gretchen Logue

Summary:  The Federal government is supporting the use of open educational resources to provide equitable access to quality education.

Everyone has the right to education…Education shall be directed to the full development of the human personality and to the strengthening of respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms. It shall promote understanding, tolerance and friendship among all nations, racial or religious groups, and shall further the activities of the United Nations for the maintenance of peace. —Article 26 of the United Nations Declaration of Human Rights

Access to quality education is an essential component of addressing many of our biggest global and societal challenges. Last year, the United Nations surveyed youth around the world about their priorities—what opportunities they want to be offered. More than improvements in electricity and infrastructure, healthcare, and better jobs, what young people asked for was a good education. It’s no surprise that young people value education. World Bank economists estimate that for every year of study, individual income increases by 10-15 percent. These increases don’t just affect individuals; they often generate a “ripple effect” of benefits to families and entire communities. Openly licensed learning resources, also known as open educational resources (OER), can increase access to high-quality education opportunities and reduce the cost of education around the world.

On September 28, the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy, U.S. Department of Education, and U.S. Department of State co-hosted an International Open Education Workshop, bringing together 40 civil society and foreign government participants from eight countries to examine existing open education efforts and identify opportunities for future collaboration between government and civil society. This workshop is one of several open education commitments made as part of the second U.S. Open Government Partnership National Action Plan.

At the workshop, participants shared examples of ways that openly licensed educational materials are being used to solve local education challenges around the world. For example, one participant shared open-source tools that enable offline access to openly licensed educational videos — technology that has supported education for Syrian refugees, inmates in U.S. correctional facilities, and over 2 million other learners from around the world. Open licenses grant anyone the rights to revise, remix, and redistribute these educational materials, so investments in content or tools made by one organization or government can be leveraged by other institutions and used in new ways.

Another participant, drawing on her recent experience serving as a Foreign Service Officer in the Balkans, noted the potential for openly licensed educational materials to honor local knowledge and information needs. In particular, she described how an open-source model could empower educators to collaborate on and adapt textbooks across local and international borders, retaining fundamental content while tailoring certain features, like names in math word problems, to reflect students’ ethnic diversity and culture.  Empowering local communities to adapt, translate, and create collections of learning materials that meet their information, learning, or language needs helps side-step assumptions and honor learners’ lived experiences.

Open education advances key national priorities, including supporting shared economic prosperity, strengthening civil society, and investing in human development. Over the next year, the U.S. Government will continue efforts to expand and accelerate the use and availability of openly licensed educational materials worldwide. In addition, we will begin to model the transition to openly licensed educational materials at scale in U.S. K-12 schools.  We look forward to engaging with the national and global community to identify opportunities for open licensing to accelerate educational equity for all learners regardless of their financial situations or geographic locations.

Richard Culatta is Director of the Office of Educational Technology at the U.S. Department of Education.

Sunshine Ison is Director of the ECA Collaboratory at the U.S. Department of State.

Nancy Weiss is Senior Advisor to the Chief Technology Officer at the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy.

Cradle to Grave Data System Includes Personally Identifiable Information (PII) on Children and Adults; Data Shared with National Data System

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Cradle to Grave Data System Includes Personally Identifiable Information (PII) on Children and Adults; Data Shared with National Data System

By:  Linda Bell

This is part 4 in our series on data, career pathways and workforce tracking in Minnesota informed by audio testimony given before the Minnesota Data Practices Commission hearing of December 2014.

As cited in the previous article, (https://commoncoremn.com/2015/09/14/minnesotas-data-practices-commission-meets-our-state-dystopian-data-system-novel-in-the-making/) the Hollywood movie, The Giver, foreshadows the current state of career pathways and necessity for data collection.  Art imitates life, as the edict goes, and Hollywood does a good job of that.  Much like Invasion of the Body Snatchers, which was about the communist Red Scare of the 1950s, The Giver, Divergent / Insurgent and The Hunger Games are windows into our current trajectory.  Overreaching governments and corporations are attempting, and succeeding, at controlling the lives and destinies of their citizens.

We introduced you last time to the Minnesota SLEDS (State Longitudinal Education Data System).  Here we’ll examine how the data is obtained and populated into the SLEDS as well as important testimony given before the Minnesota Data Practices Commission.

First, how are the data points obtained for the Minnesota SLEDS?

SLEDS student data originates at each public school and is sent to the Minnesota Department of Education (MDE) traveling on to Minnesota Office of Higher Education (OHE) and Minnesota Department of Employment and Economic Development (DEED).  All three agencies jointly manage the SLEDS and receive student data from the schools or colleges in compliance with state mandates. http://sleds.mn.gov/  Private Schools may request to have their student data populated into the SLEDS.  Data is entered into the system by teachers and parents.   Parents enter their children’s data through MDE-approved vendors, like Infinite Campus and Skyward.  These vendors send the information to the SLEDS.  This is a list of vendors certified by the Minnesota Department of Education to receive your child’s data in order to configure to a common format before reaching the SLEDS.  http://education.state.mn.us/MDE/SchSup/SchFin/MARSSStuAcc/Vendors/058135

The Minnesota SLEDS Charter, set up on April, 2010 states:

“In the 2008 Minnesota legislative session, lawmakers passed statutory language allowing the Minnesota Department of Education and the Minnesota Office of Higher Education to share data elements each currently collects for purposes of conducting research to answer questions in the vision for the Statewide Longitudinal Education Data System.” Here our Minnesota legislature compliantly followed federal law allowing state agencies to openly share data.   And to what purpose?

Chapter 298: Sec.2. M.S. 2006, section 13.32 Subd.11. was amended to provide for:

Data Sharing; improving instruction. The following educational data may be shared between the Department of Education and the Minnesota Office of Higher Education as authorized by the Code of Federal Regulations, title 34, section 99.31 (a)(6), to analyze instruction in school districts for purposes of improvement: (1)attendance data, including name of school or institution, school district, year or team of attendance, and term type: (2)student demographic and enrollment data; (3) academic performance and testing data; and (4) special academic services received by a student. Any analysis of or report on the data must contain only summary data.”  http://www.ohe.state.mn.us/pdf/MNEdSLEDSCharterApril2010.pdf

Additionally, the Minnesota Department of Employment and Economic Development (DEED), aka our Department of Labor, receives student data.   Alessia Leibert, labor market analysist at DEED stated:  Minnesota has two systems. A SLEDS longitudinal system and a Local Database hosted at the Department of Employment and Economic Development (DEED). Workforce program participant data are included in both systems, with the exception of Vocational Rehabilitation.  The DEED database is built on SQL Server 2012 and has a staging area and reporting capabilities.”  National Listening Session of the US Dept of Labor, WIOA Initiative. http://www.doleta.gov/performance/pdf/WDQIWIOA_ListeningSession_chatresponses.pdf

Ms. Leibert, in her own words, frames student data as “workforce program participant data”.

What is the process of populating the data points in the SLEDS?

Each student (Early Learning Three and Four Year Olds – 12) in a public school, private school that has signed up to submit student data or homeschooler who is openly enrolled in a public school course or public school online, like K-12 Connections, is issued a State Student Identification (SSID) Number.

The Student ID Validation System was initially created with error-free MARSS enrollment records that had been reported since Fiscal Year 1997The state student identifiers are then sent to the MARSS system.  http://education.state.mn.us/mdeprod/idcplg?IdcService=GET_FILE&dDocName=060426&RevisionSelectionMethod=latestReleased&Rendition=primary

All children receiving early learning scholarships must be assigned a statewide student identification number. The statewide student identification number is the mechanism for identifying children participating in Early Childhood Family Education, School Readiness and Early Learning Scholarships and is critical to the discussion around the alignment of preschool programs and funding to K-12 data.” These are three and four year olds.  ELSA SSID User Guide. http://education.state.mn.us/mdeprod/idcplg?IdcService=GET_FILE&dDocName=060426&RevisionSelectionMethod=latestReleased&Rendition=primary

 SSID data is sent to the Minnesota Automated Reporting Student System.

“The Minnesota Automated Reporting Student System (MARSS) collects student data required by more than one area of the Minnesota Department of Education (MDE) via one system. Minnesota Automated Reporting Student Web Edit System (MWES) is the system used to gather Minnesota districts information.”

This crucial data is the primary data Minnesota Department of Education uses to make payment of funds to local school districts. Data collected by MARSS are used for a variety of purposes, including state aid and levy calculations, federal grant allocations, federal and state civil rights reporting, unduplicated child count, and National Center for Education Statistics (NCES).”  Student ID Validation User Guide for Minnesota. http://education.state.mn.us/mdeprod/idcplg?IdcService=GET_FILE&dDocName=022337&RevisionSelectionMethod=latestReleased&Rendition=primary

The National Center for Education Statistics (NCES), a federal database, also receives our children’s data.  This now proves that Minnesota children have data collected on them within district, sent to a state data warehouse as well as a federal data warehouse.  Was this information ever disclosed to you?  As a parent, were you ever asked to have your children’s data taken and sent far, far away?  Where else is the data sent?

What is “the vision of the SLEDS” and the very reason for their existence?

According to testimony given by Meredith Fergus, administrative lead for the SLEDS, of the SLEDS/Office of Higher Education, before the Data Practices Commission,

The vision of the SLEDS is to assist in identifying viable pathways for individuals in achieving success for education and work.  Four measurements are used:

  1. Predictors of long term individual success
  2. Designing targeted improvement strategies
  3. Improving data-driving decision making
  4. Meeting our federal funding requirements

When we accepted federal funding under the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (Stimulus Bill, 2009), we also had federal funding requirements to fulfill.”  Testimony from the Office of Higher Education is linked at the end of the article.

TRANSLATION: The SLEDS exist to ASSIST young people with identifying “viable” career pathways, utilizing targeted improvement strategies (testing and survey credentials) for their “long term individual success”!  This is the meaning of data-driven decision making.  Whether we realize it or not, no longer are 8th graders in consultation with their parents, in the decision making role.  A student’s “data” is informing the decision and there will be plenty of it! And lastly, the SLEDS management must first and foremost meet federal funding requirements (read “policies”).  In other words, compliancy to federal policies is much more important than transparency with the people of Minnesota.

Once a teen/pre-teen’s career pathway is confirmed, will their high school curriculum be amended to a narrow academic path?  Will the student be enrolled on an academic path or a skills-only path?  Middle schoolers and parents know themselves so much better than 3rd party tests and surveys recommended and sometimes mandated by schools and homeschool co-ops with the backing of the state/federal government.

What else is collected for the SLEDS?  Ms. Meredith Fergus, administrative lead for the SLEDS, Office of Higher Education, a cabinet-level state agency, remarks in her testimony before the Minnesota Data Practices Commission on December 2014:

Of course as always with any state agency reports, public information is summary data (only contains summary data).  This is the data that’s currently included in the SLEDS.  So from the Minnesota Department of Education, we do include information that they already have on K-12 enrollment assessments.  We purchase results of the ACT exam, Advanced Placement and International Baccalaureate exams.  We do include information for adult basic education students.  We do include information from the Kindergarten readiness sample as well as early childhood education for those programs affiliated with Minnesota Department of Education, Career and Technical Education information and staffing information.”

             “From the Minnesota Office of Higher Education we include post-secondary enrollments and completions from all public and private institutions in the state of Minnesota.  And that is mandated data collection affiliated with state received financial aid.  We also include form the US Department of Education, OHE office, institutional characteristics that is information about colleges in Minnesota.  From the Department of Economic Development, we do include the unemployment insurance detail records, a limited set of employer details and workforce training participant data.  In addition from Pearson we purchase results of those who pass the GED and those who are Minnesota residents as well as Minnesota public high school graduates who enroll out of state.  Their enrollments and completion information is from the National Student Clearinghouse.

Ms. Fergus states that data collected by the SLEDS is collected in the form of summary data.  However, Data Practices Commission chair, Representative Mary Liz Holberg, delves a bit deeper to find the personally identifiable information in the SLEDS.  A link at the conclusion of the article will take you to the hearing itself.

Mary Liz Holberg: Question:  “Are you linking individual unemployment figures with social security numbers with unemployment?  What data are you getting from DEEDS specifically?”

Meredith Fergus, “We get the unemployment insurance detail records which does include the employees’ first name, last name, and social security numbers. ”

Mary Liz Holberg: “And so you hold social security numbers in your SLEDS data as well?”

Meredith Fergus: “Correct!  Social security numbers are also a part of the OHE data collection.”

28:58 – Mary Liz Holberg: “So help me out here! Going back to… You list all these… We’re talking about pre-school programs etc. – Are we moving toward a position where an individual’s entire educational history ends up in some government database? Umm . . . I was a little surprised by the pre-school stuff, so help a non-education person understand why we would want to, in my vernacular, track students?”

29:38 –  Meredith Fergus:  Madam Chair:” We do!  SLEDS data will contain the entire educational history of an individual to the extent that we can link that information across the system.”

30:32 – Mary Liz Holberg: “So, how do you stay out of the system if you are a parent and you don’t want your child’s information?  How would you even know that the state is?  Again using my term, tracking your student for research purposes?”

30:51 – Meredith Fergus:   “Madam Chair, this is probably one of the areas we’ve struggled with the most. Most of the data that’s collected at MDE and OHE is state mandated data collection, so we do not allow the opt-out for students and parents. . . . So, for a student who opts out at even the college level to share their data it is still transmitted to the OHE.”

38:57 –  Mary Liz Holberg: “I’m still struggling with some components of this. If somebody goes in and files for unemployment, do you – how – does DEED push that data to you or do you request it only on a limited set of individuals or how is the?   I mean, education data is one thing. Where you’re working?  How much you’re being paid?  If you’re on unemployment? I mean, that just seems – you know, it’s a big step!!!  So, how does the data subject know? Or even do they?  Do you only collect those that you tag or are you getting all of the unemployment and wage data from DEED and then sorting it?”

39:47  Meredith Fergus: Madam Chair:  “We actually receive the quarterly wage detail records, so we don’t receive information on unemployment insurance benefit recipients. That is the one thing. We do receive the quarterly wage records which is the data on all employees in all companies subject to unemployment insurance. The entire data file is loaded into SLEDS. There’s no filtering done. So it is all workers in Minnesota subject to UI. And that is under the new statutory authority that was granted two years ago.”

40:20 – Mary Liz Holbert: “See, I missed that!  So you’re telling me that every single worker in the state of Minnesota that works for a company that is subject to unemployment insurance, their social security numbers and names are in the SLEDS data?”

40:36 –   Meredith Fergus: “Correct, Madam Chair.”

40:38 – Mary Liz Holberg: “Wow! That doesn’t make me feel very good. I don’t know about you across this table.”

 Thanks to the many researchers who helped with the testimony transcript.  Find the testimony in its entirety here.  http://www.lcc.leg.mn/lcdp/audio/20141217.MP3

In conclusion, it should be noted that NO Minnesotan asked to have their children’s data stolen.  Not one parent!  This has been first and foremost a measure of coercive grants by the federal government in their “well-meaning way” to know what each and every citizen is doing at each and every moment.  This ideology translates into “education” tracking and career steering children, from prenatal to the workforce, and then beyond throughout their entire lives.  Can this really be happening in America, a country based on the principles of freedom?  We see that it is!

If you are concerned about this lack of transparency and failure to properly disclose to parents concerning the removal children’s data, please join us at MACC .  Our school districts and school boards, MDE approved vendors and the MDE itself have failed parents and citizens by not securing parental permissions for these data programs.   MACC works at the grassroot and legislative levels.   We need YOUR help!