Monday, August 30, 2010

The Death of Truth

by Dissonant Hermit

Today there is much talk, especially in schools, about how can we trust the tons of information that exists in society today. Hours upon hours are spent discussing validity and reliability of information. Pages of text are being published every day on the topic of trusting information sources and evaluating right from wrong. In schools, the debates rage on about what sources schools can or should use and which should not be allowed. Interestingly enough, there are schools that block sites strictly because individuals locally have deemed the site “too untrustworthy for students to use” (Wikipedia anyone?)  Many fret over a perceived dilemma that with increased access to information, our children need even more skills to determine the worth and validity of that information. This anxiety is completely misplaced. Instead of concentrating on increased access, too many resources or any perceived need for more accurate information, we should be in uproar about the almost complete collapse of inquiry, discovery and discussion in our institutions and lack of family structures that support learning!...

The rest of this article is posted at the following blog. Please read it all before adding your thoughts to this post.

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Common Core State Standards, Common Core, and Partnership for 21st Century Learning

This past week my colleagues pointed me to a Video about a new initiative in New Brunswick, Canada, which uses the Partnership of 21st Learning framework.

Pearson Foundation created this next video to describe the approach.

Maine joined the Partnership in 2007. The Stategic Council members can be found here. Note that Microsoft is one of them and that Pearson is a major influence.

Okay, now it starts to get interesting. This week Common Core, an organization not to be confused with the Common Core State Standards group, although Fordham Foundation seems to be connected with both, has issued the Common Core Curriculum Maps which are based on the new CCSS.  Find the donors here. Note that Gates Foundation is a major contributor.

Now it starts to get very, very interesting.  It seems that Common Core has been slamming the Partnership for 21st Skills for the past year, bringing out lots of big guns, including Diane Ravitch and a number of well-known commentators who seem to support a more classical education.

Interesting stuff . . . the culture wars continue, but Gates/Microsoft and Pearson seem to be supporting both sides.

New Brunswick seems to have sided with the P21 approachWhat should Maine do?

Any thoughts?  Which approach do you prefer?  Or is there a middle ground?

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Midcoast Maine Homeschool Center

By Pam Kenney

About 5000 Maine children in kindergarten through the twelfth grade were homeschooled during the 2009-10 school year. That's more than 2.5% of the state's school-age population and a 41% increase since 2002-03. It's likely homeschool numbers will continue to swell. Traditionally parents have chosen to teach their children at home for three primary, yet very different, reasons: a desire to provide religious instruction, concerns about the traditional school environment (safety, drugs, bullying, e.g.), and dissatisfaction with the academic instruction provided by public schools. Add to that mix educational constraints like George W. Bush's "No Child Left Behind" legislation, President Obama's "Race to the Top" incentives, and the new Common Core State Standards in Mathematics and English Language Arts, and it's clear why many families have decided to go it alone.

The good news is that Maine homeschoolers now have a place of their own where "families of all spiritual backgrounds and homeschool philosophies" can congregate within a supportive environment to learn and have fun together. The new Midcoast Maine Homeschool Center, located in the Grace Episcopal Church in Bath, is the brainchild of four local homeschool moms. It opens its doors on Wednesday, September 8th, and offers classes for elementary and middle school students in literature, computer skills, art history, sewing, and others. One-to-one and group tutoring and classes like multi-cultural literature and college writing for teens and book making will be offered on Thursdays starting in October. Fridays are set aside for field trips and other specialty classes . Plans are in the works for programs for parents and preschoolers and additional classes for teenagers.

The Midcoast Maine Homeschool Center will hold an open house:

Wednesday, September 1st, from 10 a.m. to noon
Grace Episcopal Church
1100 Washington Street
Bath, Maine 04530

At the open house you can meet director, Susan Hyde, the teachers, learn more about the center, and register for fall classes. Children are welcome to attend.

For more information about the Midcoast Maine Homeschool Center, contact Susan Hyde at

Thursday, August 12, 2010

In Praise of RSU #10 Computer Technical Staff

Very often Maine school technology technical staff don't get the respect they deserve.  It can be a very frustrating job, with last-minute requests and demands that are constantly arising.  Knowing that, I have to say what a delight it is to see the RSU10 technical staff in action.  Not only do they have impressive technical skills, but more importantly, they have outstanding people skills.  As part of my job as the Western Maine Learning & Technology Mentor, I have experienced the friendly and helpful people who make all the difference in making technology integration work well.  RSU10 could very well serve as an excellent example of this work done right.  Every year during the Summer Technology Institute I can't help but be awed by the graciousness and patience practiced by this group.  One more time, I would like to say "Thank You!"

Friday, August 6, 2010

Summertime and Net Neutrality

"Summertime and the Livin' is Easy" ~ Porgy & Bess

It's summertime and our guard is down. What better time for something to be slipped by us! Is that what is happening regarding the issue of network neutrality?  The issue, in a nutshell, is whether the Net remains democratic in the sense that there is equal access and equal opportunity to write to it.

Who will control information?

Save the Internet: Google, "Don't Be Evil"
Al Franken at CNN:  Net Neutrality Is the Foremost Free Speech of Our Time
PC World:  End of Net Neutrality Negotiations Good News for Internet
CNET: Politics and Law: Are We Edging to Neutrality Detente?
Washington Post:  "What's Next for FCC on Net Neutrality?"
Google Accused of Betraying Internet Golden Rule in Net Neutrality Row
CNET: Google's Schmidt on Verizon and Net Neutrality

What do you think?

Thursday, August 5, 2010

Common Core State Standards Implementation

Let's face it, for better or worse, the CCSS is a done deal. ACHIEVE - the architect of this document with financial support of large foundations, universities,  corporations, including testing and publishing companies, and with the support of the National Governors Association and Council of Chief State School Officers  - has issued a toolbox for implementation called On the Road to Implementation.

Race to the Top grants require CCSS, and there are rumors that the feds might tie Title 1 money to it as well.  What is said to be voluntary, in the real world of tight fiscal times, is clearly not.  Most states have now come on board along with making major changes in law and policy.  And with some greasing of pockets, organizations such as NEA, NFT, ASCD and the PTA have come on board as well.

This was very much a top-down creation with very little real input at the grassroots level or even by national curriculum organizations such as NCTE or NCTM.

Most readers of this blog should know my view on this development by now.  I'm very concerned for at least three reasons.

First, I believe President Dwight Eisenhower's observation has great merit.
"A distinguishing characteristic of our nation — and a great strength — is the development of our institutions within the concept of individual worth and dignity. Our schools are among the guardians of that principle. Consequently . . . and deliberately their control and support throughout our history have been — and are — a state and local responsibility. . . . Thus was established a fundamental element of the American public school system — local direction by boards of education responsible immediately to the parents of children. Diffusion of authority among tens of thousands of school districts is a safeguard against centralized control and abuse of the educational system that must be maintained. We believe that to take away the responsibility of communities and states in educating our children is to undermine not only a basic element of our freedoms but a basic right of our citizens. "
I simply don't believe schools controlled by large corporations is in the best interest of democracy.  And don't make any mistake about it, this control is reaching a new level of magnitude.

Second, I worry about the type of pedagogy that will be encouraged with the soon-to-be-developed assessments.  I've seen the glitzy content management systems being hawked  in the vendor areas of state and national conferences.  Already, powerful interests are aligning their products with the CCSS. Do we really want learning to be a teacher-in-a-box?  It seems to me that there is a great danger that the connections that develop when students are engaged in real life problems in project-based learning will take a big hit if so much importance is given to standardization.

Third, I would argue that standardization is not really the issue.  The issue is poverty and income disparity in the United States. 

Okay, that's where I stand . . . . but being resigned to the reality, I've created a new wiki (currently under construction) called Learning in America at in order to index open educational resources to the new standards. If we must have national standardization, then we should at least not become enslaved to large oligopolistic educational publishing outfits.  Let's open up the possibilities of local decision making in the methods and resources we use.

What do you think?

On the Road to Implementation: Achieving the Promise of Common Core Standards

Education Week: Common Standards:  Moving from Adoption to Implementation

Audio Overview

NCEE, Pearson, RttT, CCSS, USED & Gates

The Ascent of America's Choice and the Continuing Descent of America's High Schools  ~ Sandra Stotsky

Monday, August 2, 2010

Should Maine Adopt CCSS?

 MPBN: "New Learning Standards in the Works for Maine Students"

Proposed Rule Change for Adoption of Common Core Standards
To: Superintendents of Schools
From: Angela Faherty Ph.D, Acting Commissioner
Date: August 2, 2010
RE: Proposed Rule Change for Adoption of Common Core Standards

The Department of Education is proposing an amendment to Chapter 131: The Maine Federal, State and Local Accountability Standards, a Major Substantive Rule of the Department of Education to include the Common Core State Standards in English language arts and mathematics for kindergarten to grade 12, with implementation to begin in 2012-13.

The proposed change is being made pursuant to PL 2009, Chapter 647, which revised state statute to permit Maine’s standards to include a core of standards in English language arts and mathematics for kindergarten to grade 12 established in common with other states and authorized the Commissioner of Education to adopt them, pending final approval by the Legislature.

Maine has a long history as a leader in rigorous standards and assessments and the adoption of the Common Core standards for English language arts and mathematics is the next logical step. The Maine Learning Results standards were first adopted in 1997 and later revised and re-adopted in 2007, each with significant statewide educator involvement and input. A similar process was used in the development of the Common Core standards. Maine educators and Maine Department of Education staff participated significantly in the development and review of the Common Core Standards. We have made clear that Maine would not adopt any standards that are less rigorous than the ones already in place. As a Department we are confident that the Common Core Standards will reflect what students need for success in post-secondary education and careers.

The proposed rule was filed today, August 2, 2010. The Secretary of State will post the rulemaking notice on August 11, 2010. The Department will hold a public hearing on August 30, 2010 in room 500 of the Cross State Office Building from 10 a.m. to 12 noon. The public comment period will begin on August 11 and end on September 10, 2010.

The proposed amendments are available on line at: . Hard copies and additional information may be obtained by contacting Jaci Holmes at 207-624-6669 or .

Question:  Was there really significant educator input to the CCSS?  What do you think?  

See these Ohanian post:    1    2

Also see these posts.