Sunday, December 28, 2014

A Nation at Risk, Again! (Part One) The Imperative for preventing our leaders from selling a generation of children into indentured servitude.

The once unchallenged moral authority of our nation is at risk. This source of pride and self-assuredness has been an implicit endorsement of policies from arming violent, extremist rebels; to nation-building; to extraordinary rendition; to a financial crisis where people hiding trillions, and losing billions, were rewarded with millions. Those gleaming successes of our great nation have been undermined with the blaming of the public sector for recent destruction caused by insatiable greed and the ownership of policy by the free market and the private sector. Instead of efforts to halt this assault on common sense and educate citizens to reverse continued moral erosion, what followed was a coordinated effort from the nation's leaders to drive public schools and their students to serve the same market that cripples the nation's economy and world-standing. If allowed to continue unchecked, misguided education reforms and the absence of accountability for leaders in policy and finance threaten to condemn generations to come to lives of dis-empowered indentured servitude: not free themselves, but working merely to survive and serve the "free market". The result would be the loss of the nation's status as a beacon of freedom and opportunity to the rest of the world.

Sunday, December 21, 2014

Response to Cuomo letter

This is my response to the letter written by Jim Malatras, Director of State Operations for Governor Cuomo. His letter to the NYSED chancellor and commissioner goes to great length to focus blame on teachers for supposed failings of public education, and highlights popular teacher-bashing statistics, while also asking that in response to his loaded questions: politicizing is avoided. My tone is a tad snarky because I mirror his tone and structure, but I hope to provide a counterpoint and provoke some thought.

Dear Mr. Jim Malatras, Governor Cuomo, Chancellor Tisch, and Commissioner King,

As you know, citizens of the state of New York have an obligation to hold their elected officials responsible for the policies they promote, the people they appoint, and the words they either write or speak-whether it's campaign season or not. It is one of the most important things we can do: model for our children and young learners (future citizens) the civic duties  to promote honest, productive leadership for the good of all, and eliminate the destructive policy-making that promotes narrow interests and inequities in opportunity. Although those in education policy and in other leadership positions have spoken strongly about the need for improvement in educational outcomes for public school students, they have chosen to pursue this goal with an attack on public education while largely ignoring the greater burdens facing students, families, and schools. Despite the ongoing damage of market-based policies and data-driven, investment style formulas- this is the precise type of approach to education that is currently being called "reform".

We all can agree that this is simply unacceptable.

The citizens of New York believe in leadership with a foundation in good character, informed and guided by the people of the state over the narrow interests that have already divided wealth with growing disparity and reduced opportunity for the majority of people. Character-based leadership would be evident when citizens do not have their value, or the value of their children, defined by a market-driven approach where people are turned into data and that data gets churned in a so-called "value-added" system. A market based approach such as this prioritizes the goals of the market and squanders the public-the true value in public education. While citizens understand that it is difficult for politicians to free themselves from their intimate relationships with big-money donors, advisors driving policy while avoiding accountability,  and the desire to remain politically positioned for future campaigns and opportunities, it is more important to promote the needs of the many over the greed of the few. So let's reframe the narrative regarding education reform. Instead of blatant attack on those coming to schools burdened by the failures in our leadership, and those serving the public in order to address those failures, let's focus on systemic reform. It is time for leaders to own up to their responsibilities and submit themselves to evaluation and accountability with the same fervor with which they demand those from the public.

As you know, the public has had little influence over the roll-out and roll-ahead of destructive forces behind misguided reforms in our state.  The most that concerned citizens have been able to get is a short-lived "listening tour" from Commissioner King, a campaign-season admission from the governor that common core standards were rolled out ineffectively and a television ad regarding the importance of kitchen tables and parents. For the most part, though, officials at the state level have essentially gave up listening long ago and continue repeating talking points and party lines. But parents, students and educators have had, from the beginning, many questions about how leadership in our state and in education policy could have degraded to this extent. What can be done to answer these questions?

In essence, how can we address what is really wrong with how education is currently funded, organized, and evaluated in New York, where the root causes of student-struggles are ignored and the one group continually burdened with undoing the damage done by lack of character in leadership and failed economic and social policies gets blamed?

Please give your opinion on these questions without the typical parsing of words that is the hallmark of those wishing to sound willing and interested while at the same time avoiding responsibility. Truly enlightened policy comes when citizens know what policy makers think.

1.       How is the current lack of equity in funding and opportunity for students in public schools a defensible condition if the future of public school systems and teaching  careers hang in the balance based  results impacted by funding inequities? Data shows that the best funded schools spend in the neighborhood of 80% more per-pupil and enjoy about double the proficiency rates on state tests. State test results being the governor's go-to criticism of public education should ride tandem with his admission that funding inequities need to be addressed. How does the governor plan on addressing funding inequities?

2.       Should students, families, schools and educators be reaped for private and personal data to serve commercial interests? In addition, should testing companies enjoy privacy and protection in the process of test design and scoring when the tests themselves are intended to be used on public school students with results to be shared publicly? The governor's own reform commission cited the importance of collaboration in moving forward with reform and this approach to assessment is in opposition to that goal. How will the governor increase collaboration with the professionals who understand teaching, learning and the best use for assessments?

3.       Along with number 2, should testing companies and third-party vendors enjoy profitable state contracts for creating high stakes tests when actual educators could design and use tests as intended-not as high stakes end-product but to inform instruction and intervention going into the future?

4.       Should educators be elevated to enemy number one in the battle for student outcomes when it is the investment/banking/finance industry that has done the most damage to parents and kitchen tables (the most important tools a student can have)and has still enjoyed the greatest protection from policy makers?

5.       Should charter schools enjoy  promotion and praise without operating under the same level of scrutiny and mandates? Often, charter schools  are run by those with few (if any) credentials, have enrollment that can be shaped and filtered, and students that prove difficult or may threaten high proficiency rates are counseled out. How will the practice of creating charters ensure that it is about all students, not just a few, and prevents public dollars from going into the pockets of undeserving private charter-school operators?

6.       While promotion to the national level seems to be the reward for an education commissioner that appeared disconnected from the citizens and students of New York, the opportunity for new leadership and a new direction holds promise. What new approach is planned for the next commissioner?

7.       Can the many hundreds of thousands of teachers in New York, being paid quite poorly compared to other professionals with graduate degrees, serving in some cases difficult and dangerous student populations in under-funded and over-mandated schools really be called a "special interest"? Can the small group of very wealthy individuals and the corporations looking to cash in on the standards-curriculum-testing-"school choice" agendas be less of a "special interest"? Teachers' special interest is being allowed and empowered to do what is best for students and to not be made to suffer for doing it. How will education policy moving forward make this possible?

8.       While the state regulations describe pathways and opportunities available to all students, the reality is that funding does not support availability of these opportunities to all students in all schools. Can teachers be blamed for this? How will the governor address this?

9.        Can the governor, the commissioner, or most of the regents look into the eyes of a student who comes from a violent and broken home and know instinctively how to approach that student first thing in the morning to make the rest of the day go as well as possible? Who among you is willing to admit that the ability to teach, to an extent, is a gift that often can't be reduced to data on a spreadsheet and the positive gains realized with this type of student are outside of what any standardized test can show. How does the governor plan to honor that gift and reverse the tide of turning education into sterilized training?

It is clear that powerful people are driving the agenda to turn public education into a game of numbers that absolves leaders from the moral obligation to target the true areas of need for reform.  The bureaucracy of the wealthy minority (silent advisors, campaign donors and private interests) that enjoys influence over policy that restricts opportunity for the majority of citizens presents a challenge we must face cooperatively. As the commissioner prepares to take his reform agenda to the national level, it will be good to hear his thoughts on how to break free of the status quo of wealth-driven inequity for public school students.


Dan McConnell

Sunday, December 14, 2014

In keeping with the holiday spirit: thankfulness, a Christmas wish, and a new year's resolution.

     Thanksgiving has passed, and Christmas is around the corner with a new year not far behind. It's a strange day in New York public schools (and I mean real public schools where doors, desks, programs and services are available to all students in its area), and it would be easy to give in to cynicism and pessimism when things being done in the name of children are so wrong for us all-but giving in is not my style. My style is to start with being thankful- having a full awareness of how fortunate I am. Then, I consider carefully how I can do for others as has been done for me (only the good stuff, of course), and who around me can I rally to make these good things happen. This is where reality and the wish-zone begin to blend. It's easy, after all, to go all Norma Rae (a link for those too young to know that name) in your mind-but the real world rule-makers and game-players present a challenge. After reminding myself of how lucky I am, and then contemplating who is on my side, I make plans and promises to myself. These resolutions are most often about trying harder to change the world. Think big or go home, right? It's the same this year, with the 40-something amendment of dropping ten to fifteen pounds and getting my cholesterol down. 

Being thankful

     I am thankful for my childhood, my family, and all the experiences I have had. I catch myself sometimes making a reflexive mental-diagnosis for students who come from broken homes and bad influences. Judgements regarding why work doesn't get done, why they behave a certain way, and so-on. Despite what education attackers want as the overriding narrative to explain student struggles (failing schools, overpaid/overprotected  teachers, unions...)-poverty and school funding inequities (the real "status quo") prevail as the most correlative factors. But after I mentally slap myself for making that mental diagnosis-I stop and do an assessment of my childhood, and it goes something like this:

1) My mother was a sixteen year old high school girl when I was born.

2) My father was twenty, from the same high school, recently graduated and enlisted in the military during the Vietnam War (it was 1967). I was born on a military base in Georgia, far away from our home state of New York.

3) I was born full-term in October, at a healthy 8lbs 11oz. If I do the mental math and count nine months backwards past my dad's birthday in June, and my mom's birthday in February-I figure my dad was 19 and probably breaking some kind of law with my mother.

4) While there are pictures of my dad, in uniform, holding me as a baby-I cannot remember a day when my parents were "together" living as a couple.

5) When I was little, my dad would pick me up for the weekend, or have me for some extra time on holidays and summer vacations, and we would often hit several bars or visit with his friends where I saw and did stuff that kids shouldn't see and do. Today, as a teacher, if I suspected a student was involved in or exposed to the same-I would be obligated to make a "hotline" call.

So how is it I stayed out of trouble, got good grades, didn't have whatever served as child protective services investigating my situation, basically turned out okay with a beautiful family and what I would call (despite my wife's objections) a pretty good head on my shoulders...?

Easy answer:

     I had and have incredible people in my family, with a combination of depth in character and experiences not often found in this world-especially in this day and age. While I don't remember my parents together, my dad was always there. Calling during the week, picking me up on weekends and whenever he could. To this day my parents come together at my family events and talk, joke, laugh. I have never once seen them be unkind to each other-ever. He has always been the most generous and gentle soul I know, with the funniest, raunchiest sense of humor. To this day, anyone who has ever known him or worked with him can't stop describing what a great guy he is and I always agree: he's the best man I know. That's why he was the best man at my wedding. Everyone should have a dad like mine. His father (my grandfather) was no different, and I recall stories he told of his childhood and youth that serve to illustrate how much this world has changed in a relatively small amount of time. They also serve as the foundation of character I had and try to create for my family.
     Character meant so much more in those days, more than what you owned and who you knew. My great grandmother (grandpa's mother) taught in a one room common schoolhouse in Summerhill, NY, and my grandfather attended the Cortland Normal School located in a building called Old Main on the campus of SUNY Cortland College. In those days there was an honest-to-goodness constable who patrolled the county on horseback, staying with host families as he made his rounds through towns and villages and on the country roads through state forests. Gramp told of how the constable stayed with our family and how he would drop a scoop of wood stove ash into the constable's boots as a joke, and how the constable caught him out skipping school to pheasant hunt one day. Emerging from the woods onto the secluded dirt road, my grandfather found the constable there on his horse. The constable traded silence for one of Gramp's pheasants and Gramp's word that their meeting would be a shared secret. It was the same constable who years later would meet my grandfather at the train station when he returned from World War II. Having traded up the horse for a car, the constable took my grandfather out for a couple welcome home drinks.
     Of his time as a soldier in Europe, one story stands out. It was a story of the German prisoners being held near the end of the war, some of whom my grandfather was in charge of guarding. The officers, he said, were arrogant-believing themselves above even their captors (while likely feeling grateful they weren't being held on the eastern front in Russian camps where the Red Cross wasn't allowed in that often and Geneva Conventions weren't binding principles). The regular soldiers, on the other hand, were happy to have been captured for the most part. Most having been in miserable conditions and often not agreeing with the Nazi agenda, they found themselves better cared for and fed at the hands of the Allies. My grandfather's charges liked being assigned to him very much, for whatever reason, and he could often grab a quick nap-the German prisoners waking him quickly if a superior officer approached. Gramp said when it came time for duty assignment and those German soldiers would practically run to his side he had to tell them to "cool it" or the jig would be up. My grandfather was that kind of guy.
     These stories would sometimes be shared from the front seat between my grandfather and father, as me and my younger brother sat in the back seat driving the roads between Moravia, behind Fillmore Glenn State Park, and back to my grandparents house on Lake Como Road. It would be a warm summer Sunday after church, with a cheap twelve pack of Genny or Old Mil in back with us and empties back, refills up. My grandfather had worked for the state planting trees in some of those out of the way places and he knew exactly where the nudist colony was. Driving with his left elbow out the driver's side window and the can in his hand dangling out of view, his right hand holding the wheel and a well-chewed cigar. "Keep your eyes open boys, you might see something" he'd say.
     When I think of my childhood, there is no regret, no shame. These rides happened after being sent to church with my grandmother where (as it goes in tiny little baptist churches) we learned how sinful we were and how to save ourselves. Some praying, a car ride, and some chicken barbeque usual had us whipped right into shape, and I kept good grades, good attendance, had a room full of books and weekends full of outdoor fun. When I had read all my books, I got into my mother's (a few of which were maybe too "mature" for me). I grew up listening to Joplin, Croce, Hendrix, and the best worst country music there is- staying out and up late doing things that I will publicly say kids should never  do and privately say that this is part of what made me who I am.
     For what my family has provided me with in the past, and what my family provides me with today I am most thankful. As I look at and listen to kids today I know that they have probably done less of the stuff most people would consider near-horrifying for children, but I know that their real struggles have less to do with failing schools and failing teachers. They are losing out on the economic, social, and moral stability this nation once provided. The so called "free market" has bled our nation of it and now it has turned it's sights upon our schools.

A Christmas Wish

I wish for more character in the leadership of our country, our state, and in the direction of "education reform". I wish for our our unions to step up and people to rise up. When NYSUT agreed to a flawed standards/curriculum/evaluation system here in New York-I understood: it was a necessity resulting from Governor Cuomo and the Obama administration's coercion. Had our unions not cooperated-federal funds would have been withheld and that would be political suicide. But our unions have, at times, been front and center in the call for better teachers first, dropping the ball on the call for honesty in the reform debate. When I have to choke down a Governor posing as a "lobbyist for the students", and his complaints about how much is spent on education, I spit back out the fact that evaluating teachers (not providing equity in student opportunity) has been his number one priority and that in New York, best funded schools spend about 80% more per students than worst-funded schools-and get double the proficiency rates on state tests. Disingenuousness isn't limited to where the governor lives with his girlfriend, though: it has infected the state education department. Here is NYSED's soon to be former Commissioner John King in January of this year:

"... They’re committed to the Common Core, they’re committed to the evaluation system; they have to explain why they think we should change the evaluation that we all agreed to that we all believed is in the interest of students.”

This quote, demonstrating the carefully parsed words of leaders undermining public education in the name of reform, and an honest look at the role teacher unions have played can be found in this excellent blog post from January of this yearBut the bottom line is that this sort of politico-speak is running rampant over an endeavor that should have a foundation in honesty, credibility and character. Education should prepare students for truly critical thinking-the kind that enables capable citizens to tell the difference between shit and shinola. Only lately have unions started an attemp at honesty, but in the governor and the commissioner-I am having a hard time locating it. Coercion and agreeing are different things. Yes-to an extent teachers have been sold out by union leaders, but it was for survival (and they all know it). For the governor, the commissioner, seems to be business as usual.
     So my Christmas wish is for an end of this abuse of democracy in the nation that is supposed to exemplify it (even spread it around the world), and a safe and hasty exit from policy-making for all who are making real education less possible for those needing it most. Uber-testing, evaluations and accountability are only going to further inequity because this approach will identify and further disempower those with the fewest resources-resources leaders are reluctant to provide. Same goes for what is being sold as "choice" in education. Market-izing public education is the same as selling out the public. It is wrong. Even our president avoids a competition to be more like developed countries where educational outcomes surpass our own, and chooses countries like India and China as our competion. The President of these united states! Driving us to compete with places where economies are growing because people are crushed and repurposed to serve a heartless market devalues humanity, worships wealth, and is unbecoming of a true leader.

My New Year's Resolution

     My New Year's Resolution is to speak up, and speak out. Right now, though, my beautiful family needs my attention.

Sunday, October 26, 2014

Wondering what it's worth

Times Union's opinion blog featured a story about NYSED's 10/20 announcement that there were new pathways to graduation-ones that would do more to honor, support and prepare a wider variety of students and their interests, skills, talents, dreams for college and career. I was interested in finding out more because this was the exact subject of an exchange I described earlier this year-one that started late in 2013 as my wife and I sought the opportunity of these multiple pathways (that already existed then) for our daughter in her school. 

Now NYSED is trying to sell us on its worth by promoting their efforts regarding the very pathways that were at that time denied, downplayed then apologetically brushed aside when my wife and I tried to verify them. My fear is that NYSED and PEARSON have simply aligned to sell NY on tests for everything under the sun, and multiple pathways which aren't really new are a cover for a whole slew of tests from PEARSON. Has our NYSED become their PEARSED? 

The link below will take you to NYSED, the description they give of and the video promoting these opportunities.

The New York State Board of Regents approved a ground-breaking initiative (my emphasis) that will offer students new opportunities to develop college and career-ready skills in the arts, humanities, CTE and STEM fields. 'Multiple Pathways' will provide technical skills and work-based learning opportunities, paving the way for students to take a rigorous approved exam within a pathway to fulfill part of the Regents examination graduation requirement.

Check out the page for that Times Union opinion piece, and my comment is further below as well, in case it doesn't get posted (it is awaiting moderation). Included are links to my original posts from when I tried to pursue this issue with NYSED associates. I have spoken with associates, NY Assembly members, had contact with my local regent (J. Tallon), Congressman Hannah...little of substance comes from any of these people regarding the truth: opportunities are not equal. regardless of what NYSED sells as it's efforts to improve student outcomes. The paraphrase of insights and opinions collected as I meet with and make these contacts amounts to:

  • Cuomo is all powerful, and uses that power to secure himself politically, and if you oppose his agenda your future will be uncertain.
  • King is arrogant an cannot be swayed from what he feels is adequate for our children (but not for his own
  • The current state of turmoil in public education is a result of complacent and inactive unions and citizens

  1. Your comment is awaiting moderation.
    While this may be a step in the right direction, I wonder if it is more self-congratulatory PR on the part of NYSED with little investigation into substance. Language for multiple pathways to regents diplomas and even alternative pathways to regents with advanced designation existed already-in regs (100.2h) and described in this NYSED chart:
    This made little difference when I pursued this type of opportunity for my daughter. On February 14th of this year my wife and I reached the sad conclusion of communications with NYSED where we asked about these supposed pathways and opportunities that ALL STUDENTS in ALL PUBLIC SCHOOLS in this state should be getting. Told first by an associate that yes, your school needs to offer this, then suddenly overridden by another saying “no, there is no language saying that” was confusing.
    When I brought up the “all students” and “all schools” language with that second associate in a phone conversation, the response was a sympathetic
    “Well, ‘all schools’ really means all schools that want to or can afford to.”
    And when I asked if that means kids lucky enough to have money or go to a school that has money are the ones that get those pathways?
    “Unfortunately that’s the state of school funding in our state”
    My daughters are lucky enough to be in a school where we will get as much support as they can give, and they have me and their mother. We hunt down opportunities that our school can’t provide. What of other students?
    I have emails saved, think I even have some voice mails saved. This isn’t just about my kids-it’s about ALL kids and holding these supposed ed-reform clowns responsible for earning their badges…not just posing and pretending.
    See my account here:

Friday, October 24, 2014

Just for the fun of it

This was something I just had some fun with. Amtrak was doing a writing "residency" where aspiring writers applied and sent in writing samples, in the hopes of obtaining one of several private cars and long distance rides-in order to hone their craft. Of course many people besides me were interested. I didn't win, but enjoyed communicating with other would-be writers!

5 days ago
I assume this is closed to writers with pets? Who otherwise travel or live with their small, well behaved pets? As per Amtrak's asinine service-animals only policy?

4 days ago
@Goodsoutherngirl101 I had the same question about Huggy, my pet boa constrictor. He is my inspiration as a writer, especially in my apartment house where the neighbors tend to be a little noisy and thoughtless. I told Amtrak that Huggy has only gotten out of his cage three times, but always returns after a few days and is pretty calm for a couple weeks. We should travel together sometime with our pets. Huggy likes other animals...especially small well behaved ones. He is out and about somewhere right now (his 3rd escape...I'll have to do something about that cage lid!) It has gotten awfully quiet in the apartment house these days.

4 days ago
Well aren't we smarmy, @DJMaxMJ? That does sound awfully dramatic. And it Amtrak should decide to do what all major airlines and other modes of mass transit already do and let small dogs under 25 ( or 16 pounds depending) in carriers ride and some how those little dogs do what that have never done before and spontaneously flee their carriers, then perhaps you and your rouge snake can help out? Until then, there's always the (fake) service animal letter from a real doctor more and more dog owners seem to (mysteriously) need to ride the rails... Letters that don't require their furry friends to be contained or in carriers in anyway, by the way. But I'm sure that's as crazy a rumor as a boa constrictor named Huggy who likes to lift his lid, right?

Apr 17, 2014
Does anyone know where a list of awardees will be posted?

@ScottMohnkern   I just read the application again.  They will be selected on a rolling basis, another words, ongoing throughout the year.  They will notify the applicants they are interested in by e-mail.  You only have 3 days to reply so watch your e-mail everyone and good luck!  Wish I was on that train right now!


@ScottMohnkern  I have won. At first, people assumed Veruca would win, but after I flushed her down the vacuum bowl commode on the Amtrak (which everyone had thought was mostly inactive until recently)- I was the soft-spoken but pure hearted shoe-in. Let the rides begin. Just don't push the red button.

Monday, October 6, 2014

NY Assembly members meet with educators

It was nice to have been in a room with many others from so many different places. I have seen Assemblywoman Lifton in her office on a few occasions, and at SUNY last April. Still, it is difficult for me to wrap my mind around what the Assembly can/is willing to do-or what is the nature of what they have already done. During her appearance at SUNY Cortland this past April, I brought up the bill sponsored by Assemblyman Al Graf(R)-one that included a waiver from RTTT mandated responsibilities,  an end to common core and common core testing, and had language for establishing a panel of twenty-some people appointed by a variety of leaders and educators who would have public meetings in several locations throughout the state. 

I have the text, but believe it's still available online (A8844).

Lifton's response during her appearance was an "I hear your pain, but get more active, write your governor...we are sort of powerless in this..." type response. At Saturday's meeting Assemblywoman Nolan's response was to quickly brush aside bill numbers, describe how they go away and come back with different numbers and ask what is important...I think she knew the bill I was talking about but wanted to avoid getting too far into why good bills get killed by who, and why. It is a management technique (and looks good for a politician) to steer clear of details in the part they play and simply listen to you and let you get your stories off your chest. A person walks away feeling "Wow...they really listened to me!" Yeah, they did....aaannnd?  

Here is a quote from someone who was there the day Al Graf's A8844 died (Cue Don McLean music), followed by a link to the page it is on:

"Then came Tuesday, June 3rd.  The day that Assembly Bill 8844 was put to vote in the New York State Assembly Education Committee, chaired by Assemblywoman Catherine Nolan. Chairwoman Nolan had been advocating a HOLD on this bill meaning it would die in this legislative session if the vote took that path    I had the opportunity to attend this meeting/vote along with about twenty other parents. We traveled from all over NYS to advocate for the bill one last time. As we know, the bill was killed.  I was heartbroken to say the least. I couldn't believe what had just happened.  After the meeting adjourned, we were given the opportunity for a seat a the table with Chairwoman Nolan.  I thought that was pretty huge.  We were able to go around the table and discuss specific issues.  I had to hold back tears several times.  I do think that Chairwoman Nolan hears us, but for some reason she doesn't think this bill was the answer.  So I wonder, what is the recommendation then?  My kids, and everyone else's kids don't get a do-over with their education.  NO DO-OVER.  This bill would've eased that worry for me.  I'm afraid for today's students, especially those with an IEP.  I was glad that Chairwoman Nolan was listening though."

The Graf Bill, A8844:

An article describing the passing of Nolan's "put it in protected mode" bill

A link to the description of the "truth in testing" bill also sponsored by Nolan, but that she seemed unaware/unfamiliar with when I opened asking about it's status. Having sponsored then overseen the passing of the "on hold for two years" bill after the defeat of the "get rid of it now" bill...this testing related legislation seemed like a decent consolation prize. It calls for more transparency and review of testing companies, practices and results, as well as more access to old test items themselves. Good things, really, if we are to stick with no-bid contracting to testing companies sharing the revolving door between lobbying/policy making/politics:

Sorry, I meant for this to be a simple share-contacts/it was nice to meet you message....but I've been a little steamed since Saturday and came away agreeing with only a few things said: 1) That Tennessee accent is beautiful  2) Our unions have been complacent and 3) We need to form alliances with each other and parents to shake up all the people who think they can get away with forcing this insanity on us, and those who protect the insanity.

Oh-there was one more thing. For the top quality, caring people at that table who hinted at getting out: please don't. Evil only wins when good gives up. Not to be melodramatic but our nation is investing too much in drones and data-mining, and avoiding the real responsibilities-which are then left to pile up on public school educators and the educators of educators. 

So stay, play, fight and find a way. 

You do "...the most important thing on the planet second to parenting." (Jenke, 2014)

Thursday, September 11, 2014

My Father in Law. I'm sure he'll be watching my every move.

My father-in-law. I could not have asked for a better "extra dad". This man was pretty damn awesome...I mean, he's the reason I have my wife, my kids...