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Friday
Jun282013

The Education Code, Part 1

Common Core, two words that rattle many parents’ nerves from sea to shining sea; however, there are two other words that should shake us to our very core:  Education Code.

The education code is the phantom wrapper around the Common Core that circumvents specificities of curriculum.  It is the framework of education policy, conduct, laws, and regulations for all institutions of public education K-16.  Every state has its own education code or as it’s known “E.C.”  Written in vague legalese, the education code is about to play a far bigger role in defining acceptable words and behaviors, posing an insidious threat to every child and family in ways we have never imagined.

Last February, the education code was put center stage in a California suburb.  An event entitled “Threat Assessment: Prevention of Targeted Violence in Schools” was  presented by local law enforcement and sponsored by the Ventura County Department of Education.  Invited public school  administrators were informed that the state’s education code was the blueprint for a new, federal education code rolling out with Common Core.

Most recently, a May 29, 2013 press release #13-61 “Assembly Approves Overhaul of Public School Testing,” issued by the State Superintendent of Public Instruction Communications Division proudly announced that “California serves as one of the governing states in the (Smarter Balanced) consortium.” Given this important tidbit, maybe we all better become a lot more acquainted with the California Ed. Code.  Quickly.

This event, like so many held in schools across the country earlier in the school year, was in response to the tragic December 2012 Newtown elementary school shootings.  The Ventura Office of Education Director of Health & Prevention and their Teacher Support & Expanded Learning Services overviewed the finer points of “the crisis response procedures required by California E.C. section 35294.2” under the Safe School Plan to bullying, expulsion, and threats, nicely buried elsewhere in codes 32228-322289, 48200-48927, 49350-49355, 48900-48927, 48950, and 48980-48985.

To understand the endless pages of double-speak, you better know someone who can tell you where are the important parts, or sit with an education attorney.  Otherwise, you’d never know that section 35294.2 is the tip of the iceberg.  But lucky for us, the sheriff commander and captain transformed this unintelligible jargon into a series of concrete checklists, questionnaires, assessments, and concrete action plans for administrators.  They also named specific behaviors and words that would be deemed “problematic” for students.  Legalese no more.

Nope, the hardcopy “Safe School Threat Assessment” clearly states who and what is a problem child or worse, a high risk threat.  There’s no more “in context,” “out of context,” “subject to interpretation” or “based on intent.”  What this means is that we may well be living with the kind of documentation, if in the wrong hands, should make everyone of us shudder.

 ______________________________________

 Merrill Hope writes for City on a Hill and Save America Foundation.  This "Education Code" series will appear in the August 2013 issue of As A Mom Magazine.   Over the years she has inked articles for the Hollywood Reporter and Backstage West.  She's married, the mother of a teenager (God help her!) & a dachshund lover. You can follow her at Merrill Hope @outoftheboxmom.

 

Friday
Jun282013

The Education Code, Part 3

Common Core, two words that rattle many parents’ nerves from sea to shining sea; however, there are two other words that should shake us to our very core:  Education Code.   In the February 2013 Ventura County held “Threat Assessment: Prevention of Targeted Violence in Schools,” the education codes plays a far bigger role in defining acceptable words and behaviors, posing an insidious threat to every child and family in ways we have never imagined.

Most worrisome, boys are already diagnosed with ADHD,  13.2% v. girls (5.6%) according to the Center for Disease Control (CDC) in Atlanta, GA because of their actions.  Like moving.  Now, their very boy-like  pushing, shoving, joking sarcastically and name-calling will signal red-flags.  Everything  that define boys in their formative years may well indict them.  Or worse.  It’s no wonder they are twitchy; boys are not allowed to duke it out anymore but if they did, odds are they won’t grow up to become Adam Lanzas or Timothy McVeighs.

Behavior and words not the only warning signs for school officials to pounce on:  drawings and other creative outlets with persistent or intense violent themes (p. 13); violent attire (camouflage fatigues, violent message t-shirts; inappropriate possession of violent literature and information pertaining to known or suspected hate groups; rebellion against school authority; perceived injustices; violent music and other media are all up for grabs.   Camouflage pants?  In fact, the bolded text in the page 4 box reads  FAILURE TO ACT:  “The Secret Service says when a child indicates that he is thinking about committing a violent act, and an adult does not take decisive action to stop him, the child sees this as getting ‘PERMISSION TO PROCEED.’”  Excuse me but what does the Secret Service have to do with public school?

American English is chockfull of rich colloquialisms, expressions and idioms that we use daily.  Regionally.  Generationally.  Automatically.  They spill out of our mouths as much a part of the culture as is our American fabric and our  Judeo-Christian heritage and now, if a student says, does, draws, wears or reads something perceived as a “safety threat,” (s)/he well will be given a first warning by the requisite administrator.  The parents will be also addressed and asked outright “Do you have a firearm in the home?”

Does it all come down to one big dystopian reality?  A student stands up for him/her self after a false accusation by a K-16 authority figure and finds him/her self labeled as defiant.  A kid says or does an impulsive act and now it’s an act of violence with a diagnosis of ADHD on the side.  Will speaking up with a different POV now be assessed as a threat?  And what really is a threat?  Apparently, a lot more than we knew.  Who and what a threat is will be determined solely by school administrators according to our sheriffs and the document.  Good luck if principal doesn’t like your kid.  Or you.   And worse, kids lie.  Now, one kid doesn’t like another and can now “anonymously” report an incident for which no further investigation is required?   By the way, there is no second warning.  Real or perceived, if your son or daughter is anonymously reported being the culprit or being in the same room as the culprit(s), (s)/he is considered part of the problem.  In a second “incident,” the appropriate public school administrator will write up your child and contact law enforcement for further “investigation” of the family.

Welcome to the police state.  Literally.

 

Sources for “The Education Code” parts 1, 2 & 3.

i. Los Angeles Unified School District’s 2011 Quick Reference Guide for Threat Assessment & Management  threat assessment and management (School Mental Health, Student Health & Human Services).

ii. California Education code, http://www.leginfo.ca.gov/.html/edc_table_of_contents.html,

iii. Threat Assessment, Prevention of Targeted Violence in Schools,  February 2013, Office of Education, Ventura County

iv. California Threat Prevention and Intervention Strategies1, Diana Browning Wright, DCS 2002

v. Ventura County Sheriff’s Office Threat Assessment Plan, February 2013, Pentis, Fryhoff

vi. Threat Assessment Guidelines, Attachment VII.a., p. 1-15; VII.b.; VII.c., p. 1-14; VII.d., p. 1-15; VII.e.

vii. Crisis Resource List, 2011-2012, School Mental Health – LAUSD, Crisis Counseling & Intervention Services

viii. Sonoma County School Crisis Response & Recovery Resource Guide, November, 2012, Revised.

ix. Sonoma County School Crisis Response & Recovery Go-To Guide, April 17, 2012, Revised; Cynthia C. Moore, LCSW, Melinda K. Susan, MA, NCSP

x. Transient or Substantative Threats?  (PPT adapted from PENT website)

xi. Post Test-Threat Scenarios and Answers to Post Test-Threat Scenarios developed by Dewey Cornell, University of Virginia with input from Diana Browning-Wright, CDE-DCS

 

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Merrill Hope writes for City on a Hill and Save America Foundation.  This "Education Code" series will appear in the August 2013 issue of As A Mom Magazine.   Over the years she has inked articles for the Hollywood Reporter and Backstage West.  She's married, the mother of a teenager (God help her!) & a dachshund lover. You can follow her at Merrill Hope @outoftheboxmom. 
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Friday
Jun282013

DON'T SHOOT THE MESSENGER!

News reports of frosted pop tart guns!  Paper guns!  Bubble guns!  Pointing finger guns!  Bang, bang, you’re dead!  OMG!  These days, everything’s a federal offense, so to speak, and no institution is ratcheting up the war-of-words like public education.   

This winter, public school administrators in a California suburb attended a “safe school” threat assessment seminar sponsored by the local department of education and hosted by area sheriffs who identified the words that can hurt.  Literally.  And it’s not only individual words.  It’s phrases and expressions so terrifying to the ear that they must be removed from the American dialogue to prevent potential search and arrest.  Yes, the authorities have declared war on idiomatic classics like “I’ll get you,” “watch it” and “Don’t make me come up there.”  Heaven forbid, you say “God will get you for that!” 

Then there’s the worst of the words: “kill.”  In today’s public school, saying any form of the word “kill” is contraband and when overheard, it is the duty of every responsible child and adult within “earshot” to run directly to the proper administrative authorities to anonymously report this violation because “failure to act = giving permission,” or more precisely, “The Secret Service says when a child indicates that he is thinking about committing a violent act, and an adult does not take decisive action to stop him, the child sees this as getting PERMISSION TO PROCEED,” according to the threat assessment plan. 

And it doesn’t matter if your child didn’t say the dastardly word.  If (s)/he is in the group with the person who said it, (s)/he’s good as guilty because (s)/he didn’t walk away to report the renegade word.  So what’s the “upshot”?  A first warning where only an appropriate school official (principal, counselor, or mental health staffer) advises the child of the infraction and of the education policy.  The parent is then asked, “Do you have firearms in the home?”  Don’t let it happen again, though.  There is no second warning.  Just a write up and a search of your home by law enforcement.

So, boys and girls, welcome to the “no humor” zone and if you are not in California, don’t worry, it’s already in the politically correct school district near you!  It’s a place where you won’t be “killing anyone with kindness,” “killing time,” “killing the goose that laid the golden egg,” or “killing two birds with one stone.”  Moms, you won’t leave the house “dressed to kill,” hum “Killing Me Softly,” drive by “road kill” and don’t even think about having a look that could “kill.” Dads, find a better way to describe your dread of honey-do chores because you won’t be saying “I’ll do it even if it kills me.”   At the office, there’s no more “moving in for the kill” and don’t plan on making a “killing” in the stock market.  Oh, and somebody, please call “Sit and Sleep.”  We’ll have no more of that “you’re killing me, Larry!” 

While we’re on this semantic rampage, it’s about time we come up with a better name for the popular beverage “punch”!  And let’s institutionalize grandpa when he says, “I shot myself in the foot” and ship the teenager off to juvenile hall when he “jumps the gun” or tries to “bite the bullet” for his failed test score.  You know, I just may report my surgeon because I’m going “under the knife.”  Hey, should we now all fear Santa Claus coming to town because “you better watch out” is a veiled threat?  And are you suicidal if you describe a pair of women’s pricy designer pumps as “to die for?”  When someone has “shot down your idea” or “killed the lights” should they be arrested? When you walk around like a “ticking time bomb,” “blow up” emotionally, or argue intently with both “barrels loaded” are you now a terrorist?  And what’s to become of your toddler and those “meltdowns”?   Is it now our civic duty to file charges when someone “jumps down your throat,” “pulls your leg,” “knocks your socks off” or “drops a bomb on your head” or “chews you out?”  Do we send a stand-up comic who “bombs” onstage to Gitmo?  And, me-oh-my, what to do about something called the parent “trigger” law!  It’s so overwhelming to think about all these words!   Perhaps, my head will “explode.”  Oh, “shoot”… can’t say that no more.

From A-Z, the American lexicon is laced with rich, juicy idioms, phrases that string together out-of-context words mumbled and jumbled to connote meaning but they are merely words, a lot of sound and no fury that signify one thing: if we allow ourselves to be sucked up into this insanity we will find ourselves being “driven up the wall” with ultimately “no leg to stand on” because what is happening in our country is exactly what Mrs. Obama promised of her husband in May, 2008 in his first bid for the presidency: “Barack knows that we are going to have to make sacrifices; we are going to have to change our conversation; we’re going to have to change our traditions, our history; we’re going to have to move into a different place as a nation.”

How do you change the conversation?  Change the words.  How do we change our traditions?  Change their definitions.  

Don’t like it?  Then, sound the alarms but please, don’t “shoot” the messenger.

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Merrill Hope writes for City on a Hill and Save America Foundation.  Her "Education Code" series will appear in the August 2013 issue of As A Mom Magazine.   Over the years she has inked articles for the Hollywood Reporter and Backstage West.  She's married, the mother of a teenager (God help her!) & a dachshund lover. You can follow her at Merrill Hope @outoftheboxmom. 
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This article originally appeared on Save America Foundation @ http://www.saveamericafoundation.com
Friday
Jun282013

CRY ME A RIGOR

As the federally mandated public education Common Core standards steamroll over the nation’s classrooms, plenty of parents and educators have taken to the public forum in protest to “stop common core.”   Yet, the program’s proponents tell Americans they have nothing to fear because the Common Core is “rigorous’.  In fact, “rigor” has become the go-to word to describe the Common Core.  College board president  appointee David Coleman, an architect of the Common Core standards, reminds us that the Common Core allows us to talk about “rigor” more concretely and these days, we hear the word “rigor” enough to be sure of one thing — no one is quite sure what “rigor” means anymore.  So, let’s clear it up!
 
 ”Rigor” has a rich etymology from its Latin roots to the old French meaning of “to be stiff,” which birthed the medical term “rigor mortis.”  Later, “rigor” entered the mouths of Middle English speaking serfs to mean “rigid” and “rigor” has maintained that definition for centuries.  Even today, Merriam-Webster defines “rigor”  as “harsh inflexibility in opinion, temper, or judgment” and as “the quality of being unyielding.”  Encarta calls it “something that obstructs progress and requires great effort to overcome…”
 

Harsh. Severe. Stringent obstruction. Yup, that’s old school rigor, the kind that even William the Conqueror and Geoffrey Chaucer would have understood.  But one definition, “the application of precise and exacting standards in the doing of something,” jumps up like a page from “The Giver,” Lois Lowry’s  brilliant dystopian novel where “precise language” is king.   ”The Giver” itself stands not too far from the realities of “rigor.”  This 1994 Newberry Medal winner awarded by the Association for Library Service to Children, a division of the American Library Association, was also challenged and/or banned on and off in the late 1990′s and  again, from 2000-2009 by the very same organization — the American Library Association.  Lowry packs intricate themes into this cautionary tale about trading in freedom for security, providing tremendous insight into “rigor” as redefined for the 21st Century.

 
But, fret not.  Because of the Common Core, “rigor” doesn’t mean “rigor” anymore.  No echoes of Sir Lancelot’s voice here.  Instead, “rigor” in the new and improved internationally bench marked lexicon means, well, something that is associated with “high levels of rigor.”  It’s about rigorous content and rigorous instructional practices.  It’s a refreshed and recycled rigor where it’s all about rigor.  Go on!  Google it!  See how rigorous rigor can be.  Scaffolding thinking!   Staircase of complexity!  Dual intensity!  Hey, it’s authentic rigor sans the crotchety old back-to-basics.  Nope, not your parent’s rigor. Rigor is now a higher-order brain process that is rigorous.  Really rigorous rigor. 
 
Equally exciting is that “rigor is for everyone,” writes academic Barbara Blackburn, Ph.D., in “Rigor is NOT a four-letter word.”  She defines “true rigor” as “creating an environment in which each student is expected to learn at high levels, each student is supported so he or she can learn at high levels, and each student demonstrates learning at high levels.” 
 
So, that’s rigor, folks.  And now that you’ve got rigor under your belt, don’t forget to read Robyn Jackson’s “Rigorous Instruction for the Classroom” where she introduces another very important Common Core word:  ROBUST.
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Merrill Hope writes for City on a Hill and Save America Foundation.  Her "Education Code" series will appear in the August 2013 issue of As A Mom Magazine.   Over the years she has inked articles for the Hollywood Reporter and Backstage West.  She's married, the mother of a teenager (God help her!) & a dachshund lover. You can follow her at Merrill Hope @outoftheboxmom. 
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This article originally appeared on Save America Foundation @ http://www.saveamericafoundation.com
Saturday
Jun222013

ONE NATION IN DISORDER, part 1

Nudge, push, shove into the Common Core

If we are learning anything about public education lately it is that there are desirable behaviors we seek to cultivate in our children.  In fairness, there have always been societal norms that keep a culture from fraying at the edges but never before has public education so mandated our kids' beliefs, actions, and choice of words as is happening with the Common Core.  Manipulating behaviors through back door education codes literally nudge, push, and shove them into those desired behaviors.  Or else.  And there is a powerful mechanism in place when a child resists or flies off the handle: the IEP, the individual education plan.

The purpose of the IEP is to provide FAPE (free appropriate public education) services for K-12 learning disabilities.  Special Education.  Also, it's the same tool schools, in more recent years, have used to manage the social, emotional, and mental welfare of a malleable population.  No doubt, the tragedy of mental illness is real and no laughing matter but this increasing emphasis on our children's mental health makes it harder to tell which disorders are even real anymore.

Case in point: the CDC, the Center for Disease Control (and Prevention) in Atlanta, Georgia, cites in the DMV-IV (Diagnostic & Statistical Manual, Fourth Edition), the gospel on brain disorders from the American Psychiatric Association, that 3-7% of school aged children in the USA have one particular emotional disturbance, ADHD (Attention Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder), and those estimated percentages continue to escalate.  No kidding.

Think about this.  ADD (Attention Deficit Disorder) didn't exist until a mental health crisis erupted like Mount Vesuvius in 1990's classrooms.  Coast-to-coast. Publicly educated children started squirming, twitching, spiraling out of control and acting out impulsively like never before?  Ritalin became the wonder drug of choice for this ailment until its Pez dispenser-like dissemination netted us a generation of prescription drug addicts, an uproar, and a few tragic unintended consequences.   Although we are quick to blame big pharma we must  also look at its partner-in-crime: the public education system, a division of the Department of Education, a government agency.

The US Department of Education reported that the number of school children on IEPs under the IDEA (Individuals with Disabilities Act) provision jumped from under 20,000 in 1993 to almost 120,000 in 2002. Autism alone shot up more than 500 percent between 1996-2006 and during those years, approximately 68 percent of all federal expenditures for children were used for education and instruction-related services.  Wow.

California, a state that had its share of school district board members lobbying Sacramento pro-IEP, saw a 1000 percent increase of enrolled students diagnosed with autism K-12 between 1992-2004 according to the California Department of Education.  Statistics broke down 1997-2006 to show that state public school incidences of diagnosed autism more than quadrupled.  Heck, in 2005, these rates shot up 400 percent in my little suburban California town of 20,000 people.  In one year.  How is this humanly possible? 

NCES (National Center for Education Statistics) recorded 5,810,658, 12.8% of the US K-12 population, enrolled in an IEP for the school year 1999-2000.  By 2010, NAEP (National Assessment of Educational Progress) showed alarming figures in the nation's report card: 88% of 4th graders assessed, all were placed on IEPs; 90% of 8th graders, and 81% of 12th graders.  We can only imagine the actual numbers of children this represents.  This was also the same year that California "Core" rolled out and state juvenile mental illness morphed into a cottage industry.

IEPs (Individual Education Plans) rake in big bucks for our financially strapped public school districts. The US Department of Education's 2006 budget included 11.1 billion federal tax dollars that went to public school IDEA programs.  Back in California, this year's 2012-13 budget accounted SELPA (Special Education Local Area Plan) dollars by county, pulling in a $174,094,500 and $87,047,250 of taxpayer money in two installments.  

That ain't no chump change. 

What about your state?

 


Merrill Hope writes for City on a Hill, Save America Foundation and has freelanced pieces on Lady Patriots.  Over the years she inked articles for the Hollywood Reporter and Backstage West. She's married, the mother of a teenager (God help her!) & a dachshund lover. Follow her at Merrill Hope @outoftheboxmom.  

This article originally appeared on http://www.saveamericafoundation.com