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items tagged with education

Under the Radar: Common Core in Our Schools
Written By: Jeff Ignatius
Section: Commentary/Politics

Category: Editorials

2013-11-26 15:17:43

As Americans, we had better revisit what the Bill of Rights means to our country’s future, because the individual protections that the Bill of Rights provides each of us are in real jeopardy. There has been a slow creep by our legislative, judicial, and executive branches to erode these protections in favor of administrative rules and regulations that instead protect the growth and continuity of government.

The federal government has gone so far beyond what was originally intended for our republic that there will be no stopping it from the top down. The only hope we have to preserve our future as an open society is to get involved in our local county and city governments, including our school districts, where we can fully participate, oversee, and influence the politicians and bureaucrats who are our friends, family, and neighbors.

Common Core is the new national education initiative of curriculum and standards that were developed by two private trade groups, in cooperation with Achieve, Inc., with the majority of funding provided by the federal government. Additional financial assistance came from the Bill & Melinda Gates and Eli & Edythe Broad foundations, which contributed $60 million, and General Electric, which gave $18 million. The two trade groups’ names – the National Governors Association and the Chief Council of State School Officers – mislead the public into falsely thinking Common Core was developed by each states’ elected representatives.

Rather, the entire curriculum is privately owned and copyrighted, giving sole control over its content to a small cadre of developers, who will also reap massive profits for manufacturing all new Common Core-approved textbooks, training materials for teachers, and national-testing components that will dwarf previous testing practices in America. These no-bid contracts are worth billions to private and quasi-public corporations, such as Pearson, Core One Press, and Achieve.


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Pivot and Progress: The Putnam Museum Looks to Remake Itself with a STEM Learning Center
Written By: Jeff Ignatius
Section: News/Features

Category: Local News

2013-03-21 11:37:44

(To read the sidebar about the renovation of the Family Museum in Bettendforf, click here.)

This past weekend, we brought our daughter to Davenport’s Putnam Museum and did the full tour. We saw Flight of the Butterflies 3D on the Giant Screen, walked through the new Bodies Revealed show, and saw all the cultural-, regional-, and natural-history displays that visitors have known for decades, from the mummies to the Asian artifacts to Bix’s cornet.

But what kept Emily’s attention was the Spark Learning Lab, a modest career-themed room with the goal of preventing high-school drop-outs.

Our daughter is five and in no danger yet of dropping out of any school – or pursuing any career beyond princess-ing. And the Spark Learning Lab is geared toward fifth- and sixth-graders. But she loved the lab’s drawing program with the dual touch screens (one on the computer and one where the picture was being projected), the construction-plank set (which she’s playing with on this issue’s cover), and the feature that allows visitors to build tube structures and – with the help of a blower – either launch table-tennis balls or keep them aloft.

One station in the room lets visitors connect batteries to simple electrical devices, and another shows how structures they build with Lincoln Logs or those aforementioned planks might fare in an earthquake. The “concentration station” fosters communications skills, as one person describes a block structure and a partner tries to build its twin using verbal instructions alone.

If you want to see where the Putnam is headed, you can look at the conceptual drawings – posted in several locations – of its planned STEM learning center. The $1.5-million project is currently in the fundraising phase, and the museum expects to open it in June 2014. Putnam President and CEO Kim Findlay said adding the STEM center to the Putnam now is “the right time and the right thing for the community and the museum.”

But you’ll get a hands-on sense of the Putnam’s direction in the Spark Learning Lab. Larger-scale hints are available in the interactive components of the current Destination: Space exhibit, with its compressed-air tennis-ball launcher, and a bicycle wheel and rotating platform demonstrating angular momentum.

Implicitly and explicitly, all of these draw a line from playful exploration to science to careers, and that’s what the STEM center will do on a much grander level. It’s an attempt to transform the nearly-century-and-a-half-old Putnam from “nice to necessary,” to use a phrase that’s common in the museum field these days.


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Ted Rall: Occupy Public Education
Written By: Jeff Ignatius
Section: Lifestyle

Category: Ted Rall

2011-12-28 11:53:43



Branstad Unveils 10-Year Education Plan; Democrats Concerned About Price Tag
Written By: Jeff Ignatius
Section: Commentary/Politics

Category: Iowa Politics

2011-10-05 15:22:04

Governor Terry Branstad on October 3 unveiled a 10-year plan to transform Iowa’s education system that would end promoting third-graders who read poorly, change the pay system for teachers, and require students to pass end-of-course exams to graduate.

“Instead of spending all of our time fighting over the issues of the past, we really want to focus on the things that will ... systemically reform and improve Iowa’s education system,” said Branstad, who added that earlier debates over ending state-funded preschool and zero-percent allowable growth in school funding will not be revisited.

“This is a plan for the next decade,” said Iowa Department of Education Director Jason Glass, who noted that the plan is intended to be a comprehensive package and should not be viewed as a list of options to be cherry-picked. “This plan ... should be the blueprint for where our resources now and in the future go into education.”

But Democrats were skeptical, especially because Branstad and Glass declined to set a price tag for the proposal and don’t plan to do so until shortly before the legislature reconvenes in January.


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Moving the Needle: Illinois Is Notorious for Its Politics, but Compromise on Performance-Based Education Reform Inches Forward
Written By: Jeff Ignatius
Section: Commentary/Politics

Category: Illinois Politics

2011-03-17 11:23:20

Education reform in Illinois features two major storylines: politics and policy. On the political front, two powerful forces – the business community and teacher unions – have competing proposals. On the policy end of things, the primary educational question is whether and to what degree teacher performance will be a factor in school-district workforce decisions, from budget-related layoffs to dismissals to tenure.

As the law stands now, layoffs and tenure are simply functions of teachers’ years of service and don’t take into account whether students are actually learning. Firing a tenured teacher is time-consuming and costly, and the current teacher-evaluation system, all sides agree, is ineffective. Common-sense reform is long overdue.

Given Illinois’ history and reputation, however, one might expect politics to dictate the outcome at the expense of sound policy. Somewhat surprisingly, the substance of the different proposals appears to be getting a careful vetting, and politics have thus far taken a back seat.


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