The San Antonio Express News published a very positive article on homeschooling. The best part was that when they presented the obligatory “expert” view on homeschooling who you expected to give the standard “problems with socialization” spiel, you got this instead:
January 24, 2008
January 2, 2007
Awww, this article almost made it to the end without the obligatory statement from some “education professional” about the dangers of homeschooling, or in this case unschooling.
Some children, however, aren’t as inquisitive as Isabel, making unschooling difficult, said Marilyn Haring, professor of educational studies at Purdue University. She said that while the unschooling movement is valuable because it questions aspects of traditional schooling, it is not without problems.”
With regard to unschooling, I believe this is best described as utopian,” Haring said in an e-mail. “A miniscule few youngsters may have the high intelligence and motivation to inquire broadly and also learn how to learn. The vast majority, however, have no idea what might be learned and why it is important.”
To be fair, a good reporter should include all information pertinent to understanding the story. But this wasn’t an analysis. Good thing too since the expert, Marilyn Haring, didn’t provide any statistics or research regarding unschooling, just her “professorial” opinion. The story is based on interviews with unschoolers, why they like it, why they do it, and so on. The least Haring could do was site one case of an unschooler being miserable. All it would take is a trip over to Dr. Phil’s website!
I guess since she’s a professor, she doesn’t feel obligated to provide examples. I would also venture to guess that she can’t because she doesn’t know any unschoolers. But the reporter forgot to ask her that question.
December 27, 2006
• Thought leaders in public education will abandon the zany notion that all children must be prepared for college. They will refocus on how to provide solid vocational education programs for students who want to start careers after high school.
And spare us new competitiveness initiatives such as 4×4.
• Every student will get a textbook as required by law. Secondary schools will stop withholding textbooks because they fear too many students will lose or damage them.
Maybe even in El Paso
• Lawmakers blinded by the computer hardware and software lobby will stop advocating the idea that laptops should replace textbooks.
You know what’s funny, as computer programmer I probably have more invested in books on programming than the related software.
• Parents will stop jumping to the conclusion that the evil teacher is to blame when little Johnny gets a bad grade or gets disciplined. Instead, they start with the assumption that the teacher is right and go from there.
Well, Parks is from Dallas, land of the wealthy suburban districts so I can see how this would play in his area. Around here I’ve seen too many cases of parents being intimidated by “professional” educators in accepting situations that should never be accepted. It seems to me the parents in question tend to be those expecting their kids to go to college and no teacher is going to stand in their way. The perfect example was the parent who came in to complain about his daughter’s failing grade in her German III class. The parent expected the teacher to change the grade because otherwise she wouldn’t be able to go to A&M. It didn’t matter that the student didn’t lift a finger all semester.
• School board members will reject Texas Association of School Boards brainwashing. They will regularly bypass the superintendent to visit campuses and to speak with teachers and staff to find out what’s really going on in schools.
Ohhh, like the Frisco Board members who never deviated from their support of Rick Reedy in regard to the whole Sydney McGee mess?
• School boards, the elected representatives of the people, will reject the TASB concept that they are on “a team” with the superintendent as “quarterback.” Instead, they will act like bosses and treat the superintendent like a valued employee. The conceptual difference is small but important.
I would argue that the difference is even more important when you consider the financial costs of having a superintendent that isn’t accountable for his or her actions. Or are lawsuit settlements just added into the personnel costs of superintendents?
It’s a good column, definitely worth the time to read.
December 9, 2006
First, you’ve got to read this:
Cheerleading mess a team effort Give us some willful teens; give us some enabling adults – what do we got? A mess.
And who’s reaction do they go for? The students and parents.
Parents and students in McKinney Independent School District had mixed reactions about the recent decision to put McKinney North High School Principal Linda Theret and Assistant Principal Richard Brunner on paid administrative leave with the possibility of termination.
Why didn’t they ask the teachers who work there?
October 29, 2006
Endorsements like this drive me nuts:
We have been wary of McLeroy’s ideological beliefs in the past, but he seems able to move past those for the good of the state’s children. He does work hard, perhaps harder than anyone else on the board. Charleton was a wonderful teacher and leader who would no doubt be a fine member of the State Board of Education. She doesn’t, however, make the case that she would be better than McLeroy.The Eagle recommends Don McLeroy for re-election to the State Board of Education.
Give me at least one example about how McLeroy has moved past his ideological beliefs for the sake of the children. How does he work harder compared to the rest of the board members? What sort of case would Charleton have to make that she would be better than McLeroy? That she would work harder than him? Well, we don’t know what that is since the editors never bother to give an example. How about what would make a better board member in general?
Basically, they think she would be a fine board member and good leader but not better than McLeroy. So how is McLeroy a fine board member and a good leader?
Believe it or not, the same newspaper ran a fairly detailed comparison of the two candidates. Therefore, the lack of specific examples to support it’s recommendation leaves the reader wondering if maybe McLeroy brought brownies for the editorial board and Charelton didn’t.
October 22, 2006
Just in case anyone relies exclusively on Dr. Phil for information on homeschooling.
The Great School Debate The Dr. Phil Show, “The Great School Debate” (Proposed Air Date: October 27, 2006) begins with a couple that calls themselves “Radical Unschoolers.”
During a recent discussion on the California Homeschool Network E-mail list, Kirsten shared her first-hand experience as an invited guest on the Dr. Phil show for an upcoming episode about the controversial subject of Unschooling.
First of all, I was present during the taping of the program, which is scheduled to air later this month. Additionally, I’d like to provide a little background history into the Dr. Phil Show.
Presenting, “Radical Unschoolers,” as the norm of homeschooling to the mainstream world, implies that all homeschoolers are radical, controversial, Unschoolers. Unschooling is by far the least understood and radical concept of homeschooling, and the easiest target for critics to judge and condemn.
To use this family as representative of the homeschool population is sensationalism at best, and deceitfully manipulative, at worst. The film portrays the Unschoolers as spending all of their days basically playing and hanging out. To seasoned homeschoolers, that may not seem a bad thing, and, to some, would even seem a good thing. But, to every mainstream American, who does not understand homeschoolers and homeschooling, let alone Unschooling, the film and the footage shown of the family serves to reinforce every negative stereotype mainstream America has about homeschooling.
Stereotypes and Hype I know that we value play, and why we value play. But mainstream America does not value play the way homeschoolers do, and has many ingrained negative stereotypes about homeschooling. To them, we are Religious Zealots, or Unschooling Hippies, or Over-Permissive, Overly Attached Parents, or Paranoid, Overly-Protective, Control-Freaks, or, perhaps, Just Plain Lazy.
Dr. Phil plays upon every one of these stereotypes in his “Great Debate,” episode. There were so many homeschooling families that Dr. Phil could have chosen to represent homeschoolers, and he deliberately chose the family with the least understood homeschool style to promote his own bias and agenda on homeschooling that day.
It was then that I realized that the huge groups of teenagers were from local high schools from the San Bernardino and Inland Empire Areas, and that these school children had been deliberately and purposefully bussed in specifically for their presence on the Homeschooling Episode.Ontario Christian High School was represented; San Bernardino High School was there, as well as several other local Inland Empire High Schools.
After the lady who chewed homeschoolers out as the future of her government had spoken, Dr. Phil then did something that clearly indicated why the homeschoolers had been brought to be part of an audience of an episode in which hundreds of high school students had been bussed in: Dr. Phil then asked the audience, “How many of you support Homeschooling and how many of you support sending children to school?”
Well, of course the 10% to 15% of the sparsely spread audience that were passionate homeschoolers proudly raised their hands in support of homeschooling. And when Dr. Phil said, “How many people do not support homeschooling,” all those young high school students that had been unwittingly bussed in specifically for that question in this episode, raised their hands — A forest of “No’s,” against homeschooling.
Although, that was just one brief question in Dr. Phil’s episode, he took no chances. He deliberately rigged that audience to be a few sparsely spread homeschoolers, and an imposing majority of those who were currently in traditional schools.
We certainly left our young ones behind. We did this, because of our passion for homeschooling, and Dr. Phil preyed upon this passion in having us as his audience, so that we could be the flimsy 15% that raised their hands in favor of homeschooling, so that he could have his biased TV show. He preyed upon our cause, our dreams, our passion and our hope. A true predator.
The show is actually only about a half hour long. In between sets, the guests are quickly hurried off stage, and swiftly replaced with new, equally bewildered guests. Between sets, Dr. Phil deliberately goes out of his way to avoid eye contact with the audience, thus avoiding engaging the audience.
October 12, 2006
Terri Leo has a nice commentary in the San Antonio Express News explaining how the press got it wrong concerning Attorney General Abbott’s recent opinion regarding the SBOE and textbook selection. She argues that the opinion over-rules the Morales’ opinion and simply reinstates the authority the legislature had intended for the SBOE all along.
At issue had been Texas Education Code Section 28.002(h) that states the State Board of Education “shall foster the continuation of the tradition of teaching United States and Texas history and the free enterprise system in subject matter and in reading courses and in the adoption of textbooks.”
She, and others, have gone out of their way to state that they were only trying to correct a mistake and were in no way attempting to go beyond what the legislature allowed in terms of SBOE responsibility.
Although this language has been in the TEC for 10 years, Texas Education Agency lawyers repeatedly attempted to delete the section in administrative rule reviews and refused to certify the patriotism and free enterprise portion of the textbook rules, contending it violated the old Morales decision.
The new AG opinion corrects a longstanding misinterpretation of the Texas Education Code by liberal activists eager to do away with these standards. It also clarifies original legislative intent as it relates to textbook content dealing with patriotism, citizenship and the free enterprise system. The issue was never about personal and political agendas, as some have contended. Rather, it concerned the elected State Board of Education members having the authority to ensure that curriculum taught in schoolbooks fosters an appreciation for the basic democratic values of our state and national heritage. To argue otherwise is clearly to ignore the summary conclusions of Abbott’s ruling
You can read the opinion yourself at the Attorney General’s website. However, if you only read the opinion, you would fail to recognize the brilliant maneuvering on the part of Abbott to avoid getting caught up in the textbook content standards mess. In the opinion, Abbott basically quotes TEC language and says according to that language, the SBOE has the right to do what that language says. Why?
To really understand why you need to read the original request for the opinion by Leo which you can also find at the Attorney General’s website.
General textbook content standards complement the state curriculum. The Texas Essential Knowledge and Skills (TEKS) tell publishers what textbooks should include. General textbook content standards tell publishers what textbooks should not include – e.g., no sensational violence, no blatantly offensive language or illustrations, no group stereotyping. General textbook content standards are a democratic check and balance by Texas’ elected State Board of Education on editors and authors, monitoring accountability on concerns that the TEKS by their nature cannot address. General textbook content standards existed in old TAC Chapter 67 under the pre-1995 Texas Education Code (TEC). As originally filed in the 74ti legislature, SB-1 stripped the SBOE of all power over textbook selection. But the final version of the new TEC preserved and reaffirmed SBOE authority in this area, including the power to enact general textbook content standards. Together new TEC Sections 3 1.023, 3 1,024, and 28.002 (c) and (h) address this point.
3 31.023. TEXTBOOKLISTS. (a) F or each subject and grade level, the State Board of Education shall adopt two lists of textbooks. The conforming list includes each textbook submitted for the subject and grade level that meets applicable physical specifications adopted by the State Board of Education and contains material covering each element of the essential knowledge and skills of the subject and grade level as determined by the State Board of Education under Section.28.002 and adopted under Section 3 1.024. The nonconforming list includes each textbook submitted for the subject and grade level that:
(1) meets applicable physical specifications adopted by the State Board of Education;
(2) contains material covering at least half, but not all, of the elements of the essential knowledge and skills of the subject and grade level; and
(3) is adopted under Section 3 1.024.
(b) Each textbook on a conforming or nonconforming list must be free from factual errors.
$3 1.024. ADOPTION BY STATE BOARD OF EDUCATION. (a) By majority vote, the State Board of Education shall:
(1) place each submitted textbook on a conforming or nonconforming list; or
(2) reject a textbook submitted for placement on a conforming or nonconforming list. 28.002
(c) The‘ State Board of Education, with the direct participation of educators, parents, business and industry representatives, and employers shall by rule identify the essential knowledge and skills of each subject of the required curriculum that all students should be able to demonstrate and that will be used in evaluating textbooks under Chapter 3 1 . . .,
(h)The State Board of Education and each school district shall foster the continuation of the tradition of teaching United States and Texas history and the free enterprise system in regular subject matter and in reading courses and in the adoption of textbooks. A primary purpose of the public school curriculum is to prepare thoughtful, active citizens who understand the importance of patriotism and can function productively in a free enterprise society with appreciation. for the basic democratic values of our state and national heritage.
The key is in the first paragraph where she states that “General textbook content standards tell publishers what textbooks should not include – e.g., no sensational violence, no blatantly offensive language or illustrations, no group stereotyping.” This isn’t the same thing as stated in the TEC that textbooks are to “foster the continuation of the tradition of teaching United States and Texas history and the free enterprise system in regular subject matter and in reading courses.”
Now, if you think the two statements mean the same thing, then Leo “won” and major newspapers got it all wrong. But if you think she was asking for one thing and got another then it was a setback. In fact, Chairwomen Miller who submitted the letter on behalf of Leo, seemed to think so:
“It’s kind of good news, bad news,” said Geraldine “Tincy” Miller of Dallas, the board’s chairwoman. “The only downside is that we didn’t get complete authority back.”
I can’t help but think that what she was hoping for was that Abbott would quote her statement about deciding what not to include as part of the opinion since it obviously isn’t stated anywhere in the TEC language. He didn’t so she’s stuck with the oringinal language. However, there is still good reason to worry that this will become “about personal and political agendas, as some have contended.” Let’s see how much she is able justify under “the tradition of teaching United States and Texas history and the free enterprise system in regular subject matter and in reading courses.”
October 7, 2006
EITHER Syndey McGee is a champion of the arts and the Frisco school district composed of neanderthals seeking only to please a culturally repressed parent OR Frisco ISD has been unfairly and unwarrantably attacked by a sensationalist press manipulated by an incompetent educator interested only in preserving her job.
Sorry, while there are plenty of people in this country who are willing and even eager to see all issues in black and white that doesn’t mean it’s reality. As far as I’m concerned, no one is off the hook.
Let’s start with the “smoking gun.” McKinney ISD provided McGee with a positive evaluation and a payment if she agreed to leave. What does this prove? McKinney ISD wanted her to leave for a variety of reasons but for some other unknown reason wasn’t going to be able to do it by bringing disciplinary action against her or simply by not renewing her contract. While the district may have had good reasons for wanting McGee to leave, they also did something that put them in the position of allowing McGee to negotiate the terms of her departure. My guess, and please, I know this is only a guess, is that the district somehow screwed up their own personnel policies in dealing with the issue. Just because an employee doesn’t meet standards doesn’t excuse the employers from doing so. Oh wait, oh never mind, I was going to make some broader generalization but that would only get me into trouble.
So McGee comes to Frisco. You could make the argument that is was under suspicious circumstances but then you’ve really got to blame McKinney for not doing it’s job. Furthermore, you could also make the argument that perhaps, (please note that I am once again speculating and freely admit that I could be totally wrong) by applying for an art teacher position, McGee was actually look for a situation that would be more accommodating to her temperament. Perhaps.
In any case, many of the same problems she had at McKinney plague her relationship with other teachers. In recent years, her principal has been making verbal suggestions and even sending informal emails to McGee regarding her performance. Then there is the trip to the museum, the parent complaint, and the performance evaluation.
It’s EITHER about censorship OR about workplace performance. EITHER the principal was strictly addressing workplace issues OR was trying to undermine art appreciation in the community. EITHER McGee is trying to preserve freedom of speech OR undermining the school’s reputation to save her job. How about a little of both on all sides?
It sounds like enough things went wrong with the museum trip to push the principal into taking formal action. There’s a memo and the evaluation. According to Frisco superintendent Reedy,
One paragraph in the five-page memo discussed concerns regarding the field trip and mentioned the parent complaint. It was included in the memo as a recent example of concerns involving Ms. McGee’s planning, organization and follow-through.
The parent complaint wasn’t about the hour wait or the problems dealing with the DMA. It was about a piece of nude art a child saw at the DMA. Yet, the district has gone out of it’s way to say that the complaint had nothing to do with censorship or is the reason why the memo was written. Again Reedy states that:
No teacher, including Ms. McGee, has ever been fired or reprimanded for taking students to the museum or for a student’s incidental viewing of nude art. No teacher, including Ms. McGee, has ever been fired due to a parent complaint.
I know I’m probably fixating but I can’t help but notice that he never states how the district actually handles such complaints. He continues with the following “but”
We do expect teachers to preview materials through the eyes of students, the parents of the student and through the expectations of our community. We expect teachers to plan, prepare and communicate accordingly. A poorly planned and organized field trip is a failed learning experience.
Uhmm, so what does this have to do with not reprimanding teachers for a student’s incidental viewing of nude art? It wasn’t incidental? It wasn’t planned? It was planned?
Given all the problems the principal apparently had with McGee, why even bring up this one parent complaint? If no teacher is fired because of a parent complaint, why include it in the memo? Why was it given any credibility at all?
The principal could have very easily accomplished her task without including the parent complaint. The fact that she included it indicates that she gave it some importance. I’m still waiting to hear from the district that the parent wasn’t just complaining about the nude art but rather that the teacher did not prepare the students for viewing the art or provide a meaningful context for it’s viewing. Pretty quiet.
“Aw come on,” you say. That’s just one thing she did wrong, McGee did plenty more. Actually, any supervisor who waits for a crisis situation to start documenting employee issues, has not been doing her job. The district has talked about some principals preferring “informal” means. And informal means can be great when they work. But then when the principal prepares a very negative evaluation in writing, shouldn’t the teacher be worried? She’s not being informal, so why wouldn’t an employee perceive this as a version of a “work improvement plan” and a sign that her job is in jeopardy?
Maybe because of her basic personality, McGee doesn’t belong in the public school system. However, that does not mean she was treated fairly by the district. Nor does it mean that the district wouldn’t use parent complaints in evaluating teachers. (Think about it, no one is going to care if a bunch parents started complaining that a teacher allows her students to spend all their time in “free reading” while she’s talking on her cell phone?) According the Reedy, the facts are that the complaint was part of the memo. Someone complained about “naked” art and it was given legitimacy.
Now the district is taking the side of the principal and acknowledges no lapses on its part. At this point, the district is sort of stuck in an either or situation much in the same way that McGee is. McGee wants to make sure she can get another job and getting everyone to believe that she was fired for nude art is a great way to compensate any negative evaluations she may have. And the district really wants to get rid of a teacher for some legitimate reasons and doesn’t want the bad press it’s getting.
In a way, it really does come down to how the principal handled the parent complaint. If it had never been mentioned, what would McGee have gone to the press with? However, since it had been mentioned, the district is being forced to defend its actions in public. At some point, the fact that a 5th grader saw nude art in the DMA made a difference.
October 5, 2006
Congratulations to the Dallas Morning News for finally presenting “the other side” of the McGee story.
McKinney ISD in 1998 to end her employment as a second grade teacher at Glen Oaks Elementary School. Under the arrangement, Ms. McGee received a positive recommendation from the district. McKinney officials declined to comment on the report Wednesday.
Of course, it’s not the McGee story anymore but rather the local paper pointing out the limitations of that shrine of liberal media, the New Times. The Dallas Morning News wins either way.
Jennifer King said Wednesday she and other fifth-grade teachers who went on the field trip later told their principal it was chaotic and disorganized.
Now why couldn’t they find out this information two weeks ago? Was it that hard to find someone who was on the field trip who had negative things to say about it?
Congratulations to McKinney ISD which apparently managed to buy its way out of a problem and dump it on another district rather than going through the trouble of actually addressing it.
The records show that Ms. McGee signed a settlement agreement for nearly $8,300 with McKinney ISD in 1998 to end her employment as a second grade teacher at Glen Oaks Elementary School.Under the arrangement, Ms. McGee received a positive recommendation from the district. McKinney officials declined to comment on the report Wednesday.
The records do not indicate the reason behind the settlement agreement, but her file contains letters from parents who asked that their children be removed from her class because of personality and learning issues.
Her file also contains complaints from unidentified teachers about planning and field trip preparation issues.
Personality conflicts and disparities between a teacher’s teaching style and a student’s learning style are certainly a headache for any administration. Yet, half of all homeschoolers will tell you that it doesn’t necessarily get a teacher fired. But then there’s the planning and field trip issues again. Addressing such issues in a meaningful way is time consuming and stressful. So if someone were to do a cost benefit analysis, it was probably worth it to cough up the money and have McGee go away quietly. Think about it, if you calculated the time of all the people who would have to deal with this issue at $100 an hour, that’s two weeks of work. Halve that and it’s a month of time spent on one teacher.
Congratulation to McGee for knowing her rights and continuing to teach the way she wants without regard to her fellow employees and supervisors. It would appear that she took a calculated risk that the administration wouldn’t go through the trouble of actually pursuing her shortcomings in a meaningful way so she just focused on her art. As I’ve stated before, she can be a great art teacher but still have problems dealing with the administrative responsibilities. Also, all teachers should realize that no matter what they think about her abilities, if it happened to her, it can happen to you. As for going to the New York Times, I might consider doing that as well while thinking about my next mortgage payment.
And finally congratulations to Frisco ISD for not ever having to answer exactly how did the administration handled the parent complaint. The district must also be saving the tax payers’ money by reducing the time and money it spends on creating a meaningful message.
Ms. McGee continues to be an employee of the District and receives her full salary and benefits.
See, they have not actually fired her. They’ve got another art teacher but they didn’t fire her.
but in fact, it is merely all about her overreaction to a memo that she received last spring from her principal which expressed valid and ongoing concerns about her job performance, but which sought no disciplinary action.
And the memo wasn’t disciplinary in nature. It only told her exactly what she would have to do otherwise she would be fired, oops sorry, her contract would not be renewed.
There are times that I feel sorry for the principal. I don’t think she followed procedures in dealing with the workplace issues regarding McGee. She’s probably used to people taking verbal direction and for people to back down when she confronts them with her authority. But then I think about how she obviously did not stand up for education principles with regard to the parent complaint about a nude statue and that feeling goes away.
September 23, 2006
A homeschool article without the obligatory comment from an “expert” about the dangers of the lack of socialization.
Home education is becoming more and more common in communities throughout the United States. Altus residents Dawn and Ty Holt both have a hand in schooling their children. Dawn, who was a public school teacher since 1972, said she had always had an “inkling” to homeschool and she always keeps her “ear to the ground” about it.
And another one:
The questions most commonly asked of them, according to a few parents on hand at Ida Lee, relate to socialization. These parents can’t help but smirk when the question arises. They quickly point to social gatherings like the one Friday, clubs, teams, swimming or ballet lessons, specialized private schooling-like the Johns Hopkins program-and the ability to interact throughout the day with people of all ages, not just peers, as factors in a more appealing “socialization.”
So what do you think? They couldn’t find anyone on short notice or they have meet too many socially acceptable homeschoolers to bother with the warnings?