Monday, June 29, 2015

The Waldorf Way: A Waldorf perspective on the Common Core State Standards

The Waldorf Way: A Waldorf perspective on the Common Core State Standards:

The Waldorf Way: A Waldorf perspective on the Common Core State Standards






By Huntington Barclay
Founding father Thomas Jefferson maintained that if the federal government intruded into — and standardized education, diversity in ways of thinking would disappear and democracy would die. Looking at the educational landscape today suggests to many that this may indeed be happening now.
History: For more than 50 years the federal government in the United States has steadily increased its influence in the field of education. The 1965 Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA) was part of Lyndon Johnson’s war on poverty. It provided standardized testing and funding only within certain standards of accessibility. For more than four decades it was renewed every five years.  Then Bill Clinton expanded its reach.
George Bush’s No Child Left Behind Act of 2001 reiterated Clinton’s goals and reauthorized the ESEA. NCLB increased the restraints on federal funding and expanded the federal role, requiring standardized annual testing, national report cards and standardized teacher qualifications. Like Clinton’s Goals 2000, but more comprehensive in purview, NCLB paid the states if they would increase early academics, introduce educational technology and use standardized tests to monitor and demonstrate student progress.
In 2010 Secretary of Education Arne Duncan introduced a set of restrictive state standards which came to be known as Common Core State Standards. The standards are well written, well referenced and well intentioned, but they are more than just standards. 
CCSS is a detailed list of what students in all grades, from kindergarten through grade 12, should be able to learn and do in mathematics, English, language skills and social studies.
In recent months many parent and teacher groups have complained about the CCSS and this latest intrusion of the federal government and corporations into education. Parents are concerned about the effect the standards are having on their children. The state of Louisiana is suing the department of education and the executive office for seizing control of education without constitutional justification. West Virginia has just repealed it’s acceptance of CCSS.
The Waldorf perspective: The perspective of Waldorf Education would question the underlying assumption of Common Core — that government should play a leading role in determining how children are educated.
Rudolf Steiner (founder of Waldorf) saw human society as comprising three distinct spheres of activity: 1) the political or “rights” sphere; 2) the economic sphere; and 3) the spiritual/cultural sphere. Each operates most effectively when independent, not impinging on the others, or being impinged on. 
Steiner placed education within the cultural sphere and thus believed it should be able to operate in total freedom. Government is part of the “rights” sphere and should not intrude into education. Economics, where the immediate, appropriate goal is financial profit, also should not be involved in forming educational policy. In the drafting of Common Core however, both the federal government and prominent corporations were highly-involved. Since the announcement of standards, by no coincidence, many expensive related products have appeared — books, webinars, software programs, apps, courses and blogs — offering help in succeeding with CCSS. The corporate world has too often been eager to profit by what it helped to create.
There are today a number of Waldorf-inspired charter schools that receive government funding. But experience indicates that such arrangements usually lead to increasing external monitoring and controls, as well as rules and prohibitions against the very things that distinguish Waldorf Education.                    
Earlier is not better: Another concern is the “earlier the better” attitude that permeates Common Core. Government standards stipulate that academic learning should begin in kindergarten and become more intense with each grade. At the heart of Waldorf education is the idea that the child grows in distinct developmental stages. The young child is not ready for demanding intellectual work.  Premature academics can permanently skew healthy holistic development. Throughout the grades Common Core seems to demand of the students more performance intellectually than appropriate. The predominant call for the use of computers and other technology from the early grades on is one symptom. 
Different standards of success: The focus on standardized tests as a way of measuring the success of the student (and of the teacher) is also problematic. Waldorf education is not only about skill development and the acquisition of knowledge.  It is certainly not about educating children to be cogs in a successful national economy competing in the world markets. Waldorf education seeks to help students become and wonder, as well as nurturing a keen interest in the world around them. The success of such an education simply cannot be measured by a standardized test.
If this article resonates with you as a parent, consider visiting The White Mountain Waldorf School in Albany to see for yourself what the school can offer your child. Contact Enrollment Director, Denice Tepe at (603) 447-3168 or email Outreach@WhiteMountainWaldorf.org.
Huntington Barclay is a dedicated Waldorf parent. He referenced from an article in Renewal, A Journal for Waldorf Education, vol. 24 #1, by Patrice Maynard.The Waldorf Way: A Waldorf perspective on the Common Core State Standards:

School District Privatization Threat Thwarted by Community-Supported, Union-Led Campaign - NEA Today

School District Privatization Threat Thwarted by Community-Supported, Union-Led Campaign - NEA Today:

School District Privatization Threat Thwarted by Community-Supported, Union-Led Campaign



L-R: Drew Campbell, Teddie Watson, and Heather Madigan stand with signs used to gather support for their efforts.  The MEA and supporters were successful in thwarting an attempt to outsource almost 200 ESP jobs in Waterford, Mich.  Campbell and Madigan are both custodian engineers in the Waterford School District.  Watson is a bus driver in the WSD.  Photo taken on Tuesday, June 23, 2015, at the NEA local office in Bloomfield Hills, Mich.  (Jose Juarez/Special to the NEA)
L-R: Drew Campbell, Teddie Watson, and Heather Madigan stand with signs used to gather support for their efforts. The MEA and supporters were successful in thwarting an attempt to outsource almost 200 ESP jobs in Waterford, Mich. (Jose Juarez/Special to the NEA)


Over the last several decades, Andrew Campbell has given many school board presentations, workshop trainings, and media interviews about the futility ofprivatizing public school services. Colleagues say that “privatization” is his signature word if not his middle name.
“I use that word a lot,” says Campbell, a custodian with the Waterford School District for 28 years and member of the Michigan Education Association (MEA) Statewide Anti-privatization (SWAP) Committee.
SWAP provides anti-privatization training and assists MEA local Associations threatened with outsourcing.
Last March, Campbell and two other SWAP members were conducting a typical training workshop in Bellaire, Michigan. It was titled, “Defending our Careers: How to Stop Privatization Through Coalition Building and Community Connections.”
“It was Friday the 13th,” Campbell recalls. “A colleague from Waterford (210 miles away) called to tell me that our superintendent had just announced in a private meeting that he was putting out bids to privatize almost 200 jobs.”
One of those jobs was Campbell’s.
Despite the bad omen and devastating news, Campbell knew that members of Waterford’s Michigan Education Support Personnel Association III (MESPA) could rally the community and beat back school privatization. Which they did, but it wasn’t easy.
“I knew we wouldn’t panic,” he says. “We’d organize.”
Within 48 hours of hearing the news, executive committee members of MESPA III (custodians, maintenance/transportation and food service workers) got together and established the Waterford Education Support Professional (ESP) Crisis Committee.
Campbell was named chairman. Also present were MEA UniServ Director Marcy Felegy and Troy Beasley, president of the teacher’s Waterford Education Association (WEA). Since the school board was scheduled to vote on the school privatization issue at a May 21 board meeting, time was of essence.
MESPA leaders quickly decided to follow anti-privatization action plans created by the National Education Association (NEA), MEA and the SWAP team, which is comprised of members from several ESP job groups, higher education, and K-12 teachers.
“I was not going to lose my job without doing something about it,” says Heather Madigan, a custodial engineer at Beaumont Elementary School who volunteered to join the crisis team. “It was extremely helpful to have experienced people on the team. We got right to work.”
During this time, school district officials also pounced. They immediately began accepting bids from private companies to provide services for 187 school support jobs in transportation (67), custodial (65) and childcare services (41), and maintenance (14). In addition, officials announced that one transportation and two custodial supervisors were being released as of July 1.
“We hadn’t had a raise in seven years and have accepted many concessions over School District Privatization Threat Thwarted by Community-Supported, Union-Led Campaign - NEA Today:

Brought To You By Wal-Mart? How the Walton Foundation’s Ideological Pursuit is Damaging Charter Schooling

Brought To You By Wal-Mart? How the Walton Family Foundation’s Ideological Pursuit is Damaging Charter Schooling - Cashing in on Kids:

Brought To You By Wal-Mart? How the Walton Family Foundation’s Ideological Pursuit is Damaging Charter Schooling
There was a sour breeze blowing through the nation’s charter schools in 2014.
Twenty-five years into our nation’s experiment with independently operated, publicly funded charter schools, the news didn’t look good: In May, a new report revealed more than $100 million in fraud, waste and abuse in just 15 of the 43 states that allow charters. (A year later, the report was updated, and the figure rose to $200 million.) Some of the stories defy belief: a school in Philadelphia that was doubling as a nightclub after hours; school operators embezzling millions to pay for high-flying lifestyles; real estate developers cashing in by using public funds to leverage sweet deals on millions of dollars’ worth of property. One after another, the stories emerged. And public officials around the country began to call for change.
In Connecticut, the state Department of Education announced new policies to govern oversight of the state’s charter sector.1 In New York, the charter lobby continued a seven-year fight to prevent the state comptroller from auditing charter schools.2 In Pennsylvania, the auditor general called the charter sector “a mess.”3
How did an idea that promised small-scale innovation as a way to improve the education outcomes of disadvantaged children become a massive industry of more than 6,000 schools, spending upward of $20 billion from taxpayers a year, despite demonstrating no significant academic gains for students?
A significant share of the blame lies at the feet of the Walton Family Foundation (WFF), the Arkansas-based philanthropic arm of the family that brought us Wal-Mart.
Newspaper headlines
When it comes to public education, the Walton Family Foundation is the largest philanthropic donor in the U.S. after the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. Gates also supports charter schools, but the Walton Family Foundation ($164 million in education grants in 2013) stands out because of its uncompromisingly ideological approach to public education and its strong support for policy advocacy in line with that approach. And as the tower of cards began to shake, it is the Walton Family Foundation that—more than any other—should take the blame.
This report explores the radical agenda of the Walton family and the foundation it controls, and how that agenda has taken the U.S. charter school movement away from education quality in favor of a strategy focused only on growth. Under the guise of “choice” to improve schools for low-income children, WFF has supported the unregulated growth of a privatized education industry— quantity over quality, and “freedom” over regulation. It’s been lucrative for some, but a disaster for many of the nation’s most vulnerable students and school districts.

THE WAL-MART WAY: INTENSELY IDEOLOGICAL AND MARKET-DRIVEN

“Charters are competitors. They steal customers, deplete revenues and increase costs. When charters siphon off kids, they not only take the money that comes with them, they often cause nearby schools to operate under capacity.”
Sam Walton and his brother, Bud, founded Wal-Mart and got rich. Really rich. Sam Walton and his wife Helen’s four children (along with their families) now share in what is estimated to be a collective worth of $150 billion. Of the 10 richest Americans according to Forbes magazine, four are members of the Walton family.
The Walton Family Foundation was established in 1988 and is based in Bentonville, Ark., the home of Wal-Mart.
The late John Walton, who died when the small plane he was piloting crashed in Wyoming in 2005, his widow Christy, and brother, Jim Walton, shared in the leadership of the family foundation. John, more than the others, crafted the foundation’s agenda. Carrie Walton Penner, the daughter of Sam Walton’s eldest son Rob, and her husband, Greg Penner, have also been instrumental in the family’s education work, sitting on the boards of numerous education advocacy and charter organizations and giving generously to the political campaigns of like-minded politicians from their $20 million home in Atherton, Calif. Alice Walton, the youngest of Sam and Helen’s four children, is best known as an arts collector. But she, too, doesn’t hesitate to lay down some cash in the political arena when the family’s education agenda is at stake.
The foundation’s stated mission is to infuse public education with competitive pressure through school choice. The theory is based in retail: If consumers have options, they will choose either higher quality or cheaper products. Merchants who can’t compete will go out of business, opening up space for new entrepreneurs to enter. Through this constant churn of options, the theory holds, quality will improve across the board. In public education, that means flooding the market with schools, aggressively closing those that are labeled as “failing,” and opening up pathways to allow new school operators to take their place.
The Walton Family Foundation holds this theory dear, and has relentlessly pressed for the rapid growth of privatized education options (vouchers and charters) and against any government intervention (read: regulation) that might deter entry into the education market by anyone with an idea to try out.
Although the foundation implies that this market-based model will lead to the improvement of all schools in a system, a different endgame is clear through its philanthropic portfolio: The foundation endorses the eventual elimination of public education altogether, in favor of an across-the-board system of privately operated schools.
If the principals of the Walton Family Foundation decline to state publicly that their press for deregulation and rapid expansion is designed to undermine and eventually dismantle public education, their grantees have been more than willing to do so:
“Charters are competitors. They steal customers, deplete revenues and increase costs. When charters siphon off kids, they not only take the money that comes with them, they often cause nearby schools to operate under capacity. This increases inefficiencies and per-student costs because all that empty space still must be maintained.
As charters continue to expand, they will force districts to make more and more tough choices on personnel, closing schools and redrawing attendance boundaries, both political poisons. We are seeing this play out in spectacular fashion in some older urban areas.”4
That’s Mike Thomas of the Foundation for Excellence in Education (FEE) arguing that Florida should allow more rapid expansion of the charter sector not despite, but because of the “spectacular” negative impact this expansion is having on traditional public schools and the children who remain in them. Founded by former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, FEE has received more than $4.8 million from the Walton Family Foundation since 2009.
But the most chilling articulation of the Walton agenda came in a 2008 article published in EducationNext.5 The article, called “Wave of the Brought To You By Wal-Mart? How the Walton Family Foundation’s Ideological Pursuit is Damaging Charter Schooling - Cashing in on Kids:




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