Dr. Randy Poe, Superintendent, Boone County Public Schools, Kentucky
Regular readers know that BIPPS has major concerns about the proposed revision to Kentucky’s social studies standards. Aside from some strange and possibly legally troubling omissions that indicate the people writing the revised standards don’t really understand Kentucky’s School-Based Decision Making system, the proposal essentially depersonalizes history.
Many prominent national leaders like Benjamin Franklin, James Madison, John Adams, Abraham Lincoln, Theodore Roosevelt, Franklin D. Roosevelt and a host of others are never once mentioned in the highly deficient revision.
Others, like civil rights leader Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., are also completely ignored.
Without question, it looks like the amazing human inventive spirit in America and elsewhere is going to get scant, if any, attention.
Totally absent are the names of all inventors from all time. Among the many missing are such creative giants as Alexander Graham Bell and his telephone, the Wright Brothers and the first successful powered airplane, Samuel Morse and his telegraph and George Westinghouse, whose safety air brakes are still in massive use today.
Franklin’s scientific achievements, such as the lightning rod, are also as absent as his name in this deficient blueprint for Kentucky social studies. Also absent is any discussion of Gutenberg’s printing press and Janssen and his microscopes.
One more major inventor, who originally hailed from Italy, also gets the ax in Kentucky’s proposed standards. He is Guglielmo Marconi, whose experiments and practical developments in the area of radio telegraphy marked a crucial improvement in man’s ability to communicate quickly to anywhere. Marconi’s discoveries set the stage for the smart phones, Bluetooth, Wi-Fi, satellite TV and radio, Global Positioning Systems, and wireless computer networking of today.
Two of my correspondents, Jamie Gass and Ze’ev Wurman, just posted a great article titled “Gass and Wurman: The lessons historically significant inventors offer,” and it provides a nice overview of Marconi and the implications of his important inventions.
Gass and Wurman do something more, however, pointing to the fact that Marconi wasn’t locked in by the limitations an education system that would not have met his needs. Instead, Marconi gained his unique understanding of math and physics as a result of his parents’ conscious efforts to select the best possible education choice for their son. It was a school choice success story, one few Kentuckians can enjoy today due to the selfishness of those who want kids locked into a one-size-must-fit-all education system.
But, one size doesn’t fit every child today any better than it would have fit Marconi, and the world might be a much less interesting place if Marconi had not benefitted from school choices.
We’ve written a lot over the years about the massive war concerning which reading instruction approach, phonics-based or Whole Language, works best.
The argument should have been pretty much settled after the National Reading Panel issued its scientifically conducted report in 2000, but K to 12 education is weak about doing scientific research and even weaker about accepting the results when those findings don’t agree with the current fad ideas in classrooms and Ed Schools. In K to 12 education, fads trump science.
So, the reading war has dragged on. As pointed out by American Public Media’s Emily Hanford, Whole Language got renamed as “Balanced Literacy” to hide the fact that the war was continuing, but the “balance” doesn’t include phonics in an effective way, and MANY kids have suffered in consequence.
For example, the NAEP Data Explorer web tool shows the latest results from the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) for Grade 4 reading indicate only 38 percent of Kentucky’s students tested “Proficient or Above” while a highly disturbing 30 percent, nearly one in three, scored “Below Basic.” This means nearly one in three Kentucky Grade 4 students, as NAEP puts it, lacks even “partial mastery of prerequisite knowledge and skills fundamental for proficient work at each grade.”
For Kentucky’s black students, the numbers look even worse. More than half tested in the “Below Basic” score range and just 16 percent scored proficient.
For students identified as learning disabled, including those who have what is known as a 504 plan, 61 percent scored in the Below Basic region and just 17 percent were rated Proficient or Above.
Did you catch the interesting fact that essentially equal proportions of Kentucky’s black and learning-disabled Grade 4 students had the same proficiency rate? That implies problems with reading instruction don’t exist only for kids with learning disabilities.
Thus, getting reading instruction right could help a whole lot of kids.
But, how do we get this right? Clearly, it isn’t happening right now in Kentucky’s classrooms.
Some interesting answers, which again point to getting all teachers proficient at teaching phonics as the first step in reading instruction, come in a news item from a PBS News Hour broadcast. And, parents are leading this charge.
Check the News Hour video to see what is going on in Arkansas, and pay attention to the teachers who honestly admit they didn’t really know how to teach reading before they got help to do phonics-based introduction to reading properly. Just click here to see this clip, which runs about 8 minutes.
If you paid attention to the video, you noted that Kentucky has some efforts under way to improve reading instruction. That is true, but the effort hasn’t been nearly so successful as what Arkansas parents have accomplished.
(FRANKFORT, Ky.) – The Bluegrass Institute for Public Policy Solutions, Kentucky’s first and only free-market think tank, issued the following response to Attorney General Beshear’s decision to file a lawsuit trying to force the Bevin administration to withdraw subpoenas of teacher absence records after teacher “sick outs” forced several districts to close school during the recent session of the Kentucky General Assembly:
We want to commend the Bevin administration for supporting Kentucky law and not caving to the bullying and intimidation of the attorney general and the teachers’ union he’s seeking support from for his political campaign for governor.
The law clearly indicates that the actions taken by teachers – many of whom have been misled, misinformed and misguided – are illegal, whether they are labeled “wildcat strikes” or “work stoppages.”
Kentucky’s Labor Cabinet has a responsibility to enforce labor laws in the commonwealth – actions which, in the past, the attorney general and his fellow progressives have insisted upon. This includes fining construction employers for failing to pay union wage rates before the repeal of prevailing-wage mandates on public projects. Now, the same group that previously insisted upon enforcement is now taking legal action to keep officials from doing so.
It would be negligent, in fact, for Secretary Dickerson and the Labor Cabinet to refuse to enforce these laws, which are designed to protect taxpayers and citizens from massive strikes and crippling losses of public services.
If the attorney general is successful in his ill-advised and politically motivated attempt to prevent the Labor Cabinet from upholding the law regarding strikes by public employees, he opens the door to chaos and lawlessness.
Can Kentucky afford to have a multitude of police officers, firefighters and jail and prison guards call in sick so they can go down to Frankfort and throw a tantrum every time legislators discuss policies they don’t agree with?
The attorney general’s action – which goes way beyond his constitutionally mandated authority – isn’t about either First Amendment or equal rights. Rather, it’s an attempt to create special rights for a particular group of people that, if allowed to stand, will put the entire commonwealth at the mercy of public employees – something our founders did not intend.
After all, private employees cannot call in sick and then go to the Capitol and protest without risk of losing their jobs altogether. For that matter, we’re unaware of other public sector employees engaging in similar tactics, as well.
In this case, the maximum fine Frankfort could levy on teachers who falsely call in sick is $1,000, which is a significantly smaller penalty than the loss of jobs altogether that many in the private sector would face for similar actions.
Finally, the attorney general is pointing to legal action out of Detroit, Michigan, as precedent for his lawsuit in our commonwealth. Not only is Kentucky a different state with its own constitution and unique set of statutes, but Detroit is a bankrupt city – a situation we should be trying to avoid, not embrace.
We call on the attorney general to uphold the constitutionally mandated oath he took to not only support Kentucky’s Constitution but also to faithfully execute the duties of his office, “according to law.” After all, the attorney general’s job is to enforce the law, not to change it on his own to fit his personal political ideology or benefit his current gubernatorial campaign.
Contact Jim Waters at firstname.lastname@example.org, 859.444.5630 ext. 102 (office) or 270.320.4376 (cell).
The Bluegrass Institute for Public Policy Solutions, Kentucky’s first and only free market think tank, has been offering commonsense ideas to solve the commonwealth’s greatest challenges since 2003. Find these solutions at www.bipps.org.
Our regular readers know Kentucky is in the process of adopting new standards for social studies, and we at the Bluegrass Institute think the current revision approved by the Kentucky Board of Education on April 10, 2019 is highly unacceptable.
But, what would others think?
A Jay Leno “Man in the Street” video provides some insight. In this video Leno asks high school students about their history and geography knowledge. The answers are pretty disturbing.
I applied Leno’s questions to the revision that the state board approved. Here’s how that worked out:
Leno question: What countries make up Great Britain?
Kentucky’s new social studies standards only mention Great Britain one time in Grade 4 Standard 4.E.MA.1, “Compare and contrast different ways that the government interacts with the economy.”
This is only a question about government, not the countries that make up Great Britain. I see no indication that Kentucky’s students will ever be required to know what countries make up Great Britain.
Great Britain is one of the lucky few to even get one mention in the standards. Other countries like Germany are not mentioned at all (more on that later).
Want to see more shocking examples and how you can help stop this? Click the “Read more link.”
We are not the only ones challenging claims of great educational progress.
“Two decades later, after sweeping efforts that included No Child Left Behind, Race to the Top, and the Common Core, are our schools better off? The answer is less reassuring than one would hope.”
FREDERICK M. HESS & RJ MARTIN in “After 20 Years of Reform, Are America’s Schools Better Off?”