Who They Gonna Call? Bias at the New York Times on Education Reform

Note: This article was published by Counterpunch, Nov. 3, 2015, but it remains distressingly current.

Go To Counterpunch for direct link to the articles. Big NYT logos and photos were getting inserted when I put links here.

It’s definitely time for an update on this.

On Sept. 6, 1871, The New York Times published Karl Marx’s obituary,[1] even though Marx was very much alive at that time–and didn’t die for another eleven years. Whether it was obstinacy or wishful thinking, the Times never ran a correction on this item. In more recent times, educators who wondered if they’d live long enough to see a correction on Times fly-by-night education reform claims found small hope in this New York Times official Correction, March 2, 2013:

An article on Friday about New York City’s estimate that it will cost about $56 million to buy new textbooks and other materials to help city public school students meet rigorous Common Core academic standards misidentified the classes in New York State that will take standardized tests in April based on the new standards. It is third through eighth graders, not kindergartners through eighth grade.[2]

Certainly, this glitch doesn’t compare with other Times bloopers that have made it to the Corrections page:

* Walter Cronkite did not storm the D-Day beaches but covered the landing from a warplane

* Congressional candidate Alexander Sacks said “Communist fronts,” not “Communist faggots”

* In “Hullabaloo in the Guava Orchard” a spy from an atheist organization fell into a vat of broth, not a monkey or Sampath in the form of a guava.

* An article about drilling for oil off the coast of Angola erroneously reported a story about cows falling from planes, as an example of risks in any engineering endeavor. No cows, smuggled or otherwise, ever fell from a plane into a Japanese fishing rig.

Other corrections have involved misidentifying someone’s My Little Pony character, clarifying just when Gore Vidal had sex with his longtime live-in companion, situating Bermuda in the Caribbean, mistaking longitude for latitude, putting the picture of the wrong catcher in Yogi Berra’s obituary, offering illumination on whether Ahmed Abu Khattala drank a strawberry frappe or mango juice at a luxury hotel, correcting the age of Melania Krauss [Trump] when she posed for a picture in Talk magazine: “She was 29, not 26, making her almost a quarter-century younger than her future husband, not more than a quarter-century younger.”

And so on.

Considering all the Times’ misstatements on Common Core since the June 3, 2010 announcement of the release of the standards, the glitch about K-3 is indeed very small potatoes. But correction of small detail is a critical Times strategy, such repairs serving as opportunistic sly boots, offering reassurance to readers that the paper is meticulous about facts. Get the small trappings right and then maybe nobody will notice the deliberate, obfuscating curtains of distortion and duplicity shrouding what matters. As Renata Adler points out, [3] “the policy of Corrections is a form simultaneously of consolidation of power and of hiding. . . . It is a form of Fundamentalism, it protects the ideology.” With New York Times Common Core coverage, that travels as News is corporate Verdict.

The fact that in Times education coverage, public relations crackerjacks are much more likely to be quoted than pedagogy experts sits in sharp contrast to news presented by the science staff when writing about medical research. Health and science writer (and part of a 2015 Pulitzer Prize team) Pam Belluck explains:[4]

Once we decide it’s worth doing a story, there are several next steps. Besides doing a detailed reading of the study, examining related cancer research and interviewing the researchers and unconnected experts, I’m always interested in talking with real people with relevant experiences.

That last sentence cuts to the core of the problem with the Times coverage of education in general and the Common Core in particular:

* Interviewing researchers

* Interviewing unconnected experts

* Talking with real people with relevant experiences

This has not happened in Common Core coverage.

Let’s start with the June 2010 article announcing release of the Common Core.[5] Longtime reporter and two-time Pulitzer Prize (for writing on Iran-Contra and drug trafficking in Mexico) reporter Sam Dillon declared that “The new standards were written by English and math experts convened last year by the National Governors Association and the Council of Chief State School Officers.” In the ensuing five years, Times staffers repeat this claim again and again, though no experts are named, other than Sue Pimentel. Dillon gives no clarification here. In actuality, Pimentel trained as a lawyer but is a Standardisto’s standardisto. She got her big start in Standards setting with a 1993 grant in from the Walton Family Foundation and was a co-founder of Standards Work. Her close connection with Achieve put her in prime position to write the Common Core standards in language arts.

This piece introducing the Common Core to America does not mention that the Common Core existed because of a hundred million or so from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. Instead, for his opening description of the Common Core, Dillon called on the perennial Times favorite education go-to mouthpiece, Chester E. Finn Jr., here identified as “a former assistant secretary of education who has long called for national standards.”

In some 60+ education articles that Dillon wrote for the Times in 2010, he quoted 14 different university professors, 12 individual school superintendents, and a school bus driver—one time each. No repeats. That same year Dillon quoted Finn seven times. Finn was on the Times speed dial long before Dillon used him. Since the early 1980ies, whether the subject has been bilingual education, school governance in Chicago, Maxine Greene’s pedagogy, same-sex education, gifted education, special education, or merit pay for teachers, the New York Times calls, and Chester E. Finn, Jr. delivers. In 1991, Finn himself was profiled in an article[6] with this headline: “Washington at Work; Education Pundit Heard As Voice of Revolution,” In November 1997, in an article on the teaching of mathematics,[7] Finn’s remarks were bannered on the front page as Quotation of the Day.

The New York Times calls and Finn delivers. He’s smart, and he’s colorful. The fact that many respected educators think he’s wrong is irrelevant to the Times. The paper’s approach was made very apparent in 1999 with the release of a Harvard Graduate School of Education Civil Rights Project study, “Resegregation in American Schools.”[8] The Times quoted three sentences from the civil rights study. The only person in the country asked to react was Chester E. Finn, Jr., who was also given three sentences, including this one: “’Gary Orfield must be the only American who still thinks that integration for its own sake is an important societal goal.” No one was quoted supporting the report. Then, one month later, the Times carried news[9] about the release of another report–one from the Thomas B. Fordham Foundation advocating scrapping most teacher-hiring regulations tied to schools of education. The Times identified Chester E. Finn, Jr. as Fordham president and a principal editor of the report as well as an Assistant Secretary of Education in the Reagan Administration.The Times gave 1 ½ time more ink to the Fordham report than to the Harvard Civil Rights Project report.

Up Close and Disturbing: The New York Times Looks at Common Core

When I read an article about China in the Times, I know that one correspondent, has a Ph.D. in Chinese studies and has lived in China for 15 years; another received Polk and Asia Society awards for China coverage; another took a sabbatical to improve his Mandarin. And so on. Think of what education reporters bring to their beat: they went to school. When coverage of the Common Core began to rev up in 2013, here’s who covered it:

*22 news items by staff reporters whose beat was at least temporarily education. One had been covering the metropolitan policing, another global terrorism. For another, a temporary stop at education came before assignment to the China beat.

*12 news items by reporters on other beats, including the science of climate change, New York regional news, book review, data analysis, economics, Congress, scientific miscellany, technology, wedding announcements

* 9 opinion pieces by Times Editorial Board plus 2 signed pieces by Brent Staples who writes the unsigned Editorials on education

* 5 opinion pieces by staff op ed writers

* 3 op eds by someone not employed by the Times, including a professor at the Harvard Graduate School of Education, an emeritus professor of political science at Queens College, a middle school English teacher

The Times Editorial Board, like the legendary Boston Brahmin Cabots, who spoke only to God, finds no need to communicate with education practitioners or researchers to reinforce their claim that the Common Core is necessary for the economic well-being of the country. The board is joined by staff op ed writers in insisting that the Common Core is heavily researched and jam-packed with critical thinking and problem-solving skills that workers need to keep the nation competitive in the Global Economy. Like people waiting for Senator McCarthy to open his briefcase at the House UnAmerican Activities Committee meetings, Times readers wait for even a snippet of a study by one education researcher providing evidence for all this phantasm.

It just isn’t there.

The New York Times education coverage has become quasi-governmental, promoting the corporate push for standardization of public schools. Not only are readers not informed that the Common Core was developed and heavily promoted with hundreds of millions from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, the oft-repeated selling point that these “standards that have been adopted by 45 states and the District of Columbia” fails to acknowledge that the states did it for the money, accepting the Common Core for the Race to the Top financial bribe handed out by the US Department of Education, most definitely not for the pedagogy. Savvy readers keep a count of how often the Times intones unproven key phrases right out of the press releases from Common Core headquarters: “the Common Core sets a national benchmark for what students should should learn”[10]; “a focus on critical thinking and primary investigation”[11]; “set more rigorous classroom goals for American students, with a focus on critical thinking skills, abstract reasoning in math and reading comprehension”[12]; “emphasize critical thinking”[13]; “emphasis on free-form thinking”[14]; “emphasize deep analysis and creative problem-solving”[15]; “written by a panel of experts … focus on critical thinking and analysis”[16]; “modeled on the teaching strategies of countries, especially in Asia, that perform better on international comparisons”[17] ; “a more rigorous set of standards”[18]; “heightened expectation of student progress. . . ideal of a rigorous national standard”[19]; “tougher learning standards taking root across the country”[20]; a set of rigorous academic standards”[21]; “the new, more rigorous academic standards”[22]; “a set of rigorous reading and math standards”[23]; “a tougher set of standards”[24]; “the standards were written by a panel of experts convened by a bipartisan group of governors and superintendents to emphasize critical thinking over memorization, to better prepare students for college and jobs”[25]; “new benchmarks for what students need to know and be able to do”[26]; “new and more rigorous set of academic standards”[27]; “more rigorous academic standards.”[28]

As we read this over-the-top legerdemain about the Common Core—verified by absolutely no evidence from research or classroom practice—we have to wonder about the absence of those reportorial strategies so clearly outlined by the Pulitzer science reporter:

* Interviewing researchers

* Interviewing unconnected experts

* Talking with real people and relevant experiences

Where’s the Left?

In an August 16, 2013 piece on the Common Core,[29] Motoko Rich mentioned “growing opposition from both the right and the left before it has been properly introduced into classrooms.” Let’s think a moment about just whom the Times is talking about here. “The Right” is clearly marked as Tea Party zealots. “The Left?” Anybody’s guess. The only Common Core opponents Rich mentioned are “a group of parents and teachers” who argue that the tests aligned with the standards are too difficult, but she quotes Kati Haycock of Education Trust worrying about the “terrifying prospect” if “a bit of anti-test rebellion coming from the left” joined up with the Tea Partiers.

Sam Dillon covered[30] a paper published by the ostensibly liberal Albert Shanker Institute advocating common curriculum, but the Times igored the manifesto signed by a group Education Week described[31] as “more than 100 leaders in education, business, and politics, most of them conservatives.” Likewise, the Cato Institute opposition to the Common Core goes unmentioned. Instead, the New York Times chooses to give ink to the bizarre. We get eight-year Times executive editor Bill Keller announcing[32] that Glenn Beck and Michelle Malkin and their cohorts are trying to kill the Common Core, “arguably the most serious educational reform of our lifetime.” Common Core: most serious education reform of our lifetime, and to attack it, declares Keller, is to be stupid. Keller identifies conservatives who support the Common Core, as “scholars”: Katherine Porter-Magee of Thomas B. Fordham Institute and Partnership for Inner-City Education and Sol Stern, senior fellow at Manhattan Institute. Neither Keller nor any of his Op Ed cohorts seem to be able to find any scholars on the Left. Or even in the middle.

Instead, we get Op Ed windbag David Brooks,[33] who offers a flip dismissal of both the right and the left in the “boredom” known as Common Core:

We are pretty familiar with this story. A perfectly sensible if slightly boring idea is walking down the street. Suddenly the ideological circus descends, burying the sensible idea in hysterical claims and fevered accusations. The idea’s political backers beat a craven retreat. The idea dies.

This is what seems to be happening to the Common Core education standards, which are being attacked on the right because they are common and on the left because they are core.

Of course it’s a given that opinion columnists get to say anything they damn well please, but does anybody think David Brooks has ever talked with a Leftist education researcher?

In a 2014 piece headlined “Common Core Curriculum Now Has Critics on the Left,” Art Baker, claimed[34] that Common Core, “applauded by education leaders,” previously had no resistance from liberals. But now, an “acclaimed high school principal on Long Island,” called the Common Core a “disaster.” He offered no hint of how he came to know this principal’s political philosophy and offered no statements from any avowed Leftist scholars. Instead he quickly moved on to the Times’ tried and true source on the Right:

Common Core advocates like Michael J. Petrilli, executive vice president at the Thomas B. Fordham Institute, an education policy group, have been taken aback.

Twenty-three paragraphs later, Baker closed with a statement from Chester E. Finn, Jr., identifying him as “a former assistant education secretary and now senior fellow at the Hoover Institution at Stanford.” Baker fails to acknowledge that Finn was also president of the Fordham group for which Petrilli was vice-president, thus avoiding the admission that he was using two soundbites from Fordham in one article.

On his Taking Note blog, Editorial Page Editor Andrew Rosenthal zeroed in[35] on one Florida politico to nail home the proposition that Common Core opponents are out to lunch: “Florida State Representative Charlves Van Zant, a Republican, said the new educational standards were a ploy to make schoolchildren gay.”

In 2015, an Ivy-League-educated freelance ed writer trained as a lawyer told Times readers that poor kids in particular need something like Common Core because “they’re the least likely to acquire the kind of knowledge they need at home.” [36] The Times failed to inform its readers that this contributing writer serves on the board of the Writing Revolution, where Common Core architect David Coleman is an advisor. This outfit promises to deliver the exact skills students “need to meet the demanding new standards of the Common Core.”

New York Times education coverage seems particularly egregious when one looks at other reporting. Take knee replacement, for example. Articles acknowledge the procedure as contentious and a variety of people with diverse expertise and experience are cited: surgeons, physical therapists, researchers—and patients. Similarly, with a disputed topic like geo-engineering, both advocates and opponents with scientific expertise are given quite a bit of ink. But a topic like Common Core, which exposes every schoolchild in the country to radical disruption, is presented as necessary and beneficial, with dissenting expertise notably absent.

As Eugene Debs noted in 1920, [37] “The working class can expect nothing from the press of the capitalist class but misrepresentation and injustice in the struggle for its rights.” News folk at the New York Times seem determined to trumpet the miracle flimflam Bill Gates paid for while at the same time beating up on teachers for not being smart enough to do the job corporate America wants done. The public remains in the dark about the fact that once Gates got that Standardize Test bee in his bonnet he shelled out money to organizations ranging from the PTA to the Council for a Strong America to the American Enterprise Institute to the US Chamber of Commerce to the Thomas B. Fordham Institute to New Venture Fund to Success Academy —and nearly 200 more—18 pages of recipients—to bring the notion home. This money went not for researching the need for and benefit from national standards and testing, but to promote and/or develop supportive materials and implementation plans for a done deal called the Common Core. Readers can ask when the New York Times will cover the origins and promotion of the Common Core in muckraking detail, but it’s difficult to see that anyone on staff might be listening.

In Hubris: The Inside Story of Spin, Scandal, and the selling of the Iraq War, Michael Isikoff and David Corn reported[38] that for a year the Times had been under pressure from readers and press critics demanding the paper explain its reporting on Iraq’s nonexistent weapons of mass destruction. Then-executive editor Bill Keller wrote this admission regarding the paper’s Iraq coverage:

[W]e have found a number of instances of coverage that was not as rigorous as it should have been. In some cases, information that was controversial then, and seems questionable now, was insufficiently qualified or allowed to stand unchallenged. Looking back, we wish we had been more aggressive in re-examining the claims as new evidence emerged—or failed to emerge.[39]

Make no mistake: With regard to the survival of public education, the weapons of mass destruction are real, and the New York Times offers a cover-up that parallels the one Keller admitted to. Schoolchildren, their teachers, and anyone who recognizes the importance of public education in a democracy deserve an aggressive reexamination of the unsupportable spin on the Common Core published and applauded in this newspaper of record.

Notes.

[1] Karl Marx obituary, New York Times, Sept. 6, 1871

http://timesmachine.nytimes.com/timesmachine/1871/09/06/78772976.html?zoom=15&pageNumber=4

[2] Baker, Al, New State Academic Standards Are Said to Require $56 Million Outlay for City’s Schools,” Correction,New York Times, March 1, 2013

[3] Adler, Renata, Canaries in the Mineshaft, St Martin’s Press, 2001. 30-31

[4] Belluck, Pam, “End-Stage Chemotherapy: Reporter’s Notebook,” Insider, New York Times, July 28, 2015

[5] Dillon, Sam, “States Receive a Reading List: New Standards for Education,” New York Times, June 3, 2010

[6] De Witt, Karen,“Washington at Work: Education Pundit Heard as Voice of Revolution,” New York Times, Aug. 2, 199

[7] Steinberg, Jacques, “California Goes to War Over Math Instruction,” New York Times, Nov. 27, 1997

[8]Bronner, Ethan, “After 34 Years, Resegregation Emerges in Schools, Study Finds,” New York Times, June 13, 1999.

[9] Pollak, Michael, “Faulting Plans to Raise Bar on Teachers,” New York Times, July 21, 1999.

[10] Baker, Al, “New York Schools Detail Cost of Meeting New Standards,” New York Times, March

[11] Gillis, Justin, “Science Panel Calls for Broad Changes in Science Education,” New York Times, April 10,2013

[12] Kyle Spencer, “Students Face Tougher Tests That Outpace Lesson Plans,” New York Times, April 15, 2013

[13] Hernandez, Javier, C., “Union Chief Recommends Delay in Use of Test Scores,” New York Times, May 1, 2013

[14] Hernandez, Javier, C., Results of New Testing Standard Could Complicate Bloomberg’s Final Months,” New York Times, Aug. 5, 2013 http://www.nytimes.com/2013/08/05/nyregion/results-of-new-testing-standard-could-complicate-bloombergs-final-months.html

[15] Herenandez, Javier C. and Robert Gebeloff, “Test Scores Sink as New York Adopts Tougher Benchmarks, New York Times, Aug. 8, 2013 

[16] Rich, Motoko, “Education Overhaul Faces a Tough Case of Partisanship,” New York Times, July 24, 2013 http://www.nytimes.com/2013/07/24/us/politics/education-overhaul-faces-a-test-of-partisanship.html

[17] Chang, Kenneth, “With Common Core, Fewer Topics But Covered More Rigorously, New York Times, Sept. 3,

[18] Baker, Al, “For Bloomberg, a Day to Celebrate Successful Schools,” New York Times, Sept. 17, 2013

[19] Baker, Al, “Culture Warrior Gaining Ground,” New York Times, Sept. 28, 2013

[20] Baker, Al, “Tardy Deliveries Keep New Books Out of Teachers’ Hands,” New York Times, Oct. 5, 2013

[21] Rich, Motoko, “Raising the G.E.D. Bar Stirs Concern for Students,” Oct. 12, 2013

[22] Baker, Al, “Obama, at Brooklyn School, Pushes Education Agenda,” New York Times, Oct. 25, 2013

[23] Rich, Motoko,“Language Gap Study Bolsters a Push for Pre-K,” New York Times, Oct. 22, 2013, http://www.nytimes.com/2013/10/22/us/language-gap-study-bolsters-a-push-for-pre-k.html

[24] Hernandez, Javier C., “New York State Seeks to Scale Back Student Testing,” New York Times, Oct. 26, 2013

[25] Pérez-Peña, Richard, “A Plea for Catholic Schools to Ignore Guidelines,” New York Times, Nov. 5, 2013

[26] Hernandez, Javier C., “Educational Publisher’s Charity, Accused of Seeking Profits, Will Pay Millions,”    Pérez-Peña, Richard, “A Plea for Catholic Schools to Ignore Guidelines,” New York Times, Nov. 5, 2013, Dec. 13, 2013 

[27] Hernandez, Javier C., “Educational Publisher’s Charity, Accused of Seeking Profits, Will Pay Millions,” New York Times, Dec. 13, 2013 http://www.nytimes.com/2013/12/13/nyregion/educational-publishers-charity-accused-of-seeking-profits-will-pay-millions.html

[28] Baker, Al, “Bumpy Start for Teacher Evaluation Program in New York,” New York Times, Dec. 23, 2013, http://www.nytimes.com/2013/12/23/nyregion/bumpy-start-for-teacher-evaluation-program-in-new-york-schools.html

[29] Rich, Motoko, “School Standards’ Debut Is Rocky, and Critics Pounce,” New York Times, Aug.

[30] Dillon, Sam, “Bipartisan Group Backs Common School Curriculum,” New York Times, March 7, 2011

[31] Gewertz, Catherine, “Critics Post ‘Manifesto’ Opposing Shared Curriculum,” Education Week, May 18, 2011

http://www.edweek.org/ew/articles/2011/05/09/31curriculum.h30.html

[32] Keller, Bill, “War on the Core,” New York Times, Aug. 19, 2013.

[33] Brooks, David, “When the Circus Descends,” New York Times, April 18, 2014.

[34] Baker, Al, “Common Core Curriculum Now Has Critics on the Left,” New York Times, Feb. 17, 2014 

[35] Rosenthal, Andrew, “No Comment Necessary: The Common Core and Gay Conversion,” New York Times Taking Note blog, May 20, 2014

[36] Wexler, Natalie, “How Common Core Can Help In the Battle of Skills vs Knowledge, New York Times, Aug. 28, 2015

[37] Debs, Euene V., “The Power of the Press,” The Toiler [Cleveland], whole no. 107, Feb. 20, 1920)

[38] Isikoff, Michael and David Corn, Hubris: The Inside Story of Spin, Scandal, and the Selling of the Iraq War. Crown 2006, 360

[39] from the editors, “The Times and Iraq,” New York Times, May 5, 2006 http://www.nytimes.com/2004/05/26/international/middleeast/26FTE_NOTE.html

Sex and Syllabification Conjugal Consonants & More! National Reading Tribunal 24-Hour News

NRT adjutant General Back from Kindergarten War Zone. Set for appearance on Fox News.

Congresses Passes Bill Sylvan Airport Passsenger Phonemic Awareness Test not mandetory. Ultra-Business travelers lobby for hardship exclusion.

Classroom Bomb Threat a Hoax Toledo, OH. Police blew up brown paper bag containing bologna, not embedded modifiers. Agents from Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms & Umlauts secured the site.

Cruise/Cruz sign up for Spielberg premier phonics ballet: Differential Cryptoanalysis of the CR Blend set for release in the Fall.

Bickering Stalls Schwa Stimulus Package Attorney General warns partisanship swirling around the President’s plan threatens national security.

Calls for National Guard Lesson-Monitoring represents locals keeping their neighborhood safeSpecial Report NRT Special Counsel warns blends resistance cells proliferating

Hispanic Sentence-Diagrammer-of-Year Award

RESEARCH MATTERS The Effects of Phonemic Instruction on PreSchoolers Who Own Turtles: A Model-Based Metanalysis Special Report from the US Dept of Agriculture funded by the Gates Foundation

RESEARCH MATTERS The Effects of Computer-Mediated Phonics on the Acne Severity of Middle-School Readers Special Report from US Deprtment of Energy

RESEARCH MATTERS The Effects of Phonemic Intervention with At-Risk Youth Allergic to Eggplant Special Report from Arne Duncan, Emerson Collective

Attack on Phonics! Are Your Children Victims? Learn about Keeping your loved ones safe. Tonight at 6.

Speak up! Should anyone receive a high school diploma without first demonstrating homograph proficiency? Meet this Fortune 500 star who says NO! Live at 7

UP CLOSE and PERSONAL Chicago family without access to 16 rules for syllabification hit hard. Hear their painful story. Live at 8

Phonemic Awareness Neighborhood Watch Taking on Terror. Only YOU can keep our communities safe. Live at 9

Shakespeare’s Schwas Thomas B. Fordham Institute Special Report. Live at 10

IN THE POPULAR PRESS

STOP Rationalizing Evil! Why I Believe in Dipthongs, Bill Gates, New York Times Op-Ed

Professorial Terrorism: Stifling Vowel Digraphs on Campus, New York Times front page

The Phonics Crisis: Why Poor Children Fall Behind, New York Times front page

The Case for Phonics Vouchers, New York Times Business Section

How a Phonics Advocate Spends Her Sundays, New York Times weekend special

While busy studying for law degrees at Harvard, this couple found time for romance at a phonics picnic, New York Times, Vows

The Phonics Disaster: What Lazy, Ignorant, Abusive Teachers Don’t Want You To Know about Lack of Phonics in Their Classrooms, New York Post front page

The Phonics Disaster: What Lazy, Ignorant, Abusive Teachers Don’t Want You To Know About Lack of Phonics in Their Classrooms, Fox News at 6

What Makes an Economy Grow? PHONICS Business Roundtable warns that 93.863% of Americans live inphonics poverty, subsisting on fewer than five short vowels a day. Tune in for Phonics Good News Marathon!

Kids Matter

                         

Take This Test and Shove It

Should a Miami Teenager Have to Deconstruct a Poetic Account of Tracking Moose in Alaska to Get a High School Diploma? n

 Parents of kids facing tests that determine a child’s ability to received a high school diploma should take a close look at the questions being asked–and then ask a few questions of their own. Don’t miss the author’s reaction to what Florida Standardisto hasd done with his work. See below.

Reading test – grade 10 This story [sic] is a sample Florida Comprehensive Assessment Test reading exam for the 10th grade. After reading the story [sic], answer the six questions that follow.

Snow
By John Haines

To one who lives in the snow and watches it day by day, it is a book to be read. The pages turn as the wind blows; the characters shift and the images formed by their combinations change in meaning, but the language remains the same. It is a shadow language, spoken by things that have gone by and will come again. The same text has been written there for thousands of years, though I was not here, and will not be here in winters to come, to read it. These seemingly random ways, these paths, these beds, these footprints, these hard, round pellets in the snow: they all have meaning. Dark things may be written there, news of other lives, their sorties and excursions, their terrors and deaths.

I was walking home from Redmond Creek one morning late in January. On a divide between two watersheds, I came upon the scene of a battle between a moose and three wolves. The story was written plainly in the snow at my feet. The wolves had come in from the west, following an old trail from the Salcha River, and had found the moose feeding in an open stretch of the overgrown road I was walking.

The sign was fresh, it must have happened the night before.

The snow was torn up, with chunks of frozen moss and broken sticks scattered about; here and there, swatches of moose hair. A confusion of tracks in the trampled snow — the splayed, stabbing feet of the moose, the big, furred pads and spread toenails of the wolves.

I walked on, watching the snow. The moose was large and alone, almost certainly a bull. In one place he backed himself into a low, brush-hung bank to protect his rear. The wolves moved away from him — those moose feet are dangerous. The moose turned, ran on for fifty yards, and the fight began again. It became a running, broken flight that went on for nearly half a mile in the changing, rutted terrain, the red morning light coming across the hills from the sun low in the south. A pattern shifting and uncertain; the wolves relenting, running out into the brush in a wide circle, and closing again: another patch of moose hair in the trodden snow.

I felt that I knew those wolves. I had seen their tracks several times before during that winter, and once they had taken a marten from one of my traps.

I believed them to be a female and two nearly grown pups. If I was right, she may have been teaching them how to hunt, and all that turmoil in the snow may have been the serious play of things that must kill to live. But I saw no blood sign that morning, and the moose seemed to have gotten the better of the fight.

At the end of it he plunged away into thick alder brush. I saw his tracks, moving more slowly now, as he climbed through a low saddle, going north in the shallow, unbroken snow. The three wolves trotted east toward Banner Creek.

What might have been silence, an unwritten page, an absence, spoke to me as clearly as if I had been there to see it. I have imagined a man who might live as the coldest scholar on earth, who followed each clue in the snow, writing a book as he went. It would be the history of snow, the book of winter. A thousand-year text to be read by a people hunting these hills in a distant time. Who was here, and who has gone? What were their names? What did they kill and eat? Whom did they leave behind?

Adaption of “Snow” is from The Stars, The Snow, The Fire: Twenty-Five Years in the Alaska Wilderness by John Haines.

Questions. Base your answers on “Snow.”

1. What does the author mean by this sentence from the essay?

These seemingly random ways, these paths, these beds, these footprints, these hard, round pellets in the snow: they all have meaning.

a) Signs in the snow lead to different interpretations of the truth

b) Signs in the snow lead to different directions in the wilderness

c) Patterns in the snow can be connected to form a story of nature

d) Patterns in the snow can be connected to lead the observer to safety

Objective: Student selects and uses strategies to understand words and text, and to make and confirm inferences from what is read.

2. According to the author, which word best describes the story of snow?

a) Frightening
b) Random
c) Timeless
d) Violent

Student determines the main idea and identifies relevant details, methods of development, and their effectiveness in a variety of types of written material.

3. Which writing strategy does the author employ to express his views about snow?

a) Use of complex plot
b) Use of descriptive language
c) Development of varied structure
d) Development of believable characters

Objective:Student determines the main idea and identifies relevant details, method of development, and their effectiveness in a variety of types of written material.

4. After examining the moose’s tracks, the author concluded that the moose was

a) Cold
b) Confused
c) Large
d) Weak

Objective: Student recognizes cause-and-effect relationships in literary texts.

5. How does the author create suspense in relating the story about the animals in the snow?

a) By holding back information
b) By constantly updating the plot
c) Through detailed description
d) Through frequent use of adjectives

Objective: Student analyzes the effectiveness of complex elements of plot, such as setting, major events, problems, conflicts, and resolutions.

Ohanian Comment: Pardon me, but does the Florida State Department of Education really decree that essays have “plots,” which include such “complex elements” as “setting, major events, problems, conflicts, and resolutions?” Is E. B. White rolling over in his grave?

6. What is the mood of the opening and closing paragraphs?

a) Chaotic
b) Curious
c) Forlorn
d) Thoughtful

Objective: Student analyzes the effectiveness of complex elements of plot, such as setting, major events, problems, conflicts, and resolutions.

Note: This is what is known as a ‘sample’ item; it does not mean that the actual item has ever been used on a test. It does mean that this is the type of loony item found on Florida tests. Florida test writers turn a respectable piece of prose into something bizarre. For starters, they can’t decide whether it’s a story or an essay, and things go downhill from there. This type of questioning goes against everything we know about why people read or what they hope to get out of what they read.

I sent the questions to the author of the passage (who was a professor at the University of Alaska as well as Alaska’s poet laureate). Here is his response:

Dear Susan,

Thank you for the very weird pages from Florida education. I could hardly believe what I read, and then simply laughed. I gave copies to my students, and they laughed too! What is going on here? Education? I don’t think so.

My regards,

John Haines     

First Graders, Unite!

When Hollywood makes a movie, functionaries watch out for the well-being of animals. Compared to kindergartners, apes live a life of luxury. According to the rules, if an ape works for than three days in a row, then a play area must be provided for the ape’s relaxation. As our leaders scream about “skills for the global economy,” they talk a lot more about the necessity of  standardized testing in the midst of a Pandemic rather than need for play areas.

Maybe the schoolchildren of America should unioninize: First graders, unite! You have nothing to lose but your worksheets and homework.

How Do I Love Thee, Data?

Stuffed
Canned
Stewed

Skewered
Sliced
Diced

Canned
Pickled
Peeled

On ribs
With steak
Stuffed
Stewed
Souffled
Sauteed
Skewered

Poached
Grilled
Jellied
Tossed

On the side
Outside

Flaked
Grated
Ground
Molded
Medium rare
Deep fried
Filled
Over pasta
Spread on bread

Dipped
Baked
Au gratin
Stir fried
Curried
Pureed
Marinated
Creamed
Chipped
Fondued
On ice
Au jus
By the dozen
En casserole
Frozen

Over eggs
Over easy
Over and over

Data mph
Data interruptus
Data upchuck

Data dumpster

Eggplant

 

 Sex, Lies, and DIBELS: A Guidebook to National Standards

 

Part 1  Fun Facts about Standardistos 

Historical Signposts

  • The Meek

The Old Testament contains 63 references to Standards, the most cited being, “The meek shall inherit the Earth—after the Standardistos are through with it.”

  • Carrying Embers

The concept of “Standard of the Day” was invented by Tasmanian Aborigines looking for a way to carry embers from camp to camp for cooking during the middle Palaeolithic era. This did not save them from genocide.

  • Not Certified

After bringing the Ten Commandments down from Mount Sinai, Moses kept mum about the fact they had not been certified  “scientific” and “rigorous” by a Standards commission.

  • Eye for an Eye

In addition to the frequently quoted Standard “an eye for an eye, tooth for a tooth,”  the Hammurabi Code clearly warned “A Standard before breakfast makes Jack want to skip school.”

  • Asparagus

Darwin proved that since an asparagus seed can float for 85 continuous days and an ocean current moves roughly 38 miles a day, that means an asparagus can sail 3,230 miles across the sea, and still germinate. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos  is working on what this means for 4th graders.

  • Will Rogers

Although it is true that Will Rogers said, “I never met a Standard I didn’t like,” he hadn’t seen the California 7th grade history standards.

  • Sigmund Freud

The Library of Congress, holder of the Sigmund Freud Archives, offered a “No comment” response to rumors of discovery of a letter from Freud to the education editorial writer at the New York Times. “The fact that you are at all concerned with National Standards reveals your underlying insecurity as a regular guy and your dreams of having sex with 12-year-olds.”

  • Star Spangled Banner

Until 1904, when President Teddy Roosevelt negotiated for the U.S. to take control of the construction of the Panama Canal,  the last three lines of the first stanza of “The Star Spangled Banner” were:

Gave proof through the night that our rules were still there.
O! say do our  Performance Standards yet wave
O’er the land of the free and the home of the brave?

Roosevelt was instrumental in getting the new lyrics introduced  at the Louisiana Purchase Exposition, informally known as the Saint Louis World’s Fair.

  • Shipwrecks of Note

Ulu Burun….1316BC…copper ingots and pottery found in wreckage

White Ship……….1120………….King Henry I’s son lost, causing crisis of succession

Mary Rose……….1545……………………….sunk during battle with the French

Atocha………….1622………sank off Florida; $400 million in silver and coins found

Lady of the Lake…..1833………….struck iceberg sailing England to Quebec; 215 lost

Sultana………….1865………..boiler exploded on Mississippi steamboat; 1,547 died

Yongala………….1911……….hit by a cyclone; racehorse and prize bull among dead

Titanic………….1912…………………..largest passenger steamship in the world, collided with iceberg on maiden voyage, killing 1,517

DIBELS ……..2002- -……………………….Federal test mandated by NCLB millions of K-3 children maimed by a corrupt and overweening ship of state

  • It Used to Be. . .

It used to be  British Honduras, but now it’s Belize.

It used to be Upper Peru, but now it’s Bolivia.

It used to be Abyssinia, but now it’s Ethiopia.

It used to be the Sandwich Islands, but now it’s Hawaii.

It used to be Persia, but now it’s Iran.

It used to be Mesopotamia, but now it’s Iraq.

It used to be Burma, but now it’s Myanmar.

It used to be Siam, but now it’s Thailand.

It used to be Kindergarten, but now it’s DIBELStan.

Psycho-Socio-Cultural Ramifications

  • Studies reveal. . .

The average male thinks about Standards six times every decade and a half.

  • Half a glass

If you see a glass as half full, you’re an optimist. If you get quoted by the New York Times for proving it is in critical danger of being empty, you’re a Standardisto.

  • Stolen books

The book most commonly stolen from libraries is Death and Dismemberment of a Standardisto.

  • Enough’s enough.

The National Endowment for the Humanities has commissioned a study, “How to live on $42 and 78 Standards a day.”

  • Eskimos

There is no Eskimo word for National Standards.

  • Hot dogs

When National Standards in mathematics are fully implemented, foot-long hot dogs will be illegal.

  • Cry for punctuation Standards

Holding up a suicide note from a 15-year-old girl, Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos said she was “crying out for help in punctuation and spelling.” DeVos continued, “I look at this note and know why National Standards and a National Test must be our number one priority. Imagine the shock of  parents  to find such a note with misplaced modifiers, split infinitives, and even lack of agreement between subject and verb.” DeVos announced that as part of  the U. S. Department of Education’s $4.35 billion “Race to the Top” stimulus fund, every teenager in America will receive The Chicago Manual of Style (14th edition).

  • Standardium

Standardium entered the Periodic Table as Element 268, a new theoretical model to explain the chemical behavior of 14-year-olds.

  • Working Oxen

National Standards will wipe out the Biblical prohibition of working oxen on the 7th day.  The U. S. Department of Education wants U. S. schoolchildren to show evidence of rigor and  go to school every day.

  • Males

The latest New York Times/CBS News poll showed that 63% of Florida high school males think “showing a girl a good time” means letting her take a peek at the questions on the high-stakes graduation tests.

  • Prenuptial agreement

That same New York Times/CBS News poll showed that  82% of all prenuptial agreements signed after the institution of NCLB specify minimum standardized test scores.

  • Public School dangers

Here’s why you shouldn’t send your kids to public school:

**An astonishing 89% of our nation’s school-age children who are obese attend public schools.

**A whopping 94% of all urban crimes are committed within a 7 mile radius of a public school.

**At least 83% of all convicted felons below the age of 100 were at one time enrolled in a public school.

**In primitive tribal societies that have no public schools, there is an amazingly low incidence of cancer

  • GOOF

Gustatory Ordered Operational Feasibility (GOOF), cutting-edge, 21st Century research funded by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and implemented in the Chicago Public School System, will get top billing from Secretary of Education Betsy Devos’s staffers. GOOF brings science-on-the- cusp phenomenology to every schoolchild in the land. This scientific breakthrough reveals that the scientific knowledge base for closing the skills gap converges on five “big ideas” in early skills development of the gustatory learner: Aroma, Delicacy, Relish, Texture, and Variety

The NCTE/IRA/Culinary Institute position statement defines the role of the gustatory coach; describes what a gustatory coach should know and be able to do; and provides prescriptions for policymakers, school administrators, gustatory specialists, gustatory coaches, classroom teachers, and resident goat herders.

  • Bridal registry

Kaplin, Inc. now offers bridal registry gift options. Their promo suggests, “Easily share your lists with friends and family.  Add your lists to your own homepage or blog.” All registrants receive a complimentary wedding album with pages for retest results.

  • Vows

After exchanging vows in the basement archives of discarded test questions at a CTB/McGraw Hill warehouse in Peoria, Judee McLean and Rob Richman, who met while correcting  the WASL, journeyed to the Honeymoon Suite at Harcourt Assessment and participated in National Standards Incident First Responders Bootcamp: DOE 380, 652, and 972 Levels.

  • I always wanted to. . .

CHICAGO (Chicago Tribune) – A 25-year-old Evanston man said he “wanted to be on the news” just before crashing his mini-van into a downtown Chicago TV studio during a live newscast, a prosecutor told a Cook County judge Tuesday.Chicago Tribune

  • “I always wanted to teach kindergarten,” Betsy DeVos told a friend just before crashing her Humvee into a Holland, Michigan private school during Show-and-Tell.
  • “I always wanted to witness the wonder of the Reading First scientific curriculum with first graders,” Rep. told a friend just before crashing his motorcycle, while riding without a helmet, into a Bakersfield elementary school.
  • “I always wanted to tell 7th graders about the importance of education,” Rudy Guiliani told a friend just before crashing his limousine into the Manhattan Middle School for Scientific Inquiry.
  • “I always wanted to write poetry,” Joe Biden told a friend just before crashing his plane into the Pennsylvania Writing Project at the University of Pennsylvania.
  • People’s Choice

In  April, 2009, Congress voted to give the head of the National Standards Commission veto power over the People’s Choice Awards.

  • Humpback Whales

On his listening tour, Betsy DeVos pointed to the efficacy of federal testing, citing the case of the two humpback whales  who took a wrong turn and swam 90 miles from the Pacific Ocean up the Sacramento-San Joaquin River Delta.  150 kindergartners  were bused  to the river bank to shout a DIBELS test in unison:

*y i z *w a n *z o c *f u l *m i k
*z u m *n u f *k u n *r u v *f o d
*v e p *i j *op *j u j *s u g

The whales  sharply reversed direction and began swimming away from the clamorous sound and toward the Pacific Ocean. “This is federal testing at its best,” said DeVps.

  • ETS Time Share

The governing board of Educational Testing Service has announced the availability of time share options at its test development center. Share options are divided into week long increments, with units being sold as fixed, floating, or rotating weeks. Vacation clubs and points programs are available.  One-to three-bedroom suites, single-unit housing, and detached housing are available. Yurts and geodesic domes require premium. Annual maintenance fees apply.

  • Silly Putty

Due to a Standards crisis, Silly Putty is 16% less silly than it was in 1951.

  • Firmer Thighs

You can already get whiter teeth, firmer thighs, stomach reduction, and  knee replacements; now, with National Standards, you can get a job in India.

 

Homeland Security Teacher Threat Advisory X80b

Print[i], using a #2 pencil.  Submit copies to:

  • US Department of Education
  • Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation
  • National Governors Association Center for Best Practices
  • Editorial Department New York Times
  • ALEC
  • National Rifle Association

Name
Last _______________
First _______________
Middle ____________
Alias _______________

Sex
___M
___F
___Other
___Not Lately

I. Filing status
a) Underachiever
b) Overachiever
c) Mainstreamed
d) Up the creek

II.  Career rung[ii]

  • Highly Qualified
  • Highly Strung
  • High on the Hog
  • High as a Kite
  • With Friends in High Places
  • On High Horse
  • Stinking to High Heaven
  • High Flyer
  • High
  • Left High and Dry

 III. Moving Violations Are Issued to Anyone Absent From:[iii] [iv]

  • Before School Test Prep
  • During School Test Prep
  • Lunch Duty Test Prep
  • After School Test Prep
  • Homework Test Prep
  • Saturday and nonreligious holiday Test Prep

  IV. Favorite Food Choice in Cafeteria

  • Freedom fries
  • Catsup as a vegetable
  • Pizza as a vegetable
  • Cauliflower as steak

 V. Professionalism, Pedagogy, and Other Poop Declarations

Select the profundity most closely resembling your teaching philosophy:

  • Keep the pedal to the metal
  • If first they don’t succeed, test them more often.
  • All work and no play makes Jack the perfect corporate drone.
  • A bird in the hand makes blowing your nose difficult.
  • Don’t try to teach your grandmother to suck eggs.
  • The road to hell is paved by the same opportunists who wrote the Common Core Standards and their cousins who designed Facebook.
  • Never eat at a place called Mom’s. Never play cards with a man called Doc. Never trust your class to a Standardisto with A Plan.
  • A hug is worth a thousand mission statements.
  • Governments lie
  • You can’t write no music for a fife. You can’t print it. You got to do it.[v]

VI. How often did you DIBELS in public in 2018?[vi] [vii]

VII. Professional Development Contribution Checkoff

  • Betsy DeVos Grizzly Protection Fund
  • Thomas Friedman Hot Air Fund
  • Business Roundtable Sunshine Fund
  • Education Commission of the States Corporate Award whoopee cushion
  • National Alliance to Provide Safe Haven for Third Graders
  • Teacher Witness Protection Program[viii]

     VIII. Why did the chicken cross the road?
a) The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation  appointed a commission informing the chicken that crossing the road was a necessary competency for competing in the 21st century global economy.

b) The chicken’s native habitat on the original side of the road had been polluted by unchecked corporate greed, breaking the Kyoto Accord, which the
U. S. refuses to sign.

c) To get away from DIBELS.

d)  Focusing on the chicken crossing reveals an unwillingness to face the challenges posed by our racist, bigoted, sexist global warming society.

IX. Zero Tolerance Declaration. Check all that apply.

          I duly swear, affirm, and genuflect before:

  • Business as usual
  • Taking care of business
  • Monkey Business
  • Minding my own business

________________________
Signature
_________________________ witness[ix]

Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos Sweepstakes:

Enter your lucky 29-digit number here:________________ Your name will be automatically entered in the Betsy DeVos Sweepstakes.

Prize to determine at the next joint meeting of the National Alliance of Public Charter Schools and the Family Research Council.

Data Warehousing Truth in Lending[x] Declaration: From time to time the U. S. government will choose to share your personal information with campaign contributors who have a need to know, and there’s nothing you can do about it.

Please sign here__________________ Custodian’s signature____________
(use cursive)

[i] No cursive.

[ii] Please attach Copy B of your lesson plans, bulletin board objectives, class picture. If you don’t have Copy B, why not?

[iii] (4) Attach Form 4216783, part B

[iv]  Anyone requesting absence from Recess Duty will be subject to an internal investigation from the U. S. Department of Education-ALEC Joint Commission on Making Sure Kids Don’t Slack Off.

[v]  Othar Turner said this in The New York Times, 11/08/01, and they print only the news that’s fit to print.

[vi] Information requested by Preventive Health Services Administration, Bureau of Epidemiology and Disease Control.

[vii] DIBELS Safe Network protects your most valuable assets. Does a registered DIBELS offender live next door? For $19.95 get access to information on access to information on more than 163,042 persons required to register in California as DIBELS offenders.

[viii] Subject to the Teacher Witness Protection Act, the Commissioner may determine whether a witness should be admitted to the Program and the type of protection to be provided to any protectee in the Program, subsequent to the approval of the Education Trust Board of Directors, Bill Gates, and the Mar-a-Lago waitstaff.

[ix] Have declaration witnessed, attested, affirmed, certified, and vouched for by a member of the Cour internationale de Justice.

[x] Title 15, Chapter 41, subchapter 1, part E