Our schools ignore US history at our peril

State must make good on requirement for history instruction and testing

ABOUT 25 YEARS AGO, as a member of the Massachusetts Senate, I co-authored the Massachusetts Education Reform Act. Drafting a complex bill with such far-reaching consequences requires significant compromise, but one thing my counterparts in the House of Representatives and then-Gov. Bill Weld all agreed upon was the importance of educating students about our nation’s history.

As a result, the law explicitly requires instruction about the Declaration of Independence, the Federalist Papers and the US Constitution. We also made passage of a US history test a high school graduation requirement.

Sadly, subsequent generations of political leaders have not shared our view of the importance of US history. It is now becoming an afterthought in too many of our public schools.

The Founding Fathers believed that to exercise the rights and privileges of citizenship, Americans had to understand our history and its seminal documents. They also saw it as the role of public schools to pass on what James Madison called “the political religion of the nation” to its children. As the great educational standards expert E.D. Hirsch said, “The aim of schooling was not just to Americanize the immigrants, but also to Americanize the Americans.”

Without this, they believed the new nation itself might dissolve. They had good reason: Until then internal dissension had brought down every previous republic.

According to Professor Hirsch, the public school curriculum should be based on acquiring wide background knowledge, not just learning how to learn. This belief is diametrically opposed to the view held by many that the main purpose of public education should merely be to prepare students for the workforce. As it turns out, the evidence is fairly strong that students who receive a broad liberal arts education also tend to do better financially than those taught a narrower curriculum focused on just training students for a job.

The role of public schools in creating citizens capable of informed participation in American democracy was particularly important in a pluralistic society like ours. Unlike so many others, our country was not based upon a state religion, ancient boundaries or bloodlines, but instead on a shared system of ideas, principles, and beliefs.

On the heels of their experience as British subjects, our nation’s founders envisioned public schools as a way to create an aristocracy based on merit and talent; a nation of strivers in which hard work and intelligence – not birthright – would determine who succeeds.

When Horace Mann, the father of American public education, took the helm of the new Massachusetts Board of Education in the 1830s, he too believed that public education’s most important role was to prepare students to be active participants in our nation’s democracy. When he founded the first system of public schools, he envisioned it as a way to safeguard democracy by educating students in its principles.

The Patrick administration eliminated the requirement that students pass a US history test to graduate from high school in 2009, before the test was ever given, citing the $2.4 million administration cost. As a former Senate Ways and Means chair, I don’t denigrate a $2.4 million line-item. Yet, in a $40 billion state budget, the money could be found with relative ease if there were a sincere desire to implement the test.

Since the demise of the graduation requirement, history and civics education have been sidelined in Massachusetts, especially in urban school districts. Entire history departments have been eliminated and it’s common for the history courses that remain to be taught by teachers whose expertise is in other subjects. Meanwhile, Arizona and Indiana are among the states that fund civics instruction as early as third grade.

English, math, science, and social studies – including history – are all important. We should not sacrifice one to improve performance in another.

Without reinstating passage of a US history test as a graduation requirement, there will continue to be no way to measure student progress in history and civics, or to ensure that local school districts affirmatively support history departments.

To make room for the history assessment without over-testing students, Massachusetts could seek a waiver from federal law, which requires annual testing in English and math. Since we already know the Commonwealth’s students are national leaders in those subjects, I believe our chances of getting a waiver would be strong.

Meet the Author

Tom Birmingham

Guest Contributor, Pioneer Institute
Unless we again make US history and the documents that form the basis of our republic a priority, we risk a generation that will be unable to fully participate in America’s democracy. And it won’t take many such generations before the very republic itself is placed at risk.

Tom Birmingham, a former president of the state Senate, is the Distinguished Senior Fellow in Education at Pioneer Institute and co-author of the landmark Massachusetts Education Reform Act of 1993.

  • Mhmjjj2012

    Since Tom Birmingham held up Arizona and Indiana as among the states that fund civics instruction as early as third grade, let’s look at how those two states compare with Massachusetts on The Nation’s Report Card that assesses what our nation’s students know and can do in certain subjects.
    The percentage of students at or above proficient in 8th grade math, reading, and science::
    Arizona 35% 31% and 25%
    Indiana 39% 37% and 36%
    Massachusetts 51% 46% and 44%
    In other words there’s no comparison.
    When it comes to 4th grade writing proficiency:
    Arizona 15%
    Indiana 26%
    Massachusetts 44%
    So what’s Birmingham saying? Massachusetts needs to be more like Arizona and Indiana?

    • QuincyQuarry.com

      With all due respect, you are pimping a false equivalency: Mr. Birmingham was strictly addressing how Arizona and Indiana promote vigorous civics curriculum’s in their public schools.

      In point of fact, Massachusetts could readily reincorporate civics curriculum in the state’s public schools without denigrating student’s math, language and science skills that have arisen care of the whole of the MCAS approach.

      Granted, doing so will require spending some money and undertaking extra efforts – for example, a modest lengthening of the school day and/or year, but such charges are both well-warranted as well as all but assuredly impending. Reasons for doing include that American children spend far less time in school by the time they might graduate high school than just about every other advanced economy in the world.

      • Mhmjjj2012

        Tom Birmingham pointed to Arizona and Indiana as though those states were exceptional because they fund civics instruction as early as third grade. I simply pointed out that wasn’t the case. If students in Arizona and Indiana can’t read, write or count then what good is it for them to know who the first president was or what year he became president? Just so you know, there’s more to the Education Reform Act of 1993 than MCAS. That law set up a funding mechanism to distribute state aid to local public schools…the Foundation Budget…and that certainly contributed to this state’s meteoric rise in public education results. Right now the most recent report on the Foundation Budget showed how the state is not meeting its financial obligations to local public schools. That’s the problem Birmingham conveniently ignores.

        • QuincyQuarry.com

          With all due respect, you have moved on from pimping a false equivalency to now foisting an outright lie.

          To whit, that Arizona and Indiana public school students cannot read. Such is a patently false statement on your part.

          While they may not on over average be as strong readers as are Massachusetts public school students, most can still read.

          Also, no small part of civics is developing an understanding – or at least an appreciation – of key concepts AND which can be facilitated via a classroom presentations.

          For but one example, I can readily imagine how third graders could readily develop an appreciation for checks and balances via classroom presentations. Then, say, in the sixth grade, civics curriculum could circle to provide an age appropriate as well as more nuanced presentation of checks and balances.

          Oh, and think what you believe to the contrary, your incessant bringing up of the state’s failure to provide funding is ultimately but a diversion. Granted, some districts are better off than others; at the same time, a whole lot of other state activities are hard-pressed for funding.

          Put another, figure out a way to feed all mouths before you again stand on your underfunding soapbox.

          • Mhmjjj2012

            What is it with you and the word “pimping?” Seriously, you used it not once but twice here. Anyhow, I provided the exact statistics from The Nation’s Report Card on Arizona, Indiana and Massachusetts so my characterization was reasonable. I gave the context so CommonWealth’s readers can make up their own minds on Arizona and Indiana’s students academic performance. I certainly wasn’t trying to put one over on readers like Tom Birmingham did by ignoring the state’s shortfall in funding for local public school districts. Just out of curiosity, have you bothered to read the Foundation Budget Review Commission’s 2015 report? Did you read the Massachusetts Business Alliance for Education’s 2010 report, “School Funding Reality: A Bargain Not Kept How is the Foundation Budget Working?” which flat out states “Over the 17 years since the Education Reform Act passed, there has been virtually no equalization in spending or state aid between rich districts and poor.” That’s what the Foundation Budget was supposed to do. CommonWealth and the Pioneer Institute are the ones using diversion by harping on anything and everything except for public school funding. I suppose I should be happy that at least you realize I’m writing about “underfunding” Massachusetts public schools.

          • QuincyQuarry.com

            You are promoting a clear as well as flawed agenda in ways fraught with hyperbole and at times outright false statements.

            All things considered, my use of “pimping” is thus arguably an understatement.

            You also constantly endeavor to deflect with have your read this, that or the other whereas in point of fact all you are doing is trying to make yourself look well-read when in point of fact you have no appreciation of core realities, much less how what you have read plays out in real time.

            For example, there is only so much money to go around.

            As such, figuring out how to do better with what’s available and then perhaps asking for a bit more after doing more with modest money is far more likely to prove successful than incessantly whining about needing more money that’s isn’t likely to be coming anytime soon – if ever.

            Oh, and do note that I saw better done – way better – for a pool of kids for the same money as had been spent on them previously as well as did not come back afterwards to ask for more. As such, I know that better can be done for the same money.

  • Mhmjjj2012

    Tom Birmingham always makes a big deal out of the fact as a state senator he co-authored the Education Reform Act of 1993 but he never mentions how that law came about. Birmingham didn’t just wake up one day and say “Hey, Massachusetts needs an ed reform law!” No, that’s not what happened. Back in 1978 a court case was brought on behalf of students in property-poor communities alleging the school finance system violated the education clause of the Massachusetts Constitution. It took FIFTEEN YEARS for the case to wind its way through the courts. THEN in 1993 the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court issued its decision that the state’s Constitution “imposes on the Commonwealth an enforceable duty to provide an education for all its children, rich and poor, in every city and town through the public schools.” AFTER that court decision was issued, the state legislature passed the Education Reform Act of 1993 and it took at least SEVEN YEARS for the state to up its contribution to local public schools to the level envisioned in that law. So, there was a court filing in 1978, a law enacted in 1993 and finally in 2000 or 22 years passed before the funding level was met. Here’s the thing, Birmingham also never mentions how the state is not meeting its financial obligations to local public schools as required under the Education Reform Act of 1993. No, Birmingham is all about making a US history test a high school graduation requirement and “the money could be found with relative ease if there were a sincere desire to implement the test.” Yeah, Birmingham is all about finding money for a test but not so much about finding the money to teach the students history so they can pass the test. How on earth does that make any sense? And yet, CommonWealth always finds the space to feature the Pioneer Institute’s commentaries.

    • Ed Cutting, Ed. D.

      |/dev/null…..

      • Mhmjjj2012

        Again, not sure what you mean.

        • QuincyQuarry.com

          See https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Null_device

          Not that I feel Ed is properly using – or perhaps understanding of – the term.

          • Mhmjjj2012

            Thanks.

          • QuincyQuarry.com

            Da nada.

          • Ed Cutting, Ed. D.
          • QuincyQuarry.com

            And your point is?

            Never mind, you have none.

            At least none of merit when it comes to civil discourse on civics.

          • jeanabeana

            it looks like a turn to “withdrawing” when one’s argument doesnt’ hold up… move to some inside code I guess

          • jeanabeana

            which , by the way, is what a student with high functioning autism does when faced with a need for social skills; withdraw and put your face into the hand held computer device — we are raising a generation of them…

          • QuincyQuarry.com

            Wicked sly shading, even if it was inadvertent. Kudos!

          • jeanabeana

            but that’s my job; when students are having difficulty in schools …. and I notice when the autistic spectrum student is having difficulty with social interaction you will find them in a withdrawal position with the computer screen (usually hand held) right in their face while they are ignoring the others in the room — it is a typical pattern — and as teachers trained in the observations we need to know what to do for that particular behavior (and preventing this by not having children always with a screen hand held device everywhere they go — who knows what came first? it’s a chicken egg problem and we create more of those behaviors when all of the interactions are with a “device” of some kind or another — I am not joking

          • QuincyQuarry.com

            You would appear to have not picked up on your apparently inadvertent shading of Ed.

  • Mhmjjj2012

    Tom Birmingham didn’t bring up the book E.D. Hirsch authored: “Cultural Literacy: What Every American Needs to Know” which is unfortunate. That would have given me the opportunity to mention there’s one thing every Massachusetts resident needs to know: the state is not meeting its financial obligation to local public schools. This is the same state that found the money to give undeserved increased compensation to state legislators earlier this year, the same state that always finds the money for patronage year after year, the same state that always finds the money for the politically connected to land incredible six figure jobs with great pension benefits, the same state that can work out back room deals in the millions…tens of million …and hundreds of millions of dollars…to benefit the well connected but somehow can’t find the money for English Language Learners, low income and special education students…can’t find the money to benefit the public school students in this state. That’s what Tom Birmingham should write about. That would be a commentary worth reading. ..

    • Ed Cutting, Ed. D.

      That is being disingenuous at best for two reasons, starting with who defines what the obligations should be. Reality is that K-12 funding more than doubled post 1993. Yes, I know you always want more, more, more but what about our side of the “grand bargain”? It’s all gone.

      So you redefine the financial obligation and then complain about it not being met????

      • Mhmjjj2012

        Let’s start with who defines the obligations. First, it was the 1993 ruling by the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court determining the state’s Constitution “imposes on the Commonwealth an enforceable duty to provide an education for all its children, rich and poor, in every city and town through the public schools.” Second, it was the state legislature and governor approving the Education Reform Act of 1993 clearly setting the parameters including the Foundation Budget…distributing state aid to local public school districts. Third, it was the Foundation Budget Review Commission, which was established under the Education Reform Act of 1993, releasing a report in 2015 finding the Foundation Budget needs to be fixed and fully funded. So exactly how am I redefining anything? Since you didn’t cite your source on K-12 funding history and I’m not willing to look it up, let’s say you’re right and K-12 funding “more than doubled” since 1993. Is inflation factored into that analysis? Is the change in the demographics of the student population like English Language Learners, low income and special education taken into consideration? Did public kindergarten even exist back in 1993? Did you know the number of special ed students with severe disabilities is increasing? Did you know since 2003 enrollment of students with autism is up more than 300 percent? Even if K-12 public education spending doubled over the course of the past 24 years that doesn’t mean it’s adequate in any way because the demands on public education also increased. Not sure where you’re coming from with your “grand bargain” reference.

        • Ed Cutting, Ed. D.

          Whatever….

          War is Peace
          Freedom is Slavery
          Ignorance is Strength

          I’m so fed up with this crap that I really don’t care about any of these funding details because all this money is largely being wasted anyway…

          • Mhmjjj2012

            “Ed Cutting, E.D.” is your Disqus display name which means education funding is likely your main interest. I’m willing to walk you through as much as I can to help you understand what’s really going on with public education funding in Massachusetts. Since you’re willing to spend the time commenting on public education, don’t you think it would help to have a handle on the issues?

          • Ed Cutting, Ed. D.

            |/dev/null

          • Mhmjjj2012

            Not sure what you mean.

      • QuincyQuarry.com

        Ed,

        Apparently your Ed. D. did not touch upon the impacts of inflation or cost accounting.

        To whit, the purchasing power of a dollar in 1993 now requires around $1.75 and thus school spending has only increased by around 20% or so in real/constant dollars given a doubling in unadjusted dollars school spending.

        And, in turn, increased Special Education spending has likely more than taken up the net/real 20% or so increase in total school funding to date and so beggared general education spending.

        • Ed Cutting, Ed. D.

          Stuff like this is why I think we need to CUT K-12 spending.
          I know what I was paid as a teacher, I know what that is in 2017 dollars, and I know how much less THAT is than what people are being paid now.

          Insults from schmucks too cowardly to post their real names should be viewed as such.

          Maybe Ed Reform was a mistake — let’s eliminate all the additional state money (heaven knows the state’s short of funds) and only pay teachers what we did in the 1980’s…

          • Mhmjjj2012

            What is really going on here with your comment? What are your comparisons? What “other side of the deal” was “eliminated?”

          • Ed Cutting, Ed. D.

            The MCAS is gone (PARCC), teacher accountability is gone, higher standards are gone – replaced by Common Core, and now Bi-Lingual is back. Those are the biggies, although there’s more — that have been eliminated.

          • QuincyQuarry.com

            While MCAS worked well, PARCC tracks nicely with the NAEP and as did MCAS.

            I haven’t a clue was to what you view as teacher accountability, much less how it is now gone. What I do know is that my local district does solid work on continuous teacher improvement.

            Next, Bi-Lingual is not so much back as that how older students are moved along into English fluency is moving towards more realistic modalities given that they typically transition less quickly to English fluency than do young children.

            Are things perfect? No.

            At the same time, I shudder to think what you would propose as better ways to go.

          • jeanabeana

            you have some distorted views; or some distorted remembrances.
            You are probably correct that the curriculum frameworks were actually better than the commonness of core — but you don’t state that clearly . You lump everything into a global “BAD” — so you fit right in with the people who want to destroy all public education and build off vouchers and ESAs….. (that is what University of Walton recommends — oh I’m sorry it was University of Arkansas but they had the whole department bought up by Walton Foundation so they could publish their ideology as “research”)

          • QuincyQuarry.com

            One can only hope that you are no longer endeavoring to teach nor involved with educational administration and/or policy.

          • jeanabeana

            certainly, he wouldn’t be teaching “Civic virtue” in his civics ed classes…. but Ted Cruz would just love too have him join the club

          • Ed Cutting, Ed. D.

            Massachusetts is on the cusp of a taxpayer revolt, elimination of SALT will exacerbate it.
            Do not forget that John Silbur nearly became Governor in 1990.

            Ask yourself this: What percentage of taxpayers have children in K-12? That’s a figure that is quite relevant in the funding debate, more than some people realize.

            And shooting the messenger doesn’t eliminate the message…

          • QuincyQuarry.com

            Are taxpayers upset? Sure, they always are at least annoyed over paying taxes.

            Going to the mattresses over them, however, I don’t think so.

            Next, Silber lost, not to mention that he did so 27 years ago.

            And as for SALT, don’t count out it out quite yet. For a cogent discussion, see http://beta.latimes.com/business/hiltzik/la-fi-hiltzik-salt-deduction-20171208-story.html

            At the end of the day, I suspect that enough people understand the importance as well as value of supporting public education even if many don’t readily appreciate what doing so effectively can also do for their home values.

            Plus, by far the bigger problem facing MA taxpayers is funding state and local employee pension fund shortfalls as well as often even scarier OPEB shortfalls. Granted, these tsunamis could lay waste to public education, but they would be doing so in ways arguably indirect collateral damage.

          • Ed Cutting, Ed. D.

            Well, first off, a lot of those municipal pensions are teachers & school administrators so politically this will revert to school budgets. Second, home values are only relevant to those either attempting to sell or borrow against it. Those seeking to afford living in a neighborhood without children most likely won’t care.

            You can rearrange the deck chairs, the ship is sinking….

          • QuincyQuarry.com

            Question: when are you going to tell me something of real significance that I don’t already know?

        • Ed Cutting, Ed. D.

          In 1987, one could make more money driving a truck than one could make as a high school teacher. In 2017 that is no longer true.

          QED the pay of high school teachers, relative to truckdrivers, has increased.

    • jeanabeana

      it is quite clear in the legislation just passed by the republicans. We need to be clear that Baker is directly tied to the ideology that says “we have no money for the children”. for their health or their education (Orrin Hatch). or Ted Cruz (those parents who pay private school tuitions are being penalized ; the tax code favors public education ). …. do you really like those values? That is not what I learned about democracy in my civics education classes.

      • jeanabeana

        they need a concept of civic virtue in the civics education programs and they need to PRACTICE it… and I say that about Baker as well ; not just the Senate in Wash D.C. and Peyser and “dark money” Sagan

  • Ed Cutting, Ed. D.

    The larger issue/cost will be teaching the teachers what they don’t know — this is what no one is talking about…

    • jeanabeana

      you would like to be insulting to a whole profession? Is that your goal? well how about you spend your time teaching doctors what THEY don’t know… or engineers what THEY don’t know and they might build better pipelines…

      • Ed Cutting, Ed. D.

        As one who once had to explain the difference between Reconstruction and the Resurrection to a few teachers — well, my perception is that the profession is weak on Civics & US History.

  • Christine Langhoff

    What Birmingham has left out is that the what most closely correlates what the tests tell us is the socioeconomic status of the students’ parents. Like many, he is unable to let go of the notion that testing informs us about accomplishment. Perhaps it’s helpful to understand that the testing movement has its roots in the eugenics movement. http://www.schoolsmatter.info/2013/04/past-and-present-eugenics-standardized.html

    I’m all for Civics and history instruction for our students – it’s useful to know, for example, that the last time we had such distressing levels of economic disparity was in 1929. Had enough of us learned of to the connections between concentrating wealth in the hands of a few and the disaster that followed perhaps we would not today be staring in the face of a kakistocracy. There’s no need for a test in order to teach history – just let’s teach it.

    As to costs, education is expensive, but much less so than ignorance. This leads us to another thing Birmingham has noted here – he’s a Distinguished Senior Fellow in Education at the Pioneer Institute, an organization dedicated to privatization and to the expansion of the unregulated publicly funded private schools known as charters. Overburdening public schools with testing that demonstrates them to be “failing” and concurrently defunding them means more charters and fewer unionized teachers. The Koch brohters and Betsy DeVos share those same goals..

    • Ed Cutting, Ed. D.

      …what most closely correlates with what the tests tell us is the socioeconomic status of the students’ parents.

      It is possible to norm for that — very easy on a crude level using free/reduced lunch data.
      It’s possible to do it by census tract as well.

      • Christine Langhoff

        Perhaps, but that doesn’t happen.

        Tests have become a weaponized means to the end of privatization. Look at the school systems in Massachusetts which have been taken over by DESE – their common characteristics are large numbers of kids living in poverty whose needs for academic success are seldom addressed. They are working in English as a second language (if you think that doesn’t have an impact, imagine that your family moves to Germany when you’re a ninth grader and the following year you must take and pass exams in German and math to graduate), are food and shelter insecure, have suffered trauma or abuse, have had poor medical and dental care.

        To take those test results and declare schools failing is to dress up poverty as an educational issue. 51% of students in our public schools across the nation are living in poverty. It’s so egregious that the UN is investigating: https://www.theguardian.com/world/2017/dec/01/un-extreme-poverty-america-special-rapporteur?CMP=twt_gu

        • QuincyQuarry.com

          Actually, Ms. Langhoff, what a test finds about those who take it depends on what sort of test is it.

          For example is it a normative test or is standards based?

          Next, show me a test and I can readily argue that it best tells the profile(s) of who made it.

          • Christine Langhoff

            All these tests are normed on a bell curve. A bell curve never closes, so forget the nonsense about closing the achievement gap.

          • jeanabeana

            and we know how they build these tests; they take 3rd grade words and keep testing until they get a “bell curve” on the kids. So they try out turquoise, quarantine, etc. and the words that find kids on the bell curve who met the standard deviation far to the right — well those words get left in the test — it is purposely created to construct the bell curve. People in education should know about the professor at U. MA who says “throw out the bell curve”… and on the kiddos two standard deviations to the left? it is abusive to sit them through those horrid assessments just to prove you have a test that you can sell to the public… that is FRAUD. I imagine that quarantine would get left in on the 3rd grade test — whereas more familiar words that a majority of the third graders might know get dropped from the test. This is how they build this crap to penalize the children. I can imagine a bumper sticker that says “your special ed child makes my student look really, really prizewinning good”. and that stinks — that is not what public education in a democracy should be about ….

          • QuincyQuarry.com

            Ms Langhoff,

            Your understanding of testing appears to flawed.

            For example, standards-based tests are not normed as are normative-based tests.

            You might also care to note that how individual states set their test administration and achievement standards are far bigger problems than their tests.

            Further, at the end of the day tests are but sampling tools for entire populations of students with ultimately little difference from a multiple choice course exam.

            Finally, you might care to note that I been a critic of normative based standardized testing for 30 years. As such, I thus know what tests can do and what they do not do very well.

            Unfortunately, far too often tests are relied upon for what they do not do very well.

          • Ed Cutting, Ed. D.

            No, you are confusing two things — essentially “closing the gap” means eliminating the difference between two different curves. Remember that your curve is your distribution — think weight of children. Some will be light, some heavy, but most will fall in a certain range. Then think weight of malnurished children — this will be a different curve.
            The gap is the difference between the two curves.

          • jeanabeana

            we know what “sort” of test it is. It is an INVALID test; it is an UNRELIABLE test. Formerly education researchers had to prove reliability and validity before the taxpayers paid or bought anything. Selling these tests is fraud when they have not proven reliable and valid. That is why they get so angry at parents and students who opt out — they need all those special education and ELL students to take the test — even though it is abusive to the students — to prove (in another ten years of experimenting) that they have a reliable and valid test. It makes them so angry when parents opt out their children.

            As far as “who made it”. this time of year Fordham Institute (remember Checkers Finn) says “the students in christian countries get higher test scores. Well that is the definition of white supremacy if you want my opinion (I know you don’t). but it tells WHO MADE THE DAMN TEST….

          • Christine Langhoff

            Exactly correct on your two previous comments, Jeanabeana!

            It’s amazing that people never think to fact check an accountant, for example, about proper accounting procedures, but feel confident – without ever studying Educational Measurement – they can freely pontificate on the construction, validity and reliability of standardized tests.

          • Ed Cutting, Ed. D.

            My issue is that Peterson refuses to release the tests for public review — we don’t even know if the “right” answers actually are, let alone all kinds of other errors possibly being in the tests.

            We insist on an outside audit of financial records — I have a problem with no outside entity reviewing the tests.

          • Ed Cutting, Ed. D.

            It’s a historical fact that public education in Massachusetts started because of the need for children to be able to read the Bible. It’s called “the Old Deluder” law…

          • Ed Cutting, Ed. D.
        • jeanabeana

          in my city it is discussed as “ghettoization” of our schools — you are right Christine and it is doing a lot of harm. And it is egregious. There are professional educators who know this and we speak up — there is a lot of work we need to do together to overcome this political ideology (it is expressed today by Orrin Hatch — there is no money for the children)…

          • jeanabeana

            the other thing that has happened in our city , we speak of “leveled” as if it were a verb. If those test scores go down “your school will be leveled” and that means like they do with the cluster bombs in the mid-east I guess when they “level a city”…. that is what it feels like where I live.

        • Ed Cutting, Ed. D.

          We have always had poor children in schools (it’s why the school lunch program was started) and we have always had immigrant children learning English. 200 years ago, it was children speaking German. Throughout the 19th & 20th Centuries, it was people from Italy, Armenia and elsewhere in Europe — those children learned English — and taught it to their parents.

          You say privatization — I say competition. Parents love their children and they aren’t going to put their children into schools they think are bad. Notwithstanding the very real issues of poverty and language, a lot of these schools really suck — they ARE failing.

      • jeanabeana

        well they have changed the qualifications for who gets counted in the Gate way cities; it formerly was the “free’reduced lunch” but now it is ” have you enrolled your child in these programs”… many parents don’t enroll their children and for various reasons. I spoke with one mom whose child was getting cold cheese sandwiches because she refused to fill out the paper work (even though he qualified by disability and by family income). The families who are recent immigrants are too scared to fill out any applications for this kind of student assistance thus the rolls of children living in poverty have been reduced which makes any “DATA” you want to show me not valid.

        • Christine Langhoff

          Changing how “poor”is defined has had the effect of masking the very real poverty our students live in at the same time as they go hungry in school.

          • jeanabeana

            state sets metric for poverty — and it has had further changes that will rely on all the appropriate agencies submitting accurate data…. and the schools have to rely on these outside agencies keeping up the appropriate application forms etc. thus, the “gateway” cities are being penalized. http://www.doe.mass.edu/infoservices/data/ed.html

        • Ed Cutting, Ed. D.

          It’s a distinction without a difference because those not enrolled didn’t appear in the stats before. Although “have you enrolled” could give you a higher figure.

          I don’t like the lunch data because it is 200% of the poverty rate — while 80% of Section 8 Vouchers go to people at 20% of the poverty rate (per HUD regs).
          This is why I suggest use of census tract .data

    • jeanabeana

      “systems must move to testing via computer (despite the fact that scores are consistently lower than on a paper administration). ” and that means the tests are NOT RELIABLE; that is the definition of one kind of reliability that you expect of a test BEFORE you buy it; instead all the precious R&D money has been wasted on one giant experiment to profit Pearson and build the reputation of a handful of bureaucrats…. but mainly to privatize all of education and destroy public schools.

  • jeanabeana

    “Sadly, subsequent generations of political leaders have not shared our view of the importance of US history. It is now becoming an afterthought in too many of our public schools.” Please name them. What did Antonucci do (other then serve on a board where John Barranco siphoned off $30 million dollars from tax payers (local, state and federal) and they were from special education classes …. NAME all the commissioners. David Driscoll is being lauded by the Fordham Institute and their “education next” with Checkers Finn. They have been pushing the same political ideology ever since Checkers left the Washington office — the same old stuff about “free markets” and Schumpeter Peterson (Viennese economist who has returned in the person of Peterson)…. Vouchers and privatization have not proven to be effective. Originally, vouchers may have been brought to the fore to help fill empty seats in parochial schools but it has morphed into what you see now in the repulblican Tax Scam in Washington where there are tax rewards if you send the student to private school and the public schools get the shaft. (Ted Cruz has taken credit for this — but we have our own example right here in Charley Baker).

  • jeanabeana

    the MA Council for the Social Studies had assessments and curriculum (with frameworks) in the process when several commissioners in a row shut them down and the message was “we don’t have money to do that; we have to give all our R&D funds to Pearson Corporation). And, the MA Business Alliance brings in Pearson with great , beautiful “tests” … (sounds like trump’s they will be such beautiful tests)….. It is political ideology and it is not quality education that the current BESE/DESE are proposing. NAME ALL THE. COMMISSSIONERS that did this. At least the State of TX told the federal government that their pittance of funds offered did not justify all of the money going in to tests (for NCLB or RACING etc)…. Pioneer knows about this (Robert Scott was the TX commissioner) yet they keep pushing the same old “vouchers” and “free market” like Devos….

    • Ed Cutting, Ed. D.

      Deval Patrick & Co weren’t exactly innocent here…

  • Mhmjjj2012

    If there’s anyone out there in CommonWealth Land interested in getting some basic facts, context and history on public education funding in Massachusetts then take a few minutes to read a brief summary on the Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education’s website by searching “The McDuffy and Hancock Decisions.” That will bring up DESE’s “Education Laws and Regulations The State Constitutional Mandate for Education: The McDuffy and Hancock Decisions.” It will shine a light on why Distinguished Senior Fellow in Education at Pioneer Institute Tom Birmingham wrote: “Yet, in a $40 billion state budget, the money could be found with relative ease if there were a sincere desire to implement the test” instead of “the money could be found with relative ease within the state aid distributed to local public schools.”

    • Ed Cutting, Ed. D.

      The McDuffy & Hancock decisions need to be reversed by amending the state Constitution — because it is state money that the state can’t control, the voters lose the ability to control this money on either the state or local level. These local Superintendents are increasingly free from all voter oversight.

      That’s undemocratic. And then you look at something like the saga of Maria Geryk, including her $309,238 severance after she apparently quit, and you wonder about the custody of the public purse.

      • Mhmjjj2012

        It appears Amherst school superintendent Maria Geryk offered to resign in return for the severance package based on a couple of articles I read. There were more than a few controversies during her watch and apparently the school committee decided they were better off without her. I don’t know if that was a good deal or a bad deal but an elected school committee thought it was a good deal. The fact you wrote “The McDuffy & Hancock decisions need to be reversed by amending the state Constitution” tells me you haven’t read the McDuffy & Hancock decisions. I find that surprising given all your comments railing against public education funding. The Hancock ruling was very different from McDuffy, which resulted in the state passing the Education Reform Act of 1993. Hancock was initiated in 1999 where plaintiffs representing students in nineteen school districts, alleged that the Commonwealth was failing to provide public school students the constitutionally required education outlined in the McDuffy decision. The Superior Court hearing the case issued a report in April 2004 recommending the Supreme Judicial Court order the commissioner and board of education to do a cost study to determine a new foundation budget and then implement the funding and administrative changes that result from it. The Supreme Judicial Court decided the case in February 2005 declining to adopt the recommendations and disposed of the case in its entirety finding that the Commonwealth is in fact meeting its duty under the education clause of the Massachusetts Constitution. But, Chief Justice Margaret Marshall, in the court’s majority opinion, wrote:
        “No one, including the defendants, disputes that serious inadequacies in public education remain. But the Commonwealth is moving systemically to address those deficiencies and continues to make education reform a fiscal priority.”