Making Math Education Even Worse

Dear Friends,
An informative and timely article from the Wall Street Journal written by Marina Ratner a professor emerita of mathematics at the University of California at Berkeley. She was awarded the international Ostrowski Prize in 1993 and received the John J. Carty Award from the National Academy of Sciences, of which she is a member, in 1994.
Making Math Education Even Worse

I first encountered the Common Core State Standards last fall, when my grandson started sixth grade in a public middle school here in Berkeley, Calif. This was the first year that the Berkeley school district began to implement the standards, and I had heard that a considerable amount of money had been given to states for implementing them. As a mathematician I was intrigued, thinking that there must be something really special about the Common Core. Otherwise, why not adopt the curriculum and the excellent textbooks of highly achieving countries in math instead of putting millions of dollars into creating something new?

“American students are already struggling against the competition. The Common Core won’t help them succeed.”

Reading about the new math standards – outlining what students should be able to learn and understand by each grade – I found hardly any academic mathematicians who could say the standards were higher than the old California standards, which were among the nation’s best. I learned that at the 2010 annual conference of mathematics societies, Bill McCallum, a leading writer of Common Core math standards, said that the new standards “would not be too high” in comparison with other nations where math education excels. Jason Zimba, another lead writer of the mathematics standards, told the Massachusetts Board of Elementary and Secondary Education that the new standards wouldn’t prepare students for colleges to which “most parents aspire” to send their children.
I also read that the Common Core offers “fewer standards” but “deeper” and “more rigorous” understanding of math. That there were “fewer standards” became obvious when I saw that they were vastly inferior to the old California standards in rigor, depth and the scope of topics. Many topics – for instance, calculus and pre-calculus, about half of algebra II and parts of geometry – were taken out and many were moved to higher grades.
As a result, the Common Core standards were several years behind the old standards, especially in higher grades. It became clear that the new standards represent lower expectations and that students taught in the way that these standards require would have little chance of being admitted to even an average college and would certainly struggle if they did get in.
It remained to be seen whether the Common Core was “deeper” and “more rigorous.” The Berkeley school district’s curriculum for sixth-grade math was an exact copy of the Common Core State Standards for the grade. The teacher in my grandson’s class went through special Common Core training courses.
As his assigned homework and tests indicate, when teaching fractions, the teacher required that students draw pictures of everything: of 6 divided by 8, of 4 divided by 2/7, of 0.8 x 0.4, and so forth. In doing so, the teacher followed the instructions: “interpret and compute quotients of fractions, and solve word problems involving division of fractions by fractions, e.g., by using visual fraction models and equations to represent the problem. For example, create a story context for 2/3 divided by 3/4 and use a visual fraction model to show the quotient…”
Who would draw a picture to divide 2/3 by 3/4?
This requirement of visual models and creating stories is all over the Common Core. The students were constantly told to draw models to answer trivial questions, such as finding 20% of 80 or finding the time for a car to drive 10 miles if it drives 4 miles in 10 minutes, or finding the number of benches one can make from 48 feet of wood if each bench requires 6 feet. A student who gives the correct answer right away (as one should) and doesn’t draw anything loses points.
Here are some more examples of the Common Core’s convoluted and meaningless manipulations of simple concepts: “draw a series of tape diagrams to represent (12 divided by 3) x 3=12, or: rewrite (30 divided by 5) = 6 as a subtraction expression.”
This model-drawing mania went on in my grandson’s class for the entire year, leaving no time to cover geometry and other important topics. While model drawing might occasionally be useful, mathematics is not about visual models and “real world” stories. It became clear to me that the Common Core’s “deeper” and “more rigorous” standards mean replacing math with some kind of illustrative counting saturated with pictures, diagrams and elaborate word problems. Simple concepts are made artificially intricate and complex with the pretense of being deeper – while the actual content taught was primitive.
Yet the most astounding statement I have read is the claim that Common Core standards are “internationally benchmarked.” They are not. The Common Core fails any comparison with the standards of high-achieving countries, just as they fail compared to the old California standards. They are lower in the total scope of learned material, in the depth and rigor of the treatment of mathematical subjects, and in the delayed and often inconsistent and incoherent introductions of mathematical concepts and skills.
For California, the adoption of the Common Core standards represents a huge step backward which puts an end to its hard-won standing as having the top math standards in the nation. The Common Core standards will move the U.S. even closer to the bottom in international ranking.
The teaching of math in many schools needs improvement. Yet the enormous amount of money invested in Common Core – $15.8 billion nationally, according to a 2012 estimate by the Pioneer Institute – could have been used instead to address the real problems in education, such as helping teachers to teach better, raising the performance standards in schools and making learning more challenging.

Respectfully,

Tincy Miller
SBOE District 12

Study: New High School History Proposal Teaches Hatred for U.S.

Dear Friends,

A most timely and informative article by Jim Windham, retired banker and Chairman of Texas Institute for Education Reform

Study: New High School History Proposal Teaches Hatred for U.S.
Previously I have commented on the announcement by David Coleman of the College Board of the new SAT to be released in 2016, without much good to say about the so-called “improvements” that supposedly are designed to better reflect what students have actually studied in high school, but appear to be simply more “dumbing down” of standards.

Now comes the release of the Board’s new AP U.S. History Framework, a document that dictates how teachers should cover the required history topics with America’s brightest high school sophomores and juniors. In a comprehensive analysis entitled “The College Board’s Attack on American History,” Jane Robbins of the American Principles Project and retired U.S. history teacher Larry Krieger pull back the covers of this Framework to find that it is woefully deficient in a grounding in the lives and character of our founders, in our founding documents, and generally in the facts about our country’s development. Instead, according to the analysis, “The redesigned Framework inculcates a consistently negative view of American history by highlighting oppressors and exploiters while ignoring the dreamers and innovators who built our country.” In addition, and maybe even worse, beyond the leftist slant, Robbins and Krieger write that the new Framework reflects “the general view that academic historical knowledge is unnecessary.” G.K. Chesterton wrote: “Properly understood, history is a chronological map that shows us not only where we have come from but also where we are, and how we got here….[H]istory can also be a prophet….This, however, is only true if the chronological map is accurate. If it has been drawn by those with prejudiced perceptions or a prejudiced agenda it will only succeed in getting us lost. There are few things more dangerous than an inaccurate map, especially if we find ourselves in perilous terrain.”

For those who wonder where this kind of thing comes from that pollutes far too many of our public school classrooms and our so-called elite institutions of higher education, it primarily comes from the institutions held responsible for professionally training our teachers and with organizations like the College Board that should represent the gold standard for the criteria of the curriculum. As renowned classics professor Donald Kagan recently said in response to a related question, “the barbarians are not at the gates, they run the place….[T]here is no choice but to fight it, to fight it every way you know how as hard as you know how.”

Respectfully,

Tincy Miller
SBOE, District 12

Attorney General Greg Abbott’s opinion on Common Core

Dear Friends,

Written on June 17, 2014, Attorney General of Texas Greg Abbott’s opinion on the use of the Common Core Standards Initiative by Texas school districts to teach state standards. (RQ-1175-GA)

Opinion No. GA-1067

You ask whether school districts using the Common Core State Standards Initiative (“Common Core Standards”) “in any way to teach state standards violate the law.”¹   As background, you explain that during the Eighty-third Legislative Session you sponsored House Bill 462 regarding the prohibition of the Common Core Standards in Texas.  Request Letter at 1. House Bill 462  amended section 28.002 of the Education Code, which relates to required curriculum in Texas public schools, by adding subsections (b-1) through (b-4).  Act of May 23, 2013, 83rd Leg., R.S., ch. 861, § 1, 2013 Tex. Gen. Laws 2210, 2210.  Section 28.002 now states, in relevant part:

(b) The State Board of Education by rule shall designate subjects constituting a well-balanced curriculum to be offered by a school district that does not offer kindergarten through grade 12.

 

(b-1) In this section, “common core state standards” means the national curriculum standards developed by the Common Core State Standards Initiative.

 

(b-2) The State Board of Education may not adopt common core state standards to comply with a duty imposed under this chapter.

¹Letter from Honorable Dan Patrick, Chair, Senate Comm. on Educ., to Honorable Greg Abbott, Tex. Att’y Gen. at 2 (Dec. 20, 2013), http://www.texasattorneygeneral.gov/opin (“Request Letter”)

(b-3) A school district may not use common core state standards to comply with the requirement to provide instruction in the essential knowledge and skills at appropriate grade levels under Subsection (c).

 

(b-4) Notwithstanding any other provision of this code, a school district or open-enrollment charter school may not be required to offer any aspect of a common core state standards curriculum.

tex. educ. code ann. § 28.002(b)-(b-4) (West Supp. 2013).  The Common Core Standards describes itself as a single set of educational standards for kindergarten through 12th grade in English language arts and mathematics that states may voluntarily adopt.  Common Core State Standards  Initiative, http://www.corestandards.org/resources/frequently-asked-questions  (last visited Apr. 3, 2014).

Subsection 28.002(c) of the Education Code requires the State Board of Education (”SBOE”) to “by rule identify the essential knowledge and skills of each subject of the required curriculum that all students should be able to demonstrate.”  Tex. Educ. Code Ann. § 28.002(c)  (West Supp. 2013).  Subsection 28.002(b-2) directs that in doing so the SBOE may not adopt the Common Core Standards.  Id. § 28.002(b-2).  Pursuant to the statutory mandate to promulgate rules establishing a required curriculum, SBOE has adopted its own set of educational standards, the Texas Essential Knowledge and Skills (“TEKS”) standards, which are located in title 19 of the Texas Administrative Code.  19 Tex. Admin. Code §§ 110.11-128.32 (2013).

With regard to individual school districts, the SBOE “shall require each district to provide instruction in the essential knowledge and skills at appropriate grade levels.”  Tex. Educ. Code Ann. § 28.002(c) (West Supp. 2013).  Under subsection (b-3), school districts “may not use common core state standards to ….provide instruction in the essential knowledge and skills at appropriate grade levels.”  Id. § 28.002(b-3).   Pursuant to the requirement in subsection (c), SBOE has adopted rules requiring school districts to provide instruction to students using its TEKS standards.  19 Tex. Admin. Code § 74.1(b) (2013).  Thus, school districts must utilize the TEKS standards, not the Common Core Standards, to comply with the requirement that they provide instruction in the essential knowledge and skills at appropriate grade levels.  Tex. Educ. Code Ann. § 28.002(b-3) (West Supp. 2013).

Briefing submitted to this office states that the TEKS and the Common Core Standards overlap in many instances.²   For example, the math TEKS explain that the “primary focal areas in Grade 4 are use of operations, fractions, and decimals and describing and analyzing geometry and measurement.”  19 Tex. Admin. Code § 111.6(a)(4) (2013).  Similarly, the Common Core Standards for fourth grade recommend the following:

²Brief from Kelli H. Karczewski, Karczewski, Bradshaw, LLP, on behalf of the Tex. Ass’n of Sch. Bds. at 8-11 (Jan. 21, 2014)(“TASB Brief”)(on file with the Op. Comm.)

 

focus on three critical areas:  (1) developing understanding and fluency with multi-digit multiplication, and developing understanding of dividing to find quotients involving multi-digit dividends;  (2) developing an understanding of fraction equivalence, addition and subtraction of fractions with like denominators, and multiplication of fractions by whole numbers;  (3) understanding that geometric figures can be analyzed and classified based on their properties.³

 

 

The briefing raises the concern that if teachers cannot use the Common Core Standards “in any way,” it will result in an inability to teach many of the required TEKS due to this overlap.  TASB Brief at 11.  That concern is baseless.  To use a simple example, if TEKS requires teaching that 2+2=4, the bill plainly does not prevent this instruction simply because Common Core also teaches that 2+2=4.  The Legislature was aware of the frequent overlap between the TEKS and the Common Core Standards, as evidenced by the bill author’s explanation that it was not his intent “to prevent the use of materials where the two standards may overlap.”  H.J. of Tex., 83rd Leg., R.S., 4469 (2013).  The stated intent of the bill was to prohibit the “outright adoption of national common core standards.”  Id.  Accordingly, school districts must not use the Common Core Standards to comply with the requirement to provide instruction in “the essential knowledge and skills at appropriate grade levels.”  Tex. Educ. Code Ann. § 28.002(b-3) (West Supp. 2013).

 

³Common Core, http://www.corestandards.org/Math/Content/4/introduction  (last visited Apr. 3, 2014)

 

 

S U M M A R Y

 

Texas school districts are required to provide instruction in the essential knowledge and skills at appropriate grade levels, and pursuant to subsection 28.000(b-3) of the Education Code, they may not use the Common Core State Standards Initiative to comply with this requirement.

 

 

Respectfully,

 

 

Tincy Miller

SBOE, District 12

Growing Rejection of Common Core

Dear Friends,

The following is a most timely and informative article written by Phyllis Schlafly, President & Founder of Eagle Forum.

Growing Rejection of Common Core

 

The most controversial issue in education today is clearly Common Core. It’s being more hotly debated than bullying, zero tolerance, sex ed, abortion or even school lunches.

Common Core is the title of a new set of standards the Obama administration has been trying to force the states to use. Even before the standards were written, 45 states and the District of Columbia signed on, encouraged by inducements of federal funds. The principal outliers are Texas, Alaska, Nebraska and Virginia.

Now that parents and teachers are finding out what is commanded by Common Core State Standards and what is being taught by “Common Core-aligned” materials, moms and teachers are raising a ruckus, trying to get their respective states to repeal their involvement. Many are demanding that their state withdraw altogether from Common Core, principally because they believe it is a takeover by the Obama administration of all that kids are taught and not taught. The backlash against Common Core has developed into a potent political force. About 100 bills have been introduced into various state legislatures to cancel, stop or slow down Common Core requirements.

Indiana broke the ice on March 23, becoming the first state to pass an anti-Common Core Bill. It strikes out references to Common Core in the law and requires the state board of education to maintain Indiana’s sovereignty while complying with federal standards.

When Indiana Gov. Mike Pence signed this legislation that opted his state out of Common Core, he said, “I believe our students are best served when decisions about education are made at the state and local level.”

The Indiana bill was introduced as a straight repeal of Common Core, but it ended up keeping so many Common Core requirements that its original sponsor, Sen. Scott Schneider, pulled his name off of it.

The game of some people, obviously, is to pass standards that are nearly identical to Common Core but under a different name, because the name itself has become toxic. And states are always solicitous to maintain their flow of federal funds, which the Obama administration uses as bribes or threats.

The second state that went public against Common Core was South Carolina. On May 30, Gov. Nikki Haley signed a bill abolishing Common Core standards in her state beginning in 2015.

Legislators were responding to constituent complaints that Common Core introduces frivolous and illogical teaching techniques to no apparent purpose while imposing new standards that are not meaningful improvements. Common Core ends up being a top-down, one-size-fits-all approach.

Parents won a remarkable victory when the Oklahoma legislature repealed use of Common Core by the overwhelming bipartisan vote of 71-18 in the House and 31-10 in the Senate, and replaced it with academic standards written by state government officials. After receiving an estimated 20,000 phone calls in support of the repeal, Gov. Mary Fallin signed the repeal into law on June 5.

This law directs the Oklahoma State Board of Education to create new and more rigorous standards by August of 2015. The State Regents for Higher Education, the State Board of Career and Technology Education and the Oklahoma Department of Commerce will evaluate the newly written standards to make sure they truly make students “college- and career-ready.”

Fallin’s message in signing the repeal of Common Core was blunt in explaining what is wrong with the standards. She wrote: “President Obama and Washington bureaucrats have usurped Common Core in an attempt to influence state education standards. Common Core is now widely regarded as the President’s plan to establish federal control of curricula, testing and teaching strategies.”

Fallin’s message reminded us, “Citizens, parents, educators and legislators….have expressed fear that adopting Common Core gives up local control of Oklahoma’s public schools.” We congratulate Oklahoma’s governor for having the courage to stop the well-financed plan to railroad Oklahoma’s public schools into kowtowing to federal control.

From the start, Common Core has been ballyhooed as a state-led (not federal) initiative each state could voluntarily choose to adopt. But, as the governor wrote, “The words ‘Common Core’ in Oklahoma are now so divisive that they have become a distraction that interferes with our mission of providing the best education possible for our children.”

Like most left-wingers, Education Secretary Arne Duncan played the race card (for which he later had to apologize) when was besieged on all sides by Common Core critics. He accused opponents of the program of just being “white suburban moms.” Duncan should have read The New York Times, which published a picture of both white and African-American moms protesting Common Core wearing signs that read, “My child is not common.”  Parents nationwide are saying no to Common Core.

 

Respectfully,

 

Tincy Miller

SBOE District 12

Digital Reading Poses Learning Challenges for Students

Dear Friends,

 

The following is a most timely and informative publication from Education Week.

 

Digital Reading Poses Learning

Challenges for Students

By Benjamin Herold

Comprehension may suffer when students read on the digital devices now flooding into classrooms, an emerging body of research suggests.

In response, some academics, educators, and technology vendors are pushing to minimize the distracting bells and whistles that abound in high-tech instructional materials. They’re also trying to figure out how best to help students transfer tried-and-true print reading strategies into new digital learning environments.

“We have to move into the 21st century, but we should do so with great care to build a ‘bi-literate’ brain that has the circuitry for ‘deep reading’ skills, and at the same time is adept with technology,” said Maryanne Wolf, the director of the Center for Reading and Language Research at Tufts University in Medford, Mass.

Schools have experienced a huge influx of digital learning tools in recent years, with nearly 1 in 3 public and private school students in the United States now using a school-issued mobile computing device, such as a laptop or digital tablet, according to a recent survey from Project Tomorrow, an Irvine, Calif.-based nonprofit group.

Over the same time period, all but a handful of states have adopted common academic standards that call upon students to master increasingly complex texts.

The convergence of those trends has helped spark renewed interest in decades of study of the merits of reading on a screen versus in print.

Researchers now say that while many digital texts do a good job of motivating and engaging young people, such texts also pose a number of problems.

When reading on screens, for example, people seem to reflexively skim the surface of texts in search of specific information, rather than dive in deeply in order to draw inferences, construct complex arguments, or make connections to their own experiences. Research has also found that students, when reading digitally, tend to discard familiar print-based strategies for boosting comprehension.

And many of the multimedia elements, animations, and interactive features found in e-books appear to function primarily as amusing distractions.

Rather than resist the new technologies, though, some educators are trying to make sure students get the best of both worlds. And they’re beginning to get help from ed-tech products such as Actively Learn, Curriculet, and Subtext.

“We are very intentional about how [our] user interface operates,” said Jason Singer, the CEO of Curriculet, an 18-month-old San Francisco-based startup that has already signed up more than 100,000 students and teachers for its free digital reading platform. “Our approach helps struggling or reluctant readers revisit or reread the text, or note that important moment to stop, take a breath, and read more deeply.”

Digital Reading Tension

Christopher Hitt, 14, is the picture of a “reluctant reader.”

“I never read. Only when I have to. I think it’s really boring,” said Mr. Hitt, a 9th grader in the 3,000-student Southern Regional school system in Manahawkin, N.J.

When given an assignment, he said, he prefers reading on a digital device to reading a print book.

But Mr. Hitt is also quick to acknowledge a big problem: “I understand better when [text] is on paper, because it’s all right there, and it’s not skipping ahead and back all the time.”

That tension—between digital reading’s tendency to foster increased engagement, but discourage deeper comprehension—is presenting a massive new challenge for schools, said Andrew Dillon, the dean of the school of information at the University of Texas at Austin.

“There’s been this huge push from tech companies to get their stuff into classrooms, but that’s purely a commercial venture,” Mr. Dillon said. “There are real consequences for the types of serious reading people can do in those [digital] environments.”

Researchers have documented students’ struggles with comprehension when reading Internet-based texts on computers, although the literature on how reading e-books on computers is inconclusive.

And while similar research on mobile devices is just emerging, there are worrisome signs: A study last year by Heather R. and Jordan T. Schugar, a wife-and-husband research team at Westchester University of Pennsylvania, found that a small sample of students comprehended traditional books at “a much higher level” than they comprehended the same material when read on an iPad.

A 2012 study by the Joan Ganz Cooney Center at Sesame Workshop, a New York City-based research organization for children’s digital media, found that 3- to 6-year-old children who “co-read” high-tech e-books with their parents “recalled significantly fewer narrative details than children who read the print version of the same story.”

As a result, some observers fear that mobile devices, especially digital tablets as they are now being used in the classroom, are not supporting the kinds of extended, rich interactions with text called for in the Common Core State Standards.

“People think of technology as the solution, but it’s often the cause of the problem,” Mr. Dillon said. “It’s not the end of reading, but it is the diminution or simplification of reading.”

For Katherine A. Baker, who’s been teaching freshman English at Southern Regional High School in New Jersey for 15 years, the question is not whether print or digital media better support students’ comprehension, but the best ways to help students like Mr. Hitt learn to read deeply in both environments.

“We live in two worlds now,” she said. “We have to adapt.”

“Some of our best thought will go into how the [digital] medium can address its own weaknesses,” said Ms. Wolf, from Tufts University.

But for now, she said, “good common sense tells us that we want to preserve the best of what we know from print as we acquire these new skills.”

Article from Education Week Published in Print May 7, 2014

“Screen Reading Poses Learning Challenges”      Vol. 33, Issue 30, Pages 1, 24-25

Coverage of entrepreneurship and innovation in education and school design is supported in part by a grant from the Carnegie Corporation of New York. Education Week retains sole editorial control over the content of this coverage.

 

Respectfully,

Tincy Miller

SBOE District 12

WHY WE FIGHT FOR FREEDOM AND LIBERTY

Dear Friends,

The following is an inspiring speech given in 2012 by Munir Captain, former interpreter for the U.S. Military, Operations Iraqi Freedom (2004-2009).  With Memorial Day coming up, this is a most timely and informative message.  His letter defines and defends why we fight for freedom and liberty and why former President George Bush sent our troops into Iraq.   

God Bless America!  (although the letter is long, it is well worth the read…)

 

Respectfully,

 

Tincy Miller

SBOE, Dist. 12

 

 

Munir Captain Remarks October 27, 2012 in Dallas, Texas

Thank you for giving me this incredible opportunity to share my experience with you. I’m honored to be here. My name is Munir Captain, and I am a former interpreter with the United States military and commander of the U.S. constituted Iraqi Special Forces.  I have been asked to speak to you about what life was like in Iraq under Saddam Hussein, how I joined the U.S. Military to fight for and build the new Iraq, and why we in America should support and commend our military’s efforts in the global war on terrorism.

 

I was born and raised in Baghdad, Iraq, when Dictator Saddam Hussein was in power. We were struggling in all aspects of life.  Our economy was in shambles, and so was our security and freedom. Under his regime, our lives had no value and people were getting killed for the most trivial reasons.  I watched as men and women were led to prisons, usually never to return. My neighbors were executed when the Ba’athists discovered a computer printer in their home. Saddam Hussein targeted my family because my grandfather was a successful businessman, outspoken against the regime.  He was captured and tortured by Saddam’s brother, and his business confiscated.  I come from a family of six: father, mother and four brothers, and we all lived in an apartment that was smaller than the studio I have here now.  My mom was paid only a dollar and a half each month at her job at a bank as punishment for not being part of the regime, but our rent ranged anywhere between $30 and $60 a month.  My parents had to work three jobs, and my brothers and I started working when we were in the 1st and 2nd grade.  All this work did not earn us a decent living, but enabled us to survive.  Most days we ate one meal; a day of two meals was a rare celebration.  The six of us would share 2 eggs, 1 potato and 2 pieces of bread, and that’s all we had for the entire day.  But we never felt sorry for ourselves, because our neighbors couldn’t even afford eggs; so instead, they would dig into our trash and eat our eggshells for their breakfast.  I remember my younger brother needing blood one time; he was sick and near death.  But the hospital’s doctors only had pens and papers.  They did not even have one syringe to pull blood samples from donors, or even electricity.

 

Fortunately, my brothers and I did attend school, where we learned English.  My school days were full of beatings, because I dared to question the teachers.  When I turned 12, I was forced to go to Saddam’s so-called military training camps, or forego further education because my family was not part of the regime.  Saddam’s men would wake us up at 4:30 in the morning, take us on a long march through the desert, with a quick tour through the camp’s sewage canals, then feed us bread hard enough to crack walls and safes open.  We would dip the hard bread in a canteen of milk and tea with no sugar, wait for 30 minutes to get it soft enough to be eaten, before heading out to the desert to train for 9 hours in 140 degrees Fahrenheit, with no water, wearing our black boots and black uniforms.  I saw over thirty percent of our unit die of dehydration, malnutrition and heat stroke.  These were young boys, dying like flies; Saddam’s guards showed no compassion, they just laughed at our suffering.

 

While the people of Iraq were suffering, Saddam and his boys were ordering French whiskey, Cuban cigars and prostitutes from all over the world, to celebrate the “victory” of the bloody wars our country had to fight for no logical reasons.  Iraq has been the playground of long, bloody wars.  In eight years of war with Iran, Iraq lost 1 million men, 500,000 thousand disabled and another 500,000 missing in action.  Then when Saddam thought that was not enough, he invaded Kuwait and led the country into a war with the world’s most powerful militaries.  When that one-way war was over and he lost epically, he raised another war against his own people.  Innocent people were being shelled by tanks and artillery every day.  Innocent women were being raped by his Republican Guards.  Babies were being mutilated and thrown into the rivers. When people went to mosques to peacefully pray and protest the oppression, he’d order his men to drive their tanks over those protestors.  Under Saddam’s regime before the U.S. invasion we lived in constant terror, with no hope of change.

 

When we saw the first American tank rolling into Baghdad, we thought it was a dream, because we couldn’t believe that Saddam would ever go away.  We were so oppressed that we couldn’t fathom a better life.  We watched as your troops handed out candy to kids, speaking without being afraid of being killed or thrown in jail, and those moments meant the world to us.  Had your troops not invaded Iraq and destroyed Saddam’s regime, we would never have been able to respect life, understand freedom, eat a decent meal or even own a cell phone or computer printer.  It was not until your troops invaded that I wore cotton socks for the first time.  When an Army sergeant handed me those socks, I couldn’t help but weep.  When I went through those so-called military camps as a boy, I had to wear my thick, hard, black boots with no socks.  My feet would blister and we had to march, train, jump out of helicopters and run with blisters.  I couldn’t believe how comfortable those socks were, and I will always associate that simple comfort with the American troops’ image.

 

Your troops treated everyone as human beings. We were treated with dignity and respect.  We started to earn decent wages; my family could finally afford to eat 3 meals a day, buy a car and a cell phone and go to a dentist.  I lost my teeth as a child because we couldn’t afford toothpaste.  It was your sons and daughters that taught us to speak freely without fear, pursue a better live and enjoy freedom.  What we saw inspired many of us to follow suit.  Iraqis started to open businesses and form political parties, people started to vote for the person they thought represented their interests best, and most importantly, we started to understand the value of life.

 

Your troops also taught us that freedom is not free, and that we had to fight hard for it.  So joining the American military was a quick and simple decision for me.  I was only fifteen years old when I joined and went to live on base, and I often say I was raised by the U.S. military.  The enemies of freedom hated what they saw happening in Iraq, so they started attacking what we were building.  Your men and women bravely fought those evil people, and were manning the front lines even when Iraqis wanted to give up.  IT TOOK YOUR SONS AND DAUGHTERS WHO INSPIRED US AND LEAD US BY EXAMPLEI saw Marines handing out candy and medical supplies to children’s hospitals; Navy medics treating wounded women; Army engineers building new schools and Air Force pilots delivering food and water to people in disaster.  What I admired about your troops is that they came from different walks of life; had different colors, races and religions; had their own political and personal beliefs and associations – yet they all fought for one cause.  They all believed in the same mission, Operation Iraqi Freedom, and they were willing to sacrifice their own lives to accomplish it.  You should all be thankful that you have men and women fighting on your behalf, so you can happily and safely enjoy your freedom your Constitution granted you.  Iraqis will forever thank your troops for making it possible for them to write their own constitution that freed them from compulsory military service, swearing allegiance to one political party and man, and having to give away their freedom of speech.  When you see a man or woman in uniform, you should go shake their hands, thank them for fighting on your behalf so you can be here and tell them how much their service means to you. I can attest on behalf of those heroes that it is not money, rank or position they were after.  Many of the warriors I served with came from families that had money, but those warriors had a cause that is a lot greater than money or themselves; it was selfless service to their country, people and the freedom of people wherever they exist in the world.

 

But as you all know, the war on terror is not over, not in the world and certainly not in Iraq. While I was working with the U.S. military, I was ambushed by al Qaeda, and chose to go with them as a prisoner in exchange for the safety of my father and brother.  I survived eleven days of torture as a POW, before I freed myself and another prisoner.  We returned and I am glad to say, neutralized the enemy.  I became a permanent resident of the United States in 2009, because after surviving thirty-three assassination attempts on my life, my military commanders recommended me for a special immigrant visa.  I am now studying toward my bachelor’s degree in international business and human rights, and I will become a U.S. citizen next year.    But I carefully monitor events in Iraq, and I can tell you this enemy will not let up, and they are still targeting anyone who wants a free and peaceful Iraq.  Last summer, my younger brother and cousin were captured by al Qaeda, tortured and killed, and their bodies dumped in the river.  They were not military – they were both artists and college students, not even nineteen years old.  And this summer, my uncle and his family of seven were gunned down in their homes because he and his eldest son were lawyers responsible for bringing terrorists to justice.  The fight for freedom still goes on in Iraq, and I believe ultimately, those who love freedom will prevail.

 

 

So I want to thank all of you who served in Iraq.  Thanks to your military, Iraqis don’t have to worry about their own president attacking them with chemical weapons, eradicating entire villages and wiping them from the face of the Earth.  Thanks to your troops, Iraqi children don’t have to serve in the military and die out of dehydration just to get an education.  Thanks to your military, people do not have to eat eggshells to survive anymore.  Iraqis are forever indebted for the sacrifices your American sons and daughters made, so that Iraqis can live another day with dignity and respect.  You left this heaven of America, descended into what was the hell in Iraq, and gave nearly thirty-three million human beings a chance for life, freedom and democracy.  Thank you for your service, your sacrifice, and leading by example, teaching service above self, and that freedom is not free.

 

 

Information about the author, Munir Captain:

Interpreter for the U.S. military, Operation Iraqi Freedom, 2004-2009

Commander, U.S. Constituted Iraqi Special Forces

Munir Captain served as an interpreter for high profile conferences between senior Marine Officers, U.S. Generals, and Iraqi Ministry of Defense dignitaries. He led a team of Special Forces commandos in Operation Phantom Fury, considered the most valuable Iraqi unit supporting the Marine Corps. After thirty-three assassinations attempts on his life, his commanding officers recommended him for a Special Immigrant Visa, granting permanent residency and a path to American citizenship.

Texas’ high school graduation rates shine in national comparison

Dear Friends,

 

The following is a most timely and informative News Release published by the Texas Education Agency on April 29, 2014.

 Texas’ high school graduation rates shine in national comparison

 

AUSTIN – In a study released this week by the U.S. Department of Education, only Iowa posted a higher graduation rate than Texas for the Class of 2012. Texas, with a graduation rate of 88 percent, tied for second place with Nebraska, Vermont and Wisconsin.

 

In addition, the Texas Class of 2012 had the highest graduation rate in the country among African-American students and tied for the highest graduation rates for white and economically disadvantaged students.

 

According to the First Look report from the National Center for Education Statistics, the national high school graduation rate hit 79 percent for the class of 2011 and 80 percent for the class of 2012. Commissioner of Education Michael Williams noted that Texas’ overall graduation rate for both classes easily exceeded the national averages.

 

“Texas educators continue to be among the leaders in assuring students reach the finish line and are prepared for life after high school,” said Commissioner Williams. “While these numbers reflect the hard work accomplished on campuses all across our state, I have no doubt teachers and counselors would agree there is more we can do to help every student earn their high school diploma.”

 

For the class of 2012, Texas posted a graduation rate of 88 percent, well above the national average (80 percent) and tied with three other states for second highest. Iowa posted a graduation rate of 89 percent.

 

For the class of 2012, Texas’ graduation rates in almost every key demographic ranked either first, second, or third compared to other states.

 

Class of 2012

TEXAS

RANK

UNITED STATES

All Students

88%

2nd (tie)

80%

White

93%

1st (tie)

86%

Hispanic

84%

2nd

73%

African-American

84%

1st

69%

Economically Disadvantaged

85%

1st (tie)

72%

Students with Disabilities

77%

3rd (tie)

61%

 

 

For the class of 2011, Texas posted a graduation rate of 86 percent, well above the national average (79 percent) and tied with five other states for third highest. Vermont and Wisconsin posted a graduation rate of 87 percent, and Iowa posted a graduation rate of 88 percent.

 

For the class of 2011, Texas’ graduation rates in almost every key demographic ranked first, second, or third compared to other states.

 

 

Class of 2011

TEXAS

RANK

UNITED STATES

All Students

86%

3rd (tie)

79%

White

92%

1st

84%

Hispanic

82%

3rd

71%

African-American

81%

2nd (tie)

67%

Economically Disadvantaged

84%

1st

70%

Students with Disabilities

77%

1st

59%

 

The public high school event dropout rate for the United States remained constant at 3.3 percent for both the 2010-2011 and 2011-2012 school years. Conversely, Texas’ high school event dropout rate was 2.4 percent in 2010-2011 and 2.5 percent in 2011-2012.

 

The National Center for Education Statistics is the primary federal entity for collecting, analyzing and reporting data related to education in the United States and other nations.  To review the complete First Look report, visit http://nces.ed.gov/pubs2014/2014391.pdf.

 

 

Respectfully,

 

Tincy Miller

SBOE, District 12

Why Mom’s are Protesting Common Core

Monday | March 10, 2014

Dear Friends,

A timely and informative article written by Phyllis Schlafly, Founder and President, Eagle Forum.

WHY MOMS ARE PROTESTING COMMON CORE

One of the major reasons why Moms are vigorously opposing schools adopting the much ballyhooed Common Core standards is that they are tied to the gathering and storing of in-depth personal data about every child. The files are called longitudinal, which means they include information from birth and track the kids all through school and college.

This longitudinal system reminds us of the ominous practice of the Chinese Communists who, in pre-internet days, stored every child’s personal information (academic, medical, behavioral, and home situation) in a manila folder that was ultimately turned over to his employer when he finished school.
The New York Times published a famous picture of a Chinese warehouse filled with a dangan (archival record) for millions of Chinese individuals. The collection and retention of voluminous personal information (academic from pre-K through university, behavioral, political, and appraisals by others) is the way a totalitarian state keeps control of its people.

Federal law is supposed to prevent collection of this sort of personal information and the building of a national database on students, but the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act regulations have been amended to weaken privacy restrictions. Databases on students can be collected by states and then exchanged with other agencies and states, which effectively achieves a national student database.

Only the English and Math Common Core standards have so far been released. The Math standards are based on an unproven theory called constructivism, which means the kids are not drilled in basic arithmetic (addition, subtraction, and multiplication) but instead are taught to “construct” their own way of figuring out the answers.

English literature selections are not read for the joy of reading and learning, but so they can be analyzed and critiqued by students using leftwing norms. That’s called New Criticism Literary Analysis, another unproved theory of education.

A bill just introduced in the Florida State Senate (SB 1316) shows more reasons why parents are upset about Common Core. The bill would require that, before adopting Common Core, at least one hearing to receive public testimony must be held in each congressional district, attended by at least one state school board member.

The Florida bill requires a fiscal report on the projected cost of implementation of Common Core standards before they are adopted.

The bill would also prohibit the State Board of Education from entering into any agreement that cedes to an outside entity control over curricular standards or assessments.

Common Core replaces traditional local control of education with a privately copyrighted document that must be used as written and not altered in any way. Schools and teachers are complaining about the high cost of teacher training plus buying all new materials, books, workbooks, iPads and computers for every student.

Common Core has created a tremendous money-making opportunity for private companies that advertise their products as “aligned” with Common Core, and “aligned” has become the magic word to promote sales. California has allocated $1.25 billion in the current school year for adopting Common Core.

For example, now available for purchase is a set of nearly 500-page books called “SpringBoard, Consumable Student Edition” which is advertised on the cover to be “The College Board’s official Pre-AP program.” There is a book for each middle-school and high-school level that includes large spaces where students can write their answers or comments.

The selected readings in one of these middle school books are a curious lot. Two of the longest readings are the complete United Nations Declaration on the Rights of the Child and the complete United Nations Millennium Declaration.

Global diversity appears to be the rationale for article selections, which include articles about head scarves on Muslims in France, the punishment of an American teenager in Singapore, an arranged marriage in India, learning the Japanese language, an African novel, and three articles promoting belief in global warming.

The very few pages devoted to American culture include the problem of a kid trying to avoid parental punishment for arriving home after his curfew deadline, Halloween, and a controversy over sea lions in Oregon.

The advertising for these books specifies that “The SpringBoard program is well aligned with the Common Core standards,” and “The strength of the SpringBoard program continues to be the development of critical thinking and close reading skills through scaffolded instruction.”

If you are mystified, so am I, and so are the teachers. But be assured: David Coleman, the person credited with developing the Common Core standards, is the new head of the College Board and says he is now rewriting the SAT tests. The tests are the mechanism of national control over curriculum.
Respectfully,

Tincy Miller
SBOE, Member Dist. 12
Gtince@aol.com

Permanent School Fund Hits Record High Value

Dear Friends,

Great news about the Kid’s Textbook Fund.
PERMANENT SCHOOL FUND HITS RECORD HIGH VALUE

AUSTIN – The Permanent School Fund, the second largest educational endowment in the country, reached a record high value in 2013 and posted the highest return of any major state of Texas investment fund for the fiscal year.

Created by the state in 1854 with a $2 million investment, the endowment topped $29 billion in market value by the end of December.

In fiscal year 2013, which ended Aug. 31, the fund earned a return of 10.16 percent. That was the highest return earned by any major state of Texas investment fund. As a result of recent strong returns, the Permanent School Fund was also the best performing major state fund over a three-year period ending on Aug. 31, 2013, with a return of 11.07 percent.

“Last year was a golden year for the Permanent School Fund,” said Pat Hardy, chair of the State Board of Education’s Committee on School Finance/Permanent School Fund. “The board’s careful and prudent investment of the fund’s increasingly diverse portfolio resulted in top-of-the-line returns and that’s great news for our public schools,” she said.

The fund helps Texas schools and the state’s citizens in two ways. A distribution from the fund is made every year to help pay a portion of education costs in each school district. During the 2012-2013 biennium, the fund distributed more than $2 billion to the schools. Since 1960, it has distributed more than $23 billion to the schools.

The fund also provides a guarantee for bonds issued by local school districts and this important support will soon be extended to charter schools. As a result of the fund maintaining the AAA bond rating through the global financial crisis, qualified districts are able to pay lower interest rates when issuing bonds.

At the end of 2013, the fund’s assets guaranteed $55.2 billion in school district bonds, providing a cost savings to 810 public school districts.

Respectfully,

Tincy Miller
SBOE District 12

WE NEED VOLUNTEERS TO REVIEW HISTORY, MATH, AND FINE ARTS TEXTBOOKS!

Dear Friends,

I need your help.

WE NEED VOLUNTEERS TO REVIEW HISTORY, MATH, AND FINE ARTS TEXTBOOKS!

Now is the time for you to make a difference in how history is recorded in the textbooks used in Texas classrooms! Please contact me if you are interested in being part of a textbook review;
board members can nominate people to serve on a panel and they are given priority consideration.

We especially need help reviewing the history textbooks. Please spread the work; we need our grassroots citizens to read the content in our children’s textbooks!

Please contact me at gtince@aol.com

Here is the information about the nomination form:

The Texas Education Agency is now accepting nominations to the state review panels that will evaluate instructional materials for:

Social Studies, grades K-12 and social studies (Spanish), grades K-5
Mathematics, grades 9-12
Fine Arts, grades K-12

1. To nominate yourself or someone else to serve on a state review panel, please complete the form posted at
http://www.tea.state.tx.us/WorkArea/linkit.aspx?LinkIdentifier=id&ItemID=25769808256&libID=25769808258 and submit it to the TEA on or before Friday, January 24, 2014

 

A few details are listed here; there are more when you open the link:

State review panels are scheduled to convene in Austin for one week during the summer of 2014 to review instructional materials. The TEA will reserve hotel lodging and reimburse panel members for all travel expenses, as allowable by law.

Panel members will be asked to complete an initial review of instructional materials prior to the in-person review. This will be done online

Because many of the samples will be delivered electronically, panel members should be comfortable reviewing materials on-screen rather than in print. Nominations are due on or before Friday, January 24, 2014

If you have any questions, please contact review.adoption@tea.state.tx.us
Respectfully,

Tincy Miller
SBOE, District 12