CALLEN: More choices, not more money, is answer to what ails Mississippi education.


Originally posted on Mississippi PEP:


BY: Grant Callen

Mississippi is on top of the college football world. This historic accomplishment has generated tremendous publicity for Mississippi, even in areas unrelated to football. As a lifelong Mississippian, I can attest there is much to celebrate here. For my three children, my wife and me, Mississippi is the best place in the world to live and raise a family. However, we have major challenges, none greater than our last in the nation education system. For too many students, our education system is woefully inadequate.

What do we do about it?

Supporters of the so-called MAEP Ballot Initiative argue it is simply a money problem. They contend the legislature has failed to “fully fund” education, so the initiative would take that power from the legislature and give it to a Hinds County Chancery Judge.

Throwing more money at education will not fix it. We have steadily increased public…

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PULLMAN: A novel way to turn schools over to teachers.


Originally posted on Mississippi PEP:


BY: Joy Pullman| Heartland Institute

One of the major problems with public education is that the desires of school staff and of families can work against each other. Often, what makes teachers comfortable degrades instruction. So here’s a novel idea that could change that: Convert ownership of each public school into stock options that a school’s employees would own.

Benjamin Scafidi runs some numbers and finds “Each teacher in [an] example is now $113,000 wealthier and part owner of a school.” That’s not a bad set of workplace perks. What’s in it for the kids? Scafidi explains:

Employee-owned schools would face a market test–students and the funds dedicated to their education would flow to the schools their parents deem best. If the employee-owned schools could not attract enough students, employee-owners would face a stark reality: They either would have to:

-improve the quality of their academic and social offerings,

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White House Is Root of Test-Reduction Rhetoric, Sources Say



President Barack Obama appears to be behind his administration’s recent rhetorical push on the need to reconsider the number of tests students take, sources say. And the president’s new thinking on tests would seem to put U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan in a pretty awkward position.

For the first six years of his term in office, Duncan has bet big on student scores on state tests, pressing states to use them in pivotal decisions, such as teacher evaluations. That started to crumble with this blog post in August, in which he wrote, among other things, that “testing and test preparation takes up too much time.” (More on Duncan’s waffly rhetoric on testing in this very smart Curriculum Matters post.)

And earlier this month, when the Council of Chief State School Officers and the Council of the Great City Schools said they wanted to take a hard look at the number of tests states and districts require and consider paring it back, Duncan cheered. He also posted this op-ed on the subject.

So what caused the secretary to (sort of) change his testing tune?

Maybe he didn’t. Or at least he wasn’t the first. The administration’s recent test-reduction rhetoric doesn’t seem to have originated with Duncan at all, or even with the Education Department. Instead, it appears to have come from President Barack Obama, who took the unusual step of putting out his own statement patting CCSSO and CGCS on the back for their plan to reconsider testing regimes.

But when did Obama start to question testing, or at least the frequency of assessments? After all, his signature K-12 program, Race to the Top, rewarded states for tying teacher evaluation to tests—and even went after states like California for having laws on the books that prohibit linking teacher data to student outcomes.

There are at least a couple of possible explanations for the big turnaround:

It’s about politics. Teachers’ unions, which are playing a huge role in providing both money and volunteers for Democrats in a midterm election that’s likely to tilt toward Republicans, have never been super thrilled about tying teacher evaluation to student test scores. The NEA called for Duncan to resign earlier this year, and the AFT put him on an “improvement plan.” That might have caused some heartache and soul-searching at the White House. Both unions backed bills earlier this year that would drastically limit the number of tests.
It’s about saving the common core. Every few months, it seems, a new state announces that it’s reviewing the standards, and a few states have ditched them entirely. The standards’ political problem is rooted, in part, in the perception that they came from the feds. But teachers also are not so thrilled about having their evaluations tied to common-core tests. So if you limit the tests to just the very best ones, and ones that are linked to the standards, you save the common core, supporters of the standards (including the president and his team) may be thinking.
It’s about a genuine change of heart on the president’s part. It’s not like criticism of standardized testing is a new thing—in fact, the critique is even older than the No Child Left Behind Act. But maybe folks who are skeptical of the tests, or at least their sheer number, brought Obama around to their way of thinking. Having lunch with teachers earlier this year, the president asked them point-blank if there’s too much testing, and at least a couple of them told him that some assessments don’t provide teachers with much real information.
Any other ideas?

Another interesting point to consider: The first district to ask for a delay in common-core-aligned assessments just happens to serve the president’s and the secretary’s hometown of Chicago. After all this rhetoric, can Duncan and Obama say no to their own city?

Why Common Core and Nationalized Standards are Failed Plans


1. REQUIRED AGE TO START SCHOOL – I am finding more and more that many people, including educators, are either unaware or have not considered that all states have different laws that govern when a child must attend school. While most people assume that kindergarten is the age that all kids are required to start, that couldn’t be further from the truth. How is it possible for the students in this country to be on the same page and/or required to be held accountable to the same standards when not all students are expected to enter school at the same time?

“While 33 states require kids to start their education no later than age 6 and 15 states make it mandatory by age 7, only Washington and Pennsylvania don’t require kids in the classroom until they turn 8.”

Most children, age 7, start second grade at that age. The compulsory age requirement to start school does not mean they start kindergarten at age 7 or age 8. For example, Mississippi children aren’t required to start school until age 6 or first grade. Kindergarten is not mandatory. The compulsory age requirement in Mississippi is 6 to 17. I am going to share an actual example of how this really plays out in the schools.

Let’s say that Jorge is 6, and his parents did not enroll him in school until 1st grade. Jorge is an ELL student and speaks very, very little English. Is there any chance in the world that he will be on the same page with the other kids and especially if his classmates attended kindergarten the prior year? How will the teacher be able to reach 25-30 students with such varying student backgrounds because of the laws we have set?

Now imagine that same teacher, and let’s say she has 2 more kids in the class that started school for the first time (skipping kindergarten). Add to this, two more ELL students (these who attended school the year before and speak a little English), 2 SPED children, 3 students with IEPs, 3 kids with severe food allergies, 7 average students, 8 advanced students and several students that are below average. Some of these kids may have access to resources and have involved parents and others do not have either. Some kids may come from a more affluent home and others come from a family struggling to get by. (Believe me when I say, all of these factors play a big role in determining a student’s success or failures in the classroom).

How in the world can we expect ONE teacher to bridge these gaps, show growth for all students, ensure that her students are passing all of the required tests, be able to pull all of these kids 3-5 times/year for assessment tests and/or state testing, meet all of the needs in this classroom all while tying their pay to the success of their students, (which obviously is an extremely challenging, daunting and nearly impossible task)?!! Have we really given these teachers and students a fighting chance when we didn’t give them reasonable expectations to begin with?

Now imagine the states that don’t expect students to start school until age 7 or 8. Are they going to be on the same page as the student in another state that was required to start by age 5 or 6? What happens when one of these students moves to a state with a different compulsory age requirement? Will they be on the same page? Most likely, the answer is NO, but it depends on what the parents did or didn’t do for the student at home to prepare them for school or what was or was not required by state law.

The rhetoric about kids moving from one state to another and being on the same page in theory sounds great, but in reality, it is a failed plan before you ever get out of the gate. How many people would be OK with changing the laws and mandating all kids start school at the same age?! That is highly unlikely to happen. Parents are already fearful that kids are going to be forced into preschool with this new push for universal preschool. If they mandate kindergarten, how long will it be before they mandate preschool? People may disagree over compulsory age requirements, but the bottom line is, no matter what your opinion is on this issue, we have a FAILED PLAN with the laws we have in place right here and right now! Is Common Core a magic pill that fixes these issues? Absolutely not!

2. NO ELL INCLUSION CLASSES – Expanding upon the ELL students and their situations, why do we not have any inclusion classes for these students? My question is rhetorical because I know WHY we don’t, but shouldn’t we have them for these kids? Wouldn’t a non-English speaking student do better in a room with other non-English speaking students? Does it not make it extremely difficult for the teacher in the classroom when she has 3-5 ELL students, and they don’t understand a word of what she is saying?!

When my daughter was at a DCS school, I remember volunteering to do the vision tests for the kindergartners. I was SHOCKED at the number of kids in kindergarten that did not speak any English and others that spoke very, very little English. I didn’t know how to communicate with them, and their poor teacher didn’t know any better than I did. It was a feeling of helplessness on my part and probably fear and isolation for the child.

I know some ELL teachers have as many as 90-100 ELL kids spread out over 2-3 schools. How many times are those kids able to be pulled each week with one person bouncing from school to school (doing the best they can)?! I believe we have approximately 16 ELL teachers in our district for approximately 1300 ELL students. We have 40+ schools in the district, so you can see how hard it is on these ELL teachers and the students’ teachers in the classroom. How does Common Core fix this? How can these children possibly be on the same page? I know that our DCS ELL kids speak between 10-20 different languages, with the majority being Spanish but many different languages nonetheless. Can Common Core bridge this gap?

Taking into consideration just these two factors alone, how is Common Core or nationalized standards going to make it possible for our K-12 students to move from state to state and be on the same page? How will they be on the same page even within their own states?! Before we jumped the gun on education standards, these other factors should have been considered.


Alabama’s compulsory age requirement is 7 to 16.

Tennessee’s compulsory age requirement is 6 to 17.

Arkansas’s compulsory age requirement is 5 to 17.

Florida’s compulsory age requirement is 6 to 16.

Louisiana’s compulsory age requirement is 7 to 18.

The NEW 2015 Tunica Humane Society Calendars are in!!


I am so excited about the new 2015 Tunica Humane Society calendars. They are ready for purchase, so be sure to get yours today!!!!! All of the information is below. Also, you can purchase one of their super, cute t-shirts!!! Such a great cause and really great people!!!! Sandy works so hard along side many others that help these precious babies have a second chance at life.

Check out the information and order your calendar or t-shirt today!!!!! :)


What Reflects a Great School? Not Test Scores


The following are 3 of the necessary components needed if you want to have a GREAT SCHOOL! With so much focus places on state testing and assessment tests throughout the year, I think we have lost sight of the things that really matter. The following is an excerpt from an article @EdWeek. The link to the full article is listed after the excerpt.

1. Trust is paramount. In fact, the quality of relationships in a school is a crucial factor in whether students and teachers have sufficient opportunity to learn and contribute their ideas without fear of retribution. Without trust within and across the school community—which includes the principal, teachers, students, and families—learning will be stalled. People who are anxious with worry, concerned for their safety, or treated disrespectfully do not take risks or work well with others, nor do they perform their best work.

2. Successful principals and other education leaders deliberately model and take trust-building steps with and for their school communities every day. This can make all things possible. Successful school leaders ensure that schedules, routines, and interventions put the needs of students before standards and specialists. They listen without judgment, are open to divergent viewpoints, communicate clearly and respectfully, and are humble in their actions and demeanor. They look for and comment on all that is good in each member of the school community. They celebrate teachers’ strengths before evaluating them. They give feedback that is useful and actionable. They let parents know through social media, a phone call, or an email when a child has done something well, noting even small achievements, such as listening to a speaker without interruption. They also do everything possible to make the school safe, clean, orderly, and beautiful. A caring, well-organized, and well-managed environment helps promote a sense of well-being and optimism.

3. Finally, for a culture of high trust, collaboration, and authenticity to take hold and be sustained, the direct and unwavering support of the superintendent is required. Engaged superintendents ensure that effective principals stay in a school for a minimum of three years, in order to make sure the school’s culture remains stable and achieving, even as some staff members leave. These superintendents also work closely and amicably with the teachers’ union to ensure sufficient time is allotted for regularly scheduled professional development. They also make it high priority to schedule time regularly with the principals in their schools. Such visibility not only shows the principal and staff that the superintendent supports the school’s leader, but also that the superintendent is a partner in the teaching and learning process.

Read the rest of the article here: