Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Link to Saul Alinsky Type Community Organizing Part of New High School Course

Change is a word we heard often when President Obama was campaigning for President. Change is the goal of the Rules for Radicals/Saul Alinsky type community organizing. Now, Change is the key word used in the components of Partnership for 21st Century Skills. The West Bend School District recently adopted a new high school course for credit that is part of this Partnership for 21st Century Skills. It might sound benign to some. I would like to shed some light on what this is all about.
Through a Google search on Partnership for 21st Century Skills, I discovered that those promoting this talk a lot about skills for success in the "global world". They discount curriculum and desire to transform learning. That should be obvious due to the fact that the WBSD will give 1 of 22 needed high school credits for something other than curriculum. The goal does not seem to be education, but re-education.
They talk about the 4C's: Communication, Collaboration, Critical Thinking, Creativity

Flexibility, adaptability are two of their key terms. It sounds like they have little use for anyone with a different standard.
Media is a component they desire students to command. Media, after all, is used for propaganda...
They desire this new teaching system to be intentionally and purposefully integrated into an educational system. President Obama is all over it.

And Ted Neitzke and Al Pauli told us it was just about "volunteer credit". Oh, it is so much more! The Board of Education was duped. The re-education of our children via the West Bend School District is well on its way. Rules for Radicals is now reality for our children, paid for by us.

Recent guest editorial by School Board member Dave Weigand:

There will be a new course at the high school this fall.

Those of you with academic expectations for a new course may be waiting in anticipation. Some might say, with all the emphasis on ACT scores in reading, math or science, this new course must be chosen to expand learning in those areas. Perhaps it would be about studying classical literature, or teaching more history, or a course that focuses on the Constitution and our Founding Fathers, or the importance of the free market capitalistic society with an emphasis on liberty and personal responsibility.

No, if that was your expectation, you would be sadly disappointed. Apparently what we need most is a course in service and global citizenship.

Am I kidding? I wish I was.

As one school board member, charged by the state of Wisconsin to advise teachers and administrators regarding instruction, I believe this new course offering is unwise. I go on record in the community that I did not approve it during the Board Instruction meeting Monday night.

This past summer I gave up a partial day of work to help develop the district's strategic plan. Not once was this idea mentioned in the discussions.

At the Board Instruction meetings regarding this new course proposal, scant questions were asked by those who approved it, and no information given on the curriculum of this course.

To be clear, this was approved by 2 of 3 committee members and will be implemented without full Board approval. High school principals will, at their discretion, grant permission regarding which activities are acceptable. It is completely arbitrary. The Board will have no input.

I shared these concerns with Administration and other Board Instruction members:

  1. The Board and Administration spend many hours developing a strategic plan for the district. This is not part of that plan.

  2. This creates a dumbing-down of curriculum when comparing educational rigor. Students can earn 1 of 22 graduation credits through this volunteer course.

  3. The school district has a course, ISICS, which allows students to volunteer in a classroom or other similar activity. ISICS is part of approved curriculum and happens during the school day. This new course offering is simply redundant in purpose.

  4. When credit is given to what was previously voluntary service, by definition, that service is no longer volunteer. Students would not be honest to list their hours for this coursework as volunteer on a resume or portfolio because credit was received. The reward would be the graduation credit.

  5. This is a reversal of the purpose of school clubs, which exist to enhance existing school courses, i.e. the French Club exists to enhance the French Class. The Service and Citizenship course was created, as stated by Administration, in an attempt to create a curricular tie to the Key and Rotary International Clubs.

  6. Rotary and Key Clubs are currently non-sponsored school clubs. There is no need to invent a new course in order for these clubs to exist.

  7. Creating this course sets the District up for possible litigation if another non-sponsored club wishes to push to have a course created for them. If we are going to teach community organizing and give credit for it, others would make similar arguments for inclusion as being treated the same. The law of unintended consequences.

  8. This sets up a course which includes activities that are outside of school and thus not available to all students, nor under the supervision of the school board or school administration. Who is to say what is an acceptable service? It sets a dangerous precedent of being inconsistent with other electives offered.

  9. This course was endorsed by administration, referencing a similar course offered in Burlington, and districts in Illinois. As many of us know, Illinois is known for their community organizers. Why would we following their example?

Contrary to comments by my colleague Mr. Beaver, there will be a cost to the district. No course can be offered without cost, either through staff or incidentals. Currently, three staff members will be needed, plus the cost for paid advisors when the clubs change status after this course is implemented.

This isn't about the value of teenagers volunteering. My own children accumulated hundreds of volunteer hours. This is about expectations of high school courses and the legal responsibility of the Board of Education.

Dave Weigand

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

West Bend Schools adopt Volunteer Course for Graduation Credit

Dave Weigand was the lone vote against the new high school citizenship course set to begin fall 2012. The course will give ¼ credit per semester, up to 1 full credit for high school graduation (22 credits). Students meet with a high school staff member 4 times per semester, then fulfill the “coursework” outside the school in what was previously a volunteer work. Now, as a credited course, the volunteer work will no longer be volunteer, but will be for credit.

Al Pauli, at the January 9th meeting told the Instruction Committee members that the course, if adopted, would allow the Key and Rotary Clubs to be school clubs because they were creating a curricular tie through offering the new course. Pauli, however, admitted that those clubs are up and running today as after school clubs.

Weigand argued that the course sets a dangerous precedent and other after school clubs, such as the Dolphins, would have a legal right to then ask for creation of a course to allow their club to become an official school club. He expressed concern about the dumbing down of the high school curriculum. “It's a slippery slope.” he said. “We are a Board of Education and this puts us into a whole other realm than our curriculum. The students are involved in an activity off campus which we have no control.”

Weigand also cited his concern about students who previously listed volunteer activities on job or college applications which would not be allowed now if those hours were now part of their high school credits for graduation.

Kris Beaver argued that this course would not have a cost, and continued to badger Weigand about his realization that hours served would no longer be volunteer and students could not list them as such. “Have you talked with anyone in the colleges to ask if they would accept the hours as volunteer?”

Weigand stated that students would be lying if they were not honest on their job or college applications. Beaver did not agree and said the students were still volunteering even though they would receive credit.

Pauli, school administrator, admitted that the school would not list credited hours on a students high school transcript but would distinguish between credited hours and volunteer hours.

Addressing Beaver's comment that there would be no cost to the district, Weigand said, “There is always a cost. We're all adults in the room and we all know there is always a cost to any course offered in the schools.” The course would involve at least 3 staff members at this time.

Tim Stepanski, committee chair and purported conservative, asked only one question. He asked if there were any curricular ties to the new proposed course. He was told that the ties found by administration were English and Counseling.

There were no questions about standards of curriculum. No rational about why the course is being offered other than it allows Key Club and Rotary Club to be school sponsored clubs. No questions about accountability of courses offered off school sites. This course smacks of Saul Alinsky type community organizing and the dumbing down of high school curriculum.

As Weigand voted, “No”, he commented, “This is not a wise move. You set yourselves up for future litigation and future boards will ask, 'what were they thinking?'”

Sunday, January 22, 2012

Policy Committee to discuss parental permission for school clubs, Board Instruction Committee to reconsider Citizenship Course

On the dock for Monday night:
The Policy committee will discuss the following new language to the co-curricular policy:

Parents have a right to be informed of all co-curricular activities in which their
children participate. Parents/legal guardians must provide informed written consent
for each co-curricular activity before a student may participate in the activity.

Also on the agenda is parental permission for students to participate in any survey which is invasive in nature.

Policy Committee meets at 5pm

Board Instruction meets at 6pm

Regular Board meeting at 6:30pm

Board Instruction will also be reconsidering adopting a new high school course that gives credit for volunteer clubs. (See previous post)

Agenda Item Details

Jan 23, 2012 - Board Instruction Committee
2. Service and Citizenship Class at High Schools

Presentation: Service and Citizenship class at the High School

Topic and Background: At the January 9th Board of Instruction meeting Phil Ourada, assistant principal of East High School, presented a proposal to initiate a new ¼ credit class at the High School called Service and Citizenship. At that time it was recommended that the course proposal move forward and be offered to students starting in the fall of 2012

Rationale: The Department of Public Instruction Wisconsin has joined the Partnership for 21st Century Skills to ensure that the Wisconsin PK-16 educational system prepares students with the knowledge and skills needed for the 21st century workforce. Service-learning provides an instructional methodology that will provide students with experiences that bring these skills to life through the application of knowledge and skills in addressing community issues.

Why Service-Learning is Important

  • Service-learning is a teaching method that engages students in solving problems within their schools and communities as part of their academic studies.
  • Research has shown that service-learning has an enduring positive impact on students' academic achievement, civic engagement, and personal and social development.
  • Service-learning is an effective instructional pedagogy which asks students to use their abilities and skills to make their school, local, and global communities stronger.
  • Service-learning is a key strategy in developing 21st century skills which will lead to a prepared workforce and a civically engaged citizenry.

Monday, January 9, 2012

Committee meetings to be video taped and New Service and Citizenship course at high schools

High school students will be able to earn 1/4 credit each semester (for a total of 1 credit for graduation) by enrolling in a Service and Citizenship Course. The course will follow the model of the Kiwanis Club, thus making that club an official co-curricular in the district. Students will meet 4 times per semester to review their portfolio and must have 35 service hours to earn the credit. The high school administration will determine if the volunteer activity is appropriate for the course.
Dave Weigand and Tim Stepanski both voiced concerns about the new program. Stepanski asked how the course would remain "apolitical", and Weigand asked Mr. Ourata to confirm that this would not make "a bunch of ACORN volunteers". Ourata assured them both that he would make sure those were not an issue. After the meeting I asked if students could earn credit by, say, collecting signatures for the Recall Walker campaign. Mr. Ourata stated that political activity would not be included in the definition of "volunteer. Mr Pauli, from administration, said it would be determined by those in charge.
My question is, who is right?


On another note...
Thanks to the work of board member Dave Weigand, the committee meetings will now be video taped and available the next morning for public viewing. Weigand is working toward transparency and accountability in the school district and administration. Weigand has commented that the meat of discussions take place at the committee level and not in the regular board meetings. The public will now be able to hear what takes place at that level even if they cannot attend meetings.