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Manhattan Cupcakes by Jesse Bluma

Manhattan Cupcakes

Yes, this is superior kind of a cupcake.  These cupcakes are based on the fine arts of mixology and baking.  The Manhattan cocktail originates from New York during the 1800s.  These little cakes are flavorful, made with Bing cherries, and topped with a Manhattan frosting.

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Lessons in Controversy

Lessons in Controversy

“The TV cook and restaurateur tearfully opens up to TODAY’s Matt Lauer about the recent controversy surrounding a discrimination lawsuit filed by a former employee, saying the using the N-word is ‘just not a part’ of who she is and that despite the fallout, she is glad she didn’t lie under oath.”  (

It does not appear that Paula Deen is savvy.  She admitted to using slurs in the 1980s and more recently failed to clean up the language of cooks in her restaurant kitchen.  Both bad choices.  

Her interview with Matt Lauer was not her best performance.  After the interview one of the Today hosts commented that Paula Deen needed to apologize until everyone forgave her.  That is not how forgiveness works.  Matt Lauer and the other hosts took time to admonish Deen after he conducted the interview and she was no longer on screen.  Gleeful revenge is not professional.  If Lauer had something to say, then say it to her face and let her respond.  (*Of course most good-hearted and professional people do not endorse the use of certain words).

The National Broadcasting Company (NBC), National Football League (NFL), Target, Walmart, and Smithfield Foods dropped Paula Deen.  Yet, fail to remove the speck from their own eyes.  Each of these companies currently make money in horrible manners.  NBC, Target, and Walmart sell music and movies that use “the” word.  Today has featured many of these singers, actors, and directors such as Eminen and Quentin Tarantino.  Smithfield has recently been in trouble for using gestation crates, metal enclosures, to house pigs for most of their lives.  Smithfield has also been under investigation for waste neglect.  Since February there have been 27 NFL players arrested for an array of minor and major crimes, including murder.  These confusing business ethics or facade thereof calls to mind “Hypocrite, cast out first the beam out of thine own eye, and then thou shalt see clearly to cast out the mote out of thy brother's eye.”  (Matthew 7:5)

Elites by definition control resources: power, wealth, education, prestige, status, skills of leadership, information, knowledge of political processes, ability to communicate, and organization.  Elites are drawn mainly from wealthy, educated, famous, prestigiously employed, and socially prominent elements of society.  Elite behavior is not always enlightened and farsighted, it is instead frequently shortsighted and narrowly self-serving.  The power of separate elites in a republic—governmental, corporate, financial, media, legal, civic, and cultural—often encourages narrow visions of the common good and a willingness to sacrifice social values for relative advantage.  Examples of narrowly self-serving elite behavior abound. (Thomas Dye)  

Perhaps if Paula Deen were from New York or Los Angeles the corporate and news elites would have looked the other way.  Much as the corporate elites looked the other way at Matt Lauer's behind the scenes comments and actions.  These same elites continued to buy ad time on Today, produce and sell products from celebrities of worse ilk, and kept Lauer in the anchor chair despite his harassment of others.

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The BUFF System: Enhance Your Meal Presentation by Jesse Bluma

The BUFF System:  Enhance Your Meal Presentation

We are not all Pierre Koffman, Thomas Keller, Martha Stewart, nor Gastón Acurio.  Yet, we can all enhance our meals.  The time we take to slow down and carefully create something better for ourselves and others is an action that demonstrates we care and honor the ingredients and for whom we cook.  Learning to master cooking techniques takes time, practice, effort, dedication, reinforcement, and perseverance.  As well as a lot more.       

You have the recipe.  You have the ingredients.  You have made the time.  Now how do you create a better meal?  The BUFF System, utilized in schools such as the Culinary Institute of America, makes use of the principles used in art and design.  You may remember in any art classes that you have taken using terms such as movement, balance, contrast, proportion, and pattern.  These same principles apply to how you cook and create meals.  The acronym BUFF is an essential memory tool for the home and professional chef.  B for balance.  U for unity.  F for focal point.  F for flow.

Balance:  The use of color, food combinations, garnishes, shapes, textures, portion sizes, and flavors in a thoughtful, effective, and exceptional manner.  

Note the mood, expression, and pyramid structure of the Mona Lisa and the balance of textures and colors in the salad. 

Unity:  The use of contrasts, negative and positive spacing, limited height, and consistent theme in a thoughtful, effective, and exceptional manner. 

Note the use of light, shadow, and complete story told in The Milkmaid and the unity of the dessert giving the diner a complete platting of sweet items of various colors, textures, and temperatures.  

Focal Point:  The use of a larger size food with smaller shaped foods, may add height and/or a spot of color in a thoughtful, effective, and exceptional manner. 

Note the arrangement of figures and action in the painting by Vincenzo Camuccini and the placement of the egg within the composition of the spinach salad.

Flow:  The use of aesthetic and design principles to enhance the visual presentation, interest, and style of a dish; may utilize knife techniques, curved items, fanned items, and layering in a thoughtful, effective, and exceptional manner.

Note the movement and curves in the bronze by Frederic Remington, as well as the precise placement and flowing structure of ravioli and garnish in the soup.  

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The Common Core Shift (Page 1/5)

The Common Core Shift:  Page 1/5

We all want the best in education for all students.  As parents, students, teachers, grandparents, community members, and business owners we all have a stake in what and how students learn.  A report titled, “Ready or Not:  Creating a High School Diploma That Counts,” found that both employers and colleges are demanding more of high school graduates than in the past.  According to Achieve, Inc., the major problem currently facing the American school system is that high school graduates were not provided with the skills and knowledge they needed to succeed.  The report continues that the diploma itself lost its value because graduates could not compete successfully beyond high school, and that the solution to this problem is a common set of rigorous standards. 

Pearson and other educational companies jumped on board offering curriculum, seminars, and textbooks based upon the principles of Common Core.  The Common Core Standards are a blueprint for all states.  Each state is to have the freedom to choose their own curricula, those are the details of how to reach the Common Core Standards.  Does this freedom really exist?  Will it be taken away in the future?  This is something to watch.  School administrators and presenters in Saddleback Unified explained that Common Core requires a “shift” in teaching practices.  The instructional shifts are in the Literacy Standards, English Language Arts, and Mathematics Standards.  Also embedded in Common Core is the Habits of Mind and the “4 C’s" (creativity, critical thinking, collaboration and communication), and a new test authored by Next Generation Assessments (Pearson’s testing division).

David Coleman, president of the College Board, created a video to promote Common Core entitled “Common Core State Standards in the Classroom”.  He also co-authored the Common Core State Standards (CCSS).   Coleman's "Transforming Education Through the Common Core Standards" and "Bringing Common Core to Life" give an overview of Common Core and the shifts needed in teaching practices.  These videos promote a slower teaching pace, concentration on “student learning, rigor, and depth of knowledge”.  The statements by David Coleman in his video bring to question some of the perceived benefits, uncertainties, challenges, misconceptions, and drawbacks of the shift in standards.

Bringing Common Core to Life from PARCC on Vimeo.

Purported Benefits of the Common Core

1.  The Common Core provides a blueprint for each state that is uniform.  If a student moves to another state, then that student in theory will be able pick up and continue their educational career without challenge.  The authors and proponents of Common Core call upon teachers to “shift” their instructional practices to implement the standards for the creation of a unified educational system.

2.  The Common Core is Teaching 101, the basics of what to learn and the basics of teaching methodology.  Teachers across the country have unified curricula and methodologies under Common Core.  Professional development, trainings, videos, discussions, etc. give teachers across the country a blueprint for how to make this happen.  This gives struggling teachers, those that got stale in their teaching, and those that needed a review of basic educational principles an opportunity to improve.

3.  The Common Core promises college professors and business owners that students across the country will be ready for to work and succeed.  

4.  Common Core is rooted in literacy, as a key factor in improving student success and learning across subject matter.

5.  Common Core also focuses reading and writing in all subjects, finding and using evidence.  This approach makes students detectives in search for evidence in what they read and reporters in the evidence they find.  It also requires students to utilize evidence in their own writing and discussions.  

6.  Deep analysis is another key feature of Common Core.  Students are to learn how to learn, how to discuss topics, and use reason and complex ideas.

7.  Teachers have an important role within the Common Core blueprint to use and facilitate student learning in a sequential manner.  Common Core instruction is to be thorough, slow, and rely upon strategies such as “think-write-pair-share”, modeling thinking, wait time, allowing for struggle time, annotating, and encouragement of reasoning.

8.  Common Core assessment of student progress, knowledge, and skills is based upon “Habits of Mind”.  These habits include independence, knowledge of content, technological capability, perseverance, construction arguments, precision, and use of reasoning.

9.  The Common Core promises a return to the basics in mathematics.  Younger students kindergarten through sixth grade will not spend much time with math exercises related to graphing, rounding, and patterns.  Instead k-6 students will focus more on number sense, place value, operations, and fractions.  

10.  Testing of students will be computer adaptive.  The testing program is designed to asses a student’s performance and then recognize their level of proficiency.  As a students answers questions the program is to adjust the level of difficulty to meet the level of the student.  The practice test questions are challenging and some students in New York that took the actual test ran out of time.  Perhaps improvements will be made to make the test more reasonable or the adaptive technology will be improved.  The practice test and actual test require careful reading and clicking of answers, something some students may end up guessing to get through and something some students will get frustrated completing.  For example, question number 1 Part A on the English Language Arts test asks students to read a scientific passage and then to "Click on the sentence that might happen to the food chain if there were no sun."

Question 14 asks students to read a passage and then to type in an answer to "What are some ways in which Mexican free-tails are unique among bat species?  Use at least two details from the presentation to support your answer."  Question 15 asks students to decide "Why is the quotation from the park ranger included at the beginning of the presentation?"

Misconceptions of Teacher Education...

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The Common Core Shift: Misconceptions of Teachers (Page 2/5)

The Common Core Shift:  Page 2/5

The following is a look at the misconceptions and drawbacks.

The Common Core is a large expense for taxpayers.  "Based on a range of state estimates, a reasonable estimate of the total nationwide cost ‘would be $30 billion,’ said Liv Finne, director of the Washington Policy Institute’s education center.  Forty-five states and Washington, D.C. have adopted the Core in the past two years, largely in attempts to receive Obama administration grants.  The cost of Common Core will be $800 million in California, $300 million in Washington state."  The proponents of Common Core stress the importance of slowing down.  If we slow down and reread the cost of implementing Common Core we have to imagine what else could we have done with that money.  We must also think deeply what we are getting for that money.  Did the edu-corporations and education experts have such secretive and valuable teaching strategies that we had to pay them $30,000,000,000?    

A great unfounded fear is that teachers are not prepared to teach.  Thus, we must need Common Core.  Yes, some individuals that enter the profession entered for a myriad of reasons and they are in the wrong vocation.  Some teachers excelled in college, a teacher preparation program after college, student teaching, and a job interview.  Yet, in the classroom it was a different story.  Those are the instances principals need to step in guide these individuals into other professions.

Most teachers make teaching look easy because they have personality types, education, skills, and the art of teaching in their blood.  Teachers know what to teach and how to teach.  Unfortunately, there was no need to spend $30 billion on Common Core to find out the best teaching practices.  In California for example, there are rigorous requirements to become a teacher.  These requirements include:

i.  A baccalaureate degree in a field other than professional education from a regionally accredited college or university.

ii.  An approved program of professional preparation, including supervised student teaching and passing teacher performance assessments.  A two-semester or three-semester program may be taken during the fourth and/or fifth year of study.

iii.  Pass the CBEST exam.  

iv.  Demonstration of subject matter knowledge appropriate to the specific credential being authorized.  For single subject candidates, this can be achieved either by passing a state-approved subject matter examination, which is the California Subject Examination for Teachers (CSET), or by completing a state-approved subject matter preparation program.  Multiple subject candidates must demonstrate subject matter competence by passing the Multiple Subjects CSET.  Mild/Moderate and Moderate/Severe education specialist candidates must demonstrate subject matter competence. 

v.  Satisfactory completion of at least two semester units of work on the provisions and principles of the U.S. Constitution, or passage of an examination on this area from a regionally accredited college or university, or a B.A./B.S. degree.

vi.  Passage of the Reading Instruction Competence Assessment (RICA), a state-mandated examination for reading instruction.  This is required for the Multiple Subject Credential and the Education Specialist Credentials, but not for the Single Subject Credential.

vii.   In California, professional teacher preparation is a two- or three-semester program taken during the fourth and/or fifth year of college; there is no major in education.  

viii.  Additionally, teachers must “clear” their preliminary credential after finishing a teacher program.  This process is done after employment in a school district, whereby a teacher takes additional college courses.  The clearing process is three to five courses, depending upon how each individual university structures their program.  (*Note:  teachers must pay for these courses.)  

ix.  Also, teachers must participate in a two year program entitled Beginning Teacher Support and Assessment (BTSA) Induction.  Teachers must participate in the BTSA program during their first two years of employment.  Year 1 of BTSA focuses on teaching teachers about assessment and pedagogy.  Year 2 focuses on assessment and teacher practice.  (*Note:  teachers must also pay for this program.) 

x.  Beyond these requirements 52% of teachers earn a master’s degree of higher.  

xi.  Some teachers also opt to get a National Board Certification.  This certification requires teachers to analyze their own teaching and prove advanced skills.  There are more than 110,000 National Board Certified Teachers (NBCTs) nationwide.

xii.  Lastly, teachers attend ongoing staff meetings, Data Team meetings, Professional Learning Community meetings, ongoing development and training, and attend seminars.

“Ready or Not: Creating a High School Diploma That Counts,” found that both employers and colleges are demanding more of high school graduates than in the past.  According to Achieve, Inc., the major problem currently facing the American school system is that high school graduates were not provided with the skills and knowledge they needed to succeed.  The report continues that the diploma itself lost its value because graduates could not compete successfully beyond high school, and that the solution to this problem is a common set of rigorous standards.  This study is a major event in the origins of Common Core and the presumed “shift” needed in teaching practices.

Misunderstanding and Misrepresenting...

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The Common Core Shift: Misunderstanding and Misrepresenting (Page 3/5)

The Common Core Shift:  Page 3/5

According to Achieve Inc., the problem in American schools is that the curriculum was not rigorous and that solution is to make it more rigorous.  Pearson and other educational companies jumped on board offering curriculum, seminars, and textbooks based upon the principles of Common Core.  This is one more example of how profits are made from educational “reforms”.

Common Core, Project Self-Esteem, Whole Language, Race to the Top, State Standards, and many other “reforms” sound good.  After careful analysis, implementation, and billions of dollars spent, each has shown to be a false-messiah.  That does not mean none of these educational reforms has merit.  Project Self-Esteem encouraged students to think about emotions affecting actions, PLCs encourage teachers to work together to enhance learning, and group work gives students an opportunity to learn leadership and communication skills.  

As each of these had benefits, each failed to take American students to number one in the world.  The origins of Common Core is based upon the belief that schools across the country lack rigorous standards, thus more rigor will improve the skills and knowledge of students.  A false narrative is painted in the minds of parents, grandparents, voters, politicians, and many more with these kinds of misleading studies.

An assumption is made that teachers, after years of college and post-college training and education, do not utilize strategies such as annotating reading materials, slowing down when needed, and modeling for students how to find and use evidence.  Thus, Common Core does not require a “shift” in teaching practices.  Most, if not all, of these and other strategies are were already used in classrooms before the federal Common Core standards were implemented.  Common Core merely restates educational standards and adds specific pedagogy.  Secondly, an assumption is being made that somehow the few teachers that do not utilize these strategies, did not after previous reform programs, will somehow utilize these strategies under Common Core.  

The Council of Chief State School Officers (CCSSO) and the National Governors Association Center for Best Practices (NGA Center) led the Common Core State Standards Initiative.  The groups worked with representatives from participating states, a wide range of educators – including Chuck Pack – content experts, researchers, national organizations, and community groups.  The Common Core standards are also informed by the standards of other high performing nations, including Finland.

The CCSS and similar state standards in the United States are very similar to the core curriculum expectations articulated in countries like Finland, Japan, Singapore, and South Korea.  Finland is the favored son of Common Core backers.  David Coleman, co-author of Common Core, often refers to the education system in Finland as a model for America and others.  Curiously what is not mentioned is the vast differences between Finland and the United States.  The population of Finland is 93.4% Finn, 91.2% of the population speaks Finnish, the country also has 0.62 migrants/1,000 population.  In contrast, the United States has a population of 79.96% white, 12.85% black, and 4.43% Asian.

Note: a separate listing for Hispanic is not included because the U.S. Census Bureau considers Hispanic to mean persons of Spanish/Hispanic/Latino origin including those of Mexican, Cuban, Puerto Rican, Dominican Republic, Spanish, and Central or South American origin living in the U.S. who may be of any group (white, black, Asian, et cetera); about 15.1% of the total U.S. population is Hispanic.  In America, there is a wide variety of languages:  English 82.1%, Spanish 10.7%, other Indo-European 3.8%, Asian and Pacific island 2.7%.  The Unites States has a net migrant rate of 3.64 migrant(s)/1,000 population.

Absent from the extolling of Finland as a model, is the contrast of cultures and populations.  One country more monolithic and one country more heterogeneous.  The United States has its own qualities and characteristics that must be addressed and recognized.  America does not have a bad education system, we have a different manner of educating students.  Accepting and honoring those differences is valuable and we must make considerations for students that are English Language Learners and the continual stream of new immigrants.  According to the Unites States census, from 1980 to 2007, there was a 140% increase in the number of people speaking a language other than English at home.  The largest increase was in Spanish speakers (about 79% of the increase)

In California, there are approximately 1.4 million English Language Learners in public schools (85% of which speak Spanish).  Yes, American students can do better in school.  Do American students lag behind other nations?  Yes.  Although when broken down by ethnicity on the Trends in International Mathematics and Science Study, Asian students in America do as well as Asians in Asian countries, and Caucasian students do as well as other students in Europe.  Those of Hispanic and African origins do as well as students in Austria, Sweden, Norway, and the Ukraine.

If educators in Finland can recognize the contrasts, why don’t Common Core experts?  Henna Virkkunen, Finland's Minister of Education, was interviewed about the education system in her country by Justin Snider, a news editor and advising dean at Columbia University in the United States.  

"Teachers in Finland can choose their own teaching methods and materials. They are experts of their own work, and they test their own pupils.  Our educational society is based on trust and cooperation, so when we are doing some testing and evaluations, we don’t use it for controlling [teachers] but for development.  We trust the teachers.  We haven’t had so many immigrants in Finland, but we are going to have more in the future—and we need more because we have an aging population. In some schools, in the areas around Helsinki, more than 30 percent of the pupils are immigrants. It seems that we have been doing good work, also with the immigrants, if we look at PISA results.

Normally, if children come from a very different schooling system or society, they have one year in a smaller setting where they study Finnish and maybe some other subjects.  We try to raise their level before they come to regular classrooms.  We think also that learning one’s mother tongue is very important, and that’s why we try to teach the mother tongue for all immigrants as well.  It’s very challenging. I think in Helsinki, they are teaching 44 different mother tongues.  The government pays for two-hour lessons each week for these pupils.  We think it is very important to know your own tongue—that you can write and read and think in it.  Then it’s easier also to learn other languages like Finnish or English, or other subjects.

Educators must serve the local community, and it’s very much tied to a country’s own history and society, so we can’t take one system from another country and put it somewhere else.  Our students spend less time in class than students in other OECD countries.  We do not think it helps students learn if they spend seven hours per day at school because they also need time for hobbies, and of course they also have homework."

If we reread her statements carefully a few items stand out to us.  First, Finland does not seek to control teachers, turn teachers into robots, nor force them to follow scripts.  The attitudes and words of respect for the teaching profession matches the actions of officials in Finland.  Secondly, Finland does not hide its immigrant population.  Those that do not speak the language are acknowledged, educated in a systematic manner, and teachers are not blamed for the “failure” of these students on tests.   

In addition to David Coleman and others misunderstanding and misrepresenting the Finland model, another characteristic of Common Core is troubling.  The Common Core standards and literature do not address parents.  This is a significant flaw, as parental aspirations for their children has a larger impact on student learning than feedback from teachers, study skills, homework, testing, and teacher education.  Other important factors in school:  self-reported grades--students predict their performance  1.44, reinforcement 1.13, instructional quality 1.00, testing .30, and teacher education 0.11.  Student characteristics:  prior cognitive ability 1.04 and disposition to learn .6.  Home influences:  parental aspirations for children’s educational achievement .80, home factors .67, home environment (socio-psychological) .57, parent involvement .46, transiency/mobility -0.34 (that is a negative).  Social influences:  peer .38 and television -.12 (that is a negative).

The Time and Money Connection...

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The Common Core Shift: The Time and Money Connection (Page 4/5)

The Common Core Shift:  Page 4/5

If our goal is to provide students with the best learning environment possible, if our goal is to make improvements in the education system, and if our goal is to give students an opportunity to be college and career ready, then we must stop misunderstanding and misinterpreting.  We must recognize Common Core as merely words on a page, not the next messiah.

We must honor one another and our roles in education.  We must not let edu-corporations and experts paint false images in our heads.  It may not be as exiting, shiny, or sexy to say, yet it must be stated.  Each of us knows and has known parental aspirations is the most significant key to this story.  None of use needs a study to prove that, none of us needs David Coleman to admit it, none of us needs an edu-corporation to sell us on it.  

Journalist and columnist Thomas Friedman stated it well, "In recent years, we’ve been treated to reams of op-ed articles about how we need better teachers in our public schools and, if only the teachers’ unions would go away, our kids would score like Singapore’s on the big international tests. There’s no question that a great teacher can make a huge difference in a student’s achievement, and we need to recruit, train and reward more such teachers.  But here’s what some new studies are also showing:  We need better parents.  Parents more focused on their children’s education can also make a huge difference in a student’s achievement.  Better parents can make every teacher more effective."

In "Back to School:  How parent involvement affects student achievement", Patte Barth demonstrated "getting parents involved with their children’s learning at home is a more powerful driver of achievement than parents attending P.T.A. and school board meetings, volunteering in classrooms, participating in fund-raising, and showing up at back-to-school nights."  To be sure, there is no substitute for a good teacher.  There is nothing more valuable than great classroom instruction.  Yet, let’s stop putting the whole burden on teachers.  We also need better parents.  Better parents can make every teacher more effective.

Ignoring, denying, and hiding these statistics is not helpful.  The authors of Common Core did not and do not address this issue in their initiative.  A real improvement in learning will happen when we as communities, states, and as a country recognize and act upon the fact that we are a nation of immigrants.  The immediate needs of food, housing, and medical care are obstacles that non-immigrant students do not face to the same extent.  What the authors of Common Core also ignores is the long understood process of acquiring language.  Before a student can do well on a state test, meet the standards of Common Core, earn a high school diploma, get into college, graduate college, or get a job, they must acquire the English language.

Students ages 8 to 11 are the fastest achievers, taking between two to five years.  Students ages 5 to 7 take three to 8 years, and those ages 12 to 15 have the most difficulty acquiring a new language.  These students take six to eight years.  Students in general need seven years to acquire enough English to reach national norms on standardized tests for reading, social studies, and science.  A major factor on acquiring English is a student’s schooling in their country of origin.  The better their previous education, the better a student does in their new country.  Professor and linguistics expert Stephen Krashen notes the importance of comprehensive input.  Students acquire English best when it is focused on relevant, interesting topics. 
Education and improving education has become highly challenging with so many stakeholders and various agendas.  Democrat and Republican politicians have their own agendas and preferences for how and what students should learn.  Politicians utilize their networking skills to stay in office, relying upon close relationships with union bosses and educational corporations.  These edu-corporations produce educational materials, textbooks, tests, and standards, and trainings.  School board members are often caught between state and federal mandates, funding changes, and regulations.  These politicians also have their own educational philosophies and political campaigns to win.  Superintendents also have many masters and may feel deserving of salaries higher than the president of the United States.

Parents that place their children in private schools or that live in healthy, high aspiring neighborhoods look over at public schools and shake their heads.  Often not realizing the substantial differences in schools, between those with students whose parents pay for tutors, who have high aspirations for their children, and who work very hard to have healthy homes and those that do not.  To complicate matters more we have a number of parents that desire schools be circuses to keep their children entertained.

The film Two Million Minutes contrasts Brittany's and Neil's easy suburban lives with those of two Indian teenagers and two Chinese teenagers, making the case that the foreign students are just plain hungrier for success.  "You just want to shake America and say, 'Wake up. We are falling behind daily,' " Compton says.  And Two Million Minutes finds plenty to be worried about: not enough study or homework time, not enough parental pressure, not enough focus on math or engineering.  American teens, he argues, are preoccupied with sports, after-school jobs and leisure.  The film repeatedly contrasts foreign students' drive with what seems like American cluelessness:  In one scene, Chinese 17-year-old Hu Xiaoyuan diligently practices the violin — then we cut to bone-crunching rock 'n' roll and the Friday night lights of Carmel's top-ranked football team.


There are other pieces of the puzzle we need to look at to get a full picture of education in the United States.  Economic decisions play a significant role in academic growth, graduation rates, and college entrance.  Professor of Sociology Sean F. Reardon demonstrated that student performance is partly tied to how money is spent at home.

“It may seem counterintuitive, but schools don’t seem to produce much of the disparity in test scores between high- and low-income students.  We know this because children from rich and poor families score very differently on school readiness tests when they enter kindergarten, and this gap grows by less than 10 percent between kindergarten and high school.  There is some evidence that achievement gaps between high- and low-income students actually narrow during the nine-month school year, but they widen again in the summer months.

That isn’t to say that there aren’t important differences in quality between schools serving low- and high-income students — there certainly are — but they appear to do less to reinforce the trends than conventional wisdom would have us believe.

My research suggests that one part of the explanation for this is rising income inequality.  It’s not just that the rich have more money than they used to, it’s that they are using it differently.  This is where things get really interesting.  High-income families are increasingly focusing their resources — their money, time and knowledge of what it takes to be successful in school — on their children’s cognitive development and educational success.  They are doing this because educational success is much more important than it used to be, even for the rich."

Testing Errors and Parent Guide...

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The Common Core Shift: Testing Errors and Parent Guide (Page 5/5)

The Common Core Shift:  Page 5/5

Pencils down.  Test scores is one of those sometimes flashy, sometimes hidden topics.  Politicians, superintendents, and edu-corporations love to take credit and get in from of news cameras when the scores are good.  Teachers get the spotlight when the scores are low.  We do not hear politicians and others blaming those big evangelical churches, those mega church pastors, for the sins of congregations.

Yet, politicians and radio show hosts blame teachers.  Somehow the state of education is not the fault of principals, school boards, superintendents, administrators, society, or parents.  The next time you hear a politician, TV host, or radio personality blame the state of education on too many bad teachers, ask them for their statistics, their proof, the numbers.  Despite all the good intentions, campaign promises, political gamesmanship, and strident school revivals, we have yet to have a Great Awakening in American education.  Instead, we have hedged our bets on the Jesusification of the American teacher and Common Core.

State test scores must be put into the context of a school’s neighborhood, state, and country.  Various cultural, linguistic, political, and social factors contribute to student learning.  Despite chapter tests, spelling tests, quizzes, essays, homework, classwork, and projects, education reform movements since the 1990s have called for state and federal testing of students.  Under Common Core the testing window is a twelve week timeline at the end of the school year.  That is twelve weeks to schedule and juggle classes of students in and out of computer labs to take the online test.  A significant improvement to testing of students is computer adaptive technology.

As as a students takes the online test the program will adjust the questions to meet the level of the student.  It is laudable for the authors of Common Core and edu-corporations to make their curriculum based in real life situations and relatable to students.  It is troublesome to have product placement in the Common Core test in New York State.  One reading passage on the test included a reference to Mug Root Beer, a product of Pepsi.  Also mentioned in other passages were IBM and Lego.  Are these advertisements?  Oversights?  An attempt to meet the Common Core requirement of emphasizing non-fiction and authentic materials?  No test is perfect, yet it is disconcerting when Pearson (the major company responsible for Common Core) does not consider product placement a conflict of interest.

The test for seventh grade is complex, is heavy reading, and requires sophisticated reading skills to answer follow-up questions.  There was also an error on the practice test, Question #9 Grade 7 ELA Practice Test.   

Click image for a larger view.
(Image credit:  Pearson/Next Generation Assessments)

"A student is writing a report for science class.  This paragraph from the report contains language that is not appropriate for the audience or the task.  Read the paragraph.  Then, click on three words or groups of words that are too vague or informal for a science report.

There are loads of reasons to eat organic food.  The term 'organic' indicates that the food has been grown without pesticides or other chemicals.  A consumer who chooses to eat organic food does not consume any of this bad stuff.  Crops that are grown organically are nice for the land because farmers do not have to add chemicals to the soil.  Growing organic food also improves the lives of farm workers because they can avoid working with poisons.  In sum, everyone benefits from the farming of organic food."

This passage from the practice test teaches students a falsehood about organics.  There are many home cooks, bakers, and consumers that are fans of organics, look for products and food grown organically, and use organic ingredients.  Yet, “‘organic’ does not automatically mean ‘pesticide-free’ or ‘chemical-free’.  In fact, under the laws of most states, organic farmers are allowed to use a wide variety of chemical sprays and powders on their crops.  So what does organic mean?  It means that these pesticides, if used, must be derived from natural sources, not synthetically manufactured.” 

After careful study we see Common Core not as a “shift”, not as a messiah, and not as a total solution.  David Coleman and other authors of Common Core are mistaken in their premise and call for American teachers to shift their teaching practices.  This false premise stems from faulty studies, genuine desire to provide students good educational opportunities, and opportunist motives to make money through educational reforms.  The creation and implementation of the Common Core standards will cost a tremendous amount of money, have benefits, bring more uncertainties, and challenges.  Despite the words and actions of politicians, edu-corporations, and reformers, parents and teachers must always do what is best for students and their children.

If the elites in politics, business, and education have it wrong, then we must see to it that our interests prevail.  Teachers must adhere to Common Core; however, for most educators their basic pedagogy will not be a shift from the great teaching they are currently doing in their classrooms.  Students must read and test according to the Common Core standards.  However; this will not be a huge shift from the previous state standards of California.  The heavy emphasis on reading may and will be a challenge for students, some boys that prefer hands-on learning, and English Language Learners.  Despite this challenge, these students, their parents, and teachers will support them.  It is key for these stakeholders to not be exploited by emotional and false claims and promises by experts, politicians, and the newest shiny objects in education reform.  It is also key to take personal responsibility for your own learning and the learning of your child.


The Common Core standards were developed in 2009.  The promises were big.  The sales pitch was something rarely seen outside the small town of Passamaquoddy, ala Pete's Dragon.  Note:  despite the ongoing expense of billions of dollars a year, ongoing teacher training in the standards, and a robust public relations campaign to defend the CC standards and curriculum, we continue to have students that read, write, speak, think, and do mathematics at various levels, and to varying degrees.

As with the salesmen, politicians, administrators, and edu-corporations behind Whole Language, Project Self-Esteem, Multiculturalism, Professional Learning Communities, Data Teams, Clickers, A.V.I.D., Group Work, Devices, Merit Pay, and President Obama’s Race to the Top, the originators of CC were wrong.

Buzzwords and initiatives implemented by greedy and/or ill-informed individuals never work in the long run.  What does work.  What does support learning, increase student curiosity, and increase test scores.  What does something none of these other programs has been able to do.  What does cost a lot less money.  Family.  Parental aspirations for their children has a larger impact on student learning than feedback from teachers, study skills, homework, testing, and teacher education.

That is not to say some principals do not need fire one or two teachers, early on in a teacher's career, at their school sites.  Or that teachers must not continually self-asses and adjust their lessons.  Or that parents and students should not go directly to teachers to discuss the standards, lessons, or grading, rather than taking to social media to bash teachers.  What this does mean is that each student is an individual, begins each school year with various strengths and weaknesses, and that federalized, corporatized, politicized initiatives are not our messiah.

We must be prepared, ready with the statistics and communications abilities, and votes to prevent the next fad, the next person that demonizes educators, and the next ill-conceived, elitist program pushed onto our communities.

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