Why is the New Senate Profile of Learning Bill a "Sham?"

When we sent our legislative update regarding the Senate action on the Profile of Learning, we did not go into any detail about Pogemiller's "fix it" bill and why we called it a "sham."

I am going to go through the main points of Sen. Pogemiller's bill, in his words as he explained it on the Senate floor on Wednesday. My response will follow each point.

1. Districts will now be able to decide their curriculum.

For the last year, the Department of Children, Families, and Learning has been telling the people of Minnesota that the Profile of Learning does NOT dictate curriculum. Now, they are telling us that under this new bill, districts really will be able to design their own curriculum. Which statement was correct, or more importantly, is either of them?

Under the new bill, the exact same content standards, letter for letter, that are already in law, will continue to be in law. Content standards are not just the mandated areas of learning under the law; they are the actual content that must be taught. The state continues, under the new bill, to mandate what must be taught, and, perhaps more importantly, they will be able to determine what is left out.

2. Districts will now have "ultimate" local control. Even though all districts said they were ready to implement all ten learning areas and accepted money from the state to do so, the state will be understanding and not hold them to it. They can now vote to have fewer standards.

Once again, we have been told for the last year that we HAD "ultimate" local control. Were they lying then or are they lying now? Under this new bill, NOTHING WILL CHANGE! By a majority vote of the licensed teachers in a district AND their school board, a district can request a waiver from the Commissioner of CFL to reduce the number of required standards necessary to get a diploma in that district. The vote must be retaken annually. Though a district can require fewer standards for graduation, it is still required to embed ALL of the state standards at both the preparatory and High School level within its curriculum.

The mandate to teach ALL of the state developed content standards REMAINS.

How incredulous to expect this to be the new "ultimate" in local control when it is MORE OF THE SAME! Sen. Pogemiller also brazenly stated that now this cannot be called an educational experiment because the teachers and school boards are involved. When an unproven "system" is mandated on teachers and school boards, involving them IN the experiment does not change the fact that it IS an experiment!

3. No teacher has to use a state-mandated performance package. Districts may determine their own means of assessment.

Commissioner Jax has been maintaining that the districts have had this flexibility all along. What is different now?

There is language in this bill that states, ["The assessment method selected by the district must have a scoring system that is comparable to state assessments."]

What it doesn't tell you is that the current scoring system of state assessments is the 1-4 Rubrics system that uses a series of evaluation sheets that score TASKS AND ASSIGNMENTS. That is a "performance-based" scoring system. I think that the general direction of this entire portion of SF125 gives very clear directives about using "performance-based" assessments, while giving the surface appearance that there is an option. Also, no matter what grading system you use, it must be related back to the 1-4 Rubrics scoring system for transcripts.

4. There is "widespread agreement" on the 10 Learning Areas.

The 10 Learning Areas of the Profile of Learning that currently exist will continue to exist under the proposed bill. Some of the titles of the learning areas have changed to be more "socially acceptable." For example, "People and Cultures" will now be named "Social Studies." "Management of Resources" will be called "Economics and Business" and "Decision Making" will be called "Physical Education and Lifetime Fitness." None of the content within these learning areas changed, just their names. The themes that you found offensive are still the same, and the lack of core academic content remains.

5. We have heard the likes of Allen Quist telling people that this is a "federal" mandate under Goals 2000 and School-to-Work. We have placed language in this bill that clearly states that it is not and the districts do not have to do Goals 2000 or School-to-Work.

This just about brought a roar out of the Senate gallery. Anyone who knows anything about this knows that Sen. Pogemiller is well aware that this is the TOTAL compliance with the federal Goals 2000 and School-to-Work System. There is no need to go into a lengthy oration on this, but I will say, that simply legislating a green apple to be "red" will not make it "red." Stating in state statute that the local districts do not have to do Goals 2000 and School-to-Work, when that is exactly what the Profile is, is the same scenario. Legislating something by a different name does not change what it is. This is an incredible insult to the intelligence of Minnesota's people.

6. The paperwork law is repealed.

To the best of my knowledge there is no specific "paperwork law." The whole Profile of Learning Rule is a paperwork law. Requirements for saving exemplary work samples; samples of what a 1, 2, 3, & 4 rubric score would be;  samples of the types of assessments used; and overall reporting is still mandated in law. I am not sure what they eliminated other than perhaps the evaluation sheets that were used in the performance packages.

7. In response to the districts needing more time to implement, five years should have been enough but the new bill will allow districts more time.

The new bill allows school districts to choose one of two options. The districts can choose to continue with the Profile in its entirety under the new provisions as option one. Option 2 lets districts retroactively decide what standards were required for the 9th graders in the '98-'99 year, and for the 9th graders in the next school year, '99-2000. Once again, it is such an insult to say that we have been given time to implement. All the learning areas, all the content standards, the rubrics, and all other Profile of Learning provisions must continue to be implemented during this time. What is there left to "phase in?"

8. A panel will be set up to maintain high rigor within the standards.

The makeup of this panel is as follows:
2 teachers from MnEd (1 will be teacher of the year and 1 will have a National Board Certification, NEA) 3 Deans of higher ed. (1 from the U of M, 1 from MnSCU, and 1 from private colleges)

This panel will consult with national and international "experts." Have you been able to detect who is missing from this panel? Parents. Sen. Pogemiller's quote was, ["Twenty-five years from now they [standards] will be adjusted to fit how the world will work 25 years from now, not how it worked 50 years ago." ] The only thing that will preserve our ability to move successfully into the future is to teach the things that are universal and never change: reading, math, language, science, art, integrity, and honesty.

9. The Commissioner shall designate a uniform method of reporting. You don't have to use it.

If there is a uniform method of reporting designated by the Commissioner, how many people will not use it? If all the support services such as software and networking support one designated type, what district has the money to spend thousands to develop its own, only to have it be ostracized from those that use a "designated" method.

10. We will fund "best practices" and give money to MnEd (Minnesota's teachers unions).

It is time that we fund "proven" practices. "Best" practices are not proven. They can be called "best" by anyone. We continue to fund the largest, highest costing, educational experiment ever in Minnesota's history.  And since when do we as taxpayers allow our state to give money to the unions?

11. The controversial "Lifework Plan," that groups are saying is part of the career tracking of children, is repealed.

The "Lifework Plan" is a required part of the Profile of Learning. It is embedded within the content standards and we as a state obligated ourselves to requiring it under the School-to-Work Initiative Implementation Plan with the federal government. The plan says that, ["All Minnesota learners will develop a lifework plan which will be included as one component of the stated Profile of Learning."] page 20. Simply repealing the reference to the "Lifework Plan" in the rule, does not mean that it is not being implemented. State statutes 124D.35 through 124D.50 legally require all the things that we agreed to in the School-to-Work Initiative Implementation Plan. The Governor's Workforce Development Council calls Minnesota's Graduation Standards and the federal School-to-Work system, "fraternal twins....inexplicably linked."

Thank you for taking the time to bring yourself up to date on this proposed Profile cure-all. As you can see, a monster that took ten years to create and over $200 million dollars cannot be fixed in a couple months. Because the basic premise of the Profile is "top-down" control and educating for specific work skills rather than core, broad based academics, the Profile of Learning CANNOT BE FIXED. It is time to say good-by to it.

If you think that you can take what you are being told at face value, you are gravely mistaken. As you can see, the Department of Children, Families, and Learning, Sen. Larry Pogemiller and company, and Christine Jax, the Commissioner, have taken every one of our criticisms of the Profile and addressed them by using the same flagrant language manipulation that they have consistently used from the beginning, all meant to deceive! We should be insulted and outraged that they would continue to use such deceptive techniques on our children. We will never be free until we take our freedom back.

Renee T. Doyle,
Maple River Education Coalition