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November 20, 2006

Elections, News and More
1. Election Notes
2. TeenScreen & the Kenosha Parents Union
3. Thanksgiving
4. More on math Wars
5. Order EdWatch Conference DVDs


1. Election Notes
No Child Left Behind (NCLB) comes up for reauthorization under new Democratic leadership in 2007. Proponents are gearing up to expand its authority over families, expand its push for universal early childhood, expand federal funding for universal mental health testing, and more. Stay tuned. If you want to be part of stopping NCLB, let us know.

Minnesota's Michele Bachmann won her race for 6th District Congress. Bachmann was a Republican state Senator who entered politics as a grass roots activist against the federal education mandates. She begins with an keen understanding of the problems with NCLB, mental health testing, School-to-Work and more. A strong candidate speaking the truth is a winning combination.

Joe Enge of Nevada, founder of EdWatch Nevada and the teacher who became famous for his fight to teach early American History in his high school class (see "Under fire for teaching history") beat an incumbent overwhelmingly for the Carson City, Nevada school board. A strong candidate speaking the truth is a winning combination.

2. TeenScreen & the Kenosha Parents Union
The Kenosha< Wisconsin Parents Union is taking up the fight against universal psychological testing of their 8th graders.

KENOSHA NEWS rips parents for forming union
Sunday, 19 November 2006

The KENOSHA NEWS today features an article by Bill Guida ripping the formation of the Kenosha Parents Union and supporting the mass mental health screening program intended for all 8th graders in Kenosha. While criticizing the hundred or so parents for trying to take part in the school district, the article supports the district's inclusion of local church representatives as experts on mental health and able to make decisions within the district to determine which 8th graders are mentally ill. The Kenosha Parents Union was formed by parents who feel that parents are largely left out of the loop on significant KUSD issues, and some KUSD board members and administrators agree. Pam Stevens, vice-president of the KUSD Board and Gilbert Ostman, Board member, have both signed on with the union and have consistently invited parent involvement in the decision-making processes.

The controversy surrounding the mass mental health screening of all 8th graders is an issue that has supporters and detractors on both sides. The supporters of mental health screening insist that if they can find even one child at risk and save that child, then the program will have succeeded. Detractors see it differently. "Almost all of the suicides and school shootings for the past ten years are committed by kids who had been put on psychiatric drugs just prior to them killing themselves or others." They have the data to back them up which includes several hundred child suicides or murders, the drugs that the children were prescribed and taking, and how long they were taking them before committing their deadly acts.

Both sides of the mass mental health screening issue in Kenosha agree on one thing: Teen suicide in Kenosha must be dealt with. Its how to deal with it that concerns the Parents Union. "Don't be fooled by so-called experts," one parent union member said, "the FDA itself says there is zero evidence that mental health screening prevents suicide and that it can actually contribute to suicide ideation in kids."
3. Thanksgiving
Some commentary on Thanksgiving, schools, and history:
Truth-Telling About Thanksgiving
Governor William Bradford's Thanksgiving Proclamation
Presidential Thanksgiving Proclamations
No Thanks to Thanksgiving [A sample of what kids are hearing.]
Time to up Thanksgiving's importance
Thanksgiving & the Re-Writing of History

4. Math Wars
New York Times
November 14, 2006
As Math Scores Lag, a New Push for the Basics

SEATTLE For the second time in a generation, education officials are rethinking the teaching of math in American schools.

The changes are being driven by students lagging performance on international tests and mathematicians warnings that more than a decade of so-called reform math critics call it fuzzy math has crippled students with its de-emphasizing of basic drills and memorization in favor of allowing children to find their own ways to solve problems.

At the same time, parental unease has prompted ever more families to pay for tutoring, even for young children. Shalimar Backman, who put pressure on officials here by starting a parents group called Wheres the Math?, remembers the moment she became concerned.

When my oldest child, an A-plus stellar student, was in sixth grade, I realized he had no idea, no idea at all, how to do long division, Ms. Backman said, so I went to school and talked to the teacher, who said, We dont teach long division; it stifles their creativity.

Across the nation, the reconsideration of what should be taught and how has been accelerated by a report in September by the National Council of Teachers of Mathematics, the nations leading group of math teachers.

It was a report from this same group in 1989 that influenced a generation of teachers to let children explore their own solutions to problems, write and draw pictures about math, and use tools like the calculator at the same time they learn algorithms.

But this fall, the group changed course, recommending a tighter focus on basic math skills and an end to mile wide, inch deep state standards that force schools to teach dozens of math topics in each grade. In fourth grade, for example, the report recommends that the curriculum should center on the quick recall of multiplication and division, the area of two-dimensional shapes and an understanding of decimals.

The Bush administration, too, has created a panel to study research on teaching math. It is expected to issue recommendations early next year.   Read more...

To the Editor:

Thank you for publishing your article on the countrys lagging math scores.

I wrote a letter to the superintendent of my suburban Seattle school district when I was a junior in high school being poorly prepared for the SAT. I pointed out precisely the same problems with reform math that your article outlined.

I am now a sophomore in college and still paying the price for the poorly developed methods of Integrated Mathematics. You can be sure I will be forwarding a copy of this article to the superintendent, as well as updating her on my progress in remedial algebra. Ill get the basics this time around; unfortunately, my parents are now paying $40,000 for them.

Alison Bailey
Portland, Ore., Nov. 14, 2006

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