Generals Bring Common Sense To Standards Discussion

James Rogers, Tony Jones and Jim Myles have three things in common.  1.  They all live in the Huntsville area.  2.  They are all retired Army generals.  3.They think the idea of repealing the Alabama College & Career Ready standards is a very bad idea.

Reporter Lee Roop with AL.com interviewed each of these men and came up with this report.

Three Army generals who helped lead Huntsville’s recent growth have a message for Alabama lawmakers: Leave Common Core alone, they say.

“I just don’t understand it,” Maj. Gen. James Rogers (Ret.) said Thursday of the issue’s return. “It’s crazy.”

Ending Common Core would throw sand in a machine that is creating tens of thousands of jobs in Alabama and sending hundreds of millions in tax dollars to Montgomery, the generals say.

“We can’t continue the successes we’ve had if we can’t maintain the standards,” Lt. Gen. Tony Jones (Ret.) said Thursday.

“We’ve already fought this fight, and we’re making progress,” said Maj. Gen. Jim Myles (Ret.) “This isn’t moving forward. It’s moving backward.”

All three are surprised the issue has risen again after being defeated in the Alabama Legislature in 2013.

The generals say the repeal wouldn’t be fair to thousands of families who have decided to move to Alabama for jobs at Redstone Arsenal in Huntsville, Airbus in Mobile, and the various automobile plants around the state. And it isn’t fair to families who aren’t moving anywhere, they say, but whose children might.

Jones, Rogers and Myles were leaders in the Army and at Alabama’s Army posts. Jones was chief of staff at U.S. Army Headquarters in Europe and commanded the Army Aviation Warfighting Center at Fort Rucker, Ala., among other commands. After retiring, he ran Boeing’s operations in Huntsville.

Jones mentioned the skilled FBI employees moving from Washington now to a new campus in Huntsville. The FBI has already announced 1,350 moves, and local leaders expect 4,000- to 5,000 new FBI jobs before the move is done.

“You’ve got a lot more engineers, scientists, business management people here,” Myles said. “They bring a certain pedigree and DNA inside of them. They realize the education’s important so, naturally, they want their kids to have the same input (they had).”

Joe Windle is the superintendent of the Tallapoosa County school system.  Like the three men in Huntsville, he retired from the Army as a colonel in 1996.  Since then he has been commandant at Lyman Ward military academy, principal at Reeltown high and superintendent.  He totally agrees with the three generals.

Our system has made a huge investment in time, money, resources and professional development unpacking the math and reading standards.  Partnerships with AMSTI and ARI are paying off.  Four of our five schools increased report card grades four to seven points.  Two increased letter grades from C to B.”

“The contention that ACCR  is bad for our schools is totally wrong.” adds Windle..

 

No Kidding, Del Marsh Wants Legislature To Decide On Alabama Education Standards

Senator Del Marsh obviously has little respect for teachers–and any other education folks.  Apparently he does not consider teachers as professional or education to be a profession.

Why do I come to this conclusion?

Because his latest “Creature from the Black Lagoon” bill, known as SB119, basically screams it out loud.  What else can you surmise when Marsh says that once any new academic standards that have jumped through all the hoops of being vetted and approved by the state school board must then be approved by the legislature.

Trish Crain with AL.com explains it all here.

Here is the most pertinent part of the article.

“But the part about the legislature having the final say over academic standards flew under the radar until Thursday afternoon, when Marsh made mention of the legislative review of standards just before the Senate vote.

The bill states: “The State Board of Education shall replace the existing Common Core Standards with new standards adopted by rule pursuant to the Alabama Administrative Procedure Act.”

The Administrative Procedure Act, or APA, is a set of processes for how new rules and policies can be adopted by state agencies.

Subjecting the adoption of new academic standards to the APA, Marsh said, adds an extra layer of oversight needed at this time because of the lack of confidence in the state board.”

Earlier this week I spent two nights in ICU at a Montgomery hospital.  After all the blood samples and stuff dripping into my arm and being monitored for 60 seconds a minute, a real life physician, one who spent years in medical school and working in hospitals, said I could go home.

Do you think at that moment I wanted our legislature to have passed a law saying that before I could be released, legislators would have to review my case and say yea or nay?

Sounds absurd doesn’t it?  Of course it does.  But no more so than a group of non-educators having the final say what goes on in our classrooms.

 

Del Marsh Takes Aim At University Of Alabama Football

Republican Del Marsh singlehandedly passed the infamous Alabama Accountability Act in 2013 that has diverted $145 million from the state’s public schools and has done nothing to help struggling schools.  Now he has launched another sneak attack on public schools by insisting the Alabama College and Career Ready standards (which he once supported wholeheartedly) do not work either and calling for the state to “eat” the millions of dollars spent on putting them in place.

But wait, he’s not through.

This time he is going after the football program at the University of Alabama.  He wants wholesale changes and far more accountability than the program now has and is developing legislation that he says will result in the perfect football program and avoid the “embarrassment” of last Jan. 7 when the University lost the national championship game to Clemson, 44-12.

Marsh says he is sick and tired of seeing the highest paid football coach in the country (Nick Saban makes $8.3 million a year) get beat on national TV while Alabama becomes the laughing stock of the country..

When questioned by a reporter about his experience in coaching and running major football programs, Marsh pointed out that he knows as much about football as he does about education and believes experience is vastly over-rated in both coaching and running schools.

Marsh believes that a football program with endless resources like the one in Tuscaloosa should settle for nothing less than perfection.  He points out that this fall Bama will pay10 football assistant coaches $7.5 million, an increase of $1.4 million from 2018.  And this comes fresh on the heels of the school losing the biggest game it had ever played.

Nick Saban has coached in Tuscaloosa for 12 seasons.  Yet, he has only had one undefeated season.  Senator Marsh doesn’t think this is good enough.  He points out that Coach Bear Bryant coached 25 years in Tuscaloosa and had three undefeated seasons.  Bryant’s salary in his final year was only $450,000.

Marsh contends that we should roll back the clock with the university’s football program just as he is trying to do with Alabama schools.  He intends to pass legislation that will do just this.  For instance it may say that the team can only use the wishbone offense or can not throw more than ten passes in a game.

When reporters pressed Marsh to detail how much success the Alabama Accountability Act has brought to state schools, he chastised them for bringing up meaningless details.

Editor’s note: Hopefully readers will quickly see that this is satire.  However, the point being made–that Senator Marsh has no better understanding of what challenges education faces than he does about Coach Saban’s football program–is no less valid.

 

March 18, 2019: The Day My World Changed

Since my car is 20 years old, I am never too surprised when I have to take it to the shop.  So why am I bewildered when my body–which is 56 years older than my car–needs the oil changed and brakes redone?

Still I am.

I’d not been at the top of my game for several weeks.  I was rapidly becoming Rip Van Winkle.  I could begin a nap before I ended the one I was taking.  So Monday I found my little blood pressure device, put some new batteries in it and clicked it on.  91/55 got my attention and I headed for a doc in the box I’ve used before,.

I hardly hit the door before they called an ambulance and sent me down the street to Baptist East emergency room.  At one point I counted 10 people gathered around me talking excitedly about my heart rate, what little there was.  About this time I got the sense that this was about more than just getting my oil changed.

Long story made short, I am now home with more holes in me from taking blood than a pin cushion.  The end of every finger has been pricked for blood to find out my blood sugar level.  My blood sugar tends to go from high to higher and I’m thinking that sweet iced tea is in my rear view mirror

I’m reading about living with diabetes and figuring that morning trips to Hardee’s for a sausage and biscuit and small coke are just “precious memories.”  No doubt I am about to discover that there are entire sections of a grocery store that I never knew existed.  Something says that late night runs to Krispy Kreme are no longer part of my travel plans.

I deeply appreciate all those who sent good wishes and prayers.  They are deeply appreciated.

And for those who may have some tips on dealing with this new future, love to hear from you.  larrylee133@gmail.com

 

 

Senator Del Marsh Stoops To “Alternative Facts”

President Trump had hardly taken the oath of office in January 2017 when his advisor, Kellyanne Conway, told us on Meet The Press about “alternative facts.”  She was trying to defend press secretary Sean Spicer for disputing how many people attended the Trump inauguration.

Host Chuck Todd simply told her, “Look, alternative facts aee not facts.  They’re falsehoods.”

That incident came immediately to mind when I read the latest attempt by Senate Majority Leader Del Marsh trying to once again defend the Alabama Accountability Act.  You can see the article here.

The good senator begins with a statement we all agree with:  “I firmly believe that every child in Alabama deserves access to a quality education that prepares them for a successful career and fulfilling life.”

So does everyone elseBut Marsh ignores the fact that we have 722,212 students in Alabama public schools while the accountability act is only giving scholarships to 3,659 of them.  Somehow 3,659 out of 722,212 does not add up to EVERY CHILD.

There have now been 20 local school board to pass resolutions calling for the repeal of the accountability act.  Obviously Marsh is aware of what is going on across the state because he says, “Regrettably, several local school boards recently passed resolutions calling for an end to the Alabama Accountability Act. They claim that participating students are not making academic gains and that the program takes money away from public schools’ budgets. 

“Neither of these are true.

A recent University of Alabama report showed that students on AAA scholarships did better academically overall than low-income students in public schools and took steps toward equaling the performance of all Alabama students regardless of their demographic.”  

Actually what is not true is the Marsh statement.

Here is the conclusion of the most recent University of Alabama study comparing students on AAA scholarships to others.

The purpose of the evaluation is to assess how the scholarship program enacted through the AAA affects the academic achievement of students in the program.  Throughout the report many concerns have been voiced about the reliability and validity of the findings due to unknown factors associated with missing achievement tests and due to issues related to subsamples included in specific comparisons, such as whether a subsample of students accurately represented the larger group of scholarship students.  Within these limitations, the report made use of the available information to describe how well the scholarship recipients in the 2016-17 academic year performed.  The evaluation addressed three objectives to reach this goal:

The first objective described the achievement test results of the scholarship recipients and revealed that generally these students DID NOT PERFORM (all caps added) as well as other students in the U.S.  Other indicators, such as the NAEP assessments, are consistent with these results, finding that students in the state of Alabama do not perform as well as students elsewhere in the country.

When compared to Alabama public school students on ACT Aspire and ACT scores in Objective 2, there was no consistent pattern indicating that one group performed BETTER OR WORSE across grade levels.  Only a small percentage of students took the ACT Aspire or the ACT, which hampers the ability of this report to draw definite conclusions.

Finally, the evaluation assessed if scholarship recipients’ achievement scores improved, declined or remained the same over time.  Similar to their public-school counterparts, findings suggested that, on average, SCORES SHOWED LITTLE IMPROVEMENT OVER TIME.

Would someone please show me where this reports says AAA students “did belter academically overall?”

Just like Kellyanne Conway, Senator Marsh has “alternative facts.”

As to his second comment about AAA taking money from public schools, he doesn’t bother to defend this allegation.  But then “alternative facts” can sometimes be worrisome that way.

As Senator Marsh knows, every dollar that goes to a scholarship for a student to attend a private school is diverted from the state’s Education Trust Fund through a tax credit to a donor.  Since all income tax goes straight to the ETF, when money is switched from ETF to scholarships, that is money taken from public schools.

The state Revenue Department administers the accountability act.  They have lots of info on a web site.

Alabama Accountability Act

Senator Marsh needs to look at it sometime.  One thing he will find are reports from scholarships granting organizations that show that through the end of 2018, these groups have collected $145,003,640 from donors.  That is $145 million that did not get to ETF.  That is not an “alternative fact.”

Finally, Senator Marsh tells us: “The funding for AAA scholarships is less than half of 1 percent of the overall state education budget. I do not believe that this small amount is too much to pay so that children and their parents have the ability to choose the type of education that sets them up for future success.” 

Wow, I now know that $145 million is a “small amount” in the grand scheme of things.  And Senator Marsh is a deep-fried CONSERVATIVE?

As a former member of the Montgomery County school board, I will be happy to arrange for the senator to visit some of our schools and classrooms.  He can visit BTW magnet where students are crammed on top of each other because their school burned to the ground last year.   He can tell the students $145 million is nothing.  Or visit any of the teachers who are constantly using DonorChoose to try and scratch up supplies for their children.

For sure he will come away with real facts, not ones pulled from thin air.