The DFL is eroding Minnesota schools

by: KATHERINE KERSTEN, a senior fellow at the Center of the American Experiment.

Updated: November 12, 2013

It’s not putting it too strongly to say there are tragic implications.

Gov. Mark Dayton and his DFL allies are congratulating themselves on pumping hundreds of millions of new dollars into Minnesota schools during the last legislative session. Thanks to their enlightened leadership, they assure us, our schools are now on track to produce the “world’s best workforce” — and to achieve the ever-elusive goals of closing our yawning racial achievement gap and attaining a 100 percent graduation rate.

The rhetoric is impressive, no doubt. When it comes to making these promises a reality, however, Dayton and Co. are not just stuck in neutral but are advancing backward at breakneck speed. Far from raising standards and ensuring accountability — critical in a globally competitive economy — they are undermining both, for students and teachers.

In the much-lauded 2013 “education session,” for example, the Legislature dumped our state’s high school graduation exams: the GRAD tests. The tests measured reading and writing skills — at a ninth-grade and tenth-grade level, respectively — and students had been required to pass them to demonstrate that they had earned a high school diploma.

Now, a Minnesota diploma will now be essentially meaningless: a certificate that students can get just by showing up. Sure, students will take new career and college-readiness exams, but they can bomb them completely and still get a diploma. After more than a decade of reforms aimed at ensuring that graduates can meet fundamental academic standards, we’re back to measuring educational success by “seat time,” not by what students actually know and can do.

DFLers have dismantled standards for teachers, too. The Legislature put Teachers Basic Skills test on hold, and the Minnesota Department of Education has announced that, for the next two years, new teachers need not pass or even take it.

Effective teachers are the key to student achievement. Nevertheless, the Legislature rejected a bill that would have prevented Minnesota students from being assigned to a low-performing teacher two years in a row.

   Yet “the main driver of the variation in student learning at school is the quality of the teachers,” according to a 2007 report produced by McKinsey & Co. On average, students with high-performing teachers progress three times faster than those with low-performing teachers, according to the report. At the primary level, students who have low-performing teachers for several years in a row “suffer an educational loss which is largely irreversible.”


The list of the DFL establishment’s destructive educational policies goes on:

• In 2012, Dayton vetoed legislation that would have repealed our state’s indefensible “last-in, first-out” teacher layoff law. The law is a perennial source of parental complaint, and all but one Minneapolis mayoral candidate unequivocally endorse changing it.

• The administration follows the teachers union’s lead in supporting the outdated, quality-blind “steps and lanes” approach to teacher compensation, which bases pay on seniority and postgraduate education. Our state’s Q Comp law is intended to link pay to performance and to encourage more strategic ways to compensate teachers. But as the Minneapolis school district plans its potential participation in Q Comp — granting only $3 per teacher per year for performance pay — the Minnesota Department of Education has clearly signaled that it is willing to abandon that effort and to allow Q Comp money to be used for other purposes

• The administration also has increased hurdles for innovative programs like Teach for America, which places outstanding college grads in classrooms in high-poverty schools. Yet a recent Mathematica study of student math performance found that, on average, TFA teachers are “more effective across the board” than other teachers, “making gains equivalent to an additional 2.6 months of school for the average student nationwide.”

Education is at crossroads in Minnesota. Our state has one of the nation’s widest racial learning gaps. It also has the worst graduation rate for Hispanics, the next-to-worst rate for black students and the fourth-worst for low-income students, according to federal data.

In these dire circumstances, our leaders should welcome new ideas. Instead, under Dayton, we’re going backward — torpedoing every promising proposal not endorsed by union bosses. New pre-school and all-day kindergarten funding is unlikely to make a sustained difference when standards and accountability for students, teachers and schools are being thrown to the winds.

Who pays the highest price? Our state’s struggling low-income and minority students. Despite the DFL establishment’s rhetoric of concern for them, in reality, the “soft bigotry of low expectations” is back with a vengeance.


Common Core lessons blasted for sneaking politics into elementary classrooms


By Perry Chiaramonte    November 10, 2013

It's exactly what critics of the Common Core school curriculum warned about: Partisan political statements masquerading as English lessons finding their way into elementary school classrooms.

Teaching materials aligned with the controversial national educational standards ask fifth-graders to edit such sentences as “(The president) makes sure the laws of the country are fair,” “The wants of an individual are less important than the well-being of the nation” and “the commands of government officials must be obeyed by all.” The sentences, which appear in worksheets published by New Jersey-based Pearson Education, are presented not only for their substance, but also to teach children how to streamline bulky writing.

“We are doing a terrible disservice to this generation and the next if we only

present them with one side of the argument and bombard them with ideas

contrary to the American ideal.”

- Glyn Wright, Eagle Forum

 “Parents should insist on reviewing their children’s school assignments,” said Glyn Wright, executive director of the Eagle Forum, a think tank that opposes implementation of Common Core. “Many parents will be shocked to find that some ‘Common Core-approved’ curriculum is full of inappropriate left-wing notions, disinformation, and fails to teach the truth of American exceptionalism and opportunity.”

The politically charged lesson appears in a worksheet titled “Hold the Flag High,” in which students are taught about Abraham Lincoln and the Civil War. The assignment asks students to make examples of sentences; “less wordy by replacing the underlined words with a possessive noun phrase.” They are then presented with a half-dozen sentences describing the job duties of a U.S. president.


But if the lessons are meant as a primer on the Constitution, there’s another problem, note critics. The job of making sure laws are fair is not the president’s, but the judicial branch’s. The executive branch’s duty is to administer laws. And the example that places the well-being of the nation above the “wants of an individual” appears to run counter to the basic principles of the Bill of Rights.

“We are doing a terrible disservice to this generation and the next if we only present them with one side of the argument and bombard them with ideas contrary to the American ideal,” Wright said. “In doing so, we allow our children to be indoctrinated instead of educated.”

A Pearson spokesperson told the “Hold the Flag High” worksheet will undergo some editing of its own, based on issues raised by critics, including Education Action Group Foundation.

“These particular questions appear in a fifth-grade unit of Pearson’s Reading Street, an English Language Arts program,” the Pearson official said. “They accompany a selection about soldiers during the Civil War, and they attempt to make a connection between that passage and language skills. As with all our curricular materials, they underwent a thorough development and review process. Still, we are always open to improving our work … Based on this feedback, we will be modifying the worksheet to clarify these questions.”

The official adds that while they are currently being used as common core material, versions of this worksheet including the questions of the Possessive Nouns section have been around and copyrighted since 2007.

The Common Core State Standards Initiative was devised by an association of the nation’s governors and backed by the Obama administration in 2009 with the goal of setting a uniform standard for grades K-12 nationwide. Some 45 states, in many cases enticed by federal grants, have signed on and testing of students in grades 3-8 and once in high school is scheduled to begin next year.

Critics of the initiative say that school districts will devise curriculums to maximize their students’ performance on the national exams; some in fact, have already done so. The same critics also claim that Common Core math standards barely cover basic geometry or second-year algebra and that the classics are all but ignored in English classes.

Common Core-aligned lessons teach students to obey government officials, ignore individual rights

While Common Core has plenty of defenders – and may prove beneficial – critics maintain that it is not the federal government’s job to impose educational standards.

lady liberty in shock



New York State PTA seeks 1 year moratorium on Common Core testing

November 12, 2013

The New York State PTA is calling for a one-year moratorium on tests linked to Common Core curricula, even as it continues to support the more rigorous national academic standards, the group's leader said Tuesday.

    "To my knowledge, this is the first time New York State PTA has embarked on a campaign like this," said Lana Ajemian, of Garden City, president of the group, which has more than 300,000 members. "The voices of our membership have been as passionate as we ever have about any issue. It's that important."

The initiative is motivated by parents, Ajemian said. About three-quarters of the organization's members are parents, and one-quarter are teachers.  Read the full story:





Gay Bullying Bill Gets Push at MN Capitol

No one should be bullied, including LGBT. But “HF 826” is NOT about stopping bullying.

This spring, lawmakers and Governor Dayton renewed a push against gay bullying in Minnesota’s schools.

Dayton’s Bullying Bill, HF826, aims is to specify anti-bullying standards based on a student’s sexual orientation, race or disability.  But the bill goes far beyond that and does not protect all children. The bill is UNSAFE, UNFAIR and UNFUNDED!


Minnesota is not in the midst of a “bullying crisis” as a small group of our state’s DFL lawmakers would like you to believe.  Bullying children and even adults is a cause of incredible pain and may cause severe personal damage. Bullying stems from a lack of love one for another in our society. Schools should teach love, kindness and respect for all people.  But bullying should not be hyper-politicized and manipulated as a tool to create new, overly expansive and invasive laws and bloated government agencies. FACT:  The 2010 MN student survey shows the rate of bullying decreasing and 93% of students feel safe at school.


Current MN law has both a statute requiring districts to adopt and maintain an anti-bullying policy, and a statute requiring the Commissioner to maintain a sample policy for districts to follow.  FACT:  MN has some of the strongest anti-bullying laws in the country.  Every public school district has a bullying policy.

social networking etiquette for teens

Minnesota currently has 46 pages of protections in the Human Rights Act law, plus a 5th degree assault law and an anti-bullying law that says:


Each school board shall adopt a written policy prohibiting intimidation and bullying of any

student. The policy shall address intimidation and bullying in all forms, including, but not

limited to, electronic forms and forms involving Internet use.”


The author of HF 826 said the current law is ineffective and does nothing. The problem for the authors is the law doesn’t address one group’s (the LGBT group) specific interests.

Under this controversial bill, local school districts cannot adopt their own anti-bullying policies.


• They already have their own anti]bullying policies, but they don’t qualify. Under HF 826, an entirely new

agency within the MN Department of Education is authorized to “assist” and enforce the policies of HF 826.

The “independent” school districts must adopt the School Climate Center’s model policy or write a policy

including all the mandates in HF 826. This is no choice at all. By default, they will adopt the Climate Center’s

policy rather than going back and forth with the Commissioner trying to get their “local” policy approved.

• Ironically, while not getting to design the policies, independent school districts do get to pay for them

under a whopping $50 Million unfunded mandate.

• The State has the power to deny funding to local school districts should they not comply.

HF 826 encourages the instruction and incorporation of “inclusive” best practices that “value sexual diversity” (meaning all sexual behaviors are equal and healthy) as part of prevention and intervention programs for Pre-Kindergarten through 12th grade.

• Curriculum materials designed to give equal value to all types of sexual behavior are and will be shown to

children. This material is shocking, morally offensive, and devastating to children, and certainly is

not age-appropriate.  Some books and curriculum, in current use, clearly meet the definition of “obscenity” under MN Statutes, however,

• Schools and teachers are exempt from prosecution under Minnesota’s obscenity laws.

• There is no requirement to notify parents prior to exposing their children to this material.

PHOTO: Plaza Towers Elementary school students

NOT ORIGINATING IN MN:  Bill’s language nearly identical to legislative language in other states.

The requirements reflect Governor Dayton’s “Prevention of School Bullying Task Force Report” based, in part, on the “blueprint” of the Anoka]Hennepin District School District #11 Consent Decree settlement with the U.S.

Department of Justice, the U.S. Department of Education—Office of Civil Rights, as well as LGBT special interest groups – the same groups who were significantly over]represented on the Governor’s Task Force while other potential targets of bullying had little or no representation at all.


Want to learn more for your child or grandchild?  Video link:





Scott County’s very own Senator Eric Pratt serves on the State Education sub-committee to help educate and prepare students to compete in the global economy.  Contact Senator Pratt:


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