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The ABC's of Ed - AASA

The Master Plan to completely reshape our education system by 2025.


Do you ever wonder how policies and programs get implemented in schools and districts across the country simultaneously and so quickly? It's as if one day you hear a buzz word, a new acronym, or about a new program and before you know it, it's being implemented in every school district in America, including your own. How does this happen?


One of the main drivers of the information and adoption of these programs and policies are professional organizations like 'The School Superintendents Association'. Perhaps these professional organizations are the 2020's version of the telephone game you played as a kid?


The word "professional" implies a level of expertise. Does anyone really question the information presented or is it simply taken as fact? Who are these "experts" setting the agenda and policies in our schools and what is their vision of the future for our public schools?


Social and Emotional Learning (SEL) and CASEL were accepted as a necessity, a best practice. They have been implemented in school districts across the county - including Iowa and the Iowa Department of Education (link to previous blogs). It happened so fast. It was adopted before parents even understood what the initials meant and before anyone could take a deeper look into the programs, beyond the marketing sales pitch.


Now it appears that everything is viewed through an "equity lens", systemic racial issues, culturally responsive teaching, whole learner, social emotional well-being, queer theory and data analytics on your children. If these sound like the some of the CASEL principles and buzz words around SEL, you are correct. However, it also sounds like the agenda in the "An American Imperative" A New Vision of Public Schools" commissioned report by the AASA. They all seem to be supporting the same agenda.


How did this happen? How does a program simultaneously get adopted in record time in districts across the county, be it Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion, Social Justice, CASEL and SEL, discipline practices, anti-racism, CRT (tools on how to respond when parents question if CRT is taught in the district) and mental health efforts? The answer is through Professional Organizations like The School Superintendent Association (AASA). According to their value proposition states:

"Looking for tools and resources to make your job easier? Want to make lasting connections with school leaders across the country? Interested in providing equitable access for all students to the highest quality public education? By joining AASA, you'll unlock access to professional support and development; get the latest information, news, and research; connect with thousands of school leaders across the country; and make your voice heard on Capitol Hill."



WHO IS PROVIDING THE LASTEST INFORMATION, NEWS, AND RESEARCH, and are the intentions behind the latest trends pure in intent or could there be ulterior motives, financial or otherwise? This post will look at:

  • CASEL/SEL and Equity issues you are seeing in your schools and the role of the AASA by sharing their commissioned report, An American Imperative: A New Vision of Public Schools outline the 2025 vision for the schools. Perhaps the commission report will provide insight into what you are seeing in your schools and answer the question of where these policies are coming from.

  • Who is providing assistance to help set and spread the latest trends? This article specifically looks at SEL.

Superintendents are the drivers of trends in schools and help set district policies.


What does it take to get an agenda adopted and implemented nationwide? A targeted audience of decision-makers in the school districts (the AASA) and funding to market those initiatives. This is a Public-Private Partnership that's impacting the direction and agendas in our school systems.

Are you aware of the new vision for public schools presented by the AASA? Do you agree with the document and the key items they are looking to reimagine for the academic success of your children? If you are any sort of policy decision maker, it's imperative to have a deeper understanding of these mechanisms, organizations and their agenda.



We rely on the donations of generous patriots like you to help us continue this fight. For the cost of a cup of coffee per month you can be an important part of the effort.



WHAT THE NEAR FUTURE HOLDS FOR OUR SCHOOL DISTRICTS

An American Imperative: A New Vision of Public Schools

A Report from the Learning 2025: National Commission on Student-Centered,

Equity-Focused Education - April 2021


This report was published in April of 2021 - how familiar have we become with the popular 'buzz words'. The AASA states the top priority as exposed by COVID-19:


[COVID-19]...has exposed the severity of systemic inequities and injustices that impact Americans and jeopardize the very core of our republic. It has also presented an opportunity to finally reshape schools to meet ALL Whole Learner needs for optimized achievement. The Commission believes the time for "action" is now.

Below is the Executive Summary. You are most likely already seeing these "actions" being implemented in your school around the systemic redesign including culture, social emotional and cognitive growth model (including more data collection) and resources.



We encourage you to look at the attached report with notes, highlights and questions and become familiar with the vision for your districts. If this is the roadmap for our schools, we need to review it and respond locally if we have concerns.


Knowing academic scores have been falling for several years, ask where is the academic focus in this "new vision" and reimagination of the school system. That is what urgently needs to be addressed.


COMMISSION REPORT (read it here)


In the first section under the heading - A Public School System—and a Nation—at Inflection Point it states:

We as a nation are painfully divided and facing a series of systemic and cultural crises. The COVID-19 pandemic laid bare profound issues that we have known about for decades but have addressed with only minimal success. Confronting and overcoming long-brewing racial, economic, and social injustices and disparities.

It goes on to state "Action has never been more urgent or consequential. Superintendents, building principals, teachers, school boards, teachers unions, and community leaders all must accept responsibility for addressing our nation’s challenges and play a central role in defining and leading systemic change in our districts and schools. Achieving this level of accountability will ask all of us to redefine our roles and responsibilities in the education system."


THE TIMEFRAME GOAL TO CORRECT THIS "URGENT NEED"


"We believe there is no time for ad hoc or piecemeal changes to our schools. Rather, our vision calls for holistic redesign of the public school system by 2025."

WHAT IS NEEDED FOR SUCCESS? "Policy support from local, state, and national leaders will be integral to the overall effectiveness and success of operationalizing this vision."




An entire section is dedicated to Social Emotional Learning and the CASEL/SEL common goals and language is extremely similar. Below are some of excerpts from the document - there are many more that could have been sited so please review the entire document. Ask yourself if this is inline with your vision for our children's education and their academic success.

  • In our vision, learners are co-authors of their learning journey; they are empowered agents, continually invited and habituated to voice their Whole Learner needs and preferences and their interests and passions so that educators can adapt instruction to them. (moving away from academic standards and curriculum based learning)

  • True personalized learning is possible only when teachers instruct and assess and learners learn on a growth model continuum. This is achieved when data collection and analysis, planning, learning, and evidence of learning work in a constant feedback loop

  • Multiple forms of formative and summative evidences of learning—including tests, learner portfolios, demonstrations, and rubrics—to capture learners’ social, emotional, and cognitive growth

  • School leaders must also be empowered to overhaul schedules and learning calendars to unlock as much cognitive, social, and emotional learning and support as possible. (Unlimited time for SEL rather than academics)

  • Hindrances to accessing or utilizing the resources learners need must be removed. We recommend that communities convene a panel of school, association, state, and federal leaders to identify and develop an action plan to eliminate stifling requirements that would otherwise inhibit progress toward learner-centered and equity-focused education. Educators and business leaders must also create consensus with policymakers around the urgent need for successful practices to drive policy—not the other way around.

  • Teachers will need to split decisively from the outdated instructional practices that dominate most classrooms and expand their mindset to become engineers, designers, and facilitators of learning. This is done by breaking from the proficiency model and adopting a personalized cognitive, social, and emotional growth model that combines data and technology to inform and accelerate learning.

Another common theme throughout the vision also focuses on marginalization, equity, and cultural relevance. How many of you are wondering where all of the focus on equity and social justice came from? How many districts have conducted some type of equity audit? This isn't by chance, it is outlined in this document as well.


Diverse Educator Pipeline - "Educators and staff must represent the learners, families, and communities they serve so that true culturally responsive learning is possible"

Has your school done the equity audits or staff demographics surveys to determine what changes are needed in our hiring policies and practices to diversify who's employed in the district?


In November 2022, The West Des Moines Community School District completed and shared their findings on their Equal Employments Opportunity plan. It should come as no surprise, that this was part of the AASA Vision document - the Diverse Educator Pipeline.

WDMCS Holds Forums on Equal Employment Opportunity Plan (11/22/2022)


WHERE THEIR VISION IS LEADING US


These are the messages being communicated nationwide to Superintendents with an impending sense of urgency.


By 2025, our nation’s approach to social, emotional, and cognitive learning must aim to reverse the legacy of marginalization and establish communities built on love, respect, and joy. We must:

1) Center on the perspectives of traditionally marginalized learners in the curriculum design process in order to engage ALL learners as co-authors and leaders in their growth and development.

2) Develop and implement an anti-marginalization curriculum for ALL learners. These curricular units of study (case studies and projects) must be inquiry-based; involve original research, fieldwork, and collaboration with experts; require learners to synthesize learning from multiple disciplines; and be in service to the community (global and/or local). The units must be developmentally appropriate and touch on multiple forms of oppression, including race, religion, gender, sexual orientation, socioeconomic status, or disability.

3) Engage all educators in personal identity exploration to determine how their identities intersect with others and are revealed through the engineering of learning experiences.

4) Provide structures of support that include mental health integration, multidirectional communications with community partners, personalized instruction, and year-round and after school programming.



FUNDING and INVESTMENTS - CHAN ZUCKERBERG INITIATIVE

One of the best ways to ensure a program is adopted and leveraged in a district is to sell it to the primary decision-makers in an organization. In the case of schools districts, that would be the superintendents. Market and invest in the very professional organization with members from all 50 states, the AASA. Imagine funding the promotion of SEL to the very organization whose members are responsible for implementing it, superintendents who are members of the AASA.


The Chan Zuckerberg Initiative did just that. They not only began investing in SEL, CASEL but also the AASA.

  • October 30, 2018 - announced an investment of $3.3 million into CASEL to advance the SEL program, GripTape, Peer Health Exchange, and Roses in Concrete Community Schools.


  • February, 7, 2019 - announced an investment of $1.6 million as a grant to Valor Collegiate Academics based in Nashville, TN to expand SEL to expand the SEL program through the student development model "Compass" to reach students across district-run and public charter schools nationwide, using "Compass Camps".


October 14, 2019 they granted $400,000 to The School Superintendents Association (AASA) to advance the SEL program. The ASSA welcomed the grant award,

"Momentum for social and emotional learning has grown exponentially over the last several years and has truly turned into a global movement to improve education and life outcomes for youth and adults,” said Daniel A. Domenech, executive director, AASA. “Today, demand for SEL from states and school districts is at an all time high. We are grateful for the support given to us by the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative allowing us to bolster this work.”


  • In 2019 they also granted $245,000 to America's Promise Alliance to launch campaign to fuel the movement on SEL well-being, and granted CASEL another $1.5 million to ensure SEL programs reflects the latest scientific findings and principles, and to inform a suite of resources for practitioners nationwide.


  • 2020 - granted another $200,000 The School Superintendents Association (AASA) to deepen SEL work in six public school districts.



Those investments equate to nearly $6 million dollars specifically to SEL in just 3 years. That does not include other investments that could also advance the SEL agenda. It's clear, from just a precursory review of their website, that there are additional SEL related donations.




On the AASA Site, they talk about the importance of cross-functional partnership with Wallace Corporation who is also an investor in SEL. On the Wallace website they recently issued a response to a Parents Defending Education stating research on the SEL effectiveness by the RAND corporation. The RAND corporation is also an investor in SEL.


For these corporations pushing these SEL programs on our children, seems to be a lucrative financial investment.



In "2015, a Columbia University study determined that SEL programs have a strong return on investment (ROI) over long periods of time, stating that the programs generated an average return of $11 per $1 invested. This was done at the request of CASEL. Investing in the tools, technology and the distribution - ROI $11 for every $1."

We have to be discerning and careful not to fall for the sales pitch. As the gate keepers and guardians to the doorways of our children's hearts and minds, we are obligated to take a more in-depth look. We have to question who the people and groups are that are providing the "vision" and direction for our public school systems. We have to question who it is that is providing the "latest research". Especially when that research doesn't seem be coming from independent or unbiased sources but sponsored and promoted by organizations who have affiliations and something to gain by what they are promoting.


WHAT WE CAN DO


  1. Read the document, COMMISSION REPORT (read it here) to see the direction for the "re-engineering" of our school systems and their plan to indoctrinate this generation.

  2. If you are seeing these policies and practices implemented in your district, speak up at school board meetings, ask questions and share your research.

  3. Let your legislators and the Iowa Department of Education know you do not want these things implemented in our schools. They clearly state they need consensus with policymakers - provide policy makers this information. Continue to share this information with our Legislative Education Committees.


We rely on the donations of generous patriots like you to help us continue this fight. For the cost of a cup of coffee per month you can be an important part of the effort.

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