Herald and Journal, May 29, 2000

Opinion:

Rep. Kielkucki instrumental in Profile of Learning negotiations

By Renee T. Doyle
President
Maple River Education Coalition Political Action Committee
www.mredcopac.org

I hope to give you some insight into the incredible battle that was and still is taking place for our freedom.

This fight goes well beyond the definition of education. This fight is for personal freedom.

The rights of the student, parent, teacher, school district, and our state are all being violated and quickly being whisked away.

This is a fight about privacy. Information, without approval, is being gathered on children, parents, and families for data exchange with employers and multiple agencies.

The school is no longer an inviting, friendly place. It is a place where the parent is not welcome and the teacher is used only to facilitate federal education objectives, not impart knowledge.

Never before have we seen such unrestrained power of non-elected bureaucrats, private interest groups, and labor unions.

Over and over the legislators who were speaking on behalf of the Profile of Learning or against the North Star Standard (NSS) during the early morning hours May 17 said that they had the support of the Department of Children, Families, and Learning (DCFL), Education Minnesota (teachers' union), the Minnesota School Board Association, the Minnesota Rural Education Association, the Minnesota Business Partnership, and the Minnesota Chamber of Commerce.

All of those have a personal financial stake in the perpetuation of the Profile of Learning/School-to-Work System.

Never once did these same legislators say that they were the voice of parents or Minnesota citizens.

Never once did they make reference to our calls. You see, the voice of parents and citizens in government is increasingly ignored, and when we do speak up, we are demonized and marginalized.

Sen. Pogemiller called us "greedy." Sen. Moe criticized the House for taking its lead from "right wing radicals."

Commissioner Jax accused NSS supporters of trying to use state public education money for NSS schools.

Imagine that - wanting to use our own state public money for state public NSS schools!

Let me give you a glimpse into the intense battle that we fought and won Wednesday and Thursday, May 17 and 18. House session was supposed to begin at 11 a.m. Wednesday.

There were some veto overrides that had to be addressed, but the main course of business would be to address the Profile/NSS issue.

Nothing had come out of conference committee with enough signatures from both the House and Senate conferees; thus, there was no bill for the House or Senate to vote on.

Back chamber negotiations between Sen. Roger Moe, Sen. Larry Pogemiller, and the DCFL for the Senate, and Speaker Steve Sviggum, Maj. Leader Tim Pawlenty, Rep. Tony Kielkucki, and Rep. Bob Ness for the House started immediately and ended around 2 p.m.

On behalf of Maple River Education Coalition Political Action Committee (MrEdCo PAC), I was called in several times during that 15-hour period to consult with House leadership on bill language.

Instead of facing Sen. Moe and his right and left hands, Sen. Pogemiller and Commissioner Jax, Speaker Sviggum fought us.

For 15 hours, instead of telling Sen. Moe that we would not compromise the integrity of the NSS, he fought with us to accept the Senate's language.

Did the entire outcome boil down to one word, "system?"

No. It boiled down to the words "Minnesota Comprehensive Assessment System."

With this language in place, any districts choosing the NSS would come under two accountability systems, not just one; the NSS and the Profile of Learning.

What school district would choose two accountability systems instead of one? Sen. Pogemiller and Commissioner Jax would brag that districts chose the Profile every time.

MrEdCo PAC tried to negotiate with the House Leadership, who, with the exception of Rep. Kielkucki, had no idea of the gravity of those four simple words, "Minnesota Comprehensive Assessment System."

The Senate leadership and its right and left hands knew exactly what that meant.

It meant that even though they were willing to let us substitute a norm-referenced test in place of the Minnesota Comprehensive Assessment Tests (MCAs) in 3rd, 5th and secondary levels, they were not willing to allow the North Star Standard out of the "Minnesota Comprehensive Assessment System."

This system is the accountability component that keeps the Profile of Learning on its predetermined course. This system is the assessment system that brought us "packages," now referred to as "performance based assessments."

This is the system that allows the commissioner to rename the MCAs at any time or develop additional tests that would include NSS schools.

This is the assessment system that predetermines what the children will know.

This is the system that is secret and does not allow parents, teachers, or school boards to see the tests.

This assessment system is the conduit that the reauthorization of the U. S. Elementary and Secondary Education Act intends to use to bring the entire United States under one educational system.

Were the stakes high? They have never been higher!

Each time the House leadership would come back from the Senate chambers with essentially the same language we have fought AGAINST for two months, I gave them essentially the same language that we have fought FOR for two months.

As the night and then the morning wore on, it became quite heated.

Continuous intense pressure was placed on me to concede. Rep. Tony was a strong advocate for our position and also negotiated firmly on our behalf.

From the time I left my home Wednesday morning until I returned home, I had only had time to eat one sandwich, drink two beverages, and take one bathroom break.

However, I was continually supported by a group of moms and dads who came to the Capitol and spent the last 15 hours with me.

They were not allowed in the private negotiations as I was, but they offered the continual reminder in their eyes and faces that we have come too far, our integrity is on the line, we are responsible to all those parents and teachers who have fought so hard and the children who were asleep in their beds relying on us to protect them.

Rep. Mark Olson worked hard as a liaison to keep negotiations open and did everything conceivably possible to keep the NSS alive. He gave a brilliant speech on the House floor, as did Rep. Sondra Erickson, outlining the details of the expanded Profile, leaving no House member an excuse of ignorance for passing such a travesty.

Rep. Todd Van Dellen gave the most moving speech I have heard to date about education, freedom, and the rights of parents and citizens to have their voices heard.

There are some legislators who are unhappy with us for not settling for what we could get. They believe that we should have come back next year to "fix" it.

If we have to come back next year and fight this battle again anyway, why should we settle this year for a NSS that is fed through the umbilical cord of the Profile of Learning and that has a death wish put on it by the commissioner? There would be no NSS by next year to "fix."

How soon our legislators forget that we are the grass roots movement that has done all the compromising.

We moved from a message of "eliminate the Profile of Learning" to a message of "we will coexist with the Profile of Learning."

Is the voice of the people any quieter? Absolutely not!

Their voices are resounding everywhere and everyone knows it.

Forty-three Republican legislators went against their Speaker's position and voted in opposition to the Profile of Learning fix without a NSS.

Two DFL legislators and one independent did the same. Seventeen of 67 senators opposed it.

When the Senate sent over to the House a surprise Profile/NSS bill alone, after the vote on the expanded Profile, the House members knew that it was not a clean NSS and the majority of them voted against it.

It is also important to note that the NSS was riddled with other restrictions and language that was less than perfect, in addition to the language that we have already mentioned.

It is vitally important for us to support in every possible way those legislators who are still willing to defend us.

These legislators are the legislators who will support us in 2001. They will carry our legislation, and they are the legislators who work on principle, not politics.

Rep. Tony Kielkucki was the only education committee conferee who refused to sign the conference committee report without a truly clean NSS. He held to the very end.

So what did Minnesotans get in their "Profile fix?"

Our legislature, under the direction of the Education Cartel, gave Minnesotans a radically expanded Profile of Learning that will continue to divide our state into those who are paid to push the federal education system, the "education cartel," and those who are forced to live under it, Minnesota's citizens.

The language of the "new" Profile is purposely ambiguous. It allows for expansive interpretation.

Guess who is given the authority to interpret the language in statute? The Commissioner of Education, Christine Jax.

The two major newspapers and Sen. Pogemiller are all getting their information from the commissioner and it is blatantly false.

When commenting on what the grading process is under the new language, here is what they each said:

Rubric scoring

Star Tribune: "Scoring system of 1-4 is optional."

St. Paul Pioneer Press: "Schools can develop their own criteria for grading students' work on the standards as long as the criteria are comparable to those in other districts."

Sen. Pogemiller: "Teachers can use A, B, C, D or red, green, pink, yellow."

Education Minnesota: "Scoring allows teachers to assign a 0 to incomplete student work on a standard."

This is a clear example of how the bill language is being twisted to give the false impression of flexibility in grading and scoring.

Just for the record, I thought you would enjoy the truth.

The new Profile statute states, "A district, area learning center, or charter school must select performance assessments that have a grading system comparable to the criteria established under the definition of rubric contained in rule . . . Teachers may assign a score of 0 to incomplete student work on a standard."

This is ALL the bill says about grading/scoring. Could someone please explain where to find all the permissive language that the DCFL, the Senate, Education Minnesota, and the media says gives authority to use any type of grading system that they wish?

It simply does not exist. This is total public deception, especially for the teacher.

It is very clear to me that if they do use an alternative, they must convert it to a rubric following the criteria in rule when they are reporting the score for a content standard.

A little known fact about this bill is that the balance of the teacher's curriculum from the course that the standard is embedded in, is of no interest to the state.

It cannot be included in the assessment score for the content standard that is reported to the state.

However, the score on the content standard must be included in the grade for the course that is given to the parents.

If a teacher is using an alternative system of grading and must convert it to a rubric anyway, why use anything else?

If a 0-4 rubric on a content standard must be included in the course grade, why use anything else for the course grade?

Performance packages

Another egregious deception is the "packages are gone" rhetoric.

Let's look at what everyone is saying:

Star Tribune: "The detailed assignments called performance packages are no longer mandated."

St. Paul Pioneer Press: "The law reaffirms that state-designed performance packages are not required curriculum."

Education Minnesota: " . . . states clearly that state and local performance packages are not required."

We must all remember the commissioner's quote before the last meeting of the State Board of Education in Dec. 1999: "The performance packages are the heart and soul of the Profile of Learning."

Do you think that the commissioner and her best advocate, Sen. Pogemiller, would allow the "heart and soul" to be stripped out of the Profile? Absolutely not!

All references to "performance packages" are removed from rule by this new bill. Instead, they are back under their descriptive name, "performance based assessments."

This is like saying that "Band-Aids" do not exist anymore. They are gone forever. However "adhesive strips" are now required.

It is simply wordspin. Here is the new language: "The Profile of Learning must measure student performance using performance-based assessments compiled over time that integrate higher academic standards, higher order thinking skills, and application of knowledge from a variety of content areas."

Every educator knows that that is the description of a performance package.

Since the DCFL determines what is an acceptable performance assessment and the teachers have no guidelines to follow, many of them will use state developed performance packages by default or because they already have them in place.

Hold harmless

Today's ninth and 10th graders are not held harmless from the requirements of the Profile unless a school district is willing to admit that its own implementation of the Profile precluded the student from meeting the requirements, and that it was not, in any way, the students' fault.

How many districts are willing to admit this to mom?

Where is the state's responsibility in all of this? Once again, the "accountability" monkey is placed squarely on the back of the district and the state is scott-free.

Number of content standards

Every site within a school district can elect to require fewer standards.

What kind of "statewide standard" is that?

They must all submit a schedule showing how they will work toward the implementation of all the original content standards. In the interim, they must implement all state content standards even if they REQUIRE less.

If the school board and the teachers and administrators at each site cannot agree, the site must require ALL the content standards.

Total and complete chaos!

Post-Secondary Education Option (PSEO)

There are many other sorry provisions that I will not go into, but I have saved the worst for last:

For any PSEO student, there are no more academic achievement oriented courses. They are all Profile of Learning courses.

It will have a profound effect on home schoolers and private school students.

There are no words to describe what a disservice our legislators have done to the cause of school choice.

This new law requires ALL Minnesota colleges and universities, including PRIVATE COLLEGES, to show that their PSEO courses are equally or more rigorous than the content standards required under the Profile of Learning.

This means that even though religion is forbidden in public schools, the religious institutions must teach to the public school content!

There is now no escape from the Profile of Learning for home school and private school students who use the PSEO option in their 11th and 12th grade years or for public school students who avoid Profile content standards through this option.

The independence of the Minnesota State Colleges and Universities (MNSCU), the University of Minnesota and the private colleges has been undermined.

Colleges must stop accepting PSEO students or put the content of their courses under the surveillance of the commissioner.

Summary

Our legislature just passed the worst education bill in Minnesota's history.

They had a chance to give Minnesotans a clean alternative and did not.

They did not fix the Profile. They expanded it.

They did not help parents and teachers. They sold them out to the Education Cartel.

They brought independent state colleges and universities, private colleges, home schoolers, and private school students under the Profile through PSEO, and they took away more freedom from every single child who must come under this life-extracting system.

It will be up to us, the lovers of freedom and true knowledge, to rise to a more visible presence in this state.

It is necessary that we put our name on the ballots and run for office. It is necessary that we support the legislators who voted for our children.

A brief letter to the editor commending legislators by name for their support of the NSS and opposition to the Profile is highly effective, especially in their own districts.

It is also necessary to be thankful that we did not succumb to the pressure to place ourselves under one universal Profile system, and that we were not willing to compromise on truth itself.

I would like to leave you with this question: If the NSS had passed in its poisoned state, with the commissioner out to destroy it and us in opposition to it, who would it have served? No one.

MrEdCo PAC will return, in the days, ahead to its original position.

If the Profile of Learning is bad for some children, it is bad for all children.

There is no compromise. The citizens of Minnesota realize that there is a bigger picture and our freedom to be self-governing is at stake.

Our privacy and our very liberty hang in the balance, and a genuine academic education is an endangered species.

www.mredcopac.org


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