Monthly Archives: September 2011

Is No Child Left Behind…threatening to leave our nation behind?

September 29, 2011

It has been ten years since the passing of the No Child Left Behind Act (NCLB), but there has been little to no improvement in our country’s education standing amongst other industrialized nations in the world.

Last week, President Obama offered those states struggling under the No Child Left Behind (NCLB) program’s strict requirements some flexibility which includes waivers from some rules, in particular the one which requires students to meet reading and math proficiency by 2014. But opponents of the NCLB don’t see this as a move in the positive direction. In fact they don’t see NCLB as having had any positive impact on the health of the U.S. educational system. The NCLB as a whole has become the platform from which all blame concerning our country’s educational system is cast onto the teachers. Since the implementation of NCLB, teachers have been at the receiving end of the criticism.

The No Child Left Behind Act, passed in 2001 and signed into law in January 2002. It requires all states to develop tests intended to measure and assess the basic skills given to all students in certain grades so that federal funding for public schools are granted to those states. All government-run schools are to annually administer a state-wide standardized test to all students. Students attending publicly-funded schools in poorer neighborhoods and districts are subject to the same standardized tests as those offered to students in publicly-funded schools in more affluent areas. The students’ scores on these standardized annual tests will determine the school’s effectiveness in its teaching techniques. Scoring low on these examinations has several consequences: students will not be promoted to the next class grade, or graduate from high school, or be denied to qualify for college scholarships. These students may also change schools, attend after-school programs, and receive tutoring. Teachers and administrators are also judged on the basis of the students’ scores whereby high student scores qualifies them for bonuses and low scores, which is more prevalent, results in termination or reassignment. Schools with low scores are also subject to be restructured as public charter, private schools or forced to close. In addition, adhering to the ancient ritual of “shaming,” a factor in NCLB schools with low scores will receive public scolding while the personnel of those with high scores will be publicly praised.

Fearing the punitive ramifications hovering over their heads, our teachers and administrators have become so preoccupied with these annual standardized tests that we are now beginning to hear unfortunate news of cheating on tests perpetrated at times by the teachers. So much attention is given to these standardized tests that teachers lose sight of the actual art of teaching and exploring the subjects of study. We can’t place the entire place for America’s sagging academic achievement with public schools. We have a culture that undervalues education.

Our country’s obsession with standardized testing is pushing us away from the true art of educating even our student teachers in becoming professionals in their field. In an interview on American Public Media’s Marketplace, N.Y.U professor Diane Ravitch said: “…more focus on standardized tests…is going to lead to more cheating scandals because when you put unusual pressure on people to get scores or be fired, there’ll be people who’ll feel desperate and who cheat.” At a time when we need more teachers, we are seeing a drop in the number of students pursuing master’s degrees in education.

Dr. Ravitch, who is the author of “The Death and Life of the Great American School System: How Testing and Choice are Undermining Education,” compares the American system with that of Finland, a country she recently visited which ranks either first or second in the world on the O.E.C.D. Program for International Student Assessment. The U.S. falls in the middle. She mentions that Finland doesn’t have standardized tests like NCLB but what they do have is a strong profession of educators by offering an even stronger and comprehensive five-year academic program to train their teachers. We lack the serious training needed to deal with all the challenges teachers face in today’s classrooms from children coming from different cultural backgrounds speaking many languages and with special needs.

If we want to succeed in today’s global market, we need to strengthen our teacher training programs, and allow their peers and superiors, as Dr. Ravitch calls them “master teachers” to judge the competency and effectiveness of teachers in the classrooms and not student scores on standardized tests. Instead, we’ve dropped the entrance standards to the teaching professional, so that now anyone can become a teacher without having completed a degree program dedicated to education and teaching methodology. If we’re looking for education reform, we can’t simply place the blame on the teachers.

Jasmin S. Kuehnert
President & CEO ACEI, Inc.

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The Race, Prison and Education Connection

September 22, 2011

“There are known knowns. These are things we know that we know. There are known unknowns. That is to say, there are things that we know we don’t know. But there are also unknown unknowns. There are things we don’t know we don’t know.” -Donald Rumsfeld (Former Secretary of Defense and owner of Mount Misery, a former plantation which was the site of Frederick Douglass’s resistance to the unsuccessful breaking by Edward Covey.[8], Infamous “slave-breaker.”)

As students and educators we are constantly challenged to think outside the box and come up with new ways to navigate life and re-invent ourselves in order to make a difference in our own lives and improve our societies. In order to do this we must be “armed” with facts and information that will help us make the best possible decisions. As much fanfare was given to marking the 10 year anniversary of the 9/11 attacks on America, a seldom acknowledged tragedy was also remembered–– The 40 year anniversary of the Attica Prison Rebellion, on September 9, 1971. To many of those outside the United States this uprising may be unknown or carry little weight, but please take a moment to listen to Princeton University Professor of Religion And African American Studies, Cornel West, in a moving speech aired on the Democracy now website commemorating the event.

While the Attica Prison Rebellion was a genuine rebellion against poor living conditions, led by the majority black prison population, it was truly, and honestly a desperate attempt to bring to light the ongoing racism that existed (and exists today) inside and outside of our criminal justice system, and in the prison-industrial complex. In a desperate reaction to the shooting death of black “radical activist” prisoner, George Jackson, by guards at San Quentin Prison on August 21, 1971, the majority of the prison population in Attica rebelled, seized control of the correctional facility, taking 33 officers hostage.

In commemorating this particular 40 year anniversary, we also acknowledge the full weight it bears during this pre election year, illuminating the very same issues in our over crowded and in-humane for- profit –prison system. A Justice Department Report stated, “…of the 2.3 million inmates in custody, 2.1 million were men and 208,300 were women. Black males represented the largest percentage (35.4 percent) of inmates held in custody, followed by white males (32.9 percent) and Hispanic males (17.9 percent).” So here it is … if we pay particular attention during this pre-election year, and we listen to loyalties being pledged by candidates and the politicians personal mission statements, we begin to see the overwhelming magnitude of the racial and financial components of this problem. We can begin to connect the dots between the absurdly rapid growth of the prison population and how this affects not only the outcome of elections but also how it directly affects each and every one of us financially and socially.

Prison inmates are rendered invisible two-fold, not only forfeiting their right to vote by being incarcerated, but through redistricting: census residence rules requiring that people who are incarcerated be counted at their places of incarceration on Census Day. That means voting control streams out of densely populated urban areas, into the countryside where the prisons reside. Well, then, you find an absurdly large swath of voting males absent from the large cities of the nation, where their voices might be heard, instead, they are denied the vote in prison and their census bodies are folded into the predominantly white rural country side, boosting constituency in those sectors.

Now, not only are the voices silenced, but their hometowns are further impoverished, and suppressed by bearing the burden of the annual $60 billion prison budget. Marc Mauer, executive director of The Sentencing Project said “…The country’s $60 billion prison budget results in less money for education, health care and child services. Communities need the resources to prevent crime by investing in youth and families.”

The implications of this financial re-districting are hard to ignore in these fiscally challenging times. Private corporations like CCA and the GEO Group are awarded billions of dollars in profits through contracts with governments that commit the rapidly growing prison population (the increased use of incarceration and the War on Drugs) by being paid a per diem or monthly rate for each prisoner confined in the facility.

The Prison Policy Initiative (PPI) documents the impact of mass incarceration on individuals, communities, and the national welfare. They produce research and make it available to empower the public to participate in creating better criminal justice policy.

It is vital to think about all the ways that perhaps we might change this construct, particularly in respect to: how we vote, whom we vote for, how we see ourselves as meaningful participants in our own societies. What are our career choices, and what can we do to change the state of things? We can begin by acknowledging that turning a blind eye to a self-perpetuating system, which awards $60 billion dollars to private corporations, who sustain their wealth by directly profiting off the mass incarceration of a black and brown majority, effectively insuring the re-election of government officials that support that process. The additional burden of bearing those costs falls directly on the backs of the poor under-educated and socially impoverished citizens, who in many cases have nothing but crime to resort to, in order to survive. Less money for education and social programs means power for only the few.

It really is important to know exactly what is going on. Listen to Marvin Gaye –

Jeannie Winston Nogai
Owner / Winston Nogai Design / E:

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As Seen in International Educator

“Full-page advertisement for the Association of International Credential Evaluators in the NAFSA publication “International Educator.”

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Reflecting on 9/11 and its impact on International Students

September 15, 2011

Ten years ago on September 11, 2001, I was on a Thai Airlines flight heading back home to Los Angeles after a successful two-week fact finding trip to South Korea and Japan. I had met with representatives at the South Korean and Japanese Ministries of Education, visited and toured schools and universities in each country and was returning to the States with a head and suitcase full of up-to-date information ready to share with my colleagues at ACEI. The tragic events of 9/11, the crashing of the planes into the World Trade Center, the Pentagon, and in Pennsylvania, all happened while I was 30,000 ft up in the air with hundreds of passengers oblivious to what was taking place down below. Like everyone else we had no idea what impact the events of that tragic day would have on us, on our country and the world.

I’d left the States at a time when the flow of international students into the US to study at our colleges and universities was at a steady high. At ACEI, we had seen a continuous growth in our application numbers since our inception in 1994 and were preparing ourselves for expansion. But within one week of my return, in the aftermath of the 9/11 tragedy, the steady flow of international students came to a screeching halt. Our daily number of applications for evaluation dropped by 50%, forcing us to take drastic measures such as lay offs, and scrapping our plans for growth. We realized that if we were feeling the direct impact of the terrorist attacks, then our colleagues at U.S. colleges and universities were experiencing it too. International students were just too afraid to come to the U.S. Visa requirements at U.S. Embassies abroad became stricter. Newly enforced travel restrictions deterred the once care-free travelers. And, other countries like Australia, Canada and the UK saw the opportunity and began opening their doors offering incentives to the previously U.S. college-bound international students, attracting them instead to their academic institutions.

A shift had happened. Changing Visa policies, global competition in education, and shifting international perception of the U.S. have played a part in impacting the current and future flow of international students. In those post-9/11 months and subsequent years, we saw a significant drop in applications from S. Korea, China and India and most notably from the Middle East. According to a 2007 report “Foreign Students Coming to America: The Impact of Policy, Procedures, and Economic Competition,” by Georgetown University’s Institute for the Study of International Migration, “following a period of sustained growth, the number of foreign students coming to America declined in 2002 and the numbers did not begin to rebound strongly until 2005.” The report confirms that at first much of the decline was due to America’s immigration policies (tightened security procedures and visa policies). The 2001 economic recession that occurred simultaneous with the immediate aftershock of 9/11 affected the source countries from sending their international students to the U.S who found the admissions policies of U.S. colleges and high cost of education not as attractive as those offered by the new competitors in countries like Canada, UK, and Australia.

We cannot ignore the fact that other countries have stepped in and filled the void that had once been occupied by U.S. higher education. We need to start a national debate on the role of our government in fostering the competitiveness of the U.S. in attracting and retaining international students. An isolationist and xenophobic stand on this subject has already placed us in a disadvantage and the longer we wait the harder it will be to regain our competitiveness as leaders in higher education.

Let’s start the discussion. What are you thoughts on this topic? What do you think we must do?

Alan A. Saidi
Sr. VP & COO, ACEI, Inc.

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A stimulus plan of sorts…colleges paying employers to hire their graduates

Hope your Labor Day weekend was a good one. Thanks to my employer, who threw in a bonus day making it a total of 4 days of R&R, I’m back at my desk rested and ready to push through the remaining months of 2011.

Here’s something interesting I came across while perusing the internet and listening to Public Radio.

As the nation’s unemployment numbers continue to show little or no sign of improvement and with the economy on a downward spiral, the prospects of finding a job for graduating college students looks bleak. But there’s one college that’s adopting an innovative approach to help stimulate the job market by offering employers up to $2000 to hire its graduates. The college is the University of Antelope Valley, a private, for-profit institution in Lancaster, California. They’re even offering to pre-screen the candidates, do background checks and narrow down the pool of prospective job applicants to make the selection and hiring process easier for the employer.

I guess one way to look at this is that a lot of companies right now, given the precarious state of the economy, are reluctant to hire any new employees so the offer by this college to pay up to $2000 to have its graduates employed is a helpful nudge in the right direction. If you’ve been following the chatter surrounding the private, for-profit institutions lately, you know that they’ve come under fire because of the promises they’ve made to their students guaranteeing that upon graduation they will secure employment. But when many of their graduating students found that their degrees failed to open any doors and they received little or no support from their alma mater with their employment search, left with mounting student loans, they took their case to the Federal government placing the accreditation status of these institutions under intense scrutiny.

According to a report I heard on American Public Media’s radio program “Market Place,” the founders of this college are working with small companies that need the help of new workers and could use the money. The point is that colleges must train students the skills and knowledge needed for good-paying jobs. Offering $2000 may be enough to get the attention of a prospective employer. Ultimately, the graduate still needs to prove that what he/she has learned is in sync with the needs of their prospective employers.

What do you think about this new approach? What could be the pros and the cons?

The Frustrated Evaluator

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“Follow your Bliss”

“Follow your Bliss”
~Joseph Campbell
September 02, 2011

How do we find our bliss and then stay committed to following it? As the renowned mythologist, author and teacher Joseph Campbell stated in the book, The Power of Myth “… I say, follow your bliss and don’t be afraid, and doors will open where you didn’t know they were going to be.”

How do we find our bliss and at the same time be assured that it will become a rewarding career choice and a good financial decision? The only way possible to adhere to this idea is to become fully aware and informed. We are in the historically unique position of having 24/7 accesses to global information and the latest news concerning every aspect of daily life. Given this unprecedented flow of knowledge and information, courses of study and career decisions must now be made with the understanding that all our lives and what we choose to do with them are directly linked and connected to each other.

It is all about collaboration. In order to do great things, everyone; Universities, students, governments and industry, must take to heart all that information, transform it and use it in a way that creates new paradigms for economic and social change. As a good friend who is a creative director, and formerly the worldwide director of marketing for a giant software corporation, recently said, “Higher education should be about higher thinking.”

We have to take this knowledge and transform it into the creative process of envisioning the future and achieving our full potential. In order to find and follow our bliss, institutions of higher learning must offer and guide us towards the best chances of creating and maintaining a healthy, happy and fulfilling life. We can no longer see global climate change, economic downturns and global conflicts as independent conditions that happen to be occurring simultaneously. Listen to Solomon Hsiang on Democracy Now as he discusses the link between climate change and global conflicts – “Global Warming & War: New Study Finds Link Between Climate Change and Conflict”

We must gather information to sharpen our minds, to a keen state of awareness as we listen to the presidential candidate, Gov. Rick Perry, who denies global warming as he uses a political platform to espouse his own beliefs and further his own chances of political success, claiming that, “The issue of global warming has been politicized. I think that there are a substantial number of scientists who have manipulated data so that they will have dollars rolling into their projects.” “Rick Perry Rejects Obama Criticism, Doubts Global Warming”

Consider the link between how we design cities and the rising levels of cancer and other illnesses, and the rising ocean acidification and rising ocean temperatures. Then consider the resultant severe weather conditions currently affecting the planet, and henceforth the billions of dollars spent on the toxic side effects of the toxic clean up and reconstruction.

Future environmental designers, architects and engineers can choose to follow new paths, to think differently and realize that they must design collaboratively, keeping in mind that what they do directly affects many aspects of life on our planet. They can create new, thoughtfully and environmentally conscious cities, roads, and buildings, which deal directly with the increasingly urgent problem of urban runoff. Urban runoff dumps so many bacteria and so many toxic chemicals into our ocean waters that it is making the oceans, our waterways, as well as animals and people very sick. An article on the Environment California website addressed this; “… To catch and filter runoff from roads before it hits storm drains, the cities of Portland and Seattle have conducted several studies and are poised to launch citywide ‘Green Streets’ programs that will retrofit roads with green spaces that allow storm-water to filter into the ground rather than run into storm drains.   Pilot projects in these cities have been so successful that neighborhoods are calling, unsolicited, with requests to join the program.” “California’s Bays and Beaches: A Precious Human, Ecological and Economic Resource”. How about that for creating entirely new job sectors, and recognizing that the health of our oceans and rivers directly affects our very own health, now and in the future.

How many times have many of us said to ourselves: “If I had only known then what I know now…” Well there is no longer any excuse. Again to quote Joseph Campbell ––“If you want to change the world, change the metaphor.”

Jeannie Winston Nogai
Owner / Winston Nogai Design / E:

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