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When Uncle Sugar isn’t your pimp

outhouse

photo: Horatio Bunce

by Horatio Bunce

In my neck of the woods, a “food desert” somewhere in FEMA Region IV, a local business thumbs their nose at the “cell-phone-and-a-pen” unconstitutional platitudes emanating from Washington DC. Folks like us not receiving the corporate welfare benefits that result in forced acceptance of Bill Gates’ Common Core, Pearson Sharia Social Studies, PARCC/SBAC/AIR/UTAH SAGE test question rentals and now apparently co-ed public school locker rooms, are finding it hard to understand why the super-majority Republicans in Tennessee shake in their boots every time Hedy Weinberg utters a threat to federal funding. We “might” get sued. Uncle Sugar “might” withhold your money that was automatically “withheld” from you when you earned it to begin with.  So keep turning those tricks Welfare Queen. You don’t want to get slapped by Uncle Sugar, do you?

All those liberties sold out chasing Uncle Sugar’s dollar (which was yours to begin with). They sure came cheap. You can call it “state-led” all you want, but it is plain to see who is in control.

The rich ruleth over the poor, and the borrower is servant to the lender.  Proverbs 22:7

 

A report from the #TNaintReady front lines

by Horatio Bunce

From a friend in the public school system (yeah, I have a few) with the names and places removed to protect the innocent:

“My wife is a teacher in xxxxxx County, and as such is at the point of the spear on this. I think the most succinct statement came from one of her 3rd graders; he asked, “Mrs. Xxxxxx, don’t they know that we are 8 years old?” Xxxxx has been spending scads of time teaching how to take the computerized test, rather than the curriculum. This, combined with the fact that her class has to share computers with the rest of the school, has essentially made the last two weeks a bust as far as classroom instruction is concerned.”

I guess Mrs. Xxxxx should have “expected more/achieved more” and said “Buck up son! How do you expect to compete in the global marketplace without these internationally benchmarked standards that haven’t actually been used anywhere else in the world ever?”

Just remember that back in late 2009 Achieve Inc. national co-chair Phil Bredesen, Tim Webb and B. Fielding Rolston were twisting the arms of your local directors of schools to sign a memorandum of understanding that they were familiar with all the trappings that came with taking the Race To The Top federal bribe (adherence with Common Core “State” Standards they couldn’t yet read because they didn’t yet exist, mandatory online testing and mandatory student longitudinal database expansion). The application was only about 1100 pages long. I’m sure they read it….aren’t you?

Here, you can still watch Bredesen and Jamie “we were going to do it anyway” Woodson lie about all the unanimous agreement right here:   https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ByuIlsf9ftY

#TNaintReady

YUNOby Horatio Bunce

TNReady tests to be given via paper, pencil after tech failure

Just wanted to comment on the repeated failures of the many media outlets that keep calling these the TNReady tests that we contracted with Measurement Inc. to produce for $108M. Measurement Inc. sub-contracted to the behavioral research company American Institutes for Research (AIR ) who also made the tests called the SAGE Assessments for Utah. Like Tennessee, Utah also took the federal bribe called Race To The Top which required mandatory online assessments (all the better to mine your human capital data with). Bribe-takers were additionally required to work through one of two federally-created, stimulus-funded, multi-state testing consortia for these online tests: PARCC or SBAC. After initially awarding an illegal, no-bid testing contract to PARCC (Kevin Huffman, governing board member) and their project manager Achieve Inc. (Bill Haslam board member, Phil Bredesen national co-chair), the testing contract was “rebid” (sic) with only one possible winner that meets our federally-mandated testing consortia requirement: SBAC. However the multiple middle-men of AIR and Measurement Inc. help to conceal this fact. But here is AIR’s press release from 2012 claiming their partnership with SBAC to deliver online testing to states, so make no mistake, Tennessee maintains her status as federal welfare queen pleasing Uncle Sugar. Federally mandated online testing right along with Common Core for taking that $500M+ bribe. The Common Core Whores can rename it all they want – it is still the same.

Tennessee is currently paying Utah $2.3M per year to rent test questions from their SAGE Assessments.

I hate to say I told you so on these tests, but from October 2013:

Note that some believe the sudden pullback from PARCC by these states is orchestrated, that other opportunists are now positioning themselves to create a “state-led” assessment model to test the same Common Core “state” Standards without the obvious, blatant, federal appearance that PARCC and SBAC have. Time will tell. Of course, this is merely treating a symptom and not the disease. They would likely rely on the same test makers – or copy “big” states like Florida, the same way they do with textbook selection.

I ask you to remember back to Bredesen/Woodson/Haslam/Frist et al rationalizing the Common Core “State” Standards and the wonderful multi-state testing consortia and how it was so hard to compare student achievement from state to state because we all had our different tests and how great this “common” thing was going to be (after they all cash in).

Doesn’t it seem, well, contradictory that now we are paying the same two Washington DC testing corporations to make different tests for each state that allegedly are all aligned to the same academic standards?

Remember, there is a $5,000 fine for leaking out any of Utah’s rented test questions – per question “regardless of whether the release is accidental, intentional or required by law.” It sure would be a shame if that happened, especially since it is now on paper.

Tennessee and local taxpayers paid over $800 million to Volkswagen

The people in government who orchestrated giving away over $800 million to a company should never be allowed to touch another penny of tax money.

http://www.beacontn.org/tennesseans-volkswagens-involuntary-investors/

Government subsidies aren’t improving the economy.

http://www.bcpublicrecord.com/?p=7156

Understanding Tennessee’s Maintenance of Effort in Education Laws

The Comptroller has issued a report on Maintenance of Effort Laws governing education in Tennessee.

http://www.comptroller.tn.gov/OREA/PublicationDetails.aspx?ReportKey=739a119e-8e4d-4583-a122-f0a514a321f5

http://www.comptroller.tn.gov/Repository/RE/MOE%20Final.pdf

A Utah teacher’s opinion of the SAGE test “items” TN is renting from Utah for $2.3M

by Eric Holcombe

Photo: Kelly Maher Poynter of her daughter working on "rigorous" Commie Core assignments

Photo: Kelly Maher Poynter of her daughter working on “rigorous” Commie Core assignments

As mentioned in earlier posts, Tennessee is leasing Utah’s Common Core, federal government-forced online testing “items” from their SAGE assessments provided by Smarter Balance Assessment Consortium (SBAC) via the behavioral research company American Institutes for Research (AIR). AIR is known for behavioral research, a.k.a. data mining, on public school students such as Project Talent in 1960 (also driven by the federal government). At the time of their implementation, the SAGE assessments were untested, that is, they were unpiloted on any students prior to them being foisted upon Utah students in spring of 2014. Utah students were the guinea pigs – and Utahns paid handsomely for the privilege to be the guinea pigs. In December of 2014, Achieve Inc. board member Bill Haslam announced that Tennessee would be renting test “items” from Utah for $2.3 million for the next couple of years until Measurement Inc. (via AIR, via SBAC) can develop the “TNReady” tests. Now keep in mind that like Tennessee, all states that took the Race To The Top federal bribe must choose between one of two federal-government created masters for their mandatory, online testing: PARCC or SBAC. Tennessee’s initial illegal, no-bid testing contract was awarded to PARCC (Kevin Huffman, governing board). Utah initially chose SBAC and after much public displeasure was expressed then did the same thing Achieve Inc. board member Haslam has since done: pretend to put the mandatory, federal-driven testing “out for bid”, say you are making “state-led” tests except they rigged the specifications so that ultimately only an SBAC subcontracted entity could “win”. So Utah ended up with the SAGE assessments by SBAC via AIR, the behavioral research company. In Tennessee’s case, we added yet another middle-man by hiring Measurement Inc. from North Carolina, who subcontracted to AIR, a Washington DC corporation (like Haslam’s Achieve Inc.) who works with SBAC from Washington State. And in the meanwhile, we are renting the tests that Utah has already paid them to create, thus TN students are really UtahReady.
Following is an editorial by Debbie Nichols, a recently retired Utah teacher of 34 years, who gives her view of the SAGE test (emphasis mine). This was published in the Deseret News on November 1 of 2014, about six months after the first application of the SAGE tests in Utah but still PRIOR to Tennessee’s contract to lease the test “items” for $2.3 million per year from Utah for the next two years and PRIOR to Tennessee’s $108 million contract to Measurement Inc. to produce the new tests from AIR/SBAC for the following five years.
You may find yourself asking who did the shopping for this and why did we decide this was a good idea for Tennessee (if in fact Commie Core and its mandatory online testing really is “state-led” and not forced by the federal government).

My view: A teacher’s opinion of the SAGE test
Many Utahns heard about the SAGE test for the first time this week as the test results were published. There is more to be concerned about than the scores. There are some things that taxpayers and parents need to know about the SAGE test.
I taught school for 34 years and just retired in June. I taught nine years at West Kearns Elementary and 25 years at Eastwood Elementary. I have watched the metamorphosis in education over these many years. Some changes have been good and some have not. The SAGE test is not a good change.

SAGE testing does not line up with the curriculum. It may tell you some things a child knows, but not necessarily what he or she learned in class. This style of test never measures what has been taught.

The math section of the SAGE test is really a reading test, which means one cannot distinguish computation from application from vocabulary knowledge. Can the child do the computation but not apply it? Could the child do the computation and apply it if he or she knew a different vocabulary term used in the word problem? The SAGE test won’t tell you, and educators are not given vocabulary lists or knowledge of content.
The SAGE test is simply not a good test. Last spring I saw a little boy stare at his screen for 30 minutes. He knew the correct answer was 1½, but he could not find a way to enter a mixed number to answer the question. It couldn’t be done on his computer.
The SAGE test is written so that as a student answers questions correctly, the test immediately takes the student to questions that aren’t just harder, but out of grade level. It overwhelms and frustrates elementary children. The students are not allowed to go on unless they answer each question. Last year I watched as 28 students stared at a screen until they gave up and guessed. The teacher is not allowed to give prompts during this test at all. Exasperated students soon give up. Low students stop reading altogether.
The SAGE test does not help teachers or students know student progress. This testing format is not age appropriate for grade school. For secondary schools, it is still not measuring if a student mastered the curriculum that they were taught.
Learning has to be measured in some way. So educators look at what the end goal is and set out during the year to try to achieve this goal. We make a curriculum that matches up with the final test to be given. This is not teaching to the test, this is teaching to the goal of mastery of a subject.
A runner knows that his race time does not improve by buying a new stopwatch. The runner knows that he needs to work harder and practice more. Students’ scores will not improve with a new test. It is not the testing we need to practice but the actual skill. More testing does not equal more learning. We need more teaching time in the classroom and less testing time. There is so much more that these students need to know for the future. Too much testing just desensitizes them. We should be striving for love of learning, not hate of testing.
Educators and society need to prepare our students for college and the real workforce. The SAGE doesn’t help, it just dampens the love of learning. We deserve more for our education dollar. More importantly, our students deserve better.

So what does UtahReady look like?

Brian Halladay, Alpine School District Board member, Utah County, UT

By Eric Holcombe
In my last post I explained how we are paying the state of Utah to “lease” test “items” that Utah has paid to have produced by the behavioral research company American Institutes of Research (AIR). Utah’s tests are called the SAGE Assessments and they began using them in 2014, because Utah, like Tennessee, also took the federal bribe in Race To The Top to implement the federally-provided Common Core “state” Standards and all electronic assessment testing provided via the federally created, multi-state testing consortia (PARCC and SBAC). So since Tennessee students will now be UtahReady, I thought you might be interested in the viewpoint of a Utah school board member regarding the SAGE assessments we are now paying Utah to lease “items” from. After all, we have been told by the Common Core Whores what a great idea this is because all the cool kids are doing it (emphasis mine):

The Reality Behind Your Child’s Test

By Brian Halladay, Board Member, Alpine School District, Utah

Sage test results were recently released that showed less than half of Utah’s students were proficient in math, English, and language arts. Taken at face value, this means that more than half our students are “not proficient.” So, what does this mean? Absolutely nothing.

The SAGE test is an unreliable, unverified test that our children from 3rd-11th grade are taking not just once, but up to three times a year. These tests aren’t scored by their teachers, but rather by the American Institutes for Research (AIR). This company is the one of the world’s largest social and behavioral research organizations. Your child’s proficiency is being scored by a bunch of behavioral researchers. 

No teacher is scoring, or has the ability to score, an individual child’s SAGE test.
Your child is taking a test for 8 hours (4 hours for math and 4 hours for English) that their teacher can’t see the questions to. This test is designed to have your child fail. Gone are the days when a student could feel a sense of achievement for getting 100% on a test. This test is touted to be “rigorous”. If your child gets a correct answer the test will continue to ask harder and harder questions until he or she gets it wrong (who knows if what is tested was actually taught in the classroom?) Put simply, this means that your child likely will come home grumpy, anxious, or depressed after taking this test. With over 50% non-proficiency, this will affect more than half  of the students that take it.

The teacher is almost as much of a test victim as the child. Having no idea of the test questions, teachers are still starting to be evaluated —on a test they can’t see. I believe we’re starting to see this leading to more experienced teachers leaving, and an increase in teachers with little to no experience not knowing the pre-SAGE environment.  

Points to consider: 

1. When did we allow testing to become more important than education?
 
2. Your child’s data is subject to being shared with people and organizations without your consent. There is nothing that prohibits AIR or any its multiple organizations from accessing your child’s data. As long as AIR doesn’t make a profit from the data without the USOE’s consent, they can use it for anything they want.
 
3. This test has no contractual provisions that prevent it from collecting BEHAVIORAL data. AIR has a long history of collecting behavioral data, and seeing they’re a behavioral research organization, don’t you think they will? (Just look up Project Talent).

Last year, two fellow board members and I wrote a letter to our State Superintendent asking him to address our concerns, for which we’ve had no response. If your parental instinct is kicking in, I would ask that you at least consider opting your child out of taking this test. State law allows any parent to opt their child out. Even if you don’t decide to opt out, talk with your teacher, know when your child is taking this test, and make sure your decision is in the child’s best interest.

Tennessee Students are now Utah-Ready?

TN is paying Utah for test questions

by Eric Holcombe
If you have been following Achieve Inc. board member Haslam and the state department of eduction’s more recent announcements regarding “TNReady” or “TNCore”, the alleged, “new”, “state-led” standards for K-12 education to “replace” Common Core (because those Common Core “state” Standards we were told were “state-led” by these same people were nothing of the sort), then you may have been hearing that everything is bright-shiny new and there are new “Tennessee” tests and new “Tennessee” standards. Well, that’s not exactly true.

While Achieve Inc. board member Haslam did let Kevin Huffman (governing board member of PARCC) go as education commissioner and PARCC did lose their illegal, no-bid, multi-million dollar testing contract to provide the Common Core “state” Standard aligned tests in Tennessee, there were absolutely no consequences for the apparent taxpayer-funded collusion between PARCC, their board members and the folks in TN State Board of Education letting the no-bid contract. Neither was there any repercussion for PARCC’s project manager, Achieve Inc. (Bill Haslam, board member). Instead, the same standards are rebranded “TNCore” and the second testing entity (like PARCC) created with $365 million in federal stimulus money will ultimately provide the Common Core “state” Standards aligned tests. This second company is Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium (SBAC). Joining a multi-state testing consortia was part and parcel of taking the federal tax dollar bribe in the Race To The Top federal grant application, and so was the adoption of the Common Core “state” Standards. Many states initially contracted with PARCC and many did with SBAC. We are simply changing federally-created test makers. We took and have already spent the $500+ million in the federal Race To The Top bribe, so you can be sure we will remain slaves to our federal masters, no matter what Nashville wants to rename it.

What you probably did hear about was a $108-million contract between the state of Tennessee and a company called Measurement Inc. to provide the “new” tests to replace the TCAP tests, now nicknamed/rebranded TNReady. You may have even read that Measurement Inc. isn’t really producing these tests, but is actually subcontracting the work to a company called American Institutes of Research (AIR) who is a partner to SBAC to provide the tests. That’s right. You are now paying for at least two middlemen. In the typical “but Mom, all the other kids are jumping off the roof, so why can’t I?” rationale, we were told how Utah, Arizona and Florida were already contracted with AIR so it must be good for Tennessee too, right? Don’t try too hard to remember all that selling that Achieve Inc. board member Haslam and Candice McQueen have been doing to convince you this time it really is “state-led” (by another state I guess). That is how we ended up in the PARCC boat with Florida to begin with.

AIR is primarily a behavioral research company, not a standardized academic assessment maker, i.e., they are well experienced in data mining. There is much speculation about what their motivation may be in the new business of data-mining public school students when combined with the bizarre data collection goals revealed in “Promoting Grit, Tenacity and Perseverance” published by the federal Dept. of Education. Like many of the players in the Common Core game, they too received millions of dollars from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. This is beginning to look like a prerequisite to get into the education “business” in Tennessee at this point. Nevertheless, AIR did produce Common Core “state” Standard aligned assessments for the state of Utah called SAGE assessments. So, did Florida, Arizona and Tennessee get their own “state-led” assessments made just for themselves for their alleged “state-led” standards? Nope. We are paying $2.3 million to lease two years’ worth of test “items” from the Utah tests. The defenders of this scheme claim that we are not paying for Utah’s “tests”, only “items” from the tests.
So to summarize, Tennessee students will now be Utah-Ready. But it’s all “state-led”….

Not everything on this website is written by me

There are some in the community who think that everything on this website is written by me (Tona Monroe).  That is not the case.  This site was never intended to be a website solely with material written by me.  I own domains with my name and could just as easily write the material there.

There are some in the community who think that I agree with everything written on this website.  That is not the case either.  My intention in creating this website was never to have complete and total agreement with every word posted here.

The litmus test for content on this website was never complete and total agreement with my views and is not the case now.  My goals are to promote freedom and transparency in government.  Those are the reasons why I started this website and why I continue publishing on this website.  Those are also the reasons that I ran for office and what I hope to achieve while in office.

The content here is intended to be thought provoking while promoting freedom and openness in government.  Everything that is posted here should no more be viewed as my opinions than letters to the editors are viewed as being the opinions of the editors at newspapers.

As I’ve said many times before and will continue saying, let freedom ring!

Is this one of the great things that Mayor Mitchell was talking about?

Last month, Blount County Mayor Ed Mitchell and Bryan Daniels of the Blount Partnership and Industrial Development Board (IDB) assured us that great things are in store for Blount County.  Today one of the lead stories is about the increase in the number of free and reduced lunches that children are receiving in the local government schools.

This while the taxpayers saw a 22% increase in the local option sales tax in 2014 and a 16% increase in the property tax in 2015 (FY16).

Mitchell and the Finance Directors statement’s about the financial health of Blount County haven’t exactly been on target.  Here is a January 2, 2014 email where the Finance Director assures the commissioners that “Blount County is on sound financial footing.”

A year and half later, the citizens of Blount County got a huge property tax increase a year after a 22% increase in the local option sales tax.

From: Randy Vineyard
Sent: Thursday, January 02, 2014 6:08 PM
To: Pat James
Subject: Fiscal year ended June 30, 2013 highlights

Commissioners,

The Mayor asked that I provide some commentary on the recent correspondence you received from the State Comptroller’s Office.

The State Comptroller’s Office completed the annual audit of last fiscal year’s financial activities. The audit report has been posted on the Blount County website for public review.

First, the County has received an unqualified opinion which is always our goal. There were no audit findings and that too is our annual goal. There is a suggestion that the County consider creating an Audit Committee and this is a recurring suggestion over the past few years. There was no exit conference this year since there were no audit findings.

The following comments pertain only to the General County Fund 101 and the numbers are rounded for simplification purposes only.

The operating results for the year ending June 30, 2013, General County net assets increased $2.97 million. The ending Fund Balance was $13.05million with $11.4million  of that being Undesignated and Unobligated.

Total General County Revenues were $44.55 million and total General County Expenditures/Transfers were $41.58 million on a final amended budget of $43.88 million. If you recall we missed the value of a penny on the tax rate and that resulted in $1.1million less in property tax revenue in Fund 101. However, that was offset by higher fee revenue collected by the various office holders and higher inmate reimbursements from the State and Federal governments.

On the appropriation side of the budget, the officeholders and department heads did an outstanding job of managing their budgets and significantly underspent their appropriations.

There will be a proposed budget amendment submitted to the Budget Committee at their meeting on January 6 to outline a plan to position the County for some matters likely to come up over the next several months.

First resolution, a recommendation to give non-recurring compensation supplement to County employees in Fund 101. This would be $1000 per full time employee and $500 per part time employee.

The total cost including benefits is approximately $539,100. Our employees contributed to the financial success the County attained last year and it is reasonable for us to show that recognition with a non-recurring increase in pay.

Second resolution, a recommendation that the Commission Designate/Obligate approximately $1.36million for Capital needs and Self Insurance funding needs. These two items are not appropriating or spending any money, but set aside and obligate for future needs. The Self Insurance needs are in the Workers Comp Fund and the General Liability Fund. Over the past few years we have not assessed premiums sufficient to cover claims experience. That has to be addressed soon to avoid an audit finding by the Comptroller’s Office. Therefore, should Commission decide to appropriate an amount less than is proposed to be designated for self-insurance purposes, it will be my recommendation that the designation be shifted to the Capital needs.

We will be providing a synopsis of the highlights of the budgeted funds to you in a few days.

I am very pleased with the results of the past fiscal year. This does not mean the upcoming FY ‘14/’15 budget will be without challenges because we are planning to use up to $3.3million in fund balance in the current budget year. This was a result of shifting 9 pennies from General County to Schools to meet the state mandated maintenance of effort (MOE).

However, this certainly gives us a better starting point and it validates the initiatives currently underway. Those being upgrading technology in our various fee offices for improved reliability and efficiency; reducing our annual variable rate debt costs on our existing long term debt; retiring two long term notes; and using common sense in spending the public’s tax dollars.

The take away is Blount County is on sound financial footing. We are making incremental improvements to make further operational progress in the future barring unforeseen circumstances. This could not have happened without the good leadership of our elected office holders.

I welcome your comments and encourage you to contact me with any questions.

Thanks

Randy

Randy Vineyard, IOM
Blount County Finance Director