Standley Lake High School students take to the street with signs showing support for their teachers and a quality education. (Love the Jay-Z reference!)
Last year, a slate of conservative candidates, supported by Americans for Prosperity, took over
the majority of the Jefferson County School Board. Since then, they've followed the same playbook they used in Douglas County - alienating teachers, cutting pay and benefits, eliminating steps (annual raises based on experience), and eliminated pay increases for advanced degrees. The playbook works well - conservatives across the country have demonized teachers enough that when teachers complain about pay and benefits, they receive little sympathy.
This week, however, the conservative board took it one step too far.
The board established a "curriculum committee" to review what teachers are teaching in the classroom. Each of the five board members (three conservative, two reasonable) nominated three people for the committee. The (conservative) majority then voted on the final nine members - strange then that the members ended up being the conservative nominees!
One of the first orders of business? Review the AP History curriculum.
Julie Williams, one of the conservative board members, said that the purpose of the committee's review was to ensure the curriculum doesn't “encourage or condone civil disorder, social strife or disregard of the law,” and instructional materials “present positive aspects of the United States and its heritage.”
Full text of the description of the committee's purpose is utterly disturbing:
Board Committee for Curriculum Review.
The committee shall be seated by the Board. Each director may nominated up to three candidates for the committee and the entire board then will vote to select the nine (9) members of the committee. The charge to the committee is to review curricular choices for conformity to JeffCo academic standards, accuracy and omissions, and to inform the board of any objectionable materials. The committee shall regularly review texts and curriculum according to priorities that it establishes, however, at any time, the Board may add items to the list for review. The committee shall report all comments (majority and minority) to the board in writing on a weekly basis as items are reviewed. Board members may move for discussion or action on items reported when matters warrant public discussion or action. The committee’s initial projects will be a review of the AP US History curriculum and elementary health curriculum.
Review criteria shall include the following: instructional materials should present the most current factual information accurately and objectively. Theories should be distinguished from fact. Materials should promote citizenship, patriotism, essentials and benefits of the free enterprise system, respect for authority and respect for individual rights. Materials should not encourage or condone civil disorder, social strife or disregard of the law. Instructional materials should present positive aspects of the United States and its heritage. Content pertaining to political and social movements in history should present balanced and factual treatment of the positions.
First of all, notice the dog-whistle language: theory distinguished from fact? Goodbye evolution and climate change; free enterprise system, individual rights? Straight out of the Koch playbook.
It should also be noted that Jeffco already has TWO curriculum committees: one permanent committee, made up of educators and community members, tasked to select materials and a second that convenes when a parent files a complaint about curriculum content.
When it was about teacher pay, district parents didn't care. Now that it's about their kids, parents are taking notice.
I'm from Jeffco and I don't support these changes. What are you so afraid that children will learn? Truth? How to think? Why is it wrong to teach kids about the negative impact of the white man on the native people? It's true. What do you think we should be teaching kids about white/Native American history? Each one of these three new conservative board members needs to be recalled. This new conservative majority has committed multiple abuses and ethical breaches since they were elected. What example do you think that is setting for our children? What civics lessons are they learning from watching the rabid extremists on the Jeffco Board? Those people shouldn't be allowed near children, or kids' minds will be reduced to mindless mush. That is the reason why recall laws exist. These are REAL reasons. Recall them.
It's nice to see that Jeffco is not going quietly into the night like Douglas County. The new school board is not going to be able to run rampant on the curriculum and whitewash history to fit their narrow-minded ideal.
Last week, the Jefferson County Education Association issued a vote of No Confidence against conservative Board President Ken Witt.
Here is what happened in Douglas County since AFP installed their board there. After forcing out Cindy Stevenson, a beloved and nationally recognized superintendent with twelve years experience, Jefferson County hired the assistant superintendent who helped implement Douglas County's failed policies, Dan McMinimee and offered him a starting salary of $280,000 - $80,000 more than Cindy Stevenson made after being there for twelve years.
I've already decided that I'm going to run for school board to displace the conservative majority.
UPDATE 1 per Cadillac64 in the comments: Two high schools in the district, Standley Lake & Conifer, are holding "sick-outs." Channel 9 - KUSA. To be clear, the Union (JCEA) did not organize these sick-outs. (Also added "Labor" tag.)
UPDATE 2 - Forgot to mention the district-wide email that went out last night:
District leadership has heard from several sources that a significant number of employees may be planning an organized “sick out” on Friday, Sept. 19 and Monday, Sept. 22.
While we hope this isn’t true, we also can’t disregard the impact on our students and schools if this were to happen. We know that Jeffco employees care deeply about the children they work with daily and having their regular teacher in the classroom is always what’s best for students. If a large number of teachers are absent, we may have to close schools because we wouldn’t have enough adults in the building to ensure an acceptable educational environment for students. Closing a school would greatly impact our students and their families. Employees should also know that an organized sick out is illegal under Colorado law.
It’s our hope that all of us keep students and their well-being at the forefront every day by keeping contractual issues out of the classroom.
(Link to Colorado Labor Peace Act in original.)
UPDATE 3 - It should also be noted that the Board commissioned an independent review of the evaluation system to determine if it could be used to set teacher pay. The independent review decided the evaluations were too flawed. The board, instead of following the advice of the review, rejected it and is using the evaluations anyway.
The JeffCo PTA has come out against the possible curriculum review committee.
UPDATE 4 - From the Twittersphere:
UPDATE 5 - Locals - Remember this come 2017 when we can vote these guys out. Recall is also an option. I'm first in line to run against them.
Also, if you're in Colorado House District 25, be sure to vote for and lend your support to Janet Doyle. Her opponent is a Tea Party, RRWNJ. District 25 has always been a moderate district, even when represented by a Republican. We can't let that go.
UPDATE 6 - Background information from Samer:
The short version is that it now emphasizes CRITICAL THINKING rather than rote memorization of facts.
And critical thinking is, of course, an enemy of modern conservatism.
The RNC has come out against the new curriculum
, saying, in a resolution
, that it's a "radically revisionist view of American history that emphasizes negative aspects of our nation's history while omitting or minimizing positive aspects."
Two other two conservative groups, American Principles in Action and Concerned Women for America, sent an open letter to the College Board asking that the new framework be delayed. If you don't want to give that site traffic, here's the jist:
As you know, there is a rising tide of opposition to the AP U.S. History Framework. Concerned citizens and elected officials are increasingly alarmed at the direction it will take our schools, our teachers, and our high school students.
. . .
The new Framework inculcates a consistently negative view of American history by highlighting oppressors and exploiters while ignoring the dreamers and innovators who built our country....The new Framework continues its theme of oppression and conflict by reinterpreting Manifest Destiny from a belief that America had a mission to spread democracy and new technologies across the continent to something that “was built on a belief in white racial superiority and a sense of American cultural superiority.” . . . The new Framework repeatedly ignores the heroism and sacrifices of America’s servicemen and women.
It goes on to complain about supplanting state power to set curriculum standards and a lack of educational resources (the College Board apparently reduced the number of practice questions and prep materials available).
UPDATE 7 - Two informal resources for potential recall support:
UPDATE 8 - an open letter to Julie Williams posted on 9/18/14 on the Denver Post's Yourhub page:
I have a number of very deep concerns with the proposal that you have put forward regarding this new committee. I have seen how committees are currently seated, and this proposal is clearly written to seat the 9 members identified by the board majority, with no concern for representation of the minority. We have seen that it before.
I fear you are preparing to cross yet another line, censorship. Does this committee plan to evaluate our AP History curriculum, or re-write it? Do you understand that AP is a national curriculum? Our kids sit for national exams in the spring and receive college credit. Do you plan to try to change this national curriculum? Do you realize that you can’t, it’s a NATIONAL curriculum, aligned with the College Board assessment. Do you plan to change the course in Jeffco or just stop offering it? If you change it, it becomes a huge waste of time and money to take the course.
My senior at Columbine has taken and scored a 5 on both AP US History and AP World History. Do you really plan to deny our highest performing kids the opportunity to take and pass these national tests that are desired by selective colleges and that empower kids to earn college credit while in high school? And by the way, it’s not cheap and the district does not pay for their books or their tests. The cost is well over $200 per course, which is reasonable for college credit, but a waste of money if it doesn’t prepare our students for the test.
Most importantly, who are you to re-write history?
Terri Taylor Straut
Parent, Taxpayer and Advocate for ALL Jeffco Students
UPDATE 9 - Follow #JeffcoStandUp
on Twitter for more.
UPDATE 10 - Colorado Public Radio has some coverage.
Thirty-two teachers from Standley and 18 at Conifer didn't go to work Friday. That's about a third of the two schools' teaching staffs.
These kids get it.
School board member Julie Williams, who authored the proposal, said people have misinterpreted what she’s trying to do. She said she’s not trying to eliminate the facts of U.S. history but shares the concerns conservatives nationally have outlined – that AP History casts some parts of history in a negative light, such as the bombing of Hiroshima and slavery.
Senior Jocelyn Wallen was particularly irked by the resolution’s reference to the fact that materials should not encourage civil disorder.
"If there's no civil disobedience, no matter how big or small, nothing ever changes," she says. "And if nothing ever changes, then nothing can ever get better."
Obligatory Rec List thanks: Been here over 6 years (not much compared to some) and first time! Thank you for the honor.
EDIT - Top of the rec list? Thank you so much for spreading the word.