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With 19 Governors and 24 Corporations, You Can Have a University Funded by the U. S. Taxpayer

Publication Date: 2003-04-08

Here is another look at No Child Left Behind's systematic takeover of education.

NOTE: There are three things to think about while reading the following press release from the U. S. Department of Education:

1) Western Governors University (WGU) was launched by 11 governors in Western states in 1996--to provide competency-based degrees and certificates to distance learners. They said the launch of WGU was inspired by their finding that "the quality of learning in traditional institutions uneven and unreliable, while these institutions were too often uninterested in and unresponsive to state educational needs." WGU's advisory board now includes 19 governors and 24 corporations and foundations.

2) The U. S. Department of Education is systematically dismanteling the autonomy of teacher colleges of education and shoving in a deficit model of reading.

3) The No Child Left Behind Act requires that paraprofessionals have an Associate of Arts college degree. So now we will have another whole category of people, judged successful at what they do by the people in the communities in which they live, declared failures by the federal government.


Education Week describes this effort as being "touted as the nation's most comprehensive online program for teacher certification, offering the possibility of easier access to improved credentials for thousands of instructors who will soon need them to meet new federal requirements."

Create the need and fund the solution. Your federal government at work. And remember, these are your tax dollars.

Again quoting Education Week, the mouthpiece of Standardisto education reform, "Operating out of an office building in Salt Lake City, the university has the potential to transform an unnecessarily slow and bureaucratic certification process, its backers say. Those supporters include the federal Department of Education, which regards the new college as a potentially integral tool for states to comply with upcoming deadlines for hiring highly qualified instructors under the "No Child Left Behind Act" of 2001."

Using the journalistic technique of recycled press release as news article, Education Week couches all its descriptions of the program with such phrases as "its backers say," "WGU supporters maintain," "agency officials say," and so on.

So far, Arizona, Nevada, and Texas have officially accepted WGU's program for licensure. But, as Education Week observes, reciprocity agreements between states means that teachers will "be able to use their WGU degrees to secure certification from 43 other states, too."

Someone should undertake a research study on why colleges of education sit in silence--navel gazing or writing memos urging professors to curry the favor of their local Congresspersons, telling them what a good job colleges of ed are doing. Congress as the solution to our problems: Now there's a notion.

Here are a couple of questions college of education personnel might ask their Congresspersons:

1) Why is this online university getting federal monies?

2) Why are students attending this university getting federal aid?

Then people at colleges of education might ask David B. Imig, the president of the American Association of Colleges of Teacher Education why he issued this mealy-mouthed statement to describe WGU: "It's an interesting variation that reshapes the way we prepare teachers. It will be watched very closely."

Yes, lacking a fiddle, stand and watch closely while Rome burns.

Disclaimer: I am not, nor have I ever been, affiliated with a college of education. I didn't even get into teaching through the traditional college of education route. So I sit here wondering why I'm so upset by all of this while colleges of education watch closely while Rome burns.


Press Release from the U. S. Department of Education

Online Teachers College Open for Business

Western Governor's [sic]University launches new teacher preparation program with U.S. Education Dept. grant; Scholarships available

FOR RELEASE: March 10, 2003 Contact: Stephanie Babyak or Jane Glickman, (202) 401-1576

U.S. Secretary of Education Rod Paige today hailed the launch of Western Governors University's (WGU) new online competency-based Teachers College, which offers accredited certificate, undergraduate and graduate academic degrees for current and prospective teachers.The Teachers College can be found on the Web at


Utah Gov. Michael O. Leavitt and WGU President Bob Mendenhall joined Paige in making the announcement.

"The No Child Left Behind Act calls for highly qualified teachers in every classroom because that is a critical factor in ensuring student academic success," Paige said. "We need to open the classroom door to the thousands of mid-career professionals who could make excellent teachers. The Teachers College will be invaluable in that effort because a Web-based program offers working adults the flexibility to pursue standards-based course work at their own pace and schedule."

The university provides a creative path to alternative teaching certification. Its approach to education is based on competency in critical knowledge and skills measured by assessments not the number of hours spent in a college classroom. Rather than developing its own courses, the university collaborates with colleges, universities, corporations and training organizations across the United States to make the best use of distance learning materials available to students through the Internet. The online catalog contains about 1,200 courses from 45 partnering institutions.

Programs are tailored to teachers' aides or paraprofessionals, uncertified teachers, and second-career professionals transitioning to teaching. Online courses also provide learning opportunities to teachers and other professionals in rural and remote areas of the country who might not have access to traditional on-campus learning. Teachers College participants may be eligible for federal financial aid.

In September 2001, the U.S. Education Department awarded WGU a $10 million five year Star Schools grant to help develop and acquire educational programming for preservice and in-service teacher education programs and to operate and maintain the existing Internet telecommunications system of WGU.

In addition to the Star Schools grant, funding from foundations and corporate partners, as well as federal teacher education grants, supports the College.

WGU is a consortium of 19 Western states and about 40 universities. WGU Teachers College will provide teacher certification and advanced degrees in reading, math, science, technology and English as a Second Language (ESL).

"The Teachers College will be a boon to states seeking training for current teachers and paraprofessionals to help them meet education requirements under NCLB and speed their licensure. The program will also aid recruiting second-career professionals," Paige said. "This is a winning program. States benefit; current and future teachers benefit. But the biggest winners are our nation's children, and that is the best news of all."

###### End of Press Release

The WGU website offers the information that "WGU has offered a master's degree in learning and technology for several years, and the program is already one of the largest in the country. The University's associate of arts degree has recently had a surge of new enrollments from school paraprofessionals due to the No Child Left Behind Act, which requires paraprofessionals to complete an associate's degree." WGU states that its associate's degree program is designed "To allow paraprofessionals to meet the requirements of No Child Left Behind (NCLB) legislation."

The Teachers College of Western Governors University also offers "both a baccalaureate and a master's degree in elementary education, with an emphasis in reading, plus a secondary math endorsement (in middle and/or high school) for already-certified teachers,also offered as part of a master's degree in mathematics education."

Surprise, surprise. The WGU Program Coordinator for Reading and Elementary Education is Melissa Hayden, who received a Ph.D. in special education from the University of Oregon. "Her areas of professional specialization include: teacher training in research-based approaches, implementing Direct Instruction in public schools, instructional design, instructional technology, and academic interventions for mildly impaired students."

Anyone who examines the backgrounds of the 73 Federally-declared "reading experts" who serve on the NCLB Reading First panel will see that the special ed and University of Oregon/Direct Instruction connections are essential. The U. S. Department of Education insists that every child in the land must be taught reading with a deficit model of reading.

One provision of NCLB that has received little press attention is that NCLB requires paraprofessionals to have an AA degree. Western Governors University has a little plan for an online degree. Tuition for an AA degree is $1,790 a term (6 months)--plus enrollment application and library fees. Many of these courses are "delivered" by Rio Salado College in Tempe, Arizona. Rio describes itself as "a recognized leader in forging successful long-term alliances with corporations, government agencies and community organizations." Another player in course delivery to Western Governors University is McGraw-Hill Elearning. McGraw-Hill needs no introduction.

Experienced paraprofessionals earn, if they're lucky, $10 an hour.

Here's "the range of skills and concepts" a paraprofessional must demonstrate in the Quantitative Literacy Skills Domain to become "qualified" in the eyes of the Feds:

Numeric and Calculation Skills
Function and Algebra Skills
Geometry and Measurement Skills
Collegiate Probability and Statistics Skills
Quantitative Problem-Solving Skills
Quantitative Communication Skills
Quantitative Technology Skills

Numeric and Calculation Skills

These skills concern basic numeracy and calculation abilities that underlie higher-level quantitative skills.

+recognize basic number patterns and predict subsequent terms in sequences.
+represent numbers in decimal, fraction, percentage and scientific notation forms.
+describe and use the properties of addition, subtraction, multiplication, division, powers and roots in basic calculations.
+describe and use a variety of number systems including natural, integer, rational, real and binary.
+describe and use mathematical operations including opposites, reciprocals, absolute values, exponents and logarithms.
+accurately compute quantities using arithmetic and simple algebraic operations on whole and real numbers.
+apply principles of proportionality and scaling to solve problems.
+determine the best economic value among several alternatives using, for example, unit cost.
+set up and manipulate ratios and proportions containing mixed units requiring conversion.
+carry out complex multi-step calculations that may involve ratios, proportions and percentages.
+calculate percentage change in constant rate situations.
+approximate answers in simple and complex calculations.
+recognize errors in multi-step calculations and procedures.

Function and Algebra Skills These skills address basic knowledge of equations, solving equations, constructing equations to solve real problems, and the basic properties of functions.

+recognize, evaluate and graph basic functions in one unknown. These include linear, quadratic, other polynomial, exponential/logarithmic, power/radical and rational functions.
+symbolically and graphically solve linear and quadratic equations in one unknown, and simple equations involving exponential/logarithmic, power/radical and rational functions.
+describe basic properties and mechanics of functions including increasing and decreasing, maxima and minima, and asymptotes. Use graphical methods to determine approximate regions where a function has these properties.
+describe the concept of invertibility of a function; determine whether a function is invertible in a particular region; and solve for the inverse of basic functions.
+represent or model real-world situations using basic functions such as linear, quadratic and exponential functions. Generate solutions to the real-world problems using the properties of the basic functions.
+recognize and solve systems of linear equations in several unknowns.
+recognize unreasonable answers and correct errors in reasoning, calculation and symbolic manipulation.

Geometry and Measurement Skills

These competencies are associated with the application of basic geometric, trigonometric and measurement skills to problems in a variety of disciplines.

+graph numbers on a number line or co-ordinate plane and derive numbers from graphic or co-ordinate representations.
+represent geometric curves and graphs of functions in commonly used co-ordinate systems.
+use and convert among standard measurement systems for quantities such as length, time and mass, including derived units requiring ratios and unit conversions.
+solve problems that involve proportional reasoning, such as expansions and contractions, for shapes, objects, maps and figures.
+deduce and describe properties of geometric figures.
+use geometric reasoning to derive formulae for area, surface area and volume for various geometric figures.
+explain the concepts of congruence and similarity, and use these concepts to solve geometric problems.
+use geometric models to represent real situations, processes or number patterns. use geometric methods to solve real-world problems.
+identify and correct in proposed solutions to problems that use geometric reasoning or representations.

Collegiate Probability and Statistics Skills

Statistics is the science of collecting and analyzing data; probability is the mathematical formulation of uncertainty and randomness. Students completing this set of competencies will be better able to understand, interpret and critique quantitative information. The material is also foundational for virtually any area of study that has a quantitative component.

+distinguish between designed experiments and other kinds of studies (observational studies).
+ Explain the important elements of experiments: randomization, replication, comparison and control. Design an experiment.
+graphically and numerically summarize data on a single numeric variable (i.e., characteristic) using histograms, stem-and-leaf plots, bar charts, tables, averages (means), medians, standard deviations and percentiles.
+summarize the relationship between two numeric variables using scatter plots, correlation and regression.
+characterize relationships in categorical data. Explain Simpson?s Paradox and what it tells us about aggregated data.
+identify and avoid common misconceptions in statistics. Explain the difference between association and causation; describe the regression effect; explain what is wrong with computing correlations on averages (often called ecological correlations).
+calculate probabilities using, for example, the idea of equally likely outcomes and relative frequencies.
+explain the rules (i.e., axioms) probabilities satisfy.
+use the ideas of complementary events, independence and
+explain the long-run (i.e., frequentist) theory of probability.
+explain what the Law of Averages (also known as the Law of Large Numbers) really says.
+distinguish between random and nonrandom samples (such as voluntary, convenience and quota samples), and explain why random samples are preferred.
+describe and explain the advantages and limitations of commonly used sampling techniques such as simple random, stratified, cluster and multi-stage sampling.
+describe sampling distributions and the normal approximation for sums, averages and proportions. characterize the error in estimates of population quantities using measures such as standard errors and confidence intervals.
+construct and carry out simple hypothesis tests (one or two-sample) for means and proportions. identify the assumptions of simple inferential statistical procedures and make judgments as to their correctness. These procedures include hypothesis tests and confidence intervals. evaluate the validity of arguments involving one or more statistical analyses and evaluate the impact of incorrect analyses on the conclusions of the argument.

Quantitative Problem-Solving Skills

These competencies cover specific aspects of quantitative reasoning, quantitative interpretation and the construction of quantitative arguments that are essential to successful performance in many disciplines at the collegiate level.

+distinguish between issues that are provable in a mathematical sense and those which are not. in axiomatic settings, differentiate clearly between giving examples that support a conjecture and actually proving a conjecture.
+use multiple forms of reasoning including deductive and inductive reasoning, formulating and testing hypotheses, using counter examples, and indirect proof.

+use informal (rule-of-thumb) methods and obvious constraints to solve simple problems and to detect mistakes in proposed solutions to problems.

+identify and apply standard problem-solving heuristics such as analogy, working backwards and problem restatement, and identify the kinds of situations in which these methods might be helpful.

+extract solvable quantitative problems that are embedded in a situation that is not inherently quantitative.
+formulate a quantitative problem by extracting relevant information from the situation in which it occurs.
+select and use relevant quantitative problem-solving strategies and techniques to solve multi-step problems.
+evaluate proposed solutions to problems by summarizing and explaining the results, by checking the implementation, and by assessing the plausibility of the results.
+identify risks and potential consequences of questionable assumptions made in quantitative solutions to problems.

Quantitative Communication Skills

These competencies address one?s ability to interpret documents and materials containing quantitative information and one?s ability to effectively communicate mathematical arguments and quantitative results.

+demonstrate knowledge of basic mathematical vocabulary, terminology, standard notation, symbols and common conventions for graphing and data presentation.
+demonstrate knowledge of basic quantitative and mathematical representations, models and arguments.
+describe quantitative and mathematical procedures clearly and correctly.
+translate information presented in one form (such as a function, table, graph, data array or number sequence) into one or more other representations.
+communicate mathematical reasoning, mathematical equations, and calculated results orally and in writing, explaining why a formula, conclusion or inference makes sense and why the mathematical reasoning is valid.
+explain the implications of quantitative results or procedures clearly to others who are not familiar with these results or procedures, and who may be having difficulty understanding them.

Quantitative Technology Skills

Technology is changing the practice of all quantitative subjects. This subdomain specifies skills or competencies pertaining to the use of computation, graphical, and informational technology to solve problems in a wide range of areas. Technologies change over time. Technologies that may be described as current at the time of writing these competencies include regular and graphing calculators, spreadsheet and other computational and graphical programs, databases, data depository Web sites and statistical analysis programs.

+select and use tools to carry out arithmetic and algebraic operations on rational numbers.
+select and use appropriate technological tools to represent quantitative information and relationships in the form of formulae, tables and graphs, and to transform information presented in one format into another format.
+use appropriate technological tools to represent data, model situations or perform calculations related to a posed problem or situation.
+use flow charts, logic diagrams and other systematic methods to solve quantitative and mathematical problems.
select and use appropriate technological tools and problem solving strategies to solve nonroutine and multi-step problems.

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