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Confiscated Plan Books Languish in Death Valley Repository

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by Susan Ohanian

Death Valley--At 282 feet (86 m) below sea level in the Mohave Desert, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation maintains the Substation for Confiscated Lesson Plans. It is a secure site that bears all the marks of a prison: high stone walls topped with concertina wire, uniformed guards shouting into walkie-talkies, forsaken teachers pacing the compound's edge, waiting for a sign of hope.

Jennie Worthsome, 15-year-veteran kindergarten teacher, waited as Foundation officials reviewed the seizure of her lesson plans twenty-three months ago. Ms. Worthsome's planbook indicated time for fingerpainting.

Worthsome said, "Ok, I admit it. We were also singing The Spider Song."

Gina Golightly said her planbook included reading alternatives for those who had read "The Gettysburg Address" 63 times, as per David Coleman's directive, but still didn't get it. "Why shouldn't they get a chance at The Hunger Games!" she exclaimed.

Teachers call this facility: Lesson Plan Guantanamo.

Behind these walls are thousands of planbooks lined up in pedagogical purgatory after falling afoul of the Common Core Inspectorate. Things that have landed planbooks in the slammer: building blocks in kindergarten, recess in any grade, a third-grade field trip to the zoo, reader response prompts asking, "How did you feel after reading the first chapter of this book?" "Did this book make you laugh?"

Tom Trustworth got his planbook back after waiting three months, two days-- with all but 5 words redacted.

Johnny Goodwit indicated all classroom copies of Flat Stanley had been confiscated along with his planbook. "They said it didn't meet the requirements for complex text and besides that it was fiction."

These teachers' experiences are far from isolated. Teachers across the country report lesson planbook confiscation. "There was no warning," said Sally Steadfast. "Suddenly, there he was at my door saying I was in violation of the Common Core."

U. S Secretary of Education Arne Duncan confirmed that "This office is committed to upholding rigor for our nation's youth." He indicated that planbook confiscation falls under the providence of Section 215 of the Patriot Act. He repeated "Providence."

A spokesman for the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation said, "We do not comment on internal policies and procedures such as a lessonplan inspectorate or our facility in the Mohave Dessert, but the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation is on record for setting no less a goal than redefining the education children received in public schools. . . . Furthermore, the new Common Core State Standards will bring consistency and clarity to American education. These college- and career-ready academic standards will provide a springboard for innovation in education. And, crucially, they will help educators improve student achievement levels, an outcome that will benefit students personally while also fueling our nation's future economic success. Got that?"

A spokesman for Randi Weingarten, president of the 1.5 million-member American Federation of Teachers, AFL-CIO, asked, "What are teachers whining about now?" And sent us her column from the Wall Street Journal with this sentence underlined in blood red, "Every profession worth its salt goes through such periods of self-examination. That time has come for the teaching profession." The spokesman indicated that teachers know "the rich, rigorous Common Core State Standards" must be obeyed and these little glitches of planbook confiscated will pass as teachers get on track.

A spokesman for the National Council of Teachers of English indicated they were out to lunch.

— Susan Ohanian



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