I Am Vilified Again by Educrat

Dec 13, 2012 by

donna_garnerby Donna Garner

12.11.12

Once again, the “education establishment” has sent out one of its own to vilify my efforts to help bring authentic education reform to Texas.  Jerry R. Burkett is the elementary principal at Milam Elementary School in Grand Prairie, Texas. He has recently written his second diatribe against me. The links to his two articles are posted at the bottom of the page.

Not to be unduly cruel, but Milam Elementary School’s TAKS scores (2010) are not very good. Burkett’s school houses K-5. In 3rd grade, the 2010 TAKS Math scores were in the bottom 40% of the state with Reading in the bottom 30%. In 4th grade, Math was in the bottom 20%, Reading in bottom 20%, and Writing in the bottom 30%.  In 5th grade, the Math scores were in the bottom 20%, Reading in the bottom 20%, and Science in the bottom 10%.

( http://www.ziprealty.com/schools/detail/1010838/GRAND-PRAIRIE,TX/GRAND-PRAIRIE-INDEPENDENT-SCHOOL-DISTRICT/MILAM-ELEMENTARY-SCHOOL#TX00040 )

Ed.com has ranked Milam Elementary School as a 3 out of 10 (10 being the highest). On the 2011 TAKS tests (Grade 3), Math went down 3% while Reading saw no change. In Grade 4 Math went up 7%, Reading was up by 12%, and Writing was up by 10%.  In Grade 5, Math went up by 6%; but Reading went down by 4%.  Amazingly, Science went down by 3% even though Milam is a STEM school and is supposed to be particularly focused on Math and Science. (http://www.education.com/schoolfinder/us/texas/grand-prairie/milam-el/#test-scores)

Jerry Burkett has worked in education for 15 years with only a few of those years spent in the classroom.

I, on the other hand:

Was a classroom teacher who taught English and Spanish for 33+ years in 14 different Texas schools

Served as a Presidential appointee on the National Commission on Migrant Education (appointed by Pres. Reagan and reappointed by Pres. George H. Bush)

Was on the writing team for Texas that wrote the English/Language Arts/Reading curriculum standards in 1997

Was the lead writer of the Texas Alternative Document (TAD), an alternative to the TEA-driven TEKS

Volunteered my time and expertise to help formulate the May 2008 ELAR curriculum standards for Texas

Have tracked and shared the latest education research over the last 35 years with the Texas State Board of Education members and the Texas Education Agency staff

Was the writer/researcher for Scott & White Worth the Wait, (an abstinence-only program)

Was the writer/consultant for an online website to teach students English proficiency

Have taught in public/private/homeschool environments

Am a published education author with a presence on the Internet

Have exchanged e-mails with hundreds of national and state policymakers and researchers

Most importantly, have five grandchildren currently in public schools and private schools who keep me anchored in what life is like in the classrooms  

Burkett accused me of many things in his articles; but when he stated that my “musings are not research-based,” he showed his own ignorance.  My education articles are full of documentation and are built upon years of both my own personal teaching experiences and the study of solid, scientific research.

For instance, the empirical reading research that has been peer-reviewed and replicated by the NIH has completely discredited whole language/balanced literacy/guided reading/invented spelling.  Yet Burkett lauds such misguided emergent reading efforts and evidently encourages these among his elementary teachers.  Could this be the reason his TAKS Reading scores are toward the bottom of Texas schools?

Unfortunately, for the few years that Burkett was in the classroom, he was a social studies teacher and not an elementary reading teacher.  As the principal for his elementary school, he should be working as hard as he can to help his teachers to learn how to teach phonemic awareness and decoding skills (phonics) directly and systematically instead of continuing to support misguided whole-reading instruction.

By law, Burkett as an administrator is supposed to make sure his teachers are teaching the new English / Language Arts / Reading curriculum standards (TEKS – adopted in May 2008).  The new ELAR-TEKS emphasize the teaching of phonemic awareness/decoding skills to automaticity; but based upon his own words in his 12.10.12 article, Burkett praises “strong guided reading and balanced literacy” which were a part of the old Type #2 ELAR-TEKS and led to the millions of Texas public school students who have deficient reading skills and cannot write, spell, nor speak English proficiently.

Since the TEA has not yet set the cut scores for the new STAAR tests and has not made the scores public, we do not know how the students in Burkett’s elementary school did on their first round of STAAR tests last spring; but when the STAAR is given this school year and the cut scores are announced, we will know whether the teachers in Milam Elementary School are teaching children to read correctly.

Burkett also talks about the need for students to do “critical thinking skills to process learning that is required for the 21st century.” Just exactly how can students think critically unless they have a strong foundation upon which to base their critical thinking?  Critical thinking is a higher-order thinking skill which must have a basis in fact; and first and foremost, for students to gain this strong foundation, they must be able to read and read well.  Without students having that firm foundation in basic skills, what Jerry calls “critical thinking” is actually students sitting around in groups voicing their opinions, beliefs, and emotions — establishing “group think” without any independent learning gained through the study of rigorous course content.

When I hear people such as Burkett proclaiming their “21st century, critical thinking” mantra, I always think of the thousands of patriots, writers, inventors, heroes, and entrepreneurs from the past who accomplished marvelous things because they had been taught strong foundational skills upon which to base their abilities to analyze, create, and innovate. They were taught the Type #1 philosophy of education.  The goal of Type #1 is academic achievement.  Our Texas schools are now on track to teach Type #1 again.  It is educrats such as Jerry Burkett who are trying to keep our Texas students locked into Type #2, the end goal of which is to indoctrinate students’ minds into the social justice agenda.

To gain a clear understanding of the New Plan for Texas’ public schools, please read my 12.3.12 article entitled “To Gripers: Let New Plan for Texas Public Schools Continue” — http://educationviews.org/2012/04/12/graded-by-former-student-who-is-now-an-educrat/

In Burkett’s latest article to vilify me, Burkett refers to former Commissioner of Education Robert Scott’s statements on high-stakes testing made at the TASA/TASB convention last year.  Has Burkett ever talked directly to Robert Scott about this subject?  I have on many occasions, and I know exactly what Robert Scott meant by his statements.  Please read my

11.29.12 article entitled “The Twisting of Robert Scott’s Statement” — http://educationviews.org/the-twisting-of-robert-scotts-statement/

Below is my response to Jerry Burkett’s first article in 4.9.12.  My comments are still relevant to Burkett’s latest charges:

“Graded by Former Student Who Is Now an Educrat”

by Donna Garner

4.12.12

http://libertylinked.com/posts/9760/graded-by-former-student-who/View.aspx

Dr. Jerry Burkett has stated that he is now a Texas principal; and he has written a highly uncomplimentary article about me. (I have posted the link to his article at the bottom of this page.) I was his former English teacher at Midway High School.

In essence, Jerry has been sent out by the education establishment to ruin my reputation because they do not like the fact that I have been an outspoken advocate for fiscal responsibility and for the return to Type #1 Philosophy of Education.

Having taught for 33+ years in 14 different schools, I know that pouring money down the bottomless pit of public school education is not the answer; consistent discipline/quality curriculum is. No independent, peer-reviewed research in this country has proven that money equals academic achievement.

I well remember teaching in a school that was so poor that we teachers had to sweep bat feces off the gymnasium floor before our students could go to P. E.  However, in that low-income school district, we teachers had creatively managed to cobble together one of the finest, elementary, phonics-based reading programs of any school in which I ever taught. My self-written, self-produced grammar packets became the capstone curriculum that helped our students to develop English proficiency and become successful college students.

(Please read my article published on 3.26.12 –“Two Education Philosophies with Two Different Goals”  — by Donna Garner — http://libertylinked.com/posts/9703/2-education-philosophies-with/View.aspx ).

Sad to say, I have no distinct memories of Jerry Burkett; but I am glad to know that he has gotten his college education. Jerry was very blessed to have gone through the Midway ISD at a time when we classroom teachers held to Type #1 Philosophy of Education; and Jerry was the recipient of the strong knowledge-based, academic background that was taught all the way from K to 12.

Soon after Jerry graduated from high school, Type #2 Philosophy of Education was implemented across our state and country; that is what has harmed students and has led parents to seek other alternatives.

Money is not the answer; it is what is taught in the classroom that is the answer; and that is determined by the curriculum standards (TEKS) and the instructional materials/tests built upon those standards.

Please read the following articles that thoroughly explain the two types of philosophies of education and how Type #2 has impacted our public school children negatively. The good news is that Type #1 is now being implemented slowly but surely into our Texas public schools (K-12).

Genuine education reform is coming to our Texas public school children, and it does not depend upon school financing. It depends upon teachers throwing away their discredited Type #2 curriculum materials/tests and learning how to teach the strong, knowledge-based, academic skills that are now mandated under the new TEKS.

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3.29.12 — “STAAR-EOC Tests: Picking Alpha’s and Beta’s Brains” – by Donna Garner

http://libertylinked.com/posts/9717/staar-eoc-tests—-picking/View.aspx

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Personal word from Donna Garner to Jerry Burkett:

I am so sorry, Jerry, that you have been influenced by those who subscribe to Type #2 Philosophy of Education/Texas Parent PAC.  I am also sorry that you have chosen to champion unethical and avaricious administrators such as Mike Moses.

For people who are new to Texas or for people who have forgotten the details, let me recap the serious problems Moses had while he was the Dallas ISD superintendent (2000 – 2004).

All of the following were uncovered by The Dallas Morning News during Moses’ years as the leader of the district:

Allegations surfaced about out-of-control spending with school credit cards, lost dollars for health plans, abuse of federal e-rate funds, irregular technology vendor contracts, misspent federal bilingual education funds, costly deals with Kinko’s, apparent conflicts of interest involving Voyager Expanded Learning, contributions by computer vendors, questionable bond sales, multiple teacher grievances, eyebrow-raising private consultancies, lucrative Coca-Cola contracts, and special privileges for vendors participating in the Education Research and Development Institute (ERDI) conferences.

Meanwhile, Moses received the highest superintendent’s salary in the nation ($340,000 per year, excluding benefits) even though eleven school districts in the country were larger than Dallas ISD.

When the DISD problems began to surface in 2004, Moses resigned and walked away with an additional $480,850.  Along with his ongoing and lucrative superintendent search business, he now receives a yearly TRS pension of $224,400 per year.  Note that Moses’ wealth comes from taxpayers’ dollars.

During the years that Moses was the Dallas ISD superintendent (2000 – 2004), Ruben Bohuchot was the Chief Technology Officer at Dallas ISD (August 1999 through February 2006).  William Frederick Coleman, III was Deputy Superintendent and Chief Operating Officer at DISD from August 30, 1999 through Sept. 15, 2000.

Bohuchot, Coleman, and Frankie Wong were all indicted for plotting and carrying out a multi-million-dollar scam to misuse federal dollars; Bohuchot and Wong were sentenced to federal prison.

How could Bohuchot, Coleman, and Wong have carried out such an elaborate plan, including the many contract negotiations, without Moses either participating in the scam or having knowledge about it?

I personally believe that Moses was shielded from the federal investigation.  Maybe he threatened to reveal something damaging about a high-profile politician who had the power to make sure Moses was kept out of the federal investigation.  Who knows?

*2.18.07 (republished on 3.20.12) – “Raise Your Hand for a Hand Out” – by Donna Garner –   http://libertylinked.com/posts/9688/raise-your-hand-for-a-hand/View.aspx

*To read the July 10, 2008 press release by the U. S. Department of Justice, please go to the following link:  http://www.justice.gov/usao/txn/PressRel08/bohuchot_wong_DISD_convict_pr.html

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Jerry R. Burkett’s two diatribes against Donna Garner:

4.9.12 – “Grading My High School Teacher on Public Education Issues”  –

http://educatefortexas.wordpress.com/2012/04/09/grading-my-high-school-teacher-on-public-education-issues/

12.10.12 – “Taking the Political Agenda Out of Education”  —

http://educatefortexas.wordpress.com/2012/12/10/taking-the-political-agenda-out-of-education/

Donna Garner

Wgarner1@hot.rr.com

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