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Wednesday, October 17, 2012

This chart from clearly shows the U. S. has been spending more on education than defense!  

Do you think we should spend more on education by spending even less on defense?   

Unfortunately,   our current level of spending can’t keep American ambassadors safe overseas and hasn’t managed to improve educational outcomes for children.  More spending on education is not the answer!  

We must expand parent engagement and choice and promote and support excellent teachers!

Monday, October 1, 2012


I declined to pursue the Right to Life endorsement.  Some believe my position will be hurtful to my bid for the election to the State Board of Education.  I thought I might take a moment to explain.

RTL endorsements are not given to the candidate most committed to the issue of life, but factored along with "electability".   I believe this puts the issue in second place over the wish for the RTL organization to be considered a powerful political force.  In my opinion, all candidates who demonstrate a commitment to Life issues should receive the endorsement.  This demonstrates the importance of this issue above politics.

If people choose not to vote for me due to this position, so be it.  If there are people who vote based only on the RTL voter guide without knowing the policies and practice of RTL, I hope they get informed.  After all, they may be directed to vote for someone who doesn’t prioritize this issue as high as they do.

I am willing to share my personal belief on this issue.  However, as a candidate for the Michigan State Board of Education, I do not consider it to be an issue pertaining to the job.  It is not an issue that the BoE has control over, nor should it attempt to operate outside the realm of its purpose.

I am Catholic and as such I believe we must protect the lives of innocent people, especially unborn babies.  No matter what circumstances this baby comes from, we must protect his or her inherent right to come into the world.  There has been a shift in concern to the rights of the mother.  While this is also important, the ability and right of a woman to bear a child is also an incredible responsibility.  She is obligated to behave in such a manner that she recognizes possibility for pregnancy, and acts based on what she is ready to accept.  Of course, there are gray areas such as rape, and I am not sure I have all the answers for that.  But the right answer cannot be to end a life that has barely begun.

Saturday, September 22, 2012

Response to the Lansing Association for Human Rights in support of LGBT voters:

Thank you for the opportunity to complete the questionnaire for the LAHR PAC .  I agree that the protection of human rights is an important endeavor.

In my bid for State Board of Education, the human right I am committed to is the need for every single Michigan child to receive an excellent education that prepares them to be responsible citizens.  All our children must be able to read, write and do math.  Did you know that more than 30% of children in Michigan schools cannot read at grade level?  And more than 60% cannot do math at grade level?  The situation is serious and urgent.

The solution lies in our ability to engage and empower parents and to engage excellent teachers.   We must stay focused and determined.  Schools today have incorporated many good initiatives and worthwhile programs that, in and of themselves, can be beneficial.  However, every new program takes time away from the task at hand, teaching reading, writing, math, science and social studies, as well as art, music and physical education.

While I appreciate your concern, the questions you ask are not part of my scope and focus.  My beliefs about same sex marriage, abortion and health care will not affect how I perform my job as a State Board of Education member, as should be true for every board member. 

Sometimes the issue of bullying is paired with sexual orientation, however, I believe bullying must be discussed and discouraged regardless of the cause or motivation of the bully.  Children need to be taught kindness and compassion for every individual regardless of differences, real or perceived.  Children also need to know how to stand up to bullies with a polite but firm response.

Again, thank you for the opportunity to share my perspective on the important concern of human rights. 

Thursday, September 20, 2012

League of Women Voters Campaign Questions:

Describe your background, experience and qualifications for the State Board of Education and the reasons that you are running for this office.
As an active education volunteer and math tutor since 1992, I am frustrated and worried about declining student achievement and unresponsiveness of the institutions to meet children's needs. No one group is to blame. The system as a whole is not able to respond to the individual nature of student learning. Even as a trustee on the Portage Public School Board, I was not satisfied with the level of change implemented to meet the needs of all children. I believe circumstances are critical and timing is right for a reform minded board to change the nature of the education system in Michigan for each and every child

What are your views about charter schools and cyber schools and their role in improving student achievement and reducing the education system’s cost?
Research shows engaged parents and excellent teachers are key to every single student learning. Choice offers opportunities to create a system that meets unique needs of each child. Parents must know their child is learning and making sustained progress. If not, they need alternatives. Teachers must have the freedom to teach professionally, working in a supportive environment. No single alternative will be a silver bullet, but a system of choices will meet many differing needs. Choice creates competition, which can help manage cost. Michigan education is well funded but how we spend must be reassessed.

What are the most pressing issues facing the State Board of Education and what actions would you take regarding them?
The implementation of Common Core Standards & Assessments is inappropriate use of time and money. This must stop. Efforts must be redeployed to engage and inform parents and support teachers in their efforts to teach all children. Teacher preparation and targeted professional development must be a top priority. The efforts underway to implement teacher evaluation systems must be directed to evidence based practices that improve student learning. Integration of 4-year-old programs into K-12 must be monitored to ensure the current successful models are not negatively impacted. The State Board must be accountable. 

The League of Women Voters of Michigan reserves the right to review all responses for clarity and content. We will contact you if changes need to be made before it can be posted on

Sunday, September 9, 2012

On education reform

Check out this article!

Sunday, August 5, 2012

Friday, August 3, 2012

Teachers as Professionals

Somewhere along the line, "we" stopped treating teachers like professionals and many teachers started behaving like they were not professionals.  I can't say which came first;  perhaps a little like the chicken and the egg.  But clearly, one behavior perpetuates the other.

But here we are and this is a serious problem.  I believe we must get a handle on this problem if we are to reverse the trend and really make gains in educating all our children to be prepared to face the future productively.

I use the quotes around "we" because I think the non-professional treatment of teachers comes from many sources.
    -  The Union leadership treats teachers like a source of revenue and power, not really engaging in a productive conversation about improving student achievement and negotiating to get teachers at the table where important education policy decisions are made.
     - School administrators force technology, textbooks, curriculum, schedules, and more on teachers in a "one size fits all" model.  I used to develop computer applications for a living.  In a non-professional environment, we used a push strategy for new systems.  A management team and a select group of "users" would specify the terms and operation of a system, then the system would be implemented and ALL members of the user group would be required to use this new system.  This model works when you are driving technology for efficiency and accuracy, like check-out clerks, bank tellers, line operators and so on.  But systems developed for professionals are more a pull strategy where system design is more flexible with parts that can be tailored to the individual preference.  The professionals could opt-in to using the new system if and when they determined it would have a positive effect on their outcomes.
    - Policy makers convene great thinkers from academia, business leaders, opinion leaders,
consulting companies and a few select teachers (rarely parents) and develop new policies, and unfortunately even practices, that will then be imposed on all teachers.  The current Common Core Standards and Assessments is a perfect example.  Here is a link to an Ed Week article expressing a similar concern.

   - Universities that offer schools of education frequently look at these schools as cash cows for the other, more expensive and elite programs the institution wants to offer.  Hundreds and hundreds of students can be processed through courses that are not all that hard, ensuring a high graduation rate.  Accreditation for schools of education in Michigan is not geared around inspiring especially talented young adults to high level of personal learning and creative thinking about how to teach children.  Here is an interesting article about this concern from Hillsdale College's perspective.

On the other hand, no group can just demand to be treated like professionals and have it happen.  Professionalism is an attitude, a concern toward outcomes, a commitment to excellence, a willingness to police oneself and ones peers.  The more credible, intentional and impactful this police effort, the faster the transition of those around them.

One way we can create an education system that allows the profession of teaching to re-emerge and grow, is to create a system that offers robust choice, not only for parents and students, but for teachers!  If teachers have viable choices about where to teach, especially without having to sell their home and leave their community, they will pick those institutions that offer them the opportunity to be professionals.  And when the teachers who work there behave like committed, results-oriented, accountable professionals, children will learn.  Then more children will enroll and more teachers will want to be there and so on.

Thursday, August 2, 2012

The Significance of a Starfish

I came across this tale a while ago, and it has stayed with me:
There once was a wise man who used to go to the ocean to do his writing. He had a habit of walking on the beach before he began his work. One day he was walking along the shore, as he looked down the beach, he saw a human figure moving like a dancer. He smiled to himself to think of someone who would dance to the day and he began to walk faster to catch up.
As he got closer, he saw that it was a young man, and the young man wasn’t dancing, but instead he was reaching down to the shore, picking up something, and very gently throwing it into the ocean.
He called out, “Good morning, what are you doing?”
The young man paused, looked up and replied, “Throwing starfish into the ocean.”
“I guess I should have asked: WHY are you throwing starfish in the ocean?”
“The sun is up and the tide is going out. And if I don’t throw them, then they’ll die.”
“But, young man, don’t you realize that there are miles and miles of beach and starfish all along it. There must be thousands of them on this beach alone. You can’t possibly hope to make a difference!”
The young man listened politely, then bent down, picked up another starfish and threw it into the sea, past the breaking waves and said, “To THAT one, I made a difference.”
The message I got from this is clear: I cannot change the whole world. But I can make a difference.  If I can enable one more child to have an opportunity, to be taught be a teacher who cares if that child learns, then I have made a difference.

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

June 2012 Melanie Kurdys
 A number of years ago, a collaboration of state governors and superintendents of education began work on a common set of educational standards. Their goal was to provide a common definition of what children should know and be able to do for each grade K-12, theoretically lifting up all states to the highest standards.

 Since then, the U.S. Federal government has become involved, first offering incentive money to states who commit to following these common standards, then offering to fund the development of new assessments to go with the standards and now, planning to tie Title 1 Funding for special education to the requirement that states use these standards and assessments.
There are three reasons why citizens must stand up and stop this march to national standards.
1) The standards are not modeled on the most rigorous and proven standards in the U. S., which would be Massachusetts. In fact, the standards are not as rigorous as what many states have, including Michigan.
 2) Even if the standards were excellent, the U. S. Federal government has no constitutional standing to take over the development, maintenance and assessment of educational standards. This right and responsibility belongs to the states. In the Michigan constitution, educational leadership is defined as being determined by “local control” putting the ultimate rights in the hands of parents.
 3) There is no evidence that spending all the time and money required for developing and implementing these new standards and assessments will result in better student achievement outcomes. Evidence both nationally and internationally shows that better student achievement outcomes come from empowering parents with educational options and engagement and excellent teachers.
 Here are some additional resources that explain the issue in more detail.

  We must come together in Michigan to stop Common Core. Tell your legislators to take action to prevent Common Core from being implemented in Michigan. Vote for legislators and state school board members who oppose Common Core. We all know the education system in Michigan must be improved, but we must retain the right to determine our own destiny without federal intervention.