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mother teresa
Character Education Curriculum Question: Would these strategies put forth by Mother Teresa be aligned to Missouri Learning Standards, aka Common Core State Standards? Who would make that decision? Would this curriculum follow the assessments?

 

The Fulton Sun has an informative article on personal and invasive questioning students were subjected to by physical education teachers at Fulton Middle School recently.  From Fulton Public Schools investigates class activity that made middle school students uncomfortable:

Fulton Public Schools (FPS) is launching a comprehensive investigation during its spring break after physical education teachers conducted a class activity that has parents and participating students upset.

In a first-hour middle school physical education class Friday, teachers led an activity called “Claim It,” in which students were read various statements about their identity, and if the statement applied to a student’s life, he or she stepped forward in a line, according to the “Claim It” activity materials provided by Fulton Public Schools.

The 100-statement activity, which has been referred to as a survey, includes more elementary statements like “You believe ghosts are real” and “You have never been on a plane.” Other statements read “You have tried alcohol” and “Your parents are divorced.”

The sensitive statements that have raised concerns include: “You or someone in your family has been raped or sexually assaulted,” “You have ever been physically abused by someone who said they love you,” “You worry or have worried about how your family will pay the bills,” and “Someone in your family has been addicted to alcohol or drugs.”

The article provides the 4 page questionnaire with more questions such as:

  • declaring your religious upbringing
  • ‘if you believe that ghosts are real’
  • your political persuasion
  • if you have ever been called ‘a slut or a whore’

 

The article continues:

In an email sent to parents of middle school students on Friday, Superintendent Jacque Cowherd apologized for “any stress it has caused” children and their families. A release from Fulton Public Schools states the activity was a part of a school day focusing on character education, and is “aligned to the Missouri State Standards for health and is also a part of the Fulton Middle School health curriculum.”

“The activity is designed to be welcoming and inclusive so students don’t feel isolated and alone,” the release states. “It is never the intent to make any student feel unwelcome or uncomfortable.”

Keep these questions in mind as you read further about Missouri Learning Standards, Grade Level Expectations, Health curriculum aligned to Common Core State Standards, curriculum choices, and parental involvement:

  • Who is ultimately accountable for this curriculum and its use?  State statute says that districts have the ability to set their own curriculum.  The superintendent should know what curriculum is being used in his/her district.  If this superintendent is supportive of this survey and actions in “Claim It”, he should face questions from taxpayers in the district for his decisions in using this activity.
  • Is “Claim It” aligned to the MO Learning Standards (Common Core standards) via Health development of skills or not?  Did the school decide to use this curriculum as “Claim It” supposedly (from its own description) aligns with DESE’s goal of fostering respect and diversity?  Does local curriculum need to align itself to the assessments provided by DESE or assessments written by private non-governmental organizations?  Is the “Claim It” curriculum aligned to the assessments?  Are parents allowed to see the assessments to which curriculum must align?  Is this exercise truly aligned to the Standards or is it just a poor decision to use invasive techniques to have students provide personal information?
  • Is there any research showing that the use of such a survey is beneficial to students and a subsequent decrease in bullying and other harmful behaviors?  Does it actually foster self-respect for others or does it have other unintended consequences?
  • If it is aligned, who is responsible for this curriculum decision and how can parents have it pulled from the school if they find it objectionable?  Who makes the determination if curriculum aligns to the The Missouri Learning Standards (Common Core State Standards) or it doesn’t?  Are parents allowed to participate on the curriculum committee and do parents have access to curriculum used in their school?
  • Does local curriculum need to follow the framework set forth by DESE in guidance and counseling that are aligned to the Missouri Learning Standards (which are noted on these lessons as being taken from the Common Core Standards) for accreditation purposes?
  • Why weren’t parents notified of this survey as required by law before it was given?

 

The explanation from the district in using the survey is from the first page on the letter to Fulton Middle School parents which encourages ‘respecting the many parts of the identities of others’:

 

claim it 1

 

From our previous posting on a similar character education activity occurring in Wisconsin, This Game Best Left to Experts,  we questioned the legality of such a survey which asks for personal and invasive personal information to be shared:

It is unfortunate that Marinette Middle School administrators are unfamiliar with the Protection of Pupil Rights Amendment (PPRA), 20 U.S.C. § 1232h. This federal law requires  school districts or schools to notify parents and obtain consent or allow them to opt their child out of participating in certain school activities. These activities include a student survey, analysis, or evaluation that concerns one or more of the following eight areas:

1. Political affiliations or beliefs of the student or student’s parent;
2. Mental or psychological problems of the student or student’s family;
3. Sex behavior or attitudes;
4. Illegal, anti-social, self-incriminating, or demeaning behavior;
5. Critical appraisals of others with whom respondents have close family relationships; 6. Legally recognized privileged relationships, such as with lawyers, doctors, or ministers;
7. Religious practices, affiliations, or beliefs of the student or parents; or
8. Income, other than as required by law to determine program eligibility.

The comments on the Fulton Sun article  bring up the questions on why would any adult believe that asking students to divulge personal information in front their peers is a good idea…and is it even legal? Why would any adult ask such information?

The superintendent says it aligns to Missouri Learning Standards (Common Core State Standards) for health, while DESE insists schools pick the curriculum and that this curriculum is not from The Missouri State Standards, aka Common Core State Standards.  DESE states that it doesn’t govern curriculum issues, but what I don’t read from DESE is a comment on whether or not this curriculum aligns to the Standards or GLEs.  From DESE director, parents respond to concerns over P.E. activity:

 

dese claim it statement

fsd and dese

I didn’t find anything similar to “Claim It” on the GLEs either.  I did expand my search to the grade-level expectations in Guidance and Counseling from DESE which can be found here.  I searched Middle School Guidance Units  and while there are several lessons and curriculum which support the development of skills in the following academic content areas in which Health is selected, I also did not find any reference to “Claim It” activity in the lessons.  There is no directive for districts to use specific curriculum to accomplish these lesson plans.  However, at the beginning of each unit in Guidance and Counseling, and referred to in the GLEs, there is this introduction explaining personal/social development which would ostensibly include character education (example on page 19/603):

 (click graphic to enlarge)

dese character education

Are the units listed in DESE’s Personal and Social Development and the emphasis on Interacting with others in ways that respect individual and group differences and applying personal safety skills and coping strategies giving any credence to the superintendent’s claim that the “Claim It” curriculum aligns to the Missouri Learning Standards, aka Common Core State Standards?  The self-described purpose of “Claim It”  strives for honoring diversity and respect that DESE wants to accomplish through its guidance curriculum and lessons as indicated in its unit introduction.   You can find the 2237 page DESE document here.

From comments on the Fulton Sun article about the activity:

Not an excuse for the teachers. The question is why was this activity in an approved curriculum? Some teachers in that school are running scared because they have been told teachers will be fired if the MAP scores do not improve. The Principal has already been fired for the same reason. If the teachers don’t follow the approved curriculum they could be insubordinate and that would be grounds to be fired. The superintendent has said this activity is from DESE which is not true.

and

In my opinion the statement in the article by the superintendent “The activity is designed to be welcoming and inclusive so students don’t feel isolated and alone,” the release states. “It is never the intent to make any student feel unwelcome or uncomfortable” shows a complete lack of understand of middle school children and is incredibly insensitive. The Board only has themselves to blame. The statement also shows he was aware of the curriculum and approved it. Remember all things in the curriculum must be approved by Central Office and the Board. If they claim they didn’t know, it is even worse.

Revisiting the questions:

  • Who is ultimately accountable for this curriculum and its use?  State statute says that districts have the ability to set their own curriculum.  The superintendent should know what curriculum is being used in his/her district.  If this superintendent is supportive of this survey and actions in “Claim It”, he should face questions from taxpayers in the district for his decisions in using this activity.
  • Is “Claim It” aligned to the MO Learning Standards (Common Core standards) via Health development of skills or not?  Did the school decide to use this curriculum as “Claim It” supposedly (from its own description) aligns with DESE’s goal of fostering respect and diversity?  Does local curriculum need to align itself to the assessments provided by DESE or assessments written by private non-governmental organizations?  Is the “Claim It” curriculum aligned to the assessments?  Are parents allowed to see the assessments to which curriculum must align?  Is this exercise truly aligned to the Standards or is it just a poor decision to use invasive techniques to have students provide personal information?
  • Is there any research showing that the use of such a survey is beneficial to students and a subsequent decrease in bullying and other harmful behaviors?  Does it actually foster self-respect for others or does it have other unintended consequences?
  • If it is aligned, who is responsible for this curriculum decision and how can parents have it pulled from the school if they find it objectionable?  Who makes the determination if curriculum aligns to the The Missouri Learning Standards (Common Core State Standards) or it doesn’t?  Are parents allowed to participate on the curriculum committee and do parents have access to curriculum used in their school?
  • Does local curriculum need to follow the framework set forth by DESE in guidance and counseling that are aligned to the Missouri Learning Standards (which are noted on these lessons as being taken from the Common Core Standards) for accreditation purposes?
  • Why weren’t parents notified of this survey as required by law before it was given?

Parents should instruct their children never to participate in surveys requesting such invasive questioning, even if it is presented as fostering respect for yourself and others.  If students are instructed not to tell their parents about certain school activities, the students should understand the parents are the first ones to alert to such school programs. 

Gretchen Logue

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