Please join Advocates for Academic Freedom (AAF). Membership is free because you and your time are our most valuable assets. Our goals are to assure the academic freedom of all American students, to advocate the development of critical thinking skills in all educational settings, and to facilitate academic environments which respect robust thinking and discussion in all classrooms. To achieve these goals, we will advocate for libraries of federally and state funded schools to provide materials representing a balance of various points of view regarding science, history, social studies, health, and civics classes. Our blog is filled with information, we encourage your feedback and participation.

Click on the title of any of the blogs listed below, you will be brought to a page where you can post your comments. We will review and release the comments to the blog within a day or so.

Sunday, August 14, 2011


The current revelation that a significant number of Atlanta teachers and administrators were caught changing student test scores reveals the desperation educators experience when they are held accountable for productivity while given little power to make classroom decisions that would promote maximum academic achievement among students.

Educational experts continue to prepare new teachers to use the same teaching methods which have failed our children for seventy years. Administrators endorse these inadequate methods by basing teacher evaluations on the teachers’ implementation of the same methods of instruction. Cooperative grouping of children and the inquiry and discovery methods of instruction all have positive aspects, but they are not necessarily the most effective methods for introducing new concepts to children or for development of student understanding of fundamental principles.

The National Council of Teachers of Mathematics recommended that calculators replace the memorization of basic facts, that students be required to do less pencil and paper assignments, and that math homework be limited. These approaches have failed our students, and the proof is in the rapid decline of student test scores over the last seventy years.

If teachers are going to be held accountable for academic success of students, teachers must be empowered to select the teaching methods which will bring positive results to any specific learning situation. That includes a return to a reasonable amount of homework in core subjects where repetition is essential to memorize basic facts as in math and grammar and where extensive reading is necessary as in literature and history.

Academic success has also been hindered by heterogeneous grouping of children, a result of the Brown vs. the Board of Education law suit in the 1950s. Consequently, each classroom must include students of differing ability levels and diverse backgrounds creating insurmountable problems in many classrooms. This level of diversity in the classroom requires the teacher to find a teaching method which reaches all students equally. This is often impossible.

Continuing to ignore this truth almost guarantees poor academic results. Students who struggle academically need to have new information presented differently than a presentation would be for students who have a strong background, interest, or aptitude for the subject. Yet, teachers are not given the flexibility to group children according to learning style or needs, but they are held solely responsible for the consequences of this impractical situation.

While these problems are not the only ones which limit a teacher’s opportunity to help students excel, they are among the most damaging. This professional educational environment is not unlike holding a teacher accountable for maintaining high academic and behavioral standards even though her mouth has been taped shut and her hands tied behind her back. Such an untenable educational environment is destructive to the educational process, to students, and to our society.

Curriculum materials too often focus on political and social goals rather than mastery of basic skills that are prerequisites for student proficiency in the subject. Even math teachers have been required to spend class time showing videos like THE STORY OF STUFF and AN INCONVENIENT TRUTH which do not address age-appropriate math issues relevant to the class curriculum.

Critical thinking skills have been removed from classroom curriculum because their development would require two sides of an issue to be discussed. There has been no time planned for this discussion in the modern classroom so one side of an issue has been imposed time and again upon both students and teachers even though the irrelevance of the socio/political goal to the subject matter is clear. This would not happen if student academic achievement were the primary goal.

An investigator of the Alabama cheating stated, “In sum, a culture of fear, intimidation and retaliation permeated the APS system from the highest ranks down. Cheating was allowed to proliferate until, in the words of one former APS principal, ‘it became intertwined in Atlanta Public Schools ... a part of what the culture is all about.’ ” Many educators are trying to use this experience as proof that assessment tools are the culprit, but that is the wrong approach to take.

Children must learn how to take tests because they face tests throughout their lives. ACT and SAT tests are required to enter college, and college exams provide the main criteria for determining a student’s grade. Teachers, doctors, dentists, lawyers, realtors, electricians, and plumbers are all tested to prove their competence and their understanding of the subject matter. Testing is NOT the problem. A culture that refuses to place the academic achievement of students above political and social ideologies is the problem.

The most effective solution to the problem of cheating among teachers and administrators is to empower teachers to use the teaching methods which best meet the needs of their students, to refuse curriculum that does not focus on the subject, to provide curriculums that encourage the mastery of basic skills, and to require students to meet practical academic expectations by consistently showing their work and finishing reasonable amounts of homework. This support for teachers must come from the American public.

Friday, August 12, 2011


Ben Franklin said that America will be a republic “as long as you can keep it” and Abe Lincoln said that the philosophy of the classroom of one generation becomes the philosophy of the government of the next generation. Please join Advocates for Academic Freedom and become part of a grassroots movement to return traditional American values, fact-based curriculum, and accountability to education. We need your voice and involvement if we are going to keep our republic. To join, click on the hot link: http://advocatesforacademicfreedom.org/


Many educational leaders are using the cheating tragedy discovered among Atlanta teachers and administrators as an opportunity to attack the value of testing for accountability. Educators encourage eliminating current skill-based objective testing requirements so that teachers can teach instead of “teaching to the test”. This is a specious argument manipulated by educational experts through ever-changing professional jargon. Once the jargon is eliminated, the flaw in the argument is clear. Lost in the debate is the fact that testing can be a successful accountability tool if several basic changes occur in the educational system. The circuitous debate will continue until the underlying issue has been addressed: test results may be used to hold teachers accountable for that which is beyond their control.

Society has the right to set academic expectations for schools and to expect that accurate methods be used to verify student mastery of basic skills. For example: society has the right to expect students to have instant recall of multiplication facts one through ten and to expect an assessment of the student’s level of mastery. In this case, please, teach to the test!

“Teaching to the test” means to some that tests may include questions which are not a part of the mandatory curriculum and require teachers to teach lessons that will simply assure the student test successfully. The argument proves that teachers are given notice about the types of questions their students will be expected to answer on the test making this another illegitimate argument with two reasonable solutions.

First, teachers need to determine whether the skill is grade-level appropriate. If it is, the real question should be, “Why was the skill missing from the district-approved curriculum?” Typically, teachers write additional lessons to compensate for the flawed district curriculum and to provide the student an opportunity to learn this necessary skill. In this case, teaching to the test can provide greater opportunity for students.

Second, suppose the test question is not grade-level appropriate. For example: it is unreasonable to expect a typical third-grade student to answer questions about the Pythagorean Theorem. In this case, school leadership may request the company which designed the test to eliminate the question from future tests for that grade level and exclude the question in final test results. This is a natural process for developing effective testing tools. There is no need for any student or school district to endure long-term consequences for this type of error. In this situation, teaching to the test has increased communication between educators and creators of tests improving the quality of the testing instrument.

Educators must respect the fact that testing is an accepted accountability tool used by colleges, employers, the military and other entities seeking to define skill level. Children need to be adequately prepared for this level of evaluation.

When educators believe that developing successful testing skills prepares children for the real world, they will not only prepare children for life’s challenges but teachers will also have a valuable tool to help them recognize the specific academic needs of each student.

Test taking skills include a respect for important subtleties of language. Many test questions ask children to compare and contrast ideas, to identify advantages or disadvantages, to know the difference between a graph and a chart. Good test-taking skills encompass good life skills such as learning to pace one-self to avoid lingering too long over difficult questions and to plan to return to them later. Students are taught to identify key words for success such as finding “action” words and making sure that each action item is completed.

When “teaching to the test” has so many advantages for students, why do so many educators undermine the experience? It is not testing that worries teachers but the probability that they will be held accountable for test results when many factors that affect academic success are beyond their control or influence. The following are just a few of the changes which must occur before teachers can accept full accountability for test results.

1. Communication between school districts, the state, text book companies, and publishers of testing materials must be improved to promote creation of testing tools compatible with the state’s curriculum. State curriculums must be skill based rather than “innovative”.
2. Teachers must be treated as professionals and given the right to decide which teaching methods and strategies to use in their classroom. Administrators must support all reasonable choices made by the teacher.
3. School boards, school districts, and administrators must no longer require implementation of any teaching strategy which has not been proven academically sound. Studies must be scientifically based and the results replicable and available to teachers before implementation. No Child Left Behind (NCLB) legislation promotes this requirement.
4. States must meet their obligation to provide clearly stated, reasonable standards for each grade level. NCLB legislation establishes this requirement.
5. Schools must have dependable, adequate funding to provide updated curriculum that meets changing curriculum requirements. NCLB provides good funding in this area.
6. Adequate, dependable funding must be made available for testing supplies and for communication of testing results. Until NCLB provided significant funding, many states had no funding for regular testing tools, for the time and personnel needed to correct the products of assessment tools, or for distribution of the data provided.
7. Teachers must be allowed to participate in regular evaluations of their administrators’ support of district academic and behavioral standards and of their support for teachers attempting to meet those district standards.

Teachers have little or no control over problems identified by this partial list of changes which are needed before public educators can focus effectively on the academic success of their students. Until teachers have a reasonable measure of control over factors which limit academic success of their students, teachers will continue to resist being held primarily accountable for that success.

Thursday, May 5, 2011


This website is worth the time to visit. There is help for students with questions about all levels of math and science study.Simply click on the title of this post and you will be taken to the Khan Academy.