Change.gov is closed, whitehouse.gov is up(dated)

I slightly panicked when I went to change.gov today and saw only a plain-looking box referring everyone to whitehouse.gov. I was afraid all the links I created to change.gov in my previous posts were broken. (“Citizen’s Briefing Book at change.gov” from January 13, 2009, and “Citizen’s Briefing Book update” from January 20, 2009) But I should have known better — an administration that is so web savvy would never do that to the people — you can click on continue on to change.gov and see all of the previous content. Phew! (June 30, 2010 update — it seems the citizen’s briefing book has been taken down, after all. Too bad.)

I checked out whitehouse.gov as well, while I was at it, especially “The Agenda.”

The Education agenda promises several things that I find interesting (I’m not sure how static those pages are going to be so for future reference, I’m copying the text. June 30, 2010 – good thing I copied the paragraph below, it’s no longer there.)

Obama and Biden will reform NCLB, which starts by funding the law. Obama and Biden believe teachers should not be forced to spend the academic year preparing students to fill in bubbles on standardized tests. They will improve the assessments used to track student progress to measure readiness for college and the workplace and improve student learning in a timely, individualized manner. Obama and Biden will also improve NCLB’s accountability system so that we are supporting schools that need improvement, rather than punishing them.

I love the language on filling in bubbles. But I wonder what they mean by improving student learning in an “individualized manner”? differentiation, perhaps? (I wish)

Another item on the Agenda:

Barack Obama and Joe Biden will double funding for the Federal Charter School Program to support the creation of more successful charter schools.

That’s very nice, especially given the fact that a recent report Informing the Debate: Comparing Boston’s Charter, Pilot, and Traditional Schools finds

large positive effects for Charter Schools, at both the middle school and high school levels. For each year of attendance in middle school, we estimate that Charter Schools raise student achievement .09 to .17 standard deviations in English Language Arts and .18 to .54 standard deviations in math relative to those attending traditional schools in the Boston Public Schools.

Unfortunately, the elementary charter schools that are closest to where we live are not that great and they’re two towns away anyway. And I doubt there are enough people in our town with enough drive and determination to create a charter school. What I’d prefer more than charter schools would be a choice to send my child to any good public school, in or beyond the town I live in, not just the option of getting on the lottery list for a charter school. That will never happen, though. The parents in rich towns would be too much against such a measure and will not allow that. That would probably be even worse than desegregation for them.

July 30, 201 update — the language on charger schools has been changed as well, it says now:

The President believes that investment in education must be accompanied by reform and innovation. The President supports the expansion of high-quality charter schools. He has challenged States to lift limits that stifle growth among successful charter schools and has encouraged rigorous accountability for all charter schools.

Going back to the whitehouse.gov Education agenda:

Make Math and Science Education a National Priority: Obama and Biden will recruit math and science degree graduates to the teaching profession and will support efforts to help these teachers learn from professionals in the field. They will also work to ensure that all children have access to a strong science curriculum at all grade levels.

That would be very nice. My son loves math. What I also would like to see is the change of attitude toward math. He keeps hearing from his friends that they hate math and I think he is beginning to think that, in general, loving math is not “cool.”

July 30, 2010 update — the Education agenda page does not mention anything about Math and Science now, but I noticed a link in the right column to a blog post “2010 MATHCOUNTS Winners Visit President Obama,” which mentions Obama’s “Educate to Innovate” Campaign.”

Again, going back to the whitehouse.gov original Education agenda:

Expand High-Quality Afterschool Opportunities: Obama and Biden will double funding for the main federal support for afterschool programs, the 21st Century Learning Centers program, to serve one million more children.

I wonder if that will trickle down to little towns like the one we live in. The town’s after school program doesn’t have enough slots to serve all children. We have to pay extra for a private after school.

July 30, 2010 update — that language is gone too and there’s nothing about afterschools at all.

Last, but hopefully not least, item on the Education agenda:

Obama and Biden will work to ensure the academic success of students with disabilities by increasing funding and effectively enforcing the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act, and by holding schools accountable for providing students with disabilities the services and supports they need to reach their potential. Obama and Biden will also support Early Intervention services for infants and toddlers, and will work to improve college opportunities for high school graduates with disabilities.

Sounds nice. I wonder when we’ll see that happen.

July 30, 2010 update – that language is gone as well, but the new language includes a claim that the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act

includes $5 billion for early learning programs, including Head Start, Early Head Start, child care, and programs for children with special needs.

By the way, a separate, Disabilities Agenda says:

Provide Americans with disabilities with the educational opportunities they need to succeed by funding the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act, supporting early intervention for children with disabilities and universal screening, improving college opportunities for high school graduates with disabilities, and making college more affordable. Obama and Biden will also authorize a comprehensive study of students with disabilities and issues relating to transition to work and higher education.

June 30, 2010 update — the language seems to have been changed to:

President Obama supports educational opportunities for people with disabilities and will expand funding for programs like the Individuals with Disabilities in Education Act (IDEA) that ensure all Americans have access to the tools to succeed. President Obama also supports increased enforcement of IDEA.

And, interestingly, there is a whole, separate, section titled”Autism” on the bottom of that page:

President Obama and Vice President Biden are committed to supporting Americans with Autism Spectrum Disorders ASD), their families, and their communities. There are a few key elements to their support, which are as follows:

  • First, President Obama and Vice President Biden support increased funding for autism research, treatment, screenings, public awareness, and support services. There must be research of the treatments for, and the causes of, ASD.
  • Second, President Obama and Vice President Biden support improving life-long services for people with ASD for treatments, interventions and services for both children and adults with ASD.
  • Third, President Obama and Vice President Biden support funding the Combating Autism Act and working with Congress, parents and ASD experts to determine how to further improve federal and state programs for ASD.
  • Fourth, President Obama and Vice President Biden support universal screening of all infants and re-screening for all two-year-olds, the age at which some conditions, including ASD, begin to appear. These screenings will be safe and secure, and available for every American that wants them. Screening is essential so that disabilities can be identified early enough for those children and families to get the supports and services they need.

On another hand, the search of whitehouse.gov did not bring any results for “ADHD” or “gifted.”

June 30, 2010 update — there’s nothing about autism on the Disabilities page anymore.

Citizen’s Briefing Book update

The Citizen’s Briefing Book, which I mentioned in the post “Citizen’s Briefing Book at change.gov” was closed on Sunday, January 18, 2009 (see “Wrapping up the Citizen’s Briefing Book”  entry on the change.gov blog).

My comment “Revamp the Javits Gifted and Talented Students Education Program” got only 210 votes overall and two comments. My two other comments got more points — “Education for Gifted Children” got 500 points and “Gifted Education” got 470 points.

The “Begin a discussion about fair public school funding” comment was just a tad more popular — it got 230 points (and two comments). I must say I’m really surprised people put up with the way the schools are funded because it really is not fair to poor kids to have to go to crappy schools just because their parents cannot afford to live in a town where the schools are good.

“Fulfill the promise of the federal IDEA (Individuals with Disabilities Education Act) funding” got 420 points (and eight comments, some of them quite passionate).

I must say I’m quite surprised that of the four comments I submitted, the “Ban artificial coloring and chemicals in foods” was the most popular — it got 620 points (and 5 comments). Granted, that’s nothing with the most popular entries that got thousands and thousands of votes. But if people care about this topic so much, why isn’t there more of an outcry to do something about artificial coloring in the U.S.? I wonder if the new administration will do anything in that direction.

Citizen’s Briefing Book at change.gov

I think this is fairly new — it was published on President-Elect’s Blog today at 12:47 pm EST — The incoming president and his administration are inviting ideas and submissions to the Citizen’s Briefing Book.

The site promises “The best rated ideas will rise to the top — and be gathered into a Citizen’s Briefing Book to be delivered to President Obama after he is sworn in.”

When I searched the ideas already posted, there wasn’t much on special or gifted education (or autism, or ADHD for that matter), so I added the following (see below). Feel free to vote on these, or add your own ideas.

Whether you like my ideas or not, it doesn’t matter, everyone is entitled to their own opinion, but please forward the information about the Citizen’s Briefing Book to everyone you think might be interested.

* * *
Revamp the Javits Gifted and Talented Students Education Program

Please revamp the federal Javits Gifted and Talented Students Education Program so that it benefits not only a small group of students whose schools were lucky enough to get the grant but all gifted students in the whole country. One of the ways to do that would be to create a FEDERAL mandate to identify and serve gifted students similar to the IDEA mandate to identify students that need special services and encourage districts to form cooperative magnet schools or classrooms.

Some people say that gifted children do not need help, they will do fine on their own, but some those children might have the brains to help solve the global warming or find a cure for cancer, IF they allowed and encouraged to progress through the curriculum at the speed they can handle. Making them slow down to the pace of everyone else is killing their enthusiasm for learning and wastes America’s potential.

* * *
Beging a discussion about fair public school funding

As long as the quality of education a child gets depends on the income of that child’s parents and their ability to buy a house in the best school district or send a child to a private school there will be NO EQUAL OPPORTUNITY for children in this country.

Please begin a discussion about fair and nondiscriminatory distribution of public school funding to decrease the inequality between schools in rich neighborhoods that have beautiful labs and well-stocked libraries, and those in poor neighborhoods where there isn’t even enough money to repaint the walls over the summer.

* * *
Fulfill the promise of the federal IDEA (Individuals with Disabilities Education Act) funding

Please make sure the federal government lives up to its promise of funding 40% of the IDEA costs.

* * *
Ban artificial coloring and chemicals in foods

Please make the FDA ban artificial coloring, flavoring, and chemicals in foods and medications, especially in foods that children like (snacks, candy, etc.). Artificial coloring have been found to be harmful by researchers in Europe and companies such as Nestle and Kellog’s are removing these chemicals from the products they sell in Europe but not in the U.S. because here they are not required to do that. Our children deserve no worse than European children and should not have to eat that crap.

(see also the “Citizen’s Briefing Book update” from January 19, 2009)