In her column on Thursday, September 1st in the StarTribune, Katherine Kersten delivers a glowing euology for Cheri Pierson Yecke, the shrew that blew into town a few years ago to revolutionize public education and who ultimately could not find the confidence of a single DFL senator to secure her confirmation as the Commissioner of Education in Minnesota. Spot has written about Pierson Yecke recently in Don't let the door hit you on the butt, Cheri! Spot missed a few points the first time around, so Katie's column gives him another shot at her, er, it.
The irony, according to Katie, is the fact that Minnesota schools performed well on standardized tests last year, just as Cheri is dropping her bid for elective office and moving out of state in a huff. Spotty says it more like a harmonic convergence. Here's what City Pages had to say about Cheri's style:
Once in Minnesota, Yecke helped ram through the new reading and math standards required to get No Child Left Behind funding. This September, almost exactly six years after she decried encroaching federal involvement in education, she praised the act as "a strong law, a morally righteous law." (A spokesperson for Yecke at the education department did not follow through on a pledge to get a statement from the commissioner for this story.)In other words, Cheri is the angel of death for public education, which is fine with Katie, too.
It's now clear that Yecke's earlier objection to Clinton's education policies [see the City Pages article for the details] had less to do with federal intervention than with who is doing the intervening. Ironically, the clamoring for more local autonomy in education stems from a nationally coordinated, ideologically driven movement that seeks to deprive public schools of stable funding and force them to compete in the private market. And Yecke is clearly a part of that movement.
Cheri thinks very little of teachers, school administrations and their ability to supervise teachers, and of school boards to manage the whole shebang:
"With accountability," Yecke told me [Katie] this week, "teachers can't spend time in exercises in political correctness, or fun and games in the classroom. When there's a more focused academic effort, some of the fluff goes."Cheri shares some similarities (back up and say that really fast five times) with Katie: bug-eyed control freakism. Accountability is fine, just so long as the accountability to to Cheri dearest.
And the fate of Cheri's cherished (Spotty, stop it) social studies standards? Here are some excerpts from an article by Paul Spies:
In early September 2003, the Minnesota Department of Education released a first draft of new K-12 social studies standards for public comment.
As a parent and former social studies teacher, I struggled with disbelief and anger as I forged through the 56-page document. It was packed with 233 standards and 848 corresponding benchmarks specifying what students might have to know about U.S. history, world history, geography, economics, and civics. I felt that my own children's and their peers' futures would be at risk if they were forced to passively learn the standards' factoids. (Click here for examples from the initial standards document.) I knew I needed to get involved, but I didn't know how.
. . .
In March, Minnesota's Republican-majority House voted to support the increasingly embattled commissioner by approving the proposed standards. The Senate, with its Democratic majority, rejected the proposed standards. But they passed an alternative set of standards, which were developed by social studies teachers and historians. Many of us found the alternative standards flawed but more politically balanced, less Eurocentric, and more age-appropriate than the ones Yecke's committee developed.
In the last week of the session, House and Senate leaders had secretly agreed to have a bipartisan appointed group of educators work around the clock with staffers at the Department of Education to try and develop a compromise set of standards.
On May 16 at 3:30 a.m., with three hours left before the sun would rise and the legislative session would end, I watched Minnesota's elected officials pass this compromise set of standards without debate. Just a few minutes later, the Senate finally took action on the issue of whether or not to confirm Commissioner Yecke. Senate Democrats showed rare unity in unanimously rejecting her appointment.
Cheri got the double hex, right at the end. And science standards? Don't get PZ Myers started on science standards and Cheri Pierson Yecke.
Yecke is headed for Florida to wreak more havoc on public education there. As people have observed (echoing Spotty's sentiments): Minnesota's loss is Florida's gain! Boy that is so true!
Except, if you lose a negative, it is a positive, both in algebra and politics. So, Minnesota bids adieu to Cheri, who rides off, waving, with her teeth clenched in a smile.