Sunday, August 28, 2016

Common Core’s New New Math has the Same Problem as the Old New Math

By:  Steven Singer, Director BATs Blogging/Research Team
Originally published on his blog
little tired boy sitting at a desk and holding hands to head

Bad ideas are like unlucky pennies – they keep coming back again.
Take the New Math. Or maybe I should say the New New Math.
Common Core State Standards suggests we teach children a new way to do arithmetic. We should focus on multiple ways to reach an answer with an emphasis on understanding the concept behind the problem rather than just manipulating numbers.
It sounds fine in theory – until you think about it for five minutes.
When learning a new skill, it’s best to master a single, simple approach before being exposed to other more complex methods. Otherwise, you run the risk of confusion, frustration and ultimately not learning how to solve the problem.
Take directions.
If you’re lost and you ask for directions, you don’t want someone to tell you five ways to reach your destination. You want one, relatively simple way to get there – preferably with the least amount of turns and the highest number of landmarks.
Maybe later if you’re going to be traveling to this place frequently, you may want to learn alternate routes. But the first time, you’re more concerned about finding the destination (i.e. getting the answer) than understanding how the landscape would appear on a map.
This is the problem with Common Core math. It doesn’t merely ALLOW students to pursue alternate methods of solving problems. It REQUIRES them to know all the ways the problem can be solved and to be able to explain each method. Otherwise, it presumes to evaluate the student’s understanding as insufficient.
This is highly unfair to students. No wonder so many are failing.
Sadly there’s some history here that should have warned us about the perils of this approach.
Common Core isn’t the first new math approach to come along. In the 1960s we had a method actually called “The New Math.” And like Common Core, it was a dismal failure.
Like the Core, it proposed to focus more on conceptual understanding, but to do so itneedlessly complicated matters at the grade school level.
It introduced set theory, forcing students to think of numbers as groups of objects rather than abstractions to be manipulated. In an advanced undergraduate mathematics course, this makes perfect sense. In first grade, it muddles the learning tremendously.
To make matters even more perplexing, it mandates students look at numbers with bases other than 10. This is incredibly confounding for elementary students who often resort to their fingers to help them understand early math.
Tom Lehrer wrote a very funny song about the new math which shows how confusing it can be. The methods used to solve the problem can be helpful but an emphasis on the conceptual underpinning at early ages perplexes more than it helps:
Popular culture is full of sly references to this old New Math. Charles Schultz wrote about it in several Peanuts comic strips in 1965. In one such strip, kindergartener Sally gets so frustrated trying to solve a New Math problem she cries, “All I want to know is, how much is two and two?” New Math even made an appearance in the 1973 movie “There’s No Time for Love, Charlie Brown,” in which the titular Brown asks “How do you do New Math problems with an old Math mind?”
Screen shot 2016-08-27 at 3.10.40 PM
In the 1992 episode of the Simpsons, “Dog of Death,” Principal Skinner is elated that an influx of school funding will allow him to purchase school improvements. In particular he wants to buy history books that reveal how the Korean War ended and “math books that don’t have that base six crap in them!”
So where did this idea for New Math come from?
In 1957, the Soviets launched Sputnik sending Americans into a panic that they were being left behind by these Communist supermen. As a result in 1958, President Dwight D. Eisenhower passed the National Defense Education Act which dramatically increased school budgets and sent academics racing for ways to reform old practices. One product of this burst of activity was the New Math.
A decade later, it was mostly gone from our public schools. Parents complained they couldn’t help their children with homework. Teachers complained they didn’t understand it and that it needlessly confused their students.
Fast forward to 1983 and President Ronald Reagan’s National Commission on Excellence in Education. The organization released a report called “A Nation at Risk” that purported to show that public schools were failing. As a result, numerous reforms were recommended such as increased standardization, privatization and competition.
It is hard to overemphasize how influential this report was in education circles. Even today after its claims have systematically and thoroughly been debunked by statisticians like those at Sandia National Laboratories, politicians, pundits and the media persist with this myth of failing public schools.
“A Nation at Risk” birthed our modern era of high stakes testing and, in 2009, Common Core.
In theory, each state would adopt the same set of academic standards thereby improving education nationally. However, they were written by the standardized testing corporations – not working educators and experts in childhood development. So they ignore key factors about how children learn – just like the New Math of old.
In short, we repeated the same mistake – or a very similar one.
Children are not computers. You can’t program their minds like you would a MacBook or iPhone. In many ways, including math instruction, Common Core ignores these facts.
And so we have the same result as the old New Math. Parents all over the country are complaining that they can’t help their children with their homework. Teachers are complaining that the Core unnecessarily confuses students.
In some ways, the Core is worse than the old New Math because of its close connection with high stakes testing. In the ‘60s if a child didn’t understand how to add, he failed math. Today, if a child does that, he fails the standardized test and if that happens to enough students, his school loses funding, his teacher may be fired and his school may be closed. As such, the pressure today’s children undergo is tremendous. They aren’t just responsible for their own learning. They’re responsible for the entire school community.
But perhaps most telling is this: it doesn’t help children learn.
Isn’t that what this was all supposed to be about in the first place?
Perhaps we don’t need a new math. Perhaps we simply need policymakers willing to listen to education and childhood experts instead of business interests poised to profit off new reforms regardless of whether they actually work.

Saturday, August 27, 2016

REVOLVING DOOR: Former NY deputy commissioner now running Jeb Bush’s ed reform group

By: A N.Y. BAT

After all the suffering New York students, parents and educators have gone through in rejecting top-down education reform, it’s insulting to see the official dubbed “NY’s teacher evaluation czar” trying to imply she “raised achievement” during her tenure here. Welcome to elastic reality, where chaos, waste and mass protest become “improved quality”.

Chiefs for Change was created by Jeb Bush to promote school choice, charters, vouchers, online charter schools, the Common Core, and high-stakes testing. They reorganized as Bush stepped away for his short-lived 2016 presidential run, but he has since announced a return to ed reform. So who runs the organization now? The former deputy commissioner who oversaw NY’s teacher evaluation debacle.

REFORMERS REWARDED: As Steven Singer reported, Jeb Bush has been raising money for education reform “infrastructure” from billionaires, corporations and Wall Street investors for years. In 2012, DC’s biggest lobbyist John Podesta (who is running the Hillary campaign today) joined Jeb onstage in a bipartisan truce to announce they were recruiting teachers and politicians willing to “stick out their necks” for corporate reform, promising an amplified voice, career grooming and ample remuneration.

Podesta is credited for picking Arne Duncan for Secretary of Education, so he means it when he says he wants to promote reformers. Today, they need figureheads badly as most US states have changed education leadership in the last year as the transition to ESSA begins. Prominently featured on the Chiefs for Change website is this:

“As Chief Operating Officer, Julia Rafal-Baer, Ph.D., develops our organizational capacity for sustained growth, strengthens our decision-making processes and goal-setting, and drives the strategic direction of Chiefs for Change.

Prior to joining our team, Julia was Assistant Commissioner of the New York State Education Department where she was responsible for the strategy, management, and implementation of teacher and leader initiatives under the state’s Race to the Top grant, Teacher Incentive Fund grant, and other state-wide initiatives, managing more than $150 million in federal funds. Julia directed, coordinated, and recommended policies and programs designed to raise the achievement of students and improve the quality and diversity of the education workforce.”

REVISIONIST HISTORY: In reality, Dr. Rafal-Baer’s policies in NY were met with deep resistance, found “arbitrary and capricious” in state Supreme Court and suspended after costing taxpayers untold millions. Achievement gaps and school segregation widened, and teacher workforce morale has tanked, with untested, top-down initiatives the biggest reported driver of workplace stress by far.

During Dr. Rafal-Baer’s tenure at NYSED, mandated annual standardized testing expanded from four days to six and included data-mining, product placement and “talking pineapples”. Her department has been squarely blamed by Governor Cuomo for botching the implementation of Common Core (in fairness, we know he is just as responsible) which led to 22% of parents statewide today refusing the tests.

Not that she didn’t work hard — she personally approved the APPR application of every NY school district (after requiring half to be resubmitted). These APPR plans, numbering over 1,000, prescribed how test scores would be counted in teacher evaluations, but for most NY teachers, the policy ponderously uses test scores from subjects they do not teach. When asked, the department said “common planning” accounts for the validity of the test-based ranking.

Actually it doesn’t — even for teachers of math and English, the practice of measuring a teacher’s proficiency through student scores was hauled into court, where the state refused to reveal secret algorithms, or produce experts to defend the validity of the practice. By 2015, a four year moratorium on APPR was announced.

METEORITIC RISE: Starting as a special ed teacher in the Bronx, Dr. Rafal-Baer left after two years to work for TFA while she obtained several impressive degrees, leading her next into the corporate and philanthropy sector. As Race to the Top money headed to the states, Dr. Rafal-Baer was appointed a Regents Research Fellow, joining a privately-funded, secret committee that was criticized for helping Commissioner John King shape policy outside of normal public accountability and transparency channels.

THROUGH THE REVOLVING DOOR: This led to a “teacher effectiveness” position with NYSED in 2010 and by 2014, appointment as Deputy Commissioner, demonstrating how quickly one moves up through the ranks if they embrace corporate reform. Dr. Rafal-Baer left NY in 2015 and apparently now works simultaneously as COO for this pro-reform group and the state of Rhode Island where she consults on education policy.

MORE ARBITRARY THAN CAPRICIOUS: This is not to disparage or single out Dr. Rafal-Baer. Indeed, it’s precisely because she is well-intentioned and well-versed in education policy that reformers want her on the team, to tout her credibility and caché. In the end, Dr. Rafal-Baer’s programs punished very few teachers, with local unions negotiating evaluation plans “for all” based on a “safe” test in one subject, chosen locally.

This cost local schools dearly however, forcing cuts to comply with the evaluation policy, combined with an unfunded transition to Common Core. Local taxpayers bought an invalid metric, and incredibly, this same cost continues today, even as the current moratorium makes the policy toothless.

Now the US Secretary of Education, John King is bucking Congress, trying to enforce test-participation quotas by withholding funds from schools, taking Albany’s “blackmail” practices to the national level. It’s impossible to characterize this brand of ed reform in NY as anything but tumultuous and extraordinarily wasteful. The calls for the resignation of Dr. Rafal-Baer’s mentors John King and Merryl Tisch preceded the dawn of the biggest opt-out movement in the US.

Dr. Rafal-Baer’s tweets indicate deep loyalty to controversial former Commissioner John King

We all want to see student learning increase, but too much time in the boardroom and not enough time in a classroom distorts how this gets done. The exorbitant paychecks keep reformers compliant to benefactors, and less attuned to student need or the will of the people. Of those RTTT millions, how much reached classrooms as the state went shopping for junk-science accountability schemes that were never tested for reliability?

We have learned painfully every year since No Child Left Behind first assumed federal control of local schools that there are no shortcuts. Trying to standardize teaching goes against best practices in the field of education and the science of child development. We do have major challenges in our nation’s schools, but solutions are not found on Wall Street, in a politician’s office or in any corporate headquarters.

Classroom teachers and parents see the harm to children, the waste, false promises and cronyism in the privatization movement. Backed by science and real world experience, the argument against corporatization of learning is more solid than ever.

FEEL FREE TO DO AS I SAY: The onslaught continues unabated, illustrated perfectly by this Chiefs for Change paper advising states on ESSA, the new law that just pushed back on ed reform. They recommend states use their new flexibility to go right back to NCLB era practices of data collection, standardization and top-down control, recommending states return to “innovation funds” which sound great but diverts money for more “monitoring and evaluation”. Wasn’t tying support for struggling schools to state run accountability systems the reason America just dumped NCLB?

It’s time to recognize how these fake think tanks and front groups compromise democracy. This experiment has been failing for 15 years, yet they are pushing the same policies today onto a new generation of children.

WHAT WE NEED: Hillary Clinton said herself we need to “sit at one table” to end these “education wars”. She also explicitly vowed to “end the revolving door”. It is time for open debate on the efficacy of ALEC legislation in schools, pay-for-play and astroturfing. Good ideas hold up under tough scrutiny and real world piloting. If we stop treating education like politics, we can put the mistakes of the testing era behind us.

Friday, August 26, 2016

Shouldn’t Our Schools At Least be as Logical as Dental Floss?

By:  Steven Singer, Director BATs Blogging/Research Team
All my life I assumed flossing was essential to dental health.

It was safe, it was sound, it was normal.

Every day after brushing, I would stand before the bathroom mirror and carefully thread a mint-flavored filament through my teeth – like a chump.

And when I got to the dentist, I’d comfort myself that I had done the best I could to prevent cavities.

The hygienist would remove plaque and germs while scraping and sawing at my teeth with a specialized hook, and all the while I’d think, “At least I flossed every day!”

Yet now the federal government tells us that flossing is ineffective at best!

What!? After all these years!?

It turns out, there just is no evidence that flossing actually helps – never has been. So this summer for the first time in decades the good folks who compile federal dietary guidelines decided not to recommend the practice.

A total of 25 studies have concluded that the evidence for flossing is “weak, very unreliable,” of “very low” quality, and carries “a moderate to large potential for bias,” according to the Associated Press.

“The majority of available studies fail to demonstrate that flossing is generally effective in plaque removal,” said one review conducted just last year. Another 2015 review cites “inconsistent/weak evidence” for flossing and a “lack of efficacy.”

So flossing is out.

It’s not evidence-based.

It’s actually kind of shocking to see the federal government acting so logically.

Where’s the politics? Why aren’t Republicans taking one side and Democrats the other? Why isn’t the dental floss lobby making massive contributions to our lawmakers to influence the decision?

But we get none of that in this instance. Instead, here’s the evidence. It doesn’t support this policy. So let’s discontinue that policy.

I wonder what the world would look like if every government stance was as susceptible to argument, cause and effect, and rationality.

As a public school teacher, I’ve become inured to our lawmakers doing exactly the opposite. They look at the evidence, see it DOESN’T support an education scheme and then… they proudly give it their full support.

As a result, education policy is full of unfounded, fallacious and unproven practices.

Our schools are struggling under the burden of illogical laws. Our teachers are pulling out their hair at a series of half-baked mandates that go counter to everything they’ve learned about childhood development. And our students suffer from procedures that don’t help them learn and in fact actually do much to prevent them from doing so.

Take standardized testing, Common Core and school choice.

Our legislators think standardized testing is the best way to measure learning. Are you freaking kidding me!? In colleges and universities across the country where this has been studied in-depth for centuries, it’s been disproven, ridiculed and considered an antiquated way of thinking about learning. It went out with phrenology and eugenics!

Multiple choice tests like these have consistently been shown to correlate more closely with socioeconomic status than intelligence, retention or understanding. Put simply: if you’re rich, you do well. If you’re poor, you don’t.

Standardized tests as we know them were developed in the Victorian Age to “prove” that wealthy people were just smarter than poor people. They were created to show the innate inferiority of black and brown people and the natural superiority of the white race.

Yet these kinds of assessments still are the backbone of the public school system.

Another fallacious policy championed by many lawmakers is Common Core State Standards. But like The Four Temperments, the Geocentric Universe, and the Flat Earth Theory, they aren’t backed up by evidence. In fact, each of these disproven scientific hypotheses has MORE EVIDENCE behind it than Common Core! Each of these ancient models was based on evidence but later refuted. By contrast, Common Core was never empirically based. In fact, it has never even been studied. Someone just pulled it out of their butt!

Let me say that again: there has never been any proof that Common Core will help children learn. In fact, far from showing any improvement, since its adoption,student outcomes have plummeted. But in many states it’s the law of the land.

In truth, Common Core is a series of academic standards developed by the testing and publishing industry as a way to sell more standardized tests and remediation materials. They were only adopted because state officials were blackmailed to accept them. Otherwise, they wouldn’t have enough money to continue running their state schools. In many cases, the standards weren’t even voted on by state legislators but instead by appointed boards of education.

Yet today these standards (or very similar ones) are required in public schools across 42 states.

Finally, we have the political darling, school choice. Many Republicans and Democrats champion some form of choice and competition in our schools. They all think it will help, despite the fact that there’s more evidence for UFOs, Bigfoot and the Loch Ness Monster!

Very few countries try to help students by increasing their choices without also trying to increase the quality of those choices. Nowhere has it ever been shown that having more schools to choose from is better than less schools to choose from – if you don’t improve the quality of those schools. Simply having more options and having those options compete doesn’t make them better. As John Oliver pointed out recently, the town with the most pizzerias doesn’t necessarily have the best pizza.

In fact, in countries that have initiated school choice policies, they’ve seen educational quality drop – not rise. Yet billionaires all across the US push for us to adopt these policies all the while investing in schemes to enrich themselves if such a policy shift occurred.

It makes no sense. These are misguided, unfounded, and downright insidious ideas.

Yet everyday pundits, policy-makers and politicians still advocate for them – somehow with a straight face. And when someone who actually works in the schoolslike me points to the evidence – or lack thereof – I’m ignored.

In the words of Frank Zappa, “Modern Americans behave as if intelligence were some sort of hideous deformity.” And our education policies are doing nothing to fix it.

The problem is the very banality of corporate school reform. After almost two decades of these strategies pushed on both sides of the aisle, they’ve become the status quo. It’s just the way we do things.

They’re as common as… well… dental floss.

The federal government saw through the vapidity of that practice. Isn’t it time the administration does the same for corporate school reform?

Thursday, August 25, 2016

The Idiocy of AYP

By:  Dr. Mitchell Robinson, Member BATs Blogging/Research Team
AYP, or "Adequate Yearly Progress", is one of those seemingly benign terms that pops up in the educational lexicon every few years. AYP sounds...friendly. Unassuming. Who could argue with a reform initiative based on kids, teachers, or schools making "adequate yearly progress"? What are we, communists? Of course we want our schools to make progress...and insisting it be "adequate" doesn't sound too demanding, does it? I mean, how hard could it be to make "adequate" progress? Cmon...

And yet the truth is much harsher. AYP has become an albatross around the neck of school districts rich and poor. It requires that schools demonstrate inexorable, upward rates of progress, no matter their actual measures of success. While AYP may have been intended to exert pressure on "low performing schools," in practice it has created unreasonable pressures and stresses on all kinds of schools, students, teachers, and administrators, and is the policy lever behind much of the cheating that has characterized the worst of the "accountability era" in American education.

At the core of AYP is the notion of accountability--another seemingly benign concept that has taken on draconian undertones when applied to public education. But the blade of accountability seems to only be targeted on those with the least amount of power in the educational equation: children and teachers. How are education policy decision makers, who dream up increasingly punitive measures, held accountable? How are our political leaders, who pass the legislation recommended by these policy makers, held accountable?

Why is the idea of Adequate Yearly Progress only aimed at the recipients of these policies, and not on those with the power to create supportive working conditions for teachers, and educationally-sound policies that govern schools and learning?

In other words, why don't we have "AYP" for:
  • Providing adequate school funding?
  • Clean, well-maintained facilities?
  • Supportive working conditions?
  • Teacher evaluation systems that are fair, make sense, and focused on helping teachers' improve their practice--not punitive systems designed to demoralize and marginalize?
  • Salary schedules and teacher contracts that fairly compensate teachers, and provide incentives for pursuing professional development opportunities?
  • Adequate support services for all students, including special education, gifted & talented, school nurses, psychologists, and counselors?
  • Rich, vibrant curricular programs in music, art, media, and physical education for all students?
  • School breakfast and lunch programs, so students aren't hungry all day and can concentrate on their classes?
I'm all for assessing Adequate Yearly Progress in our schools, but maybe it's time to start assessing what really matters. Instead of coming up with educational policies designed to punish our most disadvantaged students, schools, and communities, let's start holding those responsible for establishing these punitive policies accountable for the damage they are doing to public education.

Then we might really start making some progress.
Yes, Social Impact Bonds. Again
By:  Julie Borst

 I've written about Social Impact Bonds, aka, Pay for Success (PFS) before. You can read those blog posts here, here, and here. I provided testimony on Pay for Success to the US Department of Education (USDOE) in Washington DC at the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) hearings. That testimony you can find here

This past Friday, August 19th, USDOE announced a Preschool Pay For Success grant competition. Instead of, y'know, actually funding a preschool initiative, USDOE has set aside $2.8 million dollars to go to "7 to 14 grantees" who will have the great privilege of conducting feasibility studies, not on the effectiveness of high quality preschool (we already know that works), but on the effectiveness of PFS. States will have to go out and find partners and then use the USDOE money to fund studies...studies which one really hopes states would have done on their own anyway.

"The ultimate aim of the pilot is to improve early learning outcomes through a future high-quality Pay for Success project by providing grants for feasibility studies. However, the pilot does not fund the implementation of preschool services. Preschool programs that are the focus of these feasibility studies must be inclusive of children with disabilities and the Pilot will also establish safeguards to protect the rights of children with disabilities to ensure that they receive the services they need." (emphasis mine)

Who knows? Maybe they were listening to me last January. I'm very interested to see what those "safeguards" are beyond what the law already prescribes, because that shouldn't be ignored under any circumstances. Right?

To backtrack for second, there are Preschool Development Grants (and Expansion Grants) available through USDOE. In 2014, several states, including New Jersey, received those grants. Here's a brochure from the program. You'll notice that "high quality" programs are necessary for receiving the 2-year grant.

Now, take a look at the program description for Pay ForSuccess.

"This pilot does not limit feasibility studies to programs that meet the definition of “high-quality” preschool used by the Preschool Development Grants (PDG) program in its 2014 grant competition in order to allow the PFS demonstrations to demonstrate high-quality in different ways, including through the impacts that the pilots are able to achieve. In this way, such projects could further develop the evidence-base of programs that are demonstrated to be effective." (emphasis mine)

*Sigh* Let's understand that statement for a moment. USDOE recognizes that "high quality" preschool programs are necessary and work. They are trying to find a way to help out their friends in the banking sector by attempting to justify the use of Pay For Success programs while also desiring successful outcomes for students. They want to demonstrate the cheaper-for-the-taxpayer-to-achieve-great-results-ness of PFS, but the studies USDOE will be paying for do NOT need to include "high quality" preschool programs.

Surely there's a really good reason for that, I am, though, currently at a complete loss of what that might be. Anyone from USDOE is free to shoot me an email at any time. Or, maybe Mike Hynes can ask John King when he finally is granted an audience.

I'll simply say, Pay For Success is a terrible idea. In this context, our children's education is at stake. There has been a specific narrative from those pushing these programs. It's unconscionable that Pay For Success is sitting in the middle of a federal education law. I'm not alone in that thinking.

Yesterday, Kenneth Saltman published an article called "Wall Street's Latest Public Sector Ripoff: Five Myths About Pay For Success" and it's a doozy. Please take the time to read it. I'll give you a teaser on Saltman's reason for the existence of PFS programs:

"Banks love Pay for Success because they can profit massively from it and invest money with high returns at a time of a glut of capital and historically low interest rates. Politicians (especially rightist democrats) love Pay for Success because they can claim to be expanding public services without raising taxes or issuing bonds and will only have the public pay for “what works.” Elite universities and corporate philanthropies love Pay for Success because they support “innovation” and share an ethos that only the prime beneficiaries of the current economy, the rich, can save the poor."

In the context of preschool and how PFS has been used to theoretically lower the rate of special education classification of children entering kindergarten, I could not agree more (and I said as much, months ago) with this:

"Who is authorized to develop the metrics, what is their expertise, what are their interests, and how do they assess the rules they set in place?; To whom are those legislating the accountability measurements accountable? The scientism of metrics obscures these kinds of questions. Accountability should be a part of educational projects but not through restricted metrics that conceal the broader politics informing the project. Rather, accountability should be in a form in which knowledge is comprehended in relation to how subjectivity is formed through broader social forces and in ways in which learning can form the basis for collective action to expand egalitarian and just social relations."

If your state is entertaining using Social Impact Bonds/Pay For Success to pay for preschool, please, I beg, have those conversations with your legislators. Know exactly who is determining the criteria for success and how the money will be paid back and to whom.


To Whom it May Concern,

I am writing to you today to share the story of my friend Anne and her daughter Paige.  Paige is almost 6 years old, and should be starting Kindergarten at her local school.  Unfortunately, Paige is being denied her right to the education she deserves and the special education services she needs.

I'd like to tell you a little bit about Paige and Anne so you can understand the background for this denial.  I met Anne Malone several years ago through a local Mom's Support Network on Facebook.  In 2013 I was one of dozens of friends who watched in horror and heartbreak as Anne's daughter Paige, then 2, began to suffer from unexplained seizures.  As mothers and friends, we were worried and shocked as there was first one post, then multiple posts about Paige seizing and having to be taken to the emergency room.  Losing a child is every parent's worst fear, and we were watching Anne lose her daughter right before her eyes.  Soon, Paige was experiencing dozens of seizures every day.  She suffered from several types, and had to have her chin stitched repeatedly after drop seizures that injured her, despite the helmet she was forced to wear every day.

Anne quit her job to stay with Paige, and still had no answers about why this was happening to her baby girl.  Answers didn't come until a year later, when the owners of the duplex they lived in started having medical problems and discovered that unbeknownst to them, the previous owners had cooked methamphetamines in the house.  The news was devastating.  Test results showed that the meth residue was at 6,000% the tolerable limit.  Anne and her husband then had answers, but still no solutions.  They were forced to leave their home, and leave most of their belongings behind, as the residue is pervasive and had ruined most of what they owned. 

Through the support of the local community, they found a new home, and three months later, Anne decided to try something different.  She was understandably tired of the cocktails of anti-seizure pharmaceuticals that stole her daughter from her all over again.  Some of these worked to stifle Paige's seizures, but they stole her personality and her consciousness.  On one cocktail, Paige slept for 17 hours a day.  On others, she sat and did nothing.  At one point the drugs built up so badly in her system that she was overdosing, and becoming toxic.  Anne had read about the use of cannabis to treat seizures, reading about successful programs in Colorado, and she had asked Paige's doctors about it and been turned down.  Finally, she found a doctor who would help them with cannabis medicine.

The first day that Paige took CBD oil, her seizures reduced by 1/3.  In one day she had 30% fewer seizures than she had been having on traditional pharmaceutical medicine.  At one week, Paige started to regain milestones she'd lost.  As Paige detoxed from the pharmaceuticals, her seizures lessened.  Finally, in late fall of 2015, Paige experienced an entire month seizure free.  After one seizure in December, the streak continued.

As of September 1, 2016, Paige will be seizure free for 9 months, all because of the CBD and THC oil treatments that her mother has learned how to prepare for her.  She is still weaning off of two pharmaceuticals and is doing better than ever.  This medicine has been nothing short of a miracle for Paige.  You can read Paige's story in more detail here.  Friends, family, co-workers, and community members have rallied behind the Malone family to raise money for medical bills and for Anne to get set up to make the medicine that brought her daughter back to her.

Two days ago, Anne shared some upsetting news.  Because of Paige's medication, she is not permitted to attend public school in Bellingham.  Despite the fact that for those with epilepsy and other illnesses, CBD and THC oils can be the only thing that works, because schools are required to be Drug-Free, Paige will not be allowed to attend. 

Private school is not an option.  For one, private schools are not required to provide the special education services that Paige will need the same way that public schools are.  Her illness has caused gross delays in motor, physical, and speech development.  She is precisely the kind of child who needs special services, and the private schools that might be able to provide this are bound to be expensive and possibly mean the family moving away from their lives in Bellingham.

Homeschooling is the only option left, and even that poses major hurdles for Anne and her family.  Anne doesn't have any of the qualifying home-based instruction that would allow her to homeschool her daughter.  There are lots of resources for homeschoolers in Bellingham, but because all of them receive some sort of federal funding, they have been denied as options for Paige.  Now, after all that they have been through already, Anne has to figure out a way to provide her daughter her basic right to education herself.

Anne has contacted a lawyer to find out if she has any options, and has filed for FAFSA so that she can go to school to become qualified to homeschool Paige by the standards Washington required.  She is frustrated and overwhelmed, and so am I.

I'm writing to you today because this is not enough.  It's unacceptable that a mother has to go through all of this just to get her child an education because of her medication.  It's reprehensible that children can go to school on controlled substances like Adderall and Ritalin, but when a child is taking plant oils that prevent them from having up to 100 seizures per day, they are denied.  It's not okay.  It's time for the community to rally behind the Malones again, to rally behind all of the families whose children are affected by this issue, and change things.  And we need your help.

In June, Colorado passed "Jack's Law" (HB 1373), requiring schools to allow medical marijuana under strict conditions.  It assures districts that if they lose federal funding, state funds will be provided to cover them so that students can get the help they need.  New Jersey also legally allows medical marijuana in schools for students.  It's time for Washington to follow suit, and ensure that children are getting the education and services they need, and that the rules about education are not causing further hardship to families who have already struggled enough. 

In his statement, released after the passage of the Cannabis Patient Protection Act (SB 5052), State Superintendent Randy Dorn stated that "Students need to be engaged and prepared for school. Marijuana doesn’t allow them to be either of those things. Marijuana dulls the brain."  This view is ignorant and uneducated, and a disservice to our children.  Why?  Because marijuana medicine and CBD medicine is not the same as smoking a joint behind the bleachers to get high. Medical marijuana is cultivated to provide specific benefits, and given in the correct concentrations does not cause the high that recreational marijuana does.

At My Little Leaf, you can read Paige's story along with the stories of other children whose lives have been forever improved and changed through the use of medical marijuana.  Despite its federal classification as a Schedule 1 substance, marijuana and CBD and THC oils have been shown again and again to have incredibly powerful medical benefits. 

As your constituent, as a taxpaying resident of Washington, as a mother, and as a member of #teampaigestrong, I urge you to consider this issue and take action.  It's time for Washington State's laws to reflect that our children are important, and that all children have the right to an education.

Thank you,

Rachael Hope   


Here's the deal - schools in Washington DO have the ability to say that a student can attend school and even take medical marijuana during school for certain conditions in accordance with the school's medication administration policy.  HOWEVER, any school that does this is in danger of jeopardizing their federal funding because federally, marijuana is still classified as a Schedule 1 illegal substance.  A district that allows marijuana on school grounds risks losing it's Title 1 and other federal funding.  This leaves schools to make a choice between serving the students who attend and possibly losing much-needed funding for the same students.  They are advised NOT to choose students because it's too big a risk to take.

State Superintendent Randy Dorn put out a statement after the passage of the Cannabis Patient Protection Act.  In this statement, Dorn stated:

To receive federal funds, districts must abide by the Safe and Drug-Free Schools and Communities Act and must have a Drug and Tobacco-Free Workplace and a similar student policy in place. Each district’s policy has a number of common requirements about marijuana and other drugs, such as not allowing any student to:
  • Possess,
  • Distribute,
  • Manufacture or
  • Be under the influence.
You can find more information about this in the Washington State Guidelines for Medication Administration in Schools and in the Washington State School Directors Newsletter from October 2012.

Washington passed a Cannabis Patient Protection Act (SB 5052), however, because schools receive federal funding, there is a conflict and no protection for children who receive cannabis medicine.


Click here for a copy of the above letter you can use when contacting your legislator.

Find your legislators and contact them.

Here is information for Whatcom County.  If you are outside Whatcom County, please use the link above.

District 1/2 Senators:

Maria Cantwell - US Senator
You can email Maria through her website here.
You can reach Maria's Seattle office at (206) 220-6400

Patty Murray - US Senator
You can email Patty through her website here.
You can reach Patty's Everett office at (425) 259-6515.

District 1 Congressperson:

You can email Suzan through her website here.
You can reach Suzan's Mt. Vernon office at (360) 416-7879.

District 2 Congressperson:

Rick Larsen - US State Representative
You can email Rick through his website here.
You can reach Rick's Everett office at (425) 252-3188.

District 42 State Legislators:

Doug Ericksen - State Senator
You can email Doug at
You can reach Doug's office at (360) 786-7682.

Vincent Buys - State House
You can email Vincent at
You can reach Vincent toll free at (800) 562-6000.

Luanne VanWerven - State House
You can email Luanne at
You can reach Luanne's toll free at (800) 562-6000

Contact the Washington State Board of Education.


PO Box 47206
600 Washington ST SE
Olympia, WA 98504-7206

Phone: 360.725.6025

Contact the Office of the Superintendent of Public Instruction.


Mail stop: 47200
Old Capitol Building
P.O. Box 47200
Olympia, WA 98504-7200

Contact Greg Baker, Superintendent of Bellingham Public Schools.

Contact Phone Number:  676-6501 extension 6501