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Not Banned at the Maine DoE – ?

I’m not a fan of rhetorical questions, but this situation seems to warrant one. Yesterday I posted here that a comment I tried to make in response to the Maine Department of Education’s article, Preparing for A-F grading system, was banned. Afterwards, I received an email from the DoE spokesman, David Connerty-Marin, saying that I simply had not followed their posting policy. So, I tried again. As of 8:45 this morning, the comment had still not appeared online.

What was the policy I failed to follow? Using both my first and last names, not NancyEH (the computer fills that in by default). OK, that’s reasonable. And certainly my mistake.

However, in my defense, I will admit to a certain complacency on my part in expecting websites to be programmed to catch such user errors. The policy requires two names? Easy solution: provide two boxes. A bit more complicated, but common: a “Did you forget?” message.

Let’s see what the day brings.

UPDATE (4/10/13): My comment has been posted and I’ve received 2 emails and 1 Direct Message on Twitter from Mr. Connerty-Marin.

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Still Banned at Maine DoE

It’s hard to believe that one middle-aged woman 250 miles from Augusta can cause such consternation at the Maine Department of Education that any comments she tries to make at their website are promptly eliminated.

On Sunday, I stumbled across an article at the Maine DoE online Newsroom: Preparing for A-F grading system. Knowing that the proficiency-based approach being touted by the Department has little tolerance for such a system, I took a few minutes to read it. Grading kids? Nope. Grading Maine schools.

So, I typed a quick comment:
Almost any ranking system is simply shorthand for a broader set of parameters; most of us understand both the larger process and the shorthand relatively well. Therefore, if an A – F system is appropriate for grading schools (assuming we know and agree upon the standards by which they are being ranked), it is difficult to understand how it is not similarly appropriate for grading students in this day of “proficiency-based” education.

I entered my comment with my own name (mistakenly doing so twice because I had to log in and nothing showed up the first time). Once the system had processed the comments (both of them), they were shown with a note “Your comment is awaiting moderation.” [I have a screenshot to prove it]  As of today, my words aren’t there. There are five (5) comments – all from men, interestingly – some of which say basically the same thing I did. Those men are allowed to say their piece; I’m not. What’s so scary, I wonder?

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Education Studies: Who Would Know? Redux

I received a couple of private responses to a post entitled Education Studies: Who Would Know? after it appeared on DirigoBlue.  Really, I do understand that I could contact someone at the Maine Department of Education and maybe get the information.  But that’s not the point.  It’s not the public’s responsibility to search out such information; it’s the government’s obligation to make sure the data is accurately posted as soon as possible so citizens from the entire state can see it.  Even something as basic as who was appointed to these various stakeholder groups, task forces, work groups and study groups is not available and there’s no logical reason that I can come up with to explain why not.

That being said, I was banned* earlier this year from posting at the Department of Education’s Newsroom site so whether or not my request from information would be favorably received is open to question. If the ban has since been lifted I don’t know because I haven’t checked recently; it’s not important.  If the DoE asks for public input, but then chooses which comments it wants to “hear” via public posting, that’s its decision.  I have other avenues to make my views known if I choose. I can only hope that other people who are cynical about so-called education reform in Maine (and elsewhere) choose to make their views known via other venues, as well.

*I use the word “banned” because any comments I made in the applicable box were put on hold indefinitely with the statement “awaiting moderation“.   I can only assume the term moderation in this context meant “to check on before posting” rather than “to weaken the content” since I never heard from the Department asking me to tone down whatever I had written.  Given that another commenter identified other educators in the state of being less than “professionally courageous” and the Commissioner himself accused Maine schools of allowing students to graduate for merely having sat through classes, I fail to see how anything I wrote could have been much worse.

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MEA and Social Media

This is not a post I ever wanted to write, but when I saw today via Facebook that a Maine Education Association UniServ Director, John Kosinski, is now posting at the revived MainePolitics site, I knew it was time.  John is a good writer and politically active, so I’m glad to see him making himself known in the virtual world.

I believe I, too, am a good writer – but was only marginally politically active when I was employed in that same position before retiring/resigning due to differences with MEA management which I referenced early on in this blog.

During my 14-year tenure in the Caribou office, I had a strong tendency to make MEA management and leadership (President, VP, Treasurer, etc) unhappy when I pointed out – internally only, never outside the organization – that their positions – and please be very clear on this: most MEA policy-type positions, default though they may be, are driven from the top, not the grassroots membership – were not playing well “in the field”.  In other words, the policy-makers in Augusta were poor at making decisions and even poorer at communicating those decisions once made.

One of those differences – the straw that broke the camel’s back, so to speak – became important when the Executive Director, Mark Gray, accompanied by my so-called direct supervisor (with whom I seldom spoke and even more rarely saw), Deputy Executive Director Rob Walker (a former MEA President) called me to the Bangor office to talk about my use of Twitter and Facebook.  Accompanied by my own union representative, I heard Mark say that he was concerned that I encouraged MEA members to “follow” me and that I had no authority to speak to them on the organization’s behalf, so I needed to stop using those media.  I explained that my Twitter account explicitly said that “Opinions were my own” and that I only seldom mentioned my employment by MEA.  He replied it made no difference and that anyone could figure out who I was.

I then pointed out that most of my contacts, particularly on Twitter, were people interested in education, journalism and politics.  He said that was even worse and threatened me with disciplinary action if I persisted in using social media.  He did not point to a single tweet that was contrary to MEA policy or positions, but did mention that I had had virtual interactions (140 words at a time, mind you) with Derek Viger, who at the time was writing for Pine Tree Politics. According to Mark, Derek was “no friend of MEA” and therefore my virtual interactions with everyone were verboten.

So, the question is: how come John can post at a political blog (advocating for a particular individual to be Chair of the Maine Democratic Party), but I couldn’t use Twitter? I’m sure any of you reading this post can come up with your own explanations.

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