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Ad campaign accuses Kansas schools of low academic standards

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The conservative think tank Kansas Policy Institute has been running ads the past couple of weeks asserting that the state has low academic standards in reading and math, an assertion that state officials have repeatedly dismissed.

The ads, which have been running in the Kansas City, Topeka and Wichita media markets, refer back to the KPI website, where viewers can see longer videos spelling out the group's case that Kansas has low standards.

KPI spokesman James Franko said the group's policy aim "is to give parents and student more freedom to achieve their individual educational goals - i.e. school choice in all of its forms - and make sure Kansas is spending its K-12 resources effectively and efficiently."

The phrase "school choice" generally refers to programs that offer students and parents a publicly funded alternative to the regular public schools in their area, either through vouchers to offset the cost of a private or parochial school, or "charter schools," which are usually public schools operated by outside groups or private companies that can be exempted from many rules and regulations that apply to public schools.

So far this year, Kansas lawmakers have turned back one such bill: Senate Bill 22, which would have established a scholarship program for certain lower-income students to attend private schools. That bill failed to advance to final action in the House, but was then sent back to the House Education Committee, where it remains available to be advanced again.

Franko said the ads began running about two weeks ago and are scheduled to continue through "the next couple of days." That would take them right up to the start of the Kansas Legislature's wrap-up session.

In a nutshell, KPI asserts that Kansas schools are not preparing students for college or careers because it has low academic standards. For evidence, the group points to actions by the Kansas State Board of Education in 2002 and 2006 when, KPI says, the state "lowered" academic standards.

State officials counter that they did not "lower" their standards - that the level of performance needed to score in the "meets standards" category did not change - but the method of classifying scores was simply re-calibrated in 2002 to align with the new No Child Left Behind law. The standards were revised in 2006, and new assessments were written to go along with them.

But what the ads do not mention that the standards were revised again in 2010 when Kansas adopted the new Common Core state standards in reading and math, which are specifically designed for "college and career readiness."

"We did not lower our standards – not in '02 and not in '06," said Kathy Toelkes, spokeswoman for the Kansas State Department of Education.

Although she had not personally seen the ads, she said, "we're focused on where we're going. We adopted new standards in 2010 that raised the bar for students in terms of ensuring students will be college- and career-ready upon graduating from high school."

The ads point to a series of studies by the National Center for Education Statistics that attempt to compare state assessments from all 50 states with a uniform benchmark, the National Assessment of Educational Progress, or NAEP, exams.

State officials argue there are major differences between the NAEP test and the state assessments, the most important of which is that NAEP is not aligned to any specific set of educational standards. Further, it's a test that is only administered to a random sample of students in each state, and therefore any comparison of scores between the tests requires a great deal of estimation.

Nevertheless, the reports do indicate that a student who scores at the "meets standards" level on a Kansas reading or math test, at either the 4th or 8th grade level, would only score at or below the "basic" level on the NAEP exam.

That, however, is also true for many states. In fact, according to the most recent (2009) study, no state has a proficiency standard equal to or greater than the NAEP standard in either 4th or 8th grade reading. Massachusetts is the only state in the union where proficiency standards in math exceed the NAEP standards.

Comments

Dave Trabert 1 year, 8 months ago

There was no requirement under No Child Left Behind for states to 'recalibrate' performance standards to align with NCLB. States were allowed to set their own standards; Kansas could have chosen to retain their pre-NCLB standards but they reduced performance standards.

As explained in Removing Barriers to Better Public Education at http://www.kansaspolicy.org/researchcenters/education/studies/94532.aspx and in a video on our web site at www.KansasPolicy.org , proficiency levels in 2000 and 2001 on state assessments were very similar to those on NAEP. But proficiency levels doubled in 2002 when KSDE reduced performance standards.

The reporter on this story says that standards were increased in 2010 when Kansas adopted Common Core Standards but that is not true. The higher performance standards associated with CCS do not go into effect until at least the 2015 school year.

By the way, we asked KSDE and the State Board of Education to comment on a draft of the study referenced above before publication...specifically asking if there was anything factually inaccurate. They did not respond.

chootspa 1 year, 8 months ago

Good for them for not dignifying your charade of a "study" with a response.

avarom 1 year, 8 months ago

Just call Dave Trabert, Pinocchio...... His Nose continues to get Bigger....... and Bigger.......Bigger........)------------------------------------------------------------------------->

http://www.examiner.com/article/disguised-as-watchdog-it-s-the-same-old-kpi

http://www.examiner.com/article/figures-don-t-lie-what-drives-kpi

avarom 1 year, 8 months ago

My pleasure.....just trying to show the other side and educate!! Glad you found it viable.

Lane Signal 1 year, 8 months ago

This seems pretty hypocritical. The radical right wants to cut funding, simplify performance standards and tie funding to those simplified standards. Standardized testing is at best an imprecise measure of a school's success. Now you want to manipulate those numbers and use continued reductions in funding to try to scare people into thinking privatization of schools is the only viable option. It's not. If there is a concern about standards, that's a good argument for a closer examination of those standards. If students are not being prepared for college and the job market, let's fund the schools better and look at what needs to be done to raise the level of preparedness.

Randy Leonard 1 year, 8 months ago

This sounds to me like another attempt by the right to discredit and ultimately destroy public education. My children both attended Topeka Public Schools. Both received excellent educations. My daughter earned two bachelor degrees from KU and graduated with honors, and my son is a PhD candidate in physics at the University of California at Berkeley. I would say that the Kansas schools prepared them both very well.

Dave Trabert 1 year, 8 months ago

some children do very well in Kansas public schools, but even state assessments show that only 56% of 11th grade students read grade-appropriate material with full comprehension (as determined by KSDE). But Kansas doesn't require students to have full comprehension to be considered Proficient and Meet Standards...that's part of how standards were reduced.

chootspa 1 year, 8 months ago

And those students are more likely to do worst than they are better under a charter/voucher system.

KSManimal 1 year, 8 months ago

"state assessments show that only 56% of 11th grade students read grade-appropriate material with full comprehension (as determined by KSDE)."

STOP THE PRESSES! 56% of kids read at a level considered "average". What's next, Dave, a KPI report about how (in best chicken little voice) "half our kids perform below average!!!!"

meatheadwisdom 1 year, 8 months ago

You still continue to misrepresent the statistics. 89.1% of all 11th graders scored at OR ABOVE the standards on the Kansas Reading assessment. 33% Meet Standards (MS), 29.8% Exceed Standards (ES), 26.3% Exemplary (EX)

chootspa 1 year, 8 months ago

That is exactly what it is.

It's an attack on a school system that is actually doing relatively well. Vouchers are a system to privatize taxpayer money while socializing the risks.

So Trabert will first try for FUD - (look how bad Kansas schools are - they're so much worse than you think!) He'll insist that more money won't solve the problem by comparing misleading apples to oranges funding from different states (Kansas relies disproportionately on the general fund compared to many other states). And he'll cherry pick data to compare.

And then he'll sell you the truthy idea that "choice" will solve all your problems. Sometimes he'll try to sell it by claiming it will first target disadvantaged and disabled children (disabled children actually do far worse under voucher systems).

Truth of the matter is that income is the single biggest predictor of student success, whether you attend a private or public school. School choice doesn't make students rich, and it doesn't make them any more likely to succeed, but it does sell parents a distraction from the real problem in education these days. Wealth disparity and the complications of poverty. A problem that Trabert and his Koch funders are only making worse in this state.

chootspa 1 year, 8 months ago

Statistics can be used to predict probability, not every child's absolute fate. So you and I did well in spite of childhood poverty, but I bet you won't find many college grads in that Virginia neighborhood.

There are poor children who do well in school. Most do not. The single biggest predictor of school success in this country is income. The richer your parents are, the more likely you are to succeed in school, whether it is a private or public school.

The top income quintile in this country outperforms the top quintile of any other country in the world. If all our schools did as well as the schools of the richest kids, we would seriously not be having a debate on how to improve schools. That's really something to ponder. It's also something you can't fix with a charter.

chootspa 1 year, 8 months ago

What also isn't mentioned, by the Koch-funded propaganda group with ALEC ties (otherwise known as KPI) is that voucher systems don't provide better results! Charter schools generally perform no better and often do worse than public schools. It doesn't matter whether or not Trabert wants to nitpick the standards he claims have been "lowered" (even though they haven't). The truth of the matter is that putting those kids in private and parochial schools wouldn't boost their achievement. He just wants to allow private enterprises to pillage the school system like pigs at the trough.

Dave Trabert 1 year, 8 months ago

Neither your comment about our motive nor your claim about charter schools is accurate. The CREDO study at Stanford University found performance variances among charters but attributed them to the "contours of state laws" rather than the concept of charter schools. In states where laws that did not restrict the number of charters or the number of students who could attend and had rigorous standards for charter operators they found good results.

elliottaw 1 year, 8 months ago

I am sure you have taken into account the inaccuracy of standardized test in your "study", or that schools have had their budgets slashes and can not afford more teachers to help students falling behind, or the lack of a living wage which limits the time that parents have to help their students with their school work

Dave Trabert 1 year, 8 months ago

First, an analysis of how and when standards changes is an independent measurement. Whether performance changed as spending changed is a completely different measurement. That said, performance on independent national tests show relatively no change between 2003 and 2011, during which period spending rose significantly and then was relatively steady.

chootspa 1 year, 8 months ago

I guess it depends on how you look at it. It's not bad compared to the rest of the country. I don't see any suddenly lowered standards making suddenly lowered results.

NAEP over time

NAEP over time by chootspa

chootspa 1 year, 8 months ago

CREDO actually found that states that allowed multiple authorizing agencies had among the worst results, since bad charters would just shop around to find an authorizer. The finding on caps is actually contradicted within the CREDO study, so I find it sloppy that they emphasize it. Nonetheless, Kansas does not have a cap on charters, and it has limited authorizers. Sounds like we're doing it right. Go Kansas charters!

The changes you're proposing - multiple authorizers - actually would put us in the worse off camp by the CREDO correlation findings, so according to the findings in state variability in that CREDO study, expanded charters in Kansas would be more likely to have worse outcomes than they would better.

Thanks for proving my point, Dave.

Dave Trabert 1 year, 8 months ago

again you are deliberately misrepresenting the facts. Kansas only allows local school districts to authorize and operate charter schools, which effectively eliminates the competition that helps students in real charter schools and traditional public schools to flourish.

chootspa 1 year, 8 months ago

I'm stating the facts. Multiple authorizing agencies correlates to a negative growth rate. -.08 standard deviations. I'm sorry if those facts are inconvenient for you, but I'm stating them exactly as the report does. Otherwise, we can just go with the overall findings. Charters are more likely to do worse than they are better. Happier?

Furthermore, the 2010 Mathmatica study looked at lottery based schools that were oversubscribed and well-established. Theoretically the best of the best for charters, and they found no significant difference in outcomes in reading and math. That's a finding backed up by many other studies. Vouchers don't do any better. The MPS study showing that voucher students performed either the same or worse than public school students in Milwaukee.

If "competition" were the secret sauce that made it work, we'd see evidence of that by now. Even when people spend their own money on private schools (true competition and not the fake coupon-based kind you're endorsing), they don't have any better outcomes than they do in public schools.

Dave Trabert 1 year, 8 months ago

keep reading...the next page gives the explanation I provided earlier. CREDO found that it was the contours of state laws that made the difference...not the concept of charters themselves.

chootspa 1 year, 8 months ago

They found some negative correlation with caps (which Kansas doesn't have) and a lot of negative correlation with states that had multiple authorizing agencies (which Kansas doesn't have,) so by CREDO's model, Kansas is already demonstrating what the study indicates are the best policies, and expanding the authorizing agencies (which KPI advocates) may actually decrease the performance of our charters.

texburgh 1 year, 8 months ago

And Trabert's organization argued in favor of multiple authorizing agencies just this year in the Kansas legislature. KPI has no interest in a quality education for every child. They simply wish to privatize all education and end public responsibility for education. First, get vouchers, corporate tuition tax credits, and unaccountable corporate run charter school laws enacted. Then move as many kids into those private schools as possible. Finally phase out public support for these programs and lower corporate taxes accordingly. Trabert, ALEC, and the current Kansas GOP believe everyone deserves all the education they can afford.

chootspa 1 year, 8 months ago

Oh, they want public responsibility - for the bills. They'd just be footing the bill without the same level of transparency and oversight as public schools. Socialized risks, privatized profits.

Randy Leonard 1 year, 8 months ago

Sorry Mr. Trabert, but for anyone with critical thinking skills (which I developed thanks to my public education) your agenda and that of your organization and the Brownback Administration are transparent. Destruction of public education in order to funnel the public education funding to your private charter and parochial schools is very clearly your goal.

kuguardgrl13 1 year, 8 months ago

Kansas could consider a system of "open enrollment". In my home state of Minnesota, parents can send their children to any public school they choose at no cost other than transportation. This means that you could live in, say, Perry and send your kids to school in Lawrence. You'd only be responsible for the cost of getting them to school. The state funding for the students would be sent to Lawrence instead of Perry-Lecompton. Supposedly this encourages Minnesota schools to be competitive with their neighbors so as to retain the students who live in the district as well as try to gain students from outside. Because of this, they have created programs like language immersion for elementary grades, Advanced Placement, and International Baccalaureate. There are also rules intended to prevent transfers and recruiting for athletics. A transfer student is ineligible to play for at least one season. Most students attend in their home district. Attending a neighboring district sometimes happens if a family moves outside the district or if there is a program in a school that entices parents. Often these are the language immersion programs since only a few schools offer them in certain languages. There is also a program that allows successful students from urban districts in Minneapolis and St. Paul to attend suburban high schools. That program does include busing to assist economically disadvantaged students. So a kid from KCK could go to Blue Valley at no cost.

chootspa 1 year, 8 months ago

I find the idea of "competition" to be a misapplication of what schools should be doing. In Finland, which is kicking our butts (haha - competition humor), they don't have that attitude. Every school is a good school. Every child has an equal chance at success, and being born in the wrong district or to poor or non-Finnish speaking parents won't doom them to future school failure.

Granted, they've got a lot less of a wealth disparity problem than we do in this country, but they did manage to turn around a failing school system.

deec 1 year, 8 months ago

A similar plan might benefit the few urban areas of the state, but I'm not sure how welcoming Blue Valley would be to a massive influx of KCK disadvantaged students. For most of the state, where districts can be 50 or more miles apart, I don't think there would be any benefit at all.

Dan Eyler 1 year, 8 months ago

Its so darn obvious that on average public schools are not doing well. The comment that the money they receive is shrinking is laughable and clearly anyone who says this is the case simply is being spoon fed that information and hasn't read up on the amount of money going into Kansas schools. One thing is for sure they are not getting less money. They simply won't say when they have enough. I would really like someone in the school system tell us what is enough money to educate our kids. The bottomless pit approach isn't working with the tax payer. Not enough money for schools, not enough for day care, not enough for SRS, not enough for foodstamps, not enough for insurance, not enough for food pantries, not enough for colleges, not enough for student loans and on and on. Why isn't there enough, because the tax payer is broke.

jafs 1 year, 8 months ago

Well, the legislature and SC established a numerical amount necessary to provide education that meets our state constitutional requirements, and the state is failing to provide that.

Bob_Keeshan 1 year, 8 months ago

So the solution is to send kids to private or parochial schools?

At those schools, they don't follow state standards. They don't follow any standards at all.

Now wouldn't that also be lowering standards? Apparently Trabert's real beef is that standards haven't been lowered enough!

Richard Heckler 1 year, 8 months ago

The Kansas Policy Institute is a perfect example of reckless spending. There is no hard evidence to back up their false comments. This is a plan to blow more tax dollars on private industry.

The False Promises of School Choice - a clear description http://www.commondreams.org/view/2012/10/13-0

PhilChiles 1 year, 8 months ago

Well, that was confusing. I wasn't sure what to think, until Dave showed up in the comments; any time that shill starts chiming in, I just assume that the exact opposite of what he says is true.

sci4all 1 year, 8 months ago

Our friendly neighborhood spider says, "But Kansas doesn't require students to have full comprehension to be considered Proficient and Meet Standards"

EEEEEEEEKKKKK! What, kids don't have to perform perfectly to pass?

Dave Trabert and the Koch Policy Institute expect nothing less than perfection from public school kids.

Meanwhile they refuse to release the names of their major contributors. "It's private, it's free enterprise" they claim.

When their "free enterprise" is trying to take away our "free public education," we DO have every right to know who's bankrolling the ads!

workinghard 1 year, 8 months ago

I haven't seen anything in the LJW, but maybe I missed it, about the .5 mill levy the school district will be applying to our taxes starting July 1, 2013 for 5 years. This added mill levy will be for Adult Basic Education. I would like to know more about this. Why and what is this extra money for. Hopefully Peter or someone will let us know before it is a done deal. The first official public notice appeared in the paper today.

chootspa 1 year, 8 months ago

It's for adults earning GEDs. It's in a different article.

question4u 1 year, 8 months ago

Come on Kansas, get with it. Thriving nations like Chad, Cote D'Ivorie, The Democratic Republic of the Congo, Sudan, and Nepal are all proving that you can prosper with no public education system. Why shouldn't Kansas join the third world?

Everyone knows that education is the one thing on earth that thrives when you starve it. After all, there are corporate-funded think thanks that spend lots of money to show you that "studies" and "statistics" prove that 2 - 1 = 4. When you get corporate-funded ads on television saying so, then golly, it must be true.

Alceste 1 year, 8 months ago

http://www.theatlantic.com/national/archive/2012/12/how-does-your-childs-school-rank-against-the-rest-of-the-world/266057/ provides a most interesting tool to easily compare Kansas schools to those across the globe. Kansas ain't doing too well as a whole. If one is selective in picking "superior districts" one might be fooled, however. However, if one looks at a "common district" one shall read it and weep.

http://www.theatlantic.com/magazine/archive/2010/12/your-child-left-behind/308310/ provides an outstanding, objective study by Stanford University which underscores just how terribly wrong the entire public school system is in the USA.

"The world--and the United States--are wildly uneven when it comes to the ratio of top-scoring math students. A total of 26 countries separate the top-ranking state, Massachusetts, and the last, Mississippi....." : http://www.theatlantic.com/national/archive/2010/11/your-child-left-behind/66069/

While certainly Chad, Cote D'Ivorie, The Democratic Republic of the Congo, Sudan, and Nepal may not be doing so well either, funny how "comparable nations" to the USA are doing so much better. It ain't a Koch thang.....it's a hillbilly Kansas thang.......

http://www.theatlantic.com/magazine/archive/2010/12/your-child-left-behind/308310/ just for fun: "Even if we treat each state as its own country, not a single one makes it into the top dozen contenders on the list. The best performer is Massachusetts, ringing in at No. 17. Minnesota also makes it into the upper-middle tier, followed by Vermont, New Jersey, and Washington. And down it goes from there, all the way to Mississippi, whose students—by this measure at least—might as well be attending school in Thailand or Serbia."

oldexbeat 1 year, 8 months ago

Attack the funding, then attack the outcomes caused by lack of funding, then suggest that private famiies with no doubt cult religious beliefs will be better at making standards? What a crock of $hhhitit... Dave, Dinosaurs did not walk with man. Nope. Not at all. Nor did baby dinosaurs get on a boat. No boat. No baby dinosaurs. And rocks are not 6,000 years old. Nor stars. This is why we have standards that do not combine religious cults into them. There is no other side to the theory of gravity. Get over it.

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 1 year, 8 months ago

There could be a legitimate place for charters and even vouchers, but only if they come with the recognition the good, quality comprehensive education is expensive-- the single most important investment a society can make.

But KPI and AFP and all the other Koch-funded front groups couldn't care less about public investments-- to the contrary, their single-minded goal is to dismantle government on every front that doesn't directly benefit wealthy corporate interests. Their greed for wealth and power is only exceeded by their dishonesty.

chootspa 1 year, 8 months ago

We already have charters in Kansas. There's even one in Lawrence (Lawrence Virtual School). We've talked about adding others, like International Baccalaureate. Dave has a sadface that the charters are only run by the school districts. Because everyone knows school districts only educate people when faced with pseudo free markets.

tomatogrower 1 year, 8 months ago

To receive any kind of tax payer money charter and private schools should have to accept any student who walked in the door. They would also be required to follow the same regulations that have stymied public schools. Why not fix the problem where it is?

jafs 1 year, 8 months ago

The discussion about standards is a valuable one, and it may be possible that KS and other states should raise their standards for public education.

That's a completely different conversation from one about privatization and charter schools, though.

If KPI were advocating for raising standards in public education, they might find more agreement with that position on here.

But they seem to be arguing for "school choice" instead.

tomatogrower 1 year, 8 months ago

They are destroying rural Kansas anyway. And many who live there support these policies. Check out this article about how one county, who are strong supporters of radical Brownback and company, will have a really bad economy if they don't get those evil federal and state tax dollars. They are actually takers, but they don't even see it. Wake up, Kansas. http://www.kansas.com/2013/05/05/2788411/h-edward-flentje-rural-kansas.html

bevy 1 year, 8 months ago

Good article, thanks for linking it.

tomatogrower 1 year, 8 months ago

The NAEP is not aligned with any kind specific standards. States mostly have their own standards, for instance some states might teach their state history in 7th grade and Geography in 8th, in some it's flip flopped. Who do you think is going to perform better on geography questions? Do teachers teach to tests? Of course they do. Why would you test someone's knowledge of algebra, if the kid has never taken algebra? Maybe we should go for national standards, so that our students can all pass a test. That's what life is all about after all, isn't it? Passing standardized, multiple choice questions? They don't need to think critically. And creativity?, that's for those artsy fartsy liberals, right Trabert? Your group just wants to squeeze all people into the same little mold by testing them until they become little robots who only focus on the test.

Richard Heckler 1 year, 8 months ago

This fabrication is one more step towards the governor being instructed to take over Kansas public schools.

Next step will be a variety of right wing entrepreneurs suddenly appearing to offer private schools complete with fundamentalist christian values inserted into the subject matter.

YOUR TAX DOLLARS will be paying for these schools , THEIR selected curriculum and textbooks = big profits. CEO's and shareholders will be on the take also.

Parents will have little to no involvement in these schools NOT by choice.

BTW the K-12 virtual school curriculum is owned by the same above thinkers.

Too many will say the right wing simply cannot do this thus remaining quiet. All it takes is a stroke of the pen aka executive signing. Legal or not. Sam's big government is not required to obey laws.

Beware....

Richard Heckler 1 year, 8 months ago

I suggest that all citizens keep a very close eye on Topeka once this school year closes. I surmise taxpaying citizens will be abrupt changes in our public school system. Sam ALEC Brownback may have discovered loopholes that enable bypassing the legislature. This should be the focus.

Our Lawrence legislators may need to move in the capitol building or find someway to keep the legislature going 24/7. The cost of this will never be greater than the cost of losing Kansas Public Education as we know it.

Beware...

ALEX EXPOSED – The Koch Connection http://www.thenation.com/article/161973/alec-exposed-koch-connection

ALEC – Ghostwriting The Law for Corporate America http://www.justice.org/cps/rde/xchg/justice/hs.xsl/15044.htm

ALEC EXPOSED http://www.alecexposed.org/wiki/ALEC_Exposed

ALEC Private Schools - Corporate Education Reformers Plot Next Steps at Secretive Meeting http://www.commondreams.org/view/2012/02/02-9 http://www.commondreams.org/view/2012/10/13-0

Knowing more about the enemies to the working class and our communities is important.

chootspa 1 year, 8 months ago

"Is 56% of our population unwilling to work to learn and expect teachers to GIVE them an education?"

Even if you're trying to quote Dave's misleading statistic, you're doing it wrong. What he listed was the percentage of students who were above the minimum standards for reading comprehension. He didn't include the students who were at the minimum standards, because then he'd have to concede that 89.1% of students met that standard.

Yes, reading comprehension standards. Let's just say I'd advise you to refrain from throwing stones in that glass house.

sciencegeek 1 year, 8 months ago

I couldn't understand why the Koch propaganda was running these ads now. Then I realized that the legislature was coming back after their recess, so it was the right time to get constituents to pressure them to do the Koch's bidding.

Experience has shown that facts are irrelevant in anything these people put out. Maybe the best thing to do to prevent this type of misinformation campaign is to 1) make everyone in Kansas aware that KPI and AFP are mouthpieces for the Koch machine, and 2) get the truth out about just what it is that they stand for, and how much they will profit if their agenda continues.

tomatogrower 1 year, 8 months ago

Also it's Teacher Appreciation week, and they want to put those uppity, elitist teachers in their place and make the grovel.

jayhawklawrence 1 year, 8 months ago

We need that conversation about how to make our schools better after we get rid of this infestation known as ALEC.

There is a lot we could do but it starts with great teachers. A few superstars on every team and everybody wins.

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