Saturday, May 9, 2009

Election Statement

Election Statement from Robert Canright, 2009 School Board Election.

Our newspapers help cover up the problems in the Plano school district, but those problems do not go away and do not get solved. I demonstrated that the Allen, Frisco, and Richardson school districts are better managed than PISD and provide a better education for the average student than PISD, but the citizens of Plano could not see that proof in most of their newspapers and the PISD censored the data from the taped broadcast of their candidates forum.

More and more parents are voting against the school board. In the year 2000, Susan Sarhady ran against Allan Bird. I received 75% more votes than Ms Sarhady did in 2000. There is a growing discontent in Plano with our school board.

Our curriculum problems continue to fester. Small numbers of perceptive parents continue to discover the truth about our problems, but they usually pull their children from PISD schools. Only 5% of Plano voters participated in the school board election. If the citizens ever learn the truth about our problems, I believe they will finally go vote and we can begin fixing our problems.

I will continue trying to fix the problems in PISD because I love Plano and do not want to give up on it.

We should applaud the local paper, My Crescent, because it was the only newspaper to publish an article about the true performance of the PISD.

My thanks to everyone who voted for me and worked to help my campaign!

Robert Canright

Better Leaders for a Better Future

My platform is

I say our economic problems today are not a normal economic downturn. This is not a normal recession. Our problems were created by poor leadership on Wall Street in Washington.

For our children to have a good future, we need to educate them to become tomorrow's leaders. This means they must understand economics, and they must understand history. I have given one example of an improved history course: on the U.S. Constitution. Studying Plato would be better for developing leaders than studying one more year of Math.

I have developed the Texas Ascendant campaign as a road map for prosperous future for our children.

Vote for Robert Canright for the sake of your children's future!

Robert Canright

Plano is Special

I think Plano is a great city and the schools are almost great. We need to fix some problems before the problems become too big to fix. I want to work to fix those problems and give our kids a great education.

I changed careers in order to stay in Plano and permit my children to grow up here. I have seen our high school seniors holding pinkies and singing their Alma Mater with heart. We have a great spirit.

Plano has been a great town, but we need to keep up the quality of our schools. As the schools slip, so will Plano slip.

Vote for Robert Canright to maintain school quality!

Thursday, May 7, 2009

Texas 4x4 Graduation Requirements Part 2

The Texas Legislature thinks it can mold the future by forcing more Math and Science upon our students at a time when the study of Economics and History are for more critical for our survival than Math and Science.

The Texas Legislature loves centralized planning, but it does not care that its plans are failures. Once they identified under performing schools with the TAKS test, they could never figure out how to improve those schools. They do not care that their plans are consistent failures, they just love to plot and scheme and shove awful programs down the throats of voters who lack the backbone to go vote them out of office.

The famous economist Friedrich von Hayek, a favorite of Ronald Reagan & Margaret Thatcher, has constructed a compelling argument that centralized planning is always inferior to a free market.

The Texas Legislature needs to dump the 4x4 and let the free market -- parents and students and communities -- choose a 4th year of Math and Science when it fits their needs. Alfred North Whitehead, in "The Aims of Education," said that central governments need to let the schools set their own curriculum to fit their communities.

The Texas Legislature lacks the competence to make detailed policy about education. The advice the Legislature is getting regarding education is bad advice. The Legislature needs to fire its advisers before the voters fire the Legislators.

Robert Canright

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Texas 4x4 Graduation Requirements

I recently spoke with at telecom executive about the Texas 4x4 graduation requirements that will force all the children of Texas to take a fourth year of math and science. This executive has a child in Plano schools who is artistically inclined. This mother feels that a fourth year of math and a fourth year of science will remove courses from her child's schedule that would be good for her child and force her child to take classes she does not need.

Freedom of choice in education has been stripped away from this mother and her child, and that is wrong!

This telecom executive went on to say, "Why more math and science? We don't need more engineers! I've laid off between 600 and 700 engineers. We're sending the work overseas!"

People who say we do need more engineers are misinformed. There might be engineering executives who say there is a shortage, but they are wrong. When Erich Bloch, an ex-IBM vice president was director of the National Science Foundation he made a lot of noise about an engineering shortage in order to bring in many foreign engineers on H1-B visas while companies were laying off American engineers. After Bloch left the National Science Foundation the staffers at the Foundation admitted there was no evidence to support an engineering shortage, that Erich Bloch made up the alleged shortage on his own.

Then there are people who say our students are not all college ready when they graduate because they need remedial work in math. Adding one more year of math to children already far behind in math skills will never make up for a poor elementary school math program.

People concerned about college ready students have the solution backwards. The answer is not in 12th grade, the answer is in elementary school. Fix instruction at the beginning of the pipeline, where the problems are created, not at the end of the pipeline where damage is irreversible.

Some people believe our children will be better employees if they have more math and science. But the Texas Legislature should not seek to subjugate our children to the service of others. What the Texas Legislature should seek is a growing economy with good jobs. We need better employers, not better employees.

A fourth year of math and science is less that worthless for most children, it is an unnecessary burden on the schools and an incentive for marginal students to drop-out.

Here is a quote from a supporter of the 4x4: "I foresee much weeping among students and their parents." Supporters of the 4x4 do not have the best interests of our children in mind.

Our children need a better understanding of history, economics, and finance, not more math and science.

When I saw a U.S. Congressman on C-Span explain why he voted for the bank bailout, the Troubled Asset Relief Fund, he explained that he did not understand economics, so he had to trust the Secretary of the Treasury, Henry Paulson. Notice the Congressman did not say he did not understand math, he did not say he did not understand science, he said he did not understand economics.

A lack of knowledge on economics is crippling the U.S. Congress and Senate, but economics is taught in the Social Studies department, so it gets pushed back for math and science.

Our economy is in the toilet because Wall Street CEOs were ignorant of the history of the Great Depression. They repeated the mistakes of the past and you and I are paying the price for their ignorance with our life's savings. History is taught in the Social Sciences department and will get pushed back with the 4x4 requierments.

A number of special interest groups have conspired to push 4x4 down our throats.

The 4x4 graduation requirements are not for the benefit of our children.

As long as voters gripe but do not vote, our legislators will continue serve the special interst groups at the expense of our children and their future.

Our PISD Board of Trustees has sold us out by embracing Senate Bill SB3 to keep the 4x4 and water-down the school accountability system. Of course they want to water-down the accountability system: The TAKS/TEKS system proves the Plano ISD provides a mediocre education for the average student and PISD wants to cover up their failings!

Robert Canright

Sunday, May 3, 2009

U.S. Constitution Rediscovered

I have said repeatedly that the 4x4 law is wrong. An example of an important course that could be pushed off our children's schedules would be a history elective on the U.S. Constitution.

If you think high school teachers could not teach a course on the US Constitution, I say that with the use of a course from the Teaching Company that our teachers could do it. The Teaching Company has a course, The Great Debate, Advocates and Opponents of the American Constitution by Dr. Thomas Pangle of the University of Texas, Austin, that could serve as the foundation of a course on the Constitution.

Supplementing this lecture would be an examination of the Federalist and Anti-Federalist papers. Morton Borden has matched an Anti-Federalist paper against every Federalist Paper so contrasting views on every Federalist paper can be studied. The class or the teacher could pick some of the Federalist papers, read them and their corresponding Anti-Federalist papers and discuss them.

The best way to study the U.S. Constitution is to go beyond reading the words. The best way to study the meaning of the Constitution is to study the both sides of the argument over the ratification of our Constitution.

In addition, the Plano public library has a video on DVD that could be used in a class on the Constitution: "Key Constitutional Concepts", DVD 342.73029 KEY. This DVD has 3 segments. The 1st segment is inane, but segment #2 on "Gideon vs Wainwright" and segment #3 on "Youngstown vs Sawyer" are educational and intellectually stimulating. I believe there are other resources that could help our students understand and value the U.S. Constitution.

Our Constitution is a national treasure. We should all know it better. Our government will not respect the Constitution if we do not know when the Constitution is being violated and then demand it be followed.

The four-by-four law, requiring a 4th year of Math and a 4th year of Science, will push history electives off our children's schedules. History can be more valuable at times that Science or Math.

We need better leaders for a better future. Understanding and valuing the U.S. Constitution will make for better leaders.

Robert Canright

Capitalism Rediscovered

I have said before that forcing all our children into taking a fourth year of Math and Science is bad. Students that will benefit from a 4th year will already be taking those courses. Most students would benefit from other courses.

Capitalism, for example, would be an elective that could be far more valuable to some students. I have a more detailed description on how Capitalism could be studied at this web page. A course on Capitalism would be an academic course, not part of the Career and Technical Education (CTE) courses that have been made substitutes for Math and Science in 4x4. This shows how the "compromise" on 4x4 in Senate Bill SB3 is a failure.

The PISD lists Business courses on their excellent web site. A course on Entrepreneurship would be a worthwhile addition to prepare our children to become successful business owners.

We need to prepare our children for leadership, not servitude. Four-by-four prepares our children for servitude and that is wrong.

We need better leaders for a better future. A course on Capitalism would be superior in that regard than courses in Math and Science.

You need a person of vision on the Board of Trustees. Vote for Robert Canright.

Breaking Through the Wall of Humbug

I have offered many reasons why voters should vote for me:

  • The elementary school Math curriculum is flawed.
  • The elementary school English Language Arts curriculum is flawed.
  • The Connected Math curriculum in middle school is dumbing down math.
  • Our schools are mismanaged when you compare them to our neighbors.
  • I have demonstrated the Board of Trustees is not providing the oversight they should.
  • I am better qualified than any member on the board to help fix curriculum problems.
  • I have identified a Tutoring Divide in Plano that needs to be addressed.
  • I have a vision for combating cheating with the Pledge to Justice.
  • I have identified problems with the 4x4 curriculum being pushed by our legislators.
  • I have identified problems with the "growth model" of grading proposed by the PISD Administration.
  • I have a vision for goals of education to help guide our district to greatness: the Texas Ascendant Campaign.

But I still get asked this question: "Yes, but why should I vote for you?"

Obviously I think I can work to solve the problems I have identified. So what is it that I am not getting across to some people? Communication is not that easy.

Here is something I have not said yet that some voters might be waiting to hear: You should vote for Robert Canright because I will break down the Wall of Humbug that surrounds the PISD administration.

Here is a link to a description of what happened years ago when Timothy Soh presented his findings to the Board of Trustees that PISD was possibly spending money it did not need to spend: Trustee Gary Base refused to even consider the facts. I have found the same facts true today, years later. The Board has erected a Wall of Humbug to protect the Administration from any need to improve its performance.

After I presented data showing the Allen, Frisco, and Richardson ISDs outperform Plano ISD, the Administration published a very nice article on their website about 42 of the Plano schools receiving high ratings from a group called "Just for the Kids". (If the PISD website does not have the link I referenced, try here at this link.) That sounds great, almost like saying my data is wrong. Well, the TEA data has 47 Plano schools rated Recognized or Exemplary: 47 from the TEA is better than the 42 from Just for the Kids (69% vs. 62%). But Allen ISD has 90% of their schools rated Recognized or Exemplary, and 90% is a lot better that either 69% or 62%. Yes, I understand the Administration feels defensive, but it is still humbug to pretend there are no problems at PISD.

The Board and Administration are not the only ones creating the Wall of Humbug. The local papers also are part of the Wall of Humbug. Here is a link to a good article about the election that you can read in a periodical called My Crescent. Think about it. The Dallas Morning News does not have this article, and neither do the Plano Star Courier nor the Murphy Monitor. But as a testament to the greatness of America we have new source of news in Plano from a man to traveled across the ocean to seek the American dream of starting his own business. This is the true glory of Capitalism: that competition can improve our lives and our society by providing competition in delivering news to our community.

The establishment newspapers are part of the Wall of Humbug, so I am relieved that Capitalism is alive and well in Texas, providing competition for the existing papers.

Vote for Robert Canright and you can have an honest two-way communication with a member of the Board of Trustees instead of running into the Wall of Humbug.

Saturday, May 2, 2009

Hear Canright Speak on Video

One of the candidates forums was video taped, the one hosted by the Plano Mosque. Part of that video, showing Robert Canright's speech, is available for viewing in this on-line article.

The video follows the 2nd chart.

I am impressed to see real independent news media in town. The establishment newspapers suppress the news more often than report it.


The Dumbing Down Disease

Plano ISD is infected with the Dumbing Down Disease. Is this a problem? Go to and search for "dumbing down" and you will see many books on the topic. Even Wikipedia has an article about dumbing down.

Connected Math is part of the Dumbing Down Disease. The elementary school math curriculum in PISD has been in trouble for years, but the middle school curriculum used to be okay. The kids received real math instruction in middle school and moved on to a good education in high school and senior high.

Connected Math will make the kids unprepared for high school. Connected Math means instead of providing private tutoring for elementary school, now private tutoring will be necessary all the way throught 8th grade. For those children who have not had private tutoring (which can be done by parents or tutors), PISD will eventually want to dumb down high school math. Then they will dumb down senior high math.

Once the PISD has dumbed down the math curriculum all the way through 12th grade, our private tutoring system will be overwhelmed and the PISD will crumble and fall: Plano will be a little Dallas in the middle of better managed suburban ISDs.

The high school math curriculum is a treasure. We must protect our high school math curriculum. We must get rid of Connected Math from the middle schools before it is too late. If we fix the problems we have had for so many years in the elementary schools, then our administrators will not need to dumb down the middle school curriculum.

SOS: Save our schools! Vote for Robert Canright for Place 7.

Friday, May 1, 2009

How Does One Vote in the School Board Election?

I believe the majority of the registered voters in Plano have never voted in a school board election. A question I hear often is, "does it matter where I live?" No, the election is at-large. This means that every year you get to vote in a school board election.

The election is always on a Saturday in the first half of May. The candidates file for election 60 days before the election, so by the middle of March you can fish around the PISD website to find the names of the candidates. The PISD Communications office is very well run and has the best website of any district around us.

Find the candidates names and look for their websites and blogs. Newspapers are a very poor way of staying informed.

What about early voting? Every year you can check, early April is good, with the Collin County Elections Department at their website:

You can find the early voting calendar and locations at their website.

Voter turn out in Plano is very poor. Last election there was a 4.5% turnout in Plano for the school board while Allen and Frisco had 10% turnouts. Notice that districts with better voter turnout are better managed.

Please vote every year!

Robert Canright

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Digital Divide or Tutoring Divide?

As I have been saying during my campaign, Plano has a Tutoring Divide. Many parents are providing private tutoring for their children to overcome the shortcomings in the PISD elementary school curriculum. Plano ends up with lop-sided results: many National Merit Scholarship winners on one end of the Tutoring Divide and mediocre results for the rest of the district, resulting in an Acceptable rating from the TEA.

What has the district done to remedy this situation? Nothing!

The district is more interested in the Digital Divide: providing internet services to the poor. See this article: Plano school district wants to provide wireless network to poor students, by Matthew Haag. What has this to do with education? Nothing!

Why is the PISD wasting time with issues not related to education? Because the Digital Divide was part of the Clinton-Gore liberal agenda.

Yes, the Clinton legacy is alive and well in the Plano ISD Board of Trustees.

The City Council can spend its money to address the Digital Divide if it wants, but it is an inappropriate use of school resources. You need a board member who is not pursuing partisan politics. You need a board member focused on education to fix the Tutoring Divide. You need new blood on the board.

Vote for Robert Canright

Cronyism Hurting PISD?

Lecia Medlock is suing the Plano ISD in Federal Court. Ms. Medlock was laid off after complaining of cronyism. She says that district officials derailed her appeal to save her job to stop her accusation of "blatant cronyism" in promotion decisions from public disclosure.

Is cronyism contributing to the poor performance of Plano schools?

Why does the Plano ISD get sued so often? Could it be that this administration and board of trustees runs roughshod over everyone?

It is time to get new blood on the board!

Vote for Robert Canright

Tuesday, April 28, 2009


My daughter was surprised to find Plano did not offer an elective in Philosophy. I enjoyed having a class on Philosophy when I was in high school and she hoped to have a similar experience. Talking about this with another parent, I was asked how Philosophy could be taught in high school. That is an excellent question.

One might expect a survey course in Philosophy, like I had, would be best for high school. After thought and research, I think a course on Plato's Republic is very feasible for high school. As I have described elsewhere, combining a commercially available course by a college professor from the Teaching Company with a scripted and unabridged enactment of The Republic available from Agora Publications would bring Plato's Republic within reach of high school students who are ready to stretch their minds.

A course on the Philosophy of Capitalism would be a good elective for seniors. The Teaching Company has a course, "Thinking About Capitalism," that is excellent. This course could be combined with reading books such as "The Wealth of Nations" by Adam Smith or "Capitalism, Socialism, and Democracy" by Joseph Schumpeter.

I saw a US Congressman on C-Span say he had no choice but to vote for a bank bailout because he did not understand economics. Notice he did not say he did not understand math or science. It is ignorance of economics that is ruining our economy, hence our students should have a high level course on the theory of Capitalism. What is available now in an economics course in high school is good for what it seeks to do: explain the mechanistic elements of economics. But understanding the philosophy of Capitalism is what is needed to understand big issues like globalization.

I mentioned in another blog post that Scarsdale High School is backing away from Advanced Placement (AP) courses and is offering advanced courses of their own design. We can do the same. A course on Plato's Republic and a course on the Philosophy of Capitalism would prepare our students to excel in a highly competitive world.

Robert Canright

PS: I have prepared a syllabus for a Continuing Education class on Plato's Republic. An interested group of adults can study Plato's Republic. Contact me if you are interested.

Monday, April 27, 2009

Plano Senior High Debaters Take Second in Global Contest

Congratulations to Plano Senior High debaters Crystal Xia, Gursimran Singh, and Javed Laljiani for taking second in a global debating competition held in New York City, at New York University.

Kudos to their coach Cheryl Potts. You can read the details in this press release.

Plano is a great community with talented students, teachers, and coaches.

Our thanks to Bickel & Brewer for making this experience possible for our children.

Robert Canright

Friday, April 24, 2009

Elementary School Reading and Writing

I've been asked to provide more details on the problems I see in the elementary school English Language Arts program. Here is a list of problems followed by explanations.

  • Lack of phonics
  • Lack of vocabulary
  • Weak on grammar
  • Weak on writing
  • No penmanship
  • Poor attitude towards skills

Lack of phonics: When my daughter was in elementary school I was not surprised that phonics was not taught, so I taught my daughter phonics as best I could. My daughter fought me on phonics because her teacher really wanted the kids to guess words without sounding them out.

Here's a story for you. A friend of a friend has a child who was pronounced dyslexic by PISD. The parent bought phonics material and taught her child to read. Her child continued to have trouble at the PISD school and the mother could not understand how that could be since her child could read at home. Well, it turned out that the teacher was forbidding the child from sounding out the words. The parents sold their house and moved to Allen. The Allen ISD said the child was not dyslexic, but needed extra time to read. I have another friend whose child did have dyslexia and was so disappointed by the way PISD dealt with dyslexia that he pulled his child from PISD and sent his child to a private school.

By the time my second child went to PISD I had discovered a good resource for teaching reading: "Teach Your Child to Read in 100 Easy Lessons" by Siegfried Engelmann. My son is successfully reading out loud long Greek names in Plutarch's Lives of the Noble Greeks and Romans, while I've seen other boys his age halt their reading when they reach an unfamiliar word.

Lack of vocabulary: Teaching spelling is the closest PISD comes to ensuring our children have learned any vocabulary. PISD wants children to guess the meaning of words and move on in their reading. When I was in elementary school I was taught to stop and look up a word I did not know. Furthermore, when I was in fourth grade we had graduated reading assignments specially designed to impart a significant vocabulary. I'll always remember thinking, "conflagration, what on earth is that?" But I dutifully looked it up and I have found a good vocabulary to be a life long blessing.

By the time my daughter was in high school I decided the vocabulary she received from her education was inadequate and I paid for vocabulary drilling. A good vocabulary should be taught in elementary school so children can benefit from it all through their years in PISD.

Weak on grammar: Yes, they teach some grammar, but it is a light weight dip into the subject. When I was in fifth grade I had comprehensive instruction in grammar. We learned to diagram sentences. When you become serious about writing you find grammar indispensable for self-editing. Fifth grade grammar in PISD is pretty weak. I went to Borders and purchased an English Language Arts book for 5th grade and I am using that to teach my son the three basic sentence types: simple, compound, and complex. Once you understand the difference between a compound and complex sentence, you can better understand why a comma or semicolon is used to demarcate sentence clauses.

My son was being taught to learn how to use commas by guessing and then being corrected without being given adequate instruction on the proper use of commas. You might think this is obviously a stupid way to teach because you do not actually teach and instead you make children think grammar is confusing and hard. Yet, PISD is embracing an approach to teaching that avoids teaching. I'll always remember an administrator from PISD saying to teachers that they are supposed to be, "a guide on the side, not a sage on the stage."

Weak on writing: It stands to reason that if instruction on grammar and sentence structure is weak that instruction on writing is going to be weak, and it is. When my daughter took an English composition / rhetoric class at Collin College she was surprised at how her papers were being marked. She asked me to check one of her papers and I had to agree it needed more correction than she expected. So I asked her, "have you ever had a paper in Plano corrected this rigorously?" She said no. She had never had proper proper feedback on her writing.

No penmanship: Plano does not penmanship. If you are not taught good penmanship while young, it is difficult to pick it up as an adult. You can tell at a glance the quality of a person's education by the way that person holds a pen. Good penmanship is a mark of distinction. Some successful businessmen believe personalized thank you notes to customers are an important business practice, but that not cannot have ugly handwriting. My mother has the best penmanship I have seen. She was taught penmanship with the Palmer method when she was a child. It is a shame our district ignores penmanship and makes good penmanship one more burden for the busy parents to provide for their children because the district ignores it.

Poor attitude towards skills: Reading, writing, grammar, and penmanship are all skills and our district follows a trend in education that disregards the value of skills by calling them stultifying and mechanistic, to use John Dewey's own words.

Some progressive educators want to skip teaching skills and focus instead on teaching critical thinking, but that is a short cut that short changes our children

Our children deserve the best education we can provide.

Vote for Robert Canright.

Sunday, April 19, 2009

The Rotary Challenge

The Rotary International has a nice "Four Way Test of the Things We Think, Say, or Do."

1. Is it the TRUTH?
2. Is it FAIR to all concerned?
4. Will it be BENEFICIAL to all concerned?

Here is my 1-minute pitch to the Metro Rotary.

Is it true that the Plano ISD Administration is doing great job? No! My charts that are posted at my website and presented at the Rotary show that Allen ISD is the best managed school district around us and that the Plano ISD, by providing mediocre results at the highest cost, is the worst managed district around us. To compensate for the mediocre education provided for the average student, many parents send their kids to private tutoring, as I have previously mentioned.

Is it fair that Plano children need to have private tutoring to make up for problems in the Plano curriculum? No!

Is it beneficial to the parents to be forced to pay for tutoring? No!

Does driving parents to find tutoring build goodwill? No! Parents have sued the district in court over the problems in the math curriculum, where's the good will in that?

I told the Rotary their own 4-point test demonstrates they should vote for Robert Canright for Place 7 and turn out the incumbent. I asked that everyone there vote for me.

Then I appealed to everyone there who was not yet persuaded to read my website and blog with an open mind and to put the welfare of the children over commitment to a candidate, to put the welfare of the community over commitment to a candidate and to vote for Robert Canright.

Robert Canright

Debate Team Now in New York

Debaters from Plano Senior High are now in New York City. The Final Four of the National Public Policy Forum is this weekend.

I'm dying to know if they made it to the final! Tell me if you know.

If you are not familiar with the National Public Policy Forum, sponsored by the law firm Bickel & Brewer, read about it at this link.

We have great kids in Plano and they accomplish great things. Imagine the heights they could scale if we fixed the problems in the elementary and middle school curriculum!

Robert Canright

Saturday, April 18, 2009

Dumbing Down and Connected Math

The Plano ISD Administration is dumbing down our children's education. It is a nation wide problem and our administration slavishly follows foolish fads in education, so it is falling into the same quality problems plaguing other school school districts.

But our neighbors are not falling into this trap. The Superintendents at Allen, Frisco, and Richardson seem to think for themselves instead of mindlessly jumping onto the latest bandwagon. The Allen, Frisco, and Richardson ISDs do not use Connected Math, only Plano. Allen, Frisco, and Richardson show better test results than Plano.

When my daughter reached middle-school, I found the curriculum there was solid. I was able to discontinue tutoring and rely upon the schools. The math curriculum at Plano Senior High was awesome.

Now Connected Math is used in middle-school and I see I must tutor my son all the way through middle-school. I hope they do not destroy the math curriculum at the Plano high schools until after he has gone through them. They will surely wreck the high school math curriculum, as the day follows the night. After dumbing down math from grades 1 to 8, many children will be unable to do the quality math currently in our high schools. Instead of admitting they were wrong to dumb down grades 1 through 8, they will dumb down grades 9 through 12 as well. When they complete dumbing down math from grades 1 through 12, the Plano ISD will be totally wrecked.

I do not believe the tutoring industry will be able to replace the high school math program, it is too good and too extensive to be replaced by tutoring. Once the PISD Administration finishes dumbing down math from grades 1 through 12, then you will see the district stumbling and falling.

Connected Math (CM) is a program developed at Michigan State University. The proponents of CM say it, "Develops deep understanding of important ideas." Connected Math sacrifices math skills for what they consider "understanding." What is the point of understanding math if you can only do the simplist math with great difficulty?

Connected Math is part of the dumbing down of America. Google "dumbing down of America" and you will find a lot of hits. Seach for that phrase and you will find very many books. It is a plague upon America and it is very present here in the metroplex, as decribed by Dr. Troy Camplin in this OpEd article in the Dallas Morning News.

Parents have objected vigorously in the past to Connected Math. Click here to see the lawsuit against PISD over Connected Math. Click here to see the disposition of Dr. Jim Wolgehagen, math coordinator, during that lawsuit. The parents felt they had to sue the district because the Administration and Board have turned a deaf ear to the citizens of Plano.

The Plano Board of Trustees does not represent the citizens of Plano; it represents the PISD Administration. The board persists in failing to provide the over sight it should because the citizens of Plano do not vote.

Not only am I better qualified than any Board member to provide the over sight for math and science curriculum, but I will represent the citizens of Plano and provide the over sight that is missing from this Board of Trustees.

Vote for Robert Canright to save our schools!

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Plano's Secret: the Tutoring Industry

I just about choke when I hear a PISD Trustee brag about the great job they do. Many parents break their backs to compensate for the shortcomings in the Plano curriculum so our children can succeed in spite of the problems with the curriculum.

For years I sent my daughter to a Chinese school on Sunday for math. Two of her classmates were at that same Chinese school. There were hundreds of children at this one school, and that is not the only Chinese school around.

There are many Kumon centers, and a large number of different tutoring businesses.

It is a lot of work and pressure on a parent who wants to do the tutoring himself. It is almost overwhelming.

Here is an email I received from a parent:
"The education my child is receiving [in Plano] is not good. If you came to my house, you would think I home school. Our living room has book shelves full of books, workbooks, flash cards, learning games, manipulatives, etc. I shop at all the local teacher stores, have several shelves worth of textbooks, and spend as much time as possible online to learn how to teach him the concepts he is missing out on at school."

Parents, through personally tutoring their own children or by paying for tutoring, are the source of PISD success. The PISD Administration and Board of Trustees has let us down and forced us to tutor our children for the basics.

Karen Dillard's program is outstanding for SAT, ACT, and the PSAT tests. The PSAT tutoring is how Plano gets National Merit Scholarships.

The Plano ISD Administration has fouled up the elementary school curriculum. They are in the process of fouling up the middle-school math curriculum with Connected Math. The tutoring industry has been keeping Plano ISD afloat. But if the Adminstration fouls up the high schools next, the damage might be more that the tutoring industry can float.

I am very worried that Plano ISD is going to sink. We need new blood on the Board of Trustees to halt the decay in our school quality.

Vote for Robert Canright

Measuring Growth?

Schools across the country have been struggling with performance problems on government mandated standardized tests. One approach administrators around the country are pushing is to change how you report performance. There is a big movement towards "standards-based report cards."

Here is a link to one online article with a rosy view of standards-based report cards. There is some balance in this New York Times article on standards-based report cards: Report Cards Give Up A’s and B’s for 4s and 3s by WINNIE HU, March 24, 2009.

Two points caught my attention in the NYT article. (1) Children were crushed by low marks in the beginning of the year because the report cards measured growth instead of achievement. They were compared to what they were supposed to know by the end of the year, so half way through the year they are scoring 50%, or 2.0 on a 4.0 scale. (2) The article mentioned 39 skills being measured on one report card. The other article mentions a school with 54 skills being measured.

So measuring growth with standards-based report cards can be depressing to children and way too complicated for the teachers to realistically use.

When my daughter was in 2nd grade they gave her a math test on the first day to measure her performance on a test that was going to be administered at the end of the year. They tested her on material she had not been taught. She was depressed and thought she was not good in math. I asked why they did that and was told this was how they decided to measure growth. Boy, was that stupid!

Standards-based report cards are a bureaucrat's fantasy. Beware of efforts to measure growth.

Changing our children's report cards to standards-based report cards will be an expensive, confusing, wasteful mess.

And efforts to change the TAKS test are a waste of time and money. Either the TEA succeeds in discovering a method to raise the scores of under-performing schools, or the State Legislature admits defeat and abandons standardized testing.

Our options with TAKS testing are simple: success or failure.

Efforts to change either the test or the testing measurements are a deception. Remember there are businesses that profit from testing and they don't want testing to ever stop or become stable. They love selling tests. They love being paid to rewrite tests. Testing has become a racket that raids our pockets.

Our Legislators are enslaving us to Pearson.

Plano needs a member on the Board of Trustees that is not going to sell out to big business. Plano needs a a member on the Board who can cut through the baloney and make decisions that will help your child instead of helping big business.

Vote for Robert Canright

Saturday, April 11, 2009

Elementary School Math Problems

I've been asked to describe the problems in the Plano ISD elementary school curriculum. Here are the problems in a nutshell:

  • Poor attitude
  • Lack of skills
  • Watered down problems
  • Very little homework
  • Buckshot approach to math
  • Unprepared for middle school
  • Tutoring divide
Poor attitude: The curriculum is poisoned from the start by a bad attitude. Some math curriculum writers think elementary school math is hard for children to understand, consequently they make it hard to understand. Elementary school math is not esoteric knowledge; it is a skill to master, like reading.

Lack of skills: The focus of elementary school math in Plano is on understanding math instead of doing math. Math skills have fallen from the curriculum and parents have to teach the math facts and arithmetic skills at home if the parents recognize the importance of math skills. This means parents must pay for tutoring or purchase material and personally teach math skills at home.

Watered down problems: The math problems assigned in elementary school are low quality problems. The goal seems to be teaching to the TAKS instead of teaching skills necessary for competence. This also requires parents to pay for tutoring or purchase material to provide the appropriate level of work.

Very little homework: One learns by doing, but our children do little homework in elementary school. The curriculum is so bad, too little homework is really a blessing. That gives more time for tutoring, but widens the gap between those being tutored and those not being tutored.

Buckshot approach to math: The children see many topics at the same time. There is little focus, so math looks like a confusing hodge-podge of problems. The administration calls this "spiraling", but spiraling could have more focus on individual topics, build from simple to more challenging problems, and then move on and circle back for review later. The buck-shot approach makes math look like a confusing mess.

Unprepared for middle-school: The low level of math skills makes the children unprepared for middle-school math. Math problems should be more challenging in middle-school, but many of our children never master the math skills necessary for middle-school.

Instead of fixing the elementary school math curriculum to eliminate the deficiencies in middle school students, Plano has chosen to water down, or dumb down, middle school math with the Connected Math program (more about this another time).

Tutoring divide: There is a gap now in Plano between those students with private tutoring and those without. This leads to a system where the cream-of-the-crop is highly competitive and gets a truckload of National Merit Scholarships, while many students, especially economically disadvantaged students, fall behind.

The tutoring divide explains why Plano can be a mediocre district with a TEA Acceptable rating while many students get National Merit Scholarships.

Elementary school mathematics is not very complicated. The PISD administration has a poor educational philosophy in regard to math. Plano administrators do not know how to effectively teach math.

For thousands of years, societies around the world have taught the math facts to their children and moved their civilizations forward, charting the stars, sailing the seas, and even made flying possible for mankind.

Dumbing down education by throwing out the math facts and down-playing math skills is putting the average Plano student at a disadvantage.

The problems in elementary school math are not difficult to fix. Getting past a stone-walling Board of Trustees and correcting the problems in the PISD administration is hard. Math is not a problem, politics is a problem.

The first step to fixing the problems in Plano's elementary school curriculum is to vote out the Board of Trustees.

Robert Canright

PS: I can confirm that the districts that out perform Plano -- Allen, Frisco, and Richardson -- do not use Connected Math

Friday, April 10, 2009

Cheating Policy

The news is that the Plano ISD is planning to make it easier and more rewarding for children to cheat in school. That is what it means when a child does not get a zero for being caught cheating on that assignment.

Here is a link to the article in the Dallas Morning News:
"Plano ISD considers alternative grading policy By MATTHEW HAAG"

For years I have taken a stand against cheating.

On April 28, 2007 I wrote: "We Need to Address Cheating"

On May 4, 2007 I wrote: "Cheating and the PISD's Glass House" where I discussed how the PISD Administration and Board lost their moral authority to admonish cheating when they named a school after a convicted felon.

On February 20, 2008 I wrote: "Good Leaders are Ethical Leaders", where I discussed what I now call "The Pledge to Justice":

The Pledge to Justice
We do not steal, we do not cheat, and we do not hurt other people.
We are people of integrity, competence, and compassion.

Cheating and stealing are closely related. It is a small step from cheating to stealing.

On February 28, 2008 I wrote: "Plano ISD Sends Wrong Message About Theft." The PISD administration interfered with discipline at Plano Senior High and forced some cheerleaders who had been caught shoplifting back onto the cheer squad over the objections of the staff at the school.

Clearly, the PISD Administration and Board of Trustees have been soft on cheating and stealing for years. The message they give to the world is that cheating and stealing are good if you can get away with it, if you have political pull.

If there are no consequences for cheating, then the Administration and Board would be encouraging our children to cheat: there would only be an up-side to cheating, there would be no down-side. Honest children would be the laughing-stock of the cheaters, and that is where I would guess this Board of Trustees is headed.

The district curriculum and budget are clearly mismanaged. If the incumbent in Place 7 and the "establishment candidate" in Place 6 win, then clearly no amount of mismanagement will ever dislodge the board members. I predict that if the board candidates win, that the consequences for cheating will fly out the window after the election and the cheating that is already a problem in Plano will be rampant. That will be one more nail in the coffin for the reputation of the Plano schools.

Here is an appropriate quote from Herbert Spencer:
"The ultimate result of shielding men from the effects of folly, is to fill the world with fools."

The flip side to that quote is that honesty is wise.

I believe honesty is empowering.

On February 22, 2009 I wrote: "The Trust Texas Project" where I suggest a reputation for honesty in finance could be a competitive advantage in strengthening the banking industry in Texas to gain prominence in national and international financial circles.

If you have never voted in a school board election, then this is your time to shine. We stand at the edge of the abyss. If the clique running the school board remains intact, Plano will become a cheaters paradise and our district will fall into an irreversible death spiral.

Please vote for Robert Canright for Place 7 on Saturday May 9.
For Place 6 I recommend Steve Navarre.

Robert Canright

Saturday, March 14, 2009

Plano School Quality Slips

The top chart shows the results of the 2008 TAKS tests. They show 87% of Allen and 87 % of Frisco schools are ranked Exemplary or Recognized by the TEA, while 69% of Plano schools and 66% of McKinney schools are Exemplary or Recognized.

Plano trails both Allen and Frisco in the TEA measure of superior schools. Allen and Frisco ISDs are rated "Recognized" by the TEA. Plano is an "Acceptable" district.

Allen and Frisco have more good schools than Plano.

The second chart shows the percent of schools ranked "Academically Acceptable" by the Texas Education Agency.

Allen has 5%, Frisco 11%, Plano 24%, and McKinney 34% schools ranked "Acceptable."

"Acceptable" is not good, it can mean the school is on the borderline of being "Unacceptable."

According to the TEA measurements, the Plano ISD is more like the McKinney ISD than like the Allen ISD or Frisco ISD.

There is a Plano Spirit. Plano is a great community. We are slipping in some ways, and our schools are definitely slipping, but we can fix that if we face the problems and make good choices.

Wasting money on WiFi wireless internet is a bad choice that not only wastes money that could be spent on teachers, but it wastes the time of the administration and everyone involved. The entire WiFi wireless boondoggle is a mistake because it diverts attention away from education and will drive school quality down even more. Here is a link to an article about the WiFi wireless network that PISD wants to beam into private homes. The PISD administration and board allow themselves to become distracted by non-essential adventures while they neglect their primary duty of educating the children. This misplaced focus of attention contributes to the decline of our schools.

The Board of Trustees and the Plano ISD Administration have taken their eyes off the ball and they are striking out.

If you value the education of our children, if you value the Plano community, if you care about your property values, then put new people on the Board.

You have a clear choice for Place 7: Vote for Canright.

Robert Canright

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Canright Cares

Plano is a great city with great kids. I care about the kids in Plano, which is why I tutor some kids in math for free.

In Round Rock last year, after a great football game, I noticed a car full of teenagers that was not leaving the parking lot. I drove over, with my family, and asked if everything was okay. It turned out they had a flat tire.

The boys said they knew how to change a tire, but I parked the car and asked them to show me. Well, they were missing the crank they needed to jack their car up. I loaned them my crank, and then discovered they did not really know how to change a tire.

I changed their flat tire for them, told them their spare was low on air and they needed to get more air in the spare. I had my daughter get their phone number and check on them to make sure they made it safely to a gas station to get their tire inflated.

I love my children, but I care about all the children of Plano. I could tutor just my children, but I do more than that. And I want all the children of Plano to get the best education we can provide them so they can live full and prosperous lives.

We do need to make changes in Plano to give our children the best education. I am willing to work to help make those changes just as surely as I am willing to change your child's car tire if needed, but I need your help. You need to vote for me on election day, and call and email your friends to get them to vote.

Thank you,
Robert Canright

Professional photography by Alisha Downs from Beyond Exposure

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

The American Dream

My view of the American dream is for my children to have a better life than mine. I would like every generation to have a better life than the one before.

I tutor my children because my education was better than the education they are getting in the Plano ISD. I would like all the children of Plano to have a better education, so I run for the school board with the intent of improving education.

I worry the future will be difficult. That's what I meant when I ran 3 years ago and said, "We must prepare our children for a future beyond our imagination." If it was a good future, I would not have had to run for office. I want my children to have a better life than I have had, but I worry that might not happen because all of our children might face a bleak future.

Our children need more than a better education for the challenges of tomorrow, they need a different type of education. Our school leadership is like a group of old generals trying to fight a new war with the old strategy from the last war.

We need a better strategy for the future. We need new blood on the school board. Vote for Canright to give your children hope for a brighter future.

Here is a nice article about the election by Heather Smith at the Plano Star Courier.

Robert Canright

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

It's Official: My Hat is in the Ring

I have filed to run for Place 7 in the May 9th PISD election for the Board of Trustees.

I have not yet started my campaign, but my opponent has and she is running hard.

Three years ago I campaigned with a slogan, "We must prepare our children for a future beyond our imagination." I repeated that message in 2007, and now I see my words echoed on my opponent's website. Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, so I feel flattered.

Remember to vote for the real voice for change, not the echo.

Robert Canright