What Is Common Core?
This post aims to be as unmistakably direct and documented as possible. Feel free to use it without asking permission.
DOES COMMON CORE PREPARE STUDENTS FOR COLLEGE?
Not for a 4-year university. It minimally prepares students for the non-collegiate workforce or for non-selective community colleges.
A key Common Core creator, Jason Zimba, said that the Common Core can prepare students for non-selective colleges but that it does not prepare students for STEM careers. He said: “I think it’s a fair critique that it’s a minimal definition of college readiness… but not for the colleges most parents aspire to… Not only not for STEM, it’s also not for selective colleges. For example, for U.C. Berkeley, whether you are going to be an engineer or not, you’d better have precalculus to get into U.C. Berkeley.”
IS THERE AN AMENDMENT PROCESS FOR VOTERS TO ALTER THE COMMON CORE?
No. When it changes, it will be changed by those who wrote them. (See official site .)
ARE COMMON CORE STANDARDS LOCALLY CONTROLLED?
No. They are under copyright by an unelected, private D.C. group called NGA/CCSSO which has reserved the legal right to alter them. The federal government has made money and waivers conditional on using Common Core standards and tests.
DO THE COMMON CORE STANDARDS IMPROVE K-12 EDUCATION?
No one knows. They are an unpiloted experiment. But people who are financially invested in Common Core say yes to the question, while people who aren’t financially interested, and who study and analyze the Common Core standards, say no.
Dr. James Milgram (Stanford University emeritus professor who served on the official Common Core validation committee) reported:
“I can tell you that my main objection to Core Standards, and the reason I didn’t sign off on them was that they did not match up to international expectations. They were at least 2 years behind the practices in the high achieving countries by 7th grade, and, as a number of people have observed, only require partial understanding of what would be the content of a normal, solid, course in Algebra I or Geometry. Moreover, they cover very little of the content of Algebra II, and none of any higher level course… They will not help our children match up to the students in the top foreign countries when it comes to being hired to top level jobs.“
Dr. Sandra Stotsky (University of Arkansas emeritus professor who served on official Common Core validation committee and also refused to sign off on the academic legitimacy of the Common Core) said:
“As empty skill sets, Common Core’s ELA standards do not strengthen the high school curriculum. Nor can they reduce post-secondary remedial coursework in a legitimate way. As empty skill sets, Common Core’s ELA “college readiness” standards weaken the base of literary and cultural knowledge needed for authentic college coursework, decrease the capacity for analytical thinking… and completely muddle the development of writing skills.” Full testimony here.
IS COMMON CORE LEGAL?
No. Under the Constitution, education belongs to individual states. It is illegal for the federal government to interfere in the states’ right of making educational decisions. National standards are illegal. National data collection is illegal. And the General Educational Provisions Act prohibits the federal government from directing education –very, very clearly:
“No provision of any applicable program shall be construed to authorize any department, agency, officer, or employee of the United States to exercise any direction, supervision, or control over the curriculum, program of instruction, administration, or personnel of any educational institution, school, or school system, or over the selection of library resources, textbooks, or other printed or published instructional materials by any educational institution or school system…”
DOES COMMON CORE REALLY TAKE AWAY MOST OF THE TRADITIONAL CLASSIC LITERATURE AND NARRATIVE WRITING?
Yes. Although it does not specify which classic books cannot be read, the Common Core contains a chart that explains that in fourth grade, students must cut their classic/fiction reading to 50%. By twelfth grade, students must reduce their classic/fiction reading to 30% with informational text taking up 70% of the time spent reading.
WHAT IS INFORMATIONAL TEXT?
Informational text is anything that used to belong mostly in other subjects. It is now taking 70% of high school seniors’ English class readings, in the form of scientific writings, political writings; opinion pieces; almost anything other than classic novels, poetry, plays or other fictional works.
WHY DON’T COMMON CORE PROPONENTS WANT STUDENTS TO LEARN MUCH MATH?
It costs money to educate beyond minimal workforce training. In this 2013 document put out by the NCEE (National Center on Education and the Economy) we learn that it’s not important under Common Core to have high educational standards in high school; it’s seen as a waste of time to educate the high school graduates past Algebra II. They’re pushing for an emphasis on the lowest common denominator, while deceptively marketing Common Core as a push for “rigorous” academics.
Read these Common Core proponents’ lips: “Mastery of Algebra II is widely thought to be a prerequisite for success in college and careers. Our research shows that that is not so… Based on our data, one cannot make the case that high school graduates must be proficient in Algebra II to be ready for college and careers. The high school mathematics curriculum is now centered on the teaching of a sequence of courses leading to calculus that includes Geometry, Algebra II, Pre-Calculus and Calculus. However, fewer than five percent of American workers and an even smaller percentage of community college students will ever need to master the courses in this sequence in their college or in the workplace… they should not be required courses in our high schools. To require these courses in high school is to deny to many students the opportunity to graduate high school because they have not mastered a sequence of mathematics courses they will never need. In the face of these findings, the policy of requiring a passing score on an Algebra II exam for high school graduation simply cannot be justified.”
The report goes on to say that traditional high school English classes, with their emphasis on classic literature and personal, narrative writing, is useless. The report says that Common Core will save students from the irrelevant classics with a new emphasis on technical subjects and social studies via the dominance of informational text:
“The Common Core State Standards in English Language Arts (CCSSE) address reading in history/social studies as well as science and technical subjects, and in so doing may increase the relevance of high school instruction.”
In calling classic literature and personal writing irrelevant, these Common Core proponents underscore the idea that job prep matters, but not the pursuit of wisdom or knowledge.
WHY DID ALMOST EVERY STATE IN THE U.S. DROP THEIR EDUCATIONAL STANDARDS, WHETHER LOWER OR HIGHER, TO ADOPT COMMON CORE STANDARDS?
Proponents say that the reason was to improve education. Opponents say that it had nothing to do with education; that the standards were adopted without analysis or any vetting because the adoption was offered by the federal government under time pressure, in exchange for a chance at large federal grant monies called Race to the Top. Even those states that applied and won no money (like Utah) stayed with Common Core, because there were many other federal reasons and incentives to do so.
WILL THE COMMON CORE STANDARDS REMAIN AS THEY ARE TODAY?
No. Common Core’s official site says: “The Standards are intended to be a living work: as new and better evidence emerges, the Standards will be revised accordingly.” There’s no way for the governed to revise the document by which they’ve agreed to be governed.
WHY DOES THE STATE SCHOOL BOARD SAY WE’RE FREE TO CHANGE THEM?
States can’t delete anything. We can add –a tiny bit. A Common Core 15% rule says: “A State may supplement such standards with additional standards, provided that the additional standards do not exceed 15 percent of the State’s total standards”
(This rule is repeated in the federal waivers from No Child Left Behind, in the Race to the Top Assessments Grant application, in documents of both PARCC and SBAC testing groups, and in the implementation guide of Achieve, the group contracted to create Common Core.)
WILL THE CREATORS OF COMMON CORE CHANGE THESE STANDARDS WITHOUT OUR APPROVAL?
Yes. Common Core’s official site says: “The Standards are intended to be a living work: as new and better evidence emerges, the Standards will be revised accordingly.” There’s no invitation for the governed to revise.
WHERE DO PROPONENTS GET THE NOTION THAT COMMON CORE WILL IMPROVE EDUCATION?
From believable, expensive marketing lines. Not from evidence. Opponents point out that there was never any field testing for Common Core standards; so this is a national experiment using virtually all children. Supporters never attempt to explain how education is supposedly improved by Common Core, nor show a pilot state or pilot classroom where Common Core had been successfully used. Beyond the many pleasant-sounding and but words, there is no documentation or evidence to back up any of the claims that the standards are higher, nor the other claims such as “Common Core was internationally benchmarked” or “is rigorous” or “improves college and career readiness.” They are baseless advertising words.
Upon this lack of evidence we build our children’s futures.
ARE COMMON CORE STANDARDS FREE TO US?
No. The standards’ development and marketing was paid for primarily by Bill Gates. The Common Core tests for most states was paid for primarily by the federal government. States pay countless millions for the rest of the Common Core Initiative: the re-training, new text purchases, aligned computer technologies, etc. They incorrectly say that these high costs would have been spent anyway, even without Common Core.
WAS THE FEDERAL GOVERNMENT “HANDS-OFF” THE STATES’ ADOPTION OF COMMON CORE?
No. Secretary Duncan announced and praised the release of the standards in 2010. He bribed states using Race to the Top grant money. He contracted with the testing groups to micromanage the Common Core tests, in exchange for federal grant money.
DID THE FEDERAL GOVERNMENT BRIBE STATES TO ADOPT COMMON CORE?
Yes. States received federal ARRA money to implement pre-common core reforms that paved the way for Common Core, including building a State Longitudinal Database System. There were 4 federal key objectives for education reforms laid out by President Obama which were the four conditions for receiving stimulus monies. Federally defined common standards and tests were one of the conditions.
More evidence of bribery and coercion can be seen in the timing of a majority of the states’ adopting Common Core simultaneously with the Race to the Top money lure. And recently, a group of U.S. Senators have denounced what the Executive Branch (Obama Administration) has done in coercing states with Common Core bribes.
IS COMMON CORE RELATED TO STUDENT DATA MINING?
Yes. But Secretary Arne Duncan told the American Society of News Editors that opponents make “outlandish claims. They say that the Common Core calls for federal collection of student data. For the record, we are not allowed to, and we won’t.”
He just told a bold-faced lie. The federal Edfacts Exchange collects data for local, state and federal levels. The federal government paid for the states to build matching and interoperable State Longitudinal Database Systems. The White House hosts Datapalooza where Common Core and common data standards are spoken of warmly and together. The Department of Education is listed as a partner at the EIMAC (Education Information Management Advisory Consortia) There are many other things that the Department of Education has done to take away student privacy, aiming aims to align common data standards with common educational standards.
WHAT SPECIFICALLY DID THE DEPARTMENT OF EDUCATION DO TO REMOVE PRIVACY FROM STUDENT DATA?
– It bribed the states with ARRA Stimulus monies to build 50 linkable, twinlike State Longitudinal Database Systems (SLDS). This created a virtual national database.
– It altered the (previously privacy-protective) federal FERPA (Family Educational Rights Privacy Act) law to make access to personally identifiable student data –including biological and behavioral data– “legal”. Now, the act of requiring parental consent (to share personally identifiable information) has been reduced from a requirement to just a “best practice” according to the altered federal FERPA regulations.
For more information on this, study the lawsuit between the Electronic Information Privacy Center and the Department of Education.
– The US Department of Education partnered with private groups, including the Data Quality Campaign and the CCSSO (that’s the Council of Chief State School Officers –copyright holders on Common Core–) to collect student data nationally.
For a 15-minute crash-course on Common Core’s connection with student data mining, watch this video by Jane Robbins of the American Principles Project:
IS THIS ABOUT MAKING MONEY AT THE EXPENSE OF QUALITY EDUCATION?
Yes. Educational gains are not the motivator for Common Core. Notice that proponents are either financially invested in the implementation of Common Core, or else must be subservient to it and call it good because they rely on payment from those who are invested. The financial obligation should make the following groups’ promotion of Common Core extremely suspect:
Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation - Microsoft – Pearson Education - National PTA - Jeb Bush - Harvard University - National Governors’ Association - Council of Chief State School Officers - Fordham Institute – Manhattan Institute – Exxon, and many, many more.
IS COMMON CORE RESPECTED BY HIGHER ED?
132 professors of Catholic Universities recently wrote a letter denouncing Common Core on both academic and moral grounds.
Dr. Anthony Esolen of Providence College in Rhode Island has written:
“What appalls me most about the standards … is the cavalier contempt for great works of human art and thought, in literary form. It is a sheer ignorance of the life of the imagination. We are not programming machines. We are teaching children. We are not producing functionaries, factory-like. We are to be forming the minds and hearts of men and women… to be human beings, honoring what is good and right and cherishing what is beautiful.”
Dr. Thomas Newkirk of University of New Hampshire has written:
The standards are portrayed as so consensual, so universally endorsed, so thoroughly researched and vetted, so self-evidently necessary to economic progress, so broadly representative of beliefs in the educational community—that they cease to be even debatable… The principle of opportunity costs prompts us to ask: “What conversations won’t we be having?” Since the CCSS virtually ignore poetry, will we cease to speak about it? What about character education, service learning? What about fiction writing in the upper high school grades? What about the arts that are not amenable to standardized testing? … We lose opportunities when we cease to discuss these issues and allow the CCSS to completely set the agenda, when the only map is the one it creates.”
Dr. Daniel Coupland of Hillsdale College has written:
“Yes, man is made for work, but he’s also made for so much more… Education should be about the highest things. We should study these things of the stars, plant cells, Mozart’s Requiem… not simply because they’ll get us into the right college or into the right line of work. Rather, we should study these noble things because they can tell us who we are, why we’re here… If education has become –as Common Core openly declares– preparation for work in a global economy, then this situation is far worse than Common Core critics ever anticipated. And the concerns about cost, and quality, and yes, even the constitutionality of Common Core, pale in comparison to the concerns for the hearts, minds, and souls of American children.”
Dr. Christopher Tienken of Seton Hall University has written:
“Education reform in the United States is being driven largely by ideology, rhetoric, and dogma instead of evidence…. Where is the evidence of the efficacy of the standards? … Let us be very frank: The CCSS are no improvement over the current set of state standards. The CCSS are simply another set of lists of performance objectives.” Dr. Tienken also has two powerful short videos on the subject of standards and of assessments.
Dr. Alan Manning of Brigham Young University has written:
“The Core standards just set in concrete approaches to reading/writing that we already know don’t work very well. Having the Core standards set in concrete means that any attempts to innovate and improve reading/writing instruction will certainly be crushed. Actual learning outcomes will stagnate at best. An argument can be made that any improvement in reading/writing instruction should include more rather than less attention the reading/analysis of stories known to effective in terms of structure (i.e. “classic” time-tested stories). An argument can be made that any improvement in reading/writing instruction should include more rather than fewer exercises where students write stories themselves that are modeled on the classics. This creates a more stable foundation on which students can build skills for other kinds of writing. The Core standards would prevent public schools from testing these kinds of approaches.”
Dr. Bill Evers of Hoover Institute at Stanford University noted:
“The Common Core — effectively national math and English curriculum standards coming soon to a school near you — is supposed to be a new, higher bar that will take the United States from the academic doldrums to international dominance.
So why is there so much unhappiness about it? There didn’t seem to be much just three years ago. Back then, state school boards and governors were sprinting to adopt the Core. In practically the blink of an eye, 45 states had signed on.
But states weren’t leaping because they couldn’t resist the Core’s academic magnetism. They were leaping because it was the Great Recession — and the Obama administration was dangling a $4.35 billion Race to the Top carrot in front of them. Big points in that federal program were awarded for adopting the Core, so, with little public debate, most did.”
Dr. Terrence Moore of Hillsdale College has written:
“Literature is the study of human nature. If we dissect it in this meaningless way, kids not only do not become college and career ready, they don’t even have a love of learning; they don’t even have an understanding of their fellow men… The thing that bothers me more than anything else is found on page number one of the introduction. That says that Common Core is a living work. That means that the thing that you vote on today could be something different tomorrow, and five years from now it is completely unrecognizable.” (Dr. Moore also wrote a most excellent book about Common Core English standards, entitled “The Storykillers.”)
Dr. Sandra Stotky (spoken of at the top) has written:
“The wisest move all states could make to ensure that students learn to read, understand, and use the English language appropriately before they graduate from high school is first to abandon Common Core’s ‘standards’…”
“The notion that Common Core’s college and career readiness standards are “rigorous” needs to be publicly put to bed by Arne Duncan, his friends at the Fordham Institute and the media. Two of Common Core’s own mathematics standards writers have publicly stated how weak Common Core’s college readiness mathematics standards are. At a public meeting of the Massachusetts Board of Elementary and Secondary Education in March 2010, physics professor Jason Zimba said, “The concept of college readiness is minimal and focuses on non-selective colleges.”
Dr. Stotsky also testified that:
“Beyond the lack of clarity from the outset about what college readiness was intended to mean and for whom, Common Core has yet to provide a solid evidentiary base for its minimalist conceptualization of college readiness–and for equating college readiness with career readiness. Moreover… it had no evidence on both issues.”
“Common Core supporters still can’t figure out how to deal with legitimate criticisms of its English language arts (ELA) standards. So they just keep parroting the line that Common Core’s ELA skills are actually standards, are rigorous and prioritize literary study, when it’s quite obvious to any English teacher that they are none of the above.”
“Common Core was/is not about high-quality national education standards. It was/is not about getting low-income, high-achieving students into advanced math and science courses in high school and then into college. CCSSI was and is about how to lower the academic level of what states require for high school diplomas and for admission to public colleges.”
“Of course, Common Core proponents can’t say that lowering academic standards is their goal. Instead, they claim that its standards will reduce the seemingly terrible problems we have with interstate mobility (actually less than 2 percent nationally) or enable Massachusetts teachers to know how Mississippi students compare to theirs (something they never said they were eager to learn), or facilitate nationally the sale of high-tech products to the public schools (something the P-21 skills folks were eager for). They have looked desperately for motivating issues and these are the best cards in their deck, as poor as they are.”
“Their major selling point is how poor our K-12 public education system is in too many states. But it needs to be strengthened, not weakened. We continue to need capable doctors and engineers who build bridges and tunnels that won’t collapse.”
“Are we as a society really ready to agree to Common Core’s low-expectations for college readiness (as professors Zimba and McCallum indicate)? Are we willing to lower the bar as a way of closing the achievement gap?”
“We hear no proponents or endorsers of Common Core’s standards warning this country about the effects of the college-readiness level in Common Core’s mathematics standards on postsecondary and post-baccalaureate academic and professional programs. We hear no proponents or endorsers of Common Core’s standards advising district superintendents and state education policy makers on the kind of mathematics curriculum and courses they need to make available in our secondary schools if our undergraduate engineering colleges are to enroll American students. At this time we can only conclude that a gigantic fraud has been perpetrated on this country, in particular on parents in this country, by those developing, promoting, or endorsing Common Core’s standards. We have no illusion that the college-readiness level in ELA will be any more demanding than Common Core’s college-readiness level in mathematics.” – Sept. 2013 paper: Can This Country Survive Common Core’s College Readiness Level? by R. James Milgram and Sandra Stotsky
Dr. William Mathis, of the University of Colorado, has written:
“The adoption of a set of standards and assessments, by themselves, is unlikely to improve learning, increase test scores, or close the achievement gap. • For schools and districts with weak or non-existent curriculum articulation, the CCSS may adequately serve as a basic curriculum. • The assessment consortia are currently focused on mathematics and English/language arts. Schools, districts, and states must take proactive steps to protect other vital purposes of education such as citizenship, the arts, and maximizing individual talents – as well as the sciences and social sciences. As testbased penalties have increased, the instructional attention given to non-tested areas has decreased. • Educators and policymakers need to be aware of the significant costs in instructional materials, training and computerized testing platforms the CCSS requires. It is unlikely the federal or state governments will adequately cover these costs. • The nation’s “international economic competitiveness” is unlikely to be affected by the presence or absence of national standards.”
Parents and retired teachers, it is up to us to stop this thing. Teachers who are currently teaching, or principals, or others who work in the education sales industry dare not speak up too loudly or risk losing their jobs. It is up to us.
The story of Common Core and data mining begins as most stories do, with a huge, unmet need.
Self-appointed “stakeholder” know-it-alls at the federal level (also at state, corporate, and even university levels) determined that they had the right, and the need, for open access to personal student data– more so than they already had.
They needed state school systems to voluntarily agree to common data core standards AND to common learning standards to make data comparisons easy. They didn’t care what the standards were, as teachers and parents and students do; they only cared that the standards would be the same across the nation.
So, without waiting around for a proper vote, they did it. The CEDS (Common Education Data Standards) were created by the same people who created and copyrighted Common Core: the Council of Chief State School Officers (CCSSO). No surprise.
Because the federal “need” to control schools and data was and is illegal and unconstitutional –the federal government “needed” to do (and did) at least six sneaky things.
SIX SNEAKY THINGS THE U.S. DEPARTMENT OF EDUCATION DID TO DEPRIVE YOUR CHILD OF PRIVACY:
1. Sneaky Thing Number One: It bribed the states with ARRA Stimulus monies to build 50 linkable, twinlike State Longitudinal Database Systems (SLDS). This act created a virtual national database.
These SLDS’s had to be interoperable within states and outside states with a State Interoperability Framework. Utah, for example, accepted $9.6 million to create Utah’s SLDS. Think about it. All states have an SLDS, and they are built to be interoperable. How is this not a de facto national database?
2. Sneaky Thing Number Two: It altered the (previously privacy-protective) federal FERPA (Family Educational Rights Privacy Act) law to make access to personally identifiable student data –including biological and behavioral data– “legal”.
So now, the act of requiring parental consent (to share personally identifiable information) has been reduced from a requirement to just a “best practice” according to the altered federal FERPA regulations.
For more information on this, study the lawsuit against the Department of Education by the Electronic Information Privacy Center (EPIC).
The Department of Ed also altered FERPA’s definitions of terms, including what would be defined as “personally identifiable information”.
So personally identifiable, shareable information now includes biometric information, (which is behavioral and biological information) collected via testing, palm scanning or iris scanning, or any other means. Schools have not been told that the information they submit to the state SLDS systems are vulnerable to federal and corporate perusal. Legislators write bills that call for the testing of behavioral indicators– but have they considered how this can damage a student’s lifelong need for, and right to, privacy?
The Department of Education openly promotes schools collecting data about students’ personalities and beliefs in the report called “Promoting Grit, Tenacity and Perserverance.” This document promotes the use of facial expression cameras, posture analysis seats, wireless skin conductance sensors and other measures of students’ beliefs and emotions. See page 44.
3. Sneaky Thing Number Three: The US Department of Education partnered with private groups, including the CCSSO (that’s the Council of Chief State School Officers –copyright holders on Common Core–) to collect student data nationally.
The CCSSO, or “Superintendents’ Club” as I like to call it, is a private group with no accountability to voters. This makes it in-valid and un-American, as far as governance goes. The CCSSO has a stated mission: to disaggregate student data. Disaggregate means to take away anonymity.
The CCSSO states that it has a mission to collect data nationally in partnership with the US Dept of Ed: “The Education Information Management Advisory Consortium (EIMAC) is CCSSO’s network of state education agency officials tasked with data collection and reporting; information system management and design; and assessment coordination. EIMAC advocates on behalf of states to reduce data collection burden and improve the overall quality of the data collected at the national level.
The CCSSO site states that its data collection effort is a USDOE partnership: “The Common Education Data Standards Initiative is a joint effort by CCSSO and the State Higher Education Executive Officers (SHEEO) in partnership with the United Staes Department of Education.”
(Do you recall voting for this arrangement, anyone? Anyone? –Me neither! )
4. Sneaky Thing Number Four: It used private-public partnerships to promote data linking among agencies. The Data Quality Campaign is one example. The National Data Collection Model is another example. The Common Educational Data Standards is another example.
What do these “models” really model?
Example one: from the Data Quality Campaign: “as states build and enhance K12 longitudinal data systems they continue building linkages to exchange and use information across early childhood, postsecondary and the workforce and with other critical agencies such as health, social services and criminal justice systems.”
Let that sink in: linking data from schools, medical clinics, and criminal justice systems is the goal of the Federal-to-CCSSO partnership. So nothing will be kept from any governmental agency; nothing is to be sacred or private if it is known by an SLDS serving entity (any state-funded, state-accountable school).
Example two: from the National Data Collection Model:
your child’s name
bus stop times
languages and dialects spoken
number of attempts at a given assignment
nonschool activity involvement
maternal last name
– and even cause of death.
Proponents point out that this is not mandatory federal data collection. True; not yet. But it’s a federally partnered data model and many states are following it.
5. Sneaky Thing Number Five: The Department of Ed created grants for Common Core testing and then mandated that those testing groups synchronize their tests, report fully and often to the U.S. Department of Education, share student-level data, and produce “all student-level data in a manner consistent with an industry-recognized open-licensed interoperability standard that is approved by the Department”.
So federally funded Common Core tests require Common data interoperability standards.
Check out that Cooperative Agreement document here.
But, do you think this “Agreement” information does not apply to you because your state dropped its SBAC or PARCC membership –as several states have? Think again. There is an incestuous, horrific pool of private and public organizations, all of which are VOLUNTARILY agreeing to Common Core based, technological interoperability and data collection standards!
The Data Quality Campaign lists as its partners dozens of groups– not only the CCSSO and NGA (Common Core creators), not only the College Board –which is now run by the lead architect of Common Core, David Coleman; –not only Achieve, Inc., the group that contracted with CCSSO/NGO to write the Common Core, but even the School Interoperability Framework Association, the Pell Institute (Pell Grants), Jeb Bush’s Foundation for Excellence in Education, American Institutes for Research (Utah’s Common Core testing provider) and many other Common Core product-providing organizations.
So virtually everyone’s doing data the same way whether they’re privately or publically funded. This should freak anybody out. It really should. We the People, individuals, are losing personal power to these public-private partnerships that cannot be un-elected and that are not subject to the transparency laws of elected offices.
6. Sneaky Thing Number Six: The Department of Education directly lied to the American Society of News Editors. In a June 2013 speech given to the American Society of News Editors, Secretary Duncan mocked the concerns of parents and educators who are fighting Common Core and its related student data mining:
“A new set of standards — rigorous, high-quality learning standards, developed and led by a group of governors and state education chiefs — are under attack as a federal takeover of the schools. And your role in sorting out truth from nonsense is really important… They make.. outlandish claims. They say that the Common Core calls for federal collection of student data. For the record, we are not allowed to, and we won’t. And let’s not even get into the really wacky stuff: mind control, robots, and biometric brain mapping. This work is interesting, but frankly, not that interesting.”
Despite what the state school board and the federal Department of Education claim, corporations do know that Common Core and student data mining are interdependent.
CEO of Escholar Shawn Bay spoke at a recent White House event called “Datapalooza.” He said (see his speech on this video, at about minute 9:15) that Common Core “is the glue that actually ties everything together” for student data collection.
And President Obama himself has called his educational and data related reforms so huge that they are “cradle to career” -affecting reforms. Secretary Duncan now refers to the reforms not as “K-12″ but as “p-12″ meaning preschool/prenatal. These reforms affect the most vulnerable, but not in a positive way, and certainly not with voters’ knowledge and consent.
The sneakiness and the privacy invasion isn’t just a federal wrong; there’s state-level invasion of local control, too: to be specific, our state’s robbing parents of the right to fully govern their own children.
When I asked my state school board how to opt out of having my children tracked by the State Longitudinal Database System, I was told that the answer was no. There was no way to opt out, they said: all children registered in any state school system (charters, online schools, homeschool-state hybrid programs) are tracked by the SLDS. Here’s that letter.
Despite Constitutional and G.E.P.A.-law prohibitions, Secretary of Education Arne Duncan admitted that “The Obama administration has sought to fundamentally shift the federal role, so that the Department is doing much more”. Duncan also said, “America is now in the midst of a “quiet revolution” in school reform.” (Yes, it’s been so quiet that the people governed by it weren’t asked about this revolution.)
Yet, federal speeches, and scholarly research conferences and corporate marketers now openly push for common standards and common data systems. From the official White House website to federal educational grant applications to federally partnered corporate sites, to Secretary Duncan’s speeches, there are countless examples to show that the priorities of the federal government are these four things: 1) standards 2) staff 3) “robust” national data systems 4) labeling certain schools as low-achieving.
And the data product sales companies couldn’t agree more.
Common Core proponents insist that Common Core has nothing to do with data mining. But the federal government always bundles the common standards and the data systems, always. This federal push for common data standards and common education standards ought to be household knowledge. That is step number one, seeing the federal patterns and federal pushes for what they are.
So, what difference does it make? I hear people say that since they have nothing to hide, they’re unconcerned about who’s tracking their children or their families without consent.
I say our founding fathers didn’t write the Constitution without inspiration.
The Constitution describes the God-given right to privacy:
“The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.”
How easy will it be for those with access to the national databases to label a person as behaviorally unstable and therefore, unworthy of passing a background check for a job or for a gun purchase? How easy will it be for those with access to the databases to search and seize anything at all that they deem inappropriate, that they deem threatening, that they deem theirs?
Privacy is not properly protected by our state school systems and those who ought to know this, don’t. It’s not their fault; the truth has been carefully, quietly hidden. But widespread knowledge of the facts can –and must-- alter these facts.
Postscript: About Control
State school boards tell citizens to give them feedback on the Common Core Standards, and not to discuss anything else related to Common Core or its governance structures.
But citizens have the right to determine what will be discussed; this is America. And any discussion of the standards themselves can only be very temporarily relevant.
Why is academic argument about Common Core only temporarily relevant?
Because two private D.C. trade groups, the NGA (Governors’ club) and the CCSSO (Superintendents’ club) own the standards and have copyrighted them. They alone control the standards. The states do not; nor do the voters in the states.
Inside the state: We can alter the standards only by 15%, according to federal mandates and the writings of the private trade groups that created the standards.
Outside the state: We have no voice in future alterations to the standards. There is no written amendment process outlined for states to have a voice in “their” standards. There is no representative process. That’s why Common Core is unAmerican.
This is why we call Common Core education without representation. It is also accurate to call the education reform package citizen surveillance without warrant, as detailed above.
For a 15-minute crash-course on the connection between Common Core and student data mining, watch this video by Jane Robbins of the American Principles Project:
Three remarkable Alpine School Board Members: Wendy Hart (front left) Brian Halladay (standing, middle) and Paula Hill (front, right) have written an open letter on student privacy, citing documented realities (contracts, documents and laws) that boldly stand for student privacy and parental rights, against Common Core SAGE/AIR testing. The letter stands tall against statements from State Associate Superintendent Judy Park and the Utah State Office of Education that claim all is well with student privacy in Utah schools.
Hats off to Hart, Halladay and Hill for speaking up despite pressure to go along in silence with the decisions or positions held at the state level.
Before I post the letter, here’s a little background:
Before Common Core testing even began, Utah officially dropped out of SBAC (a federally funded Common Core test maker) but then immediately picked up, as a replacement, test maker AIR (American Institutes for Research– also federally approved, but not federally funded; Common Core-aligned; a test maker that specializes in psychometrics and behavioral testing, prioritizes promoting the LGTB philosophy –and is officially partnered with SBAC!) Many Utah parents are opting their children out of these tests, and state level officials are desperately trying to persuade the population that there’s no reason to opt out.
Statements promoting and approving AIR and SAGE, by Assistant Superintendent Judy Park, have been rebutted and even publically debated before– but this new letter stands very, very tall, shedding much more light on the student privacy dangers of SAGE/AIR and highlighting the lack of Utah laws that protect an individuals’ ownership over his/her own data.
Here’s the letter:
September 18, 2014
Dr. Judy Park
Utah State Office of Education
Dear Dr. Park,
Thank you for taking the time to address some of the issues with AIR and SAGE testing. We especially appreciate your citations of the contract. In the interest of openness and transparency, we have a point of clarification, as well as some follow-up questions.
To begin, a point of clarification. Your letter is directed to Superintendent Henshaw who communicated some of our concerns about SAGE and AIR to you. In your letter, you indicate that “False, undocumented and baseless allegations need to cease.” We wish to clarify that the concerns expressed by Dr. Henshaw were not coming from him, and, as such, your directive would not be to him but to those of us on the board and our constituents who are raising questions, based on our reading of the AIR contract with USOE. Because Dr. Henshaw reports to the Alpine School Board and not the other way around, any directive for Dr. Henshaw to rein in these ‘allegations’ from board members or constituents would be inappropriate. We can appreciate that you are troubled by this, but we would recommend that more information and more discussion would be a preferable way of resolving concerns, as opposed to suggesting that concerned representatives and their consitutents simply remain silent.
So, in that spirit of openness, we have the following clarifications and follow-up questions.
We begin by addressing the sections of the AIR contract cited in your letter of August 14. It was very much appreciated because these are the same sections of the contract that we have studied. We were hopeful that there would be additional insight. Unfortunately, we did not find any assurance in the pages listed.
I-96 – I-98: This section nicely addresses the physical, network, and software security for the server and test items. However, the only reference to AIR employees, their ability to access or use any data is left to “Utah’s public records laws, FERPA, and other federal laws.” FERPA, as many know, has been modified by the US Dept of Education to allow for the sharing of data without parental knowledge or consent as long as it can be justified as an ‘educational program’. Additionally, FERPA only contains penalties for those entities receiving federal funds. Since Utah is paying directly for SAGE testing, FERPA is a meaningless law in this regard. Additionally, Utah’s public records laws appear to only address the openness of public records, but are insufficient when it comes to privacy or use of data, including that of a minor. If there are robust privacy laws in Utah’s public records laws, we would appreciate additional citations. Please cite the other federal laws that protect the privacy of our students.
I-61: Addresses the technical protocols for the data transfer, as well as encryption of passwords. Again, this doesn’t address those who are given access by AIR to the data for whatever purpose.
I-72 – I-73: Addresses the security of those contractors who will be manually scoring during the pilot testing. This addresses a particular third-party in a particular role, but not AIR as an entity or its employees, other than this particular instance.
I-85 – I-86: Addresses the issues of users and roles for the database and USOE updates. This limits the appropriate access to those of us in Utah, based on whether we are teachers, principals, board members, USOE, etc. Again, this does not address anything about AIR as an entity or its employees.
While all these security precautions are necessary, and we are grateful they are included, they do nothing to address the particular issues that were raised at the August 12, 2014 Alpine School Board Meeting. Some of our concerns are as follows:
1) Prior to the Addendum from March 2014 (for which we are grateful) there was no prohibition on sharing data with a third-party. As indicated, the changes to FERPA would allow AIR to legally share data with a third-party as long as that sharing was for ‘an educational program’ without parental knowledge or consent. As such, the addendum now allows for that sharing only with the USOE’s consent. We are still concerned that parents are not asked to give consent and may not have knowledge of their student’s data being shared.
2) AIR itself is a research firm dedicated to conducting and applying the best behavioral and social science research and evaluation. As such, they are involved with data collection and evaluation. In the contract and addendum cited, there is nothing that prohibits how AIR or its subsidiary organizations may use, query, analyze or access any or all student data from the SAGE tests in Utah. They would have access to many data sets from many entities. They also would have multiple on-going research projects. There is no prohibition on what inquiries, research or analysis can be done on the data from SAGE testing. As long as AIR does not profit from the data or share with a third-party without the USOE’s consent, the data is managed by AIR and available for access. What are the methods in place to prevent AIR from accessing the data for additional research or analysis? AIR does not need to share the data with a third-party to violate the privacy of a student or a set of students. However, since they control and manage the database, there is nothing that would prevent this access.
3) There are no prohibitions in the contract regarding behavioral data. While we realize Mr. Cohen has said the contract does not call for gathering or evaluating behavioral data, and that AIR is not inclined to do so, there are, again, no prohibitions or penalties associated with gathering or evaluating behavioral data. State law allows for the use of behavioral data in the year-end testing. So, there are no legal prohibitions on the use or collection of behavioral data. Since behavioral research is the primary mission of AIR, as indicated by its mission statement, it is a concern for parents. If AIR has no desire to collect behavioral data as part of the SAGE testing, it should state so explicitly in a legally-binding manner.
4) Many parents have, legally, opted out of SAGE testing for their students. As such, why is AIR receiving any information on these students? Parents feel it is a grave violation of their trust by USOE that any data the USOE has received from the schools can be input into the SAGE database, not to mention the State Longitudinal Database System (SLDS). There must, at a minimum, be a way for parents to opt out of all sharing of their student’s dat with AIR and the SLDS. At what point, if any, will student data be purged from the AIR database? What is the method for demonstrating the data has been properly purged?
Additionally, we appreciate the response of Mr. Cohen to our concerns. Based on his response, we have the following questions.
1) Please list the “express purposes” for which the release, sharing or sale of data is not prohibited, per contract.
2) What third parties are AIR “explicitly permitted by the State of Utah” to provide data to?
3) What research has AIR been requested and directed by the Utah State Office of Education to conduct?
4) What entity (or entities) has AIR been authorized by the State of Utah to release data to?
5) Please list the source of the contract that states that AIR is prohibited from releasing data to the federal government.
6) What entity (or entities) have been designated by the USOE to receive data from AIR?
7) The memo does not address companies owned or operated by AIR, which would not be considered third-parties. Please state, per contract, where AIR does not share data within related party entities.
Finally, we have the following questions related to the validity and reliability of the SAGe testing. We understand that this information would not be protected by copyright, and therefore, could be provided to us, as elected officials.
1. Normative Sample Details (who took the test)
2. Coefficient Alpha Reliability
3. Content description Validity
4. Differential Item Function Analysis
5. Criterion Prediction Validity
6. Construct Identification Validity
7. Other types of validity scales/constructs that are applicable only to CAT test designs
We appreciate the opportunity to discuss this more in the future. As those who are responsible to the parents of this district, we feel it is imperative that our concerns are addressed. And, when all is said and done, it is most important that parents have the opportunity to protect whatever student information they feel is necessary. Just because parents decide to educate their children in our public school system does not mean that we, as a state government, are entitled to whatever information about their children we feel in necessary. Parents are still, by state law, primarily responsible for the education and the upbringing of their children. As such, their wishes and their need to protect information on their students is paramount. As members of the Alpine School Board, we must represent the different views and concerns of all the parents in our area. For those who have no concerns, then you may proceed as usual. For those who do have concerns, it is incumbent on us to raise these questions and to obtain the most accurate information possible.
Thank you for your time, and we look forward to more information in the future.
I wish every Utah parent, teacher, student and principal read this letter– and took action!
The time has long passed for blind trust in Dr. Park, in the State Office of Education and in the State School Board. Surely, power holders –in the legislature, in district administrative offices, and in the governor’s office who read this letter– will finally act.
Share this letter!
Utahns Against Common Core receives notes from parents and teachers on a regular basis. Here is a heartbreaking message from an anonymous teacher in Canyons District:
“We are currently gearing up for our new educator evaluation system called CTESS. Today I was reading through the evaluation and of the 12 standards 3 require you to show that you are supportive of and actively teaching the “Utah Core Standard”, otherwise known as “Common Core.” This is why teachers are afraid to speak out. I really am fearful for my job. There have been times when I have wanted to speak up, like recently when attending a district meeting and Common Core came up. The comment was made by a district official that those who were against Common Core were “kooks.” This is the environment teachers have to work in. If you disagree, you have no place to turn. I am ready to find another career and get out.”
Below is the full text of the resolution that Utah County Republicans voted to pass, in opposition to Common Core this week.
It will be interesting to see what Governor Herbert does with the mounting evidence that Utahns oppose Common Core. Despite publically taking a second look at the academics, he has not taken any steps to get a second look at state and federal data mining done in Utah, nor has he taken a second look at the actual governance structure of Common Core which seems far, far more important than the academic snapshot. The governor’s still moving full steam on with the Common Core-promoting Prosperity 2020 and SLDS systems in this state, and has not resigned from his Common Core-promoting role in the National Governors Association (that unelected, private trade group which created and copyrighted the Common Core.)
Governor, is it time to start listening more closely to voters?
Utah County Republican Resolution
WHEREAS, The Common Core State Standards Initiative (“Common Core”), adopted as part of the “Utah
Core,” is not a Utah state standards initiative, but rather a set of nationally-based standards and tests
developed through a collaboration between two NGO’s (non-governmental organizations) and
unelected boards and consortia from outside the state of Utah; and,
WHEREAS, Common Core binds us to an established copyright over standards, limiting our ability to
create or improve education standards that we deem best for our own children; and,
WHEREAS, the General Educational Provisions Act prohibits federal authority over curriculum and
testing, yet the U.S. Department of Education’s “Cooperative Agreements” confirm Common Core’s test-
building and data collection is federally managed; and,
WHEREAS, “student behavior indicators” – which include testing for mental health, social and cultural
(i.e. religious) habits and attitudes and family status – are now being used for Common Core tests and
WHEREAS, Common Core promotes the storage and sharing of private student and family data without
consent; using a pre-school through post-graduate (P-20) tracking system and a federally-funded State
Longitudinal Database (SLDS), creating substantial opportunities for invasion of privacy; and,
WHEREAS, Common Core intrudes on the constitutional authority of the states over education by
pressuring states to adopt the standards with financial incentives tied to President Obama’s ‘Race to the Top’, and if not adopted, penalties include loss of funds and, just as Oklahoma experienced a loss of
their ESEA waiver; and
WHEREAS, the Republican National Committee and Utah State Republican Convention recently passed a
resolution opposing Common Core State Standards;
THEREFORE, BE IT RESOLVED, that we call on the Governor and the Utah State School Board to withdraw
from, and we ask the Utah State Legislature to discontinue funding programs in association with, the
Common Core State Standards Initiative/Utah’s Core and any other similar alliance, and;
THEREFORE, BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED, that a copy of this resolution shall be delivered to the Governor
and the State legislature requesting executive and legislative action.
“…The crying kids. When your boyfriend makes your kids miserable, that’s a sign that he’s toxic. When your educational reform problem sucks the joy of learning out of children, something is wrong.
The addictions. If bad boyfriend is an alcoholic, you can argue that he’s not the problem—it’s just the alcohol. But the truth is you can’t separate the two. The common core has a bad addiction to high-stakes testing, lesson micro-management, and invalid teacher evaluations. It’s technically true that CCSS and these other reform ideas are separate, but they come as a package.
The lies. If you catch bad boyfriend lying about his job, his age, and his family, all the charm in the world can’t keep you from wondering what else he has lied about. Common-core boosters claimed it was written by teachers, internationally benchmarked, and research based. Turns out none of that is true…
The money. Money is not inherently evil. But when it turns out bad boyfriend has been taking money out of your purse, that doesn’t help the romance. Common-core-based reform keeps revealing new ways to suck money out of schools and deliver it to corporate interests.
The blaming. Bad boyfriend is sorry that he yells at you, but you shouldn’t have made it necessary. The common-core narrative asked teachers to see themselves as failures, regardless of what they could see with their own eyes…”
(Read the rest!)
This three minute video features a beautiful Connecticut public school student making a speech at her local school board meeting.
“In my honors English class we are focusing more on social studies topics than on English topics. The texts we have received so far contain subliminal messaging of a leftist view of society. One quote…’American pride seems excessive.’ Is this the message you want to send to your students? Well, I for one would never be ashamed to be an American…”
“…These methods are being sold as rigorous and critical thinking skills…. They are a waste of time… Under the Common Core system we are taught in groups and are told we have to come to an answer we all agree on. We are being taught to think as a whole and not as a creative individual”
“I will never surrender my unique right as an American to disagree with the person sitting next to me or the people in my government…. this program is destroying our schools, our confidence, and our freedom.”
“I would also like you to know that there will be more like me soon –and we will not go away.”
Jenni White of Oklahoma’s Restore Oklahoma Public Education spoke last night in Midvale, Utah, to a clapping, cheering, energized crowd that included two legislators from the Utah House of Representatives, Kay Christofferson and LaVar Christiansen, both of whom stood and spoke after Jenni’s speech to voice their support.
Feisty, hilarious, sassy and smart, Jenni White’s presentation explained that she and her group have been working for many, many years (longer than the majority of us have in Utah) to stop Common Core. The bills that were written there never got heard, or only made it through one committee hearing, year after year. It took hard work and dogged persistence to work the miracle that Oklahoma finally saw this year. Her speech was filmed and will be posted soon. Here are highlights:
What Oklahoma moms did:
1. They didn’t just work with one or two legislators. They emailed all the legislators, every week, with short, vital pieces of information to help educate them about just what the Common Core Initiative has done to schools, to student privacy, to teacher autonomy, to the voice of parents, to the power of local control of education.
2. They showed up by the hundreds during the legislative session, wearing the green Stop Common Core t-shirts, and made it impossible during rallies for legislators to walk down the halls without swerving around green t-shirted parents and teachers and students. They would not be ignored or dismissed.
3. They sent legislative baseball cards, stop common core cookie bouquets, postcards, notes, legislator memos, tweets, emails.
4. They held a “Hear the Bills!” rally to persuade legislators to at least listen, to at least let this issue have a fair hearing.
5. They did photo ops with Governor Fallin, wearing the green t-shirts, even before she had decided to stand against Common Core.
6. They had meetings statewide, educating the public, asking the public to call their legislators and tell them they wanted Common Core to be repealed and replaced with better standards like Massachusetts had prior to the Common Core-ing of America.
7. They stuck together, not allowing infighting or small disagreements to break apart their coalition of parents, teachers and citizens who wanted Common Core to go away.
Since the Oklahoma miracle, some pro-Core advocates such as Fordham Institute’s Mike Petrelli, (a financial beneficiary of Bill Gates, of course) have tried to spin the Oklahoma miracle of repealing Common Core as a disaster, saying that Oklahoma teachers have no idea what to teach right now.
The indomitable Jenni White, rather than shrink under his arrogance and criticism, happily invited Petrelli to Oklahoma for an open debate and discussion on this subject.
Petrelli has accepted, according to his Twitter feed.
Thank you, Oklahoma! We love you!
Today at 6:20 on KNRS on the Rod Arquette show, Oklahoma’s Jenni White will be interviewed about how Oklahoma successfully booted Common Core from the state. Listen free here.
Tomorrow at 2:00 on KTALK 630, she’ll be interviewed again.
And tomorrow night, at a free public event, she’ll speak telling the story of how a few Oklahoma parents influenced the governor and legislature to boot the entire Common Core out of Oklahoma, as well as explaining what we must do to stop the unauthorized data mining of students, and why parents should opt out of Common Core tests.
Thank you, Jenni White and friends from Restore Oklahoma Public Education.
Where and when: Thursday, September 11th at 7679 South Main Street in Midvale, Utah at 7:00 PM.
See you there!