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:
Today, the Washington Post reported that in Lee County, Florida, the school board voted to opt the entire school district out of high stakes testing. The superintendent didn’t love it, but she has to abide by the vote of the board. Watch the cheering, standing ovation on this video after the board voted for the opt out.
By Bob Schaeffer
If the issues were not so serious, watching test-and-punish advocates backpedal in the face of the rapidly growing testing resistance movement would be great entertainment. From U.S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan crying crocodile tears about the impacts of the very policies he advocated, to Rhode Island Commissioner Deborah Grist’s sudden embrace of an even longer suspension of the graduation testing requirements she long defended, to Florida Governor Rick Scott promising a commission to review the testing overkill his political allies imposed (a stalling tactic also adopted by New Jersey Governor Chris Christie), politicians are beginning to wake up to the power of grassroots activism. At the same time, courageous local leaders — such as a Colorado Superintendent, several Florida school committees and the Vermont State Board of Education — are pushing the envelope by calling for a moratorium on standardized testing to allow for development of better assessments.
Bob Schaeffer, Public Education Director
FairTest: National Center for Fair & Open Testing
How the College Board Politicized U.S. History
By Stanley Kurtz
“[A]s on much else, Americans are divided about how best to teach and understand U.S. history. This is precisely why the new, lengthy, and detailed AP U.S. History Framework is such a bad idea…. The College Board has drastically eroded the freedom of states, school districts, teachers, and parents to choose the history they teach their children. That is why this change must not stand.”
The College Board, the private company that produces the SAT test and the various Advanced Placement (AP) exams, has kicked off a national controversy by issuing a new and unprecedentedly detailed “Framework” for its AP U.S. History exam. This Framework will effectively force American high schools to teach U.S. history from a leftist perspective. The College Board disclaims political intent, insisting that the new Framework provides a “balanced” guide that merely helps to streamline the AP U.S. History course while enhancing teacher flexibility. Not only the Framework itself, but the history of its development suggests that a balanced presentation of the American story was not the College Board’s goal.
The origins of the new AP U.S. History framework are closely tied to a movement of left-leaning historians that aims to “internationalize” the teaching of American history. The goal is to “end American history as we have known it” by substituting a more “transnational” narrative for the traditional account.
This movement’s goals are clearly political, and include the promotion of an American foreign policy that eschews the unilateral use of force. The movement to “internationalize” the U.S. History curriculum also seeks to produce a generation of Americans more amendable to working through the United Nations and various left-leaning “non-governmental organizations” (NGOs) on issues like the environment and nuclear proliferation. A willingness to use foreign law to interpret the U.S. Constitution is likewise encouraged.
The College Board formed a close alliance with this movement to internationalize the teaching of American history just prior to initiating its redesign of the AP U.S. History exam. Key figures in that alliance are now in charge of the AP U.S. History redesign process, including the committee charged with writing the new AP U.S. History exam. The new AP U.S. History Framework clearly shows the imprint of the movement to de-nationalize American history. Before I trace the rise of this movement and its ties to the College Board, let’s have a closer look at its goals.
NYU historian Thomas Bender is the leading spokesman for the movement to internationalize the U.S. History curriculum at every educational level. The fullest and clearest statement of Bender’s views can be found in his 2006 book, A Nation Among Nations: America’s Place in World History. Bender is a thoroughgoing critic of American exceptionalism, the notion that America is freer and more democratic than any other nation, and for that reason, a model, vindicator, and at times the chief defender of ordered liberty and self-government in the world.
In opposition to this, Bender wants to subordinate American identity to a cosmopolitan, “transnational” sensibility. Bender urges us to see each nation, our own included, as but “a province among the provinces that make up the world.” Whereas the old U.S. history forged a shared national identity by emphasizing America’s distinctiveness, Bender hopes to encourage cosmopolitanism by “internationalizing” the American story.
Bender laments that history as taught in our schools has bred an “acceptance of the nation as the dominant form of human solidarity.” The growing focus on gender, race, and ethnicity is welcome, says Bender, but does little to transform an underlying historical narrative built around the nation. Even the rise of world history in the schools has backfired, Bender maintains, by making it appear as though American history and world history are somehow different topics.
Bender understands that his transnational twist on American history has profound political implications. He complains that while working on his book (during George W. Bush’s presidency), “a discourse of exceptionalism and policies based on it became omnipresent in American public life.” Bender promises that his transnational framing of American history “will give little comfort” to the proponents of policies based on American exceptionalism.
He worries, however, that his globalizing approach to American history might be used to defend precisely the sort of “hegemonic” American foreign-policy he abhors. To prevent this, Bender urges that American history be taught, not only from an American point of view, but from the perspective of those who are subject to American power. “Americans have always found it difficult to imagine themselves as an enemy, as a problem for other people,” says Bender. By showing us ourselves through our enemies’ eyes, Bender hopes to promote humbler and more collaborative forms of American foreign-policy.
Bender complains about George W. Bush era foreign policy, not only in respect to war, but also in the matters of, “environment, trade, nuclear, and other policies.” Clearly, he hopes that his anti-exceptionalist vision of American-history will encourage a different approach to foreign affairs. Bender also openly hopes that students exposed to a less “national” version of American history will sympathize with Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s willingness to use foreign law to interpret the U.S. Constitution, rather than with Justice Antonin Scalia’s rejection of foreign law as an arbiter of American jurisprudence.
In 2006, A Nation Among Nations provoked a sharp exchange between Bender and Brooklyn College professor of history, Robert David Johnson in the journal Historically Speaking. Going on the attack, Johnson calls Bender’s “transnational” version of American history, “little more than an attempt to ensure that students think a certain way about contemporary events.” Johnson warns Bender that “establishing as an outcome for high school history classes the judicial philosophy of Ginsburg and Stephen Breyer . . . will undermine support for public education among citizens who disagree with the preferred ideology.”
Bender parries Johnson’s charges of politicization with a non-denial denial. I offer no “rules for specific actions in the world,” says Bender, nor is my book about “any specific foreign policy.” But Bender doesn’t have to write a policy brief. To achieve his preferred policy results, he merely needs to inculcate a cosmopolitan sensibility and an abiding hostility to American exceptionalism. Bender also denies Johnson’s claim that he wants to “merge” high school U.S. history with World history, yet Bender clearly wants to integrate them in a way that subordinates the American national story to the transnational, globalist perspective.
To understand the deep entanglement of the College Board in Bender’s political and intellectual project, we need to return to 2000, when a group of 78 historians under the auspices of the Organization of American Historians (OAH) issued the flagship document of the movement to “internationalize” American history, “The La Pietra Report.” Bender authored that report, and it prefigures all the themes he develops in his later writings.
The report takes its name from the Italian villa where the meetings took place, from 1997 to 2000. The La Pietra Report makes much of the fact that those meetings were held outside the United States, and that nearly a third of the scholars working to forge a new U.S. History curriculum were non-Americans. One such scholar, in fact, was Cuban.
Francesca Lopez Civeira, of the University of Havana, participated in absentia, sending a paper on American power as “an object of fear” in Cuban historiography. That fit squarely into a central theme of the La Pietra Report, which urges that American students be exposed to evidence of the “controversial power and presence” of the United States beyond our borders, to the point where “one’s native land seems foreign.”
In common with Bender’s later work, an interim report on the 1998 La Pietra conference warns that a newly internationalized American history could inadvertently create a new “…American global city on a hill, the new model for a global culture and economy. There is a danger of a triumphalism that this history could fall into, thus becoming the ideological justification for the latest phase of capitalism.” Again, the La Pietra scholars try to prevent an internationalized history from justifying America’s global economic and military reach by focusing on how America’s alleged victims and enemies feel about the use of our power.
A conclave of historians with a left-wing foreign policy agenda, a third of them from foreign countries, seems an odd inspiration for the ostensibly non-partisan College Board’s redesign of the AP U.S. History Exam. Yet that is exactly what the La Pietra conference and its report became.
In 2002, two years after the appearance of the La Pietra Report, Rethinking American History in a Global Age, a collection of representative papers from the La Pietra conference was published, with Bender as its editor. At the same moment, the Organization of American Historians, which had sponsored the La Pietra Report, moved to strengthen its collaborative relationship with the College Board’s AP U.S. History program. This led to the formation in 2003 of a Joint OAH/AP Advisory Board on Teaching the U.S. History Survey Course. This Advisory Board focused its efforts on fulfilling the goals of the La Pietra Report. So by forging an alliance with the College Board, Bender and his allies discovered a way to transform the teaching of U.S. history.
Ted Dickson, who served as Co-Chair of the AP U.S. History Curriculum Development and Assessment Committee (the body that wrote the new AP U.S. History Framework), was an original member of the joint panel seeking to advance the goals of the La Pietra Report.
In June of 2004, just as the Joint OAH/AP Advisory Board was searching for ways to reshape the teaching of U.S. history along “transnational” lines, Thomas Bender was invited to address hundreds of readers gathered to grade the essay portion of that year’s AP U.S. History Exam. Bender’s talk, still available at the AP Central website, reflects his political agenda. Speaking in the wake of the American invasion of Iraq, Bender argues that historians who offer narratives of American exceptionalism “bear some responsibility” for reinforcing “a unilateralist understanding of the United States in the world.” That attitude, says Bender, must be fought.
Offering an alternative, transnational history designed to combat American “unilateralism,” Bender says that Columbus and his successors didn’t discover America so much as they discovered “the ocean world,” a new global community united by the oceans. The oceans, in turn, made possible the slave trade and the birth of modern capitalism, which improved the lives of European, but brought exploitation and tragic injustice to the rest of the world. Bender concludes that early American history is only partially about “utopian dreams of opportunity or escape”. The beginnings of the American story, says Bender, are also deeply rooted in the birth of capitalism, and the “capture, constraint, and exploitation” this implies.
In other words, Bender wants early American history to be less about the Pilgrims, Plymouth Colony, and John Winthrop’s “City on a Hill” speech, and more about the role of the plantation economy and the slave trade in the rise of an intrinsically exploitative international capitalism.
If the College Board didn’t fully understand the political agenda behind Bender’s La Pietra Report before his talk to the AP Exam readers, they had to understand it after. Yet instead of distancing themselves from this highly politicized and left-leaning approach to American history, the College Board redoubled its efforts on Bender’s behalf.
The OAH-AP Joint Advisory Board decided to publish a collection of essays that would serve as a how-to manual for adopting the recommendations of Bender’s La Pietra Report. So, for example, a scholarly essay on American “cultural imperialism” would be paired with a piece by a high school teacher explaining how the topic of American cultural imperialism could be adapted to the AP U.S. History course. Ted Dickson, future co-chair of the committee that actually wrote the new Framework, was chosen to co-edit this book, which was published in 2008 as America on the World Stage: A Global Approach to U.S. History. Thomas Bender wrote an introduction to the book explaining the philosophy behind the La Pietra Report.
A bit of the material in America on the World Stage—an essay on international responses to the Declaration of Independence, for example—could backfire on Bender by reinforcing an American exceptionalist narrative. Most of the essays in America on the World Stage, however, read like deconstructions of the American story, or catalogues of (alleged) American shame.
Consider the treatment of immigration, which was written by Florida State University historian, Suzanne Sinke, who co-chaired (with Ted Dickson) the committee that wrote the new AP U.S. History Framework. Sinke tells the tale of an early 20th Century ethnically Dutch woman who immigrated to America, merely to leave and go elsewhere. Traditional historians would not treat this woman as an American “immigrant” at all. And that’s the point. Sinke emphasizes that her goal in telling the story of a woman who merely passed through America without deciding to stay and become a citizen is to teach us “to think beyond national histories and the terms that are caught up in them.”
Ted Dickson’s companion piece on how to teach Sinke’s essay (co-authored with Louisa Bond Moffitt), suggests asking students why the term “migration” might be preferable to “immigration.” The answer is that “immigration” implies a specific and permanent national destination, whereas “migration” is simply about the movement of people across borders, without any reference to adopting a national identity. The political subtext is clear: national interest and national identity take second place to the interests of individual “migrants,” whose loyalties are ultimately “transnational.”
So just before they became co-chairs of the committee that redesigned the AP U.S. History Framework, Suzanne Sinke and Ted Dickson worked closely together on a project whose goal was to reshape the U.S. History Survey Course along the lines recommended by Thomas Bender and the La Pietra Report.
Lawrence Charap, the College Board’s AP Curriculum and Content Development Director, is in overall charge of the AP U.S. History redesign process. Presumably, Sinke and Dickson answer to him. So it is of interest that Charap wrote the companion piece in America on the World Stage to the scholarly article on American cultural imperialism. This scholarly treatment of American cultural imperialism, penned by left-leaning University of Michigan historian Penny Von Eschen, is relentlessly critical of America’s economic and military presence in the world. Eschen, for example, touts the Marxist tract, How to Read Donald Duck, by Ariel Dorfman and Armand Mattelhart, as the classic treatment of American cultural imperialism. How to Read Donald Duck explores the subtle and sinister ways in which Disney cartoons advocate “adherence to the U.S. economic system and capitalist values and work ethic,” as if this was a very bad thing.
Charap’s essay highlights America’s commercial advertisements and anti-Soviet propaganda efforts in the Middle East during the Cold War. Charap seeks out off-putting examples of American propaganda and then suggests that students to put themselves in the places of people in the Soviet block or developing world as they respond to the American presence. This, indeed, is teaching students to see their country through the eyes of its alleged “victims” and enemies.
So the three people most immediately responsible for the writing of the new AP U.S. History Framework were intimately involved in the College Board’s effort to transform the teaching of American history along the lines of Bender’s La Pietra Report. What’s more, the AP U.S. History redesign process began in August of 2006, just about the time America on the World Stage was taking shape. Dickson, a co-editor of that book, was on the original redesign committee as well as the later one that actually wrote the new AP U.S. History Framework. Dickson himself notes that his work with the OAH (which largely focused on advancing the goals of the La Pietra Report) was a key factor in the College Board’s decision to appoint him to the AP U.S. History Redesign Commission. How can American conservatives, moderates, and even traditional liberals trust an AP U.S. History redesign effort led by figures who were so deeply enmeshed in a leftist attempt to reshape the American history curriculum?
A detailed analysis of the new AP U.S. History Framework is for another time. Suffice it to say that in its downplaying of America’s traditional national story and emphasis instead on material causation and exploitation within the context of a transnational Atlantic World, the new AP U.S. History Framework is a huge step in the direction of precisely the sort of de-nationalized American history advocated by Thomas Bender and the La Pietra Report.
It is also important to emphasize that the concept of American exceptionalism, which is systematically excised from, and contradicted by, the redesigned Framework, is an integral part of several state curriculum guides, including the Texas Essential Knowledge and Skills (TEKS). That raises serious legal questions about the compatibility of the redesigned Framework with state standards.
This is not to say that Bender, the La Pietra Report, and the attack on American exceptionalism are the only important ideological influences on the redesigned AP U.S. History Framework. Several other important streams of political and intellectual influence have shaped the new Framework, and I will be detailing these in future reports.
It is true, of course, that as on much else, Americans are divided about how best to teach and understand U.S. history. This is precisely why the new, lengthy, and detailed AP U.S. History Framework is such a bad idea. The brief five-page conceptual guideline the Framework replaced allowed sufficient flexibility for teachers to approach U.S. History from a wide variety of perspectives. Liberals, conservatives, and anyone in-between could teach U.S. history their way, and still see their students do well on the AP Test. The College Board’s new and vastly more detailed guidelines can only be interpreted as an attempt to hijack the teaching of U.S. history on behalf of a leftist political and ideological perspective. The College Board has drastically eroded the freedom of states, school districts, teachers, and parents to choose the history they teach their children. That is why this change must not stand.
— Stanley Kurtz is a senior fellow at the Ethics and Public Policy Center and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. This article is reposted with permission from the author.
Read this week’s powerful letter by Oregon State Representative Dennis Richardson.
Rep. Richardson’s Newsletter August 20, 2014
Common Core. The Answer to Oregon’s Failed Education System?
I flew helicopters for the Army in Vietnam. In flight school it was commonly known that one-third of us Warrant Officer Candidates would “wash-out” and not graduate. While a one-third wash-out rate may have been acceptable there, it is not acceptable for one-third of Oregon high school students to drop-out before graduation.
There are hard questions about Oregon’s education system that deserve to be answered. What will be the costs to individuals, families and society of having one-third of our students dropping out of high school? How are they going to perform in the competitive 21st century global job market? What is Governor John Kitzhaber and Oregon’s state education leaders doing to stop the race to the bottom, where Oregon currently has the second lowest graduation rate in the country, and the highest rate of chronic student absenteeism?
As families get their school supplies in order and make other preparations to help their students start the new school year on the right foot, many are questioning Oregon’s latest endeavor to fix our failed education system and wondering if it will pass the test. Today’s newsletter will address the misguided solution enacted by the Governor and state education leaders to the abysmal condition of Oregon’s public education system, by implementing the newest in a list of federally-promoted educational programs known as Common Core. To put this discussion into perspective, consider the following scenario: For years, the dilapidated Sellwood Bridge in SE Portland has been a source of concern. Out-of-date and unsafe, it needed to be completely rebuilt to remain functional, a project that is currently underway. Now imagine that because of the dilapidated condition of the Sellwood Bridge, every bridge in the state is to be torn down and rebuilt– all at the same time. Think of the cost, the disruption, the waste. Of course the idea would be ridiculous, but in a way it is exactly what is being foisted on the entire Oregon education system by mandating implementation of the Common Core, and the silence from the Legislature is deafening.
What is Common Core?
Starting this academic year, all Oregon public schools (as well as those in many other states) are scheduled to abandon previously established academic standards and implement a new and untried nationalized set of learning goals called Common Core. The performance of these standards will be measured by new standardized tests. At Common Core’s outset, when the federal government offered “stimulus” money to the state Governors that accepted Common Core, the standards and tests involved had not even been written. In other words, the Governor and state education leaders unilaterally committed all Oregon’s school districts to adopting a new statewide curriculum before it had even been developed, and Oregon was committed without Legislative consideration or approval.
Since then, Common Core’s standards and tests have been created by a group of people with very limited classroom experience, and in many cases NO classroom experience at all. Now, Common Core’s standards are being implemented without any legislative or public involvement, and still have not been fully tested. (The implementation of Common Core sounds to me like our national health plan, which was passed by Congress before any of our Congressional representatives had the opportunity to read it.) Currently many states are seeking to repeal or delay implementation of Common Core, and a great deal of legislation has been proposed across the nation to address this issue. The American Federation of Teachers union, called for a midcourse moratorium on the high-stakes consequences of Common Core. The Oregon teachers’ union (O.E.A.) has also called for a moratorium. Even Common Core’s biggest supporter, the Gates Foundation, has called for a two-year delay. Concern over prematurely implementing Common Core crosses political party lines. People who would normally be on opposite sides of the issues are banding together to speak out against Common Core.
Why is opposition to Common Core so widespread and impassioned?
Let’s ask the teachers, those who work in the ‘trenches,’ in Oregon’s classrooms, those who often spend more time with our children than anyone else. The best teachers will tell you that regardless of low pay or long hours, they are teachers because they are passionate about the subjects they teach, about learning, and about being able to make a difference in childrens’ lives. I can only imagine what it will do to the state of our classrooms if, when summer vacation ends, our teachers must throw out the lesson plans they adjust to meet their students’ needs and instead teach to Common Core’s new standardized tests—replacing curriculum with test preparation activities. The ‘heart’ and the passion that connects our best teachers to their students will be missing when they are relegated to class monitors, provided scripted materials written by bureaucrats and other non-educators. Certainly Oregon’s educational system needs to be overhauled, but Common Core is not ready to solve the systemic needs of Oregon’s failed educational system. Veteran teachers are reporting morale is at an all-time low and it’s attributed to the confusion and sterility of Common Core State Standard’s (CCSS) approach to learning and testing. This concerns me greatly, for if passion and creativity are forced out of teaching, we will lose our passionate and creative teachers.
To make matters worse, the future of our teachers are at risk. The new system will tie teacher evaluations to student success on Common Core tests without provisions made for those who teach our more “high-risk” learners, such as low-income students and those with learning disabilities. It seems an almost foregone conclusion that our at-risk learners will fail and the jobs of their teachers are jeopardized since pro-Common Core State Deputy School Superintendent Ron Saxton expects only 35% of Oregon students will pass the Common Core tests. The Oregon Department of Education has requested the U.S. Department of Education to temporarily let teachers off the hook for expected low test scores of Oregon students, but the schools and school districts will be ranked. Who then will teach our most challenged students, when teachers know their reputations or professional futures could be jeopardized if they work with at-risk students? Add the fact that teachers have been given little or no training on these new standards, and it becomes very evident that there are serious flaws with Common Core. Should we really be implementing something we are expecting students to fail? Who will flourish in this setting? Gifted students will be bored, students who already dislike school will be even more inclined to skip, and students with obstacles to learning will simply be unable to succeed. Teachers in schools that have already begun implementing Common Core tell me how struggling students are being pulled from electives in order to pass early implementation Common Core tests. These teachers are witnessing the marginalization of students whose strengths lie outside of the areas being tested. Many teachers are agonizing that Common Core’s mandate will do more harm than good, and will only compound Oregon’s problems with absenteeism and lack of on-time graduation. Is this really what we want for Oregon’s children? Of course not.
When it comes to enacting these new standards, we have more unanswered questions. How much will it cost to train teachers to implement Common Core? How much to purchase new learning materials and to acquire the technology necessary to administer and track the tests? And, who will pay? With schools already in dire financial straits, where will the money come from to implement yet another federal educational experiment on Oregon’s rising generation? Finally, it concerns me to see that many of the people behind these standards and the requirements of these tests are affiliated with multi-billion dollar companies with financial conflicts of interest.
These are companies that have near monopolies on the contracts to provide the tests and corresponding curriculum. There is a glaring conflict of interest in having mandatory materials designed by those who are positioned to profit from them. And even if profits to its originators didn’t taint this new system, even if good intentions were the sole impetus behind this top-down policy, national control of state education policies is still a bad idea.
Decisions about the education of our children should not be dictated by a select, distant few. Educational decisions are best made by those closest to the students—parents, teachers and local school boards—not far away state and federal bureaucrats and large, conflicted corporate representatives. Oregon’s education standards need local control with rational state oversight and evidence-based practices learned from Oregon’s most successful schools. Currently, Oregon’s on-time graduation rate is second worst in the nation and our student absentee rate higher than every other state. I believe in educational equality for all students and that every student deserves three things—a mentor, a reason to stay in school and an opportunity for a decent job after graduation. I believe action to fix Oregon’s failing schools system must be taken, but it should be based on what is working in Oregon’s most successful schools, not untried educational experiments fomented by national “educrats” and funded with federal largess.
Solutions for Oregon educational system’s tragic failure. Rather than fret over the dismal state of Oregon’s statewide educational system and rather than pathetic attempts by Governor Kitzhaber and his appointed education leaders to address it by implementing Common Core, let’s look to Oregon’s home-grown examples of success. Let’s look to the many stories of exemplary teaching and learning that are setting the standard for academic achievement in Oregon. At Riverdale High School in SW Portland, students in Mark Wechter’s physics class are ranked among the best national and international young bridge engineers today. At Summit High School in Bend, more than 40% of the students take AP classes prior to graduation. Students in the Portland School District have won more National Constitution Team championships than any other city in the nation. Singers in Sue Schriener’s vocal ensemble, “Souled Out” at Wilsonville High have competed nationally and are strong enough musicians to share the spotlight with professional ensembles. And there are many more stories like these. In fact, 77 Oregon public schools were exemplary according to the US News and World Report 2014 list of America’s best high schools.
The list of Oregon schools included four with gold medals (Beaverton’s International School ranked #26 out of more than 19,000 public schools nationwide), 22 with silver medals and 51 with bronze medals. With answers and examples of excellence right here in Oregon, why on earth should we diminish these rich learning environments by focusing on untried, one-size-fits-all nationalized experiments like Common Core? We shouldn’t. I believe it’s in the best interests of our students to stop implementing Common Core. It’s a remotely managed reform measure fraught with problems. Let’s look to model programs in Oregon’s own commendable schools for guidance on how to improve the performance of schools and students that are struggling. We should halt Common Core’s race to the middle and allow local schools who best understand their students to engage in creating Oregon’s educational solutions. We should focus on what it is that engages students and keeps them interested and in school, rather than on high stakes educational experiments written by “educrats” who don’t have an understanding of our children. Simply put, I strongly recommend we join the ranks of states that require “evidence-based” practices and have turned down Common Core.
Since our students are returning to class in less than a month, our Governor and state education leaders should immediately put a moratorium on Common Core. If they fail to take the initiative, our Legislative leaders should be unified in demanding an immediate moratorium on Common Core. We only have one chance to educate a child and all our children deserve better than what they’ll get from Common Core.
Representative Dennis Richardson
Last week in Florida, citizens stood against the Florida’s acceptance of the RTTT bribe of the federal Department of Education which engaged the state in Common Core. In this video from a Florida radio program, Jason Hoyt explains the details of that Florida Grand Jury case.
At minute 3:20 you’ll hear that in a town meeting in North Florida, 25 lead jurors were elected for a Grand Jury who met at the courthouse last Thursday at 10:00 a.m. and the next day, Friday, filed two bills stamped by the clerk of the court, Dana Johnson at 4:31 p.m.
The first complaint was for obstruction of justice and jury tampering. The second is for the acceptance of bribery for the implementation of Common Core. (See minute 4:18.) Watch the video for more details.