Archive for January 2013

Teacher Professional Development for Common Core   3 comments

The following is published anonymously to protect the educator(s) who are sharing this information.

“Recently certain teachers were selected to attend Common Core training sessions. We were divided according to subject.

We were subjected to “groupthink.”

We were given an article called “Making the Common Core Come Alive!” It is published by an organization called “Just ASK” and it came from that organization’s October 2012 newsletter. The author of the article is Heather Clayton Kwit, who is the principal of Mendon Center Elementary School in Pittsford Central School District, New York.

The article’s main purpose at the top of the article says COMMON CORE MIND SHIFTS. We had to read part of the article and then answer questions about our “feelings.”

Here are the seven mind shifts we had to read about in the meeting:

1. “The goal of curriculum should not be the coverage of content, but rather the discovery of content.” It goes on to say “If done well, Common Core will elevate our teaching to new heights, and emphasize the construction of meaning, while deepening our understanding of our students.”

2. “A deep understanding of the content to be taught is paramount.”

3. “In our classrooms, it is the students’ voices, not the teachers’, that are heard.”

4. “We are preparing our students to do the work without us.”

5. “We are educating our children for an unknown future.” It also says “these skills can then be translated into new or novel situations, without the teacher needing to guide the work.”

6. “We have a responsibility to help each student reach higher.”

7. “We can’t ignore the evidence before us.” It goes on to say the standards were created using an extensive body of evidence.

The concluding paragraph says, “In conclusion, we have the innate ability to change our mindset if it no longer helps us accomplish our goals. Our current beliefs are grounded in the prior knowledge we’ve gained through our administrative and teaching experiences, our lives as students, and our collaboration with educators. Our beliefs impact all that we do, how we act and react, and the potential we see in others. When we can successfully shift our mindset, we are ready to form new lines of thinking and abandon old habits. By doing so, we have successfully positioned ourselves to do the work required by the Common Core.”

Here are the seven questions we had to answer in writing about our feelings about each mind shift (NOTE: these questions were created by OUR system):

1. How would you explain the differences between the discovery of content and the coverage of content?

2. How would you describe the payoff for teachers who demonstrate deep and flexible understanding of the content to be taught?

3. What do you see as the role of the teacher and the students in a classroom filled predominately with student talk?

4. What benefits to you see for students as we begin to teach them to do the work without us?

5. Why would it be important for teachers to shift their thinking about the purpose and method of their practice as they work with students?

6. How will the standards support teachers as they meet the needs of both fragile and accelerated learners?

7. As outlined in this section of the text, what do you see as important pieces of evidence that can’t be ignored? Why should this evidence be considered valuable.

As you can see, this is what teachers are dealing with. So right now, these “reading coaches” from elementary schools are training teachers to be Common Core people in their schools. [Someone] stated that next year our system hopes to fund 19 Common Core IP’s (Instructional Partners). Some of these 19 will be from the “reading coaches” in elementary schools and some will be selected from the secondary level.

Probably, the people who “shift their minds” the best will be the ones selected.”

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Thank you to the educator(s) who shared this information with us anonymously here.

Open Book Test On Common Core – For Parents   9 comments

The official Common Core websites make the program sound good.  The Department of Education promotes it.  The purveyors of Common Core implementation guides make it sound magnificent.  Many educators have said they support it.

At the same time, research groups, think tanks, parent groups, university professors and increasingly, more and more teachers,  stand against it.  So who’s to believe? How can you get to the truth?

Truth is truth, no matter what story the spinners may spin about Common Core. The repetitve use of Common Core’s favorite words, “rigorous” and “benchmarked” and “state-led” and “college ready” cannot alter reality.

But, rather than repeat myself further, and rather than to ask you to read hundreds of articles and reviews others have written, I have a new approach today.

I’m offering you an open book test.

Do the research for yourself.  You will most likely find that Common core is a shaky experiment that dilutes good education, invades data privacy, robs states of autonomy, breaks the law (General Educational Provisions Act, and 10th Amendment to the Constitution) and it’s about to break the taxpaying public.

This is like one of those little craft kits you can buy at the county fair.  The bulk of the work has been done for you; just put the pieces together and call it your own.

Welcome to A Common Core Open Book Test:

        •Is the Common Core Initiative legal?

See: General Education Provisions Act Law (GEPA law): “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”    http://www.law.cornell.edu/uscode/text/20/1232g

See: U.S. Constitution- 10th Amendment: “The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people.”  http://www.archives.gov/exhibits/charters/bill_of_rights_transcript.html

 

       • Are the Common Core standards really un-amendable and copyrighted?

http://www.corestandards.org/public-license

 

  •  Who are the sole developers of Common Core?

http://www.corestandards.org/public-license

   

         •How serious are the privacy issues involved in Common Core tests?

EPIC lawsuit against Dept of Ed. http://epic.org/apa/ferpa/default.html

Fox News http://youtu.be/wVI78lPCFfs

CNN http://youtu.be/EkwN-cwC810

Reader-friendly explanation: http://www.utahnsagainstcommoncore.com/christel-swasey-responds-to-brenda-hales/

SLDS (state longitudinal database system)  http://nces.ed.gov/forum/datamodel/Information/faq.aspx

UTREX grant that meshes data all the way up to feds: http://nces.ed.gov/Programs/SLDS/state.asp?stateabbr=UT  (also see John Brandt’s online powerpoint, page 6).

National Data Collection Model database attributes http://nces.sifinfo.org/datamodel/eiebrowser/techview.aspx?instance=studentPostsecondary “Assurances” here:

Federal supervision, triangulation of tests (illegal under G.E.P.A. law) http://www2.ed.gov/programs/racetothetop-assessment/sbac-cooperative-agreement.pdf

 

          •Are the Common Core math and English standards themselves helping or hurting education for kids?

http://www.uaedreform.org/wp-content/uploads/2000/01/Stotsky_Testimony_for_Colorado.pdf

http://www.aasa.org/uploadedFiles/Publications/Newsletters/JSP_Winter2011.FINAL.pdf

http://www.heritage.org/research/reports/2012/12/questionable-quality-of-the-common-core-english-language-arts-standards

http://www.aasa.org/uploadedFiles/Publications/Journals/AASA_Journal_of_Scholarship_and_Practice/Winter_10_FINAL.pdf

http://zhaolearning.com/2013/01/02/five-questions-to-ask-about-the-common-core/

http://www.uaedreform.org/sandra-stotsky/

http://parentsacrossamerica.org/james-milgram-on-the-new-core-curriculum-standards-in-math/

http://whatiscommoncore.wordpress.com/2012/07/06/mathematician-and-education-advisor-zeev-wurmans-new-paper-on-common-core-math-standards-are-decent-for-younger-grades-but-rob-high-school-students/

http://www.theatlantic.com/national/archive/2012/11/a-new-kind-of-problem-the-common-core-math-standards/265444/

http://www.theblaze.com/contributions/common-core-sparks-war-over-words-among-literature-teachers/

  •    Has a budget been created or a cost analysis been done?

http://www.accountabilityworks.org/photos/Cmmn_Cr_Cst_Stdy.Fin.2.22.12.pdf

http://truthinamericaneducation.com/common-core-assessments/brookings-student-testing-costs-states-1-7-billion-a-year/

http://www.eagleforum.org/educate/2012/jan12/common-core-standards.html

http://www.sunherald.com/2013/01/19/4416545/pascagoula-schools-preparing-early.html

http://news.heartland.org/newspaper-article/2010/03/25/alaska-texas-reject-common-core-standards

http://www.educationnews.org/education-policy-and-politics/california-wants-a-tax-hike-to-pay-for-common-core/

 

   •Has Common Core been led by states or by the federal government?

http://www.keepeducationlocal.com/claims-vs.-facts.html

http://truthinamericaneducation.com/common-core-state-standards/debunking-misconceptions-the-common-core-is-state-led/  (reader friendly)

http://www.utahnsagainstcommoncore.com/the-common-core-lie/  (less readable but provides links to prove it was not state led)

See the Race to the Top grant – federal incentivization of Common Core: http://www.google.com/url?sa=t&rct=j&q=&esrc=s&frm=1&source=web&cd=1&ved=0CDIQFjAA&url=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.schools.utah.gov%2Farra%2FUses%2FUtah-Race-to-the-Top-Application.aspx&ei=PSQDUaKkLvCWyAGb8YDACw&usg=AFQjCNFk2icoHCsO-TViXtbkFHJQWizg5Q&sig2=4re2ypxeoPF7RuhE00opug&bvm=bv.41524429,d.aWc  (page 28 Utah agreed to Common Core in this federal document before public or legislative vetting had taken place)

  •          How can states escape?

Exit strategy: http://www.heritage.org/research/reports/2011/12/a-national-education-standards-exit-strategy-for-states

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Finally, a motives check:

Ask yourself:  who are the people standing against the Common Core?  Are they gaining financially from it?  Well, I am one of the fighters, and I’m not gaining.  I receive not a penny, nor ever will, for this work.  I deliberately reject offers of ads on this blog, so that readers can –I hope– trust it as a labor of love from a parent and teacher, and not a labor of personal gain.  Why spend hundreds of hours writing to legislators, school boards, parents and members of the media to fight against Common Core’s continued implementation?

Next, ask yourself this: why do many of the loudest proponents of Common Core never reference their claims?  They claim grandeur for these standards, but nothing is verified, nothing is solid.  Also, many proponents happen to be corporations that are making a lot of money to implement texts and tools for the Common Core.  (Bill Gates’ Microsoft. The Pearson company’s lobbyists and Pearson company’s CEA Sir Michael Barber. Even the national PTA received $2 million from Gates to promote Common Core.)  And lastly, ask yourself this: why is there no transparency or clarity, and why the secretive meetings, of the CCSSO –the developers of the standards; and why is there no amendment process for a principal, parent or teacher who sees a problem with these national standards?

Indiana’s Andrea Neal on Inferior Quality of Common Core Standards   Leave a comment

Indiana legislators are in the middle of a huge decision. Will they vote for or against Indiana Senator Scott Schneider’s bill to withdraw Indiana from Common Core?

Indystar scholar/reporter Andrea Neal writes: “…the biggest reason to oppose Common Core has nothing to do with policy considerations and everything to do with quality. The standards are inferior to what Indiana already had in place. They are hard to understand. Yet teacher training, course materials and student testing must all be based on them.

…One need only read the new standards to spot glaring problems. They’re wordy, redundant and poorly organized. Some of the language leaves your head spinning. For example, Grade 6 students are to “write arguments to support claims with clear reasons and relevant evidence” by using “words, phrases and clauses to clarify the relationships among claim(s) and reasons.”

Compare that to the clarity and specificity of the old Massachusetts state standards, which were considered the nation’s best:

“Write brief research reports with clear focus and supporting detail” or “write a short explanation of a process that includes a topic statement, supporting details and a conclusion.”

Great article.  Read it here:  http://www.indystar.com/article/20130130/OPINION04/301300309/  and here: http://www.courierpress.com/news/2013/jan/30/state-can-do-better-than-common-core/?print=1

Common Core Is A Business Plan Without A Budget Plan Or Cost Accountability   Leave a comment

From Gretchen Logue, Missouri Education Watchdog:

“I would have thought astute business people would have realized a long time ago that you shouldn’t sign on to any public school plan that had no price tag, had no specifics and would be controlled by private corporations held unaccountable to the taxpayers whose money they were using.

Would the Chamber of Commerce endorse such a plan in private industry? Would they support a business plan that had no budget, no oversight? Would they endorse a construction project with no blueprint and only promises of grandeur?

Of course not. Then why is the Chamber endorsing CCSS? The processes used and the product promised by CCSS is what I described above. If the Chamber endorses such pie in the sky promises of CCSS that have no research to back them up, and the Chamber thinks THAT is common sense, Indiana is in deep trouble.” -Gretchen Logue, Missouri Education Watchdog, commenting on an Indiana Barrister editorial.

That ridiculous editorial is here: http://www.indianabarrister.com/archives/2013/01/indiana_chamber_show_common_sense_on_common_core.html,

Gretchen Logue also points out that the editorial insinuates taxpayers should like the fact that  private corporations now have authority “to own the copyright to the standards and assessments used in teaching their children…and if a parent or a school district should find some of these items objectionable, they have no due process to stop using it in their schools.”

Well said.

Full blog post here: http://www.missourieducationwatchdog.com/2013/01/common-core-wars-heating-up-in-indiana.html

Another Mother Speaks Up: What Does The State School Board See in A.I.R?   Leave a comment

Tiffany Mouritsen, another Utah mother against Common Core, has been researching a very important aspect of Common Core, the American Institutes for Research (AIR).

Why?

AIR is the Utah School Board’s unfortunate choice for national Common Core testing.  Millions and millions and millions of our tax dollars are going to A.I.R. right now.

And for what?  Federally promoted tests that align to unamendable standards written by a questionable research group to cost us endless amounts of tax money, to stress out our kids, to tightly control our teachers, and to make nobody (okay, a handful of replaceable politicians and a load of educational product-selling corporations) actually smile.

AIR markets its values, which includes promoting  lesbian, gay, bisexual and transsexual agendas for teens, and publicizes its client list (George Soros and Bill and Melinda Gates, of course, are listed) –on the AIR website.  Check it out for yourself.   http://www.air.org/focus-area/human-social-development/?id=138

Read Tiffany’s review, here.   http://sunlightandstars.blogspot.com/2013/01/utah-american-institutes-for-research.html

Read Utahns Against Common Core’s review, here. http://www.utahnsagainstcommoncore.com/is-the-usoe-the-most-subversive-utah-agency/

Rigor –or Rigor Mortis?   Leave a comment

At a blog called Books Are Enough, another teacher-blogger makes a request, which I second: “Can we stop saying “rigor” please?”  Here’s the teacher’s reasoning– and here’s the link to that blog. http://booksareenough.wordpress.com/2013/01/29/can-we-stop-saying-rigor-please/

 

He/she writes:

“Can we stop saying “rigor” please?  The term “rigor” is a word some folks are using (again) to imply there is some crisis in education. A lot of folks are making money off of this term and its evil twin “college ready.” Here are several definitions of ”rigor” from a dictionary…

A. harsh inflexibility in opinion, temper, or judgment: the quality of being unyielding or inflexible

B. an act or instance of strictness, severity, or cruelty

C. rigidness or torpor of organs or tissue that prevents response to stimuli

D. a condition that makes life difficult, challenging, or uncomfortable; especially : extremity of cold

Making students see reading- poetry, fiction, non-fiction or any other genre as simply a task to be completed is immoral. This is why test driven Common Core should be stopped. We had enough under NCLB.

Our goal should be to foster book-loving citizens.

Rigor? Ha!”

http://booksareenough.wordpress.com/2013/01/29/can-we-stop-saying-rigor-please/

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Why this observation is so important:  first, the proponents of Common Core use the term “rigor” ad nauseum, and always as if rigor meant “academic excellence” when it more closely aligns with the term “academic rigor mortis”

In the upper grades Common Core dumbs down both math and English literature, killing love of reading and killing the development of mathematical habits of mind, by asking students to reinvent every mathematical wheel;  but in kindergarten, Common Coore pushes little ones too fast and makes no room for the joyfulness that should characterize kindergarten.  See also:

http://www.nypost.com/p/news/local/playtime_over_kindergartners_ItkfEkiosY3UOa8KpXwj8K

http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/answer-sheet/wp/2013/01/29/a-tough-critique-of-common-core-on-early-childhood-education/

http://www.newstimes.com/opinion/article/Sarina-Gersten-Kindergarten-has-become-too-3593119.php

Unwritten Tests Present Major Common Core Obstacle: Heartlander Reports   Leave a comment

A new Heartlander article by Joy Pullman raises some very big questions for school districts that do not have the money, the computers, bandwidth, or IT staff to administer Common Core tests.  It seems that “strapped states must soon pitch money at a new, complicated testing program” that is “likely to make their schools look bad”.

The article asks:

1. Where will the new national testing groups get money once federal grants run out, six months before the tests appear in classrooms?
2. Can testmakers and states handle the technical problems of creating and administering ambitious, online tests?
3. Will states tolerate higher passing score requirements?

The article quotes a survey of “education insiders” with at least one respondent noting that both the PARCC and SBAC testing consortia operate with such opacity that it is hard to know where things stand.

Full Article:  http://news.heartland.org/newspaper-article/2013/01/28/unwritten-tests-present-major-common-core-obstacle

Developing Algebraic Habits of Mind (Not Gonna Happen with Common Core)   Leave a comment

“Giving students problems to solve for which they have little or no prior knowledge or mastery of algebraic skills is not likely to develop the habit of mind of algebraic thinking. But the purveyors of this practice believe that continually exposing children to unfamiliar and confusing problems will result in a problem-solving “schema” and that students are being trained to adapt in this way. In my opinion, it is the wrong assumption. A more accurate assumption is that after the necessary math is learned, one is equipped with the prerequisites to solve problems that may be unfamiliar but which rely on what has been learned and mastered. I hope research in this area is indeed conducted.”

Full text posted at Education News:  http://www.educationnews.org/k-12-schools/developing-the-habits-of-mind-for-algebraic-thinking/

Developing the Habits of Mind for Algebraic Thinking

by Barry Garelick

The idea of whether algebraic thinking can be taught outside of the context of algebra has attracted much attention over the past two decades. Interestingly, the idea has recently been raised as a question and a subject for further research in a recent article appearing in American Mathematical Society Notices which asks, “Is there evidence that teaching sense making without algebra is more or less effective than teaching the same concepts with algebra?” I sincerely hope this request is followed up on.

The term “habits of mind” comes up repeatedly in discussions about education — and math education in particular. The idea that teaching the “habits of mind” that make up algebraic thinking in advance of learning algebra has attracted its share of followers. Teaching algebraic habits of mind has been tried in various incarnations in classrooms across the U.S.

Habits of mind are important and necessary to instill in students. They make sense when the habits taught arise naturally out of the context of the material being learned. Thus, a habit such as “Say in your head what you are doing whenever you are doing math” will have different forms depending on what is being taught. In elementary math it might be “One third of six is two”; in algebra “Combining like terms 3x and 4x gives me 7x”; in geometry “Linear pairs add to 180, therefore 2x + (x +30) = 180”; in calculus “Composite function, chain rule, derivative of outside function times derivative of inside function”.

Similarly, in fourth or fifth grade students can learn to use the distributive property to multiply 57 x 3 as 3 x (50 + 7). In algebra, that is extended to a more formal expression: a(b + c) = ab + ac.

But what I see being promoted as “habits of mind” in math are all too often the teaching of particular thinking skills without the content to support it. For example, a friend of mine who lives in Spokane directed me to the website of the Spokane school district, where they posted a math problem at a meeting for teachers regarding best practices for teaching math.

The teachers were shown the following problem which was given to fifth graders. They were to discuss the problem and assess what different levels of “understanding” were demonstrated by student answers to the problem:

Not only have students in fifth grade not yet learned how to represent equations using algebra, the problem is more of an IQ test than an exercise in math ability. Where’s the math? The “habit of mind” is apparently to see a pattern and then to represent it mathematically.

Such problems are reliant on intuition — i.e., the student must be able to recognize a mathematical pattern — and ignore the deductive nature of mathematics. An unintended habit of mind from such inductive type reasoning is that students learn the habit of inductively jumping to conclusions. This develops a habit of mind in which once a person thinks they have the pattern, then there is nothing further to be done. Such thinking becomes a problem later when working on more complex problems.

Presentating problems like the button problem above prior to a pre-algebra or algebra course will likely result in clumsy attempts at solutions that may or may not lead to algebraic thinking. Since the students do not have the experience or mathematical maturity to express mathematical ideas algebraically, algebraic thinking is not inherent at such a stage.

Specifically, one student answered the problem as 1 x (11 x 3) + 1, which would be taken as evidence by some that the child is learning the “habit” of identifying patterns and expressing them algebraically. Another student answered it as 4 + 3 + 3 + 3 + 3 + 3 + 3 + 3 + 3 + 3 + 3 = 34.

Rather than establishing an algebraic habit of mind, such problems may result in bad habits. It is not unusual, for example, to see students in algebra classes making charts for problems similar to the one above, even though they may be working on identifying linear relationships, and making connections to algebraic equations. By making algebraic habits of mind part of the 5th-grade curriculum in advance of any algebra, students are being told “You are now doing algebra.” By the time they get to an actual algebra class, they revert back to their 5th grade understanding of what algebra is.

In addition, the above type of problem (no matter when it is given) is better presented so as to allow deductive rather than inductive reasoning to occur.

“Gita makes a sequence of patterns with her grandmother’s buttons. For each pattern she uses one black button and several white buttons as follows: For the first pattern she takes 1 black button and places 1 white button on three sides of the black button as shown. For the second pattern she places 2 white buttons on each of three sides of one black button; for the third 3 white buttons, and continues this pattern. Write an expression that tells how many buttons will be in the nth pattern.”

The purveyors of providing students problems that require algebraic solutions outside of algebra courses sometimes justify such techniques by stating that the methods follow the recommendations of Polya’s problem solving techniques. Polya, in his classic book “How to Solve It”, advises students to “work backwards” or “solve a similar and simpler problem”.

But Polya was not addressing students in lower grades; he was addressing students who are well on their way to developing problem solving expertise by virtue of having an extensive problem solving repertoire — something that students in lower grades lack. For lower grade students, Polya’s advice is not self-executing and has about the same effect as providing advice on safe bicycle riding by telling a child to “be careful”. For younger students to find simpler problems, they must receive explicit guidance from a teacher.

As an example, consider a student who stares blankly at a problem requiring them to calculate how many 2/15 mile intervals there are in a stretch of highway that is 7/10 of a mile long. The teacher can provide the student with a simpler problem such as “How many 2 mile intervals are there in a stretch of highway that is 10 miles long?” The student should readily see this is solved by division: 10 divided by 2. The teacher then asks the student to apply that to the original problem. The student will likely say in a hesitant voice: “Uhh, 7/10 divided by 2/15?”, and the student will be on his way. Note that in this example, the problem is set in the context of what the student has learned — not based on skills or concepts to be learned later.

Giving students problems to solve for which they have little or no prior knowledge or mastery of algebraic skills is not likely to develop the habit of mind of algebraic thinking. But the purveyors of this practice believe that continually exposing children to unfamiliar and confusing problems will result in a problem-solving “schema” and that students are being trained to adapt in this way. In my opinion, it is the wrong assumption. A more accurate assumption is that after the necessary math is learned, one is equipped with the prerequisites to solve problems that may be unfamiliar but which rely on what has been learned and mastered. I hope research in this area is indeed conducted. I hope it proves me right.

Barry Garelick has written extensively about math education in various publications including The Atlantic, Education Next, Educational Leadership, and Education News. He recently retired from the U.S. EPA and is teaching middle and high school math in California.

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Thanks to Barry Garelick for permission to post his article here.

Don’t Mess With My Gold Rush: Or, Who’s Promoting Common Core and Why?   Leave a comment

I just did an Internet search using the term “common core implementation books” and got over eight million hits.

Corporations including Pearson, Microsoft and thousands of little mom and pop textbook writers you never heard of, seem to realize that Common Core implementation is the gold rush of this decade.

If the Common Core was honestly good for American education, maybe I could understand asking taxpayers to go more deeply into debt to pay and pay and pay…  for all the new teacher “professional development,” all the new software and hardware and endless consumables that implementation of national standards demands.

But taxpayers, parents and teachers, do you understand that Common Core is glutting corporate America while harming true literacy and numeracy?

But the truth is still the truth, no matter what story the spinners may spin about Common Core. All the shiny, colorful marketing for Common Core, all the repetitious uses of Common Core’s favorite phrases, “rigorous” and “benchmarked” and “state-led” and “college ready” cannot alter reality: common core is devastation to American education, privacy and autonomy.

With that introducation, please read Jenni White’s article in “American Thinker” on the subject:

     The Educational Tech Scam.  By Jenni White of ROPE (Restore Oklahoma Public Education)

Morgan Olsen: Parental Rights to Review Curriculum and Surveys   1 comment

The reason I’m reposting this article is that there are many things happening in schools that parents may not feel comfortable with, but most do not speak up because they don’t know their rights over their own children.

Many schools administer something called the “SHARP” survey.  Locally, here in Heber City, it’s done in schools.  But you can opt out.

SHARP is an in-your-face survey that asks very detailed, intimate, and intrusive questions, without attaching names to the results. So what could be wrong?

Proponents of “SHARP” or “Communities That Care” or other survey-based youth data collection instruments claim that the survey is a necessary way to assess whether children are involved in drugs, sex, alcohol, violence, or mental ill health.

Others say that these types of surveys may do more harm than good, by introducing children to the ideas of many deviant behaviors they would otherwise not have known about, and/or should be learning about from their parents in a loving, trusting environment rather than on a bubble sheet in a classroom.   Others also say that embedded in the language of the surveys are values that may not match those of the parents.  (For example, some surveys I have seen do equate gun ownership with gun violence rather than realizing that many homes have guns for protection, hunting and to demonstrate 2nd Amendment rights.  See: http://whatiscommoncore.wordpress.com/2012/09/20/10-reasons-not-to-adopt-communities-that-care-ctc/ )

Children may not have the courage to tell school staff they would like to opt out, but you can send your school a letter to let your wishes be known at the beginning of the school year. Then your child will not be allowed to take the survey.

With that intro, here is Morgan Olsen’s article on your parental rights, with links to laws you can point to when you go to your school district with concerns.

What are my parental rights?

Published at Utahns Against Common Core website January 24, 2013. | By Morgan Olsen  |  Reposted here with thanks to Morgan Olsen.

http://www.utahnsagainstcommoncore.com/what-are-my-parental-rights/#comment-3322

When faced with incorrect school policies and practices, parents can easily feel overwhelmed and powerless. Throughout my Common Core research, I have gathered a few tidbits of law that can help you re-establish your parental rights in the education of your child. Exercise regularly your God-given right to advocate for your child’s best interest, and remind schools and government agencies that your child’s unique needs are better served with a parental representative over a hired one. No amount of social planning, exorbitant spending or teacher training can provide a better representative than an emotionally attached lifelong parent who’s most basic instinct and sacred duty is to lovingly protect, nurture, and guide their child. Regularly claim your God-given right and duty to advocate for your child’s best interest as their primary representative. For as the old saying goes, “Use it or lose it.”

FEDERAL LAW

Right to review Curriculum   (United States Code, Title 20 1232h)

1232h Protection of pupil rights

(a) Inspection of instructional materials by parents or guardians

All instructional materials, including teacher’s manuals, films, tapes, or other supplementary material which will be used in connection with any survey, analysis, or evaluation as part of any applicable program shall be available for inspection by the parents or guardians of the children.

Limits on Survey, Analysis, Evaluations, or Data Collection (United States Code, Title 20 1232h)

(b) Limits on survey, analysis, or evaluations

No student shall be required, as part of any applicable program, to submit to a survey, analysis, or evaluation that reveals information concerning—

(1) political affiliations or beliefs of the student or the student’s parent;

(2) mental or psychological problems of the student or the student’s family;

(3) sex behavior or attitudes;

(4) illegal, anti-social, self-incriminating, or demeaning behavior;

(5) critical appraisals of other individuals with whom respondents have close family relationships;

(6) legally recognized privileged or analogous relationships, such as those of lawyers, physicians, and ministers;

(7) religious practices, affiliations, or beliefs of the student or student’s parent; or

(8) income (other than that required by law to determine eligibility for participation in a program or for receiving financial assistance under such program), without the prior consent of the student (if the student is an adult or emancipated minor), or in the case of an unemancipated minor, without the prior written consent of the parent.

Here is a brochure to help teach your children to say NO to these types of questions.

United States Code, Title 20 1232c

(c) Surveys or data-gathering activities; regulations

Not later than 240 days after October 20, 1994, the Secretary shall adopt appropriate regulations or procedures, or identify existing regulations or procedures, which protect the rights of privacy of students and their families in connection with any surveys or data-gathering activities conducted, assisted, or authorized by the Secretary or an administrative head of an education agency. Regulations established under this subsection shall include provisions controlling the use, dissemination, and protection of such data. No survey or data-gathering activities shall be conducted by the Secretary, or an administrative head of an education agency under an applicable program, unless such activities are authorized by law.

UTAH LAW

Activities prohibited without prior written consent (Utah Code Title 53A Section 302)

(1) Policies adopted by a school district under Section 53A-13-301 shall include prohibitions on the administration to a student of any psychological or psychiatric examination, test, or treatment, or any survey, analysis, or evaluation without the prior written consent of the student’s parent or legal guardian, in which the purpose or evident intended effect is to cause the student to reveal information, whether the information is personally identifiable or not, concerning the student’s or any family member’s:
(a) political affiliations or, except as provided under Section 53A-13-101.1 or rules of the State Board of Education, political philosophies;
(b) mental or psychological problems;
(c) sexual behavior, orientation, or attitudes;
(d) illegal, anti-social, self-incriminating, or demeaning behavior;
(e) critical appraisals of individuals with whom the student or family member has close family relationships;
(f) religious affiliations or beliefs;
(g) legally recognized privileged and analogous relationships, such as those with lawyers, medical personnel, or ministers; and
(h) income, except as required by law.
(2) Prior written consent under Subsection (1) is required in all grades, kindergarten through grade 12.

Here is a brochure to help teach your children to say NO to these types of questions.

Right of the Parent to raise their child without undue government interference (Utah Code Title 62A Chapter 4a Section 201)

(1) (a) Under both the United States Constitution and the constitution of this state, a parent possesses a fundamental liberty interest in the care, custody, and management of the parent’s children. A fundamentally fair process must be provided to parents if the state moves to challenge or interfere with parental rights. A governmental entity must support any actions or allegations made in opposition to the rights and desires of a parent regarding the parent’s children by sufficient evidence to satisfy a parent’s constitutional entitlement to heightened protection against government interference with the parent’s fundamental rights and liberty interests.
(b) The fundamental liberty interest of a parent concerning the care, custody, and management of the parent’s children is recognized, protected, and does not cease to exist simply because a parent may fail to be a model parent or because the parent’s child is placed in the temporary custody of the state. At all times, a parent retains a vital interest in preventing the irretrievable destruction of family life. Prior to an adjudication of unfitness, government action in relation to parents and their children may not exceed the least restrictive means or alternatives available to accomplish a compelling state interest. Until the state proves parental unfitness, the child and the child’s parents share a vital interest in preventing erroneous termination of their natural relationship and the state cannot presume that a child and the child’s parents are adversaries.
(c) It is in the best interest and welfare of a child to be raised under the care and supervision of the child’s natural parents. A child’s need for a normal family life in a permanent home, and for positive, nurturing family relationships is usually best met by the child’s natural parents. Additionally, the integrity of the family unit and the right of parents to conceive and raise their children are constitutionally protected. The right of a fit, competent parent to raise the parent’s child without undue government interference is a fundamental liberty interest that has long been protected by the laws and Constitution and is a fundamental public policy of this state.
(d) The state recognizes that:
(i) a parent has the right, obligation, responsibility, and authority to raise, manage, train, educate, provide for, and reasonably discipline the parent’s children; and
(ii) the state’s role is secondary and supportive to the primary role of a parent.
(e) It is the public policy of this state that parents retain the fundamental right and duty to exercise primary control over the care, supervision, upbringing, and education of their children.

~Morgan Olsen

Michelle Malkin: Waking Up America to Stop Common Core   Leave a comment

Michelle Malkin is determined to wake America up to recognize what harm Common Core is doing to American K-12 education.

Most parents don’t even know what Common Core is.

In part II of her analysis of the Common Core, a nationalized education program heavily promoted, overseen and incentivized by President Obama’s administration, Malkin emphasizes the fact that the Common Core’s “cheerleaders’ claim that their agenda came from the bottom up is false. Flat-out false.”

She says that although the Washington, D.C., board of education “earned widespread mockery this week when it proposed allowing high school students — in the nation’s own capital — to skip a basic U.S. government course to graduate,” that this proposal “is fiddlesticks compared to what the federal government is doing to eliminate American children’s core knowledge base in English, language arts and history.”

Amen, sister.

Read Malkin’s articlehttp://michellemalkin.com/2013/01/25/rotten-to-the-core-part-2-readin-writin-and-deconstructionism/

Read “Betrayed” -Laurie Rogers on Common Core Math   Leave a comment

Here are highlights from a great article written to anyone who doesn’t understand what the problems are with common core math:  Full text: http://betrayed-whyeducationisfailing.blogspot.com/2013/01/common-core-leading-districts-to-adopt.html

In the article, Laurie Rogers, Washington educator, explains the term “student-centered” and shows why Common Core’s “student-centered” math is failing us.  She writes that:

“Many of America’s public schools have incorporated “student-centered learning” models into their math programs. An adoption committee in Spokane appears poised to recommend the adoption of yet another version of a “student-centered” program for Grades 3-8 mathematics.

It’s critically important that American citizens know what that term means.

… Student-centered learning has largely replaced direct instruction in the public-school classroom. It was pushed on the country beginning in the 1980s by the National Council of Teachers of Mathematics, the federal government, colleges of education, and various corporations and foundations. Despite its abject failure to produce well-educated students, student-centered learning is coming back around, again pushed by the NCTM, colleges of education, the federal government and various corporations and foundations.

Despite the lack of supporting research for the approach, trillions of taxpayer dollars were spent on implementing it across the nation. Despite its grim results, trillions more will be spent on it via the Common Core initiatives….

Student-centered learning is designed to “engage” students in discussion, debate, critical thinking, exploration and group work, all supposedly to gain “deeper conceptual understanding” and the ability to apply concepts to “real world” situations. New teachers receive instruction in student-centered learning in colleges of education, and their instruction in the approach (i.e. their indoctrination) continues non-stop at state and district levels.

The popularity of student-centered learning in the education community rests on: a) constant indoctrination, b) ego, c) money, and d) the ability to hide weak outcomes from the public.

Ask yourself this: How does one actually quantify “exploration,” “deeper conceptual understanding” and “application to real world situations”? How do we test for that? We can’t, really, which helps explain why math test scores can soar even as actual math skills deteriorate.

With student-centered learning, teachers are not to be a “sage on the stage” – they are to be a “guide on the side.” Students are to innovate and create, come up with their own methods, develop their own understanding, work in groups, talk problems out, teach each other, and depend on their classmates for help before asking the teacher. Student-centered learning is supposed to be a challenge for teachers, whereas direct instruction is considered to be too easy (basically handing information over to students on a silver platter).

Ask yourself this: How much learning can be done in a class with 28 students of different abilities and backgrounds, all talking; a teacher who guides but doesn’t teach; and classmates who must teach each other things they don’t understand? How do students get help with this approach at home? What happens to students who don’t have a textbook, don’t have proper guidance, and don’t have any help at home? Direct instruction does make learning easier; that’s a positive for it, not a negative. Learning can be efficient and easy. How is it better to purposefully make children struggle, fail and doubt themselves?

…In student-centered learning, student discussion and debate precedes (and often replaces) teacher instruction. “Deeper conceptual understanding” is supposed to precede the learning of skills. But placing application before the learning puts the “why” before the “how,” thus asking students to apply something they don’t know how to do. How does that make sense?

In student-centered learning, it’s thought to be bad practice to instruct, answer student questions, provide a template for the students, teach efficient processes, insist on proper structure or correct answers, or have students practice a skill to mastery. It’s OK for a class to take all day “exploring” because exploration supposedly promotes learning, whereas efficient instruction is supposedly counterproductive. Children are supposed to “muddle” along, get it wrong and depend on classmates for advice and guidance. Struggling is seen as critical to learning. Getting correct answers in an efficient manner is seen as unhelpful.

Ask yourself this: How can “efficient” instruction be counterproductive? Math is a tool, used to get a job done. Correct answers are critical, and efficiency is prized in the workforce. Quick, correct solutions reflect a depth of understanding that slow, incorrect solutions do not. Students do not enjoy struggling and getting things wrong. For children, struggle and failure are motivation killers.

The focus of a student-centered classroom is on supposed “real-world application.” (My experience with “real-world application” is that it’s typically a very adult world rather than a child world, and that now, it’s also a political world with a heavily partisan focus.)

Ask yourself this: How does it help children to be enmeshed in an adult world of worries, prevented from learning enough academics, and basted in a politically partisan outlook? (It doesn’t help them, but it suits adults who want a certain kind of voter when the students turn 18.)

All of this is at the expense of learning sufficient skills in mathematics…

Gaps in perception:

•Proponents of the “student-centered” approach see themselves as hard workers, suffering with opponents who are stuck in the 18th century. The “deeper conceptual understanding” that they believe they foster in students seems more important to them than building math skills that consistently lead to correct answers.
•Proponents of direct instruction see the students’ weakening self-image and poor skills, and we view the student-centered approach as limiting and even unkind. Math skills and correct answers are the point of math instruction, and we don’t believe students can have “deeper conceptual understanding” if they lack procedural skills.

Proponents of student-centered learning like to call their approach “best practices,” “research-based,” “evidence-based,” and so on, but no one has ever provided verifiable, replicable proof that student-centered learning works better than direct instruction as a method for teaching math. There is actually a wealth of solid evidence to indicate the contrary.

… the stated mission of Spokane’s adoption committee is to “deeply” align to the Common Core. (Not to choose a curriculum that will – oh, I don’t know – lead students to college or career readiness?) In supporting their stated mission, committee members asserted that the Common Core was vetted by “experts,” so they believe the initiatives will produce internationally competitive graduates. They provided no data, no proof, no solid research or studies for their belief. And they can’t because there aren’t any. The Common Core initiatives are an obscenely expensive, nation-wide pilot of unproved products.

Welcome to public education: Another day, another experiment on our children, except that this time, there is strong evidence that this experiment – a rehashing of the last experiment – will again fail. Try telling that to education and political leaders. No one seems to see the evidence. When you tell leaders about it or show it to them, no one seems to care. Meanwhile, many of those leaders get tutoring or outside help for their own children. (FYI: I have never seen a professional tutor use the “student-centered” method to teach math to any child.)

The Spokane adoption committee’s mission of “deep” alignment to the Common Core has caused them to choose to pilot – you guessed it – several sets of new (and unproved) materials that are distinctly more “student-centered” in their approach, heavy on words and discovery, and light on actual math.

Kicked to the bottom of their preferences were proved and rigorous programs favored by homeschooling parents and tutors, including Saxon Mathematics* and Singapore Math*. Saxon got my own daughter almost all of the way through Algebra II by the end of 8th grade, most of that without a calculator. When I asked my email list and various online contacts for their preferences, the majority picked Saxon over every other math program, and by a wide margin.

But a member of the Spokane adoption committee – a district employee – told me the Saxon representative called Saxon “parochial” and that the publisher initially refused to send Saxon to Spokane because it was unlikely to be adopted. (“Parochial” means provincial, narrow-minded, or “limited in range or scope.”) Do you believe the Saxon rep would call his product narrow-minded and limited in scope? Saxon is efficient, thorough, clear and concise. If there is a stronger K-8 math program out there, I don’t know of it. Naturally, the Spokane adoption committee does not want Saxon.

One of the programs the committee did choose to pilot is Connected Mathematics, a curriculum already being used in Spokane, one of the worst programs on the planet, excoriated for decades by mathematicians from border to border and from coast to coast. The district employee assured me the committee is hiding nothing from the public, but the committee didn’t mention to the public that it is again piloting Connected Mathematics. They don’t seem to see its failure. They love its focus on student-centered learning. The devastation it wreaks on math skills appears to matter naught to them…”

Full text here:  http://betrayed-whyeducationisfailing.blogspot.com

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Thanks to Laurie Rogers for her research and her blog.

* Note:  Both Saxon math and Singapore math are now being rewritten to “align” with Common Core.  Only the older texts may be really trustworthy. -Christel

Dear Utah Legislature   Leave a comment

Dear Francis Gibson,

Missouri, South Carolina and Indiana have written legislation that could withdraw their states from Common Core.

I am writing to ask you to help pass similar legislation for Utah.

I was able to give a speech on this subject at the Weber County Republican Women’s group meeting this month. http://whatiscommoncore.wordpress.com/2013/01/12/weber-county-republican-womens-meeting-speech-on-common-core/

I will attach the text of that speech here, so that if there is still any doubt in your mind that Common Core is a financial, academic, states’ rights and privacy-rights disaster, this will clarify the point.

I write to you because my own representative, Kraig Powell, has closed his mind on this subject.

Thank you for taking the time to read.

Please keep this in mind above all: the difference between what I am saying and what the proponents of Common Core are saying, is that my statements and claims are referenced and verifiable. The DOE’s and the NGA/CCSSO’s and the USOE’s all match, but all are empty claims with no provided references and no validation from empirical sources anywhere. Common Core is a massive, expensive academic experiment. An experiment! On our children.

We have been sold out, not by malice, but simply by the ignorance of our state school board and the former governor who signed us up.

My motive is pure, as a teacher and a mother who wants high quality education and actual freedom to change standards when we find some of them don’t match Utah’s needs and wants.

Thank you.

Christel Swasey

Heber City

Missouri Legislator Kurt Bahr to Introduce Common Core Withdrawal Bill   1 comment

Kurt Bahr

http://beforeitsnews.com/tea-party/2013/01/indiana-legislation-opposing-common-core-gets-a-hearing-2473980.html

The Before It’s News website states that Missouri Legislator Kurt Bahr is to introduce a withdrawal bill that will free Missouri from Common Core as Senator Scott Schneider has done in Indiana.  Heroes, heroes!

 

Scott Schneider

 

Before It’s News states:

“…The point is that… Missouri [is] no longer in charge of … state education standards. They must now negotiate them with a number of other states. If you as a parent or a school district want something different in your schools you cannot have it.

This is the core issue (if you’ll pardon the pun) that we have with Common Core State Standards. There is zero local control. Teachers may not deviate from or alter the standards in any way. They are trademarked. There is no path for correction, even for obvious mistakes like a simple math error that was identified early on in the draft phases, but was still not corrected three drafts later.

There is no path identified for this because the roll out of these standards has been so fast there has been no time to consider everything that is needed for them to operate. That means that an error on the assessment will be repeated in 45 states and count against teachers in those states whose performance reviews now take into account how their students score on these assessments.

Contrast that to the way Missouri DESE has handled our GLE’s in the past. Yearly, teachers and districts were able to submit complaints or suggestions to DESE for ways to add clarity to our standards or identify errors that needed to be fixed. DESE had been reasonably responsive to this input and made most changes in a timely manner. That process will be completely gone by 2014 when Common Core is supposed to be fully implemented.

The one thing each district, and ultimately tax payer, will be accountable for is the cost of implementing the Common Core standards and assessments. No one really know what this cost is going to be for a number of reasons. Missouri’s DESE was not required to estimate this cost to each district, nor inform them that such costs were coming. If you ask your local shcool board or superintendent what their cost will be to implement Common Core, most of them will not know. More shocking will be the number of them who do not even know what Common Core is or that it is coming.

… There is currently only one approved vendor for textbooks, Pearson. One teacher has looked into buying a replacement ELA book for the new CCSS in her fourth grade class and found the new book to be two and half times as expensive as the one she had been using for the last several years. Districts will have little control over these costs, because they have virtually no control over the standards or assessments.

The assessments are an even larger portion of these costs as they are supposed to be done on line, which not only requires input devices like comptuers or tablets, but also sufficient broadband to accommodate all the students taking them at once. Once you add technology, you must also add a host of support staff to maintain and troubleshoot that technology, adding further cost to a district. In Missouri, we have no room in our state budget for these extra costs. That means local districts will have to find the money because the foundation formula is not going to give it to them.

Representative Kurt Bahr will be introducing legislation again this year to get Missouri out of Common Core.

If Indiana’s experience this week was any indication, he ought to find tremendous support for his bill here in Missouri, not only from public school families, but also from private school and homeschool families. Common Core is reaching in to all these education venues.

As the realities of Common Core, which is being rolled out in various districts right now, come to light, our representatives in Jefferson City should start hearing a lot more from their constituents who want us out of this federally pushed national standards program.”

– — – — – — – — –

What I really want to know is, which Utah legislator will be leading the charge that Senators Schneider and Bahr have led in Indiana and in Missouri?

Michelle Malkin: Common Core is Obama’s War on Academics   1 comment

  Watch out, Common Core.  Political analysis Michelle Malkin has stepped up to the plate.

Malkin’s New Year’s resolution is to use her syndicated column and blog space “to expose how progressive “reformers” — mal-formers — are corrupting our schools.”

http://michellemalkin.com/2013/01/23/rotten-to-the-core-obamas-war-on-academic-standards-part-1/

Rotten to the Core: Obama’s War on Academic Standards

  By Michelle Malkin  – (Part 1)

 

January 23, 2013 09:43 AM

…This is the first in an ongoing series on “Common Core,” the stealthy federal takeover of school curriculum and standards across the country.

…. Under President Obama, these top-down mal-formers — empowered by Washington education bureaucrats and backed by misguided liberal philanthropists led by billionaire Bill Gates — are now presiding over a radical makeover of your children’s school curriculum. It’s being done in the name of federal “Common Core” standards that do anything but raise achievement standards.

… In practice, Common Core’s dubious “college- and career”-ready standards undermine local control of education, usurp state autonomy over curricular materials, and foist untested, mediocre and incoherent pedagogical theories on America’s schoolchildren.

Over the next several weeks and months, I’ll use this column space to expose who’s behind this disastrous scheme in D.C. backrooms. I’ll tell you who’s fighting it in grassroots tea party and parental revolts across the country from Massachusetts to Indiana, Texas, Georgia and Utah. And most importantly, I’ll explain how this unprecedented federal meddling is corrupting our children’s classrooms and textbooks…

 

Full Text:

http://michellemalkin.com/2013/01/23/rotten-to-the-core-obamas-war-on-academic-standards-part-1/

Fox News: On Schools Dropping Penmanship (thanks to Common Core)   2 comments

An op-ed from Fox News (on fact that schools are dropping the teaching of penmanship –which is due to Common Core) brings up a good question:

What happens to the authentication of signatures when people can’t actually sign their names at all?  Will we revert back 100 years to when people only signed with an X?  The author of this piece is a forensic scientist who understands the legal and scientific importance of having actual, distinct signatures.

Handwriting is a physical act that helps learners remember what they learn. 

And it’s beautiful.

So, does anyone care?

Full text here:  http://www.foxnews.com/opinion/2013/01/13/should-schools-write-off-penmanship/

Posted January 22, 2013 by Christel Swasey in Uncategorized

Yin Zhen Zhi Ke: Drinking Poison to Quench Thirst   Leave a comment

 

Earlier this year, in an interview with World Observer, Yong Zhao likened the current educational mania sweeping America (Common Core and its national testing program) to the Chinese proverb: Yin Zhen Zhi Ke.

It means “Drinking poison to quench thirst.”

The Chinese saying warns not to take measures that may appear to solve an urgent problem in the short term but in effect the solution is more damaging than the problem.

Zhao calls the most pressing problem in American Education today an obsession with standardized tests, which distorts and confuses education. High-stakes testing, he says, does more harm than good: “Using standardized tests to measure student performance in a few subjects distorts the whole picture of education, confuses test scores with real education that prepares competent and responsible citizens, and reduces education to test preparation.”

Zhao’s answer to how Americans can serve children, when we are fraught with money being poured down the testing companies’ coffers, is simple:   Abandon the idea of test-based accountability via high-stakes testing.

“We should completely abandon the idea of test-based accountability, that is, get high stakes standardized testing out of education, do not use it to evaluate schools or teachers. Second, we need to return autonomy to local schools and teachers. Let educators do their job… “

Zhao has written extensively about Common Core. “The simple message is that they will not improve education,” he says, and calls Common Core “an expensive and futile exercise” that will “cause more damages in terms of narrowing the curriculum and leading to more teaching to the test.”

To read more, here is the full text of the interview :

http://worldobserveronline.com/2012/05/23/yong-zhao-in-conversation-education-should-liberate-not-indoctrinate/

Mississippi Struggling With Common Core Budget Demands   1 comment

http://www.sunherald.com/2013/01/19/4416545/pascagoula-schools-preparing-early.html

The Mississippi Sun-Herald reports that like many other school districts, Pascagoula district leaders are “bracing themselves as they prepare for new federal requirements for online state testing”.

It is interesting to note that most states adopted Common Core without doing a cost analysis of the program.

The Missisippi Sun-Herald explains that “All U.S. students in second through 12th grades, under the newly adopted Common Core State Standards, will take the same standardized tests online rather than on paper at school. The deadline for schools to implement this requirement is the 2014-15 school year.”

The Sun-Herald quotes Pascagoula District Superintendent Wayne Rodolfich: “This is going to be a problem in Mississippi if it’s not addressed now in the budget.”

The article states that many school districts “find themselves struggling with a lack in technology and hardware, outdated electrical infrastructure, a shortage of bandwidth and a need for more staff” to manage all the requirements of Common Core implementation.

Read more here: http://www.sunherald.com/2013/01/19/4416545/pascagoula-schools-preparing-early.html#storylink=cpy

Eduschuyster Article: Corporate Edu-Opportunism in Minnesota   1 comment

For full effect, this article really needs to be read out loud.

Eduschuyster exposes some ugly truths about corporate edu-opportunism.

Full Text Here: http://edushyster.com/?p=1653#more-1653

Minneapolis: Land of 10,000 Rephorm Miracles

 The Twin Cities’ Venture Academy is already raising expectations—not to mention a boatload of cash—despite the fact that the school hasn’t opened yet.

‘Tis the season for miracles and today I give you a miraculous one indeed. Imagine a school so excellent, so innovative that it has succeeded in raising expectations and boosting achievement before its doors have even opened. Where is this miracle occurring? Reader: it’s time to squeeze into your ski pants and slip the insulator over your wine box. We’re headed to Minneapolis, or as I like to call it, the Land of 10,000 Rephorm Miracles.

2 Cool 4 School
Today the Rephorm Express is making but a single stop: the Twin Cities’ Venture Academy. Alas we can’t go inside to see the excellence as the school won’t officially open its doors until August 2013, but breathe in the frosty air, reader, and the scent is unmistakable: audaciousness. Now hater, I know what you’re thinking: how can a school be handed a gold star before it admits a single student? Meet my edu-visionary friend Bill Gates, who just named named Venture one of 20 winners of the Next Generation Learning Challenges award, which identifies breakthrough school models, because next generation learning knows no boundaries.™

Also, we know that Venture is different because of its totally cool job titles. Whereas old school union-stifled public schools are filled with space occupiers with titles like “LIFO lifer” and “clock watcher,” Venture Academy has a Chief Learning Officer AND a Chief Entrepreneurship Officer. And the stuff they do at the school is way cooler and more innovative than the achievement gap widening that happens at a failing public school—or at least it will be when Venture actually opens. They don’t “teach,” reader, they “transfer” and “coach.” And forget about old school educating—Venture is about Growing Good People™ and Try-Measure-Learn-Iterate-ing™. And how cool is this? During all-school assemblies, students will be encouraged to celebrate “marvelous mistakes” by sharing weekly failures and what they’ve learned.

Wanted: MacGyvers

Did I mention that Venture Academy is hiring? Old, union-stifled teachers need not apply though. Venture is only interested in what Chief Learning Officer Kerry Muse describes on his blog, Blend My Learning, as the “MacGyvers” of education: mission-driven, able to think on his feet and solve complex problems in resourceful and creative ways, and as a scientist he also has in-depth content knowledge. If you’re baffled by this particular pop culture reference allow me to translate: using his Swiss Army Knife and knowledge of a few common scientific principles, the innovative educator at Venture Academy “MacGyvered” a solution to what had long seemed like an intractable problem: poverty, which, by the way, is not an excuse.

The Next Big Thing

But will tricked out job titles and a mad entrepreneurial ethic really be enough to ensure that Venture Academy is able to prepare poor minority students for college? Absolutely, reader. You see Venture embodies the Next Big Thing: blended learning, which will FINALLY reverse our schools’ long slide into suckage by filling them with cool new hand-held devices. And we already know that this approach is guaranteed to succeed because the people peddling the hand-held devices keep telling us this. The only thing holding Operation Big Blender back is that it costs so much to employ living, breathing, teachers that there isn’t enough dough left over to purchase the miracle blenders. Note to LIFO lifers: this is a different kind of blender then the one you fire up at 3:07 PM and, on very special occasions, in the teachers’ lounge.

Miracle.com

That’s why Venture Academy is guaranteed to be a success—it’s the model of the very School of the Future™, one where edu-stuff, helpfully provided by an endless and evolving parade of edu-vendors, is the real star of the show. Best of all, before it even opens its doors, Venture Academy has already joined the ranks of Minneapolis’ growing roster of miracle schools: institutions that teach the EXACT SAME STUDENTS as the city’s union-stifled public schools but with EXTRAORDINARY, OUTSTANDING and AUDACIOUS results. Venture Academy will soon be working miracles with these exact same students—as long as they meet a few simple requirements.

Are you a MacGyver of education? Send comments to tips@edushyster.com.

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Thank you, Eduschuyster, for keeping us informed about educorporate goings-on in Minnesota.

Another Math Teacher Speaks Out Against Common Core   Leave a comment

“4equity2″ is the name of a teacher who wrote the following story as a follow up comment on Diane Ravitch’s blog: http://dianeravitch.net/2013/01/13/a-math-teacher-on-common-core-standards/

Another Math Teacher Speaks –

“Today I participated in a math PD [professonal development] held in our state capitol. Before embarking on the actual content of the training session, the facilitator had teacher participants read related Common Core Standards. The quiet was broken by occasional gasps, sighs, and moans before the now oft repeated objections were verbalized.

We’ve read them before. Nothing new. And these were same old criticisms and objections that have been raised in previous math PD’s across the country, for sure.

Next, we looked at a few of the sample test items that would be used to assess the new standards.
Seriously??!!

The facilitator, wanting to keep us on track, I am sure, said, “Look, this is way it’s going. We need to get used to it, There is nothing we can do.”

Someone near my table called out, “Yes, there is!”
All eyes turned toward me. Did I just say that?

“What?” I was asked. “What can we do?”

“We are teachers, yes. But we don’t have to be passive – play the part of victims. We are also parents and citizens. We can opt our own children out of testing, and we can talk to friends and neighbors about doing the same. We need to use the power we have as citizens – not just teachers – to turn this around.”

One woman raised her arm with a clenched fist, and stated, “I like that!”

These few words from an “invisible” and “voiceless” teacher who has been empowered through this blog and others in realizing that she is not alone spoke out. It felt good. I just might do it again.

And again.”

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Thank you, 4equity2, whoever you are.  We need more teachers like you.

Speaking of which…

Talking to a friend tonight, I heard a sad story.  My friend’s neighbor, who is a teacher, said she was recently written up for insubordination, for refusing to attend another Common Core meeting. She said to my friend that “if the government doesn’t get out of our schools, they will destroy them.”

History Teacher Speaks Out: Stop Common Core   2 comments

A History Teacher’s Message to America

About Common Core Standards

by C.E. White

This week, President Obama will be sworn into office as the 45th President of the United States of America.

As a history teacher, I was elated to learn he would be placing his hand on two Bibles, one belonging to Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., and the other belonging to President Abraham Lincoln, when he takes the oath of office to lead our great nation. Dr. King and President Lincoln helped define civil rights for America…historical heroes who transformed the idea of justice and equality.

As jubilant as I am that President Obama is symbolically using the bibles of two of the greatest Americans in our nation’s history, I am saddened that this administration seems to have forgotten what Dr. King and President Lincoln promoted regarding education.

In Dr. King’s “Letter from the Birmingham Jail,” he stated “the goal of America is freedom.” As a teacher, it is such an honor to teach America’s children about freedom and patriotism. However, over the past few years, I began to learn about a new education reform initiative called Common Core Standards. A few years ago, when I first heard of Common Core, I began doing my own research. My students represent the future of the United States of America, and what they learn is of utmost importance to me. I care about their future, and the future of our country.

My research of Common Core Standards kept me awake at night, because what I discovered was so shocking. I discovered that Common Core Standards is about so much more than educational standards. I wanted so badly to believe these changes would be good for our children. How can “common” standards be a bad thing? After all, isn’t it nice to have students learning the same exceptional standards from Alabama to Alaska, from Minnesota to Massachusetts?

As a teacher, I began to spend nights, weekends, summers, even Christmas Day researching Common Core, because these reforms were so massive and were happening so quickly, it was hard to keep up with how American education was being transformed. I quickly began to realize that the American education system under Common Core goes against everything great Americans like Dr. King and President Lincoln ever taught. The very freedoms we celebrate and hold dear are in question when I think of what Common Core means for the United States.

One of my favorite writings about education from Dr. King is a paper entitled “The Purpose of Education.” In it, he wrote “To save man from the morass of propaganda, in my opinion, is one of the chief aims of education. Education must enable one to sift and weigh evidence, to discern the true from the false, the real from the unreal, and the facts from the fiction.”
When I sit in faculty meetings about Common Core, I hear “curriculum specialists” tell me that Common Core is here to stay and I must “embrace change.” I am forced to drink the kool-aid. These specialists don’t tell us to search for facts about Common Core on our own, they simply tell us what the people paid to promote Common Core want us to know. Didn’t Dr. King want us to separate facts from fiction? Why are we only given information from sources paid to say Common Core is a good thing? Isn’t that the exact same type of propaganda Dr. King discussed in his writings about education? Shouldn’t we discuss why thousands of Americans are calling for a repeal of the standards?

I am told that I must embrace Common Core and I infer that resisting the changes associated with Common Core will label me “resistant to change.” As a teacher, I definitely believe our classrooms are changing with the times and I am not afraid of change. Teachers across America are hearing similar stories about how they should “feel” about Common Core. This is a brainwashing bully tactic. It reminds me of my 8th graders’ lesson on bullying, when I teach them to have an opinion of their own. Just because “everyone’s doing it,” doesn’t make it right. In regards to Common Core, I am not afraid of change. I am just not going to sell-out my students’ education so that Pearson, the Gates Foundation, David Coleman, Sir Michael Barber, Marc Tucker and others can experiment on our children.

I agree with Dr. King, which is why I am so saddened at how propaganda from an elite few is literally changing the face of America’s future with nothing more than a grand experiment called Common Core Standards. Our children deserve more. Our teachers deserve more. Our country deserves more. Education reform is the civil rights issue of our generation, and sadly, parents, teachers, and students have been left out of the process.

President Lincoln once said “the philosophy of the classroom today, will be the philosophy of government tomorrow.” With Common Core, new standardized tests have inundated classrooms with problems of their own. Teachers find themselves “teaching to the test” more and more. These tests violate our states’ rights. I wonder if parents realized that all states aren’t created equal in Common Core tests? Shouldn’t all states, under “common” standards for everyone have everyone’s equal input on how students are tested?

What about privacy under Common Core? Why didn’t local boards of education tell parents about the changes to the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act? Do parents realize their child’s data, including biometric data such as fingerprints and retinal scans, is being placed in a state longitudinal data system and shared with others?

If our philosophy of the classroom is to violate states’ rights, use children and teachers as guinea pigs, and hide from parents the fact that their child’s data is no longer private, it can only be inferred that the philosophy of government tomorrow will do the same. What is America becoming?

As I watched President Obama place his hand on the bibles of Dr. King and President Lincoln, the history teacher in me was overjoyed to watch such a patriotic moment in U.S. history. And yet, I was crushed at the realization that if we do not stop Common Core and preserve the United States educational system, the philosophy of our government tomorrow will not be the America we know and love.

C.E. White

Stanford University Hoover Insitute Scholar and Pioneer Institute Scholars Support Indiana’s Withdrawal From Common Core   Leave a comment

Tuesday, January 15, 2013, Jamie Gass, director, Center for School Reform, Boston, Mass. (foreground) along with Indiana State Senator, Scott Schneider (R-Indianapolis), and Williamson Evers, held a news conference in support of  Senator Schneider,s new proposal to withdraw Indiana schools from Common Core State Standards. (The news conference was held within Statehouse Senate Committee Room 431).

Jamie Gass, of the Boston-based thinktank Pioneer Institute, speaks at a news conference as Indiana Senator Scott Schneider and Hoover Institute Scholar Bill Evers observe.

 Indystar article by Jill Disis explains what’s being debated in Indiana about Common Core:    http://www.indystar.com/article/20130115/NEWS05/130115032/Sen-Scott-Schneider-reintroduces-bill-withdraw-state-from-Common-Core-standards

Here are highlights from the Indystar article–

Jamie Gass of Pioneer Institute spoke this week at a news conference in support of Indiana Senator Scott Schneider’s proposal to withdraw Indiana schools from the Common Core Initiative. 

Senator Schneider has stated that “Common Core nationalizes education and dumbs down Indiana’s previous academic standards.”  Common Core is a program “backed by President Barack Obama’s administration,” and “the administration offered states an incentive to participate by tying federal grant money to the program,” the Indystar reported. 

Independent sources say the Common Core makes traditional methods of teaching and learning more challenging.  For example, Bill Evers, a research fellow at Stanford University’s Hoover Institution and former U.S. assistant secretary of education for policy, attended the news conference in support of Senator Schneider’s bill.

Evers explains that the Common Core method of adding two numbers together is less useful for learners:  “Normally, you start from the ones (column) and you normally start by borrowing or what’s otherwise called regrouping… There are some other ways, some alternative, not-as-good ways.” 

But in a Common Core Indiana math book, children are instructed to add from the 100s column and move left-to-right.

“You can do it that way, but it’s harder to teach.”

Proponent of Common Core Larry Grau, the Indiana State Director of Democrats for Education Reform, said “Common Core doesn’t change the way things are taught.”

Larry Grau, Director of Indiana Democrats for Education Reform

Full article:    http://www.indystar.com/article/20130115/NEWS05/130115032/Sen-Scott-Schneider-reintroduces-bill-withdraw-state-from-Common-Core-standards

So If You Live in Texas   1 comment

Months ago, I said that I was wishing we could move to Texas or Virginia because they were the only two states that had wisely, and  100%, rejected the Common Core.

But I would not move to Texas now.

While Texas escaped the Common Core, it got something equally bad in its place: CSCOPE.

One Texas science teacher who blogs extensively about CSCOPE http://www.txcscopereview.com/ has written that “CSCOPE and Common Core Standards are the same, just in different wrapping.”  She says if parents don’t stop district superintendents, they will give away Texas schools to the federal government in return for money.

I repost her article here with thanks for enlightening all Americans, not just Texans.

 

CSCOPE: Texas Renowned Science Author Banned

By Janice VanCleave

January 19, 2013

As a science writer, I work with many educators and online curriculum companies. I’ve written 50+ science activity books for kids and educators, thus I can say without being immodest that I understand the basics of science. Since the content of my books cover all the topic taught in taught in elementary science, I can with confidence claim to be an expert in elementary science.

Some of my books are translated into fifteen different languages. Google my name and you will find over one hundred thousand sources.

I am not much on tooting my own horn, but the CSCOPE directors are not taking me seriously. They have banned me from viewing the CSCOPE lessons. This has made me even more curious about what this group, called the TESCCC, is hiding. What are in the CSCOPE lessons that not even parents can view?

Teachers are anonymously supplying me with copies of the CSCOPE lessons and assessments because they are concerned about the education of their students. They have good reason to be concerned. The CSCOPE lessons are poorly written and many are incorrect or misleading.

Since CSCOPE lessons are not transparent, how do you know they align with the TEKS?

§ CSCOPE lessons do not align with the TEKS.

§ CSCOPE lessons do not have the rigor required by TEA.

Parents: Your school administrators are not telling you the truth about CSCOPE. This is an unapproved supplementary material. It has nothing to do with the state. It is all about the money. Textbook funds are being used to RENT CSCOPE each year. Listen up! CSCOPE is online and your superintendent is paying $7.00 to $10.00 per student each year just to view the material. NOTE: CSCOPE has never been evaluated independently.

I’ve reported errors in the CSCOPE lessons, such as how gravity affects the motion of objects.

When it comes to the effects of gravity, I have more experience than most educators. Few have had the opportunity to investigate changes in gravity due to the flight path of NASA’s “Vomit Comit,” a plane that had been used to train astronauts and later was used for zero gravity investigations.

Prior to and after this flight, I spent time researching the effects of gravity and have a very good understanding of its effects.

CSCOPE has mystery authors as well as mystery science experts who are never identified. The CSCOPE science experts make the decisions about the science being taught to Texas children in CSCOPE schools. They use no science books, so kids are at the mercy of CSCOPE mystery science experts.

The CSCOPE assessment are the worst example of testing I’ve ever viewed. Not only do the questions often not relate to the lessons, but the answers are incorrect or there are no answers.

For example, the fifth grade lesson on forces has no investigation related to gravity. But one of the assessments is all about the effects of gravity of an object on a ramp. As is too often done, the assessment question is not grade appropriate. See for yourself the errors in a CSCOPE 5th grade force assessment for two consecutive years. This will give you proof that CSCOPE directors do not improve the CSCOPE instruction material — not even when errors are pointed out to them. While I am not wasting time sending in errors, I will do what I can to publish the errors and corrections.

If CSCOPE directors were interested in education, they would be encouraging veteran teachers and experts in education to identify errors in the CSCOPE instruction materials. Instead, veteran teachers as well as experts in specific subjects are vilified by the administrators and CSCOPE directors.

Actually I am being nice. I was courted so to speak by CSCOPE directors and encouraged to work with them. I could have been a CSCOPE consultant, maybe even have my name listed along with atheist Linda Darling-Hammond and Marxist Lev Vygotsky —YIKES! For this degradation of my name, I had to sign a gag-order promising never to reveal the content of CSCOPE. After viewing some of the CSCOPE lessons, I can understand why authors of CSCOPE material do not want their names published. I decided to “pass” on this offer. Instead, I asked and received from teachers CSCOPE lessons. They are much worse than I ever thought possible. It is understandable that the CSCOPE directors do not want the public to view this material. It does not align with the TEKS and was never designed to do so.

As to rigor, not even TEA knows what this means, but CSCOPE claims to have it.

I originally requested copies of the CSCOPE lessons to help tutor elementary kids in Marlin ISD. This was about 14 months ago and these elementary kids still have no science or math textbooks. Nothing has changed. The school still uses CSCOPE, which provides no instructions for students. Technology–HA!!! CSCOPE has nothing for students except a list of websites, many sites that parents would not allow their children to access at home.

How could I tutor kids when I had no clue what they were studying? Note that the Marlin elementary school has failed the state tests six consecutive years. One would think help would be appreciated. Not so. In fact, Marsha Ridlehuber the interim superintendent at the time, was most unpleasant when I met with her. This woman looked me in the eyes and said that CSCOPE is copyrighted; thus, CSCOPE lessons cannot be viewed by the public–not even parents.

Copyrighted? Was this woman crazy? No! She actually was getting away with this stupid answer. Of course she added what has been coined as CSCOPE Educaneze, which are terms that have been made up by the CSCOPE directors. Basically, the CSCOPE Educaneze is used in an effort to intimidate some parents and make the news media think CSCOPE really has substance. But it doesn’t.

All the Educaneze floating out of Ridlehuber’s mouth brought to mind Shana Twain’s song, “That Don’t Impress Me Much.”

At this point I was not sure what was going on. Had the superintendent really said textbooks were not used because they don’t provide the rigor required by the state standards?

Instead, the online program called CSCOPE was being used. and it had secret lessons because they were copyrighted. Thankfully the program director of Faith, Hope and Charity, an after school program, accompanied me to this meeting. Someone else heard this absurd conversation.

I asked Rhidlehuber how parents could find out what was being taught to their children. Ridlehuber said parents could visit their children’s classes if they wanted to know what was going on. What a pompous, rude response.

Having parents visit classrooms in order to know what was being taught was a stupid suggestion, but one that I was happy to make happen. Thus, I asked what procedure parents needed to follow to schedule their visits. Obviously, Ridlehuber had made a tongue-in-cheek comment and now was forced to resend it. The answer was that parents have to have an FBI clearance to visit their children’s classrooms.

I was no longer interested in volleying stupid ideas around but had every intention of viewing the CSCOPE lessons. I contacted the local Region Service Center, ESC-12 and spoke with Becca Bell, the CSCOPE director. Same response with a little extra added. As a published author, I am considered a vendor and can view the lessons if I sign a non-disclosure document stating I’ll not reveal what I see. Are these people crazy?

I felt like I’d stepped into the Twilight Zone. “Beam me up Scotty, there is no intelligent life down here.”

Had I actually discussed Texas education with President George Bush? Yep! I was not sold on his idea of “No Child Left Behind.” It is not realistic to think that teachers can provide individualized instruction for every student, especially now that children of all ability levels are mixed together in one class.

Obama’s catchy education phrase is “Race to the Top.” CSCOPE and Common Core Standards have embraced both slogans. With CSCOPE, a mandatory schedule is dreamed up by some unknown author. Teachers are forced to stick to this timeline. They are even rated low on performance if they don’t. CSCOPE directors have no clue if the schedule is doable. Education is not the objective. Instead, the objective is control. Control over the teachers so that they will do what they are told. Teach what they are told to teach, no questions asked. CSCOPE directors train administrators to view veteran teachers as being negative instead of listening to their constructive criticism of CSCOPE. Young teachers with no experience are easier to mould.

The CSCOPE schedule is much like a race and many students fall behind. But, there is no time in the schedule to reteach. Stragglers are not left behind, instead teachers just carry on with the next lesson. According to CSCOPE directors, kids that don’t understand will eventually figure it all out and all the kids will cross the finish line together. YEA! This is the CSCOPE and TASA [Texas Association of School Administrators] vision that all kids are equally educated.

Yep! The accelerated classes and basic skills classes will in time be one happy group, all functioning on the same level. Since CSCOPE promotes that education is more about experiences and how students feel about things than facts, this could happen. The US students would all be equally under-educated and easily controlled.

Are we there yet? Is this what you want for your children and grandchildren?

It didn’t make sense that public school lessons were not transparent to anyone. I contacted the Texas State Board of Education, Commissioner of Education Robert Scott. and about everyone I could think of including Rep. Rob Eissler, who was chair of the House Education Committee.

In late January, 2012, Wade Labay (State CSCOPE Director) and Ed Vera (State CSCOPE Instruction Director) at Region 13, drove from Austin to Marlin, Texas, to meet with me. Along with Becca Bell, Region 12 CSCOPE director, Rhidlehuber, and the Marlin curriculum director, the five of them had planned for me to come alone and they would convince me how wonderful CSCOPE is.

I arrived with Ginger Russell, my daughter, and Earl Johnson, both members of the Woodland’s Tea Party. The CSCOPE group was shocked that I was not alone. They repeated several times, “We thought you would be alone!”

The CSCOPE group refused to allow the meeting to be videotaped.

Ed Vera had brought a copy of one of my books and he asked me to sign it for a friend. Soon after this meeting, Ed sent a petition to the Texas Attorney General (TAG). In the petition Ed asked the TAG to protect CSCOPE from me and other vendors who might write a competitive product if allowed to view the content of the CSCOPE instruction materials.

WHAT! One day I am autographing a book for the State CSCOPE Instruction Director, and Wade Labay (State CSCOPE Director) is inviting me to join the CSCOPE team. Then they reported me to the TAG as not being trustworthy.

Speaking of being trustworthy—Teachers are still reporting that some CSCOPE lessons are plagiarized. I was sent a section of a first grade CSCOPE weather lesson that is either deliberately plagiarized or someone “forgot” to credit the website source because the information was directly copied word-for-word. The lesson was quickly taken off the CSCOPE website when it was reported. Must have been time to retire this lesson, like the following Islamic power point.

Neither Wade Labay, Ed Vera, nor Becca Bell from Region 12 had a clue what was in the CSCOPE lessons. Becca said other people read the lessons. Ginger pointed out the 25 colored power-point slides used to teach world history students about Allah and the Islamic religion. Labay seemed genuinely surprised and within weeks I was contacted by Labay that the slides were removed— Not because of the content of the slides, but as a general clearing out of older materials.

I assume this means that at any time comparable material may again be part of the CSCOPE lessons for our children.

TASA–The Culprit

One selling point for CSCOPE is that 80% of the Texas school districts have purchased it. The CSCOPE directors point this out and use it as proof that CSCOPE is wonderful. NOT SO! Our Texas superintendents know little-to-nothing about education, but they do understand perks if they follow the TASA leaders. TASA stands for Texas Association of School Administrators. With no shame or fear of consequences, in 2006, TASA published its education mission, which aligns with the federal government’s takeover plan for American schools.

CSCOPE, which has the same Socialist education philosophy being promoted by TASA, entered some Texas schools in 2006. At first, schools had to use local tax money to purchase CSCOPE. No problem, school board members are elected with the public thinking these members represent them. But, TASA took care of this problem. Via, TASB, Texas Association of School Boards, school board members have been trained? –coerced?– bribed? or made an offer they can’t refuse to allow the superintendent to make all the decisions.

Decisions, such as using local tax funds to pay for their TASA/TASB membership dues as well as finance TASA/TASB conferences, amount to tens of thousands of dollars for each school district.

Since TASA has robbed schools of their local school taxes, there is money to pay lobbyists to deceive legislators into proposing and passing legislation, such as Senate Bill 6. I am trying to understand how this happened. But hopefully giving superintendents the right to use student textbook money to purchase unapproved materials, such as CSCOPE, will be viewed as not being such a good idea.

Superintendents do have to sign a statement that what they purchase provides instruction for every element of the TEKS. BIG DEAL!! Who checks to see if this is true? NO ONE!

What happens if it can be proven that CSCOPE does not align with the TEKS? NOTHING! There is nothing on the record about punishment. The same is true with Thomas Ratliff who is a lobbyist and is serving on the Texas State Board of Education. The TAG says it is not legal. SO WHAT? Ratliff does what he pleases–why? Only law-abiding people obey the law. If it is illegal, they don’t do it or if they do they expect to be punished. Not Ratliff. No punishment is on the books. Now this makes a great Texas history lesson for our kids.

This must be Ratliff’s motto: “Do anything you want to as long as you can get away with it.”

I have gone to the Geographic South Pole, not because I like snow and ice. Instead, I was there doing an experiment designed by students. This was an enrichment activity that any child regardless of where they live, age, ability, etc.. could be involved in. Sadly, if the project were being done now, CSCOPE teachers would not be allowed to be involved. They are being trained to do nothing that is not on the CSCOPE schedule and it must be done within the time frame that is set in stone.

Prior to the hostile takeover of Texas Public Schools by CSCOPE, authors, such as me, presented special programs to students. Programs that included activities, such as measuring how far the Geographic South Pole moves toward the ocean each year. Note in the picture above, the poles in the distance. The first pole is marked with a green flag. This was the pole that marked where the south end of Earth’s axis exits Earth. The position of the axis doesn’t change, but the ice the pole is stuck in moves. A new pole is positioned each year.

The picture to the right shows me at the frozen edge of the Arctic Ocean on the coast of Barrow, Alaska.

[Please go to http://www.txcscopereview.com/2013/tx-renowned-sci-author-banned/ to view the photos. – Donna Garner]

I dislike what CSCOPE is doing to our schools. I plan to continue screaming about CSCOPE until someone listens. REALLY LISTENS!

I want children to do more than make posters and tri-folds that are considered science investigations. I want kids to have opportunities to really learn by discovery.

CSCOPE and Common Core Standards are the same, just in different wrapping. If you don’t stop your superintendents, they will give away our Texas schools to the federal government.

Someone! Please look Governor Perry in the eyes and tell him that TASA is making him look stupid.

The TASA president is in Washington learning how to implement the federal government’s Common Core standards in our Texas schools. Will someone in Austin get the attention of Governor Perry and let him know that TASA has no concern about his statement that Common Core will not be used in Texas Schools? If Governor Perry doesn’t take action, our disloyal school superintendents will have Common Core Standards filling the CSCOPE framework by fall of 2013. CSCOPE directors have already lined up the online textbook and resource materials to sell to schools to support the Common Core Standards.

- Janice VanCleave

http://scienceprojectideasforkids.com

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Thank you to Janice VanCleave for sharing this work and for promoting educational freedom and quality of education.

One Small Step to New Standards, One Giant Leap of Logic   2 comments

One Step to New Standards, One Giant Leap of logic

By Alyson Williams

Did the people get the chance to debate the pros and cons of accepting a national curriculum?

 

Some steps are more significant than others.

When Neil Armstrong took his first step onto the moon, everyone knew it was the beginning of a new era. It was the “space age” and it seems everything from the appliances we used in our homes to the way we thought about foreign policy changed.

While far less inspiring, I compare the step my state took to comply with Common Core, to a trip to the moon. Education reform is hardly new, but in adopting “national” standards, or standards controlled by an outside consortium in a process that circumvented all the traditional policy-setting paths of “we the people,” we have entered uncharted territory. That one step, over a long-maintained boundary in education, makes it more significant.

“No nation which expects to be the leader of other nations can expect to stay behind in this race for space…” John F. Kennedy said when introducing his ambitions for space exploration to the country.

I’ve heard a similar argument – appealing to our competitive nature, and our fear of falling behind other nations – used in favor of sticking with Common Core. Our children’s future and our nation’s prosperity and security depend on it I’m told. Okay, I’m a Whitney Houston fan. I too believe the children are our future. But opposition to Common Core is not opposition to progress, nor is it ignorance of the challenges my children face in the future.

I see a greater threat to my children’s future in NOT insisting we adhere to established systems of checks and balances in the crafting of policy. Upholding our Constitution and resisting government overreach is what will keep us from falling behind other nations because this, and primarily this, is what sets our nation apart in the first place.

Bill Gates, whose foundation funded every aspect of Common Core standards, spoke to the National Conference of State Legislators saying, “If your state doesn’t join the common standards, your kids will be left behind; and if too many states opt out—the country will be left behind. Remember—this is not a debate that China, Korea, and Japan are having. Either our schools will get better—or our economic position will get worse.”

Hmmmm. Do the people in China, Korea and Japan get the chance to debate issues like this? Exactly.

Come to think of it, did the people of Utah get the chance to debate the pros and cons of accepting a national curriculum? No. What Chinese attribute are we trying to emulate here – high math test scores, or top-down policy making? Do we really believe that we can’t have the former, without the latter?

This point was discussed this week in a public “debate” of sorts between two of the country’s high-profile voices on education policy, Marc Tucker and Yong Zhao. (http://zhaolearning.com/2013/01/17/more-questions-about-the-common-core-response-to-marc-tucker/)

Tucker: Without broad agreement on a well designed and internationally benchmarked system of standards, we have no hope of producing a nation of students who have the kind of skills, knowledge and creative capacities the nation so desperately needs…

Zhao: This I will have to respectfully disagree with. The U.S. has had a decentralized education system forever (until Bush and Obama) and it has become one of the most prosperous, innovative, and democratic nations on earth. The lack of a common prescription of content imposed on all children by the government has not been a vice, but a virtue. As Harvard economists Claudia Goldin and Lawrence Katz wrote in their book The Race between Education and Technology: “We must shed our collective amnesia. America was once the world’s education leader. The rest of the world imported its institutions and its egalitarian ideals spread widely. That alone is a great achievement and one calls for an encore.”

The third man to walk on the moon, Charles Conrad Jr. also said something that resonates with my feelings on the Common Core. He said, “Whoopee! Man, that may have been a small one for Neil, but it’s a long one for me!”

Presented as simple cause and effect steps between policy and anticipated outcomes, some of the assumptions of how we’ll benefit from these standards defy gravity of reason and leave me mentally drifting in midair, wondering how they got from point A to point B.

Just one example of this is in Utah’s Race to the Top Grant application. On page thirty-two I read, “Expanding our mathematics initiative, while implementing the new core, will help us increase our capacity to deliver high-quality mathematics instruction, which will increase our high school graduation rate and increase college enrollment.”

So, if we just get the teachers to be more “high-quality” because they’re using the new standards, more kids will graduate and enroll in college? That seems like a bit of an oversimplification. I’d love to see the study that supports that conclusion. What? No references for this claim?

I’m not an expert on writing grants, or standards for that matter, so maybe the rules are different. All I know is if I’d submitted a paper to my high school English teacher as lacking in rhetorical support or references as this I’d have flunked the assignment.

Technically, I guess we did flunk. Utah was not awarded that grant, but it wasn’t for that reason. This statement from the document sent to Utah explaining why our grant was rejected is especially telling:

“Utah, however, has presented evidence through its statements that the State is not taking the lead at developing fiscal, policy, and public support for LEAs; its leaving that to LEAs to do themselves.”

In other words, Utah didn’t get the grant because there is still too much local control afforded to each local school district. I can’t help but feel that this exposes the true landing point of these reforms – a shifting of control away from LEAs and away from the state.

Now, before someone reiterates the claim that this is a “state-led” initiative I have to ask this question, “To which branch of government does the National Governor’s Association belong?”

The NGA is a trade organization, not a constitutional representative of the states. The writing of the standards started and ended there. The NGA and Council of Chief State School Officers (another trade organization) hold the Common Core State Standards copyright.

The only participation of the actual states was whether or not they would adopt the standards – with federal dollars hanging in the balance. Even the decision to comply with the standards eluded traditional legislative process or input by teachers or parents who actually live in Utah. For the average parent wanting to stay involved with her children’s education, the process of advocacy now may as well involve a trip to outer space.

The leaps of logic don’t end with the grant application. The standards themselves are lacking in substantive references.

In a 2011 article entitled “Common Core State Standards: An Example of Data-less Decision Making” Christopher H. Tienken, Editor of the AASA Journal of Scholarship and Practice, wrote:

“When I reviewed that ‘large and growing body of knowledge’ offered by the NGA, I found that it was not large, and in fact built mostly on one report, Benchmarking for Success, created by the NGA and the CCSSO, the same groups that created these standards; hardly independent research.

The Benchmarking report has over 135 end notes, some of which are repetitive references. Only four of the cited pieces of evidence could be considered empirical studies related directly to the topic of national standards and student achievement.

The remaining citations were newspaper stories, armchair magazine articles, op-ed pieces, book chapters, notes from telephone interviews, and several tangential studies.”

Common Core centralizes curriculum in a way that Americans have resisted on Constitutional grounds for our entire existence as a nation, in exchange for what appears to be the most expansive, most expensive education experiment in this country ever – and our children will be the lab rats.

Will we be surprised then, if the outcomes are not what we were promised?

I worry that if we are beguiled into accepting these standards, along with the over-testing, intrusive tracking, and loss of local advocacy – not because they’ve proven effective but because they have been advertised to us as the only path to our children achieving the 21st century equivalent of man’s first steps on the moon – we will live to regret it.

Even if the outcome is neutral, I have to consider that the legacy of Common Core also includes a burden of debt, and further erosion of freedoms with increased government control.

Principles of limited government (federal AND state) and self-determination are just as important in education policy as they are in crafting policies for healthcare, or protecting a free market. Abraham Lincoln said it this way, “The philosophy of education today, will be the philosophy of government tomorrow.”

We gain inspiration from past events like the Apollo moon landing, and we gain wisdom in the things history has taught us about the consequences of not resisting increasing government intrusion into the lives of individuals.

Maybe Common Core and all the other programs of centralization and equalization being pushed on us lately are like to going to the moon – not because we are aiming high, but for another reason.

For a nation that has enjoyed freedoms and prosperity unlike any other on the earth, the stark contrast between that way of life compared to the outcomes of more common principles of government might seem like going from the Garden of Eden to what Buzz Aldrin described, while standing on the surface of the moon: as “magnificent desolation.”

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Thanks to Alyson Williams for this article.

Another Indiana News Clip: Parents at Legislature Fighting Common Core   Leave a comment

Idaho Parent Stephanie Zimmerman Takes on Goliath of Idaho State School Board   Leave a comment

Before you read the article from Idaho Reporter—

Idaho mother-of-eight, Stephanie Zimmerman, reported that prior to her five minute testimony, those gathered had to watch a 50-min. infomercial about the wonders of Common Core.  Then, after Zimmerman was allotted five minutes, there was additional time given for rebuttals.

“Something seems out of balance here,” Stephanie Zimmerman wrote.

Indeed!

Here’s the link to the report, which I’ve reposted below as well:

http://www.idahoreporter.com/2013/common-core-ed-standards-face-hearing-in-house-committee/

This will do to education in Idaho, what Obamacare is doing to health care in Idaho,” believes Boise resident Stephanie Zimmerman concerning a national education program, the Common Core Standards Initiative.

A mother of eight children, Zimmerman was offering testimony before the House Education Committee Thursday during an informational hearing about common core, which the state Department of Education supports.

At issue is the idea of Idaho becoming compliant with the program. The goal is to have K-12 curriculum standards of all 50 states. Begun in June of 2009, the initiative is supported by both the National Governors Association, and the Council of Chief State School Officers. Idaho Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Luna is the immediate past president of the schools’ group.

“Shouldn’t we all come together, to improve the educational opportunities of students nationwide?” asked Luci Willits, of the Idaho Department of Education. Willits was promoting Idaho’s compliance with the nationwide initiative, but called it a “state-led initiative.” According to her, Idaho is already compliant with the nationwide standards in the areas of English, Language Arts and Mathematics.

The common core agenda is being adopted in states as diverse as Vermont and Oklahoma. In 2010, state officials in neighboring Utah adopted the common core standards in both the disciplines of mathematics and language arts. But, according to the Salt Lake Tribune, controversy erupted there once evidence of standardization emerged in classrooms.

Zimmerman, who is affiliated with the nonprofit Pioneer Institute in Massachusetts (a group that opposes the common core initiative), told members of the committee that her son is a freshman in high school and is already studying calculus. “Calculus isn’t supposed to happen during the freshman year (under common core), but he’s advanced,” Zimmerman told the committee, and noted that in her view, her younger children will be held back from advancing beyond their grade level as the common core initiatives are more fully implemented.

Rep. Steven Harris, R-Meridian, asked Dr. Carissa Miller of the Idaho Department of Education, who was present at the hearing, to respond to Zimmerman’s concerns. Miller denied that the initiatives hold students back, or interfere with their advancement.

“Right out of the gate, I shared some of her concerns,” Rep. Wendy Horman, R-Idaho Falls, told IdahoReporter.com after the committee hearing about Zimmerman’s apprehension. “I don’t want to see us adopt a national curriculum, but I don’t think this (common core) is a national curriculum. I believe this truly is a state-driven effort.” Horman has served on the Bonneville School Board for 11 years, and said she wanted to know more about Zimmerman’s concerns.

“I voted for the common core standards, but I agree that we have to watch these things very carefully,” said Rep. Linden Bateman, R-Idaho Falls, in the committee hearing. “More innovation comes from a de-centralized system, rather than a centralized system. Let’s watch this very carefully, and not move towards a national curriculum.”

“Candidly, there have been efforts by the U.S. Department of Education to co-opt this state-led initiative,” noted education committee chairman Rep. Reed DeMordaunt, R-Eagle. “I’ve spoken about this with Superintendent Luna, and he’s spoken about it with U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan. Superintendent Luna assures me that if this moves towards a nationalized curriculum, Idaho will back out of the initiative.”

Indiana Parent Heather Crossin Speaks Out Against Common Core Standards and Corporate Corruption   Leave a comment

http://blogs.indystar.com/letters/2013/01/16/corporate-interests-behind-common-core/

Read this letter to the editor by parent Heather Crossin.

It’s not surprising to see Stand for Children and The Thomas B. Fordham Foundation are rushing to defend the Common Core, as evidenced by their recent letters to the editor.

This is because they share something rather telling in common: The millions of dollars both have received from one of the primary drivers of the Common Core machine, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, which has invested more than $100 million into it.

Therefore, Common Core opponents have never had any doubt that the Fordham Institute, and its leaders, are strong advocates of it. In fact, when referencing the Fordham study “The State of State Standards-and the Common Core- in 2010,” which compares the quality of each state’s math and English standards against the Common Core’s, it is always noted that the report was funded, in part, with money from the Gates Foundation. What’s more, we make it clear that the careful timing of its release, within the short eight-week period most states had to adopt the standards, was likely intended to convince most states to adopt the Common Core, which is just the point. Even Fordham couldn’t help but give both Indiana’s math and ELA standards higher marks than the Common Core.

Reports are funny things — sometimes people actually read them, which is what anyone wanting to understand this report should do. The Fordham report categorized Indiana’s English standards as “clearly superior,” not “somewhat strong” as Fordham would now have you believe. Its reasons for doing so appear under the heading of “The Bottom Line,” in its critique of Indiana’s English standards, which states:

“Indiana’s standards are clearer, more thorough, and easier to read than the Common Core standards. Essential content is grouped more logically, so that standards addressing inextricably linked characteristics, such as themes in literary texts, can be found together rather than spread across the strands. Indiana also frequently uses standard-specific examples to clarify expectations. Furthermore, Indiana’s standards treat both literary and non-literary texts in systematic detail throughout the document, addressing the specific genres, sub-genres, and characteristics of both text types. Both Indiana and Common Core include reading lists with exemplar texts, but Indiana’s is much more comprehensive.”

Indiana should stay tuned, as Senate Bill 193, which is quickly gaining bipartisan support, has its first hearing on Wednesday. Those interested, will want to attend a rally at noon Wednesday inside the Statehouse, where national experts will be on hand.

In what is shoring up to be a David vs. Goliath, we shall see if the legislators will listen to the will of the people, who are armed with the truth, the facts and research, but lack paid lobbyists. Or will they side with those who have big money and corporate interests?

Heather Crossin

Indianapolis

http://blogs.indystar.com/letters/2013/01/16/corporate-interests-behind-common-core/#more-7076

A Teacher Speaks Out Against Common Core Math: James Schuls   Leave a comment

http://www.educationnews.org/education-policy-and-politics/james-shuls-why-we-need-school-choice/

In a recent Education Week article, math teacher James Schuls tells his story.   Here’s a small portion of the excellent, informative article:

“Walking into my son’s school to talk math curriculum to his teacher and principal intimidated me. It kind of felt like I had challenged my son’s teacher on the content of what she was teaching and now I was being sent to the principal’s office. Now, I am not an average parent and I cannot help wonder what a parent who is not a professional educator might feel like under such circumstances…. Still, I marched into the meeting full of optimism. My goal was singular: to make sure my children could use standard algorithms to solve math problems.

The teacher explained that the district was using Cognitively Guided Instruction (CGI) as the method to teach the Common Core State Standards. I was a bit confused. In the CGI book, the authors clearly stated CGI was a professional development program and I knew that Common Core was the name of the standards being implemented in the state. So I inquired where the curriculum came from, to which the reply was the Common Core…

I realized that I could spend all day going down that rabbit hole, but I remembered my goal so I asked point blank: could my son use a standard algorithm to solve a math problem in his class. The teacher responded, “We don’t do the algorithm in class.”

… I pushed the issue and asked if she would count it wrong if he explained he knew it was a difference problem, he stacked the numbers to subtract the ones and then the 10 and was left with the difference between the two numbers. She indicated she would not count this wrong, but she would make him show a way that he could demonstrate that he knew what he was doing. The principal also responded that he would have to illustrate his understanding.

My kids’ school, by their own admission, had not taught my son or daughter how to solve any math problems in nearly half of the school year. Anything he had learned, he had discovered for himself.

And what was perhaps most galling was their certainty that he could not use the standard algorithm, even though they had no idea where he was going or how he should get there. The rest of the conversation was not helpful.

They threw out buzzwords such as “discovery learning,” but could never explain to me that all of these other methods that they endorsed were acceptable, while the standard algorithm was not.”   – James Schuls

Read the rest of the story:  http://www.educationnews.org/education-policy-and-politics/james-shuls-why-we-need-school-choice/

Posted January 18, 2013 by Christel Swasey in Uncategorized

Indiana to Vote Wednesday to Repeal Common Core or Not   Leave a comment

In Indiana this week, parents, teachers and legislators are hotly debating the bill that may repeal the Common Core from that state.  If the bill passes, Indiana would once again be free to decide for itself what its standards for education and testing will be, and the bill would remove the 15% cap that now limits standards-raising for any state or locality, under Common Core.

The bill would also free teachers to teach as much classic literature as they felt was appropriate, rather than mandating that informational texts would be the majority of English readings.  The move would free teachers from the Common Core’s “constructivist,” student-guessing methods so that teachers and parents could decide whether direct instruction and traditional algorithmic teaching would be preferable for authentic college preparation.

Full article and video here: http://www.theindychannel.com/news/local-news/parents-teachers-rally-against-common-core-standards-in-indiana-schools

Yong Zhao: On Educational Freedom   2 comments

Yong Zhao

It’s always fun to watch smart people debate an important topic, but it’s especially satisfying when the person whose side you are on wins the day.  That is Yong Zhao, who seems to me not only smart but also wise.

Many are following the Marc Tucker/ Yong Zhao interchange about Common Core with great interest.  http://zhaolearning.com/2013/01/17/more-questions-about-the-common-core-response-to-marc-tucker/

Marc Tucker

Marc Tucker is an old pal and co-conspirator with Hillary Clinton, and their written “Let’s Take Over American Education” exchange has long been archived in the Congressional Record, partially because of its conspiratorial nature.  I’ve posted about it before: http://whatiscommoncore.wordpress.com/2012/06/22/anti-liberty-plot-for-american-education-full-text-of-the-letter-from-marc-tucker-to-hillary-clinton-2/

So, Tucker is no friend to educational freedom;  Zhao is.

Here is almost the whole of the latest brilliant response to Tucker by Yong Zhao.  Full text here: http://zhaolearning.com/2013/01/17/more-questions-about-the-common-core-response-to-marc-tucker/

More Questions about the Common Core: Response to Marc Tucker

17 January 2013

…It is impossible, unnecessary, and harmful for a small group of individuals to predetermine and impose upon all students the same set of knowledge and skills and expect all students progress at the same pace (if the students don’t, it is the teachers’ and schools’ fault).

I am not against standards per se for good standards can serve as a useful guide. What I am against is Common and Core, that is, the same standards for all students and a few subjects (currently math and English language arts) as the core of all children’s education diet. I might even love the Common Core if they were not common or core.

Tucker disagrees. He argues it is both possible and necessary to predetermine and impose upon all students the same knowledge and skills and America is immune to the damages of such efforts that have been experienced in China and other similar East Asian countries.

Now response to Tucker’s arguments point by point.

Tucker: It is now more important than ever to figure out what all young people need to know and be able to do.

Zhao: First, it is not true that “it is now more important than ever to figure out what all young people need to know and be able to do.” Over a hundred and fifty years ago, the British philosopher Herbert Spencer thought it was so important to decide what children should learn that he wrote the essay What Knowledge is of Most Worth and came up with the answer “science” and his criteria was the utilitarian value of knowledge. He did not think Latin, Greek, and the classics were of much value for a person to live in a society being transformed by industrialization and history , to Spencer was “mere tissue of names and dates and dead unmeaning events…it has not the remotest bearings on any our actions.”

In 1892, the National Education Association (NEA) thought it was so important that it appointed the Committee of Ten, chaired by Harvard president Charles Elliot, to figure out what schools should teach.

In early 1900s, The NEA had another commission to rethink the curriculum and came up with The Cardinal Principals of Secondary Education

Activities intended to determine what all students should know and be able to do never actually stopped. In recent years, the 1994 Goals 2000 Act under President Clinton provided funds to develop standards that “identify what all students should know and be able to do to live and work in the 21st century.” Under NCLB, states were mandated to develop both content and academic achievement standards in reading/language arts, mathematics, and science.

There has never been a lack of attempts to figure out what all young people should know and be able to do, consequently there is no shortage of standards around. The fact that there have been so many attempts suggests the difficulty of the task. People simply cannot seem to agree what all children should know and learn in general. People cannot even agree what to teach in math, the supposedly the most straightforward, and have fought many math wars over the last century. It is actually a good thing, in my mind, that people cannot come to agreement and the American federal government was not given the authority to impose its own version upon all children. But despite the lack of a consistently implemented nationalized curriculum and standards, America did just fine as a nation.

The Common Core initiative seems to suggest that either there are no standards in America or the existing standards are not good enough. But what evidence is there to show the Common Core is better than previous ones, including those from all 50 states? Granted that things change and what students learn should reflect the changes, but how frequently should that happen? The state standards developed under NCLB are merely a decade old. If we have to make massive changes every five or 10 years, does not it mean it is nearly impossible to come up with content that is valid long enough for the nation’s over 100,000 schools to implement before it becomes outdated? If so, would it be much more likely that individual schools and teachers have a better chance to make the adjustment faster than large bureaucracies?

An anecdote: For hundreds of years it was possible for the adults in my little village in China to figure out what all children should know and be able to do: handling the water buffalo was one for the boys and sewing for the girls. My village was small and isolated, with around 200 people. But that predication became invalid when China opened up to the outside world in the 1980s. The common standards in my village proved to be wrong later in at least two cases. First it did not work for me. I was pretty bad at what my village’s Common Core prescribed (handling the water buffalo) so I had to do something else (coming to America to debate with Marc Tucker, for example). Second, it did not work for the rest of the children in the village either, because working as a migrant worker in the city is different from handling a water buffalo.

Tucker: Truly creative people know a lot and they have worked hard at learning it. They typically know a lot about unrelated things and their creativity comes from putting those unrelated things together in unusual ways. Learning almost anything really well depends on mastering the conceptual structure of the underlying disciplines, because, without that scaffolding, we are not able to put new information and skills to work.

Zhao: Very true, truly creative people know a lot and they have worked hard at learning it, but do they know a lot about what they are passionate about, or what the government wants them to know? Do they work hard at learning something that is personally meaningful, or do they work hard at learning something prescribed by others?

Also true that learning anything really well depends on mastering the conceptual structure of the underlying disciplines, but what disciplines: math, science, the arts, music, languages, or politics? I am embarrassed to admit as a Chinese, I had horrible math scores in school, which is why I chose to study English, but somehow I am good at computer programming and developed large-scale software. I am also good at understanding statistics and empirical evidence.

Tucker: Zhao says that we will not be competitive simply by producing a nation of good test takers. That is, of course, true. Leading Asian educators are very much afraid that they have succeeded in producing good test takers who are not going to be very good at inventing the future. But that does not absolve us of the responsibility for figuring out what all students will need to know to be competitive in a highly competitive global labor market, nor does it absolve us of the responsibility to figure out how to assess the skills we think are most important.

Zhao: Is it responsibility or arrogance? Almost all totalitarian governments and dictators claim that they have the responsibility to engineer a society so their people can live happily and that their people are not capable of knowing what is good for them and top-level design is necessary. For example, they claim that their people cannot defend themselves against bad information, thus the leaders have to impose censorship. The leaders should decide what their people should view, listen to, and read. This self-assigned responsibility comes from the assumption that the authority knows best. By the way, we adults (parents and teachers) often committee the same error of arrogance: we automatically assume we know better than our children.

Tucker: It is true that the future will be full of jobs that do not exist now and challenges we cannot even imagine yet, never mind anticipate accurately. But, whatever those challenges turn out to be, I can guarantee you that they will not be met by people without strong quantitative skills, people who cannot construct a sound argument, people who know little of history or geography or economics, people who cannot write well.

Zhao: Almost true but strong quantitative skills are not the same as the skills to mark the right choice on a multiple choice exam, constructing a sound argument is different from repeating the “correct way” of arguing, and writing well certainly does not mean scoring high against a writing rubric. More importantly, as far as I can tell, the Common Core does not include what Tucker wants: history, geography, or economics. Where do the children learn these and other “unrelated things” when they are pushed aside by the Common Core?

Tucker: Zhao grew up in a country in which the aim was not learning but success on the test. There was wide agreement that the tests were deeply flawed, emphasizing what Mao called “stuffing the duck”— shoving facts and procedures into students—in lieu of analysis, synthesis and creativity. But few wanted to change the system, because the tests were one of the few incorruptible parts of a deeply corrupt system.

Zhao: Very good observation but I cannot help but pointing out that Tucker just published a book entitled Surpassing Shanghai: An Agenda for American Education Built on the World’s Leading Systems. If it is such a bad system, why does Tucker consider it one of the world’s leading systems and want to build American education on it? If it is so bad, what is it in Shanghai, a city of China, he wants America to surpass?
And by the way, it is not true that “few wanted to change the system, because the tests were one of the few incorruptible parts of a deeply corrupt system.” Many, perhaps, most people in China, want the system changed. The Ministry of Education and provincial governments have been making changes over the past few decades (for details read my books Catching Up or Leading the Way and World Class Learners)

Tucker: So Zhao is very much aware of the consequences of a rigid system set to outdated standards. But that is not the problem in the United States. We don’t suffer from ancient standards wildly out of tune with the times, enforced by tests that are no better. We suffer from lack of agreement on any standards that could define what all students must know and be able to do before they go their separate ways. We suffer in a great many schools from implicit standards that translate into abysmally low expectations for far too many students.

Zhao: I am very appreciative of Tucker’s understanding of my background but I am not convinced that the U.S. is immune to the same problems China has suffered from testing. Is it not the goal of the Common Core to instill a rigid system? Isn’t the Common Core to be enforced by tests? If not, why do we have the Common Assessment? Why are we connecting teacher evaluation to test scores? Moreover, haven’t we seen plenty of cases of cheating on standardized testing in our schools under NCLB? Isn’t there enough evidence of states manipulating data and cut scores? For more evidence, read Collateral Damage: How High-stakes Testing Corrupts America’s Schools by Sharon Nichols and David Berliner.

Another by the way: When I described the teacher evaluation efforts mandated by the Race to the Top to a group of science teachers from Beijing to study American science education this week, they were appalled and commented: Isn’t that a violation of human dignity?

Tucker: Without broad agreement on a well designed and internationally benchmarked system of standards, we have no hope of producing a nation of students who have the kind of skills, knowledge and creative capacities the nation so desperately needs. There is no substitute for spelling out what we think students everywhere should know and be able to do. Spelling it out is no guarantee that it will happen, but failing to spell it out is a guarantee that we will not get a nation of young people capable of meeting the challenges ahead.

Zhao: This I will have to respectfully disagree with. The U.S. has had a decentralized education system forever (until Bush and Obama) and it has become one of the most prosperous, innovative, and democratic nations on earth. The lack of a common prescription of content imposed on all children by the government has not been a vice, but a virtue. As Harvard economists Claudia Goldin and Lawrence Katz wrote in their book The Race between Education and Technology: “We must shed our collective amnesia. America was once the world’s education leader. The rest of the world imported its institutions and its egalitarian ideals spread widely. That alone is a great achievement and one calls for an encore.”

Tucker: Zhao apparently believes that standards mean standardization and standardization would inevitably lead to an inability to produce creative solutions to the problems the workforce will face in the years ahead. That could certainly happen. But it need not happen.

Zhao: Yes, it does not need to, but it does happen, has happened, and is unavoidable. When standards are enforced with high stakes testing, when teachers and principals are evaluated based on students’ test scores, when students’ fate are decided by test scores, the teaching and learning must become standardized and constrained. One does not have to go to China to see this. Just take a look at what happened under NCLB. It did not ask schools to narrow the curriculum, to reduce time for music and the arts, for social studies and science, or for lunch and recess, but it all happened. For the impact of NCLB on instructional time and curriculum, check out these reports (1 and 2)from the Center on Education Policy.

Tucker: It is simply not true that our inability to predict the jobs people will have to do in the future and the demand of creative, entrepreneurial young people relieves us of the obligation to figure out what skills and knowledge all young people need to have before they go their separate ways, or the obligation to translate that list of skills and knowledge into standards and assessments that can drive instruction in our schools.

Zhao: It is simply not true that the Common Core will prepare our children for the future. To conclude, I quote a comment left on my Facebook page by one of my personal heros, former president of America Educational Research Association (AERA) and widely respected educational researcher Gene Glass: “Common Core Standards are idiots’ solution to a misunderstood problem. The problem is an archaic, useless curriculum that will prepare no child for life in 2040 and beyond.”

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Why the Secrecy? The Social Studies Common Core Standards of the CCSSO   3 comments

For those who don’t know, Utah has adopted the math and English Language Arts Common Core standards, but nothing more— yet.

I’d like to introduce this Education News article by J.R. Wilson that explores the absurd silence surrounding the now-quietly-being-written national social studies common core standards.

 

Link: http://www.educationnews.org/education-policy-and-politics/j-r-wilson-whos-writing-common-core-social-studies-standards/

Thanks to J.R. Wilson for permission to repost his article.

The CCSSO and Social Studies Standards:  Are They or Aren’t They?

Is the Council of Chief State School Officers (CCSSO) writing common core state standards for social studies or not?

They say they aren’t, but it appears they are.  They are playing this one closer to the vest than they did with the Common Core State Standards (CCSS) for ELA and math.

In November 2012 the CCSSO released Vision for the College, Career, and Civic Life (C3) Framework for Inquiry in Social Studies State Standards.  They say they are developing a framework for states to use as a resource as they upgrade their social studies standards and that this will not be a set of standards for states to adopt.  They also say this framework is “being developed through a state-led effort”.  They contend this framework, like the common core state standards, “will be based on evidence and will aim at college and career readiness.”  The CCSSO is not disclosing the names of people on the writing team and tightly controls information about how and what business is being conducted.

While this is to be a framework and not a set of standards, it still may be extremely influential as states develop standards under its guidance.  Remember the influence NCTM’s standards had on state math standards? Remember how the federal government required, encouraged, bribed, or coerced states into adopting the Common Core State Standards (CCSS) for ELA and math?  Will the federal government use similar enticements to get states to commit to using this framework?  (i.e., with programs like RTTT and NCLB waivers?)  And last but not least, will there be a common “national” assessment that addresses social studies in each state’s uncommon core state standards for social studies?  (In case you’re getting confused, those are the standards developed with the commonality of CCSSO’s “framework”.)

The National Governors Association (NGA) Center for Best Practices and the CCSSO teamed up in the effort to produce the CCSS for ELA and math.  Both say this was a state-led effort.  Apparently if a governor and chief state school officer undertake something it is a state-led effort whether or not the people of the state—taxpayers and constituents—want it, know anything about it, or have any kind of say in it.   With no mention of NGA involvement, the CCSSO is leading the way to develop a social studies framework claiming it is a state-led effort.  It’s intriguing that the NGA is absent from this effort.  Are the chief state school officers now so confident in their ability to lead the way for the states, that they can now do so without the NGA as well as the states and still be able to say it is a state-led effort?  Or are the people in your state leading your state by asking your chief state school officer to undertake this effort on their behalf?  Do the people in your state even know about this effort?  Did they know about the effort when the CCSS for ELA and math were being developed as a so-called state-led effort?  Which leads me to conclude that a state-led effort doesn’t mean that states are leading the effort.  What a state-led effort really means is that states are being led in an effort to impose something the states had nothing to do with.

The CCSSO claims this framework will be evidence-based like the common core state standards.  This appears to be a promise with a sense of deja vu: the NGA and CCSSO also promised the ELA and math CCSS would be evidenced-based which is very questionable.  In Common Core State Standards: An Example of Data-less Decision Making, Christopher H. Tienken has the following to say about the CCSS being evidenced based:

The official website for the CCSS claims to provide such evidence. The site alleges that the standards are “evidence based” and lists two homegrown documents to “prove” it: Myths vs Facts (NGA, 2010) and the Joint International Benchmarking Report (NGA, 2008).

The Myths document presents claims that the standards have “made use of a large and growing body of knowledge” (p. 3). Knowledge derives in part from carefully controlled scientific experiments and observations so one would expect to find references to high quality empirical research to support the standards.

When I reviewed that “large and growing body of knowledge” offered by the NGA, I found that it was not large, and in fact built mostly on one report, Benchmarking for Success, created by the NGA and the CCSSO, the same groups that created these standards; Hardly independent research.

The Benchmarking report has over 135 end notes, some of which are repetitive references. Only four of the cited pieces of evidence could be considered empirical studies related directly to the topic of national standards and student achievement.

The remaining citations were newspaper stories, armchair magazine articles, op-ed pieces, book chapters, notes from telephone interviews, and several tangential studies.

Many of the citations were linked to a small group of standardization advocates and did not represent the larger body of empirical thought on the topic.

Why should we believe this framework will be evidence-based?  Should we believe it simply because we have been told it will be?  Being told this will not make it true yet the CCSSO and others will repeat this over and over as if it is.  The evidence needs to be evident and credible.

How can they tell how accurate their aim at college and career readiness will be?  How will they calibrate their aim?  What if everyone buys into this and their aim is amiss?

The CCSSO is not disclosing the names of people on the writing team and tightly controls information about how and what business is being conducted.  Who are the writers?  Why don’t they want the public to know who they are?  Why such secrecy?  The CCSSO is a non-government organization and is not subject to the federal Freedom of Information Act .  This non-government organization has set out to produce a document that likely will highly influence state social studies standards, textbook development, textbook selection and adoption, and professional development.  Ultimately, this will affect what (as well as how) will be taught in public classrooms across the country (and possibly private schools, charter schools, and in home school settings).  Shouldn’t the public have a right to know who will have such an influence on the education of the children in their local community?

The NGA and CCSSO did receive pressure to release the names of the individuals writing the CCSS.  Eventually the names of individuals on the working (writing), feedback, and validation teams were released to the public.  If there was enough pressure, do you suppose the CCSSO will release, sooner rather than later, the names of those involved in working on the social studies framework?

Every state has a chief state school officer and the CCSSO website indicates their membership includes every state.  Your chief state school officer’s CCSSO membership dues are likely paid with taxpayers’ money.  Ask your officer and the CCSSO for the names of the people writing this framework. The states participating in the CCSSO social studies collaborative involved in developing the framework are Arizona, Arkansas, Colorado, DC, Georgia, Hawaii, Iowa, Illinois, Indiana, Kansas, Kentucky, Maine, Maryland, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, North Carolina, Ohio, Utah, Wisconsin, and Wyoming.  If you are from one of these states, you may want to ask your chief state school officer for the names of individuals from your state who are involved.

Isn’t it great that we have an “open government” that, often at great costs, supports, buys into, and voluntarily adopts frameworks and standards developed by non-government organizations behind closed doors without the opportunity for real public input and involvement?  While some information may be available to the public, it may be difficult or impossible to find.    Beware of the Leopard!

J.R. Wilson is a parent and an education advocate with 25+ years experience in public education as an elementary teacher, curriculum consultant, staff development coordinator, and principal.

This article was originally published January 15, 2013 on EducationNews.com at

http://www.educationnews.org/parenting/jr-wilson-parents-need-to-know-about-student-data-privacy/ and is republished here with permission from the author.

References and Additional Reading

Benchmarking for success: Ensuring U.S. students receive a world-class education. National Governors Association, Council of Chief State School Officers, & Achieve, Inc. (2008).

http://www.corestandards.org/assets/0812BENCHMARKING.pdf

Common Core State Standards: An Example of Data-less Decision Making,           Christopher H. Tienken, EdD., AASA Journal of Scholarship and Practice, Vol. 7, No. 4 Winter 2011

http://aasa.org/uploadedFiles/Publications/Newsletters/JSP_Winter2011.FINAL.pdf

Framework—Not Common Standards—for Social Studies

http://blogs.edweek.org/edweek/curriculum/2012/11/framework_for_social_studies_upda.html

Myths versus facts about the common core standards. National Governors Association. (2010).

http://www.corestandards.org/assets/CoreFacts.pdf

Opaqueness and Closed Government, December 21, 2012

http://undergroundparent.blogspot.com/2012/12/jay-p.html

Social Studies Assessment, Curriculum, and Instruction (SSACI)

http://www.ccsso.org/Resources/Programs/Social_Studies_Assessment_Curriculum_and_Instruction_(SSACI).html

Social studies follies

http://www.edexcellence.net/commentary/education-gadfly-daily/flypaper/2012/social-studies-follies.html

Tax-Sponsored Common Core Meetings Closed to Public, JOY PULLMANN, January 3, 2013

http://news.heartland.org/newspaper-article/2013/01/03/tax-sponsored-common-core-meetings-closed-public

Vision for the College, Career, and Civic Life (C3) Framework for Inquiry in Social Studies State Standards

http://www.ccsso.org/Resources/Publications/Vision_for_the_College_Career_and_Civic_Life_Framework_for_Inquiry_in_Social_Studies_State_Standards.html

Vision for the College, Career, and Civic Life (C3) Framework for Inquiry in Social Studies State Standards   (this is the document pdf)

http://www.ccsso.org/Documents/2012/11%2012%2012%20Vision%20Statement%20College%20Career%20and%20Civic%20Life%20Framework.pdf

 

Common Core Florida: Orwellian Lessons   3 comments

Common Core Florida: Orwellian Lessons (CLICK)

In this article, “Common Core Florida: Orwellian Lessons” the “Dissident Professor,” Mary Grabar, enlightens again.  I learned…

Did you know that the rejected superintendent of Indiana, Tony Bennett, had been flown to Florida to become that state’s new superintendent?  Why on earth did they want him?  What is Florida thinking? He was rejected by Indianans for refusing to dump Common Core.  The new Indiana superintendent gets it– that a lot more than educational standards are at stake.

Did you know that the Florida School Board had been lead to believe that there is “no opposition” to the Common Core in Florida?  By the Pinellas County school board?  No opposition.  Not even a statistical possibility.  I happen to know lots of Floridians personally.  I went to school there. I know not all Floridians are drinking that Common Core kool-aid.

Did you know that in some model lesson plans of the Common Core, the great lessons of Orwell in Animal Farm, that teach readers the evils and deceptions of communism, are reduced to being called fables?  For high school students.

Florida school boards are about to hear from a lot of concerned parents and teachers.

I bet.

 

Indiana General Assembly Hears Pro- and Anti-Common Core Bill Testimonies   2 comments

Right now, at this very moment, the Indiana General Assembly is listening to testimony from both proponents and critics of the Common Core national standards.  You can watch here: http://www.in.gov/legislative/2441.htm

They are into  double overtime.
Right now, I ‘m watching/listening to the testimonies of pro-common core teachers, and it’s painful.  Why?

These teachers are obviously intelligent, caring, devoted people.  They speak about the problems of remediation, the wonders of having students read challenging texts, and their opinion that the old Indiana State Standards were inferior to Common Core standards.

But what do none of them talk about?

The part they haven’t studied!

The robbery of their state’s right to set, and later to alter, education standards.  This is a Constitutional right that they have given up.  Do these teachers have any idea of that fact?

The robbery of their students’ privacy rights, via the SLDS database that the federal government paid Indiana (and all other states) to build, to track and to control citizens.  Do these teachers know this?

The robbery of the taxpayers.  I am sure these teachers have no idea that there is a greedy corporate train that cares nothing for students that is poised to make billions and billions of dollars by “implementing” the Common Core, and that almost all previous textbooks and technologies will be kicked to the curb.  Most state legislatures have not done any sort of cost analysis.  None!  That’s nuts.

And the one teacher who I heard talk about classic literature seemed to think that because some classic literature is permitted, yes, even recommended by the Common Core, that would make the elimination of most classic literature somehow unimportant.

Yikes.

I hope and pray that the legislators see the truth:  that these wonderful teachers and their testimonies reflect the beauty of caring teachers and their devotion to improving their students’ lives.  But they do not reflect a viable assessment of the Common Core Initiative in all its invasive and micromanagerial aspects.

I hope and pray these Indiana Legislators pass this bill that will halt implementation of the Common Core in Indiana.  Because the rest of the nation is watching.

And we want our educational freedom back.

Chart Explaining Who Controls Common Core   2 comments

 

Click for sources:

http://www.utahnsagainstcommoncore.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/01/FlowchartSources.pdf

Thanks to Alyson Williams for this compilation of research.

The Garfield Stand: Seattle Teachers Refuse to Promote Meaningless Standardized Test   1 comment

The Garfield Stand and the Common Core

This article was originally published January 12, 2013 on The Underground Parent at http://undergroundparent.blogspot.com/2013/01/the-garfield-stand-and-common-core-will.html and is in part republished here, with permission from the author.

What is the Garfield Stand?  It is what the teachers at Seattle’s Garfield High School are doing—they are taking a stand on important issues related to student assessment.

You can read about it in the letter from teachers at Garfield High School and at additional links provided below.

Teachers at another school, Ballard High School, are not just in sympathy with their Garfield colleagues; they are taking the same stand.

…Read the letter from the Garfield teachers.

The Ballard teachers wrote a letter supporting their Garfield colleagues.  That letter is copied below.

In a few years how many of the statements below will have a ring of truth if MAP is replaced with SBAC or PARCC assessments [Common Core national tests]?

25 teachers at nearby Ballard High School signed a letter against continuing to use the MAP test,

and in support of our Garfield colleagues

Whereas  

  • The MAP test is a resource expensive and cash expensive program in a district with very finite financial resources,
  • The MAP test is not used in practice to inform student instruction,
  • The MAP test is not connected to our curricula,
  • The MAP test has been repurposed by district administration to form part of a teacher’s evaluation, which is contrary to the purposes it was designed for, as stated by its purveyor, making it part of junk science,
  • The MAP test has also been repurposed for student placement in courses and programs, for which it was not designed,
  • The MAP test was purchased under corrupt crony-ist circumstances (Our former superintendent, while employed by SPS sat on the corporation board of NWEA, the purveyor of the MAP test. This was undisclosed to her employer. The initial MAP test was purchased in a no-bid, non-competitive process)
  • The MAP test was and remains unwanted and unneeded and unsolicited by SPS professional classroom educators, those who work directly with students,
  • The MAP test is not taken seriously by students, (They don’t need the results for graduation, for applications, for course credit, or any other purpose, so they routinely blow it off.)
  • The MAP test’s reported testing errors are greater than students’ expected growth,
  • The technology administration of the MAP test has serious flaws district wide which waste students’ time,

Therefore
                        We, the undersigned educators from Ballard High School do hereby support statements and actions of our colleagues at Garfield High School surrounding the MAP test. Specifically, the MAP test program throughout Seattle Public Schools ought to be shut down immediately. It has been and continues to be an embarrassing mistake. Continuing it even another day, let alone another month or year or decade, will not turn this sow’s ear into a silk purse.

…It is unfortunate teachers feel the need to take such a stand.

Should they, and other teachers across the country, be making more of the decisions that will directly effect their instructional practices and their students’ education or should those decisions continue to be made by… state departments of education, business and corporate offices, wealthy foundations, and Washington, D.C.?

Links to further reading on the topic:

Seattle Ballard High School teachers have followed suit: No MAP test!

http://seattleducation2010.wordpress.com/2013/01/11/seattle-ballard-high-school-teachers-have-followed-suit-no-map-test/

The letter from the teachers at Garfield High School regarding the MAP test

http://seattleducation2010.wordpress.com/2013/01/11/the-letter-from-the-teachers-at-garfield-high-school-regarding-the-map-test/

Letter of support for Garfield High School teachers from Diane Ravitch

http://seattleducation2010.wordpress.com/2013/01/11/letter-of-support-for-garfield-high-school-teachers-from-diane-ravitch/

Garfield High School teachers say “NO!” to high stakes testing

http://seattleducation2010.wordpress.com/2013/01/11/garfield-high-school-teachers-say-no-to-high-stakes-testing/

Standardized test backlash: Some Seattle teachers just say ‘no’

http://news.yahoo.com/standardized-test-backlash-seattle-teachers-just-no-230447459.html

Garfield High teachers won’t give required test they call flawed

http://seattletimes.com/html/localnews/2020106684_notest11m.html?syndication=rss

Garfield High teachers refuse to give standardized test

http://www.komonews.com/news/local/Garfield-High-teachers-refuse-to-give-MAP-test-186403421.html

Garfield High teachers refuse to administer District-mandated reading and math test

http://capitolhillseattle.com/2013/01/11/garfield-high-teachers-refuse-to-administer-district-mandated-map-test

Garfield High School teachers boycott MAP assessment test

http://www.king5.com/news/education/Garfield-High-School-teachers-boycott-MAP-test-186401601.html

This article was originally published January 12, 2013 on The Underground Parent at http://undergroundparent.blogspot.com/2013/01/the-garfield-stand-and-common-core-will.html and is republished here with permission from the author.

A Mother Speaks Out: Children For Sale – Guest Post by Alyson Williams   114 comments

Children for Sale

By Alyson Williams

No more decisions behind closed doors!  Let’s get everyone talking about Common Core.

 

In the spring of 2011 I received a receipt for the sale of my children.  It came in the form of a flyer that simply notified me that my state and thereby my children’s school would comply with the Common Core. No  other details of the transaction were included. The transaction was  complete, and I had no say. In fact, it was the very first time I’d  heard about it.

I know what you’re thinking. That’s outrageous! Common  Core has nothing to do with selling things, especially not children!

Okay, so the idea that the State School Board and Governor who’d made this  decision could be described as “selling” my children is hyperbole. It is an exaggeration intended to convey an emotion regarding who, in this land of the free, has ultimate authority over decisions that directly affect my children’s  intellectual development, privacy, and future opportunities. It is not even an accurate representation  of my initial reaction to the flyer. I say it to make a point  that I didn’t realize until much, much later… this isn’t just an issue of education, but of money and control. Please allow me to explain.

That first day my husband picked up the flyer and asked me, “What is Common Core?” To be honest, I had no idea. We looked it up online.  We read that they were standards for each grade that would be consistent across a number of states. They were described as higher standards, internationally benchmarked, state-led, and inclusive of parent and teacher in-put. It didn’t sound like a bad thing, but why hadn’t we ever heard about it before? Again, did I miss the parent in-put meeting or questionnaire… the vote in our legislature? Who from my state had helped to write the standards? In consideration of the decades of disagreement on education trends that I’ve observed regarding education, how in the world did that many states settle all their differences enough to agree on the same standards? It must have taken years, right? How could I have missed it?

At first it was really difficult to get answers to all my questions. I started by asking the people who were in charge of implementing the standards at the school district office, and later talked with my representative on the local school board. I made phone calls and I went to public meetings. We talked a lot about the standards themselves. No one seemed to know the answers to, or wanted to talk about my questions about how the decision was made, the cost, or how it influenced my ability as a parent to advocate for my children regarding curriculum. I even had the chance to ask the Governor himself at a couple of local political meetings. I was always given a similar response. It usually went something like this:

Question: “How much will this cost?”

Answer: “These are really good standards.”

Question: “I read that the Algebra that was offered in 8th grade, will now not be offered until 9th grade. How is this a higher standard?”

Answer: “These are better standards. They go deeper into concepts.”

Question: “Was there a public meeting that I missed?”

Answer: “You should really read the standards. This is a good thing.”

Question: “Isn’t it against the Constitution and the law of the land to have a national curriculum under the control of the federal government?’

Answer: “Don’t you want your kids to have the best curriculum?”

It got to the point where I felt like I was talking to Jedi masters who, instead of actually answering my questions, would wave their hand in my face and say, “You will like these standards.”

I stopped asking. I started reading.

I read the standards. I read about who wrote the standards. I read about the timeline of how we adopted the standards (before the standards were written.) I read my state’s Race to the Top grant application, in which we said we were going to adopt the standards. I read the rejection of that grant application and why we wouldn’t be given additional funding to pay for this commitment. I read how standardized national test scores are measured and how states are ranked. I read news articles, blogs, technical documents, legislation, speeches given by the US Education Secretary and other principle players, and even a few international resolutions regarding education.

I learned a lot.

I learned that most other parents didn’t know what the Common Core was either.

I learned that the standards were state accepted, but definitely not “state led.”

I learned that the international benchmark claim is a pretty shaky one and doesn’t mean they are better than or even equal to international standards that are considered high.

I learned that there was NO public input before the standards were adopted. State-level decision makers had very little time themselves and had to agree to them in principle as the actual standards were not yet complete.

I learned that the only content experts on the panel to review the standards had refused to sign off on them, and why they thought the standards were flawed.

I learned that much of the specific standards are not supported by research but are considered experimental.

I learned that in addition to national standards we agreed to new national tests that are funded and controlled by the federal government.

I learned that in my state, a portion of teacher pay is dependent on student test performance.

I learned that not only test scores, but additional personal information about my children and our family would be tracked in a state-wide data collection project for the express purpose of making decisions about their educational path and “aligning” them with the workforce.

I learned that there are fields for tracking home-schooled children in this database too.

I learned that the first step toward getting pre-school age children into this data project is currently underway with new legislation that would start a new state preschool program.

I learned that this data project was federally funded with a stipulation that it be compatible with other state’s data projects. Wouldn’t this feature create a de facto national database of children?

I learned that my parental rights to deny the collection of this data or restrict who has access to it have been changed at the federal level through executive regulation, not the legislative process.

I learned that these rights as protected under state law are currently under review and could also be changed.

I learned that the financing, writing, evaluation, and promotion of the standards had all been done by non-governmental special interest groups with a common agenda.

I learned that their agenda was in direct conflict with what I consider to be the best interests of my children, my family, and even my country.

Yes, I had concerns about the standards themselves, but suddenly that issue seemed small in comparison to the legal, financial, constitutional and representative issues hiding behind the standards and any good intentions to improve the educational experience of my children.

If it was really about the best standards, why did we adopt them before they were even written?

If they are so wonderful that all, or even a majority of parents would jump for joy to have them implemented, why wasn’t there any forum for parental input?

What about the part where I said I felt my children had been sold? I learned that the U.S. market for education is one of the most lucrative – bigger than energy or technology by one account – especially in light of these new national standards that not only create economy of scale for education vendors, but require schools to purchase all new materials, tests and related technology. Almost everything the schools had was suddenly outdated.

When I discovered that the vendors with the biggest market share and in the position to profit the most from this new regulation had actually helped write or finance the standards, the mama bear inside me ROARED!

Could it be that the new standards had more to do with profit than what was best for students? Good thing for their shareholders they were able to avoid a messy process involving parents or their legislative representatives.

As I kept note of the vast sums of money exchanging hands in connection with these standards with none of it going to address the critical needs of my local school – I felt cheated.

When I was told that the end would justify the means, that it was for the common good of our children and our society, and to sit back and trust that they had my children’s best interests at heart – they lost my trust.

As I listened to the Governor and education policy makers on a state and national level speak about my children and their education in terms of tracking, alignment, workforce, and human capital – I was offended.

When I was told that this is a done deal, and there was nothing as a parent or citizen that I could do about it – I was motivated.

Finally, I learned one more very important thing. I am not the only one who feels this way. Across the nation parents grandparents and other concerned citizens are educating themselves, sharing what they have learned and coming together. The problem is, it is not happening fast enough. Digging through all the evidence, as I have done, takes a lot of time – far more time than the most people are able to spend. In order to help, I summarized what I thought was some of the most important information into a flowchart so that others could see at a glance what I was talking about.

I am not asking you to take my word for it. I want people to check the references and question the sources. I am not asking for a vote or for money. I don’t expect everyone to agree with me. I do believe with all my heart that a decision that affects the children of almost every state in the country should not be made without a much broader discussion, validated research, and much greater input from parents and citizens than it was originally afforded.

If you agree I encourage you to share this information. Post it, pin it, email it, tweet it.

No more decisions behind closed doors! Let’s get everyone talking about Common Core.

_________________________________

Thanks to Alyson Williams for permission to publish her story.

Sources for research: http://www.utahnsagainstcommoncore.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/01/FlowchartSources.pdf

Fox News: Feds Using K-12 to Illegally Access Personal Data – Interview with Emmett McGroarty, American Principles Project   3 comments

Fox News interviewed Emmett McGroarty of the American Principles Project concerning recent, federal moves that allow federal access to the private information of students nationwide.

Things I am thinking as I watch this video:

First:

The Department of Education is, right now, in the middle of a lawsuit brought by another group, EPIC (Electronic Privacy Information Center).  EPIC has alleged that the FERPA regulations that the Department made without Congressional approval violate student privacy law (by  new redefinings of terms and by stretching definitions “past the breaking point” to allow access to data by almost anyone claiming to be an “authorized representative”–without any parental consent requirements by school administrators.)  Not pretty.

Second:

Read this official statement from the Department of Education:

“Parents can rest assured that their children’s personal information is protected better now than it has ever been.”  (This official statement is also read in this video clip.)

Third:

Emmett McGroarty responds to that statement:

“It’s important to note that these regulatory changes allow the sharing of data not just from department to department in both the federal government and state governments, but also –also– to private entities. So this is just a radical, radical change.  I would beg to differ with the department’s response in that respect. “

So would I.

To see the article that ignited the Fox news discussion:  http://www.nypost.com/p/news/opinion/opedcolumnists/how_the_feds_are_tracking_your_kid_xC6wecT8ZidCAzfqegB6hL

Math Teacher Stephanie Sawyer on Common Core Standards   8 comments

Math Teacher Stephanie Sawyer

speaks out about the weak math in Common Core Standards.

Math Teacher Stephanie Sawyer was quoted on Diane Ravitch’s website saying the following about Common Core:

“…They pay lip service to actually practicing standard algorithms.

Seriously, students don’t have to be fluent in addition and subtraction with the standard algorithms until 4th grade?

I teach high school math. I took a break to work in the private sector from 2002 to 2009. Since my return, I have been stunned by my students’ lack of basic skills. How can I teach algebra 2 students about rational expressions when they can’t even deal with fractions with numbers?

Please don’t tell me this is a result of the rote learning that goes on in grade- and middle-school math classes, because I’m pretty sure that’s not what is happening at all. If that were true, I would have a room full of students who could divide fractions. But for some reason, most of them can’t, and don’t even know where to start.

I find it fascinating that students who have been looking at fractions from 3rd grade through 8th grade still can’t actually do anything with them. Yet I can ask adults over 35 how to add fractions and most can tell me. And do it. And I’m fairly certain they get the concept. There is something to be said for “traditional” methods and curriculum when looked at from this perspective.

Grade schools have been using Everyday Math and other incarnations for a good 5 to 10 years now, even more in some parts of the country. These are kids who have been taught the concept way before the algorithm, which is basically what the Common Core seems to promote. I have a 4th grade son who attends a school using Everyday Math. Luckily, he’s sharp enough to overcome the deficits inherent in the program. When asked to convert 568 inches to feet, he told me he needed to divide by 12, since he had to split the 568 into groups of 12. Yippee. He gets the concept. So I said to him, well, do it already! He explained that he couldn’t, since he only knew up to 12 times 12. But he did, after 7 agonizing minutes of developing his own iterated-subtraction-while-tallying system, tell me that 568 inches was 47 feet, 4 inches. Well, he got it right. But to be honest, I was mad; he could’ve done in a minute what ended up taking 7. And he already got the concept, since he knew he had to divide; he just needed to know how to actually do it. From my reading of the common core, that’s a great story. I can’t say I feel the same.

If Everyday Math and similar programs are what is in store for implementing the common core standards for math, then I think we will continue to see an increase in remedial math instruction in high schools and colleges. Or at least an increase in the clientele of the private tutoring centers, which do teach basic math skills.”

Common Core Increasingly Questioned by Democrats and Republicans   Leave a comment

The Indiana news outlet “Indystar” discussed Common Core today.

Indystar author Russell Pulliam quoted Emmett McGroarty’s observation, that criticism of Common Core has transcended liberal-conservative ideological differences.

“The opposition to Common Core cuts across the left-right spectrum,” he said. “It gets back to who should control our children’s education — people in Indiana or people in Washington?”

Emmett McGroarty

To which Pulliam  added: “Who elected the big foundations who are helping drive the Common Core?”

Great question.

Link to full article:     http://www.indystar.com/article/20130112/OPINION07/301120307/Russ-Pulliam-Common-Core-foes-hope

Weber County Republican Women’s Meeting Speech on Common Core   2 comments

Stop Common Core

Talk given by Christel Swasey at the Weber County Republican Women’s Meeting Jan.7, 2013

A few months ago, a University of Utah exhibit displayed original documents, newspapers, books and letters written by Thomas Paine, Benjamin Franklin and many others. The exhibit did not only show the freedom fighters’ side of the argument, but also displayed articulate, meaningful debate from the other side. The heated 1700s argument boiled down to either standing for local freedom or standing for America remaining a managed colony under England’s non-representative government.

In retrospect, how obvious it is to us which side was correct; America should be free. But at the time it was not so clear to all. Both sides had strong arguments that made some sense.

There is a similar, heated battle going on in America over education now. Will we retain local freedom or will we be a managed colony under the Department of Education’s rule, with no say over testing, education standards and innovation? Unconstitutional though it is, this is the battle we face today– a battle for control of American classrooms. Most parents, students, teachers, governors and even State School Board Members seem unaware that it is going on at all.

It’s a battle for constitutional education with local decision making, versus nationalized education without representation. It’s a battle between states retaining the freedom to soar, versus having mediocre sameness of education across states. It’s a battle between teaching the traditional academics versus teaching the extreme political agendas of the Obama Administration; it’s a battle for who gets to decide what is to be planted in the mind of the child.

One of America’s strengths has long been its educated people. The world flocks to our universities. We have had one of the most intellectually diverse public education systems in the world.

But this is changing dramatically.

The Common Core State Standards Initiative (CCSSI) leads the changes. The vast majority of states have already replaced previous education standards with Common Core. These national standards standardize– McDonaldize– a dreary and mediocre education plan for the country that lies far below the previous standards of top-ranking states, such as Massachusetts. Although many respected organizations have pledged support for the Common Core, evidence is painfully lacking to support Common Core’s claims. The common core proponents are quick to make sweet-sounding claims, but their claims are not referenced and are, in fact, false.

Many independent reviews suggest supporters of Common Core are sorely misguided. Dr. Michael Kirst of Stanford University pointed out that the standards define college readiness as being the same for 4-year, 2-year, and vocational colleges, essentially dumbing down expectations for university students.

Dr. Christopher Tienken of Seton Hall University pointed out that the standards are meant to save us from what is a myth– the idea that American students are lagging behind international peers; Tienken writes: “When school administrators implement programs and policies built on faulty arguments, they commit education malpractice.”

Despite claims to the contrary, Common Core Standards do not meaningfully increase academic rigor, are not internationally benchmarked, do not adequately prepare students for 4-year universities, were never assessed by top curriculum research universities, were never voted upon by teachers nor the public, do not allow a voice for the individual; have no amendment process, and do rob states of control of education and students of privacy.

The Common Core is an untested, federally promoted, unfunded experiment.

The standards creators (NGA/CCSSO) have not set up a monitoring plan to test this national experiment, to see what unintended consequences the Core will have on children. The standards slash the vast majority of classic literature, especially from high school English classes; minimize narrative writing skills acquisition, and push student-investigative, rather than instructive, math at all levels.

COMMON CORE HISTORY:

The Constitution and 10th amendment have long made it clear that only states –not any federal agency– have the right to direct education. Americans seem to have forgotten that we do not live in a top down kingdom but in a Constitutional republic. Many believe the federal government has power to rule over the state governments. This is false. States alone hold the right to educate.

Our Constitution was set up with a vital balance of powers between states and federal powers, and each maintains separate roles and authorities. Nowhere is any authority given to the federal government to direct education.

In addition to the Constitution’s and the tenth amendment’s giving states sole authority to direct education, another law called the General Educational Provisions Act (GEPA) states: “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…”

So the Common Core standards are a set of national education standards which the federal government are forbidden, by law, to control or supervise. Yet the standards were foisted upon the states by the federal government with the repeated assertion that they were state-led standards.
    The Dept. of Education paid others to do what they were forbidden to do. The common standards were not written by the federal government, but they were financially incentivized by the federal government and then were promoted by private interests. Bill Gates, for example, spent $100M and plans to spend $150M more to push Common Core.

He gave the national PTA $@ million to promote it in schools. Common Core represents an ongoing cash cow for many groups, which explains why the media does not cover this issue. Many media outlets, even Fox News via Wireless Generation, are entangled in the massive money-making factory that is Common Core implementation. Microsoft and Pearson and others are seeing what a huge opportunity it presents them, as they benefit financially from the newly created false need: millions of new textbooks, teacher development programs, and new testing technologies are called for under the common core and its nationalized tests.

The standards were solely developed –and copyrighted– by nonacademic groups– the National Governors’ Association (NGA) and the Council of Chief State School Officers (CCSSO). Neither state education agencies nor major curriculum research universities were asked for meaningful input.

We were told that the Common Core was voluntary and “state led,” but it was a case of arm-twisting and financial bribery on the part of the Dept. of Education. States did not come together to write and share great ideas. (If that had been the case, we would likely have adopted high standards, instead, like those previously had in Massachusetts.)
The first time states were introduced to these national standards was when the federal government bribed states with a shot at a huge grant (our own tax money) in 2009. It was called Race to the Top, a grant for states. The Department of Education made a state’s promise to adopt common standards –sight unseen– a prerequisite to getting points in the grant contest called “Race to the Top”. There were 500 points possible. Adopting Common Core and its tests gave us some 70 points. Making the federal tracking database on students, the State Longitudinal Database System (SLDS) gave us 47 additional points.

Not by any authority of Congress, but by the lure of money –the Stimulus Bill– was Obama’s Race to the Top funded. States were given only two months to apply.

States competed for this money like a taxpayers’ lottery with a points system. There were 500 points possible. By adopting Common Core tests and standards, a state could earn 70 points. By implementing the SLDS (State Longitudinal Database System that serves as surveillance on citizens) a state could earn 47 points. Even though Utah didn’t win any money at all, we took the Race to the Top bait. Then we were stuck with Common Core standards as well as the SLDS database which would track and control citizens.

We were repeatedly assured, “states can get out of Common Core any time they like” but, like the story of Gulliver, tied down by many strings, we are in fact bound– unless we realize our rights and privileges and assert them firmly to free ourselves while we still may, to shake off the ties that bind us down.

Gulliver’s First String: No cost analysis

One of the strings that ties us down is the financial obligation of Common Core. No cost analysis has been done by Utah to date. It’s like a family agreeing to build a house without knowing what it will cost beforehand. It’s absurd. Virginia and Texas rejected Common Core, citing on both educational and financial reasons.

While textbook companies without exception are on a marketing spree with “Common Core Alignment,” it is taxpayers who will carry the burden for the unwanted texts, tests, the professional development, testing technology, data centers, administration and more.
If corporations were getting wealthy at taxpayer expense yet we had agreed to it, by a vote after thorough public vetting, that would be acceptable.

But Common Core never had pre-adoption teacher or parent or media attention, had no public vetting, no vote, and now we see that some of the corporations providing implementation of the common core standards have alarming political agendas that will harm our children. One example is Pearson, headed by Sir Michael Barber, with whom the Utah State Office of Education has multiple contracts.

   Gulliver’s Second String:

    The myth: that Common Core solves educational problems

The second string tying states down, Gulliver-like, is the problem-solving myth, the myth that our many educational problems, such as low expectations or college remediation, are to be solved by Common Core. Without a doubt, Common Core will worsen our educational problems.

   

Professor Sandra Stotsky and James Milgram, English and Math professors who refused to sign off on the adequacy of the common standards when they served on the official Common Core validation committee, have written and have testified before legislatures that the standards are not sufficiently rigorous at all.
Students in our schools and universities are required to provide references for their reports. Yet the information provided by official Common Core sites, as well as by our state office of education, is unreferenced and contains half truths and false claims about Common Core.

I asked the Utah State Office of Education to provide me, a Utah teacher, with references to verify the “facts” about Common Core, but the office refused to do so. Why?

The myth that Common Core solves educational problems is far-reaching and is far from being harmless.

There’s a questionnaire that must be answered by any person wishing to be a candidate for Utah’s state school board. The first question on it is: Do you support the Common Core State Standards?

So anyone who for any reason opposes Common Core may not even stand in the candidates’ pool to run for this vital, elected position as a member of the state school board.

The emperor of Common Core is wearing no clothes. Yet, the myth that Common Core solves educational problems is so widespread that most teachers and principals fear raising concerns.

We are experiencing a huge Spiral of Silence. The Spiral of Silence is a well-known communications theory by Elizabeth Noelle-Neumann. The Spiral of Silence phenomenon happens when people fear separation or isolation from those around them, and, believing they are in the minority, they keep their concerns to themselves.

The Spiral theory arose as an explanation for why many Germans remained silent while their Jewish neighbors were being persecuted in the 1940s. This silence extends to parents and legislators who do not know enough about the common standards to feel comfortable arguing that we should be free of them. Truly, this movement has slid under the public radar.

Gulliver’s Third String: One Size Forever, For All

The third string tying us down, Gulliver-like, is the fact that we will never have a vote or a voice in the one-size-fits-all-standards.

Common Core’s copyright, placed on the standards by the National Governors’ Association and the Council of Chief State School Officers, takes away educational flexibility. There is no way a local voice or voices can alter the standards when we discover the system doesn’t fit our needs. There is no amendment process.

Additionally, the NGA/CCSSO has zero transparency. Though the Council of Chief State School Officers holds over one hundred meetings per year, CCSSO meetings are closed to teachers, taxpayers, and the general public.

I asked a lawyer at the Utah State Office of Education what the process would be to amend the standards. She told me, “Why would there need to be [an amendment process]? The whole point is to be common.”

Her response illustrates the tragic fact that many of our state education leaders do not appreciate local, constitutional control over education for our state.

There is a 15% cap placed on the NGA/CCSSO’s copyrighted standards, a cap placed on top of the copyright by the Department of Education. We may delete nothing. We may add no more than 15% to any standard.

So when we run into a disaster –such as the rule that 12th grade reading material in an English class can contain no more than 30 percent classic literature, and must be 70% informational text, we are stuck. When we run into another disaster –such as the rule that Algebra I be introduced in 9th grade, when it used to be an 8th grade topic, we are stuck. We are literally voiceless and bound by the 15% rule plus the copyright it is based upon. But it gets worse:

Gulliver’s Fourth String: Problems with national testing

The fourth string tying us down, Gulliver-like, is nationalized, federally-supervised, compulsory testing. It commits our dollars without our input. And the content of the tests will be dictated by the NGA/CCSSO to test writers.

There isn’t even the tiny bit of 15% wiggle room on tests. I wrote to a test writer how they would incorporate the 15% variation in state standards and they told me that it is “in each state’s best interest” not to have “two sets of standards.” Why? Because the test won’t be incorporating anything in addition to the national standards.

Why is this bad? What we are valuing and testing is extremely narrow and cannot be altered by any state, but only by the NGA/CCSSO. It opens the door for a one-track, politicized agenda to be taught and tested.

Our local leaders continue to refer to “The Utah Core” as if it were not the exact same core as all the other states. This is misleading.

Teachers and principals will be evaluated and compared using these national tests’ results, so what would motivate them to teach anything beyond or different than what will be tested? The motivation to be an innovative educator is gone with the high stakes national tests. Right now Utah has only adopted math and English standards, but soon the NGA/CCSSO will be releasing social studies and science standards. One can only imagine how these subjects will be framed by the “progressive” groups who write the tests and shape the curriculum. And the test writers will be providing model curriculum for states to follow to prepare students for the tests.

Gulliver’s Fifth String: Common Core English:

David Coleman’s version of what is appropriate for the rest of the nation

The fifth string tying us down, Gulliver-like, was wrought almost singlehandedly by one wrongheaded man with too much power, named David Coleman.

Coleman was the main architect of the English standards for Common Core, despite never having been a teacher himself, and is now president of the College board. He is now aligning the national college entrance exams with Common Core standards. He holds a dreary, utilitarian vision of the language, without appreciation for classic literature or narrative writing. He has deleted much of it, and has deleted all cursive for students.

It was Coleman’s idea to make all children read 50% informational texts and 50% fiction in English classes, and then gradually to get rid of more and more fiction and classic literature, so that when a student is in 12th grade, he or she is reading 70% informational text and very little classic literature.

Does this differ from actual book burning?

It is as if Coleman mandated that all English teachers must put 70% of their classic textbooks outside the classroom door to be picked up for burning. Would the teachers put Dickens, Austen, Shakespeare, Melville, or O’Connor on the pile? Which classic books would you remove from a high school English classroom? And what informational texts are being recommended by Common Core proponents to replace the classics? Among the suggestions: Executive Order 13423. Writings by the Federal Reserve Bank. And more. (See: http://www.corestandards.org/assets/Appendix_B.pdf )

David Coleman explained why he decided that narrative writing should not be taught:
“As you grow up in this world you realize that people really don’t give a sh__ about what you feel or what you think… it is rare in a working environment that someone says, ‘Johnson I need a market analysis by Friday but before that I need a compelling account of your childhood.’”
If Coleman were to value a diamond, he would base its worth solely on the fact that it’s the hardest substance in nature. The diamond’s beauty, or its history as the symbol of eternal romance, would not matter. Just so long as the darn rock can drill. That’s how he thinks about reading and writing.
This is why he has gotten rid of all things beautiful in education:
• No more cursive.
• Very little classic literature, to make room for mostly informational text.
• Informational texts to include Executive Order 13423, in the English classroom.

Gulliver’s Sixth String: Weakening Math

The sixth string tying us down, Gulliver-style, down is weak math. While the Common Core math standards may be an improvement over previous standards in some states, they are deficient for most, including for Utah.
Scholars have written extensively about these standards in reports published by Pioneer Institute and others. They say:
– Common Core replaces the traditional foundations of Euclidean geometry with an experimental approach. This approach has never been successfully used but Common Core imposes this experiment on the country.
– Common Core excludes certain Algebra II and Geometry content that is currently a prerequisite at almost every four-year state college. This effectively redefines “college-readiness” to mean readiness for a nonselective community college, as a member of the Common Core writing team acknowledged in his testimony before the Massachusetts Board of Elementary and Secondary Education.
– Common Core fails to teach prime factorization and consequently does not include teaching about least common denominators or greatest common factors.
– Common Core fails to include conversions among fractions, decimals, and percents, identified as a key skill by the National Council of Teachers of Mathematics.
– Common Core de-emphasizes algebraic manipulation, which is a prerequisite for advanced mathematics, and instead effectively redefines algebra as “functional algebra”, which does not prepare students for STEM careers.
– Common Core does not require proficiency with addition and subtraction until grade 4, a grade behind the expectations of the high-performing states and our international competitors.
– Common Core does not require proficiency with multiplication using the standard algorithm (step-by-step procedure for calculations) until grade 5, a grade behind the expectations of the high-performing states and our international competitors.
– Common Core does not require proficiency with division using the standard algorithm until grade 6, a grade behind the expectations of the high-performing states and our international competitors.
– Common Core starts teaching decimals only in grade 4, about two years behind the more rigorous state standards, and fails to use money as a natural introduction to this concept.
– Common Core fails to teach in K-8 about key geometrical concepts such as the area of a triangle, sum of angles in a triangle, isosceles and equilateral triangles, or constructions with a straightedge and compass that good state standards include.
There is already evidence that book publishers’ revisions to texts that align with the standards are highly likely to be “inquiry-based”. Discovery and group learning approaches to math have had poor results when they have been used in classrooms across the country.


Gulliver’s Seventh String:

Neither Local Education Leaders Nor Federal Educational Leaders Value American Rights

• A current Utah State School Board member said to me, “I have always understood it is the principle of “equality” not “freedom” that was the guiding principle of our constitution… I have always understood the theme to be equality… you continue to reference freedom over equality.”
• The Dept. of Education has created regions for all America. These regions are to be answerable to the Department of Education. The creation of regional identities ignores the existence of states and consequently, of states’ rights, under the Constitution. This is a dangerous affront to our rights as states.
• Predestining kids: Secretary Arne Duncan says the government needs to control education and teachers via data-driven decisions. The data will be collected: “… so that every child knows on every step of their educational trajectory what they’re going to do.” He says, “You should know in fifth and sixth and seventh and eighth grade what your strengths are, what you weaknesses are.” He’s talking about a managed society, not a free society, where children are to be compliant tools for the government’s purposes, not the other way around.
• The Utah Data Alliance, SLDS system, and the federal Department of Education each seek data at all costs, even without parental consent. Sec. Duncan often says, ”We have to be transparent about our data.” (What Duncan really means is, states have to be transparent about their data to be supervised by the federal government– which is not Constitutional by any stretch of the imagination.)

Duncan’s data transparency statement explains much: why Duncan aims to triangulate data Common Core tests which will be collected and compared under his (unconstitutionally) watchful eye; why Duncan rewrote FERPA regulations without authority or Congressional oversight, why the Department of Education paid states to create SLDS systems to track citizens; why federally, states are pushed to have P-20 tracking councils, and more.
Duncan’s desire to grab private data is further illustrated by the changes Duncan has led in redefining key terms.
For example, you may notice that federal education leaders seldom refer to this movement as the Common Core. They use a code phrase (you can verify this on the definitions page at ed.gov) which is “college and career readiness”. But that code phrase is a deception. College and Career Readiness does not mean what you think it means; there is a new mediocrity to the standards which has made the same standards appropriate for 4 year universities, 2 year colleges, and technical colleges. It has essentially dumbed down the expectations for 4 year universities. So college readiness actually means nothing other than common and mediocre standards. By this definition, states can’t be preparing students for college unless standards are the same as every other state’s and country’s standards. It’s like the old Ford Advertisement: You can Have Any Color As Long as it’s Black.” Secretary Duncan’s version is– “You can have any standards as long as they are the exact same as all other states’ standards.”
Another phrase you’ll hear a lot is “world class education” which doesn’t mean “excellent education.” It means “non-competitive education.” Yikes. Some other phrases that have been officially redefined by the Dept. of Education in federal regulations are: “authorized representative” “education program” and “directory information”
What is the effect of these re-definings?
According to a group that has sued the Dept. of Education, the Electronic Privacy Information Center, this redefining has removed legal duties for state and local educational facilities that used to be in place to protect private student data.
The redefinings open up what used to be tightly protected. But why?
Because the Dept. of Education is using the testing consortia to triangulate the tests and to oversee the data collection. They want access to the data. Words give them access. This brings me to Gulliver’s string, and it’s a whopper.


Gulliver’s Eighth String: Invading Citizen Privacy

The eighth string tying us down, Gulliver-like, is a set of horrific privacy violations. It begins with the fact that Utah built a State Longitudinal Database System (SLDS) system, as required by the federal government in exchange for money. The SLDS was supposed to be a benefit to Utahns. The argument was that the more data they collect, the smarter decisions could be made about education. It sounded logical at first.

But the SLDS tracks children from preschool through workforce. It interacts with six other Utah state governmental agencies, beyond the K-12 system. It essentially guides and monitors citizens.

When I found out about this, I wanted to opt out for my children. I asked the Utah State Office of Education myself whether it is even allowed to have a student attend a school without being tracked by the Utah Data Alliance and the federal SLDS.

They finally gave me a straight answer, after I nagged them many a time, finally, and it was simply ”No.”No child, no citizen may escape tracking. We are all being closely tracked. Schools are the starting point.

Unknown to most parents, children’s data is being shared beyond the school district with six agencies inside the Utah Data Alliance and with UTREX, according to Utah Technology Director John Brandt. The student data is further to be “mashed” with federal databases, according to federal Education Dept. Chief of Staff Joanne Weiss: http://blogs.edweek.org/edweek/inside-school-research/2012/07/ed_urges_states_to_make_data_s.html

While Utah’s John Brandt assures us that only a handful of people in Utah have access to the personally identifiable data of children, recent alterations to federal FERPA (Famly Education Rights Privacy Act) regulations which were made by the U.S. Dept of Education, as we noted earlier, have radically redefined terms and widened the window of groups who can access private data without parental consent. (For more on that, see the lawsuit against the U.S. Dept of Education on the subject: http://epic.org/apa/ferpa/default.html)

In America, a law is a representative thing. Laws are made by people who either directly vote for that law, or who vote for a representative who votes for a law. Then the people must obey the law, or be forcibly punished.
But watch out for rules and regulations, which are not laws, and which come from unelected boards with appointed members who cannot be repealed by us. Rules and regulations are a form of nonrepresentation, and can be dangerous. Common Core is quickly becoming a snare because of its rules and regulations. FERPA regulatory changes are a prime example. Congress never changed the privacy law that FERPA was written originally to be. But the Department of Education made un-approved regulatory changes to FERPA that are being treated as if they were law today.

Our schools (teachers, adminstrators, and even State Office of Education workers) are being used: used to collect private data, both academic and nonacademic, about our children and their families.

I choose the word “used” because I do not believe they are maliciously going behind parents’ backs. They are simply expected to comply with whatever the U.S. Dept. of Education asks them to do. And the Dept. of Education is all for the “open data” push as are some notable Utahns, such as Utah Technology Director John Brandt and even some BYU Education professors, notably David Wiley. I have heard these men speak and they are passionate about getting data at all costs, even at the cost of not pausing for students’ parental consent.

What it means: Courses taken, grades earned, every demographic piece of information, including family names, attitudes and income, can now legally be known by the government via schools.

The U.S. Dept. of Education’s own explanation is here, showing why SLDS systems exist: http://www2.ed.gov/programs/slds/factsheet.html

There are 12 elements that states had to share or they would not have received ARRA stimulus money. The twelve elements of the SLDS (State longitudinal data system) include enrollment history, demographic characteristics, student’s scores on tests; info on students, even those who are not tested; transcripts, grades earned; whether they enrolled in remedial courses; and the sharing of data from preschool through postsecondary systems.

While all this data gathering could theoretically, somehow, benefit a child, or community, it can definitely hurt a child. Denial of future opportunities, based on ancient academic or behavioral history, comes to mind. The databases are to share data with anybody they define as “authorized.”

The now-authorized groups who will access student data will most likely include the A-list “philanthropists” like Bill Gates, as well as corporate educational sales groups (Microsoft, Pearson, Wireless Generation, and K-12 Inc., Achieve, Inc., SBAC, PARCC, NGA, CCSSO, for example) as well as federal departments that are far outside of education, such as the military, the workforce agencies, etc.)

Furthermore, even psychometric and biometric data (such as student behavioral qualities, DNA, iris and fingerprints) are also acceptable data collection points, to the Dept. of Education (verify: http://www2.ed.gov/policy/gen/guid/fpco/pdf/ferparegs.pdf )

Verify these facts on the government’s public sites, such as:

http://www2.ed.gov/programs/slds/factsheet.html

http://www.dataqualitycampaign.org/stateanalysis/states/UT/

http://www.utahdataalliance.org/links.shtml

http://nces.ed.gov/forum/datamodel/edview/edview.aspx?class=StudentTracking

In Closing:

Our country is a miracle in the history of the earth. No other country has ever had such a Constitution that limits and spreads out the power of the government to ensure the maximum liberty of each individual, balancing the need for limited government to prevent anarchy. It is important to understand the document. “The powers not delegated to the United States Government are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people.” Nothing could be more clear. It is unconstitutional for the federal government to exercise any power over education.

Our Department of Education is aware of this. Recent speeches by Secretary of Education Arne Duncan include the fact that the Department is “limited” in this country. Yes, very limited. Like, not allowed at all.

We may not be able to take back all the ground we have lost by allowing the federal government to dictate regulations to us in return for our own tax money. But we must not allow them any further ground.

The states (except for the handful of states that rejected Common Core) are otherwise like the neighbor who does not know where his rights are and can never know when they are taken and is thus unable to defend them. This neighbor believes he owns a piece of ground which his neighbor also claims, but he doesn’t know its boundaries. The other neighbor continues to encroach further and further onto land which the first neighbor suspects is his, but since he is never certain where the boundary is, he cannot stop the encroachment.

Until we take a firm position and say: “no further,” there is no line. Unless we remember our rights, we have none. My hope is that as a state, we will say “no further,” and hold onto our own right to educate our own children without interference.

Common Core does not improve college readiness. The educational value of the standards is low. And even if they were to be significantly improved, remember that educational standards are meaningless without political freedom.

There is no amendment process for Common Core. The standards have no checks and balances. Common Core was never voted upon. Common Core administrators cannot be recalled by a vote. Common Core represents an assumption of power never delegated by the voice of the people. The Common Core Initiative has transferred sovereignty from states to a collective controlled by the National Governors’ Association and by the Council of Chief State School Officers. It also transferred educational sovereignty from states to testing groups to be overseen by the Department of Education.

We must realize the strength of our position as states under the U.S. Constitution, and must hold up the Constitution, thus holding the Dept. of Education away from monitoring and directing states’ education.


Senator Mike Fair of South Carolina stated: In adopting Common Core, states have sold their birthright without even getting the mess of pottage. He is right.
Currently, thousands of people have signed the petition at Utahns Against Common Core. Websites and organizations are forming all over the country to fight Common Core. At least six U.S. Governors staunchly oppose Common Core. The majority of Utah legislators have said they oppose it.   Americans deserve high quality education without federal interference and this will not happen without first dropping all ties to the Common Core Initiative.

Please let state leaders and school boards know we expect them to be valiant in that effort.
Thank you.

—–  —–  —–

Contact information: Utah Governor Herbert  801-538-1000 Utah State School Board. Board@schools.utah.gov

State Technology Director / leader of Utah Data Alliance: john.brandt@schools.utah.gov

Utah State Superintendent: martell.menlove@schools.utah.gov

Assistant Superintendent: judy.park@schools.utah.gov

Utah State Office of Education: Brenda.Hales@schools.utah.gov

Senate Education Committee members – (801) 538-1035

Stuart C.  Reid screid@le.utah.gov

Patricia W. Jones pjones@le.utah.gov

Mark B. Madsen  mmadsen@le.utah.gov

Wayne L. Niederhauser wniederhauser@le.utah.gov

Aaron Osmond – aosmond@le.utah.gov

Howard A. Stephenson hstephenson@le.utah.gov

Jerry W. Stevenson – :jwstevenson@le.utah.gov

Stephen H. Urquhart – surquhart@le.utah.gov

Documentary Movie on Anti-American Education   6 comments

I just finished watching a documentary called “Agenda: Grinding America Down,” which you can access here: https://vimeo.com/52009124

I learned a lot.

At 52 minutes, it discusses why the hard left has tried so hard to take over education, turning children into willing tools and dependents upon the socialist state rather than individuals with self-reliance, intellect and moral character. The left pushes “social justice” in schools (meaning, we must steal from the rich, to redistribute to the poor) and teaches “relative truth” rather than truth. At 58:15 the film discusses the education unions and cites the National Education Association platform as being openly anti-parent. At 1:00 it discusses an NEA resolution to take children from parents as close to birth as possible. It discusses the new “pledge to the world” that is replacing the “pledge to the US flag” that is being chanted in an increasing number of schools.

Without using schools as a vehicle of socialist propaganda, these socialist/communist revolutionaries would never have been able to change the thinking of the majority of Americans from traditional, Constitutional Americanism to socialism (which they have successfully done, as evidenced by the latest Obama election.)

    If there is any doubt where Arne Duncan, Sec. of the Dept. of Education, is pushing our American education system (using Common Core as a vehicle) please compare his speeches– here–

http://find.ed.gov/search?client=default_frontend&output=xml_no_dtd&proxystylesheet=default_frontend&q=arne+duncan+speech&sa.x=0&sa.y=0

–to the constitution of Communist Party USA.

Here’s the link: http://www.cpusa.org/cpusa-constitution/

Unbelievable, yes.

Yet there it is, in writing.

Call to Action   Leave a comment

The Utah Legislative Session begins in two weeks. It is short.

Please call legislators, state school board members and Governor Herbert and ask for the following:

•   UT LEGISLATORS MUST WRITE FREEING LEGISLATION – Utah should reclaim its educational sovereignty by following the lead of states such as Indiana and South Carolina which are attempting to break free of Common Core by writing legislation that halts it.

 

WHY?

•   PRIVACY ISSUES – Common Core testing requires that every student be tracked using personally identifiable information that is sent beyond the local school and district to six Utah agencies (Utah Data Alliance) and uses the federally instated “State Longitudinal Database System” (SLDS) which allows interoperability for all states and federal oversight. The Dept. of Education has been sued because it altered Family Educational Rights Privacy Act (FERPA) regulations without congressional approval to empower common core testing data to be accessed by them and others. These alterations redefine terms such as “authorized representative,” “directory information” and “educational program” to remove the obligation of school systems to keep family information private.

•  NO COST ANALYSIS – It is utterly irresponsible to have no cost analyis on Common Core. One of Texas’ and Virginia’s reasons for rejecting it was financial. Texas estimated $560 million just in CC professional development costs. Utah just spent $39 million just on CC test development alone. Corporations such as Pearson, Microsoft, Wireless Generation, and countless others will become wealthy at students’ learning expense and at taxpayer expense as they implement the mandates of common core in textbooks, teacher development courses and technology and sell them to us.

NO ACADEMIC ANALYSIS – The standards and the preschool- through-workforce system they promote (P-20 system) are not only what amounts to an unfunded mandate; they are academically inferior to what we had before and far inferior to what top states (Massachusetts) had before.  The line about “rigor” is a false claim, especially at the high school level. Members of the official CC validation committee Dr. Sandra Stotsky and Dr. James Milgram refused to sign off that these standards were rigorous or legitimate. We note that CC was written without input from any of the major curriculum research universities and is an unpiloted experiment without any metric to measure intended or unintended consequences. Its harms are less marked for lower grades, yet it slashes classic literature by 70% for high school seniors and dramatically dumbs down high school math.

ILLEGALITY ISSUES – There is a Constitutional ban on federal direction of instruction which is underscored in the 10th amendment and further clarified in a law called the General Educational Provisions Act. Yet the Dept. of Education has gone around the law and congress to promote the copyrighted CC standards (developed by the National Governors’ Association and the Council of Chief State School Officers) and has put a 15% cap on top of it, so that no state may add freely to the supposed “minimum” standards. Additionally, the CC national tests are written specifically to CC standards, to divest the 15% allowance of states’ “wiggle room” of meaning. The Dept. of Education has coerced states into adopting the CC, using the lure of possible grant monies, and this financial incentivization has not put the best academic interests of children first.

Additionally, share a video link:

There are five short videos which explain Common Core very simply and with verifiable references  (point out that the State Office of Education does not provide references for claims in any explanation of what Common Core is.)

There are 5 videos and each is short.  The American Principles Project created them, with Concerned Women of Georgia.

http://stopcommoncore.com/youtube-channel-dvd/

Common Core 101 Video   Leave a comment

What is Common Core?

Watch these Common Core 101 videos by the American Principles Project and Concerned Women of Georgia. Then, please share links with others.

Part 1:
Chapter 1 Origins of the Common Core
Chapter 2 Testing Mandates

Part 2:
Chapter 3 Education Without Representation
Chapter 4 Sub-Standard Standards

Part 3:
Chapter 5 Intrusive Data Tracking
Chapter 6 High Price Tag

Part 4:

Chapter 7 National Standards Do More Harm Than Good
Chapter 8 Future Effect of Common Core

Part 5:

Christopher Tienken on Common Core as Education Malpractice   4 comments

Professor Tienken of Seton Hall University has been writing about the follies of education reform for many years. He simply doesn’t put up with the ongoing unreferenced claims that proponents of Common Core are parroting one to another.  He writes:

“Connecting an individual’s education achievement on a standardized test to a nation’s economic future is not empirically or logically acceptable and using that mythical connection for large-scale policymaking is civically reckless. When education leaders and those who prepare them parrot that argument they actually provide credence to that anti-intellectual myth. When school administrators implement programs and policies built on those faulty arguments, they commit education malpractice.”

-Dr. Christopher Tienken, Seton Hall University

More by Dr. Tienken:

http://mathforum.org/kb/servlet/JiveServlet/download/323-2289422-7524512-690019/att1.html

http://www.aasa.org/uploadedFiles/Publications/Newsletters/JSP_Winter2011.FINAL.pdf

http://www.aasa.org/uploadedFiles/Publications/Journals/AASA_Journal_of_Scholarship_and_Practice/Winter_10_FINAL.pdf

More about Dr. Tienken:

http://thebellnews.com/2013/01/07/debunking-the-common-core-the-emperors-new-clothes-narrative/

http://www.missourieducationwatchdog.com/2013/01/best-research-award-winner-says-common.html?spref=fb

Video: Bill Evers of Stanford’s Hoover Institute on Ed Reform   Leave a comment

http://www.pjtv.com/s/GEYTGMRR

http://www.pjtv.com/s/GEYTGMRR

Protest in Australia Against Our Corporate Reformers   Leave a comment

Protest in Australia Against Our Corporate Reformers.

I just had to share this link to an essay by an Australian teacher who mourns for real education.

“Insipid Brew of Gobbledy-Gook” – Professor Laura Gibbs on Common Core Writing Standards   8 comments

University of Oklahoma professor Laura Gibbs has given her permission to post her pointed observations

 about the Common Core writing standards here:

COMMON CORE WRITING STANDARDS = BLAH BLAH BLAH

by Laura Gibbs

In light of the brouhaha about David Coleman, Common Core and informational reading, I thought I would see what I could find out.

I went to the language arts standards and, as always, I found the usual blah blah blah – http://www.corestandards.org/the-standards/english-language-arts-standards – but there is nothing that gives any clue about balance; if there is a hidden agenda to drive out fiction in favor of non-fiction, that is not clear from the standards. However, what is clear from the standards, in my opinion, is that they offer NOTHING of substance to really change how writing is being taught in this country.

As someone who teaches writing, esp. narrative writing, I find nothing here that makes me feel like students who go through this Common Core system will be any better prepared than the students I have now.

ADDENDUM: I did post about what I personally would prefer to see here: https://plus.google.com/111474406259561102151/posts/RfejMC8wH5A

Worse, reading through the standards makes it really hard for me to understand how and why people take this kind of thing seriously.

I’m a practical, problem-solving kind of person. I don’t see how these standards do anything practical here to help us in the problems that students face in their writing skills. Note the conscious use of the word SKILLS here -

I believe very much in the teaching of skills, but the blah-blah-blah of these standards does not give me a vocabulary of skills I can use to develop a curriculum and inspire my students to see themselves as skilled writers. Instead, I see here an insipid brew of gobbledy-gook that MASQUERADES as being a sequence of standards, but really – what is happening here between Grades 6 and 12, during six years of students’ lives as writers? I would really like to hear from any teachers out there who find the way these standards are written to be helpful in any way, shape or form in guiding a writing curriculum:

Here is the Grade 6 standard for narrative writing:
Write narratives to develop real or imagined experiences or events using effective technique, relevant descriptive details, and well-structured event sequences.
Grade 7: verbatim identical to Grade 6
Grade 8: verbatim identical to Grade 6
Grades 9-10: Now it says “well-chosen details” instead of “relevant descriptive details”… huh? Were they just embarrassed to keep copying and pasting from one grade to the next?
Write narratives to develop real or imagined experiences or events using effective technique, well-chosen details, and well-structured event sequences.
Grades 11-12: verbatim identical to Grades 9-10

It’s too tedious to really do this for all the substandards, but here’s just one example of a narrative writing sub-standard:

Grade 6:
Provide a conclusion that follows from the narrated experiences or events.
Grade 7: Oh look, now the conclusion “reflects on” the narration, instead of just following from it:
Provide a conclusion that follows from and reflects on the narrated experiences or events.
Grade 8: Verbatim identical to Grade 7.
Grades 9-10: Oh look, now they have decided that we are going to study not “narrated experiences or events” but “what is experienced, observed, or resolved over the course of the narrative” – in other words, we will change one blah-blah-blah for another blah-blah-blah.
Provide a conclusion that follows from and reflects on what is experienced, observed, or resolved over the course of the narrative.
Grades 11-12: Verbatim identical to Grades 9-10.

Just to prove I am not being a Momus here, let’s take one more substandard:
Grade 6:
Use precise words and phrases, relevant descriptive details, and sensory language to convey experiences and events.
Grade 7: verbatim identical to Grade 6
Grade 8: Oh look, now we will “capture the action” (I guess we were not capturing action before now):
Use precise words and phrases, relevant descriptive details, and sensory language to capture the action and convey experiences and events.
Grades 9-10: Oh look, now instead of “relevant descriptive details” we have “telling details” (???), and now instead of “capture the action and convey experiences and events” we will “convey a vivid picture of the experiences, events, setting, and/or characters.” That is worse than no change at all – just one kind of blah-blah-blah replacing another kind of blah-blah-blah.
Use precise words and phrases, telling details, and sensory language to convey a vivid picture of the experiences, events, setting, and/or characters.
Grades 11-12: verbatim identical to Grades 9-10.

Now, I personally find this kind of puffery to be a waste of time, but if we are going to engage in such puffery at least it should accomplish something, right?

But what this tells me is that teachers are going to be doing the same thing as they teach writing between Grades 6 and 12. Which is probably a good reason just to abolish the factory-based model of putting students in grades anyway, ha ha… but I suspect it is instead just a way for the textbook publishers to publish separate, expensive textbooks for every grade – even though the SO-CALLED “standards for narrative writing” in Grades 6-12 are not changing in any meaningful way from grade to grade.

Laura Gibbs (Ph.D., UC Berkeley) teaches mythology and folklore at the University of Oklahoma.

NY Teacher William Johnson: Not Happy About Common Core in English Classrooms   1 comment

New York teacher William Johnson writes “classroom dispatches” for the Gotham Schools website.

http://gothamschools.org/2012/11/14/common-english-and-its-domain-specific-vocabulary/

Many teachers are caught in the spiral of silence, afraid to speak about the problems of Common Core for fear of losing their jobs.

I understand why they don’t want to make waves.  But I deeply respect the teachers like Susan Wilcox, David Cox, Kris Nielsen, Stephen Round and William Johnson, who do dare to speak their minds.  Today I’m highlighting New York teacher William Johnson who writes at the Gotham Schools website.

His observations about the absurd vocabulary requirements of Common Core and its disrespect of the English teacher and the English classroom are insightful.

Johnson writes:

“Thanks to the Common Core, this year a series of “Shifts in ELA/Literacy” will be imposed upon English teachers across the country. These shifts require, among other things, that English teachers spend less time on “esoteric literary terms … such as ‘onomatopoeia’ or ‘homonym’” and more time on “pivotal and commonly found words…such as ‘discourse,’ ‘generation,’ ‘theory,’ and ‘principled.’”

It’s worth noting that not one of the terms identified as “pivotal” under these common core shifts is specific to the discipline of English. This is particularly interesting given the Common Core’s insistence on “domain-specific” vocabulary….

Why do the folks behind the Common Core think domain-specific vocabulary isn’t important when it comes to English? Again, the language used to describe the new Common Core approach highlights the ways that these standards will change the goal of English study from understanding and mastery of literature and literary writing to “constantly build[ing] students’ ability to access more complex texts across the content areas.” In other words, the goal of English class will become helping students read texts for their other subject areas — the ones that really matter, like math.

…Unfortunately, the folks behind the Common Core have made it abundantly clear that they see little value in having students understand literature.

Over and over again, Common Core advocates have promoted teaching “informational texts” over literature. According to the Common Core, more than 50 percent of high school English curricula are supposed to consist of informational texts.

By 12th grade, the Common Core recommends that 70 percent of the texts students read in English be informational, not literary.”

Full Text:   http://gothamschools.org/2012/11/14/common-english-and-its-domain-specific-vocabulary/

In another article, Johnson writes: 

“The truth is, teachers don’t need elected officials to motivate us. If our students are not learning, they let us know. … Good administrators use the evaluation processes to support teachers and help them avoid those painful classroom moments — not to weed out the teachers who don’t produce good test scores or adhere to their pedagogical beliefs.

Worst of all, the more intense the pressure gets, the worse we teach. When I had administrators breathing down my neck, the students became a secondary concern. … I was scared of losing my job, and my students suffered for it.” 

Full Text: http://gothamschools.org/2012/03/05/from-near-and-far-responses-pour-in-to-bad-teacher-essay/

—   —   —   —   —   —   —   —   —

Thank you, William Johnson.

Weber County Common Core Information Meeting   Leave a comment

I have accepted the invitation to speak about the Common Core Initiative

this Monday at the Weber County Republican Women’s Meeting.

  If you live in or around Ogden, you are invited, and I look forward to meeting you.

 January 7, 2012

at noon at Jeremiah’s Restaurant, just off the 12th street I-15 exit

 1307 W 12th St Ogden, Utah

Heartland Institute: Why Are Tax-Funded Common Core Meetings Closed To the Public?   Leave a comment

This article was posted today by Heartland Institute:  http://news.heartland.org/print/133949

Tax-Sponsored Common Core Meetings Closed to Public

January 3, 2013

Though 46 states will spend an estimated $5 to $12 billion [2] to implement a new set of national education standards called the Common Core, public officials are arranging these standards in hundreds of closed-door meetings.

 

Meetings between members of the Council of Chief State School Officers to write and discuss these standards and corresponding tests are closed to the public, though taxpayers pay for state officials to attend these meetings and to be CCSSO members.

 

“[T]he Council of Chief State School Officers holds over one hundred meetings per year,” its meeting webpage states [3]. “CCSSO meetings are closed to the public and attendance is by invitation only unless otherwise denoted” (emphasis original).

 

CCSSO and the National Governor’s Association are two nonprofits that coordinated state involvement and adoption of the Core. It outlines what states will expect K-12 children to know in math and English/language arts in each grade. Nearly all states adopted them in 2010 within five months of their release, and plan to fully implement them, along with matching tests currently in development, by 2014-2015.

 

“What was behind those policies, what was considered, the different elements that went into them, the ideas that went into them—it’s a black box,” said Bill Allison, editorial director at the Sunlight Foundation, a public transparency watchdog. “The public do have the right to know the laws that are going to affect them and their families, especially when they’re paying for them.”

 

Millions From States State membership in each related CCSSO committee costs $16,000 each year, and states can and do participate in several committees. Lead state Indiana, for example, participates in the math and social studies committees, where 23 and 10 states, respectively, are members, said Indiana Department of Education spokesman Adam Baker. On its latest financial statement, the CCSSO reported $2,187,626 in revenue from membership dues for all activities in 2011.

 

Multiply just one membership fee by 46 participating states for a minimum of $736,000 in tax dollars the CCSSO receives each year for an initiative reshaping nearly every textbook, replacing nearly all state tests, overhauling teacher training nationwide, providing the basis to measure teachers, and creating nationwide data repositories for student grades, behavior, attendance, and more.

 

Despite this monumental impact and tax sponsorship, CCSSO activities are largely hidden to taxpayers because it is a nongovernmental nonprofit. This means its meetings and paperwork are not subject to open records laws that let the public find what their money is funding.

 

Frustrated Parents Indiana resident Heather Crossin, whose children attend schools implementing the Core, attempted to attend an October 2012 CCSSO meeting in her Indianapolis hometown. Crossin called Michele Parks, a CCSSO meeting planner, to see if she could attend. No, Parks said. Crossin asked to see a list of people on the Social Studies standards writing team: “I was told that was not available for public release,” Crossin said.

 

Ten weeks entailing dozens of emails and phone calls to at least six CCSSO spokesmen and personnel for access to the Indianapolis meeting or any others at last yielded an email to School Reform News from spokeswoman Kate Dando in December: “our meetings/sessions at our meetings are open to press really on a case by case basis,” she wrote.

 

Some reporters have attended some CCSSO meetings, usually on background, she said, which means they cannot directly quote what they hear. Why?

 

“It’s going to be reported that X state said this about their progress,” Carrie Heath Phillips, CCSSO’s Common Core director, told SRN. “When they have those conversations, we keep that protected, but it depends on the meeting and topic.”

 

Federal Tax Sponsorship CCSSO receives tax money from more than state dues. It receives millions from the U.S. Department of Education.

“Approximately 13% and 33% of the Council’s revenue and 25% and 34% of accounts receivable were provided by U.S. Department of Education grants or contracts for fiscal years 2011 and 2010, respectively,” the nonprofit’s 2010-2011 financial statement reads.

 

Applying the 2011 percentage to that year’s revenues yields an estimated $3,450,930 in CCSSO revenue from the federal government, just in that year. In 2011, $558,000 came from the 2009 stimulus bill for CCSSO’s involvement with one of two networks creating new tests to fit the standards.

 

In 2010, the U.S. DOE granted those two networks $330 million in stimulus funds. This action, more than any other, led conservative supporters of the Common Core to complain of federal interference in education, a constitutionally protected state function.

 

‘Outsourcing a Core State Function’ CCSSO and NGA are member organizations where states pay dues to belong, like the left-vilified American Legislative Exchange Council, said Emmett McGroarty, director of the American Principles Project’s child rights initiative.

 

NGA would not release member dues information to APP, he said. CCSSO did give basic information about membership costs, but not about what specific states paid them.

 

States have historically created education standards in public meetings, with related documents also a matter of public record, Allison noted.

 

“The state is outsourcing a core state function to an outside organization that is then outsourcing to other organizations, and you can’t have the parental and legislator input you normally should,” Allison said. “Education is the future and I do think people have the right to know who is writing the curriculum.”

 

Joy Pullmann is a research fellow of The Heartland Institute and managing editor of School Reform News

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