Archive for January 2014
New York parents are launching their children’s Common Core math homework — AT Governor Cuomo.
Mark Ferreris, a leader in Stop Common Core in New York State, came up with the idea of sending the children’s homework to the Governor. Tired of seeing their children “suffer each night with abusive, age-inappropriate homework that destroys both their self-esteem and their freedom to truly learn,” Ferreris and other organizers planned the campaign and created a public Facebook event page at Stop Common in New York State, set for February 28, 2014: https://www.facebook.com/events/1433445366892441/
New York parents will simply send their child’s homework via email or regular mail to Governor Cuomo. They plan to title each email or tweet: “CAN YOU DO THIS? –Because Our Children Can’t.”
“Let him get a taste of the suffocating, mind-numbing curriculum that he’s helped shove down our children’s throats which will enslave their impressionable minds….. It’s simple, it’s quick and it’s for YOUR CHILDREN…. Flood him with emails daily or send weekly updates to him,” said organizers.
If you are in New York, here is the contact information for your governor:
Governor Andrew M. Cuomo – Office of the Governor – NYS State Capital Building – Albany, NY 12224
Wondering what the homework actually looks like? Here are a few samples.
EngageNY/Common Core Math Homework
This one is from a first grade class:
Governor Cuomo, can you do it?
The next one is from a kindergarten class. (Where are the plus, minus, or equals signs? What is a “number bond”?)
This next one is for second graders. It could as well be for college students; it makes no sense.
Here’s one for third graders that avoids simplicity and clarity, deliberately:
Here’s a video created by Stop Common Core in New York State: “Governor Cuomo, Can You Hear Us: 20,000?”
Dear Governor Herbert,
Let’s be like Indiana! The support of the State Superintendent Ritz and Governor Pence are making it possible for the people to reclaim local control of education. Indiana’s dropping Common Core. We in Utah should do the same, rather than continually giving lip service to local autonomy.
Please, fellow Utahns– write often to our Utah leaders. Let them know what is going on in national education reform and pushback, since our local newspapers rarely do. Tell them what you want them to do. They are supposed to represent us– not D.C. corporations or agencies of the federal government. We must speak up.
Missouri Representative Kurt Bahr and Representative Bryan Spencer are running a bill to put a stop to the Common Core.
Read it here.
If you are in Missouri, here is the directory of all MO representatives. If you see your rep’s name as a co-sponsor, give him or her a call and let him or her know how grateful you are. If not, shoot your rep and email and ask him or her to sponsor this bill.
My concerns about the academic merits of Common Core paled in comparison to the much larger issue of the loss of freedom and the stripping away of local control – Alisa Ellis
Picture a bread-baking, fun-loving, church-going, small-town mother of seven –who was never politically active, who never even used to vote, –picture her becoming a sudden political activist who now travels across Utah and to other states to speak to live audiences, radio audiences, and on t.v. about the Common Core Initiative. Let me tell you a little bit about Alisa Ellis, a woman whose motto is, “I do not live in fear.”
To Alisa, education had always been important. She and her husband liked to say that they were proudly raising a family of nerds. They were the kind of parents who volunteered in the classroom. They were the kind who paid attention.
But their introduction to the educational transformation of America known as Common Core came in 2011, long after the initiative had been adopted by the state. (2011 is a whole year after the Utah state school board adopted Common Core without public knowledge or vetting; and it was two years after the state had agreed to accept the federal $9.6 million to create an “SLDS” student tracking database.)
Alisa received a Common Core pamphlet at a parent-teacher conference.
She stared at it. She puzzled. She asked the teacher to explain.
“I didn’t know how one size-fits-all would work without hurting the top and bottom students,” she recalls. But when she asked the teacher to expound on the subject, that teacher didn’t know anything.
Alisa began to ask around.
“I asked everyone I knew for their thoughts on Common Core. I tried researching online but everything was fluff,” she said, “It was nine months before I was invited to a meeting to learn more.”
One day at the grocery store, she bumped into a friend who actually knew something about the Common Core Initiative. The conversation lasted a long time. The friend invited Alisa to come to a “Cornerstone of Freedom” meeting to learn more. The friend added, “Oh, and would you make a few comments?”
Alisa thought that meant that she should raise her hand and make comments. She found out, during the meeting, that she was an actual scheduled speaker– after the other speaker.
“I saw my name on the schedule and immediately panicked. I pulled out my tablet and started researching ‘What is Common Core?’ After a few minutes, I realized it was pointless and I would be better off just sharing my concerns.”
She told the audience of her concerns which had begun with the Common Core pamphlet at the parent/teacher conference. She told the story of another meeting, a gifted-and-talented informational meeting, where the director said that next year, teachers would ‘start digging deeper.’
(“Digging deeper? That same line was repeated so many times that I knew I was being fed something,” she explained.)
She also told the audience another story: a school guidance counselor had advised her to take her son out of AP history. The counselor had said that her son’s “career track was more along the lines of engineering.”
He’d said, based on Alisa’s son’s ACT practice test, that: “clearly your son isn’t going to be a history professor, so we should pull him out of AP world history and put him in a class that follows his career path.” Because Alisa had trusted the system, she hadn’t questioned the counselor’s advice so she pulled her son out of AP history. This was a decision she later regretted.
Alisa started digging more deeply into the whole Common Core Initiative. She read the state’s Memorandum of Understanding with the developers of the Common Core. She read the Cooperative Agreement. She saw how the State Longitudinal Database System intertwined with the academic standards and tests. She read speeches by secretary of education Arne Duncan. She read the No Child Left Behind documents and waivers. She read the implementation manuals that were sent out to governors to tell them how to promote Common Core. She read documents by Achieve, Inc., the group that helped create the standards for the copyrighters. She could hardly believe that the Common Core’s takeover of local control was out in the open, yet unknown by virtually everyone who ought to know about it.
“My concerns about the academic merits of Common Core paled in comparison to the much larger issue of the loss of freedom and the stripping away of local control,” she said.
She went with her friend, Renee Braddy, to meet with local teachers, principals, local school board members, the community council, and the local superintendent to discuss Common Core. These discussions resulted in the opportunity to make a presentation at the local school board meeting. (That presentation was filmed, and is called Two Moms Against Common Core on YouTube.) The superintendent had asked them not to film their presentation, but since it was an open, public meeting they did anyway. The video was shared around the state and ignited a firestorm of activists to stand up and fight against Common Core. I was among the people who got to see Alisa and Renee’s video the first week it was posted.
Next, Alisa decided it was time to become more active. She became the county delegate to the Republican convention, and before the convention, she started making phone calls to find out which candidates were promoters of Common Core. She found that all the candidates running for national level seats were opposed to Common Core. All the local candidates, aside from the current Governor, were also against it. (Governor Herbert was undecided at the time.) However, the candidates running for state legislature seats were less willing to take a position.
With unflinching determination, she successfully set up two face-to-face meetings with Governor Herbert to discuss Common Core. Then she organized public meetings and helped bring in expert academic witnesses to meet with legislators; she started her blog called Common Core Facts, she repeatedly attended and spoke up at state school board meetings, and she co-founded Utahns Against Common Core with a handful of other Utahns. (That website and petition “Utahns Against Common Core” today has over 8,000 signatures.)
Alisa’s actions, along with other activism happening around the state, eventually helped push Utah’s leadership to agree to withdraw from the SBAC Common Core testing consortia. It was a chink in the seemingly impenetrable armor of Common Core. (Side note: after Utah bowed out of SBAC, other states also began to withdraw from SBAC and PARCC. Sadly, Utah’s state school board subsequently chose to use another Common Core testing entity, AIR, which is partnered with the same SBAC. –But that’s another story.)
From the beginning, Alisa began to get invitations to speak across the state and then from other states. Today, she has probably given over fifty speeches on the subject, in tiny places and large venues, both with other speakers from Utahns Against Common Core and on her own.
This week, she will be speaking in Jackson Hole, Wyoming and in Merriam, Kansas.
You are invited.
What: WHAT YOU HAVEN’T BEEN TOLD ABOUT COMMON CORE: TRACKING YOUR CHILDREN FROM PRE-K INTO THE WORKFORCE
Where: Snow King Resort Teton Room
When: 6:15 PM on January 28, 2014
Who: Speakers will include Amy Edmonds – Wyoming Liberty Group; Alisa Ellis – Utahns Against Common Core; Christy Hooley – Wyoming Teacher; Kelly Simone – Wyoming Citizens Opposing Common Core – Presented by Concerned Women’s Group of Jackson Hole
Cost: Admission free; a donation of any amount to help cover expenses will be appreciated.
What: Alisa Ellis will speak on the history and truth about Common Core and its impact on our children and their education.
When: Tuesday, February 4th, 7:00 pm
Where: Antioch Library – 8700 Shawnee Mission Pkwy, Merriam, KS 66202
Note from the Antioch Library: Besides the library’s parking lot, parking is available behind Taco Bell and to the larger lot west of Taco Bell.
Thank you, Alisa. And thank you, Renee. (I will write about Renee and her adventures another day.)
Dr. Terrence Moore of Hillsdale College speaks in this video about the Common Core standards in a college lecture entitled “Story-Killers: How the Common Core Destroys Minds and Souls”.
The architects of Common Core, Dr. Moore contends, are deliberately killing stories.
First Dr. Moore discusses what Common Core leaves out, in great detail. Then he asks (at minute 16:50) “what kind of mind, indeed what kind of soul will you have after going through this sort of stuff [Common Core high school]?”
He answers. This is the part we must hear.
“Nothing but mischief” is what students are learning that our country has been up to for over two centuries; and, that the past is a dark cloud that has nothing to teach us.
“No appreciation for beauty or heroism or faith” is what students will hold –because they will most likely never have discussed such things in relation to a whole book of classic literature.
“Not too high of an opinion as a family as an institution” nor of the love that holds families together –because no such models are being provided.
“Not to have been invited to love the thing we call good” and “not being taught how to laugh and how to find humor in the human condition” are additional results Dr. Moore sees coming from Common Core English classes.
Common Core high school English classes will take students down one of two roads, says Dr. Moore: either “utter boredom” or, “if you actually took these lessons seriously, down the depressing path of the prematurely jaded, postmodern anti-heroic view of life.”
He calls this movement intellectual and moral debilitation, as it deprives students of the best stories, and as it deprives them of learning about what it means to be human. Whoever controls the narrative, he explains, also controls the politics, the economics, the families, the ways we think, the ways we believe.
What is wrong with the rhetoric surrounding education reform, he asks? The architects of Common Core are simply asserting that their scheme will make students college and career ready, with no proof to back them up. “That is astonishing!” he says.
(Yes, it is.)
The authors of Common Core can point to no successes where this scheme has been tried. So the 45 states that have adopted Common Core, Dr. Moore says, “bought the farm, sight unseen.”
The traditional aims of education: truth, knowledge goodness, virtue, justice, industriousness, and happiness are no longer the aims of education.
“There is no search for happiness in the Common Core,” Dr. Moore says, noting that happiness was one of the main purposes for education according to our founding fathers.
Art, music and literature, he says, which are focused on the human soul, are being seen as increasingly dispensible under Common Core. Modern journalists are seen at the same status level as Shakespeare. “Drive by’s” of literature are now encouraged, rather than the careful, slow reading of a great classic work.
He speaks about the numbers of hours students are being put in front of a computer in the quest to prepare them for jobs. But “Jobs” he says, “do not make the human mind. The human mind makes jobs.”
Then he points out the wordiness and the silliness and the lack of age-appropriateness of many of the standards themselves.
There are pathetically humorous examples, such as why students studying “Frankenstein” don’t actually get asked to read the book.
“I am not making this up. This is straight out of the Common Core State Standards.”
He speaks about the Constitution.
“The scariest thing I actually think is written on the first page of the introduction to the Common Core…and I will read that… ‘The standards are intended to be a living work. As new and better evidence emerges, the standards will be revised accordingly.’ … Who gets to decide what constitutes new and better evidence? … The standards will be rewritten and rewritten again… what states have signed on to, they have no control over whatsoever.”
He says this is the way the progressives are pulling off the takeover. But Moore says that the authors of Common Core made two fundamental mistakes.
“First, they didn’t think that the American people would want to fight for its stories. They thought that the American people with the promises of a globally competitive society (as though we’d never seen that before) somehow would embrace computers and new technologies every new fangled idea in education and forget the fact that we as a nation understand what it means to be a globally competitive society and what we should be doing in the classroom is forming the minds and souls of the nation’s youth and therefore, we need our stories because stories are the thing that form and educate the heart.
“The second thing that they overshot and did not expect is that they simply underestimated the suburban mom. There is nothing that a suburban mom –or any mom, for that matter– cares more about than the heart and happiness of her children.
“And when that comes into danger, suburban moms who vote and who know how to organize themselves (as two ladies in Indiana do, named Heather Crossin and Erin Tuttle) and who can form organizations like Hoosiers Against the Common Core, they will mobilize people and they will take action and state legislatures then have to listen…”
“The issue that is boiling right now (other than Obamacare) in this country right now, is Common Core. And this is a fight over our schools and ultimately the souls and minds of our young people.”
“This is the time to take our stories back. After we do that, we can take our schools back, and once we have our schools back we are on the road to taking our nation back.”
Thank you, Dr. Moore.
I am fascinated with the increasing convergence of honest right-wing thinkers and honest left-wing thinkers in the context of protecting legitimate, locally controlled education and fighting Common Core and its data-mining tentacles. Professor Singer points out in his article not only what Pearson is doing in England and in the U.S., but how these “curious connections” that form alliances between “exceedingly rich men” whether socialists or capitalists, who, together with government boards, are taking over education, literally all over the globe.
People on both sides of the political aisle are feeling similar alarm at the partnershipping of governments and private corporations that is taking away the voice of the voter as it hands over the keys of the American (in this case, also the British) school bus –to that wild and crazy driver known as Sir Michael Barber, CEA of Pearson, self-proclaimed revolutionary.
The article below is reposted with permission from Alan Singer of Hofstra University, and it’s been posted at the Huffington Post. I actually prefer and recommend reading it at the Huffington Post, where helpful links are embedded, so you can fact-check the article for yourself.
For more information about Pearson’s CEA, Sir Michael Barber, and what he stands for, there are several articles I’ve posted previously here and here and here.
Beware! Pearson’s Plan for Education Is Coming to a Country Near You
By Alan Singer, Hofstra University Social Studies Educator, New York
In the United States school districts are traditionally organized and funded locally. Parents, teachers, and school and district administrators usually only think about state and national issues when they feel pressed from above by state imposed budget cuts or federal demands for curriculum change and new assessments. Much of the opposition to Common Core and Race to the Top arose because parents, teachers, and administrators felt local prerogatives were being undermined by unwarranted pressure from above. But an examination of the Pearson publishing mega-giant’s plan to control public education in Great Britain makes clear, the greatest threat to local initiatives in public education may be from powerful global corporations. Beware! The Pearson Plan for education in the United Kingdom may be coming to a country near you — unless we can stop it now.
In March 2013, The Guardian, one of the leading British daily newspapers, published an opinion piece charging that “unelected oligarchs” and “private sponsors” were taking over the British school system. The academy schools discussed in this article sound very similar to the charter school movement in the United States.
“All over England, schools are being obliged to become academies: supposedly autonomous bodies which are often “sponsored” (the government’s euphemism for controlled) by foundations established by exceedingly rich men. The break-up of the education system in this country, like the dismantling of the National Health Service, reflects no widespread public demand. It is imposed, through threats, bribes and fake consultations, from on high.”
The “academy” alternative was supposed to be reserved for failing schools, but according to the article, the reality in Britain is much different. A Department of Education memo makes clear “it is our ambition that academy status should be the norm for all state schools.” Another memo recommended transferring academies out of the state-run school system into the private sector. To achieve these goals, “academy” sponsors appear to be targeting good schools with temporary problems that they can claim to have turned around.
For example, from 2007-2012 the Roke primary school in the community of Croydon in south London was rated “outstanding” by the British government’s quality control department known as OFSTED (Office for Standards in Education, Children’s Services and Skills). However, after several senior staff retired and a computer failure caused a delay in reporting data to inspectors, the school received a “Notice to Improve.” Although the school subsequently met the required standards, it was notified by the British Department for Education that it would be turned into an academy.
In September 2012, the British Department for Education held a closed meeting with school administrators and reportedly told them that if they did not immediately accept the demand to become an “academy,” they would be fired by the local school authority. They threatened that if local school officials did not carry out the order, it would be replaced by an interim board of governors that would. They also warned school administrators not to inform parents about the meeting or the decision.
School administrators at Roke acquiesced and selected the local secondary school as its partner. However, on the last day of the fall term, the Department of Education rejected the plan and paired the school with the “Harris Foundation,” a group founded by the chairman of a large retail store chain with close ties to the ruling Conservative Party. When parents learned of these events they rebelled and unanimously voted to partner with the secondary school. But the community was overruled by the British schools minister, who happens to be a wealthy businessman, a major donor to the British Conservative Party, and a sponsor of the academies plan.
In many ways the strategy for promoting academies in Great Britain is similar to the strategy for promoting charter schools in the United States. Working class and poor families are told the academies are a solution to educational inequality. The academies are also exempt from following national curriculum and are not answerable to local governments. According to one British commentator who has carefully documented the history of the academies, “When threats don’t work, the department resorts to bribery. Schools receive up to an extra £65,000 or over $100,000 in state funds, if they become academies. As a result, the academies program exceeded its budget by £1 billion ($1.6 billion) from 2010 to 2012.
The Guardian is especially concerned about the influence of Pearson, the educational publishing giant, over the so-called educational reform movement in Great Britain. Pearson, originally based in Great Britain but with most of its current revenue from the United States, is at the center of the academy movement. In partnership with the Royal Society of Arts, Pearson funded a study the Guardian suspects will be used to demonstrate the success of the academies scheme.
In addition, Pearson, through its Edexcel subsidy, is the largest testing company in Great Britain with sales totally over £317 million in 2010. It also has a contract to grade achievement tests for English 11-year-olds. Not surprisingly, Pearson sponsored another study to show how the exam system promotes “high standards.” Other Pearson ventures designed to shape educational policy and maybe also boost Pearson corporate profits include “Pearson Think Tank,” funding Oxford University’s Centre for Educational Assessment, and the “Pearson school model.” The “Pearson school model” includes a computer-based curriculum that can be sold to schools, dubbed “the Always Learning Gateway.”
The “Pearson Think Tank” is an excellent example of the way Pearson’s not-for profit policy and research programs and its for-profit corporate activities intersect. According to its website, “Although the Pearson Think Tank is funded by Pearson, it is independent from its commercial activities. We are conscious of any conflicts of interest and operate accordingly, and final decisions about what and when we publish reside with us.” However, “Where possible we try to draw on Pearson’s networks, knowledge and expertise to gather new evidence about educational quality and access that is of interest to the wider sector.”
But the reality is that the Pearson Think Tank is actively promoting Pearson corporate interests. The think tank is working in partnership with the British Academies Commission to examine the implications of the “mass academisation,” or privatization, of Britain’s state run schools. Between May 2010 and November 2012 the number of academized schools increased from about 200 to almost 2,500. As with other Pearson supported “studies,” it somehow aligns with corporate goals. In this case its goal is “to develop a practical but compelling vision for the future of UK academisation” so that “young people experience the benefits of academisation.” The Commission’s report is titled, “Unleashing greatness: Getting the best from an academised system.”
The Pearson Think Tank has also conducted “research” to support the use of Pearson high-stakes tests in the United Kingdom; to promote the type of “enterprise and entrepreneurship education” provided by the Pearson UK online university; and to support “Pearson’s Teacher Training and Certification Programme.”
In praise of Pearson for-profits high-stakes testing programs, the Pearson Think Tank quoted Michael Gove, Great Britain’s Conservative Party Education Secretary who defended the tests as “tools of social mobility” based on human nature because “humans are hard-wired to seek out challenges”; sources of “satisfaction and contentment” for students on “a job well done”; and the basis to “ensure that a solid base of learning is complete before progressing on to further learning.” The tests are great because they “drive creativity” and “signal that a person is ready to take on greater challenge and responsibility.” Unfortunately, there was no research cited to support these over-the-top claims.
The Guardian article quoted Stephen Ball, a professor of the sociology of education at London University’s Institute of Education and an expert on education business, on Pearson’s “educational” ventures. According to Ball:
“They want to offer products and services in all areas of school practice: assessment, pedagogy, curriculum and management, and they want to create the possibility for that through policy work. They want to have indirect influence in policy to create opportunities for business expansion. It’s a very well thought-out business strategy.”
As we know from recent revelations by the Attorney General of New York State, Pearson operates the same way in the United States blurring the lines between its not-for-profit Foundation and its for-profit company. As a penalty and to avoid prosecution the Pearson Foundation agreed to pay $7.5 million into a fund managed by the Attorney General to support education in high-needs schools. When I posted a Huffington Post “Pearson Caught Cheating, Says Sorry, But Will Pay” on the Pearson Foundation Facebook page, Foundation officials responded:
“Pearson and the Foundation maintain we have always acted with the best intentions and complied with the law. However, we recognize that there were times when the governance of the Foundation and its relationship with Pearson could have been clearer and more transparent. The Foundation has adopted a number of reforms to enhance operations and programs and further its charitable mission.”
In the United States, Pearson donates to the Center for American Progress, a think tank with close ties to the Obama White House. John Podesta, Founder and Chair of the Center for American Progress, was Chief of Staff in the Clinton White House and is an important advisor to President Obama. Reports issued by the Center for American Progress have advocated in favor of the national Common Core Standards, changes in teacher preparation programs including alternative certification routes, and the validity of high stakes student assessments, all areas where Pearson for-profit is marketing products and services. While the Center for American Progress is considered a “liberal” think tank, it has some curious conservative and business connections. For example, Ulrich Boser, a Senior Fellow at the Center for American Progress where he analyzes education issues also serves as research director of Leaders and Laggards, a joint project of the Center for American Progress, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, and Rick Hess of the American Enterprise Institute.
I do not think Pearson’s problems in New York State were related to unclarity at all. What is happening in Great Britain makes it perfectly clear, Pearson’s not for-profit activities serve the global profit making goals of the Pearson company. If parents, teachers and students do not organize to resist corporate incursions into American public education, the Pearson Plan for Education will be coming to a country, state, city, town, and school near you!
Thank you, Alan Singer.
Many newspapers, including the Deseret News, carried an op-ed this week by George Will about Common Core. (George F. Will is one of the most widely recognized writers in the world who works with more than 450 newspapers, has a biweekly Newsweek column, and makes frequent political television commentary appearances.)
“Viewed from Washington, which often is the last to learn about important developments, opposition to the Common Core State Standards Initiative still seems as small as the biblical cloud that ariseth out of the sea, no larger than a man’s hand. Soon, however, this education policy will fill a significant portion of the political sky.
The Common Core represents the ideas of several national organizations (of governors and school officials) about what and how children should learn. It is the thin end of an enormous wedge…
… it is more likely there will be half a dozen innovative governors than one creative federal education bureaucracy. And the mistakes made by top-down federal reforms are continental mistakes.
The Obama administration has purchased states’ obedience by partially conditioning waivers from onerous federal regulations (from No Child Left Behind) and receipt of federal largess ($4.35 billion in Race to the Top money from the 2009 stimulus) on the states’ embrace of the Common Core. Although 45 states and the District of Columbia have struck this bargain, most with little debate, some are reconsidering and more will do so as opposition mounts…
… Opposition to the Common Core is surging because Washington, hoping to mollify opponents, is saying, in effect: “If you like your local control of education, you can keep it. Period.” To which a burgeoning movement is responding: “No. Period.”
Click here to read the rest.