Archive for the ‘guest post’ Tag
Guest Post by Alma Ohene-Opare
“Raise your heads out of the dust and realize that America is great because America bucked against the status quo. Thinking a standardized and common core curriculum is innovative is like discovering water in the ocean and patting yourself on the back for it. This system is not new. Its greatest success was to create a conforming working class for the industrial revolution. It is not fit for a dynamic 21st century that needs constant innovation and the confidence to create new solutions to the problems that continue to beset and confound the smartest minds in the world. ”
Alma Ohene-Opare, now a Utahn, is originally from Accra, Ghana. Alma came to the U.S. at age 19, primarily because of what he called “America’s innovative educational system.” He said, “I was educated from K-12th grade in a Common-Core-like educational system. My family (who owns and runs a private K-12 institution) battles daily because of the system.The end result is seemingly educated (on paper) graduates, with no ability to think for themselves, solve problems or innovate in any way. Parents and teachers alike have become conditioned to place the standardized tests at the forefront of education, leading to what we call in Ghana, “Chew and pour, pass and forget.” Here is his story.
Common Core – A Failed Idea Newly Cloaked in the Robes of Good Intentions
My name is Alma Ohene-Opare, an alumnus of BYU and a native of Accra, Ghana. Over the past few months, I have followed with much amusement, the nationwide debate for or against the adoption and implementation of the Common Core standards. The arguments have been fierce and passionate on both sides and seem to stem from a universal desire to raise the quality of education in America. The desire is noble. However, this noble desire will not compensate for or mitigate the empirically documentable effects of the failed policy being proposed.
Common Core may be new to America, but to me and the thousands who have migrated to the United States to seek better educational opportunities, it is in large part the reason we came here. If you are wondering what qualifies me to make the assertions I will make in this article, know this; I am one of the few victims of a standardized national education system in Ghana, who was lucky enough to escape its impact. I am also a member of the Board of Directors of a private K-12 institution in Accra, Ghana. Golden Sunbeam Montessori School was founded by my mother in 1989 and is currently leading the fight to rid our country of an educational system that has led to the systematic degradation and deterioration of our human capital.
Let’s get to the core of my argument; pun intended. What Americans are calling Common Core is eerily similar to my educational experience growing up in Ghana. In Ghana, K-12th grade education was tightly controlled by the Ghana Education Service, an organization similar to the US Department of Education. From curricula to syllabi to standardized testing, the government controlled everything.
In 9th grade, all students, in order to progress to high school are required to take a standardized exam known as the B.E.C.E, which stands for Basic Education Certification Examination. Depending on the results of the test, each student is assigned by a computer program to a public high school without regard to his or her interests, passions or ambitions. Each student is then assigned an area of focus for the next three years. Some of the focus areas are General Science, Business Management, General Arts, Visual Arts, Home Economics, Agriculture, etc.
Although things may have changed slightly since I graduated, most students generally did not have a choice as to which area of focus they were assigned. The only way to get a choice was to ace the standardized exam or to call in a favor either through bribery or some other type of corruption. The students who failed miserably were usually those who attended public schools; many of whom dropped out of school entirely.
The process was then repeated at the end of High School with another standardized exam called the W.A.S.S.S.C.E. This exam tested your readiness for college and ultimately determined which course of study you were assigned by the government in college. I did not ace that exam and did not get admission into the state run college of my choice. Instead, I went to a private university founded by a former Microsoft employee and was found smart enough to be admitted to BYU a year later as a transfer student, to graduate with a Bachelor’s in Information Technology and to be hired right out of college as a Program Manager at Microsoft Corporation.
Although the education system in Ghana is not similar in all aspects to Common Core as it is being proposed today, some of the basic tenets are the same. The curriculum was controlled by an external body without input from or accountability to teachers, individual schools or parents. Some argue that teachers and parents have control in Common Core. It pains me to witness such naivety. That myth has always been an inevitable play by proponents of any centralized system. The goal is to make people think they are in control while nudging them blindly towards a perceived public interest. The truth is simple; the institution that controls the exams, controls the curriculum.
By controlling the standardized exams, each school in Ghana was forced to make passing the exam its primary focus rather than actual teaching and learning. Hence anything that was deemed outside the purview of the test was cast aside and treated as non-important. Extra-curricular activities were cut if not totally eliminated and the school day was lengthened to ensure that students had even more time to prepare for the test.
In my case, school started at 6:00 am and ended as late as 6:00 pm. We attended school on Saturdays. Even when school was out we still attended school half day. Our lives were consumed with preparation for the standardized test. We all had booklets of past tests going back 15 years. Those who anticipated failing the test registered in advance to retake the test. The value of teachers was measured solely on the performance of their students on the standardized tests. Scammers who purported to know what would appear on the tests duped schools, parents and teachers alike by selling bogus test questions. Schools with political connections always unanimously aced the tests.
You may wonder why nobody ever tried to change the system. The answer was simple. The government made it impossible by requiring all students who wanted to go to High School or College to take the test. Hence, any time spent trying to change the system meant time taken away from preparing for the test. Parents became completely beholden to the system and would threaten to take the kids to other schools if administrators spent any time not preparing their kids for the test.
Now that you have a sense of how an education system can become trapped in the death spiral of standardized tests, let me interest you with the impact of this system on actual student outcomes. In Ghana, we had a phrase to describe how we felt about standardized tests. We called it “chew and pour, pass and forget”. Translated, it means memorize, regurgitate, pass the exam and forget everything.
Unfortunately that has become reality for many graduates of our educational system. As my father put it in a recent petition to the Ghana Education Service, “the education system in Ghana is akin to an assembly line setup by the government to create employees for an economy largely devoid of innovation, entrepreneurship, originality or risk taking”. Because students never learn to solve problems or think critically for themselves and are largely discouraged from challenging their teachers or the status quo, they are inevitably groomed to maintain the failed traditions of the past while believing they are completely powerless to change anything. The result is the fact that even with an abundance of natural resources, the country in general continues to suffer in the doldrums of socio-economic development without any clear path out of it.
Recently my brother left a well-paying job in the US to return to Ghana to take over my parent’s school. He had dreams of changing the system. He imagined students groomed to become innovators and entrepreneurs. He soon learned it was impossible to achieve any of those dreams if the school was to remain subject to the rules, restrictions and common standards the government had set. The only solution was to completely abandon the system, which he fears would cause parents to withdraw their children from the school. He is now stuck in the limbo of a catch 22 but continues to fight to win students, teachers and parents over to a new beginning for the education of their children.
In December 2012, I returned to Ghana with my family and had the opportunity to speak to 10th grade students at the school. I gave what I thought was an inspiring speech. I proposed to start an innovation and entrepreneurship club which will employ students to identify and propose solutions to some of the problems facing the country. I promised to provide the capital and resources necessary to support these kids in this new challenge. I ended by asking the kids who were interested to write their names on a piece of paper and email it to me. It’s been more than 18 months since I returned. I have received nothing and I don’t blame them. Their parents have paid a large sum of money because they believed our school would help their kids pass the standardized exam. I was not about to distract them from that goal. What a tragedy.
I have personally wondered what makes Africa so uniquely challenged in its attempts at economic development especially when all the innovations needed to do so are readily available to us. I came to a personal conclusion which admittedly is not scientific but captures what I believe to be the elusive culprit. It is contentment with mediocrity and a lack of curiosity to change the status quo. The problem is not inherent in the nature of Africans but rather the imposition of an educational system that burned out the light of innovation and made us content to live on the spoils of the countries brave enough to venture into the glory of the unknown.
When I came to the US, many people would ask what the difference was between the US and Ghana. I responded that in Ghana, I could dream. In America I can do.
In writing this article, I am by no means endorsing the current state of public education in the United States. The problem with the system today is that the US government, aided by self-interested unions, has spent decades and billions of dollars trying to return to a system of education that America abandoned a long time ago; a system which has proven a failure in many parts of the world. Common Core is just the latest iteration of the failed system. Like a wise man once said, oh that I were an angel and could have the wish of my heart; to stand on the mountain top to warn against the path you are choosing to take. As an outsider looking in, I recognize one thing that most Americans lack. Because America has been free for so long, many have no sense of what tyranny looks like and how quickly physical and intellectual freedom can be lost on the path paved with good intentions.
I plead with all you well-intentioned but definitely misguided administrators, teachers and politicians. Raise your heads out of the dust and realize that America is great because America bucked against the status quo. Thinking a standardized and common core curriculum is innovative is like discovering water in the ocean and patting yourself on the back for it. This system is not new. Its greatest success was to create a conforming working class for the industrial revolution. It is not fit for a dynamic 21st century that needs constant innovation and the confidence to create new solutions to the problems that continue to beset and confound the smartest minds in the world.
America is desperate to find a solution to a problem that you solved decades ago. Return to originality. Put teachers and parents in charge of the education of their children. Encourage critical thinking that rejects conformity for the sake of some perceived societal benefit. Teach children to solve problems and not just to regurgitate the solutions of generations past. I have been silent too long and have now seized this opportunity to stand up for what I believe, which ironically is something I have learned from my experience in America.
America, I urge you to learn from the mistakes of those around because, like the plaque in my former bishop’s office read, “you may not live long enough to make all those mistakes yourself.”
–Alma Ohene-Opare, Salt Lake City, UT
Guest Post by Wendy Hart, member of the Alpine School Board, Alpine, Utah
Some of you have followed my journey on this issue from the beginning. Others have just become acquainted. Here is a short summary of my opposition to Common Core. [As posted below] http://wendy4asd.blogspot.com/2014/02/why-i-oppose-common-core.html
I know many of you are in support of Common Core, and that’s fine. One of my biggest complaints about the whole process was the lack of transparency in the adoption process. I have found that the more people who can weigh in on an issue, the greater the opportunity we, as elected officials, have to see all the potential ramifications. I have been told that we, the public, just didn’t show up when we had the opportunity.
In point of fact, the Alpine School Board minutes do not make mention of Common Core or new standards at all until well after the formal adoption by the State Board in Aug. 2010. With all due respect, the public and, at least, the Alpine School Board were kept in the dark.
All that is to say, feel free to advocate for whatever position you see fit. I will not be offended.
I hope you will not be offended by my standing for what I believe.
Why I Oppose Common Core
Who is in control of our children’s education?
This shift to the Common Core is a huge lurch away from bottom-up, local control to top-down, centralized control. Common Core is about creating a single pathway to supposed economic and educational success. Think about it, 45 states all adopting the same standards at the same time. 45 states all implementing Common Core testing, nationwide, at the same time. All the publishers and teacher training courses aligning to Common Core at the same time. And, what about college? the ACT and SAT? They, too, will be aligning to Common Core. What are the options should you object, as a parent, as a school, as a district?
What are the options if we decide, once we have full implementation and actual experience to back up the Common Core experiment, that we made a mistake? How do we amend? How do we turn back? A few years from now, it will be too late. We have just signed on to a system to eliminate, through attrition, virtually all other options in public education.
And who made this decision about what our kids will learn? Five people with a nod from Bill Gates and a couple of D.C. lobbying groups, were able to get their untested vision implemented via financial and legal incentives, as well as disputed promises of ‘greater rigor’, ‘college and career readiness’, and ‘international benchmarking’. We have decided to go down this path due, in part, to incentives, but also to the idea of not being left behind the rest of the states. That, somehow, Utah wasn’t capable of taking care of our own. It shows a supreme lack of confidence in the people, teachers, and principals of Utah that our State Board thought they needed to rush to adopt the Common Core, along with other states to get the federal money, instead of allowing the debate, discussion, and involvement of local Utahns in this process.
People will say, “It doesn’t matter where we get it; the ends justify the means.” We must reject that notion. What we are saying, in effect, is that the principles we stand for don’t matter. That parents and local communities don’t matter—only the opinion of the so-called experts matters, as long as our kids learn what the experts want them to learn. Why would we want to encourage a system where the people are not involved in creating the best schools? Instead, we have a system where we trust the experts to tell us what ‘the best’ actually means. And in this case, those ‘experts’ are in control.
In 1816, Thomas Jefferson wrote a letter about education and linked it to the proper role of government. In it, he articulates two important principles. He said, “if it is believed that these elementary schools will be better managed by the governor and council, the commissioners of the literary fund, or any other general authority of the government, than by the parents within each ward, it is a belief against all experience. …
No, my friend, the way to have good and safe government, is not to trust it all to one, but to divide it among the many, distributing to every one exactly the functions he is competent to.”
Common Core violates both these principles: 1) Parents must direct the education of their kids in school, not the government, and 2) Good and safe government, and that includes public schools, comes from dividing and distributing power. Consolidated power is not safe, and creates the potential for corruption, and, at the very least, destroys the means for innovation and outside the box thinking.
Jefferson goes on to say,“What has destroyed liberty and the rights of man in every government which has ever existed under the sun? The generalizing and concentrating all cares and powers into one body…”
This is EXACTLY what Common Core does.
We are at the crossroads. We can abdicate our parental and local responsibilities to the so-called experts and the rich philanthropists, or we can reclaim bottom-up, parent-controlled education. In the end, I will stand on the side of parents, local teachers, and local communities deciding what is of most worth to pass on to their own children.
Wendy Hart has also explained Utah’s unthinking adoption of Common Core in this video
I loved this year’s public high school Christmas concert. The jazz band and orchestra were energetic, talented and joyful — as you’d expect from teenaged musicians jamming at Christmas. (I almost forgot about Common Core.)
But meanwhile, my friend Laureen attended a very different kind of school Christmas concert.
And her story, (the guest post below) has little to do directly with the Common Core Standards. I’m posting it because it is a metaphor for the numbing-down of children who are viewed, even by the U.S. Secretary of Education, as “human capital” – a mass to wrangle, clump and process commonly. Not to expect to excel, individually.
EXCELLENT OR COMMON
Guest Post by Laureen Simper, Utah mother and piano teacher
I attended our elementary school’s “Christmas” program last night, because my piano student invited me to come hear her play her Christmas piano solo. She and her little sister – also my student – were singing in the “choir”.
I would estimate that less than a third of the kids knew the songs. It didn’t matter; they were singing to recordings. As in, singing WITH recordings. As in, SINGING WITH RECORDED VOICES. Ish.
It absolutely DID NOT MATTER that less than a third of the kids were prepared to perform after spending hours coming to school early to be in this choir.
Then there was the “choreography”: either running in a circle, shaking a stick with a streamer on the end of it, or shifting weight back and forth to shake those booties! And no need to practice or remember this either – either the teacher or a couple of the older students were doing the movements down in the front so the children could just copy them. The recordings, all with the same mind-numbing beats and instrumentals, just flowed over the top of this unorganized, unlearned trainwreck, making any effort inconsequential, making any non-effort inconsequential, dumbing down…dumbing down…dumbing down…numbing down…
The only bright spot was my piano student playing the Christmas piano solo she had spent weeks learning and mastering.
And where was the piano, where everyone could see her? No, no, no! Over at the side, like an afterthought.
Because HELLO! It –of course– wasn’t used to accompany any numbers! Who needs a live instrument when you’ve descended into sort-of-lip-syncing…..ish?
So maybe the first three rows were able to see her. And would you like to know why she was the ONE AND ONLY real musical number on the program? THEY DIDN’T HAVE TIME FOR THE CHOIR TO “LEARN” THAT PARTICULAR SONG. Excuse me, LEARN? Who learned ANYTHING?
And of course there wasn’t a single song about the Savior in the program – it was all mindless, secular drivel. I swear they did nothing but use the same CD for every single number.
I thought about all these families, a week before Christmas, rushing to get to this program after a busy day. Younger siblings were tired – babies and toddlers – many had probably been at day care all day, who still didn’t get to go home. I watched tired parents bouncing babies on their laps, walking with them in the back or in the hall, chasing toddlers – or not, getting phones ready to video the big moment.
WHAT BIG MOMENT?
I watched the children on stage – MOST of whom had no clue what was going on. I pictured the homes they lived in on any particular school morning as they had to get up early and shake up the families’ routines to get to school early to practice….. THIS? Families all through my neighborhood were sacrificing family time – weekly for the practices, and now, the final culmination of all that……was THIS? You could be home watching a secular movie like “A Christmas Story” and baking Christmas cookies and it would have been a more valuable use of your family’s time than THIS.
Then I thought about what we are teaching the children, the “participation trophy” mentality that rears its ugly head everywhere.
My student told her mother the day of the program that she shouldn’t even bother coming because it was so bad. She TOLD her mother that nobody knew the songs, that they didn’t know what they were doing, that it was bad.
So, in spite of the hype – she knew. ‘Cause HELLO! Kids are not dumb!
I imagined other kids with similar sensibilities, knowing in their hearts that this program was a mediocre mess, and then I imagined them being told what a great job they did, how cute it was, etc., etc. I thought, WOW.
What a great way to train a populace to not trust their instincts, to go along, because what’s the harm in it? – to believe the unbelievable. If, in your heart of hearts, you know the sky is blue, and you spend thirteen years of your life at a place that tells you in a million ways every day that it is green, what kind of discrimination skills do you end up developing?
How capable will you be of detecting lies when all you have ever heard are lies?
I feel so unbelievably sad for all the children sitting in schools across this country this morning. They are being taught that COMMON is good, because public school has become nothing – NOTHING – more than a giant bucket for all the little crabs.
Public education has become nothing more than a training program for all the common little crabs to yank any free-thinking crabs back down into the common swill.
They are all being taught that excellence is what we pay lip service to, but in subtle ways, you will be singled out – negatively – if you try to achieve it (Harrison Bergeron!)
All the while, the ever-lowering bar continues to be celebrated, photographed for a scrapbook page, and videotaped for Instagram and Facebook brags.
Worst of all, they are subtly being taught that even THIS is more important than time spent at home with your family. How subtly, subtly, subtly is the message being taught that home and family are absolutely, completely, at the bottom of your priorities.
So thanks for listening to the rant. I weep for so many well-meaning parents who do not see – maybe WILL not see.
Even though my job as a piano teacher is nearly dead because of this cultural shift, I feel like I need to point out the sign that hangs over my front door every week my students leave my house. I need to teach them more intentionally the reason I do what I do.
The plaque says: “We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act, but a habit.” (Aristotle)
Excellence matters…BECAUSE it is UN COMMON.
Secretary of Education displays arrogant, bigoted, anti-parent sentiment. Alas, he speaks for many.
by Laurie H. Rogers
“It was we, the people, not we, the white male citizens, nor yet we, the male citizens; but we, the whole people, who formed this Union. And we formed it, not to give the blessings or liberty, but to secure them; not to the half of ourselves and the half of our posterity, but to the whole people—women as well as men.” — Susan B. Anthony, who in 1873 was under indictment for voting in a presidential election
On Nov. 15, 2013, Secretary of Education Arne Duncan told state school superintendents he’s “fascinated” that “white suburban moms” are opposed to the Common Core initiatives.
Really? I’m “fascinated” that someone put Arne Duncan in charge of the nation’s public education system.
Duncan’s entire college education appears to consist of a bachelor’s degree in sociology. (This is a step up from community organizing, but not a very big step.) It’s bizarre that someone with a bachelor’s degree in sociology is the Secretary of Education, entrusted with 700 billion taxpayer dollars annually and now dictating education policy to all of us.
According to white suburban dad Duncan, the opposition of white suburban moms to the Common Core is because they’ve been blind up to now. He said: “It’s fascinating to me that some of the pushback is coming from, sort of, white suburban moms who – all of a sudden – their child isn’t as brilliant as they thought they were and their school isn’t quite as good as they thought they were, and that’s pretty scary. You’ve bet your house and where you live and everything on, ‘My child’s going to be prepared.’ That can be a punch in the gut.”
Ah, yes: The 2013 version of “they’re just hysterical females.” Even if our children are stupid, it isn’t polite of Duncan to point it out. But that’s only the tip of what’s wrong with his comments.
Asked later to clarify, Duncan said he “didn’t say it perfectly,” but he declined to modify his central position that opponents of Common Core don’t get it, are opposed to higher standards, or might actually want “less” for students.
In a later email, Department of Education spokesman Massie Ritsch reportedly blamed extremists: “The far right and far left have made up their minds,” Ritsch reportedly wrote. “But there’s angst in the middle — which includes many open-minded suburban parents — that needs to be addressed.”
And just like that, the legitimate concerns of Common Core opponents are again misrepresented, mislabeled and dismissed.
What actually needs to be addressed is the fact that many of those in charge of education (and so the future of our children and the country) seem uninformed, arrogant, anti-parent, out-of-touch, antagonistic, bigoted, elitist, chauvinistic, condescending, dismissive, divisive, snobbish, petty, obstructive, ignorant of what actually works in education, blind to the children’s needs, and adept at saying things that obviously aren’t true.
In the echo chamber of education, Duncan’s comments exemplify the general attitude toward parents: You don’t get it. You’re the problem. We don’t need to listen to you because you have nothing to tell us. Stop being a pain. Vote for our levies if you don’t hate children, but please don’t talk unless you agree with us.
Indeed, if arrogance were water, it might have flooded the state superintendents’ Nov. 15 meeting and drowned them all.
Administrators frequently blame parents for not being involved. They also blame parents who are very involved. They accuse us of not knowing enough math, but most won’t listen to those of us who know a lot of math. Many have no problem calling us names, mocking our efforts, refusing to answer our questions, stepping between us and our children, and lying about their real intentions. To our face, they’re careful to produce acceptable language, but behind our back, in the echo chamber, Duncan has shown us exactly what many education administrators are: Arrogant, dismissive, bigoted and deceitful.
One must agree with Duncan on the public schools. Most are inadequate and most parents don’t realize it – because we are lied to constantly by the federal government, state education agencies, district administration, board directors, the media and some teachers. Duncan’s comments are a nice turn on the truth; a strategy that’s been his stock and trade pretty much since he took over as secretary.
Following a storm of outrage, Duncan blamed sound-bites, poor communication and a “fast-moving world” for the negative reaction. He said he “regrets” his “clumsy phrasing” – “particularly because it distracted” from the “important” conversation. He wants to return to the discussion of “implementing reform.”
Well, sure. He’s always welcome to join in as parents continue to question his “reform.” We anti-CC parents never left that conversation. We understand exactly how important it is, which is why we insist on and persist in having it. The CC initiatives are alarming – sloppy, expensive, unproved, poorly done, dictatorial, divisive and intrusive. Some parents call the initiatives “Obamacore.”
Whether or not you see Duncan’s attempt at damage control as an actual apology, it’s too late. He accidentally stated his inner thoughts, and there is no putting that nasty genie back in the bottle.
Being able to lie well used to be a sign of sociopathy, but it’s now a government norm. Consider the vast nationwide deceit that is public education. It must be that education agencies hire based on the abilities to lie well to children and parents; to turn away from the obvious needs of desperate children; and to deflect all parental doubt, worry and criticism as being the ravings of the deluded and uninformed.
In actuality, parental concerns about the Common Core initiatives are legitimate and worthy of media investigation.
The initiatives were supposed to be common standards in K-12 math and English, but are becoming national standards in all subjects, along with national tests, forced curricula and a creepy national data system on children and families. They’ve taken over the country, in preschools, K-12, colleges, public schools, charter schools, private schools, Christian schools, curricular materials, state and college testing, and public and private daycares. There is zero proof of their efficacy; this is a national experiment on children. Many CC-aligned curricular materials are already proving to be academically weak, with insufficient grammar, no cursive writing, heavy (and extreme) political bias, questionable literary content, and the same fuzzy math that devastated the last 30 years of K-12 math instruction.
The standards are both a “floor “ and a ceiling for students; there are mandated limitations on what can be taught, and the Common Core doesn’t provide for special types of learners. In addition, the cost of this national experiment could financially bury the country. It’s simple math. There are about 14,000 K-12 school districts. 14,000 districts x multi-millions of dollars each = billions of our tax dollars.
And yet, with all of this, Duncan says he’s “fascinated” that white suburban moms don’t get it. What those moms need is do, he said, is understand that education is global.
Right. Because that will fix it.
Journalist Michelle Malkin, who is not white, is anti-Common Core. Last week, Malkin wrote about Duncan: “He pretends that minority parents and students in inner-city charter and magnet schools with rigorous locally crafted classical education missions simply don’t exist. A textbook liberal racist, Duncan whitewashes all minority parents and educators who oppose Common Core out of the debate.”
On Nov. 18, Duncan explained that he didn’t mean to pick on white suburban moms. “Every demographic has room for improvement,” he clarified.
Ah, that’s better. In his mind, we all suck.
Dear Mr. Duncan: Every government agency nowadays has room for improvement, but most show no sign of knowing what improvement looks like. If you would stop mucking around in classrooms, insulting involved parents and capable teachers, wasting tax dollars on unproved initiatives, and secretively throwing your lightweight around – in violation of the U.S. Code and the Tenth Amendment – then We, the People could take care of making actual academic improvements.
Math advocates did that in Washington State in 2007-08 with better standards in math. Just two years later, Duncan, with his bachelor’s degree in sociology, caused those better math standards to be tossed in favor of the lesser and infinitely more expensive Common Core experiment. Clearly, the CC was never about academics or the children’s needs; it’s always been about money and control.
The solutions to problems in public education do not entail more government and more Arne Duncan; they entail less government and preferably no Arne Duncan at all.
Thank you, Laurie Rogers.
Rogers, L. (November 2013). “Secretary of Education displays arrogant, bigoted, anti-parent sentiment. Alas, he speaks for many.” Retrieved November 26, 2013 from the Betrayed Web site: http://betrayed-whyeducationisfailing.blogspot.com
Common Core Down: Crossing the Line
An Open Letter to Parent Advocates for Local Control
Guest Post –by someone who wishes to remain anonymous
The Common Core is going down.
It is going down one way or another. It will happen sooner in some places and later in others. In large part it is going to go down as a result of your efforts and the efforts of countless and nameless others like you. It will go down in spite of the efforts of the likes of Boeing, Microsoft, Exxon, Gates, the federal government and the rest of the human capital/workforce pipeline driven corporate entities, within and without our country (read that as global corporations). They have been messing with the education of students in our country for decades now. They have gone too far this time. They have crossed the line.
Let me tell you about that line. If you are a birder or someone who enjoys nature you may have experience with this. On a number of occasions I have been out in the wild and spotted nests in trees and cliff aeries of owls, falcons, and hawks when there have been young ones in the nest. It usually was the cries of the young ones in the nest that attracted my attention. The momma bird has a protective eagle eye (pun intended). I have approached and found the line. The line was never visible. I knew I found the line when I stepped too close and the momma bird took flight and started to attack me. One step back and momma bird, while still on guard, would cease her attack. That is how you know where the line is—-when momma starts to attack out of a maternal instinct to protect her offspring.
This line occurs elsewhere in nature and not just with birds of prey. You do not want to get between a momma bear and her cub or between a cow moose and her calf (I have watched the nostrils flare and the ears lay back on a cow moose). If you do, you are in danger. And I never want to get so far across the line with a bird of prey or any other living creature that I can’t rapidly, within one step, retreat across the unseen line.
Well, they, with the CCSS and related issues, have crossed the line. As a result the CCSS is in serious danger. The CCSS and related issues have been placed smack between parents and their children and as a result are or will be seen as an imminent threat. And parents, in particular, moms, are on the attack as maternal instincts kick in to protect their offspring from accurately perceived physical, emotional, and/or intellectual harm.
The common core could and should go down for any number of reasons—federal overreach, constitutional issues, content, cost, privacy… but it really is going to go down because it has crossed the invisible line that will invoke the protective parental nature. That is what will bring it down. All of you have been instrumental in helping, and must continue to help, parents see where that line is.
I have been tracking issues related to CCSS since spring of 2009. It was a rare article that could be found at that time about it and it was usually one glowing with what we now see as the standard boiler plate blather. As time progressed it was a busy day if there were three to five articles about the CCSS. Of course, they were all positive about the CCSS or promoting the CCSS. That continued for some time. At some point a rare article would appear that was negative towards the CCSS. Over time that grew—-now I see what appears to be as many anti=CCSS articles as pro-CCSS. Even after filtering out many articles, it is common to see 10 to 30+ new articles a day. A significant portion of those articles is about the push back against the CCSS or they are anti-CCSS. With the increase in articles it is hard to find the time to read them all. It is easy to see that the CCSS is in trouble. The CCSS is not just in trouble it is in serious trouble. At this point only a small portion of parents have realized the line has been crossed. More will realize it soon enough.
Don’t let up. Keep the pressure on and help others learn to see the line and what it means to them and the future of their children. Keep up the good work!
Thank you, anonymous friend, for this guest post.
Lately, there’s been quite a buzz about ending compulsory education. Utah Senator Aaron Osmond propelled the idea when he wrote a piece on this subject at the Utah Senate blog. Osmond pointed out that it is a “parental right to decide if and when a child will go to public school,” adding that “in a country founded on the principles of personal freedom and unalienable rights, no parent should be forced by the government to send their child to school under threat of fines and jail time.”
Public education started out as an opportunity, but over the years, turned into a governmentally enforced mandate. The mandate flies in the face of other laws, such at Utah’s FERPA, which asserts that it is the parent, and not the government, who is the primary authority over a child.
That’s just common sense to most of us; in fact, most parents are utterly unaware that there is a battle going on between government “collectivists” and parents. The idea that parents hold authority over a child is not acceptable to an alarmingly pushy segment of society, who say government should take ownership of children.
This is, of course, communism.
But it’s becoming acceptable to many. Watch the video put out by MSNBC’s Melissa Harris-Perry, of the Lean Forward campaign. She asserts that “we have to break out of the notion that children belong to parents.”
It is time to wake up and protect parental authority. With that introduction, I’m presenting this guest post by Autumn Cook. Thank you, Autumn.
COMPULSORY EDUCATION: THE GREAT CONTROL GRAB
Guest Post by Autumn Cook
12-year-old Lucas Maynard and his parents found themselves in truancy court last week. Lucas’ offense? He got sick too much this year. The punishment? They’re still waiting to find out, but the judge has informed him that removal from his parents’ custody is a possibility.
All around the country, there is a quiet assault on families taking place. In the name of “helping children,” state laws and school district attendance policies are being altered to draw thousands of innocent children into the juvenile justice system and wave the heavy threat of state force and social services intervention over the heads of ordinary good parents.
Innocent children whose crimes amount to being frequently ill, or struggling with mental health issues such as autism, or being the victim of bullying, are being hauled into court, coerced into lengthy “diversion programs,” threatened with removal from the custody of their parents, actually removed from the custody of their parents, and in other ways terrified and treated like criminals. Their families are being put through the wringer with unpaid time from work for court dates, costs for attorney fees, and fear of state intervention in their families.
Untold numbers of other families are being frightened into doing everything possible to avoid entanglement in this system, including sending their kids to school sick and cancelling family travel. It is happening in states all over the country – I personally know of cases in Indiana, Texas, and Wyoming, with particular knowledge of what is happening in Nebraska because of personal involvement.
Here’s how it’s been playing out in Nebraska. In 2010, motivated by an attempt to get points on its Race to the Top application, the Nebraska legislature passed a law at the request of the Governor which effectively took away the right of a parent to excuse her child from school. The new law required schools to report kids to law enforcement if they had more than 20 days of absence – for any reason at all. Nebraska could get more points on its application by having a plan in place to increase attendance. All states were able to earn more points for implementing more oppressive attendance laws.
At the same time, school districts started tightening up their attendance policies, disallowing excuses for family travel or time home with seriously ill family or military parents on leave from deployment. Before the change, Nebraska applied the reasonable and widely-used standard of reporting kids with unexcused absences – those whose parents hadn’t accounted for their whereabouts.
Where once state law, school district policies, and public officials worked to reduce truancy – kids missing school without their parents’ permission (a.k.a. “skipping”) – the focus is shifting to reducing absences of any kind. The shift is leaving untold collateral damage in its wake, including the relationships between school administrators and the parents they serve. And it’s shifting our culture to embrace the “state knows best” mindset, minimizing the authority of parents and giving far too much power to state officials to decide what’s “best” for individual children. It’s also generating a lot of business for the social service industry.
Last week, the story of the Maynards – referred to above – became the latest in a long list of such abuses out of Nebraska. Their story highlights much of what’s wrong with the “brave new approach” to school attendance that’s sweeping the nation. Lucas experienced a lot of illness – plus two days of impassable winter roads in rural Nebraska – during the past school year. This innocent offense landed him in court, forced to sit away from his parents between the prosecutor and the guardian ad litem assigned to him, listening in terror as the judge informed him that one of the consequences of his absences from school could be removal from his parents’ custody. (Children are assigned a guardian ad litem in cases of alleged abuse or neglect. So the state of Nebraska has implied that the Maynards committed abuse or neglect by keeping their son home when he was ill and when the roads were too dangerous to travel!)
The Maynards’ entire story can be read at the Nebraska Family Forum blog. Unfortunately, it’s only one of hundreds if not thousands of such cases, and that’s just in Nebraska. The toll around the country is much higher, with many cases even more egregious, such as this one involving a 9-year-old in Wyoming.
If you see attendance policies and laws like this, don’t wait a day to contact your local school boards and state legislators. They need to hear the message that laws and policies must protect the fundamental right that parents have to make decisions for their children. For those who are lucky enough to live in states and districts where this approach hasn’t been implemented yet, watch your legislature and local board meetings like a hawk! Proponents of this approach to school attendance are pushing the “state knows what’s best for each child” approach all over the country, including here in Utah this last session.
It’s another piece – an especially frightening piece – of the education reform puzzle that is shaping up all over the country.
More stories from Nebraska
The Chambers Family
A quiet middle-schooler with severe allergies is sent to the county attorney, forced to submit to a drug test without her parents’ knowledge, made to feel like a criminal, and ends up attending school when sick, staying in a quiet room where she naps and eats lunch – just so they can count her present.
The Herrera Family
A mother decides to homeschool her 3rd-grade daughter for the last few weeks of the school year after school officials fail to deal with her bullies and she gets beaten with a stick on the way home from school. Because she doesn’t waited to receive official notice of approval from the state – her daughter was in imminent physical danger – when she comes back the next year she is reported to law enforcement, made a ward of the state, and her mother is placed on the child abuse and neglect list.
The Garrity Family
The story of a 15-year-old boy with autism shows how families who already struggle with unique challenges are abused and put through further suffering by the state of Nebraska and its school districts.
The Hall Family
A well-liked honor roll student with seasonal asthma is forced into a “diversion program.” Diversion from what? Asthma? The solution the following year is that when she is too sick to go to school, her parents must bring her to school so the school nurse can verify the parents’ judgment.
Brave New Schools
Guest post by California English teacher Cherie Zaslawsky
The much touted Common Core Standards (CCS) Initiative that is being pushed as a silver bullet to improve our schools is not simply the latest fad in education: CCS is actually an unprecedented program that would radically alter our entire K-12 educational system, affecting content (i.e. curriculum), delivery (largely via computer), testing (also via computer), teacher evaluations (connected to test scores), as well as creating an intrusive database of sensitive information from student “assessments.” This program, for all the protestations to the contrary, represents the nationalization of education in America, extinguishing any semblance of local control. Furthermore, it was essentially developed at the behest of billionaire Bill Gates, who also funded it to the tune of some $150 million, and who clearly thinks he knows what’s best for everybody else’s children. (His own are safely ensconced in private schools).
California adopted the Common Core Standards (CCS) Initiative on August 2, 2010, only two months after the standards were released. Nor has this multi-billion dollar program ever been piloted anywhere! It’s a nationwide experiment—with our children as the subjects. Nor was CCS ever internationally benchmarked. In California, as in most states, there was no time to devote to studying the intricacies of the program, vetting it, or introducing it to the public. Instead, Race to the Top money was dangled in front of state legislatures, and 45 states sprang for it, but 16 of these states at last count are already seeking to withdraw from the program.
Parents need to understand the implications of the Common Core Standards. These standards, which amount to a national curriculum via bundled tests, texts and teacher evaluations, would severely degrade our local schools. How? By lowering the standards of high-performing schools to make them “equal” with low-performing schools, in a misguided attempt to reach what its proponents call “equity” or “fairness” by mandating the lowest common denominator for all schools. True, this would close the muchballyhooed “achievement gap”—but only by dumbing down the education of the best and brightest to better match that of the unmotivated and/or less academically gifted.
The idea that all students should perform identically sounds eerily like something out of Mao’s China. What happened to our relishing of individual talents and uniqueness? Would we lower the standards for the best athletes to put them on a par with mediocre athletes to close the “performance gap” in, say, high school football?
How do a few of the experts view this program? Dr. James Milgrim of Stanford University, the only mathematician on the Common Core validation team, refused to sign off on the math standards because he discovered that by the end of 8th grade, CCS will leave our students two years behind in math compared to those in high-performing countries. And according to Dr. Sandra Stotsky, the respected expert who developed the Massachusetts standards, widely regarded as the best in the nation, “Common Core’s ‘college readiness’ standards for ELA are chiefly empty skill sets and cannot lead to even a meaningful high school diploma. Only a literature-rich curriculum can. College readiness has always depended on the complexity of the literary texts teachers teach and a coherent literature curriculum.”
As English teacher Christel Swasey notes: “We become compassionate humans by receiving and passing on classic stories. Souls are enlarged by exposure to the characters, the imagery, the rich vocabulary, the poetic language and the endless forms of the battle between good and evil, that live in classic literature.” Instead, students will swim in the murky waters of relativism where all things are equal and no moral compass exists. We should not be surprised if they are also encouraged to view history along the lines of multiculturalism, “social equity,” and the Communitarian glorification of the collectivist “global village.”
Consider how drastically literature is being marginalized (30%) in favor of “informational” texts (70%) in the 12th grade, with a maximum of only 50% literature ever, throughout middle and high school English classes. The switch to a steady diet of “informational” texts virtually ensures that students won’t be learning to think critically or to write probing, analytical essays, let alone to develop the love of reading and appreciation for the literary masterpieces of Western culture. Put in practical terms, it means that instead of reading Hamlet, Great Expectations and Pride and Prejudice, your child will be reading computer manuals and tracts on “climate change,” “environmental justice,” and the virtues of recycling.
And the price of mediocrity? In California, implementation cost is estimated at $2.1 billion, with $1.4 billion as upfront costs—mainly for computers (every child needs one—along with special apps—could that be one reason Bill Gates poured a cool $150 million into this program? Perhaps giving new meaning to the word “philanthropist”…) along with training teachers to navigate the complicated new programs. Even though it’s been proven—as if we needed proof—that children learn better from real live teachers than from staring at LCD screens.
In addition, tests and “assessments” will be taken on computers—resulting in the harvesting of personal data that amounts to a dossier on every child, including choice tidbits about Mommy and Daddy. And what is to stop the powers-that-be from using these assessments and test results to “re-educate” “politically incorrect” students who show too much independence?
Clearly Common Core is a disaster in the making. So what can we do? The simplest solution is to insist that our school boards turn down the carrot of federal funding and reject Common Core in order to preserve the integrity of our local schools through local control and to continue to allow our teachers to use their creativity in the classroom. The price of compliance with Common Core, however tempting monetarily speaking, is just too high— the mortgaging of our children’s future.
Thanks to Cherie Zaslawsky for permission to publish her essay here.
Guest post by a parent who requested that his/her report would be anonymously published
I attended the meeting held by Uintah School District last week.
The meeting appeared to be a training on the new assessments for Common Core that will cost $30 million. The guy turned his back on the room and spoke quietly when he said ‘$30 mil’, so I’m not sure I heard him correctly. He was more than happy to face the room and speak loudly about how great these assessments will be and how very much we need them–in his opinion. (Note-his job is dependent on him holding to that opinion.)
A little more than halfway through the meeting, he finally allowed questions. He would NOT allow questions before that. When question time came, it was very clear that the majority of the people in the room were unhappy parents, not educators there for his training. With a great deal of pressure from parents, it was decided that some common core questions would be answered by Dixie Allen of the state school board.
All individuals interested in common core questions being answered were invited to get up and move to a smaller room to talk with Dixie. By the time everyone had gathered in the smaller room, common core was on a screen at the front of the room and Dixie was prepared to give a presentation. Parents tried to ask questions and Dixie tried to give a presentation.
When it became clear that Dixie’s intent was to deliver a Common Core ‘sale’, one parent specifically requested that questions be answered first and the presentation be given second because people were obviously wanting their questions answered now. Dixie said no, but eventually had to give in because the questions wouldn’t quit coming. We didn’t have to watch or listen to a big presentation from Dixie, but we did have to listen to her state several times that common core standards are higher (to which one parent consistently replied ‘no, they’re not’ every time). She also told the parent in the room who knew the most about Common Core that she (Dixie) didn’t want that mom asking anymore questions because the mom gave comments, informing other parents of the details so Dixie could not shut them down completely. Obviously, Dixie is frightened of the truth getting out.
Dixie also denied being the homeschool teacher for 2 of her grandchildren in her home. (I think the count was 2.) She later backtracked on that one and admitted that she teaches one grandchild who is in 9th grade right now and homeschooled because of bullying. (A difficult to fully believe claim because the junior high principal here is quite strict and everyone else says this principal put an end to bullying in that school when she was first put in as principal, long enough ago that bullying in that school would have ended by the time Dixie’s grandchild would have entered the jr. high.)
Dixie also repeatedly stated that Utah must do Common Core because otherwise we cannot buy curriculum to match our core because we don’t spend enough money on education and therefore the curricula vendors don’t cater to us. No one in the room agreed with her on needing more money, but she made this claim repeatedly. Then when the question “How much will these new curricula materials to match common core cost us?” was asked, the answer was “Nothing, we’re making our own.”
None of the parents in the room said anything, but note that the argument that we need to do common core so we can buy materials to match our core falls when you consider that we’re not buying the materials!
In short, no one in the meeting was convinced that common core was a good idea. Parents talked afterwards, exchanging their contact info and more information on common core. One parent had watched a program on the miserable failure of common core in Michigan and was there with her notes in hand, asking questions and providing details of how bad things are in Michigan. Dixie tried very hard, but unsuccessfully, to refute the points this good mom made throughout the meeting. Another mom mentioned that history has proven how very dangerous a national curriculum can be, but many people in the room are unaware of that and just thought she’s a little paranoid.
I left the meeting thinking that Dixie is either completely ignorant of the facts surrounding common core or she is an outright liar. I spoke with some people who know her personally the next day and they told me that she just truly believes in big government, so she wouldn’t even be able to see the facts. It was interesting to watch her at the meeting. Dixie is an elected representative of the people, but you couldn’t tell. Elected representatives should listen to the people, treat them respectfully, and do as the people want. Dixie did none of that. As an elected representative of the people, she ARGUED with them and spoke condescendingly when they didn’t understand education lingo. It was very sad.
Dixie did state that Utah might not adopt the science part of common core because of pressure from the ‘right wing’ in the state. She also said that Utah might try to vary from common core by more than the 15% allowed, but there will be no attempt to get out of common core.
Sadly, the powers that be cannot admit they’ve made a mistake and are completely disrespectful to the people who gave them power and pay the taxes that support them and their decisions.
- Anonymous attendee at UT State Office of Education Common Core presentation to Uintah School District
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.”
- – - – - – - – - -
Thanks to Alyson Williams for this article.
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