Archive for the ‘guest post’ Tag

Is Idaho’s Battle Over– Or Just Starting?   2 comments

In November 2013,  and again in June 2014,  Idaho Superintendent Tom Luna rejected offers to participate in moderated, formal debates concerning the pros and cons of Common Core.  He did participate in one panel debate, to a packed house.   But Luna’s unwillingness to participate in further open debate is remarkable because, beginning in 2011, Luna was president, top dog at the organization that co-created and co-copyrighted the Common Core:  Council of Chief State School Officers.  Nobody should have felt more vested.  This article, a response to a recent Idaho Statesman interview  with Luna, comes by request.  Thank you, Stephanie Zimmerman.

 

Is Idaho’s Common Core Battle Over– Or Just Starting?

 

By Stephanie Zimmerman, Idaho mom/writer at Idahoans For Local Education

 

In the Nov. 30th Statesman interview granted by Tom Luna, I was not surprised to read Luna’s responses to the following questions:

Is the battle over Idaho Core Standards over?  “It is definitely over in the education arena. And my experience has been so far that it is primarily over with the vast majority of parents, but it is not over politically.”

How big were the Idaho Legislature education committee hearings on Common Core standards?  “I think it was an eye-opener to a lot of legislators and even people around the state who tuned in and listened because I think you heard a lot of the concerns that were raised – that were then shown to be not true: whether it’s the data we collect, who developed the standards, who has control of the standards. I have yet to have one person who says they oppose the standards tell me which standard it is that they oppose … If we do nothing else in education over the next three or four years, but continue to teach every kid to these higher standards, then measure students with this better assessment, then that is going to have more impact on improving student achievement than anything that we can do.”

Where to begin…
Common Core is just now (in the past three months) being fully implemented in Idaho’s schools.  How can Mr. Luna possibly say the battle is over –when it hasn’t even had a chance to begin??  Nowhere in the country was Common Core fully, fairly or publicly vetted or debated in legislatures, with parents, or with educators before it was quietly imposed upon us.  Most educators and parents are still learning the full implications of the Common Core .   More and more teachers are stepping forward with their concerns about the way children are being treated. Meg Norris, Kathleen Jasper, David Cox, Savannah Kucerak Mercedes Schneider  and Kris Nielson  are just a few who have made waves nationally by speaking out against Common Core.  Polls show  that the more parents know about it the less they like it.
four pillars of ed takeover
As more parents, educators, and legislators take even just a few minutes to educate themselves by reading source documents (instead of simply believing the talking points we’ve all heard) about the data being collected, who developed the standards, and who has control of the standards, an ever-increasing number of Idahoans will become concerned about the loss of our local control over our kids’ education.
Common Core is about far more than simply singling out which standard we do or don’t like.  It’s the reform package as a whole that’s the problem; the standards, assessments, data collection, tiered licensure (yes, that’s Common Core, too), and the star ratings system (which make our schools sound like a motel chain).
I wouldn’t care if these are the best standards in the world; I still wouldn’t want them in Idaho because of the federal strings and mandates that come with them.
Tom Luna is a man who was essentially defeated by Common Core.  His extreme political unpopularity began with his 2011 push to pass Students Come First, a set of educational reforms for Idaho that weren’t even his or his department’s original idea but that came straight out of the national Common Core playbook , and that only got worse as more and more people realized the role this former president of the CCSSO played in selling out our children’s future.
So, this particular battle may be over for Mr. Luna – we all know he’s moved on to bigger, better things.  But for those of us in the trenches, we know this is far from over.  We will continue to fight for local control of our children’s education.
Unfortunately for Tom Luna, his legacy will ultimately end up as the man who sold Idaho’s children’s birthright for a mess of pottage.
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Stephanie Zimmerman, author of this post, stands second from the right in the photo below. 
Mom meme

Dr. Sandra Stotsky: Why Do CC Supporters Try to Discredit CC Math Critics?   4 comments

Why Do Common Core’s Supporters Try to Discredit Critics of Common Core’s Mathematics Standards?

by Dr. Sandra Stotsky

 

Professor R. James Milgram, for over 40 years a full professor of mathematics at Stanford University, and I did a 13-city speaking tour on Common Core throughout California in November. At all of the meetings, Professor Milgram provided a two-page hand-out titled Missing or Delayed in Common Core’s Mathematics Standards—a short version of a 13-page critique he distributed at the time he refused to sign off on Common Core’s standards.  Not one of the thousands of parents, school board members, and legislators at these meetings challenged him about anything on this hand-out. (The Modesto Bee estimated about 500 at the meeting in Modesto alone.)

 

Yet, when speaking without Professor Milgram after distributing (with his permission) his two-page list of missing or delayed mathematics standards in Common Core, along with my own list of flaws in Common Core’s English language arts standards, I have been accused by non-mathematicians of relying on an incompetent mathematician. Why are Common Core’s supporters so desperate to discredit those with orders of magnitude more mathematical knowledge than they have at any educational level?  And to do so in such a cowardly fashion.

 

For example, I was warned by a very angry, self-identified local school board member and former K-12 mathematics teacher at a St. Louis, Missouri meeting in October that Professor Milgram is not “truthful.”  I was told in a November e-mail sent to me by a mathematics educator at a Missouri university not to “trust Milgram’s opinions.”  I was also told by an employee of the Massachusetts Business Alliance for Education at a Marshfield, Massachusetts meeting in October that, in contrast to Professor Milgram’s comments, a mathematics professor at Boston College thought highly of Common Core’s standards, and that for every analysis I did, there was another one that found that Common Core’s standards strengthened, not weakened, the high school curriculum.”  She also accused me of saying that “the old Massachusetts standards were so good that they couldn’t be improved.”  In response to a follow-up e-mail query from the organizer of the meeting asking for written evidence of her claims, she replied: “Professor Friedberg has not done a paper on the topic but he and other Massachusetts professors of mathematics strongly endorse Common Core’s standards and believe our previous standards were not sufficiently rigorous, didn’t stress mastery or understanding, included too many topics, and were not sufficiently focused. I’m sure Sandra Stotsky is already familiar with Bill Schmidt’s peer-reviewed study that found the standards comparable to the highest achieving nations.”

 

Yes, indeed, I am aware of William Schmidt’s study.  I am also aware of its fatal methodological deficiencies. As Ze’ev Wurman noted in his review of Schmidt’s study:

 

“Advocates of Common Core’s mathematics standards claim they are rigorous, reflect college-readiness, and are comparable with those of high achieving countries. The two members of the Common Core Validation Committee with college-level mathematics content knowledge [R. James Milgram and Dylan William] refused to sign off on them, finding them significantly lower than those of high-achieving countries….

Schmidt and Houang’s 2012 study—the only study that claimed the standards met international expectations—lacks reliable coding of the standards, and uses a variety of visual and statistical strategies to create the illusion that the profile of topics in Common Core’s mathematics standards is, indeed, comparable to the curriculum profile of six high-achieving countries. In fact, their own data suggest that Common Core’s mathematics standards are not at all like those of international high achievers, and that—at least from a statistical point of view—they do not carry any promise of improving American educational achievement.”

 

Wurman went on to conclude:

 

“Not only do Common Core’s standards remain unvalidated, but there are now many doubts that they could ever be validated as research-based, rigorous, and internationally competitive. Indeed, there is growing concern that they are far below the level of standards in high-achieving countries. Yet, these standards were officially adopted by over 46 states, national tests are being piloted based on them, textbooks and other curriculum materials have been aligned down to them, and all our seemingly independent indices of academic achievement or potential for college-level work have been or are in the process of being aligned down to them. What should be done?”

 

It is easy to understand why Common Core’s proponents would be unhappy with criticisms of Common Core’s mathematics standards. Especially when other mathematicians publicly corroborate the thrust of Professor Milgram’s criticisms (for example, the op-ed in The Wall Street Journal by Marina Ratner at the University of California/Berkeley).

 

But they should be ashamed of making spurious charges to people who do not understand high school mathematics any better than they do. And they should learn to speak directly to mathematicians themselves to try to understand the criticisms.


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Notes:

1)  http://www.modbee.com/news/local/education/article3594327.html

2)  Common Core Informational Forum, St. Louis, Missouri, October 23, 2014.   Watch these six 15-minute videos in this order.

 

  1. http://youtu.be/z_Ps_25U1VI
  2.  http://youtu.be/JRahJRom4r8
  3. http://youtu.be/9FffrrRsryY
  4.  http://youtu.be/-t8IIfr_h8U
  5.  http://youtu.be/4Wb5KclkKa0
  6.  http://youtu.be/hpvY0ymINjk

4)  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TZvUa4mGGQA. The Q and A is not available on this video of the Marshfield meeting.

5)  Email communication from Noel Ashekian, November 4, 2014.

6)  Ze’ev Wurman, Common Core’s Validation: A Weak Foundation for a Crooked House, Pioneer Institute White Paper #112, April 2014.

http://pioneerinstitute.org/download/common-cores-validation-a-weak-foundation-for-a-crooked-house/?utm_source=Common+Core+Validation+Apr+23+2014&utm_campaign=Common+Core+Val+April+23+2014&utm_medium=email

7)  Marina Ratner.  Making Math Education Even Worse.  Wall Street Journal, August 5, 2014.  http://online.wsj.com/articles/marina-ratner-making-math-education-even-worse-1407283282

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Thank you, Dr. Stotsky!

Dr. Sandra Stotsky (English Professor) and Dr. James Milgram (Math Professor) served on the official Common Core Validation Committee and after reviewing the standards, each refused to sign off that the Common Core was academically legitimate.

Watch these video presentations where Dr. Stotsky and Dr. Milgram explain at forums across the nation why these standards do not live up to their college-and-career-ready billing.

 

Common Core Kills Love of Reading: Anonymous UT Student Teacher’s Story   5 comments

by an anonymous Utah student teacher
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Last semester I worked in a first grade classroom as part of a class I was I was taking at Utah Valley University.  The teacher said she could do more teaching if she didn’t have to do so much Common Core testing, so she had me do the testing.  These children have 4 packets, 20-25 pages each, they have to get through during the year.   Part of this is a list of 100 words, 400 for the year, they need to know by sight.  As I was testing, one little boy he stopped and said, “I don’t like words.  I don’t like reading.  I don’t like books.”
My heart broke.
apple books
I went to our library here in town and checked out as many books as I could.  I went back to school every day and pulled him out of class to read just one book to him.   At first he was hesitant because he thought he was going to have to read to me. Eventually he relaxed and started enjoying.  He got so he would even turn the pages on occasion. We read one book, “The Red Book,” which has no words in it.  You make up the story yourself. When we finished I asked him if he’d rather read a book like this or would he rather have a book with the words already there.
He preferred a book with words in it.  This went on for several weeks.
book and kite
Then they had a reading competition in the classroom. On Friday whoever read the most books that week got to wear the pirate hat.  I came in one Friday and he was wearing the pirate hat.
I was thrilled.pirate
Since then it has occurred to me that I should talk to the principal.  How would he feel if someone came into his office and tested him regularly, and often, to see whether he is making any progress, getting everything done that he should do, etc.?  He would probably quit his job if he was under such testing regulations, and still they put these little kids through all this stress.
Stress-at-work
This teacher has eighteen students.  Within a week I could tell which six children were working above grade level, which 6 children were working at grade level, and which 6 children were working below grade level.  This was simply from my observations, not from any testing I was doing.  Six children took the assignments and whizzed through them.  Six children took the assignments and worked through them, but eventually they got there.  Six children got very little of the assignments done without help, and in some cases a lot of help.  Obviously, Common Core upsets me.  I’m sure there is some good there, and there are good intentions, but they are way off base.

 

Ghanan-American Immigrant Speaks Out Against Common Core   13 comments

ALMA O  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.

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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

 

 

 

Alpine School Board Member Wendy Hart: Why I Oppose Common Core   2 comments

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.
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Wendy Hart has also explained Utah’s unthinking adoption of Common Core in this video.

Excellent or Common: Guest Post by Laureen Simper   3 comments

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.

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laureen

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”.

Head….still….exploding….

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?

Head….still…..exploding….

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.

HEAD…NEVER STOPS…EXPLODING…

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.

Betrayed: Laurie Rogers on the Secretary of Education   2 comments

arne barackk

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

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