Archive for the ‘What’s Wrong With the Common Core Initiative’ Tag

Arizona State Superintendent Believes Common Core Provides Benefits   7 comments

Watch this Arizona State Superintendent’s interview about Common Core.  She loves it!  https://originals.azpm.org/p/on-azweek/2013/2/8/22440-full-interview-with-associate-school-supt-hrabluk/

Notable highlights:   She calls Common Core “such a significant shift and focus in our educational system.”  Yes, it is.  But not for the better.

She admits the Common Core allows much less classic literature/stories and increases informational text in its place.  She does not address how this shift will affect students’ love for reading!

She does not talk about the horrors of the new math and the delays of the times at which children are taught to use algorithms that actually work. (Algorithm = how to quickly multiply, how to add or subtract or divide– used to be lower elementary, now it’s late elementary age)

She uses the term “internationally benchmarked” standards, as if she is unaware that that’s a flat-out lie.  (For example, the Asian Tiger countries –recognized math gurus– teach algebra years before Common Core does, at about eighth grade, which is what Utah USED TO DO, BEFORE COMMON CORE!  See Ze’ev Wurman’s and James Milgram’s math reviews.)

Arizona’s superintendent goes on:

@ 9:59 “But what’s critically important if we’re going to be effective are the additional wrap-around services that are provided…”  This means the wrap-around services that have nothing to do with school at all– mental health interventions, government food, rides to school, provision of health care, etc.  This brings to mind U.S. Secretary of Education Duncan’s vision of no-weekends off, no time off for summer; a totally school-centered life, the opposite of what most of us believe in– family centered life.
It’s socialism– where parents and their provision of service, love, learning and values, become irrelevant. Here’s more:
@ 10:40 “It becomes absolutely essential in our K-12 system that we have the additional support systems available for all students… that requires us to look at differentiated instruction… “Time on task:  How important will extended learning time be for some students?…And again, how committed are we to making sure that all of our students graduate ready for post-secondary? That will require some additional reforms in K12…”
“school is… starting to look and sound very different.  I encourage parents to stay the course… and learn to listen to diverse ways of thinking.”  Listen.  Why not have the school establishments listen to parents?  These are our children and our tax dollars yet we are being told to be quiet and listen.
The superintendent says it’s so important that all students leave high school prepared for postsecondary learning. — SO THEN WHY TAKE AWAY CLASSIC LITERATURE?  WHY TAKE AWAY LEGITIMATE MATH? WHY TAKE AWAY NARRATIVE WRITING?  WHY SLOW DOWN THE TIME THAT CHILDREN LEARN ALGORITHMS?
Yes.  I know that writing in all caps is a form of shouting.

 

Schools Are Sharing Private Information Via SLDS and P-20 State/Federal Systems   7 comments

Our schools (teachers, adminstrators, and even State Office of Education workers) are being used. –Used to collect private data, both academic and nonacademic, about our children and their families.  I choose the word “used” because I do not believe they are maliciously going behind parents’ backs.  They are simply expected to comply with whatever the U.S. Dept. of Education asks them to do.  And the Dept. of Education is all for the “open data” push.

Unknown to most parents, children’s data is being shared beyond the school district with six agencies inside the Utah Data Alliance and UTREX, according to Utah Technology Director John Brandt.  The student data is further being “mashed” with federal databases, according to federal Education Dept. Chief of Staff Joanne Weiss:  http://blogs.edweek.org/edweek/inside-school-research/2012/07/ed_urges_states_to_make_data_s.html  While John Brandt assures us that only a handful of people in Utah have access to the personally identifiable data of children, recent alterations to federal FERPA (Famly Education Rights Privacy Act) regulations which were made by the U.S. Dept of Education, have radically redefined terms and widened the window of groups who can access private data without parental consent.  For more on that, see the lawsuit against the U.S. Dept of Education on the subject: http://epic.org/apa/ferpa/default.html

But first, an interjection: I want to introduce this article: http://seattleducation2010.wordpress.com/2013/01/02/your-students-privacy/

I like this article because it exposes the facts plainly, that parents are unaware that their children’s information is being shared without parental permission, beyond the school, beyond the district, and even beyond the state.  It is verifiable and true.

What it means:  Courses taken, grades earned, every demographic piece of information, including family names and income, is being watched by the U.S. government via schools.

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

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

While all this data gathering could theoretically, somehow, benefit a child, or community,  it can definitely hurt a child.  Denial of future opportunities, based on ancient academic or behavioral history, comes to mind…

These databases (State Longitudinal Database Systems, SLDS; also, P-20 and state data combinations such as the Utah Data Alliance) are to share data with anybody they define as “authorized,” according to alterations made to FERPA (Family Education Privacy Act) regulations by the Dept. of Education.

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

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

This is a nightmare of Big Brother in action, except it’s not a fiction. You can verify it all on the government’s own public sites, such as:

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

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

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

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

http://www2.ed.gov/policy/gen/guid/fpco/pdf/ferparegs.pdf

http://nces.ed.gov/whatsnew/conferences/Statsdc/2012/STATSDC2012keynote.pdf

States would not get stimulus money if they didn’t agree to build the SLDS system.

So they all agreed.  All.

I happened to ask the Utah State Office of Education myself whether it is even allowed to have a student attend a  school without being tracked by the Utah Data Alliance and the federal SLDS.

They finally gave me a straight answer, after I nagged them many a time, finally, and it was simply “No.”

No!

No child, no citizen may escape tracking. We are and will be tracked.

I ask you, dear readers, to turn your feelings about this intrusion toward positive action.

Call your governor.

If you are from Utah, Governor Herbert is here 801 538-1000 and here: http://demo.utah.gov/governor/contact/index.html

Public feeling and individual actions are the only, only chance we have to alter the course we are currently traveling.

Sec. Arne Duncan agrees with Sir Michael Barber on “International Education” and a global, not U.S. citizenship focus   1 comment

U.S. Secretary Arne Duncan just might be a Agenda 21 (United Nations takeover) supporter. How can I say such a thing?

Well. Not once in this speech does he mention “United States citizens” but he mentions “global citizens” and being “internationally engaged” and “globally competent” and playing on the “world stage” ad nauseum.

If enough people are taught to think of themselves as global citizens, they will have less loyalty to the sacred United States and its unique, freedom-upholding Constitution.

Will people treat American values more and more lightly and be more and more accepting of global decision making, global government, global laws and global punishments?

Remember– this is coming at us from many angles. It’s not just Arne Duncan or Obama. It’s not just one speech.

Pearson Education, led by CEA Sir Michael Barber, also pushes for “no borders” for education reform.

And Pearson’s Barber makes speeches (you can view them on YouTube) that he and his elite education leaders “want data” on “every citizen” on earth. And they want to replace academics with environmentalism as a central concern of teaching worldwide. Barber’s stated “formula” for education now is to multiply all knowledge or skills taught, by environmental education. That places environmentalism #1. Above academics. Above knowledge. That’s dogmatic and it’s extremely creepy when you realize that their philosophy is seeping into schools and governments worldwide –without pushback.

It should be on the news. Why isn’t it?

Sec. Arne Duncan is revealing his true colors as much by what he does not say as by what he says.

And “International Education Week” is a concept that makes me want to run screaming from the room.

Legislature Hears Expert Testimony: What Should Utah Do About Common Core?   Leave a comment

Ted Rebarber with James Stergios at Utah’s Capitol

James Stergios kindly provided this copy of the testimony he gave last month to education committee legislators in Salt Lake City.

Testimony to the Utah 2012 Education Interim Committee

by James Stergios

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

I thank the co-Chairs of the Committee, Senator Howard Stephenson and Representative Francis Gibson, for the opportunity to provide testimony to the Committee.

My name is James Stergios, executive director of the Boston-based think tank, Pioneer Institute. Pioneer Institute has produced the most analytic work on the Common Core in the country, with multiple peer reviewed published reports on their relative quality, cost, and legality. In doing this work we have taken no funding from interested parties, and we have commissioned the reports from the most highly qualified scholars and experts in the country.

Our motivation is the same as yours: We care deeply about our children and this country’s future, and want to prepare our students to compete internationally and to be citizens in a free society characterized by strong state and federal institutions.

My testimony presents four concerns about the Common Core national standards and assessments, which are fully derived from empirical analysis:

1. The quality of the Common Core standards is mediocre and aims for community college-level.

2. The implementation of national standards and assessments limits Utah’s ability to innovate.

3. The promotion of national standards and assessments by the federal government is illegal.

4. Utah has adopted the national standards and assessments without adequate deliberation.

It also makes suggestions for actions by the Utah legislature.

First, the quality of the Common Core is mediocre and aims for community college readiness. Pioneer Institute has conducted four independent evaluations of the national standards, comparing them to states that have or had high standards. In every case, our experts found Common Core to be of lower quality. The Common Core English Language Arts standards suffer from many technical shortcomings, such as their lack of coherent grade-by-grade progressions through high school. But the problems are larger than that. As Dr. Stotsky’s testimony underscores:

Common Core’s standards for English language arts are neither research-based nor internationally benchmarked… To judge from my own research on the language and literature requirements for a high school diploma…, Common Core’s ELA standards fall far below what other English-speaking nations or regions require of college-intending high school graduates.”

In fact, that is the main reason that [Stotsky] and four other members of the [Common Core] Validation Committee declined to sign off on Common Core’s standards.

Nor is there evidence to support the idea [embedded in Common Core] that having English teachers teach more information reading (or literary nonfiction) and less literary reading will lead to greater college readiness.

Let me underscore three points here:

  • First, the Common Core ELA standards are not authentic academic standards; rather, they are empty skills standards. I would be pleased to elaborate on this important issue later.
  • Second, Massachusetts’ remarkable rise on national assessments is not because we aligned our reading standards to the NAEP. Rather, it is because, unlike Common Core, our reading standards emphasized high-quality literature. Reading literature requires the acquisition in a compressed timeframe of a richer and broader vocabulary than non-fiction texts. Vocabulary acquisition is all-important in the timely development of higher-level reading skills.
  • Third, English teachers are trained not to teach Federal Bank reports, or computer and other manuals. They are people steeped in the love of language and literature. Asking an English teacher to teach one of Microsoft’s software development manuals is really not going to work out well.

Common Core’s math standards also suffer from a lack of coherent grade-by-grade progressions, but they too have deeper problems. Common Core’s standards for Algebra I, Geometry and Algebra II are not demanding and reflect a less than rigorous definition of “college readiness.” Common Core’s goal of teaching Algebra I only in high school makes it at least one year behind the recommendations of the National Mathematics Panel and current practice among our international competitors. Common Core alarmingly replaces the traditional Euclidean foundations of geometry with an experimental approach to middle and high school geometry that has not been widely or ever successfully implemented at the middle and high school levels.

Stanford mathematics professor James Milgram, well known to Utah during its revision of its state math standards and also a member of the review committee for the Common Core math standards, considers the material covered in Common Core’s math standards by fifth grade to be “more than a year behind the early grade expectations in most high-achieving countries” and by seventh grade to be “roughly two years behind.” He says that the national math standards “are written to reflect very low expectations.”

As Stotsky notes in her testimony: Jason Zimba, lead writer of Common Core’s mathematics standards, admitted at a meeting of the Massachusetts Board of Elementary and Secondary Education that passing a college readiness test in mathematics will mean that students in Utah or Massachusetts will only be qualified to enroll in a non-selective community or state college.

Former head of the Council of Chief State School Officers Gene Wilhoit’s insistence that Utah can add whatever it wants to the national standards is meaningless for two reasons: First, there may be no federal policing of the standards today, but there is ample evidence across many policy areas that the federal government often moves from “gentlemanly agreements” to mandates. Second, Common Core requires that states adopt the standards verbatim, with flexibility to add up to 15 percent to the content. However, the national assessments will not cover that additional material. As a result, no districts and no teachers will end up teaching the add-ons.

I know that Utah has removed itself from the Smarter Balanced consortium, but that begs the question: If you are not going to use the tests crafted by the national consortia and you are going to deviate as much as you want from the national standards, why have them at all?

Second, the implementation of national standards and assessments limits Utah’s ability to innovate. Any time a state education official seeks to change a strand in the standards or change the test, it will have to get support from the US Department of Education and 40-plus other states and jurisdictions. If a parent has an issue with the standards, you, as a legislator, will have no ability to help them. You will have to suggest that they call a federal 800 number and wait who-knows-how-long for an answer.

And just what does “innovation” mean when one actor (the federal government) controls the standards? What does innovation mean when there is no longer a competition to innovate among states?

States have led the way in education reform. We have made steady gains over time in a way that, frankly, is not seen from the federal government. Utah’s own state math standards were rated as at least as good as the Common Core math standards, as more clearly articulated and succinct by the Fordham Institute, one of Common Core’s biggest backers. You have done well with your standards—and you can do even better.

Third, the promotion of national standards and assessments by the federal government is illegal. Writing in a paper entitled The Road to a National Curriculum, former USDOE General Counsel Kent Talbert and Deputy General Counsel Robert Eitel write:

With only minor exceptions, the General Education Provisions Act (“GEPA”), the Department of Education Organization Act (“DEOA”), and the ESEA, as amended by the No Child Left Behind Act of 2001 (“NCLB”), ban federal departments and agencies from directing, supervising, or controlling elementary and secondary school curriculum, programs of instruction, and instructional materials. The ESEA also protects state prerogatives on Title I content and achievement standards.

The Department has used discretionary grants to herd state education authorities into adopting national standards and tests. Talbert and Eitel contend that conditional waivers to NCLB offered by U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan have never been approved by Congress. Past secretaries of the federal department of education have granted waivers, but never with a unilateral, material change to federal law. Moreover, the recent announcement of a new round of Race to the Top for districts includes the advancement of Common Core. Finally, the two consortia receiving over $300 million in federal funds include in their funding applications explicit recognition that they would develop curricular materials and instructional practice guides.

These two distinguished attorneys note that the US Department of Education is therefore likely violating the aforementioned three federal laws.

While Secretary Duncan’s statement in a letter of March 7th to Superintendent Larry Shumway that the State of Utah has “complete control of Utah’s learning standards” may be true on paper (and given that date), Utah’s waiver from NCLB in June, potential impacts on future federal funding, and the announcement of a new round of Race to the Top for districts, all suggest that Utah’s complete control is much more tenuous than the Secretary’s good letter states.

Utah—and the country—are at a critical juncture, a decision point.

Finally, Utah has adopted the national standards and assessments without adequate deliberation. You, like legislators across the country, are only now debating this issue, after the fact, because Common Core was advanced as an end-run around state legislatures. When Race to the Top was announced in the depths of a recessionary 2009, the federal department emphasized that states adopting national standards would be viewed favorably in funding decisions. As Stotsky notes in her testimony:

… the Utah State Board of Education did not provide a full public discussion before it voted to move control of the curriculum from local school boards to a distant federal bureaucracy.

The USBE tentatively approved the standards two days after they were published (June 4, 2010) to make a U.S. Department of Education deadline of August 2 and then approved them on August 6, 2010.

They were not “thoroughly” vetted. Developing and vetting standards takes time. When states advance new standards, the process of holding public meetings and hearings, which includes developing and deliberating on various drafts, usually requires well over a year.

Not only did the federal government truncate its public comment and other important processes meant to uphold the public trust, but so did the Utah State Board of Education.

What the legislature can do.

The legislature has a role here because the board of education’s decisions on learning standards have an impact on the public purse. The legislature also has an interest in ensuring an open and public vetting of the standards. Our empirical work gives me confidence that, given a proper vetting, the legislature and the state board would agree that the Common Core is deficient in ways described above.

A handful of states have said “no” to Common Core national standards and tests. I urge you not only to say “no” to Common Core—which is a matter of prudence regarding the state’s future and its purse—but also to use the opportunity of this debate to move forward with positive improvements to Utah’s previous state math and reading standards and assessments. As Dr. Stotsky states in her testimony,

If Utah negates its adoption of Common Core’s English language arts standards, I volunteer to help Utah develop a first class set of ELA standards.

Her work helped guide Massachusetts from above average nationally to become the top-performing state in the nation. That is what Utah’s students deserve rather than mediocre national standards.

James Stergios is Pioneer’s Executive Director. Prior to joining Pioneer, he was Chief of Staff and Undersecretary for Policy in the Commonwealth’s Executive Office of Environmental Affairs, where he drove efforts on water policy, regulatory and permit reform, and urban revitalization. His prior experience includes founding and managing a business, teaching at the university level and in public and private secondary schools, and serving as headmaster at a preparatory school. Jim holds a doctoral degree in Political Science.

James Stergios is Pioneer’s Executive Director. Prior to joining Pioneer, he was Chief of Staff and Undersecretary for Policy in the Commonwealth’s Executive Office of Environmental Affairs, where he drove efforts on water policy, regulatory and permit reform, and urban revitalization. His prior experience includes founding and managing a business, teaching at the university level and in public and private secondary schools, and serving as headmaster at a preparatory school. Jim holds a doctoral degree in Political Science.

About Pioneer

Pioneer Institute is an independent, non-partisan, privately funded research organization that seeks to improve the quality of life in Massachusetts through civic discourse and intellectually rigorous, data-driven public policy solutions based on free market principles, individual liberty and responsibility, and the ideal of effective, limited and accountable government.

85 Devonshire Street, 8th Floor, Boston, MA 02109 | T: 617.723.2277 F: 617.723.1880 | http://www.pioneerinstitute.org

Elder Quentin Cook: “That Which Is Sound And Good”   Leave a comment

I got my favorite magazine, the Ensign, in the mail yesterday.  The newest issue features an article entitled, “Restoring Morality and Religious Freedom” by Elder Quentin L. Cook:  http://www.lds.org/ensign/2012/09/restoring-morality-and-religious-freedom?lang=eng

It says, “The Church respects the rule of law and constitutional government in every nation and expects Latter-day Saints to adhere to the law, to use their influence to promote and preserve their God-given rights, and “to make popular that which is sound and good, and unpopular that which is unsound” (Joseph Smith, in History of the Church, 5:286).”

“That which is sound and good” does not include Common Core education.  It diminishes classic literature in English classrooms.  It diminishes math learning, most noticeably for grades six and nine. It equalizes college and career preparation, making 4-year college, 2-year college, and vocational school preparation the very same thing for all.  It stifles innovation.  It concentrates power over education in a small group that includes the federal Dept. of Education, the Council of Chief State School Officers and the National Governor’s Association, rather than leaving power over educational decision-making in the hands of states and school districts. It sets an actual cap of 15% on the amount of learning above Common Core standards that is to be permitted.

And where is the liberty in that?

Opinion Editorial #2: The Common Core Initiative: What’s Hidden Between the Lines? (not yet published)   Leave a comment

The Common Core Initiative:  What’s hidden between the lines?

by Christel Swasey

Ever since I saw Alisa Ellis and Renee Braddy’s “2 Moms Against Common Core,” I’ve barely slept.  My laundry is backed up.  I’m losing weight. All I do is research the Common Core Initiative (CCI).

I talk to teachers.  I read think tanks and pester the U.S.O.E.  I compare the Education Secretary’s public letters to his dense grants and legal agreements.

On Wednesday I joined Alisa and Renee to petition the Governor to study Utah’s loss of control of education under CCI.

We noted that all academic elements of Common Core are in public domain; if we like them, we can keep them.  But CCI membership comes with federal intrusion that robs Utah of sovereign rights, commits Utah to foot the bill, and silences educational freedom.  A collection of evidence is posted at whatiscommoncore.blogspot.com.

How did Utah’s educational freedom get hijacked without a peep out of Utah?  How did CCI slide under the radar of legislators and taxpayers?  Can we turn around this loss of state control over education?  YES–  if people view CCI as more than an academic change. It’s up to us to act.

The State Superintendent won’t act. He sits as board member of three pro-Common Core groups. Two promoted and developed CCI’s federal standards; the other is the test maker.

The State School Board won’t act. That board is so collectively pro-CCI that they’ve devised a way to make sure nobody can get elected who isn’t pro-CCI: a survey for candidates for School Board asks, (first question): “Are You For Common Core?”

The Governor might act.  His lawyers are studying statements from Arne Duncan versus compliance rules written by Duncan  which do conflict.

The burden of proving CCI is an asset rather than a liability to Utah, rests on Utah leaders and lawyers who refuse public debate, dodge phone calls and won’t answer questions such as:

1. Why haven’t teachers been told that everything about CC  was already available under public domain law?  CCI membership doesn’t give us anything but does dilute freedom.

2. Why has no cost analysis or legal analysis been done? A think-tank estimates CCI will cost each state hundreds of millions over the first seven years and will make states’ unique standards irrelevant. CCI violates laws against federal intrusion on states’ educational sovereignty. Why allow it?

3. If CCI is state-led and voluntary as it claims, why did Secretary Duncan rage when South Carolina withdrew? Why has Duncan required that testing arms must coordinate reporting to him and “across consortia”? Why can’t a state withdraw from SBAC without federal permission?

3. Why was no public or legislative input taken? Utah didn’t seek out CCI;  we joined as an afterthought, as a condition for candidacy to win a grant which we didn’t win.

4. Why did Utah agree to standards and assessments that hadn’t even been written in 2009 when we joined?

5. Why stay in? We have wiggle room now to get out; it’s the beginning of implementation.  Later, we’ll be too financially and technologically invested.

6. Why are there two different sets of standards?  The Utah Common Core (UCC) is being taught, while the Common Core State Standards (CCSS) will be the basis for the SBAC tests in 2014.

7.  Why did Utah take the CCI’s word for the idea that the standards were high enough?  CCSS won’t ready students for average colleges like University of California, said Mathematician Ze’ev Wurman. Stanford Professor Michael Kirst and Validation Committee Member Professor Sandra Stotsky called CCSS standards low.

8. Why did Utah join, when free-thinking states like and Texas and Virginia refused? CCI was cost prohibitive,  lowered some standards, and deleted sovereignty, they said.

9. Why did the National PTA accept a two million dollar “donation” to one-sidedly promote CCI?

10. Why is there no amendment process for the federal  standards upon which kids will be tested? 

11. Why has no one noticed that the SBAC test is as much a nationalized personal data collection vehicle as it is an academic test? 

12. Why is there no transparency? Educators are in a spiral of silence that prevents them from voicing concerns.

Who will stand up and respond with real evidence to these questions?

The lawyer at the Utah State Office of Education asked me to not engage in public debate. She deflected questions rather than answering them.  Isn’t it my right and responsibility to ask questions?  As a lawyer for the Utah State Office of Education, doesn’t she have a duty to answer?

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