Archive for June 2013
In the upside down, inside-out world of education reform, one of the most glaring inconsistencies is the case study of Massachusetts, a state that led the nation in standards and high student test scores, a state that had actually achieved competitiveness with leading international competitors, yet a state that dropped all that success, dropped its own tried and true success formula, to apply for a Race to the Top grant which tied it to common standards: Common Core.
I’m sharing portions of a recent opinion editorial written by the former president of the Massachusetts Senate, Tom Birmingham, on the subject of how Common Core hurt Massachusetts.
The full article is here, at the Boston Globe.
“If you had told me on that hot day in Malden 20 years ago when Governor Bill Weld signed the Education Reform Act that over 90 percent of Massachusetts students would pass MCAS, or that the Commonwealth’s SAT scores would rise for 13 consecutive years, or that our students would become the first in every category in every grade on national testing known as “the Nation’s Report Card,” or that Massachusetts would rank at or near the top in international science tests, I would have thought you wildly optimistic…
I’m …troubled by the Commonwealth’s willingness to replace our tried-and-true standards and MCAS with totally unproven national standards and testing. This conversion will come at an estimated cost of $360 million for new textbooks, professional development, and technology…
Most of the lowest-performing states have adopted the standards, known as Common Core. Based on nationally administered exams, states like Alabama and Mississippi could not hope to attain Massachusetts’ standards.
In implementing the Common Core, there will be natural pressure to set the national standards at levels that are realistically achievable by students in all states. This marks a retreat from Massachusetts’ current high standards. This may be the rare instance where what is good for the nation as a whole is bad for Massachusetts.
…Given our incontrovertible educational successes, those seeking changes should bear in mind the admonition of the Hippocratic oath: First, do no harm.”
Tom Birmingham, former president of the Massachusetts Senate, is senior counsel at Edwards Wildman Palmer LLP. He coauthored the Massachusetts Education Reform Act of 1993.
Here is a letter written to the Editor of a Southern Utah newspaper. I received permission to repost it here.
I am a concerned parent who strongly opposes Utah’s Core Standards (Common Core). Understand, I’m not opposed to having State-Controlled Educational Standards. My biggest concerns with the Common Core Standards are that they are controlled by D.C. private interest groups working closely with the United States Department of Education.
It is a public-private partnership. The Common Core tests are, in fact, funded by the federal government. It’s federally approved, federally funded, and federally promoted.
Frankly, it’s a control grab that cuts the American voter out and is clearly a violation of the General Educational Provisions Act (G.E.P.A.) which prohibits “any department, agency, officer, or employee of the United States to exercise any direction, supervision, or control over the curriculum, program of instruction, administration . . . of any educational institution, school, or school system .”
Further, there is no amendment process in place that our state can utilize if it disagrees with, or does not like the curriculum or the standards. The question begs to be asked: “Who will really be in charge of the curriculum, the state (as it should be) or private interest groups and the federal government?” It would appear that we will not be as free to make changes or improvements in the curriculum as easily as Ms. Roberts suggested in her recent letter to the editor.
Now is the time to act! We CAN and SHOULD withdraw from Common Core and protect our state’s educational system from the grasp of the federal government!
Ms. Roberts also stated that these standards were discussed and adopted over a period of time and in public meetings where we “could have commented during the public participation period”.
Does anybody else remember any advertising of such meetings? I don’t.
What I do know, however, is that there are parents and citizens that would like to have open discussions and answers to their questions RIGHT NOW!
Personally, I would like Ms. Roberts to publically answer the questions* outlined in the recent article by Christel Swasey–giving specific, detailed answers, not blanket statements and talking points.
I believe that parents have the ultimate responsibility of teaching their children and providing for their education.
If we do not stand up as parents and demand that our concerns and desires for their education be addressed and met by those in public leadership positions, then we will be held accountable.
Consequently, until Common Core is rejected, I am pulling my children from the public school system.
*The board is silent on these simple questions:
Where is a shred of evidence to support the claim that Common Core improves education?
Where are any studies showing that the reduction of literary study improves college readiness?
Where is some evidence that slowing the age at which students learn math algorithms improves college readiness?
Where is any amendment process for Utah’s math and English standards, under the copyrighted Common Core?
How can one opt out of the Statewide Longitudinal Data Systems (SLDS) tracking and the Common Core tests?
Where is the legal — constitutional — authority for people outside our state to set our local standards and to create and monitor our tests?
Why does Utah stand by while Obama announces that he will redesign schools and tax all Americans to pay for it, without Utah putting up a fight?
Why is there a spiral of silence culture now, that demands everyone pretend to agree; where is freedom of expression and freedom of speech in the common agenda, now that teachers and principals don’t speak out for fear of losing their jobs?
How on earth can anyone call Common Core “state-led” when unelected boards that operate behind closed doors, that are not accountable to the public, developed and copyrighted the standards, bypassing voters and the vast majority of teachers and legislators?
Where is the line-item cost analysis of taxpayers’ money being spent on Common Core technologies, teacher training and texts?
When will state leadership address Common Core’s specific damages with the people who elected these leaders to serve us, rather than bowing to every federal whim?
Will the board and governor ever stand up to the Department of Education’s tsunami of assaults on liberties?
Will they continue to fight against local teachers and citizens who rightfully demand local liberty and who rightfully ask for proven, non-experimental, amendable standards — following the example set by the national and world-leading education system in Massachusetts, prior to Common Core?
Thanks to Deyette Bradley for sharing her letter here.
I wanted to share a letter that a professor at Fordham University received from a former student from Russia. The letter is addressed to everyone who opposes the Common Core.
I believe you are fighting a very noble fight against the Common Core curriculum. I am telling you this as a product of a centrally-controlled education system myself. Soviet Union was notorious for this and the new Russia hasn’t changed that.
I never liked my school. To be honest, I hated it with all my heart and sometimes still have nightmares where I see myself having to return to school.
I always thought it was a senseless, cold system that I just had to get through, survive. I was frustrated all the time because instead of following my interests, tapping on my talents, I was concerned about carefully watching the requirements and trying very hard to fit in.
Questioning the requirements was not productive because you couldn’t change them anyway. I questioned and doubted them all the time and therefore suffered. I saw teachers as senseless machines whose only goal is to make sure you memorize what’s in their centrally approved textbooks.
There was no room and no time for creating, thinking, dreaming, exploring. My school years felt like a constant run in front of a moving train that, if I were to pause, try to look around, turn, would hit me: I would get a bad grade and jeopardize my chances to get into college, upset my parents, ruin my life. I was a good, hardworking student yet school was one of the most stressful experiences in my life.
Part of the problem with common curriculum is that at one point teachers become so concerned about following the standards (that naturally become more and more demanding with time) that they forget about kids. Their work is then not to educate kids but to make sure the requirements are fulfilled. The profession stops being rewarding and attractive to those who love kids and teaching, and attracts those who are comfortable inside a command and control structure.
America is obviously far from getting where Soviet Union/Russia is, but I am convinced it is because of people like you.
Arne Duncan, U.S. Secretary of Education, is angry.
How dare Americans demand freedom from nationalized testing, nationalized standards and data collection?
In yesterday’s speech to the American Society of News Editors, Duncan said:
“…This event has been an opportunity for federal leaders to talk about touchy subjects. For example, you asked President Kennedy to talk about the Bay of Pigs. So, thanks for having me here to talk about the Common Core State Standards. Academic standards used to be just a subject for after-school department meetings and late-night state board sessions. But now, they’re a topic for dueling newspaper editorials. Why? That’s because a new set of standards… are under attack as a federal takeover of the schools… And your role in sorting out truth from nonsense is really important.”
Indeed it is.
Duncan admits: “… the federal government has nothing to do with curriculum. In fact, we’re prohibited by law from creating or mandating curricula. So do the reporting. Ask the Common Core critics: Please identify a single lesson plan that the federal government created…Challenge them to produce evidence—because they won’t find it. It simply doesn’t exist”.
Thank you, Secretary Duncan, for pointing this out.
Federally created lesson plans don’t exist because Duncan’s department has worked so hard to get around the rules (i.e., Constitution) and to make others do the wrongs that the Department then promotes and funds. The Department’s associates (i.e. Linda Darling-Hammond, Bill Gates, David Coleman) work with Achieve, Inc., with SBAC, with PARCC, with CCSSO, with NGA and others, to collectively produce the federally-approved education “reform” agenda known as the Common Core Initiative. We know this.
But, thanks to Duncan for bringing up the term “lack of evidence.” We’ll get to that.
Duncan says: “The Department of Education is prohibited from creating or mandating curricula.” YES!
Yet the Department has coerced and urged and cajoled and bribed American educators into joining the Common Core State Standards Initiative, has funded tests upon which these standards are bases, and have mandated that the testing consortia must share student-level data with the federal government concerning Common Core tests. Just see the Cooperative Agreement for oodles of power-grabbing evidence that uses the tests as vehicles.
Duncan says there is no evidence of a federal takeover using Common Core. Well, almost; there is no trace of an Department of Education fingerprint on the writing of the national standards, tests and curriculum. This it correct.
But there are massive, unmistakable Department of Education fingerprints all over the promotion, marketing, funding and imposition of the standards on states. These fingerprints are everywhere.
But the Department of Education has been very careful to use other groups as smokescreens for its “reforms” while the Department oversteps its authority. It was the CCSSO/NGA that copyrighted the national standards, not the Department of Education.
It was David Coleman and his four friends who wrote the standards (with token feedback, largely ignored, from others) It was PARCC, SBAC, and AIR that created the common tests. It was Bill Gates (who partnered with Pearson) to write the lion’s share of the American educational curriculum. And it is the Department of Education that put a 15% cap on top of those copyrighted standards that they say are state-led.
Guess what? There is no evidence that Common Core will do anything it has claimed it can do does not exist— there’s no empirical data, no pilot test, no study to verify claims that the standards will improve diddledy.
We might each ask the reporters to ask for that evidence.
NOT RADICAL/ NOT CURRICULUM
Duncan says that Common Core agenda is “neither radical nor a curriculum.”
I beg to differ.
It is radical to create nationalized, (socialist-styled) testing and standards for schools in a land of liberty.
It is radical to shred the Family Educational Rights Privacy Act (FERPA) as the Department of Education has done, to demote “parental consent” from a privacy-protecting mandate to a “best practice” and to redefine protective terms to make them nonprotective, including “educational agency,” “directory information,” and “authorized representative.”
It is radical to carefully work around the U.S. Constitution and G.E.P.A. law’s prohibitions against federal control of education. For just one example: in the “Cooperative Agreement” between the Department of Ed and the Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium (SBAC) the federal government demands that states give conferences and phone updates, synchronicity of educational tests, triangulation of collected student-level data under the federal eye, and much more.
And Common Core is driving and creating a national curriculum, by encouraging governmental and corporate collusion to narrow and monopolize the educational purchases of the nation.
Duncan tries hard to persuade the American Editors Society in his speech to separate standards and curriculum, yet we all know that standards and curriculum go hand in hand –like frames shape homes, like hands shape gloves, like bones support flesh– standards direct curriculum.
As the main funder of Common Core, Bill Gates, said in his speech at a 2009 Conference of State Legislatures, “Identifying common standards is just the starting point. We’ll only know if this effort has succeeded when the curriculum and tests are aligned to these standards… When the tests are aligned to the Common standards, the curriculum will line up as well…. for the first time, there will be a large, uniform base of customers.” Watch clip here.
WE’RE NOT COLLECTING STUDENT DATA
Duncan also denies the existence of any federal push to collect personal student data. He says that critics, “make even more outlandish claims. They say that the Common Core calls for federal collection of student data. For the record, we are not allowed to, and we won’t.”
No federal collection of student data? What a huge lie. Readers, please fact-check Secretary Duncan yourselves.
Aggregated student data has long been collected federally at the Edfacts Data Exchange. Edfacts states, “EDFacts is a U. S. Department of Education initiative to put performance data at the center of policy, management and budget decisions for all K-12 educational programs. EDFacts centralizes performance data supplied by K-12 state education agencies.” Although the information collected here is aggregated (grouped, not individualized) data, this will change because of the federal requests for more disaggregated (ungrouped, individualized) data.
Here are some federal sites you may click on to verify that the federal government is asking for more and more data points about each individual in our school systems. Click on:
Common Educational Data Standards – click on K12 student and find personally defining words like “identity,” “parent,” “incident,” “contact,” “authentication identity provider.”
National Data Collection Model – under “core entities” you will find “teacher,” “student,” “school,” “bus stop” and other identifying terms.
And Duncan is surely aware that the Council of Chief State School Officers (CCSSO) which helped copyright and produce the standards, has a stated commitment to disaggregation of student data.
Lastly. A simple common sense test.
If Arne Duncan were truly concerned about the quality of American schools, if he and his group cared about the education of children and not the controlling and surveillance of populations, then would they not have pushed for tested, piloted standards that would have used, for example, the sky-high standards of Massachusetts as a template, rather than circumventing all voters, circumventing academic tradition, and using this literature-diminishing, algorithm-slowing, cursive-slashing, informational text-pushing, unpiloted experiment called Common Core?
So am I suggesting that this is a diabolical scheme? YES.
Duncan himself used the term in his speech. To make fun of those of us who see it as exactly that.
He quoted columnist Michael Gerson —President Bush’s former speechwriter— who wrote that if the Common Core “is a conspiracy against limited government, it has somehow managed to recruit governors Mitch Daniels and Jeb Bush, current governors Bobby Jindal and Chris Christie, and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce… A plot this vast is either diabolical or imaginary.”
Diabolical is the right word.
While Duncan and his education reformers may truly believe that socialism/communism is the way to go, I do not. And if most of America does, then let’s at least vote on it.
If anyone doubts that total governmental control of schools and children, to the detriment of families, is Duncan’s direction, view Duncan’s interview on Charlie Rose, where he outlines his goals for the complete takeover of family life by schools. Schools are to be health clinics, parental education centers, are to be open six or seven days a week and twelve hours or more per day, all year round, as day and night centers of civilization.
Folks, it’s not just standards.
Not by a long shot.
Why state leaders must make the choice on Common Core
Reposted from http://www.statebudgetsolutions.org/publications/detail/financial-incentives-are-the-core-of-new-education-standards
State Budget Solutions, a national nonprofit dedicated to fiscal responsibility and pension reform, released a study analyzing the Common Core education standards and the important educational, legal and fiscal factors that must be considered by state leaders. Currently 45 states and the District of Columbia have adopted the Common Core State Standards, and as SBS points out, states must determine if the promise of federal funding, tied to implementing Common Core, is too good to pass up.
“First and foremost, states should be making decision about education standards based on what is best for students in that state. All too often, the incentive of federal funds forces a state’s hand – just look at what is happening with Medicaid expansion. With Common Core, state leaders must step up to the plate and make good choices for students based on education research – and not be distracted by the sparkle of more federal funds,” said Bob Williams, President of State Budget Solutions.
Most states jumped at the chance to get a piece of the $4.35 billion pie from the Race to the Top fund, a federal educational grant fund, by accepting the Common Core standards. But they were not forced to do so, and now, parents, teachers and other local leaders in every state are speaking out about keeping government local.
“States are quick to give up control to the federal government, and then complain that the feds are impeding on core state functions, such as education,” said Williams. “States are separate and independent sovereigns, sometimes they need to act like it.”
As SBS reported earlier this year, all states are already dangerously reliant on the federal government for financial support—with some states accepting nearly half of their budget funding from the federal government.
CLICK HERE to read the entire State Budget Solutions report.
http://www.heritage.org/events/2013/06/cwn-common-core – click on this link
I’m watching Joy Pullman’s articulately presented research on Common Core. Heritage Foundation Livestream– hope it’s viewable later on YouTube. It is so good.