Archive for the ‘common core alignment’ Tag

Common Core’s National Curriculum Has Arrived: “Learning Registry,” OER, and #GoOpen Initiatives   Leave a comment

Jane Robbins and Jakell Sullivan co-authored this article at, which is reposted here with permission.  Please note the links to learn more.  


oer commons


In May 2014, conservative columnist George Will warned that Common Core represented the “thin edge of an enormous wedge” and that “sooner or later you inevitably have a national curriculum.”

Will’s concern is now closer to realization. One lever the U.S. Department of Education (USED) may use to hasten this outcome is the #GoOpen Initiative, through which USED will push onto the states Common Core-aligned online instructional materials. These materials are “openly licensed educational resources” (Open Educational Resources, or OER) – online resources that have no copyright and are free to all users. Utah is part of the initial consortium of states that will be collaborating in #GoOpen.



#GoOpen is part of a larger global and federal effort to institute OER in place of books and traditional education (in fact, USED appointed a new advisor to help school districts transition to OER). More disturbingly, another part of this scheme increases the federal government’s ability to monitor and track teacher and student use of these online resources – and perhaps even influence the content.

This outcome could result from a related, joint USED-Department of Defense initiative called the Learning Registry. The Registry is an “open-source infrastructure” that can be installed on any digital education portal (such as PBS) and that will facilitate the aggregation and sharing of all the linked resources on the Registry. The idea is to “tag” digital content by subject area and share on one site supposedly anonymous data collected from teacher users (content such as grade-level, recommended pedagogy, and user ratings). That way, Registry enthusiasts claim, teachers can find instructional content to fit their particular needs and see how it “rates.”

Putting aside the question whether USED should push states into a radical new type of instruction that presents multiple risks to students and their education (see here, here, and here), the Learning Registry threatens government control over curriculum. Here’s how.

USED has proposed a regulation requiring “all copyrightable intellectual property created with [USED] discretionary competitive grant funds to have an open license.” So, all online instructional materials created with federal dollars will have to be made available to the Registry, without copyright restrictions.

[Federal law prohibits USED from funding curricular materials in the first place, but this Administration’s violation of federal law has become routine.]

learning registry

The Registry will compile all user data and make “more sophisticated recommendations” about what materials teachers should use. So federal money will fund development of curricular materials that will be placed on a federally supported platform so that the feds can make “recommendations” about their use. The repeated intrusion of the word “federal” suggests, does it not, a danger of government monitoring and screening of these materials.

And speaking of “user data” that will fuel all this, the Registry promises user anonymity. But consider the example of Netflix movie ratings, in which two researchers were able to de-anonymize some of the raters based on extraordinarily sparse data points about them.

Despite Netflix’s intention to maintain user anonymity, its security scheme failed. How much worse would it be if the custodian of the system – in our case, USED – paid lip service to anonymity but in fact would like to know who these users are? Is Teacher A using the online materials that preach climate change, or does he prefer a platform that discusses both sides? Does Teacher B assign materials that explore LGBT issues, or does she avoid those in favor of more classical topics? Inquiring bureaucrats want to know.

In fact, in a 2011 presentation, USED’s bureaucrat in charge of the Registry, Steve Midgley, veered awfully close to admitting that user data may be less anonymous than advertised. Midgley said, “[Through the Registry] we can actually find out this teacher assigned this material; this teacher emailed this to someone else; this teacher dragged it onto a smart board for 18 minutes. . . .” [see video below].  The Registry will also use “the math that I don’t understand which [will] let me know something about who you are and then let me do some mathematical operations against a very large data set and see if I can pair you with the appropriate relevant resource.”

Sure, all this will supposedly be done anonymously. But teachers should hesitate to embrace something that could possibly reveal more about them than they bargained for.

USED would protest that this is all hypothetical, and that it would never abuse its power to influence teachers and control instructional content. But with this most ideological of all administrations, denials of ill intent ring hollow (remember Lois Lerner?). If the power is there, at some point it will be used. Never let an “enormous wedge” go to waste.




Thank you, Jakell Sullivan and Jane Robbins, for this eye-opening report.

You Are Invited: Common Core Cottage Meeting in Syracuse, Utah- Tomorrow   1 comment

Tomorrow night at 7:00 p.m. there will be a Common Core informational meeting at a home in Syracuse, Utah. If you live nearby, please feel free to stop by and bring a friend. Dalane England and I will be speaking about the Common Core. Address: 2532 South 1300 West, Syracuse, Utah, 84075.

We plan to answer the following questions:

What is Common Core, and why are so many people fighting day and night to repeal it?
Does it harm my child?
Did all citizens and legislators get a chance to vet Common Core prior to its adoption by the state school board?
How does it kill local control of education, of privacy and of local values?
Why is it constitutionally threatening? / How are voters shut out of the decision making processes of Common Core?
Why don’t teachers or principals dare speak out against it?
Why must Utah’s state school board ask permission from unelected D.C. groups to modify ed standards in Utah, under Common Core?
How does unwanted student (and teacher) data mining and tracking rely on Common Core tests and standards?
Why has the Department of Education been sued for its Common-Core-test related changes to the Family Educational Rights Privacy Act?
What are intended and unintended consequences of having students take the Common Core tests?
How does Common Core affect homeschoolers and charter schoolers?
How is parental consent of student information sidestepped by the Common Core agenda?
Who paid for Common Core’s development, tests, and trainings and who will pay for Utah’s future Common Core costs?
Who gets wildly rich when Common Core aligned curriculum are virtually the only salable education products in America?
Why are both the Utah Chamber of Commerce and Utah’s Governor involved in promoting Common Core as part of Prosperity 2020?
What does the anti-common core legislation look like in those states that are withdrawing from Common Core –and can we do this in Utah?
Is there any evidence that Common Core can raise academic success or economic success in Utah? / Was there ever a pilot study or a field test of the standards? / Which lead creator of Common Core admitted that these standards only prepare students for a nonselective 2-year college?
Why did the main creator of Common Core get promoted to be president of the College Board and how will it dumb down college standards?
Which source documents from the Department of Education mandate teacher redistribution, sharing of student level data, not adding more than 15% to the standards in any state, and asking permission of D.C. groups to make amendments to these common standards?
How do we reclaim our now-lost educational power?

Upon This Lack of Evidence We Base Our Children’s Futures   4 comments

Where is the evidence to support the rhetoric surrounding the CCSS? This is not data-driven decision making. This is a decision grasping for data…  Yet this nation will base the future of its entire public education system, and its children, upon this lack of evidence. – Dr. Christopher Tienken, Seton Hall University, NJ

In the Education Administration Journal, the  AASA Journal of Scholarship and Practice (Winter 2011 / Volume 7, No. 4) there’s an article by Dr. Christopher Tienken of Seton Hall University that clearly explains the ridiculousness of Common Core.  The full article, “Common Core: An Example of Data-less Decision Making,” is available online, and  following are some highlights:

Although a majority of U.S. states and territories have “made the CCSS the legal law of their land in terms of the mathematics and language arts curricula,” and although “over 170 organizations, education-related and corporations alike, have pledged their support,” still “the evidence presented by its developers, the National Governors Association (NGA) and Council of Chief State School Officers (CCSSO), seems lacking,” and research on the topic suggests “the CCSS and those who support them are misguided,” writes Dr. Tienken.


“The standards have not been validated empirically and no metric has been set to monitor the intended and unintended consequences they will have on the education system and children,” he writes.

Tienken and  many other academics have said  that Common Core adoption begs this question: “Surely there must be quality data available publically to support the use of the CCSS to transform, standardize, centralize and essentially de-localize America‘s public education system,” and surely there must be more compelling and methodologically strong evidence available not yet shared with the general public or education researchers to support the standardization of one of the most intellectually diverse public education systems in the world. Or, maybe there is not?”

Tienken calls incorrect the notion that American education is lagging behind international competitors and does not believe the myth that academic tests can predict future economic competitiveness.

Unfortunately for proponents of this empirically vapid argument it is well established that a rank on an international test of academic skills and knowledge does not have the power to predict future economic competitiveness and is otherwise meaningless for a host of reasons.”

He observes: “Tax, trade, health, labor, finance, monetary, housing, and natural resource policies, to name a few, drive our economy, not how students rank on the Trends in International Math and Science Study (TIMSS)” or other tests.

Most interestingly, Tienken observes that the U.S. has had a highly  internationally competitive system up until now.  “The U.S. already has one of the highest percentages of people with high school diplomas and college degrees compared to any other country and we had the greatest number of 15 year-old students in the world score at the highest levels on the 2006 PISA science test (OECD, 2008; OECD, 2009; United Nations, 2010). We produce more researchers and scientists and qualified engineers than our economy can employ, have even more in the pipeline, and we are one of the most economically competitive nations on the globe (Gereffi & Wadhwa, 2005; Lowell, et al., 2009; Council on Competitiveness, 2007; World Economic Forum, 2010).

Tienken calls Common Core “a decision in search of data” ultimately amounting to “nothing more than snake oil.”  He is correct.  The burden of proof is on the proponents to show that this system is a good one.

He writes: “Where is the evidence to support the rhetoric surrounding the CCSS? This is not data-driven decision making. This is a decision grasping for data…  Yet this nation will base the future of its entire public education system, and its children, upon this lack of evidence. Many of America‘s education associations already pledged support for the idea and have made the CCSS major parts of their national conferences and the programs they sell to schools.

This seems like the ultimate in anti-intellectual behavior coming from what claim to be intellectual organizations now acting like charlatans by vending products to their members based on an untested idea and parroting false claims of standards efficacy.”

Further, Dr. Tienken reasons:

“Where is the evidence that national curriculum standards will cause American students to score at the top of international tests or make them more competitive? Some point to the fact that many of the countries that outrank the U.S. have national, standardized curricula. My reply is there are also nations like Canada, Australia, Germany, and Switzerland that have very strong economies, rank higher than the U.S. on international tests of mathematics and science consistently, and do not have a mandated, standardized set of national curriculum standards.”

Lastly, Dr. Tienken asks us to look at countries who have nationalized and standardized education, such as China and Singapore:  “China, another behemoth of centralization, is trying desperately to crawl out from under the rock of standardization in terms of curriculum and testing (Zhao, 2009) and the effects of those practices on its workforce. Chinese officials recognize the negative impacts a standardized education system has had on intellectual creativity. Less than 10% of Chinese workers are able to function in multi-national corporations (Zhao, 2009).

I do not know of many Chinese winners of Nobel Prizes in the sciences or in other the intellectual fields. China does not hold many scientific patents and the patents they do hold are of dubious quality (Cyranoski, 2010).

The same holds true for Singapore. Authorities there have tried several times to move the system away from standardization toward creativity. Standardization and testing are so entrenched in Singapore that every attempt to diversify the system has failed, leaving Singapore a country that has high test scores but no creativity. The problem is so widespread that Singapore must import creative talent from other countries”.

According to Dr. Tienken, Common Core is a case of oversimplification.  It is naiive to believe that all children would benefit from mastering the same set of skills, or that it would benefit the country in the long run, to mandate sameness.  He observes that Common Core is “an Orwellian policy position that lacks a basic understanding of diversity and developmental psychology. It is a position that eschews science and at its core, believes it is appropriate to force children to fit the system instead of the system adjusting to the needs of the child.”

Oh, how I agree.

Since when do we trust bureaucracies more than we trust individuals to make correct decisions inside a classroom or a school district?  Since when do we agree force children to fit a predetermined system, instead of having a locally controlled, flexible system that can adjust to the needs of a child?

What madness (or money?) has persuaded even our most American-as-apple-pie organizations — even the national PTA, the U.S. Army, the SAT, most textbook companies and many governors– to advocate for Common Core, when there never was a real shred of valid evidence upon which to base this country-changing decision?

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