Senator “Let’s-Don’t-Talk-About-Common-Core” LaMar Alexander has proposed a bill to amend ESEA (No Child Left Behind Act) in order “to restore freedom”. The bill is called the “Every Child Ready for College or Career Act of 2015“.
I read the 387-pager after I learned that education experts, slated to testify against the bill, had abruptly been dismissed and were told that the bill had been “fast-tracked,” so there wouldn’t be time for them to speak. —No time to hear testimony and debate about a historic, child-impacting bill?
I read this bill with these six facts and questions in mind:
Fact 1. There’s a de facto federal database composed of fifty individual databases with interoperable State Longitudinal Database Systems. These feed on the federal school testing/data collecting system, and feed different federal databases and their powerful branches. This clearly violates “consent of the governed” because nobody can opt out.
QUESTION 1: Would LaMar’s bill restore “consent of the governed” to education and to student data mining?
Fact 2. There’s a federal testing system comprised of Common Core aligned, synchronized testing partnerships: PARCC, SBAC, and AIR. This violates Constitutional separation of powers since the federal government has no business in state-directed educational affairs such as testing.
QUESTION 2: Would LaMar’s bill restore separation of powers and deny federal supervision of school tests?
Fact 3. There’s a corporate cartel of educational technology and text sellers (Pearson Inc, partnered with Gates/Microsoft, etc) advising the federal testing system. This violates the Constitutional principle of agency; individuals and states are coerced to use certain corporations’ products with federal approval.
QUESTION 3: Would LaMar’s bill restore a diverse exchange of academic ideas to the American textbook and technology market?
Fact 4. The corporate cartel finances the private groups that created and copyrighted the common education and the common data tags programs. Federal approval of such financing and implementation is clear by the official partnering of the U.S. Dept. of Education with the private creator-copyrighter groups. That violates consent of the governed, too.
QUESTION 4: Would LaMar’s bill create fairness and freedom for non-Common Core aligned education providers?
Fact 5. Because Common Core standards are copyrighted, states (voters, teachers, you and I) don’t get to vote on them. There’s no amendment process for any state to alter Common Core Standards nor the Common Education Data System (CEDS). Federal promotion and partnershipping with those who copyrighted nonamendable standards, violates states’ rights and consent of the governed.
QUESTION 5: Would LaMar’s bill move us away from these chokehold national standards and restore individual agency?
Fact 6. Both Republican and Democratic politicians are hacking at the limbs of the Constitution openly, aiming to phase out the authority of the states and of parents regarding educational authority, privacy and other issues. Aiming to “phase out the authority of states” is blatantly unconstitutional.
QUESTION 6: Would LaMar’s bill stop the Department of Education’s agenda to “phase out state authority”?
Now, to the bill.
I knew from page one that this was going to be a big, fat two-tongued document because the bill’s purpose statement: “to restore freedom” conflicts with its own title: “The Every Child Ready for College or Career Act of 2015“.
This bill by its title and throughout its text cements the Common Core Initiative into federal law without once using the term “Common Core”. How?
Did you know that the phrase College and Career Ready has been repeatedly, federally and corporationally defined in multiple places as only Common Core. (See College and Career Ready definition: the Dept. of Education defines college and career ready standards as “standards common to a significant number of states.” There is one thing that meets that definition. Anytime you see “college and career ready,” run; it equals only the Common Core.
Can a bill claim to restore freedom while it promotes the exact, synonymous term that takes freedom in education away?
On page three I found red flag #2: “Close the achievement gap between high and low performing children“. It’s another way of saying “everyone has to be the same at any cost– even at the price of slowing or dumbing down high achievers.” Posing as fairness, it’s precisely the opposite, as nonsensical as the Handicapper General in Harrison Bergeron. ( The funny, tragic short story of Harrison Bergeron is online if you haven’t read it.)
The bill explains how money must be allocated to ensure that the achievement gap-closing happens. The Harrison Bergeron-ian “fairness” will be enforced with (our) tax dollars in federally set ways.
On page 8 we learn: States will have to create a peer review board with the purpose of promoting “effective implementation of the challenging State academic standards“. A mandated review board will promote implementation of Common Core, the very thing so many hope to eradicate. Note the slickness: later on the same page, it says: “with the goal of supporting State- and local-led innovation”. It’s pleasant sounding, but it’s a lie; one can’t support local innovation while implementing centrally controlled, Common Core standards on a federally mandated review board.
I already don’t want to read the rest of the 379 pages. I’m only on page 8.
Next is a section called “State Plan Determination, Demonstration and Revision” which makes me wonder: why should states demonstrate to the federal government, when education is not in federal jurisdiction? (Calling for “accountability” without authority to make that call should always raise eyebrows. I’m envisioning Emperor Arne being fed grapes while the Constitution is being used as bird cage liner.) This gets worse when the bill says that the Secretary of Education can decline to approve a State plan (pages 8 and 9) and that the Secretary of Education would withhold funds from states who don’t comply. (page 12) This is clearly out of harmony with the bill’s stated purpose “to restore freedom” as well as being out of harmony with the U.S. Constitution.
Page 13: The same standards have to be used throughout the entire state. They have to be aligned with state college standards. (They can’t be lower, but they can’t be any higher, either, than the worst of any state college. They can’t align with any unusually high private university standards.) This control freakishness –and this obvious dumbing down, may succeed in closing that achievement gap but only by harming high achievers, it seems to me.
Page 16: In complete contradiction to pages 8 and 9, this section says that the Secretary has no authority to supervise or direct state standards.
Page 17: Here we go with the assessments. Every state must use standardized tests aligned to the college-and-career-ready standards (Common).
Page 20: Here we go with the data collecting: tests must “produce individual student interpretive, descriptive, and diagnostic reports… include information regarding achievement on assessments… provided… in an understandable and uniform format” [meaning, I am sure: Common Educational Data Standards and SIF interoperability formats, which preclude strong privacy protection].
The data collected must be disaggregated, says the bill, by state and by school using these factors: gender, economic status, race, ethnicity, English proficiency, disability, migratory status, etc., but will not be personally identifiable. (Hmm. On page 20 they just said tests must report on “individual interpretive, descriptive and diagnostic reports.” How is that not personally identifiable?)
On page 34 I’m troubled by this: “achievement gaps between each category of students described“. So they will divide and label student achievement groups by race, by gender, by ability, by economic status, etc. to further identify groups.
On page 35 the bill identifies schools that must be “turned around”.
On page 37 the state assures the federal government that it will participate in the NAEP test for 4th and 8th graders.
On page 39 the bill mandates uniform state report cards.
On page 54 the “Local Educational Agency Plan” mandates identifying students and identifying achievement gaps. The plan also funds HeadStart or other government preschools.
Page 66 tells states how they have to spend any unused money.
Page 89 gives priority to low achievers.
Page 92-96 discusses private schools and how Title I funds will follow the low income child. Where funding goes, strings are attached and mandates (i.e., data mining and government tests) follow. Title I funds look like the way Common Core aims to infiltrate charter schools and private schools.
Page 99: Grants for Common Tests: The Secretary of Education will give grants to pay for tests and standards, if the states are working in partnership with other states.
Page 101: Summative, interim and formative tests will be developed or improved. (More Common Core testing, more frequently, and more in disguise–as practice or as assignments, rather than traditional end of the year summative tests.)
Page 111: “At risk” students will be indentified, intervened, and reported.
Page 117: If there is failure to reach consensus, the Secretary of Education is empowered to act on his own with the “alternative process” that “if Secretary determines that a negotiated rulemaking process is unnecessary...” he simply tells Congress (not asks, tells) –and then he does his own thing, allowing for public comment afterward, and then, finally, makes it an official regulation. I hope people are reading this.
Page 135: Here the states are told the conditions by which they will make subgrants to schools and to teachers.
Page 145: This fulfils Arne Duncan’s dream of replacing family with school as the centerpiece of life and community, “providing programs that…extend the school day, school week, or school year calendar.” Remember what the Secretary Duncan said in his Charlie Rose interview? This is his one minute video:
Page 153: “Secretary may waive” requirements. So this may be a Congressionally vetted law, but it’s more of a suggestion than a hard and fast law, always subject to the whims of the Secretary. This is repeated on page 224: “The Secretary may waive any statutory or regulatory requirement… with respect to charter schools.. if.. Secretary determines that granting such a waiver will promote the purposes...”
Page 163: Grant recipients must provide data to the federal Secretary of Education.
Page 226: On Charter Schools: “support the opening of… replication of… charter schools… expansion of high quality charter schools”.
Page 229: “A description of how the State will actively monitor and hold authorized public chartering agencies accountable… including… revoking the authority of an authorized chartering agency based on the performance of the charter school… in areas of student achievement… and compliance”.
Page 249: The Secretary of Education can take money out of the charter school’s reserve account if the grant wasn’t used in “carrying out the purposes” of the Secretary.
[On and on and on the bill rambles about charter school expansion and federal controls on the charter schools. Endless pages are devoted to charter schools. Why the increased interest of the federal government in supporting charter schools? Because charter schools don’t have elected school boards. The ruling bodies of charter schools are appointed, not elected. In some places, philanthropists and huge corporations are administering charter schools –with zero accountability to any parent or any voter. This is education without representation! This is why the Obama Administration is pushing to identify and “turn around” “low performing” public schools and turn them into voter-untouchable institutions of the cartels and governments who benefit from that kind of power.] I happen to have one child who attends a charter school and I know from personal experience that the board is under no obligation to listen to any parent, and no parent can vote a board member out. You’re just lucky if the board happens to be made of people with whom you share values and goals for children.]
Page 268 talks about using magnet schools to desegregate “students of different racial backgrounds”. I don’t agree with redistribution by government force of anything– not money, not teachers, not not principals, not standards, and not students of different races. But the Department of education does.
Page 276 “State Innovation and Flexibility“: think about the way that title rations liberty. What would the founding fathers say about the federal government creating a document with a section heading titled like that? States are allowed to have some innovation? Some flexibility? Those are sub-particles of a rationed freedom, not freedom at all.
Page 297: “Indian, Native Hawaiian, Alaska Native Education” – This part has me confused. Someone please comment below if you understand it. Why would the federal government spend pages and pages and pages outlining different rules for these specific minority groups? Not just a few— a LOT of pages.
Page 369: “Participation by private school children and teachers” – By definition, private school children and their teachers are to be left completely alone by the government; that’s what private means. Why is this federal law taking the effort and time to mention them? If, according to page 92, the Title One funds follow the private school child to his/her school, then the government will be taking reports, data mining, and putting out mandates as well.
The answer to each of my six questions, from the top, is “no”.
The stated purpose of the bill is “to restore freedom”. Does this happen? No.
The bill –without even using the term “Common Core” a single time, works to cement Common Core. It supports more common tests and emboldens the collectors of both academic and nonacademic personal student data (without parental consent), will intrude on private schools; and decreases representative school decision making by replacing a large number of public schools with no-elected-board, no-vote-allowed, charter schools; all under the banner of equitably meeting student needs and “closing an achievement gap.”
Please do something positive: tell your senators and reps to help push an actual freedom-granting bill in education.
I learned with gratitude today from Utah’s Mia Love that she is working with Rep. Joe Wilson on a bill “to allow states to opt out of Common Core without being penalized.” Support Mia Love. Write to her. Rep. Wilson, too. Please call other Congressmen and ask them to work with her and support her.
David Vitters’ bill, too, sounds a thousand times more honest than Alexander’s ESEA “Every Child College and Career Ready Act of 2015”.
Vitters’ bill (S73) is “A bill to prohibit the Federal Government from mandating, incentivizing, or coercing States to adopt the Common Core State Standards or any other specific academic standards, instructional content, curricula, assessments, or programs of instruction.” https://www.govtrack.us/congress/bills/114/s73 )
—But LaMar Alexander’s ESEA? No.
Peter Greene, teacher, blogger and Huffington Post writer, has written another funny and fascinating ed reform article. In this one, he highlights the findings of University of South Carolina law professor Derek W. Black. Black’s soon-to-be-published findings include the following:
“Two of the most significant events in the history of public education occurred over the last year. First, after two centuries of local control and variation, states adopted a national curriculum. Second, states changed the way they would evaluate and retain teachers, significantly altering teachers’ most revered right, tenure. Not all states adopted these changes of their own free will. The changes were the result of the United States Secretary of Education exercising unprecedented agency power in the midst of an educational crisis: the impending failure of almost all of the nation’s schools under the No Child Left Behind Act (NCLB). The Secretary invoked the power to impose new conditions on states in exchange for waiving their obligations under NCLB…. As a practical matter, he federalized education in just a few short months.”
Peter Greene divides the law journal article into four simple, easy-to-digest segments, and explains them. You will laugh as you learn.
For example, under “Part I: No Changing the Rules” Greene writes: “When the feds pass a law, they have to lay out all the rules that do and will apply to that law. You can’t pass a law, start folks working under it, and then years later announce, ‘Oh, yeah, and by the way, we’ve changed this law about making cheese sandwiches so that it also covers sloppy joes, and also, if you don’t go along with us on this, we get to take your car.”Also, you can’t suddenly say, ‘We’ve given my brother-in-law the power to judge your sloppy joes.’ Conditions for receiving federal fund must be “unambiguous” and non-coercive.”
Both the funny and easy-to-understand analysis of Duncan’s illegal waiver-waving, and the official law journal publication by Dr. Derek Black, as soon as it becomes available to the public, must be read and shared.
Let’s stop the Department of Education’s lawless disrespect for constitutional local control of education –and protect our children– by learning and then sharing these facts widely.
Folks, there can be no question that the federal government is using Common Core to take away our freedoms.
So why do many people still believe that “there’s no federal control of Common Core”? Because trusted education leaders are not being forthright with –or are not in possession of– the truth. Here in Utah, for example, the Utah State Office of Education, has a “fact-versus-fiction” pamphlet which still says that the standards “are not federally controlled.”
The fact is that states that adopted Common Core standards are being co-parented by two groups in partnership, neither of which takes seriously the constitutional rights of the states to govern education locally: these partners are 1) The federal government and 2) Private trade clubs financed by Bill Gates– NGA and CCSSO.
So first, here’s evidence of terrible federal controls: (click to fact check, please)
1. Federal micromanagement in Common Core testing grant conditions and now, Race to the Top grant lures that go directly to districts and ignore state authority over districts.
2.Federal ESEA 15% capped waiver conditions that deny states the right to add more than 15% to our standards;
3. Federal reviews of tests
4. Federal data collection
5. Federal disfiguration of previously protective FERPA laws that removed parental rights over student data;
6. President Obama’s four assurances for education reform which governors promised to enact in exchange for ARRA stimulus funds;
7.Obama’s withholding of funds from schools that do not adopt Common Core as read in his Blueprint for Reform (aka The Reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act) which says, “Beginning in 2015, formula funds will be available only to states that are implementing assessments based on college- and career-ready standards that are common to a significant number of states.”
And here’s evidence of unelected, corporate controls of Common Core:
1) Common Core copyrights (and “living work” alteration rights) are held solely by two unelected, private clubs, the superintendents’ club (aka CCSSO) and a governors’ club (aka NGA).
2) These two clubs’ Common Core creation was influenced and funded not by voters/taxpayers, by the politically extreme Bill Gates, who has spent over $5 Billion on his personal, awful version of education reform– and that dollar amount is his own admission.
3) No amendment process exists for states to co-amend the “living work” standards. The “living work” statement means that OUR standards will be changed without representation from US as the states; it will be controlled by the private trade groups CCSSO/NGA.
4) Bill Gates and Pearson are partnered. (Biggest ed sales company partnered with 2nd richest man on earth, all in the effort to force Common Core on everyone.)
5) The speech of corporate sponsor Bill Gates when he explains that “We’ll only know [Common Core] this works when the curriculum and the tests are aligned to these standards.” This explains why he is giving away so much money so that companies can be united in the gold rush of creating Common Core curriculum.
6. Virtually every textbook sales company now loudly advertises being “common core aligned” which creates a national monopoly on textbook-thought. This, despite the fact that the standards are unpiloted, experimental (in the words of Dr. Christopher Tienken, Common Core is education malpractice.)
7. The U.S. Chamber of Commerce and many huge corporations (ExxonMobil) are loudly selling Common Core as a way of creating wealth, despite the standards’ untested nature.
The federal partnering with the private groups like CCSSO/NGA, means that mandates and thought-monopolies of Common Core are truly beyond even legislative control. –Because they are privately controlled, they’re beyond voters’ influence.
This is why nothing short of an outright rejection of all things Common Core can restore us to educational freedom.
Why should you care? Why should you fight this, even if you don’t have children in school? Because of the Constitution.
The Constitution sets us apart as the only country on earth that has ever truly had the “freedom experiment” work. This makes us a miraculous exception. Why would we ever shred the Constitution by accepting initiatives that disfigure our representative system?
The G.E.P.A. law states that “No provision of any applicable program shall be construed to authorize any department, agency, officer, or employee of the United States to exercise any direction, supervision, or control over the curriculum, program of instruction, administration, or personnel of any educational institution, school, or school system, or over the selection of library resources, textbooks, or other printed or published instructional materials by any educational institution or school system…”
So the federal government is prohibited from creating tests or instructional materials– but the private groups NGA and CCSSO, funded by Gates, are not! This is why the federal Department of Education officially partnered with these unelected, private corporate interests –groups which are not accountable to G.E.P.A. laws, to teachers, principals, taxpayers, voters or children. (This may also explain why Arne Duncan goes to such great lengths to distinguish between standards and curriculum. Everybody knows that standards dictate curriculum like a frame dictates the height and width of a house. But GEPA law doesn’t use the word “standards.”)
We are in unrepresented dire straits: In no way do voters or teachers (or states themselves) control what is now set in the Common Core standards.
This is true in spite of the so often-repeated “the standards are state-led” marketing line. Don’t believe the marketing lines! So much money is money being spent on marketing Common Core because of Bill Gates. Gates sees this whole Common Core movement as a way to establish his (and Pearson’s) “uniform customer base.”
Watch Gates say these words in his speech if you haven’t already. This speech needs to be widely known, especially by school boards –so that we can boycott this monopoly on thought and on our precious taxpayer dollars.
Please don’t let people keep getting away with saying that the Common Core is free from federal controls, or that “we can add anything we want to it” and “there are no strings attached.” It simply isn’t true.
(How we wish that it was.)
“All these groups want accountability from our children but I demand accountability from them“ – Debbie Higginbotham, Florida mother
FLORIDA’S FIGHT FOR EDUCATION: FREEDOM FROM “THE MACHINE”
By Debbie Higginbotham
In every state across this great nation, parents, grandparents, and great Americans are speaking out loudly against Common Core and the Race to The Top Agreement (RTTT). And they should!
Each state has their grassroots groups and coalitions marching to their state capitols demanding answers on why their children have been sold to the Federal Government.
When I started this personal crusade to save my children’s educational freedoms about a year ago, I had no idea what I was going to encounter. I am just a mom who is enjoying raising six beautiful children with no political aspirations nor experience in debating these political cronies.
Every state has their mountains to climb when fighting CC and ridding their state of these horrible standards and mandates all enclosed with the RTTT. Here in Florida most of our battles are the same, but we are fighting a white elephant in the room as well. That white elephant is Jeb Bush and his foundations and other groups he has “founded” that are promoting “higher standards”.
Many refer to Jeb Bush and his cronies as “The Machine”.
When originally talking with school board members and legislators– and being told that Common Core was here to stay and there was nothing I could do about it, I knew something was not right with this whole thing.
Some legislators were giving me the smile and wink –and I thought I was making progress.
It was pleasing to know, at the time, that my elected officials were taking my complaints to heart because this was going to affect their children as well.
I quickly started doing more research and that old saying of “follow the money trail” came to light so true and it wasn’t just looking into Bill Gates anymore, but looking into Jeb Bush and his involvement with Gates and his continuing efforts to alter Florida’s education system for his own political gain and a bid for the White House.
Those winks and nods were just that, empty promises.
The more I was learning, it soon disgusted me. How can a man with no elected accountability from voters have such an influence on my children’s education?
Everywhere I turned I was hitting the same roadblocks and that was “The Machine”. It wasn’t only Jeb Bush but I came to find out through more digging that Jeb Bush has pretty much bought and paid for almost all of the Republican legislators in office right now, including Governor Rick Scott. Even Lobbyists have a loyalty to him.
Jim Horne is the prominent one.
Back in August, Rick Scott called for an education summit to make it look like he was making an effort of hearing all sides of the education issues. He never showed up at the summit he’d called for, but then decided to further his political career and make decisions about Florida’s children over a bottle of an alcoholic beverage and dinner
on a Thursday evening with “The Machine” and its allies, Chair of the State Board of Education Gary Chartrand, and Republican Rep John Thrasher.
Most recently, Governor Rick Scott issued an Executive Order to withdraw from PARCC and resign from being the lead state. http://www.fldoe.org/news/2013/2013_09_23-2.asp?style=print
He also stated he would hold three district hearings to give parents and experts opportunities to voice their concerns on specific standards within Common Core. Great move on the Governor’s part, but the response from all of us was that this is just smoke and mirrors. Scott was only trying to pacify us, the parents, while still keeping “The Machine” happy.
When will this man stand on his own two feet? Even more disturbing is in the last few days our Education Commissioner, Pam Stewart, has come out and said that even though the hearings will be held, it will not change any outcome continuing with the implementation of Common Core.
REALLY! That just goes to prove it is all smoke and mirrors.
Everywhere we turn this white elephant shows up uninvited! There are little worker bees “The Machine” spreads throughout the state to try and shut us down. They make it their life each day to seek out moms like me and try to prove that we are misinformed about Common Core and how Florida needs higher standards and accountability from our children and teachers.
ACCOUNTABILITY!? Who is holding “The Machine” accountable?
Who is holding the NGA and CCSSO accountable? Let’s not forget ACHIEVE!
All these groups want accountability from our children but I demand accountability from them and what they believe to be best for my children. They have nothing better to do than come after moms and dads like me and call us misinformed! Only my husband and I, the true authorities, know what is best for our children.
“The Machine” has even promoted radio ads to be played boasting the standards on how they will give our children higher learning. The group “Conservatives For Higher Standards” was also involved with making and promoting the ad. We know those two have close ties to each other. The ad also touts making getting into college a fair playing field, no rote memorization, helping kids learn more, and states can opt in or our of the standards along with the lie that there are no DC mandates.
We are working on a counter ad to make sure our voices are right with theirs, and we are not backing down.
We are going to call their lies out.
Debbie Higginbotham is a mighty but tiny, very adorable, very-pregnant-with-her-seventh-child, mother and fredom fighter, who currently homeschools all but her oldest child.
She can be reached via Florida Parents Against Common Core. (www.flparentsagainstcommoncore.com)
Thank you, Debbie.
In the latest publication by the USOE, we read that Common Core is the “new gold standard” for education. Also, this latest publication fails to address the #1 concern of opponents to Common Core: that the privately copyrighted, “living work” standards will change, but states have no representative voice in those national changes.
It would be more honest to call it the “new fool’s gold” of American education both in terms of their academic status and in terms of the lack of legitimate representation at the standards-writing level.
As has been often repeated, the standards haven’t been piloted and have not been empirically validated. This makes our adoption of them a case study in educational malpractice.
The standards lower college readiness standards, as they prepare students only for a 2 year Jr. college. The standards hurt little children in the youngest grades, using absurdly rigorous expectations; this has been explained by an increasing number of child psychologists nationwide.
Worst of all, Common Core is a changeable and changing standard. It calls itself “a living work.” This means that it can and will be altered.
Gold does not change its quality or makeup. These standards do.
And when the standards do change, we all know that there is no written amendment process for the states who hold the standards in common to have a guaranteed voice in those alterations and amendments which are to happen.
This is why we keep on begging the Utah State School Board to abandon these standards, which are not only insufficient as they stand, but will change on a national scale– and we have no voice in those changes.
Please encourage the board to stop using deceptive terms such as “gold standard” when discussing and publishing information about Common Core.