Category Archives: National Standards (Common Core)

A RESPONSE TO CHESTER E. FINN, JR.

Submission* by Karen Schroeder

Common Core: conservative to the core” is one of many articles Chester E. Finn, Jr., has penned encouraging conservatives to embrace Common Core State Standards. Unfortunately, Mr. Finn never discloses that his “conservative” Thomas B. Fordham Institute has accepted nearly a million dollars from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation to develop supportive materials for Common Core Standards. Mr. Finn’s conflict of interest renders his assessment of Common Core self-serving and lacking credibility.

Advocates for Academic Freedom is funded solely by private donations. Representing taxpayers from every political party, every religion, and every socio-economic group, AAF has one goal: to demand truth and quality in all aspects of education. Our assessment of Common Core Standards conflicts with that of Chester Finn. CCS are not new, not rigorous or innovative, not fiscally responsible, not state created; they undermine accountability and traditional American values.

The Gates Foundation, David Coleman from the College Board, the International Baccalaureate Organization, the National Governors Association, the Council of Chief State School Officers, and a myriad of others wrote Common Core Standards—NOT the states.

Common Core represents another “We have to pass it so we can find out what is in it” policy. During a February, 2010, Governors’ Luncheon, President Obama told governors to adopt CCSS to receive federal Title I funds. Since the standards had not even been written, the federal government added the word “state” to the title so the public would think that the normal process of teacher and public involvement had been employed. We the people are growing tired of these insulting shell games imposed by governmental agencies.

Teachers and taxpayers should be outraged that any set of standards would require a retraining of teachers to assure implementation. Why should a teacher need to have special training to implement Common Core? The reason is that Common Core Standards do not emphasize student acquisition of knowledge and development of skills. They demand that students develop a belief system and attitudes needed to create a population with a “world philosophy”.

Americans are being forced to spend sixteen billion dollars on a plan shaped by the same policies of Benjamin Bloom that have been failing our children since the 1960s. Dozens of standards that are far more rigorous than Common Core Standards are free and available on the internet. States have always had access to them. When one compares TIMSS math standards for fourth graders to those of Common Core for the same grade level, it becomes painfully obvious that CCSS are not the rigorous standards promised.

CCSS is peppered with standards like this one for nine-year olds in fourth grade: “Construct viable arguments and critique the reasoning of others”. Most teachers would ask themselves: What is a viable argument appropriate for a nine-year-old child? What happens when a non-conformist refuses to critique a classmate/friend? What remediation will be provided? Will that remediation help the creative child learn to use non-conformity in a productive manner? How will this standard be assessed or tested for mastery?

Most math skills required under TIMSS at fourth grade can be found under the CC standards for fifth grade. Standards that are superior to CC focus on knowledge acquisition and skill development—not conformity, values, or beliefs.

Mr. Finn states that CC standards “written correctly, they do not dictate any particular curriculum of pedagogy.” Really? Then why has the federal government provided funding to publishers to align their textbooks to CCS and to testing consortiums to align all tests, ACT, SAT, accreditation, etc., to CCS?

Local control of schools includes a role in determining the curriculum taught. That is the American tradition that makes America a Constitutional Republic. When federal and state governments collude to impose standards upon the public, their DoEDs are acting in a dictatorial manner. America’s strength has always come from its people—not from its government.

It is time for taxpayers to get on the agenda for the next local school board meeting to demand rejection of CCSS and implementation of any one of the other excellent sets of standards available for free. It is time that citizens organize to stop the federal funding and the federal manipulation of the American educational system. Advocates for Academic Freedom works to build a grassroots movement to eliminate federal funding of education, to reallocate those federal educational dollars to the states, and to reinstate local control of schools. You may sign a petition on line at http://advocatesforacademicfreedom.org/petition.asp#.UdFzEuMo6po

Karen Schroeder is the President of Advocates for Academic Freedom, a member of the Wisconsin Educational Communications Board, an experienced public school teacher, and an educational consultant. She provides informational seminars to promote citizen involvement at local and state levels of the educational system. Ms.Schroeder supports a return to fact-based curricula, accountability, and academic excellence in public education. Frequently interviewed by Wisconsin radio personalities including Vicki McKenna, Karen writes for the U.S. Journal and other newspapers in several states. Karen can be reached at kpfschroeder@centurylink.net or by calling 715-234-5072. Address: 331 S. Main St., Suite 307, Rice Lake, WI. 54686

*This is a submission. Submissions do not necessarily reflect an official position of Conservative Teachers of America. One of our goals is to give a larger voice to the many conservative voices that exist inside of education.

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Assessment, Data, and Cognitive Dissonance

by Andrew Palmer

I have been reading So What do They Really Knowby Cris Tovani. It is a great book. In it, Tovani offers a very useful assessment tool called annotation. The idea is that you have a student mark up the text with their thinking as they read. They can write directly on an article or they can record their thinking on post-it notes about a text that they cannot write on. Annotations involve the student expressing an opinion, asking a question about the text, recording a reaction, making a connection, or predicting what might happen next.

As I was reading (and annotating), she made a great point and something that continues to bug me about the mindset of educational assessment in this country. Especially the mindset of those that are not educational practitioners (in other words, foolish politicians and billionaires who think they know something about what happens in a classroom).

Tovani writes:

“I am a skeptic. I distrust outsiders who barge into my classroom, data in hand, making judgments about students they’ve never met. When data from the district and state level doesn’t jibe with what I know about my students, I am driven into a state of cognitive dissonance, often trying to rationalize why the learners in my class didn’t do as well as I think they should have. Teachers often experience a state of cognitive dissonance to examine data they don’t trust. Some react with anger or denial. When teachers don’t trust the data, they don’t use it to inform instruction or enhance student performance.”

This is the problem with the fools that run around claiming their new and precious Common Core assessments will tell me some grand thing about my students. These new assessments, just like the current standardized assessments in every state will not be embraced by teachers, students, and parents. Instead of creating useful data that actually drives better instruction, they will just be another thing that drives them into a state of cognitive dissonance. Students will hate these tests just as much as they hate current state assessments. Student buy-in to an assessment is based upon the reality of prompt, and meaningful feedback. These tests will not provide that data to the child or the teacher. They will waste millions of dollars and create more problems in our public education system.

Of course, that is not really the point, is it? These new tests are more about controlling education from a national level than doing anything to help teachers and students improve.

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#CommonCore: The Joke’s On Us: 20 U.S.C. § 3403 : US Code – Section 3403: Relationship with States

by Gretchen Logue of Missouri Education Watchdog

Neal McCluskey writes how the Federal Government seems to be directing testing in the Common Core consortia.  From Saying Common Core Not Federal a Joke, but Joke’s on Us:

Last week I posted video from an American Enterprise Institute conference featuring supporters of national curriculum standards—the Common Core—dismissing concerns that implementing the standards might cost lots of taxpayer arms and legs, and laughingly brushing aside concerns that the Common Core might lead to federal control of school curricula. The latter emanated largely from Chester “Checker” Finn, president of the Thomas B. Fordham Institute, whose organization is a leading national standards supporter.
Yesterday news came out that made clear just how serious—and unfunny—concerns about a federal takeover are. According to Education Week, the U.S. Department of Education will start a “technical review process” for the Department-selected consortia creating the national tests to go with the standards. And what will that review look at? Not compliance with accounting standards or something administrative, but test “item design and validation.” That means, most likely (in-depth information from the Department was off-line as of this writing) reviewing the specific questions that will go on the tests. And what is tested, of course, ultimately dictates what is taught, at least if the test results are to have any concrete impact, ranging from whether students advance to the next grade, to whether schools gain or lose funding. Since the ultimate point of uniform standards is to have essentially uniform accountability from state to state, they will have to have some concrete impact, rendering this a clear next step in a major Federal incursion into curricula. (MEW bolded)
Now, maybe Finn wasn’t aware of any of this last week when he blew me off with knee-slapping zingers about the U.N. taking over the Common Core, but I doubt it: according to Education Week, one of Fordham’s employees, Kathleen Porter-Magee, will be on the federal review team, as will frequent Fordham collaborator William Schmidt of Michigan State University. So either Finn is an extremely hands-off manager, or as he summoned his inner Don Rickles last week he knew very well that federal tentacles were inching even deeper into America’s schools.
Ha, ha, America. Joke’s on you.

 
What does the law state about the Federal Government’s involvement in education?  From findlaw.com:

20 U.S.C. § 3403 : US Code – Section 3403: Relationship with States

(a) Rights of local governments and educational institutions
It is the intention of the Congress in the establishment of the
Department to protect the rights of State and local governments and
public and private educational institutions in the areas of
educational policies and administration of programs and to
strengthen and improve the control of such governments and
institutions over their own educational programs and policies. The
establishment of the Department of Education shall not increase the
authority of the Federal Government over education or diminish the
responsibility for education which is reserved to the States and
the local school systems and other instrumentalities of the States.
(b) Curriculum, administration, and personnel; library resources
No provision of a program administered by the Secretary or by any
other officer of the Department shall be construed to authorize the
Secretary or any such officer to exercise any direction,
supervision, or control over the curriculum, program of
instruction, administration, or personnel of any educational
institution, school, or school system, over any accrediting agency
or association, or over the selection or content of library
resources, textbooks, or other instructional materials by any
educational institution or school system, except to the extent
authorized by law.
(c) Funding under pre-existing programs
The Secretary shall not, during the period within eight months
after May 4, 1980, take any action to withhold, suspend, or
terminate funds under any program transferred by this chapter by
reason of the failure of any State to comply with any applicable
law requiring the administration of such a program through a single
organizational unit.

Do you remember of know of any law passed granting the Federal Government powers pertaining to those programs appearing in red text?  No? Then why is this “technical review process” allowed to go forward and exist?

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Video: Chicago History Teacher Paul Horton on Common Core and Corporate Collusion

We are cross-posting this piece from Christel Swasey of Common Core: Education Without Representation. Common Core is a perfect example of crony-capitalism. Common Core is the final marriage between education companies and our government. 

Today, Alisa and I spoke with Chicago History teacher Paul Horton about Common Core and his group, Citizens Against Corporate Collusion.  A few highlights:

1.  What’s wrong with high stakes testing?

2.  How does Common Core turn teacher artisans into teacher widgets?

3.  Dept. of Ed Secretary Arne Duncan graduated from the high school where Horton teaches; what does Horton say about Sec. Duncan?

4.  Why does Pearson Company stand to face legal trouble?

5.  What does Horton see Bill Gates doing Common Core pushing for?

6.  Why are Democrats and Republicans increasingly seeing eye to eye on the need to stop common core?

Here’s the segment.

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Videos: Meet Some Educational Freedom Fighters via @212Christel

H/T to Christel Swasey of Common Core: Education Without Representation

Remember, according to the Common Core cabal, these people don’t exist and all educational experts agree that Common Core will turn water to wine. You’re a big dumb, dummy if you don’t agree with them.

The links next to their names are often set to a specific point in the video. We have posted the videos in their entirety.

Christopher Tienken – Professor at Seton Hall, NJ –  http://vimeo.com/58461595

Jane Robbins – American Principles Project – Stop Common Core video series: http://youtu.be/coRNJluF2O4

Jamie Gass – Pioneer Institute – has been speaking about Common Core for many years; knows why Massachusetts had the best standards in the nation prior to Common Core. http://youtu.be/SBROaOCKN50

Senator Kurt Bahr – Missouri legislator fighting Common Core http://youtu.be/25NTsQxj-zg?t=1m49s

Senator William Ligon – Georgia legislator fighting Common Core http://youtu.be/ODz4X0GO-Fk?t=1m37s

Senator Scott Schneider – Indiana legislator fighting Common Core http://youtu.be/TH9ZxVrn6aA?t=1m10s

Dr. Bill Evers – Hoover Institute – Stanford University – http://youtu.be/LB014eno1aA

Robert Scott – Texas commissioner of education – rejected Common Core: http://youtu.be/WcpMIUWbgxY?t=2m25s

Diane Ravitch – liberal education analyst who just recently came out against Common Core http://youtu.be/ZkZUGpJJWy4?t=13s

Dr. Sandra Stotsky, who served on the Common Core validation committee and refused to sign off on their adequacy: http://bcove.me/ws77it6d  see min. 55:30

Ze’ev Wurman, math analyst http://youtu.be/0cgnprQg_O0?t=22s

Heather Crossin – Indiana mother fighting Common Core http://youtu.be/TH9ZxVrn6aA?t=54s

Utah moms  Alisa Ellis and Renee Braddy – http://youtu.be/Mk0D16mNbp4

Jim Stergios – Pioneer Institute –  http://bcove.me/ws77it6d see minute 30:00

Jenni White – Oklahoma data collection expert –  http://youtu.be/XTbMLjk-qRc and http://youtu.be/JM1CTJFUuzM

Susan Ohanian – education analyst http://youtu.be/uJHkztNNFNk?t=23s

Dr. William Mathis of University of Colorado http://youtu.be/46-M1hH0D1Q?t=23s

Seattle Teachers who boycotted Garfield High School standardized testing. http://youtu.be/N5ODEoqZZHs

Gary Thompson, clinical psychologist http://www.utahnsagainstcommoncore.com/glenn-beck-on-privacy-and-data-mining-in-common-core/
Emmett McGroarty, American Principles Project http://youtu.be/wVI78lPCFfs?t=21s

David Cox, teacher http://youtu.be/W-uAi1I_6Ds?t=22m28s

Paul Bogush, teacher  http://youtu.be/oaDniHquMVI?t=56s

Sherena Arrington, political analyst http://youtu.be/QF337nKwx6M?t=6m35s

Walt Chappell, Kansas Board of Education  http://youtu.be/1S9jjNyXAE4?t=16m55s

Bob Shaeffer, Colorado Principal /Former Congressman http://youtu.be/Fai4K2ZVauk?t=1m15s

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#CommonCore State Standards are federalizing your child’s future

by Karen Schroeder of Advocates for Academic Freedom.

The American educational system is being federalized through implementation of Race to the Top and Common Core State Standards. Once CCSS are completely implemented, the federal government will have control of assessment tools and textbooks used in core subjects. Also, a national data collection system called State Longitudinal Data Systems (SLDS) will be used to determine a child’s educational opportunities. The federalization of education will turn all school-choice programs into federally approved programs.

The International Baccalaureate is a set of standards which are shaped by several United Nations treaties.  International Baccalaureate Organization explains that IB and CCSS share the values and beliefs of the UN’s Universal Declaration of Human Rights with emphasis on Article 26.

This means that CCSS and IB programs are teaching beliefs and values contained in treaties that the United States does not support.  These values include the surrender of the American Constitution, of national sovereignty, and of individual rights so students will accept becoming members of the “world community”. The CCSS standards focus on changing the social and political values of American children. Few goals address academics; math standards actually lower expectations. What had been required from a fourth grade student is now required from a fifth grader.

The national data collection system (SLDS) will follow a child from Kindergarten to adulthood. A student’s IQ scores, test scores, and his disciplinary and medical records will become part of the collected data which will help determine educational and job opportunities afforded each student.

Once these systems are in place, all students in every educational setting will have to meet these state standards if they are going to pass the state-created assessment tools. Therefore, the education provided in every setting must include the curricula presented in state schools.

To accomplish these goals, the federal government has cooperated with companies to write textbooks that meet the goals of CCSS and IB. The federal government is funding organizations that will create testing tools to assess the student’s progress in accepting the social and political ideologies being taught in the classroom. Implementation of CCSS is expected to be completed within the next two to three years.

The only effective means of preventing international control of the American educational system is to eliminate the federal funding of education. Advocates for Academic Freedom is an educational consulting firm working with legislators across the United States to organize a conservative movement to eliminate federal control of education. Visit the Advocates for Academic Freedom home page, find the Petition for Progress button on the left side of the page, click on that button and sign the petition. To stop the federalization of education, we must have proof that there is sufficient support from the electorate. Please sign the petition and become a member of the grassroots movement to limit federal governmental control by removing federal funding of education and reallocating those funds to the states.

 

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How do you Sustain a Nationalized Education System? Turn it Over to 501(c)(3) Groups for Outsourcing.

by Gretchen Logue of Missouri Education Watchdog

The two private trade organizations The National Governors Association (NGA) and Council of Chief State School Officers (CCSSO) sure had a nifty plan to nationalize education.  Get states to “voluntarily” sign  up to relinquish their constitutional authority to develop and deliver education for their citizens in exchange for two consortia controlling state educational programs.  “Voluntarily” refers to the dangling of money to states competing for Race to the Top, but when some states still didn’t compete for or win grants, the ESEA waivers included states having to commit to CCSS.

The two consortia (PARCC and Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortia) have been funded by stimulus money which runs out in 2014.   The Tampa Bay Times writes that the Common Core deadlines won’t be met regarding assessment completion, computers and infrastructure requirements, and how to pay for the mandates.

We attended a SBAC meeting open to the public last year and it was evident the consortia was concerned about the issue of how the consortia would survive after the federal tap of stimulus money was finished.    From what we heard in the September 2012 meeting, a move to privately fund a consortia should not be surprise, but rather a move for sustainability:

Twenty million students are expected to take the SBAC assessments on-line. There needs to be technical and professional support for this system going forward. Both SBAC and PARCC were funded with seed money from TARP. This money will run out September 30, 2014. Any remaining unused funds will revert to the US Treasury. Both consortia must now figure out how to make the assessments sustainable by finding other funding sources. The first RFP for a consultant to take on this work received zero bids because SBAC had grossly underestimated the effort needed to do the work. They are now looking to identify areas of commonality with the other assessment consortia, PARCC, and see if the two groups can share a consultant on those common points. It is not a stretch to see that these two groups are probably going to have to combine in the future in order to remain sustainable. Then we will truly have national standards.

The plan is to go to private foundations to fund Phase 2.  

The plan for private funding has now been put into place for one consortia.   PARCC announced it is reorganizing itself as a 501(c)(3).  From edweek.com and Testing Consortium Reorganizes for Long-Term Survival:

The two big groups of states that are designing tests for the common standards have a lot more on their minds than the thorny work of test design. They’re trying to figure out how they can survive once their federal funding runs out in the fall of 2014, before the tests are even administered.

One sign of this focus cropped up when PARCC announced that it had reorganized itself as a 501(c)(3) nonprofit. This move facilitates the receipt of foundation funding, among other things, something that has been under consideration as a mode of survival once the group runs out of federal money.

As we’ve reported to you, PARCC and the Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium have teamed up to do some thinking about sustainability. They’ve got a heavy-hitting consulting firm working on sustainability plans, and the National Governors Association and the Council of Chief State School Officers—the folks who spearheaded the common-standards drive four years ago—are playing roles as well.

Read more here.

What’s the problem with turning over the nation’s education development and delivery to a 501(c)(3)?  Questions not having any easy answers include:

Who will be in control of the standards?  Who will be designing the assessments?  Will voters have any say in who is educating their children?  Could billionaires with an agenda (pick your side, left or right) organize a nonprofit to deliver the type of education they believe students should learn?

Edweek writes:

The sustainability question is key to the long-term work and goals of the consortia. Right now, no one really knows who will update the tests, for instance, as secure item pools dwindle. The research agenda is in question, too, and that’s pretty huge. Without a multiyear inquiry into how students at various cut scores actually perform in college, it’s tough to validate the test as being a sound proxy of college readiness. These—and many more—questions ride on the question of sustainability. There is a near-term question of sustainability, as well. The groups are mindful that in order to protect the $360 million in federal funding they won, they each need to have at least 15 member states. With 24 in SBAC and 22 in PARCC right now, that doesn’t seem to be a looming issue. But if enough states get skittish and drop out, federal officials could—according to their own regulations—cut off the funding that is meant to carry the consortia’s work through the fall of 2014.

Count many folks in Missouri becoming more and more skittish of CCSS standards that were never field tested or even written before they were adopted by the governor, education commissioner and State Board of Education members.

Now that taxpayers know of the plans of these two private trade organizations to nationalize education, do you think they will still want their tax money used for copyrighted standards by non-profit organizations?  Isn’t education development and delivery the role of the states and local school districts?  Why is education now outsourced to private consortia and in the future, 501(c)(3) groups?

Listed here are some downsides to outsourcing which include:

  • loss of managerial control
  • hidden cost
  • threat to security and confidentiality
  • quality problems
  • tied to the financial well-being of another company
  • bad publicity and ill-will

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Database in #CommonCore Explained. Segregation Revisited?

by Gretchen Logue of Missouri Education Watchdog

We shared Mark Garrison’s written testimony yesterday supporting MO SB 210 and HB 616 which calls for the halting of Common Core implementation.

Garrison writes in An Irrational $170 Million Database We Most Certainly Don’t Need about the data to be gathered on students via databases and Common Core standards:

********************************************

While some folks have been warning the public about this for over a year, a recent Reuters article has renewed popular outrage over a privately controlled centralized database that will house an unprecedented amount of individual level data without the consent or even the knowledge of parents, and apparently, state or federal legislatures. My comments are throughout, as I can’t resist. The article reads, in part:

An education technology conference this week in Austin, Texas, will clang with bells and whistles as startups eagerly show off their latest wares. But the most influential new product may be the least flashy: a $100 million database built to chart the academic paths of public school students from kindergarten through high school. In operation just three months, the database already holds files on millions of children identified by name, address and sometimes social security number. Learning disabilities are documented, test scores recorded, attendance noted. In some cases, the database tracks student hobbies, career goals, attitudes toward school — even homework completion.

Brushing off real concerns about this development, readers are reassured with this declaration: “Federal law allows [schools] to share files in their portion of the database with private companies selling educational products and services.”
Further on readers are informed:

Federal officials say the database project complies with privacy laws. Schools do not need parental consent to share student records with any “school official” who has a “legitimate educational interest,” according to the Department of Education. The department defines “school official” to include private companies hired by the school, so long as they use the data only for the purposes spelled out in their contracts.

This raises a host of questions, ones that I’ll deal with in a future post. But, for now, let’s follow the “logic” outlined in the rest of the article and what it reveals about the “Career and College Ready” agenda that is driving this initiative.

“This is going to be a huge win for us,” said Jeffrey Olen, a product manager at CompassLearning, which sells education software. CompassLearning will join two dozen technology companies at this week’s SXSWedu conference in demonstrating how they might mine the database to create custom products — educational games for students, lesson plans for teachers, progress reports for principals.

Maybe I’m confused, but I thought teachers created lesson plans and principals created reports? This discourse suggests the intensification of the de-skilling and de-professionalization of educators that began decades ago with scripted protocols, etc. Once in place, any Teach for America like temp worker can print up the computer-generated lesson plan, which will certainly include some “educational games”. Results of those “games” will automatically populate the report that the virtual principal will produce for the virtual school board.

Next we are told:

The database is a joint project of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, which provided most of the funding, the Carnegie Corporation of New York and school officials from several states. Amplify Education, a division of Rupert Murdoch’s News Corp [known for violating privacy rights and spying], built the infrastructure over the past 18 months. When it was ready, the Gates Foundation turned the database over to a newly created nonprofit, inBloom Inc, which will run it.

What isn’t shared in the article is the role this database will play in implementing the Common Core State Standards Initiative (CCSSI), which would not exist in its present form without the Gates Foundation. The inBloom website discussion board clearly indicates that this database is designed around the CCSS. The CCSSI assessment apparatuses are likely to directly tie into this database if and once they become fully functional. And, given that the plan is to have student essays graded by computer, there are likely to be “digital” assessments of student writing from the dispositional point of view. Might an angry or merely “different” essay by a student trigger a “no education list” (a la the U.S. Terrorist Screening Center’s no fly lists) and be used by corporate charters in screening applicants, inventing a vast and detailed hierarchy of “human capital”?

The article continues:

States and school districts can choose whether they want to input their student records into the system; the service is free for now, though inBloom officials say they will likely start to charge fees in 2015. So far, seven states — Colorado, Delaware, Georgia, Illinois, Kentucky, North Carolina, and Massachusetts — have committed to enter data from select school districts. Louisiana and New York will be entering nearly all student records statewide.

So, individual data collected by public authorities that are responsible to protect the privacy claims of these individuals is turned over to a private company, and then the public authority has to pay the private company for access to that data? Now that’s “critical thinking”! And while “inBloom pledges to guard the data tightly, its own privacy policy states that it ‘cannot guarantee the security of the information stored … or that the information will not be intercepted when it is being transmitted.’ ” Seems like a double standard when you think about how “reformers” would scream if a public school stated that it could not protect student privacy.

The article does report that parents from

New York and Louisiana have written state officials in protest. So have the Massachusetts chapters of the American Civil Liberties Union and Parent-Teacher Association. If student records leak, are hacked or abused, “What are the remedies for parents?” asked Norman Siegel, a civil liberties attorney in New York who has been working with the protestors. “It’s very troubling.”

I encourage parents to send a letter, similar to this.

What follows is the main justification for the initiative, and it is worth parsing out in detail.

“We look at personalized learning as the next big leap forward in education,” said Brandon Williams, a director at the Illinois State Board of Education.

First, I believe “personalized learning” is the new language for what used to be called tracking based on “ability”, social class, or other forms of social differentiation (“race,” ELLs, etc.). But it gets better:

Does Johnny have trouble converting decimals to fractions? The database will have recorded that — and may have recorded as well that he finds textbooks boring, adores animation and plays baseball after school. Personalized learning software can use that data to serve up a tailor-made math lesson, perhaps an animated game that uses baseball statistics to teach decimals.

What kind of non-thinking human being creates such narrative? Even the most unmotivated mediocre teacher can determine if a student has trouble converting decimals to fractions! And wouldn’t the database be more useful if it could identify those students who actually found textbooks exciting? And, seriously, might teachers, unencumbered by the demands of “accountability” that increasingly block them from establishing meaningful relationships with their students, know which student likes baseball?

No teacher, school administrator or parent needs this database; it is a solution to a non-existent problem. It’s a complete hoax. It is also frightening that someone thought the above narrative was a useful public justification and that it could stand in a news item. How far gone are we that the absurdity is not evident? “Personalized learning” = remove the teacher -> collect “data” -> replace real teaching with “virtual games” -> so as “to get to know the student.”[1]

But wait, there’s more!

Johnny’s teacher can watch his development on a “dashboard” that uses bright graphics to map each of her students’ progress on dozens, even hundreds, of discrete skills.

Forgive me, but I prefer to watch the development of young people in person. “Bright graphics” — sounds like Disney, not education. “Discrete skills” — nothing says “product specification” better than “discrete skills.”

“You can start to see what’s effective for each particular student,” said Adria Moersen, a high school teacher in Colorado who has tested some of the new products.[2]

If you need a glowing, colorful dashboard of “discrete skills” to “see” your “students develop” and discern what is “effective” there’s definitely a problem. Or, maybe that’s the vision? Let’s continue:

The sector is undeniably hot; technology startups aimed at K-12 schools attracted more than $425 million in venture capital last year, according to the NewSchools Venture Fund, a nonprofit that focuses on the sector. The investment company GSV Advisors tracked 84 deals in the sector last year, up from 15 in 2007.

NewSchools is a big supporter of charters and other privatization schemes.

In addition to its $100 million investment in the database, the Gates Foundation has pledged $70 million in grants to schools and companies to develop personalized learning tools.

Again, I offer my suggestion that “personalized” is the new language of tracking. Data will be the new marker used to segregate.

Also of note is that the official estimates of the Gates Foundation contribution to the Common Core Standards is $100 million; but if we include all those grants that are part of the Core agenda, the number becomes much, much bigger; the above $170 million constituting a start. Based on data I have collected from their Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation website, I estimate the total expenditure to be about $1.5 billion between 2009 and 2012. The next bit is revealing as well.

Schools tend to store different bits of student information in different databases, often with different operating systems. That makes it clunky to integrate new learning apps into classrooms. […] The new database aims to wipe away those obstacles by integrating all student information — including data that may previously have been stored in paper files or teacher gradebooks — in a single, flexible platform. […] Education technology companies can use the same platform to design their software, so their programs will hook into a rich trove of student data if a district or state authorizes access.

This reminds me of the justification for the security state built post 9/11. We would all be safe if we could just break down those barriers between databases (e.g., eliminating boundaries between local, state and federal police agencies) and remove the blocks to spying!

At the Rocketship chain of charter schools, for instance, administrators must manually update at least five databases to keep their education software running smoothly when a child transfers from one teacher to another, said Charlie Bufalino, a Rocketship executive. The extra steps add expense, which limits how many apps a school can buy. And because the data is so fragmented, the private companies don’t always get a robust picture of each student’s academic performance, much less their personal characteristics.

First point: you most likely don’t need the software; the money could be better spent. Second point: who cares if the “private companies don’t get a robust picture”? Why are we all of a sudden so concerned about private companies having a “robust picture” of our children?

Yes, it even gets better.

Larry Berger, an executive at Amplify Education, says the data could be mined to develop “early warning systems.” Perhaps it will turn out, for instance, that most high school dropouts began to struggle with math at age 8. If so, all future 8-year-olds fitting that pattern could be identified and given extra help.

Forgetting for a moment that Larry’s statement erases more than 40 years of research on the predictors of “dropping out” (linked mostly to poverty, racism and lack of funding), my question is this: will the “early warning system” be color coded, like the now infamous “terror alerts?” Is “fitting the pattern” the new language for profiling? Sounds like the noble language of helping to prevent “drop outs” might hide something a little less palatable; maybe inBloom will partner with state governments to alert them of students not “ready” to vote?

Companies with access to the database will also be able to identify struggling teachers and pinpoint which concepts their students are failing to master. One startup that could benefit: BloomBoard, which sells schools professional development plans customized to each teacher.

Well that’s good news. Private companies that are charging the public for access to the data provided to them by the public will assist in further attacking teachers as the source of the problem while social inequality reaches new heights! Hopefully BloomBoard will lobby for more computers — I just hope some of the leaking roofs won’t short out the circuits. I also hope their statisticians can develop models that can compensate for students not giving a damn as they sit, alienated, in their PARCC testing cages.

The new database “is a godsend for us,” said Jason Lange, the chief executive of BloomBoard. “It allows us to collect more data faster, quicker and cheaper.”

But I thought it was “all about the kids”?

In the end, this is an untenable plan, doomed to failure, with more harm along the way. It should be opposed.

  1. Even the introductory video on the inBloom website presents a vision of the teacher/student interaction as completely mediated by their database which is to form the basis of and completely structure the student/teacher relationship. In the video, both students and teachers are presented as passive, with very limited voice, only acting through the devices devised by the database developers.
  2. The formulation “each particular” set me off, so I went searching on the Internet for Adria, and I came up with what appears to be someone who loves signing up to all the social media, but never really uses any of it (is she real?). No posts from her twitter account. No info on Linkedin, but a member. “Summitt Post” indicates “high school teacher” in Colorado. On “Clas talk”, nothing. Uses “pinterest” — what I saw was vapid. Appears on “rate my teacher” with 3 stars out of 5, from six respondents (“fun” was used frequently by those posting). (Obviously the sites that did not identify her profession and location could be for someone else.) From what I could find, she does not come across as an authority on the subject of using large databases to enhance education. She has been a teacher for a short time, and in general strikes me as an odd choice for an interview by an international news agency.

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FLORIDA PARENT CONCERNED ABOUT COMMON CORE

One of the purposes of our site is to give conservatives, both parents and educators, a place to speak out about education. Below is a piece from Debbie Higginbotham. Ms. Higginbotham is a Florida parent who did exactly what more parents need to do, get involved and know what is going on in our schools.  If you live in Florida, you might consider joining our discussion group for the state.

As I sit here listening to the sounds of my home and my children exploring their environment, I wonder what their world is going to be like when they have children. Will their children be enslaved to an education system that expects everyone to conform to one style of learning? Will they have the freedom to choose their educational path? We need to ask these questions now before it is too late to change the path of American education.

I started researching the Common Core State Standards about four months ago. I saw a headline on a news website that consisted of the words, “Public Education and Bill Ayers.” Chills rushed through my body, as I thought how that name could have any positive affect on my children’s education in the public sector. After reading the article and finding out what Common Core was, I was not satisfied and needed to know more. I started digging deeper and deeper and what I found truly troubled me as a mom, who only wants the best for my six children.  I learned Common Core is a national standard, which will not allow local control; at the state level or at the county level, over what gets put into our classrooms. How could people in Washington know what is best for my kids all the way here in Florida?

In my research, I found multiple resources from different viewpoints. As I gathered the information, I got in touch with local school board members and started asking questions. I was told Common Core was pretty much here to stay and there was nothing I could do about it.  Questions started popping into my head that I couldn’t get answered fast enough. I wondered why no one realized how wrong it is to have Washington control the local educational needs of our children. If, by chance, someone did think this was wrong, why they didn’t stand up and say something? Well, I am now standing up and speaking to as many people as I can to inform them of this educational travesty. Although, we have elected these board members and the superintendent to look after the educational needs of our children within the public schools; it is ultimately our responsibility, the parents, to be involved in our children’s lives.  We clothe them, feed them, and discipline them.  We need to also stand up and take responsibility for their education.  We need to put our voices behind our tax dollars and make sure our elected officials have our children’s best interest at heart.

After talking with multiple school board members, I was encouraged to speak at their next meeting and voice my discontentment with the Common Core. What frustrated me the most was the lack of research done by the teachers. They are supporting the idea of the “one size fits all” standards without understanding what it really means. School leaders do not have to conduct the research on these topics, but at least they should read it and dig below the surface to understand it. Following the era of Jeb Bush and the FCAT, teachers and parents alike have learned to greatly dislike this standardized test system. In my opinion, removing the FCAT is music to the teachers’ ears. That may have pleased them so much that they neglected to listen to what is going to replace the FCAT. Doing away with one bad system does not mean it will be replaced with a better system.

All I keep hearing is that the Common Core is going to be great for our kids.  That there will be rigorous, new teaching methods introduced to help our children rise above where they are now and be proficient in the lessons being taught. My interpretation of this rubbish is that these teachers are being sold a bill of goods and have been indoctrinated, through the CCSS workshops, to sell this to our children and their parents. They are losing the true meaning of being called to be quality teachers to our young people. Teachers may not realize that their voices are being muted, as are ours.  The parents and teachers know best and have the power to provide the best education for our kids, but only if we first stop the higher ups from silencing us. Teachers’ hands will be tied, as the Common Core offers little freedom to adjust the curriculum to the needs of the students within the classroom.

In preparation for the school board meeting I got all of my notes together and poured them all into a ten minute speech to present to the board. I presented the following facts:  how CCSS was created; who wrote the standards; how it is unconstitutional and illegal for a national curriculum and test to be created by the federal government; and how its implementation will be a huge expense for taxpayers. I feel satisfied to have voiced my concerns to the school board and am hopeful that I conveyed important information to the people who need to be aware of the Common Core and its inadequacies.  I also pray that my words were truly heard by everyone in attendance.

One of the school board members was present at yet another meeting the next day, at which the Speaker of the House of Representatives of Florida was in attendance. The school board member eagerly told the Representative about my presentation and he wanted a copy of it and my information. I thought this was a huge step in the right direction. Making appointments with my local representatives was my next goal. The following week, I was able to talk to the Chief Legislative Assistant to one of my representatives. Before I could make any impact on this guy, he shot me down saying the same words I had heard before, “Common Core is a done deal and there is nothing we can do about it.” I found it frustrating that he was unwilling or unable to listen to a parent’s point of view. The overall result of that meeting was not as productive as I had hoped. Since I was not overly pleased when I left, the Assistant to the Representative offered to set up a meeting for me to speak to the State School Board in Tallahassee. I thought of his gesture as a  way of showing me that he wasn’t blowing me off or maybe it he was testing my resolve to pursue the protection of my children’s educational freedom.

During the meeting, the Legislative Assistant asked me why I wasn’t engaged in the planning meetings to implement the Common Core Standards here in Florida? I explained to him that as a parent, I felt confident I had my children in a good school that went above and beyond my high expectations in providing a good education. If something as important as new educational standards directly affecting my children were being planned, a simple notice should have been sent out.  I would have thought parents would be given an opportunity to be informed of such a monumental thing.  But, there was no notice sent home in my children’s backpacks. There was no letter sent to my home letting me know there was a meeting. I thought I was an informed mom, but it is impossible to stay informed when so much is going on behind the backs of parents and taxpayers. The point of the comment was, “You weren’t interested when the changes were happening and now that the changes are here and you don’t like them, you want to complain about them.”  If I had been aware of the planning meetings, I certainly would have gone and done my best to be proactive. Now, I can only react.

Our government and other entities within it are eagerly taking over every aspect of our lives and even our grandchildren’s lives to shape this country into what they think it should be to compete in a global society. I am disheartened to think what this global society is going to be like in eighteen or twenty years when the true results of the federally run schools are revealed.

I encourage all parents to take the time to do some research of their own to really understand the full aspect and consequences of the Common Core State Standards. These standards are not what the United States needs for its children. This drastic overtaking of local control is another freedom being quietly pulled out from underneath us and another way to control its people so we will learn to fear our government instead of the other way around.  President Kennedy’s words are very appropriate even now. “Ask not what your country can do for you. Ask what you can do for your country.” We can make our country better, one child’s education at a time.

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Professor Thomas Newkirk of University of New Hampshire Speaks About Common Core

by Christel Swasey of COMMON CORE: Education Without Representation

Professor Thomas Newkirk of the University of New Hampshire has laid out the problems with Common Core in Speaking Back to the Common Core.  It is well worth our time to read every word.  He eloquently addresses each of the following points that characterize Common Core:

1.  Conflict of Interest.

2.  Misdiagnosis of the problem.

3. Developmental inappropriateness.

4. A sterile view of reading.

5. Underplaying role of narrative.

6.  A reform that gives extraordinary power to standardized tests.

7.  A bonanza for commercialism.

8. Standards directing instruction.

9.  Drowning out other conversations.

Newkirk explains this so well that I find myself reading and re-reading his words.  Not all articles are created equally.  This one is above and beyond.  I’ll post the first half and then the link:

Speaking Back to the Common Core

Thomas Newkirk

The Common Core initiative is a triumph of branding. The standards are portrayed as so consensual, so universally endorsed, so thoroughly researched and vetted, so self-evidently necessary to economic progress,  so broadly representative of beliefs in the educational community—that they cease to be even debatable. They are held in  common; they penetrate to the core of our educational aspirations, uniting even those who might usually disagree. We can be freed from noisy disagreement, and should get on with the work of reform.

This deft rollout may account for the absence of vigorous debate about the Common Core State Standards. If they represent a common core—a center—critics are by definition on the fringe or margins, whiners and complainers obstructing progress. And given the fact that states have already adopted them—before they were completely formulated—what is the point in opposition? We should get on with the task of implementation, and, of course, alignment.

But as the great rhetorician Kenneth Burke continually reminds us, all arguments are from a debatable perspective— there is no all-encompassing position, no argument from everywhere. The arguments that hide their controversial edges, their perspective, are the most suspect. “When in Rome act as the Greeks” he advises us. So in that spirit I would like to raise a series of concerns.

1. Conflict of interestIt is a fundamental principle of governance that those who establish the guidelines do not benefit financially from those guidelines. We don’t, for example, let representatives of pharmaceutical companies set health guidelines, for fairly obvious reasons. But in the case of the CCSS, the two major college testing agencies, the College Board and ACT, were engaged to write the standards, when it was obvious that they would create products (or had created products) to test them. The College Board, for example, almost immediately claimed that “The SAT demonstrates strong agreement to the Common Core Writing Standards and there is very strong agreement between the skills required on the SAT essay and the Common Core State Standards” (Vasavada et al. 2011, 5). In fact, the College Board claims that there is also a strong alignment between other products, the PSAT/NMSQT and Redistep, which starts in eighth grade.

Clearly, there is a conflict of interest here.

2. Misdiagnosis of the problem. A central premise of the CCSS is that students are not reading difficult enough texts and that we need to ramp up the complexity of the texts they encounter. I would argue that the more serious problem is that students cease to read voluntarily, generally around middle school—and fail to develop the stamina for difficult texts (Newkirk 2008). Once they get to high school, they are “overmatched” by standard books like Lord of the Flies and To Kill a Mockingbird (Smith and Wilhelm 2002)—and they resort to SparkNotes and other strategies that allow them to avoid reading the books. This evasion is epidemic in our schools. Increasing the complexity of what they read—and requiring books like Grapes of Wrath in ninth or tenth grade, as recommended by the CCSS—will only exacerbate the problem. In order to develop fluency and real reading power (that will enable students to tackle the classics), students need abundant practice with engaging contemporary writing that does not pose a constant challenge (or maybe a range of challenges) to them. The reading workshop models of Penny Kittle and Nancie Atwell provide a much more plausible road map for creating readers who can handle difficulty.

3. Developmental inappropriateness. It is clear now that the designers of the CCSS took a top-down approach, beginning with expectations for eleventh and twelfth graders and then working down to the earlier grades. The process, it seems to me, is one of downshifting; early college expectations (at least what I do in my college classes) are downshifted to eleventh or twelfth grade, and the process continues right into kindergarten. The target student texts in Appendix C are clearly those of exceptional, even precocious students; in fact, the CCSS has taken what I see as exceptional work, that of perhaps the top 5 percent of students, and made it the new norm. What had once been an expectation for fourth graders becomes the standard for second graders as in this example:

Write informative/explanatory texts in which they [i.e., second graders] introduce a topic, use facts and definitions to develop points and provide a concluding statement. Normally this would be the expectation of an upper-elementary report; now it is the requirement for seven-year-olds.

It might be argued that high standards, even if they are beyond the reach of many students, will still be useful in raising performance. But if legitimately tested, these standards will result in a substantial proportion, in many schools a majority, of students failing to meet them—thus feeding the narrative of school failure (already the case in Kentucky). Given the experience with the unrealism of the No Child Left Behind demand for 100 percent proficiency, it seems to me unwise to move to a new set of unrealistic expectations.

4. A sterile view of reading. Another serious issue is the view of reading that underlies the standards. This view is spelled out by two authors of the English/Language Arts standards, David Coleman (now President of the College Board) and Susan Pimentel (2011) in a set of guidelines that are designed to help publishers align their material. It is a revealing and consequential document that helps us move beyond generalities to the way standards are to be taught (and most likely tested). Much of what Coleman and Pimentel say is appealing. I like the focus on thoughtful reading—and rereading. I agree that discussions can move away from the text too often (I can think of many examples from my own classes). I like the idea of helping students engage with challenging texts. And I like that they urge publishers to refrain from making pages so busy with distracting marginalia that they come to resemble People magazine.

The central message in their guidelines is that the focus should be on “the text itself”—echoing the injunctions of New Criticism during the early and mid-1900s. The text should be understood in “its own terms.” While the personal connections and judgments of the readers may enter in later, they should do so only after students demonstrate “a clear understanding of what they read.” So the model of reading seems to have two stages—first a close reading in which the reader withholds judgment or comparison with other texts, focusing solely on what is happening within “the four corners of the text.” And only then are prior knowledge, personal association, and appraisal allowed in.

This seems to me an inhuman, even impossible, and certainly unwise prescription. Test it out yourself on the opening to Jennifer Egan’s

 A Visit from the Goon Squad:

Found Objects

It began the usual way, in the bathroom of the Lassimo Hotel. Sasha was adjusting her yellow eye shadow in the mirror when she noticed a bag on the floor beside the sink that must have belonged to the woman whose peeing she could faintly hear through the vaultlike door of the toilet stall. Inside the rim of the bag, barely visible, was a wallet made of pale green leather. It was easy for Sasha to recognize, looking back, that the peeing woman’s blind trust had provoked her. We live in acity where people will steal the hair off your head if you give them half a chance, but you leave your stuff lying in plain sight and expect it to be waiting for you when you come back. It made her want to teach the woman a lesson. (2011, 3)

My own reading focus was on Sasha’s thought process, how she is beginning to rationalize the taking of this woman’s wallet. But when I shared this opening with female readers, many of them picked up the detail of the yellow eye shadow, something I had totally ignored. What kind of woman wears yellow eye shadow? What do you say about yourself when you wear it? Combined with the fact that Sasha seems familiar with bathrooms in swank hotels, some speculated that she was a prostitute (not a bad guess as it turns out). But these readers were hardly staying in the four corners of the text; they were using their knowledge of makeup and the message it sends. It’s what readers do.

To get down to practicalities, there is bound to be great confusion about what a “text-dependent question” is. Must that question stay within the “four corners of the text” and not draw on prior experience or knowledge? Purely literal questions can be confined in this way, but any inference or judgment rests on some information not in the text (as in the case of the eye shadow). Even language itself evokes a world beyond the text. As two Stanford psychologists put it: “The bare text is something like a play script that the reader uses like a theatre director to construct in imagination a full stage production” (Bower and Morrow 1990, 44). We can never stay within the four corners of the text—even if we tried…

5. Underplaying role of narrative. The CCSS present us with a “map” of writing types that is fundamentally flawed—because it treats “narrative” as a type of discourse, distinguished from “informational” and “argumentative” writing. In doing so (and the CCSS are not alone in this), they fail to acknowledge the central role narrative plays in all writing, indeed in human understanding. Mark Turner, a cognitive psychologist and literary critic, puts the claim this way: “Narrative imagining—story—is the fundamental instrument of thought. Rational capacities depend on it. It is our chief means of looking into the future, of predicting, of planning, of explaining”…

Read the rest: http://heinemann.com/shared/onlineresources%5CE02123%5CNewkirk_Speaking_Back_to_the_Common_Core.pdf

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Thanks to Professor Newkirk for his research, talent and the time spent on this topic –which must not be drowned out by the loud messages of those who benefit financially from the fact that few understand what Common Core really is.

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