Floridians Critique Jebucation

StaffFrom State Impact:

(Jeb) Bush views his policies as tough love. But Orlando’s Linda Kobert has another name for it: Jebucation.

Kobert founded the non-profit group Fund Education Now with her neighbors, Christine Bramuchi and Kathleen Oropeza.

The moms say they are organizing the French Resistance against Bush’s policies in his home state through e-mail and social media such as Twitter.

They cite research from Arizona State University and others which shows students who are held back are more likely to drop out of school.

The moms argue Bush’s policies have created the impression that Florida schools are failing. The goal is to reduce public funding for schools and increase the number of private companies operating schools and providing online classes, curriculum, books and other services, they said.

They note that former Bush colleagues are now spread throughout the education world. Brother Neil founded an online education company, Ignite! Learning.

Former deputies run large charter school companies, sit on Florida’s board of education and work for the federal department of education.

Bush is using the network and political muscle he developed while governor to push Florida lawmakers to try new ideas. Once tested in Florida, the ideas are shipped to other states.

“If it’s your playground and you have a chance to play in it, why not?” Oropeza said. So that’s what he’s doing.

“The problem is he’s using Florida as a Petri dish.”

The “Enemy’s” Response to Fordham’s Wishful Cost Projections

0717_tuition_392x392Edweek reported today on the conflicting studies completed aimed at determining how  much the Common Core State Standards will cost.  The Pioneer Institute and the American Principles Project in their report last February estimated a $16 Billion price tag.  The Fordham Institute, a pro-common core think tank, estimates up to $8.3 Billion could be spent in their report which was just released.

Edweek quoted Chester Finn, Jr., Fordham’s president who said, ““Enemies and critics of the common core want you to believe the worst: that besides being hard, it will be very pricey and likely ineffective. But this report says otherwise. Implementation can be modestly priced and likely more effective if states are astute enough to (a) implement differently, (b) deploy resources that they’re already spending, and (c) take advantage of this rare opportunity to revamp their education delivery systems, too.”

One “enemy” responded to this  the author of the Pioneer/APP study, Theodor Rebarber, said that Fordham underestimated the price tag on implementation by excluding the costs of computers, servers, and other technological infrastructure needed to complete the assessment.

Edweek writes:

He also faulted the Fordham study for being “a hope-based approach” to various ways states might save money, while the Pioneer study was a national extrapolation of “a handful” of actual cost estimates that states had done for themselves.

“Our basic approach was to look at evidence,” Mr. Rebarber said. “We think that’s the right way to do a conservative, prudent cost analysis. Theirs is more of an attempt to imagine ways to do things less expensively without any guarantee they will actually be able to pull it off.”

Rebarber encourages states to do their own studies.  Fordham encourages states to partner together in order to collaborate (who ends up being in charge?) on things like curriculum and professional development tools.

Injustice Served In Truancy Case

A Texas judge threw a 17-year-old student in jail for a night when she was truant yet again…

The problem here is that this honors student works a full-time job and a part-time job working to support her younger sister and brother who is college after her parents abandoned her and her siblings.  She does this, by the way, while taking advanced placement courses and dual credit college courses.

And to repeat, she is an honors student…

Shouldn’t we be applauding this young person’s sacrifice and work ethic rather than punishing her?  At the very least shouldn’t some common sense be exercised by the judge and the school district?  She obviously needs some support.  This is a glaring example of why Texas’ compulsory attendance law (attendance required ages 6-18) should be examined and revised.

Here’s the video of this story:

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District-Level Race to The Top, Another Bad Idea on Top of a Pile of Bad Ideas

The U.S. Department of Education announced it’s $400 Million District-Level Race to the Top program last week.  Now they are totally bypassing the states and going straight to the school districts.  There are over 14,000 school districts in the country, but only those districts with a minimum of 2500 students and 40% of students who meet the poverty guidelines (those who qualify for free or reduced lunch) are eligible to apply for the grants. Smaller school districts may join with other districts to apply, even districts in other states. The DOE is encouraging districts within states to craft reform plans that incorporate the “four cornerstones” of improving teacher quality, school turnaround plans, student data collection, and standards and assessments.

Plans must have the signatures of the district superintendent, school board officials, and local union presidents (if there are any).  Ignoring federalism, state education chiefs have no power to veto the plans and are given just five days to comment on them.

They also want schools to stretch beyond focusing on academics:

The proposal offers competitive preference to applicants that form partnerships with public and private organizations to sustain their work and offer services that help meet students’ academic, social, and emotional needs, and enhance their ability to succeed.

So we’re officially adopting the schools = social services agencies model.  Public comment lasts until June 8th and you can do that here.  And here we see yet another horrible, unconstitutional idea come out of the Obama Administration.

Spinning Failure Before It Happens

Truth-and-LiesI read an article last week that made me chuckle… a common core supporter is already spinning the inevitable failure of the implementation of the Common Core State Standards.

Kathleen Porter-Magee writes for the Education Gadfly Daily.

There isn’t a Common Core supporter in the nation who hasn’t qualified her enthusiasm for what the standards can do with “if they are implemented properly.” On the other hand, I’m not sure there’s a Common Core opponent who isn’t standing in the wings, waiting for implementation to fail.

This is often the point in a new initiative when supporters feel most vulnerable and start scrambling to figure out how to avoid high profile failures. But, if we’ve going to succeed in this venture, we shouldn’t be trying to avoid failure, we should be looking to shine a spotlight on it and embrace it as a key element of change. It’s only by allowing the chance for failure that standards can have any real meaning…

…As we look towards Common Core implementation, and even as we see sharks in the water circling and waiting for us to fail, we need to focus our efforts on setting a high bar for successful implementation, highlighting both what is working and what is not, and then vigorously pursuing a policy of scaling up what works and shutting down what doesn’t. Having the confidence to embrace the necessity of these failures is what will allow us to succeed.

Embrace failure… now I know that we learn from failure and that it can be a good thing – ask Thomas Edison, but I have to believe that any said failure will be blamed on the implementation and not on the standards themselves.

Jim Stergios Highlights Skewed Analysis of Federalist Papers

Dear David,

Congratulations on becoming the new head of the College Board. I know, as a Founding Father of the national standards effort, you may have read certain things I have written that you do not agree with. While I haven’t met you personally yet, I look forward to it. I have heard universally that you are a smart guy and reputed by all to be a nice person.

I hope you and the Coleman family are well, and I am writing to say I’m sorry.

In addition to writing about school innovations, charter schools, vocational technical schools, school choice, accountability to results, and teacher quality issues, I’ve written with some frequency about academic standards and curricula—and especially recently about the effort to advance national (Common Core) standards.

I’m sorry because I think I may have gotten some of the intentions of Common Core’s supporters wrong. Considering the heavy hand of the Gates Foundation and DC-based trade groups and their support of an effort that violates three federal laws; the imposition of $16 billion in new unfunded mandates on states and localities; and the feds’ shoehorning of states into adopting mediocre/community college readiness academic standards; I thought there may have been a well-thought-through plan at work. I thought the fact that many of the same players were involved in the 1990s in similar efforts meant that they had learned from past mistakes and decided to bypass congressional scrutiny and state legislative processes.

I thought they (and by association perhaps you) were consciously flouting the rule of law, the Constitutional Framers, and 220-plus years of American constitutional history. After all, supporters of national standards know their history and what is legal and illegal, and why all this was a bad idea.

Well, I just watched this national standards promo video by a couple of Gates Foundation clients—the Council of Chief States School Officers (CCSSO) and the Jim Hunt Institute, what I have affectionately in the past termed the EduBlob (perhaps too often uploaded with cheesy 60s’ movie posters). The video features you and it illustrates to me how I was wrong on the question of intention.

The video (see especially 2:07 to 2:49) does not dissuade me from my view that the national standards are a mediocre race to the middle, or that they are illegal, or needless centralizing and expensive.

In it, you articulate how you would use Madison’s Federalist #51 to teach students and teachers about carefully reading primary sources like Madison’s work and how to understand concepts like “faction” as the authors themselves understood these terms. The video comes with a nice-looking pictorial text of Federalist #51 on the screen. Listening for a few minutes, I thought it sounded good, especially where you note:

I want to say a little more about what we mean by building knowledge through reading and writing. It doesn’t mean simply that students can refer to a text they’ve read in history and social studies and mention that in Federalist Paper 51 someone named Madison had some ideas about faction. To be able to read and gain knowledge to analyze that document would be as the [national] standards require to examine precisely what Madison said or didn’t say about faction and from reading that document carefully having a rich and deep understanding about precisely what Madison thought about faction. It’s about the close study of primary documents to understand from whence they come and what they might mean and not mean.

David, I think at this point it would be helpful to introduce you to James Madison. Another Founding Father—but he was a key drafter of the United States Constitution. He drafted the 10 initial constitutional amendments, which we call the Bill of Rights.

He was the co-founder of a major political party. Author of the Virginia Resolution. Secretary of State (1801-1809). Fourth President of the United States of America (1809-1817). Unlike a president before him (John Adams) and many after, even in times of existential crisis for the nation (the War of 1812, when Washington, D.C. was being burned by the British), Madison didn’t abuse executive power to abridge the US Constitution or the Bill of Rights. He knew better than most the power of the Constitution and was its faithful implementer.

Despite almost incomparable Founding accomplishments, Madison is best known for essays he, along with Alexander Hamilton and John Jay, wrote called the Federalist Papers, the most enduring articulation of American constitutional principles ever committed to paper. It’s the kind of stuff our kids (and we) need to know.

I’m not sure if Yale and Oxford, while you were there as a Rhodes scholar, forgot to tell you this, but Madison’s Federalist #51 isn’t about “faction.” I know you repeat this point over and over in the video tutorial. But, as any well-educated 10th-grader knows (at least in Massachusetts before we switched to the national standards), Federalist #51 is actually about checks and balances. Here’s the title and most famous lines from Federalist #51:

The Structure of the Government Must Furnish the Proper Checks and Balances Between the Different Departments

In order to lay a due foundation for that separate and distinct exercise of the different powers of government, which to a certain extent is admitted on all hands to be essential to the preservation of liberty, it is evident that each department should have a will of its own; and consequently should be so constituted that the members of each should have as little agency as possible in the appointment of the members of the others…But the great security against a gradual concentration of the several powers in the same department, consists in giving to those who administer each department the necessary constitutional means and personal motives to resist encroachments of the others. The provision for defense must in this, as in all other cases, be made commensurate to the danger of attack. Ambition must be made to counteract ambition…

But what is government itself, but the greatest of all reflections on human nature? If men were angels, no government would be necessary. If angels were to govern men, neither external nor internal controls on government would be necessary. In framing a government which is to be administered by men over men, the great difficulty lies in this: you must first enable the government to control the governed; and in the next place oblige it to control itself. A dependence on the people is, no doubt, the primary control on the government; but experience has taught mankind the necessity of auxiliary precautions.

 

In fact, David, I hope you and the Council of Chief State School Officers, the Hunt Institute, and the whole swarm of national standards proponents will take the time to readFederalist #10, which, incidentally is the most famous of all of Madison’s works. The term “faction” is mentioned 18 times (including the title) and is the major topic of Federalist #10. Madison’s views on “faction” are thoughtful and far-sighted. Let me share a section with you:

The Utility of the Union as a Safeguard Against Domestic Faction and Insurrection (continued)

AMONG the numerous advantages promised by a well constructed Union, none deserves to be more accurately developed than its tendency to break and control the violence of faction. The friend of popular governments never finds himself so much alarmed for their character and fate, as when he contemplates their propensity to this dangerous vice. He will not fail, therefore, to set a due value on any plan which, without violating the principles to which he is attached, provides a proper cure for it…By a faction, I understand a number of citizens, whether amounting to a majority or a minority of the whole, who are united and actuated by some common impulse of passion, or of interest, adversed to the rights of other citizens, or to the permanent and aggregate interests of the community…

No man is allowed to be a judge in his own cause, because his interest would certainly bias his judgment, and, not improbably, corrupt his integrity. With equal, nay with greater reason, a body of men are unfit to be both judges and parties at the same time…

 

David, I truly hope you and other supporters of the Common Core will come to read the Federalist Papers and demonstrate the skills to understand James Madison’s original intent. I further hope you will gain the ability to reflect on the premises of the American constitutional republic. Perhaps close attention to the section of Federalist #10 regarding not serving as judge in your own case would help you and the Gates Foundation understand that advancing a policy with hundreds of millions of dollars and then paying others to support that view is a no-no. I am convinced that, with this reading and study complete, you will understand why national education standards are anti-constitutional, illegal, and violate the public trust.

In truth, when crafting the Constitution and the Federalist Papers Madison and the Framers very much had in mind the reckless ambitions of the recklessly ambitious. The drive to advance the Common Core outside the boundaries of the Constitution and legal restrictions is just what Madison had in mind. And the EduBlob represents exactly the types of dangerous “factions” whose “common impulse of passion, or of interest” were contrary to the public good and the “aggregate interests of the community.”

The next time you would like to opine about why you and others should set national standards, curricula, and testing for America’s 50 million schoolchildren, I would ask you to reflect on your and your peers’ lack of even the most basic understanding of our Founding principles.

Respectfully,

Jim

Amazing article!  Check out the original here.

College Board Goes All-In for Standards

The New York Times has the story on the appointment of David Coleman to head the College Board:

David Coleman, an architect of the common core curriculum standards that are being adopted in nearly all 50 states, will become the president of the College Board, starting in October.

The College Board, a membership organization of high schools and colleges that administers the SAT, the Advanced Placement program and other standardized tests, helped design the standards — an outline of what students should learn in English and math from kindergarten through high school — meant to ensure that all high school graduates are prepared for college.

In progressive education circles, Mr. Coleman is often criticized for his emphasis on “informational texts” over fiction, and his push for students to write fewer personal and opinion pieces. Last year, he gave a speech making that point in strong terms, asserting that it would be rare, in the working world, for someone to say, “Johnson, I need a market analysis by Friday, but before that I need a compelling account of your childhood.” Reaction on education blogs was explosive.

On Tuesday, Mr. Coleman said he should have chosen his language more carefully, emphasizing that he was talking about older students.

Over all, Mr. Coleman said, there is widespread enthusiasm for the standards. “The degree of consensus is remarkable,” he said. “I think a lot of my success has been my ability to work with teachers.”

What is never mentioned is the fact that the College Board has raked in over $32 million from the Gates Foundation, the primary private sector driver of the Common Core.

An unfortunate omission to an otherwise well-written article.

Read the whole article here.

If You Fail Just Lower The Standard

test-pencil-240-g-3642457What a great example given to us by the Florida Board of Education if you fail to meet your standard, then just lower it!

The Board of Education decided in an emergency meeting Tuesday to lower the passing grade on the writing portion of Florida’s standardized test after preliminary results showed a drastic drop in student passing scores.

The results indicated only about a third of students would pass this year’s tougher Florida Comprehensive Assessment Test exam, compared with a passing rate of 80 percent or more last year.

“They’ve asked students to do more, but that’s pretty dramatic,” said Florida Education Association spokesman Mark Pudlow. “We need to examine what led to this, not just paper over the problem.”

The results provide another opening to critics of high-stakes testing. The statewide teachers union has opposed Florida’s use of standardized tests to evaluate teachers and grade schools.

“Our students must know how to read and write, and our education system must be able to measure and benchmark their progress so we can set clear education goals,” said Gov. Rick Scott in a statement Monday. “The significant contrast in this year’s writing scores is an obvious indication that the Department of Education needs to review the issue and recommend an action plan so that our schools, parents, teachers and students have a clear understanding of the results.”

Results on the FCAT are the major factor for determining grades the state uses to reward top schools and sanction those at the bottom of the spectrum.

I’m not a fan of standardized testing, but this is ridiculous.  Governor Scott wants the issue in the test to be reviewed, but not the results?  He said, “our students know how to read and write.”  While I’m sure that is mostly true from my experience working with youth for 20 years leads me to believe that writing ability has significantly decreased over the years.  The results may be more accurate than he would care to admit.

Regardless, they set up the test for accountability, they didn’t get the results they hoped for so instead they lower the threshold in order to make their stats look better. 

Damage in Iowa’s Education Reform Bill Mitigated

State CapitolThe final version of Iowa Governor Terry Branstad’s education bill looks much, much different than what he passed.  Originally the bill was 156 pages and it was whittled down to 33 pages.  Consider that a good thing.

A quick rundown…

The good, a number of provisions within the original bill were thankfully dumped:

  • Expansion of the core curriculum (probably the best news of all)
  • Expansion of charter schools (normally I would advocate choice, but the language in the original bill was horrible).
  • Creation of a statewide educator clearinghouse.
  • Creation of an innovation acceleration fund.
  • End-of-course exams for graduating seniors.

Things that were unfortunately kept:

  • Third grade literacy retention – this is a local school and parent decision, not the state’s.  I’m appalled at how many “limited government” advocates in the Iowa House in particular signed off on this.

One item that was dumped that I wish had been kept:

  • Alternative Teachers’ Certification, that was one innovative idea that should have had universal appeal.

One item that was kept that is a positive:

  • The online education language in the bill was kept.  Expanding choice is ultimately a good thing.

If Governor Branstad wants to truly be bold with education reform I have three brief suggestions.  He first needs to expand school choice – nonpublic schools and home education, not just charter schools.  Secondly he can also follow the Massachusetts model of education reform that provided for further decentralization of education.  Third he also needs to address how Iowa’s public union laws impact education within our public schools.  It needs to be easier to fire bad teachers.  Fourth pursue the alternative teachers certification, it only makes sense to hire teachers who have real world experience in the field they teach.  We shouldn’t force them to go back and earn an undergraduate degree in education or a M.A. in Teaching degree.