S.C. State Senator Mike Fair Warns About Common Core Testing

South Carolina State Senator Mike Fair (R-Greenville) wrote an op/ed for The State where he warned that South Carolina could regret their new student testing scheme via the Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium (SBAC) that accompanies the state’s adoption and implementation of the Common Core State Standards.

He writes:

We belong to a consortium of states called the Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium, which the federal government is paying to develop computerized tests aligned with the national standards. An examination of the Smarter Balanced scheme suggests that our students, our teachers and our pocketbooks may be in for hard times.

The person directing the tests’ content development is Linda Darling-Hammond, a longtime proponent of politicized education (with the emphasis on teaching for “social justice” and “multiculturalism”) and Barack Obama’s education advisor during the 2008 campaign.

Perhaps because she strongly opposes traditional standardized tests, the Smarter Balanced tests will be “innovative” and “computer adaptive.” This means that depending on the student’s answers to the first questions, the computer will feed the student either easier or harder questions as the test goes forward. Correct answers result in harder questions; wrong answers generate easier questions.

This computer-adaptive feature diminishes a primary argument made by Common Core proponents: that we must be able to compare student performance across states. Because students will be given different questions depending on their previous answers, they will essentially be taking different tests. The performance of Sarah in Easley can’t be compared to that of Mary in Topeka; it can’t even be compared to that of William at the next desk. Smarter Balanced may devise some rubric to allow rough comparisons, but a meaningful one-to-one comparison won’t be possible.

Another feature touted by Smarter Balanced is “performance tasks,” which will involve a student’s extended time, either individually or as part of a group, on multi-step problems that result in completed projects. Every parent of bright, motivated children has heard them complain about being stuck in a project group with slackers and having to do all the work. Now, that scenario will be repeated on national high-stakes tests.

He also cites the cost of testing due to the technology requirement necessary for implementation.  Not many people are really talking about the testing involved so it is great that he’s bring this up in his state.  Be sure to read the whole article.

Mitt Romney on the Common Core

Mitt Romney was asked about the Common Core Standards at the Education Nation Summit yesterday.  Here is what he had to say when asked by Brian Williams, “what do you make of the Common Core?”

You know, I think it’s fine for people to lay out what they think core subjects might be and to suggest a pedagogy and being able to provide that learning to our kids. I don’t subscribe to the idea of the federal government trying to push a common core on various states.

It’s one thing to put it out as a model and let people adopt it as they will, but to financially reward states based upon accepting the federal government’s idea of a curriculum, I think, is a mistake. And the reason I say that is that there may be a time when the government has an agenda that it wants to promote.

And I’m not wild about the federal government having some kind of agenda that it then compensates states to teach their kids. I’d rather let education and what is taught state by state be determined state by state, not by the federal government.

Later an audience member, who was a former New York City school teacher, asked him, “since so many states have already adopted (the Common Core), what resources would you give our states and our teachers to actually implement this successfully for our children?”  Romney responded:

Well, the states have adopted it and they’d one so on their own. And if they’ve adopted it freely and think it’s a good program, why, they should be able to implement it. We developed our own core in the state of Massachusetts. We implemented it on our own. And we’re able to outdrive our kids to be number one performing in the nation.

I don’t happen to believe that every time that there’s a good idea that comes along the federal government should now finance the implementation of that. We certainly didn’t. States have responsibility for the education of their children, their respective borders.

And I’m not looking for more federal spending. I mean, I know it is the nature of politics for someone in my position to promise more free stuff, to say we’re going to get more — we’ll send money, we’re going to do this, and people say, boy, he really cares about education. I really care about education.

I care so much about our kids that I don’t want to saddle them with trillions on trillions of dollars of debt when they come out of school. And so I’m just not willing to add more spending to get people happy with me.

I’m willing to say, say look, education is done at the state level, the federal government provides funding for special needs students and low-income students. But in terms of implementing the common core, if you’ve chosen it, congratulations, work on it and do it within the resources of your own state.

Romney, in my opinion, doesn’t go quite far enough when considering a Federal role in education (in that there should be no federal role), but he has been consistent in his answers on the Common Core.

Kurtz: Common Core Could Launch New Tea Party Uprising

Stanley Kurtz recognized at National Review that school lunches is just the tip of the iceberg with federal overreach into education.  He brings up the work our partner, Heather Crossin, is doing in Indiana and how Obama could spark a 2nd Tea Party Awakening.

I just came back from a conference where I heard a mom from Indiana named Heather Crossin describe her battle against Obama’s Common Core. Her child happened to attend one of the first schools in the country to use textbooks created to teach Obama’s new national curriculum. Most Americans have no idea that the president has circumvented the legal and constitutional prohibitions and imposed a national school curriculum on the states. Nor will they wake up to this disturbing fact until a second Obama term. The timing, of course, is intentional.

Crossin’s son came home from school one day with a “fuzzy math” problem. The question was, if one bridge is 790 feet, and the other is 730 feet, which bridge is longer? Crossin’s son replied that the 790 foot bridge is longer because 790 is great than 730. This was incorrect, because the child hadn’t arrived at the answer through the tortuous path required by the text. Crossin was furious and quickly educated herself about Obama’s Common Core.

The Common Core dumbs down standards, and in a misguided effort to “level the playing field” makes it tougher for parents to help their kids with their homework. Here’s an example of how this ridiculous process works when teaching the Gettysburg Address.

Crossin has successfully galvanized Indiana’s tea-party groups into fighting the Common Core. It’s a taste of what’s going to happen across the country once Obama’s new national school curriculum hits the ground. Angry parents like Crossin will be multiplied many times over, and they won’t just be making funny protest videos. They’ll be marching on state legislatures and giving the federal government an earful as well.

Read the rest.

Federalized School Lunches

Now that kids are back in school the complaints are stacking about the portion sizes of the meals, especially for high school kids now that “The Healthy and Hunger Free Kids Act of 2010” that First Lady Michelle Obama pushed for is fully implemented.

It’s also sparked some creativity.

A prime example of why Feds shouldn’t be involved in education – they can’t even get school lunches right.

Pioneer Institute Study Suggests Remedies for Common Core’s Literature Deficit

240px-Old_book_bindingsBOSTON, MA – State and local education policy makers in the 46 states that have adopted the Common Core State Standards should emphasize the literary-historical content that already exists in the standards and add an additional literature-based standard to address Common Core’s lack of literary content, according to a new study published by Pioneer Institute.

How Common Core’s ELA Standards Place College Readiness at Risk was written by Emory University English Professor Mark Bauerlein and University of Arkansas Professor Sandra Stotsky, a former member of the Massachusetts Board of Elementary and Secondary Education.

“We could find no research to support the assertion that substituting informational texts for literature will improve students’ college readiness,” said Professor Bauerlein.  “In fact, experience suggests that exactly the opposite is likely to happen.”

In 2009, the National Governors Association and the Council of Chief State School Officers sponsored the Common Core State Standards Initiative and, with encouragement from the United States Department of Education (USED) and support from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, to develop common mathematics and English language arts standards that states could voluntarily adopt.

The vast majority of states, including Massachusetts, adopted Common Core after USED included adoption of the standards among the criteria for states vying to win federal “Race to the Top” education grant funding.  The Bay State was subsequently awarded a $250 million grant.

“Massachusetts is testament to the value of literature,” said Professor Stotsky.  “Its literature-rich standards include a recommended list of classic authors broken down by the educational level for which they’re most appropriate.  As a result, the commonwealth’s students have consistently scored at the top on national reading tests and college readiness measures for nearly a decade.”

Common Core reduces the amount of literature students will study by more than half compared to the former Massachusetts standards.   The literary content is being replaced by non-fiction reading material.

Among the items missing from Common Core are a list of recommended authors and titles, British literature apart from Shakespeare, and any study of the history of the English language.

State policy makers can either attempt to remedy the literature deficit by using the 15 percent leeway granted through Race to the Top to customize the national standards to meet local needs or they can withdraw from Common Core.

The authors fear that absent intervention, the very problems Common Core was designed to remedy will worsen.  High-achieving students in academically oriented private and suburban schools will continue to get the rich literary-historical content that promotes critical and analytical thinking, while others will get little more than watered-down training in reading comprehension.

In 2009 and 2010, Pioneer Institute analyzed the quality of the Common Core.  Starting mid-2010, the Institute has led the campaign to oppose adoption of the Common Core national education standards, publishing a series of reports on their legality, cost, and further work on their mediocre academic quality. Pioneer, along with the American Principles Project, and the Pacific Research Institute of California, commissioned a cost estimate of nearly $16 billion to implement Common Core, outlined in this report, National Cost of Aligning States and Localities to the Common Core Standards.

Along with the Federalist Society, the American Principles Project, and the Pacific Research Institute, Pioneer released a research paper, The Road to a National Curriculum: The Legal Aspects of the Common Core Standards, Race to the Top, and Conditional Waivers, co-authored by former United States Department of Education counsels general counsel, Robert S. Eitel and Kent D. Talbert, questioning the legality of the use of the Race to the Top Fund, the Race to the Top Assessment Program, and the NCLB conditional waiver program to push states to adopt the Common Core. Their study cited three federal laws barring federal departments or agencies from directing, supervising or controlling K-12 curricula and instruction.

In 2010, Pioneer published comparisons of the federal and state education standards documents, concluding that the federal version contains weaker content in both ELA and math. These reports were authored by curriculum experts R. James Milgram, emeritus professor of mathematics at Stanford University, Dr. Stotsky, and Ze’ev Wurman, a Silicon Valley executive who helped develop California’s education standards and assessments. Recent reports include:

· Common Core’s Standards Still Don’t Make the Grade: Why Massachusetts and California Must Retain Control Over Their Academic Destinies

· The Emperor’s New Clothes: National Assessments Based on Weak College and Career Readiness Standards

· Fair to Middling: A National Standards Progress Report

· Why Race to the Middle: First-Class State Standards Are Better than Third Class National Standards

You Need To Master Fundamentals Before You Can Think Critically

Christopher Gearson wrote a one-sided article for U.S. News and World Report praising the Common Core.  It’s entitled “High School Students Need to Think, Not Memorize.”  He writes:

In math, the shift is away from lectures and rote working of equations to the practical application of mathematical processes, often in teams, to real-world situations. High school math students might use probability to make decisions, geometry to design a bridge, and statistics to create surveys.

In order not to “bore” kids and get them to think creatively it seems that we are putting the cart before the horse.

You need to master fundamentals of any given subject, including math, before you can think critically about the subject.  For instance consider this news release from Carnegie Mellon University in June – “Carnegie Mellon-Led Research Team Finds Knowledge of Fractions and Long Division Predicts Long-Term Math Success.”

A research team led by Carnegie Mellon University’s Robert Siegler has identified a major source of the gap – U. S. students’ inadequate knowledge of fractions and division. Although fractions and division are taught in elementary school, even many college students have poor knowledge of them. The research team found that fifth graders’ understanding of fractions and division predicted high school students’ knowledge of algebra and overall math achievement, even after statistically controlling for parents’ education and income and for the children’s own age, gender, I.Q., reading comprehension, working memory, and knowledge of whole number addition, subtraction and multiplication. Published in Psychological Science, the findings demonstrate an immediate need to improve teaching and learning of fractions and division.

You can’t bypass rote memorization and working of equations in order to learn this. One of TAE’s friends, Niki Hayes, brought some great points in an email this morning about how little this approach has helped kids, I thought I would share:

…the effort to focus on concepts rather than procedures (knowledge of fundamental mental math for quick recall of multiplication facts, for example) has been the philosophy since 1989. That year, the National Council of Teachers of Mathematics published their landmark “national math standards for K-12.” The whole new focus for the nation was to be on process–the “joyful journey”– rather than “rote memorization” and cold, accurate answers. It was said by NCTM leadership that analytical and linear mathematical learning had (for 2,000 years) been focused on white males (and Asians). This was declared in spite of the discipline of mathematics having been created by diverse cultures from around the world for two millennia.

The equity focus was to be on girls and minorities (except Asians, who learned like white males). Everyone “knew” that girls and African Americans, especially, learned in groups with projects and lots of cooperative talking over the problems as they “discovered” the answers for themselves.

How’s that worked for us? Let’s see: Up to 40% of all university students and up to 90% of all community college students must take remedial math now.

The silly notion that “memorization” is bad, having to learn specific skills in a discipline is always boring, and a giant leap to creative thinking is possible for all students is beyond common sense. Results matter. We are seeing the results of our intellectual pursuit of higher thinking which are not built on a solid foundation of knowledge and skills that sets up conceptual understanding.

Here’s an analogy: Let’s have all music students be taught to play an instrument by ear, rather than forcing them to memorize and drill on notes and scales. We could then see what would happen to the musical achievements of our students and our country’s frustration when trying to figure out “what’s wrong with the kids and teachers.”

HT: Betty Peters

Video: A Vision of K-12 Students

Watch a video that I received in an email last night.  Apparently this was played at a back to school night in Maryland.

The person who made the video said:

This project was created to inspire teachers to use technology in engaging ways to help students develop higher level thinking skills. Equally important, it serves to motivate district level leaders to provide teachers with the tools and training to do so.


Missing The Twain

Mark-TwainCharles Chieppo and Jamie Gass of the Pioneer Institute wrote a great op/ed entitled “Schoolkids missing the Twain” for the Worcester (MA) Telegram & Gazette that paints a picture of how the Common Core State Standards disproportionate use of informational texts will impact school kids.

An excerpt:

Mark Twain’s greatest achievement was “Adventures of Huckleberry Finn,” a tale about the title character, the abused backwoods son of an alcoholic, and Jim, a Negro slave fleeing captivity. The story chronicles their journey together down the Mississippi. Twain not only uses Jim’s humanity and heroism to help Huck unlearn his own racism, but to illustrate the moral and societal failure of slavery and racial discrimination.

According to Twain scholar Jocelyn Chadwick:

“The book’s pivotal moment is when Huck awakens to hear Jim ‘moaning and mourning.’ Jim’s been crying for his family, and Huck says some of the most significant words I’ve ever read in fiction: ‘I do believe he cared just as much for his people as white folks does there’n. It don’t seem natural, but I reckon it’s so.’ ”

No less of an authority than Ernest Hemingway wrote, “All modern American literature comes from … “Huckleberry Finn”… There has been nothing as good since.”

Sadly, students in Massachusetts and across most of the country may soon have to seek out “Huckleberry Finn” on their own, because it isn’t included in national K-12 education standards that have been adopted by 46 states and the District of Columbia.

Twain’s masterpiece isn’t the only casualty of the Massachusetts Board of Elementary and Secondary Education’s decision to adopt weaker national standards known as “Common Core.” These new English standards include less than half as much classic literature and poetry than the Massachusetts standards they will replace.

Read the rest.

Education Debated in Iowa Congressional Race

Congressman Steve King (R-Kiron) and former First Lady of Iowa Christie Vilsack (D-Ames) had their final debate in the Iowa 4th Congressional District race.  The first question dealt with No Child Left Behind.  Below is the audio of that section of the debate from Iowans for Local Control.


I’m curious is education being discussed in Congressional races and Senate races in your state? I wish they would have covered Race to the Top and the Common Core State Standards, but I’m surprised they even asked this question.

Update: You can read my additional thoughts here.

WallBuilders Live Discuss the Common Core

David Barton and Rick Green of WallBuilders Live hosted Sherena Arrington of the Georgia Public Policy Institute on to discuss the Common Core State Standards.  Arrington also helped launch Stop Common Core in Georgia.  She also gave TAE a shout out so we appreciate that.

Go here to listen to the program.