Pre-Birth Education???

I was emailed by a friend down in Alabama who told me that early childhood education folks in her state are starting to think pre-birth or pre-natal to five, not just birth to five.  This is evidenced in a blueprint they submitted using Recovery Act funds.  Pay special attention to page 2 in the document embedded below:

Blueprint & Investing through the ARRA 2009.pdf

It is bad enough that the state is getting involved early childhood education and taking kids away from their parents at an earlier age.  Here is what they wrote:

Our goal is to use one-time funding to put into place important infrastructure components or building blocks for a coordinated and comprehensive system for young children pre-birth to age five. As an economic development initiative to support working families and build for a future of prosperity, there are few investments that will provide such a return. Because of the relatively small investments we currently make in young children and because there is such fertile ground for impact, few opportunities provide such a cost-benefit return. (emphasis mine)

What in the world do they anticipate doing for kids pre-birth?  I shudder to think.

U.S. Department of Education Still Hasn’t Approved Utah SBAC Withdrawal

The Utah State Board of Education voted to leave the Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium (SBAC) back in early August.  As a refresher here is the exit process dictated by the SBAC governance document:

  1. A state requesting an exit from the Consortium must submit in writing its reasons for the exit request,
  2. The written explanation must include the statutory or policy reasons for the exit,
  3. The written request must be submitted to the Project Management Partner with the same signatures as required for the Consortium MOU,
  4. The Executive Committee will act upon the request within a week of the request, and
  5. Upon approval of the request, the Project Management Partner will then submit a change of membership to the USED for approval. (emphasis mine)

Sources in Utah tell me that they are still waiting on approval by the U.S. Department of Education.  What’s taking so long?  What happens if they say no?  Will there be some sort of penalty?  Utah was turned down for Race to the Top funds, but they did receive a NCLB waiver.  Could that be in jeopardy?

Update: Karen Effrem of Education Liberty Watch reminded me of this straight forward point… why should they have to approve at all?  Very true, they shouldn’t.  Unfortunately I don’t see Utah’s Governor pulling the nullification card on the DOE.

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Will the Common Core Lead to a Common Calendar?

Last night during our Truth in American Education participant conference call somebody had a great question.  Will the Common Core with its requisite assessments move states to a common calendar as well?  Neither Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium (SBAC) or Partnership of Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers (PARCC) have stated when tests will be administered, but in terms of data collection they will likely specify times.

Chicago Public Schools indicated they will give the CCSS (Illinois is with PARCC) assessments on a quarterly basis.  The fourth quarter is optional.  Here is their assessment time frames:

  • Quarter 1: October 17-November 10; All scoring of constructed response items and scanning of paper copies to be completed by November 23rd.
  • Quarter 2: January 11-January 26; Final scoring deadline TBD
  • Quarter 3: April 9-April 27; Final scoring deadline TBD
  • Quarter 4: NO REQUIRED ASSESSMENT. Optional assessment TBD

Will other states feel pressure to align with others for comparison’s sake?  How will this impact start dates, and will there be a push for year-round schools.  Some questions that need to be answered.

Facts About the No Child Left Behind Waivers

NCLBJane Robbins, a Senior Fellow for American Principles Project provided some facts that you should know about the No Child Left Behind waivers.  States apply for these in order, they say, to free themselves from Federal guidelines and standards under NCLB.  What they’re really doing is substituting federal control with more federal control.

Pretty soon states will probably be asking for waivers for the waivers.

  • In September 2011, the U. S. Department of Education announced that it would bypass Congress and allow states to apply for waivers from certain No Child Left Behind (NCLB) requirements.
  • NCLB itself contains provisions governing the granting of waivers from its requirements. USDOE ignored these statutory provisions and created its own.
  • Although the Administration has touted the waivers as releasing schools from onerous provisions of NCLB, the only thing they really accomplish is to soften the consequences of failure to meet “adequate yearly progress.” And although this will free up certain federal funds that otherwise would have to be spent according to the dictates of NCLB, the amount per pupil is minimal.
  • In exchange for this minimally increased flexibility, states must agree to numerous other federally dictated requirements.
  • The NCLB waiver scheme is another means of persuading states to adopt the Common Core Standards. To be awarded a waiver, a state must agree to adopt either Common Core, or another set of federally approved standards. As a practical matter, most states seeking waivers have agreed to settle for Common Core.
  • A supplicant state must also implement a statewide teacher-evaluation system that will “inform” personnel decisions (it’s unclear what “inform” means). This evaluation system will be run out of the state’s department of education, which will be a radical change from the localized control present in many states.
  • Another requirement is that a supplicant state design specific systems for ensuring student progress, as defined by USDOE.
  • Many senators, such as Rubio (R-FL) and Alexander (R-TN), criticized this waiver scheme as another illegal means to impose USDOE’s pet projects on the states.
  • States that thought they were escaping the heavy hand of USDOE by obtaining a waiver have been disappointed. The level of micromanagement in the USDOE letters to the “successful” states is revealing. In light of this new web of federal requirements, Vermont dropped its bid for a waiver. “It has become clear,” said a Vermont Department of Education official, “that the U.S. Education Department is interested in simply replacing one punitive, prescriptive model with another.” California declined to seek a waiver in the first place because, as state Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Torlakson said, “We object to switching out one set of onerous standards, No Child Left Behind, for another set of burdensome standards.”

Student Data Mining, How Much Data Is Enough?

Restore Oklahoma Public Education released their report about Oklahoma’s P20 council which is a follow-up to an earlier paper they wrote that analyzed recent education reforms and how they impacted student privacy (see below). 

How Much Data is Enough Data? What happens to privacy when bureaucracies exceed their scope?

Here is the earlier paper.

An Analysis of Recent Education Reforms and the Resulting Impact on Student Privacy

Apparently Ravitch is No Longer Agnostic on the Common Core

Diane Ravitch endorsed President Barack Obama yesterday on CNN’s School of Thought Blog.

Over the past three years, I have been an outspoken critic of the education policies of the Obama administration. In my view, Race to the Top is a disastrous program that is almost indistinguishable from the Bush administration’s failed No Child Left Behind legislation. Both programs require teaching to the test, both encourage privatization of our public schools, and both have demoralized the nation’s educators while doing nothing to improve education.

But as bad as the Obama education policies are, they are tolerable in comparison to what Mitt Romney plans. Romney claims credit for the academic successes of Massachusetts, but he had nothing to do with the gains in that state, which were enacted 10 years before he became governor. The Massachusetts education reforms doubled the budget for public schools, increased spending on early childhood education, and raised standards for new teachers, but Romney intends to do none of that if elected President.

If elected president, Romney will curtail spending on everything except privatization of public education. He will lower standards for entering the teaching profession. His policies will devastate our public schools and dismantle the education profession. He supports charters and vouchers and welcomes the takeover of public schools by for-profit entrepreneurs. Unlike the Massachusetts reforms that he wrongly takes credit for, he offers not a single idea to improve public education. Romney nowhere acknowledges that free public education is a public responsibility and an essential institution in a democratic society.

I’m not a fan of Romney’s education plan either, but at least he doesn’t endorse nationalized standards which have not been field-tested.  It seems inane to me that Ravitch would ignore her own criticism of the Common Core to back a President who promises to double down on it.

She can stop pretending to be agnostic about the Common Core now, but endorsing Obama she just took sides.

Education Under a Second Obama Term

Alyson Klein asks what would a second Obama term look like for education?

Oh my… do we really have to go there?

She points out what the Obama campaign said a campaign brochure that was released on Tuesday:

  • Cutting tuition growth in half over the next ten years; recruiting and preparing at least 100,000 new math and science teachers;
  • A plan to “strengthen public schools in every community,” in part by expanding Race to the Top to school districts
  • Offering states waivers from the mandates of the No Child Left Behind Act;
  • Using community colleges as economic development engines.

Well he’s been pretty upfront.  In the debates, Mary Grabar pointed out at P.J. Media that “ObamaCore” has been one of the few accomplishments he’s been able to point to.

Race to the Top may have been the one domestic policy initiative that did not garner the universal ire of Republicans — indeed, it has many GOP supporters. They likely do not realize what a monster they have birthed by promising to follow federal Common Core curriculum guidelines (in math and English/language arts, so far) as part of the Race to the Top contest for $4.35 billion in stimulus funds.

A second Obama term will further erode state and local control over education.  Folks, he’s saying he’s going to double down on Race to the Top at the district level – just by pass the states all together – who needs them?   He wants to do this in every community.  When somebody reveals themselves for who they are – believe them.  He wants to continue with his process of NCLB waivers in return for additional mandates.

Oh goody!

Hoosier Newspapers Point Out Common Core Critique

The first is an op/ed from the South Bend Tribune written by Joy Pullman.  Pullman is managing editor of School Reform News and a research fellow in education at The Heartland Institute.

She writes:

Superintendent Tony Bennett is likely to win re-election this fall. But as he campaigns these last few weeks, Bennett would be wise to preempt a coming erosion in his base and do his job as state education guardian by talking to more parents, teachers and voters about Indiana’s next set of curriculum and tests.

Bennett was briefly surprised in July when local residents asked him about federal control over what children learn through the Common Core, a set of K-12 lists for what every student should know in math and English and, soon, history, science and the arts.

More of that fury is coming. Indiana parents and teachers are becoming more nervous as Common Core mechanisms fall into place, and ignoring them will create a strong backlash among the very supporters Bennett needs to further his pro-school-choice agenda. Local networks of concerned residents are right now holding meetings on the Common Core throughout Indiana, at an astonishing rate. State representatives and local school board members are showing up.

I’ve attended several. The energy in the room is electric, in contrast to typical school board meetings. Teachers report reluctance to speak up about the unwieldy standards and corresponding curriculum and teaching requirements, for fear they will lose their jobs. Parents bring examples of needlessly complicated multiplication homework their child’s own teachers cannot explain. These are motivated grassroots activists no leader should ignore. Two words for Bennett: Dick Lugar.

Bennett himself has painted the Common Core as a state-motivated effort tainted by unwanted “federal overreach.” But there are several other reasons it has invited suspicion, and no one knows yet why these don’t bother Bennett.

These include that national, Common Core-aligned tests will soon replace the ISTEP, and the federal government is funding test development despite statutes forbidding the feds from determining curriculum. These tests are being designed behind closed doors and will not be released until 2014, years after Indiana has spent millions incorporating itself into the Core. Because Indiana now ties teacher evaluations to tests and requires private schools to use its tests if they want voucher funds, this sets the stage for non-Indiana bureaucrats to determine Indiana teacher dismissal and private school curricula.

Be sure to read the rest.

The second piece was by Russ Pulliam in The Indianapolis Star.  He presents both sides, but his first point was rather lame.

The jury is still out on the Common Core education standards.

One piece of evidence in Common Core’s favor is that impressive education reformers stand behind the standards, including Gov. Mitch Daniels and State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tony Bennett. They gave us merit pay for teachers, more charter schools and vouchers for low-income parents to use private schools.

When will the jury be in?  After they’re implemented universally in 46 states and then prove to be a miserable failure?  Also could it be that Tony Bennett and Mitch Daniels while implemented some reforms are simply wrong on this?  There is a good list of education reformers who do not stand behind the standards.  That alone is not evidence.

He does concede that Common Core critics bring up some good points:

One is the cost of the new test to replace ISTEP. Two researchers, Patrick J. Murphy and Elliot M. Regenstein, put a $12 billion price tag on the tests for the 46 states joining the Common Core. They think they can bring the price down to $5 billion. But either price would be hard to swallow with a coming federal budget crisis.

Add to the costs the teacher training needed for new approaches to math and language arts instruction.

He then also brings up criticism that it will lower standards, “Critics also say that Common Core will lower standards for Indiana. Advocates note that the standards set only a minimum.”  Yet not mentioned is the fact the standards can only be altered a certain minimal amount – the Common Core has to represent 85% of a state’s standards so how much improvement can a state do with 15% of its standards?  So I don’t believe the counter-argument is a convincing one. 

Pulliam then asks if it is a reform or just a fad.  I’d say since it’s never been field tested we have to count the Common Core to the fad category.  Lot’s of hype, but no proof it’ll be effective.

Tom Latham: Bring Back Control and Power of Education to State and School Districts

latham-interviewI had the opportunity to recently interview Congressman Tom Latham (R-IA) for Caffeinated Thoughts.  He is running against Congressman Leonard Boswell (D-IA) in Iowa’s newly drawn 3rd Congressional District.  We had a chance to discuss Federal involvement in education.

“No Child Left Behind was an experiment with great intentions that hasn’t worked because of the way it was implemented.”  Latham said he was ok with Federal assistance for disabled children who received Title I, but was concerned about their breadth of involvement:

…to have the federal government try to dictate what curriculum is at that level and what they can or cannot do – local school districts get maybe 5 to 6 percent of their revenue from the federal government but about 70 to 80 percent of the regulations come from the federal government.  It is cumbersome to deal with.

I also asked him about District Race to the Top:

It dramatically expands the role of the Federal government.  They are going to be writing the grant applications based on what the rules that come out of Washington rather than what the needs are here at home, and that is of great concern…  I really think that we’ve got to bring the power and control back to the state and certainly the local school district.  That has been the strength of education in Iowa ever since they settled here in Iowa.  The first thing they did was build a church.  The second thing they did when they settled was build a school.

We Need More School Board Candidates Like This

Glenna Jehn, a candidate for the Ft. Wayne (IN) Community School Board wrote an op/ed in the Ft. Wayne Journal Gazette entitled “State must reject federal takeover of schools.”

She writes:

As a FWCS school board candidate, I am listening with great interest to the presidential debates. When President Obama touts “education reform in 46 states” as one of his accomplishments, most people haven’t yet realized that Obama is referring to the new Common Core State Standards being implemented nationwide, including in Indiana.

Surprisingly, Gov. Mitch Daniels and Superintendent of Public Instruction Tony Bennett helped wheel this Trojan horse into our midst.

Originally, Common Core was supposed to raise academic standards and make what is taught in each grade level more uniform. Unfortunately, the special interests in Washington, D.C., could not resist a huge power grab. Funding incentives like the Race to the Top grants, which requires the adoption of the Common Core Standards in order to receive the funds, lead to school corporations like FWCS and states scrambling for the additional money and willingly embracing the new requirements.

Unfortunately, they never took time to consider what sort of standards they agreed to adopt; no longer in a Race to the Top and higher standards, we are in a race to mediocrity. We are voluntarily relinquishing Indiana’s superior, acclaimed standards for those that are inferior to our current standards in math and language arts.

Be sure to read the rest.  We need more school board candidates like Jehn.  Great piece!