Corporate Money Distorting Democracy in Education Policy

An interesting report from In the Public Interest.

Emails between the Foundation for Excellence in Education (FEE), founded and chaired by former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, and state education officials show that the foundation is writing state education laws and regulations in ways that could benefit its corporate funders. The emails, obtained through public records requests, reveal that the organization, sometimes working through its Chiefs For Change affiliate, wrote and edited laws, regulations and executive orders, often in ways that improved profit opportunities for the organization’s financial backers.

“Testing companies and for-profit online schools see education as big business,” said In the Public Interest Chair Donald Cohen. “For-profit companies are hiding behind FEE and other business lobby organizations they fund to write laws and promote policies that enrich the companies.”

The emails conclusively reveal that FEE staff acted to promote their corporate funders’ priorities, and demonstrate the dangerous role that corporate money plays in shaping our education policy. Correspondence in Florida, New Mexico, Maine, Oklahoma, Rhode Island, and Louisiana paint a graphic picture of corporate money distorting democracy.

Read the rest.

No way we’d never suspect that some who advocated and/or wrote the Common Core would be in it for a financial windfall!  Ok, yes we did suspect it, and now we have our proof.

Even if you like the Common Core and other reforms pushed by FEE can we agree that this is unethical?

Unwritten Tests Provide Obstacle for Common Core

Joy Pullman writing for the Heartland Institute says that unwritten tests present an obstacle for the Common Core State Standards.

Education leaders are beginning to publicly worry that two coalitions attempting to determine mandatory tests for some 40 million U.S. students by 2014 can’t pull their massive enterprise together by deadline or at all.

This threatens the entire Common Core project, which in 2014 will tie national tests to grade-by-grade education requirements 45 states adopted in math and English in 2010. Two networks, called SMARTER Balanced (SBAC) and Partnership for the Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers (PARCC), are creating separate tests….

….Some big questions include: where the testing groups will get money once federal grants run out six months before the tests appear in classrooms in 2015; whether testmakers and states can handle the technical problems of creating and administering ambitious, online tests; and whether states will tolerate higher passing score requirements.

Read the rest.

Redelman’s Wrong

Derek Redelman, the vice president of education and workforce development policy, at the Indiana Chamber of Commerce wrote an op/ed at the Indiana Barrister calling on Hoosiers to show common sense with the Common Core.  Translate that to mean agree with him and think the Common Core is a-ok.  Basically he’s troubled that there is opposition in the form of State Senator Scott Schneider’s bill SB 193 which would remove the Common Core from Indiana’s standards.

Typically, as a conservative, I have found myself allied with the Chamber on a number of different issues, but they seem to have a blind spot from the U.S. Chamber on down to the Common Core.  In fact the U.S. Chamber of Commerce endorsed the Common Core State Standards before they were even written.

I have to wonder if Redelman supported them before he even read them.

Let’s pick apart some of his arguments shall we?

Senate Bill 193, sponsored by Sen. Scott Schneider (R-Indianapolis), would effectively overturn the state’s 2010 approval and subsequent participation in the Common Core academic standards. (emphasis mine)

The Indiana State Board of Education, an unelected body made this decision, not the Indiana Legislature.

Forty-six states have adopted the Common Core program, an initiative to set strong standards for what students learn at each grade level in math and English that is also designed to get students ready for college and careers. The program is already being implemented in Indiana and enjoying unusual bipartisan and broad-based support, including among classroom teachers.

Forty-six state boards and/or departments of education adopted the Common Core.  While part of the purpose of education is to prepare students for careers that is not the end all, be all goal of it.  What careers?  This is shifting, in my opinion, a hyper focus on STEM subjects at the neglect of other important subjects.  As far as the Common Core enjoying broad-based bipartisan support, how can he even say that when there was no public debate?  I’ve read about and have heard from numerous classroom teachers not excited about the Common Core.  Besides if parents are not happy with them does it really matter what teachers think?  Nope.

Beginning in 2009, governors and state commissioners of education from 48 states committed to developing common K-12 benchmarks in math and English. They sought significantly more rigorous academic standards and testing programs for their states. Common Core opponents charge it is designed to “nationalize” academic standards and testing, citing the Obama administration’s support for this state-led effort as evidence of sinister intent.

This is nonsense. Common Core was and still is a state-led effort. Indiana was one of the early states to approve and implement the program. In fact, Gov. Daniels and Dr. Bennett were key leaders in helping states around the country – now 46 states – to approve the program. Common Core opponents know that if they can tear it down in Indiana first, the foundation will begin to crumble across the country.

Bull pucky… this is a special interest-led and Federally pushed set of standards.  If it were truly state-led then state legislatures would have been involved.  Regarding tearing it down in Indiana, actually we’d go for any state.  I used to live in Indiana, but I don’t think they’re special in that regard.  I think this is a battle we’ll likely have in every state.

However if one state whether it is Indiana, Utah or say my home state of Iowa we do have some momentum.  So he’s right in that regard.

The Indiana Chamber of Commerce has acknowledged that some of the critics – at least those focused on contents of the standards rather than hysterical exaggerations of federal intrusion – may have some legitimate concerns that should be evaluated.  But those concerns, if legitimate, can be offset by the flexibilities contained within the Common Core and through corresponding adoptions of rigorous assessments and accountability measures. There is no need to overreact.

Hysterical exaggerations of federal intrusions?  Tell me where, Mr. Redelmen, the Constitution and Federal law permits the U.S. Department of Education to push a set of standards for a state to be eligible for a Race to the Top grant or a No Child Left Behind Waiver?  They have no such authority and yet they have done just that.  Regarding the supposed “flexibilities.” What in the blue blazes are you talking about?  State are permitted to make minimal changes impacting up to 15% of the standards.  You call that flexibility?   As far as the “rigorous” (talk about adopting the Common Core propaganda!) assessments and accountability measures we are supposed to believe they will make changes in the standards as a result of these?

Yeah, I won’t hold my breath on that.

Rather than subjecting our academic standards to the politicized environment of the Legislature, such determinations and oversight need to remain in the hands of our state’s education leaders, including the Department of Education, the Education Roundtable and the State Board of Education. Ironically, while critics of the Common Core have heaped praise on Indiana’s previous state standards, they consistently overlook the fact that those highly-rated standards were adopted through the same process as was conducted when Indiana adopted the Common Core, and that the Legislature played no role in those adoptions.

This is the height of arrogance.  Citizens and parents through their elected legislators should be able to weigh in on standards that impact their children.  They are the primary stakeholders in a child’s education, not educators or educrats.  If standards are worthy then they shouldn’t be afraid to subject them to the legislative process.  Mr. Redelmen needs to be reminded that we live in a Republic, not an oligarchy.

Algebraic Thinking for Those Who Don’t Know Algebra?

Barry Garelick’s article yesterday in Education News tackled the issue of teaching kids the “habits of the mind” that make up algebraic thinking before that student has learned algebra.  He said what happens instead is that particular thinking skills are taught without content to support it.

In essence you get math problems without math.

That sounds productive doesn’t it?

Garelick points out what purveyors of this approach are simply engaged in wishful thinking:

Giving students problems to solve for which they have little or no prior knowledge or mastery of algebraic skills is not likely to develop the habit of mind of algebraic thinking.  But the purveyors of this practice believe that continually exposing children to unfamiliar and confusing problems will result in a problem-solving “schema” and that students are being trained to adapt in this way.  In my opinion, it is the wrong assumption.   A more accurate assumption is that after the necessary math is learned, one is equipped with the prerequisites to solve problems that may be unfamiliar but which rely on what has been learned and mastered.  It would indeed be amazing if we could teach students algebraic thinking skills devoid of the content that allows such thinking to occur. I tend to believe, however, that a proper study of this will show what many have known since the time of Euclid: there is no such royal road.

We simply can’t put the cart before the horse so to speak.  If we do we’ll continually have frustrated students on our hands.

How’s Your Common Core Knowledge?

An interesting quiz was published at The Progressive… they challenge readers to test their public ed savvy.  Note the last four questions and answers:

7. Common Core Standards were developed because

a) parents worry that US children score far below other countries on international tests.
b) teachers lack the skills to craft adequate curriculum and wanted help.
c) state departments of education asked for them.
d) of grass-roots concern that children need special tools to compete in the Global Economy.
e) the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation paid for them

8. Common Core Standards in literacy were written by

a) classroom teachers.
b) child psychologists.
c) university researchers.
d) business leaders.
e) a lawyer who specializes in “standards-driven reform” and someone whose background is in Management Consulting, who once tutored children while studying at Yale.

9. The new Common Core tests

a) let the teachers know exactly what each student needs to learn next.
b) give parents evidence teachers are doing their job.
c) ensure that standards are being met.
d) give principals a fair way to evaluate teachers.
e) make fiscal demands many districts cannot meet.

10. The new online feature of Common Core testing

a) will reduce administration costs.
b) will streamline student evaluation.
c) offers new opportunities for creativity.
d) will lead to more individualized learning.
e) means students will be tested many more times each year.

Here are the answers as given by The Progressive

7. E

“Is the Gates Foundation Involved in bribery,” July 23, 2010
http://prorevnews.blogspot.com/2010/07/is-gates-foundation-involved-in-bribery.html

“JoLLE Forum–Rotten to the (Common) Core,” Nov. 1, 2012
http://www.susanohanian.org/core.php?id=364

8. E

David Coleman bio; Susan Pimentel bio
http://about.collegeboard.org/leadership/president

http://www.nagb.org/who-we-are/members/bios/b_pimentel.html

9. E

“Federal Mandates on Local Education: Costs and Consequences–Yes, it’s a Race, but is it in the Right Direction?”
http://www.newpaltz.edu/crreo/brief_8_education.pdf

10. E

“Common Core Assessments”
http://truthinamericaneducation.com/common-core-assessments/

http://dianeravitch.net/2012/07/25/stephen-krashen-how-much-testing/

Nice to see that we’re used as a resource.

Standards Stressing Kindergarteners Out

27.1n014Parents here is what the Common Core is doing to your children.

From the New York Post:

Way beyond the ABCs, crayons and building blocks, the city Department of Education now wants 4- and 5-year-olds to write “informative/explanatory reports” and demonstrate “algebraic thinking.”

Children who barely know how to write the alphabet or add 2 and 2 are expected to write topic sentences and use diagrams to illustrate math equations.

“For the most part, it’s way over their heads,” a Brooklyn teacher said. “It’s too much for them. They’re babies!”

In a kindergarten class in Red Hook, Brooklyn, three children broke down and sobbed on separate days last week, another teacher told The Post.

When one girl cried, “I can’t do it,” classmates rubbed her back, telling her, “That’s OK.”

“This is causing a lot of anxiety,” the teacher said. “Kindergarten should be happy and playful. It should be art and dancing and singing and learning how to take turns. Instead, it’s frustrating and disheartening.”

The city has adopted national standards called the Common Core, which dramatically raise the bar on what kids in grades K through 12 should know.

The jargon is new, too. Teachers rate each student’s performance as “novice,” “apprentice,” “practitioner” or “expert.”

Kindergartners are introduced to “informational texts” read aloud, such as “Garden Helpers,” a National Geographic tale about useful pests.

After three weeks, kids have to “write a book about what they’ve learned,” with a drawing and sentences explaining the topic.

In math, kids tackle concepts like “tally chart,” “combination,” and “commutative property,” DOE records show.

Read the rest.

Folks this isn’t rigorous.  This is INSANE and shows that the Common Core ELA and Math Standards were written by those who don’t have an iota of a clue about basic child development.  Have they read Erik Erickson’s stages of social-emotional development and Piaget’s stages of cognitive development?

Then there’s language development.  Here are some benchmarks for a typical five year-old.

  • Can use many descriptive words spontaneously-both adjectives and adverbs
  • Knows common opposites: big-little, hard-soft, heave-light, etc
  • Has number concepts of 4 or more
  • Can count to ten
  • Speech should be completely intelligible, in spite of articulation problems
  • Should have all vowels and the consonants, m,p,b,h,w,k,g,t,d,n,ng,y (yellow)
  • Should be able to repeat sentences as long as nine words
  • Should be able to define common objects in terms of use (hat, shoe, chair)
  • Should be able to follow three commands given without interruptions
  • Should know his age
  • Should have simple time concepts: morning, afternoon, night, day, later, after, while
  • Tomorrow, yesterday, today
  • Should be using fairly long sentences and should use some compound and some complex sentences
  • Speech on the whole should be grammatically correct

And for a six year-old:

  • In addition to the above consonants these should be mastered: f, v, sh, zh, th,1
  • He should have concepts of 7
  • Speech should be completely intelligible and socially useful
  • Should be able to tell one a rather connected story about a picture, seeing relationships
  • Between objects and happenings

At seven years-of-age:

  • Should have mastered the consonants s-z, r, voiceless th, ch, wh, and the soft g as in George
  • Should handle opposite analogies easily: girl-boy, man-woman, flies-swims, blunt-sharp short-long, sweet-sour, etc
  • Understands such terms as: alike, different, beginning, end, etc
  • Should be able to tell time to quarter hour
  • Should be able to do simple reading and to write or print many words

I hope this angers you.  It does me.

BORING

If you think the frustration will stop in Kindergarten, think again.  Perhaps this is a case of unintended consequences.  More than likely it’ll be the basis for a push for earlier and earlier government intervention into early childhood.

Common Core: Mandate for Mediocrity

Michelle Malkin’s second installment of the Common Core is up at Townhall.com.  She focuses on the ELA standards this time.

Money quote right here:

Bipartisan Common Core defenders claim their standards are merely “recommendations.” But the standards, “rubrics” and “exemplars” are tied to tests and textbooks. The textbooks and tests are tied to money and power. Federally funded and federally championed nationalized standards lead inexorably to de facto mandates. Any way you slice it, dice it or word-cloud it, Common Core is a mandate for mediocrity.

Very true, well said Michelle!

Debunking Misconceptions: “The Common Core is State-Led”

I thought that I would start a series on common misconceptions related to the Common Core State Standards.  I don’t know how frequently I’ll come back to this series, but as these misconceptions come up or as I hear them I want to address them.  The first is one that I hear quite frequently and I was told was a misconception repeated in the Iowa House Education Committee meeting the other day when the Common Core was briefly discussed.

The Common Core is not state-led.  To be fair, when I say that I’m not saying that the U.S. Department of Education wrote the Common Core.  I’m not even saying it was their idea.  It wasn’t.  Advocates of the Common Core who say it is state-led typically are saying neither of these things happened.

On that we can agree.

It’s always important to get past lingo and clarify what we mean.  When I say something is “state-led,” I mean it is initiated within state departments of education with the blessing of the state’s governor and then approved by the state legislature and then signed into law by the state’s Governor.

A scenario that could have happened with standards that could legitimately be called “state-led.”  Say members within the say Texas Education Agency said “hey, we really like what Massachusetts is doing with their standards.”  They then go on to study them, talk to experts who are knowledgeable with the process of developing those standards, get parental and teacher input, tweak the standards in a way that makes sense to Texas, send them to the Texas Legislature who then approves them, and then Governor Rick Perry signs it into law.  Some Texas Legislators rub elbows with state legislators from other states saying… “this is what we did in Texas, and then state legislators from Massachusetts said, “hey yes you should look at what we’re doing.”  Then other state legislators go back to their states and initiate that process.  Perhaps this conversation could take place within the National Governor’s Association or Council of Chief State School Officers, but the point is they were standards written at the state level, approved in the legislative process and is then reciprocated by other states in a way that makes sense to them.

That would be a “state-led” initiative and a process I could applaud.  States should look for what works.  Why not look at Massachusetts standards, Indiana’s ELA standards, and say California’s math standards (prior to alignment to the Common Core).  I’m for common sense, and that would be common sense.

That isn’t what happened however.

The process was initiated by the National Governors Association’s Center for Best Practices and the Council of Chief State School Officers.  They then delegated the drafting of the standards to Achieve, Inc. who was created by the NGA.  This process was managed by six state Governors who were chosen by a non-democratic process).  The oversight also included the CEOs of Battelle Memorial Institute, Intel Corporation, Prudential Financial, Achieve, Inc. and State Farm Insurance.

This was all financed by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, The Boeing Company, Carnegie Corporation of New York, the GE Foundation, IBM Corporation, Intel Foundation, Nationwide, the Prudential Foundation, the State Farm Insurance Company, Washington Mutual Foundation, and the William and Flora Hewett Foundation.

To top it off the NGA-recognized “reviews” of the standards commissioned by Achieve were funded by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, an interest group who were pushing the standards to begin with.  No conflict of interest there!  Since January of 2008 the Gates Foundation has awarded the National Governors Association and the Council of Chief State School Officers over $35 Million (this is a dated amount, it most certainly has increased by now).

This is what we call state-led?  No, if advocates of the Common Core were honest they would say it is special-interest written and funded.  However it was Federally-pushed getting other states on board.  That’s where Race to the Top grants come in.  Through the 2009 stimulus package $4.35 billion in discretionary money was given to the U.S. Department of Education and in order to qualify for these grants states had to adopt the Common Core.

This is state-led?

Education Secretary Arne Duncan went on to tell states that in order to receive a No Child Left Behind Waiver had to, for starters, adopt the Common Core and then adopt other “reforms” prescribed by the Department.

That’s state-led?

Even Tony Bennett, who was recently ousted as Indiana’s Superintendent of Public Instruction, bemoaned the standards being “federalized.”

No state has yet adopted these through their state legislature.  That’s state-led?

Under the 10th Amendment of the Constitution, education is among the most important policy power not “delegated to the United States” and therefore is “reserved to the States respectively, or to the people.”  Historically, U.S. Education policy-making has been a matter of local control, where parents have the most influence.  That was not honored in this process.

So we can all the Common Core a whole plethora of things, but “state-led” can’t honestly be one of them.

Indiana Republican Assembly Endorses Repeal of Common Core State Standards

Sen_SchneiderWEB

State Senator Scott Schneider

BEECH GROVE, INDIANA, January 22, 2013 — The Indiana Republican Assembly (INRA) rejects the lowered standards for Indiana schoolchildren developed by Washington-based interest groups and pushed by the Obama administration. We endorse Indiana State Senator Scott Schneider’s effort to repeal Indiana’s ill-adopted Common Core State Standards and replace them with Indiana produced standards.

Senator Schneider has put forward Senate Bill 193 calling for Indiana to withdraw from the Common Core Standards.

Not only do the Common Core Standards lower Indiana’s math and English standards but the entire process bypasses parents, local, and state school boards and their elected officials. We echo Phyllis Schafly in maintaining that “Obama Core” should be held unconstitutional because the federal government has no constitutional power over education.

The national tests for students are tied to teacher evaluations. The standards instruct teachers what to teach their pupils so students can pass the tests and teachers receive positive evaluations. The federal government has been pressuring states to adopt the Common Core in order to be eligible for the $4.5 billion Race to the Top funds that originated with the stimulus package, and as a condition for receiving waivers to No Child Left Behind.

About the Indiana Republican Assembly

The Indiana Republican Assembly is an official charter of the National Federation of Republican Assemblies, “the Republican Wing of the Republican Party”, one of the oldest and largest GOP organizations in America. INRA, an independent expenditure Super PAC, supports Reagan conservative candidates and their causes and is dedicated to electing true conservatives to lead the Republican Party. INRA meets monthly at Pipers Café on Indy’s Southside.

Michelle Malkin is (Almost) Spot On

michelle_malkin_02Michelle Malkin has made the Common Core State Standards the subject of her syndicated column this week which has been published not only on her own website, but at places like Townhall.com and National Review

Her first article is the first in a series on the Common Core so perhaps she’ll get to it.  She explains her intent on her blog:

One of my New Year’s resolutions is to provide you in-depth coverage of this vital issue that too often gets shunted off the daily political/partisan agenda. While the GOP tries to solve its ills with better software and communications consultants, the conservative movement — and America — face much larger problems. It doesn’t start with the “low-information voter.” It starts with the no-knowledge student. This is the first in an ongoing series on “Common Core,” the stealthy federal takeover of school curriculum and standards across the country. As longtime readers know, my own experience with this ongoing sabotage of academic excellence dates back to my early reporting on the Clinton-era “Goals 2000″ and “outcome-based” education and extends to my recent parental experience with “Everyday Math”.

I’m looking forward to the series and on her blog she lists us a resource.  Thank you very much!  In her column she writes:

Under President Obama, these top-down mal-formers — empowered by Washington education bureaucrats and backed by misguided liberal philanthropists led by billionaire Bill Gates — are now presiding over a radical makeover of your children’s school curriculum. It’s being done in the name of federal “Common Core” standards that do anything but raise achievement standards.

Common Core was enabled by Obama’s federal stimulus law and his Department of Education’s “Race to the Top” gimmickry. The administration bribed cash-starved states into adopting unseen instructional standards as a condition of winning billions of dollars in grants. Even states that lost their bids for Race to the Top money were required to commit to a dumbed-down and amorphous curricular “alignment.”

She is right that President Obama and Education Secretary Arne Duncan helped put the wheels on the bus for this to get going, but they only primed the pump.  Republican Governors jumped at the carrot of the Race to the Top Trough money or a No Child Left Behind waiver.  You’ll notice in the map below there are a lot of traditional “red” states that jumped on board.

image

I would encourage her to call those Republican Governors and Chief State School Officers who have embraced the standards like Indiana Governor Mitch Daniels, Iowa Governor Terry Branstad, and Florida Governor Rick Scott out by name.  In fact, Governor Rick Scott brought the defeated former Indiana State Superintendent of Schools, Tony Bennett – who was ousted largely due to his support of the Common Core – to head the Florida Department of Education.  So Governor Scott is doubling down on the centralization and testing culture in Florida with a schools chief who supposedly believed in federalism until the Common Core came along.

And on and on… Malkin I’m sure will, but as a first article in a series this is fantastic and I’m thrilled to have her voice join ours.