Georgia State Senator Ligon Discusses Removal of Common Core from Georgia

image004ATLANTA (February 28, 2013) – Sen. William Ligon (R-Brunswick) held a press conference today to discuss Senate Bill 167. Sen. Ligon sponsored this legislation to withdraw Georgia from its participation in the Common Core State Standards Initiative and the Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers (PARCC).

The Common Core Georgia Performance Standards (CCGPS) were adopted on July 8, 2010 under Governor Sonny Perdue’s administration as part of the state’s efforts to comply with the Federal Race to the Top (RTTT) grant. The Common Core represents the first attempt at nationalized curriculum standards in math and English language arts (ELA) for grades K – 12. The Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers (PARCC) is responsible for the development of assessments that will be aligned to the Common Core.

“Though I am sure the previous administration had the best of intentions when deciding to apply for Race to the Top, the lack of accountability to the parents and taxpayers of this state is stunning,” said Sen. Ligon. “First of all, there has been no thorough cost analysis of what the unfunded mandates will cost Georgia’s taxpayers at either the state or the local level to implement and maintain the terms of the grant.”

“Secondly, allowing a consortium of states to work with non-profits and other unaccountable parties to develop our standards without open public oversight is untenable in a country of free people, especially considering  that Georgia’s taxpayers support K-12 education with $13 billion of hard-earned dollars every year,” Sen. Ligon explained. “Georgia needs to have a transparent, democratic process of developing curriculum standards and a means to ensure more direct accountability at the local level. Our educational system should not be accountable to Washington bureaucrats, but to the people of this state who pay the taxes and to the parents who have children in our public schools.”

Lending his voice of support to the effort, Lt. Governor Casey Cagle stated, “The most important task we face each Legislative Session is finding ways to strengthen and reform the education of Georgia’s children. I believe that Georgians know best how to educate our children – not Washington, D.C. bureaucrats. I look forward to working with Senator Ligon on this important issue to ensure that we’re able to continue making decisions about the education of our children right here in Georgia rather than having curriculum standards enforced from Washington, D.C.”

Sen. Ligon’s proposed legislation, Senate Bill 167, addresses withdrawal from the current implementation of the national math and English language arts standards, and prevents the Department of Education from adopting future standards without input from the citizens of Georgia. In addition, the legislation ensures that Georgia does not forfeit control of curriculum standards to outside entities.

Another provision of the bill addresses privacy concerns. SB 167 prohibits the Department of Education from sharing personally identifiable student and teacher information with the federal government except in well-defined circumstances, some of which would require notification to parents and to teachers. In addition, the bill forbids the Department of Education from sharing any personally identifiable information with entities outside the state, such as non-profits, and limits what can be shared inside the state to educational entities only. Further, no educational institution can use the data to develop commercial products or services or transfer that information to other entities, such as the labor department for workforce planning.

“Unfortunately, measures to protect the privacy of Georgia’s citizens require additional vigilance due to the fact that the U.S. Department of Education has gutted federal student-privacy law through regulations implemented a year ago,” said Sen. Ligon. “Here in Georgia, I believe it is our legislative duty to protect the privacy of our citizens, especially our children, according to the original spirit of the law passed by Congress.”

During the press conference, Sen. Ligon was joined by several key education policymakers and stakeholders including, Dr. Sandra Stotsky, who served on the Common Core Validation Committee and as senior associate commissioner in the Massachusetts Department of Education; Ze’ev Wurman, a visiting scholar at the Hoover Institution and former Senior Adviser at the Office of Planning, Evaluation and Policy Development in the U.S. Department of Education; Jane Robbins, a Harvard-trained attorney and Senior Fellow with the American Principles Project; and Dr. Jim Arnold, Superintendent of Pelham City Schools, GA.

In addition, a number of grassroots organizations pledged their support for SB 167 and were present to offer feedback regarding the removal of Georgia’s Common Core Program. These groups include organizations such as Concerned Women for America, Americans for Prosperity, American Principles Project, Georgia Conservatives in Action, Citizen Impact, the Conservative Leadership Coalition, the Georgia Republican Assembly, among others.

Senate Bill 167 has been assigned to the Senate Education and Youth Committee.

Bill Requiring Review of Common Core Advances in Oklahoma House

Oklahoma CapitolA bill designed to review the Common Core State Standards in Oklahoma advances in the Oklahoma House. House Bill 1907 creates a Common Core Task Force passed yesterday on a 6-0 vote in the Oklahoma House Rules Committee.  

This bill was authored by State Representative Bobby Cleveland (R-District 20).  The task force’s purpose is to “study the issues involved in adopting, implementing and aligning state subject matter curriculum with the K-12 Common Core State Standards, developed by the Common Core State Standards Initiative.”  They will also explore the costs of implementing the Common Core and this task force is subject to Oklahoma’s Open Meeting Act and Open Records Act.

This will basically slow the implementation of the Common Core and provide accountability that was lacking in the initial process.

Common Core Unpreparedness: Teachers Say They Are Not Ready

Education Week conducted a survey of teachers and nearly half of all teachers say they are unprepared to teach the Common Core, especially to disadvantaged students:

The study by the EPE Research Center, an arm of Editorial Projects in Education, the publisher of Education Week, found deep wells of concern among teachers about their readiness to meet the challenges posed by the common core in English/language arts and mathematics.

“Teachers are under tremendous pressure,” said Lisa Dickinson, an assistant director of educational issues for the American Federation of Teachers, which conducts several common-core training programs in school districts each month. “The new standards do require a major shift in instruction. And the needed supports really aren’t there.”

Teachers in adopting states were asked to rate their preparedness on a scale of 1 to 5, with 5 being “very prepared” and 1 “not at all prepared.” When asked how prepared they were to teach the common core to their own students as a whole, 49 percent rated themselves a 1, 2, or 3.

They offered the infographic you see below outlining key details of the survey:

Getting Ready for the Common Core

Alabama’s Common Core Fight

alabama-state-houseThe Alabama Legislature has two identical bills that would repeal the Common Core – House Bill 254, sponsored by State Representative Jim Barton (R-Mobile), and Senate Bill 190, sponsored by State Senator Drew Brewbaker (R-Montgomery).  There is a public hearing tomorrow on the House Bill at 3p at the Alabama Statehouse.  A partner of ours down in Alabama, CE White, warned of about the measures being taken to prevent these bills from passing:

I feel we have the votes for this to pass in the Senate, but the House is dealing dirty politics. One superintendent (who is connected to Broad Foundation and has invited Pearson to his district next month) wrote an article last week in a newspaper, claiming that Alabama would be “an island” if we withdrew from Common Core. Since that article, legislators have started to question why we need to pass these bills. In fact, they are using the same terminology that we might be “an island” if we pass this bill. I will be speaking at the public hearing Wednesday. However, we really need to get the word out to our legislators that we will not be “an island.” We need them to know that we are not alone in our fight. We need them to know that other states are also fighting against Common Core. Could you please help us get the word out, by having your organization and other states contact our legislators and tell them to please pass HB 254 and SB 190, and we will not be “an island.” We need to flood them with calls and emails. They need to know they have the support of the country.

Alabama certainly wouldn’t be alone.  You can find contact information for members of the Alabama House here and the Alabama Senate here.

A Common Core Agnostic Is Turned

Diane Ravitch finally made up her mind on the Common Core.

She now deems it bad.  What took so long?  The skeptic in me thinks she waited until after November.  Kind of hard to endorse the guy who is pushing this while speaking out against the Common Core.  People who have read me for awhile know I’m not a Ravitch fan, but I’m glad she got off the fence here.

She believes in national standards, but they should be voluntary.  Ravitch writes:

Such standards, I believe, should be voluntary, not imposed by the federal government; before implemented widely, they should be thoroughly tested to see how they work in real classrooms; and they should be free of any mandates that tell teachers how to teach because there are many ways to be a good teacher, not just one. I envision standards not as a demand for compliance by teachers, but as an aspiration defining what states and districts are expected to do. They should serve as a promise that schools will provide all students the opportunity and resources to learn reading and mathematics, the sciences, the arts, history, literature, civics, geography, and physical education, taught by well-qualified teachers, in schools led by experienced and competent educators.

Obviously the last sentence is a slight intended for private schools and homeschoolers, but moving on….

She said they haven’t been field tested.

The Common Core standards have been adopted in 46 states and the District of Columbia without any field test. They are being imposed on the children of this nation despite the fact that no one has any idea how they will affect students, teachers, or schools. We are a nation of guinea pigs, almost all trying an unknown new program at the same time.

She also points to the ELA standards debacle over informational texts:

The flap over fiction vs. informational text further undermined my confidence in the standards. There is no reason for national standards to tell teachers what percentage of their time should be devoted to literature or information. Both can develop the ability to think critically. The claim that the writers of the standards picked their arbitrary ratios because NAEP has similar ratios makes no sense. NAEP gives specifications to test-developers, not to classroom teachers.

She’s concerned about a drop in test scores:

Another reason I cannot support the Common Core standards is that I am worried that they will cause a precipitous decline in test scores, based on arbitrary cut scores, and this will have a disparate impact on students who are English language learners, students with disabilities, and students who are poor and low-performing. A principal in the Mid-West told me that his school piloted the Common Core assessments and the failure rate rocketed upwards, especially among the students with the highest needs. He said the exams looked like AP exams and were beyond the reach of many students.

She then goes into conspiracy-theorist mode and predicts that the reason for doing this is to push suburban parents to want vouchers and charter schools…. Ugh, already happening because of quality issues, as well as, indoctrination (as opposed to education) that occurs often in public schools.  Take the tin foil hat off.  There are plenty of reasons that supporters of the Common Core want to see them implemented, but this I doubt is one of them.  The Common Core impacts private schools in many ways – especially if there is state accreditation or public monies involved.  I also haven’t seen any information that charter schools would be exempt from the Common Core either.

She does acknowledge at the end of her post that no one will escape their reach.

Anyway, welcome to the ranks, Dr. Ravitch.  Better late than never.

How to Fight the Common Core

It seems like fighting the Common Core is a David vs. Goliath proposition.  It’s even more frustrating when the Common Core was approved behind closed doors and implemented without public knowledge.  It’s frustrating when the media hardly discusses it, and when they do it’s typically slanted in favor of the Common Core.  It’s disheartening to see all of the big money lining up behind the Common Core.  Today I had a parent in Arkansas contact me.  Arkansas, like my home state of Iowa, has adopted the Common Core with zero public input and is currently doing nothing about it.

She writes:

I am a concerned parent who lives in Jonesboro, Ark. I have been following your posts for several days after doing some investigating into Common Core. It is already being implemented in Arkansas and in the school where my child goes. Although nothing has ever been publically announced to the parents concerning the implementation which I understand began last (school) year. Just wondering what info or advise you have concerning states or schools where we were not aware of Common Core until it was already a done deal. Others who I have recently talked to said they felt it was too big to fight.

It does seem like it is too big of a fight!  But may I remind you that the outcome of David’s fight with Goliath, scrappy little David, who was a just a lowly shepherd, became King and Goliath lost his head.

Even big fights against overwhelming odds can be won.  Here are some steps to get started.

  1. Educate yourself on the issue.  Read the standards.  Know the myths vs. facts.  There are several strikes against the Common Core: they are subpar standards, the implementation of them will likely be more costly than anticipated, and most importantly they are unconstitutional.   Also be sure to check out our resources.
  2. Start small.  Social media is a powerful tool, share what you’re learning with your friends and family.  Email articles of interest to people you know.  Talk about this issue whenever you get the chance. Begin to educate others.
  3. Letters to the editor:  The media may not be saying much about the Common Core, but that doesn’t mean you can’t express your opinion.
  4. Be the “media” voice:  Perhaps you may have to start your own state-oriented blog if you can’t get the media on board.  Some examples of blogs covering the Common Core at the State Level would be Utahns Against the Common Core, Missouri Education Watchdog, Hoosiers Against Common Core, and Iowans for Local Control.  We have a list of blogs that you can check out.  If there isn’t one in your state maybe it’s time to start one.  Not sure how?  Feel free to contact me.  I would encourage you if you do this to try to keep your material as focused on your state as possible.  Be a resource for your state.
  5. Engage friendly new media… not every blog will want to focus on education, but some may be interested in writing about it from time to time.  Outside of Truth In American Education I blog about the Common Core on occasion at Caffeinated Thoughts.  If I didn’t do that there would be little written in Iowa on the subject.  There are other blogs like mine in other states.  You need to find out who they are and reach out.
  6. Bring the Common Core up with your school board.  It is likely they won’t be able to do anything about them, but you’re at least making the topic public and bringing a level of transparency that didn’t exist before.
  7. Contact your legislators… contact all your state’s legislators.  Do not assume they know what is going on.  Encourage others to do the same.
  8. Find likeminded groups.  The anti-Common Core bill that passed last week in the Indiana Senate was the result of two moms getting involved in the process and they mobilized their local tea party groups.  Also remember that this is a bipartisan issue… Critics of the Common Core may have different reasons for objecting, it matters not.

Just remember when you start this fight in your state that giants can very well be slayed.

What other ideas would you suggest?

To Heck With Diamonds, Common Core is Forever

My organization, ROPE, has been closely following the Common Core State Standards (CCSS) cost issue, since NO ONE in charge of public education in Oklahoma – including the purse string holders at the state legislature – have been able to tell Oklahomans what the Common Core will cost Oklahoma taxpayers. 

I wrote an article last month that was published in the American Thinker titled “The Ed Tech Scam”, to shed light on the fact that the CCSS have become an unfunded state mandate – specifically in the area of technology requirements.

Yes, the CCSS lovers say

“Adopting new materials isn’t really a cost of the Common Core, it’s just a cost in education of providing relevant materials to students that are there anyway.”

However, when you have at least one Oklahoma Superintendent honestly reporting (to a national education magazine) how pinched he is to get technology in place prior to the roll out of the Common Core tests, we are inclined to suspend belief.

“Once you get into a testing situation, you have to be able to support it without interruption,” said Mr. Kitchens, who added: “I do not think this is going to be a cheap exercise at all.”

As we’ve reported previously, legislators cemented the Common Core State Standards into Oklahoma law in order to get Race to the Top funds without even a cursory review of draft forms of the standards as there were none available at that time. This would seem a clear violation of the public trust.

Legislators to taxpayers, 

“Hey guys, you’re responsible for funding these, but we have no idea exactly what’s in them or how much they’ll cost the state or what they’ll do to Oklahoma education, but trust us.”

Obviously the trust wasn’t warranted. Currently, fourteen states have some form of legislation against the CCSS. Clearly all is not well in CCSS-land.

Indiana recently threw out their Chief For Change (Jeb Bush/Foundation for Educational Excellence) state Superintendent Tony Bennett in favor of relatively unknown candidate Glenda Ritz, mainly because of flap over the cost and effectiveness of the Common Core State Standards. Directly on the heels of this upset comes legislation to force the Indiana state legislature to examine the cost of the Common Core before continuing their implementation.

Tony Bennett has not left the building, however. He now presides over the Florida State Department of Education, where, interestingly, theFlorida state Board of Education is questioning whether or not the Florida education juggernaut is ready to roll out and administer the PARCC tests because of their cost.

“One hundred million won’t get done everything we need to get done,” Barbara Jenkins, superintendent of Orange County schools, told the board.

Hoosiers have already caught on to the fact that their former State Supe has gone to another state and told Floridians they just can’t afford the reform measures he was deposed for pushing inside their borders. I’m not sure how this could inspire confidence in any Common Core state.

Then there’s the fact that so much of today’s ‘education reform’ efforts have been tied to private funding by Bill Gates. 

In a clear, well-researched article written for the Heartland Institute on this topic, Joy Pullman quotes Betty Peters’ (Alabama State School Board member) concerns,

“A lot of private foundations are making decisions that would normally be left up to a public institution that would be accountable to the taxpayers.”

As often as we have heard the word “accountability” from our Oklahoma State Department of Education, this should be an eye-opener. How in the world can the Council of Chief State School Officers or the National Governor’s Association (architects of the Common Core State Standards, funded in part by the Gates Foundation) be held accountable to Oklahoma taxpayers for education ‘reform’ efforts such as the CCSS? They are all copyrighted so they can’t be modified yet the CCSSO and the NGA have a disclaimer;

“NGA Center and CCSSO do not warrant, endorse, approve or certify the information on this site, nor do they make any representation as to the accuracy, completeness, efficacy, or timeliness of such information. Use of such information is voluntary on your part. Reference herein to any specific commercial product, process or service does not constitute or imply endorsement, recommendation or favoring by NGA Center and CCSSO.”

Then there is the Jeb Bush factor. As information trickles into the public domain reporting the methods in which the Foundation for Educational Excellence writes educational policy through Janet Barresi and other Chiefs for Change, jaws should drop. Why should Oklahoma taxpayers be supporting Florida education reforms – especially those shown not to be as successful as first advertised?

This session in Oklahoma, Senator Clark Jolley has drafted a bill (SB447) which will usher in yet another new education ‘reform’ measure. MORE new tests! Yes, Oklahoma has chosen to believe the CCSSO’s verdict that most students will fail the PARCC ‘assessments’ when they are to be instituted in 2014.

Certainly, Oklahoma’s public school students cannot fail these tests with so much riding on them (the A-F school designation for one). Consequently, not only is Senator Jolley advocating that we must buy another set of tests (formative tests) to be given up to four times per year before the summative PARCC tests come on line, but that we should support this plan by cementing it into law – as with all other Race to the Top education reforms Oklahoma is currently implementing – without RTT funds.

Why must these tests be written into law? Every teacher gives (or should give) formative tests over content ta
ught – something akin to chapter tests. These allow teachers to see whether or not students are ‘getting it’ in time to re-teach or re-direct learning to improve concept understanding. Certainly, this type of testing is better than summative(high stakes) type testing, but why should Oklahoma teachers have another law to follow?

Oklahoma teachers have enough on their plate without being mandated to follow another type of test. Even formative tests can be misused in such a way as to force teachers to teach to the test and isn’t that all PARCC tests are doing?

It has come to my attention this week that a company called Bellwether Education Partners supplies this type of “transitional national achievement test”. I did a little research on Bellwether and found they work with such organizations as Chiefs for Change and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. We know Dr. Barresi is a Chief for Change. One must wonder if there is a connection here as with the other education ‘reforms’ to which she’s been linked. Again, Oklahoma should not be implementing education ‘reforms’ simply because they are being done elsewhere or because another foundation is willing to ‘help’ Oklahoma with their implementation.

From what source is the money going to materialize to pay for these new tests? We haven’t even figured out how to pay for the PARCC tests. It must be taxpayer funded – all government is. Maybe that’s why Dr. Barresi has asked for a whopping $75 to $100 million in extra funding for next year. The press release sent out by her office lauding Senator Halligan and Senator Ford – from whom the funding requests were submitted – quotes Senator Ford as saying,

“We have three areas in education we must address, including statutory requirements to fund programs such as medical benefits, additional appropriations to pay for reforms we’ve already enacted, and additional funding at the local level that school boards can use to address specific needs in their individual districts,” said Ford, R-Bartlesville.

Why are you asking taxpayers to fund these reforms AFTER you enacted them into LAW Senator Ford? Why should taxpayers be jumping up and down to fund ‘reforms we’ve already enacted’ when they haven’t originated in Oklahoma, were never read by those who enacted them, never had any functional testing demonstrating their efficacy and have been shown not to work in Florida from where they did originate? Certainly, taxpayers deserve an answer to that question.

In closing, several interesting polls have come out recently regarding the Common Core.

Whiteboard Advisors, Education Insider

“conducts an anonymous survey of a small group of key education influential (policymakers, though leaders, and association heads) to get their thoughts and commentary about the context of the current debate and possible outcomes.”

Their survey for February 2013 that polled ‘insiders’ on the Common Core show that support for PARCC testing is falling. In addition, 87% of respondents say they expect more states to drop out of the Common Core Assessment Consortia (like Alabama and Utah),

“as they start to get a fuller picture for the implementation costs of assessments and professional development and get very unhappy about what they have signed up for in a budget constrained environment.”

77% of respondents believe schools will not have enough bandwidth to meet the Consortia’s recommended specifications in time for the tests to come on line.

The 2013 MetLife Survey of the American Teacher, shows that only a maximum of 24% of teachers and principals either believed the Common Core would improve student achievement or prepare students for college and the workforce (page 76). 

So why are we doing this ed ‘reform’ thing again?

I get the sneaky suspicion it’s not about kids…

Reality Has Shown Itself in NY: The State and Districts Forge Ahead

Ken Mitchell has written a report for the Center for Research, Regional Education and Outreach at the State University of New York at New Paltz.  Ken is the District Superintendent of the South Orangetown School District in Rockland County in New York State.  Federal Mandates on Local Education: Costs and Consequences—Yes, it’s a Race, but is it in the Right Direction? tells the tale of seeing the reality of implementing Race to the Top (RTTT) reform measures and implementing the Common Core State Standards (CCSS).

This report deals primarily with only a few of the many districts in New York.  It shows the cost to implement the RTTT commitments (mandates) far exceeds the funding received.  The best example is the nice per student per year breakdown of RTTT revenue and resultant spending.  Depending on the district, the RTTT funds range from $0.87 to $11.79 per student per year for each of four years.  The implementation of RTTT reform measures has resulted in an increase in average per pupil spending of nearly $400 per student.

Keep in mind, the RTTT reform measures are ones pushed for and endorsed by many large, powerful, and influential corporations and foundations.  Would corporations forge ahead when a reality like this shows itself on their ledgers?  I doubt it, but the school districts seem to have little choice to make corrections since the state has committed and directs them to comply with the wishes of the federal government via their RTTT grant.

This report is important and I would like to think decision makers across the country would learn from it but I won’t hold my breath.  Yes, NY received RTTT funds.  Even though many other states did not receive RTTT funds, many passed legislation requiring the implementation of the same reform measures in the hopes of being funded.  So many states are now committed to implement the same costly reform measures—they just have not been provided any federal funds to do so and may not have to adhere to such a strict federally monitored timeline.

Like most states, NY has pushed the cost of implementing reform measures related to standards and assessments and training and evaluation out to cash strapped school districts.  School districts across the country are having to resort to drastic measures to implement costly reforms—cutting staff, increasing class size, and redirecting priorities are only a few.

Everywhere there is a lot of talk about education reform but little talk about what will be good for our students.  Much reform has little to do with meeting the needs of truly educating students.

I recommend you read this report with an eye on what is happening in your own state and local school district.