Wisconsin State Superintendent Offers Veiled Threat to Opponents of Common Core

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Dr. Tony Evers
Wisconsin State Superintendent of Public Instruction

The state of Wisconsin has held three out of four public hearings on Common Core Standards. State Superintendent Tony Evers must be feeling the heat because he offered legislators a veiled threat that any rejection of Common Core Standards may be taken to the Supreme Court. This threat outrages citizens across the state who are trying to protect their right to exercise local control of schools.

Kim Simac,  Wisconsin State Director for Concerned Women for America, Chairperson for Northwoods Patriots, and one of the major community organizers in northern Wisconsin, stated, “Superintendent Evers’ threat to jump directly to the Wisconsin Supreme Court should any legislation or decision be made to opt out of CCSS exposes his lack of confidence in the standards themselves. Those supporters of CCSS should have an arsenal of evidence that proves excellence and superiority in the product. Obviously they do not.”

Wisconsinites opposed to Common Core will not allow Superintendent Evers to blame conservative Legislators for the tax dollars to be wasted on any legal action intended to undermine Wisconsin’s statute regarding local control of schools or intended to render irrelevant the concerns expressed by citizens. Sondra Maanum, Chair of the Barron County Republican Party, explained that “our legislators were elected to defend and protect the state constitution and our state laws. If Tony Evers thinks he is going to use our tax dollars to fight us, he better be well prepared for the consequences.”

Superintendent Evers is apparently realizing that his claim that it would take years to write and implement alternative standards has been effectively refuted by experts who have been testifying against Common Core. Alan Scholl, Executive Director and Vice President of American Opinion Foundation, invited citizens and organizations like Advocates for Academic Freedom to bring Dr. Sandra Stotsky and James Milgram among others to testify. Both were members of the Common Core Validation Committee and both refused to sign off on the standards that they believed would not adequately prepare students for college.

“Evers’ threat is predicated on the platform of using the federal government, through the Supreme Court, to force upon a state and its people, a federal mandate in education.  This is as totalitarian a prospect as any yet suggested,” stated Mr. Scholl.   Scholl, Maanum, and Simac represent many Wisconsinites who believe that the veiled threat made by Superintendent Evers is a blatant abuse of federal power by a state official. Scholl explained that using federal power to force a curriculum that is formulated and shaped precisely to any forced standard leading to dictated outcomes is an intolerable challenge to individual liberty and the sovereignty of states.

It is essential that those who oppose Common Core be willing to provide solutions, to promote funding for those solutions, and to support legislators who are willing to represent what is best for the children of Wisconsin. The solutions most often recommended by citizens include immediate implementation of the standards used in Massachusetts before they adopted Common Core. Massachusetts students had excelled in math, science, English, and reading for years before they adopted Common Core Standards.

“Grassroots will be certain to work hard for legislators who recognize the perilous path Common Core Standards present” promised Kim Simac. “I know I will be spending my efforts engaging hard-working activists who will pound the doors and give 100% for legislators who will stand up to support Wisconsin state rights.”

As President of Advocates for Academic Freedom, I have traveled the state discussing Common Core, our focus has been upon solutions and funding for those solutions. Without exception, my audiences have expressed a willingness to support spending some of our state surplus to purchase math text books that are not aligned with Common Core, sets of grammar books for each English classroom, and reading materials that focus upon decoding skills. These audiences are insulted and angered by the thought of using their tax dollars and the legal system to circumvent local control of schools and to silence the public.

According to Sondra Maanum, “Wisconsinites hope Governor Walker and the legislature will put in place some oversight to prevent the DPI from circumventing local control of schools in the future.”

Wisconsinites are defending their right to control local schools. They have witnessed the challenging fight to prevent federal overreach when a powerful state department of education intervenes. Citizens do not want precedence established that would undermine state statutes which guarantee local control of schools.

Superintendent Evers is abusing his power and ignoring state statutes.

Alabama School District Test Scores Drop

Mobile County Schools report a substantial drop in their student’s test scores.  Of course the “rigor” of the new standards is to blame according to school officials.

Alabama.com reports:

Karen Mohr, acting chief academic officer for the school system, sent a letter to all principals advising them on how to handle the test scores.

“After careful review of the first quarter Language Arts and Math EQT (end of quarter test) results, the Chief Academic Officer of the Mobile County Public Schools has determined that scores are substantially lower and will negatively impact the first quarter averages for students,” the letter said.

“This decision only addresses first quarter scores,” the letter said. “In subsequent quarters, EQT scores will be handled according to the usual system guidelines.”

If a student’s test score improved his average, it was OK to use it, the letter said. But if adding the score lowered the student’s first quarter average, the test score should not be counted.

“We wanted to make sure we gave students the benefit of the doubt,” Mohr said. “We’re going to do whatever we can to be as fair as possible to our students.”

Mohr explained that the drop in test scores came about because of new standards implemented this fall. “Our curriculum is based on the Alabama College and Career Ready Standards,” she said, “and they’re more rigorous than in the past. With the change, we’re in a transition right now.”

The College and Career Ready Standards are also known as the Common Core, the education standards in math and English that were adopted by the state board of education in 2010.

Could Common Core advocates possibly be open to the possibility that test scores are dropping because of the way math is being taught?  Perhaps students are confused?  Perhaps they are frustrated?  I understand that transitions to new ways of doing things can impact test scores, but it’s simply too easy to excuse the drops as a result of the “rigor” of the standards when another explanation could be is that they are convoluted and lack common sense when translated at the classroom level.

Why Fix What Isn’t Broken?

nhunionleadersq-590x332“Why fix what isn’t broken?” That is essentially the question that the New Hampshire Union Leader asked in their Monday editorial.  They write:

If New Hampshire were a nation, it would rank among the top in international math and science scores. So why are all New Hampshire school districts being asked to adopt new, untested educational standards?

One of the supposed advantages of adopting Common Core, which includes testing, is to provide a way to compare and contrast school districts based on test scores. But the United States already has a nationwide test by which every state and school district can be evaluated. It is called the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP).

Another supposed advantage of Common Core is to raise educational standards. But New Hampshire students excel at the NAEP tests. In fact, a just-released study used NAEP scores to see how states ranked against some of the highest-and lowest-performing countries in science and math, based on eighth-grade test scores. New Hampshire finished in the top 10 in both categories. In science our kids ranked 7th, only a point behind Japan.

On the whole, New Hampshire elementary and middle schools are doing a pretty good job preparing kids to compete in the modern world. But there are pockets of poor performance. Clearly, the answer is not to impose an untested set of new standards on every district.

Very true.  There are a number of states that should be asking that question instead of trying to “fix” a problem they don’t have with a subpar (and untested) solution.

“I Have Successfully Shown I Was The Best Slave”

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Interesting article from Pennsylvania about two students decrying the Common Core to their school board.

Norristown High School senior Craig Madrak gave a speech decrying the new common core for Pennsylvania public schools when comment was opened up to the public at the Norristown Area School District Board meeting Monday night.

The common core is a new standardization of public education that was initiated statewide by the Pennsylvania Department of Education.

Madrak, who has a high rank at the top of his class, called standardization into question. “I have successfully shown that I was the best slave… Our education system is based on outcome; students must meet this outcome or they are viewed as failing.”

According to Madrak, the system is flawed. “The standards set are not of education and academics, but of indoctrination and conformity,” Madrak said. “They conform to policy rather than pursue their passion… teachers are instructed to force students to regurgitate information rather than to assimilate concepts.”

Madrak was followed by fellow Norristown senior Miranda Cravetz, who Madrak credited with the inspiration to his critique of standardization. Cravetz gave a short summary of the source of Madrak’s speech, citing a social studies essay prompt as being responsible for the denunciation. She went on to urge the removal of standardized institutionalization.

Cravetz was not only at the board meeting to denounce standardization, however — she was also present to be honored by the board for her performance on a standardized test.

Money quote: “I have successfully shown that I was the best slave.”  Heh, hate the game, but play it well.  He’s spot on that teachers are instructed to force students to regurgitate information rather than to assimilate concepts.  That is what an assessment culture leads to.

A Call for a Return of Local Control in Education

tom-pauken-photo_high-resolutionTom Pauken, a former member of the Texas Workforce Commission and now a Republican candidate in the Texas gubernatorial race, wrote a great piece in Human Events calling for a return of local control in education.

He points out the defining characteristics of a philosophy that he says is shared by Common Core advocates and intellectual elites who he says have taken over public schools in Texas:

  • a top-down, centralized approach
  • an obsession with testing
  • one-size-fits-all standards and curriculum
  • the use of buzzwords like “rigor” so as to imply that opponents favor low quality education
  • giving lots lip service to principles like local control while essentially threatening those (schools, districts, states) who don’t choose to comply to do so under state mandates.

He said that Republican advocates of the Common Core have missed the shift that has taken place with the conservative expectations surrounding education policies.

Republican supporters of the Common Core have missed the shift that has occurred among conservatives since the time when Bush took office in Texas. Conservatives have returned to their roots. After letting their guard down in the mid-1990s, they recovered their healthy suspicion of centralization and top-down solutions. Common Core advocates appear to be genuinely dumbfounded that anyone would not support implementation of their standards. Yet the past two presidential administrations have taught us to be highly skeptical when a room full of experts say “trust us.” (emphasis mine)

Exactly!  He notes that Texans are just now working to wrest control of education away from the state and back to where it belongs with local school districts.

Read the whole article.

Alabama State School Board to Vote on Meaningless Resolution

alabama-state-flagThe Alabama State Board of Education is set to vote on a resolution that would rescind a 2009 agreement with the National Governors Association and Council of Chief State School Officers related to the Common Core State Standards.  The Dothan Eagle reports:

According to a press release by the state, the move would help remove doubts that Alabama’s standards in math and English language arts were in fact a state initiated and a state-led effort. The NGO helped develop Core Standards, but each state adopting the standards was able to put its own spin on their state’s standards.

The original agreement between Alabama and the NGO and CCSSO was intended to acknowledge the development of a set of internationally-benchmarked standards that could be shared across states, according to the state Department of Education.

Alabama State Superintendent of Education Tommy Bice said the state will continue to work with the NGO and CCSSO and will also continue to implement the Alabama College and Career Ready Standards, the Alabama version of Common Core.

Board member Betty Peters says she’s not voting in favor because it’s a meaningless resolution.  I agree.  How exactly will this resolution “remove doubts”?  Only a low-information voter would believe that.  Are they repealing the standards?  No.  Are they rewriting the standards?  No.  Are they even having public hearings on these?  No.  What does this do?  They are playing revisionist history hoping that enough people buy it.  So what if they rescind the agreement if they keep the standards?  The resolution doesn’t DO anything.

Dr. Bice says they will continue to implement the “Alabama College and Career Ready Standards” while working with the NGO and CCSSO.  Oh yes, he’s trying to pull an Arizona.  If you call it something different then people won’t think it’s Common Core.  Alabama residents, don’t be fooled, the “Alabama College and Career Ready Standards” for Math and ELA are Common Core.  They were not state-led, they were special interest led and funded.  The Alabama Department of Education may not have a formal MOU with NGA or CCSSO, but will continue to work with them.  What has changed?

Absolutely nothing.

New York School Withdraws From Race to the Top Over Data Concerns

13080106_1The Poughkeepsie Journal reports that the Hyde Park (NY) Central School District is pulling out of the Race to the Top program due to concerns over student data.  They write:

The district still must follow the newly implemented and controversial Common Core learning standards, said Douglas Hieter, Hyde Park’s board president.

Hyde Park schools were set to receive a total of $145,264 over four years, its share of New York’s $700 million Race To The Top funds. Part of the requirement of receiving the funds is participation in the data dashboard, the Education Data Portal.

The district was still due its last payment of $36,000, Hieter said. The district will not have to return any funds, it simply will not apply for this year’s amount. The money was used to train administrators and principals for the evaluations — Annual Professional Performance Reviews, or APPR — required under the updated state Education Law….

….The district, like others, already shares information with the state for a database, as required by law. But Heiter said officials were worried about the lack of information regarding connections and sharing of information between the state database and the new InBloom database.

Read the rest.

16 States Plus DC Race to the Trough for Early Childhood Cash

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Sixteen states plus the District of Columbia are racing for the trough once again.  This time it’s for early childhood cash.  The applicants are: Arizona, Arkansas, Connecticut, District of Columbia, Georgia, Indiana, Iowa, Kentucky, Michigan, Mississippi, Montana, Nevada, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania, and Vermont.

This is the second round, the first round came in FY 2011.  Here are the “winners” of that particular competition:

  • California – $75,000,000 (California had to revise the amount they requested to a lower amount)
  • Delaware – $49,878,774
  • Maryland – $49,999,143
  • Massachusetts – $50,000,000
  • Minnesota – $44,858,313
  • North Carolina – $69,991,121
  • Ohio – $69,993,362
  • Rhode Island – $50,000,000
  • Washington – $60,000,000

There are five key areas of reform that this grant addresses:

  • Establishing Successful State Systems by building on the state’s existing strengths, ambitiously moving forward the state’s early learning and development agenda and carefully coordinating programs across agencies to ensure consistency and sustainability beyond the grant;
  • Defining High-Quality, Accountable Programs by creating a common tiered quality rating and improvement system that is used across the state to evaluate and improve program performance and to inform families about program quality;
  • Promoting Early Learning and Development Outcomes for Children to develop common standards within the state and assessments that measure child outcomes, address behavioral and health needs, as well as inform, engage and support families;
  • Supporting A Great Early Childhood Education Workforce by providing professional development, career advancement opportunities, appropriate compensation and a common set of standards for workforce knowledge and competencies; and
  • Measuring Outcomes and Progress so that data can be used to inform early learning instruction and services and to assess whether children are entering kindergarten ready to succeed in elementary school.

Grant awards last for four years and will range from $37.5 million up to $75 million.  So states are once again looking at selling their collective educational soul for the promise of federal cash.  Haven’t we learned?  This time preschoolers are the ones being impacted.

Photo credit: Woodley Wonder Works via Flickr (CC by 2.0)

Video: Colbert on Common Core and Robo Teachers

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This was too funny not to share:  Video of Stephen Colbert’s segment on Monday about the Common Core is below, as well as, a partial transcript:

Here are some excerpts:

It’s no secret that America has fallen behind other countries in education… A recent report in Harvard’s Kennedy School found that students in Latvia, Chile and Brazil are improving on standardized tests three times faster than American students. Three times faster. That’s almost twice as much.

Now America is addressing this problem with something called the Common Core State Standards, which The New York Times called “an ambitious set of goals for math, reading and writing skills that children should acquire as they move through school.”

I’m all in favor of raising standards.  If we can help even one kid do better in school, we will help all the kids who copy off that kid.

But folks, there’s one problem with encouraging our children to grow to their full potential.  Someone has to grade all those papers. Which is why I am giving a tip of the hat to robo teachers. You see, tech companies have developed an automated reader which can grade 16,000 essays in 20 seconds. Finally we have the computing power to grade homework at the same blinding speed that it was plagiarized from Wikipedia.

And I’m giving a special additional rare tip of my hat to how these essays are being compu-graded by evaluating critical elements like: How long the average word is; how many words are in the average sentence; and how long is the essay. Because as Shakespeare wrote, “Brevity is the soul of writing but splendiferous loquaciousness is paramount to acing your Lit final.” — “Hamlet,” Act II Scene 2

HT: Valarie Strauss

Video: St. Tammany Parish School Board Rejecting Common Core

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Below is the video of the St. Tammany Parish School Board Meeting on October 10th where the board voted 14-0 in favor of a resolution urging Louisiana to drop the Common Core State Standards.

Public comments start at 1:10:00, the board discusses the Common core around 2:25, and the vote is taken at 2:30:00.  You can watch below (FYI – if you subscribe to TAE via email you will have to click to the website to view the video.  We’ve received some questions about that).

HT: Suzette Lopez via email.