Bill Gates Wins Hearts for the Common Core By Lining Pockets


The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation spent millions to advance the Common Core State Standards in 2013.

From Valerie Strauss at The Washington Post:

Millions of Gates dollars were awarded this year for various Core-related activities, including to increase public support for the Common Core;  a $3.2 million grant to the New Venture Fund is intended “to support successful implementation of the Common Core State Standards by building public awareness and understanding.” (The fund’s Web site says it is a nonprofit organization “offering domestic and international grant-making services, executing donor-developed projects, and providing full fiscal sponsorship including grant and contract management for innovative public-interest projects.”)

Some of the grants are to help develop new standardized tests aligned to the Core; the Council of Chief State School Officers won $4 million in July “to support the development of high quality assessments to measure” the standards. Other grants are to help teachers develop materials for the Common Core. The NEA Foundation for the Improvement of Education won a few grants in this regard, including one in July for $3,882,600 to “support a cohort of National Education Association Master Teachers in the development of Common Core-aligned lessons in K-5 mathematics and K-12 English Language Arts,” and another in October for $501,580 “to give support to teachers in Kentucky to implement the Common Core State Standards confidently and effectively.”

Meanwhile, the National Conference of State Legislatures won $447,046 in November to “continue its support of state legislators on Common Core and teacher effectiveness”; UCLA won $942,527 in September “to develop a tool that helps states on Common Core-aligned assessments”; the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in August won $115,000 “to support an online, game-based learning experience for reading and writing aligned to Common Core literacy standards”; and the University of Kentucky Research Foundation won $1 million in February to “to support the launch of a new Center for Innovation in Education to advance implementation of the common core and more personalized learning for students and teachers that will enable young people to graduate career and college ready.”

I seem to recall testimony in Wisconsin from a representative of the National Conference of State Legislatures who claimed to be neutral.  If memory serves correct we can deem him a liar.  Then there is $800,000 that went to the National Association of School Boards – sigh.

You can see the list here.

Another Wisconsin Diocese Says No to Common Core

imageThe Diocese of Madison is the second Catholic diocese (that I am aware of) to reject the Common Core.  The first was also in Wisconsin as the Diocese of Green Bay said no thanks.  Bishop Robert C. Morlino and Michael J. Lancaster, the Superintendent of Schools sent a joint letter stating that Diocesan schools would not be adopting the Common Core State Standards.

Dear Friends in Christ,

“Let the same mind be in you that was in Christ Jesus.” (Ephesians 2:5)

Our Catholic schools are great treasures, both of the Church, and of our society. Many of our Catholic schools have been assisting parents in the education and formation of their children for well over 100 years, allowing generations of children to receive the extraordinary benefit of a Catholic education. During this time, our schools have operated from the foundation of Gospel values and the proposition that every person is a unique individual, created and loved by God who calls us to fulfill our humanity by perfecting our God given talents and skills that we may come to know and love God, transform our world through lives of heroic virtue, and merit life in Heaven with Christ for all eternity.

This has always been the goal of Catholic education, to lead our students to the Truth that is Christ. As all creation comes from Christ, this Truth encompasses all facets of the natural world and the human condition – art, history, science, mathematics, music, theology, philosophy – all academic disciplines, as well as values, morality, right, wrong, good, evil, justice, peace, wisdom etc. Catholic schools are unique because they aim to educate the whole person, mind, body, and soul that students may come to know God, know themselves, and know Christ, that they may discern the work His will for their lives.

Through this unique philosophy of education, Catholic schools have been educating and forming students who not only succeed scholastically, but have the knowledge, skills, moral character, confidence and the capacity to love one another. This not only furthers their success in life, but propels them to serve Christ through serving others, thus enriching our communities and transforming our world.

Today, with the adoption of the Common Core State Standards in the public schools, many parents have wondered whether or not Catholic schools can remain competitive and continue their legacy of student success if they do not follow suit and adopt the Common Core. Others have wondered whether or not Catholic schools can remain true to their mission if they adopt the Common Core.

After much research, discussion and conversation with other Catholic educators, superintendents, and bishops, we have reached several conclusions.

First, students in our Catholic schools currently receive an incomparable education, posting impressive records of academic success both at non-Catholic middle and high schools, as well as at public, private and Catholic colleges and universities. At the elementary level our schools consistently score in the top 20% of schools nationwide in every major subject area on the Iowa Assessment. At the high school level, our students’ average scores on the ACT college admission test are routinely 3.5 – 4 points above the national average and 3 points above the state average. Simply put, students in our Catholic schools have been and continue to achieve at high levels, well above national averages.

Secondly, the current high levels of achievement that our students enjoy were attained using current academic standards and curriculum combined with the expertise and commitment of knowledgeable and dedicated teachers. We are committed to continuing to provide rigorous curricula rooted in a Catholic worldview, that prepares students for success in all facets of life, that they may live so as to make positive contributions to this world and merit Heaven in the next world. This has been our work for generations past, and it will continue to be our work for generations to come.

Thirdly, our record of success demonstrates that the current diocesan academic standards for K-8, coupled with the knowledge of our dedicated teachers who model their work on Christ, is a potent formula for the education and formation of our children. Our diocesan standards were created, in affirmation of the principle of subsidiarity, by those who best know our students and our mission – our teachers and administrators. They engaged in two years of work, provided their expertise of Catholic education, intellectual development and knowledge of our students and combined it with a careful examination of multiple sets of standards in each subject area, including the Common Core, and created our diocesan standards in religion, history, math, science, social studies and technology. Our teachers best know our students and how they learn. They know our Catholic tradition and the high expectations we hold. They produced rigorous standards that push students to excel to their full potential and are rooted in Catholic values. As a whole, our standards exceed any other set of national or state standards, and correspond to the high expectations of the Office of Catholic Schools and our principals.

Lastly, and most importantly, it is undeniably clear that the success our schools have had and continue to enjoy stems directly from the Catholic approach to education which seeks to model all things on Christ. This recognizes and affirms the dignity of each student as unique daughters and sons of Christ, and in so doing challenges students not only to acquire a “standard” level of knowledge and skills, but to realize their full, God given potential, to develop and refine these gifts and skills and then use them to better society and the lives of others through service to God and neighbor. It is precisely this focus on the development of the whole person that results not only in exemplary academic performance, but truly places our students on the path to holiness and sainthood. Our students are encouraged not only to succeed academically, but to live lives of heroic virtue. It is not the fundamental aim of Catholic education to develop the intellect for academic success alone, but to develop all the skills and faculties of the human person, oriented toward Christ and His service. It is precisely this moral orientation that guides our students in the use of their gifts and allows them to achieve great things, to transform our world and to achieve the ultimate standards – holiness in this world and Heaven in the next.

Catholic schools in the Diocese of Madison will not adopt the Common Core State Standards. Rather,  our parish elementary schools will continue to use our own, diocesan academic standards. Further reasons for this may be found on the accompanying document, “Frequently Asked Questions.” The Diocese of Madison stands firm, both behind our standards, and behind the mission and philosophy of Catholic education which far exceeds any other common standards.

Sincerely yours in Christ,
Michael J. Lancaster      Most Rev. Robert C. Morlino
Superintendent      &
#160;       Bishop of Madison

You can read the original letter here.

HT: Catholics for Classical Education

Secretary Duncan, Yes Your Power Does Have Limits

arne-duncanInteresting piece in Politico this morning entitled, “Arne Duncan schooled in limits of power.”  In a nutshell – his policies don’t seem to be working and his political capital is spent.

Here’s an excerpt:

But the agenda he began to advance in 2009 has now hit serious roadblocks, highlighting the limits of federal power over education. States are balking at reforms they pledged to implement in exchange for grants and waivers from federal law. An unprecedented $5 billion intervention in the nation’s worst schools has yielded incremental results, at best. A noisy opposition to Duncan’s reforms has emerged — and it only grew noisier this month when Duncan dissed “white suburban moms” for opposing the new Common Core academic standards because the tough tests made their kids look bad.

To top it off, there’s no clear evidence that Duncan’s prescriptions are boosting student achievement, though his backers say it’s still too early to tell.

Duncan still has plenty of ambition; he’s taking up several bold — and controversial — initiatives aimed at transforming higher education. Yet as his signature K-12 programs hit speed bumps, his legacy as a reformer is very much up in the air. Among the ways his reach has been limited:

— Duncan shrewdly dangled incentives to convince all but four states to adopt common academic standards meant to raise the bar for students. But he has no power to force states to adopt associated tests that the federal government has spent $350 million to develop. At least seven have dropped out and others are on the fence; analysts fear that without the tests as a common yardstick, states will be free to quietly lower the bar that Duncan has tried hard to raise.

First we reject the premise that states that reject the Common Core assessments will lower the bar.  The key sentence here – “there’s no clear evidence that Duncan’s prescriptions are boosting student achievement.”

His backers say “give it time.”  That tells me they knew going into this that the Common Core, among other reforms, were an experiment – as we’ve been saying all along.

Should American High Schools Prepare any Students for STEM? Common Core Doesn’t Think So

STEM-logoWhen states adopted Common Core’s mathematics standards, they were told (among other things) that these standards would make all high school students “college- and career-ready” and strengthen the critical pipeline for science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM).

However, with the exception of a few standards in trigonometry, the math standards end after Algebra II, as James Milgram, professor of mathematics emeritus at Stanford University observed in “Lowering the Bar: How Common Core Math Fails to Prepare High School Students for STEM,” a September 2013 report that we co-authored for the Pioneer Institute.

Who was responsible for telling Wisconsin’s Commissioner of Education when he decided to adopt these standards in 2010 that Common Core includes no standards for precalculus OR for getting to precalculus? Who should be telling Governor Walker and Wisconsin business executives today that high school graduates taught only to Common Core’s mathematics standards won’t be able to pursue a four-year degree in STEM? Why isn’t the Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction telling local superintendents to make sure that an accelerated mathematics sequence is available from grade 6 on so that mathematically able kids in Wisconsin’s public schools can be prepared to enroll in and complete a full Algebra I course in grade 8 and have a chance to consider a STEM career when they plan their mathematics and science coursework in high school?

Superintendents, local school committees, and most parents don’t know that under Common Core their students won’t be able to pursue a STEM career. In fact, they think that Common Core’s mathematics standards are rigorous. They are not complicit in this clever act of educational sabotage, but those who wrote these standards are. And their friends in Departments of Education or Public Instruction are.

U.S. government data show that only one out of every 50 prospective STEM majors who begin their undergraduate math coursework at the precalculus level or lower will earn bachelor’s degrees in a STEM area. Moreover, students whose last high school mathematics course was Algebra II or lower have less than a 40 percent chance of earning any kind of four-year college degree.

It’s not as if Common Core’s lead mathematics standards writers themselves didn’t tell the public how low Common Core’s high school mathematics standards were. At a March 2010 meeting of the Massachusetts Board of Elementary and Secondary Education, Jason Zimba, a lead writer, told the board that the standards are “not only not for STEM, they are also not for selective colleges.” In January 2010, William McCallum, another lead mathematics standards writer, told a group of mathematicians: “The overall standards would not be too high, certainly not in comparison [to] other nations, including East Asia, where math education excels.”

There are other consequences to having a college readiness test in mathematics with low expectations. The U.S. Department of Education’s competitive grant program, Race to the Top, requires states to place students who have been admitted by their public colleges and universities into credit-bearing (non-remedial) mathematics (and English) courses if they have passed a Common Core–based “college readiness” test. Selective public colleges, engineering schools, and universities in Wisconsin will likely have to lower the level of their introductory math courses to avoid unacceptably high failure rates.

Both Professor Milgram and I were members of Common Core’s Validation Committee, which was charged with reviewing each successive draft of the standards. We both refused to sign off on the academic quality of the national standards, but we made public our explanation and criticism of the final version of Common Core’s standards.

It is still astonishing that Wisconsin’s Commissioner of Education adopted Common Core’s standards without asking the engineering, science, and mathematics faculty at his own higher education institutions (and the mathematics teachers in the state’s own high schools) to do an analysis of Common Core’s definition of college readiness and to make public their recommendations. After all, who could be better judges of what students need for a STEM major?

Wisconsin clearly needs to revise Common Core’s mathematics standards as soon as possible so that its public schools are able to offer the coursework beginning in grade 5 or 6 that will enable mathematically able students to aim for a STEM major in college. Unless, of course, the governor, the legislature, and the commissioner of education aren’t interested in having American-born and educated engineers, doctors, or scientists. If that is the case, then keep the Common Core status quo.

New York Principals Send An Open Letter to Parents

New-York-State-FlagAn open letter signed by 545 Principals across New York State was addressed to the parents of elementary, middle, and high school students in New York.  They address several points:

  1. NYS testing has increased dramatically.
  2. The tests were too long.
  3. Ambiguous questions appeared throughout the exams.
  4. Children have reacted viscerally to the tests.
  5. The low passing rate was predicted.
  6. The college readiness benchmark is irresponsibly inflated.
  7. State measures are contradictory.
  8. Students labeled as failures are forced out of classes.
  9. The achievement gap is widening.
  10. the tests are putting financial strains on schools.
  11. The tests are threatening other state initiatives.

They listed several things they did not know.

  1. How these tests will help their students.
  2. How to use these tests to improve student skills or understanding.
  3. The underlying cause of low test scores.
  4. What to expect next year.
  5. How much the tests are costing already-strained taxpayers.

You can read the letter in full below:

Rigor of the State Standards Doesn’t Correlate With Student Achievement

ramesh_ponnuruRamesh Ponnuru makes an excellent point in his op/ed at Bloomberg:

For that matter, how common will that core really be? Classroom practice doesn’t always reflect the standards written in a state’s official documents. That’s one reason the rigor of state standards doesn’t correlate with student achievement. But ensuring uniformity in practice would require the kind of heavy-handed central governing body that supporters of the Common Core strenuously deny they want.

The real problem with the Common Core is not that it represents Big Brother in the classroom, but that it seems unlikely to do much to increase the amount of learning that students do. Perhaps that’s because there’s not much that can be done on the national level to make K-12 schooling better.

I don’t agree with everything he said in his column, but he is spot on in his statement that the rigor of state standards doesn’t correlate with student achievement.  I’ve been stating much the same for the last three years.  Changing state standards is not a silver bullet approach to raising student achievement and bring about education reform.  There’s absolutely no evidence that shows centralizing education around a set of standards will increase student achievement and yet we’re told that the Common Core is the cure for what ails public education.  Shoot it’ll even lower the juvenile crime rate.


Bill Filed to Halt Common Core Implementation in Oklahoma

Senate Bill 1146 was filed by State Senator Eddie Fields (R-Wynona) with the Oklahoma Senate that would effectively order the State Board of Education to not align curriculum with the Common Core State Standards and halt the implementation of the Common Core State Standards in Oklahoma schools.  Oklahoma recently had an interim study on the Common Core State Standards.  You can read and watch all of the testimony from that hearing here.

You can read the bill here or below:


HT: Jenni White of Restore Oklahoma Public Education

NY Social Worker: Business Has Never Been Better Under Common Core

mary-calamiaTomorrow, November 26th, Dr. John King, the New York State Education Commissioner is holding a Community Forum at the Eastport-South Manor High School at Manorville, NY on Long Island from 6:00-8:00p.  Mary Calamia, a licensed clinical social worker in New York, requested the opportunity to present a statement on the record about the mental health ramifications of the Common Core on students that she sees in her office.

She was told that she could not make a public statement at that forum since she does not live in the Senate district where it is being held.

Below is the statement Ms. Calamia planned to read.

Statement for NYS Education Commissioner John King

My name is Mary Calamia and I am a licensed clinical social worker.  I want to thank you for bringing us the Common Core. Business has never been better.

If not for the Common Core, I would never have met the 8 year old who is so afraid of the Spring exams, she has to be medicated just to go to school.
Or the 4th grader who vomits every morning, certain that he is “the stupidest kid in the class.”

Or the lady who has to leave work early, her job in jeopardy, because her 7th grader becomes so hysterical over his homework, she fears for his safety.

Or the 6 year old boy who is scratching the skin off of his face, drawing blood every time he does his homework.

Or the 8 year old who picks his skin obsessively and has to go to school with band aids all over his face.

Or the honor student who carved the word “stupid” into her wrist with a razor blade after last year’s math assessment scores came out.

Without the Common Core, I would not be working 10 to 12 hours days without a break just to treat all of the young people streaming into my practice with anxiety, depression, self mutilation, panic attacks, insomnia, school refusal, and a host of other maladies.

I thank you for the emergency phone calls at all hours of the night and the countless interrupted meals, leisure activities, and family occasions when I have had to address a “homework meltdown” that could not be resolved without professional intervention.

How many more children will you send my way? How far do you plan to go with this disaster that you call “education” but more closely resembles child endangerment? How desperate are you to be right? What will it take for you to do the right thing?

Below is a video of Ms. Calamia testifying at an earlier forum on Common Core in Suffolk County in New York.

Two States Delay Fully Implementing PARCC

parccTwo states last week made moves to address Common Core concerns, specifically the implementation of the PARCC assessment.

Louisiana Superintendent of Education John White announced a 10-year plan which would do the following:

  • Test scheduling.  The state will propose that in 2015 students take the PARCC test in grades 3 to 8 (online in grades 5-8; paper in grades 3 and 4).  However, to allow schools and districts more time to learn the new expectations, Louisiana high schools will not transition to PARCC in 2015.
  • School accountability.  School letter grades will be assigned on a curved distribution in 2014 and 2015, so that the starting point is fair and transparent prior to the 10-year escalation.
  • Teacher accountability. For 2014 and 2015, the state will not produce "value-added data" because there will be no baseline for calculating the scores. Compass and related compensation tenure policies will remain in effect, but there will be no requirement that student learning scores be based on value-added data. 
  • Student accountability.  In 2014 and 2015, the state will maintain current 4th grade promotion policies, but the proposal allows districts to issue waivers for students demonstrating readiness to progress.  The state will also shift the 8th grade retention policy to be a remediation policy, proposing that remediation take place on the high school campus in a "transitional 9th grade" year.

So this addresses implementation, but to be clear this does not repeal or stop the implementation of the Common Core.  It simply slows it down.

Massachusetts Commissioner of Elementary and Secondary Education, Mitchell Chester, announced a “two-year test drive” for PARCC.

On Tuesday, the Board of Elementary and Secondary Education approved my recommendation for a two-year transition plan to the Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers (PARCC). My recommendation reflects direct feedback I have heard from superintendents, principals, teachers, and school committee members about the importance of pacing ourselves so schools can implement PARCC and other reform initiatives in a thoughtful manner. If we had adhered to the timetable that we anticipated three years ago, we would be administering MCAS tests for the last time this spring (2014) before adopting PARCC as the state’s new testing program. With the Board’s action this week, though, Massachusetts educators and students will have a chance to "test drive" PARCC for two years.

PARCC is designed to build on the strengths of our current testing program and add additional features. These include more open-ended, performance-based tasks to better measure students’ ability to think critically and to apply what they know, as well as the use of innovative technology-based items. Further, at the high school level, PARCC intends to assess a broader range of the skills that employers and colleges report as essential for success after high school. PARCC promises to provide clearer signals to educators and students about the readiness of students for the next grade level and, in high school, for college and career. PARCC also will allow us to produce more timely results for districts and schools to assist educators in planning and tailoring instruction for students in the coming year.

The two-year transition provides for a robust comparison of MCAS and PARCC, so that we can decide in the fall of 2015 whether to sunset the MCAS English language arts (ELA) and mathematics assessments for grades 3-8 and employ PARCC as our state testing program for these subjects beginning in spring 2016. This "test drive" provides two years to compare and contrast MCAS and PARCC, including the content, format, quality, and standards of performance for the two assessments. It also permits us to transition our accountability uses of the assessment results while maintaining trend lines that link back to pre-PARCC performance.

The two-year transition provides teachers and administrators with additional time to refine their implementation of the 2011 Massachusetts Curriculum Frameworks in ELA and mathematics, which incorporate the Common Core State Standards, that the State Board adopted in December 2010, as well as to become familiar with new online test administration procedures before any final decision on full-scale implementation of PARCC. We know that not all districts and schools are ready to administer computer-based assessments. The transition period allows us to secure additional funding to ensure that all schools are able to incorporate 21st century learning technologies, including the ability to administer online assessments.

Here is a memo he sent to the Board on the matter.  Again the standards will still be in place, but at least they’re exercising caution in going ahead with PARCC and may ultimately not implement it whereas Louisiana is just delaying the test with apparently no plan to jettison it.

I’m more encouraged by what I see in Massachusetts than Louisiana, but neither state has given us a reason to run victory laps.

Alabama Baptist Convention Passes Common Core Resolution


Update: I changed the title… this resolution is a positive step forward, but rereading it I recognize that it is not an absolute rejection of the Common Core… so calling this an “anti-Common Core resolution” isn’t quite accurate.  I appreciate the push back I was given on the title.

The Alabama Baptist Convention passed a Common Core resolution during their annual meeting on 11/13/13 held at the Whitesburg Baptist Church in Huntsville, AL.  The primary thrust is that parents should be involved in the education of their children.  I couldn’t agree more!  This is a significant development as I don’t recall any other denomination address the Common Core in this manner.  The Southern Baptist Convention (of which the Alabama Baptist Convention is affiliated) has lots of members in Alabama.  This won’t go unnoticed by the Alabama State Legislature.

Here’s the text of the resolution:


WHEREAS, The church has a long history of supporting education; and

WHEREAS, Many of the great universities of America were started by churches and denominations; and

WHEREAS, Alabama Baptist churches and parents support in various ways pre-­‐kindergarten through grade 12 in their communities, including public, private, parochial, and homeschooling; and

WHEREAS, A quality education can enhance the ministry of the church and an understanding of the Bible as it applies to life; and

WHEREAS, Education offers the potential for the improvement of one’s lifestyle and productivity; and

WHEREAS, There are concerns over a new initiative in education called Common Core adopted in Alabama in 2010; and
WHEREAS, Some tenets of Common Core could be utilized to enable the federal government to dictate state curricula as well as the approaches and materials teachers use to help children; now, therefore, be it

RESOLVED, That the messengers to the Alabama Baptist State Convention, meeting in Huntsville, Alabama, November 12-­‐13, 2013, encourage parents to be involved in the education of their children; and be it further

RESOLVED, That we affirm all good and appropriate schools, including public, private, parochial, and homeschools; and be it further

RESOLVED, That we encourage parents to support and monitor the schools where their children are educated; and be it further

RESOLVED, That parents be aware of what their children are taught by reading textbooks and, when appropriate, addressing concerns to school boards, the state department of education, and other educational leadership; and be it further

RESOLVED, That we encourage the Alabama Legislature and the Alabama State Board of Education to carefully study and evaluate Common Core and its effects on our children and the entire educational system; and be it further

RESOLVED, That we urge those in authority to support the state’s role in establishing and maintaining its own standards and curricula for Alabama public school students; and be it finally

RESOLVED, That we offer praise and appreciation for all who are involved in the educational process, especially Christian teachers who reflect Christ in their lives as they educate our children.

Photo credit: Alabama Baptist SBOM