Indiana House Votes to Repeal Common Core

Indiana-State-Capitol

The Indiana House passed SB 91 on a 67 to 26 vote.  SB 91 authored by State Senators Scott Schneider (R-Indianapolis) and Dennis Kruse (R-Auburn) in effect repeals the Common Core State Standards.

Here is the bill digest:

Adds a definition of "college and career readiness". Provides that before July 1, 2014, the state board of education (state board) shall adopt Indiana college and career readiness educational standards. Provides that during the 2015-2016 school year, the state board shall authorize the department to administer either the ISTEP assessment or a comparable assessment program that is aligned with the educational standards. Provides that before the state board may authorize a new assessment program, the state board shall submit the proposed assessment program to the budget committee for review. Makes technical and conforming amendments.

Even with this new bill we have to wonder how much Indiana is surrendering control over their standards.

SB 91 originally stated that the new Indiana standards must “comply with federal standards to receive a flexibility waiver under 20 U.S.C. 7861.” Proponents believe that “college and career ready standards” means adopting Common Core or something practically identical to the Common Core State Standards in order to stay within compliance of the state’s conditional waiver.

The bill also says the standards must “Prepare Indiana students for college and career success,  including the proper preparation for nationally recognized college entrance examinations such as the ACT and SAT.”  While that seems good, ACT and SAT have said their tests will be aligned to the Common Core.

So I’m leery about the outcome, and as I wrote earlier today, the review process and the new draft standards do not look promising.  So I don’t want to throw a wet blanket on what should be seen as a great victory, but I also want to make sure that the wool is not pulled over our eyes.

I certainly don’t believe this is the intent of the Indiana legislators who voted for this bill.  We’ll have to wait to see what the final product ends up being.  It would have been my preference that they would have gone back to the previous standards.

SB 91 passed the Indiana Senate on 2/4/14, and since it has been amended it will go back to the Senate for their approval before heading to Governor Mike Pence’s desk.

Photo credit: Massimo Catarinella (CC-BY-SA 2.5)

Indiana’s Draft Standards: A Scoop of Common Core with Some Junk on Top?

The idea for pausing the Common Core in Indiana and then putting the kibosh on them is that the Hoosier state would actually come away with better standards.

Somebody needs to tell that to the review committee working on them.  I’ve already written that it looks like the math standards will continue to use fuzzy math.   Hoosiers Against Common Core have discovered a stacked deck on the panel.

Joy Pullman (who happens to be an Indiana resident) writes:

The new set of draft standards is making the rounds this week, as the state holds three public hearings to discuss them. Citizens are allowed three minutes each to comment on the standards at these hearings and are limited to discussing specific standards only.

But do not worry. The state asked Sujie Shin, of WestEd, to review the standards rewrite, and she says it “is the deepest she has observed and will be recommending Indiana’s process as a best practice for other states reexamining Common Core,” wrote state board of education member Brad Oliver in an open letter. WestEd is a quasi-governmental organization that happens to financially profit from Common Core as a contractor for national Common Core tests.

Hoover Institution fellow Ze’ev Wurman’s preliminary review of the draft math standards does not give us much hope about the process.

…this draft did not focus strongly enough on improving the glaring weaknesses of Common Core standards but instead made minor (and sometime negative) changes, and piled a whole lot of new content on top of already massive Common Core. The draft is more bloated than the Common Core, and immeasurably more bloated than the 2009 Indiana draft. To come up with a good, focused, and coherent set of standards will take much more effort than dump a pile of additional standards on top of the Common Core with little rhyme and reason.

Unfortunately Indiana State Board member Brad Oliver doesn’t seem to have a problem with the process or with the likely product.  In an interview with State Impact Indiana he was asked  whether or not there was any concern at the State Board level if these standards look too much like the Common Core, he responded:

If again you go back and start from the premise that college- and career-readiness is about making sure students have requisite skills and knowledge prior to being able to go to college without being remediated or go into a career, and you apply that uniformly to whatever standards they looked at, you’re going to see a certain percentage of the standards come through. That’s what forced consensus is about. It’s about a group of subject matter experts saying, we agree, this meets that criteria.

So if they don’t understand that part of the process or they did not watch that process and all they’re doing is comparing, then yes, that’s going to come up because it looks like, well you didn’t really change anything, when what happened was the evaluation panels are basically affirming that it was college- or career-ready or it wasn’t, and therefore we went with a different standard or we revised it somehow. It comes back to making sure people really understand the process.

These standards are not even getting a good review from Common Core advocates:

It’s not often proponents and opponents of Common Core agree.

But speakers on both sides of the aisle told state education officials Tuesday at a public hearing in Indianapolis there are just too many proposed academic standards to teach.

Schauna Findlay is president of the Indiana Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development and reviewed the standards for the state’s pro-Common Core Chamber of Commerce. Findlay says the educator teams who developed the drafts have included more standards than teachers can get through in a year.

“Everything they said ‘this is a good standard’ was included in the draft standards without paying attention to have we now completely overloaded a particular grade level with additional content?” she says.

Findlay says in elementary math, Indiana has added a number of probability and measurement standards without subtracting anything.

“It’s not a viable set of standards,” Findlay says. “Teachers will have to pick and choose what they’re going to include because they can’t go to the level of depth they need to with every standard, which means kids will have disparate education and different gaps.”

The State Board is receiving a lot of backlash:

“It seems to be a done deal,” said Emily Camenisch, a homeschooler who came from more than two hours from Corydon. “I don’t think that’s acceptable. Maybe it’s a lost cause but you don’t stop fighting.”…

…“If the English standards are an improvement I don’t see it,” said Bonnie Fisher of the Bloomington-based group Global Education Reform Watch. “The standards are essentially the same as CCS (Common Core standards).”

Amy Nichols, who said she worked as a math specialist as a private school, estimated that half of the proposed algebra standards were identical to Common Core algebra standards.

The process, she said, is moving too fast for parents and others to make their concerns known.

“Why are we so rushed,” she asked, “especially when we already drafted standards in 2009? This draft of standards is going in the wrong direction.”

However will State Board members listen?

Even with such strong objections, state board member Gordon Hendry said he was not discouraged about the draft standards.

“The process is going well,” he said. “We’d like to have more input but it’s important we act quickly.”

Hendry said he was not concerned about the influence of Common Core on the standards because he was confident the state board would sort out those issues.

“Whatever is ultimately adopted,” he said, “will be Hoosier standards.”

I don’t share his confidence, and neither should Hoosier parents.  I’ll take a scoop of Common Core with some junk on top please.

Common Core Assessments May Be Content-Neutered

david-steiner

David Steiner

Ze’ev Wurman pointed out to me (and others) an interesting article written by David Steiner, former New York State Commissioner of Education and Common Core advocate, in Education Next.  In it he unwittingly makes a case against the Common Core.

First he points out how content poor the Common Core ELA standards are:

Formally, the ELA Standards “lay out a vision of what it means to be a literate person in the twenty-first century” by specifying and encouraging the development of “the skills in reading, writing, speaking, and listening that are the foundation for any creative and purposeful expression in language.”

These skills are important, but one cannot learn skills in the abstract: imagine trying to think critically about nothing in particular. In a February 2013 essay on the topic, E.D. Hirsch cites a 2012 study by the National Research Council, which found that “21st-century skills [are] dimensions of expertise that are specific to–and intertwined with–knowledge within a particular domain of content and performance.” Skills must be tied to content if they are to be learned effectively…

…Unfortunately, realizing this skill-knowledge potential requires more than simply adopting the Common Core Standards. The challenge is that the Standards themselves do not require specific content beyond classical mythology, one (any) play by Shakespeare, and a selection of founding American documents. (The exhortation to demonstrate knowledge of several centuries of American literature is laudatory, but hardly specific enough to guide curriculum design.) In short, the Common Core Standards do not provide curricular content – presumably because their authors realized full well that if they had specified content, few if any states would have agreed to adopt them. The fact that the ELA Standards are largely silent on content would matter far less if this country had agreed on a shared curriculum – but we have not.

The Common Core’s college and career readiness anchor standards for reading are not content standards.  They are generally reading skills.  It’s good to see that admission from Dr. Steiner.  He’s right that few states would have adopted the ELA standards, but this also illustrates one of the primary reasons Massachusetts ELA standards were superior – they were true content standards.  Bearing this in mind to have an appropriate assessment for ELA it needs to have content and context.  Steiner points out that there will be problems with that as well.

Given our historical lack of consensus over curricula, it thus falls to assessments to influence the depth and quality of instruction. If the new tests assess knowledge in ways that demand mastery of sequenced domain knowledge, sophisticated vocabulary, rich content, and cross-disciplinary learning, educators across the country would have a much greater incentive to bring challenging content into their classrooms and thus realize the implicit promise of the new standards.

“If” being the key word here.  Steiner admits that the concept of “fairness” may sabotage the ability of PARCC and Smarter Balanced from doing that.

Unfortunately, there is reason for concern about the quality of these exams, and in particular whether they will push the rest of our education system to teach high-quality content.

One concern stems from the way test designers have come to interpret the industry-guiding principles of building tests – principles often referred to as those of Universal Design (see Table 2 here). Universal Design guidelines are intended to ensure that assessments are fair to all students. Some of these guidelines are eminently reasonable and important – for example, allowing students with special needs (such as visually-impaired students) to take an appropriate version of the test, or avoiding language that is likely to insult a particular group of test takers.

The applications of other design principles, however, are well intentioned but neither reasonable nor academically astute. Although they certainly didn’t invent them, the granular design criteria that PARCC and Smarter Balanced require test designers to adopt will perpetuate a patronizing version of fairness. This is because in the pursuit of absolute equality in every test taker’s “experience” of the test, these criteria exclude potentially upsetting passages and any other material that creates disparity, including content that rewards those with greater background knowledge.

Let me elaborate. Test designers are to avoid background knowledge that might be known to some groups but not others. For example, Smarter Balanced’s “Bias and Sensitivity Guidelines” point to the word foyer as unfair: “assuming a student knows what a “foyer” is would be unfair because the term: 1) is more likely to be known by some groups of students than by other groups of students, 2) is not required by the Common Core State Standards, and 3) is not likely to have been routinely used in the classroom.” Other forbidden content in these Guidelines includes a passage that requires knowledge of opera and how composers use the orchestra or singers; a quotation from the Old Testament (or other religious material); a passage describing the use of sailboats for racing (or any “luxuries”); and a video of a dancer requiring knowledge of ballet. PARCC’s Fairness Guidelines are similar: “avoid depicting situations that are associated with spending money on luxuries, such as eating in exclusive restaurants, joining a country club, taking a cruise…”

The technical explanation, in part, is that test designers try to build questions that avoid Differential Item Functioning (DIF) – items in which students from different groups (commonly gender or ethnicity) with the same underlying achievement levels have a different probability of giving a certain response on that particular item. To take an example, imagine that a particular sub-group of students do more poorly than expected (based on their performance on other questions testing the same math skill) on a math item that uses the word “foyer,” while other groups of students do just as well as expected. The “foyer” item functions differentially and would be deemed unfair. The difficulty is defining the “underlying” achievement level. If it were defined to include more sophisticated vocabulary and wider domain knowledge, individual items testing for these elements would not display the dreaded differential functioning and could be used in our assessments. Unfortunately, achievement is typically conceived in a much narrower sense, excluding much of the vocabulary and knowledge expected of well-educated people in the workplace and in life… (snip)

…The problem with patronizing fairness is not just the sheer absurdity of the self-censorship involved; rather, these broad restrictions underestimate students and, by stripping out content, serve them badly – especially the most underprivileged. How so?

We know that more privileged students are far more likely to have the opportunity to learn advanced vocabulary and a broad range of academic, historical, geographic, and other content from a variety of sources outside the classroom. Our least advantaged students, by contrast, are more dependent on public schools to impart much of this information. If they do not learn from their teachers what a foyer is – or, far less trivially, how to read and make reference to complex, even disturbing texts about fundamental issues – many of them will have no other chance to do so. And if teachers know that the exams that matter will scrupulously avoid covering, even indirectly, knotty issues that provoke strong opinions and advanced concepts that may prove novel for students, it makes perfect sense for them to avoid such content altogether. The absence of those materials on the test licenses this impoverishment in the classroom.

This is not merely a matter of specific vocabulary deficits or lack of attention to important issues. Rather,as E.D. Hirsch has noted, it is the contextual knowledge available to the middle-class student that gives her a sustained advantage throughout her education. Our insistence on tests that assess de-contextualized, carefully controlled, thoroughly “fair” dots of information forces test designers to create artificial assessments. The resulting tests cannot include many serious passages of literature that would be “discriminatory” by virtue of including instances of vocabulary, syntax, and background knowledge that would privilege the more affluent. The damaging truth is that in our drive to make our exams content-neutral, they may end up content-neutered, and the disadvantaged students will suffer the most.

So what is going to be assessed?  Weak content.  So the Common Core’s lack of content coupled with the concept of fairness will make these assessments worthless in terms of assessing what students actually know.

Worse yet that will drive curriculum as Steiner admits.  He wants assessments to drive curriculum, he believes in order to have a quality assessment we actually need to have common curriculum, not just standards.

First, in selecting passages and questions, test designers need to include rich textual excerpts that are not entirely anodyne. They should embrace serious topics and test for the understanding of vocabulary and ideas that we expect all educated individuals to know about and be ready to discuss thoughtfully. Rather than scrupulously avoiding the topic of death in Romeo and Juliet or God in the Mayflower Compact, our tests should include these the very passages – the ones that make these texts worth reading – so that educators are encouraged, not penalized, for teaching what is worth teaching. If we want to teach serious texts for serious reasons, we must test seriously, too.

Second, test designers should use the assessments to send even stronger signals about curriculum. Many countries write exams that specify multiple periods of history to be studied and then give students the choice to answer questions on those they have studied. For literature exams, they provide a rotating list of set texts that teachers and students can study in depth, knowing they will be asked questions on some of them. This model has the advantage of specifying at least a portion of the curriculum explicitly, ensuring that it meets standards of rigor, complexity, and richness. The model would also be fairer, since disadvantaged students who depend on their school to read these works would indeed have worked on them.

He makes two admissions here – one the Common Core Standards, and aligned assessments, will penalize teachers for “teaching what is worth teaching.”  The second admission is that the ulitmate goal is to actually have more control over curriculum.

The solution for having content-poor standards and content-neutered assessments however is to accomplish this at the state and local levels.  The problems he cites could have been avoided if they encouraged that route rather than try to centralize education around a set of common standards utilizing common assessments.

Georgia Senate Approves Common Core Review Bill

GA-state-flag-imageThe Georgia Senate passed SB 167 on a 34-16 vote yesterday.  The Atlanta Constitutional-Journal reports:

State Sen. William Ligon, R-Brunswick, has led the legislative fight against the standards, which has drawn opposition from Tea Party activists as a federal intrusion into state control of public education.

But rather than abruptly pull Georgia out of the standards — something business and higher education officials don’t want to see — Ligon’s legislation, Senate Bill 167 would put into law the review Gov. Nathan Deal ordered of Common Core last year.

It passed the Senate by a vote of 34-16. Its prospects in the House of Representatives appear strong. Ligon said he has already reached an agreement with Deal’s office.

The Georgia House Education Committee chair already expressed support of the bill.  It’s not a perfect bill (which would be a repeal bill), but does lay out a clear review process of review, who can serve on the advisory boards, a process for public review and feedback, a requirement that higher education institutions are consulted and appropriate experts review the standards.  This should provide a lot of sunshine on decision-making process of adopting standards in Georgia.  I’d encourage you to read the language in the bill.

Siena Poll: One Half of New Yorkers Support Two Year Delay of Common Core

new-york-state-flagInteresting poll from Siena College.

Voters continue to be divided by the New York State Education Department’s implementation of the Common Core, with 36 percent saying they are too demanding, 24 percent saying they’re not demanding enough and 23 percent saying they are about right (34-27-23 percent in November). And division continues on confidence in Common Core standards better preparing students to be college or career ready upon graduation, with 46 percent saying they are confident and 47 percent saying they are not (45-49 percent in November). By a 50-38 percent margin, voters want implementation of Common Core standards delayed for two years.

Again to combat the view that it is just conservatives who opposed Common Core, that is not the case.

For instance among Democrats polled 35% said the Common Core was too demanding, 26% said they were not demanding enough and 23% said they were just right.  Among Republicans 36% said they were too demanding, 24% said they were not demanding enough and 26% said they were just right.  Among Independents and others 36% said they were too demanding, 23% said they were not demanding enough, and 23% said they were just right.

A clear minority believes the standards are “just right.”

Among Democrats 41% said they should be implemented as quickly as possible and 47% believe they should be delayed for two years.  Republicans had a wider margin with only 32% wanting continued implementation with 60% wanting a delay.  With Independents 39% wanted continued implementation and 50% wanted a delay.

They asked whether people are confident that implementing the Common Core in New York’s schools will make students more “college or career ready” upon graduation?

Among Democrats 49% were confident (only 16% were confident) and 41% were not confident.  With Republicans only 36% were confident with 59% who were not confident.  Among independents 46% were confident and 48% were not confident.

The poll was conducted February 16-20, 2014 to 802 registered New York State voters.  It has an overall margin of error of +/- 3.5%.

Tennessee Education Association: Put the Brakes on PARCC

TEA groups shot and headshots on June 12, 2013. Photos by Donn Jones Photography.

Gera Summerford

The Tennessee Education Association issued a statement today saying the state should “put the brakes” on using the PARCC assessment.

“TEA believes Tennessee needs to reconsider the use of the PARCC assessment,” said Gera Summerford, TEA president and Sevier County math teacher. “First and foremost, we object to our students being set up to fail. Any assessments aligned with the Common Core standards should ensure no harm is done to Tennessee students, schools or educators.Though PARCC supporters speak of an apples-to-apples comparison of student achievement, Tennessee students will be measured against states that invest thousands of dollars more per pupil.”

They expressed support the use of the Common Core State Standards themselves.

“TEA supports the more rigorous standards that are included in Common Core, but the implementation must provide adequate time and resources to be effective. Tennessee teacher involvement in standards development and implementation is critical to ensure the standards are developmentally appropriate for all students,” added Summerford.

“While thousands of teachers and administrators have received training, more support and resources are needed,” the TEA president said. “Many school districts lack the necessary technology for student access to the PARCC.”

“Teachers do not oppose testing and accountability. Teachers do oppose an over-reliance on summative standardized test results above all other indicators of student learning, particularly on a test that has not been properly vetted,” emphasized Summerford.

Schools Strike Back Against Common Core Opponents

tin foil hats

Tin foil hats gives any outfit class regardless of the event.

Two different stories were brought to my attention today.  They are from different parts of the country, and vary in seriousness, but it gives a snapshot of how Common Core opponents are being treated in some quarters.

One is a case of a substitute teacher suing his school district for being fired from Courthouse News Service:

A substitute teacher sued his school board, claiming it fired him for photographing and posting online a teacher’s lesson plan, with political intent.

Bruce Smith sued the Oldham County Board of Education, its Chief Operations Officer Dorenda Neihof and Director of Personnel Phillip Moore, in Federal Court.

Smith claims he was engaging in speech “on matters of public concern,” but the school board suspended and fired him after they “expressed concern that it [the lesson plan] was posted to a site with political implications that might lead people to think the school was advocating some sort of radical political agenda.”

Smith began working as a substitute teacher for Oldham County Schools, in Crestwood, Ky., in November 2012, according to his lawsuit.

“On Oct. 11, 2013, Smith served as a substitute teacher at East Oldham Middle School (‘EOMS’),” the complaint states. “Smith took a picture of the front page of the lesson plan for the day with his cell phone. The lesson plan was a ‘WebQuest’ on individuals who have worked (or are currently working) for social justice. The lesson plan was developed by Pacific University in Oregon and is publicly available on the Internet.

“Smith sent the photograph of the lesson plan to interested parents in Oldham County, who like Smith, are generally opposed to the ‘common core’ curriculum being taught in Oldham County Schools. These interested parents, including Smith, have united under a banner they refer to as ‘Kentuckians Against the Common Core.’

“When sending the photograph of the lesson plan, Smith commented, ‘I thought you would find this interesting.’ By commenting and sending the photograph of the lesson plan to parents interested in the curriculum at Oldham County Schools, he engaged in speech on a matter of public concern.” (Parentheses in complaint).

Parents forwarded the lesson plan to other advocates against the “common core” curriculum, who discussed and criticized it in blogs and Facebook posts, according to the complaint.

I don’t want to get into a discussion about the curriculum as I think that’s an unproductive discussion, especially if it is not math or ELA curriculum.  Leslie Beck recently wrote a great article on how some curriculum discussions can actually end up being a distraction.

A couple of thoughts about this…

  • If Smith posted it on another website it would have been fine?  If that’s the case then it shouldn’t matter.
  • If the curriculum didn’t espouse a radical political agenda then the school has nothing to worry about.
  • It was already available to the public, and the public has the right to see what is being taught in public schools regardless of the website that gets the information.  The allegation that a school board would fire a teacher or sub based on them sharing this information is troubling if proven to be true.

This coincides with me receiving reports from teachers that they are being placed under gag orders being told not to even discuss the Common Core under the threat of losing their jobs.

How can we have an actual discussion with teachers being silenced.  Proponents certainly like to tout teachers who love the Common Core.  Shouldn’t we be able to hear from teachers who feel differently?  I think so.

Which leads me to the next story.  A school superintendent in Alabama equates Common Core opposition to the Salem Witch Trails.  Yeah that’s helpful for civil discourse.  John Mullins, Superintendent of Education for Arab City Schools, wrote in an op/ed at Al.com:

A dangerous conspiracy theory is threatening the future of Alabama’s 750,000 public school students. The Common Core conspiracy theory wants us to believe that the Alabama College and Career Ready Standards (ACCRS) are evil and will harm our children. Like other conspiracy theories, this one is born of fear and uncertainty.

Unlike other theories, the Common Core conspiracy theory may well be politically motivated. Regardless of its origin of this theory, it is as wrong as the 20 executions that occurred in Salem, Massachusetts.

The ACCRS are researched-based, academic standards designed to teach children how to think critically, problem solve, and communicate effectively. Adopted by the Alabama State Board of Education in 2010, these standards have been approved by 45 states. For three years Alabama’s school districts have invested thousands of hours and millions of dollars towards successfully transitioning to these more challenging Math, Language Arts, and Literacy Standards.

The conspiracy theorists, who have now introduced a bill in the legislature to abandon the ACCRS, want you to think that President Obama and the federal government are forcing these standards upon us. This is totally false. The work on the standards began while George W. Bush was president.

Anyway you get the gist.  You can read the rest.  So basically anybody opposing the Common Core is a crackpot, conspiracy theorist worthy of a tin foil hat.  Common Core advocates – if you have to resort to tactics like this it simply means your argument is wanting.

I agree with Mr. Mullins in his exhortation to read the standards – http://corestandards.org.  He also encourages people to read the FAQ as well.  That’s fine, but if he was intellectually honest he’d also say take time to read why some members of the validation committee could not sign off on these standards.

Or are they conspiracy theorist crackpots on an educational witch hunt as well?

Photo credit: Steve Rainwater (CC-By-SA 2.0)

Indiana to Continue Using Fuzzy Math in New Standards?

indiana-flag (1)Hoosiers can now comment publicly on Indiana’s draft academic standards until March 12, 2014.  Instructions and the link to the form can be found here.

You can read the standards below:

There is a lot of skepticism around the review committee that has been appointed to review and rewrite the standards.  The timeline for the adoption of the new standards is extremely short as the final adaption by the State Board of Education will be on April 9, 2014.  Hoosiers Against Common Core called the review panel a stacked deck.  Heather Crossin makes the following points:

  • 15 of the 29 members of the Evaluation Panel can be readily “red-flagged” as having a pro-Common Core bias. 
  • 13 out of 32 members of the College and Career Ready Panel can be readily “red-flagged” as having a pro-Common Core bias.
  • Only 1 individual, out of a combined total of 53, can be readily “flagged” as having an anti-Common Core  bias.
  • 8 Individuals sit on both the Evaluation Panel and the College and Career Readiness Panel.
  • 7 of the 8 individuals who sit on both panels, and thus wield a greater level of influence, can be readily “red-flagged” as having a pro-Common Core bias.
  • Only 1 Professor of Mathematics is a confirmed member of either panel, and he testified in favor of Common Core Standards at the Interim Legislative Study Committee, August 5, 2013.
  • Several members of both committees belong to, and/or have presented together at conferences for, the Indiana Council of Teachers of Mathematics (ICTM), an affiliate of the National Council of Teachers of Mathematics (NCTM), the NCTM, and the Hoosier Association of Mathematics Teacher Educators (HATME).
  • The Evaluation Team is divided into bands (such as Grade 6-12 Math).  In most of these “bands” or subcommittees, the majority of seats are held by individuals who can be readily “red-flagged” as having a pro-Common Core bias.
  • None of the Hoosiers whose names were submitted by Common Core opponents as candidates for the panels, such as IU Mathematics Professors Jim Davis and Chris Connell, were contacted or selected to serve.
  • In addition to the pro-Common Core bias of the panel members, a similar bias exists regarding which sets of standards were selected to be officially evaluated.

Be sure to read her entire argument.

Public Law 286 was passed by the Indiana General Assembly in 2013, which created Indiana Code 20-19-2-14.5 concerning the State Board of Education’s responsibility to review Indiana’s Academic Standards. The law specifically mandates the State Board to develop college and career readiness standards for Mathematics and English/Language Arts compliant with state and federal requirements before July 1, 2014 and to hold public hearings on the proposed standards prior to adoption.  So why adopt in April?  Why not extend this a couple more months?

Why are teachers being told little will change?

Then there is this email that has been circulating among teachers in Lafayette, IN:

For all of you that are curious about the article in the INDY STAR today regarding scrapping the Common Core standards, I spoke to Dr. Schauna Findlay today.  Schauna is one of the closest individuals to this situation, so I trust her information.

Here is what I have learned from her:

The INDY STAR published an article today about Indiana scrapping the Common Core standards.  This is not completely accurate.   In the article, it says we will revert back to the old Indiana standards by July 1st.  We will NEVER transition back to these standards – on July 1st, we will adopt the NEW Indiana Academic standards.   Now, here is the kicker….those standards will most likely look ALMOST IDENTICAL to the CCSS.  We will take the CCSS standards, add a few that outline more details (mostly math related) and adopt them as Indiana standards.   What the article did not say was that we HAVE to adopt College and Career Readiness standards to stay in compliance with our NCLB waiver.   And, when all is said and done….the standards will completely reflect the CCSS standards.   It is VERY much a political issue at this point – the issue is not with the standards or content of the standards, but rather WHO controls the content. 

So, if teachers ask….don‘t stop your work on CCSS – they are just getting a new name.   I understand from Dr. Schauna Findlay (I spoke in length with her today.) that the draft standards are coming out late February.  Once they do, if you compare the new drafted standards to the CCSS, they will see that they are practically (or even exactly) the same.   I will do my best to keep you posted. 

Thanks!! Tami

Tami Hi
cks

Professional Development Coordinator

Wabash Valley Education Center

3061 Benton Street

West Lafayette, IN 47906

Phone: 765-588-1146

Cell: 765-491-3086

www.esc5.k12.in.us

Happiness lies in the joy of achievement and the thrill of creative effort.  ~Franklin D. Roosevelt

Dr. Schauna Findlay is the Chief Academic Officer for Goodwill Education Initiatives in Indianapolis, IN.  Prior to joining Goodwill, Dr. Findlay was the director of Curriculum and Instruction at the Indiana Department of Education.  She gave the closing testimony for the first legislative study committee on the Common Core State Standards that was required by HB 14327, last year’s pause bill.

Some problems a couple of our members who are well versed in reading and evaluating math standards have noticed thus far when reading the Indiana draft standards:

  • The new IN process standards are identical to the problematic 8 CCSS Standards for Mathematical Practice.  IN adds one more—Use technology strategically.
  • Dividing is included in the 6th grade but the standard algorithm is not required—not even mentioned for division.
  • 5th grade multiplication with standard algorithm is identical to CCSS.
  • Grade 2 standard is identical “Fluently add and subtract within 100 using strategies based on place value, properties of operations, and/or the relationship between addition and subtraction.”  He gave an explanation why he focused on that standard, “I picked that standard because many of the CCSS standards call for “strategies based on place value’ while they delay the requirement for the standards algorithms.  The new IN do not seem to require the use of the standard algorithms except for multiplication.  In my initial look, I would say that these new IN standards are basically the CCSS put in a pot, barely stirred and same key ingredients removed or watered down.”

  • He considers this to be a shell game and believes at least the K-5 standards may be even worse than the Common Core.

  • Another member wrote, “Nowhere did I see the requirement to teach standard algorithms and to what extent the students should know their multiplication facts. That is, we require automatic recall through the 10’s by the end of 3rd grade. I also didn’t read enough to know if they are limiting the use of calculators.”

It seems, on the surface, that his may be an attempt to drive Indiana back to the Common Core.

The first public hearing is Monday next week which doesn’t give parents much time to review the standards.  Here is the schedule:

  • Mon, 2/24, 3:00 – 7:00 p.m. EST at Ivy Tech in Sellersburg, IN
  • Tues, 2/25, 3:00 – 7:00 p.m. EST at the Indiana State Library, History Reference Room in Indianapolis, IN
  • Wed, 2/26, 3:00 – 7:00 p.m. EST at Plymouth High School, Plymouth, IN

These meetings will be live streamed if you are unable to join in person.  You can also give feedback about the review process by sending an email to INCCRevaluation@doe.in.gov.

Georgia Common Core Review Bill Clears Senate Committee Hurdle

Georgia_State_Capitol

The Georgia Senate Education and Youth Committee unanimously passed SB 167 a bill that would repeal the Common Core State Standards in the state.  The bill introduced by State Senator William Ligon, Jr. (R-Brunswick) will establish the process for reviewing the standards, allows local districts to go back to the previous, superior GA standards in the interim, and establishes strong protections for student data privacy.

The House Education Committee Chair, State Representative Brooks Coleman (R-Duluth) promised support of the bill prior to the Senate committee vote.  He promises clear sailing in his committee.

It looks like this bill will likely pass the State Legislature.  The Athens Banner-Herald reports that this move and a poll just released on the Common Core will put a lot of pressure on Governor Nathan Deal.

Apache Political Communications released a poll showing that 42 percent of regular GOP primary voters oppose Common Core, and that 77 percent of those opposed would agree to higher taxes instead.

Most troubling for the governor is that nearly 8 percent of those opposed would vote for Democrat Sen. Jason Carter over Deal in November because of it.

“Based on the results from the last governor’s race, Carter needs to switch 9.5 percent of Deal’s 2010 voters to his side in order to win,” said pollster Fred Hicks, president of The Hicks Evaluation Group. “While that seemed like a remote possibility at the time of Sen. Carter’s announcement, these results make this race one to watch.”

The poll found just 30 percent of Republicans support Common Core, and another 27 percent are undecided. It was conducted by Hicks and Apache Feb. 13-16 among 923 people who had voted in the last two Republican primaries and said they intend to vote in the next one. It has a 3.25 percent margin of error.

Photo credit: Patrick Noddy (CC-By-SA 3.0)

Note: I originally linked to last year’s version of SB 167 as that was what was provided on the website.  That has been corrected along with the description of what this bill does.  The title has been changed to reflect this.  It’s a good bill, but it is not a flat-out repeal bill.  I apologize for the error.

NEA’s Van Roekel Loses Faith in Common Core (Sort Of)

dennis-van-roekelNational Education Association President Dennis Van Roekel in a letter published yesterday that the Common Core implementation has been completely botched.  He statements, speaking on behalf of his union (but under the guise of “educators”), in support of the Common Core in this letter reads more like a faith statement than a fact-based case for the Common Core.

So when 45 states adopted the Common Core State Standards (CCSS), we as educators saw the wonderful potential of these standards to correct many of the inequities in our education system that currently exist.  Educators embraced the promise of providing equal access to high standards for all students, regardless of their zip code or family background.

We believed the standards would help students develop the critical thinking and problem-solving skills they need to succeed in the fast-changing world.  NEA members overwhelmingly supported the goals of the standards because we knew they could provide a better path forward for each and every student. The promise of these high standards for all students is extraordinary.  And we owe it to our students to fulfill that promise.

As educators, we also had high hopes that our policymakers would make an equal commitment to implement the standards correctly by providing students, educators, and schools with the time, supports, and resources that are absolutely crucial in order to make changes of this magnitude to our education system.

Words like “potential,” “promise,” “believe,” and “high hopes” doesn’t exactly inspire confidence, but you really don’t have any choice but use words like this when you don’t have any data backing the standards up.

Van Roekel loses faith though when the rubber meets the road.

So over the last few months I have done what my students and fellow educators have taught me:  I have been listening closely. I have joined our state leaders in member listening sessions around the country, observed dozens of member focus groups, and invited hundreds of thousands of NEA members to share their views about how CCSS implementation is going.

I am sure it won’t come as a surprise to hear that in far too many states, implementation has been completely botched.  Seven of ten teachers believe that implementation of the standards is going poorly in their schools. Worse yet, teachers report that there has been little to no attempt to allow educators to share what’s needed to get CCSS implementation right.  In fact, two thirds of all teachers report that they have not even been asked how to implement these new standards in their classrooms.

Imagine that:  The very people expected to deliver universal access to high quality standards with high quality instruction have not had the opportunity to share their expertise and advice about how to make CCSS implementation work for all students, educators, and parents.

Consequently, NEA members have a right to feel frustrated, upset, and angry about the poor commitment to implementing the standards correctly.

This shouldn’t come as a surprise as it is a top-down initiative.

But he’s still hanging on with a belief that the failed implementation is just due to the powers that be not listening to teachers about how to properly implement the standards.  Could a big part of the problem be with the standards themselves?  No, couldn’t be.

We. Must. Move. Forward. Van Roekel states.

But scuttling these standards will simply return us to the failed days of No Child Left Behind (NCLB), where rote memorization and bubble tests drove teaching and learning.  NEA members don’t want to go backward; we know that won’t help students.  Instead, we want states to make a strong course correction and move forward.

I’m no fan of No Child Left Behind either.  States that abandon the Common Core will revert back to previous standards, that’s not really moving backward.  They can also adopt their own standards.  Also if he thinks Smarter Balanced and PARCC won’t foster the same type of “teaching to the test” mentality as we see with No Child Left Behind (which is still in effect) he’s mistaken.

His suggestions will do very little to solve the problem as if working with the NEA will solve all of the problems.

1. Governors and chief state school officers should set up a process to work with NEA and our state education associations to review the appropriateness of the standards and recommend any improvements that might be needed.

2. Common Core implementation plans at the state and local levels must be collaboratively developed, adequately resourced, and overseen by community advisory committees that include the voices of students, parents, and educators.

3. States and local school districts must place teachers at the center of efforts to develop aligned curriculum, assessments, and professional development that are relevant to their students and local communities.

4. States must eliminate outdated NCLB-mandated tests that are not aligned with the new standards and not based on what is being taught to students in the classroom.

5. States must actively engage educators in the field-testing of the new assessments and the process for improving them.

6. In any state that is field-testing and validating new assessments, there must be a moratorium on using the results of the new assessments for accountability purposes until at least the 2015-2016 school year. In the meantime, states still have other ways to measure student learning during this transition period—other assessments, report cards, and student portfolios.

7. Stakeholders must develop complete assessment and accountability systems. It takes more than one piece of evidence to paint a picture of what students are learning. Testing should be one way to inform effective teaching and learning—not a way to drive it.

Not every suggestion is bad, but it’s naïve.  You’re going to have problems with any assessment that is aligned to poor standards that encourage failed teaching methods, but he’s too in love with the standards to see that.

Photo credit: Iowa Politics (CC-By-SA 2.0)