School Districts Uncertain About Common Core Assessments

From The Washington Post:

But most leaders leaders of 187 school districts who responded to the survey last spring by the Center on Education Policy, a non-partisan think tank housed at George Washington University, anticipate logistical problems.

About three-fourths, or 76 percent, of districts said they face either major or minor challenges, including a lack of computers with adequate processing speed, bandwidth, and personnel who can handle technical problems during testing.

And leaders of most school districts polled voiced a good deal of uncertainty about the value of the new tests.

A little more than half said it is unclear whether the new exams will be an improvement over their old state tests. About 55 percent said it was too soon to know if the new exams will improve classroom instruction, as promised by their promoters. And 64 percent said they didn’t know if tests results will be understood by parents and students.

"Teachers Love Common Core.." Well Not So Much

Gallup released some more polling information on the Common Core State Standards. They found that teachers were pretty divided on the Common Core with more teachers having a negative opinion.

Only 15% had a very positive view with 26% who said they had a somewhat positive view. 28% of teachers said they had a somewhat negative view of the Common Core with 16% with a very negative view.

Surely it’s because they are misinformed right?

Heh… How can Common Core advocates explain this away.

Gallup attempts to do this…

However, within these Common Core states, the majority of teachers who say they work in schools where the Common Core standards were fully implemented in the 2013-2014 school year feel good about it: 61% view it positively versus 35% negatively. Among teachers in Common Core states whose schools had not yet fully implemented the standards last year, views are 37% positive versus 43% negative.

Even so, 1/3 of teachers where the standards have been implemented still have a negative opinion, this is a far cry from the overwhelming support we were told the standards had among educators.

(Video) New England "Fall Out" From Common Core

No Common Core Maine sponsored a conference last weekend entitled New England “Fall Out” From Common Core held in York, ME.  The conference included speakers such as Dr. Sandra Stotsky, Dr. Mercedes Schneider, Dr. Peg Luksik, Ann Marie Banfield, Erin Tuttle, Jamie Gass and Heidi Sampson  Below are videos from the different sessions.

Civil Rights Groups to Obama: Drop Test-Based Accountability System

Eleven civil rights groups sent a letter on Tuesday urging President Obama, Secretary of Education Arne Duncan, Congressional and State educational leaders to drop the test-based K-12 accountability system.  They join a chorus of parents who are speaking out against the high-stakes testing culture.  Here is the text of the letter.

President Obama, Secretary Duncan, Congressional and State Educational Leaders:

On behalf of millions of students and families, and civil rights organizations, communities of color, and organizations that reflect the new, diverse majority in public education, we write urging implementation of a set of strong recommendations for advancing opportunity and supporting school integration, equity, and improved accountability within our nation’s systems of public education.

We believe that improved accountability systems at the local, state, and federal levels are central to advancing and broadening equal educational opportunity for each and every child in America. The current educational accountability system has become overly focused on narrow measures of success and, in some cases, has discouraged schools from providing a rich curriculum for all students focused on the 21st century skills they need to acquire. This particularly impacts under-resourced schools that disproportionately serve low-income students and students of color. In our highly inequitable system of education, accountability is not currently designed to ensure students will experience diverse and integrated classrooms with the necessary resources for learning and support for excellent teaching in all schools. It is time to end the advancement of policies and ideas that largely omit the critical supports and services necessary for children and families to access equal educational opportunity in diverse settings and to promote positive educational outcomes.

The demand for our schools to meet new college-and-career-ready standards is happening in the wake of a record number of children living in poverty and an increasingly diverse student population. Students of color represent more than 50 percent of youth and are more than twice as likely to attend segregated schools. Second language learners whose first language is not English now represent 10 percent of all public school students nationwide, and students living in poverty represent virtually half of all US public school students.[1] [2]

Recognizing the challenging backdrop in which our students, schools, and communities are expected to thrive, we are committed to adhering to the civil rights laws of this country that require that all children be educated equitably and effectively based on their needs. This reality must be matched with the learning opportunities, preparation, knowledge, services, supports, and skills that will enable them to lead healthy and successful lives in the world and workforce. From early education to the postsecondary years, we believe that the federal government continues to play a critical role in helping states, districts, and tribes to achieve educational excellence through equity.

While the need for accountability is almost universally agreed upon, there have been concerns raised about overly punitive accountability systems that do not take into account the resources, geography, student population, and needs of specific schools. In particular, the No Child Left Behind law has not accomplished its intended goals of substantially expanding educational equity or significantly improving educational outcomes. Racial achievement and opportunity gaps remain large, and many struggling school systems have made little progress under rules that emphasize testing without investing.[3] We must shift towards accountability strategies that promote equity and strengthen, rather than weaken, schools in our communities, so that they can better serve students and accelerate student success.

We call on local, state, and federal policymakers to use the following set of principles in rethinking sound public education accountability systems. Comprehensive systems of shared responsibility with educational professionals and key stakeholders should evaluate the extent to which productive learning conditions are in effect for all students in each school – with attention to disparities by race, class, gender, language, and disability status – and ensure that appropriate corrective action is taken to improve learning conditions where problems are identified. Development and monitoring of well-designed and comprehensive measures of educational inputs and outcomes must demonstrate the equity that is emblematic of systems that are serious about universally advancing opportunities to learn and succeed. These features are critical to an effective accountability system:

1. Appropriate and equitable resourcesthat ensure opportunities to learn, respond to students’ needs, prioritize racial diversity and integration of schools, strengthen school system capacity, and meaningfully support improvement. These include:

  • Funding and instructional materials, including access to technology and adequate facilities, allocated based on student needs (poverty, culture/language learning, and other needs)
  • Equitable access, within and across schools, to high-quality curricula, tools for learning, and enrichment programs
  • Tailored individualized services that build upon the cultural and linguistic assets children bring to schools
  • Qualified, certified, competent, racially and culturally diverse and committed teachers, principals, counselors, nurses, librarians, and other school support staff, with appropriate professional development opportunities, including cultural competency training, and support and incentives to work with students of greatest need; and
  • Social, emotional, nutritional, and health services

2. Multiple measures:  The system should acknowledge that both inputs and relevant outcomes matter, and thus should monitor both appropriate inputs that support academic, social, emotional, physical health, and cultural well-being, along with student and school outcomes (knowledge, skills, and dispositions) that demonstrate college-and career-readiness and civic literacy. These include school resources; school discipline and positive school climate information; children’s in- and out-of-school learning opportunities over time; student improvement; and student achievement, progress, and graduation rates.

3. Shared Responsibility:Each level of the system – from federal, state, and local governments to districts and schools should be held accountable for the investments it must make and for the oversight, accountability, data collection, monitoring, and actions it must undertake to produce high-quality learning opportunities for each and every child and to ultimately achieve equity in student outcomes. This includes ensuring civil rights protections, equitable resources, meaningful student and parental engagement and inclusion in decision-making, active coordination between systems serving students, and productive learning opportunities.

4. Professional competence: Systems of preparation and ongoing development should ensure that educators have the time, investments, and supports necessary to acquire the knowledge about curriculum, teaching, assessment, linguistic and cultural competence, implicit bias, and student support needed to teach students effectively. This should include additional supports for education professionals who serve children and families in historically under-resourced and disadvantaged classrooms and schools. School systems should recognize educators’ abilities, particularly in working with diverse learners and students of color. They should not only create incentives for education professionals to develop or acquire additional skills, but also require professional learning to ensure their effectiveness in the classroom.

5. Informative assessments for meaningful 21st Century learning: A system of assessments should document both student and school system progress using tools that evaluate deeper learning skills (e.g. critical thinking, problem-solving, collaboration, communication, and creativity) that are necessary and valuable for today’s and tomorrow’s world and that represent authentic applications of knowledge. Assessments should be valid for the students and purposes for which they are used, comparable in quality, and able to be reliably scored. These measures would be used to help identify the most appropriate interventions, supports and instructional strategies to accelerate learning. They should also be used as diagnostic tools for determining student acquisition and application of knowledge, should identify students’ strengths as well as their learning and cultural needs, and should be usedto support individual students and educators. Measures should also be used to assess whether individual and collective education systems are moving toward meeting objectives related to greater equity in educational opportunities and achievement.

6. Transparency: The system should provide useful, publicly accessible, and actionable school system information and data for parents and community members, as well as students and educators. It should also support new ways for changing practices, exploring additional investments, or expanding opportunities. School system progress should be evaluated in part in terms of equitable inputs and outcomes, as well as access to learning resources, services, and opportunities for different student groups (e.g., English learners, students by race and ethnicity, Native students, low-income students, and students with disabilities).

7. Meaningful and culturally and linguistically responsive parental and family engagement:  The expertise and meaningful engagement of all parents and families should be included in both the teaching and learning process and in decisions associated in the planning and implementation of P-12 system investments. Adequate steps must be taken to ensure participation of low-income parents and parents facing linguistic or other obstacles. Such planning should also incorporate the resources of community partners (e.g., tribes and Native communities, afterschool providers, businesses, faith-based institutions, medical providers, higher education institutions, and community and civil rights advocacy organizations) that can contribute to a shared vision of accountability in an education system in which all students can excel.

8. Capacity building:  Accountability, including the consequences that accompany evidence of poor performance, should be a mechanism for strengthening schools, education professionals, and their communities. Consequences that accompany evidence of poor performance should be timely, narrowly tailored, targeted to the populations and parts of the school systems most in need, and likely to maximize student learning for all students. This system accountability would serve to elevate all children to achieve to their highest potential by enforcing and expanding students’ equitable opportunities to learn; guiding strategic investments so that schools are healthy, productive places for learning; and ensuring meaningful progress toward equity in student achievement.

We appreciate your attention to our concerns and urge you to use the principles articulated in this letter in deciding how to best serve and nurture our nation’s greatest resource, our young people, and the backbone of our democracy, the public school system. We believe the right to a quality education is a civil right and that the civil rights of all our children must be vigorously protected. We look forward to hearing from your respective offices to discuss the issues raised in this letter further. We can be reached as a coalition through Dr. Joseph Bishop of the National Opportunity to Learn Campaign at (626) 319-0496, or via email at



Advancement Project
Lawyers Committee for Civil Rights Under Law
League of United Latin American Citizens (LULAC)
Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund (MALDEF)
National Association for the Advancement of Colored People
National Opportunity to Learn (OTL) Campaign
National Urban League (NUL)
NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund (LDF)
National Council on Educating Black Children (NCEBC)
National Indian Education Association (NIEA)
Southeast Asia Resource Action Center (SEARAC)

1. Southern Education Foundation (2013). Low Income Students in the South and in the Nation. Retrieved at

2. UCLA Civil Rights Project (2012). E Pluribus…Separation: Deepening Double Segregation for MoreStudents.  Retrieved at…separation-deepening-double-segregation-for-more-students

"The best that can be said for Common Core is that it encourages home-schooling."

The title quote comes from Robby Soave at Reason.  Excerpt:

I can understand the desire to impose some amount of standardized testing on schoolchildren for the purposes of measuring teacher effectiveness. But there comes a point where the insanity of computerized exams for five-year-olds trumps any legitimate interest taxpayers may have in holding teachers accountable for their students’ progress.

The best that can be said for Common Core is that it encourages home-schooling.

Emphasis mine.  Read the whole thing.

Whether you like homeschooling or not (full disclosure, I do and my wife and I, mostly my wife, homeschool) it has become a popular option for parents who want to have the least amount of impact from the Common Core.  Homeschoolers probable are impacted the least, but even they have found more resources are becoming Common Core aligned, and they will also have to deal with college entrance exams becoming aligned to the Common Core.

So it’s impossible to escape it totally, but for some homeschooling does provide a good respite from over-tested kids.

North Dakota Governor Gladly Sacrifices Student Privacy for Free Tech

Gov. Dalrymple makes the Microsft Office 365 announcement.

Gov. Dalrymple makes the Microsft Office 365 announcement.

North Dakota Governor Jack Dalrymple announced on Monday that students in his state would get access to free, FREE! cloud computing ala Microsoft Office 365 and EduTech.

At what cost? I’m sure Microsoft is giving licenses away out of the goodness of their hearts.

From the press release Governor Dalrymple’s office sent out:

Gov. Jack Dalrymple today joined representatives from EduTech, the North Dakota Information Technology Department (ITD) and Microsoft Corp. to launch Microsoft Office 365, a standard productivity tool for K-12 students and educators to enhance learning and better prepare students for higher education and careers. The initiative will provide all North Dakota K-12 students and school personnel with access to Office 365 at no cost to school districts.

The launch kicked off a two-day information and training seminar at Microsoft’s Fargo campus for school technology directors and educators. Dalrymple was joined by state Chief Information Officer Mike Ressler, North Dakota Educational Technology Council Director Jody French, EduTech Director Robert Kaspari and Microsoft’s Fargo campus Site Leader Don Morton.

“This project is a major milestone in providing all K-12 schools in North Dakota with 21st Century, world-class technology tools to enhance learning and better prepare our young people for educational and career opportunities in the future,” Dalrymple said. “Ensuring access to innovative technologies in our schools not only strengthens the future of our students, but also the future of our state.”

EduTech, a division of ITD, and Microsoft are rolling out a statewide K-12 Active Directory and Forefront Identity Management tools and portal. The completion of this project paves the way for all K-12 schools in North Dakota to have Microsoft Office 365, a communication and collaboration package that includes email, calendaring, cloud storage, instant messaging and video conferencing capabilities.

The product will be used to help students create reports and presentations using Word, PowerPoint, Publisher and Excel; work with other students online and see each other’s changes in real-time with Office Online and OneDrive; and easily access information from a variety of devices while at school, at home or on the go.

“EduTech’s leadership continues to position the K-12 community to be at the forefront of deploying technology,” Ressler said. “The Office 365 roll-out highlights this leadership and the value of partnering with organizations like Microsoft to implement IT solutions in North Dakota.”

Anyone else suspicious about the terms “statewide K-12 Active Director” and “Forefront Identity Management”?

I’m a tech geek and I understand why this is appealing, but the data mining potential here seems pretty vast, not to mention Microsoft can potentially harvest future customers. Governor Dalrymple will have to explain how student data will be protected, how parents can have access to these accounts, and that he actually showed a little discernment before jumping at the shiny free stuff.  Also do North Dakota schools have to participate?

Gallup Poll Shows Growing Opposition Among Public School Parents, Republicans

public-polling.jpgGallup took another poll of the Common Core State Standards. They found a sharp divide among public school parents. Based on what parents heard and learned 35% had a negative opinion of the Common Core State Standards, 33% had a positive view, and 32% had either no opinion or they were not familiar.

Contrast that with April when they polled on this. More parents in April viewed the Common Core positively 35% compared to 28% who viewed negatively. 37% said they either had no opinion or they were not familiar with the standards.

This swing of seven points for those who view it negatively shows that the more people learn about the Common Core the less they like it.

Republicans had strong opposition which again shows support for Common Core is a non-starter for 2016 candidates, at least if they want to win the nomination. 58% view the Common Core negatively, only 19% view the standards positively… so yeah Jeb, go ahead and campaign on that.

48% of Democrats viewed them positively, but Gallup called their support “tepid” with only 11% being very positive. 23% of Democrats had a negative view. That my friends is what we call bipartisan opposition with the possibility to sway more Democrats to oppose.

So what has changed? Has the opposition message changed since April. No, the new knowledge that these public school parents have had is first-hand through experience with their kids. That isn’t misinformation. That’s cold, hard reality smacking down cheap (well, not so cheap for Bill Gates) talking points.

Gallup has tried to strain a gnat on this particular poll to gauge “aspects” of the Common Core – standardized testing using computers, national education standards, and linking teaching evaluations to test scores. The problem with this it’s hypothetical.

In the poll that Gallup/Phi Delta Kappa did this summer shows that most parents were concerned about teacher flexibility which would be impacted by all of the above. There may be support for the concept, but when the rubber meets the road well, that’s a different story.

Frankly I think that Gallup/PDK poll more accurately reflected the mood of Americans. Here is what I wrote about that poll.

The PDK/Gallup poll shows that public awareness about the Common Core is growing and with it opposition. Last year this time only 1 in 3 Americans knew anything about the Common Core. Now 8 in 10 Americans say they have heard of it with 47% who said they have heard a great deal or fair amount about the standards.

60% of Americans according to their poll oppose using Common Core.

Think about this… that is slightly less than the number of Americans last year who hadn’t heard about Common Core. PDK/Gallup writes, “for the 60% of Americans who oppose using the Common Core, their most important reason is that it will limit the flexibility that teachers have to teach what they think is best.”

Among public school parents the opposition grows with 62% saying the oppose Common Core with 32% saying the approve. Republicans overwhelmingly disapprove of the Common Core by a 76% to 17% margin. Independents oppose 60% to 34%. A majority of Democrats support the Common Core, but even in their party there is a significant opposition with 53% who support and 38% who oppose.

Americans are split in their views of standardized testing with 54% saying they are not helpful and 45% saying they are. Those numbers are fairly consistent within 1 or 2 points when you compare with Republicans, Democrats and Independents. When you look at public school parents the disdain for standardized testing jumps. 68% say standardized testing is not helpful, while only 31% say that it is.

What Will Bill Haslam Actually Do About Common Core?

Just in case you missed this story The Tennessean reported that Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam’s tone on Common Core is changing.

“For me, it shouldn’t be about the name and what we call it, the battle should be about: Are we going to have high standards or not and what exactly should those standards be?” Haslam said.

Haslam delivered that message in Nashville as he sat next to Democratic Gov. John Hickenlooper of Colorado, in town for a Denver Chamber of Commerce leadership visit. Haslam’s latest comment follows others in which he called for a “full vetting” of Common Core standards, with a legislative session looming and the fate of the controversial standards expected to take center stage.

The tone is far removed from where the Tennessee governor stood just 10 months ago, when he endorsed the standards wholeheartedly by name. “Common Core is critical to the progress the state has made, and he’s committed to making sure we continue that momentum,” a spokesman said back then.

His latest comments seem to suggest that he’s not necessarily opposed to scrapping the name, at least, so long as the standards are robust.

Now changing the name will not do a blasted thing, but it is clear that Haslam is under pressure to address the increasingly unpopular standards.  This fall, in a shock poll, 56% of Tennessee teachers say they want to abandon the standards.  Will he actually do something tangible or will he just obfuscate the issue by just changing the name?  He says he wants to do a review, but do so after the 2015 legislative session which seems to be his way of delaying the inevitable as many legislators in his party are ready to repeal.

Rick Perry Makes Common Core a Campaign Issue in North Carolina

Rick Perry in Altoona, IA.

Rick Perry in Altoona, IA.

Texas Governor Rick Perry was in North Carolina stumping for North Carolina House Speaker Thom Tillis the Republican running against U.S. Senator Kay Hagan (D-NC).

The News Observer reports:

Perry also had high praise for Tillis, the marquee candidate at the rally.

“He will go to Washington, D.C., and do everything he can to dismantle Obamacare,” Perry said. “He will say no to things like Common Core. He will say no to things like Race to the Top.”

What’s interesting is that North Carolina Gov. Pat McCrory was there and he’s been a supporter of Common Core, but reluctantly signed the Tarheel State’s repeal and replace bill and his appointments to the commission that is reviewing North Carolina’s standards is, ahem, suspect.  Indiana Governor Mike Pence must be his role model.

Common Core is not an issue that Rick Perry will shy away from.  Recently in Iowa he told me what he thought of the standards.

It’s a 10th Amendment issue.  If you want Washington, if you want to implement their standards, that’s your call.  In Texas we had higher standards.  We had higher standards than No Child Left Behind.  We certainly had higher standards than (Common Core) so it was a very easy decision for Texans, myself and the Legislature included, to basically say we still believe that Texans know how to best run Texas.  That the Texas Legislature, that the Texas School Boards, the Texas teachers, we collectively know best how to educate our children rather than some bureaucrat in Washington.

Anyway, I’m sure that was an awkweird moment for him… May he have even more in the future.

You may recall that Tillis last month had an awkward with Jeb Bush who joined him on the campaign trail.  Jonathan Martin reported at the New York Times.

On the Common Core, the educational standards first devised by a bipartisan group of governors, which have become deeply unpopular among conservative activists, Mr. Tillis also sounded far more conservative than Mr. Bush. The North Carolina House approved the standards in 2011, but, facing primary challengers from the right earlier this year, Mr. Tillis backed away from them.

“I’m not willing to settle just for a national standard if we think we can find things to set a new standard and a best practice,” Mr. Tillis said, pivoting to an attack on the federal Education Department as “a bureaucracy of 5,000 people in Washington” who make an average salary of a little more than $100,000.

While criticizing the Education Department is common among Republicans, Mr. Tillis was standing next to the younger brother of President George W. Bush, whose signature accomplishments include No Child Left Behind, the sweeping federal education law run by the department.

Mr. Bush sensed the need to play down any differences and returned to the microphone. “We can argue about what to call these things,” he said, but maintained that the focus ought to be on ensuring high standards.

The Millstone of the Common Core

Photo credit: Yellow.Cat (CC-By-2.0)

Photo credit: Yellow.Cat (CC-By-2.0)

Paul Waldman writing at the Washington Post is right.  Jeb Bush’s biggest problem should he run for President isn’t his last name, it’s the position he has taken on several issues.  The one that pertains to this site and our readers would be, obviously, his role as a cheerleader and apologist for the Common Core State Standards.

Waldman writes:

The issue of Common Core education standards could also become a millstone around a Bush candidacy. While most Republicans had probably barely heard of Common Core a year or two ago, it has quickly become a symbolic issue of deep importance, representing government overreach and Obama/Swedish-style social engineering, and possibly a takeover of American sovereignty by the U.N. Opposition to Common Core is becoming part of what it means to be a contemporary Republican with national ambitions.

And Jeb Bush isn’t just an advocate of Common Core, he actually heads up not one but two organizations — the Foundation for Excellence in Education and Conservatives for Higher Standards — devoted to advocating for the standards. This is obviously an issue he cares deeply about, and he could no doubt talk any Republican voter’s ear off about it. But in the end, all they’ll hear is that Bush supports that Obama federal education takeover thing (even though Common Core is not a federal government initiative; its prime mover has been the National Governor’s Association).

Where Waldman is wrong here, however, is that that it could become a millstone.  It will be a millstone.  Republicans in early caucus and primary states will be looking for daylight between the candidates on the issues, and one’s position on the Common Core could provide some daylight.  It’s no accident that Bush is distancing himself from the Common Core in fundraising letters, etc.

Waldman also demonstrates that he doesn’t understand mainstream opposition against the Common Core and wants to paint it as fringe.  Those who paint this as an entirely partisan and fringe issue has not been paying attention and are quite simply ignorant.  However, regardless of a voter’s reason for opposing Common Core, it’s unlikely his past on this issue will help him.

The Common Core IS a millstone for Republicans looking to run in 2016 if they are on the wrong side of the issue.