NJEA Says PARCC Refusals Exceed 40,000 Students

new-jersey-state-flagFrom the New Jersey Education Association reports on their NJKidsandFamilies.com website that the movement to refuse the PARCC assessment given this spring topped 40,000 students.

They note that the numbers are estimates in some cases that is based on the best available from about 200 districts.  They state that the final numbers won’t be known immediate the information they have been able to gather shows that the refusal to take PARCC was a “major phenomenon” across New Jersey.

They also report that in Cherry Hill, NJ as many as 2,500 students refused to take PARCC.  Freehold, Livingston and West Orange all report at least 1,000 student refusals to take PARCC.

They have numbers broken down by county here.

Senate Passes Local Control of Education Act as a Budget Amendment

Photo credit: UpstateNYer (CC-By-SA 3.0)

Photo credit: UpstateNYer (CC-By-SA 3.0)

The U.S. Senate today passed the Local Control of Education Act, sponsored by U.S. Senator David Vitter (R-Louisiana), as a budget amendment.

Vitter, who once supported the Common Core, filed the bill back in January.  U.S. Senators Ted Cruz (R-Texas) and Steve Daines (R-Montana) were co-sponsors.  The Senate Republican Caucus voted unanimously for the measure that amends the Elementary and Secondary Education Act of 1965 with the following language at the end:

“(e) Prohibition Of Federal Government Mandating Common Standards, Programs Of Instruction, Curricula, Assessments, Or Academic Standards.—An officer or employee of the Federal Government shall not directly or indirectly, through grants, contracts, or other cooperative agreements under this Act (including waivers under section 9401)—

“(1) mandate, direct, or control a State, local educational agency, or school’s specific instructional content or any specific academic standard, assessment, curriculum, or program of instruction, including through any requirement, direction, condition, or mandate to adopt

“(A) the Common Core State Standards developed under the Common Core State Standards Initiative, any other academic standards common to a number of States, or any specific statewide or nationally recognized content standards; or

“(B) any assessment, instructional content, or curriculum aligned to, or based on, specific academic standards, including any of the standards described in subparagraph (A);

“(2) incentivize a State, local educational agency, or school to adopt any specific instructional content, academic standard, assessment, curriculum, commonality of standards or assessments, or program of instruction described in paragraph (1), which shall include providing any priority, preference, or special consideration during the application process based on any specific content, standard, assessment, curriculum, commonality, or program; or

“(3) make financial support available in a manner that is conditioned upon a State, local educational agency, or school’s adoption of any specific instructional content, academic standard, assessment, curriculum, commonality of standards or assessments, or program of instruction described in paragraph (1), even if such requirements are specified in section 14006 or 14007 of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 (Public Law 111–5; 123 Stat. 281) or any other Act.”.

(b) Conforming Amendment.—Section 9527(a) of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act of 1965 (20 U.S.C. 7907(a)) is amended by striking “curriculum, program of instruction, or”.

SEC. 3. PROHIBITION ON REQUIRING ADOPTION OF COMMON STANDARDS WITH RESPECT TO WAIVERS.

(a) Prohibition.—Section 9401 of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act of 1965 (20 U.S.C. 7861) is amended by adding at the end the following:

“(h) Prohibition On Requiring Certain Standards For Waivers.—

“(1) IN GENERAL.—The Secretary shall not require that a State, local educational agency, Indian tribe, or school adopt, as a prerequisite or condition for any waiver under this section, any specific instructional content, academic standard, assessment, curriculum, or program of instruction, including—

“(A) the Common Core State Standards developed under the Common Core State Standards Initiative, any other academic standards common to a number of States, or any specific statewide or nationally recognized content standards; or

“(B) any assessment, instructional content, or curriculum aligned to, or based on, any specific academic standards, including any of the standards described in subparagraph (A).

“(2) EFFECT ON PREVIOUSLY ISSUED WAIVERS.—

“(A) IN GENERAL.—Any requirement described in paragraph (1) that was required for a waiver provided to a State, local educational agency, Indian tribe, or school under this section before the date of enactment of the Local Control of Education Act shall be void and have no force of law.

“(B) PROHIBITED ACTIONS.—The Secretary shall not—

“(i) enforce any requirement that is void pursuant to subparagraph (A); and

“(ii) require the State, local educational agency, Indian tribe, or school to reapply for a waiver, or to agree to any other conditions to replace any requirements that is void pursuant to subparagraph (A), until the end of the period of time specified under the waiver.

“(C) NO EFFECT ON OTHER PROVISIONS.—Any other provisions or requirements of a waiver provided under this section before the date of enactment of the Local Control of Education Act that are not affected by subparagraph (A) shall remain in effect for the period of time specified under the waiver.”.

SEC. 4. PROHIBITION IN RACE TO THE TOP FUNDING.

Title XIV of Division A of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 (Public Law 111–5) is amended by inserting after section 14007 the following:

“SEC. 14007A. PROHIBITION ON REQUIRING OR PREFERRING COMMON STANDARDS.

“The prohibitions of section 9527(e) of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act of 1965 shall apply to each grant awarded under section 14006 or 14007 in the same manner as such prohibitions apply to a grant awarded under such Act.”

So if this becomes law states who, under the 10th Amendment, already have the ability to drop the Common Core can do so without fear of reprisal from the U.S. Department of Education if they have a NCLB flexibility waiver or Race to the Top grant.

It would also prevent conditional grants like what we saw with Race to the Top.

In related news… U.S. Senator Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) and Congressman Steve King (R-Iowa) released co-signers of a letter they started circulating earlier this month asking for an appropriations rider to block  further federal overreach in pushing the Common Core standards and assessments on states.

Vitter’s amendment may accomplish that.

Here is the final Senate letter and House letter.  The co-signers are:

Senators Grassley, Roberts, Inhofe, Fischer, Isakson, Daines, Cruz, Lee, Purdue, Enzi, Barrasso, Sessions, Vitter

Representatives King, Babin, Benishek, Blackburn, Blum, Byrne, Crawford, Jeff Duncan, Forbes, Franks, Garrett, Gibbs, Gohmert, Gosar, Grothman, Hartzler, Hensarling, Huelskamp, Hultgren, Jenkins, Johnson, Walter B. Jones, Kelly, Latta, Massie, Jeff Miller, Olson, Pompeo, Posey, Rohrabacher, Rothfus, Salmon, Ann Wagner, Wenstrup

Arizona 5th Grader Speaks Out Against Common Core (Video)

Aaron Bencomo is a 5th grader who testified about the Common Core in front of the Arizona Senate Committee after his mother, Christy, gave him her time.

His remarks are from 1:02 to 4:05 in the video below.

Great job Aaron!

HT: Christel Swasey who also points out other kids who have also given testimony, so be sure to check her article on this out..

Arkansas Senate Votes to Delay PARCC

arkansas-state-flagToday the Arkansas Senate joined the Arkansas House voting to pass HB 1241.  They voted in favor of the measure 29 to 0 with five State Senators not voting.  The bill has been amended from the original House version that completely shut the door on the use of PARCC.  The Senate version could have the same impact, but it also leaves the door open.

The bill as it stands right now requires the State Board of Education to not renew their membership or involvement with PARCC.  Like the House bill, it still allows PARCC to be administered this school year.  Then the bill’s language gets a little fuzzy.  “The state board shall take into consideration any  recommendations that are made by the Governor’s Council on Common Core Review before entering into any contract or agreement related to statewide assessments for public school students for the 2016-2017 school year,” the bill reads.

So theoretically the State Board could, as I understand this, opt to readopt PARCC as an assessment not next school year, but the one after.  Not that it will necessarily take place, but it could.  Regardless this is a big step for the state.  Since the bill was amended it returns to the Arkansas House to be voted on.

The Spineless Six: West Virginia Republican Senate Leadership

From Left to Right: (Top) Boso, Hall, Cole, (Bottom) Mullins, Carmicheal, Sypolt

From Left to Right: (Top) Boso, Hall, Cole, (Bottom) Mullins, Carmicheal, Sypolt

The gloves have now come off.   There are six people responsible for the fiasco in West Virginia.  This is a profile in cowardice.  These six men snatched defeat from the jaws of victory as the West Virginia House sent them an excellent bill that passed that chamber with a 75 to 19 bipartisan vote which they in turn ruined.

These six men took that bill and made it absolutely worthless.  All six are worthy of a primary challenge.

Here is what I heard from activists in West Virginia.

First, Senate Education committee Chair Dave Sypolt went behind closed doors in a weekend meeting with Governor-appointed-freshmam, State Senator Greg Boso and the State Superintendent Michael Martirano that resulted in an amendment that stripped out the “repeal” language, and left the bill as a study by the superintendent.

Second, Senate Finance Committee Chair Mike Hall seemed to back away from his previous public railings against Common Core. Senator Hall did say he would ask for a line by line analysis of the $128 million DOE attached fiscal note, but no one knows if he really did.  Activists tell me they have repeatedly asked for a copy, but it has never been supplied.

Third, the bill then went to the full senate where State Senator Robert Plymale (D-Wayne 05) threw the final dagger with an amendment to remove the Smarter Balanced Assessment language. (Plymale held the Education committee Chair position for several years and blocked  Common Core opposition efforts the past 2 years). Plymale’s dagger was driven in by State Senator Mullins and the Republican Majority Leader Mitch Carmichael who stood with the Democrats to complete the neutering of the bill.

Ultimately if there was one person who should get the blame for the  repeal failure it should be Senate President Bill Cole who never gave Common Core the priority it deserved, and failed to listen to the thousands of voices crying out for repeal across West Virginia.  It was State Senator Bill Cole who came in with his own education agenda of charter schools for which there was no public outcry at all.  It was State Senator Bill Cole who failed to demand repeal from the majority he leads.  It was State Senator Bill Cole, who rumor has it, has his eye on the Governor’s mansion.  Which is something West Virginia voters should remember.

Smarter Balanced Interim Assessments Delayed

Students in Computer Lab --- Image by © Royalty-Free/CorbisEdSource reported yesterday that the interim assessments for Smarter Balanced were delayed for most students.  These interim assessments were supposed to help teachers and students prepare for the new Common Core-aligned assessment rolling out this spring.

Laurie Udesky writes:

The interim assessments were supposed to give students a way to rehearse for the Smarter Balanced assessments and allow teachers to see how well students had mastered the math and English Language Arts curriculum tied to the Common Core.

That’s not how it has worked out, however. The interim assessments were supposed to be in the hands of educators last fall. But the Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium didn’t complete them until the end of January, too late for most teachers or districts to use them extensively, according to interviews conducted by EdSource.

Luci Willits, deputy executive director of the Smarter Balanced consortium, told EdSource earlier this year that the release was delayed because teachers had not finished vetting test questions until late October. It was further delayed by test designers who had to field questions from states about scoring the essay portions of the assessments.

So can we expect even worse scores than what was already expected?  What a mess.

Read the rest.

Separating the Wheat from the Chaff

Walker gives inauguration address.

Walker gives inauguration address.

“A politician thinks of the next election – a statesman of the next generation.” – James Freeman Clarke

Dr. Susan Berry’s piece on Gov. Scott Walker’s Common Core problem is a must read.  It is a narrative of a governor running against the grain of his election promises.

Time and time again, we put our trust in candidates whom we hope are statesmen.  We pray that they will follow in the footsteps of George Washington, John Adams, Samuel Adams, and Abraham Lincoln.  That’s not to say that any one of those historical figures was perfect.  But what separates them from today’s vapid politician is the will to fight.  They relished the fight for what is right much more than winning an election.

Today, we are afflicted with politicians pining for their next election or their next appointment.  To them, issues exist as a means of getting elected.  A mere checklist.  Do a little something on this issue, say a little something on that issue, and soon you have enough votes to win the election.

It can be hard to separate the wheat from the chaff.  Most candidates, particularly those running for president, garnered a reputation for having done something, for having driven an issue or cause.  But many reveal their true character after they reach celebrity status.  They worry about that status and avoid the good fight.  They morph from statesman to politician.

Or, perhaps, they simply reveal their true character.

Time for the Gloves to Come Off

Getting Team V fit to fight (literally), the 30th Force Support Squadron offers a challenging boxing workout on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays from 5-7 p.m. with boxing coach Don Green. For more information, call the Vandenberg Fitness Center at 606-3832.What I’m going to say next is not directed at the legislators who have linked arms with parents, citizens and teachers who want to wrest local control of education back.  I appreciate those courageous legislators who I’m sure at times have taken political heat from Chamber of Commerce groups, other business organizations, educrats, and sometimes members of their own legislative caucus or Governor.

There is a huge lobby working against them that is well-financed and that is tough.

It isn’t easy.  They recognize that top-down, one-size-fits-all reforms do not work.  They never have no matter the grandiose promises we receive that has absolutely no data backing it up.

We need to encourage them to keep up the good fight.

What troubles me is the legislators who do not listen to “we the people.”  If there were rallies, letter campaigns, tweet-fests, etc. held by those who advocate for the Common Core they certainly didn’t make news.  I never heard of hundreds of people cramming meeting rooms, town halls, and committee rooms in support of the Common Core.

But the opposite is true.

So to the legislator who votes against common sense legislation whether it is a parental opt-out bill, a Common Core repeal and replace bill or just a bill to remove your state from invalid Common Core assessments – a vote against a bill that restores control back to the local level is a vote against parents.  It is a vote against teachers.  It is a vote against kids who are struggling with the nonsensical changes being made as a result of Common Core.

It is time they start to listen to you – the parents, grandparents, and taxpayers at least as much as they listen to your state’s department of education.  It’s also time that they remind the executive branch (even if the governor is from their own party) that checks and balances do exist.  They need to show us they believe in the separation of powers!  They need to make a statement that the executive branch running roughshod all over them like what was done when the Common Core was adopted and implemented will not stand.

Are these legislators ok with being left out of the discussion?  Their vote, not the opposition’s vote, is one of status quo.  This discussion should have taken place in 2009 and 2010, but didn’t so it must happen now.

We seen some profiles in hubris (or cowardice depending on the situation) this session.  For instance the Kansas legislators who voted against an excellent local control bill come to mind.  The West Virginia Senate who unbelievably watered down an excellent bill that passed overwhelmingly in the West Virginia House with bipartisan support.  What hubris!  Arkansas legislators who couldn’t bring themselves to pull their state out of PARCC after this school year.

These bills were not about ridding the state of standards and assessments.  These bills were about ridding your state of standards and assessments your state didn’t control.

These legislators need to show some humility, listen to their parents and actually remember that they represent them, not the special interest groups who are tickling their ear or funding their campaigns.  They need to listen now before some of them will receive an entirely different message at the ballot box.

With this article I announce an ongoing series I will publish as I have material.  I am going to start naming names and calling out those who have been road blocks to good legislation out.  It’s time for them to held accountable.  The gloves are coming off.

If you have a nominee from your state’s legislature please email me at info@truthinamericaneducation.com.

Ohio School Superintendent “Profoundly Concerned” About PARCC

Valarie Strauss at The Washington Post released a letter written in February by Steve Kramer, who is superintendent of Madeira City Schools in Ohio, to Ohio State Superintendent of Public Instruction Richard Ross about his concerns with PARCC and AIR tests in Ohio.

Here is an excerpt.

I am profoundly concerned that (PARCC and AIR Tests) are neither relevant nor important to the high quality instruction Madeira City Schools has been proud to provide for over 80 years.

State and Federal legislation regarding high stakes testing has been enacted with little or no regard to best educational practice.  Public school districts have been given no option but to administer these tests as mandated by law.  And yet, many of our parents are now seeing first hand the amount of time that these tests are taking and questioning the over all value of the tests.  I would tend to agree with them.

You can read the full letter here.