Albuquerque School Board Votes No on PARCC Payment

new-mexico-state-flagThis is an odd story.  The Albuquerque School Board voted 4 to 3 to withhold the $1.4 million it owes the state of New Mexico for the PARCC assessment this year.

Local NPR affiliate KRWG reports:

The school board voted 4-3 on Wednesday night to hold back the $1.4 million reimbursement after audience members at the meeting voiced opposition to PARCC and the new teacher assessments that are partially based on them.

School board members didn’t explain their votes. Superintendent Brad Winter and several board members couldn’t be reached for comment.

Public Education Secretary Hanna Skandera told The Associated Press on Friday that the district has a responsibility to pay its bills and that there’s an expectation for school board members to abide by state and federal laws.

Yes the district has a responsibility to pay its bills, but did they actually agree to use PARCC?  No, it was mandated by the state which may (I don’t know how much the previous assessment cost) have increased the school district’s assessment costs who then would shift that burden to taxpayers.  This was done of course without a vote of the New Mexico Legislature.  The Legislature should consider how just unfunded mandates are for local school districts.  If you are going to pick the assessment without their say and input, and without a vote of the state legislature then perhaps New Mexico State Department of Education should find a way to pay for it out of their own budget.

The Next Generation Science Standards Are Not State-Driven Either

Gulliver_academyCommon Core advocates like to claim that their initiative is state-based.  This is an argument that is easily debunked by any reasonable person when you look at the special interests involved and the fact state legislatures were cut out of the process.  Those behind the Next Generation Science Standards are making a similar claim.  In a piece in the Wall Street Journal (pay wall), Paul Tice, pokes a rather large hole in that argument.

He writes:

While publicly billed as the result of a state-led process, the new science standards rely on a framework developed by the Washington, D.C.-based National Research Council. That is the research arm of the National Academy of Sciences that works closely with the federal government on most scientific matters.

And this framework has an agenda which is a harder pill to swallow for some states.  So far only 13 states and the District of Columbia have signed onto these standards.

All of the National Research Council’s work around global warming proceeds from the initial premise of its 2011 report, “America’s Climate Choices” which states that “climate change is already occurring, is based largely on human activities, and is supported by multiple lines of scientific evidence.” From the council’s perspective, the science of climate change has already been settled. Not surprisingly, global climate change is one of the disciplinary core ideas embedded in the Next Generation of Science Standards, making it required learning for students in grade, middle and high school.

There is more… Tice notes a reliance on Federal source material.

Many of the background materials and classroom resources used by instructors in teaching the new curriculum are sourced from government agencies. For example, the Environmental Protection Agency has an array of ready-to-download climate-change primers for classroom use by teachers, including handouts on the link between carbon dioxide and average global temperatures and tear sheets on the causal relationship between greenhouse-gas emissions and rising sea levels.

Similarly, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and the Energy Department have their own Climate Literacy & Energy Awareness Network, or Clean, which serves as an online portal for the distribution of digital resources to help educators teach about climate change. One such learning module requires students to measure the size of their family’s carbon footprint and come up with ways to shrink it.

Relying on a climate-change curriculum and teaching materials largely sourced from federal agencies—particularly those of the current ideologically driven administration—raises a number of issues. Along with the undue authoritative weight that such government-produced documents carry in the classroom, most of the work is one-sided and presented in categorical terms, leaving no room for a balanced discussion. Moreover, too much blind trust is placed in the predictive power of long-range computer simulations, despite the weak forecasting track record of most climate models to date.

Tice also notes the one-sided nature of the federal source material short circuits the overall goals of the Next Generation Science Standards.

This is unfortunate because the topic of man-made global warming, properly taught, would present many teachable moments and provide an example of the scientific method in action. Precisely because the science of climate change is still just a theory, discussion would help to build student skills in critical thinking, argumentation and reasoning, which is the stated objective of the new K-12 science standards.

State-led and state-driven indeed!

Maine Governor Vetoes Next Generation Science Standards

Maine-State-FlagMaine Governor Paul LePage vetoed a bill that would require Maine schools to adopt the Next Generation Science Standards.  He didn’t veto them because they were bad, but said they were too costly for the state.

The Portland Press-Herald reports:

“While I support the desire to ensure that Maine students are well equipped with the best science and engineering education to prepare them for future careers that demand this vital knowledge, this bill would require every school in Maine to rewrite its science curriculum to adapt to a new set of standards without allocating a single dollar either to the Department of Education or to the schools that must carry out this significant, time-consuming work,” he wrote in his May 22 veto message.

LePage said the bill, L.D. 464, would put an “additional burden on our schools while they are already dealing with a new system of annual assessment, working to raise the standards of proficiency needed for graduation and adjust to new teacher evaluation rules all in the same year.”

The Governor’s administration pointed out the difficulty they were having implementing Common Core.

Acting Maine Department of Education Commissioner Tom Desjardin said there was no objection to the standards themselves, just the timing.”A major project like this takes a lot of work and we’re maxed out now,” he said, echoing the governor’s veto message. “It’s too much.”

Desjardin pointed to what has happened to implementing the Common Core English and math tests as a cautionary example.

“This is year four of Common Core and the feedback (this spring) is that the test is too hard. The reason is that they didn’t have time to teach to the level the standards require. The same thing would happen with science,” he said.

The new science standards will be up for a vote again so this veto, in reality, is a delay.

One in Four School Counselors Say Avoid Redesigned SAT

David Coleman announces the SAT redesign.

David Coleman announces the SAT redesign.

David Coleman is continuing the march toward aligning the SAT with the Common Core.  Politico yesterday reported that a growing number of school counselors do not want to follow.  24% of counselors say students should either ditch the test or take it before the changes take effect.

Upcoming changes to the SAT are affecting the advice that high school counselors are giving students now about college admissions exams, a Kaplan Test Prep Survey finds. About one-third of counselors think students should take more than one test (the current SAT, the new SAT and the ACT) so they can figure out which exam will most help them get into their choice colleges. Sixteen percent of counselors say students should ditch the SAT entirely and go with the ACT. About 6 percent of counselors are telling students to take the SAT early to avoid changes to the test, [http://politico.pro/1cP7XT3]  due out in March 2016. And another 6 percent are telling students to delay taking the test until the changes take effect.

ACT at the moment has not aligned to Common Core so that may be a better college entrance exam alternative.

The New York Opt-Out Movement Gains Clear Momentum

This new graphic published Wednesday in The New York Times makes it abundantly clear – the opt-out movement has clear momentum in New York State. Elizabeth Harris and Ford Fessenden report that “at least 165,000 children, or one of every six eligible students, sat out at least one of the two standardized tests this year, more than double and possibly triple the number who did so in 2014, according to an analysis by The New York Times.”

New York Opt-Out Maps

PARCC to Shorten Test

no-parcc-ingIt’s still likely to be a disaster next year, but at least your students (if you live in a state that has implemented PARCC) will spend 90 minutes less time taking the PARCC assessment next year they’ll also take it in just one testing period.

That’s provided they don’t have technical difficulties that won’t cause delays.  I wouldn’t hold my breath that they will be glitch-free.

Anyway, don’t overwhelm me with your excitement…. It’s still a crap sandwich, but it is a crap sandwich that will take less time to eat.  Enjoy.

The Washington Post reports:

The Common Core-aligned tests that were given in 11 states and the District this spring will be approximately 90 minutes shorter next year, a change that comes after parents, teachers and school administrators expressed frustration with the amount of time devoted to the new exams.

The governing board of the Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Career (PARCC) tests voted Wednesday to shorten the tests. The board, which is composed of state superintendents, also voted to administer the exams during one 30-day testing window close to the end of the school year.

This year, the tests were split between two testing periods, one in early spring and one in late spring. Many teachers and parents said that testing twice was more disruptive to children’s regular classroom instruction.

Read the rest.

Nevada Common Core Opposition Roadblocks

Becky-Harris-Melissa-Woodbury

Taking my gloves back off  I return to naming names of road blocks to solid anti-Common Core legislation in different state legislatures.  Today, we turn to Nevada.

Activists pointed out to Truth in American Education that State Senator Becky Harris (R-Las Vegas) who chairs the Nevada Senate Education Committee and Assemblywoman Melissa Woodbury (R-Henderson) who chairs the Nevada Assembly Education Committee are the primary roadblocks to good legislation.

Woodbury blocked a vote on AB 303 and Harris refused to even hear SB 290 in committee.

The Voice of Nevada PAC released the following video this week:

Nevadans it is time to ask Harris and Woodbury who they actually represent because it certainly doesn’t appear to be Nevada’s parents.

Colorado Educator: Comics Belong in Common Core

hoto credit: Sam Howzit (CC-By-2.0)

Photo credit: Sam Howzit (CC-By-2.0)

Colorado Public Radio interviewed Colorado educator Jenn Anya Prosser who will lead a workshop called “Teaching with Comics and the Common Core” as part of Denver Comic Con next week.

“I think it can be used in almost every classroom. One of my favorite graphic novels currently is ‘Trinity,’ which is by Jonathan Fetter-Vorm. And he discusses the history of the atom bomb. He goes into the science behind it, the social sciences, who’s who, what’s going on in World War II and it could be applied to a science classroom or a history classroom.”

Look, I know for some boys in particular that comics is one of the few things they are willing to read.  I would read comic books and enjoyed them, but I would have never imagined reading them in school.  An introduction to good youth literature is what got me hooked on reading and I became an avid reader, and my kids have as well (two by the way have struggled with dyslexia and we didn’t overcome it with comic books).  This is a fad that has no research behind it; much like the Common Core itself.

Besides with such an emphasis on informational text and getting kids “college and career-ready” how would this really fit in anyway? To use a Common Core advocate argument – in the real world students won’t be paid to read comic books.  It would be much better for parents to use this as a literacy bridge at home to encourage their students to read than one implemented by the schools.

With the reduction of classical literature in the classroom this isn’t exactly a welcome trend.

Illinois House Passes Parental Opt-Out Bill

illinois-state-flagThe Chicago Sun Times reports that the Illinois House of Representatives on Tuesday voted 64 to 47 in favor of a bill that give parents a “formal way” to opt-out their students out of assessments – in particular PARCC.

“This bill wouldn’t take PARCC away. Opt-out’s happening, it happened last year, it happened this year, it will happen next year whether we pass this bill or not,” state Rep. Will Guzzardi, D-Chicago, said.  ”All this bill does is create a clear process and take the student out of the role as the decision maker.”

Guzzardi, sponsor of HB306, said that now if parents think the state standardized test is inappropriate they tell their children to refuse to take the test, putting them in an awkward position. Some older students are opting out on their own without consulting their parents.

Gov. Bruce Rauner, a longtime supporter of the school reform movement, has threatened to veto the opt-out bill and has been leaning on Republican lawmakers to vote “no.” The governor’s administration worries Illinois could lose federal funding for poor students — or local control over that money — if more than 5 percent of students statewide refuse to take the PARCC.

A Republican governor is leaning on Republican lawmakers to short circuit parental rights… terrific.  To be clear here, Illinois parents do not need an opt-out law to opt-out, this bill just makes it less messy.