What Did the Senate Just Give Us? Looking at Every Child Achieves (Part II)

Photo credit: Rob Crawley (CC-By-2.0)

Photo credit: Rob Crawley (CC-By-2.0)

Here is a recap of some of the other important amendments proposed for S.1177, the Every Child Achieves Act, and votes that were largely disappointing for those wanting educational freedom in this now approximately 1000 page bill based on category (Please see the Congress.gov website for all of the amendments offered with links to language and a list of status, the Senate website for specific roll call votes on the amendments and S 1177 itself, andEducation Week  for other summaries.)

TESTING:

Cruz amendment (SA 2180) to get rid of federal testing mandates – This failed by a vote of 40-58. Presidential candidates Paul and Rubio joined Senator Cruz in voting for this important amendment.  Sanders voted against this great amendment favored by many Democrat teachers and Graham did not vote. All Democrats voted against this amendment and all Republicans voted for it except: Alexander, Ayotte, Capito (WV), Cochrane (MS), Corker (TN), Flake (AZ), Gardner (CO), Kirk, Portman, Rounds (SD), and Thune.  It is very sad that Republicans who say they are for smaller government voted against this effort to send control of testing back to the states and districts.

Lee amendment (SA 2162) to allow written parental testing opt out  –  Sadly, this also failed by a vote of 32-64. Every single Democrat and nineteen Republicans voted against this fundamental right of parents to direct the education of their children. Of the presidential candidates, Cruz and Paul correctly voted for this important amendment while Sanders voted against it, and Graham and Rubio did not vote.

Paul amendment (SA 2218) to permit parental opt out without being counted against the 95% participation mandate – This is quite similar to the Salmon amendment that was one of the few really strong pieces of language to pass in HR 5, The Student Success Act, the House version of the NCLB rewrite. Senator Alexander did not allow this amendment to the floor.

Tester amendment (SA 2129) to reduce testing mandate to three times in grades 3-12 for English and math instead of annually – This was never allowed to the floor for debate.

Isakson amendment (SA 2194) “to require local educational agencies to inform parents of any State or local educational agency policy, procedure, or parental right regarding student participation in any mandated assessments for that school year” – This largely symbolic amendment will be basically useless for protecting parental opt-out rights due to the 95% participation and other mandates in the main bill, but it is all the administration, leadership of both parties, and the corporate interests were willing to accept.  It passed by a vote of 97-0 with Graham and Rubio not voting.

Murphy amendment (SA 2241) to reinstate the high stakes testing accountability of NCLB – Fortunately, this failed by a complete party line vote of 43-54, with Democrats and Sanders supporting, Republicans opposing, and Cruz and Graham not voting. Teachers are appalled that the Democrats voted to return to the “test and punish” paradigm of NCLB.

Kirk amendment (SA 2161) to re-establish more test based accountability as in NCLB – This amendment similar to the Murphy amendment also failed by mostly party line a vote of 40-56 (60 votes were required) with Democrat Tester and Independent King joining most all of the Republicans in opposition; Republicans Hatch, Heller, Kirk and Murkowski joining Sanders and the rest of the Democrats in support; and Cruz, Graham, and Blumenthal (D-CT) not voting.

PSYCHOSOCIAL PROFILING & MANIPULATION – We described the positive development above of the rejection of the Heitkamp amendment, but unfortunately there were two other amendments that passed that will add to the already numerous provisions expanding this completely unacceptable federal activity in K-12 education:

Brown amendment (SA 2100) to restore the Full Service Community Schools grants from NCLB – Despite Alexander’s opposition, the horrific grant program that turns schools into a second or even first home for children and reduces parents to “breeders and feeders,” passed 43-51.  Among the purposes of the program are to “ensure that children have the physical, social, and emotional well-being to come to school ready to engage in the learning process every day.”  The grantee is supposed to do a means assessment that “identifies the academic, physical, social, emotional, health, mental health, and other needs of students, families, and community residents,” which will include all sorts of mental health data gathering. The list  of services that can be offered is 23 items long and included mental health services and “other services consistent with this part.” All of the Democrats plus Republicans Ayotte, Blunt (MO), Capito, Collins, Fischer (NE), Hoeven (ND), Isakson (GA), and Portman voted for this nanny state expansion while all of the rest of the Republicans, including presidential candidates Cruz and Paul wisely voted against it, Sanders voted for it, and Graham and Rubio did not vote.

Blunt amendment (SA 2195) to expand school based mental health services – This amendment to add even more mental health services was unfortunately adopted by a voice vote.  This will result in more psychological profiling and data gathering, more improper and subjective mental health labeling, and more drugging of children with psychotropic medications that have harmful if not fatal side effects. (See HERE for citations).

Franken Amendment (SA 2093) – “To end discrimination based on actual or perceived sexual orientation or gender identity in public schools” – This highly subjective, unconstitutional amendment failed by an unfortunate mostly party line vote of 52-45 (60 votes were required for passage. Ayotte (NH), Collins (ME), Kirk (IL), Heller (NV), Johnson (WI), Murkowski (AK) and Portman (OH) were the Republicans voting in support along with all of the Democrats). Presidential candidates Cruz and Paul rightly voted against this amendment and Sanders not surprisingly voted for it, while Graham and Rubio did not vote.   Senator Alexander led the opposition rightly saying that this is not a federal issue, but one belonging to states.  Regardless of one’s views on this issue, it would be impossible for the federal government to fairly enforce a discrimination policy based on “perceived sexual orientation or gender identity” just as it is with the bullying bill or the athletic policyallowing transgendered athletes to play on the teams of their choice instead of their biological gender that have recently passed in Franken’s home state of Minnesota. Completely inappropriate issues about gender identity and family structure diversity are appearing in preschool curriculum and state and national Head Start pre-K standards, which makes the preschool language that passed in ECAA all the more dangerous.

EARLY CHILDHOOD – While appreciative that the Casey universal preschool amendment was defeated, there is still plenty of early childhood in the underlying Senate bill, so we do not understand why Republican Orrin Hatch (UT) had to have another early childhood provision addedl:

Hatch amendment (SA 2082) to include “such as pay for success initiatives that promote coordination among existing programs and meet the purposes of this part” – This will require much more data gathering for the controversial pre-K assessments dealing with psychosocial issues, which is ironic because Hatch is supposed to be the data privacy guru in the Senate and he offered an amendment (see below) to “study student privacy issues.” Alexander added it under an agreement and it unfortunately passed by a voice vote.

DATA PRIVACY – There is much disturbing individual data gathering, including data on socioemotional issues that happens already thanks to Common Core related assessments, the current provisions in ESEA and other federal law and the 2012 regulatory gutting of the Family Education Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA).  There are also several data privacy bills that have been introduced including SenatorDavid Vitter’s Student Privacy Protection Act (SPPA), S 1341, which is the only one that deals with psychological data gathering.  While appreciative that they restored the prohibition on psychological data gathering in the statewide assessments, that provision is only one small step to protecting the minds and rights of conscience of our children.  So it is very disturbing that all the Senate can muster is a provision requiring a symbolic study commission to deal with student privacy issues.  Senator Hatch, author of the important but weakened Protection of Pupil Rights Amendment (PPRA) is the author of that amendment.  It appears that the Obama administration efforts to expand data collection and thebig business interests (Gates, Exxon) and  foundation partners (Jeb Bush’s former foundation Foundation for Excellence in Education) such as those found in the Data Quality Campaign held sway over the Senate instead of parents and privacy advocates.  The amendment passed unanimously with a vote of 89-0 with the following 11 senators not voting:

Not Voting – 11

Blunt (R-MO)
Cruz (R-TX)
Graham (R-SC)
Kirk (R-IL)
Murkowski (R-AK)
Nelson (D-FL)
Paul (R-KY)
Risch (R-ID)
Rubio (R-FL)
Toomey (R-PA)
Vitter (R-LA)

MISCELLANEOUS:

Coons (D-DE)/Rubio amendment (SA 2243) to establish American Dream accounts –This bipartisan amendment to establish a trial grant program leading to college savings accounts had a number of competing interests. It supported the conservative value of saving for college in an effort to help poor children succeed and promotes dual enrollment which cuts college costs, but it is another federal spending program that requires much individual data collection to monitor if students are “college ready,” which currently means compliance with Common Core.  It passed with a large majority vote of 68-30 with an interesting breakdown.  Conservative Ted Cruz joined fellow presidential candidates Rubio and Sanders and all of the Democrats in supporting it, along with establishment and conservative Republicans Ayotte, Blunt, Capito, Cotton, Crapo, Daines, Gardner (CO), Hoeven, Inhofe, Johnson, Kirk, McConnell, Risch, Sasse, Scott, Sullivan, Toomey, and Vitter.  All of the rest of the Republicans led by Alexander and including presidential candidate Paul voted in opposition.  Graham did not vote.

Sanders amendment (SA 2177) to reduce youth unemployment – This amendment was to correct a very real problem of high minority youth incarceration by a very incorrect method of raising taxes to sponsor another ineffective federal program.  What Sanders and the federal government need to realize is that their social policies since the 1960s that have exploded the rates of out of wedlock births are what is responsible for this tragic circumstance.  Fortunately, this failed by vote of 43-55 mostly along party lines. Democrat Manchin and Independent King (ME who usually caucuses and votes with the Democrats) voted in opposition and Graham did not vote.

This bill will have to be reconciled with the better, but still significantly flawed House bill, HR 5 – The Student Success Act that barely passed the House on July 8th with every single Democrat and 27 conservative Republicans opposing it. President Obama has already issued a veto threat if the bill is too much like the House bill.  He apparently is not very pleased with the Senate bill either, but has fallen short of a veto threat.

Despite any discouragement, we must keep fighting to save the hearts and minds of our children and give them education for a free nation.  Please continue to inform your members of Congress about the many problems with both of these bills and demand that they leave these bills alone until after the next election. Anything that this president would sign would not be supportive of local control, parental rights and teacher autonomy given his administration’s track record with Common Core and Race to the Top.

 

The Next Generation Science Standards: A Model of Mediocrity

Gulliver_academyThe newest wave of national, top-down standards is the Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS), now adopted in 14 states.  While there are some outspoken critics of NGSS, the outcry has not been as loud as that against the math and English language arts common core standards, most likely because science standards do not cause angst at the dinner table in the evenings between parents and kids like the fuzzy math of common core.

The NGSS are performance rather than content standards.  This means that projects rule the day, allowing the teacher to be more of a “guide on the side” who oversees group projects.  Actual knowledge of content is not the goal of NGSS, which is a chief concern among critics of NGSS.  Furthermore, the NGSS are severely deficient in high school sciences that would support science, technology, math and engineering (STEM) fields.

Here are some of the glaring problems with the NGSS:

  • There are not enough chemistry standards for a stand-alone high school chemistry course.
  • High school physics is absent.
  • The high school engineering standards would require some high school physics and higher level mathematics than is expected in the aligned common core math standards; therefore, the engineering standards are low level.
  • The human body is missing.
  • Essential life science concepts are absent, such as “bacteria” and “virus”; cytology (design and function of cells) is woefully lacking with no mention of protein structure or functions, cellular feedback mechanisms, or cell and tissue types.
  • Practical everyday science, such as electrical circuits, is given only brief mention in the lower grade levels, while the more politically charged subject of climate change is very prominent.
  • More than 50% of the science standards have an “assessment boundary” which specifically state what will not or should not be tested, creating a teach-to-the-test mentality.
  • More than 90% of the standards have a “clarification statement” which reads like a Standards for Dummies explanation on how exactly to teach the standard, including what to say to students and which examples to provide (detailed prompting).
  • Evolution is given prominence in the standards, to the exclusion of other important content.
  • Many of the standards are based on junk science, too many scientific assumptions, and correlational studies.
  • The Thomas B. Fordham Institute conducted a review of the NGSS and 55 sets of other standards from around the country.  While Fordham would be expected to rate the NGSS highly because of their prior defense of common core, they rated NGSS as 26th in the total list of 56 standards.  Translation:  NGSS are just average.   Mediocre

Despite the obvious drop in quality, states like Arkansas, who was ranked in the top 10 by Fordham, have dumped their high ranking science standards to adopt the mediocre NGSS.  In the case of Arkansas, which adopted NGSS in June 2015, there appears to be a disconnect between those who make the adoption decisions and the state legislature. The Arkansas Department of Education science specialist was quoted in Education Weekly as saying that there was no pushback on the NGSS:   “We really had very little [push]back on climate change and evolution issues,” she said. “That just really never came up.”  However, during the January-March 2015 legislative session, a bill (HB1967) was drafted to halt the adoption NGSS.  It was never heard in committee; instead, it was buried in interim study.  The “pushback” was suppressed. 

As science standards around the country are replaced with NGSS, and the outcries are quashed, we can be sure of one thing:  mediocrity in education will rule the day.

What Did the Senate Just Give Us? Looking at Every Child Achieves (Part I)

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

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

Sadly, despite clear and detailed warnings from parents, teachers, activists, and policy experts, the US Senate passed its rewrite of the No Child Left Behind (NCLB)/Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA) called The Every Child Achieves Act (ECAA – S1170) on July 16th by a vote of 81-17.   Three Democrats voted against the bill because of not enough government control, but nonetheless did the right thing.  It is extremely clear that big government and big business interests, who are supporting pro-Common Core candidates like Jeb Bush, John Kasich, and Hillary Clinton, are colluding to cement federal control over American education.

We would like to thank the following senators for their opposition votes to the overall bill:

NAYs —17

Blunt (R-MO)
Booker (D-NJ)
Crapo (R-ID)
Cruz (R-TX)
Daines (R-MT)
Flake (R-AZ)
Lee (R-UT)
Moran (R-KS)
Murphy (D-CT)
Paul (R-KY)
Risch (R-ID)
Rubio (R-FL)
Sasse (R-NE)
Scott (R-SC)
Shelby (R-AL)
Vitter (R-LA)
Warren (D-MA)

Three of the five presidential candidates in the Senate – Ted Cruz (R-TX), Ron Paul (R-KY), and Marco Rubio (R-FL) – voted no. Bernie Sanders (I-VT, a member of the Socialist Party running for president as a Democrat) voted for the bill. The fifth, Lindsey Graham (R-SC), did not vote. Senator Sanders offered one amendment on youth unemployment that was rejected (see below). Senators Rubio and Graham did not offer any amendments to the bill, nor did they make any statements about it afterwards.  Here are the statements of Cruz, Paul, and Sanders:

Cruz:

 “While this bill makes some improvements to the status quo, it ultimately falls short of empowering parents and local school districts. To that end, it is a missed opportunity for meaningful change.

“Decisions regarding our children’s future should be placed in the hands of those closest to students, and that is teachers and parents. This is why I introduced an amendment to give states the flexibility to develop their own accountability standards, rather than meeting criteria outlined by federal bureaucrats in the Washington cartel. This type of federal control has led to the failed, top-down policies that produced Common Core. We also had the opportunity today to significantly advance school choice for low-income students, giving them a chance to succeed at a public or private school of their choosing. Unfortunately, my colleagues in the Senate rejected these amendments, perpetuating the same tired approach that continues to fail our children.

“When the federal government is in charge, the most common outcome is accepting the lowest common denominator. When it comes to the future of our country and our children’s future, the lowest common denominator is simply unacceptable. We can do better and our children deserve better.”

Paul:

“I believe education is the great equalizer, but Washington’s intrusion in the classroom leaves most kids behind. This bill is not the solution, as it retains some of No Child Left Behind’s biggest flaws – a lack of adequate parental choice, a federal testing mandate, and continued support for Common Core,” Sen. Paul said. 

Sanders:

“On Thursday, the Senate passed the Every Child Achieves Act, which would fundamentally reform No Child Left Behind. The law would replace the current high-stakes standardized testing model with an approach that would give Vermont significant flexibility to determine how to intervene in struggling schools. As a member of the Senate Education Committee, Sanders had a role in crafting the bill and successfully fought to lower the stakes on standardized testing and to preserve a federal after-school program that serves thousands of low-income students around Vermont. The bill also included a pilot program written by Senator Sanders that would allow states to develop innovative alternatives to standardized testing.”

Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions (HELP) Chairman Lamar Alexander (R-TN), who co-authored the bill with Ranking Member Patty Murray (D-WA), boasted after the bill passed about the “remarkable bipartisan consensus.”   He tried to make those that voted  against the bill sound extreme by declaring that ECAA fixed about 80% of the problems with NCLB and that even Ronald Reagan said to be happy with getting 80% of what one wants.

Well, aside from the fact that things were not fixed, but made worse with this bill, here is a little history lesson for the senior senator from Tennessee.  There was an even more remarkable bipartisan consensus in Congress in 2001 when NCLB passed the Senate floor under Senator Edward Kennedy and President George W. Bush by a whopping 91-8 vote. Only eight senators had the constitutional and educational understanding to know what a disaster NCLB would be at this same point in the process.That number has more than doubled with ECAA, so from that perspective, the forces of educational freedom are actually making some progress. We especially also want to thank Senator Jeff Flake (R-AZ) who voted against NCLB as a congressman and remained consistent to vote against ECAA as a senator.  Also important to note is that Senators Mike Crapo (R-!D) and Richard Shelby (R-AL) voted for NCLB in 2001 and had the great sense to change their votes due to the major continued federal overreach, psychological profiling and expansion of invasive, Common Core aligned early childhood programs for ECAA and the strong work of the grassroots in their states.  They deserve great thanks for that!

It is very concerning that several senators look to be making the same disastrous mistake again of imposing punitive, ineffective, invasive, annual statewide testing on our students and teachers and all of the other flaws of NCLB that are falsely promised to be fixed in ECAA along with all of its new problems:

Barbara Boxer (D-CA), Maria Cantwell (D-WA), Susan Collins (R-ME), Richard Durbin (D-IL), Michael Enzi (R-WY), Dianne Feinstein (D-CA), Chuck Grassley (R-IA), Orrin Hatch (R-UT), Patrick Leahy (D-VT), John McCain (R-AZ), Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY), Barbara Mikulski (D-MD), Lisa Murkowski (R-AK), ECAA Co-Author Patty Murray (D-WA), Minority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV), Pat Roberts (R-KS), Chuck Schumer (D-NY), Jeff Sessions (R-AL),  Debbie Stabenow (R-MI), and Ron Wyden (D-OR) [James Inhofe (R-OK) voted against NCLB off the Senate floor, but voted for the final NCLB bill and voted in favor of ECAA].

Although the overall bill passed, there were a few small bright spots:

Senator Alexander listened to the grassroots and realized the huge error of removing the prohibition on attitudinal testing in the statewide assessments.  In an amendment adopted by voice vote on July 16th, he restored the prohibition in NCLB to make sure the state assessments “do not evaluate or assess personal or family beliefs and attitudes, or publicly disclose personally identifiable information.” Here are statements released by Emmett McGroarty of American Principle in Action and myself in praise of this result:

Emmett McGroarty, Director of Education at American Principles in Action, said, “We are pleased that Senator Alexander has heard the concerns of parents and citizens and reinstated the prohibition on attitudinal testing in the statewide assessments. This is a good start. However, this addresses only one of the severe privacy and data collection problems with ECAA. Much more needs to be done to protect children.”

I later added in the press release, “We hope this is an indication that Congress is going to rein in the many other places in ECAA, in the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP), in the Strengthening Education Through Research Act (SETRA), and in early childhood programs where federal regulation authorizes the federal government to collect personal information on the dispositions, emotions, and attitudes of American children.”

The Senate also rejected, by a vote of 45-52, a universal preschool and home visiting program offered by Senators Robert Casey (D-PA), Mazie Hirono (D-HI), and others that would have been implemented on top of the already very concerning Preschool Alignment and Improvement Grants that we have explained.  Senator Alexander should be thanked for leading the opposition to this nanny state expansion, even invoking one of our talking points about “Baby Common Core,” instead calling it “Kindergarten Common Core.” All of the Republicans correctly voted against this bad amendment, except for Graham and Rubio, who did not vote. Sanders voted in support.

The Republican majority also rejected another huge expansion of mental health grants offered by North Dakota Democrat Heidi Heitkamp by a vote of 58-39 (60 votes were needed for passage). Given that there are already more than 10 other places that ECAA expands mental health programs and psychological profiling of our children, this amendment was completely duplicative and unnecessary. Of the presidential candidates, Paul and Rubio correctly voted no, Sanders voted yes, Cruz and Graham did not vote. All Democrats voted yes and all Republicans voted no except: Ayotte (NH), Cassiday (LA), Collins (ME), Daines (MT), Ernst (IA), Heller (NV), Kirk (IL), Moran (KS), Murkowski (AK), Portman (OH), Sullivan (AK), and Thune (SD).

Finally, the Republicans led by Alexander wisely rejected the Markey (D-MA) amendment (SA 2176) to establish a federal climate change education program. The amendment failed by a vote of 44-53. All of the Republicans exceot two joined by Democrats Heitkamp (ND) and Tester (MT) opposed this controversial and scientifically unsound language while all of the Democrats/Independents voted for it joined by Republicans Ayotte and Kirk.  Graham did not vote.

Friday, I’ll look at the amendments in depth.

The Ten Commandments and Progressive Math Education

For 28 years, prior to my retiring in 2006 in Seattle, WA, I watched the destruction of math education in public schools. As a tutor for the past five years in a wonderful K-8 Catholic schooI in Waco, TX, I will leave that position because of the diocese’s purchase of GOMath! They’re throwing out Saxon Math because “you’re the only ones in the diocese still using Saxon” and “the scores went down last year on the ITBS.”

First, let’s acknowledge that the diocese used the new Common Core-aligned ITBS last year, a test that doesn’t align with a traditional math program. Second, let’s acknowledge that Saxon provided good results for six previous years on the traditional ITBS.

I reviewed the GOMath! 4th grade consumable student workbooks (two volumes of 671 pages). There are many pages on the partial product method and partial quotient method, a few pages on the “regrouping” method (or traditional algorithms for multiplying and dividing used internationally), and a few pages on “choose your own method.” A huge problem for math students today is they’re not learning multiplication skills, which impacts learning division skills and that impacts work with fractions. How a book teaches those multiplication skills says a lot.

We know from experience in other schools that teachers, students, and parents will struggle with the use of these unfamiliar, alternative “partial” methods when solving multiplication and division problems.

I will refuse to teach those methods because they will eat up my limited tutoring time of 30 minutes per grade level (one day a week). My refusal will create friction with teachers. That’s not a good work environment for the adults or students.

But how do I get the administration and staff, in one last ditch effort, to understand what will happen to their school’s reputation as a solid builder of strong students? With a third of the students being Hispanic, many from homes where parents don’t speak English, and with many students on scholarships provided by the Catholic Church to help cover the $4,700 tuition, there won’t be extra money to pay for private and remedial tutoring.

Since it’s a Catholic school, maybe a religious analogy will be helpful. What if we contrast the Bible’s listing of the Ten Commandments as presented in Exodus, Chapter 20, and repeated in Deuteronomy, Chapter 5, to the Quran’s version of the Ten Commandments?

The Bible’s Ten Commandments The Noble Quran’s Equivalence or Better
1-  “Thou shalt have no other gods before me.  (From the KJV Bible, Exodus 20:3)” “Abraham was not a Jew nor yet a Christian; but he was true in Faith, and bowed his will to God’s (Which is Islam), and he joined not gods with God.  (The Noble Quran, 3:67)””God forgiveth not (The sin of) joining other gods with Him; but He forgiveth whom He pleaseth other sins than this: one who joins other gods with God, Hath strayed far, far away (from the right).  (The Noble Quran, 4:116)”

Say: He is God, the One and Only; God, the Eternal, Absolute; He begetteth not, nor is He begotten; And there is none like unto Him.  (The Noble Quran, 112:1-4)”

“Lo! Abraham said to his father Azar: “Takest thou idols for gods? For I see thee and thy people in manifest error.”   (The Noble Quran, 6:74)”

“This is the guidance of God: He giveth that guidance to whom He pleaseth, of His worshippers. If they were to join other gods with Him, all that they did would be vain for them.  (The Noble Quran, 6:88)”

“Follow what thou art taught by inspiration from thy Lord: there is no god but He: and turn aside from those who join gods with God.  (The Noble Quran, 6:106)”

etc…

The following Noble Verses were sent to me by brother Bassam Zawadi:

“Know, therefore, that there is no god but God, and ask forgiveness for thy fault, and for the men and women who believe: for God knows how ye move about and how ye dwell in your homes.  (The Noble Quran, 47:19)”

And He is God: There is no god but He. To Him be praise, at the first and at the last: for Him is the Command, and to Him shall ye (all) be brought back.  (The Noble Quran, 28:70)”

(He is) the Creator of the heavens and the earth: He has made for you pairs from among yourselves, and pairs among cattle: by this means does He multiply you: there is nothing whatever like unto Him, and He is the One that hears and sees (all things).  (The Noble Quran, 42:11)”

No vision can grasp Him, but His grasp is over all vision: He is above all comprehension, yet is acquainted with all things.   (The Noble Quran, 6:103)”

“Remember Abraham said: “O my Lord! make this city one of peace and security: and preserve me and my sons from worshipping idols.   (The Noble Quran, 14:35)”

This literary example (which is not about religions themselves but simply contrasting a common topic) is representative of the difference between traditional and progressive education: One side tells what time it is; the other side tells how to build a clock. One teaches clarity. The other side teaches “deeper thinking.” They call this “social justice” teaching because it’s supposed to bring equity of learning mathematics to girls and minorities. It hasn’t, not for more than three decades. And, yet, those leaders who design and sell these unproven methods still hold decision-making power after setting up generations of American children to hate the study of mathematics. Now, that’s beyond understanding.

As John Saxon, the math teacher, author, and publisher once said when defending his demand for clarity in user-friendly math lessons, “Beautiful explanations do not lead to understanding.” His also insisted that “Results matter!” To replace curriculum materials with proven results with unproven materials means we really are using children as guinea pigs, and we’re getting lousy results in the process. It’s wrong on so many levels. All of us are paying for letting this happen to our children—and our country. That is also beyond understanding.

Common Core Has Improved College Readiness in Kentucky?

kentucky-flagKentucky has been getting considerable attention as the first state to implement the Common Core State Standards. Across the nation, people are looking to Kentucky, which was the first state to implement Common Core aligned testing in the 2011-12 school term, to see early indications of the real performance of Common Core.

But, while questions remain about the accuracy of Kentucky’s new Common Core tests, known as the Kentucky Performance Rating for Education Progress, or KPREP tests, the state has other college readiness test data available from far better established assessments from the ACT, Inc. Those other college readiness tests include the actual ACT college entrance test, given to all of the state’s 11th grade students, and two other tests known as EXPLORE, given to all Kentucky eighth grade students, and PLAN, which is given to all of the state’s 10th graders.

EXPLORE and PLAN have been in use in Kentucky since the 2006-07 school year. Statewide use of the ACT came on line several years thereafter.

Like the ACT, the EXPLORE and PLAN also offer Readiness Benchmark Scores, which are linked to actual college readiness data from the ACT college entrance test. Meeting EXPLORE or PLAN Benchmarks provides a good indication that students as of the eighth grade or tenth grade are progressing on track to eventually be college ready.

Obviously, if Common Core is working in Kentucky, scores on valid college readiness tests like EXPLORE and PLAN should be increasing.

But, that’s not happening.

This graph shows the percentages of Kentucky students that met or exceeded the EXPLORE Benchmark Scores in English, math, reading and science over the years that Kentucky administered this assessment statewide. The recent trends since the onset of Common Core around 2011-12 don’t look good.

EXPLORE-Benchmarks-to-2015-1024x590

The 2014-15 school year results for Common Core subjects of English, math and reading are all uniformly lower than in several previous years. For example:

English has been in steady decline for the past two years.

Reading performance is notably lower now than last year and actually is also lower than results for all but one year since 2009-10, as well.

Math performance also dropped from 2013-14 and with only one exception, the 2014-15 math Benchmark performance is worse than the performance in any of the previous five years.

These decays in performance in Common Core subjects raise concerns about the true functioning of Common Core in the Bluegrass State. The latest scores from the 2014-15 term are for the fourth year of full Common Core operation in Kentucky and the state’s education program should be stabilizing. We should not see such decay on a true college readiness test if Common Core is really working in Kentucky. However, the graph above indicates that at the eighth grade level, at least, Common Core in Kentucky has a problem.

Things only looks slightly better for Common Core in the PLAN results. While math has shown some improvement, both English and reading scores also decayed in the 2014-15 school term.

By the way, science isn’t specifically covered by Common Core although Common Core materials do include reading suggestions for the subject. However, Kentucky has not performed well on EXPLORE science in the past two years, either. The state’s best science performance was posted by the eighth grade class of 2012-13, two years earlier. There was a notable, 4-point drop in the percentage of Kentucky students meeting the science benchmark between 2012-13 and the newest results. PLAN science has been essentially flat since Kentucky’s Common Core testing with KPREP started in 2011-12, as well.

Unfortunately, except for English, disturbingly low percentages of Kentucky’s students meet the EXPLORE and PLAN Benchmarks. With its low current Benchmark Scores, Kentucky needs to be making lots of improvement in all tested subject areas, but that clearly isn’t happening, at least so far, in Kentucky’s Common Core era.

Data Source:

Excel Files for Kentucky’s EXPLORE and PLAN Benchmark results are available in the “Assessment” section on the Kentucky Department of Education’s “Supplemental Data” web page.

http://www.openhouse.education.ky.gov/Data

The PARCC Death Spiral

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

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

PARCC which has been hemorrhaging membership is still holding onto a glimmer of hope that sustainability is their’s to grasp.

The Washington Post reports:

But fewer than half of the states originally part of PARCC — 11 states and the District of Columbia — were still on board when the online tests rolled out this spring. Since then, Louisiana, Mississippi, Arkansas and Ohio all have dropped out and just seven states and the District plan to give the test in 2015-2016, raising questions about whether the consortium is in danger of completely falling apart.

PARCC spokesman David Connerty-Marin insisted that it is not. “Of course it is sustainable,” he said, pointing to the old New England Common Assessment Program, which functioned for years with just four states and 400,000 students. Though there are fewer states now shouldering the costs of the exams, PARCC has pledged not to raise the price of exams next year, Connerty-Marin said.

And even though PARCC has shrunk, he said, the nation’s testing landscape is still much different than it was in 2014, when each state gave different tests, making it difficult to compare achievement across state lines.

“A few states will come and go, but this is the new normal,” he said.

Ah, gotta love the spin.  Joanna Weiss at the Boston Globe doesn’t sound so confident writing PARCC looks like it is in “a death spiral.”

PARCC is in what looks like a death spiral: Once adopted by 26 states, it’s now used by fewer than ten. Arkansas dropped it on Thursday. Massachusetts’ Board of Elementary and Secondary Education will vote this fall on whether to adopt it for good. (Chester chairs the consortium that oversees PARCC, but he doesn’t get a Massachusetts vote.)

Chester says he’s been surprised at the depth of the PARCC backlash. But much of it could have been anticipated. The problems began with the roll-out of the Common Core standards themselves, which was oddly reminiscent of the troubled Boston 2024 Olympic bid process: planning that largely took place outside of public view, creating distrust and raising questions about how much influence outside groups, companies, and philanthropists should have over local policy.

Spin aside, I don’t know how PARCC survives if another state or two leaves.  We’ll place it on death watch.

Changing the Test Vendor Won’t Improve the Test

nevada-state-flagNevada announced that it was dumping Measured Progress because of the bang-up job it did implementing Smarter Balanced in the state.  The testing vendor is losing $51 million dollar contract… ouch.  The state has endorsed CTB/McGraw-Hill and the state board of examiners is expected to approve the new contract.

It should be noted CTB/McGraw-Hill hasn’t been without testing difficulty either.

Also changing vendors won’t improved the test one iota. The only thing they have accomplished is having a test that functions.

How inspiring!

Maggie Hassan Trades One Crap Sandwich for Another

new-hampshire-flagNew Hampshire Governor Maggie Hassan signed HB 323 into law which allows individual school districts replace Smarter Balanced with the College Board’s SAT.

*Yay*

You know the same SAT that David Coleman has ruined and one-in-four school counselors say to avoid.

The Conway Daily Sun reports that local school officials are excited to eat this new crap sandwich.

“It’s great news,” Kennett High Principal Neal Moylan — who mailed and emailed a letter urging Hassan to sign the bill Monday — said by phone Wednesday.

“I think it’s a great thing for kids and for families.”

Superintendent Kevin Richard called the signing “wonderful news.”

Moylan said the Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium testing, used for the first time this school year as part of the Common Core State Standards Initiative, was disruptive to the student body, had no buy-in for students and led to test fatigue. He shared his concerns with the Conway School Board on Monday night, prompting the board to send a letter of its own on Tuesday to the governor’s office.

The only good thing is that it is one less test for juniors to take.  Personally though I’ve never been a fan of the SAT.  It seemed pretty ridiculous to me to gauge college readiness on just two subjects.

Federal Overreach and Common Core

Williamson Evers, research fellow at the Hoover Institution, writes the latest Pioneer Institute white paper entitled Federal Overreach and Common Core.

Evers finds that the national English and mathematics standards, known as Common Core, violate three federal laws that prohibit the federal government from exercising any direction, supervision or control over curricula or the program of instruction in the states.

He proposes a better approach.

“Competitive federalism, under which states learn from and seek to improve on each others’ standards and tests, is both legal and would produce better results than monolithic national standards and tests,” says Dr. Evers. “Monopolies are hardly the best way to produce either academic quality or value for taxpayers.”

Survey: Where Does Your U.S. Representative Stand on Education?

Photo credit: Rob Crawley (CC-By-2.0)

Photo credit: Rob Crawley (CC-By-2.0)

We would like you to gather some information for us.  We would like to know where your U.S. Representative stands on education policy.  If you don’t know please take time to contact them with the questions below:

  1. Does your U.S. Representative support Common Core?
  2. Does your U.S. Representative support a federal testing mandate?
  3. Does your U.S. Representative believe parents have the right to opt their student out of assessments?
  4. Does your U.S. Representative support student data collection?
  5. Did your U.S. Representative vote for H.R. 5, the Student Success Act?

The first four questions the choices are: yes, no or not sure.  The “not sure” answer is that your U.S. Representative is not sure, not whether you are sure or not.  If you are not sure go find out!

We would like to be able to share this as a resource later on so your participation and research is appreciated!  You can fill the survey out here or use the form below.