California’s Shameful Lack of Transparency

california-state-flagCalifornia education officials state that Smarter Balanced can’t be fairly compared to their previous exam.  So how do they try to prevent this from happening.  They remove 15 years of test results from their website because…. transparency.

Seriously… EdSource reports:

California Department of Education officials have repeatedly cautioned against comparing students’ scores on past state standardized tests with forthcoming results on tests aligned with the Common Core standards. The academic standards have changed and the tests are different, making comparisons inaccurate, they and others have warned.

Earlier this month, as the department got ready to send parents the initial student scores on the new tests sometime over the next few weeks, department officials deleted old test results going back more than 15 years from the most accessible part of the department’s website, impeding the public’s ability to make those comparisons.

The department has removed results dating back to 1998 in math and English language arts from DataQuest, the website where it posts education data it collects. That includes the database of the Standardized Testing and Reporting program, known as STAR, which enabled the public to search results by district, school and student subgroups from grades 3 through 12 since 2003.

On Friday they reconsidered and started to restore the data.

Earlier this month, the California Department of Education moved results from the Standardized Testing and Reporting (STAR) program in math and English language arts from the location on our website where we plan to put up results from the new California Assessment of Student Performance and Progress, or CAASPP, while continuing to make that information available in research files and in another section of our website, EdData.

We sought to provide clear and relevant information to the public, highlight CAASPP results, and maintain our strong commitment to transparency. Unfortunately, this action was misperceived by some and may have caused confusion. As a result, we are restoring STAR test results to their previous location on our website.

Still Can’t Compare Student Performance Across a Majority of States

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

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

One of the primary stated reason to have national standards and largely national assessments is to have an “apple to apple” comparison of how states are doing in K-12 education.  ABC News reports that goal went unmet.

Scores in four other states that developed their own exams tied to the standards have been released. The second testing group, the Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers, is still setting benchmarks for each performance level and has not released any results.

Even when all the results are available, it will not be possible to compare student performance across a majority of states, one of Common Core’s fundamental goals.

What began as an effort to increase transparency and allow parents and school leaders to assess performance nationwide has largely unraveled, chiefly because states are dropping out of the two testing groups and creating their own exams.

U.S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan told state leaders in 2010 that the new tests would “help put an end to the insidious practice of establishing 50 different goal posts for educational success.”

“In the years ahead, a child in Mississippi will be measured against the same standard of success as a child in Massachusetts,” Duncan said.

Massachusetts and Mississippi students did take the PARCC exam this year. But Mississippi’s Board of Education has voted to withdraw from the consortium for all future exams.

“The whole idea of Common Core was to bring students and schools under a common definition of what success is,” said Tom Loveless, a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution. “And Common Core is not going to have that. One of its fundamental arguments has been knocked out from under it.”

Read more.

Nevada to Receive $1.3 Million Settlement from Measured Progress

nevada-state-flagMeasured Progress is giving Nevada almost $1.3 million back for their botched implementation of the Smarter Balanced Assessment last Spring.

Nevada Attorney General Adam Paul Laxalt’s office put out the following press release on Monday:

Nevada Attorney General Adam Paul Laxalt announced that his office, representing the Nevada Department of Education (NDE), reached a prelitigation settlement with Measured Progress, Inc. The settlement is a result of the company’s failure to provide an efficient testing system intended to deliver Nevada’s Criterion Referenced Tests (CRTs) to students in grades three through eight. In March 2015, electronic testing materials developed by the Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium and delivered by Measured Progress failed, preventing students across Nevada from completing their federally mandated standardized tests. After extensive pre-litigation negotiations, the company agreed to refund the NDE a total of $1.299 million in cash and services, to cover some of the costs of the testing program, and to assist with future educational programs.

“This settlement is just one example of how litigators in my office problem-solve to keep the state out of court and save taxpayers’ money,” said Laxalt. “Without being embroiled in costly litigation, the state will be reimbursed for its losses and can now focus on ensuring that students will be able to complete next year’s examinations without interruption.”

In 2010, Nevada partnered with Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium, a group of states that collaboratively developed the assessments to serve as Nevada’s CRTs. In the same year, the NDE entered into a contract with Measured Progress to deliver various assessments that included the CRTs. Among other things, Smarter Balanced was to provide test content and a test delivery platform to Measured Progress, the entity responsible for delivering Nevada’s CRTs, as well as managing and executing an effective technology rollout of the Smarter Balanced assessments.

Originally, testing scheduled for March 16 was delayed until March 30, 2015 for Smarter Balanced to test the quality of the system. Despite the delay, students experienced difficulty logging into and staying on the online assessment portal. As a result, students across Nevada were unable to complete the assessment, thereby invalidating their scores.

“I appreciate Attorney General Laxalt and his staff for working with the Department of Education on this important matter,” added Superintendent of Education Dale Erquiaga. “Nevada’s testing experience in 2015 was completely unsatisfactory, however, this settlement demonstrates that Measured Progress is committed to doing the right thing. We are now able to move forward and focus on the needs of our students.”

The settlement resolves allegations that Measured Progress failed in its obligations to deliver a fully functioning test. Measured Progress will be required to reduce its fees by $789,021. Additionally, Measured Progress will provide Nevada’s middle schools with a product, valued at $510,000 that will help students and teachers transition to the Next Generation of Science Standards. Measured Progress’s contract to deliver assessments ended in 2015. No settlement has been reached with Smarter Balanced, the successor entity to the Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium at this time.

Deputy Attorney General Gregory D. Ott represented Attorney General Laxalt and the Nevada Department of Education in this matter.

To view the Measured Progress settlement, click here.

$1.2 Million seems awfully low considering the state paid $4 million for this broken system. The fact Nevada had to seek legal action says a lot about the ethics of the group. When you fail to deliver on your end of a contract do you really need to be compelled in court or through a legal settlement to offer a refund?

Apparently both Measured Progress and Smarter Balanced do and it is the taxpayers who were stiffed in the end.

Only One in Four Public School Parents Approve of Common Core

Phi Delta Kappa/Gallup released their annual poll of Americans on education issues on Sunday. This year included phone interviews with 1,000 adults and Internet surveys with 3,499 adults.

Some highlights:

  • 54 percent of respondents are against teachers using the Common Core with only 24% approving the standards.  The results among public school parents doesn’t change much, only 25% of parents support Common Core with 54% disapproving.
  • 35 percent of blacks are against Common Core with 41% being in favor.
  • 50 percent of Hispanics are against Common Core with only 29% being in favor.
  • Across party lines more people oppose Common Core than favor it. 69% of Republicans opposed Common Core with 14% approving.  38% of Democrats oppose Common Core with 35% approving. 50% of independents oppose Common Core with 23% in favor.
  • 64% said there was too much of an emphasis on standardized testing.
  • 44% said parents shouldn’t be allowed to opt their children out with 41% saying they should. Looking at just public school parents however 47% said they should be allowed to opt their children out of assessments. 40% of public school respondents said no.
  • 55% of parents said they wouldn’t opt their children out of assessments, but 31% said they would excuse their student.
  • Only 14% of Americans believe that standardized testing is “very important” for measuring their school’s effectiveness.

Read the entire report.

Asking the State Educrat About Common Core Is Not Research

kasich-nh-education-summit-2015Ohio Governor John Kasich (R-OH) was one of the candidates who attended the New Hampshire Education Summit on Wednesday.  He was asked “Common Core, do you still support it?”

Look, let me tell you what I see what that label is. The Governor of Georgia, Sonny Perdue, and by the way you don’t get elected Governor of Georgia if you are a liberal, got together with another governor before I became governor and they said students across the country ought to have the same opportunities and education with high standards. They brought in school officials, state education officials, education experts and they created a set of standards.

In my state we had lower standards. Massachusetts our neighbor here (New Hampshire) they pushed very high standards, their students are doing very well in Massachusetts. So I look at this if you have a very low bar everybody gets to jump over. You remember Lake Wobegon? Everybody’s getting an A, and then we get to graduation and 40 percent are ready for college.

So what I believe in Ohio is we should have high standards and the curriculum should meet high standards needs to be developed by local school boards with parental advisors. I don’t write the standards, President Obama doesn’t write the standards, or the curriculum, we have the high standards established as where we should go and do it only in math and in English. The bottom line is we have higher standards with school boards writing the curriculum to meet the higher standards with parental advisory. I think that is pretty good because I don’t think, I don’t support Washington… I have a whole lot of thoughts about Washington.  I was there in the 90s when we tried to eliminate the Department of Education, ok, I was the chairman of the budget committee. There is no substitute for higher standards and a way to make sure local school boards are involved, the parents are involved and at the end of the day we have some testing to figure out how kids are doing. So if other states don’t want to do that, that’s fine.

If I were President, I would want to travel across the country to state legislatures telling them about the laboratories of change in each of the states so we practice best practices. If you got a better way to do it in New Hampshire, then I should go back to Ohio and try to implement it there. I don’t think Presidents should reign from on high. They ought to be out here giving control back to states and local communities and being part of the process to develop and share great ideas across the country. So you know I don’t know about that term and all that stuff.  I’m just telling you what we’re doing in Ohio.

He was asked about why so many of his competitors “flip flopped” on Common Core.

I don’t change my positions on much unless this fine gentleman here in the nice relaxed shirt and beard can, if you have a better idea for me I’m always willing to change my mind.  If somebody can present a case to me as to why my position is wrong on anything. That’s called open-mindedness, but you’re going to have to make a good case. But for me, I’m not going to change my position because there is four people in the front row yelling at me. I just don’t operate that way. You know, when I get hired as Governor I’m a CEO. You hire me, I do my job.

On the other hand I know that the public has been very concerned about this. That’s why in our Legislature we wrote into the law local control, with local school boards, writing the curriculum with parental advisors. Why did we do it? Because I hear the public yelling about this and they are concerned about it because they love their kids and are worried their kids are at risk, but I have to tell you in looking through all the facts, not getting all of my information from the internet, and looking at this over and over and over again I concluded in my state we need to raise our standards.

I have two 15-year-old daughters.  I want my daughters to come out with the best education. And do I like it when they get As? Love it, but you know what? I’d rather know that they are getting a B or worse than that so we can work on fixing it so they can be better.

That’s what education is about it’s about unlocking your future, and that is what I’m most concerned about Campbell, so on any of these issues, everybody here needs to understand I look at stuff, I study, I can’t tell you how many times I called our state superintendent of schools with at least 1o questions over and over – tell me this, tell me that, tell me this because I want to know the facts. Once I know the facts then I am going to make up my mind and I am going to be the best leader I can be. But none of this finger in the air stuff for me, and I am not putting anybody else down. Everybody has to lead the way they want to lead or do it the way they want to do it. I’m just telling you how I do it.

He said a lot here so let me make just a few observations:

  • It’s obvious he’s just regurgitating the talking points he’s been told about the development of the Common Core State Standards from the governors involvement to who was involved developing the standards.  The pertinent fact is this, the writing team lacked involvement from classroom teachers for the most part, and among the lead writers it lacked people with experience writing standards.  It also lacked content experts, especially in math.
  • Massachusetts had higher standards until they adopted Common Core.  Then they jettisoned them which is a shame as they had an effective model to follow.  It’s unfortunate that the Common Core State Standards Initiative didn’t emulate what they did.
  • Common Core is driving curriculum and creating a literal monopoly.  I don’t know of any school personally (I’m not saying they are not out there) that doesn’t purchase textbooks and writes all of their curriculum in house.  That isn’t to say the curriculum they purchase isn’t adapted, but when everything out there is Common Core because you have a literal monopoly formed in the publishing industry it’s hard to deviate – even if you live in a state that didn’t adopt Common Core. Ask parents in states like Texas, Nebraska and Virginia how often they see curriculum pop up in their schools that says it is Common Core aligned.
  • It’s great he wants parental advisors for curriculum, but it’s too bad he isn’t listening to the parents in his state about Common Core… more on that coming up.
  • “There’s no substitute for higher standards.”  What research is he basing this on since Common Core essentially is dataless reform?
  • Considering Common Core wasn’t field tested before adoption the process of adoption ignored the principles of states being laboratories of change he touts.  When 46 states adopt essentially at one time this does not give states the opportunity to see how it is working in other states.  Common Core and its adoption is the antithesis of federalism.
  • “I’m just telling you what we’re doing in Ohio.” As if that’s original.  Governor Kasich is a follower, not a leader on this issue.  Going with the flow is staying with Common Core.
  • Re. flip flopping… Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal, for instance, changed his mind because he listened to parents.  I’ve spoken with him on numerous occasions. He felt this at home.  He’s the only candidate right now that has discussed problems with the content of the standards.  This isn’t just political expedience at play.  There are a number of candidates who have always been against Common Core.
  • He says he’d be willing to change his mind if people would make a good case.  Has he been listening? Yes there are people out there who are lousy advocates of stopping Common Core, but there are plenty of people who have made reasoned arguments against Common Core.  Has he really listened to them.
  • “Not getting all of my information through the internet.” So he’s basically saying grassroots activists and parents are wrong because they get their information from the internet.  There are pro-Common Core websites out there as well I suppose he doesn’t trust those either. Unfortunately the media for years has ignored this story.  Where else were parents to turn?  New media and social media has made up for where mainstream media has failed.  Is there incorrect information being promoted through some websites and blog about Common Core? Yes.  I’ve seen opponents put forth bad information and I’ve seen “trusted” news sources put forth nothing but propaganda.
  • So where does Kasich get his answers?  From his state superintendent of schools!  Ok that’s once source, are we to believe he has done his due diligence studying this issue because he talks to an educrat?  News flash Governor Kasich, that’s not doing your homework.  If you just see what comes out of your State Superintendent’s mouth as facts then your “research” if you can call it that is one-sided. I challenge Kasich to list what study, paper, article he has read from an opponent of Common Core.  There’s a lot of good information out there, but I highly doubt he has read any of it.

You can watch his entire appearance here or below:

Ted Cruz, Rand Paul Receive an A – on Common Core Report Card

rand-paul-education-policy

U.S. Senator Rand Paul, along with Ted Cruz, received an A-.

ThePulse2016, American Principles in Action, and Cornerstone Policy Research released  a Common Core score card on all of the major Republican candidates minus former New York Governor George Pataki and former Virginia Governor Jim Gilmore.  Leaders are U.S. Senators Ted Cruz (R-TX) and Rand Paul (R-KY) received an A-, Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal received a B+.  On the other end of the spectrum former Florida Governor Jeb Bush and Ohio Governor John Kasich received an F.  Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker and New Jersey Governor Chris Christie receive a D+.  Surprisingly, U.S. Senator Marco Rubio received a C.

Here are the candidates’ grades:

A- … Ted Cruz
A- … Rand Paul
B+… Bobby Jindal
B  … Lindsey Graham
B  … Rick Perry
B  … Rick Santorum
B- … Ben Carson
B- … Donald Trump
C+… Carly Fiorina
C  … Mike Huckabee
C  … Marco Rubio
D+… Chris Christie
D+… Scott Walker
F  … Jeb Bush
F  … John Kasich

Full disclosure: I was a contributor for the report that accompanies the report card, but I did not determine the final grade.

The criteria used was:

  1. Whether the candidate recognizes the full scope of the Common Core issue and has advocated for, or taken, action that would roll back the Common Core education standards.
  2. Whether the candidate has advocated for protecting, or taken steps to protect, state and local decision-making in the area of education, e.g., offered a plan to give states enforceable protection against USED overreach, to opt out of the USED, unwind USED as a whole, etc.
  3. Whether the candidate has advocated for protecting child and family privacy, for example by opposing improper gathering and use of data including student medical information and any information that would reflect a student’s psychological characteristics or behaviors.

They could have included more criteria and noted in the scorecard report, “Due to time constraints, we did not include categories that could rightly be included in a Common Core scorecard. Those include initiatives that expand government-funded early childcare and the alignment of education to a national workforce system. Those initiatives will require increased data collection. The latter one will also entail the continuation of federal efforts to shape state “workforce investment” efforts that are an affront to state sovereignty and capitalism and that treat children and adults as human capital–as a means to an end.”

They also explain the grading:

  • A  Champions the issue (e.g., offers legislation, makes it a centerpiece issue)
  • B  Professes support, but has not provided leadership or otherwise championed it
  • C  Has neither helped nor hurt the cause
  • D  Has an overall negative record on the issue
  • F  Robustly and consistently works against the issue

Below are excerpts of what was said about each candidate in the report:

Jeb Bush – F

Gov. Bush is perhaps the most outspoken supporter of the Common Core Standards in the 2016 field. He has publicly praised David Coleman, one of the two chief architects of the Common Core (who is now chairman of the College Board). He has propagated the false narrative that the Common Core standards are merely learning goals and are of high quality.91 He has turned a blind eye to the reasons underlying opposition to Common Core and instead used straw-man arguments to dismiss opponents as relying on “Alice-in- Wonderland logic.

Ben Carson – B-

As a non-office-holder, Carson is pretty much limited to speaking on the issues. He says the right things but has given no indication of a deep understanding of Common Core or the attendant problems.

Chris Christie – D+

We would look for Christie to lead the effort to replace the Common Core in New Jersey with good standards – not just a “review” leading to a rebrand – and to replace PARCC with an assessment aligned to the new standards. His statement, in a thinly veiled reference to Gov. Perry, that at least he tried Common Core is particularly troublesome.116 It indicates that he does not understand how the federal government interferes with state decision- making, does not appreciate the academic deficiencies of the Common Core, and does not understand why parents are upset.

Christie epitomizes “making a big issue into a small issue.” His website does not address Common Core and does not address his view as to the relationship between USED and the states on education. Does he think it is just fine? Does he think the states need structural protections? Does he want to eliminate USED? Perhaps make it bigger? These are campaign issues, and the people want to know.

Ted Cruz – A-

We encourage Sen. Cruz to spell out in greater detail his plans for reigning in the federal government, to talk about the nexus between Common Core’s quality and the perversion of our constitutional structure and to raise the issues with accurate specifics rather than to talk about “repealing” Common Core. Does Cruz have further proposals to safeguard state and local decision-making and protect parental rights? His website does not address the Common Core issues, does not say anything about student and family privacy, and does not address his views as to the relationship between the federal government and the states with regard to education.

Carly Fiorina – C+

Fiorina’s website states, “Government is rigged in favor of powerful interests. The only way to reimagine our government is to reimagine who is running it.” She would do well to address these issues more often and in more detail -especially given that the Common Core is being driven by the “powerful interests” that claim to serve the interests of the economy and business. Fiorina would do well to discuss the issue in more depth, to raise the qualitative problems, and to state whether she has any proposals to safeguard state decision-making.

Lindsey Graham – B

Graham seems to understand the issues with Common Core today, but it is unfortunate this opposition did not come sooner. He missed an early opportunity to strike at the Common Core in 2013 by not co-signing a letter penned by Senator Chuck Grassley to the chair and vice-chair of the Senate Appropriations Sub-Committee on Education that called for language to prohibit the use of federal funding to promote the Common Core, end the federal government’s involvement in the Common Core testing consortium, and prevent the United States Department of Education from rescinding a state’s No Child Left Behind waiver if it repealed Common Core.

Mike Huckabee – C

Gov. Mike Huckabee has a checkered past on the issue of the Common Core. Once an ardent supporter of the system, he now claims that the original “governor-controlled states’ initiative” eventually “morphed into a frankenstandard that nobody, including me, can support.” However, as recently as 2013, Mike Huckabee told the Council of Chief State School Officers to “[r]ebrand [Common Core], refocus it, but don’t retreat.”

As the campaign approached, Huckabee began to be more consistent in his opposition (although he was still giving a nod to the supposedly pure origins of the Common Core).

Bobby Jindal – B+

Jindal was an early supporter of Common Core. But in 2014 he come out swinging against it, although he occasionally lapses into a narrative that it was the federal involvement that made it bad. He supported legislation to rid his state of Common Core. He has also sued USED in federal court on the grounds that the Department’s Race to the Top programs was coercive, violates federal law, and is contrary to the Constitution. Jindal stumbled out of the gate on Common Core, but he has righted himself and has admirably pushed back against the federal overreach.

John Kasich – F

Like Bush, Kasich is an unapologetic cheerleader for the Common Core. His only response to the large and active anti-Common Core grassroots operation in Ohio is to make fun of them.

Rand Paul – A-

Sen. Rand Paul supported Senator Grassley’s effort to defund the Common Core in 2013 and 2014. He co-signed a letter penned by Senator Chuck Grassley to the chair and vice- chair of the Senate Appropriations Sub-Committee on Education that called for language to be included prohibiting the use of federal funding to promote the Common Core, ending the federal government’s involvement in the Common Core testing consortium and preventing USED from rescinding a state’s No Child Left Behind waiver if it repealed Common Core. Sens. Paul and Cruz are the only senatorial candidates for president who co-signed Grassley’s letter.

Paul has paid more attention to the Common Core issue than most other candidates and has spoken forcefully against it.

Rick Perry – B

Gov. Rick Perry is one of the few candidates, declared or prospective, who has opposed the Common Core from the outset. As Governor, Rick Perry signed HB 462, which effectively banned the Common Core from being adopted in Texas…

…With regard to privacy, in 2013 Perry signed HB 2103, which created a data-sharing agency for educational data governed by an appointed board rather than the state educational agency. It appears that the data can only be shared within the state- with the exception of inter-state sharing with other state departments of education. Among other problems, it allows unfettered data-sharing among agencies designated as “cooperating agencies” –the Texas Education Agency, the state higher-ed authority, and the Texas Workforce Commission. It allows any researcher (no parameters on who is a legitimate researcher) to get data if he uses “secure methods” and agrees to comply with the ineffective federal Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA). It requires each participating state agency to make data available for the preceding 20 years, and allows data-sharing agreements with “local agencies or organizations” that provide education services if “useful to the conduct of research.”

Marco Rubio – C

Sen. Marco Rubio has spoken strongly against Common Core and wrote a letter to Secretary Duncan in 2011 questioning the legality of using federal No Child Left Behind waivers to drive policy changes, like the adoption of Common Core, in the states…

…Rubio’s official website does not specifically address the issue of Common Core. However, it does states that in order to prepare people to “seize their opportunities in the new economy,” high schools should graduate more students “ready to work.” It is hard to parse from this general statement what the education policies would look like under a Rubio Administration. What does Rubio believe would validate a student as “work ready”? Would it be the further alignment of our K-12 education system to the projected demands of specific sectors of the economy to train workers for favored big-businesses, which would mean more of the Chamber of Commerce-endorsed Common Core? Or, does it mean aligning education to the demands of parents and the local community as a whole, which would mean more local control? It would behoove Senator Rubio to answer these questions and to discuss the qualitative aspects of the Common Core and whether he believes the federal involvement helped, or hurt, the quality of the standards.

Rick Santorum – B

Santorum’s website addresses the problem of Common Core in terms of both federal overreach and the substance of the standards. While many other candidates do the former, few address the latter…

…Although Santorum voted for No Child Left Behind when it passed the Senate in 2001, he has since described that vote as “a mistake.” We give a candidate credit for truly admitting a mistake.

Donald Trump – B-

Trump has struck a chord with the Republican base, something many would have thought unlikely a year ago. Citizens view him as having the courage and will to stand and fight, something that many GOP candidates have seemed to lack in years past. As the primary cycle wears on, the base will want to hear more detail from Trump as well as other candidates. The candidate who does this will engender the gratitude of parents and other citizens. Trump would do well to blaze the trail on this.

Scott Walker – D+

Until recently, Governor Walker’s rhetoric on Common Core has been good. He admits that, when he ran in 2010, it wasn’t on his radar and that’s certainly understandable given how the standards were pushed into the states. He rightly gives credit to the state’s citizens for making it an issue, something that may not seem like a big deal, but it is to activists who have been ridiculed as irrational by elitists in both parties…

Sometimes legislation gets watered down despite the intrepid efforts of its proponents. At other times, a nominal proponent gives it lip service but fails to fight and, thereby, actually signals that he will not raise an objection if the legislation is defeated or watered down. On the Common Core, Walker is in the latter category…

You can read the entire report below.

North Carolina Standards Review Commission Wants Changes

NC-flag-700The Charlotte News & Observer reports that the North Carolina Standards Review Commission wants changes to the new standards:

The Academic Standards Review Commission met Monday to discuss draft recommendations for changes to Common Core, national standards for English and math that cover kindergarten through 12th grade. The proposals call for a restructuring of high school math, adopting Minnesota standards for kindergarten through 8th grade math, a streamlining of English goals, and making more opportunities for students to write.

The state adopted Common Core in 2010. It is not a curriculum, but a set of detailed goals students should achieve by the end of each grade. Schools are entering their fourth year using the standards, but the goals continue to be a target of criticism. The commission, a group of political appointees, was charged with reviewing the standards and sending their recommendations for changes to the legislature and the State Board of Education by the end of the year.

Two work groups, one for math and one for English/language arts, produced draft reports based on their reviews of other states’ standards, teacher surveys, and analysis by outside researchers. The commission is planning to gather teacher feedback at regional forums. Dates have not been set yet.

High school math courses are “integrated” in that algebra, geometry and other topics are taught together over three years. Integrated math is not required under Common Core, but the commission work group evaluating math recommended the state return to teaching Algebra I, Geometry, and Algebra II.

“Let’s go back to the old way,” at least temporarily, said John T. Scheick , a retired math professor and commission member.

Watch Stop Common Core NC to get some local perspective on this.  From what I can see I’m cautiously optimistic as it seems, without seeing draft proposals of course, that they are looking at making some significant changes.  The Devil is always in the details however.  The final draft standards are not due until December.

School Superintendent: “Aspire Is An Autopsy”

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

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

ACT’s Common Core assessment, Aspire, did not receive a glowing endorsement from at least one school superintendent in Alabama.

From AL.com:

Madison City Schools showed more than 20 percent higher proficiency than the statewide average for the 2015 ACT Aspire assessments, but Superintendent Dr. Dee Fowler didn’t appear enthused when sharing the scores this week.

The reason was partly because he’s only interested in comparing Madison schools to a handful of districts in the state — Homewood City Schools’ scores were nearly identical to Madison in 2014 — and partly because he doesn’t hold Aspire assessments in high regard.

“Aspire is an autopsy,” he said. “We get them in the summer when you can’t do anything about it.”

Madison school officials said they prefer the STAR assessments, which they voluntarily give students each year. Setting higher standards than the rest of the state on taking the STAR assessments is a key reason Madison scored near the top in the nation on Aspire, they said…

…STAR is 95 percent accurate on predicting how a student will perform on Aspire, the superintendent added. He also didn’t think Aspire can fairly gauge Madison City Schools on longevity success because the district is growing by an average of 250 students per year; in other words, it doesn’t truly compare the same students annually, Fowler said.

Stacy Blair, elementary instruction specialist for the district, said Madison believes so strongly in the STAR assessments, that it had raised the proficiency standards from the state-recommended 40 percent to its own standard of 60 percent in recent years and expects to increase to 65 percent this coming year.

“STAR is big,” she said. “It’s the leader in RTI (Response to Intervention).”

Fowler said he’s not annoyed by having to give Aspire tests because it’s only a couple hours each year, but prefers STAR for its real time feedback.

Blair and Fowler also said they prefer STAR to Aspire, because the tests, given five times a year, only take 20 minutes each time. Aspire tests can take about an hour for a single subject area.

Read the rest.  Hmm… the state mandated assessment isn’t very helpful.  Anyone surprised?

Chris Christie’s Common Core “Concerns” Don’t Translate Into Action

chris-christieIn a recent interview on CNN, New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie argued that the “national teachers union” deserves a “punch in the face” because it is “not for education for our children” but is rather for “greater membership, greater benefits, greater pay for their members.”

But how does that statement square with Christie’s actions as governor?

Here’s his recent explanation as to why his state adopted the national Common Core Standards: “We signed on to try to get funds during a really difficult fiscal time.”

Until recently, he had been an ardent supporter of the Common Core.  In 2013 he was quoted as saying, “We’re doing Common Core in New Jersey and we’re going to continue. And this is one of those areas where I’ve agreed more with the President than not.”

By 2014, Christie had somewhat changed his tune: “I have some real concerns about Common Core and how it’s being rolled out and that’s why I put a commission together to study it.”  In early 2015, Christie had again taken a newly evolved position as he said, “I have grave concerns about the way this is being done, and especially the way the Obama administration has tried to implement it through tying federal funding to these things,” he said.

During an appearance on Face the Nation, after having expressed his reticence about Common Core, Christie said of his state’s use of the Standards:

. . .  I gave it four years to work. I mean, unlike some other folks, who just reflexively dismissed it, I said, all right, let’s give it a chance. Let’s see if it will work. It was originally written by the nation’s governors. Let’s give it a chance. But in four years, John, we did not have educators or parents buy into Common Core.

Underlying Christie’s actions on Common Core is one thing: the money.  He jumped all over it because of the federal money.  And what of his recent decision to study, through a state commission, Common Core?

Prudent leaders study things before they sign on to them—especially when the stakes are a child’s education.

But has Christie learned anything?

Despite expressing concerns about the Common Core, he is still committed to having the children of New Jersey take the much-maligned PARCC standardized tests, which were developed with federal money and are aligned to the Common Core.  In that regard, he said, “I will not permit New Jersey to risk losing vital federal education funds because some would prefer to let the perfect get in the way of the good.”

As Chris Tienken, associate professor of education at Seton Hall, told NJ.com, “If the accountability indicators are all pointing to the test aligned to the Common Core, what do we think is going to happen in the classroom? What gets tested gets taught.”  Furthermore, federal law requires the state standards to be aligned to the state assessments.

In other words, Christie won’t let the best interests of the students get in the way of federal funding.

If Christie were serious about getting New Jersey out of Common Core, he would set the course for high-quality standards—such as what Massachusetts had before Common Core—and reclaim his state’s control over the testing.  He would also lay down the marker to get the federal government out of the business of telling a state when and in what subjects it subjects children to standardized tests.

Permitting the behemoth of Common Core to increasingly tighten its grip around New Jersey schools in exchange for federal funding makes Chris Christie the last thing the Republican base is looking for in the next president.

Arkansas Parents Keep Watch Over Your Upcoming Common Core Review

arkansas flagArkansas Governor Asa Hutchinson on Wednesday recommended in a letter that the Arkansas State Board of Education proceed with their review of the Common Core State Standards using the recommendations of his Common Core executive council.

Arkansas’ revisions of standards will follow a formal and public review, assessment, and public comment procedure. Hutchinson directs the State Board of Education to:

  • provide ample time to review and revise standards as needed,
  • change the name of the standards, if needed,
  • facilitate communication between the Arkansas Department of Education (ADE), school districts, and parents regarding standards,
  • allow other bodies (e.g., legislature) to review recommendations as needed, and
  • safeguard student data.

Some things the key decision-makers need to consider.

  • Changing the name if you don’t change the standards is simply playing games with parents and citizens who have spent the time fighting against Common Core.  If you’re not going to be serious about changing the Common Core be honest about it and don’t bother changing the name.  Parents do expect different standards however so the end process should be standards that look vastly different than Common Core.
  • Do not follow the path of Kentucky and Louisiana having parents to go through an arduous public comment process online.  Make it simple, don’t expect your parents provide comments and a rewrite of each standard they object to.  Let parents comment on the Common Core math and ELA standards as a whole.
  • Have face-to-face public comment opportunities with parents, teachers and taxpayers throughout the state at times they are available to come.  The State Board should meet at different locations and don’t have meetings during the day or right when the work day ends.  That does not help facilitate good participation. These meetingssd should happen at night.
  • Look at and seriously consider quality standards from other states that predate Common Core.  I would suggest Massachusetts’ ELA standards and California’s math standards.
  • It would be best to start from a clean slate assuming all of the standards need to go, rather than through a process that seeks to just “tweak” individual standards.
  • Also measures to protect student data in the state should not rely upon FERPA as a guide as that federal law has essentially been gutted.