The ESEA Reauthorization Conference Report Is Now Public

Photo credit: Rob Crawley (CC-By-2.0)

Photo credit: Rob Crawley (CC-By-2.0)

The conference report for the reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act, now called the Every Student Succeeds Act, has been made public.  It is 1,059 pages long and Congress is somehow supposed to throughly vet this bill and vote in two days.  This is simply not acceptable.

The House Education and the Workforce Committee puts a positive spin on the bill.  They claim:

  • Prohibits any agent of the federal government — including the secretary of education — from incentivizing, forcing, or coercing states into adopting Common Core, or interfering with a state’s standards or assessments.
  • Rejects policies and programs the secretary has used to coerce states to adopt Common Core, including waivers of K-12 education law and Race to the Top.
  • Prevents the secretary from imposing additional burdens on states and school districts through the regulatory process in areas of standards, assessments, and state accountability plans.

First, as it relates to Common Core, this bill is like slamming the barn door shut after the horses have already run out. The damage has been done.

Second, the bill still requires state plans and gives the Secretary of Education enormous authority to approve or disapprove them which in reality negates the claims that this bill do anything to help states get rid of Common Core.

Third, this bill expands early childhood funding and thus federal strings into pre-school.  The bill’s language still reflects a change in No Child Left Behind’s application to “all public elementary school and secondary school studentswithall public school students.”

Fourth, this bill still contains a testing mandate and the opt-out amendment that was added to the original House bill has been stripped out.

Let your voice be heard, contact your member of Congress today!

You can read the bill for yourself below or download here.

62% of Connecticut Voters Oppose Common Core


Emerson College released a poll last week that showed an overwhelming number of Connecticut voters oppose the Common Core State Standards.

They first asked if they were familiar with Common Core for Connecticut schools.  56.9% said yes, 23.5% said no, and 19.6 said they don’t know.  How do you not know if you are aware of something or not?  Strange.

The second question they asked “do you support or opposed Common Core?” No spin.

61.9% they were opposed, 20.5% were in support and 16.7% said they didn’t know.

The poll was conducted from Friday night, November 13 through Monday, November 16. The poll had an overall sample of 623 registered voters with a +/-3.9%, and a 95% confidence level.

Marco Rubio: We Don’t Need Common Core or a Department of Education

Photo credit: Gage Skidmore (CC-By-SA 2.0)

Photo credit: Gage Skidmore (CC-By-SA 2.0)

During the Presidential Family Forum in Des Moines, IA last Friday U.S. Senator Marco Rubio gave a direct answers about what a federal role in K-12 education should look like when the topic was brought up by Frank Luntz who moderated the forum.

“I agree that our K-12 system in America is deficient and it is not preparing kids to compete in the 21st century, but it really isn’t the role of the federal government to run the K through 12 system that belongs to state and local communities. That’s why we don’t need Common Core, and quite frankly that is why we don’t need a Department of Education,” Rubio said.

He then discussed higher education, in particular trade schools, but then Luntz circled back around to K-12 education.  Luntz talked about how some communities are failing and states differ from one another in quality of education.  He said, “aren’t kids suffering as a result?”

“The answer to that is you better get better state legislators, better school board members, a better governor, because it is the local government… If you put the federal government in charge of K through 12 education you are not going to be happy with the result. Because that means you are going to have to go to Washington, DC and try to influence some unelected, unaccountable bureaucrat at the Department of Education. That means you have to travel to Washington, DC to get Congress to pay attention and they are only going to make it worse,” Rubio answered.

“I honestly, truly and fully believe that it constitutionally belong at the state and local level, but you will get better results when the people making those K through 12 decisions are the people closest to our people,” Rubio added.

Watch his entire answer below:


No, Massachusetts Has Not Dropped Common Core

massachusetts-state-flagIt seems like people are confused about what the Massachusetts State Board of Elementary and Secondary Education actually did.  This month Massachusetts Education Commissioner Mitchell Chester recommended that Massachusetts adopt a hybrid PARCC-MCAS assessment.  The Board approved that recommendation.

The assessment will be aligned to the Common Core State Standards.  The standards have not been changed.  They will still be assessed.  They will still drive curriculum.  The test will still include elements of PARCC.

Is this a hit to PARCC?  Absolutely, but let’s not go overboard on what this actually accomplishes. One could say it is a small steps, but these headlines below are confusing.

These folks should know better so that is discouraging. So I want to be clear – Massachusetts has not dropped Common Core. They have not given up on Common Core. They gave up on PARCC (sort of).

Late-Stage Draft of ESEA Reauthorization Bill

Education Week shared what they thought to be a late-stage draft of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA) reauthorization that confirms much of what has already been leaked.  We do not know if this is final version approved by the conferees on Thursday, but it’s likely pretty close.

It’s also 391 pages so enjoy the light reading material.  This is what our Representatives are supposed to fully vet and then vote on within two days.

Speaker Paul Ryan, Make ESEA Reauthorization Bill Public for 60 Days

Speaker Paul Ryan (R-WI) after being sworn in.

Speaker Paul Ryan (R-WI) after being sworn in.

Because the reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (No Child Left Behind) will be the largest piece of federal education legislation Congress will pass in over a decade, Speaker Paul Ryan (R-WI) should allow the bill to be made publicly available for at least 60 days before the House considers it.

The bill is not scheduled to be made publicly available until November 30th. Thus, a vote should not be scheduled until late January. Currently, it is scheduled for December 2; two days is clearly not sufficient. House members will be forced to vote on a bill they haven’t read.

The American people expected a new style of leadership under Speaker Ryan, not more of the same. If he allows a bill of this magnitude to become law without adequately vetting its merits and faults, it will affirm that the same ills that plagued Congress under Speaker Boehner remain fully intact.

While the conference committee hearing consisted mostly of members editorializing about how important it is to pass the bill, we did learn a little about the bill:

Neither the House version of the bill, the Student Success Act (SSA), nor the Senate version, the Every Child Achieves Act, were considered ideal to conservatives. In fact, the SSA barely passed the house amid complaints it didn’t do enough to restore power back to the states. The main incentive for conservatives to ignore less appealing aspects of the bill and pass it was the inclusion of a provision to allow the portability of Title 1 funds, which many believed important to the School Choice movement. The conference committee proceedings confirmed that Title 1 portability was no longer included in the new bill.

The conference committee proceedings also revealed that the new bill would increase spending by 12% over the next five years. Do conservatives think this increase is appropriate when our country is facing 18 trillion in debt? The federal government has increased spending on education by 300% since ESEA was passed with nothing to show for it; student test scores have remained flat.

High-stakes testing mandates are retained.

What we have heard, but can’t confirm:

The new bill is hundreds of pages longer than either prior version.

It contains new programs that weren’t in either prior version.

There is a new competitive grant for pre-schools- think Race to the Top for Tots

Very complex language that is unclear. This means the US Depart of Education will have tremendous leeway to interpret it to the advantage of the federal government. Because it has discretion over how to administer the law, unclear language makes it easier for the US Department of Education to justify and make decisions to place requirements on the states through its rule-making authority.

ESEA Reauthorization Reconciliation Bill Passes Out of Conference

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

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

Two days… two days is all the conferees on the ESEA reauthorization bill had to consider this bill.  The language still has not been released, and all but one conferee voted to send this bill out of the conference committee today.  U.S. Senator Rand Paul (R-KY) voted no by proxy.

There were eleven amendments added that don’t really offer any improvements that we can see (not that we have seen the bill).  The bill will not be made public until November 30.  The House will take up the bill on December 2nd.  It is uncertain when a vote will take place.

This bill barely passed the House 218 to 213 with some amendments that made it more palatable for conservatives.  This bill, it has been reported (though no one has actually seen the bill) has any of those provisions.

So it is vitally important that we overwhelm the phones, Twitter accounts, and email of our U.S. Representative, and other members of Congress as well.  This ESEA reauthorization must be killed in the U.S. House.

The ESEA Reauthorization Process Stinks

Photo credit: Rob Crawley (CC-By-2.0)

Photo credit: Rob Crawley (CC-By-2.0)

I recently wrote about the compromises that had been reported in the framework for the Elementary and Secondary Education reauthorization bill.  The language of this framework has yet to see the light of day.

We have learned that the conferees for the ESEA reauthorization reconciliation received a hard copy of compromise bill on Tuesday night.  Hard copies are not easily shared.  Erin Tuttle of Hoosiers Against Common Core, who has been unable to obtain a copy of the framework, shared in an email that she was told the bill was 5 to 6 inches thick and didn’t have page numbers.

The conference committee is being rushed along when it would take at least a month to go through this bill.

Not only does the bill stink, from what we’ve been able to learn about it, the process stinks as well.  This is not how a constitutional republic is supposed to work.  In the interest of transparency this bill needs to be shot down.

Here is a list of the House Conferees and their Twitter handles courtesy of Karen Effrem:

  • Rep. John Kline (R-MN), chairman, Committee on Education and the Workforce  @repjohnkline
  • Rep. Todd Rokita (R-IN), chairman, Subcommittee on Early Childhood, Elementary, and Secondary Education  @toddrokita
  • Rep. Virginia Foxx (R-NC)  @VirginiaFoxx
  • Rep. David P. Roe (R-TN)   @DrPhilRoe
  • Rep. Glenn Thompson (R-PA) @CongressmanGT
  • Rep. Brett Guthrie (R-KY)  @brettguthrie
  • Rep. Luke Messer (R-IN)  @RepLukeMesser
  • Rep. Steve Russell (R-OK) @reprussell
  • Rep. Carlos Curbelo (R-FL) @repcurbelo
  • Rep. Glenn Grothman (R-WI)  @repgrothman

Thomas More Law Center Sues South Dakota Over Common Core

Amber-Shelli-Thomas-More-Law-Center-Steps-Up-Attack-on-Common-Core-with-New-Lawsuit-in-South-Dakota-WebsiteContinuing its legal battle to stop the federal government from usurping control over the nation’s elementary and secondary public schools, the Thomas More Law Center (TMLC), a national public interest law firm based in Ann Arbor, MI filed a third lawsuit challenging the constitutionality of a state’s implementation of Common Core and its participation in the Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium (“SBAC”).

This latest challenge to the Common Core Curriculum and SBAC was filed last week against South Dakota Governor, Dennis Daugaard, and other state officials on behalf of two South Dakota taxpayers, Shelli Grinager and Amber Mauricio.  Shelli Grinager is the mother of three school aged children and Amber Mauricio is the mother of five.

These Plaintiffs seek to stop South Dakota from paying yearly SBAC membership fees totaling over $600,000 by state taxpayers on the grounds that SBAC is an unconstitutional compact. Its creation was never approved by Congress, as required by the Compact Clause, which states that “[n]o state shall, without the consent of Congress . . . enter into any agreement or compact with another state.” The lawsuit claims other violations of federal and South Dakota laws dealing with public education.

Shelli  Grinager, a West River plaintiff, and Amber Mauricio, an East River plaintiff, have both seen their school aged children break down in tears due to the amount of pressure that teachers and schools were subjecting them to in the name of passing the SBAC tests.

Grinager, a former school board member, PTA president and advocate for students and families, has fought against Common Core since the beginning, speaking out against the roll out of the high pressure SBAC tests. Last year, Grinager was forced to start homeschooling her children, after two of her children were denied more challenging math because they had to stick to the rigid Common Core curriculum. She said, “The public school environment has become more about testing our children than teaching them.”

Amber Mauricio’s fight against Common Core began when she attempted to “opt out” her children from the SBAC testing. The school ignored her opt out request and tested her children anyway.  Mauricio was alarmed by the nature of some Common Core aligned questions asked of her children which sought to examine how they would behave in certain situations and what their home life is like.

As in the two earlier lawsuits, which challenged the constitutionality of SBAC and Common Core in North Dakota and West Virginia, the Thomas More Law Center partnered with D. John Sauer of the James Otis Law Group based in St. Louis, MO.   South Dakota attorney Robert J. Rohl of Johnson Eiesland Law Offices, PC located in Rapid City, SD is assisting as local co-counsel.

The lawsuit was filed in the Hughes County Circuit Court.

Click here to read the South Dakota Complaint

The North Dakota and West Virginia lawsuits follow the success of an earlier lawsuit filed by Mr. Sauer that stopped Missouri’s implementation of Common Core. That case is currently on appeal.  The Thomas More Law Center filed a friend of the court brief in support of upholding the Missouri district court decision (Editor’s note: The Missouri case is no longer on appeal as the Common Core opponents received a positive ruling).

Richard Thompson, President and Chief Counsel of the Thomas More Law Center, commented on behalf of the Law Center, “Employing an insidious bureaucratic system, the Federal Government directs what and how American students learn, and effectively eliminates the fundamental rights of parents to control the education of their children.”

In school districts across the country, administrators subject children, who obey their parents’ wishes and decline to participate in Common Core standardized testing, to unbelievable punishments.  Students have been suspended, refused entrance into their classrooms, refused bathroom privileges, stripped of their academic and extracurricular honors and awards, removed from athletic participation, and punished with “sit-and-stare” policies. “Sit-and-stare” is a practice that forces students to sit at their assigned desk with no materials, books, or paper in silence for multiple hours during testing.

Forty-three states initially joined either SBAC or the Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers (“PARCC”), a cornerstone for Common Core implementation under direction of the federal government. However, due to growing opposition from parents and teachers, several states have since canceled their membership and endured punishments for doing so.

As a part of its efforts to help parents combat Common Core, the Thomas More Law Center developed a Test Refusal and Student Privacy Protection Form and a Common Core Resource Page as a general reference and guide.

Big Data Laid Bare

student-photo-privacyValarie Strauss at the Washington Post last Thursday shared a guest article by Leonie Haimson and Cheri Kiesecker with the Parent Coalition for Student Privacy.

It’s pretty eye-opening for those who are not familiar about privacy issues in the public school system.

An excerpt:

Most student data is gathered at school via multiple routes; either through children’s online usage or information provided by parents, teachers or other school staff. A student’s education record generally includes demographic information, including race, ethnicity, and income level; discipline records, grades and test scores, disabilities and Individual Education Plans (IEPs), mental health and medical history, counseling records and much more.

Under the federal Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA), medical and counseling records that are included in your child’s education records are unprotected by HIPAA (the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act passed by Congress in 1996). Thus, very sensitive mental and physical health information can be shared outside of the school without parent consent.

Many parents first became aware of how widely their children’s personal data is being shared with third parties of all sorts when the controversy erupted over inBloom in 2012, the $100 million corporation funded by the Gates Foundation. Because of intense parent opposition, inBloom closed its doors in 2014, but in the process, parents discovered that inBloom was only the tip of the iceberg, and that the federal government and the Gates Foundation have been assisting the goal of amassing and disclosing personal student data in many other ways.

Ten organizations joined together, funded by the Gates Foundation, to create the Data Quality Campaign in 2005, with the following objectives:

  • Fully develop high-quality longitudinal data systems in every state by 2009;
  • Increase understanding and promote the valuable uses of longitudinal and financial data to improve student achievement; and
  • Promote, develop, and use common data standards and efficient data transfer and exchange.

Since that time, the federal government has mandated that every state collect personal student information in the form of longitudinal databases, called Student Longitudinal Data Systems or SLDS, in which the personal information for each child is compiled and tracked from birth or preschool onwards, including medical information, survey data, and data from many state agencies such as the criminal justice system, child services, and health departments.

A state’s SLDS, or sometimes called a P20 database (pre-K to 20 years of age), P12, or B-20 (data tracking from birth), have been paid for partly through federal grants awarded in five rounds of funding from 2005-2012. Forty-seven of 50 states, as well as the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, and the Virgin Islands, have received at least one SLDS grant.

Although Alabama, Wyoming and New Mexico are not included on the site linked to above, Alabama’s governor recently declared by executive order that “Alabama P-20W Longitudinal Data System is hereby created to match information about students from early learning through postsecondary education and into employment.” Wyoming uses a data dictionary, Fusion, that includes information from birth. New Mexico’s technology plan shows that they moved their P-20 SLDS to production status in 2014 and will expand in 2015. This site run by the Data Quality Campaign tracks each state’s SLDS.

Valarie’s headline is appropriate as the amount of data being collected on our kids is astonishing… Actually disturbing is probably a better word.  Be sure to read the whole piece as they give parents advice on how to address this.