Michigan Legislators Launch Bipartisan Effort to Repeal Common Core

Michigan State Capitol in Winter 2005 Photo credit: Philip Hofmeister (CC-By-SA 3.0)

Michigan State Capitol in Winter 2005
Photo credit: Philip Hofmeister (CC-By-SA 3.0)

(Lansing, MI) Rep. Gary Glenn, R-Midland, will be joined next week by a bipartisan group of lawmakers in introducing legislation to repeal so-called “Common Core” educational standards in Michigan. So far, fifteen Republican state representatives and two southeast Michigan Democrats – House Democratic Caucus Whip Rep. Robert Kosowski, D-Westland, and Rep. Harvey Santana, D-Detroit – are joining Glenn as cosponsors of the measure set to be introduced March 3rd to allow other lawmakers time to join the effort. Sen. Patrick Colbeck, R-Canton, will introduce identical legislation in the state Senate.

“Michigan’s school students deserve the best standards, based on proven results,” Glenn said during a noon news conference attended by dozens of parents, educators, school board members, and lawmakers supporting the legislation. “Michigan students deserve better than to have their futures serve as an experiment with untested, unproven standards that have produced no evidence of actually helping students learn.”

Under the proposed legislation:

  • Common Core standards and testing would be eliminated in their entirety, replaced by the standards that were in place in Massachusetts prior to Common Core.
  • Local school boards would be free to adjust the standards, and after five years, the state Board of Education would be authorized to do the same.
  • Parents would be free to opt their child out of any class, instruction, or testing.
  • The state and local schools would be prohibited from collecting data regarding an individual student’s values, attitudes, beliefs, and personality traits, or the student’s family’s political or religious affiliations or views.
  • Test questions used by public schools would be made easily available to the public.

Glenn said a work group of education reform advocates in Michigan and nationally determined over the last year that the best educational standards in the nation – based on superior student performance in multiple categories of testing — were the standards used by Massachusetts prior to the national move to adopt Common Core.

He cited a 2014 report by Business Leaders of Michigan which found, for example, that in measurements of student performance in 4th grade reading (p. 34), 8th grade math (p.35), and career and college readiness (p. 36-7), Massachusetts students scored highest in the nation while Michigan students scored in the bottom half of the states. (See full report: http://goo.gl/ba07im)

Sandra Kahn, a retired public school teacher and past president of the Michigan Federation of Republican Women, introduced Glenn, noting that Michigan Republican Party state conventions and the Republican National Committee have adopted resolutions opposing adoption of Common Core standards.

Rachel Torres, a third grade teacher in the Farmington Public Schools, addressed specific examples of what she said were age and development-inappropriate questions posed to her students during Common Core-aligned testing. She described the frustration and disappointment expressed by even her most talented students as a result. Torres said she was speaking at the news conference with the support of her principal and fellow teachers.

Brenda Battle Jordan, dean of the Westwood Heights School Board, criticized Common Core for subjecting students to what she described as political bias and unproven methods for teaching math. “As a person on the front lines with children,” Battle Jordan said, “I know passage of this legislation cannot happen to soon. Our children are counting on us.”

Heidi Campbell, a member of the Algonac Public Schools board, also spoke during the event, with the blessing of the district’s superintendent, she said, who asked her to highlight the unfunded mandates and intensive testing schedule under Common Core that leaves little time for actual teaching.

Watch the press conference in the video below:

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Sponsors of the legislation as of Wed., Feb. 24th:

  • Rep. Gary Glenn
  • Rep. Robert Kosowski
  • Rep. Peter Lucido
  • Rep. Lee Chatfield
  • Rep. Martin Howrylak
  • Rep. Pat Somerville 
  • Rep. Thomas Hooker
  • Rep. Joel Johnson
  • Rep. Triston Cole
  • Rep. Dan Lauwers
  • Rep. Bruce Rendon
  • Rep. Phil Potvin
  • Rep. Jim Tedder 
  • Rep. Lana Theis
  • Rep. Ken Goike
  • Rep. Jim Runestad
  • Rep. Harvey Santana,
  • Rep. Jason Sheppard

Lamar Alexander’s Past Discernment on Secretary of Education Nominees

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John B. King will have his first hearing in the process toward being confirmed as the next U.S. Secretary of Education.  This hearing will be before the Senate Education Committee and U.S. Senator Lamar Alexander (R-TX) will chair those hearings.

He doesn’t have the best track record when it comes to President Obama’s picks for Secretary of Education.

Take for instance the following Politico article from January 2009:

With Republican friends like these, Arne Duncan should have no problem selling Barack Obama’s education agenda to Congress.

“I think you’re the best,” Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.) told Duncan Tuesday morning during the confirmation hearing for the next education secretary. And Sen. Richard Burr (R-N.C.) engaged in the love fest too: “This is a guy who gets it.”

Aw shucks, I wonder what Alexander will say to King? “Hey you’re doing a great job as Acting Secretary”?

We don’t need a love fest today, we need Senators asking tough questions of the guy who practically was run out of New York on a rail, but landed a cushy job at the U.S. Department of Education instead.

Based on Alexander’s track record I’m sure we can suspect that he’ll say to King, “you’re the best,” and press for his confirmation so the rest of us can be afflicted by the former failed New York Education Commissioner.

Common Core Under the Edwards Administration in Louisiana

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Louisiana Governor John Bel Edwards is in his second month in office and it is apparent he will not fight Common Core like his predecessor Bobby Jindal did. He has already dropped the lawsuits the Jindal administration initiated, but in doing so caused some turmoil with the state’s Attorney General as The News Star reported earlier this month.

Louisiana Gov. John Bel Edwards said Thursday he will drop the appeal of a Bobby Jindal-era federal lawsuit seeking to block Common Core nationally, but new Louisiana Attorney General Jeff Landry said late Thursday that would be his decision to make.

“As Louisiana attorney general, I am intervening in this case, and I will determine if it will proceed,” Landry said.

Richard Carbo, the governor’s communications director, fired back.

“As far as the office of the governor is concerned, this case is over,” Carbo said. “If the Attorney General feels the need to pursue further litigation, he will proceed using his own resources.”

The Louisiana Board of Elementary and Secondary Education is set to vote March 5th on proposed revised ELA and Math academic standards. The review committee took the Common Core State Standards as the starting point and went from there.

I have NOT done a through review of these standards, but from scanning through the crosswalk document for the ELA standards it appears that what was mostly done was a revision of 81 standards, of those I read it appeared to be mainly tweaking the language of the original standards. This represents roughly 12% of the ELA standards. It still places an emphasis on information text so I can’t say that I’m very encouraged by what I’ve seen.

I could see there was definitely more work done on the math standards as I perused the crosswalk document. There were three new standards added. One elementary math standard was moved to a different grade. The high school math standards were reordered to reflect Algebra I, Geometry and Algebra II to do away with integrated math which I believe is a good change. Three standards were deleted. There were considerably more standards revised than what I saw with the ELA standards – 137 in all.  I think it’s unfortunate that like Common Core the draft Louisiana math standards stop at Algebra II.

The ELA standards appear to be closer to a rebranding while the math standards had more work done. I’ll let others better qualified judge the quality of the new standards. All of this may be for naught if they continue to use PARCC as an assessment anyway.

I know many Louisiana parents were frustrated with how the review process went. I’m interested to hear from Louisiana parents, what are you hearing about the new standards? What is your opinion of them?

Update: J.R. Wilson, a TAE advocate and math expert, made these observations in an email after looking at the K-8 2015-2016 Louisiana Standards, Common Core State Standards and draft standards for Louisiana in math:

At the second grade level, the three sets of standards are presented in the same order and are identical.  Absolutely no changes, additions, or omissions. 

At the kindergarten level, there are three standards that differ from the Common Core State Standards slightly but not significantly.  One standard has been added for LA that is not in the CCSS.  In essence they are the same standards with much identical wording except for three standards.  The difference is minor and negligible.  The rest of the standards are presented in the same order and are identical. 

Like the Common Core, the LA standards don’t require the standard algorithm until grade 4. 

Kansas House Education Committee Votes to Repeal Common Core

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Kansans Against Common Core sent out the following press release last Friday after their Common Core repeal bill passed out of the Kansas House Education Committee:

TOPEKA, Kan. (Feb. 19, 2016) – A step in the direction of upholding the U.S. Constitution and the Kansas Constitution was taken Wednesday. A step to uphold the state’s purview over Education and uphold parent rights and responsibilities to educate their children was taken Wednesday.

A Kansas bill to cut off education related ties with the federal government including the withdrawal of the state from the Common Core standards passed out of the House Education Committee on Wednesday. This bill would nullify nationalized education in the state.

A combination of thirty representatives introduced House Bill 2676 (HB2676), the Local Control of Kansas Education Act, on Feb. 10th.

HB2676 is nearly identical to last year’s bill, House Bill 2292 (HB2292), with only minor updates. HB2292 received a hearing and a vote in committee last year, but did not make it out of committee.

On Wednesday, a motion to reconsider HB2292 in committee was successful. This was followed up by a successful motion to substitute HB2676 into the bill, and finally a motion to pass Substitute for House Bill 2292 (Sub for HB2292). It was successfully passed out of committee, under Chair, Ron Highland. House members voting it out of committee were: Tony Barton, John Bradford, Rob Bruchman, Amanda Grosserode, Dennis Hedke, Becky Hutchins, Kevin Jones, Kasha Kelley, Charles Macheers, Peggy Mast, Marc Rhoades, and Jene Vickrey. Now it will move on to the full House for consideration.

The legislation declares “the state shall retain sole control over the development, establishment and revision of K-12 curriculum standards.”

Additionally, the bill forbids any Kansas entity or official from ceding any authority over Kansas education to any entity not explicitly named in the Kansas Constitution. It then voids any past or future action taken to implement Common Core or other national education standards.

“Any actions taken by any education entity or any state official to adopt, implement or align programs, assessments, testing, surveys or any educational materials or activities to the common core state standards, the social, emotional and character development standards, the national curriculum standards for social studies, the national health education standards, the national sexuality education standards, core content and skills, K-12 or any other academic standards not in the public domain, free of any copyright, are void beginning July 1, 2017.”

Local control of education is upheld. Parents’ rights to direct the education of their child through locally controlled schools is upheld. Local schools and teachers will be responsive to parents rather than implementers of state and federal education dictates. The bill mandates that new academic standards shall be developed through a state process but also makes clear that any standards developed will be “model” standards with local school districts having the authority to maintain their own curriculum.

A first of its kind step was taken to explicitly ensure parents’ and students’ rights to protect their intellectual property. The bill upholds parents’ control over their child’s data in regard to its creation, collection, use, and privacy. A significant step was taken to protect students from intrusive data mining and collection, programs that are inherent with initiatives like Common Core.

As the House Education committee learned on Wednesday, the all-encompassing federal intrusion in education is being rejected across the country including in states like Washington and New York.

However, you can be sure that the Education Establishment, including the KNEA, KASB, State School Board, and State Department of Education, will do everything they can to maintain the status quo, resulting in “rebranded” versions of the same program.

You can be sure that people you elected, who said they were against the federal intrusion into education and would work to remove it, will staunchly claim their commitment to protect the state, but will act to water down or prevent passing this bill.

Some claim that a bill recently passed by Congress, the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA), places a great deal more control in the hands of states, local communities, parents, and educators including cutting the federal strings of Common Core. That could not be further from the truth. The ESSA actually requires states to comply with College and Career Ready Standards, which are Common Core. The bill does not remove the federal government from the business of education, as it requires the federal education secretary to approve each state’s plans for education. In addition, state chief school officers continue to be held accountable for not reporting a 95% participation rate on student assessments. The ESSA also extends federal funding to states to review and improve their existing pre-K programs. We can fully expect, and have found, this extension of “assistance” to be laden with all the usual federal encroachments that accompany federal funding.

Federal involvement in education is about control, not education. The partnership between the federal departments of Labor and Education to further the development of fully functioning statewide birth-to-adulthood databases on citizens, and commonality of standards and testing across the country is reshaping the nation. It will result, as intended, in only people whose education they can control getting jobs, getting into college, and getting into the military. It’s a tool of control, not a tool of education.

It is extremely important that this bill move forward without any amendments. Changes that affect the intent or effectiveness of the bill will be attempted. “Rebranded” do-nothing bills occur when all aspects of federal intrusion are not addressed and repealed.

HB2292 (formerly HB2676) does address and repeal all aspects of federal intrusion, including Common Core.

We believe parents are those best equipped to direct the upbringing and education of their children.

We believe teachers are best able to be responsive to parents and meet the education needs of children when they are not encumbered by federal and state mandates.

We believe individual teachers are degreed professionals who are capable of creating their own lesson plans and deciding how to teach.

Rejecting nationalized education standards is the first step toward bringing true academic choice, freedom, and protection of personal property. Passage of this legislation, without amendments, into law represents a positive step forward for the children, parental rights, and the constitution.

New York Plans to Test on Revised Standards By 2018-2019 School Year

New York State Flag

It appears that New York may be repeating the mistake made with Common Core – a rush to test what was hastily implemented. The New York Board of Regents announced a timeline for the review, drafting, implementation and testing of revised educational standards.

This comes after New York Governor Andrew Cuomo announced recommendations made by the task force that he assembled.

The Albany Times-Union reports:

Once they have a draft set of standards in place for all grade levels, a public comment period will be held from July through October. Feedback will be collected through an online survey and outreach to groups like the New York State Parent Teacher Association, business councils, and ELA and math professional organizations, among others. The state Education Department will also create a mailbox for ongoing feedback and comments throughout the revision process.

Once feedback is in, the standards review committees will make final tweaks to the standards and submit a final set to the Board of Regents for consideration at its November 2016 meeting and adoption as early as its December 2016 meeting.

Starting in 2017, local districts will begin adjusting curriculum to reflect the changes. This phase will rely on each district’s teachers to develop curriculum materials, but also will include guidance and help from the state Education Department.

By summer 2017, teachers should start receiving training and professional development around the new standards and curriculum so they can be ready to start teaching the new standards in the fall of 2017. This would allow students to have a full year of instruction based on the new standards and curriculum by the time assessments are given in the 2018-19 school year.

Essentially, according to the article referenced above, the key to the drafting the standards drafting is that they are using the Common Core State Standards as a starting point, revising from there and “any questionable standards would be scrapped or revised to better reflect the will of New York educators and stakeholders.”

This is just a drawn out rebrand. There is adequate time given for public comment on the first draft, but unfortunately it looks like it will be online feedback only. No forums? It looks like they plan specific outreach to special interest groups, but not parents – the ones who have been pushing this reform. Reaching out to the state PTA doesn’t cut it. Also there will be no public feedback on the standards after the “tweaks” are made.

This reminds me too much of how the Common Core was drafted.  Then after a year of implementation we’re back to high-stakes testing on rebranded standards.

Common Core Led to Jeb Bush’s Downfall

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

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

After the results of the South Carolina Primary were released former Florida Governor Jeb Bush, who finished a distant 4th in the First in the South Primary, announced that he was suspending his campaign.

Yes this is the same Bush who was thought to be the likely presidential nominee of the Republican Party who prior to announcing he was running for President raised over $100 million for his Super PAC.

What happened? Bush certainly was caught up in the anti-establishment wave that has carried Donald Trump. His position on immigration have hurt him as well, but his position on Common Core was a deal breaker for many throughout the party.

Emmett McGroarty of American Principles Project released the following statement:

From the very beginning, Governor Bush’s stubborn support for the low-quality Common Core standards permanently damaged his credibility with voters – and not just with conservatives but with voters across the political spectrum.  

Let Governor Bush’s fate be a lesson for all politicians – voters want to see politicians not only oppose Common Core but actively work to eliminate it and return control of education to local and state government.

Politicians – and it doesn’t matter which party – who fail to fight Common Core will be severely handicapping themselves on Election Day.

McGroarty more than a year ago predicted that Bush would not be electable. From The Washington Post:

Though conservatives oppose the Common Core, general polling has not produced a clear picture of how most Americans feel about the standards. Nevertheless, Emmett McGroarty, a lawyer for the American Principles Project, said Thursday that a pro-Common Core Republican presidential nominee would be “unelectable” in 2016. McGroarty’s warning was a not-so-veiled reference to former Florida governor Jeb Bush, a strong supporter of the Common Core.

Only five GOP candidates remain. Here were their grades on American Principles Project’s Common Core report card, published in August of last year: 

We Still Are Not Seeing Apples to Apples Comparisons From States

Students in Computer Lab --- Image by © Royalty-Free/Corbis

One of the biggest promises of the Common Core State Standards and their aligned assessments was commonality – now, we were told, states can finally have a real comparison.

Not so much as The Washington Post reports:

The analysis by Gary Phillips of the American Institutes for Research shows that it continues to be difficult to directly compare student performance across state lines — one of the key problems that common standards and tests were meant to address.

“This is something I’m hoping will just help policymakers put in perspective what the states are claiming and what they’re doing,” Phillips said. “The states still are setting wildly different standards.”

States still define what is “proficient” differently.

The 50 states gave 50 different tests until last year. Although some were scored rigorously, others were not, making it difficult to compare how students in Alabama were faring compared with students in Arizona and Alaska.

In 2015, more than half the states administered one of two Common Core tests developed with multimillion-dollar grants from the Obama administration. The analysis shows that students in the 11 states (plus D.C.) that administered the PARCC (Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers) exam faced a scoring regime that was significantly tougher than students in the 18 states that administered the Smarter Balanced exam.

“Common Does Not Equal Excellent”: New Report Sheds Light on Deficiencies of Common Core’s Math Standards

(Washington, D.C.) – The American Principles Project Foundation has just published a new report, “Common Does Not Equal Excellent.” Focusing on the K-8 Common Core State Standards for Mathematics (CCSS-M), authors Erin Tuttle and J.R. Wilson provide evidence that the CCSS-M’s dictation of an instructional approach blurs the line between standards and curriculum. The standards consequently undermine the professional judgment of teachers, whose task it is to know the varied learning needs and styles of their students. Tuttle and Wilson consequently refute the claim that the Common Core is benign, or “just a set of standards.”

The K-8 CCSS-M differ substantially from the standards of high-performing countries and are ultimately developmentally inappropriate. Leveraging topic coverage comparisons, Tuttle and Wilson demonstrate that the CCSS-M fail to embody the coherence and focus evident in the standards of high-performing countries. This failure stems in large measure from a focus on abstract-levels of cognitive demand and demonstration of understanding. In turn, such focus results in tasks that often stunt students’ learning. By contrast, higher-performing countries emphasize concrete levels of cognitive demand memorization, and procedural fluency.

Tuttle and Wilson assert that the “rigor” claimed by CCSS-M is not so much in the content as in the expectation that students display knowledge—a task for which they are frequently left without adequate tools. Though cognitively heavy, the CCSS-M remain procedures-poor. Focusing too early on the abstract drives an insistence on inefficient computation strategies. More effective, proven, and developmentally appropriate methods are delayed by up to two years. For instance, the CCSS-M does not introduce the standard algorithm for addition and subtraction until grade 4. Standard algorithms for multiplication and subtraction are thus withheld until grades 5 and 6 respectively. These delays result in inadequate preparation of students for algebra and beyond.

In addition to the CCSS-M per se, Tuttle and Wilson also explore the K-8 Publisher’s Criteria for the Common Core State Standards for Mathematics as well as Progressions for the Common Core State Standards in Mathematics, the latter written by the CCSS-M’s lead authors. Both documents go into greater detail concerning the strategies and instructional techniques embedded within the CCSS-M, laying out expectations for textbook, assessment, and instructional alignment. These additional materials clearly inform the use of CCSS-M in the classroom, essentially determining inefficient instructional delivery methods that undermine professional teacher judgment.

Tuttle and Wilson conclude there is no empirical support for either the claim or the expectation that CCSS-M will improve student achievement.

“Common Does Not Equal Excellent” can be read below:

Fordham Institutes’s PARCC v. MCAS Report Falls Short

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(Pioneer Institute)  The Fordham Institute has long been at work on a study of the relative quality of tests produced by the two Common Core-aligned and federally funded consortia (PARCC and SBAC), ACT (Aspire), and the Commonwealth of Massachusetts (MCAS).  What Fordham has produced is only in the most superficial way an actual analysis – in fact, it reads more like propaganda and lacks the basic elements of objective research. 

It takes only a little digging under the surface to reveal pervasive conflicts of interest, a one-sided sourcing of evidence, and a research design so slanted it cannot stand against any scrutiny. In developing their supposedly analytic comparisons of PARCC, SBAC, Aspire and MCAS, the authors do not employ standard test evaluation criteria, organizations, or reviewers. Instead, they employ criteria developed by the Common Core co-copyright holder, organizations paid handsomely in the past by Common Core’s funders, and predictable reviewers who have worked for them before. The authors also fill the report with the typical vocabulary and syntax of Common Core advertising – positive-sounding adjectives and adverbs are attached to everything Common Core, and negative-sounding adjectives and adverbs are attached to the alternatives. 

No reader should take the report seriously; those who produced the report did not. Fordham Institute used to do serious work; in the area of assessments and standards, sadly, that is no longer the case.

Read a policy brief entitled “Fordham Institute’s Pretend Research” by Richard Phelps below:

Non-Profit Group To Receive California Student Data

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A federal district court granted the request of the California Parents Association to receive all of the personal information and school records of public school students in California.

NBC 7 San Diego reports:

The nonprofit said it needs the information to see if California schools are violating the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act and other related laws. The database it will have access to includes all information on children, kindergarten through high school, who are attending or have attended a California school at any time since Jan. 1, 2008.

The database contain students’ names, social security numbers, home addresses, course information, behavior and discipline information, progress reports, mental health and medical information, along with suspensions, expulsions and more…

….Students and parents can opt-out of the list by following detailed instructions from the district court. However there appears to be very little being done on the state or local level to inform parents of the disclosure.

I understand the need to be a watchdog on these issues, but this is a gross violation of privacy for students. There are all sorts of risks with allowing a data dump like this. I’m also frustrated that the state is collecting this much data on students as well. The opt-out form can be found here.