Beware of Educrats Peddling “Evidence-Based” Solutions

Photo credit: World Economic Forum (CC-By-SA 2.0)

Photo credit: World Economic Forum (CC-By-SA 2.0)

In an unguarded moment in 2009, Michael Petrilli of the Thomas B. Fordham Institute admitted that the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation is running U.S. public education: “It’s not unfair to say that the Gates Foundation’s agenda has become the country’s agenda in education.” A new book reveals how right he was.

Policy Patrons: Philanthropy, Education Reform, and the Politics of Influence was written by Megan Tompkins-Stange from the Ford School of Public Policy at the University of Michigan. To examine the influence of private foundations on U.S. education policy, Tompkins-Stange spent several years interviewing officials from four philanthropies that are deeply involved in education issues – Gates, and the Eli and Edythe Broad, Ford, and W.K. Kellogg foundations. She notes that “[a]rguably, no social sector in the United States is more heavily impacted by foundations than K-12 education,” and no foundation is more influential than Gates.

The problem she examines was brought into stark relief early in the Obama administration, with its Gates-financed Common Core national standards and other “reforms”: that powerful, wealthy private groups are using their influence to bypass democratic processes and impose their preferred policies on public schools. Not only are parents and other citizens shut out of education policy, they don’t realize the strings are being pulled by organizations they never heard of.

As former U.S. Department of Education (USED) official – and trenchant Common Core critic – Ze’ev Wurman once asked about how parents could register a complaint, “Will Bill Gates have an 800 number?”

Bill doesn’t have an 800 number, but he probably has every top USED official on his speed dial. One reason, as Tompkins-Stange reports, is that former Education Secretary Arne Duncan awarded top USED staff appointments to officials of either the Gates Foundation (such as Jim Shelton, formerly program director for education at Gates) or grantees of the Gates Foundation (such as Joanne Weiss, formerly of the Gates-funded NewSchools Venture Fund). So when USED was – unconstitutionally — crafting federal education mandates, Gates policy preferences had the inside track from the beginning.

Valerie Strauss at the Washington Post recently published an interview with Tompkins-Stange conducted by Jennifer Berkshire of the EduShyster website. In that interview Tompkins-Stange drew two inferences from an Obama administration staffer’s verbal slip in referring to “the Gates administration.” “The source is acknowledging,” Tompkins-Stange said, “that the close coupling between Gates and [USED] under Arne Duncan was great because it pushed their agenda forward. But on the other hand, they’re acknowledging that it’s somewhat problematic in terms of democratic legitimacy.”

Not that the Gates/USED mandarins were particularly concerned about usurping democracy:

It was my sense [Tompkins-Stange said] that most of the people I talked to hadn’t engaged – at an organizational level – with the larger question of “What’s our role in a liberal democracy?” or “Is this the right thing for us to do as a foundation?” . . . The democracy part of it was not really a part of the equation in  terms of their day-to-day discussions. It was more about, “How do we get the elites who can really move this policy on board?”

But her contacts slid past the philosophical and constitutional problems by emphasizing the supposed benefits of the technical approach advocated by Gates and the other foundations (remember Bill’s famous comparison of education to electrical outlets). The predominant mindset was that evidence-based policy is more important than democratic structures and citizen participation. Trains must run on time, you know.

But Tompkins-Stange pointed out practical problems with this worldview. One is that schemes created and imposed by elites historically don’t work when their development excludes the people expected to live under them. Human beings are not machines, and they stubbornly refuse to operate according to the Gates manual.

Another drawback – as admitted by some of the officials she interviewed – is that the cited “evidence” is often weak or non-existent:

There was a real cognitive dissonance that people reflected on in interviews. In one breath they’d say that what the foundations were doing was evidence-based. But in the next breath they’d note that the evidence isn’t all that great, or acknowledge the fragility of the evidence’s underlying assumptions. Another Gates source said, “I don’t know anyone in philanthropy who can chart a logic model. All these people just put arrows between boxes and think it means something.”

Think of that the next time you hear an educrat or foundation official touting “evidence-based” education solutions.

This is what happens when unaccountable elites evade the Constitution to impose centralized control. Tompkins-Stange’s book confirms the wisdom of the Founders and spotlights a problem that must be fixed if we are to remain a self-governing republic.

Judge Rules in Favor of Parents on Florida’s Mandatory Third Grade Retention

Florida State Flag

Parents in Florida saw a victory last week when Judge Karen Gievers gave students who were not promoted to the fourth grade due to their minimal participation in the Florida Standards Assessment. Gievers gave a temporary injunction allowing some third graders to be promoted where school districts did not allow “a teacher-compiled portfolio that consists of non-test class work and test-based standards assessments.”

Gievers sided with the parents, finding that the Department of Education and the Hernando County School Board violated the law when they illegally refused to provide any portfolio option and that “neither the [Department of Education or local school boards] have the discretion to ignore the Florida Laws.” Gievers’ ruling defined what “minimal participation” is by stating that “the children were present at the time, broke the seal on the materials and wrote their names, thus meeting their obligation to participate.” In addition, she wrote: “The School Board and [Department of Education] had no right to ignore the legislatively adopted portfolio option” and ordered the Hernando County School Board to “immediately refrain from further actions and must provide the portfolio option.” She ordered education officials “to stop refusing to accept a student portfolio or report card based on classroom work throughout the course of the school year.”

The Court also found it unlawful in districts such as Hernando County where a child without a reading deficiency who has not passed the FSA is held back, citing Florida Statute 1008.25(5)(c)(6) which prohibits retaining students solely for FSA non-compliance.

The judge ordered the Department of Education to stop disseminating misinformation that promotion required a level 2 score on the statewide test, finding that report cards and classroom work could be used to promote a third grader.

“We are very pleased that the court agreed with us that it is in the public interest that the State Board of Education and school districts in Florida follow our laws, and focus on whether children can read, not whether they took a particular test,” said Andrea Flynn Mogensen, lead counsel for the children.

“We are especially pleased that it was specifically ordered that the Department of Education must accept minimal participation in testing as fulfilling the students’ statutory requirement to participate, and that grade 3 students with no reading deficiency should be promoted, not retained.”

The ruling can be read here.

HT: The Opt-Out Florida Network

Maryland School District Recognizes Student Right to Refuse


The Frederick County Board of Education in Maryland last week passed a policy that recognizes a student’s right to refuse standardized assessments.

Here is the pertinent language:

A. The Board recognizes that the State of Maryland has not passed legislation allowing for parental opt-out of statewide testing as part of the regular instructional program of the public school system. Consequently, the Board cannot grant parental requests to opt-out of testing on behalf of their children. However, the Board acknowledges that in spite of the declaration of the Maryland State Board of Education (State Board), some students may still refuse to take assessments or may be barred from doing so by their parents. In the case of refusals, it is the Board’s expectation that students and families are treated by school staff with the same equity, dignity and respect as provided to test takers. If a school administrator is able to provide an alternative activity it must align with testing protocol.

B. Alternative Mode of Refusal – The Board recognizes that students communicate in a variety of methods throughout the school system, including through the use of a communication device. Therefore, it is the expectation of the Board that staff will honor any student’s typical mode of communication in the matter of honoring refusals.

You can read the whole policy here.

The Back Door

Photo credit: Ephemeral New York

Photo credit: Ephemeral New York

It’s so easy to see the junk piling up at the front door of every public school in America. But the back door should capture some concern, too. It’s just as unpretty.

Teachers expect schools to change over time. In fact, they make lots of changes every year. Serve a few decades and reforms … big and small … become part of teacher-life. Teachers expect to find themselves in new currents all the time.

Way back when, the marijuana stuff had us all alarmed … and the beer stuff, too. That was everyday teen stuff. We had run-ins with hygiene and sex and cigarettes. And, of course, drunk driving. Daring schools talked about daring stuff beyond classrooms … like alcohol and divorce … and physical and sexual abuse. Then there was AIDS. That was extra-delicate and hit the schools with frantic immediacy. The right words were so hard to find. Lots of questions … and lots of times I felt like I was killing innocence.

Other moments were colored by usual stuff. Usual for adults, trauma for kids. Big difference.

There aren’t too many best-sellers about delicate issues that surfaced in schools. No sexy titles like “Beer and the Back Seat” … which would kill two sins at once. Or “I’ll Love You for All of Next Week” … which might seem cute, but is likely to be an overly graphic how-to manual for very young teens in this age of sexual over-kill. That’s the sad trend.

Sexting is now a middle school sport. And cell phones are sex toys. Predator alerts are a part of life and many schools try to prepare for the unthinkable. Schools have become guarded fortresses where teachers where badges and parents are considered intruders until they’re cleared as visitors.

Hazing never really goes away … it just morphs into some new ugliness. Bullying has moved from the playground to the internet … and it’s harder than ever to smother. And now weed splits a dangerous spotlight with opioids. Even the jocks are toying with dangerous drugs. And all of this is piled on top of the usual bravado of the teenage years. I think that’s called a powder keg.

That’s the reality few ever see. They overlook the fact that schools are intimate communities with all sorts of kids with all sorts of issues. Teachers are more than almost-historians or math wizards or science geeks. They see and hear things that would stun outsiders. And kids whisper to them … and tell them things because they trust them. Especially when they whisper awful things.

My point? Where does generation after generation of teachers get their wisdom for things like this? … And for other topics that seem invisible to outsiders? Who makes the greenhorns less green and the naive less naive? Who oracles them?

Know who? The folks at the back door. The door few see.

Those are the master-teachers and they’re leaving in droves.

They’re walking away from this reform Idiocy and fleeing the know-it-alls and the know-nothing politicians. They’re escaping asinine theoreticians and ivy-covered savants who issue edicts about reading, writing, and thinking … while assuring us all that their absence of any real classroom experience makes them all the more the genius. Sure.

This sudden exodus isn’t just the usual changing of the guard. When this brigade of Gray Heads … these Old Souls … gather up their experiences and box their lives and leave for good … they’ll be packing up decades of wisdom that will no longer be at the ready for the newbies who are never, ever as ready as they think.

The most important things learned about teaching happen in whispers, asides, or in simple observations. And it’s almost always at the knee of some Gray Head who did what we would all come to do later in our own careers … pass along big and small wisdoms.

It happens in fable form and in funny-sincere recollections of long-disappeared characters. And it could happen anywhere … at any time. In hallways. At a copy machine. Or the parking lot. In a stairwell or in an empty classroom … very late in the day … when the school goes silent save for the sounds of sloshy mops and things on squeaky wheels.

And now those splendid souls …the Wisdomers … they’re leaving. Vanishing. Repulsed by this reform idiocy that has spun out of control.

And in their moving vans are moving stories young teachers need to know. Informal survival guides. Reference material for soothing young souls and spackling torn hearts. What’s in those boxes are manuals for curing failure and repairing kids who’ve had a bottom-bounce. Those are medicine boxes with un-named elixirs for hurts of all sorts. And all of this magic is flying out the back doors of schools everywhere.

Those master-teachers … and their wisdom … are the antidote for this sick reform. But they’ll be gone when their wisdom is most needed.

Someday … not sure when … but someday … we’ll come to our senses. We’ll have a national mea culpa. And we’ll get our educational priorities back in common sense rhythms. But it won’t be easy. It’s gonna be hard stuff.

All of the wisdom-whispers will have disappeared. And “starting from scratch” won’t be a cliche any more. It’ll be a reality.

Wish us luck. We’re gonna need it.

Saxonisms—The wit and wisdom of John Saxon

Below are some “Saxonisms” that illustrate the wit and wisdom of John Saxon a well known math teacher and math textbook publisher.

Results, not methodology, should be the basis of curriculum decisions.

Fundamental knowledge is the basis of creativity.

Creativity springs unsolicited from a well prepared mind.

Creativity can be discouraged or encouraged, but “creativity” cannot be taught.

Problem solving is a process of concept recognition and concept application.

Problem solving is therefore the application of previously learned concepts.

The “art” of problem solving cannot be taught.

The use of productive thought patterns can be taught,

but the act of “critical thinking” cannot be taught.

Educators cannot teach students to reason; they can hope only to provide students with the skills to reason. Prevailing math teaching methods fail to do that.

Mathematics is an individual sport and is not a team sport.

Students do not detest work; they detest effort without purpose.

On how students think: “Aren’t you interested in theory?”

Answer: “No, man, I just want to know how to get the answer.”

Beautiful explanations do not lead to understanding.

Teachers are not paid to teach.

Teachers are paid to find a way for students to learn.

You do not teach mathematics with your head, but with your heart.

Making eyes sparkle does not come from erudite mathematics.

Teachers say they are going to teach the children to think.

The children can think already.

What they need to know is the math to use in their thinking.

Dr. Benjamin Bloom says you must overlearn beyond mastery

until you can do it like Fred Astaire said:

“Do the dance while reading Shakespeare.” 

  I contend that our job is to teach rewarding responses to mathematical stimuli,

to teach thought patterns that have been found to lead to the solutions,

to allow the students to practice reacting to the stimuli with these thought patterns and

to be rewarded with the warm feeling of pride that accompanies the correct answer.

I believe that students should be gently led and constantly applauded for their efforts.

I oppose intimidation in any form. Mathematics classes can become warm sanctuaries

towards which students gravitate because there they are asked

to solve puzzles by using familiar thought patterns.

You grasp an abstraction almost by osmosis through long-term exposure.

You can’t put your hand on it. That’s the reason we call it an abstraction.

We’ve never had research that shows how long it takes for students to absorb

abstractions in mathematics. It takes a long time. Then the summer lets them forget it.

Meaningful education research is an oxymoron.

We have more education research in America

than all the other countries and kids are at the bottom.

The math educators spend time at the universities

playing like they’re scientists and they publish their papers.

The idea that children can be taught from books that are unintelligible to adults

is absurd. This should be our first check from now on: If we can’t read and understand the book, then the book is unsatisfactory.

Most math books are like the Book of Revelation—

horror stories and surprises from beginning to end.

Students see my book as the 23rd Psalm.

It’s a nice safe place to go.

Saxon books will win every contest by an order of magnitude.

If it were possible to teach people to think, it would be possible

to teach professors of mathematics education to be mathematicians.

The only difference between a mathematician and

a professor of mathematics education is the creative spark.

[One studies inside the mathematical sciences. The other, the results of those studies.]

We have allowed this fraud, this pasquinade, on education by these people

who are literal and total gross incompetents, and they have destroyed

mathematics education in America to the point that I,

a retired Air Force test pilot who has flown two combat tours,

and whose profession was killing, know more about teaching than they do.

By asking math teachers of America to adopt the new list of fads without testing them, you will cause the gap between the advantaged and disadvantaged to widen because inner city schools are so bad that they will do anything that you say so they can protect their rear ends.”

It has to stop right here, right now.

The time for inactive skepticism is past.

I’m going to bypass the math establishment because a man convinced against his will

is of the same opinion. I will run over these people with a bulldozer.

Either I am the most brilliant thing to come down the pike,

having doubled some students’ test scores, or

the people in charge of math texts are totally incompetent.

  This is more than one man lighting a candle.

When they see the brilliance of this candle,

they’re going to have to light their own or be overpowered.

I know I don’t make headway by speaking out this way,

but I am determined to change this system of math education.

Our math experts aren’t really experts; they have abdicated

all claim to control by their behavior of the last 20 years.

I’m mad, and I’m doing something about it!

It’s a joyful, joyous experience, this one-sided battle.

There I am on one side and aligned with me are all the mommas and daddies

and employers. On the other are the major book companies

and their committees of experts.

My side has to win.

I believe I’ll be proven right by 2015 or 2020.

John Saxon was West Point graduate with three engineering degrees and a retired U.S. Air Force war hero who began a second career in 1971 as a math teacher, author, and publisher of K-12 mathematics textbooks. From 1981 to 2004, the year his company was sold, Saxon Publishers had distributed seven million textbooks worldwide. More “Saxonisms” can be found in John Saxon’s Story, a genius of common sense in math education by Nakonia (Niki) Hayes. Check

Defeat by Distraction

Hutch Technical High School in Buffalo, NY

Hutch Technical High School in Buffalo, NY

Defeat by distraction. That’s the Common Core game plan.

Every new school year renews the resistance to the Common Core reform. And parents new to this experience find themselves slathered in information and fear. Once upon a time we were the tenderfoot class … now we should act as sweet sages.

Every day brings another avalanche of studies, statistics, findings, and stuff. More babble. More white noise. More junk-speak. All on purpose.

The strategy is simple. Complicate the reform issue with fleshy gibberish and endless jabberwocky. Scare ordinary folks. Make the issues seem too, too deep and too, too heavy for folks busy enough with all that parenthood demands.

The greatest fear of the reform mob is parents.

Parents own infinite passion when it comes to their children. And if lots and lots of parents glue themselves together, well, this reform morphs into mighty. That’s not the sort of muscle educrats, politicians, and local board members want to confront. Remember that.

And parents new to this resistance should remember this.

Don’t be seduced by every morsel of information that gets dressed in glitter-words. Don’t be intimidated by edu-blather or fat-words. Tutor yourself daily … and reach out for help when you need it.

Stay simple and stay on the issues that matter: Resist federal control. Protect childhood. Refuse the testing trap. Reclaim your schools.

Remember: No children, no reform. Your cooperation is your trump-card. If you don’t play, the game ends.

A caveat to the old-timers in this resistance.

Embrace newcomers as you were once embraced. Soothe new and nervous parents with warm reassurances that they have saddled-up with a child-centric confederacy of warriors who protect children … theirs included. And then tutor them slowly … and warn them of nonsense-overload.

The reformists are deceivers. Their strategy is to dazzle us with nonsense-junk. To unbalance us all and to blur the simple truths.

They want our schools. They want our children. They want to politicize and profitize education … and have us foot the bill … and have our children pay the price. No way.

Avoid the information over-load … and listen to your heart. That drum in your chest always speaks the truth. Follow that beat.

Poll: Support for Common Core Drops by 40% Since 2012

Teacher at Maxwell AFB Elementary/Middle School (Air Force photo/Kelly Deichert)

Teacher at Maxwell AFB Elementary/Middle School
(Air Force photo/Kelly Deichert)

Support for the Common Core State Standards has dropped 40 points since 2012 according to a new poll. Education Next conducted their annual poll in May and June of 4,181 adults including 609 teachers and 1,571 parents with school-aged children living at home.

They report support for Common Core has dropped like a rock.

  • Only 50% of all those taking a side say they support the use of the Common Core standards in their state, down from 58% in 2015 and from 90% in 2012. This number represents only 42% of the general public (got to love how they took out the 16% who didn’t take a side to make support seem higher).
  • For those Republicans who have expressed an opinion backing has plummeted from 82% in 2013 to 39% in 2016. (In total only 35% of all Republicans polled support Common Core, 53% oppose.)
  • Only 60% of Democrats taking a side support Common Core which is down from 86% in 2013 (49% of all Democrats support, 32% oppose).
  • Teachers have seen the largest drop. In 2013 87% of teachers taking a side supported Common Core now only 44% do. (41% of all teachers support, a majority –
  • More parents of school-aged children oppose Common Core (43%) than support it (42%).
  • Opposition is the lowest among African Americans (24%) and Hispanics (29%).
  • A majority of the public believes it is the state’s role, not the federal government’s role to establish education standards – 51%. Only 39% believes it is a federal role.
  • This was surprising – more Republicans (40%) believe the feds have the biggest role in setting standards compared to Democrats (37%). This doesn’t necessarily indicate support for that position, but how they view the way things are.

I’m less enthused about the polling on parental opt-outs and assessments.

  • 69% of the general public support the Feds requiring testing. Only 20% oppose.
  • 68% of parents support testing with 24% opposed.
  • Only 50% of teachers support testing with 46% opposed.
  • 60% of the general public opposes parental opt-outs. 25% support.
  • Among parents only 49% oppose opting out with 38% supporting opt-outs.
  • Only 52% of teachers opposed opting out with 40% supporting a parents’ right to opt their child out.
  • 63% of the general public support using the same test across states with 24% opposed.
  • 62% of parents support using the same tests across states with 25% opposed.
  • 53% of teachers support using the same tests across states with 38% opposed.

I have to admit that I’m surprised that more teachers support opting out of tests than parents. What doesn’t surprise me is that support for testing is so high. If education reformers have been successful at all it has been with the idea of schools being accountable which so far has primarily been done through testing.

Learning Is Earning?????

Peter Greene had an apt description for the video I’m sharing below. “If you want to see where Competency Based Education, data mining, the cradle to career pipeline, the gig economy, and the transformation into a master and servant class society all intersect– boy, have I got a video for you,” he writes over at Curmudgucation.

In this video ACT Foundation and the Institute for the Future give us their vision for education surrounding a tool called “The Ledger” which is downright frightening. This is workforce development run amok.

What they describe here is not education, at best you can call this training. This is also a data mining nightmare. Also this just boils “education” down to what is marketable. Forget learning that doesn’t have anything to do with your job. That’s just a waste of time!

Greene gives a rundown of why he’s concerned about this video, and I encourage you to read that. Greene points out, rightly, that even if ACT Foundation, Pearson, and the like can’t accomplish this it does give us an indication of where they are headed and what their efforts will be focused on.

And it isn’t good.

Florida Stop Common Core Coalition Announces Ratings in Key Florida Races

Florida State Flag
The Florida Stop Common Core Coalition (FSCCC), an organization of fifty grassroots and parent groups from all over Florida, is pleased to announce the release of six Common Core and related education voter guides from six key contested primaries. The guides consist of detailed information about and links to candidates’ statements and records regarding the inferior Common Core standards, validity challenged high stakes assessments, data mining, and career tracking, as well as what they would do about it (see below). The races chosen are those where candidates have worked really hard against this dangerous system, publicly promised to work against it, or promoted it while making false claims of working against it.

“Our grading system, just like that in schools, rewards hard work and punishes deception,” FSCCC Executive Director, Dr. Karen Effrem explained. “We are grateful to Rep. Debbie Mayfield (A++), a national leader, and Rep. Ray Pilon (A+) for their incredible work against this terrible system. We also really appreciate legislators like Rep. Greg Steube and Rep. Matt Hudson, who even though they have been working in other important areas of public policy, are courageous enough to pledge to stand against special interests to fight Common Core. In addition, we are thankful for candidates like Ms. Laurie Bartlett, Mr. David Gee, and Mr. Steve Vernon giving so much of their time and treasure to protect the hearts and minds of our children.”

“At the same time, it is critical that promotion of this system and deceit about records not be rewarded. We want our supporters to be informed.” continued Effrem. “The actions, campaign materials, of Reps. Workman (F), O’Toole (F), Passidomo (D), Baxley (D), former Rep. Holder (F), and candidate Gruters (D-) are incredibly disappointing and dangerous.

Here is one example of that kind of deception with Joe Gruters being among the first to float the idea of the deceptive Common Core rebrand during the governor’s 2013 summit:


Dr. Effrem concluded, “We as parents and grandparents cannot and will not tolerate Common Core deceit because the actions of these public officials have such enormous impact on the futures and privacy of our children” 

The races are listed below:

SENATE DISTRICT 12: Dennis Baxley (D)  David Gee  (A-) Marlene O’Toole (F)

SENATE DISTRICT 17: Debbie Mayfield (A++) Michael Thomas (C+) Amy Tidd (C-) Ritch Workman (F) 

SENATE DISTRICT 23: Frank Alcock (C) Frank Cirillo (C-) Doug Holder (F) Rick Levine(B-) Nora Patterson (C-) Ray Pilon (A+) Greg Steube (B+)

SENATE DISTRICT 28: Matt Hudson (B+) Kathleen Passidomo (D) 

 HOUSE DISTRICT 4: Laurie Bartlett (A) Wayne Harris (C-) Armand Izzo (B-) Mel Ponder(C-) Jonathan Tallman (C)  

HOUSE DISTRICT 73: Joe Gruter (D-) Steve Vernon (A)

More Blind Faith Placed in Common Core

The Center for American Progress issued a “report” about how the Common Core State Standards “arm students with the necessary literacy skills needed for college and careers.”

Here is an excerpt of their summary:

One only need skim the data to see that just a small proportion of students are on the path to graduate from high school ready for college and a career. Only one-third of fourth- and eighth-grade students—36 percent and 34 percent, respectively—performed at the proficient level or higher in reading, according to the most recent data, on the National Assessment of Educational Progress, or NAEP. Students do not close these gaps as they continue in the K-12 system. Only 38 percent of high school seniors are proficient in reading according to NAEP, and NAEP reading scores are even bleaker for black high school students at 16 percent, Latino students at 23 percent, and English language learners, or ELLs, at 4 percent. And while students in the fourth grade are reading on par with students in other high-performing countries, U.S. 15-year-olds rank 17th out of students in 34 Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development countries.

The Common Core State Standards in English Language Arts and Literacy in History/Social Studies, Science, and Technical Subjects—or ELA standards for short—help address some of these readiness gaps. Forty-two states and the District of Columbia are currently in the process of implementing the state-developed ELA and math Common Core K-12 standards, which were finalized in 2010.

The ELA standards are changing how students read and write in American classrooms in some fundamental ways. Under the new standards, students are getting regular practice with complex and grade-level appropriate texts, using more informational texts, and practicing more evidence-based writing.

All they do in this “report” is regurgitate Common Core advocacy talking points. There is no data given to show Common Core is working. There is no evidence. In fact the NAEP scores they share in the excerpt above disprove their point.

Also ACT took issue with some of what Common Core advocates consider being “college-ready.” For instance with the Common Core approach to writing they said:

….high school teachers and perhaps some middle school teachers may be emphasizing certain approaches to writing over others due to a concern for source-based writing in response to the Common Core State Standards. But if so, college instructors appear to value some key features of source-based writing (the ability to analyze source texts and summarize other authors’ ideas) much less than the ability to generate sound ideas—a skill applicable across much broader contexts.

Sandra Stotsky, who wrote Massachusetts’ ELA standards pre-Common Core and was on the Common Core validation committee, addressed in a Heritage Foundation Report why the Common Core approach to reading was inappropriate.

Why do Common Core’s architects believe that reading more nonfiction and “informational” texts in English classes (and in other high school classes) will improve students’ college readiness?

Their belief seems to be based on what they see as the logical implication of the fact that college students read more informational than literary texts. However, there is absolutely no empirical research to suggest that college readiness is promoted by informational or nonfiction reading in high school English classes (or in mathematics and science classes).

In fact, the history of the secondary English curriculum in 20th-century America suggests that the decline in readiness for college reading stems in large part from an increasingly incoherent, less challenging literature curriculum from the 1960s onward. This decline has been propelled by the fragmentation of the year-long English course into semester electives, the conversion of junior high schools into middle schools, and the assignment of easier, shorter, and contemporary texts—often in the name of multiculturalism.

From about the 1900s—the beginning of uniform college entrance requirements via the college boards—until the 1960s, a challenging, literature-heavy English curriculum was understood to be precisely what pre-college students needed. Nonetheless, undeterred by the lack of evidence to support their sales pitch, Common Core’s architects divided all of the ELA reading standards into two groups: 10 standards for informational reading and nine for literary reading at every grade level.

This misplaced stress on informational texts (no matter how much is literary nonfiction) reflects the limited expertise of Common Core’s architects and sponsoring organizations in curriculum and in teachers’ training. This division of reading standards was clearly not developed or approved by English teachers and humanities scholars, because it makes English teachers responsible for something they have not been trained to teach and will not be trained to teach unless the entire undergraduate English major and preparatory programs in English education are changed.

In short, Stotsky writes that the direction Common Core took with reading material really won’t help students become “college ready.”

Here is what you really need to know.

The Gates Foundation just awarded them $1,000,000 in July “to increase support for and reduce opposition to the Common Core and high-quality assessments, and to promote high-quality early childhood education through strategic advocacy efforts that bring new voices into the early childhood movement.”

Seriously for one million dollars they really need to do better than this. In fact since 2008 the Gates Foundation has given the Center for American Progress almost $6.7 million for their K-12 education efforts.

The Center for American Progress “report” on the Common Core State Standards for English Language Arts is just a Gates Foundation-funded piece of propaganda.