The NC Supt. Responds to the Lt. Gov.'s Questions About the Common Core

…or does she? On July 18, I posted a video in a post titled NC Lt. Gov. Forest Expresses Concerns and Questions About the Common Core. In the video the Lt. Gov. of NC posed a lot of questions he was seeking answers to from the state superintendent. He also provided a link to his letter that contained all of his questions. The superintendent has responded to the Lt. Gov. and he provides this video to share the response with the public.

I watched the video and skimmed through the response letter Lt. Gov. Forrest received. Wow! What arrogance. We end up seeing that kind of arrogance all the time when we ask for information and clarification on issues it is just not as big time and evident.

And the real answer to Lt. Gov. Forrest’s questions is:

1) Find your own answer, or
2) Any answer is acceptable, after all it is the Common Core and the process, not accurate answers, is what’s most important.

Here is the response letter.

Common Core Headaches: Not Enough Resources for Implementation

Via Politico from yesterday:

Many of the states phasing in Common Core are finding that they don’t have enough staff — or cash — to train teachers, develop new curriculum materials or support online assessments aligned to the standards, according to a report due to be released today by the Center on Education Policy at The George Washington University.

The study finds states enthusiastic about Common Core; all 40 states surveyed predicted the standards would boost student skills and bump up the rigor of both language arts and math classes. Yet just a handful of states said they had adequate expertise, staffing and fiscal resources to carry out the transition properly. Despite the flood of texts and workbooks promoted as “Common Core-aligned,” states reported particular trouble getting new curriculum material that truly dovetails with their classroom needs. That could mean students will not be well-prepared for the new Common Core tests rolling out in the 2014-15 school year, according to Diane Stark Rentner, the study’s author.

Oh so “Common Core-aligned” is just a marketing farce?  Love it how they’re already making excuses for the tests in 2014-2015.

They also point out that New York is seeing a delay in teaching materials as well.  We had a phrase for this when I was in the Army that I can’t write here, but man it fits.

NASBE Bought and Paid For

Well you have to appreciate that the National Association of State Boards of Education (NASBE) is open and honest about being bought off.  From a presser they just sent out yesterday:

ARLINGTON, Va., Aug. 6 – Even as most states work hard to implement the Common Core State Standards in math and English language arts, much remains to be done in the way of aligned assessments, educator support, and continued evaluation of the standards’ broader impact on other policies. The National Association of State Boards of Education (NASBE) will continue to assist state boards as they deal with these and other issues linked to the Common Core under a two-year, $800,000 grant from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.

The education issues associated with standards implementation are many, and the work in individual states is increasingly being seen as models for new policies and practices nationwide. NASBE is in a unique position to put all the research, analysis, politics, and context together in ways policymakers can understand and use to make their best judgments.

“Adoption of the Common Core by state boards was relatively easy compared to the work being done now in states,” said NASBE Executive Director Kristen Amundson. “Implementation of these more rigorous standards is truly the challenge of the next several years. It is critical that state boards be equipped to assist districts and school faculty as they prepare to teach curricula aligned to the new standards. We look forward to working with state board members and staff to help make this happen.”

In addition to developing a wide range of resources for states during the grant life, NASBE will host four regional symposia at which state board members will have the opportunity to work directly with experts who can help them develop action plans tailored to the needs of each state. NASBE will also create a state-level policy database that will enable board members to search for other states that have worked on similar issues and connect with them on policy language and the best ways to move implementation forward.

The National Association of State Boards of Education represents America’s state and territorial boards of education. NASBE exists to strengthen state boards as the preeminent educational policymaking bodies for citizens and students. For more, visit www.nasbe.org.

 I wonder if there is any organization promoting this that isn’t getting Gates money?

Mississippi Will Struggle With Common Core Implementation

MDOE-SealI had written earlier that Arizona has funding issues with the Common Core.  Iowa’s Department of Education doesn’t even have statutory authority to implement the SBAC tests.  Now The Sun Herald in Biloxi, MS reports that schools in Mississippi will have a hard time with implementation:

All U.S. students in second through 12th grades, under the newly adopted Common Core State Standards, will take the same standardized tests online rather than on paper at school. The deadline for schools to implement this requirement is the 2014-15 school year.

Many school districts, however, may find themselves struggling with a lack in technology and hardware, outdated electrical infrastructure, a shortage of bandwidth and a need for more staff to manage it all.

“This is going to be a problem in Mississippi if it’s not addressed now in the budget,” Pascagoula School District Superintendent Wayne Rodolfich said.

National standards will require 100 megabytes of bandwidth per 1,000 students. The Pascagoula district has 200MB total. With 7,000 students in the district, Rodolfich said the district plans to increase its bandwidth to 700MB by the 2014-15 school year to meet the standard.

Pascagoula has the third-highest bandwidth capacity in Mississippi, after the DeSoto County School District with 350MB and Jackson Public School District with 250MB. However, DeSoto has 35,000 students, and Jackson district has 30,000, so by comparison, Pascagoula is in “very good shape,” Rodolfich said.

HT: Christel Swasey

Common Core Has Funding Issues In Arizona

Ben Franklin Wearing Graduation Cap on One Hundred Dollar Bill

Here is where the Common Core State Standards are very much at risk of becoming undone.  State Boards and Departments of Education rushed to adopt them, but they’re not the ones paying for it.  Arizona is having problems with the bottom line.  I doubt they are alone.

From The Arizona Republic:

Arizona leaders have called for tougher new education standards, but the cost to implement them in classrooms has fallen primarily to school districts, which have seen state funding drop by about 15 percent since 2008.

Arizona is one of 46 states to adopt advanced national standards known as Common Core Standards, and next fall, teachers in every public-school classroom in Arizona are supposed to teach with more rigorous materials and methods to encourage students to think critically to better prepare them for college and to compete in the global marketplace.

After nearly 20 years teaching students based on topics tested through the state’s Arizona’s Instrument to Measure Standards, or AIMS, budget-challenged districts from Mesa to Surprise have cobbled together funding sources, largely federal grants, to introduce teachers to the new way of teaching.

However, teachers need more training and schools must update classroom materials and technology as students in 2015 are supposed to take online tests ushered in with Common Core.

The costs become more formidable in view of potential federal budget cuts and voters’ rejection in November of numerous local funding requests as well as a statewide ballot request to keep a 1-cent-per-dollar sales tax intended largely to help fund schools.

Gov. Jan Brewer, who opposed making the sales tax permanent, is expected to include funding for Common Core in her budget proposal later this month.

The more rigorous standards are a key component of her push for education reform.

A document from the Arizona Department of Education pegged the new cost over the next two years at $131 million, although it’s unlikely the governor would seek that full amount — or get it.

State Rep. John Kavanagh, R-Fountain Hills, chairman of the House Appropriations Committee, said funding the full amount in addition to other needs would be fiscally dangerous.

Read the rest.

Common Core Math Standards Making the Simple Complicated

mathBarry Garelick wrote at The Atlantic about the Common Core Math Standards.  Basically he says that kids are required not to just learn how to make a calculations, but also how to explain why they are doing so.  The standards actually elevate this above learning how to solve math problems.  Garelick points out a couple of emails he has received as anecdotal evidence that the implementation of the standards are falling flat.

The first email was from a parent:

They implemented Common Core this year in our school system in Tennessee. I have a third grader who loved math and got A’s in math until this year, where he struggles to get a C. He struggles with “explaining” how he got his answer after using “mental math.” In fact, I had no idea how to explain it! It’s math 2+2=4. I can’t explain it, it just is.

The second from a teacher…

I am teaching the traditional algorithm this year to my third graders, but was told next year with Common Core I will not be allowed to. They should use mental math, and other strategies, to add. Crazy! I am so outraged that I have decided my child is NOT going to public schools until Common Core falls flat.

Garelick then goes on to explain why the Common Core Math Standards complicate math needlessly for students:

Many of these standards require that students to be able to explain why a particular procedure works. It’s not enough for a student to be able to divide one fraction by another. He or she must also “use the relationship between multiplication and division to explain that (2/3) ÷ (3/4) = 8/9, because 3/4 of 8/9 is 2/3.”

It’s an odd pedagogical agenda, based on a belief that conceptual understanding must come before practical skills can be mastered. As this thinking goes, students must be able to explain the “why” of a procedure. Otherwise, solving a math problem becomes a “mere calculation” and the student is viewed as not having true understanding.

This approach not only complicates the simplest of math problems; it also leads to delays. Under the Common Core Standards, students will not learn traditional methods of adding and subtracting double and triple digit numbers until fourth grade. (Currently, most schools teach these skills two years earlier.) The standard method for two and three digit multiplication is delayed until fifth grade; the standard method for long division until sixth. In the meantime, the students learn alternative strategies that are far less efficient, but that presumably help them “understand” the conceptual underpinnings.

Be sure to read his whole article.

Common Core Propaganda: Who Created the Standards Exactly?

Propaganda has accompanied the Common Core State Standards, but now they are being implemented expect it to come out even more.  I wanted to point out an example that was emailed to me yesterday.  From a piece written by Cammy Harbison at Voxxi.com.  She writes about the benefits of the common core state standards, and right in her overview of the standards we see a glaring untruth.

These standards were developed by classroom teachers, school administrators and experts, in order to provide a consistent framework of instruction across the United States so that our children will be prepared for college and the workforce.

Wrong.  These standards were never developed by classroom teachers or school administrators.  The architect of the Common Core is David Coleman.  Coleman has never been a teacher.  One of the chief criticisms of the Common Core, by teachers no less, is that they were not involved in the development of the Common Core.  She is right that “experts” were involved, but that is a pretty subjective term.  I find it fascinating how somebody could be deemed “an expert” on how and what teachers should teach every child across the country.

Then there’s the fact these standards have never been field tested anywhere.

But parents, don’t worry, these standards rolling out this year (if you happen to be so “lucky” to be in one of the 45 states who are implementing them) will be *beneficial.*  Trust the educrats, it’ll be ok.

Update: Robert Pondiscio left an insightful comment on Facebook and gave me permission to post it here.

The issue with CCSS is not who created them and under what circumstances, but implementation. To be clear the standards do not “provide a consistent framework of instruction.” They are statements of what students should be able to do, not what they should know. But if we knew what it took to get students to that level we’d be doing it already.

Very true, another piece of propaganda exposed.

Should Teachers Be the Only Ones to Own Education Standards?

John Ewing writing at Education Week seems to think so.

Or was it? After two decades of standards, we still wring our hands about student declines, unfocused curricula, and dreadful textbooks. There is little evidence that previous standards substantially improved education, and the fact that we continually replace old standards with new does not suggest success.

Why have previous standards failed? I think the answer is simple and evident: Standards failed because everybody owns them—politicians, administrators, teacher-educators (not to mention policy experts, publishers, and others)—everybody except the people who actually have to implement them, who have to use them as guides for the real work of instruction, and who have to determine whether the standards really are “statements about what is valued.” Teachers have never owned standards.

I agree that teachers need to have ownership with the standards since they do have the job of implementing them.  One of the weaknesses of the Common Core State Standards is that they’ve never been field tested – anywhere.  Teachers should be able to give feedback.  However should they be the only one to have ownership?  Not on your life.

Ewing talks about politicians, administrators, and university faculty members, but he fails to mention one key constituency – parents.

This is a problem with the education community.  Many within the community, by their actions, unintentionally (or in some cases intentionally) treat parents as rubes who don’t know what is best for their kids; when they are the ones who really do know what is best.  So while teachers need to have ownership in educational standards, with a caveat that they are local standards, they are co-owners along with other stakeholders such as parents.  With a centralized set of standards driven at the Federal level it is impossible for teachers and parents to have any type of ownership.

Which is the foundational reason for why I oppose them.

Now We See How A Common Core Failure Will Be Spun

Blame the teachers… via EdWeek’s Andrew Ujifusa reporting from the Education Commission of States policy meeting that was held in Atlanta last week:

Zimba fended off a question from an audience member about whether the common core had been comprehensively tested in the field by saying the common core is the result of a decade-long experiment with students and how they dealt with various standards, as well as extensive research. “They’re not a pill,” he said.

When it came to actually using the standards successfully, Coleman added, “The ‘how’ remains in teachers’ hands.”

David Coleman and Jason Zimba were lead writers of the common core standards in English/Language Arts and Math.  This was a simple question about whether the lack of field testing.  Even a Common Core agnostic sees the problem with that.

About Those NCLB Waivers…

From some who thought the No Child Left Behind waivers were going to ease the reporting burden on states who receive them… think again.  From EdWeek:

The Education Department is in the process of changing its requirements for the federal EDFacts system, which consolidates data from various education programs including Title I grants to districts and the School Improvement Grant program, to adapt to the varied state accountability systems which will be created by the waivers, Ross C. Santy, the Education Department’s deputy assistant secretary for data and information, told state and district officials at the annual STATS-DC conference here Wednesday afternoon. To the obvious surprise of many of the officials who packed the room, Mr. Santy noted, “There are no exceptions to the reporting rules in the statute; the components of [adequate yearly progress] are still required.”

That means waivers states, who have created brand new accountability systems, don’t have to do less reporting. They actually have to do more. All states, both waived and unwaived, must report the number and percentage of students in each subgroup, how many pass the reading/language arts and mathematics tests, the number who graduate high school with a standard diploma, and so on. In particular, unless a state specifically notes in its approved waiver that it will not use supplemental tutoring and school choice at schools identified for improvement, districts still must report how much money was spent on those services.

“Under Title I for the past decade we have had SES,” Santy said, referring to the federal tutoring program. “If your plan did not remove supplemental educational services, there are still data you have to report.”

Moreover, districts in states that receive waivers will have new reporting to match some of the new accountability quirks. For example, some states asked to track a “lowest 20 percent of students” group, and others asked to combine some racial or language student groups to create groups large enough to meet the minimal size for accountability. Districts in these states will have to report the numbers and test performance of any combined student groups separately and in addition to reporting all of the standard student groups.

It would seem that waiver states rushed to participate in an unconstitutional process and for laying their educational sovereignty at the feet of the U.S. Department of Education in determining standards and evaluation systems they are rewarded with more report.  Oops.