Why are Tax-Funded Common Core Meetings Closed to the Public?

Joy Pullman, research fellow at The Heartland Institute and the managing editor of School Reform News, reports that the meetings of Council of Chief State School Officers to write and discuss the Common Core State Standards are closed to the public.

Meetings between members of the Council of Chief State School Officers to write and discuss these standards and corresponding tests are closed to the public, though taxpayers pay for state officials to attend these meetings and to be CCSSO members.

“[T]he Council of Chief State School Officers holds over one hundred meetings per year,” its meeting webpage states. “CCSSO meetings are closed to the public and attendance is by invitation only unless otherwise denoted” (emphasis original).

CCSSO and the National Governor’s Association are two nonprofits that coordinated state involvement and adoption of the Core. It outlines what states will expect K-12 children to know in math and English/language arts in each grade. Nearly all states adopted them in 2010 within five months of their release, and plan to fully implement them, along with matching tests currently in development, by 2014-2015.

When meetings such as these have a tremendous impact on education policy, especially when they are funded with taxpayer money (from state dues and direct funding from the U.S. Department of Education), then the public has the right to attend if they so choose.

Heather Crossin, a mom and a tea party activist, Common Core critic and co-founder of Hoosiers Against Common Core, inquired about attending, but was told no.

Indiana resident Heather Crossin, whose children attend schools implementing the Core, attempted to attend an October 2012 CCSSO meeting in her Indianapolis hometown. Crossin called Michele Parks, a CCSSO meeting planner, to see if she could attend. No, Parks said. Crossin asked to see a list of people on the Social Studies standards writing team: “I was told that was not available for public release,” Crossin said.

Ten weeks entailing dozens of emails and phone calls to at least six CCSSO spokesmen and personnel for access to the Indianapolis meeting or any others at last yielded an email to School Reform News from spokeswoman Kate Dando in December: “our meetings/sessions at our meetings are open to press really on a case by case basis,” she wrote.

Some reporters have attended some CCSSO meetings, usually on background, she said, which means they cannot directly quote what they hear. Why?

Why? Exactly… what do they have to hide?

New Standards, Familiar Problems

The following op-ed is the John Locke Foundation’s Daily Journal for Friday, October 28, 2011:

If you thought the federal No Child Left Behind law was bad, you haven’t seen anything yet.

Next year, the N.C. Department of Public Instruction will introduce new curriculum standards for all public school students. This will include Common Core State Standards in K-12 English and mathematics. North Carolina’s adoption of the Common Core standards is a testament to the growing influence of the federal government in matters that traditionally (and constitutionally) have been state and local responsibilities.

Unlike No Child Left Behind, the Common Core State Standards are the product of two independent organizations: the National Governors Association and Council of Chief State School Officers. While these groups coordinated the standards’ development, neither had the financial or political influence to convince states to sign on. After all, education officials in North Carolina and elsewhere had little incentive to adopt standards created by two Washington outfits. Enter the feds.

The federal government joined forces with these organizations and made states an offer they couldn’t refuse. The U.S. Department of Education declared that a state officially adopting the common standards would receive “bonus points” toward its application for a piece of the $4.5 billion federal Race to the Top fund. In June 2010, the State Board of Education unanimously approved Common Core English and math standards. Three months later, North Carolina won a four-year, $400 million Race to the Top grant. In fact, all 10 states that received round-two Race to the Top grants adopted Common Core standards.

The federal government is also bankrolling the development of common tests. Predictably, most states are falling in line. The Education Department will distribute $360 million in grants to members of two state consortia. North Carolina became a member of the SMARTER Balanced Assessment Consortium. In its role as a governing state in this group, North Carolina will work with public education agencies from 28 other states to shape test-design policy.

Of course, the burden of implementing common standards and tests will fall on North Carolina’s English and math teachers. They will have the difficult task of quickly turning a catalog of new standards into sound classroom instruction. And research indicates that the shift to Common Core standards will not be easy. In a study published in Educational Researcher, a University of Pennsylvania research team concluded that the Common Core standards represent considerable change over existing state standards and tests. Researchers also found that the proposed standards are no better, and likely worse, than academic standards created by state education agencies.

While researchers disagree about the English standards’ quality, there is a growing consensus that the Common Core math standards are abysmal. In fact, few academics, policy analysts, and education officials have been willing to defend the math standards publicly. For example, the executive editor of Education Next recently complained that, after three months and numerous rejections, he has been unable to find anyone willing to write a short defense of the math standards for his widely read journal.

Parents, public school teachers, and school board members throughout North Carolina have joined a growing number of opponents of the Common Core standards. During a recent school board meeting in Durham, two board members publicly voiced their concerns about the standards. They worried that the implementation of dramatically different standards has the potential to harm struggling students. Durham Public Schools superintendent Eric Becoats warned them that delaying implementation of the Common Core standards would prompt state education officials to punish the district. He responded, “I’m not sure if we would receive funding from the state.”

In other words, Becoats suspects that the state would employ the same kind of “carrot and stick” strategies employed by the federal government to get North Carolina to adopt the Common Core State Standards, as well as No Child Left Behind, in the first place.

Dr. Terry Stoops is the Director of Education Studies for the John Locke Foundation

The Common Core in North Carolina

By chance, I came across this 2010 quote from North Carolina’s State Superintendent of Public Instruction, June Atkinson.

It isn’t often that curriculum development takes front and center, but lately it has. Yesterday the Council of Chief State School Officers (CCSSO) and the National Governors Association Center for Best Practices (NGA Center) released the draft K-12 Common Core State Standards in English language arts and mathematics. North Carolina is one of the states that are working together to develop the Common Core. I think this effort will be successful precisely because it is being led by the states and is not a “top-down” initiative. (Emphasis added)

First, let me apologize for North Carolina’s involvement in the Common Core.  Second, I think the above quote demonstrates the kind of naivety that can only come from a state education chief like Atkinson.  Federal incentives to adopt the Common Core make it anything but a state-led initiative.

Viewpoints Common Core Standards

Viewpoints Common Core Standards
Gary Palmer  September 23, 2011  Alabama Policy Institute

The federal government already has too much control over too much of the daily lives of Alabama families without also tying the future of Alabama’s children to the dictates of federal education bureaucrats. The members of the Alabama State Board of Education should put Alabama first and withdraw from Common Core.

The Pending Collapse of National Standards

The Pending Collapse of National Standards
August 23nd, 2011    Jay P. Greene’s Blog

…I think the the tide has turned and the push to nationalize standards, curriculum, and assessments will fail.  It’s impressive how far the current effort has gotten and the Gates/U.S. Department have a bunch of folks believing that their triumph is inevitable.

The Stealth Strategy of National Standards

The Stealth Strategy of National Standards
August 22nd, 2011    Jay P. Greene’s Blog

The thing that is so irritating to me about the Gates/U.S. Department of Education juggernaut is their obvious disinterest in having a big, open national discussion.  They prefer brute force over intellectual exchange.  Of course, they seek to avoid the open discussion because they’ve already made up their minds about the right thing to do and are just trying to maximize the political prospects for success.

Common Core Standards, ALEC, Jeb Bush and the "Frozen People" (American Taxpayers and Citizens)

Common Core Standards, ALEC, Jeb Bush and the “Frozen People” (American Taxpayers and Citizens)

At the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) meeting in New Orleans this past week, Jeb Bush’s “progressive conservative” organization squashed effective discussion between legislators who wanted to discuss slowing down/stopping implementation of common core standards. Neal McCluskey writes:

In this space, we’ve been telling you about a few efforts in state legislatures to complicate adoption or implementation of common standards … A move that had the potential to involve many states unfolded last week in New Orleans, but was stopped in its tracks. And none other than former Fla. Gov. Jeb Bush, revered by many conservatives, was involved in stopping it.

The Education Week report links to a letter that Mr. Bush sent to a subcommittee of the American Legislative Exchange Council that was slated to simply take up discussion of model legislation opposing national standards. Mr. Bush urged members to table the proposal. In other words, he urged them to not even talk about it, because apparently even considering that the Common Core might have dangerous downsides should be avoided, even among people who believe in individualism and liberty. (emphasis added)

McCluskey posted a follow-up article (“School Snatchers Invasion Confirmed!”) about what happened in the meeting:
Yesterday, I blogged about a letter from Jeb Bush reportedly causing a subcommittee of the American Legislative Exchange Council to table model legislation opposing national standards. Subsequent to my writing that, a follow-up Education Week post reported that debate wasn’t, in fact, quashed by Bush’s letter. Unfortunately, it appears consideration was postponed for another reason: Most state legislators have no idea what’s going on with national standards:

“Legislators have heard of it, but not a whole lot of states engage legislators in discussion of the common core,” said [John Locke Foundation education analyst Terry] Stoops, who describes himself as a common-core opponent. “Some wanted to know more about it, because state education agencies or state boards of education didn’t give them much information, if any, on the common core.”

If this is accurate, it confirms exactly what I’ve been saying for months: Despite being told that the national standards drive is “state-led,” the people’s representatives have been frozen out of it. Worse, it suggests that national-standardizers’ strategy of sneaking standards in is working. (emphasis added)

After I reposted McCluskey’s article, a reader asked me what could we do in our state to get rid of these common core standards? Based on McCluskey’s report, here is what needs to be done. The legislators need to be educated on what these standards entail, how they have been left out of the process by their state education boards, and the enormous amount of debt this will cost their state:

  • Determine which legislators are members of ALEC and contact them with your concerns.
  • Provide them with information on common core standards from this non-partisan (and non-corporate sponsored) website: http://www.truthinamericaneducation.com
  • Ask the ALEC legislators why he/she would support such progressive and centralized mandates as common core standards. They do not allow local control and are being pushed through via federal funding enticements and are the plans of Arne Duncan and the Obama administration.
  • Ask the ALEC legislators why Jeb Bush is supporting the Obama administration’s vision for education?
  • Ask the ALEC legislators why Jeb Bush doesn’t want a debate on the standards?
  • Ask the ALEC legislators how common core standards are constitutional?
  • Ask the ALEC legislators how common core standards involve parents, taxpayers and communities?
  • And perhaps most importantly: ask the ALEC legislators how these educational mandates are different from the Obamacare mandates? Both create centralized control and power and diminish state and individual rights.

In in fact ALEC is dedicated to Jeffersonian principles, Common Core standards are antithetical to those principles and the members of this organization should call for action to dismantle adoption and implementation in December. And perhaps members such as Jeb Bush and the education reform organizations should be schooled in the Constitution they hold up as a guide.

Aren’t you weary of being frozen out of the process of educating your children, paying your taxes, and having no voice? It’s time to expose progressive conservatives for what they are: elitists who have no interest in a representative republic.

Cross posted from the MISSOURI EDUCATION WATCHDOG.  Article by STLGRETCHEN on AUGUST 11, 2011.

Education Revolution… Without the People?

Education Revolution… Without the People?
Emmet McGroarty  2/23/2011  Townhall.com

NGA wanted to implement its plan quickly — and avoid the tedium of the democratic process.

And then there’s the NGA. It is not an official body of the states. Yet, it is acting like a legislative body and, on a transformative initiative, helped cut the American people out of the democratic process