New Jersey Assembly Blocks PARCC From Being Used in Teacher Evaluations


The New Jersey Assembly voted overwhelmingly to prevent PARCC scores from being used to evaluate teachers The Press of Atlantic City reports:

The state Assembly on Thursday approved a bill that would prohibit the use of student standardized test results as part of teacher or principal evaluations.

The bill passed 52-11-8.

For the past two years the results of the state tests have accounted for 10 percent of teacher evaluations under state Department of Education regulations. Starting this year test results would count for 30 percent of the evaluation.

Approximately 15 percent of New Jersey educators will have PARCC results factored into their evaluations.

That bill sailed through the Assembly Education Committee 11 to 1 earlier this month. It now heads off to the New Jersey Senate.

New Minnesota Law Says Parents Must Be Consulted About Surveys

Photo credit: Alexius Horatius (CC-By-SA 3.0)

Photo credit: Alexius Horatius (CC-By-SA 3.0)

Minnesota Governor Mark Dayton signed a law yesterday that provides parents with input and schools with guidance about parental notification in terms of surveys.  These surveys can be very intrusive.

Minnesotans Against Common Core have pushed this bill, and this is a huge win for parents. They describe the bill this way:

Minnesota Statute 121A.065 states that school districts and charter schools must develop and adopt policies on conducting student surveys and their distribution IN CONSULTATION WITH PARENTS.  This is about as close to local control as one gets!  Additionally, school districts and charter schools must:

  1. Directly notify parents of these policies at the beginning of each school year
  2. Directly notify parents after making any substantive changes
  3. Inform parents at the beginning of the year if the district or school has identified specific or approximate dates for administering survevys
  4. Give parents reasonable notice of planned surveys scheduled after the start of the year
  5. Give parents direct, timely notice, by United States mail, email, or other direct form of communication, when the students are scheduled to participate in a student survey
  6. Give parents the opportunity to review the survey and to opt their students out of participating in the survey
  7. School districts and charter schools must not impose an academic or other penalty upon a student who opts out of participating in a survey under paragraph (a).

They provide the text of the statute.

Michigan on the Verge of Repealing Common Core

Photo credit: Brian Charles Watson (CC-By-SA 3.0)

Photo credit: Brian Charles Watson (CC-By-SA 3.0)

The Michigan Legislature is on the verge of passing what is poised to be the strongest anti-Common Core bill to date. The legislation SB 826 is sponsored by State Senator Pat Colebeck (R-Canton) in the Michigan Senate. A companion bill, HB 5444, sponsored State Representative Gary Glenn (R-Midland) in the Michigan House of Representatives.

The legislation would:

  • Michigan’s math, ELA, science and Social studies standards (math and ELA standards are Common Core) 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. New standards shall not be implemented until both the Senate and House approve the new standards in concurrent resolutions.
  • 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.

If the sponsor(s) can keep it from being gutted by the usual suspects who elevate their own agendas over genuine education, it will be a very strong bill. I look forward to seeing how the education-establishment and corporate types argue that replacing the Common Core standards with the indisputably better pre-Common Core Massachusetts standards will harm Michigan education,” Jane Robbins, Senior Fellow at American Principles Project, said to Truth in American Education in an email.

SB 826, that has six cosponsors, passed the Michigan Senate Education Committee, but has not yet been brought to the Senate floor for a full vote. HB 5444 has 32 co-sponsors and has not yet moved out of the Michigan House Education Committee.

One of the possible delays Melanie Kurdys, co-founder of Stop Common Core in Michigan, opined was the attached fiscal note that said the bill would have a negative impact. They disagree:

First, the House Appropriations Bill calls for the current state assessment, M-Step to be dropped and replaced with a computer-adaptive assessment.  THIS strategy would be extremely costly to the MDE as well as local districts.  Building a brand new assessment is expensive. Computer-adaptive state-wide assessments are an experiment prone to significant start-up problems and REQUIRE every school district in the state to have current and adequate computer technology and internet access.

SB 826 calls for the adoption of the Massachusetts pre-Common Core assessment, a proven, paper and pencil assessment.  Years of actual questions, answers, cut scores and disaggregated student achievement are available FOR FREE online.  All Michigan needs to do is modify Social Studies questions to reflect MI history instead of MA.  The cost and administration of a paper and pencil assessment is far less than a computer based assessment.  And based on our experience with M-Step, the results will be available to the schools in a much more timely manner!

Second, local districts do not have to change their curriculum.  Local districts and importantly, teachers, will have the freedom to teach using best practice, rather than an experimental cookie-cutter approach.  They can change if they choose, but change is not required.

Finally, the cost of the failed Common Core experiment is profound.  A failed first attempt at a Common Core aligned assessment, M-Step, is just the tip of the iceberg.

Colebeck told Truth in American Education that the bill is waiting for Senate Majority Leader Arlan Meekhof (R-West Olive) to authorize a vote.

“We’re pressing to get a floor vote. I’ve whipped my caucus, and we have the vote. Just need the the Majority Leader to authorize it,” Colebeck told Truth in American Education during a phone interview.

Colebeck said there is a lot of enthusiasm to get the bill “across the finish line.”

Several groups have called for the repeal of Common Core in the state. Stop Common Core in Michigan has led grassroots activism in pushing out the standards.  The Michigan 13th Congressional District Republican Committee passed a resolution in favor of the bills. The Michigan Republican Party and Michigan 9th Congressional District Republican Executive Committee, Republican Women’s Federation of Michigan have offered resolutions calling for the repeal of the standards.  Add those to national voices and local groups who have called for an end to the standards marking a groundswell of support.

Colebeck said that they will have to offer a substitute bill in order to see it pass. This has prompted concern among activists leery of a potential Common Core rebrand that has been seen in several states.

Colebeck said he is aware of the concern stating that the substitute bill will not be a rebrand, but will be a repeal and replace bill. “It will have a repeal component, and it will include the Massachusetts standards as a replacement. It will make it very difficult for the Common Core to eek its way back in,” Colebeck said.

When pressed about what would be taken out of the current bill if a substitute bill is offered, Colebeck pointed to the language in the bill that requires new standards having to pass through the House and Senate in concurrent resolutions. He indicated they would receive pushback and likely a legal challenge over that.

“I just don’t want this thing challenged once it is out,” Colebeck explained.

Colebeck was optimistic that the bill would see a vote within the next couple of weeks. He said if a vote is not held by then the next opportunity would be in the fall.

Stop Common Core in Michigan launched a petition that Michigan residents can sign.

Alaska Legislature Passes Important Parental Rights Bill

Alaska State Flag by Ed Keith (CC-By-NC-ND 2.0)

Photo credit: Ed Keith (CC-By-NC-ND 2.0)

The Alaska Legislature just passed a major piece of legislation that recognizes parental rights in education including a parent’s right to opt their children out of standardized testing.

HB 156 will go to the Governor Bill Walker’s desk.

Some of the pertinent language:

(a) A local school board shall, in consultation with parents, teachers, and school administrators, adopt policies to promote the involvement of parents in the school district’s education program. The policies must include procedures

(1) recognizing the authority of a parent and allowing a parent to object to and withdraw the child from a standards-based assessment or test required by the state;

(2) recognizing the authority of a parent and allowing a parent to object to and withdraw the child from an activity, class, or program;

(3) providing for parent notification not less than two weeks before any activity, class, or program that includes content involving human reproduction or sexual matters is provided to a child;

(4) recognizing the authority of a parent and allowing a parent to withdraw the child from an activity, class, program, or standards-based assessment or test required by the state for a religious holiday, as defined by the parent;

(5) providing a parent with an opportunity to review the content of an activity, class, performance standard, or program;

(6) ensuring that, when a child is absent from an activity, class, program, or standards-based assessment or test required by the state under this section, the absence is not considered an unlawful absence under AS 14.30.020 if the child’s parent withdrew the child from the activity, class, program, or standards-based assessment or test or gave permission for the child’s absence.

This doesn’t change Alaska’s standards which are essentially Common Core, but this is a win for parents who were having issues opting their students out of assessments and certain classes, like sex ed. This is something all states should do if they haven’t already. While parents have a natural right to opt their children out of assessments it is so much easier when the government cooperates with parents rather than oppose them.

Colorado Legislature on the Verge of Passing Student Data Privacy Law

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

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

The Colorado Legislature has considered a student privacy bill this session that would inform parents about what data is collected by schools and provide greater transparency to the process. The bill, HB 16-1423, is sponsored by State Representatives Paul Lundeen (R-El Paso) and Alec Garnett (D-Denver) in the Colorado House of Representatives, and by State Senator Owen Hill (R-El Paso) in the Colorado Senate.

The Colorado House passed the bill last month, the Colorado Senate on Tuesday passed an amended version of the bill. It will go back to the Colorado House and then to the Governor’s desk if the House approves the Senate amended version.

Cheri Kiesecker, a Colorado activist who works extensively on the student privacy issue, shared by email what this bill accomplishes:

  • Bans selling personal student information and advertising targeted to individual students.
  • expands the protection of and definition of what is pii (personally identifiable information)
  • makes contractors and those maintaining student data irreversibly destroy the data when they are finished with it
  • Posts the bad actors–if a vendor is found to be substantially misusing student data or in breach of a contract, the education provider will publicly post the name of said vendor and will investigate terminating contract, further use of vendor
  • Contractor responsibility for subcontractors’ actions.
  • Adoption of privacy policies by school boards.
  • Posting of information about contracts on district websites. The bill was amended to require the state and districts to post the contract texts online.
  • Districts also must post and explain the type and data points (elements) of personally identifiable information collected.
  • Specific requirements for data security and for removal after contracts end. An amendment added Monday says such data can’t be retrievable.
  • Guaranteed parent access to information about the data collected on their children and the right to have it corrected.

Kiesecker said the bill does not limit what data is collected, but it provides a step for parents to learn what data is being collected from their student.

Will the Iowa Legislature Block Smarter Balanced?


The Iowa Legislature is on the verge of passing an education appropriations bill that doesn’t fund the Smarter Balanced Assessments, that was adopted by the Iowa State Board of Education, but doesn’t block it either. The education appropriations subcommittee last week put forward a bill that didn’t include funding. The Iowa Senate passed the bill out of their appropriations committee on a party-line vote with Democrats voting for the bill, and Republicans voting against.

The Iowa Legislature has the opportunity to block the adoption of Smarter Balanced, back in December the joint administrative rules committee voted unanimously on a session delay for the assessment expressing disappointment that the State Board of Education had adopted an assessment, and were especially concerned with the cost. If the Legislature does nothing this session then the administrative rules governing the implementation of Smarter Balanced will go into effect and every public school and state-accredited non-public school will be required to administer the test.

It is important that Iowans contact their legislators today and let them know that Iowa’s schools can’t afford this assessment, and the legislature needs to block it.

Iowa has never funded assessments for local school districts, but the cost of Smarter Balanced compared to the Iowa Assessments is a significant increase. I wrote last week at Caffeinated Thoughts:

The problem is that the current Iowa Assessments only cost school districts between $4.25-$6.25 per assessment per student. Smarter Balanced which the Iowa State Board of Education approved last fall will cost districts at minimum $22.50 per assessment per student for just the summative assessment in English language arts and math, and up to $27.30 if the school districts use the full suite of formative, interim and summative assessments.

This didn’t even include the new science assessment that will be needed with the Iowa State Board of Education approving the Next Generation Science Standards. The current estimate for that assessment is $15.00 per student per assessment.

The Iowa Assessments include English language arts, math and science.

So school districts are facing paying a minimum of 3 1/2 times more for assessments. Where is this money going to come from? When the science assessment is added schools at minimum will be paying 6 times more.

Some points for legislators to consider…

Hard costs estimates to districts based on 2013-2014 enrollment:

  • SBAC summative: nearly a $5.5 million increase (500% increase)
  • SBAC summative, interim, digital library: over a $6.8 million increase (nearly 700% increase)
  • Next Generation Iowa Assessment: over a $3.2 million increase (300% increase)

Soft costs to each district: 

  • Common Core assessments are online-only assessments. They will require significant increases in both technology (computer equipment, software and maintenance) as well as internet bandwidth in all school districts just to accommodate that many students taking these tests. These costs are unknown and were not considered by the assessment task force.
  • The SBAC assessment does not include science. The additional costs for adding a science test are unknown and were not considered by the assessment task force. 
  • The SBAC assessment only measures the National Common Core Standards – it will not measure any of the required additional state standards that still remain as part of the Iowa Core (approximately 10-15%), nor any standards that local districts may be allowed to add (15%)

Who controls?

  • The Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium’s governing board is based at the University of California, and its fiscal agent is the State of Washington’s Superintendent’s office. It is funded primarily by the federal government via the U.S. Department of Education in Washington D.C. No Iowa educators or legislators participated in the writing or development of this test, nor will they be able to review, approve or make changes to it in order to align with Iowa standards.
  • This assessment will remove both local control and state control. It will drive both local and state standards, and ultimately curriculum, to align with what is important to the federal government and other states, rather than what is important to Iowans. 
  • It will only test those portions of Iowa Core that are the same as Common Core; no additional Iowa local or state standards will be tested.
  • Iowa teachers will be held accountable to test results from an assessment Iowans did not create, based on standards Iowa legislators and elected school boards did not approve.

Then the fact that this assessment is neither validated and reliable.

Iowa can do better for students, for parents and for Iowa’s taxpayers.

The Kansas House Education Committee Did NOT Give Common Core the Boot

Kansas State Capitol Building in Topeka, KS. Photo credit: Doug Kerr (CC-By-SA 2.0)

Kansas State Capitol Building in Topeka, KS.
Photo credit: Doug Kerr (CC-By-SA 2.0)

If you were to read the Topeka Capital-Journal you would think the Kansas House Education Committee booted the Common Core. “It’s throwing the baby out with the bath water,” the education establishment says.

They report:

The House Education Committee passed Friday a bill voiding statewide academic standards for public schools known as Common Core and requiring the Kansas State Board of Education to present a new set to the Legislature before implementation in 2017.

The vote followed four years of debate in the Capitol about standards for English and math implemented in 2010 by the state school board. The guidelines, renewed on a seven-year cycle, identify what the state board expects children to learn in each grade.

Rep. Amanda Grosserode, R-Lenexa, said the intention of pushing ahead with a revised version of House Bill 2292 was to offer a simplified approach for bringing to a close Kansas’ use of Common Core standards to influence instruction in fundamental subjects. In February, the same committee adopted a far more complex bill intended to derail Common Core.

“We want the current Common Core standards to end in 2017,” said Grosserode, a leading critic of the standards.

Rep. Nancy Lusk, R-Overland Park, expressed frustration with colleagues intent on producing the “ultimate throw-the-baby-out-with-the-bath-water legislation.”

The “far more complex bill” actually repealed the standards. This bill was already passed out of the Kansas House Education Committee. It was sent back to committee by the Speaker of the House, State Representative Ray Merrick (R-Stilwell).

Kansans Against Common Core who were present at the committee meeting when the vote took place outlined what happened, and it’s depressing.

On Friday, March 18th, 2016, the House Education Committee gutted a five-page bill and action that you have supported and elected people to vote for for multiple years, and substituted it with a PARAGRAPH that was not seen prior to Friday’s committee meeting, was written within an hour, and passed favorably based on an oral reading. It is clear that legislators are not serious about removing Washington D.C. education from Kansas. It was clear that the members were going to vote favorably for whatever motion Amanda Grosserode brought.

The Education Establishment (lobbyists, teacher union members and administrators being paid by YOUR tax dollars) has been putting in overtime, flooding your legislators with calls, cards, and emails. Even the PTA is promoting Common Core! We know you have been calling, as well. But, as you will see below, your legislators—especially the Republicans you elected to bring conservative principles—are only responding to the Establishment. Take note of the legislators’ actions from Friday, and unless they act to reverse their mis-informed actions, remember it this coming November. Make sure your dissatisfaction is heard at the voting booth.

Briefly, the new bill language does not address Kansas College and Career Ready Standards and all its alignments and entanglements, including assessments and data. THE NEW BILL LANGUAGE IN NO WAY AFFIRMS PARENTAL RIGHTS TO DIRECT THEIR CHILD’S EDUCATION.

I’ve been unable to find the current language to the bill which reinforces Kansans Against Common Core’s objection to what was done in committee last Friday.  Be sure to check out their action alert and act accordingly.

Oklahoma Legislators Not Happy With New Standards

Oklahoma State Capitol Building - Photo credit: Serge Melki (CC-By-SA 2.0)

Oklahoma State Capitol Building
Photo credit: Serge Melki (CC-By-SA 2.0)

Oklahoma lawmakers are considering a bill that would require the Oklahoma State Board of Education to further revise the new standards that will replace permanently replace the Common Core State Standards that were repealed in 2014. They have been using their previous standards, PASS, in the interim.

Rick Green at The Oklahoman reports:

The Oklahoma Legislature will take up bills next week that would order revisions in the proposal.

State Rep. Jason Nelson, R-Oklahoma City, said it’s not a matter of asking the department to go back to the drawing board, but more in the realm of tweaks and editing changes.

“Overall, the people who spent an enormous amount of time on this did a great job,” he said.

“None of us are trying to play standards experts. But there is room for improvement in an otherwise good product.”

Nelson said the South Central Comprehensive Center at the University of Oklahoma did a comparison of the proposed standards with Common Core. Issues noted in that report form the basis for revisions he would like to see made.

Nelson is right, they shouldn’t have to scrap what they have done already, but revisions are desperately needed. Jenni White of Reclaim Oklahoma Parent Engagement has listed current problems with the standards.  These shouldn’t require a rewrite. It’s important for Oklahoma to get this right, I hope the Oklahoma Legislature will direct the State Board of Education to take some more time so they can do just that.

Data Privacy & Opt-Out Bills Before Arizona Senate


A Stop Common Core activist in Arizona sent an email about two different bills being heard in the Arizona Legislature.

HB 2088 passed the Arizona House 24 to 2 on March 1st, and will be heard in the Arizona Senate Education Committee. The bill requires parental notification and written parental consent for any survey that becomes a part of their student’s permanent record and that asks for personally identifiable identification.

Update: This bill passed out of committee.

A parental assessment opt-out bill, SB 1455, failed to pass the Arizona Senate on a 11 to 18 vote on March 7. Senator Begay has filed a motion to reconsider that was carried so the bill gets a second chance. Arizona parents and activists should contact members of the Senate and urge them to vote yes on this bill.

Remind Senators that seven other states have opt-out language and have not lost federal funding, and the Every Student Succeeds Act leaves the option of allow parents to opt-out to the states.  Apparently scare tactics have been used on the senators which were effective when they last voted. Ultimately parents have the natural right to opt their children out of assessments as they are the ones who are ultimately responsible for their student’s education, this is just codifying it.

No Surprise, West Virginia Senate to Consider Weaker Common Core Bill


The West Virginia Senate Education Committee took up HB 4014 and made it weaker. It’s *just* like the House bill which I already had some concerns about the House version.

The Senate version:

  • Does not delay the implementation of the Next Generation Science Standards.
  • It will throw the review of the science standards in with the review of the Common Core Math and ELA standards.
  • It does remove West Virginia from the Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium.

It appears that it does keep the rest of the assessment language which includes:

  • Rescinds the Memorandum of Understanding (MOU)  with the CCSSO and NGA
  • Prohibits the State Board of Ed  from adopting or using Common Core aligned tests
  • Orders the State Board of Ed to review their state summative testing scheme
  • Grants parents the ability to opt their child out of testing
  • Prohibits the ‘discipline, punishment, or grade reduction’ of any student who opts out
  • Testing can’t take more than 2% of a student’s yearly instruction time (HT: A.P. Dillon)

So there is a silver lining.