The Common Core Hoax

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

Below is a guest op/ed submitted by Robert R. Logan, PhD. He is a homeschool parent, a retired economics professor from the University of Alaska-Fairbanks, and an economics researcher who resides in Fairbanks, AK.

The Common Core Hoax

By Robert R. Logan, PhD

When I was a professor I used to put a proposed law up on an overhead projector entitled the “Care for Infants Act”.    In the body of the Act, I described grinding up children and turning them into food and fertilizer in deceptive language but clear enough to anyone who was actually thinking.  Then I would have the students discuss whether the government had any business interceding in the sovereignty of the family in cases of abuse or neglect.    

It was rare that a student would raise their hand and object that the debate had nothing to do with the act they were voting on.  I could usually see some confused faces, but it was terribly easy to misdirect peoples’ attention and get them squabbling about something they wanted to argue about anyway.   That is how I got them to pass the Care for Infants Act.   The only thing Bill Gates has done differently is bribe people for their vote.   I could have gotten 100% passing rates had I incorporated bribes.     

If Common Core is all about increasing academic achievement, why is it necessary to convert all tests nationwide into computerized online testing?   Logically, that does not follow.   How is it that taking a test on a computer is any different from taking it with paper and pencil?   If computer-based tests are better than paper and pencil, then why does it have to be online?   If there is a technical failure to an online test then potentially millions of students are affected.   

We homeschool, but enrolled in online tests for a number of reasons.   The tests were timed.   But it took longer to download the questions than it did to answer them.   Whenever we call our provider about this, they lie to us.   For example, we see the clear pattern of slowest speeds, far less than promised, during the internet rush hour.  We have learned to disable our phones when we call technical support because they have been trained to tell customers in an accusatory tone that “I see you have TWO I-phones” and tell us it is our phones updating even when we have the update feature turned off. 

I can see my download speed in real time.   I think the tech people can too, but they never acknowledge so.  I tell them I will go to any site of their choosing and they can watch my download speed.   But they won’t do it.  We understand throttling and our ISP insists they don’t do it.   But that doesn’t mean someone else in the chain isn’t doing it or that a host site is capable of handling the traffic directed to it.   There are innumerable potentials for catastrophic failure with an online test that are nonexistent for other delivery methods and this was obvious to us the first time we tried to take an online test

Alaska’s tests were cancelled after allocating $25 million for computers, bandwidth, and development.    A worker in Kansas severed a fiber optic cable.  Even after attempts to fix the problem students’ answers were being lost.   So the state cancelled the tests.   How could something so easily foreseen have been overlooked by the smartest people in the room telling us how inferior our previous tests were?    Because Common Core is a hoax:  the real purpose behind Bill Gates’ billions spent bribing the Governor’s Association, Unions, and think tanks was to line the pockets of the Tech industry by converting the test delivery method: to online computerized testing, using Bill Gates’ products.

On the propaganda site for Common Core, there isn’t one word explaining why computerized online testing is superior to other test delivery methods.   Instead, there is a lot of puerile talk about being ready for work and college, about the “grass roots” origins of the movement, and completely contradictory assertions about states being free to choose their own standards when the entire purpose was developing a common standard.   How can people be this stupid?   How has it gone virtually unnoticed that the most significant change has been to the test delivery method and not the content of the tests?   

If higher performance is the objective, the easiest thing to do is require higher scores on existing tests.  Changing the tests themselves makes no sense.   It introduces a statistical incompatibility between the years leading up to the change and the years afterwards.   How do you determine whether performance has increased or decreased when the tests are different?   There are ways to approximate, but it is one of the most basic concepts in statistics: using the same measure or instrument from sample to sample.

Complaints were made about some states being more lax than others.   So why does that require states with high standards to change anything at all? Why do they need to change from paper and pencil to computerized, let alone online testing?   Our stress levels went through the roof when we were trying to take online tests.   Interactive tests can be downloaded onto every computer individually and scores can be easily assembled into a national database if this is an objective.   It does not require that they be taken online. 

One of the most telling “reveals” in this hoax is trade groups and even state educational bureaucracies adopting the standards before they were written.   You cannot legitimately do this even conceptually, let alone before field testing.   But it happened.   Bill Gates gave money and Obama used Race to the Top funding along with exemption from the No Child Left Behind debacle in order to hook states into the Common Core.

Since the hoax required misdirecting our attention away from the real change – computerized online testing – it required another radical contradiction:  the claim that curriculum would be unaffected while forcing changes in curriculum.  There was no national debate over the way math should be taught for example.   But you have to do something.  When the math standards came out there was no tying of research in math instruction and problem-solving to the Common Core methodology. 

Bill Gates couldn’t simply come out and announce a program of converting the exact same tests into an online computerized format.   People would have pointed out the obvious problems of catastrophic failure like Alaska just went through.   They would have asked the obvious question:  why waste tens or even hundreds of billions of dollars on more expensive means of delivery?   

So to perpetrate a hoax like this you have to pretend it is about something else and produce changes in test content.  No public debate took place on the process by which content would be changed.   Gates created a committee headed by David Coleman and a process that took place completely outside public scrutiny while Gates was busy bribing various organizations to back something that hadn’t even been written yet.   It worked brilliantly.

Gates couldn’t care less what the committee did with math or English.  He couldn’t care less whether teacher evaluations and student promotion were tied to the tests.   That’s why the Gates Foundation in 2014 announced urgent support for a moratorium on those very things.   The one thing Gates is clear about is that Common Core standards should not be used as standards.   That contradiction only makes sense if the goal is computerized online testing instead of standards.

We are now engaged in an after-the-fact debate over whether this new method of doing math is any better than the New Math debacle of the 1960’s.   It is beyond belief that this debate is taking place after, and not before it was imposed.  This is a consequence of Gates and the Obama administration bribing key organizations and bureaucracies to accept something before it had been researched and debated in public.   It is a consequence of a hoax designed to enrich tech companies and other education industry parasites like text publishers while we argue ignorantly about something else. 

I know how easy this is to do because I have done it myself.   I began doing so after seeing our government attach extremely deceptive titles to Acts it was passing.   You can assume the purpose of an Act is very different, even opposite, from its title and be right most of the time.   That’s what Bill Gates has gotten away with because he could not have gotten a “Computerized Online Testing Act” passed.

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.

Alaska Republican Party Adds Common Core Opposition to Platform

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

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

This weekend in Fairbanks, AK the Alaska Republican Party made some significant changes to their platform in regards to education at their state convention.

Barbara Haney, an education activist in Alaska, emailed us this weekend to share the news.

There were some key changes to the Alaska Republican Party education platform this weekend. Words added:

“We support opposition to common core”

We support the abolishment of the US Department of Education”

In addition, accountability is now local in the platform, not statewide. The additions passed with 97% support of all voting delegates on the floor of the convention as a whole despite a contentious fight to oppose the changes by the education platform committee. The changes were lead by members of the Alaskans Against Common Core who were on the GOP education committee, and prevailed despite efforts by party leadership to stack the committee with supporters of the common core based Alaska standards. 

This is significant as the Alaska Department of Education and Early Childhood Development under their former Republican Governor, Sean Parnell, essentially plagiarized Common Core in Alaska’s “new” education standards. Adopting this language is definitely a pushback against the establishment of the Alaska Republican Party.

Alaskan Parents Opting Kids Out of Assessments Are Not a Threat

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

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

The Alaska State Department of Education and Early Development prepared a packet for the Alaska State Board of Education and Early Development’s meeting held this week in Juneau. Included in the packet were notes from a power point presentation. Whoever was doing the presenting would point to the results of a SWOT session that was held. SWOT is a strategic planning method that allows a group to consider their strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats.

This is a process I have taken groups through as a moderator in several non-profit organizations, and have also participated as a participant in numerous sessions. In this case I’m not sure what group completed the process – whether it was their advisory council, the state board of education or a group of bureaucrats within the Department.

Notice what they list as the top “key threat.” – “Parents can opt out of testing and schools will bear the brunt of that decision without change to AK law.” Twenty people in their group saw that as a “threat.”

Screenshot 2016-03-21 14.56.05

This document and the group involved in doing the SWOT are completely tone deaf.

Alaskan parents are not the threat. They are the ones who are the chief stakeholder in their child’s education. If they want to list a “threat” then instead of complaining about parents opting-out they should complain about the federal testing threshold that puts this burden on them to begin with.

HT: Alaskans Against the Common Core

What States Have Pulled Out of their Common Core Assessment Consortium?

239 PreTests

We wanted to provide a complete list in one location of all the states that have pulled out of either Smarter Balanced or PARCC, as well as, states that are considering it.

States that have pulled out of their Assessment Consortium:

  1. Utah (Smarter Balanced) – http://www.sltrib.com/sltrib/mobile/54627081-68/utah-state-standards-consortium.html.csp
  2. Oklahoma (PARCC) – http://truthinamericaneducation.com/common-core-assessments/oklahoma-pulls-out-of-parcc/ (the Tulsa World article is no longer on the website).
  3. Georgia (PARCC) – http://www.ajc.com/news/news/breaking-news/georgia-decides-against-offering-common-core-stand/nYzDr/
  4. Alabama (Smarter Balanced & PARCC – they were an advisory state) – http://blogs.edweek.org/edweek/curriculum/2013/02/alabama_withdraws_from_both_te.html
  5. Indiana (PARCC) – http://truthinamericaneducation.com/common-core-assessments/pence-pulls-indiana-out-of-parcc/  and http://indianapublicmedia.org/stateimpact/2013/07/29/gov-pence-signals-intent-to-withdraw-from-common-core-consortium-parcc/  As of December PARCC still had them listed though – http://hoosiersagainstcommoncore.com/indianas-withdraw-parcc-real-show/
  6. Kansas (Smarter Balanced) – http://m.cjonline.com/news/2013-12-10/kansas-opts-create-its-own-common-core-tests
  7. Pennsylvania (Smarter Balanced & PARCC) – http://blogs.edweek.org/edweek/curriculum/2013/06/pennsylvania_signals_departure_from_test_consortia.html
  8. Alaska (Smarter Balanced) – http://www.newsminer.com/news/education/alaska-changes-school-testing-consortium/article_05509298-7d77-11e3-9606-001a4bcf6878.html
  9. Florida (PARCC) – http://truthinamericaneducation.com/common-core-assessments/rick-scott-pulls-florida-out-of-parcc/

States Actively Considering Withdrawing

  1. Michigan (Smarter Balanced) – http://blogs.edweek.org/edweek/curriculum/2013/12/consortium_watch_kansas_drops_.html
  2. Kentucky (PARCC) – http://blogs.edweek.org/edweek/curriculum/2013/12/consortium_watch_kansas_drops_.html
  3. North Carolina (Smarter Balanced) – http://www.newsobserver.com/2014/01/02/3502892/common-core-backlash-casts-shadow.html
  4. Iowa (Smarter Balanced) – The Iowa Legislature actually has to approve its use – http://caffeinatedthoughts.com/2013/05/iowa-puts-common-core-assessments-on-hold/

States that never joined.

  1. Virginia
  2. Texas
  3. Nebraska
  4. Minnesota

Photo credit: Barbara Day

Credit: Stephanie Zimmerman of Idahoans for Local Education put the original list together in an email to our group.  I expanded it and added some additional news stories.

Alaska Pulls Out of Smarter Balanced

state-flag-alaskaThe Fairbanks News-Miner reports that the Alaska State Department of Education and Early Development announced the state was pulling out of the Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium.  Alaska was an advisory state, not a governing member of the consortium that has seen a number of states leave.

Alaska announced its plan Tuesday to pull out of the Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium and hire a new group, Assessment & Achievement Institute to create its English Language Arts and Mathematics assessments.

The state had been a member of the consortium, one of two splitting more than $300 million in federal funding to create state assessments, since April 2013. Forty-two states had signed up as members of the two consortia, Smarter Balanced and the Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers, prior to Alaska’s departure brought the number down to 41.

Instead of using the assessment being created by Smarter Balanced, Alaska will go with one tailored specifically to its new state standards, which vary slightly from the Common Core State Standards on which the consortium’s test is based.

"What we were looking at was that we would find a vendor who could build an assessment strictly on our standards and that would include our educators," said Erik McCormick, director of assessment with the state Department of Education and Early Development.

Read the rest of the article.  I also want to encourage everyone to check out Stop the Common Core in Alaska for additional local reaction to this news.