Arkansas Parents Keep Watch Over Your Upcoming Common Core Review

arkansas flagArkansas Governor Asa Hutchinson on Wednesday recommended in a letter that the Arkansas State Board of Education proceed with their review of the Common Core State Standards using the recommendations of his Common Core executive council.

Arkansas’ revisions of standards will follow a formal and public review, assessment, and public comment procedure. Hutchinson directs the State Board of Education to:

  • provide ample time to review and revise standards as needed,
  • change the name of the standards, if needed,
  • facilitate communication between the Arkansas Department of Education (ADE), school districts, and parents regarding standards,
  • allow other bodies (e.g., legislature) to review recommendations as needed, and
  • safeguard student data.

Some things the key decision-makers need to consider.

  • Changing the name if you don’t change the standards is simply playing games with parents and citizens who have spent the time fighting against Common Core.  If you’re not going to be serious about changing the Common Core be honest about it and don’t bother changing the name.  Parents do expect different standards however so the end process should be standards that look vastly different than Common Core.
  • Do not follow the path of Kentucky and Louisiana having parents to go through an arduous public comment process online.  Make it simple, don’t expect your parents provide comments and a rewrite of each standard they object to.  Let parents comment on the Common Core math and ELA standards as a whole.
  • Have face-to-face public comment opportunities with parents, teachers and taxpayers throughout the state at times they are available to come.  The State Board should meet at different locations and don’t have meetings during the day or right when the work day ends.  That does not help facilitate good participation. These meetingssd should happen at night.
  • Look at and seriously consider quality standards from other states that predate Common Core.  I would suggest Massachusetts’ ELA standards and California’s math standards.
  • It would be best to start from a clean slate assuming all of the standards need to go, rather than through a process that seeks to just “tweak” individual standards.
  • Also measures to protect student data in the state should not rely upon FERPA as a guide as that federal law has essentially been gutted.

Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson Directs Withdraw from PARCC

arkansas-state-flagArkansas Governor Asa Hutchinson countered a move by his state’s board of education to continue its use of PARCC after rejecting his order to use ACT and ACT Aspire.  Hutchinson sent a letter to Education Commissioner Johnny Key Monday afternoon directing the Department of Education to withdraw the State of Arkansas from the Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers (PARCC) Consortium since he has not reaffirmed the state’s participation since taking office.

So unless the state board of education find some loophole around PARCC’s memorandum of understanding this should be checkmate.  As I have found with state boards of education lately their hubris knows no bounds though so I’m not going to be surprised if they try to find a way around this.

Common Core Fight Coming to Arkansas Legislature

arkansas flagThe Arkansas News Bureau reports that a fight is brewing in Little Rock over the Common Core State Standards.  Last year there was a resolution introduced State Representative Randy Alexander (R-Fayettevile) in the Arkansas House – HR 1007 along with a companion piece of legislation introduced in the Arkansas Senate State Senator Gary Stubblefield (R-Branch) –  SR 4.

The legislation was meant to authorize the introduction of a nonapropriation bill (needed according to House and Senate rules at that point of the legislative session) concerning delaying the implementation of the Common Core; and to declare an emergency.  Basically it was attempt to defund Common Core, and both bills died in committee.

John Lyon for the Arkansas News Bureau writes that Common Core opponents, unfazed, are retooling for the 2015 legislative session.

Sen. Gary Stubblefield, R-Branch, told the Arkansas News Bureau he is considering filing a bill to repeal Common Core.

“This one size fits all, I just don’t buy that, because there’s just too much difference in different school districts in different states,” Stubblefield said. “I just think there’s a better way to do it.”

Stubblefield said some teachers in his district think Common Core is all right, but “some of them hate it.”

“They think it’s a waste of time. They spend more time trying to learn how to give a test than they actually do teaching,” he said…

…Likely supporting repeal would be the group Arkansas Against Common Core. The group did not respond to requests Thursday and Friday for an interview, but its website states that Common Core has “effectively eliminated the ability of parents and local school boards to influence content standards to suit local needs.”

The Arkansas Department of Education continues with the same, old, tired propaganda.

That claim is “absolutely false,” said Debbie Jones, assistant commissioner of learning services with the state Department of Education.

“They’re standards only,” Jones said. “They do not tell a teacher how to teach. They do not tell teachers which books to teach.”

Eye roll, that argument would be more convincing if Arkansas was implementing PARCC (one of the few states that hasn’t bailed) an assessment aligned to the Common Core.  Also textbook publishers are aligning to Common Core.  So saying that a school can still choose its own curriculum rings hollow when you have mandated standards and an assessment that drives curriculum and classroom instruction.

My colleague, Jane Robbins, also testified in Little Rock last week.

Another common complaint is that PARCC will collect and share extensive personal information about students and their families. Jane Robbins, senior fellow with the Washington, D.C.-based American Principles Project, made that argument in a presentation to the state House and Senate education committees on Wednesday.

“PARCC has a cooperative agreement with the federal government that allows the federal government to have access to any student-level data that it collects from the testing,” Robbins told the Arkansas News Bureau.

“We don’t know yet what data PARCC is going to require,” she said. “They’ll probably start out with something very unobjectionable, but as time goes on they’ll say, ‘You should also collect this, and you should collect this.’”

Robbins said the ultimate goal is more power for the federal government.

“It fits in with the progressive theory of education and the economy,” she said. “If you’re going to run a managed economy that is planned by experts at the top, very smart people in Washington who will tell the rest of us what to do, they have to have data.”

Then there was this response from Jones of the Arkansas Department of Education.

Jones said the state Department of Education collects “minimal” information on students and never shares with the federal government or anyone else information that could identify individual students.

“Many of the statements that (Robbins) made that could be possible in her opinion, collecting private information on kids, is not what Arkansas does,” Jones said. “For example, she mentioned collecting students’ baptismal certificates. We don’t do that, nor would we ever do that. That would serve no purpose whatsoever.”

The state of Arkansas may not (yet), but that doesn’t mean PARCC won’t. We also don’t know what kind of data PARCC will require because they haven’t released that information.  The agreements that PARCC has with states and then with the U.S. Department of Education are tangible, concrete pieces of evidence.  My question to education officials and legislators is why is there agreement to share student-level data with the U.S. Department of Education if student-level data is not going to be collected?  You then have the data-sharing agreements between the U.S. Department of Labor and the U.S. Department of Education – why?

One Democratic, pro-Common Core, legislator – State Senator Joyce Elliot (D-Little Rock) tried to say that Jane was putting forth a conspiracy theory.  She’s not.  She’s just pointing out warning signs that legislators need to be wary of.

We may not know what data will be collected, but we can however see the tone of the debate and the talking points that are used.  There is an assessment and data collection that accompany the Common Core State Standards.  Concerned citizens and parents in Arkansas should expect that there will be a reasonable, respectful debate among their elected officials and that their concerns will be heard.

Common Core Push Back in Arkansas

The Russellville Courier had coverage of Common Core pushback occurring in Arkansas:

A couple of hundred people, including legislators who are members of the House and Senate Education committees and many who are not, gathered in a large conference room behind the Capitol Monday and Tuesday. They were there to discuss — you might even say “reconsider” — the Common Core State Standards…

…Policymakers and schools in Arkansas have spent the past three years making the transition. Students in grades K-2 started using the Common Core year before last, while students in grades 3-8 did this past year. Next month, it moves to high school, and in 2014-15, students start testing.

That’s a big problem. It wasn’t until this year that the Department of Education, which has had its hands full recently, realized that few schools in Arkansas have enough internet bandwidth to administer the tests online, as they’re supposed to be done. There’s a workaround — including, if need be, paper and pencil — but Gov. Beebe has scrambled leaders in education and business to create a real solution. They say we need to increase the bandwidth for other reasons, which is true, but Common Core makes the problem urgent.

Testing is causing problems in other states, too. Arkansas is part of a consortium of states known as PARCC that is preparing the online tests. Several states — most recently Georgia on Monday — have pulled out of PARCC. It’s only been lately that Common Core has begun attracting organized opposition, which is why legislators spent most of two long days hearing testimony from both sides.

The group Arkansas Against Common Core — and some legislators — say most of the country is adopting a new set of standards that have never been pilot-tested anywhere. Moreover, they say Common Core was hatched by the NGA, CCSSO, and others in a closed-door fashion and soon will lead to more federal control of education. Through No Child Left Behind, passed under President George W. Bush’s administration, Washington already has taken an unprecedented role in schools. They say Common Core continues that momentum. President Obama’s administration, which should have stayed out of this, encouraged states to adopt the Common Core by providing Race to the Top grants.

Read the rest and be sure to check out Arkansas Against Common Core.