Gates Wants More Global Assessments

Photo credit: World Economic Forum (CC-By-SA 2.0)

I saw this piece of news last month but did not have a chance to share it here. Bill Gates, Microsoft Founder and Philanthropist, wants more global education assessments.

AP reports:

This year marks new intertwining priorities for Gates’ domestic and international work as it focuses on global education quality while also broadening its U.S. agenda to look at overarching poverty issues. In June, Gates announced a new initiative that would focus on “global education learning,” committing $68 million over the next four years to help improve primary and secondary education in India and African countries. And in May, the foundation also committed to delving deeper into systemic poverty in the U.S. by looking at both defined and abstract challenges such as racism and housing.

The foundation said the U.S. and global education work are both rooted in their belief that a quality education can best uplift those in poverty, though its two programs will operate separately because the challenges and solutions are different.

Gates said it will support new data systems that will make it possible to compare student outcomes across the globe. Gates said last year that the first step to measuring education quality will be to develop better “cross-national assessments,” particularly for math and reading among younger students. Its new report cites UNESCO’s estimates that over 600 million students are not minimally proficient, lamenting that few countries collect enough data points that would identify where their “learning crisis” lies.

Gates’ education reforms are not working here so of course the thing to do is export them! 

The Absurd Defense of National Standards Post-Common Core

children_about_to_board_the_school_bus_thibodaux_louisiana

Common Core hasn’t done much for student achievement, but it has spawned a plethora of well-funded groups to push the national standards come hell or high water. One of these groups is the Collaborative for Student Success. The Collaborative is in a spitting contest with Richard Innes of the Bluegrass Institute in Kentucky, and it’s losing.

The Collaborative is funded by all the usual suspects who’ve poured money into the Common Core scheme from the beginning: the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, the Broad Foundation, ExxonMobil, etc. In the early days of Common Core, the Collaborative just spouted evidence-free claims about how wonderful the national standards would be for students. Now that test results are coming in, though, and are showing that every day in every way, things are getting worse and worse, the Collaborative has pivoted to explaining why there’s nothing to see here and we should all move along.

The Collaborative’s latest sally was in response to Innes’s post about the disappearance of several ACT tests that had long been used in Kentucky to assess college-readiness. As Innes pointed out, the discontinuance of those tests severed a number of trend lines that would provide valuable information about Common Core’s effect on college-readiness.

The Collaborative would have none of it. They shot back that Kentucky is doing very well with Common Core, thank you, and the data from the non-ACT tests show it. They even had a graph! But Innes quickly pointed out that the graph was misleading at best, reversing two of the data bars so that the casual reader would think Kentucky test scores have gone up when in fact they’ve gone down. As Innes observed, the decline in scores “isn’t exactly a ringing endorsement of Common Core.” He continued, “I don’t know and won’t speculate about whether this was a conscious attempt to mislead, but it certainly isn’t good data presentation.”

The misleading graph also showed something that, as Innes suggests, the Collaborative probably doesn’t want to highlight: Kentucky’s state test scores “do look inflated compared to the [National Assessment of Educational Progress – the “nation’s report card”]. That doesn’t agree with the Collaborative’s closing comment that: “States like Kentucky are headed in the right direction by setting expectations high and evaluating progress toward those goals.”

Innes noted other problems with the Collaborative’s analysis, including its mistaken claim that Kentucky had replaced PARCC with the Kentucky state test (in fact, Kentucky dropped out of PARCC before the test was developed) and the claim that states could avoid disruption and turmoil by sticking with PARCC or SBAC (the two federally funded tests, both of which are themselves in turmoil).

Former U.S. Department of Education official and Common Core critic Ze’ev Wurman responded to another claim made by the Collaborative in its response to Innes:

[The Collaborative said, “This year, most states administered tests aligned to higher standards for the second consecutive year. Overwhelmingly, student proficiency in math and reading increased.”

Perhaps, but rather unlikely. The much more likely reason is the well-known “test familiarity” effect, where teachers and students get to know the test over time and also frequently adjust their test-taking skills. The fact that there was a very sharp drop in the NAEP scores across the nation in 2015, first time in over a decade, suggests that students’ achievement has not increased but just the opposite – that achievement dropped with the introduction of Common Core.

The exchange has been entertaining. It also shows that asking the Collaborative to assess Common Core is rather like asking John Podesta to assess Hillary Clinton. It’s good to have honest brokers such as Dick Innes and Ze’ev Wurman in the conversation.

Melinda Gates: Stay the Course on State Education Policy

Melinda Gates speaks to staff at the UK' Department of International Development.

Melinda Gates speaks to staff at the UK’ Department of International Development.
Photo credit: UK’ Department of International Development

Melinda Gates, co-chair of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, spoke with The Washington Post. She indicated that the Foundation will not pull away from trying to impact state education policy.

They write:

“Community buy-in is huge,” Melinda Gates said in an interview here on Wednesday, adding that cultivating such support for big cultural shifts in education takes time. “It means that in some ways, you have to go more slowly.”

That does not mean the foundation has any plans to back off the Common Core or its other priorities, including its long-held belief that improving teacher quality is the key to transforming public education. “I would say stay the course. We’re not even close to finished,” Gates said.

We wish you were finished. Please stop. The Gates Foundation has done enough damage.

Blame the Textbooks for Poor Common Core Implementation!

Photo credit: World Economic Forum (CC-By-SA 2.0)

Gates funds the standards, funds reviews of the standards, and now funds reviews of the textbooks.
Photo credit: World Economic Forum (CC-By-SA 2.0)

EdReports.org reviewed five high Common Core-aligned math textbooks in their first round of reviews and found only one textbook was “aligned.”

  • College Board – nope.
  • Houghton Mifflin Harcourt – nope.
  • Pearson – nope.
  • Carnegie Learning – partial credit for “focus and rigor,” but nope.
  • The CPM Learning Program was the only textbook deemed “Common Core-aligned”

Pearson wasn’t happy with the review because obviously this isn’t good for the bottom line.

They wrote:

Our analysis of the EdReports evaluations of Pearson Integrated High School Mathematics Common Core ©2014 shows that the EdReports evaluations continue to be plagued by inaccuracies, misunderstandings of program instructional models, misinterpretations of the both the intent and the expectation of the Common Core State Standards for Mathematics and the Publisher’s Criteria, and a lack of understanding of effective curriculum development and pedagogy. Pearson Education and its authors consider the EdReports evaluation an incomplete, invalid, and unreliable reporting of the quality of the program and of its alignment to the expectations of the CCSS-M.

This group recently said all of the K-8 math textbooks reviewed were not “Common Core-aligned.”

Look here is all you need to know about EdReports.org. They received just shy of $1.5 million in 2015 from the Gates Foundation (by way of the Rockefeller Philanthropy Advisors, Inc.) for operating support “to enable them to build their core priorities of publishing reviews of instructional materials, and to grow their operations and capacity to include teacher feedback of such materials.”

See if all the textbooks are bad then they can blame the poor implementation of Common Core on the textbooks, not the standards themselves.  They have already started that narrative. See teachers just need better resources, not new standards… Nothing to see here folks, just ignore the clear conflict of interest.

The L.A. Times Turns on the Gates Foundation

Photo credit: World Economic Forum (CC-By-SA 2.0)

Photo credit: World Economic Forum (CC-By-SA 2.0)

The Los Angeles Times offered an interesting editorial earlier this month that I had missed. They said the Gates Foundation’s letter, that admitted their failure to turn public schools around, demonstrates that philanthropists should not be setting America’s public school agenda.

I agree.

They outlined three failures:

The Gates Foundation’s first significant foray into education reform, in 1999, revolved around Bill Gates’ conviction that the big problem with high schools was their size. Students would be better off in smaller schools of no more than 500, he believed. The foundation funded the creation of smaller schools, until its own study found that the size of the school didn’t make much difference in student performance. When the foundation moved on, school districts were left with costlier-to-run small schools.

Then the foundation set its sights on improving teaching, specifically through evaluating and rewarding good teaching. But it was not always successful. In 2009, it pledged a gift of up to $100 million to the Hillsborough County, Fla., schools to fund bonuses for high-performing teachers, to revamp teacher evaluations and to fire the lowest-performing 5%. In return, the school district promised to match the funds. But, according to reports in the Tampa Bay Times, the Gates Foundation changed its mind about the value of bonuses and stopped short of giving the last $20 million; costs ballooned beyond expectations, the schools were left with too big a tab and the least-experienced teachers still ended up at low-income schools. The program, evaluation system and all, was dumped.

The Gates Foundation strongly supported the proposed Common Core curriculum standards, helping to bankroll not just their development, but the political effort to have them quickly adopted and implemented by states. Here, Desmond-Hellmann wrote in her May letter, the foundation also stumbled. The too-quick introduction of Common Core, and attempts in many states to hold schools and teachers immediately accountable for a very different form of teaching, led to a public backlash.

The Times notes that funding education initiatives are not a bad thing, but driving policy through funding is quite another.

But the Gates Foundation has spent so much money — more than $3 billion since 1999 — that it took on an unhealthy amount of power in the setting of education policy. Former foundation staff members ended up in high positions in the U.S. Department of Education — and, in the case of John Deasy, at the head of the Los Angeles Unified School District. The foundation’s teacher-evaluation push led to an overemphasis on counting student test scores as a major portion of teachers’ performance ratings — even though Gates himself eventually warned against moving too hastily or carelessly in that direction. Now several of the states that quickly embraced that method of evaluating teachers are backing away from it.

Philanthropists are not generally education experts, and even if they hire scholars and experts, public officials shouldn’t be allowing them to set the policy agenda for the nation’s public schools. The Gates experience teaches once again that educational silver bullets are in short supply and that some educational trends live only a little longer than mayflies.

Philanthropists can be a voice providing feedback on education policy, but they shouldn’t be the driving voice setting the agenda.

Bill Gates’ Education Reform Agenda Goes to College

Photo credit: World Economic Forum (CC-By-SA 2.0)

Photo credit: World Economic Forum (CC-By-SA 2.0)

Even though the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation acknowledged that the Common Core State Standards and related assessments have not accomplished what they had hoped they are bringing the standards, assessments and accountability movement to higher education.

The Gates Foundation is funding a project that seeks to develop learning outcomes/standards for core academic disciplines in college and assessments to go with them.

Inside Higher Ed published a piece entitled “A Plan to Define and Test What Students Should Know.”

Sound familiar?

Paul Fain, the author, writes about a new book called Improving Quality in American Education by Richard Arum, Josipa Roska, and Amanda Cook, that unveils this “faculty-led” (and Gates-funded) effort.

Fain writes:

The Measuring College Learning project, which Arum has helped lead, seeks to change that dynamic by putting faculty members in charge of determining how to measure learning in six academic disciplines. After more than two years of work, the project has defined the “fundamental concepts and competencies society demands from today’s college graduates” in biology, business, communication, economics, history and sociology.

The project’s initial results are included in a newly released book by Arum, Josipa Roksa, an associate professor of sociology and education the University of Virginia, and Amanda Cook, a program manager at the American Association of State Colleges and Universities.

The Social Science Research Council has overseen the Measuring College Learning project. (Arum and Roksa were Academically Adrift’s coauthors and Cook previously worked for the council.) The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and the Teagle Foundation provided funding.

Fain explained the process of developing outcomes:

The project sought to have each panel of experts represent a broad range of colleges, geographic locations and sub-disciplines. The majority work at four-year institutions, but some are at community colleges or academic associations. And most have worked on other faculty-led efforts to measure learning.

“They are people who are doing this work,” said Arum, “and have been for decades.”

The faculty panels tried to identify “essential concepts,” meaning complex ideas, theoretical understandings and ways of thinking central to each discipline. They also came up with “essential competencies,” which the book said are “disciplinary practices and skills necessary to engage effectively in the discipline.”

The resulting concepts and competencies are not intended to be fixed, universal or comprehensive, the book said, calling them a “reasonable and productive framework.”

Of course we have to have standardized tests to go with the common standards….

“It may be difficult to list everything students should know and be able to do,” the book said, “but when faculty are asked to focus on essential elements they are quite ready, willing and able to define priorities for student learning in their disciplines.”

One of the project’s goals is for the white papers to be used for the creation of tests, or assessments, that colleges can use in a standardized way. However, those possible assessments must be voluntary, the book said, and based on multiple measures rather than a simple box-checking, multiple choice test.

College faculty, the article noted, may be forced to adopt measures like these.

For his part, Arum said he’s hopeful the majority of faculty members will welcome the project’s first draft of learning outcomes. That’s because the goal is to give them responsibility and ownership to drive the work “in a way that’s helpful to them.”

Even so, professors might have no other choice, the book argues, because policymakers and the general public will continue to pressure colleges to demonstrate value, including through some form of standardized assessment of student learning.

So the Common Core movement for college has been launched.  Oh goody.

The Common Core Chess Game

chess-king

The following guest article was written by Dennis Ian who is a member of Stop Common Core in New York State.

By Denis Ian

Let’s play chess … because that’s exactly what the Gates and the Common Core pushers are doing.

They’re on their heels. Some states … and some individual school districts … have simply dumped Common Core. And there are seismic jitters from coast to coast. Our efforts have juiced up the CC issue in the media and now it’s a part of the election language as we swing into the fall. The anti-Common Core sites have become magnets for disgruntled parents and offended educators from all levels. If you can lift yourself up a bit … and spy the situation from a decent altitude … you’ll see the anti-forces are more muscled than ever. And it’s predictable that the Common Core patriarchs are in full-swing chess mode. They’re too clever by half. Can’t leave bad enough alone. Gotta ring the bells and push the panic-buttons pronto.

First, Arne Duncan’s out to castrate Oklahoma for giving CC the heave-ho. South Carolina is next in line for the knife. Duncan’s got his razor strop out for any state and any school district that dares derail the federal transfer of local and state control to DC big-wigs. Duncan’s activity resembles more a MASH unit … triaging the Common Core wounded in states like Indiana, Oregon, Georgia, and Michigan. In all, seventeen states have pushed back against Common Core — including Alaska, Nebraska, Texas and Virginia, which declined to sign on from the beginning. Duncan’s head looks more and more like a bobble-head … not quite sure where the next anti-Common Core brushfire’s gonna pop up. Let’s keep him busy.

Second, the American Federation of Teachers … in an infrequent moment of clarity … actually told the Gates Foundation to take his money-clip and shove it. Randi Weingarten, hardly my nominee for the "Esteemed Educator" plaque, blew off Gates and his money saying, "I got convinced by the level of distrust I was seeing …" Thanks for the head-knock, but keep any eye on her … she still slithers as far as I’m concerned. But I’ll take her knee-capping of Gates as a happy moment.

Last, Bill Gates has had a light-bulb moment and realized he just might have over-invested millions in a "black hole" … so he’s suddenly asking for a sort of desperate speed-reduction when it comes to the implementation to chill the chatter. A "moratorium". His empty peace pipe had few takers. In fact, his sappy sort of plea-bargain got super-slammed … and he’s wondering if he’s still the smartest man in the galaxy. Good. He’s not.

So, back to the chessboard. I guess Gates mused and fretted that this was an apropos moment for yet another genius swivel by enlisting the post-secondary Common Core knights to come to his defense. More than two hundred knights to be precise. Here are his marching orders to the pointy-headed wizards of the university world: "Members of the "Higher Ed for Higher Standards" coalition announced on Tuesday their intention to reverse anti-Common Core sentiments in their respective state capitals, as well as to work toward the successful adoption of Common Core standards. Members of the group hail from more than 30 states and consist mostly of administrators at public colleges and universities." You gotta love the name of the group … "Higher Ed for Higher Standards" … they’re very high on themselves, don’t you think? Hope they didn’t stay up all night teasing that shingle into existence.

This is the new Common Core phalanx … bought and armed by guess who? Yup! Our extraterrestrial genius … Gates the Great! Nancy Zimpher, chancellor of the State University of New York system, appears to be Gates newly unleashed queen. Of course, her palm has been properly greased by Dollar Bill. Here’s her semi-regal call-to-arms: "My fear is, if we start throwing in the towel now on Common Core, we won’t have another moment like this again." IF ONLY!

Gates and his consiglieres are now pressuring from the top-down … having hit rough roads with the bottom-up route. And these post-secondary educators have their palms out and their mouths flapping … defending a reform that’s been exposed as deformed. Their "woe is me" blurt about ill-prepared incoming students conveniently masks the obvious fact that the American college experience has been fluffed-out for the last two decades. They run away fast from the fact that they’re more ripe for reform than any other level in the American educational structure. Higher education’s dismal record of producing work-ready graduates is a comedic mother-lode … graduating student-debtors with such unmarketable majors as "Bowling Industry Management" and "Gender-Bending Studies".

Mike Row, of "Dirty Jobs" fame, said it best … “We are lending money we don’t have to kids who can’t pay it back to train them for jobs that no longer exist. That’s nuts.” And it’s the "Higher Ed", Gates’ boot-lickers who perpetuate that sort of slop-education without a moment of sincere examination of their own more mighty missteps. Methinks we have a "pot calling the kettle black" moment. But fear not! They’re now going whole-hog on the pro-Common Core buffet … courtesy of Bill Gates and his billions. These are the new defenders. I sense desperation more than anything else.

Those high ed folks should have been with us from the jump. They never investigated the wretched turmoil Common Core has delivered into homes across the nation. And they were even less apt to even consult their elementary and secondary brethren about this reform. Now they’ve made a money-pact with the Lucifer of modern education. In truth, they’ve scheduled their own rendezvous in Hades.

It’s important, from time to time, to get a proper snap-shot of this movement with a wide-angle lens. Lots of time we allow ourselves to get mired in the day-to-day slog. It’s hard to see day-to-day progress. We get avalanched with articles and news clips and more pith than a person can logically absorb. It’s good, of course, to stay current and to have our antennae pricked-up. But let’s not lose sight of this fact: We’re winning. They’re on the defensive. They’re forever re-packaging the argument. They’re in trouble. They’re losing. Checkmate’s on the way.

We’re winning.

Photo credit: David Lapetina (CC-By-SA 3.0)

AFT Ends Gates Funding Over Common Core Concerns

Via Politico:

The American Federation of Teachers ended a five-year relationship with the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation after rank-and-file union members expressed deep distrust of the foundation’s approach to education reform. AFT President Randi Weingarten told Morning Education the union will no longer accept Gates money for its Innovation Fund, which was founded in 2009 and has received up to $1 million a year in Gates grants ever since. The Innovation Fund has sponsored AFT efforts to help teachers implement the Common Core standards — a Gates priority — among other initiatives.

— Weingarten said she didn’t believe Gates funding influenced the Innovation Fund’s direction, but still had to sever the relationship. “I got convinced by the level of distrust I was seeing — not simply on Twitter, but in listening to members and local leaders — that it was important to find a way to replace Gates funding,” she said. Weingarten plans to ask members to vote this summer on a dues hike of 5 cents per month, which she said would raise $500,000 a year for the Innovation Fund.

Valerie Strauss also wrote at the Washington Times:

Weingarten said at the conference that she had decided to stop taking Gates money for the Innovation Fund after talking with many union members, who have been unsettled by the implementation of the Common Core State Standards, which have been heavily supported by the Gates Foundation and Bill Gates for years.

Weingarten has supported the standards but called the implementation in recent years“far worse” than the rollout of the Obama administration’s problem-plagued health insurance Web site in the fall, and has called for a rethinking of the standards for the youngest students. Teachers have complained that they have not had enough time to learn the standards and create new materials to teach students, and some states have already given high-stakes standardized tests said to be aligned with the new standards.

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?

Another Response to Chester E. Finn, Jr.

Common Core: conservative to the core” is one of many articles Chester E. Finn, Jr., has penned encouraging conservatives to embrace Common Core State Standards. Unfortunately, Mr. Finn never discloses that his “conservative” Thomas B. Fordham Institute has accepted nearly a million dollars from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation to develop supportive materials for Common Core Standards. Mr. Finn’s conflict of interest renders his assessment of Common Core self-serving and lacking credibility.

Advocates for Academic Freedom is funded solely by private donations. Representing taxpayers from every political party, every religion, and every socio-economic group, AAF has one goal: to demand truth and quality in all aspects of education. Our assessment of Common Core Standards conflicts with that of Chester Finn. CCSS are not new, not rigorous or innovative, not fiscally responsible, not state created; they undermine accountability and traditional American values.

The Gates Foundation, David Coleman from the College Board, the International Baccalaureate Organization, the National Governors Association, the Council of Chief State School Officers, and a myriad of others wrote Common Core Standards—NOT the states.

Common Core represents another “We have to pass it so we can find out what is in it” policy. During a February, 2010, Governors’ Luncheon, President Obama told governors to adopt CCSS to receive federal Title I funds. Since the standards had not even been written, the federal government added the word “state” to the title so the public would think that the normal process of teacher and public involvement had been employed. We the people are growing tired of these insulting shell games imposed by governmental agencies.

Teachers and taxpayers should be outraged that any set of standards would require a retraining of teachers to assure implementation. Why should a teacher need to have special training to implement Common Core? The reason is that Common Core Standards do not emphasize student acquisition of knowledge and development of skills. They demand that students develop a belief system and attitudes needed to create a population with a “world philosophy”.

Americans are being forced to spend sixteen billion dollars on a plan shaped by the same policies of Benjamin Bloom that have been failing our children since the 1960s. Dozens of standards that are far more rigorous than Common Core Standards are free and available on the internet. States have always had access to them. When one compares TIMSS math standards for fourth graders to those of Common Core for the same grade level, it becomes painfully obvious that CCSS are not the rigorous standards promised.

CCSS is peppered with standards like this one for nine-year olds in fourth grade: “Construct viable arguments and critique the reasoning of others”. Most teachers would ask themselves: What is a viable argument appropriate for a nine-year-old child? What happens when a non-conformist refuses to critique a classmate/friend? What remediation will be provided? Will that remediation help the creative child learn to use non-conformity in a productive manner? How will this standard be assessed or tested for mastery?

Most math skills required under TIMSS at fourth grade can be found under the CC standards for fifth grade. Standards that are superior to CC focus on knowledge acquisition and skill development—not conformity, values, or beliefs.

Mr. Finn states that CC standards “written correctly, they do not dictate any particular curriculum of pedagogy.” Really? Then why has the federal government provided funding to publishers to align their textbooks to CCS and to testing consortiums to align all tests, ACT, SAT, accreditation, etc., to CCS?

Local control of schools includes a role in determining the curriculum taught. That is the American tradition that makes America a Constitutional Republic. When federal and state governments collude to impose standards upon the public, their DoEDs are acting in a dictatorial manner. America’s strength has always come from its people—not from its government.

It is time for taxpayers to get on the agenda for the next local school board meeting to demand rejection of CCSS and implementation of any one of the other excellent sets of standards available for free. It is time that citizens organize to stop the federal funding and the federal manipulation of the American educational system.