Why Chris Christie Raised the Stakes for PARCC in New Jersey

Chris Christie in Des Moines, IA during his run for president.Photo credit: Gage Skidmore (CC-By-SA 2.0)

Chris Christie in Des Moines, IA during his run for president.
Photo credit: Gage Skidmore (CC-By-SA 2.0)

New Jersey Governor Chris Christie raised the stakes on standardized assessments, in particular PARCC, in the state of New Jersey. During a stop at a local middle school Christie was asked why.

New Jersey 101.5, a local radio station, reports what he said.

Under a 2012 law, standardized test scores are considered in assessing teachers. It originally counted for 30 percent of a teacher’s evaluation, but it was temporarily lowered to 10 percent after the first PARCC administration stirred strong opposition and a wave of parents opting their children out of taking the exams. But Christie said “everyone’s now adjusted” to the PARCC and that it’s time to restore the exam’s weight in assessing teachers.

“That’s 30 percent. That means 70 percent of a teacher evaluation is not on test scores,” Christie said. “In-classroom observation, children’s grades and progress are 70 percent of a teacher’s evaluation. Thirty percent is the objective test. I think that’s an appropriate weighting.”

“I think that’s a fair way to evaluate teachers,” Christie said. “Test scores have to play some role in it. And they do. They play a minority role.”

The New Jersey Education Association criticized the Christie administration for boosting the PARCC-dependent share of evaluating teachers, though the 2012 teacher-tenure law says the weighting is to be decided each year by Aug. 31 by the Department of Education. The NJEA is urging the Legislature to change the law giving the administration that latitude.

What Christie is doing is further entrenching Common Core into New Jersey schools. It’s amazing how much is being put at stake – student graduations and teacher evaluations – for any standardized assessment, let alone one that is hardly reliable.

None of Trump’s VP Candidates Are Strong on Common Core, Ending Fed Ed

Octopus without caption

Donald Trump is set to announce his vice-presidential choice sometime this week, before the Republican National Convention in Cleveland begins on Monday.

Despite occasional stumbles, such as identifying education as one of the core functions of the federal government and his dizzying policy switches, Trump has been relatively stable in opposing Common Core and claiming he wants to “make education local.” Although he has no record in public-education policy, he would be more likely than Hillary “It Takes a Village” Clinton to decrease the federal role in education.

But some of the major contenders for the VP slot do have public records — and those records are concerning. Here is a brief review of the commonly discussed names in order of the amount of media buzz they are receiving at The Pulse 2016, The Atlantic, and The Washington Post:

1.) Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich

Gingrich served as Speaker while the Clintons, Marc Tucker, and others were laying the foundation for the “seamless web” of centralized education and workforce that undergirded No Child Left Behind (NCLB) and Common Core. (See the following diagram created by former congresswoman Michele Bachmann and Mike Chapman and distributed by Education Liberty Watch’s predecessor organization EdWatch.)


To his credit, before he became Speaker, Gingrich voted against Goals 2000, which implemented the mental health and preschool pieces of the FedEd puzzle, and School to Work. These bills implemented Marc Tucker’s infamous vision explained in his letter to Hillary Clinton in 1992. For whatever reason, Gingrich didn’t vote on final passage of the 1994 Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA) that required Goals 2000, but at least he didn’t support it. However, as Speaker he allowed House passage of the Workforce Investment Act of 1998, another career-tracking, workforce-planning bill — which is a major strike against him.

Though not in Congress for NCLB or its replacement Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA), during a 2011 presidential debate Gingrich praised President Obama for the Race to the Top (RttT) grant program that required Common Core. His focus was not on the standards but rather the charter-school effort, which is also problematic because these public schools still require Common Core standards and tests and have less public oversight. Moreover, he pushed “portability” of federal funds, which carries with it the danger that government regulations will be imposed on private schools. Here’s what he said about RttT and portability:

 I liked very much the fact that it talked about charter schools. It’s the one place I found to agree with President Obama. . . .

My personal preference would be to have a Pell Grant for K-12 so that every parent could pick, with their child, any school they wanted to send them to, public or private, and enable them to have the choice. I don’t think you’re ever going to reform the current bureaucracies. And the president, I thought, was showing some courage in taking on the teacher’s union to some extent and offering charter schools, and I wanted, frankly, to encourage more development towards choice.

Gingrich has said very little publicly about the dangers of Common Core and the invasive, unhelpful testing and data collection. However, he has praised the “third wave” of information technology and data as described by futurist revolutionaries Alvin and Heidi Toffler, so he might approve of massive data-collection. And he taped a commercial with Nancy Pelosi supporting fear-mongering on climate change, so he may not oppose the slanted environmental teaching of the Next Generation Science Standards.

2.) New Jersey Governor Chris Christie

As we have documented, Christie’s education record related to Common Core is pretty bad. He strongly supported the standards and tests until he began running for president and saw how the issue was hurting Jeb Bush and John Kasich. He backed off of his support, but parents still didn’t trust him, especially because he left the Common Core-linked tests in place, while trying to claim (similar to other governors) that he had “gotten rid of Common Core in New Jersey.”

3.) Indiana Governor Mike Pence

Governor Pence began his political career as a strong conservative, including on education. He chaired one of the most conservative caucus groups in the U.S. House, the Republican Study Committee, and was one of only 40 House members to presciently vote against No Child Left Behind.

Unfortunately, Pence evolved toward the Chamber of Commerce/corporate establishment position once he became governor of Indiana. He signed a school-choice law that requires all students at a private school that receives state school voucher funds to take the same public-school Common Core tests, thereby harming private-school autonomy and private schools’ role as an escape hatch from Common Core-aligned schools. This rated an ‘F’ on our Freedom of Choice Grading Scale.

Even worse, Pence was the first Republican governor to crow about having removed Common Core from his state, while facilitating a deceitful rebrand of the standards despite warnings from parent activists. Now he’s pushing “competency-based education” (a repeat of discredited “outcome-based education”) so desired by Jeb Bush, Bill Gates, and other education reformers.

Pence’s surrender to the powerful special interests on education, as well as his caving in to LGBT extremists on a religious-freedom law, establishes that he doesn’t have the fortitude to defend whatever conservative principles he may hold.

4.) Alabama Senator Jeff Sessions

Sessions has toed the Lamar Alexander/establishment leadership line on education, voting for both NCLB and its wolf-in-federalist-sheep’s-clothing replacementESSA.

5.) Arkansas Senator Tom Cotton

Cotton too voted for ESSA.

Lieutenant General Michael Flynn, also being considered for the job, has no policy positions on education. But he is a Democrat, so that’s not promising.

Without a surprise candidate waiting in the wings, parents and activists who are hoping the VP candidate will help keep Trump on the straight path on education are likely to be disappointed. If Trump wins, they will have to pursue other means, such as pressing him to select a strong Tenth Amendment/parental rights-oriented Secretary of Education.

Common Core Advocates Biggest Losers in Iowa

2016 Iowa Caucus winner Ted Cruz in New Hampton, IA on 1/23/16. Photo credit: Dave Davidson (Prezography.com)

2016 Iowa Caucus winner Ted Cruz in New Hampton, IA on 1/23/16.
Photo credit: Dave Davidson (Prezography.com)

Well I’m back from a break as I was focused on covering the Iowa Caucuses, and the results from last night’s vote is pretty telling. Common Core advocates were among the biggest losers in Iowa.

Common Core certainly wasn’t the most visible issue in the last few weeks leading up to Iowa, but early in the year leading up to the Caucuses it was a question I heard a lot at various town hall meetings. It was something mentioned by virtually all of the campaigns minus a couple who tried to avoid the topic. It flew under the radar, but it was an issue that helped to divide the wheat from the chaff.  Not the only issue, mind you, but it was one of the issues.

How can I say this? Look at the results.

The top five candidates coming out of the Iowa Caucuses – Ted Cruz, Donald Trump, Marco Rubio (albeit his record is not perfect), Ben Carson, and Rand Paul have all verbally opposed the Common Core State Standards.

The two candidates who still supported the standards – Jeb Bush and John Kasich received a total of 8,712 out of over 186,000 votes cast. That is a stinging rebuke.

Former Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee, who won the 2008 Iowa Caucuses, tried to distance himself from previous support of the Common Core State Standards, but most of the grassroots in Iowa didn’t buy it. That issue among others at play derailed his campaign. He only received 1.8% of the vote (3,345 votes). To put this in perspective in 2008 he had set the record for the most votes cast for a candidate. That was shattered last night.

New Jersey Governor Chris Christie, voters saw through his nonsense. He said he got rid of the Common Core in New Jersey. He didn’t.

Let’s see if New Hampshire can do the same.

Assessing Candidates’ Record on Common Core

Photo credit: Gage Skidmore (CC-By-SA 2.0)

Photo credit: Gage Skidmore (CC-By-SA 2.0)

Alex Leary of the Tampa Bay Times discussed Common Core’s role in the campaign of the two Florida presidential candidates, Marco Rubio and Jeb Bush. The article, titled “Rubio may oppose Common Core but has supported the ideas behind it,” lists several ways that Marco Rubio has supported the components of the Common Core system:

…while Rubio never advocated for Common Core, he was a proponent of the building blocks.

Bush on Thursday noted that Rubio had supported Race to the Top, the federal program that incentivized states to adopt Common Core.

I think that’s a good idea,” Rubio said in 2009. He did stress, however, that he felt “education is a state function, best regulated and governed at the state level.”

That year Rubio also praised Obama’s hire of Arne Duncan as education secretary, calling him an “innovator” while praising the federal government’s effort “encouraging” states to adopt curriculums “that reflect the 21st Century.”

Rubio’s 100 Ideas book, a template for his tenure as House speaker, endorsed ideas such as more testing and a revamped curriculum. Idea No. 2 called for Florida to “systematically and sequentially replace the Sunshine State Standards with a new, world-class curriculum comparable to those found in the leading education systems in the world.”

As Gary Fineout of The Associated Press pointed out Thursday, Rubio never asked state officials or Gov. Scott to stop Common Core from being adopted in Florida. (Amid the backlash, the state has simply whitewashed the words Common Core from official policy.) [See also Even Mainstream Media Question Scott’s Statements about Being Out of Common Core]

Obviously, Race to the Top and Arne Duncan were the means the Obama administration used to impose and spread the Common Core that was aided by Bush and his Foundation for Excellence in Education, as Rubio correctly pointed out. Bush also took credit for the Common Core-cementing and Fed Ed-expanding Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA), while Rubio, to his credit, voted against the initial Senate version. However, Rubio failed to vote against cloture or the final version of ESSA or the omnibus that increased funding for the tyrannical federal programs that are in ESSA.

Leary clearly explains the damage that Bush’s support of Common Core has done to his campaign:

Bush’s support is clear as is the damage it has done to him in the presidential race.

Although Rubio’s record is far better than Bush’s on the Common Core system, it is far from perfect. In addition to what is shown above, we have documented the major contributions to Rubio by Common Core billionaires Bill Gates and Paul Singer, and our friends at The Pulse 2016have shown that Rubio is pushing the invasive data mining bill, The Know Before You Go Act. This bill seeks to have the federal government collect data on students throughout their lives just to be able to provide information to others about which colleges and majors provide the best jobs. This contributed in large part to the Florida Senator’s merely average grade of a ‘C’ on Common Core by American Principles in Action. Privacy expert Barmak Nassirian, Director of Federal Relations and Policy Analysis for the American Association of State Colleges, said:

Tracking autonomous free individuals through most of their lives in the name of better information for the benefit of others may be justifiable, but its extremism should at the very least be acknowledged and addressed.

Rubio has recently been echoing the strong opposition both to the Common Core (by criticizing Chris Christie) as well as talking about abolishing the U.S. Department of Education. Senator Ted Cruz has been forcefully stating these positions since at least 2011, according to Donna Garner, a long-time activist from Cruz’s home state of Texas. Cruz was also the first candidate to sign Eagle Forum founder Phyllis Schlafly’s pledge against Common Core. Ultimately, though, Rubio’s opposition to the standards and the US DOE has not been as strong and long standing as that of Cruz and Kentucky Senator Rand Paul, both of whom received grades of ‘A-‘ on the APIA report card.

Garner also points out that although billionaire businessman Donald Trump expresses opposition to Common Core, he has given liberally to the politicians that put the terrible system into place:

Our country needs to turn a deaf ear to Donald Trump’s recent anti-Common Core comments. It is Donald Trump who used his vast wealth to give campaign donations and/or to support publicly the Democrats who perpetrated both ObamaCare and Common Core.  These include Obama, Rahm Emanuel, Nancy Pelosi, Harry Reid, Hillary Clinton, Chuck Schumer, Charlie Rangel, John Kerry, and Bill Gates:  6.22.15 – “How Donald Trump Helped Democrats Pass Obamacare” — by Marc A. Thiessen – Washington Post

Voters need to be discerning in their choices especially when it comes to the freedom, futures, and privacy of their children.

Cross-posted at The Pulse 2016

Both Rubio and Christie’s Common Core Records Need Work

Photo credit: Gage Skidmore

Photo credit: Gage Skidmore

U.S. Senator Marco Rubio (R-FL) went after New Jersey Governor Chris Christie on Common Core during Thursday night’s Republican presidential debate on the Fox Business Network.

Rubio went through a litany of items that painted Christie as a progressive, one of which was his support for Common Core. Christie has waffled on Common Core. The Pulse 2016 gave Christie a D+ on their scorecard. They wrote:

Chris Christie has had a varied history with the Common Core.

In 2013 he was quoted as saying, “We’re doing Common Core in New Jersey and we’re going to continue. And this is one of those areas where I’ve agreed more with the President than not.”

By 2014, Christie had changed his tune: “I have some real concerns about Common Core and how it’s being rolled out and that’s why I put a commission together to study it.”

In early 2015, Christie had again taken a newly evolved position as he said, “I have grave concerns about the way this is being done, and especially the way the Obama administration has tried to implement it through tying federal funding to these things.”

During his appearance at CPAC, Christie told Laura Ingraham that he had regrets related to the implementation of the Common Core, but shortly after, he urged parents not to opt their children out of the Common Core-aligned PARCC tests.

More recently, Christie has pledged to do away with the Common Core in New Jersey; however, he has also stated that the state will retain the PARCC test, which assesses student performance based on the Common Core Standards.

In late April, Christie elaborated on his initial support for the Common Core, stating: “We signed on to try to get funds during a really difficult fiscal time.”  Apparently, his decision to stick with the PARCC test, despite calls from parents and teachers to abandon it, was also based on the procurement of federal funding (read more).

Instead of getting rid of Common Core in New Jersey they are rebranding it.

NJ.com called him on the carpet for his claim New Jersey eliminated it.

The panel of educators and parents Christie ordered to review the standards recommended keeping 84 percent of New Jersey’s existing math and reading standards intact and suggested tweaks and clarifications to the remaining standards.

A side-by-side comparison of the current math standards and proposed changes shows several suggestions involve simply changing or adding a word to the standard’s description. Though state education officials said the changes mark a departure from Common Core, New Jersey’s largest teachers union characterized the suggestions as “relatively minor.”

Those proposed changes still have to be approved by the state Board of Education and wouldn’t take effect until the 2017-18 school year, according to state officials.

So not only are they just rebranding it, but it’s still in effect.

Turning to Christie’s accuser…. Rubio is hardly the guy who should be criticizing Christie on education policy. The Pulse 2016 gave Rubio a C. A grade of C on this score card means “has neither helped nor hurt the cause.”

So his credibility is lacking.

Emmett McGroarty of American Principles Project writing at The Pulse explains Rubio’s grade.  He says Rubio’s concern about what Common Core may theoretically do misses the point.

Rubio’s answer ignores the immediate most pressing concern of parents, grandparents, and teachers. It gives short shrift to the parents who have been fighting this. We fight it primarily because of what the federal government has done to our children—not because of what it might theoretically do.

Another problem with Rubio’s answer is that it skirts around the nexus between the poor quality of the Common Core and federal involvement. In late 2008, private groups convinced the incoming Obama Administration to push the standards into the states with a carrot-and-stick approach. Those private groups then drafted the Common Core standards in response to the ensuing federal grants. They drafted the standards on the premise that they would be a monopoly. They did not draft them on the premise that the standards would have to pass parental muster or would have to be better than world-class standards like the old Massachusetts standards. Rubio skirted these all-important issues by casting the problem as potential rather than presently existing.

Rubio’s official website does not specifically address the issue of Common Core. However, it does states that in order to prepare people to “seize their opportunities in the new economy,” high schools should graduate more students “ready to work.” It is hard to parse from this general statement what the education policies would look like under a Rubio Administration. What does Rubio believe would validate a student as “work ready”? Would it be the further alignment of our K-12 education system to the projected demands of specific sectors of the economy to train workers for favored big-businesses, which would mean more of the Chamber of Commerce-endorsed Common Core? Or, does it mean aligning education to the demands of parents and the local community as a whole, which would mean more local control? It would behoove Senator Rubio to answer these questions and to discuss the qualitative aspects of the Common Core and whether he believes the federal involvement helped, or hurt, the quality of the standards.

McGroarty also had concerns about Rubio’s view of student data mining.

Relevant to the privacy issue, Rubio is co-sponsoring the Student Right to Know Before You Go Act (S. 1195), which would create a federal database on students for at least 15 years after they enter the workforce. It is troubling that Rubio advocates a limited role for government in the activities of the American people, yet fails to see the problem with the governmental tracking and collecting data on all citizens.

More recently Rubio failed to vote on the reauthorization of NCLB he wasn’t present for the cloture vote or final vote for the Every Student Succeeds Act.

I’d encourage Rubio to shore his own record and position on Common Core before attacking another candidate’s because he’s hardly the gold standard.

Common Core: A Serious Problem for Governors in 2016

Photo credit: Gage Skidmore (CC-By-SA 2.0)

Common Core has been a thorn in Jeb Bush’s presidential campapign
Photo credit: Gage Skidmore (CC-By-SA 2.0)

It has taken a while for the mainstream media to focus on the effect Common Core has had on Republican presidential campaigns. But Fred Barnes of The Weekly Standard, in discussing the unexpected weakness and in some cases collapse of candidates who were or are governors, has drawn the connection between a governor’s support of Common Core and his political fortunes.

As Barnes notes, governors can present themselves as more experienced and reliable since they’ve had to make decisions and run things, not just talk about what they would do if given an executive position. But when they act against the wishes of their states’ citizens on something as critical as education, those citizens sound the alarm about the true nature of this Man Who Would Be President. And with the pro-Constitution, anti-Common Core movement connected by such national networks as TAE, there’s nowhere for the offending governor to hide.

The worst miscreant on the Common Core front, of course, is former Gov. Jeb Bush. Anyone who has attended anti-Common Core rallies in critical electoral states such as Ohio knew from the outset that Bush had no chance with the base (he could have saved a lot of time and money if he had consulted us before launching his campaign). Bush has been Mr. Common Core from the beginning, and nothing he could do or say would change that.

And speaking of Ohio, Gov. John Kasich has achieved the distinction of alienating his constituents on Common Core more than any other candidate. Ohioans not only reject his support of Common Core, they quite properly resent his sneering disdain for their concerns. You may notice the absence of a groundswell for Kasich (even, or perhaps especially, in Ohio).

Then there are the governors such as Bobby Jindal and Chris Christie who initially embraced Common Core but tried to walk back their support. For years Jindal gave the impression that he wasn’t really focused on education issues, and he may truly have seen the light and tried to undo the damage (even with a federal lawsuit), but it was hard for him to erase the lingering distrust of Louisiana parents who tried so hard to get his attention earlier. Christie, on the other hand, has focused less on the unconstitutionality and philosophical deficiencies of Common Core and more on problematic “implementation.” Suggesting that an unconstitutional monstrosity would be fine if it were properly implemented has greatly diminished Christie’s appeal to the Republican base.

Scott Walker is in a category by himself. Having blown both hot and cold on the issue, Walker finally settled into an embrace of “state control” over standards and said the right things against Common Core.  But the anti-Common Core activists in Wisconsin recognized – and repeatedly warned the national networks – that Walker not only was not helping rid the state of Common Core, but he or his people were working behind the scenes to defeat attempts to replace the national standards with superior state standards. The implosion of the Walker campaign began – coincidentally? – about the time these warnings were circulated.

The only governor whose campaign crumbled despite his true anti-Common Core bona fides was Rick Perry. But a compelling argument can be made that Perry’s fall was precipitated more by lingering memories of his campaign stumbles from four years ago than by any of his current positions.

The lesson here is that candidates act at their peril when they ignore parents’ concerns about their children. Add those concerns to worries about threats to the rule of law and to our constitutional structure, and you have a potent force that can sink – and have sunk – political fortunes.

Christie Signs Two Bills Related to High Stakes Testing

new-jersey-state-flagNew Jersey Governor Chris Christie has signed two bills that are related to PARCC/high stakes assessments in his state that passed the New Jersey Legislature this past session.

The first is A4485 which prohibits the Commissioner of Education from withholding State school aid from a school district based on the participation rate of its students on the State assessments.  This bill would prevent districts from being penalized for matters beyond their control.

The second, S2766/A3079: “As amended, this bill provides that a school district may not administer a commercially-developed standardized assessment to students enrolled in kindergarten through the second grade. However under the bill’s provisions, a commercially-developed standardized assessment will not include diagnostic and formative assessments used by teaching staff members to identify particular student learning needs or the need for special services, or to modify instructional strategies for an individual student’s learning. The bill also provides that its provisions would not preclude a classroom teacher or a board of education from developing, administering, and scoring an assessment for students in those grades.”

In a nutshell that bill prevents the administration of a standardized assessment given to all students.

Carolee Adams, president of Eagle Forum of New Jersey, released the following statement:

The signing of these two bills by Governor Christie represents common sense and, undoubtedly, a wise political response to the following:

1. The results of our State Assembly race, where Republicans lost seats and now possess the lowest number since 1979 (28 R’s/52 D’s); 

2. The Governor’s recognition that these are common sense responses that could help bolster his sagging presidential campaign and appeal to popular opinion about a hot button national issue. Huge numbers of parents in New Jersey and across the nation have refused high stakes assessments for their children; and, 

3. The unrelenting, unified, strong, and very diverse opposition in New Jersey to Common Core/PARCC in the past, and which will continue unabated in the future.  

With the Governor’s signing of these two bills, we are coming closer and closer to the end zone and ultimate defeat of Common Core/PARCC in New Jersey. If Pearson Education had not received an $82.5 million economic tax credit from taxpayers to remain in New Jersey, as well as a 4-year $108 million contract to implement PARCC, I believe this game would have already ended.  

Thank you to the countless hundreds of parents and others who selflessly sacrificed to testify and lobby in behalf of these bills and other matters relating to the topic.

And, thank you Governor Christie. We encourage you to join our winning team, and work with us to fully defeat Common Core/PARCC in New Jersey. 

New Jersey’s Upcoming Common Core Rebrand

new-jersey-state-flagA Common Core Review Group ordered by Governor Chris Christie (R-NJ) started its work this month.  In three months we’ll know how New Jersey plans to rebrand Common Core.

It would be great if they would jettison it, but as recent history has shown us states that engage in a review process, for the most part, change very little.  So I’m not going to hold my breath.

I am especially doubtful as the state and Governor Christie remains committed to using PARCC as their statewide assessment.  So there is little to no chance that standards will be changed.

I hope I’m wrong, but I doubt that I am.

NJSpotlight.com reports:

Twenty-four people make up the group given the task of following up on Gov. Chris Christie’s call to rethink the Common Core State Standards for New Jersey – and then there’s the 70 other people named to subcommittees.

Starting this month, and over the next three months, they will have a busy schedule as they try to come up with revisions to the state’s standards to meet Christie’s sudden – and some say politically driven — dictate this summer that the Common Core Standards aren’t good enough for New Jersey.

A vast majority of the members of the so-called Standards Review Committee work in K-12 public schools, but at least four more members are parent representatives, while two represent business groups and another five are from the realm of higher education. Three of the members are school district superintendents, and one is a leader from charter schools.

…Christie wants the committee to recommend revisions to the standards in math and language arts by the end of the year, a deadline he set when he declared that he was backing off his support of the Common Core, saying it’s not rigorous enough and that such academic standards should be developed locally.

Read more.

Ted Cruz, Rand Paul Receive an A – on Common Core Report Card


U.S. Senator Rand Paul, along with Ted Cruz, received an A-.

ThePulse2016, American Principles in Action, and Cornerstone Policy Research released  a Common Core score card on all of the major Republican candidates minus former New York Governor George Pataki and former Virginia Governor Jim Gilmore.  Leaders are U.S. Senators Ted Cruz (R-TX) and Rand Paul (R-KY) received an A-, Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal received a B+.  On the other end of the spectrum former Florida Governor Jeb Bush and Ohio Governor John Kasich received an F.  Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker and New Jersey Governor Chris Christie receive a D+.  Surprisingly, U.S. Senator Marco Rubio received a C.

Here are the candidates’ grades:

A- … Ted Cruz
A- … Rand Paul
B+… Bobby Jindal
B  … Lindsey Graham
B  … Rick Perry
B  … Rick Santorum
B- … Ben Carson
B- … Donald Trump
C+… Carly Fiorina
C  … Mike Huckabee
C  … Marco Rubio
D+… Chris Christie
D+… Scott Walker
F  … Jeb Bush
F  … John Kasich

Full disclosure: I was a contributor for the report that accompanies the report card, but I did not determine the final grade.

The criteria used was:

  1. Whether the candidate recognizes the full scope of the Common Core issue and has advocated for, or taken, action that would roll back the Common Core education standards.
  2. Whether the candidate has advocated for protecting, or taken steps to protect, state and local decision-making in the area of education, e.g., offered a plan to give states enforceable protection against USED overreach, to opt out of the USED, unwind USED as a whole, etc.
  3. Whether the candidate has advocated for protecting child and family privacy, for example by opposing improper gathering and use of data including student medical information and any information that would reflect a student’s psychological characteristics or behaviors.

They could have included more criteria and noted in the scorecard report, “Due to time constraints, we did not include categories that could rightly be included in a Common Core scorecard. Those include initiatives that expand government-funded early childcare and the alignment of education to a national workforce system. Those initiatives will require increased data collection. The latter one will also entail the continuation of federal efforts to shape state “workforce investment” efforts that are an affront to state sovereignty and capitalism and that treat children and adults as human capital–as a means to an end.”

They also explain the grading:

  • A  Champions the issue (e.g., offers legislation, makes it a centerpiece issue)
  • B  Professes support, but has not provided leadership or otherwise championed it
  • C  Has neither helped nor hurt the cause
  • D  Has an overall negative record on the issue
  • F  Robustly and consistently works against the issue

Below are excerpts of what was said about each candidate in the report:

Jeb Bush – F

Gov. Bush is perhaps the most outspoken supporter of the Common Core Standards in the 2016 field. He has publicly praised David Coleman, one of the two chief architects of the Common Core (who is now chairman of the College Board). He has propagated the false narrative that the Common Core standards are merely learning goals and are of high quality.91 He has turned a blind eye to the reasons underlying opposition to Common Core and instead used straw-man arguments to dismiss opponents as relying on “Alice-in- Wonderland logic.

Ben Carson – B-

As a non-office-holder, Carson is pretty much limited to speaking on the issues. He says the right things but has given no indication of a deep understanding of Common Core or the attendant problems.

Chris Christie – D+

We would look for Christie to lead the effort to replace the Common Core in New Jersey with good standards – not just a “review” leading to a rebrand – and to replace PARCC with an assessment aligned to the new standards. His statement, in a thinly veiled reference to Gov. Perry, that at least he tried Common Core is particularly troublesome.116 It indicates that he does not understand how the federal government interferes with state decision- making, does not appreciate the academic deficiencies of the Common Core, and does not understand why parents are upset.

Christie epitomizes “making a big issue into a small issue.” His website does not address Common Core and does not address his view as to the relationship between USED and the states on education. Does he think it is just fine? Does he think the states need structural protections? Does he want to eliminate USED? Perhaps make it bigger? These are campaign issues, and the people want to know.

Ted Cruz – A-

We encourage Sen. Cruz to spell out in greater detail his plans for reigning in the federal government, to talk about the nexus between Common Core’s quality and the perversion of our constitutional structure and to raise the issues with accurate specifics rather than to talk about “repealing” Common Core. Does Cruz have further proposals to safeguard state and local decision-making and protect parental rights? His website does not address the Common Core issues, does not say anything about student and family privacy, and does not address his views as to the relationship between the federal government and the states with regard to education.

Carly Fiorina – C+

Fiorina’s website states, “Government is rigged in favor of powerful interests. The only way to reimagine our government is to reimagine who is running it.” She would do well to address these issues more often and in more detail -especially given that the Common Core is being driven by the “powerful interests” that claim to serve the interests of the economy and business. Fiorina would do well to discuss the issue in more depth, to raise the qualitative problems, and to state whether she has any proposals to safeguard state decision-making.

Lindsey Graham – B

Graham seems to understand the issues with Common Core today, but it is unfortunate this opposition did not come sooner. He missed an early opportunity to strike at the Common Core in 2013 by not co-signing a letter penned by Senator Chuck Grassley to the chair and vice-chair of the Senate Appropriations Sub-Committee on Education that called for language to prohibit the use of federal funding to promote the Common Core, end the federal government’s involvement in the Common Core testing consortium, and prevent the United States Department of Education from rescinding a state’s No Child Left Behind waiver if it repealed Common Core.

Mike Huckabee – C

Gov. Mike Huckabee has a checkered past on the issue of the Common Core. Once an ardent supporter of the system, he now claims that the original “governor-controlled states’ initiative” eventually “morphed into a frankenstandard that nobody, including me, can support.” However, as recently as 2013, Mike Huckabee told the Council of Chief State School Officers to “[r]ebrand [Common Core], refocus it, but don’t retreat.”

As the campaign approached, Huckabee began to be more consistent in his opposition (although he was still giving a nod to the supposedly pure origins of the Common Core).

Bobby Jindal – B+

Jindal was an early supporter of Common Core. But in 2014 he come out swinging against it, although he occasionally lapses into a narrative that it was the federal involvement that made it bad. He supported legislation to rid his state of Common Core. He has also sued USED in federal court on the grounds that the Department’s Race to the Top programs was coercive, violates federal law, and is contrary to the Constitution. Jindal stumbled out of the gate on Common Core, but he has righted himself and has admirably pushed back against the federal overreach.

John Kasich – F

Like Bush, Kasich is an unapologetic cheerleader for the Common Core. His only response to the large and active anti-Common Core grassroots operation in Ohio is to make fun of them.

Rand Paul – A-

Sen. Rand Paul supported Senator Grassley’s effort to defund the Common Core in 2013 and 2014. He co-signed a letter penned by Senator Chuck Grassley to the chair and vice- chair of the Senate Appropriations Sub-Committee on Education that called for language to be included prohibiting the use of federal funding to promote the Common Core, ending the federal government’s involvement in the Common Core testing consortium and preventing USED from rescinding a state’s No Child Left Behind waiver if it repealed Common Core. Sens. Paul and Cruz are the only senatorial candidates for president who co-signed Grassley’s letter.

Paul has paid more attention to the Common Core issue than most other candidates and has spoken forcefully against it.

Rick Perry – B

Gov. Rick Perry is one of the few candidates, declared or prospective, who has opposed the Common Core from the outset. As Governor, Rick Perry signed HB 462, which effectively banned the Common Core from being adopted in Texas…

…With regard to privacy, in 2013 Perry signed HB 2103, which created a data-sharing agency for educational data governed by an appointed board rather than the state educational agency. It appears that the data can only be shared within the state- with the exception of inter-state sharing with other state departments of education. Among other problems, it allows unfettered data-sharing among agencies designated as “cooperating agencies” –the Texas Education Agency, the state higher-ed authority, and the Texas Workforce Commission. It allows any researcher (no parameters on who is a legitimate researcher) to get data if he uses “secure methods” and agrees to comply with the ineffective federal Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA). It requires each participating state agency to make data available for the preceding 20 years, and allows data-sharing agreements with “local agencies or organizations” that provide education services if “useful to the conduct of research.”

Marco Rubio – C

Sen. Marco Rubio has spoken strongly against Common Core and wrote a letter to Secretary Duncan in 2011 questioning the legality of using federal No Child Left Behind waivers to drive policy changes, like the adoption of Common Core, in the states…

…Rubio’s official website does not specifically address the issue of Common Core. However, it does states that in order to prepare people to “seize their opportunities in the new economy,” high schools should graduate more students “ready to work.” It is hard to parse from this general statement what the education policies would look like under a Rubio Administration. What does Rubio believe would validate a student as “work ready”? Would it be the further alignment of our K-12 education system to the projected demands of specific sectors of the economy to train workers for favored big-businesses, which would mean more of the Chamber of Commerce-endorsed Common Core? Or, does it mean aligning education to the demands of parents and the local community as a whole, which would mean more local control? It would behoove Senator Rubio to answer these questions and to discuss the qualitative aspects of the Common Core and whether he believes the federal involvement helped, or hurt, the quality of the standards.

Rick Santorum – B

Santorum’s website addresses the problem of Common Core in terms of both federal overreach and the substance of the standards. While many other candidates do the former, few address the latter…

…Although Santorum voted for No Child Left Behind when it passed the Senate in 2001, he has since described that vote as “a mistake.” We give a candidate credit for truly admitting a mistake.

Donald Trump – B-

Trump has struck a chord with the Republican base, something many would have thought unlikely a year ago. Citizens view him as having the courage and will to stand and fight, something that many GOP candidates have seemed to lack in years past. As the primary cycle wears on, the base will want to hear more detail from Trump as well as other candidates. The candidate who does this will engender the gratitude of parents and other citizens. Trump would do well to blaze the trail on this.

Scott Walker – D+

Until recently, Governor Walker’s rhetoric on Common Core has been good. He admits that, when he ran in 2010, it wasn’t on his radar and that’s certainly understandable given how the standards were pushed into the states. He rightly gives credit to the state’s citizens for making it an issue, something that may not seem like a big deal, but it is to activists who have been ridiculed as irrational by elitists in both parties…

Sometimes legislation gets watered down despite the intrepid efforts of its proponents. At other times, a nominal proponent gives it lip service but fails to fight and, thereby, actually signals that he will not raise an objection if the legislation is defeated or watered down. On the Common Core, Walker is in the latter category…

You can read the entire report below.

Chris Christie’s Common Core “Concerns” Don’t Translate Into Action

chris-christieIn a recent interview on CNN, New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie argued that the “national teachers union” deserves a “punch in the face” because it is “not for education for our children” but is rather for “greater membership, greater benefits, greater pay for their members.”

But how does that statement square with Christie’s actions as governor?

Here’s his recent explanation as to why his state adopted the national Common Core Standards: “We signed on to try to get funds during a really difficult fiscal time.”

Until recently, he had been an ardent supporter of the Common Core.  In 2013 he was quoted as saying, “We’re doing Common Core in New Jersey and we’re going to continue. And this is one of those areas where I’ve agreed more with the President than not.”

By 2014, Christie had somewhat changed his tune: “I have some real concerns about Common Core and how it’s being rolled out and that’s why I put a commission together to study it.”  In early 2015, Christie had again taken a newly evolved position as he said, “I have grave concerns about the way this is being done, and especially the way the Obama administration has tried to implement it through tying federal funding to these things,” he said.

During an appearance on Face the Nation, after having expressed his reticence about Common Core, Christie said of his state’s use of the Standards:

. . .  I gave it four years to work. I mean, unlike some other folks, who just reflexively dismissed it, I said, all right, let’s give it a chance. Let’s see if it will work. It was originally written by the nation’s governors. Let’s give it a chance. But in four years, John, we did not have educators or parents buy into Common Core.

Underlying Christie’s actions on Common Core is one thing: the money.  He jumped all over it because of the federal money.  And what of his recent decision to study, through a state commission, Common Core?

Prudent leaders study things before they sign on to them—especially when the stakes are a child’s education.

But has Christie learned anything?

Despite expressing concerns about the Common Core, he is still committed to having the children of New Jersey take the much-maligned PARCC standardized tests, which were developed with federal money and are aligned to the Common Core.  In that regard, he said, “I will not permit New Jersey to risk losing vital federal education funds because some would prefer to let the perfect get in the way of the good.”

As Chris Tienken, associate professor of education at Seton Hall, told NJ.com, “If the accountability indicators are all pointing to the test aligned to the Common Core, what do we think is going to happen in the classroom? What gets tested gets taught.”  Furthermore, federal law requires the state standards to be aligned to the state assessments.

In other words, Christie won’t let the best interests of the students get in the way of federal funding.

If Christie were serious about getting New Jersey out of Common Core, he would set the course for high-quality standards—such as what Massachusetts had before Common Core—and reclaim his state’s control over the testing.  He would also lay down the marker to get the federal government out of the business of telling a state when and in what subjects it subjects children to standardized tests.

Permitting the behemoth of Common Core to increasingly tighten its grip around New Jersey schools in exchange for federal funding makes Chris Christie the last thing the Republican base is looking for in the next president.