Time for the Gloves to Come Off

Getting Team V fit to fight (literally), the 30th Force Support Squadron offers a challenging boxing workout on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays from 5-7 p.m. with boxing coach Don Green. For more information, call the Vandenberg Fitness Center at 606-3832.What I’m going to say next is not directed at the legislators who have linked arms with parents, citizens and teachers who want to wrest local control of education back.  I appreciate those courageous legislators who I’m sure at times have taken political heat from Chamber of Commerce groups, other business organizations, educrats, and sometimes members of their own legislative caucus or Governor.

There is a huge lobby working against them that is well-financed and that is tough.

It isn’t easy.  They recognize that top-down, one-size-fits-all reforms do not work.  They never have no matter the grandiose promises we receive that has absolutely no data backing it up.

We need to encourage them to keep up the good fight.

What troubles me is the legislators who do not listen to “we the people.”  If there were rallies, letter campaigns, tweet-fests, etc. held by those who advocate for the Common Core they certainly didn’t make news.  I never heard of hundreds of people cramming meeting rooms, town halls, and committee rooms in support of the Common Core.

But the opposite is true.

So to the legislator who votes against common sense legislation whether it is a parental opt-out bill, a Common Core repeal and replace bill or just a bill to remove your state from invalid Common Core assessments – a vote against a bill that restores control back to the local level is a vote against parents.  It is a vote against teachers.  It is a vote against kids who are struggling with the nonsensical changes being made as a result of Common Core.

It is time they start to listen to you – the parents, grandparents, and taxpayers at least as much as they listen to your state’s department of education.  It’s also time that they remind the executive branch (even if the governor is from their own party) that checks and balances do exist.  They need to show us they believe in the separation of powers!  They need to make a statement that the executive branch running roughshod all over them like what was done when the Common Core was adopted and implemented will not stand.

Are these legislators ok with being left out of the discussion?  Their vote, not the opposition’s vote, is one of status quo.  This discussion should have taken place in 2009 and 2010, but didn’t so it must happen now.

We seen some profiles in hubris (or cowardice depending on the situation) this session.  For instance the Kansas legislators who voted against an excellent local control bill come to mind.  The West Virginia Senate who unbelievably watered down an excellent bill that passed overwhelmingly in the West Virginia House with bipartisan support.  What hubris!  Arkansas legislators who couldn’t bring themselves to pull their state out of PARCC after this school year.

These bills were not about ridding the state of standards and assessments.  These bills were about ridding your state of standards and assessments your state didn’t control.

These legislators need to show some humility, listen to their parents and actually remember that they represent them, not the special interest groups who are tickling their ear or funding their campaigns.  They need to listen now before some of them will receive an entirely different message at the ballot box.

With this article I announce an ongoing series I will publish as I have material.  I am going to start naming names and calling out those who have been road blocks to good legislation out.  It’s time for them to held accountable.  The gloves are coming off.

If you have a nominee from your state’s legislature please email me at info@truthinamericaneducation.com.

Schools Strike Back Against Common Core Opponents

tin foil hats

Tin foil hats gives any outfit class regardless of the event.

Two different stories were brought to my attention today.  They are from different parts of the country, and vary in seriousness, but it gives a snapshot of how Common Core opponents are being treated in some quarters.

One is a case of a substitute teacher suing his school district for being fired from Courthouse News Service:

A substitute teacher sued his school board, claiming it fired him for photographing and posting online a teacher’s lesson plan, with political intent.

Bruce Smith sued the Oldham County Board of Education, its Chief Operations Officer Dorenda Neihof and Director of Personnel Phillip Moore, in Federal Court.

Smith claims he was engaging in speech “on matters of public concern,” but the school board suspended and fired him after they “expressed concern that it [the lesson plan] was posted to a site with political implications that might lead people to think the school was advocating some sort of radical political agenda.”

Smith began working as a substitute teacher for Oldham County Schools, in Crestwood, Ky., in November 2012, according to his lawsuit.

“On Oct. 11, 2013, Smith served as a substitute teacher at East Oldham Middle School (‘EOMS’),” the complaint states. “Smith took a picture of the front page of the lesson plan for the day with his cell phone. The lesson plan was a ‘WebQuest’ on individuals who have worked (or are currently working) for social justice. The lesson plan was developed by Pacific University in Oregon and is publicly available on the Internet.

“Smith sent the photograph of the lesson plan to interested parents in Oldham County, who like Smith, are generally opposed to the ‘common core’ curriculum being taught in Oldham County Schools. These interested parents, including Smith, have united under a banner they refer to as ‘Kentuckians Against the Common Core.’

“When sending the photograph of the lesson plan, Smith commented, ‘I thought you would find this interesting.’ By commenting and sending the photograph of the lesson plan to parents interested in the curriculum at Oldham County Schools, he engaged in speech on a matter of public concern.” (Parentheses in complaint).

Parents forwarded the lesson plan to other advocates against the “common core” curriculum, who discussed and criticized it in blogs and Facebook posts, according to the complaint.

I don’t want to get into a discussion about the curriculum as I think that’s an unproductive discussion, especially if it is not math or ELA curriculum.  Leslie Beck recently wrote a great article on how some curriculum discussions can actually end up being a distraction.

A couple of thoughts about this…

  • If Smith posted it on another website it would have been fine?  If that’s the case then it shouldn’t matter.
  • If the curriculum didn’t espouse a radical political agenda then the school has nothing to worry about.
  • It was already available to the public, and the public has the right to see what is being taught in public schools regardless of the website that gets the information.  The allegation that a school board would fire a teacher or sub based on them sharing this information is troubling if proven to be true.

This coincides with me receiving reports from teachers that they are being placed under gag orders being told not to even discuss the Common Core under the threat of losing their jobs.

How can we have an actual discussion with teachers being silenced.  Proponents certainly like to tout teachers who love the Common Core.  Shouldn’t we be able to hear from teachers who feel differently?  I think so.

Which leads me to the next story.  A school superintendent in Alabama equates Common Core opposition to the Salem Witch Trails.  Yeah that’s helpful for civil discourse.  John Mullins, Superintendent of Education for Arab City Schools, wrote in an op/ed at Al.com:

A dangerous conspiracy theory is threatening the future of Alabama’s 750,000 public school students. The Common Core conspiracy theory wants us to believe that the Alabama College and Career Ready Standards (ACCRS) are evil and will harm our children. Like other conspiracy theories, this one is born of fear and uncertainty.

Unlike other theories, the Common Core conspiracy theory may well be politically motivated. Regardless of its origin of this theory, it is as wrong as the 20 executions that occurred in Salem, Massachusetts.

The ACCRS are researched-based, academic standards designed to teach children how to think critically, problem solve, and communicate effectively. Adopted by the Alabama State Board of Education in 2010, these standards have been approved by 45 states. For three years Alabama’s school districts have invested thousands of hours and millions of dollars towards successfully transitioning to these more challenging Math, Language Arts, and Literacy Standards.

The conspiracy theorists, who have now introduced a bill in the legislature to abandon the ACCRS, want you to think that President Obama and the federal government are forcing these standards upon us. This is totally false. The work on the standards began while George W. Bush was president.

Anyway you get the gist.  You can read the rest.  So basically anybody opposing the Common Core is a crackpot, conspiracy theorist worthy of a tin foil hat.  Common Core advocates – if you have to resort to tactics like this it simply means your argument is wanting.

I agree with Mr. Mullins in his exhortation to read the standards – http://corestandards.org.  He also encourages people to read the FAQ as well.  That’s fine, but if he was intellectually honest he’d also say take time to read why some members of the validation committee could not sign off on these standards.

Or are they conspiracy theorist crackpots on an educational witch hunt as well?

Photo credit: Steve Rainwater (CC-By-SA 2.0)

All Common Core Critics Aren’t Extreme

Woman-plugging-earsNeal McClusky of The Cato Institute wrote an op/ed for The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel that was published yesterday.  He pointed out that all Common Core critics are not extreme.  I appreciate his article because it seems as though those who advocate the Common Core would rather label the opposition than actually debate the standards themselves like what we are seeing in Wisconsin.

If you’re an impartial observer reading reports in the politicized aftermath, you might get the impression that all Common Core opponents are either kooks or kook-hired guns. But the reality is the opposite. In fact, education experts from across the political spectrum are taking on — and apart — Common Core.

Unfortunately, the headlines at the end of the hearings had nothing to do with whether Common Core was good for Wisconsin’s children; instead, they were about who covered the expenses of anti-Common Core experts brought in to give their analyses. That could be because some elected Wisconsin officials are spending their time politicizing the debate instead of engaging in honest discussion. Last month, a letter signed by four Democratic state legislators denounced Common Core opponents by associating them with "fringe" groups and "conspiracy theories."

Such marginalization is not confined to the Badger State. Former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, arguably Common Core’s greatest champion, also has accused its opponents of employing conspiracy theories. And, in a recent op-ed, Michael J. Petrilli and Michael Brickman of the Thomas B. Fordham Institute characterized Common Core opponents as a "small but vocal minority of conservatives" coupled with a bit of "the far left." Read: scary fringe types. It’s worth noting that Petrilli testified in favor of Common Core during the state’s hearings.

Of course, some Common Core opponents do say outlandish things, and in Wisconsin’s case, it doesn’t help that the John Birch Society defrayed the costs of anti-Common Core experts brought to testify. But such sideshows pale in comparison to the highly diverse group of Common Core opponents whom advocates absolutely don’t want to talk about: education experts.

It may come as a surprise to some that Common Core is opposed by scholars at several leading think tanks on both the right and left, including the Heritage Foundation, the Hoover Institution, the Brookings Institution and my own Cato Institute. My research has shown there is essentially no meaningful evidence that national standards lead to superior educational outcomes.

Read the rest.

Fordham’s Petrilli is especially bad.  Today in a Huffington Post article he said that most of the opposition for the Common Core don’t have kids in the public school.  How in the world would he quantify that?  And then, so what?  I’m a homeschooler, guilty as charged, but I have spoken with many concerned parents who send kids to public school, as well as, those who send kids to private school or who homeschool.  We recognize a couple of things.  1. The quality of public education impacts us all, and 2. We are all impacted in some way by the Common Core State Standards.

I know it’s easier to tell us to put on our tin foil hats instead of actually debate the quality, adoption process, costs and content of the standards themselves.

Common Core Opposition Cropping Up in Mississippi

WJTV Channel 12 in Mississippi reports that opposition to the Common Core State Standards is starting to crop up in Mississippi.

A group of state senators is questioning Mississippi’s implementation of the Common Core education standards, even as the state’s schools move to fully implement the standards this fall.

Republican Sen. Angela Hill of Picayune says Mississippi’s decision to set different testing goals for different racial subgroups undermines the state’s adoption of the standards, along with 44 other states. Hill wants to at least freeze Mississippi’s work on Common Core, if not reverse it.

Great news.  In the comments section please leave information about any grassroots groups that you know are fighting the Common Core in Mississippi.

Axelrod on Twitter About Common Core Critics

As seen on Twitter yesterday from the former senior advisor of Barack Obama, David Axelrod.

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Axelrod linked to a Washington Post article that points to Tea Party groups mobilizing against the Common Core.  What he doesn’t seem to understand that while Tea Party groups are getting involved, this is a movement of moms and dads who want a better education for their children.  Tea Party groups are just one faction.  This is a bipartisan movement – liberals and conservatives, Democrats and Republicans.

His tweet tells me a couple of things.  1. We have their attention, and 2. We are winning the debate. 

Let’s tweet Axelrod to let him know what we think.

Update: From a friend on Facebook.

When ever I hear our politicians talk about what other countries must be thinking or someone tells me we’re falling behind I often thin think of this quote from a Singapore education minister when asked about the differences between his country and ours:

“We both have meritocracies. Yours is a talent meritocracy, ours is an exam meritocracy. There are some parts of the intellect that we are not able to test well like creativity, curiosity, a sense of adventure, ambition. Most of all America has a culture of learning that challenges conventional wisdom, even if it means challenging authority. These are the areas where Singapore must learn from America.” – Tharman Shanmugaratnam, Minister of Education for Singapore.

They are not laughing.

Common Core and the Mainstream

I guess those of us who are concerned about the Common Core State Standards are part of the fringe… at least according to Scott Elliott writing for the Indianapolis Star’s Get on the Bus Blog.  He writes:

The Common Core has been only a minor issue in the state superintendent race, which has instead been focused on issues like testing and privatization of public education. Bennett’s rival, Democrat Glenda Ritz, has expressed some sympathy for the anti-Common Core arguments but even she has not called for pulling Indiana out of the Common Core, just slowing down and giving the whole thing more consideration.

The energy behind idea that Indiana should abandon the Common Core — academic standards (and, soon, affiliated tests) that 46 states have agreed to follow — has mostly come from the political fringes in Indiana. On the far right, the Common Core has been viewed as stealth nationalized standards that give more power over curriculum to those outside the state. On the far left, it is considered as an unwelcome expansion of the standardized testing industrial complex seen as already too dominant in driving curriculum.

But that doesn’t necessarily mean backlash against the Common Core couldn’t emerge in the mainstream next year.

Not everybody who has concerns about the Common Core are in extreme camps. There are plenty of rank-and-file educators who question whether some of the new standards are potentially a step back from Indiana’s own standards, which have gotten generally high marks. This has mostly been an inside-the-profession discussion so far but that doesn’t mean it won’t spill over into the general political discourse.

So if you’re not a rank-and-file educator you’re in the fringes?  The reason Mr. Elliott that there hasn’t been more outrage over this is the way the Common Core State Standards were implemented – under the radar without public input (or legislative input for that matter).

That said I do believe he’s right that this issue could be mainstreamed next year – especially states like Indiana where there is growing opposition.  I believe their will be push back in my home state of Iowa, but it’s hard to say how much noise will be made about it until after the election.