Changing State Standards: Repeal, Revise, Replace, Rebrand, Update, or Unique?

Issues related to and surrounding the Common Core State Standards (CCSS) are controversial and “toxic” (as Mike Huckabee put it) for many people both in and outside of education, including decision-makers.  Rather than truly replacing the CCSS, some states have simply rebranded them.  As a result, “College and Career Readiness Standards” and setting “higher” national standards are viewed as euphemisms for the CCSS.  Rebranding has taken many forms, from simply changing the name to having committees review the standards, make minor, unsubstantial changes, add some front material, and possibly reformat their presentation.

For those familiar with pre-CCSS state math standards and who can compare them with the Common Core State Standards for Mathematics (CCSS-M), it can be seen the CCSS-M are uniquely written.  Once familiar with this uniqueness, a person can usually determine if CCSS-M standards have been used as a base or model for a standards revision or rewrite.

Two states, Alabama and Florida, have been making noise about getting rid of the Common Core State Standards.  Some headline terms used include repeal, end, ditch, eliminate, and scrap.  As time goes on, more states will consider changing their standards.  It will be interesting to see how they go about it and what the resulting product (set of standards) looks like.

Here are some possible scenarios of what states might do as they consider changing their CCSS-M standards.  These are listed from worst to best case

  1. Adopt the Common Core State Standards as they are
  2. Rebrand the CCSS-M in name only
  3. Rebrand CCSS-M in name with minor changes*
  4. Rewrite standards using CCSS-M as the model**
  5. Rewrite standards using another state’s weak pre-CCSS standards as a model
  6. Rewrite standards using an A rated set of pre-CCSS standards as a model
  7. Adopt an A rated set of pre-CCSS standards (INCA, or even the unrated WEMS)

*changes some states made, even minor ones, significantly weakened their standards

**this results in standards that are basically CCSS with phrases that have been rewritten

I would recommend states work to avoid paths 1 though 5 and if possible and only accept paths 6 or 7.

Some states have expended a lot of resources on rebrands or rewrites that have resulted in adopting a set of standards that in essence are the CCSS (or worse).  It doesn’t appear that any state completing a rebrand or rewrite has done anything that actually improved the CCSS.

One strategy that has been used in a few states is to have a survey set up for the public to provide specific input on the current standards, often standard by standard.  This strategy will mostly result in a set a standards that closely resembles or is the same as the current standards.  And if the current standards are the Common Core or a rebrand a brand makeover results.  This strategy fits with path 4 where the standards are rewritten using the CCSS as a model.

Do states that make noise about the CCSS want to repeal, revise, replace, rebrand, or update their standards?  Do they really want to have a better set of standards?  Or do they just want to make noise having people think they are doing something that will result in a better set of standards when the real result will be little to no change or something worse?


DeSantis Orders End of Common Core in Florida

Photo Credit: Gage Skidmore

Local news reports that Florida Governor Ron DeSantis (R) has signed an executive order abolishing Common Core in the state.

Tampa Bay Fox Affiliate Fox13 reports:

“One of the things we would constantly hear about on the campaign trail was a lot of frustration from parents in particular with this idea of Common Core,” said Gov. DeSantis. “When you complained… I heard you. I told you I’d do something about it. And today we are acting to bring promises to reality.”

DeSantis gave the order to replace Common Core-type standards with a new system that increases the quality of curriculum, and places a higher emphasis on teaching civics.

Florida education standards will not change this year. Gov. DeSantis said he and Commissioner Corcoran will seek input from teachers and parents, then present a reform plan to the legislature, to enact in 2020.

You may remember that Florida’s academic standards were tweaked and rebranded (Next Generation Sunshine State Standards), but still closely resembled the Common Core State Standards. Time will tell if this will bring a significant change, but it is encouraging to see Governor DeSantis follow through on a campaign pledge.

Read the rest.

New York Sees a Spike in Regents Exam Failures Five Years After Common Core

New York State Department of Education Building in Albany, NY. Photo credit: Matt H. Wade (CC-By-SA)
New York State Department of Education Building in Albany, NY
Photo credit: Matt H. Wade (CC-By-SA 3.0)

David Rubel, an education policy consultant, released a report that showed a spike in the failure rate of New York students on their math and ELA Regents Exam. This is five years after Common Core.

In his summary he writes:

It’s now five years since the Algebra 1 (Common Core) Regents and Exam was first used in June of 2014. After five years of a transition period, schools should be in a much stronger position to teach the Common Core (now known as the Next Generation Learning Standards). However, this year’s test results show a surprising shift downward with thousands more students failing the Algebra 1 Common Core Regents Exam. At the very least, the number of failing students should stay comparable with pre-Common Core Integrated Algebra Exam. There was also a significant increase in the number of students failing the ELA Regents exam. 

With the math exam he notes:

For reasons that have yet to be determined, last year’s Regents Exam was tougher for thousands of high school students. 13,074 more students failed the Algebra 1 exam this year than in 2016-17. The scoring system did not change so other factors must be in play. Two high need risk groups, students with disabilities and English Language Learners saw more students failing. 61% of students with disabilities group and 60% of English Language Learners are now failing the Algebra 1 Regents exam. Passing a math Regents exam is a requirement for graduation.

Regarding the ELA exam he wrote:

12,456 more students failed the ELA Regents in 2017-18 than in 2016-17; and increase of 6%. For the first two years of the ELA Common Core Exam, the test scores were impressive with a stable first year (2015-16) test results and even less students failing in the second year of test administration (2016-17) than with the old Comprehensive Regents exam. However, the 2017- 18 test scores have thrown a wrench into the transition. The increase in the failing students occurred with both students with disabilities (3,955) and English Language Learners (2,699). 49% of SWD students and 64% of ELL students failed the ELA Regents this year.

I can’t say that I am surprised. NAEP scores have been stagnant and there has been a widening gap between low and high performing students. ACT math scores have declined as well.

HT: The Hechinger Report

Why Are Common Core Critics Against Personalized Learning?

Matt Barnum at Chalkbeat asks whether opponents of Common Core will “bring down” personalized learning. I certainly hope so.

He writes:

Major funders and the federal education department are promoting the idea.

Teachers are wary. Parents are perplexed.

Criticism is coming from both the political left and right.

It’s not the Common Core, though a few years ago, it would have been. Now, we’re talking about technology-based personalized learning, the latest, hottest, and best-funded idea to dominate the conversation about American schools.

The backlash to the Common Core standards, and their associated tests, was enough to get them revised or replaced in some states. Today, some teachers, political conservatives, and parents are beginning to mobilize against personalized learning, too. And in some cases, the very same people are taking up the fight.

I’m glad he points out that personalized learning has critics on the right and the left and that teachers and parents are skeptical. Unfortunately, he provides a superficial overview of the opposition. This is not a right vs. left issue. Also many on the right and the left oppose personalized learning for the same reasons.

There are several reasons why Common Core opponents are taking up the fight against personalized learning. Here are seven primary reasons (not exhaustive) why I oppose personalized learning.

  1. It’s another dataless, top-down reform, a fad of which there is no evidence showing it will increase student achievement.
  2. Personalized learning is the natural progression of standards-based learning many schools implemented under Common Core which was also a top-down reform.
  3. It reduces the teacher’s role in the classroom to a facilitator.
  4. It gives tech companies far, far too much influence on education.
  5. The data privacy threats under personalized learning are immense. What data is collected? How is that data used? How is it being protected?
  6. The increase in screen time is simply unhealthy for kids, and unlike personalized learning, there is a wealth of evidence that demonstrates that.
  7. Personalized learning contradicts the “science of learning.”

Read the whole article and the comments.

Common Core, Workforce Development, and Assigning Blame

Photo Credit: Alpha Stock Images by Nick Youngson (CC-By-SA 3.0)

I read an article by David Cantor in The 74, about whether schools adequately prepare students for the “age of the automation.” I understand the concern about a  shift in our economy that is coming, and it will be disruptive. Those who beat this drum overlook the fundamental question – is preparing students for the workforce the role of K-12 education?

I submit no, workforce development is not the goal of education, a well-rounded education in math, literacy, science, civics, and the arts is the goal.

Kids are not human capital. 

That’s not to say I am against certification programs within K-12 schools. My daughter had the opportunity to become a certified nurse’s aide through our local school district. I also think to offer dual high school-college credit is a great idea and helps students avoid accumulating massive student debt. I support vocational education.

I am not opposed to those things if that is what the student and the family want. That isn’t what is going on. Kids are not receiving a well-rounded education as a result of this push for workforce development. They are being shortchanged.

Those of who are concerned about this get the blame apparently because the savior of workforce development, the Common Core State Standards, have been a failure. Why? Because we opposed them and so they were adopted unevenly. Also, the NAEP assessment questions may not line up to the standards (the ACT either).

Cantor writes:

Political resistance and bureaucratic obstacles resulted in uneven adoption of the standards among states. Researcher Tom Loveless at the Brookings Institution found small gains on the National Assessment of Educational Progress in states that more fully implemented the standards. He has also reported on the larger pattern of stagnation on the national exam.

Several factors, including questions of how well NAEP items lined up with the standards, made it impossible to conclude that they had a causal effect on outcomes, however.

In Arizona, where the state education chief led a successful effort to repeal the standards, local industry played a countervailing role, said Lisa Graham Keegan, chief executive of the state’s Chamber of Commerce foundation and a former state superintendent.

“The biggest contribution business makes is to encourage the jump” to better standards and tests, she said. “They’re saying, ‘We need to employ kids with these sets of skills, and you’re not helping them get them.’”

They can’t possibly admit there was no data that backed these standards up; they did not emulate success in states and countries doing well in math and literacy (to this day I’m still not sure what countries Common Core used as a benchmark). 

They can’t possibly look in the mirror and admit that their grand experiment, and that is what this was, an experiment, went bust and they are the ones to blame. 

Top down reforms never work. 

ACT Math Score Drop Unsurprising Says Past NCTM President

ACT released its Condition of College and Career Readiness 2018 report where they report math scores are at a 20-year low nationally. 

They also noted that college readiness in math is trending downward among ACT-tested US high school graduates, falling to its lowest mark in 14 years. 

“The negative trend in math readiness is a red flag for our country, given the growing importance of math and science skills in the increasingly tech-driven US and global job market,” said ACT CEO Marten Roorda. “It is vital that we turn this trend around for the next generation and make sure students are learning the math skills they need for success in college and career.”

Education Week reported on the ACT report and they include a quote that is rather surprising. Catherine Gewertz wrote, “Matt Larson, the immediate past president of the National Council of Teachers of Mathematics, said the math scores ‘are extremely disappointing, but not entirely unexpected.’”

Not surprising? Of course, I’m not surprised because we’ve seen this trend with ACT and we anticipated problems, but I have to admit I’m surprised to read a person whose organization shilled for Common Core.

They continue:

In a report released earlier this year, the NCTM called for major shifts in the way math is organized and taught in high school, including focusing more deeply on fewer essential concepts. Larson said that states have made solid progress adopting good math standards, but the ACT results suggest that schools need to focus on improving curriculum and instructional practice to bring those expectations fully to life.

“As a country, we’ve reached the limits of what we can get out of standards alone,” he said. “We need to pay more attention to what is taking place in the classroom.”

Oh, we’ve taken Common Core as far as we could? 

That was a short, disappointing ride. Nah, it’s not the standards, it’s everything else that is the problem… I couldn’t possibly be the standards! 

Common Core, The Great “Leveler”

Photo Credit: Stephen Mally/The Cedar Rapids Gazette

This is getting tiresome. Every new round of test scores, whether from the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) or some other vehicle, shows either stagnation or decline in reading and math performance of American students. Every time this happens, we write about the now undeniable connection to the Common Core national standards, which began to be implemented in most states in 2010. The recently released and utterly predictable scores from ACT require yet another commentary on the decline of academic performance and college-readiness under Common Core. 

How many times must this cycle repeat before someone in power is shamed into doing something about it?

Let’s look first at ACT’s college-readiness. According to Education Week, ACT correlates scores with students’ likelihood of earning Bs or Cs in credit-bearing college coursework. This year, only 40 percent of test-takers met the benchmark in math – the lowest level since 2004, and down from 46 percent in 2012. Significantly, unlike today’s students, the higher-scoring 2012 students had had little if any exposure to the glorious reforms of Common Core. As for reading, only 60 percent of test-takers met the college-readiness benchmark – the lowest level ever in the 16-year history of the benchmark. 

As for the straight scores, Education Week breaks the news: “The average math score for the graduating class of 2018 was 20.5, marking a steady decline from 20.9 five years ago, and virtually no progress since 1998, when it was 20.6.” And reading? “[T]he scores in English didn’t offer much cause for celebration, either. The average score for the class of 2018 was 20.2, the same as five years ago, and down half a point from the English-score high in 2007.”

But the hits just keep on comin’. Average composite scores fell in all racial and ethnic groups except Asian-Americans. So Common Core has been a great leveler – just not in the way it was promised. 

ACT’s chief executive officer was in a gloomy mood. “We’re at a very dangerous point. And if we do nothing, it will keep on declining,” he predicted.

So what should we do? Anyone with no Gates funding and two brain cells to rub together would conclude that a good start would be ditching Common Core lock, stock, and barrel – every “informational text,” every “close reading,” every “deeper conceptual understanding,” every “Lexile” measure, every “alternative algorithm,” every “real-world problem-solving,” every “rigorous” standard, every delay in standard algorithms, every delay in algebra, every “collaboration,” every “consensus,” all of it. Surely this will happen now.

Or maybe not. The progressive-education reformers have a lot invested in this experiment, and they’re guarding their interests. The immediate past-president of the National Council of Teachers of Mathematics, an organization that bears much blame for pushing the kind of ridiculous math enshrined in Common Core, isn’t giving up the national standards without a fight. As reported in Education Week, this educrat “said that states have made solid progress adopting the good math standards, but the ACT results suggest that schools need to focus on improving curriculum and instructional practice to bring those expectations fully to life.”

Ah yes, that’s the ticket – the standards are great, so if we only improve “curriculum and instructional practice,” our kids may once again learn to read and work math problems.  This is certainly Bill Gates’s position, and after all he’s very rich and so knows of what he speaks. And this is basically the position of the Thomas B. Fordham Institute, which recently released a report singing the praises of Common Core. Rarely does such a report get disproven in only a few months. Unfortunate timing for Fordham.

For those keeping score at home, here’s the evidence of the raging success of Common Core:

  • From the 2015 NAEP scores: for the first time in over 20 years, declines in math performance across the board, stagnation or declines in reading performance, and decline in college-readiness benchmarks in both areas.
  • From the 2017 NAEP scores: no improvement from the dismal 2015 scores.
  • From the 2017 NAEP scores: increased “achievement gap” between white/Asian students and other minority groups.
  • From the 2017 Progress in International Reading Literacy Study (PIRLS) test: U.S. students tumble from 5th in the world to 13th.

The protective edifice that has been erected around Common Core – by the federal government, state education establishments, private foundations, corporations, education consultants, and individual megalomaniacs – has got to go. If these defenders refuse to acknowledge the truth staring them in the face, they are elevating their own interests over those of American children. 

Common Core Collaborators

Photo Credit: J. Sanna (CC-By-2.0)

Richard P. Phelps at the Nonpartisan Education Review provides an excellent resource. They offer five articles that provide a historical, financial and media analyses of the organization that spawned the Common Core State Standards, the two copyright holders, two of the paid proselytizers, and the delivery vehicle, where the reputed Common Core architect, David Coleman, now runs things where Phelps says he earns an annual salary of well over million dollars.

Here are the links to each article:

Education Policy: Where the Florida Gubernatorial Primary Candidates Stand

These guides are NOT endorsements, but layout and rate the Common Core, federal education, preschool and related issues records of the Republican and Democrat candidates for governor of Florida, listed as officially qualified by the Florida Department of State to be on the ballot for the 2018 election, based on reviews of the candidates’ statements on their websites, in the media, at debates, polling data, endorsements, and voting records where available. PDF versions of these tables are available for the Democrats and the Republicans. The Florida Primary will be held on Tuesday, August 28.

Democrat Primary:

Mayor Andrew Gillum

  • Expanded/Supported Federal Intrusion in Education: N/A
  • Supports Common Core: Not mentioned – His supporters oppose CCSS 40%-27%.
  • Opposes High Stakes Testing: Yes
  • Supports Expanded Pre-K: Yes, he wants an expansion of pre-K despite overall research of ineffectiveness and harm.

Former Congresswoman Gwen Graham

Businessman Jeff Greene

  • Expanded/Supported Federal Intrusion in Education: N/A
  • Supports Common Core: Not mentioned, but his supporters oppose CCSS 46%-33%.
  • Opposes High Stakes Testing: Yes
  • Supports Expanded Pre-K: Yes, he wants two years “mandatory preschool” despite overall research of ineffectiveness and harm.

Former Mayor Phil Levine

  • Expanded/Supported Federal Intrusion in Education: N/A
  • Supports Common Core: Not mentioned, there is no CCSS polling data available.
  • Opposes High Stakes Testing: Yes
  • Supports Expanded Pre-K: Yes, he wants an expansion of pre-K despite overall research of ineffectiveness and harm.

Alex “Lundy” Lundmark

Chris King and Jon Wetherbee had little to no information on their views and plans for these pre-K through 12 education issues and received grades of “Incomplete.”

Republican Primary

Congressman Ron DeSantis

Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam

Businessman and Activist Bob White

  • Opposes Federal Intrusion in Education: Yes, he clearly understands the lack of constitutionality of the federal role in education and cost to states.
  • Opposes Common Core: Yes, and has led many grassroots efforts against Common Core throughout the state and at the legislature.
  • Opposes Expansion of Government Pre-K: Not discussed.
  • Pro-Common Core Endorsement or Rating: No
  • Anti-Common Core Endorsement or Rating: Former Congressman Ron Paul.

The remaining qualified Republican candidates  Don Baldauf, Timothy DeVine, Bob Langford, John Mercadante, and Bruce Nathan either do not have campaign websites, have no record, or discuss pre-K through 12 education issues minimally, if at all. These five candidates received grades of “Incomplete.”

Is American Government Rejecting Capitalism & Embracing a Managed Economy?

While skilled workers are needed to build new infrastructure and for our expanding economy after the tax cuts, the reauthorization of the Carl Perkins Career and Technical Education (CTE) Act of 2006 tries to accomplish those goals via the wrong method – replacing capitalism with central planning. The new bill, called The Strengthening Career and Technical Education for the 21st Century Act, HR 2353, just passed Congress on voice votes and signed yesterday.

The increasingly centralized federal education and workforce system, of which Perkins is a part, is multifaceted: the Every Student Succeeds Act, the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA), the proposed merger of the Departments of Labor and Education, Common Core for use with digital badges,  computerized  “personalized” learning (PL)/competency-based education (CBE), and older laws like No Child Left Behind, Goals 2000, and School to Work. 

This longstanding, unconstitutional federal interference in education and labor markets, picking winners and losers, has not improved and will not improve academic or economic outcomes. Even worse, Perkins is the latest example of racing away from capitalism to embrace principles of government/corporate control found in European social democracies and failed command-and-control economies littering the 20th century.

The Perkins reauthorization contains multiple passages embracing central economic planning. The bill requires the use of “State, regional, or local labor market data to determine alignment of eligible recipients’ programs of study to the needs of the State, regional, or local economy, including in-demand industry sectors and occupations identified by the State board, and to align career and technical education with such needs… What happened to individual students and free markets making those decisions? 

The “State board” refers to government-appointed bureaucrats, including corporate bigwigs, on state workforce boards set up under the Workforce Investment Act (predecessor to WIOA) signed by President Clinton. This scheme elevates the needs of business over student desires, while playing Carnac to predict economic trends. 

These boards were essential to Marc Tucker’s plan to centralize the entire U.S. education and workforce system, outlined in his now infamous 1992 letter to the Clintons. It was and remains Tucker’s plan to “to remold the entire American system” into “a seamless web that literally extends from cradle to grave and is the same system for everyone,” coordinated by “a system of labor market boards at the local, state and federal levels” where curriculum, including “national standards” and “job matching,” will be handled by counselors “accessing the integrated computer-based program.”

In 2001, former Congresswoman Michele Bachmann and policy analyst Michael Chapman described key components of Tucker’s system implemented via three federal laws signed by Clinton, including:

  • Public/private [unaccountable] non-profits provide design, policy, and seed money as a catalyst for systemic change.
  • The Federal Department of Labor chooses which private industry sectors are promoted in each state. 
  • K-12 and state colleges dump academics for job training in local “targeted” industries. 

They used the following diagram to illustrate the system, which served as the foundation leading to the various other programs listed above. These others could then be added on appropriate sides of this triangle:

Billionaire busybodies like Bill Gates adopted the Tucker/Clinton vision, spending hundreds of millions of dollars on programs like Smaller Learning Communities that required students to choose career paths in eighth grade, Common Core, and other education/workforce/data mining debacles. 

In Tucker’s recent letter to Secretary of Education DeVos praising Europe’s managed education-workforce systems, he continues the theme of government/business control of CTE, believing “business and labor” should “own it, period.” He giddily describes the Swiss system, in which business and labor “set the standards” for various system components, “define the progressions,” and “even examine the candidates seeking credentials.” 

This idea of corporations examining candidates underlies Tucker’s 1992 desire for national standards that became Common Core. The Common Core standards are used as data tags to hold everyone accountable to the government system, including expansion of social-emotional learning.  This concept also inspired Big Data’s push for constant assessment, data mining, and psychological profiling in PL/CBE, including use of Facebook-style student personality profiling being pushed globally. 

Perkins contains numerous references to CBE, data collection, and the manipulative Positive Behavioral Intervention and Supports (a system of universal student behavioral screening and potential psychological modification). All this can ultimately feed into subjective, murky algorithms that will channel children into government/corporate-desired societal roles. 

Yet – as history shows — government is utterly incapable of predicting economic trends and workforce needs. Five-year plans have failed spectacularly. Even Tucker, when recently discussing CTE, admitted his scheme’s great danger is to “condemn a large fraction of our youth to narrowly conceived training programs at the very time that advances in artificial intelligence and related disciplines are on the verge of wiping out entire industries…” 

Although Tucker and colleagues tout European education-workforce systems, none have produced or will produce American levels of freedom and prosperity. Will America choose the Tucker/Gates/Clinton failed methods that view “human value only in terms of productive capability” or our children as “products” (per Rex Tillerson)? Or will we return to promoting, as framed by C.S. Lewis, education over training so that American civilization continues to produce the freedom, prosperity and generosity that have made it the greatest civilization in human history?