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:

The Not So Surprising Findings in Fordham Institute’s Survey of ELA Teachers

The Fordham Institute released Reading and Writing Instruction in America’s Schools, authored by Fordham’s senior research and policy associate David Griffith and FDR Group’s Ann Duffett that looked at how Common Core’s ELA standards were being implemented in the classroom. They surveyed 1,200 ELA teachers and this survey follows-up one they released in 2013.

As a reminder, Fordham was paid by the Gates Foundation to push Common Core.

I wanted to highlight a couple of their findings, related to the “third shift” they mention in their report – “Building knowledge through content-rich curriculum.”

This is something Fordham said Common Core would accomplish, but according to their own survey it’s not happening.

Teachers are assigning less fiction.

Gee, who could not see that coming?

They write:

Between 2012 and 2017, the percentage of time that teachers reported devoting to fiction decreased (from 54 percent to 41 percent) as they moved toward some combination of literary nonfiction and informational texts—especially at the middle and high school levels. In general, the trend toward more informational texts is consistent with the third shift. However, teachers also report that they are assigning fewer “classic works of literature”—a concerning development.

I find it amusing they are concerned by this development when they should have known because they were warned it would happen.

Most teachers say content knowledge is getting slighted.

They write:

Overall, 56 percent of ELA teachers say that “not enough” attention has been paid to “building students’ general knowledge,” 46 percent say their curricular materials “do a poor job of building students’ general knowledge,” and almost one-third report that students’ general knowledge has gotten worse in recent years. These results are particularly troubling given that teachers also report moving away from fiction and toward more informational texts. What sort of information is in those texts, if they aren’t making students more knowledgeable?

Again, this is not surprising as Common Core emphasizes skills not content.

Writing instruction needs attention.

They write:

There’s a place for creative and narrative writing, but high school students in particular need to know how to construct a coherent argument based on their analysis of one or more texts. So it’s worrying that more teachers say students’ ability to “write well-developed paragraphs or essays” has worsened (36 percent) than say it has improved (27 percent) compared to a few years ago. Similarly, 46 percent say students’ ability to “use correct grammar, punctuation, and spelling” has declined in recent years, while just 14 percent say it has improved.

Again, none of this is shocking to us. We noted a weakness in the writing standards as well.

Read the survey:

Would Be Governors, Please, Ignore Fordham’s Ed Policy Cheat Sheet

I’ve noted Rick Hess and Sofia Gallo’s piece at Real Clear Policy which pointed out in the 36 gubernatorial contests this year, candidates are not saying a whole lot about education.

Well never fear Mike Petrilli with the Fordham Institute provides a cheat sheet at Real Clear Education.

Would be Governors, please, ignore it.

His first suggestion.

“Build thousands of new seats in high-quality career and technical education (CTE) programs.”

Hess and Gallo pointed out the one thing Governors have talked about is CTE. Workforce development is all the rage, and unfortunately, it has gutted education. It’s an unproven fad; it makes K-12 education subservient to corporate America, and students don’t come out of the pipeline with a well-rounded education. Companies need to pay for their employee training, and now they expect schools to do it.

So please, ignore the education reformer lingo. If you want to do something bold, talk up classical education. Otherwise, you are just parroting the latest jargon.

“Raise the bar for teacher tenure.”

Raise the bar? How about eliminating the bar by getting rid of teacher tenure. Who else does this beyond academia? I’m happy my home state of Iowa does not have tenure for K-12 teachers. It should be considered anathema.

Be bold, work to get rid of it.

“Thread the needle on curriculum reform.”

Petrilli writes:

For states with strong standards, assessments, and accountability systems — and gladly, that’s many more states than in the past — the next step is effective implementation.

Stop, lousy advice; governors should have absolutely NOTHING to say about curriculum. Leave curriculum decisions with locally-elected school boards. Also “effective implementation” of curriculum aligned to subpar standards and assessments is an oxymoron anyway.

Here’s the real cheat sheet.

1. Demand REAL flexibility from the U.S. Department of Education.

The Every Student Succeeds Act continues to expect states to ask the Secretary of Education “mother may I.” Governors need to strive to cut the apron strings. Governors who discuss this on the campaign trail, along with a plan for accomplishing that, are the bold candidates.

2. Quality standards, not subpar, top-down standards.

Would-be governors need to talk about how they will genuinely rid, not rebrand but rid their state of Common Core and Next Generation Science Standards. States can write their academic standards. Be even more radical and encourage local school districts to adopt their own.

We sent men to the moon with centralized standards, but if a state must have state, rather than local school district, standards then make sure they are quality, evidence-based, actually benchmarked, and field tested unlike what most states currently have.

3. End testing mania

Reduce the amount of assessments students have to take in your state. Support a parent’s right to opt their student out. That would be a fresh idea. That would be bold.

4. Protect student data.

Support and cheerlead legislation that severely reduces the amount of data that schools can collect. Also, leave individual student data with local schools. States should only have access to aggregate student data and even very little of that. Then eliminate any third-party access to student data. Also, mandate parental consent for data collection and protect a parent’s right to opt their student out of data collection beyond what is necessary.

Would-be governors who talk up these ideas I could get excited about.

Update from Montana: State School Board Approves Subpar Science Standards

This summer Montana education officials proposed science standards that were remarkably similar (ie practically identical) to the Next Generation Science Standards, but were not called that.

Surprise, surprise, surprise…. Last week the Montana Board of Public Education approved the Next Generation Science Standards, but shhhhhh…. They aren’t calling them that so it’s *OK.* They just graduated from eating a crap sandwich on white bread to eating a crap sandwich on a croissant.

You still are getting a crap sandwich. Yes, it may be an improvement, but they could have done so much better. If you take the Fordham Institute’s word for it there are 23 sets of science standards out there that scored higher than the Next Generation Science Standards.

If Common Core cheerleaders like Fordham don’t even like these standards that’s pretty bad.

Montanans should ask the candidates in the Superintendent’s race what they think about these standards.

Elementary Teachers Struggle With Common Core Math

Photo credit: Brandon Grasley (CC-By-2.0)

Photo credit: Brandon Grasley (CC-By-2.0)

As I was reading the Fordham Institute’s survey of K-8 math teachers over Common Core last week I wondered, “what K-4th grade math teachers?” That’s not to say some school districts don’t have specialists, but most elementary schools, especially early grades in elementary schools, are comprised mainly of generalists not specialists.

The elementary school “generalists” are having a problem with Common Core math according to an article in The Hechinger Report.

Depth of understanding was hailed by its architects as a cornerstone of the Common Core, a set of educational guidelines for what students need to know in each grade in English and math that have been adopted in 43 states and the District of Columbia. The problem is that most elementary school teachers did not learn math that way, and many now struggle to teach to the new standards.

An April 2016 study of a large urban school in Georgia reported the frustration of many elementary level teachers. Only two out of ten teachers there said they were very familiar with the standards and one out of four reported no training on how to teach to them. If the Common Core is to improve the math education of U.S. students as intended, experts agree that teachers who are meant to get students excited about math and become proficient in its basic concepts need more help and support. Yet the exact nature of that support and how to provide it are debated.

…“Elementary school teachers are generalists,” said John Ewing, president of Math for America, a non-profit that offers fellowships to teachers. “Their content knowledge is less than what a specialist would have so they don’t understand math in a broad way. Preparatory programs have to be more attentive and have a way to develop teacher expertise.”

So the onerous is on college elementary education programs to suddenly turn these teachers into specialists and learn math in a way they didn’t experience growing up.

This is the same reason parents struggle with Common Core math as well. The whole idea is completely asinine. For starters the math standards for elementary-aged students are not age-appropriate. Now they want teachers (and with some school districts – parents) to go back and learn all of these new methods when there was really nothing wrong with the way elementary school teachers and parents were taught.

We sent a man to the moon before Common Core, all of American innovation happened pre-Common Core. Now suddenly our kids need Common Core’s asinine approach to math in order to succeed?

The article also notes:

Susan Lee Swars, co-author of the April 2016 study of a Georgia urban school and a professor of math education at Georgia State University, said she was called in to provide professional development for the school and ran the study to see what kind of help the teachers would need. It was the school’s second year of Common Core instruction, and only 7 percent of the teachers surveyed strongly agreed that they were prepared to teach the standards and many voiced the sentiment that they needed to “unlearn” math and relearn it again. Other teachers spoke of encountering a lot of resistance in the classroom when they tried to modify math class to be more about the process than the solution.

Of course there is going to be rebellion when you focus more on the process than the solution. In real life the solution is what matters and using the fastest method to reach that solution. With all the talk of trying to prepare students for STEM they are using an approach that is the furthest from what is done on the job.

It’s ludicrous.

Then this:

“I used to be against specialists because in time of budget cuts, they’re the first to go,” Ewing said. “But if you want to teach Common Core properly, we’ll probably move to a country of specialists. I’ve come around on this.”

Yeah, let’s just totally restructure school faculty to make way for unproven standards, more nonsense!

Interesting Findings in Fordham’s Teacher Survey on Common Core Math

The Fordham Institute released a national teacher survey on Common Core math. They conducted an online survey of a representative sample of 1,003 K–8 public school math teachers from the forty-three states (as well as the District of Columbia) that had adopted and retained the Common Core State Standards for Mathematics as of March 2015.

There are some interesting findings that Fordham isn’t going to bring much attention to, but I thought was worth noting.

There is a drop in memorization of basic math formulas and times tables.

40% of teachers indicated they have fewer students memorizing basic math formulas and times tables. Only 9% said they had more.

55% of teachers say curriculum is well-aligned with Common Core.

This appears to contradict the narrative that the curriculum being offered to teachers isn’t well aligned to dispel criticism about how Common Core is taught. 42% said that it wasn’t, but I find it interesting a clear majority said that the curriculum is.

A majority of teachers are teaching multiple methods.

Common Core had made a significant impact on pedagogy. A total of 56% of teachers say they are teaching multiple methods. This includes 65% of K-2 teachers and 65% of 3-5 grade teachers.

They note that fewer teachers in grades 3-5 and middle school believe their students can do basic math formulas.

Consistent with the expectation in CCSS-M that students be fluent in the standard algorithm for each of the four basic operations, 32 percent of K–2 teachers say that they have more students who can “do simple calculations with speed and accuracy” now than before the CCSS-M (22 percent say fewer). This is reversed, however, in the other two grade bands, with larger numbers of teachers reporting that fewer students can complete simple calculations. The results for middle school teachers are particularly concerning, with just 13 percent reporting that more students can perform simple calculations and 39 percent reporting that fewer can. (Note that these middle school students started elementary school before the Common Core standards were adopted and implemented.)

They also note that students are increasingly stressed by math standards.

In general, teachers see the CCSS-M as a source of stress for students. For instance, 42 percent of teachers overall say that they have more students with “math anxiety” than before the CCSS-M were implemented, and 53 percent agree that “expectations are unrealistic.” In each of these cases, the higher the grade band, the more likely teachers are to report that students are encountering difficulties.

A majority of teachers believe that Common Core will have long-term benefits, but not an overwhelming majority.

There is a significant swatch of K-8 math teachers are who are not convinced.

Screenshot 2016-06-24 13.19.08

Bear in mind this is several years after adoption and implementation. If Common Core is as wonderful as Common Core advocates have claimed shouldn’t these numbers be higher?

Fordham Institutes’s PARCC v. MCAS Report Falls Short


(Pioneer Institute)  The Fordham Institute has long been at work on a study of the relative quality of tests produced by the two Common Core-aligned and federally funded consortia (PARCC and SBAC), ACT (Aspire), and the Commonwealth of Massachusetts (MCAS).  What Fordham has produced is only in the most superficial way an actual analysis – in fact, it reads more like propaganda and lacks the basic elements of objective research. 

It takes only a little digging under the surface to reveal pervasive conflicts of interest, a one-sided sourcing of evidence, and a research design so slanted it cannot stand against any scrutiny. In developing their supposedly analytic comparisons of PARCC, SBAC, Aspire and MCAS, the authors do not employ standard test evaluation criteria, organizations, or reviewers. Instead, they employ criteria developed by the Common Core co-copyright holder, organizations paid handsomely in the past by Common Core’s funders, and predictable reviewers who have worked for them before. The authors also fill the report with the typical vocabulary and syntax of Common Core advertising – positive-sounding adjectives and adverbs are attached to everything Common Core, and negative-sounding adjectives and adverbs are attached to the alternatives. 

No reader should take the report seriously; those who produced the report did not. Fordham Institute used to do serious work; in the area of assessments and standards, sadly, that is no longer the case.

Read a policy brief entitled “Fordham Institute’s Pretend Research” by Richard Phelps below:

Common Core’s Commonality a Failure

Photo credit: Jan Jacobsen (CC-By-3.0)

Photo credit: Jan Jacobsen (CC-By-3.0)

Common Core advocates, at least a handful of them, seem to be admitting they failed to meet one of the primary goals of the Common Core State Standards Initiative – that there would be commonality among all 50 states.

From US News & World Report:

After spending millions of dollars adopting and implementing the Common Core State Standards and aligned assessments, states are finally beginning to release preliminary results from the first round of tests administered to students last spring.

But it’s unclear whether the results will have any meaningful impact, as a growing number of states across the country are walking back their commitments to the tests and even to the standards themselves, a set of rigorous academic benchmarks adopted by 42 states and the District of Columbia,

“One of the selling points of Common Core is that when families saw this new data that was more honest, they could do something about it,” says Chad Aldeman, associate partner at Bellwether Education Partners, an education policy consulting group. “It’s just not coming to fruition like we would have hoped.”

…”This was always supposed to be a partnership among states, and the fact that they can’t come to an agreement … is a bad signal for this whole undertaking of commonality,” Bellwether’s Aldeman says. “And it shows that even despite all this money, the political problems are just too challenging.”

Fordham Institute Micheal Petrilli does try to hold onto some hope.

“I will definitely concede that we have lost the commonality of the Common Core, and that is only likely to get worse,” Petrilli says. “But I think the testing ecosystem is going to continue to evolve. Every state will eventually review the Common Core standards, and states will make tweaks and changes. Over time the Common Core will be less common, but I still think there will be a core there that will be recognizable.”

Read the rest.

Letter From Mark Twain to Snake Oil Peddler: Modified for Petrelli and Pondiscio

Mark_Twain“Snake Oil Salesman.” The phrase conjures up images of seedy profiteers trying to exploit an unsuspecting public by selling it fake cures. Mark Twain had harsh words for a snake oil peddler when enraged by the peddler’s attempt to sell bogus medicine to Twain by way of a letter and leaflet delivered to his home. According to the literature, the peddler’s “Elixir of Life” could cure such ailments as meningitis (which had killed Twain’s daughter in 1896) and diphtheria (which killed his 19-month-old son). A furious Twain dictated a letter of response to his secretary, which he then signed. What is a “snake oil salesman”? Why is peddling snake oil such a terrible thing?

A “snake oil salesman” is somebody that sells an item that claims to have some miraculous powers. This product is usually accompanied by a tremendous amount of hype. In an attempt to help push their products, the “snake oil salesman” will usually utilize planted accomplices who will claim that the product actually works.  Snake oil salesmen take advantage of struggling people willing to pay whatever they have to find a cure for their chronic problems. The snake oil peddlers know their promises of relief aren’t supported with well-designed research, but, pilot studies and longitudinal research will interfere with the agenda of salesman’s corporate and foundation sponsors. The “suckers” are not only cheated out of their money, but they forgo opportunities for authentic, locally developed solutions to their schools’ specific ailments. In other words, parents and taxpayers pay “opportunity cost” as well as financial costs. Hucksters hock hope. Twain lashed out at the peddler because he was grieved by genuine pain that the snake oil salesman disingenuously promised to relieve.

Mark Twain’s letter of fury unleashed on a snake oil salesman for fraudulent advertising conjures up similar images when thinking about Mike Petrelli and Robert Pondiscio’s “Missouri: Don’t shoot the messenger.” Petrelli and Pondiscio are the president and vice president for external affairs respectively of the Thomas B. Fordham Institute. A non-governmental organization frequently referred to as a conservative think tank. Why are Petrelli and Pondiscio likened to snake oil salesmen? Because they are using earned media to generate a tremendous amount of hype and push their untested, never-been-validated products – the Common Core State Standards and tests aligned to them. The Common Core peddlers repackaged a product discredited decades ago (slides 35- 44) with some new-fangled, untested software still under development; and banked (figuratively and literally) on the naiveté of a new generation of parents. Wanting relief from the fear that their children are being handicapped (a golf term) in a global race to the top (the top of what has not been clearly established), parents and other taxpayers are seduced into exchanging their hard earned dollars for Petrelli and Pondiscio’s “Elixir of Life” for American education.

Petrelli and Pondiscio  wrote the template for their ad, I mean article, when discussing the poor test results of students in West Virginia’s Charleston Gazette, and then, about a week later, minimally altered it with a few changes of the statistics for Connecticut and Missouri publications – tailoring their “pitch” for the standards and tests to parents and taxpayers in those states.  Petrelli even billed himself with the “Missouri’s native son” spin in the author description of the STL Post Dispatch. He and Pondiscio used their parent status to identify themselves with readers in West Virginia and Connecticut. Clever, huh? What’s worse, like the classic snake oil scam, accomplices were on standby in the audience to claim that the products actually work. The West Virginia article was reviewed on the Common Core Fact Checker website on August 24, 2015, the day after Petrelli and Pondiscio’s article was published in West Virginia’s Charleston Gazette-Mail.  Here are the Common Core Fact Checker logo (note the underlining under honest in the logo) and excerpts of the article review:


Because parents, policymakers, and our kids deserve an honest debate.

News You Can Use:

Charleston Gazette-Mail, “Don’t Shoot the Test Score Messenger”: The Fordham Institute’s Mike Petrilli and Robert Pondiscio write that states have “reached a critical milestone” following the first year of student assessments aligned to higher education standards. In West Virginia, …Common Core should help to boost college readiness – and college completion – by significantly raising expectations… Mountain State parents, in other words, are finally learning the truth.”

What It Means: Petrilli and Pondiscio make a strong case that high-quality student assessments are a necessary step to ensure parents get an honest evaluation of how well their child is developing the skills and knowledge to succeed at high levels of learning, and ultimately to graduate high school college- and career-ready. For a long time, states systematically lowered the bar instead of adequately helping students to levels of college- and career-readiness. By holding students to higher expectations, states are taking the difficult step of improving student preparedness. ... [italics added]

Honest in my world means full disclosure of potential conflicts of interest. Honest in my world also means test materials are demonstrated to be valid and reliable by independent external reviewers who present validity and reliability data before a test is administered as operational and cut scores are determined. My world has been shaped by the standards of ethical conduct of research writers published in the Publication Manual of the American Psychological Association and the APA’s Code of Fair Testing Practices in Education. Clearly, full disclosure of potential conflicts of interest and validity and reliability data published by independent external reviewers are not what you get when fact checking the Common Core Fact Checker website and Petrelli and Pondiscio’s article.

For starters, read the fine print in the lower left corner of the Common Core Fact Checker webpage to identify it as a project of The Collaborative for Student Success (CSS). Then, when you visit the CSS partners webpage, who should appear but the Thomas B. Fordham Institute (that is, the home organization of Petrelli and Pondiscio) along with other high profile Common Core developers and supporters such as Common Core architect, David Coleman’s Student Achievement Partners, the workforce planners at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce Foundation, and The Bill and Melinda Gates funded PTA. So, it appears that Petrelli and Pondiscio are rounding up insiders and accomplices to affirm their claims about the wonders of common core standards and tests. Conflict of interest abounds. I think I smell a funny odor, like essence of snake oil. 

While Petrelli and Pondicio scrutinize student scores in three states and pronounce that the percentage who have reached a proficient level of performance is woefully unacceptable, they warn readers to “. . .  resist the siren song of those who want to use this moment of truth to attack the Common Core or the associated tests.” They fail sound the alarm against critics who might be holding the standards and tests to standards of professional review. As it turns out, the tests from which the scores are gathered, the Smarter Balanced Assessment (SBAC), fail to meet even the most basic level of scrutiny for test selection and use – that is, scrutiny by independent external reviewers which holds the test developers accountable to professional standards of test construction. Even the U.S. Department of Education that awarded the grant to develop the SBAC required such basic criteria and stipulated in the April 9, 2010 Federal Register that,

An eligible applicant awarded a grant under this category must—

1. Evaluate the validity, reliability, and fairness of the summative assessment components of the assessment system, and make available through formal mechanisms (e.g., peer-reviewed journals) and informal mechanisms (e.g., newsletters), and in print and electronically, the results of any evaluations it conducts;

Ideally, the data should have been available before the assessments were administered as “operational” so that states exercising due diligence, could determine whether the assessments should be administered. The Smarter Balanced consortium published year 1, 2, and 3 reports to the U.S. Department of Education to demonstrate accountability for funds awarded throughout a four year grant period. The purpose of the reports was to describe the accomplishments and challenges of developing a new generation of tests that meet expectations for valid, reliable, and fair assessments. The federal funds supporting the consortium expired in September of 2014, and since that time, the number of states that are governing members has reduced – including an exit from the consortium by Missouri. To date, a year 4 or final report has not been published on the U.S. Department of Education website.

Implicitly acknowledging the external validity data were not available prior to administering what was pitched as the operational test , a September 11, 2014 memo from SBAC to state leaders stated, “Once the Smarter Balanced assessments are administered operationally in spring 2015, it will be possible to determine “external validity,” which is the degree to which test results correspond to external indicators (consistent with expectations). It’s now over three months after the administration of the “operational” tests. To date – no external validity and reliability data have been published for public review. Without independent external evaluation of the SBAC, Petrelli and Pondiscio’s article is akin to peddling a product of unknown quality that can only yield useless numbers promoted as student scores, but, that doesn’t stop them from pitching promises to unsuspecting readers.

Not only do the SBAC assessments lack independent external validation, the common core standards to which they are aligned are of questionable validity as well.  According to Zeev Wurman, the standards were not validated before they were published. The Common Core State Standards were released on June 2, 2010; the validation committee report was published in the same month. According to Sandra Stotsky, a member of the ELA validation committee, “Any tests based on these invalid standards are also invalid, by definition. Issues of validity apparently did not concern members of the Common Core validation committee who blessed the standardsa and then went on to lead the development of the Smarter Balanced assessments that generated the student scores reported by Petrelli and Pondiscio. These include West Ed’s Stanley Rabinowitz, who went on to become the project management director for developing the Smarter Balanced assessments, and Linda Darling Hammond (yes, the same Darling-Hammond who was head of the Obama transition team and whose Aspire Charter High School, partially funded by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, was closed for persistent low achievement) became the senior research advisor for the Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium.

In 2013, Bill Gates, the largest private funder of the Common Core State Standards Initiative and financial supporter of the Thomas B. Fordham Institute said, “It would be great if our education stuff worked, but that we won’t know for probably a decade.” So, without having evidence that the Common Core State Standards and tests aligned to them are valid and with credible evidence that conflict of interest abounds, where did Petrelli and Pondiscio get the idea that Common Core Standards and tests set “dramatically higher expectations” for students? From the Thomas B. Fordham Foundation’s wish list, that’s where. In May 2002, the foundation’s five year report listed six essential elements of its credo that guides all its work in education reform. The first and fifth of the six elements is “dramatically higher academic standards” and “a solid core curriculum taught by knowledgeable, expert instructors.”[italics added]. The third element is “verifiable outcomes and accountability.”

Fordham’s President Emeritus, Chester Finn, has worked really hard for decades to make the Fordham wish list come true. The problem is that the motive to effect real change requires grounding in real processes that contrl for conflict of interest. It was the Thomas B. Fordham Institute that published the 2010 State of the State Standards, the document, partially funded by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and the Thomas B. Fordham Foundation, and others was used to recommend that states abandon their state-generated standards in public domain and adopt the privately copyrighted Common Core State Standards. According to Jamie Gass at the Pioneer Institute,

A closer look [at the report] reveals the tortured path Fordham took to arrive at its conclusions. In previous Fordham reviews, English standards had to be presented either for every grade or for a two-year span to receive full credit for “organization.” This time, that definition conveniently disappeared. Massachusetts was marked down for a few two-year spans, but Common Core was not.

Fordham gave the Common Core mathematics standards an “A-” despite the failure to organize the high school standards by grade level, grade span, or course. Instead, they are listed in five unordered  categories of mathematical constructs leaving it unclear which standards belong to algebra and which to geometry.

What is interesting, but not disclosed in the document’s content, is that the lead author and primary examiner of the 2010 State of the State Standards, Sheila Byrd Carmichael, was a member of the Common Core English Language Arts feedback team. Additionally, what is not disclosed is that she enjoyed an ongoing relationship with the Thomas B. Fordham Institute, including having been employed as a paid consultant  in 2007 and having collaborated with Fordham on previous publications. Also not disclosed is that Byrd Carmichael launched the American Diploma Program, the forerunner of the Common Core State Standards, under the sponsorship of Achieve Inc. In sum, Byrd Carmichael hardly qualifies as an independent external reviewer of the standards.

Also not disclosed, is that promotion of the common core standards and general operating costs of the Thomas B. Fordham Institute are supported by the wealthiest private funder of the Common Core State Standards Initiative, Bill Gates.  Funny thing though, a 2015 grant from the Gates Foundation to the Thomas B. Fordham Institute is not mentioned on the Fordham Institute’s list of recent funders webpage. Perhaps it’s my imagination working overtime, or perhaps Petrelli is avoiding disclosure of his institute’s financial relationship with Gates.

In the table below are the virtually identical articles Petrelli and Pondiscio placed in various news publications in Connecticut, West Virginia, and Missouri. The text that is common to all of the ads appears in red font; text that intersects between two of the three ads appears in green (Missoui and Connecticut), pink (Connecticut and West Virginia), or blue (Missouri and West Virginia). Words unique to each article are identified in black font. Do you see all the red? Petrelli and Pondiscio use a “cookie cutter/one-size-fits all” approach to standardize their articles about standardizing student performance on common core aligned tests. Why am I not surprised? Below are some points of interest as you contrast the content of the articles in the table:

  • Note the inconsistency in the language referring to state performance standards. Petrelli and Pondicio describe CT and WV as having set a low bar, but, not MO. That’s because Missouri  had the 2nd highest performance standards in the country. In fact, Missouri’s original ESEA Flexibility Waiver application stated that MO was adopting the CC standards because our standards were the top three in the country, but, “it was confusing that many of Missouri’s schools were already labeled as failing when schools of similar quality in other states were not due to differences in standards and the rigor of the assessments used from one state to the next,” (p. 18). (in other words, Missouri was making itself look bad by having such high performance standards.)
  • Note similarity of poor math performance scores – all three states report over 60% students in various grade groups not proficient in math, but nowhere is there a discussion about the lack of standardized testing conditions, instructional practices, or common core implementation across the states. In other words, the test score numbers are meaningless unless it can be proven that all of the conditions were standardized across the comparison states. Further, there is no discussion about the lack of rigor with which the math standards themselves were developed.  Nor is there any discussion about the questionable practices used to determine cut scores on the SBAC tests.   Petrelli and Pondiscio are accusing states of lying to parents, when they themselves are omitting very important information about the integrity and interpretation of the scores they use to argue their case for ignoring critics of the common core standards and the SBAC tests aligned to them.
  • Note the statement about students leaving community colleges without a degree or any kind of credential. What is not discussed are the reasons students leave formal postsecondary education, which includes starting a business. Petrelli should talk to Bill Gates about his college dropout experience the next time he picks up a check from Bill to cover Fordham’s operating costs.
  • Note that Petrelli and Pondoscio implicitly insist on privatization of education in through state’s “voluntary” adoption of copyrighted standards owned by non-governmental organizations rather than roll back NCLB’s 100% proficiency mandate or recommend model state standards in public domain.

Missouri – Sept 1

Found here.

September 01, 2015 12:00 am   

Missouri: Don’t shoot the messenger

By Michael J. Petrilli and Robert Pondiscio

Five long years ago, Missouri and more than 40 other states adopted the Common Core standards in reading and math, setting dramatically higher expectations for students in our elementary and secondary schools. Now we’ve reached a critical milestone in this effort. Missouri parents just received for the first time their children’s scores on new tests aligned to the standards, and taxpayers got a look at results statewide. The news was sobering, and surely came as a shock for many. 

Middle school math, in particular, was a disappointment, with less than 40 percent of students scoring at the proficient level. English language arts wasn’t much better. Let us explain why parents and taxpayers shouldn’t shoot the messenger.

First, it’s important to remember why so many states started down this path in the first place. Under federal law, every state must test children every year in grades 3-8 to ensure they are making progress. That’s a good idea. Parents deserve to know if their kids are learning, and taxpayers are entitled to know if the money we spend on schools is being used wisely.

But it is left to states to define what it means to be “proficient” in math and reading. Unfortunately, most states set a very low bar. They juked the stats.

The result was a comforting illusion that most children were on track to succeed in college, carve out satisfying careers, and stand on their own two feet. To put it plainly, it was a lie. Imagine being told year after year that you’re doing just fine, only to find out when you apply for college or a job, that you’re simply not as prepared as you need to be.

Connecticut – Aug. 31

Found here.

Posted: 08/31/15, 6:17 PM EDT

Forum: Don’t shoot the test-score messenger, Connecticut

By Michael J. Petrilli and Robert Pondiscio

Five long years ago, Connecticut and more  than 40 other states a­dopted the Common Core standards in reading and math, setting dramatically higher expectations for students in elementary and secondary schools. Now we’ve reached a critical milestone in this effort, as parents and taxpayers just got to see for the first time the scores on the new tests aligned to the standards. The news was sobering.

Fewer than 40 percent of Connecticut’s students are on track in math; the results weren’t much better in reading and writing. Though the scores may come as a shock to many, let us explain why people shouldn’t shoot the messenger.

First, it’s important to remember why so many states started down this path in the first place. Under federal law, every state must test children every year in grades 3 through 8 and once in high school to ensure they are making progress. That’s a good idea. Parents deserve to know if their kids are learning, and taxpayers are entitled to know if the money we spend on schools is being used wisely.

But it is left to states to define what it means to be “proficient” in math and reading. Unfortunately, most states, including Connecticut, set a very low bar. They “juked the stats.”

The result was a comforting illusion that most children were on track to succeed in college, carve out satisfying careers and stand on their own two feet. To put it plainly, it was a lie. Imagine being told year after year that you’re doing just fine, only to find out when you apply for college or a job, that you’re simply not as prepared as you need to be.

West Virginia – Aug. 23 and Aug. 31

Found here and here.

Sunday, August 23, 2015 

Michael J. Petrilli and Robert Pondiscio: Don’t shoot the test score messenger, W.Va. 

By Michael J. Petrilli and Robert Pondiscio

Five long years ago, West Virginia and more than 40 other states adopted the Common Core standards in reading and math, setting dramatically higher expectations for students in elementary and secondary schools. Now we’ve reached a critical milestone in this effort. Mountain State parents just received for the first time their children’s scores on new tests aligned to the standards, and taxpayers got a look at results statewide. The news was sobering

Only about a quarter of middle school children are on track in math, and less than half are proficient in reading. The results were even worse for high school students. Though the scores may come as a shock to many, let us explain why parents and taxpayers shouldn’t shoot the messenger

First it’s important to remember why so many states started down this path in the first place. Under federal law, every state must test children every year in grades three through eight and once in high school to ensure they are making progress. That’s a good idea. Parents deserve to know if their kids are learning, and taxpayers are entitled to know if the money we spend on schools is being used wisely. 

But it is left to states to define what it means to be “proficient” in math and reading. Unfortunately, most states, including West Virginia, set a very low bar. They “juked the stats.” 

The result was a comforting illusion that most West Virginia children were on track to succeed in college, carve out satisfying careers, and stand on their own two feet.


Had Fordham, a Washington DC-based, private non-governmental organization, sought to maintain the accountability of public school education to the public rather than use its position to sell snake oil, it would have recommended high quality standards in public domain as a model for all states, such as those developed by Massachusetts, which for a decade led the country in NAEP test scores. Instead, Fordham generated a report to launch a publicity campaign for its much wished for national standards and tests using money from its sister foundation and Bill Gates. Along with other Washington insiders such as Marc Tucker of the National Center for Education and the Economy and Lou Gerstner of Achieve Inc, Fordham Institute’s leadership has been working since the 1990s to seduce states to adopt a national set of standards designed for development of human capital rather than education of independent, self-governing and self-supporting citizens.

Petrelli and Pondiscio call out states for “juking the stats” which was actually an attempt by many states to meet the unattainable goal in the No Child Left Behind Act for all students score as 100% proficient in math and English in order to get Title I funding. Using student test scores derived from tests, which themselves have not been demonstrated to be worth the effort to complete them, to convince the parents and public that their children are not adequately prepared for college or career is the ultimate “juking” of “the stats.” Worse, it’s fear mongering to “nudge” the public into accepting the privately copyrighted standards to achieve another agenda – the transformation of the purpose of public schools to the development of human capital for the workforce.

Implicit in Petrelli and Pondiscio’s lament that students leave community college without a degree or a credential lies the dirty little secret. The real agenda behind the Common Core State Standards is not to raise the standards of education, but, to standardize data collected on children in school. Labor, that is, individual members of the workforce, will be tagged by government-tracked credentialing after a student is demonstrated to be fit for work via test and behavioral data collected throughout his or her education years. It is despicable that Petrelli and Pondiscio accuse states of lying to parents, when they themselves have been hiding the truth. Their “Don’t shoot the messenger” advertisement for the Common Core State Standards and tests aligned to them is indeed an example of snake oil marketing. As a demonstration of “dramatically higher expectations” of behavior, Missourians, who like Mark Twain, are furious with snake oil salemen will not shoot the messengers, but, will brusquely usher them to the exit doors. Below is a parody of the Mark Twain letter to Mr. Todd that summarizes our sentiments to Mr. Petrelli and Mr. Pondiscio perfectly:

Sept. 9, 2015

Michael Petrelli and Robert Pondicio
Thomas B. Fordham Institute
Washington, DC

Dear Sirs,

Your letter is an insoluble puzzle to me. The handwriting is good and exhibits considerable character, and there are even traces of intelligence in what you say, yet the letter and the accompanying advertisements profess to be the work of the same hand. The persons who wrote the advertisements is without doubt the most ignorant persons now alive on the planet; also without doubt they are idiots, idiots of the 33rd degree, and scions of an ancestral procession of idiots stretching back to the Missing Link. It puzzles me to make out how the same hand could have constructed your letter and your advertisements. Puzzles fret me, puzzles annoy me, puzzles exasperate me; and always, for a moment, they arouse in me an unkind state of mind toward the persons who have puzzled me. A few moments from now my resentment will have faded and passed and I shall probably even be praying for you; but while there is yet time I hasten to wish that you may take a dose of your own poison by mistake, and enter swiftly into the damnation which you and all other patent medicine assassins have so remorselessly earned and do so richly deserve.

Adieu, adieu, adieu!

Mark Twain

Alice in Wonderland

What happens when a state legislator, a group of parents, or some policy or union group raises objections about the Common Core?  Its owners and proponents draw from a stable of shills to match their respondent’s background to what they perceive to be the objector’s.  That’s a common tactic.

So when they perceive the objector to be a conservative, the Common Core proponents most often trot out the Fordham Institute, which describes itself as right-of-center. The problem, as Dr. Susan Berry uncovers in her latest Breitbart piece, is that Fordham is unmoored from threshold conservative principles.

That’s just another chapter in the pretend world of the Common Core proponents.  They pretend that their initiative is state-led, that the standards are rigorous, internationally benchmarked, evidence-based, and of high quality.  Now that the Initiative is falling apart, they have added a few other points of deceit.  They pretend that, after adhering to Common Core’s demands, teachers will have time to teach above the standards (and thereby they are setting teachers up for the fall).  And they pretend that the president hi-jacked the Common Core, disregarding the fact that the Common Core owners asked him to spearhead pushing the standards into the states.

The sad thing is that the most media accepts the Common Core talking points hook, line, and sinker.