Jeb Bush Back to Pushing Failed Education Agenda

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

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

Rested from his presidential bid, Jeb Bush is back in the saddle and ready to ride. But he’s apparently headed back into the canyon where his troops were destroyed the first time around. He doesn’t seem to have learned much from painful experience.

What led to his previous ambush was his support for the noxious Common Core national standards. He pushed Common Core as founder of the Foundation for Excellence in Education (ExcelinEd), a think tank generously funded by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, which underwrote much of the marketing of Common Core. Having left ExcelinEd to run for President, he’s now back as chairman – peddling the same ideas, although with more discreet terminology.

Bush explains his preferred policies in a recent essay in National Review Online. After reciting the usual statistics about American students’ mediocre performance on certain international tests, he expresses concern about whether they will “have the skills to compete in the 21st-century job market.” Everyone is in favor of job skills, but Bush’s statements illustrate his continued adherence to the education-as-workforce-development model embodied in Common Core. If there is another point to education (such as teaching students to value truth, goodness, and beauty, and to cultivate academic knowledge rather than empty “skills” – with the side effect that they will become good employees), we don’t hear it from Mr. Bush.

What about Common Core? Bush has learned enough to avoid that toxic phrase, but he continues to push the concept through code language. He insists on “standards aligned with college expectations,” i.e., the “college- and career-ready” Common Core. Apparently he missed the recent ACT report showing that college professors say Common Core doesn’t prepare students for college, and reports of declining college-readiness scores on the National Assessment of Educational Progress. Common Core promoters seem to suffer from unfortunate timing, publishing their paeans to the standards immediately after the latest wave of bad news.

The rest of Bush’s description of the ideal model of 21st-century education confirms he’s still besotted with Common Core. Bear in mind that Common Core is merely Outcome-Based Education (OBE) 2.0, which means the focus of the standards is teaching less academic content knowledge and more “mastery” of “skills.” OBE has been renamed “competency-based education” (CBE), and Bush’s foundation is a huge proponent. A key part of Common Core/CBE is use of invasive personalized technology to continually “assess student mastery of coursework throughout the year,” which is exactly what Bush argues for in his essay.

This brings us to another aspect of his education prescription that should trouble parents. Bush’s ExcelinEd is a true believer in the transformative effect of so-called digital learning. This concept extends far beyond the example he gives (accessing an online AP course that’s unavailable at a particular school) and enters the realm of recording extraordinarily sensitive psychological data about a student’s attitudes, dispositions, and mindsets. Given that federal student-privacy law has been gutted, and that the corporations benefitting from this data employ platoons of lobbyists to make sure states don’t restrict their access to it, parents are rightly alarmed by this casual approach to measuring and exploiting the workings of their children’s brains. If Bush understands this concern, he doesn’t mention it (perhaps because ExcelinEd’s donors include the aforementioned technology corporations).

Bush also pushes for a wide array of school choice, with “portability” of tax dollars so that the money follows the child. One could argue for or against this idea, but Bush doesn’t acknowledge the most dangerous drawback that must be addressed before any such plan is launched: that when tax money follows a child, it’s inevitable that government regulations will follow as well.

The imposition of government regulation on private schools or even homeschools that receive taxpayer funding would be accomplished in the name of “accountability.” How can we give the taxpayers’ money to private schools, the argument goes, without requiring those schools to do things our way and report the data we want reported? Anything else would be irresponsible.

We see how this has worked in states such as Indiana, whose voucher program requires private schools that accept voucher students to administer the state Common Core-aligned assessment – and therefore to teach Common Core. In this regard some choice programs are less dangerous than others, but to advocate all of them with no mention of the creeping-regulation problem is . . . irresponsible.

So Bush is back in his natural environment of education foundations pushing the agendas of wealthy donors. Based on his first missive since his return, parents will likely ignore him now as they did during his campaign.

Wall Street Journal to Bush: Just Change Common Core’s Name

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

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

As follow-up to my article on Jeb Bush yesterday I wanted to highlight Susan Berry’s piece at Breitbart News.  She focused on the Wall Street Journal’s editorial (pay wall) on Jeb Bush’s announcement he was going to “seriously explore” running for President.  She wrote:

The Wall Street Journal editorial board took a turn at Jonathan Gruber’s strategy in getting Obamacare passed. The board advised Jeb Bush that if he wants to win the 2016 GOP presidential nomination, he should simply change the “polarizing” name of the standards he continues to champion, suggesting that conservatives won’t know the difference.

The board wrote that Mr. Bush need not repudiate his support for national education standards, though he should disavow President Obama’s use of the federal purse to coerce states to impose them. The polls showed that nearly as many Republicans as Democrats support high standards as long as the polarizing “Common Core” name is removed. GOP Governors Bobby Jindal (Louisiana) and Mike Pence (Indiana) have already dumped the label and kept similar standards. Mr. Bush can then pivot to his stellar record on accountability and choice in Florida.

Such a condescending view of conservatives seems in line with Gruber’s calling American taxpayers “stupid.” The WSJ editorial board demonstrated that it is out of touch with the conservative base of the Republican Party, so much so that it believes Gov. Mike Pence (R) of Indiana is in the clear because he simply “rebranded” the Common Core standards with another name.

Yeah go ahead and do that Governor Bush.  See how well that works out for you.  It should be noted that the parent company of The Wall Street Journal, NewsCorp, is a donor to Bush’s Foundation for Educational Excellence.

Jeb Bush Will Go Down Swinging on Common Core

Photo by Gage Skidmore (CC-By-SA 2.0)

Photo by Gage Skidmore (CC-By-SA 2.0)

Former Florida Governor Jeb Bush defended the Common Core State Standards in his keynote speech at the Foundation for Educational Excellence’s National Summit on Education Reform yesterday.  He’s the only prospective Republican presidential candidate to do so.  He are a few things he said about Common Core.

This is why the debate over the Common Core State Standards has been troubling. I respect those who have weighed in on all sides of this issue. Nobody in this debate has a bad motive. But let’s take a step back from this debate for a second. This morning over 213 million Chinese students went to school, and nobody debated whether academic expectations should be lowered in order to protect the students’ self-esteem. Yet in Orange County, Florida, that exact debate did occur. And so the school board voted to make it impossible for a student to receive a grade below a 50. You get 50 out of 100 just for showing up and signing your name. This was done, and I quote here from a local official, so the students “do not lose all hope.”

He respects those who have weighed in on all sides of the issue?  He and I must define respect differently.  He said in the past and doubles down again that Common Core opponents care too much about our kids self-esteem.

Then he cites an example of a local board making it impossible for a student to get less than 50% as though that is a typical response from Common Core opponents.  It is not.  I can’t think of a single activist I know who would support something like that.

We do care about standards being developmentally appropriate and that the math we teach students makes sense and will be used in the real world.

Perhaps I should ask him if he wants the U.S. education system to reflect a Communist nation’s schools since he references China.  Is this really the model he wants?   Where students are placed on career tracks early, thrown into a system that stifles creativity, and have their heads filled propaganda?  But hey they can do math really well, who cares if they are not free!

But in an international report card on education performance, students from Shanghai ranked number one. Students from the US ranked 21st in reading and 31st in math. The point is this: an over-riding concern for self-esteem instead of high expectations doesn’t help you get to number 1. It gets you to 21. So let’s get real. Only a quarter of our high school graduates who took the ACT are fully prepared for college. More than half who attend community college need to take some kind of remedial course. 600,000 skilled manufacturing jobs remain unfilled because we haven’t trained enough people with those skills. And almost a third of high school graduates fail the military entrance exam.

Yes our education system needs work, but honestly can he tell me with a straight face that China has the same tradition of testing all of their students like the U.S. does?  How many countries do that?  Until they all do comparing nations’ PISA scores is like comparing apples to oranges.  We agree much work needs to be done, but honestly drop the rankings.  What is happening with ACT, community college and the ASVAB test is more relevant.

Given this reality, there is no question we need higher academic standards and – at the local level – diverse high-quality content and curricula. And in my view, the rigor of the Common Core State Standards must be the new minimum in classrooms. For those states choosing a path other than Common Core, I say this: Aim even higher…be bolder…raise standards and ask more of our students and the system. Because I know they have the potential to deliver it. Even if we don’t all agree on Common Core, there are more important principles for us to agree on. We need to pull together whenever we can.

So while I agree our public education system needs help, Common Core is not the solution.  It merely doubles down on failed educational fads from the past.  It won’t improve our math standing in the world, actually, it will put us further behind as Pioneer Institute noted in their statement about his speech today:

In his speech today, Governor Bush argued that the Common Core is a high standard and that “the rigor of the Common Core State Standards must be the new minimum in classrooms.”  With the Core aiming to instruct and test Algebra I in grades 9 and 10, and with a substantial reduction in the high-quality literature in the standards, the Core is hardly a set of standards that will cause fear in high-performing countries or economic competitors like China, India, and Japan.

Moreover, the Core is not a “minimum” or, as Governor Bush has suggested in other venues, a “floor.”  The PARCC and SBAC tests clearly determine when content will be taught.  The establishment of teacher evaluations tied to these tests only underscores how the Core is both a floor and a ceiling on student learning.

Also what evidence does he have to back up his assertion that Common Core will work?

Aim higher doesn’t mean a Common Core rebrand.  It doesn’t mean bending over backwards to make sure your state’s standards “align” with the Common Core in order to keep that precious NCLB waiver.  Quality standards look much more like Massachusetts’ former English language arts standards and California’s past math standards.

Finally something we can agree on…

The states and local communities are where the best ideas come from. They have the capability to make reform happen, and they are ultimately accountable. So if the federal government wants to play a role in reform, it should stop tying every education dollar to a rule written in Washington D.C.  They should make more programs – IDEA, Title One, early childhood programs – into block grants that the states can deploy as they see fit, including vouchers to enhance state programs. In my view, every education dollar should depend on what the child needs, not what the federal bureaucrat wants. Where the child goes, the dollars should go as well. When that happens, we’ll see major reforms and major gains for America’s children and the federal government will go back to playing the supportive and completely secondary role it should be playing.

Here Bush does a 180.  He used to downplay Federal involvement in Common Core, and now he seems to acknowledge it.  Block funding with full state discretion is certainly preferable than the carrot and stick approach the Feds have used to push reform.

It looks like that Governor Bush will run on Common Core should he decide to run for President.  He said that he would decide before the end of the year.  He’s going to go down swinging and I assure you he will go down.  This issue will be a litmus test in Republican primary contests and he is on the wrong side of it.

Look What Jeb Bush Doesn't Mention in Fundraising Letter

Former Florida Governor Jeb Bush sent a fundraising letter out for the 501(c)4 organization he launched last year – Excellence in Education National (the Foundation for Excellence in Education is a 501(c)3 he started).

Reading through this five page letter I find an education policy topic strangely missing.  I’m sure you can guess what it is.

No mention of Common Core? You would think he would want to tout his advocacy to push the Common Core onto the states.  Since he is obviously targeting conservatives in this letter, and the majority of conservatives oppose Common Core, I’m sure he knows it would impact the bottom line.

Omitting his support for the Common Core State Standards tells us a couple of things.  1. Bush understands this will be a losing issue for him both with fundraising and in the Republican presidential primary process.  2. It is obvious that he will attempt to remake himself like other Republicans who have supported Common Core have done.

Also this letter calls into question basic ethics, since Bush and his organization supported Common Core and policies related to it, don’t prospective donors have the right to know where there money is going?  I think so.

Corporate Money Distorting Democracy in Education Policy

An interesting report from In the Public Interest.

Emails between the Foundation for Excellence in Education (FEE), founded and chaired by former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, and state education officials show that the foundation is writing state education laws and regulations in ways that could benefit its corporate funders. The emails, obtained through public records requests, reveal that the organization, sometimes working through its Chiefs For Change affiliate, wrote and edited laws, regulations and executive orders, often in ways that improved profit opportunities for the organization’s financial backers.

“Testing companies and for-profit online schools see education as big business,” said In the Public Interest Chair Donald Cohen. “For-profit companies are hiding behind FEE and other business lobby organizations they fund to write laws and promote policies that enrich the companies.”

The emails conclusively reveal that FEE staff acted to promote their corporate funders’ priorities, and demonstrate the dangerous role that corporate money plays in shaping our education policy. Correspondence in Florida, New Mexico, Maine, Oklahoma, Rhode Island, and Louisiana paint a graphic picture of corporate money distorting democracy.

Read the rest.

No way we’d never suspect that some who advocated and/or wrote the Common Core would be in it for a financial windfall!  Ok, yes we did suspect it, and now we have our proof.

Even if you like the Common Core and other reforms pushed by FEE can we agree that this is unethical?

Arne Duncan’s Second Term Agenda Unfolds

And he’s doubling down on the Common Core State Standards, as well as common assessments and teacher assessments.  In his speech to Jeb Bush’s Foundation for Excellence in Education Summit EdWeek reports:

In remarks at the two-day forum in Washington of the Foundation for Excellence in Education, run by former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, Duncan said he has an “ambitious” second-term agenda that includes holding the line on initiatives he started during his first four years. He cited specifically the tough road ahead for common standards, common tests, and teacher evaluations.

“Do we have the courage to stay the course there?” he asked during his 30 minutes of remarks, which included a question-and-answer session.

Is courage the right word for what they want to do?  The good news is at least he’s anticipating push back.