With Huppenthal’s Loss in AZ School Chief Race That Makes Barbarians 3, Educrats 0

Diane Douglas beat pro-Common Core incumbent Arizona Superintendent of Public Instruction John Huppenthal in convincing fashion 57.78% to 41.50% winning over 66,000 more votes according to the Arizona Secretary of State’s office.

The barbarians at the gate crashed through evidently.

Huppenthal is the third incumbent state school chief to go down in flames over supporting the Common Core State Standards.

Indiana’s Tony Bennett was first losing his general election race to Glenda Ritz.  In Oklahoma incumbent school chief Janet Barressi came in third, completely trounced by Joy Hofmeister who won her primary on an anti-Common Core message.

Barbarians 3, Educrats 0.

Indiana Repealing “Voluntary” Common Core Puts NCLB Waiver in Doubt

So the Common Core is “voluntary” huh?  Indiana could lose their (unconstitutional) NCLB waiver as a result jettisoning the Common Core (for a subpar rebranding, but I digress).

superritz-version-2

Indiana Supt. of Public Instruction Glenda Ritz

Chalkbeat reported last week:

On Thursday, Indiana State Superintendent Glenda Ritz received a letter from Deb Delisle, assistant U.S. secretary of education, spelling out concerns about “significant issues” with Indiana’s adherence to an agreement it made in with the federal government in 2012 that released the state from some NCLB rules.

The agreement included a promise to have high standards for all students, and federal authorities want proof that the standards the state recently adopted are as challenging as the ones they replaced, known as the Common Core.

Indiana State Board of Education member Brad Oliver said he has not seen the letter but he is alarmed.

“Based on what I know right now I am very concerned that our waiver could be in jeopardy,” he said. “The repercussions of losing our waiver are more than just financial. It would immediately have an impact on local districts.”

Further proof that states that applied for and received NCLB waivers just traded one type of subjugation to the Feds for another.

Indiana Senate to Vote on Bill Abolishing Common Core

indiana-flagFrom WIBC 93.1FM in Indianapolis:

The Senate will vote next week on a bill to put the final nail in the coffin of the Common Core education standards.

Last year, legislators ordered the State Board of Education to pass new academic standards by July of this year. The Senate Education Committee has approved a bill along party lines, spelling out guidelines for what those standards should look like…

…Erin Tuttle, the co-founder of Hoosiers Against Common Core, says parents will be watching the result of the state board’s work when the new school year begins this fall, and warns they’ll feel "outraged" and "tricked" if lessons still resemble Common Core.

Legislative leaders had warned they might go beyond guidelines to write the standards themselves if tensions between the board and state superintendent Glenda Ritz threatened the deadline. But Senator Scott Schneider (R-Indianapolis), the bill’s author, says the standoff has eased over the last couple of months. He says the board expects to issue draft standards in April and hold public hearings on them.

Yes they will need to make sure the board doesn’t just add 15% to the Common Core and call them new standards.

Governors Race to the Drop (of Common Core)

I have to admit.  I didn’t coin that title; credit goes to Heather Crossin who coined it in an email.  We have had a couple of Governors make some statements about the Common Core as state legislatures go into session.

mike-penceRepublican Governor Mike Pence of Indiana in his state of the state address last week said: “Hoosiers have high expectations when it comes to Indiana schools. That’s why Indiana decided to take a time-out on national education standards,” Pence said.  “When it comes to setting standards for schools, I can assure you, Indiana’s will be uncommonly high. They will be written by Hoosiers, for Hoosiers and will be among the best in the nation.”

After the address Indiana Superintendent of Public Instruction Glenda Ritz said “We always adopt our own standards. It just so happens that in 2010 the State Board of Education adopted the Common Core as its standards. We are reviewing those standards. I’m pretty confident there are going to be changes to those standards. And Indiana will be adopting a new set of standards.”

Heather Crossin (who again gets credit for the title) cautioned Hoosiers:

However, we must also add the cautionary words of “not so fast.”  Hoosiers want real change when it comes to the content of future standards – minor revisions and a simple name change won’t cut it.  On this point, we turn your attention to Breitbart’s coverage of Pence’s remarks, in which Common Core supporters Derek Redelman, of the Indiana Chamber of Commerce, and State Board of Education member Tony Walker (D), both predict that the changes made will be minimal and a mere tweaking of the Common Core.  Of most concern is Walker’s statement that he thinks “all of the anchor standards have to be Common Core.”  Obviously, this will NOT be acceptable.

nikki_haleyNow shift to South Carolina.  Republican Governor Nikki Haley says we’re going to ditch the Common Core.

In a speech to the Greenville County Republican Women’s Club on Jan. 16, according to the Anderson Independent Mail, Haley, a Republican who’s up for re-election this year, said, "We are telling the legislature: Roll back common core. Let’s take it back to South Carolina standards." She added that if Senate Bill 300 (introduced last year for the state’s 2013-14 legislative session) reaches her desk, she "absolutely will sign it." In that bill, there’s no pause, no mandated review period—just a straightforward move to remove the standards from the state.

There have been different bills looked at by the South Carolina State Legislature, but none have made it out of the Senate education committee.  Haley is in a reelection year and she understands where her base is.  She has however been consistent in her opposition to the Common Core State Standards.  We just haven’t seen it amount to anything yet.

Back to the Midwest now Republican Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker faces the loss of his base if he doesn’t take a strong stand against the Common Core State Standards.

scott-walker-wisconsin-governorFrom the Wisconsin Daily Independent:

While Scott Walker has gained ground around the country for a possible presidential bid, there are increasingly loud rumblings from his Wisconsin base.  The source of the friction is the controversial Common Core State Standards.

The governor’s office has been inundated with calls from across Wisconsin for the past several days.  Callers are insisting that Walker make a plain statement in his upcoming State of the State address this week, rejecting the Common Core and laying out a clear plan for immediate cessation and reversal of the standards.  One reason for the mounting pressure on the governor is the scheduled deployment of Common Core-related Smarter Balanced assessments later this year, a process that has resulted in major blowback in states such as New York and Kentucky.

Walker has remained largely silent regarding the ongoing implementation of Common Core in his state.  The few vague statements he has made so far have been viewed as at least a passive embrace of the standards.  There is additional reason to suspect that the governor is pro-Common Core.  For example, the governor notably failed to provide support to a fellow Republican who last year attempted to unseat Tony Evers, the current Democratic secretary of Wisconsin’s Department of Public Instruction.  Evers had gained notoriety for making Wisconsin the first state in the nation to adopt Common Core and has essentially seen no pushback from Walker on the initiative.

With Governor Walker’s star currently rising on the national horizon, it’s not just his Wisconsin base paying attention to his position on Common Core.  Less than 48 hours from his State of the State, eyes across the nation are watching Walker to see whether or not he will join the vanguard of governors now repudiating Common Core in their states.

I’ll be watching from Iowa.

Which state will drop the Common Core first?

Indiana Democrats Put Politics Before Kids, Skip Common Core Vote

indiana-flagI can’t believe I missed this news last week.  It needs to be shouted from the rooftops.

Members of the Indiana legislative study committee formed by the pause legislation passed last session voted 6 to 1 in favor of replacing the Common Core… a twist though since all Democrat members minus one decided not to show up there wasn’t enough votes to pass a resolution.

From Hoosiers Against Common Core:

The committee Republicans UNANIMOUSLY voted YES for the resolution with several making formal statements against the Common Core. The only Democrat who graced the committee with his presence, Justin Moed, voted no. Because the other democrats failed to show up, there wasn’t enough votes for a majority to pass the resolution.

Thankfully, all is not lost and a recommendation from Republican members will still be issued to the State Board of Education supporting the unanimous decision that Indiana write new standards. After all the hours committed to studying the issue and the public outcry for resolution, it’s unfortunate all members were not present.

In a not so surprising twist, the democrats have decided to put politics over the best interest of our children’s education. Democrats who have voiced concern over the Common Core standards, felt the political rivalry between the State Board of Education and Glenda Ritz  prevented them from voting on the issue.

At least there will still be a recommendation.  There will be a tremendous amount of pressure on the Indiana State Board of Education.  Whether they will actually listen to Indiana parents or to the educational establishment remains to be seen.

You can contact members of the state board here.

Indiana Pulling Away From PARCC

indiana_flag_mapIndiana is reducing its participation with PARCC.

State Impact Indiana reports:

As a governing state in the Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers, Indiana gets a seat at the table. But no one from the Department of Education has attended a PARCC governing board meeting since Superintendent Glenda Ritz took office in January.

That tracks with what Ritz told StateImpact last week about participation in PARCC and Smarter Balanced, the other consortium writing tests for the Common Core.

“We will not be participating in consortiums that decide for us the cost of the test, the questions on the test, the cutoffs,” she says. “Indiana will be doing that on its own.”

Ritz says her office scaled back involvement in the PARCC consortium after state lawmakers voted to pause rollout of the Common Core pending a legislative review. HB 1427 also bars the State Board of Education from ceding control of standards or assessments to outside entities.

Ritz has expressed interest in Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium so Indiana could choose between the better of the two assessments as North Dakota is doing.

I don’t see how that would keep Indiana from not participating in consortium that decides cost, questions, and cutoffs.  They would just be deciding which of the consortiums would be dictating that to the state.

Indiana’s Common Core Pause Law Isn’t Complex

GlendaRitz1

Indiana Superintendent of Public Instruction Glenda Ritz

State Impact Indiana reports that there was a push for 2nd Graders to be under the Common Core State Standards since they were rolled out for Kindergarten and First grade last year.

This is even after the Common Core pause bill was passed and signed into law.

Elle Moxley writes:

After state lawmakers passed a complex bill pausing Common Core rollout in Indiana, Supt. Glenda Ritz says it was up to her office to decide what academic standards second grade teachers would use in the fall.

Kindergarten and first grade teachers in Indiana are already teaching the Common Core, a set of nationally-crafted academic standards adopted by 45 states and the District of Columbia. Second grade teachers were to make the switch during the 2013-14 school year.

But guidance from the Indiana Department of Education issued last month says teachers in every grade except K-1 should continue teaching the old Indiana academic standards in tandem with the Common Core.

“Implementation-wise, really the only decision that I made — and I did make it, and I take responsibility for it — is that Grade Two will not be implementing fully Common Core,” Ritz said Tuesday, speaking at a Indiana Youth Institute conference for postsecondary school counselors. “The reason for that is very clear because we won’t have an assessment for them when they’re third graders. I refuse to not align standards and assessments for the little ones.”

Earlier in the day a handful of teachers affiliated with the education advocacy group Stand for Children invited a half-dozen reporters to Ritz’s statehouse office, urging the state superintendent to allow implementation of the Common Core to continue.

Umm… earth to Glenda Ritz and Stand for Children.  What decision?  Glenda Ritz does not have the authority to override the legislature and Governor Pence.  The law says to pause implementation, so the implementation is paused.  What reality are these folks living in?

It isn’t “complex,”  it may seem like a pain for those who were preparing to implement it, but you can’t ignore state law because it’s inconvenient.

Glenda Ritz’ Opposition to Common Core Highlighted

Since Glenda Ritz is now the Indiana Superintendent of Public Instruction-Elect she’ll need to be reminded of what she wrote prior to her election on November 7th.  This is one of the primary reasons Tony Bennett lost.

Erin Tuttle at Hoosiers Against Common Core highlighted her position statement:

Common Core Standards must be re-evaluated.
Indiana had exceptional standards before Common Core. The Indiana Department of Education, and its Board, must re-evaluate Common Core Standards to determine what parts of Common Core we will accept or reject and determine which of our current Indiana standards should be retained to create the best K-12 standards for our children.

We must end our relationship with PARCC.
Dr. Bennett and Governor Daniels signed a contract that obligates Hoosier taxpayers to a consortium of twenty-three states, known as the Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers, or PARCC. PARCC will determine the high-stakes student assessments for the Common Core and impact the accountability and performance of our educators, schools and our communities. Our students must not be forced into a regimented curriculum and assessment system that PARCC determines.

A return to local control of our schools.
Hoosiers, not a consortium of twenty-three states or the Federal government, must determine the vision for our students’ learning opportunities so that they are better able to compete in the global marketplace.

I know she holds other positions that I personally disagree with, but the three points she laid out here is the path that every state that has embraced the Common Core State Standards should take.  Re-evaluate the Common Core, and I would add let the State Legislatures do it.  End the relationship with the PARCC or SBAC depending on what state you live in.  Return to local control.

Now when Ritz takes office Hoosiers will have the opportunity to hold her accountable to take steps in the that direction.

The Tony Bennett Ouster Debate Continues

The debate continues.  You may remember Matthew Ladner called anti-common core activists in Indiana a bunch of yahoos since they helped defeat incumbent Republican Tony Bennett in the Indiana Superintendent of Public Instruction race.  Erin Tuttle, who for a “yahoo” writes quite well :), wrote in the Ft. Wayne Journal-Gazette:

The Bennett fiasco brought an exceptionally nasty rebuke from Matthew Ladner, policy adviser to Jeb Bush’s Foundation for Excellence in Education. Opponents of Common Core, Ladner wrote at a popular blog, “have revealed themselves to be unsophisticated ya-hoos (sic).” A little further on, Ladner repeats the thought if not his own spelling by referring to “right-wing Hoosier yayhoos (sic).” In explaining Bennett’s loss, Rick Hess at the American Enterprise Institute was more civil in his disdain for Indiana voters. He advocates for this “reform agenda” but recognizes the truth that it does “not appeal to middle-class and suburban voters.”

Elitists just don’t believe in the American Experiment. Ladner, like Bennett, doesn’t want to listen to the people because he has no faith in them. That skepticism makes them look elsewhere.

It’s no surprise that at the root of it all, Bennett, Hess and Bush are all funded, or otherwise connected to groups funded by, the same elitists who spawned Obama’s reform agenda. But on any one issue, you can’t have two masters. You can’t look to the federal government and the people of Indiana. That’s where federalism comes in.

Now the Indiana legislature and Gov.-elect Mike Pence have a choice to make. Will they look to the people or will they look to Washington and the special interests?

As for Ladner and his ilk, I note that long ago, the British disdainfully called the patriots “Yankee Doodles,” and they mocked George Washington as an ignoramus. So go ahead. Call me a yahoo. But if you paint my portrait, make sure you show me holding the Declaration of Independence in one hand and the Constitution in the other.

Matthew Ladner responded to her article:

Now the writer also makes her case against Tony along the way. “With the advent of President Bush’s No Child Left Behind in 2001, followed by President Obama’s Race to the Top, Common Core and NCLB waiver programs, we have been under constant pressure to surrender education decision-making to Washington and its trade association partners. Every aspect of voter disdain can be traced to the requirements imposed by federal programs such as the Race to the Top Fund Assessment Grant and the NCLB waiver.”

So the people of Indiana rose up in long-suffering anger regarding federal interference in schools and chose to take it out on Tony Bennett. This is plausible if we take “the people” to mean “the writer” but not so much otherwise.

Tony didn’t have anything to do with NCLB, and Indiana pulled out of the Race to the Top competition. I’d be willing to wager by left big-toe that if we administered a survey to the Indiana public and asked them to explain the elements of Indiana’s NCLB waiver that all but a small percentage would likely reply “what NCLB waiver?”  or something similar. People are rational actors and the vast majority of them won’t make time in their lives to learn anything more about NCLB waivers than studying Mayan hieroglyphs absent some good reason to do so. I’m also willing to bet that the new Superintendent will lose her real or imagined federalist fervor and choose not to nullify the waiver so as to have almost every public school in Indiana facing NCLB sanctions.

 A few points to make here in response to Matthew Ladner.

  1. Indiana is a Race to the Top grantee as a member of the PARCCS. asessment consortium which was awarded a RTTT Fund Assessment grant.   You can read their MOU right here (pg. 284).
  2. Bennett’s request for a NCLB waiver while your average person may not have known about the waiver they certainly didn’t like the results.
  3. If Glenda Ritz abandons Federalism she can then be voted out as well.  Also Laudner seems to forget that with Governor-Elect Pence in place and with Indiana having a Republican legislature it is unlikely that any reforms initiated will be undone, especially if it means more Federal regulations – not that the NCLB waiver didn’t come with Federal strings attached.
  4. Insiders recently polled have a different take on the meaning of Tony Bennett’s defeat than Matthew Ladner does.

Indiana’s Education Election is a Mixed Bag

Democrat challenger Glenda Ritz defeated Republican incumbent Tony Bennett in the Indiana Superintendent of Public Instruction race last night  by almost 133,000 votes – winning 53% to 47%.  This is a mixed bag for me.

On one hand Tony Bennett, who advocated for the Common Core State Standards, said that advocacy cost him.

How does Bennett think Ritz pulled off what can fairly be described as a big upset? The Common Core State Standards plays a role. Bennett argued that Ritz—who is skeptical of the common core—used the standards to take away conservative voters who otherwise favored him. Many Republicans are critical of the common core because they say it smacks of too much federal involvement. Bennett, a big champion of the common standards, also said Ritz’s victory could jeopardize Indiana’s leading role in the Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for Colleges and Careers, one of two state consortia working on assessments tied to the standards.

“I have some very serious concerns about the future of that program,” he said of the testing consortia. And when it came to common standards, Bennett said, “She did a very good job of appealing to the strong conservative base who had problems with the common core. So that’s another issue obviously.”

That is more likely than “teacher mistrust” as Scott Elliott of the Indianapolis Star said using some anecdotal evidence.   Consider that Republican Mike Pence, a conservative, won the Governor’s race and Mitt Romney won Indiana.  It seems far more likely that Republicans, and perhaps conservatives, jumped ship on Bennett and voted for Ritz.

On the other hand as a former resident of Indiana and observer of the education policy struggles there I’m not excited about Glenda Ritz as his replacement.  She is an advocate of the teachers’ unions and against school choice. 

Lindsey Burke of the Heritage Foundation called this election a Catch 22, and I would have to agree.  She wrote:

Bennett’s replacement, Glenda Ritz, opposes Bennett’s heightened emphasis on testing (leaving observers to wonder whether she would oppose Common Core national standards) but also opposes school choice (Ritz had the full support of Indiana’s teachers union). While Ritz could work to divest Indiana of its entanglement with national standards, there is fear that she could also limit the state’s vaunted school choice options.

This is at the heart of why education reformers closely watching Indiana’s state superintendent race faced a Catch-22: Many have argued that the power of school choice that Bennett championed is limited if all schools are teaching the same curriculum. And what good is the testing freedom Ritz favors absent the ability to choose which school your child attends?

The wild card in Indiana’s education future is Governor-elect Mike Pence.  He could be a champion of school choice and education reform.  Jim Stergios pointed out recently that Pence is well known for not liking federal mandates.  He said “it would be a remarkable about-face if he were to support national standards.”

That is true.  With a new state school chief who doesn’t like standardized testing, and a new Governor who doesn’t like federal mandates it would seem Indiana is poised to junk the Common Core.  I hope they do.