Trump’s Secretary of Education Short List


Who will run the U.S. Department of Education in Trump’s administration?

During the Presidential transition the President-Elect starts to put together his administration, and many wonder who President-Elect Donald Trump will appoint to become the Secretary of Education. Who he appoints will send a signal of whether it will be business as usual or if he means business when it comes to shrinking the federal role in education.

Outside of hoping he appoints no one (I’m not sure that’s a great idea while the U.S. Department of Education still exists). Here are some names that are floating out there.

The New York Times reports (Politico echoes this):

WFYI in Indianapolis said that at a Education Writers Forum held in DC on Monday these names were being thrown around by Vic Klatt, a principal of Penn Hill Group and former GOP staff director for the U.S. House Committee on Education.

  • Tony Bennett – ousted Indiana Superintendent of Public Education who later resigned as Florida Commissioner of Education after being investigated for fraud.
  • Congressman Luke Messer (R-Indiana) – serves on the House Education & Workforce Committee

Alyson Klein at Education Week speculated:

  • the list above and then adds Gerard Robinson who served as a Florida Education Commissioner and former Virginia Secretary of Education. Robinson currently serves on Trump’s transition team. He has also been a resident fellow at the American Enterprise Institute.

Brett Baier of Fox News floated these two names other than Carson:

  • Eva Moskowitz – the CEO and Founder of Success Academy Charter Schools
  • Michelle Rhee – Founder of Students First, former Chancellor of Washington, DC Public Schools

I wouldn’t know what to expect from a Secretary Carson. While he is a nice man, I think he would be out of his depth at the U.S. Department of Education. A Tony Bennett appointment would send all of the wrong signals that status quo will be maintained. I couldn’t take Trump seriously when he says he is against Common Core if he appoints a pro-Common Core advocate who lost his election in Indiana largely because of that support.

I don’t know much about Congressman Messer other than he is part of the committee that helped usher in the Every Student Succeeds Act and was a vocal advocate for it. No thank you.

Gerard Robinson’s time in Florida was marred with controversy when FCAT scores collapsed. He is also part of Jeb Bush’s Chiefs for Change. He isn’t the person I would be looking for.

Eva Moskovitz’s involvement with charter schools and the fact she’s liberal would sink her potential nomination as she would take flak from both sides of the aisle. Michelle Rhee pushes corporate school reform and is against parental assessment opt-outs, not to mention, is pro-Common Core. Yeah… no thanks.

I think the best candidate for the job would be Williamson Evers, who has been a staunch critic of the Common Core State Standards and its aligned assessments. I hope that he gets the appointment, and he has prior experience with the U.S. Department of Education which would be an asset I would think.

Perhaps under a Trump administration Evers will be the Secretary of Education who padlocks the front doors of a closed U.S. Department of Education, but I’m not going to hold my breath on that.

Update: Additional names added to the rumor mill. I want to emphasize these are just rumored to be on the list.

  • Tony Zeiss, a former president of Central Piedmont Community College
  • Former Indiana Gov. Mitch Daniels, now the president of the Purdue University System.
  • Governor Scott Walker (R-WI)
  • Hanna Skandera, the New Mexico Secretary of Education
  • Education activist Betsy DeVos
  • Education activist Kevin Chavous
  • Larry Arn, President of Hillsdale College

Out of these names, Dr. Arn is the only one I could get excited about. I don’t know anything about Zeiss, Daniels supported Common Core so no thanks.

Walker is a mixed bag. On one hand he was weak when it came to repealing Common Core on the other hand he could work to scale the department back. Too many question marks. Ms. Skandera is a supporter of Common Core.

I don’t know anything about Kevin Chavous, but I don’t think appointing an activist is the right way to go. Betsy DeVos… hell no.

None of Trump’s VP Candidates Are Strong on Common Core, Ending Fed Ed

Octopus without caption

Donald Trump is set to announce his vice-presidential choice sometime this week, before the Republican National Convention in Cleveland begins on Monday.

Despite occasional stumbles, such as identifying education as one of the core functions of the federal government and his dizzying policy switches, Trump has been relatively stable in opposing Common Core and claiming he wants to “make education local.” Although he has no record in public-education policy, he would be more likely than Hillary “It Takes a Village” Clinton to decrease the federal role in education.

But some of the major contenders for the VP slot do have public records — and those records are concerning. Here is a brief review of the commonly discussed names in order of the amount of media buzz they are receiving at The Pulse 2016, The Atlantic, and The Washington Post:

1.) Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich

Gingrich served as Speaker while the Clintons, Marc Tucker, and others were laying the foundation for the “seamless web” of centralized education and workforce that undergirded No Child Left Behind (NCLB) and Common Core. (See the following diagram created by former congresswoman Michele Bachmann and Mike Chapman and distributed by Education Liberty Watch’s predecessor organization EdWatch.)


To his credit, before he became Speaker, Gingrich voted against Goals 2000, which implemented the mental health and preschool pieces of the FedEd puzzle, and School to Work. These bills implemented Marc Tucker’s infamous vision explained in his letter to Hillary Clinton in 1992. For whatever reason, Gingrich didn’t vote on final passage of the 1994 Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA) that required Goals 2000, but at least he didn’t support it. However, as Speaker he allowed House passage of the Workforce Investment Act of 1998, another career-tracking, workforce-planning bill — which is a major strike against him.

Though not in Congress for NCLB or its replacement Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA), during a 2011 presidential debate Gingrich praised President Obama for the Race to the Top (RttT) grant program that required Common Core. His focus was not on the standards but rather the charter-school effort, which is also problematic because these public schools still require Common Core standards and tests and have less public oversight. Moreover, he pushed “portability” of federal funds, which carries with it the danger that government regulations will be imposed on private schools. Here’s what he said about RttT and portability:

 I liked very much the fact that it talked about charter schools. It’s the one place I found to agree with President Obama. . . .

My personal preference would be to have a Pell Grant for K-12 so that every parent could pick, with their child, any school they wanted to send them to, public or private, and enable them to have the choice. I don’t think you’re ever going to reform the current bureaucracies. And the president, I thought, was showing some courage in taking on the teacher’s union to some extent and offering charter schools, and I wanted, frankly, to encourage more development towards choice.

Gingrich has said very little publicly about the dangers of Common Core and the invasive, unhelpful testing and data collection. However, he has praised the “third wave” of information technology and data as described by futurist revolutionaries Alvin and Heidi Toffler, so he might approve of massive data-collection. And he taped a commercial with Nancy Pelosi supporting fear-mongering on climate change, so he may not oppose the slanted environmental teaching of the Next Generation Science Standards.

2.) New Jersey Governor Chris Christie

As we have documented, Christie’s education record related to Common Core is pretty bad. He strongly supported the standards and tests until he began running for president and saw how the issue was hurting Jeb Bush and John Kasich. He backed off of his support, but parents still didn’t trust him, especially because he left the Common Core-linked tests in place, while trying to claim (similar to other governors) that he had “gotten rid of Common Core in New Jersey.”

3.) Indiana Governor Mike Pence

Governor Pence began his political career as a strong conservative, including on education. He chaired one of the most conservative caucus groups in the U.S. House, the Republican Study Committee, and was one of only 40 House members to presciently vote against No Child Left Behind.

Unfortunately, Pence evolved toward the Chamber of Commerce/corporate establishment position once he became governor of Indiana. He signed a school-choice law that requires all students at a private school that receives state school voucher funds to take the same public-school Common Core tests, thereby harming private-school autonomy and private schools’ role as an escape hatch from Common Core-aligned schools. This rated an ‘F’ on our Freedom of Choice Grading Scale.

Even worse, Pence was the first Republican governor to crow about having removed Common Core from his state, while facilitating a deceitful rebrand of the standards despite warnings from parent activists. Now he’s pushing “competency-based education” (a repeat of discredited “outcome-based education”) so desired by Jeb Bush, Bill Gates, and other education reformers.

Pence’s surrender to the powerful special interests on education, as well as his caving in to LGBT extremists on a religious-freedom law, establishes that he doesn’t have the fortitude to defend whatever conservative principles he may hold.

4.) Alabama Senator Jeff Sessions

Sessions has toed the Lamar Alexander/establishment leadership line on education, voting for both NCLB and its wolf-in-federalist-sheep’s-clothing replacementESSA.

5.) Arkansas Senator Tom Cotton

Cotton too voted for ESSA.

Lieutenant General Michael Flynn, also being considered for the job, has no policy positions on education. But he is a Democrat, so that’s not promising.

Without a surprise candidate waiting in the wings, parents and activists who are hoping the VP candidate will help keep Trump on the straight path on education are likely to be disappointed. If Trump wins, they will have to pursue other means, such as pressing him to select a strong Tenth Amendment/parental rights-oriented Secretary of Education.

Conservative Groups Oppose Mike Pence’s Education Reform Agenda

Photo credit: Steve Baker (CC-By-ND 2.0)

Photo credit: Steve Baker (CC-By-ND 2.0)

Yesterday over 30 conservative reform groups publicly released an agenda for education reform, which they are submitting to Indiana legislators. The coalition’s “Platform for Educational Empowerment” urges legislators to make the following issues a priority during the 2015 session: reducing regulations on voucher-accepting schools;  freedom in testing and choice of non-Common Core-aligned/rebranded standards; forgoing a renewal of Indiana’s federal No Child Left Behind waiver; greater protection of student data; empowering parents, as opposed to government-funded institutions, when it comes to the care of children too young for kindergarten; equalizing basic per-pupil student funding for school; and taking a stand against the College Board’s new and controversial AP U.S. History framework.

Heather Crossin, co-founder of Hoosiers Against Common Core, told Truth in American Education that they were prompted to release this platform because of repeated media reports about calls that Indiana Governor Mike Pence has made to expand Indiana’s voucher programs which the media has believed would curry him favor with grassroots conservatives.

“As organizations representing the base voting bloc of Indiana’s Republican supermajority, we thought it important to set the record straight.  We cannot support a voucher expansion, unless the legislature and Governor are willing to cut the Common Core strings that bind it.  Indiana’s voucher program was recently rated as being the second worst in the country when it comes to protecting private school autonomy.  Expanding this program, without addressing this fact, is unacceptable and further erodes the very concept of school choice,” Crossin stated.

Dave Read of The Central Coalition, which represents 20 central Indiana Tea Parties, said, “This is a comprehensive document that sets a path for obtaining academic excellence in our schools, by empowering and liberating those closest to the students – local districts, schools, teachers, and parents.  It is the antithesis of the failed policies of the last several decades, all of which have been geared toward centralizing government control over Indiana schools.  It makes the case for unshackling schools, rather than tightening the government vice-grip.”

Heather Crossin added in a released statement, “As conservatives and activists who have been at the forefront of the education debates in IN the past two years, the groups represented here reject recent media accounts citing the expansion of vouchers as a major priority for grassroots conservatives. School choice needs freedom to thrive; therefore our first priority is to free voucher schools from the stifling regulations which bind them.”

Erin Tuttle, also a co-founder of Hoosiers Against Common Core, stated, “Education policy should be driven by parents informed by academia and business, not lobbyists and government agencies informed by their own interests.”

“The rebrand of Common Core standards in Indiana shows the system is broken. We will continue to advocate for the liberation of schools from the Common Core-aligned system that still controls them from Washington, DC,” said Micah Clark, President of American Family Association of Indiana.

“We won’t produce better, brighter students by creating more government programs and expanding the role of government,” said Dan Thiele, a conservative activist from northern Indiana.

You can read the platform here or below:

James Milgram Discusses Indiana Common Core Rebrand

During last week’s Twitter rally targeting Indiana Gov. Mike Pence, Women on the Wall held a conference call that featured a number of guests including former member of the Common Core Math Standards validation committee Dr. James Milgram of Stanford University.

I wanted to highlight that section of the call as Women on the Wall made it available in a podcast.  You can listen below.

Join the the Pre-Hoosier Kids #DeserveBetter Twitter Rally Conference Call

Women on the Wall will be live in Texas tomorrow morning before and during Governor Mike Pence’s workshop at the Defending the American Dream Summit.  They are going to host a conference call to benefit those us who are not able to be there.  They are going from 9:00a-12:00p (CST).  I’m focusing on 9:45a – 11:15a on the Twitter rally, but people can start earlier and go later if they like.

All of the information is in the graphic below.  Check here for sample tweets and suggestions.


Let’s Get Gov. Mike Pence’s Attention Tomorrow via Twitter

Time for another Twitter rally.  Governor Mike Pence (R-IN) will be in Dallas, TX tomorrow (8/29/14) at the Defending the American Dream Summit hosted by Americans for Prosperity.  He is on the agenda tomorrow at 10:00a (Central Time) to be on a panel for a workshop entitled “Wastewatchers – Tightening the Belt on Government Spending.”

Please plan on starting about 9:45a and we can go all morning, but the workshop will probably be finished around 11:15a (Central Time).  So if we can blow up Twitter for an hour and a half that would be great.  If you are not able to do this live if you use Hootsuite, Tweetdeck, Buffer or some other 3rd party Twitter app please schedule some Tweets during this time.

Our goal is to get his attention so he’ll be motivated to go back to Indiana and address the sloppy Common Core rebrand that was done there.

In all of your tweets if you would please make sure you are directing your tweet to him – @GovPenceIN and use two hashtags the first would be #DeserveBetter and then the conference hashtag is #Dream14.  If you have enough space please also include #StopCommonCore.  It’s more important to use his Twitter handle @GovPenceIN (otherwise his staff won’t see it) and #DeserveBetter though.

Here are some sample tweets.

  • .@GovPenceIN Hoosier kids #DeserveBetter standards than a Common Core rebrand. #Dream14 #StopCommonCore
  • .@GovPenceIN your Common Core rebrand & assessments are a budget buster.  Hoosiers #DeserveBetter.  #Dream14 #StopCommonCore
  • .@GovPenceIN your Common Core rebrand violates free market principles, your state #DeservesBetter #Dream14 #StopCommonCore
  • .@GovPenceIN private schools in your state #DeserveBetter than to have poor rebranded standards tied to vouchers. #Dream14 #StopCommonCore
  • .@GovPenceIN I didn’t think it was possible but Indiana now has worse math standards than Common Core. Hoosiers #DeserveBetter #Dream14
  • .@GovPenceIN check out @PioneerBoston’s smarter way to #StopCommonCore – Indiana #DeservesBetter #Dream14
  • .@GovPenceIN voters #DeserveBetter than to have a potential presidential candidate pull a bait & switch. #StopCommonCore for real. #Dream14
  • .@GovPenceIN Hoosier parents #DeserveBetter than junk standards thrown together instead of a real plan to #StopCommonCore #Dream14
  • .@GovPenceIN Hoosiers #DeserveBetter than to have “education czars” foist education policy on us ( #Dream14

I hope you join in!  Please share your sample tweets in the comments.

What’s Missing in Indiana’s ELA Standards

Below is the report I sent to Governor Pence on April 8, 2014 containing the suggestions of four Indiana high school English teachers and over 20 literary scholars for improving Common Core’s English language arts (ELA) standards (mostly cut-and-pasted into Indiana’s draft #2, which was released on March 14, 2014 by Claire Fiddian-Green, Pence’s education policy advisor, and the Indiana Department of Education.)

If Common Core’s ELA standards are to be used as a “floor” in any state or local school district, then parents and others should be able to see these suggestions embedded as standards showing what is above that “floor.”  If these suggestions are not embedded as ELA standards, then a governor, state commissioner of education, and/or state department of education is playing a deceptive game with the state legislature and others in the state.

Comments on Draft #2 of Indiana’s Future English Language Arts Standards: A Report to Governor Michael Pence by Sandra Stotsky, Professor emerita, University ofArkansas, April 8, 2014.

A month ago, Indiana Governor Michael Pence signed a bill requiring that:

Before July 1, 2014, the state board shall adopt Indiana college and career readiness educational standards, voiding the previously adopted set of educational standards. The educational standards must do the following:

     (1) Meet national and international benchmarks for college and career readiness standards and be aligned with postsecondary educational expectations.

     (2) Use the highest standards in the United States.

     (3) Comply with federal standards to receive a flexibility waiver under 20 U.S.C. 7861, as in effect on January 1, 2014.

     (4) Prepare Indiana students for college and career success, including the proper preparation for nationally recognized college entrance examinations such as the ACT and SAT.

     (5) Maintain Indiana sovereignty.

     (6) Provide strict safeguards to protect the confidentiality of student data.

This report responds to a request from Governor Pence to review a draft of English language arts (ELA) standards now being developed to address this bill by a committee of Indiana educators selected by the Indiana Department of Education. Before accepting the governor’s invitation to review a draft of the standards, I indicated that I would not review a set of standards that looked like Common Core’s ELA standards. I have criticized them steadily in various public venues since 2009. I have even testified twice about their deficiencies to Indiana legislators – in January 2013 and August 2013.

The standards for grades 6-12 in the draft sent to me on March 14, 2014 for review were not significantly different from the standards for grades 6-12 in the public comment draft (draft #1) that had been posted by the Indiana Department of Education in February 2014. Those standards (draft #1) received a great deal of public criticism for being mostly Common Core’s standards. But draft #2 was not much different. According to the department’s own analysis, 93% of the standards in grades 6-12 in draft #2 were identical to or slightly edited versions of Common Core’s standards in grades 6-12. The differences between draft #1 and draft #2 lay mainly in K-5, even though K-5 in draft #2 was, according to the department’s own analysis, also heavily repetitious of Common Core’s standards.

On March 17, I wrote to Governor Pence indicating that I would not review draft #2. But I did promise to solicit suggestions for improving draft #2 from literary scholars attending a conference in Bloomington, Indiana, on April 4 and 5, and from local high school English teachers who responded to an invitation to attend the conference. John Briggs, Professor of English at the University of California, Riverside and current president of the Association of Literary Scholars, Critics, and Writers, scheduled two workshops for this purpose at the conference, one on April 4, the other on April 5.  He also sent letters of invitation, through English department chairs, to English teachers in Indiana high schools to attend the conference and the workshops.

I was eager to solicit the comments of literature professors and high school English teachers in Indiana at these workshops because very few are on the standards-drafting committee and the review panel consisting of faculty in higher education institutions in Indiana. Members of these two committees were chosen by the Indiana Department of Education. It is not clear why so few high school English teachers and college-level literary experts in Indiana were selected to be on these two committees. According to the official list I was sent by the Indiana Department of Education, only two current high school English teachers are on the standards-drafting committee, and it is not clear if either of them teaches grade 11 or 12 or Advanced Placement courses. Nor is it clear if any literature professors are on the panel.

Clearly, it is important for Governor Pence and for Indiana citizens to hear from a larger number of literary experts and high school English teachers than were involved in the development and validation of Common Core’s own ELA standards, adopted by the Indiana Board of Education in 2010. No high school English teachers were on Common Core’s own Standards Development Work Group for ELA, and only one high school English teacher was on its Validation Committee. The relative absence of high school English teachers and literary scholars in the development, review, and validation of Common Core’s ELA standards helps to explain the many deficiencies in Common Core’s standards. Indiana had an opportunity to rectify this serious omission, but barely did so with respect to committee membership.

In my view, it was necessary to compensate for the failure of the standards-drafting committee to move far beyond the low level of academic challenge implicit in Common Core’s own standards as this committee sought to develop an Indiana-oriented set of ELA standards that could meet Governor Pence’s own criteria.  The involvement of literary experts from across the country and a wider range of high school English teachers in Indiana was clearly needed and justified.

Over 25 people participated in the two workshops at the Bloomington conference. Most were teaching faculty in English departments at colleges or universities around the country. Four were high school English teachers in Indiana, most of whom taught upper-level high school English courses. Also in attendance as observers were a retired high school English teacher and a member of the Indiana Board of Education.

This report presents first the comments of the participants on major problems they saw in draft #2 and then their suggestions for a final version of ELA standards for Indiana that would meet Governor Pence’s request for “uncommonly high standards written by Hoosiers for Hoosiers.”

Comments.  (Although no votes were taken, it should be noted that there was no disagreement about any comment.)

The cognitive load does not visibly increase from grade to grade. The progression from grade 8 to grades 9/10 and then to grades 11/12, in the standards below, was pointed out as an example of “distinctions without a difference” and of “one” standard with contradictory ideas in it. (These standards in Indiana’s draft #2 were taken verbatim from Common Core’s ELA standards.)


Analyze the development of a theme or central idea over the course of the text, including its relationship to the characters, setting, and plot; provide an objective summary of the text.

               Grade 8

Analyze in detail the development of two or more themes or central ideas over the course of the text, including how they emerge and are shaped and refined by specific details; provide an objective summary of the text.

             Grades 9/10

Compare and contrast the development of similar themes or central ideas across two or more texts and analyze how they emerge and are shaped and refined by specific details; provide an objective summary of each text.

             Grades 11/12



Too few if any real progressions through the grades.

Excessive repetition/paraphrase of the same expectation/objective, as in the above example.

Jargon-laden language is excessive throughout.

The language of the standards suggests they are for assessment, not curriculum, purposes.


Create separate literature standards for each of the four grades from 9 to 12.

Create standards at each grade for each major genre (fiction, poetry, drama, nonfiction, and traditional/classical literature).

Embed sample titles or authors in each standard, selected by current English teachers in Indiana, to suggest the level of reading difficulty and complexity desired.

Create standards that show an increasing cognitive load (greater intellectual demand) at successive grade levels.

Put in summative comments at grade 12 for each strand or skill: How should this strand or skill look by grade 12?

Provide a list of recognized Indiana-born writers (e.g., James Whitcomb Riley, Booth Tarkington, Theodore Dreiser) whose works are to be taught in the secondary grades.

Create a standard for the study of British literature before and after Shakespeare.

Create a standard requiring study of historically significant literature (i.e., literature written before the 20th century).

Create a standard requiring study of literature from Anglophone countries.

List the different kinds of informational/nonfiction texts to be taught in an English class.

Define text complexity clearly and succinctly, and specify approximate length of major works to be read from grade to grade.

Draw on Bloom’s taxonomy for verbs where possible.

Provide examples for each level of performance in composition at each grade level, not just examples of the strongest and weakest writing as in Common Core.

Concluding Remarks:

One participant wrote:

Any “uncommonly high” standards, written by Hoosiers for Hoosiers, must be written in a manner that is clearly understandable by all Hoosiers. It should be at a 12th grade level and be clear of “eduspeak”(educational jargon) so that parents can understand what is expected of their children. Where jargon is unavoidable, the term should be marked and defined in a glossary.

Another participant wrote:

Indiana in the 21st century will need to have students who have developed the complex, critical thinking skills that are built out of an engagement with complex literary texts that speak to the human condition. Without specific examples, and a sense of clear progression from one level of thinking and reading to another, standards will not help to assure the necessary and desired outcome. Draft #2 standards were too obviously constructed for the purpose of assessment, and assessments based on them will inadequately capture these skills.

It is clear from the language of the bill that Governor Pence signed that any set of proposed standards must meet international benchmarks. It is also clear from the comments and suggestions of the English professors and teachers at the Bloomington conference that a set of standards similar to Common Core’s ELA standards does not meet international benchmarks for college readiness or other requirements of the bill. Any revised set of standards for Hoosiers must go well beyond what Common Core-based high school standards imply, even as a floor.

Many participants, especially those from Indiana, recommended a return to the 2006 Indiana standards as the right “floor” on which to build an even stronger set of academic standards than the 2006 standards were. The Indiana teachers noted the extent to which the literature standards in the 2006 document reflected the work of the state’s own English teachers. The suggestions of the literary scholars and English teachers at the Bloomington conference point to the kind of changes that will address both the statutory requirements outlined in the bill Governor Pence just signed and his own charge as well.

The following people have reviewed this brief report and attest to its fidelity in reflecting the comments and suggestions of those who attended the workshops at the ALSCW conference in Bloomington, Indiana on April 4 and 5, 2014.

Karen S. Davis, English Department, Center Grove High School, Greenwood, Indiana, and ACP Adjunct, Indiana University

M. J. Fitzgerald, Associate Professor of English and Creative Writing, University of Minnesota

Jerry Maguire, English Department, Center Grove High School, Greenwood, Indiana

Joshua Surface, English Department, Center Grove High School, Greenwood, Indiana

Ann Taylor, Professor of English, Salem State University, Salem, Massachusetts

Lash Keith Vance, Director of Computer-Assisted Instruction, University Writing Program, University of California, Riverside

Nancy J. Wheeler, English Department, Cathedral High School, Indiana

Pence Endorses Giant Database to Track Hoosier Students from School to the Workplace

mike-pence_thumb.jpgGee, I’m so thrilled that Governor Mike Pence “repealed” the Common Core in Indiana.  *Snort*  Now he’s turning his attention to student data.

The Indianapolis Star reports that Indiana will track Hoosier students from school to the workplace.

Imagine a giant database filled with every Hoosier student’s elementary and high school achievement test scores, SAT scores, college degrees and eventually job and salary history.

State officials are preparing to build it. They want it to tell them exactly what happens to students who don’t finish high school or who switch majors in college. But the big payoff would be forecasting the job market and using that information to adjust the education system to deliver workers to meet the needs.

Gov. Mike Pence endorses the database, which fits nicely with his plans to narrow the gap between available high-skilled jobs and the number of properly trained Hoosiers available to fill them.

Many agree the goals are laudable, and officials say great care will be taken to strip the database of student names and other information that could identify a person.

Still, Big Brother concerns are creeping in. Some privacy advocates worry about possible security breaches and the reconnecting of personal identities to the data.

Kids are not “workers.”  The insane workforce development focus within education is the wrong direction.  Kids do not go to school just so they can meet the needs of the job market.  And we certainly shouldn’t be tracking their data to that end!

And this is from a “conservative” Governor.

This Common Core Critic Is Still Charged Up

On April 14, American Enterprise Institute’s Rick Hess and Mike McShane charged me in a blog on National Review Online with not coming up with “next steps” to “repeal and replace” for states that want to restore academic integrity to their K-12 curriculum in English language arts and mathematics. I’m almost but not quite exhausted from all the next steps I’ve taken, especially in Indiana.

Two years ago I crafted an updated set of English language arts standards based on the set I helped develop in Massachusetts in 1997. This set of standards, copyright-free and cost-free, has been available for districts and states to use in place of Common Core’s standards since May 2013. The document is on the website of the Association for Literary Scholars, Critics, and Writers.


Here’s how they are described in an introduction to the document by John Briggs, an English professor at the University of California, Riverside and current ALSCW president: “The role of literature and the literary imagination in K-12 education is of particular concern to the ALSCW. The … carefully articulated and detailed set of English Language Arts standards prepared by Sandra Stotsky… will contribute to the national conversation by emphasizing the importance of literary study in the education of the young.”

Far from being so obscure that few know about this document, it was listed in the recently released Indiana standards document as one of the resources the standards-drafting committee referred to. Nothing in my document was used, of course, but not for the reason Hess and McShane cook up. That the standards-drafting and evaluation committees came up with an imitation of Common Core is not because Common Core was the “default” position for educators under a “tight timeline.” It was because a warmed-over version of Common Core was the goal set for the committees established by Governor Mike Pence’s education policy director, Claire Fiddian-Green, and the Indiana Department of Education staffer co-directing the project with her, Molly Chamberlin.

Fiddian-Green came to her position from being director of the Indiana Charter School Board, with a master’s degree in business administration from Columbia University and undergraduate majors in political science and Russian studies at Brown University. Sterling academic credentials, but no teaching experience in K-12, it seems, and apparently little if any knowledge of English language arts and mathematics.

What makes it clear that an imitation of Common Core was the goal of this project is the content of the drafts, starting with the public comment draft (Draft #1) released in February. It was so like Common Core that it evoked a storm of public criticism for its resemblance. I declined Governor Pence’s request to review that document, making it clear that there was no point in my reviewing Common Core yet another time. Fiddian-Green promised me that the next draft would be significantly different and, in response to another request from Gov. Pence, I agreed to review Draft #2 if it was not warmed-over Common Core.

On March 14, I was sent Draft #2. It was almost identical to Draft #1 in grades 6-12. I wrote back immediately asking Fiddian-Green and Chamberlin if I had been sent the wrong file. No, I hadn’t. On March 17, Fiddian-Green sent me the fruits of their week-end analysis: 93% of the standards in ELA in grades 6-12 were Common Core’s, most verbatim. I wrote to Gov. Pence that day saying I wouldn’t review that cut-and-paste job, either, but would send him a report from two workshops on Draft #2 that I would hold at a conference of the Association of Literary Scholars, Critics, and Writers, serendipitously to take place in Bloomington, Indiana, on April 4 and 5.

My purpose was to give the governor, Fiddian-Green, and Chamberlin whatever suggestions came out of workshops attended by literary scholars and local high school English teachers. I invited Fiddian-Green, Chamberlin, and indeed the entire staff of the Indiana Department of Education to participate in the workshops. None came. But four local English teachers did, as did over 20 literary scholars at the conference.

I sent the report containing their many suggestions for revising grades 6-12 in Draft #2  (readers must remember this draft was mainly Common Core, which they all thought was pretty awful) to Gov. Pence, Fiddian-Green, and others on April 8. Not one suggestion made its way into the final draft released on April 14 (Draft #3). In retrospect, it is clear that Draft #3 had to look like Common Core to satisfy Jeb Bush, the Gates Foundation, and the USDE, but it also had to look somewhat different to justify all the thousands of hours Fiddian-Green claimed the committees had spent on this job. How much this game of pretense cost Indiana taxpayers we may never know.

Remember that Gov. Pence had publicly asked for “uncommonly high standards, written by Hoosiers for Hoosiers.” The major problem in getting even a decent imitation of Common Core to come out of such an ill-conceived and poorly-executed plan was that the committees selected by Fiddian-Green and Chamberlin weren’t capable of doing anything other than making the standards even weaker and more incoherent than Common Core’s. “Not making mathematical sense (NMMS),” as most of the mathematics standards were described by Hung-Hsi Wu, one of the reviewing mathematicians, and from the University of California, Berkeley.

I had already asked for expanded committees to include qualified high school English teachers and recognized literary scholars from Indiana after I had looked at the original list of committee members. But I had been told by Fiddian-Green that she and Chamberlin had complete confidence in the committees they had selected.  I am sure there are many qualified high school English teachers in the state and many recognized literary scholars at Indiana universities; they just weren’t on these committees.

Bottom Line: Indiana citizens now have uncommonly incoherent standards, written less incoherently four years ago in Washington DC by David Coleman and Sue Pimentel, but botched up by Hoosiers for Hoosiers.

UT Gov. Herbert Reveals IN Gov. Pence’s Knowledge of Common Core Rebranding

Gary Herbert

Gov. Gary Herbert (R-UT)

Governor Gary Herbert (R-UT) was gave his March press conference.  He was asked a question by Robert Gehrke of the Salt Lake Tribune about the Common Core repeal bill that was signed in Indiana.  Governor Herbert’s answer revealed that Pence is aware Indiana is simply rebranding, not rewriting, the Common Core.

Robert Gehrke (Salt Lake Tribune): So when Governor Pence said yesterday that they’re not going to be part of Common Core anymore, you don’t think that we’re to the point where we need to consider that? Because you do have the authority to do that under Senator Dayton’s bill…

Governor Herbert: Well, our state school board really is the one that’s had the public hearings, and has implemented this program. Again, adopting the *standards.* I mean, a lot of people we talk to haven’t even read the standards. Read the standards, see if you don’t like the standards. How we get to that standard—our curriculum, our textbooks, our testing—is our decision.

I’ve talked to Governor Pence about what they’re doing there. In essence, they’re creating what’s called the Indiana Core. It’s not the Common Core. It’s the Indiana Core, but their standards are almost mirroring exactly what’s commonly referred to as the Common Core standards. So they’re just doing it in a different way, which is what we’ve already been doing in Utah.

First I’ll acknowledge that Governor Herbert could be putting his own spin on his conversation with Governor Mike Pence.  However, there is no denying this is being done in Indiana.  The question is how complicit is Governor Pence?  This is a convincing piece of evidence that Governor Pence knows exactly what is being done.  Regardless of whether he is complicit or not, he’s responsible as it will be done by people he has appointed so the albatross is rightfully hanging around his neck.

Erin Tuttle, writing at Hoosiers Against Common Core, said this is opposite of what he promised, “Pence told the people of Indiana something quite different in his state of the state address, ‘Indiana will have standards that are uncommonly high, written by Hoosiers, for Hoosiers.’”

If that is the case then you would not use the Common Core State Standards as a foundation.

This is unacceptable.