Why Common Core’s Standards Weaken Teacher/Administrator Training

As intended, Common Core’s standards shape tests determining “college and career readiness.” But, unfortunately, they affect the preparation of teachers and administrators as well. How they do so is not well understood by most parents. 

The standards adopted by the Council for Accreditation of Education Professionals (CAEP) require all preparation programs for teachers and school administrators seeking re-accreditation to address “rigorous college- and career-ready standards” and explicitly mention Common Core’s standards as an example. But they don’t require preparation programs to address all the traditional discipline-based content that parents may well assume these standards address.

In CAEP 2013 Standards for Accreditation of Educator Preparation, approved by CAEP’s Board of Directors on August 29, 2013, we find under “Standard 1: Content and Pedagogical Knowledge” the following standard as a “provider” responsibility: 

1.4 Providers ensure that completers demonstrate skills and commitment that afford all P‐12 students access to rigorous college‐ and career‐ready standards (e.g., Next Generation Science Standards, National Career Readiness Certificate, Common Core State Standards).

Exactly how teachers can give students “access” to rigorous standards is not explained in the glossary for this Standard. In addition, there are two basic problems with the wording in substandard 1.4.  

First, the word “rigorous” begs the question that is arousing parents across the country: Are “college- and career-ready standards” (which everyone today knows as a synonym for Common Core’s standards) rigorous?  It has becoming increasingly clear to watchful parents that Common Core-based lessons are not academically rigorous. 

Why did CAEP decide that Common Core’s standards were rigorous?  What experts on high school mathematics, science, and literary content helped the education school deans on CAEP’s Board of Directors to arrive at that decision? Even Common Core’s own mathematics standards writers have acknowledged that they do not prepare students for STEM majors or careers. By intention, Common Core’s level of college readiness in mathematics is low.

Moreover, in requiring prospective teachers (“completers”) to demonstrate their “commitment” to give all students “access” to “rigorous” standards, the examples given do not lead knowledgeable observers to place much confidence in the outcomes.  The examples include Next Generation Science Standards which were released in 2013 and have been heavily criticized by scientists for having few high school chemistry standards and unteachable physics standards because the mathematics to support high school physics coursework is not clearly specified nor integrated with the physics standards. 

Why should an accreditation agency promote particular sets of standards (even if as examples) rather than expect prospective teachers and administrators to learn how to teach discipline-based content?  Accrediting personnel will rely on those examples of standards, especially if they have been told they are rigorous, leaving prospective teachers and administrators underqualified for work in private schools or homeschooling cooperatives that may still want educators who can establish and teach to authentically rigorous standards. 

CAEP may well be handicapping the preparation programs it has accredited.  While private schools as well as some charter schools are exempt from hiring state-licensed teachers and administrators, a new accreditation agency is needed that does not impose the use of weak or academically-limited K-12 standards on all educator training programs.

Add This To The ‘This Is Not Common Core’ File

I read a piece this week from PJ Media that contributes to muddying our opposition to Common Core. The article by Megan Fox was titled “Common Core Rape-Themed Assignment for Biology Confuses Parents.”

Here’s an excerpt:

A 9th-grade assignment at a Mississippi high school is causing concern and disgust among parents. A mother recently posted her student’s assignment to Facebook in a special group that was created for the growing discontent parents feel toward public school education — “Inappropriate Common Core Lessons.” This particular assignment asked 14-year-old students to determine the identity of a fictional rapist based on sperm DNA….

Not surprisingly, parents were not amused. The mother who posted the assignment reported that the teacher did not require the students to complete it — and parents were grateful for that — but she was still disturbed by the content in the “teaching” material. Common Core has long been hated by parents and teachers alike, not only for its inappropriate content but for the convoluted math techniques that serve only to frustrate students and parents.

Here is a picture of the assignment:

I really, really, really hate to defend Common Core. There is nothing about this assignment that screams “Common Core.”

  1. It is biology lesson – The Common Core State Standards are standards for math and ELA. There are literacy standards for science, but those would not impact lessons like these.
  2. You can’t even blame this on the Next Generation Science Standards since Mississippi has not adopted them.
  3. Neither set of standards mandate an assignment like this.

Stories like this make for good click-bait, but they promote misinformation. It is vitally important that we communicate the truth. We call out Common Core advocates all of the time for false information and disingenuous talking points. We need to call out misinformation on our side as well. Stories like these will stir up anger, but they end up being used as ammunition against us when we seek change from policymakers. These stories are used to paint Common Core opponents as ignorant.

It needs to stop. Be forceful in your opposition, but speak the truth. This story is utterly false and irresponsible.

Zais Appointed as Deputy Secretary of Education

Photo credit: Milken Family Foundation

Former South Carolina Superintendent of Education Mick Zais was appointed by President Donald Trump as Deputy Secretary of Education.

The White House announcement reads:

Mitchell Zais of South Carolina to be Deputy Secretary of Education.  Most recently, Mr. Zais served as South Carolina’s elected State Superintendent of Education.  During his term in office, the department’s budget was reduced while on-time high school graduation rates increased every year to an all-time high.  The number of public charter schools increased 78 percent, the number of public charter school students increased 155 percent, and the number of students taking online courses grew 130 percent.  Prior to that, he served 10 years as president of Newberry College in South Carolina.  The College was recognized for the first time by U.S. News as one of “America’s Best Colleges.”  He served 31 years as an infantry soldier in the U.S. Army.  He retired as a Brigadier General.  Mr. Zais holds a B.S. in engineering from the U.S. Military Academy at West Point, an M.A. degree in military history, plus M.S. and Ph.D. degrees in organizational behavior and social psychology from the University of Washington.  He served as South Carolina Commissioner of Higher Education and is a recipient of the Order of the Palmetto, the states’ highest civilian award.

Zais campaigned against Common Core when he was first elected. A year into his term he appeared to make some headway rejecting one-time federal education dollars including Race to the Top funds.

“We don’t have a shortage of dollars in South Carolina’s schools, we have a shortage of accountability, competition, and incentives,” Zais said to Ben Velderman in an interview.

“If South Carolina had accepted its slice of the Race to the Top pie, it would equal $2.22 per student per year, for four years,” Zais said. “The idea that $2.22 would make a big difference is just nonsense. That’s not even a rounding error.”

He said he wanted to fight against the “education industrial complex.”

That sounds good. Unfortunately, in 2014 the South Carolina Legislature passed a rebrand of Common Core instead of a repeal that was signed by then Governor Nikki Haley.

The rewrite process was sketchy, and Zais oversaw a rebranding of the Common Core even though he claimed that was not going to happen.

I’ve not seen one independent analysis of South Carolina’s standards showing they are significantly different than the Common Core State Standards.

He was also an advocate of education as workforce development and didn’t have a problem accepting a federal workforce development grant.

He did, however, reject the Next Generation Science Standards so I’ll give him that.

He may be better than some of President Trump’s other picks for the Department of Education, but we can’t call him an anti-Common Core warrior. His rhetoric doesn’t match his record.

Next Generation Science Standards Are Bad Even Without Politicization

High School Student Holding Molecular Model

I received an email today about my article on the Next Generation Science Standards yesterday (The Next Generation Science Standards Are Already Politicized) that I wanted to address.

The reader wrote:

I identify as an independent voter and was happy to see, as I battle Common Core, that my friends were of a diverse political background and that almost everybody who learned about it, got on board  with our battle. It not was a Republican or Democratic issue, truly bipartisan.  After reading the TAE article The Next Generation Science Standards Are Already PoliticizedI worry that it is becoming so, at least with the science standards. I think the Bible should stay at the church and science should be presented with the latest info that is accepted by most scientists.  Science changes, I mean is Pluto a planet or not, they keep changing their mind! Trump appointed a man who is the ‘chief Scientist’ or whatever his title is, and he’s not even a scientist, that is alarming to me.

There are so many issues we can agree on about how much Common Core, well, sucks, I’m hoping we can stick to those issues so we don’t lose our Democratic warriors. I appreciate and love that you said “Give me a break. I hope Governor Martinez would reject even the “sanitized” version as Next Generation Science Standards are awful.”  But I fear the whole article is highlighting the politicizing, which is what ‘they’ want to do to help keep us divided. I hope everyone reads to the end and really gets your message.

I understand this point of view. I want to make abundantly clear that my opinion is mine alone, and not necessarily the view of everyone connected to TAE. I primarily addressed that topic because that is what the article I referenced focused on. I am not suggesting that schools should teach creation, so no I am not pushing for the Bible to be taught. (I did not even advocate a position yesterday other than to say NGSS was politicized.) At the very least, I believe, educators should keep the discussion about evolution at the high school level. I also think honest academic discussion should include differing opinions on the subject. Many accept micro-evolution but see inherent problems with macro evolution. Why not discuss those? Evolution is not the only scientific theory on the block, why not mention those? At least kids should come out of a biology class with an understanding that the origin of life question is far from settled and evolution is one explanation. Unfortunately, that is not the case, and instead of education, many students get indoctrination. Is that what we want?

At the very least, I believe, educators should keep the discussion about evolution at the high school level. I also think honest academic discussion should include differing opinions on the subject. Many accept micro-evolution but see inherent problems with macro evolution. Why not discuss those? Evolution is not the only scientific theory on the block, why not mention those? At least kids should come out of a biology class with an understanding that the origin of life question is far from settled and evolution is one explanation. Unfortunately, that is not the case, and instead of education, many students get indoctrination. Is that what we want?

That is my personal opinion, and I understand not every reader, including ones who beleive the Next Generation Science Standards and Common Core are subpar, agree with me.

Like I said yesterday, I do hope Governor Susana Martinez rejects a “sanitized” Next Generation Science Standards as the standards do have problems with them.

The Fordham Institute, who endorsed the Common Core Math and ELA Standards, in their review of the Next Generation Science Standards second draft made public briefly in January of this year.  They said “large problems still abound” and those include:

  • In an apparent effort to draft fewer and clearer standards to guide K–12 science curriculum and instruction, the drafters continue to omit quite a lot of essential content. The pages that follow supply many examples. Among the most egregious omissions are most of chemistry; thermodynamics; electrical circuits; physiology; minerals and rocks; the layered Earth; the essentials of biological chemistry and biochemical genetics; and at least the descriptive elements of developmental biology.
  • As in version 1.0, some content that is never explicitly stated with regards to earlier grades seems to be taken for granted when referring to later grades—where, we fear, it won’t actually be found if the earlier-grade teachers do not see it made explicit.
  • Real science invariably blends content knowledge with core ideas, “crosscutting concepts,” and various practices, activities, or applications. The NGSS erroneously claims that presenting science as such an amalgam is a major innovation (“conceptual shift”), which it is not. Much more problematic, the NGSS has imposed so rigid a format on its new standards that the recommended “practices” dominate them, and basic science knowledge—which should be the ultimate goal of science education—becomes secondary. Such a forced approach also causes the language of these standards to become distractingly stereotyped and their interpretation a burden.
  • As noted above (and praised), the drafters made a commendable effort to integrate “engineering practices” into the science rather than treating engineering as a separate discipline. Still—once again—their insistence on finding such practices in connection with so many standards sometimes leads to inappropriate or banal exercises—and blurs the real meaning of “engineering.”
  • The effort to insist on “assessment boundaries” in connection with every standard often leads to a “dumbing down” of what might actually be learned about a topic, seemingly in the interest of “one-size-fits-all” science that won’t be too challenging for students. This is a mistake in at least two ways. First, it potentially limits how far and how deep advanced students (and their teachers) might go. (The vague assertion that this can be dealt with via “advanced” high school courses helps almost not at all.) Second, it usurps the prerogative of curriculum builders and those constructing (and determining proficiency levels on) assessments to make these decisions for themselves. It is one thing to set forth what must be covered in school; it is quite another to try to put limits on how much more might be covered—and to suggest that not going farther is perfectly okay, even for pupils who could and would. What’s more, these “boundaries” are often used to strip science of critical mathematics content.
  • A number of key terms (e.g., “model” and “design”) are ill-defined or inconsistently used.
  • Even as the amplitude of new appendices adds welcome explanation and clarification of what is and isn’t present and why, it also produces a structure for NGSS that most users, especially classroom teachers, will find complex and unwieldy. Even the attempts to help users understand and apply these standards (as in the four-page PDF document titled “How to read the NGSS standards”) are complicated and confusing. Moreover, the various appendices are clearly aimed at different audiences without ever saying so. Will a fifth-grade teacher actually make her way to Appendix K to obtain additional (and valuable) information about science-math alignment and some pedagogically useful examples? Will the final version of NGSS omit some of the intervening appendices that have more to do with the philosophical, political, and epistemological leanings of the project and its leaders than with anything of immediate value to real schools?
  • Although the “alignment” of NGSS math with Common Core math is improved, there also seems to have been a conscious effort by NGSS drafters not to expect much science to be taught or learned of the sort that depends on math to be done properly. This weakens the science and leads, once again, to a worrisome dumbing down, particularly in high school physics—which, as the reviewers note, “is inherently mathematical.” It must also be noted that Appendix K, valuable as it is in grades K–5, is essentially AWOL from the middle and high school grades, where it is most needed. Indeed, our math reviewers found “no guidance about the specific mathematics to be used for individual science standards at the high school level. And only occasional guidance at the middle school level.”

One science teacher also saw the Next Generation Science Standards as “backward engineered.” He wrote, “The ‘Next Generation Science Standards’ have set out to backward engineer the whole science curriculum into a coherent, self-validating tool. The goal all along was an instrument to market both teaching and assessment products to a captive education system, not to provide a framework for good teaching of the sciences. In addition to all the historical evidence for this interpretation, we can now examine the document itself.”

He added, “In fact, we can readily see that their standards are made out of picked bones. These standards actually don’t span anything much and connect nothing but assessment boundaries. In this case, less isn’t more. We would be forced to devote all the formative, developmental years to consumption of standards-based learning products and assessments, in absurdist preparation for future standards-based product lines.”

The standards (Fordham mentions this as well) do not include chemistry as a separate subject but instead distribute it throughout other subjects. In so doing, the standards drop essential science content, writes former chemistry professor and science editor Harry Keller.

The standards also fail to require any chemistry labs, which is odd given their focus on experiential learning and entirely distort the point of science, which is learning from tested experience. Its format pushes a teaching method similar to that of the failed 1940s progressive science that focused not on learning but the “social, personal, and vocational needs of the student,” Keller writes.

So hopefully the evolution and man-made climate change proponents among us can also recognize that these are bad standards.

The Next Generation Science Standards Are Already Politicized

Governor Susana Martinez (R-NM)
Photo Credit: Mallory Benedict/PBS NewsHour (CC-By-2.0)

I didn’t realize it until I read an op/ed in The New Mexico Political Report that New Mexico Governor Susana Martinez has been a roadblock for the Next Generation Science Standards’ implementation in her state.

Good for her.

Bill McCamley and G. Andrés Romero, two Democratic State Representatives, write:

Next Generation Science Standards focus on hands on, problem solving based learning rather than rote memorization and teaching to a test. They also equip students with the updated science information and skill sets needed to compete for 21st Century jobs.

Unfortunately, Susana Martinez has failed over the last four years to put these new standards in our classrooms, even after her own staff professionals recommended them. That’s why we sponsored the Next Generation Science Standards bill in this past year’s legislative session. During one of the committee hearings, a former member of her staff admitted the reason for the governor’s decision. “Toward the end of my tenure at the Public Education Department, I was tasked to edit and change some of the language in the standards to make them politically sanitized.” After having passed both the House and Senate, the governor vetoed the bill.

We didn’t know what was meant by “sanitized” until last week, when the governor released her version of the standards. The word “evolution” was replaced with the term “biological diversity,” language documenting the earth’s rising temperature (which has been proven over and over again) was replaced with words describing temperature “fluctuations” and the age of the earth (widely seen by the scientific community as 4.6 Billion years) was completely stripped; all in an attempt to politicize science education.

Granted, I think the Next Generation Science Standards have problems beyond its doubling down on evolution (introducing the topic to junior high students) and man-made climate change, but those are issues. Saying that Governor Martinez is politicizing science education is ludicrous. These standards are already politicized and include junk science.

Give me a break. I hope Governor Martinez would reject even the “sanitized” version as Next Generation Science Standards are awful.

Wisconsin’s Draft Science Standards Are Up For Public Comment

Dr. Robert Lattimer with Citizens for Objective Public Education (COPE) contacted me to inform me that Wisconsin’s draft science standards are up for public comment and review. The current Wisconsin standards are the oldest in the nation, dating back to 1998.  The draft standards can be found here. You can submit feedback here. The comment period closes on August 12. Participants in the review do NOT need to be Wisconsin residents.

Lattimer writes:

The draft standards are based on the Framework for K-12 Science Education and the Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS). While many of the performance standards are taken from NGSS (some have been modified), a lot of the content was developed in-state. In particular, there are sections with “Wisconsin contexts” that address issues specific to the state. Also, there are numerous standards dealing with science inquiry and engineering design.

The Wisconsin standards (like NGSS) are based on the doctrine of methodological naturalism (MN), which requires that all explanations in science be materialistic – i.e., based on natural laws and chance. MN is not justifiable in historical origins science (the study of the origin of the universe, of life, and of life’s diversity).

The standards on cosmic and biological evolution are based solely on materialistic causation. The possibility of teleological explanations (purposeful design) is not mentioned. There are numerous standards in environmental science. Many are reasonable, but others reflect an activist environmental agenda. Specifically, anthropogenic global warming and the negative effects of human activities are extensively covered.

If you would like to receive comments about specific Wisconsin standards you can email Robert at rplattimer@gmail.com.

A Case Against the Next Generation Science Standards from New Hampshire

Ann Marie Banfield with Cornerstone Action in New Hampshire wrote an excellent letter to her local school board in Bedford, NH about the Next Generation Science Standards that I thought was worth sharing as a model.

You can read it in its entirety below.

I was unable to attend the last school board meeting, but I did get a chance to review the video online.  I’m deeply concerned by the lack of core classes in math and science based on what parents are reporting.  Several years ago I asked the administration to draw up a list of “needs versus wants.”  If administrators identified expenditures as needs versus wants, it would be helpful when looking at what is really needed right now.  I don’t recall any follow-up information where this has been done. I agree that staffing math and science courses should be a priority.

I watched the presentation on the Next Generation Science Standards that are currently being implemented in the district.  It was disappointing that no critical analysis was presented on these new science standards.  If we are going to expect teachers to teach students to “think critically,” isn’t it equally important that those presenting information, also offer a critical analysis on the NGSS?

The NGSS were adopted by the State Board of Education last year.  The presentation to the State Board of Education also lacked any critical analysis by content experts. The only higher education science professor who commented on the NGSS offered no details in his short comments and a brief letter to me, which included his testimony to the State Board of Education.

How do you, as a board, make thoughtful decisions when you are not provided information on one of the most important components of science education in the district?

The NGSS are national science standards similar to the Common Core Standards.  Achieve Inc, run Michael Cohen, is a D.C. based trade group and was involved with developing the NGSS and Common Core State Standards. I’d challenge anyone to point to an example where they’ve improved student outcomes.

The Common Core Standards have come under a great deal of scrutiny since they were adopted in 2010 by the New Hampshire Board of Education.  The new Commissioner of Education, Frank Edelblut, has also made public statements that he would like to review the CCSS and the NGSS based on critical information, that in my opinion, should have been reviewed and debated prior to any formal adoption by the State Board of Education.

Bedford is under no obligation to use standards that were adopted by the State Board of Education.  Not only are they not under any obligation, it seems reasonable that the board would want to do a thoughtful analysis before agreeing to use these standards in our district.

For instance, many teachers are still covering their old and comprehensive content in Honors Chemistry but now redesigning their classes to be more investigative and focused on problem-solving. There is an emphasis on solving problems and understanding science ideas in the real world, but I’m also hearing from Chemistry teachers that this will not prepare students for college level work because, in order to prepare students for college, their classes need to look like a college class.  This means lots of lecture and problem sets.

Having a brother who holds a Ph.D. in Chemistry, lives, and works for an international company in Germany, I have had access to someone who works and lives Chemistry on a daily basis.  I asked him to look over the NGSS and what jumped out to him was the lack of physical science in the standards.

The scarcity of chemistry standards would not cover a basic chemistry course. Physics is almost absent and instead mentions a physics principle. The life science standards are lacking a great deal of biology, including whole body systems, cell and tissue types, cellular feedback mechanisms, protein structure and function, cell division (mitosis and meiosis), bacteria and virus.  All of this may be covered in AP or IB science, but if those classes are cut or students do not take these higher level sciences, would they be denied the academic content in their high school science classes now?

What’s missing from a standard physical science course in 9th grade?  Newton’s first law, energy thermodynamics, Ohm’s law, simple electrical circuits and lab safety.  This means that there isn’t enough content for a typical one-year physical science class.

Jennifer Helms, Ph.D., RN commented that the NGSS are performance standards rather than academic content standards and rely on group project /grades — this means grading on group consensus and writing rather than the student’s content knowledge.  She highlighted that the human body is missing; other essential life science concepts are absent, such as “bacteria” and “virus”; cytology (design and function of cells) is woefully lacking (no mention of protein structure and functions, cellular feedback mechanisms, cell and tissue types, etc).  In her professional opinion, the NGSS are intended to be a set of science appreciation standards rather than rigorous educational standards.

The NGSS rely heavily on project-based learning rather than content learning. The teacher becomes a “guide on the side,” versus an instructor that students would encounter in a college level science class. This contradicts findings from a study conducted by University of Virginia professor Robert Tai and Harvard University researcher Philip Sadler. Their study appeared in the International Journal of Science Education.  Data showed that autonomy doesn’t seem to hurt students who are strong in math.  However, students with a weak math background who engaged in self-structured learning practices in high school may do as much as a full letter grade poorer in college science.

Student-led projects and investigations do not appear to be as productive as other approaches to teaching science in high school. Increasing student autonomy may be motivated by the goal of providing experiences more akin to scientific research, but only the strongest students appear to something, out of such opportunities. http://www.nsta.org/publications/news/story.aspx?id=52399.

Sometimes these teaching methods sound good in theory but do not always work well in the classroom, or for all students.  Making sure a teacher has the autonomy to change up teaching methods is a must.  This is why standards should focus on what a child should learn, versus tell a teacher how to teach the subject.  Teaching methods should be worked out between teachers and administrators.  If parents are concerned about the pedagogy, they can then work with the teacher and administrators to make necessary changes.  When standards dictate a pedagogy that has already been studied as ineffective for some learners, why adopt standards that utilize one-size fits all?

Some frustrated parents have already asked if I knew my child was going to teach science to other students through all of these projects, shouldn’t they at least receive some of the teacher’s salary?  Students report that not much learning is going on in the groups, and the more motivated/smarter students carry the others.

Students do not always know what they want to take in college when they are freshmen in high school.  Making sure Bedford students have a basic foundation in science, is what I believe, most parents want for their children. If they make a decision to go into nursing as juniors or as seniors, there is a great deal of content they should know in order to prepare them for an extremely challenging workload. The NGSS would not be an adequate basic foundation.

Hearing how core math and science classes have been cut and now how Bedford is now implementing the NGSS has me very concerned about preparing Bedford students for STEM careers and college programs.

I have heard proponents of the NGSS speak in terms of getting students interested in science.  There is nothing like a great teacher who has the gift of teaching this subject. However, critics have raised concerns that there is too little emphasis on quality academic science content to make the NGSS quality science standards. This is why a there was a call to reject the NGSS in Massachusetts.  Given their history of developing the best academic standards in the country, they knew what they were giving up if they adopted the NGSS.

According to this study they call for,”….the Draft Science and Technology/Engineering Standards to Be Withdrawn and mention the “Astonishing” gaps in science content too large to be resolved editorially. “The proposed science standards have significant, unacceptable gaps in science content,” says Dr. Stan Metzenberg, a professor of biology at California State University and author of “A Critical Review of the Massachusetts Next Generation Science and Technology/Engineering Standards.”

Finally, Fordham Foundation reported that…”High school physical science content is virtually nonexistent. Entire areas that are fundamental to the understanding of physics and chemistry—and essential prerequisites for advanced study—are omitted. Among these are chemical formulas, chemical equations, the mole concept and its applications, kinematics, thermodynamics, and pretty much all of modern physics, including all of the advances of physics since about 1950, as well as their transformative engineering applications.

Nor is energy ever covered with adequate depth and rigor (as explained further below). The idea of building on earlier non-rigorous ideas of energy and making them rigorous at the high school level is glaringly absent.

“Static electricity” is mentioned only once and it’s not well explained or developed. “Current electricity” isn’t covered at all. These are serious omissions.” (pg.34)

Here are some suggestions to the Board:

  1. Ask administrators for a side by side comparison of the NGSS to science standards that were considered the best in the country.  What is missing from the NGSS?
  2. Take the list of missing standards and discuss/debate whether or not to include them.  Are they included in the AP/IB science classes or any alternative science classes?  Parents have the right to see this kind of information.
  3. Look at the political bias in the NGSS and discuss/debate publicly whether it’s appropriate to have a set of science standards that include political bias.
  4. Ask members of the Bedford community who hold higher level degrees in Math, Science or Engineering to read through the NGSS and compare them to science standards that were considered the best in the country. What are their views on the different science standards?
  5. Make all of this information available to Bedford residents in order to solicit feedback.
  6. Read the NGSS, compare them yourself, then decide whether the NGSS are the best for Bedford schools.  If not, look at using better quality standards.

The problem with the NGSS is that they lack a great deal of actual science content standards.  If Bedford is going to move forward with NGSS as their science standards, I would urge you to do so cautiously given the Commissioner’s interest in reviewing the standards in the future.

Thank you for your thoughtful consideration,

Ann Marie Banfield
Bedford, NH

Standards Drive Curriculum

Teacher at Maxwell AFB Elementary/Middle School
(Air Force photo/Kelly Deichert)

I had an interesting conversation with a school superintendent in Northwest Iowa this week. He was adamant about his school district’s control over curriculum. It’s true in Iowa and most (if not all) states that state departments of education do not dictate curriculum and textbook decisions.

He noted that they barely buy textbooks anymore because they write their curriculum and their teachers use multiple resources because he said no one textbook can provide everything they want to teach.

I’m not chained to the notion of using textbooks, and having taught I can certainly agree that finding the best resources for the particular topic being taught is beneficial. That forces teachers and schools to be all that much more transparent about what is being used to teach students so parents can be informed.

That’s a challenge, however. I asked how they inform parents what is being taught if they can’t peruse a textbook. He said “should” (he didn’t say that it is) be on the teacher’s website and if it isn’t – “that’s on us.”

I’m not sure saying oops, my bad cuts it, but ok. Parents need to be proactive to find out what teachers are teaching.

The superintendent then said something fascinating to me, “buying textbooks would force us to adopt California or Texas values.”

I’m not so certain post-Common Core how much Texas drives curriculum, but I do know a block of, initially, 46 states adopting Common Core did.

He had a problem with California and Texas pushing textbooks but didn’t have a problem with Bill Gates, National Governors’ Association, and Council of Chief State School Officers driving top-down standards. We didn’t discuss the Next Generation Science Standards or C3 Framework for State Social Studies Standards, but I don’t think I’m going out on a limb to assume he’s in favor of those as well.

He told me it’s good to make sure everyone is learning the same thing. This argument assumes there wasn’t some commonality before, and second, he acknowledged that demographics impact what happens in schools. Third, if everyone is learning the same thing doesn’t that weaken his claim about his teachers’ designing their curriculum?

Standards drive curriculum, especially if they are aligned to assessments, even if you develop your own. So certainly there is variation, there will always be variation because there isn’t one national test and each school uses a different curriculum. You do see themes crop up, however – like using reform math, as well as, an emphasis on informational text. Also, teachers and schools have to show how their lesson plans are connecting with standards because the state is requiring that they implement them. Several special education teachers have expressed frustration with how they had to show how IEPs they write back into the Iowa Core. Then his school implemented standards-based grading, a shift that certainly wouldn’t have taken place without the standards and accountability push.

But yeah, tell me how much control you have over your curriculum. True freedom would be able to control your own standards and assessments.

Nebraska Seeks Public Input on Science Standards

Robert Lattimer with Citizens for Objective Public Education (COPE) informed me that the Nebraska Department of Education has opened up their draft science standards for public comment. The commenting period closes on June 23, and you do not have to be a resident of Nebraska to participate.

The survey link can be found here.

Lattimer shared his thoughts about the standards in an email:

I have reviewed the standards and find them to be a clone of the Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS).  There is some rearrangement of NGSS performance expectations, and a few slight modifications have been made.  Like NGSS, the thrust is materialistic with respect to biological evolution, and there is an activist environmental agenda.

I would suggest you provide input on the following performance expectations on evolution and environmentalism.  Note that there is a comment space on the web form for each grade level.

Page 23 (Grade 6, SC.6.12.4.c).  Change “rise” to “change.”  Change “past century” to “past several centuries.”

Page 25 (Grade 7, SC.7.7.3.d).  Change “minimizing” to “changing.”  State that human impact can be either positive or negative.

Page 29 (Grade 8, SC.8.9.4.a).  State that nearly all mutations are harmful or neutral and lead to a loss of fitness for the organism.

Page 30 (Grade 8, SC.8.10.5.a).  The standard implies that there was no teleological causation in the Earth’s past.  This is an assumption or hypothesis, not proven fact.

Page 30 (Grade 8, SC.8.10.5.b).  The standard assumes that homologies result from evolutionary relationships.  This is an unproven assumption that eliminates the possibility of teleological causation.

Page 30 (Grade 8).   Standards SC.8.10.5.a and 5.b relate to macroevolution (unguided common descent), and SC.8.10.5.c and 5.d relate to microevolution (adaptation or small-scale change within a species).  This distinction should be made, since micro is well-established but macro is an unproven hypothesis.

Page 30 (Grade 8, section SC.8.10).  These standards relate to biological evolution, which is age-inappropriate for Grade 8.  These standards should be moved to high school Life Sciences.

Page 37 (Life Sciences, SC.HS.8.3.b).  Change “elements” to “molecules” or “chemical compounds.”

Page 38 (Life Sciences, SC.HS.10.5.a).  This assumes that common ancestry (macroevolution) is true.  Evidence that infers teleological causation should be included.

Page 38 (Life Sciences, SC.HS.10.5.e).  Change “new species” to “new varieties.”  If a “new” species results from environmental change, it will closely resemble its predecessor.

Page 38 (Life Sciences, section SC.HS.10).  Standard SC.HS.10.5.a relates to macroevolution, while the other four relate to microevolution.  This distinction should be made.

Page 39 (Earth and Space Sciences, SC.HS.11.5.b).  Coverage of Big Bang theory is OK, but the standard is incomplete.  Add (a) the implication of the Big Bang (a beginning to the universe), (b) comparison with other hypotheses (steady state, multiverse, oscillating universe), and (c) fine-tuning of physical constants for life.

Page 40 (Earth and Space Sciences, SC.HS.12.1.b and 1.d).  Global climate models are known to be inaccurate and are often used to predict dire consequences for the future.  Either eliminate these standards or add precautionary language.

Page 41 (Earth and Space Sciences, SC.HS.15.4.e).  Note that human “modification” can be either positive or negative.

(2nd Update) 2017 Legislation on Standards, Assessments, and Data Privacy

States with relevant legislation.

Updated on 2/21/17 – see Kentucky and West Virginia.

A couple years ago I published a list of active bills in various statehouses related to Common Core and its aligned assessments. Over the two years I just included a tag for a particular year’s bills so people could click on that to check on the bills that we had written on. Needless to say we didn’t keep up very well so I’m bringing this back.

This is a list that I will update of filed legislation in state houses across the United States dealing with academic standards, local control, assessments and data privacy. My intention is just to give a bill number, a link to the bill, and a brief description of the bill and the last action on the bill. Inclusion on this list does not mean we support the particular bill, but only that our readers in each state should be aware of it, read it, and decide whether they should support or oppose it.  I plan to keep this list as updated as possible. Individual write-ups on different bills can be found at “2017 Bills.” If I missed a bill just shoot me an email with the bill number at info@truthinamericaneducation.com.


SB1314 – A bill that seeks to tighten student data privacy. Last action: Passed out of Senate Education Committee.


HB06839 – An Act Concerning A Review And Report On The Implementation Of The Student Data Privacy Act. Last action: Referred to the Joint Committee on Education.

HB06769 – To amend the student data privacy act of 2016. Last action: Referred to Joint Committee on Education.

There are several identical bills related to allowing a one year delay in the implementation of the Student Data Privacy Act of 2016. Here is one example.


S 0584 – Authorizing certain students to be eligible for an alternative pathway to a standard high school diploma; requiring a school district to establish an Alternative Pathway to Graduation Review Committee for certain students; requiring each district school board to ensure certain instruction, to waive certain assessment results, and to administer a hard copy of the grade 10 ELA assessment or the statewide, standardized Algebra I EOC assessment for certain students, etc. Last action: Filed.


SB 0536 – Replaces the ISTEP test program with an assessment program using the Iowa Tests of Basic Skills or the Iowa Tests of Educational Development, as appropriate for the grade level being tested. Repeals a statute establishing the ISTEP program citizens’ review committee. Repeals a provision defining the ISTEP program. Repeals an expiration provision. Makes conforming amendments. Last action: Assigned to Senate Rules and Legislative Procedures Committee.

HB1003 – Replaces the ISTEP test program after June 30, 2018, with a new statewide assessment program to be known as Indiana’s Learning Evaluation Assessment Readiness Network (ILEARN). Repeals a provision defining the ISTEP program. Makes conforming amendments. Last action: Referred to the House Committee on Education.


HB0332 – Amends the School Code to add provisions concerning student data privacy. Amends the Illinois School Student Records Act. Makes changes to the definition provisions. Sets forth provisions allowing disclosure of student records to researchers at an accredited post-secondary educational institution or an organization conducting research if specified requirements are met. Amends the Children’s Privacy Protection and Parental Empowerment Act to change the definition of “child” to mean a person under the age of 18 (instead of 16). Last action: Referred to the House Judiciary-Civil Committee.


HJR 3 – A constitutional amendment that proposes “to provide home rule powers and authority for school districts.” Last action: Introduced into the House Education Committee (My write-up)

HF 26 – The bill authorizes a school board to exercise any broad or implied power, not inconsistent with the laws of the general assembly, related to the operation, control, and supervision of the public schools located within its district boundaries. Last action: Assigned a subcommittee. (My write-up)

SF 30 – This bill eliminates references and requirements to the Iowa Common Core or core curriculum or core content standards in the Iowa Code, but continues to direct the state board of education to adopt high school graduation requirements and assessment standards. It also creates a new task force for the development of a new assessment. Last action: assigned to subcommittee. (My write-up)

HF 139 – Requires any statewide assessment to be developed by the Iowa Testing Programs (ITP) at the University of Iowa. It would prohibit the use of Smarter Balanced or PARCC as a statewide, mandatory assessment. Last action: assigned to subcommittee. (My write-up)

HF 140 – Makes the Common Core math and English language arts (ELA) standards that have been adopted into the Iowa Core voluntary for Iowa’s public and state accredited non-public schools. Repeals Next Generation Science Standards. Last action: introduced into the House Education Committee. (My write-up)

SSB 1001 – Repeals the requirement for the State Board of Education to adopt rules requiring a statewide assessment starting in July 1, 2017 that is aligned to the Iowa Common Core Standards. Last action: Before Senate Education Committee.


SB 1 – This bill would establish new learning standards and evaluation procedures for schools and teachers. Last action: Passed Kentucky Senate 35-0 (see write-up).


LD412 – An Act To Require the Completion of Courses of Study in Home Economics and Industrial Arts Education Prior to Graduation from High School. Last action: N/A

LD 322 – An Act To Reintroduce Civics to High School Graduation Requirements. Last action: Passed House, referred to Senate Committee on Education and Cultural Affairs.

LD49 – Requires the adoption and implementation of the Next Generation Science Standards. Last action: Passed by the House, being considered by the Senate.


HB 705 – Authorizing a parent or guardian of a child with a disability who is nonverbal to refuse to allow the child to participate in a Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers (PARCC) assessment or its equivalent in a public school; and requiring that the refusal be documented in the Individualized Education Program of the child. Last action: Assigned to the House Ways and Means Committee.

HB 461 – Requiring the State Board of Education to adopt regulations limiting the amount of time in the aggregate that may be devoted to federal, State, and locally mandated assessments for each grade to 2% of the specified minimum required annual instructional hours; prohibiting time devoted to teacher-selected classroom quizzes and exams, portfolio reviews, or performance assessments from being counted toward the specified testing time limits; etc. Last action: Assigned to House Ways and Means Committee.


HB 4192 – Education; curriculum; implementation of certain curriculum standards and assessments in place of common core curriculum standards and assessments in this state; require. Amends 1976 PA 451 (MCL 380.1 – 380.1852) by adding secs. 1278e & 1278f. Last action: Referred to the House Michigan Competitiveness Committee and will have a hearing on 2/15/17.

SB 0081 – Education; curriculum; implementation of certain curriculum standards and assessments in place of common core curriculum standards and assessments in this state; require. Amends sec. 1278 of 1976 PA 451 (MCL 380.1278) & adds secs. 1278e, 1278f & 1278. Last action: Before Senate Government Operations Committee.


HB502 – An Act To Prohibit The State Board Of Education From Making Application To The United States Department Of Education Seeking A Waiver Or Request For Funding That Would Require A Revision Of The State Subject Matter Curriculum Aligned With The K-12 Common Core State Standards Developed By The Common Core State Standards Initiative; To Authorize The Board To Request Authority From The United States Department Of Education To Revise Curriculum Requirements That Condition Receipt Of Funding Or Waivers Upon The Board’s Action To Revise The Curriculum To Align With The K-12 Common Core State Standards; And For Related Purposes. Last action: Died in committee

SB2035 – An Act To Provide That Beginning With The 2017-2018 School Year The State Board Of Education Shall Replace The Common Core State Standards With The Ela Standards In Place In Several States; To Provide That The State Of Mississippi Shall Retain Sole Control Over The Development, Establishment And Revision Of Curriculum Standards; And For Related Purposes. Last action: Died in committee.

SB2593 – An Act To Provide That Beginning With The 2017-2018 School Year The State Board Of Education Shall Replace The Common Core State Standards With The Ela Standards In Place In Several States; To Provide That The State Of Mississippi Shall Retain Sole Control Over The Development, Establishment And Revision Of Curriculum Standards; And For Related Purposes. Last action: Died in committee.

HB357 – An Act To Provide For The Repeal Of The Common Core State Standards Curriculum Adopted By The State Board Of Education And To Prohibit Any Further Implementation Or Use Of Such Standards; To Restrict The Use Of The Partnership For Assessment Of Readiness For College And Careers (parcc), Or Any Other Assessment Related To Or Based On The Common Core State Standards, As The Required Assessment Required Under The Statewide Testing Program; To Require The State Superintendent Of Public Education And The State Board Of Education To Initiate Procedures To Withdraw From The Parcc Consortium; To Provide That The State Of Mississippi Shall Retain Sole Control Over The Development, Establishment And Revision Of Curriculum And Academic Content Standards; To Provide That No Curriculum Standards Developed Outside The State Of Mississippi May Be Adopted Or Implemented Without Public Hearings Held In Each Congressional District, A One-year Open Comment Period And Open Hearings Before A Joint Committee Composed Of The House And Senate Education Committees, Followed By An Act Of The Legislature; To Impose Restrictions Upon The State Department Of Education With Regards To The Expenditure Of Certain Funds And Disclosing Personally Identifiable Information Pertaining To Students And Teachers; To Amend Section 37-1-3, Mississippi Code Of 1972, In Conformity Thereto; And For Related Purposes. Last action: Died in committee.

SB2581 – An Act To Authorize And Direct Public School Districts To Allow Parents And Legal Guardians Of Enrolled Students To Opt Out Of Common Core Aligned Curricula, Certain Student Data And The Release Of Information Concerning Their Children’s Personal Beliefs; To Prescribe A Form For The Student Privacy Protection Opt-out Request By The Parent Or Legal Guardian; To Direct The State Board Of Education To Issue Regulations Consistent With The Student Data Confidentiality Provisions Of This Act; And For Related Purposes. Last action: Died in committee.

HB279 – An Act To Prohibit The State Board Of Education And The State Department Of Education From Taking Any Further Action To Implement The Common Core And Mississippi College And Career Readiness Standards; To Require The State Board Of Education To Adhere To Pre-existing Procedures Under Its Apa To Review And Revise Our Curriculum Standards As Applicable Within Our Board Policies Beginning With Mathematics And English In 2017; To Prohibit The State Board And State Department Of Education From Expending Certain Federal Funds To Track Students Beyond Their K-12 Education And To Distribute Certain Student Identifiable Information; To Amend Section 37-17-6, Mississippi Code Of 1972, To Delete References To Common Core And To Delete The Requirement That The State Department Of Education Form A Single Accountability System By Combining The State System With The Federal System; To Bring Forward Section 37-177-5, Mississippi Code Of 1972, For The Purpose Of Possible Amendments; And For Related Purposes. Last action: Died in committee.

HB601 – An Act To Create New Section 37-16-2, Mississippi Code Of 1972, To Require The State Board Of Education To Contract With A Single Entity For The Development And Administration Of The Act Aspire Assessment Components As The Comprehensive Statewide Assessment Program For Public School Students In Grades 3-10 As Well As Algebra I And English Ii, Which Is Aligned To The Mississippi College And Career-ready Standards; To Require The State Department Of Education To Provide A Job Skills Assessment System That Allows Students To Earn A Nationally Recognized Career Readiness Certificate Credentialing Workplace Employability Skills; To Require The Act Aspire As The Statewide Assessment Program To Be Fully Implemented In All Public Schools In The 2017-2018 School Year; To Amend Sections 37-16-1, 37-16-3, 37-16-4, 37-16-5, 37-16-7, 37-16-9 And 37-16-17, Mississippi Code Of 1972, Which Relate To The Statewide Testing Program, And Sections 37-3-49, 37-15-38, 37-17-6, 37-18-1, 37-18-3, 37-20-5, 37-20-7 And 37-28-45, Mississippi Code Of 1972, In Conformity To The Preceding Provisions Of This Act; To Prohibit The State Board Of Education From Contracting With Any Entity For The Development Of A Statewide Assessment Whose Alignment Of Curriculum And Testing Standards Are In Compliance With The Partnership For Assessment Of Readiness For College And Careers (parcc) Without Express Legislative Authority; To Amend Section 37-16-11, Mississippi Code Of 1972, To Provide For The Issuance Of A Standard Diploma To Certain Exceptional Children With Intellectual Impairments Who Have Ieps Upon Meeting The Educational Requirements Of Their Iep And Those Established By The State Board Of Education; And For Related Purposes. Last action: Died in committee.

There are additional bills, some are repetitive, they have all been killed in committee.

New Hampshire

SB 44 – Prohibiting the state from requiring implementation of common core standards. Last action: Before Senate Education Committee.

HB 207 – Prohibiting the implementation of common core in public elementary and secondary schools. Last action: Hearing scheduled for 2/14/17.

New Jersey

A2650 – Requires high school students to be assessed using college placement cut scores to determine readiness for college-level course work, and Commissioner of Education to develop plan to improve college and career counseling for students. Last action: To Assembly Higher Education Committee.

A10121 – Requires school districts and charter schools to annually provide to parents or guardians of enrolled students information on certain tests to be administered during the school year. Last action: Referred to Assembly Education Committee.

New Mexico

HB211 – Requires the adoption and implementation of the Next Generation Science Standards. Last Action: Referred to House Education Committee.

New York

A03702/S03912 – Requires disclosure of testing items in Common Core tests given in New York (50% after the first year the test is given, full disclosure after the second year.) Last action: Assigned to the Assembly Education Committee.

A01098 – Establishes the common core state standards evaluation task force for the purpose of studying the implementation of the common core state standards; requires such task force report to the Governor and Legislature. Last action: Referred to the Assembly Education Committee.

A01719 – Relates to teacher evaluations and implementation of the common core learning standards. Last action: Assigned to Assembly Education Committee.

S02091 – Enacts the common core parental refusal act. Last action: Assigned to Senate Education Committee.

A03644 – Relates to creating the commission on exceptional standards for New York state. Last action: Assigned to Assembly Education Committee.

A03623 – Relates to the common core state standards initiative. Last action: Referred to Assembly Education Committee.

S01942 – Allows parents, legal guardians or school districts to opt children with an individualized education program out of the “common core standards” and certain testing. Last action: Referred to Senate Education Committee.

A02312 – Relates to establishing the standardized testing transparency act; makes an appropriation therefor. Last action: Referred to the Assembly Education Committee.

North Dakota

HB 1432 – Repeals Common Core. Last action: Reported back, do not pass, placed on calendar (My write-up on the bill is here)


HB2368 – Prohibits Department of Education from requiring school districts to align instruction or assessments with common core state standards and from penalizing school districts for failure to align instruction or assessments with common core state standards. Declares emergency, effective July 1, 2017. Last action: Referred to the House Education Committee.

HB2587 – Modifies state educational goals to take into consideration students’ aspirations, to provide students with well-rounded education and to provide students with sufficient instructional time to meet students’ educational goals. Expands state’s mission of education beyond high school. Last action: Referred to the House Education Committee.

HB 2229 – Requires school districts to offer instruction in financial literacy. Directs school districts and public charter schools to offer sufficient instruction in financial literacy to ensure that every student who elects to receive instruction in financial literacy is able to receive instruction. Takes effect July 1, 2018. Last action: Referred to the House Education Committee.

South Dakota

SB 126 – This bill requires the South Dakota Department of Education to use a competitive bidding process when acquiring academic assessments.


SB 605 – Allows public review and removal of Common Core-aligned curriculum. Last action: Filed.

HB 1069 – Relating to compliance with prohibitions regarding the use of common core state standards in public schools. Last action: Filed.


HB1012 – Eliminating the use of the high school science assessment as a graduation prerequisite. Last action: Referred to the House Education Committee.

HB 1046 – Eliminates requirement to pass state assessments to graduate. Allows multiple options. Last action: Referred to the House Appropriations Committee.

HB 1415 – To simplify existing state assessment requirements and administer the ACT test as the statewide high school assessment for reading or language arts, mathematics, and science; and (2) For the administration of the ACT test to be for federal accountability purposes and does not intend for the ACT test to be used in determining whether a student is eligible to graduate from high school. Last action: Referred to the House Education Committee.

HB1793 – Increasing academic rigor and streamlining assessment requirements for high school students. (This bill entrenches Smarter Balanced in Washington.) Last action: Referred to the House Education Committee.

SB 5202/HB 1572 – Directs OSPI to seek approval of using SAT or ACT in place of the SBAC assessments. If approved by the feds, the ELA/Math and Science portions of the national tests can be used in place for graduation purposes. SBE sets the cutoff score for passing. Last action: Referred to each chamber’s education committee.

SB5673/HB1886 – Moves the responsiblity for setting standards and assessments from the Washington State Board of Education to the Superintendent of Public Instruction. Last action: Referred to each chamber’s education committee.

West Virginia

HB 2144 – A BILL to amend the Code of West Virginia, 1931, as amended, by adding thereto a new article, designated §18-1A-1, §18-1A-2, §18-1A-3, §18-1A-4 and §18-1A-5, all relating to academic content standards in public schools; discontinuing and prohibiting the use of Common Core academic content standards; adopting alternative academic content standards; discontinuing the use of Common Core based assessments; establishing a committee and process for developing alternate statewide assessments of student progress; prohibiting the state board or any public school from sharing student data without parental consent; and prohibiting acceptance of federal funding if such funding is conditioned upon sharing student data without parental consent. Last action: Referred to the House of Delegate’s Education and Finance Committees.

SB 18 – This would change West Virginia’s assessment from Smarter Balanced to ACT (for 11th graders) and ACT Aspire (for 3rd-8th graders). Last action: Referred to the Senate Education and Finance committees.

HB 2443 – This bill repeals Common Core and replaces it with the 2001 Massachusetts ELA Standards and the 2005 California math standards. Last action: Referred to the House Education and Finance Committees


HB0008 – AN ACT relating to education; amending requirements of state data security plan to ensure privacy of student data collected; requiring policies for the collection, access, privacy, security and use of student data by school districts; accordingly requiring school districts to adopt and enforce policies for the collection, access, privacy, security and use of student data; and providing for an effective date. Last action: Passed House, referred to Senate Education Committee