Virginia’s Math Standards Align to Common Core by 95%

Virginia-FlagThe News Leader reports that Virginia’s math standards align to the Common Core by 95% and Virginia parents are frustrated.

You may remember that Virginia pulled out of the Common Core State Standards when former Governor Bob McDonnell (R-VA) was elected.  I noted in my essay in the book Common Ground on Common Core, Virginia in its approved No Child Left Behind flexibility waiver request noted its involvement with the American Diploma Project (the precursor of Common Core).  They also included an alignment study of its standards indicating strong parallels to the Common Core.  McDonnell even held conversations with U.S. Secretary Arne Duncan regarding his state’s standards.

So this really shouldn’t come as a surprise, and it is no wonder Virginia parents are frustrated.

The stunning admission in this news is that students in Virginia (and other states that adopt Common Core) don’t learn traditional algorithms until middle school.

The News Leader reports:

So students spend elementary school exploring math, coming up with their own methods of solving problems, which are generally more word-based than just straight problems on a worksheet. And in middle school they learn the prescribed algorithm that is the “traditional” way of solving the problem.

Yeah, that will prepare them for STEM.  Oh brother.

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

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


Indiana Supt. of Public Instruction Glenda Ritz

Chalkbeat reported last week:

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

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

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

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

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

Arne Duncan: All Sticks, No Carrots

arne-duncanHere is a little blurb on U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan in “The Washington Flyer” a weekly email sent out by the American Association of Christian Schools that I thought was interesting.

Education Secretary Loses Leverage in Second Term
As Congressional gridlock continues throughout the second term of the Obama Administration, education analysts question whether Secretary of Education Arne Duncan has many opportunities through which to advance the Department’s goals. During the first term, the DOE was given billions of dollars in discretionary funding through the stimulus that was used to establish the President’s signature education program, Race to the Top (RTT). The Race to the Top program, a competitive grant program, was administered in several phases and included both an assessment development and early learning component. Estimates suggest that under his supervision the DOE has awarded nearly $100 billion in incentive funding to states and local districts. Michele McNeil, Education Week writer, contends that the Secretary has two primary tools left to advance his remaining priorities: “the bully pulpit and enforcement sticks.” States are struggling to fulfill their commitments to implement the Common Core Standards and to administer the aligned assessments. Additionally in order to keep No Child Left Behind (NCLB) conditional waivers, schools must craft teacher evaluations linked to student achievement scores and develop school ratings systems. Several states have been warned that their NCLB grants are on “high risk status” and some school districts have been cautioned that portions of their RTT awards may be revoked by the Department if certain issues are not adequately addressed. Louisiana Superintendent of Education, John White, stated that federal intervention in his state’s teacher observation policies “erodes” trust and that the department should “resist the federal impulse to constantly layer on more regulation and process.” To view the second-term agenda, click here.

Yes states jumped at the chance of getting No Child Left Behind Waivers in order to “lessen Federal regulations” in return they had to agree to adopt Common Core and other reforms.  The thing many of these states were not telling you is that these waivers had an end date.  Now if you want an extension you have to agree to even more reforms.

For instance “schools must craft teacher evaluations linked to student achievement scores and develop school ratings systems.”  I know it sounds like it would be an objective measure for teacher evaluations, but those pushing for this don’t (or maybe they are considering) what the natural byproduct of such a move in addition to developing school rating systems.  This will even further entrench a “teaching to the test” culture in our schools.  We’ll also see curriculum, learning materials and such be dictated by Common Core Assessments.

Just content standards huh?  You could say that perhaps without the assessments and reforms like what I mentioned above.  Those of us who oppose the Common Core look at all of this as one big package.  Those who advocate for the Common Core want to compartmentalize the standards, the assessments, costs and teacher evaluations and get you focused on their talking points.

We can’t afford to do that.

Kansas State Board of Education’s “Fact” Sheet Void of Facts

By Shane Vander Hart & Dr. Walt Chappell

On Tuesday, May 14th, 2013, seventeen Kansans spoke out against the Common Core at the Kansas State Board of Education meeting that was held in Topeka, KS. It was covered by WIBW TV, the Lawrence Journal-World and The Wichita Eagle.

During the “citizens open forum” of the board’s meeting, which usually only lasts about 30 minutes, the state board listened for over an hour and a half as speaker after speaker from many parts of the state spoke out against the new Common Core standards for reading and math.

Unfortunately the board didn’t seem to listen. Instead the Commissioner of Education handed out a “fact” sheet to those in attendance which is full of misinformation and inaccurate claims.

Myth: “The Common Core Standards initiative was led by states through the National Governor’s Association and the Council of Chief State School Officers.”

No, “states” did not lead this effort. The National Governor’s Association and the Council of Chief State School Officers are non-governmental trade organizations. Parents, teachers and state legislators were cut out. Some governors were involved, but the Gates Foundation has paid $150 million for these groups and select non-profits to develop and promote the Common Core. Kansas Legislators were deliberately circumvented. This short video makes it clear.

Myth: “The federal government was not involved in the standards development and has not mandated adoption of the standards.”

Fact: Kansas applied for a Race to the Top grant. Unless Kansas adopted the Common Core State Standards they didn’t have a prayer in being chosen. The U.S Department of Education directed the competition judges to award a state “high” points “if the consortium includes a majority of the States in the country,” but “medium or low” points if the consortium includes one-half the states or fewer. The Department admitted that the “goal of common K-12 standards is to replace the existing patchwork of State standards” and that its view was “that the larger the number of States within a consortium, the greater the benefits and potential impact.” The only set of standards that fit their requirements was the Common Core State Standards.

Also Kansas was awarded a No Child Left Behind waiver. Since 7 of the 10 State Board members voted to adopt the CCS to apply for a RTTT grant in 2010—without knowing the cost or how Kansas students would be tested—that part of the waiver was OKed by Washington in 2012. So, while it isn’t a clear mandate, the Feds used a carrot and stick approach with bribes and coercion to “incentivize” the Kansas State Board of Education to adopt the only standards which the US Department of Education bureaucrats would accept.

Myth: “A diverse team of teachers, parents, administrators, researchers and content experts developed the Common Core to be academically rigorous, attainable for students and practical for teachers and districts.”

Fact: A list of authors is not on the Common Core State Standards Initiative website. Achieve, INC. does not have a list. National Governor’s Association has a list here. There are no classroom teachers or K-12 administrators on this list. However, from this list there are five people who were on the development teams that are connected to a local school district. Only three were classroom teachers at the time. The top math and English specialists on the validation teams refused to sign off on the CCS as an improvement over current state education standards.

Myth: “Standards are not curriculum. Standards identify where a student should be academically at a point in time. Curriculum is how students get there and is determined by local school districts.”

Fact: Ordinarily that would be true. The only problem with that assertion is the standardized testing that is aligned with the Common Core State Standards which will (and as NCLB has shown) driven curriculum plus classroom teaching and textbook selection.

Myth: “The Common Core Standards are bench marked to international standards to ensure our students are competitive at home and around the world.”

Fact: That’s a claim we hear a lot, but whose standards are the Common Core State Standards bench marked to? Which countries? Are their students as productive and creative as Kansans?

Myth: “States that adopted the Common Core Standards were able to add unique, state specific content to the standards.”

Fact: If the KSDE staff are excited that they can add 15% of their own standards—that is pretty sad. 100% of the standards are controlled by national groups. The 15% added by Kansas will not be on the national assessments and therefore will not be taught to most Kansas students.

Myth: “At least one state that received a RTTT grant did not adopt the Common Core Standards.”

Fact: Who? Here are the RTTT recipients: Delaware, District of Columbia, Florida, Georgia, Hawaii, Maryland, Massachusetts, New York, North Carolina, Ohio, Rhode Island, and Tennessee. The only states that have not adopted the Common Core State Standards in full are: Alaska, Minnesota (ELA standards only), Nebraska, Texas and Virginia. They are not on the list of Race to the Top winners.

They also make claims about Kansas involvement in giving feedback. Who was involved? Let’s see a list. How much feedback was given? Did it actually change anything?

Parents and legislators were still left out of the loop. The KSDE “fact” sheet also makes some false claims regarding individual student and teacher data collection.

While Kansas didn’t win a RTTT grant, it was awarded over $9 million dollars under the Stimulus funds for the purpose of building a Statewide Longitudinal Data System. Some of the outcomes identified are:

  • Expand the ability of the state longitudinal data system to link across the P-20 education pipeline and across state agencies.
  • Ensure that data can be accessed, analyzed and used; and communicate data to all stakeholders to promote continuous improvement.
  • Build the capacity of educators to use the system to develop expertise in effective practices; to use academic and behavioral data to inform instructional decisions; and to evaluate the effect of their decisions on student learning; and build the capacity of other stakeholder to use longitudinal data for effective decision making.

Kansas received 6 million dollars beyond that with two other grants that deal with education data as well.

Kansas then signed a MOU with Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium, which has also signed a MOU with the U.S. Department of Education to “develop a strategy to make student-level data that results from the assessment system available on an ongoing basis for research, including for prospective linking, validity, and program improvement studies, subject to applicable privacy laws.”

On Jan. 3, 2012 regulatory changes went into effect that gutted the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA); now governments can share highly personal data with any entity, public or private, as long as they describe the sharing as necessary to an audit or evaluation of an educational program.

So the Kansas State Department of Education claims that they don’t transfer teacher and student specific data now, but will that be the case later on? It remains to be seen. Frankly it is hard to believe an organization that promotes misinformation and assertions which are simply not true. That doesn’t help build a foundation of trust.


The one-size-fits-all, Common Core Standards are not how teachers teach or students learn. Students are not robots. They do not all learn at the same rate or the same way. So, professional teachers adjust their instruction to each classroom and individual students. But the Common Core Standards force every teacher to be on the same grade-level standard during the same week—regardless of how fast or slow each class of students are learning. This means that the best students are held back while the slower students never catch up and are left behind.

The Kansas Legislature needs to defund the Common Core Standards implementation and associated national assessments this Session. Otherwise, more damage will be done and local districts will be forced to spend millions of dollars to prepare for the national assessments of this untested, unfunded takeover of every public, private, parochial and home school in the state.

Shane Vander Hart is an advocate with Truth in American Education. He is the Editor-in-Chief of Caffeinated Thoughts, a popular Christian conservative blog in Iowa. He is also the President of 4:15 Communications, a social media & communications consulting/management firm, along with serving as the communications director for American Principles Project’s Preserve Innocence Initiative. Prior to this Shane spent 20 years in youth ministry serving in church, parachurch, and school settings. He has taught Jr. High History along with being the Dean of Students for Christian school in Indiana. Shane and his wife home school their three teenage children and have done so since the beginning. He has recently been recognized by Campaigns & Elections Magazine as one of the top political influencers in Iowa. Shane and his family reside near Des Moines, IA. You can connect with Shane on Facebook, follow him on Twitter or connect with him on Google +.

Dr. Walt Chappell is the President of Educational Management Consultants in Wichita, KS. He was formerly a member of the Kansas State Board of Education. Dr. Chappell taught science in Kansas schools plus public administration, medical education and faculty development in three universities and two community colleges.

Michelle Malkin is (Almost) Spot On

michelle_malkin_02Michelle Malkin has made the Common Core State Standards the subject of her syndicated column this week which has been published not only on her own website, but at places like and National Review

Her first article is the first in a series on the Common Core so perhaps she’ll get to it.  She explains her intent on her blog:

One of my New Year’s resolutions is to provide you in-depth coverage of this vital issue that too often gets shunted off the daily political/partisan agenda. While the GOP tries to solve its ills with better software and communications consultants, the conservative movement — and America — face much larger problems. It doesn’t start with the “low-information voter.” It starts with the no-knowledge student. This is the first in an ongoing series on “Common Core,” the stealthy federal takeover of school curriculum and standards across the country. As longtime readers know, my own experience with this ongoing sabotage of academic excellence dates back to my early reporting on the Clinton-era “Goals 2000″ and “outcome-based” education and extends to my recent parental experience with “Everyday Math”.

I’m looking forward to the series and on her blog she lists us a resource.  Thank you very much!  In her column she writes:

Under President Obama, these top-down mal-formers — empowered by Washington education bureaucrats and backed by misguided liberal philanthropists led by billionaire Bill Gates — are now presiding over a radical makeover of your children’s school curriculum. It’s being done in the name of federal “Common Core” standards that do anything but raise achievement standards.

Common Core was enabled by Obama’s federal stimulus law and his Department of Education’s “Race to the Top” gimmickry. The administration bribed cash-starved states into adopting unseen instructional standards as a condition of winning billions of dollars in grants. Even states that lost their bids for Race to the Top money were required to commit to a dumbed-down and amorphous curricular “alignment.”

She is right that President Obama and Education Secretary Arne Duncan helped put the wheels on the bus for this to get going, but they only primed the pump.  Republican Governors jumped at the carrot of the Race to the Top Trough money or a No Child Left Behind waiver.  You’ll notice in the map below there are a lot of traditional “red” states that jumped on board.


I would encourage her to call those Republican Governors and Chief State School Officers who have embraced the standards like Indiana Governor Mitch Daniels, Iowa Governor Terry Branstad, and Florida Governor Rick Scott out by name.  In fact, Governor Rick Scott brought the defeated former Indiana State Superintendent of Schools, Tony Bennett – who was ousted largely due to his support of the Common Core – to head the Florida Department of Education.  So Governor Scott is doubling down on the centralization and testing culture in Florida with a schools chief who supposedly believed in federalism until the Common Core came along.

And on and on… Malkin I’m sure will, but as a first article in a series this is fantastic and I’m thrilled to have her voice join ours.

Facts About the No Child Left Behind Waivers

NCLBJane Robbins, a Senior Fellow for American Principles Project provided some facts that you should know about the No Child Left Behind waivers.  States apply for these in order, they say, to free themselves from Federal guidelines and standards under NCLB.  What they’re really doing is substituting federal control with more federal control.

Pretty soon states will probably be asking for waivers for the waivers.

  • In September 2011, the U. S. Department of Education announced that it would bypass Congress and allow states to apply for waivers from certain No Child Left Behind (NCLB) requirements.
  • NCLB itself contains provisions governing the granting of waivers from its requirements. USDOE ignored these statutory provisions and created its own.
  • Although the Administration has touted the waivers as releasing schools from onerous provisions of NCLB, the only thing they really accomplish is to soften the consequences of failure to meet “adequate yearly progress.” And although this will free up certain federal funds that otherwise would have to be spent according to the dictates of NCLB, the amount per pupil is minimal.
  • In exchange for this minimally increased flexibility, states must agree to numerous other federally dictated requirements.
  • The NCLB waiver scheme is another means of persuading states to adopt the Common Core Standards. To be awarded a waiver, a state must agree to adopt either Common Core, or another set of federally approved standards. As a practical matter, most states seeking waivers have agreed to settle for Common Core.
  • A supplicant state must also implement a statewide teacher-evaluation system that will “inform” personnel decisions (it’s unclear what “inform” means). This evaluation system will be run out of the state’s department of education, which will be a radical change from the localized control present in many states.
  • Another requirement is that a supplicant state design specific systems for ensuring student progress, as defined by USDOE.
  • Many senators, such as Rubio (R-FL) and Alexander (R-TN), criticized this waiver scheme as another illegal means to impose USDOE’s pet projects on the states.
  • States that thought they were escaping the heavy hand of USDOE by obtaining a waiver have been disappointed. The level of micromanagement in the USDOE letters to the “successful” states is revealing. In light of this new web of federal requirements, Vermont dropped its bid for a waiver. “It has become clear,” said a Vermont Department of Education official, “that the U.S. Education Department is interested in simply replacing one punitive, prescriptive model with another.” California declined to seek a waiver in the first place because, as state Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Torlakson said, “We object to switching out one set of onerous standards, No Child Left Behind, for another set of burdensome standards.”

Is Education a Massive Failure of Federalism?

Michael Gerson, a former speechwriter for President George W. Bush, complained in his op/ed in The Washington Post about the Obama Administration’s use of waivers in circumventing the law.  He wrote:

The Obama administration is increasingly becoming known not for its legislative achievements but for its federal waivers to legislative achievements. It has exempted favored groups from immigration laws, welfare-reform work requirements, even provisions of the Affordable Care Act (more than 1,300 businesses and unions have been given a reprieve from health-care coverage rules).

The boldest use of the waiver power, however, has come on the No Child Left Behind Act of 2001 (NCLB). More than half of the states have been granted exemptions from the law’s requirement that all students be proficient in reading and math by 2014. When a law’s provisions are ignored in a majority of cases, it can properly be considered overturned.

I agree with this complaint though I am no fan of No Child Left Behind.  It is unconstitutional, Congress needed to repeal it.  The President just can’t unilaterally ignore it. 

Here is where he lost me:

The only problem: Education is a massive failure of federalism. By the second half of the 20th century, America’s public schools were betraying many of the students in their charge, including the overwhelming majority of poor and minority students. In 2000, 5 percent of African American fourth-graders and 7 percent of their Hispanic peers were assessed proficient in math. Some students were left in dropout factories where teachers and administrators routinely blamed parents for their own overwhelmed incompetence. Other students were sabotaged by shoddy educational standards that left much of a generation unequal to global competition.

It is true that highly centralized governmental systems can be arrogant and mediocre. Public education demonstrates that a highly decentralized governmental system can also be arrogant and mediocre, particularly when parents are denied objective information about educational outcomes. (emphasis mine)

Is education really a failure of federalism?  I would argue the opposite.  The quality of education decreased the more states and the federal government got involved.  You can blame public education’s failure on many things, and he’s on the right track in his comment about parents, but federalism isn’t one of them.

Arne Duncan: We’re “Lucky” to have NCLB Waivers

I wanted to share this video that was posted on Tuesday on the U.S. Department of Education blog.  In it Education Secretary Arne Duncan answers some questions that he received recently:

Again, I am no lover of No Child Left Behind.  However, just because “Congress is broken” (gridlock is a natural occurrence when you have different parties in the majority of each chamber) doesn’t mean the Obama administration can pull an end around it – it’s called the Separation of Powers in our Constitution, and the executive branch just can’t ignore the law.

How “lucky” we are that the Obama administration has ignored the Constitution.

Secondly, exactly how does Secretary Duncan propose that we hold parents accountable?  I agree that teachers are not the sole reason why schools fail, but I shudder at what this might look like coming from the federal government.

About Those NCLB Waivers…

From some who thought the No Child Left Behind waivers were going to ease the reporting burden on states who receive them… think again.  From EdWeek:

The Education Department is in the process of changing its requirements for the federal EDFacts system, which consolidates data from various education programs including Title I grants to districts and the School Improvement Grant program, to adapt to the varied state accountability systems which will be created by the waivers, Ross C. Santy, the Education Department’s deputy assistant secretary for data and information, told state and district officials at the annual STATS-DC conference here Wednesday afternoon. To the obvious surprise of many of the officials who packed the room, Mr. Santy noted, “There are no exceptions to the reporting rules in the statute; the components of [adequate yearly progress] are still required.”

That means waivers states, who have created brand new accountability systems, don’t have to do less reporting. They actually have to do more. All states, both waived and unwaived, must report the number and percentage of students in each subgroup, how many pass the reading/language arts and mathematics tests, the number who graduate high school with a standard diploma, and so on. In particular, unless a state specifically notes in its approved waiver that it will not use supplemental tutoring and school choice at schools identified for improvement, districts still must report how much money was spent on those services.

“Under Title I for the past decade we have had SES,” Santy said, referring to the federal tutoring program. “If your plan did not remove supplemental educational services, there are still data you have to report.”

Moreover, districts in states that receive waivers will have new reporting to match some of the new accountability quirks. For example, some states asked to track a “lowest 20 percent of students” group, and others asked to combine some racial or language student groups to create groups large enough to meet the minimal size for accountability. Districts in these states will have to report the numbers and test performance of any combined student groups separately and in addition to reporting all of the standard student groups.

It would seem that waiver states rushed to participate in an unconstitutional process and for laying their educational sovereignty at the feet of the U.S. Department of Education in determining standards and evaluation systems they are rewarded with more report.  Oops.

No Child Left Behind Waivers: The Ends Do Not Justify the Means

On Friday Motoko Rich wrote in The New York Times about how the “No Child” Law has been whittled down by the White House.

In just five months, the Obama administration has freed schools in more than half the nation from central provisions of the No Child Left Behind education law, raising the question of whether the decade-old federal program has been essentially nullified.

Perfect, our President has gotten rid of a law that was lawfully passed by Congress simply because he didn’t like it.  Not only that there were conditions for the waivers.

In exchange for the education waivers, schools and districts must promise to set new targets aimed at preparing students for colleges and careers. They must also tether evaluations of teachers and schools in part to student achievement on standardized tests. The use of tests to judge teacher effectiveness is a departure from No Child Left Behind, which used test scores to rate schools and districts.

Congress has tried and failed repeatedly to reauthorize the education law over the past five years because Democrats and Republicans cannot agree on an appropriate role for the federal government in education. And so, in the heat of an election year, the Obama administration has maneuvered around Congress, using the waivers to advance its own education agenda.

The waivers appear to follow an increasingly deliberate pattern by the administration to circumvent lawmakers, as it did last month when it granted hundreds of thousands of young illegal immigrants a reprieve from deportation. The administration has also unveiled policies to prevent drug shortages, raise fuel economy standards and cut refinancing fees for federally insured mortgages.

Critics question whether the waivers have done much to genuinely shift the focus of federal education reform, given their continued reliance on standardized tests. The waivers “should probably make the meh list,” said Joshua Starr, superintendent of the Montgomery County schools in Maryland, which was granted a waiver in May.

Mr. Starr said he believed that education reform should focus on incentives to help teachers collaborate and help students learn skills that could not simply be measured by tests.

States have been clamoring for the waivers… they come with strings attached.  Teachers often are glad to be rid of NCLB, but could care less about how it was done.  Can I reiterate something here that is very basic to the conversation about Obama’s NCLB waivers.

Congress failed to act – there isn’t agreement so Obama took it upon himself to offer waivers.  Regardless of how you feel about No Child Left Behind, and I hate it, the waivers simply are unconstitutional.  States are swapping one type of federal interference for another.  President Obama has no authority to supercede law.  He’s the President, not the King.  The ends do not justify the means.