Four Observations About Jeb Bush’s & Arne Duncan’s Email Exchange

Arne-Duncan-HartfordBuzzfeed last week reported on an email exchange between U.S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan and former Florida Governor Jeb Bush right before Florida Governor Rick Scott issued his executive order that pulled Florida out of PARCC and set-up a review of the Common Core State Standards.

Duncan reached out to Bush for advice as Scott was going to call him.  Bush replied:

I am on a plane.

He is fearful of the rebellion. Wants to stop using the term common core but keep the standards. Wants to get out of PARCC. I asked him if he had specifics things that the federal government is doing or perceived to be doing. He didn’t have them when I spoke to him last thursday evening.

You can see the exchange below:


I have four observations about this exchange.

  1. If Common Core was truly state-led then Governor Scott wouldn’t feel the need to consult with Duncan.  But concerns about Race to the Top and NCLB waiver probably prompted the call.
  2. This demonstrates that Rick Scott had no intention of dumping Common Core and the only changes the state of Florida made were changes they were already allowed to make under the copyright agreement.  They added about 15% to the standards.
  3. Bush is so tied in with the Common Core that Secretary Duncan emails him for advice.
  4. Common Core opposition was extremely fierce in Florida at the time, so much so that the sitting Governor “fears the rebellion.”  Hopefully that continues, but unfortunately some were probably placated by the executive order.  At the time it did seem like a positive step, but with hindsight we can see it was much to do about nothing.

Preview of Common Core Battle in Florida Legislature

florida-state-flagTampa Bay Times staff writer Jeffery Solochek wrote a brief preview of the Common Core debate to take place in the Florida Legislature next session.

Solochek wrote:

Lawmakers filed bills in both the House and Senate to halt the standards in 2014, but each died in their first committee without hearing. Gov. Rick Scott and the Florida Board of Education have tried to distance themselves from the Common Core by rebranding them as Florida’s own. But in actuality the FLBOE simply made a few small amendments to the Common Core, such as adding cursive and calculus, and otherwise left it generally intact.

Opposition has not shrunk, especially as CCSS foes have allied themselves with anti-testing advocates who seem to be gaining ground statewide. With leaders like (State Senator Jack) Latvala having doubts, the issue appears more likely to have legs in the coming Florida legislative session.

If you live in Florida be sure to connect with groups like the Florida Stop Common Core Coalition, Florida Parents RISE, and Floridians Against Common Core Education.  Let’s hope we see some real action this next legislative session in the Sunshine State.

Common Core as an Election Issue

polling-boothI spoke with a reporter from Education Week yesterday about the status of different pieces of legislation in different states.  While we’re not seeing repeal bills advance like we’d like to see I’m still encouraged by the number of bills and any movement forward.  Just seeing how this issue has advanced since the last legislative session has been encouraging, and seeing how much grassroots activism has grown has been exciting.

We’re playing the long game there.  This is not an issue, unfortunately, that will be won overnight.  Legislators who are not dealing with the Common Core in their states may end up feeling heat at the ballot box.

The reporter asked if that was a big expectation out of the issue that it could actually make an impact in elections?

I don’t know… ask Tony Bennett.

Yes and no.  I will make no grand predictions or promises.  I just know that state legislators and Governors could open themselves up for a challenge.

For instance South Dakota Dennis Daugaard (R) has a primary challenger in former State Representative Lori Hubbell, she has made the Common Core one of her top issues.  In Iowa’s U.S. Senate Republican primary race, Mark Jacobs is taking heat for his support of Common Core, and two of his competitors Sam Clovis and Matt Whitaker have released videos stating their position on it.  Another example is Mississippi Conservatives PAC attacking State Senator Chris McDaniel, who is running for U.S. Senate, about his votes in favor of funding the Common Core State Standards.

I’m sure there are a number of state legislative races that I’ve not even heard about.

I was reminded yesterday about an article that Joy Pullmann wrote for The Federalist – “Common Core: The Biggest Election Issue Washington Prefers to Ignore.”  She wrote about some bad behavior that has occurred among elected officials who have shown total and utter disregard of the electorate:

Before one of these hearings in October, Ohio House Education Chairman Gerald Stebelton (R-Lancaster) told reporters Common Core critics “don’t make sense.” He also called opposition a “conspiracy theory.” In Wisconsin the same month, state Sen. John Lehman (D-Racine) told a packed audience their hearings were “crazy” and “a show,” and asked, “What are we doing here?” When Michigan’s legislature reinstated Common Core funding after several hearings, State Rep. Tim Kelly (R-Saginaw County) said, “[W]e’ve marginalized, quite frankly, the anti-crowd into a very minute number.” Delaware Gov. Jack Markell (D) has called opponents a “distract[ing]” “fringe movement.”

Then she pointed out the political games being played in Florida:

Florida’s state board of education received 19,000 public comments on Common Core in October. Officials still have not formally reviewed those, and lawmakers including Gov. Rick Scott (R) told constituents the comments were part of lawmakers reconsidering Common Core after dropping its national tests. The day before the comment period closed, however, Florida Deputy K-12 Chancellor Mary Jane Tappen said on a webinar, “We are moving forward with the new more rigorous [Common Core] standards. So, if anyone is hesitating or worried about next year, the timeline has not changed.”

In November, Florida Senate President Don Gaetz said of Common Core: “You can’t dip [the mandates] in milk and hold them over a candle and see the United Nations flag or Barack Obama’s face. They’re not some federal conspiracy.” (The Republican hails from Niceville. Really.) When opponents met with Utah Gov. Gary Herbert (R) to discuss their substantive concerns, he asked them, “Is Common Core going to teach gay sex or communism?” according to three people who attended the meeting.

Oklahoma Governor Mary Fallin (R) seems like she cares more about her chairmanship of the National Governors Association than listening to the people.  Will she pay a price when she runs for reelection?  Will Governor Bobby Jindal (R-Louisiana), Governor Chris Christie (R-NJ) and former Governor Jeb Bush (R-FL) pay a price if they decide to run for President?

I was asked by that same reporter if we could gage the success of our movement based on results at the ballot box.  I think that may be hard to gauge.  In the case of the Indiana Superintendent of Public Instruction race we definitely could see Common Core as an issue and it was one that Tony Bennett lost.  In primary races the Common Core may very well be a wedge issue to help us see daylight in between candidates that are closely aligned.  The quality of candidate is also something to take into consideration.  It is hard to unseat incumbents, but especially if you don’t  have a quality candidate running.  Running on a single issue is not enough, but it a candidate’s position against the Common Core can make a difference for a quality candidate.

Incumbents being challenged whether they are Governors or legislators can make a difference however so this is definitely one front on the war on Common Core.  The message that is sent at the ballot box seems to be the only message some politicians understand.

Photo credit: Ben Sutherland (CC-By-2.0)

Florida to Put Cursive Back in Their Standards

florida-state-flagFlorida Education Commissioner Pam Stewart said that she would be announcing changes to the Common Core in the coming months.  The changes are a result of Florida Governor Rick Scott ordering public comment on the Common Core when he made the decision to pull the state out of PARCC.  One change will be that the state will include cursive writing once again.

From the Orlando Sentential:

The Common Core changes sounded relatively minor when she discussed them with Florida senators — but they included adding cursive writing. The lack of cursive writing in Common Core’s language arts standards have upset those who argue learning cursive is still an important academic lesson.

Stewart said the Common Core proposals — which could number about 40 — would be based on suggestions made by the public when the state took comment on Common Core in October. They should be released next week.

This is good news, but the Common Core will need more than “minor changes.”

Stotsky Calls For Abolishment of Florida DOE

StotskySandra Stotsky, former Senior Associate Commissioner of Education in Massachusetts and Professor Emerita at the University of Arkansas, released a statement concerning the upcoming summit called by Florida Governor Rick Scott concerning the Common Core State Standards.

Stotsky also served on the Common Core validation committee for the English-Language Arts standards and refused to sign off on them.

Here is her full statement below:

I have been invited by parent groups in Florida to comment on Common Core’s English language arts standards using the format that Interim Commissioner Pamela Stewart chose to give them.  Although Governor Scott requested meetings at which parents could express their concerns, she deliberately chose a method that in effect prevents discussion and an open forum.  By telling parents that they can comment only one by one, and only on the particular standards in Common Core, in a 3-hour period of time, she is in effect spitting in their faces. Parents can also send in their individual comments by computer, a method that also prevents discussion. If this is how a Department of Education treats the parents of the children whose education this Department is supposed to improve, then there is no reason for Florida parents to support the existence of such a Department. It should be abolished by referendum.

I was a senior associate commissioner in the Massachusetts Department of Education from 1999 to 2003.  At no time were critics of the Department’s draft documents treated as shabbily as Florida parents are now being treated.   Public comment was regularly allowed at Board of Education meetings, and the Department held many meetings around the state when it was developing the Bay State’s own standards. And when criticism was received on drafts of standards documents, the Department staff courteously and publicly answered these criticisms. They acted as public servants, not as bureaucrats trying to foist their own untested ideas on other people’s children.

The Massachusetts Department of Education also held a large public meeting on Common Core’s standards to which the standards writers were invited. It was informative for the audience to hear Jason Zimba, the mathematics standards writer, indicate that Common Core’s math standards would not prepare high school students for STEM. I recommend that the Florida Department of Education hold a similar meeting and invite parents and teaching faculty at its own higher education institutions to attend and question Common Core’s standards writers.


Rick Scott Pulls Florida Out of PARCC

220px-Rick_Scott_official_portraitGovernor Rick Scott (R-FL) announced today that he is ordering Florida to withdraw from PARCC.    He is also ordering that public comment sessions to be held in order to receive input on any alterations that should be made to the Common Core State Standards.  He is also ordering a data security review and ordering the Commissioner of Education to develop policies that safeguards student data.

Governor Scott in a released statement said:

We listened to many people who are passionate about making Florida’s education system the best in the world during our Education Summit in Tampa a few weeks ago. The summit’s discussions were so robust and diverse that they have led to three actions today. First, I sent a letter to Chairman Chartrand outlining a six-step course forward for Florida to ensure we continue to hold our students to high education standards. Excellence in education begins with high expectations for our students. Second, I told the federal government we are rejecting their overreach into our state education system by withdrawing from PARCC. Last, I issued an executive order to address state assessments, ensure student data security and support a transparent and understandable school accountability system.

While the debate surrounding Common Core Standards has become polarized into a ‘yes’ or ‘no’ discussion, we heard during the Education Summit that most education leaders agreed on two things. We agree that we should say ‘yes’ to high standards for Florida students and ‘no’ to the federal government’s overreach into our education system. Therefore, I notified the federal government that Florida would be withdrawing from PARCC, and at the same time we will hold public comment sessions to receive input on any alterations that should be made to the current Common Core Standards. We are committed to maintaining high standards for our students. Period. The six steps outlined to the Board of Education will help Florida move forward in maintaining exceptionally high standards while removing federal intrusion into our education system.

You can read his executive order below:

You can read his letter to Chairman Chartrand here and his letter to U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan here.

Common Core Criticized at Defending the American Dream Summit

Americans for Prosperity Foundation held their annual Defending the American Dream Summit in Orlando, FL last Friday and Sunday.  The Common Core State Standards were discussed by a number of the speakers (and by the crowd on occasion).

Senator Marco Rubio (R-FL) reemphasized his opposition to the Common Core State Standards which you can see in a video taken by The Shark Tank where he received overwhelming praise from the activists gathered.

Senator Ted Cruz (R-TX) in his comments during the ending session of the summit said, ““There is a grass-roots uprising that is sweeping this nation.  The American people are standing up and saying we want our freedom back. And I’m going to give the simplest and best advice for President Obama and for Republicans and Democrats in Congress: Listen to the people… Listen to the people on Common Core.”

Cruz received loud applause mentioning the Common Core.

Florida Governor Rick Scott was heckled by the audience due to his support of the Common Core State Standards.

Conservative syndicated columnist Michelle Malkin poked at the Common Core during her speech on Friday night and during a Saturday morning workshop at the companion conference held by Americans for Prosperity called RightOnline.  In an interview with Caffeinated Thoughts she said, “Listen to the grassroots.  Don’t make the mistake of dismissing voices of all of these entirely dissatisfied parents who are heck of a lot more informed than you are and your staffs are about the Fed Ed corruption.  I understand that a lot of these Republicans think they are doing what is in their self interest, but they are so psychologically deluded.  I think in part it may as crass and craven as listening to donors.  You have got all of these big businesses… that’s what driving this.  So if they are listening to money then the only way to combat that is with political force.”

New Florida Law in Conflict with Common Core?


Governor Rick Scott (R-FL)

This is interesting

Algebra 2 will become an optional course for high school students pursuing a standard diploma under legislation Republican Gov. Rick Scott signed today. Advocates say this and other changes to Florida graduation requirements (only adopted in 2010) aim to give students more flexibility as they prepare for various career paths. But the action seems to raise questions about fidelity to the Common Core State Standards in Florida. Indeed, this may prove a thorny issue in other states, too.

In math, the common standards call for all students to meet algebra learning objectives akin to what one would expect in Algebra 1 and Algebra 2 courses, several experts tell me, including the ability to reason with and apply that mathematics. (Indeed, one “model pathway”outlined in an appendix to the standards suggests students take Algebra 1, Geometry, and then Algebra 2. Another is for “integrated” courses that blend concepts in algebra, geometry, and other math knowledge in the standards.)

The Florida legislation, which won strong, bipartisan majorities in the state’s Republican-controlled House and Senate, is intended to designate “multiple pathways” for demonstrating the skills and knowledge required of high school graduates. Those include a “scholar designation” for students planning to attend a four-year college, as well as a “merit designation” that involves pursuing industry certifications for some high school credit.

Maybe they just won’t be “college and career ready.”  A diploma for students desiring less “rigor” (snort).  Alissa Peltzman, one of Achieve’s vice presidents said that is one of her worse fears.

“The thing that’s been my 2 a.m. at night [fear] is this idea that the common core is not going to end up being for all kids,” she said. “Implementation of the common core will require states to look differently at the high school experience.”

Peltzman was quick to note that just because a course is called Algebra 2 doesn’t mean it meets the objectives of the common core. (Indeed, a recent study from the National Center for Education Statistics finds that many high school math courses do not live up to their titles with commensurate rigor.)

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

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.

Florida Governor Addresses Trinity Christian Academy’s EOC Assessment Problem

400px-Rick_Scott_official_portraitDr. Dennis Robinson, the Headmaster of Trinity Christian Academy in Deltona, FL and President of the Florida League of Christian Schools, emailed me this afternoon to let me know his guidance counselor received a response about the end-of-course assessment debacle from Florida Governor Rick Scott via the Florida Department of Education:

Dear Ms. Hellender:

Governor Rick Scott asked our office to respond to your email regarding your request for clarification on Florida public school transfer of high school credit requirements. On behalf of the Governor, we are pleased to provide you with the following information.

The provisions adopted by the State Board of Education on March 2, 2012, related to Rule 6A-1.09941, Florida Administrative Code (F.A.C.), State Uniform Transfer of High School Credits, became effective on July 1, 2012, as stated in the opening paragraph of the rule. This rule establishes uniform procedures relating to the acceptance of transfer work and credit for students entering Florida’s public schools. The purpose of this rule revision is to reflect changes from the 2010 Legislative Session. Section 1008.22(9)(b), Florida Statutes (F.S.), was revised to add that if a student transfers into a high school, the school principal shall determine whether the student must take an end-of-course (EOC) assessment in a course for which the student has credit that was earned from the previous school.

If a student transfers into a Florida high school from out of country, out of state, a private school, or a home school, and that student’s transcript shows credit received in Algebra 1 or an equivalent course, the decision as to whether the student must take Florida’s EOC assessment shall be made by the school principal as follows:

· A transfer student with high school credit in Algebra 1 will not take Florida’s Algebra 1 EOC Assessment if the student passed a statewide, standardized EOC assessment in that course, if administered by the transferring school; or if the student achieves an equivalent score on another assessment as identified pursuant to s. 1008.22(11), F.S.

·A transfer student will take Florida’s EOC assessments in Algebra 1 under all other circumstances and must pass the EOC assessment to earn credit in the course.

Florida private school students do not participate in the statewide assessments because these assessments exist to meet federal and state assessment accountability requirements for Florida public schools; however, public school students attending private schools through the use of a school choice scholarship, such as the McKay Scholarship, may take the EOC assessments.

Currently the Florida Department of Education (FDOE) has not approved another assessment that would be an alternative to the Algebra 1 EOC Assessment. Although there is a provision in s. 1008.22(11), F.S., for the Commissioner to analyze the content and equivalent data sets for nationally recognized high school achievement tests and industry certification tests to assess if equivalent scores for EOC assessment scores can be determined, a timeline has not been established.

Thank you for sharing your views and contacting the FDOE. Please direct questions related to this response to Ms. Helen Lancashire, School Counseling Consultant, at or (850) 245-7851.


Teresa Sweet, Chief

Bureau of Curriculum and Instruction

The only guidance that this provides is that principals can determine what to do with incoming transfers so this perhaps gives Dr. Robinson some latitude with which to deal with incoming students who have taken Algebra I, but failed the EOC assessment.  Since private schools don’t participate he could probably grant the credit.  Currently there is no way any of his or other private school’s students transferring out can receive credit for Algebra I and Biology unless they take the state’s EOC assessment.  Theoretically, the only way for a student to be prepared to take that assessment is for that private school to adopt the same standards as the public schools (read Common Core State Standards) at the moment.  As Sweet mentioned, there is a provision in the Florida Statutes for the Commissioner of Education to approve an alternative exam, but the current Education Commissioner, Gerard Robinson, has resigned effective August 31st.  So who knows when or if that’ll happen.

Cross-posted from Caffeinated Thoughts.