West Virginia to Move Away From Smarter Balanced

Another state pulls away from the Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium. The West Virginia Board of Education last Thursday voted to discontinue its use in the Mountain State. They are also reducing the amount of testing they require.

The West Virginia Department of Education published the following press release:

The West Virginia Board of Education (WVBE) took several actions regarding statewide testing at its meeting today. The WVBE voted to eliminate English language arts and mathematics statewide assessments in grades 9 and 10. Beginning during the spring 2017 testing window, high school students will only be tested in grade 11. The change puts West Virginia in line with federal requirements to test at least once at the high school level. The WVBE also voted to move away from the Smarter Balanced assessment beginning with the 2017-18 school year and directed the West Virginia Department of Education to explore options to adopt another statewide assessment.

In response to comments received during a 30-day public comment period on assessment policy 2340, the WVBE voted to remove policy language which would have utilized end-of-course exams in selected high school courses. The public overwhelmingly did not support the use of end-of-course exams within comments received.

The WVBE also approved a change in grade levels for the statewide science assessment from grade 4 to 5 in elementary school and grade 6 to 8 in middle school. Mountain State students will now be tested at the end of each programmatic level in science, resulting in a more accurate depiction of how well students master science skills.

“As a board, we are committed to finding the best assessment solution for the students in West Virginia,” said State Board of Education President Tom Campbell. “With that goal in mind, our board will listen to the public and our state’s educators who always have students’ best interest at heart.”

Smarter Balanced is now down to 16 (14 governing, two advisory) states plus the U.S. Virgin Islands and the Bureau of Indian Education. Smarter Balanced at one time had 31 states that participated in its consortium.

It is unclear what assessment West Virginia will end up using next school year.

Update: SB 18 was introduced to change the tests to ACT and ACT Aspire. The U.S. Department of Education questioned whether ACT Aspire actually aligned to Alabama’s standards (which is Common Core) so it’s hard to see West Virginia who also implemented Common Core go that route. Another testament to the *flexibility* of the Every Student Succeeds Act.

South Dakota Judge Rules Against Parents in Common Core Lawsuit

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The Sioux Falls Argus-Leader reported on Tuesday that a circuit court judge found that the state of South Dakota did not violate any state or federal laws when adopting the Common Core State Standards and joining the Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium.

They write:

Two South Dakota parents filed a suit against Gov. Dennis Daugaard and the state in November arguing that South Dakota’s involvement in an multi-state assessment group aligned with Common Core standards was illegal.

Last week, Circuit Court Judge Mark Barnett ruled that the state had not violated any federal or state laws.

“The governor was happy to see the judge agree with the state’s position,” Tony Venhuizen, Daugaard’s chief of staff, said in an email Monday.

Parents Amber Mauricio and Shelli Grinager—the plaintiffs in this case—had alleged that the state’s involvement in the Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium (SBAC) violated a constitutional clause because it lacked congressional approval. The lawsuit was supported by the Thomas More Law Center, a Michigan-based group with strong resistance to Common Core standards.

Court documents summarizing the ruling show that participation in SBAC did not require congressional approval.

The state is free to regulate its education policies, including the decision to freely adopt Common Core standards, according to the court documents. Barnett rejected the plaintiffs’ argument that the state was coerced into accepting Common Core standards.

Mauricio and Grinager also argued that the nature of Smarter Balanced testing was illegal. Smarter Balanced assessments are “computer-adaptive,” meaning questions either get easier or harder depending on a students’ answers.

The two plaintiffs referenced a South Dakota law that requires public schools to administer the “same assessment to all students.” They said if each student answers different questions, they’re not receiving the same assessment.

Court documents reject that argument, saying that if the legislature intended every student in each grade to answer the same questions, the law would have been more specific. As written, law only requires students take the same “assessment,” not the same “questions.”

So much for checks and balances. What I find interesting is that a court in Missouri found the opposite and state lawmakers then defunded it.

In this case in South Dakota when the state wins parents lose. I do hope this ruling is appealed.

Thomas More Law Center Sues South Dakota Over Common Core

Amber-Shelli-Thomas-More-Law-Center-Steps-Up-Attack-on-Common-Core-with-New-Lawsuit-in-South-Dakota-WebsiteContinuing its legal battle to stop the federal government from usurping control over the nation’s elementary and secondary public schools, the Thomas More Law Center (TMLC), a national public interest law firm based in Ann Arbor, MI filed a third lawsuit challenging the constitutionality of a state’s implementation of Common Core and its participation in the Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium (“SBAC”).

This latest challenge to the Common Core Curriculum and SBAC was filed last week against South Dakota Governor, Dennis Daugaard, and other state officials on behalf of two South Dakota taxpayers, Shelli Grinager and Amber Mauricio.  Shelli Grinager is the mother of three school aged children and Amber Mauricio is the mother of five.

These Plaintiffs seek to stop South Dakota from paying yearly SBAC membership fees totaling over $600,000 by state taxpayers on the grounds that SBAC is an unconstitutional compact. Its creation was never approved by Congress, as required by the Compact Clause, which states that “[n]o state shall, without the consent of Congress . . . enter into any agreement or compact with another state.” The lawsuit claims other violations of federal and South Dakota laws dealing with public education.

Shelli  Grinager, a West River plaintiff, and Amber Mauricio, an East River plaintiff, have both seen their school aged children break down in tears due to the amount of pressure that teachers and schools were subjecting them to in the name of passing the SBAC tests.

Grinager, a former school board member, PTA president and advocate for students and families, has fought against Common Core since the beginning, speaking out against the roll out of the high pressure SBAC tests. Last year, Grinager was forced to start homeschooling her children, after two of her children were denied more challenging math because they had to stick to the rigid Common Core curriculum. She said, “The public school environment has become more about testing our children than teaching them.”

Amber Mauricio’s fight against Common Core began when she attempted to “opt out” her children from the SBAC testing. The school ignored her opt out request and tested her children anyway.  Mauricio was alarmed by the nature of some Common Core aligned questions asked of her children which sought to examine how they would behave in certain situations and what their home life is like.

As in the two earlier lawsuits, which challenged the constitutionality of SBAC and Common Core in North Dakota and West Virginia, the Thomas More Law Center partnered with D. John Sauer of the James Otis Law Group based in St. Louis, MO.   South Dakota attorney Robert J. Rohl of Johnson Eiesland Law Offices, PC located in Rapid City, SD is assisting as local co-counsel.

The lawsuit was filed in the Hughes County Circuit Court.

Click here to read the South Dakota Complaint

The North Dakota and West Virginia lawsuits follow the success of an earlier lawsuit filed by Mr. Sauer that stopped Missouri’s implementation of Common Core. That case is currently on appeal.  The Thomas More Law Center filed a friend of the court brief in support of upholding the Missouri district court decision (Editor’s note: The Missouri case is no longer on appeal as the Common Core opponents received a positive ruling).

Richard Thompson, President and Chief Counsel of the Thomas More Law Center, commented on behalf of the Law Center, “Employing an insidious bureaucratic system, the Federal Government directs what and how American students learn, and effectively eliminates the fundamental rights of parents to control the education of their children.”

In school districts across the country, administrators subject children, who obey their parents’ wishes and decline to participate in Common Core standardized testing, to unbelievable punishments.  Students have been suspended, refused entrance into their classrooms, refused bathroom privileges, stripped of their academic and extracurricular honors and awards, removed from athletic participation, and punished with “sit-and-stare” policies. “Sit-and-stare” is a practice that forces students to sit at their assigned desk with no materials, books, or paper in silence for multiple hours during testing.

Forty-three states initially joined either SBAC or the Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers (“PARCC”), a cornerstone for Common Core implementation under direction of the federal government. However, due to growing opposition from parents and teachers, several states have since canceled their membership and endured punishments for doing so.

As a part of its efforts to help parents combat Common Core, the Thomas More Law Center developed a Test Refusal and Student Privacy Protection Form and a Common Core Resource Page as a general reference and guide.

Idaho Businessmen Suing State Over Smarter Balanced

idaho-state-flagThe Idaho Business Alliance, a group of conservative businessmen, is planning to sue the state of Idaho saying their payments to and membership in Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium is unconstitutional.

On their website they write:

The Common Core Case is a taxpayer lawsuit against the Governor, State Superintendent of Schools and President of the State School Board, as members of the Executive branch of the State of Idaho. The suit seeks a declaratory judgment and injunction preventing the State of Idaho from continuing to pay membership and student assessment testing fees to the Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium, (SBAC), and requiring the State of Idaho to withdraw from SBAC, on the grounds that it is an unconstitutional compact between States, in violation of Article I, §10 of the U.S. Constitution. The expenditure of Idaho taxpayer funds in support of that entity therefore constitutes an illegal use of those funds under Article I, §3 of the Idaho Constitution.

The lawsuit is grounded in several parts of the Constitution. The Due Process Clause of the 14th Amendment of the U.S. Constitution guarantees the right of parents to direct and control the care, custody and education of their children. Historically, administration of elementary and secondary schools, including decision making as to curriculum, has been reserved to the States.

In the legislation creating the U.S. Department of Education, the U.S. Congress specifically prohibited that agency from involvement in the decision-making process of parents and State and local governments in the administration and curriculums of elementary and secondary education within a State’s borders. In legislation spanning 50 years, Congress has repeatedly stated that the Federal Government does not have a proper role in determining curriculums or in the administration of state and local school systems.

Those interested in donating to the effort can do that here.  This group appears to be taking the same approach as what we saw with the successful lawsuit in Missouri.  Let’s hope it works in Idaho as well.

Washington State Joins Common Core Fight

washington-state-flagA bill, SB 6030, has been introduced in the Washington State Senate yesterday to address assessments in public schools.  The bill is sponsored by State Senator Marilyn Chase (D-Shoreline), Pam Roach (R-Auburn), John McCoy (D-Tulalip), Bob Hasegawa (D-Beacon Hill), Mark Miloscia (R-Federal Way), Mike Padden (R-Spokane Valley) and Brian Dansel (R-Republic).

The bill would effectively withdraw Washington State from the Common Core State Standards and the Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium.  This bill has bipartisan support and comes on the heels of the Washington State Democratic Party passing a resolution against the Common Core State Standards.

You can read the bill below:

Common Core Repeal Bill Being Considered in North Dakota House

north-dakota-state-flagThe North Dakota House is considering a bill that would end the Common Core State Standards in the state.  The House Education Committee held a hearing yesterday morning that drew 200 people to the statehouse.

House Bill 1461 was filed by State Representative Jim Kasper (R-Fargo) (an updated version from the draft bill I reported on earlier in January).  State Representatives Rick Becker (R-Bismarck), Wesley Belter (R-Fargo), Mark Dosch (R-Fargo), Keith Kempenich (R-Bowman), Dan Ruby (R-Minot), Roscoe Streyle (R-Minot), Blair Thoreson (R-Fargo), and Don Vigessa (R-Cooperstown) have added their names as cosponsors.

Also State Senators Bill Bowman (R-Bowman), Dick Dever (R-Bismarck) and Oley Larsen (R-Minot) are Senate sponsors for the bill.

The bill, if passed, would repeal the Common Core, withdraw North Dakota from the Smarter Balanced Consortium, and set up an interim committee that would oversee the development of new standard.  The new standards would then be subject to a legislative vote upon completion (if I’m reading the bill correctly).  Local school districts can choose the standards they follow in the interim.

Smarter Balanced Gets a Foothold in Washington State Universities

Education Week reported that state universities in Washington will use Smarter Balanced Assessment for 11th graders in their course placement decisions.

The announcement is significant because it puts teeth into the most pivotal claim of the common-core initiative: that a “college ready” score on consortium tests means a student is prepared to perform well in entry-level, credit-bearing work.

Until recently, this claim lived in the land of abstractia. Smarter Balanced and PARCC have been designing tests that aim to live up to that standard. And in order to get their federal funding, the two consortia had to enlist pledges of support from hefty chunks of their states’ public higher-education systems. In their applications for funding in 2010, both consortia enlisted support from a hefty portion of their states’ colleges and universities.

But those were just pledges in principle; the systems that signed on were pledging support only to the idea of tests that demonstrated college readiness. What they would do once they saw the finished assessments—and the cut scores for college readiness—was anyone’s guess.

You know just because a state university decides to use a particular assessment to determine course placement doesn’t mean a student is “college ready.”  It just means a college has determined to use that assessment as their standard.

They could very well be lowering their standard and I believe they are since Smarter Balanced is aligned to the Common Core whose ELA and math standards ability to prepare students for college is highly debatable.

Also this is bad news for private school and home school students in Washington State who are not taking Smarter Balanced.

West Virginia has also decided to use Smarter Balanced in this way, and California state universities are considering it.

Missouri Activists Sue State of Missouri Over Common Core Payments

Gretchen Logue  and Anne Gassel  of the Missouri Coalition Against Common Core have joined Fred N. Sauer in filing a taxpayer lawsuit against Governor Nixon, Commissioner Nicastro, and other state officials.  The lawsuit challenges Missouri’s payment of taxpayer money to the Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium, a consortium of states that is implementing tests aligned to the Common Core State Standards (“Common Core”).

Logue and Gassel’s lawsuit alleges that the Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium is an unconstitutional interstate compact that was not approved by Congress, in violation of the Compact Clause of the U.S. Constitution, Article I, Section 3, Clause 10.  The suit also alleges that Governor Nixon and Commissioner Nicastro’s course of conduct in committing Missouri to Common Core was in violation of numerous federal and state statutes.

By passing HB 1490 by an overwhelming majority, the Missouri state legislature effectively repudiated Common Core, requiring it to be replaced by 2016.  But Missouri has not withdrawn from the consortium of states implementing Common Core aligned tests.  According to public records, the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education plans to send millions of dollars of taxpayer funds to the Smarter Balanced consortium in 2015, which will be used to support the implementation of Common Core in numerous other states.  These payments are illegal under the federal constitution, federal statutes, and Missouri state law.

Governor Nixon and Commissioner Nicastro engaged in a long course of conduct, in cooperation with the federal Department of Education, to commit Missouri’s public schools to Common Core without legislative approval.  The “consortium” of States implementing tests aligned with Common Core constitutes an illegal end-run around federal statutes forbidding the federal Department from implementing a national test or curriculum.  Even though Missouri is committed to exiting Common Core, DESE nevertheless continues to participate in SBAC and to administer the SBAC common core aligned tests in this state.

“The Missouri Legislature and Missouri voters have rejected Common Core.  Yet DESE continues to plan to send millions of dollars of payments to the Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium to support the implementation of Common Core in other states.  The consortium is an unconstitutional entity, and these payments are illegal.  We will continue to fight to protect Missouri taxes from being spent for this illegal purpose,” said Gassel and Logue.

Standards Rustling and Rebranding

We have now seen at least three distinct styles of rebranding of the Common Core State Standards.  There may be other styles as well as variations of one or more of these styles. You will likely recognize at least one, if not all three of these styles.  It is possible your state matches one of these styles.

Styles of Common Core Rebranding

  • Alabama Style—simply remove the name Common Core State Standards and slap on a new brand name of your own choice.  Leave the standards the same, of course. There are many variations of this style that may include, among other possibilities, adding or altering some standards.
  • Alaska Style—don’t adopt the Common Core State Standards.  Do adopt a set of standards that are basically identical to the Common Core but deny you have adopted the Common Core.  You know the saying, “Do it, but say you didn’t.”
  • Indiana Style—appear to pensively develop your own state standards with a superficial attempt involving people from within state in an incestuous process resulting in an inferior bastardized version of the Common Core.

While not a style of rebranding, some states have been extremely creative and clever and simply call the standards the Common Core State Standards.

Photo credit:  modernfarmer.com

Photo credit: modernfarmer.com

Why rebrand? Cattle rustlers in the old west altered, or rebranded, the brands of stolen cattle. Rustling cattle was a hangin’ offense, often dispensed by vigilante justice. Rebranding of livestock may occur when there is a change in ownership of the livestock or the owners have changed their brand. The CCSS is still owned by the NGA/CCSSO so they haven’t changed hands. If states rebrand the CCSS should they be considered standards rustlers trying to hide from the public the fact they have stolen the CCSS? How would Tom Horn and Ed Cantrell handle this if they were standards detectives on the education range today?

 

Photo credit:  Library of Congress

Photo credit: Library of Congress

The NGA/CCSSO/corporate/federal education reform trust is attempting to rebrand the CCSS with an expensive public relations campaign. The success of their rebranding effort is doubtful since their initial branding permanently burned into the hide of the standards and everything related to them. The distinctive smell of burning flesh will linger for a long time to come and many more parents, community members, voters, and taxpayers are beginning to recognize the repulsive smell.

Similar rebranding is taking place with Common Core assessments. Some states are using SBAC or PARCC and are calling the assessment by the same name as their previous state assessment. Some states are riding sidesaddle and have contracted with other assessment vendors who may be subcontracted by SBAC or PARCC (or possibly both) or who will be using their test items. Sounds like an intricate web of deceit

Smarter Balanced Contractor Suffers Data Breach

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Education Week reports that the American Institute for Research suffered a data breach earlier this month:

After one of the organization’s servers was hacked, the sensitive personal information of as many as 6,500 current and former employees, including Social Security numbers and personal credit card information, was compromised, an AIR spokesman confirmed during an interview Monday with Education Week.  No student or client information was affected.

“The breach only affected our business systems,” said Larry McQuillan, the organization’s director of public affairs. “By design, student data resides on an external information system independent from the domain that was affected.”

The Washington-based AIR has hundreds of contracts with federal, state, and local agencies, including the United States departments of agriculture, commerce, defense, education, health and human services, and more, according to the group’s website. The organization has been a major provider of both online and pencil-and-paper assessments to districts and states, including Delaware, Minnesota, and Oregon.

AIR also has contracts with the Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium, one of two major multi-state consortia developing online assessments aligned to the new Common Core State Standards, and the organization provides educational program evaluation and value-added teacher evaluation services to a number of states and districts. It’s worth noting that AIR is currently embroiled in a dispute over a lucrative contract being awarded by the Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers. (The executive vice president of AIR, Gina Burkhardt, is also a member of the board of Editorial Projects in Education, the publisher of Education Week.)

Nothing to see here, move along and take your tin foil hats with you…  This is a great example of why we are concerned about student data mining (besides it being a violation of privacy).  The student databases are not 100% secure.