Trump’s Secretary of Education Short List


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

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

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

The New York Times reports (Politico echoes this):

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

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

Alyson Klein at Education Week speculated:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

With Huppenthal’s Loss in AZ School Chief Race That Makes Barbarians 3, Educrats 0

Diane Douglas beat pro-Common Core incumbent Arizona Superintendent of Public Instruction John Huppenthal in convincing fashion 57.78% to 41.50% winning over 66,000 more votes according to the Arizona Secretary of State’s office.

The barbarians at the gate crashed through evidently.

Huppenthal is the third incumbent state school chief to go down in flames over supporting the Common Core State Standards.

Indiana’s Tony Bennett was first losing his general election race to Glenda Ritz.  In Oklahoma incumbent school chief Janet Barressi came in third, completely trounced by Joy Hofmeister who won her primary on an anti-Common Core message.

Barbarians 3, Educrats 0.

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)

This Wave is Coming to Kill Common Core

Via the Tampa Bay Times – “Common Core curriculum standards spark political firestorm

An excerpt:

That wasn’t always the case. When the initiative launched in 2009, lawmakers from both parties, teachers unions, parent groups and business associations supported it. They made the argument that national standards would raise the bar for students across the country and enable educators to compare student performance across state lines.

But fractures began forming this year, when the Obama administration ramped up its efforts to promote the new benchmarks.

The unions expressed concerns over how educators would be evaluated during the rollout and whether they would be adequately prepared. Critics on the right, meanwhile, identified the Common Core as an example of federal overreach and drew comparisons to Obamacare. They also took issue with federal money being tied to the standards.

Other concerns surfaced about the quality of the standards themselves and how student data would be collected, distributed and protected.

When tea party groups like Florida Parents Against Common Core began mobilizing this summer, state education leaders braced for the political fallout.

This wave is coming to kill Common Core,” Board of Education member Kathleen Shanahan said in May.

Florida’s push toward Common Core suffered a bruising setback this month when state Education Commissioner Tony Bennett resigned in the aftermath of a school grades controversy in his home state of Indiana. Bennett was among the most outspoken advocates of the standards and had been guiding the state Education Board through the firestorm. (emphasis mine)

It’s easy to support standards back in 2009 that had not been written yet (and these groups represented special interests, not ordinary citizens).  We are against the Common Core because we know what’s in them.  I’ve talked with very few people who liked the standards the more they learned about them.  We don’t like how they’ve been implemented, and we don’t believe in dataless reform.  A wave is coming to kill Common Core and we are relentless.

Florida Senate President & Speaker of the House Want Out of PARCC

Florida Senate President Don Gaetz and Speaker of the House Will Weatherford want out of PARCC.  I’m not sure how that would work since Florida is the fiscal agent for the consortium.

The Tampa Bay Times reports:

Senate President Don Gaetz and Speaker of the House Will Weatherford said they were troubled by “serious issues” with PARCC, or the Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers. They said the PARCC assessments will take more, not less, instructional time than the state’s current system requires. PARCC doesn’t have a plan yet to provide test results in a timely fashion – a problem in Florida where FCAT results are used to determine everything from school grades to teacher pay to student placement – and no school district has enough computers to meet technology requirements.

Here is the letter they sent to Tony Bennett, Florida Commissioner of Education:

Dear Commissioner Bennett:

Thank you for your leadership and ongoing commitment to Florida’s students.

As we recently discussed, Florida is at a decision point regarding the direction our state will choose in implementing assessments proposed by the national academic consortium, Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers (PARCC).  Like you, we, along with our fellow legislators, have gathered information and heard constituent questions and concerns about national standards and assessments and their impact on students, teachers, schools and our state’s competitiveness.

After consulting with bipartisan leadership of the Senate and House committees on education policy and appropriations, we are troubled by serious issues in connection with PARCC:

• According to information provided recently through PARCC and earlier by the Florida Department of Education (FLDOE), the complete PARCC assessments will consume approximately twenty days of testing for elementary, middle and high school students. Further, FLDOE and PARCC both highlight additional, yet undetermined, time will be needed for students to demonstrate knowledge and skills.  This is more, not less instructional time devoted to testing than is currently the case.

• The value of student assessment is (a) to provide teachers with valid, reliable information on how to customize and focus effective teaching methods to address individual student learning needs; (b) to determine whether a student has mastered the skills necessary for promotion or to design a remedial learning plan; (c) to supply student performance data that can be used as part of a teacher’s evaluation.   Currently, PARCC does not have a plan for the timely return of assessment data to achieve the foregoing three objectives during the academic year the tests are administered. 

• PARCC assessments are to be performed on computers. No district in the state has every one of its schools at the minimum 2:1 student to device ratio called for in the PARCC administration plan.  Our current state average is approximately three students to each device.  PARCC has not finalized bandwidth requirements, but tentatively recommends approximately 100kbps. Per the recent independent load testing of three Florida school districts, 50 percent of the schools were not equipped for basic testing activities.  In short, neither districts nor the state can realistically achieve the minimum bandwidth and a 2:1 ratio by the anticipated 2014-2015 school year full implementation of PARCC.  If some PARCC testing is to be done on computer and some by pencil, we are concerned about the prospect of further delays in getting results as well as accuracy and validity.

• To date, the cost of the full implementation of PARCC assessment materials is indeterminate, let alone the costs for the technology and professional development infrastructure necessary to effectively administer a valid assessment program.

• We remain concerned about the security of student data and consequences for the misuse of that data. Even PARCC reports final test security policies will not be released for another calendar year.

Consequently, it is our view that Florida should withdraw immediately from PARCC in favor of a Florida Plan for valid, reliable and timely testing of student performance, including assessments for the Next Generation Sunshine State Standards. 

Our selection of assessments should take advantage of all available options such as stateapproved end-of-course exams, proven templates of other states modified to meet Florida’s needs, and well-established alternative assessment options such as the ACT/SAT.   A strong technology infrastructure is the backbone that supports the success of efforts moving forward.  It is therefore imperative that we take the time necessary to build a reliable and realistic, yet visionary, technology infrastructure. It is critical that we do not undermine the integrity of the entire system due to the unreliability of any one part.

Florida has a rich history of student-centered education reform.  Florida’s strong education policies have made us a model for the nation and have resulted in extraordinary gains in student achievement.  Too many questions remain unanswered with PARCC regarding implementation, administration, technology readiness, timeliness and utility of results, security infrastructure, data collection and undetermined cost. We cannot jeopardize fifteen years of education accountability reform by relying on PARCC to define a fundamental component of our accountability system.  Our schools, teachers, and families have worked too hard for too long for our system to collapse under the weight of an assessment system that is not yet developed, designed nor tested.

Moving forward with a plan that is centered on technology but includes flexibility and diversity in the delivery and measurement of outcomes in education is critical. It would be unacceptable to participate in national efforts that may take us backward and erode confidence in our accountability system and our trajectory of continued success.  The Legislature is committed to students, parents, and taxpayers of Florida. By ensuring decisions are uniquely tailored to our state, we reinforce our dedication to providing Floridians with an education that directly leads to success in the opportunities and challenges of our economy.  Florida must do what it has always done in the field of assessments, which is to lead.  Please know we are committed to building on our strengths and current infrastructure by crafting our own Florida Plan of assessments for the Next Generation Sunshine State Standards.

In summary, please let us know at your earliest convenience your position on the following recommendations: move forward with a Florida Plan by immediately withdrawing from the assessment portion of PARCC; provide a transition timeline phasing in a Florida Plan of assessments that begin no sooner than 2015-2016; enhance professional development for educators; establish a practical plan to integrate technology in education; and report the costs associated with a Florida Plan.


Don Gaetz       Will Weatherford

President Speaker

The Florida Senate The Florida House of Representatives

cc: The Honorable Rick Scott, Governor, State of Florida

To Heck With Diamonds, Common Core is Forever

My organization, ROPE, has been closely following the Common Core State Standards (CCSS) cost issue, since NO ONE in charge of public education in Oklahoma – including the purse string holders at the state legislature – have been able to tell Oklahomans what the Common Core will cost Oklahoma taxpayers. 

I wrote an article last month that was published in the American Thinker titled “The Ed Tech Scam”, to shed light on the fact that the CCSS have become an unfunded state mandate – specifically in the area of technology requirements.

Yes, the CCSS lovers say

“Adopting new materials isn’t really a cost of the Common Core, it’s just a cost in education of providing relevant materials to students that are there anyway.”

However, when you have at least one Oklahoma Superintendent honestly reporting (to a national education magazine) how pinched he is to get technology in place prior to the roll out of the Common Core tests, we are inclined to suspend belief.

“Once you get into a testing situation, you have to be able to support it without interruption,” said Mr. Kitchens, who added: “I do not think this is going to be a cheap exercise at all.”

As we’ve reported previously, legislators cemented the Common Core State Standards into Oklahoma law in order to get Race to the Top funds without even a cursory review of draft forms of the standards as there were none available at that time. This would seem a clear violation of the public trust.

Legislators to taxpayers, 

“Hey guys, you’re responsible for funding these, but we have no idea exactly what’s in them or how much they’ll cost the state or what they’ll do to Oklahoma education, but trust us.”

Obviously the trust wasn’t warranted. Currently, fourteen states have some form of legislation against the CCSS. Clearly all is not well in CCSS-land.

Indiana recently threw out their Chief For Change (Jeb Bush/Foundation for Educational Excellence) state Superintendent Tony Bennett in favor of relatively unknown candidate Glenda Ritz, mainly because of flap over the cost and effectiveness of the Common Core State Standards. Directly on the heels of this upset comes legislation to force the Indiana state legislature to examine the cost of the Common Core before continuing their implementation.

Tony Bennett has not left the building, however. He now presides over the Florida State Department of Education, where, interestingly, theFlorida state Board of Education is questioning whether or not the Florida education juggernaut is ready to roll out and administer the PARCC tests because of their cost.

“One hundred million won’t get done everything we need to get done,” Barbara Jenkins, superintendent of Orange County schools, told the board.

Hoosiers have already caught on to the fact that their former State Supe has gone to another state and told Floridians they just can’t afford the reform measures he was deposed for pushing inside their borders. I’m not sure how this could inspire confidence in any Common Core state.

Then there’s the fact that so much of today’s ‘education reform’ efforts have been tied to private funding by Bill Gates. 

In a clear, well-researched article written for the Heartland Institute on this topic, Joy Pullman quotes Betty Peters’ (Alabama State School Board member) concerns,

“A lot of private foundations are making decisions that would normally be left up to a public institution that would be accountable to the taxpayers.”

As often as we have heard the word “accountability” from our Oklahoma State Department of Education, this should be an eye-opener. How in the world can the Council of Chief State School Officers or the National Governor’s Association (architects of the Common Core State Standards, funded in part by the Gates Foundation) be held accountable to Oklahoma taxpayers for education ‘reform’ efforts such as the CCSS? They are all copyrighted so they can’t be modified yet the CCSSO and the NGA have a disclaimer;

“NGA Center and CCSSO do not warrant, endorse, approve or certify the information on this site, nor do they make any representation as to the accuracy, completeness, efficacy, or timeliness of such information. Use of such information is voluntary on your part. Reference herein to any specific commercial product, process or service does not constitute or imply endorsement, recommendation or favoring by NGA Center and CCSSO.”

Then there is the Jeb Bush factor. As information trickles into the public domain reporting the methods in which the Foundation for Educational Excellence writes educational policy through Janet Barresi and other Chiefs for Change, jaws should drop. Why should Oklahoma taxpayers be supporting Florida education reforms – especially those shown not to be as successful as first advertised?

This session in Oklahoma, Senator Clark Jolley has drafted a bill (SB447) which will usher in yet another new education ‘reform’ measure. MORE new tests! Yes, Oklahoma has chosen to believe the CCSSO’s verdict that most students will fail the PARCC ‘assessments’ when they are to be instituted in 2014.

Certainly, Oklahoma’s public school students cannot fail these tests with so much riding on them (the A-F school designation for one). Consequently, not only is Senator Jolley advocating that we must buy another set of tests (formative tests) to be given up to four times per year before the summative PARCC tests come on line, but that we should support this plan by cementing it into law – as with all other Race to the Top education reforms Oklahoma is currently implementing – without RTT funds.

Why must these tests be written into law? Every teacher gives (or should give) formative tests over content ta
ught – something akin to chapter tests. These allow teachers to see whether or not students are ‘getting it’ in time to re-teach or re-direct learning to improve concept understanding. Certainly, this type of testing is better than summative(high stakes) type testing, but why should Oklahoma teachers have another law to follow?

Oklahoma teachers have enough on their plate without being mandated to follow another type of test. Even formative tests can be misused in such a way as to force teachers to teach to the test and isn’t that all PARCC tests are doing?

It has come to my attention this week that a company called Bellwether Education Partners supplies this type of “transitional national achievement test”. I did a little research on Bellwether and found they work with such organizations as Chiefs for Change and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. We know Dr. Barresi is a Chief for Change. One must wonder if there is a connection here as with the other education ‘reforms’ to which she’s been linked. Again, Oklahoma should not be implementing education ‘reforms’ simply because they are being done elsewhere or because another foundation is willing to ‘help’ Oklahoma with their implementation.

From what source is the money going to materialize to pay for these new tests? We haven’t even figured out how to pay for the PARCC tests. It must be taxpayer funded – all government is. Maybe that’s why Dr. Barresi has asked for a whopping $75 to $100 million in extra funding for next year. The press release sent out by her office lauding Senator Halligan and Senator Ford – from whom the funding requests were submitted – quotes Senator Ford as saying,

“We have three areas in education we must address, including statutory requirements to fund programs such as medical benefits, additional appropriations to pay for reforms we’ve already enacted, and additional funding at the local level that school boards can use to address specific needs in their individual districts,” said Ford, R-Bartlesville.

Why are you asking taxpayers to fund these reforms AFTER you enacted them into LAW Senator Ford? Why should taxpayers be jumping up and down to fund ‘reforms we’ve already enacted’ when they haven’t originated in Oklahoma, were never read by those who enacted them, never had any functional testing demonstrating their efficacy and have been shown not to work in Florida from where they did originate? Certainly, taxpayers deserve an answer to that question.

In closing, several interesting polls have come out recently regarding the Common Core.

Whiteboard Advisors, Education Insider

“conducts an anonymous survey of a small group of key education influential (policymakers, though leaders, and association heads) to get their thoughts and commentary about the context of the current debate and possible outcomes.”

Their survey for February 2013 that polled ‘insiders’ on the Common Core show that support for PARCC testing is falling. In addition, 87% of respondents say they expect more states to drop out of the Common Core Assessment Consortia (like Alabama and Utah),

“as they start to get a fuller picture for the implementation costs of assessments and professional development and get very unhappy about what they have signed up for in a budget constrained environment.”

77% of respondents believe schools will not have enough bandwidth to meet the Consortia’s recommended specifications in time for the tests to come on line.

The 2013 MetLife Survey of the American Teacher, shows that only a maximum of 24% of teachers and principals either believed the Common Core would improve student achievement or prepare students for college and the workforce (page 76). 

So why are we doing this ed ‘reform’ thing again?

I get the sneaky suspicion it’s not about kids…

Indiana Private Schools and PARCC Assessments

A recent story out of Florida involving the former Indiana State Superintendent of Public Instruction, now Florida Commissioner of Education, Tony Bennett illuminates what may very well be a huge problem for some private schools in Indiana down the road.

How will they be able to afford the technology upgrades needed for the PARCC assessments and the assessments themselves?

I ask because it has been seen as a potential  problem with better-funded public schools in several states, including Florida where the Orlando Sentinel reports that Bennett and the Florida State Board of Education are considering a “plan B” for implementation.

The State Board requested more than $400 million for new school technology in the next year, but Gov. Rick Scott has proposed a smaller hike of $100 million.

“One hundred million won’t get done everything we need to get done,” Barbara Jenkins, superintendent of Orange County schools, told the board.

Education Commissioner Tony Bennett praised the new standards, which 45 states have adopted, as academic guidelines that “will transform the way our students learn.” The new tests, he said, were key to making sure they are well taught.

But he said there are “complexities” to implementing both, among them the “technology readiness” of the 22 states, Florida included, that plan to use the new tests from the Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Career. They are to replace FCAT math, reading and writing exams.

He said within the next few months his staff will devise a “Plan B” in case implementation cannot proceed as planned by 2015.

Indiana private schools who receive vouchers may find themselves in a bind, and this is an example of why private schools should fight against the Common Core.  Apathy could cost you.

Prior to Indiana’s voucher program, private schools that were accredited either by the state or by another independent accrediting body were able to use a variety of recognized standardized tests – ISTEP, Iowa Test of Basic Skills, ERBS, Stanford, etc.  The voucher law changed that.  Now all private schools receiving vouchers, regardless of their accreditation has to offer the ISTEP test which will be replaced by the Common-Core aligned PARCC assessments. 

Not only will this impact the curriculum of a private school, but it will impact the pocketbook.  Public schools are receiving some state aid to implement the tests.  Will that be true for private schools as well?  If not, how in the world will they be able to afford implementing the test?

Debunking Misconceptions: “The Common Core is State-Led”

I thought that I would start a series on common misconceptions related to the Common Core State Standards.  I don’t know how frequently I’ll come back to this series, but as these misconceptions come up or as I hear them I want to address them.  The first is one that I hear quite frequently and I was told was a misconception repeated in the Iowa House Education Committee meeting the other day when the Common Core was briefly discussed.

The Common Core is not state-led.  To be fair, when I say that I’m not saying that the U.S. Department of Education wrote the Common Core.  I’m not even saying it was their idea.  It wasn’t.  Advocates of the Common Core who say it is state-led typically are saying neither of these things happened.

On that we can agree.

It’s always important to get past lingo and clarify what we mean.  When I say something is “state-led,” I mean it is initiated within state departments of education with the blessing of the state’s governor and then approved by the state legislature and then signed into law by the state’s Governor.

A scenario that could have happened with standards that could legitimately be called “state-led.”  Say members within the say Texas Education Agency said “hey, we really like what Massachusetts is doing with their standards.”  They then go on to study them, talk to experts who are knowledgeable with the process of developing those standards, get parental and teacher input, tweak the standards in a way that makes sense to Texas, send them to the Texas Legislature who then approves them, and then Governor Rick Perry signs it into law.  Some Texas Legislators rub elbows with state legislators from other states saying… “this is what we did in Texas, and then state legislators from Massachusetts said, “hey yes you should look at what we’re doing.”  Then other state legislators go back to their states and initiate that process.  Perhaps this conversation could take place within the National Governor’s Association or Council of Chief State School Officers, but the point is they were standards written at the state level, approved in the legislative process and is then reciprocated by other states in a way that makes sense to them.

That would be a “state-led” initiative and a process I could applaud.  States should look for what works.  Why not look at Massachusetts standards, Indiana’s ELA standards, and say California’s math standards (prior to alignment to the Common Core).  I’m for common sense, and that would be common sense.

That isn’t what happened however.

The process was initiated by the National Governors Association’s Center for Best Practices and the Council of Chief State School Officers.  They then delegated the drafting of the standards to Achieve, Inc. who was created by the NGA.  This process was managed by six state Governors who were chosen by a non-democratic process).  The oversight also included the CEOs of Battelle Memorial Institute, Intel Corporation, Prudential Financial, Achieve, Inc. and State Farm Insurance.

This was all financed by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, The Boeing Company, Carnegie Corporation of New York, the GE Foundation, IBM Corporation, Intel Foundation, Nationwide, the Prudential Foundation, the State Farm Insurance Company, Washington Mutual Foundation, and the William and Flora Hewett Foundation.

To top it off the NGA-recognized “reviews” of the standards commissioned by Achieve were funded by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, an interest group who were pushing the standards to begin with.  No conflict of interest there!  Since January of 2008 the Gates Foundation has awarded the National Governors Association and the Council of Chief State School Officers over $35 Million (this is a dated amount, it most certainly has increased by now).

This is what we call state-led?  No, if advocates of the Common Core were honest they would say it is special-interest written and funded.  However it was Federally-pushed getting other states on board.  That’s where Race to the Top grants come in.  Through the 2009 stimulus package $4.35 billion in discretionary money was given to the U.S. Department of Education and in order to qualify for these grants states had to adopt the Common Core.

This is state-led?

Education Secretary Arne Duncan went on to tell states that in order to receive a No Child Left Behind Waiver had to, for starters, adopt the Common Core and then adopt other “reforms” prescribed by the Department.

That’s state-led?

Even Tony Bennett, who was recently ousted as Indiana’s Superintendent of Public Instruction, bemoaned the standards being “federalized.”

No state has yet adopted these through their state legislature.  That’s state-led?

Under the 10th Amendment of the Constitution, education is among the most important policy power not “delegated to the United States” and therefore is “reserved to the States respectively, or to the people.”  Historically, U.S. Education policy-making has been a matter of local control, where parents have the most influence.  That was not honored in this process.

So we can all the Common Core a whole plethora of things, but “state-led” can’t honestly be one of them.

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.

Glenda Ritz’ Opposition to Common Core Highlighted

Since Glenda Ritz is now the Indiana Superintendent of Public Instruction-Elect she’ll need to be reminded of what she wrote prior to her election on November 7th.  This is one of the primary reasons Tony Bennett lost.

Erin Tuttle at Hoosiers Against Common Core highlighted her position statement:

Common Core Standards must be re-evaluated.
Indiana had exceptional standards before Common Core. The Indiana Department of Education, and its Board, must re-evaluate Common Core Standards to determine what parts of Common Core we will accept or reject and determine which of our current Indiana standards should be retained to create the best K-12 standards for our children.

We must end our relationship with PARCC.
Dr. Bennett and Governor Daniels signed a contract that obligates Hoosier taxpayers to a consortium of twenty-three states, known as the Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers, or PARCC. PARCC will determine the high-stakes student assessments for the Common Core and impact the accountability and performance of our educators, schools and our communities. Our students must not be forced into a regimented curriculum and assessment system that PARCC determines.

A return to local control of our schools.
Hoosiers, not a consortium of twenty-three states or the Federal government, must determine the vision for our students’ learning opportunities so that they are better able to compete in the global marketplace.

I know she holds other positions that I personally disagree with, but the three points she laid out here is the path that every state that has embraced the Common Core State Standards should take.  Re-evaluate the Common Core, and I would add let the State Legislatures do it.  End the relationship with the PARCC or SBAC depending on what state you live in.  Return to local control.

Now when Ritz takes office Hoosiers will have the opportunity to hold her accountable to take steps in the that direction.