The Common Core State Standards (CCSS) are really good for American education, but sadly, non-foundation-financed, public school administrators like New York principal Carol Burris seem to have trouble coming around to falling in live with those *higher standards*(c).
In fact, Burris had a fantastic opportunity on September 9, 2014, to Embrace the Common Core. Unfortunately, she decided to go the way of 89 percent of the over 43,000 public survey respondents and not embrace CCSS.
And it seems that Burris took her non-embracing stance right into her September 17, 2014, post on the Washington Post Answer Sheet blog.
Such can be very upsetting for those who once worked for and continue to faithfully support US Secretary of Education Arne Duncan, who loves CCSS sooo much he is willing to instruct the media on proper (positive) CCSS reporting, to imply that “white suburban moms” of “non-brilliant” children must be the ones foolish enough to reject the *higher*(c) standards, and to yank No Child Left Behind (NCLB) waivers of states that dare to be “state led” away from CCSS.
It’s a good thing that one such former Duncan employee, Peter Cunningham, has decided to start a pro-Duncan, pro-corporate-reform, “education conversation” blog– and for the mere start-up sum of $12 million– Education Post.
Though $12 million is not much, Cunningham did manage to bring along some friends, including another Duncan worker bee, Ann Whalen.
On September 18, 2014, Whalen decided it was High Time to take on this non-CCSS-submissive Burris on that sparkling new, multi-million-funded EdPost blog.
For $12 million, I must say, I expected more.
Let’s get to it, shall we?
Burris maintains that states might add to CCSS but not remove.
Whalen first writes that contrary to Burris’ assertion (which happens to come straight from the CCSS MOU (memorandum of understanding), states “can and have… adapt[ed] or revise[ed]” CCSS.
In signing on for CCSS,states had two choices: either “directly” adopt CCSS or “fully align state standards” to CCSS. Those states choosing “full alignment” agreed that the “aligned” CCSS part would represent “at least 85 percent of the state’s standards in English language arts and mathematics.”
Whalen states that Burris is proved wrong since “Tennessee’s board added expectations.” Any state is allowed to add– provided the addition does not exceed 15 percent.
Whalen also states that Florida changed CCSS. One can see the changes here. They are not drastic and remind me of a state cautiously trying to satisfy its constituents while realizing they are tampering with potential federal sanctions.
In August 2010, Florida received $700,000 in federal Race to the Top (RTTT) money. In its initial application, Florida wholeheartedly agreed to completely adopt CCSS (see page 70), and offered a signed CCSS MOU (see pages 88 – 91) as evidence. Moreover, Florida showcases its CCSS adoption in its NCLB waiver application, which Duncan conditionally approved in February 2012.
As part of its NCLB waiver, Florida also sells its involvement with the PARCC assessment– and Florida has since quit PARCC.
Florida is at Duncan’s mercy regarding any CCSS changes and its PARCC exit.
Burris is not wrong. It’s just that Florida has challenged the Duncan-imposed boundaries, and Whalen’s pal, Duncan, has not (yet?) punished Florida for doing so.
Whalen also states, “Other states that have made changes to standards include Massachusetts, Arizona, Colorado, New York, California and New Mexico,” yet she includes no linked information.
I will not be chasing after the evidence that Whalen fails to provide.
Whalen states that Burris is wrong about standards dictating curriculum since “teachers all across America say otherwise.” However, it is not teacher perceptions that are the concern here but the testing companies in charge of the high stakes, supposedly-CCSS-aligned assessments. The sole vendor for PARCC, Pearson, has made it clear in its February 2014 earnings call that it plans to “embed” itself in the entire CCSS enterprise and make itself “indispensable”– and that CCSS enterprise includes curriculum.
The CCSS assessments have yet to hit America full force, but Pearson assessments have hit New York full force– and Pearson is at the center and in trouble for, among other issues, taking test items straight from its curriculum.
Now tell me that Pearson’s power to directly draw from its curriculum for material for its high-stakes tests is not incentive for desperate states and districts to surrender their so-called “curricular freedom” to PARCC-vending Pearson.
Whalen states that Burris is wrong about CCSS’ not being “grounded in research.”
For this, Whalen provides a single link to this study, one on the CCSS math standards, which does not involve actual piloting of CCSS math but is instead an analysis of why CCSS should work. This study is not evidence of CCSS math as being “grounded in research.”
Moreover, the researcher of this single study assumes that the “high performing nations” he holds as those that US education should emulate are “high performing” for the right reasons and worth emulation. That’s a huge assumption.
Is the US to “race to the top” by trying to copy other countries? That sounds more like “race alongside.” But I digress. Back to research “grounding.”
Numerous pilot studies of CCSS math over time (in the case of K12, at least one 13-year cycle is preferred) and for varied student populations. Now that would be “grounded.”
Whalen offers not even one link regarding CCSS ELA’s being “grounded.” She does offhandedly call on the Fordham Institute to provide benchmark evidence for CCSS. She provides none.
I sure would like to see all of that supposed “benchmarking” evidence.
Wonder where it is?
One more issue.
The infamous “closing of the achievement gap.”
Whalen defends CCSS by stating that they are “simply learning goals.” Not quite. CCSS is intended to be an across-the-board, K12 education *sameness* nationwide and is intended travel with its high-stakes assessments.
Revisit that February 2014 Pearson earnings call. Pearson is counting on garnering billions from those not-so-innocent “learning goals.”
Whalen then goes soft:
Great instruction from dedicated, caring teachers is the only thing that will close the achievement gap, and thanks to their hard work, we are making progress.
That sure sounds lovely, but the truth is that as a teacher, I control perhaps ten percent of my students’ learning outcomes.
But back to that gap I am supposed to close.
Whalen states that “we are making progress.” She cites African American performance on the 2013 National Assessment of Educational progress (NAEP) math tests in Massachusetts as an example of the Closing of the Gap, but according to Massachusetts’ 2013 fourth grade and eighth grade NAEP math scores, “the performance gap was not significantly different from that in 1992.”
Whalen tries to make a case for Massachusetts’ African American students’ doing better than Mississippi’s African American students since Mississippi had “lower standards and simpler tests.” So, here are Mississippi’s 2013 eighth grade NAEP math scores and fourth grade NAEP scores.
And guess what?
As was true for Massachusetts’ eighth-grade black students, for Mississippi’s eighth-grade black students, “the performance gap was not significantly different from that in 1992.” However, Mississippi’s fourth-grade black students did have a narrower gap than in 1992.
Well, well, now.
*Backwards* Mississippi, with its “lower standards and simpler tests” showed more progress in closing its state achievement gap for black students on the fourth grade math 2013 NAEP than did Massachusetts with its *superior* standards.
Looks like we have ourselves a wee, standards-and-gaps quandary.
If it is “standards based accountability” that is “closing the gap,” how is it that the achievement gap “non-closing” is not significantly different for three of the four stats cited above “since 1992″– or 22 years ago?
“Standards based accountability” was formally introduced with former President George W. Bush’s No Child Left Behind Act of 2001– and that was 13 years ago.
The clear connection between “standards based accountability” and “closing achievement gaps” simply doesn’t exist. It is spotty, hit-and-miss evidence– which really is not evidence at all.
Whalen nears the end of her $12-million-for-start-up blog posting by stating that “opponents of high standards simply default to politically driven rhetoric” and that states can drop CCSS if the states don’t want them.
She really needs to tell her friend Arne Duncan that he should follow such a rule. I’m sure Oklahoma would appreciate it. As it is, Indiana was let off of the NCLB waiver-yanking hook for writing “new” standards that looked a lot like CCSS.
If only Oklahoma would *choose* to be more CCSS-y.
Next, Whalen states that it is “inexcusable” for Burris to not have offered “constructive ideas for improving schools.”
I have two words for Whalen after reading her sad, purchased rant:
You see, Whalen, your post offers nothing constructive “for improving schools.” Nothing. Moreover, in keeping with the thread of indignant fallacy woven throughout your post, your closing comment, “Americans are losing confidence in public education,” is also not true, according to the 2012 Phi Delta Kappan(PDK)/Gallup poll results.
What Americans are “losing confidence” in is your pal Duncan’s overbearing involvement in US education. As PDK reports:
The American public has sharpened its belief that the federal government should not play a dominant role in public education, with a majority saying they simply do not support initiatives that they believe were created or promoted by federal policymakers…. …
A majority of those surveyed, 54 percent, do not think standardized tests are helpful to teachers; many do not understand how charter schools work, and the number of Americans saying they are familiar with the Common Core State Standards (CCSS) has skyrocketed in just one year, with a majority saying they oppose the standards. …
The new survey suggests the American public has a lot more confidence in local school systems than in the federal government. Fifty percent gave their local schools a grade of “A” or “B” and 56 percent said their local school board should have the greatest influence in deciding what was taught. Only 15 percent thought the federal government should have the most influence. [Emphasis added.]
The American public approves of locally-run education, not this Duncan-as-overlord, faux-state-led substitute– ever peering over its shoulder due to NCLB-waiver-yank fear.
America believes that Arne Boy needs to step off with his NCLB-warmed-over, test-driven, punitive “accountability.”
Blog about that, Whalen.
Like my writing? Read my newly-released ed “reform” whistle blower, A Chronicle of Echoes: Who’s Who in the Implosion of American Public Education
NOW AVAILABLE ON KINDLE.
On September 9, 2014, Intelligence Squared hosted a debate on the Common Core State Standards (CCSS), which it entitled, Embrace the Common Core. The title is based upon the position that the organization assumes on the issue.
In this post, I consider CCSS support connected to the Intelligence Squared debate as well as address given statements by both pro-CCSS debaters. The post is long, yet I cannot address all without going on at book-chapter length, so I address some.
First, for some perplexing CCSS support results connected to this debate.
CCSS Support in the Studio Audience: Who Were Those People?
Since Gates funding is behind at least one of the Intelligence Squared sponsors (NPR)– to the tune of approximately $18 million in the form of 11 grants– the pro-CCSS position of the Intelligence Squared program was no surprise. However, in contrast to the declared Intelligence Squared position, the public survey on the Intelligence Squared site has held steady for weeks at 89 percent opposed to CCSS (43,800 responses to date).
Nevertheless, the studio audience began the debate at 50 percent in favor of CCSS.
I have not been in any room in which half of the hundreds present favored CCSS, so this passing of the Pro-CCSS Halley’s Comet I found to be rather curious in its occurring.
As it turns out, there was some question that came my way via email about whether pro-CCSS debater and Fordham Institute President Michael Petrilli purchased blocks of seats and distributed tickets to Educators for Excellence teachers, also a Gates-funded group, for $4 million in the form of two grants, and also a group represented en masse at the Intelligence Squared CCSS debate.
On September 12, 2014, I emailed Petrilli and asked him,
Mike, I have read that you purchased blocks of seating at the Intelligence Squared CC debate and handed out the tickets to ED4E teachers.
Would you care to comment?
–Mercedes Schneider (deutsch29.wordpress.com)
Hi, Mercedes. It’s nice to hear from you.
Nope, I didn’t.
So, for those who are wondering about the issue, Petrilli says he did not pad the audience with Educators for Excellence teachers.
In the end, the pro-CCSS side “won” the debate, as based upon a second, post-debate vote in which the higher percentage of changed votes to a particular side was declared the winner.
The pro-CCSS side gained 17 percent of the vote, and the anti-CCSS side gained 14 percent. I do not know the total number of individuals voting; however, the location seats 449 people.
On to the debate itself.
Petrilli: I Sell CCSS for a Living
I caught only the last 25 minutes of the live debate and have since read the debate transcript. I would like to offer some comments on debate specifics emanating from pro-CCSS debaters Petrilli and former assistant secretary of education and current executive VP of the $5.5-million, Gates-funded Center for American Progress, Carmel Martin.
Let’s start with this Petrilli statement:
Now, what you won’t hear us (Petrilli and Martin) argue is, first of all, that Common Core is going to solve all of our nation’s educational problems because, of course, it won’t. You’re not going to hear us say that the Common Core are perfect. They were not handed down from Mount Sinai, they are not set in stone. [Emphasis added.]
Actually, CCSS is being promoted as The Solution according to the CCSS website:
The standards were created to ensure that all students graduate from high school with the skills and knowledge necessary to succeed in college, career, and life, regardless of where they live. [Emphasis added.]
There you have it: CCSS will “ensure that all students” have the “skills and knowledge necessary to succeed.” All.
As for Petrilli’s “not set in stone” comment: also misleading. CCSS is a licensed product owned by the National Governors Association (NGA) and the Council of Chief State School Officers (CCSSO), and according to language in their CCSS MOU (memorandum of understanding), it is NGA and CCSSO that will decide upon specifics associated with any CCSS revision.
Another Petrilli statement:
States did have standards before the Common Core, but, by and large, they were set at a very, very low level. And so what that meant is that students could meet those standards, they could pass the standardized tests connected to those standards, but it didn’t mean that they were ready for success later on. [Emphasis added.]
Behind Petrilli’s “by and large” is the Fordham Institute’s 2010 rating of all state standards and CCSS– and their reporting that CCSS was not superior to the standards in all states. So, if CCSS is supposed to make “all students” college and career ready, how is it that states (and DC) with standards that Fordham Institute rates as equal to or superior to CCSS (Alabama, California, DC, Florida, Georgia, Indiana, Massachusetts, and Oklahoma) did not manage such a feat as of yet?
Are we still selling the highly unrealistic goal of “all college and career ready” if only CCSS is “properly implemented”?
But such assumes that CCSS is supposedly “the best”– which i is not, according to Petrilli, who is trying to peddle it.
Moreover, compared to the English Language Arts (ELA) standards of California, Indiana, and DC, based upon Fordham Institute’s 2010 ratings, it appears that CCSS is–dare I write– “lowering the bar.”
Uh, oh…. Is America settling for Less Than the Best? How ever will we become a sustainable world power?
As to the “passing of standardized tests,” Petrilli’s reference here is to state tests; however, the Fordham Institute 2010 rating of state standards is not even at all related to the scores of states on the 2009 National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP)– which is reputedly more stable than state tests. In other words, some states with standards that Fordham Institute rates as “very, very low” demonstrated high NAEP scores, and states with standards that Fordham rated as being superior to CCSS had low NAEP scores.
If standards can be high and national test scores low, and standards can be low and national test scores high, then what outcome evidence is there that CCSS will even modestly deliver even on the B-plus, A-minus that Fordham Institute was kind enough to give it?
Answer: None. Just think-tank opinion.
And how about the implication that CCSS– even though it isn’t “perfect”– will somehow deliver on the “ready for success later on” issue?
More think-tank talk. But it sure does sound good and might even be turned into another cheesy Petrilli video.
And here comes yet more, again from Petrilli:
So, to embrace the Common Core is to say, “Let’s embrace standards that are set at this college and career ready level.” It’s also to say that we should embrace the idea of moving to next generation assessments, right, tests that measure these standards, that are worlds better than the tests that we’ve been living with for the past two decades. …
Do they want us to stick with the — still the standardized tests, these rinky-dink standardized tests that we’ve lived with for 20 years?
As to CCSS being “set at this college and career level,” it seems problematic then to demand that higher education “get ready” for CCSS. Are we to assume that even American colleges and universities are not themselves set at “college and career ready level”?
Are colleges and universities being expected to adjust to whatever it is that CCSS is– that even higher education that must become “CCSS centered”?
All of education– including the higher ed that CCSS was supposed to make “all” students ready for– is itself expected to bow to CCSS.
And what of those “worlds better” so-called “next generation” assessments?
If all previous standardized tests have been “rinky dink”– then by what standard are edupreneurs and educationists declaring that American Education Is Failing, or, as Petrilli states at one point in the debate, is “mediocre?”
By those lame, “rinky dink” tests that are sure to be inferior to the tests that have yet to appear? And does Petrilli include NAEP in the “rinky dink” category? After all, NAEP is not “next generation”….
Petrilli declares “next generation” superior, yet the infamous 2014-15 debut of the federally funded CCSS “next generation” assessments has not even occurred.
“Next generation” tests: The “next can o’ psychometric worms.”
Moreover, what of the scoring of these “next generation” assessments? It is easier to score traditional, multiple-choice standardized tests, and even on this mega-testing company Pearson has managed to commit 24 major blunders since 2011, many involving scoring errors that resulted in serious consequences affecting student promotion, graduation, awarding of scholarships, and admission into programs.
“Rinky dink” consequences? Hardly.
It just so happens that bumbling Pearson is the sole vendor (American Institutes for Research is appealing this decision) of the PARCC assessment, currently comprised of 13 states. That ought to be an interesting study in unprecedented, “next generation” ineptness.
As to the use of robo-grading of student essays: A computer can determine neither factual accuracy of student statements nor the presence of coherent meaning to what is written. In short, computerized grading is a system easily gamed.
And if a testing company uses human beings for grading, such can be very expensive– thus the temptation for testing companies to cut corners on quality and seek cheap graders.
So much more opportunity for Pearson to botch its high-stakes assessments “next generation” style.
Based on the above, it is clear that Petrilli’s arguments in favor of CCSS could strain pasta.
Moving on to his Intelligence Squared pro-CCSS debate partner, Carmel Martin.
Martin: I Obviously Prepared for This Debate Twenty Minutes Ago
Martin begins with the “CCSS aren’t perfect but will perfectly deliver” error:
…The Common Core is not a silver bullet for all that ails our education system….
And for students like Janelle who, for generations, have been shortchanged by the old, failed system, new standards will help ensure they are never left behind again. [Emphasis added.]
That sure sounds “silver-bulletish,” Martin– but it is in keeping with the CCSS website’s unrealistic promise of “ensuring that all students graduate college and career ready.”
And now, for a Martin dig on one of her anti-CCSS opponents, New York high school principal, Carol Burris– a sentiment repeated in closing by (of all people) the moderator, John Donovan:
Some schools, like the one that Carol runs, have adopted International Baccalaureate programs or advanced placement courses to supplement the old state standards, but we can’t rely on visionary principles like Carol — or a patchwork of programs to close our nation’s gaping achievement gaps or prepare future generations to compete with China.[Emphasis added.]
Both Martin and Donovan try to hammer home the point that “surely not all principals are like Carol” (Donovan’s exact words prior to closing comments).
I’m sorry, but aren’t classroom teachers and school administrators nationwide being required to prove that they are *effective* based on test scores in order to keep their jobs, and isn’t test-driven reform demanding that teachers *prove* that they are indeed exceptional?
Why imply that one who is obviously “effective” (Carol Burris) cannot be “relied upon”?
In her corporate-reform-favoring bubble, it seems that Martin has decided that Burris’ effective leadership must be rare because Martin declares as much to be true.
Indeed, even as she declares Burris to be an exception and therefore too unusual to notice, she discounts the very reason she called Burris “visionary” in the first place: for her adopting supplemental programs at her school. Suddenly Burris’ “visionary” move is reduced to “patchwork.”
In Martin’s view, even though CCSS is “not the silver bullet,” it really is, for it will replace the “patchwork,” and it will enable “non-visionary” principals to “ensure all students are college and career ready,” and it will work.
And how will we know?
According to Martin, future competition with China– the same China that in October 2013 decided to reduce standardized testing and homework, and to refrain from “artificially imposing higher academic expectations.”
Wow. Sounds like we really should “compete with China” and forsake some “artificially imposed higher academic expectations” of our own.
And where has China’s “raising the bar” taken it in the recent past?
To cheating that is so prevalent, when officials intervened to stop the cheating on China’s very high stakes “gaokao” exams in Hubei province, it caused a riot that involved both students and parents.
In 2013-14, I taught a student from Hubei province in China, and he contributed to this November 2013 post in which he compares his experience as an American student to that as a Chinese student. He also discusses the cheating that has become prevalent in high-pressure Chinese education.
Call the US education system “mediocre” all that you like, Petrilli, and worship China to your fill, Martin. We don’t have parents and students so desperate to pass an exam that they riot when forced to stop cheating– yet.
Keep force-feeding assessment-focused “reform” on the American classroom, and we just might.
Next, Martin pretends that she understands CCSS well enough to set the audience straight on its development. Though she offers quite a bit of verbiage, Martin omits one crucial detail– which individuals actually wrote CCSS.
Martin predominately speaks of CCSS in the passive voice, and she states who did “not develop” CCSS.
But on specifics of who actually did develop CCSS– those responsible for actual writing– the handful of decision makers– on that Martin has nothing to offer.
She says nothing of the final decision makers and simply refers to them as “the authors”:
Now, I’d like to cut — clear up a couple misconceptions about the Common Core that had been promoted by the Glenn Becks of the world. First the Common Core was not developed in secret and was not developed by the federal government. This was an initiative led by Democratic Governor Markell of Delaware and Republican Governor Sonny Perdue of Georgia. Back in 2008, virtually all of the governors, with the exception of Rick Perry and Sarah Palin, were strongly supportive of it. Unlike the previous patchwork of standards, the Common Core was developed with significant input from educators and content experts, like the National Council of Teachers of Mathematics. The authors consulted teacher unions, the civil rights community, college leaders, and business leaders. The standards were revised based on over 10,000 comments from the general public. And contrary to the assertion of the opposition, most teachers are not opposed to the standards, and indeed strongly support them. [Emphasis added]
Not one was a K12 classroom teacher.
Martin does not mention them.
On the point of “strong support” for CCSS, Martin alludes to “a Winston poll”:
…a Winston poll in early August revealed that two out of three teachers approved of the adoption… [Emphasis added.]
That sounds great– CCSS teacher “approval”– but Martin does not offer the detailed Winston poll story:
While teachers’ outlook on Common Core continues to be positive, there are some challenges emerging on the horizon that need to be addressed. By a 2:1 margin (62% approve-31% disapprove) teachers approve of adoption of Common Core State Standards. However, this support is soft as 17% said they strongly approve and 44% said somewhat approve. [Emphasis added.]
Same story, different day. Both the American Federation of Teachers (AFT) and the National Education Association (NEA) tried to manufacture solid teacher support for CCSS from a predominantly “somewhat support” result.
As Winston acknowledges, “soft” support.
Time to return to test worship. As Martin continues:
Because the Common Core requires children become problem solvers and good communicators, the new tests aligned to them will measure complex thinking, reading, writing, communications, and problem solving kids’ skills. As a result, teachers will no longer be driven to narrow the curriculum or teach to a bad test. There have always been standards and always will be standards. There have always been tests and there always will be tests.
And we heard just today from a group of teachers that we talked to, that under the new assessments, they can’t teach to the tests anymore, because the tests are no longer about rote memorization. [Emphasis added.]
Martin has no proof for what CCSS “will” accomplish. As for “teaching to a bad test,” what is her proposed alternative– teaching to a “good” test?? Martin is naive if she believes that the worst is “teaching to a test.”
Let’s take it higher.
High-stakes outcomes will overshadow low-stakes outcomes. That’s just how it works. And if critical school funding is on the line, or administrator and teacher jobs, or the very existence of the school, then energy and resources will be redirected from programs and people and courses that are deemed low stakes and poured into that which is high-stakes: CCSS assessments.
But there’s more:
Pearson knows this and is planning to “embed” itself into CCSS, test-driven education by offering curriculum, and professional development, and materials– and, of course, assessments. And they will garner obscene profits because districts and states that are afraid of the Pearson-developed, high-stakes PARCC tests will spend precious public school funding on the Pearson materials in hopes of increasing the opportunity for job-saving, school-saving, high test scores.
And, given the intense pressure on schools, administrators, and teachers to survive, avenues other than those legal and ethical will become increasingly appealing.
High stakes testing brings with it the high-stakes incentive to devise means for succeeding– and this means opening a door for new ways to cheat. Of course, some of the old ways will work, including not testing all students, or feeding students answers, or having some other person on the “inside” who is willing to cheat (one of those cheaply-paid Craigslist scorers, perhaps?) But there are more creative ways to beat the “new generation” tests, such as student shuffling of test takers in order to conceal higher-performing students testing in place of lower-performers; orchestrated power outages or planned computer “glitches” during testing times, or training students how to game a computerized essay grading program.
Why, high stakes testing can even birth a black market for cheat-friendly spyware.
“Teaching to the test?”
Small potatoes that appear large to the naive.
One more Martin issue from the CCSS debate: She erroneously asserted that CCSS is not copyrighted. Her words in response to the question, “Are these standards copyrighted?”
They are not copyrighted. They’re open.
Dead wrong, yet spoken as though she knew. Burris set the record straight in rebuttal.
In my brief email exchange with Petrilli on September 12, 2014, I asked him this question:
Do you acknowledge that CC is copyrighted to NGA (National Governors Association) and CCSSO (Council of Chief State School Officers)?
Yes. Carmel got that wrong. I assume because she didn’t know. (She hasn’t been as in the weeds on this debate as some of us!)
She “didn’t know”? Not good enough. Carmel Martin is executive VP of Center for American Progress, an organization that in October 2013 accepted $550,000 from the Gates Foundation expressly “to support Common Core implementation.” Moreover, on the day that Oklahoma Governor Mary Fallin signed legislation repealing CCSS, June 5, 2014, Martin offered this judgmental press release:
Gov. Fallin once supported the ambitious Common Core State Standards because she knew they were necessary to put Oklahoma’s children on a path to a better future. Students, parents, and teachers should be disappointed that today she chose to retreat from her public support and force the state to revert to an outdated, lower set of standards for Oklahoma’s children. Her decision today represents yet another example of tea party tactics aimed at scoring political points on the backs of our nation’s kids prevailing over a practical bipartisan coalition made up of business organizations, the civil rights community, military leaders, teachers, and parents.
So, Martin was “in the weeds” enough to serve as a VP for an organization that accepted $550,000 from Gates to “implement” CCSS, and she was “in” those same “weeds” enough to publicly chastise the governor of a state with a legislature that “chose” to be “state led” away from CCSS– and a state with standards that Fordham Institute graded as “equal to” CCSS in 2010– for forsaking CCSS and dodging some ill-defined “better future.”
There is no excuse for Martin not to have her facts straight regarding CCSS ownership.
I think she might have prepared for this debate reading only bullet points on the car ride to the event.
Embrace the Common Core: Hug Unprecedented Test-driven Foolishness
But enough of the Petrilli-Martin, phyllo-dough defense of CCSS. In their Intelligence Squared presentation, there is more that I could examine (including Martin’s statement that since all four debaters– Petrilli, Burris, Rick Hess of the American Enterprise Institute, and Martin– thought CCSS was fine in 2012 that all should be fine with it in 2014, and Martin’s stumbling over the “Where is the evidence?” question on CCSS.)
However, based upon what I have written above, it is easy to see that the holes in the pro-CCSS argument are both numerous and large.
Petrilli and Martin might have won the Intelligence Squared debate by a three percent margin, but that does not save them from a logic that melts like soft-serve on a Louisiana August sidewalk.
Like my writing? Read my newly-released ed “reform” whistle blower, A Chronicle of Echoes: Who’s Who in the Implosion of American Public Education
NOW AVAILABLE ON KINDLE.
On September 9, 2014, New York State democrats voted in a primary election that turned out to be an embarrassment for incumbent Andrew Cuomo.
His most viable opponent was a relatively unknown Fordham University professor with no political machine behind her, Zephyr Teachout.
Teachout lost, but not without taking a notable bite out of Cuomo support.
As the Associated Press reports:
ALBANY, N.Y. (AP) — Incumbent governors with national aspirations, a long list of accomplishments and flush bank accounts typically don’t worry about primary challenges, especially one mounted by a little-known professor who moved to the state five years ago.
So it was unusual when New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo found himself facing a spirited fight from rebels in his own Democratic party — environmentalists, unhappy public workers, critics of Albany’s insider culture and voters disturbed by Cuomo’s dismissive treatment of his opponent, Fordham University professor Zephyr Teachout.
Cuomo claimed a comfortable 62 percent in Tuesday’s Democratic matchup, but Teachout’s 34 percent — she won half of the state’s 62 counties — stunned observers who had predicted she would win a 20 percent protest vote.
Voter Vivien Traiman said Cuomo’s stance on hydraulic fracturing for natural gas, or fracking, topped the reasons she voted for Teachout. …
Teachout’s biggest margins came from more rural areas, winning 78 percent of the vote in Columbia County in the Hudson Valley, 71 percent in Schoharie County west of Albany. She also picked up three counties — Albany, Schenectady and Rensselaer — that are home to many state workers. Teachout was endorsed by the Public Employees Federation, the second-largest state worker union.
The governor and his supporters have tried to minimize Teachout’s numbers, noting turnout for the election was a low 10 percent. And they specifically chalk up her support to three groups: fracking opponents; state workers unhappy with contracts under the Cuomo administration; and public teachers who oppose the teacher evaluation system. …
Voters interviewed by The Associated Press listed fracking, Cuomo’s dismantling of the anti-corruption Moreland Commission, and his response to his primary challenger as reasons they cast ballots for Teachout. For most of the campaign, Cuomo studiously ignored Teachout, refusing to use her name or debate her and even turning away from her when she approached him at a recent New York City parade.
What threat did Teachout pose to Cuomo?
John Cassidy of The New Yorker captures well Cuomo’s “Teachout blues”:
Who does Governor Andrew Cuomo think he is? Howard Hughes?
On Election Day, when Zephyr Teachout, his largely unknown and unfunded opponent—an opponent he refused even to acknowledge—got more than a third of the vote in the Democratic primary for November’s gubernatorial election, Cuomo was barely seen. After voting in the morning near his home in Westchester, he disappeared. As the results came in, his whereabouts were still unknown. Was he in his midtown office? Was he in Albany? NY1, which was staking out his home in Mount Kisco, said that there was no sign of him there.
For a politician seeking to be reëlected to one of the top political posts in the country, this vanishing act was highly unusual. Teachout accused Cuomo of disrespecting the democratic process. Was he wary of being exposed to questions from an increasingly hostile media? Finally, at about eleven at night, his office issued a statement hailing his victory—and the victory of his running mate, Kathy Hochul, in the primary for the post of lieutenant governor—as “a testament to the progress we have made together over the last four years: restoring economic opportunity, replacing dysfunction with results, putting people before politics and re-establishing New York as a progressive leader for the nation.” The statement went on, “I also want to congratulate Zephyr Teachout and Tim Wu”—Teachout’s running mate—“on running a spirited campaign, engaging in the democratic process and having the courage to make their voices heard.”
There, he did it. The governor finally mentioned Teachout’s name. Some progress to discuss the next time he sees his therapist. …
Teachout accused Cuomo of governing as a Republican, acting as a shill for the big banks and other campaign contributors, and being part of a “corrupt old boys’ club” in Albany. Making full use of social media and appearances in more traditional media, she demonstrated that, even in this day and age, a candidate with a real message doesn’t necessarily need the support of the party apparatus, or the financial backing of big donors, to have an impact. …
The Democratic Party establishment survived. But Teachout and Wu both achieved more than seemed possible a couple of months ago. By thoroughly embarrassing Cuomo, New York Democrats didn’t merely deliver a blow to whatever national aspirations he may have. They signalled to other Democrats, Hillary Clinton included, that the political center of gravity has shifted, and that a significant segment of Democratic voters won’t suffer gladly a return to the timid, pro-corporate policies of the Clinton years, which Cuomo represents.
That’s why what happened on Tuesday wasn’t just a New York story: it has national implications. [Emphasis added.]
Cuomo has “national aspirations,” and Teachout notably tarnished those aspirations by bucking against New York’s Democratic political machine.
A good reason to go into hiding during an election one is sure to win.
And now, for a looming question:
Where were the teachers unions?
For the most part, they, too, were in hiding.
The Port Jefferson Station Teachers Association (PJSTA), a New York teachers union not dominated by the Cuomo-friendly Unity Caucus, endorsed Teachout. However, the New York State United Teachers (NYSUT) decided to be strategically silent on the issue, supporting no one.
However, the American Federation of Teachers (AFT) and United Federation of Teachers (UFT) did contribute to collective union pressure to save Cuomo from a Working Families Party (WFP), third-party candidate once this nagging Democratic primary business was over.
Regarding the primary: At first glance, it might seem like a NYSUT slight to Cuomo to not openly support him.
You see, on the eve of the primary election, that old Unity Caucus support for Cuomo showed itself.
And guess who has decided to lend a Cuomo-supporting hand?
Our very own Unity-Caucus-hailing, AFT President Randi Weingarten.
On September 8, 2014, Weingarten’s voice had been heard on answering machines around New York, asking voters to support Cuomo’s running mate, Kathy Hochul.
However, she assures voters that she is not Randi Weingarten, union president– she is Randi Weingarten, Democratic National Committee delegate.
Weingarten was “delegated” the task of shutting out the “wrong” Democrat: one Democrat robocalling in favor of another Democrat but against yet another Democrat.
And yet, the “forget that I’m a national teachers union president” Weingarten tries to sell Hochul based upon what she supposedly has done and will do for schools– a word Weingarten repeats five times in her brief script.
Here is Weingarten’s full script, compliments of Ken Lovett of the New York Daily News:
Hi, this is Randi Weingarten- you may know me as the president of the American Federation of Teachers but I’m calling today as a fellow Democrat and delegate to the Democratic National Committee, to urge you to vote for Kathy Hochul for Lieutenant Governor in Tuesday’s Democratic Primary.
I worked closely with Kathy when she was in the Congress. She fought back against extremist Republicans who attacked Medicare, Social Security, affordable healthcare and stood up for public schools, our children, our families and our educators. Her 100 percent pro-choice, pro-equality, pro-worker pro public school record is exactly what we need in our next Lieutenant Governor.
In Congress, Kathy sponsored the Safe Schools Improvement Act to require school districts nationwide to implement anti-bullying policies. Kathy has pledged to help invest in our public schools and expand Universal Pre-K to every region of the state so all of our children get a head start on success.
This is Randi Weingarten and I urge you to vote for Kathy Hochul for Lieutenant Governor in the Democratic Primary this Tuesday September 9th. Thanks. [Emphasis added.]
Fantastic, right? Weingarten using her national position to support Hochul in a democratic state primary, which amounts to supporting Cuomo by proxy, which allows NYSUT (and UFT) to claim neutrality but also satisfies Weingarten’s allegiance to Cuomo and to a Democratic machine.
Now, despite mentioning “schools” five times and focusing much of the message on educational issues, Weingarten says she is not capitalizing on her current position as a national teachers union president in promoting the Cuomo ticket.
What a load of steaming hot horse crap.
Here is the truth: Teachout is not part of the Democratic machine, and Weingarten and Cuomo (and the machines behind both) are all about the machine.
What Weingarten’s actions amount to is a slap in the face for a Democratic candidate who truly represents people, not political machinations.
Cuomo publicly snubbed Teachout; Weingarten slighted Teachout in the final hour, like a coward, behind her back, and in the name of a position so obscure to the general public that Weingarten must preface it with, “Hey, you know me as a union prez, but don’t think of me that way right now….”
And still, Teachout took a third of the vote from Cuomo.
The idea of Teachout’s injuring Cuomo’s aim for the White House I find deeply satisfying.
The Cuomo camp must have been really worried about Teachout’s effect on the polls for Weingarten to show up with her “no, really, I’m not a union president right now,” below-the-belt “Cuomo call.”
Of course, Weingarten’s actions were bound to raise the ire of honest people– the ones tired of her signature political machinations.
On September 14, 2014, 11:30 a.m. EST, I emailed Weingarten about her actions:
RW, what is up with your New York robocall in support of Cuomo via his running mate Hochul? Silence for Teachout, who without your support took a major bite out of Cuomo support, and now robocalls for Cuomo by proxy?
I sent my email to two of Weingarten’s email addresses, and she has not responded. I have since learned that she has not been responding to the issue on Twitter (only one deflective response dated 09-14), and I know Weingarten lives on Twitter. (See some tweets here.)
She has gone quiet on the issue, but don’t worry, Andrew.
It’s all for you.
Randi Weingarten is still your gal.
Like my writing? Read my newly-released ed “reform” whistle blower, A Chronicle of Echoes: Who’s Who in the Implosion of American Public Education
NOW AVAILABLE ON KINDLE.
Not far from my home, on a vacant lot next to a major highway, I noticed an advertisement for our upcoming local school board elections. The name of the candidate is not familiar to me, but each time I pass the board, I wonder, “Who is funding you?”
The purchasing of local school board races by well-funded, national groups with privatizing interests in the supplanting of community school systems with so-called “choice” (e.g., for-profit charter operations; vouchers, online education companies) is now commonplace nationwide.
One means of bankrolling a state or local school board right into education privatizing hands is for well-funded national groups (including non-profit foundations) to form a political action committee (PAC) hidden behind a local-sounding, grass-rootsy name.
One such ploy has come to my attention, a PAC that takes on the name of a local school district as “Committee for a Better _____” (fill in the blank with the name of a city or county/parish).
In its solicitation of prospective candidates to fund, this PAC requires those receiving a contribution to sign a detailed agreement to advance privatization. Below is the text of such an agreement:
Committee for a Better ______ Education Platform
I pledge to vigorously support the following issues:
Implementing all viable options for turning around low-performing ____ schools, including nationally recruiting school principals and issuing RFP’s (requests for proposal) for high-quality charter operators to turn around failing schools.
Expanding the magnet school system to eliminate the waiting list for qualified students.
Expanding educational options (school choice) of parents through the opening of quality charter schools by pro-actively soliciting charter proposals; authorizing charter schools using “best practices” standards as proposed by the National Association of Charter School Authorizers (NACSA), and allowing charter schools that meet NACSA standards to locate or co-locate in public school facilities.
Enhancing the ability of the ______ schools to attract new teachers and principals with diverse experiences and backgrounds to replace retirees and fill vacancies by supporting alternative certification programs for new teachers and principals, and supporting and encouraging the New Leaders for New Schools (NLNS), the New Teacher Project (TNTP), and Teach for America (TFA) programs to operate in ______.
Implementing strict rules that will restrict school board members to creating school systems policy only, and that will prohibit school board members from interfering with the superintendent’s duties of running the day-to-day operation of the school system.
Implementing sound financial practices that will ensure the stability of ______ schools. This would include the consolidating or closing of facilities where warranted and recommended by the superintendent.
Establishing a performance plan with annual benchmarks to get 100 percent of schools at or above basic (on state tests) and to have ______ schools ranked in the top 25 percent of the state’s school systems. This would include ensuring that 75 percent of kindergarten students begin school at grade level within the next four years.
Presenting annual written reports to major state newspapers and live presentations that evaluate the financial and academic achievements as they relate to the school system’s performance plan to civic organizations and the chamber of commerce.
Performing a national search for candidates and releasing to the public each school board member’s scoring by evaluation category of all candidates in the event that a replacement for the current superintendent is needed.
[Candidate's signature and printed name]
By signing the above document, a school board candidate is clearly agreeing to effectively sabotage the very school system he/she has been elected to represent. Charter schools do not answer to the local school board. They are “freed” from such “constraint” even as they draw public funding away from the system schools. Moreover, by agreeing to the above (all for the sake of getting money, mind you), the candidate agrees to work to limit school board authority in favor of increasing the authority of a single person– the superintendent. Notice also the heavy reliance on “alternative certification” such as TNTP and TFA. Charter schools depend upon such folks for cheaper (un-unionized), turnover teaching labor (especially TFA). However, some of these former TFAers will be groomed to become test-driven privatizing principals and superintendents via such avenues as New Leaders for New Schools. And through them, the virus of school system destruction via privatization will spread.
In short, this candidate agrees to undermine school board authority, traditionally trained, career teachers and administrators, and community schools. In doing so, this candidate will cripple (and possibly destroy) the local school system.
As to the increasing of magnet schools: In the Orleans Parish school system, former magnet schools have become “selective admissions” charters– creaming schools that allow charter proponents to showcase how “choice is working.” Additionally, requiring an increase in magnet schools draws higher-performing (translate that into better-testing) students away from other schools in a district, making the remaining schools likelier to receive lower school letter grades– thereby increasing the opportunity for “choice” to step in and “turn around” such schools (translate that into charter takeover by those with zero community investment and the death of community schools).
I must add, my favorite part of the above sabotaging agreement is the stipulation of “implementing sound financial practices”– which I thought might involve requiring regular charter school audits– but, no. Just increased opportunity for the FBI to investigate charter schools. (Just google “FBI charter schools” for lots more reading.)
As to charter “co-locating”– New York’s Eva Moskowitz has been the pushy broad on this front. (I wrote a chapter on Moskowitz’s co-location dealings. It’s in my book, A Chronicle of Echoes, and it just so happens that readers can view the entire chapter on Amazon.com for free by clicking this link.) Ironically, Moskowitz has named her schools “Success Academies”– but according to data publicly available in New York, her schools are “built on lies.”
But back to this well-funded PAC and its “Committee for a Better _______” front.
What can one do to combat the takeover of local school boards by candidates who have taken cash to sell off their own community schools?
The following suggestions come from retired teacher and Louisiana traditional public school activist Lee Barrios:
It is important for supporters of public education to attend any and all public forums for school board candidates in their district and neighboring districts and to make every effort to ask the following questions of the candidates. These questions can also be asked of candidates in written form.
(Most forums require questions to written and submitted, so prepare by typing or writing legibly your questions on index cards.)
Have you or will you pledge your support to any individual organization or PAC that you will agree to follow a specific agenda as a member of the school board? That agreement might include but is not limited to:
Solicit charter proposals
Allow charters to co-locate in public school facilities
Support or encourage recruitment if teachers through Teach For America, New Leaders for New Schools or The New Teacher Project
Nationally recruit school principals
Implement strict rules that would prohibit school board members from interfering with superintendent duties
Expand magnet schools
Perform a national search for district superintendent when that position is open
In sum, do not hesitate to ask school board candidates if they have entered into agreements to privatize the local school system. And if they have, send a message by sharing what you know about them and not voting for them.
I know I will be asking as much about the candidate with the billboard on that vacant lot on that major highway near my home.
NOW AVAILABLE ON KINDLE.
In Louisiana, there has been a bit of mystery surrounding the only math curriculum “selected” in March 2014 by the Louisiana Board of Elementary and Secondary Education (BESE) and the Louisiana Department of Education (LDOE) and promoted as
It sure sounds like… dare I write it… grass roots CCSS math development, huh?
Then comes the fine print.
LDOE’s “Louisiana Believes” website offers this overview of Eureka Math, which includes the following tiny wording regarding its funding and development:
Eureka Math is based on research and development made possible through a partnership with the New York State Education Department. The modules within Eureka Math are available online at engageny.org and commoncore.org
©2014 Common Core, Inc. All rights reserved.
Common Core, Inc., is a non-profit 501(c)3 organization that creates curriculum tools and promotes programs, policies, and initiatives at the local, state, and federal levels that provide students with challenging, rigorous instruction in the full range of liberal arts and sciences. Common Core was established in 2007 and is not affiliated with the Common Core State Standards.
So, where is LSU in all of this? According to this 2013 LDOE Common Core State Standards (CCSS) transitional summary, there is no mention of Common Core, Inc. (the Eureka Math copyright owner) and no mention of New York State/EngageNY:
Curriculum. The state will produce a Louisiana Curriculum Guidebook for English Language Arts and Math in grades Kindergarten through 12 that will include learning standards, a recommended sequence of skills to be taught, recommended units to present, and recommended materials to use in the classroom. The state will also recommend math curricula, including LSU-developed Eureka Math, along with English reading materials. [Emphasis added.]
Much better for business for Louisiana State Superintendent John White to pump up the “LSU-developed” angle and not the rest of the story– including Eureka Math’s connection to New York’s slice of federal Race to the Top (RTTT) funding and the copyright of Eureka Math by an organization that is DC-based, not Louisiana-based.
Commoncore.org offers this funding and development background on its Eureka math:
In 2012, Common Core (the nonprofit) won three contracts from the New York State Education Department to create a PreK–12 mathematics curriculum to be hosted on the state’s EngageNY website. Common Core makes PDF files containing that work available free of charge. [Emphasis added.]
No mention of LSU’s role– because the LSU folk were just the hired workers.
Interestingly, I located a precisely-detailed account of Eureka Math development and ownership in this May 2013 memo for the Berkeley (California) Unified School District (BUSD).
Among the BUSD-noted Eureka Math history is the acknowledgment of Daro’s oversight. (Daro is also associated with the University of California at Berkeley Graduate School of Education.)
And now, the Un-John-White-washed story of Eureka Math, compliments of BUSD:
A Story of Units is the K-5 math curriculum designed by a group of math educators working with Common Core, Inc., a not-for-profit organization started in 2007 by Lynn Munsen with the goal of providing in-depth “core” materials to schools and districts. Common Core, Inc. won a bid to work with New York Regents who were charged with using Race-to-the-Top funds to implement the Common Core State Standards for Mathematics (CCSSM).The development of the curriculum was originally funded by New York under the “engageNY” umbrella, but Common Core, Inc. reserves the rights to the materials and is creating a less “New York” version of the curriculum under its newly formed “Eureka Math” group. The Eureka Math Story of Units curriculum (which is essentially the engageNY curriculum minus the references to New York’s Learning Standards) will be available to all states next year for purchase, with Josey-Bass Wiley publishing printed materials and Common Core, Inc. overseeing a web version. Because the curriculum has undergone extensive revisions in its development, the writers are not anticipating major changes between the engageNY version being implemented this year in New York (and offered for free to other users) and the final version that will come out in 2014-15….
The math educators writing the curriculum include Nell McAnelly, Co-director of the Cain Center for Scientific, Technological, Engineering and Mathematical Literacy at LSU, and Scott Baldridge, math education professor at LSU and Singapore math training expert. Dr. McAnelly is the Project Director for A Story of Units, and Dr. Baldridge is Lead Writer for all the “Story” curriculum, including the K-5 curriculum A Story of Units, the 6-8 curriculum A Story of Ratios and the 9-12 curriculum A Story of Functions. Other key writers for A Story of Units include Bill Davidson who is writing the fluency component and Ben McCarty who is writing the assessments. BUSD is working directly with Nell McAnelly to plan the Professional Development training for the district, Bill Davison to train a group of teacher leaders in the fluency practices of the curriculum, and Ben McCarty in understanding the assessment pieces and in creating ways to train teachers to develop formative assessments to augment the curriculum-embedded assessments. Because BUSD has built strong relationships with the key people overseeing the development of A Story of Units, we are in an optimal position to train our teachers and offer support during the 2013-14 school year and into the next. Finally, the Common Core, Inc. team is working directly with Phil Daro, one of the three writers of the Common Core Standards for Mathematics, in finalizing this curriculum, to ensure it accurately reflects the way math is developed in the standards. Dr. Daro’s insistence on precision has required the writers to rewrite sections of the curriculum so that it more accurately teaches and assesses the mathematics of the Common Core. [Emphasis added.]
As much as John White tries to spin Eureka Math as an LSU creation, it just ain’t so. The LSU profs were only hired hands in this enterprise.
Washington, DC-based Common Core, Inc., owns Eureka Math.
And CCSS math chair Phil Daro had the final say in Eureka Math as accurately modeling CCSS.
In a December 2012 presentation, Daro had the following to say regarding CCSS math:
…we designed a new species of standards on which to build, as a platform for building a new kind of instructional system…. (23:25, first video).
In other words, Daro intended the CC math standards to drive the curriculum.
Those who insist that the “CCSS math” that just happens to be popping up all over the country and frustrating parents in states nationwide is actually curriculum divorced from a neutral CCSS need to reread my Daro citation above.
This shift in math curriculum is intended by the man accorded the title of CCSS math development chair.
That’s right. All of that unorthodox math that insists upon problem solving a certain way for a certain grade level despite a student’s arriving at a correct answer? That’s Phil Daro. (He discusses as much in minute four of the Q&A video included as part of a December 2012 presentation in the Mill Valley School District in California.)
There now. Eureka Math can make sense, if only for the moment.
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No Child Left Behind (NCLB) was not reauthorized in 2007. Nor was it reauthorized in 2008. Nor has it been reauthorized in 2014.
NCLB, with its nonsense “100 percent proficiency in reading and math by 2014,” has been lingering on legislative life support, even as 2014 is surely coming to an end.
But the beauty of NCLB for test-driven reform lay in its “waivers.”
States had to petition USDOE for permission to be released from the idiotic “100 percent proficiency” goal noted above.
In February 2012, Louisiana State Superintendent John White submitted this NCLB waiver application to USDOE. In May 2012, the waiver was approved.
(For other Louisiana NCLB docs, click here.)
As part of Louisiana’s NCLB waiver deal, White assures USDOE that Louisiana will forge ahead with both the Common Core State Standards (CCSS) and the Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers (PARCC) assessments.
My favorite part is the guarantee of “overwhelming support from the public and from educators” in July 2010, when the Louisiana Board of Elementary and Secondary Education (BESE) adopted CCSS.
He doesn’t mention that Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal and former State Superintendent Paul Pastorek signed the CCSS MOU in May 2009 and that they could not garner support for CCSS from the majority of school districts (only 26 out of 69 wanted CCSS in 2010).
In 2012, as part of a deal to remove Louisiana from life-support “100 percent proficiency in reading and math by 2014,” White offers this embellished account (expect nothing less from him) of Louisiana’s loving embrace of CCSS and PARCC.
White notes “discussing adoption” of CCSS in 2010. He fails to mention that Jindal and Pastorek signed the CCSS MOU a year earlier. Thus, the “discussion” was not of whether to adopt CCSS; it was just to get “input” for the CCSS draft.
Notice also the “PK to 16 seamless education push,” and the marketing of “a single powerful message” about “Louisiana reforms.”
Here it is: White’s complete text promising US Secretary of Education Arne Duncan that Louisiana will be faithful to CCSS and PARCC:
Louisiana believes that the successful implementation of innovative policies relies on the input and investment of local educators and other stakeholders. For this reason, the Louisiana Department of Education (LDOE) sought extensive input into the development of the various initiatives included in this application and into the development of the application itself. Groups involved include educators – teachers, principals, district-level officials and Superintendents, and university and college professors and deans – and the public – business leaders, civic leaders, and parents.
Stakeholder Engagement for Application Initiatives
College- and Career-Readiness: Common Core State Standards (CCSS) and the Partnership for Assessment of Readiness of College and Careers (PARCC) Assessments
In early 2010, the LDOE contacted several statewide professional education organizations to announce the release of the draft Common Core State Standards (CCSS) and to discuss their adoption. The organizations approached for this opportunity included:
• the Louisiana School Boards Association,
• the Louisiana Federation of Teachers,
• the Associated Professional Educators of Louisiana,
• the Louisiana Association of Principals,
• the Louisiana Council of Teachers of English (LCTE),
• the Louisiana Association of Teachers of Mathematics (LATM),
• the Louisiana Council of Supervisors of Mathematics (LCSM), and
• twenty teacher panels representing English Language Arts (ELA) and Mathematics.
The input and comments of these groups were then incorporated into the official input that the LDOE provided to the National Governors Association Center for Best Practices and the Council of Chief State School Officers (CCSSO) regarding the draft CCSS standards. In July 2010, with overwhelming support from the public and from educators, the Louisiana State Board of Elementary and Secondary Education (BESE) approved the adoption of the CCSS in a public meeting.
Major work on CCSS at the state level began in 2011, as the LDOE developed and disseminated the first CCSS communications tools and a web page specifically for the transition to CCSS (http://www.doe.state.la.us/topics/common_core.html). This website continues to serve as a repository of information regarding CCSS and Louisiana’s implementation plan, webinars, crosswalk documents, training and modeling videos, brochures, and other related materials, which can be accessed by teachers, school leaders, parents, and the general public. Grade-by-grade parent guides of the CCSS, published by the National Parent Teacher Association, are included on the site. During the same year, the LDOE also convened committees of Social Studies educators who developed new Social Studies Grade-Level Expectations to complement the CCSS. The new Social Studies Grade-Level Expectations were adopted by BESE in June 2011.
CCSS outreach and communications priorities for summer and fall 2011 focused primarily on CCSS awareness. The general awareness webinar was presented to postsecondary education campus leaders – presidents/chancellors, chief academic officers, and deans – district superintendents, charter school leaders, and curriculum supervisors, as well as some education stakeholder organizations. These individuals then re-delivered this information to college faculty, teachers, parents, and community leaders.
Additionally, the Blue Ribbon Commission for Educational Excellence adopted a 2011-2012 agenda that focuses on the preparation of students who are college- and career-ready as new CCSS and PARCC assessments are implemented in Louisiana. Composed of 36 state, university, district, school, and community leaders, the Commission was formed in 1999 by the Governor, the Board of Regents (BOR), and BESE to improve teacher quality and educational leadership in Louisiana. Its specific charge was to recommend policies to the Governor, Board of Regents, and BESE that would lead to a cohesive PK-16+
system – a system that holds universities and school districts accountable for the aggressive recruitment, preparation, support, and retention of quality teachers and educational leaders. During the 2011-2012 academic year, the Commission set out to answer specific questions around the integration of CCSS and PARCC assessments across all grades and higher education. The work of this group further signifies the commitment by Louisiana’s entire education community to implement the CCSS and PARCC assessments, to align elementary and secondary standards and assessments with college and university expectations, and to ensure a seamless PK-16 education system aimed at preparing all students to be college and career ready.
The LDOE has assembled a state leadership team to ensure the effective implementation of CCSS. In addition to LDOE staff, leadership team members also include two district superintendents, two senior district leaders in charge of curriculum and assessments, and the Associate Commissioner for Teacher and Leadership Initiatives at the Louisiana Board of Regents. Close collaboration with the BOR ensures full state implementation of the CCSS in schools, districts, and educator preparation programs. BOR has convened meetings of college and university presidents and chancellors, provosts, vice presidents for academic affairs, and the deans of colleges of arts, sciences, and education, for the purpose of developing an implementation plan to revise educator preparation programs to reflect the CCSS.
As Louisiana moves forward with its initiatives, the LDOE continues to seek stakeholder input as it is essential to success. The state is in the process of revising its state Science standards in collaboration with other state education agencies through Achieve CCSS, as well as other stakeholders in science, science education, higher education, and business and industry. (Achieve is an independent, bi-partisan non-profit organization with a 15-year track record of working with states to improve student achievement by aligning K-12 education policies with the expectations of employers and the postsecondary community.) Upon integrating public input, a set of K-12 Next Generation Science Standards will be ready for state adoption. A Louisiana team including district and school representatives attended the Building Capacity in State Science Education meeting, hosted by the Council of State Supervisors, in February 2012. At this meeting, states received an update on the development of the new standards, discussed ways in which stakeholders can be involved in the review process, and planned for implementation if adopted.
Priorities for CCSS outreach and communications during spring 2012 include professional development for educators and college faculty about the new standards, as well as modeling effective instructional strategies to teach the new standards. General awareness activities will continue in order to inform stakeholders, including policymakers, community and business leaders, parents and students. Going forward, LDOE’s communications strategy will focus on conveying a single, powerful message about Louisiana’s education priorities and reforms in a manner that is clearly understood by the general public. That message will encompass CCSS as well as educator effectiveness, Louisiana’s strong accountability system for schools and districts, and the state’s commitment to provide high-quality education for all children – all of which are critical to ensure that students graduate prepared for postsecondary education and the workforce. [Emphasis added.]
There you have it: White’s (USDOE approved) promise to Duncan that Louisiana will abide by the USDOE-approved option of CCSS and PARCC in order to escape sanctions for not producing the “100 percent proficiency in reading and math” required by a foolish-yet-lingering, powerful-“waiver”-yielding NCLB.
There is more to the Louisiana NCLB waiver, including the agreement to measure teachers using student test scores and a listing of the “stakeholders” consulted in the NCLB waiver process. (Black Alliance for Educational Options–BAEO, Stand for Children, Council for a Better Louisiana–CABL, and Louisiana Association of Business and Industry–LABI are avid CCSS supporters on this list.)
There’s also a chart of RSD school *improvement* (with no embarrassing school letter grades) on page 45. It’s really classic data manipulation in showing *increase* of students scoring Basic or above on all state standardized tests from 2007 to 2011. Here’s the accompanying sales pitch:
As an example of the power of this(RSD) turnaround mechanism, from 2008 to 2011, schools in the RSD demonstrated academic growth rates that more than tripled the state’s average academic growth during the same period.
Equally impressive, the RSD’s passage rates for all statewide assessments were greater than all of the four largest districts within the state. From 2007 to 2011, the RSD in New Orleans more than doubled the percentage of all tests passed by its students—from 23 percent to 48 percent, a total of 25 points—while the state grew six points over the same period of time.
That RSD is sure fantastic. If only it worked.
Also included is White’s assurance of PARCC “management” as being connected to Achieve (one of the inside groups for CCSS creation)– which is ironic given that in September 2013, former senior VP of Achieve Laura Slover was appointed CEO of the PARCC nonprofit.
Small, insular, privatizing world, eh?
White also discusses “technology readiness” and admits that 2013-14 would be the first “full implementation” year for CCSS:
During 2013-2014, the LDOE will identify curriculum resources for all grades and subjects that fully align to the CCSS for use by all schools and districts. The CCSS will fully replace the Grade-Level Expectations in ELA and Mathematics, and new content standards for Social Studies and Science, pending adoption by BESE, will be in place for all grades. The new PARCC assessments will be administered in 2014-2015.
White did not inform Louisiana districts of the 2013-14 full implementation of CCSS, and he did not deliver on those CCSS curriculum resources for that unannounced 2013-14 full implementation.
There is much more detail to Louisiana’s NCLB waiver (it is 173 pages long).
I’ll leave the rest for ambitious readers to peruse.
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In September 2010, two assessment consortia “won” federal Race to the Top (RTTT) money for the “design, development, and evaluation of the assessment system” known as Race to the Top Assessment (RTTA): The Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium (SBAC) and the Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers (PARCC).
PARCC received $170 million, and SBAC, $160 million, plus an additional $16 million to each consortium to “support efforts to help participating States successfully transition to common standards and assessments.”
In the award letters, both PARCC and SBAC were expected by January 7, 2011, to “negotiate and complete a final cooperative agreement” with the federal government regarding the usage of the “common standards” assessments.
The fine print for taking college-and-career-ready dough from the feds.
I have heard individuals ask about whether one of the requirements of the Common Core State Standards (CCSS) is the release of student-level data to the federal government. I have heard pro-CCSS officials dismiss this idea as unfounded.
PARCC and SBAC are the federally-funded, CCSS-assessment consortia. In order to receive those federal millions for CCSS assessment development, both consortia had to agree to deliver student-level data to USDOE.
Data is control, and USDOE wants control over state education affairs. (If you doubt USDOE’s desire for control over states, google “Arne Duncan NCLB waivers” and do a bit of reading.)
Don’t let the pro-CCSS crowd corner you with semantics: CCSS is wed to the USDOE-funded, consortia-developed CCSS assessments, and both federally-funded consortia have agreed to deliver student-level data to USDOE. So, yes indeed, CCSS is a vehicle for USDOE’s student-level data gathering ambitions.
Consider Appendix F (RTTA Program Requirements), Item 3:
An eligible applicant awarded a grant under this category must—
Work with the Department to develop a strategy to make student-level data that result from the assessment system available on an ongoing basis for research, including for prospective linking, validity, and program improvement studies. [Emphasis added.]
Of course, there is also a footnote about “complying with FERPA”– whatever that means these days. FERPA appears to be an ever-loosening “security.”
So. There you have it: Both consortia agree to deliver “student level data” to USDOE– and not only for the four years of the RTTA grant– but “ongoing” delivery.
The RTTA money will be long gone, and the states that took it will continue to be indebted to USDOE to shuttle endless student-level data to the feds. What a deal.
Allow me to offer a smidge more from that *cooperative* agreement.
There is also Item 6, the stipulation about making “assessment content (i.e., assessments and assessment items) developed with funds from this grant category freely available to States, technology platform providers, and others that request it for purposes of administering assessments….”
That explains Louisiana’s “free” PARCC test items– free items paid for by the federal government.
You read it right.
No controlling intentions attached to those “free” items, I am sure. USDOE is just being nice.
One more item for this post:
As education historian Diane Ravitch noted in her September 8, 2014, interview with Tavis Smiley, USDOE is using the CCSS assessment consortia it has funded as vehicles to push school districts into pouring money into technology (Item 7):
An eligible applicant awarded a grant under this category must—
Use technology to the maximum extent appropriate to develop, administer, and score assessments and report assessment results. [Emphasis added.]
What is baffling is that those who complain about the amount of money spent on American education in the wake of dissatisfying international test results are now pushing a test-driven reform that requires additional billions in technology expenditures (see also here and here and here) but that is expected to flunk more kids.
After all, USDOE will have the “ongoing,” student-level data to prove it– data that it also requires PARCC and SBAC states to use “to inform determinations of school effectiveness [and] determinations of individual principal and teacher effectiveness for purposes of evaluation” among other nifty test-score-centered, classroom-controlling ends. (Article I.B., “Results Expected.”)
We can be failures anew, and privatizing reform (and, of course, USDOE) can be *right* about us once again from its deluded perch.
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