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Smarter Balanced: Lacking Smarts; Precariously Balanced

In this time of  “public-education-targeted boldness,” the Common Core State Standards (CCSS) has made the American public one whopper of a “bold” promise:

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 is neither now nor never has been any empirical investigation to substantiate this “bold” claim.

Indeed, CCSS has not been around long enough to have been thoroughly tested. Instead, the above statement–which amounts to little more than oft-repeated advertising– serves as its own evidence.

However, if it’s on the *official* CCSS website, and if CCSS proponents repeat it constantly, that must make it true… right?

Keep clicking your heels, Dorothy.

Now, it is one issue to declare that CCSS works. It is quite another to attempt to anchor CCSS assessments to the above cotton candy of a guarantee. Nevertheless, that is what our two beloved, federally-funded assessment consortia are attempting to do.

Let us consider recent proclamations by one of these CCSS assessment consortia, the Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium (SBAC).

On November 14, 2014, SBAC published its lean-to efforts at creating a set of SBAC assessment cut scores for levels of achievement connected to an unproven CCSS. (Whew.) In a smooth dig on SBAC lunacy, Washington Post education blogger Valerie Strauss offers the actual SBAC text revealing and shakily explaining their cut score decisions (see this November 20, 2014 Answer Sheet post).

lean to

SBAC has purportedly anchored its assessment to empirically unanchored CCSS. How doing so is supposed to serve public education is an elephant in the high-stakes assessment room.

Regarding its assessment scoring, SBAC decided upon cut scores that divide individual student scores into four “achievement levels.” SBAC knows it is peddling nonsense but does so anyway, apparently disclaiming, “Hey, we know that these achievement levels and their cut scores are arbitrary, but we have to do this because No Child Left Behind (NCLB) is making us. But we want to warn about using the achievement-level results of this high-stakes test for any high-stakes decisions”:

Defining these levels of achievement (“Achievement Levels”) is a reporting feature that is federally required under the No Child Left Behind Act, and one that has become familiar to many educators. However, characterizing a student’s achievement solely in terms of falling in one of four categories is an oversimplification. … They must continuously be validated….”

Furthermore, there is not a critical shift in student knowledge or understanding that occurs at a single cut score point.

[Footnote] Additional research will be needed to validate the achievement level descriptors in relation to the actual success rates of students when they enter college and careers. 

The above SBAC interpretation explanation (see Strauss’ post) continues for several sentences about how these achievement levels “should serve only as a starting point for discussion” and “should not be interpreted as infallible predictors of students’ futures.”

Not going to happen.

The reality is that the media will publish percentages of students falling into the four categories as though the SBAC-created classification is infallible, and once again, schools, teachers, and students will be stigmatized.

Forget about any cautions or disclaimers. Offer a simplistic graphic, and the media will run with it.

SBAC itself offered several graphics explaining its cut score decisions. These can be found in Strauss’ post.  Two are line graphs showing the actual raw scores arbitrarily chosen as cut scores, and two are bar graphs, complete with the percentages of students whose scores fall into each from the SBAC pilot study (grades 3 through 11).

Based upon SBAC cut scores, most students “scored into” the bottom two levels. Imagine that.

Recall the SBAC disclaimer, published as a footnote:

Additional research will be needed to validate the achievement level descriptors in relation to the actual success rates of students when they enter college and careers. 

SBAC cut scores are not tied to “actual success rates.” Nothing about CCSS has been validated using “actual success rates.”

SBAC was tasked with figuring out how in the world to operationalize both “college ready” and “career ready.” It decided that “college ready” means CCSS content ready. In other words, the SBAC test assumes that CCSS will “ensure” college readiness simply because CCSS promoters say it will.

What we have here is a test that leads to no end other than CCSS for CCSS’s sake. American education on the hamster’s wheel.

SBAC states that its achievement levels “must continuously be validated” in the utter and complete absence of the most important validation evidence– pilot testing CCSS to see if it delivers on its “college ready” claim in the first place.

The reality is that before state adoption, CCSS should have been studied on at least one cohort of students from Kindergarten through grade 12. SBAC (and other supposed CCSS assessments) should have gone along for that ride for the purposes of testing CCSS itself, not students.

I realize that the above statement is not news to those with common sense. CCSS lacks empirical evidence to support its “college and career ready” claim, and that CCSS “college ready” evidence alone would take at least 14 years to gather.

Collect empirical evidence that CCSS actually delivers on a college and career ready promise before adopting CCSS and chasing it with costly, high-stakes assessments?? No, no, say the CCSS pushers. Not time enough for that. American education is “failing”; so, we need to be “urgent.”

Urgent, not really. Sloppy and irresponsible, absolutely.

(As an aside on “college ready”: Even higher education is expected to center on CCSS. Thus, CCSS continues as its own authority. Colleges and universities are expected to “get ready” for CCSS, which makes “college ready” whatever CCSS says it should be. Watch out, America. CCSS is being positioned as the authoritative, infallible center of education for the masses and is even being promoted as the center of state accountability systems.)

As it stands, SBAC’s flimsy defining of “college ready” as “CCSS-content-ready” is the high point of operationalizing the CCSS sales pitch. When it comes to trying to define “career ready,” SBAC admits being at a complete loss. As SBAC notes in its publicized Achievement Level Recommendations:

Smarter Balanced does not yet have a parallel operational definition and framework for career readiness.

SBAC tests are supposed to measure CCSS, which purports to “ensure” both “college and career readiness,” yet the multi-million-dollar SBAC effort can’t seem to get a handle on what “career readiness” actually is.

In Louisiana, the economy is so depressed that Louisiana Workforce Commission job projections for 2020 estimate that the majority of available entry-level jobs will require a high school diploma or less.

CCSS: So effective, it even makes Louisiana dropouts “career ready.” It’s just that good.

So, see, there is no way for CCSS to fail in the Bayou State. Even high school dropouts can be “career ready” in Louisiana. However, having to face state employment projections opens a real box of confusion for those trying to blanket-define “career readiness.” Career readiness must be defined in relation to careers, and careers are dependent upon state and local economies– none of which can be standardized to suit the likes of CCSS and its assessments.

Operationalizing “career ready” is not so easy to do (understatement), but it should have been done (or the white flag of surrender should have been raised) years ago.

Instead, CCSS and its assessments are propelled forward, awkwardly propped up by lots of Gates money, some of which has even been given to self-appointed standards arbiter, the Thomas B. Fordham Institute, to evaluate SBAC and other CCSS assessments and publish a “report” come spring 2015.

balanced house

Fordham Institute will not be connecting CCSS assessments with any measurable “college and career ready” outcomes. To Fordham Institute, CCSS works, and it needs to have tests:

“The promise of the Common Core State Standards, implemented faithfully, is improved education and life outcomes for millions of American children,” noted Amber Northern, vice president of research [at Fordham Institute]. “We need tests that fairly reflect and honor the hard work that we are asking teachers and students to do under the Common Core.”

In 2010, Fordham Institute sold America an untested CCSS with the oiliness of promoting a preferred product, and rest assured, it will do the same for some or all of the CCSS assessments. All Fordham Institute has to offer is glossy-brochured sales manure.

Use it to fertilize your spring flowers.

For now, know that SBAC hasn’t a clue about what it is really offering the American public by way of its CCSS assessments. But don’t think that a crucial lack of an empirical foundation will hold SBAC back.

After all, testing an untested CCSS is urgent.

hamster wheel

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Schneider is also author of the ed reform whistleblower, A Chronicle of Echoes: Who’s Who In the Implosion of American Public Education

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The YES Prep Non-contribution to Texas Public Education

On November 4, 2014, the Katy (Texas) Independent School District (KISD) approved a $748 million bond referendum in order to accommodate the approximately 3000 new students entering KISD per year. The bond includes funding for 8,890 additional classroom seats, construction of six new schools (one high school, two junior highs, and three elementary schools, for $357 million); renovations to 43 existing campuses ($135 million); $50 million for technology upgrades; $21 million for a new agricultural sciences center, $13 million for safety and security upgrades, and $21 million for buses. (For details on plans for the KISD bond, including photos, click here.)

The rate of growth in KISD has required to district to petition the state for waivers from required student-to-teacher ratios.

KISD is apparently busting at the seams.

Whereas the bond issue passed, it did so by approximately 55%– a close vote. (For more details on concerns raised by the bond and addressed by KISD, click this link.)

It seems that part of the issue for those against the 2014 bond was the earmarking of $58 million for a second stadium. A 2013 KISD bond proposal did not pass. Included in that proposal was a $69.5 million stadium; furthermore, the stadium comprised approximately 70 percent of the 2013 bond proposal. (In other words, the 2013 bond proposal was mostly for a stadium.)

Though the 2014 bond was for over seven times the amount of the bond proposed in 2013, the inclusion of the new and renovated school facilities in the bond was enough to garner the votes for passage.

The advantage of improving the school district is the expected increase in property values associated with KISD additions and renovations. And the cost to taxpayers appears minimal: one-half cent per assessed $1000 of property value. Thus, a Katy homeowner with a house worth $200,000 will pay an extra $10 per year in property taxes to support the $748 million in improvements detailed above.

Only 78 cents of that extra $10 in the example above will be devoted toward paying for the stadium.

On November 15, 2014, YES Prep charter board member Justin Segal took issue with the “extravagance” of the KISD stadium, among other bond issues in Texas approved by voters to pay for traditional public school facilities. In his Houston Chronicle opinion piece, Segal alternately boasts and laments the lower cost per student for YES Prep school facilities– facilities unfunded by Texas state law.

In June 2012, representatives of Texas charter schools sued over the approximately $1000 less per student that the legislature allows to follow the student to a charter school. (See an “update” at the bottom of the link identifying the charter-friendly Walton Foundation as contribution of $425,000 to “cover a significant portion of the legal expenses.”) In short, the state is willing to contribute to community school facilities but not charter facilities.

The State of Texas– birthplace of the supposed testing miracles that opened up the rest of the nation to test-driven No Child Left Behind (NCLB) via former Texas Governor-become-President George W. Bush, including the replacing of “failing” community schools with charters–has a cap on the number of open-enrollment charters in Texas: 305 by 2019.

The charter lawsuit is also seeking to lift the cap on the number of Texas charters.

The Texas charter school lawsuit was combined with several other district lawsuits regarding funding inequities in Texas school systems. As is turns out, in August 2014, the judge did not agree with the lawsuit charge that the $1000 less in funding per charter student “creates constitutional harm.” He stated that both charter funding and the charter cap were left to the discretion of the legislature.

In other words, the judge ruled that the Texas legislature had a choice regarding charter funding.

The case is on appeal to the Texas Supreme Court.

In his November 2014 opinion piece, Segal assumes that the voters approving school district improvements and expansion “seem to be rooted in the mistaken belief that increasingly elaborate buildings will lead to increasingly good results.” Of course, to the test-driven charter proponent, “good results” are high test scores and other superficial quantification of school “success.” Segal complains about a new Houston high school, High School for the Performing and Visual Arts (HSPVA), which will cost $80 million for 750 students, “or $107,000 per seat.” He does not elaborate upon exactly what the students will have access to at this new facility. Instead, he focuses on “performance”– a euphemism for test score outcomes:

Even in its current cramped Montrose quarters, HSPVA is consistently ranked among the city’s top performers – as are multiple YES Prep campuses, where students learn in modular buildings, old warehouses and converted strip malls. These results confirm what parents already know: The quality of the teachers and programming are the most important factor in a student’s learning experience.

First of all, I am not sure how Segal reconciles the ideas of “cramped quarters” with “quality of teachers and programming.” As a teacher, my “quality” is surely influenced by adequate space and the number of students under my care. Second, if the goal is to create a school for performing arts, how is it that suitable “programming” is ignored and “top performance” is narrowed to the euphemistic test score?

Clearly, Segal is promoting YES Prep as a model that HISD should emulate– and fiscally support with a slice of facilities funding. After all, he notes that YES Prep and KIPP (another charter chain) “typically outperform their peers by wide margins.”

The question is, what does open-enrollment YES Prep offer students and parents in the name of “choice”? Well, a 2007-10 study Arnold performed by YES Prep supporter, the Arnold Foundation, found that 67 percent of YES Prep teachers hailed from the teaching temp agency, Teach for America (TFA). YES Prep’s dependence upon TFAers is no surprise given that YES Prep founder Chris Barbic is himself a TFA alum. YES Prep teachers also earned approximately $5000 less per year than did their Houston Independent School District (HISD) counterparts, with YES Prep evidencing a 30 percent teacher turnover rate as compared to HISD’s 11 percent.

So, it appears that YES Prep students are more likely to experience less stability in their YES Prep school career because of an almost one-in-three teacher turnover per year (based on 2007-10 stats).

According to one YES Prep student, the turnover is also evident in YES Prep administration. As noted in January 2014 on the YES Prep (Gulfton) link on the Great Schools website:

I am a student at YES Prep GULFTON and I have been a part of this family since 6th grade (I am currently a Junior). The school is amazing and the teachers really do care! We are currently on our 4th director but it is okay, the others have left to help improve schools. [Emphasis added.]

For the six years that this student has been at this YES Prep campus, the school has had four different administrators. Apparently the student has been told that the administrative turnover is good– just leader heroes moving on to save the day elsewhere.

Hmm.

Administrative and faulty churn cannot be good for students– even if students are being reassured that it is fine.

Still, on its Linkedin site, YES Prep boasts of some remarkable accomplishments:

YES Prep Public Schools is a free, open-enrollment public school system serving 8,000 students across 13 campuses in the Houston area, with plans to open schools in Memphis in 2015. YES has been ranked as the best public school in Houston by Newsweek, U.S. News & World Report and the Houston Chronicle. For the 14th consecutive year, 100 percent of YES Prep’s graduating seniors have been accepted into four-year colleges, including Harvard, Yale, Columbia, Rice and Stanford. YES Prep combines a highly successful 6th-12th grade model along with high standards for student achievement and parental involvement. [Emphasis added.]

Wow! For 14 straight years, YES Prep has had 100 percent of its graduates accepted into four-year colleges!

Here’s some more to that gimmicky-sounding statement:

From the outset, YES Prep enrolls notably fewer English language learners (ELL) than does HISD (the Arnold Foundation report has this stat at approximately 30 percent for HISD as compared to less than 3 percent for YES Prep). Also, from one grade to the next, YES Prep tends to lose low state test scorers and retain high state test scorers.

In all likelihood, back to Texas community public schools they go.

As for how many students fall by the YES Prep wayside, an August 2013 study by Penn State professor Ed Fuller examined the attrition from grade 8 to grade 11 at YES Prep and found it to be approximately 40 percent. Fuller observes,

Perhaps YES Prep would retain a greater percentage of lower-performing students if they actually retained a greater percentage of teachers.

Good point, indeed.

So, it seems that those “100 percent accepted into four year colleges” were at best the 60 percent who made it from grade 8 to their senior year.

But what of actual college success for these *100 percent who are really more likely 60 percent since grade 8*? Fuller found that over 40 percent of those entering a four-year university had GPAs below 2.0 in their first year. Nora Kern for National Alliance for Public Charter Schools (NAPCS) acknowledged that only 41 percent of those “100 percent accepted into four-year colleges” completed college in six years.

That is 41 percent of the approximately 60 percent (or less) who make it from grade 8 to their senior year at YES Prep, or roughly 24 percent of those who were once YES Prep eighth graders.

Not so phenomenal.

“100 percent of graduates accepted into four-year colleges” makes for a better news byte.

There is still more to this “100 percent of graduates accepted into four-year colleges”:

Acceptance into a four-year college is a requirement to graduate from YES Prep, as is taking and passing at least one Advanced Placement (AP) or dual-enrollment course. The YES Prep Student Handbook makes these conditions clear (see pages 4-5):

High School Advanced Coursework Requirement

Every YES Prep student, unless exempt from such requirements by the student’s ARD committee, must take and pass at least one Advanced Placement or dual-credit course for high school credit in order to be eligible to receive his/her high school diploma. …

College Acceptance Requirement

A student must be accepted to at least one four-year college or university in order to be eligible for a YES Prep high school diploma, unless exempt from such requirements by the student’s Admission Review Dismissal (ARD) committee.

 

Of course there must be allowances for exceptions, such as special education students. However, since YES Prep continues to advertise a 100-percent college acceptance rate, it seems that either no exceptions have been made or the YES Prep student body has been purged of such special needs students by the time graduation rolls around.

Making graduation from YES Prep dependent upon these two conditions works out beautifully for the YES Prep PR machine, for it makes YES Prep look like it works wonders with students when what it really accomplishes is a purging of students who can’t cut mandated college acceptance and AP passage.

What a game!

So, is there more to a school than its building? Certainly.

However, there is also more to a school than its advertising “100 percent acceptance rate into four-year colleges” when such is clearly a play on numbers designed to entice the public into “choosing” an illusion.

One more point about Segal’s November 2014 opinion piece:

He alludes to charters as “having to borrow or raise private funds.”

Don’t get the idea that YES Prep is skimping by on proceeds from car washes and bake sales. According to YES Prep’s 2012 990 (September 2012 to August 2013), its total end-of-year assets were $118 million, up from $100.5 million at the beginning of the year. YES Prep reported spending $63 million on 6,600 Houston-area students. It also stated that 79 percent of its funding comes from state and federal agencies– while at the same time noting that it received $61 million in government grants and $6.2 million in other contributions, plus $3 million in “other revenue” (fundraising) and $277,000 in investments, for a 2012 total revenue of $70.6 million.

The $61 million in government grants divided by the $70.6 million in total revenue equals 86.4 percent of YES Prep’s 2012 revenue as coming from government grants.

If the courts had ordered the state to hand over another $6.6 million to YES Prep in 2012 for the facilities funding, that would be nice for YES Prep and would have raised their 2012 total assets from $118 million to $124.6 million.

Better, state-funded facilities from which YES Prep administrators and temp teachers might turn over; facilities not housing a representative proportion of Texas’ ELL population; facilities from which lower-scoring students might leave and from which YES Prep might boast its misleading AP passage and college acceptance statistics.

Sure reads like an argument for Texans to support local community schools.

 

 

 

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Schneider is also author of the ed reform whistleblower, A Chronicle of Echoes: Who’s Who In the Implosion of American Public Education

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Gates Is at It Again: The Common Core-centered “Collaborative for Student Success”

Billionaire Bill Gates really wants the Common Core State Standards (CCSS) for “mass” education.

bill gates smile

In 2008, two well-positioned individuals asked Gates to pay for “state led” CCSS supposedly “launched in 2009 by state leaders, including governors and state commissioners of education from 48 states, two territories and the District of Columbia”.

One was edupreneur David Coleman, who started the “silent partner” organization at the center of CCSS development, Student Achievement Partners (SAP), with pal Jason Zimba and who has since been promoted to president of one of two testing organizations at the center of CCSS development, College Board. Moreover, Coleman and his SAP co-founder Zimba have connections to US Secretary of Education Arne Duncan dating back to 2002, when Duncan was CEO of Chicago Public Schools (CPS) and Coleman and Zimba’s Grow Network rode the assessment wave created by No Child Left Behind (NCLB). Here is Grow Network’s 2003 contract with CPS.

The other person who asked Gates in 2008 to pay for “2009 state-led” CCSS was CCSS co-owner organization, Council of Chief State School Officers (CCSSO) President Gene Wilhoit. Wilhoit joined SAP in 2013. Wilhoit is now with the University of Kentucky Center for Innovation in Education (CIE), which Gates paid one million dollars in February 2013 to help launch expressly “to advance implementation of the common core.”

In 2008, Gates agreed to pay, and he continues to do so.

But the Core is having its share of resistance.

It needs a Super Support Group.

Enter the Collaborative for Student Success (CFSS), a “grant making” mega-Astroturf group entirely centered on promoting CCSS.

CFSS was featured as an unquestioned authority on Politico’s November 11, 2014 Morning Education page. Here’s the clip:

COMMON CORE SCORECARD: The Collaborative for Student Success is circulating a memo today arguing that there’s no need for Republican candidates to run away from the Common Core to win over their base. Opponents of the standards may be loud, but they’re not mainstream, the memo argues. The evidence: Just six of the 44 governors in Common Core states have expressed interest in repealing the standards. The collaborative’s executive director, Karen Nussle, counts just four gubernatorial races where Common Core was a factor: Arizona, Colorado, New York and Pennsylvania. She also notes with satisfaction that pro-standards candidates won in all races but Arizona. “These statistics demonstrate quite conclusively that, far from being a political loser, support for the Common Core does not jeopardize a candidate’s political prospects,” Nussle writes. The memo: http://bit.ly/1EmcLX4

According to CFSS Executive Director Karen Nussle’s Linkedin bio, she is a “communications strategist” who once worked for then-Minority Whip, Republican Newt Gingrich, and who owns her own communications firm. CFSS has not been around for even a year yet– based on Nussle’s bio, it seems to have been established in January 2014– yet it has already been positioned as an organization worthy of national news for its “memo” cheering Republicans in their support of CCSS.

That’s exactly how grass roots reform works, don’t you know.

As noted on the CFSS “Get the Facts” page, here is the so-called CCSS story: “In 2009, state governors from around the country came together with state school chiefs to discuss education reform. … By early 2010, states began to voluntarily adopt the state standards. …There has been some confusion about Common Core, much of it based on misinformation and a misunderstanding of what Common Core is, and how much local control states retain after they voluntarily adopt the standards.”

No mention of Coleman’s dominant role, nor of SAP’s central role, nor of the Coleman-Wilhoit 2008 request that Gates bankroll an arguably-national standards effort that the state governors had not just happened to “come together” to create.

And certainly no mention of the hook that CCSS and its federally-funded assessments have become in securing Duncan’s state-led-castrating NCLB waivers.

Such facts would only interfere with the single CFSS mission of selling CCSS.

But where there is a shiny new, turfy CCSS organization, there is Bill.

The bottom of the CFSS home page includes the following statement:

© 2014 Collaborative for Student Success. All Rights Reserved. The Collaborative for Student Success is a project of the New Venture Fund © 2014 [Emphasis added.]

Photos throughout this site courtesy of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation

CFSS cannot even fake independence from Gates by producing its own website photos.

Indeed, aside from his providing CFSS website photos, guess who is footing the New Venture Fund bill for this CCSS push?

You know it: Bill Gates– to the tune of $10.3 million for “comprehensive and targeted communications”:

New Venture Fund


Date: May 2014
Purpose: to support the successful implementation of the Common Core State Standards and related assessments through comprehensive and targeted communications and advocacy in key states and the District of Columbia [Emphasis added.]
Amount: $10,300,300

“Comprehensive and targeted communications” apparently includes Republican politicians following the November 4, 2014, elections. On November 11, 2014, CFSS issued this memo to “interested parties.” Here is an excerpt:

Even amidst a Republican wave, candidates elected to statewide governing positions largely resisted pressure to call for repeal of the Standards:

 86% of Governors in pro-Common Core states have not expressed interest in repealing the Standards (38 of 44 Governors)
 90% of state Superintendents in Common Core states have not taken steps to repeal the Standards (40 of 44 Superintendents)
 Among the 44 states with Common Core on the books, only six Governors and three State Superintendents have sought to repeal it

Target the Republicans. Be sure that they feel secure in supporting CCSS.

Never mind that the CCSS assessments have yet to hit most of the nation.

Never mind that CCSS cheerleader, Republican Jeb Bush is considering a 2016 presidential run– one that will follow the 2014-15 federally-funded, CCSS-consortium-assessment implementation deadline as such is entangled with Obama-Duncan Race to the Top (RTTT)– and one that could well discolor any previous Republican love affair for CCSS– especially since Republican resistance to CCSS appears to focus on federal overreach into state education affairs.

The CFSS memo does not discuss the as-of-yet looming CCSS assessments to be encountered in most CCSS states during the 2014-15 school year.

An aside: There are some who insist that CCSS can (and should) be divorced from the assessments. However, CCSS was never intended to exist without its high-stakes assessments.

Here is a question:

If CCSS is so safe, why is Gates paying CFSS $10.3 million to “target communications” on the issue?

He must still be unsure his CCSS purchase is actually in his Gates-monogrammed bag.

There is another Gates money layer to the CFSS story.

Numerous CFSS “partners” are already Gates-funded organizations, many with funding earmarked for pushing CCSS: America’s PromiseMilitary Child Education CoalitionStand for ChildrenStudent Achievement PartnersState Collaborative on Reforming Education (Tennessee), US Chamber of Commerce FoundationMassachusetts Business Alliance for Education (study), National PTA, Educators for ExcellencePrichard Committee for Academic Excellence, and the Thomas B. Fordham Institute.

Note that two strategic “partners” on this list are Coleman-founded Student Achievement Partners (SAP), which solely exists to promote CCSS, and Thomas B. Fordham Institute, “expert” promoters of CCSS nationwide.

A number of other CFSS “partners” include business organizations– a hallmark of  “economically driven education reform,” or the insistence that the chief purpose of education is to serve business.

us chamber of horrors

And you thought education had a loftier purpose.

The CFSS “about” page offers more details about other CCSS-friendly “philanthropy” supporting CFSS:

The Collaborative is supported by both regional and national foundations, including: Carnegie Corporation of New York, Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, Helios Education Foundation, Leona M. and Harry B. Helmsley Charitable Trust, William and Flora Hewlett Foundation, Lumina Foundation, and the Charles and Lynn Schusterman Family Foundation. Other funders may soon be joining this important effort.[Emphasis added']

More “funders may soon” push “state led” CCSS via this CCSS “grant making” machine. How novel in this age of Astroturf.

Though no Astroturfers could beat out Bill for his unrelenting, CCSS money-spew, a word on both Hewlett and Helmsley is surely in order:

First Hewlett: Like Gates, Hewlett also wants CCSS to drive public education in a manner unprecedented by any other set of “standards.” In October 2014, a Hewlett-funded, pro-CCSS group released a “report” modeling a CCSS-centered “new accountability” for states willing to take the CCSS-centric bait.

Former CCSSO President Gene Wilhoit is part of this Hewlett-funded group.

CCSS has turned out to be the economic gift that keeps on giving for the likes of CCSS insiders such as Wilhoit and Coleman.

Politico offers none of this fiscally-spider-webbed background on the amply-funded and -connected CFSS. Astounding.

As for Helmsley: In January 2014, Helmsley divided $1.6 million between both national teachers unions, the American Federation of Teachers (AFT) and the National Education Association (NEA) so that teachers could “review” items produced by the two federally-funded CCSS testing consortia, Smarter Balanced and PARCC, and also train other teachers on how to allow these tests to drive classroom instruction.

A corporate-reform-friendly byproduct of this Helmsley-funded effort is that it  enables test-driven reformers to advertise that teachers were “involved” in the two CCSS testing consortia.

Nice, huh?

Now, one of the best “facts” on the CFSS site is the hologram of “educator” support for CCSS. CFSS lists five national organizations as implied proof positive of teacher practitioner support for CCSS:

There is great support for the Common Core State Standards among educators – from the National Network of State Teachers of the Year, the National Council of Teachers of Mathematics to the National Board for Professional Teaching Standards, the National Education Association and the American Federation of Teachers…

No mention that CCSS part-owner, Gates-funded CCSSO sponsors the State Teachers of the Year; no mention of the Gates money paid to both the American Federation of Teachers (AFT) and the National Education Association (NEA) expressly for CCSS; no mention that Gates dished out dough to the National Board for Professional Teaching Standards for other issues so much so that NBPTS handed him the keynote spot at its March 2014 conference. (In 2010, AFT also handed over a keynote to Gates.)

Of the above five named organizations, only the National Council of Teachers of Mathematics (NCTM) appears to be free of ties to Gates Foundation money. However, let us avoid making the CFSS-induced assumption that since NCTM endorses CCSS, so do the majority of American public school math teachers.

All that CFSS existence has proved yet again is that CCSS is top-down, manufactured “reform.” And where there is manufactured reform, there must be “communications strategist”-led, manufactured support.

It’s all in the sale. Just ask Bill.

bill gates hands

 

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Schneider is also author of the ed reform whistleblower, A Chronicle of Echoes: Who’s Who In the Implosion of American Public Education

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Common Core Is Designed to Drive Your Local Curriculum.

Proponents of the Common Core State Standards (CCSS) like to promote the idea that CCSS is “not a curriculum.” The CCSS website further states the disjointed idea that local districts somehow retain true freedom over what is taught in the classroom.

This is a lie.

CCSS is a laundered curriculum. That is, in order for schools to truly adhere to CCSS, classroom materials must be brought into line with CCSS. Even though CCSS might not do so directly, it requires as much of those purporting adherence to CCSS.

Moreover, the ever-looming, very-high-stakes, CCSS-aligned tests seal the curricular lock-in deal.

CCSS is designed for the masses, not the elite. Elite schools do not adopt CCSS, and that ought to be a real wake-up call for those who view CCSS as Saving American Education.

If CCSS is so great, why are the prestigious schools not in the media promoting its adoption?

Catch the clue, America. In conjunction with CCSS, the term “high standards” might as well be followed by TM.

CCSS ELA Is New Criticism

CCSS ELA emphasizes New Criticism literary analysis, which excludes moving beyond the text itself in deriving meaning from a text. No historical context considered in understanding a text. No reader experience tied to understanding a text.

This type of “interpretation” seriously limits critical thought and pigeon-holes cross-curricular instruction.

CCSS ELA tells the masses, “Consider the text in isolation.”

As an intelligent being, I have a really hard time being told that I must not exit a text in order to justify my understanding of it.

CCSS ELA disregards the con-text of texts.

CCSS ELA “lead architect” David Coleman prefers New Criticism. As such, Coleman prefers to stay “inside” of a text. Moreover, he has peddled a technique to do so, one that has gained national popularity for its coming from the mouth of non-teacher, edupreneur Coleman: close reading.

Teachers who follow CCSS ELA must disregard any instructional materials that direct students to consider context not mentioned inside of a text, whether historical context or (certainly) the reader’s personal experience, in approaching a text.

It is one issue to utilize New Criticism sometimes and its alternative, Reader Response, other times. But CCSS lacks this balance.

Thus, CCSS ELA does indeed restrict curricular decisions, and not for the better.

CCSS Math Intended to Alter Math Instruction

As for CCSS math, the “chair” of the CCSS math development group, Phil Daro, has acknowledged purposely constructing CCSS math in a manner that alters the way math is taught. In other words, CCSS math was purposely created to drive local curricular decisions in Daro’s et al. preferred direction.

Daro prefers conceptual math. I wrote a post on Daro-monitored Eureka Math. In the post, I include two videos of Daro speaking, one of which includes a demonstration of CCSS-aligned Eureka Math. The lesson is a conceptual math lesson. Students are speaking to an instructor, who is conducting a conceptual math lesson using post-it notes.

So, what is the issue with CCSS math?

CCSS math is a disjointed business that is arguably age inappropriate, especially for younger students but stops short of including calculus, the absence of which CCSS math “lead writer” Jason Zimba admits as limiting a student’s chances at both STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math) careers as well as admission into prestigious post-secondary institutions. So, as a pro-CCSS cover, schools are told that they can include calculus if they want to. However, that might mean trying to combine other math courses, such as algebra and geometry, in order to “make room” for calculus.

All of this will indeed drive curriculum and directly affect the so-called “freedom” that districts have over curriculum.

Also heavily dependent upon a student’s abilities with language and expression, CCSS math arguably becomes a test of language skills and even personality. I know a number of individuals who have a penchant for math and who are not given to detailed explanations on the processes they followed for arriving at correct calculations. I did my doctoral work in stats with some of them. They chose to major in the theoretical, and I chose to major in application.

Many of them struggle with both expressing their ideas in writing to those who are not as adept with numbers and speaking publicly.

Are they to be classed as “not college and career ready” in math?

Those “Willing to Help” with CCSS-aligned Curriculum

And then, there are the education corporations such as Pearson counting on offering curriculum to go along with their CCSS high-stakes assessments. Districts desperate to make those high CCSS test scores in order to survive test-driven, state evaluation systems will bend to surrendering curriculum decisions to the creators of the high-stakes tests.

However, whether purchased or locally created, CCSS curriculum must follow the restrictions and problems introduced by CCSS itself.

Though it claims to be “internationally benchmarked,” CCSS exists in no other country. It is at best an untested Frankenstein created in cut-and-paste fashion by taking qualities of other countries’ education systems, compiling them, and declaring that This Will Work.

And why “benchmark?”

To beat the competition.

It does not make sense to emulate pieces of other education systems in an effort to somehow “beat” them. And it makes even less sense to forge ahead and tie local curricular decisions to unproven “higher” (TM) standards.

But there are a growing number of organizations willing to “help” teachers do just that. On my school email account, I receive each day a numerous emails from organizations offering to “help” me become “CCSS ready.” On my personal email, I’ve had two emails come my way this week, one from the National Center on Education and the Economy (NCEE), offering “rewriting textbooks for Common Core.” I’ve written two posts (here and here) related to both “economically driven education” and NCEE director Marc Tucker, author of the infamous “Dear Hillary” letter, written in 1992 to Hillary Clinton. In it, Tucker posits that education should provide the means centralizing governmental control and, consequently, ending local control.

This is the man whose organization is “helping” teachers “rewrite textbooks for the Common Core.” Pause and think about that.

Another email I received is from a nonprofit called EdReports. It has taken upon itself the role of publishing “Consumer Reports-style reviews of curricula and textbooks early next year.”

Funded by major CCSS backers the Gates Foundation and Hewlett Foundation,  EdReports is organizing “training sessions” to “help” teachers evaluate whether classroom materials are CCSS-aligned.

Both Gates and Hewlett want CCSS to drive the entire public education enterprise– and that includes curriculum.

Motivations behind these “offers” to “help” teachers standardize public education behind CCSS range from “creepy ideological” to “fiscally opportunistic.”

I think it’s safe to assume that teachers and administrators nationwide are being inundated with such “offers to help” align their local classrooms to the Great and All Powerful CCSS.

CCSS: Intended to Standardize, Not Localize

So. If after reading this post, one still holds to the idea that CCSS seriously allows for local, curricular freedom, let me suggest that you perform another *close read* of this entry.

But do not hesitate to think for yourselves by drawing on your own experiences and knowledge of various education “reform” efforts that were supposedly The Answer and ended up not being so– not the least of which is the test-driven, punitive No Child Left Behind (NCLB), which now has most states “waiver-beholden” to CCSS and its assessments.

What a great addition to local curriculum such history makes.

Time to push back, local-level America.

spider and fly

_________________________________________________________

Schneider is also author of the ed reform whistleblower, A Chronicle of Echoes: Who’s Who In the Implosion of American Public Education

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Cuomo Reelection an Obvious Moskowitz Opportunity

On November 4, 2014, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo was re-elected. As the New York Times reports, some voters lamented “lack of an acceptable option.”

cuomo frown

In the days preceding the election, Cuomo vowed to “bust” the public school “monopoly.”

In the days following Cuomo’s reelection, New York charter queen Eva Moskowitz, who is hinting at a NYC mayoral run in 2017, was featured in the Reason TV interview embedded at the end of this post.

I also transcribed the 17-minute interview here:

Moskowitz interview Reason TV 11-07-14

The interview portrays Moskowitz as an individual champion of NYC K12 education coming up against the teachers union machine.

According to the Reason TV promo,

Reason TV’s new video examines how a charter school pioneer is delivering impressive test scores and countering the political influence of fighting education reform. Reason’s Nick Gillespie and Eva Moskowitz, CEO of Success Academy, discuss why her schools are so successful, whether her model is scalable, how labor contracts continue to hurt schools, and what moved her to sacrifice her political career to bring attention to the corrosive influence of unions on education reform. 

Just underdog Eva versus the Big Bad Teachers Union.

moskowitz

However, what Eva does not disclose is that in November 2014, she is running her own heavily hedge-funded, highly politically connected machine.

As I watched her interview, what I saw was not an individual against a machine. I saw two machines– two machines not completely at odds, at that– and neither one especially supportive of the rank-and-file, career classroom teacher.

Let me start with Eva.

moskowitz2

I wrote a chapter on Moskowitz in my book, A Chronicle of Echoes. The chapter is largely based on over 100 emails exchanged between Moskowitz and then-NYC Chancellor Joel Klein (who also has his own chapter in the book) from 2006 to 2009. Readers can view both chapters for free on Amazon.com.

What I learned about Moskowitz from writing that chapter was that she is a driven woman. High test scores are a Moskowitz obsession. Those under her charge– principals, teachers, and students– are required to deliver on Moskowitz directives. After a lengthy school day (I document 11 hours), teachers are required to be available to students via cell; the are required to work on Saturdays and even deliver test-prep drill in inclement weather.

The Reason TV showed clips of Success Academy protest marches. Moskowitz required faculty and parents to participate. She did tell parents that women within two hours of giving birth could be excused.

Bossy, driven Eva– a reality who remains concealed in that Reason TV interview.

One of her principals proudly referred to the Success Academy students as “little test taking machines.”

She burns out her teachers.

And when is comes to co-locating her schools in existing public schools, she is relentless– and she will not even let parents stand in her way and will even try to prevent “her” parents from mixing with the community school PTA.

Contrary to the focus of the Reason TV interview, Moskowitz does not restrict her schools to NYC, and she actively seeks to establish her schools in affluent neighborhoods, again against parents’ wills.

In 2014, she clearly has a powerful hedge-funded political machine behind her.

But here’s the rub: Moskowitz is pushing for the complete privatization of New York’s schools– a privatization that will make those she refers to in the Reason TV interview as “social entrepreneurs” able to open and run schools and answerable to no one for the spending of state money. Even though Moskowitz takes state money and co-locates in public buildings, she sued to escape state audit of her schools and WON.

According to the judge, Moskowitz’s schools are “technically not units of the state.”

No answering to anyone– a problem leading to charter lawsuits nationwide.

Ironically, in her Reason TV interview, Moskowitz criticizes unions for “constant arbitration.”

She does not acknowledge the wide door to corruption that is opened via an under-regulated charter industry. Instead, she herself sues to escape audit of public funding.

Wonder what is part of those financials so worth hiding as to warrant such a speedy, litigious reaction….

Onward.

The interview touches briefly on Success attrition. Harlem Success 1′s first eighth-grade class started with 73 first graders and ended with 32 eighth graders. Moskowitz states that her schools’ attrition is not as bad as the NYC public schools, and especially not as bad as the community schools in which her schools co-locate.

A Success Academy co-location is a fight for resources. That students leave the “losing” public school “side” is no surprise. What is left unexplained is how Moskowitz’s desired  privatization of all NYC public schools would handle mid-year additions of students. Traditional public schools cannot send students away if they move into town mid-year. Traditional public schools must enroll all students whenever they show up in compliance with the law.

If NY charters are “technically not units of the state,” then could the state require NY charters to enroll students at inconvenient times?

Success Academy does not currently have to face this issue.

In the Reason TV interview, Moskowitz refers to “close to a million kids [in New York State] who failed the test”–which is likely a reference to New York State’s 2014 Common Core tests. On these tests, seven Success Academy schools fared extremely well, boasting from 85 to 100 percent proficiency rates in math– far above those of other schools, even KIPP charters.

Success Academy also had stellar Common Core test proficiency rates in 2013. (New York teacher Gary Rubinstein has a great post on Success Academy’s 2013 scores, including former Success Academy teacher insight into the issue.)

I don’t believe Success Academy is cheating. I think Success Academy is really good at test prep– that, and supplying two teachers per class.

Success Academy has a large Teach for America (TFA) presence, but TFAers are not allowed to be lead teachers at Success Academy.

Noteworthy, given that TFA is a prime labor force for charter schools. Moskowitz restricts them to helpers.

Even with two teachers per class, Success Academy teachers burn out. Rubinstein approximates 50 percent teacher turnover per year. (I have never witnessed a 50 percent faculty turnover, neither in 13 years as a public school student nor in 15 years as a classroom teacher.)

But here is what I wonder: With stellar results on Common Core tests, how is it that Harlem Success Academy 1 had no eighth-grade students able to test into a NYC elite high school? In 2014, none of Moskowitz’s first eighth-grade graduating class from Harlem Success Academy 1 tested into NYC’s elite high schools. No evidence yet that Success Academy proficiency rate “success” translates into the remarkable.

Apparently “success” stops with the state test. This Success failing does not come up in the Reason TV interview.

Strangely, Success Academy’s far-and-beyond, non-scalable, state-test “success” does not advance the cause of charters in general– just the cause of Success Academy.

For her “success,” Eva pays herself a half million a year– a topic that did come up in the Reason TV interview. Her response?

Well, I think [my salary] does matter. I think we have to, we have to invest in talent.

There we have it.

Interestingly, Moskowitz’s compensation of $578,500 in FY2012 is similar to American Federation of Teachers (AFT) President Randi Weingarten’s $542,000 for the same FY 2012.

Given her express dislike for unions, I’m sure Moskowitz would not count Weingarten’s similar compensation as “investing in talent.” And yet, on issues related to privatizing reform, Weingarten has taken positions that have actually helped Moskowitz.

weingarten9

For one, in 2002, and again in 2009,Weingarten supported mayoral control of NYC– which was support for Michael Bloomberg’s preference for closing community schools and opening charters. Weingarten also has connections to corporate reform philanthropist Eli Broad, who is known for his support of both TFA and charters (including Success Academy). Under Weingarten, UFT took a million-dollar grant from Broad in order to establish two union-run charters.

And as for Moskowitz nemesis, NYC anti-charter Mayor Bill deBlasio: Weingarten endorsed Bill Thompson instead, a man who supported Bloomberg in denying a NYC teacher raise. She even assisted NYS Regents Chancellor and Thompson campaign manager Merryl Tisch in a Thompson fundraiser.

On October 9, 2014, Weingarten and AFT hosted a reception for a publication of a pro-charter book entitled, A Smarter Charter: Finding What Works for Charter Schools and Public Education. 

The above are decisions that benefit the likes of Moskowitz above the UFT rank-and-file.

And then, there’s Cuomo.

Weingarten has been consistent in her support for Andrew Cuomo. She offered a last-minute Robocall ostensibly for his running mate, Kathy Hochul, on the eve of the Democratic primary. She publicly excused Cuomo’s “monopoly busting” comment as “campaign rhetoric.”

Union-supported gifts for Eva. Ahh, the irony.

Now, I realize that Moskowitz cannot openly thank Weingarten, what with the underdog image Moskowitz is promoting as she rides the Cuomo reelection wave. And I also realize that if Moskowitz runs for NYC mayor, Weingarten is likely to pull out all of the stops to try to shut her down, not so much to protect NYC teachers from the mayoral control Weingarten promoted, but because it’s Moskowitz running. Moskowitz must know this.

Two machines.

Stay tuned, New York.

________________________________________________________

Schneider is also author of the ed reform whistleblower, A Chronicle of Echoes: Who’s Who In the Implosion of American Public Education

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Gallup’s 2014 Parent and Teacher Surveys on Common Core

On October 31, 2014, Gallup released the last of five reports on parents and teachers’ opinions on the Common Core State Standards (CCSS).

What Gallup does not offer is one concise document including the highlighted survey questions in all five reports.

So, I created such a document based upon the contents of the five reports, one of which concerns parent surveys conducted in April and September 2014, and four of which include the results of a teacher survey administered in August/September 2014:

Gallup_questions_2014

In this post, I examine results from three of five of Gallup’s opinion surveys on CCSS. First, I must note that focusing public attention on opinions related to CCSS is a clever means of distracting attention from the lofty and oft-repeated “CCSS guarantee”:

To ensure all students are ready for success after high school, the Common Core State Standards establish clear, consistent guidelines for what every student should know and be able to do in math and English language arts from kindergarten through 12thgrade.

The standards were drafted by experts and teachers from across the country and are designed to ensure students are prepared for today’s entry-level careers, freshman-level college courses, and workforce training programs. [Emphasis added.]

No number of high-profile of public opinion surveys is a suitable substitute for the research that has yet to be provided proving that CCSS could possibly deliver on what it declares: Ensuring 100 percent preparedness for entry into one of the three post-high-school avenues noted above.

That noted, let’s consider some of those opinion results.

September 2014 Public School Parents Results

For its September 2014 Parents Survey, Gallup interviewed 1,010 national adults (margin of error 4 %) and compared results to a sample of 532 public school parents (margin of error 6%), also surveyed nationally.

I will focus on the public school parents results.

In September 2014, public school parents were generally evenly distributed among four categories regarding familiarity with CCSS: 24 percent knew “a great deal” about CCSS; 25 percent knew “a fair amount”; 27 percent, “only a little,” and 27 percent, “nothing at all.”

Of the 73 percent (approx. 311 public school parents nationwide) stating familiarity with CCSS, only 6 percent (approx. 32 parents nationwide) indicated a “very positive impression of CCSS,” and 27 percent (approx. 144 parents nationwide) indicated a “somewhat positive impression of CCSS.” Gallup did not distinguish among parents whose children were exposed to full CCSS implementation in 2013-14 versus 2014-15 full implementation, which had only begun perhaps a month prior to the September 2014 survey administration.

Given the margin of error on the sample (+6%), it is possible (in this case, 95 percent likely) that no parents in the population represented by this nationwide sample hold a “very positive impression of CCSS.”

This is not an impressive possibility– and neither is it highlighted in the Gallup report.

In September 2014, the 532 public school parents were also mostly accepting of 1) “having one set of standards across the country for reading, writing, and math” (33 percent, or 176 public school parents nationwide, indicating “very positive,” and 32 percent, or 170 public school parents nationwide, indicating “somewhat positive”); 2) “using standardized computer-based tests to measure all students’ performance and progress” (22 percent, or 118 public school parents nationwide, indicating “very positive”; 37 percent, or 197 public school parents nationwide, indicating “somewhat positive”), and 3) “linking teacher evaluations to their students’ Common Core test scores” (22 percent, or 118 public school parents nationwide, indicating “very positive”; 32 percent, or 170 public school parents nationwide, indicating  “somewhat positive”).

A few observations here: First, respondents select “somewhat positive” because they have reservations about choosing “very positive.” Thus, “somewhat positive” involves caution or hesitation to completely agree.

This distinction is lost when researchers collapse the category into one “positive” category, which renders the collapsed category misleading.

Gallup presents the collapsed result for the above question in its publicized report.

Beware of results reported using collapsed categories. Such make for convenient, deceptively generalized information bytes and will be regurgitated in popular media as the entire truth.

Second, given that these parents appear to be primarily fine with grading teachers using student scores on CCSS tests, I wonder about their perceptions of how much influence teachers actually exert on student test scores. Gallup does not investigate public school parents’ perceptions of the influence of teachers upon student test scores relative to other factors, such as family income, parent education, parental expectation, student motivation, and student academic ability.

Third, even though the researchers indicate a statistical margin of error of 6% for their stats involving these 532 public school parents, I am just not impressed with the practical reality here.  If the researchers interviewed public school parents in all 50 states plus DC, that is an average of 10 or 11 public school parents surveyed per state/DC on issues (CCSS and CCSS assessments) that may well be nothing more than hypothetical constructs for an unknown number of respondents.

Teacher Survey Report Number One (and Some Two)

Gallup produced four reports based upon a national survey of the following public school teacher sample:

Results are based on Web interviews conducted Aug. 11-Sept. 7, 2014, via the Gallup Panel, with a random sample of 854 public K-12 school teachers, aged 18 and older, with Internet access, living in all 50 U.S. states and the District of Columbia. The data are weighted to match national teacher demographics of gender, age, race, Hispanic ethnicity, education and region. …

For results based on the sample of 854 public school teachers, the margin of sampling error is ±5 percentage points. [Emphasis added.]

All six questions upon which the first teacher report was based involved surveying the entire sample of 854 teachers.  However, though Gallup makes percentage distinctions among respondents from states fully implementing CCSS in 2013-14, it does not disclose the exact number of teachers from such states, nor does it disclose the number of states it identified as being full-CCSS-implementation states in 2013-14.

Gallup also does not disclose whether the teachers in full-implementation schools are actually teaching subjects directly impacted by CCSS. Such is a major limitation of the survey results. Given that CCSS primarily impacts English language arts (ELA) and math, it is possible for teachers at full-implementation schools to have either no or only cursory firsthand interaction with CCSS.

Gallup reports that public school teachers’ general impressions of CCSS are evenly divided between the positive categories (15 percent “very positive,” and 26 percent “somewhat positive”), and the negative categories (28 percent “somewhat negative”, and 16 percent “very negative”).

Let’s jump to the second Gallup teacher report for just a moment.

 In a summative comment in its second report on the issue, Gallup also offers the condensed categories of “41 percent ‘total positive’” and “44 percent ‘total negative’” and frames the issue as “hardly a rejection” of CCSS”– and then immediately quotes what it terms the “bottom line” of its report– a “policy and advocacy team” member from the Gates Foundation, who redirects the issue to “teachers needing time” with CCSS assessments.

This is propaganda useful in reinforcing the idea that CCSS and its assessments are “a given” and should be accepted as such.

But back to the first Gallup report of teacher results.

My favorite statistic is one that condenses “teacher impressions of CCSS” into two categories: “positive” or “negative.” Teachers are also divided into three groups according to schoolwide implementation of CCSS: “fully implemented,” “partially/not yet implemented,” and “not a CCSS state.”

“Not a CCSS state” could mean a state that was a CCSS state until recently officials pulled the state from CCSS, and it could mean a state that has “rebranded” CCSS.

Keep in mind also that a “fully implemented” school could have any number of teachers not directly involved in ELA or math and therefore only theoretically connected to CCSS. Thus, the survey result is not for individual teachers who have “fully implemented” CCSS into their classrooms.

Yet Gallup offers teacher “impressions” of CCSS, and these “impressions” are reduced to two broad categories of “positive” and “negative.”

What does “positive” and “negative” really mean here? Who knows.

But it sure makes for a nice byte that can be cited in the media.

gallup question

The first Gallup report on teacher results includes the above table under the misleading heading, “Teachers Most Familiar with Common Core Like It Best,” along with the nebulous commentary, “…within these Common Core states, the majority of teachers who say they work in schools where the Common Core standards were fully implemented in the 2013-2014 school year feel good about it…” [Italics added.].

This question should have been directed to teachers whose classrooms have been impacted by CCSS, and it was not. Still, the Gates report assumes that the teachers “favoring” CCSS could be the ones “using” it:

While these differences in teachers’ attitudes may partially reflect the underlying political climate in each state or school district that led to the adoption or rejection of the Common Core there to begin with, it is also possible that teachers feel more positively about the Common Core once they fully use it. [Emphasis added.]

The Gallup sample for CCSS implementation is not centered on teachers who indicated actually “using” CCSS.

Moreover, in its second teacher report, Gallup offers the stat that “one in four” of its survey participants indicated being at a school that implemented CCSS in 2013-14– which reduces the total individuals responding in the “fully implemented” column above to 214 public school teachers nationwide. How many states do these 214 individuals represent? Unknown. How many schools? Also unknown.

What we do know is that 130 of them “feel good about CCSS.”

For some reason, the headline, 130 Public School Teachers Feel Good About Common Core Implementation lacks PR shine.

When asked about the “most positive thing about CCSS,” the most popular category, with 56 percent of respondents stating it in open-ended fashion, was “unified standards throughout the US.”

Ironically, the next highest category, with only 12 percent of public school teachers mentioning it, was “good critical thinking techniques.” And the third highest, with 10 percent selecting it, was “higher standards/more rigorous.”

Now, that’s just funny: The best “thing” about CCSS in the eyes of 854 public school teachers nationwide is its sameness, not its quality.

This is no compliment to CCSS.

Readers really need to consider the open-ended responses that lost out to “sameness for sameness’ sake”:

gallup question 2

Interestingly, public school teachers apparently did not mention the CCSS “guarantee” of “ensuring college and career readiness” for “all” students on its list of “positive things” about CCSS.

As for the list generated when respondents were asked about “the most negative thing about CCSS,” there was no stand-out leader; the list was longer, and the Gallup researchers included more responses as “sets,” with many “sets” not making obvious sense. The chart is long and can be accessed as part of my cumulative Gallup document linked at the opening of this post. However, here is a partial list of those “most negative” CCSS “things”:

gallup question 3

Before I leave my discussion about the first Gallup report, let me note that even though the report has many weaknesses and much about it that might be used in place of 1) actual empirical evidence about CCSS and 2) the truth about its top-down development and imposition on the American classroom, the “bottom line” summary from this first report is not entirely soft on CCSS.

Yes, in a number of places it is soft. But not entirely:

Bottom Line

Teachers in the 43 states that have adopted the Common Core State Standards are going through major shifts in how they teach reading, writing, grammar and math — as well as other subjects in which these skills come into play. Although some states have already worked these changes into their curricula, others started phasing them in last year, and others are just starting now. As the process unfolds, policymakers should pay close attention to how teachers themselves view the program, and whether it is working for both students and educators.

This initial survey on the Common Core reveals teachers’ attitudes are sharply split, giving no clear advantage to the standards’ proponents or opponents. However, regardless of the politics of the issue, the findings suggest some teachers may be experiencing a stressful work environment as they start the 2014-2015 school year — especially if staff members within their own schools are at odds over the Common Core.

On a positive note, the teachers who have the most experience teaching with the new standards are much more positive about it than others.  [Note: "teaching with" is misleading. It does not mean actual incorporation of CCSS in a respondent's classroom. It only means CCSS is in the school.]  Also, a solid majority of teachers applaud the fundamental goal of unifying standards across states. However, many express concerns that the program is unwieldy, not being implemented well, or simply bad policy. Further, although the initiative began as a bipartisan effort among the states, it has clearly become politicized among teachers, as it has with the general public. And that could mean attitudes will grow rigid rather than be receptive to change as new information about the Common Core — whether positive or negative — emerges over time. [Emphasis and commentary added.]

Moving on to highlights in Gallup’s second report on its August/September 2014 teacher survey.

Teacher Survey Report Number Two

Gallup opens its second report with a collapsed category item on “teacher favor” of “main elements of CCSS.” It is important to note that Gallup rightly considers the CCSS assessments– which are tied to teacher evaluations– as “main elements” of CCSS.

CCSS was not created to exist separately from the CCSS assessments. In May 2009, governors and state superintendents were already signing the CCSS memorandum of understanding (MOU), which included language about CCSS development (not “teacher led”) and CCSS assessments. In June 2009, US Secretary of Education Arne Duncan was already tying federally funded CCSS assessments to an as-of-yet nonexistent CCSS. In July 2009, Duncan and President Obama announced Race to the Top (RTTT) and its requirement for “common standards” and “common assessments” and the evaluating of teachers based on student assessments. And in September 2011, Duncan (via President Obama) offered No Child Left Behind (NCLB) “waivers” that required adoption of “college and career ready” standards as well as teach assessment via student test scores.

CCSS, CCSS assessments, and teacher evaluation based upon those assessments is a designed and reinforced package deal, with Obama and Duncan all over it. States will not be easily “state led” out of this CCSS-assessment entanglement.

We can, however, survey teachers on the matter. (A bit tongue-in-cheek of me here, I’ll admit.)

In the closing comments of the first report, Gallup states, “This initial survey on the Common Core reveals teachers’ attitudes are sharply split, giving no clear advantage to the standards’ proponents or opponents.”

Yet it entitled its second report, “Teachers Favor Common Core Standards, Not Testing.”

Nevertheless, this teacher “favor” of CCSS absent its tests is only 60 percent, with 32 percent of that 60 wanting to “delay” CCSS “until 2015 or later”:

gallup question 4

So, 28 percent of the 854 public school teachers surveyed–240 respondents– said 2014-15 would be fine for CCSS implementation– despite the fact that “one in four”– 214 respondents– already had CCSS “in their schools” in 2013-14.

This situation could have used some follow-up investigation. So could the “or later” option. How much later?

And the CCSS testing that was never meant to be separated from CCSS and is intended to be used to evaluate teachers, well, the public school teachers in the Gallup sample would like to be separated from it.

Be sure to message this to Team Obama/Duncan, with their RTTT and NCLB “waivers.”

Moving on.

The “one in four” subset of the 214 public school teachers in schools that implemented CCSS in 2013-14 answered this question about CCSS ELA and math:

gallup question 5

Now, in the following table that appears to be a breakdown of the above question, a confusing detail concerns respondents in the three categories (elementary, middle, and high school) who are supposed to represent a breakdown of the “one in four” teacher subset of 854/4 = 214 teachers “in schools that used Common Core standards in the 2013-14 school year, and are familiar enough with them to have an opinion.”  Consider the footnote of the table: “Based on 119 elementary school, 113 middle school, and 232 high school teachers in schools that used Common Core standards in the 2013-14 school year, and are familiar enough with them to have an opinion.”

How “familiar” must one be to “have an opinion”? This is not the same as teachers having actually applied CCSS to their own classrooms.

But back to the numbers: 119 + 113 + 232 does not equal 214– even via CCSS math. Furthermore, 232 cannot be a subset of 214.

So, what is going on here with these numbers?

Unknown.

gallup question 6

The above teachers only have an “opinion.” They are not necessarily utilizing CCSS ELA or math. Also, whereas elementary teachers might teach both ELA and math, it is not common for middle- and high-school teachers to teach both ELA and math.

So, for example, both CCSS middle school math and ELA are more popular in the opinion of the 113 middle school teachers in the sample, with 68 of these middle school teachers (60%) calling CCSS math “more rigorous” and 74 of the middle school teachers (65%) calling CCSS ELA “more rigorous.” But who teaches ELA, and who teaches math? And at what grade levels?

And what states are represented here, exactly?

All of these unknowns beg the question: How useful is the information in the above table?

There are two more tables that I would like to present. Both are based on the full sample of 854 public school teachers. In the first table, respondents were asked about their agreement with four arguments in favor of CCSS. Note that the largest category for all is the “somewhat agree” category.

gallup question 7

In my reviews of numerous previous CCSS surveys, all conducted in 2013, the “somewhat agree” category tended to be the most popular for CCSS agreement. (Here are links to my reviews: NAESP (principals) surveyStand for Children Louisiana surveyGates Scholastic survey (partial results release); NEA surveyAssociated Press (AP) surveyAP and Gallup surveyAFT survey.)

As noted in the outset of this post, “somewhat agree” is agreement with reservation.

On this point, the Gallup explanation is clear:

Teachers See Some Advantages, More Disadvantages to Common Core

The majority of teachers agree with four main arguments in favor of the Common Core that were tested in the survey, as well as four main arguments against it. However, teachers more broadly agree with the four statements describing possible disadvantages of Common Core than with the four statements highlighting its possible advantages.

Contrast the above explanation to the title of the report, “Teachers Favor Common Core Standards, Not the Testing.”

The last table I will present here is “four arguments against CCSS.” The “strongly agree” category is the most popular:

gallup question 8

As Gallup notes, the public school teachers in their survey are most opposed to tying their jobs to student test scores.  But this is the report in which Gallup closes with the Gates Foundation statement about teachers’ just “need[ing] time to familiarize themselves with the standards and the assessments….”

Teachers will come around to CCSS and its tests. Just give them time.

A sales pitch from the “foundation” whose billionaire leader is bankrolling CCSS. (Read more about Gates and CCSS here.)

What I Didn’t Detail in This Post

The summative document at the outset of this post includes two more Gallup reports on teacher opinions of CCSS. The third report concerns teachers’ “feeling worried and frustrated” with CCSS. The report also indicates that more than half of the teacher sample feels “resigned to” CCSS– whether full sample of 854 teachers or subsample of 214 CCSS-in-2013-14 teachers.

The fourth report concerns CCSS and computer testing. Teachers in elementary schools, low-income schools, and Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers (PARCC) states feel that their students are least prepared for CCSS tests by computer given students’ typing and computer skills.

And “as far as they know,” most (61%) believed that CCSS assessment field tests “went very/mostly smoothly.”

In addition to the five reports, the comprehensive link includes lists of 1) positive comments about CCSS and 2) negative comments of CCSS.

Here are five of my favorite “positive” comments (because they are so far from anything I would have ever written):

Gives teachers (who need one) a template in which to teach.

Common standards in theory are fair for all students.

That all students should be on one accord and learning the same curriculum.

We are trying to set a common standard of required material federally.

Emphasis on critical thinking skills.

From the “negative” list, numerous comments concern developmental inappropriateness. But these are my favorites because I readily identify with them:

It will take years before we find out it if is working.

There is NO consideration for the varied abilities of the students.

Not all educational needs are the same throughout the US.

It doesn’t allow for as much teacher creativity. No teacher or student is exactly the same as another.

The myth teachers will collaborate on a national level & that universities will produce better teachers.  Common Core is political, driven by state’s governors. It’s a business monopoly on education.

And there we have it: The Schneider Post on 2014 Gallup CCSS.

The sampling issues bother me most.

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Schneider is also author of the ed reform whistleblower, A Chronicle of Echoes: Who’s Who In the Implosion of American Public Education

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What I Did With My $427.76 *Highly Effective* Winnings

In 2013-14, I was rated as a “highly effective” teacher.

The rating was based upon two classroom observations by one of our school administrators, an in-house semester “exam” (the quotes around the word exam are meant to convey a shoddy, last-minute delivery of an exam that if it were an assignment for a course I taught, it would surely have failed for its obviousness as an undisguised effort to “turn in something, anything”), and a more formal exam known as an End-of-Course (EOC) exam administered three weeks prior to the actual end of the course.

The “placing of my bet” was done via Student Learning Targets (SLT) focused on the outcomes of the in-house exam and the EOC. SLT isn’t value-added modeling (VAM), but it is still gambling.

My formal observation is the component over which I have the most control. The school administrator who observed me appreciated that I consulted individually with my students on their assignments and offered immediate feedback. Though other information contributed to the formal classroom observation part of my total evaluation rating, these two qualities in my teaching appear to be the primary reasons for her rating my teaching as “highly effective.”

All else (i.e., the test outcomes) was a crap shoot. In 2013-14, it was Lucky Seven for me.

Based upon the two exams that fell to my lot, and the particular students in my classes, and my students’ outcomes on those exams, and the scoring criteria, I managed “highly effective” across the board.

Lucky Seven.

In 2013, Louisiana State Superintendent John White proudly announced the meager money that Louisiana school districts are scraping together to meet “the law” and pay teachers winning this crap shoot a token stipend.

Given that traditional school districts are not hedge-fund or billionaire-corporate-philanthropist financed, and given the systematic defunding of traditional public education via the creative and intentional bleeding of public education funds to under-regulated “competition” by way of charters (and its dependence upon Teach for America temp teachers), vouchers, and “Course Choice,” this mandated “highly effective” money must be squeezed out of districts that are openly unsupported by their very own excuse of a state superintendent.

I learned at the end of last year that the “highly effective” stipend was to be $500 for teachers in my district.

I thought until Friday, October 31, 2014, that the money had already been included in my paycheck. My pay increased $16 every two weeks. However, I now realize that was the result of the Senate Education Committee’s wrenching 2014-15 teacher pay raise money from a privatization-friendly state board.

That would have made it more difficult for me to deal with, I thought. Lump sum is easier. (Stay tuned for what I mean.)

And indeed, as a lump sum it came.

On October 31, 2014, I had an extra deposit of $427.76 from my district into my bank account.

When I saw it, I realized what it was.

My “highly effective” payout.

But I must note, I quickly soured on the idea of this “bonus.”

I thought of my many teaching colleagues who did not win the crap shoot. They work hard. They pour themselves into their teaching. They are skilled, dedicated teachers.

They did not win.

Now, when you read what I did next, please do so knowing that this was my decision and that I do not hold others who “won the crap shoot” to some expectation that they should act as I did. I understand that public school teachers need money. I feel that need.

But I just had to do what I did to stand up for my colleagues who were slighted by the Wonderland games determining our “effectiveness”:

I gave my stipend away.

On Saturday, November 1, 2014, I phoned a former college roommate who lives in Tennessee and is raising an autistic child. I explained the unfair game behind my being declared a “highly effective” teacher; I told my friend that I took no comfort in receiving $427.76 extra when I knew other teachers had not due to the whacked nature of this game, and I said I would feel much better if she would take the money off of my hands.

On Sunday, November 2, 2014, I mailed my friend a check in the amount of $427.76.

I feel better now.

lucky seven

 

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Schneider is also author of the ed reform whistleblower, A Chronicle of Echoes: Who’s Who In the Implosion of American Public Education

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