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Stand for Children Louisiana: Teachers “Like” Common Core

December 5, 2013

It is very important to privatizing interests to promote the Common Core State Standards (CCSS). After all, there is a lot of money to be made in attendant curriculum development, and assessments, and data collection.

Of course, those pushing CCSS cannot state as much directly. So, they offer lies, such as CCSS’s preparing students for future employment that will surely require college, or that the entire spectrum of reforms– CCSS included– are necessary “to fully support student learning.”

CCSS proponents are also keen on another vehicle for CCSS promotion: the survey.

The Survey as a CCSS Propaganda Vehicle

Propaganda is necessary in order to promote the image of stakeholder buy-in to CCSS. What better “proof” of CCSS acceptance than a survey demonstrating that an “overwhelming” proportion of teachers embraces CCSS with open arms?

I have examined the results of three such surveys. First was the American Federation of Teachers (AFT) survey and its massaged reporting of “overwhelming” teacher support for CCSS. Then came the National Education Association’s (NEA) similarly slanted massage in proclaiming that its members “strongly support” CCSS. Finally comes the carefully fashioned “early release” of the Gates/Scholastic survey, which allows for CCSS to “be positive for most students.” Just leave the stragglers behind.

(Incidentally,  AFT, NEA, and Scholastic have all taken millions in Gates money earmarked for CCSS.)

Now, I offer you a survey specific to Louisiana: The freshly released carefully-shaped Stand for Children (SFC) Louisiana survey on CCSS implementation. However, SFC is careful in its proclamation to not state that Louisiana teachers “overwhelmingly support” CCSS.

What Is “Stand for Children”?

SFC is a well-financed, national organization known for inserting itself into local and state elections in order to support candidates friendly to corporate reform. SFC founder Jonah Edelman actually bragged publicly about his work in attempting to cripple the Chicago Teachers Union. SFC is anti-union. It wishes to strip classroom teachers of their bargaining rights. As education historian Diane Ravitch writes,

No one knows for sure when Stand for Children abandoned its original mission of advocating for public schools and seeking more equitable funding.

But by 2011, Stand for Children had become a handmaiden of the hedge fund managers and super-rich, promoting their agenda of privatization. Its founder, Jonah Edelman, boasted at the Aspen Ideas Festival of how he had outsmarted the teachers’ unions and had bought up the best lobbyists. He worked with like-minded legislators in Illinois to pass legislation to take away teachers’ job protections. The legislation said that the Chicago Teachers Union would need a 75% approval to strike, and Edelman was certain this would never happen.

He sat side by side with an equity investor from Chicago as he boasted of his triumph in crushing the teachers of Illinois, especially those in Chicago.

It cost millions to achieve this “victory,” and he had no trouble raising the millions.

Stand for Children, with no roots in Massachusetts, went there to bully the teachers’ union with the threat of a ballot initiative to strip them of hard-won rights, so the union conceded to avoid an expensive election battle.

Flush with cash from equity investors, Stand is now operating in many states. It still pretends to be “for the children,” but it uses its money to attack their teachers. It still pretends to be a supporter of better education, but cannot explain how to get better education if teachers are treated as at-will employees, lacking any academic freedom or collective voice.

Many of its former supporters now refer to Stand for Children with a different name: They call it Stand On Children.

Since 2005, SFC has taken over $10 million in Gates money. Just over $1 million is specifically earmarked for Louisiana in 2013.

Where there are survey results proclaiming teacher endorsement of CCSS, there also is the Gates wallet.

SFC Survey: Teachers Are Doing Just Fine with CCSS

In publicizing its “favorable” CCSS results, consider what the SFC press release is actually reporting:

Stand for Children Louisiana released a new report this week proving that implementation of Louisiana’s Common Core State Standards is well underway and that teachers overwhelmingly feel prepared to teach the higher standards. More than 600 Louisiana public school teachers participated in a survey conducted by Stand for Children providing information related to their knowledge and use of the standards.  

Highlights of the survey include:

  • Over 90% of respondents felt like they had some or comprehensive knowledge of the Common Core.
  • Ninety-three percent of teachers reported that they had already incorporated the standards into their instruction to some degree.
  • Over 70% of respondents believe that the Common Core State Standards are more demanding and raise expectations for students and teachers.  [Emphasis added.]

Notice the jump in logic from “overwhelmingly feel prepared to teach” and the evidence that “over 90% of respondents felt like they had some or comprehensive knowledge of the Common Core.” (Lumping “some” and “comprehensive” together is a convenient means of not disclosing exact percentages while allowing for the word “comprehensive” to be associated with the only number reported: 90%.)

In SFC language, “some or comprehensive knowledge” of CCSS must equal “overwhelmingly feel prepared.”

Not hardly.

The fact that many teachers are using CCSS is a no-brainer: We are required to do so. Governor Bobby Jindal and former State Superintendent Paul Pastorek signed a contract in January 2010 with the US Department of Education agreeing that Louisiana teachers would “be state led” and use CCSS– which, by the way, the non-classroom-teacher CCSS inner circle had not yet finished writing.

As for respondents “feeling like they have some knowledge of CCSS”: This, too, is a no-brainer. In fact, State Superintendent John White moved full implementation of CCSS ahead by a year– from 2014-15 to this year, 2013-14. In its resolution for a three-year “hold harmless” period regarding any negative consequences due to CCSS, St. Martin Parish details the rush job White imposed upon districts across the state– and that without sufficient warning of Louisiana Department of Education (LDOE) assistance:

WHEREAS, the Louisiana Department of Education (LDOE) initially committed to provide a Louisiana Comprehensive Curriculum (LCC) and to fully implement CCSS for the 2014-2015 school year; and

WHEREAS, the members of the St. Martin Parish School Board recognized the phase-in of the CCSS (Common Core State Standards) through a “Transitional Louisiana Comprehensive Curriculum” for grades 3-12 for the 2013-2014 school year, and full implementation of CCSS for the 2014-2015 school year; and

 WHEREAS, the LDOE made major, significant modifications to the plan by reneging on its commitment to provide a new LCC and by ordering full implementation of CCSS for the 2013-2014 school year; and

 WHEREAS, the LDOE failed to adequately communicate these drastic changes to school districts in sufficient time for each district or teacher to write their own curriculum and to prepare for full implementation of CCSS in the 2013-2014 school year; and

 WHEREAS, the members of the St. Martin Parish School Board have expressed serious concerns regarding the sudden shift to full implementation of the CCSS from LDOE for the 2013-2014 school year and LDOE’s refusal to provide a new LCC…. [Emphasis added.]

Louisiana teachers know about CCSS because they were blindsided by full implementation a year ahead of schedule– and with virtually no warning.

I found out in July during my school’s English II summer planning meeting. I learned then that our curriculum director was having to throw together a curriculum in a hurry and that teachers would be receiving it piecemeal.

So, yes, SFC: As a classroom teacher, I do have “some knowledge” of CCSS in tailspin fashion.

As for “70% of respondents” believing that CCSS is “more demanding and raises expectations”: This is not necessarily a positive finding. I can be “more demanding and raise expectations” in a moment with my students. If I do so without carefully (and expertly) considering what constitutes a reasonable demand, I can damage them.

SFC Survey: The Sample

SFC offers a report of select survey findings. The report includes no link to the complete survey results. It does, however, include a link to the LDOE website for more information on CCSS.

In this age of computer ease, there is no (honest) reason for SFC to withhold the comprehensive survey result by not linking to it.

In its 12-04-13 press release, SFC advertises, “More than 600 Louisiana teachers participated….” Not sure if teachers were randomly selected. Given that Louisiana has 64 parishes, a sample of 600 teachers yields an average of fewer than 10 teachers surveyed per parish. Given that CCSS is being differentially implemented in parishes across the state, a sample stratified by parish would have been a more suitable design. However, the SFC CCSS survey misleads readers when it reports “over 600 teachers” as sampled, for SFC conducted its survey in two “phases”: The first was the “online phase” in which 319 teachers participated, and the second, a “phone phase” involving 330 teachers. (The “phone phase” actually occurred first, in October 2013.)

So, to be clear: SFC did not conduct a single survey with 600+ Louisiana teachers. It conducted two surveys of 300+ teachers.

That averages out to five teachers per parish per survey.

Whoopie.

Phase One: Online Survey

What SFC offers to readers as “survey results” is nothing more than a colorful brochure of incompletely reported survey information. For example, SFC offers “examples of survey questions” without providing the complete question, including all possible answer choices. This is important to report, as responses can be shaped by the answer choices.

Teachers Like CCSS!

SFC reports that “most educators like the standards themselves.” That “themselves” sure catches my eye, for it is a limiter that indicates some reservation. It sure would be nice to read the actual question, which is proper survey reporting protocol and is ignored in this “survey.”

Later in its reporting, SFC clarifies the “themselves.” Stay tuned.

Another question (or perhaps the same question– who knows?) produced the outcome of “over 50% of respondents agree[ing] with Louisiana’s adoption of Common Core [and] giving a variety of reasons for their support.” First, consider the “over 50%.” How far “over”?

What proportion of that “over 50%” actually teaches English Language Arts (ELA) or math– the two subjects overtaken by CCSS? This is a crucial question, for CCSS chiefly affects teachers of these two subjects. Thus, the opinions of teachers of other subjects are on the CCSS periphery.

The only information SFC offers about subjects taught is this vague statement about their 319 teachers in general:

Over a third of the teachers surveyed teach all subjects, with the rest distributed throughout English Language Arts, math, science, social studies, and specialized electives and programs.

This is incredibly poor survey reporting.

What is this report’s third graph looks like one for a forced-choice item. If it is, there is no way for respondents to disagree. If this graphic is a follow-up question to the “over 50%” of teachers who “agree” with Louisiana’s CCSS adoption, then the percentages are from approximately 160 teachers.

Who really knows?

CCSS for “Most Students”

The statement atop the graph is, “The CCSS benefit most students because they will/are…”

The Gates/Scholastic survey included a question about CCSS benefit to “most students.” Here is my response in that situation. It eerily fits here, as well:

Another “sleight of survey” is on page 5. The problem is with the question:

Do you think the CCSS will be positive for most students, will they not make much of a difference for most students, or will they be negative for most students?  [Emphasis added.]

I’m sorry. Are we “leaving children behind” now?

Isn’t the broadcasted CCSS goal to “make all students college and career ready”?

Substituting the word most in place of the CCSS-promoter-declared all is a public admission that CCSS is not suited for all students, after all.

Plus, teachers are a lot less likely to answer positively to this question if asked about “all students” as opposed to “most students.”

As it is, with the term most in the question, just over half (57%) of teachers responded that CCSS would be positive for “most” students.

I wonder: How many teachers who answered “positive” envisioned certain students falling through the CCSS cracks? I know I did in reading this question tonight.

Same game, different survey.

Same wallet.

And here is where SFC offers more information regarding teacher support for “the standards themselves”:

In other words, there is support among teachers for the standards themselves but concern about how students will respond to the standards. About one quarter of teachers surveyed are also worried that the standards will not “fit” for students who are behind grade level or otherwise have different educational needs. Despite this, over 78% of teachers believe that their understanding of effective practices to teach the CCSS will help them to differentiate instruction for students based on students’ needs. [Emphasis added.]

Frankly, “differentiating instruction” will not matter if the stated Duncan/governor  intention of ultimately preserving the connection between CCSS and assessments is retained– no matter how many years such a connection might be “delayed.” In the end, both teacher and student will be graded by the CCSS assessments.

CCSS and the Feds

Despite the RTTT-CCSS connection, and despite Duncan’s involvement in promoting CCSS (see previous link), the SFC survey offers this obviously-placed “result”:

…75% of teacher respondents recognize that the standards are not a federal initiative.

The word “recognize” shows SFC’s bias in promoting USDOE separation from a reform to which they have already tied federal funding.

Even SFC itself is tied to the White House via its funders.

Now there’s reason for pause.

Trusting LDOE (?)

The fourth graph indicates that approximately 70% of the 319 teachers “trust” the LDOE website for CCSS information.

Trusting LDOE as a CCSS resource is akin to Patty Hearst “trusting” her kidnappers. She was stuck, and so are Louisiana teachers. As the St. Martin Parish resolution demonstrates,  John White has not followed through on the LDOE CCSS timeline, and he has not followed through on providing a curriculum. Furthermore, CCSS materials on the LDOE website are suspect for their content.

We Gotta Do Better on NAEP!

At the end of this first “phase” of the survey, SFC refers to trying to compare “proficient” on iLEAP/LEAP to proficiency on the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) and finding Louisiana wanting.

The term “proficient” on NEAP is A-level work. There is no comparing NAEP “proficiency” with iLEAP/LEAP. New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg attempted to set CCSS assessment passing cutoff scores in accordance with NAEP. The result was a cruel mess, as Ravitch reports:

Any state that uses NAEP “proficient” as its definition of “grade level” is making a huge mistake; it will set the bar unreasonably high and will mislabel many students and misjudge the quality of many schools.

And that is exactly what happened in the New York testing fiasco.

Let me remind readers once again: The USDOE/NGA intention is to keep CCSS tied to assessment. CCSS assessment “delay” is not CCSS assessment cancellation.

Phase Two: Phone Survey

For this second survey, SFC surveyed 330 teachers by phone. They represented 55 parishes. Again, details are lacking. In this section, SFC refers to a “snapshot” of respondents contacted “a few months” after first survey; 78% of this “snapshot” “felt they were prepared to teach the common core.”

Were these 78% actually going to have to teach CCSS? Were they math or ELA teachers? And how many teachers are in a “snapshot”?

Who knows?

Again, incredibly substandard reporting.

The phone survey includes this graphic regarding CCSS support by grade level. It is a case study in misleading graphs:

photo[4]

This is a graph of teacher CCSS “support.” Not sure what “support” means since neither operationalizing of the term nor specific question details are included. “Support” could include “somewhat support”– support with reservation. This was a reporting issue in both the AFT and NEA CCSS surveys. In this SFC survey, we simply do not know.

If the grade-level categories are “check all that apply” as they were for the first part of the survey, then this graph includes duplicate information, which confounds the results.

Messy research.

But it does lend to the air of confusion that corporate reform tends to intentionally promote in the reporting of numeric results.

Notice that the graph includes two sets of bars. However, one set– the blue set– is longer and therefore more obvious than the shorter red bars. Thus, the graph lends itself to the misleading impression of scores of teachers “liking” CCSS. However, one must remember that this graph represents only 330 Louisiana teachers. Furthermore, one must read the red bars (percentage of teachers surveyed per grade level) in order to put the much-longer blue bars into perspective. For example, 100% of twelfth-grade teachers “support” CCSS.  That sure sounds impressive– until one considers that approximately one or two percent of the sample was comprised of twelfth-grade teachers.

Two percent of 330 equals seven teachers.

The result is similar for eighth-grade teachers– long blue bar and really short red bar. So, approximately 62% of eighth-grade teachers “support” CCSS. Not as impressive as 100% of twelfth-grade teachers, but the eighth-grade teacher results still looks impressive for its relatively long blue bar. It is not as effective to read “62% of eighth-grade teachers support CCSS” and even less impressive when one considers that perhaps only 3% of the 330 teachers surveyed reported teaching eighth grade– or ten teachers.

Now take 62% of ten teachers: seven teachers. (Round up when considering people.)

Suddenly, this graph is not so impressive.

CCSS is not such a fantastic sell among Louisiana teachers.

“Suspended” Testing Is Still Testing

In its survey report conclusion, SFC appears to offer a kindness to Louisiana teachers by “suggesting” suspension of VAM consequences and “gradual raising of the student assessment bar.” How amazing that White already declared his intention to promote these very “concessions”! And his rubber-stamp state board (BESE) approved his suggestion.

The PARCC-COMPASS delay is a temporary concession from those who will not feel the brunt of CCSS or its assessments. I especially enjoyed reading this excerpt on the matter:

But White reiterated “in 2016, we expect our schools to be ready.”

Leslie Jacobs, a former state and local school board member who is considered the mother of the state’s school accountability system, said she wasn’t surprised by White’s announcement. [Link inserted.]

The testing is not gone, folks. SFC and White are both engaged in a game of strategy: Let the teachers think that they have gained something. White still plans to administer PARCC– which means the test developers still get their money– a hefty price tag at $29.50 per assessment. Furthermore, when Act 1 goes back to court (last I heard was December 20), White can appear to be negotiating– he has agreed to suspend COMPASS consequences.

You better believe White will have other onerous plans to substitute for both COMPASS and PARCC suspension.

As for PARCC and COMPASS: The high-stakes consequences are not gone. They are only delayed.

The Timeliness of the SFC Survey

CCSS unrest is evident in Louisiana. My district, St. Tammany Parish, drafted the state’s first district anti-CCSS resolution. Washington Parish followed suit. St. Martin Parish called out White for his reneging on the proposed CCSS timeline. Finally, Republican Representative Cameron Henry plans to file anti-CCSS legislation for the 2014 legislative session.

Time for some “Louisiana teachers like CCSS” propaganda.

Never mind that the well-financed SFC agenda is anti-teacher.

Never mind that its goal is to remove teacher job security and transform the teaching profession into “at will” employment.

And if promoting CCSS serves to line the pockets of the “top-downers” outside of the public school classroom, why, that’s right up SFC’s alley.

 

3 Comments
  1. Mercedes, I can’t get enough of your blog!

    “Messy research. But it does lend to the air of confusion that corporate reform tends to intentionally promote in the reporting of numeric results.”

    The most vocal proponents of CCSS are those who use emotion to convince rather than fact. It’s easy enough to see why…they have no data or facts to fall back on! Your research is invaluable.

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