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Guess Who Really Wants Common Core Now? Principals!

December 14, 2013

On December 13, 2013, I received an email informing me that the National Association of Elementary School Principals (NAESP) has conducted two surveys and has found that “principals overwhelmingly support the CCSS (Common Core State Standards) initiative.”

My first thought:  “Here we go again.”

Another survey (this time two surveys) in which stakeholders forced to implement CCSS are supposedly enthusiastic with their lot.

I have written about four other such surveys (those produced by AFT, NEA, Gates/Scholastic, and Stand for Children Louisiana), all broadcasting the same conclusion: Teachers (and parents, and the public) are just fine with CCSS.

As of this Friday the 13th, apparently principals are, too.

Before I present the details of this latest CCSS sell, allow me to offer a number of observations regarding the CCSS sales job.

CCSS Survey Timing

First, none of these surveys preceded the forced implementation of CCSS upon those surveyed. Teachers were never asked by those birthing and pushing CCSS (i.e., the CCSS copyright holders, the National Governors Association [NGA] and Council of Chief State School Officers]) whether they wanted CCSS in the first place. There were no surveys examining this point– only the clear NGA-Duncan message to push CCSS and its assessments as a package deal.

The Delphi Technique

Second, those who argue that teachers “were part of the CCSS process” do not realize that the positioning of teachers to appear involved in CCSS is crucial to the sell. However, as the CCSS Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) clearly reveals, teachers did not directly control CCSS development. Teachers “provided input.”

How is it that if scores of teachers “provided input” regarding CCSS, one hears nothing about those who disagreed?

Surely some disagreed.

Enter a strategy known as the Delphi Technique. In short, “facilitators” manipulate group dynamics of members of “task forces” or “focus groups” in order to strategically pit members against one another (silencing some; ostracizing others) in order to achieve a perceived (already facilitator-determined) group consensus.

The Delphi Technique article above is really worth a read. Here is an excerpt:

…If 50 people write down their ideas  individually, to be compiled later into a final outcome, no one knows what anyone else has written.  That the final outcome of such a meeting reflects anyone’s input at all is highly questionable, and the same holds true when the facilitator records the group’s comments on paper.  But participants in these types of meetings usually don’t question the process.  

Why hold such meetings at all if the outcomes are already established?  The answer is because it is imperative for the acceptance of the School-to-Work agenda, or the environmental agenda, or whatever the agenda, that ordinary people assume ownership of the preset outcomes.  If people believe an idea is theirs, they’ll support it.  If they believe an idea is being forced on them, they’ll resist.  

The Delphi Technique is being used very effectively to change our government from a representative form in which elected individuals represent the people, to a “participatory democracy” in which citizens selected at large are facilitated into ownership of preset outcomes.  These citizens believe that their input is important to the result, whereas the reality is that the outcome was already established by people not apparent to the participants. [Emphasis added.]

Sobering.

The CCSS “insiders” must provide the “outsiders” with the indispensable illusion of being “insiders.”

(For a startling account of non-educator-gone-education-businessman, “CCSS lead architect” David Coleman’s own clueless “insider” confessions, do listen to this Coleman speech to the Institute of Financial Literacy: http://vimeo.com/35318592).

Legislative Process Omission

Third, since only two signatures were required to bind a state’s education system to CCSS via Race to the Top (RTTT)– the governor and the state superintendent– no state legislation was required for CCSS implementation. As such, legislators were omitted from CCSS adoption. However, a number of states already have anti-CCSS legislation proposed for the upcoming legislative session.

Press Release Importance

Finally, CCSS proponents realize that a spectacular press release is everything since most will not read (much less critically consider) what the survey actually asks– or how it ask it– or whether the press release accurately represents the survey content.

(To actually reach either of the two NAESP survey reports, I had to follow links through three other pages. Try it yourself.)

We live in an era in which the sound byte is taken for the entire story.

Not on this blog.

Let us now turn our attention to NAESP’s two surveys.

The NAESP Survey

According to the NAESP email press release, the NAESP surveys show,

…Principals overwhelmingly support the CCSS initiative and have a strong willingness to continue to engage deeply in instructional leadership activities as states move forward with the new standards.

Overall, the NAESP surveys show that the majority of the nation’s elementary and middle-level principals strongly agree that CCSS will provide more meaningful assessments of student learning, increase students’ skill mastery across subjects, and provide a curriculum frame leading to deeper understanding of conceptual thinking. Most principals in the states surveyed are familiar with the standards and the curricular changes that must accompany them, and most had received some level of professional development to lead teachers, families, and students through the transition to the new standards. [Emphasis added.]

The two surveys are actually a single survey of 1,100 principals in which a subset of 463 urban principals‘ responses are also reported separately.

Note what organizations were involved with this survey “collaboration”:

NAESP conducted the Leadership for the Common Core survey in collaboration with an advisory committee composed of representatives from the NGA, CCSSO, American Association of School Administrators, National Association of Secondary School Principals, Teachers College at Columbia University, and the Wallace Foundation. [Emphasis added.]

The two CCSS copyright holders were involved with this NAESP survey.

This is problematic.

Moving on.

The first diagram (page 4 of the full survey) emphasizes that principals have made CCSS “a priority.” Of course they have. They are required to do so by law.

Why include the obvious in this survey?

Answer: In order to sway state legislators. This survey (and the Stand for Children Louisiana survey) emphasizes that “the CCSS is well underway”– the message to legislators being, “Why interrupt CCSS with bothersome legislation? Just let CCSS alone. After all, it’s already underway.”

Page five refers to a “focus group” of principals. I cannot help but think of the Delphi technique– especially given the presence of both NGA and CCSSO as survey “collaborators.”

The heart of the “sell” is on page nine of the full survey: “Principal Relative Agreement With Statements of Common Core Goals.” Percentages of principal “agreement” are reported for five statements regarding what CCSS will accomplish:

Provide a curricular framework for deeper learning.

Increase students’ skill mastery.

Provide for more meaningful assessments.

Ensure student expectations are the same across the United States.

Raise United States student international test scores.

The NAESP press release leads readers to believe that “strongly agree” was selected by “the majority of principals” for the first three statements listed above.  Not true. The reported “strongly agree” percentages for each of the five statements above are 38%, 27%, 20%, 34% and 14%.

The corresponding “strongly agree” percentages for the subset of 463 urban principals are 41%, 28%, 22%, 36%, and 16%. (Note: both statement wording and reporting order differ for the urban principals survey.)

I always thought 51% constituted a “majority.”

Note that only 14% of the 1,100 principals and 16% of the urban principals subset “strongly agree” that CCSS will raise those reformer-coveted international test scores.

The real deception in this NAESP survey involves the choices principals were offered (and not offered) in registering their opinions regarding CCSS utility. The categories are reported at the bottom of page nine:

Strongly disagree

Somewhat disagree

Agree

Strongly agree.

Do you see it?

The NAESP survey offers no “somewhat agree” choice.

Here is how the category set should have appeared:

Strongly disagree

Somewhat disagree

Somewhat agree

Strongly agree.

If those conducting the survey really wanted to know what principals think about CCSS, this would have been an even better set of possible responses:

Strongly disagree

Somewhat disagree

Neither agree nor disagree.

Somewhat agree

Strongly agree.

As it stands, the NAESP survey has shaped the outcome via its limiting of choices to the principals taking the survey.

No option to “somewhat agree.”

This shaping of the survey outcome renders the “agree” category useless.

Here is another thought: It is possible that the principals were given the “somewhat agree” option and that the term “somewhat” was removed from the survey report.

Either way, the survey result is biased towards “agreement,” and that absent any discussion of the reservation inherent in respondents’ choosing “somewhat agree.”

I sure hope legislators read this post.  Given its timing, the NAESP survey is arguably a propaganda tool intended to influence their opinions regarding upcoming anti-CCSS legislation.

In Closing

The NAESP CCSS survey is the fifth pro-CCSS survey promotional effort that I have written about on this blog. Likely, it will not be the last. CCSS is a guaranteed money maker (as Pearson Education knows well). As such, the public should expect to be confronted by survey propaganda promoting CCSS. Not to worry, though: Just pay attention to what happens with the “somewhat agree” category.

It seems to be the single most manipulated component of the CCSS-promoting survey result.

9 Comments
  1. Thanks so much for this. As always, this is clear, well-researched and helpful. Thank you for laying this out so clearly, and helping us understand how things that seem unlikely to be true end up appearing to be true.

  2. Laura h. Chapman permalink

    Did you determine who actually designed each of these surveys? Good to include this in your commentary so readers know whether these surveys are actually done in-house or outsourced to a contracted provider of “push” surveys. If the surveys were outsourced, the provider will probably use the client’s name in a promotion to recruit others who want a result that looks good in a headline. Bellweather has a lot of clients in education. Many of the points that you raise also apply to student surveys being foisted on teachers. For example, the surveys used in the Gates-funded “Measures of Effective Teaching Project” were skewed to favor teachers who assigned homework, checked and commented on it, did test-prep with students, and so on. The same rigging of results can be tracked in teacher observation forms with rubrics that are summed and differently weighted across categories of performance.

  3. I find it fascinating that a national organization representing key educators—principals—is somehow caught up in the “selling” of a flawed educational revolution that promises nothing but chaos. How much money does it take to get a national organization to do a study of it’s members, find
    devastating results, and not make that the “lead” in their press release…it’s called “spin” and the NAESP should be ashamed. Their own study, albeit poorly done, points out that their principals are not ready to deal with the comprehensive challenges growing out of the CCSS roll-out, yet your average headline reader would never know there is a problem based on their “spin.” Shameful!

  4. Green Party Teacher permalink

    As always, thank you!

  5. Superb analysis of how to lie with statistics.

  6. EllenLubic permalink

    Mercedes…thanks again for this good research. I am embroiled personally in this strange support of CC by principals. My 4 year old grandson must be signed up for school soon, and my son finds that both the principal as the local, very good, public school, and a few local private schools, all laud CC. I have of course sent him vast amounts of reports with the details we all follow, and he has become a questioner at these parent/principal meetings. The only school he can find which is not caught up in this lemming behavior is private and charges $25K for kindergarten. This is the current state of education choices in Los Angeles.

    Hope you can have a happy holiday season and maintain your positive approach…I am struggling to do so.

    Ellen Lubic

  7. sheila romero permalink

    I am also impressed with your research and applaud your efforts to “educate” the masses with your blog. I am a mother of four who are all grown and educated both from school and at home, so this mandate does not affect me personally. However, I stumbled upon your blog while researching for a paper for a class I was taking at college as I have recently returned to school as a 50 year old. My major is Media Communication and I was writing a paper about media manipulation of the masses. You are “spot-on” on the techniques being used to “sell” public buy-in to this Common Core Program. Discernment requires RESEARCH, RESEARCH, RESEARCH as we have been taught in class and your research again is well done!! I am continually surprised that common sense is ignored by relatively educated people. If a solution to an issue, any issue, requires manipulation of facts then there must be something wrong with the solution. Sadly, after also serving 22 years in the United States Air Force believing I was maintaining the freedoms of America for my family and protecting the rights of all Americans by swearing to uphold the Constitution of the United States of America, I now watch as an out of control federal government does NOT take their oaths to defend that very same U.S Constitution seriously and instead are self -serving. All of these mandates are meant to take control of all aspects of life from the very people the Bill of Rights was written for: you, me and all American citizens. Keep up the good work for the future of America!!! If we all don’t use our current freedom of speech to educate our neighbors and use our minds to discern what is true, then we we lose those freedoms. God Bless America!!!

Trackbacks & Pingbacks

  1. The Delphi Technique & Task Forces | Iowans for Local Control
  2. Schneider to David Brooks: Common Core Does Not Encourage Opinion Writing Like Yours (UPDATE) | Diane Ravitch's blog

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