Stop Common Core Candidate Pledge
In April, Eagle Forum announced the new “STOP Common Core” pledge for candidates and office-holders at every level to sign in order to publicly show their opposition to Common Core. Within hours after the pledge was made available, Presidential candidate Senator Ted Cruz (R-TX) became the first to sign his name.
In the first few days alone, dozens of signers added their names to the pledge, including candidates and incumbents running for state and local school boards, state legislators, political committeemen, those seeking municipal positions and state-wide offices.
This pledge will allow Eagle Forum and others to more quickly identify and support — both with grassroots efforts and finances — those candidates for office that share the conservative values of Eagle Forum. One example is a candidate for the Los Angeles Unified School Board. She quickly signed the pledge and earned the recommendation of Eagle Forum state leadership in California, which allowed them to throw support and financial backing into her campaign.
The text of the pledge is very simple and clear.
I will: 1) oppose Common Core in all its forms and no matter what name it is given; 2) limit or eliminate the various aspects of Common Core that are currently being implemented including but not limited to data collection, directed vocational education, and nationalized standard tests (e.g. PARCC and Smarter Balanced); and 3) make public my opposition to Common Core.
According to Eagle Forum:
“This pledge must make it into the hands of every candidate and incumbent from the oval office to your mayor’s office, and we need you — every parent and concerned citizen — to help spread the word and get every current or aspiring public official to put their name on the line to protect our kids, not the Washington special interests.”
Atlanta Educators Sentenced to Prison
After a six-months-long trial with testimony from 162 witnesses, an Atlanta jury found 11 former Atlanta Public Schools teachers, principals, and administrators guilty of the felony of racketeering for “conspiring to change student answers on standardized tests.”
The convicted educators changed answers on state tests in order to “artificially inflate scores to satisfy federal benchmarks” that are mandated by No Child Left Behind law.
The former educators, who faced prison sentences ranging from five to twenty years, apparently cheated in order to gain recognition, to receive bonuses and raises, or to keep their jobs.
Suspicious improvements in student test scores piqued the interest of Atlanta Journal-Constitution reporters who initially investigated. Eventually, a “state-commissioned report found organized, widespread cheating.” That report found as many as 180 employees were complicit in the cheating. Methods of cheating included teachers engaging in “cheating parties” at which wrong test answers were erased and replaced with correct answers.
Although 35 educators were originally indicted, 21 Atlanta educators had already reached plea deals with prosecutors after admitting to engaging in cheating. Some escaped prosecution by turning state’s evidence. The remaining twelve who were tried refused to make plea agreements.
One teacher said, “We considered [cheating] part of our jobs.”
Use Any Means Necessary
Illness prevented the woman at the center of the cheating scandal from facing trial. Beverly Hall, the former superintendent of Atlanta Public Schools, died of breast cancer on March 2, 2015. Prosectors called Hall the “cheating conspiracy’s ringleader.”
Superintendent Beverly Hall was a star of the school reform movement and her “get tough” policies were originally credited for higher test scores. She fired teachers and principals who did not meet their standardized test score targets. The Atlanta Journal-Constitution reports, “Hall inculcated an atmosphere that encouraged using any means necessary to achieve test-score targets.” This included cheating.
Parents were initially pleased when schools improved; then they were bitterly disappointed to find out that their children’s improved test scores were the result of cheating. Some students with good test scores actually needed remedial help but deficiencies weren’t discovered until after investigation of the scandal.
The education establishment tried to pass off improvements in achievement tests taken by students as being the result of the district’s emphasis on strict standards for teachers and for students. Atlantans were disappointed to find out what really occurred was mostly cheating and ensuing unfounded hype. For a time, the scheme successfully fooled citizens and was used to attract businesses to Atlanta.
Three former top school administrators were sentenced to three years in prison to be followed by seven years of probation. Another five educators will serve one- and two-year prison terms. Two cheaters who reached pre-sentencing agreements that included a promise not to appeal will avoid prison time. One such agreement will allow a former testing coordinator to spend weekends in jail for six months, followed by five years of probation.
Those convicted will also pay fines and participate in community service, some of which will include instructing inmates.
The convicted educators who plan to mount appeals remain free on bond.
One of the twelve who originally stood trial was acquitted of all charges.
When the sentences were handed down in April, there was “crying and sobbing” in the courtroom. The judge who oversaw the case says, “I think there were hundreds and thousands
of kids who were lost in the schools. That’s what gets lost. Everyone’s crying, but this is not a victimless crime that occurred in this city.” He calls the widespread cheating “the sickest thing that’s ever happened in this town.” (Atlanta Journal-Constitution, 4-1-15; NPR.org, 4-14-15; Education Week, 4-17-15)
Righting the Common Core Fiasco
The Boston-based Pioneer Institute has found more chicanery among Common Core cheerleaders and operatives that have received vast amounts of money from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.
Bill Gates is the largest private funder of Common Core, having contributed at least $200 million. The belief that money is the root of all evil holds true in the deceptive Common Core trick that has been played on the American public and on public school students in most states.
In what the Pioneer Institute calls a “conflict-of-interest derby,” a Massachusetts organization called Teach Plus received over $17 million from the Gate Foundation. This includes stipends for each of 23 Teach Plus fellows who recently released a study recommending that Massachusetts should permanently eliminate its excellent MCAS tests, the Massachusetts Comprehensive Assessment System, in favor of Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers (PARCC) tests. Teach Plus recommends this despite the fact that other states have been ditching PARCC at an alarming rate.
In fact, concerns about the PARCC tests are so serious that among the 24 states and Washington, D.C. that originally signed on as participants, only 12 members remain. Despite being one of two testing developers to share over $350 million from the federal government to create Common-Core aligned tests, PARCC has failed miserably and is being given the boot in state after state.
As the deadline approaches for the final choice to be made between keeping the successful MCAS tests or permanently choosing the untried and faulty PARCC tests, those who receive Gates money are falling all over themselves to keep their gravy train running by endorsing PARCC.
Evidence of conflict of interest was revealed in a recent Boston Herald Op-Ed informing the public that the Massachusetts Business Alliance for Education (MBAE) report that recommends that the state should permanently ditch MCAS tests in favor of PARCC tests was written by an individual who is an adviser to PARCC.
The Massachusetts Business Alliance for Education report states that “MCAS (Massachusetts Comprehensive Assessment System) performance is not an indicator of preparation for success in college.” This is despite a 2008 Mass. Board of Higher Education study that “found a strong correlation between MCAS performance and college success.” The Mass. Business Alliance is also choosing to ignore the state’s record of “unmatched success on national and international tests under MCAS.” (Boston Herald, 4-7-15)
The Mass. Business Alliance has received $400,000 from the Gates Foundation since 2010. The MBAE total foundation and corporation contributions for fiscal year 2013 was $455,705. For 2011 it was $278,450. (GivingCommon.org, 4-10-15)
How to Fix Common Core
Massachusetts’ superior math and English language arts standards were developed under the leadership of Sandra Stotsky, former Senior Associate Commissioner in the Massachusetts Department of Education, who was later on the Massachusetts State Board of Education.
She is a Common Core (CC) opponent who was on the CC Validation Committee and refused to approve the standards because she believes them to be seriously inadequate and inferior to other standards.
Stotsky suggests that any states moving away from Common Core and the defective, federally-funded PARCC or SBAC tests, should instead rely on Massachusetts’ excellent former standards and tests.
According to Professor Stotsky:
“Massachusetts once had standards that looked nothing like Common Core, were judged to be among the best in the country, and have an empirical record of contributing to academic gains for all Bay State students, as judged by National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) tests in grades 4 and 8, in reading and math, from 2005 on, and by The International Mathematics and Science Surveys (TIMSS) in 2007 and 2013.” (Washington Post, 1-1-15)
How can states escape the Common Core boondoggle? It might be quite easy. Any state can adopt Massachusetts’ excellent standards in mathematics and English language arts and create their own version of the MCAS exams, based on previous exams given by Massachusetts and available at the Mass. Department of Education website. MCAS tests, unlike SBAC and PARCC Common Core tests were, in compliance with state law, made available for public examination after students completed the tests.
PARCC and SBAC tests will remain secret even after testing is over, making some wonder what they have to hide. Sunlight and transparency regarding standardized tests are important to parents, students, educators, and the public.
Don’t Be Like Korea
Although American politicians and educators sometimes suggest that the South Korean education system is one the U.S. should emulate, Korean education methods and practices should be avoided.
An education analyst at the Christensen Institute says:
“Americans who praise Korea’s schools misunderstand the realities on the ground. My sense is that Korean students have high educational achievement not because of Korea’s schools, but often despite them. “(Forbes, 3-31-14)
One standardized test reigns supreme over the future of Korean students and a top-down system of state-controlled curriculum thwarts local control and stymies teacher creativity.
Korean classrooms are plagued by sleepy teenagers who nap during boring, mandatory daytime classes because they must stay up late at night attending tutoring courses for which their parents pay dearly. In 2011, Korean parents spent almost $18 billion on tutoring to supplement public education.
Enough students sleep during classes that special forearm pillows are sold to make sleeping at a desk more comfortable.
Korean after-school tutoring sessions are called “hagwons.” Students who want to do well on the all-important state-administered test that students take at age 18 attend hagwons late into the night. There are special police patrols that go out at night aiming to shut down hagwons that are staying open later than 10 p.m., the allowed and enforced closing time. But, many remain open until 2 a.m. or thwart the law by offering online tutoring to students who remain at home.
In her book The Smartest Kids in the World, Amanda Ripley writes about the Korean education system, “In 2010, 74% of all students engaged in some kind of private after-school instruction, sometimes called shadow education, at an average cost of $2,600 per student for the year.”
Public schools in Korea are at best adequate, and at worst a waste of time. “In a survey of 6,600 students at 116 high schools, Korean students gave their hagwon teachers higher scores across the board” over their day teachers, according to Ripley.
The S. Korean College Scholastic Aptitude Test, called the suneung, is given to all eighteen-year-old students on the same day, at the same time. “The whole country obsesse[s] over the test,” explains Ripley. Other students have no school that day. The country’s stock exchange opens late to keep streets clear to allow students to get to the testing centers and taxis give test-taking students free rides.
This one eight-hour long exam determines the academic, and by default, economic future of students. A good score guarantees admission to a prestigious institution of higher learning. Students who do not do well find that their test score negatively impacts their future job potential their future job choices and economic potential. (There are few excuses that allow students to retake the test.)
Although some star educators who run hagwons make millions of dollars for their teaching, most hagwon tutors make less than public school teachers, according to the Smartest Kids in the World author.
Advice for Americans
At his inauguration in 2008, former South Korean President Lee Myung-bak said, “One-size-fits-all, government-led uniform curriculums and an education system that is locked only onto the college-entrance examination are not acceptable.” (Time, 9-25-11) But he left office in 2013, having accomplished no significant education reform.
Despite ample evidence that Korea’s public education system is inadequate, to the point that students’ daytime learning needs to be supplemented by nighttime hagwons, some American politicians continue to suggest we should emulate South Korea.
Pres. Obama said, “In South Korea, teachers are known as nation builders. I think it’s time we treated our teachers with the same level of respect right here in the United States of America.” (CBS News, 3-14-11) It is unclear what Obama means by nation builders, but Korean teachers are not doing their jobs in classrooms, according to experts.
“A former Korean minister of education warned Americans against praising the ‘educational zeal’ of South Korean parents.” The Korean official believes that Korean parents are “too demanding.” (HuffingtonPost.com, 4-7-11) Yet, Arne Duncan has at least twice chastised American parents for not being more like parents of Korean students.
American parents need to be aware that the system some want to emulate is actually a complex one, comprised of some very bad ideas. They need to understand the real fate of Korean students. After endless studying, one huge exam locks them into a future not always of their choosing.
During an education roundtable at an Iowa community college, while voicing her support for Common Core standards and criticizing those who disagree with her, presidential candidate Hillary Clinton stated: “How did we end up at a point where we are so negative about the most important non-family enterprise in the raising of the next generation, which is how our kids are educated?” Critics wonder if the “it-takes-a-village” candidate actually believes educating children is a not a family matter. At the same time, Clinton also erroneously claimed that the development of Common Core was “non-partisan” and that the initiative wasn’t “politicized.”
New York City mayor Bill de Blasio added the Muslim holidays of Eid al-Fitr and Eid al-Adha to the official school calendar and all public schools will now be closed on those days. He said, “We’re here today to make good on a promise to our Muslim brothers and sisters that holiday[s] of supreme importance to the Muslim community will be recognized in our school calendar so that children can honor [them] without missing school.”
The University of California at Irvine student legislative council voted in March that the American flag should be removed from the campus center lounge because it may represent “colonialism and imperialism.” Desiring to foster “cultural inclusivity,” they said the presence of the flag could be “interpreted as hate speech.” A flap quickly ensued, resulting in a veto of the move by the Executive Cabinet of student government. The college’s chancellor stated, “It was outrageous and indefensible that they would question the appropriateness of displaying the American flag on this great campus.” (L.A Times, 3-12-15) The students’ distrust of all things American, including the flag, could be the result of being taught revisionist history.
Book of the Month
The Smartest Kids in the World and How They Got That Way, Amanda Ripley, Simon and Schuster, 2013, $15.99
Amanda Ripley wanted to know why Finland and Korea remain at the top of international test results, and how Poland dramatically increased student achievement in a short period of time.
Her book follows three typical American exchange students from their state-side high schools as they attend school for a year in Finland, Korea, and Poland, respectively. She combines students’ anecdotal experiences with research data and information provided by questionnaires given to other foreign and American students and parents to determine what happens in these high-achieving countries that brings about testing success.
Perhaps the most “fundamental theme” that unites the three countries studied in this book is that “everyone — kids, parents, and teachers — saw getting an education as a serious quest, more important than sports or self-esteem.”
The most vital part of this book for parents and grandparents might be Appendix I, titled “How to Spot a World-Class Education.” In it, Ripley uses what she discovered from her research to provide a list of exactly what to look for and what questions to ask when seeking good schools for children.
Among her suggestions are:
- Observe students: Kids should sometimes feel uncomfortable and there should be a palpable sense of urgency in classrooms. There should be a feeling of united sense of purpose and students should be constantly made aware that they are there to learn.
2. Talk to parents: The best parents act as coaches. They focus on academics, not sports. They read to their children, talk to them about school and the world around them; they give their children enough autonomy to mature and to think and act independently.
3. Ask principals: How do you hire teachers? How do you train them? Why do you let them go?
Ripley credits Poland’s success to reforms. Among them are: standardized tests are only used as measures of what should change and which students need help, not to pigeonhole students, or to rank schools or teachers; teachers choose curriculum from approved options; and educators earn bonuses for professional development.
In Finland, only the best students gain admittance to highly competitive teacher education programs and they must maintain high standards in order to become teachers. Finnish children are allowed unsupervised time and greater autonomy than most American kids.
In Korea, students do well on tests due to relentless study and after-school tutoring.
DREAMers Get ‘Teach’ Jobs
When considering the Teach For America (TFA) program, it is common to think of those accepted to it as the best and brightest American college students, who after graduating from America’s most prestigious universities choose to teach for at least two years in urban or rural underserved communities.
But in some instances, schools are hiring TFA college graduates who have questionable immigration status. So-called “Dreamers,” illegal aliens who are temporarily free from being deported, are making inroads into the TFA program.
In Denver public schools, eleven TFA instructors hold Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) status under a program announced by President Obama on June 15, 2012. DACA, which is based on the DREAM Act that Congress refused to pass, temporarily defers deportations from the U.S. for eligible “undocumented” youth and young adults, and grants them access to renewable two-year work permits and Social Security numbers.
Teach For America is a non-profit organization that receives financial support from individuals, businesses, and philanthropies. TFA has also won the U.S. Department of Education’s Investing in Innovation grant competition.
The TFA program has been criticized for sending teachers into classrooms after only five weeks of training. Teachers unions are especially critical of the program. But in some cases, TFA teachers teach where no one else will.
The 2011 acceptance rate for Teach for America applicants was 11%, making the program more competitive to get into than undergraduate admission to Duke University or the University of Pennsylvania. (Washington Post, 3-18-13)
It is unknown whether TFA employment standards are the same for those holding DACA status as for other applicants.
TFA’s hiring of teachers with DACA status grew from two last year, to 40 this year “in classrooms across the country, including Arizona, California, and New Mexico.”
Other Colorado regions are considering following Denver’s lead. Vail’s superintendent “is considering hiring teachers with DACA status. Half the district’s 6,800 public school students are Hispanic, and 40% are learning English.”
The demand for bilingual teachers is growing. The chief human resources officer for Denver Public Schools says, “In the past, we have had to do extensive recruitment internationally and nationally to try and meet this demand.” (Associated Press, 4-4-15)
A former TFA teacher wrote in 2013 that he understood how the program gets results from students, saying, “after all, [TFA teachers] are recruited from a pool of the country’s hardest-working college students, and good teaching is nothing if not hard work.” The former TFA teacher explains that “only 23% of teachers from traditional or less-selective certification programs graduated from a selective college or university, while 81% of TFA teachers did.”
While some research has shown TFA teachers to be less effective, a 2013 U.S. Department of Education study “showed Teach for America teachers to be more effective than other teachers at their schools.” The “study included 4,573 students at middle and high schools across the country,” with a focus on secondary math education. The conclusion was that “students with TFA teachers scored higher on end-of-year exams than their peers in non-TFA classrooms.” The difference equaled 2.6 extra months of classroom time in math. (The Atlantic, 9-10-13 and 9-23-13)
Better Teachers = More Successful Students
Attracting the best students to teaching programs and giving them the best training is key to improving student learning and performance. The nation needs bright students to choose teaching careers.
Most U.S. education majors are those who have GPAs closer to the bottom than to the top of all students. But most countries that perform well on internationally benchmarked tests have in common that their best students become teachers. In those countries, students face a highly competitive acceptance process to enter schools of education and teachers are greatly respected by students, parents, and in the community. While international standardized test results, like TIMSS, PIRLS, and PISA, are not the only valid measure of a country’s education system, they can serve as one meaningful indicator of the adequacy of instruction.
The success the Teach For America program enjoys is a result of recruiting the highest achieving college graduates. If standards were to be lowered in order to accept illegal aliens as instructors simply because they are bilingual, the move could diminish whatever good the program may currently be contributing.
FOCUS: Hillary Clinton Found at the Rotten Center of the Common Core National Standards
Originally published by the Education Action Group Foundation news site, EAGNews.org, on April 8, 2015. Reprinted with permission. The Education Action Group Foundation believes the one-size-fits-all, assembly line government school system requires serious reform.
by Bob Kellogg
A veteran educator says parents can thank Hillary Clinton for the Common Core national standards that have been thrust upon schools across the country.
Even though most people probably believe that Common Core was developed during President Barack Obama’s term in office, the foundation of the initiative goes all the way back to the 1980s, reports veteran educator and now-commentator Donna Garner.
Garner tells EAGnews that back then Hillary Clinton worked with other left-leaning education reformers such as Marc Tucker of the National Committee on Education and the Economy (NCEE), Ira Magaziner, and then-Gov. Mario Cuomo, known for his fiery, liberal speeches.
The ‘What Is Common Core’ website reports that Tucker “has … openly worked for decades to strengthen the role of the state education agencies in education governance at the expense of local control” and claims that “the United States will have to largely abandon the beloved emblem of American education: local control.”
In 1992, Tucker wrote a letter to Hillary Clinton outlining his vision of a building a pipeline from education to the workforce. (It is known as the “Dear Hillary letter.”)
Magaziner has a long association with the Clintons. In addition to working with Hillary on radical education reform, he worked with her on the failed Task Force to Reform Health Care during the Clinton Administration, served as senior policy advisor for President Clinton and, as of today, serves in a leadership capacity for two of the Bill, Hillary, & Chelsea Clinton Foundation’s international development initiatives.
In the 1980s, Hillary (et al.) laid the groundwork for a School-to-Work plan, better known by the term “cradle-to-grave,” according to Garner. The idea was to create a three-legged stool of education, labor, and healthcare whereby the government would direct people’s lives from birth until they die.
Garner, who began teaching in th early ’60s in Texas, says all were to be joined together under one banner with government healthcare, school healthcare clinics providing abortions and contraceptives, classrooms emphasizing workforce development skills instead of academic knowledge, and the Department of Labor directing students into a career pathway at a very early age.
Garner, who was appointed by President Ronald Reagan and re-appointed by President George H. W. Bush to serve on the National Commission on Migrant Education, says the idea was “that students and everybody else would be tracked into the vocation that the government at the time thought was important. And it didn’t have anything to do with students’ natural desires or what their parents wanted them to do or what the students’ talents were. It all had to do with providing ‘worker bees’ for the government.”
And as insidious as the plan sounds, it has come to be reality under the Common Core national standards initiative, she says.
She further states the goal was to have about 10% of the population be well educated and then the other 90% would be trained to function within factories and companies.
Jane Robbins of the American Principles Project tells EAGnews:
“When it was called School-to-Work 20 years ago, it was a fad for awhile and then it fell apart. And now it’s a fad again. But this time they are really focusing on cementing this through Common Core, using federal money because the people who are influential in the progressive ed world are people … like Marc Tucker … who has been an advocate of all of this forever. He thinks the schools should just be part of one, vast human development resource system and he’s been arguing that for decades.”
Now known as Student Learning Plans (SLPs), sixth graders in a growing number of states, along with their parents and a school counselor, develop career paths for the coming six years until the students are graduated. Robbins says this is all connected to the Common Core national standards initiative, which has never been an education model but is instead a workforce development model. It’s not meant to produce many educated citizens.
Prior to “cradle-to-grave,” schools focused on academic-based content called Type #1. That involved memorization and drills comprised of basic education fundamentals.
Garner says once that was accomplished, students were enabled to do higher level reasoning. A 1991 report, The Secretary’s Commission on Achieving Necessary Skills, SCANS, however, helped to change the direction of the nation’s schools from knowledge-based academic content (Type #1) into an education philosophy where the emphasis is on emotions, opinions, and beliefs with an emphasis on workplace competencies (Type #2).
According to Garner, the standards movement popped up all over the country. States appointed writing teams to rewrite all K-12 courses, and the new standards required students “to be able to know and be able to do.”
She says, “We are living the plan that Hillary and her folks, her team, instigated back in the early ’80s.”
The plan was delayed when George W. Bush was elected to office. But with Obama, another zealous Type #2 advocate, Garner says it’s the perfect storm “that leads into relativism, into political correctness, multiculturalism, environmental extremism, and then into the social justice agenda under Obama, which glorifies the LGBT community.”
Garner believes we have Hillary Clinton (et al.) to thank for the mess our country’s schools are in today. It is because of her Type #2 philosophy of education as birthed by the NCEE that we now have the Common Core Standards Initiative pouring into our nation’s schools, capturing the College Board and its products (AP, SAT, PSAT), and making billions of dollars in profits for Bill Gates, Pearson, Jeb Bush, and others. Even the Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA) is being rewritten to align with Common Core, she reports.
Parents need to lay the blame for Common Core right at Hillary’s feet, she says. The seeds for Common Core began to sprout under Bill Clinton’s administration thanks to Hillary and her associates. Under Obama, these Common Core seedlings have grown into a complete takeover of our nation’s school system by the federal government.
According to Garner, “We have Hillary to blame for a nation of adult non-readers who get most of their news from their social media gadgets; and it is for that reason that I have used my institutional memory to try to educate those people who have no knowledge of Hillary Clinton. If she is to be a serious candidate for the Presidency, we must warn the public.”
Bob Kellogg is a freelance journalist whose work regularly appears at OneNewsNow.com.
Common Core Public Relations Campaigns
Public relations campaigns aimed at heading off problems that could appear when students take new Common Core-aligned tests are being launched in states including Illinois, New Jersey, Florida, Ohio, California, Hawaii, and South Dakota.
Some states are taking steps to prepare parents for the possibility that their children won’t score as well on Common Core tests as they did on previous state tests. Other states are trying to dissuade parents from opting students out of testing.
States wish to “eliminate or minimize public backlash when the scores — widely expected to be markedly lower than results from previous assessments — are released later this year.” (Education Week, 3-18-15) They are using various strategies, ranging from fliers for parents sent home in student backpacks to more sophisticated techniques.
An Illinois Board of Education spokesperson told Education Week that the state hosted 52 webinars to help teachers and administrators understand the PARCC tests that students will take. They produced a back-to-school webinar for parents, but only a few hundred parents participated. They’ve also created materials that districts can use to discuss PARCC tests with parents and community members.
The South Dakota Dept. of Education offers a website touting the “high quality standards, high quality instruction, and high quality assessments” that Common Core offers to the state. (This despite the fact that the standards are not high quality.) An info-graphic at that website equates the SBAC tests that students will take to a medical checkup, stating that both allow parents to know how their children are doing. It says: “If your child struggles in math or reading, the sooner you know, the faster they can get help. If your child excels, scores can challenge your child to do even better.” (CommonCore.SD.gov)
Ohio’s Heavy Handed DOE
Ohio wants all districts to stress to parents the importance of the tests, as well as the supposed dire consequences of opting out of test taking. In fact, the Ohio Dept. of Education sounds somewhat threatening when they write, “There is no law that allows a parent or student to opt out of state testing and there is no state test opt-out procedure or form. If a parent withdraws his or her child’s participation in certain state tests, there may be consequences for the child, the child’s teacher, and the school and district.”
Ohio’s instructions to schools states that opting out “can negatively impact a district’s state A-F report card ratings,” indicating that opting out will hurt teachers and other students. (Education.Ohio. gov, 2-4-15)
Despite the maneuvering and manipulation that the department of education may have engineered, the Ohio legislature took action and on March 16, Gov. John Kasich signed a bill that prohibits standardized test scores for the 2014-15 school year from being used to grant or prohibit retention or promotion of students. For at least one year, students whose parents choose to opt them out of the SBAC test should be safe from retaliation.
Who Do Parents Trust?
Whether or not parents believe that Common Core and its mandated tests are relevant, valid, or an improvement in education will likely depend less on public relations campaigns and more on personal experience with the standards and the experience of students taking the federally mandated tests.
Frederick Hess, the director of Education Policy Studies at the American Enterprise Institute says it may come down to who do parents “trust.” (Education Week, 3-18-15)
As National Association of Scholars president Peter Wood writes:
“What is truly common and at the core of American life is our sense of freedom and self-governance. The Common Core is at war with those ideals.”
It was a sneaky idea — and sneaky ideas in American public policy tend to have exactly the life spans that Common Core has had.
The core sneakiness of the Common Core is that it was (and still is) presented as a state-level project when it was from the get-go intended to be a national project. We won’t squeeze better education ‘performance’ from students by imposing a national regimen of standards and tests but will instead breed a deeper alienation and lassitude by taking away — or at least shrinking — the imaginative horizons of students, parents, teachers, and the communities in which they live. (New York Post, 4-11-15)
Textbooks aligned to the Common Core standards were unavailable for states and localities to use when the hurried roll out of new standards began, so many school districts use free curriculum they download from the internet.
In order to prepare Common Core study materials and worksheets for students, the Berkeley, California school copy center sometimes operates seven days a week, even beginning as early as 4 a.m. The district is not saving money by using a “free” math curriculum downloadable from the internet because the “printing-intensive” method is actually more expensive than it would be to provide students with textbooks.
A math coach for the Berkeley School District says she spent “half her time last school year preparing downloaded documents for printing.”
Finding no textbooks aligned to Common Core, New York state spent “$28 million of its federal Race to the Top grant to develop the curriculums for math and English” that they now offer free online. An estimated 30 states serving about 250,000 students, are using these EngageNY New York Core Knowledge elementary school English curriculum.
Another New York online curriculum called Expeditionary Learning “is being used in at least 447 districts in 36 states.”
Some districts have abandoned the EngageNY Eureka Math curriculum after parents and educators criticized it “for uneven quality, for presenting too much material to be covered in a year,” and for being unnecessarily complicated, making it hard for parents to assist students to complete their homework.
Teachers have complained that EngageNY English plans that provide a script for teachers allow them “no leeway” to instruct as they wish in the classroom.
Parents who are used to monitoring textbooks to see exactly what their children are being taught are suspicious of online materials printed and studied only at school. Parents often don’t have the opportunity to review the curriculum being taught to their students.
Although Common Core has meant more use of online curriculum, New York still spent “more than $50 million last year on English and math textbooks for kindergarten through eighth grade.” (HechingerReport.org, 3-31-15)