Tag Archives: David Coleman

A RESPONSE TO CHESTER E. FINN, JR.

Submission* by Karen Schroeder

Common Core: conservative to the core” is one of many articles Chester E. Finn, Jr., has penned encouraging conservatives to embrace Common Core State Standards. Unfortunately, Mr. Finn never discloses that his “conservative” Thomas B. Fordham Institute has accepted nearly a million dollars from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation to develop supportive materials for Common Core Standards. Mr. Finn’s conflict of interest renders his assessment of Common Core self-serving and lacking credibility.

Advocates for Academic Freedom is funded solely by private donations. Representing taxpayers from every political party, every religion, and every socio-economic group, AAF has one goal: to demand truth and quality in all aspects of education. Our assessment of Common Core Standards conflicts with that of Chester Finn. CCS are not new, not rigorous or innovative, not fiscally responsible, not state created; they undermine accountability and traditional American values.

The Gates Foundation, David Coleman from the College Board, the International Baccalaureate Organization, the National Governors Association, the Council of Chief State School Officers, and a myriad of others wrote Common Core Standards—NOT the states.

Common Core represents another “We have to pass it so we can find out what is in it” policy. During a February, 2010, Governors’ Luncheon, President Obama told governors to adopt CCSS to receive federal Title I funds. Since the standards had not even been written, the federal government added the word “state” to the title so the public would think that the normal process of teacher and public involvement had been employed. We the people are growing tired of these insulting shell games imposed by governmental agencies.

Teachers and taxpayers should be outraged that any set of standards would require a retraining of teachers to assure implementation. Why should a teacher need to have special training to implement Common Core? The reason is that Common Core Standards do not emphasize student acquisition of knowledge and development of skills. They demand that students develop a belief system and attitudes needed to create a population with a “world philosophy”.

Americans are being forced to spend sixteen billion dollars on a plan shaped by the same policies of Benjamin Bloom that have been failing our children since the 1960s. Dozens of standards that are far more rigorous than Common Core Standards are free and available on the internet. States have always had access to them. When one compares TIMSS math standards for fourth graders to those of Common Core for the same grade level, it becomes painfully obvious that CCSS are not the rigorous standards promised.

CCSS is peppered with standards like this one for nine-year olds in fourth grade: “Construct viable arguments and critique the reasoning of others”. Most teachers would ask themselves: What is a viable argument appropriate for a nine-year-old child? What happens when a non-conformist refuses to critique a classmate/friend? What remediation will be provided? Will that remediation help the creative child learn to use non-conformity in a productive manner? How will this standard be assessed or tested for mastery?

Most math skills required under TIMSS at fourth grade can be found under the CC standards for fifth grade. Standards that are superior to CC focus on knowledge acquisition and skill development—not conformity, values, or beliefs.

Mr. Finn states that CC standards “written correctly, they do not dictate any particular curriculum of pedagogy.” Really? Then why has the federal government provided funding to publishers to align their textbooks to CCS and to testing consortiums to align all tests, ACT, SAT, accreditation, etc., to CCS?

Local control of schools includes a role in determining the curriculum taught. That is the American tradition that makes America a Constitutional Republic. When federal and state governments collude to impose standards upon the public, their DoEDs are acting in a dictatorial manner. America’s strength has always come from its people—not from its government.

It is time for taxpayers to get on the agenda for the next local school board meeting to demand rejection of CCSS and implementation of any one of the other excellent sets of standards available for free. It is time that citizens organize to stop the federal funding and the federal manipulation of the American educational system. Advocates for Academic Freedom works to build a grassroots movement to eliminate federal funding of education, to reallocate those federal educational dollars to the states, and to reinstate local control of schools. You may sign a petition on line at http://advocatesforacademicfreedom.org/petition.asp#.UdFzEuMo6po

Karen Schroeder is the President of Advocates for Academic Freedom, a member of the Wisconsin Educational Communications Board, an experienced public school teacher, and an educational consultant. She provides informational seminars to promote citizen involvement at local and state levels of the educational system. Ms.Schroeder supports a return to fact-based curricula, accountability, and academic excellence in public education. Frequently interviewed by Wisconsin radio personalities including Vicki McKenna, Karen writes for the U.S. Journal and other newspapers in several states. Karen can be reached at [email protected] or by calling 715-234-5072. Address: 331 S. Main St., Suite 307, Rice Lake, WI. 54686

*This is a submission. Submissions do not necessarily reflect an official position of Conservative Teachers of America. One of our goals is to give a larger voice to the many conservative voices that exist inside of education.

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Professor Thomas Newkirk of University of New Hampshire Speaks About Common Core

by Christel Swasey of COMMON CORE: Education Without Representation

Professor Thomas Newkirk of the University of New Hampshire has laid out the problems with Common Core in Speaking Back to the Common Core.  It is well worth our time to read every word.  He eloquently addresses each of the following points that characterize Common Core:

1.  Conflict of Interest.

2.  Misdiagnosis of the problem.

3. Developmental inappropriateness.

4. A sterile view of reading.

5. Underplaying role of narrative.

6.  A reform that gives extraordinary power to standardized tests.

7.  A bonanza for commercialism.

8. Standards directing instruction.

9.  Drowning out other conversations.

Newkirk explains this so well that I find myself reading and re-reading his words.  Not all articles are created equally.  This one is above and beyond.  I’ll post the first half and then the link:

Speaking Back to the Common Core

Thomas Newkirk

The Common Core initiative is a triumph of branding. The standards are portrayed as so consensual, so universally endorsed, so thoroughly researched and vetted, so self-evidently necessary to economic progress,  so broadly representative of beliefs in the educational community—that they cease to be even debatable. They are held in  common; they penetrate to the core of our educational aspirations, uniting even those who might usually disagree. We can be freed from noisy disagreement, and should get on with the work of reform.

This deft rollout may account for the absence of vigorous debate about the Common Core State Standards. If they represent a common core—a center—critics are by definition on the fringe or margins, whiners and complainers obstructing progress. And given the fact that states have already adopted them—before they were completely formulated—what is the point in opposition? We should get on with the task of implementation, and, of course, alignment.

But as the great rhetorician Kenneth Burke continually reminds us, all arguments are from a debatable perspective— there is no all-encompassing position, no argument from everywhere. The arguments that hide their controversial edges, their perspective, are the most suspect. “When in Rome act as the Greeks” he advises us. So in that spirit I would like to raise a series of concerns.

1. Conflict of interestIt is a fundamental principle of governance that those who establish the guidelines do not benefit financially from those guidelines. We don’t, for example, let representatives of pharmaceutical companies set health guidelines, for fairly obvious reasons. But in the case of the CCSS, the two major college testing agencies, the College Board and ACT, were engaged to write the standards, when it was obvious that they would create products (or had created products) to test them. The College Board, for example, almost immediately claimed that “The SAT demonstrates strong agreement to the Common Core Writing Standards and there is very strong agreement between the skills required on the SAT essay and the Common Core State Standards” (Vasavada et al. 2011, 5). In fact, the College Board claims that there is also a strong alignment between other products, the PSAT/NMSQT and Redistep, which starts in eighth grade.

Clearly, there is a conflict of interest here.

2. Misdiagnosis of the problem. A central premise of the CCSS is that students are not reading difficult enough texts and that we need to ramp up the complexity of the texts they encounter. I would argue that the more serious problem is that students cease to read voluntarily, generally around middle school—and fail to develop the stamina for difficult texts (Newkirk 2008). Once they get to high school, they are “overmatched” by standard books like Lord of the Flies and To Kill a Mockingbird (Smith and Wilhelm 2002)—and they resort to SparkNotes and other strategies that allow them to avoid reading the books. This evasion is epidemic in our schools. Increasing the complexity of what they read—and requiring books like Grapes of Wrath in ninth or tenth grade, as recommended by the CCSS—will only exacerbate the problem. In order to develop fluency and real reading power (that will enable students to tackle the classics), students need abundant practice with engaging contemporary writing that does not pose a constant challenge (or maybe a range of challenges) to them. The reading workshop models of Penny Kittle and Nancie Atwell provide a much more plausible road map for creating readers who can handle difficulty.

3. Developmental inappropriateness. It is clear now that the designers of the CCSS took a top-down approach, beginning with expectations for eleventh and twelfth graders and then working down to the earlier grades. The process, it seems to me, is one of downshifting; early college expectations (at least what I do in my college classes) are downshifted to eleventh or twelfth grade, and the process continues right into kindergarten. The target student texts in Appendix C are clearly those of exceptional, even precocious students; in fact, the CCSS has taken what I see as exceptional work, that of perhaps the top 5 percent of students, and made it the new norm. What had once been an expectation for fourth graders becomes the standard for second graders as in this example:

Write informative/explanatory texts in which they [i.e., second graders] introduce a topic, use facts and definitions to develop points and provide a concluding statement. Normally this would be the expectation of an upper-elementary report; now it is the requirement for seven-year-olds.

It might be argued that high standards, even if they are beyond the reach of many students, will still be useful in raising performance. But if legitimately tested, these standards will result in a substantial proportion, in many schools a majority, of students failing to meet them—thus feeding the narrative of school failure (already the case in Kentucky). Given the experience with the unrealism of the No Child Left Behind demand for 100 percent proficiency, it seems to me unwise to move to a new set of unrealistic expectations.

4. A sterile view of reading. Another serious issue is the view of reading that underlies the standards. This view is spelled out by two authors of the English/Language Arts standards, David Coleman (now President of the College Board) and Susan Pimentel (2011) in a set of guidelines that are designed to help publishers align their material. It is a revealing and consequential document that helps us move beyond generalities to the way standards are to be taught (and most likely tested). Much of what Coleman and Pimentel say is appealing. I like the focus on thoughtful reading—and rereading. I agree that discussions can move away from the text too often (I can think of many examples from my own classes). I like the idea of helping students engage with challenging texts. And I like that they urge publishers to refrain from making pages so busy with distracting marginalia that they come to resemble People magazine.

The central message in their guidelines is that the focus should be on “the text itself”—echoing the injunctions of New Criticism during the early and mid-1900s. The text should be understood in “its own terms.” While the personal connections and judgments of the readers may enter in later, they should do so only after students demonstrate “a clear understanding of what they read.” So the model of reading seems to have two stages—first a close reading in which the reader withholds judgment or comparison with other texts, focusing solely on what is happening within “the four corners of the text.” And only then are prior knowledge, personal association, and appraisal allowed in.

This seems to me an inhuman, even impossible, and certainly unwise prescription. Test it out yourself on the opening to Jennifer Egan’s

 A Visit from the Goon Squad:

Found Objects

It began the usual way, in the bathroom of the Lassimo Hotel. Sasha was adjusting her yellow eye shadow in the mirror when she noticed a bag on the floor beside the sink that must have belonged to the woman whose peeing she could faintly hear through the vaultlike door of the toilet stall. Inside the rim of the bag, barely visible, was a wallet made of pale green leather. It was easy for Sasha to recognize, looking back, that the peeing woman’s blind trust had provoked her. We live in acity where people will steal the hair off your head if you give them half a chance, but you leave your stuff lying in plain sight and expect it to be waiting for you when you come back. It made her want to teach the woman a lesson. (2011, 3)

My own reading focus was on Sasha’s thought process, how she is beginning to rationalize the taking of this woman’s wallet. But when I shared this opening with female readers, many of them picked up the detail of the yellow eye shadow, something I had totally ignored. What kind of woman wears yellow eye shadow? What do you say about yourself when you wear it? Combined with the fact that Sasha seems familiar with bathrooms in swank hotels, some speculated that she was a prostitute (not a bad guess as it turns out). But these readers were hardly staying in the four corners of the text; they were using their knowledge of makeup and the message it sends. It’s what readers do.

To get down to practicalities, there is bound to be great confusion about what a “text-dependent question” is. Must that question stay within the “four corners of the text” and not draw on prior experience or knowledge? Purely literal questions can be confined in this way, but any inference or judgment rests on some information not in the text (as in the case of the eye shadow). Even language itself evokes a world beyond the text. As two Stanford psychologists put it: “The bare text is something like a play script that the reader uses like a theatre director to construct in imagination a full stage production” (Bower and Morrow 1990, 44). We can never stay within the four corners of the text—even if we tried…

5. Underplaying role of narrative. The CCSS present us with a “map” of writing types that is fundamentally flawed—because it treats “narrative” as a type of discourse, distinguished from “informational” and “argumentative” writing. In doing so (and the CCSS are not alone in this), they fail to acknowledge the central role narrative plays in all writing, indeed in human understanding. Mark Turner, a cognitive psychologist and literary critic, puts the claim this way: “Narrative imagining—story—is the fundamental instrument of thought. Rational capacities depend on it. It is our chief means of looking into the future, of predicting, of planning, of explaining”…

Read the rest: http://heinemann.com/shared/onlineresources%5CE02123%5CNewkirk_Speaking_Back_to_the_Common_Core.pdf

— — — — — —

Thanks to Professor Newkirk for his research, talent and the time spent on this topic –which must not be drowned out by the loud messages of those who benefit financially from the fact that few understand what Common Core really is.

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The Wrangling of Taxpayer Money by Jeb Bush and other Education Reformers

by Gretchen Logue of Missouri Education Watchdog

Education is the “Wild West”.  Scott Joftus was correct when talking about money to be made in education reform:

Scott Joftus, closely aligned with Bill Gates and his foundation since the early years of 2000, had this to say about education in an article aptly titled “Is the Stimulus Really “No Consultant Left Behind” “?:

That metaphor is an apt one for the market as well. In the fall of 2009, Mr. Joftus was contacted by a former contractor who was working for Global Partnership Schools, a new school turnaround venture funded by GEMS Education, a Dubai-based company founded by entrepreneur Sunny Varkey. The caller was hoping to obtain copies of Mr. Joftus’ contract for school improvement services in Kansas.
“You know we’re in a new era when school turnaround firms in the U.S. are being funded out of the Middle East,” Joftus said. “To me, that says there’s money to be made. I call this period the Wild West in education.”

We wrote about Joftus in May 2011.  Researchers such as Susan Ohanian and Dora Taylor have been writing about the money trail to Bill Gates and other “entrepreneurs” using taxpayer money to fund their private companies for years.   Note that Joftus’ remark was in 2009.  This has been in the planning for some time by private corporations and the Federal Government to create an enormous public/private partnership without voter/legislative approval.

Joftus is just a small part in the big picture of corporate payback in education.  The story garnering the attention of education activists this week was the information on former Florida Governor Jeb Bush and his plans to gain monetarily from the reforms designed “for the kids”. Rather than serving student educational needs, various education reforms allow the framework for investors and professional ed reformers to gain access to state/federal coffers.  Frominthepublicinterest.org:

Emails between the Foundation for Excellence in Education (FEE), founded and chaired by former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, and state education officials show that the foundation is writing state education laws and regulations in ways that could benefit its corporate funders. The emails, obtained through public records requests, reveal that the organization, sometimes working through its Chiefs For Change affiliate, wrote and edited laws, regulations and executive orders, often in ways that improved profit opportunities for the organization’s financial backers.

“Testing companies and for-profit online schools see education as big business,” said In the Public Interest Chair Donald Cohen. “For-profit companies are hiding behind FEE and other business lobby organizations they fund to write laws and promote policies that enrich the companies.”

The emails conclusively reveal that FEE staff acted to promote their corporate funders’ priorities, and demonstrate the dangerous role that corporate money plays in shaping our education policy. Correspondence in Florida, New Mexico, Maine, Oklahoma, Rhode Island, and Louisiana paint a graphic picture of corporate money distorting democracy.

This report focuses on testing companies and for-profit online schools and doesn’t mention common core standards.  But think how easy (and necessary for increased profits) it will be for these testing companies and on-line schools to use the mandated CCSS standards, assessments and resulting curricula.  It doesn’t matter so much to these companies/investors what students are learning, it’s that they are learning the same material so the process can be streamlined for the assessment/testing companies.

Does anyone seriously believe the push for CCSS is anything more than a money making scheme and to control educational content?  Why the clamor to sign on to assessments that were never even written?  Why are the standards/assessments copyrighted by private companies?  Why won’t states/school districts be able to adapt these standards/assessments?

Read again what Scott Joftus said in 2009 and understand what education reform is really about.  It’s never been “for the kids”.  Mr. Joftus may be discovering how making money in education reform is getting in the way of real teaching for his own children in his post When Education Reform gets Personal in EducationNext.org:

Over more than 20 years in the field of education—including two with Teach For America—I have helped promote state standards, the Common Core, the hiring of teachers with strong content knowledge, longer class periods for math and reading, and extra support for struggling students, to name a few. I have recently discovered, however, that what I believe as an education policy wonk is not always what I believe as a father.

In Montgomery County, Maryland, where I live, academic expectations are extremely high. Our school district aims to teach math, for example, in a rigorous way. I appreciate this goal, but to date “increased rigor” has primarily meant that some students skip grade-level math classes and enroll in classes meant for older kids. Basic skills that are taught and reinforced in the grades being skipped are often given short shrift. In 2nd grade, my daughter brought home worksheets on probability before she had any real understanding of the concept, or even a strong foundation in simple division. Her frustration with probability, and consequently math, grew as we substituted times-table drills for play dates. Last year, to my horror, she said that she hated math. This year, which has included an increased focus on math facts and an inspiring teacher, math has become her favorite subject.

He writes how a child in the foster system disrupted the class and took the teacher’s time and away from other children:

The tension between my understanding of good education policy—driven by a deep commitment to equity and the belief that an outstanding education can transform lives, and this country—and what is right for my daughters makes me both a better policy wonk and a better father. The tension also illustrates why school reform is so difficult.

I would suggest the educational reform currently being driven by leaders like Jeb Bush, Bill Gates, Achieve, David Coleman, etc won’t alleviate the types of problems Mr. Joftus details.  Living in the “Wild West” of education leaves much to be desired, even for the education reformers profiting from the wrangling of taxpayer money.

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Common Core Is An Insult to Everything Dr. King and President Lincoln Ever Taught

by C.E. White

This past week, President Obama was sworn into office as the 45th President of the United States of America. As a history teacher, I was elated to learn he would be placing his hand on two Bibles, one belonging to Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., and the other belonging to President Abraham Lincoln, when he takes the oath of office to lead our great nation. Dr. King and President Lincoln helped define civil rights for America…historical heroes who transformed the idea of justice and equality.

As jubilant as I am that President Obama is symbolically using the bibles of two of the greatest Americans in our nation’s history, I am saddened that this administration seems to have forgotten what Dr. King and President Lincoln promoted regarding education.

In Dr. King’s “Letter from the Birmingham Jail,” he stated “the goal of America is freedom.” As a teacher, it is such an honor to teach America’s children about freedom and patriotism. However, over the past few years, I began to learn about a new education reform initiative called Common Core Standards. A few years ago, when I first heard of Common Core, I began doing my own research. My students represent the future of the United States of America, and what they learn is of utmost importance to me. I care about their future, and the future of our country.

My research of Common Core Standards kept me awake at night, because what I discovered was so shocking. I discovered that Common Core Standards is about so much more than educational standards. I wanted so badly to believe these changes would be good for our children. How can “common” standards be a bad thing? After all, isn’t it nice to have students learning the same exceptional standards from Alabama to Alaska, from Minnesota to Massachusetts?

As a teacher, I began to spend nights, weekends, summers, even Christmas Day researching Common Core, because these reforms were so massive and were happening so quickly, it was hard to keep up with how American education was being transformed. I quickly began to realize that the American education system under Common Core goes against everything great Americans like Dr. King and President Lincoln ever taught. The very freedoms we celebrate and hold dear are in question when I think of what Common Core means for the United States.

One of my favorite writings about education from Dr. King is a paper entitled “The Purpose of Education.” In it, he wrote “To save man from the morass of propaganda, in my opinion, is one of the chief aims of education. Education must enable one to sift and weigh evidence, to discern the true from the false, the real from the unreal, and the facts from the fiction.”

When I sit in faculty meetings about Common Core, I hear “curriculum specialists” tell me that Common Core is here to stay and I must “embrace change.” I am forced to drink the kool-aid. These specialists don’t tell us to search for facts about Common Core on our own, they simply tell us what the people paid to promote Common Core want us to know. Didn’t Dr. King want us to separate facts from fiction? Why are we only given information from sources paid to say Common Core is a good thing? Isn’t that the exact same type of propaganda Dr. King discussed in his writings about education? Shouldn’t we discuss why thousands of Americans are calling for a repeal of the standards?

I am told that I must embrace Common Core and I infer that resisting the changes associated with Common Core will label me “resistant to change.” As a teacher, I definitely believe our classrooms are changing with the times and I am not afraid of change. Teachers across America are hearing similar stories about how they should “feel” about Common Core. This is a brainwashing bully tactic. It reminds me of my 8th graders’ lesson on bullying, when I teach them to have an opinion of their own. Just because “everyone’s doing it,” doesn’t make it right. In regards to Common Core, I am not afraid of change. I am just not going to sell-out my students’ education so that Pearson, the Gates Foundation, David Coleman, Sir Michael Barber, Marc Tucker and others can experiment on our children.

I agree with Dr. King, which is why I am so saddened at how propaganda from an elite few is literally changing the face of America’s future with nothing more than a grand experiment called Common Core Standards. Our children deserve more. Our teachers deserve more. Our country deserves more. Education reform is the civil rights issue of our generation, and sadly, parents, teachers, and students have been left out of the process.

President Lincoln once said “the philosophy of the classroom today, will be the philosophy of government tomorrow.” With Common Core, new standardized tests have inundated classrooms with problems of their own. Teachers find themselves “teaching to the test” more and more. These tests violate our states’ rights. I wonder if parents realized that all states aren’t created equal in Common Core tests? Shouldn’t all states, under “common” standards for everyone have everyone’s equal input on how students are tested?

What about privacy under Common Core? Why didn’t local boards of education tell parents about the changes to the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act? Do parents realize their child’s data, including bio-metric data such as fingerprints and retinal scans, is being placed in a state longitudinal data system and shared with others?

If our philosophy of the classroom is to violate states’ rights, use children and teachers as guinea pigs, and hide from parents the fact that their child’s data is no longer private, it can only be inferred that the philosophy of government tomorrow will do the same. What is America becoming?

As I watched President Obama place his hand on the bibles of Dr. King and President Lincoln, the history teacher in me was overjoyed to watch such a patriotic moment in U.S. history. And yet, I was crushed at the realization that if we do not stop Common Core and preserve the United States educational system, the philosophy of our government tomorrow will not be the America we know and love.

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