Tag Archives: National Governors Association

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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How do you Sustain a Nationalized Education System? Turn it Over to 501(c)(3) Groups for Outsourcing.

by Gretchen Logue of Missouri Education Watchdog

The two private trade organizations The National Governors Association (NGA) and Council of Chief State School Officers (CCSSO) sure had a nifty plan to nationalize education.  Get states to “voluntarily” sign  up to relinquish their constitutional authority to develop and deliver education for their citizens in exchange for two consortia controlling state educational programs.  “Voluntarily” refers to the dangling of money to states competing for Race to the Top, but when some states still didn’t compete for or win grants, the ESEA waivers included states having to commit to CCSS.

The two consortia (PARCC and Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortia) have been funded by stimulus money which runs out in 2014.   The Tampa Bay Times writes that the Common Core deadlines won’t be met regarding assessment completion, computers and infrastructure requirements, and how to pay for the mandates.

We attended a SBAC meeting open to the public last year and it was evident the consortia was concerned about the issue of how the consortia would survive after the federal tap of stimulus money was finished.    From what we heard in the September 2012 meeting, a move to privately fund a consortia should not be surprise, but rather a move for sustainability:

Twenty million students are expected to take the SBAC assessments on-line. There needs to be technical and professional support for this system going forward. Both SBAC and PARCC were funded with seed money from TARP. This money will run out September 30, 2014. Any remaining unused funds will revert to the US Treasury. Both consortia must now figure out how to make the assessments sustainable by finding other funding sources. The first RFP for a consultant to take on this work received zero bids because SBAC had grossly underestimated the effort needed to do the work. They are now looking to identify areas of commonality with the other assessment consortia, PARCC, and see if the two groups can share a consultant on those common points. It is not a stretch to see that these two groups are probably going to have to combine in the future in order to remain sustainable. Then we will truly have national standards.

The plan is to go to private foundations to fund Phase 2.  

The plan for private funding has now been put into place for one consortia.   PARCC announced it is reorganizing itself as a 501(c)(3).  From edweek.com and Testing Consortium Reorganizes for Long-Term Survival:

The two big groups of states that are designing tests for the common standards have a lot more on their minds than the thorny work of test design. They’re trying to figure out how they can survive once their federal funding runs out in the fall of 2014, before the tests are even administered.

One sign of this focus cropped up when PARCC announced that it had reorganized itself as a 501(c)(3) nonprofit. This move facilitates the receipt of foundation funding, among other things, something that has been under consideration as a mode of survival once the group runs out of federal money.

As we’ve reported to you, PARCC and the Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium have teamed up to do some thinking about sustainability. They’ve got a heavy-hitting consulting firm working on sustainability plans, and the National Governors Association and the Council of Chief State School Officers—the folks who spearheaded the common-standards drive four years ago—are playing roles as well.

Read more here.

What’s the problem with turning over the nation’s education development and delivery to a 501(c)(3)?  Questions not having any easy answers include:

Who will be in control of the standards?  Who will be designing the assessments?  Will voters have any say in who is educating their children?  Could billionaires with an agenda (pick your side, left or right) organize a nonprofit to deliver the type of education they believe students should learn?

Edweek writes:

The sustainability question is key to the long-term work and goals of the consortia. Right now, no one really knows who will update the tests, for instance, as secure item pools dwindle. The research agenda is in question, too, and that’s pretty huge. Without a multiyear inquiry into how students at various cut scores actually perform in college, it’s tough to validate the test as being a sound proxy of college readiness. These—and many more—questions ride on the question of sustainability. There is a near-term question of sustainability, as well. The groups are mindful that in order to protect the $360 million in federal funding they won, they each need to have at least 15 member states. With 24 in SBAC and 22 in PARCC right now, that doesn’t seem to be a looming issue. But if enough states get skittish and drop out, federal officials could—according to their own regulations—cut off the funding that is meant to carry the consortia’s work through the fall of 2014.

Count many folks in Missouri becoming more and more skittish of CCSS standards that were never field tested or even written before they were adopted by the governor, education commissioner and State Board of Education members.

Now that taxpayers know of the plans of these two private trade organizations to nationalize education, do you think they will still want their tax money used for copyrighted standards by non-profit organizations?  Isn’t education development and delivery the role of the states and local school districts?  Why is education now outsourced to private consortia and in the future, 501(c)(3) groups?

Listed here are some downsides to outsourcing which include:

  • loss of managerial control
  • hidden cost
  • threat to security and confidentiality
  • quality problems
  • tied to the financial well-being of another company
  • bad publicity and ill-will

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Best Research Award Winner Says #CommonCore is Data-less Decision Making #CCSS

by Anngie of Missouri Education Watchdog

Christopher Tienken, Ed.D. is the editor of the AASA Journal of Scholarship and Practice. He is an assistant professor of Education Administration at Seton Hall University. He has public school administration experience as a PK-12 assistant superintendent, middle school principal, and elementary school assistant principal. He began his career in education as an elementary school teacher. Dr Tienken’s research interests include the effect and influence of professional development on teacher practice and student achievement, the construct validity of high-stakes standardized tests as decision-making tools about student achievement and school effectiveness, and curricular interventions used in schools to improve achievement. His research about the effects of professional development on student achievement has been recognized by the Institute of Education Sciences and the National Staff Development Council awarded him the Best Research Award in 2008.”

As a top researcher in academic practice and student achievement, Dr. Tienken looked at the claims of those who support the Common Core Standards and wrote about his findings in the Winter 2011 edition of the Journal of Scholarship & Practice. You can read his full report “Common Core State Standards: An Example of Data-less Decision Making” here.  What follows are some key highlights from it.

On the claim that the standards are evidence based and internationally benchmarked.

“The standards have not been validated empirically and no metric has been set to monitor the intended and unintended consequences they will have on the education system and children (Mathis, 2010)”

“The site alleges that the standards  are  “evidence  based”  and  lists  two homegrown documents to “prove” it: Myths vs Facts (NGA, 2010) and the Joint International Benchmarking Report (NGA, 2008). 

The Myths document presents claims that the standards  have  “made  use  of  a  large   and  growing  body  of  knowledge”  (p.  3). Knowledge derives in part from carefully controlled scientific experiments and observations so one would expect to find references to high quality empirical research to support the standards.

When I reviewed that  “large  and   growing  body  of  knowledge”  offered  by  the NGA, I found that it was not large, and in fact built mostly on one report, Benchmarking for Success, created by the NGA and the CCSSO, the same groups that created these standards; Hardly independent research.”

The need for the standards has been justified by claiming that, (a) America’s  children  are “lagging” behind international peers in terms of academic achievement, and (b) the economic vibrancy and future of the United States relies upon American students outranking their global peers on international tests of academic achievement.

Tienken’s response -
“Unfortunately for proponents of this empirically vapid argument it is well established that a rank on an international test of academic skills and knowledge does not have the power to predict future economic competitiveness and is otherwise meaningless for a host of reasons (Baker, 2007; Bracey, 2009; Tienken, 2008).”
He sites these examples to support his statement.
“The fact is China and its continued manipulation of its currency, the Yuan, and iron-fisted control of its labor pool, has a greater effect on our economic strength than if every American child scored at the top of every international test, the SAT, the ACT, the GRE, or the MAT.” (emphasis added)
“Japan‘s stock market, the Nikkei 225 Average, closed at a high of 38,915 points on December 31, 1989 and on October 15, 2010 it closed at 9,500 points, approximately 75% lower, but Japan ranked in the Top 10 on international tests of mathematics since the 1980‘s and has always ranked higher than the U.S. on such tests. Yet Japan‘s stock market and its economy have been in shambles for almost two decades. They have national curriculum standards and testing, and have for over 30 years. Japanese students outrank students from most other nations on math and science tests.”
“Economic strength of the G20 countries relies more on policy, than education achievement.”
“To believe otherwise is like believing in the tooth-fairy.”
Even if the standards were a good idea, they would not lead to the results that their proponents promise. Given their tremendous cost, it seems reasonable to question whether they are really needed. At the very least we should ask, is this a good investment of America’s capital?
Another phrase heard ad nauseum regarding the standards is that our students will need 21st century skills in order to compete in a global economy. I have been asking for months, someone please tell me what a 21st century skill is. I have received no answers and it would appear that the drafters of the Common Core Standards had no answer either.
“The language arts and mathematics curriculum sequences embedded in the standards are nothing more than rehashed versions of the recommendations from the Committee of Ten in 1893 and the Committee of 15 in1895; hardly 21st Century innovations.”
The United States Council on Competitiveness had a better answer than the consortia for what is needed to keep our economy growing.
“At the beginning of the 21st century, America stands at the dawn of a conceptual economy in which insight, imagination and ingenuity determine competitive advantage and value creation. To succeed in this hyper-competitive, fast-paced global economy, we cannot, nor should we want to, compete on low wages, commodity products, standard services, and routine science and technology development. As other nations build sophisticated technical capabilities, excellence in science and technology alone will not ensure success (p. 10).”
The CCSS, in contrast, contain no “authentic, critical thinking…. They are inert, sterile, socially static.” Tienken says, if we want to know what skills will be needed for the next century, we should ask the leaders of the businesses who will be looking for workers what they are looking for.
“The results from the 2010 Global Chief Executive Study conducted by the IBM Corporation made several recommendations that call into question the use of 19th century curriculum standards to address 21st century issues. After analyzing data from interviews with 1,500 of the worlds CEO‘s the authors stated that to remain competitive in the global economies CEO‘s and their employees must:
(a) use creative leadership strategies;
(b) collaborate and cooperate globally amongst themselves and with their customer bases;
(c) differentiate their responses, products, and services to ―build operating dexterity (p.51); and
(d) be able to use complexity to a strategic advantage.
The vendors of the CCSS have a problem: They have no data that demonstrates the validity of the standards as a vehicle to build 21st century skills nor as a means to achieve the things the business leaders say will be needed to operate in a diverse global environment. The CCSS are stuck in a time warp. A curricular time machine, if you will, set to 1858.”
Behind all the talk about the standards is fear mongering about America’s economic status in the world. America is painted as behind and falling further and further behind. The propaganda for Common Core claims this is because of our declining education system. But the real statistics show something very different. Below is just one example of many that Tienken provides.
“The U.S. has ranked either first or second out of 139 nations on the World Economic Forum‘s (2010) Global Competitiveness Index (GCI) eight out of the last 10 years and never ranked below sixth place during that period, regardless of results on international assessments and without adopting national curriculum standards.”
Unfortunately, the proponents of Common Core continue to push them as vital to our country’s future.
“Yet this nation will base the future of its entire public education system, and its children, upon this lack of evidence. Many of America‘s education associations already pledged support for the idea and have made the CCSS major parts of their national conferences and the programs they sell to schools.
“This seems like the ultimate in anti- intellectual behavior coming from what claim to be intellectual organizations now acting like charlatans by vending products to their members based on an untested idea and parroting false claims of standards efficacy.”
“It is an Orwellian policy position that lacks a basic understanding of diversity and developmental psychology. It is a position that eschews science and at its core, believes it is appropriate to force children to fit the system instead of the system adjusting to the needs of the child.”
The better solution, according to Tienken, is to bring control for education back to the local level.
“Alexander‘s (2002) study of course taking pattern before and after the introduction of New York‘s regent standards revealed that local contexts such as school size and demographics accounted for most of the disparity in course taking, and universal curriculum requirements did little to overcome that after their initial implementation. Local context, involvement and input matters greatly.”
“In fact, the experiment (Aikin, 1942)demonstrated that the less standardized, more diverse, locally developed and designed the programs (based on demonstrated research and theories of learning), the better the students did in college academically, socially, and civically compared their traditionally prepared peers.”
If we really want to bring up the lowest performing students, Tienken advances that a better approach would be the development of better social safety nets. “Housing policy has been shown to be a stronger intervention for increasing test scores than nationalizing curriculum (Schwartz, 2010).” These would have to be carefully constructed so as not to demolish personal responsibility or pride, and not foster an unnecessary dependence on the system.
Perhaps it‘s not universal curriculum standards that make the difference. Maybe it‘s a comprehensive social system that provides a quality social safety net for children and mothers that has the greatest influence on ultimate education outcomes.” 

Tienken offers these conclusions about Common Core.

There is no reliable, independently validated empirical support for the CCSS initiative and yet many policy-makers and educators support it.

It is an attractive idea to support because it limits the intricacies of the real issues and makes it easy to lay the blame at the foot of a system (public education) that reacts to society, not drives it.

The CCSS initiative compartmentalizes complexity and compartmentalizing messy issues allows people to be intellectually lazy. Developing coherent education and social policy is more difficult.

The vendors of the CCSS present the standardization of America’s  children  as a neat and clean solution, easily manageable and easy to discuss.

Unfortunately the real world is not so organized and it is much more cognitively complicated. Believing that we can eliminate the complexity of educating all students by putting forth superficial ideas like one-size fits- all standards is like believing rankings on international tests really mean something. (Is your tooth under the pillow?)

It seems anti-intellectual, and based on the lack of evidence, unethical to support such a massive social experiment, using participants who have no choice but to go along.

The evidence suggests that there is not a crisis in education; there is a crisis in education leadership at all levels. Those who perpetuate bad ideas based on flawed data are practicing poor leadership. If some school leaders and their organizations do not want to stand up for children then they should stand down and let those who are willing assume the leadership reins.

The entire article is relatively short, well documented and worth the read.

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Filed under National Standards (Common Core)