Rural America in the Crosshairs: A New Frontier for Profiteers

This is my plea to rural America and to all the people who carried Mr. Trump into the White House. Please remember your power and use it well. Don’t let corporate interests ruin our American small-town way of life.

Preserving our public education system is at the heart of this battle. And the public can both preserve and improve our schools…Why close them or leave them behind?education-reform-quotes-1

This past election season should give us hope. In Massachusetts (the state that has proven that true education reform is possible), voters said “NO” to lifting the cap on charter schools. Why?

“…almost all of the fiercest Question 2 opponents were cities and towns whose public schools are losing money to charter schools.”

And as one principal expressed…

“Community members and parents I talk to want to fight for the resources to improve the public schools we already have rather than opening more schools.” He [Peter Bachli] added, “It’s as if the refrigerator light went out and instead of fixing it you bought a new refrigerator.”

Many people are considering the consequences of “school choice” as we now know it. Charters, school vouchers, and technology are the main products being sold to fill the gaps in education decisively created through our laws. Yes, the market was created.

To make a buck (or billions), the education industry under the guise of education reform has put a price on the heads of children — again and still. Urban markets were tapped first. Now, schools in rural America are in the crosshairs.

But rural America doesn’t have to go the way of America’s urban districts. Not if we learn from their experiences.charter_charterfigure1

And here in Idaho, we can learn from other small towns that have all but been destroyed by our modern-day version of “school choice.”

My hometown of Albion, Michigan is a perfect example. Crippled economically by unfair competition leading to de-industrialization, families paid the price for “globalization” (a nice code word for the development of multinational corporate monopolies).

At the same time, the farce of test-based reforms in K-12 education fueled the development of school choice laws.

So with 80 percent of charter schools in Michigan being for-profit schools, the education industry profited at the expense of American small-town traditions. Gone were the Friday night football games. Gone were the Christmas programs. Gone were the opportunities to gather in local businesses after school events — because — gone were the schools. They were closed. Kids are bused elsewhere.

The fabric of the community was shredded.

Rural America, I’m not crying wolf. Rural schools ARE in the crosshairs of the education industry. The plan is well underway.

Step 1: Direct funding

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FROM A New Frontier: Utilizing Charter Schools to Strengthen Rural Education  by Andy Smarick http://files.eric.ed.gov/fulltext/ED553987.pdf

Step 2: Get state law in line

AND open the door for philanthropic venture capitalists. Those with an interest in "success" of these charters will use their money to ensure "effectiveness" can be demonstrated. (Idaho State Law)

AND this opens the door for philanthropic venture capitalists. Those with an interest in “success” of these charters will use their money to ensure “effectiveness” can be demonstrated.

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An application needs an “estimate” for the first year. What happens after the first year?

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Remember, these are federal grants of taxpayer dollars.

Step 3: Coordinate federal law …(while claiming more state and local control)…

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This is the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA Public LAW 114-95). Why does the federal government feel the need to tell states how to fund charter schools?

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Eyes will be on the start-ups in the beginning. But how long will the watchdogs keep watching?

Step 4: “Grow-your-own” market even when that means you direct funds AWAY FROM IMPROVING SCHOOLS….really.

YES, this does say to FOREGO improvements. No Child Left Behind created a market in the same way. It limited curriculum while charters popped up offering more of what regular public schools used to offer.

YES, this does say to FOREGO improvements. THIS IS ESSA. No Child Left Behind created a market in the same way. It limited curriculum while charters popped up offering more of what was removed from regular public schools.

The decades-long standards, assessment, accountability, and technology movement continues making “choice” a moneymaking instrument easily sold to freedom-loving people.

For Idaho this began in the 1990’s with the Albertson Foundation sponsoring the development of “new” standards. Then came the assessments and accountability mechanisms to spawn competition between schools thus creating a market for “choice.” They focused their money and our laws (and money) on standards and testing for math and reading at the expense of better quality education. Their vision. Their plan. Their lobbyists that created “our” laws that in turn foot the bill for education products to fix what they helped ruin.

Now, they have much of Idaho believing we don’t understand “what policies and practices are likeliest to help” improve our rural schools. That simply is not true.

In January of 2013, one conclusion of state research was that our rural schools wanted their teachers to have the opportunity to obtain multiple certifications. Administrators wanted to improve the quality of their teaching workforce.

Instead, in August of 2013, the Albertson Foundation brought in out-of-state experts to examine OUR rural schools.

They found a new frontier — for rural charter schools — based on “the fantastic work done by charter management organizations” and “human capital organizations” like The New Teacher Project…..Wait? Who?

screen-shot-2016-11-30-at-2-09-16-pmLet’s be clear. We are talking about philanthropic venture capitalists. These are the same people who put their money (and ours) on Common Core.

You think Common Core is simply going away because Mr. Trump doesn’t like it? Not when those who teach the teachers, develop the leadership, and lobby the lawmakers are in control. The Common Core System is in place. With the change of a name, in the blink of an eye, we still face the same problem of no real local control. Charter schools are not the answer to that problem.

And there seems to be a belief that charters will only come in where they are needed and wanted. Can the public just say no and have it be so? Ask congress.

Federal law - ESSA - gives the Secretary of Education POWER!

Federal law – ESSA – gives the Secretary of Education POWER!

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In Idaho, our state board has the POWER also. Idaho’s State Board is not elected; they are selected!

 

So knowing how the laws have been fixed to profit the charter industry, as I traveling across rural Idaho over the Thanksgiving weekend, I tried not to think about it. But unfortunately while passing through one small town in particular, a horrible thought struck me. How long would it be before the food chain consisted of ConAgra, Monsanto, and Walmart?

And what will the schools be like under this new world order? Well, if the purpose of education is work-force development, we know who’ll be calling the shots.

10389690_773525136032161_985265226383217614_nOn the other hand, I’m not convinced that corporate America will trump rural America.

Will America be made great again by those who control the schools?

Will rural America choose to give control to the same people who manipulate our laws to benefit their industry?

Or will rural Americans reclaim the “new frontier” as their own?

How will we see success?

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Crosshairs added with the help of a friend. Photo from Harvesting Success: Charter Schools in Rural America brought to us by the “National” Charter School Resource Center and SAFAL partners (a consulting firm with “deep domain knowledge in the charter section, human capital management systems, and next generation learning.”….Rural America, are these the people you want managing your children and grandchildren?

“Let’s have faith that right makes might; and in that faith let us, to the end, dare to do our duty as we understand it.” — Abraham Lincoln

P.S. Special thanks to the undistinguished Americans that go unacknowledged for the extraordinary research they selflessly do everyday (without pay) in an attempt to enlighten all of us. I for one appreciate their contributions to this blog.

Magicians and Politicians

What do magicians and politicians have in common? Sounds like the lead-in to a good joke, doesn’t it? It isn’t.

Magicians and politicians share a common trick based on the idea that if they can focus people’s attention on one thing, they can do something else and get away with it. For magicians, it’s all in good fun. No harm; no foul. With politicians, it’s time to call a foul on these masters of misdirection.

“The technique of misdirection, which is most notably and professionally practiced by magicians, is also a highly valued technique employed by politicians.”

Manipulation of the public is a valued political technique!?!

“As magicians have long known and neuroscientists are increasingly discovering, human perception is a jury-rigged apparatus, full of gaps and easily manipulated…A great deal of the success of a piece of magic is simply getting the audience’s attention and sending it to the wrong place…Magic shows are masterpieces of misdirection.”

“…people have a pronounced tendency to miss things that are happening right in front of them.”

“…we miss things simply because we aren’t looking at them.”

“…there’s a value in simply coming to grips with the gaps and limits in our awareness…”

quote-you-never-let-a-serious-crisis-go-to-waste-and-what-i-mean-by-that-it-s-an-opportunity-rahm-emanuel-8-91-00People are growing more and more aware of the way politicians use a crisis —a distraction—to push through some law or take some action that leaders more than likely know the public would not accept under normal circumstances. With the Great Recession in 2008, it was the Quiet Revolution in education policies (Common Core Initiative, robust data systems, outcome-based teacher evaluations, and school closures) that skipped across the national stage while our focus was on the fiscal cliff. And six to seven years later, once these policies were well in place in the states, it no longer mattered that they were finally noticed and dissension arose….too little, too late. And we continue to be played for fools — mostly unaware.

To purposely change a major national policy at a time when it is least likely to draw attention is a low blow in a country supposedly based on the Consent of the Governed.778270

The only thing lower than taking advantage of a bad situation is to purposely create distractions.

“Distraction and misdirection are very close (and are sometimes used to mean the same thing). In distraction, you manage something that the other person notices. In misdirection, you more deliberately direct their attention (although not always obviously).”

At this point, we should question both political techniques and motives. In today’s society that means thinking critically and being vocal about it at the risk of being called a conspiracy theorist. But think about this, politics as we know it involves deception.

“To some degree, politics has always involved deception….Media bosses demand a constant flow of material, which ensures that much reporting remains undigested. Customers want speed or will click elsewhere; competitors spew their own undigested news, and campaigns are only too happy to concoct it, or their opponents will. Shiny objects become tools of our least resistance. Polls and gaffes take less time and brainpower to comprehend than, say, Jeb Bush’s book on immigration policy.

In other words, the press colludes with politicians in this culture of distraction-mongering.tumblr_lsvfxnEDti1qdzq7ho1_5004

So with the presidential race starting earlier than EVER

“It is simply insane how much we’ve pushed up our presidential campaigns.”

donald-trump-today-150810-08_39b93f74c6eaa824caa74f78fc9d72c8.today-inline-large…with all eyes on the hair on the stage, what went on in congress while the majority of the population didn’t have their eyes on them? Several really, really big bills were put on the Fast Track. To name the ones I know—trade, infrastructure, and education…the last one only taking eleven days from its appearance to the pre-planned signing! Now that’s fast!

 

Was the early start to presidential campaigning insane or a distraction?

Activists on a variety of topics are telling the same story. They tried to draw attention to their cause only to find that they couldn’t rally enough troops to make a difference. They couldn’t grab the attention from the main stage.

“When a population becomes distracted by trivia, when cultural life is redefined as a perpetual round of entertainments, when serious public conversation becomes a form of baby talk, when, in short, a people become an audience and their public business a vaudeville act, then a nation finds itself at risk: culture-death is a clear possibility.”—Author Neil Postman

“When we’re being bombarded with wall-to-wall news coverage and news cycles that change every few days, it’s difficult to stay focused on one thing—namely, holding the government accountable to abiding by the rule of law—and the powers-that-be understand this.”

“If we do not awaken to the truth and open our eyes soon, then we may well find ourselves staring at a far different, far less pleasant picture before long, and by then, it will be too late to alter our reality.”

Trickery by magicians is entertaining. By politicians, the same methods are putting our nation at risk.

No joke.

Liars in the HOUSE

What do you know about the Every Student Succeeds Act (S.1177) set to replace No Child Left Behind? One thing you probably won’t be surprised to hear is that the lawmaking process was corrupted.

But this time it is more than a bit unsettling. Few people know how openly the liars in the House — OUR HOUSE —are not being questioned or doubted by either the People or the other representatives…..that means no real debate occurred on this bill and it is sailing into law….unless we stop it.

In the case of education policy, the liars should be doubted.

In the case of education policy, the liars should be doubted.

When we toss together liars, lemmings, and a lackadaisical public, we have a recipe for political corruption…..How corrupt? Disgustingly so if you think parents should have a say in their own children’s education!

To begin with, don’t be fooled into thinking either the House or Senate were slaving away over writing this bill. They have had 15 years to think over the mistakes of No Child Left Behind and are overdue for reauthorizing it by EIGHT years.

During that time, the real rulers have not been idle…..it was always the plan to put common standards into federal law.

The Gates funded Achieve and the ADP (American Diploma Project) wrote this in 2008....2008...

The Gates funded Achieve and the ADP (American Diploma Project) wrote this in 2008….2008

Is there anything wrong with a common core of standards? … Maybe not, IF it is the People in control of OUR government and OUR schools.

By 2010.....2010.....it looked more like Bill Gates was writing the Obama plan.

By 2010…..2010.….it looked like Bill Gates was writing the Obama plan.

And in 2013 in the Senate, the Every Child Ready for College or Career Act emerged to replace No Child Left Behind. It stalled and by 2015 the bill’s new name was the Every Child Achieves Act. Meanwhile in the House, they settled on the name the Student Success Act in time for this 2015 reauthorization.

Names, titles, and words changed; the basics of the law?

All combined, it became the Every Student Succeeds Act (S.1177) now before the Senate, expected to breeze through and be signed by President Obama.

After waiting seven years, what’s the rush?

Think about this — there were SEVEN years in which those pushing the agenda upon which the Every Student Succeeds Act is based could have taken the time to explain, discuss, and get real, honest public input from US who lived through dealing with the unintended consequences of No Child Left Behind. Instead, the equally corrupted D.C. non-governmental organizations claiming to speak for us were the ones that OUR representatives listened to.

Instead, the way this predictably played out is that “suddenly” on Monday November 30thwhen mothers everywhere in America were busy with holidays — the conference committee released the final version of the long-awaited replacement for No Child Left Behind (NCLB) which they made 1,061 pages long……longer than NCLB! They didn’t fix that part of the problem with the law!

That was Monday. And their propaganda was ready and up…on the House website! Paid for by us?

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DID YOU KNOW THAT “PROFICIENT” ON NAEP TESTS EQUATES TO AN A OR A-?….Decline is never good but CRISIS?

Top10

I put this whole thing up because I thought number 8 was pretty amusing in a sick sort of way…..?…..But number 7 is the lie told to House Republicans with number 1 being a stretch.

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Pre-school charter start-ups aren't considered a new federal program?

Pre-school charter start-ups aren’t considered a new federal pre-K program? And the Secretary decides?

 

 

We should be outraged!

Lied to, propaganda paid for by us, and they slip this through when parents are most busy with their families.

People? We have seen our representatives act like lemmings; please don’t tell me they truly do represent us.

This go-around with education policy, it just happened to be the Republican led House jumping over the cliff.

…Democrats and Republicans alike did the country wrong, so far, on this.

Next up, a vote in the Senate.

Do we let our representative go ahead, follow the crowd, trust the “information” put out by the main stream media telling them that this law will be better than NCLB? 1e9b9b1e66a26feaeb39d3217d85ca1a

Or do we stop, ask them to stop, explain the details of the law, and explain how this is better than what we currently have?

With education policy, both major political parties have taken turns making laws that they haven’t read, don’t understand, and for which they are NEVER held accountable for the results, or lack of them.

Please, make the call, speak up, stop the lemmings from taking us over the cliff with them.

What Debate?

The marketing campaign to FIX No Child Left Behind began back in January with announcements that there would be debate.

A draft of the Every Child Ready for College or Career Act of 2015 was released and many newspapers and education associations picked up the story including the American Educational Research Association.

“The draft bill contains several provisions related to research. If enacted, the bill would task the Institute of Education Sciences with evaluating Title I activities. In addition, state plans submitted to the Department of Education would be approved unless the department presented “substantial high-quality education research” that demonstrated that a plan would be ineffective or inappropriate. The bill does not define high-quality education research.

Alexander has made it clear that he hopes to have a substantial discussion about ESEA.”

Discussion? Debate? Both are important and citizens should have been included to help shape and direct the debate about “fixing” the law. After-all, we were the ones who were subjected to the consequences of bad ideas being passed by congress and signed into law, in this case, by then President Bush. And there was never an official parental complaint process!

But instead of the anticipated discussion, Senator Alexander immediately directed “the debate” to the topic of Testing and Accountability while avoiding the topic of national standards themselves by pacifying people with his standard “no national school board” meaningless rhetoric. And the marketers changed the law’s name to get away from the identifying language of the controversial Common Core Initiative (College or Career Ready). The Every Child Achieves Act proved to be more palatable.

Screen Shot 2015-07-19 at 4.32.20 PMHow did the so-called debate go? Both the House and Senate bills to replace NCLB maintained the yearly standardized testing for accountability purposes in math and language arts just like in NCLB. What they did do, to sell this fallacy of test-based accountability again, was shift the responsibility for accountability mechanisms to the States. Does that change the problem with high-stakes testing? No. Resources focused on testing are spent. They can’t be used for other things.

But to appease the arts groups, the Senate threw them a bone.

“By naming music and arts as core subjects in the Every Child Achieves Act, the Senate has acknowledged and begun to address the national problem of the narrowing of the curriculum that has taken place under No Child Left Behind (NCLB) for more than a decade now.”

How that will “work” in already underfunded and under-performing schools is questionable but these groups base their feeling of success right now on hope. And they now feel their voices have been heard —one group appeased.

The next topic Alexander approved for a “hearing” was that of Supporting Teachers and School Leaders. Screen Shot 2015-07-19 at 4.32.28 PMAfterwards, Senator Murray delivered statements that sounded much like what we have heard for years —expressing things upon which we generally agree.

But in the bill itself, although teacher residency programs are prominent in the “definitions” section, it is other elements of teacher and school leadership development and evaluation that dominate the law. Federal “incentives” for teacher and school leader certification and licensing (aligned with challenging standards), alternative routes to teaching, and “reforming” tenure systems are all included. These things are not supported by research as being effective “to ensure that ever child achieves” —the purpose of the law.

And looking at the bigger picture, both the House and Senate versions claim to be shifting the control to the States. In the very real world of D.C. politics, certain organizations that represent the States stand to greatly increase their influence. Take the Council of Chief State School Officers (CCSSO, chief creators of the Common Core Standards System) for example.

CCSSO has a teacher and principal preparation program ready to go. They have included multiple new elements requiring the expansion of technology and data collection systems including….Screen Shot 2015-07-19 at 10.25.04 PMand…Screen Shot 2015-07-19 at 10.26.45 PMThey have it under CONTROL. Kept in mind, CCSSO is a non-governmental organization that has no responsibility for being responsive to the public’s desires. They are in no way accountable to us. And they have had their sights set on ESEA reauthorization for years —the same number of years as the Common Core State Standards Initiative.

They have a “new deal” for us and for themselves it looks like. We should debate who’s goals they represent.

Screen Shot 2015-07-19 at 10.34.00 PMScreen Shot 2015-07-19 at 10.34.48 PM

 

 

 

 

 

Did we get to debate any of this? No, it was set in motion years ago with no public participation. Remember, there was no official complaint process for No Child Left Behind and these actions don’t fix that.

No record; no accountability. No debate, only a very controlled dog-and-pony show.

The House and Senate bills passed their respective houses proving that On The Hill, “We mean business on K-12 education.” Those in the education industry know that to be the truth!

Here’s how the market-based reformers see it….

Screen Shot 2015-07-15 at 9.19.33 PMExpanding charters and retaining annual testing ARE in both bills. But wasn’t that federal mandate at the heart of the problem?

Charters? Never debated. Never research proven to be an improvement over existing public schools. Not a reform.debate

“Streamlining” is a questionable term since programs are actually being CUT and we can’t debate whether or not that is a good thing since we don’t know specifically which ones are being cut other than the School Improvement Grants (which had some useful but never openly discussed results).

Transparency? Increased transparency? I don’t see it. Do they mean like we saw with Common Core<sarc>? Do they mean like we might get if the media covered what is really happening instead of what information is released? Do they mean transparency like we might develop if topics were openly debated in public and the alternative view WAS allowed to be heard?

Have we even had public officials openly debate what was wrong with No Child Left Behind? How do they know if they “fixed” it if the problems was never fully exposed?

Obviously the marketers know what people want to hear; on that, they did their research.

We want to hear that education reform was honestly discussed and debated. But, the question remains…

JFKdebate…what debate?

Turn Around Schools?

The whole point of standards, testing, school choice, school closures, and mass firings of school personnel was to turn around schools identified as failing to serve children — MOST of whom are disadvantaged by poverty. Right? These were the chosen school transformation practices of No Child Left Behind and Race to the Top.

Common Core just happens to be the planner’s choice for the next generation standards upon which this scheme will go forward in state and federal laws. But should it?

Like the song says “Stop… Everybody look what’s going down.”

These strategies are not reforms. They didn’t improve schools. They didn’t improve opportunities across the board for children. They didn’t provide kids with an even start. They didn’t come close to giving them all a fair shot. They didn’t give children hope for a better life. If they had, we shouldn’t see rising suicide rates for black children.

The question is; what will we do? Be realistic?

Realistically, will a quality education lift all children out of poverty? No. But, it will provide that opportunity for many more. Can education make life better for all? Yes, it can. The correlation has been well documented. Education is a common good.

“Education is about more than just better jobs and bigger paychecks, important though they are in making families and individuals more financially stable. More education is also linked to better physical and mental health, longer lives, fewer crimes, less incarceration, more voting, greater tolerance, and brighter prospects for the next generation.”

So is school reform the silver bullet for all the misfortunes poverty can bestow on our American pursuit of happiness? No. But we have to do it anyway. And in the process, we can adopt policies and practices that support families and their children — but only if we make the choice to do so. Enters, The Elephant in the School Failure Debate by Joan McRobbie.

“Common sense tells us that improving child health and nutrition, making it so the family doesn’t have to move frequently to find affordable rent, and reducing family stress make it easier for children to learn.”

Don’t other people find it very disturbing that The Land of Opportunity doesn’t have a better social safety-net for children? We won’t even make equality in educational opportunity a national priority?

“The United States stands out as the country with the highest poverty rate and one of the lowest levels of social expenditure —16.2 percent of GDP, well below the vast majority of peer countries, which average 21.3 percent (unweighted).”Screen Shot 2015-05-20 at 1.34.41 PMBut I don’t see Mexico included in this graph and I know their poverty rate is higher than ours, so we’re alright? No, we are not! And enters the argument that money isn’t everything. There is some truth to that.

lyndon-b-johnson-president-quote-education-is-not-a-problem-educationMoney isn’t invested wisely in education reform unless we understand the concept of community support for disadvantaged children and the schools they attend. That was the basis of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA) that was written through the efforts of many including President Johnson (D) and his Secretary of Health, Education, and Welfare, John W. Gardner (R) —the founder of Common Cause.

This is how we turn around schools.

This is how we turn around schools.

 

McRobbie gets it.

“Heroic efforts by excellent educators can only make a dent. Their efforts are swamped by concentrated poverty; by the daunting numbers of low-income students and the magnitude of the needs those kids have, through no fault of their own. And each year, more children with similar needs continue to pour in.

This isn’t a school problem. It’s a societal problem imposed on schools,…”

I’m not saying money is the total answer; it isn’t. But wise investment is. Strong communities and the social safety net they build for children is the foundation for excellent schools.

The chief architect of the 1965 ESEA, Frank (Francis) Keppel, saw federal appropriations of money for education like this; the way forward should not be seen as “aid” but as “federal support for special purposes . . . an investment in education . . . investment in people and therefore in the nation.”

Right now, the U.S. Senate version of the reauthorization of ESEA —up for a full vote of the Senate as S.1177, called “Every Child Achieves”— is set to invest heavily in standards, testing, and charter school start-ups. We know these things did not reliably, consistently, or in any statistically significant way improve the lives or education of children of poverty.

We get it. We now need to do something about it.

We get it. We now need to do something about it.

Is this the investment we want to make? Speak up. If the law isn’t about helping to turn around the schools that need our help by providing a better social safety-net for our youngest citizens, we have to stop what we are doing. We can simply say “Vote No” AND go back to the drawing board – NOW!

We need to decide.

Update: The bill came out of committee and in 10 days flat was approved and signed into law during the Thanksgiving/Christmas holiday (Dec. 2015, now titled Every Student Succeeds Act). Parents, you didn’t have a chance!….We should all be mad as hell!…The alternative is never considered. Why not?

Words for Sale

World Press Freedom Day: today, May 3, 2015. But do we have freedom of the press or are words now for sale for propaganda purposes?

...and the sign said...

…and the sign said…

While other places in the world fight for freedom of the press, here in the United States our press sells words to the highest bidders.

Until recently, I did not know about the covert actions behind the No Child Left Behind propaganda machine. As Jim Hightower wrote:

“Just a bad apple,” said the Powers That Be, “an aberration” in an otherwise honest system.

The New York Times wasn’t so kind in their article titled All the President’s Newsmen.

“…the Jan. 7 [2005] edition of CNN’s signature show can stand as an exceptionally ripe paradigm of what is happening to the free flow of information in a country in which a timid news media, the fierce (and often covert) Bush administration propaganda machine, lax and sometimes corrupt journalistic practices, and a celebrity culture all combine to keep the public at many more than six degrees of separation from anything that might resemble the truth.

…[Armstrong Williams] had just been unmasked as the frontman for a scheme in which $240,000 of taxpayers’ money was quietly siphoned to him through the Department of Education and a private p.r. firm [Ketchum, Inc.] so that he would “regularly comment” upon (translation: shill for) the Bush administration’s No Child Left Behind policy in various media venues during an election year.”

This gets even sleazier.

It was USA Today that broke the story and their article began by saying,

“Seeking to build support among black families for its education reform law,…”

Consider those words one more time. … “to build support among black families.” They targeted a race demographic for propaganda purposes.

The No Child Left Behind (NCLB) propaganda campaign did such a number on the country that civil rights groups and others, including our half-black president, continue to believe in the basic premise of NCLB. The country needs to take the time to evaluate the theory of NCLB based on the scientific method.

But here is a theory pertaining to NCLB in general. It is possible that Bush #43 was just walking in his daddy’s footsteps and following Bush #41’s executive order to advance privatization:

“…in order to ensure that the United States achieves the most beneficial economic use of its resources, it is hereby ordered as follows:

Section 1. Definitions. For purposes of this order: (a) “Privatization” means the disposition or transfer of an infrastructure asset, such as by sale or by long-term lease, from a State or local government to a private party.

(b) “Infrastructure asset” means any asset financed in whole or in part by the Federal Government and needed for the functioning of the economy. Examples of such assets include, but are not limited to: roads, tunnels, bridges, electricity supply facilities, mass transit, rail transportation, airports, ports, waterways, water supply facilities, recycling and wastewater treatment facilities, solid waste disposal facilities, housing, schools, prisons, and hospitals.”

Looking at the good side of all this corruption of power, at least in this incidence the actions were taken using government money which more times than not leaves a paper trail for journalists to uncover.

But now, we have “journalism” sponsored by philanthropists. Ever hear of Solution Journalism Network?

As reported from the Education Writers Association 2015 Conference,

“News is spreading that the Boston Globe is going to join the Seattle Times and BRIGHT in taking the “solutions” approach to education journalism, with funding from Gates and others.  That’ll allow the newsroom to hire a second K-12 education reporter (not yet named) and let longtime Globe reporter James Vaznis to do more in-depth pieces.”

I only stumbled upon this because of my recent personal experience with a Boston Globe Common Core op-ed that was printed in my hard-copy newspaper but not in its online version. When there is no way to comment quickly in order to debunk or dispute the words stated as facts, it’s frustrating. It’s not the first time.

A couple of weeks back I called my paper, the Idaho Statesman, because I wanted to comment on an article but couldn’t find it in the online version. Their later explanation was that it was a mistake that couldn’t be corrected.

Today, with another Common Core article, marks the third time that I clearly recall this happening. Despite being called a conspiracy theorist and “nutcase,” it takes getting hit over the head several times before I observe a pattern. Many time in the past, I thought it was my inability to find the articles. Now, I understand the growing pile of notes on my desk. They represent the lies I’ve seen printed which I have been unable to help correct.

This could be “an aberration” in an otherwise honest system; it could be my newspaper. It‘s owned by The McClatchy Co. (third largest in the U.S.). The articles in question were from two different sources —Boston Globe and the Associated Press (AP). The only connection between those two is the fact that the CEO of McClatchy, Gary Pruitt, is the head of the AP. That doesn’t prove anything. But let’s theorize a bit more.

If these omissions to online access are intentional, what demographic group is being targeted for the message? My guess in the case of Common Core is the older voting block.

But, I’m personally done with chasing facts today. If we can’t use what we already know, what good is it?

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Specialty: drive adoption throughout an organization.

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Specialty: sets education agendas in motion.

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Specialty: accelerates results through decisive actions.

I uncovered the people behind the Common Core propaganda machine with the thoroughness and integrity of a journalist true to their trade. I just wish I had the advantages of being a journalist — pay, a copy editor, and wide access.

It’s hard work fighting against the media machine armed only with the truth. But it’s a small price to pay.

Freedom of the press — a Constitutional Right in the United States of America — has been rendered meaningless by the highest bidders — the people who own the worldScreen Shot 2015-05-03 at 2.26.55 PM

Common Core Tests & Teachers

One piece of the Common Core “system” is the Common Core “next generation” tests. It was the creators’ intention that test scores be used in teacher evaluations. It is high-stakes testing.

To understand why I came to this conclusion, it’s essential that people clearly understand the words used in official documents.

“State assessments” means Common Core assessments unless otherwise designated. “College and Career Ready” now means Common Core aligned. “Local control” means control over what local people are allowed to have input on after the schools have complied with federal and state laws. Your local school board? That is another topic.

“Autonomy” in the face of a system controlled by profiteers working the political strings means nothing.

Early on in the Common Core States Standards Initiative (CCSSI), the National Parent Teacher Association (PTA) accepted money for purposes they outlined very well. Their document Educating & Training Parents to Support Education Reform looks and sounds great on page one. Page two begins to layout the system. Screen Shot 2015-04-11 at 1.55.36 PM

Think about it. Outreach to the parents and the public to “increase awareness”? Alright. Plot to align Common Core Standards to curriculum, assessments, policies, budgets, college admissions and financial aid? The initiative was about more than national standards.

And we can’t forget accountability. “Accountability systems” are brought up repeatedly. But, what does that mean?

Ask the architect of Common Core, David Coleman. When he was the head of The Coalition for Student Achievement group, there was a gathering in Washington D.C. to decide how to use OUR American Reinvestment and Recovery Act dollars. In addition to common standards, it was decided that “…at least 50% of teacher ratings…” should be based on “academic progress.” Many state policymakers jumped aboard that train.

If teachers are “rated” individually by student progress on Common Core aligned assessments, don’t we have to do these assessments at least twice a year to measure real growth due to a teacher? Double the testing money?

But when this group left their little meeting in D.C., it was the Council of Chief State School Officers (CCSSO) and National Governors Association (NGA) who brought this “initiative” forward as “state-led.” Here’s the BIG GUN in the Common Core plan.

It was quite a meeting of the minds in the Spring of 2009 in D.C.

It was quite a meeting of the minds in the Spring of 2009 in D.C.

CCSSO and NGA prepared their ESEA Reauthorization Principles and Recommendations. What’s the big deal?

They called it their "new deal."

They call it their “new deal.”

Once revisions to ESEA (currently called No Child Left Behind) are put in place, it will be extremely difficult to change. My proof? No Child Left Behind was due to be rewritten in 2007. It didn’t happen even in the face of knowing with certainty that it was detrimental to a generation of already under-served children. Change? Outcry? Action? By the People, yes. By Congress? Not soon enough.

If CCSSO and NGA are allowed to be leaders of the pack on ESEA, one principle upon which this law will stand for another decade is that ESEA will “set the baseline for state policy (in assessments, accountability, consequences, etc.)…”Screen Shot 2015-04-21 at 11.51.06 AM

Thus far, it appears these ideas are leading Federal and State “leaders.” The House Student Success Act (H.R.5) still mandates yearly “state” testing and now shifts “accountability” and teacher evaluations to the State. The draft Senate version applies the same “guiding” principle. This policy ping-pong (partnership), I’ve seen played before when outcome-based education hit the States before being federalized in No Child Left Behind.

So, will the federal government set “baselines” or “just” require federal approval of all state plans? Will federal law mandate that “All accountability systems includes student academic achievement and growth”?

Is federal law being used to uphold a very controversial private/somewhat public partnership “initiative” that the majority of the public did not know was being put in place?

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The addition of “critical thinking skills” has been a major selling point. Working to encourage children to think critically is nothing new to education.

But back to our teachers and include school leaders as these familiar groups did.

CCSSO, with their buddies at NGA, wrote Our Responsibility, Our Promise that aligns all teacher and principal development with the Common Core. These are two non-governmental trade associations. Don’t you think the preparation for teachers and school leaders FOR PUBLIC SCHOOLS should be based on the standards and principles upon which WE —the public— want, believe, stand upon, respect, and trust to guide us well?

When the people behind the development of Common Core and the Core plan decided to transform the system to do their bidding, they needed to set the agenda in motion, drive adoption throughout the system, and accelerate results through divisive action especially if they felt the need to get this done while the Great Recession had the public’s attention. Screen Shot 2015-04-21 at 3.30.01 PMYou see —I hope—that the same people behind the curtain of our TOO BIG TOO FAIL epic story of BIG MONEY laughing all the way to the bank and leaving THE LITTLE PEOPLE scraping by, are some of the same people behind the revolving door of Common Core. Could we please HIT PAUSE?

There are people who see the Common Core standards as just standards because of the “facts” they have heard.

Please stop and ask that person that is so passionately fighting against Common Core what it is that stirred their passion. Please stop and listen to them. Will they mess up some details? Chances are they will because the truth has been hard to find.

But ask yourself, are these “just standards”?

Teachers, are you sure you know what “they” have planned for your profession?

Test Refusal Justified

Not only is refusal —or “opting out”— of standardized testing justified, it is necessary. Here’s why: the “reform” process of No Child Left Behind failed and the system failed to respond, or even acknowledge, the crux of the problem despite the repeated attempts of many to help make the law better.

Many parents in low-income communities endured the senseless, useless, time-consuming, curriculum-narrowing, opportunity-limiting implementation of the No Child Left Behind standardized testing regime. Quietly? No, not all of them. Many wrote letters to representatives, editorials to newspapers, dozens upon dozens of researched papers, and even books!

We dissenters attended meetings; we petitioned, protested, and marched. We should have seen things change for the better during the last decade but instead; the next generation of parents got “higher standards” and “next generation assessments.”

This was from Idaho in 1999 when "achievement standards" were introduced as "exit standards."

This was from Idaho in 1999 when “achievement standards” were introduced as “exit standards.”

The “silver bullet” of standards and testing tied to “accountability” was sold to the public as the path to school improvement. No proof then; no proof now.

Familiar words? Same promise?

Familiar words? Same promise? Different year – 2011.

We should be outraged.

Not paying attention or has the information been very tightly controlled?

Not paying attention, or, has the information been very tightly controlled?

Last straw? Prompted by tactics and threats aimed at parents that have refused to allow their children to take the “next generation” Common Core aligned tests, I reached a tipping point and directed my words of condemnation at a school district administrator —who had written a disturbing letter to parents and guardians. My letter in response included questions that should have been allowed to be asked, and been answered, in an “open, large scale forum” on education reform BEFORE it happened to us.…Let me step off my soapbox …. and cut to the chase for you readers. …

The concern for compliance with rules and laws mandating testing participation was clearly stated in the districts’ letter, “…the district must ensure compliance with State and Federal laws.”

QUESTION: how do these laws and codes supersede the civil rights of parents as guaranteed by the Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment of the Constitution of the United States?

Also in the letter was an expression of consideration, “I fully understand every parent’s desire to make educational decisions they think are best for their child…” But… the tone of the letter was meant to discourage parents from doing what they felt was best. How can there be “full understanding”?

FURTHER QUESTIONS: How do parents decide what is right without a full disclosure of information?

With the “next generation assessments” being computerized, being “adaptive” in nature, and teachers not being allowed to view the tests unless specifically certified by the company or state and then not being allowed to discuss the test, what are parents or guardians consenting to when they allow a child to be tested through the new testing consortium? ( COPPA-Children’s Online Privacy Protection Rule  requires schools obtain verifiable parental consent for their children’s personal information to be entered during the testing process.)

Are our data exchange projects with other states still ongoing?

With student data being linked with information from agencies outside the State Department of Education, will parents or guardians be given the chance to give consent to each transfer of their student’s data?

In informed decision making on this matter, all facts are required to decide if the decision to refuse this testing will severely impact the quality of education in the district, as stated in the letter. Does the risk outweigh the impact of lost instructional time, lost instructional dollars, and loss of control of curriculum content as well as private student information?

There is a reason the dissenters to high-stakes testing have not been sufficiently heard.

Here’s an example:

Bill & Melinda Gates Foundations are major sponsors and this piece was essential for the Common Core State Standards Initiative package deal.

Bill & Melinda Gates Foundations are major sponsors and this piece was essential for the Common Core State Standards Initiative package deal.

With the push for development of longitudinal data systems during the pit of the Great Recession, many issues surrounding the Common Core State Standards Initiative and its “next generation” tests were not fully vetted in the arena of public opinion partially because it became a “best practice” to “not engage in large scale, open forums.”Screen Shot 2015-04-15 at 2.04.25 PMThe not-to-be open debate on education reform could have benefited the public’s understanding of No Child Left Behind, the Common Core State Standards Initiative and its “next generation” assessments.

Now, the public should consider why test refusal is necessary:

1) No Child Left Behind is the federal law upon which the nation was convinced they must comply with high-stakes standardized testing. Thirteen years later, that nonsensical overstep by the federal government has yet to be challenged in our superior courts. Disregarding research about appropriate uses of standardized tests and with no regard for objections raised by the people affected by the law, the law remains in place and the reauthorization process is far from transparent. Consent by the People has not been deemed to be of importance therefore leaving civil disobedience as the next step in a parent’s duty to defend what they think is best for their children.

2) The Common Core State Standards Initiative was never about “just” the standards. There was always the intent to develop the “next generation assessments” to correspond with the Common Core Standards. Our American Reinvestment and Recovery Act (ARRA/TARP) dollars served as the seed money for the two consortiums to develop these tests. What has always been missing from any public discussion was the intent of the two private, non-profit groups that hold the copyright for the standards — the Council of Chief State School Officers (CCSSO) and the National Governors Association (NGA). The intention was/is to “direct the collection of student data to a single reporting office within the U.S. Department of Education through the reauthorization of ESEA” (the Elementary and Secondary Education Act) otherwise know as No Child Left Behind. This is item #10, on page 9, of the CCSSO/NGA “new deal” for ESEA reauthorization.

3) What should be respected and understood about a parents’ refusal to comply with the rules, regulations, and laws set down for them by their elected representatives, who have not represented their views, is that they feel a strong moral responsibility to do what is right for their children. Many parents feel forced or coerced participation in testing is wrong, and is potentially, and in reality, driving a wedge between them and their child, their teachers, their school administrators, their neighbors, communities, and the larger society who can’t comprehend or understand their stance. What we should understand as citizens is that it is morally reprehensible to turn a blind eye to rules, policies, and laws judged to be wrong for children by their own parents.

4) As ordinary law-abiding, tax-paying citizens, we pay our taxes because we know it is the cost of maintaining a civil society including “free” public schools. In a representative form of government founded on the Consent of the People, our choices in this manner should include having “large-scale, open forums” where a meaningful exchange of ideas could occur, or, civil disobedience as a second choice when the first choice has been denied us.

With No Child Left Behind testing mandates, the Common Core State Standards Initiative, and their “next generation” tests and all that go with them, the choice was made for us.

Our “consent” in the decision-making process was denied.

Civil disobedience through test refusal is a parental right in need of supporting.

Politicians put parents and children in the middle of the mess they created through a corrupted political process. There was always a better way.

No Child Left Behind Accountability: A Joke

At the signing ceremony for No Child Left Behind (NCLB), President Bush joked, “I don’t intend to read it all.” But he was sure that in NCLB we would “find that it contains some very important principles that will help guide our public school system for the next decades. First principle is accountability.”

The signing of America's first federal education accountability law - No Child Left Behind.

The signing of America’s FIRST federal education “accountability” law – No Child Left Behind.

President Bush didn’t read NCLB before signing it. (How about your representatives?) That’s joke number one. Funny, huh? But what is even more amusing — sarcastically speaking— is trying to find where the word “accountability” was defined in the law. In laws and policies, key words are often defined so as to leave no doubt about the laws’ intentions. I word searched the desk copy and original. Didn’t find “accountability” defined. I could have missed it. Apparently, I wasn’t the only one.

Is the country in this accountable state of being? Definition: Merriam-Webster.com

Is the country in this accountable state of being?
Definition: Merriam-Webster.com

NCLB says it will provide “greater” accountability; it will “increase” the accountability. How exactly this increase would occur based on the dictates of the law was always left to people’s imaginations and driven by emotions because, by God, we want someone “held” accountable for low school “performance.” And the country was led to believe that standardized tests for math and language arts would determine school quality— accurately. That fallacy would be joke number two.

As Bush declared a decade later, “it’s time to celebrate success [mission accomplished, eh?], but it’s also a time to fight off those who would weaken standards or accountability. I don’t think you can solve a problem if you can’t diagnose it.”

Standardized achievement tests don’t “diagnose” problems. They are only one indicator and because of their “nature,” yearly-standardized achievement testing is unnecessary.

It’s like taking an animals temperature and finding they have a fever. Yes, they have a fever but the thermometer reading doesn’t diagnose the problem.

New standardized tests, even so-called “better” tests, only give us information about a school at one moment in time with their given population — a snapshot. That snapshot changes slowly (unless you teach directly to the test). The most consistent finding (over at least five decades) is that standardized test results most strongly correlate to socioeconomic status (schools already have that personal data). More students from low-income families score lower on standardized tests— partially because of the nature of standardized tests.

I once attended a conference where one of the breakout discussions was led by a teacher from a neighboring community with a high-poverty, high-migrant worker population. Over the years, she had made the correlation that her students whose parents only spoke Spanish in the household would (on the average) score 20 percentage points lower on standardized tests.

Some could argue that this demonstrates the value of testing but the reality is, she knew this without the tests. And she didn’t need to keep proving it. She knew her students, knew their family’s background, observed the phenomenon, and test scores made no difference in how she went about teaching. The community situation was out of her control because of the lack of local authority to act on what WAS diagnosed as a problem.

She knew she had to do everything she could to properly educate her students. I know that from what the breakout was really about, how to teach English Language Learners. The test score discussion was an aside. Assessments and interventions designed to help students must take place in the classroom.

So, truth is, test results don’t necessarily give us a diagnosis. And certainly, as we know by now, accountability for math and language arts instruction alone does not make for a well-rounded education. The joke has been on us.

How many of these types of jokes will we take before we quit being amused?

Former President Bush went on to tell us that “people like [former school superintendents] Joel Klein and Michelle Rhee, people who are willing to challenge the status quo, tell you that one thing that made it [NCLB] effective was the accountability.”

Whoa! Klein – former chancellor of N.Y. city schools – and Rhee – former chancellor of D.C. schools – say NCLB accountability made their schools “effective.” We had better ask them to define THAT word. And ask this dynamic duo why they were so central to developing new standards (Common Core) and tests while turning their backs on other needs in their communities. In 2009, were their school districts adequately funded? By what measure did they make that call? Where’s the accounting? If their schools were so effective, why did they push their Smart Options agenda in 2009?

Genuine accountability for educating America’s children is both a shared responsibility and a national necessity because the public has and is demanding it. The only rational way to satisfy the People’s demand is to make it right by using what we know.

No Child Left Behind yearly mandate for nation-wide testing of math and language arts for the purported purpose of “accountability” misled the nation. (That requirement is unchanged in the NCLB replacement called the Every Student Succeeds Act that was signed into law on 12/10/15.)

No Child Left Behind “accountability” was a cruel joke. There is a better way.

Is Common Core a Tool or Weapon?

Will Common Core Standards be a good thing for America? Maybe, but only if we understand the proper use and potential abuse that could easily occur if we aren’t watching closely. After all, WE are the ultimate check-and-balance. WE had better understand the circles of influence because influence is power that can turn to control.

Many think as Bill Gates expressed in the September 23, 2007 Parade Magazine, “It’s incredible that we have no national standards.” And there is some soundness to the idea, but, standards-based “reform” has only been proven NOT to work in America with No Child Left Behind being the most current example.

So, is Common Core a “national” standard? Not yet, but only because some states said “no thank you,” at this time.

So the argument goes:

Common Core is a state initiative. That “fact” you will have to decide for yourself. Is it state-led or Gates-led?

Standards are not curriculum. True. Standards are a teaching guide to help ensure all children are taught what we judge to be most important. But as the sequence of events goes; we develop standards, we develop tests to match those standards, and then what we teach and how (the curriculum) is aligned with the tests. Standards will direct curriculum so that makes it important to see how promoters of Common Core see the role of the federal government as compared to former lawmakers.

Back in 1965, Congress was influential in putting federal education law into place and clearly expressing within it the federal role as investment in children from low-income families whose needs were not being addressed by localities. And the testing of these children was to ensure the extra funds were serving the children’s learning needs. This law carefully explained the federal limits. Section 604 of The Elementary and Secondary Education Act read:

“Federal Control of Education Prohibited

Nothing contained in this Act shall be construed to authorize any department, agency, officer, or employee of the United States to exercise any direction, supervision, or control over the curriculum, program of instruction, administration, or personnel of any educational institution or school system, or over the selection of library resources, textbooks, or other print or published instructional materials by any educational institution or school system.”

Things have changed. By 2006, three circles of influence were explained through the Editorial Projects in Education Research Center in a paper titled – INFLUENCE (see chart page 21). Those organizations most influential were the United States Congress, the U.S. Department of Education, and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. In this same report, Mr. Gates was declared the most influential person in education reform — ahead of President George W. Bush.

Since then, the Gates’ tentacles of influence expanded to include not only the National Governors Association and Achieve (a Gate’s supported “standards-setting” service) but also the Council of Chief State School Officers as one of its many corporate partners.

Please note as you read the following that the first line is why “they” call it Common Core “State” Standards

The Council of Chief State School Officers (CCSSO) and The National Governors Association (NGA) state in their Common Core Standards Memorandum of Agreement:

 “Federal Role. The parties support a state-led effort and not a federal effort to develop a common core of state standards; there is, however, an appropriate federal role in supporting this state-led effort. In particular, the federal government can provide key financial support for this effort in developing a common core of state standards and in moving toward common assessments, such as through the Race to the Top Fund authorized in the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009. Further, the federal government can incentivize this effort through a range of tiered incentives, such as providing states with greater flexibility in the use of existing federal funds, supporting a revised state accountability structure, and offering financial support for states to effectively implement the standards. Additionally, the federal government can provide additional long-term financial support for the development of common assessments, teacher and principal professional development, other related common core standards supports, and a research agenda that can help continually improve the common core over time. Finally, the federal government can revise and align existing federal education laws with the lessons learned from states’ international benchmarking efforts and from federal research.”

“They” redefined the federal role for us, told the federal government what to do, how to spend our federal recovery dollars, and what “they” said was done by the Department of Education; under the influence?

We should probably know who “they” really is. The original 135 member Common Core development group was heavily stacked with people associated with Gates-funded organizations and many members with connections that read like a list of Wall Street financial corporations in addition to global research & development, and technology companies already heavily invested in our defense, security, and energy information.

The two “consortiums” in the country that will offer the “Next Generation Tests” both have associations with Gates and received federal Recovery Act funds. “They” will be directing the show and we are told that “they” are the states; this is “state-led.”

Outside the circle of influence, there is talk about another way to use standards. We can probably all relate to this. A lesson is taught, quizzes are given, an opportunity to self-correct or re-learn is provided and, eventually, a larger test is given —and the student is given a grade. Add periodic standardized tests (4th, 8th, and 12th grade) where the only “test-prep” is reminding kids to make sure they do their best. This is honest testing with honest results and you have an “assessment system” without high costs and with less danger of inappropriate use of data. Back when we were kids, standardized tests were used properly — as a snap-shot for systemic guidance and some comparisons. We can adopt standards without adopting the testing and centralized data collection that is currently planned for us.

With the Department of Education under Gates wing, and federal education law (No Child Left Behind – NCLB) due to be re-written, we should pay attention to the “new deal” CCSSO and NGA have for the last circle of influence — Congress. Their plan for NCLB is to use our federal dollars to improve data systems, assessments, and consolidation of “reporting to a single office in the U.S. Department of Education [ED] that manages all data requests and collections…”(with good intentions, of course – page 9,#10 ). Plus, “they” suggest some new power be given to the Secretary to approve “new policy models” in our states in the name of “innovation.”

Are we setting up a system that is vulnerable to the further corruption of power?

The good and bad of it — Common Core can be one powerful tool for improvement of instruction, or, one ultra-powerful weapon to be used at will.

The last instrument of influence over public education that we the People have – as a nation – is Congress through No Child Left Behind. What is the will of the People?

(Originally posted as an article in April of 2013 on the Federalist Papers Project site under current events. More recently, I found time to go back and look at the origin of Common Core and have had a personal encounter that prompted me to look closer at the Common Core story. )