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?

Screen Shot 2015-04-21 at 11.58.24 AM

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 PA– USE?

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.

Airing the Dirty Laundry

It rained this morning in the high-mountain desert region of Idaho so that makes it the perfect day to air out the house. First, I’m going to finish airing my grievances with the “Super Supers” presentation.

As most of us commoners know — for leaders to do something we want, they have to believe it is their idea.

So as I listened to Dr. Eric Smith tell a “common” Core story that the Common Core State Initiative hatched in Chicago, I was struck with a notion. What if these people honestly believe this WAS their idea?

I had attended a local Common Core dog-and-pony show and one administrator there enthusiastically believed she had been in on this “state-led” adventure – because Mr. Tom Luna (Idaho’s Chief for Change) had brought her along to… you guessed it…Chicago.

And listening to Dr. Smith tell the same story in his easy, down-home manner really makes it believable.

You can read the Chicago story for yourselves by scrolling down to CORE BEGINNINGS in this Huffington Post article. But it doesn’t tell the whole story. No one seems to be able to do that.

You will hear it told that there was help from some “simultaneous efforts by outside groups.”

Right. Coincidence. And in their efforts to be “credited” with the Core, one group put out their plan ahead of the rest.

No coincidence who was on that planning “committee.” It was once called the Coalition for Student Achievement and none other than the Common Core architect himself, David Coleman, was there. They produced their paper, got their letter to the Obama administration, and got in the news by April 16, 2009.

They met in D.C. in “early” April 2009. “They” work fast.

Oh, but wait; there was the earlier Arizona Governor Janet Napolitano’s part in the Common Core story. She is credited with the “Innovation America” paper written in 2007 and low-and-behold, David Coleman and Jason Zimba joined the effort.

“Coleman and Zimba went to work on a seminal paper for the Carnegie Foundation that called for “math and science standards that are fewer, clearer, higher.” Directors at the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation saw the paper and were impressed by its ideas. They funded some of Coleman’s work — and eventually dropped as much as $75 million on what would become the Common Core.” HuffPost

From 2007 to 2009, it appears that David Coleman carried the ball to D.C. through his Student Achievement Partners -to- the Coalition for Student Achievement meetings …. but wait, there are the airport meetings …

This “story” gets better. As Eric Smith explained to the Boise crowd: It was just this casual conversation (I paraphrase because no video yet) — “hey, why should we redo algebra in Florida and you redo it in Kentucky? Algebra is algebra. Let’s work together.” And we were “taking notes on napkins.” Really? You didn’t need to; Coleman had you covered.

But the show must go on … in Chicago

“At one point, Eric Smith, then the head of Florida’s schools, asked CCSSO and NGA to send around an agreement that would allow states to opt into the process of creating new standards.

Lucky for Smith, that document already existed. [Chris] Minnich and [Dane] Linn passed around a “Memorandum of Agreement” they had written hoping that governors and schools chiefs would sign on. The memo committed states to participate in the process of developing common learning standards, but specified that the standards would remain voluntary.”

“A few months later, the project got a sudden boost from the federal government.” HuffPost

Surprise, surprise?

“[Terry ] Holliday, the Kentucky schools chief, said. No one from the federal government attended that meeting, he added, emphasizing that the adoption of the Core was, at least initially, a state-led effort.”  HuffPost

That infamous meeting in Chicago was on April 17, 2009. And it was reported, “A representative of the Education Department was slated to attend the Chicago meeting.”

There must have been a bouncer at the door.

“So NGA and CCSSO representatives lobbied the Education Department several times to get the Common Core standards adoption requirement cut from Race to the Top guidelines. The feds didn’t exactly back off, but they did remove the term “Common Core” from the guidelines, requiring instead that states adopt “college- and career-ready standards.” The administration also allocated $350 million in stimulus cash to fund the development of tests aligned to the Common Core.” HuffPost

Well, at least we know that the government was good at delivering the mail. The coalition’s letter must have gone through.

So much for Rahm Emanuels Quiet Revolution and as far as his statement that “You never want a serious crisis to go to waste,” that is still playing out for education reform. We could come up with a “Fair Shot Agenda.” But no liars allowed in the meeting…so…

Which “leaders” are telling the truth and which have joined the masters of deception?

Until proven otherwise, I’d say the whole damned bunch is trying to pull the wool over our eyes. This is disgusting. Shame on them! Either they are dishonest or just too damned dumb to be leading!

“Our stimulus dollars” went into the hands and pockets of some already well-to-do people while the very schools that we say we want to turnaround are doing without teaching supplies and proper building maintenance. Meanwhile, the public system is being dismantled — parents being told to go homeschool if they don’t like the tests and wish to opt out.

Ladies and gentlemen, the old saying about liars led us to believe that when your laundry is soiled with lies, your pants will catch on fire. I wish.

If only it was so easy to tell.

If only it was so easy to tell.    Source:tnvalleytalks.hoop.la

And to all you Common Core supporters out there: look beyond the end of your noses and beyond your own classroom doors and windows. Look into the future and imagine this system “they” are creating. You are enabling them.

You are selling us out. These are not just standards.

I’d personally prefer to talk about the alternatives for helping struggling schools. I’d rather see us do the right thing.

Professional standards of practice and trust in the institution of public education can’t be built on a rotten foundation or one of sand.

The sun is now shining. #TruthBeTold

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P.S. My original research on Common Core looked at some of the official players on the development team. What I didn’t know at the time I wrote this blog was how INFLUENTIAL the SMART OPTIONS group was. The April dates seem confusing but it was that confusion that made me look further.

I’m not here to convince people what they should think. I’m here to encourage people to look beyond what they first see, seek the truth….really look for it…before taking a firm stance. And think about more than just their own immediate circumstances. Think about the future.