The Common Core System

Connecting “Autonomy,” “Accountability,” & the Common Core National Standards

Here’s how things are going in Idaho. Quick history: In 2011, three laws similar to others in the nationbust collective bargaining, put in pay-for-performance, and roll out the lap-tops and online “learning” — were passed by lawmakers despite visible and audible protests from Idahoans. But the People in Idaho didn’t roll over. They came back to put them (the Luna Laws) on the ballot in 2012 and defeated all three proposals – SOUNDLY!!! But quietly the foxes have entered the hen house and are going in for the kill. They are doing it through a governor-selected “task force.”

Moving Beyond the Killer B’s: The Role of School Boards in School Accountability and Transformation bases its recommendations on the idea that it is important “to ensure that their [school board] policies and practices align with the pressing need to ensure that all students are provided a high-quality education, enabling them to succeed in college and post-graduation careers.” They express that “the Common Core State Standards [are] aimed at ensuring that all states strive to teach a high level curriculum and administer rigorous assessments.”(page 4) It was expressed that originally Race to the Top had included formal school board evaluations (page 5).

And so it appears that “they” thought of every aspect of The Common Core System.

 The Killer B’s document describes a scheme that in essence promotes the idea of using federal funds to accomplish a wide array of tasks including the establishment of  “technical assistance centers” called “Regional Comprehensive Centers” (RCCs) (page ii, 24).

Moving Beyond the Killer B’s (copyrighted by the Academic Development Institute (ADI)) can be found on The Center for School Turnarounds primarily sponsored by WestEd along with ADI.

WestEd (nonpartisan, nonprofit) regional centers are established in California, Mid-Atlantic, West, Southwest, Central, Northeast, South Central, Great Lakes, Midwest, Pacific, Appalachia, and Texas. And there could be more WestEd Regional Comprehensive Centers that I missed.

WestEd is the Project Management Partner for the Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium (our Common Core Tests).

Following the lead of Idaho’s State Chief Deputy Superintendent, Rodger Quarles, who was a contributor to the Killer B’s document and a member of the Governor’s Task Force on Improving Education, the Training & Development of School Boards is now on the legislative table (Effective Teachers & Leaders Recommendation #2.5, Task Force doc., Page 37).

And here is where “autonomy” comes into question: Idaho Structural Change Subcommittee’s Strategy 2: Autonomy and Accountability
“…the State should set goals for the public education system, allocate monies, and then hold local leadership accountable for progress against those goals.” (Page 19 Task Force)

When the Common Core National Standards sets the standards, aligns the tests, aligns the curriculum, and, on the advice of the Chief Council of State school Officers (CCSSO) and National Governor’s Association (NGA), aligns the training of teachers, superintendents, and principals, plus the National Parent Teachers Association did their best to train parents to accept Common Core — the only thing left is to train and align the school board members with the help of the School Board Associations and the same non-governmental, non-accountable group that will be “partnering” in the tests —WestEd. Plus, organizations like the Broad Foundation have years of experience training leaders.

With test-driven reforms (they call “outcome-based”), He who controls the tests controls what is learned — especially if all the pieces of the machine are in alignment. Is this the systemic change we want?

Is the American education system to become just one cog in the machine?

Is the American education system to become just one cog in the machine?

“Autonomy”? The Task Force defines it as “people’s need to be empowered to take ownership for results and to have the flexibility to address challenges and local dynamics they face in pursuit of results for our students.” It is not defined here as self-governing and definitely NOT the same as “local control.”

There is nothing of educational significance left to control – goals, standards, tests, training for instruction, curriculum, and governance are all decided and out of our control. All that is left is the hard work of ensuring learning, in some form, occurs – In it, we will have no voice that will be heard by the large conglomerates that will control our schools. Proof ? Do they hear us asking them right now to STOP the CORE? Put the testing on pause. They do in some states but what of the nation?

And those that attended the No Child Left Behind workshop by Gary Ratner and myself at the Save Our Schools conference in D.C. in 2012 heard me ask this question, do we want organizations like the Broad Foundation training our school leaders or do we want it done through public institutions?

The education “reform” laws that Idahoans defeated looked to me to be “models” for the nation. So what is happening now with leadership training in the rest of the nation?

Exposing Educational Parasites

Parasites multiply when the conditions are right; educational parasites are no different.

Look closer.

As a veterinarian, I’ve found that people don’t need convincing to rid their pets of parasites that they can see. If they can see them, they want the parasites gone. But the internal parasites — the ones they cannot or rarely see — are  harder to convince them to take action against.

I have seen animals in high parasite areas that didn’t get the attention they needed until the parasites had drained them of so much blood the signs of anemia became obvious. Damage was done.

And in certain areas of the country, spring means a rise in parasites because the conditions are right. But that warning on behalf of helping my furry friends isn’t why I’m writing this; I hope to make a memorable point.

When it comes to education reform laws and their intentions, more often than not, it is hard for the public to see the parasites feeding off the dysfunction of the system. Dysfunction — in a few schools or at the level of national law — is the condition that allows the education-industrial complex to multiply and suck public funds from our pockets — right in front of our eyes.

We see the education “programs” costing us but we rarely are able to see what is happening internally — at the heart of OUR government. So we have yet to rid ourselves of enough internal parasites to make the system healthy again. “They” are currently the same ones that put bad laws into place and have refused to make them right. They all know that No Child Left Behind had “unintended consequences” (update: that was not corrected by ESSA — the Every Student Succeeds Act). Certainly they must know it is wrong to sit by and let the “patients” suffer.

“They” are our congressional representatives, governors, and chief state school officers. And so many other groups have offered better treatment solutions.

It is hard to rid ourselves of things we can’t identify.

So my prescription is multifaceted. Expose the parasites. Call them out; ask for answers as to why they have not acted to correct the law and what their intentions are. Ask for documentation of their work. Rather than a FEDERAL “accountability” mechanism for local schools, where will the accountability of the government to the People going to happen?

Demand it! That is what congressional oversight hearings are supposed to do. The public deserves to know how their U.S. Department of Education sees its role in our public schools and what they are doing to better serve our nation.

Let’s get rid of some educational parasites.

Then, the very best medicine I can prescribe is prevention of the problem in the future.

We need involved, informed, forward-thinking leaders that will work with and for us — not against US! I can only hope all political parasites will be exposed and remembered in November —- consistently, every November, until the problem is eliminated.