The Slippery Slope of Standards-Based Education

The Standoff in Idaho Over Science Standards Reveals The Slippery Slope of Standards-Based Education

Co-authored by Idahoans Mary Ollie, Mila Woods, and Victoria M. Young

The uproar over Idaho’s proposed science standards is a grand demonstration of ideology blinding us to our reality. And the push for headlines and sound bites trumped technical aspects of standards design. The process became an exercise in frustration that could easily have been avoided by making a distinction between a standard – what students should know and do— and content— what is taught.

The art and science behind writing standards matters also.

Why is the difference important? At the beginning of the standards-based education craze, Idahoans were sold on the idea of “Standards of Excellence” (then known as “exiting” standards).

The promise was that state standards would not infringe on local control of curriculum (subject content and how it is taught). State standards were to serve as minimum educational requirements, not an all-encompassing system of control.

Due to lack of legislative and administrative oversight and accountability, the outcome-based (standards) movement spawned a series of word changes that has gradually closed the door on local control.

“Exiting” standards became “achievement” standards (corresponding to the foundation of No Child Left Behind (NCLB)) and were eventually labeled in Idaho Code as Idaho “Content” Standards. With our focus on federal NCLB overreach, we couldn’t see our own State overstepping their bounds through a flawed administrative rule approval process.

Why is this discrepancy between standards and content just now surfacing? Only the proposed science standards contain language that clearly describes content. Idaho “Content” Standards for other disciplines do not include supporting content. They are a set of performance targets — true standards.

Our 2017 proposed administrative rules for the science standards included supporting content. That inclusion is problematic. That’s where the discussion went south.

Think before you step on the slippery slope.

Supporting content does not belong in a legislated standards document. Legislative overreach occurred. And lacking an understanding of the nuances of standards and content, state and local control, and a proper process for standards development, the public couldn’t adequately sort out and debate the topic—or see the truth.

The reality? The Idaho Legislature did not reject five science “standards.” Only one performance standard was rejected. Four of the items were supporting content. They went beyond being just a standard. Content was at the heart of the controversy.

Scientific knowledge is ever-changing. What we know today may change tomorrow.

Education content should not be subjected to our politicized lawmaking process.
A state entity defining supporting content is micromanaging education. The Legislature needs to step back and look at what has been done. In a country where liberty is a founding principle, legislating education content puts us on the slippery slope sliding away from local control — towards State control.

If school districts and teachers need supporting content for resources or inspiration; sources are easy to find. Content should conform, locally, to meeting the needs of students, not to complying with a too-often politically motivated mandate.

Limit the role of the State to defining performance standards and leave successful achievement of and beyond standards to the local districts.

Until the light goes on and the public sees that standards-based (aka outcome-based) education has not definitively reform a single school, we will continue to waste time and resources on arguing over and implementing new standards rather than investing fully in our schools and their students.

Being able to see the slippery slope is the first step to doing no further harm, to the public education system of Idaho and the nation, due to the deceptive nature of standards-based education.

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.

The Common Good & Education

Republican political analyst and writer David Brooks’ spoke about Character and The Common Good last week in Boise, Idaho. His conflicting views on the importance of community versus our current education “reforms” were striking — to me.

Is doing what is best for the next generation considered a common good?

Is doing what is right for the next generation considered a common good?

Brooks spoke about how love, relationships, and friendly interactions changes lives.

He believes the country is suffering from “a crisis of the social fabric.” He sees the hope for humanity in communities’ picking up communities thereby building a “denser moral fabric.”

He knows we are divided by education.

He feels our need for personal relationships.

He sees how both Alexander Hamilton and Abraham Lincoln supported “limited but energetic government to enhance social mobility.”

But my theory here is that David Brooks can’t see how education reform policies are destroying our social fabric. There’s a couple of reasons. One, A Nation At Risk (in his own words) marks his involvement with education reform. And two, if you view education reforms from a narrow political perch you can easily fall off. If you fall off, you can’t see far enough back to clearly view the road to educational quality and equality. You can’t see our history.

But, let’s consider the education reform road he, and the nation, traveled.

After the release of A Nation At Risk in 1983, there was a flurry of media sound bites unleashed on the public (more propaganda than substance). But what followed is what really set the stage for standards, assessments, accountability, and technology to be the education reform “gift” from the National Governor’s Association (NGA) and others. (See the fine print below.)

The gift that keeps on giving or taking?

The gift that keeps on giving, or taking?

In the decades that followed, many attendees of this 1996 Education Summit remained major players in education laws that govern our public K-12 system. That reality did not change with congress’ newest law – the Every Student Succeeds Act – ESSA. “They” pushed the law into existence. They rule.

Their governing philosophy —the foundation upon which they built our reforms— is that we were entering the information age and the economy was dependent on dollars flowing into the education “industry.”screen-shot-2016-10-05-at-6-00-59-pm

The fact that the majority of parents were satisfied with their child’s school drove the need to wage a propaganda war on public schools. “They” needed to create a market. (To Market to Market, 1997)

Keep in mind, changes in education take roughly a decade to unfold. During the period prior to the standards, assessment, accountability, technology movement, the United States was making significant educational progress in our K-12 system. This was also a time when our higher education was still the most highly revered in the world.

What the hell were we thinking?

Fast forward to post-9/11 of 2001 when David Brooks wrote One Nation, Slightly Divisible. He talked about the education gap and how the income gap had widened as we entered the information age (aka knowledge-based economy).

And in 2005 Mr. Brooks noted the maturation of the information age, in The Education Gap, as he linked “economic stratification” to “social stratification.” He documented behavioral differences in divorce rates, smoking, exercise, voting, volunteer work, and blood donations linked to educational attainment. Stating that this might be a “more fair” (?) system, he acknowledged that the system was creating

“brutal barriers to opportunity and ascent.”

A couple of months later (and four years after No Child Left Behind), Brooks noted in Psst! ‘Human Capital’ that…

“When President Bush proposed his big education reform, he insisted on tests to measure skills and knowledge…. No Child Left Behind treats students as skill-acquiring cogs in an economic wheel, and the results have been disappointing.”

… Brooks saw skills and knowledge as superficial components. And he went on to mention one of our “classic” government studies…

“…James S. Coleman found that what happens in the family shapes a child’s educational achievement more than what happens in school.”

So despite recognizing inadequacies and the misdirection of the No Child Left Behind law, ITS GOVERNING PHILOSOPHIES REMAIN IN PLACE — student outcomes as measured on standardized tests continues as the basis of our “accountability” mechanism?

Call it fed-led or state-led; it doesn’t matter. The nation doubled down on it…quietly.

And in 2009, David Brooks got caught up in the frenzy of “standing up to the teachers’ unions” as expressed in The Quiet Revolution. He, and many other Republicans across the country, jumped on-board the Democrats’ Obama/Duncan bandwagon of what they were calling “real education reform” — coupling student outcomes and teacher pay.

Never mind that test-based accountability didn’t yield real reform.

Never mind that family and other social supports are extremely important to student success in life. … regardless…

…the Quiet Revolution was celebrated.

By 2010, many involved in the American education reform war declared that Teachers Are Fair Game. Many people still believe that the major problem in education reform is that union rules “protected mediocre teachers.” I know many of my representatives here in Idaho do. But the vast majority of American parents don’t see their children’s teachers as the problem.

Time to Reflect, Reconsider, and Respect the Evidence?

By 2005,  the country recognized the major faults with No Child Left Behind (NCLB). But it remained the education law of the law for an additional decade. The name was finally changed to the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) but these guiding principles (the major problems with the law) remain in place…

  • yearly standards-based, test-based accountability,
  • the push for “personalized” learning through technology instead of supporting better teacher-student personal relationships, and
  • “choice” through funding of charter schools (which has been sold to us in the name of “parental engagement,” “flexibility,” “competition,” “free-market,” “a civil right,” and “equality of opportunity” to name a few). It’s the ultimate education-real-estate market.

We know what doesn’t work but we’re being pushed into more of the same through the rules that govern our schools —federal, state, and local.

Consider This: Our Common Ground

In 2001 in One Nation, Slightly Divisible, David Brooks asked; Are Americans any longer a common people? Do we have one national conversation and one national culture? Are we loyal to the same institutions and the same values?

According to his research, we agree “too many children are being raised in day-care centers these days.”

You see, we do value family and support the ideal of family.

In The Education Gap (2005) he stated that we “believe in equality of opportunity.”

You see, we do value the ideal of equal educational opportunity as expressed in the aim of the original Elementary and Secondary Education Act (1965 ESEA, changed to 2001 NCLB and now 2015 ESSA).

How We Missed Seeing the Trees for the Forest

In keeping with most journalists, Brooks only quoted PART of the work of James S. Coleman. Missing is the rest of the Coleman story.

Brooks touched on the importance of a child’s willingness to learn which Coleman delved deeply into and discussed it as “the pupil attitude factor.”screen-shot-2016-10-05-at-6-45-44-pm

Coleman discovered, as Brooks finally did, that a strong community support system for school children is essential to giving every student the opportunity to excel. Coleman dubbed that safety net “social capital” and defined it.screen-shot-2016-10-05-at-6-45-56-pm

So we do see!

In Psst! ‘Human Capital’ (2005), Brooks expounded on what works.

“The only things that work are local, human-to-human immersions that transform the students down to their very beings. Extraordinary schools, which create intense cultures of achievement, work. Extraordinary teachers, who inspire students to transform their lives, work.”

And by 2015 Brooks looked smack in the face of the solution. He does see. In Communities of Character he talked about …

“super-tight neighborhood organizations” and revealed, “…very often it’s a really good school.” These schools “cultivate intense thick community.”

And earlier this year, Brooks once again brushed-up against a solution to offering equal educational opportunity in The Building Blocks of Learning. About this I write with extreme trepidation!

David Brooks wrote,

“Education is one of those spheres where the heart is inseparable from the head.

Even within the classroom, the key fact is the love between a teacher and a student.

For years, schools didn’t have to think about love because there were so many other nurturing social institutions.….emotional engagement is not something we measure and stress.

Today we have to fortify the heart if we’re going to educate the mind.”

So here’s my reason for concern. Just because something is important to student learning does NOT mean WE should:

  • measure it in the children,
  • scapegoat the teachers if the outcomes don’t meet our arbitrary standard, and
  • make damned sure it is anchored to standards, assessment, accountability (and the technology to do that accountability) in our laws!!!!!

Stop already!

We know functional communities are safer, healthier, and better educated. The people in those communities instinctively understand the concept of a strong social fabric and supporting the common good.

Dysfunctional communities don’t get it. Their safety net does not include the strong fabric of our common good. And standards, assessment, accountability, and technology are no substitute for increasing the resources necessary to supply the proper and necessary fabrics.

“Better policy can help.” We need education reform laws that are free from the dirt and stench left behind by the education reform vulture-capitalists. Does the nation agree?vulture

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

And are David Brooks’ views on the common good and education reform policies conflicting to others, or, do they clearly echo the sentiments of the nation?

“We” should have a national conversation about that!

The Purpose of Education

In their annual poll of the public’s attitude toward public education, what prompted the well-respected PDK (Phi Delta Kappa) association’s new question about the purpose of education?

And how is it the question asks about the main goal of a public school education while the website and discussion shifts the conversation to the purpose of education?

screen-shot-2016-09-13-at-3-46-47-pmJust semantics? Maybe. But, did you know that one definition of semantics is “a deliberate distortion or twisting of meaning, as in advertising, propaganda, etc.”?

Purpose is the reason for which something is done.

Goal is an aim or desired result.

And because struggles in the education reform war continually demonstrate that words are determining outcomes of our battles, we should pay close attention. Words have become the weapon of choice against an unsuspecting public.

The words of reform sold us a perceived need to reform a whole system. The reality is that we needed to only reform the schools in our country that needed re-forming — high-poverty, low-performing schools. We had already identified them before the 1980’s.

The truth? Test-based accountability methods changed nothing. And school choice only reshuffled the deck.

But let’s look at the question of the hour…screen-shot-2016-09-11-at-3-30-15-pm….and look at what one long-time. …long, long time… education-and-the-economy expert, Mr. Marc Tucker, had to say.

This would be a good guess since the marketing of the purpose of education seems to be increasing.

This would be a good guess since the marketing plan appears to be focusing on promoting the purpose of public education as a workforce pipeline. America’s choice?

Our expert is guessing? Let me guess; he knows something we don’t. After all, he is a long-time occupant of the D.C. inner circle, father of the Education/Labor Market System, and an international systems expert. He knows what is going down.

Tucker believes that parents should be choosing BOTH prepare students academically and for work…always beating his education-and-the-economy drum. But why not choose “to be good citizens”?

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This is one more topic where my opinion differs from Marc Tucker’s.

I confess, there is just something about Mr. Tucker’s narrow-mindedness (and his continuing position of power) that makes me want to write. So, here’s my view of this question….

Only 26 percent of respondents in this PDK poll think that preparing students to be good citizens is the most important goal of a public school education. Only!?! Yes, that should be alarming.

Let me ask you; what does it take to be a good citizen?

I thought we needed to learn to read so that we could inform ourselves. I thought we needed to be able to do the math, including understanding statistics, so that we would be less likely to be fooled.

I thought we needed to learn to gather our own facts and think critically because that’s what we need to do in order to be the ultimate authority (the check and balance) in maintaining a representative form of government.

I thought that the pursuit of happiness was a fundamental America value and it meant that our personal interests were important.

I thought that being a good citizen included not being a drag to society, which means being prepared to work and doing the best you can to support yourself.

Academics and work?

Yes, they are part of being a good citizen. But, there is much more to producing an educated electorate than what is being offered in the narrow curriculum of way too many disadvantaged districts —a situation worsened by our outcome-based reforms. Mr. Tucker created and pushed this test-based theory from the get-go.

Tucker has been and continues to be a go-to for The Education Oligarchy.

Yet, Tucker goes on to blame the United States for the damage done to vocational education. — But it’s the STANDARDS STUPID! — Look in the mirror, oh creator of the outcome-based system.

How many times has Mr. Tucker’s publications directed those in power to “start first with academic standards”? Have they ever faced the facts?

The focus on standards narrowed the curriculum.

The focus on standards was deadening to instruction.

The focus on standards almost killed the idea that students need to apply what they learn to real world experiences.

Wake up, America! It’s time to fight for a broad, balanced curriculum, not a narrow set of standards.

We are a nation at risk and the enemy is masked as an expert.

And since when has the purpose of our public education system been to produce already trained workers for private industry? Granted, one purpose is to ensure a solid educational foundation upon which to build. BUT,….

Since when is the goal of public schools to run kids through the workforce development pipeline and pour them directly into jobs? Of course we all need a job but test-and-sort is a recipe for unhappiness.

And, is it a coincidence that editorials are appearing in my local newspaper parroting the same “purpose of education” as the new PDK poll and Mr. Tucker?

“Accelerating talent pipelines is a deliberate effort to prepare our kids, and adults, faster than traditional education pathways, for high paying jobs we know exist today.

How do we build talent pipelines? We embrace three fundamental realities changing our world.

First, we acknowledge the purpose of education is to get a good job and improve our income.

Second, we recognize companies are rapidly shifting their focus to skills and not diplomas for hiring.

Third, we recognize industry is the primary customer of our education system.

Finally, the solution demands we empower industry to influence education outcomes.

NO! This is NOT the purpose of OUR free system of public schools as envisioned by our founding fathers. This is a takeover of our public education system by THE PEOPLE WHO OWN THE WORLD (that includes information systems).

 Please don’t let the public schools become just another one of their information delivery systems and their publicly funded training services. Is this the expectation parents have for their children’s schools?

When those who run the show begin giving us the illusion that public opinion is driving education policy, we should be very, very concerned that the PDK annual poll has a new driver.  We — and our representatives — will hear what they say is public opinion. ….. Think about it.

For the first time since the inception of the PDK/Gallup poll on education in 1969, Langer Research Associates did the polling instead of Gallup. That in itself might not mean much. But, how much do we know about this relatively new firm other than they did work for ABC News and Bloomberg? And this particular question, about the purpose of education, is straight out of the standard-bearers playbook….?…

The Reality of the Education Reform War

They” control the language, develop the conversation, and convince the public that their way is the right way.

When you have high-powered marketing firms pushing your agenda, your message pops up everywhere. It’s no coincidence.

Thankfully, Gallup (on their own without PDK) continued their tradition of asking parents about their satisfaction with their own schools.screen-shot-2016-09-13-at-4-41-07-pmWith 76 percent of parents satisfied with their child’s education, isn’t it time we asked; what are we reforming? And how is it we are changing the whole system and not focusing on what needs fixing (23%)?

Ask Mr. Tucker. He was the go-to education expert back when the standards,testing, accountability movement took off and apparently he continues to be a power player. He’s one national driver who hasn’t changed.

Do you know who is driving education reform in your state?

If charters and “choice” are high on your state’s list of laws to pass (or have already been passed), good chance ALEC (American Legislative Exchange Council) is involved. The wild west is certainly in their pocket and the conversation about the purpose of education has been going on for some time here.

In Idaho (2013), our Governor’s Task Force on Improving Education stated that …

“the higher purpose inherent in education is obvious.”

But it is not obvious in their plan. Their words mean nothing. Their focus continues to be on a narrowed, test-based curriculum with the same old outcome-based accountability that never held anyone accountable. This is state-led?

If this is called “state-led” under the dictates of the new federal education law (Every Student Succeeds Act, ESSA), it is no different from the fed-led dictates of No Child Left Behind. The outcome is the same. The law is driving us towards the development of a corporate-controlled, labor development system dubbed public education.

Are we sure this is the direction we want public education to go?

Are we sold on the purpose of education as workforce development (and military recruitment)? Mission accomplished?index

The Common Core Conspiracy

It’s good to remember that opinion pieces, such as “The good and bad of all those tests” by Joanna Weiss, are “just” opinions. Technically, so are the words written here except that mountains of documents stand behind this opinion.

ConspiracyWeiss parrots a familiar tune by evoking the idea of “conspiracy theories” and associating it with the anti “high-stakes testing” movement.  Her words arouse an image of “pitchforks aimed at Common Core.”

Conspiracy? Based on documents produced by those who concocted the Common Core State Standards Initiative, my opinion would be —yes!

The two non-profit, private trade organizations —National Governors Association (NGA) and Council of Chief State School Officers (CCSSO)— conspired with other individuals and groups to set common standards, common tests, and to use the student data collected to produce common educational products in the name of “efficiency.” In their documents, not only are “all those tests” considered products but the development of “human capital” is also. (Benchmarking for Success, 2008)

Some groups intimately involved with the rise of Common Core, such as the NewSchools Venture Fund, call themselves “philanthropic venture capitalists.” (Smart Options: Investing the Recovery Funds for Student Success, 2009)

Capitalists most definitely see data as a commodity.

Was there an intention to concentrate and control data at a single point —in the U.S. Department of Education? Yes — the CCSSO wrote that in their “new deal” plan for the reauthorization of The Elementary and Secondary Education Act, ESEA, currently dubbed “No Child Left Behind.” (ESEA Reauthorization Principles and Recommendations, 2010)

At Common Core’s immaculate conceptionwas there an intention to track student data from preschool to the workforce for workforce development purposes? Yes. (State Implementations of Reforms Promoted Under the Recovery Act, 2014)

Was there an intention to attach student “outcomes” to teacher’s data and develop a system of teacher tracking that follows teachers across state lines? Yes — it is in the CCSSO document “Our Responsibility, Our Promise.”

At the time, Idaho’s chief education officer,Tom Luna, was president of CCSSO and chaired the committee that produced that document. And Idaho’s Governor Otter later organized a “Task Force for Improving Education” where “group think”—collaboration—led to adoption of the “Our Responsibility, Our Promise” plan, in total?conspiracyDefined

Conspire or collaborate? It’s all in a word. The bottom line is, the Common Core State Standards Initiative is not “just standards.” This is a package deal. It is a well-designed, well-documented plan for training parents, school board members, administrators, teachers, and policy-makers to accept “education reform” that is more focused on workforce development than student development. Opinion?

Joanna Weiss pointed out that “poor districts tend to spend the most time on test prep.” Then she stated “what fuels the conspiracy theories” is a “fear that this new system will harm the students it’s meant to serve.” She then went on to state, “ideally” students that fail the tests “will get the help they need before they graduate.” THAT is the false assumption of the “outcome-based theory” of education reform. Who are the theorists here?quote-that-s-not-a-conspiracy-theory-it-s-history-james-dye-341744

Standards and testing don’t ensure student success. That’s a fact.

And it is a fact that during the pit of the Great Recession, with school budgets cut deeply, our Recovery Act dollars supported the infrastructure — state longitudinal data systems and other costly technologies — which created the capability to turn our public schools into a full-fledged workforce development system for the global economy. It isn’t a theory. It’s the truth.

Screen shot from a district newsletter.

Screen shot from a district newsletter.

I am only working to bring this to the public’s attention because I’d like to know, is this America’s choice?

Public schools are grounded in the public’s trust in the institution. We trust people to do their jobs in an honest and transparent manner. My state of Idaho failed in that regard. Under the Luna administrations, due diligence over contracts and agreements were not thorough and transparent. Incompetence or conspiracy? It doesn’t matter. Either way, this is the wrong process upon which to base education reform.

Process matters because trust in the institution of public education is essential.

Unfortunately, Idaho had an over-sized hand in the national politics of education reform because of Mr. Luna’s position in the trade organization, CCSSO. My apologies go out to the nation for Idahoans’ inability to see and rein-in their own chief education officer.

Sadly, the Common Core plot is far from over.

As then Superintendent Luna said, “I am looking forward to playing an instrumental role in shaping the future of public education across Idaho and our nation in the coming years as we work on reauthorizing No Child Left Behind and other critical issues.”

That reauthorization is underway and flying under the radar. The process is avoiding the discussions we need to have in order to protect and better serve children, particularly in states that are using corrupted political processes instead of doing what is right for children.

Our laws are “their” tools. That is my informed opinion of the Common Core conspiracy. Conspiracy theorist or one person among many that are critically thinking? Please consider digging deep before you decide.

Civil Disobedience

Test refusal is an act of civil disobedience.

52 years ago today, Martin Luther King, Jr. explained the chain of events that typically leads to civil disobedience and the reasons it must occur.

Civil disobedience landed MLK in the Birmingham jail where he penned these words on April 16, 1963.

Civil disobedience landed MLK in the Birmingham jail where he penned these words on April 16, 1963.

“IN ANY nonviolent campaign there are four basic steps: collection of the facts to determine whether injustices are alive, negotiation, self-purification, and direct action.”

The United Opt Out Movement is a campaign to, among other things, end high-stakes testing that has been firmly embedded in public schools through the No Child Left Behind law.. (and now continues with the Every Student Succeeds Act)…

As Dr. King explained it:

“There are just laws, and there are unjust laws…. A just law is a man-made code that squares with the moral law, or the law of God. An unjust law is a code that is out of harmony with the moral law… Any law that degrades human personality is unjust… [it] distorts the soul and damages the personality…. [creating a] false sense of inferiority.”

Over-emphasis on standardized tests’ importance, their over-administration, and the inappropriate uses of standardized tests have made children, teachers, whole schools and districts feel inferior — most falsely so since these narrowly focused, single-point-in-time tests cannot accurately judge the quality of education nor diagnose an underlying condition with any accuracy. It’s like taking a temperature, blood pressure reading, or monitoring thyroid levels; they can change simply based on the time of day.

So…..

Step 1 in the campaign: Facts on testing and No Child Left Behind are clear. Research and time has verified the truth.

I’ll never forget being in a meeting of the Idaho Assessment and Accountability Commission and hearing person-after-person get up and testify to the absurdity of the test-based (outcome-based) mechanism of “accountability” that was about to go forward. The words “we are headed for a train wreck” still echo in my mind. Well, we are there.

Step 2 in the campaign: Negotiations were attempted repeatedly at the local, state, and federal levels.

And throughout the years, multitudes of people scattered across the country, separated by distance, differing ideologies, political party affiliation, socioeconomic stature, race, and a whole host of issues including the divisive topic of how to “fix” schools all continued trying to derail the standardization and privatization of our institution of public education.

“We realized that we were the victims of a broken promise.”…

“We did not move irresponsibly into direct action.”

Many made the determination that it was going to take a personal sacrifice of time and money to move forward. That is self-purification — acknowledging that personal sacrifices are needed for the sake of progress.

Step 3 in the campaign: Self-purification occurred knowingly and unknowingly as many of us gave our time, energy, and money to make the Save Our Schools March happen.

And that has led us to Step 4 in the campaign: Direct Action

So….

How will “opting out” work?

“Nonviolent direct action seeks to create such a crisis and establish such creative tension that a community that has consistently refused to negotiate is forced to confront the issue.

It is the entrenched educational community; it is the dysfunctional community; it is the corrupted lawmaking communities that have refused to face facts, the issues, and the more logical solutions.

It is those “bogged down in the tragic attempt to live in monologue rather than dialogue” that have oppressed those wishing to move the efforts of education reform to focus on what is best for children and what child need us to do to ensure they have been provided with quality learning opportunities that fit their individual needs.

Martin Luther King saw others “smothering in an airtight cage of poverty in the midst of an affluent society” and knew it was morally wrong to turn away. We must face that same problem now.

We are left “with no other alternative.” The time is right for civil disobedient in the education reform arena. Test refusal is the tool.

What Teachers Need

The National Science Teachers Association understands that the cultural setting or environment where “accountability” is expected to take place (schools and classrooms) must be a place based on “mutual trust and support.” They laid down “the conditions under which accountability needs to take place.” Here is a summary of their declaration.

Teachers must be given:

  • The appropriate resources,
  • Access to quality educational opportunities,
  • The time necessary to develop skills,
  • The opportunity to participate in development of accountability measures,
  • Information about the plan and timeline for compliance,
  • And the opportunity to address accountability issues within a local network.

Let me use Idaho as an example. Voters – the People – rejected a “pay-for-performance” law. In the process, the Idaho legislature ordered a study looking at issues that affect our Idaho teachers and schools.  When they looked at teacher preparation (summary, pgs. ix-x), three requests for improvement stood out — all having to do with teacher’s opportunities to learn and resources, some of the same things the students need.

We don’t have to look far for solutions.

http://pdkintl.org/noindex/PDKGallupPoll_Oct2014.pdf

http://pdkintl.org/noindex/PDKGallupPoll_Oct2014.pdf

But Idaho ignored their own research to continue on the path of standards, testing, and teacher accountability tied to student outcomes (standards-“based” education, outcome-based “reform”). Our whole nation does not have to make that same mistake. We have an instrument for improvement – federal education law – that is currently called No Child Left Behind (ESEA). What must be known is that the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA) was not intended to be an accountability law. It was to strengthen and improve the education of all those involved with educating children.

Better “public” education will make a better public school system. But before we go putting teacher preparation on center stage, let’s be fair. We need “opportunity to learn” indicators for teacher preparation and continuing education in place FIRST. Measurements matter, right?

Repeatedly, parents have voiced their support for their own child’s teachers and they trust them. Will lawmakers continue to ignore the People’s voice?

PDK/Gallup Poll

PDK/Gallup Poll

 

Parting Shot at Common Core in 2014

What is the surest way to keep the truth from being told about Common Core? Never allow honest debate to take place.

Having been told by others that I would never be invited to the education reform table (let alone a stage), I was shocked on September 16th when I received an e-mail invitation to be part of a panel discussion on the pros and cons of Common Core in Idaho. I immediately responded that I would do it. The secretary seemed pleased that she had found someone.

On October 28th, it was still looking promising…Screen Shot 2014-12-31 at 3.29.36 PM….and this “event” was turning into a debate rather than a panel discussion. It was going to be moderated by an Idaho public television reporter. There was real potential for educating a large swath of the Idaho population. Even though I have never been in a debate and public appearances does not top my list of favorite things to do, I welcomed the opportunity to help the cause.

Then a message came on October 30th…my “opponent” had backed out. Screen Shot 2014-12-31 at 3.31.14 PMThe organizer still seemed enthused. I submitted my picture and a short biography for the program as instructed. Then on November 8th…my rejection.Screen Shot 2014-12-31 at 3.30.25 PMThe “committee” had reneged on the invitation….but graciously, when I happened to run into the organizer, she offered to include materials in the event package if I wanted to put something together. I began to do just that. It was like staging my own private Idaho debate. But I didn’t get it done in time.

A solitary debate.

A solitary debate.

The problem is that when I went to answer my own questions, I discovered that years before I had put a question mark next to “Alvarez & Marsal” on the list of participants for the Smart Options document. But I never had gone back until now. Now, it was much more important to answer my own questions in my own time.

The Boise group never got to hear the “cons” of Common Core. And I got caught up in tracking down the real con artists.

“They” should not be allowed to rule “our” public education system. Yes, unfortunately it has become a “them” versus “us” battle.

We know that education matters. And we are capable of understanding that honesty and fairness counts when it comes to both the educational process and the lawmaking process.

Some of us learned from the mistakes of No Child Left Behind, Common Core, and Race to the Top. Let’s teach those lessons to the public and policymakers.

Let’s make sure that education counts in a big way by actually giving the topic center stage in 2015. To do so, Common Core needs to exit the stage first. It doesn’t deserve the time, energy, and resources it has already consumed.

Our country deserves better.

UPDATE: January 9, 2015 I found it despicable that this advice was given openly while states were being sold on investing in longitudinal data systems for student test data collection and its link to labor systems. Perhaps the committee that pulled their invitation felt this pro-con Common Core debate was too big a forum.

From a Best Practices Brief http://nces.ed.gov/programs/slds/pdf/best_practices.pdf

From a Best Practices Brief
Stakeholder Communication Tips from the States http://nces.ed.gov/programs/slds/pdf/best_practices.pdf

Education and the Economy

Our rulers in Washington D.C. are determining our national destiny based on their view of education and the economy. The D.C. know-it-all groups pay to have articles, blogs, and books written. They get promoted. They get in the news. They are the influential – pushers of their propaganda.

But I ask you – oh, wise readers of blogs – WHO is in the best position to know what will improve both education and the economy – those viewing the situation from their thrones or people on the ground? Consider this story and decide for yourself.

This was my reality check yesterday.

While packing my groceries into the trunk of my car at the employee-owned grocery store I frequent, I was thinking about what the parking lot was like during the pit of the Great Recession. … Homemade enchiladas were being peddled from both ends and the best corner for panhandling was never devoid of a person and a sign. … Yesterday, neither practice was in sight. Things are looking up!

That thought had no more than left my mind when I caught a glimpse of a young man walking past me. I can’t recall if I smiled at him or was just smiling at my own positive thoughts but the next thing I heard was “ma’am.”

This very slender, clean, polite young man with humble mannerisms and old-looking clothing proceeded to explain that he and his sister needed to get back to the farm they are living on outside of Parma, Idaho, which is a very small rural community that I later found out was roughly 28 miles from this grocery store. He didn’t think they were going to get all the way home without running out of gas.

He said they were getting about 350 miles out of a full tank and were now figuring that they only had about 27 miles left and the farm was on the other side of Parma. I asked him what his plans were for getting gas since there was no gas station in this area. He didn’t really know.

So rather than giving him money, I had them follow me. As I watched them in my rear-view mirror, it looked like they were looking for something in their vehicle.

When I got out at the gas station, the young man quickly held out a handful of change they must have collected from every corner of the old beater they were driving. This I do remember bringing a smile to my face as I passed by him saying, “Nah, that’s O.K. I’ll be right back.” I prepaid for enough gas to ensure they got home.

And there was enough time for a quick conversation at the pump.

“Do you have a job?” Yes, I’m getting paid $300 a week to work on this farm and they provide a house. But I haven’t gotten paid yet because my boss can only pay me when he gets paid.

“Seems like enough to get by on?” Yes, it is when they provide a house so I don’t have to pay any rent. And I just got my sister moved here so it’ll be….his voice trailed off ….. his sister sitting in the vehicle looking embarrassed.

“You’ll have to watch how you manage your money. Are you good at math?” No – and his eyes went down for the first time in our conversation.

“Did you graduate from high school?” No, I dropped out when I turned 17 and went into doing framing in Montana. I had to get started in life early but I looked into getting a GED at a community college once, but…

...yes...

…yes…

…. Gas was in; conversation was over. I extended my hand to this young man who was by no means a lazy beggar or a complainer. I felt the strength of his handshake and felt confident that it matched his resolve, and we parted ways; “I encourage you to pursue that diploma again.” – “I will.”

#####

Will it do any good to write to our leaders?

To you political rulers of education and the economy,

This young man of the Lost Generation doesn’t need your standards. This young man doesn’t need your high-stakes testing. This young man doesn’t need your accountability schemes. This young man needs a financial literacy course. He needs someone to assess his talents and the deficits in his education and help him fill the gaps. He needs a hand up. He needs a break. He needs a fair shot.

I don’t know what life dealt him – the reason he had “to get started in life early” – I didn’t ask. He had left it behind; that’s good enough. And he didn’t need to finish his sentence about how “it’ll be….” I know how that goes. I have heard it before from those in my hometown when they lost manufacturing jobs. I heard “Don’t worry. You know us. We’ll be O.K.”

We true Americans have plenty of GRIT. What we haven't gotten is a fair shot at education and the economy because the rules have been set by those who rule the world.

We true Americans have plenty of GRIT. What we haven’t gotten is a fair shot at education and the economy because the rules have been set by those who rule the world.

You D.C aristocrats, you want grit? Get off your damned thrones and come have a looks-see. We’ve got plenty of grit to be found. You don’t need to produce it in us. You need to quit theorizing, experimenting, and pocketing our hard-earned dollars.

You think you know best what our children need? You think you know better what this young man needs than the people around him?

Some days I wonder if I have it wrong. Not today – today, I know you people who own the world got it wrong if it is us you even care about.

60 minutes The Giving Pledge http://www.cbsnews.com/news/giving-pledge-new-billionaires-club/

Listen to why the people who own the world think they know best what to do “for us.”

#####

To the ordinary people fighting to take back America’s schools,

Please do. You can get it right when you quit playing follow the leader. Change the leaders!

Outcome-Based Education Reform

“For 30 years, this country has been slowly seduced and become intoxicated by one reform strategy with an ever-changing name — outcome-based education reform. In all too many classrooms, our focus on the ‘outcome’ has come at the expense of the process of educating children. Outcomes equated to test scores, and education became test preparation.”… That is from my first blog!

Outcome-based, standards-based, proficiency-based, mastery-based, performance-based, test-based — these and many others all describe basically the same process of using standards and the testing of “outcomes” for the foundation of a “system of instruction, assessment, grading, and reporting.”

Today, most people in the country do not understand what brought us to this point of such hot contention over the use of test scores.

Outcome-based education proponents and many parents believe that standardized tests are an “effective” measure of student achievement. But as any doctor can tell you, test results don’t always give you straightforward answers. All tests have strengths and weaknesses and must be interpreted with that in mind.

On the other side of the argument, fewer than 25 percent of Americans believe that the increased testing we have done over the last decade has helped the performance of their local public schools. A majority of the public rejects using standardized tests scores to evaluate teachers.

The philosophy upon which we reform education is crucial to have right.

It is crucial that the philosophy upon which we reform education is right.

What many do not understand is that people like myself that are against the outcome-based education reform theory are not against standards, against the proper use of standardized tests, or against accountability. I am opposed to doing anything in the name of systemic reform that will knowingly do harm to some of our students chances for success in life.

The evidence is clear. Experiments with the outcome-based theory in 1913, the late 1930’s, and officially since 2002, with No Child Left Behind, all came to the same conclusion; it narrowed the curriculum, it narrowed the curriculum, and it narrowed the curriculum.

McMurrer_FullReport_CurricAndInstruction_072407.pdf

McMurrer_FullReport_CurricAndInstruction_072407.pdf

In life, a “narrowed curriculum” translates into limited learning opportunities. Those most harmed by a narrow curriculum are children whose parents do not have much to offer in the way of educational opportunities in their homes and lives. Quality public schools are their fair shot at success – in theory.

A 2007 survey found “that nearly 75 percent of [civics and social studies] teachers, who say they are using news less often in the classroom, cite mandated standardized tests as the reason. They say that preparing for the tests takes time away from the classroom discussion of news.

In life, will that translate into disinterested adults who won’t be inclined to fulfill their civic duty?  Is this the outcome we want?

www.idahostatesman.com/2014/10/27/3452348/the-future-of-voting-in-idaho.html?sp=/99/106/128/

www.idahostatesman.com/2014/10/27/3452348/the-future-of-voting-in-idaho.html?sp=/99/106/128/

Why are we doing this?

We expect professionals to follow a high standard of practice. We have given authority to lawmakers to maintain educational oversight through policy making; should lawmakers not be held to a standard where they are expected to consider the evidence?

The National Research Council advice to lawmakers is that “the available evidence does not give strong support for the use of test-based incentives to improve education” … and recommends that “continued experimentation with test-based incentives should not displace investment in the development of other aspects of the education system that are important…”

Outcome-based education reform theory is the foundation of No Child Left Behind. Investment in testing went up, opportunity was limited, evidence was collected, and this experiment should officially be ended.

∞ ∞ ∞

UPDATE 2/17/16: No Child Left Behind was replaced with The Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) on 12/10/15. ESSA continues to have the outcome-based education reform theory as its foundation.