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

From a Best Practices Brief
Stakeholder Communication Tips from the States

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…



…. 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

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.



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?

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.

Test-Based Goals: Mission Accomplished?

What do we want? Don’t you generally hear ordinary citizens say, “I want my children to get a good education”? How many of we garden variety citizens say, “I want my kids to graduate from high school ready to score higher on standardized tests”?

If people don’t understand the proper uses of testing and can’t recognize the misuses of standardized achievement tests, then they can’t possibly know that the country has the wrong goal for public education — set in law and in the minds of Americans.

The “achievement gap” is defined by standardized achievement tests. It can serve as one monitor of equal opportunity. It should not be THE goal of the public education system — but IT IS!

“To close the achievement gap” is a test-based goal set by No Child Left Behind. In Idaho, our state school officer, Mr. Luna, points out that “…results not only show a majority of Idaho schools are high-performing, but also that a vast majority of students are performing at or above grade level in reading and mathematics…While I praise these results, I also know the reality behind this data: Though students are performing better than ever in K-12, they continue to struggle after high school.”

Source: Associated Press

Source: Associated Press

His conclusion is that the standards must be higher and the tests better but that is because he fails to see, or won’t admit, the flaw in the outcome-based (test-based) theory — it narrowed curriculum to what was tested and that isn’t good enough. It isn’t good education; it did meet the test-based goals.

Mission accomplished? – test scores up / students unprepared for life because of a narrowed, test-based curriculum!

UPDATE 5/4/15: The marketing of No Child Left Behind deliberately targeted the largest group we have failed to educate well – black Americans. Why would we continue with this failed outcome-based theory of reform? Because we have been told?

There is No Controversy?

Told by spokespeople for our representatives, reporters in Idaho are repeating the “fact” that the portion of the immigration bill giving citizenship to highly skilled immigrants in order to fill jobs Americans can’t (?) do is not controversial. I repeat (as they have multiple times in print and on air), there is no controversy. Really? There should be!

At Our Own Risk

At Our Own Risk!

The following was originally published in Idaho as a letter to the editor in 2011:

Easing visa restrictions for high-skill immigrants is necessary according to Representative Labrador [ ID] and his American Innovation and Education Act. The problem he targets is “to help people who have offers of employment but face a [immigration] processing backlog…” He claims it will help domestic students. Those closely associated with efforts to improve our STEM (science, technology, engineering, mathematics) education in this country have heard similar verbiage for over a decade.

Congress won’t address problems they created through No Child Left Behind so we need to import talent that we failed to cultivate in our own country. They see a “brain drain”; I think it’s more of a loyalty drain.

This country messed up a perfectly good public education system and took down three generations of students in the process. We feel no obligation to make things right?

It’s not hard to see “How Online Learning Companies Bought America’s Schools” (Lee Fang). What’s harder to see is how we the people allowed Congress to sell us all down the river. We had better open our eyes to the slippery slope of importing high-skilled talent because we have overlooked our own American potential. Is this how we make America strong as a nation?