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.

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

Turn Around Schools?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

This is how we turn around schools.

This is how we turn around schools.

 

McRobbie gets it.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

We need to decide.

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

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!

The Post-Election Politics of Education

In the 1980’s, corporate-politicos and the National Governors Association waged a silent coup in taking over this nations public schools improvements. Their actions unraveled improvements of the 70’s, devalued the teaching profession, and further limited learning opportunities particularly for underprivileged children.

These “reformer’s” actions culminated in the 2001 national policy dubbed “No Child Left Behind” (NCLB) with its reliance on the theory of standards and testing.

www.mhmarketingsalesmanagement.com

www.mhmarketingsalesmanagement.com

Costs have risen dramatically as more tax dollars enter the pockets of private testing companies, publishers, supplemental service providers, charter management organizations, and “non-profits” (good and bad). Meanwhile, true “achievements” changed very little.

The original version of this blog was an article written post-2010 elections. Update: 2014

The truth? NOTHING HAS CHANGED. Politicians are directing public education. The bonding of politicians to corporations, and entrepreneurial and political interest lobbying groups puts our children squarely at the mercy of politics.

The true indicators of the quality of our system — rates on dropouts, graduates, adult literacy, college enrollment, degree completion, and the financial efficiency of the system — are what we must know to be fully informed. Test scores are not relevant. That whole “process” is corrupted.

Our “leaders” have set the wrong goal for the American education system.

What Is the Diagnosis?

As a veterinarian, when I’m presented with a sick animal my first step in problem solving is a good history. Of course, there are always exceptions to the rule. For example, in a crisis I skip the history taking and go directly to doing what’s necessary to save a life.

The objective of a good history is to gain clarity as to what happened that may have contributed to or created the problem. A good history guides us in deciding the proper tests to run — always with the goal of making the correct diagnosis.

In education reform, we have been “reforming” at a steady clip for over 30 years. The patient —the public education system—has not been cured, has been given prescription after prescription all of which have made it appear clinically sicker, and the main diagnosis we are working off of is that the standards aren’t “high” enough plus we have now added that the tests aren’t good enough.

So let us go back to the time when a crisis was declared and the history of standardization of instruction, which had been tried in America in the early 1900’s and mid 1930’s, was skipped over in the process of making a diagnosis. Let’s pick up where we left off.

Ronald Reagan’s National Commission on Excellence in Education reported that we were “A Nation at Risk” and ever since, the general public has believed that standards were both the problem and the solution. So we set our course of reforms on standards and testing.

We misdiagnosed both the problem and what that famous report said.

It is important that we know this because when we look at the patient today, the initial problems still exist but our misdiagnosis and the wrong cocktail of prescriptions have made the system worse.

Now, the country is addicted to the treatment; dependent on tests to tell us how the patient is doing versus looking at the patient itself. We are monitoring our system into destruction.

A wise old vet school professor once advised,

“if you see a patient back three times for the same thing, you need to get a new set of eyes on the problem. You’re missing something.”

Well, it turns out that another set of eyes was put on the problem and their diagnosis was quite different. The Sandia National Laboratories gave good explanations concerning both the interpretation of test scores and the proposed (now in action) “reforms.”

Censorship is as detrimental as a lie.

Censorship is as detrimental as a lie.

Some powerful somebodies silenced the report

#TruthBeTold ? Only if we demand it.

My prescription to revive the dying patient is this:

  • Demand Congress remove the No Child Left Behind (now called the Every Student Succeeds Act – 2015) federal mandate for yearly standardized testing and replace it with checks on the system at 4th,8th, and 12th grades only in addition to the random use of the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP).
  • Reopen the wound of national standards. Air it out. Is it what we want or do we want national guidelines (benchmarks) around which we tailor standards to fit our needs? That discussion needs to happen in the open.
  • Let’s get new eyes on this issue and start with a full and truthful history. If there is a good reason that the Sandia findings should not be heard, let’s hear it.

New Testing Makes No Sense

Two “Super Supers” came to Idaho to bring us their wisdom. It is always good to listen to the voices of experience; it helps clarify things. It certainly threw light on some issues for me.

Dr. David P. Driscoll (MA) and Dr. Eric Smith (FL) were brought to Idaho by the Albertson Foundation, which has been financially supporting standards development in Idaho since 1997.

In describing their visit here, the Supers indicated that they were given some of our state data to review. It showed a couple of things that many across the country have known for years; we have a lack of consistency in the quality of our schools and those schools that show up on the bottom of the performance pile tend to do so repeatedly. This we have known.

These experts came to their conclusions by reviewing the data they were given.

Meanwhile, some of us have lived the reality, shouted it from the rooftops, and been brushed aside — because our observations were anecdotal, we can’t do our own research, attempt to draw logical conclusions from data, or we didn’t graduate from the right colleges? (I have no idea what the answer to that question is but Harvard was mentioned more than a couple of times during the evening.)

Anyway, now because of The Common Core …

“You will see for the first time in history, millions and millions being tested on the same level,Driscoll said. “We will have strong standards and strong assessments and finally we’ll know what we need to work on.”

… O.K., so here is the point where I revert to my upbringing and talk straight.

Dude, you just said we had the data to pinpoint the problem schools, why do you need another set of standards and another new test to point at the same old schools that were already identified? We already knew! This is EXACTLY what we did when we started with this whole standards-based accountability scheme that became the No Child Left Behind disaster.

“We” (as in we observant people) never NEEDED to prove it again. I walked away from this mess before – briefly around 2001 – by giving into the idea that “well, if ‘they’ must prove it one more time, one more way, well…O.K.”

But not again! NO. STOP.

Listen to ALL the Reasons Why.

Listen to ALL the Reasons Why.

The principles, policies, and practices we have right now were created by the very same people now saying that this time they have it “right.” How can they?

Those still pushing the standards and assessment theory of reform aren’t making sense. They say The Common Core should be used to compare to other states. Why? We already can compare, contrast, and deduce which schools need help….S.O.S. Send help.

Dr. Smith did give mention to Ronald Edmonds work. I’d advice he listens to himself and to Edmonds original research. Edmonds noted that schools he investigated — which were high-poverty, high-“minority” schools that had successfully improved beyond “expectations” — all saw the local school as the focus of analysis and intervention.

Given the tools and the chance, we local yokels can pull on our boots and “kick” … We need to start by kicking some you-know-what out of the way!

The “experts” got it wrong.

P.S. Mr. Rodgers got it right.

Twisting the Truth

“The nation’s governors developed Common Core.” That is the Bloomberg View on the development of The Core. Readership? Probably pretty widespread!

And the history of Common Core is being told in this U.S. News & World Report and elsewhere as having been started by former Arizona Gov. Janet Napolitano. Her (?) 2008 report is purported to be what has led the way ever since. After that bite of information, this article depends on Rick Hess (resident scholar at the American Enterprise Institute) and Dane Linn (VP of the Business Roundtable, Education and Workforce Committee) to tell the story.

Web of Deception

Web of Deception

The article then leads its readers to believe that Achieve (a Bill Gates created organization) stepped in to help. Fact: “they” were in it all along!

And low and behold, “It was decided that ‘the key to advancing any of these recommendations [made by the governors] was to start with the standards,’ Linn says.”

The rest of the story, as told in this article, paints a picture of the arduous work of creating these new “benchmarked” standards by the main stakeholder groups —union and non-union members holding hands— to produce our wondrous “new” standards. The backlash to Common Core is painted as purely political.

The events that unfolded with the unveiling of Common Core and its tests “served as fodder for the federal-overreach debate.”

The real truth; right in the Memorandum of Agreement, which governors and school chiefs signed, it states (page 3):

In particular, the federal government can provide key financial support for this effort in developing a common core of state standards and in moving toward common assessments, such as through the Race to the Top Fund authorized in the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009. Further, the federal government can incentivize this effort through a range of tiered incentives, such as providing states with greater flexibility in the use of existing federal funds, supporting a revised state accountability structure, and offering financial support for states to effectively implement the standards. Additionally, the federal government can provide additional long-term financial support for the development of common assessments, teacher and principal professional development, other related common core standards supports, and a research agenda that can help continually improve the common core over time. Finally, the federal government can revise and align existing federal education laws with the lessons learned from states’ international benchmarking efforts and from federal research.”

 

Federal involvement appears to be dictated by the Common Core agreement. Governors signed it.

So when did The Core start? 2007 with Bill Gates, the most influential person in education reform policy? 2008 with the governors (and Gates funded Achieve)?

Was it “just” accelerated in 2009 with a group of high-powered “thinkers” getting together in D.C. to produce Smart Options and deciding that “priority 1” is to develop common American standards with our Recovery Act dollars?

At the moment, the truth is our reality. The rest of the story is this — The copyright on Common Core standards are privately held by two D.C. unions of bureaucrats. The National Governors Association (NGA) and Council of Chief States School Officers (CCSSO) are nothing more than that – D.C. unions of government officials with no responsibility for results and with very murky transparency as to the flow of money.

The Chief architect of Common Core – Mr. David Coleman – sat on the Smart Options committee and directs the College Board (SAT testing)….There are lots of private dollar connections….D.C. insiders pushed The Common Core…..The plans have always been to use federal law to make this “work.” Question is; whom is it working for?

#WorkForMe

America, wake up! ———–This isn’t about “just standards.”

If we want national standards for our public schools that prepare students for college, isn’t it public colleges and universities that are most aware of the knowledge and skills gaps they are seeing in their students? Wouldn’t it make more sense to assign them to the task of helping us improve the education of our public school children? Won’t gaps in student preparation differ in degree and areas of concern depending on the current quality of education in a given location?

Run this by me again, why are we redoing the whole system and gearing it towards another one-size-fits –all “fix”? Twisted thinking, me thinks.

April 20th

This year, April 20th was Easter. So that is my excuse for not remembering the Columbine High School tragedy on that date.

I was reminded yesterday because I started re-reading my own book and the first chapter is about school safety and discipline. These are tough topics to cover in a short blog but here is the gist of it….

Misconduct —be it disrupting a class, bullying, or outright violence—is a symptom. We would be foolish to think it will ever go away completely; we would be wise to recognize that we must always work to identify the underlying cause as soon as a problem is acknowledged. We shouldn’t just look away and think things will get better without conscious efforts.

Many school and community people do understand that the best thing we can do is prevent behavioral problems—the causes of the symptoms. The “means” aren’t easy but the “ends” are necessary for existence of a civil society.

The school climate and classroom conditions that are conducive to learning are the same climates and conditions that prevent bullying and other disruptive behaviors. Creating the right learning environment (where it doesn’t exist) and continually fostering that environment is the best we can do. So how much attention is the public giving to these issues of such importance?

Common Core, and the whole standardization movement, has dominated the national conversation on education. We are all getting sucked in! Me too.

But now I’m resisting except I must once again make this point; “standards” are being confused with expectations. And “standards” are being given unjustified priority in education reforms.

If we are going to talk about “expectations,” they should be about ideas like the ones offered by Carl Bosch in Schools Under Siege: Guns, Gangs, and Hidden Dangers (1997). He recommended that we “hold high expectations” of students. But he asked that we “clearly define expectations of respect, dignity, and responsibility.” These are “standards” of behavior the public system of free schools should feel obligated to promote.

My notes from back in 1999, now 15 years ago, indicated Bosch stressed that primary prevention of discipline issues resides in 1) uncovering the reasons behind inappropriate behavior, 2) the proper training and teaching of the skills children need, and he stressed that 3) consistency and fairness were important qualities for children to learn that adults should model.

Yesterday, this quote came across my desk and I consider it helpful….

“In nature there are neither rewards nor punishments – there are consequences.”

Robert Ingersoll

Today, I hope all will step back a moment to remember and consider what is important. And we should be thankful that some still remember the tragedies and many still work towards solutions — every day.

April 20, 1999

April 20, 1999

2014 and The Governing of Reform

After reading the Mike Petrilli blog about “universal proficiency by 2014,” it prompted recall of these words that are so central to our success:

“What is absolutely crucial in replication is that the assumptions, conceptions, values, and priorities undergirding what you seek to replicate are clear in your head and you take them seriously; you truly accept and believe them, they are non-negotiable starting points.”  Seymour B. Sarason

The following is an excerpt from The Crucial Voice of the People, Past and Present posted here in an attempt to clarify parts of Dr. Sarason’s statement.

CONCEPTIONS: THE GOVERNING OF REFORM
Like most words, the word “conceptions” has different meanings. When applied to the replication of effective practices in education, both a “formulation of ideas” and the “beginning of some process” (Webster’s, 1976) seem applicable.

The governing of education is legally a state responsibility. The reality is that some states do a better job fulfilling that responsibility than others. Partially, it is because of differences in the way they are governed. For example, as the result of a lawsuit against the state of Massachusetts, a ruling was made that “all children must get an adequate education” and their 1993 Education Reform Act was created. The goals were to equalize funding among districts and improve all student performance. The state chose to use these instruments for change (as outlined by Minnesota): (1) increase state spending on education, (2) create curriculum frameworks that set high expectations for student learning, (3) create student performance assessments aligned with the curriculum frameworks.

But there was something else very important to Massachusetts’s success, the process. In section 3 of their law, they set up advisory councils in the following areas: early childhood education; life management skills and home economics; educational personnel; fine arts education; gifted and talented education; math and science education; racial imbalance; parent and community education and involvement; special education; bilingual education; technology education; vocational-technical education; global education; and comprehensive interdisciplinary health education and human service pro- grams. And the law specified “a reasonable balance of members,” that they should “be broadly representative of all areas,” and it described specifics for each advisory council.

We must continue to remind ourselves that we cannot take one piece of the equation for educational success or one aspect of a successful “model” without considering all the other factors that contribute to success. Summaries or “briefs” as presented here can never do justice to the bigger picture.

Massachusetts used their available experts and a broad range of interested community members to form councils that established their success factors. It couldn’t have been easy. Democratic processes never are. But “democracy is not attained through osmosis. It works because people recognize their responsibilities in it and put forth the effort to make it work through their actions” (Minzey & LeTarte, 1994, 88). And some states took note, like Minnesota, and followed suit. How their stories end, we can’t know. What we do know is that too many states are making uninformed decisions, are not using researched practices, are not using “experts,” are not adequately funding education, and are not using a democratic decision-making process. Some states fail to meet their responsibility.
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We must focus on the problems in order to solve them.

We must focus on the problems in order to solve them.

Today, America as a whole is not yet facing the fact that No Child Left Behind was based on faulty assumptions. We have paid a heavy price — made heavier the longer we ignore the fact that we have not been clear in demanding the best alternative for reauthorization.

Our non-negotiable starting points must guide us if we are to “get it right” (“it” being No Child Left Behind). Do we still value the ideals undergirding President Kennedy’s “twin goals”: “a new standard of excellence in education and the availability of such excellence to all who are willing and able to pursue it”?

The governing of the process by which we set —not standards, but— a standard of excellence matters. State responsibility, yes, but what of “local control”?