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)

Data is a BIG 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 intention in their “new deal” plan for the reauthorization of The Elementary and Secondary Education Act, ESEA, then dubbed “No Child Left Behind.” (ESEA Reauthorization Principles and Recommendations, 2010) (UPDATE NOTE for 2015: Current name is now the Every Student Succeeds Act ESSA/NCLB 2.0)

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. (Update 2015: It flew. ESSA replaced NCLB) 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. An opinion of a conspiracy theorist or one person among many that are thinking critically? Please consider digging deeper into the facts before you decide.

Airing the Dirty Laundry

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

But the show must go on … in Chicago

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

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

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

Surprise, surprise?

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

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

There must have been a bouncer at the door.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

If only it was so easy to tell.

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

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

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

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

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

The sun is now shining. #TruthBeTold

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

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

“Just” Standards

“These standards are just that—they are standards.” These are the words used by Luci Willits of Idaho State Department of Education, Chief of Staff to Tom Luna, as she introduced Common Core to our Senate Education Committee (1/19/11). And you will hear that sentiment parroted by others;

“The standards are just that: standards.” Bill Gates (2/12/14)

But when you look further, you can find the claim that,

“When the grant [Race to the Top] was put forth, the State Department of Education went to the colleges to ensure that any student who passes these standards will be able to go to any college without the need of remedial training.”

Standards DON’T “ensure” student success. Somehow, these standards became magical standards. And all of Idaho’s major colleges and universities stood with arms locked in testimony to the Core.

Standards are “just” guides. But these standards —The Common Core Standards — are much, much more. They are the Trojan Horse of systemic transformation.

But Idaho’s department of education went even further in claiming…

“There is also tremendous cost-savings associated with these standards; Idaho will be able to get the test it has always wanted but never been able to pay for.”

Who will pay? The same magician sprinkling fairy dust, or, will we all be paying the pied piper?

Lawmakers across the country are being asked to judge whether this is the change that is best for children, families, and communities. How will they make the call when the horse is so attractive?

Expose what is in the belly of the beast. The foundational principles, or the assumptions that are made by those in power, are what is important to understand.

Look inside!

Look inside!

  • The State will decide what education outcomes are important based on economic data.
  • Local control is a barrier that can be gotten around by training school board members properly (decided by the Broad Foundation?).
  • Lay-citizen participation in governance of schools should be weakened “in favor of control by politicians, especially governors, elected positions in general government.” (Marc Tucker, Governing American Education, page 44)

Real school improvement involves “lay-citizens.” But that is not how it is seen from above.

I know many people believe that private industry can do a better job than public institutions. But please think about what happens when private associations and organizations are using the law to their benefit – monetarily or for political power – what will be the true cost to taxpayers?

In Idaho, as it would seem to be the case across the country, the seemingly innocent policy of strategic planning and training of school boards is being put into law. It is putting the governing of schools at the local level in jeopardy.

Strategic planning is not necessarily a school improvement process; it all depends on who does the “training” and what “curriculum” they are using. What will those in control be “leveraging” our board members to do?

Close the gate (so to speak). Keep the Trojan Horse out!

Decide how schools will be governed. It matters!

Masters of Deception

Actions speak louder than words.

May 2009 Governor Otter and Idaho State School Chief Tom Luna signed a memorandum of agreement with the National Governors Association (NGA) and the Council of Chief State School Officers (CCSSO) agreeing to the Common Core State Standards Initiative (CCSSI) in addition to defining the federal role in education for us.

But they said they did so “with the understanding that these standards are not mandatory.”

August 11, 2010 The Idaho State Board of Education approved Common Core with Mr. Luna in attendance.

Mr. Luna campaigned – not on Common Core and Students Come First laws – but on how good a job he had done and that Idaho was on the “right track.”

November elections Yes, Idaho is one of few states that elect the person to head education (because the politics are so great and politics drives school improvement so well?). Mr. Luna was re-elected.

December 15, 2010: Luna named president-elect of CCSSO with his term beginning in November 2011.

January 2011 – Idaho legislative session begins. Lawmakers and the public heard – for the first time – the introduction of what would come to be hated as the Luna Laws (Students Come First –ha). For our Idaho lawmakers, it began on January 12th with a presentation of The Pillars of Student-Centered Education.

Testimony proceeded with heated debate on both sides of the issues. The pillars – technology-replacing teachers through a one-on-one laptop program with online graduation credits required, pay-for-performance, and limiting collective bargaining.

Among a docket full of rules reviews and hearings on budget items plus the

As our attention was focused on the Luna Laws, the Common Core Standards agreement signed in 2009 was quietly pushed into law. And the Luna Laws held our attention.

As our attention was focused on the Luna Laws, the Common Core Standards agreement signed in 2009 was quietly pushed into law. And the Luna Laws held our attention. Image from Boise Weekly.

unfolding of the details of the Luna Laws, on January 19th mid-afternoon in front of ONLY the senate education committee, Mr. Luna answered questions asked previously of him on a variety of statistics including class size, teacher pay, funding for new assessments, internet conductivity issues in rural areas, laptop issues, outsourcing of IT services, and just a slew of concerns…yawn…. Then, after a short story about how Common Core began with “an impromptu discussion about common achievement standards among states,” Luna’s Chief of Staff, Luci Willits, introduced Rules Governing Thoroughness; Common Core Standards (Docket #08-0203-1003).

Ms. Willits is the same person who explained, “When the grant was put forth, the SDE [State Department of Education] went to the colleges to ensure that any student who passes these standards will be able to go to any college without the need of remedial training.” And she said, “These standards are just that—they are standards.” Hum?

Since when can people read a set of standards on math and language arts and say “passing” them (the tests I assume) will “ensure” student success without remediation? Given the information they had at the time. is that possible?

Anyway, very few but good questions followed this brief presentation to the Senate Education Committee prior to adjournment for the day. Without further discussion and no testimony from the public (who knew – those watching the session were caught up in the Luna Laws debate), on the afternoon of January 24th Senator Winder moved to approve Docket #08-0203-1003. The motion passed with unanimous consent.

Mar.-Apr., 2011: Governor Otter signs Students Come First Legislation (S. 1108, 1110  & 1184). Then, the fight in Idaho to remove those laws kept the public’s attention for two years.

I think this is a great example of Card Stacking that employs all the arts of deception by stacking the cards against the truth. It uses under-emphasis and over-emphasis to dodge issues and evade facts. It uses half-truths.

Cards Stacked ; Game Rigged

Cards Stacked ; Game Rigged

Truth about Common Core? It is built on a foundation of lies and deceit. And it isn’t just standards; it is a package of reforms of which we have only seen the surface. There is much more below the surface if you care to dig. It includes linking the pieces to the reauthorization of No Child Left Behind (CCSSO again!) and training of all our education “workers.”

I’d rather see us stop a moment.

Public education needs to first fix its foundation of trust and base real reform on proven and ethical principles.

Reign of Error

Dear Diane Ravitch,

The title of your book, Reign of Error, describes perfectly the tenure of Idaho’s twice elected Chief School Officer Superintendent Tom Luna.

Mr. Luna chaired the Idaho commission that developed academic standards for all grades and subjects from 1997 to 2000. Then from 2000 to 2002, he chaired our assessment and accountability commission to create a test for new standards. Plus, as the state superintendent, he created the switch from the “needs improvement” rankings of No Child Left Behind to a rating system based on “stars.”

Seventeen years of directing change in education in Idaho, really?

Against the urging of one of his closest allies in education reform, Governor Butch Otter who said “Don’t make these decisions when you’re getting beat up by the editorial vigilantes,” Luna will not run for another term. He will, however, with the time left in his term, continue to push for the same “changes” he pushed previously.

Those changes were sold as reform, modernization, and innovation with Luna now being credited as the innovator. Those familiar with the Michelle Rhee StudentsFirst political agenda will see this for what it is —unbridled standardization and privatization by limiting collective bargaining, implementing test-based teacher accountability, and getting more technology into every students hands without regard to costs. In a state that is dead last in per-pupil spending, this is irresponsible not innovative. Class size be damned!

Voters resoundingly defeated these “Students Come First” laws, yet, they are back in another form and their first defeat is already being rewritten in history. “I believed (Luna’s teacher pay proposal) and Students Come First were exactly what students of Idaho needed,” Shackett [a local superintendent] said. “Unfortunately, the public was, I believe, duped into thinking otherwise by a strong campaign against the initiatives.”

Lawmakers now are poised to set the people straight by passing the same initiatives using different terminology and Common Core as the next best tool in the box.
Seventeen years of following the same test-based theories of reform and their diagnosis is we need higher standards, better tests with them secured to teacher pay, and the best technology we can buy (obviously forgetting we are the state with the highest percent of minimum wage jobs and the lowest per-capita income).

Not to appear to be a bullying Mr. Luna after having been a long-time editorial vigilante, I have tried in earnest – multiple times – to have conversations with him even going as far as offering to help write our Race to the Top grant in hopes – I will admit – of working in effective schools research to help struggling schools. I feel bad that I have to “go after” this one person but I do.

His reign of error won’t end with the end of his term if his chief reform philosophy is embedded in law.

Standardized test-based accountability does not “work” to improve schools. But the error of Mr. Luna’s ways doesn’t end there. He is continuing to use double-speak to pull the wool over people’s eyes. If people believe he has done Idaho schools such a great favor in implementing his accountability schemes for a generation of students, how can they ignore the findings of the system created by this philosophy?

“By far the biggest problems, based on the reports, are found in Mississippi and Idaho, which seem to be struggling most with how to help the 15 percent of their schools with the lowest test scores and the largest achievement gaps.”computer-159320_150

Mr. Luna and his supporters say we need Common Core, tests, technology, and teacher pay tied to tests; I hear differently from people in the trenches and say we need a “needs assessment” and analysis of our lowest-performing schools done by independent, highly-qualified, outside evaluators. These schools are the same ones we have identified in three different ways now — how can we think we need to do it again with “higher standards and better tests”?

The Reign of Error must end!

Respectfully and with Thanks,
Dr. Victoria M. Young