Archive for May 2014
Michael Brickman and Michael Petrilli of the Fordham Institute wrote an article at Townhall.com asserting that those who advocate for the Common Core have an advantage over those who oppose the Common Core in Republican primaries.
There are some problems with this article. First it is poorly sourced. Go figure. We *never* expect that from Common Core advocates.
Second, it is a logical fallacy to state that incumbents won re-election based on their advocacy for the Common Core while at the same time stating that Common Core opponents in Indiana who knocked off incumbents didn’t do so on their Common Core opposition alone. They need to be consistent. When I addressed the Indiana races I did recognize that it wasn’t the only issue. I certainly didn’t deny that social issues were at play. At least I provided an honest analysis; we can’t say the same about Brickman and Petrilli.
Third, they made some false statements regarding the Ohio Republican primary.
Heidi Huber from Ohioans Against Common Core shared with me in an email:
The Ohio Citizens PAC candidate losses are a broad brush being used to marginalize the role that Common Core played in our primary. It is also important to point out the blatant error that Kelly Kohls was an Ohioans Against Common Core candidate. We are not a PAC, thus we are prohibited from endorsing candidates. Nor did OACC distribute campaign materials on her behalf. We put our focus and resources to a viable and critical challenge to incumbent Stautberg, based on the principle that his support of Common Core violated basic Party tenet. Nonetheless, he was heavily protected and funded by the Ohio Republican Party. We beat the ORP hacks the old fashioned way, knocking on every door of primary super-voters in the district, precinct by precinct, distributing anti-Common Core literature. The materials included a handout with the RNC Resolution rejecting Common Core contrasted alongside Stautberg’s Candidacy Petition, where he declares he will support and abide by the Party platform. The tipping point was the use of non-traditional candidate signs. We placed hundreds of “GO Brinkman – STOP Common Core” signs throughout the district. That stuck with voters and we enjoyed a decisive win. It was the first time in 18 years that a Republican incumbent has been defeated in a primary. Four other OH House Republican candidates, running to replace termed out members, took their District with a heavy focus and commitment to repealing Common Core.
The Ohio Senate President, Keith Faber, addressed a pre-primary poll that showed Common Core was the number one issue with Republican voters, 65% desiring repeal. He warned his caucus to be careful to message an “I’m for local control” stance or it may costs them their election. Governor Kasich joined the choir the day before the primary, stating on WTAM 1100 radio that Common Core was “written by local school districts”.
The real story is that “we” were not OACC grassroots, but rather Hamilton County Republican Central Committee members. We supported the Republican candidate who stood true to Party principle and we succeeded in a quintessential “truth to power” victory. The Jeb Bush crowd can’t afford for that detail to get out. Hamilton County is known as “the county, in the state” and we affect national election outcomes. Did someone say, 2016?
Fourth there was at least one Congressional primary where Common Core was an issue, and the Common Core opponent won. Why did they neglect to mention that?
Fifth, Brickman and Petrilli only list incumbents who won primary challenges. They don’t seem to understand how hard it is to knock off incumbents who typically have better organization, more funding, party backing, earned media attention, etc. This makes sense since they are educrats and not political/grassroots activists. So perhaps they should stick to what is in their wheelhouse. It takes more than being opposed to the Common Core to win a primary election. Common Core opponents need to field quality candidates in order to beat incumbents and primary voters rarely are one-issue voters.
Sixth, there are plenty of states that haven’t had their primary yet so we’ll likely see some Common Core opponents win while others won’t and those wins and losses won’t entirely hinge on one issue.
2nd Update: Jane Robbins, a senior fellow with American Principles in Action who lives in Georgia, emailed me this afternoon the following observation about the Georgia races that Brickman and Petrilli mention:
In Georgia, the primary outcomes said little or nothing about Common Core. In the first place, dislodging an incumbent here is practically impossible. Beyond that, Common Core wasn’t a big issue in the governor’s race since the challenger, who had no money vs. Nathan Deal’s millions, didn’t emphasize it as he should – he ran almost exclusively on economic issues. Of course, the words “Common Core” never passed Deal’s lips. Re the primary to unseat House Education Committee Chairman Brooks Coleman, Petrilli is correct that Coleman has been a staunch supporter of Common Core. But, Coleman spent his entire well-funded campaign denying that he ever supported CC and accusing his opponent of lying when he said otherwise. Even so, the percentage of votes he got this year dropped to 56% — compared with 70.4% in 2012. http://ballotpedia.org/Brooks_Coleman,_Jr..
JEFFERSON CITY, MO – With strong support in both the House and Senate, the Missouri legislature passed HB1490 on Thursday May 15th. The main purpose of the bill is to define a system wherein state education experts will evaluate and recommend state K-12 education standards. HB1490 passed the House 131:12 and the Senate 23:6. While not going nearly as far in returning local control of education as members of the Missouri Coalition Against Common Core had hoped, the bill is a good first step towards reclaiming state sovereignty over education.
The bill now rests on the Governor’s desk. Now is the time to let him know your support for this legislation. Polite contact will help push it over the finish line.
Governor Nixon can be reached a number of ways.
Phone (573) 751-3222
Twitter – @GovJayNixon
The three-dollar per year dues increase approved by delegates at the Atlanta National Education Association (NEA) convention in July of 2013 went directly to a “special fund” called “Great Public Schools.” NEA leadership allocated the extra three dollars per member to certain union affiliates for reasons and in amounts they determined. Delegates added the caveat that union leaders must inform them as to how this money was spent.
Mike Antonucci of the Education Intelligence Agency writes that “the ultimate authority to release the funds rested in the hands of two men”: NEA president Dennis Van Roekel and NEA executive director John Stocks. It turns out that of the thirteen Great Public Schools grants awarded, nine will be used to “ease the implementation of Common Core Standards.” (EIAonline.com, 1-27-14)
The union is experiencing a love/hate relationship with Common Core. On the one hand, union leadership resists breaking with the Democrat establishment to which they contribute heavily and from which they receive heartily. But many teachers are displeased with the top-down Common Core standards, which were thrust upon them without their input. The union has been forced to speak out against Common Core. There was rank-and-file animosity toward Arne Duncan and Common Core at the NEA Convention; it is doubtful that convention delegates would have passed the dues increase had they known it would eventually be used to shore up Common Core. Even the NEA president has had to admit that Common Core is “botched.” (See Education Reporter March 2014)
It is unfortunate that the NEA union teachers’ dues increase dedicated to the Great Public Schools fund actually contributed to the mediocre public school education that Common Core is offering to students.
It is spring, the season for standardized testing in schools across the nation. There are reports of massive numbers of students opting out of tests their parents consider improper, excessive, or damaging. The reasons for opting out vary:
- Parents object to huge, profit-making companies using their children as unpaid ‘guinea pigs’ to try out questions for the PARCC (Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers) and SBAC (Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium) Common Core tests.
- The tests are not useful to teachers, parents, or students because they don’t assess important areas of learning; questions and answers are secret; and scores are not returned in a timely manner.
Parents, teachers, and students object to spending millions of dollars on testing and computer infrastructure for online testing while schools suffer increased class size and cuts to arts, sports, and other engaging activities.
- As a result of stress and anxiety, students are crying, vomiting and soiling themselves during standardized exams. Children fear that if they fail, their teachers will suffer. Some justifiably worry they will be denied promotion to the next grade or graduation. (Washington Post, 4-15-14)
“Computer Adaptive” Tests
Students usually take Common Core tests created by PARCC and SBAC on a computer. The tests are “computer adaptive,” which is described at the SBAC website:
Based on student responses, the computer program adjusts the difficulty of questions throughout the assessment. For example, a student who answers a question correctly will receive a more challenging item, while an incorrect answer generates an easier question. By adapting to the student as the assessment is taking place, these assessments present an individually tailored set of questions to each student and can quickly identify which skills students have mastered. (SmarterBalanced.org)
The SBAC website claims this will give better information than “paper-and-pencil assessments” and provide “more accurate scores for all students across the full range of the achievement continuum.”
But how can student achievement be compared in an effective manner when all students in a grade are not taking the same exam? A computer-adaptive process that makes questions easier or harder can work in a blended learning environment in order to help a student achieve mastery before moving on to more difficult subject matter. It can also allow a student to advance more rapidly if the student has mastered the topics in a certain segment of the curriculum. But it fails as a way to determine what all students at a grade level or in a particular course of study know.
You Have No Right
The Fordham Institute, an organization that fiercely defends all things Common Core, maintains that parents have no right to opt their students out of testing. Fordham claims that parents may decide if they want their child to attend public or private school or can choose to homeschool them. Then Fordham proclaims, “But when [parents] expect the state to educate their children at public expense, the public has a right to know whether those children are learning anything . . .; whether taxpayers are getting a decent ROI (return on investment) from the schools they’re paying for; and whether their community, their state, their society will be economically competitive and civically whole in the future as a result of an adequately educated populace.”
Continuing its comments aimed at parents who wish to decide what is best for their children, the Fordham Institute claims opting out is “not a legitimate form of civil disobedience. And it’s probably not legal, either.” They suggest to parents: “If you really find state tests odious, put your money and time where your mouth is — and stop asking taxpayers to educate your children.” Many parents would remove their children from public school if they were given vouchers or tax credits to be used toward sending their children to private schools.
No one asked parents if they wanted their children to be educated under the strictures of Common Core. No one asked them if high scores on standardized testing should be the ultimate goal of their children’s education. Parents are taxpayers, too, and deserve to have a say in the way their children are educated.
While many believe grades on class work are a better measure of student learning than standardized tests, Fordham proclaims that “teacher-conferred grades” or “promotions and graduations” do not “prove that learning occurred.” (EdExcellence.com) The Fordham Institute suggests that only standardized tests can do that. Yet Fordham justifies the use of Common Core tests, which are computer adaptive and are changed for each student. Unfortunately, such tests fail to tell taxpayers whether students have learned.
by Phyllis Schlalfy
“My Child Is Not Common” are the words on the attention-getting signs carried by a group of white and African-American mothers protesting the adoption of the aggressively promoted Common Core standards. Common Core is scheduled to take over the testing of all U.S. kids, pre-K to 12, but parents are saying “no way” in every way they can.
Common Core was rapidly adopted by 44 states and the District of Columbia before any read the standards. Four states rejected it from the outset: Alaska, Nebraska, Texas and Virginia.
Those of us who have been speaking and writing against national control of education for years are amazed at the way parents are coming out of their kitchens to protest. None of the previous attempts by the progressives to nationalize public school curriculum created anything like this kind of grassroots uprising.
Bad education fads started some fifty years ago with Whole Language, which cheated generations of school kids out of learning how to read English by phonics. Call the roll of the fads that followed: Values Clarification, Goals 2000, Outcome-Based Education, School-Based Clinics, Sex Ed, Suicide Ed, Self-Esteem Ed, New Math, History Standards, School to Work, Race to the Top, and No Child Left Behind.
Our powerful and erudite articles against all those fads never aroused the angst caused by Common Core. Those of us who for years have been criticizing the mistaken courses that kept kids from learning are flabbergasted at what we see erupting among the grassroots.
Former Education Commissioner Robert Scott was the Texas official who articulated that state’s rejection of Common Core. He pointed out how the feds tried to bribe Texas into going along.
Scott said, “We said no to Common Core and they said, ‘you want Race to the Top money?’ That was $700 million. They said, ‘do it.’ Well, we still said, no thanks. The feds also asked if Texas wanted a No Child Left Behind waiver and again, Texas said no.”
Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal recently came out with a strong statement against Common Core: “As we have seen in Obamacare, President Obama’s Washington believes it knows better than the peasants in the states. But centralized planning didn’t work in Russia, it’s not working with our health care system, and it won’t work in education.”
No wonder the grassroots have dubbed Common Core Obamacore. That’s a play on the Obamacare health plan that is so widely despised.
Indiana became the first state to opt out when its Senate voted 35-13 to withdraw Indiana from Common Core standards on March 12, 2014. But Indiana Governor Mike Pence appears to have backtracked and just renamed it, a bureaucratic trick that doesn’t fool either side, and is a disappointment to the Indiana moms who started the national revolt against Common Core.
Pence’s action is particularly baffling because pre-Common Core Indiana was known to have one of the highest standards of all the fifty states. Hillsdale College professor Terrence Moore said that Common Core’s English standards deserve an “F” and even omits teaching phonics, and Stanford University math professor James Milgram, who served on the Common Core math validation committee, charged that the math standards are so “incomprehensible” and complicated that they should be called “bizarre.”
As Common Core keeps plodding right ahead in most states, parents are finding plenty to criticize in the curriculum. Parents think that the math questions children bring home are incomprehensible and stupid. New York parents are objecting to the fact that Common Core social studies standards say America is founded on the democratic principles of equality, fairness and respect for authority but don’t mention liberty, and Alabama parents are objecting to the pornography in assigned readings.
There’s no mention of education in the U.S. Constitution because the Founding Fathers believed education is a parental and a state issue. Our laws still reflect that assumption, but that concept has been widely violated in recent years by the flow of federal money with strings attached.
Parents are also suspicious of the gigantic amount of money that is being spent to promote the use of Common Core-aligned books and teacher training. Emeritus Professor Jack Hassard of Georgia State University estimates that billionaire Bill Gates has spent $2.3 billion on Common Core.
Some say Gates is a promoter of “global sameness of education as defined by UNESCO and the United Nations.” Gates has expressed agreement with UN policies that many Americans oppose such as Agenda 21, which promotes global governance at the expense of private property and national sovereignty
© 2014 – Eagle Forum
Bill Gates wrote in USA Today on February 12, 2014: “we’re in the grip of mythology.” He claims that the “myths” surrounding Common Core standards are “harmful, because they can lead people to fight against the best solutions to our biggest problems.” Bill Gates is the chief funder — besides the federal government — and one of the most adamant proponents of Common Core standards. Questions to be asked are: “Best solutions according to whom?” and “Where is the proof?”
Gates’s USA Today article glosses over controversial aspects of Common Core and gives simplistic responses to troubling parts of the standards. Common Core was developed at the behest of two private Washington, D.C. lobbying organizations, the National Governors Association (NGA) and the Council of Chief State School Officers (CCSSO). Gates doesn’t address concerns that Achieve, Inc., the group that the NGA and the CCSSO assigned to develop the standards, did not include educators or child development specialists; that development was done behind closed doors; that the standards adopted in most states of the nation were never piloted, anywhere, by anyone; and that the federal government requires personally identifiable student information from schools as an integral part of Common Core.
Life in a Wealthy, Progressive Family
Bill Gates is a successful man, if success is measured by computer genius and the ability to amass a fortune. But Gates is not an expert on and has no formal training in child development or education. Born William H. Gates III into a wealthy and prominent Seattle family, “Bill” attended an exclusive private school and enrolled at Harvard in the fall of 1973. He took a leave of absence during his junior year and never completed his college education.
Gates comes from a progressive, liberal family background. He told Bill Moyers in a 2003 interview:
When I was growing up, my parents were always involved in various volunteer things. My dad was head of Planned Parenthood. And it was very controversial to be involved with that. And so it’s fascinating. At the dinner table my parents [were] very good at sharing the things that they were doing. And almost treating us like adults. . . .
Speaking about “philanthropic things,” Gates told Moyers, “I have to say I got off the track when I started Microsoft.” (PBS.org, 5-9-2003) Largely due to family influence, Gates got back on track with philanthropy once his fortune was established.
Why $2.3 Billion, Bill?
Experts commonly agree that the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation has granted over $2 billion to Common Core development and implementation. Recent research by Jack Hassard, Professor Emeritus at Georgia State University, indicates that the Gateses have to date spent $2.3 billion on Common Core. (TruthInAmericanEducation.com, 3-18-14) The Gates Foundation is the nation’s richest charity. In 2011, the Wall Street Journal reported that in the previous ten years the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation had “poured some $5 billion into education grants and scholarships.” (7-23-11)
Why did Bill Gates turn his attention to education? Why has he spent so much cash to force Common Core upon the nation? Questions and theories abound but answers do not. $2.3 billion is a large commitment and Gates is certainly not turning his back on Common Core now. He will continue to spend until his goals are achieved.
“Guided by the belief that every life has equal value, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation works to help all people lead healthy, productive lives,” according to the foundation’s website. They “take on some tough challenges: extreme poverty and poor health in developing countries, and the failures of America’s education system.” They admit, “Some of the projects we fund will fail. We not only accept that, we expect it. . . .” (GatesFoundation.org)
Some say Gates is “a promoter of global sameness of education as defined by UNESCO and the United Nations.” (WhatIsCommonCore.wordpress.com, 3-28-13) Gates is certainly active within the United Nations and has expressed agreement with UN policies that many Americans oppose. Agenda 21 is a UN-sponsored action plan that promotes “sustainable development” and global governance at the expense of private properties, individual liberty, and national sovereignty. Some Common Core concepts align with Agenda 21’s education goals.
Whether Bill Gates is a globalist aligned with United Nations Agenda 21, a liberal do-gooder, or something in between, most agree that one unelected philanthropist wielding so much power is not the American way.
Gates’s First Education Failure
Gates has a poor education track record. Analysts say his first foray into influencing education was a failure. In 2003, the Gates Foundation decided that small high schools were the ticket. He funded programs to create and improve small and personalized high schools, each having around 400 students. The Gates Foundation gave “grants to more than 2,000 high schools — of which about 800 were existing schools attempting to create smaller schools within schools.” (Seattle Times, 11-5-2006)
Gates himself admitted in his 2009 Annual Letter that the Small Schools Project was unsuccessful. Gates wrote, “Many of the small schools that we invested in did not improve students’ achievement in any significant way.” He said that while some schools had higher attendance and graduation rates than peer schools, “we are trying to raise college-ready graduation rates, and in most cases, we fell short.” (GatesFoundation.org)
Melinda Gates told Business Week in 2006 that Small Schools Project “setbacks” didn’t mean they had “squandered the $1 billion the foundation has spent so far.” She continued, “If you want to equate being naïve with being inexperienced, then we were definitely naïve when we first started.” (Business Week, 6-25-2006)
Education blogger Mercedes Schneider states:
[T]he extraordinary [eventual] $2 billion initiative — which created 2,600 new small schools in 45 states and the District of Columbia — has been ditched by Gates and his foundation. School districts across the nation were left disrupted, with some charging that Gates had abandoned the successful good schools he created and Gates citing statistics showing the project failed. Gates has now moved on to funding a completely different approach. . . .
Schneider continues, “Gates is a businessman. If one business venture is failing, move on to the next. So what if it hurts people?” (Deutsch29.wordpress.com, 3-15-13)
In the case of Common Core, Gates’s possibly naïve, possibly devious experiment stands to harm an entire generation of schoolchildren.
Bill Gates Demands Common Core
Undaunted by his first false start, Gates has nonetheless undertaken the funding of a sweeping change in American education. The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation now promotes an untested, top-down, national standards scheme with aligned testing that has children, parents, and teachers reeling from the fallout. Individual states and local school boards are not helpless to stop the juggernaut but little has actually been achieved. The grassroots movement to stop Common Core has gained traction but no state has effectively halted Common Core implementation. Indiana has pulled out of Common Core but drafts of the standards they are developing are, so far, about a 90% match to Common Core. Alaska, Nebraska, Texas, and Virginia are the only states that have never adopted Common Core standards.
One reason Common Core is difficult to slow down and examine is Gates Foundation money. Gates has handed out money to organizations, think tanks, and newspapers, providing organizations and the people behind them with enormous amounts of cash. This may have influenced opinions and tainted reports about Common Core standards. Ethics breaches may be occurring because of Gates Foundation dollars. Besides the $2.3 billion in direct Gates cash, many businesses and other entities are making unprecedented amounts of money from Common Core implementation.
Common Core is a perfect example of a few people making something happen, many more just going along with what happened, and the rest left wondering what just happened. The Obama administration, Bill Gates, and a small circle of others circumvented the voting public and pushed Common Core into schools.
Gates has control of the opinion machine; he’s given grants to hundreds of education “reform” groups who now support Common Core. The Gates Foundation is a primary funder of Education Week, which calls itself “American Education’s Newspaper of Record.” Articles tend to paint opponents of Common Core as Tea Party fanatics. In each edition, the newspaper features ads for Common Core-related companies and curriculum; many of them are glossy full-page color ads that garner hefty revenue for the publication.
Even the PTA has been subverted by Gates’s money. The National Parent Teacher Association failed to take a stand for students and parents. Gates Foundation dollars have flowed to the PTA for years; they received $2 million in 2009 and in 2013 they received almost $500,000 “to educate parents and communities on the Common Core Standards and empower leaders to create the changes needed in their school systems.” In other words, to persuade parents to accept Common Core.
All politics is local. So Republican politicians with national ambitions better pay attention to what grassroots parents are saying and doing about the federal education racket known as Common Core. In bellwether Indiana this week, anti-Common Core activists won a pair of pivotal electoral victories against GOP Gov. Mike Pence.
Pence’s attempt to mollify critics by rebranding and repackaging shoddy Common Core standards is fooling no one.
Tuesday’s Republican primary elections in the Hoosier state resulted in the landslide defeat of two establishment incumbents running for statewide re-election. Pence had endorsed GOP State Rep. Kathy Heuer over challenger Christopher Judy. Pence’s Lt. Gov. Sue Ellspermann had endorsed GOP State Rep. Rebecca Kubacki over challenger Curt Nisly. The incumbents enjoyed the support of the Common Core-promoting U.S. Chamber of Commerce.
These same Big Business elites backed Pence’s ploy to stave off grassroots parental opposition by “withdrawing” from Common Core — and then immediately adopting “new” standards that recycle the same old rotten ones. (See my April 30 column, “Big Government GOP’s Common Core Rebrand Hustle.”) As Hoosier mom Erin Tuttle put it, Pence’s stunt “gave the appearance of voiding the Common Core, while the Indiana Department of Education and the Center for Education and Career Innovation walked it through the backdoor.”
Challengers Judy and Nisly made their opponents’ refusal to help end Common Core in the state a central issue. Hoosiers Against Common Core, led by moms Tuttle and Heather Crossin, endorsed the dark-horse challengers. With little money and scant press attention, they beat Pence’s machine by astonishingly wide margins: Judy ousted Heuer 57-43; Nisly defeated Kubacki 65-35.
Well before the horrors of Common Core had penetrated cable TV and late-night comedy shows, Indiana parents led the lonely charge. They were at the vanguard of challenging the constitutionality, costs, substandard academic quality, privacy invasions and special interest lobbyists fueling Fed Ed. In 2012, Hoosiers Against Common Core spearheaded the stunning ouster of Tony Bennett — the Indiana GOP’s scandal-plagued former state education secretary who fled to Common Core-peddling former Gov. Jeb Bush’s Florida for another educrat job. (See my August 2, 2013, column, “Rotten to the Core: Jeb Bush’s Crony Republicans Against Higher Standards.”)
The way Pence is going, his 2016 ambitions may soon face the same fate. Pence’s hero Ronald Reagan advocated for abolishing the federal Department of Education. Yet, Pence is busy emulating the bureaucratic behemoth. In addition to embracing the expedient “cut and paste” rewrite of Indiana’s academic standards overseen by D.C. Common Core operatives, Pence is now pursuing the construction of a statewide student database. It looks and sounds a lot like the federal data-tracking warehouse championed by Common Core advocates.
You’ll remember that one of those national information collection schemes is inBloom. The idea was originally funded with Obama stimulus money and grants from the liberal Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. A division of Rupert Murdoch’s News Corp. built the database infrastructure. The nonprofit startup “inBloom Inc.” evolved out of this strange alliance to operate the invasive database. The entity planned to compile everything from student and family health-care histories to income information, religious affiliations, voting status, blood types and homework completion.
Once again, grassroots parents revolted. Moms and dads on both sides of the political aisle rose up across the country to reject the latest tech boondoggle peddled by educrat nosybodies. Last fall, voters kicked out three school board members in Jefferson County, Colo., over their support of inBloom. Challengers Julie Williams, John Newkirk and Ken Witt won decisively over their incumbent opponents.
The new board cut ties with inBloom; the superintendent, Gates Foundation-supported Cindy Stevenson, was forced to resign. And a few weeks ago, inBloom announced it was dissolving. It undoubtedly will morph into a newly renamed and repackaged entity, just like the Common Core standards in Indiana.
In their new book, “Conform,” on what ails education in America, Glenn Beck and Kyle Olson expose the “open contempt” educrats have for parents. It’s a classic Saul Alinksy tactic: Demonize your political targets. True to form, the professional character assassins of the Southern Poverty Law Center are now attacking anti-Common Core activists as “extreme” and “far right.”
That’s nonsense. The principles that unite parents of all ideologies against Fed Ed are bedrock tenets of our constitutional republic: local control, parental sovereignty, privacy protections and fundamental skepticism about the actual educational benefits of massive government expenditures in the name of “reform.” The Davids of the Stop Common Core movement are exercising their freedoms of speech and association to beat back the deep-pocketed Goliaths at their schoolhouse doors.
As always, sunlight is the best disinfectant. The ballot box is the ultimate sanitizer. Ideas have consequences. And Indiana is a harbinger. If the Common Core cheerleaders and rebranders in both parties think their bad ideas won’t ever come back to haunt them at the polls, they are in for a very rude awakening.
Students around the country are taking high-stakes Common Core-aligned standardized tests now and some teachers are expressing unhappiness about having to administer them. Some are refusing to administer them and others are going public with their concerns about the nature of the tests and the emphasis being placed on them by policymakers. Numerous problems have been reported with these tests in New York, including badly worded questions, unfair cut scores that determine who does well and who doesn’t, and booklets with blank pages. Entertainer Louis C.K. complained about the tests on Twitter and the David Letterman show.
Ralph Ratto, an elementary school teacher from Long Island, New York, and president of his local teacher’s union, writes in this post that he was ashamed of his role in administering the tests last week. The post represents the growing activism of educators who have long gone along with policies they don’t think are appropriate for children but who now feel they have to take a public stand. A version of this appeared last week on Ratto’s blog, Opine I Will. He tweets at @rratto.
By Ralph Ratto
Today was the first day I was ever ashamed to be a teacher.
Today I finished administering the sixth day of New York State Common Core assessments. I was a facilitator in a process that made my 10-year-old students struggle ,to the point of frustration, to complete yet another 90-minute test. I sat by as I watched my students attempt to answer questions today that were beyond their abilities. I knew the test booklets I put in front of them contained questions that were written in a way that 95 percent of them had no chance of solving. I even tried to give my students a pep talk, in hopes of alleviating their angst, when I knew damn well they didn’t stand a chance. Today I was part of the problem.
As I watched my students, I was angry that my efforts to stop this madness were not successful. I was angry at my students’ parents for not opting out their children. I was angry at my administrators for not stepping up to the plate and attempting to end this madness. I was angry at Gov. Andrew Cuomo, New York Education Commissioner King, the N.Y. Board of Regents, my state senator, my state assemblyman, President Obama, and even my state union. I was angry that my students were victims in the abusive game to drive a political agenda.
I lost it today. I lost a little bit of my self-esteem. I lost my faith in my party. I lost my faith in my ability to protect my students. I lost my faith in our future.
Historically, my students excel on standardized tests, often finishing near the top of our district and state. Today I witnessed –, no I was part of!! – a situation in which students were forced to endure what amounted to what I would call an abusive situation.
Today I am ashamed. I am ashamed I didn’t do enough to stop this madness.
But I am not done. I am pledging to double my efforts to stop this form of institutional abuse. If my state senator and assemblyman do not work to end this madness, I will work to have them replaced. I will work to expose the governor’s education agenda. I will work to have King replaced.
Today is a dark day…but not for long.