"There is a growing technology of testing that permits us now to do in nanoseconds things that we shouldn't be doing at all." - Dr. Gerald Bracey author of Rotten Apples in Education
Saturday, January 29, 2011
It's Not "How" We Should be Implementing Common Core Standards; it's "Why" We are Implementing Them.
What exactly are common core standards? Here is a brief description from the Common Core Standards Initiative:
The Common Core State Standards provide a consistent, clear understanding of what students are expected to learn, so teachers and parents know what they need to do to help them. The standards are designed to be robust and relevant to the real world, reflecting the knowledge and skills that our young people need for success in college and careers. With American students fully prepared for the future, our communities will be best positioned to compete successfully in the global economy.
That description sounds impressive. Here is the description of the standards developed by Missouri in 1996 and currently used in the state:
Missouri students must build a solid foundation of factual knowledge and basic skills in the traditional content areas. The statements listed here represent such a foundation in reading, writing, mathematics, world and American history, forms of government, geography, science, health/physical education and the fine arts. This foundation of knowledge and skills should also be incorporated into courses in vocational education and practical arts. Students should acquire this knowledge base at various grade levels and through various courses of study. Each grade level and each course sequence should build on the knowledge base that students have previously acquired.
These concepts and areas of study are indeed significant to success in school and in the workplace. However, they are neither inclusive nor are they likely to remain the same over the years. We live in an age in which ‘‘knowledge’’ grows at an ever-increasing rate, and our expectations for students must keep up with that expanding knowledge base.
Combining what students must know and what they must be able to do may require teachers and districts to adapt their curriculum. To assist districts in this effort, teachers from across the state are developing curriculum frameworks in each of the content areas. These frameworks show how others might balance concepts and abilities for students at the elementary, middle and secondary levels. These models, however, are only resources. Missouri law assures local control of education. Each district has the authority to determine the content of its curriculum, how it will be organized and how it will be presented.
This sounds impressive as well. It is similar to the common core standards in many ways; the idea that knowledge "grows", the state must adapt and a good foundation in core subjects must be set. What is the difference, then, between the common core standards and the ShowMe standards?
Common core standards require Missouri give up the right to set her own standards for students and the state is now in a 26 state consortium to develop standards and the move to new assessments. It also mandates the creation of a Longitudinal Data System that will cost the state and districts millions of dollars for implementation. The cost is major in terms of giving up sovereignty and signing on to underfunded debt.
Why were common core standards developed? There is prevailing thought in some circles that students need more rigorous standards to perform better on testing. Refer back to the mission statement of the common core standard website: The standards are designed to be robust and relevant to the real world, reflecting the knowledge and skills that our young people need for success in college and careers. With American students fully prepared for the future, our communities will be best positioned to compete successfully in the global economy.
There is an increased emphasis on preparing students for a "global" economy and the belief the United States is lagging behind other countries in terms of students testing well. Christopher H. Tienken, Academic Editor of Kappa Delta Pi, International Honor Society in Education, writes a thought provoking article asking why common core standards are being implemented in the majority of states:
Seemingly, state education bureaucrats and many professional education associations jumped directly to How will we implement these standards? rather than first asking Why should we implement them? Certainly education professionals responsible for promoting the social, emotional, and academic growth of children should, at the very least, ask why as part of the vetting process for any initiative aimed at children.
Professor Tienken summarizes his study in which he compared testing data from other countries and the United States:
Despite more than 50 years of political noise regarding America’s imminent demise at the hands of education systems like the Soviet Union, Japan, South Korea, and Singapore, the U.S. economy has remained the strongest and most nimble in the world. What is this infatuation on the part of some education leaders, professional associations, and policy makers with asking how before they ask why? The facts just do not support the rhetoric in the case of Common Core State Standards and should prompt all of us to ask why.
We are asking why our State Board of Education decided to adopt these standards. The state legislatures in Utah and New Hampshire are asking their State Board of Education why they were adopted in those states. What is the rush to give up state sovereignty and spend millions of state dollars for a set of standards that are unproven and invasive to student privacy?
Familiarize yourself with the standards and what they mean to your state and your child. We'll talk tomorrow about exactly what is required from your state to adhere to the consortium guidelines. And remember, your state and local tax dollars are being used to fund schools in which the state and localities have very little input to what is being taught to your children.
Is this what our state Constitution provides? We've signed away our sovereign right to set standards for Missouri children. My district receives 91% of its funding locally. 7% comes from the state and 1-1/2% is from federal money. Yet we can't set our own assessments and while state law mandates we can set our own curriculum, the curriculum will need to adhere to the assessments set forth by the consortium. This means the actual setting of curriculum is legally permitted but technically, it needs to be chosen based on the assessments developed by the consortium.
Why are taxpayers paying for an educational system in which they have no voice to set standards for their students? Does this make anyone else other than Professor Tienken uneasy? Should our legislators investigate why common core standards were signed onto in Missouri?
Friday, January 28, 2011
I had an illuminating time at the Constitutional Coalition today in St. Louis. I was able to attend speeches from national speakers who have been following the educational path the United States has been on for several years. Speakers included former and present state school board members from Alabama, Colorado and Nebraska. These speakers are extremely concerned about the common core standards now adopted by the majority of states and see this as the most important issue to address in education today.
Kathy Wilmot (Nebraska) made an extraordinary presentation on the history and the ramifications of common core standards. I purchased a DVD on her presentation and will be giving you information on her speech over the next several days. Ms. Wilmot's research is extensive and will take some time to dissect. I was also fortunate to meet most of these speakers in a one on one conversation in the halls and can attest to their passion for educational information and how these decisions on adopting common core standards will adversely impact our children and society.
What I learned with from these speakers is this:
- Federal standards are antithetical to state sovereignty
- Federal standards are financially unsustainable
- Federal standards have an ulterior motive that have less to do with education and more to do with control of the student’s educational pursuits
- Longitudinal Data Systems encroach on civil liberties
We have been blogging about these concerns for a year and a half on Missouri Education Watchdog; these speakers confirmed our concerns. My head is still spinning with the information from these speakers. We’ll be highlighting their research during the next several days. Stay tuned.
Thursday, January 27, 2011
The Open Enrollment concept is making its way through the Missouri legislature which would allow people to send their kids to the school of their choosing, legalizing what Ms. Williams-Bolar did for her children. Does the author of this article have a point in saying she stole from the people who paid the local property taxes for their school district? If everyone is paying taxes but not necessarily using the school district where their taxes go, is that a fair distribution of funding or a fair use of services?
We'd love to hear your comments.
Wednesday, January 26, 2011
Attention Missouri residents. You are about to be hit with new and sizable education funding requests. According to the President’s SOTUA last night, the federal government will now turn its sights on education which, coming from Washington, can only mean one thing - additional funding. Conditions within the state; high unemployment, falling home prices and decreased corporate tax revenues, have resulted in some of the largest budget shortfalls on record, a national average gap of 28% in the general fund budgets for 20101. Federal stimulus funds helped us get through the shortfall last year, but those funds are going away and there are plenty of arguments to be made for the state not accepting them in the future should they be offered. For K-12 education, the federal government provides, on average, just 9% of the funding compared to 44% from local sources and 47% from states. When you look at what the state does with the money it collects, $.27 of every dollar goes to funding K-12 education. Put another way, that's 35% of the general fund going to educate our children. Doesn't sound like we have been shortchanging our children in terms of education funding.
Because the state, in order to balance the budget, has to reduce distributions to individual school districts, your district will likely be calling for additional funding in the near future, if they're not already doing so. But before we open our wallets again perhaps we should get someone to fully explain where all this money is going to. The per-pupil funding level may not include everything they're actually spending per pupil within the district. A recent Cato Institute study, “They Spend WHAT? The Real Cost of Public Schools” found that district stated per pupil costs are often not accurate. What some districts failed to account for in their per pupil costs were things like capital costs, debt service and employee benefits. These can increase the actual per pupil cost by 40% or more. The Cato study found that in the five large metropolitan districts it examined the actual cost per student was sometimes double that reported by the district.
The national average for annual spending is $9,800 per student, with some areas on the coasts spending as much as $19,000 per student. Private schools spend between 20-45% less to educate their students yet achieve the same, if not better, results. With all this spending, however, we still see headline after headline telling us our students are underperforming compared to their peers in other countries. Michelle Malkin wrote on Townhall Conservative
"Overall inflation-adjusted K-12 spending has tripled over the past 40 years. Yet American test scores and graduation rates are stagnant. ... And students' performance in one of the most prestigious global math competitions has been so abysmal that the U.S. simply withdrew altogether." Cash for Education Clunkers
The other way to balance a budget is, of course, to cut spending. School districts are currently looking for areas to cut costs in their budgets. While looking at ways to save money, districts cannot dismiss the fact that upwards of 80% of their budget is allocated to staffing and employee benefits. Staffing, while a necessarily large portion of the budget, is also one of the most troubling line items to deal with because:
1) Teacher contracts are usually signed for multiple years locking school districts into a certain pay rate, regardless of what happens in the community or the economy. Teachers in at least one district have received a 3% pay increase last year and will receive the same increase again for the next two years because of their contract, at a time when other businesses are experiencing either pay freezes or salary reductions.
2) Staffing cuts often cannot be made in ways that make the most sense for the district, again due to contractual obligations and tenure (e.g. New, energetic and creative teachers would be the first let go while older and perhaps more burned out teachers are retained due to tenure.)
3) Fewer staff can mean larger classrooms. Everyone, parents and teachers alike, has been preconditioned to believe that lower student:teacher ratios are the ideal. In fact, there have been several studies that have shown that it is not the number of students per teacher that determines the quality of education, but rather the quality of teacher that determines the quality of education. Despite this, the desire for smaller classrooms is often used as leverage when fighting either against staff reductions or for tax increases.
Representatives from local teachers unions are already meeting with teachers and warning them that these future budget shortfalls will mean "Draconian layoffs." These layoffs will then be coupled with dramatic increases in class size, perhaps by a factor of 2 to 3. There is no doubt that there is padding in staffing. The degree may depend on what school district one lives in (see January 21 Shattering Education Policy Myths on education jobs as a means to control urban violence.) But a certain amount of staff shaving can be done without affecting education and this would happen before we started letting go significant numbers of teachers.
While it is possible that such Draconian layoffs may ultimately be necessary, warning teachers about them now may speak more to the local union’s agenda rather than serve as a disaster preparedness plan. Given the state of the economy, successful passage of new local taxes is highly questionable in the foreseeable future. What better way to rally the teachers to actively advocate for future tax increases, or to maybe even staff phone banks to call district families to urge them to vote yes, than to threaten the teachers with massive layoffs if such taxes are not passed.
While nobody likes to be in eternal negotiations, future teacher salary contracts should allow for some flexibility (like tying pay increases to some other economic indicator). And teachers need to realize that if they allow their union representatives to negotiate deals like they currently have, the end result will be exactly as the local union has predicted - future large scale staffing cuts.
It's time that we get very clear information from our school districts as to what we really are being asked to fund with additional taxes, levies and bond proposals. We must begin to understand everything that goes into running a public education system and, either accept those costs as the true cost of the running the system or, identify them as waste and make plans to eliminate them.
The Center For Education Freedom Report proposes A Financial Transparency And Education Act that would require school districts to more accurately account for per-pupil spending and make such information readily available to the public. This would serve the purpose of both identifying waste and potential fraud within an educational system, and also informing the public of the true cost of education.
1 They Spend WHAT? The Real Cost of Public Schools, by Adam Schaeffer, Cato’s Center for Educational Freedom (2009)
Tuesday, January 25, 2011
The Net of Common Core Standards. New Hampshire is trying to stay out of it; Missouri needs to be freed from it.
I am reprinting testimony from a New Hampshire resident regarding her state's proposed legislation (HB39) which would require the Legislature to approve the adoption of common core standards. Much of what she says is valid for Missouri as well.
Ms. Banfield's statement "the State Department of Education in their quest to secure funding for schools are not making themselves accountable to parents and local communities, but instead another bureaucratic layer of government" is to the point. She succinctly states how these standards do NOT create more local or parental control; rather, schools become even more unanswerable to taxpayers and local communities due to consortium control.
She also brings up a common sense approach to standards problems in her state, which also applies to Missouri: "There is no good reason the New Hampshire Department of Education cannot focus their efforts on improving the current State Standards. By doing so, we maintain control over education and offer students the quality they deserve."
We ask our Missouri legislators to overturn the common core vote already taken and take the common sense approach to improving education in our state. WE can improve our standards in-state. We don't NEED nor CAN AFFORD a consortium of states to make decisions that constitutionally are Missouri's decisions. Educational decisions should not be under the purview of the federal government or other states.
I hope New Hampshire can dodge the net of mandates and unfunded costs Missouri also finds itself in. The New Hampshire Legislature is attempting to free itself from the vote of its State Board (just like Missouri's) to sign onto the common core standards. These standards have less to do with education reform and more to do with creating centralized governmental control. Thanks to Ms. Banfield for crafting the argument in common sense language:
Good Morning. MY name is Ann Marie Banfield and I am here representing Cornerstone Action. Cornerstone Action represents approximately 6,000 New Hampshire residents.
I am here in support of HB 164 in addition I would like to address the Common Core Standards and why I do not believe their adoption is a good decision for New Hampshire. I would first like to hand you documentation from two individuals who reviewed both the math and English/Language arts Common Core Standards.
The first is a letter from Professor Sandra Stotsky who is a former member of the Massachusetts Board of Elementary and Secondary Education. She is also a Professor of Education Reform at the University of Arkansas. Professor Stotsky was a fundamental force in bringing the highest quality academic standards to Massachusetts. Massachusetts not only received accolades as having some of the best standards in the country, their students score highest among the nation on National Exams. As you will see, Prof. Stotsky was unable to validate the Common Standards for various reasons.
The second letter is from Professor Jim Milgram who sat on the Math Validation Committee for the Common Core Math Standards. Prof. Milgram highlights the "serious flaws" he found in the Common Core Math Standards.
Both Prof. Stotsky and Milgram approved this information being distributed today at this Committee hearing.
The Common Core Standards were supposed to elevate the academic standards in this country. Unfortunately they fell short as you will read in their expert analysis.
States like Massachusetts and California worked hard over the past few years to improve the quality of their State Standards. These State Standards were well known as being the best in the country. Unfortunately New Hampshire cannot be counted among states that put forth that effort. According to the Fordham Foundation New Hampshire State Standards are "clearly inferior" to the Common Core Standards however they acknowledge other states as "clearly superior".
Education Secretary Arne Duncan in a Time Magazine article is quoted as saying, "many states have bumbled into a race to the bottom as they define their local standards downward in order to pretend to satisfy federal demands by showing that their students are proficient. "
In a Chicago Tribune article he says, " In too many places, including Illinois, we are lying to children now. When we tell a child they are meeting the state standards, the logical implication is that child's on track to be successful. In too many places, including Illinois, if you are meeting state standards you are barely qualified to graduate from high school and you are totally unqualified to go to a university and graduate.
This is highlighted when you look at the NECAP vs the NAEP. According to the National Assessment, (the NAEP) in 2009 43% of the 8th grade students in New Hampshire scored "proficient". However if you compare that to the State's assessment (the NECAP) 65% of the 8th grade students scored "proficient". Indicating far fewer children are proficient than what is being reported to schools and parents.
Something similar occurred in New York. The proficiency level dropped significantly on the national assessment. Diane Ravitch a Professor of Education and watchdog in New York is quoted in the New York Times as saying, "What this amounts to is a fraud."
The question you should be asking is: Who governs the Common Core Standards?
Control over education in this state is further eroded by the adoption of Common Core Standards. While it may be an easy "fix" when our own Department of Education fails to offer high quality academic standards, there are many consequences to consider. The New Hampshire Department of Education is currently answering to a National authority instead of the local community. While trying to secure funding from the Race to the Top grant, they are making decisions on Charter Schools, teacher evaluations and expanding data collection.
Some states are currently passing legislation that ties a teacher's evaluation to the state assessment to secure Race to the Top funding, but as you can see, many assessments report proficient yet we know that simply isn't the case. Has anyone reviewed the new assessments? How can we be assured the new assessments will be an authentic assessment of academic knowledge? As far as I know the assessments haven't been drafted yet.
To this day, I'm not aware of New Hampshire being awarded any money from Race to the Top. The State Department of Education in their quest to secure funding for schools are not making themselves accountable to parents and local communities, but instead another beauraucratic layer of government.
I'm sure we will hear from individuals who fully support the Common Standards. Their arguments should enlighten you on the poor standards that have been set for students in New Hampshire by the Department of Education. I encourage you to listen closely to their testimony. It is important to understand the importance of quality standards in all states. However this can and has been accomplished in other states by making it a priority.
By improving state standards to the highest level in the country, New Hampshire can elevate the quality of education to compete with the top students in states like Massachusetts. We can do this without giving up local control to a National beauracracy.
I ask you to support this legislation and ultimately reject Common Core Standards for New Hampshire. The next priority should be on improving the current state standards. There is no good reason the New Hampshire Department of Education cannot focus their efforts on improving the current State Standards. By doing so, we maintain control over education and offer students the quality they deserve.
Monday, January 24, 2011
Bills tying teacher tenure to student performance and expanding educational options for students with developmental disabilities outside of the public school system, as well as those addressing open enrollment, social promotion, (and) charter school expansion were announced in a news conference today at the Capitol. The group tied its announcement to National School Choice Week, sponsored locally by the Children's Education Council of Missouri.
Rep. Tishaura Jones, D-St. Louis, will sponsor legislation that will allow charter schools to be established outside the St. Louis and Kansas City school districts.
According to a recent DESE study, charter school performance has been mixed, but Jones believes the concept can help students all around the state.
This bill will give superintendents and school boards another tool in their tool box to help their students," Jones said, noting schools could be set up with a specific focus, such as the arts, agriculture or drop-out recovery.
Representative Tishaura Jones may have a great idea for charters, but I see no language in any proposed bill exempting charters from common core standards. Charters focusing on arts, agriculture or drop-out recovery wouldn't seem as if they should be structured to the public school common core mandates, and as schools using public money fall under these mandates, charters would fall under these standards. This is an important issue legislators need to address before expanding charters. I also wonder why legislators are promoting charters to the extent they are when they themselves use a DESE study stating charters have mixed performance.
In the meantime, here are the educational bills currently listed via Homeschool United so you can see additional bills not addressed in today's press conference:
As you are reviewing these bills, ask yourself: Do these bills promote local and parental control AND do they reduce spending?
SB13 - Requires the Joint Committee on Education to oversee a task force on teacher compensation and effectiveness.
Status: Hearing scheduled for 1/26/2011 – Education Committee
SB14 - Requires the State Board of Education to establish criteria for the transfer of students from an unaccredited school district to an accredited district in the same or an adjoining county.
Status: Received its second reading on 1/12/2011 and advanced to the Education Committee
SB20 - Modifies the compulsory attendance age for the St. Louis City School District so that students must attend school from five years of age to eighteen years of age
Status: Received its second reading on 1/12/2011 and advanced to the Education Committee
SB21 - Requires kindergarten attendance at the start of the school year for children who turn age five at any time during the calendar year
Status: Received its second reading on 1/12/2011 and advanced to the Education Committee
HJR10 - Proposes a constitutional amendment removing the current ban on providing state funding to educational facilities controlled by religious organizations
Status: Introduced and read on 1/18/2011. Received its second reading on 1/19/2011.
Watch SB13, SB14 and HJR10. They are crucial to teacher compensation, addressing open enrollment issues and advancing Educated Citizenry 2020. HJR10 may also invoke vouchers in Missouri.
SB 129 --- Sponsor: Lembke, Jim
Sunday, January 23, 2011
Missouri Legislators Set to Introduce Legislation and Hear Pitch about School Choice during "School Choice Week"
|Event Type:||National School Choice Week Event|
|When:||Monday, Jan 24 02:00PM|
MISSOURI LEGISLATORS SET TO INTRODUCE BILLS DURINGNATIONAL SCHOOL CHOICE WEEK
House Majority Floor Leader Tim Jones
House Education Committee Chair Scott Dieckhaus
House Assistant Minority Floor Leader Tishaura Jones
State Representative Dwight Scharnhorst
State Representative Cole McNary
Bi- partisan group of State Senators and Representatives
This information is from the School Choice website and note you can also register for the event on the site. The legislative event is being sponsored by The Children's Education Council of Missouri (CECM). The organization is supportive of these reforms:
- increasing transparency and accountability in the education system
- increasing teacher merit pay
- improving the teacher certification process
- increasing parental choice
- expanding charter public schools
- increasing support of special needs education through scholarship and tax credit programs
We ask the legislators to think through the reforms proposed by the organization and School Choice Week once they hear from the groups and ask the questions: Do these reforms promote state sovereignty and reduce spending? Do these plans take the first step to addressing the basic problems of education, such as the practice of "teaching to the test" because of the assessments produced to be compliant to "No Child Left Behind" and now Common Core standards?
We ask the legislators to connect the dots. Charter schools and vouchers and tax credits may be some valid solutions to our educational problems, but if we are using these vehicles to promote "school choice", the lawmakers need to look at the "choice" we are offering parents.
If the "choice" is a school choice that includes the same standards and assessments (common core standards adopted by the State Board of Education) developed by a consortium of states to satisfy a non-Missouri panel's mandates, then that's not a true choice. And if the "choice" plunges the state and districts further into debt (by adopting curriculum and assessments and a new data system as required by common core standards), that's not financially sustainable or advisable choice for taxpayers.
Think of this educational "choice" as a recipe. It's as if you are baking a cake. You pick out what cake you want to bake. You assemble your ingredients. If some of your ingredients have spoiled or you don't have all the ingredients and can't get to the store for the ones you need and/or you don't have the money to buy them, you look for a recipe for which you can make. It might not be your first choice to bake, but it is all you can afford at this time.
The "cake" the legislators are trying to bake includes the adoption of common core standards. We can't afford them financially or from a sovereignty standpoint. We don't have the resources to make that cake and they take away the state's right to set its own educational standards. The recipes offered by School Choice Week may look intriguing, but they need to be closely scrutinized. Recipes that just change ingredients but leave you with the same basic cake is not what taxpayers and parents are demanding. They don't want the same cake on a different plate called by a different name.
If the Legislature refuses to fund the implementation of common core standards (for ALL schools), restores autonomy of standards and assessments, and require charters to be locally owned and board staffed, then the Legislature would be on a good start of offering innovation, parental and local control. This is how we envision true school choice. This would be a good foundation of true school reform and choice from which to begin crafting legislation.
We ask the legislators making important educational decisions to ponder these questions as they listen to these groups. Do we have all the ingredients to make a cake worth consuming or do we study and create other recipes for another cake?