"I know no safe depository of the ultimate powers of the society but the people themselves; and if we think them not enlightened enough to exercise their control with a wholesome discretion, the remedy is not to take it from them, but to inform their discretion by education. This is the true corrective of abuses of constitutional power." - Thomas Jefferson 1820

"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

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Saturday, February 5, 2011

Is the Acceptance of Common Core Standards All About Money? It Isn't about Preserving State Sovereignty.

We recently gave a talk about education, common core standards adopted in Missouri, and the ramifications of this decision. We received a comment from someone in attendance and wanted to share his point of view:


By now, we should all know that there really is no such thing as a free lunch, even at a public school. However, have you ever wondered what we really give up for all that “free” stuff from the federal government?

The real deal is that we agree to exchange our sovereignty for their dollars. If you have never been forced to read the “Other Certifications and Assurances” that state and local governments cede when they sign off on federal grants, you might be surprised by what we agree to do for money ( or maybe not ). Here are a few examples directly from page 5 of Missouri’s unsuccessful Race to the Top application:

Other Assurances and Certifications

The Governor or his/her authorized representative assures or certifies the following:

The State will comply with all applicable assurances in OMB Standard Forms 424B (Assurances for Non-Construction Programs) and to the extent consistent with the State’s application, OMB Standard Form 424D (Assurances for Construction Programs), including the assurances relating to the legal authority to apply for assistance; access to records; conflict of interest; merit systems; nondiscrimination; Hatch Act provisions; labor standards; flood hazards; historic preservation; protection of human subjects; animal welfare; lead-based paint; Single Audit Act; and the general agreement to comply with all applicable Federal laws, executive orders and regulations.


Most of these additional “Other Certifications and Assurances” also have little to do with the original purpose of the grant application. The Feds insert this type of language into all federal grants. This contractual language provides a fail-safe way to twist our arms into “voluntary” compliance with un-Constitutional federal initiatives. Failing to comply with these provisions simultaneously jeopardizes funding for many federally-sponsored activities.

Some Missourians may think that ceding sovereignty is a small price to pay for education reform. Perhaps, but I cannot understand the motivation of any liberty-inclined conservative who would willingly relinquish sovereignty at the state, local, or personal level to accept national standards, the so-called Common Core Standards, for education. I can only assume the motivation to accept these Common Core Standards has some relation to these “Other Certifications and Assurances” made in exchange for federal funding for education or other purposes.

I understand Missouri’s acceptance of these Common Core Standards in math and was made by members of the State Board of Education and was not made directly by our political leadership. But the Board’s actions still require the consent of the governed. Do liberty-inclined conservatives consent to this? Do we really think this national, metric-centric approach to education reform will enhance liberty and its companion, innovation?

If there is some liberty-inclined-conservative reason, other than money, to relinquish sovereignty and to accept these standards, I’d sure like to hear it.


We echo our guest editor's last sentence. Why is our State Legislature willing to relinquish sovereignty by accepting these standards? We didn't like the Federal Government directing our health care; why is our Legislature making no effort to block this takeover of the educational sector? Why won't our legislators address these questions?

Thursday, February 3, 2011

How Much Does it Cost to Implement Common Core Standards in Missouri? We Can Get an Inkling from California.

We have been wondering exactly how much the implementation the common core standards will cost in Missouri and have been making queries to find the answer.

We have heard figures that implementation cost of the standards range from approximately $750,000,000......to......zero. That's a large discrepancy and we hope to get a firm and accurate number fairly soon.

We will go out on a limb and predict the amount will certainly be more than zero. Let's look at California's unfunded debt it incurred when it signed onto common core standards. Like Missouri, it signed onto Race to the Top (in which common core standards must be adopted) but did not win any federal funding. Like Missouri, it nonetheless signed onto the standards and the projected unfunded cost to Californians because of that decision is $1.6 Billion.

What does $1.6 Billion buy for educational reform? Doug Laskey writes in "Let's Drop out of Race to the Top:

As a consultant for several educational institutes, including Fordham and Pioneer, I was involved in studying the wisdom of replacing individual state standards with one set of national standards. I studied all 50 states' standards in the area of language arts. Some were quite good and seemed in no great need of replacement, and some were rather shabby. I, and virtually everyone involved in this work, considered California's standards to be in the "no need to replace" category, first because they are among the best in the nation, and second because replacing them would be very expensive.

How expensive? There are a variety of estimates, but they all come to many millions of dollars. Consider that the Schiff-Bustamante bill passed in California in 1998 allocated $1 billion over four years to pay for textbooks aligned with the then-new California standards, in addition to the $70 million per year already allocated for textbooks. Grim projections come as well from the nonprofit group EdSource, which estimates that California will incur costs of $800 million for new curriculum, $765 million for training teachers and $20 million for training principals, plus assorted minor costs, coming to a total of $1.6 billion.

The costs California will incur for implementation will be the same type of cost Missouri will need to incur as well. Remember, these are for common core standards. That means common new curriculum for districts, training for teachers and principals and other costs...and how is this to be paid for?

Missouri school districts have no money, in fact, many are facing million dollar shortfalls and are reducing staff and services. The state has no money and has to cut $500,000,000 in the budget this year. If California's unfunded mandate is estimated at $1.6 Billion, the estimate I found (but haven't substantiated yet) of $750,000,000 for Missouri may not be out of line.

Whatever the cost is for implementation of this mandate is for Missouri, it will be costly in a time when the state, the districts and the taxpayers are out of financial resources for new programs. Mr. Laskey writes:

With the apparent collapse of funding for President Obama's Race to the Top education program, all states should look to California for guidance on how to react (or maybe how not to react).

Again, we ask the question, why are we signing onto a program that cedes state sovereignty and creates unfunded debt?

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Missouri Education Watchdog Lands in a Heritage Foundation Video on Nationalized Standards

Missouri Education goes national on the Heritage Foundation website!

We are interviewed in this video, "The Danger of National Standards", which addresses the problems and constitutional issues raised in the adoption and implementation of common core standards.

The video features Governors Rick Perry and Nikki Haley, Representative Rob Bishop and other public officials. The Heritage Foundation shares the same concerns we have regarding state sovereignty and underfunded debt from federal mandates by agreeing to these standards.

It is time to send this video to your legislators. Ask them why they are not supporting federalism.

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

We Know What Commmon Core Standards Are..Now We Want to Know: Who Wants Them and Why?

I subscribed to a Word Press blogpost for follow up comments almost a year ago...it is an informative piece on Common Core standards. Damon Hargraves researched the connections of companies and governmental entities funding the Common Core initiatives and his findings were accompanied by a youtube video which you can find here. He entitled his piece "A Deep Look at the Forces Behind Common Core". As we are examining the impact on states, districts, students and tax payers with adoption of common core standards this week, it is important to also understand who is pushing these standards and why.

A follow up comment to Mr. Hargraves' posting popped up in my email this morning I want to share:

Excellent start on revealing the corporate agenda connected to the CCSS Initiative. There is enough for a doctoral dissertation on this. Another aspect that is worth noting is the revolving door. The Partnership for 21st century Skills (P21) has just been added as a “managing partner” to the CCSSO,. P21 will help states gear up for the new high tech assessments tied to adoption of the new standards. P21 is a lobby organized to promote greater use of technology in schools. The new leader of P21 used to work at the CCSSO on technology , was Deputy Director of educational technology with the US Department of Education, and has come back “home” to the CCSSO just in time to steer states as they buy into new high tech systems for tests. Also, I did a count of the standards , including the a,b,c,d of many sentences. There are 1620 standards that students have to meet before they graduate from high school. None of these include content organized for solid instruction in the arts, sciences, and humanities. This initiative is far from world class.

I have reprinted Mr. Hargrave's original posting below; be sure to watch the youtube video as well. As more and more information is revealed on the funding of CCSS and the data shared across Federal agencies, I am becoming increasingly skeptical that "it's for the children". It seems to be for financial reward for educational companies and edubusinesses and a data retrieval service for personal information for federal agencies.



The Common Core State Standards Initiative is a non-governmental movement that aims to unify state standards across the nation for elementary and secondary schools. As of the writing of this report, the process for finalizing the standards and other documentation is still underway. The purpose of this paper is not to provide analysis of the standards themselves, but rather the forces acting behind this initiative. The findings pose a possible conflict of interest, which supports the position that the Common Core Initiative may not be a solely state driven project, but also corporately and financially motivated.

Keywords: Common Core, Standards, CCSSO, NGA Center

A Deep Look at the Common Core State Standards Initiative: Organizers, Supporters, & Financers

The Common Core State Standards Initiative (Common Core) is being led by two entities, the Council of Chief State School Officers (CCSSO) and the National Governors Association Center for Best Practices (NGA Center). These two organizations have come together and partnered with Achieve Inc., ACT, and the College Board. (Council of Chief State School Officers [CCSSO], 2009, September 9)

The College Board is an international nonprofit association comprised of approximately 6,000 educational institutions of all types around the world. The College Board serves placement tests and aptitude tests to over 7 million students every year through their Advanced Placement (AP) and SAT testing programs. (College Board, 2010)

The ACT organization is also a nonprofit testing service provider. (ACT, 2010) The 2009 ACT Annual Report shows that ACT maintains an international presence with five major offices in the United States, as well as offices in Spain, Singapore, Indonesia, Australia, Korea, and China. (ACT, 2009 p. 44-45) Since 1990, ACT has experienced exponential growth. Their annual report shows historic data and revenue at under $50,000,000 in the late 1980’s. Revenue grew to slightly over $150,000,000 in 2004. Today, ACT’s revenue has grown to over $250,000,000. (ACT, 2009 p. 33)

The last Common Core partner is Achieve Inc, and they are also a nonprofit. They consider themselves to be a non-partisan education reform organization that “provides technical assistance to states on their standards, assessments, curriculum, and accountability.” They have no presence in Alaska or many other rural states, but hold work in all of the largest states, including Texas and California, with a total of 35 states altogether. They consider it a major goal to develop international benchmarks to better track graduates from different countries. (Achieve, 2009)

Achieve Inc., ACT, and the College Board are three strong partners for the Common Core Initiative to have. The three of them together represent hundreds of millions of dollars of international influence and experience in both testing and standards development.

The first main driving force behind Common Core is the National Governors Association (NGA). Every governor for every state is a member of NGA. This organization provides training and support for governors, as well as lobbying for state issues. NGA also spearheads initiatives like Common Core. (National Governors Association [NGA], 2010a) NGA is a key part of Common Core because the organization provides the needed link to state governments and state support. With NGA’s help almost all states have signed up to participate in the creation of the Common Core standards. Many states were reluctant, but currently the only states that are still not participating are Texas and Alaska. (CCSSO, 2009, June 9)

According to their 2009 financial report, NGA is actually made up of two bodies. There is the association itself, and then there is the National Governors Association Center for Best Practices (NGA Center). NGA Center is the entity involved with Common Core, and actually handles more revenue than the association itself. In 2009 NGA Center had $21,847,764 in assets and had a revenue of $9,942,946, of which $2,412,500 (24 percent) was derived directly from what their financial report refers to as corporate fellows, which is a donor program. (McGladrey & Pullen, 2009, October 15 p. 18) However, this figure differs greatly from what is found on their FAQ sheet, which approximates “10 percent of the Center’s funding comes from NGA’s Corporate Fellows Program.” (NGA, 2010b) Part of the difference in statistics may be due to the accounting confusion from two entities on one balance sheet. However, in the financial report the Corporate Fellows Program money is shown to have only been given to the NGA Center, so the 24 percent number is the more accurate. It should also be noted that Common Core partners, ACT and the College Board, participate in NGA’s Corporate Fellows Program. Educational Testing Service (ETS), Pearson Education, Scholastic, MetaMetrics, and Wireless Generation also participate in the Corporate Fellows Program. (NGA, 2010c)

The second main driving force behind Common Core is the Council of Chief State School Officers. CCSSO is another nonprofit that enrolls leaders in state education as members. (CCSSO, n.d.d) The organization sets standards that are used by many professional organizations, including the National Council of Accreditation of Teacher Education (NCATE). CCSSO also lobbies for political change, and manages almost one hundred other educational projects and partnerships including the National Teacher of the Year. (CCSSO, n.d.e) To say the least, CCSSO is a very active organization and influences a lot of what is happening in education today worldwide.

In 2009 CCSSO saw revenues of $25,993,387. As specified in their financial statement, $23,240,025 was brought in from contracts, grants, and sponsorships. (Goodman & Company, 2009 p. 3) To break it down even further, $4,357,383 was brought in by grants. (Goodman & Company, 2009 p. 17) This means that $18,882,642 or almost 73 percent of the entire CCSSO revenue for 2009 was brought in by sponsorships and contracts. This is both the largest amount and the largest percentage of revenue when compared to all other Common Core players. Corporate Partners who contributed this money include Educational Testing Service (ETS), McGraw Hill Education, Pearson, Pearson Evaluation Systems, Worldwide Interactive Network (WIN), Data Recognition Corporation, Measured Progress, Northwest Evaluation Association, Renaissance Learning, Evans Newton Inc. (ENI), MetaMetrics, Scantron, and Wireless Generation among others. Common Core partner, the College Board, is also a sponsor to CCSSO. (CCSSO, 2010, March 3)


There is so much money being transferred that it is hard to follow who is doing what and how much money is going where. It can be easily said though that this is big business. Millions of dollars are being spent to promote the Common Core Initiative, and when you look to see what companies are promoting it, you find a common thread. Companies and organizations like ACT, College Board, MetaMetrics, ETS, Pearson, and others pop up again and again to support this project in different ways. The College Board is both a partner of the initiative and a sponsor to the other partners of the initiative. Companies are finding multiple ways to give lots of money to this project.

Another common thread is that almost all of these companies are pushing for worldwide growth as a goal for their companies. ACT alone dominates the globe with major corporate offices spread across the world in seven locations, and they are not alone. These entities are global, and are looking to continue their growth outside of the United States. The standards proposed by Common Core would provide a default curriculum and test base for these companies. Rather than have to make a massive variety to match the needs of every state, they could have very few in the U.S. and possibly the world. One of the goals for this initiative from the start was for the standards to be internationally benchmarked. (CCSSO, n.d.a) This concept is even receiving support from the White House. U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan stated at the National Press Club last May that, “we’re going to be much tighter on the goals – again, clear, college ready, career ready, internationally benchmarked standards.” (Duncan, 2009) An international curriculum is where we are headed. This is good news for the companies mentioned in the paper, as they stand to make hundreds of millions of dollars in a more standardized environment.

As of the writing of this paper, Alaska is still not participating in the Common Core Initiative. We are not alone, but we may have the most to lose. The educational needs in this state are so unique, and right now we have no voice in what standards are being written. Yet, careful attention is being spent to make sure the standards are internationally benchmarked in places like Singapore and Sydney. What about Sitka and Shishmaref? I recommend that further research be done to make sure that financial motivations of large corporations do not hurt the education and culture of Alaskans. Surveys to provide feedback to the Common Core Initiative (http://www.corestandards.org/) are available on their website.


You may access the entire article complete with Mr. Hargraves' references at the link previously provided.

Monday, January 31, 2011

Look at What the Departments of Education, Health and Human Services, and Labor Want to Know About Your Public Education Student

We posted previously on the Longitudinal Data Systems (LDS) being implemented as an integral part of the common core standards and Race to the Top, and Kathy Wilmot's presentation on the ramifications of this system.

We noted LDS is a nationwide data system to note and share information between federal agencies and states on student intellectual and personal development. What type of information will be shared? Here's the list of the information gathered on each student from the Education Data Model. Please link on the list so you can see for yourself how many data questions may be required from your student to answer. 351 data attributes are being entered on your student's record to share with other states, educational and research institutions and federal agencies.

What type of attributes do the Department of Education, Department of Labor and Department of Health and Human Services want to know about your student?

These agencies want to know information such as dental prosthetics, family income, gestational age at birth, number of teeth, weight, weight at birth....and on and on. Some of these questions pertain to educational concerns, but is much of this data pertinent for educational reasons?

Much of this information may not be so pertinent for educational experience, but rather important to know in channeling students to certain positions in the workforce or profiling your student for perhaps other reasons. This one is stunning and I can't figure out why the government believes it is necessary to know about your student:

Voting Status

Source: Handbooks
An indication as to whether an individual is registered to vote in public elections.

Code Set:

  • Registered - N/A
  • Not registered - N/A
  • Not eligible to vote - N/A

Is this the type of information you believe should be shared across federal agencies? What is the purpose of such a question? This information is a private decision by a citizen whether he/she is registered to vote...or not. Oh, by the way, this is another set of data shared about your child:

Overall Health Status

Source: Handbooks
The state of a child''s physical, mental, and social well-being and not merely the absence of disease or infirmity.

Code Set:

  • Very good - N/A
  • Excellent - N/A
  • Fair - N/A
  • Poor - N/A
  • Good - N/A
If you are a parent of an adolescent or have survived that stage with your child, you might agree with me these can be turbulent years due to hormones. Who decides on the "state of a child's physical, mental, and social well-being?" The parents? The school counselor? Data can be entered on the student's personality traits. Why is that? Does this information being shared with the Department of Labor and the Department of Health and Human Services profile a student in his/her future endeavors?

We'll talk tomorrow about a software company providing LDS services for one state in an educational consortium and how it refers to your human capital (student) and what is expected of that human capital. This all ties in with Ms. Wilmot's presentation.

It's important to understand how much information will be gathered on human capital in the quest for educational reform and entry into the workforce. Just what does your child's oral condition, eye color and information on family income (including ALL income streams) have to do with providing education to your child?

Oral Soft Tissue Condition

Source: Handbooks
The condition of the tongue, lips, palate, floor of mouth, and inner cheeks.

Code Set:

  • Normal tissue - Tissues appear healthy.
  • Mild tissue deviation - Tissues have slight bleeding and/or enlargement.
  • Moderate tissue deviation - Tissues exhibit a lesion of small size (e.g., a cold sore or cold blister) which has persisted for fewer than 10 days.
  • Severe tissue deviation - Tissues exhibit an obvious lesion (e.g., an ulcer or new growth) which has persisted for more than 10 days.

Eye Color

Source: Handbooks
The color that best describes an individual's eyes.

Code Set:

Family Income Range

Source: Handbooks
The category which best represents the total combined income during the past 12 months of all members of the family who share financial responsibility in a household. This includes money from jobs, net income from business, farm or rent, pensions, dividends, interest, social security payments and any other money income received by members of the family.

Code Set:

  • $0-2,999 - N/A
  • $3,000 to 5,999 - N/A
  • $6,000 to 8,999 - N/A
  • $9,000 to 11,999 - N/A
  • $12,000 to 14,999 - N/A
  • + 10 More Codes...

Why haven't we heard from legislators and civil rights agencies protesting the invasion of privacy? Why is the government obtaining this information on our children from birth for "educational purposes"?

Sunday, January 30, 2011

Human Capital Being Groomed for the Workforce. Is this the Function of Education?

We begin our synopsis of Kathy Wilmot's presentation at the Constitution Coalition meeting about the implementation of the Longitudinal Data System (LDS) in the states through either Race to the Top mandates or as a requirement when signing on to common core standards.

Ms. Wilmot attended a US Department of Education conference in September 2009 entitled "Leveraging ARRA (American Reinvestment and Recovery Act) and Other Federal Funding Sources for P-20/Workforce LDS (Longitudinal Data System)". The webcast of the conference may be accessed here. It is two hours long, so we will condense what is in the webcast and Ms. Wilmot's presentation of the webcast over the next several days.

The conference was moderated by Aimee Rogstad Guidera, Executive Director, Data Quality Campaign. She gave a brief introduction of the history of LDS in terms of function and funding. The funding came from stimulus funds. She indicated that systems now are close to being operational, and this would mean the government would know when children are ready for school and the workforce. (Note this conference was held in September 2009, before Race to the Top or common core standards had been introduced to the states for their review or adoption).

Pay attention to the theme of this conference as we talk about it over the next few days. There is much emphasis on tracking children from birth to age 20 and into the workforce...this is what the "P-20/Workforce" designation means in the title of the conference. This is the function of a longitudinal data system; to track students and their information. What information they are using to track your child is not only name, address and phone number, but also personality traits, family situations (social and wage information), ancestry information, and baptism information. These are just a few of the tracking "cookies" attached to your student. We will be referring to the student as "human capital", the preferred name to describe students in Race to the Top and LDS language.

The human capital tag is important in this discussion. After hearing Ms. Wilmot and listening to the webcast, it is apparent your child is a commodity being prepared for the workforce. That's the premise behind Race to the Top, common core standards, and the use of LDS. It is imperative to track children to determine their strengths and weaknesses so they may be placed in the correct job according to their temperament and educational standing.

Here is a document from the US Government detailing a National Broadband Plan and its mission is as follows:

The United States has some of the best schools and research universities in the world and produces top professionals in every industry. The public education system has effectively developed a workforce for the industrial age, and its graduates have helped the United States become the most prosperous nation in the world.

However, the demands of the new information-based economy require substantial changes to the existing system. American businesses have pointed to a widening gap between the skills of graduates and modern workforce demands.1 The U.S. Department of Labor predicts “occupations that usually require a postsecondary degree or award are expected to account for nearly half of all new jobs from 2008 to 2018.”2 The 21st century workplace requires both a better-educated and a differently educated work force.

Keep your eyes open when you see quotes about the "work force". As Ms. Wilmot stated in her speech about the government's role in this reform movement: "you know where you want the people to go, you know where you want your end result to be, so you begin backward planning" to obtain that result. This is what common core standards and the LDS can achieve: a differently educated work force for the 21st century workplace. Human capital must supply the workforce and the human capital will be assessed at how well it can be used in that workforce.

We'll talk tomorrow about why Ms. Wilmot's and the government's own documentation suggests this has less to do with education and more to do with supplying human capital into pre-determined slots. The line "it's all for the children" might not hold true in this newest educational experiment.
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