"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, June 30, 2012

Are You Smarter Than A Chinese High School Senior?

"In the U.S., where No Child Left Behind has made standardized testing a core article of faith in assessing student readiness, you have more and more parents worried about the lack of rigor in our curricula, and fearing the rise of China and other nations that excel in international math-science competitions." WSJ 6-26-2012

On the other side of the world what is China doing?  Their high school seniors must take the Gaokao, a grueling three day long exam that will determine whether they go to university or not. Tao Jones of the WSJ described the gaokao this way,
Many of us who took the SATs remember them with little fondness. Well, the SATs are child’s play compared to the gaokao. If the SATs are the academic equivalent of, say, a brisk footrace, the gaokao is an Iron Man triathlon. Across a minefield and through a piranha-infested river that ends in a waterfall. With people throwing ninja stars at you the whole time! Freaking ninja stars.
Students' senior year is entirely devoted to preparing for this exam. Roadways are closed off around testing centers to help students concentrate. Society does its best to make the lives of students easier for this critical test. This exam is critical because one's scores on it determine whether or not one gets into one of China's 2000 colleges.  There are only two thirds as many opening available in those colleges as there are students applying.  But a qualifying gaokao score can open one of those seats up to any student, regardless of where they come from.
"Taken across three consecutive days at the beginning of June, the gaokao covers three mandatory subjects — Chinese, Mathematics, and a foreign language, usually English—and three other topics drawn from a pool of electives: Physics, Chemistry and Biology for science track students, and History, Geography and Political Education for those on the humanities track. Yes, you have to decide what track you’re on before taking the gaokao, because its outcome will, quite literally, determine your fate."
The Margins magazine, a flagship online magazine of the Asian American Writers Workshop is hosting a contest to see how Americans would respond to the surreal gaokao.

Pick one of the following real gaokao essay topics and respond to it BY MIDNIGHT, JULY 3 in 400 snappy, brilliant, offbeat words or less. Feel free to be earnest or funny, snarky or sincere.
Email your entry to gaokao@aaww.org with the subject line I HAZ GAOKAO (please include the question you’re responding to). Feel free to enter as many times as you like BEFORE MIDNIGHT, JULY 3. Be creative in how you answer: Multimedia, artwork, photography, poetry, prose – all forms and formats are acceptable and encouraged.

Three winners will get a copy of Dave Liang‘s excellent album of remixes of Chinese children’s songs, “Little Dragon Tales,” and have their entries published on The Margins and in this column. Plus, we’ll send you to college in China. No we won’t! But we will honor you like the shining example that you are, in perpetuity.


1. I was helping my family with some farming work during a weekend and the field was very muddy due to the rains. I was carrying a lot of equipment on my shoulders and was afraid of falling over. My legs were shaking. My mom spotted it and told me to take off my shirt and shoes and try again. It was much easier. Eventually I brought the stuff to mom and she said, “It’s not that you can’t do it — you were too worried about getting your shirt dirty. By taking them off, you got rid of the unnecessary concerns.”

2. Old Ji is a railway security man and he works on a mountain. His job is to examine the railways to prevent the fallen stones and trees from affecting the trains. He salutes every time the train passes, and the train will honk its horn in return. What do these scenes remind of you?

3. Two fish are swimming in a river. The older one asks, “How’s the water?” The younger one says, “I don’t know if it’s clean or cloudy.”

4. Various communications methods are being developed: email, SMS, etc. Do you think the letter is replaceable?

5. For several months, a sign was left on a ladder at a construction spot: “Notice: Ladder.” One day, a guy came and changed it to “Notice: put the ladder down, not upright, when not in use.”

We invited MEW readers to share their essays with us in the comment section. 

Friday, June 29, 2012

Is StudentsFirst Prompting Candidates?

One of the hardest things to do is write a questionnaire that does not reveal the questioner's bias.  If you want to see thee worst example of such bias, look at any survey in a teen magazine.  The "right" answer is obvious. A really good researcher could produce a questionnaire where an argument could be made for any answer. But sometimes, the mere act of offering the questionnaire biases the taker. Is this the case with the latest nationwide candidate survey from StudentsFirst?

Their introductory e-mail makes this statement:
Every year education is one of the most critical issues that the legislature addresses. StudentsFirst is a bipartisan, grassroots movement of more than one million members nationwide working to transform America's schools so they work well for all kids. Our members are pushing for reforms that will elevate the teaching profession, improve teacher and principal quality, empower parents and improve the governance and financial strength of school districts.
First they tell the candidate why education is important and that it is going to be one of the biggest issues they will address while in the legislature. To date, only funding for education has been a big issue in the legislature. It may BECOME a big issue as grass roots efforts begin to push back against Common Core Standards and intrusive federal control, but interestingly, neither of these issues appear in their survey.

They are only interested in candidate's (both local and national) views on education reform issues. But by offering this survey, are they not beginning the process of forming the candidate's view on education? Are there obvious "right" answers?  You be the judge and then see if your favorite candidate starts using any of these talking points.

1.     Do you have a background in education or education reform?  Y/N

2.     Do you think that significant K-12 education reform in Missouri is critical to ensure the state’s students get the best education possible and to ensure their best chance at a successful future?  Y/N

3.     Do you think significant K-12 education reform is critical to the future of Missouri?  Y/N

4.     Do you think that dramatic K-12 education reform is critical for Missouri students to compete with students from around the world?  Y/N

5.     Please rank Education Reform in your overall list of priorities in relation to other issues including: Public Safety, Job Creation, Health Care, Public Health, Fiscal Integrity, Tax Reform, Housing, Government Reform, etc.

6.     Please identify whether you support or oppose the reforms included in the following list of education priorities. If you do not support, please explain why in the space that follows.    Support       Oppose
a)     Allowing districts to make staffing and layoff decisions based on teacher effectiveness and impact on students, rather than on seniority alone (ending “last in, first out” policies).                                 
b)     Implementing meaningful teacher evaluations that are based at least half on student achievement and using a value-added growth model.                                     
c)     Implementing meaningful principal evaluations that are based student achievement and in large part on the principal’s ability to attract, retain and effectively manage and develop effective teachers.             
d)    Establishing performance standards for all school employees with true teacher input, but independently from the collective bargaining process.                           
e)     Empowering parents with information about their children’s schools and school districts so they can make informed decisions about their children’s education.                            
f)      Enacting fiscal responsibility and accountability measures to determine whether education funding is being used wisely to advance student achievement.              
g)     Allowing districts to undertake mutual consent staffing determinations such that teachers and principals agree on placement and forced placement is forbidden.                            
7.     Do you agree or disagree with the following statement:

a)     "Parents in Missouri are not given access to enough of the information they need to help them make important decisions about their child's education."

8.     Do you support the creation of genuine district open enrollment systems that give families more options to attend high-quality public schools?  Y/N

9.     Do you support the development of improved school scorecards based on student data that will really help parents understand what to look for in a school?  Y/N

10.  Would you support new laws that compel districts to get the written consent of parents before their children are placed in a class with an ineffective teacher?  Y/N

11.  Do you support a statewide data system to track teacher performance?  Y/N

12.  Do you support the collection and publication of school district budget data tracking central office, programmatic and curriculum spending against student achievement?       Y/N

13.  Do you support removing caps from individual budget categories so districts have the ability to dedicate resources where they determine they are most needed? Y/N

Pretty much lays out what StudentsFirst is working on, doesn't it.

Thursday, June 28, 2012

Is the Best Practice Educating Students on Body Image and Confidence from the UK or US Educational System?

The UK government is providing parents with packs with information to help their children's body image about themselves.  From BBC News:

A pack to help parents educate children on how the media alters images and to inspire them to be confident in their bodies has had government backing.

Developed for six to 11-year-olds by not-for-profit organisation Media Smart, the pack contains before and after touched-up images of celebrities such as Britney Spears.

It also looks at how ideas of the "perfect" body have changed.

The government said it wanted the pack to "empower parents".

"Young people are being set an impossible standard by images in media and advertising which can erode their self-esteem," she said.

"As parents, we are often aware of these issues, but may not have the advice and guidance we need to talk to our children. 

"I want the pack to empower parents to have those difficult conversations and open the door to discussion."

You can download the parent pack here.  It's only 13 pages but is full of information for children to understand the world of advertising and how this world is a fantasy world made up of photo retouches.

The pack explains:
  • what is body image
  • what shapes body image
Parents learn raise these issues and questions with their children:
  • Are the images children see every day affecting their body confidence?
  • Help children understand the pictures they see
  • Asking their children "are the pictures we see in the media real"?
The packet details how the magic of advertising works to sell products through the use of airbrushing, digital enhancement and photo manipulation.  There are photos in the packet showing bust enhancement and digitally enhanced photos illustrating enhanced skin color and smoothness.  

One interesting fact listed is 75% of 11-21 girls diet to look more attractive.  What young woman who is "average looking" thinks she is attractive when she looks at photographs in magazines of extraordinary looking models...and those photos have been retouched to achieve that extraordinary level?  Would it help those 75% of women if they realized they were trying to achieve an ideal that is naturally not attainable?

The agency offers tips to help parents talk about their child's body image with the child, and the most important tip coming from this governmental agency is the first one listed, You are the most influential role model in our child's life.  From this very important premise, parents are asked to:
  • Be positive
  • Help your child accept other people's body sizes and shapes
  • Listen to your child's concerns
  • Don't tease them about their weight, body shape or looks
  • Place value on the achievements 
  • Respond to your child's concerns
This is a positive, non-punitive packet for parents to give their children information and learn to distinguish fantasy from reality.  This is quite different than the push to track children's Body Mass Index (BMI) here in the United States and to control food choices under the guise of healthy eating initiatives.  The DOEd's continual emphasis on food rather than acceptance of different body sizes and shapes may contribute to eating disorders, rather than making children healthier:

From Education News:

A new report released this week by the C.S. Mott Children’s Hospital has suggested that the numerous programs implemented by schools across the country designed to tackle childhood obesity could be going too far — and could potentially cause eating disorders.

Controlling what students eat and tracking their BMIs seems counter-intuitive to empowering them to make good choices when the food police is not around.   Maybe the UK's idea of  helping children accept other people's body sizes and shapes as well as their own, is more healthy than focusing on worrying about obesity and calorie counting food all day.  The UK is equipping parents and students with information for them to talk as a family and make informed decisions, rather than being "nudged" into behavior set by governmental agencies.

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

The Real SIGnificance of SIGs

In 2009 the DoED developed the School Improvement Grant (SIG) program, designed to fund rapid turn around for chronically failing schools. Since then, 1,200 schools have received SIGs which are awarded up to $2 million for three years.  The total spent on SIGs so far is around $4 billion. DESE identified thirty schools in Missouri who qualify for SIG and has been responsible for doling out the $33 million given to the state so far. Eleven of those consistently low performing schools are are in St. Louis (Riverview Gardens, Hazelwood, Ferguson-Florissant, Jennings and Normandy.) What has been their experience with SIGs?

According to the Post Dispatch, they have seen a lot of turn around, mostly in the principal department. Most of the principles hired to turn around failing schools left either during or right after their first year. Clearly it is a challenging position to hold.

Nationwide the DoEd reports that schools have seen double digit improvement in math scores in 60% of SIG schools in the first year. Applaud improvement but keep it in perspective. Going from a 12% proficiency to 22% is a step in the right direction, but certainly no miracle, nor where you would like to see things plateau.

The PD  does bring to light the one significant thing the SIGs may be doing. They may be weeding out all the highly educated, experienced leaders with great intentions and credentials who ultimately do not possess the right skill set to help students in low performing areas. One of the greatest myths in education is that learned people, armed with enough cash, can make all the difference in the world.  SIGs may finally be proving that myth wrong.

One of the principals highlighted in the PD is Vashon Principal Derrick Mitchell who, unlike many other SIG school principals, has been on the job since the program started two years ago. What gave Mitchell the edge over his peers? Maybe it was the fact that he is himself a Vashon graduate. Or maybe its because he is a parent of two sons who attend the school. But the biggest clue may be in his statement that, "the school's turnaround is personal."

Even more, he sees the problem beyond what the typical reformer does. He knows he has to be a "totally outside-of-the-box thinker."  He recognizes that education isn't one-size-fits-all, especially in struggling inner city schools. "We just delve in as far as we can go with them, to see what's going on personally, academically, socially," he said, describing a charge all of the SIG schools are expected to undertake. "It's, in essence, taking the whole child and looking at him or her in such a way so we can try to change the thinking and employ different strategies or interventions to try to move that kid forward academically."

This is intensive therapy, on multiple levels, by many people, who take it personally. This is a peek at what it takes to "close the performance gap" between the subgroups (as they like to call them in academic administration.)  It is certainly an admirable goal, but we are beginning to see that what is needed here does not fit any traditional description of a public school. And it is not cheap. Two million dollars per school.  We still don't know the long term impacts of these efforts. Will this money be the education stimulus that will jump start these student's long term desire/ability to learn? Will it be enough to get them into college? Is college (with all its associated time and debt) the right goal?

These are the "tough" questions that need to be answered, not "How do we quantify teacher performance so that we can have a neat little formula to base their pay on?"  Society needs to answer "How much are we willing to pay to bring how many students up to what level of proficiency?" There are real limitations on all those factors. We do not have endless pockets to fund personalized education for all. Some students will never get it. There isn't enough time for everyone to learn  everything there is to know. At some point you have to stop the 100% focus on education (k-12) and start earning your own way. So how do we pick what to teach? Does everyone need to learn from the same subset, or would we as a society be better served if different geographic areas picked specialties and developed their own subset? How can we institute things like Common Core Standards if we have not answered these questions at the very local level where the funding and effort to make them happen really occurs?

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Just Some Silly Questions to the Missouri State Board of Education...or are they?

But does the State Board of Education REALLY want you to keep smoking to fund education?  Which is it?

Here is a post from KC Education Enterprise on the latest and greatest idea from the Missouri State Board of Education to drum up additional funding. The current $.17 tax on cigarettes will be increased to $.90 if this State Board Initiative is placed on the November ballot and approved by taxpayers:

The State Board of Education voiced its approval Tuesday for the Healthy Missouri Initiative Petition measure aimed at raising new funds for education in Missouri. The measure, also known as the Missouri Tobacco Tax Initiative, may appear on the November ballot and calls for an additional 73 cent tax on each package of cigarettes and an increase in tax for other tobacco products.

“These funds would help avoid school district staff reductions due to state budget cuts and would support the growing needs of increasing classroom sizes,” said Board President Peter Herschend.

The Missouri Department of Elementary and Secondary Education strives to ensure that all children have access to high-quality public education. Through the State Board’s Top 10 by 20 initiative, the Board and Department aim for student achievement in Missouri to rank among the top 10 states by the year 2020.

“In addition to the positive impact these dollars would have on public education, the tax would also make tobacco less affordable and less accessible for young people, and hopefully decrease the likelihood of them starting to use tobacco products,” added Herschend.

Missouri has the lowest cigarette tax in the nation at 17 cents a pack. The increase would raise the tobacco tax to 90 cents a pack and would generate an additional $283 million annually. Half of the funds would be used for public K-12 education, 30 percent would go toward higher education and the remaining 20 percent would support smoking cessation education programs.

The Healthy Missouri Initiative Petition was organized by Show-Me A Brighter Future, a coalition of Missouri organizations and individuals, led by the American Cancer Society, the American Cancer Society Action Network and other educational and health organizations.

Missouri will fund its education programs through higher taxes on cigarettes (maybe).  If this tax initiative doesn't pass, will the next tax increase be on baked goods because eating cookies and candy increases obesity?  How about a 73 cent tax increase on soft drinks?  How about a 73 cent tax increase on Starbuck foo foo drinks because they have too much sugar?  Or a 73 cent increase per pound on red meat because it causes heart disease?  The cessation of tobacco use will further the "healthy initiative".  Certainly the cessation of or higher taxes on desserts and red meat would help also further this initiative.  What's sacred to the State Board of Education that it won't want to tax to raise funds for unvoted mandates?

Check out that Top 10 by 20 initiative the State Board has decided Missouri students need.  Do Missouri taxpayers ever remember being contacted about a program that will put taxpayers into even more debt?  Did these appointed State Board of Education members ever have town hall meetings to determine from the taxpayers if they thought their students needed or even wanted these programs?

Of course not.  But really, I guess these are silly questions, right?




Why Teachers Drink. Pour Yourself a Cold One.

These answers to GED tests are making the email rounds and are purported to be true.  If a student doesn't know the correct answer, maybe he/she should get some credit for creativity.


Why Teachers Drink! 

The following questions were set in last year's GED examination 
These are genuine answers (from 16 year olds).

Q. Name the four seasons 
A. Salt, pepper, mustard and vinegar 

Q. Explain one of the processes by which water can be made safe to drink 
A. Flirtation makes water safe to drink because it removes large pollutants 
like grit, sand, dead sheep and canoeists 

Q. How is dew formed 
A. The sun shines down on the leaves and makes them perspire 

Q. What causes the tides in the oceans 
A. The tides are a fight between the earth and the moon. All water tends to 
flow towards the moon, because there is no water on the moon, and nature 
abhors a vacuum. I forget where the sun joins the fight 

Q. What guarantees may a mortgage company insist on 
A. If you are buying a house they will insist that you are well endowed 

Q. In a democratic society, how important are elections 
A. Very imp ortant. Sex can only happen when a male gets an election 

Q. What are steroids 
A. Things for keeping carpets still on the stairs (Shoot yourself now , there is little hope) 

Q.. What happens to your body as you age 
A. When you get old, so do your bowels and you get intercontinental 

Q. What happens to a boy when he reaches puberty 
A. He says goodbye to his boyhood and looks forward to his adultery 

Q. Name a major disease associated with cigarettes 
A. Premature death 

Q. How can you delay milk turning sour 
A. Keep it in the cow (Simple but brilliant) 

Q. How are the main 20 parts of the body categorized (e.g. The abdomen) 
A. The body is consisted into 3 parts - the brainium, the borax and the 
abdominal cavity. The brainium contains the brain, the borax contains 
the heart and lungs and the abdominal cavity contains the five bowels: 
A, E, I,O,U.. 

Q. What is the fibula? 
A. A small lie 

Q. What does 'varicose' mean? 
A. Nearby 

Q. What is the most common form of birth control 
A. Most people prevent contraception by wearing a condominium (That would work) 

Q. Give the meaning of the term 'Caesarean section' 
A. The caesarean section is a district in Rome 

Q. What is a seizure? 
A. A Roman Emperor. (Julius Seizure, I came, I saw, I had a fit) 

Q. What is a terminal illness 
A. When you are sick at the airport. (Irrefutable) 

Q. Give an example of a fungus. What is a characteristic feature? 
A. Mushrooms. They always grow in damp places and they look 
like umbrellas

Q. Use the word 'judicious' in a sentence to show you understand 
its meaning 
A. Hands that judicious can be soft as your face. 

Q. What does the word 'benign' mean?
A. Benign is what you will be after you be eight (brilliant) 

Q. What is a turbine?
A. Something an Arab or Shreik wears on his head
Here are some answers set to music:

Monday, June 25, 2012

Common Core: More Glimpses into the Consequences of National Common Core Standards and Assessments?

Is education about accountability or learning?
 Reading about the high stakes testing in China for university admission, can we make an educated guess on what might be in store for American schools if Common Core standards are fully implemented?  We previously wrote how Chinese teachers marked zeros on college admission essays that criticized the government or strayed from the desired answers.  

 Is this an example of high stakes testing realities coming to university admission procedures in the United States?  What is America's current official party line or current educational theory students/teachers must use?

At this year’s highly competitive college entrance examinations in China, students critical of authorities have been harshly dealt with. They were given a score of zero for straying from the official Party line—that 'all is well in China.' 
Generally, students in China are not encouraged to think for themselves.
[Zhu Xinxin, Freelance Writer]: 
“China’s education system is but a tool to maintain the authoritarian rule of the state. It’s definitely not a system that nurtures independent thinking. Therefore it tries to evade real issues in society.” 
The zero-score essays were scathing and made fun of many current social issues in Chin—from its education system to social inequities such as corruption, forced demolitions and food safety. 
One zero-score essay sharply criticizes the brainwashing nature of the education system, restrictions on freedom of speech and Internet censorship. Essays also pointed out many social injustices, highlighting incidents such as those involving school buses, the Red Cross and the raping of young girls by officials who later branded the girls as prostitutes.
How is American public education structured today?  Local school boards and state boards of education have been rendered impotent for the creation of  standards and assessments for their students.   Education has been handed to private companies (using taxpayer money) setting national assessments to be answered in a national manner.  A "unified" set of national standards/assessments creates a "one size fits all" educational system.  Depending on student answers, the teacher will  graded effective or ineffective.  It's then just a matter of time before any creative thinking will brand the student as being an effective or ineffective citizen for a university position or certain type of employment.

Think ahead a few years: access student data sets (information gleaned from the Longitudinal Data System) to be compiled on students from birth. If your child's answers aren't within the parameters of the assessments crafted by private companies, your child won't present him/herself well on the data shared by the Departments of Education, Labor and Health and Human Services.  This data will be used to assess college success and for employers to identify compliant workers.  You can thank Arne Duncan and the Department of Education for tweaking the FERPA rules via regulatory procedure for this sharing of personal and invasive data.
In this current atmosphere of collaborative learning and group think, your human capital's capacity for individual thinking and creativity is not only discouraged, it's given a failing grade.  Bill Gates, Steve Jobs and Albert Einstein are/were fortunate not to be in the educational system today as a kindergartner.  Even if extremely smart students are in private schools or home schooled, the Common Core standards are being tied to SAT testing as well as online courses and private school vouchers.  If I were a fan of whole brain teaching, I would give this national education reform a definite "down twinkles".

A Chinese journalist reports on the testing realities for students in China:

Sunday, June 24, 2012

Lean to the Right or Left; Common Core is a Disaster...The Sunday Education Weekly Reader 06.24.12

Common Core is a bipartisan disaster. The Left & Right have sold us out.

Welcome to the Sunday Education Weekly Reader for 06.24.12.  

This week will consist of a reposting of Susan Ohanian's excellent blog entitled School-Standards Pushback: Conservative Groups Oppose National 'Common Core' as an Intrusion on States.

Susan has corresponded with me over the last year or so and while we may have differences in thoughts about how education can/should be reformed, we can find common ground in our concern about common core state standards and longitudinal data systems (LDS) supplying personal data about student/families to various federal agencies.  Politically we may not see eye to eye on all issues, but taking the politics out of common core/LDS and focusing solely on the issues, it is obvious these "reforms" deny the individualism of students, are being directed by special interests (for monetary vs educational reasons) and infringe on student/family privacy. 

No Child Left Behind has been decried by both the left and the right for its unreachable bipartisan goals; so should Common Core be protested for its bipartisan push for privatization of education that is really the shifting of taxpayer money into pre-selected vendors and touting it as reforming education.   These are not standards written by the states.  Ohanian is correct when she writes:

 ...this section of my website is titled Common Core State [sic] Standards. These are the Bill Gates/U. S. Department of Education Standards. Follow the money.

The LDS should be decried by both the left and the right as infringement on civil liberties.  Why is the ACLU silent on this data grab on American citizens?  Folks are upset about credit card information being breached.  Where is the outcry on data being gathered from birth on children that will be shared with federal  agencies and private researchers?

Thanks to Susan for her many years of educational reporting.  I hope a bipartisan movement will emerge against common core standards and privacy grab by the Federal government.  ALL student data should be protected regardless of party affiliation.  ALL students should be able to learn according to their learning style and not be molded to fit into a "one sized fits all" common core assessment model that private companies craft with taxpayer money.


Ohanian Comment: Conservatives speak out against the Common Core. Liberals are still out to lunch. Godonlyknows what a dither they'll be in if ALEC denounces the Common Core.

The sad fact is this: Liberals sell us down the river on Common Core. Conservatives have fought it from the get-go. Although I do not agree with every point (particularly the curriculum section) they make, Truth in American Education, which is affiliated with a number of conservative groups and individuals, offers a very concise and compelling document in opposition to the Common Core. Their first point is exactly why this section of my website is titled Common Core State [sic] Standards. These are the Bill Gates/U. S. Department of Education Standards. Follow the money.

Adoption Process

  • Contrary to proponents’ claims, the Common Core Initiative is not 'state‐led,' but rather the Common Core (CC) standards were created and funded by special interests. States had little to no input.

  • The federal government has coerced states into accepting the CC standards, by tying
    their adoption to Race to the Top funding, No Child Left Behind waivers, etc.

  • Under the Constitution, the federal government has no role in education policy.
    Moreover, three federal statutes prohibit what the federal government has done with
    the CC and the attendant assessments.
    State/Local Control and Governance

  • The federal government is funding the creation of the tests that will be aligned with CC and what's on the tests will dictate what's taught in the classroom. The inevitable result
    will be a national curriculum controlled by the federal government.

  • A state must accept the CC standards word for word. It may add 15% content but may
    not subtract anything. Anything it adds will not be included on the national tests.

  • In order to change any strand of the CC, a state must persuade 44 other jurisdictions
    (and probably the US Dep't of Education) to agree to the proposed change.

  • Content Concerns

  • The English language arts standards in CC de‐emphasize the study of literature and have
    been found by a University of Arkansas expert as inadequate to prepare students for
    college. She writes: "The wisest move all states could make to ensure that students
    learn to read, understand, and use the English language appropriately before they
    graduate from high school is first to abandon Common Core’s ‘standards’ . . . ."
  • The math standards in CC, by moving algebra I from 8th grade to 9th, will ensure that the large majority of students do not reach calculus in high school.

  • The math standards in CC require that geometry be taught by an experimental method
    that has never been used successfully anywhere in the world.

  • It opens the door for the federal government to push future standards in other subjects.

  • Cost of Implementation to the States/Localities

  • The states' costs of implementing CC will be substantial and will include new textbooks,
    teacher re‐training, technology, etc. One study estimates $16 billion nationwide in implementation costs alone.

  • Privacy/Data Sharing

  • As part of the CC process, the federal government pushed states into creating massive
    databases of very personal student and family information, which it can now share with
    other federal and state agencies.

  • My god, how funny is it that The Wall Street Journal becomes the first media that I know of to label the Thomas B. Fordham Institute "right-leaning"? When I looked at 7,000 articles to see how media identified the talking heads they asked for soundbites, here's how Fordham-associated people were identified--over and over and over: policy expert; policy researcher; education reformer. The Institute itself is identified as a "Washington D. C. think tank."
    For example, here are some Education Week identifiers for Michael Petrilli:

  • at the Thomas B. Fordham Institute

  • a vice-president at the Thomas B. Fordham Institute.
  • the executive vice president of the Thomas B. Fordham Institute, a Washington-based research and advocacy group

  • the executive vice president of the Washington-based Thomas B. Fordham Institute, which favors more flexibility for states

  • Ask yourself how these identifier inform--or fail to inform--readers about what Petrilli's opinions.

    As I noted in an article for Extra! The Magazine of FAIR, the Media Watch Group Race to the Top and the Bill Gates Connection: Who gets to speak about what schools need? on occasion, Education Week uses soundbites from Fordham officials three times in the same issue.

    Here's a sample of how The New York Times identifies Petrilli:

  • , vice president for national programs and policy of the Fordham Institute, a group that supports education reform.

  • an education analyst and researcher with the Thomas B. Fordham Institute

  • an education official under President George W. Bush

  • a vice president of the Thomas B. Fordham Institute, a research group that studies education policy

  • a vice president at the Thomas B. Fordham Institute in Washington, an educational research and advocacy organization

  • And on and on and on, always careful to give no indication of what the Thomas B. Fordham Institute is up to. . . which makes Stephanie Banchero's identifier exceptional.

    I found three reporters will to discuss the Gates money connections: Daniel Goldman in Bloomberg Businesweek, Matt Murphy in the Lowell Sun, and Clay Holtzman in the Puget Sound Business Journal.

    Gates Foundation personnel are rarely quoted in the press. They don’t need to be: Their money talks for them. Both Golden and Murphy pointed to the tidy sum that the Thomas B. Fordham Institute received from Gates to provide analysis of the Common Core standards.

    FYI, here's Fordham's Gates money:

    Date: July 2003
    Purpose: to strenghten [sic] Ohio's charter school program by recruiting, training, and supporting quality sponsors for existing and future charter schools
    Amount: $250,000

    Date: July 2005
    Purpose: to inform public debate and advance academic achievement in Ohio charter schools by convening charter school leaders, producing research, and disseminating information on charter school issues
    Amount: $497,639

    Date: July 2005
    Purpose: to support the Fordham Foundation in its role as a community school sponsor in Ohio to recruit other high school developers and to share best practices across the field
    Amount: $1,849,173

    Date: August 2006
    Purpose: to support creation of a new education policy network promoting equitable education reform
    Amount: $100,000

    Date: June 2008
    Purpose: to support the activities of an emerging network of state level education advocacy organizations in support of a convening around strategic issues
    Amount: $155,000

    Date: June 2009
    Purpose: to support the PIE Network which brings together policy research groups with state-level education advocacy organizations to advance equity, improve student achievement, share best practices and capture lessons learned in state policy implementation
    Amount: $398,534

    Date: October 2009
    Purpose: to review the common core standards and develop supportive materials
    Amount: $959,116

    The Thomas B. Fordham Institute is the secondary point here. The real point is the failure of the press to inform the public. The vaunted New York Times slogan "All the news that's fit to print" deliberately ignores and omits a lot of important information. Similarly, the reader must be aware that Education Week's banner: American Education's newspaper of Record presents a record tainted by omission.

    By Stephanie Banchero

    The Common Core national math and reading standards, adopted by 46 states and the District of Columbia two years ago, are coming under attack from some quarters as a federal intrusion into state education matters.

    The voluntary academic standards, which specify what students should know in each grade, were heavily promoted by the Obama administration through its $4.35 billion Race to the Top education-grant competition. States that instituted changes such as common learning goals received bonus points in their applications.

    Supporters say the Common Core standards better prepare students for college or the workforce, and are important as the U.S. falls behind other nations in areas such as math proficiency.

    A 2010 report from the Thomas B. Fordham Institute, a right-leaning educational-research group, said the Common Core standards "are clearly superior to those currently in use in 39 states in math and 37 states in English. For 33 states, the Common Core is superior in both math and reading."

    But conservative lawmakers and governors in at least five states, including Utah and Alabama, recently have been pushing to back out, or slow down implementation, of Common Core. They worry that adoption of the standards has created a de facto national curriculum that could at some point be extended into more controversial areas such as science.

    Critics argue that the standards are weak and could, for example, de-emphasize literature in favor of informational texts, such as technical manuals. They also dislike that the standards postpone teaching algebra until ninth grade from the current eighth grade in many schools.

    A study released this year by a researcher at the Brookings Institution think tank projected Common Core will have no effect on student achievement. The study said states with high standards improved their national math and reading scores at the same rate as states with low standards from 2003 to 2009.

    But mainly, critics of Common Core object to what they see as the federal government's involvement in local-school matters.

    "The Common Core takes education out of the hands of South Carolina and parents, so we have no control over what happens in the classroom," said Michael Fair, a Republican state senator who plans to introduce a measure that would bar his state from spending money on activities related to the standards, such as training teachers and purchasing textbooks.

    South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley, who took office after the state adopted Common Core, wrote in a letter to Mr. Fair that the state should not "relinquish control of education to the federal government, neither should we cede it to the consensus of other states."

    Common Core could take another hit Friday when the 23-member board of the American Legislative Exchange Council, a group of more than 2,000 state lawmakers and business members who back limited government and free markets, among other conservative goals, is set to vote on a resolution to formally oppose the standards. The resolution was passed by the ALEC education task force in December.Model legislation often is drafted from the group's resolutions and taken by ALEC members to their state legislatures.

    Common Core evolved from a drive by the National Governors Association and the Council of Chief State School Officers to delineate world-class skills students should possess. The standards, created with funding from, among others, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, set detailed goals, such as first graders should understand place values in math and eighth graders should know the Pythagorean Theorem.

    "We brought the best minds in the country together to create international benchmarks that, once mastered, would make our students more competitive, globally," said Gene Wilhoit, executive director of the Council of Chief State School Officers. He said his group has no plans to create national science standards.

    As the standards were being developed, the Obama administration launched Race to the Top in July 2009, which awarded points to states that adopted "a common set of K-12 standards" that are "substantially identical across all states in a consortium," according to the grant's policies. The department didn't specifically mention Common Core, but it was the only common set of standards being developed.

    As a result, most state's legislatures or state boards of education adopted Common Core.

    The standards have yet to show up in many classrooms as states are just beginning to implement them. But in Kentucky, where Common Core rolled out this school year, teachers are altering instruction and searching for new classroom reading materials.

    Jahn Owens, a teacher in Owensboro, Ky., said the more rigorous standards require her to teach her fifth-graders how to multiply and divide fractions. Previously, that was taught in sixth grade. First-grade teacher Heidi Dees has added more nonfiction books to her classroom.

    "These standards take students much deeper into the subjects and force them to do more critical thinking," Ms. Owens said. "It's been hard work for the teachers because the implementation was so quick, but we are now more purposeful about student learning."

    The Obama administration has awarded more than $360 million to two groups to create student assessments aligned to Common Core.

    Wireless Generation, an education-technology company owned by News Corp., which also owns The Wall Street Journal, recently purchased Intel-Assess, a company that creates student assessments aligned to Common Core.

    Justin Hamilton, a spokesman for the U.S. Department. of Education, called Common Core a "game changer" but said the administration didn't force states to adopt it. "A bipartisan group of governors created these standards and states collectively adopted them," he said.

    But Emmett McGroarty, executive director of American Principles in Action, a conservative lobbying group that wrote the ALEC resolution, said states were "herded" into adopting the standards with no time to deliberate on their worth. He called the standards "mediocre" and costly to implement.

    Write to Stephanie Banchero at stephanie.banchero@wsj.com

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