"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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Sunday, May 12, 2013

Teacher Tells Missouri What Common Core Really Means. The Post-Dispatch Didn't Cover These Points.

Peg with Pen, the Colorado teacher who implored teachers and parents to oppose Common Core and whose blog we reposted this morning, followed up with an extraordinary article responding to the St. Louis Post Dispatch's article this morning on Common Core.

Little did I know when I resposted her original blog, she was a native Missourian and has special interest in educating citizens of what Common Core really is vs what DESE tells us it is...or doesn't tell us.

Many, many thanks to her for her insights.  If you are coming to the Capitol tomorrow, maybe you can give copies of her latest blog to the members of the House Education Committee as they decide on their votes.  You can still submit an online witness form which is found at the end of the article.

From Peggy Robertson and For the Show Me State of Missouri: What They Didn't Show You:


This is in response to an article from the St. Louis Post-Dispatch.

This article is missing some key information. First and foremost, we must look at the money trail. The common core standards are a cash cow for the corporations who plan to implement new testing, new curriculum, new professional development, and more, in order to adhere to the requirements under Race to the Top, Obama’s education policy. Now, Missouri was not awarded RTTT funding, however, Missouri took a NCLB waiver, which in essence, required Missouri to adhere to all of the requirements of Race to the Top – without the cash to do so.

As a teacher, an education activist, a graduate of Jefferson City High School, I have some stake in what is going on in Missouri. I no longer live there, but I was raised in Missouri and the mantra “show me” is anchored deep in my heart. So, as a former Missourian, it is important that we show everyone what is really going on here, and this article is greatly lacking. What needs to be understood is that this is not a democrat or republican issue. This is a corporate issue, and both sides have bought into it – there is big money to be made via public education.  Race to the Top policies include mandates which allow for corporations to cash in – using our public tax dollars and our children.
One of these mandates includes adopting common standards. Missouri adopted these standards, and because Missouri asked for a NCLB waiver (http://dese.mo.gov/qs/esea-waiver.html), MO now has to adhere to the rules of RTTT.
One of the mandates requires linking common core standards to tests. A second mandate includes linking teacher evaluation to these tests..which are linked to the common core. A third requirement includes having a longitudinal data system which allows all of the student data accessible to “stakeholders.” A fourth mandate includes using the turnaround model for schools, which means using several strategies – a few being - including firing teachers, handing a school over to a charter operator – when school test scores are low. Missouri did receive a grant to implement the turnaround model which is a sure fire way to quickly privatize your public schools.
Now, back to the common core standards, which when examined as simply “standards” might not be such a terrible thing. However, they are simply not standards. They are standards that come with a lot of baggage attached to them – if they aren’t taught and tested with resulting high scores, a teacher could be fired, a child might not be promoted (this is here in CO already where I live..not sure if MO has this yet), a school could get shut down – all very HIGH stakes.
So, I, as a teacher, would be hard pressed not to teach to the test knowing the stakes are so high – for myself and for my students. That’s problem number one.
Second problem – because the stakes are so high, we have created an opportunity for the publishing industry – such as Pearson – to come in and SAVE the day so that we can figure out how to teach to these standards and create curriculum and professional development, along with Bill Gates funding wherever you turn - http://www.edweek.org/ew/articles/2011/04/27/30pearson.h30.html .  Our public schools will now purchase these materials – with YOUR tax dollars – in order to be certain they are adhering to the common core state standards in order to succeed on the high stakes tests. It’s a vicious cycle where the winners are not our students, our teachers, our schools, or our community – the winners are the corporations profiting off of our public schools.
Problem number three – teacher autonomy GONE. If the common core state standards were simply a set of standards, I, as a teacher, could work around this – whether I liked them or not – I could pick, choose and tailor the standards to the needs of my school, students, and the culture of my community. However, they are not simply a set of standards – they are a set of standards that will be implemented with lockstep curriculum in order to be certain we succeed on the new tests rolling out across the country via PARCC and SBAC (testing consortias that our federal government gave $$ to – in the millions – to create these common core assessments).
The common core standards will take away teacher autonomy. In Finland they have national standards –and it works – one reason it works is because they are not extensive (common core standards are hundreds of pages long) and there are no high stakes tests attached to these standards.
Please understand, I am not opposed to a standardized test – I may not personally like standardized tests and I may not find them very valuable – but I can live with it – but NOT when high stakes are attached to it.  Finland gives one standardized test when students graduate from high school, the rest of the testing is creating by teachers. Here in the U.S., mainstream media is bound and determined to make the general public believe that teachers are not capable of assessing our students – there is truly mass amnesia around the concept of teachers being capable of assessing their students - this is because there is a lot of money to be made via corporate testing. The money is key to everything that is currently going in public education in the United States today. Testing will increase under RTTT – some teachers now share that they test or test prep every day. Some schools state that 5 ½ months of the year is spent testing – some say more.
Fourth problem: There are indeed problems with the common core standards. They aren’t developmentally appropriate http://www.allianceforchildhood.org/standards . There are more problems related to the standards which I won’t go in to here, but suffice to day, I receive examples of common core homework given to students daily – I am shocked by what I see. Not only is it developmentally inappropriate, it is mind-numbing and lacking in creative and critical thinking. But enough on that – that is a subject that I could discuss all day long – but do know that children are not suddenly going to be overwhelmed with opportunities for creative, critical and conceptual thinking – it will be the exact opposite.
Fifth problem: History shows us quite clearly that countries who attempt to force standards upon schools by attaching high stakes to them, create learners who are good at one thing – test taking. They do not think independently, they cannot problem solve and they cannot think out of the box – no creative thinking. Simply read more about China to learn more. China, by the way, is attempting to move away from the teach to the test mentality and they are in shock that we are so foolishly headed in this direction.  Check out Yong Zhao’s blog here:  http://zhaolearning.com/2013/01/02/five-questions-to-ask-about-the-common-core/
Sixth problem: Implementing the common core standards will cost a ton of money, which thrills the publishing companies as they drool over your public tax dollars. While your districts begin to prepare for the new assessments which are attached to high stakes, they will be determining how to afford the new curriculum, the new tests, the computers and the technology needed to make this happen. It will be necessary to spend money on all of this because of the high stakes attached to it – as a result, you are sure to see cuts in the arts, physical education, teachers, libraries and more. Also, consider this – where is the money necessary to support the children in your communities who are living in poverty – currently 23% of our children live in poverty – I wonder how these students will do on these tests? And I wonder how these poorer districts will manage to compete with equal footing when they don’t have the money found in Ladue or Clayton?  My guess is that these schools will end up in turn around status and will find themselves subjected to the vultures circling overhead as they (profiteers) discuss with glee how they might cash in on these districts that cannot fend for themselves. One need only look to Detroit, Philadelphia or Chicago to see how this will play out.
Seventh problem: Yes, you will lose local control. These standards are high stakes – they are COMMON. Do you want common children? I thought this was the Show Me state? Are all the children now going to being showing us the same thing as they learn? Regarding the standards, each state is allowed a little wiggle room to tweak the standards to meet their needs, but that won’t cut it. And teachers will be asked to write common core curriculum to save money in your districts, they will be asked to do multiple things necessary to succeed in this high stakes world while having less time to attend to the individual needs of students and their school communities. The ability to focus on what is needed locally – for your children, your schools and your communities will be hampered greatly by the necessities surrounding succeeding on high stakes tests. And these standards were not created by hundreds of teachers – that’s a lie – http://blogs.edweek.org/teachers/living-in-dialogue/2009/07/national_standards_process_ign.html .
Eight problem: Is this a federal takeover? Well, in my opinion the politicians and the corporations are one and the same. I call it a corporate takeover because everything children will learn in school will be created by the corporations in order to profit the corporations.  The teachers will have no decision-making power and the children will simply regurgitate what the corporations want them to know in order to fulfill the low level entry jobs the corporations will provide for them. The politicians are merely puppets who gain status and money along the way using our public tax dollars and our children to advance their individual needs. Romney and Obama’s education policies differed on one count – Romney supported vouchers and Obama did not – just food for thought.
Ninth problem: The common core standards have never been field tested. Our children are being used as lab rats in an experiment. Something to consider – do the private schools, such as the school Obama’s children attend and the school Bill Gates’ children attend adhere to the “common” core standards? Of course not, you see, these standards are for OUR children – not there children. Everyone who is demanding we adhere to these policies send their children to private schools where high stakes testing and lockstep curriculum does not exist. Final thought – when anyone does research in a public school parents are asked to sign a research agreement stating that accept the conditions of the research study which will occur in their child’s classroom. Did any of you get such an agreement to sign for your child’s class, when MO signed on to the common core?
Tenth problem: Yes, your child’s data will eventually be placed in a data system that corporations have access too – thanks to the FERPA laws that were rewritten under the Obama administration.  It is already happening here in Colorado. The data from the Jefferson County public schools in CO is being funneled into inBloom which will allow for profit corporations access to the data in order to determine what new educational products via the common core they can create to meet the needs of our children…cha ching cha ching. https://sites.google.com/site/schoolbelongstothechildren/ Of course the goal is to have this in every state, which is why RTTT required everyone to have a database set up and ready to go! By the way, currently parents cannot opt out of this because the FERPA laws were changed to allow it.  The data they will collect on your child is much more than test data I can assure you. Dig a bit to find out more about inBloom. I guarantee you won’t like what you see.
I took time to write this today on Mother’s Day because I love Missouri, I love my hometown of Jefferson City and I wish no harm to come your way. If I can be of assistance to anyone please let me know. I am currently a public school teacher in Colorado in my sixteenth year of teaching. I am also an education activist and I am one of the founders of United Opt Out National.  My email is writepeg@juno.com
For what it’s worth, I strongly encourage you to fight the common core – refuse it – refuse the curriculum, the tests – refuse the corporate takeover of your public schools. Your children deserve more.
Also –this article failed to mention this rather important hearing tomorrow in JC http://legiscan.com/MO/text/SB210 . If you can’t attend you can send in this witness form http://www.libertytools.org/LibertyTools/witness/witness2.php?template=28 .
Peggy Robertson

What is happening in Colorado will happen in Missouri because this is all "common".  Is this what you want for Missouri students?


  1. There are many inaccuracies in this posting by Ms. Robertson. It is essentially an opinion piece, which is fine, but it is sadly lacking in detail or comparison. So someone living in CO is going to give those living in MO her opinion on Common Core.... and this is supposed to be meaningful? I can go to a corner bar and hear as many opinions as there are bar stools, with just as much credibility.

    CC is not a federal takeover, it is the product of the Natl Governor's Association and a group of high-tech employers. Bill Gates's foundation provided some financial backing to bring it forward, and the education standards, more rigorous than those currently used in our public schools, were developed by professional educators and subject-specific professionals. The CC website lists the standards for what a child would be expected to know at each level of school, for math, reading, etc. It is very transparent; do you know of have access to what the current standards are for your child in the current system?
    And, yes, textbook publishers stand to sell books tailored to CC standards, just as they sell text books now. What is the issue with this?

    And readers should note we have de facto Nat'l standards already: the PSAT taken Junior year selects Nat'l Merit Scholars. The college-entrance SAT / ACT, as well as the Advanced Placement (AP) subject tests, and the SAT Subject tests will be taken by students aspiring to attend a nationally competitive college, in which case you had better hope that your child's teachers are teaching to these standards (and they are in good schools).

    As for the status quo, in international comparisons of industrailized countries, U.S. students rank in the lower 2nd decile in reading, and third decile in math. And accumulated studies show our position is slipping further. Know that one-third of our college students take (remedial) algebra, an 8-9th grade subject. And that studies show that if a college student takes two or more remedial courses their chances of dropping-out of college is over 50%. And among the nation, MO ranks below average in student scores. While some believe these rankings are pushed downward by inner city schools, comparisons show that simply comparing suburban schools to those of other nations still ranks the U.S. as a very low performer, with its place slipping further.

    So CC standards is trying to do something about this. But I note this "letter" does not include this information of make any positive suggestions for improvement. The reader should go to the Common Core web-site and examine the standards for themselves and not rely on the rhetoric contained in this letter and other postings that provide no detailed information. Or you can just go to the corner bar with as much validity.

    1. These standards are federal standards. Federally funded private organizations wrote them. Even the USDOEd refers to them as national standards.

      The states have the constitutional authority to set standards, not private consortia. Do you really think a centralized educational plan will help education? How's that working for healthcare right now? I hear Democrats describe it as a trainwreck.

      Would you please provide the research you reference in your statistics above? In fact, would you please provide the research on the CCSS claims of international benchmarking and the educational best practices of CCSS the last 3-5 years? With all due respect, the writers and financial backers of CCSS mights as well have gone to the corner bar and made up the "facts" they espouse about CCSS claims. There IS no research, data to back up CCSS claims. CCSS is theory and a massive stimulus funded experiment.

  2. from an artist/writer mother Check out who wrote these "standards" A handful of people. The person responsible for the new "English" standards, (A "Rhodes scholar"-whoopee) has decided that the nation's children don't need over 20% of their curriculum in classic literature. I'm afraid when the people wake up to the reality of this limited-mind tyranny, it will be too late. I appreciate the efforts of perceptive teachers who are trying to warn us.


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