"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 9, 2013

Teacher is Madder Than Hell About Common Core Standards

Time for teachers to form a rebellion against Common Core?

A teacher wants to start a nationwide rebellion against Common Core Standards. From the San Leandro, CA Patch Teacher Is Madder Than Hell And Ain't Gonna Test Kids Anymore:

(Jerry Heverly is an English teacher at San Leandro High School. He has written before about how the Common Core State Standards, a new federal mandate, will affect students and teachers.)

I’m starting a new organization at San Leandro High School.

It’s called the Common Core Resistance Army.

It would be sort of like those 60’s radical groups that were run by ex-con’s.

I’ll need a pretty young woman to be my deputy, of course. We’ll preach mass resistance to standardized tests.

Why does he dislike CCSS?

In researching this column I learned a few things about the Common Core that I didn’t know before:
  • It costs approximately $13/student to administer the STAR tests we have now; it will cost around $20/student to administer the CCSS.
  • The state superintendent of schools, Tom Torlakson, estimates it will cost California $1 billion to carry out the federal mandates connected to CCSS.
  • By 2018 San Leandro High School will need to invest heavily in computers and computer memory to allow us to give “computer adaptive” tests. In these kinds of tests each student gets different questions based upon whether they got the previous question right.
What will you, the taxpayer, get for all this cash?

Right now we do nothing but multiple-choice tests.

In two years we will still have lots of multiple choice questions but here is how one site described the new questions:
“The heart of the tests in both English language arts and math will be short-answer questions and lengthy performance tasks. The latter questions, involving multiple steps, taking perhaps an hour or two, are designed to see if students can demonstrate a deeper understanding of the standards, can explain the reasons behind their answers and can think critically.”
Can you imagine how much it will cost to pay someone to grade those latter questions?

Common Core boosters claim that their tests will fundamentally alter teaching. They say that we teachers will be forced to teach “critical thinking”.  Common Core will get us to teach  “higher order comprehension”. 

I keep asking myself how this is different from what I do now.

The Common Core State (sic) Standards are a fraud.

The Common Core State (sic) Standards are a clever way to fleece the taxpayers, to dress up old ideas in new clothing.

For this they will charge you, the taxpayers, $1 billion.

You would think there would be at least a few teachers, administrators, parents or just plain taxpayers, who would exhibit outrage at these new national tests.

But, as far as I can tell, there aren’t.
Well, there are some of us out here who have been railing against them for a number of years.  The problem?  We don't represent the special interests of Bill Gates, Jeb Bush, David Coleman and even the teachers' unions who are making money from the adoption/implementation of the standards.

Read the entire article here.

EPIC: Student Data Should Be Protected

This is from an article from Policy Matters Amassing Student Data and Dissipating Privacy Rights. 

From test-performance scores to student financial data to statewide longitudinal data systems, there has been a dramatic increase in the collection of students' sensitive information over the last decade. Both the U.S. Congress and the presidential administrations have touted the amassing of student data as beneficial and necessary to a successful education system. However, the increase in the collection of student data has led to a marked decrease in student data protection. Changes to student privacy regulations and government programs such as the Education Data Initiative underscore the need for meaningful oversight for the protection of student data.
The authors provide an excellent accounting of how student data is being released to various government agencies and private corporations/researchers.  This dissemination of student data erodes students' privacy rights.  They offer this conclusion:

In February 2012, the Electronic Privacy Information Center (EPIC) filed suit against the Education Department regarding the changes to the federal student privacy regulations under FERPA. At EPIC, we believe the agency exceeded its authority when it revised the federal privacy law to make student data more available. And we disagree with the agency's decision to loosen the key definitions that help safeguard student records. Our case, EPIC v. Department of Education, is pending in federal district court in Washington, D.C.

When FERPA was enacted almost forty years ago, Congress made it clear that students' personal information should not be made widely available. Congress was particularly concerned that if student records fell into the hands of private parties, these records could hurt students later in life when, for example, students were seeking jobs. Although the pressures have increased over the years to access student data, Congress and the Education Department should work to strengthen student privacy rights and provide oversight on student data disclosure.

Read the entire article here.

Friday, February 8, 2013

CSCOPE Announces Changes. Can This Happen In Common Core?

CSCOPE and Common Core have many similarities.

 From Donna Garner:

Message to the entire United States: It was grassroots citizens in Texas who got involved and uncovered CSCOPE.  We can make a difference when we do our “homework” and then contact our elected officials.  Our successful efforts in Texas to bring about change in CSCOPE can be replicated throughout this country to uncover the Common Core Standards.


FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE                CONTACT: Logan Spence (512) 463-0107
February 8, 2013       
AUSTIN- Senator Dan Patrick, in coordination with the Texas Education Service Center Curriculum Collaborative (TESCCC), announces significant changes to the CSCOPE curriculum management system. 
The TESCCC has worked with Senator Patrick, chairman of the Senate Education Committee, and the State Board of Education (SBOE), to address concerns raised at a recent committee hearing on the CSCOPE system.  The two parties have agreed to several immediate as well as forthcoming changes.
The changes that take effect immediately include:
All future meetings of the TESCCC Governing Board, beginning with the February meeting, will be public with all the respective notice requirements being met.
The TESCCC will begin a joint review process of all CSCOPE lessons with the SBOE beginning with Social Studies.
Amendment of all Terms of Use Agreements, signed by both teachers and districts, removing civil or criminal penalties associated with the release of CSCOPE content.
Clarifying that all teachers and districts may post any and all CSCOPE lessons that they deem necessary.
In addition to these immediate transparency and quality control changes, CSCOPE will also undergo structural, governance, and other changes, including:
Ending the non-profit 501(c)3 arrangement that incorporates CSCOPE.
Initiating the posting of CSCOPE lesson content to their public website.
Creating a standing curriculum review panel, comprised of:  parents, teachers, school administrators, members of the SBOE, and TESCCC board members.
Finally, CSCOPE is notifying all participating school districts that lessons are not intended to be taught verbatim, and the Governing Board generally recommends that local districts utilize CSCOPE lessons solely as a resource. 
Until CSCOPE lessons can be reviewed through a collaborative process with the SBOE and TESCCC, districts are strongly encouraged to review all lessons at the local level, to ensure that lessons are appropriate for their students.
State Board of Education chair Barbara Cargill is encouraged by the changes, saying, "I appreciate CSCOPE's willingness to address concerns brought to light recently. The State Board of Education looks forward to working with them to resolve these issues, so CSCOPE can remain a useful tool for participating school districts.”
Anne Poplin, chair of the TESCCC Governing Board agreed, stating, "We have heard the concerns raised and are working hard to maintain the public's trust in CSCOPE.  We appreciate Chair Cargill and Senator Patrick's desire to assist us in ensuring that CSCOPE remains a valuable district resource in the future."
Senator Dan Patrick agreed, "I'm glad the CSCOPE Board realizes that immediate and long term changes must be made to address the serious issues raised by our committee, parents, and teachers. Our committee will be monitoring the situation closely to ensure they follow through with their commitments. We will also be looking at legislation to ensure these changes cannot be reversed in the future and that the SBOE continues in their role of oversight of CSCOPE content. The future of the program will depend on CSCOPE keeping the
commitments they have made and gaining the trust of the legislature, teachers, and parents.

Maxine Waters Confirms "Big Brother" Database

We've provided information to readers over the years about the data to be mined from your child and given to various agencies and private research firms.  People are concerned about Facebook and credit card company breaches but for some reason, the divulging of personal student information has not garnered the same outrage and/or interest.  Maybe it's because  you can't see who is taking the information, who is receiving it and how it is being used by the government/private companies.

Maxine Waters stated that indeed, President Obama has established a massive database on American citizens that knows information about every individual.  She said the Democratic candidate in 2016 would "need to be down with that".

“The President has put in place an organization with the kind of database that no one has ever seen before in life,” Representative Maxine Waters told Roland Martin on Monday. “That’s going to be very, very powerful,” Waters said. “That database will have information about everything on every individual on ways that it’s never been done before and whoever runs for President on the Democratic ticket has to deal with that. They’re going to go down with that database and the concerns of those people because they can’t get around it. And he’s [President Obama] been very smart. It’s very powerful what he’s leaving in place.”

Personal Data Collected and Disseminated via Common Core Standards and P20 Pipelines

P-20 initiatives connect educational systems for increased student performance, greater efficiency, improved outcomes, and smoother pathways throughout a student's career. These factors are of critical importance in a competitive global economy.
The Missouri Department of Higher Education (MDHE) is working on several fronts to help ensure that connections between early childhood, elementary and secondary education, and higher education can create a more seamless pipeline for Missouri students.  from http://www.dhe.mo.gov/p20/

Remember our post in December 2012 Who Benefits from Data Collection?

"These datasets have been gathered from various agencies to provide detailed information on the state of education on all levels, from cradle to career and beyond. - Education Data Community"
Almost a year ago the White House released a fact sheet UNLOCKING THE POWER OF EDUCATION DATA FOR ALL AMERICANS. The three page document contains the commitments of various partners to collect data on every student in America and make it as easy to access as possible for as many interested parties as possible. Ok, they may not have phrased it that way, but if you read what they wrote, that clearly is the intent.

The need for data to track your child is of ultimate importance in education reform policies and establishing a managed work force.  This can be done through information gathered from Common Core state standards, which will be aligned via the common assessments and the Shared Learning Registry some states now share.  From a whitehouse.gov site:

Pearson has committed to supporting open and interoperable systems that put high-quality, personalized learning resources into the hands of teachers and students. In support of this goal, Pearson will share data into the Learning Registry about many of their existing learning resources, including those that support the Common Core State Standards so that they can be used in each student’s personal learning path.

More information from the site on the type of data the Federal Government will be gathering on your student:

Education.data.gov: The Department of Education announced the launch of education.data.gov - the site serves as a central guide for education data resources including high-value data sets, data visualization tools, resources for the classroom, applications created from open data and more. These datasets have been gathered from various agencies to provide detailed information on the state of education on all levels.  (MEW note: If this is on a whitehouse.gov site, it causes a person to wonder how "state led initiatives" are now appearing on a federal link)

The question then must be asked, what does the government consider "high-value data sets on students, open data and more"?  The government does not provide a detailed idea on this site of what the datasets will contain but we have an idea on what to expect from the datasets from the National Education Model and the Illinois Data Warehouse report.  As the Illinois set is aligned with other state data models, you can reasonably expect this will be present in your Common Core state data set.

Listed in these data sets is personal information such as eye color, political affiliation and religion.  Who is interested in your child's data?  Diane Ravitch has an article Who is Buying your Data detailing some of the private organizations having access to educational data.  And here is a report from Utah (which might as well be from Missouri since we are under the same CCSS mandates) informing citizens on why data systems exist and what information they will impart to various federal agencies and private organizations:

Unknown to most parents, children’s data is being shared beyond the school district with six agencies inside the Utah Data Alliance and UTREX, according to Utah Technology Director John Brandt.  The student data is further being “mashed” with federal databases, according to federal Education Dept. Chief of Staff Joanne Weiss:  http://blogs.edweek.org/edweek/inside-school-research/2012/07/ed_urges_states_to_make_data_s.html  While John Brandt assures us that only a handful of people in Utah have access to the personally identifiable data of children, recent alterations to federal FERPA (Famly Education Rights Privacy Act) regulations which were made by the U.S. Dept of Education, have radically redefined terms and widened the window of groups who can access private data without parental consent.  For more on that, see the lawsuit against the U.S. Dept of Education on the subject: http://epic.org/apa/ferpa/default.html
What it means:  Courses taken, grades earned, every demographic piece of information, including family names and income, is being watched by the U.S. government via schools.

Verify for yourself: The U.S. Dept. of Education’s own explanation is here, showing why SLDS systems exist:  http://www2.ed.gov/programs/slds/factsheet.html

.... even psychometric and biometric data (behavioral qualities, dna, iris and fingerprints) are also acceptable data collection points, to the Dept. of Education (verify: http://www2.ed.gov/policy/gen/guid/fpco/pdf/ferparegs.pdf  )

Even if your state educational agency (such as MO DESE) doesn't have the data listed it will take from your child and where it will be sent, you can rest assured that if your state is in a consortia because of common core, this data will be disseminated and you won't have a clue on where the data is going, that it is being gathered or for what purposes.  

If you are a visual learner here is a video presentation on P20 education data collection in Oklahoma.  The information gathering and dissemination holds true in Missouri, California, Utah and the other states signing on to  Common Core State Standards.

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

King Arthur Won't be Taught in this Private School Classroom Because of Common Core

King Arthur's Knights
Was Arthur a true, historical figure or only a hero of legend? This is truly up to each and every one of us to decide for ourselves. Arthur represents a man who was the epitome of good against evil, light against darkness, and that eternal, never-ending struggle between what is right and that which is wrong.

Students at Cathedral High School in Indianapolis, Indiana could have answered the question above in years past as this was part of their reading curriculum, but this year's class won't be studying King Arthur.  From Why One English Teacher Is Dropping The Legends Of King Arthur For The Life Of JFK at stateimpact.npr.org (note that this teacher teaches in a private school):

Melinda Bundy has taught at Cathedral High School in Indianapolis for 39 years. Students in her ninth grade English class usually spend February immersed in King Arthur, studying legend and learning to write research papers.

Last week her ninth graders learned to take research notes and cite bibliographical information. But this year they aren’t studying Arthurian legend — they’re learning about John F. Kennedy’s America.  Bundy sent this note home to parents explaining why she made the switch:

We are beginning the research paper for English 9H. I have changed the scope of the project because when I looked at the Core Standards, I saw that one of the standards was to analyze a historical document. I have chose President John F. Kennedy’s inauguration speech as the basis of the paper. The students have watched the video of the inauguration, read the speech, analyzed the content, and discussed it in class. Now they are going to research the ’60s and find out what was actually going on in the U.S. as well as the world during Kennedy’s administration. Then they will chose one event/issue/problem and relate it to President Kennedy.
How does Ms. Bundy feel about this move to informational text vs reading King Arthur?

Bundy loved teaching Arthurian legend. But she says with Indiana’s transition to the Common Core, a set of new academic standards adopted by 46 states and the District of Columbia, she’s had to incorporate more nonfiction into her curriculum to prepare students for state tests.

The new standards require 70 percent of everything high school students read be nonfiction. Common Core architects say teachers in all subjects should incorporate more informational texts.  But in practice, Bundy says that burden falls on English teachers preparing students for end-of-course assessments.

“The ECA is all nonfiction. They’re given an essay to read. If we don’t cover it in English, and it’s on the English part of the ECA, our kids are going to fail,” says Bundy. “We can’t totally disavow that we’re responsible. We are.”

Bundy likes teaching Kennedy’s inauguration speech. There’s an endless number of topics students can explore in 1960s America — the civil rights movement, the Cuban missile crisis, the space race, the Cold War, among others — and the library keeps sending down more resources for students to use. Yet Bundy still feels a pang for some of the subjects she used to teach.

“I don’t teach short stories anymore. I love short stories. But we read biographies and autobiographies now,” she says.

If your student attends a private Indiana school that accepts public school vouchers, then your private school student (even if you are paying tuition for your student), will see a shift to common core standards as well.  Private schools don't have as much autonomy as before.  Why are parents privately paying for the same standards, assessments and curriculum mapping present in the public school?  What now differentiates private school educational delivery/content from public schools? 

As a department, the English teachers at Cathedral have been working to develop common assessment tools like final exams. All students are on a college prep track and take the same finals. Teachers with honors or AP sections can add additional questions.

Bundy and Keyes (sophomore English teacher) both say people are surprised to hear Cathedral, a private school, has to align with the Common Core. The school participates in Indiana’s voucher program — a little less than 4 percent of the school’s 1,252 students receive state money — and students take the same standardized tests they would at public school.

Ah well.  Let parents explain to their children as they watch Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade what the Holy Grail is and represents.  They really need to know why a monk would stand guard over it for a few hundred years and why it garnered intense interest from the Nazis.   They might have learned about The Holy Grail from Ms. Bundy, but not now thanks to Common Core.


Tuesday, February 5, 2013

PTA Implores Love for the Common Core. Why?

Eric Hargis, Executive Director of the National PTA writes in Don't Politicize the Common Core in edweek.org:

Unfortunately, like so many other issues, the Common Core State Standards are surrounded by myths and are being misrepresented for supposed political gain; the incredible value that the Standards provide to parents wanting to be fully engaged in their children's education makes this all the more dangerous and could represent a huge loss to our education system in America.

Bashing anything done by the Federal Government, always a popular sport in America, has now reached Olympic class status, and there are those claiming that the Standards are a government take-over of education and call them "Common Core National Standards." This isn't even a Pinocchio stretch of the truth, but an out and out lie. The truth is, states are driving this process and have been involved at every level —  from the drafting and development stages through revisions and the final product.

In fact, states voluntarily adopted the Standards. States can even go above the content of the Standards by 15% to cover content that they feel is important but not currently a part of the Standards. Importantly, states and school districts still have autonomy in decisions made on how to teach the Standards in the classroom.

At the same time, as a parent, I will be assured quality and consistency in my children's education regardless of where we live. While most all members of state and district education boards pursue only the highest of academic standards, one need only watch the television talk shows to hear what a few believe should be taught as science and history. Let's keep them on the talk shows and out of our classrooms!

As we all know too well, business in Washington and in many states is driven by partisan politics. Despite the proven effectiveness of the Common Core State Standards, they have become an easy target for a bickering Congress, and divided state and local leaders. The American people are tired of the political games that are hurting our children. We want our government leaders to come together to ensure that our children receive a better education than we did. Those states that have still not adopted the standards for purely political reasons are doing their state's students an incredible disservice. 

Mr. Hargis' contentions need to be addressed:
  • The states are not driving the process of Common Core standards.  It has been documented the standards are privately owned and copyrighted and states/schools/districts cannot alter the standards/assessments.
  • States "voluntarily" adopting the standards statement comes with a caveat.  If states did not adopt the standards, they were ineligible to gain a waiver from the NCLB goals. Describing this as a "voluntary" choice meant states jumped from the frying pan into the fire.  What kind of " voluntary choice" is this really?
  • He is correct that states will be "allowed" to go above the mandated standards/assessments to deliver an extra 15% of material.  Why should there be mandates on schools/districts/states that "allow" teachers to teach a whopping 15% of the "allowed" material?  Is it even feasible to teach additional material when assessments may be scheduled every three weeks on the mandated 85%?
  • Bashing anything done by the Federal Government might just hold important validity.  Federal Spending has skyrockted 190% in four decades and test results have flatlined.  This is not a ringing endorsement of the Federal Government's involvement in education, which is a state's responsibility.  The Federal Government certainly has its hands in the CCSS mandates as it funded the consortia via Stimulus funding.
  • Mr. Hargis is simply making up fact when he states "despite the proven effectiveness of the Common Core State Standards"....these standards are in reality unproven and untested.  They have never been implemented in small studies to determine their effectiveness.  
  • States pushing back on Common Core standards (such as my state, Missouri) are in fact, doing their state a great service by demanding back local control (and cost) of standards and assessments for their students.  Perhaps Mr. Hargis sees it as a political tug of war.  Many of us prefer to see it as the reclamation of state authority to provide educational direction for students and a voice for local districts in the most effective way to educate their community's children.
  • Mr. Hargis writes: "While most all members of state and district education boards pursue only the highest of academic standards, one need only watch the television talk shows to hear what a few believe should be taught as science and history. Let's keep them on the talk shows and out of our classrooms!" Question: Who SHOULD decide what should be taught as science and history?  Should this be assigned to private trade organizations who copyrighted the standards/assessments that states/districts/schools cannot alter and taxpayers cannot change even though tax dollars have paid for them?
Mr. Hargis believes this is a parental involvement issue and will help parents become more involved in educational decisions.  That's an interesting viewpoint.  Parents are discovering objectionable material being taught to their children and the school can only shrug its shoulders and say "sorry".  It's mandated by the Common Core standards.

Why would Mr. Hargis come out with such an article imploring that we all love the Common Core standards when many of his claims cannot be proven or are just flat out wrong?  Could it be that the National PTA accepted a lot of money from CCSS proponents?  From Red Flags, National PTA, and Common Core Standards at susanohanian.org:

Clearly the Gates Foundation has added to this bucket of money by giving the PTA a million dollars to use in promoting the standards.

You can read all about the numerous red flags in the 2009 article.  The author, Niki Hayes, writes:

An immediate red flag appears, for example, because the PTA jumped onto the CCSSI bandwagon in September 2009—before the public input period was completed that ran from mid-September to mid-October. Ideas, questions, and concerns "from the field" of those who would have to live and work with these standards were not considered by the PTA’s leadership before they made this big leap with an incomplete product. 

With all due respect to Mr. Hargis, a million dollar contribution from Mr. Gates does not make the standards any more than what they are: centralized, federally supported/funded, unproven, untested and an incomplete product (3 years in the making) of expensive theories and plans to make education reformers wealthy. Opponents are not "politicizing" the Common Core standards, they are just asking for data to prove their effectiveness and questioning the legality for these private/public partnerships to decide how communities pay for and provide educational services to students.

Monday, February 4, 2013

English Teacher Quits Because of Common Core

Reprinted from Conservative Teachers of America: Common Core Standards and the Destruction of Minds and Freedom.  A former English teacher speaks out about Common Core standards.


Submission by R. D. Hughes

When the new Common Core Standards—a “nation-wide” set of standards—was introduced into Georgia Public Schools last year, I was a high school English teacher at a metro Atlanta area school.  I left the profession in September due to stress-related heart problems, and I am sure that the Common Core was the final straw which made the career intolerable for me.

These standards are a dangerous leap forward for tyranny in the United States, and it is no accident that they have been introduced at a time in this nation’s history when the influence of tyranny and repression are transforming the U.S. into a totalitarian state.  This is by design, and the design is to destroy whatever is left of freedom in this country.  Common Core plays its part in this process in two ways:  by destroying any semblance of freedom in education; and by destroying the minds and critical thinking abilities of students and instructors, making them ever more susceptible to state indoctrination and control.

From the very first training session for Common Core, I knew that something was wrong.  They were similar to the Georgia Performance Standards which were already in place, but were much more rigorous and detailed for each grade level.  The stated goal was to prepare students to enter any university anywhere in the country with the same basic educational background.  The student would be able to attend college in any State and be assured that he/she would fit into the program with maximum efficiency…all so he/she could be a productive part of “the global economy.”  The red alert began to sound when it was mentioned that all States would eventually be brought under the Common Core program.

In other words, American education will be controlled by a central authority—the same centralized, authoritarian mechanism used in the former Soviet Union, and anywhere else that tyranny has crushed the freedom of individuals en masse.  Standards today—lesson plans tomorrow.  Soon it will not matter what individual states, communities, schools, or teachers wish to teach, or what students wish to learn.  All will be controlled and enforced by powerful bureaucrats.  Imagine the “principles” of Obamacare applied to education.

Even worse, the Common Core Standards are designed to destroy the minds of those subject to it.  I make the following observations strictly from the viewpoint of an English teacher observing the effects of the English standards.

The primary goal of these standards is to destroy the ability to read, including higher-level thinking.  First of all, literary works of high quality and attractiveness, such as the Odyssey, are to be disposed of in favor of useless “informational texts,” such as local government policy initiatives (an actual example from the training).  Who cares about that?  How does that form the character or nourish the soul?  Second, students will read only selections from the literary works that still remain in the curriculum instead of the entire work, thus giving Big Brother the ability to suppress all content that does not fit the government agenda, while further weakening the desire and ability to read by giving an incomplete and erroneous context to the student.  Finally, students have their reading and thinking abilities fragmented by incessant requirements to identify the “elements” of literature and argument rather than just reading and allowing the “elements” to perform the function for which they exist: to produce meaning for the reader.  It’s like trying to teach someone to drive a car by demanding that they memorize and regurgitate each part of the engine or chassis.

That’s it in a nutshell.  The situation in American education is worse than you would ever believe, Dear Reader.  This just scratches the surface.  Most likely, it is already too late to remedy the situation.  I told my colleagues midway through the training session that Common Core was like that episode of Southpark where Cartman figures out that if you cram food up your butt, you will crap out of your mouth.  The fact that no one laughed or seemed to understand the symbolism involved tells me just how late it truly is.

Fifth Grade Traditional Math Problem vs Common Core Math Problem.

2 + 2 = 4 is not a good enough answer in Common Core. Students will not get full credit unless they analyze, evaluate and create.

Diane Ravitch featured an article comparing a traditional math problem to a common core math problem.  She writes:

The New York State United Teachers urged the state education department to slow down the rush to testing the Common Core because neither students nor teachers are ready.
NYSUT says: Don't test what hasn't been taught.
Sounds sensible.
But this is the strange thing.
Open the link. Look at the old math problem. Look at the Common Core problem.
What do you think?
I understand the old version. The new one--the Common Core example--doesn't make sense.
Is that just me?

She's right.  The new Common Core example doesn't make sense.  Click on Common Core: Moving too fast on testing from nysyt.org and see it for yourself.  The readers' comments are some of the best I've seen regarding the insanity of common core problems.  Here are a couple:

Looked at it yesterday and just shook my head. Neither one of my reading disabled granddaughters would be able to figure out what is being asked, let alone determine all the processes that might have to be used. Why do we insist on such mean-spiritedness directed at our children?? Good tests should not be intentionally designed to confuse children. Nothing fair about this but what do we expect when one of last years’ assessment dealt with purple pineapples?!?!?!


Is it a question that could be used to uncover children’s understanding of fractions, or is this an assessment of students’ ability to sit still, read carefully, and write clearly? The question itself is not problematic if it were to be used in a classroom setting in which explanation and justification were normative. Because there is likely to be a wide range of answers and reasons for those answers, this question might be useful for engaging students in rich classroom discourse. A teacher leading that discussion would be able to not only figure out who was having difficulty interpreting the text, but also figure out the children’s mathematical understanding based on the classroom discourse. Hence, it might be a really good assessment item that would provide the teacher with a great deal of information if used in a classroom setting by a qualified teacher. 

The problem is that questions such as this one will be used on a high-stakes test. In that setting, an incorrect answer may not have anything to do with the child’s mathematical understanding. Let’s suppose that the entire test consisted of questions such as this one. This item would not be useful in assessing the students’ MATHEMATICAL understanding about fractions, because the students’ answers to the task depends on the students’ ability to interpret text and to write a written explanation as well as the mathematics. Thus, the item might not be assessing mathematics. While the item fails on validity, that is still not the problem. The problem is that those invalid scores will then be used to evaluate our students, their teachers, and our schools.

In Missouri, you can click here from dese.mo.gov and access a link from The Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium to see examples of math problems for 4th graders in common core language.  You can see for yourself how teachers now need to grade these problems.  4th grade Math problems don't solely have a right or wrong answer.  The teacher grades on understanding, the manner in which the problem was solved, how the student communicates the reasoning and the data provided by the 4th grade student:  

The Smarter Balanced summative assessments in mathematics are designed to measure the full range of student abilities in the Common Core State Standards or Core Academic Standards (CAS). Evidence will be gathered in support of four major claims: (1) Concepts and Procedures, (2) Problem Solving, (3) Communicating Reasoning, and (4) Modeling and Data Analysis.
Students will receive an overall mathematics composite score. For the enhanced assessment, students will receive a score for each of three major claim areas. (Math claims 2 and 4 are combined for the purposes of score reporting.)
Claim 1 — Students can explain and apply mathematical concepts and interpret and carry out mathematical procedures with precision and fluency.
Claim 2 — Students can solve a range of complex, well-posed problems in pure and applied mathematics, making productive use of knowledge and problem-solving strategies.
Claim 3 — Students can clearly and precisely construct viable arguments to support their own reasoning and to critique the reasoning of others.
Claim 4 — Students can analyze complex, real-world scenarios and can construct and use mathematical models to interpret and solve problems.
Distracter: the incorrect response options to an SR item.
Distracter Analysis: the item writer‘s analysis of the options or rationale for inclusion of specific options.
Item: the entire item, including the stimulus, question/prompt, answer/options, scoring
criteria, and metadata.
Key: the correct response(s) to an item.
Options: the responses to a selected-response (SR) item from which the student selects one or more answers.
Scoring Rubric: the descriptions for each score point for an item/task that scores more than one point for a correct response.
Stem: the statement of the question or prompt to which the student responds.
Stimulus: the text, source (e.g., video clip), and/or graphic about which the item is written. The stimulus provides the context of the item/task to which the student must respond.
Task: similar to an item, yet typically more involved and usually associated with constructedresponse, extended-response, and performance tasks.
Top-Score Response: one example of a complete and correct response to an item/task.

Who wants to wager these type of math problems requiring high language skills and strong writing abilities will turn away children toward math and other STEM subjects while they are still mastering their math factsCommon Core Math has little to do with math and mastery of the mathematical process.

Sunday, February 3, 2013

The Similarities Between CSCOPE and Common Core

Does CSCOPE sound like Common Core?

What is CScope?  From the home page:

CSCOPE is a customizable, online curriculum management system aligned with the Texas Essential Knowledge and Skills (TEKS). CSCOPE's high quality curriculum, assesment, and instructional components assist schools in meeting the high standard of rigor and relevance required in the TEKS and STAAR assessments.

CSCOPE has come under intense scrutiny from Texas legislators, parents and educators because of the cost, the curriculum, the necessity for online infrastructure in the schools, the fact CSCOPE is copyrighted and the taxpayers do not have the right to access the curriculum taught their children.  The school districts/teachers do not have the right to teach other curricula other than what is mandated in CSCOPE.

Donna Garner attended a Texas Senate Education Committee hearing on CSCOPE and the following is her transcript of the meeting.  Many of the same issues raised by the legislators seem to be many of the same issues in CCSS: the huge cost (not voted on by taxpayers) to local districts, private corporations holding copyrights to curriculum paid for by tax dollars, the need for online infrastructure in the schools, curriculum inaccessible to the taxpayers and the inability for teachers/school districts to change the curriculum/standards/assessments.

As you read Garner's transcript, do you believe this is a glimpse of the future to come with CCSS mandates? Is there really any substantial difference between the two programs?

"Most Amazing Senate Ed. Hearing Ever -- CSCOPE"
by Donna Garner
Today's Texas Senate Education Committee hearing  on CSCOPE was amazing. I watched the proceedings online from 8:30 A. M. until it finished around 3:15 P. M., and I took notes as fast as I could type. These may not be word-for-word, but I trust that I have captured the essence of the hearing. 
Texas Senator Dan Patrick led the hearing, and these are the Senators who worked alongside him to question the witnesses:  Donna Campbell, Larry Taylor, Eddie Lucio, Robert Duncan, Ken Paxton, and Kel Seliger.  (As best I could tell from online viewing, Royce West and Leticia Van de Putte did not attend the hearing.) 
What thrilled me is that all of us private citizens who have dug out the truth about CSCOPE and who have been vilified for our efforts were vindicated today because the evidence presented proved we were right all along.
CSCOPE was originally produced in 2005-2006  by outside consultants, one of whom was Linda Darling-Hammond who is tied to Obama and the Common Core Standards which is a takeover of the public schools by the federal government.  
In 2009 CSCOPE was incorporated as a 501(3)(c) non-charitable organization under the TESCCC (Texas Education Service Center Curriculum Collaborative), and the 20 directors of the Education Service Centers (ESC's) make up the board of directors of TESCCC.  To do this incorporation, no legal counsel was sought from the Texas Attorney General's office nor from the Commissioner of Education/Texas Education Agency. 
Now 875 districts are using CSCOPE and pay for it with taxpayers' dollars costing from $7 to $9 per student to "rent" CSCOPE each school year.  The monies collected by the ESC's are passed along to TESCCC and then to their fiscal agent, ESC 13 in Austin.
The Senators asked the ESC 13 witness how much school districts have paid for CSCOPE over the last several years, but that information did not seem to be readily available.  Sen. Campbell mentioned that Ector County ISD alone had spent $1.7 Million for CSCOPE just this school year. 
Questions were also raised about whether the ESC staffers who handle CSCOPE  full-time are paid by TESCCC/ESC 13 or by their own ESC's and whether such an arrangement represents a type of double-dipping.
Sen. Campbell wanted to know who owns the proprietary property of CSCOPE if it was developed using public funds -- "Do the people of Texas own it?"  She also questioned whether only parents should have access to CSCOPE since all Texas taxpayers paid for it. She said there are many good educators who are active and retired who have a commitment to helping children gain a good education and that everyone in the general public should have easy access to CSCOPE -- in the same way that they do to copyrighted textbooks.  Sen. Campbell wanted to know where the checks and balances are to verify the content of CSCOPE.
Sen. Patrick told Wade Labay, Statewide Director of CSCOPE, that when a governmental body seeks to form a 501(3)(c), TESCCC should have sought legislative authority.  None was sought by TESCCC.
The Senators were very troubled by the fact that the Texas Attorney General's office has said that the TESCCC is a governmental body yet it is using public funds to develop its product; uses public dollars to pay its ESC employees;  has no TESCCC business office; does not post its agenda; does not allow the public into its meetings; and will not allow public access to its minutes. 
Throughout the hearing, whenever members of the "education establishment" testified (e.g., school administrators, curriculum directors, representatives from Texas Association of School Board/Texas Association of School Administrators), it was as if they spoke from one "playbook" which had obviously been put together by ESC personnel. 
The common line used by the education establishment was, "Our district bought CSCOPE as a cost-saving curriculum management system to help our students to raise their academic achievement and to master the new STAAR/End-of-Course tests. Our teachers could not live without CSCOPE." 
However, when hard data and research were sought by the Senators from the "ed establishment" to prove the effectiveness of CSCOPE, none could be produced -- only their subjective opinions.  Almost all of the ed establishment witnesses mentioned their close-knit relationships with the ESC's, and most said they had first heard about CSCOPE through the ESC's.  Nearly all said their districts were constantly trained by ESC staff on CSCOPE.
When classroom teachers, parents, or the general public testified -- the ones closest to the classroom students -- they told a completely different story.  One of the most poignant moments in the hearing occurred when a veteran Algebra teacher almost broke down in tears as he told of having to quit his teaching job recently because he was required to teach CSCOPE.  He said he could not look his students in the eyes, knowing that he was "aiding and abetting ignorance...and giving them an allusion of an education." 
A well-credentialed education researcher, who works with many Texas school districts and who intensely dislikes CSCOPE, said she had had doors slammed in her face when she sought to uncover the ideology behind CSCOPE.  She said teachers are afraid to speak out about the content of the CSCOPE lessons and the links that students are directed to investigate.  Several of these links take students to sites where Wiccans are said to be similar to Christians and where Islam and Christianity are harmonized as being similar. 
A current classroom teacher of 30 years' experience told about being offended with the lesson in which students were required to make a Communist/Socialist  flag.  She said her father had proudly fought in World War II to keep our nation free and that our students should be taught American exceptionalism.  She also said that CSCOPE content teaches none of the great novels and does not teach the young readers a systematic approach to reading using phonics.  She complained that CSCOPE instead teaches whole language and that there is no formal instruction of grammar, usage, and correct writing.
This experienced teacher gave the Senators a copy of the TESCCC/CSCOPE legal document passed out during a CSCOPE 2012 summer training session that states, "To support implementation of this detailed curriculum, districts must have processes and people in place to insure that there is sustained monitoring of the curriculum and that individual teachers do not have the option to disregard or replace assigned content."  This teacher said that when parents put their children on the school bus to come to school, they are not sending them to school for a controlled and compulsory learning environment.  They want their children's teachers to be able to be creative and to meet the individual needs of each child.  She said, "I want it recorded for the record that I have never voted for a conglomerate to take over the Texas school system, and parents have not either."
Another witness said there was no need for CSCOPE because the curriculum standards (TEKS) are on the Texas Education Agency website along with many other excellent helps that teachers can use to prepare their students for the new STAAR/EOC tests.  Good teachers working together can create their own timelines and lesson plans.
One witness asked why the TESCCC was incorporated as a non-profit.  Was it to be able to hide the content of CSCOPE from the public?  Was it to keep their meetings, minutes, and agendas secret? 
When confronted with this evidence, the CSCOPE personnel at the hearing repeatedly admitted they had "Oops! Dropped the ball."  As the meeting proceeded, it became clear that a pattern of cover-up by Wade Libya/TESCCC/CSCOPE has been taking place since the public "sleuths" started digging out the facts.  The website has been changed substantially since the Senate Education Committee public hearing was announced. Now Labay says teachers are not prohibited from allowing parents to see CSCOPE materials, but Sen. Patrick could never get a confirmed "yes" that parents could go right now and see fully their children's CSCOPE materials 24/7.   
When the CSCOPE lesson referring to the Boston Tea Party patriots as "terrorists" was discussed (which had been in CSCOPE for seven years), Labay said it had been removed. 
When Labay was confronted with concerns over a lesson teaching the 5 Pillars of Islam, a lesson in which students role play a trek to Mecca, a lesson that teaches Allah is the same as Almighty God,  a lesson on Christopher Columbus that cherry-picks his diary to take out any of his references to his belief in God, and a lesson in which students create a Communist/Socialist flag, he gave a lame excuse about those lessons having been a part of the "old" lessons, having been left in CSCOPE at the request of teachers. 
One Senator said he found it perplexing that when these lessons were first revealed by the public "sleuths," TESCCC accused these concerned citizens of circulating "fallacious claims."  
Senators Taylor and Paxton were deeply troubled about the student project in which students were to design a Communist/Socialist flag.  They cautioned that teaching children to role play and sympathize with a particular cause is indoctrination of the mind, and they asked Labay to tell them who came up with that lesson plan?  Labay gave the lame excuse that there are over 1600 lessons and that ESC 12 CSCOPE staffers are the ones who are in charge of the content. 
One of the Senators responded, "Oh, you mean the same group that has the closed door board meetings...We have already talked about several egregious lessons today.  How many more are there that are buried up in the rest of the CSCOPE lessons that we have not located yet?"
The Senators kept hammering at the fact that 875 Texas school districts have been using CSCOPE for the last seven years; yet there has been no outside, independent review of CSCOPE to make sure that its lessons align with the SBOE-adopted curriculum standards (TEKS) upon which the new STAAR/End-of-Course tests are based. 
Sen. Patrick said he found it highly upsetting that it had taken the chair of the Texas State Board of Education six months to get a password to CSCOPE.  Former SBOE member Charlie Garza testified that he had asked TESCCC to have extra time to study the CSCOPE lessons, but his request was denied. 
It was also brought out that besides the per-student CSCOPE rental, TESCCC also makes money by charging publishers $100,000 per event to see the CSCOPE lessons so that textbooks can be produced that align with it.  Other vendors pay fees, and TESCCC also makes money from its yearly educators' conference. 

Senator Patrick said that the public had brought most of the CSCOPE problems to their attention over the last six to eight months and that he was upset over the lack of transparency and the secrecy demonstrated by TESCCC/CSCOPE.  He said this is the reason we need transparency, open meetings, and posted meetings  -- so that a governmental body cannot violate every entity of being a public entity.  "How many more mistakes are there? ... What is behind the curtain? ... You are in 875 school districts ... This is a very serious matter."
One Senator said he was investigating the possibility of charging the elected members of the Texas State Board of Education with the task of verifying the content of CSCOPE to make sure it is aligned with the TEKS.  Barbara Cargill, the chair of the SBOE, said that the Board has a review process already in place that could be used for CSCOPE since it is being used in 70% to 80% of Texas school districts. 
Cargill also mentioned her concern that TESCCC in its incorporation papers states that if TESCCC is dissolved, CSCOPE goes to the federal government.  She mentioned that she is concerned CSCOPE is not aligned with publishers' textbooks and that it is very confusing for students when they read a CSCOPE lesson (or CSCOPE test) that says one thing and a textbook that says another. 
Ms. Cargill complained that CSCOPE does not align itself with the new Science TEKS in which all sides of scientific theories (both strengths and weaknesses) are to be taught. Instead, the only links she could find in the CSCOPE lessons go to material that teaches evolution as fact.
Barbara Cargill was asked by one of the Senators whether SB 6 (passed in the 82nd Legislative Session) triggered the explosive growth of CSCOPE since school administrators can now purchase CSCOPE (i.e., instructional materials including software and hardware) with state dollars without those materials having passed through the rigorous SBOE adoption process.  She said that having "100 eyeballs" to evaluate the instructional materials at the SBOE level is far superior to having only a few CSCOPE employees do so.
Pat Hardy, also a member of the Texas State Board of Education, verified that CSCOPE is a curriculum [not a "curriculum mnagement system" as claimed by TESCCC/CSCOPE] and that it is the SBOE who adopts the curriculum standards -- TEKS.
A parent whose children are in the public schools where CSCOPE is being utilized believes that the elected SBOE should have authority over CSCOPE.  However, she has a serious reservation because one of the present SBOE members is a registered lobbyist for Microsoft; and she wonders about the possible conflict of interest and corruption that could bias the SBOE/CSOPE alignment process.   
One retired science teacher said that at some point, Common Core Standards tried to purchase CSCOPE; and she is concerned because the Texas Association of School Administrators (TASA) is having a convention in California, using public dollars to pay for Texas school personnel to attend.  At this conference,  Common Core Standards and Linda Darling-Hammond will be featured.  Gov. Perry and both Texas Education Commissioners have said Texas will not participate in Common Core Standards.  Since CSCOPE is already in 70% to 80% of Texas' school districts, the retired science teacher is afraid the CCS ideology could be permeating CSCOPE's lessons right now.
One of the last witnesses reminded everyone that children belong to their parents and not to the state; school children should be able to take their CSCOPE materials home each evening; and the public should have open access to see everything except the tests and answer keys. 
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