"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, April 20, 2013

Google "Smarter Balanced Assessment" and See What you Get.

Is this a crystal ball moment?  Looking into the crystal ball today about noon and googling the above search term, this is what I got:

NOTICE: This domain name expired on 04/19/2013 and is pending renewal or deletion.


Why is the smarterbalanced.org domain expired?  Is it:
  • disappearing like a bad relationship
  • being absorbed into a public/private partnership that will henceforth be known as a different name (akin to CCSS being renamed Missouri Learning Standards?)
  • taking itself off the internet now that folks know about the standards and their unresearched/non-documented claims
  • not paying attention to details such as renewing a website...which makes one wonder what will happen to student personal data sent to SBAC per MOUs signed by the states



It's back on line.  It must be the 4th bullet point.  This could be worrisome.

Northwestern's View of Diversity

While the K-12 world is bent on commonality and treating everyone the same regardless of origin or ability, the world of higher education intends to take those same kids, who have been bathed in a culture of oneness and sameness, and yank them in completely the opposite direction. The goal of the  Common Core standards is to prepare kids for college, but what is college going to do to them? Consider Northwestern University which is implementing a "Social Inequalities and Diversities” requirement, that all students will have to complete before they graduate. We have, as a society, just bent over backwards adopting Common Core and will spend billions of dollars ($16 billion according to Pioneer Institute) treating everyone exactly the same, teaching them to reach the same ends with the same values and making sure they have absorbed that sameness through uniform standardized testing. But once they get to college they will be told they won't be able be graduate unless they understand the world is full of differences and they should embrace those differences.

According to College Fix, NU's goal " is multifaceted. The draft proposal states that once completed, students will be able to 'expand their ability to think critically', 'recognize their own positionality in systems of inequality,' and 'engage in self-reflection on power and privilege.

Wow. Someone paid a lot of money for a degree that allows them to create new words with little connection to the common lexicon. This is not an exploratory class where students investigate and decide on their own if there is inequality. The first goal begins with the premise that we have a system of  inequality. There is no movement up or down in our system. You are locked in. Tell that to people like Thomas Sowell, Nikki Haley, and Ursula Burns.

The graduation requirement being considered also contains an co-curriculum element. The one being considered by NU is “Sustained Dialogue.” The article says it is "an extracurricular program used at a number of institutions around the country designed to educate students about race, gender, and class issues." However, The International Institute for Sustained Dialogue says it is "designed for use with groups that must deal with deeply divisive relational animosities before they can find enough common ground to work together in resolving problems that affect their interests."

I checked the Daily Northwestern for reports of the deeply divisive issues plaguing the campus. Strangely, I could not find any such reports. This lack of conflict is even stranger given how committed to diversity the university is, diversity that has the potential to spark "relational animosities." They have hired three additional diversity administrators to manage this new requirement bringing the total number of administrators focused on diversity at the university to seven. Is it going too far to conclude then that the true purpose of such a program lies in the third goal, "engaging in self-reflection on power and privilege?" Translation: White Guilt.

I must now conclude that my decision to no longer contribute to my alma mater is the right decision. This is not the self empowering institution I attended that instilled in me a love of learning and the belief that my future was up to me. Rather than teach students that they can go as far and achieve as much as they are willing to work for, they will be taught that they did not earn the place they start from and any improvement they make may simply be because of "systemic privilege."

Friday, April 19, 2013

The "Stop Common Core" Movement Consists of Right Wing Whackos and Third Party Whackos. It's All Good.

The growing displeasure about the adoption/implementation of Common Core has united disparate groups of folks concerned about the privatization and centralization of education.  Edweek.com featured A Progressive and a Conservative Find Common Ground Opposing the Common Core and how different political philosophies are set aside by two folks working together to defeat CCSS. 

Susan Ohanian (a self proclaimed "third party whacko") writes she agrees with the "right wing whackos" on their opposition to Common Core and explains why.  She ties it in nicely with an article she wrote 13 years ago on Goals 2000, another educational reform model that attempted to implement national standards and increase centralized education.   From Republican National Committee passes resolution to shut down Common Core curriculum:


Ohanian Comment: Finding myself in agreement with the Republican National Committee, Glenn Beck, Michelle Malkin, and a host of other right wing whackos comes as no surprise. Been there. Done that. Here's an excerpt from a cover story I wrote for Phi Delta Kappan, January 2000: Goals 2000: What's in a Name?

Liberals and Conservatives Join Hands

"Are you a Republican yet?" My husband asked me that question a couple of months ago. Maybe his question was provoked by the volume of mail coming to our house from the Eagle Forum, the Thomas Fordham Foundation, the Heritage Foundation, the National Center on Education and the Economy, the Center for Education Reform, the Citizens for Academic Excellence, the MacArthur Institute, Foundations of Liberty, Free World Research, Freedom First, the Independent American, American Policy Center, Focus on the Family, Halcyon House, Harvest House Publishers, Harold Shaw Publishers, Abique Books, and so on and on. Publish it, and Ohanian's check will follow. That's pretty much been my practice in the last year as I tracked resistance to Goals 2000, which is to say I've been studying government meddling in local education policy.

I admit to being surprised at what I found. For starters, I found that we have something to learn from the grassroots right-wing whackos, who are a whole lot more organized and a lot more strategic than the ever-eclectic and often bickering left-wing whackos. Liberals grouse and grumble; conservatives set up websites. They publish comprehensive studies of the history of education legislation, tracing its origins to fascism, communism, and the threat of a United Nations takeover; they publish handbooks that advise parents on how to resist. These conservatives remind us that the enemies of our enemies are not necessarily our friends. Case in point: disliking Clinton's policies doesn't come close to being reason enough to support George W. Bush's policies. That many right-wingers are against Goals 2000 should remind us to look beneath party labels and examine what the politicians and their corporate cronies are really up to. That's why many conservatives dislike Chester Finn, Jr., and Louis Gerstner, Jr., and George W. Bush, Jr., even more than liberals do. Incongruous as it may seem, opposition to Goals 2000 might provide an opportunity for right-wing and left-wing zealots to join hands in their common belief that the state is the enemy of education. Okay, so I'm not holding my breath waiting for this strategic detente to take place. But even a whiff of the possibility of derailing the Goals 2000 megamonster locomotive barreling across the education landscape with its heavy load of high-stakes tests gives me some hope. Am I a Republican yet? Well, after studying the ways Goals 2000 has intruded into the classrooms of America, I'm not even a Democrat anymore. Goals 2000 has turned me into a third-party whacko. . .

The article continues with some quite wonderful examples of whacko connections. Here's just one:

Right-wing whackos point out that Finn is a founding member of Chris Whittle's Edison Project. (You remember Chris Whittle, the fellow who brought us Channel One.) Right-wing whackos take this a few steps further, showing the links between Whittle and Lamar Alexander, between Alexander and Rene Dubos, with Dubos quoting Plato that "the great blessings come to us through madness. . . . Madness which comes from god, is superior to sanity." Right-wing whackos show Whittle's link to Madonna's Sex and to the rap song "Cop Killer." I have developed considerable affection for the Far Right's frequent demonstration of the six degrees of separation, which they can often reduce to just three or four. . .

And so on.

Today I'm not surprised to find myself finding agreement with Glenn Beck, Michelle Malkin, and the Republication National Committee.

By and large, conservatives seem more willing to acknowledge the good work of progressives than vice versa. My site is recommended on a number of conservative sites. Here I'm listed as a freedom fighter--along with plenty of other progressives, as well as the Cato Institute. As I've said to many conservatives, "Let's agree on education policy and not talk about anything else."

But on to the Republican National Committee. As people have pointed out, this resolution carries no teeth, but it is still fundamental. Think how ecstatic so-called Progressives would feel if the Democratic National Committee passed such a resolution.

I don't embrace conservatives any more than I embrace toothless progressives. I cheer the points where we find common cause, and I cheer people who do more than gripe about the Common Core.

Illinois Review: Crossroads of the Conservative Community

LOS ANGELES - The concerns about the federal Common Core curriculum and the national standards it would impose on local schools reached the level of the Republican National Committee Friday and was passed unanimously. Illinois RNC National Committeewoman Demetra DeMonte said she was happy to co-sponsor the resolution and encourage others to support the effort.

The RNC resolution reads in part:

... RESOLVED, the Republican National Committee recognizes the CCSS for what it is– an inappropriate overreach to standardize and control the education of our children so they will conform to a preconceived “normal,” and, be it further

RESOLVED, That the Republican National Committee rejects the collection of personal student data for any non-educational purpose without the prior written consent of an adult student or a child student’s parent and that it rejects the sharing of such personal data, without the prior written consent of an adult student or a child student’s parent, with any person or entity other than schools or education agencies within the state ...

Illinois Review reported earlier this week on the new Stop Common Core in Illinois coalition, which is actively encouraging concerned parents to oppose the effort and encourage Illinois to withdraw from the program as this group in Georgia is in the process of doing.

— staff Illinois Review: Crossroads of the Conservative Community
April 12, 2013

Thursday, April 18, 2013

Senator Grassley Seeks Ending to DoED Funding of Common Core Elements

From a Caffeinated Thoughts post by Shane Vander Hart

Senator Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) is asking his colleagues to co-sign a letter asking the Senate Appropriations Committee that funds education to cut off all future funds that would allow the Obama administration to “cajole state’s” into participating in the Common Core State Standards and it’s assessments.

His office in an email sent late this afternoon document the steps the Obama administration has taken to push states to adopt the Common Core.

  • Making adoption of Common Core a per-requisite for a state even being able to compete for Race to the Top funds.
  • Directly funding the two assessment consortia developing tests aligned to Common Core using Race to the Top funds.
  • Assembling a panel to review the work of the two assessment consortia.
  • Making implementation of Common Core or coordination with Common Core a funding priority for other, unrelated competitive grants administered by the Department of Education.
  • Making participation in Common Core essentially a prerequisite for being awarded a waiver from the Department of requirements in the No Child Left Behind Act.
The email said, “This means no more Race to the Top funds in support of Common Core or the assessments aligned with Common Core and stopping further federal review of the assessments produced by the two consortiums.  It also means that the Department could not penalize a state that chooses to leave Common Core by revoking its NCLB waiver. The deadline for senators to sign on this letter is April 25 so it can reach the subcommittee in time to be considered." The letter reads as follows:

The Honorable Tom Harkin                                             The Honorable Jerry Moran
Chairman, Subcommittee on Labor,                                Ranking Member, Subcommittee on Labor
Health and Human Services, and Education                    Health and Human Services, and Education
Senate Appropriations Committee                                   Senate Appropriations Committee
Dear Chairman Harkin and Ranking Member Moran:
We ask that the Fiscal Year 2014 Labor, Health and Human Services, and Education Appropriations Bill include language to restore state decision-making and accountability with respect to state academic content standards. The decision about what students should be taught and when it should be taught has enormous consequences for our children. Therefore, parents ought to have a straight line of accountability to those who are making such decisions. State legislatures, which are directly accountable to the citizens of their states, are the appropriate place for those decisions to be made, free from any pressure from the U.S. Department of Education.
While the Common Core State Standards Initiative was initially billed as a voluntary effort between states, federal incentives have clouded the picture. Current federal law makes clear that the U.S. Department of Education may not be involved in setting specific content standards or determining the content of state assessments. Nevertheless, the selection criteria designed by the U.S. Department of Education for the Race to the Top Program provided that for a state to have any chance to compete for funding, it must commit to adopting a “common set of K-12 standards” matching the description of the Common Core. The U.S. Department of Education also made adoption of “college- and career-ready standards” meeting the description of the Common Core a condition to receive a state waiver under the Elementary and Secondary Education Act. Race to the Top funds were also used to fund two consortiums to develop assessments aligned to the Common Core and the Department is now in the process of evaluating these assessments.
We ask that you eliminate further interference by the U.S. Department of Education with respect to state decisions on academic content standards by including the following language in the Fiscal Year 2014 Labor, Health and Human Services, and Education Appropriations Bill:
Sec. __. (a) Funds appropriated under this Act or any prior Act shall not be used by the Secretary of Education—
(1) to directly develop, implement, or evaluate multi-State or other specified standards (defined in this section as any set of academic content standards common to multiple States, including the Common Core State Standards developed by the National Governors Association Center for Best Practices and the Council of Chief State School Officers, or any other specified set or type of academic content standards selected by the Secretary) or assessments aligned with such standards;
(2) to award any grant, contract, or cooperative agreement that requires or specifically authorizes the development, implementation, or evaluation of multi-State or other specified standards, or assessments aligned with such standards;
(3) to condition any award of funds to a State on the adoption of multi-State or other specified standards, or to include, as a component of an application for Federal funds, a requirement or preference related to multi-State or other specified standards; or
(4) to enforce any provision of a waiver issued by such Secretary under section 9401 of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act of 1965 (20 U.S.C. 7861) related to the adoption of multi-State or other specified standards.
(b) Nothing in subsection (a) shall be construed to limit the discretion of an individual State to use funds provided through a grant, contract, or cooperative agreement for any uses that are authorized under the grant, contract, or cooperative agreement, if the State so chooses.
Thank you for your consideration of our request.
Chuck Grassley

Time to contact Blunt and McCaskill.

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

The Ultimate "From The Beginning" From The Government

The government has an insatiable desire to collect data on children. That is a given. The starting age they are proposing keeps getting younger and younger. Illinois would like to begin at 24 hours old. Not to be outdone, Cincinnati has come up with a plan to begin tracking your child as soon as conception can be confirmed.

The Mayor's Challenge is a competition to inspire American cities to generate innovative ideas that solve major challenges and improve city life.This fan favorite (as voted by Huffington Post and Bloomberg Philanthropes) provides the answer to the higher than average infant mortality rate in many urban centers.
"From the first steps a pregnant mother takes into a healthcare facility, we want her to be on a path that will lead directly to her seeing the first steps her baby takes. From the moment a woman finds out that she's pregnant, we will enroll her in a secure database that follows her through the pregnancy and measures the interventions she receives."
All this will be done, of course, to ensure that her child doesn't die prematurely. They also will have a record for the school of everything that happened to that child in utero which may explain why he is having trouble learning.

The really great news is that, when fully implemented, Cincinnati will create a blueprint to share with cities across the country so everyone can start tracking babies. As the government begins to do with data what many people fear they will do with data, it's not like moms will stop going in for prenatal care or anything, like those with depression might stop seeking psychological services for fear of losing their ability to purchase a firearm. This is going to be awesome.

The Changing Terms of Common Core

Contracts are needed when you don't trust the other party to keep their word. If everyone was honest in their transactions and did what they promised, we wouldn't need lawyers to document every single term, party and deliverable. Since that is not the case, we get a lawyer, write it all down and sign our commitment to honor the terms. But what do you do when the other party keeps changing the terms of the agreement after you have signed?

That seems to be the case with Common Core. The language on their website is more fluid than the Mississippi River in April. Blogger Paul Bogush put together a little slideshow presentation called Terms of Abuse documenting these changes.
Progressives like their documents to live and breathe. Why should we expect anything different from Common Core?

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Bill Gates and the 2009 Common Core Speech to State Legislators

Here is a rough transcription of Bill Gates' comments at the National Conference of State Legislators in 2009.  My comments are in parentheses.  It is ironic that the legislators said they never knew about it.  At least a few did in 2009.  And didn't it occur to them that these educational changes circumvented the legislative process?  No red flags?

Access all the clips from youtube here:


Clip 1:
CRISIS! Recession.  Forced to balance the budget.  Constituents are losing their jobs and everyone is asking  you to make it better.  We've been in an education crisis for a decade.  Performance on all levels are all dropping against the rest of the world.  "It's a reflection of weak systems run by bad beliefs and bad habits" (Kind of like NCLB so we replace it with a worse program)?    In these circumstances a crisis can work like a pivot.  We can start something new and better..."if you're willing to do it".....(which btw, we were never asked if we wanted to do it).

Clip 2:
OUR FOUNDATION has put a program into place to ensure kids get degrees...we hope you'll (now remember this is the legislature that was bypassed with these decision) set similar goals in your state.  Colleges with innovations (Gates approved?  Who approves?) should be expanded, those that aren't should be changed or ended (based on Gates determination)?  We need to measure what students know and what jobs they get.  We don't the answers because we aren't asking the right questions and making the right measurements (so Gates in his intense desire for philanthropy will tell us what the questions are and what measurements to use).  Colleges need to do better with plunging educational performance (is that the college's fault or the primary/secondary education via NCLB)?  Without measurement there is no pressure for improvement.

A teacher in the top quarter will improve student scores by 10 percentage points in a year.  If we have great teachers our scores would be the very best in the world once again.  Reward great teachers.  Other teachers will learn from them.  We reward them for seniority and masters degrees (and he doesn't like that).

Clip 4:
A true reformer will be obsessed with one question (and guess what...it has nothing to do with teacher autonomy or local control or student/parental responsibility): What changes can improve the quality of teaching transmitting these best examples so that every student has effective teachers.  Two steps: we need longitudinal data systems that track student performance that are linked to the teacher and we also need fewer, clearer, higher standards that are common from state to state.  The standards will focus teachers on what students are supposed to learn (again, who decides) and the data will tell them whether they are learning it.  These two changes will open up options we've never had before.


Clip 5:
The standards will match the best in the world.  Identifying common standards is just the starting point.  We know we have been effective when the curriculum and tests are aligned to the standards. (While at the same time the education commissioners are insisting schools can choose their own curriculum and does anyone STILL believe there is no federal involvement?
):  Arne Duncan has announced that $350,000,000 will be used just for the formulation of these assessments: next generation of tests aligned to the common core.  When the tests are aligned to the common standards the curriculum will line up as well.  (An added bonus or the real intent): AND IT WILL UNLEASH A POWERFUL MARKET OF PEOPLE PROVIDING SERVICES FOR BETTER TEACHING.  For the first time there will be a uniform base of customers looking at using products (decided by Gates or local school boards?) that can help every kid learn and every teacher get better.  (Now this is at the heart of elitism):  Now imagine having the people who create great online video games applying their intelligence to online tools to pull kids in and make alegebra and other subjects fun.  (Guess the intelligence/training teachers go to school for counts for little in the new program).

Clip 6:
The stimulus package contains funding for longitudinal data systems.  I hope you'll use this funding to track students performance from early childhood through high school and college and into the workplace.  Student performance (but our commissioner says that will never happen) should be linked to the teacher and the curriculum in the instructional tools....what teachers, curriculum leads to student success.

Clip 7:
Measurement systems will lead teachers to say "these have helped me become a better teacher"

Monday, April 15, 2013

Illinois Tracking Students from 24 Hours Old to 3 Years Old. "Baby Talk" Data Set Revealed

We know that data sets have been compiled on students, but in Missouri, we are told by our state agency that it is "not its intent" to compile personal information data on students.

While it might not be DESE's stated intent to gather personal student data, it may inconsequential if mandates exist requiring state educational agencies or local school districts to track students and provide certain data.  Illinois will be gathering data on children from 24 hours old to 3 years old in its Student Information System (SIS).   It is not stated whether this is mandated by a federal requirement, but this information taken by the state on children less than 3 years old includes data beyond the usual information of name, address, courses taken and attendance.

The data mining set begins on page 52/92 from All Schools Meeting May 2011: Illinois State Board of  of School Year 2011 and Planning for School Year 2012:

Demographics and Early Childhood (Ages 3-5) File Format

 “Pre-K At Risk Classroom”

Replace with Placeholder 1

Student must be identified as one of the following when student is enrolled

Preschool for All (PFA)

Head Start

Pre-K Title I

Local or Other Funding

New SIS Data Collections for School Year 2012
Birth to 3 Data Collection

Students Ages 1 day old to less than three years of age identified with Grade Level
If Student is Birth to 3, Full Time Equivalent (FTE) must be 1.0
When student is enrolled in Grade “00” a Birth to 3 record is created

All Mandatory Birth to 3 data must be entered before the student can be exited

Birth to 3
Data Elements

EI Number                                                                       Optional
Program Model                                                               Mandatory
Service location (modality) for prevention
initiative programs                                                          Mandatory
Screening for eligibility tool                                          Mandatory
Total number of home visits during the year             Mandatory
Total number of parent groups/sessions
attended during the year                                                Mandatory
Total number of hours of services for student
per week                                                                             Mandatory
Student born with a low birth weight                          Mandatory

Is student living in a foster home                                 Mandatory
Was parent married at time of student's birth           Optional
Biological mother's date of birth                                   Optional
Student's family is receiving child support                 Mandatory
Student's family is receiving TANF                              Mandatory
Student‘s family is receiving WIC                                 Mandatory
Student's family is receiving food stamps                   Mandatory
Student's family is receiving a Housing Subsidy       Mandatory

What is this program of tracking 1 day old babies to 3 years old called?  It's called "Baby Talk" (pg 65/92):

 Who has access to this data and why is this data gathered?  From The Illinois Longitudinal Data System Project:

The Illinois State Board of Education, along with our Education Partners, is now actively moving forward with the design and development of the state-wide Illinois Longitudinal Data System (ILDS).  The system, when fully deployed, will provide data to help to track the outcomes of Illinois students as they progress from Pre-K through Postsecondary education, and as they enter the workforce.  Longitudinal data supports an in-depth, comprehensive view of students’ progress and will ultimately help guide policymakers on where to invest time and energy to most effectively improve student achievement in our State.

The ILDS is defined by Public Act 96-0107 and enabled through federal funding, and instructs the State Board of Education to link student test scores, length of enrollment and graduation records over time.  The system also will connect students to career planning and resources, with the potential to facilitate the application process for financial aid and records transfer for students.
ILDS will serve a large stakeholder group, including:
  • Illinois State Board of Education
  • Local Education Authorities
  • Regional offices of education and intermediate service centers
  • Parents and other members of the general public
  • State Legislatures
  • News media
  • Research organizations
  • Postsecondary Institutions
  • State workforce and higher education agencies
  • Education Partners
The ILDS Project has five major components:
  1. Establishment of a Data Advisory Committee
  2. Development of an Enterprise-wide Data Architecture
  3. Improved Data Quality through Data Stewardship
  4. Development of an Education Enterprise Data Warehouse
  5. Linking of the ISBE Unique Student Identifier with Postsecondary and Employment Data

The career/work tracking of students in Illinois now begins when a baby is at least 24 hours old.  Why would Missouri or any other state with common core standards and longitudinal adata systems be any different?    Like Illinois, a stated goal of the Missouri P20 longitudinal data system is to track human capital into the workforce:

These data also can be linked to external data sets on employment, labor needs across sectors, economic development, community assets, and so forth.

Why is it necessary for the government to track a mother's marital status, federal/state assistance received, low birth weight of the baby, etc?  If a baby is born with health problems into a one-parent home that depends on governmental assistance, does it put the child on a certain track?  Why do you think tracking begins at 24 hours old instead of a newborn?

Finite resources must be used appropriately on the human capital most likely to reap the advantages of those resources and this particular child is not starting off as a good investment based on its data.  Note that the baby is not the only person tracked.  Parent(s) are also tracked as to their behavior.



Sunday, April 14, 2013

Send Exxon Your Thoughts About its Support of Common Core

Send a message to Exxon on its Facebook page about its Common Core commercials:

Common Core:  Choice architects and Bill Gates funded organizations promoting why you should love standards crafted by private trade organizations funded by stimulus money.
Here's a fabulous one someone wrote on its page:

I guess it helps lubricate deals in DC when you pander to the politicians with a commercial praising common core/indoctrination

Send a message to Exxon on twitter about the commercials:

Message to Exxon: Common Core crafted/owned by private organizations. Funded by stimulus $$. Untested, no research.

This is a good one:

Exxon must've missed the memo that CC curriculum HATES the oil and gas industry. CC teaches that oil is causing global warming.

Has Common Core Practice Invaded the Spelling Bee?

One of the talking points of Common Core Math Standards proponents is that a child shouldn't just know equations, the child must understand the process of getting the answer and have to explain how he/she arrived at the answer.  Memorization of facts is not of primary importance.  The process by which you can explain your answer is largely how your child will be graded.  The answer 2 x 2 = 4 is not a sufficient answer.  Now the student must use language and diagrams to explain the process by which he/she arrived at the answer.  If the language and diagrams are not correct, the student will not gain full credit for the answer, even if he/she knows his/her multiplication facts table.

The contestants in the National Spelling Bee must now not only be able to spell the word, they must now be able to pick from a multiple choice list and determine the meaning of the word.  From npr.org and At The Spelling Bee, Spelling Is No Longer Enough:

This week, the National Spelling Bee announced that spelling will no longer be enough.
Beginning this year, contestants in the early rounds will not only have to know how to spell, say, "flocculent," but also know whether it's:
A) an intestinal disorder among sheep
B) the stuffing inside a sofa pillow
C) a clump of wool
It's C, by the way.

Paige Kimble, executive director of the Spelling Bee, says the change was made to reinforce that the purpose of the whole national contest isn't just to produce a newsclip of brainy and endearing youngsters in bottle-thick glasses spelling "borborygmus" — which is a rumbling in the intestines, by the way — but to encourage students to strengthen their powers of communication.

And she says good student spellers are apparently not like Major League Baseball pitchers, who might throw a ball 100 miles an hour, but can't hit one with a surfboard.

"What we know with the championship-level spellers," says Ms. Kimble, "is that they think of ... spelling and vocabulary being two sides of the same coin."

Linda Holmes this week that "the Bee at its best is not rote memorization of the largest number of words, divorced from their context and floating outside of sentences."

But it's interesting to review the words that have been correctly spelled to win the Spelling Bee since it began. "Luxuriance" was the word in 1927, "promiscuous" in 1937, "psychiatry" in 1948, "eczema" in 1965, "croissant" in 1970, and "psoriasis" in 1982.

All those words may have been a little tricky to spell, with X's, Z's, silent P's or inexplicable double S's. But they were familiar. The fact that they were spoken in everyday conversation made it humbling and instructive when we were uncertain how to spell them.

But as the National Spelling Bee has grown more popular and publicized, the words youngsters spell to win the championship have grown increasingly unfamiliar — corkers to stump a contestant, not to leave anyone with a new word they can't wait to use.

In 2011 the word that won the contest was "cymotrichous," which is to possess wavy hair, though I doubt Taylor Swift or Matthew McConaughey describe themselves that way. Last year, it was "guetapens," which is a kind of trap. Especially if you try to pronounce it.

Maybe putting the meaning back into words will remind us that most of the students we see in spelling bees aren't spelling out words that will win a contest, but knowing them may help make them wiser through that real contest called life. 

Some of the readers commented on the new spelling bee rule and took exception to the new rule:

I do not agree that this will "help make them wiser through that real contest called life". Most of these words are not used commonly. How many people do you know that use the word "guetapens". (Which, by the way, my auto-correct wants to change to "vagueness") And if you did use it in a sentence, you would probably spend more time explaining what it means than it would take you to use a more common word. Spelling Bees are for spelling. So many people no longer know how to spell. Recently my friend's son couldn't figure out how to "sound out" a word for himself. People use abbreviations and acronyms so often that we are losing out ability to even notice when a word is not spelled correctly. Spelling Bees, in and of themselves, are an achievement. Don't negate that by changing it into something else.


Why not just turn it into a quiz show? Sorry, but i am a spelling purist. Granted, the meaning of the words is interesting, but the spelling bee is almost like a feat of strength, but with words... should they be required to compose poems onstage ten years from now? Additionally, these kids do happen to have an extensive knowledge of root forms and parent languages, all of which indicate the words' meanings... don't know why, but this makes me so sad!

and these comments from Althouse readers offer insight:

In the old days, they'd tell you the meaning because, if you'd been exposed to Latin and/or Greek, you could figure out the spelling.

Now they change the rules.

If you like your bee, you can keep it...

Spelling bees measure spelling,not vocabulary.

There are some words in there you might be able to spell but have no clue as to meaning. And prior to now you could have someone ask the judge for the meaning. This sounds more like a really hard vocabulary competition .

A spelling bee has turned into a vocabulary competition and math problems have turned into a language art exercise.  Sure sounds like Common Core practice has invaded the spelling bee.

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