"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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Friday, July 12, 2013

Getting Prepared in Francis Howell School District

The radio whined with the emergency alert tone. A meteorologist interrupted the broadcast and spoke in measured tones warning the public of an approaching storm. “The conditions are ripe for tornadic activity as this low pressure system moves into our area. We’ve already seen signs of rotation as these rainclouds have moved across our state. Residents are advised to take shelter in a basement. Keep emergency supplies handy and stay tuned for future alerts.” Meanwhile families gather children and flashlights and, most likely, watch nervously out their windows ready to run for the basement stairs at the first sign of heavy wind or low rumbling noise reminiscent of a freight train. Only the imprudent  would blithely ignore the warnings. They know there is only a chance that a funnel cloud will come down on their house, but they have seen the pictures and read the stories of those who did not beat the odds in such a storm so they want to be prepared. Those who are prepared are the ones who survive. Meanwhile they pray, and most likely their prayers will be answered, that their family and neighbors are spared any harm.

Such was the atmosphere at last night’s meeting of Francis Howell School District officials, school board members, legislators and the public. The concerns of many in the room were not unfounded. One doesn’t have to do much research to discover the trouble plaguing the Normandy School District which recently announced their intention to transport the students, wishing to exercise their legal right to transfer to an accredited school district now that their district has lost its accreditation, to FHSD.

In calm measured tones FHSD Superintendent Dr.  Pam Sloan read section 167.131 of Missouri statute describing the legal rights established for students registered in unaccredited districts. Another school administrator reviewed the history of the Turner v. Clayton case which went all the way to the Missouri Supreme Court. The court determined that there were no Hancock Amendment violations in the law and that districts’ “impossible accommodation” defense was not valid. If they had the space, they had to accept the transferring students.

Dr. Sloan stated very clearly that she did not believe it was in anyone’s best interest to send students from unaccredited to accredited districts for their education. This was not a fix to the problem of poor student performance and failing schools.

What was made abundantly clear to the audience, by both administrators and school board members of FHSD was that this was not their decision and they had little to no say in what was happening to their school district. Neither the solution nor the timeline was under their control. They could receive anywhere from 400-1,000 students from the Normandy school district. They could not turn away those will long disciplinary records. They would not be receiving any extra funds for additional staffing to meet the needs of these children. They would not have the luxury of time to develop well thought out plans on how to receive them because the district would not even know until the end of July how many were coming and they would only be receiving their student files a little over a week before school was scheduled to begin.  The court had their schedule, and the school district was just going to have to live with their late decision.

A river of parents stood in line to voice their concerns and ask their questions. Some had done their homework, even calling the Normandy district to confirm that they employed metal detectors, a fact which a FHSD administrator initially denied, but who then fell silent when the parent named her contact in NSD who told her they used them as well as armed guards in the schools. Many agreed with the assessment of one teacher who said this situation was like “putting a band aid on a wound” of NSD.

Some had not done their homework. One parent proposed her plan to have FHSD hire teachers to go to Normandy. This was a weak attempt to appear unbiased while maintaining a “not in my back yard” position. Everything she outlined in her plan had already been done in Normandy like firing all the teachers, bringing in outside experts, sending in more money (over $700k). Normandy schools still look like a war zone and their students test scores languish at the bottom. Her solution, in addition to being expressly forbidden by state law, has zero chance of success.

Carl Peterson former Fergusson  School Board President addressed the panel citing the root of the problem in legislation (SB 603) and calling out the legislators involved in creating this mess, most notably Scott Diekhaus. None of the legislators mentioned were in the audience having termed out or left the Missouri legislature. It will be up to their successors like Kurt Bahr and Kathy Conway, who were present, to find a solution.

“This is not a fix!” blasted FHSD School Board Vice President Mark Lafata at the state representatives and senators sitting in the front row. The legislature got them into this mess. He called on the public to call their legislator and get them to write new legislation to fix it.

The local school board and school district officials confirmed what I have said in MEW, they are not really in control of local education. And yes you will be financially responsible for other people’s decisions. One parent warned, “I don’t want to hear about a tax increase in the next couple years because we have all these additional students. “  Her comment was met with thunderous applause. Not unreasonable when you consider that 70% of FHSD’s revenue comes from local taxes while only 35% of NSD’s does and the district has been told they will not receive any additional money from the state. The audience was not comforted  by DESE’s promise to step in if Normandy became late on their monthly tuition payments to FHSD. It will become nearly impossible for FHSD to pass any tax increases in the foreseeable future, even the ones they really need.

The concerns brought up by most of the public were not unreasonable: “How much bigger will my child’s class be getting? How might this affect the special services or special education he/she is currently receiving? If only 32% of these children, according to the DESE website, are literate at grade level, how will this affect FHSD’s scores and accreditation? How are those children going to cope in a district where 80% of the students are reading at or above grade level? What plans are in place to ensure everyone’s safety?”

The point was made by several people that this was not a black v white issue. Everyone at last night’s meeting supports kids having the opportunity for a good education. If you took out the knowledge that Normandy is a primarily black school you would not find these questions offensive. When you break down these concerns (without your church lady false mantle of moral superiority) they appear no different than people who tie down their patio furniture and head for the basement when the emergency alert sirens go off.  They are just asking, how do we prepare? Accusing those people of lacking character for even voicing these concerns, like one commenter did, ignores practicality in an effort to make one appear to have a higher character by redefining character to mean throwing caution to the wind.

The parent who accused people of still living in the 1950’s and citing examples of violence or bullying currently in Francis Howell completely ignored the matter of scale that concerns residents. As recently as May 5th, the Post Dispatch reported that Normandy was the most violent school district in the state, “Normandy stands apart not only for its sheer number of fights, but for a dramatic spike in serious discipline incidents — which have nearly doubled since 2009, according to district figures reported to the state.” In addition, due to some storms that pushed a few north county families into the FHSD a couple years ago, the district residents have already had a taste of what that culture is like. Incidence of violence in their schools rose after only a few weeks from these few families. It is not unreasonable to try to imagine what the district looks like if you multiply that influence by factors of 100.  http://www.stltoday.com/news/local/education/normandy-high-the-most-dangerous-school-in-the-area/article_49a1b882-cd74-5cc4-8096-fcb1405d8380.html

All those who spoke were vying for credibility, from school board members who have been in city districts, to teachers with many decades of experience teaching in both city and suburban schools, to parents who were active in the FHSD, to parents who had lived in those inner city districts, lived through the violence and did whatever they had to do to move out of it. In my book those parents had the most credibility. Having lived it and tried every coping mechanism possible to deal with it they found the only solution was to leave and they feared that all they had worked SO hard to give their children was being threatened because the problems were following them.  If we do not consider experience as a teacher then we are doomed. Only those in the ivory towers of universities can afford the luxury of thought experiments to solve problems. The reality is that many of the “solutions” they dream up, like Common Core, have no basis in experience and therefore have a huge chance of failing. It would be unwise to jump into their solutions without building up some defenses or looking for an escape route.

I believe that the families and staff of FHSD will welcome the transferring students. It was unnecessary to tell them, like the one Normandy mother of middle schoolers did, that not all these students were troublesome. This mother promised that her children really wanted to learn and she planned to be a very involved parent. I’m sure she is not the lone case of responsible parenting in Normandy.  Most of the people in the gym and auditorium last night are praying that many of these kids will be just like their own kids; happy, welcoming and ready to learn. The fact is we want to think that everything will be ok. It takes a lot of effort to hold on to anger or fear. There will be a vetting process and I expect that Francis Howell will accomplish that reasonably and compassionately. But it is unreasonable to ask people to agree to trust everyone up front, just as it is unreasonable to expect that the funnel cloud will not descend on your house. You take precautions.

Thursday, July 11, 2013

DESE Schools

Those in the St. Louis area are watching the implementation of state law regarding school districts who lose their accreditation. Normandy and Riverview Gardens school districts have selected the receiving districts for their transportation funds for students who wish to exercise their right to transfer out of the unaccredited district into an accredited district either in their own county or an adjoining one. 

While everyone supports the desire for children to be able to escape a "failing" district, there are many details that will need to be addressed by all four districts involved most heavily in this situation (how many students can they expect, what will be the impact on special services, how will IEPs be handled, class sizes etc.) Other districts may face similar issues though on a smaller scale as anyone transferring to any other accredited district besides Francis Howell or Mehlville will have to provide their own transportation.

Today's guest post is from someone who will be both affected by the upcoming transfers and is very knowledgeable about the operations of a school and classroom.  The author takes a look at the "DESE Schools" created in Normandy and Riverview, schools with both dollars and experts thrown at them to achieve the state's goals. Despite that and the constant attention doled out by DESE, both districts still lost their accreditation. The receiving districts will not be given the tools DESE had, but will be expected to achieve what DESE could not. Can anyone explain how they are going to do that? Does anyone have a reasonable expectation that they will succeed?

DESE Schools 

What exactly is a DESE school? A DESE school is a Missouri public school that has lost its accreditation and been designated unaccredited by the Missouri Department of Elementary and Secondary education and our state board of education. The Normandy School District and Riverview Gardens District are among them. The state takes away accreditation and replaces the school board and staff in an attempt to fix the problem. They bring in top experts, write textbook worthy school improvement plans, apply and receive hundreds of thousands of dollars in grant money and stimulus funds, replace teachers and administrators, and even change the dress code. Upon designation of the Normandy districts downgrade, a state school board member commented that this was 20 years in the making! Twenty years!

 How many Normandy students were cheated out of an education during those twenty years? Where was DESE during those twenty years? Where were the parents? Where was the community outrage?

I truly believe a child learns best when surrounded by those closest to them. Please explain to me why the DESE model didn’t work? After all, great teachers, good intentions, new administration, more money, and a fantastic school improvement plan should equal great results or at the minimum some improvement. If we “spread the wealth”, “equally distribute” good teachers and leaders, set rigorous college and career ready standards for all students why are those districts still failing? Again, please explain to me why the DESE model didn’t work? It is based on recommendations from the US Department of Education. I believe it is a similar plan to the federal “turnaround” model.

It seems there are a lot of well-intended educrats out there that feel they know how to fix the problem. Shouldn’t we as a communities and a Nation be asking ourselves the difficult question of WHY these schools are failing? That seems to be the elephant in the room. No one wants to address the real issues. Everyone is quick to place blame everywhere else but where it belongs.

Since the DESE model didn’t work and the DESE schools are still failing, this now becomes the responsibility of the Francis Howell and Melville School Districts. Please explain why those taxpayers now have to “fix” this? Twenty years in the making! The difference between this situation and voluntary transfer programs is the fact that Francis Howell and Melville did not have a say in this decision what so ever! Normandy and Riverview Gardens were able to pick. DESE is rewarding them for failure to provide a free and appropriate education for students in their attendance area. For those who still believe that local school boards still have local control, think again. Our Missouri school districts no longer have a say in who attends their schools.

What most people don’t realize is that it will cost much more that those districts will pay for the transfers. Since those transfer students have been in failing DESE schools all of their lives, they are likely to be significantly below grade level in all areas especially reading and math. Through no fault of their own, they will now sit on a bus for hours each day and be placed in buildings based on availability and expected to be at their current grade level. The teachers in the new districts will now be tasked with trying to fix this problem. Their evaluations will be based on the achievement tests these students will be required to take at their grade levels. Why is it now all of the sudden their sole responsibility to fix the problem.

The Francis Howell School District prides itself on parent and community involvement and this is a huge factor as to why the district is so successful. Will those parents of the transferring students be involved in the education of their child? Will they drive the 20 plus miles to attend parent teacher conferences, IEP meetings, sports events and assemblies? Will they volunteer in the classroom or school library? Will they assist with homework and read to their kids each night to give them a leg up the next day? Will they make sure homework is completed and turned in? Will they support the schools if discipline issues should arise?

These are the expectations of successful districts. These are the characteristics that make great districts great! I hope those parents that are choosing to transfer their students understand fully their responsibility as a parent. I have a hard time believing this was actually going on in the transferring district. Could this be the reason these schools cannot be fixed? Even DESE cannot mandate involved parenting. DESE and the state board are setting these students up for failure if they think this is going to “fix” the problem. Until everyone decides it is time to address the real root of the problem and admit that the breakdown of communities and families play a significant role in the reasons for these failures no amount of money, best plans, uniforms, or transferring to neighboring districts is going to solve the problem.

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Common Core Lesson of the Day: School Boards Do Not Operate as Intended. They Need to Reclaim Their Authority to Make Educational Decisions.

This is the message to School Boards: Stand up, Speak Up, Fight Back Against Common Core Adoption/Implementation.  Reclaim Your Power and Authority as a School Board to Direct/Develop Educational Policy.

A Missouri parent submitted this post about her research into Common Core and school board operational procedures.  She details how the rhetoric of how a school board is supposed to operate doesn't correlate to how school boards actually function. 


The Role of  Local School Boards and Common Core

My husband and I attended a district wide school levy meeting and because my daughter had told me the school was implementing a new curriculum, I took the opportunity to ask the superintendent who was paying for the new Common Core curriculum.  The superintendent replied the school was paying for Common Core.  I was satisfied with that answer, and didn't think any more of it until after the meeting, when someone suggested, you may want to look into Common Core a little more.  It was that comment that prompted my research and it was that comment that caused me to ask to be listed on the next school board meeting agenda.

I've never been to a school board meeting but I was sure if I took my newly formed list of questions I had developed after researching Common Core that the school board would be able to answer them.  I envisioned to have my concerns alleviated and questions answered by the school board about Common Core.   What happened at that meeting caused a series of events that have fundamentally shifted my perception of how local and state government works.

I was given 3-5 minutes to talk.  I shared all the documentation I had found on what Common Core seemed to be; the laws it violated, the federal over reach, the concern of data collection and loss of local control.  I asked my school board representatives if what I had learned about the role of local school boards from the Missouri State Board of Education was accurate:

"Missouri has delegated much of the responsibility for education to the local board of education. Locally elected boards of education are political subdivisions carrying out a state function. Local school boards have significant latitude in governing the schools...

School board members are guardians of the public trust and, through the policies they make, are ultimately responsible for the success or failure of local public education. The board serves as the advocate for educational excellence for the community's youth and puts those interests first. The policies school boards make dictate the standards and philosophy by which schools are run and the criteria used to judge whether they are being run well. 

It continues:

 ...The U.S. Supreme Court has said education is perhaps the most important function of state and local governments. Our system of local school districts and boards of education epitomizes representative and participatory government--citizens elected from their community making decisions about educational programs based on community needs, values and expectations. Local boards of education also allow for community participation in that decision-making process. Boards of Education not only represent the public, but also translate the needs of students into policies, plans and goals that will be supported by the community.

If this is how the school board functions, how is Common Core happening?

We  now are trying to empower our school board members to understand their vital role in what happens in our schools.  So much has been delegated to superintendents and to the Department of Education, that they have lost their ability or vision to act in their proper roles. 

Before my friend and I met with the school board for a second time to present them with the resolution against Common Core, I called the Missouri State Board Association (MSBA) and talked with a Board lawyer.  I told her that we were presenting the local school board with the resolution, and wanted to make sure it would not affect the school in a negative way.  I relayed to her our desire for our board to be able to exercise their right as a school board in rejecting the assessments and standards.  Our conversation follows: 

She said to me, you will lose your funding and your accreditation

I asked her how much funding we would lose, and if our title one funds would be in jeopardy, to which she said, yes

I then asked her, If Common Core is not a federal program why would we be in jeopardy of losing our title one funds?  She said, Everyone knows this is a federal program.  

So then I said, So basically you're telling me we have the right to not adopt the standards, they are just making it impossible to exercise our rights?   

She responded by saying, basically.  She then gave me two phone numbers to call, both to DESE.  One to the accreditation department, and the other to the funding department....

I could go on... I guess the point is, we have rights, our school board has rights, etc. etc.  If all of a sudden a bureaucracy told us we no longer had rights, there would be a concerted effort to reclaim those rights, but that is not how this is happening. The discussion with the MSBA lawyer seemed to sum it up. We are still told we have those rights, so we feel reassured.  It's when we try to exercise those rights, that's when we discover how difficult it has become.

We have delegated responsibilities so long to paid administrators and DESE that we don't know how much we have given up.  In all fairness, it's  been left for someone else to do.  They have been paid to do the job for a large portion of citizenry which has lost its passion and desire to be engaged and informed.  Some of it comes from lack of know-how and some from feeling like we can't make a difference.  The secret is, (I've learned this in a way I never would have known before my quest to understand Common Core, but that's a different story), if we each took time call our school boards, and our state representatives and senators, Common Core wouldn't be an issue.  

What has stopped us from having great schools for our kids, is us.  We the people.  We must, like the saying goes, Be the difference we want to see in the world.  Don't be afraid to inspire your school board and/or your representatives and senators with knowledge and information!


If you are in Missouri, take a copy of this school board resolution to your school board.  Ask board members to sign it.  If they refuse, ask the members the reasons for refusal.  If you are in another state, adopt/adapt language to fit your state so your school board can reclaim its power to direct educational direction/delivery for your students.

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

The Grand Illusion of the School Board

"School boards offer citizens from all walks of life the opportunity to determine the community’s direction and vision for their children’s education." - Missouri School Board Association website

According to MSBA, the role of the school board is to determine the direction and vision of their children's education. Does any school board member out there feel they have control over the direction of the education produced in their district?  Do any boards feel they have control of the overall vision of education that they are providing to their children? If any school board member has answered yes to either of these questions then they have succumbed to the grand illusion of modern school board.

The MSBA website provides a history of school boards in our state.
The Act of 1820, which allowed Missouri to become a state, established the township as the first way of organizing schools. This system led to the creation of many small, autonomous schools governed by local citizens. Then, in 1839, the Geyer Act was passed. This Act is generally recognized as the real beginning of organized education in Missouri. It eliminated the township system and created what were known as sub-districts governed by three trustees. Another sweeping revision of Missouri’s education laws in 1874, gave almost complete control of schools over to local citizens. Among other things, citizens were empowered to elect local school district directors. By 1878, there were about 10,000 separate school districts in Missouri. No more than 100 of them offered courses above the elementary level. These thousands of school districts brought education within reach of nearly all the population and led to the pattern of school district development in the 20th century.
From there it describes history where a group of school board members first got together informally in 1936 to exchange ideas. The general intolerance for informality (because it does not provide clear power distinctions) caused the group to change. They created a more formal structure instituting officers, dues and eventually lobbying (initially lobbying was prohibited.) The focus of MSBA shifted from being a place where districts could learn from each other through the exchange of ideas and information to "monitoring legislation." In the early part of the last century schools had already seen laws that: extended the school year beyond three months, required teacher training and certification, consolidated school districts and imposed mandatory attendance. By the middle of the last century we had already moved a good deal away from the community setting the vision for education.

The MSBA has had a hand in transforming the role of the school board. MSBA instituted training for school board members which is its only other main focus to this day besides monitoring legislation. They note that the "Missouri Outstanding School's Act requires all school board members to receive 16 hours of training, within their first 12 months of service. MSBA’s Certified Board Member (CBM) program offers Essential Board Member Certification, which fulfills this requirement and provides the foundation for becoming an effective board member." MOSA was passed in 1993 under Governor Mel Carnahan and focused on several key areas: Show-Me Standards, Missouri’s Curriculum Framework, Statewide Assessment, Professional Development Standards, Professional Standards for New Educators, Technology Grants, and the Missouri School Improvement Program. It also seemed to recognize that school boards were not functioning "properly" and members therefore required special training. The fact that MSBA had established training years before is probably just a coincidence and the fact that their training covered everything in MOSA simply an after-the-fact design. It certainly seems to be counter to the statement on their website that citizens from all walks of life could participate in the development of an education vision on their local school board. They  may come from all walks, but they need extensive training to be able to do what their predecessors got together informally to do for decades.

This training that school board members are now, by law, required to receive (although note that the law does not specify that MSBA must be the provider), contains useful information like how to analyze a budget, what do Sunshine Laws cover, and Roberts Rules of Order. They focus on keeping the meetings civil. While MSBA cannot take credit for the 3 minute rule for public commenters (that we got from the Home Owners Associations), they have helped push this method for controlling the unruly public, which is exactly what the HOAs invented it for. Virtually every school board has instituted the three minute limit for public comment. If you limit the paying members of your HOA to three minutes to comment or complain about what you are planning to do, it certainly does make your meeting run more smoothly. It also makes it infinitely easier for HOA's to pass the rules their boards want. As a model for a quasi governmental entity it is great. However, a study of 3,000 people found that two thirds of them thought their HOA's were "annoying" or worse, 19% had been "at war" with their HOA and 54% would rather live in a sloppy neighborhood than deal with an HOA. The three minute rule does not seem to have a positive impact on your public image.

It is an attempt to apply Disney-esque techniques to what is naturally a messy process. Placing videos and exhibits along a ride's waiting line distracts the public from the monotony of waiting for long periods of time. Placing a turn or new segment to the line breaks it up and makes it harder for people to take in the big picture of their long wait. They become compliant cattle, grateful for any time the people in front of them move forward. Allowing many people from the public to come up and speak to a school board for three minutes, gives the impression of providing input, but is far from an open dialogue. It is hard to see the big picture of their concern or how you are going to address it.

Governing in a representative democratic process is challenging and far from neat, but there is a growing percentage of the public who feels that the tight regulation of the process makes it almost impossible for their opinions or thoughts to be heard. The "open exchange of ideas" is quickly becoming a part of nostalgia, like the initial meetings of the MSBA. The Delphi Technique is becoming more widely employed. One school district, without naming it so, has proposed officially adopting the delphi technique as their "communication protocol." Sunshine Laws, instead of working to keep the process transparent, restrict the players to only formal structured (read limited)  communication about issues, never gathering in numbers that could be considered quorum and stifling private conversation with the public of items on an official agenda.

In terms of these representatives from all walks of life being able to determine the "direction and vision" for education, that ship sailed long ago. The Business Rountable, The Gates Foundation,  the Council of Chief State School Officers and the National Governors Association have set that vision for the school districts since the 80's. The only decisions being left to the school boards are the minor ones, that the real power brokers don't think they can screw up too badly.

In our state the Governor almost single handedly sets the vision. He signed us on to Common Core in 2009 before a single standard had been written. That required true Kreskin-like vision. He then required his appointed state board of education to approve an Education Commissioner nominee who would go along with his vision. The SBE, following the governor's vision, not one they had developed, directed DESE to implement that vision. DESE in turn directed the district Superintendents to implement that vision. School Boards were told by their Superintendent that they would be implementing Common Core. School districts who have pushed back against Common Core have been threatened (despite prohibitions in state statute for doing so) with the loss of their accreditation if they pull out of Common Core. The districts are promised that they can set the curriculum, but actual school board members are advised to leave those decisions to "the experts," the administrators and curriculum directors. Those experts will, in turn be forced into picking curriculum that aligns with the standardized tests they didn't choose, thus placing the control of the direction of education in the hands of the Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortia (Pearson).

I can't help but recall a famous scene from "The Jerk" where Steve Martin's character tells people at his carnival game booth which prizes they could win, limiting their choices ultimately to a small three inch space on the shelves.

Though state statute requires DESE to get budgetary approval from the legislature each year for what they plan to do with the money collected from districts and taxpayers, the Governor maintains line item veto over that budget giving him the ultimate authority for all educational decisions in the state.

Certainly doesn't sound like local school boards "offer citizens from all walks of life the opportunity to determine the community’s direction and vision for their children’s education."

Later this week we will hear from school board members about what their experience has been like serving on a school board. I don't think it will much match what MSBA has said it should be.

Monday, July 8, 2013

Resolution For School Boards Ready to Reclaim Their Rightful Control Of Education

This week our blog will focus on school boards. Already several of them around the state are beginning to question the right of DESE to dictate education terms for school districts. They are wondering what they can do to reclaim the control they, by statute, have over both the educational goals of the district and the costs of delivering education to their students. Today we share with school boards a document that will reassert the rights of school boards to be self directed to the extent currently allowed by law. It also asserts the rights of parents and students, teachers and principals to privacy of their individual student or teacher/administrator data and protects districts from being the agents of collection of data that is planned to be shared widely beyond the district. 

The Resolution of the School District X to Stop the Implementation of Common Core State Standards Initiative (CCSSI) 2013 is a document you can share with your school district and members of the taxpaying community. Tremendous effort has gone into documenting the unconventional, and in some cases illegal, pathways to Common Core Standards development and adoption. The resolution cites language from the CCSSI developers, National Governors Association, Council of Chief State School Officers, CCSSI Validation Committee member testimony, UNESCO, and Missouri State Statute to make the case that the adoption of Common Core circumvented the legislative process, violates state statute and robs local districts of their lawful control over education.

We share  with you today in the blog just the beginning of the Resolution and encourage you to go here to download the entire document.

This RESOLUTION was made and adopted by the Board of Education of the School District of __________________, R- ____, on the date set forth after the signature of each of the board members set forth below.
I. Whereas CCSSI is Education without Representation:
1. Whereas, CCSSI was never approved by Congress, but was included in the “four assurances” required of governors to apply for of the State Fiscal Stabilization Fund and Race to the Top grants funded by the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act.  Congressional approval to fund a new national education program was bypassed.  Many Congressmen still know nothing about it. (http://www.ed.gov/news/speeches/vision-education-reform-united-states-secretary-arne-duncans-remarks-united-nations-ed),
2. Whereas, CCSSI was never approved by MO State legislators; they were bypassed as well.
3. Whereas, CCSSI was never formally reviewed and approved by our local school board, and the Common Core standards are copyrighted to non-government, trade organizations; and whereas, adoption of these copyright standards creates irreversible changes to the American political system and damage to traditional education and to local autonomy; yet local schools are responsible for unknown costs associated with its implementation. (http://www.corestandards.org/terms-of-use),
4. Whereas, CCSSI is not a state-led initiative and should not be called such; it was not commissioned by any state legislature, initiated or written by any State School Boards, nor by any local school board.  Pearson’s,  Sally Hampton and Phil Daro spearheaded the development of the standards (http://commoncore.pearsoned.com/index.cfm?locator=PS11Ye)  Elected state and local officials had no idea Common Core even existed until it was thrust upon them by requirements to access stimulus-funded grant projects and the No Child Left Behind Waiver scheme,
5. Whereas, the international influence of the Bill Gates Foundation in the Gates-UNESCO agreement of 2004, and the Pearson Foundation, associated with a global publishing company based in the UK that has offices in 70 other countries, gave substantial funds for the development of the CCSSI, making their influence greater than that of local school boards,
6. Whereas, the State Board of Education was not authorized by language in the sections of SB 380 the Outstanding Schools Act to transfer its responsibility to develop, that is write, edit, and evaluate, state standards to a Washington-based, non-governmental organization that controls the number and content of the standards. Personnel of Achieve Inc., having no classroom teaching experience, were chief architects of the standards, while MO faculty representatives of higher education and active classroom teachers from English Language Arts and mathematics did not participate in the drafting of the standards. (http://www.nga.org/cms/home/news-room/news-releases/page_2009/col2-content/main-content-list/title_common-core-state-standards-development-work-group-and-feedback-group-announced.html),
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1.     Recognizes the CCSS for what it is – a component of the four assurances that are designed to manipulate states and facilitate unconstitutional federal overreach to standardize and control the education of our children for the purposes of workforce planning, agreed to by Governor Nixon outside of due process while on the Board of Directors of the National Governors Association,

2.     Recognizes that, as per Missouri Revised Statute 160.514 of the Missouri Outstanding School Act, curriculum frameworks adopted by the state board of education may be used by school districts, and we exercise our right not to adopt the Missouri Core Standards/Common Core State Standards curricular framework for the ______________ School District,

3.     Recognizes that, as per Missouri Revised Statute 160.514 of the same Act, the state board of education shall develop a statewide assessment system that provides maximum flexibility for local school districts to determine the degree to which students in the public schools of the state are proficient in the knowledge, skills, and competencies adopted by such board, and we exercise our right to insist on that flexibility, declining to participate in the Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium assessments,

4.     Rejects the collection of student assessment data outside of the limits specified in Missouri Revised Statute 160.518; and 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 or legal guardian and rejects the sharing of such personal data, without the prior written consent of an adult student or a child student’s parent or legal guardian, with any person or entity other than schools or education agencies within the state

5.     Insist that the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education shall adopt  academic standards and a statewide assessment system as required by Missouri Revised Statute 160.526 of the same Act, that is, as appropriated by the legislature,

6.     Call on the Governor and the Missouri State Board of Education to withdraw from the Common Core State Standards Initiative, and we ask the Missouri State Legislature to discontinue funding programs in association with, The Common Core State Standards Initiative/Missouri’s Core and any other alliance that promotes and tests for un-American and inferior curricular, standards and assessments aligned to them; and,

Sunday, July 7, 2013

Arne Duncan Talks NFL into Adopting Common Core Strategy. A Brilliant Satire.

Satire on talking the NFL into adopting Common Core alignment. 

And here you thought this administration only wanted the NFL to support the Affordable Health Care Act.  What would you say if Arne Duncan approached the league to support Common Core?  

John Viall's article, NFL Adopts Common Core Playbook--Copying Education Reform,  should be in The Onion.  It is a satire on what Common Core really means for public education. Imagine how professional football would look with the same structures in place that public educators are following.

Here's a snippet:

“We believe with this system in place every player can succeed,” the Commissioner added. “By 2020 we believe every player in the league will be proficient in blocking, tackling and pass catching.”
“Are you saying that a new playbook—nothing more than diagrams on paper—will magically change the game?” a representative of local television station WJLA wanted to know.

“From now on every quarterback will be calling the same plays,” Goodell replied. “In other words, all of them will play like Tom Brady and Peyton Manning.

“Even Mark Sanchez?” asked a dubious correspondent from the New York Post.

“That’s the beauty of the Common Core Playbook,” Duncan explained. “We draw up new standards—kind of like we said we would do under No Child Left Behind—but this time the standards really work, because I promise they will. After all, I’m really smart. Did I mention that I went to Harvard? See: all the running backs run the same plays and all succeed the same way, because the coaches don’t try to design their own schemes.”

“Naturally, all defenses will be set up in the same way,” the Commissioner added.

Read more here.  Even a basketball player like Duncan should appreciate the ludicrousness of Common Core standards and having all children learn the same things at the same time for the same guaranteed outcome.  It won't work in sports and it won't work in American classrooms, regardless of what this Common Core aligned football generated lesson would have you believe. 

Teacher Destroys Alabama Chamber of Commerce's Common Core Talking Points. He Calls Them "Total BS".

Time for the pro-Common Core crowd to figure out the difference.  Their "facts" are theories and opinions.

Chip Cherry, President and CEO of the Huntsville/Madison County Chamber of Commerce, wrote a pro-Common Core opinion piece in al.com Why Alabama's students need Common Core State Standards (Opinion from Chip Cherry).

The title says it all.  You can read it here but it contains the usual talking points of  CCSS:
  • adoption was voluntary and it was state led
  • they are rigorous
  • they are not curriculum but only benchmarks
  • American children cannot be competitive without these standards
  • children suffer if they move from state to state and schools need uniformity
  • the Condoleeza Rice argument: a workforce with inferior skills in science and technology will undermine national security as well as compromise financial and information networks
  • these will make students college and career ready

If you have been following CCSS you recognize these talking points that are offered without any research/data to prove their truthfulness.  Read the post about the cardboard bicycles and the issue with CCSS is comparable.  There's salesmanship and then there are the facts about the product.  If the sales pitch doesn't give the seller any facts/research/data about the product, but only hype, then the buyer needs to walk away.  Quickly.

An Alabama teacher had a terrific response to the Chamber's talking points.  Unlike the Chamber's opinion piece (which is aptly names as there is very little factual information in it) the article in geekpalaver.com, Chip Cherry Doesn’t Understand Common Core, challenges Mr. Cherry's article with facts. He dissects Cherry's article and calls his claims for what they are: BS.  From Russell Winn:


Yesterday The Huntsville Times, which doesn’t seem to concern itself with anything resembling accuracy so long as it can stamp the word “opinion” on it, published a piece by the President and CEO of the Huntsville/Madison County Chamber of Commerce written in support of Alabama’s version of the Common Core State Standards (CCSS) called the Alabama College and Career Ready Standards (CCRS).

And no, despite having the power of the chamber of commerce behind him, he doesn’t evidently even know how to subtract.

Mr. Cherry does a fine job of repeating the CCSS claims made by CCSS supporters, but as with most of the CCSS or CCRS supporters, he offers absolutely no evidence supporting his claims.
So, lets run down these claims:

CCRS Development and Adoption History

The Alabama College and Career Ready Standards are aligned with the Common Core State Standards, developed by the National Governors Association and the Council of Chief State School Officers more than a decade ago and voluntarily adopted by 45 states plus the District of Columbia.
From the beginning Mr. Cherry is attempting to re-write history.

It is true that Alabama’s CCRS are “aligned with” CCSS. On this count he is correct. Many CCRS supporters (even many whom I highly respect like Larry Lee) will try and claim that Alabama significantly re-wrote the Common Core Standards.

This is not true. Alabama’s version of CCSS is practically identical to the national version of CCSS. You can compare Alabama’s CCRS to the National CCSS by looking at the standards found on their two sites. Here is CCRS. Here is CCSS. If you compare them side by side, you’ll see that they are, as Mr. Cherry states, “aligned.”

Unfortunately, that’s about the last thing that Mr. Cherry gets right.

Work began on CCSS in 2009 by the Achieve organization a group of business leaders and politicians, not “more than a decade ago” as Mr. Cherry claims. More than a decade ago is more than 10 years, not less than half that time. As Achieve included governors from many states, this work was quickly moved to the National Governors Association. This work was funded primarily by The Gates Foundation.

The National Governor’s Association pulled together a group 60 individuals in 2009 to write the standards. This group included two work groups of 25 people with the following composition:
  • 6 from College Board,
  • 5 from ACT
  • 4 from Achieve
There were no teachers on either work group. Not one.

In the Feedback Groups of 35 people. which looked at the work accomplished by the work groups, were populated by predominately college professors.

There was one classroom teacher involved in one feedback group.


These standards were written in private almost entirely by the businesses who will directly benefit from making every school system in the nation teach exactly the same thing: testing and textbook companies.

No wonder the Chamber of Commerce supports the adoption and implementation of these standards.

He’s correct that 45 states along, the District of Columbia, four territories, and the “Department of Defense Education Activity” have adopted the standards.

Most of the states adopted CCSS within a year of their creation by the Gates Foundation funded NGA/Achieve group.

From creation to adoption in less than one year.

You know what that didn’t leave time for? There was no time for review, trials, assessments, input from teachers, or input from parents.


CCRS/CCSS Is Rigorous (Total BS)

Cherry later wrote:
The defense community in particular has recognized that rigorous national standards are essential. A workforce with inferior skills in science and technology will undermine national security as well as compromise financial and information networks.
There is zero evidence that CCSS/CCRS will increase rigor. None. It hasn’t been put through any trails of any kind.

As I wrote back in February, would anyone in this city other than Mr. Cherry think that implementing a new standard, to the tune of $40 million here in Huntsville alone, without testing these standards in anyway is a good idea?

As Cindy Lutenbacher, a teacher in DeKalb County public schools wrote on Wednesday:
Common Core … robust … rigorous academic standards … global economy … 21st century workplace … competitive … college-ready … Duplicitous buzzwords ad nauseum, we’ve heard them ten thousand times in the barrage of press releases about Common Core. And every one is bogus.
“Bogus” is a bit too kind for my tastes. Total BS is more likely. Business leaders, like Mr. Cherry, do love their buzzwords, when they’re trying to sell you something. And that is exactly what the Chamber of Commerce with Mr. Cherry as their leader, are trying to do.

This is entirely about the transfer of public money into private corporations.

A highly conservative estimate is that implementing common core will cost between $8 and $16 Billion dollars. If Huntsville is any indication, that estimate is far too low.

Schools Must Be Uniform Nationwide

It’s a shame that Mr. Cherry never studied logic in school. If he had, he might have realized that the next two parts of his argument contradict one another. (It’s also a shame that The Huntsville Times didn’t either I suppose.)

First he claims that:
One way to help raise student achievement across the country is to identify what students should know at each grade level, adopt curriculum that aligns with those benchmarks, and assess performance against those same benchmarks, regardless of the state residency of the child.
In other words, as he goes on to appeal to our local military families, if a child has to move from state to state, that child should be covering the same material at the same grade level nationwide.

The only way such a goal could be achieved is if CCSS were far, far more than a simple set of  ”benchmarks.” If this goal were possible, the only way it would be possible would be if the CCSS instituted a national curriculum. Individual states, individual school districts, would no longer be able to decide upon their own curriculum. The only way for a student to move from school to school, district to district, or state to state and be at the same level would be if every classroom, nationwide, were teaching the exact same material on the same day.

In other words, for this to happen, CCSS must be a national curriculum.

But, Mr. Cherry goes on to write that it isn’t:
The standards have also been misinterpreted as curriculum or content.
Curriculum – what is taught in the classroom – is still determined in Alabama by local education districts that choose from a list of options approved by the state.
Well, sir, which is it?

Either we’re going to be uniform nationwide or we’re not. But we cannot be uniform without a uniform curriculum, you know like the book of criteria that Core Authors released to textbook publishers about what should be in a Core curriculum.

But lets use our reason her for a moment. What will this uniformity mean for our classrooms. Well, once again a teacher shows the way:
it destroys the creativity and spontaneity of the very best teachers. “No, kids, sorry—we can’t pay attention to that bird in the window. Right now we’re focusing on ‘ask(ing) and answer(ing) questions to demonstrate understanding of a text, referring explicitly to the text as the basis for the answers.’”
Creativity in a classroom? What a waste of time when there are tests to be taken.

Silly teacher.

The Zero-Sum Mentality Strikes Again

Mr. Cherry wraps up his “opinion” the way he began–with the assumption that if we’re not “Number 1″ that education has no benefit.

He begins by talking about rankings:
In 2010, we ranked an embarrassing 40th in the nation. Since then, we have advanced six places — not good enough, but a genuine beginning. Our continued progress is linked to the State’s Plan 2020 that is based on rigorous academic standards adopted by the State Board of Education in 2010.
He concludes his opinion in a similar vein:
[CCSS/CCRS] enable states and even individual schools to gauge their achievement against a national standard.
You know, Mr. Cherry, you might want to read up on those “rigorous academic standards” adopted by the State Board of Education in their “2020″ plan a bit more. It seems that those rigorous academic standards are dramatically different depending on one’s race or ethnicity. But you see what he’s saying here, right? Being 40th out of 51 (counting the District) is “embarrassing.” Being 34 out of 51 is, too.

Honestly, I know that I live in a state that has brought home the National Championship in football for the past 4 years, so Alabama likes to be #1. And there should only be one #1. But education does not work that way. The student who ranked #2 still received an excellent education. In fact, if the education was individualized to meet the student’s needs, the student “ranked” #23,000 out of 23,000 also received an excellent education because it met that student’s needs.

Just because my son, who is on the autism spectrum, will likely never score as well on a standardized test as my daughter, who is not on the spectrum and is usually at the top of her grade levels in the “rankings” does not mean that my son is receiving a substandard education.

His education is just a valuable to him and to his future ability to contribute to society as the education that my daughter is receiving. In fact, it is more valuable for this simple reason. My daughter will contribute to society regardless of the education she receives. My son needs special assistance to reach that goal.

Education is not about being “#1.” It’s about finding a way to bring all of our children into society in such a way that they can contribute to it.

Rankings are for sports teams, not for children. And anyone who tells you otherwise is trying to sell you something.

To the tune of $16 billion dollars.

No thanks, Mr. Cherry. Your vision of education is fundamentally flawed. If you were an actual educator, perhaps you could understand that.

As it is, it would be best if you simply sat down and shut up. You’re embarrassing us.


Russell offers a brilliant factual response to an opinion piece.  Please leave a comment for him at his site.  The Chamber of Commerce should be ashamed of the tripe (or total BS) it is churning out in favor of Common Core.
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