"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, August 17, 2013

The EPA and its Support/Development/Direction of Environmental Education in Public Schools

Will environmental education be administered through the Next Generation Science Standards?

From the Federal Register comes a notice of teleconference calls on Environmental Education:

Under the Federal Advisory Committee Act, EPA gives notice of a series of teleconference meetings of the National Environmental Education Advisory Council (NEEAC). The NEEAC was created by Congress to advise, consult with, and make recommendations to the Administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) on matters related to activities, functions and policies of EPA under the National Environmental Education Act (the Act).

The purpose of these teleconference(s) is to discuss specific topics of relevance for consideration by the council in order to provide advice and insights to the Agency on environmental education.

The National Environmental Education Advisory Council will hold public teleconferences on Wednesday, August 28, 2013, Monday, September 23, 2013, Monday, October 23, 2013 and Monday, November 25, 2013, from 12:00 pm until 1:00 pm Eastern Daylight Time.

What is The National Environmental Education Advisory Council and its significance in setting educational delivery/development of curriculum?  From epa.gov and The National Environmental Education Act (1990):


The National Environmental Education Act of 1990  [PDF 190K, 15 pages, about PDF] requires EPA to provide national leadership to increase environmental literacy. EPA established the Office of Environmental Education to implement this program.
 An Act

To promote environmental education, and for other purposes.

Be it enacted by the Senate and House of Representatives of the United States of America in Congress assembled,


(a) TITLE — This Act may be cited as the `National Environmental Education Act'.


 There is growing evidence of international environmental problems, such as global warming, ocean pollution, and declines in species diversity, and that these problems pose serious threats to human health and the environment on a global scale.

Development of effective solutions to environmental problems and effective implementation of environmental programs requires a well educated and trained, professional work force.

Current Federal efforts to inform and educate the public concerning the natural and built environment and environmental problems are not adequate.

Existing Federal support for development and training of professionals in environmental fields is not sufficient.

The Federal Government, acting through the Environmental Protection Agency, should work with local education institutions, State education agencies, not-for-profit educational and environmental organizations, noncommercial educational broadcasting entities, and private sector interests to support development of curricula, special projects, and other activities, to increase understanding of the natural and built environment and to improve awareness of environmental problems.

The Federal Government, acting through the coordinated efforts of its agencies and with the leadership of the Environmental Protection Agency, should work with local education institutions, State education agencies, not-for-profit educational and environmental organizations, noncommercial educational broadcasting entities, and private sector interests to develop programs to provide increased emphasis and financial resources for the purpose of attracting students into environmental engineering and assisting them in pursuing the programs to complete the advanced technical education required to provide effective problem solving capabilities for complex environmental issues.



POLICY — It is the policy of the United States to establish and support a program of education on the environment, for students and personnel working with students, through activities in schools, institutions of higher education, and related educational activities, and to encourage postsecondary students to pursue careers related to the environment.

For the purposes of this Act, the term--

`Secretary' means the Secretary of the Department of Education;
`local education agency' means any education agency as defined in section 198 of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act of 1965 (20 U.S.C. 3381) and shall include any tribal education agency;

*****`environmental education' and `environmental education and training' mean educational activities and training activities involving elementary, secondary, and postsecondary students, as such terms are defined in the State in which they reside, and environmental education personnel, but does not include technical training activities directed toward environmental management professionals or activities primarily directed toward the support of noneducational research and development;


(a) The Administrator shall establish an Office of Environmental Education within the Environmental Protection Agency.
(b) The Office of Environmental Education shall--
(1) develop and support programs and related efforts, in consultation and coordination with other Federal agencies, to improve understanding of the natural and built environment, and the relationships between humans and their environment, including the global aspects of environmental problems;
(2) support development and the widest possible dissemination of model curricula, educational materials, and training programs for elementary and secondary students and other interested groups, including senior Americans;
(3) develop and disseminate, in cooperation with other Federal agencies, not-for-profit educational and environmental organizations, State agencies, and noncommercial educational broadcasting entities, environmental education publications and audio/visual and other media materials;
(4) develop and support environmental education seminars, training programs, teleconferences, and workshops for environmental education professionals, as provided for in section 5 of this Act;
(5) manage Federal grant assistance provided to local education agencies, institutions of higher education, other not-for-profit organizations, and noncommercial education broadcasting entities, under section 6 of this Act;
(6) administer the environmental internship and fellowship programs provided for in section 7 of this Act;
(7) administer the environmental awards program provided for in section 8 of this Act;
(8) provide staff support to the Advisory Council and Task Force provided for in section 9 of this Act;
(9) assess, in coordination with other Federal agencies, the demand for professional skills and training needed to respond to current and anticipated environmental problems and cooperate with appropriate institutions, organizations, and agencies to develop training programs, curricula, and continuing education programs for teachers, school administrators, and related professionals;
(10) assure the coordination of Federal statutes and programs administered by the Agency relating to environmental education, consistent with the provisions and purposes of those programs, and work to reduce duplication or inconsistencies within these programs;
(11) work with the Department of Education, the Federal Interagency Committee on Education, and with other Federal agencies, including Federal natural resource management agencies, to assure the effective coordination of programs related to environmental education, including environmental education programs relating to national parks, national forests, and wildlife refuges;
(12) provide information on environmental education and training programs to local education agencies, State education and natural resource agencies, and others; and
(13) otherwise provide for the implementation of this Act.
(c) The Office of Environmental Education shall--
(1) be directed by a Director who shall be a member of the Senior Executive Service;
(2) include a headquarters staff of not less than six and not more than ten full-time equivalent employees; and
(3) be supported by one full-time equivalent employee in each Agency regional office.


(a) There is hereby established an Environmental Education and Training Program. The purpose of the program shall be to train educational professionals in the development and delivery of environmental education and training programs and studies.
(b) The functions and activities of the program shall include, at a minimum--
(1) classroom training in environmental education and studies including environmental sciences and theory, educational methods and practices, environmental career or occupational education, and topical environmental issues and problems;
(2) demonstration of the design and conduct of environmental field studies and assessments;
(3) development of environmental education programs and curriculum, including programs and curriculum to meet the needs of diverse ethnic and cultural groups;
(4) sponsorship and management of international exchanges of teachers and other educational professionals between the United States, Canada, and Mexico involved in environmental programs and issues;
(5) maintenance or support of a library of environmental education materials, information, literature, and technologies, with electronic as well as hard copy accessibility;
(6) evaluation and dissemination of environmental education materials, training methods, and related programs;
(7) sponsorship of conferences, seminars, and related forums for the advancement and development of environmental education and training curricula and materials, including international conferences, seminars, and forums;
(8) supporting effective partnerships and networks and the use of distant learning technologies; and
(9) such other activities as the Administrator determines to be consistent with the policies of this Act.
Special emphasis should be placed on developing environmental education programs, workshops, and training tools that are portable and can be broadly disseminated.
(c)(1) The Administrator shall make a grant on an annual basis to an institution of higher education or other institution which is a not-for-profit institution (or consortia of such institutions) to operate the environmental education and training program required by this section.
(2) Any institution of higher education or other institution (or consortia of such institutions) which is a not-for-profit organization and is interested in receiving a grant under this section may submit to the Administrator an application in such form and containing such information as the Administrator may require.
(3) The Administrator shall award grants under this section on the basis of--
(A) the capability to develop environmental education and training programs;
(B) the capability to deliver training to a range of participants and in a range of settings;
(C) the expertise of the staff in a range of appropriate disciplines;
(D) the relative economic effectiveness of the program in terms of the ratio of overhead costs to direct services;
(E) the capability to make effective use of existing national environmental education resources and programs;
(F) the results of any evaluation under paragraph (5) of this subsection; and
(G) such other factors as the Administrator deems appropriate.


Is the Federal Government via private surrogates creating curriculum and assessments for state agencies and school districts?  Is "supporting the development of environmental materials" actually controlling the curriculum (CCSS aligned) schools are required to teach?  The EPA wouldn't support the creation of standards that opposed its theories.  Will there be any curricula crafted by these private companies that would not align to the Agency's goals?  An educated guess to that last question would be "no".

Note the passage that was asterisked above: 

*****`environmental education' and `environmental education and training' mean educational activities and training activities involving elementary, secondary, and postsecondary students, as such terms are defined in the State in which they reside, 

In 1990, the education and training was controlled by the states.  Now the Next Generation Science Standards (national standards) are expected to be adopted by most states and more Science curriculum will be merged in with the Common Core ELA/Math standards.  There is little expectation that the states will set independent educational development/direction of science standards.   Via a 1990 Congressional Act, the Federal Government was granted the authority to set a vision for environmental education, fund this vision, and now, the standards for this vision are being crafted by private corporations supported by the same Federal Government that is legally prohibited from setting curriculum.  

The standards are copyrighted, just as the Common Core standards are copyrighted by the Council of Chief State School Officers.  From the NGSS site:

NEXT GENERATION SCIENCE STANDARDS and the associated logo are registered trademarks of Achieve, Inc.

Reserve your attendance at this teleconference so you can discover what relevant topics in environment education the National Environmental Education Advisory Council is considering.   Maybe the teleconference call will help determine the relationship of national science standards to environmental education and the vision of the agency.


Friday, August 16, 2013

NY Superintendent Hates Common Core

Is this where the Common Core implosion began with a brave superintendent?

Below is a voice message you must listen to from an exasperated and concerned superintendent.  He is relaying the news to parents with children from the 3rd through 8th grades that only 30% of the students passed the new assessments.  This is a significant change from 90% of students being ranked proficient the earlier year.

He slams Common Core and the fact that 70% of the children are now considered "failures".  He invites parents to attend a planned rally against the common core tomorrow (August 18) and to protest this takeover of education.

Which Missouri superintendent will be the first one to follow in Dr. Rella's principled stance?  Which superintendent will echo Dr. Rella's statement about common core, "this must not stand"?  Are there no Missouri superintendents who will protect their students and teacher from this political abuse?

Here is the youtube link with the recorded call:

The  portjeffersonpatch.com reports that Dr. Joseph Rella demanded common core be changed or proceedings be held to remove him from office.  He questioned the validity of the test and the emotional toll it takes on students by labeling them failing:
While the numbers were no surprise, the widespread, dramatic drop in scores has led Comsewogue Superintendent Dr. Joe Rella to demand his elected officials to help enact change, or to begin proceedings to remove him from office.
"Please help us," he wrote in an Aug. 7 letter, which was sent to state Sens. Ken LaValle, R-Port Jefferson; John Flanagan, R-Smithtown, and Assemb. Steve Englebright, D-Setauket. "If not, then I request on behalf of our residents – your constituents – you initiate proceedings to have me removed as superintendent. IF this system is truly valid, then during my tenure as superintendent, our students went from about 90 percent proficient to about 30 percent proficient."

Dr. Rella captured Internet attention about the letter he sent to legislators about the common core test results which can be found here.

Thanks to www.StopCommonCoreinNewYork.com and The Independent Sentinel for providing the telephone message so we can all hear a brave and principled superintendent supporting his teaching staff and students.

Do Missouri parents/students have to wait a year to experience the same test results Kentucky, Florida and NY state have experienced with these standards?  How many children/teachers will be considered failures this year due to superintendents not standing up and just doing "whatever DESE tells them to do"?


What Happens if the System Knows Everything About Your Child

At a hearing this spring on Common Core, Representative Margo McNeil (D-MO69) asked what opponents of data gathering were so worried about with the schools collecting and sharing data. Her question demonstrates the left's lack of imagination, and frankly lack of historical knowledge, about what could go wrong with data collected and held by the government.

The Freedom Outpost recently exposed a little known provision (and there are so many more yet to be discovered) of the Affordable Care Act that would allow government agencies to carry out home inspections.
Constitutional attorney and author Kent Masterson Brown states:

“This is not a “voluntary” program. The eligible entity receiving the grant for performing the home visits is to identify the individuals to be visited and intervene so as to meet the improvement benchmarks. A homeschooling family, for instance, may be subject to “intervention” in “school readiness” and “social-emotional developmental indicators.” A farm family may be subject to “intervention” in order to “prevent child injuries.” The sky is the limit.
Looking into the Maternal, Infant, and Early Childhood Home Visiting (MIECHV - pronounced  me-eccccccchv) Competitive Grant program we find all the reasons a home visit may be deemed necessary by the state.

"Priority for Serving High-Risk Populations and Programmatic Areas of Emphasis As directed in the legislation , successful applicants will give priority to providing services to the following populations: 

a) Eligible families who reside in communities in need of such services, as identified in the statewide needs assessment required under subsection (b)(1)(A). (Living in the wrong zip code. I thought we didn't want to condemn people because of their zip code.)

b) Low-income eligible families. (Anyone receiving EBT, WIC, Medicaid, etc.  If you accept government hand-outs they have a right to come into your home.)

c) Eligible families who are pregnant women who have not attained age 21. (Gotta love that families here is described as A pregnant woman, and one who has reached the age of majority. Once you can drink, they can't touch you.)

d) Eligible families that have a history of child abuse or neglect or have had interactions with child welfare services. (Child protective services decides you need a visit. They have such a stellar track record of honest reporting. We should all sleep so much better now.)

e) Eligible families that have a history of substance abuse or need substance abuse treatment. 

f) Eligible families that have users of tobacco products in the home. (They will know who you are because of your medical record.)

g) Eligible families that are or have children with low student achievement. (Here Representative McNeil is what we are concerned about. The state now has your students academic record. They allow other departments to have access to that data and that may now trigger a home inspection by: CPS, HHS, or other social service agencies.

 h) Eligible families with children with developmental delays or disabilities. (Simply because you give birth to a child with special needs, the state now has a right to come into your home.)

i) Eligible families who, or that include individuals who, are serving or formerly served in the Armed Forces, including such families that have members of the Armed Forces who have had multiple deployments outside of the United States." 

These are the programs which will receive emphasis for funding by the grant:
  • Improvements in maternal, child, and family health 
  • Effective implementation and expansion of evidence-based home visiting programs or systems with fidelity to the evidence-based model selected 
  • Development of statewide or multi-State home visiting programs 
  • Development of comprehensive early childhood systems that span the prenatal-through-age-eight continuum 
  • Outreach to high-risk and hard-to-engage populations
  • Development of a family-centered approach to home visiting 
  • Outreach to families in rural or frontier areas (You moved out of the city to get away from all the governmental intrusion and now they are targeting you for more intrusion.)
  • The development of fiscal leveraging strategies to enhance program sustainability (Here they acknowledge that once again the Federal government is only providing seed money and states accepting it will be on the hook for finding their own funds to continue to operate these programs.)
Now take a look at the videos Pearson (the largest education industry supplier) released displaying their vision of the future of education. Danette Clark wrote a great piece on this:
"Although the technology shown by Pearson is impressive, these videos confirm the fears of many teachers about what will be expected of them and many parents regarding intrusive data mining of their children’s personal information.
In these videos, educators’ teaching styles are monitored by real-time cameras in every classroom and evaluated on the use of specific points of instruction. It goes without saying that dictating specific teaching strategies makes for big problems, especially if those strategies are used for indoctrination purposes. Just look to Texas for testimony of teachers that say they were reprimanded and threatened with dismissal if they failed to teach in the exact manner directed by CSCOPE.

This vision of the future also entails teachers and school administrators having instant access to an individualized schedule on each student – not just an in-school/class schedule, but a schedule of the student’s activities and whereabouts outside of school.
In the video, Victoria’s Story: School of Thought–A Vision for the Future of Learning, Pearson demonstrates ease of access to students’ personal lives by showing a teacher instantaneously pulling Victoria’s schedule and sharing with another teacher that Victoria has soccer practice after school that time of year."  (read the full post here)

My own school collected drivers license numbers in order for students to be issued a parking pass. I have heard from other parents around the state that their schools requested insurance information as well.  I was expected to be mollified by the fact that my child's school didn't enter these numbers electronically. The school official, however, was not able to give me a valid reason for collecting this data (yes, I was given a few reasons, none of which stood up to logical scrutiny.) There were several alternative ways in the scenarios the official described in which such data might be needed that the data could be obtained which would not require the school to collect it at all.

Schools in general have no sensitivity to the data they are requesting and refuse to consider the potential abuse of such data. Parents need to push back to stem the growing sense of entitlement to student data. If a school cannot demonstrate a serious need for data, like driver's licenses, then they should not collect it. When it comes to data, abstinence is the best policy. Even if they can supply a need, they still do not have a right to all your child's personal information much less information about your family and such collection should receive serious public scrutiny and input.

Thursday, August 15, 2013

Smart Girl Politics Is All Over Common Core - So Over

From Smart Girl Politics

Diane Durdaller led a panel discussion with Marcia Chambliss of Smart Girl Politics, Joy Pullmann of the Heartland Institute, and Rosa Leonetti. The panel discussed the topic: "Common Core - What's Happening to Our Schools?" The panelists reviewed the recent history of America's top-down education policy from the 70s through No Child Left Behind, Race to the Top, and now Common Core. After this overview, they discussed activist strategies to slow down this national jump into yet another public/private partnership unanswerable to the taxpayers who fund it.

More about Marcia Chambliss:

More about Joy Pullman:

More about Rosa Leonetti:

More about Diane Durdaller:

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Practice Close Reading on Tuffy The Rodeo Clown

Finally, we have found a 21st century skill!

Let's practice our close reading skills, as described in Common Core, on the reports about Tuffy the rodeo clown who donned a President Obama mask at the Missouri state fair. Close reading is described by the Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers (PARCC)
"Close, analytic reading stresses engaging with a text of sufficient complexity directly and examining meaning thoroughly and methodically, encouraging students to read and reread deliberately. Directing student attention on the text itself empowers students to understand the central ideas and key supporting details. It also enables students to reflect on the meanings of individual words and sentences; the order in which sentences unfold; and the development of ideas over the course of the text, which ultimately leads students to arrive at an understanding of the text as a whole."
The highlighted text is the key feature of  close reading. You can only consider the text presented when answering a question about the text. You may not bring in prior knowledge or context. You must examine meaning thoroughly (not sure how you can do that when limiting yourself to the text on the page) by reading and rereading.

So let's take some text on the Tuffy Gessling scandal being created in Missouri. We'll use this text from Politico
Boonville School Superintendent Mark Ficken, president of the Missouri Cowboy Rodeo Association, was the rodeo announcer during a controversial performance at the Missouri State Fair Saturday night, the association confirmed to PoliticMo on Sunday.
It was confirmed Sunday night by a spokesman for the Missouri State Fair.
“Watch out for that bull, Obama,” he said at one point.
According to an account published on the Democratic-leaning blog ShowMeProgress.com, a voice asked “if anyone would like to see Obama,” portrayed by a masked clown, “run down by a bull.” The crowd reportedly cheered, until the “bull came close enough to him that he had to move.” According to the account, at that point the clown “jumped up and ran away to the delight of the onlookers hooting and hollering from the stands.”
The performance set off a firestorm on social media on Sunday, and Lt. Gov. Peter Kinder, a Republican, and U.S. Sen. Claire McCaskill, a Democrat, both called on people to be “held accountable” for the performance.
It was not clear whether it was actually Ficken’s voice making the anti-Obama comments, but attempts to contact him on Sunday were unsuccessful.
* UPDATE * Ficken did speak with MissouriNet. He told the outlet that it was not his voice being heard during the controversial performance, but that of a rodeo clown.

Now, using only the text provided answer the following prompt:  Should Mark Ficken be able to keep his job as Superintendent of Boonville schools?

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Common Core Reformers Call on Pearson Funded Public Relations Campaign to Sell Their Message

We stumbled upon a public relations pamphlet being passed out in Missouri by the National School Public Relations Association to counter the arguments of those against Common Core standards.  From Common Core Needs More Local Communication Now!:

Communicating Common Core State Standards (CCSS) is becoming a major issue in most school systems across the U.S. NSPRA launched our Common Core Communication Network (http://www.nspra.org/commoncore/index/) in May 2013 to help education leaders everywhere see examples of how others are communicating about CCSS. The network also provides insight to NSPRA members and the organization itself on how to communicate more effectively about the implementation of CCSS. Push-back on CCSS is getting a bit stronger in some states and Common Core itself has become more of a national political issue in some pockets of the U.S. Districts that proactively engaged staff, parents and their communities are finding little resistance to their CCSS efforts.

Unfortunately, the leadership behind CCSS never got out in front to communicate and engage key audiences about the standards.  (MEW note: No kidding.  It only bypassed all state legislatures, taxpayers, voters and school boards).  So now others, as predicted by NSPRA, are attempting to define what CCSS is and these critics are turning it into a messy and misinformed political football being tossed at local school district leaders.  (MEW note: The CCSS proponents only wish the opponents are misinformed and that it is political in nature.  Read on for more public relations rhetoric here).

The national association has engaged a Missourian to provide counter points to our nationwide anti-common core talking points primarily put forward by grassroots groups, not paid Bill Gates operatives.  Jim Dunn from Liberty, MO was tasked with countering the research and facts put forward by these groups:

To assist you, NSPRA asked its senior Common Core Communication consultant Jim Dunn, APR, to provide this Counselor in a point/counter-point approach to help you deal with critics in your communities. It’s a classic example of our PR maxim, “Create a void in your communication and your critics will surely fill it.”

Jim Dunn, APR, past NSPRA President, is currently president of Jim Dunn Associates, based in Liberty, Missouri. Jim has served as a high school English teacher, a professional school communicator, a college ad hoc faculty member and a communication consultant. He currently works with the Missouri Public Schools Advocates, and local school districts in addition to serving as NSPRA’s senior Common Core consultant.

NSPRA lists on its Common Core Communication Network several articles on "what its critics say".  Missouri Coalition Against Common Core is listed:

Missouri Coalition Against Common Core

Description:  A group concerned with the national government having a say in their Missouri education opposes the Common Core, calling it a “thinly veiled initiative… designed to circumvent the prohibition of national education standards.” The group has two stated goals. 1. Take control of education out of DC and private corporation's hands and return it to our local communities, and 2.  Protect our children's privacy by restricting government's ability to collect and share information about them.

That's a factual statement from MCACC.  If NSPRA thinks DC and private corporations are constitutionally empowered to direct/develop educational standards, then it should specifically show where this power of federal control of education development can be handed over to public/private partnerships.  This research on the authority of CCSS being handed to a public/private partnership doesn't sound "misinformed and political" to me.

Mr. Dunn has developed a counter point sheet to opponents' arguments.  MEW editors, assisted by Jane Robbins of American Principles Project, have provided researched and factual based answers to NSPRA's and Mr. Dunn's counterpoints.  We respectfully request that NSPRA and/or Mr. Dunn advise us of any erroneous facts/research we have provided in response to their counterpoints to our original statements. 

(Critic's points are grassroots groups, counter-points are Mr. Dunn's, the latest response is from MEW with APP assistance).

Critic’s Point: Common Core will allow the government access to our children’s unique identifying information. This information, once collected, might be sold to be used by others (marketing and sales companies) for who knows what?

A Counter-Point: Common Core opponents are creating unfounded fears around the sharing of student information. Proponents claim shared information will be general that helps school districts better support a child’s learning; and NONE will be sold for any reason.

Common Core is a critical part of a much larger scheme that involves massive student data-collection and -sharing. One requirement of the Stimulus bill provision that gave grants to states from the State Fiscal Stabilization Fund was that Missouri commit to expanding its Statewide Longitudinal Data System (SLDS), which was already under construction.[1] The National Center for Education Statistics recommends that states ultimately collect over 400 data points on students, including health-care history, disciplinary records, family income range, and religious affiliation. [2]
The connection with Common Core is this: The Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium has a Cooperative Agreement with the U.S. Department of Education (USED) that requires SBAC to allow USED access “on an ongoing basis” to any “student-level” (not aggregate) data it receives on Missouri students.[3] So any data that SBAC gets from the testing (which supposedly will begin in 2014) will go to the federal government. And last year USED gutted federal student-privacy law,[4] so that any personally identifiable student data it receives can be shared with literally anyone in the world – Department of Labor, Health and Human Services, even commercial companies – as long as USED uses the right language to justify the sharing.
If DESE really has no intention of sharing personal student data with USED (which will not be the case beginning in 2014), it should welcome state legislation that strictly limits the data it can collect and share. A state statute will fortify DESE in its resistance to USED’s increasingly aggressive demands for data.

Critic’s Point: Members of the Common Core Validation Committee didn’t agree with it and didn’t sign off on it. That’s a sign that this is a bad idea and states should reconsider accepting it.

A Counter-Point: Just because someone has a different opinion doesn’t mean that it’s a bad idea. The majority of leaders on the Validation Committee DID agree with it, which is what got us to this point in its adoption.

There were certainly members of the Validation Committee who signed off on the Standards. But the members who were the most qualified to weigh in – the leading English language arts standards expert in the nation (Dr. Sandra Stotsky) and the only one who holds an advanced degree in mathematics (Dr. James Milgram)[5] – refused to endorse the Standards. The issue is quality, not quantity.

Critic’s Point: We can’t fund implementing the Common Core in a way that will truly benefit students.

A Counter-Point: Even with tight budgets, money could be found or reallocated for Common Core purposes. CCSS implementation is less than one percent of the $500 billion spent on education right now.

In the first place, where is the documentation for this “one percent” figure? Missourians are weary of the continual unsupported claims of Common Core proponents, and this is another good example.

In the second place, this “money could be found” response is a classic big-government, bureaucratic answer to the problem of limited taxpayer money. If the “experts” want it, the taxpayers must be forced to pay for it, for their own good. Common Core implementation – particularly the technology needed to administer the Standards-aligned tests – could be ruinously expensive.[6] Missouri, like most other states, signed onto Common Core without performing a cost analysis for the implementation. Taxpayers deserve a detailed explanation of what the costs will be, and how they will be paid for. They are still waiting for this information.

Critic’s Point: The standards we have now are fine. America is doing okay in education.

A Counter-Point: It is documented that the consistently low standards now permeating our education system are across-the-board damaging to our children’s futures. According to Michael Petrilli of the Fordham Institute, Common Core State Standards are “rigorous and they are traditional... one might even say they are conservative. They expect students to know their math facts, to read the nation’s founding documents, and evaluate evidence and come to independent judgments. In all of these ways they are miles better than three-quarters of the state standards they replaced -- standards that hardly deserved the name, and often pushed the left-wing drivel that Common Core haters say they abhor.”

The Fordham Institute is the lobbyist for Common Core, having been paid $6 million by the Gates Foundation for that purpose.[7] So everything Mr. Petrilli says about Common Core can be safely discounted. Even if we take his claims seriously, they are unsupportable.

The “math facts” students are expected to know include confusing, “alternative” ways of working problems, and experimental geometry. The Standards mention the founding documents but don’t explain why they should be taught by English teachers, who are not trained to teach the background, context, and philosophy of the documents. The “evaluate evidence and come to independent judgments” piece is, in the context of Common Core, related primarily to the belief that that there are no right answers that students should have to know.

More importantly, Mr. Petrilli fails to explain why all these supposed benefits of Common Core could not be achieved on the state level. Why can’t Missouri create its own standards that include these elements? Why does it have to relinquish its autonomy over standards to private associations, and to California and New York? Mr. Petrilli himself admits that a quarter of the states had standards equal or superior to Common Core. Why couldn’t Missouri model its standards on those, rather than settle for the mediocrity of Common Core? The implication that only Common Core can fix what’s wrong with education is utterly unsupported, and contrary to common sense.

Critic’s Point: We already know the Common Core State Standards won’t work because No Child Left Behind (NCLB) didn’t work. There will still be gaps in what students learn from place to place.

A Counter-Point: The Common Core State Standards are not the same thing as NCLB. For example, NCLB did not address education between states and was short-sighted in responding to the unique challenges students with special needs or students learning English as a second language would have in achieving at the same level as a traditional student. The Common Core’s ultimate goal is to prepare all students for success in college or in their career, whereas under NCLB, each state had its own goal which varied widely. Although the Common Core does not solve some of the ills in today’s education, it is a step in the right direction and is an improvement to many of today’s education practices.

Common Core doesn’t address the “unique challenges” of certain students any more than NCLB did. Indeed, it aims to test all student populations through the federally funded assessments. With respect to the “success in college or career” claim, one drafter of the Common Core math standards admitted in a public meeting that the “college” referred to is a nonselective community college, not a selective four-year university.[8] The philosophy of Common Core is that students should be trained to be workers, not truly educated as citizen-leaders and human beings.[9] If Missourians want to settle for this, they should do so through their own standards, developed in Missouri by Missourians.

Critic’s Point: New testing expectations for the Common Core will confuse educators and students since they are so different from what we expect now.

A Counter-Point: Although the tests will be different, it is better to get the ball rolling than to lose even more time waiting for the right moment. There won’t be one. The best thing to do is to go ahead and take what you learn to make it better. Many educators believe that success should be measured in a variety of ways, not just in one standardized test. The results of the tests that will be implemented in this first trial of the Common Core should not be the “be-all-and-end-all” of determining whether learning is taking place in a meaningful way through the new standards.

The Smarter Balanced assessments will certainly be “different” – computer-adaptive products that are enormously expensive, that will allow all manner of data-collection on our students’ test-taking attitudes and behaviors, and that will (in many aspects) be subjectively scored. The argument that it’s “better” to forge ahead with this untried, unproven approach suggests the question . . . better than what? Apparently the proponents are comfortable with the idea of experimenting on all Missouri children for a few years and then discarding the results if things get too bad.

Another concern with the Smarter Balanced assessments is that teacher evaluations will be tied to the test scores.[10] Especially when 1) the technology requirements of Smarter Balanced will necessitate a lengthy testing window,[11] thus allowing some students much more instruction time before testing than others; and 2) the scoring will be in many aspects subjective, it is hardly fair to teachers to put their careers on the line just to meet an arbitrary deadline for an experimental assessment.

Critic’s Point: The Common Core State Standards are an experiment we are subjecting our children to without parents being able to give informed consent.

A Counter-Point: Educational standards vary drastically from community to community as it stands now, and they all change based on new information and new practices. This reform is another example of that, based on 20 years of good research, field testing, efficacy testing and best practices for education. To improve, we need to change.

To the extent this argument is even comprehensible, it is utterly unsupported. What research? What field-testing? What efficacy testing? What “best practices”? Missourians deserve hard facts, not unsupported claims.

Regarding the issue of “best practices,” that concept itself is questionable. Common Core’s conceit is that there is a “correct” way to teach English language arts and mathematics, and that if we can just discover that correct way and impose it on our schools, our problems will be solved. In fact, there are many ways to teach many subjects – some work with some students, others work with others (the high-achieving countries of Singapore, Finland, and Hong Kong, for example, all teach math differently).[12] Professional teachers know how to discover and use what works, depending on the situation. Common Core decrees that “fuzzy math” works, or that “reduced literature” works – and the teachers must go along with these “practices” because the experts in Washington have deemed them “best.”
“To improve, we need to change.” But change doesn’t necessarily mean improvement. Many changes, including those in education, have resulted in disasters. Common Core proponents have offered no evidence that a change to the Standards will result in improvement. Contrary evidence is often ignored, especially when “consensus” is used to override it.
Significantly, the proponents don’t even try to address the central “Critic’s Point” above – that Common Core is an experiment conducted on children without informed parental consent. Of course it is, and there is no good response – only the implication that parents should defer to the experts, who after all know what they’re doing.

Critic’s Point: Local control is taken away from educators, local officials, and parents in terms of defining success and the curriculum through the Common Core State Standards.

A Counter-Point: During the inception of the Common Core State Standards, the general public was given a chance to comment on them, and they did. The website for the Common Core State Standards received more than 10,000 comments as feedback to the draft version of the movement. Educators nationwide overwhelmingly support the Common Core with 77 percent of educators in favor of it. Parents like it too (70%) and among people who have educated themselves on the standards, they are not concerned with what the standards require of their local education programs.

Posting a set of incomprehensible standards on an obscure website that practically no one ever heard of can hardly be considered meaningful opportunity for public comment. And Common Core creators Achieve, NGA, and CCSSO have never released any comments about or critiques of the drafts. The sources of those critiques, and whether any of the suggestions were adopted (and if not, why not), have never been revealed. The entire Common Core effort was shrouded in secrecy, for obvious reasons – to prevent the delay (and perhaps derailment) that would inevitably result from giving the public a real voice.
Incidentally, there are over 55 million K-12 students in the U. S.[13] This means there are approximately 110 million parents of K-12 students. There are also approximately 3.2 million K-12 teachers in the U.S.[14] Receiving “comments” from 10,000 out of over 113 million interested parties hardly demonstrates broad public awareness of what was happening with Common Core.

Critic’s Point: The CCSS have been copyrighted by the groups that spearheaded them, the National Governors Association and the Council for Chief State School Officers, so local educators don’t have the ability to change them if they aren’t working in their area.

A Counter-Point: The standards are designed to be tweaked and refined in order to best educate all American students. These groups invited discourse and collaboration in creating the standards. It stands to reason that they will continue to listen as changes are suggested. Also, standards are separate from curriculum. The standards simply provide a framework in which local educators should work, but how they educate their students is completely up to them.

This response essentially admits a central problem with the Common Core Standards – that Missouri cannot change the Standards on its own. Missouri parents or teachers who see that Common Core’s experimental geometry approach, for example, isn’t working in the classroom are not likely to be satisfied with the empty assurance that “it stands to reason that [the Standards owners] will continue to listen as changes are suggested.” Missourians deserve to know the identities of the people they can contact if changes need to be made – and that those people are in Missouri and are accountable to them, not to powerful private funders and the federal government.

The claim that “how [local districts] educate their students is completely up to them” is untrue. As former US Department of Education (USED) general counsel Kent Talbert and Robert Eitel have documented, curriculum inevitably follows from standards. That’s the point of standards. From Talbert and Eitel’s report[15]: “[T]hese standards and assessments will ultimately direct the course of elementary and secondary study in most states across the nation, running the risk that states will become little more than administrative agents for a nationalized K-12 program of instruction and raising a fundamental question about whether the Department if exceeding its statutory boundaries.” States and local districts’ “flexibility” will be reduced to choosing one Common Core-aligned textbook over another Common Core-aligned textbook.

Textbook developer and curriculum designer Robert Shepherd bemoans the Standards’ “content-free” design and its inevitable negative effect on curriculum. He writes: “The fact that the ‘standards’ are entirely highly abstract descriptions of skills to be demonstrated, that they are content free, will be ENORMOUSLY distorting in their effects on curriculum development[16]
. . . . [T]he abstract standards will drive the curriculum development. It’s the tail wagging the dog . . . .”[17]

In addition, the two testing consortia funded by the federal government are using the money, explicitly, to “develop curriculum frameworks” and “develop instructional models.”[18]  And what is on the national test will control what is taught in the classroom – especially when the teachers’ evaluations are tied to the test scores.
The claim that the national Standards “do not dictate how teachers should teach” is, in many respects, false. An English teacher who spends 80 percent of her time teaching great literature may not continue to do so, but must substitute a large chunk of nonfiction texts. A geometry teacher who uses the traditional Euclidean method must now teach Common Core’s experimental approach instead. A first-grade teacher who teaches the standard algorithm for addition and subtraction is forced to use alternative “fuzzy math” approaches. In these and many other areas, the Standards dictate the methods.

Critic’s Point: The Obama administration has had some flaws. They should not be entrusted to teach our youth.

A Counter-Point: This isn’t a federal program. It is supported in part federally, through financial incentives for states that adopted it, but the federal government is not, and has never been, in charge of it.

Beyond the amusing description of the Obama Administration as having “had some flaws,” this argument is highly misleading. USED was deeply involved in persuading states to sign onto Common Core through the Stimulus bill, which included a general commitment to “college- and career-ready standards” and specific commitments in the Race to the Top program. A state that refused to adopt Common Core and the aligned assessment lost 70 points in the Race to the Top competition (out of 485 possible points).[19] This meant the state had no hope of compiling enough points to receive a grant (and in fact, no state was awarded a grant without adopting Common Core and the national test). If the Common Core proponents were honest, they would admit that they never could have convinced enough states to sign onto the national standards without the federal “persuasion.” And USED made it clear that, upon submitting their Race to the Top applications, the states were expected to implement the Standards regardless of whether they were awarded money. Finally, the USED reinforced the desirability of retaining the Standards by linking No Child Left Behind waivers to their implementation.[20] So states have kept the Standards to increase their chances for more federal favors.

Critic’s Point: People barely know what the Common Core is since it was not communicated well from the beginning

A Counter-Point: Although there was little discussion about Common Core in the beginning, it is now a hot-button topic of debate, despite people still not knowing much about it. Nearly 80 percent of educators, those who have become the most well-versed in it since it directly impacts their jobs, support it.

The proponents apparently consider it acceptable to delay debate until after a controversial policy is in place. Most Missourians would probably disagree. And once again, where does this 80% figure come from? And is it 80% of educators who feel free to offer an honest opinion about the Standards, or only of those who realize that their jobs may depend on toeing the party line?

Critic’s Point: Supporting the Common Core allowed states access to federal funds from Race to the Top and waivers from the federal No Child Left Behind Act. If it isn’t a federal program, why is the federal government getting into it?

A Counter-Point: The federal government has a long history of incentivizing the programs it believes in, regardless of whether or not it is directly involved in the program’s implementation. Just because the government supports it through incentives doesn’t mean that it has a say in it.

See previous response about federal involvement. Remember also that the U.S. Department of Education is funding the Common Core-aligned tests[21] -- and whoever pays for the test will control what’s on it. Indeed, the Department has established a “technical review” process that potentially gives the Department even more control.[22] And what’s on the test will dictate what’s taught in the classroom. See how this works?

Critic’s Point: The Common Core is tied to high-stakes testing meant to measure student achievement and teacher success. Now that Common Core supporters are concerned that the measurement tools are not ready, they don’t want the outcomes from the Common Core experiment to count. Isn’t this just trying to get away from accountability?

A Counter-Point: In order to get a true read from any assessment, a measurement tool must be both reliable and valid. The tests that have been designed have not been reviewed enough to ensure that they meet either criterion. Thus, they must be tweaked and analyzed to be sure that they are measuring what they are intended to measure. Once the tool is refined, its feedback will be taken into account. Until then, we should focus on getting the kinks out of this new program without the added pressure of attempting to “teach to a test” that doesn’t measure success for teachers or students.
This counter-point seems to conflict with the previous argument that we have to plow ahead with the experimental tests before more time is wasted.

Proponents’ Conclusion:
Finally, though the word “outcomes” is rarely seen in this debate, it provides a suitable conclusion to a point-counterpoint analysis. Our children need outcomes, and they need them now. They need to leave high school prepared for work or college. If we want our children to be accountable, we need to be accountable ourselves. It is time to move forward. These new standards can be a very small first step to ensure all students have an equal chance to develop the skills and knowledge they need for personal success. How students learn, these standards, and how they are taught, is up to local districts, parents and teachers. Education in the United States has to start looking, and moving, forward. What we are doing now is not working. Common Core State Standards can help.

We agree that “outcomes” should be used more frequently in this debate, since Common Core is in many ways recycled outcome-based education. But that’s a discussion for another forum. This “Conclusion” summarizes well the essential argument of the Common Core proponents – that what we’re doing in education isn’t working well, so we must try something – anything – that is offered to us amid lofty claims. Whether there is any evidence for those claims is irrelevant. Whether the scheme complies with the law and respects the constitutional rights of parents, localities, and states is similarly unimportant. The important thing is to stop debating and get on board the experts’ train. But Missourians will not roll over for this. These are our children you’re talking about, and we WILL be heard.

If you start seeing these counterpoints appearing at your PTA meeting or classroom, you have an answer to their undocumented claims.  Feel free to adopt/adapt for your state's use.

Question.  Why does the Common Core Initiative need a national school public relations organization to tell us how wonderful the standards are?  This is a massive campaign with little to no research based facts as to its claims and the NSPRA is trying to sell education reform that bypassed legislators and voters.  How DARE these groups question the adoption and implementation of a massive transformation of education "under the radar".  The nerve of taxpayers and legislators!

It should be noted NSPRA's Common Core "communication strategies and tactics for implementation" is funded by Pearson, a company with a huge market stake in Common Core adoption/implementation:

A final note is that planning and research for the communication strategies and tactics for implementation of the Common Core is provided by NSPRA with assistance of a planning grant from the Pearson Education Foundation. We appreciate their assistance in helping us to get this resource started.

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