Ahhhh....The Joy of Sameness

My friend Betty Peters, state school board member in Alabama, sent me this video this morning.  The video is from Madison City, Alabama extolling the virtues of their adoption of the Common Core State Standards.  Oh please watch it, it's only 6 something minutes.  Then, see if I'm just way off base on my commentary below.

Okay...humor me here...if this is such a great idea, why, at 2:09 on the video do you see the following on the 'blackboard', 
“In small groups take two to three minutes to brainstorm a lot of rumors you have heard and/or “burning questions that you hear about CCS.”
Why do we have to debunk rumors about standards to put them into practice?
At 2:20 listen to all the 'teams' Madison Ciy has/is having to train to prepare teachers and students for the standards. 

Why? If these standards are so great, shouldn't they be common sense to trained teachers?  Shouldn't teachers simply know how to teach standards that should be 'common' to all children in the course of their education?

Why do districts have to pay to teach teachers to teach all over again? 

Not only that, but every school has their own plan for rolling the Common Core out. How are they "common" then? How are schools all on the same page? How will they all take the same tests?  How in the world do you get a number of schools in a district all with individual numbers of teachers supposedly teaching the exact same thing at the exact same time.  Wow.  The odds of that are something akin to putting watch parts in a watch, shaking it and having it turn into a working watch!

Madison City has had to contract with Learning Focused - a private company - to train all Madison City teachers to 'roll out', 'unpack' and 'unwrap' these standards. I wonder how much that cost? Learning Focused has a huge variety of things the district can purchase to help 'roll out', 'unpack' and 'unwrap' these standards...

At 4:03 it is interesting to note that as the woman is explaining how wonderful the Common Core State Standards are, there is NEVER a time she breaks with the given vocabulary of teaching students what they need to 
"know, understand, and do "after you [teachers] 'unwrap' and 'unpack' the standards. 

About the 'assessments'...We call them tests - assessments make JUDGEMENTS about someone...is that what we're trying to do here?  Judge children?

Well...the 'assessments' have to be changed because, 
"You can't have knowledge recall questions when you're trying to teach something at the application level." 
Really. You can teach a child to think by GIVING THEM A TEST - or assessing them into knowledge? What education model says that - anywhere? Ever? 
"You really have to think about that problem based learning so that kids are applying the content." 
Bells should be going off here because none of this makes any sense other than in the realm of, 
"how many education buzzwords can I get in one sentence so that I can sound like I know what I'm talking about?" 
Maybe parents and taxpayers don't like the Common Core because there's so much talking over one's head!  It all seems so covered under the phrase,
"Baffle them with bull#$%"
At 5:07. Madison expects their students to be 'doers'. 

This is constructivist/progressive teaching. It's what ROPE has always said about Common Core! It is Constructivist at heart. 

Really think about this...how can you expect children to be self directed or teach one another important concepts and master methods of learning when many young kids can't even put their shirts on the right way without instruction? 

If children are going to be 'doers' and teach one another, why the HECK are we paying teachers? Let's just let children mill around in a gym for a day with one or two supervising 'wardens' and call that education! It would sure be a heck of a lot cheaper than all this tripe!

What is "college and career ready" and "21st Century standards" and "life ready"? What do these terms mean?  What is all this nonsense?  Did the Greatest Generation have to have be "college and career ready" for application of "21st Century Standards" in order to be "life ready"?  If not, how then did they become the Greatest Generation?

My favorite comment comes at 5:50. 
"[Teachers] if you don't like what we're doing here, get out. We'll find someone to replace you." 
Wow! That's friendly! So, 
"If you don't like it, lump it!"
is the new Common Core implementation cheer leading cry? 

If you're a teacher and you aren't passionate about turning all our schools into little homogeneity factories, scrap your teaching certificate and get out of Madison City, Alabama. 

Fortunately, our instructor here closes using every CCSS buzzword ever invented in an effort to make sure she has gotten everyone fired up about the standards.

If you don't see the problems here, I don't know how to make it plainer other than this blog posted here yesterday by Diane Ravitch, "How to Evaluate a Dentist".  I guess if you don't see it after that - GET OUT and I'll find someone who does to REPLACE YOU.


To Heck With Diamonds, Common Core is Forever

ROPE has been closely following the Common Core State Standards (CCSS) cost issue, since NO ONE in charge of public education in Oklahoma – including the purse string holders at the state legislature – have been able to tell Oklahomans what the Common Core will cost Oklahoma taxpayers. 

I wrote an article last month that was published in the American Thinker titled “The Ed Tech Scam”, to shed light on the fact that the CCSS have become an unfunded state mandate – specifically in the area of technology requirements.

“Adopting new materials isn’t really a cost of the Common Core, it’s just a cost in education of providing relevant materials to students that are there anyway.” 

However, when you have at least one Oklahoma Superintendent honestly reporting (to a national education magazine) how pinched he is to get technology in place prior to the roll out of the Common Core tests, we are inclined to suspend belief.

"Once you get into a testing situation, you have to be able to support it without interruption," said Mr. Kitchens, who added: "I do not think this is going to be a cheap exercise at all."

As we’ve reported previously, legislators cemented the Common Core State Standards into Oklahoma law in order to get Race to the Top funds without even a cursory review of draft forms of the standards as there were none available at that time.  This would seem a clear violation of the public trust. 

Legislators to taxpayers, 

“Hey guys, you’re responsible for funding these, but we have no idea exactly what’s in them or how much they’ll cost the state or what they’ll do to Oklahoma education, but trust us.”
Obviously the trust wasn’t warranted.  Currently, fourteen states have some form of legislation against the CCSS.  Clearly all is not well in CCSS-land.

Indiana recently threw out their Chief For Change (Jeb Bush/Foundation for Educational Excellence) state Superintendent Tony Bennett in favor of relatively unknown candidate Glenda Ritz, mainly because of flap over the cost and effectiveness of the Common Core State Standards.  Directly on the heels of this upset comes legislation to force the Indiana state legislature to examine the cost of the Common Core before continuing their implementation.

Tony Bennett has not left the building, however.   He now presides over the Florida State Department of Education, where, interestingly, the Florida state Board of Education is questioning whether or not the Florida education juggernaut is ready to roll out and administer the PARCC tests because of their cost.

"One hundred million won't get done everything we need to get done," Barbara Jenkins, superintendent of Orange County schools, told the board.
Hoosiers have already caught on to the fact that their former State Supe has gone to another state and told Floridians they just can’t afford the reform measures he was deposed for pushing inside their borders.  I’m not sure how this could inspire confidence in any Common Core state.

Then there’s the fact that so much of today’s ‘education reform’ efforts have been tied to private funding by Bill Gates. 

In a clear, well-researched article written for the Heartland Institute on this topic, Joy Pullman quotes Betty Peters’ (Alabama State School Board member) concerns,

“A lot of private foundations are making decisions that would normally be left up to a public institution that would be accountable to the taxpayers.”
As often as we have heard the word “accountability” from our Oklahoma State Department of Education, this should be an eye-opener.  How in the world can the Council of Chief State School Officers or the National Governor’s Association (architects of the Common Core State Standards, funded in part by the Gates Foundation) be held accountable to Oklahoma taxpayers for education ‘reform’ efforts such as the CCSS?  They are all copyrighted so they can’t be modified yet the CCSSO and the NGA have a disclaimer;

“NGA Center and CCSSO do not warrant, endorse, approve or certify the information on this site, nor do they make any representation as to the accuracy, completeness, efficacy, or timeliness of such information. Use of such information is voluntary on your part. Reference herein to any specific commercial product, process or service does not constitute or imply endorsement, recommendation or favoring by NGA Center and CCSSO."
Then there is the Jeb Bush factor.  As information trickles into the public domain reporting the methods in which the Foundation for Educational Excellence writes educational policy through Janet Barresi and other Chiefs for Change, jaws should drop.  Why should Oklahoma taxpayers be supporting Florida education reforms – especially those shown not to be as successful as first advertised?  
This session in Oklahoma, Senator Clark Jolley has drafted a bill (SB447) which will usher in yet another new education ‘reform’ measure.  MORE new tests!  Yes, Oklahoma has chosen to believe the CCSSO’s verdict that most students will fail the PARCC ‘assessments’ when they are to be instituted in 2014.  

Certainly, Oklahoma’s public school students cannot fail these tests with so much riding on them (the A-F school designation for one).  Consequently, not only is Senator Jolley advocating that we must buy another set of tests (formative tests) to be given up to four times per year before the summative PARCC tests come on line, but that we should support this plan by cementing it into law – as with all other Race to the Top education reforms Oklahoma is currently implementing – without RTT funds.   

Why must these tests be written into law?  Every teacher gives (or should give) formative tests over content taught – something akin to chapter tests.  These allow teachers to see whether or not students are ‘getting it’ in time to re-teach or re-direct learning to improve concept understanding.  Certainly, this type of testing is better than summative (high stakes) type testing, but why should Oklahoma teachers have another law to follow?  

Oklahoma teachers have enough on their plate without being mandated to follow another type of test.  Even formative tests can be misused in such a way as to force teachers to teach to the test and isn’t that all PARCC tests are doing?

It has come to my attention this week that a company called Bellwether Education Partners supplies this type of “transitional national achievement test”.  I did a little research on Bellwether and found they work with such organizations as Chiefs for Change and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.  We know Dr. Barresi is a Chief for Change.  One must wonder if there is a connection here as with the other education ‘reforms’ to which she’s been linked.  Again, Oklahoma should not be implementing education ‘reforms’ simply because they are being done elsewhere or because another foundation is willing to ‘help’ Oklahoma with their implementation.

From what source is the money going to materialize to pay for these new tests?  We haven’t even figured out how to pay for the PARCC tests.  It must be taxpayer funded – all government is.   Maybe that’s why Dr. Barresi has asked for a whopping $75 to $100 million in extra funding for next year.  The press release sent out by her office lauding Senator Halligan and Senator Ford – from whom the funding requests were submitted – quotes Senator Ford as saying,

“We have three areas in education we must address, including statutory requirements to fund programs such as medical benefits, additional appropriations to pay for reforms we’ve already enacted, and additional funding at the local level that school boards can use to address specific needs in their individual districts,” said Ford, R-Bartlesville.
Why are you asking taxpayers to fund these reforms AFTER you enacted them into LAW Senator Ford?  Why should taxpayers be jumping up and down to fund ‘reforms we’ve already enacted’ when they haven’t originated in Oklahoma, were never read by those who enacted them, never had any functional testing demonstrating their efficacy and have been shown not to work in Florida from where they did originate?  Certainly, taxpayers deserve an answer to that question. 

In closing, several interesting polls have come out recently regarding the Common Core.

“conducts an anonymous survey of a small group of key education influential (policymakers, though leaders, and association heads) to get their thoughts and commentary about the context of the current debate and possible outcomes.”   
Their survey for February 2013 that polled ‘insiders’ on the Common Core show that support for PARCC testing is falling.  In addition, 87% of respondents say they expect more states to drop out of the Common Core Assessment Consortia (like Alabama and Utah),
“as they start to get a fuller picture for the implementation costs of assessments and professional development and get very unhappy about what they have signed up for in a budget constrained environment.” 
77% of respondents believe schools will not have enough bandwidth to meet the Consortia’s recommended specifications in time for the tests to come on line.

The 2013 MetLife Survey of the American Teacher, shows that only a maximum of 24% of teachers and principals either believed the Common Core would improve student achievement or prepare students for college and the workforce (page 76) 

So why are we doing this ed 'reform' thing again?

I get the sneaky suspicion it’s not about kids…


How Do You Solve The Problem Of Dr. Barresi?

Superintendent Janet Barresi is making daily news of late.  Today we read, "Authors dispute claim by Barresi".  

Apparently Dr. Barresi spoke to the Tulsa County Republican Women's Luncheon and told attendees that the authors of the study which debunked the state's A-F grading system had recanted. 

One of the attendees, Jenny Hudspeth, a member of the Tulsa Area Parents Legislative Action Committee (PLAC) says, 
"She also said she would like an apology from the authors with as much fanfare as the release of the report."
Notice the force of that statement.  Oftentimes, those who wish to mislead use hubris to elicit an "appeal to authority" response in listeners:  facts are replaced by an emotional statement, which, when provided by an authority figure, creates a sense of urgency - an appeal to the listener for solidarity.

An abuse of the public trust such as this is bad enough, but once caught, Dr. Barresi throws Assistant Superintendent Meridyth McBee under the bus by saying her remarks were the result of a misunderstanding between herself and McBee - another apparent falsehood.

Moreover and possibly more interesting in the Tulsa World article, was the comment made by Patrick Forsyth, one of the A-F critque researchers,
"I just think that there isn't anyone at the state Department (of Education) who can really understand the scope of the critique," he said. "From what was reported to me, the superintendent is just essentially dismissive of the report."
ROPE was able to read and digest the report and produce an informed opinion echoing the thesis of the researchers.

Interestingly, ROPE has had the exact experience described by Dr. Forsyth.

In 2011, Representative Sally Kern - the only Oklahoma State legislator to ever really question the Common Core State Standards initiative - was granted an Interim study before the House Education Committee on the issue.  Because the Heritage Foundation is among the strongest critics of the CCSS, Lindsey Burke, a Heritage Expert, came to Oklahoma to testify before the few legislators that attended the study.  ROPE also gave a presentation to the committee based on our several years of research on the issue.

Dr. Barresi was given the opportunity to make her case for the CCSS directly after we presented our case against the initiative.  We have video encompassing the entire study.  In her initial remarks, Dr. Barresi told the committee,
"We are all entitled to our own opinions.  We are NOT entitled to our own facts.
It was obvious to nearly all in attendance, that Dr. Barresi was disparaging our research - actual research made up from over 100 different citations to government websites and other papers and articles (that has now been read and cited thousands of times).

During the study, Dr. Barresi also made disparaging remarks to Representative Kern, who then asked Dr. Barresi to supply the legislature with a written summation to include specific ways in which the Heritage Foundation and ROPE were wrong in our presentations.

The response took many weeks and inquiries from Representative Kern's office to make it's way to her desk.  Once produced, the 'report' was found to be, unarguably, the most unenlightened, uninformed piece of writing (research?) anyone could read.  It was clear from the first sentence that Dr. Barresi's staff had simply gone onto the Common Core website, lifted quote after quote on the initiative and placed them into a quickly-worded response - as though they believed they were never actually going to be expected to produce the promised rebuttal.  There was no indication of research or information gleaned from sources other than those connected to the CCSS.  It was truly nothing more than an opinion piece which appeared as more of a marketing exercise than a true literature survey or formal response of any kind.

In fact, we were so dismayed by the comments, ROPE wrote a statement in response.

All this information should be troubling as it shows clearly a pattern in which the Oklahoma Department of Education under the leadership of Janet Barresi, neither understands nor appreciates informed opinion and/or the tenets of basic research.  How can a department of "education" exist in this realm?

Clearly it can not.  Clearly, this kind of administration must seek outside assistance for creation and support of educational programming and initiatives - as we have seen with the OSDE and the Foundation for Educational Excellence - because there is apparently not enough utilized expertise in the Department to creatively attack educational issues on a state (local) basis.

Republicans must wake up.  Instead of swallowing every line of every candidate and/or elected official with an "R" behind their name, hook line and sinker, we must do more.  We must SEEK TRUTH.

Ronald Reagan uttered the the 11th Commandment in 1966, "Thou shalt not speak ill of any fellow Republican."  The Republican Party has been unable or unwilling to let go of that thought since, and it has completely ruined our Party.  Though both Democrat and Republican parties have been infiltrated by Progressives bent on destroying this country from inside by increasing government and government regulation of American lives at every turn, much of the Republican establishment remains firmly rooted in 1966, bowing at the alter of Reagan while the world crashes down around us (INCALCULABLE NATIONAL DEBT FOR EXAMPLE?)

I loved Ronald Reagan - I perceived him as a father figure that must have been the sweetest soul to ever have walked the planet.  He was the first president for whom I cast a vote.  You can not tell me he would be pleased with the Republican Party today - there is nothing in his memoirs that would suggest such a thought.  You can not tell me he would sit idly by while Republican Progressives destroyed the Party's base - by undermining it's long-held tenets of smaller government, lower taxes and personal freedom.

Wake up REPUBLICANS.  WAKE UP!  Your Party is no longer the Party of Reagan and if we don't start making those who wear an "R" beside their name accountable to the platform of its grass roots, we will lose our Party and our Country!  Let us with boldness declare the truth.  Let us with boldness stand for our principles.  Let us with boldness hold accountable those who would undermine our ethics and our beliefs and let us start NOW.

Jeb Bush's Common Core Valentine

I received an email forward from an Oklahoma legislator today that took me aback a bit I must say.  This email was apparently sent to at least some Oklahoma legislators from the Foundation for Educational Excellence (FEE) - established and run by Jeb Bush out of Florida - in support of the Common Core State Standards (CCSS), called "Debunking Common Core State Standards Myths". 

Recent evidence shows our State Superintendent, Janet Barresi (a member of the Chiefs for Change, an offshoot of the FEE) and Governor Fallin have been utilizing the FEE to write educational 'reform' measures for use here in Oklahoma.  I just recently wrote about that phenomena and the ramifications for our state

It's a bit disconcerting to realize that Oklahoma taxpayers are paying to have Florida reforms instituted in Oklahoma, wresting control away from local school boards.  I didn't know our states were enough alike to be able to sustain the same education policies.  Does that mean Oklahoma will get beachfront property too?

Although ROPE has been working for years to educate Oklahomans about the Common Core State Standards, and welcomes any chance to discuss them, I wondered why in the world this email would come out today.  A Common Core Valentine perhaps? 

Then I was sent this story, "Lawmakers, commissioner sow seeds to delay Common Core in Florida", written this morning (2/14).  The article expounds on the growing fears states are having about the Common Core - particularly the expense.  It even mentions the growing number of states attempting to jump ship on the CCSS (Indiana, Utah, Alabama, Missouri, Idaho, Colorado, Kansas...).  In fact, Indiana's State Superintendent, Tony Bennett - a Chief for Change - could not win re-election last November and was ousted from his post by a relative unknown due specifically to the contentious FEE education 'reforms' (including Common Core) being attempted there.  It appears the FEE "doth protest too much".

There was no trackback link to the email, so there's no way to post the email here.  I did, however, copy and paste the body into a Word document that I was able to PDF.  I posted that on our Scribd account so you could see it for yourself.

Here are some thoughts on the email:

- The first 'article' is an opinion piece from, you guessed it, The FEE.  Take a look at the comments - none of which are in favor of CCSS.

- The second is an article from EdWeek and reports the numbers of schools expecting to roll out the CCSS in 2014 based upon a survey.  The survey was provided by the Council of Great City Schools, a private membership organization housing a 'Common Core State Standards Project' funded by the Bill Gates Foundation (a consistent underwriter of CCSS and other RTT reforms).  Thirty-six urban schools completed the survey.  This is called, "Fallacy of Small Sample".  It sounds great that 87% of schools are ready to roll out the CCSS in 2014 until you find out that only 36 schools out of the 45 states adopting the CCSS were sampled.

- The next article is from the blog of an endowed professor of 'education reform' at the University of Arkansas, Jay Greene.  The guest-poster here is Matthew Ladner, a Senior Advisor of Policy and Research for the FEE!  (PS:  I found this out because many of the emails between the FEE and Barresi had Mr. Ladner included as a recipient).  I'm certain this is the reason he absolutely excoriates Michelle Malkin for daring to link the standards to President Obama (The CCSS were instituted across the nation through his Race to the Top grant, so how do you not do just that?).  You know us conservative types, though, we're EXTREMISTS! 

Wasn't it Saul Alinsky that invented the tactic of marginalizing the enemy through name-calling?  So Ladner's calling plays from the quintessential Communist playbook?  Of note as well, Ladner tries to cite Kentucky NAEP scores as indicative of the increased effectiveness of the CCSS in the state of Kentucky but then gets educated in the comments section by Richard Innes, Staff Education Analyst, Bluegrass Institute for Public Policy Solutions in Kentucky, that he's using the wrong figures, thereby reducing Matt's so called CCSS 'effects'. 

- Why they included the next article from EdWeek, I have no idea because it talks about the confusion inherent in the CCSS English Standards.  Though they don't talk about the standards themselves - just the confusion over how much fiction vs non-fiction reading will be required - the simple acknowledgement of the confusion surrounding the CCSS is less than a ringing endorsement of the Core.  Again in this instance, the comments are all over the place with very few camped out in the CCSS field.

- The next article discusses the Common Core tests.  It takes the time to cover both views, so I will give that one to the FEE.  I do think it important to note that one of the issues of concern in the article surround the costs of the tests.  This has been a concern for us as well.  Sadly, the powers that be in Oklahoma have not found it necessary to worry about that, I guess.  There has yet to be even a single hearing on the possible costs relating to testing of the CCSS.

- Next come two comments from teachers in Florida speaking well of the CCSS.  Funny, but there are two Oklahoma teachers right now I could call who would say exactly the opposite.  In fact, we've talked to teachers across the state (few of whom will come out of the shadows to be identified for fear of reprisal and loss of their jobs) who have told us they are going to retire just to get away from the recent 'education reforms' including the Core.  It's just too hard for them to teach effectively anymore and it's definitely no fun.

- Next comes a whole section of business leaders who are supporting the Common Core.  This always perplexes me.  How in the world have Republicans come to the conclusion that children should be educated for the 'workforce'?  How do you even begin to think of calling CHILDREN Human Capital?  Are we now a Communist country where we turn school children into a proletariat - workers that represent only the capital their future work can provide the ruling class and bourgeoisie?  In fact, the greater Oklahoma City Chamber of Commerce says, "Strong public schools provide quality educations for our children, as well as prepare a qualified workforce for our city's future."  No.  The object of education is not to prepare a child for the workforce, but to prepare a child to do anything they desire in life because they are prepared for anything.  That's the job of a classical education model and we're national debt miles away from that with our current Jeb Bush plan.

In closing:

The CCSS have never been state-led.  The initiative was designed from the outset to be a set of national standards that would not be directly labeled as such to avoid violating federal law.  Individual private groups (the NGA and the CCSSO) facilitated the writing of the standards, and the Obama Administration pushed them to cash-strapped states by offering buckets of stimulus funds (RTT).  The NGA and CCSSO developed alliances with gigantic book publishers (Pearson), suppliers of CCSS materials (Achieve) to cover the needs of states for CCSS materials and the Gates Foundation to provide software and bribe money to organizations (ALEC) to help facilitate their use and moved one of the architects of the standards into position to become president of the college board where he could align the most widely-used college admissions test (ACT) to the CCSS.  Finally, the Obama Administration offered NCLB Waivers for states implementing the CCSS and their idea of an A-F system of 'accountability' specifically for the CCSS.  C'est voila!  All Oklahoma schools (including charter schools) must now teach the CCSS because they must take the expensive PARCC (state) tests that assess them.  If students make poor grades on the PARCC tests, school A-F scores could drop to the D or F category, causing the State Department of Ed to take over the school.  Smaller textbook companies must align with the CCSS or lose market share, causing the textbook market for home schools to contract.  Even private schools are now beginning to use the CCSS in order to keep their student's ACT scores from falling.

Where's the choice in education Republicans keep touting?  Where's the ability to excel above "common"?  What about local control?

We can argue about 20 ways to Sunday about the CCSS and do it all day long, but in the end, Oklahomans want to control the destinies of their children through their own local public school boards, home or private schools.  The CCSS is not Oklahoman.  The CCSS is not local.  The CCSS does not provide choice in education to Oklahoma families.

The following national organizations agree with this assessment and have come out against the Common Core State Standards:

The Heritage Foundation
The Goldwater Institute
The Friedman Foundation
The Pioneer Institute
The Eagle Forum
CATO Institute
Home School Legal Defense Association
Reclaiming America for Christ

The Truth in American Education website has a very long list of organizations against the Common Core.

Another long list of organizations and individuals (including Michael Carnuccio and Brandon Dutcher of OCPA) signed a statement entitled Closing the Door on Innovation.

In Oklahoma:

Oklahoma Conservative Political Action Committee (OCPAC)
Edmond Republican Women
Reclaiming Oklahoma for Christ
Patriot Pastors
Sons and Daughters of Liberty
Osage County Republicans
Canadian County Republicans

among others; as well as individual signers.

Every Oklahoman wants our children to excel in their educations.  Every Oklahoman wants educational standards to allow them to do just that.  Oklahomans are a smart lot - we can create those locally, here in Oklahoma, with Oklahoma talent and Oklahoma creativity!  We just need to be free to do it!

ROPE fervently hopes and prays our Superintendent and others would begin to immediately think logically and seriously about getting Oklahoma out of the CCSS - before it becomes Oklahoma's own version of MediCare. 


PS:  For another good article on the Common Core, see - Five Questions To Ask About The Common Core by Yong Zhao