October 31, 2013

Is it "Imperative" for Connecticut to accept this "Massive Government Overreach"?

Jeb Bush, brother of George W, and former governor of Florida, did an interview with This Week on Sunday, 10.20.2013. I've seen his name pop up a few times in relation to Common Core, and I'm definitely going to be looking into why he is so dedicated to getting his brother's "reforms", through his No Child Left Behind legacy, pushed further along. However, right now I will be speaking to some of the actual content of his interview, rather than dealing with why he even had one about it at all.

I have to admit that this interview is a fantastic piece of marketing: 
But we could just, you know, comfortably go in decline. If we accept that notion that only 1/3 of our kids are college or career ready. Even though we spend more per student than any country in the world, by the way.
The man is definitely confident in his ability to manipulate us with his passive aggressiveness. Truly, it's brilliant.
There's a big fear...about this massive government overreach. I totally appreciate that. But that's not what this is. This is a national imperative. It's not a federal government program.
If "imperative" was expressed as a noun it means:
Dictionary.com: 4. a command.
Collins English Word Dictionary: 5. an order or command  
If "imperative" was expressed as an adjective, it means:
Dictionary.com: 1. absolutely necessary or required; unavoidable
Collins English Word Dictionary:
2. peremptory or authoritative: an imperative tone of voice
So while it may not be a "government program", it is, through funds that some states received through Race To The Top, government mandated, and as Jeb said, "imperative." That is definitely feeling like "massive government overreach" to me. And I am not a Tea Party member. 

We have to continue to ask ourselves, and our representatives, "Why are we allowing this in Connecticut when we haven't even received any Race To The Top funds? Common Core is not "imperative" in Connecticut.

During the course of his interview, Jeb Bush also said:
...if you measure it by outcomes... 25% of kids pass all of the four segments of the ACT test which means that they're college or career ready, or college ready.
Well here is the raw data on Connecticut's ACT scores for 2012. And here is the version they made easier to read with nice charts and such. And here is one of those charts that is not only nice, but quite telling:

Evidently, here in Connecticut our kids that took this test did better than the national average. In English we did 19% better, in Algebra we did 22% better, in Social Studies we did 19% better and it Biology we did 17% better. And even though one would expect the amount of kids who met all four of ACTs benchmarks to be much lower, since some kids might be good at English and not as good in science, we still managed to do 18% better than the national average.

Granted, this does mean that 14% of the Connecticut kids who took this test are not ready for a college English class, 32% are not ready for college Algebra, 29% are not ready for college Social Studies, and 62% are not ready for college Science. But let's take a look at some more of the report:

Hmm. Seems that most of the kids in Connecticut who are not doing well are African American, Hispanic, and in some cases, American Indian. And as it says first thing in the foreward of the report OPPORTUNITY IN CONNECTICUT: The Impact of Race, Poverty and Education on Family Economic Success, written by the Connecticut Association for Human Services:
"...Governor Malloy and lawmakers are... vowing to significantly reform Connecticut’s public schools amidst calls for accountability to students and closing the achievement gap. We applaud these goals, but we also point out that underlying inequalities related to race and poverty that impact opportunity in Connecticut must be addressed. Without attending to the disparities that exist in our highly favored state, school reform will not reach its mark, and inequality will persist for many children based on the color of their skin or where they live."
So I think it's pretty safe to assume that our overall education here in CT is not the problem; the problem seems to be more of a social and economic one.

Interestingly, despite the disparity in our low income areas to our high income areas, Connecticut was still tied for first place in most kids prepared for college English. We were tied for second place in most kids prepared for college Math. And we were tied for second place in most kids prepared for college Science.

We have to continue to ask ourselves, and our representatives, "Why are we allowing this in Connecticut when we haven't even received any Race To The Top funds? Common Core is not "imperative" in Connecticut. The system we were already using was one of the very best in the country. Why change it? Instead of fixing something that's not broken, why not concentrate our energy on helping the kids in our state who were not served by it? Why not concentrate on helping the kids who need it, and let the excellent-enough alone?

October 30, 2013

Educating other parents about Common Core

There is a lot of talk about Common Core on Facebook. I'm a member of five different Groups that discuss it, and I "like" one Page on the topic. I prefer the Groups to the Page, since on the Page only the admin's stuff ends up on my timeline; Pages are basically soap boxes since few people actually go to the Page to see what others have posted there. The groups though, that's where the real conversation happens.

Well today I actually went to the Page that I "like" to see what others besides the admin had posted, and found lots of questions that were never answered. The admin doesn't follow the questions, or ignores them, and since few others actually go to the page, lots of people's questions go unanswered. One of my own did a while back.

In reading through the questions I found some that are asked over and over. And over. One question today was "Can someone explain to me what common core will change?". And this question actually had a reply. But it really annoyed me that it read "Simple. Students will know less, require remedial education in order to get into college, and spend years in therapy overcoming the anger and frustration caused by a system designed to make them fail."

What the heck kind of answer is that? Someone is reaching out to the knowledgeable for education and this is what they get in response? Ugh! How on earth are we ever going to consolidate ourselves into an effective movement when we don't even show each other simple courtesy? 

And this is exactly why I started this blog. To slice through all the rhetoric and sarcasm and rudeness and plain old idiocy. I want to create a place to gather the real information without all the drama; a place where people can read through the consolidated information to educate themselves.

Over the next few days I'm going to start collecting all the basic questions that keep getting asked and try to make my own FAQ. Please let me know if there's something specific you think belongs on it.

October 29, 2013

Cheshire Board of Education Candidate Forum 2013

I went to the BOE candidate forum last night. Boy was I disappointed. The forum was supposed to have gone from 7pm till 9pm. They asked questions of the candidates from 7pm till 7:50pm. They didn't even ask all questions of all candidates. Five of the seven questions were answered by only two candidates each. What a joke.

The Cheshire Townwide PTA runs the forum. They collect questions from people and combine the questions on topics. Two of the questions I submitted were:
1. Given the fact that Connecticut has not received any Race to the Top funds from the federal government that would make implementing the Common Core standards a requirement, and the more important fact that Connecticut is a “local control” state for the school boards, meaning that each town can take or leave curriculum that the state suggests, how do you feel about Cheshire going forward with implementing the Common Core Standards?

2. In implementing Common Core, Cheshire has agreed to the increased need for testing that comes along with it, and since these tests are now nationalized, the curriculum must be aligned to it. And, in agreeing to use Common Core, states may not eliminate even one, but can only add up to 15% supplemental material. How do you feel about this potential loss of town control over our curriculum? 
The only question actually asked about Common Core was watered down to:
How do you see the Common Core curriculum supporting the new demands of the technological world our children will inhabit?

Why had it not occurred to me before that the Townwide PTA that was running this thing was likely aligned with the National PTA on its position (pdf) about Common Core? A quick chat with the Townwide PTA President confirmed it for me after the meeting. So the Cheshire Townwide PTA couldn't keep their own politics out of what was supposed to be an open forum.

Luckily though, there was one candidate, Adam Grippo, who was definitely anti-CC in his message. After the meeting I spent a few minutes chatting with him, and he assured me that that is the case. We spoke about the referendum on Cheshire's ballot this year regarding a Technology Reserve Fund. I got the amount wrong when I spoke with him, but Cheshire is voting on whether to approve $651,000 to, among other things, "provide the ability of the... Schools to more efficiently integrate and support new and emerging technologies". We speculated on what that actually meant.

If you live in Cheshire, I hope you will vote for Adam Grippo. And if you live elsewhere in Connecticut, I hope you are going to your own town's Board of Ed forums to find out where the candidates stand on Common Core.

October 28, 2013

My Experience With Protecting My Children's Privacy in Cheshire

A few weeks ago a postcard showed up at our house. It was an advertisement for a private high school and was addressed directly to my 7th grader.­ It raised a red flag since I’ve worked hard to protect my children’s names from advertisers; the only place these advertisers could have gotten his name and address was from our town’s school system, a parks and rec thing he participates in, or the state of Connecticut, which has this information as a result of his taking the CMT last year.

Soon after, I became peripherally aware of Common Core, and when that 7th grader came home after school one day with a couple of his friends, and they were talking about “the triumph math test” they had taken that day, my ears perked up. A few questions later had me realizing that Triumph is the name of the company that my town is using to assess the kids throughout the year as they go along.

So in light of what I had read about the privacy issues surrounding Common Core, I found my way to the login page of Triumph Learning™  and found the link for “privacy”, where it says 
“You can request that your children’s personal information not be used by Triumph Learning or its affiliates and vendors acting on behalf of Triumph Learning, by making a request in writing. Please be aware that if you make such a request, your children can no longer continue to be enrolled in Triumph Online™ or utilize Triumph Online™. Therefore, a request by you for Triumph Learning, its affiliates, and vendors acting on behalf of Triumph Learning to no longer use your children’s personal information will terminate your children’s participation in and their use of Triumph Online.”
Not letting my kids use their online service at all? Sounded great to me; I shot off the email, and had planned to email his teachers and principal the next day. But what happened next was so surprising. Instead of an acknowledgement I got this:
We’ve received your email request to remove your children from the Triumph Online system. I’ve been in contact with the Cheshire Curriculum Office this request and they will be contacting you in the next 48 hours. 
To say that I was not happy that my personal request was forwarded to a third party, even though that third party was the school, would be an understatement.

After several emails back and forth with this woman at Triumph, eventually what happened is that I had a meeting with a Curriculum Coordinator of the Board of Ed in Cheshire. She was open and forthright and respectful.

I left her with the post cards as she said she would try to find out how they could have come to us.

Then we discussed my concerns with Triumph Learning; given the changes to the FERPA law I do not want personal information being entered into a for-profit corporation’s database. Especially since Triumph Learning’s privacy page makes it clear that they reserve the right to share all that personal information with their “affiliates, and vendors”. In the end she assured me that although there are spots where detailed information about each student can be shared, my town does not utilize that, but I was within my rights to request that my sons’ testing be done on paper. I agreed to let it stay with the online testing under her assurances that there was no identifiable information being shared there.

I also mentioned my concerns with the Smarter Balanced Consortium, which is the Common Core testing that will replace CMT and CAPT in Connecticut, rolling out this year. (During the last BOE meeting in my town it was mentioned that “Twenty percent of students in Connecticut will participate, but we don’t know if our students will or not”.) She mentioned that the tests are mandated and therefore required and I can’t opt out. I replied that the town is only required to report on 95% of the kids and my son could be one of the 5% not reported on.

Then she mentioned that my son would have to be pulled out of class for the nine weeks of testing, to which I replied that I have no problem keeping him home, since I had homeschooled him for six years and could certainly find more constructive ways to utilize that time than with testing.

Conversation then moved from trying to convince me that I didn’t have a choice, to addressing my issues with FERPA and data sharing. I had brought along a paper entitled “The Revised FERPA Regulations and Increased Access to Personally Identifiable Information” that had been written by Kent Talbert for the National Association of College And University Attorneys. I did not leave it with her, or read straight from it, but did bring up the points that disturbed me:

The new regulations allow authorities to more easily share and re-disclose data from student education records for purposes of audits, evaluations, and studies. In so doing, the amended rules also reduce certain privacy protections in the name of effective use of data and increased accountability and transparency.

 “Authorized representative” is a new, defined term and represents a departure from the Department’s prior interpretation of FERPA. Under the new definition, an authorized representative is any entity or individual designated by [the government] to conduct… any audit or evaluation, or any compliance or enforcement activity in connection with federal legal requirements that relate to such programs.

Under the revised regulations, the Department could designate a much wider range of individuals or entities to be its authorized representatives. For example, it could designate a trade union to receive personally identifiable information to evaluate the effectiveness of a university in preparing students for the workplace …

“Directory information” is redefined and includes a new limitation placed upon a parent or eligible student’s ability to opt-out of directory information... This new provision thus further limits a parent’s authority under the act “to inform the institution or agency that any or all of the information designated (as directory information) should not be released without the parent’s prior consent.

“Education program” is another new, defined term and encompasses any program that is principally engaged in the provision of education... the potential range of education programs from which data may be shared for purposes of audits, evaluations, or compliance activities is quite broad—ranging from early childhood programs to job training. [This would include Google, for example, since in letting schools use Google Docs (for “free”) Google is now considered an education program”.]

Further, in the preamble, the Department takes the position that “education programs” are broad enough to include not only traditional academic programs, but also cyber-security, substance abuse, and violence prevention programs and the like, when administered by an educational agency or institution.

The amended regulations permit [the government] to make further disclosures of personally identifiable information on behalf of the educational agency... from which it received the information even if the agency... objects. To illustrate, a [school] could disclose personally identifiable information without consent to a state educational agency for purposes of an evaluation of a federal education dropout prevention program. The state educational agency may then re-disclose the personally identifiable information “on behalf of” the [school] to a local educational agency for an unrelated evaluation, even if the [school] objects...

These are the things that I tried to discuss with my BOE rep, but it was too much for her to grasp. Once she understood that the FERPA laws are the basis for my concerns though, she shared that the Cheshire Board of Ed has asked our town lawyer to review the changes to the FERPA law so that our schools can stay compliant with it, and said that she would share a copy of that review with me.

Honestly I’m not convinced that it’s going to tell us much in terms of how kids’ data can be shared beyond the school once the school releases it, but it should explain how much more information can be shared now, and without parental consent. And it will hopefully present a stronger case when I then connect the dots to present to the BOE rep regarding where my child’s information can end up once the school system releases it, and help her understand why my child will not be participating in the Smarter Balanced testing.

The schools need to understand that the law has changed so that more information can be collected on our kids without parental consent, and that once the schools release that information to the state, they completely lose control over who else it can be shared with. And it can be shared with a lot of corporations! (Google, et al.)

Our meeting ended with me agreeing not to opt-out of the Smarter Balanced testing until I see the report from the lawyer.

October 27, 2013

Common Core Is Invading The Arts

At first glance, this short blog post by an art teacher, entitled "Common Core in ART?!", about how she created an "art lesson based on color theory and (*GASP!*) writing. That's right, folks...descriptive writing in the art room" seems like a very clever idea. I mean what's not to admire in the way she seamlessly combined two art forms in meeting the needs of the Common Core?

But examine this a little more, and you will come to understand that to try to bring linear thinking to art classes is an atrocity. So many kids who are not linear thinkers go into the arts... dyslexics and others who literally see things differently. And this may to turn them off to taking classes that can help them define their craft; that can help them define themselves.

Forcing a left-brained exercise such as writing, on a right-brained class like art, is a huge mistake; right-brained learners might stop taking these classes if they are going to be graded on left-brained exercises. 

This lesson was not a lesson about color theory that some extra writing was thrown in on, for kids who might want to take their art in that direction. The lesson was "based on color theory and writing"; it was created with writing as part of the requirement. Art. With writing as part of the requirement.

As a proud owner of a BFA (Bachelor of Fine Arts) the revelation that Common Core is invading the arts is hitting me especially hard.

October 26, 2013

ExxonMobil and The Common Core?

Many people are asking questions about why corporations seemingly unrelated to the Common Core are taking up the Common Core cause, and I recently read an article that raises some of those questions. But first, the video that prompted them:

ExxonMobil’s Common Core ad was first uploaded in April 2012, but the 30-second commercial is still being played on television.
The energy giant’s support for the standards is listed on its website, where ExxonMobil outlines mathematics in particular as one of Common Core’s strongest suits... The...company has already received lots of negative feedback for the ads... Executive director of the ExxonMobil Foundation, Patrick McCarthy, said 99 out of 100 emails the company received in response to the ads were from those opposed to Common Core.

Exxon’s not the first large company to endorse the national standards. Intel Corp. and Cisco Systems have also taken up the banner to defend Common Core... Intel says the company has been discussing the importance of Common Core at various forums for its employees. The ultimate idea for Intel is that those workers will become ambassadors for the national standards, he said.

Some Common Core opponents have denounced the standards as part of a large corporate agenda -- and Exxon’s commercials supporting the standards may not be helping to dispel that notion.
Here is the full article.

October 25, 2013

InBloom in Connecticut?

Poking my way around Cheshire's K12 website I came across some newsletters written by the Curriculum Committee of the Board of Ed. The June 2013 newsletter says this:
...the platform to manage the new educator evaluation system was chosen by the SDE [State Department of Education] and is called Bloomboard. Bloomboard will allow the tracking of the various SEED components online, in a paperless environment... You can learn more about Bloomboard by going to: http://www.bloomboard.com/ 
So naturally I clicked through to BloomBoard and started poking around. On their FAQ page I came across this:
Can BloomBoard incorporate student data?

Yes! BloomBoard can include student data and evaluations to meet state or district reporting mandates, and to support better learning recommendations. We can import student data in .csv format or integrate directly with your Student Information System. In addition, BloomBoard supports student and parent climate/feedback conversations via our partnership with Panorama Education, a leading education survey provider to states and districts across the US.
The name felt so much like the inBloom I had been hearing about all over, and it felt so much like what I had read inBloom was doing, that I did a Google search for "bloomboard and inbloom". The top result led me to an inBloom page that says:
inBloom is proud to be partnering with the following innovators and creators of education technology products and services...

"BloomBoard is incredibly excited to partner with inBloom. Standardizing the complex data sets coming from disparate information systems across the education world will help scale innovation in profound ways.” - Jason Lange, CEO and Co-founder, BloomBoard, Inc.
Back to Google and further down the results list I found this:
"A freshly inked partnership in late 2012 with the emerging Shared Learning Collaborative (SLC), in which BloomBoard’s data architecture will be synched with that of the SLC"
That link is dead and the BloomBoard press release of July 18, 2012 is nowhere to be found now. I looked hard.

By the way, Shared Learning Collaborative (SLC) was what inBloom was called before they switched names. And on that page it says:
Twenty-one education technology companies have already announced plans to develop applications that will work with inBloom through the service’s open application programming interface (API).
Not surprisingly, when you click on that link, it brings you to the inBloom page that mentions their partnership with BloomBoard that I referenced earlier.

Despite BloomBoard's FAQ that states "The two companies are entirely separate entities with no connection", BloomBoard's data architecture will be synced with that of inBloom. So it would seem that inBloom has infiltrated Connecticut.

Before you get all crazy by the prospect though, be sure to check in with your local Board of Ed, or even closer to home, with your children's teachers, to see what information they are actually inputting into BloomBoard. It may be that despite their ability to, teachers are not inputting kids' information in it at all.

And finally, for those of you who don't understand what an important issues this is, check out this list of the information on your kids that inBloom is telling their "partners" to set up their software to collect.

What The Teachers Really Think

Here is an interesting piece about The National Education Association's (NEA's) article entitled “10 Things You Should Know About Common Core”.
If you have followed Common Core for a while, none of what is in this article is new information. 

What is most illuminating are the comments that follow these NEA talking points. At the time of MEW’s publication of this piece, there were 82 comments on the NEA’s supportive piece of the standards. I only counted one (1) comment agreeing with the NEA’s stance on Common Core. These few are indicative of the majority of teachers’ beliefs/thoughts about the Common Core...
Read those selected comments and that full piece here, and the NEA article with the as-of-today 88 teacher comments here.

The Weekly Quote

When the tests are aligned to the Common Core Standards, the curriculum will line up as well. And it will unleash a powerful market of people providing services for better teaching. For the first time, there will be a large uniform base of customers looking at products...

~ Bill Gates
Microsoft Board Member and its largest shareholder 

October 24, 2013

Amanda Ripley, Author of The Smartest Kids in the World

Relevant quotes from an interview:
Most of the top performing countries do not routinely use tests to measure teacher performance, and the reasons vary dramatically. In Finland test data isn’t used because of the high level of trust in their teachers. Still, there are some checks and balances. The Finnish government administers tests of a sample of students around the country every couple of years to make sure achievement is up, and they share that data with principals, but it’s not used to evaluate teachers.
In South Korea, they actually expressed a strong desire to use tests to evaluate teachers but they didn’t know how to do so fairly. There is so much education going on, with so many teachers teaching kids the same subject in school as well as in the after school “hagwons,” nobody could know for sure who it was that led students to the high test score.

I think our levels of child poverty make education much harder in the US. On average, our kids are better off than kids in other developed countries, but we tend to cluster low-income kids together in one school. Our schools aren’t that diverse, and we’re one of the few countries where more resources aren’t distributed to the neediest schools.

October 23, 2013

Teacher Evaluations Also Likely to Determine What is Taught in Math Classrooms, Teachers Say

Researchers from the University of Rochester, Western Michigan University, Michigan State University, and Washington State University Tri-Cities did a survey in April and May 2013. The survey polled 366 middle school math teachers to find out what they though about the assessments and evaluation systems used for Common Core Math.
More than 90 percent of the respondents reported that the new state assessments will influence both their instructional and assessment practices in the classroom.

Nearly two-thirds of the teachers surveyed reported that the new teacher evaluation systems will influence their classroom practices. 
Furthermore, a large majority, 86 percent, felt that there will be an increased emphasis on student test scores in their teacher evaluations."
So the teachers will be teaching to the test? Even more so now that their own evaluations will be based on the results? Well I have to admit that the article kind of leads me to wanting to give it a great big sarcastic "DUH!" but as with everything I post, please read it and come to your own conclusions.

Here a Wallingford middle school social studies teacher puts it in perspective for us:
45% of my evaluation will be tied to standardized test scores.

5% of my evaluation will be tied to the schools standardized test scores.

40% is based on two goals that I set. One of the goals has to be standardized, so based on standardized tests from SBAC
[Smarter Balanced], or district standardized tests. So 20% of our personal goals are based on standardized test scores.

Let’s see…   45% + 5% + 20% = 70%
So 70% of my evaluation will be based on test scores.
 Mr. Bogush's blog post is filled with frustration and sarcasm. And rightly so.

October 22, 2013

Massachusetts Senator Edward J. Markey: What Is Impact on Privacy When Student Data Shared with Private Companies?

Press Release of Senator Markey:
"Washington (October 22, 2013) – With the business of storing and sifting through the records of grade school students growing as fast as young students are, today Senator Edward J. Markey (D-Mass.) sent a letter to the Department of Education (DOE) requesting more information on the privacy rights of parents and children when sensitive student information is shared with third parties. A recent The New York Times story reported on the growing trend of school districts around the country outsourcing data storage functions to private companies. The information shared with private companies may vary from information such as grades, test scores, and attendance records, to other data such as disabilities, family relationships, and disciplinary data. Senator Markey’s letter to DOE asks what guidelines are in place for schools and companies and what rights parents have to control the information of their children. Recent changes to the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA) have allowed for the increased sharing and use of student data in the private sector, sometimes without parental notification."
A copy of Senator Markey’s letter to DOE can be found HERE.

October 21, 2013

Comic Books As Part of Common Core

Common Core had just landed as a giant blip on my radar when my family headed down to Comic Con in New York City. So imagine my incredible surprise when I saw this panel on a list outside Room 1A14:

It was coming at me from everywhere!

Even had we gone on Thursday we would not have been able to listen in anyway, since the panel was "for professionals". (Professional what? It was Comic Con!) Weirdness aside, it behooved me to try to find out what it was all about.

The description in the Comic Con program that I brought home says:
"Not just for reluctant readers anymore, every child would benefit from including graphic novels in the classroom. Comics and graphic novels are incredible learning tools that not only help support our Common Core State Educational Standards, but also teach literacy and comprehension skills beyond those of traditional books."
Then I found the slide show that the speakers used during the panel (gotta love the internet). This is the info that accompanies the slide show:
Comics and the Common Core: The Case to include Comics in the Curriculum. Presented at New York Comic Con 2013 by Amie Wright, New York Public Library; Stephanie Gabelmann, Boonton Holmes Public Library; and Emily Weisenstein, Madison Public Library. Not just for reluctant readers anymore, every child would benefit from including graphic novels in the classroom. Comics and graphic novels are incredible learning tools that not only help support our Common Core State Educational Standards, but also teach literacy and comprehension skills beyond those of traditional books. Presentation includes information on Common Core State Standards, history of comics in the US (including the Comics Code and Senate hearings of the 1950s), comics as tools to enhance and create visual literacy. Presentation also includes a Resource, Links, and Reading List (last 7 slides).
The slide show has a means of sharing it via embedding, so you don't need to head over there to watch it, you can do right here:

I have to admit that my initial response in seeing that panel on that poster was not good. Common Core was invading everywhere. But I have to say that now that I clicked through the entire slide show I have to applaud the three librarians who put the panel together. Regardless of how individuals may feel about using comics, or "graphic novels", as part of education in general, one has to admire how these librarians managed to make their agenda "fit" the Common Core requirements. It makes me feel like there is a sparkle of hope that the creative teachers out there will take the time to mold the Common Core around their lessons instead of the other way around.

Naive? Probably. But hope is what is keeping me going, so I have to grab it where I can.

Please share your own thoughts below.

A Second-Grade Teacher laments the Common Core

This essay is such a poignant example of exactly how Common Core is changing the way our teachers teach, and our children learn.
"The dinosaurs have faced extinction for a second time and have lost again. It wasn’t a meteor that got them this time, but the Common Core standards...
"I was trained as a teacher in the ’90s. At that time, we were taught to discover what our students were interested in and then create cross-curricular units of study that would build upon those interests to instigate learning. Because our science study in second grade included changes in the Earth over time, our teacher team took hold of that to build a unit on dinosaurs...
"Now the dinosaurs are dead. This will be the second school year that kids will not participate in that unit of study. Why? Because teachers were instructed at the beginning of the year to take a look at the files in our drawers and leave them there if they did not directly line up with the Common Core... 
"I grieve for the lost dinosaurs. I grieve for the challenge and energy I got as a teacher from striving to get to know my kids and create lessons for them that would keep them engaged. I grieve my autonomy and my ability to use my professional judgment..."
 And I grieve for the teachers.

Please read her whole essay.

October 20, 2013

The Arguers in the For or Against Position on Common Core

This article is entitled The Common Core Money War, however, the name is not a good one. The article starts out talking about the money that proponents are spending to convince people that Common Core is a good thing:
"...proponents would appear to have all the advantages. The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation already has pumped more than $160 million into developing and promoting the Common Core, including $10 million just in the past few months, and it’s getting set to announce up to $4 million in new grants to keep the advocacy cranking. Corporate sponsors are pitching in, too. Dozens of the nation’s top CEOs will meet today to set the plans for a national advertising blitz that may include TV, radio and print."
 And also briefly mentions the cost to opponents:
Opponents, meanwhile, project an image of scrappy grassroots gumption: One rancher in Alabama said he would sell off a cow to cover the costs of an anti-Common Core town hall. But they’re backed by an array of organizations with multimillion dollar budgets of their own and much experience in mobilizing crowds and lobbying lawmakers, including The Heritage Foundation, Americans for Prosperity, the Pioneer Institute, Concerned Women for America and FreedomWorks.
But after that it moves into the tactics that both sides are using to get their message across. One of my favorite parts reads: 
The battle lines defy neat partisan categories: Teachers unions have joined hands with the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, the Business Roundtable and the Obama administration in promoting the standards, which nearly every state has adopted. On the other side, the Democratic Progressive Caucus of Florida finds itself on the same team as tea party activists.
The article is a good read because it demonstrates and forewarns the tactics that proponents are/will be using to convince us all this is a great thing, as well as shares a bit about how the fight against it is going.

Find the full article here and be sure to click through to read page 2.

October 19, 2013

Samples of New York State's testing questions on math

I am currently taking a Finance Class at Naugatuck Valley Community College. Recently we were given a take-home test and I embarrassingly got one of the questions wrong. When I got the test back I remembered that I had had problems with it because of the verbiage; the way the question was worded was really confusing. So although I really did know the correct answer, I got it wrong because I misunderstood the question.

This is coming to the forefront as a problem with Common Core. And although it is especially problematic for children for whom English is a second language, and for children with verbal language disabilities (dyslexia, for example), many adults complain that too many otherwise "normal" children will also have problems with understanding the verbiage of some of these tests.

Here is a great article that demonstrates this problem succinctly, with real samples of questions from grades 3 through 7. This is the example that gave me my "a-ha" moment:

Grade 5
...this question simply does not comport with the [Common Core] standard, which states, “Recognize that in a multi-digit number, a digit in one place represents 10 times as much as it represents in the place to its right and 1/10 of what it represents in the place to its left.”

NYSED [New York State Education Department] explains, “In this case, the 3 in 3,000,000 represents 10 times what a 3 in the hundred thousands place would represent; equivalently, the 3 in 3,000,000 represents 30 hundred thousands.”

While the first part is certainly true, and 3,000,000 is ten times 300,000, the key gap in NYSED’s thinking is the magical word “equivalently”.  No one says “30 hundred-thousands”, ever.  What’s happening on the right side of the equation is really 30 x 100,000, which is a multiplication problem. The underlying math is sound, it just doesn’t align, and thus the question tests aptitude, not the standard.

Please be sure to read the rest of the article here.

October 18, 2013

Heartland Institute Policy Brief

In this Heartland Institute Policy Brief, Heartland Research Fellow Joy Pullmann reveals some major weaknesses of the Common Core. The program represents a major centralization of control over curriculum, contrary to the American tradition of decentralized control and funding. Instead of being “world class,” the standards represent a significant step back from what experts say are the standards America really needs.

October 17, 2013

Mississippi Senator Angela Burks Hill

I sat through this excellent presentation and was disappointed that during the last couple of minutes she made her views on Obamacare evident, and the fact that she's a Republican. I'm trying to stay away from partisan politics here, but this presentation is worth it. With all the things I've been previewing, I can state wholeheartedly that it's very minor.

Pennsylvania Representative Gordon Denlinger

October 12, 2013

The Benchmarks

This post also appears when you click on the "Research" tab above, but I'm re-posting here so it shows up when readers click on "The International Benchmarks" link to the left, since it's so important to that topic.

"Benchmarking for Success: Ensuring U.S. Students Receive a World-Class Education", is a report by the National Governors Association, the Council of Chief State School Officers, and Achieve, Inc. It is the report the US federal government is using to justify the need for the Common Core. You can find the actual document here. Page nine is the beginning of the explanation of how the US is lagging compared to the rest of the world.

Christopher Tienken, Ed.D is an assistant professor of Education Administration at Seton Hall University. In this 22 minute video he explains how the information in the Benchmarking Report is not based on real data, and illustrates how Common Core lacks real scientific evidence for its very existence. Please note that at 19:30 Tienken does start to move away from providing hard data to refute the need for Common Core, into proselytizing.