August 15, 2014

A Summary of States' Opposition to Common Core

An article entitled Common Core's Growing Unpopularity tells us that:
Indiana was the first state to show the political power of the anti-Common Core movement. The activist moms defeated a superintendent of education and several legislators on this issue.

Oklahoma made the biggest splash when the state legislature voted to repeal the state's earlier endorsement of Common Core. The governor signed the repeal, but the unelected state board of education impudently filed suit to nullify the repeal, and then the Oklahoma state Supreme Court wisely upheld the elected legislature's repeal.

South Carolina's governor signed a bill repealing that state's commitment to Common Core. North Carolina's governor signed a more modest bill authorizing the state school board to tweak the standards.

The state of Texas, under Gov. Rick Perry, was smart enough to be one of the five states that never signed on to Common Core in the first place. But now the pressure is on to force Texas to use the new AP U.S. history exam anyway, and Texans claim that is illegal under state law.

Louisiana was one of the original 45 states that endorsed Common Core before the standards were even written. But one day Gov. Bobby Jindal actually read his son's Common Core math homework, was shocked, and then issued an executive order to block its implementation in Louisiana.

Two more governors have just seen the light and turned against Common Core. Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker announced that he wants the state legislature to repeal the standards when it reconvenes in January, and Gov. Gary Herbert of Utah ordered his attorney general to conduct a review of the controversial standards.

You can read the rest of that article here.

August 13, 2014

Common Core Lowers the Bar on Math

Here is a great article about how Common Core will do just that. An excerpt...

Breitbart News asked Dr. R. James Milgram, professor of mathematics at Stanford University – who was asked to be a member of the Common Core Validation Committee but then refused to sign off on the standards – about Ratner’s observation regarding Common Core’s persistent emphasis on visual models, even for simple questions.

“It is believed by most U.S. math education Ed.D.'s that at-risk students learn better using manipulatives and that the focus of U.S. standards should always be these students,” Milgram said. “So they choose pedagogy that effectively turns off the average and even more so the above-average students in a desire to focus on the weakest students.”

Milgram observes, however, “The research on how at-risk students learn most effectively is absolutely clear on the fact that this is the worst possible method for teaching these students this material.”

“Likewise, the research on gifted students shows that those students learn best when they are allowed to accelerate and learn at their own speed,” he adds.

“Finally, over the last century, not one paper in the education literature that has met basic criteria for reproducibility has shown that the kind of group learning pushed in Common Core is more effective than direct instruction,” Milgram asserts. “In fact, a close reading of most of these papers seems to indicate that these methods are significantly less effective than direct instruction.”

“Given this, the most likely outcomes are an across-the-board-weakening of student outcomes,” Milgram warns.

August 11, 2014

The AP History Thing

I homeschooled my children for many years before they entered public school. And one of the things I tried very hard to do was to give them an accurate history of the United States, not just the white-guys-from-Texas version, starting with a more realistic account of how the first Thanksgiving came to be. And now that they are in school, I've continued the dialog about what they are learning in history, filling in things that are being left out, and correcting inaccuracies. Mostly, I've taught my children to look at history from the perspective of all who were involved in the events, and to not just believe what anyone tells them with blind faith, because everyone tells it from their own perspective.

So it was with interest that I learned that David Coleman is re-writing the AP History Syllabus. David Coleman is the head of the College Board, the "non-profit" company that produces the SAT, the GED, and all the Advanced Placement (AP) tests, and is also one of the "chief architects" of the Common Core. He inspires a lot of hatred, and as a result, anything he does is seen through a this-can't-be-good lens. Nevertheless, I have been trying to educate myself with a little bit more of an open mind.

The problem is that the partisan bickering has begun and threatens to spread in full force. The first article I read about it says “We are witnessing a coordinated, two-pronged effort to effectively federalize all of American K-12 education, while shifting its content sharply to the left,” and after half a dozen or so, the last article I read says "...conservatives no more want to understand the past than they do participate in our shared reality. They prefer a fantasy America, built up around their ideology, to which the record of the past must be bent in subjugation, much like those blacks, Indians, women, and religious minorities they still despise."


When it comes to American History it is simply impossible to be bi-partisan. Everyone wants their version of what happened to be what's focused on. My personal feeling is that history should be left out of the conversation when trying to mobilize people to take action against Common Core; it should not be mentioned on Fight Common Core websites or Facebook pages. But since my voice is not being heard in those forums, I want to use this one to talk about realities of the issue so you can decide for yourself where you stand.

First, this is all regarding a high school AP course. That is, a student takes it in high school and can theoretically get college credit for it. It's therefore optional; it's not going to be taught to every student in high school, just the ones who agree to pay the $89 to take the test at the end. So this is not a class that is going to be forced on your kids like the rest of Common Core. Maybe it will be in the future, but not now.

Next, you can read all about what will actually be taught yourself, here. You can then decide whether it's something you want your child to do. Unlike the rest of the Common Core curriculum.

And finally, my own two cents. Yes, as far as what I've read, it is clear that more of the uglier aspects of our history are being included in the class. But I don't have a problem with that. My problem is that, like with everything that actually is Common Core related, learning facts is taking a back seat to "critical thinking". In all I've read (so far) Education News puts it best:
The new AP U.S. History courses focus on “historical thinking skills” aims at turning high school students into “apprentice historians.”... It tells the students they are no longer merely students striving to get a foundation in facts and understanding, but rather young professionals in a learned academic discipline ready to develop their command of sophisticated analytic and synthetic skills.

This very much falls within the zone of contemporary education where colleges and universities—and schools—trip over themselves to assure students that they possess such insight and blazing intelligence that they can skip the learn-how-to-swim courses and go straight to the Olympic relay team.

To be sure, really bright high school students should indeed begin to work on chronological reasoning, comparing and contextualizing, crafting historical arguments using historical evidence, and interpreting and synthesizing historical narrative.  But they aren’t going to get very far on these sophisticated skills if they are not also acquiring a well-landscaped understanding of the big picture, a richly detailed recall of historical sequence, and a genuine familiarity with key people and key documents.  These are what the new AP U.S. History framework plays down.  The mentality seems to be, ‘if it is something the student can look up, we need not expect him to learn it.’

My personal opinion is that the AP course should not be allowed to replace American History in high schools, but that if students want to take it, they should be required to wait till after they take the class our local districts put together; they should get the real facts first (insofar as the white-guys-in-Texas textbooks will enable them to) and then take the analytical class as an elective.

And I definitely feel that this issue is a completely separate one from Common Core.

August 8, 2014

Written Parental Consent is Necessary
for Our Kids to Take SBAC

I came across this really intriguing essay a while ago, and asked the domain where it is hosted if I could reprint it in its entirety. Once getting that permission I took quite a while before doing so however, because I wanted to really follow through on the links and make sure it's all true. Best I can tell, it is; under the "Hatch Amendment" of PRRA (Protection of Pupil Rights Amendment) parents should be asked for permission to allow their children to take the SBAC exams; it seems to me that they ask questions that definitely cross the line from testing to surveying, which is what PRRA illegalizes.

I was concerned about the fact that technically speaking SBAC is not "administered by the U. S. Department of Education" but the verbiage in their "Cooperative Agreement" indicates to this lay person that they are part of "administering" it.

I edited the essay for parts that didn't add to the conversation, and also added a couple of more links to help with the argument. You can find the essay in its entirety without my revisions here

Under the Protection of Pupil Rights Amendment WRITTEN PARENTAL CONSENT is Needed for Smarter Balanced Assessments
25 April 2014

There is reason to believe the SBAC items are developed to test "critical abilities" and dispositions, that is, attitudes, values, and mindsets, perhaps even political position -- "qualities" other than mastery of English language arts and math...

Consider the chart on p. 6 of the Council of Chief State School Officers (CCSSO) publication Knowledge, Skills, and Dispositions: The Innovation Lab Network State Framework for College, Career, and Citizenship Readiness, and Implications for State Policy

Notice in the Dispositions column "Ethical behavior and civic responsibility" and "Social awareness & empathy."

Ethical behavior, and social awareness and empathy, are extensions of a person's values shaped by a personal world view. How does a student get a "correct" or "incorrect" answer on a standardized test -- unless there is only one world view in which the test items are grounded?

Since the Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortia (SBAC) development was funded by the federal government, this triggers the Hatch Amendment. The Hatch & Grassley Amendment can be found on the US Department of Education's website in Recent Changes Affecting FERPA & PPRA, p. 2, 3
The No Child Left Behind Act contains a major amendment to PPRA that gives parents more rights with regard to the surveying of minor students, the collection of information from students for marketing purposes, and certain non-emergency medical examinations. PPRA has been referred to as the "Hatch Amendment" and the "Grassley Amendment" after authors of amendments to the law...
U.S. Department of Education Surveys

Subsection (a) of the legislation was not changed. Subsection (b) added an additional category (see bold below) and made minor changes to the existing seven categories. This provision applies to surveys funded in whole or part by any program administered by the U. S. Department of Education (ED). PPRA provides:
...that schools and contractors obtain prior written parental consent before minor students are required to participate in any ED-funded survey, analysis, or evaluation that reveals information concerning:

  1. political affiliations or beliefs of the student or the student’s parent;
  2. mental and psychological problems of the student or the student’s family;
  3. sex behavior or attitudes;
  4. illegal, anti-social, self-incriminating, or demeaning behavior;
  5. critical appraisals of other individuals with whom respondents have close family relationships;
  6. legally recognized privileged or analogous relationships, such as those of lawyers, physicians, and ministers;
  7. religious practices, affiliations, or beliefs of the student or student’s parent; or
  8. income (other than that required by law to determine eligibility for participation in a program or for receiving financial assistance under such program).
It's time that parents asked their school board members why they are not following federal law?  Why are they not obtaining written parental consent prior to the administration of the federally funded Smarter Balanced Assessments?