Educate All Students, Support Public Education

March 6, 2014

Common Core, Gov. Scott Walker and Tony Evers

Filed under: Common Core Standards — millerlf @ 2:23 pm

In a recent article, Dominique Noth describes the most recent attacks from Scott Walker on education in Wisconsin. In the article Noth describes that the gloves are off with the State Superintendent Tony Evers fighting the new Common Core legislation supported by Walker. 


Noth says, “He (Evers) is now taking full advantage of his bully pulpit status through video, speeches and interviews to sound the alarm, reveal the sham, fight for the children and discuss the dangers of elected officials running wild on the whims of political fortune to control academic progress.”

To read the full article go to Dominique Paul Noth’s blog at:

November 1, 2013

John Birch Society Pays for Agitation on Wisconsin Common Core

Filed under: Common Core Standards,Right Wing Agenda — millerlf @ 9:40 am

Foundation tied to group paid out-of-state speakers at hearings

By Erin Richards of the Journal Sentinel Oct. 31, 2013

The clamor over nationwide K-12 academic standards adopted by Wisconsin and discussed at four recent statewide hearings intensified this week with news that several out-of-state speakers critical of the standards received compensation through an arm of the conservative John Birch Society.

Leaders of the American Opinion Foundation, an independent nonprofit associated with the Wisconsin-based society, say they paid for about $5,500 worth of travel expenses for five Common Core State Standards critics to speak at the hearings in Fond du Lac, Eau Claire and Wausau this month. They said local citizens raised the money.

The latest select Assembly and Senate committees to re-examine the standards were spearheaded by Republicans, but many saw them as agenda-driven from the start because the highest-ranking education lawmakers in the state — Senate Education Chair Luther Olsen (R-Ripon) and Assembly Education Chair Steve Kestell (R-Elkhart Lake) — declined to participate.

One Milwaukee lawmaker resigned from the Assembly’s review panel this week, calling the hearing process “deeply biased.”

“I cannot in good conscience sit on a committee that has involved the most extreme national interest groups on education in planning and executing official Legislative hearings,” Rep. Christine Sinicki (D-Milwaukee) wrote in a resignation letter to chairmen of the Senate and Assembly Common Core review panels.

Other Democrats on the House and Senate panels criticized the compensation of speakers.

“What’s new here is the clear attempt to hide who they are representing and who is paying their way,” Tim Cullen (D-Janesville) said in an interview Thursday.

“The direction of the committee is clearly biased, but that’s exactly why I want to stay on it,” he said.

The Common Core standards for what students should know and be able to do in reading and math were adopted by most states because governors and state superintendents believed uniform K-12 guidelines could translate to higher student achievement. The standards also are aligned with new online state achievement tests coming down the pike.

Wisconsin was one of the first states to get on board, adopting the standards with little fanfare several years ago.

Implementation is already underway, and many teachers, principals and superintendents have praised the standards for being more rigorous than former state standards.

“Adopting these standards does not limit what content or skills might be taught, or with what materials,” Mary Ann Hardebeck, the superintendent of the Eau Claire Area School District, said at a hearing in her city last week.

Backlash against standards

Still, Wisconsin and other states have seen backlash from both far right and far left groups over the standards. Some progressive Democrats have joined hands with tea party activists to denounce the standards as being a national curriculum forced on schools by the federal government.

Education experts say that’s a myth.

Business groups have supported the standards, and other conservative outfits, such as the Thomas B. Fordham Institute, have been traveling the national circuit to explain why the standards are a good move for schools.

Michael Petrilli, Fordham’s executive director, spoke in favor of the standards at the select committees’ joint Wausau hearing Wednesday night. He said his employer, Fordham, paid for his travel expenses. The nonprofit advocacy group has received national grants to do Common Core work.

The out-of-state Common Core critics who received travel and lodging compensation were: Sandra Stotsky, a retired professor from the University of Arkansas; James Milgram, emeritus professor at Stanford University; Gary Thompson of the Early Life Child Psychology and Education Center; Ze’ev Wurman, a former U.S. Department of Education official in the George W. Bush administration; and Ted Rebarber, the CEO and founder of AccountabilityWorks, a nonprofit education group.

Alan Scholl, executive director and vice president of the American Opinion Foundation, Appleton, said Wisconsin citizens who knew of his group’s opposition to the Common Core asked if they could help bring out-of-state experts to the hearings.

“We began collecting the funds and had our accounting team put them in a separate fund,” Scholl said. “We just tried to make it easier for them to come by providing airfare and hotels and we bought a few meals.”

Rep. Jeremy Thiesfeldt (R-Fond du Lac), chairman of the Assembly Common Core review committee, said in an interview Thursday that the hearings “have absolutely been on the up-and-up.”

He said school representatives who came to speak at the hearings — such as employees of the Department of Public Instruction and superintendents who spoke in favor of the standards — were technically being paid by taxpayers to speak at the hearings.

Thiesfeldt said the select committee members will now work on producing a report and recommendations.

Cullen said that likely means coming up with recommendations to delay further implementation of the Common Core standards, or to change them.

“Once you whet the whistle of these causes, the cause gets a hold of you,” Cullen said. “You feed this group four statewide hearings, and they’re not going to go away without demanding some legislation.”

February 26, 2013

Diane Ravitch Opposes the Common Core Standards

Filed under: Common Core Standards — millerlf @ 12:11 pm
Why I Cannot Support the Common Core Standards

by dianerav

I have thought long and hard about the Common Core standards.

I have decided that I cannot support them.

In this post, I will explain why.

I have long advocated for voluntary national standards, believing that it would be helpful to states and districts to have general guidelines about what students should know and be able to do as they progress through school.

Such standards, I believe, should be voluntary, not imposed by the federal government; before implemented widely, they should be thoroughly tested to see how they work in real classrooms; and they should be free of any mandates that tell teachers how to teach because there are many ways to be a good teacher, not just one. I envision standards not as a demand for compliance by teachers, but as an aspiration defining what states and districts are expected to do. They should serve as a promise that schools will provide all students the opportunity and resources to learn reading and mathematics, the sciences, the arts, history, literature, civics, geography, and physical education, taught by well-qualified teachers, in schools led by experienced and competent educators.

​ For the past two years, I have steadfastly insisted that I was neither for nor against the Common Core standards. I was agnostic. I wanted to see how they worked in practice. I wanted to know, based on evidence, whether or not they improve education and whether they reduce or increase the achievement gaps among different racial and ethnic groups.

After much deliberation, I have come to the conclusion that I can’t wait five or ten years to find out whether test scores go up or down, whether or not schools improve, and whether the kids now far behind are worse off than they are today.

I have come to the conclusion that the Common Core standards effort is fundamentally flawed by the process with which they have been foisted upon the nation.

The Common Core standards have been adopted in 46 states and the District of Columbia without any field test. They are being imposed on the children of this nation despite the fact that no one has any idea how they will affect students, teachers, or schools. We are a nation of guinea pigs, almost all trying an unknown new program at the same time.

Maybe the standards will be great. Maybe they will be a disaster. Maybe they will improve achievement. Maybe they will widen the achievement gaps between haves and have-nots. Maybe they will cause the children who now struggle to give up altogether. Would the Federal Drug Administration approve the use of a drug with no trials, no concern for possible harm or unintended consequences?

President Obama and Secretary Duncan often say that the Common Core standards were developed by the states and voluntarily adopted by them. This is not true.

They were developed by an organization called Achieve and the National Governors Association, both of which were generously funded by the Gates Foundation. There was minimal public engagement in the development of the Common Core. Their creation was neither grassroots nor did it emanate from the states.

​ In fact, it was well understood by states that they would not be eligible for Race to the Top funding ($4.35 billion) unless they adopted the Common Core standards. Federal law prohibits the U.S. Department of Education from prescribing any curriculum, but in this case the Department figured out a clever way to evade the letter of the law. Forty-six states and the District of Columbia signed on, not because the Common Core standards were better than their own, but because they wanted a share of the federal cash. In some cases, the Common Core standards really were better than the state standards, but in Massachusetts, for example, the state standards were superior and well tested but were ditched anyway and replaced with the Common Core. The former Texas State Commissioner of Education, Robert Scott, has stated for the record that he was urged to adopt the Common Core standards before they were written.

The flap over fiction vs. informational text further undermined my confidence in the standards. There is no reason for national standards to tell teachers what percentage of their time should be devoted to literature or information. Both can develop the ability to think critically. The claim that the writers of the standards picked their arbitrary ratios because NAEP has similar ratios makes no sense. NAEP gives specifications to test-developers, not to classroom teachers.

I must say too that it was offensive when Joel Klein and Condoleeza Rice issued a report declaring that our nation’s public schools were so terrible that they were a “very grave threat to our national security.” Their antidote to this allegedly desperate situation: the untried Common Core standards plus charters and vouchers.

Another reason I cannot support the Common Core standards is that I am worried that they will cause a precipitous decline in test scores, based on arbitrary cut scores, and this will have a disparate impact on students who are English language learners, students with disabilities, and students who are poor and low-performing. A principal in the Mid-West told me that his school piloted the Common Core assessments and the failure rate rocketed upwards, especially among the students with the highest needs. He said the exams looked like AP exams and were beyond the reach of many students.

When Kentucky piloted the Common Core, proficiency rates dropped by 30 percent. The Chancellor of the New York Board of Regents has already warned that the state should expect a sharp drop in test scores.

What is the purpose of raising the bar so high that many more students fail?

Rick Hess opined that reformers were confident that the Common Core would cause so much dissatisfaction among suburban parents that they would flee their public schools and embrace the reformers’ ideas (charters and vouchers). Rick was appropriately doubtful that suburban parents could be frightened so easily.

Jeb Bush, at a conference of business leaders, confidently predicted that the high failure rates sure to be caused by Common Core would bring about “a rude awakening.” Why so much glee at the prospect of higher failure rates?.

I recently asked a friend who is a strong supporter of the standards why he was so confident that the standards would succeed, absent any real-world validation. His answer: “People I trust say so.” That’s not good enough for me.

Now that David Coleman, the architect of the Common Core standards, has become president of the College Board, we can expect that the SAT will be aligned to the standards. No one will escape their reach, whether they attend public or private school.

Is there not something unseemly about placing the fate and the future of American education in the hands of one man?

I hope for the sake of the nation that the Common Core standards are great and wonderful. I wish they were voluntary, not mandatory. I wish we knew more about how they will affect our most vulnerable students.

But since I do not know the answer to any of the questions that trouble me, I cannot support the Common Core standards.

I will continue to watch and listen. While I cannot support the Common Core standards, I will remain open to new evidence. If the standards help kids, I will say so. If they hurt them, I will say so. I will listen to their advocates and to their critics.

I will encourage my allies to think critically about the standards, to pay attention to how they affect students, and to insist, at least, that they do no harm.

dianerav | February 26, 2013 at 6:10 am | Categories: Common Core, Race to the Top | URL:


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