Apr 28, 2012

Urgent – Please Support Good Academic Standards in MN!

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Most of the major education issues, both those followed by Education Liberty Watch and others pushed by various factions of the education community have concluded for the session. A full recap will follow in our end of the session update.  With regard to the issue of the administration’s unlawful use of the Parent Aware quality rating system in the early childhood scholarships about which we warned you in our last alert, we appreciate your involvement during the conference committee process.  You made a big difference.  Unfortunately, none of the language restoring parental choice and evenly dividing the funding between rural and metro programs survived.  But the GREAT news is that funding for the entire program for this year was cut in HALF to $2 million and a parent controlled home based literacy program that will show the lack of necessity for a QRS did survive.  This means that the next legislature can further cut or eliminate funding for this program if the governor continues to require the QRS without authority. Thank you!!

There is one very important remaining issue where your voice could still make a big difference.  We have told you about SF 1656, the bill that would require legislative approval before new academic standards revisions.  It is authored by Senator Carla Nelson (R-Rochester) and Rep. Sondra Erickson (R-Princeton).  The Senate passed the bill way back on March 1st even with some DFL support.  After passing the House Education Reform Committee, it is awaiting floor action.  It is on the calendar for the day, but because of the huge push for a Vikings stadium and a bonding bill in the effort to adjourn by Monday, April 30th, it may not get heard.

This legislation is very important both to deal with preventing the cancerous spread of the Common Core Standards, as well as trying to fix, if at all possible, the absolutely awful revision of Minnesota’s academic social studies standards.

Starting with the social studies standards, reviews of their overall quality have been quite negative, and not only by Education Liberty Watch.  For example (Emphasis is added):

  • Dr. John Fonte, a junior high & high school teacher, college professor, Hudson Institute fellow, & a former employee of the U.S. DOE, NAEP steering committees, and CIVITAS – After having reviewed both the 2004, which he called some of the best in the country, and the 2012 standards, he lists the complete loss of discussion of the global rise of Islamic fundamentalism and the global war on terror, he says,Given the paucity of information and analysis of conflicts in the contemporary world, the 2012 revised Standards fail in their self-described tasks of ‘preparing’ students for ‘civic life in the twenty-first century.'” He then goes on to describe inadequate discussion of the Cold War and its consequences, numerous incidences of bias and the loss of discussion of the critical role Western civilization in the world. He concludes by saying, “In short, the 2012 revised Standards are themselves in need of major revision that should be closer to the 2004 original.”
  • Southern Poverty Law Center – This is NOT a conservative organization, but they said, “GRADE F means Minnesota includes none or less than 20% of the recommended content and should significantly revise its standards.”
  • Dr. Jeremy A. Stern (co-author of The State of State U.S. History Standards 2011,
    Thomas B. Fordham Institute, Washington D.C.) (Review of August 2011 version)- “On balance, if there has been a half-step forward, there have also been four steps back….In a state with serious fiscal difficulties, it seems a poor use of resources to take the marginally adequate 2004 standards and make them worse.”
  • National Association of Scholars (Review of August, 2011 version dated 2/3/12) – “In a nutshell: the 2004 Standards for History and Government require students to learn about the world in which we live. The 2011 Standards would require them to be active in bettering the world (with the concrete examples of improvement all coming from one side of the political spectrum). If one believes, that school-years are a precious opportunity for learning about our world, and that students ought not to have political opinions fed to them by their teachers, one must conclude that replacement of the 2004 Standards for History and Government by the newly proposed Standards would represent a giant step backwards for Minnesota’s K-12 students.

With regard to the Common Core Standards, much information about the illegality and unconstitutionality, high costs, and very poor quality has been chronicled by Education Liberty Watch and many other expert groups and individuals on many points of the philosophical spectrum.  Here is some of the most recent information (Emphasis is added):

  • In an April 17th, 2012 forum titled Exiting the National Standards Bandwagon, four scholars gathered at the Heritage Foundation to discuss the many problems with the standards.  Sandra Stotsky of the University of Arkansas continued to provide prescient and alarming information on the English standards.  She described them as “not real standards.  They’re skills. They are empty skills…Instead of developing literary or cultural knowledge, they are going all out for emphasizing skills.” Later in her presentation, she made the following startling statement, “But if you look at Common Core’s  appendix which it designed in order to help people developing curriculum understand what more complex text would be…you find when you use a readability formula…they come in at about between grade six and eight, on average.  So, that will be, as far as we know now, what will constitute college readiness in this country.”
  • Tom Loveless of the liberal Brookings Institution, for example, wrote, “(T)he most reasonable prediction is that the Common Core will have little to no effect on student achievement.” (Quoted by Maggie Gallagher column)
  • Joanne Yatvin, a past president of the National Council on Teachers of English, writes, “Taken together, the standards and the criteria project an aura of arrogance and ignorance in their assumptions about how and why children learn.” (Quoted by Maggie Gallagher column)


  1. There is talk of ending session on Monday, April 30th.  Please consider calling the House leadership TODAY to ask them to bring up for a vote and you own House member to urge them to vote in favor of SF 1656.  Tell then that you want Minnesota students taught academically rigorous standards in English and social studies standards  that convey the history and heritage of our nation and how to maintain our freedoms.

House Speaker Kurt Zellers  (651-296-5502  rep.kurt.zellers@house.mn)

House Majority Leader Matt Dean (651-296-3018 rep.matt.dean@house.mn)

House member contact information is here.

2.  Please urge Governor Mark Dayton to sign SF 1656 because you know that he wants good standards for Minnesota students.

3.  Please also thank your senators and Majority leader Dave Senjem (651-296-3903 sen.dave.senjem@senate.mn) for the work on early childhood and for passing SF 1656 on standards and urge them to push this bill with the governor.

4.  Thank the education chairpersons and all of the conferees, especially Rep. Jennifer Loon and Sen.Terri Bonoff for what they accomplished on early childhood. (Contact information available  here).

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