Browsing articles in "Common Core Standards"
Feb 19, 2019

Common Core & SEL Architect Linda Darling Hammond to Lead CA State Board of Ed

In this article for The National Pulse, Dr. Karen Effrem describes the current state of the California education system, and how it’s new appointed head, Linda Darling-Hammond, is continuing to roll out faulty education policies state-wide.

While Governor Ron DeSantis is taking Florida away from Common Core, California Governor Gavin Newsom is bitterly clinging to the failed standards and pushing that state farther into the fuzzy, unscientific, invasive social-emotional learning (SEL) as well. Newsom appointed radical Stanford professor emerita Linda Darling-Hammond to lead the California State Board of Education.

Hammond, as you may remember, was terrorist and close Obama friend, Professor Bill Ayers’ choice for secretary of education during the first Obama administration. Hammond served as an education adviser and transition team leader in 2008. When Arne Duncan was chosen instead and took on the role of bribing/coercing 45 cash-strapped states to accept the Common Core standards during the Great Recession, Hammond got to work developing and implementing the Smarter Balance Assessment Consortium (SBAC) national Common Core assessment.

SBAC started out with 24 states plus the U.S. Virgin Islands and have now decreased to 13 states plus the U.S.V.I. However, some of the states formerly in SBAC like Utah and West Virginia have gone on to adopt the American Institutes for Research (AIR) test, which admits in it contract with Florida that it also develops the computer adaptive testing platform for SBAC, so it is likely that the two tests are quite similar, at least in format. AIR admits on its website that it “delivered online tests for 19 states and had contracts with 22 states in 2015-16” but does not list which states use their tests. It is also important to note that AIR describes itself as “one of the world’s largest behavioral and social science research and evaluation organizations.”

The reason it is important to understand the connections between Common Core, AIR, SBAC and Linda Darling-Hammond is that she also is an extremely strong proponent of non-academic issues like “equity”and SEL. She believes that the U.S. has “one of the most unequal educational systems in the industrialized world.” Hammond serves on the board of the Collaborative for Academic, Social, and Emotional Learning (CASEL), the godfather of SEL in the U.S. and co-chaired the Aspen Institute’s National Commission on Social, Emotional and Academic Learning that just completed their final report that is loaded with problems and contradictions.

These problems include:

Lack of scientific and research support – the interim commission report on the brain science of SEL co-authored by Hammond had numerous problems

Strong links between SEL and Common Core, despite the fact that proponents promised that the standards were academic and rigorous

Repeated promises that SEL in schools will be a local effort while publishing an interim report that lists over 100 federal programs in eight different federal departments and agencies that can be leveraged to fund SEL

Despite the Commission and “grit” guru, Dr. Angela Duckworth, stating that SEL parameters and school climate surveys should not be used to judge students, teachers, and schools for accountability purposes, California has been piloting an effort to do just that among a large consortium of districts over the past several years.  With her strong SEL involvement, will Hammond heed the Commission and stop that effort or will she find a reason to continue the subjective and invasive data collection involved?

Hammond is also a strong proponent of the ineffective and dangerous Obama-era school discipline policy that has been so wisely rescinded by the Trump administration. This policy is also being rejected in Florida, where Arne Duncan mentee from the Chicago school district, Robert Runcie implemented the idea in the Broward County Public school district. This failure to maintain discipline and heed clear warning signals from a very troubled former student are felt to be large contributing factors in the tragic massacre of 17 innocent people at the Marjorie Stoneman Douglas High School one year ago. Some of the many legal, policy, and safety flaws with that guidance are discussed here.

Finally, Hammond was the co-founder of two Palo Alto charter schools that were dismal failures academically as described by Donna Garner at Education Views based on local reports. This does not inspire confidence for the future of California’s public schools.

Although it is tragic for California students, the contrast between failed philosophies espoused by Linda Darling Hammond and the efforts of Governor DeSantis to listen to parents and get rid of Common Core could not be clearer. Let us work to make the Florida efforts so successful that it inspires an even stronger parent rebellion in California that sets those poor children free.

The full article can be viewed on The National Pulse’s website.

The National Pulse – Gov. Ron DeSantis Takes Important Step to End Common Core in Florida


This article written for The National Pulse by Dr. Karen Effrem describes the aftermath of Florida Governor Ron DeSantis’ announcement to issue an executive order to end Common Core education statewide. This announcement, made in Cape Coral Florida, comes after campaign promises to end the use of Common Core standards. Skeptics are worried that this could just be another re-branding of the standards as has been done in the past, yet, they are hopeful that this announcement will result in substantive change.

Last week, Florida Governor Ron DeSantis followed through on an oft-repeated campaign pledge to “end the last vestiges” of Common Core in the Sunshine State. He signed Executive Order 19-32 that directs Florida Department of Education Commissioner Richard Corcoran to “comprehensively review the academic standards for Florida’s Kindergarten through grade twelve students and provide recommended revisions to Governor DeSantis.

There has been concern expressed among activists that this may be another attempt to rebrand Common Core, as done under the Rick Scott administration and in multiple other states. And frankly, Florida activists were concerned about DeSantis’ change from speaking of “getting rid of Common Core” to merely doing a “review” during his general election campaign, suspecting that the reigning pro-Common Core political establishment was hijacking the governor’s conservative instinct.

However, it is highly significant that Education Commissioner Richard Corcoran admitted the standards under the previous administration were Common Core rebranded. I believe that if the DeSantis administration were merely pursuing another rebrand effort, they could have just gone along with the well-worn but false claim that Common Core was already gone from this state.

The other piece of evidence that leads me to believe this is a genuine and well-intended effort is that there has been absolute media silence about the effort to get rid of Common Core from Jeb Bush’s very pro-Common Core foundations.

For now, in addition to Governor DeSantis, the parent and grandparent activists across Florida and the nation deserve great credit and thanks for not giving up during this enormous, protracted David-and-Goliath battle. Please gear up for the next phase of this long war. Our children and our nation need you to continue the legacy of our Founders. Stay tuned!

Photo credit: Gage Skidmore

You can find the full article here at The National Pulse’s website. There is also information at the Florida Stop Common Core Coalition website.


Dec 19, 2018

Sunshine State News – Parents Have Been Right All Along About Common Core: Officials Should Listen

This column, reproduced in its entirety, by Dr. Effrem was originally published by the Sunshine State News. It deals with the significant data showing the failure of Common Core to improve student achievement, as well as how school choice accountability schemes requiring the Common Core aligned tests harm private school autonomy.


The enormous problems with Common Core Standards (CCSS) and accompanying tests have been obvious to parents and citizens groups since they first were imposed by states succumbing to federal bribery/coercion in 2010. Voluminous evidence continues to confirm those perceptive beliefs.

Parents, along with many experts, saw the academic inferiority of CCSS immediately. Parents have been in the forefront of protesting the destruction of math education during the Common Core era. Not teaching standard algorithms, marking correct answers wrong because the student didn’t use Common Core methods, and developmentally inappropriate standards have made it impossible for parents, even engineers and professors, to help their children with math homework. The resulting distress has led to a mass exodus of both students and teachers from public schools.

In English, vocabulary-rich classical literature that both teaches students how to write well and important principles of Western Civilization has been replaced by dull technical manuals or psychologically manipulative texts. Snippets of classics are taught without context.

Data is vindicating these parental concerns in spades. Jane Robbins of the American Principles Project described a new Pioneer Institute study by Ted Rebarber of AccountabilityWorks and Neal McCluskey of the Cato Institute, “Common Core, School Choice and Rethinking Standards-Based Reform,” that explains “how Common Core has not only damaged public education but also threatened the independence of private schools. How? By imposing government strings on the curricular autonomy of the schools that accept government funding via school-choice mechanisms such as vouchers. Rebarber called Common Core ‘the worst large-scale educational failure in forty years.’”

Undergirding that statement are the 2017 NAEP national results in math, which showed stagnation after declining for the first time in 25 years in 2015. Although Florida showed some improvement in math in 2017, Florida’s state test vendor  (American Institutes for Research) also performs “test development, psychometric analysis [and] validity studies” for the NAEP. So it is quite possible that Florida’s improvement has nothing to do with academic achievement, but with how its tests are written and validated.

2018 ACT results also confirm the CCSS slide. The national average composite score was down one full point from 2017 to 2018, with declines in English, math, reading and science. The percentage of 2018 graduates meeting none of the ACT college readiness benchmarks rose from 31% to 35%. Florida’s 2018 average ACT composite score is nearly one full point below the national average and basically the same as last year’s score, with readiness benchmarks below the national average and stagnant since 2014.

The ACT and NAEP also show that CCSS is harming struggling students. Achievement gaps that were improving before CCSS are starting to widen again in Florida, and elsewhere. State test results for charter schools, which generally teach Common Core, show the same or increased percentages of D or F schools as the public schools teaching more struggling students with which they compete. These results confirm that CCSS has failed to produce promised celestial levels of improved college readiness and that “choice” programs, especially if CCSS are imposed, are likely not the promised silver bullet either.  Continue reading »

Oct 25, 2018

The National Pulse – Falling ACT Scores Are Latest Evidence of Common Core’s Failure

This article for The National Pulse written by Dr. Karen Effrem details the fall in college entrance exam scores as detailed by an ACT report, and how this fall in scores is related to the Common Core standards.

ACT, the publisher of one of the two most often used college entrance exams in the nation, recently released a major report, “The Condition of College and Career Readiness – National 2018,” that is another stunning indictment of the Common Core standards. Proponents of Common Core — the ones that forced acceptance of the standards in nearly all fifty states via federal economic coercion and bribes — claimed that college and career readiness would be the key metric improved by Common Core, and yet the ACT scores show readiness declining.

Perhaps most noteworthy is the fact that “readiness levels in math and English have steadily declined since 2014.” These are the very subjects of the Common Core standards. It was promised by Bill Gates, former Governor Jeb Bush, the Fordham Institute’s Michael Petrilli and a host of other proponents that the new math and English standards would bring about celestial levels of college and career readiness because they were allegedly “rigorous” and “internationally benchmarked.” Yet the decline in math and English ACT scores began in 2014, the same year that the standards were fully implemented in most states. How could that be?  

Here are some other key ACT results (emphases added) confirming the trend:

“The national average ACT Composite score for the 2018 graduating class was 20.8, down from 21.0 last year but the same as in 2016. Average scores in English, mathematics, reading, and science all dropped between 0.1 and 0.3 point compared to last year.

“The percentage of students meeting at least three of the ACT College Readiness Benchmarks in the four core subject areas was 38% for the 2018 US high school graduating class, down from 39% last year but the same as in 2016.

Thirty- five percent of 2018 graduates met none of the ACT College Readiness Benchmarks, up from 31% in 2014 and from 33% last year.

The national results are bad enough, but it should also be noted that many individual states making up that average had declines as well. This includes Florida, which has suffered as a laboratory for the Common Core standards and test-based accountability reforms for the last 20 years. Bush and company bragged about Florida’s performance on the 2017 NAEP results, which is given to a very select sample of Florida students. However, of the states that showed an improvement on NAEP, many of them, including Florida, had the American Institutes for Research (AIR) as its state test vendor. AIR admitted in its Florida contract that it performs “test development, psychometric analysis [and] validity studies” for the NAEP, so it is quite possible that an advantage is created taking the NAEP because of states using AIR that has nothing to do with academic achievement.

While Florida’s NAEP improvement may or may not be real, there is little that is praiseworthy about the Sunshine State’s ACT results, taken by a much less pre-selected sample and serving as a broader indicator of test-based education achievement. Florida’s 2018 average ACT composite score is 19.9, nearly one full point below the national average of 20.8 and basically the same as last year’s score of 19.8 and as the 2014 score of 19.6. The percentages of Florida’s student population as a whole meeting the college readiness benchmarks in math and English have remained below the national average and basically unchanged since 2014.

The full article can be found at The National Pulse’s website.