Karen R. Effrem, MD
The Common Core Standards and related assessments being implemented in Florida have many problems including lack of rigor and transparency; loss of state, local, family, and teacher autonomy, as well as loss of data privacy; and high costs that will be borne by the state and counties analogously to the proposed Medicaid expansion. The citizens of Florida and their elected representatives on county school boards and in the legislature should consider carefully before spending hundreds of millions, if not billions of dollars more and irreversibly changing the state’s education system with enormous impact on our children’s future, freedom, the economic health of the state, parental and teacher autonomy and data privacy.
Lack of Academic Rigor
Although the Thomas Fordham Institute is a strong Common Core proponent, their grading scale found that Florida’s current standards were near or above the level of the Common Core. Why should so much be spent to change them?
Common Core Grade
|English Language Arts||
The standards define college readiness as being the same for 4-year, 2-year, and vocational colleges[i]
Despite claims by Commissioner Tony Bennett and proponents that the standards are “internationally benchmarked,”[ii] repeated data requests by members of the Common Core validation committees were ignored[iii]
English (Much more detail available on request)
High school level, “college ready” standards actually at 6th to 8th grade level[iv]
Chief architects, David Coleman (now head of College Board) and Susan Pimentel, have had no experience teaching English or reading at any grade level from K-12[v]According to experts the standards are described as empty skill sets; significant reduction in literary study leading “to fewer opportunities for students to acquire the general academic vocabulary needed for college work;” and the division of reading standards leading to completely incoherent literature curriculum in grades 6-12[vi]
Texts being taught without historical context – e.g. Animal Farm[vii] and the Gettysburg Address[viii]
Mathematics (Much more detail available on request)
Chief architects, Professors William McCallum and Jason Zimba, have never taught mathematics at any grade level from K-12[ix]
According to experts, Common Core removes the mathematical concepts that are critical for four year college readiness, STEM careers, international competitiveness, and are major delays and steps backwards from the most highly rated state standards and those of other countries.[x]
Florida Not Ready for Implementation – Florida, the state leader of PARCC, the 22 state testing consortium, admits that the state is not ready to implement Common Core. Education Commissioner Tony Bennett said within the next few months his staff will devise a “Plan B” in case implementation cannot proceed as planned by 2015.[xi]
Testing and Costs
Because computer adapted testing will change the difficulty of questions for each student depending on the answer to the previous question, there will be no uniform testing standard so that there cannot be uniform comparison between students, much less between states.[xii]
Florida $1,024,163,000 (projected cost for testing, technology, textbooks, and professional development)[xiii] – $905,838,000 (grants received) = $118,325,000 (costs to FL taxpayers)
Given that Tony Bennett and the SBOE are asking for $400 million in one year[xiv] to implement assessments equivalent to what the Florida has already spent on the FCAT between 1996[xv] and 2008, that $118 million amount might well be low and will serve as a huge unfunded mandate to already strapped county districts.
South Carolina Senator Mike Fair cites data that testing cost will increase from $12/student to $100/student[xvi] in that state which is a member of the other testing consortium called SBAC. Both PARCC & SBAC require multiple computerized assessments during one school year. Florida’s testing cost for the FCAT in 2008, the most recent year available, was $19.44 per student[xvii]
All states in each of the large testing consortia (PARCC, of which Florida is a part, and SBAC) must agree on cut scores and the test item banks despite wide disparities in education philosophy, attainment, and funding[xviii]
Without enough computer equipment and IT staff to allow every student to take multiple tests every year, students will have to rotate through computer labs creating less than uniform administration for students as well as major test security problems[xix]
Student Data Collection
The Electronic Information Privacy Center is suing the U.S. Department of Education over the weakening via regulation of FERPA (Family Education Rights and Privacy Act) passed by Congress to prevent the use of student level data without consent in the state longitudinal data systems required for Race to the Top.[xx]
“A new database tracks learning disabilities, test scores, attendance, as well as student hobbies, career goals, attitudes toward school, even homework completion. Federal Department of Education officials say that the “database project complies with privacy laws. Schools do not need parental consent to share student records with any “school official” who has a “legitimate educational interest,” according to the Department of Education. The department defines “school official” to include private companies hired by the school, so long as they use the data only for the purposes spelled out in their contracts.”[xxi]
Information from the U. S. Department of Education leads one to conclude that our children will be used as psychological guinea pigs:[xxii]
Conclusion 10: There are important opportunities to leverage new and emerging advances in technology (e.g., educational data mining, affective computing, online resources, tools for teachers) to develop unprecedented approaches for a wide range of students.
Recommendation 10: Researchers should work closely with technology developers to continue to explore how to integrate best practices into new and emerging digital learning environments that are well positioned to promote grit, tenacity, and perseverance, and key psychological resources (mindsets, learning strategies, and effortful control) for a range of purposes. Continue reading »
Again without notice on the publicly available agenda documents, the Senate took up the confirmation votes for several major commissioners, including Commissioner of Education Brenda Cassellius, about whom we raised many significant concerns in our last alert. The Senate Republican Caucus deserves great thanks and congratulations. Despite being in the minority and having several other candidates about whom they could have raised concerns, they decided to take their stand by discussing in detail two of the many statutory violations and constitutional sidesteps that we listed in that update in order to make the very necessary points about this commissioner’s violation of separation of powers and the rule of law.
The effort was led by Senator Sean Nienow, Ranking Minority Member for the Education Finance Division, who made a motion to re-refer the appointment to the Education Committee until the Administrative Law Judge Barbara Nielson finishes ruling on whether the DOE under this commissioner has violated the statutes covering the extensive rewriting of the standards and benchmarks. He did an excellent job of explaining how it was not about the social studies standards or qualifications, but how important it was to delay the vote until the judge ruled in order to uphold legislative authority. He was ably assisted by Minority Leader David Hann, Ranking Member on the Education Policy Committee, Carla Nelson, as well as Senators Paul Gazelka and Scott Newman. They effectively argued against the misstatements of Education Committee Chairwoman Patricia Torres Ray and Senator Dick Cohen. Ultimately, however being in the minority was the deciding factor, and the motion to re-refer was defeated on a vote of 26-39 and the confirmation going through on a vote 45-20.
Please see below for details such as roll call votes, links to the video, summary, and quotes. More importantly, please contact and thank Senate Minority Leader David Hann (651-296-1749) and Senator Sean Nienow (651-296-5419), as well as the others listed and your own senator if appropriate (info here). This incident gives us hope that there are senators that won’t roll over and play dead and that are willing to do what is right even if in the minority. Let us keep encouraging our legislators to stand on these important principles!
With almost no forewarning to allow the public to prepare testimony, the Minnesota Senate Education Committee recommended the confirmation of Education Commissioner Brenda Casselius. Although committee Republicans asked some good questions, there was ultimately little that they could do given Democrat control. The nomination was forwarded to the full Senate on a voice vote with only slight dissent. We have just found out that the full Senate vote will likely occur tomorrow, Monday, February 4th. Although it is unlikely to stop her final confirmation, Education Liberty Watch wants the public and the legislature to conduct the upcoming vote with their eyes wide open as to the alarmingly long list of legal and constitutional violations and sidesteps committed by this commissioner. Please consider forwarding this list to your senator (contact info here), regardless of party, so that they know what they are doing as they cast their vote, and so that you may hold them accountable in the future.
- Constitutional Consistency: Both of the major Department of Education documents submitted to the judge during the standards hearing process (Statement of Need and Reasonableness SONAR and their Response to testimony) fail to mention the statutory requirement that the standards “be consistent with the Constitutions of the United States and the state of Minnesota.” (120B.021, Subd. 2b3). Our testimony noted, “The focus on globalization and reliance of the [standards] committee and the SONAR on a document titled “Preparing Citizens for a Global Community” and making the statement on page 35, “Several leading social studies sources support the need for students to develop skills to become effective global citizens,” seems to be emphasizing loyalty to entities and governance outside of the US and is inconsistent with the US Constitution.”
- Benchmarks: These are the specific smalller ideas under each standard. After the big fight over standards and benchmarks in 2003 and 2004, Minnesota Statute 120B.023, subdivision 1(c) was passed that says, “Once established, the commissioner may change the benchmarks only with specific legislative authorization and after completing a review under subdivision 2.” There has clearly been no act of the legislature to do this and the Department’s response to this concern basically says that because it is more convenient for them to do so and because they have done it for other subjects, they may disobey the law.
- Revise and Align: Minnesota Statute 120B.023, subdivision 2(f) states, “The commissioner in the 2010-2011 school year must revise and align the state’s academic standards and high school graduation requirements in social studies to require that students satisfactorily complete the revised social studies standards beginning in the 2013-2014 school year. The commissioner must implement a review of the academic standards and related benchmarks in social studies beginning in the 2019-2020 school year.” As stated in Senator Hann’s written testimony (page 12) and Senator Olson’s hearing request(page 1), the Department has gone far beyond the specific and limited authority of “revise and align.” They have done a wholesale rewrite.
- Academic Rigor: Minnesota statute, 120B.02, subd, (b)(1) states that, “the rule is intended to raise academic expectations for students, teachers, and schools.” The extensive testimony at the public hearing on the social studies standards by subject matter experts and college professors shows that these new standards are far from rigorous. In addition, the social studies standards are linked to the Common Core English Standards, which have been evaluated to be at a 6th to 8th grade level.
- College Readiness: As stated in Minnesota statute 120B.03 and explained on page 30 of the SONAR, the standards by law are to “identify the academic knowledge and skills that prepare students for postsecondary education, work and civic life in the twenty-first century.” Four current or past college professors and content matter experts have extensively testified that these standards do not comply with that legislative intent, including a college professor that teaches future teachers (MacPherson) and a former professor that has been involved in standards development for many states and test development for NAEP and CIVITAS (Fonte).
Today is the day we celebrate the memory of Dr. Martin Luther King, no longer mentioned by the Minnesota social studies standards, and which were given an F grade by the Southern Poverty Law Center for their poor teaching of the civil rights movement. As we remember this important day in American history, Education Liberty Watch wishes to express its profound gratitude to the hundreds of parents, grandparents, and concerned citizens, as well as the experts, legislators, attorneys, and groups that participated in the public hearing and comment process for the Minnesota social studies standards. 364 of you signed our petition in five days. Eleven legislators, listed and some quoted below, including Senate Minority Leader David Hann, made formal comments opposing the standards, while none commented in support of them. Four current or past college professors submitted formal comments against these standards and another wrote in the Star Tribune on Jan. 18th even after the formal comment period had closed. The Department of Education responded to the comments received by January 9th. Education Liberty Watch provided a rebuttal to their response as did Representatives Sondra Erickson and Kelby Woodard, Dr. John Fonte, and American Principles in Action, all showing how the Department failed to adequately respond to the myriad concerns raised. It is now up to the judge who must decide by about February 15th whether the rule containing the standards is acceptable. Stay tuned!
Meanwhile as Minnesota fights against the revisionist history and further implementation of the Common Core standards via the link to the English standards, citizens are taking up the battle against big government education in Indiana. More than 500 people came during work and school to a rally opposing that state’s Common Core standards in English and math. Senator Scott Schneider has introduced a bill (SB 193) to withdraw Indiana from the Common Core standards. After the rally there was a four and a half hour hearing. The vote that was expected in the Senate Education Committee on January 23rd has been moved. We will alert you when we know. (Local media coverage is available here). Please see below for details on contacting the Indiana Senate Education Committee.
In addition, the Idaho House Education Committee heard more testimony against the Common Core and teachers are speaking out about the destruction of math and English teaching, their professionalism, autonomy, and creativity. As with Obamacare, the Common Core will have to be resisted on the state level. Please continue to join us in this fight!
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