Karen R. Effrem, MD
President – Education Liberty Watch
Here are some quotes from teachers on the major problems with the use of and implementation of the Common Core standards and their accompanying high stakes tests:
Over-Emphasis on Testing/Teaching to the Test
“Rather than creating lifelong learners, our new goal is to create good test takers”[i]
“…scripted cookie-cutter lessons aren’t interested in that; the idea is that they will help students learn enough to raise their standardized test scores. Yet study after study has shown that even intense test preparation does not significantly raise test scores, and often causes stress and boredom in students. Studies have also shown that after a period of time, test scores plateau, and it is useless, even counter-productive educationally, to try to raise test scores beyond that plateau. [ii]
Lack of Flexibility/ Stifling Creativity
“This type of total immersion is what I have always referred to as teaching “heavy,” working hard, spending time, researching, attending to details and never feeling satisfied that I knew enough on any topic. I now find that this approach to my profession is not only devalued, but denigrated and perhaps, in some quarters despised. STEM rules the day and “data driven” education seeks only conformity, standardization, testing and a zombie-like adherence to the shallow and generic Common Core, along with a lockstep of oversimplified so-called Essential Learnings. Creativity, academic freedom, teacher autonomy, experimentation and innovation are being stifled in a misguided effort to fix what is not broken in our system of public education…”[iii]
“Another problem we found relates to the pedagogical method used in the Gettysburg Address exemplar that the Common Core calls ‘cold reading.’ This gives students a text they have never seen and asks them to read it with no preliminary introduction. This mimics the conditions of a standardized test on which students are asked to read material they have never seen and answer multiple choice questions about the passage. Such pedagogy makes school wildly boring. Students are not asked to connect what they read yesterday to what they are reading today, or what they read in English to what they read in science. The exemplar, in fact, forbids teachers from asking students if they have ever been to a funeral because such questions rely ‘on individual experience and opinion,’ and answering them ‘will not move students closer to understanding the Gettysburg Address.’”
“And I am speaking out because I am retired. Those teachers in the school system are afraid of losing their jobs if they speak out against Common Core and the policies of the District.”[iv]
“The PARCC and SBAC come next fall. I am frightened for the children – the onslaught of common core lock step scripted curriculum will step forward to embrace the PARCC and SBAC; the slow death of public education will speed forward quickly. The attempt to silence teachers next year will be greater, more intimidating and more punishing than we have ever seen…The teachers who understand what is happening – who know common core has not been field tested, is developmentally inappropriate and is the cash cow to seal the deal on the privatization of public schools and destruction of the teaching profession…”[v]
“People’s World, a media outlet of organized labor, has raised concerns about the role played in Common Core adoption by Stand for Children. Although the group began with children’s rights advocacy as its focus, it now pushes a corporate education agenda focused on union-busting, People’s World reports. Stand for Children’s donors include the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, New Profit Inc. and the Walton Family Foundation.”[vi]
“When states and districts get the alignment right – moving from standards to curriculum to classrooms, to feedback and improvement—student success will follow. But until then, a moratorium on stakes is the only sensible course.” – Randi Weingarten, president of AFT, in speech calling for moratorium on CCSS implementation of high stakes consequences (4/30/13)[vii].
The battle against the Common Core standards is raging across the country. Here is some of the more recent news.
HERE IS THE GOOD NEWS FIRST:
Florida – In a great combined effort between a statewide coalition of activists under Floridians Against Common Core Education and Education Liberty Watch, Florida’s invasive data mining/tracking bill, SB 878 was stopped. This bill connected Florida’s data collection system to the National Center of Education Statistics data elements that contain 300-400 pieces of very personal and private data as well as gathering data on students through their work lives. For a bill that had passed both chambers of the legislature unanimously with the difference of a small amendment to be stopped is unprecedented, even miraculous. It speaks to the intense concern about and passion of parents to protect the privacy of their children’s and families data from government bureaucrats and corporate profiteers, as well as the inspired research and lobbying team that fought for parental rights in Tallahassee. Details are here. Legislative leaders, the chairman of the state Republican party and the governor are no longer using the phrase “Common Core” in press releases. This combined with some language that will hopefully slow the pace of Common Core implementation in Florida will allow the battle to continue next year.
Indiana - Governor Mike Pence heard the voice of the people of Indiana whose elected representatives passed by wide margins a bill to take a pause on the Common Core by allowing public hearings and a fiscal analysis before further implementation. Passage of this bill makes Indiana the first state in the nation to pause or withdraw from Common Core after having adopted it. Heather Crossin and Erin Tuttle along with their statewide coalition Hoosiers Against Common Core deserve great credit for their perseverance and passion despite attacks by the always big government promoting Chamber of Commerce and the other corporate and foundation interests. Details are available here.
U.S. House of Representatives – Congressman Blaine Luetkemeyer (R-MO) has written a letter to U.S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan with concerns about the lack of congressional oversight into Common Core and the irregular process by which the Family Education Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA) was changed to weaken student privacy without Congress via regulation. Education Liberty Watch is thankful to Rep. Leutkemeyer and all of the 33 cosigners including Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-MN 6), Rep. Trey Radel (R-FL 19), and Rep. Ted Yoho (R-FL 5) for this effort that will hopefully lead to legislation restoring the privacy protections of FERPA.
U.S. Senate – Senator Charles Grassley (R-IA) and eight other senators [Senator Mike Lee (R-UT), Senator Tom Coburn (R-OK), Senator James Inhofe (R-OK), Senator Deb Fischer (R-NE), Senator Rand Paul (R-KY), Senator Pat Roberts (R-KS), Senator Jeff Sessions (R-AL) and Senator Ted Cruz (R-TX)] sent a letter to Senate Appropriations Chairman Tom Harkin (D-IA) requesting the defunding of the Common Core standards and tests in compliance with federal law. We can only hope that this effort is successful, but it will be difficult given the partisan divide of the Senate.
The Republican National Committee – The RNC unanimously passed a resolution at their Spring meeting condemning the Common Core and it associated data collection system. It is available here. This sets up a needed debate between the freedom minded, limited government and the corporate and foundation backed establishment elite.
NOW FOR THE BAD NEWS:
Minnesota – Despite many valid legal, legislative, and content concerns, an administrative law judge approved the Common Core linked Minnesota Social Studies standards. The judge’s decision may be viewed here and a cogent analysis by attorney Marjorie Holsten may be viewed here. Legal options are still being considered.
In addition, Minnesota’s education finance bills seem to be performing a stealth implementation of the Common Core math standards that they had so wisely and on a bipartisan basis rejected. That implementation is being accomplished by using the ACT or SAT as the graduation exam. Because these tests are aligned to the Common Core standards, Minnesota students will in essence have to learn the Common Core math standards in order to pass this exam. This is despite the fact that experts like James Milgram, professor emeritus at Stanford, and who refused to sign off on the final version of the math standards while serving on the validation committee, sees the standards as being behind international norms by at least two years at the end of eighth grade.
Florida - The education finance bill is still going ahead with an implementation plan for the Common Core assessments.
Georgia - This state’s Common Core withdrawal bill was tabled in the state senate.
Alabama – Alabama’s bill to withdraw from Common Core was killed by the Senate President Pro Tempore.
There are starting to be cracks in the dam of the once inevitable Common Core system, but as one can see there is much work still to be done. Education Liberty Watch appreciates your support. Please stay engaged with both your activism and your finances.
Education Liberty Watch was honored to be able to join with what has now become The Florida Stop Common Core Coalition to defeat Florida’s very invasive Common Core linked data collection/data mining bill SB 878, (See Dr. Karen Effrem’s analysis and correspondence with Florida legislators here, here, and here). Here is the end of session update written by the Florida group’s lobbyist, Randy Osborne:
A BATTLE WON!
As we began this journey several weeks ago, many bills had been written already, many were out of committee, and some were days from being passed into law. Our goals were simply to slow down the implementation of Common Core and to stop the intrusive data-mining between the State and the Federal Government. Through your help and by the grace of God, we were able to accomplish both of these goals.
The following is an update of bills that we have been fighting:
Senate Bill 878- A bill sponsored by Senator Galvano was a very intrusive bill that would have connected over 400 data points with the federal government. Though we were able to get a portion of the language out of the bill such as religious and political affiliation as well as a few other points, we were not able to get the bill completely stopped. The Senate unanimously passed this bill, sent it to the House which, again, unanimously passed it with a small amendment. Through the tireless efforts of our supporters, the bill died in committee. Frankly, for a bill to die, having moved this far through the process, is very unlikely. In fact, we were concerned that the language was placed in another bill not related to education. After the tedious analysis of thousands of pages of legislation and the end of session, we knew the bill indeed had died.
House Bills such as 7027 and 7057 also died which had similar language to SB878.
Senate Bill 1630′s language was moved into another bill and was passed. This bill requires technological load testing of systems prior to implementation of Common Core. In this good bill, sponsored by Senator Legg, we asked that there be language requiring a short and long term cost analysis of Common Core prior to implementation. Though this language was not put in the bill, we believe that we will be able to get this language into a bill in next year’s session.
Make no mistake – we have won a battle but the war is still raging and Common Core proponents are working hard to stop our coalition. We must not let them win! Our children’s and our nation’s futures are at stake!
The following is our course of action:
• Educate – We must educate the voters, parents, teachers, school board members, and our politicians. We are currently developing a plan to create a state-wide effort to accomplish this task.
• Engage – We must expand our statewide coalition to build a force of citizens to hold our elected officials accountable to stop Common Core.
Note: Administrative Law Judge Barbara Neilson rendered a decision favoring the Minnesota Department of Education on the Minnesota Social Studies Standards that completely ignored a lot of evidence from Education Liberty Watch, numerous legislators and many experts. What follows is an analysis of that decision by attorney Marjorie Holsten, an attorney and homeschooling mother who teaches courses on the U.S. Constitution, is a member of the Education Liberty Watch Board and presented the Education Liberty Watch case at the administrative hearing on the standards:
On behalf of Education Liberty Watch (ELW), I would like to thank everyone who participated in the fight against adoption of the proposed Social Studies standards, whether by petitioning for a hearing, attending the hearing on December 20, 2012, testifying at the hearing, or submitting written testimony. Judge Barbara Neilson recently rendered a disappointing 42-page Opinion with 232 footnotes (including more than a dozen to testimony or written submissions by ELW). Because readers do not have time to read a lengthy report, and because I do not want anyone to be overwhelmed by the lack of logic,, I will only share my “Top 10” objections, listed in the order in which they appear in the opinion. All references are to the paragraph numbers and pages of the opinion on which they appear.
- Statutory Authority: ELW, and legislators including Senators David Hann, Gary Dahms, Dan Hall, Dave Thompson, and Bill Weber, plus Representatives Kelby Woodard and Sondra Erickson stated that the proposed standards “go beyond the revision and alignment” to be “a wholesale makeover of settled standards that exceeds the legislative grant of authority for rulemaking and that will create additional expense for the state and for local schools, generate confusion, and weaken academics for every public school student.” (¶38 page 13) Minnesota Department of Education (MDE) “disagreed with these comments, and denied that it has exceeded its proper authority in proposing the current rules.” (¶39 page 14). MDE went on to say that “As a result of these new legislative mandates and in response to “best practices” research and extensive feedback… it was necessary to make significant changes to the 2004 standards.” (¶39 page 14) Without any analysis, Judge Neilson concluded that “the Department has shown that it has statutory authority to adopt the proposed rules..” (¶40 page 14). The judge also completely ignored the clear statutory concern about MDE revising the benchmarks without specific statutory authority to do so.
- Federal Funding: In the Statement of Need and Reasonableness (SONAR), MDE stated that Minnesota “risks the loss of federal funding under No Child Left Behind (NCLB) if it does not adopt academic social studies standards.” (¶51 page 17). ELW and others disputed this. In response, MDE acknowledged that NCLB does not specifically include social studies as a federally-required subject area for standards” (¶52, page 18). The Judge then found that “While it may be unlikely that the federal government would in fact withhold federal funds if the Department failed to revise the 2004 social studies standards… the Department has complied with the requirement that it describe what if believes to be the probable consequences of not adopting the proposed rules and has articulated an arguable legal basis for its concern.” (¶53 page 18) In other words, MDE lied, ELW pointed out the lie, and MDE confessed to lying, but the Judge bought the lie because it sounded good.
- Federal Control: ELW, Senator Sean Nienow, the American Principles Project, and others objected to MDE adopting national standards such as those involved in the Common Core State Standards, and brought up three federal statutes that prohibit federal supervision, direction, and control of school curriculum. (¶56 page 19) MDE acknowledged that the proposed standards were influenced by national standards and were tied to the Common Core standards in English language arts. The Judge ruled that MDE “did not need to discuss the three federal statutes in its regulatory analysis.” (¶56 page 19)
- Public Comments Ignored: Judge Neilson noted that many individuals and groups participated in the process, but chose to ignore many because “they did not raise issues of legality or reasonableness of the proposed rules or because they focused on the benchmarks and thus fall outside the scope of this rulemaking proceeding.” (¶71 page 22) As someone who attended the hearing, I heard significant testimony against the standards that in my opinion were clearly objections to the reasonableness and legality of the standards. The judge conveniently chose to ignore this by determining that the MDE was reasonable and “rational,” thereby intimating that those with differing opinions were not.
- Conservatives Denigrated: Judge Neilson noted comments of individuals critical of ELW and others who opposed to the new standards. Two quotes show mind-blowing bias. The first was an assertion that “the proposed rules should not be revised at the behest of a small number of individuals with religious or conservative political agendas.” (¶78 page 25) The second was an assertion by a certain “Mr. Moore” that “several arguments made in opposition to the proposed rules are flawed and rest on a fundamental misunderstanding of the nature of academic standards.” (¶78 page 25) In other words, those of us who have religious or conservative “political agendas” and oppose imposition of liberal ideology on our children have a “fundamental misunderstanding” of what liberals are trying to do by creating liberal academic standards. No Mr. Moore, we understand exactly what you and your cohorts are trying to do, and we strongly object. In addition, multiple current or past college professors and standards experts supported the public’s reasonable objections with scholarly, rational reasons as to why these standards are flawed and the judge chose to ignore them.
- Anti-American Emphasis. ELW and others brought up that the proposed standards failed to emphasize the contributions of Western civilization, and instead emphasized “loyalty to entities and governance outside of the US.” (¶87 page 29) MDE countered by stating that “students would be better prepared for the global world” (¶88 page 29), and denied that “the proposed standards reflect a liberal or other bias.” (¶94 page 31) Here is a note to the MDE: Omitting loyalty to the United States and teaching global citizenship reflects a substantial Anti-American, liberal bias.
- American Exceptionalism Omitted. ELW and others brought up that the proposed standards failed to stress American Exceptionalism. MDE declared that “most professional historians and other social scientists do not accept the premise of the “American Exceptionalism” interpretation. Moreover, those who are critical of “American Exceptionalism” believe that the assertions made by those who support it lack analytical precision and are difficult to verify since the evidence varies depending on how these qualities are defined, how the historical period was examined, and what particular metrics were used.” (¶94 page 32) In other words, liberals choose to ignore the reasons America became a “shining City on a Hill,” which were well laid out by experts such as Dr. John Fonte and Dr. Ryan MacPherson, among others and will most certainly not allow that idea to be taught to our young people.
- Unalienable Rights: Many individuals testified at the hearing that the proposed standards do not distinguish between God-given/unalienable rights from government-given rights. (¶100 page 34). MDE responded that they deliberately did not identify the source of any rights because “this is a religious belief and not a widely-accepted fact within the social studies academic community.” (¶102 page 35) Acceptance of MDE’s position means that schools cannot educate students about Jefferson’s words in the Declaration of Independence that “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights…”
- Constitutional Republic: Several individuals objected to the use of the word “democracy” in the standards and stated that students should be taught correctly that America is a Constitutional Republic. MDE responded that “the proposed standards to not claim that the United States is a direct democracy.” (¶103 page 36). They further argue that “the United States government has become more democratic over time.” (¶103 page 36) The move away from a Constitutional Republic is the result of the liberal teaching that has been going on in government schools over the years, and is about to be put on steroids. When our founding fathers completed the Constitution in 1787, someone asked Benjamin Franklin what type of government they had created. He answered, “A Republic, if you can keep it.” We are in danger of losing our republic, and the schools are leading the charge. The judge is also ignoring Article IV, section 4 of the US Constitution, which says, “The United States shall guarantee to every State in this Union a Republican Form of Government, and shall protect each of them against Invasion; and on Application of the Legislature, or of the Executive (when the Legislature cannot be convened) against domestic Violence.”
- Removal of “Free market”: ELW and others pointed out that the phrase “free market” has been removed from the proposed standards. MDE explained that term “free market” was the same as “free market capitalism,” and that they preferred to use the term “market capitalism” because the term “free market capitalism” is redundant. (My apologies to anyone whose head just exploded ) MDE further asserted that the standards “were drafted in a balanced way so as to not promote any particular ideology, belief system, or set of values.” If you believe that, I would like to sell you a health care system that will insure an additional 30 million people, provide better service, and cost less, and you can keep your own doctor.
Judge Neilson concluded by writing that “It is inevitable that there will be disagreement between people about the content that should be included in the academic standards, particularly where, as here, the subject matter includes such controversial topics as economics, history, government, and “human” geography. She went on to note that “An agency is entitled to make choices between possible approaches so long as its choice is rational.” (¶113 page 40). Her wrap-up is as follows:
“It is not the role of the administrative law judge to determine which policy alternative presents the “best” approach, since this would invade the policy-making discretion of the agency. The question is, whether the choice made by the agency is one that a rational person could have made.” (¶113 page 40).
What a shocker that Judge Neilson concluded that “The Department has shown that there is a rational basis for the proposed standards it has chosen to include in the rules” (¶114 page 40) and recommended that the standards be adopted.
As a Constitutional Law attorney, and a parent who homeschooled my children and taught American Government and Constitutional laws to various homeschool co-ops, it is my opinion that the standards will not prepare Minnesota’s students to be proud, independent Americans, that they are breathtaking in their liberal bias, and that no rational parent would want any of this taught to their students. Please join me as we continue to investigate how to fight against implementation of these standards next year.
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