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Saturday, August 10, 2013

Drinking the common core Kool aid?!


Ahhh, summer. The sound of kid's laughter, basketballs bouncing on asphalt, crickets chirping as fire flies flicker, children running after ice cream trucks, ice cubes clinking in Kool aid filled glasses, and finally, the sound of millions of American's jaws dropping as we learn that our government is trying to trick us and give our public school tax dollars to privately run charter and virtual schools. I used to really love Kool aid as a kid. However, since one commentator at Education Week called this fiasco The Common Core Kool aid, my stomach has turned...

"Rick Hess, the conservative commentator at Education Week, revealed the motives behind the promoters of these exams in a column called the “Common Core Kool-aid”:
"First, politicians will actually embrace the Common Core assessments and then will use them to set cut scores that suggest huge numbers of suburban schools are failing. Then, parents and community members who previously liked their schools are going to believe the assessment results rather than their own lying eyes… Finally, newly convinced that their schools stink, parents and voters will embrace “reform.” However, most of today’s proffered remedies–including test-based teacher evaluation, efforts to move “effective” teachers to low-income schools, charter schooling, and school turnarounds–don’t have a lot of fans in the suburbs or speak to the things that suburban parents are most concerned about….Common Core advocates now evince an eerie confidence that they can scare these voters into embracing the “reform” agenda." Read more about how these new Common Core exams and harsh proficiency levels are meant to scare parents here."

The thing is, we are smarter than they think.
They are doing this in very clever ways. Oh, our politicians are certainly the best and brightest when it comes to skirting laws and creating positive sounding names for the most insidious ideas. 
What if I told you that across our country new state exams are designed for  70%
of our kids to fail. Yes, you read that correctly.



70% failure rate...now there is a confidence building message for kids to internalize and carry with them when they start school next month. But the politicians are thrilled with this great news. "Despite the fact that the new Common Core tests showed that only 26 percent of students in New York City “passed” the new state tests in reading, and only 30 percent in math, Mayor Bloomberg hailed the sharp decline in test scores as "very good news."




Diane Ravitch reported the following on her blog.

"Despite the drop in scores, Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg appeared on Wednesday at a news conference just as he had in years when results were rosier. He rejected criticisms of the tests, calling the results “very good news” and chiding the news media for focusing on the decline. He said black and Hispanic students, who make up two-thirds of the student population, had made progress that was not reflected in the scores.”
"The mayor saw the upside of the scores. The lower the scores, and the higher the bar, he reasoned, the harder students would work to improve their test scores in the future:
“We have to make sure that we give our kids constantly the opportunity to move towards the major leagues,” Mr. Bloomberg said."

Oye. Another sports analogy. We've heard them, we get it, and we rebut it with this question:
Would you want to give every team in the NFL the same playbook?
Didn't think so.

Time to punt?



Secretary of State, Arne Duncan, sees it the same way. I am amazed at the brazen spin doctoring by these folks.

Interesting that Bloomberg states that some kids, "... made progress that was not reflected in the scores." 
We all know that the scores don't necessarily reflect student progress. That is why we need to limit the amount of testing, get rid of the high stakes, and use the tests in the manner they were originally intended.


Before this, you may not have even heard that Arne Duncan and President Obama are in agreement with lots of billionaire private donors that public education needs to come to an end. 
I cannot wrap my head around how the President could think that creating a national curriculum (Which is actually illegal. See below.), giving our public school tax dollars away to charter schools (which are for-profit and most often run by business people who have zero educational training or experience), and who must know we wouldn't want this because mandates are passed that allow this to go on without a public vote in any way, shape or form. As I have mentioned in an earlier post, this is a bipartisan effort to privatize our education system.


If only he would...

Former Assistant Secretary of Education, Historian, and Professor Diane Ravitch writes:

"The law specifically prohibits
U.S. Department of Education from interfering or directing curriculum or instruction.* There must be a hole in that law big enough to drive a truck through, and drive the Obama administration did.
As we all know, the Obama administration used the $5 billion in Race to the Top funding, and its power (contested) to issue waivers, to push, prod, and bribe states into “voluntarily” abandoning their own standards and adopting the untried Common Core standards. Some states dropped weak standards, some dropped better standards that had proved their worth.

Secretary Duncan says these standards will make everyone “college and career ready.” The nation’s major corporations agree. So do the nation’s two big teachers’ unions.

But how do they know what the effect of the Common Core standards will be?

We know that they cause a dramatic decline in test scores. Their boosters say that is great, great news, couldn’t be better. Making the tests harder, they say, will make everyone smarter, and soon everyone will be college and career ready. But how do they know? Where is the evidence?

What if they are wrong?

*SEC. 9527. PROHIBITIONS ON FEDERAL GOVERNMENT AND USE OF FEDERAL FUNDS.

(a) GENERAL PROHIBITION- Nothing in this Act shall be construed to authorize an officer or employee of the Federal Government to mandate, direct, or control a State, local educational agency, or school’s curriculum, program of instruction, or allocation of State or local resources, or mandate a State or any subdivision thereof to spend any funds or incur any costs not paid for under this Act.
(b) PROHIBITION ON ENDORSEMENT OF CURRICULUM- Notwithstanding any other prohibition of Federal law, no funds provided to the Department under this Act may be used by the Department to endorse, approve, or sanction any curriculum designed to be used in an elementary school or secondary school.
(c) PROHIBITION ON REQUIRING FEDERAL APPROVAL OR CERTIFICATION OF STANDARDS-
(1) IN GENERAL- Notwithstanding any other provision of Federal law, no State shall be required to have academic content or student academic achievement standards approved or certified by the Federal Government, in order to receive assistance under this Act."

What do you think of this game that is being forced on us?

Not only are children being used, their natural childhood curiosities squandered, and our laws being laughed at, but the audacity of trying to trick us into believing that we have a choice and that choosing privatization (where kids can be rejected from school to school based on disabilities, behavior, and other arbitrary attributes) is the magic bullet, is downright dishonest.
Even their beloved charter schools are scoring poorly on these tests. The only difference is that they have politicians in their pockets to doctor the scores...if they don't get caught, like Indiana's scandal sometimes referred to as Bennettgate.

 Not this Tony Bennett.

"The grading controversy erupted when the Associated Press on July 29 published an
  internal email correspondence

between Mr. (Tony) Bennett, then the Indiana schools chief, and key staff members beginning on Sept. 12, 2012, when they first learned that Christel House Academy, a charter school in Indianapolis, would not earn an A grade on the state accountability system.
Christel House was operated by Christel DeHaan, an Indiana philanthropist who donated a total of $130,000 to Mr. Bennett’s 2008 and 2012 campaigns. Before the time of the emails published by the AP, Mr. Bennett had assured Ms. DeHaan and others, including Indiana Speaker of the House Brian Bosma, a Republican, that Christel House would receive an A.
Mr. Bennett told his staff in an email that anything less than an A for Christel House would compromise “all of our accountability work.” Ultimately, the grade for Christel House became an A, and the change also affected other schools" 

Opps. Darn email trail.



  
All over the internet the news is abuzz. It is time for us to speak up for our neighbors in school districts already attacked by these schemes, some too successfully so. It is time for us to let them know that we are on to this, and that we don't believe these scores mean much at all.
When our children score high we can feel a little pride, but whether they do or not, we must remember that the game is rigged. The numbers are putty in the hands of folks with an agenda, and we are not buying it. Not for a minute.

Diane Ravitch writes,
"People know their children, and they know their own school. The politicians may convince them that American education is floundering (even if it is not), but they can’t convince them that their own child and their own school are “failing” when parents know from their own experience that it is not true.
The corporate reformers now using the Shock Doctrine to bash the schools and disparage students may find that their tactic has backfired. They succeed only in adding fuel to the growing movement to stop the misuse of standardized testing.
What is happening in New York is likely to undermine public confidence in the state's highest education officials and create new converts to the Opt-Out of Testing movement.
The Shock Doctrine may be a boomerang that helps to bring down the madness of No Child Left Behind, Race to the Top, Common Core, the Pearson empire, and every other part of the reformy enterprise.
New York may have inadvertently created by the most powerful recruiting tool for the Opt Out movement."
I know that no one knows my kids like I do.


I read a blog entry by Tim Slekar in The Huffington Post.

Dr. Slekar is a teacher educator, known for his work @the chalkface. He recently became dean of teacher education at a college in the Midwest. Dr. Slekar has published research in some of the top educational research journals (Teacher Education Quarterly, Theory and Research in Social Education, Journal of Thought), and is one of the founders of 

He opted his son out of Pennsylvania's PSSA's, but wanted his superintendent to understand that he did so because he loved his school district. He believes it is the parents, grandparents, aunts, uncles, neighbors, the tax payers, the people who care about kids, who want to maintain the real estate value of the homes they create and invest in, who will stand up and just say STOP THE INSANITY.

Here is one of his letters in their correspondence:

Dear Superintendent,
You are absolutely right. However, the bigger problem is that politicians are not going to start listening to research anytime soon. You've met with them. I've met with them. They're not going to budge unless something forces them to budge. Take a look at their campaign contributors. All the major testing companies are funneling millions of dollars to the politicians. Research doesn't stand a chance against a system that is designed to ignore research.

That is why I want you to understand that the parents that opt out are not doing it because they want to hurt you, the teachers, or the school. They're doing it because politicians have taken you and the teachers out of the equation. You're not allowed to speak up against this misuse of resources that is designed to hurt our school. If you do, politicians will paint you as a "status quo" educator.

Whatever you think the "opt out" motivation to be, please be certain that it is not to hurt "our" school. It is the only thing left to do as a parent. Once we know the research concerning high stakes testing and the damage it causes, how do we as responsible parents allow our children to take part in a system that was never based on solid research and instead was imposed by political operatives, lobbyists, and think tanks that only want to get at the money tied up in public schools and declare the public system a failure?

Opting out of the PSSAs is the only action left. We want our public schools back. We want you, the principals and teachers to make the decisions. You are the experts. 
Sincerely, 
Tim 




Please comment and let me know your thoughts and ideas.
I am all ears.
 

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