Were our Governors and Supes Duped? Guest Article by Alyson Williams

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Were our Governors and Supes Duped?

by Alyson Williams

The current approach to education reform in the U.S. reminds me of a famous scene in Mark Twain’s Tom Sawyer. Tom needs to whitewash an entire fence before he can get on with what he’d really like to be doing. Not able to get the job done on his own he comes up with a clever plan and one by one gets the neighborhood boys to take over his work by making the job look really appealing, by convincing them it is something that want to do of their own accord, and with the flattery that only certain people were capable of doing it. After all, Aunt Polly was “awful particular” and didn’t trust Jim, or Sid with the job. (A little bribery might have come into play as well.)

I find in the dialog between Tom and his first dupe an especially uncanny metaphor for the adoption process of Common Core and the other Stimulus-driven education reforms.

Tom expresses doubt that his friend Ben can be trusted with such the important task at hand saying, “If you was to tackle this fence and anything was to happen to it …”

Ben assures Tom that he’ll be careful and offers, “Say – I’ll give you the core of my apple.” And then as he sees Tom hesitate, he adds, “I’ll give you ALL of it.” “Tom gave up the brush with reluctance in his face, but alacrity in his heart… the retired artist sat on a barrel in the shade close by, dangled his legs, munched his apple, and planned the slaughter of more innocents. There was no lack of material; boys happened along every little while; they came to jeer, but remained to whitewash.”

The narrator observes of Tom, “He had a nice, good, idle time all the while – plenty of company – and the fence had three coats of whitewash on it! If he hadn’t run out of whitewash he would have bankrupted every boy in the village.”

The vignette concludes by pointing out that Tom “had discovered a great law of human action… that Work consists of whatever a body is OBLIGED to do” but that people would happily work at doing something if it was voluntary.

Oh, the irony of new ELA standards that trade to the info-text vocabulary of the 21st-century, global workforce the time once spent feasting on classic stories. Stories that, like this one, would serve as a cautionary tale to Governors and Superintendents racing to support common education standards for our nation when they would likely never had been such enthusiastic participants if the proposition had been assigned or decreed. But, when deftly positioned as a voluntary “state-led” initiative, and presented along with the ego-stroking idea of themselves as the only leaders who could be entrusted with such an important task, the Common Core State Standards Initiative swept Governors and Superintendents into bids of what they each might offer (in the form of Race to the Top grant applications and often the entirety of the cost of such commitments when the grant was not awarded) for the honor of participating.

As chief reformer, Education Secretary Arne Duncan later bragged to an international audience at UNESCO of the success of this strategy, “… today, 37 states and the District of Columbia have already chosen to adopt the new state-crafted Common Core standards in math and English. Not studying it, not thinking about it, not issuing a white paper—they have actually done it.” http://www.ed.gov/news/speeches/vision-education-reform-united-states-secretary-arne-duncans-remarks-united-nations-ed

As a result, the fence standing between reformers who would centralize key aspects of public education and their goal of getting on to more mischief with our local schools was whitewashed in record time. The dupes gave up the whole apple and more, and just like Aunt Polly, the unsuspecting citizen accepted the trickery as a praiseworthy achievement.

In the engaging tale of an American boy, Twain gives insight into what motivates people (think of it as leadership training 101) but also alerts would-be dupes against such schemes as the one currently enabling a concentration of power over the education of the rising generation. In recognizing this, we begin to see the power of a good story to develop both literacy and wisdom regardless of the century or the economy. It might also lead one wonder if we really want students to spend more time dissecting excerpts of everyday informational text (falsely characterized as “critical thinking”) or whether we all would be better off with a little more Tom Sawyer or other classic works that have outlived the educational and political fads by masterfully capturing human interactions in language that speaks to our hearts and souls, motivates us to learn more, and gifts us timeless ideas and ideals to think critically about.

WyLiberty in Education New Site and Survey!

Wyoming Liberty Group has a new WyLiberty in Education site. Please visit this site and take the quick survey, “Do You Believe Common Core Should be Removed from Wyoming?”

Be sure to sign up to receive information via email as well. The more resources we have to fight Common Core in our state the sooner we can see it removed!

 

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Video Series: What You Haven’t Been Told! Speakers on Common Core

What You Haven’t Been Told!  Common Core Speakers Present

JacksonPresenters

 (4 Part Video Series)

Presented in Jackson Hole, Wyoming on January 28, 2014

Education Policy Part 1 of 4
Amy Edmonds –Wyoming Liberty Group/ Former WY House Representative

 

The People Behind Common Core Part 2 of 4
Alisa Ellis – Utahan’s Against Common Core

 

A Teacher’s Perspective Part 3 of 4
Christy Hooley  – Teacher/Mother/Wyoming Against Common Core

 

Data Tracking Part 4 of 4
Kelly Simone – Mother/PA-C/Wyoming Citizens Opposing Common Core

 

Common Core Issues…True Story!

This is PERFECT!  Most of the time I get these types of questions…

“Which standard exactly are you talking about?”

“I don’t see anything wrong and I’ve read the standards!”

“Kids need to be prepared for the future we can’t even imagine”…(I’m pretty sure my HS teachers didn’t ever imagine using Twitter or Ipads in class,  yet we are doing JUST fine!).WhenSomeOneAsks

Prospective Teacher Speaks Out Against Common Core!

Dear Wyoming Representatives,

I am writing this letter as a personal testimony and plea for you to vote “Yes” on HB97. I am a Wyoming Native, I served 6 years in the Army and Army National Guard, I have a B.S. in Business Management, a master certification in Project Management, and until recently I was working on my B.A. in Elementary Education. I had one year left in my education program but quit. The reason I quit is because I could not in good faith teach Common Core Curriculum. I wanted to become a teacher because I have something to share with children, a love of learning and creativity. Knowing that Common Core was going to end up driving curriculum and taking the skill of teaching out of the hands of teachers and putting into the hands of bureaucrats was too much for me to agree to.

Education is a constantly evolving entity. It changes because people change, politics change and technology changes. Educators are tasked with the most difficult jobs, not just in teaching our children, but in having to constantly adapt, improvise, and overcome an ever changing field. There are not many professions that have so many outside variables that impact the very success of the profession like education does. Knowing that, we as a nation need to work together to provide the best schooling we can for our students. That means we need to embrace parental choice, work towards a consistent, yet limited government role, reform our existing schools, and provide our students with the necessary tools for success. Common Core does not accomplish any of that – quite the opposite in fact, as it takes away many parental and educator choices and increases government involvement.

Parents have choices regarding their children’s education in a way that they never did before. They have options such as home schools, public schools, private schools, charter schools, and online schools. Having this many options can be confusing for a parent but can also provide a custom fit for the type of education they want for their child. With many inner city schools falling behind due to lack of money, technology or other reasons and high-income suburban schools succeeding, one can see why a parent would want more choice regarding their child’s education. The question, however, is how to provide those choices? Milton Friedman argues that the privatization of schools is an option. He states, “The most feasible way to bring about a gradual yet substantial transfer from government to private enterprise is to enact in each state a voucher system that enables parents to choose freely the schools their children attend.”  The direction that Common Core is going takes many of these freedoms away from parents.

Because I believe as Milton Friedman does – that parents should be able to freely choose the schools their children attend – I could not continue learning about a curriculum I whole heartedly disagree with. I have several friends that are educators and they say, “If I were in college now, I would change my major – I would not become a teacher.” How does that benefit our kids? We already have a shortage of quality educators – why consciously create a larger shortage by driving away people that are passionate about education?

One of the biggest challenges, I think, that educators face today is an ever changing politicization of education. One president and congress makes one set of changes to education and then 4 to 8 years later it changes again. The only ones who suffer from this are students and teachers. They are always subject to the changing whims of politics. In the 1980’s a report titled, “A Nation at Risk,” was released and our nation decided that our education standards needed a makeover if we were to stay ahead of our enemies. Then we got a new president and a new report, “Goals 2000: Educate America Act.” Schools had to, again, react to this new report and new ideas. In 2000 we had another new president eight years later and another new program with “No Child Left Behind” for schools to adapt to. With the constant change in reports and programs that seem to favor the ideals of whichever political party is in power, how do schools stay ahead of the curve? They don’t and the government comes up with the idea of Common Core, but it is just another politicization of education that students and teachers have to react to. We need a proactive education system, not a reactive one. Curriculum shouldn’t be based on politics – it should be based on local choice, educator choice, and parental choice.

I don’t know that I will ever finish my education degree, but I will always be an advocate for what is right in education, and what is right for our students.

Exciting Development in Cheyenne! MEET Rock Star CC Experts! Support NEEDED!!

MEET & GREET with House Bill Overview

February 11th from 7-9 PM

EVERYONE is ASKED TO ATTEND an amazing event at the Kiwanis Community House in Cheyenne! Three national leaders, Dr. Sandra Stotsky, Erin Tuttle, and Emmett McGroarty, will be guests (SEE BIOS BELOW).  There will be an overview of the education reform bill and information on its introduction that will take place on February 12th at the Capitol.  The Meet & Greet will also allow time for questions, answers, and mingling.

MAPS and MORE INFO HERE to TAKE BACK WYO EDU in Cheyenne!!!

It is VITAL that anyone that can attend the budget session in Cheyenne next week attend to support Representative Tom Reeder’s bill to remove Common Core, SBAC, and the SLDS (with stronger wording on data privacy) in Wyoming.  Please view Rep. Reeder’s site here to get further clarification on how to support it. You can also contact him with your support if you cannot make it to Cheyenne.

TomReeder

State Representative Tom Reeder’s Site                         PLEASE RSVP for the Meet & Greet

SPECIAL GUESTS!

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Dr. Sandra Stotsky is credited with developing one of the country’s strongest sets of academic standards for K-12 students as well as the strongest academic standards and licensure tests for prospective teachers while serving as Senior Associate Commissioner in the Massachusetts Department of Education from 1999-2003. She is also known nation-wide for her in-depth analyses of the problems in Common Core’s English language arts standards. Her current research ranges from the deficiencies in teacher preparation programs and teacher licensure tests to the deficiencies in the K-12 reading curriculum and the question of gender bias in the curriculum. She is regularly invited to testify or submit testimony to state boards of education and state legislators on bills addressing licensure tests, licensure standards, and Common Core’s standards (e.g., Utah, Indiana, Illinois, Wisconsin, South Carolina, and Texas). She currently serves on several committees for the International Dyslexia Association and on the advisory board for Pioneer Institute’s Center for School Reform. She served on the National Validation Committee for the Common Core State Systemic Initiative (2009-2010), on the National Mathematics Advisory Panel (2006-2008), co-authoring its final report as well as two of its task group reports, on the Massachusetts Board of Elementary and Secondary Education (2006-2010), and on the Steering Committee in 2003-2004 for the framework for the National Assessment of Educational Progress reading assessments for 2009 onward.

Erin Tuttle is a Co-founder of Hoosiers Against Common Core. She was publicly recognized by Governor Mike Pence for her efforts in passing anti-Common Core legislation in Indiana. She has written extensively on the deficiencies of the standards and has testified before the Indiana Senate. Her organization continues to do educational research and has provided commentary on the Common Core Standards for the Bill Bennett Show, NPR, and local talk radio shows across the country. Their research and comments have been cited by National Review Online, EdWeek, StateImpact and EducationNext.

Emmett McGroarty is the Executive Director of American Principles Project on education. He has led APP Common Core in its mission to defend the rights of parents and promote the future of children. He has published ground-breaking reports on the federal takeover of education (Townhall Magazine, March 2011), its lawless tracking of private child and family data (The New York Post, December 2011), and its lawless infliction of radical values curricula on children (Public Discourse, January 2012). Emmett is a frequent media guest, and his written works have appeared in publications such as Townhall Magazine, The New York Post, The Washington Times, and Public Discourse. He is a graduate of the Fordham School of Law and Georgetown University.

American Principle Project’s Video Summary from Common Core Conference at Notre Dame

Speakers Bring Common Core to the Table and Serve Up a Firestorm of Media Coverage!

JacksonPresenters

Speakers Kelly Simone, Alisa Ellis, Amy Edmonds, and myself spoke in Jackson Hole last week.  We each had 30 mintues to present a portion of our research on education reform and the Common Core State Standards.  The presentation was filmed and will be uploaded to Youtube as soon as it’s available.  I’ll be sure and post it for those interested.  This evening apparently brought on a firestorm that might just melt the snow from those gorgeous Tetons!

The Jackson Hole News & Guide published two articles covering the event that was sponsered by the Concerned Women’s Group of Jackson Hole.  The first article here, speaks of dozens coming out to hear the speakers.   In reality there were over 100 people in attendence.

The article by Brielle Schaeffer is titled, Speakers Oppose New Common Core Standards Here are a few quotes from the article:

Speaker Christy Hooley said, “It’s not just about standards” but about the intrusion of the federal government and corporations into local control of education. She said Common Core standards will limit the ability to teach to the individual child.

The speakers, including former Sweetwater County teacher Hooley, talked about the history of education policy, the creation of the standards and their concerns about a state data collection system.

The standards are being pushed on the state by the federal government, former state lawmaker Amy Edmonds said.

“I get the question all the time from people, ‘How did this happen?’ ‘How did we get here?’ ” she said. “I want them to understand these things didn’t drop out of the sky. These are all things that are happening through the federal government. … No educator in Wyoming was involved in writing these standards.”

“Everything the state has been doing is taking cues from the federal government,” Edmonds said.

Alisa Ellis of Utahns Against Common Core said the standards are unconstitutional and violate education laws.

“The constitution says any responsibility not given to the government is for the states,” she said.

And, she added, “if that isn’t bad enough, the Common Core isn’t field tested.

“The U.S. has never had national standards before and then they decided to roll out untested standards across the nation.”

Kelly Simone of Wyoming Citizens Opposing the Common Core worried about collecting student data and sharing it among agencies. She urged the audience to petition their school boards and representatives about educational standards and data collection.

The first article did not do justice for the amount of research and information that was shared by mother and Physician’s Assistant Kelly Simone.  Read her recent editorial here.  The Cody Enterprise covered the information she shared with her local school board on Jan. 21 about the Wyoming P-20 Statewide Longitudinal Data System (SLDS) . I encourage you to read the full article here.

The second article also by Brielle Shaeffer can be found here, and is titled Common Core Finds Support.   Here are a few quotes from the article.

“The [Wyoming] Department of Education says that Common Core are not curriculum but the sad reality is [that] tests drive curriculum,” speaker and former Sweetwater County teacher Christy Hooley said. “To say otherwise is ludicrous.”

In addition to curriculum, Hooley and other speakers delineated other worries about the loss of schooling on literature, workforce training, equity and the collection of student data. The critical view is not embraced by the establishment.

“There’s a lot of misinformation out there,” said Kathy Scheurman, professional issues director of the Wyoming Education Association. “It’s kind of frightening what information is out there.”

I’d like to know what “misinformation” Scheurman is referring to.  Everything presented was researched and fact checked with primary sources and government documents.   These can easily be found when putting forth effort to understand where the concerns are arising from.

The ‘what’ is decided locally

“Curriculum is without any question a district responsibility,” Teske said. “People want to blend all the issues.”

There’s a lot of confusion between what a standard is and what curriculum is, Teton County schools Superintendent Pam Shea said.

“Standards are a framework,” she said. “They provide guideposts along the way.”

The blending and confusing she refers to is actually happening on her end. As a teacher, I see very clearly the difference between standards (what students are expected to know) and curriculum (what is used to teach that standard). Superintendent Shea is correct, it is a “framework”.  Just like the framework of any building will drive what the building looks like.
Just like the bones to my body ultimately drive the shape of my body. So it is with the standards and the materials teachers will use to teach. Many teachers and parents see the problems with “Fuzzy Math”, such as Every Day Mathematics, which is used here in Sweetwater County School District No. 2. The problem is that these types of programs (curriculum) are what is being aligned to Common Core. This is VERY clear.

The new English language and math standards still allow educators to use their expertise to teach their students, she said.

“Everybody needs a framework,” Shea said. “Education needs frameworks so there are not gaps and so you can plan for rigor and high expectation.”

Teachers choose what is the age-appropriate tool for the child to employ to reach the standard, she said.

“It’s the curriculum, the materials, it’s the ‘what’ that we still have local control over,” Shea said.

Districts are now limited by the curriculum that is stamped “Common Core Aligned or Approved”.   Yes, the district can now pick from this limited and aligned material.  Regulate and limit our choices…  Most teachers are accustomed to these regulations and do their best with what limits the government now places on us.  However, to make it sound like teachers are free to teach and do what they know best is misleading.

Critic Hooley also was upset about the lack of emphasis on literature in the standards. The standards outline a 50-50 split between literature and nonfiction for younger grade levels. In high school years there is a 70 percent emphasis on nonfiction.

“Math teachers aren’t taught how to teach reading,” Hooley said. “It’s pretty concerning.”

“I think that sometimes, in … trying to make everybody the same, we’re losing freedom to such a great extent that it cannot be regained,” Alisa Ellis of Utahns Against Common Core said.

Speakers at the forum critical of Common Core also opposed the idea of the system promoting college and career readiness. Educating the mind doesn’t include workforce training, critic Hooley said.

“Is that the government’s job, to determine and make sure your kid has a job or is it the parent’s opportunity to give that freedom of choice to their child?” she asked.

I was grateful to see that the data privacy and collection concerns were addressed in the article:

Student data collection was another topic that worried Kelly Simone of Wyoming Citizens Opposing the Common Core. She fears that student data is to be shared with non-educational state agencies.

But Common Core doesn’t change data collection processes, Principal Miller said: “Student confidential information is a legitimate concern but … there are safeguards in place,” he said.

Still, Sen. Christensen thinks student privacy issues will be examined during the legislative session that begins Monday.

“Most of us were of the understanding that these were just raw numbers to help track trends and general progress, but as Simone reported that night it’s actually names, dates of birth and files that are reported early on. It was different than what I expected.”

However the most concerning portion of this article included a Fact vs. Fiction section:

Dan Brophy has given permission for me to post this repsonse.  It was also forwareded to Teton County School Board and the Wyoming Department of Eduation.

RE: “Common Core Finds Support” (February 5, Jackson Hole Daily)

Education bureaucrats and politicians say dismissively, again and again, “there’s so much misinformation out there, opponents are misinformed.” Opposition to the Common Core agenda is growing because opponents have done more homework than the bureaucrats.

FICTION: School districts maintain control over curriculum. FALSE, they do not. The US Dept of Education spent $330 million in grants to design SBAC and PARCC, the two national Common Core tests. Extensive research (and common sense) proves that teachers, who are evaluated and compensated on their students’ test scores, “teach to the test.” There will be only one correct answer on the test, which the teacher must drill into the student. Night follows day: national standardized tests require national standardized curriculum. Bill Gates, whose Foundation has spent over $400 million to fund Common Core development and dissemination efforts, bluntly stated: “When the [standardized] tests are aligned to the common [Common Core] standards, the curriculum will line up as well.” Wyoming bureaucrats are not telling the truth. National standards inevitably are national curriculum; local control disappears, stolen by bureaucrats from Wyoming citizens.

FICTION: The Federal government had no role in CC development. FALSE.  The DoE cleverly disguised its involvement (see above), but the subterfuge is exposed by minimal research into DoE documents. Former Education Secretary Califano states: “The DoE has simply paid others to do that which it is forbidden [by statute] to do.”

FICTION:  There will be no new, intrusive, invasive data collection on students. FALSE. The Governor’s education assistant assured me that the Wyoming education bureaucracy will “enforce all aspects of” FERPA.  Conveniently, FERPA was amended in January, 2012, to “allow for greater disclosures of personal and directory student identifying information … [A]n institution may, under certain circumstances, designate and disclose student… unique personal identifiers…. The regulations also provide that a parent or student may not opt out of the disclosure of such directory information…[and also] allow for disclosure of [personally identifying information] without student or parent consent, where institutions have contracted with organizations to conduct studies…” (National Law Review). Look in your mirror and ask whether the same Federal government that has admitted (only under pressure) to spying on your email can be trusted with your child’s private, individual data, and can collect and share it without your consent? And, by the way, as a parent the law now says you may do nothing to prevent this?

FICTION: Common Core standards are superior to existing standards. FALSE. Bill Gates mused in September, 2013, “It would be great if our education stuff worked, but that we won’t know for probably a decade.” Gates’ Microsoft would never roll out a new operating system without millions of hours of beta testing. By his own admission, Common Core is an experiment, but Governor Mead and the Wyoming education bureaucracy tell us they know best and we must accept this monumental, experimental change. And if we don’t, we are “misinformed.”

Common Core’s adoption cedes all local control over Wyoming’s curriculum to a rigid, copyrighted, “one-size-fits-all” national educational colossus. It forecloses any current or future opportunity to use in-state or other Wyoming-chosen resources to design or participate in innovative, easily modified, and nationally and internationally superior curriculum. Wyoming students will now march with the crowd into uniformity, rigidity, conformity, and in the end, mediocrity (at best).

Parents in this state would never agree to this stunning loss of control, but despite claims of the bureaucracy, they have simply not been told. In one example I researched, the Wyoming Department of Education gave parents 22 days in 2010 to comment on nearly 700 pages of Common Core standards. This is just one of many similar occurrences during WDE’s supposed 3-year communication effort.

WDE owes citizens something better than a self-serving forum on February 13. Why not defend its views in a debate with informed opponents of Common Core, in front of the entire community. Three renowned Common Core experts are in Cheyenne through February 12. Bring them to Jackson for a real debate, and our local parents can decide for themselves just who is “misinformed.”

Dan Brophy

Well done Mr. Brophy!  Well done!