Stephanie Simon reports on Bill Gates’ latest explanation of why the Common Core standards are a wonderful idea. We need standardization. Maybe we need a national curriculum so that everyone learns exactly the same thing at the same time. Bill Gates loves the Common Core because it is like a standard electrical outlet that we can plug children’s brains into and get standard electrical current. That explains why he paid out at least $200 million to create Common Core, so everyone could have a standard mind and be just like everyone else. Some people, like Emeritus Professor Jack Hassard of Georgia State University, think that Gates has actually pumped $2 billion into Common Core. Really, without standardizing the minds and hopes and dreams and aspirations of everyone everywhere, how can we hope to compete with the standardized minds in other nations?

 

This is not news. We knew that, didn’t we?

 

Here is some more not-news: Bill Gates thinks Arne Duncan is wonderful because Arne Duncan wants to standardize everyone’s minds just like Bill Gates. And he wants to pay teachers based on the test scores of their students, just like they don’t do at his children’s private school.

 

They can’t understand why the more parents learn about Common Core, the less they like it. That’s what the polls show.

 

Here is an anecdote, not a poll, not scientific. I spoke to a friend who is a retired New York City principal. She had a distinguished career for many years in a middle school. Her grandson came home from his first day in kindergarten. He had work sheets for homework. When she asked about his day, he said there was no recess because they had to work on reading and math problems. This is ridiculous. The children will learn to hate school.

 

Common Core will never be “national standards,” no matter how much money Bill spends, no matter how much the U.S. Chamber of Commerce pushes it, no matter how many states lose Arne’s waivers. It might survive in half the states. But it will never stop being a source of controversy. It didn’t have to be this way. The lesson is that you don’t get “national standards” by writing them in secret, then using federal funds as a lure to shove them down the throats of parents and children. If we ever have national standards, it will come about as the result of a democratic, open process, not a secret deal among oligarchs and the feds.

Yesterday I learned that the New York State School Boards Association was running a poll about the Common Core. When I logged on, responses were running heavily against the Common Core. Most respondents said that CC “hinders” education instead of improving it. Some 85% said that it was not liked by local parents.

 

I posted these results, and the NYSSBA canceled the poll on grounds that the response rate was so high that the results were not accurate. But before I posted it, the results were already overwhelmingly opposed to the Common Core. Don’t blame me for the opposition from school board members who answered overwhelmingly in the negative before I read the results or posted about them.

There’s is a lot of money to be made in education but not by teachers.

 

“In the Publiic Interest” reports on privatization scams. Today it wrote:

 

“Politico reports that the National Urban League “is stepping up its advocacy in support of the Common Core with new radio and TV spots narrated by CEO Marc H. Morial.” In July, Black Agenda Report reported that “the National Urban League got a $1 million check from now-doomed Corinthian Colleges after president Marc Morial wrote a favorable op-ed in the Washington Post. Morial then joined Corinthian’s board of directors, a sinecure that is worth between $60,000 and $90,000 a year in cash and deferred stock.”

Journalist Kathleen Sharp summarizes the incredible iPad fiasco in Los Angeles in Salon. The article is called “Rotten to the Core.” Let’s face it: the gold rush is on, and tech companies will clean up.

She writes:

“Technology companies may soon be getting muddied from a long-running scandal at the Los Angeles Unified School District (LAUSD), the nation’s second-largest system. A year after the cash-strapped district signed a $1 billion contract with Apple to purchase iPads for every student, the once-ballyhooed deal has blown up. Now the mess threatens to sully other vendors from Cambridge to Cupertino.

“LAUSD superintendent John Deasy is under fire for his cozy connections to Apple. In an effort to deflect attention and perhaps to show that “everybody else is doing it,” he’s demanded the release of all correspondence between his board members and technology vendors. It promises to be some juicy reading. But at its core, the LAUSD fiasco illustrates just how much gold lies beneath even the dirtiest, most neglected public schoolyard.

“As the U.S. starts implementing federal Common Core State Standards, teachers and administrators are being driven to adopt technology as never before. That has set off a scramble in Silicon Valley to grab as much of the $9 billion K-12 market as possible, and Apple, Google, Cisco and others are mud-wrestling to seize a part of it. Deasy and the LAUSD have given us ringside seats to this match, which shows just how low companies will go.”

The deal was ballyhooed as a win for civil rights, but that was a cynical joke. Apple was the winner, having sold LAUSD an outmoded model at top dollar.

She writes:

“Alas, problems began to appear almost immediately. First, some clever LAUSD students hacked the iPads and deleted security filters so they could roam the Internet freely and watch YouTube videos. Then, about $2 million in iPads and other devices went “missing.” Worse was the discovery that the pricey curriculum software, developed by Pearson Education Corp., wasn’t even complete. And the board looked foolish when it had to pay even more money to buy keyboards for iPads so that students could actually type out their reports.

“Then, there was the deal itself. Whereas many companies extend discounts to schools and other nonprofits, Apple usually doesn’t, said George Michaels, executive director of Instructional Development at University of California at Santa Barbara. “Whatever discounts Apple gives are pretty meager.” The Chronicle of Philanthropy has noted Apple’s stingy reputation, and CEO Tim Cook has been trying to change the corporation’s miserly ways by giving $50 million to a local hospital and $50 million to an African nonprofit.

“But the more we learned about the Apple “deal,” the more the LAUSD board seemed outmaneuvered. The district had bought iPad 4s, which have since been discontinued, but Apple had locked the district into paying high prices for the old models. LAUSD had not checked with its teachers or students to see what they needed or wanted, and instead had forced its end users to make the iPads work. Apple surely knew that kids needed keypads to write reports, but sold them just part of what they needed.

“Compared with similar contracts signed by other districts, Apple’s deal for Los Angeles students looked crafty, at best. Perris Union High School District in Riverside County, for example, bought Samsung Chromebooks for only $344 per student. And their laptop devices have keyboards and multiple input ports for printers and thumb drives. The smaller Township High School District 214 in Illinois bought old iPad 2s without the pre-loaded, one-size-fits-all curriculum software. Its price: $429 per student.

“But LAUSD paid Apple a jaw-dropping $768 per student, and LAUSD parents were not happy. As Manel Saddique wrote on a social media site: “Btw, thanks for charging a public school district more than the regular consumer price per unit, Apple. Keep it classy…”

The deal, she says, is indeed rotten:

“If you step back from the smarmy exchanges, a bigger picture emerges. Yes, LAUSD is grossly mismanaged and maybe even dysfunctional. But corporations like Apple don’t look so good, either. Google, Microsoft, Facebook, Apple, Hewlett Packard — the companies that are cashing in on our classroom crisis are the same ones that helped defund the infrastructure that once made public schools so good. Sheltering billions of dollars from federal taxes may be great for the top 10 percent of Americans, who own 90 percent of the stock in these corporations. But it’s a catastrophe for the teachers, schools and universities that helped develop their technology and gave the companies some of its brightest minds. In the case of LAUSD, Apple comes across as cavalier about the problem it’s helped create for low-income students, and seems more concerned with maximizing its take from the district.

But the worst thing about this scandal is what it’s done to the public trust. The funds for this billion-dollar boondoggle were taken from voter-approved school construction and modernization bonds — bonds that voters thought would be used for physical improvements. At a time when LAUSD schools, like so many across the country, are in desperate need of physical repairs, from corroded gas lines to broken play structures, the Apple deal has cast a shadow over school bonds. Read the popular “Repairs Not iPads” page on Facebook and parents’ complaints about the lack of air conditioning, librarians and even toilet paper in school bathrooms. Sadly, replacing old fixtures and cheap trailers with new plumbing and classrooms doesn’t carry the kind of cachet for ambitious school boards as does, say, buying half-a-million electronic tablets. As one mom wrote: “Deasy has done major long-term damage because not one person will ever vote for any future bond measures supporting public schools.”

“Now, the Apple deal is off, although millions of dollars have already been spent. An investigation into the bidding process is underway and there are cries to place Deasy in “teacher jail,” a district policy that keeps teachers at home while they’re under investigation. And LAUSD students, who are overwhelmingly Hispanic and African-American, have once again been given the short end of the stick. They were promised the sort of “tools that heretofore only rich kids have had,” and will probably not see them for several years, if ever. The soured Apple deal just adds to the sense of injustice that many of these students already see in the grown-up world.

“Deasy contends that that he did nothing wrong. In a few weeks, the public official will get his job performance review. In the meantime, he’s called for the release of all emails and documents written between board members and other Silicon Valley and corporate education vendors. The heat in downtown Los Angeles is spreading to Northern California and beyond, posing a huge political problem for not just Deasy but for Cook and other high-tech captains.

“But at the bottom of this rush to place technology in every classroom is the nagging feeling that the goal in buying expensive devices is not to improve teachers’ abilities, or to lighten their load. It’s not to create more meaningful learning experiences for students or to lift them out of poverty or neglect. It’s to facilitate more test-making and profit-taking for private industry, and quick, too, before there’s nothing left.”

In the Public Interest” reports:

1) National: A report released last week by the Institute for College Access & Success says that former students of for-profit colleges account for nearly half (44%) of all federal student loan defaults. “For-profit colleges also continue to have a much higher average default rate than other types of schools: 19.1 percent, compared to 12.9 percent at public colleges and 7.2 percent at nonprofit colleges.” Among other steps, the Institute recommends cracking down on default rates through administrative actions and an upcoming rulemaking.

“National: Gordon Lafer digs into the goals and strategy of the charter school industry. He reports that “a new type of segregation” is at hand. “The charter industry seeks to build a new system of segregated education—one divided by class and geography rather than explicitly by race. (…) The US Chamber of Commerce, the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), Americans for Prosperity and their legislative allies are promoting an ambitious, two-pronged agenda for poor cities: replace public schools with privately run charter schools, and replace teachers with technology.”

The school board of Colorado Springs District 11 has voted to opt most students out of Common Core state testing and to seek permission from the state to administer sample tests.

“The Board of Education in Colorado Spring District 11 is taking a different approach than Lee. It voted to opt most students out of Common Core testing and then ask the state government for permission to assess a randomly selected group of students — enough to meet federal requirements. The tests involved the Common Core test created by the Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers (PARCC) and the Colorado Measures of Academic Success.

“The resolution that passed unanimously this week also gives permission to parents to opt their own children out of these tests. KOAA-TV quoted Superintendent Nicolas Gledich as saying the district hopes to devise its own assessment system within the next three years.”

Read the full link for the resolution.

Robert Reich clearly explains the importance of poverty on educational achievement.

He writes (see his article for the links to sources):

“American kids are getting ready to head back to school. But the schools they’re heading back to differ dramatically by family income.

“Which helps explain the growing achievement gap between lower and higher-income children.

“Thirty years ago, the average gap on SAT-type tests between children of families in the richest 10 percent and bottom 10 percent was about 90 points on an 800-point scale. Today it’s 125 points.

“The gap in the mathematical abilities of American kids, by income, is one of widest among the 65 countries participating in the Program for International Student Achievement.

“On their reading skills, children from high-income families score 110 points higher, on average, than those from poor families. This is about the same disparity that exists between average test scores in the United States as a whole and Tunisia.

“The achievement gap between poor kids and wealthy kids isn’t mainly about race. In fact, the racial achievement gap has been narrowing.

“It’s a reflection of the nation’s widening gulf between poor and wealthy families. And also about how schools in poor and rich communities are financed, and the nation’s increasing residential segregation by income.”

Because property taxes supply about 42% of school funding, schools in poor neighborhoods never have the resources of SCHOLS in affluent communities. Many states cut their school budgets since the Great Recession of 2008-09 and never restored what they cut. In poor communities, the schools must make do with larger classes, a narrowed curriculum, and often no arts or librarians, and not enough social workers, guidance counselors, psychologists, teaching assistants, and other support staff. And of course, despite their tight budgets, they must spend more on testing and test preparation.

Reich points out, “The wealthiest highest-spending districts are now providing about twice as much funding per student as are the lowest-spending districts, according to a federal advisory commission report. In some states, such as California, the ratio is more than three to one.”

“As a result of all this, the United States is one of only three, out of 34 advanced nations surveyed by the OECD, whose schools serving higher-income children have more funding per pupil and lower student-teacher ratios than do schools serving poor students (the two others are Turkey and Israel).

“Other advanced nations do it differently. Their national governments provide 54 percent of funding, on average, and local taxes account for less than half the portion they do in America. And they target a disproportionate share of national funding to poorer communities.

“As Andreas Schleicher, who runs the OECD’s international education assessments, told the New York Times, “the vast majority of OECD countries either invest equally into every student or disproportionately more into disadvantaged students. The U.S. is one of the few countries doing the opposite.”

The U.S, under the complementary policies of No Child Left Behind and Race to the Top, pretends that more and more testing will improve achievement, but after nearly 15 years of high-stakes accountability, it should be obvious that these policies have failed.

The U.S., encouraged by President Obama, Secretary Duncan, and a bipartisan mix of governors and legislatures, imagines that school choice–charters and vouchers–will close the achievement gaps and compensate for the unequal funding of schools in poor and affluent neighborhoods. No other nation in the world is pursuing so foolish a path. If anything, school choice exacerbates segregation, and there is no evidence that it leads to better education for the nearly one-quarter of the nation’s children who live in poverty. Advocates of choice point to anecdotes, to one school, or one charter chain, to show that they did get higher test scores, but no one can identify an entire school district where choice has obliterated the effects of poverty. Even the anecdotal evidence of a successful charter, charter chain, or voucher school has to be carefully scrutinized for attrition and other statistical legerdemain.

One need not be cynical to conclude that choice through charters and vouchers has become a means by which wealthy and powerful policy elites change the subject and avoid talking about inequality of resources. To quote Reich, “Money isn’t everything, obviously. But how can we pretend it doesn’t count? Money buys the most experienced teachers, less-crowded classrooms, high-quality teaching materials, and after-school programs.”

There is no way around the conclusion that poor kids need what affluent kids expect and get: smaller classes, experienced teachers, well-resourced classrooms, beautiful facilities, after-school programs, medical care, and a full curriculum.

I admire Catholic schools. I like the moral and ethical basis of their teachings, rooted in faith.

I admire our nation’s public schools, which enroll nearly 90% of our children. They teach not only academic skills but citizenship and tolerance, the arts of living with those who are different from oneself.

I believe in the separation of church and state. Those who seek a religious education should pay for it. Religious schools should be funded by philanthropists like Gates and Walton, not taxpayers.

Charter schools are killing off Catholic schools by competing with them but requiring no tuition. This is not fair. Charters compete by pretending that. “No excuses” makes them like Carholic schools. Wrong. Catholic schools succeed because they are faith-based.

Mercedes Schneider here compares two organizations that graded state standards: the American Institutes for Research and the Thomas B. Fordham Institute. When AIR reviewed state standards and assessments, it concluded that the stands were so variable that common national standards and assessments were necessary, that is, the Common Core standards. She notes that AIR is very “scientific,” but recommends CCSS in the absence of any evidence. Fordham grades state standards without regard to their relationship to NAEP scores, and they conclude that what is needed most is Common Core standards.*

Fordham, as is well known, is funded by the Gates Foundation to advocate for CCSS.

AIR, though usually considered a research organization, has significant contracts to create CC assessments. AIR has a contract for $220 million to prepare assessments for Florida. It has a contract for $14 million as one of the developers of Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium. And more: “AIR has collected over $65 million from the Gates Foundation in the form of 23 grants since 2003.”

So, those who graded the state standards concluded that the Common Core was the very best thing even though there was no evidence for what they might accomplish, if anything.

*Note: I chaired the program committee at the conservative Thomas B. Fordham Institute until 2009, when I resigned from the board. The state standards’ ratings referred only to the academic content of state standards, without reference to the states’ performance on NAEP. I recall giving a speech in some state in the 1990s in which I criticized the academic insufficiency of their state standards. Someone in the audience got up and pointed out the state’s high scores on NAEP. I confess I was stumped. The point was that the quality of the state standards was unrelated to student performance. The lesson, I now realize (which I could not admit in those days), is that the Common Core standards is unlikely to have any effect on student achievement, as Tom Loveless pointed out in 2012. http://www.edweek.org/ew/articles/2012/04/18/28loveless_ep.h31.html

Back to politico.com:

Instead of scapegoating teachers, politicians are competing to claim they raised salaries. How short are teachers’ memories? Vying and usually lying:

“TEACHERS’ PETS?: Forget soccer moms. This election cycle, candidates across the country are scrambling to get teachers on their side – or at least, to convince voters that they stand with educators.

- In Alaska, Republican Senate candidate Dan Sullivan jumped into the chalk wars first with an ad [http://bit.ly/1r6TS6n] featuring a seventh grade teacher praising him for saving her pension by standing tough against Wall Street malfeasance during the financial crisis. The National Education Association fired back with a spot [http://bit.ly/1r6TYLd ] starring a music teacher conducting a cacophony of out-of-tune instruments as he accuses Sullivan of letting Wall Street off easy in the deal. “Sullivan sold Alaska’s teachers out … letting Wall Street play Alaska like a cheap fiddle,” he says. Sullivan faces incumbent Democrat Mark Begich in the pivotal race.

- In the equally pivotal North Carolina Senate race, Republican Thom Tillis and Democratic incumbent Kay Hagan have been playing the teacher card for months. Tillis, speaker of the state House, has been running an ad [http://bit.ly/1saxbBO] boasting of pushing through legislation to raise teacher pay 7 percent. The Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee has countered with a spot [http://bit.ly/1qivbA3 ] warning that Tillis’ math “doesn’t add up.” Only a fraction of the most experienced teachers got that pay raise, the DSCC says, while teaching assistants lost their jobs and schools lost hundreds of millions in funding.”

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