Archives for category: Common Core

Peter Greene opened his email and found an invitation to attend the annual convening of Jeb Bush’s Foundation for Educational Excellence. Bush may have done poorly in the 2016 campaign but he still wants to remake American education in the image of Florida: charters, vouchers, high-stakes testing for students and teachers.

Greene wonders:

I am interested in seeing what happens next to Jeb!, who now occupies a weird sort of reformster twilight zone. On the one hand, Herr Trump appears to fully embrace Bush’s education policies, or at least the Let a Million Charters Bloom part. But Bush himself–well, it seems unlikely that Jeb is in line for Trumpian Ed Secretary. And that bitter taste resting on Bush’s ivy league palate must be getting only more and more bitter as it becomes obvious that President Trump will be following a lot of the policies that Candidate Trump used to smack Bush over the head. What happens when hated political enemies actually stand for pretty much the same policy ideas? How exactly do you criticize someone for pursuing policies that you totally agree with?

Who will the conventioneers hear from? Open the post.

A few days ago, I said that I support Michigan billionaire and hard-right voucher advocate Betsy DeVos, because she would show the world that “reformers” are out to destroy our public schools. No ambiguity there. She would demonstrate the close link between “reform” and the rightwing.


But I hereby formally withdraw my support for DeVos’s candidacy. To be sure, it was meant in jest, but many readers failed to see the humor in supporting someone who would totally privatize education.


Why am I withdrawing my support? Well, I just learned that DeVos has more flaws than I thought. Not only does she want all children to have vouchers (charters apparently are a fall-back form of privatization for her), she opposes any regulation or oversight for the private schools she supports. When the Michigan legislature made an attempt to create some oversight for charter schools, DeVos spent over $1 million to block the effort, and she won. In Michigan, 80% of the charters operate for-profit, without regulation or oversight, and DeVos is happy with that. The scandals and waste of taxpayers’ dollars don’t concern her. I also object to her because she supports the Common Core. My reasons for opposing the Common Core are different from that of people on the Trump team. I oppose them because they were imposed without a field trial, without any evidence that they were good standards. I oppose them because I oppose standardization in education. I oppose developmentally inappropriate demands on young children. If any teacher loves them, use them, but they are not and never will be national standards, nor will they reduce achievement gaps. If anything, they increase  the gaps and reduce achievement.


So, sorry, Betsy, you are not my choice.


Who is my choice? Glad you asked that question. I support Williamson (Bill) Evers, whom I have known for nearly 20 years. He is not mean, unlike some of the other candidates. He is at heart a libertarian and won’t shove federal policies down everyone’s throats. He is the only choice Trump might make that would do the least harm.

Mike Klonsky wonders whether Arne Duncan’s patronizing comments about parents and critics of high-stakes testing helped Donald Trump win the election.

When 20% of the parents in New York opted out of the state testing, he sneered at them and said they were white suburban parents who found out that their child wasn’t so bright after all. This was rank condescension.

When Duncan used Race to the Top billions to bribe states into adopting Common Core, he continued to insist that Common Core was a project of the states. He became the nation’s leading cheerleader for Common Core, and he ridiculed the critics. The critics were vociferous, especially in the Midwest.

Throughout his time in office, Duncan celebrated the successes of charter schools, wherever he could find them, and barely noticed public schools. Last month, before Massachusetts voted on Question 2, Duncan turned up in Boston to argue that expansion of charters was unquestionably a good thing. Despite his ringing endorsement, Question 2 was soundly defeated in almost every district in the state.

I don’t know whether Duncan helped Trump win by making public school parents angry, but he most certainly paved the way for the full-throated privatization that Trump is now pressing. Who would have thought that Arne Duncan and Donald Trump would be on the same team, cheering for more school choice, more charters, more privatization? Trump took it to the next level and threw in vouchers. Once you endorse school choice and launch an assault on the very principle of public education, it is hard to walk it back.

Politico reports on speculation that Eva Moskowitz is high up on the Trump list as a potential Secretary of Education.

Hedge fund manager John Paulson gave Moskowitz $8.5 million for her charter chain. He was also a major supporter of Trump.

Would she want to leave her charter empire, where she is paid handsomely? As Secretary of Education, she could spread the gospel of privatization far and wide.

While Moskowitz has found herself on the defensive at home, Success is still seen as a national charter model by many influential reform leaders. That’s based in large part on loyal, vocal support for her from the families of her student body, which is overwhelmingly poor, black and Latino — groups among whom opposition to Trump in the election was particularly strong.

(Success staff seemed to be mourning the results last week; the network’s social media staff posted a Langston Hughes poem about equality in America on its Twitter feed the morning after the election.)

Politics aside, Moskowitz might chafe at the constraints of the post, which is viewed among education observers largely as a bureaucratic position without all the power the title would suggest. This would be particularly true if a Trump administration set about relinquishing some federal power back to the states.

And while Trump has pledged to “get rid of” the Common Core, Moskowitz is a strong supporter of the set of standards introduced by President Obama. An enormous part of her schools’ renown is Success students’ high scores on Common Core-aligned exams.

This is a first for me. I never posted anything from Breitbart, the website of the alt-right. But friends pointed me to this post there, which says that Trump soppoers oppose Michelle Rhee and Eva Moskowitz, because they both supported Common Core. Rhee even included David Coleman, the architect of Common Core, on the board of her “StudentsFirst” group, along with Jason Zimba, lead writer of the Common Core math standards. The most prominent Republican supporter of Common Core was or is Jeb Bush, whose former commissioner of education is on Trump’s short list.

Anti-Common Core activists say they supported Trump because he promised to get rid of Common Core. They prefer Williamson (Bill) Evers, who has a long history of opposing Common Core.

I know Bill Evers. I worked with him as a member of the Koret Task Force on Education at the Hoover Institution. He is a nice guy, not a foaming-at-the-mouth ideologue. He supports school choice and opposes Common Core. He worked in Iraq for the Coalition Provisional Authority as an education advisor. President a George W. Bush named him as an Assistant Secretary of Education. He is a libertarian, less likely to trample local control, and less problematic than some of the other names that have been mentioned.

Trump and his allies don’t seem to know that the federal government can’t get rid of Common Core. It was foisted on the states by Arne Duncan and Race to the Top, but the decision about whether to keep it, revise it, or abandon it belongs to the states, not the Feds.

Nicholas Tampio, a professor of political science at Fordham University, says that it is time for a clean sweep of the rancorous education problems in New York state. The state has had a massive parent-student opt out of standardized testing based on the Common Core for two straight years; more than 200,000 (or about 20%) of the eligible students did not sit for the tests. There is near unanimity that the rollout of the Common Core under former Commissioner John King (now Secretary of Education) was badly botched. Governor Andrew Cuomo formed a commission that recommended a revision of the Common Core standards to respond to teacher and student complaints.

But as Tampio reports, the “revised” standards are almost identical to the original Common Core. The original errors of the standards for early childhood education remain age-inappropriate, continuing the expectation that kindergarten children will be able to read “emergent-reader texts with purpose and understanding.”

Tampio says it is time for the New York Board of Regents to steer the ship of state. They are in charge. The new chancellor knows that the Common Core is riddled with problems, as are the tests. Tampio says it is time to get a new Commissioner of Education and to dump the Common Core.

Jeff Bryant noted that President Obama has been boasting lately about the success of his education policies, pointing to a rise in high school graduation rates as proof of their efficacy. Bryant says that the President’s education policies are nothing to brag about.

The emphasis on using outcome measures has been a hallmark of the Obama years in education. That has put unusual and often harmful pressure to get results, even when the results are meaningless. Take those rising graduation rates. Some schools have increased their graduation rates by assigning low-performing students to phony credit recovery classes, where they can guess the right answer until they pass and get meaningless credits.

The focus on test scores has warped education, in some cases, causing schools to cut time for recess, the arts, history, civics, and everything else that is not tested.

He writes:

For instance, according to the latest results from the National Assessment of Educational Progress, often called “the nation’s report card,” academic achievement generally is declining under Obama’s watch.

As the Washington Post reported earlier this year, for the first time since the federal government began administering the exams in 1990, math scores for fourth-graders and eighth-graders declined. Reading scores weren’t much better: Eighth-grade scores dropped while fourth-grade performance was stagnant compared with 2013, the last time the test was administered. Achievement gaps between white and minority students remain large.

But the education numbers that have worsened the most are those associated with what’s being invested into the system rather than what’s coming out of it.

Drawing from a new report on government spending on children, Bruce Lesley president of First Focus finds, “Federal support for education has dropped from a high of $74 billion in 2010 to $41 billion in 2015, a decline of more than 40 percent in the last five years … Federal education spending remains 9 percent lower than in pre-recession 2008.”

Beyond the support for education at the federal level, the picture is arguably even worse.

In its most recent report on spending on education, the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities finds, “Thirty-five states provided less overall state funding per student in the 2014 school year (the most recent year available) than in the 2008 school year.” Even in the states where local funding rose, the “increases rarely made up for cuts.”

Local funding for schools, another significant share of education support, generally fell during the same time period. “In 36 states, total state and local funding combined fell between the 2008 and 2014 school years,” the CBPP finds.

This steep decline in education funding is arguably the most significant threat to our children’s education, and thus, the country’s future.

According to a recent review of the research on the systemic correlation between education spending and school quality and student achievement, William Mathis and Kevin Welner, of the National Education Policy Center, find, “While specific results vary from place to place, in general, money does matter and it matters most for economically deprived children. Gains from investing in education are found in test scores, later earnings, and graduation rates.”

In another review of research studies on the importance of adequate and equitable school funding, Rutgers University professor Bruce Baker writes, “To be blunt, money does matter. Schools and districts with more money clearly have greater ability to provide higher quality, broader, and deeper educational opportunities to the children they serve. Furthermore, in the absence of money, or in the aftermath of deep cuts to existing funding, schools are unable to do many of the things they need to do in order to maintain quality educational opportunities.”

What Obama Never Got About Education

Emphasizing education output, while generally leaving input unaddressed, has been a feature, not a bug, of the Obama administration’s education policy all along.

This was the administration whose signature programs, Race to the Top and the waivers to No child Left Behind, demanded states rate schools and teachers based on a “learning output,” which most states took to mean student scores on standardized tests. The president’s Education Department and Secretary Arne Duncan incentivized states to lift any restrictions on the number of charter schools in the system and provided significant grant money to expand their numbers. States were encouraged to spend vast sums of money on new systems to track output data and use them to sort and rank schools, evaluate teachers, label students, and force schools into turnaround efforts that would result in being subjected to even more scrupulous data tracking.

But while the Obama administration obsessed over output numbers, its attention to the inputs in the system was ad hoc and haphazard at best.

Obama’s Education Department never showed much interest in equitable and adequate funding, nor for that matter, in desegregation. The biggest change induced by Race to the Top was more funding for privatization, and more states authorizing privatization in order to be eligible for RTTT money. Imagine if Race to the Top had awarded millions to states that created policies to promote desegregation. It is important, it is measurable. It would have changed our schools and our society. But desegregation was not a priority.

And then there are his choices for Secretary of Education. Arne Duncan was a failure as Superintendent in Chicago, where he promised that there would be a Renaissance by 2010 (the name of his program, “Renaissance 2010”). He failed. He closed schools, he opened charter schools. He failed. And then came John King, who had been an embarrassing failure in New York state. He couldn’t speak to parents, because they were so angry about his heavy-handed promotion of Common Core and high-stakes testing. Governor Cuomo wanted him gone. And now he is Secretary of Education. Based on what?

Nothing to brag about here.

An object lesson in what not to do to improve American education.

The parent leaders of New York state’s powerful Opt Out movement are taking the next step in their campaign to protect their children and their schools: they are supporting challengers to their own state legislators.

The stronghold of the Opt Out movement is Long Island, the counties of Nassau and Suffolk, where about 50% of all children in grades 3-8 refused to take the state tests. As it happens, Long Island is represented by Republicans who strongly support charter schools (but not in their own districts!), high-stakes testing, Common Core, and test-based teacher evaluations.

The parents have had enough!

Test refusal forces have taken an interest in the race for the state’s 5th Senate District, and they’re using the organizing tools that have been effective in driving New York’s test opt-out movement to try to oust longtime incumbent Republican Sen. Carl Marcellino.

“We’re using all of our skills that we’ve learned over the last four years and we’re applying that to helping candidates who are going to advocate for us,” Jeanette Deutermann, administrator of Long Island Opt Out and co-founder of New York State Allies for Public Education, told POLITICO New York.

With the help of NYSAPE, an anti-Common Core coalition of parent groups from across the state, last spring more than 21 percent of the state’s approximately 1.1 million eligible third- through eighth-grade students refused to take the state standardized, Common Core-aligned math and English language arts exams.

The 5th Senate District, which includes portions of Nassau and Suffolk County, falls in the heart of the test refusal movement.

About 55 percent of public school students in Suffolk County opted out of exams in spring 2016, making the state’s eastern most corner a test refusal hot spot. About 43 percent of students opted out in Nassau County during that period.

Marcellino, who first won his seat in 1995, is the current head of the Senate Education Committee. His opponent, Democrat Jim Gaughran, has turned that position against Marcellino, running a campaign largely focused on education, setting it apart from most other races in the state.

Gaughran, the Suffolk County Water Authority chairman, has hosted listening tours on community education concerns throughout the district. Gaughran is announcing the end of his tour Wednesday, which included 25 events, at least one in each of the 17 public school districts in the Senate district, according to a news release provided to POLITICO New York.

Parents have no money to give, but they are supporting Gaughran with door-to-door campaigning and a social media campaign. They understand now after four years of organizing that they must fight for better leadership in Albany, where decisions affecting their children and their schools are made with no parent input, no evidence, no expertise, no knowledge. Petitions and rallies can be easily ignored. Real change requires better representation.

Read more:

Reader Denis Ian wrote the following comment in relation to the ongoing strife about Common Core standards and testing:

Every new school year renews the resistance to the Common Core reform. And parents new to this experience find themselves slathered in information and fear. Once upon a time we were the tenderfoot class … now we should act as sweet sages.

Every day brings another avalanche of studies, statistics, findings, and stuff. More babble. More white noise. More jargon. More junk-speak. All on purpose.

The strategy is simple. Complicate the reform issue with fleshy gibberish and endless jabberwocky. Scare ordinary folks. Make the issues seem too, too deep and too, too heavy for folks busy enough with all that parenthood demands.

The greatest fear of the reform mob is parents.

Parents own infinite passion when it comes to their children. And if lots and lots of parents glue themselves together, well, this reform morphs into mighty. That’s not the sort of muscle educrats, politicians, and local board members want to confront. Remember that … they fear you.

And parents new to this resistance should remember this.

Don’t be seduced by every morsel of information that gets dressed in glitter-words. Don’t be intimidated by edu-blather or fat-words.

Stay simple and stay on the issues that matter: Resist federal control. Protect childhood. Refuse the testing trap. Reclaim your schools.

Remember: No children, no reform. Your cooperation is your trump-card. If you don’t play, the game ends.

A caveat to the old-timers in this resistance.

Embrace newcomers as you were once embraced. Soothe new and nervous parents with warm reassurances that they have saddled-up with a child-centric confederacy of warriors who protect children … theirs included. And then tutor them slowly … and warn them of nonsense-overload.

The reformists are deceivers. Their strategy is to dazzle us with nonsense-junk. To unbalance us and to blur the simple truths.

They want our schools. They want our children. They want to politicize and profitize education … and have you foot the bill … and have your children pay the price. No way.

Avoid the information over-load … and listen to your heart. That drum in your chest always speaks the truth. Follow that beat.

Denis Ian

Peter Rawitsch teaches first grade. He has been a teacher for 40 years. He was invited to participate in the New York State review of Common Core standards for the early grades.

He deliberated with the group and came away convinced that the standards, however written, will do more harm than good. In this article, he calls for a moratorium on standards for the youngest children.

He thinks that children need a childhood more than they need standards.