Education Week: More on Common Core

Yesterday’s Washington Post carried a banner story about growing Tea Party opposition to the Common Core. We learn that across the country, Tea Party activists have been organizing around opposition to the Common Core, and have succeeded in blocking or delaying the standards in at least nine states.

There has been a contemptuous reaction from the highest levels of our educational system. Arne Duncan has implied that opponents are tin-foil hatted paranoids: “It’s not a black helicopter ploy and we’re not trying to get inside people’s minds and brains,” he said last week. A week before he responded to questions at Capital Hill, saying “Let’s not get caught up in hysteria and drama.” And of course corporate-funded conservatives like Jeb Bush, and the Fordham Institute are still on board all the way. The problem they have is that the substance of the Tea Party criticism of Common Core standards is solid. And it aligns pretty well with what many of us a bit more to the left have been saying for years. Let’s take the arguments, as presented by this Washington Post article and elsewhere, and check them out.

1. Sharing of student and teacher data with third party developers of all sorts, with no guarantees of privacy. As noted in this post, there are plans in place in some states such as Illinois and New York, and others as well, to collect massive amounts of data, which will be housed in a cloud based databank maintained by inBloom, a non-profit created by the Gates Foundation for this purpose. Given the many ways data has been abused in recent years, there are sound reasons to question this threat to privacy.

2. As the Post notes, “Critics also charge that Common Core was thrust onto schools with little public debate.” This is a huge problem. What hubris it must take to believe that you can assemble a small group of people, and, working largely in secret, completely overhaul what is taught in a supposedly democratic society. When I first got wind of the project back in 2009, I wrote this:

And what about a democratic process? We are apparently about to be handed a set of standards that will dictate what is taught in millions of classrooms across this nation. How will these have been arrived at? Who, besides the Gates Foundation millionaire’s club, and the standardized test companies and the publishing companies will have been engaged in this profoundly civic process?


A month later, when the writers of the standards and the “confidential” process were announced, we learned that the group of sixty people included numerous representatives of test publishers, but only one classroom teacher.

In most states, it was the governor or state superintendent of education who made the decision to adopt the standards, with little or no public deliberative process. This back door adoption process is now backfiring, as people realize the entire fabric of our schools is being changed, and educators and the public were never consulted in meaningful ways.

3. Related to the previous point, Tea Party activists have correctly pointed out that Federal law specifically forbids the Department of Education from setting national standards. As Jamie Gass and Charles Chieppo noted in their recent Wall St. Journal op-ed:

Three federal laws explicitly prohibit the U.S. government from directing, supervising or controlling any nationalized standards, testing or curriculum. Yet Race to the Top, a federal education grant competition that dangled $4.35 billion in front of states, favored applications that adopted Common Core. The Education Department subsequently awarded $362 million to fund two national testing consortia to develop national assessments and a “model curriculum” that is “aligned with” Common Core.


There has been extensive federal support for this project from the start, and one of its chief selling points has been the fact that it will create a set of national standards. There is little question that this is federal bribery bordering on coercion. In his rebuttal to Gass and Chiappo, Michael Petrilli, of the Gates-funded Fordham Institute, offers the very weak defense that no courts have, as of yet, found this to be illegal. That is a low standard indeed.

4. Some conservative critics have pointed out that the thrust of the Common Core is aimed at preparing students for the workforce. We are told that the role of our schools is to prepare students for “college and career,” and we find an increased emphasis on informational text. This very thorough conservative critique states:

Common Core changes the mission of the public education system from teaching children academic basics and knowledge to training them to serve the global economy in jobs selected by workforce boards.


The author also writes:

The role of education is not to teach students what to think in preparation for job placement. The role of education, the proper role, is to teach children HOW to think, how to process information, how to analyze, interpret, and infer, and how to solve problems.

This resonates with a more progressive critique offered by Susan Ohanian, who frames the issue this way:


This latest corporate reform plan, the Common Core State (sic) Standards (CCSS), eliminates community-based planning, destroys personal response to literature, and, instead of fostering education for individual need and the common good, puts children on a treadmill to becoming scared, obedient workers for the global economy. The constant exhortation to teachers and students is “You’re not good enough for the market economy!” When the ruling class screams about people not measuring up, over time the besieged are trained to blame themselves for the lack of jobs, lack of benefits, lack of a safety net.

5. Many conservative activists are, like myself, deeply concerned about the role of the Gates Foundation,  which has, to date, invested an estimated $150 million in the Common Core project.  Check out those out front advancing the standards – you will find they are almost all recipients of Gates money. Educators have come to understand the market-driven, test score-focused agenda of the largest philanthropy in the world. The Gates Foundation has promoted charter schools, test score/VAM teacher and principal evaluations for the past decade, and have been hugely influential across the country, and at the Department of Education. The Tea Party analysis often applies the label “progressive” to the Gates Foundation,  while some of us might use a different term.

We also have some major reasons to be concerned about the Common Core that have NOT been mentioned by conservatives. The tests associated with Common Core are likely to renew the false indictment of our public schools. Proficiency rates are predicted to drop by at least 30%. There will be a significant expansion in the number and frequency of tests, and the technology needed to fully implement to Common Core will divert billions of scarce education dollars. The data systems not only threaten student privacy, but also provide more fuel for the phony value added systems being developed to micromanage our work as teachers.


Click below for the full article.

Washington Post: Tea party groups mobilizing against Common Core education overhaul

Tea party groups over the past few weeks have suddenly and successfully pressured Republican governors to reassess their support for a rare bipartisan initiative backed by President Obama to overhaul the nation’s public schools.

Activists have donned matching T-shirts and packed buses bound for state legislative hearing rooms in Harrisburg, Pa., grilled Georgia education officials at a local Republican Party breakfast and deluged Michigan lawmakers with phone calls urging opposition to the Common Core State Standards.

The burst of activity marks the newest front for the tea party movement, which has lacked a cohesive goal since it coalesced in 2010 in opposition to Obama’s health-care initiative.

The movement has a renewed sense of purpose and energy following revelations that many of its groups were improperly targeted by the Internal Revenue Service, and members consider dismantling what some deride as “Obamacore” their newest cause. Unlike the health-care fight, though, organizers say the Common Core battle is winnable and could be a potential watershed moment.

“This is the issue that could change things for the tea party movement,” said Lee Ann Burkholder, founder of the 9/12 Patriots in York, Pa., which drew 400 people — more than twice the usual turnout — to a recent meeting to discuss agitating against Common Core.


Click below for the full article. Zero Tolerance Watch, Teen Faces Felony Charges for Science Experiment

Meet Kiera Wilmot, a 16-year-old student in Bartow, Florida. Before last week, Bartow High School Principal Ron Pritchard tells WTSP-TV, she had “never been in trouble before. Ever.” But then, the station reports, she

The face of terror, apparently.mix[ed] household chemicals in a tiny 8-ounce water bottle, causing the top to pop off, followed by billowing smoke in [a] small explosion.
Wilmot’s friends and classmates said it was “a science project gone bad, that she never meant to hurt anyone.”
Even the teen’s principal said, “She made a bad choice. Honestly, I don’t think she meant to ever hurt anyone. She wanted to see what would happen [when the chemicals mixed] and was shocked by what it did. Her mother is shocked too.”
The explosion happened around 7 a.m. Monday morning on school property, and no one was hurt. Staff, along with the school resource officer, acted quickly.
The principal told 10 News, “She told us everything and was very honest. She didn’t run or try to hide the truth. We had a long conversation with her.”

So: No one was hurt. There’s no sign that Wilmot was up to something malevolent. The kid’s own principal thinks this wasn’t anything more than an experiment, and he says she didn’t try to cover up what she had done. What punishment do you think she received? A stern talking-to? A day or two of after-school detention? Maybe she’ll have to help clean up the lab for a week?

Nope. The budding chemist has been kicked out of school and charged with a couple of felonies:

Wilmot was arrested Monday morning and charged with possession/discharge of a weapon on school property and discharging a destructive device.
The teen was expelled and will now complete her education in an expulsion program.

Miami New Times reports that Wilmot will be tried as an adult.

A statement from Polk County Schools says, “We urge our parents to join us in conveying the message that there are consequences to actions. We will not compromise the safety and security of our students and staff.” As far as I can tell, the only person in this story facing a serious threat to her safety and security is the girl who might have to serve a prison sentence — but then, she doesn’t go to Bartow High anymore, so perhaps the school system doesn’t think she counts.

Yahoo News: Lower tuition for immigrants becomes law in Colorado;

A Bill granting in-state tuition for students illegally in the US signed into law in Colorado.

Immigrant students will pay significantly less in tuition at Colorado colleges under legislation signed by Gov. John Hickenlooper on Monday.

Hundreds cheered as the Democratic governor ratified legislation that was first proposed a decade ago but regularly rejected under less favorable circumstances for people in the U.S. illegally.

“Holy smokes, are you guys fired up?” he asked the loud, spirited crowd at the Metropolitan State University of Denver. “Yeah, I thought so.”

Colorado becomes the fourteenth state to allow immigrants who graduate from state high schools to attend colleges at the tuition rate other in-state students pay, rather than a higher rate paid by out-of-state students.

This month, a similar proposal was signed into law in Oregon. Texas was the first pass such a measure in June 2001.

Among those in attendance at the signing ceremony was Val Vigil, a former lawmaker who first introduced the bill in 2003 when only a few states had passed it. At the time, only two people signed up to testify in favor of the bill in committee, he recalled, and more than 20 people showed up to oppose it.

When the plan was discussed in 2008, immigrant students who signed up to testify in favor had their names turned over to federal immigration authorities by opponents of the bill.

When the bill was heard in the House Education Committee in February, no opponents signed up to testify.

“It took 10 years of coalition building,” Vigil said.

The new law grants in-state tuition for Colorado high school graduates regardless of their immigration status. To qualify, students must also sign an affidavit saying they are seeking, or will seek, legal status in the U.S.

The out-of-state rate immigrants in Colorado had been required to pay is sometimes more than three times higher than the in-state rate.

“Every kid matters,” Hickenlooper said. “We need every child that we can get to be as educated as they are capable.”


Click below for the full article.

Ron Paul Announces Home Schooling Curriculum

It looks like Ron Paul wants to give the Federal Department of Education that is not permitted in the United States Consitution a little bit of competition. As expected Main Stream Media outlets like Fox News and The Guardian are skeptial.  What do you think?

Click below for several articles and opinions of this announcement.


RT: Ron Paul launches his own school

The Dailey Caller: Ron Paul launches his own home-school curriculum

Fox News: Ron Paul launches libertarian-edged home school curriculum

The Guardian: The Christian fundamentalism behind Ron Paul’s home-schooling curriculum

Atlantic Wire: Ron Paul’s Home Schooling Curriculum Will Turn Your Kid into a Little Ron Paul

Washington Examiner: Ron Paul: Homeschooling will play ‘revolutionary’ role to restore limited government

UPDATE: It appears the Ron Paul Curriculum is online.  Click below to access the official site.

Also, here is a video from the GOP Primary debates where Ron Paul gives some of his thoughts on education followed by a video from Ron Paul’s weekly update on the program.