Powerful Video: Future of New York State Education Exposed

On March 31, 2015, the New York State Assembly proved that budgeting well takes a back seat to “budgeting badly but on time.”

rotten apple

Even before the official vote was taken, Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie knew that the budget would pass the Democrat-controlled Assembly because “the people of this state want an on-time budget.”

So, according to Heastie,  it’s “the people” who “want” politicians to tell New York schools how to evaluate teachers– just so long as the screwy budget that also relieves New York’s wealthiest from sales tax on yachts is Approved. On. Time.

Due to that Democrat-induced, “on time” approval, New York now has a similar teacher evaluation stupidity that passed in Louisiana in 2012 (with student test scores counting for 50 percent of a teacher’s evaluation unless the teacher is rated “ineffective,” in which case the test scores override all else). Moreover, New York has an extra layer of idiocy, even outdoing Louisiana: the “independent evaluator” nonsense that promises to introduce unprecedented disruption in the running of already-pressured schools as their administrators could be required to travel to other schools to evaluate teachers in unfamiliar contexts.

Did I mention that all of this “admin swap” means nothing in the face of the “ineffective test scores” trump card?

And “ineffective,” well, that is To Be Determined by the New York State Education Department (NYSED).

Ahh, yes. The bottom line is that all New York career teachers are now at the mercy of whatever test score “growth” NYSED concocts in its effort to please a governor who is decidedly and openly hostile to the “public school monopoly” he vowed to “bust” upon reelection.

There you have it, People of New York: A casualty of the “budgeting on time” that Heastie says you demand.

Therefore, don’t blame the “heavy-hearted” Democrats captured in short order in the brief, powerful video below. And certainly don’t blame those clueless legislators who voted for a budget without fully comprehending its ramifications.

The politicians are innocent… right?

Future of NYS Education, by Stronger Together (ST) Caucus

Open letter to the voters of Florida on Common Core 3-30-15

Here’s a simple question for you to ask YOUR representative and Senator: “Are you representing your constituents and the children and educators of your district? Or do you just push the buttons they tell you to push?”

“Did you make a back room deal, or do you really believe (not!) that the education bill now presented actually helps alleviate the problems of Common Core and High Stakes Testing?” If you do, exactly what improvement was proposed? Then watch them squirm…

I CHALLENGE you to do this, and do it NOW. They will vote in session on April 1 (April fools day-how appropriate) for a bill that KEEPS COMMON CORE, KEEPS HIGH STAKES TESTING, KEEPS the contract with AIR ($220 million) in spite of the FSA failures, and still spends BILLIONS to administer computerized tests which benefits the corporate cronies (Bill Gates, Pearson, GE, George Soros, Rupert Murdock, Walmart, HP) who are funding Jeb Bush’s presidential campaign.

You know, I have spent a lot of time in the State Capitol talking with legislators to let them know we have been FOOLED by the many false claims by Bush, Rick Scott, and their sycophants about how GREAT Florida schools are- How we have “accountability,” “rigorous standards” and learning gains are enormous!

But we have shown them the REAL story comparing our students with nationally normed and validated tests that have been in use for decades, the ACT test. It shows Florida’s results in free fall since Jeb Bush took over since 1998. We are 5th from the bottom when compared to other states in this validated test which measures knowledge, not just test taking skills.


The FCAT and FSA is a proprietary test which does NOT provide accountability to taxpayers and parents. It has no relationship to other states. Listen to what Senator Gaetz, a former superintendent of schools, now huge supporter of Jeb Bush says.

In committee January 7, 2015, Senator Gaetz said: At hour 1:15, after Commissioner Pam Stewart’s presentation.

“Here’s what I’ve learned today.”

  1. “We don’t know how much time is consumed by Statewide Assessments.”
  2. “We don’t know how much money it costs to perform state mandated tests.”
  3. “We don’t know whether tests that are performed by state mandate are valid and reliable.”
  4. “We’ve learned today that we have no contingency plan if there are problems with statewide assessments.”
  5. “We have not beta tested statewide assessments.”

Then he voted for it.

WHY? Knowing all that. there is only one answer. MONEY AND POWER! Leadership controls everything in Tallahassee. Our shadow leader is Jeb Bush. His puppets are hoping for Washington appointments, jobs, endorsements, campaign money or other “crumbs from Longshanks’ table.”

Jeb Bush’s special friends include, Rick Scott, Don and Matt Gaetz, John Legg, Steve Crisafulli, Eric Fresen, Lizbeth Benacquisto, Garrett Richter, Jack Latvala, Bill Galvano, Andy Gardiner, Blaize Ingoglia, Kelly Stargel, Janet Adkins, Marlene O’Toole and others you may find attending the Foundation for Excellence in Education, their favors funneling organization.

Ask your legislators if they attend their functions. Ask who paid for their travel, expenses, incidentals, and what happened at the meetings they had there with Bush’s cronies, Pearson, Gates and other vendors.

Now you know why and how your children, the future of Florida and the Nation, are being thrown under the bus. Will you stand quietly, or will you join us in holding THEM accountable for massive spending and purposely crippling our kids future?

CALL THEM NOW to stop this bill, HB7069 and SB616, and start over.  We pay them for solutions, not kicking the can down the road while our children are subject to State sponsored child abuse.

REAL solutions were presented in HB1121 and SB1496, but Jeb Bush controlled leadership killed these bills by not allowing them to be heard.  Bring them back and STAY there until you get it right.  We are watching.

RELATED ARTICLE: This Top Teacher Is Right: Common Core Is Wrong Solution

The Death Throes of Common Core

Americans are learning the hard way that the federal government should not be permitted to impose one-size-fits-all standards to education. It was never intended to play a role in education and the absence of any mention in the Constitution is proof enough that education was intended to be supervised by the states where the school districts, schools, and parents are closest to the process.

Common Core is going to play a large role in the 2016 elections and that is likely to impact former Governor Jeb Bush the most. At the heart of the unhappiness with Common Core has been its emphasis on testing.

A March 20th Wall Street Journal article, “Bush Faces Test of Exam Policy”, reported that “A Rasmussen Reports nationwide survey in February found that 52% of respondents thought there was too much emphasis on testing in schools and 69% believed there was too much ‘teaching to the test.’”

The transformation of the nation’s educational system began when the Department of Education was signed into law by Jimmy Carter in 1979 and began operating in 1980. It continued with the passage of No Child Left Behind (NCLB), the name given to the reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act. It requires all public schools receiving Title 1 federal funding to annually administer a state-wide standardized test to all students. NCLB was coauthored by Representatives John Boehner (R-OH), George Miller (D-CA) and Senators Edward Kennedy (D-MA) and Judd Gregg (R-NH).

President George W. Bush was a leading NCLB advocate and signed it into law on January 8, 2002. Each state was expected to develop its own standards because NCLB did not impose a national one. This year when its reauthorization came up for consideration, it was pulled from the House floor in February. The Heritage Foundation deems it “outdated, ineffective, and prioritizes government standards over the needs of individual students.”

According to Neal McCluskey, Associate Director of the Cato Institute’s Center for Educational Freedom, “There is no compelling evidence that No Child Left Behind, and federal intervention overall, has produced much good, while it is very clear it has cost substantial money and is unconstitutional.”

In Missouri, circuit court Judge Daniel R. Green, ruled in February that the state’s payment of more than $4 million in membership fees as part of a standardized testing consortium was illegal. The Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium “is an unlawful interstate compact to which the U.S. Congress has never consented, whose existence and operation violate” Article 1 and 10 of the federal Constitution. It dealt a blow to Common Core.

It’s not just Missouri. In January the Mississippi Board of Education voted to withdraw from the Partnership for the Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers consortium which is one of the two tests aligned to Common Core. A full repeal of Common Core standards is under discussion.

By June 2014, two months before its implementation date, 19 states had either withdrawn from the tests or had paused implementation of the standards. Four of the 19, Indiana, Oklahoma, South Carolina and Louisiana had completely exited the national standards. Alaska, Nebraska, Texas and Virginia never adopted it.

Gov. Bush is beginning to put some distance between himself and Common Core. His spokeswoman, Kristi Campbell, said “There is such a thing as too much testing.” Reportedly “he says the federal government shouldn’t impose particular tests or curricula on states.” Meanwhile, in one state after another, Common Core is being rejected.

On the political front, the Heartland Institute’s monthly newsletter, School Reform News, reported in March that “Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker, a front runner in the contest for the Republican nomination for president, made bold reforms of elementary, secondary, and college education a prominent part of his proposed 2015-17 budget.”

“The budget, presented on February 3, would remove the cap on the state’s school choice program, eliminate state funding for Smarter Balanced tests tied to Common Core State Standards, and cut $300 million from the University of Wisconsin over two years in exchange for greater autonomy for the system.”

On Capitol Hill, four Republican senators including Rob Portman of Ohio and Pat Roberts of Kansas have introduced a bill that would prevent the federal government from strong-arming states into adopting education standards such as Common Core and, presumably, NCLB. The bill is called learning Opportunities Created at the Local Level Act. As reported in the Daily, it “would limit the federal government’s ability to control state educational standards and curriculums through financial incentives, grants, mandates, and other forms of influence.”

There’s no way to know when Common Core will die or whether No Child Left Behind will suffer a similar fate but the trend nationwide is obvious. Parents, teachers, schools and districts want to determine the best curricula for the children in their systems. They want the federal government out and that is a very good thing.

© Alan Caruba, 2015

Common Core Test Refuseniks

The time for Common Core tests, devised under contract by the U.S. Department of Education by two private consortia PARCC (Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers) and SBAC (Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium), has finally come.

The tests, according to Secretary of Education Arne Duncan, would be far superior to the “one-shot, year-end bubble tests” of old because they would test “critical thinking skills and complex student learning.”

These tests differ from previous ones that measured students’ knowledge in such subjects as history and science, and measured their skills in math and writing.  No longer are correct answers enough.  The new tests favor math problems that complicate solutions with charts, graphics, and stories, causing tears for students who had once excelled in the subject. Sample English Language Arts test questions for eleventh-graders, as I described, involved reading, group discussions, and writing letters about nuclear power, “sustainable fashion,” public art, and meditation.  To test “listening skills” students listened to a computer-generated voice reciting information about Ferris wheels, arachnids, and fluoridation.  (Alas, in the interests of time—because the SBAC test takes 8.5 hours and the PARCC test takes over 10 hours—some of the open-ended “critical thinking” questions have been replaced by bubble-in answers.)

While test questions about Ferris wheels and spiders seem to be below grade level for high school juniors, assessments for the lower grades seem to be too advanced.  Gretchen Logue, a Missouri activist, reading teacher, and mother of a sixth-grader, evaluated the sixth-grade reading test and found it to be above grade level, and promptly withdrew her child from testing.

More Test Anxiety

Although tests are sold as having the advantage of not requiring “test prep” they are producing much anxiety.  (Perhaps there is more anxiety involved in taking unpredictable and open-ended tests.  After all, there is comfort in getting all the flash cards right.)  Some schools have taken to bribing students with incentives like the chance to skip final exams in English and math, or to participate in drawings for iPads.  One girl in a PBS news segment described students’ frustrations with lack of clear-cut answers and the need for advanced technical skills, such as “dragging and dropping.”  The school superintendent in the same PBS video, however, insisted that Common Core testing makes things more racially equitable.

Technical difficulties with the tests abound.  Ear buds must be worn and be working.  An eleven-year-old student taking the practice test in Ohio had difficulty logging on.  The Los Angeles Unified School District, the nation’s second largest, experienced problems with slow connectivity and a website crashing when a practice test was given.  As a result, the state school board has decided not to use the tests in its accountability measurements this year. Other states with technical problems have resorted to paper-and-pencil tests—with bubbles to fill in.

According to California’s FlashReport, education analyst Steven Rasmussen found that, “based on publicly available sample math questions, the Common Core tests: ‘Violate the standards they are supposed to assess; cannot be adequately answered by students with the technology they are required to use; use confusing and hard-to-use interfaces; or are to [be] graded in such a way that incorrect answers are identified as correct and correct answers as incorrect.’”

The technology also brings concerns about privacy.  The Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium sent a guidance memo to schools instructing them on how to do “social media monitoring” during the field test. As Jane Robbins wrote recently, it appears that Pearson, the multinational company that administers the PARCC test, has been tracking student comments on social media through its security company.  Robbins, an attorney and senior fellow at the American Principles Project, raises questions of concern about privacy, and students carrying life-long records that unfairly brand them as cheaters.

The New Line of Attack

The first line of attack, Common Core withdrawal bills, worked in a few states and failed in others.  In still other states, deceptive legislators simple rebranded Common Core, by slapping a new local label onto almost unchanged standards.

So a grassroots movement of “opting out” has taken hold in ConnecticutNew JerseyLouisianaNew YorkMississippi, and elsewhere.  The resistance is coming from the political right and the political left.  Those on the right are opposed to federal testing that measures emotional responses more than knowledge and infringes on privacy.  The left often rejects accountability standards.  The national United Opt Out movement, self-described as one of “unyielding resistance to corporate ed reform,” demands an “equitably funded, democratically based, anti-racist, desegregated public school system for all.” Paula Bolyard, noting that students’ complaints often echo those of teachers unions, namely about school choice and “corporatist” Republicans, warns that teachers unions may be “community organizing our kids under the guise of Common Core opposition for students.”

Some school districts, in the Rochester, New York, and Buffalo, New York, areas are considering boycotts.

Some parent activists, such as Gretchen Logue and Anne Gassel of the Missouri Coalition Against Common Core, have filed suit.  Logue and Gassel had joined with former Republican gubernatorial candidate Fred Sauer as plaintiffs against Governor Jay Nixon and other state and education officials.  The judge has ruled that the state’s membership fees to the federally funded Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium is unconstitutional. That ruling is having reverberations already.  In Missouri, a house budget committee has stripped $4.5 million in the state’s budget proposal for membership in SBAC.  In North Dakota, Rep. Jim Kasper (R) is “prodding” the state attorney general about the constitutionality regarding the pact with SBAC, after having failed to get approval for his anti-Common Core bill last month.

In New York State, a bill called “The Common Core Parental Refusal Act” was introduced on March 17.  It would require school districts to notify parents of their right to refuse their third-to-eighth-grade children to take Common Core tests, with no penalties.  Such a bill was also proposed in Maine last month.  A similar bill in Arkansas, introduced in the House, failed before the Senate Education Committee.

In this year of ballyhooed roll-out, only 18 of the original 31 states signed up for the SBAC tests will be administering it.  Only 11 (plus Washington, D.C.) of the 26 signed up for the PARC test will administer it.  (Some states had originally signed up for both consortia.)  Common Core proponents, as quoted in the Hechinger Report are not dissuaded.  They imply: We haven’t had enough time (it’s the first year) or money (the product has to be “refined”).

It doesn’t look like parents, activists, and lawmakers will buy it.

EDITORS NOTE: This column originally appeared on the Selous Foundation for Public Policy Research website.

As West Virginia Threatens to Dump Common Core, Teachers Union Fights to Keep It

On February 28, 2015, the West Virginia House of Representatives voted 74-19 to repeal the Common Core State Standards (CCSS). In West Virginia, CCSS is called Next Generation.

As the March 1, 2015, WV State Journal reports:

Under the proposed measure, the West Virginia Board of Education would undertake a comprehensive review of the standards on or before July 16, 2015 to ensure that the Common Core Standards, as approved by the board in May 2010, are repealed. Also stated in the proposed bill is that “no assessments designed to assess student learning based on the common core standards, including but not limited to the Smarter Balanced Assessment, will be used in West Virginia public schools.” The proposed measure would require the state board to conduct at least four regional, town hall-style meetings to engage in public discussion and would require not more than one statewide assessment per school year.

The State Journal also notes that the bill includes language about stakeholder teams’ developing new WV English and math standards.

The VW House CCSS repeal gained bipartisan support. However, the WV state board of education did not want CCSS repealed.

Apparently, WV governor Earl Ray Tomblin is not publicly offering a position on CCSS.

As of March 3, 2015, the bill has moved forward to a WV Senate subcommittee.

WV Federation of Teachers president Christine Campbell does not support WV’s CCSS repeal, citing, among other issues,  that “it took two years to develop the Next Generation standards.”

Actually, CCSS writing did not take two years. It was two years from the time that Council of Chief State School Officers (CCSSO) president Gene Wilhoit and CCSS “lead architect” David Coleman asked billionaire Bill Gates to bankroll CCSS (summer of 2008) to the official debut of CCSS (June 2010).

As to initially projected writing time, the CCSS memorandum of understanding (MOU) outlined only five months for CCSS writing– from the projected completion of the “anchor” standards in July 2009 to the scheduled completion of the entire CCSS in December 2009. The National Governors Association (NGA) and CCSSO (the CCSS owners) did not keep this schedule; however, the point is that they thought they could and rushed the process. (I examine this in greater detail in my upcoming book on CCSS.)

Add to this rush job the fact that there was no CCSS field testing, including no examination of long-term financial costs to states for CCSS and its consortium assessments.

And yet, the WV Federation of Teachers unswervingly supports CCSS. It seems that when it comes to CCSS, the American Federation of Teachers (AFT) and its state affiliates are so faithful because they are wed to the National Democratic Party. No other explanation remotely accounts for why AFT would try to reach a compromise with Obama-administration-friendly Center for American Progress on the issue of federally mandated testing.

To date, the Democratic parties in all states except Washington continue to cling to CCSS. Ironic that Washington State Dems were the first to flatly reject CCSS since Washington is the home state of CCSS purchaser Bill Gates.

Also interesting:  The term “Common Core” is notably absent from the education page of the National Democratic Party website. Yet it is no secret Democrats support CCSS, with US Representative Hakeem Jeffries (D-NY) authoring an amendment to incorporate CCSS and its assessments into the reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA). (Note that CCSS was never designed to be separated from the annual testing birthed in No Child Left Behind.)

Furthermore, Senate Ed Committee ranking member, Democratic Senator Patty Murray, has no plans to scale back the number of standardized tests in the Senate’s proposed ESEA reauthorization bill.

In short, influential Democrats want both CCSS and loads of standardized testing.

Let us consider how this is playing out in West Virginia, where “never tested itself” CCSS is threatened.

JebBushArticleOn March 7, 2015, the WV Federation of Teachers is planning a rally to save CCSS. Here is how they are advertising the event:

Our Kids Deserve Better.

State legislators are pushing proposals that are bad for kids and schools.

Some West Virginia lawmakers are devaluing children and public education by pushing legislation that would deprive our schools of resources and break the promise of a great education for West Virginia’s children.

AFT president Randi Weingarten is the keynote speaker.

The notice also includes a detailed busing schedule.

That CCSS is pretty valuable in certain circles, so much so that it is being marketed as a “civil rights issue.”

That tag line sure makes rush-job CCSS sound a lot less Republican. But be careful, faithful, Core-toting Democrat. You’re sure to bump right into the presidential ambitions of CCSS buddy, Jeb Bush.

School Retaliates Against Teacher for anti-Common Core Facebook Post — Federal Lawsuit Filed

Deborah Vailes has been teaching junior high in Louisiana’s Rapides Parish School District for the past twelve years.  She is passionate about helping special needs children become better readers.  Little did she know that an early morning post critical of the Common Core Curriculum on her personal Facebook page would lead to disciplinary action, suppression of her right to free speech, retaliation from school officials, and possible loss of her job.

As a result, the Thomas More Law Center (TMLC), a national public interest law firm based in Ann Arbor, Michigan has filed a lawsuit in the Federal District Court for the Western District of Louisiana on behalf of Deborah Vailes against the Rapides Parish School District and the principal of Pineville Junior High School, Dr. Dana Nolan.

Richard Thompson, President and Chief Counsel of the Thomas More Law Center, commenting on the reason for the lawsuit, stated: “Public school students have become ‘guinea pigs’ in a vast untested educational experiment dictated by the Federal Government. Our Constitution never envisioned federal control over education.  But sadly, most states have voluntarily abdicated their responsibilities over education for federal dollars. Their decision will prove disastrous, not only for public education, but also for the freedom guaranteed by our Constitution.  Debbie Vailes’ uncompromising love for her students prompted her to speak out.  And her voice should not be silenced by a tyrannical principal.”


On September 23, 2014, at approximately by 5:58 AM, Debora Vailes re-posted on her personal Facebook page a photograph of a little girl crying because of the shortcomings of Common Core.  Later that day, her school principal, Dr. Dana Nolan, after discovering the post, gave Deborah Vailes her first written reprimand and ordered her to refrain from expressing any opinion about public education on social media and to remove her anti-Common Core post from the social media site – ASAP. (The school district refers to written reprimands as a “documented conferences.”)  Dr. Nolan further informed Deborah that she could not to discuss her opinion in public – on any social media or any public forum.

Two days later, Dr. Nolan held a mandatory faculty meeting of the Pineville Junior high school. She informed the faculty at the meeting that Deborah Vailes was reprimanded due to posting a negative opinion about Common Core on Facebook.  Dr. Nolan warned the faculty not to share their personal opinions or speak-out in any way.  After hearing about the Principal’s gag order, Bobby Jindal, the governor of Louisiana, issued an executive order that teachers were to be afforded the same constitutional guarantees afforded to all citizens. However, his executive order did not deter the Defendant, Dr. Nolan, from continuing her vendetta against Deborah Vailes.

Before Vailes posted her Facebook criticism of Common Core, she had a stellar personnel record; she had never received a reprimand.  Since her public criticism, she has received three additional written reprimands. School administrators are now constantly visiting her class, when before her criticism of Common Core, such visits were rare.  Dr. Nolan has stripped Debbie Vailes of her responsibilities, and placed her in a job category which, according to Vailes’ colleagues, will be eliminated at the end of the school year resulting in her termination.

TMLC Senior Trial Counsel Erin Mersino and Alexandria, Louisiana attorney, Theodore D. Vicknair are representing Deborah Vailes.   Mersino stated “Accepting employment in the public sector does not mean a total loss of First Amendment freedom.  Public employees may readily comment on matters of public concern, such as the Common Core Curriculum, and do so free from any retaliation from their employer.  What the School District and Principal are doing to Debbie Vailes is blatantly wrong.”

 Click here to read TMLC’s entire Complaint

 Difficulties with Common Core State Standards

Common Core State Standards (“Common Core”) are national standards in education promoted and funded by the U.S. Department of Education.  The National Governors Association and the Council of Chief State School Officers together established Common Core as a set of academic standards to be used in common across all states. These standards replace the existing state standards in the applicable academic areas.

Although Common Core has been adopted by 43 states (including Louisiana), its implementation has caused an uproar from caring parents, grandparents and educators alike. According to an October 2014 Gallup poll, 62% of teachers are frustrated with the Common Core State Standards.

Adding to the frustration is the fact that the Common Core Standards were untested prior to their implementation.  They were implemented without any prior research being conducted on their efficacy, resulting in standards that at best reflect guesswork. Many child development experts have decried even the creation of the standards without input from classroom teachers or early childhood professionals.

Compounding the anger over the standards themselves was the overwhelming emphasis on standardized testing. The Common Core State Standards require so much testing, that teachers can only teach to the test.

Moreover, Common Core’s method for teaching math over-complicates and adds numerous seemingly illogical steps to solving math problems.

Many parents and teachers have also expressed concern over the English Standards set by the Common Core. The reading selections considered to be representative examples of what students should be reading, feature incest, rape and drug use, as well as far left political viewpoints.

Presidential Candidate Jeb Bush and the Albatross of Common Core

In her column, “Your Common Core Marketing Overlords,” Michelle Malkin revealed that Jeb Bush’s non-profit, Foundation for Excellence in Education, was among those saturating the airwaves with pro-Common Core commercials last spring.  The foundation, she charged, was “tied at the hip” to the federally funded testing consortium (one of two) called PARCC (Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers).

It’s hard to believe that education may be a determining factor in a presidential election, as it seems to be in 2016, and that it’s due to Common Core.  Back in 2012, polling revealed that nearly 80 percent of Americans knew “nothing” or “not much” about Common Core.  That was three years after the Common Core national standards were quietly agreed to by governors in the Race to the Top competition for a share of $4.35 billion in stimulus funds.

Since that time a grassroots movement of parents, teachers, and citizens has put Common Core on the national political map.  Radio talk show host Hugh Hewitt called Common Core the “defining issue” of the presidential race.  He cited Berkeley professor of public policy David Kirp’s New York Times column, “Rage Against the Common Core.”

Top establishment contender, former Florida Governor Jeb Bush, however, faces his “biggest challenge” from Common Core.  That is Karl Rove’s estimation.

Jeb Bush: Education Governor?

Rove’s assessment is ironic given that at the end of his term in 2007 Bush was heralded as the education governor and praised for raising educational outcomes.

Jamie Gass, Director of the Center for School Reform at the Pioneer Institute, says, “I don’t think they anticipated it going this way.”

How did this happen?

Florida State University Political Science Professor Robert Crew claims that Jeb Bush’s A Plus Plan, of grading public schools on a scale of A through F, is seen as a forerunner to Common Core.  It was not popular in Florida, although it did not receive the “vociferous disagreement” he says that Bush has gotten from the tea party for Common Core.

Bush’s claims for education achievement, however, have been revealed as exaggerated.  A 2011 New York Times article noted that under his tenure scores in math and reading improved in the early grades, but dropped off after fourth grade, falling below the national average by twelfth grade.  Off the record, conservative policy analysts say that Bush’s figures were massaged to make them appear better than they were.

Just the Base?

The Hill, in an article titled, “Will Common Core Sink Bush?” concluded, “As a general election issue, education reform barely registers on the list of voter concerns nationally.” Voters “energized by Common Core” wouldn’t be considering Bush as a candidate to begin with.  In other words, it’s a problem with the base, such as those who attended the recent Iowa Freedom Summit.  All six of the potential candidates attending stated their opposition to Common Core.  Bush did not attend.

But Bloomberg News reported on February 1 that its own poll conducted with the Des Moines Register found that nearly two-thirds of likely participants in Iowa’s caucuses consider Bush’s positions on immigration and Common Core to be deal-killers.

Bush’s Common Core problem may extend beyond the base.  A recent PDK/Gallup poll showed that 76 percent of all Republicans object to Common Core.  A firm majority of Americans – 60 percent – oppose Common Core.  Even the Democratic Party of Washington State passed a resolution opposing the Common Core standards on January 24.  This action follows similar Republican resolutions in 2012 at the state party level and in the Republican National Committee.

Who still likes Common Core?

With parents and teachers of both political parties abandoning Common Core, who is left that likes it? Apparently, the profiteers: companies and their non-profit arms. For example, in technology, it’s Microsoft/Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation; in curriculum development, it’s Pearson Publishing/Pearson Charitable Foundation.  The Chamber of Commerce at the national level, today known more for its support of crony capitalism than small, independent businesses, supports it.  And, of course, there are the politicians who get their campaign contributions.

This is Jeb Bush’s problem. 

In her column, “Your Common Core Marketing Overlords,” Michelle Malkin revealed that Jeb Bush’s non-profit Foundation for Excellence in Education was among those saturating the airwaves with pro-Common Core commercials last spring.  The foundation, she charged, was “tied at the hip” to the federally funded testing consortium (one of two) called PARCC (Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers).  One of the top corporate sponsors of FEE, the giant publisher Pearson, profited by $23 million to design PARCC test items and $1 billion for overpriced, insecure iPads for the Los Angeles Unified School District.  In December, Pearson, Inc. agreed to pay $7.7 million to the New York State attorney general for illegally using its non-profit arm to create products to be sold to its for-profit arm.

The Washington Post reported that FEE has been pushing states to embrace digital learning in public schools, with many of those digital products made by donors to Bush’s foundation, “including Microsoft, Intel, News Corp., Pearson PLC, and K12 Inc.”  A New Yorker article too catalogued in detail the billions entangled in “education reform.”

Bush’s position on Common Core has drawn criticism even from those who praise his tenure as governor, as Rep. Debbie Mayfield, Vero Beach, Florida, does.  She claims Common Core is an attempt to impose a national (and unconstitutional) education plan.  “Parents are being pushed out,” as local school boards are stripped of power, she says.

How to Convince Voters

Mike McShane, a research fellow in education policy at the American Enterprise Institute told The Hill that Bush could make it clear that, although he supports the Common Core standards, he would ensure that the federal government would not be pushing it on the states.

But activists have spent years trying to extricate their states from Common Core.  Attempts in Georgia, as I observed, failed because of money interests that have become entrenched in the state with the help of the federal government.

Jane Robbins, Senior Fellow at American Principles in Action, blames “the powerful education establishment (not to be confused with teachers).”  Jeb Bush who has come to be the “very face of Common Core” will not reassure voters with promises not to push the standards through the federal government.

Voters will remember his dismissive attitude towards those who disagree with him, says Robbins: “He’ll have a tough time winning over parents whom he has accused of wanting ‘mediocrity’ for their children.”

Bush is passionately defending his education record, though. The Hill reported that Bush went off script during a speech before the Detroit Economic Club on February 4, and “thundered about how his education initiatives turned the Florida education system around.”  A Bush spokesperson told the paper that the speech was not a defense of Common Core “in particular, but that he still supports the higher standards associated with the practice.”

On February 10, protestors were ready for Bush’s address at an education summit hosted by the Foundation for Florida’s Future, an education nonprofit he founded.  That day, he went even further, omitting the words, “Common Core,” according to Politico and other sources. Although the Politico article mentions only the Democratic Progressive Caucus, it was confirmed to me that there were also conservatives protesting.

It seems that Bush has a bipartisan problem on his hands with Common Core.

EDITORS NOTE: The column originally appeared on the Selous Foundation For Public Policy Research website. The featured image is of former Florida Governor Jeb Bush accompanying President Obama and Education Secretary Arne Duncan at Miami Central Senior High School in March 2011. Photo: AP-Pablo Martinez Monsivais.

Florida: Bill introduced to reduce Common Core mandated testing — But does it?

Florida State Senator John Legg has presented a new bill February 2, 2015 with much fanfare, Education Accountability – SB 616.

Like most other efforts by those who created the problem, this one creates more questions than answers.  His bill attempts to solve the problem of too much testing by simply demanding that schools should limit testing to 5% of the school year while it doesn’t reduce testing requirements by the State.

If schools can only use standardized tests 5% of class time, (9 of 180 days) does that mean just the time they are sitting and filling in the blanks?  Who measures this and tracks it? What about the time they are sitting in their classroom with no teacher while she proctors the makeup tests or retests?  This is what creates most of the 40% estimated lost class time.  We don’t have a computer for every student and the “musical chairs” problem is a huge and expensive complexity!

Who will notify parents when the 5% threshold is reached?  Is that 5% collectively by school, by class, or individually?  If only “permission” is required over 5%, why would parents deny this and under what penalty?  I just saw a “permission” slip in Lee County which penalized parents $15 for a standardized test or $55 for refusing an alternate exam and asked for the student’s phone number as well as parent info and IDs.

This “edict” is no better than just raising the bar and demanding better performance, a strategy they are using for testing overall.  And by the way, most have agreed the tests used to measure success are unreliable at best.

Schools must test because they are mandated to do so in statutes Senator John Legg helped create.  The existing mandated tests fit nicely into the 9 day window if you don’t account for the lack of testing computers, space and proctors, retests and makeup tests, and this would not provide any relief for students, teachers and schools.

Here’s a link to the bill and article about it on Sunshine State News.

This bill prescribes how teachers and schools must be evaluated in detail, removing all local control from local districts and providing unworkable and formulaic measures with no evidence of successful use.  What makes 40% test score weight in teacher evaluation the right number?  Why not 70% or 10% or 50% as it was?  No one has explained or scientifically justified these arbitrary numbers which have high stakes consequences for students and teachers.  The same goes for the 5% number on the amount of time for testing.   Why not 1%, or 10%?

This bill does not mention the main issue for many, and that is the content that is being “taught” to our children does not measure up, and is NOT rigorous, but crippling our children’s future.  Common sense and empirical data shows the children of Florida are being short changed.  We have recently dropped to number 28th in the Nation as shown by the ACT scores.  Our scores were better in 1995 than they are today, yet we are constantly being fed misleading statistics on “student growth” showing otherwise.  The tortured use of made up measures is just unseemly to disguise the fact that Florida’s vaunted education system is a massive failure.

The underlying question is why the Legislature micromanages the education process at all when nearly all of them have no teaching expertise?  We can use “off the shelf” Nationally Normed tests to measure how our students compare and save billions in the process.   Using pencil and paper tests equalizes the districts and eliminates the musical chair complexity, costs and fears of computer failures.   No explanation has ever been provided as to why pencil and paper tests should be replaced by computer only testing.  Why not let certified teachers teach and accredited schools monitor the teachers?

The answer is simple, POWER AND MONEY.

Billions must be spent to purchase, maintain and upgrade computers, software and networks to prepare for computer testing.  No estimate has been provided to the taxpayers and voters of Florida, but judging by the pilot project in Orange County reported Feb 18, 2104 at the State Board of Education meeting, this cost was estimated at over $2 Billion by Chair, Gary Chartran.

We do know, however, that the companies promoting this, Pearson, Microsoft, Hewlett Packard, GE and others are the selfsame companies which receive this money.  They are also making large donations to the politicians who push for computerized testing and Common Core.  The Superintendents Association and State School Boards Association both list the same group of supporting corporate cronies who are benefactors in this incestuous scheme.  Here are links:  Gary Chartran and the KIPP Schools, Florida School Boards Association,  and the Florida Superintendents Association.

Florida Association of District School Superintendents and FL School Boards Association partner with Pearson and other Corporate Cronies

Today I received the newest policy release from the Florida Association of District School Superintendents.  To say that I was disappointed is an understatement.  It pledges full support for Common Core by name.  The new report advocates convoluted minor reforms to adjust to changes and declining student performance which they do not understand, or will not address.

Joy Frank is the General Counsel and writes their bills and opinions.  We were directed to her by Senator Montford after Deirdre Clemons and I testified at the January 7th hearings in the Capitol.  After two very short meetings, it became apparent that we were not on the same page on Common Core.  After we presented our views and expert reports, Joy said her experts are telling her something else and dismissed it.  We need another meeting, but I doubt that will help.

I went to their web site and discovered the likely reason for her intransigence.

When you partner with Pearson and the other corporate cronies who pay your way, it’s tough to embrace the truth, that Common Core FAILS.

We must expose this connection to our legislators to show their views and testimony are tainted and they must listen to real stakeholders, the parents, students and tax paying citizens of Florida.   We should also address it in our districts with our elected school boards who must be largely unaware of this conflict of interest.

Then I went to the Florida School Boards Association web site to look at their “sponsors”  and found pretty much the same benefactors, with Pearsonhigh on the list.  Both these organization have expensive lobbyists, staff in the Capitol and access to our legislators through massive donations.  They are the ones creating reports and testifying before legislative committees with an air of legitimacy, while empirical results from education experts, parents and lower student exam results have no merit in their narrative.  By the way, we, as taxpayers, are paying for lobbyists for this association as well.  It’s part of your school district’s budget.

Both these organizations are presenting a united front urging legislators not to “rock the boat” on Common Core.   This is, indeed, a real story of David and Goliath.  Our grassroots organizations must inform and energize the public or accept enslavement of our children by corporate elites who reap the benefit at the bank from High Stakes Testing and Common Core.

March 5th, we have an opportunity to March for the Children in Tallahassee and lock arms across the state and across political lines.  Here are 4 interesting, short videos for your use:

March 5 event info:

High Stakes Testing:


And English:

Florida Common Core: 2015 Legislative Session Update

education tallahassee

Photo from the top of the Florida Capitol: L-R Kathy Doan, Yvonne Isecki, Chris Quackenbush, Mitzi Hahn

BREAKING NEWS! There is a bill in bill drafting to solve Florida’s education issues. Here are the details.

Issue 1: Standards – What they are learning. The Commissioner will select several of the best standards from pre 2009 for the local districts to select. The Commissioner will select these standards for English and math are free and not copyrighted, well vetted and highly rated (higher than our existing standards). Districts will have local control to choose from this list based on their varied needs. Florida’s school districts are diverse and one size does not fit all. Rural, urban, and minority needs should allow for local flexibility to address their needs.

Issue 2: Accountability – Yes, we need to measure, but there are already nationally normed tests that will do a better job comparing us to the rest of the nation and the world. We don’t need to reinvent the wheel or force our kids to be guinea pigs. We propose the districts should have local control to choose from a list of the best of these, such as the Iowa Basics and Stanford Achievement Tests. They would administer ONE test at the end of the year between 3rd and 10th grade. These tests are less expensive and pre-common core versions are available. Teachers will not be teaching to the test if it is a nationally normed test and it is NOT used to determine graduation or promotion, but simply to inform us on our students’ progress.

Issue 3: Testing – These tests can be administered on paper and taken at the student’s own desk, eliminating the “musical chairs” now needed to address the lack of computers for testing. This has, by some reports, absorbed as much as 40% of class time for learning. By going to paper tests, we can reduce costs by BILLIONS of scarce education dollars, AND increase time for learning. It will also allow schools more control of the data to prevent data mining. Student data can be aggregated with individual identifiers removed to prevent data companies from collecting and using individual data.

There is much to do and supporters are invited to help to get this bill passed. There is something for everyone to love in this bill. It saves money, provides more time for learning, provides high standards and accountability. Supporters are having a “March for the Children” event in the Capitol March 5, 2015. Busses are being organized from several cities. If readers want to help organize this event they may contact Debbie Gunnoe or Karen Schoen. Interested parties may register at www.eventbtite/c/march-for-the-children-tickets-15317379695.

Supporters of the bill are asking Floridians to contact their legislators and let them know parents want local control and needed solutions, not posturing in Tallahassee. Credit goes to Senator Alan Hayes and Representative John Tobia for putting this bill into bill drafting. Once it emerges from Bill Drafting in about two weeks, it will have a number. Supporters still must identify who will be best to carry this bill and who is willing to do that job. Neither Rep. Tobia nor Sen. Hayes have firmly committed to carrying this bill.

Readers may Go Here to find their legislators and send a letter to support ACTION on this bill.

Many important steps remain, and supporters are counting on concerned Floridians and Common Core groups to help make a change NOW. There is no DO OVER for our kids.


U.S. History curriculum Collier County, Florida:

English Language Arts Collier County. Florida:

Florida Common Core: If you’re not catching flak you’re not over the target!

It is often said, If you’re not catching flak you’re not over the target, so we must be mighty close in our battle against Common Core.

Jeb Bush decided he’s had quite enough, and has “lost patience” with Common Core opponents, he said in a December 2nd article.  What he means is we should stop upsetting his run for the Presidency in 2016 with the truth about his selling our kids down the river for campaign money from Pearson PLC, Bill Gates and the “one world government” cronies.  He would rather not hear about the kids who are suffering and permanently harmed by the propaganda and poor education pumped down their throats such as:

  • Thanksgiving is a hurtful holiday.
  • The Pilgrims were the first terrorists.
  • Gorbachev was responsible for the fall of the Berlin Wall.
  • The Constitution is a guideline and must change with new times.
  • America is an Imperialist nation.
  • Our Founding Fathers were prejudiced male chauvinist pigs.
  • “George Washington was anything BUT a man of the people.”
  • “Ronald Reagan was a charismatic leader who invented his own past and sometimes believed it.”

Just last week Nancy Graham, the Superintendent of Lee County Schools, the 34th largest district in the nation, decided at a statewide meeting of school board members, she would “tell all” about the famous school board vote to OPT OUT of high stakes testing which occurred August 27, 2014.

Using Saul Alinsky techniques to vilify and discredit those who disagree with her support of Common Core, she resorts to calling out a grandmother who supposedly started all this mess, claiming she misrepresented herself as having children in Lee Schools, and labelling this grandmother a “pretend” grandma to the laughter of the audience.  And frustrated, she embellishes, this “pretend” grandma keeps attending school board meetings.

I confess.  I AM the “pretend” Grandma. Anyone who knows me knows about my two, very real, and wonderful granddaughters I would give my life to protect.  When I confronted her, she claimed her staff told her I lied to them and told them that my granddaughter was in Lee Schools. I NEVER LIED or MISLED anyone.  I told them I paid to send my granddaughter in Lee County to a private school.  She seems to think schools don’t impact the entire community and if we don’t have children in them, we shouldn’t be involved.  If the schools were any good, I wouldn’t have to pay $8,000 a year to send the grandkids elsewhere.  At least 4 of the 5 board members don’t have children in Lee County Schools.  I guess they shouldn’t be involved either.

Superintendent Graham stated in her talk that the “silent majority” were more well informed than citizens who urged action against Common Core and High Stakes Testing.  After nearly two years of research, conferences all over the country and dozens of meetings with experts on standards, testing and child psychology, I take personal exception to that assertion.  The 400 people or so who attended the opt out meeting spoke clearly, eloquently and many had intimate knowledge to share on the crushing impact of high stakes testing and Common Core.

She talked about how she prevented us from talking to the head of curriculum about the books which violate state statute and our sensibilities to get another audience laugh.

She accuses all of us who complain, saying we are making a “calculated strategic attempt to move forward a personal agenda.”  She said we are making impassioned speeches and they are so earnest but nothing we say is true, mocking us once again.  She mocks “talk show hosts” specifically.

Even her own school board, her bosses, don’t escape her rebuke.  She said one board member claimed he was going to opt his children out. Then to her shock and horror, they voted to opt the district out.  The board asked her opinion and she made the audience laugh once again by saying she couldn’t possibly say what was really on her mind.  Then she stated that they promised never to make any vote that would surprise her.  REALLY?  She reveals there was a flurry of calls to the Department of Education and they to her, obviously plotting how to reverse the vote.

Superintendent Nancy Graham did NOT talk about the threatening call several board members received from the district’s bonding company representative, Jerry Ford, or others by state officials.  Two of the three members who voted to opt out, refused to be intimidated.  One succumbed.  Not so mysteriously, one board member, Mary Fisher, asked to call a special meeting at which she would rescind her vote.

Graham said she didn’t want to talk with reporters because they got the story wrong (mocking them).  She insisted instead on talking with the editors only in a private 1.5 hour meeting so SHE could set them straight.  Now their stories are accurate (according to her warped point of view.)  She says we are now “back on track” while absolutely NO changes requested by her Board or by the public have been made, whatsoever.

Opposition to her dictatorial and arrogant leadership is at a boiling point, and now she faces an investigation by outside counsel for financial mismanagement.

Jeb Bush is fighting to keep the lid on opposition as well, doing expensive national ads trying to portray Common Core as the friend to minorities, which is anything but the case.   Data now shows that they are the first to feel the lash of the testing and inappropriate standards.

In an article written by Tess Brennan, she estimated as many as 80% of minority students in Lee County might be expected to fail the new Florida State Assessment.

This is hardly “friendly” or helpful to minorities.  Many call it child abuse.  Bill Gates, himself, said this is an experiment and we won’t know the outcome for at least 10 years.  That is nearly an entire school experience for a child.  Are we really willing to experiment with an entire generation?  The empirical results after only a few years are eye popping, brain exploding, mind boggling failures.  What else do we need to make a sound decision?

Please call your legislators and tell them we have endured enough of the punitive high stakes testing and Common Core propaganda.  Let’s use a little logic of our own and make a decision to unleash the individual, God given potential of our children, not force them to be common with Common Core.

EDITORS NOTE: The featured image is of a B-24 Liberator of the 464th Bomb Group bracketed by flak bursts from German anti-aircraft guns, Nov 1944. Source: United States National Archives via D. Sheley.

Eighteen Essay book ‘Common Ground on Common Core’ released

EssayCover_v9Resounding Books today officially announced publication of Common Ground on Common Core: Voices from across the Political Spectrum Expose the Realities of the Common Core State Standards. The 18-essay volume uniquely gathers 20 top education experts and activists. The authors hold widely varied political and ideological viewpoints, yet they stand firmly united against the Common Core.

Standards expert Sandra Stotsky and prominent mathematician R. James Milgram are among the book’s authors. Both served on the national Common Core validation committee but refused to sign o’ on the standards. Former U.S. Congressman and presidential candidate Ron Paul, a passionate advocate for true education in his own rite, graciously contributed.

Edited to ensure that readers of any political stripe could inform and empower themselves and others in the growing fight to push back against the controversial education initiative, Common Ground on Common Core enables understanding and appreciation not just of the basics but also crucial anti-Common Core arguments and insights they might not otherwise encounter, because those concerns have been raised principally on only one side of the political continuum.

“Common Ground on Common Core takes the fight against Common Core to new levels by encouraging open dialogue and alliances across political lines,” asserts Resounding Books’ Founder and Editor, Kirsten Lombard. “Interacting with Common Ground’s many authors—who self-identify as everything from radical Leftists to social conservatives to libertarians—has made it clear to me that we all have a lot more in common than we’d previously been led to believe.”

The book stands out in yet another way. All of the authors agreed to forego royalties so that Resounding Books, established in early 2013 as a super political action committee, could dedicate a significant percentage of the book’s proceeds to funding anti-Common Core activism at the state and local levels. “Resounding Books is strongly committed to encouraging and funding citizen activism around the subjects on which we publish,” Lombard asserts. “We look forward to realizing that goal.”

In addition to Stotsky and Milgram, other contributors to Common Ground on Common Core who will be more familiar to readers include Ze’ev Wurman, who helped to review the standards for the State of California, education researcher Christopher H. Tienken (author, The School Reform Landscape: Fraud, Myth, and Lies) as well as activists Kris L. Nielsen (author, Children of the Core), Jane Robbins (American Principles Project), Ceresta Smith (United Opt Out National), William A. Estrada (HSLDA), and Shane Vander Hart (Truth in American Education).

There will also be plenty of new and valuable discoveries for readers among the the essay collection has already begun to receive nods from key individuals in various political corners. In addition to Ron Paul, for example, Democratic New York State Senator George Latimer (Dist. 37) describes the book as “a thoughtful presentation of why we must have a slow, deliberate government that always asks who will benefit when we implement any new programs, but especially in education.” Dr. Gary Thompson, a Utah psychologist who has become known for his opposition to the experimental nature of Common Core assessments, calls the book a “brilliant, diverse compilation…which forever will put to rest the notion that Common Core critics emanate exclusively from the Right Wing.”


Kirsten Lombard

EDITORS NOTE:Common Ground on Common Core is currently available in print, with two digital formats planned. It is available for purchase on the Resounding Books website. Bulk orders are also possible. To interview editor Kirsten Lombard or any of the book’s authors, telephone Resounding Books at 608.467.0877 or email

“Tanscending” the idea of “American History” and Forgetting D-Day

Recently, Cal Thomas, in what has become a journalistic ritual, bemoaned the loss of knowledge about American history in a column titled “D-Day=Dumb Day for Many.” This historical occasion was the 70th anniversary of D-Day on June 6. Thomas cited a study by the American Council of Trustees and Alumni that showed only 70 percent of recent college graduates knew that D-Day occurred during World War II. This and other dismal statistics revealing historical ignorance were attributed to the fact that very few colleges require survey courses on American history.

But Thomas, and others similarly concerned, might be surprised to learn that not only is American history being overlooked, but that a movement among many history professors has been underway to eliminate the very category of “American history,” and even the idea of the United States as a legitimate nation. While attending the annual conference of the Organization of American Historians, I learned about such “reframing of history.”

The OAH claims to be “the largest professional society dedicated to the teaching and study of American history,” but its members seem to have a limited view and that is of the United States as an overwhelmingly oppressive, unjust – and illegitimate – nation.

This year’s conference theme, “Crossing Borders,” focused on slavery and segregation in the past, and on supposed persecution of “immigrants” (illegal aliens) in the present. Assumptions reigned among the panels I sat in on: ACORN was good, objections to forced busing for school integration were bad, the 1964 presidential election that allowed Lyndon Johnson to institute metastasizing federal programs was a positive counterforce to the election of Richard Nixon and the rise of the “right-wing.” The Plenary Session, “Remembering and Reassessing the Mississippi Summer Project” included activists from that summer of 1964, Dorie Ladner, Rita Bender, and Charles E. Cobb, singing praises to Julian Bond, Stokely Carmichael, Tom Hayden, John Lewis, Harry Belafonte, Noam Chomsky, and Frantz Fannon. In the sprawling vendors area, publishers plied books for high school and college, including the graphic adaptation of Howard Zinn’s A People’s History of American Empire, Eric Foner’s Who Owns History?, and paeans to Margaret Sanger, Mother Jones, Hugo Chavez, and Earth Day.

The strategies for teaching to the new A.P. U.S. History exam, discussed in one panel, were in keeping with the conference’s theme. But the genesis for such anti-Americanism became apparent in another session called “Internationalizing American History: Assessment and Future Directions”; it focused on the deliberate effort to teach American history from a “cosmopolitan” perspective, with that meaning incorporating the views of foreigners who do not believe in the legitimacy of this nation. At that session, I heard the phrase “what used to be called” prefacing “Early American History,” “the American Revolution,” and the “creation of the American republic.” The promotion of Common Core as presumably “internationally benchmarked” is no coincidence: historians have been working on imposing the “cosmopolitan” perspectives of history, a specific aspect of Common Core criticized by George Will.

The Prevailing View

Panelist Jane Kamensky of Brandeis University started off by declaring that American history needs to be “rescued from not only the national but from the nationalist framework” and that we must study a “diasporic” revolution involving “freedom struggles against imperial masters” of indigenous peoples.

Johann Neem of Western Washington University dissented by offering Hegelian theories about particularity and relationships as an argument for retaining the category of “nation.” He noted that works of the eighteenth-and-nineteenth-centuries are filled with “tolerance” for diversity, even though our national identity is mostly white Protestant. Neem is author of Creating a Nation of Joiners: Democracy and Civil Society in Early National Massachusetts.

The next panelist, Kristin Hoganson of the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, challenged the idea that American history should be a national history. She cited three books that reveal how “partial” our histories have been: Taking Haiti: Military Occupation and the Culture of U.S. Imperialism, 1915-1940, The Blood of Government: Race, Empire, the United States & the Philippines, and Colonial Crucible: Empire in the Making of the Modern American State. Apparently, no history of “what used to be called the United States” is complete without a reference to occupation, imperialism, blood, and empire. Hoganson gave credit to Thomas Bender (New York University), the commentator on the panel, for making a “powerful case” for the “need for more transimperial history,” with his book, Rethinking American History in a Global Age.

Kiran Klaus Patel of Maastricht University in the Netherlands suggested a more European, “transnational” approach to the study of American history, and destabilizing boundaries. Fortunately, to him, in the 1980s and 1990s cultural history transformed all of history, including diplomatic history.

Judy Tzu-Chun Wu of The Ohio State University, where she has a joint appointment in the Department of Women’s, Gender, and Sexuality Studies, asserted that there is need for more “global, gendered analysis,” for example, of how women opposed the Vietnam War, the subject of her second book, Radicals on the Road: Internationalism, Orientalism, and Feminism during the Vietnam Era. Her first book was Dr. Mom Chung of the Fair-Haired Bastards: The Life of a Wartime Celebrity.

Thomas Bender, considered the founder of the “transnational turn,” approvingly asserted, “The panel has embraced the international historiographical approach”– “except for one skeptic on the panel” (Neem). Bender suggested pushing students in the new direction of “entanglement with the planet, people, and nations,” requiring them to learn foreign languages like Arabic and Chinese. Jobs in the future, he said, will be in history that transcends the idea of “American history.”

The History of the Transnational Turn of History

I was shocked that history professors would want to eliminate American history as such. But then I learned that this “transnational” effort began in 1996. Under the direction of Bender, the Organization of American Historians and New York University’s International Center for Advanced Studies jointly established the Project on Internationalizing the Study of American History. They then met in Villa La Pietra, New York University’s Center in Florence, Italy, in 1997, 1998, 1999, and 2000.

According to “The LaPietra Report,” the historians spent the first year at the Villa planning, then the next discussing “the theoretical issues that attended the project’s reconsideration of the assumptions that determined the temporal and spatial scales of conventional national historical narratives.” The third conference resulted in “exemplary” essays “probing either particular themes or reframing conventional historical movements or periods from a more international perspective.” The final meeting, in 2000, put attention on the “practical implications of the intellectual agenda.”

The Practical Implications

The practical implications include a “reframing of American history” in college and in K-12 education.

Such reframing includes preparing “globally competent citizens,” the aim of Common Core. The as-yet voluntary “College, Career, and Civic Life (c3) Framework for Social Studies State Standards” replace knowledge about American history with activism and follow those set for college in the Department of Education’s 2012 report, “A Crucible Moment” (roundly criticized by the National Association of Scholars in a special issue of Academic Questions). Replacing factual questions of traditional “national historical narratives” are loaded questions, as high school, and even younger, students are asked to evaluate primary and secondary sources, think “critically” and “deeply,” and “grasp the relevance of widening the lens of social analysis.”

It is no wonder that History Literacy rates continue to plummet.

Unlike the vast majority of professors at OAH, Robert Paquette, Hamilton College History Professor who co-founded the independent Alexander Hamilton Institute for the Study of Western Civilization, teaches his students “that the United States was founded on the principles of limited government, voluntary exchange, respect for private property, and civil freedom.” In a recent SeeThruED article, he criticized the neglect of American history, noting that not one of the eleven New England Small College Athletic Conference (NESCAC) schools requires that undergraduates attend a single course in American history and “a substantial majority of these eleven elite colleges do not even require of their majors in history as many as one American history course.”

Paquette warns, “The United States cannot survive as a nation if the traditions and principles that made it cohere as a prosperous and distinctive country are distorted and marginalized.”

Cal Thomas makes a similar point in his column, remarking poignantly about the World War II veterans visiting the beaches of Normandy, probably for the last time in their lives: “if they could have foreseen what America would become and how little their descendents know, or care, about their sacrifice, would they have done what they did?”

But student ignorance is the aim of professors and teachers meeting at conferences that we pay for in taxes and tuition. While the Greatest Generation remembered D-Day, influential professors spent summers in an Italian villa discussing how to destroy the very idea of the United States in history classes. And then they congratulated themselves at a conference in Atlanta in 2014.

Common Core Architect David Coleman’s Imperial College Board

What happens when a school board decides not to implement the new AP U.S. History standards wholesale and insist that such courses not present a distorted anti-American version of history?  Common Core is creeping into college, taking over the rightful role of professors, as I report at the Selous Foundation, in my article, “Common Core: K-16 Education.”  It’s also creeping in via the AP exams that give students college credit.  The College Board, which directs the AP coursework and exams, under the direction of its president David Coleman, “architect” of Common Core, is now using its muscle to usurp local boards of education.  The most recent example comes from the Denver area, in Jefferson County.

Several days ago, the teachers union, objecting to the school board’s decision to review the standards, manipulated high school students into staging a multi-day walkout.  While most newspapers simply reported that students objected to “censorship” or a biased “conservative” version of American history, Michelle Malkin reported the real story of teachers using the controversy to recruit students to protest for their own aims, keeping the leftist history standards and doing away with teacher evaluations.

The teacher union activists’ agitation has had its effect.  It’s chilling to the idea of local representative government. USA Today reports that the review of the standards has been shelved for a compromise proposal, which will now include administrators, students, and parents.

Flannery-OConnor 1947

Fannery-O’Connor 1947

 Dissident Prof reminds readers of Flannery O’Connor’s famous essay about allowing eight-graders to choose the literature they’d like to read, “Total Effect and the Eighth Grade,” wherein the wise woman reminds the adults, “Ours is the first age in history which has asked the child what he would tolerate learning. . .”

The Devil of Educationism: This is a problem of “Educationism,” a “devil” which can be “‘cast out only by prayer and fasting.'”  She notes that at one time children’s attention was held by Homer and Virgil, but “our children are too stupid now to enter the past imaginatively.”  What would she say now that school board members, parents, and teachers are asking students what they want to learn in history?  Back then, 50-some years ago, O’Connor posed, “No one asks the student if algebra pleases him or if he finds it satisfactory that some French verbs are irregular, but if he prefers Hersey to Hawthorne, his taste must prevail.”

The taste for takin’ it to the streets has prevailed, and it seems that protest, or mob action, has had the intended effect.

What also probably “helped” was the directive last Friday from the College Board, under the leadership of David Coleman.  It began:

The College Board’s Advanced Placement Program® supports the actions taken by students in Jefferson County, Colo., to protest a school board member’s request to censor aspects of the AP U.S. History course. The board member claims that some historical content in the course “encouraged or condoned civil disorder, social strife, or disregard for the law.”

Do these minors have the maturity and judgement to make decisions about protesting?  Well, if they agree with the College Board’s radical agenda, yes.  In fact, their lawlessness is cast as being the pinnacle of patriotism:

These students recognize that the social order can—and sometimes must—be disrupted in the pursuit of liberty and justice. Civil disorder and social strife are at the patriotic heart of American history—from the Boston Tea Party to the American Revolution to the Civil Rights Movement. And these events and ideas are essential within the study of a college-level AP U.S. History course.

Are “civil disorder and social strife” at “the patriotic heart of American history”?  Many would differ.  Many would take issue with aligning students skipping class with the brave men facing possible death in a war.  The opinions on civil disobedience are not unanimous.  But in the classroom, it is now taken as doctrine that mob protest, shouting, placard-carrying, and civil disobedience are the highest forms of civic action.  This is no accident.  Teachers and textbooks have been promoting this line for decades, and Common Core is accelerating this view, much of it through substituting group work and social justice activity for reading and writing.  So the students are right because they agree with the College Board’s view of history.  Did I mention that logic is also being shirked under the Common Core conglomerate?

Ignoring evidence and the historical record of its work, the College Board then presented an altered version of its own history:

The College Board will always listen to principled concerns based on evidence—and in fact has announced a public-review process for the AP U.S. History course framework. But in light of current events, an important policy reminder is in order:

Insisting that teachers and college faculty “collaborate” in designing the AP courses and exams, while allowing them “flexibility” to examine local topics, the College Board reminds those who resist the detailed 98-page directive,

To offer a course labeled “AP” or “Advanced Placement,” a school must agree to meet the expectations set for such courses by the more than 3,300 colleges and universities across the globe that use AP Exam scores for credit, placement, or consideration in the admission process.

The final boot comes down with a threat:

As vital context for the courageous voices of the students in Colorado, the AP community, our member institutions and the American people can rest assured: If a school or district censors essential concepts from an Advanced Placement course, that course can no longer bear the “AP” designation.”

The bold is in the original.  Perhaps a review of some texts from the Soviet Union might be in order in this curriculum in order to give students some perspective.  With video games, informational texts, such as EPA directives, and Common Core comic books replacing foundational works like the Federalist Papers, and, fiction, such as Animal Farm and 1984, students might be misled into believing that those who toe the line of a powerful agency, supported by millions of dollars of government funds, and federal diktats over “equal access” are really “courageous voices.”

A Revelation Regarding the Common Core Sale: Evidence is needed.

On October 22, 2014, the corporate-reform-friendly think tank, American Enterprise Institute (AEI), hosted a panel discussion entitled, What Now for the Common Core? Below is the description of the panel participants and the *implementation-focused* conclusion is actually what should have happened before the Common Core (CCSS) was adopted by any state and certainly before CCSS was ever proclaimed as “ensuring college and career readiness for all students:

Evidence that it works.

A profound revelation, no?

Here is AEI’s entire event summary spiel:

What is the current state of the Common Core, and what is its future? Moderator Michael McShane of AEI posed these questions to a group of experts at an AEI event on Wednesday. Frederick Hess of AEI, Chris Minnich of the Council of Chief State School Officers, and Catherine Gewertz of Education Week largely agreed that districts and schools are at very different stages of the implementation process, that the public is still underinformed, and that the Common Core comprises more states and has been more federally driven than anticipated.

Hess and Minnich dove into the issue of federal involvement, with Hess emphasizing that the effort should focus on ensuring comparability and rigor across states, not on recruiting as many states as possible. Minnich agreed that governors and school chiefs must take the Common Core out of federal hands.

Gewertz said that most teachers focus on making the Common Core work in their classrooms, not on debating its political implications. One of the biggest impediments has been finding high-quality, Common Core–aligned materials.

To conclude, McShane asked panelists what must happen for the Common Core to be successful. All of the panelists focused on outcomes: there needs to be evidence that students are performing better and that this progress translates into greater college and career readiness. [Emphasis added.]
–Jenn Hatfield

A couple tidbits: First, “moderator” McShane co-authored a CCSS-promo book with Hess in November 2013, entitled, Common Core Meets Education Reform.

That title is redundant.

Second, it is interesting that the above AEI panel summary includes zero discussion of the public rejecting CCSS because CCSS is a top-down, imposed product that teaching practitioners and parents, among other stakeholders, genuinely do not want. Period.

No, no. According to the three non-teacher-practitioner individuals on this panel, what CCSS needs in 2014– four years after it was rushed to its hardly-transparent finish in 2010– is “evidence that students are performing better.”

The horse continues to push the corporate reform cart.

Indeed, the CCSS Promise of College and Career Readiness as being “research and evidence-based” goes back to before CCSS was written. That term– “evidence based”– is a term that can easily serve as a bait-and-switch for what should have happened given the very-high-stakes nature of CCSS: a subjecting of the CCSS product to empirical testing.

Here is the full CCSS announcement from July 4, 2009:

The Common Core State Standards Initiative is a joint effort by the National Governors Association Center for Best Practices (NGA Center) and the Council of Chief State School Officers (CCSSO) in partnership with Achieve, ACT and the College Board. Governors and state commissioners of education from across the country committed to joining a state-led process to develop a common core of state standards in English-language arts and mathematics for grades K-12. These standards will be research and evidence-based,internationally benchmarked, aligned with college and work expectations and include rigorous content and skills. The NGA Center and CCSSO are coordinating the process to develop these standards and have created an expert validation committee to provide an independent review of the common core state standards, as well as the grade-by-grade standards. The college and career ready standards are expected to be completed in July 2009. The grade-by-grade standards work is expected to be completed in December 2009. [Emphasis added.]

Yeah, the top-downers “jointing this effort” thought they would be done six months before they actually were– and even with the delay in completion until June 2010, this CCSS product has “rush job” stamped all over it.

In June 2010, America got a press release.

In place of empirical evidence, America received a short list of endorsements.

Endorsements are not evidence.

No readily available site or search engine to offer the public a comprehensive view of that supposed “research base,” and no empirical “evidence” because, well, there just isn’t any.

Now, this Hunt Institute set of CCSS talking points for governors to use in promoting CCSS– a doc that happens to be posted on the USDOE website (hmm…)– states that there is “evidence.” However, nothing listed includes any practical, real-world testing of CCSS to demonstrate the proclaimed “ensuring” of “college and career readiness.

What is offered is a lit review justifying the idea of CCSS, not its actual utility.

No evidence prior to the June 2010 proclamation that CCSS was a product ready to be used and guaranteed to deliver.

But in 2014, the AEI panel states that evidence is needed. 

Meanwhile, the CCSS website continues to advertise the CCSS Guarantee. Here it is, on a page entitled, “What Parents Should Know”:

Today’s students are preparing to enter a world in which colleges and businesses are demanding more than ever before. To ensure all students are ready for success after high school, the Common Core State Standards establish clear, consistent guidelines for what every student should know and be able to do in math and English language arts from kindergarten through 12thgrade. [Emphasis added.]

What complicates the “evidence is needed in 2014″ issue is that one month after CCSS was released, in July 2010, the standards-grading Thomas B. Fordham Institute proclaimed CCSS as “the winner” despite its own grading of CCSS as lower than or equal to existing state standards– a grading that is further complicated by an utter lack of any logical connection between state results on the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP)– and a proclamation that CCSS were “clearly superior to those currently in use in thirty-nine states” based upon the *evidence* of “our observations.”

And when a state such as California had highly-esteemed standards in Fordham Institute’s view yet low NAEP scores– former Fordham Institute President Chester Finn blamed (go ahead and guess)– faulty implementation.

For any CCSS supporter, the “faulty implementation” card is the gift that keeps on giving.

But if California has great standards and poor NAEP scores, and other states have “poor” standards and above average NAEP scores, then is it possible that the entire standards-driven idea is too rudimentary to capture the education enterprise?

Here is another hard-hitting question: Is it possible that CCSS cannot be “properly implemented,” period?

Anyone who answers definitively that CCSS is fine and that “implementation is the problem” is only offering an opinion. It might be a fiscally-fueled, ego-stroking, well-publicized opinion, but no number of high-profile endorsements or USDOE talking points will transform it into empirical evidence.

Know who wins in the absence of empirical evidence to support a standards-to-promised-CCSS-results connection given that the nation is now in the middle of the CCSS mud?

For one, the peddlers of CCSS materials– tests, curricula, professional development, and (let us not forget) data collection.

Pearson wins.

AEI panelist and Council of Chief State School Officers (CCSSO) CEO Chris Minnich has Pearson connections… and his CCSSO is one of the CCSS owners.

A thought with which to leave readers.

There is much more that I can write about this AEI meeting of the pro-CCSS minds (yes, Hess, that includes you), but I will save it for another post.