On Wednesday, July 10th, Dr. Tom Bice came to speak to the Huntsville Chamber of Commerce in support of adopting the Common Core State Standards (CCSS) or the College and Career Ready Standards (CCRS) as he prefers to call them. (Poop by any other name, Dr. Bice, would still smell.) He’s evidently offered a similar speech to the Mobile Chamber on June 25th.
The U. S. Chamber of Commerce is certainly doing a good job of looking out for the business interests in our nation. After all CCSS will inject, by some conservative estimates, $8.3 billion public dollars into private hands. Wardynski claims that Huntsville alone has already spent $40 million over the past 17 months getting ready for CCSS.
Dr. Bice spoke for about 7 minutes following Cameron Smith of the Alabama Policy Institute who presented the Institute’s opinion that CCSS/CCRS will lead to “Federalization of Education in Alabama.”
While I am not as afraid of “federalization” as some in Alabama seem to be (my son would likely be excluded from public education if not for federal protections ensuring that his needs be met), I do agree that Common Core represents a direct and intentional attempt to privatize our public education. It demonstrates just how privatized our government has become.
A consortium of foundations, corporations, unions, the PTA and members of both political parties on the national and state level have worked together to force CCSS on our schools as the latest, in a sickeningly long line of miracle cures for what ails our schools (not much it seems).
I have transcribed Dr. Bice’s comments below, but I will break them up and respond to them separately. They represent the most of his comments. (Thanks for sharing the video with me Terri Michal of BadAss Teacher Association, as I wasn’t able to attend the meeting myself.)
Here’s a link to the video if you prefer to watch it.
Dr. Bice begins:
We’re all here possibly with a different perspective, a different opinion, variety of reasons, but I think deep down we all have something in common. We want what’s best for our children. And we want to ensure that our state, the state of Alabama, maintains our right to determine what it is our children learn and how they learn it. Especially at the local level. And I share that. And bring, uh, Alabama Policy Institute has been a huge resource to me. And I applaud them for the work they do. I come from the perspective of, when I look at where our children need to go, we have to look at what those expectations are.
While I don’t doubt that Dr. Bice cares about education and children, I don’t believe that concern for the education of our children is his driving force for pushing CCSS/CCRS on our children. If it were, his methods (along with most who are pushing CCSS) would not have needed to be hidden as I will demonstrate below.
And we have an opportunity in our state now that we’ve never had, and I’ve done this work for 35 years. We now have an opportunity to have a conversation between K-12, Post-Secondary, higher education, and business and industry with a set of standards that now we can share in common.
Hyperbole. This conversation between the different groups of educators and business and industry has been happening in Huntsville and the state for a long time now. My own experience with this conversation dates back for 10 years. These groups have been talking and working together for decades, Dr. Bice, and you know it. But let’s move on to the meat, shall we?
Aligned Assessments Are Still Standardized and Nationalized
And that we now can have a set of assessments that very proudly Alabama shares with no one else because we’re not a part of the two assessment consortiums that are going on across the state [nation?], the Race-to-the-Top funds. We have our assessments that are commonly used in post-secondary and higher education that have ACT and WorkKeys as our benchmark.
Dr. Bice claims that we’re not a part of the “two assessment consortiums.” I suppose that he is referring to the Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium (SBAC) and the Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Career (PARCC) as these are the two primary assessment consortiums. However, his statement comes close to a “meaning of ‘is’ response.”
In 2010 and for the second time, Alabama applied for the Race to the Top grant that was being offered by the Department of Education. Actually all but 10 states applied. $4 billion dollars provides a significant amount of incentive. In our application, which was submitted with a letter of support from Dr. Bice dated May 28, 2010 offering his pleasure at participating in the Phase II competition. It seems that his excitement at not receiving funding was a later development.
That wasn’t all that changed. You see in 2010, our applicationclearly stated on page 53:
Currently, the State of Alabama is working with two national consortia (Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium and Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Career) of states in the development of a summative assessment. Through the partnership with these two consortia Alabama feel confident a more efficient, comprehensive and informative instrument will result.
I suppose after the funding didn’t come through that the state of Alabama decided to look elsewhere for partnerships in developing CCSS/CCRS aligned tests. So, rather than working with these two, they convinced ACT to develop a third option to replace the ones being developed by SBAC and PARCC. ACT’s response was to develop the ACT Aspire test for grades 3-8 and then to test it on Alabama’s students this past year.
So it is currently true that we don’t share our assessments with anyone, but puhlease, Dr. Bice, you absolutely know that while we might not be a part of the SBAC or PARCC consortia, that we have simply joined a third one with ACT. And ACT will absolutely be selling their CCSS aligned ACT Aspire test to other CCSS states starting in 2014 once they’ve worked out the bugs in their system on our kids. And there were all kinds of bugs when we tested it this year.
I hope they gave you a good deal on this “private,” nationally aligned assessment.
Creating your own consortia doesn’t mean that you’re not in an assessment consortia.
Taking Credit for Other’s Work
Dr. Bice went on to claim:
And we’ve been able to downward design to grade three. So that we’re able to sit down with the parent for the first time, and rather than try to explain what a stanine, and those of us in education know what those crazy terms are, stanines and the skill scores. But I can say to J.W. Carpenter, our friend with Teach for America, that uh, if your child’s in fifth grade, and he or she has scored X in mathematics, if we stay on this trajectory, we could predict a 33 in mathematics on the ACT. That’s a conversation that will be meaningful to the folks in Alabama. And we’re the only state that’s doing that. So we’re excited about what that could look like.
His use of the plural personal pronoun is a bit of a stretch, as it was ACT that was able to “downward design to grade three,” but if he wants to take credit for other people’s work, so be it. And honestly, Dr. Bice, just because you’ve changed the terminology you’re using to talk about a test does not mean that the test is any better at improving education. It’s still just a test. And you still need to explain what the score means. In fact now, it’s just a test to predict potential success on another test. How exactly does that improve education, sir?
We’re not preparing students for either college or a career. We’re preparing students to take a test that might indicate that they could do well in college and we’re assuming that will prepare them for a career.
But you’ve got to make some fairly bold promises when you’re trying to sell the people something they don’t want or need.
Race To The Top: Feds Drive Change Without Paying for It
Dr. Bice continues his sales pitch by trashing the Race to the Top grant that we applied for twice in 2010:
Cameron gave some great examples of areas where we need to share concern and ensure that Alabama does everything in our power to ensure that we remain sovereign from those federal overreaches. But I’m very proud to say that for Alabama we did not receive Race to the Top. And as I speak to my fellow state superintendents across the state, across the all the states, those who did receive it wish they could give it back. So we’re very blessed that we didn’t get it. So thankfully, we’re not constrained by any of the requirements of Race to the Top. We’re not part of the two national assessment consortiums that are being funded through Race-to-the-Top. We’re not constrained with any of the reporting information or any of the things that go along with that federal funding. And as Cameron mentioned, we’re one of three states that have not received a longitudinal data system grant. And data is, as you’ve heard today, awfully important. So we’ve made the commitment in Alabama to develop our own assessment system, our own longitudinal data system. I’m very proud to say that we now have it housed in an Alabama company at the Alabama Supercomputer Authority. It is our home-grown approach to make sure that all of our data is safely kept where it needs to be.
Despite changing his tune on Race to the Top (RttT) over the past two years, Dr. Bice’s claims about RttT raise some interesting questions. First, what exactly is RttT? And second, why is it so problematic? And if it is indeed problematic, why has the state of Alabama adopted and implemented, all four of the major areas of “reform?“
That’s right, despite Dr. Bice’s contempt for RttT, the state of Alabama has adopted every single one of the major “reforms” required by the RttT grant. So, despite not receiving a dime of federal RttT money, we’re doing exactly what states who have received RttT funding have been asked to do. We’re just doing them for free.
But I’m getting ahead of myself.
What is Race to the Top?
Race to the Top is a Department of Education grant worth $4 billion dollars. So far, the DoEd has made to 18 states and the District of Columbia. There have been three phases of RttT so far. Phase I began on March 29, 2010. Phase II started five months later on August 24, 2010. Phase III started on December 22, 2011. There have been no other phases to date, but it appears likely possible that the DoEd will offer some form of RttT on the district level next.
RttT requires four main areas of educational “reform.” (I use the quotation marks intentionally. There is zero evidence, none whatsoever that any of these changes will actually resort in an improved educational system for our nation. In fact there is substantial evidence that these areas of reform have weakened our schools over the past forty years.)
But “reform” is the term that the DoEd has chosen. The four areas that every RttT grantproposal must embrace are:
- Adopting standards and assessments that prepare students to succeed in college and the workplace and to compete in the global economy;
- Building data systems that measure student growth and success, and inform teachers and principals about how they can improve instruction;
- Recruiting, developing, rewarding, and retaining effective teachers and principals, especially where they are needed most; and
- Turning around our lowest-achieving schools.
In order to apply, much less apply twice as Alabama did, a state must embrace each of these four concepts of “reform.”
Ever wonder why the 46 states that have adopted CCSS did so within about 6 months of each other? It was because they wanted to apply for RttT, and they had not a prayer without adopting CCSS within months after the standards were created.
Ever wonder why so many states have moved to a system that evaluates teachers based on the performance of their students? RttT.
Same thing goes for the Longitudinal Data system that Alabama has developed on their own dime. (And no, Dr. Bice, my child’s data doesn’t need to be housed and kept safely in an Alabama company’s computer system. My child’s teacher and maybe her principal need it. And that’s really it. Your assurances of the safety of my kid’s data are anything but reassuring.)
Oh and by the way, while it would appears that Dr. Bice might be correct that the federal government isn’t actually paying Alabama to develop our State Longitudinal Data System (SLDS) (it is possible that some of the State Fiscal Stabilization Fund or stimulus bill was used for this), as we’ve seen with the rest of the RttT requirements, that hardly matters.
According to the DoEd, a SLDS must meet 12 separate standards:
- An unique identifier for every student that does not permit a student to be individually identified (except as permitted by federal and state law);
- The school enrollment history, demographic characteristics, and program participation record of every student;
- Information on when a student enrolls, transfers, drops out, or graduates from a school;
- Students scores on tests required by the Elementary and Secondary Education Act;
- Information on students who are not tested, by grade and subject.
- Students scores on tests measuring whether they’re ready for college;
- A way to identify teachers and to match teachers to their students;
- Information from students’ transcripts, specifically courses taken and grades earned;
- Data on students’ success in college, including whether they enrolled in remedial courses;
- Data on whether K-12 students are prepared to succeed in college;
- A system of auditing data for quality, validity, and reliability; and
- The ability to share data from preschool through postsecondary education data systems.
Furthermore, according to the Data Quality Campaign (DQC), an organization that seems to exist to promote the importance of tracking endless data on your kids, Alabama is only one of 12 states to have met their standards for using longitudinal data to “improve student success.” Rather than 12 standards, DQC has 10 “essential elements”:
- Statewide student identifier
- Student-level enrollment data
- Student-level test data
- Information on untested students
- Statewide teacher identifier with teacher-student match
- Student-level course completion (transcript) data
- Student-level SAT, ACT, and Advanced Placement Exam data
- Student-level graduation and dropout data
- Ability to match student-level P-12 and higher education data
- State data audit system
And we met this groups’ expectation with the help of STI. The only idea that’s actually missing from DQC’s “essential elements” (they combined the federal standards 2&3 into their element #2), is “the ability to share data.”
But that doesn’t actually need to be stated does it? If data is being tracked, it stands to reason that it can then be shared.
So it would seem that our “home-grown” approach isn’t actually any different than the federal approach except again, we’re paying for it ourselves. While STI does seem to be primarily an Alabama company, as this graphic shows, they’re located nationally. Instead of trusting the feds with our children’s data, cause that would violate Alabama “sovereignty,” we’d rather put our children’s data in the hands of one or potentially several corporations.
Ever wonder why Teach for America and J. W. Carpenter Bice’s “friend with Teach for America” started placing scrub workers in Alabama schools in 2010? RttT.
Ever wonder why there was such a push for a change to Alabama law to allow for Charter schools in 2011? RttT.
Ever wonder why so many of our poorest schools are still being closed or “turned around” (again with zero evidence of success)? RttT.
In other words, Alabama and most of the rest of the states have adopted the framework of RttT without receiving a single dime of Federal support for doing so.
Why is RttT Problematic to Bice?
The only answer I have for this question is, I honestly don’t know. He implies in his statement above that he’s thankful we’re not “constrained by any of the requirements,” but that’s a fairly weak argument when the state has decided to adopt all of the areas of “reform” required by the grant. In fact, each state that did receive the funding was also “free” to adopt CCSS. They were “free” to develop their own testing system with ACT rather than sign on with the two Common Core assessment consortia. They were “free” to hire unqualified “teachers” and place students in charter schools, and they were “free” to close their poorest schools.
The only difference between Alabama and say Tennessee (which was funded in Phase I) is that Tennessee received federal funding to do exactly what Alabama has done for free.
In other words, his problems with RttT were strictly political posturing to reassure people who disagree with him that he believes in Alabama “sovereignty.”
Why has Alabama Adopted RttT on Its Own?
Because we’ve been sold a bill of goods by corporations like Teach for America, Pearson, ACT, Microsoft, and foundations like Gates, Walton and Broad that CCSS is just a few harmless standards.
We’ve been sold this bill of goods because people like Wardynski are looking forward to a real payday once their public “service” ends with a company like Pearson.
We’ve been sold this bill of goods because Alabama wanted $175 million dollars from the DoEd just like everyone else.
And like any “good” sales person, Bice and the rest of our CCSS/CCRS supporters had to close the deal quickly, before anyone really understood what was happened. On page 42 of our Phase II RttT application, we see evidence of this.
You see, typically the adoption of a new set of standards is a much longer process that then one we’ve gone through for CCSS/CCRS. But because we wanted (before we didn’t) the $175 million in federal funding, we were more than happy to dramatically change our own rules for adopting new standards. As page 42 of Alabama’s RttT proposal states:
As the process to adopt a new set of standards is a three-year process per subject area, to adopt the Common Core standards Alabama’s State Board of Education will waive the traditional mechanisms for adopting standards. Rather than spending two years conducting research and having a committee design these given standards, a state committee, appointed by the State Board of Education and the Governor, will work to augment the national committee’s Common Core Standards with additional state standards, and then recommend adoption to the State Board of Education by November 2010.
That’s right. After we had been turned down once, we still put CCSS on the fast track. We ignored our “traditional mechanisms for adopting standards.” We refused to spend “two years conducting research.” We refused to allow a committee to design these “given standards” that Bill Gates and Arne Duncan gave us. We didn’t allow this process.
Instead we augmented Common Core and pushed them through the adoption process at the breakneck (even if it’s our children’s necks we’re breaking) speed of a few months rather than three years.
Always be closing, right Dr. Bice?
What Common Core Will Look Like to Dr. Bice
Dr. Bice closed his comments (for the most part) with a story that is evidently part of this Common Core stump speech:
If I can give one example of the shift that I use regularly, that brings it home for me for my three children that are in Alabama public school is, in the past we’ve asked our children to do three digit addition to come up with the correct sum. As was described today by Camile, we’d give them multiple problems and they do them. And at some point over the time we would determine they’ve done enough. That they were proficient. But today, under our new standards, if this were my class, I would ask you, based on the mathematics that we have been talking about this week, take this real world situation, talk among yourselves and determine the mathematics that is required to solve this problem. Come up with as many potential answers and solutions to that that you can. Determine the one that you feel best solves the problem. And explain to the rest of your class why you made that choice. When I go back to listening to business and industry, and higher ed, and post-secondary, the folks who are our customers, they needs kids who can take content and apply it to real world situations, collaborate with their peers to solve problems, think critically in situations which they may have never seen before, and understand that it’s important to be able to defend your answer when questioned. That’s what these standards will take our students to.
Wow, it’s a nice dream, isn’t it? You spend a week teaching a math theme, and then you offer a simple, teacher developed assessment at the end of the week that demonstrates a student’s ability to think critically, collaborate and defend their answers. Your sales pitch, Dr. Bice, is spot on.
Pity this has no basis on reality.
What classroom as a week to spend on any single topic? I’ve documented often the issues that our teachers are having with the computers and the endless testing they’re required to subject our students to. A nine month year was easily cut by a third in Huntsville with the adoption of computers to support the transition to Common Core.
In addition to that, our students spent at least a month and a half of their school year taking tests.
In other words, in Huntsville implementing Common Core effectively cut our 2012-2013 school year in half.
Respectfully, if the state superintendent had been in one of Huntsville’s classes on a regular basis this year, rather than just bragging about how Casey Wardynski and Cathy Vasile have his “full confidence” and clearly know “what’s best for Huntsville,” maybe he would have a more realistic picture of what CCSS/CCRS is bringing to our classrooms.
Instead he’s willing to adopt the totality of the Race to the Top plan even though the Department of Education offered not one bit of financial assistance to do so. They dangled the promise of $175 million, and we jumped through every hoop they wanted us to. No wonder the DoEd doesn’t believe it’s necessary to offer the RttT grant any more.
You know despite the problems that we’ve documented with Common Core, I am predisposed to trust our educational leaders. I am, after all, a product of our public education system. I believe in public education. But every single time I’ve had a discussion with anyone who supports Common Core, the are either completely unable to address the four basic problems I have with the standards (developed in private by everyone except teachers and parents, untested, increases standardized, high-stakes testing, and are insanely expensive), or they seem to go out of their way to, well to be polite, stretch the truth.
If Common Core is such an amazing approach to education, why can’t we have an honest discussion about it? Why was it rushed to adoption? Why did the DoEd feel it necessary to basically bribe the states into adopting them?
thank you . i am impressed how you synthized such a vast amount of information and the timeline in which it happened in such a concise fashion. i can also agree with what you are saying because I mayself have researched these issues over 2 years. Again, thank you.
Thanks for reading!
Interesting, I’d say, that they’re “glad” not to be bound by RttT requirements, since the ugly reality of that program has revealed itself in time, to the detriment to states who were quick to get on the bandwagon. What a shame they can’t see the value of taking a wait and see approach to the CCSS program just in case that program also has hidden pitfalls. If only there was some indication of whether the states who were early adopters of the Common Core were still enchanted with it. . . .oh wait, what? They’re jumping ship left and right? Hmmmmm.
I’ve always been advised that when a person wants to establish control of a meeting, that he ought to be the one that calls it. The Chamber of Commerce did just that. They invited a person to represent the “con” side of the Common Core discussion whose challenges would dovetail nicely with the answers that the proponents were prepared to advance. It’s called “framing the discussion” and it’s part and parcel of the way this educational overhaul is being sold (emphasis on selling) to the state.
If an educated Chamber of Commerce member cannot read this and understand, it makes me wonder how they run their own businesses and succeed. Oh, I forgot, they run businesses. They are not educators and obviously don’t read for understanding and simply take someone’s word for what they are told. They trust the messenger without reading the source materials behind the message. Interesting concept. Trust without personal knowledge and documentation.
Your understanding of the situation is based on core knowledge that stands true. The spin through the Chamber, BCA, and Bice (along with his friends at the ALSDE, Mary Scott Hunter and Bill Holtsclaw) becomes more dizzying with each passing day. Their arguments are falling apart at the seams because they are based on falsehoods and untruths. The question is, can they handle the truth? They have dug a political hole for themselves in a sand pit and the harder they scramble to get out, the deeper the hole becomes. They have lied to their constituents, to the citizens of Alabama and to themselves.
How can they sleep at night? Do they hear children’s voices screaming in the night? The voice of one child hurt by this reform should be enough to make people stop this reform. Children’s dreams once consisted of sugar plums and heroes saving the day. Now their dreams are invaded by testing, informational texts, more testing, more texts, more testing, more texts………
I am also a product of the public education system. However, that is the reason that I do not believe in public education. The whole system is set up to treat parents like they are stupid and can’t make good decisions for their own children. I am all for making sure that every child has access to education. I just don’t like the way that children are just funnelled into public schools by default because those schools get the tax dollars. What we have now is common core being basically pushed on everyone. There are so many kids in public schools that curriculum companies are aligning their curriculum to common core because that is where the money is made. Private and home schoolers don’t represent enough of a market share to justify making curriculum for their needs. Private and home schoolers are also facing standardized tests and college entrance requirements that are aligning with common core. I’m afraid that the days of a parent’s involvement in their own child’s education are almost over. — BTW Dr. Bice, the businesses are not your customers. Parents and students are your customers.
And a very interesting link in one of the comments to the story, above: http://www.ajc.com/weblogs/get-schooled/2013/jul/08/common-core-lesson-shrewd-marketing/ This really speaks to the “bribery” trend you describe.
In fairness to the CoC, most of its members are educational dunderheads who couldn’t tell you the first thing about Common Core or why it is supposedly so good. They hear nice-sounding catch phrases like “accountibility” and they are told that Alabama will look backward if we don’t do what everyone else is doing, and that’s enough to get them on board. Most of the leaders of the CoC send their kids to Randolph, anyway, so what do they care?
Even homeschoolers may not be able to escape Common Core:
Thanks for your article. As a parent of a 9 year old in the HSV city schools (Blossomwood), my child went from straight A’s to F’s in the beginning of the 12-13 school year. I met with the teacher and was told it must be attention deficit and to accept that my child would fail, was told by the principal to be more organized and the community was told by Wardynski that any problems we had were because we didn’t grasp “tech- based” learning. My child did bring the grades back to A’s only due to intense re-teaching at home. The schools were told to not adress the common core method as an issue but rather focus on it being either a child learning issue or parents/ students being “technologically challenged”. Shame on all of them!
Anna’s post echoes what I have heard from others. The prisoners are surely running the asylum here in Huntsville. First, we have big buisness moving in and laptopping all of our kids, whether they like it or not. Heck, we even give the little kiddies in first and second grade high tech Ipads to play on, because after all, this is a high tech world we live in and you can’t get them involved too soon! Then we institute a system of testing…incessant testing. And we insist that they keep testing until they get it right….or at least until we’re “satisfied” with their progress. And then we decide to use these test scors to grade our teachers. Of course if the kids don’t drastically improve on their test scores, this is absolutely the teacher’s fault. If we were back in medieval times, it would instantly be “off with the heads.” But that’s not enough. Let’s grade the school as a whole based on how well they read and do math. Science? Nah, forget that stuff, not that important. The arts? History? Who needs them? After all, if you can read and do math, you’re guaranteed to succeed in life, right? Is there any wonder why the US is dropping further behind numerous other nations in education? The kids in our schools aren’t “learning” as much as they are “getting informed.” They are being provided just enough information to pass a structured test, and in doing so, get a pat on the back and moved on to the next level. Bottom line: the sorry school board does not care about either the teachers or the students. It’s all lip service. Teachers want to keep their jobs, and because it’s dependent on student test results, will gear their “teaching” towards getting test results, and not so much as individualized learning. Getting math and reading scores up will score big for the “passing school grade.” The rest of the curriculum is apparently just fluff. Although I applaud the “concept” of trying to bring all students to the same level, that is just pure fantasy. We need to stop pulling back on the reins of the overachievers and nourish their growing minds. We need to plow on with the “in the middle” students, pushing them to their limits to move forward. But we also need to recognize that there are those students, for a variety of reasons, that just do not have the intellectual or motivational drive to excel in school. This is where the role of the educator is emphasized. Real teachers know how to reach down into these students, teach them at THEIR level, extract every ounce of effort and aptitude, and help that student reach his or her absolute potential. All students are not the same, their learning abilities are not the same, their test results will not be the same, and how high they go in life will not be the same. We need to understand that and deal with it. That’s reality. Sorry to rant, just utterly frustrated and disgusted with where the education system has gone.
“But every single time I’ve had a discussion with anyone who supports Common Core, the are either completely unable to address the four basic problems I have with the standards (developed in private by everyone except teachers and parents, untested, increases standardized, high-stakes testing, and are insanely expensive)”
1. There were teachers involved in developing CCSS. I went to the Student Achievement website, found the staff, and clicked on the first two names on the list – the first is a former science teacher and the second is a high school math teacher. I didn’t look at any others on the list. http://www.achievethecore.org/about-student-achievement-partners/team/
2. You can only claim that the standards are untested if you ignore the fact that many of the standards existed in many states before common core existed. If you compare the standards that existed in Alabama before Common Core to the “new” standards you will find many similarities. The biggest difference is that many of the old standards are now in lower grades than they were before. So, since many (most?) of the standards existed before common core and were used in many states, they have been tested.
3. The common core standards themselves have nothing to do with testing. It is true that it will be easier to compare test results if students have been taught to the same standards. I don’t think that is a bad thing. What is the difference in “high-stakes” testing vs. normal testing?
4. Alabama implemented the math standards last year and is implementing the ELA standards this year. I may have missed it but I did not notice an insane increase in the education budget for those two years. Where did the money come from to implement CCSS?
A question for you… The title of your post is “Bribing Alabama to Adopt Common Core”. For a bribe to have occurred money must have been given to Alabama. How much did we get?
Thank you for your response so early this morning. I appreciate your willingness to offer your opinion and to put your name behind it.
However, based on your response, I’m curious about a few things: did you actually read the post (and the others that I’ve linked to supporting my claims), or did you just read the conclusion?
In answer to your question, concerning how much money we received, which is a necessary component of a bribe: We have not received any RttT funding. If you had read even the section headings of the post you would see that I made that point quite clear with this heading:
“Race To The Top: Feds Drive Change Without Paying for It”
I disagree with your definition of a “bribe.” According to the Legal Information Institute, Bribery consists of:
“Bribery refers to the offering, giving, soliciting, or receiving of any item of value as a means of influencing the actions of an individual holding a public or legal duty.”
The Federal government offered the RttT funding. Alabama made the changes as a result of the offer.
Again, however, I made my point quite clear in the post concerning this.
1. You claim that my concern that teachers weren’t involved is proven wrong by your examining the Achieve The Core website. According to that website this group (Student Achievement Partners) seems to have begun their work in July of 2011. This was a full two years after the CCSS were created.
Here’s a link to what the group looked like in 2009 from Anthony Cody: http://blogs.edweek.org/teachers/living-in-dialogue/2009/07/national_standards_process_ign.html
There was one classroom teacher involved in the creation of CCSS out of a group of 60.
2. You state: “the biggest difference is that many of the old standards are now in lower grades than they were before. So, since many (most?) of the standards existed before common core and were used in many states, they have been tested.” Your dismissal of pushing standards to lower grades as insignificant is proof that you don’t actually understand how standards testing should work. Pushing a standard to a lower grade is a huge change, particularly when it is being implemented across all grade levels at once. This means that students in the 5th grade are now being held to a 6th grade standard without having completed the 5th grade first.
Pushing standards to lower grades is a substantial change and should have been field tested first.
This says nothing of the substantial changes to curriculum and assessment that are following the changes in standards.
3. CCSS leads to a dramatic increase in testing. http://www.geekpalaver.com/2013/03/16/common-core-is-testing/
4. Dr. Wardynski, speaking in support of CCSS/CCRS, claimed that Huntsville has made a $40 million dollar investment in our “curriculum” last two years, and that would all be for naught.” http://www.geekpalaver.com/2013/02/23/alabama-leads-by-repealing-common-core-hb254sb190/
And frankly, the mere fact that RttT funding was more that $4 billion, all of which was tied to the adoption of CCSS, seems to argue against your claim that the adoption of these standards is not costly.
Thanks for your willingness to engage in this debate. I look forward to discussing this further with you.
I assure you that I read your entire post. But I chose to only respond to your statement at the end. Your post is rather long. 🙂
1. I read the Cody post. What I see there is a claim that there was only one teacher on the 60-member panel. He offers no proof of that. In my book that falls into the category of rumor.
2. It is true that students who are now in school will have a difficult time catching up to the new standards. Students in Massachusetts and California were already being held to higher standards than those in Common Core. Graduates from schools in those states have done well under those standards. I think that counts as a field test.
3. I read your post on testing. I think you have things backwards. The college entrance exams are based on what students should know to enter college. Those tests are being aligned with standards. We should align our teaching with the standards that the tests are based on so that students are better prepared for college. That is what Wardinski is getting at. Now, to gauge progress toward that goal you have to test along the way. That is what the yearly tests in each grade are for. They are testing students on what they have learned for the preceding school year so I would expect the tests to take several hours.
4. Schools have to buy curricula anyway. I can’t speak to the Huntsville school system’s budget but they might have spent that money anyway – whether or not the curricula was aligned with Common Core. Where did that money come from?
Your point that the legal definition of bribery includes offering is well taken. The RttT offered 40 points (out of 485 total possible points) to states that adopted standards that were in common with other states. In the end, Alabama received none of that funding because they did not get enough of the other 485 points available. Was the enticement for the opportunity of funding a factor in moving to Common Core? Probably. But that is no reflection on the standards themselves.
Thanks. Yes, I do tend to be long-winded on subjects that affect my children. Since you seemed to have missed several key points that I was making, I assumed that you hadn’t read it.
1. Here as the list of the 66 people who were involved in the creation of CCSS in 2009. This is from a Press Release from the National Governors Association. Hopefully this will rise above the level of “rumor” in your book, but if not that’s okay. It does rise above that level for me.
According to that press release, the group of people responsible for developing the standards were divided into four groups: two “work groups” for language arts and mathematics and two “feedback groups” for language arts and mathematics.
Again, according to the press release from the NGA: “The Standards Development Work Group is currently engaged in determining and writing the college and career readiness standards in English-language arts and mathematics. This group is composed of content experts from Achieve, Inc., ACT, and the College Board.”
So, the work groups were responsible for drafting CCSS.
As the press release further states: “The role of this Feedback Group is to provide information backed by research to inform the standards development process by offering expert input on draft documents.”
The feedback group supported and responded to the draft that the work group created.
Here are the members of the two work groups as well as their titles:
There is not a single classroom teacher listed among them. In fact, the groups responsible for drafting CCSS are predominantly composed of representatives from, you guessed it, testing companies like ACT, The College Board, and Achieve
The two Feedback groups are composed primarily of College Professors. There is one single classroom teacher listed among this group in the mathematics feedback group, Vern Williams. Here’s the list:
As I count these two groups there are 66 total people listed here. 1 person was at that time (2009) a classroom teacher. The overwhelming majority of the people responsible for actually writing the standards (the work groups) were at that time working for three, national testing companies, ACT, The College Board, and Achieve.
Is this sufficient evidence to rise above the level of rumor for you?
2. Again, you don’t seem to understand what a field test is. A field test is a test of the standards themselves. That did not occur before they were adopted, and it has not occurred before implementation. If you wish to redefine the meaning of field test, that’s fine, but that doesn’t actually respond to my critique.
3. Standardized testing has increased as a result of the implementation of CCSS. No, the standards do not require it, but that doesn’t change the fact that it has increased as a result of moving toward CCSS. I’ve offered evidence of this here in Huntsville, which is the district my children are affected by. I have asked for anyone to show me a district where testing is decreasing as a result of implementation of CCSS, and I have yet to have an example of this.
Testing is increasing across the nation. It is not decreasing. At least not yet. As parents begin to say no to these tests, I believe this will change.
And honestly, when the standards were predominantly written by three main testing companies, wouldn’t it be reasonable to expect that testing is a crucial part of the implementation of these standards?
4. Wardynski doesn’t show his work.
If the standards are so amazing, why was the enticement necessary. If enticement is necessary, then that is a reflection on the standards themselves.
Again, sorry for being so long-winded, but when my children’s education is at stake, it’s hard not to offer a detailed explanation of why I’m concerned. And you seem to be asking for evidence. That takes time to layout.
Thanks again for the response.
1. Given your restriction that they had to be actively teaching in 2009, then yes there were no teachers on that board. Without going thru the entire list I found several who used to teach. Since they have teaching experience I think that qualifies them to speak on the subject.
2. I think I understand what a field test is. The trouble is that I’m trying to hit a moving target. Your first assertion was that the standards were untested. I gave you two examples of ways that the standards were tested. Now you are saying that they must be field tested using some process that you have defined elsewhere. No offense intended, we’re just having a “failure to communicate”.
All that said, I think that field testing is an unnecessary requirement since there is not really that much that is new and because states have been using standards for decades that are similar. Besides that, isn’t it a moot point now? The math standards have already been implemented and the ELA standards are in progress. The curricula have been purchased and the teaching year planned. It’s a bit late for field tests.
3. OK. Let’s say that you are correct and that they are adding one test at the end of the year that may take as long as 10 hours to complete and that they are keeping all of the old tests too. That really doesn’t sound that onerous to me. How else do you judge progress except by testing?
I’ve read your other post “Common Core is Testing” and in it you say, “Our elementary students will spend the final month of school taking standardized tests.” That is hard to believe but if true then it is definitely a problem. I have kids in school in Madison City Schools. They do not spend a month taking tests.
If you are opposed to that then it seems logical that you would be opposed to the college entrance exams that take hours to complete. Some students take the ACT several times trying to get a better score. Is this wrong?
4. Common Core was already in the works before RttT. Many proponents of CCSS are angry that the Obama administration got involved with the issue because it has politicized it. They feel that the enticement was unnecessary and did more harm than good.
I don’t think that the standards are “amazing”. I do think they are an improvement.
“And you seem to be asking for evidence. That takes time to layout.”
I know what you mean.
1. My point is this: teachers were not involved in the development of these standards. Did some have teaching experience: sure. But you are more likely to look at standards from the perspective of how will this affect students and the classroom if you are currently in a classroom and not if you’re being paid by a testing company to participate in a process to make the development of standardized tests easier.
The overwhelming majority of the authors of CCSS were employees of testing companies. Their focus, their emphasis is different from that of a person who is employed to teach.
2. I don’t believe that I have moved the target at all. You have given two examples of ways in which it shouldn’t matter that the actual CCSS themselves were tested, but you haven’t given examples of the CCSS being themselves tested before being implemented.
You close with the suggestion that since implementation is already taking place that this shouldn’t be an issue any longer. While I’m glad that we agree that CCSS weren’t tested before being implemented, I disagree that it’s a moot point now. If we do not ask questions about the past, we will never grow and solve the issues that we face as a society.
America has, for the past century, been working to solve the problems of public education. We have jumped from one snake-oil solution to another. But you know what we haven’t tried? Actually asking teachers what they think. We haven’t tried involving students in the process. And we’ve done our best to kick parents out as well. And most of the time when a new process is implemented, that process is developed in secret, and then defenders state, “well it’s too late now.” CCSS is simply the latest in a long snake-oil being sold to the public as a miracle cure.
No, it isn’t a moot point to ask questions about how things were done or why other things weren’t done.
CCSS should have been tested first to develop at least best practices in implementing it. That way, perhaps, we would have noticed that we’re going to be expecting students to cover two years of material in a single year. (Phasing the standards in at Kindergarden would have avoided this problem quite easily.) Perhaps then we wouldn’t have situations as in New York where 70% of the students fail.
So no, I don’t think it a moot point to ask why they weren’t tested before being implemented.
3. Funny that you’re now advocating testing . . . but anyway. To answer your question, you evaluate progress by trusting your teachers. You allow a teacher the freedom to assess his or her students. This way the assessment can be better adapted to the individual student. No two students are alike. No two students should be evaluated in exactly the same way.
You ask about college entrance exams: a college entrance exam is one way of estimating success at the college level. It is not the only way of doing so, and most colleges take that into consideration. Also, as they are administered outside of a typical school day, they do not detract from education. Testing is what happens once education is completed. It is not education itself. Here’s a link showing HCS’s current testing calendar. http://www.geekpalaver.com/2013/08/15/testing-is-not-education-huntsville-opt-out-teach-in/
4. I am aware that CCSS development began before RttT, but the two are closely connected.
You think they’re an improvement, but how do you know this without testing them first?
Thanks again for your comments. I’m learning a lot from answering your questions. I appreciate it.
But really, your argument that it’s a moot point is fundamentally flawed. Education is entirely about asking questions.
1. OK so not the right kind of teachers were involved in setting the standards. But from that point on the teachers have great input. There are teachers involved in selecting curricula, choosing how the standards should be taught, and doing the actual teaching. That is by far most of the process – setting the standards is really minor in comparison.
All of the teachers I have spoken with personally (mostly math teachers) like the standards. The teachers I have met who are against them were neither math nor ELA teachers. I have a relative who teaches middle school math in public school – she thinks they are great. She did point out that it will take some years to get students caught up.
2. “I don’t believe that I have moved the target at all.” You first said that the standards were simply “untested”. When I responded to that you said that they had to be “field tested” implying a formal and limited process. Those are two different things. I think that these standards existed before common core in some states with high standards and therefore they have been tested, just without the common core label on them.
“And we’ve done our best to kick parents out as well.” I hardly think that they picked 60 childless people for their standards body.
“CCSS should have been tested first to develop at least best practices in implementing it.” That wasn’t necessary. It wasn’t that hard to do. A panel of Alabama educators evaluated the CCSS against the old standards and found a very high percentage of similarity. Because there wasn’t a high degree of difference they expected no major hurdles.
Alabama educators got the standards in Spring of 2010 and implemented the math standards a little over a year later. This is the second year of using math standards, if the class room results were bad I think we would have heard about it by now.
3. “Funny that you’re now advocating testing.” I was thinking the same about you. 🙂
“You allow a teacher the freedom to assess his or her students. This way the assessment can be better adapted to the individual student. No two students are alike. No two students should be evaluated in exactly the same way.”
That sounds awfully touchy-feely to me. Are you saying that students should be graded based on their effort and not how they perform?
4. “You think they’re an improvement, but how do you know this without testing them first?” Like this: You look at the results in math classrooms last year and in just a few months you can look at the results in ELA classrooms. If students meet the higher standards then I think that means they are a success.
“But really, your argument that it’s a moot point is fundamentally flawed.” How so? We are in the second year of math and beginning a year under the new ELA standards. It is too late for “field testing”. That makes it a moot point because it is too late to do anything else but forge ahead. It’s the very definition of a moot point.
“Education is entirely about asking questions.” I’d say it more about learning. Sometimes learning is rote memorization, sometimes fun, sometimes not. Asking questions is surely part of the process.
I’m enjoying the exchange as well. By now most common core opponents would have accused me of being a double secret Satan worshiper. You are holding up very well. 🙂
1. Where is your evidence that teachers are setting the curriculum? Here the curriculum is set by Pearson, not the teachers. The teachers are told what to teach, how to teach it, and how to assess it. The teachers’ role is therefore reduced to that of test proctor.
I know of many teachers who like the standards as well. Most of them use a similar argument that you’re using: there here, we’ll adjust. And when they’re changed, we’ll adjust again. Our teachers are used to being told how to do their job. And that’s a tragedy, and frankly one of the main reasons that we’re in this mess.
2. Fine. I apologize for moving your target. I think it should now be clear that when I was talking about them being untested that I meant that they had not been field tested. Your claim that some set of similar standards were tested in other states is still acknowledging that the CCSS were not tested before implemented. You seem to see such testing as unnecessary. I do not.
You claim that, “A panel of Alabama educators evaluated the CCSS against the old standards and found a very high percentage of similarity. Because there wasn’t a high degree of difference they expected no major hurdles.”
If this is so and there isn’t a significant change, then why change at all? Change for the sake of change is a waste of resources. This statement isn’t logically sound.
Yes, I’m sure that of the 66 people that many of them are parents and that at least some of them probably have students in public schools. But the vast majority of parents, even among those who are highly involved in their children’s education knew nothing about this change until after implementation had begun simply because we went from drafting to implementation via RttT and state legislatures adopting the standards to have a chance at winning RttT funds in less than a year’s time. Exactly how involved can the public be in this “public” decision?
Your timeline on how long the standards have been in the classroom is incorrect. The standards weren’t adopted until November 18, 2010. While teachers might have reviewed them for themselves before they were adopted, they certainly weren’t changing their approach to teaching until after adoption. To do so earlier would have taken them away from doing well on their standardized tests at that time. Most districts in the state are just now filtering the changes in standards, curriculum, and assessment down to the classroom level. Your concept that we would have already heard of problems is premature.
3. I’m advocating testing our tools. Students aren’t tools.
Of course students should be evaluated both on effort and on performance; we’ve done this for years. If you don’t evaluate a student’s effort, your assessment of their performance is incomplete. Assessment is complex. It is, in fact, the single most difficult job a teacher has. Reducing assessment to one standardized test, or even a series of standardized tests is a gross oversimplification that will not close achievement gaps nor help students to learn. There must be multiple levels of evaluation and assessment to have an accurate picture of how effectively a student is learning. If you don’t have multiple forms of assessment, then you have situations like the following. This was shared with me by a teacher in HCS:
Call it “touchy-feely” if you’d like (what’s a little, dismissive name calling amongst friends). The alternative is to evaluate a student based solely on an arbitrary performance on an untested standard. This defeats students and holds students back. Taking a “touchy-feely” approach with student on occasion makes all the difference.
They are children, after all. Knowing when to encourage a child is just as important as knowing when to critique a child. Applying uniform standards, establishing a uniform curriculum, and requiring uniform performance on a uniform test will not make a difference in that child’s life. And as “touchy-feely” as that may seem to you, I’m sure that you as a parent take the same approach with your children. Sometimes you encourage. Sometimes you challenge. You’re a teacher.
I trust teachers to be able to assess how well a student is comprehending the material being taught far more than a computerized assessment.
4. How do you know that they are even “higher?” You cannot. That’s the problem with refusing to test them before implementing them.
One cannot learn without first asking a question.
The ends of a uniform standard is not justified by the means of accepting a flawed product simply because you claim it’s too late to do anything about it.
No, I do not think you’re evil for supporting CCSS/CCRS. Yes, I know that there are those among the opposition who use such tactics. They are an embarrassment to me, and I do not claim them. People who overstate their position in an effort to win an argument are not friends of education. Sadly there is ample evidence that both sides regularly engage in such tactics.
There are those on the proponents side who claim that those who oppose CCSS are simply doing so because they “hate Obama,” “are fearmongers,” “are racists,” “are idiots who don’t do their homework,” and they “don’t actually care about education.”
Name-calling is a waste of time. I oppose CCSS for several specific reasons that I listed above and that began this discussion. I haven’t heard evidence yet calling those reasons into question.
But I’m happy to know that I’m holding up well in your eyes. I do try to be reasonable when arguing on-line.
1. The Huntsville school system is not run like other school systems. Not now at least.
“Where is your evidence that teachers are setting the curriculum?” Eight of the members of the state textbook committee must by law be teachers from elementary and secondary schools. Four must be teachers in post-secondary schools. Other positions can also be filled by teachers. They select the textbooks. Ref: http://codes.lp.findlaw.com/alcode/16/36/3/16-36-60
2. “If this is so and there isn’t a significant change, then why change at all? Change for the sake of change is a waste of resources. This statement isn’t logically sound.” Agreed. But only because you are attributing things to me that I never said. You know all the reasons for having a common core of standards among states.
3. You’ve set up a false choice. You can still have all of those things you describe AND have standardized testing.
4. “How do you know that they are even “higher?” You cannot.” I can read the previous standards and compare them to the current standards. I’ve done this with the math standards – the new are definitely more challenging standards.
“The ends of a uniform standard is not justified by the means of accepting a flawed product simply because you claim it’s too late to do anything about it.” That assumes that it is a flawed product. If you already know that, why bother with testing at all. I think you are making this much more complex than it really is. The CCSS are simply standards for what should be learned at every grade in two subjects. It’s not the cataclysmic change that you are making it out to be.
Again, thanks for sharing.
1. Huntsville is not the only system in the nation being run this way. As the “reformers” gain greater footholds, more and more will follow HCS.
The teachers on the textbook committee are choosing textbooks that are fully aligned with CCSS. Therefore, they are choosing curriculum that is fully aligned with CCSS and is often designed by Pearson and other fully aligned textbook companies.
In other words, my point remains: teachers have little to no say what is actually taught in their classrooms. With the perfect storm of CCSS, moving to digital curriculum, and standardized testing, teachers have less control over what is discussed in their classroom than, I believe, ever before.
I know this to be true because I talk to teachers every single day. And this is what they are telling me.
2. I apologize for paraphrasing you. You said: “A panel of Alabama educators evaluated the CCSS against the old standards and found a very high percentage of similarity. Because there wasn’t a high degree of difference they expected no major hurdles.”
So if that is true, if there is a “very high percentage of similarity” and if there isn’t “a high degree of difference,” then why make the change at all? Change for change’s sake is a waste of resources.
3. Standardized testing is the only means of evaluation that matters to reformers like Wardynski and others. They are completely disregarding the “touchy-feely” side of education. They are completely disregarding the importance of differentiation in education.
When standardized testing is the only evaluation that is valued, it’s not me who is setting up a false choice. Here in HCS, it’s Wardynski and the BOE.
Could standardized testing and “touchy-feely” evaluations exist side-by-side? Hypothetically yes, of course they can. But I’m not dealing in hypotheticals here. I’m dealing in the reality that I see my children face every day. And in that reality, the only measure that matters is the STAR test.
4. I have read the standards as well. The only way to know if they will in fact raise standards is to conduct a field trial. This wasn’t done. Therefore, while you may believe they will raise standards, you cannot know that they will.
The lack of trials, the lack of teacher input, the increase in standardized testing, and the cost, have resulted in a fundamentally flawed product that the Chamber, Gates, and testing companies have sold us.
I disagree with your assessment that I’m making this more complex than it really is. I believe instead that you are simplifying it in order to help sell it. What, for example, do I have to gain from making it more complex than it really is? I am not running for office. I am fighting what I believe is probably going to be a losing battle. (I’m fighting because I believe in learning from past mistakes like having politicians and business leaders develop education standards.)
They are not “simply standards for what should be learned at every grade in two subjects.” They are standards that are the basis of curriculum, textbooks, pedagogy, and assessment. With the assessment focus on language arts and math the teaching of other subjects has been deemphasized. So these standards affect everything happening in our schools.
It’s certainly fine for you to disagree with me, but until someone convinces me that I am wrong about how these standards came into existence, I will not support them. I remain convinced that my mind can be changed, but I’ve not seen any reason to change my opinion of their creation yet. And when a thing comes into existence in a flawed way, it is itself, flawed.
It may end up being (I’m struggling to think of an adjective you won’t claim I’m putting into your mouth) a “good” thing. If it does, then perhaps I shall have to re-think my opinion that the ends don’t justify the means.
Feel free to write later on saying, “I told you so” if it turns out that you were right and I was wrong.
If on the other hand it does end up being judged a mistake by future generations, I won’t do the same. Instead, I’ll just keep teaching hoping to convince people that the ends don’t justify the means.
Effective education is not standardized education. Effective education is individualized education. To teach, you must meet your student where they are and build. It is not a “one-size fits all” enterprise. Never has been. Never can be, despite how much politicians and salespeople might wish for it to be.
Anyone who tells you differently doesn’t know what they’re talking about.
Thanks guys, for an extremely thorough and well thought out dialogue. I think many people can learn a few things from the research and explanations provided. As I stated in an earlier post, the reality is that all children are not destined to meet the same standards, either in school or in life. We have compounded the standardized testing issue here with the forced policy of laptop teaching. And sadly, teachers are no longer the educators who look at their students as individuals, each with his or her own needs, quirks, learning abilities, etc. Instead, they are tested, retested, and tested again until teachers feel secure that they have posted numbers that won’t threaten their status in the eyes of our superintendent. And the parents who pay taxes into the system, pay a fortune out of their pockets on a weekly basis for school supplies and all sorts of school functions, and most of all, send their children to school each day in hopes of facilitating their intellectual growth….how seriously are they taken when allowed three minutes to speak at a school board meeting?
Well said, Old School. Thanks.
Well, now it appears that trying to get your point across at a Board meeting can result in getting arrested. Here is the link to a story and video of a parent in Baltimore who challenged Common Core and was not only removed, but arrested. When is enough …enough? One more disturbing issue with our schools….the school paper/website recently emphasized its “push” for achieving high attendance. They are disappointed that our school dropped a few points below the “accepted” level in the past month. I guess it looks bad and gives us a “bad grade.” So instead, they urge parents to send their kids to school at all costs. Sick? Send them anyway. And guess where our kids catch practically ALL of their illnesses? School! Just like in the workplace, it’s the inconsiderate slobs who want to hoard their “sick time” and come to work anyway just to get the rest of us sick. Now we’re seeing this same principle in school. Getting more fed up by the day with HCS! http://news.yahoo.com/now-arresting-people-complain-common-core-063220815.html
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