Standardizing Education Like Golf Balls


Most of the time these posts about our board and their total failure to comprehend education at even the most basic level just write themselves. For example, on August 15th at the end of the board meeting, Dr. Jennie Robinson and Mr. David Blair took turns expounding their support for Common Core. Imagine my surprise when it became clear that their support for CCSS (or CCRS as they sometimes like to call it, even though it’s the same thing) was based on a fundamental misunderstanding of both Common Core and, frankly, education in general.

Of course this “misunderstanding” is likely entirely intentional, but let’s see what they have to say first. You may watch their comments below, or read them if you prefer.

Five Minutes Of “Misunderstanding”

In a combined total of just under five minutes Robinson and Blair make it completely clear why our district is in the mess (306 employees volunteering to leave in less than a year’s time) that it’s in.

Let’s start with Robinson:

Here’s a transcript with a few comments:

McCaulley: “Jennie?”

Robinson: “Um, having just taken my son back for his sophomore year at Alabama, um, I kinda miss this back to school thing on the local level here. But I’m sharing that, having had my grandson this afternoon, and we’re talking about what’s going on with the school year. So, it’s an exciting time. I wish everyone a great start to the school year particularly for our many new principals. Uh, it’s an exciting opportunity that our schools have to really step up and continue the great work that was done last year.”

Education Is A Top-Down Enterprise

I’m really glad that Robinson stopped to draw attention to all our new principals starting school tomorrow cause we all know that the first day of school really is all about the principal.

Normally, I wouldn’t bother to even point out that she didn’t bother to mention the kids, parents or teachers in her well wishes for the new year. Honestly what’s the point in going after such low hanging fruit anyway.

But there’s something important to note here: Robinson is completely convinced that a good school year comes down to two things: good principals who push their teachers to “step up.” For her, education is entirely a top-down enterprise. This is one reason why a program like CCSS appeals to her: it’s a top-down approach to education. Rather than meeting the student where she is and modifying her educational experience to meet the student’s needs, Robinson believes that the student should adjust to the standard. (Blair makes this more explicit in his comments below.)

She continues:

“I also want to share, uh, Dr. Wardynski’s concerns regarding the movement I am seeing across the state. It is a well-organized national movement that has come into our state. And my concern is that a national movement is driving our state policy to move back on our commitment to the Alabama Standards for College and Career Readiness. They are standards that have elevated the expectations for all of our students across the state. They are standards that will make it much easier for our military families, our corporate families to transfer across from state to state. It will make it easier for us to work with those students who come into our schools. It will make it easier for those students to excel as they move to other states. There are huge advantages in doing, in doing this, and it just disturbs me that we are, that people are not doing the homework that they need to do to find out the truth about these standards. And I would simply suggest that if anybody has concerns about Common Core Standards that they simply go to the actual, for real Common Core website and look at the for realstandards as opposed to listening to the misinformation that is everyplace else about what those standards say. Please do the homework and simply go look at the standards yourself, and see what they say. And I think you will be . . . impressed? You will be, uh, you’ll feel better about them, and you will see, why they are the standard that we need to be following in Alabama and across the nation.”

Birney: “Well put.”

CCSS CCRS Are Nearly Identical

For starters, since Robinson is convinced that people who oppose the CCRS or CCSS haven’t actually read them, I have linked to the actual sites in her comments above. I would agree with her that you should read the standards. They are not exactly what one would consider interesting reading, but it’s true that anyone seeking to criticize or promote something should actually read them first.

One of the first things that you’ll notice is that there really isn’t much difference between the national CCSS and the state CCRS. The state standards can add a bit to the national standards, but no more than a total of 15% may be added to the state versions.

And since we’re all using standardized tests that are “aligned” with the national standards, I suppose we’ll be adding information to our Pearson/ACT tests to cover the extra material . . .

Robinson Confused Over Which Group is From Alabama

However, the truly interesting part is her criticism of the group that brought together the Confronting Common Core conference to Huntsville this past weekend. (By the way, I know the people who put this program together, and they are Alabama teachers, parents, and grandparents. Robinson doesn’t know what she’s talking about.)

She said:

“I also want to share, uh, Dr. Wardynski’s concerns regarding the movement I am seeing across the state. It is a well-organized national movement that has come into our state. And my concern is that a national movement is driving our state policy to move back on our commitment to the Alabama Standards for College and Career Readiness.”

This may be the single most brazen statement she’s ever made, and honestly, that’s saying something.

She’s criticizing a state-based group for having ties to other state-based groups as they try to work together to oppose a nationally-driven attempt to determine what Alabama students should be learning.

It is absolutely clear that CCSS and CCRS are nationally based standards. The state of Alabama adopted them in 2010 in order to apply for a national grant (RttT). CCSS was written, not by Alabamians, and not by teachers (there was one classroom teacher involved), but primarily by politicians with support and funding from the Gates Foundation.

When exactly did Bill Gates move to Alabama?

Robinson Contradicts Herself

Heck even her own statement makes it clear that these standards are national in nature when she claims:

They are standards that will make it much easier for our military families, our corporate families to transfer across from state to state. It will make it easier for us to work with those students who come into our schools. It will make it easier for those students to excel as they move to other states.

I suppose she believes that no one actually listens to what she says closely enough to realize that she’s contradicting herself. I suppose she believes that no one is going to ask for any evidence supporting her claims here.

Dr. Robinson, your audacity in suggesting that people “do the homework” is astonishing.

Blair Supports CCSS by Quoting Facebook Post

But then just moments later, Robinson’s comments were topped by Blair’s.

Here’s what Mr. Blair had to say:

Blair: “Um, ok so I just wanna start with, uh, parents, hug your kids everyday. I just took my youngest to college, and your life completely changes, so and time goes by so quickly. Hug your kids everyday; it will go by so quick.”

Thanks for the encouragement, there Mr. Blair. Just so you’re aware, we do, but feel free to patronize us in the future.

Um, good luck on the start of school. Uh, you know, it’s gonna be great. It is always a great time of year. You know, the teachers are excited. The kids are excited. Got new principals. So many new things to learn out there, so enjoy it. It’s great year, and I look forward to everybody having a good time.

Once again we see that the start of school really is all about the principals.

Standardizing Education Like Golf Balls

And I guess I gotta echo, um, um, Jennie’s comments, too on the common core. I tell ya what I did, personally, uh, and I’m pretty conservative kinda guy, too, and so when people start yelling at me from both sides, um I finally just shut down. I tuned everybody out. And, uh, so I went, and I got the Common Core Standards myself to just read through them. And oh my gosh, it so, um, simple. And I don’t understand why we’re reading this as evil intentions into it. It’s amazing to me. And so I think again you’ve got to question people’s motives when they start talking bad about common core, and they start trying to equate it with evil. I’ve heard all sorts of just ludicrous stuff out there. Read the Core, the Common Core yourself. You see it’s very simple standards.

You know when go to the store to buy golf balls. I saw this, somebody mentioned this on Facebook, you don’t go buy different sized golf balls. It’s one sized golf ball. It’s a standard sized golf ball. And that does not make it a stupid or evil golf ball. It just makes it a golf ball. (Other board members laugh.)

So, um, you know, please look at that. And, you know what, for um, uh, it’s uh, it’s really incumbent on all of us to speak out so when these people start talking about the evil intentions in common core, it’s incumbent on us to say, “Hey, you know what’s the real truth behind that? You know where do you get those, that information?” A lot of times they’re trying to dive into curriculum, and the actual textbooks that are selected. And that’s all done locally, so you know if somebody over in Nevada picks something, it doesn’t mean that we’re going to select the same thing. That’s local control. Nevada may be crazy. I don’t know, but it has nothing to do with what we’re gonna do here. So, the Common Core has nothing to do other than to set standards for what kids need to know when they graduate each grade. Simple as that. That’s all I gotta say.

Yes, Mr. David Blair, a man who wants to run for state senate, believes that education and children are like golf balls in that they should be taught and, one could infer, churned out, to exactly the same size and dimension.

You know, perhaps we should stop making different sized shoes. Having the same sized shoes as everyone else doesn’t make those shoes “stupid or evil,” right? Well, not until you have to wear the stupid, evil things, I suppose.

Now some of you might be thinking, “Well, he didn’t really mean that our students are golf balls.”

And you’re correct. But he does think that education should be standardized like golf balls. He does believe that education should be a one size fits all affair.

And that’s the reason that our district is in such a mess: because the people in charge of making educational decisions do not even know enough about education to see what a stupid idea it is to make everyone learn in exactly the same standardized way.

Even Freshmen Education Majors Know More Than HSVBOE

What he, Robinson, Birney, Wardynski and McCaulley–as they all voiced their support for Common Core–fail to realize is that instruction absolutely must be differentiated to meet the student’s needs. If only one of them had some educational background.

Honestly, any at all. Cause you see, the importance of identifying and adjusting to multiple learning styles is one of the first things a teacher learns in one of her or his first education classes. (At UAH, a “teacher college” as Wardynski likes to refer to it, this lesson is taught in ED 301, the first course an Education Major takes.)

Isn’t it a pity that our board of education doesn’t know as much about educating students as say a first or second semester 18 year old considering getting an education degree?

These are people who believe that the most important part of the first week of school is the principal.

These are people who feel it’s necessary to tell parents to hug their kids. (Those who are, don’t need to be told to do so. Those who aren’t, aren’t listening to these people anyway.)

These are people who think it funny to quote inane Facebook posts in support of the most significant policy changes our schools have faced in their existence.

This is why our district is in such a mess.

“Crazy” Nevada District Uses Same Curriculum As Huntsville

Oh, and Mr. Blair, before you run off at the mouth about how “crazy” those Nevada schools are and claiming that we’re certainly not going to do the same things, or pick the same textbooks that they’re doing out there in “crazy” Nevada, you might want to take a look at this: it would seem that the “crazy” Humboldt County School District in Winnemucca, Nevada has adopted the Pearson Digital Learning curriculum.

You know, that very same crazy curriculum that you voted to bring to Huntsville City Schools last year.

Honestly, Mr. Blair, if you are so completely incapable of understanding that education, by necessity, must be differentiated to meet the needs of the child, it is well past time that you resign your seat on the school board.

Maybe we can find an 18 year old education major, college dropout to take your place.

Our children would be better off.

"Children see magic because they look for it." --Christopher Moore, Lamb: The Gospel according to Biff, Jesus' childhood pal.


  1. Actually, Mr. Blair, the golf ball analogy came out of an op-ed written by General Pillsbury, retired from the Arsenal but doing his best to try to stay relevant. Never mind that he doesn’t have kids in school here and doesn’t have any educational background — that doesn’t stop him from opining. . .

    And I’d like to ask this question. People keep trumpeting the value of these standards to military families (as well as others who move from place to place). Often, in the same heaped praise, they also mention that the standards are minimums and that states may customize their curriculum as they see fit (ignoring the language in CCSS that restricts the amount of customization that is permissible). But putting aside that limitation, there is an inherent contradiction in this praise — is the education standardized or is it state-specific? And if it’s state-specific, what does CCSS do to make things easier for the mobile student, other than provide a floor for each grade?

  2. Golf ball goof balls. And what about the clubs Mr. Blair? If students are golf balls, then their curriculum is clubs, and last time I looked, most golfers haul around a huge sack of these: different tools for different goals.

  3. What I have difficulty with is wrapping my head around the “failing school” issue. First, if you look at a certain lowest percentage of schools and label them as “failing,” won’t there ALWAYS be schools that are labeled as failing regardless of how good they are doing? And isn’t it the KIDS who are failing and not the schools? Instead of shuffling kids around like a deck of cards, they need to STAY where they are and we should address the problems with the school to make it better. Bad teachers? Well, gee, how did they get hired to begin with? Were they being monitored and mentored in their frist few years? Are the facilities run down? Improve them. Most of all, in these “failing schools,” where is the parent participation? Here’s my approach: prior to the beginning of the school year, the parent(s) must personally bring their child to the school to sit down and meet with an administrator/teacher. There needs to be a connection made. If parents can’t be bothered, then there’s your problem. We should not transfer this child somewhere else. The school will NOT make the difference. One more thing. If a student is fortunate enough to transfer to a “passing school,” that student should be on probation. Screw up once, and you are back in your old school. It should be considered a privilege to get transferred to another school, and if you screw it up, you go back. Period. It’s time to stop sith all the PC gibberish and get things back in order.

    1. Another Grissom student got a perfect score last year, and they had him pose with his shiny new laptop for the picture in the paper. Propaganda — yuck.

  4. How many Teach for America teachers are assigned to Grissom, Huntsville High and their feeder schools? Students get perfect, or near perfect scores on the ACT/SAT when they have access to the best trained, certified, EDUCATORS their parents tax dollars can buy, and unlimited resources.

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