Monday, June 03, 2013

Education and Strange Bedfellow: Common Core is Wrong

First off - read Anthony Cody's column from his Living in Dialogue slot at Education Week.  READ IT in its entirety.  

Why?  Because it gives quite the total picture of Common Core and why so many - yes, including Tea Party folks - are against it.  Worried about it.  And will fight it.  You should be, too, if only to protect your child's privacy.

Here's the basics from his column but again, READ IT:

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


"2. As the Post notes, "Critics also charge that Common Core was thrust onto schools with little public debate." This is a huge problem. What hubris it must take to believe that you can assemble a small group of people, and, working largely in secret, completely overhaul what is taught in a supposedly democratic society. 

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

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

Three federal laws explicitly prohibit the U.S. government from directing, supervising or controlling any nationalized standards, testing or curriculum. Yet Race to the Top, a federal education grant competition that dangled $4.35 billion in front of states, favored applications that adopted Common Core. The Education Department subsequently awarded $362 million to fund two national testing consortia to develop national assessments and a "model curriculum" that is "aligned with" Common Core."
"4. Some conservative critics have pointed out that the thrust of the Common Core is aimed at preparing students for the workforce. We are told that the role of our schools is to prepare students for "college and career," and we find an increased emphasis on informational text. This very thorough conservative critique states:

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

The role of education is not to teach students what to think in preparation for job placement. The role of education, the proper role, is to teach children HOW to think, how to process information, how to analyze, interpret, and infer, and how to solve problems."
 "5. Many conservative activists are, like myself, deeply concerned about the role of the Gates Foundation, which has, to date, invested an estimated $150 million in the Common Core project. Check out those out front advancing the standards - you will find they are almost all recipients of Gates money. Educators have come to understand the market-driven, test score-focused agenda of the largest philanthropy in the world."

"The tests associated with Common Core are likely to renew the false indictment of our public schools. Proficiency rates are predicted to drop by at least 30%. There will be a significant expansion in the number and frequency of tests, and the technology needed to fully implement to Common Core will divert billions of scarce education dollars."

"Why have educators and parents with similar concerns about corporate reform and the Common Core been less influential than the Tea Party? The combined membership of the two largest teachers unions in the nation - in excess of four million, is far larger than the number of members of any Tea Party organization. But our union leaders have largely embraced the Common Core, and rarely confront corporate reform head-on.

AFT President Randi Weingarten continues to voice strong support for the new standards, though she has called for a year's delay for the punitive consequences attached to Common Core test results. In a sign of mounting pressure on AFT leadership, however, the AFT issued a statement yesterday raising serious questions about the inBloom database" 

Statement from the AFT: 

"Any potential inBloom has to improve and personalize learning is being overshadowed by a growing lack of public trust in its early communications and operations, and genuine concerns about the security, privacy, sharing and exploitation of data. The AFT raised many of these issues originally, and we, along with parents and teachers, continue to have many concerns about the privacy and security of student and teacher data. We have sent a letter to the funders of inBloom seeking clarification.

"These privacy and security concerns go well beyond inBloom. With a growing marketplace emerging for data collection, storage, analysis and monetization—both for good and for ill—we must be more vigilant than ever about the privacy and security rights of students, teachers and the American people. The rights and responsibilities of parents, students, teachers and school officials in protecting sensitive data, and in determining how others can use that data, must be transparent and well-regulated, and city, state and federal officials have key roles to play."
 

12 comments:

Anonymous said...

Melissa, I would agree with you that parents and the community should be ever vigilant in monitoring public education and, especially policies and mandates coming out of DC supported by the Gates Foundation and others who have a potential financial stake in the game. But with that said, here are some counter considerations for your readers:

1. There is no contract between either of the assessment consortia and inBloom to warehouse any student and/or teacher data. The state of Washington currently has no relationship with inBloom. This state manages its own student data between OSPI's state longitudinal data system and the OFM data system. Not all states have the ability to manage its data as well as the state of Washington.

2. While I'm willing to concede the lack of teacher participation in the development of the Common Core State Standards, it is not true that these have not been vetted by teachers. In Washington, a thorough alignment study was conducted to compare the state's previous state content standards in reading, writing, and math to the CCSS. The panels that did the comparison found very close alignment. In other words, the CCSS were not a major shift in expectations.

3. The feds have funded the development and design of two multi-state assessments via SBAC and PARCC. Both have voluntary membership among states. States can choose to participate as they see fit. The bottom line is that states will have statewide end-of-the-year summative assessments regardless of the consortia. If states can join together to improve these assessments and do so at lower cost than their current state-by-state assessments, isn't this a good idea?

4. The argument against the CCSS as a workforce development tool is a decades-old bogeyman of conservatives. Every single federal education initiative has been met by staunch conservatives by the argument that bureaucrats were trying to turn students into "widgets for the workforce." This is paranoia.

5. There is a significant gap between K-12 graduation expectations and college and career readiness. There is a reason why more than 30% of high school graduates in this state need remedial education in college --- and it's over 50% for graduates entering our state's 2-year colleges. Because test results bring that gap to the fore doesn't make it the fault of the tests and testmakers.

--- someone who knows

Anonymous said...

someone. perhaps no data sharing contract w/ inBloom but there is with CCER as part of the Road Map project. We don't know whether this data will go into a national db, but it certainly tracks comparable data fields as the inBloom one.

I know I wasn't informed that my child's data would be shared in this manner, nor was I given an opportunity to opt out.

http://www.scribd.com/doc/126637116/Data-Sharing-for-Research-Studies

-sps mom

Melissa Westbrook said...

Someone Who Knows:
1) doesn't mean it is not in motion. We need to keep our autonomy over our students' information. inBloom is Gates' baby, you really think he'll stay out of Washington State?
2) vetted is NOT the same as writing it in the first place.
3)States that don't participate don't get RTTT dollars.
4) I don't agree. I think curriculum is leaning more towards training and less on education. Put another way - do you want sex education or sex training for kids? No it's not paranoia.
5) I don't understand your point.

Anonymous said...

sps mom -

You certainly raise a legitimate concern regarding student-level data and I would encourage you and others to be vigilant. However, as I read the data sharing agreement, it does not appear that any data is being shared that would allow individual students to be identified. Names, birth dates, and SSN are not included. Unique student IDs are included but these are generated with methods that do not allow for identifying individual students.

--- someone who knows

Melissa Westbrook said...

SPS Mom, understand that in some districts they DID use SS numbers as identifiers but are told to change that now. However, those lists, with SS numbers, are out there so those students are in real danger of those numbers getting out there.

Given that some of these entities can request (and districts can say yes) info on students' discipline records and/or teacher comments about said students, I think you do have to worry.

Our district has said very little on this and until they do, you might want to keep this on your radar.

Anonymous said...

Melissa,

1. We agree. I just wanted your readers to be aware that inBloom in not involved in this state at this time. I'm not suggesting that you shouldn't keep your eyes and ears open.

2. Yes, vetted is not the same as writing. But teachers did write our state EALRS and GLEs. The study looked at the comparability of the CCSS and the EALRS/GLEs and found them very similar if not identical in places. The CCSS were not created out of thin air --- they used exemplary state content standards, etc. to generate the CCSS. It is not unreasonable to assume that many states shared their content standards pre-CCSS and that the CCSS took verbatim from state standards.

3. That is not correct. No where in the RTTT application nor the NCLB waiver application does it require that CCSS be adopted. The easiest route would have been to adopt the CCSS, but at least two states received waivers without adopting the CCSS. Also, only 15 states got RTTT grants.

4. Let's agree to disagree. I'm exhausted by this battle and I'm not willing to take it up with you. Believe what you want to believe.

5. My point is that there should be an expectation that scores will drop from the MSP/HSPE when the state adopts the SBAC assessments. The cut scores on the HSPE are not aligned, even closely, to college and career readiness expectations. We have not aligned our high school graduation requirements with college and career readiness requirements. The SBAC high school assessment will have a cut score aligned to college and career readiness expectations, so we would expect a significant drop in scores.

--- someone who knows

Melissa Westbrook said...

Someone, you're mincing words. No, RTTT does not "require" it but a huge preference was given. I suspect you know that.

Exhausted by what battle? Common Core isn't even here so I'm confused.

What college and career readiness "requirements" are you talking about? Again, not clear.

Jeb Bush is crowing over how low the scores will drop. He's the icon of ed reform so that should tell you something.

Anonymous said...

Melissa,

RTTT is over. I do know that during the competition most if not all states were in budget crises and the RTTT/stimulus funds were highly attractive if not critical. And, yes, most states applied for RTTT and adopted the CCSS out of necessity. But now that it's over, states are starting to rethink their adoption. But the more pertinent issue now is the NCLB waivers and the feds have reconsidered the adoption of the CCSS and are now allowing states to adopt their own set of college and career readiness content standards. That was what I was referring to. But, yes, RTTT did essentially require states to adopt the CCSS in order to win a grant.

I'm exhausted by the battle over "workforce development" vs. public education and turning our kids into the "widgets for the workforce." I disagree with your assessment of the CCSS in this regard and I'm done fighting this fight. I'm going to let others do that.

Our state public 4-year universities have adopted a set of Minimum College Admissions Requirements: http://www.wsac.wa.gov/sites/default/files/MCAS-Overview-StudentsParents.pdf. In addition, they use the Washington Math Placement Test to determine the ability of admitting students to take college-level, credit-bearing courses. Essentially, the level of knowledge to be admitted to a 4-year institution and to take college-level, credit-bearing courses in English and math are already required and this level of knowledge will be used to determine the cut score on the SBAC high school assessment. To that end, we should expect to see a significant drop in scores from the current 10th grade reading and writing HSPE and the Algebra and Geometry EOCs.

I am certainly not crowing about this but I am ringing the bell for parents and others.

--- someone who knows

Mark Ahlness said...

Melissa, thank you for posting this and for your spot on answers/rebuttals in the comments here. It's worth noting that Cody doesn't even begin to touch on the exponential levels of testing (and of course teaching to those tests only) that will accompany the full implementation of CCSS. I suspect some Tea Partiers might think that part might be just swell. However, the ranks of those who are ardently opposed for educationally sound reasons are swelling (despite the wimpy AFT "research" of CCSS acceptance among teachers) - here's to hoping more CCSS proponents become exhausted coming up with rationale based on rhetoric. - Mark

Anonymous said...

Melissa,

I forgot to address one of your statements: "The Common Core isn't even here..."

The state of Washington adopted the Common Core State Standards in July 2011. There have been numerous implementation workshops held across the state over the past year or so.

And even though the consortia assessments will not be administered until 2014-15, items drawn from the CCSS are already on the MSP and HSPE.

So, yes, Common Core is definitely here in Washington.

--- someone who knows

Melissa Westbrook said...

Someone, you seem quite determined to be right (even when you admit you are wrong).

Anonymous said...

Melissa, I do apologize. It's not my intent to "be right." Honestly, I find great value in this forum and believe it provides a great value to its readers and to those it affects, whether they are readers or not. And in an attempt to further its value, I have tried my best to provide accurate and objective information to the best of my ability. I do fail at this at times. But, if you look back at my comments in this thread and others previous, I think you will find that 75% of the time I'm simply providing information without pushing an agenda. There are times when I've lent my opinion but most times I've tried only to be as accurate as possible.

There are readers on here who trust you and the information you provide without question --- and I believe you've earned this trust. But there are times when you and others provide inaccurate information and, in an attempt to be helpful, I have corrected inaccuracies. Other times I've added additional information or I've provided a different perspective or point of view. I do not intend to be a contrarian and apologize if I have been so.

Lastly, I know that the issues into which I weigh are related to standards, assessments, accountability and other "education reform" issues. It just happens that these are issues that I know a lot about and have been engaged in for some time. I don't weigh in on special education, boundary issues, budget issues, school and student safety issues, and the myriad of other issues tackled in this forum. I just don't think I can be helpful in this regard.

In all honesty, if the information and/or opinions I provide are not helpful and/or welcome, please just tell me so. I will spend my time commenting and working elsewhere.

Again, I apologize if I've come across as pedantic and contrarian. It was not my intent.

--- someone who knows