Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Common Core Updates

Update 2:  Arne strikes back.  Today Sec'y Duncan, in an apparent effort to shore up support (and that's putting it nicely), pretty much threatened the state of Oklahoma for backing out of Common Core.

Word to the wise, Secretary Duncan, want to make even MORE people suspicious of Common Core? Try the federal government strong-arm. You're only giving them more to work with. From Yahoo News:

Duncan had ominous words for states that buck the Common Core trend.
“We partner with states whether they’re in Common Core or have their own high standards. But where we will challenge status quo is when states dummy down standards,” he warned.
End of update.

Update:  the NY Times is reporting the Gates Foundation has "called" for a two-year moratorium on states making any "high-stakes decisions based on tests aligned to the new standards."  Well, that's big of them considering THEY have caused this rush to new standards and testing.  The letter from the Gates Foundation is laughable in how long overdue it is.  They are feeling the heat from the debate sweeping the nation.

End of update.

Required reading in the Washington Post by Lyndsey Layton called, "How Bill Gates pulled off the swift Common Core revolution."  

Common Core would NEVER be where it is today if not for Bill Gates. 

The result was astounding: Within just two years of the 2008 Seattle meeting, 45 states and the District of Columbia had fully adopted the Common Core State Standards.

And yet, because of the way education policy is generally decided, the Common Core was instituted in many states without a single vote taken by an elected lawmaker. Kentucky even adopted the standards before the final draft had been made public.

Whenever you hear about "powerful" teachers unions, please understand - that power and money from millions of hard-working teachers is dwarfed by the millions spent by Gates, Waltons and the Koch brothers.

Bill Gates was de facto organizer, providing the money and structure for states to work together on common standards in a way that avoided the usual collision between states’ rights and national interests that had undercut every previous effort, dating from the Eisenhower administration.

What did Gates have to say?


Gates grew irritated in the interview when the political backlash against the standards was mentioned.

“These are not political things,” he said. “These are where people are trying to apply expertise to say, ‘Is this a way of making education better?’ ”

Really?  If it's not political, why go through the Governors Association to get this done?   I think Mr. Gates believes all the adults in the U.S. are naive children who can't possibly look behind the curtain.

Gates is disdainful of the rhetoric from opponents. He sees himself as a technocrat trying to foster solutions to a profound social problem — gaping inequalities in U.S. public education — by investing in promising new ideas.

Gates has said that one of the benefits of common standards would be to open the classroom to digital learning, making it easier for software developers — including Microsoft — to develop new products for the country’s 15,000 school districts.

In February, Microsoft announced that it was joining Pearson, the world’s largest educational publisher, to load Pearson’s Common Core classroom materials on Microsoft’s tablet, the Surface.  
Can anyone truly stand up to Gates and his foundation? 


Jay P. Greene, head of the Department of Education Reform at the University of Arkansas, says the Gates Foundation’s overall dominance in education policy has subtly muffled dissent.


“Really rich guys can come up with ideas that they think are great, but there is a danger that everyone will tell them they’re great, even if they’re not,” Greene said.

So what did Gates do (this is only a partial excerpt):

With the Gates money, the Hunt Institute coordinated more than a dozen organizations — many of them also Gates grantees — including the Thomas B. Fordham Institute, National Council of La Raza, the Council of Chief State School Officers, National Governors Association, Achieve and the two national teachers unions.


The Hunt Institute held weekly conference calls between the players that were directed by Stefanie Sanford, who was in charge of policy and advocacy at the Gates Foundation. They talked about which states needed shoring up, the best person to respond to questions or criticisms and who needed to travel to which state capital to testify, according to those familiar with the conversations.

The Hunt Institute spent $437,000 to hire GMMB, a strategic communications firm owned by Jim Margolis, a top Democratic strategist and veteran of both of Obama’s presidential campaigns. GMMB conducted polling around standards, developed fact sheets, identified language that would be effective in winning support and prepared talking points, among other efforts.

Later in the process, Gates and other foundations would pay for mock legislative hearings for classroom teachers, training educators on how to respond to questions from lawmakers.

Oh, wait a minute. GMMB?  Why that's Frank Greer's company.  The same Frank Greer who is behind-the-scenes mover and shaker and just happens to live in Seattle.

What about the Obama administration?

There was so much cross-pollination between the foundation and the administration, it is difficult to determine the degree to which one may have influenced the other.


Several top players in Obama’s Education Department who shaped the administration’s policies came either straight from the Gates Foundation in 2009 or from organizations that received heavy funding from the foundation.

And his own children?

Bill and Melinda Gates, Obama and Arne Duncan are parents of school-age children, although none of those children attend schools that use the Common Core standards. The Gates and Obama children attend private schools, while Duncan’s children go to public school in Virginia, one of four states that never adopted the Common Core.


Still, Gates said he wants his children to know a “superset” of the Common Core standards — everything in the standards and beyond.

Don't we all, Bill, don't we all.

To put on your calendar:

A group calling itself the “Badass Teachers Association,” citing opposition to what it considers market-based education reform, plans a June 26 protest outside the Gates Foundation’s headquarters in Seattle.

I met many of these teachers at the Network for Public Education conference earlier this year.  Expect this to be a loud protest from some very energetic teachers.

I know some of you may wonder why I keep updating Common Core.  "Isn't it a done deal?"

Hardly.  As I reported last week, three more states have changed their minds and said no to Common Core (that would be Oklahoma, North Carolina, and South Carolina).  The wave of news, opinion, and yes, change across the country continues.  I suspect we may be hearing/doing more in Washington State in the next 18 months.

In our state there is Ready Washington which is a booster group for Common Core. It includes OSPI and the State Board of Education as well as the Washington State School Directors Association and the Association of Washington School Principals.   That's all fine but then you have the Partnership for Learning (which is a state business group's non-profit for pushing their ed reforms), Stand for Children, LEV, DFER and hey, look who regrouped, The Parents Union (their new website is very funny).

So naturally, this group is very pro-Common Core.  But they, too, must be experiencing the backlash of Common Core so recently the Partnership for Learning conducted a survey about Common Core.  It was pretty amusing as the questions were high-level vague. As a smart person, Robert Cruickshank, tweeted to me, "Do you like pie?  I like pie, too." (See #4 .)  Do you like standards for children in public education?  No kidding, me, too. 

I mean, most people in Washington state STILL have not heard of Common Core (54%).  What's quite interesting is that this is being pushed as state-wide and when I tweeted, "The polling is skewed to the West (not to the East where pushback would be more likely)," they tweeted back, "Support was 67% in Eastern WA. 3 regions surveyed. Poll was demographically representative of the state."

Well, their own numbers - on page 8 of the survey - say, "King county 29%, Western 49% and Eastern 22%."  I haven't used either enVision or MIF but my math education tells me that nearly 80% of the support was in Western Washington, not Eastern.  Never heard a peep back from them about this.  Hmmm.

I'll stop here but I have no fewer than 20 stories on my computer about issues around Common Core (including math).

21 comments:

Anonymous said...

http://www.pearson.com/news/2013/october/pearson-appointskatejamesaschiefcorporateaffairsofficer.html

-FWI

Anonymous said...

North Carolina has not repealed the Common Core State Standards.

--- swk

Anonymous said...

Jesse Hagopian is listed as one of the speakers.

http://saveourschoolsmarch.org/event/rallytosaveeducation-seattle/

Rally to Save Education
Educating the Gates Foundation: June 26th
The struggle between corporate ‘reform’ groups taking public schools hostage vs. educators & parents who know what kids need to thrive is at its zenith….
June 26th, starting around 5:00 PM we will be marching from Seattle Center, will close part or all of 5th avenue and gather on the corner of Mercer and 5th for speakers to energize the crowd….

-districtWatcher

Anonymous said...

Melissa,

"... that power and money from millions of hard-working teachers is dwarfed by the millions spent by Gates, Waltons and the Koch brothers".

It's interesting that you only link Gates to right wing billionaires wanting to use their money to influence public policy. There are just as many on the left. Bloomberg and Soros are perfect examples.

Fairness

Melissa Westbrook said...

Fairness, well I did include DFER in the piece but certainly, there is plenty to go around. But Soros and Bloomberg are certainly not active in the way Gates and the Waltons are.

Cozie UP said...

Very cozy relationship between GMMB and Common Core. Of course, we can't forget the cozy relationship between a member of GMMMB and a particular school board member.

Gates must be thrilled to have a nice little triad- LEV, Stand for Children and GMMB- right in his back yard.

ben said...

Technically speaking 3 states have opted out Indiana, Oklahoma and S. Carolina.

N. Carolina has passed 2 bills that would establish a commission to re-examine the common core but that has not become law yet.

See: http://blogs.edweek.org/edweek/state_edwatch/2014/06/north_carolinas_common-core_.html

However so far most of these moves seem motivated by a concern over federal control and do not yet represent a break with the assessment philosophy or even overall content in the standards themselves.

I'm cautious and waiting for a true break with the current reform efforts before proclaiming them dead.

Ben

mirmac1 said...

Methinks it's time for another PRR for: GMMB, Greer, Pearson, Gates Foundation and EnVision emails. Greer's, um...je ne sais quoi...enthusiasm may have contributed to the spontaneous/orchestrated push for Pearson's EnVision. He has that affect on some people... Greer can't bully Peters, Peaslee, Patu and McLaren.

N. End Mom said...

" the NY Times is reporting the Gates Foundation has "called" for a two-year moratorium on states making any "high-stakes decisions based on tests aligned to the new standards." Well, that's big of them considering THEY have caused this rush to new standards and testing. The letter from the Gates Foundation is laughable in how long overdue it is. They are feeling the heat from the debate sweeping the nation"


Our children are being used as guinea pigs.

Melissa Westbrook said...

Ben,I would agree these early exiters appear to be more from the conservative side but again, the overall pushback is coming from many directions.

Anonymous said...

"Dummy" down standards?

Think for a second about the moronic quality of that statement. So Arne's now creating verbs that don't exist while talking about "standards."

What exact standards, Mr. Duncan, do you subscribe to? Not the "dummied" down kind, I suppose.

Did he get that from the same dictionary that he got "incent" (v) from? This fool is the Secretary of Education, for God's Sake? The Emperor Has No Clothes! And we complained about Bush and Quayle? At least Quayle knew what a "Potatoe" was!

WSDWG

Anonymous said...

Amen, WSDWG

CT

Just saying said...

swk wants to hold everyone accountable. Meanwhile, Gates wants a two year delay in linking Common Core to teacher evaluations and student promotion. How does this fit into your world view swk?

Heath Dixon said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Anonymous said...

Just saying: I am mostly just glad to hear Mr. Gates backing off (though since what he really did, wittingly or not, was feed into an agenda that is attempting to defang teachers unions and defund teacher compensation, I don't expect his plea, at this late date, to get much traction). To swk's point, though -- what can/do we legitimately expect out of new (and much improved) math materials over the next five years? This is not rhetorical. I know I am expecting "a lot," but if Charlie or Melissa asked me to be more specific, I am not sure I could be. I suspect that the best of our math teachers and principals could tell us much more. But I am very curious.

Next year, for example, bright-eyed and eager first graders will (hurray!!) get their first full year of elementary school math under MathInFocus -- taught by teachers who will have been newly trained in it. Boy would I love to know whether, at the end of the year, the kids have learned more, and enjoyed it more, and the teachers and parents are happier. Will we know that? How?

More complicated -- next year's fifth graders will get a year of MIF, built on a basis of four years of EDM -- taught by teachers with whatever PD they get from MIF this summer (and backed by downtown staff who are all ticked off, as far as I can tell). How will THAT go? We are not doing a roll up, like Highline did (and if I were the parent of a second or third grader -- getting the last dregs of EDM, I would be glad of that), but how will MIF work for 4th and 5th graders who lack an MIF foundation? Will the PD address that? Do we have comps from anywhere else that show how this kind of shift has worked elsewhere (we aren't the first to jump the fuzzy math ship -- so this data must exist).

If I were swk, THIS is the stuff I would care about -- this AND any shred of evidence that by picking MIF, we are not continuing to feed the voracious data appetite of ed reform with identifiable student data. Since the link between student scores on high stakes tests and teacher quality is nonexistent, hopefully THAT is not what swk is looking for.

Jan

Melissa Westbrook said...

Good thoughts, Jan, on how to look at any data.

Data is just data unless there is real context.

Anonymous said...

TBH, I don't have anything in principle against having a national curriculum or set of national standards - plenty of other countries have that & have successful education programs, but there are so many problems with CC...

As for Arne Duncan, I think the best thing that can be said about him is that at least he's not Michael Gove (the current British Education Secretary). I'm probably the only person who reads this blog and follows UK education policy, but believe me, that is damned with faint praise indeed.

-flibbertigibbet

dw said...

Jan said: ... that by picking MIF, we are not continuing to feed the voracious data appetite of ed reform with identifiable student data

Yes, thank you Jan!

Even if Envision was just as good as MiF (and I don't believe it is), the fact that Envision is a Pearson product, with all the associated tracking and student data mining, would have steered my vote to another product.

Don't forget, Pearson already runs our student grading system (PowerSchool), and has their fingers in various other identifiable student data pots as well, like testing.

Thank you Board members for not only picking IMO the best math curriculum for our kids, but for not giving Pearson access to even more student data.

Anonymous said...

I will say, once again (and as I have said multiple times on this blog), that I do not believe student standardized test scores should be a factor in teacher evaluation/compensation.

I imagine that this won't be the last time.

--- swk

Anonymous said...

swk -- I hadn't intended to infer your support for high stakes tests. I was mostly just adding my two cents -- and framing my thoughts around your prior post.

Cheers

Jan

Anonymous said...

Thanks, Jan. I have appreciated your viewpoints and your cordial interactions on this blog.

I do apologize for making the inference. I feel the need to make this declaration now and again and thought this an opportune moment to do so.

And for the record, I'm all for high stakes tests if the tests are appropriate to the stakes. For instance, I think high-quality, well-designed, valid and reliable assessments should be used for school- and district-based accountability. And high school exit exams (again, if they are high-quality, well-designed, valid and reliable) should be used for high school graduation. Of course, students should have access to multiple attempts, alternative assessments, and instructional remediation. (And for what it's worth, IEP teams should have the authority to make decisions about the appropriate assessments for students regarding their high school graduation.)

Conversely, I don't believe high stakes tests are appropriate for teacher evaluation or student promotion. Those are inappropriate uses.

--- swk