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Tuesday, May 07, 2013

Now I've Heard Everything

I am working on a series on Common Core (which is coming at you like a Japanese bullet train.)  But there are some pretty funny things happening so I just couldn't wait.

Conservatives and Dem ed reformers and corporate ed reformers have been able to join hands and sing Kumbaya over charters, TFA, teacher evaluation, etc.

But here comes Common Core and it all falls apart.  The conservatives loathe Common Core and have succeeded in spreading the word.  The GOP passed a resolution against it and conservative groups like the Heritage Foundation have lined up against it.  At least 10 of the 45 states that signed on to Common Core have introduced backpedalling legislation.  A few, like Virginia, are still holding out.

It is absolutely fascinating to watch this thing unfold.  I knew that at some point conservatives would turn on ed reform and indeed they have (with a vengenance).  Their buddies, the Dem ed reformers, have, in turn, unleashed the dogs on them.

And, into the fray, here comes ....the Girl Scouts.
Yes, apparently someone at the Girl Scouts thinks Common Core is swell and they now have aligned some badges to Common Core (you can't make this stuff up).

A couple a months ago, I was asked to speak before some young Dems about public education.  I chose to start with the beginning of our country because honestly, it is key to where we are today.

Why is that?  Because the issue of local control is absolutely central to any discussion on public education.  States and even districts want to control that curriculum and especially how it is taught.

Whaa? say the Dem ed reformers like DFER.  Going to the mat, they pulled out every scary conservative they could and inferred that anyone against Common Core had to be aligned with them. For example:

It’s growing late and some of us have spent the night canoodling with far-right opponents of the Common Core State Standards. If that sounds like you, it’s time you ask yourself this question: “Am I going to hate myself for this in the morning?"

We can almost guarantee the answer will be yes.

Whoops! because there are actually Dems who like ed reform who don't like Common Core and don't like being lumped in with some of the more crazy conservatives (see Phyllis Schafly or Glenn Beck) so lots of backpedalling on the part of DFER.

In our series, it was not our intention to try to be cute or highlight right-wing opposition to Common Core simply to pick on some of the more extreme people in the Republican Party. Our point was to send a message to Democratic legislators in Indiana and others across the nation: If someone wants to align themselves with those in opposition to Common Core, they should understand what types of people they’re aligning themselves with.

In addition, we did not mean to imply that anyone who criticized Common Core is a right-wing extremist. What we sought to do was to point out that some of the most vocal criticism was coming from sources with questionable credibility and with a political agenda at odds with that of most Democrats.

Then there is the confusion from the American Federation of Teachers who say they support Common Core.  But their leader, Randi Weingartner, gave a speech saying that it should be slowed down because "building preparations" have been woefully slow and the standards should be piloted. 


AFT president Randi Weingarten on April 30 called for a moratorium on assessment-driven sanctions tied to Common Core State Standards until solid implementation plans are embedded in schools and proven effective through a year or more of field testing.

Get some popcorn - those ed reform cracks are getting wider and longer all the time.

6 comments:

Unknown said...

School politics are interesting right now because they are at the heart of a larger political fight that is going on, which the media tries to frame as a liberal vs conservatives fight, and so focuses on the mostly tribal differences between those with cosmopolitan, liberal values and those with traditional religious values. But the real fight is between those who meet mostly around kitchen and dining room tables, and those who meet mostly around board room tables.

We saw how this played out in the last couple of weeks around gun control, when the kitchen table public is overwhelmingly for it, but the board room dealmakers win anyway. Public opinion isn't worth a dime unless it's mobilized, i.e., unless it's motivated, organized, and decently funded.

Boardroom dealmakers, despite their being often a tiny minority have enormous advantages precisely because they are motivated, well-funded, and mobilized around clearly defined goals. And they know that any time the kitchen table folks start to get organized they can find some wedge issue that will throw them into disarray.

The folks who are attracted to Occupy Wall Street could never stomach working with the folks who are attracted to the Tea Party, even though both share the same anti-Wall Street agenda. Those meeting around boardroom tables in Wall Street have little to fear so long as that remains the case.

And so we are seeing these same kind of divide-and-conquer tactics being used by the boardroom types around education issues. The core issue is control and who has it, and the boardroom types have decided that they want it for a whole array of reasons, and they are motivated to do what it takes away from the kitchen table types who still hold some parts of it now. The CCSS debate isn't about curriculum reform and standards; it's about control and who has it, and it has to be understood in the broader context of the politics of ed reform.

David Brewster, a shrewd and articulate defender of the boardroom perspective, laid out how it works in an article about "urban regime" politics last week in Crosscut. From the boardroom perspective, the dealmakers know best, elites always do, and Brewster put those of us who are against corporate ed reform in our places by calling us "reactionaries". We see this ploy at work in the effort to associate anti-CCSS opinion with far-right crazies like Phyllis Schafly and Glenn Beck. You liberals couldn't possibly want to retain control of your schools--that's what Glenn Beck wants. You want to support his reactionary agenda? What's the matter with you?

And the sad thing is that it works because most people aren't paying attention and don't really understand what's at play here, and given the choice most right-thinking, liberal Seattleites will side with Bill Gates any day rather than with Glenn Beck.

suep. said...

Thanks for turning the spotlight to Common Core, Melissa.

We all need to take a very close look at what it is, the standards it claims to bring, who brung it (sic!), and who stands to profit from it.

First and foremost, Seattle parents/guardians should be aware that Common Core does NOT necessarily offer higher standards than our existing state standards. In fact, in some cases, it will be a step down from our current standards.

For example, apparently Common Core dictates that multiplication and Algebra be taught at least a year later than is currently required under WA state standards.

That's not a step up to more rigor, but a potential dumbing down.

On the literacy side of things, apparently Common Core has already created a storm in some parts of the country for replacing classic literary texts (novels) with nonfiction how-to manuals. One example of CCSS required reading I've heard of is a Federal Trade Commission text on identity theft on the Internet. Okay, granted, that could be relevant and possibly even compelling reading, but what piece of great literature is it replacing?

I have also heard that Common Core curriculum includes some hagiographic references to the likes of Bill Gates and Steven Zuckerberg (who, coincidentally underwrite corporate ed reforms efforts).

And yes, CCSS does represent the imposition of a national uniformity that sounds pretty stifling, has little regard for local needs or control, and sounds somewhat totalitarian...

And where was the open public discussion about Common Core before our state education leaders decided to adopt it?

Lastly, Common Core is another unfunded mandate. Switching over to new curricula, new tests and all the related teacher training will not be free. Who is going to pay for this, and at the expense of what?

Jan said...

When I die, I want to come back as Jack Whelan's brain -- with SueP's activism instincts. Ah me.

If I have to stand with Glen Back (and the entire riled up board of education in state of Texas) on this one -- then so be it. It isn't easy -- and it won't happen very often, but I will not let this one by me just because I have little in common with some of the others who are against this horrible idea.

I am so against the Common Core -- I have been since day 1 -- that I cannot even see straight. If someone wants to put something like Common Core out there as "aspirational" -- here come help yourself, or here, buy this from us if you like it -- then they can have at it. But to demand that states adopt and use it is a huge intrusion into the way that education in this country has always functioned (and functioned best). Families -- at the local level -- through their school boards, should have a huge say in what their kids are taught -- and we have give ALL that away with the adoption of the Common Core. Then, of course, there is the expense, etc. -- and that is horrible too -- but the worst of it is the loss of the ability of a school district to set policy (including curriculum, etc.) for kids. I don't even like the degree to which we have conceded stuff to the STATE, but at least there is some rationale there, given that the State funds so much of education -- it makes sense that ALL the state taxpayers should have some say in at least the broad standards (what does it take to graduate, what minimum level do kids need to know, etc.). Kicking all these decisions up to the Feds, who we KNOW are manipulated constantly -- and successfully -- by lobbyists (see -- gun control legisation defeat) -- what could we be thinking?

Part of the problem has been that, to date, it has been hard to find anyone credible in Washington government who thinks it is a bad idea. I heard no complaints from Gregoire, from McKenna, from Inslee. Many who might ordinarily complain seem so enamoured of the idea that maybe they can somehow use the CC (or the high stakes tests that flow from it) to purge the teaching corps of all those "loser union teachers" that they haven't even noticed that they have just handed over the content of what our kids will be taught to the federal government and large corporations!

And we will get nothing but pushback from the faux grass roots orgs run with big corporate donor money. They will be pro-Common Core until their dying breath (unless big business can come up with some OTHER way to make lots of money (with little effort and accountability) off of public education dollars.

Melissa Westbrook said...

Jan, part of the playbook is that it doesn't come from the Feds but from state governors. That's somewhat true except the Feds have held out a carrot with a stick.

Anonymous said...

Melissa, you are absolutely right. While adoption of the common core was/is voluntary, the carrot of the Race to the Top funds during a down economy and the possibility of a waiver of No Child Left Behind made/make it awfully tempting for state officials (in 45 states, no less!) to adopt them.

With that said, given a fairly recent adoption of new state math standards, there is not a lot of sunlight between our state's content standards and the common core. But again, suep is right in that, while the content standards may be the same or very similar, there is some difference in the years in which certain content is first introduced. And this has an affect, sometimes good and sometimes not so good.

--- someone who knows

suep. said...

Whoops -- meant to type MARK Zuckerberg.

And thanks, Jan! Though, you are pretty savvy about ed issues yourself.