Luz Gonzalez Excellent Miami Herald LTE - Disastrous Teaching and Learning

October 1, 2013

Luz Gonzales pointedly and succinctly covers the major problems with the Common Core standards system that the Miami Herlad was wise enough to print:

Re the Sept. 20 editorial, No backtracking on Common Core: According to the mass marketer and Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates, as stated in an hour-long interview at Harvard University on Sept. 21, the student population and education accountability experts will have to wait 10 years to ascertain whether Common Core State Standards (CCSS) are effective in achieving the goal of higher learning in schools and leading to career success.

However, the Brookings Institute, an internationally recognized think tank, said this about Common Core State Standards in their 2012 Brown Center Report on American Education: "Despite all the money and effort devoted to developing the Common Core State Standards, not to mention the simmering controversy over their adoption in several states, the study foresees little to no impact on student learning." That conclusion is based on analyzing states' past experience with standards and Assessment of Educational Progress.
Unlike Microsoft, Brookings Institute is a nonprofit organization with no fiscal benefit to either opposing or proposing the benefits of CCSS. Can it be that Microsoft failed to read the Brookings report or that, having already invested millions into CCSS, it plans to make millions, if not billions, off of the technology requirements in Common Core? If so, it's not about to change course, no matter how disastrous CCSS is to state budgets as well as classroom teaching and learning.

Furthermore, Common Core is not a move towards classical education's trivium -- logic, grammar, rhetoric -- and is not laying the groundwork for higher learning. The search for education's utopia will need to be continued elsewhere.

The development of Common Core State Standards (three private organizations have copyrighted the standards) was wrong.

The lack of communication to residents and the stealth implementation of CCSS in Florida is wrong. The standards' chokehold on assessments, and hence curriculum, is wrong. The decimation of parental rights, parental input, and parental empowerment is egregiously wrong. The lack of legislators' input in establishing Florida education reform policy is wrong. The race to the bottom in math and emphasis on informational text in English is wrong. The increased time being spent in testing, as a requirement of CCSS is wrong. The data collection of students' personal identifiable information is dangerous and wrong.
Common Core State Standards are wrong for Florida.

Luz de los Angeles González, Miami

 

Analysis - What Governor Scott's Documents Do and Do Not Accomplish

September 26, 2013

While the Florida Stop Common Core Coalition is very grateful for Governor Scott's willingness to hear the concerns of Florida parents and citizens about the many problems with the Common Core system of national standards, tests, and data collection, it is important to understand their implications.   After careful analysis, here is a list of what these documents do and do not accomplish:

What Governor Scott's executive order and letters DO accomplish-

  • Acknowledge concerns about federal overreach
  • Acknowledge concerns about teaching, testing and data collection  of psychological attitudes and beliefs
  • Withdraw Florida as fiscal agent for PARCC
  • Orders an open process for selecting a new test
  • Seek to gather public input about the standards via 3 hearings and public comments
  • Show some willingness to change the standards to make them Florida's standards
  • Rejects the official CCSS text examples
What Governor Scott's executive order and letters DO NOT accomplish -
  • Stop the implementation of the Common Core standards
  • Prevent changes to the standards from being only superficial within the allowed 15% that Florida previously declined
  • Withdraw Florida from the PARCC consortium as stated by Commissioner Stewart
  • Prevent PARCC from being still considered as Florida's test as stated by Commissioner Stewart
  • Prevent Florida's test from being based on national Common Core standards
  • Stop or prohibit the teaching, testing and data collection of psychological attitudes & attributes
  • Limit the scope of data collection on students, families, and teachers

Coalition Reponse to Senator John Legg Education Memo Dated 9/6/13

September 12, 2013

Dear Senator Legg,

On behalf of the Florida Stop Common Core Coalition (FSCCC), a statewide organization composed of dozens of groups representing thousands of Florida citizens and voters across the state, we would like to respectfully point out some differences in fact and understanding regarding your memo on education standards dated 9/6/13.

Academic Standards:  The standards that you posted to the Senate Education website that were adopted by the State Board of Education on July 27, 2010 are the Common Core standards.  These standards are seriously flawed, because they lack academic rigor and evidence of international benchmarking, are associated with radical curriculum, and teach psychological attributes without parental knowledge or consent. 

Calling them the Next Generation Sunshine State Standards instead of Common Core does not change these facts:  1) Florida was required to adopt these copyrighted national standards verbatim in order to receive its Race to the Top grant; 2) According to the Northeast Florida Education Guide, the Florida Department of Education (DOE) determined not to exercise even the minimal opportunity for state control by adding 15% of its own content to the
standards; 3) As evidenced by the Northeast Florida Education Guide, your June 14th Tampa Tribune column was incorrect.  Florida, in fact, has NOT "adopted its own rigorous standards beyond the minimum Common Core State Standards." The state adopted only the Common Core in English and math; 4) That statement in your column also begs the question Are the Common Core standards "rigorous" and "internationally benchmarked" as claimed by you and other proponents, or are they "minimum?";  5) If you and the rest of the legislature intend to keep the Common Core standards, then your gracious offer to "hear...input" is actually moot, because there are no plans to change them by the private, unaccountable national groups that hired five major authors with no K-12 classroom experience to write the standards.  

Curriculum:  Speaking for our organization, we have never said that adopting the Common Core standards "obligates our teachers and students to a federally -generated or nationally mandated curriculum."  However, it would be extremely naïve to believe that these standards have nothing to do with curriculum.  Though not federally mandated, both because of federal incentives and because the stakes for the federally funded and supervised national assessments aligned to these national standards are so high, standards drive curriculum.  The consequences for testing include teacher pay and tenure, district funding, student grade advancement and graduation.  In theory, as you say, "Decision and control over classroom curriculum and instructional materials remain at the state and local levels."  But, given all of these major stakes, do you honestly believe that a teacher or a district is going to choose their own curriculum?  We believe that they are far more likely to use the federally funded and supervised model curriculum developed by the national testing consortia or something from the official list of text exemplars listed in Appendix B of the Common Core English standards, because they believe they will achieve high scores with these curricular materials.  Some of these texts are sexually explicit, promote a skewed view of the Constitution, or have other problems. Teachers are retiring or quitting in droves as test preparation time is expanded, curriculum is narrowed, and they are unable to teach their students as they see fit. 

Assessments:  We are very appreciative that President Gaetz and Speaker Weatherford agree with some of our many concerns about the PARCC assessment.  Although some critical elements are lacking, we also agree with the list of elements that should be in place for a "Florida assessment" that they listed in their letter and that you quoted in your memo.  Perhaps if this and following the parameters passed in SB 1076 and HB 7009 had been done for the PARCC in a more timely fashion, the state would not be in such a state of chaos regarding the implementation of the standards, aligned high stakes assessments, the school grading system that former commissioner Bennett had to adjust in two different states, and teacher evaluations.  Perhaps also, Florida would not be dealing with a $342 million swing in cost estimates, consideration of tax increases, the laying off of teachers, elimination of programs, and so much concern and uncertainty about this whole system. 

Even if all of these other important concerns are addressed, there are still two large "elephants in the room."  The first is that the standards, as described above, are too flawed to retain even with a "Florida" assessment.  The second is that no one is discussing the massive amount of personal student, family, and teacher data, including psychological data, that is and will be gathered via these assessments and now much more easily made available to the federal government, corporations, and outside researchers due to the significant weakening of the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA) that engendered a federal lawsuit heard on July 24th.      

Suggestions:
1) The only way to truly make the standards Florida's own is to withdraw from Common Core and develop standards that truly are Florida's instead of just in name. This is what FSCCC hopes you will do.  Even staying with the current standards would be better, less painful, and far less expensive for the state, given that Florida's standards are already rated higher in math and just a bit lower in English than the Common Core. This rating comes from the Thomas B. Fordham Institute, acknowledged by many proponents of the Common Core standards, including the Florida DOE. 

2) Ideally, parents and duly elected school boards should control standards, curriculum and assessments.  The federal government's involvement since 1965 and the imposition of state standards and tests via Goals 2000 and the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (No Child Left Behind) has cost US taxpayers over two trillion dollars while achievement scores have stagnated or declined, the achievement gap is unchanged, state and local sovereignty has eroded, and parents' rights and data privacy are routinely violated.

3)  The concept of high stakes testing should be reconsidered.  Accountability should be to parents and locally elected school boards, not to the state, the federal government, or corporations.  A child's educational experience and a teacher's performance should not be reduced to one number. 
4) The inculcation, monitoring, and data collection of psychosocial attitudes, values and beliefs must cease immediately.  That has no place in a free republic.  It is the job of families and religious institutions, not government via the schools to do that work.

5) Data privacy protections need to be significantly strengthened.  Instead of bills like SB 878 that sought to give our children's individual data to the federal government, corporations, and researchers without consent, we need real protections such as the ones furnished during the last session in opposition to SB 878.

Thank you for your work to improve the education of Florida's children.  We look forward to continuing this critical discussion as the interim committee hearings and the session approach. Much more detailed information with extensive references is available in our policy analysis.  Please do not hesitate to contact us if you or any of your members would like to discuss this vital issue further.
 
Sincerely,
 
Karen R. Effrem, MD                                                                                                     
President of Education Liberty Watch
Co-Founder of the Florida Stop Common Core Coalition               

No Public Support for Common Core in Studio Audience

September 10, 2013

The video available at this link is a short clip of a 90 minute town hall meeting on education hosted by CBS 12 of West Palm Beach.  When the studio audience was asked if they supported Common Core, not a single person clapped in support and everyone clapped showing opposition!  Congratulations to Jamie Gass of the Pioneer Institute and Dr. Allison Rampersad for being on the panel and Laura Zorc and Thais Alvaerz in the audience.  The video of the full town hall is available here.

Laura Caruso's Great LTE Against Common Core

September 9, 2013

Osceola News Gazette
Letters to the editor for August 31, 2013

Examining Common Core standards
To the Editor:
An article titled "Introducing Common Core" recently ran in the Osceola Gazette.
While I'm grateful to see an "introduction" to the issue, I do think that we'd all be well served to learn a lot more about Common Core and how it will impact each of us whether we have a student in public school or not.

If you're like me, this whole Common Core thing seemed to come from out of nowhere.  Most of us, including your state legislators and school board members, had never heard of Common Core State Standards until they had already been agreed to by the Florida Department of Education. I've attended one of the School District information meetings and can testify that many are just hearing about it now.
Education of the young is first and foremost a parent responsibility.  In the state of Florida, taxpayers have chosen to establish and fund a system of public education and it exists as one option, which parents may use to accomplish their responsibility of academically educating their child.  Parents may also delegate that responsibility to a private school or may assume it themselves through a program of home education.  All of this requires local control of the educational process and is established in three federal laws that explicitly prohibit the federal government from being involved in local standards, curriculum and testing.

But here's what happened:

As part of the 2009 stimulus bill, a pool of money was created to provide education grants to the states.  Part of the federal requirement to compete for that money was adoption of the Common Core standards (which had been developed by Washington D.C. trade groups funded by the federal government and private foundations). Cash-strapped Florida agreed to abandon our highly rated Next Generation Sunshine State Standards and adopt the yet incomplete Common Core. (Reminiscent of "You have to pass it before you'll know what's in it.) We were awarded $700 million over four years.

We all agree that our children truly are our most precious resource. Yet, we tend to spend more time researching the specifications of our next car than the specifications of our children's education.  Below is just a brief overview of the massive problems associated with Common Core. For more detailed and completely documented information, you'd be well served to download a Policy Analysis of Florida's Common Core Standards at  www.flstopcccoalition.org

Problem: local and parent control/ choice lost
•    Florida is obligated to adopt the federal standards verbatim and cannot amend the existing standards except to add to them, but children will not be tested on those additions.
•    Local governments and parents have no control or influence on standards or testing.
•    Local governments and parents have only token control of curriculum which must align to CC standards, methods and tests.
•    Parent oversight of child development is further eroded as government takes that role.
•    Private schools which accept vouchers will be required to implement Common Core.
•    Common Core-aligned assessments will become the only option, as states abandon their own tests.  The Common Core-aligned PARCC and SAT will force private and home-schooled students to adopt Common Core standards and methods in order to score well.

Problem: academic "train wreck"
•    According to The Fordham Institute, Florida's standards were already on par with or better than Common Core.
•    Five highly respected experts who helped develop the standards refused to sign off on them, citing the fact that they actually lowered student achievement.
• Common Core State Standards are not designed to prepare students for traditional university education. Rather, according to standards developer Dr. Jason Zimba, Common Core defines "college-readiness" as "ready for a nonselective community college."
• Common Core Standards have never been beta-tested anywhere. The children of Florida will be "guinea pigs" for the new standards.
• The Common Core aligned curriculum and teaching methods go beyond academics and are designed to instill psychosocial attitudes, values and beliefs.
• Teachers, already stretched to balance government requirements and the needs of children in their classroom, will be burdened with even more assessments and more restrictive instructional directives.
• Two federally developed standardized tests will be the only options for assessment. We've tossed the FCAT (and all the taxpayer money spent to develop it) for the PARCC and will have to "teach to" the new test if we hope to perform well enough to earn more federal dollars.

Problem: privacy violated
• Common Core implementation requires states to engage in an unprecedented data-collection operation from which parents (and teachers) are not allowed to opt-out.
• A child's personal information (up to 400 data points) will be shared with the U.S. Department of Education without parental consent.
• Florida lawmakers are required to pass legislation to "support the effective exchange of data within and across states."
• Due to significant weakening of FERPA protections in 2011, access to that information may be granted to educational consultants, contractors, volunteers all without parental consent.
• Reality check:  Given the recent revelations of NSA cell phone monitoring and IRS targeting of particular groups, do you really trust the federal government to protect your child's information?

Problem: costs
• Florida can't afford the massive cost of implementation, teacher training & infrastructure improvements that will be legally required after that federal grant money runs out.
• School districts and legislators are being forced into compliance without the funds to do so.
• As shortfalls increase, Florida taxpayers will be compelled to make up the difference.

If you're asking why we're in this mess, it seems always to come back to money and control.  The federal government took advantage of a state in distress back in 2009.  It offered a thirsty man in the desert a drink of water in exchange for his shirt.  And we took the glass of water.  Now, the sun begins to beat hotter and hotter on our bare backs, having given our protection away.

It's not too late. The Florida Legislature has the power to pause implementation and take a careful look at Common Core before we move forward. They could also choose to defund it entirely. Parents and concerned citizens around the state are "doing their homework" and taking their case to legislators, many of whom are beginning to take bold stands to protect Florida's children.

You have an opportunity next Wednesday, Sept. 4 at St. Cloud High School at 6 p.m. to ask questions and have open discussion about Common Core with members of the Department of Education and School Board member Tom Long. Please, do your homework too and then let your legislator, your friends, your school board member, and your "social network" know how you feel.
Laura Caruso
St. Cloud

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