Common Core Rules of Engagement

The following was presented by Randy Osborne during the highly successful Stop Common Core training and protest in Orlando on June 29th.  Randy is a lobbyist for Florida Eagle Forum, Heartland Research, and our coalition, as well as a political consultant, and Marion County Republican chairman.

Common Core Suggested Rules of Engagement

1.  Any information that is communicated in email, Facebook, Twitter, telephone, or blogs needs to be 100 percent accurate. Verify, verify, verify. The Florida Stop Common Core Coalition fact checks their information from several sources prior to submitting in any media venues to insure the accuracy of the statements being made.
2.  When meeting with legislators be respectful. Yelling or being rude will shut them down from any     meaningful communication. Address them as "Representative ____" or "Senator _______" .  Thank them for their time. 
3.  Prepare how you're going to approach the issue you are going to be addressing. Always do your           homework prior to meeting with your legislator. 
4.   Whenever possible, call and ask for an appointment to meet with your legislator.
5.  When talking to the legislators stay on single issue topics. If you are communicating your concerns with Common Core, do not get into other universal problems. Stay on specific topics.
6.  If you do not know how to answer a question that your legislators ask, let them know that you will follow up and get the answer. This gives you another opportunity to meet with them or their aides about your subject.
7.  Bring an information card with you so the legislator's office can follow up with you on an issue they may have had.
8.  When possible bring small groups with you. Legislators are more apt to listen when they believe there are numbers of constituents that are supporting the same issue.

Rebuttal to Senator John Legg's Pro-Common Core Column

Senator John Legg, chairman of the Senate Education Policy Committee, despite authoring a very good bill just signed into law that requires ALL districts to have adequate and independently verified technology before the online Common Core tests can be given, wrote a very pro-Common Core column published in the Tampa Tribune on June 14th.  (Click HERE to read that column).  Below is Dr. Karen Effrem's submitted, but unpublished column:


With all due respect to Senator Legg and the great work he has done as chairman of the Senate Education Policy Committee, after his June 14th guest column in the Tampa Tribune, we would submit there are some gaps in or simply incorrect information he has received about Common Core in the following areas:
Rigor/International Benchmarking First the senator says the standards are "are internationally benchmarked, preparing all students to succeed in our global economy," indicating that they are of high quality and rigor. Later in his column he says, "Florida...has adopted its own rigorous standards beyond the minimum Common Core State Standards..."  Which is it? The standards cannot be both rigorous and minimum.  The facts are: 1) There is no evidence that national standards improve academic achievement; and 2) Repeated requests for evidence of international benchmarking by the Common Core validation committee were denied causing five academicians to refuse to sign off on the final version.
State and Local control - The federally funded and supervised national tests and model curriculum will determine curriculum because stakes are very high for test results, including graduation, teacher pay, and district funding.   These tests are aligned to Common Core, NOT the 15% of so-called "rigorous standards"  that the states were "allowed" to add as their own after being required to adopt 100% of Common Core verbatim. 
State Led/Public Process Despite declarations to the contrary, the standards development and adoption processes were far from transparent and state led.  The three groups that developed the standards are private trade associations whose deliberations are closed to the public.  The National Governor's Association receives 80% of its funds from the federal government plus more from unaccountable private foundations such as the Gates Foundation.  The appointed State Board of Education adopted the standards without holding any explanatory public hearings and without consulting any elected officials.
 Voluntary - The states "voluntarily" adopted those standards because it was the only realistic way they could compete for desperately needed funds during a severe recession or to get relief from onerous federal regulations of No Child Left Behind.  Having to submit to federal directives while competing to receive taxpayer funds forcibly taken from the states by the federal government is not exactly a voluntary or 10th amendment process.
Data Privacy Although Senator Legg is correct that the standards themselves do "not pose an identity or security risk to students," the federally funded state longitudinal data system required in the Race to the Top grant that Florida received certainly does.  This data system will link the test results for the new standards to the 300-400 points of other very private data, like the iris scans that occurred in Polk County without parental consent.  This womb to tomb dossier will make the NSA's data collection look tame.
Finally, when has centralizing or nationalizing anything ever been a conservative concept? How will parents, districts and states be able to change any of the standards controlled by these private and unaccountable groups? The citizens of Florida deserve answers.    

Fact Checking the Bush Foundations' Rebuttals

Former governor Jeb Bush's two foundations, The Foundation for Florida's Future and the Foundation for Excellence in Education, are constantly putting out rebuttals or their version of "Myths vs Facts" sheets for every anti-Common Core piece that is published.  The problem is that it their articles that are full of inaccuracies and myths.  What follows is a side by side comparison of one of their articles published on May 31st, 2013 next to Dr. Effrem's repsonses.

The Florida Stop Common Core Coalition Response to the Foundation for Excellence in Education
What You Need to Know About Common Core State Standards
The Foundation for Excellence in Education "Myth vs. Fact" article, May 31, 2013   Florida Stop Common Core Coalition response by Dr. Karen Effrem, President of Education Liberty Watch.
Common Core State Standards are simple, clear and rigorous academic expectations. How can this be known?  These standards have never been tested or used anywhere.  There is no evidence that they will improve performance.
The standards are benchmarked to high international standards to guarantee that American students are prepared to succeed in the 21st century global economy.   The developers have rolled back their claim that they are" benchmarked" to high international standards, to saying the standards are "informed" by other countries, without providing data.
To date, more than 45 states have voluntarily adopted Common Core State Standards. Governors of 45 states "voluntarily" adopted the standards in order to receive desperately needed funds from Race to the Top during a severe recession and relief from onerous No Child Left Behind regulations.
Polk County was piloting a new school bus safety program for students that involved eye scanning.  What does this have to do with Common Core some may ask? Nothing. While the standards have nothing to do with iris scanning, federally required data collection systems will link test results, teacher data and 300-400 points of other data, including biometric data like iris scans.
The Common Core Standards lend themselves easily to voluntary adoption by charter schools, private and faith-based schools and home schools, these entities will continue to have maximum flexibility on how and what they teach their kids. Florida Commissioner Tony Bennett, who lost his re-election in Indiana due to his support for Common Core, and Florida Governor Rick Scott have called for private school students who receive vouchers to take the Common core tests, thus imposing the Common Core standards on private schools.
A Thomas B. Fordham Institute study showed that the Standards are superior to standards currently in use in 39 states in math and 37 states in English. For 33 states, the new standards are superior in both math and reading. Research by the Brookings Institution found there was no correlation between the quality of a state's standards as rated by the Fordham Institute and student academic achievement.  Even so, Fordham rated Florida's standards & Common Core roughly the same, so how will Common Core improve anything?
The standards place a greater emphasis on the reading of more difficult-to-understand "original texts," such as President Lincoln's "Gettysburg Address" or Martin Luther King, Jr.'s "Letter from Birmingham Jail," creating a greater understanding of more rigorous material. Teachers are directed to teach the Gettysburg Address without context "in order to level the playing field for all."  In that lesson, one of our major historical documents was used to inculcate social justice as being more important than our history.  Are those the priorities we want for our children?
Common Core State Standards are not a national mandate or a national curriculum.   States retain full authority for implementation, preventing the possibility of a federal takeover.  States can withdraw from the standards at any time. Developed by the federally funded private groups, the standards are copyrighted and cannot be altered.  The federally funded national tests and model curriculum will determine curriculum choices.  If the states can "withdraw from the standards at any time," why are members of this foundation going all over the country urging legislatures not to do so or pressuring local Republican units in Florida to not adopt anti-Common Core resolutions?

Political Dangers of Common Core

The following email was forwarded to us. It was written by former Marion County state committeewoman Marguerite Cavanaugh.  Though lengthy, it perfectly encapsulates the growing divide within the Republican Party between the corporate-backed, elitist political establishment that back Common Core and the conservative, grassroots members that make up the heart of the GOP base.  Former governor Jeb Bush and his foundations are specifically called out, for badgering other states questioning Common Core and Florida Republican units that dare to pass resolutions against the standards, but politicians in other states are doing the same thing. The Georgia GOP is experiencing a similar phenomenon, but they voted unanimously to urge their elected officials to withdraw from Common Core .   And the GOP is not alone.  Union members are increasingly questioning their own leadership and the Democrat party as teachers are being turned into glorified babysitters.

Dear Republican Party Leaders of Florida:

Many of you have given me the honor and pleasure of serving with you for almost 10 years as State Committeewoman. You know I have a sense of humor, but am very serious when it comes to the future of the Sunshine State, our Nation and the Republican Party, so this is for all of you and the ones I haven't been able to work with or know.   

It has come to my attention that the Common Core standards came up as a topic, without discussion, during the conference call last week on Wednesday, and it was stated that those who oppose or have concerns about the standards, their accompanying tests and data-mining system, were "whackos" or "crazies" who need to be handled with special information from the party hierarchy or the Department of Education.  Without going into the detail involving the many issues raising concerns from parents, teachers, business leaders, organizations, as well as academic, legal, and privacy experts, let me give a few reasons why, politically, that is not a wise or winning strategy for our state party, the Republican Party of Florida:
  1. The Republican National Committee unanimously adopted a resolution opposing the Common Core Standards in April, 2013, including the RPOF's highly respected members.  Do we really think it wise to refer to the entire RNC and our Florida members as "whackos"?  Also, I don't think we should rile or disrespect the largest political organization of women in the nation; The National Federation of Republican Woman came out with their own resolution against the Common Core Standards.
  3. The duly elected legislature of Indiana, which consists of wide majorities of Republicans voted for legislation pausing implementation of the standards and tests pending further review and public hearings;  Republican governor Mike Pence signed the legislation.  Are you calling elected Republicans including a sitting governor crazy?  What about the Michigan legislature? Are they whackos for voting to defund the Common Core system pending further review? Or, what about Republican governor Nathan Deal of Georgia or even Democratic governor Tom Corbett of Pennsylvania, who both took executive action to pause the implementation until there could be more public input?
  5. Do we really want the RPOF entertaining the attitude that the leaders and researchers of some of the most important and esteemed think tanks and policy organizations in the nation are mentally unsound because they raise questions about such a transformational education model?   We are talking about Heritage, Cato, Eagle Forum, the American Principles Project, and Freedom Works, to name just a few.  We need to realize that assigning those labels also applies to the members and supporters of those organizations, people who make up the heart of the Republican base.  That base did not turn out in adequate numbers in the last election.  Displaying such a condescending attitude to them again, will only worsen our chances of winning future elections.
  7. While, as with any issue, there may be some so-called fringe elements that oppose Common Core, please remember, many of the supporters of this top-down initiative are some of the most radical leftists and would-be tyrants in our nation's history.  Does the RPOF really want to align themselves with the progressive agenda of President Barak Obama, Arne Duncan, Bill Ayers, and Linda Darling-Hammond by promoting the enlistment of our education system, and using our children as guinea pigs?  Should the Republican Party of Florida, of which you are a part, continue to choose to support the intrusive Common Core data-mining collection system, as does the Obama administration, to be used on our children (And teachers) from "cradle to career?" This data will be made available to various federal government agencies, corporations, and outside researchers, soon making the NSA scandal look like a walk in the park.
  9. Finally, please understand that the largest part of the growing tsunami of opposition to the Common Core system is composed of suburban moms who are learning what this is doing or will do to their children.  This important block of swing voters is not amused and they will take out their 'mama bear' fury on those politicians of either party they see as trying to impose this boondoggle on their children.  Instead of trying to portray them as nut jobs, it would behoove elected officials and the Republican Party, along with all of their appointees, to respect and address their grievances.
It has also come to my attention that the foundations started by Governor Jeb Bush, are involved in contacting, even pressuring, Republican Executive Committee (REC) chairmen to oppose/squash/suppress any anti-Common Core resolutions brought to the RECs from their membership.  This is unfortunate and quite disturbing for all of the reasons I have afore mentioned, plus the following four reasons:
  1. If the governor, as a Republican, believes in constitutionally limited government and local control, and the materials put out by his foundation say, "State leaders, accountable to their constituents, can withdraw their states from the standards at any time," why are he and his organizations continuing to badger and interfere with the decisions of our Republican Executive Committees and our legislators, who wish to express their opposition to such a life-altering, astronomically costly, untested educational system?
  3. Governor Bush had the full support of this county and mine as our governor, and I believe he is not a whacko or crazy for supporting this liberal agenda just misled, in my humble opinion. The Common Core talking points are full of holes and misstatements. His efforts have been unsuccessful in the afore mentioned states.  The people have spoken to their elected leaders and they are sending an entirely different message than that of the governor.
  5. Some of the governor's efforts in this area must be viewed at least somewhat skeptically, given the very large donations that his foundations received from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, whose Microsoft Corporation stands to reap billions from Common Core related testing, plus mandated educational and data-mining software.  In fact, 26 of the 32 groups that opposed the Indiana legislation to pause Common Core, as well as the Bush foundations, received contributions from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. Haven't I heard many of you say, "Follow the money?"
  7. Judging from the curriculum driven by Common Core Standards, (Which replaces the Sunshine State Standards) it could change the political view of Florida and the nation to a conditioned hard-left agenda, over the course of just one or two short generations.  We will have produced a populace of voters who will probably have a hard time voting for Republicans or any conservatives.
The Florida State Board of Education (FLSBOE) signed the Common Core State Standards Initiative contract and took the stimulus money on behalf of the state of Florida, in 2010, for this vast, untested program. The appointed FLSBOE acted on our behalf with no public input, no discussion and no legislation. Our Florida legislators, however, are able to oust Common Core during the upcoming session with encouragement, facts and support. 

Common Core is a potent issue, which, down the road, the Republican Party may very well regret having been responsible for its promotion and allowing its implementation. For the good of the Sunshine State and for the good of the Republican Party, please urge the allowance of our constitutional right of "Redress of grievance." Please encourage the reconsideration of the tone and approach being portrayed by the party, elected Republican officials and both their appointees against its well informed voting members, constituents and citizens at large.

Thank you for your consideration.

Best Wishes,

Marguerite Cavanaugh
Former Marion County State Committeewoman

Florida Commissioner Tony Bennett’s Unsuccessful Attempt to Defend Common Core

Florida Education Commissioner was interviewed by Daybreak Show host Drew Steele on WFSX FM out of Naples on May 24th.  Mr. Steele is a staunch opponent of Common Core, and even though he asked tough questions, conducted a very polite interview.  Still, it was obvious that the commissioner is in over his head trying to defend the indefensible.  The podcast is available here.  Below follows some of our responses to his statements.
Statement (Bennett): "Common core is not a curriculum."
Facts:  Common Core is a set of national standards that is aligned to federally funded and supervised national tests and model curriculum that will drive curriculum choices, because the stakes are so high for the test results. It is highly unlikely that teachers or districts will choose curriculum that is very different from the national model curriculum or the text exemplars in the English standards (see below). As Bennett's interviewer, Drew Steele, eloquently stated, "If the teachers are making the curriculum but they are teaching to a federal test that tells us some of these things we need to teach to, then I am not sure it makes any difference, because it's still the federal government telling us what to do."  

Statement (Bennett): "That's exactly what should happen in my vision with Common Core.  The local communities are in charge of what gets taught."

Facts: Florida is the financial agent for PARCC, one of the two large groups of states putting together the national tests that will be given multiple times per year on computer.  These tests are aligned to the national standards, NOT the 15% of standards that the states were "allowed" to use as their part of the standards after the states were required to adopt the national standards verbatim.  This also applies to whatever a local school district may try to choose.  It will be functionally impossible for teachers and districts to choose what is taught and still have their students do well on these national and federally controlled tests unless it is compliant with these national standards and associated model curriculum.  Many teachers have written about how they are leaving the profession because trust for knowing what and how to teach has been taken away with Common Core as they are forced to use scripted lessons or online curriculum to teach to tests.  (See here for more details).

Statement (Bennett): "I am a huge local control guy... if I capitulate to the federal government, then I want to be held accountable to that and I hope Governor Scott does.

Facts:  The commissioner is in an appointed position, not an elected one.  When he was in an elected position, he lost his election due to his staunch support of Common Core.  Additionally, if local control is so important, why do we need an appointed commissioner and state board of education making such a huge decision that affects millions of Florida students, teachers, and families to adopt Common Core without public hearings explaining it or consulting with any elected legislators or school board members?

Statement (Bennett and Scott):  There will be no more teaching to the test as with the FCAT.

Facts:  A Palm Beach Post editorial reminds us of the problems that occurred with making the FCAT high stakes that include, "The test covered only a few subjects, students took it long before the end of the school year, and half of elementary and high-school students didn't even take it. Yet the entire school received a grade, on which parents, students and Realtors fixated." "Teaching to the test" will only grow worse under Common Core because the stakes are so high and will continue to grow higher for everyone.  Grade promotion, graduation, teacher pay and tenure, and district funding are or will all be based on test scores. If the Obama administration has its way, federal Title I funds will be tied to test scores and whether states are using the Common Core as well.  

Statement (Bennett):   "We should be using things like our founding documents, like the critical conversations, like Shakespeare."

 Facts: While it is true that the list of text examples reference the major American founding documents  and some works of William Shakespeare, there are several problems.  The list of exemplar texts do not include the entire U.S. Constitution, but do include a reading from an EPA manual about Insulation levels and another about health care costs.  The model curriculum for the Gettysburg Address requires students to read it and for it to be taught without emotion, historical background or context One teacher who tried to use this model curriculum said, "The exemplar instructs teachers to 'avoid giving any background context" because the Common Core's close reading strategy "forces students to rely exclusively on the text instead of privileging background knowledge, and levels the playing field for all.'"  The point of learning the Gettysburg address should not be for test preparation or for social justice.  The Shakespeare examples are accompanied by Julia Alvarez's work In the Time of the Butterflies to be taught in 9th and 10th grades that some college professors are embarrassed to teach due to the book's sexually explicit nature and leftist propaganda elements.  These are just a few of the myriad examples of problems with these national standards, national tests, and model curriculum just in English Language Arts.
Statement (Bennett):  The state of Florida obtained Race to the Top funds to pay for the costs of implementing Common Core Standards.

Facts:  Race to the Top is a four year grant that will run out after 2014, and as is being discovered with the costs of insurance exchanges and Medicaid expansion, will not completely cover the costs of implementation, much less ongoing use.  The Pioneer Institute estimates that implementation in Florida will be over $1.024 billion dollars.  Florida received $906 million in grants.  There has been no cost analysis in Florida and the commissioner's cost estimate was off by $342 million for this next fiscal year.

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