"State-Led" CCSSO Meets to Discuss Common Core Behind Closed Doors

The Council Of Chief State School Officers (CCSSO), one of the major developers and one of the two copyright holders of the Common Core standards is holding a meeting in Orlando this week:

Dec 3-4 Supporting Principal Effectiveness in Leading Teacher Evaluation and Supports and Common Core Implementation
Orlando, FL Shannon Glynn 202-326-8694 shannon.glynn@ccsso.org

The introductory paragraph on the meetings page actually contains this very unfreindly, "untransparent" sentence letting the parents, taxpayers and elected policy makers of forty-five states know exactly where they stand in the implementation of Common Core:

CCSSO meetings are closed to the public and attendance is by invitation only unless otherwise denoted. (Emphasis in original).

Wait! Hold on! Aren't we benighted opponents of Common Core constantly told by our enlightened masters like former Governor Jeb Bush's Foundation for Excellence in Education (FEE) and Chester Finn's Thomas B. Fordham Foundation that the deliberations on Common Core were and are "state-led," "voluntary," and "transparent"?  In fact, one of their innumerable "Myths vs. Facts" documents says:

Both the National Governors Association (NGA) and the Council of Chief State School Officers (CCSSO) are made up of state leaders state governors and the education chiefs to be exact, who are accountable to their constituents.   They meet together to learn best practices, discuss lessons learned, share information and research and collaborate.  Parents can certainly influence these organizations by influencing their Governor or Department of Education chief.

What are these people smoking? They were really proud that they got 2,000 parent comments on standards that are affecting over one hundred million school children with only less than one quarter of one percent of those being published.  With that kind of parental involvment, how can citizens expect to influence mostly appointed officials and their minions that meet behind closed doors?  If these awful standards and their top-down implementation did not so seriously affect our children and our nation's future, this rhetoric would be comical. Here is yet another reason to continue vigorously opposing Common Core.  

[Hat-tip to Caroline Rouston and Andrew Nappi for this information!]

Updated 12/2/13 to reflect addition of the word "parent" before "comments" and links in final paragraph.




Gettysburg Address Taught without Context to "Level the Playing Field"

Dr. Karen Effrem
Today is the 150th anniversay of Abraham Lincoln's dedication speech for the cemetary at the Gettysburg battlefield in Pennsylvania.  As we remember and celebrate the bedrock principles of our American heritage embodied in one of the most important speeches in our history, it is important to understand what the implmentation of the Common Core standards does to this iconic piece of our history. 

Teacher Jeremiah Chaffee, doing a guest column in Valerie Strauss' Answer Sheet Blog in the Washington Post talked about the method of "cold reading" to teach Lincoln's speech.  That this method is being heavily promoted for teaching the Gettysburg Address was confirmed during a seminar for the Charlotte County school board by a Common Core trainer from the Center for College and Career Readiness that I attended in June.  The method has little or no research behind it and many other problems as discussed below:

["Cold reading"] gives students a text they have never seen and asks them to read it with no preliminary introduction. This mimics the conditions of a standardized test on which students are asked to read material they have never seen and answer multiple choice questions about the passage.

Such pedagogy makes school wildly boring. Students are not asked to connect what they read yesterday to what they are reading today, or what they read in English to what they read in science.

The exemplar, in fact, forbids teachers from asking students if they have ever been to a funeral because such questions rely "on individual experience and opinion," and answering them "will not move students closer to understanding the Gettysburg Address."

(This is baffling, as if Lincoln delivered the speech in an intellectual vacuum; as if the speech wasn't delivered at a funeral and meant to be heard in the context of a funeral; as if we must not think about memorials when we read words that memorialize. Rather, it is impossible to have any deep understanding of Lincoln's speech without thinking about the context of the speech: a memorial service.)

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." What sense does this make? [Emphasis added.]

Teachers cannot create such a "level playing field" because we cannot rob any of the students of the background knowledge they already possess. Nor can we force students who have background knowledge not to think about that while they read. A student who has read a biography of Lincoln, or watched documentaries about the Civil War on PBS or the History Channel, will have the "privilege" of background knowledge beyond the control of the teacher. Attempting to create a shallow and false "equality" between students will in no way help any of them understand Lincoln's speech.

First, to use one of the most important speeches in American history to try to being about some utopian, left-wing notion of social justice is appalling. Secondly, this appears to confirm what another teacher and former proponent said was the true intent behind Common Core, which is "about  leveling out the differences by reducing the opportunity for the brightest and hardest working students to excel."  Finally, Common Core is the antithesis of governance "of the people, by the people, for the people"  Rather, it is of the government, by corporate special interests, and for profit.  Common Core will prevent students from understanding how to perpetuate the republic that Lincoln extolled in that wonderful speech and it must be stopped.

Duncan Joining Bush & Gaetz to Create the "Mother" of All Backlashes

Karen R. Effrem, MD

The utter failure of proponents of Common Core to make rational arguments about this imposed system of inferior, psychosocial workforce training standards, national tests and data collection has stimulated them to lash out to mock and marginalize anyone who opposes it.  U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan has joined former Governor Jeb Bush and Senate President Don Gaetz in now bipartisan sneering derision of parental and citizen concerns.  Duncan created a firestorm on Friday (11/15) with his mocking, racist attack on mothers that oppose Common Core:

"It's fascinating to me that some of the pushback is coming from, sort of, white suburban moms who -- all of a sudden -- their child isn't as brilliant as they thought they were and their school isn't quite as good as they thought they were, and that's pretty scary.  You've bet your house and where you live and everything on, 'My child's going to be prepared.' That can be a punch in the gut."

A new Facebook group, Moms Against Duncan (MAD), has almost 1600 members since then and the comments on Twitter have been overwhelmingly critical.  Conservative columnists and liberal moms have joined together in righteous anger against these thoughtless remarks.

Michelle Malkin wrote:
As a brown-skinned suburban mom opposed to Common Core, I can tell you I've personally met moms and dads of ALL races, of ALL backgrounds, and from ALL parts of the country, who have sacrificed to get their kids into the best schools possible. They are outraged that dumbed-down, untested federal "standards" pose an existential threat to their excellent educational arrangements -- be they public, private, religious, or homeschooling.

Duncan's derision betrays the very control-freak impulses that drive Common Core. He presumes that only technocratic elites in Washington can determine what quality standards and curricula look like. He pretends that minority parents and students in inner-city charter and magnet schools with locally-crafted, rigorous classical education missions simply don't exist. A textbook liberal racist, Duncan whitewashes all minority parents and educators who oppose Common Core out of the debate. And he condescendingly implies that the only reason "white suburban moms" object to Common Core is that their children are too dumb to score well on tests that are...a complete and utter mess. 

On the other end of the political spectrum, a very cogent response from a mother, Gretchen Moran Laskas, that lives in the Washington DC suburbs was posted on the Daily Kos website:

But the tighter we make the noose, the more children like Brennan, who do NOT have those advantages will fall through the cracks. I don't fight the Common Core because I think my child is brilliant, but because I'm tired of these one size fits all educational solutions. We've done that all through Brennan's educational life, and I'm just not willing to take the chance that we're going to do a better job through Katja's just because it's being proposed through a Democratic President rather than a Republican one. This goes beyond politics -- this is about my kids.

So yes, I'm opposed. Not because I don't understand it. Not because I think it will make my children look bad. But because I know that children already look bad -- and by the time they might get it together and look good the way Brennan could, it might be too late.

Because Brennan is just fine, thank you. The kid who would never speak clearly just finished his role in the fall play. The kid who wasn't college material is very much going to college. And the kid who was legally barred from taking honors classes just got a 4.1 GPA this quarter while taking four IB classes. Maybe Arne Duncan should have a talk with him.

Arne Duncan, Jeb Bush, and Don Gaetz need to realize that opposition to Common Core comes from all points on the racial, political, and philosophical spectra and includes moms, dads, grandparents, and activists.  Otherwise, they and their bosses will continue to face the "mother" of all backlashes.

Copyright Forces FL to Withdraw or Continue Imposing Common Core

Florida education officials must fish or cut bait.  Because of the copyright issues and rules from the Common Core Initiative (see quotes), the only way to substantively change the standards to do what Florida officials have promised is to withdraw.  There is no other way to have truly specific state standards and assessments, to make the math standards rigorous enough for STEM careers, and make them developmentally appropriate, all stated desires of the governor, the speaker, the Senate president, and the commissioner. Either they must admit they are keeping the Common Core standards with only superficial changes against the will of the people or proceed with standards and tests that are specific for Florida.

Bill Whittle Skewers Bush-ite Proponents of Common Core

"So instead of one centralized curriculum written by the same best and brightest that brought you the Affordable Care Act website Stupid.gov, let's imagine 14,000 departments of education - one for each school district in America..."

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