Chris Reykdal’s Statement on Opting Out

We asked all of the Washington State Office of Superintendent of Public Instruction (OSPI) candidates their position on opting out of the SBAC.

Four of the candidates responded to our query and we are publishing their answers today.

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OSPI Superintendent candidate Chris Reykdal

Opting your child out of a standardized test is a parent’s right.  Parents have always had the right to opt their child out of particular courses or content areas.  It is not the role of the federal or state government to question the motivations of parents; they are parents and a standardized test mandate does not supersede a parental rights.

The Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) is better than No Child Left Behind (NCLB), but a few glaring faults remain.  The contradiction of a 95% test requirement while simultaneously acknowledging a parent’s right to opt out their child is still the cause of great confusion.  States are now assigned the task of compliance to 95%, and the sanctions, if any, for districts that don’t comply.  And yet the U.S. Department of Education still claims the power to withhold certain funds from states. This is where our State has to take a stand!

To address this contradiction of policy we must do five things:

1) Delink standardized tests as a high school graduation requirement;

2) Defend the right of parents to opt out their child;

3) Clearly define alternatives for students to show proficiency if they chose not to participate in federally-mandated testing in grades 3-8 and once in high school.

4) Do not require a student to test and fail first before utlizing alternative demonstrations of proficiency; and

5) Use assessment results to create intentional strategies to improve districts, schools, and where applicable, targeted interventions for students.

I believe very few parents would opt their child out of assessments if they believed the tests would be used to help their child improve AND they were confident the test would be used for  system accountability only and not to penalize or stigmatize.

Professional educators should determine a student’s grade promotion and ultimate graduation – not a test.  Incredibly, the research continues to tell us that high school GPA in combination with transcript evaluation is the better predictor of college success – not standardized tests.  Colleges and universities across the country, and the world, are reducing the weight of SAT and ACT in college admissions; for some they don’t require any tests as part of admissions.  Instead, they are seeking multiple measures – GPA, course evaluations, writing samples, community engagement, and so many other factors that are far more predictive of student persistence and success.  Clearly,  48 diverse teacher grades (4 years X 2 semesters X 6 classes per semester) are more  valid and reliable than one single measure in time.

Standardized assessments do have a role to play– to measure state, district, and when statistically significant, school building progress toward closing the achievement gaps.  But, no single test should ever be used as a high stakes factor in grade promotion or graduation and they should never be used as a hammer. 

Ultimately, educators should decide the best diagnostic tools to propel students to greater cognitive and social/emotional growth. It’s time to put the teaching and learning process back in the hands of educators!

-Chris Reykdal, Candidate for Superintendent of Public Instruction

Chris Reykdal for Superintendent of Public Instruction

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Erin Jones’ Statement on Opting Out

We asked all of the Washington State Office of Superintendent of Public Instruction (OSPI) candidates their position on opting out of the SBAC.

Four of the candidates responded to our query and we are publishing their answers today.

Erin_Jones_headshot
OSPI Candidate Erin Jones

The bullying tactic being used by OSPI regarding SBA is unacceptable. Parents are the primary educators of their children and should be allowed to opt their children from testing. The fact that so many families have decided to opt children out should be a clear message to the state about the impact of testing. Until this year, opting out did not have consequences, beyond the occasional angry interaction with an administrator claiming that avoiding the test could put the school or district in danger of losing Title I funds (not yet happened). This year, however, the Smarter Balanced Assessment (SBA) is a graduation requirement. Parents of elementary and middle school students may have to endure the ire of an administrator or classroom teacher, but do not believe the lie that your student will not move to the next grade level if s/he does not take the test.

Far too much pressure is involved in the current testing process. Creating better and broader tests does not improve learning. My husband, who is a teacher, uses this analogy about testing -” we are just weighing the same pig with a different scale, without consideration for how and what we are feeding the pig.” We must focus our attentions for students, particularly those who have been most negatively impacted by high-stakes testing, on meeting social-emotional and physical needs, on student learning and support – feeding the pig – not on testing.

There is value in assessing students throughout the year to determine where they are growing and where they need additional supports. Although there are still requirements at the federal level for statewide testing, most assessment decisions must be made locally, with a focus on moderation and allowing educators to do most assessment in their own classrooms. We must provide teachers with smaller classes, so they can make effective daily decisions about student growth. With regard to state testing, we should be partnering with educators (including ELL and SPED teachers) and community-based organizations (including those who serve families), as well as testing experts, untied to a particular test company, to determine a better process that will help us garner the kinds of results and experiences that will lead to increased learning for students.

As we enter the “test season,” there will be thousands of families considering whether or not to opt out a child, carefully weighing the impact of the consequences and whether they are willing to advocate at the state level for a child whose graduation is called into question. Other families, often those whose students are most negatively impacted by high-stakes testing, will not even know opting out is possible or will not have the same ability to advocate for their child’s needs. As state superintendent, I will not be strong-armed by the federal government but will advocate for a better, more effective assessment process that considers the needs of ALL students and educators, that puts instruction and student support at the center of public education once again.

Erin Jones, Candidate for Superintendent of Public Instruction

Friends of Erin Jones

Larry Seaquist’s Statement on Opting Out

We asked all of the Washington State Office of Superintendent of Public Instruction (OSPI) candidates their position on opting out of the SBAC.

Four of the candidates responded to our query and we are publishing their answers today.

01w Larry Seaquist
Larry Seaquist

LIBERATE LEARNING. It is time for us to opt out of Federally mandated, high stakes testing.  The whole state. Right now. It is time to return the management of teaching and assessment to our educators, time to stop wasting a river of money on test vendors who deliver meaningless “data,” time to restore trust in our system of public education.  Above all, it is time to let our students love learning, to enjoy school. Our schools should be as free of toxic testing as they are of cigarette smoke.

DECLARE INDEPENDENCE.  How to do it? State Superintendent of Public Instruction Randy Dorn – Chief Schools Officer in Federal-speak – can sign a letter to our schools and send a copy to the Feds. He’s an independently elected state-wide official.  If he’d like political cover, a quick series of public hearings around the state would doubtless generate a groundswell of support. 

PUSH BACK HARD. We’d need to preempt a Federal response. Acting on Mr. Dorn’s behalf, our Attorney General might lodge two actions in Federal District Court.   The first would seek an injunction against Federal retaliation. We’re already familiar with the retaliatory redirection of Title One funds intended to support the education of our low income students – students who are still here and still poor.  The second would sue the Feds to do what they promised to do in the new ESSA.  With deep thanks to Senator Patty Murray for the miracles she worked to get this far, we challenge the new Federal education law – the Every Student Succeeds act – as internally inconsistent.   The new law restores the principle of state and local control of public schools.  But ignoring its own precept, the ESSA renews the Federal requirement for pervasive high stakes testing and continues to insist that 95% of all students participate.  Our case to the court: the new ESSA is self-contradictory and interferes with the state’s historic right of local control.

FULLY FUND FULLY FUNCTIONAL SCHOOLS.   Removing high stakes testing will immediately improve teaching and learning in our schools and save many $millions. It will eliminate one of the several factors that bias our schools against success by low income and minority students.  But we’ll still need to fully fund our schools to the “McCleary” standards. Perhaps our Seattle Ed hosts could next ask us SPI candidates how we propose to fully fund McCleary.

CORRECT OSPI’S ROLE AND TONE.  One more step:  This writing assignment is triggered by an imperious letter from an unelected Ass’t. SPI who reaches inside a local school district to command remedial action at the level of individual schools. Those actions will certainly disrupt already insufficient budgets, damage student learning, and accelerate our teacher crisis. That’s just as wrong as meddling by the Feds. Constitutional Job One of the SPI and their staff must be to support and protect our school districts, our educators and above all, our students.  I ask SPI to rescind the letter and to revisit our state’s Constitution and values.

-Larry Seaquist, Candidate for Superintendent of Public Instruction

Larry Seaquist for Superintendent of Public Instruction

Annotated References for PAA fact sheet “Common Core Basics” and position paper “PAA opposes Common Core State Standards, PARCC/SBAC tests”

This paper relates to the previous posts Parents Across America:The Common Core Basics and Parents Across America opposes Common Core Standards, the PARCC and SBAC tests

The following references are so well written I wanted to include it as a post.

PAA

Annotated References for PAA fact sheet “Common Core Basics” and position paper “PAA opposes Common Core State Standards, PARCC/SBAC tests”

1. There is no evidence to support claims by corporate interests that the U.S. needs common standards to address poor academic results and be “globally competitive.”

The National Governor’s Association (NGA) and the Council of Chief State School Officers (CCSSO), which are primarily lobbying groups heavily funded by the Gates Foundation, joined together to proclaim that “higher” learning standards were necessary to address the nation’s “stagnant” academic progress and “lost ground to international peers.” They suggested that “consistent” standards would ensure student academic and career success (CCSSI web site).

This argument was an outgrowth of the efforts of ideologues to undermine the nation’s democratic public school system in order to advance their privatization and union-busting agenda. Frustrated by the public’s consistent and strong support for public schools, and fueled by millions in Gates, Walton, and Broad Foundation funds, these corporate interests launched a massive propaganda campaign to convince people that our schools were in fact terrible failures (see, for example, Advance Illinois, “The State We’re In,” 2008). They used an apples-to-oranges comparison of US with international students’ test scores to proclaim our inferiority, a process that has been soundly debunked by many researchers (e.g. Carmoy and Rothstein, EPI report).

The effort to undermine public schools went nationwide under the No Child Left Behind Act (NCLB), now the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA). NCLB labeled schools as failures based on their students’ failure to meet the law’s impossible demand that 100% be proficient by 2014. The same “crisis” will simply refuel under CCSS/PARCC/SBAC,* whose “higher standards” have already led to significantly higher test failure.

2. There is no evidence for CCSS originators’ claims that their standards are significantly higher and produce “college and career ready” graduates.

Anti-public school ideologues claimed that U.S. public education needed higher, common standards in order to be economically competitive. They offered no factual evidence for such a claim (Mathis, “Effective Reform?” p.6).

*CCSS = Common Core State Standards
PARCC= Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Career
SBAC = SMARTER Balanced Assessment Consortium

On the contrary, while the CCSS standards are just barely established in a handful of states, the U.S. economy has rebounded strongly. Other countries around the globe – even some touted as ahead of us in student achievement, such as Japan, China and Canada – remain in an economic slump (Reuters). And research has shown no correlation between the use of national standards and countries’ scores on international tests (Mathis, “Effective Reform?” p.7).

Many states did indeed lower their “proficiency” cut scores on state tests in an attempt to make appear that they were meeting NCLB requirements for significant proficiency growth over time, that is, to avoid failure to make adequate yearly progress (AYP) (Mathis, “Effective Reform?” p. 5). However, the states did not change their written standards.

The term “college and career ready” is essentially meaningless in this context, but it was the phrase used in U.S. Department of Education (USDOE) competitive grants programs under the leadership of Education Secretary Arne Duncan. For states to qualify for Race to the Top funds, for example, they had to agree to adopt “college and career-ready standards,” which was, conveniently, a self-proclaimed virtue of CCSS. In fact, USDE made it clear to applicant states that adopting the CCSS and its associated tests was a preferred strategy (Hess, p.3).

The claim that CCSS are “higher standards” was based on “the subjective judgment of four evaluators hired by the pro-Common Core Thomas B. Fordham Institute in 2010, who opined that the new standards were better than about three-quarters of existing state standards” (Hess, pp. 2-3).

3. CCSS development was secretive, overhasty, and dominated by test publishers

The history of CCSS development has become more familiar to the public as the controversy over the program grows, and can be reviewed in the Hess, Ravitch, and Mathis pieces noted below, among others.

Briefly, in 2009, the NGA and the CCSSO contracted with Achieve, Inc., a program of the NGA, to draft “common core” standards. The bulk of the funding for this project came from the Gates Foundation (Gewertz, “Allies”).

Drafting the standards took place over the course of about a year. Work groups met in private and were made up predominantly of representatives from ACT, the College Board, and Achieve, with a few others from conservative think tanks and other business-oriented groups such as America’s Choice and the Hoover Institute (NGA press release, http://tinyurl.com/lbv6m85). Only one classroom teacher worked with the group, and there were no other school-level educators (Stotsky, “Invalid”).

ACT has stated that they played a “leading role” in developing the CCSS, and that ACT’s “definition of college and career readiness is the one on which the Common Core standards are based” (emphasis added, ACT reports).

The first CCSS draft was released to the public in March, 2010, and the final draft came out a
couple of months later, on June 2. In order to qualify for Race to the Top funds, states were required to have adopted the CCSS (or one of the mythical “other” sets of college- and career-ready standards) no later than August 2, 2010, the deadline for RTTT applications. This extremely tight timeline left little opportunity for public input, much less thoughtful deliberation by state boards of education or legislators.

4. There are no provisions for community input into revising the CCSS.

CCSS are owned by and the intellectual property of the NGA and CCSSO. According to them, adoption of the Common Core standards means accepting 100 percent of the standards verbatim. States are allowed to add an additional 15 percent of their own standards, though most states have not done so (Kendall, “15% Rule,” p. 5).

A spokesperson for Achieve told the State Impact online newspaper that states can make subtractions and changes to the CCSS, but they do so “at their own peril,” because the PARCC and SBAC test the Common Core “as it’s written” (State Impact).

The FAQ section of the CCSSI web site states that “The National Governors Association Center for Best Practices and the Council of Chief State School Officers will continue to serve as the two leading organizations with ownership of the Common Core and will make decisions about the timing and substance of future revisions to the standards in consultation with the states.”

5. PARCC/SBAC assessments will not be “better tests”

PARCC/SBAC tests are being written by the same companies that have fed NCLB’s test mania. These companies, including Pearson, Educational Testing Service, and CTB/McGraw-Hill, have long histories of mistakes and incompetence. CCSS tests continue to be dominated by multiple-choice questions. There will be more tests under CCSS, not fewer (FairTest: Myths and Realities). Students are already getting pre-tests to see how they are likely to do on the test, regular practice tests, and other interim versions of the final test. The time needed for the tests is longer in most cases, up to 10-11 hours at upper grade levels (Gewertz, “Pressure”).

As with most standardized tests, questions and answers on PARCC/SBAC tests are secret, which means that we either have to take the test makers’ word that the tests are better – or even good – or else someone has to blow a whistle on the test, as famously happened with the pineapple question on a state test in New York (http://tinyurl.com/cdwa44f).

Much has been made by people from Education Secretary Duncan on down that the Common Core will test deeper, more critical thinking. The PARCC and SBAC consortia have made some sample questions available on their web sites, and many of these have already raised red flags. In addition, teachers, students and parents have been dismayed by what they feel are unnecessarily complex and often sheer nonsensical questions on the Common Core-aligned worksheets and other homework assignments and quizzes designed to prepare students for the PARCC/SBAC tests.

Dumb PARCC/SBAC test questions

Look at these test questions and homework worksheets and ask yourself if CCSS/PARCC/SBAC might be trying to make the standards/tests seem smarter by making our children seem dumber.
From a sample PARCC third-grade test question on a story about creatures who were having a bad day. The story said,

“And they were cross — oh so cross!”
What does the word “cross” means in the story?
a) excited
b) lost
c) upset
d) scared.

Here’s how dictionary.com defines the adjective “cross”: “angry and annoyed; ill-humored; snappish: Don’t be cross with me. Synonyms: petulant, fractious, irascible, waspish, crabbed, churlish, sulky, cantankerous, cranky, ill-tempered, impatient, irritable, fretful, touchy, testy.”
Apparently the wanted answer is “upset,” but that does not appear as any of the choices above. It’s just not a very good synonym for “cross.”

Why should third graders be expected to choose a “right” answer that isn’t even in the dictionary?

A teacher from New York wrote an article describing the problems one particular fourth-grade student had with a PARCC math test, which asked students to “Draw a model using equal groups or an array to show the problem” (Hernandez, “9-Year Old Eyes”). The student was stumped – he couldn’t remember what an “array” was. Can you?

A second-grader in California had a funny but reasonable response to a CCSS-aligned homework assignment’s “higher order thinking” challenge. She figured correctly that when “Mike saw 17 blue cars and 25 green cars at the store,” Mike saw 41 cars. But when she was asked to explain “how the number sentence shows the problem,” she wrote: “I got the answer by talking in my brain and agreed of the answer that my brain got” (Owens, “Revenge”).

A New York teacher wrote anonymously about the PARCC test:

One of the reasons I actually support certain parts the Common Core is due to the emphasis on getting kids to go beyond the surface level of a text, but none of these questions tested their ability to do that. Instead of a question like: “What caused the character to (insert action here) in the middle of the story?” (which, mind you, is hard enough for an 8-year-old to identify as it is), there were questions like: “In Line 8 of Paragraph 4, the character says … and in Line 17 of Paragraph 5, the character does … Which of the following lines from Paragraph 7 best supports the character’s actions?” This, followed by four choices of lines from Paragraph 7 that could all, arguably, show motivation for the character’s actions in the preceding paragraphs. Additionally, MANY of the questions on the third-grade tests were aligned with fifth-grade standards (especially related to the structure of the text itself, rather than its meaning), and did not address the third-grade expectations.

There have been numerous published reports from parents who are completely baffled by CCSS questions in areas in which these parents have advanced degrees (see, for example, Strauss, “Parent to Obama” and Garland, “Math Problem”).

Here’s one more, reported by Carol Burris, an award-winning New York principal who has become one of the most vocal critics of the CCSS, in the Answer Sheet (Strauss, Burris):

“My music teacher, Doreen, brought me her second-grade daughter’s math homework. She was already fuming over Education Secretary Arne Duncan’s remark about why “white suburban moms” oppose the Common Core, and the homework added fuel to the fire. The problem that disturbed her the most was the following:
3. Sally did some counting. Look at her work. Explain why you think Sally counted this way.
177, 178,179,180, 190, 200, 210, 211, 212, 213, 214.

It was on a homework sheet from the New York State Common Core Mathematics Curriculum for Grade 2, which you can find here.

Doreen’s daughter had no idea how to answer this odd question. The only response that made sense to her was, “Because she wanted to.” My assistant principal and math specialist, Don Chung, found the question to be indefensible.

6. The program design offers expanded access to the “education marketplace” and undermines student data privacy.

Overall, we believe that a significant, if not the overriding, purpose of CCSS/PARCC/SBAC is to open up the “education marketplace” to private companies. In her book, “Reign of Error,” Diane Ravitch quotes Steven Brill: “the adoption of common standards and shared assessments means that education entrepreneurs will enjoy national markets where the best products can be taken to scale” (Ravitch, Reign, p. 17).

Furthermore, we are very concerned about new threats to the privacy of public school students and their families which is linked to CCSS. State tracking of all students using the same Common Core standards and tests raises the specter of a national database of private information about children and families.

Changes resulting from U.S. Department of Education initiatives have contributed to this increased threat to student data privacy. As part of its Race to the Top program, the Department of Education under Arne Duncan required states to adopt new learning standards and tests in order to qualify for certain grants. States were allowed to write their own, but time pressure and massive funding from the Gates Foundation pushed most to adopt the Common Core State Standards and CCSS tests written by one of two test writing groups (known as PARCC and Smarter BAC).

Federal funding also required states to track all student assessment scores and other information from year to year in a longitudinal database. This information used to stay at the school district level – when a student moved out of the district, these records did not follow him or her. Now states will track all of their students.

Twice in recent years, the US Department of Education rewrote the regulations for carrying out the Family Education Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA), allowing student data to be shared with third parties – even for-profit companies – without parents’ permission. that undermine student data privacy.

Finally, business interests are pushing states and school districts to expand online learning, which increases opportunity for student data collection by private companies.

7. Following the CCSS/PARCC/SBAC path will hurt our most vulnerable children, creating new barriers to their access to quality education.

High-stakes standardized testing has an especially negative impact on low-income students, students of color, English-language learners and students with special educational needs. Numerous studies have documented the role played by high-stakes testing in high dropout rates, the school-to-prison-pipeline, widespread cheating scandals, and the closing of under-resourced public schools that have anchored neighborhoods for generations, while failing to provide stable or improved alternatives (see for example, FairTest, “Pipeline”).

A FairTest fact sheet, “Racial Justice and Standardized Educational Testing,” states that young people of color, particularly those from low-income families, have suffered the most as the explosion of high-stakes standardized testing in U.S. public education has undermined equity and school quality.

Decades of research demonstrate that African American, Latino and Native American students, as well as students from some Asian groups, experience problems with high stakes testing, from early childhood through college entrance, including disproportionate failure rates on state or local high school graduation exams, more likelihood of being held back in grade which increases the risk of dropping out, lower scores on college admissions tests leading less access to so-called “merit” scholarships and college admission, risk of suspension, expulsion, “counseling out” or otherwise removal from the school due to low scores in order to boost school results, “stereotype threat” which increases the likelihood that students of color will have inaccurately low scores, tests that are often inaccurate for English language learners leading to misplacement or retention, and frequent placement of African Americans, especially boys, in special education programs which often fail to fully educate them (Fairtest, “Racial Justice”).

References

ACT reports: “Affirming the Goal”: http://www.act.org/research/policymakers/pdf/AffirmingAdvanceBrief.pdf
and “2010 ACT College and Career Readiness Report News Release: http://www.act.org/newsroom/college-career-readiness/

Advance Illinois, “The State We’re In,” 2008. http://www.advanceillinois.org/filebin/pdf/Advance-Illinois-2008-Report.pdf

Carnoy and Rothstein, “What do international tests really show about US student performance?” Economic Policy Institute, Jan 2013. http://www.epi.org/publication/us-student-performance-testing/, retrieved 4-1-15.

Common Core State Standards Initiative (CCSSI) web site, http://www.corestandards.org/about the standards.

FairTest: “Common Core Myths and Realities,” 2013. http://fairtest.org/common-core-assessments-factsheet

FairTest: “How Testing Feeds the School-to-Prison Pipeline,” 2010. http://fairtest.org/how-testing-feeds-schooltoprison-pipeline.

FairTest: “Racial Justice and Standardized Educational Testing,” 2011: http://fairtest.org/racial-justice-and-standardized-educational-testin

Farley, Todd, “Why Faith in standardized testing industry is misplaced,” published in the Washington Post Answer Sheet, 4/11/11.

Garland, Sarah, “Why is this Common Core math problem so hard? Supporters respond to quiz that went viral,” Hechinger Report, 3/26/14.

Gewertz, Catherine, “Allies shift focus toward promoting standards adoption,” Education Week, 6/9/10.

Gewertz, Catherine, “As Common Core Test Season Begins, Teachers Feel Pressure,” EducaitonWEeek, 2/15/15, http://www.edweek.org/ew/articles/2015/02/23/as-common-core-test-season-begins-teachers-feel.html#

Hernandez, Javier C., “Common Core, in 9-Year Old Eyes,” New York Times, 6/14/14.

Hess, Frederick M. “How the Common Core Went Wrong,” in National Affairs, retrieved 3/23/15.

Kendall et al, “State Adoption of the Common Core State Standards: The 15 Percent Rule,” MCREL, March 2012. http://files.eric.ed.gov/fulltext/ED544664.pdf, retrieved 4-1-15.

Mathis, William J., “The ‘Common Core’ Standards Initiative: An Effective Reform Tool?” Education and the Public Interest Center, 2010.

Mathis, William J., “The War on Inequality, Global Inferiority & Low Standards: Common Core State Standards,” in Education Review, Vol. 15, No. 1, 2/20/12.

Owens, Eric, “This second-graders revenge against Common Core math will make your day,” Daily Caller, 3/30/2013, http://dailycaller.com/2014/03/30/this-second-graders-revenge-against-common-core-math-will-make-your-day/

PURE blog, “Stupid PARCC Tricks,” 5/21/14, http://pureparents.org/?p=21288

Ravitch, Diane, “Common Core, Past, Present, Future;” address to MLA convention.

Ravitch, Diane, “Reign of Error,” Knopf, 2013.

Reuters, “Fed upbeat on U.S. economy, cites strong job gains,” 1/28/15

Slate, by Anonymous, “They Used to Love to Learn,” 4/10/14. http://www.slate.com/articles/life/education/2014/04/new_york_state_ela_tests_sucking_the_love_for_learning_right_out_of_my_students.html

StateImpact, 8/19/13: http://indianapublicmedia.org/stateimpact/2013/08/19/core-question-does-copyright-mean-states-cant-change-the-common-core/

Stotsky, Sandra, “Common Core’s Invalid Validation Committee,” Paper given at a conference at
University of Notre Dame September 9, 2013. http://www.uaedreform.org/downloads/2013/11/common-cores-invalid-validation-committee.pdf retrieved 4-1-15.

Strauss, Valerie, Washington Post Answer Sheet blog, “Following Common Core money: Where are millions of dollars going?” 11/24/14. http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/answer-sheet/wp/2013/11/24/following-the-common-core-money-where-are-millions-of-dollars-going/

Strauss, Valerie, Washington Post Answer Sheet blog, “Parent to Obama: Let me tell you about the Common Core test Malia and Sasha don’t have to take but Eva does,” 4/23/14.

Seattle Opt Out Meeting with Rita Green, Education Chair of the Seattle/King County NAACP

students are not standardized 

Seattle Opt Out Group Meeting

April 23, from 6-7:45 PM

Douglass Truth Library

2300 East Yesler Way

Seattle 98122

Please join the Seattle Opt Out Group this Thursday, April 23rd, at the Douglass Truth Library in Seattle. The meeting starts at 6:00 PM. Our guest will be Rita Green, Education Chair of the Seattle/King County NAACP. We will have a great conversation about opting out and how the high-stakes standardized testing movement is impacting our students of color.

Join us for a great evening of conversation and sharing of information!

Bill Gates bankrolls College and Career Ready programs, aka the Common Core Standards

This was originally posted in 2013 at the Washington Post website but is worth a read now.

FollowTheMoney799

Gates gives $150 million in grants for Common Core Standards

For an initiative billed as being publicly driven, the Common Core States Initiative has benefited enormously from the generosity of the private philanthropy of Bill and Melinda Gates. How much? About $150 million worth.

Take a look at this list of grants, obtained from their foundation’s Web site. Note not only the amounts but the wide range of organizations receiving money. Universities. Unions. State education departments. Nonprofits. Think tanks. The grants were given for a range of reasons, including developing materials aligned to the standards and building support for the standards.

You can see how invested the Gates Foundation is in the success of the Common Core. What kind of Core support do these grants buy from the organizations that receive them?

If you want to see what each grant is for, click here and you can access each grant description.  At the bottom of the list are a few descriptions of specific grants.

WestEd 2013 College-Ready US Program $30,000
LearnZillion, Inc. 2013 College-Ready US Program $965,525
University of Kentucky Research Foundation 2013 College-Ready US Program $1,000,000
Delaware Department of Education 2013 College-Ready US Program $400,000
National Paideia Center Inc 2013 College-Ready US Program $659,788
The Aspen Institute Inc 2013 College-Ready US Program $3,615,655
The Achievement Network 2012 College-Ready US Program $3,002,252
Kentucky Department of Education 2012 College-Ready US Program $1,903,089
Colorado Legacy Foundation 2012 College-Ready US Program $1,748,337
Fund for Public Schools Inc 2012 College-Ready US Program $1,815,810
Council of Chief State School Officers 2012 College-Ready US Program $475,000
BetterLesson, Inc. 2012 College-Ready US Program $3,527,240
The NEA Foundation for the Improvement of Education 2012 College-Ready US Program $99,997
JUMP Math 2012 College-Ready US Program $698,587
Center for Curriculum Redesign Inc. 2012 College-Ready US Program $198,000
Pennsylvania Business Roundtable Educational Foundation 2012 College-Ready US Program $257,391
American Federation Of Teachers Educational Foundation 2012 College-Ready US Program $4,400,000
University of Arizona 2012 College-Ready US Program $3,416,901
American Enterprise Institute For Public Policy Research 2012 Global Policy & Advocacy US Program $1,068,788
State Education Technology 2012 College-Ready US Program $500,000
Student Achievement Partners Inc 2012 College-Ready US Program $4,042,920
Baton Rouge Area Foundation 2012 College-Ready US Program $500,000
National Governors Association Center For Best Practices 2012 Strategic Partnerships US Program $37,674
University of Michigan 2012 College-Ready US Program $1,999,999
The College-Ready Promise 2011 College-Ready US Program $300,000
Massachusetts Institute of Technology 2011 College-Ready US Program $2,889,132
Scholastic Inc. 2011 College-Ready US Program $4,463,541
New Venture Fund 2011 Global Policy & Advocacy US Program $378,000
Learning Forward 2011 College-Ready US Program $999,795
The University of the State of New York 2011 College-Ready US Program $600,000
Nellie Mae Education Foundation, Inc. 2011 College-Ready US Program $350,000
Americas Promise-The Alliance For Youth 2011 College-Ready US Program $500,000
Hillsborough County Council of PTA/PTSAs 2011 College-Ready US Program $25,000
Military Child Education Coalition 2011 Global Policy & Advocacy US Program $149,965
Rockefeller Philanthropy Advisors, Inc. 2011 Postsecondary Success US Program $4,618,652
Council of State Governments 2011 College-Ready US Program $369,623
Khan Academy Inc. 2011 College-Ready US Program $4,079,361
National Writing Project 2011 College-Ready US Program $3,095,593
National Indian Education Association 2011 Strategic Partnerships US Program $500,000
Council Of The Great City Schools 2011 College-Ready US Program $4,910,988
Council of Chief State School Officers 2011 College-Ready US Program $9,388,911
Prichard Committee for Academic Excellence 2011 College-Ready US Program $198,206
Creative Commons Corporation 2011 College-Ready US Program $812,955
Louisiana Department of Education 2011 College-Ready US Program $7,351,708
Colorado Legacy Foundation 2011 College-Ready US Program $9,707,210
Kentucky Department of Education 2011 College-Ready US Program $9,125,277
American Federation Of Teachers Educational Foundation 2011 College-Ready US Program $1,000,000
Office of Superintendent of Public Instruction 2011 Community Grants US Program $75,000
Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development 2011 College-Ready US Program $3,024,695
National Association of State Boards of Education 2011 College-Ready US Program $1,077,960
National Governors Association Center For Best Practices 2011 College-Ready US Program $1,598,477
Reasoning Mind, Inc. 2011 College-Ready US Program $742,996
MetaMetrics, Inc. 2010 College-Ready US Program $3,468,005
New Visions for Public Schools, Inc 2010 College-Ready US Program $8,149,935
Pennsylvania Department of Education 2010 College-Ready US Program $526,960
The University of the State of New York 2010 College-Ready US Program $892,500
Kentucky Department of Education 2010 College-Ready US Program $1,000,000
Georgia Department of Education 2010 College-Ready US Program $1,980,892
Center for Teaching Quality, Inc. 2010 College-Ready US Program $395,836
Alliance for Excellent Education, Inc. 2010 College-Ready US Program $3,200,004
Education Commission of the States 2010 College-Ready US Program $799,221
Albuquerque Public Schools 2010 College-Ready US Program $500,000
Khan Academy Inc. 2010 College-Ready US Program $1,464,667
School District of Philadelphia 2010 College-Ready US Program $500,000
Cleveland Metropolitan School District 2010 College-Ready US Program $497,752
Cristo Rey Network 2010 College-Ready US Program $556,006
Research for Action Inc 2010 College-Ready US Program $1,309,409
Purdue University 2010 College-Ready US Program $1,453,832
Massachusetts Business Alliance for Education, Inc. 2010 College-Ready US Program $151,431
Forsyth County Schools 2010 College-Ready US Program $151,200
New York University 2010 College-Ready US Program $40,282
Council Of The Great City Schools 2010 College-Ready US Program $100,000
Council of State Governments 2010 College-Ready US Program $399,953
Common Core Inc. 2009 and earlier College-Ready US Program $550,844
James B. Hunt, Jr. Institute for Educational Leadership and Policy Foundation, Inc. 2009 and earlier College-Ready US Program $5,549,352
Alliance for Excellent Education, Inc. 2009 and earlier College-Ready US Program $551,336
National Association of State Boards of Education 2009 and earlier College-Ready US Program $450,675
Thomas B. Fordham Institute 2009 and earlier College-Ready US Program $959,116
The Education Trust 2009 and earlier College-Ready US Program $2,039,526
Military Child Education Coalition 2009 and earlier Global Policy & Advocacy US Program $269,998

Here are some specific grants:

The Aspen Institute

Date: January 2013
Purpose: to support the Aspen Institute’s Urban Superintendents Network, develop resources to integrate Common Core State Standards and educator effectiveness policies and practices, and use lessons from the field to inform national policy
Amount: $3,615,655
Term: 24
Topic: College-Ready
Regions Served: GLOBAL|NORTH AMERICA
Program: United States
Grantee Location: Washington, District of Columbia
Grantee Website: http://www.aspeninstitute.org/

Scholastic, Inc.

Date: November 2011
Purpose: to support teachers’ implementation of the Common Core State Standards in Mathematics
Amount: $4,463,541
Term: 37
Topic: College-Ready
Regions Served: GLOBAL|NORTH AMERICA
Program: United States
Grantee Location: New York, New York
Grantee Website: http://www2.scholastic.com

American Federation Of Teachers Educational Foundation

Date: June 2012
Purpose: to support the AFT Innovation Fund and work on teacher development and Common Core State Standards
Amount: $4,400,000
Term: 24
Topic: College-Ready
Regions Served: GLOBAL|NORTH AMERICA
Program: United States
Grantee Location: Washington, District of Columbia
Grantee Website: http://www.aft.org

The NEA [National Education Association] Foundation for the Improvement of Education

Date: October 2012
Purpose: to build and enhance teacher voice in the development and implementation of the teacher and leader Professional Growth and Effectiveness System and the Common Core State Standards
Amount: $99,997
Term: 8
Topic: College-Ready, Global Policy & Advocacy
Regions Served: GLOBAL|NORTH AMERICA
Program: United States
Grantee Location: Washington, District of Columbia
Grantee Website: http://www.neafoundation.org/

Rockefeller Philanthropy Advisors, Inc.

Date: October 2011
Purpose: to partner with other foundations to support a project fund supporting state-led efforts aligning higher education placement requirements with college readiness assessments developed through the Common Core assessment consortia
Amount: $4,618,652
Term: 44
Topic: Postsecondary Success
Regions Served: GLOBAL|NORTH AMERICA
Program: United States
Grantee Location: New York, New York
Grantee Website: http://www.rockpa.org

Khan Academy Inc.

Date: July 2011
Purpose: to develop the remaining K-12 math exercises to ensure full coverage of the Common Core math standards and form a small team to implement a blended learning model
Amount: $4,079,361
Term: 17
Topic: College-Ready
Regions Served: GLOBAL|NORTH AMERICA
Program: United States
Grantee Location: Mountain View, California
Grantee Website: http://www.khanacademy.org/

Council Of The Great City Schools

Date: June 2011
Purpose: to promote and coordinate successful implementation of the new common core standards in major urban public school systems nationwide
Amount: $4,910,988
Term: 37
Topic: College-Ready
Regions Served: GLOBAL|NORTH AMERICA
Program: United States
Grantee Location: Washington, District of Columbia
Grantee Website: http://www.cgcs.org

Council of Chief State School Officers

Date: June 2011
Purpose: to support the Common Core State Standards work
Amount: $9,388,911
Term: 36
Topic: College-Ready
Regions Served: GLOBAL|NORTH AMERICA
Program: United States
Grantee Location: Washington, District of Columbia
Grantee Website: http://www.ccsso.org

Kentucky Department of Education

Date: June 2011
Purpose: to provide organizational support to the Kentucky Department of Education related to implementation of the Common Core State Standards & teacher development and evaluation systems
Amount: $9,125,277
Term: 35
Topic: College-Ready
Regions Served: GLOBAL|NORTH AMERICA
Program: United States
Grantee Location: Frankfort, Kentucky
Grantee Website: http://www.kde.state.ky.us

Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development

Date: February 2011
Purpose: to provide teachers and school leaders with supports to implement the Common Core State Standards at the district, school, and classroom levels
Amount: $3,024,695
Term: 35
Topic: College-Ready
Regions Served: GLOBAL|NORTH AMERICA
Program: United States
Grantee Location: Alexandria, Virginia
Grantee Website: http://www.ascd.org

An Audit of Bill Gates’ Common Core Spending

gates cash2

 

Mercedes Schneider breaks it down for us in her post:

A Brief Audit of Bill Gates’ Common Core Spending

One man, lots of money, nationally shaping a profession to which he has never belonged.

 

This is a post about Bill Gates and his money, a brief audit of his Common Core (CCSS) purchases. Before I delve into Gates accounting, allow me to set the stage with a bit of CCSS background.

A Bit of CCSS Background

It is important to those promoting CCSS that the public believes the idea that CCSS is “state-led.” The CCSS website reports as much and names two organizations as “coordinating” the “state-led” CCSS: The National Governors Association (NGA), and the Council for Chief State School Officers (CCSSO). Interestingly, the CCSS website makes no mention of CCSS “architect” David Coleman:

The Common Core State Standards Initiative is a state-led effort coordinated by the National Governors Association Center for Best Practices (NGA Center) and the Council of Chief State School Officers (CCSSO).  The standards were developed in collaboration with teachers, school administrators, and experts, to provide a clear and consistent framework to prepare our children for college and the workforce. 

Nevertheless, if one reviews this 2009 NGA news release on those principally involved in CCSS development, one views a listing of 29 individuals associated with Student Achievement Partners, ACT, College Board, and Achieve. In truth, only 2 out of 29 members are not affiliated with an education company.

CCSS as “state-led” is fiction. Though NGA reports 29 individuals as involved with CCSS creation, it looks to be even fewer:

NGA first directly involved governors in nationalizing education standards in June 2008, when it co-hosted an education forum with the Hunt Institute, a project of former North Carolina Gov. James Hunt Jr. In December 2008, NGA, the Council of Chief State School Officers (CCSSO), and Achieve Inc. released a report calling for national standards. The report recommended “a strong state-federal partnership” to accomplish this goal.

Those three nonprofits answered their own call the next few months, deciding to commission Common Core. NGA and Hunt’s press releases during that time, and a paper describing NGA’s Common Core process by former NGA education director Dane Linn, provide no endorsement of such activity from more than a handful of elected officials. 

Also involved in creation of CCSS is Student Achievement Partners, the company David Coleman started in 2007 in order produce national standards. Student Achievement Partners has no work other than CCSS.

Now to Bill Gates and his money.

CCSS is not “state led.” It is “Gates led.”

Gates Buys NGA, CCSSO, Achieve, and Student Achievement Partners

The four principal organizations associated with CCSS– NGA, CCSSO, Achieve, and Student Achievement Partners– have accepted millions from Bill Gates. In fact, prior to CCSS “completion” in June 2009, Gates had paid millions to NGA, CCSSO, and Achieve. And the millions continued to flow following CCSS completion.

Prior to June 2009, NGA received $23.6 million from the Gates Foundation from 2002 through 2008. $19.7 million was for the highly-disruptive “high school redesign” (i.e., “small schools”) project, one that Gates abandoned.

After June 2009, NGA received an additional $2.1 million from Gates, the largest payout coming in February 2011,

…to work with state policymakers on the implementation of the Common Core State Standards, with special attention to effective resource reallocation to ensure complete execution, as well as rethinking state policies on teacher effectiveness
Amount: $1,598,477

Years ago, Gates paid NGA to “rethink policies on teacher effectiveness.”

One man, lots of money, nationally shaping a profession to which he has never belonged.

As for CCSSO: The Gates amounts are even higher than for NGA. Prior to June 2009, the Gates Foundation gave $47.1 million to CCSSO (from 2002 to 2007), with the largest amount focused on data “access” and “data driven decisions”:

March 2007
Purpose: to support Phase II of the National Education Data Partnership seeking to promote transparency and accessibility of education data and improve public education through data-driven decision making
Amount: $21,642,317 [Emphasis added.]

Following CCSS completion in June 2009, Gates funded CCSSO an additional $31.9 million, with the largest grants earmarked for CSSS implementation and assessment, and data acquisition and control:

July 2013
Purpose: to CCSSO, on behalf of the PARCC and SBAC consortia to support the development of high quality assessments to measure the Common Core State Standards
Amount: $4,000,000

November 2012
Purpose: to support the Council of Chief State School Officers (CCSSO) in helping States’ to build their data inoperability capability and IT leadership capacity
Amount: $1,277,648

October 2012
Purpose: to support strategic planning for the sustainability of the Common Core State Standards and the two multi-state assessment consortia tasked with designing assessments aligned with those standards
Amount: $1,100,000

June 2011
Purpose: to support the Common Core State Standards work
Amount: $9,388,911

November 2009
Purpose: to partner with federal, state, public, and private interests to develop common, open, longitudinal data standards
Amount: $3,185,750

July 2009
Purpose: to increase the leadership capacity of chiefs by focusing on standards and assessments, data systems, educator development and determining a new system of supports for student learning
Amount: $9,961,842  

Gates money also flowed to Achieve, Inc.; prior to June 2009, Achieve received $23.5 million in Gates funding. Another $13.2 million followed after CCSS creation, with $9.3 million devoted to “building strategic alliances” for CCSS promotion:

 June 2012
Purpose: to strengthen and expand the ADP Network, provide
more support to states for CCSS implementation, and build strategic national
and statewide alliances by engaging directly with key stakeholders
Amount: $9,297,699 

CCSS is not “state led.” It is “Gates led.”

How foolish it is to believe that the man with the checkbook is not calling the CCSS shots.

The “nonprofit” Student Achievement Partners, founded by CCSS “architect” David Coleman, also benefits handsomely via Gates. All that Student Achievement Partners does is CCSS, and for that, in June 2012, Gates granted Coleman’s company $6.5 million.

In total, the four organizations primarily responsible for CCSS– NGA, CCSSO, Achieve, and Student Achievement Partners– have taken $147.9 million from Bill Gates.

Even though CCSS was never piloted, Gates and Fordham want to watch state “progress” in implementing CCSS, and they even want to know how the untested CCSS shifts the curriculum– even though reformers are quick to parrot that CCSS is “not a curriculum.” This “tracking” tacitly acknowledges CCSS is meant to drive curriculum.

Common Core Gates Standards:

Gates Buys Select Major Ed Organizations and Think Tanks

Let us now consider major education organizations and think tanks that have accepted Gates money for the express purpose of advancing CCSS:

American Enterprise Institute: $1,068,788.

American Federation of Teachers: $5,400,000.

Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development: $3,269,428.

Council of Great City Schools: $5,010,988.

Education Trust: $2,039,526.

National Congress of Parents and Teachers: $499,962.

National Education Association: $3,982,597.

Thomas B. Fordham Institute: $1,961,116.

(For most of the organizations above, Gates has funded other reform-related efforts, including those related to charter schools, small schools, teacher evaluation, and data systems. My comprehensive listing of Gates grants for the organizations above [and then some] can be found here:  Gates Foundation Grants to Select Education and Policy Groups)

From the list of organizations above, I would like to highlight a few particular Gates’ purchases. First is this one, paid to the Fordham Institute:

Date: January 2011
Purpose: to track state progress towards implementation of standards and to understand how what students read changes in response to the standards
Amount: $1,002,000 

Even though CCSS was never piloted, Gates and Fordham want to watch state “progress” in implementing CCSS, and they even want to know how the untested CCSS shifts the curriculum– even though reformers are quick to parrot that CCSS is “not a curriculum.” This “tracking” tacitly acknowledges CCSS is meant to drive curriculum.

Next is this Gates purchase of the American Enterprise Institute (AEI):

Date: June 2012
Purpose: to support their education policy work in four distinct areas:
Exploring the Challenges of Common Core, Future of American Education Working Groups, Innovations in Financial Aid, and Bridging K-12 and Higher Ed with Technology
Amount: $1,068,788 

Gates is paying AEI to promote educational policy that bolsters CCSS. And Gates is getting his money’s worth from AEI “scholar” Frederick Hess, who offers these two articles advising “Common Core’ites.”

Third is the Gates purchase of the American Federation of Teachers (AFT):

Date: June 2012
Purpose: to support the AFT Innovation Fund and work on teacher
development and Common Core State Standards
Amount: $4,400,000

Even though AFT was not invited to the CCSS table until the “standards” had already been drafted by the CCSS Inner Circle noted above, and even though CCSS has not been piloted, AFT only called for a testing moratorium and not for a cease-and-desist of CCSS altogether. It appears that accepting $4.4 million in order to “work on teacher development and Common Core Standards” precludes “just saying no” to what amounts to the CCSS Colossal Education Experiment.

Fourth is the Gates purchase of the National Education Association (NEA). In July 2013, NEA officially endorsed CCSS, and in July 2013, Gates paid NEA for its support in the form of two grants totaling $6.3 million:

Date: July 2013
Purpose: to support the capacity of state NEA affiliates to advance teaching and learning issues and student success in collaboration with local affiliates
Amount: $2,426,500

Date: July 2013
Purpose: to support a cohort of National Education Association Master Teachers in the development of Common Core-aligned lessons in K-5 mathematics and K-12 English Language Arts
Amount: $3,882,600

NEA was not at the CCSS birthing table with NGA, CCSSO, Achieve, and David Coleman’s Student Achievement Partners. However, after the establishment of CCSS without teachers, now Gates is willing to pay a teachers union to create curricula that in the end do not really matter since the CCSS power is in the assessments that are completely out of NEA’s control.

I have saved my favorite CCSS-Gates purchase for last, this one to the Council of Great City Schools (CGCS):

Date: June 2011
Purpose: to promote and coordinate successful implementation of the new common core standards in major urban public school systems nationwide
Amount: $4,910,988

Date: March 2010
Purpose: to support the development of a cross-sector proposal to pilot test the new common core standards in a set of selected cities
Amount: $100,000

It seems that Gates paid CGCS $100,000 to propose a pilot study of CCSS in 2010 (not to conduct a pilot study– just to draft the idea for a pilot). Fifteen months later, there is no mention of a “proposal” much less a pilot study materializing; instead, Gates pays CGCS to “just go ahead” and “coordinate successful implementation” of the untested CCSS.

Enough About Bill for Now

So much Gates cash, and so many hands willing to accept it.

Bill Gates likes Common Core. So, he is purchasing it. In doing so, Gates demonstrates (sadly so) that when one has enough money, one can purchase fundamentally democratic institutions.

Can Bill Gates buy a foundational democratic institution? Will America allow it? The fate of CCSS will provide crucial answers to those looming questions.

Also see Parts IIIIIIV , V , and VI of this series.

The graphic above was originally posted at Mother Jones.

 

“College and Career Ready” is a Marketing Slogan

college ready

     Elizabeth Hanson has been a teacher, primarily teaching English Language Learners, and preparing students to take the General Education Development test (GED). She has taught teens to adults from a variety of countries and circumstances. She participated in the Washington State Bad Ass Teachers (BATS) Toxic Testing Rally in Olympia on February 16th.  
     To follow is the speech she gave (updated with links).
     -Carolyn Leith

High Stakes Testing – China and the U.S.

This is my 30th year of teaching.  I teach ESL at a community college, ESL to mostly Asian kids who come to study in the U.S. because either they weren’t able to do well on their high stakes tests, which determine whether or not they can enter university, or their parents decided they didn’t want their kids to suffer the massive amount of studying required to pass those tests. The Mainland Chinese students take the Gao Kao – a two day test given to seniors. About half the students who take the Gao Kao can pass it. In the early 1990s only about 25% could pass it. The cut score, the score determining if you pass a test or not, is set by the government.

All of the students I teach are from wealthy families, like their parents owning corporations wealthy. Funny how if you are rich you get to bypass all of the nonsense and fear associated with high stakes testing, and you have options if your children can’t pass the tests.

I myself have only taken one high stakes test, the SAT-back in 1979, and I recall not caring about my score. I honestly don’t remember if I scored high or low.  I remember thinking back then that a test score wouldn’t impact who I became or what I did with my life. I figured I was more than a score. I ended up going to Shoreline Community College, the University of Washington and Temple University.

I came to this movement opposing high stakes/unfair testing via the GED – the test we’ve given in this country since 1942 to give people a second chance at earning a high school credential. We had 13,000 students earning their GED in Washington State every year. But in January 2014, the Pearson Corporation took over the GED and 80-90% fewer students could pass the GED in 2014, fewer than 3,000 students in Washington State, a drop of over 10,000 students. Similar huge drops have occurred nationwide. The Pearson GED, like other high stakes tests –the PARCC and the SBAC claim they have to be rigorous in order to make sure our young people are “College and Career Ready” and we do that by having a set of shared standards nationwide known as the Common Core State Standards and the high stakes tests like the Gao Kao in China, have set cut scores so that most students who take these tests in the U.S. are labelled failures.

Where in the heck did we come up with the idea that we are, as a people, somehow not measuring up? The fear-mongering about not being College and Career Ready started with Ronald Reagan’s A Nation at Risk report published in 1983, which ushered in the start of high stakes testing, specialized curricula, and fear. It sure doesn’t look like Americans are dummies based on this chart:

We are going to college more than ever!

(http://finance.townhall.com/columnists/politicalcalculations/2014/04/04/diminishing-returns-to-higher-education-n18186)

The Sandia Report

Going back to the A Nation at Risk report, several reviews over the years have pointed out that it wasn’t a fair study. The first of these was a study called the Sandia Report that was commissioned by the Bush White House in 1990, which found evidence that did not support the claims made in A Nation at Risk. The three authors stated: “To our surprise, on nearly every measure, we found steady or slightly improving trends.” Instead of American kids doing worse – they were actually doing better!

Also, the Sandia report found that high school completion rates in the US are among the highest in the world and that the reason our test scores were lower on international tests was due to the fact that more poor students took international tests in the US whereas in other countries only the wealthy and top performing students took international tests. 

To me, it looks like we are doing fine if you measure success on worker productivity, numbers of people going to college, and the number of Nobel Laureates in Science. What’s going on?

(The citation for this study is: Carson, C.C., Huelskamp, R.M., & Woodall, R.D., (1993, May/June). Perspectives on education in America. Journal of Educational Research, Volume 86, Pages 259-301. This study has been virtually blacklisted. We were not able to find any link to it on the internet. However, we, my husband and I, were able to find and read a copy of this study at the Educational Research library at the University of Washington.) 

What is going on?

What seems to be going on is this: Some billionaire-corporate types started a myth that Americans were falling behind the rest of the world, and then they stepped in with the solution: copy-written educational standards, tests, curricula and materials, and a system for data-mining to write reports to justify the whole mess. Look at Pearson Publishing, a UK company, which owns the GED and publishes high stakes tests and curricula. They earn $4 billion in sales annually in North America from solving the “problem” of our kids not being “College and Career Ready”.  What is happening to our education system is very simple and very devious… Create a problem and create a market to solve the problem.

My main point of focus is that College and Career Ready is a marketing slogan. It is based in unreality.

It would be one thing if we as a people really were failing, if we had somehow become less creative, less productive. It would be one thing if we had a real demand for workers and didn’t have enough workers to fill that demand. But those aren’t the problems. The problem is that we’ve off-shored and out sourced our jobs. We don’t have much of an economy for the bottom 60% of Americans. And public education with its budget of $750 billion a year is in the corporate sights; the kids have become commodities. The ed-refomers have created an industry. Let’s turn to the real problem: the economy which has been constructed by design.

Free Trade

Let’s take a look at this robust economy that we are preparing our kids for when they get College and Career Ready. What ever happened to Detroit and Camden and Pittsburg and other formerly great cities in the U.S?

Due to free trade, 30 million jobs have been lost in the U.S. since 1992 and with more trade agreements in the wings- the TPP and TTIP many more jobs are sure to be off-shored and out-sourced. If our government really cared about the people, would they have allowed free trade agreements to go through? Our U.S. students struggle to complete high stakes tests, with many of the questions two years above their ability, and they get Detroit. So much for college and career ready.

Do we have enough living wage jobs to go around for our kids?

What kind of jobs do we have for our people in the U.S.? Clearly we have to get college and career ready to be prepared to work in this new economy, right?

According to the Bureau of Labor statistics, of the 30 jobs which will have the most demand and openings in the U.S.-  from now until 2022 – 2/3 won’t even require a college degree. The jobs we have and will have are like store clerks, food service workers, nursing assistants, day laborers… those jobs will be in high demand. (http://www.bls.gov/news.release/ecopro.t05.htm)

What about STEM jobs… we should push our kids to get college and career ready for those jobs right? STEM jobs pay well, but according to the Census bureau, only 1:4 Stem graduates are working at a STEM job that requires their degree. The others are working at jobs that don’t require their degree.

(http://www.census.gov/newsroom/press-releases/2014/cb14-130.html)

Moreover, look at the low growth in STEM jobs.

(http://www.economicpopulist.org/content/congress-betrays-us-stem-worker-once-again)

(http://www.urban.org/publications/411562.html)

Next, close to half of all recent college graduates are working at jobs that don’t require a college degree, jobs like nursing assistant, store clerk, office worker, food service, and on top of that they are on average $30,000 in debt.

If you want to read a real shocker, hedge funds are taking student debt and creating new investment opportunities called SLABS– Student Loan Asset Backed Securities. So if you want to know where your money is invested…

(http://www.usnews.com/news/articles/2014/11/13/average-student-loan-debt-hits-30-000)

(http://www.wsj.com/articles/for-some-graduates-college-isnt-worth-the-debt-1409803261)

(http://www.huffingtonpost.com/andrew-woodman/student-loans-the-home-mo_b_4819232.html)

Our debt is someone else’s meal. Sometimes it feels like we are a snake eating our own tail!

Moreover, looking at the landscape of the U.S. economy, half of all Americans earn less than $35,000 a year, half of all students are eligible for free and reduced lunches, and more people than ever are on food stamps, approximately 1:6 Americans.

(http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/wonkblog/wp/2013/09/23/why-are-47-million-americans-on-food-stamps-its-the-recession-mostly/)

So our college and career, high stakes system is stressing out students, stressing our teachers, and stressing out parents for what?

College and career ready is a marketing slogan. A slogan like Nike has for its shoes “Just do it”, or McDonald’s “I’m loving it”, or Campbell Soup “Hmmm-hmmm good”, or Microsoft’s “Your Potential our Passion”.

Here is a brief quote by Chairman and CEO of Gallup Research, Jim Clifton

“The great American dream is to have a good job; America has failed to deliver that dream- more than it has at any time in recent memory. A good job is an individual’s primary identity, their very self-worth, their dignity — it establishes the relationship they have with their friends, community and country. When we fail to deliver a good job that fits a citizen’s talents, training and experience, we are failing the great American dream…. a good job as 30+ hours per week for an organization that provides a regular paycheck. Right now, the U.S. is delivering at a staggeringly low rate of 44%, which is the number of full-time jobs as a percent of the adult population, 18 years and older”

(http://www.gallup.com/opinion/chairman/181469/big-lie-unemployment.aspx)

The only purpose of the College and Career mantra is to create a stable market for corporate earnings. That’s it. They want to close down public schools “due to their failing” and turn them into charter schools… another money stream for corporate interests. Public schools comprise $750 billion and they want it. Look at the labor participation rate in our nation. It’s disgusting! It’s at levels not seen since 1977 when the dollar had more purchasing power and there were way more living wage jobs then than now.

In closing, we each need to do research about the state of our economy. We need to respect teachers and fund schools. And above all, we need to demand an economy which has jobs for people.

The media is saying that our public schools, teachers and students are the problem-when they are not. Corporate propaganda is the problem; an off-shoring of our economy is the problem; too big to fail and deregulated banks are the problem.

I say we focus on solving the real problems, not the fake problems which serve only to demean the people and increase corporate profit and power for the billionaires. I say we elect leaders who are willing to face and solve real problems. I say we join together to turn this ship around.

 Elizabeth Hanson