Tuesday, June 24, 2014


Teachers, rise up and reclaim your profession
before its too late

Rotten to the "Core"
EXCERPT: Most likely, there is already a plan in motion that will rescue the states from the dreaded Common Core. Look for this to come in the next year or two as the pushback to the Common Core reaches fever pitch.  It may come in the form of an increased push to move all school districts into charter management operations (CMO’s) just as Louisiana has done in New Orleans.  If this occurs it will signal the death knell of the public school system in America. Gone will be the elected school boards and gone will be the parent’s ability to have a say in the education of their children.
A report by Patrick Huff, Ph.D.,
3D Research Group

Education reform is moving fast in America. Sometimes it is hard to keep up with the changes that are occurring at such a rapid pace. Front and center on the news channels and education journals is debate over the rollout of the Common Core State Standards. It has been accepted and installed in the schools of 45 states. This has all happened with little debate and no field-testing. Yet now that it is in play,  it is beginning to come under scrutiny.

First, a little clarification is needed. The Common Core State Standards (CCSS) are sets of standards that have skills identified that are target goals for students at each grade level. It is not a curriculum.  The standards do, however, influence curriculum by shaping whatever curriculum is chosen by the state or school district.  If the state is a Common Core state then the standards are embedded in the curriculum.  There is much debate now as to whether the Common Core Standards are age appropriate or family friendly.

The rolling out of the CCSS caught many by surprise. It appeared and was accepted by many of the states practically before the ink was dry.  It was presented as if it came from the states and was initiated with the blessing of the superintendents throughout the land.  It was advertised that it came out of the National Governors Association and the Council of Chief State School Officers (CCSSO). The National Governors Association (NGA) is a Washington-based organization made up of state governors, but has a steering committee based in Washington, DC that sets the agenda and drives the association.  The same can be said for the CCSSO.  The Council of Chief State School Officers is headquartered in Washington, DC and operates in much the same manner as the NGA. To make the claim that the Common Core comes from the state’s governors and has the support of each state’s education commissioner and its superintendents is disingenuous at best. 

Wealthy philanthropists bought support for CCSS, namely The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, The Walton Foundation and The Broad Foundation, with money flowing to education groups and Non-Governmental Organizations (NGOs) on the left and the right. The American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) is perceived as being on the conservative side and is fully behind Common Core. The Center for American Progress (CAP) is thought to be liberal and also supports the CCSS. Both are strong advocates for school choice, aka charter schools and vouchers. There are, of course, many other NGOs, think tanks and entrepreneurs that work in tandem to influence legislation promoting the merger of corporate interests with the public education sector. 

Now states are getting tremendous pushback against the CCSS from teachers, parents, and superintendents for various reasons. Parent groups object to the skills identified in the standards.  Many teacher groups say the standards are not rigorous enough. Superintendents decry the money needed to train teachers and purchase new curriculum materials that have the CCSS already embedded. The push for laptops and tablets to replace textbooks is seen as a control mechanism used to manipulate information and knowledge. If it is not embedded in the tablet or laptop curriculum, it will not be taught.

Keeping in mind the Hegelian Dialectic, the sudden rollout of the CCSS is following the classic script. The planners have created the problem, which is CCSS. Now they are trying to manage all the different groups in opposition to the CCSS. There will be a synthesis that will be introduced after the situation has gotten to the breaking point.

What the synthesis will be is a question now, but one could certainly look at who stands to gain in this cat and mouse game of education reform. The one thing the philanthropists, NGOs, lobbying organizations and inner circle politicians all want is control. They don’t just want a little control. They want total control.  What is it they want to control? They want to control information and knowledge, and in the process make billions of dollars.

One area in which to look for the hidden hand is in the construct of accountability that is Adequate Yearly Progress (AYP). AYP is the federal accountability system that was implemented with No Child Left Behind (NCLB). It placed schools in a progressively increasing mandate of higher percentages that were required for all ethnic subgroups--English Language Learners (ELA), Special Education students, and Low Socio-Economic qualifying students--on the yearly administered standardized state test. This was the instrument used to take schools to failure in their accountability and prompted superintendents to clamor for their governors to accept the Waiver option offered by President Obama and the U.S. Department of Education. 

In 2011 the AYP requirements for Reading/ ELA were set at 80% and the Math requirements were set at 75%.  That meant that each subgroup had to achieve the percentage standard collectively.  The school was graded as a whole, but each subgroup had to meet the standard as well. With these requirements, schools began to exhibit a pattern of increased failure status.  In 2012 the AYP requirements jumped to 87% and 83 %, respectively. Now schools were in crisis mode. The requirements for 2013 were slated for 93% and 92%. Remember, the schools have to be on a path leading to 100% by 2014. This was decreed into law with No Child Left Behind and cheered by Congress when President Bush (43) announced this ludicrous mandate.  2014 was a long way off in 2002 when No Child Left Behind was passed into law.

A 100% mandate for every child in America would be a worthy goal, if that were all that it was. But when 100% was put into law that set in play an increasing percentage required for each subgroup. The subgroups are seven: African American, Hispanic, White, English Language Learners, Low Socio-Economic, Special Education, and All Students. If just one of these groups failed to make the necessary percentage point requirement, then the whole school failed. The same can be said for the school district. Each public school district’s federal accountability rating is based on the breakdown of their subgroups and its passing percentage on the test as dictated by the AYP standard for that year. There are only two options: Meet Standards or Failed to Meet Standards.

Two federal initiatives were put in motion that led to the mass acceptance by the states of Common Core. The first was Race to the Top (RTTT). With RTTT, states could apply for grants by writing their own accountability systems that demonstrated an aggressive approach to a rigorous curriculum that would prepare their students for college or a career.  There were two requirements in order to have any chance of qualifying for a RTTT grant: (1) agreement to have an aggressive charter school program, and (2) adopt the curriculum standards that the US Department of Education called a “rigorous college and career ready program.” This rigorous program turned out to be the Common Core State Standards.

The second initiative produced by the Obama Administration and the US Department of Education was the Waiver.  In 2011 President Obama issued the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA) Waiver. The ESEA Waiver Package was eagerly accepted by many states as soon as it was offered.  It relieved states of many of the mandates dictated by NCLB, with certain stipulations.  The main two requirements were: agreement to adopt the CCSS and tie teacher and administrator evaluations, or appraisals, to the outcomes on their students on the yearly state test. The measure used to apply the outcomes was the AYP percentage requirement for that year. With AYP percentages on the rise, superintendents in most states urged their governor to accept the Waiver.

It is 2014 and if something had not changed, every school district and virtually every school in America, would be failing this year.  This is the year when all students are mandated by law to be proficient on the test.

Well, something did change. The AYP mandate was put on hold by the US Department of Education.  Why was it put on hold? Because there is now a two-tiered accountability program in the United States: those operating within the Waiver, and the five states operating outside the Waiver that are still required to meet the 100% mandate.  All states have been given an opportunity to demonstrate their plan to demonstrate accountability for the education profession and provide a rigorous curriculum that will “raise the standards” for each child’s education in their state. Each state must also demonstrate the method that is to be used that will take their students to 100% proficiency on the state test.

Adequate Yearly Progress has not been disbanded; only put on hold. It is soon to re-emerge as each state has their plan approved. As of now,  the percentages required for each school and school district’s subgroups are lower as the schools are given an opportunity to readjust to a new test. In Texas it is the State of Texas Assessment of Academic Readiness (STAAR). The AYP percentages are at 75% in both Reading/ELA and Math for the 2013 testing year. This resulted in many schools and districts receiving a “Met Standards” accountability rating that just the year prior were receiving a “Failed to Meet Standards” accountability rating.

In the 2013-2014 school year the percentages are set at 79%. The 2014-2015 school year will see percentages at 83%.  Nothing has been decided for the percentage requirement in the years that follow the 2014-2015 school year. Each state’s education plan submitted to the US Department of Education had to demonstrate how its plan would move students to 100% proficiency and by which date it would be accomplished. Due to the rise in the percentages required for each subgroup, schools will soon be failing again.

Of course, the accountability system is far more complicated than what has just been recited above.  There is a group of lowest 5% of schools in each state that sets the moving target each year for the “failed to meet standards” rating. There are different indexes that set marks of attainment for schools and districts, as well.  The AYP percentage factor, however, remains the single greatest determinant that will move schools to failure just as it did in the years leading up to the Waiver option. This fear factor for superintendents and principals will continue to play a role as pressure is exerted from above on the teaching profession, and the students who have to bare the brunt of the accountability-based testing matrix that has become the public school system.

The Hegelian Dialectic is being played out currently in the education programs across America in the public schools. The synthesis (solution) is the Waiver option, which came after the antithesis that was the huge failure rate in the public schools (reaction). It all started with the thesis (problem) that was the standards-based  (AYP percentages) accountability system put in place during the standardized testing era for public school children.  Standards/AYP (problem) leading to failure of schools nationwide (reaction), and finally the Waiver option to rescue the states (solution) has been played out in traditional Hegelian Dialectic fashion.

Now, a new reaction is taking place across the country--the reaction to the Common Core State Standards. Many states are finding out that the standards are not to their liking.  It is also being discovered that there is an exorbitant cost in implementing the CCSS. States are crying foul and standing up to the federal government by threatening to opt out of the Waiver, even when it means the loss of millions of dollars from the federal government.

Most likely, there is already a plan in motion that will rescue the states from the dreaded Common Core. Look for this to come in the next year or two as the pushback to the Common Core reaches fever pitch.  It may come in the form of an increased push to move all school districts into charter management operations (CMO’s) just as Louisiana has done in New Orleans.  If this occurs it will signal the death knell of the public school system in America. Gone will be the elected school boards and gone will be the parent’s ability to have a say in the education of their children.

It is time for a change in our approach to the education of our children. This change has to be built from the bottom up. Teachers, principals and superintendents must say “No more!” No more being led by the nose into each new phase of control and oppression. This has to be done in vast numbers, as the only way to get the attention of those in control of the education system is to all speak with one voice. When the state’s politicians hear this voice of unity coming from every school district in their state, there will be a chance for true reform. This reform, however, will be to remove the shackles of the accountability system and reclaim the teaching profession’s rightful place in education. Remove the fear of yearly failure from both the student and the profession. Reinstate the teacher as the rightful purveyor of information and knowledge in the classroom, and give back to the parents the ownership and control of our communities’ schools.