Common Core – Oh The Tangled Webs We Weave …

In 2011, the PA State Board of Education published an Annual Report titled “Forward Together,”  in which it states:

“In 2009, the State Board was in the process of revising Pennsylvania’s academic content standards when the Common Core emerged as a policy priority of the nation’s governors and chief state schools officers, and, ultimately, the White House.”

Well, that would explain Arne Duncan’s comments in his 2010 “Vision of Education Reform” speech: [emphasis mine]

“… the administration has sought to fundamentally shift the federal role, so that the Department is doing much morethe Recovery Act created additional competitive funding like the high-visibility $4.35 billion Race to the Top program and the $650 million Investing in Innovation Fund… America is now in the midst of a “quiet revolution” in school reform… In March of 2009, President Obama called on the nation’s governors and state school chiefs to develop standards and assessments Virtually everyone thought the president was dreaming. But today, 37 states and the District of Columbia have already chosen to adopt the new state-crafted Common Core standards in math and English. Not studying it, not thinking about it, not issuing a white paper—they have actually done it.”

We’re told over and over again the federal government is prohibited by law from creating national standards or curriculum. So, how did the role of the federal government “fundamentally shift,” without legislative action or Constitutional amendment, to gain authority it does not  possess within the Constitutional framework of the federal government? The combination of “non-profit” and “non-government” organizations working in cahoots with the federal grant aid process is how the US Department of Education is able to “do much more.”  And nearly all of the “non-government” agencies involved in Common Core were in some way, shape, or form funded with money from The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.  The Gates foundation even gave money to the national Parent Teacher Association (PTA) to promote Common Core.  Then, the U.S. Department of Education dangled stimulus money and ‘No Child Left Behind’ waivers in front of the states to seal the deal. Not to mention national organizations like the Chamber of Commerce and Students First running TV commercials and lining the campaign coffers of politicians who are “on board” with the agenda, irregardless of party affiliation.

But, we are told the Common Core train has left the station. We’ve already taken the money and  invested precious time and resources in putting it all together, so we can’t turn back now.  Sandra Stotsky, who was actually a member of the Common Core advisory panel,  recently wrote an analysis for in which she argues that the unconstitutional nature of the Common Core initiative provides state with an opportunity to take the money and run from Common Core.

“… there seem to be no likely penalties if a state accepted a USED award of RttT funds and now chooses to withdraw from the agreement. States can justify their withdrawal on the grounds that the Common Core standards do not meet the original requirements of “common standards” outlined in the RttT application. These standards were supposed to be “supported by evidence that they are internationally benchmarked.” But they are not. The Common Core Validation Committee never received any evidence.”

Common Core has made strange political bedfellows.  It pleases both sides of the Big Government equation. On one side we have the big government Republicans and their cohorts in big business who promote the misuse and overuse of standardized tests to evaluate both teacher job performance and student achievement as well as the “privatization” alternatives of charter/cyber schools. And on the other side we have the big government Democrats who believe they can create an education utopia using intrusive data collection and analysis as well as education techniques rooted in behavioral psychology and social experimentation to achieve equal outcomes for all. The political ruling class chooses to believe “consultants” and “advisors” over concerned parents, teachers, and others who work most closely with the children and are directly involved in the classrooms.

Our local schools are “quietly” being lured into the same “common” web as the state department of education is producing and promoting “voluntarily” curriculum roadmaps to guide school districts into the Common Core super web, until they are all inextricably trapped. And the new Keystone Exams, created by DRC, Inc.,  are aligned to the PA Core Standards, which are based on and nearly identical to Common Core State Standards.

An article ‘When Will We Ever Learn‘ that appeared in Psychology Today (January 21, 2014)  includes an interview with Dr. Louisa Moats, who was also one of the contributing writers of the Common Core State Standards. In this interview she admits:  “I never imagined when we were drafting standards in 2010 that major financial support would be funneled immediately into the development of standards-related tests.”  She argues the money should have gone towards preparing teachers, not tests. Furthermore, she says, “It doesn’t make sense to ask kids to achieve standards that their teachers have not achieved!” Sadly, not much about Common Core involves common sense. And please note, she says they were “drafting the standards in 2010.” Our state department of education agreed to “change course” when Common Core emerged in 2009.

Whether you think Common Core is a good idea or not, what none of us should like is the way it violates not only States’ rights via the Tenth Amendment, but also the principle of subsidiarity. Our schools are best managed closest to the community they serve. And when we tolerate abuses of our rule of law and Constitution for things we like, we must realize it will also be violated for things we don’t like. We can’t have it both ways.

To paraphrase Ronald Reagan, the crocodile may eat you last, but eat you he will. Most of the folks concerned about federal intrusions into local matters, such as Common Core, are trying to keep the crocodile (the federal government) within the confines of the swamp, where it belongs and where it functions best.

See Also: Common Core – Voluntarily Mandatory Curriculum



Common Core & The Name Game

Common common bo bommon banana fanna fo fommon fe fi mo mommon…..Common!

The name game … cute song, not so cute when public policy becomes a game of let’s just change the name and shuffle some things around and hope no one will notice. And with this song comes a dance called the Common Core Hustle. They got rid of the “common,” but kept the rotten core.

House Resolution 338, touted by Seth Grove R-196th District and others who claim to oppose Common Core, attempted to address the public outcry over Common Core State Standards, which entered our state in 2009-2010 via agreements between the Rendell administration and the US Department of Education (which I’ll call Fed Ed). The resolution, which passed June 18, 2013, resulted in several changes to Chapter 4 regulations approved by the State Board of Education as posted in PA Bulletin March 1, 2014 including:

  • The name of the standards will be changed to “PA Core Standards.” (but closely aligned to the college and career ready Common Core, so close you can hardly tell the difference.

In fact, the Corbett administration’s “No Child Left Behind” (ESEA) Waiver request stated that:  (Note: CCSS refers to Common Core State Standards.)

“Pennsylvania educators from across the state convened in 2012 to meld the PA Academic Standards with CCSS standards. Completed in January 2012, these English Language Arts and Mathematics standards were customized to embrace the content and rigor of Common Core as well as the best of what Pennsylvania Academic Standards offered. … Overall, the PA Common Core Standards reflect a rigorous set of standards that embraces the CCSS Anchor Standards in English Language Arts as well as the CCSS Standards for Mathematical Practice…”)

Why would PA need to “meld” and “embrace” something we’re supposedly “moving further away from” according to Seth Grove’s recently published newsletter to his constituents.

  • The standards are specifically applicable only to public schools, with private, religious and home school communities being exempt.(unless the schools already voluntarily align to PA state standards, like the Diocese of Harrisburg Catholic schools or use the Catholic Common Core Identity Initiative), use Common Core aligned materials and tests, or have anything in their standards that references “college and career readiness,” 21st century skills or uses the word “rigorous”.)
  • There will be no national tests or assessments, except if one is deemed necessary for special education students and then only in consultation with parents, teachers and other interested parties.(But PA uses a national testing company with expertise in creating tests perfectly aligned to the “Common  Core” see Data Recognition Corporation.)
  • Expanded data collection will NOT occur due to implementation of the standards.(The data collection is not “due to the standards” but due to agreements between state agencies and Fed Ed or other federal departments via grant applications. Expanded? What data are they already collecting? And what data did they plan on collecting? )
  • There will be NO required reading lists and curriculum will remain a local decision.(But, just for the sake of convenience, cost effectiveness, and compliance, PA has created a Voluntary Model Curriculum with links to lesson plans and classroom materials that are perfectly aligned to the standards and to the Keystone Exams via the SAS Portal which is available to all school districts.)

This resolution and subsequent action on the part PA that “embraces” Common Core, but just doesn’t want to call it Common Core highlights the lack of understanding on the part of our legislators of exactly what PA has promised to do in its quest for money for public education as well as how the process of federal grant-aid to the states completely bypasses their legislative authority per our state and federal Constitutions. State governments and local school districts have merely become facilitators to the edicts from the federal Leviathan.

The federal government ushers in these mandates not only via the grant-aid process, but also by granting waivers (or flexibility as they like to call it) to existing law, such as with the “No Child Left Behind” waiver that states desperately wanted, including PA.

Do federal agencies have authority to grant waivers to existing law or pick or choose the parts of a law they want to enforce? It was my understanding in reading our Constitution that only Congress is authorized to make or change law. If Congress has somehow given away this authority to federal agencies, it must be reclaimed. Do we have a rule of law or don’t we?

Evidence of a Much Larger Infestation

And what exactly did PA tell the federal government and its non-governmental cronies it would do in exchange for this funding? It’s a whole lot more than simply adopting robust and rigorous ‘college and career ready’ academic standards.

Major changes to how our children are taught, what they’re taught, how and what data will be collected (PIMS, ESP Solutions Group, Inc., ) and who gets to see it (federal education privacy law changes),  even higher-stakes assessments (DRC, Inc.) that now tie student performance to individual teachers,  professional development (Teachscape) and evaluations (Danielson Framework) have all been ushered in through agreements between State Ed, PA’s department of information management system, PA’s Department of Labor and Industry, and the US Department of Education as well other “non-government” entities, including grants from the Gates Foundation and the National Governor’s Association.

“Common Core” is really evidence of a much, much larger problem. In fact, we can almost consider “Common Core” as a blessing in disguise because it shines sunlight on all the spider webs that have been woven over decades and decades of the “quiet revolution” in America’s system of education according to Arne Duncan, U.S. Secretary of Education.

The problem with Common Core, no matter what you call it, is not just “the standards,” but also the gigantic web that it being woven by corporate cronies, non-profit organizations, non-government organizations, and federal government agencies colluding together to force their vision of education onto the public and the semantic deception that is leading parents to believe that these new standards, tests, and data-driven system will do anything to improve education in PA. It doubles down on the failures of the past and sucks us all down the rabbit hole where nothing is as it seems anymore. Commonly understood words and expressions are used to describe concepts and ideas that if presented truthfully most parents would outright reject.

Folks are wising up and seeking what often gets lost — the truth.  Those of us who honestly want to fix what’s broken do not want to get stuck in the slimy swamp of politics.  Anyone who is an honest broker in education knows that one size fits all common standards aligned with the overuse and misuse of standardized testing and data mining is simply not good, sound education policy.

Subsidiarity & Local Control

The upcoming elections are vital. If we stand any chance of fixing this mess, we must elect legislators, both state and federal, who actually understand their Constitutional role in government, and are not willing to delegate their responsibilities to unelected, unaccountable bureaucrats, thereby escaping accountability.

Whether you like the idea of Common Core /PA Core standards and agree with all that it entails or not, what should concern every citizen is the manner in which the process bypassed all our Constitutional protections and legislative procedures and the powerful influence of this federal grant-aid process and corporate entities on public education and state government.

As with all top down, centralized agendas, in order for their plan to work, everyone must get caught in the web. Well, everyone that is except those who are the grand architects of “the system.” No, their children won’t be going to “Common Core” schools. Common Core is just for OUR common kids.

We would do well to remember the principle of subsidiarity, which holds that nothing should be done by a larger and more complex organization, which can be done as well by a smaller and simpler organization. Education belongs closest to the community it serves.

The fact that any of this existed in the first place should alarm us, despite all the alleged back tracking that is going on now. This stuff has been in the works for a long time, I have a hard time believing they’d give it all up so readily.

Getting rid of Common Core is just the beginning, not the end.  This is an epic battle for the restoration and preservation of what education is supposed to be and how a bunch of folks who have no business dictating education policy managed to get themselves in the driver’s seat and are leading us in the completely wrong direction.

 Next: How the Spiders  Got Into PA

This article has been cross posted at Watchdog Wire – Pennsylvania!