Common Core – Cash Cow

Cronyism & Collusion

The same businesses involved in developing the systems and materials for “Common Core” are involved in the process of creating the education system to which their products are uniquely aligned. And then when the federal government supports and promotes a “common” set of standards and a “common” set of data systems and uses federal taxpayer dollars to entice states to do things their way, our tenth amendment rights are further eroded.  As more states align, adopt, adapt, embrace or snuggle up (whatever they want to call it) to “Common Core”, the less choice we as parents have. And the less choice teachers, uh, I  mean, the human capital,  have to personalize their classrooms to meet the needs of the unique students, oops, I mean, products,  entering their classrooms each year.

An example of how this all works can be found in the new teacher evaluation system being implemented in PA. As stated in the Corbett administration’s application for the “No Child Left Behind”waiver: [emphasis mine]

“Pennsylvania began transforming its accountability for effective educators in 2010 using an $800,000 grant from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. Now in its third and final pilot phase, and with the passage of Act 82 of 2012, all teachers, principals, and specialists will have equitable access to high quality professional development resources designed to support the requirement that 50% of the evaluation is based on multiple measures of student performance. The other 50% of their evaluation is based on a rubric designed to identify strengths and needs associated with their professional practices.

Well, how else would we develop a world-class human pipeline, which is the term our government uses to describe teachers and education support staff as discussed in a letter the PDE sent to school districts explaining the Race to the Top Phase 2 program requirements:

The equitable tool PA chose to evaluate the effectiveness of the  “human pipeline” of education is called the Danielson Framework. And coincidentally, Teachscape, the company PA will use to “train the trainer” on this new framework, was named exclusive digital provider of the Framework for Teaching Evaluation Instrument.  From Teachscape’s website:

“Charlotte Danielson has made several enhancements to the Framework that make the new instrument, the Framework for Teaching Evaluation Instrument, more practical and easier to use for teacher evaluation while maintaining its integrity as a tool for teacher training and professional development. The new enhancements stem from work done on the Measures of Effective Teaching (MET) project funded by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.”

And one of Teachscape’s partners is … The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.

$800,000 may not seem like a lot in government money, but when it’s followed up with $50+ million from the Race to the Top ‘Early Learning Challenge’ grant award, which was a joint venture between Fed Ed and Dept of Health and Human Services, and another $40+ million from the third round of Race to the Top, both grants emanating from the stimulus stash, then it sure is. Especially when the coveted “flexibility” in No Child Left Behind is tacked on to the deal. All this generosity comes with “strings attached.”

Ryan Bannister of Pennsylvanians Against Common Core does an excellent job exposing the millions that Bill Gates via his foundation has been throwing millions around in PA to promote Common Core, not only to our state government, but “non-profit” organizations as well.  If you attend any of the Common Core hearings in Harrisburg, the name Joan Benso should be familiar. She is President and CEO of Pennsylvania Partnerships for Children and coincidentally her organization received nearly $1 million from the Gates Foundation to promote Common Core. She is always there to extol the virtues of Common Core “for the children” of course. And Thomas Gluck (Ms. Benso’s husband. ) is the executive director of the Pennsylvania Association of Intermediate Units and has received nearly $2 million to support and promote Common Core. If you are not familiar with the system of IU’s circulating around the state of PA, they have been instrumental in pushing the “Common Core way” into our school districts. Each “IU,” as they’re called, represents certain areas of the state, which has been divided up into regions supported by the IU’s.

When this happens in the real world, it’s called conflict of interest. But it seems the same rules don’t apply to these elitist and cronies in and around government.

Mercedes Schneider has an excellent five-part series that audits the Common Core money trail. Yes, it took a five-part series to detail it all. And yet, Common Core proponents implicate the Koch Brothers or talk radio in much of the anti-Common Core movement. Back and forth the media sites go. Gates – Koch Brothers – Waltons – Heritage – Fordham. Blah blah blah. As if, we’re supposed to just pick a side and stick with it because it’s “our” group promoting it.

Well intentioned or not, the ends do not justify the means. And whether the non-profit organization is backed by Billy Gates or Billy Graham is not really the point here. Either one of these private individuals could have created their own private schools and found parents willing (how about “for thee but not for me” political elites) to subject their children to experimental teaching strategies and technology, data tracking and all the rest.  If it turned out to be such a great model for education, it might catch on, but, then again, it might prove to be an unmitigated disaster like the Blue Man Group school in New York City. At least that boondoggle only affected the parents who willingly sent their children to that school, unlike Common Core which affects us all.

Next: We’re People, Not Products

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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!