Frustrated Jeb Bush Still Won’t Give Up on Common Core

Former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush (photo credit: Michael Vadon, CC BY-SA 2.0)

Jeb Bush is disgruntled. The grand Common Core edifice is crumbling around him, and he can do little other than lash out at the people responsible. He did so last week in a forum held at the Harvard Graduate School of Education, where he has spent several weeks co-teaching a class on education reform.

During the 93-minute conversation, Bush advocated a number of reform-y ideas, such as school choice (the tax money should follow the child), digital learning (technology should be “integral to the learning experience”), expanded preschool (with training for teachers to handle “every interaction with a four-year-old”), and competency-based training (as opposed to genuine liberal-arts education). But nothing engaged his emotions — primarily anger and frustration — more than discussion of the politics of the Common Core national standards.

When asked about his support for Common Core, Bush doggedly repeated and expanded on his mantra: “I’m for higher standards. High standards, assessed faithfully, will yield college- and/or career-readiness after 12th grade.” He didn’t explain why the Common Core standards are “higher,” but then he never has.

Interestingly, Bush also admitted that the pre-Common Core Massachusetts standards were “probably” higher than Common Core: “I’m not sure why Massachusetts had to change — that was their decision.” If Bush really isn’t sure why Massachusetts ditched its superior standards for Common Core, he’s the only one in the education universe who is still puzzling over that one. A federal payout of $250 million can be a powerful inducement. Continue Reading

New Report: Winners and Losers of Common Core

Photo credit: Red Maxwell (CC BY-NC 2.0) / Wilson Dias (CC BY 3.0 BR)

Teresa Mull of the Heartland Institute writes about a new report analyzing the enormous funding of the Common Core national standards — where the money came from, what it was used for, and especially, who benefited from the entire endeavor. Hint: It wasn’t the students.

The report, “Smart Money? Philanthropic and Federal Funding for the Common Core,” was produced by scholars at Penn State University. Unlike many academic discussions of Common Core, it recognizes that the national standards are designed for technical, data-driven outcomes rather than genuine education. It also recognizes the dearth of evidence that the Common Core-type of “standards-based reform” actually elevates student achievement.

The report combines these insights with a wealth of information about the federal programs (such as Race to the Top) and private foundation grants (such as the millions of dollars from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and others) that poured into the Common Core scheme from development to implementation. From this data the report draws conclusions about Common Core winners and losers.

Winners

  • Philanthropic foundations, which “further rooted their preferences for . . . metrics, big data, measurable growth, and competition, in the education sector. . . . Venture philanthropists’ broad and strategic funding enabled them to purchase increased influence over public policy and public institutions without incurring any accountability for the policies they advanced” — policies that have no evidentiary basis for success. And crucially, the report notes that the foundations’ expenditures “empowered them to install public policies without democratic processes.” No one has ever voted for Bill Gates, but as even Common Core proponents have admitted, his “agenda has become the country’s agenda in education.”
  • The federal government, whose showering of money on states during a deep recession enabled the U.S.
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Obama Administration Wants to Kiss Your Local Schools Goodbye

President Barack Obama visits a pre-kindergarten classroom in Georgia (photo credit: The White House via Flickr)

If the Obama administration and its supporters have their way, the suburban neighborhood school could be headed for extinction. In a veritable symphony of bureaucratic coordination, the administration has figured out how to recruit three cabinet departments, liberal non-profits, and deep-pocketed foundations to this effort. It can be tough even to follow the sophisticated strategy for accomplishing this (and the president prefers it that way), but if we value our liberty, it’s worth a bit of effort to understand this scheme.

The administration is maneuvering to replace local control in education (and in other areas) with school systems that extend across entire metropolitan regions. This effort is bolstered by advocacy groups promoting “economic integration” to force suburban jurisdictions to either admit low-income students from outside their districts or redistribute the tax money that supports their schools to less affluent nearby districts. Lurking behind this plan—as with practically every nationwide education policy—is the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.

The pincer created by Obama’s coercion from coordinated federal agencies on the one hand and Gates’s advocacy of supposedly social-justice taxing and redistribution on the other could squeeze the life out of the suburbs and suburban schools.

We Don’t Like Your Neighborhood

First, let’s have a look at the Obama coercion scheme. This ambitious plan is bound up with a new rule from the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) called the Affirmatively Furthering Fair Housing (AFFH) rule.

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Massachusetts Court Thwarts Parent-Led Effort to Put Common Core on Ballot

Massachusetts State House entrance in Boston, Mass. (photo credit: Matt Kieffer via Flickr, CC BY-SA 2.0)

Last week the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court (SJC) threw out an initiative petition signed by over 130,000 Massachusetts citizens to challenge the adoption and implementation of the Common Core national standards and assessments scheme in Massachusetts. The petitioners sought to overturn the decision of the Massachusetts education establishment to ditch the state’s stellar K-12 standards in exchange for $250 million in federal money. After the petitioners gathered the signatures necessary to place the question on the ballot, the state attorney general certified the petition and cleared the way, finally, for citizens to vote on the usurpation of the state’s education system.

The SJC thwarted this citizen-empowerment effort based not on the substantive issues presented by the petition, but rather on the technical question whether the different provisions of the petition were sufficiently “related” to satisfy the statute governing such initiatives. The opinion was written by Justice Margot Botsford, who was appointed to the court by the governor (Deval Patrick) who brought Common Core to Massachusetts.

Regardless of technicalities, the most significant — and depressing — aspect of this case is that the powerful interests behind Common Core were able to crush a citizens’ revolt against the scheme. Money apparently was no obstacle to the ten individual plaintiffs who sued to derail the petition. The law firm representing them, Foley Hoag, is a silk-stocking firm that doesn’t come cheap, but the towering legal bills didn’t seem to be a problem. Continue Reading

Gates Foundation: If At First Common Core Doesn’t Succeed, Try Again!

Former Microsoft Chairman and CEO Bill Gates (photo credit: Red Maxwell via Flickr, CC BY-NC 2.0)

The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation is demonstrating its grit, tenacity, and perseverance — character traits much in vogue among the progressive-education set — by refusing to admit defeat in the face of overwhelming odds. On Monday, Gates announced it’s “doubling down” on making the Common Core national standards work in American schools.

Yes, students’ scores on the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) have actually been declining since Common Core was fully implemented (see here and here). Yes, college-readiness, as measured by NAEP, is sliding downhill as well. Yes, college math professors are complaining that incoming freshmen are increasingly less prepared for college-level work.

But Bill and Melinda are undeterred. These problems (described in understatement by the NAEP governing board chairman as “worrisome”) shall not derail what the Gateses, as education experts, know in their heart of hearts will work — because it must work. We’ll make it work!

The Gates Foundation has concluded that the problems with Common Core can’t be that the standards consist of “empty skill sets” in English language arts and dumbed-down expectations in math (complete with bizarre methods of computation that were tried, and that failed, in California and elsewhere decades ago). No, just as the only problem with socialism is that it hasn’t been implemented properly, Common Core isn’t working because “we missed an early opportunity to engage educators — especially teachers — but also parents and communities so that the benefits of the standards could take flight from the beginning.”

If only teachers and parents had been “engaged,” Common Core would be soaring to the heavens rather than stuck on the runway. Continue Reading

Gates Admits that Education Efforts “Really Haven’t Changed Outcomes”

Former Microsoft Chairman and CEO Bill Gates (photo credit: Red Maxwell via Flickr, CC BY-NC 2.0)

Progressive educrats tell us that the onset of the 21st century changes everything about how we educate children. What worked for little boys named Thomas Jefferson and Winston Churchill is now passe. In its place must be installed sophisticated technological systems for “personalized learning,” which will transform education. It’s becoming clear, though, that the new orthodoxy comes with major drawbacks, so much so that even High Priest of Education Technology Bill Gates finds it necessary to concede a few problems and give the congregation a pep talk.

Recently Gates admitted to a convention of ed-tech entrepreneurs and investors that education technology hasn’t lived up to its transformational promise. Despite the millions of dollars the Gates Foundation and the education establishment have poured into such technology, Gates acknowledged that “we really haven’t changed [students’ academic] outcomes.”

Although Gates hastened to reassure the parishioners that success is likely once the industry gets a better grasp of student and teacher needs, his acknowledgement of trouble in paradise is significant. Return on investment won’t come soon, he warned, and the path to profitability is strewn with obstacles such as budgeting challenges, untrained teachers, and lack of product piloting. But perhaps with eyes on tantalizing business prospects for Microsoft, Gates promised that his foundation will “do everything we can to help facilitate the creation of great technology.”

Gates’s cautionary tale comes even as more objective observers are sounding alarms that “personalized learning” may not be as game-changing as advertised.

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Jeb Bush’s Friends Spend Big to Support Student Data Grab

Just as the Common Core pushing textbook publishing giants like Houghton Mifflin Harcourt and Pearson have had financial incentive to support Jeb Bush and his now former organization, the Foundation for Excellence in Education (FEE), corporate cronyism is also alive and well via those companies involved in Big Data.

The Data Quality Campaign (DQC) is a corporate-backed front group that spends all its time trying to portray the ugly and invasive womb-to-tomb data grab and psychological profiling of our children as helpful, necessary, and the government’s right. They strongly support the incredibly invasive Strengthening Education Through Research Act (SETRA) which sadly has already passed the Senate after an unannounced voice vote, with fawning praise after an earlier version passed the House in 2014:

DQC sees immense value in the ability to link data across early childhood education, K–12, postsecondary, and workforce systems. The most pressing questions for education stakeholders (alignment, feedback, etc.) require data to be shared from disparate collections, which means that it’s vital to align these systems to effectively answer these questions. SETRA would require grantees to do that. By linking data systems across the P–20/workforce spectrum, states will gain the ability to evaluate whether students, schools, and districts are meeting their college- and career-readiness expectations. [Emphasis added]

DQC also loves having data on the workings of our children’s minds:

Early warning systems (EWS) are one of the best examples of transforming data into actionable information that, when used effectively, can improve student outcomes. EWS, developed around research-based indicators such as student academic performance (grades) and attendance and discipline records, help educators accurately and quickly identify students who are most at risk of academic failure, not being on track to graduate college and career ready, or dropping out of school.

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The Push For H-1B Visas And The Common Core Math FAIL

Photo credit: CollegeDegrees360 via Flickr (CC BY-SA 2.0)

The debate rages about whether the H-1B visa system brings in too many or too few skilled foreign workers. But the discussion overlooks a critical fact: Regardless of the current answer to that question, the national Common Core standards will most assuredly lower the number of qualified American workers.

The stated purpose of H-1B visas is to allow American employers to employ foreign workers who have education or skills unavailable in sufficient supply in the local workforce.  The idea is that a worker-deficient employer petitions the federal government for a visa on behalf of a specific individual.  Currently, Congress caps the program at 65,000 H-1B visas per year.

STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) businesses and the trade associations that carry their water are among the most vigorous proponents of the visa.  Microsoft founder Bill Gates, for instance, has repeatedly argued that the cap should be increased (see, e.g., here and here).  Likewise, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce argues that the cap slows economic growth and should be relaxed.

But the irony of their arguments is that the national Common Core standards — the educational scheme advocated by Bill Gates and the Chamber of Commerce — do not prepare children for STEM studies.  Common Core will, therefore, contribute to a reduction in the number of American STEM workers.

The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation has poured hundreds of millions of dollars into propagating the Common Core.  See, e.g., here and here (estimates of $150 million as of 2013).  Continue Reading

Did Slanted Questions Skew Latest NBC Common Core Poll?

Photo credit: CollegeDegrees360 via Flickr (CC BY-SA 2.0)

A new NBC poll shows that 50 percent of the parents surveyed favor the Common Core national standards (61% of Democrats but only 26% of Republicans).  These results contrast with a Gallup poll from last fall that showed only 33 percent of parents with a positive view of Common Core, as opposed to 35 percent with a negative view (32% unsure).  How to explain the discrepancy?

Obviously, the phrasing of poll questions can substantially affect the response. “Do you favor Common Core,” preceded or followed by a description of the standards such as “rigorous standards designed to improve your child’s academic performance,” will most likely elicit a different response than would the same question connected to a less rosy (but more truthful) description.

The problem is that we don’t know how the NBC poll questions were phrased (Gallup simply asked whether the respondent, from what he knew of Common Core, favored the standards).  This lack of transparency apparently violates American Association of Public Opinion Research standards, which require release of the entire questionnaire along with the research methodology. (This is especially problematic given that the poll results are being used for political purposes.) But despite the secrecy about the questions, we have clues to their probable bias.

For one thing, we can watch the brief “What Is Common Core?” video that NBC helpfully provided with its poll results. The reporter on the video packed as many slanted talking points as she could manage into 30 seconds: Common Core “is not a curriculum”; it “raises academic standards nationwide”; it includes “emphasis on critical-thinking and problem-solving.” All of this might sound good to busy parents who haven’t had time to research the issue. Continue Reading