USED Remains Hopelessly Committed to Standardized Testing

Leaping from triumph to triumph, the U.S. Department of Education (USED) has announced a new assessments grant program to follow its failed assessments grant program from six years ago.  Ed Week reports that USED will allow states to compete to get back a small chunk of money that was theirs in the first place (a total of $8.6 million), which cash can be used to “bolster their assessment systems.” Reminiscent of the infamous Race to the Top scheme, these competitive grants will be called Enhanced Assessment Grants.

Last fall the Obama Administration tried to tamp down the boiling furor over excessive testing – especially with the two Common Core-aligned standardized-testing consortia, Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers (PARCC) and SMARTER BALANCED Assessment Consortium (SBAC) – by announcing a “testing action plan” to trim testing time while still hanging on to federal control. Education Secretary John King told Ed Week that this new competition has “similarities” to the assessment flexibility granted a few pilot states by the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) but differs primarily, it seems, in timing. As with so much that comes out of USED, the details are hazy. And because the Obama administration is known to, shall we say, take liberties with statutory law, what difference, at this point, does it make?

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

This new addition to the federal Common Core standards-and-assessments structure offers an elegant encapsulation of the bureaucratic mindset in policy-making. Continue Reading

Kasich Isn’t for Local Control in Education

Ohio Gov. John Kasich (photo credit: Gage Skidmore)

While in New Hampshire, Ohio Governor John Kasich told “Fox News Sunday” that he is “for total local control” when it comes to education.

CNSNews.com reports:

“I propose taking 104 federal education programs, putting them into four buckets and sending them to the states. I have been clear from the very beginning that I support high standards and local control. That’s exactly what we do in Ohio. Our state school board approves the standards, and the local school boards are the ones that create the curriculum,” Kasich said, adding, “I am for total local control.”

That sounds great, but his record doesn’t indicate he would actually do that, as he has supported top-down initiatives for his state like the Common Core State Standards and PARCC.

Ohio has since stopped using PARCC, but let’s be clear — that was a state legislature-initiated move. Ohio still has a Common Core-aligned assessment.

Here is what we do know from Kasich’s record — he is one of two presidential candidates to receive an ‘F’ on our Common Core report card.

Emmett McGroarty wrote specifically about Kasich’s record:

Like Bush, Kasich is an unapologetic cheerleader for the Common Core. His only response to the large and active anti-Common Core grassroots operation in Ohio is to make fun of them.

In May of last year, Governor Kasich said on a Cleveland radio program that the Common Core Standards were “written by local school districts.” Governor Kasich continues to be an ardent proponent of the Common Core standards — one who hook, line, and sinker accepts the false talking points of the Common Core developers, owners, and funders….

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Earth to Chris Christie: New Jersey Didn’t Get Rid of Common Core

New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie (photo credit: iprimages via Flickr, CC BY-ND 2.0)

U.S. Senator Marco Rubio (R-FL) called out New Jersey Governor Chris Christie during the Fox Business Network Republican presidential debate for his support of Common Core. Christie replied and said, “And on Common Core, Common Core has been eliminated in New Jersey.”

Really? That’s fascinating.

Christie has been a moving target on Common Core (Stop Common Core in North Carolina has a great timeline of his waffling on the issue). Needless to say, his change of heart has been and remains suspect when he refused to get rid of PARCC as an assessment when parents and many legislators in his state wanted to see the state pull out of the consortium.

Instead of getting rid of Common Core in New Jersey, they are rebranding it.

NJ.com called him on the carpet for his claim New Jersey eliminated it:

The panel of educators and parents Christie ordered to review the standards recommended keeping 84 percent of New Jersey’s existing math and reading standards intact and suggested tweaks and clarifications to the remaining standards.

A side-by-side comparison of the current math standards and proposed changes shows several suggestions involve simply changing or adding a word to the standard’s description. Though state education officials said the changes mark a departure from Common Core, New Jersey’s largest teachers union characterized the suggestions as “relatively minor.”

Those proposed changes still have to be approved by the state Board of Education and wouldn’t take effect until the 2017-18 school year, according to state officials.

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Will Massachusetts Parents Reject Common Core at the Ballot Box?

Photo credit: Tom Arthur via Flickr (CC BY-NC-SA 2.0)

When the Massachusetts Board of Elementary and Secondary Education (BESE) adopted the Common Core State Standards (CCSS) in 2010, many questioned the logic behind that decision. Considering that Massachusetts had a history of outperforming every other state on the National Assessment of Education Progress (NAEP), the SAT, and international tests in math and English, it had a lot to lose by abandoning its proven system of standards and assessments.

Five years later, that decision has cost Massachusetts quite a bit: The state’s SAT scores are the lowest in over a decade in every subject and elementary students’ performance on NAEP has declined.

At this point, BESE should be conceding defeat on Common Core and calling for a return to the state’s previous standards, but that hasn’t happened. As bureaucrats often do, they are sticking by their bad decision. As School Reform News points out, BESE’s only attempt to placate the angry teachers and parents who have called for a full repeal of the standards was to rebrand the Common Core-aligned PARCC test with a state-developed model:

Media outlets inaccurately reported the state’s Board of Elementary and Secondary Education (BESE) voted to scrap Common Core-aligned testing. What BESE voted for was a hybrid test combining Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers (PARCC) questions aligned with Common Core and other questions created by the state.

The new test set for release in 2017 will be called the Massachusetts Comprehensive Assessment System (MCAS), or MCAS 2.0. Continue Reading

The Common Core Report Card: Chris Christie Gets a D+

In our Common Core report card, we graded Chris Christie and all of the GOP candidates based on the three following criteria: fighting the Common Core, protecting state and local decision-making on education, and defending child and family privacy. Then we averaged the three grades together for one final grade.

What does each grade mean?

A … Champions the issue, e.g., offers legislation, makes it a centerpiece issue. … Professes support, but has not provided leadership or otherwise championed it. C … Has neither helped nor hurt the cause. D … Has an overall negative record on the issue. F … Robustly and consistently works against the issue.

So how did Chris Christie do?

Ending the Common Core System: D+ Protecting State and Local Decision Making: D+ Protecting Child and Family Privacy: D+

New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie (photo credit: Gage Skidmore)

Overall Grade: D+

Chris Christie has had a varied history with the Common Core.

In 2013 he was quoted as saying, “We’re doing Common Core in New Jersey and we’re going to continue. And this is one of those areas where I’ve agreed more with the President than not.”

By 2014, Christie had changed his tune: “I have some real concerns about Common Core and how it’s being rolled out and that’s why I put a commission together to study it.”

In early 2015, Christie had again taken a newly evolved position as he said, “I have grave concerns about the way this is being done, and especially the way the Obama administration has tried to implement it through tying federal funding to these things.”

During his appearance at CPAC, Christie told Laura Ingraham that he had regrets related to the implementation of the Common Core, but shortly after, he urged parents not to opt their children out of the Common Core-aligned PARCC tests.

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The Common Core Report Card: Bobby Jindal Gets a B+

In our Common Core report card, we graded Bobby Jindal and all of the GOP candidates based on the three following criteria: fighting the Common Core, protecting state and local decision-making on education, and defending child and family privacy. Then we averaged the three grades together for one final grade.

What does each grade mean?

A … Champions the issue, e.g., offers legislation, makes it a centerpiece issue. … Professes support, but has not provided leadership or otherwise championed it. C … Has neither helped nor hurt the cause. D … Has an overall negative record on the issue. F … Robustly and consistently works against the issue.

So how did Bobby Jindal do?

Ending the Common Core System: B+ Protecting State and Local Decision Making: B+ Protecting Child and Family Privacy: A-

Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal (photo credit: Gage Skidmore)

Overall Grade: B+

Like many governors, Gov. Bobby Jindal was initially in favor of the Common Core Standards. However, more recently, Jindal has made the repeal of the Standards a key issue. Jindal has gone on record with his assertion that “[t]he federal government has hijacked and destroyed the Common Core initiative.” (Of course, the idea that the Standards were ever truly in the hands of the states is a myth.) Back in February, Jindal released a 42-page plan on Education. That plan addresses many education issues and is notable, in several respects, to the Common Core issues. In it, Jindal raises the quality of the Common Core, something that most presidential candidates assiduously avoid.

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Christie Sells Out New Jersey’s Students on Common Core

New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie (photo credit: Gage Skidmore)

In a recent interview on CNN, New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie argued that the “national teachers union” deserves a “punch in the face” because it is “not for education for our children” but is rather for “greater membership, greater benefits, greater pay for their members.”

But how does that statement square with Christie’s actions as governor?

Here’s his recent explanation as to why his state adopted the national Common Core Standards: “We signed on to try to get funds during a really difficult fiscal time.”

Until recently, he had been an ardent supporter of the Common Core.  In 2013 he was quoted as saying, “We’re doing Common Core in New Jersey and we’re going to continue. And this is one of those areas where I’ve agreed more with the President than not.”

By 2014, Christie had somewhat changed his tune: “I have some real concerns about Common Core and how it’s being rolled out and that’s why I put a commission together to study it.”  In early 2015, Christie had again taken a newly evolved position as he said, “I have grave concerns about the way this is being done, and especially the way the Obama administration has tried to implement it through tying federal funding to these things,” he said.

During an appearance on Face the Nation, after having expressed his reticence about Common Core, Christie said of his state’s use of the Standards:

. . .  I gave it four years to work.

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Chris Christie Dumps Common Core…Sort Of

New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie (photo credit: Gage Skidmore, CC BY-SA 2.0)

Well, it’s official.  With a shrug and a “it’s simply not working,” Chris Christie has announced plans to dump the Common Core State Standards, The Washington Post reports:

New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, who brought the Common Core State Standards to his state and loudly defended them as recently as 2013, said Thursday that “it simply is not working” and that he wants new academic standards.

Christie, whose animus toward the K-12 academic standards has grown alongside his presidential ambitions, said in a speech at Burlington County College that he will appoint a state commission to review the standards “point by point” with an eye toward replacing them with “something different.”

Christie’s turnaround on Common Core isn’t a major surprise: The New Jersey governor has been slowly shifting his support for the standards, admitting he had “grave concerns” about them in February.  What is interesting to note, however, is that Chris Christie’s new position doesn’t change his plans for the standardized PARCC exams that accompanied Common Core and fueled a lot of the backlash among parents:

Even as it looks to replace the Common Core, New Jersey will stick with the new annual exams designed to measure whether students have learned the Common Core State Standards, known as the PARCC, Christie said.

If Christie’s goal is to end Common Core in New Jersey, staying in PARCC doesn’t track. When testing is at odds with a curriculum, a lot of teachers tend to teach to the test, especially when the test is used in evaluations.   Continue Reading

Liberal Comedian Mocks Standardized Testing, Common Core

Slowly, but ever so surely, those in the media are realizing that criticism of No Child Left Behind and the national Common Core system is not limited to the far right and the far left. It is a mainstream movement driven by parents, teachers, and other concerned citizens.

Last weekend, on his HBO show Last Week Tonight, John Oliver spent eighteen minutes taking on standardized testing.  You can view the full video below (warning: NSFW language):

Oliver pointed out President Obama’s contradictions on standardized testing.  When he had his eye on the Democratic nomination, then Senator Obama was quick on the draw to criticize standardized testing:

Don’t tell us that the only way to teach a child is to spend too much of a year preparing him to fill out a few bubbles on a standardized test. We know that’s not true!

Sen. Barack Obama, 2007 in a speech to the National Education Association.

Yet, as Oliver noted, upon becoming President, Obama “didn’t get rid of tests. Instead, he added his own education initiatives like Race to the Top, which encouraged states to adopt the Common Core.”

Oliver tackled how Common Core and standardized testing are unfair to teachers and bad for students, and how American children have actually lost ground on international education metrics since the enactment of No Child Left Behind.  And he noted that waves of children are boycotting the tests.

He could have delved a bit more into the “why.”

Professor of Education Christopher Tienken makes the case here Continue Reading

Kasich’s Common Core Opportunity

Ohio is seeing a statewide revolt against the Common Core and standardized testing this year.  Parents are risking penalties to remove their children from PARCC testing after seeing the reactions of Ohio schoolchildren, like this one:

The mass opt-out has become so popular that the State Department of Education has agreed not to penalize school districts for walkouts, and now, the legislature has decided to join the movement: A bill that would protect students from penalties for opting out of the nationalized tests has just passed the Ohio House by a unanimous vote.  From The Heartland Institute:

If the bill becomes law, it would protect Ohio students from penalties for opting out of high-stakes testing. HB 7 states the results of the testing, or the fact students are opting out, cannot alter their ability to proceed to the next grade or obtain course credit. This applies to any testing aligned with Common Core standards.

The bill also states districts cannot release student data to an outside source or third party without permission from a parent or guardian.

Ohio Gov. John Kasich (public domain image)

The one person who might not be board, sadly, is Ohio Governor, and presumptive presidential candidate, John Kasich. Governors Kasich and Jeb Bush are the only two Republicans left in the field who support Common Core, and both have doubled down on their support for the standards, casting doubts on their ability to win the nomination next year. This bill, however, provides Kasich with a fresh opportunity to display his conservative credentials on the role of government in education. Continue Reading