Monday, August 19, 2013

Common Ground vs. Common Core: Let Us Reach Across the Partisan Aisle

Common Ground against Common Core:
Reading the CC opponents' similarities, and the bi-partisan CC boosters' similarities.

Support NYS A.7994. Let CCLS equal “Common Cause of Lefties and the State Sovereignty Crowd.” 
Left Right
Common Core is a Gates Foundation project Common Core is a Gates Foundation project
The Common Core's dismissal of fiction is an outrage The Common Core's dismissal of fiction is an outrage
There is too much emphasis on testing There is too much emphasis on testing
The test emphasis is driving teachers to teach to the test The test emphasis is driving teachers to teach to the test
Databases on students are creepy Databases on students are creepy
Shared databases with questionable security guarantees are creepier Shared databases with questionable security guarantees are creepier

Yes, we should be wary of the tin hats on the right, as this blogpost is concerned, as, among other things, they wish to cut school funding.
But we should not drink the Kool-Aid. Which side are you on? --the privatizers' side or the people's side? This is a tough fight against a massively well-funded bi-partisan coalition that is promoting an untested curriculum that being peddled with a train of mistruths, such as the lie that the standards are internationally benchmarked, a lie disproven here.
Don't get fooled by the privatizers' appeals to professionalism or progressivism.
Language that privatizers use to win liberals' complacency Reality
We need strong standards States have had strong standards.
Conscientious teachers have matched their teaching to the standards.
The standards are progressive: they promote critical thinking. Teachers have already practiced this in their classrooms.

The bottom line:
Privatizers and the Common Core writers have not taught in the classroom, so they would not have known the above truths.

Our mutual opponents:
The collaborators on the other side, the Common Core State Standards booster side
Neo-liberal, the 21st Century Whigs Working both sides Conservative
Gates Foundation Broad Foundation, Walton Foundation ALEC, Dick and Betsy DeVos' Mackinac Center, Koch brothers
Randi Weingarten, Dennis Van Roekel, Michael Mulgrew, Paul Krugman

Chester Finn of Thomas Fordham Institute
America's Choice sponsored
NCEE (funded by Walton)
Barack Obama, Arne Duncan, Andrew Cuomo, Merryl Tisch, John King, Cory Booker, David Coleman (the controversial Common Core architect), Kevin Huffman (Rhee ex, TN Comm. of Education and member of Chiefs for Change), Wendy Kopp (founder of Teach for America) and Democrats for Education Reform Michelle Rhee, Joanne Weiss (formerly of the NewSchool Venture Fund), senior advisor to Duncan, architect of the Race to the Top, federal E.D. chief of staff  Jeb Bush, Mitch Daniels, Tony Bennett, Chris Christie, Rick Scott, Rick Snyder
Common Core, CCSS-related alums moving into other jobs, suggesting cronyism:
Michael Todd, formerly of McKinsey (of England –leading Common Core architect Coleman got a job there, after college, following his Oxford stint), now overseeing the newly created Office of Strategy Management (understood to translate into the chief of Common Core implementation) at Chicago Public Schools

How Duncan sugar-coated the Common Core, as reported by the New York Times The reality behind the double-speak
Speaking about the Common Core to the American Society of News Editors in June, Mr. Duncan said: “The federal government didn’t write them, didn’t approve them, and doesn’t mandate them. And we never will. Anyone who says otherwise is either misinformed or willfully misleading.”
The Obama administration endorsed the National Governors Association's and Council of Chief State School Officers' (Gates Foundation-driven) project of the Common Core. (Private associations, not governmental entities, created the standards.)
Duncan's Race to the Top mandates that states implement Common Core and associated testing or jeopardize qualifying for RTTT grants. (Race to the Top is a U.S. Department of Education bureaucratic mandate. It was never passed by Congress.)

Judge for yourself: who is misleading whom?
(Read my "The Common Core and Gates' Education Commercialization Complex" for more on the secretive, undemocratic way in which the Common Core was hatched and pushed forward by Gates Foundation proxy organizations. For more on the CCSS relationships, view this video by a United Opt Out activist, and read this transcript, "A Labyrinth of Corporate Interests in Common Core." See this State University of New York (SUNY) New Paltz report, by South Orangetown District Superintendent Ken Mitchell, "Federal Mandates on Local Education: Costs and Consequences --Yes, it's a Race, but is it in the Right Direction?" contending that "Without substantive validation of the Common Core, New York and U.S. taxpayers are funding a grand and costly experiment that has the potential to take public education in the wrong direction . . . .")

What many forget is that there is a long undercurrent of anti-corporate, anti-elitism among the conservatives. If one has the patience, the progressive reader of conservative sites (particularly the blogs by parents) will find plenty of common ground with conservative Common Core opponents, particularly in shared resentment at the corporate boondoggle feature of the Common Core plan. Both left and right will be concerned with the tremendous costs merely involved in Common Core implementation, costs that will in large part go to corporations involved in publishing, assessments and professional development. Superintendent Mitchell, in his policy paper, "Federal Mandates on Local Education: Costs and Consequences – Yes, it’s a Race, but is it in the Right Direction?" said that compliance costs could trigger deficits. And he reported that in eighteen Lower Hudson Valley school districts alone Common Core training, curriculum development and materials would in one school year amount to an estimated $4,094,820, far short of the $520,415 Race to the Top funding that the districts would receive. Further, he indicated that the mandates are so far reaching that they compel districts to "revise curriculum, restructure assessment systems, reopen union contracts, adjust ongoing strategic planning, modify long-term budget plans, and fund new mandates."

In the last last week a thousand blogposts on the left have bloomed, arguing against the Common Core or reporting on grassroots protests against the Common Core and associated tests. Perdido Street School blog wrote of a CCSS promoter's trembling at the "terrifying prospect" of left and right uniting against the Common Core. Well, in the wake of the disastrous New York State test results, that alliance is beginning to take form.  NYC Educator linked the Republican sponsored NY assembly bill A.7994 to withdraw New York State from the Common Core and the Race to the Top. (Here is the language of the bill, introduced, June 13, 2013.) More than 1,500 teachers, parents and students rallied at a football field in Port Jefferson, Long Island, New York, protesting the new Common Core tests. (Press report photos here.) 
Remember that Gov. Andrew Cuomo, Merryl Tisch, John King and Michael Mulgrew have all enthusiastically endorsed the new standards and praised the Race to the Top obligations. See here and here. Now that you have looked more closely at the Common Core what do you really think of their "leadership" now? 
[Postscript: This insensitive policy is what happens when corporate developers of assessments who have no experience teaching in classrooms with real students are allowed to have full, unvetted control of the testing regimen. A thoughtful counter-argument of the math standards was offered back in April when a blogger on Common Core math critique at the CCSSI Mathematics site warned, "Good Luck, New York's Children."]
Nationally, the House passed a resolution to strike the testing and teacher evaluation requirements out of No Child Left Behind, leaving that authority to states and localities. But the bill locked in $1.2 billion in sequestration cuts. Unsurprisingly, no Democrats voted for the bill. This hints at a rocky road ahead for bipartisan push-back against the Common Core.

If the Common Core is so good, then why is there a need for a multi-million dollar propaganda campaign to push for compliance? Exxon Mobil is running ads pushing it. An anonymous donor contributed toward the Fund for Public Schools for a $240,000 two language ad blitz campaign in New York City. The boosters are seeming a little desperate. Why is E.D. Secretary Arne Duncan setting up an operation trying to "monitor" Diane Ravitch? See here and here. Any wonder people are creating mash-up pictures of Presidents Barack Obama and Richard Nixon?

There have been plenty of instances of cooperation between people that are otherwise deeply divided. Many atheists made deep common cause with religious activists in the long fight for civil rights. Many civil liberties-minded progressives expressed appreciation over libertarian-minded Georgia Congressman Bob Barr's opposition to the Patriot Act. Many anti-intervention leftists have crowed with agreement when Kentucky Senator Rand Paul has denounced drone strikes of civilians in Pakistan. As the Perdido Street School blogger noted, Dennis Kucinich worked with Ron Paul to push for an audit of the Federal Reserve Bank. This cooperation led to an act requiring more transparency at the bank.

Two professors, Andrew Hacker and Claudia Dreifus, in a New York Times op-ed column found themselves agreeing with some central Tea Party criticisms of the Common Core:
The anxiety that drives this criticism comes from the fact that a radical curriculum — one that has the potential to affect more than 50 million children and their parents — was introduced with hardly any public discussion.”

Their recitation of the Kentucky example presaged the calamitous New York State test scores released this month: Students in Kentucky were the first to undergo the Common Core’s testing regimen; the state adopted the standards in 2010. One year later, its students’ scores fell across the board by roughly a third in reading and math.” Kentucky's 2012 and 2013 test news was full of more technical and contractual glitches.

This column earlier spoke to the potential boon to Republicans in the 2014 elections, in the wake of popular reaction against the Common Core, this year and next. Teachers unions should also be mindful that if they wish to be in good graces with parents they would do well to part from the Common Core cheerleading they have heard from Dennis Van Roekel and Randi Weingarten. As I warned in my blogpost on the Common Core August 8, with all the Democrats and unions behind the Common Core, they are handing a great selling card to the Republicans in 2014. 

Note the states where the opposition to the Common Core is underway. The movement began in red states, but it is spreading to purple and even blue states. New York teachers looking to leave the insanity of the current New York State dictates might eventually find solace in Pennsylvania, as CCSS resistance gained headway there earlier than here. Virginia is the nearest state to the Northeast to have rejected the Common Core from the start. But if we compare the latest map of the Common Core getting rejected to the previous one, from just two months prior, we see that North Carolina and Pennsylvania are added to the states considering rejecting the Common Core. 

Let us reach across the partisan divide to the conservatives that oppose the Common Core. The most impoverished sections of the country are also some of the “reddest” parts of the country. Sectionally, they are suffering the most from the current economic policies. The deep discussions about power, government and the economy should happen eventually with our countrywomen and countrymen in those sections. Let us take this opportunity to discuss the corporate usurpation of political power and the moneyed manipulation of policy.