National Governor’s Association Chair Pressured to End Common Core

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Wiertz Sébastien via photopin cc

On one level, it’s good news: a coalition of groups is pressuring Governor Mary Fallin, the chair of the National Governor’s Association (NGA), to terminate the Common Core Project. The NGA is co-author of the Common Core State Standards and co-owner of the copyright to the centralized standards along with the Council of Chief State School Officers (CCSSO).

But take a closer look. The coalition includes stalwarts of the nation’s ultra-conservative sector: the American Principles Project, the Eagle Forum,  Concerned Women for America, the American Family Foundation. Also joining in are the Home School Legal Defense Fund, which produced the recently released Building the Machine, and Shane Vander Hart of Truth in American Education. While the latter are loyal opponents to the CCSS, their objections are aligned with the family rights movement.

Where are the educators? The researchers and institutions concerned with pedagogy and teacher education? You won’t find them. You will find statements like this:

 [The opposition to the Common Core project] is a movement based on truth, and on highly informed citizens –citizens who follow in the footsteps of the Founders.

We wonder, whose truth?

What particular information makes for a citizen who is “highly informed”?

Which Founders?

So, while the call to terminate the CCSS project may be laudable, the coalition’s call for the public to sign on to the letter gives us pause. We’re not sure we want to on record as supporting such open-ended “truth.”

Read the letter to the National Governor’s Association here→

Coverage of this story on Truth in American Education→

Whose Standards are the Common Core?

Shout out to Mercedes Schneider for delving into the backgrounds of the authors of the Common Core.  Her findings raise serious questions about where the standards came from, who they benefit, and why we should use with great caution.  She writes:

NGA and CCSSO (and, by extension, USDOE) undeniably meant for CCSS to be something done “to” teachers. NGA’s and CCSSO’s concentration of individuals versed in standardized assessment on their CCSS work groups speaks to the purpose of CCSS to both financially benefit education testing companies and usher unprecedented, nationwide standardized testing into the classrooms of those very professionals purposely excluded from the CCSS work group table.

Read her whole excellent post here –>

Common Core Creators Use the US Chamber of Commerce to Fight “Misinformation”

Carissa Miller, the Deputy Executive Director of the Council of Chief State School Officers, is worried about the documentary, Building the Machine (which we wrote about here). In a letter obtained before its release date, she notifies the Common Core Chief State School Officers that the video is coming. Her attached “messaging and response tips” as well as a list of Tweets will help them counter the movie’s supposed “misinformation.”

The producers of those “tips”? None other than the US Chamber of Commerce. And the Chamber is also in the midst of creating its own documentary. If these seem like unlikely projects for the Chamber of Commerce, the document below, courtesy of Anne Gassel, should make things a teensy bit clearer. 

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And, here’s the leaked letter, bolding added for emphasis.

From: Carissa Moffat Miller
Subject: Anti Common Core Movie, embargoed materials
Chiefs, Deputies, Federal Liaisons and Communication Directors:

Many of you are likely aware of an anti-common core movie slated to be released in a few days. The Home School Legal Defense Association, a Virginia-based organization opposed to the Common Core, has produced a film called “Building the Machine.” The film’s anticipated online release date (which has changed several times), is currently set for March 31, 2014. The film implies that the Common Core was created through politics, misinformation and corruption. Using stark graphics and ominous music, the film features interviews with Common Core opponents arguing against the standards’ development and implementation—interspersed with misleading snippets of interviews from Common Core supporters.  You can watch a trailer for the film here.

The U.S. Chamber of Commerce and Fordham have put together the attached two documents that can be used to clarify the vast amount of misinformation that will be circulated as a result of the movie. Please note – these are EMBARGOED until Monday, March 31st. Please do not distribute.

In addition to these two documents, the U.S. Chamber is in the final stages of producing their own Common Core mini-documentary. This will provide the pro-Common Core side and will also be ready early next week. In collaboration with organizations from all over the country, the video will feature education reformers, teachers, chamber leaders, and business representatives, showing the unified support for Common Core across generations, political lines, and states.”

Please don’t hesitate to reach out to me if you have any specific questions or needs. Below we’ve include some tips for messaging and responding to the critical questions this film may generate in your state. We will send out the Chamber video when it is released.

Regards,
Carissa

Thanks to  Christel Lane Swasey, Renee Braddy and Alisa Ellis for calling this to our attention. Read more details on their blog, here–>

Thanks also to Anne Gassel for the information about the US Chamber of Commerce. You can read more on her blog, here->

Saturday Night at the Movies: “Arresting” Events

Some examples of speaking back to power.

In which a father is ejected from a Baltimore County (MD) school board meeting (and arrested for “assaulting” a security guard)

Published on Sep 20, 2013

Read original article by Ann Miller on Examiner.com at:
http://www.examiner.com/article/exclu…
More Common Core videos from Howard County MD:
https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCSSj…

In which high school senior Ethan Young  eloquently presents his reasons for opposing the Common Core State Standards at the Knox County School Board regular meeting on November 6, 2013.

The Education-Drug Use Connection

If our recent discussion of long-term effects of high-stakes testing/schooling piqued your interest,  The Education-Drug Use Connection: How Successes in Failures in SchoolRelate to Adolescent Smoking, Drinking, Drug Use, and Delinquencyoffers an in-depth discussion of recent reports on teen drug use.

Does success in school protect teenagers from drug use? Does drug use impair scholastic success? This book tackles a key issue in adolescent development and health—the education-drug use connection. The authors examine the links and likely causal connections between educational experiences, delinquent behavior, and adolescent use of tobacco, alcohol, marijuana, and cocaine.

Find more information

In Depth: What’s the Long-Term Health Impact on Kids?

On April 12, Colorado TV station KKTV reported on a teacher, Pauline Hawkins,  who has decided to leave teaching. What makes Hawkins noteworthy is not that she posted her resignation on her blog— many other teachers have done so–but that a television station covered the story.

What’s especially worrisome about Hawkins’ blog is something that has not yet been considered in the press: the long-term effects of high-stakes testing on our kids. In her resignation letter, Hawkins writes (emphasis added), 

I began my career just as No Child Left Behind (NCLB) was gaining momentum. The difference between my students then and now is unmistakable. Regardless of grades or test scores, my students from five to eleven years ago still had a sense of pride in whom they were and a self-confidence in whom they would become someday. Sadly, that type of student is rare now. Every year I have seen a decline in student morale; every year I have more and more wounded students sitting in my classroom, more and more students participating in self-harm and bullying. These children are lost and in pain.

It is no coincidence that the students I have now coincide with the NCLB movement twelve years ago–and it’s only getting worse with the new legislation around Race to the Top.

I have sweet, incredible, intelligent children sitting in my classroom who are giving up on their lives already. They feel that they only have failure in their futures because they’ve been told they aren’t good enough by a standardized test; they’ve been told that they can’t be successful because they aren’t jumping through the right hoops on their educational paths.

Why Else We Should Be Worrying About the Kids 

smokershighlife via photopin cc
smokershighlife via photopin cc

The pressures around testing and test prep are often mentioned in the media. There are other, significant, issues that haven’t (probably because the current situation is so dire and these are not perceived as urgent). Let’s put them on the table here:

Drugs.   Suicide.

Drugs

Drug abuse is already considered to a public health epidemic in the United States.

There are four main reasons why people misuse substances: 1) to feel good, 2) to feel better, 3) to do better, and 4) out of curiosity or because others are doing it.

When asked about why they use drugs, kids get specific: Boredom. Coping. Feeling disconnected from family, peers, and school. (To be fair, they use for other reasons, too, such as to feel pleasure or feel more creative. )

April Gredder DeFrancesco, mother of a third grader, writes about her observations of the harmful testing effects on her child. There are many similar reports in traditional and web-based media.

While recent federal studies indicate that there have been declines in the use of certain kinds of drugs, we predict that with the increasingly standardized teaching (to the test) and pressure on students to perform (on tests), we can expect to see a rise in drug use and a decline in the age when young people begin to use. In fact, a recent New York Times article reported an already-increasing use of marijuana among teens.

What about suicide?

Suicide is the third leading cause of death for 15-to-24-year-olds, and the sixth leading cause of death for 5-to-14-year-olds .

For every teen suicide death, experts estimate there are 10 other teen suicide attempts.

While the risk factors for teen and child suicide are complex, they include everything from hopelessness and life stressors, especially interpersonal losses and legal or disciplinary problems, to parent psychopathology, bullying, exposure to the suicide of a family member, friend, or other significant person, a history of physical or sexual abuse, etc. 

Hopelessness. Life stressors. Pauline Hawkins talks about these in her letter of resignation. In newspaper articles and blog posts, so do parents and teachers.

Maureen Hallinan, writing in Sociology of Education, delivers a simple messagekids who like school do better.

It used to be that doing better meant getter higher grades. As testing and related stresses continues to grow, doing better might be as simple as staying away from drugs. Maybe even staying alive.

Watch the KKTV coverage here–>

Read Pauline Hawkins’ resignation letter in its entirety here–>

Hankins also writes a blog, Education Reformation–>

Sources

Dow, S. & Kelly, J.F. (2013) Listening to youth: Adolescents’ reasons for substance use as a unique predictor of treatment response and outcome.

American Academy of Child & Adolescent Psychology. (2008). Facts for Families: Teen Suicide ( No. 10). Retrieved from http://aacap.org/page.ww?name=Teen+Suicide&section=Facts+for+Families

National Alliance on Mental Illness. Suicide in Youth. Retrieved from http://www.nami.org/Content/ContentGroups/Illnesses/Suicide_Teens.htm

O’Connor, A. (2013, November 18). Increasing marijuana use in high school is peported. New York Times. NY. Retrieved from http://well.blogs.nytimes.com/2013/12/18/growing-marijuana-use-among-teenagers-spurs-concerns/?_php=true&_type=blogs&_r=0

Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, Office of Applied Studies. (May 13, 2010). The DAWN Report: Emergency Department Visits for Drug-related Suicide Attempts by Adolescents: 2008. Rockville, MD.

Survey Research Center, Institute for Social Research. (2013). Monitoring the Future. Ann Arbor, MI: University of Michigan. Retrieved from http://www.monitoringthefuture.org/

Take_Action_in_Yr_Community_MarchApril2010 This newsletter appears courtesy of SAMHSA News, Volume 18 – Number 2, March/April 2010. SAMHSA News is the national newsletter of the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. SAMHSA News may be accessed at http://www.samhsa.gov/samhsaNewsletter.

“Over-Tested Zombies Are Invading My Classroom”

We’ve been talking about zombies here at Co-Opt-Ed so when we found this column by the Washington Post’s Valerie Strauss, we had to include it. In it, Mary Tedrow describes the effect of standardized tests on her high school students.  Tedrow, a National Board Certified Teacher, also co-directs the Northern Virginia Writing Project. She writes

I teach in a high school and currently work with seniors.  My students have never known anything but testing in their public school education.  Between fifth and eighth grades, these Virginia students took 34 high stakes tests.   That’s even before they face the End of Course testing in all the core areas needed for graduation.

By the time they reach me the Zombification is complete. My students are the walking dead whose brains have been eaten away.

This would be funny if Tedrow weren’t  being deadly serious. Read the gory details here.

Read the entire Strauss column here.

Read Mary Tedrow’s blog, Walking to School

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ingrid eulenfan via Compfight cc

Saturday Night at the Movies: What Do We Want?

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image: Wahlander via photopin cc

As we say “NO!” to Common Core and the corporatization of public schools, what do we we want to say “YES” to? Ken Robinson’s entertaining TED talk, below, illustrates the ideas that shaped “school” as we know it today, and poses some ideas about what we might think of instead.

In the second video, senior in high school, Ethan Young, speaks to the Knox County Tennessee Board of Education about the history of the Common Core, new teacher ‘evaluations’ and teaching, big data, and a different vision of education.

 

Valerie Strauss: “The new school reform model: ‘dumping the losers’”

school bus
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On April 11, Washington Post columnist, Valerie Strauss, picked up the story first reported by Co-Opt-Ed about Philadelphia school “reformer” Mark Gleason’s public comments that portfolio-based school reform is about “dumping the losers.”

Writes Strauss,

Since 2011, the state-run Philadelphia public school district has adopted what is called the “portfolio model” of school reform as its “theory of change.”… Supporters think it gives parents more choice; opponents think that the choice most parents get is phony and that the portfolio model is a step toward the privatization of public education.

Read Stauss’ article here–>