Sophia Abelita—Common Core Addition

I was sent a link today to a very brief article at PJ Media that included a video.  The article’s title caught my attention—Little Girl Destroys Common Core Math in Under 2 Minutes.

Sophia Abelita—Common Core Addition

In the video, Sophia worked the same problem twice.  The first way she worked it she used a strategy based on place value.  The second and more efficient way she worked the problem she used the standard algorithm for addition.  Many students like Sophia, are being taught to do addition using strategies base on place value in second and third grade because that is what is called for in the Common Core State Standards for Mathematics (CCSS-M).  The CCSS-M does require the standard algorithm for addition but it delays that requirement until fourth grade.  Until the fourth grade, students are to be taught and use strategies based on place value.  The CCSS-M does not specify the strategies that are to be used, only that they are based on place value.

This issue was addressed in a post called Common Core State Standards for Mathematics: Does It Add Up or Down? Part 2.  The section from that post has been copied below.

Standard Algorithms

Here are graphic depictions of the standard algorithm for each of the operations of addition, subtraction, multiplication, and division.














Is the standard algorithm for each operation required in the Common Core State Standards?  Yes!  The Common Core State Standards does require the standard algorithms for addition, subtraction, multiplication, and division.  Is the requirement delayed?  Yes!  But, this is not a good thing.
algoresThe Common Core State Standards for Mathematics does delay the requirement for the standard algorithms.  During that delay, what is taking place?  Well, leading up to the standard algorithm the standards require the use of strategies based on place value.  This allows for teaching alternative algorithms that are not efficient.  Even though the standard algorithms are based on place value, the standards emphasize strategies based on place value rather than the standard algorithms.

The Where’s the Math? webpage called Standard Algorithms in the Common Core State Standards shows the standards that explicitly require the fluent use of the standard algorithms for addition, subtraction, multiplication, and division.  This page also shows the standards that lead to the development of the standard algorithms for addition, subtraction, multiplication, and division.  It is in many of these standards you will see the required strategies based on place value.

What do strategies based on place value look like?  Here are a couple of videos that do a better job showing some of these strategies than I could do explaining them.  I encourage you to take the time to watch both videos.  Even though both videos were made prior to the CCSS. They show the type of strategies the CCSS encourage and publishers are including in their CCSS aligned programs.

48,000+ WA Students Refused Testocracy–Here are the Opt-Out Numbers for Seattle

This is a re-posting of an article published on Seattle Education.  It is re-posted here with permission of the author, Carolyn Leith, and Dora Taylor who maintains Seattle Education.

Seattle opt-out numbers for 2014-2015. It’s on!

hale_opt_out_kiro_smallSeattle had an incredible first year resisting the Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium (SBAC).

To see what occurred statewide, see 48,000+ students refused the testocracy in Washington State by opting out. This isn’t an “anomaly”, it’s an uprising.

Let’s take a look at the final numbers for Seattle and see what happened. It’s also worth noting Seattle’s opt out numbers turned out to be higher than what was initially reported by the Office of the Superintendent of Public Instruction (OSPI) in July.

11th Grade

Seattle’s 11th graders captured the media’s attention with their willingness to step up and opt out. This became such a phenomenon John Oliver mentioned Nathan Hale in his profanity laced take down of high stakes testing.

What do the final numbers look like? A mind blowing 76.1% of 11th graders opted out of the English Language Arts test (ELA) and 80.5% for Math.

For ELA, this translates into 2,425 students.
ela1For Math, this translates into 2,557 students.
math1What’s also interesting is a significant number of 3rd through 8th grade students opted out. After the OSPI press release, the narrative became parents of 3rd through 8th grade students must be OK with the SBAC.

Granted, the final numbers aren’t as stunning as the 11th grade. That said, the final count was high enough to throw a wrench into the system. Each grade, from 3rd to 8th, failed to meet the 95% participation requirement. That’s quite an accomplishment for the first year of resistance to a brand new assessment.

It’s important to remember that these are the kids who will face the SBAC as a graduation requirement. Now is the time to rise up and push back on it, before more harm is done.

Below is a break down of the opt out numbers by grade for Seattle Public School (SPS) students. (Click on the image to enlarge. Opt outs are listed as “No Score”)

3rd Grade

OSPI “Not Tested Report for 3rd grade” ELA. Student refusal = 118.
In final report, total students with no score = 235. Total refusal rate of 5.3%
OSPI “Not Tested Report for 3rd grade Math”. Student refusal = 121.
In final report, total students with no score = 245. Total refusal rate of 5.5%
4th Grade
OSPI “Not Tested Report for 4th grade ELA”.  Student refusal = 145.
In final report, total students with no score = 235.  Total refusal rate of 5.6%
OSPI “Not Tested Report for 4th grade Math”  Student refusal = 144.
In final report, total students with no score = 247.  Total refusal rate of 5.8%
ela4ela45th Grade
OSPI “Not Tested Report for 5th grade ELA”. Student refusal = 167.
In final report, total students with no score = 241. Total refusal rate of 6.0%
OSPI “Not Tested Report for 5th grade Math”. Student refusal = 171.
In final report, total students with no score = 269. Total refusal rate of 6.7%
6th Grade
OSPI “Not Tested Report for 6th grade ELA”. Student refusal = 178.
In final report, total students with no score = 206. Total refusal rate of 5.6%
OSPI “Not Tested Report for 6th grade Math”. Student refusal = 200.
In final report, total students with no score = 241. Total refusal rate of 6.5%
7th Grade
OSPI Not Tested Report for 7th grade ELA. Student refusal = 235.
In final report, total students with no score = 284. “Total refusal rate of 8.3%”
OSPI “Not Tested Report for 7th grade Math”. Student refusal = 238.
In final report, total students with no score = 275. Total refusal rate of 8.1%
8th Grade
OSPI “Not Tested Report for 8th grade ELA”. Student refusal = 312.
In final report, total students with no score = 359. Total refusal rate of 10.6%
OSPI “Not Tested Report for 8th grade Math”. Student refusal = 346.
In final report, total students with no score = 386. Total refusal rate of 11.4%
Another interesting trend, the higher the grade, the larger the refusal rate. Third grade starts out with a solid refusal rate of 5%, by eighth grade the refusal rate climbs to 10% for ELA and 11% for math.

How many SPS students opted out of the SBAC?

For the ELA assessment, the number is 3,985.

For the Math assessment, the number is 4,220.

Not a bad start resisting a new assessment many parents had never heard of.
you-canCarolyn Leith





Making Big Ideas Into Small Ideas: The GOP Tendency

This is the seventh in a series about the report released by American Principles in Action, ThePulse2016, and Cornerstone Policy Research Action.  Permission has been granted for text from Common Core Report: Grading the 2016 GOP Candidates to be published on Stop Common Core in Washington State.  The Executive Summary from the report was published in the first post.    The second post in the series was The Need for a Scorecard.  The third post in the series was The Public-Private Partnership: How Private Entities Developed the Common Core and Enlisted the Federal Government to Drive It Into the States.  The fourth post in the series was Common Core System.  The fifth post in the series was The Common Core Standards Lock Children Into an Inferior Education.  The sixth post in the series was The Common Core Pushback.  Here is the sixth section.

6. Making Big Ideas Into Small Ideas: The GOP Tendency

Common Core has become a flash point in the public square across the political spectrum. Its adversarial divide is elitists (those who believe that a people’s lives should be managed) versus populists (those who believe that people should govern their own lives) rather than along party lines. Republican and Democratic activists alike recognize that Common Core is the result of a systemic breakdown in governance.

Common Core activists understand how Common Core won an immediate, albeit a vague and pre-development, commitment from 48 governors and subsequently swept, almost in unison, into 45 states. Activists have fought against the federal, state, and local government. Many activists have reviewed thousands of pages of government statutes, regulations, grant documents, studies, and meeting minutes and have met with their governor, executive agencies, and federal and state legislators. They understand that the adoption of Common Core so quickly by so many states came about because elitist private entities prevailed on the federal executive branch to push the standards into the states through grants and regulatory threats disguised as relief from burdensome regulations.

Activists understand the crucial breakdown: the state education executive bodies (departments of education and state boards of education) pine for the conditional federal dollar and, in addition, many, perhaps most, of their jobs exist to administer that dollar. As a result, the state education apparatus turns toward the federal executive and away from the state’s legislature and citizens. That near exclusion of the citizen paves the way for the series of education fads and poor products like the Common Core. In state after state, on matter after matter, the controlling policy is simply, “What do the Feds want?”

Courageous public officials have made this observation. The experiences of Andrea Neal provide a case in point. Neal is an English language arts teacher and journalist who served on the Indiana State Board of Education during the implementation of a state law requiring the adoption of new, high-quality standards to replace Common Core. Regarding the state education apparatus’s efforts pursuant to that law, Neal observed:

The ‘new’ academic standards are at minimum 85 percent Common Core or Common Core paraphrased. The feds made clear they’d grant no waivers to states that didn’t have ‘college and career ready’ standards, assessments tied to those standards and teacher evaluations based significantly on test scores. The safest bet — as states quickly learned — was to adopt standards that looked a lot like Common Core. Hoosiers don’t determine education policy in Indiana. The federal government does.

In that vein, the Texas Commissioner of Education in 2010, Robert Scott, and the governor, Rick Perry, were particularly attuned to the federal influence on education policy. In rejecting, the Race to the Top application Gov. Perry stated:

[W]e would be foolish and irresponsible to place our children’s future in the hands of unelected bureaucrats and special interest groups thousands of miles away in Washington, virtually eliminating parents’ participation in their children’s education. If Washington were truly concerned about funding education with solutions that match local challenges, they would make the money available to states with no strings attached.75

Some have suggested that, whether the funding or decision-making comes from the federal government or a state government, it should not matter in terms of the quality of the consequent policy or product. After all, aren’t both the federal and state governments constructed along the same lines with a legislative, executive, and judicial branch?

As the activist knows well, the current interplay between the federal executive and the state executive turns the constitutional structure on its head. It presently works contrary to its purposes of securing “the freedom of the individual”76 and of:

[allowing] local policies “more sensitive to the diverse needs of a heterogeneous society,” permits “innovation and experimentation,” [enabling] greater citizen “involvement in democratic processes,” and [making] government “more responsive by putting the States in competition for a mobile citizenry.”77

The current practices subvert that apparatus. Tying conditions or policies to funding deceives citizens and legislators. Where did the policy originate? Is it the view of the state executive that it is the best policy possible? Was that view the result of a prudential evidence-based approach? Who is driving the policy? Does the state executive believe it is being implemented in the best way possible? The answers to those questions are, at best, unknowable under current federal practices.78

We note that, on the continuum from legally mandated to politically coerced to induced through conditional grants, it is likely grant inducement that causes the most harm to the constitutional structure. It creates the most ambiguities, or confusion, to the citizen as to why a state or locality has adopted a certain policy or product.

In rejecting the Race to Top grants, Governor Perry touched on this problem:

Through Race to the Top funding, the U.S. Department of Education seems to be coercing states like Texas to suddenly abandon their own locally established curriculum standards in favor of adopting national standards spearheaded by organizations in Washington, D.C.79

As with other citizens, legislators who delve into the process understand the nexus between the perverted process and the poor quality of policy. As stated by Texas state Rep. Rob Eissler, Public Education Committee chairman in 2010, “[T]he two things I worry about in education are fads and feds, and this combines both.”80

Amy Edmonds, education policy analyst, Wyoming Liberty Group and former Wyoming state legislator, elaborates on that sentiment:

We continue to give lip service to the fairytale that states have control over the development and delivery of education in public schools. This is simply not true. The federal government has effectively created a system of “incentives” using the power of the federal purse to hammer states into submission. Wyoming, like most states, does not develop education policy that makes sense for our rural Western public schools, we develop policy based on what the federal government wants us to do. But we slap the word Wyoming in front of the legislation and say it’s state based. It’s utter lunacy.

Similarly, Del. Jim Butler of West Virginia observes:

As a state legislator I have been at first surprised and now very disappointed that the West Virginia State School Board and the State Department of Education officials have been so willing to mislead the public, and legislators, in order to prop up deeply flawed policies that are potentially harmful to West Virginia children only because they are promoted by lobbyists and federal agencies.

At the federal level Congress has the talking points on education and local control down pat, unfortunately it appears that they are only cementing into place federal authority at the expense of parents and children.

And Indiana state Sen. Scott Schneider:

According to our United States Constitution education is the sole responsibility of the states, to be carried out according to each state’s constitution. The Federal government, through the Federal Department of Education, has its tentacles entangled in just about every aspect of education at the state level. Through the threat of reduced or lost funding, the feds dictate policy directly and indirectly to states’ boards of education and departments of education, rendering the voice of the people – through their legislatures – mute. To truly improve education in this country, the Federal government must get out of the business of education completely, and return this function to the states. It is time to abolish the Federal department of education.

The activist –be she a parent, teacher, or some other citizen– knows this all too well. She has gleaned it from the volumes of papers she has read, from her entreaties to legislators, governors, and state board members, and from her networking with other activists from across the country.

With regard to the GOP presidential contest, almost all candidates have now voiced some sort of objection to the Common Core. However, as is the tendency in the party on issue after issue, rather than fighting on grand, timeless ideas or principles, many GOP politicians have responded to this issue by latching onto an insipid, flavorless part. They have made a big idea into a small idea. They argue that the standards were a good idea but that the federal government “hi-jacked” them (not true); that the standards were good (not true) but that the implementation is poor; or that government did not reach out to parents and get them on board. Or, some go along with a fallacy that standards re-branded and accepted by the state educational structure have replaced the Common Core with something different (in truth such standards are aligned with the Common Core such that children are taught with Common Core-aligned textbooks and subjected to Common Core- aligned standardized tests).

Making the big idea into a small idea gives short shrift to the parents fighting for their rights and for their children’s future and to the activists who have devoted so much of their energy and time. Such tactics fail to address the root problem, thus opening the door for the same or another fad to be pushed right back into the schools. They also give the impression that the candidate (or the officeholder or the party) lacks courage.

We looked positively on those candidates who opposed the recent NCLB reauthorization legislation as inadequate in regard to protecting parental rights and state and local decision-making, especially in the context of substantial GOP majorities in Congress.81 We note that three GOP candidates who are senators voted against the legislation, whereas Sen. Graham (SC) did not cast a vote.82

Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-TN), the sponsor of the senate NCLB bill, S. 1177 (also known as the Every Child Achieves Act), contends that the bill is conservative due to its prohibitions on USED; due to its elimination of the NCLB dictate that a state show Annual Yearly Progress toward 100% student proficiency; and due to purported flexibility that the government is giving the states with regard to matters such as state accountability systems.83 We do not discount the bi-partisan support the bill enjoys in the Senate: for the first time, there is bi-partisan consensus that the federal education footprint should be reduced. This is even more remarkable because Congress has generally lost its big battles with this President. However, S. 1177’s federal restrictions are illusory. For example, its vaunted prohibitions on the federal government largely replicate the existing ineffective prohibitions contained in NCLB (like the current prohibitions, they lack an enforcement mechanism for the states); it keeps the ineffective, expensive, and overbearing federal testing mandates; and it denigrates student privacy.84 A NCLB reauthorization put forward by the GOP-controlled Congress should have done much more to return power to the states and the people.85 It should have, for example, eliminated the federal testing mandates and the requirement that states submit a state education plan for USED approval.

At the heart of the report card is a parent and citizen movement to take control over education decision-making versus the GOP tendency to make big issues into small issues. Activists recognize a strong connection between, on one hand, the poor quality of the Common Core and the intrusive data collection and, on the other hand, the federal government’s dominant role in these policies. They understand that the failure to address the big idea, restoring federalism (returning power to the states), will negate the success of any small ideas suggested to tweak failed policies.

Because of the duplicity with which the Common Core was introduced and because the pushback movement is relatively recent, we view through a charitable lens candidates who initially supported the Common Core system but then changed their minds. At the same time, though, we must acknowledge those who opposed the Common Core from the beginning.
UntitledThe footnotes are available in the full report.  You can download the full report by clicking on Common Core Report: Grading the 2016 GOP Candidates.

The Common Core Pushback

This is the sixth in a series about the report released by American Principles in Action, ThePulse2016, and Cornerstone Policy Research Action.  Permission has been granted for text from Common Core Report: Grading the 2016 GOP Candidates to be published on Stop Common Core in Washington State.  The Executive Summary from the report was published in the first post.    The second post in the series was The Need for a Scorecard.  The third post in the series was The Public-Private Partnership: How Private Entities Developed the Common Core and Enlisted the Federal Government to Drive It Into the States.  The fourth post in the series was Common Core System.  The fifth post in the series was The Common Core Standards Lock Children Into an Inferior Education.  Here is the fifth section.

5. The Common Core Pushback

Participants in the pushback movement initially become engaged for one of multiple reasons: the qualitative defects of the Standards themselves and the aligned curricula, concerns with the assessments aligned with the Common Core, or concerns with the connected intrusions into student and family privacy. But many quickly became alarmed by the broader picture: The Common Core scheme is designed to influence other subjects in K-12; to transform education in America by promoting non-academic “outcome-based” training (not education) of the type rejected by parents 20 years ago; to feed into elitist economic policy whereby children are reduced to “human capital”; and to establish a sweeping and intrusive system of data-collection and student-tracking. Moreover, these dramatic changes were forced onto America with only a cursory nod to political institutions designed to ensure high-quality policies and adherence to the will of the people.74

In the absence of systemic changes, a national train wreck as bad as, or worse than, the Common Core will once again be pushed onto the American people. Thus, citizens want to know what reforms a candidate would champion as president to guard against such catastrophes.

The media, including much of conservative media, and the vast majority of politicians do not appreciate the depth of this issue. The federal executive has de facto unchecked power over state policy-making, and for their part, private entities heavily influence federal policy. Politicians who do not recognize this systemic breakdown leave citizens with the impression that they do not understand, and therefore will not fix, the problems that facilitated the Common Core. They may also leave the impression that they lack courage. Such politicians leave the door open for an illusory fix, such as the “rebranding” of Common Core in Indiana and other states, and for further policy dystopia.

UntitledThe footnotes are available in the full report.  You can download the full report by clicking on Common Core Report: Grading the 2016 GOP Candidates.


The Common Core Standards Lock Children Into an Inferior Education

This is the fifth in a series about the report released by American Principles in Action, ThePulse2016, and Cornerstone Policy Research Action.  Permission has been granted for text from Common Core Report: Grading the 2016 GOP Candidates to be published on Stop Common Core in Washington State.  The Executive Summary from the report was published in the first post.    The second post in the series was The Need for a Scorecard.  The third post in the series was The Public-Private Partnership: How Private Entities Developed the Common Core and Enlisted the Federal Government to Drive It Into the States.  The fourth post in the series was Common Core System.  Here is the fourth section.

4. The Common Core Standards Lock Children Into an Inferior Education

NGA and its partners drafted the Common Core Standards through an opaque and unprofessional development process.49 The results reflect a product that heavily discounted, and in some respects excluded,50 the input of parents; teachers; college mathematics, engineering, and literature51 professors52; and early53 childhood learning experts. The closed process produced a set of standards of demonstrably poor quality.
Common Core math has several systemic defects. The total product fails to meet its promise of being evidence-based, internationally benchmarked, and rigorous. According to Dr. James Milgram, world-renowned math professor emeritus at Stanford University and the only mathematician (as opposed to, for example, a professor of mathematics education) on the Common Core Validation Committee, students “educated” under Common Core math will be, by 8th grade, at least two years behind their peers from high-performing countries.54

In fact, the Common Core developers have admitted that Common Core will not produce students who are ready for STEM studies [science, technology, engineering, and math]. Jason Zimba, one of three lead writers of the math standards, admitted that by “college readiness” the Common Core developers meant “the colleges most kids attend [i.e., community colleges], but not for the colleges most parents aspire to.” And he continued, “’college readiness’ is [not meant] for STEM, and not for selective colleges [in any discipline].”55 Regarding Common Core math, Marina Ratner, professor emerita of mathematics at Cal-Berkeley and one of the world’s premier mathematicians, stated last year in a Wall Street Journal opinion piece that “students taught in the way that these standards require would have little chance of being admitted to even an average college and would certainly struggle if they did get in.”56

One stated purpose of the Race to the Top competition was to prepare more students for STEM study and careers and to address the needs of underrepresented groups in these fields.57 To attain this goal, it is undisputable that a full Algebra I course must be placed in the 8th grade – as agreed by the National Mathematics Advisory Panel,58 leaders of selective technology-focused universities,59 and even the Benchmarking for Success report60 that NGA and CCSSO used to justify Common Core in the first place. If children are prepared to take a full Algebra I by the start of 8th grade, then they can progress comfortably to calculus in the 12th grade. The experience of states that have placed Algebra I in 8th grade – for example, Massachusetts and California – bears out the wisdom of this move.61 But despite this evidence, and unlike high-performing countries such as Singapore and South Korea, Common Core delays Algebra I until 9th grade.62

And any “accelerated path” allowed by Common Core — basically teaching three years of math in the last two years of grade school or the first two years of high school – deprives children of a comfortable progression and heightens the need for after-school tutoring and private summer school courses. The well-to-do are often the only demographic group that can access a work-around to such an accelerated path. In short, Common Core will result in a widening achievement gap and fewer students prepared for STEM studies.63

Beyond the delay in teaching Algebra I, Common Core math excludes certain Algebra II and geometry content that is currently a prerequisite at almost every four-year state college, as well as vast swaths of trigonometry.64 To make matters worse, Common Core math teaches geometry using an experimental system, one that has never been implemented successfully in K-12. Even the Fordham Institute, a staunch Common Core proponent, reported that “the geometry standards represent a significant departure from traditional axiomatic Euclidian geometry and no replacement foundation is established.”65 That this failed approach is now, through Common Core, our national system of teaching geometry is simply bizarre.

The problems with Common Core math on the secondary level are profound. But the deficiencies begin in grades K-8. In the lower grades, Common Core promotes “reform,” or “fuzzy,” math. This delays teaching standard algorithms (the best, most logical, way in which to solve a particular type of problem) and fluency in those skills. It also deemphasizes the standard algorithms and tends to confuse children about the best way for approaching a problem. Ultimately, the learning progression is delayed so that children are not prepared to take a full Algebra I by the start of 8th grade.66

The result of all this will be an increase in the number of children who supposedly have some “conceptual understanding” of math but who can’t actually work math problems.67 This result is a near certainty because it is exactly what happened in California about 20 years ago when that state adopted essentially the same approach as Common Core for teaching math.68 After a few disastrous years, California returned to more traditional math – the kind used by higher-achieving countries.

With respect to English language arts, Dr. Sandra Stotsky, perhaps this country’s most respected authority on K-12 English standards, criticizes the Common Core as “empty skill sets . . . [that] weaken the basis of literary and cultural knowledge needed for authentic college coursework.”69 It does this in part by dictating a reduction in the amount of classic fiction taught in English class in favor of nonfiction “informational texts.” To that point, in the Publishers’ Criteria memorandum published by, among others, NGA partners CCSSO and Achieve, two of the chief Common Core authors state that most ELA “programs and materials designed for [grades 6-12] will need to increase substantially the amount of literary nonfiction they include.”70 The weight of evidence fails to support such a reduction and, in fact, supports the contrary conclusion.71

Moreover, prominent child psychiatrists and psychologists have heavily criticized many of the Standards as being age-inappropriate for young children. In that regard, Dr. Carla Horwitz of the Yale Child Study Center argues, “The Core Standards will cause suffering, not learning, for many, many young children.”72

There are many other qualitative problems with Common Core.73

UntitledThe footnotes are available in the full report.  You can download the full report by clicking on Common Core Report: Grading the 2016 GOP Candidates.

Common Core System

This is the fourth in a series about the report released by American Principles in Action, ThePulse2016, and Cornerstone Policy Research Action.  Permission has been granted for text from Common Core Report: Grading the 2016 GOP Candidates to be published on Stop Common Core in Washington State.  The Executive Summary from the report was published in the first post.    The second post in the series was The Need for a Scorecard.  The third post in the series was The Public-Private Partnership: How Private Entities Developed the Common Core and Enlisted the Federal Government to Drive It Into the States.  Here is the third section.

3. Common Core System

The Common Core Standards do not exist in isolation. The stated plan of Common Core’s owners and funders and of the federal government is that the assessments required by No Child Left Behind would align with the Common Core and that teachers, schools, and school districts would be evaluated in significant part according to how students perform on those assessments. The states would continue to build out massive student databases that the federal government had incentivized beginning in 2002.45 The data from the assessments (and from other sources) would be, and is, fed into these databases. The goal is to track teacher-student connections for purposes of performance evaluation, and to track all students from early education into the workforce.46

Standardized testing deserves special mention. From kindergarten through 12th grade, depending on the state, district, and school, children may be subjected to as many as 113 standardized tests.47 In a single year, class time devoted to preparing for and taking such tests can amount to over one month. This is in large part due to No Child Left Behind’s testing requirements and attempts by administrators to prepare children to do well on those tests, sometimes by providing for additional tests.

But it gets worse.

Often, such tests have very little instructional value. As Prof. Christopher Tienken explains, to be useful for instruction, test results must be returned quickly to teachers and parents, who need to see a child’s actual questions and answers.48 Standardized tests fail on these counts. For most Common Core students, the lost instructional time is precious time wasted. This will not close achievement gaps, nor will it prepare children for college.

UntitledThe footnotes are available in the full report.  You can download the full report by clicking on Common Core Report: Grading the 2016 GOP Candidates.

The Public-Private Partnership: How Private Entities Developed the Common Core and Enlisted the Federal Government to Drive It Into the States

This is the third in a series about the report released by American Principles in Action, ThePulse2016, and Cornerstone Policy Research Action.  Permission has been granted for text from Common Core Report: Grading the 2016 GOP Candidates to be published on Stop Common Core in Washington State.  The Executive Summary from the report was published in the first post.    The second post in the series was The Need for a Scorecard.  Here is the second section.

2. The Public-Private Partnership: How Private Entities Developed the Common Core and Enlisted the Federal Government to Drive It Into the States

Within a few short months in 2010, the vast majority of states committed to the Common Core and its attendant system of policy changes. This happened as a result of the heavy hand of the U.S. Department of Education (USED) and its responsiveness to the private entities that drove the process. The Standards were pushed into the states with little, if any, notice to parents and other citizens and in a way that circumvented the usual checks and balances in the constitutional structure. Understanding how that happened is crucial to understanding what’s wrong with American education and why government does not work as intended.

Two private organizations – the National Governors Association (NGA) and the Council of Chief State School Officers (CCSSO) – developed, and own, the standards. They also have a copyright on them.7 It is because of the seminal involvement of NGA and CCSSO that Common Core proponents proclaim that it is a state-led initiative. The reality, though, is far from that.

Those entities were, and are, merely private trade associations acting without a grant of authority from any state. They developed the Common Core in response to massive private funding, most notably from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.8 From the Gates Foundation alone, NGA, its partners, and Student Achievement Partners – another private entity heavily involved in advancing the Common Core — have accepted an estimated $147.9 million for a variety of purposes, $32.8 million of which is expressly earmarked to advance Common Core.9 Overall the Gates Foundation spent, as of 2013, an estimated $173.5 million in advancing the Common Core.10 To date, it has spent far more than that.

The Gates foundation’s footprint on education policy-making is enormous. It has funded a wide range of other entities that includes, but is not limited to, National Association of State Boards of Education, Education Commission of the States, PTA associations, Military Child Education Coalition, Council of State Governments, National Writing Project, National Council of Teachers of English, American Association of School Administrators, American Federation of Teachers Educational Foundation, National Education Association Foundation for the Improvement of Education, American Legislative Exchange Council, and WestEd.11 In furtherance of the NGA Common Core product, the Gates Foundation has even funded state entities including the Colorado, Delaware, Georgia, Kentucky, Louisiana, and Pennsylvania departments of education, as well as local education offices in Indiana, Ohio, and New Mexico. The Gates funding footprint extends to the College Board – owner of the SAT and Advanced Placement tests — to which Gates has provided over $32 million in funding since 2001. In fact, the College Board’s president, David Coleman, was one of the architects and chief writers of the Common Core and, upon his appointment by the College Board, stated his intention to align the SAT to the Common Core.12

The plan was to create a national education system of common standards, national assessments aligned to the standards, and teacher and school evaluations tied to the assessments. In late 2008, with President-elect Obama preparing to take office, those entities, along with their partner Achieve, Inc., published their education transition plan, Benchmarking for Success.13 It encouraged the federal government to provide funding to states to, among other things:

  • “[u]pgrade state standards by adopting a common core of internationally benchmarked standards in math and language arts for grades K-12 . . .”
  • “ensure that textbooks, digital media, curricula, and assessments are aligned” to the standards
  • “offer a range of tiered incentives to make the next stage of the journey easier, including increased flexibility in the use of federal funds and in meeting federal educational requirements . . . ”
  • “revise state policies for recruiting, preparing, developing, and supporting teachers and school leaders to reflect the human capital practices of top performing nations and states around the world.”14

These ideas served as the basis of USED’s Race to the Top grant competition program — which USED funded with money from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009, PL 111-5, enacted on February 17, 2009 (the “Stimulus Bill”). The Stimulus Bill created a $4.35 billion earmark for states “that have made significant progress” in meeting four education-reform objectives, including taking steps to improve state standards and enhancing the quality of academic assessments.15 Thus, contrary to what many politicians and Common Core proponents claim, the Obama Administration did not “hijack” the Common Core. Rather, the Common Core owners and developers asked the Administration to spearhead the process of driving the standards into the states.

As set forth below, the enactment of the Stimulus Bill on February 17, 200916 set into motion three dynamics that unfolded through 2010: (1) USED began preparing the Race to the Top grant competition program for the states; (2) under tremendous pressure to obtain as much Stimulus money as possible as an antidote to the widely forecast impending fiscal and economic calamity, most states began positioning themselves to win money in the grant competition against other states; and (3) NGA, CCSSO, and Achieve began to develop the Common Core Standards through a private process.17 Even though at this point the Common Core standards had not been drafted, USED followed the lead of NGA and CCSSO and began herding the states into their adoption.

The week following the Stimulus Bill’s passage, Education Secretary Arne Duncan announced in a C-SPAN interview that USED would distribute this Stimulus earmark to the states through a competitive grant program called Race to the Top. Through that process, USED would identify a “set number of states” that would commit to high common standards, “great assessments,” and building “a great data system so that you can track those students throughout their academic career.” When asked whether he envisioned “national standards for every kid across all subjects and national tests,” the Secretary replied, “We want to get into this game . . . . There are great outside partners — Achieve, the Gates Foundation [Achieve co-authored Benchmarking for Success and the Gates Foundation funded it], others — who are providing great leadership . . . . I want to be the one to help it come to fruition.”18

On March 7, 2009, one month after passage of the Stimulus Bill, USED announced the Race to the Top “national competition” to distribute the Stimulus money through two rounds of grant awards.19

On June 1, 2009, NGA and CCSSO formally launched their Common Core Standards Initiative to develop and implement the Common Core – the effort referred to by Secretary Duncan several months earlier. Before they had actually developed the standards, NGA and CCSSO made qualitative promises, including that the standards would be the result of “a state-led process”; that the standards would “be internationally benchmarked” and “research- and evidence-based”; and that “no state will see a decrease in the level of student expectations.”20 They planned to “leverage states’ collective influence to ensure that textbooks, digital media, curricula, and assessments are aligned” with the Standards. At the time, CCSSO President-elect Sue Gendron, who was subsequently policy advisor and coordinator for one of the federal assessment consortia, described the initiative as “transforming education for every child.”21

In its Race to the Top request for applications, USED changed Congress’s Stimulus Bill objectives from general improvement of state standards and assessments to acquiescence to specific federal dictates.22 These dictates included the following:

  1. adopting internationally benchmarked standards and assessments that prepare students for success in college and the workplace;
  2. building data systems that measure student success and inform teachers and principals about how they can improve their practices;
  3. increasing teacher and principal effectiveness and achieving equity intheir distribution; and
  4. turning around the lowest-achieving schools.23

Notably, with respect to the “standards and assessments” objective, the Race to the Top restatement tracked the language of the NGA-CCSSO-Achieve Benchmarking for Success plan issued in December 2008.24 Furthermore, it designated the four reform objectives as “absolute priorities,” meaning that an applicant state had to address them to be considered for funding.25

It is beyond dispute that USED wanted all the states to adopt the Common Core Standards. Its Race to the Top request for state applications defined “internationally benchmarked standards” as a “common set of K-12 standards” that are “substantially identical across all States in a consortium.”26 It directed the competition judges to award a state “high” points “if the consortium includes a majority of the States in the country,” but “medium or low” points if the consortium includes one-half the states or fewer.27 USED admitted that the “goal of common K-12 standards is to replace the existing patchwork of State standards” and that its view was “that the larger the number of States within a consortium, the greater the benefits and potential impact.”28 At that late date in the process, the only effort that qualified under this language was the Common Core, which at that point had well over half the governors committed to it as a political, rather than as a legal, matter.29 USED thus discouraged states from forming competing consortia, and the NGA, for its part, exacted endorsements from governors that, although not enforceable, locked down their political commitments.

Through the assessment (standardized test) component of Race to the Top, USED further bound the applicant states to the national standards. The Race to the Top applications required that states, as one of the competition’s “absolute priorities,” participate “in a consortium of States that … [i]s working toward jointly developing and implementing common, high-quality assessments (as defined in this notice) aligned with the consortium’s common set of K-12 standards (as defined in this notice) . . . .”30 To this end, the Stimulus Bill authorized $362 million in funding “to consortia of states to develop assessments . . . and measure student achievement against standards.”31 USED used that money to award grants to the Partnership for Assessment of Readiness of College and Careers (“PARCC”) consortium and the SMARTER Balanced Assessment Consortium (“SBAC”), two entities that were formed for the purpose of applying for Race to the Top money.32 In signing on as a full member of one of these assessment consortia, a state committed itself to adopting the Common Core and to using the consortium’s assessments. By implication a state also committed itself to junking its own assessments and standards. Both consortia’s memoranda of agreement (SBAC’s explicitly so) required the states to commit to the Common Core.33

States had to commit to the standards and assessments without having a meaningful opportunity to evaluate either product. NGA and its partners drafted the Common Core standards through an opaque and unprofessional development process.34 State involvement amounted to little more than suggestion-box input, none of which remotely involved individual states’ systems of checks and balances and public processes.
The development process sheds further light on the private nature of Common Core’s origins. For example, the process was not subject to open-meeting requirements, public notice-requirements, or freedom of information requests. It lacked the checks and balances of a public process that ensure that policy reflects the will of the people. And the project itself was predicated on monopoly, thus preventing quality-ensuring competition.

The limited state role was only exacerbated by the short timeline for Common Core’s development. The continuing federal timeline is revealing:

  • November 18, 2009 — USED invited applications for Phase I of Race to the Top.
  • January 19, 2010 — Deadline for submission of applications. At this time, the Standards had not been completed.
  • February 22, 2010 – In a speech to NGA, President Obama made clear his intention that states would ultimately have to adopt the Common Core to receive federal Title I education funding:

I also want to commend all of you for acting collectively through the National Governors’ Association to develop common academic standards that will better position our students for success. . . . we’re calling for a redesigned Elementary and Secondary Education Act that better aligns the federal approach to your state-led efforts while offering you the support you need. . . . First, as a condition of receiving access to Title I funds, we will ask all states to put in place a plan to adopt and certify standards that are college and career-ready in reading and math


  • March 2010 – USED released A Blueprint for Reform, which stated, “Beginning in 2015, formula [Title I] funds will be available only to states that are implementing assessments based on college and career ready standards that are common to a significant number of states.”36
  • March 2010 ( two months after states had submitted their Phase I Race to the Top applications) — NGA and CCSSO issued a public draft of the Common Core Standards.
  • April 14, 2010 — USED invited applications for Phase II of Race to the Top.
  • June 1, 2010 – Deadline for submitting applications for Phase II.
  • June 2, 2010 — NGA issued the final K-12 Common Core Standards. Significantly, in certain respects the quality of the standards declined from the March draft to the final product.37
  • August 2, 2010 — Deadline for amending states’ Race to the Top submissions to provide “evidence of having adopted common standards after June 1, 2010.”

Thus, to be competitive for a share of the $4.35 billion Race to the Top fund, applicant states had to adopt the Common Core with, at most, two summer months to evaluate the final product, compare it to their current standards, discuss the matter with their citizens, and commit to replace their standards with the Common Core. Even that description is charitable. As noted above, when it signed onto one of the federally sponsored testing consortia, the state had committed itself to using standardized tests aligned to the standards. At that point, to reverse course would have caused state policymakers enormous political embarrassment. To make matters worse, the federally sponsored tests were not fully developed until years later.

But that is not all USED did to impose its education policies on the states. For one thing, it used the federally funded assessments explicitly as a way to develop and impose Common Core-aligned curricula. Both consortia, as Secretary Duncan has said, “will help their member states provide the tools and professional development needed to assist teachers’ transitions to the new assessments.” For PARCC, this includes “curriculum frameworks” 38 and “model instructional units.”39 Similarly, SBAC is using the federal funding “to develop curriculum materials” and to create “a model curriculum” and “instructional materials” aligned with the Standards.40 In The Road to a National Curriculum, Robert Eitel and Kent Talbert, the former deputy general counsel and general counsel, respectively, of USED, concluded:

The assessment systems that PARCC and SBAC develop and leverage with federal funds, together with their hands-on assistance in implementing the [Standards] will direct large swaths of state K-12 curricula, programs of instruction and instructional materials, as well as heavily influence the remainder.41

Moreover, USED clearly signaled its intent for continued involvement: (1) It required the consortia “to make student-level data that result from the assessment system available on an ongoing basis for research, including for prospective linking, validity, and program improvement studies” and (2) it gutted, through unauthorized regulatory changes, federal family and student privacy protections in order to do so.

USED made it clear that the adoption of these national standards, assessments, and curricula would be cemented regardless of the outcome of the Race to the Top competition. USED’s Phase I request for applications required states to submit a plan “demonstrating [the state’s] commitment to and progress toward adopting a common set of K-12 standards (as defined in this notice) by August 2, 2010 … and to implementing the standards in a well-planned way.”42 The request for Phase II applications required states to have adopted “a common set of K-12 standards (as defined in this notice) by August 2, 2010” and to demonstrate their “commitment to implementing the standards thereafter in a meaningful way.”43 States were thus in a competition to see which ones could most firmly adopt USED’s agenda before the two grant application due dates. The race was on.

At this point, it’s worth mentioning that this is a threshold issue for presidential candidates: Will they “stand at the constitutional line44” – and have they done so – to prevent the federal government’s natural inclination to expand its footprint? How, specifically, do they propose to do this? Will it just be the policy of their Administration, or do they propose systemic changes to prevent future train-wrecks?

UntitledThe footnotes are available in the full report.  You can download the full report by clicking on Common Core Report: Grading the 2016 GOP Candidates.