The Hell of Rigor and Critical Thinking in the Age of College and Career Readiness


This article was published on the Contemporary Insurgent website on September 29, 2016 and is reposted here with the permission of the author. The Hell of Rigor and Critical Thinking in the Age of College and Career Readiness: Administrators of … Continue reading

Opt Out Season is Upon Us

Assessment season is here.  That signals the beginning of the Opt Out season.  Interested parents may want to read the Opt Out Info page.

The Network for Public Education (NPE) Calls for a National Opt Out.  The NPE is supporting parents who are opting out of the 2016 state assessments and are calling for a national Opt Out.  Diane Ravitch is NPE’s board president.  Here is a video where she tells why parents should opt their students out.

Message from Diane Ravitch about Opt Out from Shoot4Education on Vimeo.

The Seattle Education blog has featured an article called Opt-Out Bus Spring Tour in Seattle.  And yes, there really is an Opt Out Bus and it does have a tour schedule.  Here are front and back pictures of the bus.


I have met and talked with a number of parents in Washington State who are interested in opting out, have opted out in the past, and are currently opting out.  The stories I hear these parents tell of their experiences are a mixed bag.  Some parents report their child’s teacher is supportive of their opt out decision.  Others report being cornered by the school principal who has tried to talk them into changing their minds and not opt out.  And there are those who have been out-right bullied by school officials.  A few parents, in more than one school, in one district have reported that upon submitting an opt out request they were told they are required to meet with the principal and sign a form acknowledging their child will not be permitted to participate in activities like band and orchestra unless they take the state assessment.  The experience of being bullied over opt out requests and the punitive consequences for opted out students has led a few of these parents to withdraw their children from public schools and start homeschooling.

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.

The Need for a Scorecard

This is the second 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 last post.    Here is the first section of the report following the Executive Summary.

1. The Need for a Scorecard

The Common Core wave swept over America with little notice. Long before the Standards were developed, private entities developed the plan to push them into the states. Then, as President-elect Obama was preparing to take office, they convinced his education team to make it part of the $1 trillion economic stimulus effort that had bi-partisan billing as being necessary to save America from economic and fiscal catastrophe.

The strategy underlying the Common Core initiative rested on the No Child Left Behind structure of standards-based education. Accordingly, significant changes in a state’s standards would, if necessary to ensure alignment, lead to changes in the state’s assessments and curriculum. The intent to have such alignment is well documented.1 In addition, it is a matter of common sense: if you have standards-based education, then of course standardized tests and curriculum should be aligned to those standards.2

Initially, 48 governors signed onto the concept of developing a common set of K-12 curriculum standards.3 However, as the Common Core train gathered speed, parents and policymakers started to realize the significance of the attendant policy and academic changes. They started pushing back against those changes. Within a few years, the pushback had become a true national movement. By the end of 2014, potential presidential candidates realized that the Common Core had grave defects and was a political liability. As Sen. Paul said in 2014, “I’m saying that that the hypothetical candidate that’s for Common Core probably doesn’t have much chance of winning in a Republican primary.”4

Just as the Common Core wave swept over America unnoticed by citizen and legislator alike, politicians have vastly underappreciated the pushback against it. It has become a true national cause fueled by fact, citizen passion and parental love. This comes at a time when 60% of Americans (68% of Republicans) think education is on the wrong track versus 32% (27% of Republicans) who think it is on the right track. Moreover, 77% of Americans (79% of Republicans, 73% of Democrats, and 83% of Independents) have a dim view of the federal government’s performance in K-12 education.5

Now, almost every GOP candidate opposes Common Core or at least criticizes how it was pushed into the states. But, as Joy Pullmann discussed last December, the content and consequences of their policy views vary greatly.6 For example, in stating his opposition to Common Core, a candidate might merely mean the federal government should not have incentivized the adoption of the national standards. But does the candidate believe the standards are of poor quality? Does the candidate recognize the nexus between the poor quality and the perversions of the constitutional process through which the Common Core was foisted on the states? Does the candidate have policy prescriptions for preventing future federal overreach? Does the candidate believe that all would have been fine if the federal government, the Common Core owners, and the state bureaucracies had done a better job of “selling” the program to parents? Does the candidate support parents in their battle to reclaim control of education policy-making? Does the candidate recognize the implications to student and family privacy and parental rights inherent in massive amounts of data collection and sharing?

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 Report Card on GOP Candidates

Common Core Report: Grading the 2016 GOP Candidates is a report released by American Principles in Action, ThePulse2016, and Cornerstone Policy Research Action.  This report provides information about the issues and the positions or most of the major Republican candidates.  It also gives them a letter grade for each of three issues and an overall grade.  The three issues are 1) Ending the Common Core System, 2) Protecting state local decision making, and 3) Protecting child and family privacy.  These issues that served as the basis for evaluating the candidates are elaborated on in the Executive Summary of the report.  The text of the Executive Summary is provided later in this article.

Here’s the report card from the report.


From Common Core Report: Grading the 2016 GOP Candidates

Whether you agree with the grades presented here or not, it may be a good starting point as you evaluate candidates for yourself.  You are encouraged to download and read the actual report.  It provides further information about each candidate and their position, as best it may be determined, on the three issues.

Permission has been granted for text from the report to be published on Stop Common Core in Washington State.  The Executive Summary from he report is going to be published here as a start.  As time goes on, other sections of the report may be published since the report provides excellent background information about some issues related to the Common Core.

You can download the full report by clicking on Common Core Report: Grading the 2016 GOP Candidates.

Executive Summary

Four years ago, Common Core was considered a “done deal,” uncontroversial and approved by Democrats and Republican leaders alike. It had been pushed into 45 states without notice to legislators and parents alike. Today, Common Core and related educational issues of local control of schools and family privacy have emerged as significant campaign issues for candidates and for a motivated network of grassroots citizens-turned activists. (a project of American Principles in Action) and New Hampshire’s Cornerstone Action are releasing our first formal report card to voters on how GOP candidates are doing in responding to the concerns of Common Core parents and the experts who have validated their concerns. We have carefully evaluated the candidates on three separate—but related—issues:

  1. First, have they spoken out and acted against Common Core? Statements opposing Common Core must acknowledge that the standards are of low-quality, fail to meet the expectations of high-performing countries, and contain language that controls the curriculum and instructional methods used in the classroom. Recognition of these deficiencies is central in determining whether a candidate’s actions have been a sincere effort to replace the Common Core with high standards or to simply rebrand it under another name.
  2. Second, do they understand and have they made a specific commitment to protect state and local control of education from further federal intrusion? In particular, we are looking for candidates who understand how the federal government intrudes onto state decision-making and who advocate for structural changes to prevent such intrusions. Moreover, the candidate must understand that the intended division of power between the federal government and the state is meant to ensure that people can shape state and local policies. He must understand how the breakdown of that division destroyed the safeguards that could have, and likely would have, prevented Common Core.
  3. Third, what efforts has the candidate made to protect student and family privacy interests against the rising demands of industry and central planners for more personal student data. Such interests include the right of parents to control what type of information is collected (e.g., social and emotional information, behavioral history, family information), who may collect such information, and with whom that information may be shared. Reliance on the Family Educational Rights to Privacy Act (FERPA) to protect student data is no longer a sufficient argument for calls against expanding student-data systems. A 2009 executive order allowed regulatory changes to be made to weaken the law, such as the removal of language requiring parental consent, without Congressional consent. A candidate must understand how this is symptomatic of a larger issue: the federal executive’s continued abuse of the intended system of governance in order to push its favored policies and practices into the states.

With regard to the second and third questions, we give outsized weight to whether a candidate recognizes that a prohibition on the federal executive branch is often ineffectual if the intended beneficiary has no means of enforcement. Federal law prohibited the federal government from its activities to propagate Common Core and the Common Core testing. Moreover, the Race to the Top program itself exceeded the authorities in the Stimulus bill that funded it. And the Administration’s regulatory changes under the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA) were unfaithful to the underlying federal statute. Yet, none of those laws provided either states or individuals remedies or an accessible, or for that matter any, enforcement mechanism. Except for the quixotic hope of speedy Congressional oversight, that left the federal executive branch as the judge and jury of its own actions.

We have made allowances for what a candidate is in a position to do: governors have played a direct role in implementing, or refusing to implement, Common Core directly; senators have either seriously fought to restrict the federal intrusion in No Child Left Behind or have acquiesced to the federal power grab; and non-office holding candidates have only been able to make strong, general statements, which is a good first step. As the campaign marches on, however, this wears thin, and follow-on statements on the particulars are needed from all candidates.

The Common Core is a touchstone for Republicans, and they should be making a bigger deal of it. People are fed up with the Common Core and the terribly expensive and overbearing Common Core tests. They view the federal government’s involvement in education policy as a colossal failure that has harmed, not helped, children. The Common Core set of issues gives candidates a chance to impress the voter that they know what they are talking about, are serious about doing it, and will fight to get the job done.

Rather than championing the big issue and truly demonstrating their presidential mettle, some candidates are making it into a small issue. They are parsing out the issue in order to voice opposition to some aspect of the problem but fail to address the overall concerns of parents. These candidates actually favor Common Core, they do not understand the issue, or they hope that the small approach will save them from offending Common Core proponents.

We have evaluated the candidates on each of these issues and then averaged the score for an overall grade. In each case we have suggested what candidates could do if they wish to improve their grade.

For the full report, including a page-long explanation of each candidates grade, and an appendix that explains the issues, go here. We hope that this Common Core Report Card will be clarifying for voters first of all, for candidates, and for political reporters.



In GOP Debate Jeb Bush Continues Deceptive Statements on Common Core & FedEd While Rubio Clearly Opposes Federal Instrusion

At this point there are a lot of presidential candidates.  Education is going to be an issue in the presidential campaign.  Some candidates have clearly taken a position on issues like the Common Core State Standards, some seem to have changed their position to curry political favor, and some may be seen as being deceptive in their position since what they are saying does not reflect the record of their actions.  It is important to look beyond the surface of statements candidates make.

Karen R. Effrem, MD , Executive Director of Florida Stop Common Core Coalition, Inc., and President of Education Liberty Watch, has been writing some great articles related to the candidates and the recent GOP debate.  She has given permission for reposting the article below that first appeared on the Florida Stop Common Core Coalition website.

In GOP Debate Jeb Bush Continues Deceptive Statements on Common Core & FedEd While Rubio Clearly Opposes Federal Instrusion

Karen R. Effrem, MD

The highly anticipated and widely watched Fox News GOP primary debate contained one major exchange on Common Core that occurred between two of the top-tier presidential candidates from Florida, former Governor Jeb Bush and Senator Marco Rubio.  There is a transcript available and here is the video:
Bush’s responses on this critical issue continue to be problematic from several perspectives.  First, while it is nice that he said that he did not agree with US Secretary Arne Duncan’s statement that the opposition to Common Core is mostly from a “fringe group of critics,” that is a fairly recent change from his venomous attacks against parents and teachers that disagree with him before he made his presidential aspirations publicly known:

Keynote Speech
at his Foundation for Excellence in Education Summit 10/17/13:
“I understand there are those opposed to the standards. But what I want to hear from them is more than just opposition. I want to hear their solutions for the hodgepodge of dumbed-down state standards that have created group mediocrity in our schools.
Criticisms and conspiracy theories are easy attention grabbers. (Emphasis added).”

Interview in the Wall Street Journal
(12/1/14) as Quoted in FSCCC Article Potential Bush III “Has Lost His Patience” with We Lowly Common Core Critics (12/5/14)
Instead of trying to deal with the myriad logical academic, developmental, psychological, and privacy problems of the Common Core system, as stated in a recent Wall Street Journal interview reported in Ben Shapiro’s Truth Revolt, he had another of what Michelle Malkin had described as a “Common Core snit fit.”  Jeb whined that he has “lost [his] patience,” describing to the Journal, “an unwillingness of special interests to improve public education.”
The Wall Street Journal further reported:
“He reiterated his support for higher academic standards–whether they are the Common Core national standards or other equally rigorous benchmarks–and for testing to measure whether students are meeting them.  ‘If you don’t measure, you really don’t care,’ he said.”


Secondly, despite his protestations about being against federal overreach, he has supported the actions of his father and brother to greatly expand the federal role in education via the World Declaration on Education for All and America 2000 (George HW Bush) that led to the federal mandate of statewide standards and tests for the first time in American history and No Child Left Behind (George W Bush) that has given us the federal annual testing mandate and data collection.  Jeb also worked with Arne Duncan to support Race to the Top, still supports the standards incorrectly portraying them as high without documentation,  is in support of the heinous Every Child Achieves Act, and has tried to tell Republican activists ignorantly or deceptively  that the federal overreach into standards is fixed:

Details provided in the list by American Principles Project show how the prohibition on federal involvement with standards are completely false.  This is especially important because presidential candidate Jeb Bush is perpetuating the falsehood that the prohibitions against federal control of standards are real.  In the following audio clip from a conference call with Alabama Republicans, Bush bragged about how he got his good buddy Lamar Alexander to put this prohibition in the Senate bill (listen starting at 2:32).

The problem is that this type of prohibition was already in federal law in three places.  That did not stop the current administration from bribing and blackmailing states to adopt Common Core.  In addition, neither the old nor the new language contains any enforcement mechanism for the states that are coerced or bribed.  Either Jeb Bush is ignorant of this situation or he is knowingly participating in the deception.  Neither situation reflects well on him, especially since he is running for president and portrays himself as such an education guru.

On this point, Bush is really no different than Democrat frontrunner Hillary Clinton, who as a US senator was on the conference committee that gave us No Child Left Behind and recently supported Common Core at a campaign event.


Finally, Jeb Bush, knowing how unpopular it is, tried to deflect away from Common Core and talk about his education record while governor of Florida mentioning his third grade retention policies and the better reading scores of minority fourth grade students.  What people do not seem to understand is that of course the scores would be better if his policies required the removal and retention of those students scoring lowest because they were removed from the pool of students tested. There also is no evidence that retention is helpful and some that it is harmful.  He also somehow failed to mention that high school ACT scores declined in Florida under his watch and have not significantly improved, being significantly below the national average in 2013 and ranking 47th out of the 50 states.

Marco Rubio did an excellent job of clearly and succinctly explaining the problem with Common Core and federal involvement in standards:

“We do need curriculum reform. And it should happen at the state and local level. That is where educational policy belongs, because if a parent is unhappy with what their child is being taught in school, they can go to that local school board or their state legislature, or their governor and get it changed.

Here’s the problem with Common Core. The Department of Education, like every federal agency, will never be satisfied. They will not stop with it being a suggestion. They will turn it into a mandate. In fact, what they will begin to say to local communities is: “You will not get federal money unless you do things the way we want you to do it.” And they will use common core or any other requirement that exists nationally to force it down the throats of our people and our states.”

Former Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee also said he opposed federal involvement in education:

“And the fact is there are a lot of things happening at the federal level that are absolutely beyond the jurisdiction of the Constitution. This is power that should be shifted back to the states, whether it’s the EPA, there is no role at the federal level for the Department of Education.”

Unfortunately, many question Huckabee’s sincerity on opposition to Common Core given his multiple statements on both sides of that issue as described by Andrew Johnson in National Review:

But the rising concern over Common Core is one challenge Huckabee will have to face that he didn’t have to worry about in 2008. While never an outright champion of Common Core, Huckabee has publicly offered support for the proposal in the past. He has praised the standards for having been developed by governors and state education officials. In 2013, he sent a letter to Oklahoma state lawmakers ahead of a vote that would dump Common Core, encouraging them “to resist any attempt to delay implementation” of the standards. And last year, the Washington Post reported that Huckabee urged an organization that helped develop the standards to “rebrand” Common Core, because the name had become “toxic.”

Huckabee was and Bush still is listed on a website as in favor of Common Core that mock opponents of the standards and was trying to convince Louisiana legislators to not repeal the standards that said, “Unicorns are not real. Neither are most of the things you have heard about the Common Core State Standards.”  Huckabee later had his name taken off the list apparently to give the appearance that he now opposes the standards, but major activists like Shane Vander Hart were still skeptical. Here is another example of contradictory statements coming from Huckabee:


None of the other candidates were really given questions about education to show what they know, believe or would do about this critical issue.Despite crowing by Bush campaign surrogates, no major pundit thought he had a stellar or break-out performance.  In fact, The Hill called him a loser in the debate, as did several other sources, The Fox News Special Report panel both right after and the next night barely mentioned him.

This is only the first debate, so hopefully there will be many more opportunities to discuss Common Core and what the federal role in education should be.  Please stay tuned!