Common Core In Massachusetts

Below is a press release from End Common Core Massachusetts:

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE Thursday, March 24, 2015
CONTACT:  Donna Colorio, 508-450-0104 and dcolorio2014@gmail.com
END COMMON CORE MA
End Common Core MA’s message to the big money special interests: #RKidsRnot4Sale

End Common Core Massachusetts has a very simple message to the big money special interest groups organizing resistance to the popular End Common Core ballot measure: Our kids are not for sale (#RKidsRnot4Sale).

“Last month, a poll proved that a huge majority of voters support the end of Common Core.  It clearly verifies hard-working Massachusetts voters reject giving control of our public education system to the wealthy special interests.  They are desperately trying to defeat this measure by pouring in millions to fund phony lawsuits and more phony front groups for Pearson Education and the Gates Foundation.  They will soon find out that Our Kids Are Not for Sale and the voters will reject their efforts”, said End Common Core Chairperson Donna Colorio.

Sandra Stotsky, former Senior Associate Commissioner in the Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education (DESE) notes that “the Massachusetts Business Alliance for Education (MBAE) filed a lawsuit against Attorney General Maura Healey in January claiming she didn’t know what she was doing when she approved the language of the ballot question. It looks like they are desperate to stop the voters from voting on this critical issue.”

The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation is on record donating a lot of money to the MBAE in 2014 to pay for studies that support the continued use of Common Core.  The Gates Foundation has also poured millions of dollars to fund grants for DESE and other Massachusetts special interest groups who support Common Core. Pearson Education is the corporation contracted to create standardized tests like PARCC and MCAS designed to test in English Language Arts and Mathematics.  Pearson also publishes textbooks and educational materials aligned to the Common Core Standards, and keeping the standards will mean billions of dollars in profits.

“Right now, the special interests are lining up millions of dollars to fund a campaign where every word, study, report, and so-called statistic is made up and paid for by groups funded by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.  In contrast, End Common Core MA is a grassroot effort led by concerned citizens giving their time and hard earned money to speak truth to power. The super wealthy special interests are using our kids to make billions of dollars every year in testing fees, textbooks, and other classroom materials.  The special interests have a lot of money on their side and their goal is to destroy our public education system. But the hard working citizens of Massachusetts will have the truth on their side,” said Colorio.

End Common Core MA is a ballot question committee of citizen activists, teachers, parents, concerned citizens, and elected officials opposed to Common Core’s standards.  Go to EndCommonCoreMA.com for more information.

Numbers Don’t Lie

Last year in North Carolina the Academic Standards Review Commission (ASRC) was charged with replacing the Common Core State Standards (CCSS). The North Carolina General Assembly voted to replace Common Core, and the ASRC was expected to come up with alternatives to Common Core. Unfortunately, that did not happen. Although the findings in the ASRC draft report of the commission (located  here) clearly indicated that the standards needed to be replaced– such issues as age-appropriate materials, lack of teaching materials, and excessive testing were mentioned–the ASRC simply ignored their own experts and did not replace CCSS. So what are the results of Common Core in North Carolina, and what are the alternatives? The results are awful, and there is one vetted and time-tested alternative.

The test data from the ACT tells the story of Common Core in North Carolina:

     Beginning in 2011, graduating seniors across the nation averaged a 20.6 in English, 21.1 in math, 21.3 in reading, 20.9 in science, and 21.1 composite. By comparison, North Carolina students averaged a 21.2 in English, 22.4 in math, 22.2 in reading, 21.4 in science, and 21.9 composite. Obviously, North Carolina scored well among the states and things were looking up.

     However, since 2011, things have gone downhill. 2015 graduating classes looked like this: (NC/National) 17.6/20.4 for English, 19.5/20.8 for math, 19.2/21.4 for reading, 19.0/20.9 for science, and 19.0/21.0 composite. Moreover, this is not just a dip in the scores. They have been steadily declining during the five-year period. Obviously, something is amiss or, at least, not what is being claimed. While National scores have remained fairly flat, North Carolina’s have tanked.

     Since the focus is on readiness for careers and college, other data is included in the ACT report for who is ready for what. Some of the key pieces of data in the report are the “benchmarks” which depict the level at which a student should perform in order to succeed at a specific career or a given college. The benchmarks are listed for each of the subject fields tested, i.e. English, math, reading, science, and composite. Benchmarks are useful for selecting a particular college, getting scholarships, determining career fields, etc.

     For the graduating classes of 2015, a full twenty-five percent of North Carolina students scored a benchmark in English of 0 to 12 (range of 1-36). Another seventeen percent scored 13 to 15, and twenty percent scored 16-19. This means that a total of sixty-two percent of our students in 2015 scored benchmarks that might, repeat might, get them into a community college. Only nine percent scored in the top two brackets, 28 to 32 and 33 to 36. For the math benchmark, the figure was sixty percent in the lower three brackets, reading was fifty-five percent, and science was fifty-four percent. In order to succeed at any of the major North Carolina Universities and colleges, current ACT benchmarks are NC State 24 to 29, UNC 21 to 26, Wake Forest 29 to 31, Campbell 17 to 27, East Carolina University 20 to 24, and UNC-Charlotte 20 to 25. If a student with an ACT of 19 were to apply to UNC-Charlotte, it is estimated that they have a fifty-five percent chance of success while the same score would only have a twenty-three percent chance at Campbell University.

     Along with the falling scores, there has been little to no progress in closing the learning and achievement gaps for minority students. Students of color are worse off with the CCSS standards, not better. Their parents ought to be outraged at the lack of appropriate content.

     As for “career ready” there is a “World of Work” map for careers that supposedly matches ACT scores with various occupations. Given the narrow aperture that the rest of the ACT/CRS process uses, one can only imagine how well the map works in determining a career for students not planning to attend college. What ever happened to guidance counselors working with parents to help choose a career?

     In conclusion, our public education system imposes a set of standards on its students and their parents, has designed a testing apparatus totally aligned with the standards and developed to supposedly reveal what career students should consider or what college to attend, and touts this as an improvement. However, data gathered and reported by its own testing shows the results to be dismal and failing. How can the Chamber of Commerce and other interested parties believe that they will be getting better employees for their members? How can colleges believe that their incoming classes of students will not require more remedial classes?

So why in the world are we stuck with Common Core? There is a lot of serious money behind Common Core. Bill Gates is one of the primary forces behind Common Core. As I have previously reported:  On September 21, 2013, (according to The Washington Post), Bill Gates stated, “It would be great if our education stuff worked, but that we won’t know for probably a decade.” It is becoming very obvious that it doesn’t work! Just for the record,The Daily Caller reported in March 2014 that the children of Bill Gates attend a private school that does not use Common Core standards. Common Core for thee, but not for me.

So what is the alternative? The North Carolina Education Coalition has created the North Carolina Education Plan. It is based on two vetted and very successful standards in two different states–Mathematics based on the Minnesota Standards (which the draft resolution of the ASRC recommended) and English Language Arts (ELA) is based on the Massachusetts standards as developed by Sandra Stotsy, credited with developing one of the country’s strongest K-12 ELA programs in Massachusetts.

Common sense would dictate replacing something that has failed with something that has been successful. Unfortunately, in the North Carolina academic hierarchy, money has become more important than educating our children. Many of the people in charge of education in North Carolina have a vested monetary interest in Common Core. We will not get rid of Common Core unless parents stand up and demand that public education in this state be controlled by common sense rather than money. We also need to replace any people involved in education in North Carolina who will make a profit through the implementation of Common Core.

Common Core — Coming To A School Near You

Last night I attended a forum on Common Core at the Worcester Public Library. The forum was sponsored by the Back to Basics Caucus, a coalition of school committee members from across Massachusetts. The speakers were Sandra Stotsky, an ELA Curriculum Author, and Ted Rebarber, a Costs and Accountability Expert.

Common Core is a controversial initiative to align curriculum standards among all 50 states. It is being attacked from both the left and the right for many reasons, but mainly because it is seen as a top down Federal takeover of state and local education programs. It is a “one size fits all” curriculum.

Yesterday’s Wall Street Journal posted an article by James Gass and Charles Chieppo (I have not linked to the article because it is subscribers only) entitled, “Common Core Education Is Uncommonly Inadequate.” The story they tell hits very close to home–it’s about Massachusetts, where I live and sent my children to school.

The article in the Wall Street Journal cites the changes in Massachusetts education during the 1990’s. Education in the state was reformed in 1993, and SAT scores rose for thirteen consecutive years. In 2005 Massachusetts scored best in the nation in all grades and categories on the National Assessment of Educational Progress. They have repeated that performance every time they have taken the test.  Massachusetts is doing very well educationally right now.

In 2010 Massachusetts joined Common Core, which is supposed to be fully implemented by Spring of 2014. Common Core has some serious problems–scholastically and legally.

The Wall Street Journal states:

…Three federal laws explicitly prohibit the U.S. government from directing, supervising or controlling any nationalized standards, testing or curriculum. Yet Race to the Top, a federal education grant competition that dangled $4.35 billion in front of states, favored applications that adopted Common Core. The Education Department subsequently awarded $362 million to fund two national assessments and a “model curriculum” that is “aligned with” Common Core.

Academically the standards for Common Core are lower than those currently in effect in Massachusetts–so why in the world would we want to change? Therein lies the question.

The Heritage Foundation posts a picture that is worth a thousand words:

commoncore_1_450

The article at the Heritage Foundation concludes:

American education is at a crossroads: One path leads toward further centralization and greater federal intervention. The other path leads toward robust education choice, including school choice and choice in curricula.

Common Core takes the path toward centralization, and state leaders should seize the moment to resist this latest federal overreach. National standards and tests are a challenge to educational freedom in America, and state and local leaders who believe in limited government should resist them.

Common Core was put together without the input of the teachers who educate our children. Some of its backers are the Gates Foundation and the Pearson company.

At the present time there are no reliable cost estimates for the change to Common Core. There is no cost-benefit analysis.

The thought of putting all local education under the control of Washington is scary. We have local school committees that are elected–they are accountable to the voters. We need to make sure that the local school committees control local education. Anything else is destined for failure.

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