The Common Core machine must be removed now, not later

cogsBy Brad McQueen

Now that the great tsunami election of 2014 is over let’s not forget that those who rode that wave of discontent into the Governor’s office, the Superintendent of Public Instruction’s office, and the Arizona Legislature need to act quickly with comprehensive legislation/executive orders to pull the federal Common Core education implementation machine from our state and return us to a 100% Arizona created and controlled education delivery system.

Since the election, many of us have been disheartened as our new Governor Doug Ducey surrounded himself with pro-Common Core education advisors.  We have also witnessed our new Superintendent of Public Instruction Diane Douglas, signaling business as usual, make no major staffing changes at the Department of Education while mentioning in interviews that the Common Core standards won’t be changed quickly and that any changes that do occur will start with the current Common Core standards.

The Common Core is like a cancer

The Common Core is like a cancer.  You can’t just trim out the ugly parts and bring the patient back to full health using the cancer as a starting point. You cut the cancer, in this case Common Core, out immediately preventing its roots from growing even deeper. Especially when in this figurative example the “patient” is our education system, our state/parental sovereignty over education and student data, and our kids’ minds. A little urgency is in order, please.

There are many new legislators that are chomping at the bit to end the Common Core machine in our state and they need our support against the entrenched interests of the establishment politicians in both parties, along with their Chamber of Commerce buddies, who will railroad them at every turn.

We have had a Republican majority in the legislature for as long as we have had Common Core and still this Common Core predator remains alive in our state.  The Common Core crowd has had over 5 years and billions of dollars to convince us that their untested, stealthily installed ideas of centralized control of education is a good one.

We are not buying it.  The more parents, teachers, and students learn about and experience Common Core, the more they detest it. Game over.

So it is within this context of shaken confidence in some elected officials and with a sense of increased urgency that I put forth the need to remind our public servants to stay laser focused on our desire to repeal in full the Common Core from our state now, not later, immediately, not gradually.

For what it’s worth, rather than waiting until our leaders come up with multiple Common Core repeal measures or anti-measures, I want to posit some suggestions on how to rid our state of the Common Core in full from the viewpoint of a public school teacher and Common Core opponent.

The bill to repeal Common Core must be comprehensive

There needs to be a comprehensive repeal of the Common Core.  Too often we have had overlapping and sometimes competing bills in the AZ House and Senate that attempted in piecemeal fashion to repeal select parts of Common Core.  In other states, legislators do this purposefully to say that they voted against the Common Core while knowing their legislation will have no real overall impact to remove it.

We have a Republican majority in both houses of our state legislature and some in the Democrat party who oppose the Common Core, so the leaders of each house need to work together to craft a comprehensive repeal bill.

This repeal bill must include not only ending the federal Common Core learning standards in our state but also ending the Common Coretest (AZMerit).  In addition, the bill must also prevent the NSA-like data suctioning systems () installed in our state from sending personally identifiable student data to the federal government and private companies without notifying parents or asking their permission.

The Oklahoma law repealing Common Core is a good reference for our lawmakers

In June 2014 the Oklahoma state legislature passed a bill that repealed Common Core and Governor Mary Fallin signed it into law .  The Oklahoma law would be a good reference for Arizona lawmakers to use as a starting point in crafting its own Common Core repeal bill.

Oklahoma will revert back to their previous state standards and test for two years while a select committee of stakeholders, including parents, teachers, and other experts, will rewrite/update their state learning standards which will then have to be approved by the state legislature.  Unlike the Common Core standards writing process, the Oklahoma standards process will be inclusive, transparent, and deliberative.

The Oklahoma law also prevents the state from entering into any agreement that cedes any state control or sovereignty over their state test.

Oklahoma’s law survived a state Supreme Court challenge and the state also had their standards certified by their State Regents for Higher Education preventing a threat from the U.S. Department of Education to pull federal education funding.

Oklahoma already had a separate law dealing with student data collection and sharing, but an Ohio bill repealing Common Core, set to be voted on this year, includes a comprehensive student data security component and may serve as a guideline for Arizona’s comprehensive bill.

When I talk about removing the Common Core standards I’m only talking about the math and language arts standards. Our Arizona created and owned, AZ Academic Content Standards, are still in place for the six subject areas of social studies, science , foreign languages, education technology, the arts, health education, and physical education.

Unlike the Common Core standards, these standards are easy to understand at first glance as standards should be. A teacher or a parent should be able to read their state’s learning standards and know what their children are expected to do without massive explanation or tutorials.

Children also still take the AIMS test to assess their knowledge of science in our state and the graduating class of 2016 is still taking the AIMS test in order to graduate. Both of these tests align to our current AZ Academic Content Standards.

Returning to our previous math and language arts standards is doable

Returning back to our previous math and language arts standards for two years, as we update all of our learning standards, is doable. Remember, the Common Core standards have only been fully in place since last year for math and language arts and the Department of Education is already updating the other six content areas mentioned above. For a laugh check out AZ’s  Common Core math standards, just take some antacid first.

Like Oklahoma, our previous math/language arts standards were judged, according to a 2010 comparison study conducted by the Common Core funded Fordham Institute, to be on par with the Common Core standards in math, receiving an A-, and very close in language arts, receiving a B+.  The report speaks quite highly of our AZ Academic Standards. Read it for yourself here.

However, unlike the Common Core standards, our previous AZ Academic Standards, have more than a decade of data to show for themselves.  I can vouch that our previous math/language arts standards were easy to understand and were developmentally appropriate for our kids.

The new AZ Common Core standards, on the other hand, required a year of professional development classes for teachers so they could understand how terrible they are and discover how developmentally innappropriate they still are for our students.  The AZ Common Core math standards are lower than our previous math standards leaving our kids two years behind most other industrialized nations according to world renowned mathematician Dr. James Milgram .

At a Common Core forum held last year in Mesa by Arizonans Against Common Core, Dr. Sandra Stotsky said she would return to Arizona to help rewrite our state standards should we ever repeal the Common Core standards.

Dr. Stotsky is a renowned standards expert who crafted the world class Massachusetts learning standards.  She is also a nationally known opponent of the Common Core who refused to validate the standards, along with Dr. Milgram, when she was a member of the Common Core standards validation committee.

Any mention of repealing Common Core will be met with howls of protest from some of course

Of course any mention of repealing the Common Core standards in Arizona will be met with howls of protest from the likes of former Governor Brewer and her buddies at the Chamber of Commerce who hope to profit massively from this takeover of our education system.  The Chamber would also love to use our k-12 school system as their own private human resource department to shape children into their future worker bees.

Governor Brewer went around the legislature and used her appointed State Board of Education to adopt the federally created and privately copyrighted Common Core standards in late June 2010 only three weeks after a secretive committee of non-educators in Washington, D.C. released them in early June 2010 with no real discussion, debate, or input from stakeholders such as classroom teachers.

No public discussion or statewide forums guided this decision, rather the lust for federal money guided Governor Brewer’s decision three week deliberation.  I apologize for using the word “lust” and “Jan Brewer” in the same sentence.

Reverting back to our AZ created and owned Academic Standards and tests in math, reading, and writing for two years while we update those standards can be done quickly and with little disruption.  Teachers like me will welcome the return to sanity and there will be a collective sigh of relief from those same teachers and parents alike.

Teachers hate Common Core by the way

By the way, teachers hate the Common Core.  That’s right, I said it! The only people I have heard that even tolerate the Common Core standards are administrators, bureaucrats, and curriculum people who are paid to run Common Core workshops and who will never have to implement the standards in a classroom.

If teachers could be honest they would tell you that they are teaching the same way as they always have, when possible, and are waiting to see the Common Core test to judge how to tweak their instruction in the class so their kids will do well on the test so that their salary isn’t impacted by low student test scores.  They are also doing their best to protect their classes from some of idiocy present in the Common Core standards and their “aligned” textbooks, especially in math. Not exactly a vote of confidence.

But don’t ask teachers how they feel about the Common Core on campus because those who speak out against Common Core set themselves up for retaliation while those who cheer for it are given pom-poms and a megaphone.  I’ve got the  emails from the Department of Education to prove it.

As I said earlier, the Common Core crowd has had five years and billions of dollars to convince the rest of us of the usefulness of their Common Core machine, yet still the anti-Common Core tide continues to rise.  Your time is up.

Any adoption of or changes to our learning standards should be approved by the State Legislature

In the future, our legislature should provide oversight to the AZ State Board of Education and should mandate that any future changes to learning standards or tests must be approved by the legislature who are accountable to the voters.

All supplemental materials being used in our schools must also be vetted to make sure they align to our AZ Academic Content Standards during the updating period.  Many classrooms in Arizona use supplemental materials like newspapers from Social Studies and Science Weekly in place of their textbooks circumventing the vetting process which makes sure they align to our standards.  This is a backdoor way to keep Common Core in our schools and that door must be closed.

The new Common Core Test, AZMerit, was quickly adopted two months ago and they plan to give it starting in March.  There is no time to field test it to determine if it is a reliable measure for anything. Teachers still don’t have a “practice test” to help prepare our students  and we are still in the dark about many things related to the new test.

In response, our State Board of Education has already signaled that it may provide a “ safe harbor” year where the results of the test will not be used for much of anything such as promotion, graduation, teacher evaluations, or school report cards.

If there will be a “safe harbor” year where the Common Core test results will not be used for anything anyways, why not use the next two years to update our AZ created and owned Academic Content Standards in math, reading, and writing?  We will regain ownership and control of our state standards and test immediately and we will have test results that will provide actual usable data during the transition period.

Bottom line is Governor Brewer was able to quickly adopt these federal Common Core standards, dropped out of the PARCC testing consortium overnight when it suited her, and waited until four months before we were due to give her Common Core aligned state test to our kids to adopt a AZMerit test.

Obviously when there was a will to get federal funding Governor Brewer and other governors quickly found a way. The quality of our kids education be damned.

Many like to erroneously claim our pre-Common Core standards were subpar

Many politician types like to purposefully confuse our previous standards with the low achievement of our graduates in recent years.  Politicians decided to dumb down graduation requirements and lowered the requirements to pass the AIMS test rather than demanding that kids truly be required to demonstrate a mastery of the our learning standards.

I’ll let you in on a little test creation secret as I’ve worked on committees that recommended passing scores on our AIMS test for writing.  The “passing score” on the AIMS or the new AZMerit test is not determined by your kids answering say 70% of all questions on the reading/writing test.

Rather, the the test is given and then the data gurus employed by the testing company run the student test data through their formulas and tell the State Education Board, “if we set the cut score at say ‘450’ then 80% of your students will fail. But if we set the pass score at say ‘380’, then 80% of your students will pass.”

They present the decision makers with multiple potential passing score scenarios so that they can choose the score that works for them politically.  The score doesn’t always show that your kids necessarily mastered the standards.

I guarantee the Common Core crowd will set the pass score artificially low on the Common Core test in an attempt to blunt criticism and so that there isn’t a huge outcry from parents. An outcry happened in New York over the last couple of years when there was a huge failure rate on their Common Core test resulting in demonstrations against the Common Core.

Parents opted out of testing, teacher unions’ support for the Common Core weakened as the test scores threatened to affect teacher evaluations and pay (and union dues), and Arne Duncan made his now infamous quote that the white suburban moms were just mad because they found out that their kids weren’t as brilliant as they thought they were.

The Common Core standards have only been fully in place for math and language arts since last year and it will take several years of our kids being used as guinea pigs to see if they even increase student learning.  If the crusty old bureaucrats at the Department of Education were honest they would admit that they are building the plane in mid-air.

There is a strong desire to rid our state of the Common Core and now our elected officials must find the way to accomplish the will of the voters. If they don’t ,they will be shown the way out of office by voters either by recall or at the next election.

bradBrad McQueen is a former Common Core insider and current public school teacher in Tucson, Arizona and is the author of the anti-Common Core book “The Cult of Common Core”. Connect with Brad at cultofcommoncore@gmail.com

 

Related articles:

AZMerit just made opting-out easier for parents

All educators must now take a stand against the tyranny of Common Core

The Second Amendment in your kids’ class may be a first class lie

AZ chooses its new Common Core test: six of one, half dozen of the other

Nat’l Science Foundation grants $5M to Carnegie Mellon University to suction student data

TS Gold and Common Core’s data suctioning in our preschools

16 Comments

  1. Hate to tell you Brad, but we all were screwed by Douglas. You are quite right. SSDD for ADE and it will not change in her tenure. MAS studies in TUSD that violate state law???? No problem, just keep it behind closed doors and we will not bother you. How’s that for leadership from the state. Thought so. It seems with politics, the more we change the more we stay the same or stay the same screwed up path. I am so disappointed with Douglas that since I have no kids in school, I am just about ready to throw my hands in the air and say why bother. They are all the same. Lie to get elected and then say I don’t remember.

  2. You’re spot on, jdfast says. Diane Douglas bowed to TUSD because she knows that there is a devoted crew that will stop at nothing to recall her. Ducey outright lied about his aversion to Common Core and now has Lisa Graham Keegan who is the high priestess of CC, as an adviser. Recalling them all and having another election is no guarantee that we will get better candidates. However, I could see all of this coming months ago and posted those insights. I am weary of all the lies and deception too.

  3. The lack of any candidate that will do the right thing is the problem. What needs to be done is parents, teachers and others that need to make it loud and clear it is not wanted. I just retired from teaching, though a career and technical education class, but felt the common core along with the intimidation that went along with disagreeing with it. I left with the promise that I would do whatever I could to try to encourage change of the systems in place. Just need to get people involved!

  4. This is more than discouraging; however, if we don’t mobilize a formidable grassroots force we will not achieve the desired result. I agree fedupvet, no change will come unless we’re in their faces, including Diane’s. Arizona does not have a robust citizen group, messaging or organizational structure in place for crushing these standards.

    Brad wrote about Oklahoma and he’s spot on; I have friends that were down at the Governor Fallin’s HQ, in her face and warning her not to veto the bill. She told me they went in the building and surrounded the office and the Governor listened to them. They went back every day until she signed the bill. I don’t see that grassroots potential in Arizona. I sincerely hope a grassroots force does mobilize. I will help them, but I need to find them first.

  5. Well written editorial. Had the Tea Party not been crushed by IRS and RINOs, a huge amount of demonstrations across the nation would be constantly calling attention to Common Core Cancer. However. it is what it is. The least we can do is write the Governor and complain. It would be a good idea to also complain about Common Core supporter staffers.

  6. Mr. McQueen: With all due respect, you seem NOT to understand the necessity for National Standards so as to measure the Academic Performance of our Public Schools. Common Core is a move in the RIGHT direction!

    Standardized Testing, at every Grade Level/Subject, in our Public School System is necessary because of the heterogeneity of Instructional Programs of Schools and Classroom Teachers. We need an objective measure that indicates that our Students are being taught properly. This is the sole function of Standardized Testing and the necessity for their existence.

    We have lost, as a Nation (particularly here in Arizona), an understanding of the fundamental importance of Education for the long term survival of our Democracy. In his first Annual Address to Congress on January 8, 1790, President Washington said that Education was “the security of a free Constitution”…that, through Education a free people would know and value “their own rights”…..and would be able “to discriminate the spirit of liberty from that of licentiousness”.

    The Common Core Standards will highlight those States/School Systems/ Schools that have a viable/productive Public Secondary System and those that do not so that corrective measures can be taken; if necessary via a complete reorganization of the Administrative and Instructional Staff.

    • Kids don’t know anything about a free Constitution because that’s not taught, either. Government and geography classes also aren’t taught. The 15 year old kid next door doesn’t even know who the VP is. I think knowing our country, its democracy, and our U.S. history should first be taught to every kid in America. Are kids even told where Yorktown is? There’s a lot of cleaning up that can be done in our schools and common core won’t resolve any of them.

    • Francis, do you work for CCSS proponents or have stock in their companies? Do you have children of your own and are any of them special needs? Are you a teacher in AZ? There are so many things wrong with Common Core (CCSS) I don’t know where to start. While assessments are helpful the current testing regime is developmentally inappropriate; especially for elementary school children and special needs children. Please go to YouTube and search for child psychologist, Dr. Megan Koschinck’s Notre Dame speech on the ills of CCSS. The primary architect of CCSS is a NON educator who also has a stake in College Board; conflict of interests? The experts he hired to validate CCSS; refused. Please Google Dr.Sandra Stotsky and James Milgran. It is untried, untested and unproved for validity. It was hastily rolled out so schools and teachers are not trained enough to administer it. It is costly; in my state $231 million to implement and there are costs undisclosed to the public. Most states do not have the technology or computer bandwidth to accommodate full implementation; not to mention the money. CCSS facilitates the collection and sharing private and sensitive student data with entities outside of school WITHOUT parental consent due to holes in FERPA. No parents were given a voice or vote in CCSS; neither were teachers. CCSS and PARCC testing are punitive to teachers by holding them accountable for scores which are affected by variables outside of education teachers cannot possible control. Those variables are poverty, domestic violence, poor healthcare and child abuse to name a few. Teacher cannot control or sometimes even know about these issues. Federal intrusion into state education was facilitated by an initiative led by Janet Napolitano and the NGA. Both Republicans and Democrats were complicit and well as state ed commissioners. The made it appear that the states agreed to the federal program CCSS which created a back door to a Constitutional violation. Janet Napolitano later went on to work in the Obama administration. Reward for a job well done? PARCC is the glue which holds CCSS together. With every failed school multiple charter schools open which is good for business. Ask yourself who benefits? More computers and aps, more parents signing away their parental rights to guide the education of their own, more data collected. The data itself is an industry. CCSS narrows curriculum and PARCC is still teach to the test assessing. It’s 8 weeks of testing and 8 weeks of lost quality instruction time. Now, add to that all the district testing and classroom curriculum testing. When do students actually get instruction? It’s cart before the horse education. It’s an assault on special needs children; nothing short of child abuse. I urge you to do your research. You can start by reading the works of Diane Ravitch, Yong Zhao, Steven Krashen and about a billion other true educators advocating for the rights of students and teachers. If you knew anything at all about education you would know that POVERTY has the greatest negative impact on learning. Address poverty and education will improve.

  7. There are so many things wrong with Common Core (CCSS) where do I begin? It’s primary architect is a non educator. The experts hired by the non educator refused to validate CCSS. Look up Dr. Sandra Stotsky and James Milgram. It is developmentally inappropriate for all children but especially for elementary children and special needs; look up Dr. Megan Koschnick’s Notre Dame speech about the ills of Common Core. CCSS was hastily conceived and rolled out. It’s untried, untested and unproven in its validity. It was rolled out before schools and teachers around the country received training. It is hugely expensive; in my state $231 million to implement and there are hidden costs undisclosed to the public. There is insufficient infrastructure to fully implement CCSS; computers and bigger band width are a problem. It ties student scores to teacher’s pay; it’s punitive and unfair to teachers. Teachers cannot control the variables outside of school which have a negative impact on testing; variable like poverty, poor healthcare, domestic violence in the home and child abuse. There are better ways to gauge teacher effectiveness. There are also better ways to assess student progress; for instance assessment by portfolio and grade span assessments. CCSS is federal intrusion into state education; unconstitutional. CCSS gained entrance into state ed by a back door created by an initiative led by Janet Napolitan and the NGA. Complicit Repulican and Democrat governors and state ed commissions agreed to accept CCSS unseen so it would appear that all states were in agreement with federal Common Core; therefore, it would not be a Constitutional violation. NO parents were ever given a voice or a vote. CCSS facilitates the collection and sharing of sensitive an private students data with entities outside of education WITHOUT parental consent via holes in FERPA. The data collected is big business and reduces children from human beings to numbers even further than CCSS already does. CCSS narrows curriculum and usurps valuable instruction time with PARCC testing; 8 weeks of testing. Now, add to that the numerous district test and regular classroom curriculum testing. When do students actually get instruction? It’s cart before the horse education. Follow the money; who is funding CCSS and who stands to benefit from closing down schools, meant to fail through PARCC, and opening numerous charters in their place? Who benefits from additional computers and apps across the country from burgeoning charter schools and online education? BTW, parents are forced to sign away their right to guide the education of their own by enrolling their children in a charter school. Schools which are run by non educators and businesses. When profit is attached to learning; students will lose every time. PARCC is the glue which holds CCSS together; REFUSE THE TEST, starve them for data and CCSS will go away. More than 50% of all American school children live in poverty. POVERTY IS THE GREATEST NEGATIVE IMPACT TO LEARNING. Address poverty and learning will improve. This can be accomplished by refusing PARCC, watching CCSS crumble and funneling that money into poverty stricken areas and schools. BTW, only 8 states remain in the Common Core Consortium; that speaks volumes to its validity and efficacy.

  8. why is there such a thing as common core? Well it starts with the local voters who FAIL to take control of the school systems and let the political elite (or so they think they are) to NOT do their DUTY as school bored members. They sluff off the requirements so they can build their own FOLLOWING which has nothing to do with the position. Just look at what we had in the past, burns, grredyhalfa himself and some others whose sole function was self aggrandizement. What do we have now? Well it appears just more of the same, princess greedyhalfa, sanchez and the 2 or 3 rubber stamp bored members. Now its not only these guys its the ones who dont have a clue and push their religiious or political agendas, examples are school bored in kansas, and then there is the groups from kalifornia!

    Parents have not taken interest in the school systems and just left them to be baby sitters, just so they can have a break with problem kids they cant control. No the PARENTS and VOTERS in general are to blame for this mess and once again are letting the government be their kids parents. But like anything else DO YOU realy want the GOVERNMENT running school systems. Just look how good a job they have done with welfare (out of control), now obama and medical scare and the list can go on.

    But as per usual the horses have left the barn and folks ae whining and crying about a monster they created and now cannot control. A start will be to elect qualified individual at all levels of government and the school boreds need to be the 1st targets of choice, followed by the local pol as in the bos, the ov town council and everything else that is possible.

    YOU allowed this to happen, now its up to YOU make corrections.

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