Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Following the Common Core Money Trail

By Pat Murray

When you hear of Common Core, you often don't stop to think about the fact that without huge amounts of money Common Core would only be another plan to "fix" the American education system that remained on the drawing board. Either directly or indirectly, most of the funding for Common Core will come from taxpayers. You should know that there are other sources as well.

This appeared in the New York Times on May 21, 2011 and here are a few excerpts:

The National Governors Association and the Council of Chief State School Officers, which developed the standards, and Achieve Inc., a nonprofit organization coordinating the writing of tests aligned with the standards, have each received millions of dollars.

The Alliance for Excellent Education, another nonprofit organization, was paid $551,000 in 2009 “to grow support for the common core standards initiative,” according to the tax filings. The Fordham Institute got $959,000 to “review common core materials and develop supportive materials.” Scores of newspapers quoted Fordham’s president, Chester E. Finn Jr., praising the standards after their March 2010 release; most, including The New York Times, did not note the Gates connection.

In 2010, the foundation gave $500,000, to the Foundation for Educational Excellence, founded by Jeb Bush, a former governor of Florida.

Then a string of Gates-backed nonprofit groups worked to promote legislation across the country: at least 20 states, including New York, are now designing new evaluation systems.

“It’s easier to name which groups Gates doesn’t support than to list all of those they do, because it’s just so overwhelming,” noted Ken Libby, a graduate student who has pored over the foundation’s tax filings as part of his academic work.

In this 2011 article about Jeb Bush, note his organization Chief's for Change. Chiefs for Change is a program operated by the Foundation for Excellence in Education. Stephen Bowen, Commissioner of the Maine DOE is an active member and all in for Common Core. The nonprofit group received contributions of $2.9 million in 2009, from the foundations of Bill Gates and Eli Broad, among others including for-profit education technology companies.

You may not have heard of the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC). Sourcewatch states that in November 2011, the Gates Foundation made a $376,635 grant to the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), which it claims was "to educate and engage its membership on more efficient state budget approaches to drive greater student outcomes, as well as educate them on beneficial ways to recruit, retain, evaluate and compensate effective teaching based upon merit and achievement. Here is the odd thing. This grant was awarded to ALEC shortly after their Education Task Force overwhelmingly voted to approve an anti-Common Core sample bill to be distributed to the states. After receiving the grant, the Board of Directors tabled the recommendation and then killed it.

There has been a lot of money spread around since these articles first appeared so I'll have more on this later.

The old saying, "Money talks" still applies!

Pat Murray of Bradford, Maine is a founding member of NCCM. He is also a co-founder of the Maine Coalition for World Class Math and a former member of the school board in MSAD 64.

Friday, July 5, 2013

Common Core: Where Did It Come From?

Sheila K. Muehling | July 5 2013

As Common Core is rolled out in the 2013-14 school year, many people in the public are asking questions as to what the program is and where it came from. Parents, grandparents and conservative activists are calling for public forums with their state superintendents. Questions are being posed as to who developed this program and who wrote the standards the schools will be mandated to follow. Many are asking questions but few are getting answers.

In my previous post I referenced a letter written by Marc Tucker to Hillary Clinton. In that letter it was clear that many powerful people in the government, business and private sector believed that the federal government should be heavily involved in the education system in the United States. Many felt the states were not doing an adequate job and it was their mission to change it.

“The Tenth Amendment states the Constitution’s principal of federalism by providing that powers not granted to the federal government by the Constitution, nor prohibited to the States, are reserved to the States or the people.” This means States would shoulder the duties to administer the roads, education, public safety, justice and more, as decided by voters, state lawmakers and the state constitution. The Constitution did not grant any right by the federal government to control the education of our children leaving that entirely to the states and the people in each state.

...Read the rest of the story here

Wednesday, July 3, 2013

Glenn Beck on Common Core

On Glenn Beck’s show on May 30, 2013 he invited legislators and groups from around the country to discuss Common Core. Glenn’s stated goal is to have Common Core dead in America by the beginning of school year 2014-15.

The Glenn Beck Program - Air Date: Thursday, March 14, 2013

Monday, July 1, 2013

Common Core OpEd 2012 - Pat Murray

By Pat Murray

In 2007 I began to research elementary math programs because my son, a second grader at the time, was bringing back homework in math that seemed to be in a foreign language.

I soon learned that elementary and middle schools throughout the nation had been systematically converted from traditional math programs to the new fad of reform programs. Programs like Everyday Mathematics, Investigations in Number, Data and Space, Math Trailblazers, Connected Mathematics and Math Thematics that did not teach—and actually discouraged—the standard algorithms for arithmetic.

This expensive but futile exercise began in 1989 and has resulted in three generations of American K-12 students without the basic math skills they need in our society.

As a member of our local school board, I was on the Disciplinary Review Committee for four years. Almost without exception students brought before the committee for behavior issues were failing in math or English or both. I began asking the parents when they’d first noticed a change in their son or daughter’s attitude about school.

In a vast majority of cases, the problems began when the students started to fail in math. Due to the abstract nature and the lack of parents’ knowledge of the methods used in these new math programs, the parents were unable to assist their children with homework or explain even the basic fundamentals of the methods being taught to them. (This was one of the major complaints of parents nationwide.)

As students progressed through the grades, they fell further and further behind until many eventually dropped out of school. The students, who knew they needed three or four years of high school math to graduate, saw dropping out as their only option.

After years of complaints from parents and math experts, a number of studies were done, including an effort by the National Math Advisory Panel, a two-year study. Time and time again the results were the same. Math programs in the U.S. were “a mile wide and an inch deep.” The reform programs that had been pushed on schools imparted too much subject material without allowing students to master the basic skills needed to progress through the fundamental learning process of mathematics.

To successfully comprehend algebra, which has been deemed the benchmark to strive for, a student needs mastery of basic arithmetic. Every study indicated the need to return to teaching the standard algorithms. Even with all this evidence, there are still people today in policy rolls who think “instant recall” of math facts is a waste of time.

Even before the results of many studies were known, several states had begun to hire experts and conduct their own studies and research. In 2001, as Maine began to adopt reform math, California, Utah and Texas had just banned some of the programs.

Several more states were in the process of beginning the costly but necessary review process. States that had completed their reviews were revising their standards, calling for a return to teaching mastery of basic skills.

This is about when the National Governors Association (NGA) got together and decided to pool their resources so each state would not have to incur separate costs (a common-sense approach). Unfortunately, this is when things started to go wrong.

The NGA teamed up with the Council of Chief State School Officers (CCSSO), a logical and obvious partnership. The problem was—and still is—members of the CCSSO were the very same people who had pushed the reform math fads that got them in this situation in the first place.

Initially groups like Achieve and the Fordham Foundation were standing shoulder to shoulder with the opponents of reform math. Federal funding and funding from private sources, like textbook publisher Pearson and the Bill Gates Foundation, have dumped millions into promoting Common Core Standards.
With the birth of the Common Core State Standards Initiative, there was great optimism from every citizen group who had opposed reform math for over two decades.

Unfortunately, the CCSSO saw to it that the math standards originally proposed by their expert panel were watered down significantly. Even blatant errors and omissions were not corrected before the final product was revealed to the public and labeled “Finished.”

Then the federal Department of Education came to the rescue. Tony Bennett, Indiana State Superintendent of Schools and a supporter of Common Core Standards, said it best. “This administration has an insatiable appetite for federal overreach,” he said. “The federal government’s involvement in these standards is wrong.”
He contended that while the Common Core is a state-driven initiative, it has been hijacked by the power-hungry Obama administration.

To be eligible for Race to the Top funds, states must adopt Common Core State Standards, which are nationwide K-12 and “college and career” academic standards. Forty-five states, including Maine, have adopted the standards for math and English.

Now the U.S. Dept. of Education is the steward of National Standards, National Assessments, National Curriculum, Race to the Top extortion, No Child Left Behind Waiver bribery and with the latest round of Race to the Top funding, is attempting to usurp state authority by bribing individual school districts. Of course, the school districts will have to comply with the strings attached and take commands directly from Washington D.C.

The U.S. Department of Education has an annual budget that equals $83,000 dollars for every K-12 student in the United States, but gives us back $882 per student. Not a good rate of return.

Taxpayers have been completely left out of the process of paying for all of this. In Maine, we were told by a member of the state Dept. of Education at a public hearing that Common Core Standards would not cost anything! Then, after a fiscal report was requested by the Education Committee, the same spokesperson said, “School districts would be able to absorb the costs.”

States that have actually done a cost analysis have estimated the costs to be very high. California estimated it would cost $1.6 billion to implement Common Core Standards. Other states have estimates in the hundreds of millions. Washington State estimated $300 million.

The Pioneer Institute and American Principals Project did a comprehensive study and released a white paper  projecting that $16 billion will have to “be absorbed” by states and local districts.

Teacher training, new textbooks that align with Common Core Standards, infrastructure upgrades for computers, computer maintenance personnel, hardware and software for the assessments—these are areas that will need continued funding and the only area in which taxpayers will have a say. Local control? With Common Core, the only thing your local school board will have to decide is who will plow the parking lot in the winter.

Pat Murray of Bradford, Maine is co-founder of the Maine Coalition for World Class Math and a former member of the school board in MSAD 64.

This article was originally printed in the Maine Wire in 2012.