Monday, September 16, 2013

Dr. Peg Luksik talks Common Core

What happens when you explain Common Core using state contracts and other documents? Watch this video by Dr. Peg Luksik, PhD as she skillfully presents her case. Dr Marguerite "Peg" Ann McKenna Luksik, a mother of six, is a conservative politician and Constitution Party activist in Pennsylvania. She is a 1976 magna cum laude graduate of Clarion University with a bachelor of science degree in special education and elementary education.

Now, lets go back to watch Peg Luksik on August 3, 1992. This video entitled "Who Controls The Children (schools dumb down kids deliberately)" is a MUST SEE! If you want to know about common core before there was a common core, and if you want to know about outcome-based or proficiency-based education, then you will want to listen carefully.

Friday, September 13, 2013

Common Core and Homeschoolers

By Heidi Sampson

“Common Core won’t affect me as a homeschooler, right?” Nothing could be further from the truth!

“I’m a homeschooler, so who cares what the public school is doing? This doesn’t affect me! It’s just another ridiculous idea in the public education’s revolving door of fads. This only reinforces the decision I’ve made and is all the more reason for me to homeschool.”

We as homeschoolers often have this attitude. If the law hasn’t changed affecting the way I homeschool, anything in the public arena with respect to education has nothing to do with me. This to a great extent has been true until now. Now we must stand up and pay attention…it does affect us!

For the past 20 years (actually much longer in all reality) there have been some major players who have been working diligently to create a ‘one size fits all’ system in education in order to level the playing field and establish a labor market system to develop human capital for the global workforce. I’m not making these words up. This is exactly what they think of our children. Check it out for yourself. They have methodically been putting pieces into place. In the last 6 or so years it has accelerated with federal laws being established and local laws or rules being altered. Then seemingly out of the blue we have Common Core State Standards in our schools. But the pieces of this have been around for all this time yet we as homeschoolers have been out of the scope of its reach. No more! They are fully aware of the homeschoolers and have every intention to get the data they want.

Homeschoolers MUST become educated about this stealth-like educational system that has been slipped into our state under the cover of darkness. It was designed to be slipped in this way and still the proponents know that most people are asleep and they are getting away with their destructive plan. The lies and layers of deception are manifold. It’s a very convoluted and sinister plan to completely lock our state and others into their plan. All their propaganda and catch-phrases are based on lies or half-truths at best. Children will be so incredibly limited, dumbed down and ultimately impacted on many levels; controlled by the testing and data collection that will follow them the rest of their lives.

The irony in their semantic deceptive words includes ‘The Race to the Top’, in all reality is a race to mediocrity. The ‘Rigor’ they use every time they refer to the CCSS, is anything but. ‘College Readiness’ is not speaking about a competitive 4 year university, but a non-selective Community College. ‘Career Readiness’ speaks to tracking students into a career path as early as middle school…they will tell the student what they should pursue and all their education (on a computer) will narrow their pathway. ‘High Standards’ will be reflected by students graduating with a 7th grade reading level and 2 years behind in the area of math.

Homeschoolers will be impacted at a variety of levels. If your child ever intends to go to college it will hit them with the entrance exams. PSAT’s, ACT, SAT’s are all being aligned to CC. Most curricula, including materials that homeschoolers use as well as the popular assessments used have been aligned to the Common Core Standards. If you have services for any special needs or any other issues, the schools are in their right to demand testing or documentation from you. There are public schools looking to make some money off of homeschoolers. They will provide wonderful services for just the homeschoolers. Why? If your child takes advantage of classes at the public school, they will be able to collect the much needed funds and much wanted data the US DOE ultimately wants. Now please understand not all those data collection pieces are in place yet, but by this time next year (June 2014) the Statewide Longitudinal Data System SLDS will be completed. I’ve seen the contract.

In the summer of 2013 a group of concerned parents, grandparents, legislators and citizens came together and formed a group, No Common Core Maine. We are mobilizing and have lots to do for anyone who wants to help. We are planning a rally in southern Maine Oct. 2nd and one in northern Maine Nov 14th.

Saturday, September 7, 2013

Sandra Stotsky: Common Core’s Invalid Validation Committee

On Monday, September 9, 2013, at the University of Notre Dame, Dr. Sandra Stotsky will present a white paper about Common Core’s validation committee at a conference entitled “The Changing Role of Education in America: Consequences of the Common Core.” It is posted below.

Common Core’s K-12 standards, it is regularly claimed, emerged from a state-led process in which experts and educators were well represented. But the people who wrote the standards did not represent the relevant stakeholders.  Nor were they qualified to draft standards intended to “transform instruction for every child.” And the Validation Committee (VC) that was created to put the seal of approval on the drafters’ work was useless if not misleading, both in its membership and in the procedures they had to follow.

I served as the English language arts (ELA) standards expert on that committee and will describe today some of the deficiencies in its make-up, procedures, and outcome. The lack of an authentic validation of Common Core’s so-called college-readiness standards (by a committee consisting largely of discipline-based higher education experts who actually teach freshmen and other undergraduates mathematics or English/humanities courses) before state boards of education voted to adopt these standards suggests their votes had no legal basis. In this paper, I set forth a case for declaring the votes by state boards of education to adopt Common Core’s standards null and void —and any tests based on them.

For many months after the Common Core State Standards Initiative (CCSSI) was launched in early 2009, the identities of the people drafting the “college- and career-readiness standards” were unknown to the public. CCSSI eventually (in July) revealed the names of the 24 members of the “Standards Development Work Group” (designated as developing these standards) in response to complaints from parent groups and others about the lack of transparency.

What did this Work Group look like? Focusing only on ELA, the make-up of the Work Group was quite astonishing: It included no English professors or high-school English teachers. How could legitimate ELA standards be created without the very two groups of educators who know the most about what students should and could be learning in secondary English classes?

CCSSI also released the names of individuals in a larger “Feedback Group.”  This group included one English professor and one high-school English teacher. But it was made clear that these people would have only an advisory role – final decisions would be made by the English-teacher-bereft Work Group. Indeed, Feedback Group members’ suggestions were frequently ignored, according to the one English professor on this group, without explanation. Because the Work Group labored in secret, without open meetings, sunshine-law minutes of meetings, or accessible public comment, its reasons for making the decisions it did are lost to history.

The lead ELA writers were David Coleman and Susan Pimentel, neither of whom had experience teaching English either in K-12 or at the college level. Nor had either of them ever published serious work on K-12 curriculum and instruction.  Neither had a reputation for scholarship or research; they were virtually unknown to the field of English language arts.  But they had been chosen to transform ELA education in the US.  Who recommended them and why, we still do not know.

In theory, the Validation Committee (VC) should have been the fail-safe mechanism for the standards. The VC consisted of about 29 members during 2009-2010.  Some were ex officio, others were recommended by the governor or commissioner of education of an individual state.  No more is known officially about the rationale for the individuals chosen for the VC.  Tellingly, the VC contained almost no experts on ELA standards; most were education professors and representatives of testing companies, from here and abroad. There was only one mathematician on the VC—R. James Milgram (there were several mathematics educators—people with doctorates in mathematics education and, in most cases, appointments in an education school).  I was the only nationally acknowledged expert on English language arts standards by virtue of my work in Massachusetts and for Achieve, Inc.’s American Diploma Project high school exit standards for ELA and subsequent backmapped standards for earlier grade levels.

As a condition of membership, all VC members had to agree to 10 conditions, among which were the following:
Ownership of the Common Core State Standards, including all drafts, copies, reviews, comments, and non-final versions (collectively, Common Core State Standards), shall reside solely and exclusively with the Council of Chief State School Officers (“CCSSO”) and the National Governors Association Center for Best Practices (“NGA Center”).
I agree to maintain the deliberations, discussions, and work of the Validation Committee, including the content of any draft or final documents, on a strictly confidential basis and shall not disclose or communicate any information related to the same, including in summary form, except within the membership of the Validation Committee and to CCSSO and the NGA Center.
As can be seen in the second condition listed above, members of the VC could never, then or in the future, discuss whether or not the VC discussed the meaning of college readiness or had any recommendations to offer on the matter.  The charge to the VC spelled out in the summer of 2009, before the grade-level mathematics standards were developed, was as follows:
1.   Review the process used to develop the college- and career-readiness standards and recommend improvements in that process. These recommendations will be used to inform the K-12 development process. 
2.   Validate the sufficiency of the evidence supporting each college- and career-readiness standard. Each member is asked to determine whether each standard has sufficient evidence to warrant its inclusion.  
3.   Add any standard that is not now included in the common core state standards that they feel should be included and provide the following evidence to support its inclusion: 1) evidence that the standard is essential to college and career success; and 2) evidence that the standard is internationally comparable.”
It quickly became clear that the VC existed as window-dressing; it was there to rubber-stamp, not improve, the standards.  As all members of the VC were requested to do, I wrote up a detailed critique of the College and Career Readiness Standards in English language arts in the September 2009 draft and critiques of drafts of the grade-level standards as they were made available in subsequent months. I sent my comments to the three lead standards writers [1] as well as to Common Core’s staff, to other members of the VC (until the VC was directed by the staff to send comments only to them for distribution), and to Commissioner Chester and the members of the Massachusetts Board of Education (as a fellow member). At no time did I receive replies to my comments or even queries from the CCSSI staff, the standards writers, or Commissioner Chester and fellow board members.

In a private conversation at the end of November, 2009, I was asked by Chris Minnich, a CCSSI staff member, if I would be willing to work on the standards during December with Susan Pimentel, described to me as the lead ELA standards writer.  I had worked with her (working for StandardsWork) on the 2008 Texas English language arts standards and, earlier, on other standards projects. I was told that Pimentel made the final decisions on the ELA standards.  I agreed to spend about two weeks in Washington, DC working on the ELA standards pro bono with Pimentel if it was made clear that agreed-upon revisions would not be changed by unknown others before going out for comment to other members of the VC and, eventually, the public. A week after sending to Minnich and Pimentel a list of the kind of changes I thought needed to be made to the November 2009 draft before we began to work together, I received a “Dear John” letter from Chris Minnich. He thanked me for my comments and indicated that my suggestions would be considered along with those from 50 states and that I would hear from the staff sometime in January.

In the second week of January 2010, a “confidential draft” was sent out to state departments of education in advance of their submitting an application on January 19 for Race to the Top (RttT) funds. (About 18 state applications, including the Bay State’s, were prepared by professional grant writers chosen and paid for by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation—at roughly $250,000 each.)  A few states included the watermarked confidential draft in their application material and posted the whole application on their department of education’s website (in some cases required by law), so it was no longer confidential.  This draft contained none of the kinds of revisions I had suggested in my December e-mail to Minnich and Pimentel.  Over the next six months, the Pioneer Institute published my analyses of that January draft and succeeding drafts, including the final June 2 version.  I repeatedly pointed out serious flaws in the document, but at no time did the lead ELA standards writers communicate with me (despite requests for a private discussion) or provide an explanation of the organizing categories for the standards and the focus on skills, not literary/historical content.

One aspect of the ELA standards that remained untouchable despite the consistent criticisms I sent to the standards writers, to those in charge of the VC, to the Massachusetts board of education, to the Massachusetts commissioner of education, to the media, and to the public at large was David Coleman’s idea that nonfiction or informational texts should occupy at least half of the readings in every English class, to the detriment of classic literature and of literary study more broadly speaking. Even though all the historical and empirical evidence weighed against this concept, this idea was apparently set in stone.

The deadline for producing a good draft of the college-readiness and grade-level ELA (and mathematics) standards was before January 19, 2010, the date the U.S. Department of Education had set for state applications to indicate a commitment to adopting the standards to qualify for Race to the Top grants. But the draft sent to state departments of education in early January was so poorly written and content-deficient that CCSSI had to delay releasing a public comment draft until March. The language in the March version had been cleaned up somewhat, but the draft was not much better in organization or substance – the result of unqualified drafters working with undue haste and untouchable premises.

None of the public feedback to the March draft has ever been made available. The final version released in June 2010 contained most of the problems apparent in the first draft: lack of rigor (especially in the secondary standards), minimal content, lack of international benchmarking, lack of research support.
In February 2010, I and presumably all other members of the VC received a “letter of certification” from the CCSSI staff for signing off on Common Core’s standards (even though the public comment draft wasn’t released until March 2010 and the final version wasn’t released until June). The original charge to the VC had been reduced in an unclear manner by unidentified individuals to just the first two and least important of the three bullets mentioned above.  Culmination of participation on the committee was reduced to signing or not signing a letter by the end of May 2010 asserting that the standards [2] were:

  1. Reflective of the core knowledge and skills in ELA and mathematics that students need to be college- and career-ready.
  2. Appropriate in terms of their level of clarity and specificity. 
  3. Comparable to the expectations of other leading nations.
  4. Informed by available research or evidence
  5. The result of processes that reflect best practices for standards development.
  6. A solid starting point for adoption of cross-state common core standards.
  7. A sound basis for eventual development of standards-based assessments.

The VC members who signed the letter were listed in the brief official report on the VC (since committee work was confidential, there was little the rapporteur could report), while the five members who did not sign off were not listed as such, nor their reasons mentioned.  Stotsky’s letter explaining why she could not sign off can be viewed here, [3] and Milgram’s letter can be viewed here. [4] 

This was the “transparent, state-led” process that resulted in the Common Core standards. The standards were created by people who wanted a “Validation Committee” in name only. An invalid process, endorsed by an invalid Validation Committee, resulted not surprisingly in invalid standards.

States need to reconsider their hasty decisions to adopt this pig in an academic poke for more than substantive reasons.  There has been no validation of Common Core’s standards by a public process, nor any validation of its college-readiness level in either mathematics or English language arts by the relevant higher education faculty in this country.  And there is nothing in the history and membership of the VC to suggest that the public should place confidence in the CCSSI or the U.S. Department of Education to convene committees of experts from the relevant disciplines in higher education in this country and elsewhere to validate Common Core’s college-readiness level.  It is possible to consider the original vote by state boards of education to adopt Common Core’s standards null and void, regardless of whether a state board of education now chooses to recall its earlier vote. Any tests based on these invalid standards are also invalid, by definition.


[1] The lead ELA standards writers listed in 2009 were David Coleman, James Patterson, and Susan Pimentel.
[2] Keep in mind that the final version was not released until June 2, 2010 and many changes were made behind the scenes to the public comment draft released in March 2010.

Friday, September 6, 2013

NCCM Response to BDN Editorial

When BDN published their opinion last week entitled "Don’t repeal Maine’seducation standards" and referred to us by name, we asked for the opportunity to respond to their points. They limited our reply to several paragraphs. This is our actual response:

Most Maine citizens aren’t aware of the new English Language Arts (ELA) and Math educational standards that are being implemented in our K-12 schools. Perhaps it is because even though they are called Common Core State Standards (CCSS) they were never referred to as such in 2011 when LD 12 was passed. There have been and will be substantial costs associated with the adoption of CCSS citizens are not aware of that either. Costs for training teachers and administrators, paying national consultants, purchasing new textbooks aligned with CCSS and costs for technology upgrades to meet the New National Testing have simply not been made public. In fact no credible fiscal study was done before we committed to these new standards with the associated testing and data collection on students and teachers.

The BDN states, “A potentially harmful fight is brewing” over the new standards. Since when is it a “harmful fight” to provide the citizens of Maine pros and cons of an issue that is critical to the education their children and grandchildren?

BDN also stated, “Maine residents should ignore petitions that would put a question to voters in November 2014 about whether to repeal the academic benchmarks by which public school students are taught.” Reading this statement, we could not believe we were reading the opinion of a statewide newspaper that supposedly stands by the fundamental principal of the First Amendment – Freedom of Speech. The public discussion on CCSS and all of its implications has not yet taken place in Maine.

The opinion piece further states, “The Common Core replaced a patchwork of state expectations with standards that are research-based and set to international benchmarks.” That simply is not true. The standards have never been tested and utilize unproven methods of instruction. The facts show the CCSS standards to be mediocre in rigor and below what high achieving nations expect of their students.

Prof. James Milgram, the only mathematician on Common Core Validation Committee and one of seven who refused to sign off on the standards, said they would leave our kids at least two years behind. Prof. Sandra Stotsky of the University of Arkansas, the only literacy expert on the Common Core Validation Committee, refused to sign as well. The Common Core Language Arts standards, she said, "will lead to a lower level of literacy for all high school students . . . [the Common Core's] grade-level standards are mostly language skill sets, with little substantive content." So where is the proof that the standards have been internationally benchmarked?

The Thomas B. Fordham Foundation, a group working with the writers of CCSS, did a study in 2010 comparing the existing state standards to those of CCSS in all 50 states. Their own study identified nine states with superior standards in math and ELA. These standards had been in place for years with proven results. These proven standards were ignored in favor of CCSS.

CCSS were actually initiated by private interests in Washington DC and not by state lawmakers. Both the National Governors Association (NGA) and the Council of Chief State School Officers (CCSSO) are DC-based trade associations. In fact, most of the work was done by Achieve, Inc., a non-profit DC group which has received much of its funding from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. Gates has also provided funds to both the NGA and CCSSO in addition to funds for major education organizations and think tanks for the express purpose of advancing CCSS.

Parents are given the illusion that this effort was state-led but that is not the case. Neither legislators nor elected officials played any significant role in developing the scheme, and in fact, states had to agree to the standards in 2009, before the standards were even published to be eligible for a chance to receive federal tax dollars. Gov. Paul LePage has rightly pulled the state out of membership in the NGA because he Maine is not getting enough benefit for its taxpayer funded membership fee.

It is important to understand these new CCSS standards are copyrighted and states had to agree to adopt them100%. Our State Board of Education, the Maine Department of Education and our local school boards cannot change anything about them. We can add 15% to them but what does that actually mean? Who will test that 15%?

How will parents know if students have mastered a standard? Federally funded national testing regimes will ensure that students will have to submit to some elements of Common Core whether they want to or not. Maine has joined the Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium (SBAC) for testing. Although BDN claims that the Common Core does not dictate curriculum, SBAC admits that these standards and assessments will create content. Those who have invested in CCSS realize that standards plus assessment (high-stakes testing) will drive curriculum.

While supporters of CCSS point to countries with national standards that do better than the United States academically as evidence of why the United States should have them, the vast majority of nations where students perform more poorly than Americans have nationalized education, too. Top-down, one-size-fits-all education will not improve outcomes.

There are those who are dismissive of the government overreach problem. Through the years, considerable barriers have been enacted by Congress to prevent the federal government from involving itself in decisions of the content of elementary and secondary school programs. CCSS is an end-run around those barriers. We need only look at the results of the last forty years of increased government intrusion into our public education system to see why. Increased spending and forcing new and costly regulations upon our local schools has moved the bar down in every category of results. Parents should have a straight line of accountability to those who are making the decisions. The state legislature, which is directly accountable to the citizens of Maine, is the appropriate place for those decisions to be made, free from any pressure from the U.S. Department of Education.

Maine’s state student and teacher data collection system, known as the “P-20 Longitudinal Data System”, is operational and being expanded. Language in the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA) was changed by the U.S. Department of Education to allow the collection of student data without parental consent and sharing of this information with other federal and state agencies, private companies, vendors and other interested parties.

It is the advancement of data technologies that make it feasible to fulfill the requirements that a proficiency-based system will impose. This will be a costly adventure. BDN makes a point of saying that proficiency-based learning is championed by Republicans, Democrats and independents alike. It is essential to remember it is also opposed by those same groups. There are downsides in trying to equalize outcomes for all, hurting top performing students the most. In order to make Common Core work, you first have to hold down the high achievers to the level of the lowest common denominator.

We are not trying to move backwards. We want standards that have been already proven to be effective. We want to protect parents’ rights to be able to work with local school boards to adopt the best cost-effective policies, curriculum and standards It is never a bad time to get rid of bad policies. NCCM has nothing to gain politically or financially.

Recently WABI –TV conducted an online poll with the question: “Do you think Maine’s Common Core Standards should be repealed? 85% agreed that they should.

When Mainers learn more about our new Common Core, high-stakes testing and data collection, they will want a voice and choice!

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Statement from NCCM on Governor LePage's Executive Order

Gov. Paul LePage signed an executive order Wednesday regarding Maine schools local control and student privacy.

"We appreciate the governor taking this initiative [Executive Order] to enforce local control of education, ensure student privacy and to encourage high quality standards. This comes on the heels of Commissioner Bowen’s departure which can now provide the opportunity to fully examine all of the issues connected with Common Core. Our desire is genuine high quality education for our children."


WHEREAS, Under Maine law, the state’s ultimate goal with regard to its schools is that they will “enable today’s students to gain the knowledge and skills necessary for post secondary education, career, citizenship and military”; and

WHEREAS, rigorous state standards detailing expected learning outcomes for students are essential if the state is to meet that goal; and

WHEREAS, The adoption of state standards for learning outcomes should be done in an open, transparent way that includes ample opportunity for public review and comment, and

WHEREAS, The federal government has no constitutional authority to set learning standards in Maine or any other state, nor determine how children in the State of Maine or any other state will be educated; and

WHEREAS, The Maine Constitution specifically grants to local governments responsibility for “the support and maintenance of public schools”; and

WHEREAS, It is therefore the right of local school units, not the state, to develop and or adopt curricula and instructional approaches consistent with state learning standards; and

WHEREAS, The protection of student and family privacy is a fundamental right of all Maine people;

NOW, THEREFORE, I, Paul R. LePage, Governor of the State of Maine, hereby order as follows:

That the Department of Education shall not adopt any educational standards, curricula or instructional approaches that may be mandated by the federal government.

That the Department of Education shall not apply for any federal grant that requires, as a condition of application, the adoption of any federally-developed standards, curricula or instructional approaches.

That, consistent with state statute, the Department of Education may provide guidance and technical assistance to schools, but may not require the adoption of specific curricula or instructional approaches.

That any amending of Maine’s Learning Results standards must be done through a transparent public rulemaking process that allows Maine people ample time and opportunity to review proposed changes and provide feedback.Specifically, the Department of Education shall ensure that any amendment to the Learning Results be posted for public review and comment for at least 60 days. Any comments received during this notice period shall be made public prior to final adoption of any changes.

That the collection of student data by school districts and the state Department of Education must be done in a manner consistent with state and federal laws intended to protect student privacy. No personally identifiable data on students and/or their families’ religion, political party affiliation, psychometric data, biometric information, and/or voting history shall be collected, tracked, housed, reported or shared with the federal government, nor provided to private vendors for the purposes of marketing or business development.

The effective date of the Executive Order is September 4, 2013.