Sunday, February 15, 2015

He Speaks with Forked Tongue (Or How Can You Tell A Politician is Lying?)

On January 13, 2015, Senator Lamar Alexander, Chairman of the Senate Health, Education, Labor & Pensions Committee better known as the HELP committee (ironic, no?), laid out his plan to "fix" No Child Left Behind (NCLB).

Here are a few quotes from Senator Alexander's January 13, 2015 message along with my comments:

"No Child Left Behind has become unworkable because Congress failed to act for seven years." 
"Those original provisions are no longer workable. Those provisions, if strictly applied today, would be labelled as failing almost all of our 100 thousand public schools." 
Call me dumb but that sounds to me like Alexander admitted NCLB was a failure to begin with.
"That [nearly all public schools labeled as failing] would clearly be an unintended result of.....No Child Left Behind."
"Another unintended result of No Child Left Behind is that the Department [of Education] has become, in effect, a national school board." Remember this phrase, it will come in handy later on.
"The plan that I am suggesting here is to set realistic goals, keep the best portions of NCLB, and restore to the states and communities, the responsibility to decide whether schools and teachers are succeeding or failing."
"The HELP committee's draft working paper relies on, and respects, the 30 years of work by Governors and the Council of Chief State School Officers [Council of Chief State School Officers, you know, the copyright holder of the Common Core State Standards] to develop higher standards, better tests, stronger accountability systems, fair and effective teacher and principal evaluations that will allow parents and communities to know how children in our country's public schools are performing."

So, let you and me take a brief look-see at ‘‘Every Child Ready for College or Career Act of 2015’’ shall we?
(p. 5, line 23) "For any state desiring to receive a grant [Title I], the State education agency shall submit to the Secretary a plan..."

(p.6, line 12) "The Secretary shall...establish multidisciplinary peer review teams and appoint their members..."

(p.7, line 7) the peer review team shall "deem a state plan as approved unless the Secretary presents a body of...research that clearly demonstrates that the State's plan does not meet the requirements..."

(p.8, line 5) purpose of peer review "promote effective implementation of the challenging State academic standards..."

One has to seriously question if the peer review teams, whose members are selected by the Secretary of Education, will not end up as a national school board whose members are only accountable to the Secretary.
Wait just a minute, where have I heard of the phrase, "national school board" before?  Oh yes, it was one of the unintended results/consequences Sen. Alexander mentions in his speech.

(p.9, line 21) "The Secretary shall have the authority to disapprove a state plan..." 
This proves that the Secretary will be the one to determine what a state's standards, assessments, teacher evaluations, etc., will look like.  The Secretary can disapprove a plan over and over again until the state submits a plan that is exactly what the Secretary wants the plan to be. This will allow the Secretary to make sure that each state will have a "common" state plan.  How is this state control as promised by Senator Alexander?
(p.9, line 15) "If a State fails to meet any of the requirements of this section, then the Secretary may withhold funds for State administration under this part until the Secretary determines that the state has fulfilled those requirements."

(p. 99, line 7) "The Secretary shall make grants to States to... pay the costs of the development of the State assessments and standards... which may include the costs of working in voluntary partnerships with other States..."

(p. 117, line 12) "If not reached...or if the Secretary determines that a negotiated rulemaking process is unnecessary, the Secretary may propose a regulation..."

Essentially, the Secretary proposes a regulation, gives notice to Congress, allows for a comment period and then the Secretary makes it an official regulation.

(p. 163, line 2) "Each eligible entity receiving a grant... shall provide to the Secretary...student academic achievement data..."

Since the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA) was gutted a few years ago to allow schools and the federal government to share student data to anyone deemed an "authorized representative" without parental consent, a large amount of personal, individual student data will still be collected and shared with the US Dept of Ed under "Every Child Ready for College or Career Act of 2015."
It appears there is absolutely no power being taken away from the federal government. The phrase, "the Secretary shall" is contained over 60 times in this bill.

If Senator Alexander is so concerned with "unintended" results, how can he not see that this bill gives the federal government, through the Secretary of Education, unprecedented power in matters that should be left to state and local bodies; that this bill solidifies the creation of a national school board and solidifies Common Core?

And speaking of Common Core, Senator Alexander proudly stated that he is relying on the National Governor's Association and the Council for Chief State School Officers, THE VERY CREATORS AND COPYRIGHT HOLDERS OF THE COMMON CORE STATE STANDARDS, to help craft "Every Child Ready 5 for College or Career Act of 2015."

So just what, exactly, changes with this bill?

Does Senator Alexander think we, the American public, are that stupid to believe things will be different this time around?

Senator Alexander's words of January 13, 2015 do not match up with his actions via "Every Child Ready for College or Career Act of 2015."

Oh yeah, on January 13, 2015, the politician's lips were moving...

Saturday, June 21, 2014

How National Education Rankings Really Work

I've met many new friends in the fight against Common Core.  One such friend is Marla Baldwin, teacher from Calcasieu Parish.

Marla published an extraordinary post on Facebook yesterday. She has given me permission to share it here:

I’m getting really sick of the people who are acting like the "sky is falling" because Gov. Jindal used his executive power to start the process of exiting LA from CC/PARCC. Here's the comment that set me off tonight. "Oh great, Gov. Jindal wants Louisiana to stay at the bottom of the country in test score ranking."

First of all, governor Jindal has finally listened to the people of Louisiana rather than the corporations who stand to make money off of CC/PARCC or have already received $ from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation for their support.

Secondly, most people do not understand or have not thought about what the ranking of states by test scores actually mean. Here's a reminder about how the ranking of states really works: 50 states get ranked. That means that one will be #1 and one will be #50. Imagine having 50 Valedictorians in a graduating class. While all 50 valedictorians are wonderful, each could be ranked from #1 to #50. Is being valedictorian #50, really that big of a deal? If you rank, that's what you get, a top and a bottom, and lots of in-between.

Now let's think about the ranking of states. Let's say Massachusetts is #1 with a score of 87. Louisiana is NOT #50, but let's say we are with a score of 77. That's only a 10 point difference. It is NOT what most people think that #1 is 100 and #50 is a big fat 0. This is part of the manufactured crisis that reformers put out in the media, [emphasis added] because they know 1) people will believe the media at face value without really knowing what's going on & 2) the best way to get people to accept radical change like CC is to make them believe that the change is necessary.

AND if all states were to improve from CC (which is highly unlikely), wouldn't all states improve? Hence, #1 will still be #1 but maybe with a score of 89. #50 might improve to a whopping 79. What makes anybody think that Louisiana will suddenly jettison to the top of the country in test scores based on the implementation of CC?

People need to stop being so gullible and start really thinking about what's really going on. It's all about the $$$$$$$. It was NEVER about our children. Finally, no one even knows how valid these tests are and no one mentions the other factors that contribute to student achievement, such as poverty, crime, unemployment rates, parents imprisoned which vary from state to state.
So, there you have it. Louisiana school rankings might not be as bad as the media and education reformers would have you believe.  Who'da' thunk?

Monday, June 16, 2014

Just How Much Does Big Business Care About Your Child?

Not much, apparently.

From today's Arkansas Daily Independent:
The Common Core testing company, PARCC, knew it had major data security flaws in its computer-based field tests, administered by Pearson Testing this past spring to over 1 million students in 14 states, but they went ahead with the field test anyway.

Twelve days  before the PARCC field tests were due to begin, an email was sent to state leads that warned of both internal and external  data security flaws in the PARCC computerized tests that posed a security risk to student data.
Did you catch that?  PARCC and Pearson KNEW that there were flaws that posed a security risk to student data but that didn't stop them from administering the field tests! 

Read the entire article here.

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

We Will Lose the Story of US

Common Core standards rely nearly 100 percent on informational text versus historical text or classical literature. As one with a minor in history (emphasis on Louisiana history and the south in general) and one whose family roots run as far back as the 1700's when my ancestor, Henri Louis Ranson, became attorney general of Spanish Louisiana, I have to wonder how much Louisiana history will be contained in informational text. 

For decades, we have prided ourselves on our unique culture. We have spent billions of dollars on tourism ads and marketing our unique culture to the world. Our 8th graders have spent most of their year studying Louisiana history. It was a lesson most kids looked forward to as it involved field trips to the capitol, Avery Island, plantation homes, swamp tours, etc.

What is going to happen to all of that under Common Core? Even if one ceases to call it Common Core, workforce development and training do not take our culture into account.

The Common Core standards, or whatever they will end up being called, do not leave room for Louisiana history. Will our children cease to learn about Le Grand Dérangement? What about Hernando Desoto, the Louisiana Purchase, the numerous contributions Louisianians have made to the world, such as jazz?

Again, like it or not, teachers WILL teach to the test as their jobs, their livelihoods depend on their students scoring well; teachers will not spend time teaching materials that are NOT on the test. Pretty sure the national assessment tests will not ask about Evangeline or what took place at the Battle of New Orleans.

We are unique. Our culture, our people, our way of life are like no other in the world. Why do we want to educate our children to be like everyone else? Our children need to be proud of their exceptional heritage and proud of where they came from.

How can our children appreciate anything of Louisiana history if they are not going to be taught about it?

Monday, March 31, 2014

Can You Say Conflict of Interest?

I almost fell out of my chair in laughter when I read a story in today's Baton Rouge Business Report.  Here's a link to the little write-up that brought so much jocularity to my life earlier today.  

Go ahead and read the story first. If you don't, the rest will not make sense.

Here is some information that the Baton Rouge Business Report neglected to include in the article regarding some of the organizations that signed the statement referenced in the article:

It is a well-known fact that Bill Gates, via The Gates Foundation, has financed every aspect of Common Core to the tune of $2.3 billion

Stand for Children has received
$10,898,378 from The Gates Foundation as of 2013 to advocate for the Common Core State Standards. 

The Louisiana Association of Business and Industry (LABI) has a few interesting connections to the US Chamber of Commerce, the world's largest business federation.  For the record, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and its Institute for Competitive Workforce have received $6,053,918 from the Gates Foundation to advocate for the Common Core State Standards. 

In addition to a partnership between LABI and the US Chamber announced in January of this year, an overlooked, but very important, connection between the LABI and the US Chamber of Commerce is Maura Donahue.

Maura Donahue is a former past chair of the Board of Directors and of the Executive Committee of the U.S. Chamber and she currently serves on the Senior Council, the Executive Committee, and is chair of the Nominating Committee.

Maura Donahue also sits on the boards of LABI (Executive Committee, Vice President, Board of Directors), and Greater New Orleans Inc., two organizations that "signed off" on the statement issued today.

One other detail that I need to mention: Maura Donahue is the wife of Louisiana Senator Jack Donahue, who sits on the Louisiana Senate Education Committee.

I don't see a problem here at all, do you?

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Crisis of Confidence

Text of an email sent to the Louisiana Senate Education Committee members.

In last week’s Senate Education Committee meeting, Senator Walsworth made reference to the fact that there is a “trust” issue between parents and legislators, especially when debating student data privacy bills.

Senator Walsworth is correct: there is a trust issue. A major trust issue.  Here’s why:

  1. On December 7, 2010, Discovery Education (a subsidiary of Discovery Communications) announced: “the Louisiana Board of Elementary and Secondary Education officially adopted the Discovery Education Science Elementary Techbook for Louisiana and the Discovery Education Science Middle School Techbook for Louisiana.
  2. On November 30, 2010, just a few days prior to Discovery's announcement, Senator Appel purchased stock in Discovery Communications. (2010 Financial Disclosure Statement of Conrad Appel)  Discovery Education material is Common Core-aligned.
  3. Senator Appel purchased stock in Microsoft on June 4, 2012. (2012 Financial Disclosure Statement of Conrad Appel)
    1. On May 25, 2012, the Louisiana legislature approved the implementation of Common Core in Louisiana (HB 707, ACT 275);
    2. The 2012 Legislative Session adjourned June 4, 2012.

Some have suggested that Senator Appel’s purchase of Discovery Communications stock prior to the announcement of the adoption of textbooks and other digital materials by Discovery is tantamount to insider trading. I don’t know that I would go that far but one thing is for sure, his timing is suspicious and has raised more than a few eyebrows.

So how does Senator Appel’s June 4, 2012 purchase of Microsoft stock come into play?  The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation has spent more than $200 million to pay for every aspect of the Common Core: the writing, the reviews, the evaluation, the implementation, the promotion and advocacy by numerous groups across the nation.

I have a hard time believing that Bill Gates has given so much money out of the goodness of his heart and expects nothing in return. Bill Gates is a businessman, ergo he is all about the profit. Common Core and all that it entails (PARCC assessment testing, building out Louisiana’s data system to federal specifications) is all about technology: digital textbooks, digital assessments, digital monitoring of teachers for evaluation purposes, building databases to effectively measure student achievement and teacher performance, just to name a few.  That’s an awful lot of hardware and software that needs to be purchased, updated and upgraded regularly. Remember, Common Core is being implemented nationwide.

Microsoft, directly and through existing and newly created partnerships (See
February 20, 2014 PRNewsire announcement from Pearson and Common Core Partnership Reveals Growing Impact on Curriculahas the potential to make untold millions from the educational overhaul The Gates Foundation is funding in the United States.

With full implementation of Common Core, Senator Appel stands to monetarily benefit from his purchase of Microsoft stock; Senator Appel stands to monetarily benefit from his purchase of Discovery Communications stock.

R.S. 42:1101, Section B states:

It is essential to the proper operation of democratic government that elected officials and public employees be independent and impartial; that governmental decisions and policy be made in the proper channel of the governmental structure; that public office and employment not be used for private gain other than the remuneration provided by law; and that there be public confidence in the integrity of governmentThe attainment of one or more of these ends is impaired when a conflict exists between the private interests of an elected official or a public employee and his duties as such.  The public interest, therefore, requires that the law protect against such conflicts of interest and that it establish appropriate ethical standards with respect to the conduct of elected officials and public employees without creating unnecessary barriers to public service.  It is the purpose of this Chapter to implement these policies and objectives.

Again, I am not asserting that Senator Appel broke any laws; I am not asserting that Senator Appel violated the state Code of Ethics as there is no absolute proof that Senator Appel knowingly used his public office for private gain. However, his actions are suspect, his timing is suspect and, as a result, he has created a crisis of confidence at a time when parents are fighting for the rights and privacy of their children.

From this point forward, there will always be a cloud of suspicion surrounding any education bills sponsored or co-sponsored by Senator Appel.  His ties to Common Core-aligned companies, especially those that are so closely tied to data collection, make it impossible to trust Senator Appel’s motives for any legislation regarding Common Core. To that end, I respectfully request that any and all education bills and data privacy bills sponsored or co-sponsored by Senator Appel yet to be heard by the Senate Education Committee be involuntarily withdrawn immediately.

Sunday, November 24, 2013 we are

Decided to take it off Facebook.  I'm sure my friends appreciate my decision to do so.

Why I have sunk my teeth so deep into the Common Core States Standards (CCSS) issue?   My one and only is a 1.5 semesters away from graduating from LSU so why am I so concerned about what happens in Louisiana schools, right?

Well for starters, I have nieces and a nephew, two of whom are just beginning their schooling so I am concerned with what and how they will be taught.

Secondly, I view CCSS as just another cog in the wheel of the federal government gaining control over every aspect of our lives.

Too bad our state government doesn't see it this way. Guess the $$ signs have clouded their vision.

So, stick around.  I have a lot to say on the subject and as I continue to peel back the layers of this foul-smelling onion, I'm sure I'll have even more to say.