Why Common Core is doomed to fail

Common Core standards are doomed, writes Jay P. Greene. The political backlash “will undo or neuter Common Core.”

With the U.S. Education Department, D.C.-based reform groups and state school chiefs on board, Common Core supporters thought they’d won a “clear and total victory.” (He compares it to the early victories by opponents of gay marriage.)

(They) failed to consider how the more than 10,000 school districts, more than 3 million teachers, and the parents of almost 50 million students would react.  For standards to actually change practice, you need a lot of these folks on board. Otherwise Common Core, like most past standards, will just be a bunch of empty words in a document.

It’s too late for supporters to convince the public and to “love” the core, Greene writes. Reforms like the Common Core have a fatal flaw.

Trying to change the content and practice of the entire nation’s school system requires a top-down, direct, and definitive victory to get adopted.  If input and deliberation are sought, or decisions are truly decentralized, then it is too easy to block standards reforms, like Common Core.  

But the brute force and directness required for adopting national standards makes its effective implementation in a diverse, decentralized and democratic country impossible.

Common Core didn’t need to start as national standards. It’s a shame the feds got involved instead of letting the standards truly be voluntary. I think some states will drop the core, weaken the standards or fudge the tests. But if half-a-dozen states implement the standards  and tests well, that will be educational.

The Federalist Debate features Fordham’s Mike Petrilli and Heartland’s Joy Pullman discussing  the Common Core standards – without getting nasty.

Union leaders go cold on Common Core

Teachers’ union leaders have turned against Common Core standards, writes Tim Daly on the TNTP Blog.

National Education Association (NEA) president Dennis Van Roekel is demanding “course corrections” to keep NEA backing. Randi Weingarten, president of the American Federation of Teachers, also is criticizing Common Core implementation.

Whatever unions leaders say, this is not about “botched” implementation or the standards themselves, argues Daly.

“The unions routinely complain that states are moving too fast in transitioning to the new standards, but the truth is that educators have already had years to prepare. In New York, for instance, the standards were adopted in 2010—four years ago. . . If four years is not sufficient, how long is? Eight years?

“Politics and job protection” are the real issues, Daly writes.

Unions hoped that the occasion of Common Core (and their support for it) might present an opportunity to roll back or dilute teachers’ accountability for results. (Never mind that, even when students begin to be measured against tougher, Common Core-aligned tests, there’s little evidence to suggest a drop in scores will put teachers at any real risk.)

As it has become clearer that no such accountability holiday is forthcoming—and that educators, in addition to schools, will be on the hook for advancing students toward the standards—the union withdrawal has been a foregone conclusion.

“Unions were already fighting accountability measures associated with Common Core at the state and district level,”  he writes. Now the strained alliance with the Obama administration is over. “The unions are now taking aim at the administration’s central education policies.”

Lies, damned lies and the Common Core

Those politically biased (and silly) “Common Core” lessons you keep hearing about have nothing to do with the Common Core standards, writes Fordham’s Mike Petrilli in Lies, damned lies, and the Common Core.

EAG News published Common Core math question for sixth graders: Was the 2000 election ‘fair’?

Would you ever consider the question ‘Whom do you want to be president?’ to be asked of your third grader during a math class (or any class)?

. . . Or, how about a discussion on whether the 2000 presidential election resulted in a “fair” outcome? Or, what if the teacher for your sixth grader was advised to “be prepared” to discuss the “politically charged” 2000 election - all during math.

Common Core aligned, of course.

The Daily Caller’s Eric Owens complained: Common Core MATH lesson plans attack Reagan, list Lincoln’s religion as ‘liberal.’

Common Core lesson lists Abraham Lincoln as a liberal, reported Fox News.

The lesson about the 2000 election, posted on a math teachers’ web site, was copyrighted in 2008, two years before Common Core standards were written, writes Petrilli. A lesson declaring “Lincoln was a liberal” was copyrighted in 2009.  A site that listed Lincoln’s religion as “liberal” has nothing to do with Common Core.

Common Core produced standards, not lessons. Everybody and his dog is claiming their lessons and learning materials are “aligned” to the new standards. That doesn’t mean they are.

Teaching politics in Obamaland

In the last election season, Mindy Schiller asked her sixth-grade history class to develop a fictional candidate and create a commercial persuading classmates to vote for him (or her). Teaching at a Jewish day school in Barack Obama’s very liberal Hyde Park neighborhood, she wondered whether students might deviate from their parents’ beliefs, she writes in The American Thinker.

How to explain the concept of a graduated income tax to a 6th-grader? Badly-shaped pies scattered the whiteboard alongside percentages and proportions. . . . We tackled welfare, immigration, and national security . . .

Things got interesting when we discussed the candidates’ views on health insurance.  This I defined as putting money into a communal pot so that someday, if we need it, there will be enough money in that pot to help individuals through a difficult time.

“But where does that money come from?” asked one boy.

“From our salaries,” I told him. “Every time we get paid, there’s a deduction for insurance.”

Students were dubious about that  and even more critical of unemployment insurance. They worried about freeloaders.

 One girl got up and pointed at a leftover pie on the board.  “If you give away enough of your paycheck to welfare,” she said, “then pretty soon won’t you be the one who needs it?”

“Well,” I said, measuring my words, “that’s why some people are against raising taxes.  But others would argue that most of the taxes are paid by people who can afford them.”

The next day, they took an online quiz produced by the nonpartisan ProCon.org that asked a range of questions. “Should abortion remain legal?” “Should felons be allowed to vote?”

The quiz generated a student’s preference of candidate from a choice of five: Barack Obama, Mitt Romney, (Green) Jill Stein, (Libertarian) Gary Johnson, and (Constitution Party) Virgil Goode.

During class, several students learned their views were closest to Virgil Goode. Only one was closest to Obama. Schiller told them to finish at home, asking their parents for help understanding any tricky questions.

By the next day, all were Obama supporters.

My daughter, then 15, was indignant when I explained why money was missing from her very first paycheck (as an assistant Sunday school teacher.) “I worked for that money!” she said. “I earned that money!”

And now she’s an Obama voter.

School shows ‘I Pledge’ (to serve Obama) video

In a 2009 video called “I Pledge,” celebrities promise to do good works, “be the change” and support President Obama. A little more than three minutes in, Demi Moore says: “I pledge to be a servant to our president.” Hudson, Wisconsin parents complained when the video was shown to middle-school students on “Peace One Day.”

Middle School Principal Dan Koch apologized to students the next day.

“The ‘I Pledge’ video we viewed yesterday included some messages about serving President Barack Obama. . . . The video conveyed a message that people serve the presidency when in fact our elected officials serve the people.”

Peace One Day – Sept. 21 — is “an annual day of global unity, a day of intercultural cooperation on a scale that humanity has never known.”

Lawsuit attacks teachers’ union dues

A California lawsuit against teachers’ unions could have national implications, reports HechingerEd.

Ten non-union teachers and the Christian Educators Association are suing their local, state and national unions, alleging that the organizations are forcing them to pay to support political activities they do not agree with in violation of their first amendment rights.

The plaintiff’s lawyers are attempting to fast-track the case in the California courts by essentially eliminating the discovery phase and then appealing almost immediately to the U.S. Supreme Court. A decision in their favor could turn every state in the country into a right-to-work state, where public employees can opt out of joining a union.

Since 2010, three states – Indiana, Michigan and Wisconsin – have passed laws restricting labor rights.

In 24 states, including California, teachers and other public workers can opt out of unions but must pay “agency fees” to cover the union’s collective bargaining efforts. That eliminates “free riders” who could benefit from the union-negotiated contract without contributing to the cost.

Unions can’t charge non-members for political activity. But what’s political?

In the 2012-2013 school year, for instance, the California Teachers Association reported that a $27,860 “Ethnic Minority Early Identification Development program” and $18,079 “special publications” were related to collective bargaining. Also that year, the union hosted a Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual and Transgender (GLBT) Conference to “address issues involving GLBT educators, students and community” and found that nearly 87 percent of its cost – or $65,099 – was eligible to be paid for by agency fees.

. . . “Whatever you think about these programs, they are not related to collective bargaining,” said Terry Pell, president of the Center for Individual Rights, the right-leaning organization that filed the lawsuit on behalf of the plaintiffs.

Collective bargaining itself is a political activity, the complaint charges. For example, many teachers unions have opposed merit pay in contract negotiations, while individual teachers may support it.

A 2012 opinion by Justice Samuel Alito in Knox vs. Service Employees International Union, Local 1000 questioned agency fees. “Because a public sector union takes many positions during collective bargaining that have powerful political and civic consequences, the compulsory fees constitute a form of compelled speech and association that imposes a significant impingement on First Amendment rights,” Alito wrote for the majority.

 

Chicago teachers’ union targets mayor

Angry about school closings, the Chicago Teachers Union will seek to unseat Mayor Rahm Emanuel and other officials, reports the Chicago Tribune.

Asked at a news conference if she would consider a run for mayor, CTU President Karen Lewis quickly and loudly said, “No. Thank you.” But then she added, “Not yet.”

Union officials plan to register voters and recruit candidates for the city council and state legislature.

The Board of Education is expected to vote May 22 on the plan to close 53 elementary schools and one high school program.

“There is no democracy here,” Lewis said on Monday. “So, if the mayor and his hand-picked corporate school board will not listen to us, we must find those who will.”

Professor may lose job for Obama vote pledge

A math professor who told students to sign pledges to vote for President Obama’s re-election should be fired, President James Richey advised the Brevard Community College Board of Trustees.

Sharon Sweet, an associate professor of mathematics with tenure at the Florida college, is “guilty of electioneering, harassment, and incompetence,” concluded a report based on a three-month investigation.

Talking ’bout education — or not

ED in ’08, which tried to get presidential candidates to discuss education issues was a “successful failure,” argues Alexander Russo. (Most people consider it a plain old failure.) Advocates learned what works — and doesn’t work — in the political arena, Russo writes.

I don’t think K-12 education will be a key issue in this campaign. Obama is focusing on subsidized college loans to appeal to middle-class voters. Romney’s going to focus on jobs, jobs, jobs.

Obama’s willingness to fund vouchers in Washington, D.C. — a deal has been struck with the Republicans — is interesting. Urban blacks, who are less enthusiastic about Obama this time around, support school choice.

The Education Department denied Iowa’s request for a No Child Left Behind waiver because the state hasn’t approved a statewide system for evaluating teachers.  Iowa is a battleground state. That’s politically gutsy, writes Mike Petrilli. Or foolish.

Los Angeles shortens school year again

As Chicago lengthens the school day, Los Angeles keeps shortening the school year. A deal with the teachers union would cancel up to five instruction days in the coming school year and reduce teacher pay by 5 percent. “This would bring to 18 the number of school days cut over four years,” reports the Los Angeles Times.

There is, in fact, a strategic advantage for unions in taking furlough days and shortening the school year. The salary cuts that result are temporary; they expire after one year and must be renegotiated every year.

In the process, teachers avoid making permanent concessions on pension or health benefits. L.A. Unified employees still pay no monthly premiums for health insurance for themselves or family members. And teachers still receive raises based on experience or additional education.

Shortening the school year also “could generate the outrage needed to build public support for boosting state funding,” political analysts say.  “You’re not going to mobilize nearly as many people by warning them about the need to renegotiate pension and health benefits,” said Dan Schnur, director of the Jesse Unruh Institute of Politics at USC.

“Democratic lawmakers in Sacramento recommended legislation this week that would allow districts to cut up to three weeks off the next two school years — on top of the five days already approved, if voters fail to approve a tax initiative on the November ballot,” reports the Times. They’re going to kill puppies and kittens too.