Sunday, September 08, 2013

What is Happening in Education?


Challenge ‘Common Core’ at Your Own Peril
Charges dropped against jailed parent Robert Small — but the chilling message has been sent.
By Arnold Ahlert
Last Thursday in Towson, Maryland, concerned parent Robert Small was physically removed from a public forum for daring to interrupt Baltimore County Schools Superintendent Dallas Dance during the so-called “question-and-answer” portion of a school board meeting. Dance was only answering questions from parents previously submitted in writing. When Small stood up to tell the audience that he believed the introduction of the new Common Core curriculum would compromise education standards, he was approached by an off-duty police officer working as a security guard and forcibly removed from the auditorium. He was subsequently handcuffed, and charged with second-degree assault of a police officer. Though the charges have reportedly been dropped, the incident remains a shocking reminder of the oppressive nature of Common Core and the liberal educational establishment charged with enforcing it.
Here is a video of the incident. It clearly shows the security guard taking out a pair of handcuffs and flashing his badge before grabbing Small’s arm and dragging him towards the back of the room. As he is being taken out, Small says, “Don’t stand for this. You are sitting here like cattle. You have questions. [The panel members] don’t want to [answer questions] informally.”
Just before being removed from the room he asks far more important question. “Is this America?” he wonders.
It’s certainly what passes for America when those in authority want to control the flow of information. writer Ann Miller, who was present at the meeting, described the process as one in which Superintendent Dance “added insult to injury by screening, omitting, and editing parents’ questions,” further noting that those he chose to answer were “softball questions.”
Another parent in attendance sent columnist Michelle Malkin an email corroborating that assessment, insisting the meeting was little more than a rah-rah session touting the greatness of Common Core, followed by the pre-selected questions. “They were mostly softball questions of course and you could feel everyone’s frustration that no hard-hitting questions were being asked,” the writer explained. The description of Small and the incident? “He was just a dad trying to get some information about his children’s education and ended up in jail for not sitting down and shutting up. I was there and it was absolutely chilling to watch this man silenced.”
Chilling might be an understatement. Small was held until 3 a.m. after being charged. He faced a fine of $2,500 and up to 10 years in prison for the alleged assault, as well as a fine of $2,500 and up to six months in jail for disturbing a school operation. The police report contended Small attempted to push the officer away when he was first confronted.
On Friday, Small spoke with the Baltimore Sun. “Look, I am being manhandled and shut down because I asked inconvenient questions,” Small told the paper on Friday. “Why won’t they allow an open forum where there can be a debate? We are told to sit there and be lectured to about how great Common Core is.”
The “greatness” of Common Core deserves to be questioned at length, and those questions go far beyond Small’s characterization that the curriculum was lowering school standards and preparing students for junior college. Other critics of the program, currently being rolled out in 45 states and the District of Columbia, rightly say that the implementation of federal standards amounts to a federal attempt to seize control of public school education.
Common Core was created—and copyrighted—by two Washington, DC lobbying organizations. They received input from the National Governors Association Center for Best Practices (NGA) and the Council of Chief State School Officers (CCSSO), which are DC-based trade associations. Most of the creative work was implemented by ACHIEVE, Inc., a progressive non-profit group largely underwritten by uber leftist Bill Gates, via the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. The series of educational standards was put together without any input from state legislators, teachers, local school boards or parents. The program was sold to individual states coercively, with governors promised large sums of stimulus money to sign on and enticed by waivers relieving them of the requirements demanded by No Child Left Behind or threatened with a withholding of funds for resisting.
Even then, the federal government will only be paying for approximately half of the huge costs associated with implementing the program. Those costs include providing a computer to every child, and introducing another level of bureaucracy known as “master teachers.” The master teachers will be tasked with coaching, monitoring and assessing classroom teachers. Much of that effort is aimed at making sure teachers “teach the test,” because their jobs depend on it. After implementation, states and local school boards will bear the lion’s share of funding the program’s continuation.
The standards themselves are equally dubious. Cursive will no longer be taught. Euclidian geometry, emphasizing logic, will be replaced by a geometry “standard” so dubious, it was jettisoned by the Soviet Union 50 years ago. Rote memorization will be greatly reduced. Great literature will be eliminated in favor technical material, such as manuals, that enhance the computer-centric method stressed by Common Core. Moreover, an integral part of the progressive agenda with be served. Social justice will be stressed, along with redistributionist economic theories and radical environmentalism.
Yet the most disturbing aspect of the program by far is the reality that it paves the way for the acquisition of an unprecedented level of personal information by schools. The federal government is aiming to sell that info to interested third parties using a loophole in the 2009 stimulus bill as its vehicle. While the feds can’t create a national database of student information, the bill allows individual states to develop State Longitudinal Database Systems (SLDS), cataloguing data generated by Common Core testing. Moreover, in 2011 the federal Department of Education concluded that the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act was to be “reinterpreted” to allow the dissemination of that student data to virtually anyone without written parental consent. According to the conservative think tank the American Principles Project, this “data mining” is nothing less than “one part of a much broader plan by the federal government to track individuals from birth through their participation in the workforce.”
The extent of the data collection is highly disturbing. On page 44 of its February 2013 report, the U.S. Department of Education displayed photographs of “four parallel streams of affective sensors.” Once the program is fully implemented, those sensors will be used to “provide constant, parallel streams of data…used with data mining techniques and self-report measures to examine frustration, motivation/flow, confidence, boredom, and fatigue” of children. In short, they will become de facto lab rats.
It gets worse. Last year, 24 states and territories reached a deal to proceed with data mining in exchange for grants. “Personally Identifiable Information” will be collected from each student. that data includes: parents’ names, address, Social Security Number, date of birth, place of birth, mother’s maiden name, etc.
Almost unbelievably, the intrusion doesn’t stop there. A November 2010 report released by the Institute of Education Sciences as guidance for the aforementioned State Longitudinal Database Systems revealed that “Sensitive Information” will also be acquired from children. It is listed in the report as follows:
Political affiliations or beliefs of the student or parent;
Mental and psychological problems of the student or the student’s family;
Sex behavior or attitudes;
Illegal, anti-social, self-incriminating, and demeaning behavior;
Critical appraisals of other individuals with whom respondents have close family relationships;
Legally recognized privileged or analogous relationships, such as those of lawyers, physicians, and ministers;
Religious practices, affiliations, or beliefs of the student or the student’s parent; or
Income (other than that required by law to determine eligibility for participation in a program or for receiving financial assistance under such program).
The data mining of Sensitive Information ostensibly requires written parental consent. But as Mary Black, curriculum director for Freedom Project Education explains, that requirement can be circumvented. “I think they would get around parental consent through testing,” Black said, warning that academic exams could be tailored in such a manner as to extract the relevant data without parents’ knowledge. Black further contends that even if parents are successful in keeping their children away from such invasive questions, they could be “branded” and placed in a special category a result.
Yet getting parents on board may be even simpler than that. The extraction of such information could be heavily sold to unsuspecting parents under the auspices that it constitutes a critical component of their child’s educational development and success.
As of last March, nine states have embraced the data mining component of Common Core. Colorado, Delaware, Georgia, Illinois, Kentucky, Louisiana, Massachusetts, New York and North Carolina will be “pilot testing” the effort. Students’ personal information will then be sent to a database managed by inBloom, Inc., a private organization funded largely by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. Furthermore, as long as the school districts agree, inBloom, Inc. can disseminate the information to any company with whom they choose to share it.
Perhaps all of the above explains why Superintendent Dance required pre-submitted questions—and why Robert Small was hustled out of the meeting when it became apparent he had the potential to steer it dangerously “off-script.” It is a script largely designed to obscure the reality that the Common Core is not merely a one-size-fits-all effort to federalize education. It is arguably one of the most egregious invasions of personal privacy ever perpetrated by the federal government, in collaboration with duplicitous state officials and profit-hungry businesses.
In answer to Robert Small’s question, yes this is America—until Americans decide they’ve had enough of it.
Arnold was an op-ed columist with the NY Post for eight years, currently writing for and Arnold can be reached at:

The Common Core Curriculum Scam
Trojan Horse for mass indoctrination

The Glenn Beck Program: Common Core and Education
Common Core Curriculum: A Look Behind the Curtain of Hidden Language
By Rachel Alexander, CP Op-Ed Contributor
March 18, 2013
Conservatives are in an uproar over Common Core, an educational curriculum being forced upon the states by the Obama administration, which is scheduled to be mostly implemented this year in the 46 states that have adopted it. Common Core eliminates local control over K-12 curriculum in math and English, instead imposing a one-size-fits-all, top-down curriculum that will also apply to private schools and homeschoolers.
Superficially, it sounds good. It creates universal standards that supposedly educate all children for college. But along with the universal standards come a myriad of problems, which the administrators of Common Core are disingenuously denying. The American Principles Project released an analysis last year of Common Core, exposing the duplicitous language. Common Core describes itself as "internationally benchmarked," "robust," "aligned with college and work expectations," "rigorous," and "evidence-based." None of this is true.

Common Core proponents claim that it is not a federal mandate, instead using language like "state-led" and "voluntary." The Common Core website asserts, "The federal government was NOT involved in the development of the standards." It states that Common Core is not a national curriculum, but "a clear set of shared goals and expectations for what knowledge and skills will help our students succeed."
Diane Ravitch, a former assistant U.S. secretary of education who was appointed to office by both Clinton and George H.W. Bush, recently changed her mind about Common Cause. Ravitch now refutes claims by Obama and Common Core that the standards were created by the states and voluntarily adopted by them. She writes in The Washington Post, "They were developed by an organization called Achieve and the National Governors Association, both of which were generously funded by the Gates Foundation. There was minimal public engagement in the development of the Common Core. Their creation was neither grassroots nor did it emanate from the states." Instead, Common Core is being driven by policymakers in D.C.
Common Core is set up in such a way that it can hardly be called voluntary. The Obama administration's grant program offers "Race to the Top" federal educational grants – which come from stimulus funds - to states if their school systems adopt preferred Obama policies like Common Core. States that adopt Common Core receive higher "scoring" from the Obama administration in their grant applications. As a result of this coercion, only Nebraska, Alaska, Texas, Virginia and Minnesota have not adopted Common Core. Minnesota adopted the language arts standards but kept its own math standards.
There is no evidence that the curriculum works, and it will destroy innovation amongst the states. Ravitch writes, "We are a nation of guinea pigs, almost all trying an unknown new program at the same time...Would the Federal Drug Administration approve the use of a drug with no trials, no concern for possible harm or unintended consequences?" Jane Robbins, a senior fellow for the American Principles Project, writes, "Common Core has never been piloted. How can anyone say it is good for kids when it's not in place anywhere?" In fact, the results are coming in and they are the opposite. A principal in the Midwest told Ravitch that "his school piloted the Common Core assessments and the failure rate rocketed upwards, especially among the students with the highest
Stephanie Bell, a member of the Alabama State Board of Education, has been speaking up against the standards. She said the standards were founded on a flawed idea - which every child across America will "be on the same page at the same time." She explains, "Every child is created, and I thank the Lord for this, we're all created different," she said. Sadly, schools superintendents and administrators are only being given one-sided information from the promoters of Common Core.
The curriculum replaces the classics with government propaganda. According to the American Principles Project, "They de-emphasize the study of classic literature in favor of reading so-called 'informational texts,' such as government documents, court opinions, and technical manuals." Over half the reading materials in grades 6-12 are to consist of informational texts rather than classical literature. Historical texts like the Gettysburg Address are to be presented to students without context or explanation.
The math standards are equally dismal. Mathematics Professor R. James Milgram of Stanford University, the only mathematician on the Validation Committee, refused to sign off on the math standards, because they would put many students two years behind those of many high-achieving countries. For example, Algebra 1 would be taught in 9th grade, not 8th grade for many students, making calculus inaccessible to them in high school. The quality of the standards is low and not internationally benchmarked. Common Core denies this on its website as a "myth," but Professor Milgram's opposition contradicts this.
The Common Core website uses Orwellian language to deny that the curriculum tells teachers what to teach. The site claims that is a myth: "These standards will establish what students need to learn, but they will not dictate how teachers should teach." This is like saying, teachers will be required to teach sex education and evolution, but they can choose whether to teach it using assignments, movies, class discussion or reading.
The bloated program is underfunded. Local school administrators have already started complaining that the grants aren't enough to cover the requirements behind them. "We were spending a disproportionate amount of time following all the requirements," said Mike Johnson, the superintendent of Bexley schools in Ohio, which turned down the last half of a $100,000, four-year grant this school year. "It was costing us far more than that to implement all of the mandates."
Educators have expressed similar concerns for years about the costs of No Child Left Behind, a similar federal educational program that became law in 2002. In response, the Obama administration began offering waivers for states that could not afford to comply, moving them into the Elementary and Secondary Education Act instead. 44 states have requested waivers or been approved for one. It will be repeating an expensive history lesson to force another underfunded educational program on the states.
Common Core amasses large amounts of personal information about students. Michelle Malkin cites research by Joy Pullmann of the Heartland Institute, who discovered a report by the Department of Education revealing that Common Core's data mining includes "using cameras to judge facial expressions, an electronic seat that judges posture, a pressure-sensitive computer mouse and a biometric wrap on kids' wrists."
Schoolteacher Chasidy Miroff notes the corrupt part about Common Core, "The creators of the Common Core standards have now taken jobs with testing companies which stand to make millions of dollars developing tests based on the standards they created."
The only good news is Common Core will not have as much of an effect on the top, over-performing schools, which far exceed Common Core's standards. If those children are already performing well in math, they will be supposedly allowed to take Algebra 1 in 8th grade instead of 9th grade. But this begs the question; if a state or local school district is making great advances lately in English and math, why change a good thing?
States and localities should be allowed to innovate and figure out what works best for their students. When Florida adopted the most favorable climate for charter schools in the country, allowing for innovation from school to school, student test scores increased dramatically. Education policy expert Matthew Ladner, who studied the effects of the legislation in Florida for the Goldwater Institute, concluded, "In 1999, when these reforms were enacted, nearly half of Florida fourth-graders scored 'below basic' on the NAEP reading test, meaning that they could not read at a basic level. But by 2007, less than a decade after the education reforms took effect, 70 percent of Florida's fourth-graders scored basic or above. Florida's Hispanic students now have the second-highest statewide reading scores in the nation, and African-Americans score fourth-highest, when compared with their peers."
Six states have dropped out or are considering dropping out of Common Core. Nebraska has dropped out, and is conducting a study to compare its own educational standards to Common Core's. The Kansas House Committee is currently considering a bill to withdraw. Last week, the Oklahoma House passed House Bill 1989, which would prohibit the sharing of minors' school records without parental consent. Michelle Malkin notes that you can download a Common Core opt-out form to submit to your school district, courtesy of the group Truth in American Education.
Federal education mandates – whether disguised or not – don't work because everyone is unique. When proponents resort to Orwellian language to hide the truth about them, you know they must be bad for America.
Rachel is the editor for and an attorney.
''If we don't cut expensive things like Head Start, child nutrition programs, and teachers, what sort of future are we leaving for our children?'' —Stephen Colbert