Saturday, August 31, 2013

Common Core makes for strange bedfellows

I never anticipated a time where I would be on the same side of an issue as Tom Uebbing.

For those unfamiliar with the gentleman, he is an outspoken, crusading member of the so-called Citizens for Community Values - tireless fighter of the "homosexual agenda" and the like.  Mr. Uebbing likes to write, and this was his take on Common Core, as published recently in the South Bend Tribune.
A compelling reason to oppose Common Core is the inherent national takeover of Indiana schools. The power that controls the standards controls the tests that measure how the standards are being met. The power that controls the tests controls the content of the curriculum to be tested. Given the federal government's zeal for promoting to our youth unmarried sex, contraception, abortion and homosexuality, Common Core can be used as a strategic pipeline for selling our youth those destructive practices and an entire worldview through social studies classes.

Passing a tax of 1 percent for some alleged good cause is likely to receive little public opposition. However, once the tax law is established, incrementally hiking the tax to even oppressive levels lulls an unwary public. Similarly, the establishment of Common Core opens the door to the tyranny of destructive ideologies coming from Washington and eliminates Hoosiers' ability to govern themselves and safeguard the minds and hearts of their children.

Who knew?

Sunday, August 18, 2013

On pimping Common Core

People who carefully follow the development of and controversy surrounding the Common Core Standards could be excused if they found a recent Viewpoint piece penned by Justin Ohlemiller on the topic a bit at odds with the world they know.

It’s important to understand that the program was launched by the National Governors Association and its concept endorsed by the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC).  Neither of these organizations could reasonably be characterized as “grassroots”.

The program was essentially reverse-engineered:  A desired result (at High School graduation) was determined, and various metrics adopted for the grade levels prior.  Indiana has only applied the new standards in Kindergarten and First Grade, but many educators have reported that the requirements are not age appropriate.

Andrea Neal (whose column appears in the Tribune) has characterized opposition to the standards in this way:  “The right is concerned about imposition of a “federal curriculum” and the loss of local control. The left fears “one size fits all” instruction that will turn teachers into widget makers whose primary purpose is to prepare students for testing, not learning.”

Though I think the characterization is true, it is also incomplete.  The program has many arbitrary requirements having to do with percent of time spent on (fill in the gap).  Though it claims otherwise, the program appears to favor rote memorization over critical thinking.  The curriculum would necessarily be narrowed to address the objectives.  There are other concerns as well.

But most importantly, the program is completely unproven.  It was finalized in 2012 and we have absolutely no data.

Yet it is being foisted upon the states by our national government as a replacement for the once ballyhooed, but clearly defective No Child Left Behind program.  And not only does the mandate carry the potential penalty of the loss of federal funding for non-compliance, it holds a provision even more odious: Teacher compensation and retention be tied to student test results – tests based upon the standards.

So who wins when an unproven program with extremely high stakes is implemented?  Testing companies, test preparation companies, private tutors and the like.

Mr. Ohlemiller didn’t mention any of this.  Sometimes the truth is inconvenient.

As mentioned at the end of his submission, Mr. Ohlemiller is the Executive Director of Stand for Children.  He also serves on the Board of Directors of Democrats For Education Reform.

As those who follow this topic carefully are aware, “reform” is code for a desire to replace public education with a system of for-profit and other private schools.  Dr. Diane Ravitch, former US 
Assistant Secretary of Education and renowned public education historian characterizes both groups as pro-privatization.  She has also noted that DFER was created by a group of hedge-fund managers.

And let’s not kid ourselves that Stand For Children is a “grassroots” organization.  How many grassroots organizations do you know that are sufficiently funded to be nation-wide and have paid Executive Directors in each state?

Mr Ohlemiller claims there is a groundswell of support for Common Core from citizens and organizations in Indiana, implying that the State Legislature is merely being obstructionist, rather than prudent.  Well I certainly haven’t heard any such clamor. Have you?

So his collection of odd anecdotes just represents him doing his job.  Well, me too, I guess.  I’m the father of a ten-year old public school student who wants her to be presented a well thought out curriculum.  I also want her teachers treated fairly and compensated justly.

Is it so crazy to suggest that maybe we should roll out the standards on a smaller scale and see how they work before we go all in?

Don Wheeler
Parents Across AmericaSouth Bend

What do you think it symbolizes?