Friday, May 02, 2014

GOP's Common Core Re-brand Hustle

By Michelle Malkin

This weekend on "Fox News Sunday," anchor Chris Wallace credited his guest, Republican Indiana Gov. Mike Pence, with leading the nation as the "first state to fall out of the Common Core national education standards." If only it were true.

Wallace didn't do his homework. And presidential aspirant Pence was too busy daydreaming about 2016 to correct him.

Reality check: Last week, Pence faced the anger of hundreds of Indiana parents, educators and activists at a public Indiana Business Roundtable meeting to discuss his phony charade. The protesters openly booed Pence's derision of critics as out-of-staters and elitists. They roared their disapproval when he claimed that his "new" standards were superior and homegrown.

Indiana mom Heather Crossin, one of the earliest and strongest grassroots voices against the federalized standards/textbook/testing racket, exposed the truth: "The proposed standards are simply a cloned version of the Common Core re-branded."

Indiana mom Erin Tuttle, also a leading Hoosier activist for true academic excellence, reported that state officials had failed to prove that their "new" scheme included "internationally and nationally benchmarked" standards as required by state law.

Indiana native and Hillsdale College professor Terrence Moore, who reviewed the "new" English standards, concluded that if the proposal were turned into him as a college paper, he would give it an F and write "plagiarism" across the top. The "new" regime recycles old Common Core ideology, eschews phonics and fails to define "what constitutes good reading and good literature."

Indiana native, Stanford University emeritus math professor and former member of the Common Core math standards validation committee James Milgram blasted the "new" Indiana math standards supported by Pence and the state school board. He begged the state to ask qualified mathematicians to revise the standards. He was ignored. Milgram revealed that "there are even more errors in the current document than were present in (an earlier draft). The standards for these courses are completely disorganized and, mathematically speaking, can only be described as bizarre."

Indiana mom and vigilant education analyst Joy Pullmann added: "Pence's decision is all the more foolish because Indiana has been renowned as one of the two or three states with the highest standards in the nation. ...Now Indiana has even worse standards than the Common Core Hoosier mothers and fathers spent three exhausting years attempting to defenestrate."

It wasn't just opponents who spotlighted the "new" Indiana standards' eerie echoes of the federal Common Core program.

A pro-Common Core educator in Indiana, Tami Hicks, counseled her colleagues: "(D)on't stop your work on CCSS (Common Core State Standards) — they are just getting a new name. ... If you compare the new drafted standards to the CCSS, they will see that they are practically (or even exactly) the same."

A spokesman from Pence's office sent me materials purporting to refute the critics. But the documents he sent revealed a fascinating tidbit: Common Core architects have generously waived copyright claims on their materials, will not sue Indiana recyclers and "did not see any problems with Indiana using excerpts or portions of the Common Core State Standards within Indiana's standards." How convenient.

Pence's friend Republican Utah Gov. Gary Herbert also inadvertently spilled the beans on the Rename That Common Core Tune game. "I've talked to Gov. Pence about what they're doing there," he told a local reporter. "In essence, they're creating what's called the Indiana Core. It's not the Common Core. It's the Indiana Core, but their standards are almost mirroring exactly what's commonly referred to as the Common Core standards. So they're just doing it in a different way, which is what we've already been doing in Utah."

GOP Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer pulled a similar move, issuing an executive order last fall to whitewash "Common Core" from state government documents. She replaced the name with "Arizona's College and Career Ready Standards." But the old racket is still in place. And Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation-funded lobbyists from Achieve Inc. and the Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers are still in the driver's seat.

This retreat-and-rebrand strategy was explicitly championed by Fed Ed advocate and former Arkansas GOP Gov. Mike Huckabee. Huckabee told his allies at the Gates Foundation-funded Council of Chief State School Officers earlier this year that since Common Core had become "toxic," the group needed to "re-brand it, refocus it, but don't retreat."

While disingenuous Republican governors tout their "withdrawals" from Common Core, it's more of the same old, same old: Diluted standards, tied to testing/textbook/technology cash cows, manufactured a top-down cadre of big-government D.C. education lobbyists and big-business interests, in violation of local control and state sovereignty.


Australian Education Minister wants more  private education at the top levels

Australia has a huge private sector at the High School level but not much at the university level

Education Minister Christopher Pyne has given his strongest sign yet the Abbott government will extend taxpayer funds to for-profit universities in a bid to cultivate a US-style college system in Australia.

In a speech to a London think tank on Monday night, Mr Pyne said a new wave of deregulation was needed to stop Australia's universities falling behind the rest of the world.

The speech follows the release two weeks ago of the Kemp-Norton review, which recommended federal funding for private universities, TAFEs and other non-university higher education providers.

Although Universities Australia initially warned the idea represents a "huge gamble" with potentially "devastating consequences", some of Australia's most influential vice-chancellors support the proposal. They include the University of Melbourne's Glyn Davis, the University of NSW's Fred Hilmer and La Trobe University's John Dewar.

TAFEs and the private education sector have also welcomed the review.

While not announcing the government's official response to the review, Mr Pyne strongly hinted the government would adopt the recommendation in the May budget.

"I can assure you unreservedly that the Coalition government will continue to take steps to set higher education providers free, provide them with more autonomy and challenge them to map out their futures according to their strengths," he said.

"We are at risk of being left behind. We need a renewed ambition and it must be bold … Our answer will be, above all, to set our universities free."

Regulation by the Tertiary Education Quality and Standards Agency would ensure that quality is maintained, he said.

Mr Pyne said he was alarmed only one Australian university, the University of Melbourne, is in the top 50 in the world, according to the latest Times Higher Education World Reputation Rankings. While seven Australian universities went backwards in the rankings last year, Asian universities are storming up the leader board. Eight of the top 10 were US universities.

"We have much to learn about universities competing for students and focusing on our students," he said. "Not least, we have much to learn about this from our friends in the United States."

Mr Pyne said the US college system offers students more choice, encourages competition and foments a culture of philanthropy.

Mr Pyne did not outline how the government would fund the expansion of Commonwealth-supported places to the private sector. One option would be backing the elite universities' call for a deregulation of university fees so students in high-quality, high-income degrees pay more for their education. Another would be reforming the student loans scheme to recover outstanding debts from students who move overseas or who die, as recommended by the Grattan Institute.

Professor Dewar said: "I don’t think the sector has anything to fear from more competition in the market."

But he said universities – which conduct research as well as teach – should receive more government funding than teaching-only colleges.

"There should be a recognition that universities have costs above and beyond our counterparts in the private sector," he said.


Will Dunbar Rise Again?

Will it become an academically selective school again?

Dunbar High School in Washington is becoming a controversial issue again – and the controversy that is beginning to develop has implications for American education well beyond the District of Columbia.

There has not been much controversy about Dunbar High School for a long time. Since sometime in the late 1950s, it has been just one more ghetto school with an abysmal academic record – and that has been too common to be controversial.

What is different about the history of Dunbar is that, from its founding in 1870 as the first public high school in the country for black students, until the mid 1950s, it was an outstanding academic success.

As far back as 1899, when tests were given in Washington’s four academic high schools at that time, the black high school scored higher than two of the three white high schools. That was the M Street School that was renamed Dunbar High School in 1916.

Today, more than a hundred years later, it would be considered Utopian to even set such a goal, much less expect it to happen. In 1954, the Supreme Court declared that separate schools were inherently unequal, no doubt in ignorance of Dunbar, which was within walking distance of the site of that sweeping pronouncement.

The test results in 1899 were no isolated fluke. Over the next several decades, four-fifths of Dunbar graduates went on to college – far more than for either black or white high school graduates in the country at large during that era.

Most went to inexpensive local colleges but, among those who went on to Ivy League and other elite colleges, a significant number graduated Phi Beta Kappa. At one time, Dunbar graduates could get into Dartmouth or Harvard without having to take an entrance exam.

That was when Dunbar was controversial.

Some in the black community were proud and grateful that there was such a school where any black youngster in the city, no matter how poor, could go to get an education that would equip him or her to go on to college anywhere and compete with anybody.

But others decried Dunbar as an “elitist” school with academic standards that many black youngsters could not meet and a set of attitudes and behavior that some in today’s world would call “acting white.”

Nor was this accidental. A handbook issued to students entering Dunbar prescribed behavioral standards and values, not just for the school but for life outside as well. Without saying so, those standards and values were an implicit repudiation of the way many poorer and less educated blacks behaved.

It would be hard to exaggerate the hostility, and even bitterness, toward Dunbar by some of those who never went there – and who saw, and resented, the differences in attitudes and behavior between Dunbar students and themselves.

The late William Raspberry once wrote in his Washington Post column that you could turn any social gathering of local blacks into warring camps just by saying the one word “Dunbar.”

What destroyed more than 80 years of academic achievement at Dunbar High School, virtually overnight, was changing it from a selective school, to which black youngsters from anywhere in the city could apply, to a neighborhood school, located in a poor ghetto neighborhood.

Now there is a new controversy brewing as some have suggested that the new Dunbar High School building be made a city-wide selective high school, rather than remain a neighborhood school.

All the talk about elitism, and about abandoning neighborhood youngsters, in order to serve others, has been revived and another poisonous issue now added – race.

Those black spokesmen who see all issues through a racial prism see the proposed change as a way to accommodate whites who want to send their children to a public school that keeps out many ghetto blacks. But the issue of selectivity was controversial even when Dunbar was an all-black school.

With or without racial issues, there is no way to provide a good education for youngsters who want to learn when there are less able and more disruptive kids in the same classes. Are those who came to learn going to be sacrificed until such indefinite time as it takes for us to “solve” the “problems” of those who don’t?


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