Thursday, July 31, 2014

More States Abandoning the Sinking Common Core Ship

“Barbarians at the gate.” That’s what Arizona Superintendent of Public Instruction John Huppenthal called opponents of Common Core national standards several weeks ago. His remarks are symptomatic of just how far elected officials within and outside Arizona have strayed from our Constitution, which doesn’t even contain the word “education.”

Supporters claim Common Core will provide a consistent, clear understanding of what students should know to be prepared for college and their future careers. On the contrary, many experts serving on Common Core review committees warn that academic rigor was compromised for the sake of political buy-in from the various political interest groups involved—including teachers unions.

Unsurprisingly, the curriculum is being used to advance a partisan political agenda, showcasing one-sided labor union, ObamaCare, and global warming materials, along with more graphic, adult-themed books under the auspices of promoting diversity and toleration. But the politicization doesn’t stop there.

Non-academic, personal information is being collected through federally funded Common Core testing consortia about students and their parents, including family income, parents’ political affiliations, their religion, and students’ disciplinary records—all without parental consent. That information, including Social Security numbers of students in at least one state, is being shared with third-party data collection firms, prompting a growing number of parents to opt their children out of Common Core.

But they’re not alone.

Originally, 45 states signed on to Common Core, but so far four states have formally pulled out. Indiana recently became the first one to reverse course and implement state standards instead. This decision earned a threatening letter from the U.S. Department of Education about withholding funds and revoking Indiana’s waiver from onerous federal No Child Left Behind Act mandates.

South Carolina, Missouri, and Oklahoma have also ditched Common Core standards. In fact, Oklahoma’s legislation is considered the strictest to date for expressly reinstating previous standards for a two-year review period and prohibiting any aligning between assessments and Common Core. Seven additional states have pulled out of their federally subsidized testing consortia, and four more are considering doing the same—although one testing consortium, Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers (PARCC), still lists several withdrawn states as members.

Common Core is publicized as a state-led, voluntary initiative, but in reality it’s an offer states can’t refuse if they want their share of billions of federal dollars for education programs.

So much for Common Core being “voluntary” or “state-led.” So much, too, for the notion that federal education aid, which historically has averaged at around just 10 percent of all education funding, is “free.”

It’s a sad state of affairs when Americans striving to rid their children’s schools of educational barbarism are vilified for wanting to end federal intrusion in education. Elected state officials like Superintendent Huppenthal should recall that for decades the feds have been effectively bribing them with additional cash (which actually comes from their own constituents’ pockets) and far-fetched promises, including these whoppers:

By 1984 they will eliminate illiteracy (p. 35). That didn’t work.

By 2000 high school graduation rates would reach 90 percent. Nope. Wrong again.

By 2000 again American students were supposed to be global leaders in math and science. Well, not so much based on recent results.

Finally, by 2014 all students will be proficient in reading and math. Not even close.

Over-promising and under-delivering seems to be the legacy of the federal government’s “leadership” in education. With virtually no exceptions, major programs of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act of 1965 (ESEA), currently dubbed No Child Left Behind (NCLB), have not worked after decades of tinkering.

One Senator from Arizona certainly saw this coming. Nearly 60 years ago U.S. Sen. Barry Goldwater opposed the National Defense Education Act of 1958, which included 12 federal mandates on the states—a regulatory pittance by 21st century standards. He rightly predicted that “federal aid to education invariably means federal control of education” (p. 76, emphasis original).

Children need to learn the basics, but there are better ways to accomplish that goal than embracing a national curriculum developed by politicians, special interest groups, and private companies that have a lot of financial skin in the game.

Parental choice programs educate students to high standards, without limiting the diverse schooling options needed to meet their unique, individual needs. Importantly, unlike accountability initiatives involving rigid federal mandates, all parental choice schools face immediate rewards for success or consequences for failure, since parents are empowered to enroll or transfer their children in schools as they see fit.

Ultimately, Common Core rests on the faulty premise that a single, centralized entity knows what’s best for all 55 million students nationwide. Raising the education bar starts with putting the real experts in charge: students’ parents.


The Battle Against Common Core Hits Movie Theaters


Last week, Glenn Beck assembled a group of education experts and grassroots activists in Dallas for a two hour show designed to highlight the flaws of Common Core--and suggest ways activists can fight its implementation. The live show was simulcasted in over seven hundred movie theaters nationwide. A replay of the event is scheduled for Tuesday, July 29th. I had the opportunity to interview four people connected with We Will Not Conform. We discussed the show, Common Core and the fight to stop it. I sat down with:

Joseph Kerry; Chief of Staff, The Glenn Beck Program

Matt Kibbe; President and CEO of FreedomWorks

Dana Loesch; Nationally syndicated radio talk-show host

Michelle Malkin; Blogger, nationally syndicated columnist and bestselling author

MALLOY: Why put a simulcast like this together?

KERRY: You have heard of the phrase soccer mom? When it comes to Common Core there is the equivalent of a warrior mom. And what we found is when Glenn would talk about Common Core, we would get emails, calls, people coming by the studio to talk about it, and these people, predominantly women, are passionate about the education their kids are not getting in public schools.

So there wasn’t an auditorium or stadium big enough to house all these warrior moms. So we put this event together so no matter where you are, you can learn which strategies are working and which ones aren’t. You can compare notes and say “how we can take education back from government and put it back into the home?”

**MALLOY: Why should parents be concerned about Common Core? **

LOESCH: Do they like having control of their kids and what goes into their minds? Because that’s what’s at stake here. I’ve heard so often “why should parents be so concerned about common core?”

Common Core creates new federal standards that are designed to dumb down education. It’s designed to dumb down academic expectations. And it also removes that locality from school districts. You have locally elected school boards, you have locally appointed administration members. This is removing that locality away and it is also reducing parental sovereignty.

If parents aren’t going to get a say in what their school’s curriculum is, they aren’t going to get a say in how their children are being educated. Everything is going to be moved all the way to Washington DC.

MALKIN: Common Core and Fed Ed drive wedges between students and those who know them best: their parents, their teachers & local school districts.

Everything about Common Core's development stinks: The secretive process behind it, the violation of constitutional principles, the shoddy quality, and the exorbitant bribes and costs to taxpayers. Big Business and Big Government profit most from Common Core, not children.

KIBBE: Parents should also worry about the day after their state legislature actually repeals it, because the other side is already in a rebranding phase. We have made the phrase Common Core politically poison. But they are going to come back and rebrand. So the lesson here is you can’t just fight a one-time fight. I know it’s extraordinary for parents to make these kind of commitments. But, protecting our education system, protecting our freedom to raise our kids the way we see fit is part of our responsibility as parents.

LOESCH: And it’s not just democrats that are for it. We can find common ground here because republicans are just as dirty on this as democrats are. For example, in Indiana, Mike Pence, who acted like he had this tremendous victory defeating Common Core, then he turns around and rebrands it. Of course he was booed after it. That made the news, that he was booed, not his rebranding of Common Core in a new package. A lot of activists engaged in the show tonight did not know that Mike Pence is bad on Common Core.

It’s not just democrats, it’s the republicans too and we will lose if we don’t realize that.

MALLOY: What has been the most troubling aspect of the implementation of Common Core?

KIBBE: I think it’s the way that the feds use doling out money to buy the compliance of state legislatures. It’s always sort of a bait and switch kind of a situation because they use temporary stimulus funds to build it into state budgets and now they're all locked into this. But it’s the way that state legislators are afraid to push back against something that they now know is bad politics, they probably know that it is bad policy and they are afraid to do anything about it.

MALLOY: Is it fair to compare the tactics the feds are using in the implementation of Common Core with those of Medicaid expansion?

KIBBE: Yeah, it’s the short term satisfaction of getting the money to plug your state deficit--because all of the states have to balance their budgets -- and not really caring about the details of what they are signing on for. They all know that there is a train wreck around the corner but they aren’t willing to confront it.

MALLOY: Common Core is complicated and not a sexy topic, do you see it as something that will become a campaign issue in both the 2014 and 2016 elections?

LOESCH: It could be. It depends on messaging and it depends on the ability of grassroots activists, which are mainly parents, if they are going to be able to build these coalitions and inform other parents.

Let me give you an example. I didn’t think Common Core applied to me because I am a homeschooler. I have home-schooled both my kids from the get-go. And I thought I was safe because I wasn’t in a public school. I thought I didn’t have to deal with Common Core. I have friends who send their children to private school. They thought they were safe because they are in a private school.

But it does affect us all because of standardized testing -- and college, the ACTs, all of that is going to be built around Common Core. You can’t hide from it.

Just because you take yourself out of the arena doesn’t mean the arena isn’t going to come to you. Even if you don’t have children this affects you. I personally, don’t want to think of myself as an old person with a person educated by Common Core wiping my butt and being responsible for my medicine. Have you seen the math that they’ve taught? It’s terrifying and it affects everybody.

MALKIN: Parents need to be armed with information. First: Read the standards, then follow the money. Join Twitter. Search out local #stopcommoncore leaders. Hold your public officials at every level accountable.

MALLOY: Can this We Will Not Conform simulcast be used as a blueprint for other issues based shows to get grassroots activists motivated?

KERRY: We have simulcasted a lot of entertainment events before, Glenn is all about the fusion of entertainment and enlightenment. There have been shows that he has taken on the road before that we have simulcast -- but this is the first one that is policy driven. And I think just that judging by the passion and the the attendance, this is something we will absolutely consider doing in the future.

KIBBE: It’s really the convergence of media technology and grassroots boots on the ground. We were talking to potentially tens-of-thousands of people tonight. And I always thought that the most important aspect of a tea-party rally was nothing that was said on stage, it was all about connecting people and having them discover that they aren’t alone -- getting them connected on Facebook and starting to do things together. That just happened in over 700 cities across America, and I think the proponents of Common Core have no idea what is coming next.


We Will Not Conform: Portrait of a Home School Family
We will not conform. We will not conform. We will not conform. No, it isn't a chant or a mantra. It's a statement of fact. Something that we as grassroots activists should be used to by now. How about another group of folks who could be considered full-time protesters? Another group of people who might be used to not conforming for even longer than the tea party groups have been around. How about a group of dedicated home schoolers? This is the portrait of a home school mom and dad.

The home school moms and dads are those parents who decided to throw off the yolk of traditional education and have already chosen not to conform. They decided to keep their children at home, for whatever reason; but no matter if you publicly educate your children or privately educate them, we all ultimately want a well-educated child.

A home school family consists of parents who decided to go against the grain and took their child's education in their own hands, quite literally. I should know, I'm one of them.

I am fortunate enough to live in the great state of Texas, where home schooling is still legal. Home schools are considered a private school, and we aren't regulated by the state or required to take standardized testing. We are free to purchase our own curriculum or to design our own. Then, we are free to choose our own path to graduation. In other words, home schoolers have freedom in Texas! Cool, right?

So, what am I getting at? I'm saying that all of that could change. Not through state standards, but through the introduction of Common Core. Since its introduction into mainstream schools, the move has begun to change ACT and SAT tests to meet the Common Core standards. This means that home schools may be forced to teach according to those same standards. Here is proof from one of my previous blog posts that this can and will happen:

The Common Core will impact home schools and private schools in at least three ways. First, designers of the expanded statewide longitudinal databases fully intend to collect data about home school and private school students. Second, college admissions standards will be affected: Common Core standards for college readiness will be used by institutions of higher learning to determine whether a student is ready to enroll in a postsecondary course. Third, curriculum and standardized tests are being rewritten to conform to the Common Core.

Unless we act. Home schoolers, like grassroots activists are usually at the ready when called to action. I was fortunate enough to be one of five bloggers that were invited to attend the Glenn Beck event called We Will Not Conform: LIVE Making Common Core History that was held last night in theaters across America.

We Will Not Conform was put together by the Glenn Beck team and hosted with other big names in politics and national grassroots leaders, who are no strangers to not conforming. Names such as Michelle Malkin, Dana Loesch, David Barton and Matt Kibbe of Freedomworks. The event was held in an effort to taking one of many 'first steps' to raise awareness and ultimately defeat Common Core.

So what now? The Glenn Beck folks put together a plan for any activist to initiate and employ in their respective communities. For the link, click here. We need to start a discussion with your neighbors and friends and your families for that matter so we can stop the march towards common kids and Common Core. We need to recognize the strength of our own voices and our own actions. Listen to Matt Kibbe's words of encouragement for us all when he said, "Parents represent a voting block that is unstoppable." To be unstoppable, though, we have to get started. As one of the grassroots leaders said last night, "How to defeat Common Core, get the facts, get organized, show up."


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