The Common Core State Standards: What are they and why should I care?

Here is a video presentation about the Common Core State Standards. It is loaded with information. The script of the video is provided below so you can easily read the sections that are of most interest to you. Hot links to source information and original documents have been provided when possible. You are encouraged to follow-up and read the source info and documents firsthand for yourself.

The Common Core State Standards: What are they and why should I care?

Where’s the Math? worked hard to get new math standards developed and adopted for the state in 2008. This multi-year effort had to go beyond going to the classroom teacher, principal, district office, OSPI, and the superintendent of public instruction. Legislators and legislation had to be involved to force the issue. Having helped successfully get new and decent math standards adopted in 2008, I started tracking the development of the Common Core State Standards in the spring of 2009 knowing they might replace the new math standards we worked so hard to get. With the U.S. Coalition for World Class Math, I participated in reviews of two drafts the CCSSI produced and a review of the final k-12 standards.

In 2011, four of us from across the country started Truth in American Education to provide information and help people from across the country address issues related to the Common Core.

The Common Core State Standards are a set of learning standards in ELA and mathematics. In WA, they have replaced the EARLs and the math standards. That’s not so bad is it. What’s not to like? Learning standards are good, aren’t they? This presentation is not going to address issues related to the content of the standards.

The Common Core State Standards were initiated by private interests. Achieve, Inc. is a private entity that has made millions of dollars contracting with states to write standards and assessment. Achieve was instrumental in getting the National Governors Association (NGA) and Council of Chief State School Officers (CCSSO) to form the Common Core State Standards Initiative (CCSSI) to develop the standards. While sounding like public or government agencies or organizations, the NGA and CCSSO are private entities. They are basically trade associations or lobbying groups. The NGA and CCSSO, with guidance from Achieve, were the front for the development of the CCSS. Time and time again, it is said the development of the standards was a state led effort.

It was a state led effort in the sense the states were led in this effort by Acheve, the NGA, and the CCSSO.Slide05

A diverse team of teachers, parents, administrators, researchers and content experts developed the Common Core to be academically rigorous, attainable for students and practical for teachers and districts. Statements like this sound great and have appeared frequently. This is a false fact. This statement came from a Kansas Department of Education Fact Sheet provided at a Kansas State Board of Education meeting in May 2013.

The official list of Work Team and Feedback Group members does not feature teachers, parents, or administrators The Work Team is the group that wrote the standards. No state has produced a list of resident parents, teachers, and administrators involved in the development of the standards. No meeting schedules, agendas, or minutes are available to the public. The private organizations who developed these standards are not subject to FOIA requests because the private entities. 5 of 29 Validation Committee Members did not sign off. Usually, there is a procedure for validating something. In the case of these standards, that procedure seems to have consisted of just asking the Validation Committee members to sign off on the standards once they were written. They were not subjected to any validation procedure. The people involved all had to sign Confidential Disclosure Agreements.

The consistency and mobility factors have been used as nice sounding selling points for the CCSS. And they do sound great. States have had state standards under No Child Left Behind (NCLB) for several years now. There is no evidence from this experience that this allowed students to move from one district to another with minimal interruption of their instructional program. Even with common standards, there will remain wide variances between classrooms, schools, districts, and states. Common standards within states under NCLB did not result in consistency and collaboration among districts within states. Why should we believe the CCSS would bring this about across district and state lines?

The U.S. Census data indicates that 1.7% of kids ages 5 through 17 years old move across state lines in a year.

WA state has been involved with the Common Core State Standards and related assessments since 2009. WA state has made many commitments to adopting and implementing the standards and assessments. Let’s explore some of those commitments.

In May 2009, Gov. Gregoire and Supt. of Public Instruction Dorn signed a Memorandum of Agreement with the NGA and CCSSO to participate in the CCSSI and committing to adopt the standards.

On March 11, 2010, ESSB 6696 passed the House. ESSB 6696 was a major education reform bill over fifty pages long and was to position WA to meet requirements for RTTT funds. It passed the senate and house one day after the draft of the standards was released for public review. How many legislators do you think actually read the standards before they voted on SB 6696? Only one page of this bill addressed the CCSS. This bill authorized the SPI to provisionally adopt the CCSS, produce a report to legislature at the beginning of the 2011 session, and authorized the SPI to officially adopt the standards after the 2011 legislative session unless otherwise directed by the legislature.

On June 1, 2010, WA submitted a application for phase 2 RTTT funds under Gov. Gregoire’s and SPI Dorn’s signatures further committing the adoption and implementation of the Common Core State Standards. WA did not receive RTTT funds yet committed the state to adopt and implement the standards.

On June 2, 2010, the CCSS final version was released.

Also in June 2010, under the signatures of Gov. Gregoire and SPI Dorn the RTTT Fund Assessment Comprehensive Assessment Systems Grant application was submitted on behalf of the Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium. The SBAC was not a legal entity. WA served as the lead state, a governing state, and the fiscal agent for the consortium for the four year grant period duration. This committed the state to adopt and implement the standards and assessments.

On July 19, 2010, SPI Dorn provisionally adopted the CCSS as authorized by ESSB 6696. On July 20, 2011, SPI Dorn formally adopted the CCSS as authorized by ESSB 6696.

In Feb., 2012, WA applied for a ESEA/NCLB Flexibility waiver. This application further committed the state to adopt and implement the standards and assessments. NCLB required states to have 100% of students proficient in ELA and math. This was a nice sounding but impossible goal. NCLB authorized the Sec. of Ed to grant waivers to requirements like this but did not grant the authority to put conditions on those waivers. The Sec. of Education did put conditions on those waivers.

Why should I care? Aside from issues with content of the standards, major concerns include loss of local control, costs, and data collection and student privacy.

The NGA and the CCSSO, two private entities, own and hold the copyright to these standards. Usually, when school districts and states develop curriculum materials or standards, they are in the public domain. That is not the case with the CCSS. The CCSS are privately owned. There is no procedure in place for changing the standards. Parents, teachers, school administrators, local school boards, OSPI, the state board of education, and the federal government have no authority to change these standards. States do have the authority to repeal their adoption of these standards.

The Constitution of the United States does not mention or address education. The Tenth Amendment reads:

The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the states respectively, or to the people.

The responsibility for education lies with the state and the people, not the federal government.

Three congressional acts set limits on the federal government’s involvement in education. The federal government, and its employees, are not authorized to mandate, direct, or control a State, local education agency, or school’s curriculum or program of instruction.

What will it cost? In 2008 the state spent more than $30 million to implement the new math standards. This was for professional development sessions to introduce teachers to the new standards. Keep this figure in mind.

ESSB 6696 required the SPI to submit a report to the legislature at the beginning of the 2011 session. Common Core State Standards for English Language Arts and Mathematics: Analysis and Recommendations Report to the Legislature January 2011 was available a month later than required by the legislation. In this report, WA did something few states bothered to do: it considered costs associated with implementing the standards. Officials in MO when asked about the cost simply claimed it would not cost anything to adopt and implement the CCSS.

In this report, estimated implementation costs are presented for five years. The estimates do not consider curriculum materials and textbooks, assessment costs, or technology costs associated with the assessments.

For two subjects, ELA and math, the estimated costs are $182.6 million dollars with the estimated state level costs $17.1 million dollars or 9.4% of the costs while the remaining estimated costs of $165.5 million dollars or 90.6% of the total estimated costs are pushed out to the local school districts. These are estimates and it is really not known what the costs will be. I think these are low ball estimates. Whether accurate or not, at least WA considered the implementation was going to cost the state and local school districts.
Slide22 In December 2011, OSPI produced another report for the legislature called Common Core State Standards: Implementation Activities, Timelines, Costs, and Input on Enhancements. This report shows a total implementation cost of about $23 million dollars. Sounds much better than the previous report and even less than the state spent implementing the 2008 math standards. There are cost estimate assumptions indicating the true full cost are not factored in. One such assumption is that existing resources will be shifted from current standards implementation and activities to those focused on the CCSS. We may never know what the true cost of implementation will be since it doesn’t seem anyone is tracking those costs or the difference in costs.Slide23Do the costs really matter? The costs will all be paid for with tax dollars, either local, regional, state, or federal tax dollars. That means that I and all other taxpayers are going to be paying for this.

Joe Wilhoft became the first executive director of the SBAC. He stepped into that position from being the Assistant Superintendent for Assessment and Student Information for Washington’s Office of the Superintendent of Public Instruction. He had been in charge of the WASL and student data. The SBAC’s RTTT Assessment grant that funded the development of the assessment was a four year grant. The grant period came to an end at the end of 2014 and the SBAC transitioned to become a unit of UCLA. Joe Wilhoft stepped down as executive director and Tony Alpert stepped in. Tony has been featured in Jeb Bush’s Foundation for Excellence in Education Reformer Profiles.

The per pupil cost of the SBA is around $27. It may be less and it may be more depending on whether the formative assessment will be used or not. I have seen and heard different figures for the per pupil cost but the $27 figure comes up most often.

Most schools are administering the assessment online. This will require third grade students to have proficient keyboarding skills. Most do not.

“One of the major disadvantages of computerized testing is construct-irrelevance variance, or the testing of irrelevant constructs such as computer literacy.” Scores will rise nicely in the first several years. What will be assessed in the first few years will be the student ability to use the technology. It will be several years before results will reflect what the assessment intends and that will only happen when students have frequent access and experience with the computer adaptive assessment interface.

High achieving students benefit more from the computer-tests in terms of performance than low achieving students. This does not sound like an effective way to close the achievement gap.

The RTTT Assessment Grants required SBAC and PARCC to develop valid and reliable assessments. NCLB requires states to administer valid and reliable assessments. Neither consortia has produced legitimate evidence or proof their assessments are valid and reliable. By using the SBAC, WA may not be in compliance with federal law.

According to the Cooperative Agreement Between the U.S. Department of Education and the SMARTER Balanced Assessment Consortium and the State of Washington student data from the SBA will determine school effectiveness, individual principal and teacher effectiveness for evaluations, professional development needs, and program improvement. The results of an assessment that is not valid and reliable are going to be responsible for determining a lot of important things.

The states in the SBAC, WA included, have already determined the percentage of students who will score at each achievement level at each grade. Here are the math cut scores.math

Here are the ELA cut scores.ela

To be considered proficient a student must score at level 3 or 4 while students scoring at level 1 or 2 are not considered proficient. Around 60% of our students will fail, or not be proficient, while 35-41% will pass.

The Cooperative Agreement Between the U.S. Department of Education and the SMARTER Balanced Assessment Consortium and the State of Washington requires that student-level data from assessments be available for research, linking, validity, and program improvement. This is student level data, where individuals can be identified. This is not aggregate data. Any mention of data in the agreement is referring to student level data. The wording is important here.

If asked, your state officials may deny the Common Core requires the state to share student data with the federal government. While they may not be lying, they aren’t being entirely honest as a result of semantics. Instead of the state sharing data it is the consortia providing access. The state isn’t required to share student-level data through the Common Core or the assessments. The consortia are required to “provide timely and complete access to any and all data collected at the state level” to the federal government. So even the consortia are able to deny they are sharing student data with the federal government. They aren’t sharing in the sense of giving, rather they are providing access so the federal government can reach in and take whatever data they want whenever they want.

WA, like other states, has a State Longitudinal Data System. The state has received more than $23 million dollars through the SLDS grant program to develop the system. WA calls its system CEDARS. There are other data systems and they are working to integrate them into one P-20 system. The P standards for Pre-K and includes prenatal. The 20 goes through graduate school. More often I am seeing these systems being called a P-20 W system with the W standing for the workforce. The data systems incorporate information about parents and teachers and will track students into the workforce.Slide32

There has been considerable pushback against the standards and assessments. Proponents have not been able to sweep the pushback under the rug. They have tried to marginalize the critics by bullying and trying to pigeon hole them as Tea Partiers, uninformed, fringe element, tin foil hat wearers, extremists, vitriolic, barbarians at the gate, and whiney white suburban moms. If the standards and related reform measures are so good, why are so many people pushing back?securedownload

The official Common Core State Standards Initiative website has changed in the last year. It used to have this map featured. Note the legend. For most of the states, it indicates they have adopted the standards. For five of the states, the legend states they have Not Yet Adopted as if any minute they will. The map on the new website just says Not Adopted.Slide34

The Not Yet Adopted legend always bugged me when I went to the official website. I realized there were a number of states with legislation to withdraw from or repeal the CCSS, withdraw from PARCC or SBAC, or to delay the implementation of the standards or assessments, or to not fund the the implementation. A map was created to show pushback as depicted by states having had such legislation. The states in red are dubbed as Rejection Pending. They have had legislation. The states in blue either never adopted or officially repealed the CCSS. The states in grey, well, they are Waiting for Reality. This is what the map looked like in March 2013.Slide35

And in March 2015.p1You can click on the map above to download it. This map can be downloaded from a number of websites including Truth in American Education and Stop Common Core in Washington State. The map document includes three other pages listing anti-Common Core legislation that has been introduced in each state.

On February 17, 2015, SB 6030 Concerning assessments in public schools was filed to withdraw WA from Common Core and withdraw WA from the Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium. Two days later, HB 2165 was filed to eliminate the use of common core state standards and assessments in Washington. The bills were filed late in the session and it is doubtful they will be addressed this legislative session but will carry over for the 2016 session.

In 2011, with HB 1891, WA was one of the first states in the country to have legislation pushing back against the adoption and implementation of the standards.

Alice Linahan of Women on the Wall in Texas has been quoted as saying:

“Men will die to protect their children.
Women will kill to protect them.”

As more mothers and fathers begin to realize their kids are being messed with as a result of education reform measures we will see what they will do to protect their children in this situation. We are already seeing an increase in the number of parents homeschooling their kids and parents opting their kids out of assessments.

CDY-715270-back-proofCDY-715270-front-proofHere are some things you can do.

  • Educate yourself, your friends and neighbors, and your legislators.
  • Call the legislative hotline at 800-562-6000.
  • Request a repeal of the Common Core and the SBAC assessments.
  • Opt your students our of state assessments.
  • Organize and get political at the local, state, and federal levels.

Have your voice heard, help establish policy, and make decisions at the local level instead of letting private entities, corporate interests, and the federal government drive the education of our children.

There are many websites with information. Two websites you may want to explore are Truth in American Education and Stop Common Core in Washington State. Both websites have links to other information sources. Join the Facebook group Washington State Against Common Core.Slide49

Please do not let evil triumph. Do something. Let your voice be heard and have it count in the interest of all students across the state of Washington.

This concludes the presentation.

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