Even though Common Core has been acknowledged as a major campaign issue and is the focus of a heated debate in education, it was not mentioned during the hearing* to confirm our new US Secretary of Education, Betsy DeVos.  We have to wonder why no Democrat, no Republican, and not even Mrs. DeVos, made mention of Common Core or its associated data collection.  (Mrs. DeVos was once a proponent of Common Core, but has recently changed her position.)   A group called “Conservative Leaders for Education“,  chaired by William J. Bennett, who also supported Common Core, has asked for input about education issues from folks.  The Conservative Leaders for Education article, Closer to Agreement Than Division on DeVos,  is posted below. 

By Karen Nussle, Executive Director, Conservative Leaders for Education, Posted on January 19, 2017

“Yesterday, Shane Vander Hart, editor of the influential Caffeinated Thoughts website responded to advice that Conservative Leaders for Education offered up to incoming Education Secretary Betsy DeVos on how to shrink the Federal role in local education.

First, I’m delighted that we agree on 3 of the 5 points our state leaders offered up! My old boss, Speaker Newt Gingrich, taught me to always start with the common ground. And I believe that there is plenty of that here. Additionally, we would also love to hear more from Mr. Vander Hart and his readers on how conservative state and local leaders can best implement the things we all agree on.  And if there are other ideas he may have to re-establish state and local leadership in education that we did not raise, I know our members would love to hear those. [Emphasis added]

On the things where Mr. Vander Hart disagreed with us, I believe we are actually closer to agreement than not.  Our members are hopeful that a Sec. DeVos will stand up for high academic standards and not allow the teachers unions and weak education bureaucrats to hide behind low expectations. We don’t want any Federal intervention or incentives on standards – in fact the new ESSA law prohibits that.  But there is much she could do with her vast communications platform to highlight who has courage and who is not doing right by kids.

On data, I think we are on the same page. We believe it is a conservative idea for academic data to inform instruction, be used to figure out what is working or not working for each individual child and to hold schools and educators accountable for student progress. As parents we use many data points to determine if our kids are on track in many aspects of their lives. Schools should do the same and be transparent with parents. Again, the Department can shine the light on districts, schools and educators that are doing this well.”

 

As a parent, I would like to ask a few points of clarification and hope that all leaders and the Consv Leaders 4 Ed folks might respond.

 

 1. Common Core — do you support it?

You say you support “high academic standards and aligned tests”.   How is that different than Common Core?

Aren’t you just restating that you support “state-led” Common Core?

Common Core has been defined by many  supporters as  state-led, state-created,  as evidenced by Jeb Bush’s Foundation for Excellence in Education website.

You state that “educating students is the responsibility of states and localities”.

Don’t you think that educating students should be primarily up to the parent and the teacher, not the government?

You state that parents should have a choice in education, “while trusting that parents will do what is best for their children”,  with oversight from lawmakers.

Parents don’t need legislators to decide what is best for their children. We certainly don’t need more politics in education.

 

If the state is choosing the “high academic (Common Core) standards and aligned tests”,  then that leaves parents with NO CHOICE.

Would you support true choice at the classroom level, letting teachers and parents, not the state, decide what’s best for their children’s education?

 

2. Student data– Who owns it? 

Do you believe a student should own their own data and that a student’s parents should decide how data are shared or used?

You state that we need data on “each individual child and to hold schools and educators accountable for student progress.”   How is that different than the 4 assurances required when states “won” federal Race to the Top money and were forced to adopt Common Core? How is that different than the Bill Gates funded Data Quality Campaign, whose mission was to create commonly tagged data, interoperable longitudinal data warehouses in each state that share student data across states?  How is that different than the US Department of Labor wanting data on each individual child, starting from pre-school?

 

Would you help to repeal the Obama Administration’s 2011 changes to FERPA?   (FERPA is the federal law that was meant to protect children’s privacy but was weakened by lobbyists to allow children’s personal information to be shared –and parents cannot opt out.)

Would you support a parent’s right to consent before sharing their children’s data outside of school? Would you help to stop the data mining of children?  (Currently children’s data can be collected, analyzed and profiled, and shared,  —marketed — outside of the school, with companies, and the federal government– without parent consent –and without parents being able to see what data is taken and how it is used. )

 

Do you think there should be a NATIONAL database to track all students Such a database is currently banned by federal law, but many groups have lobbied to lift the ban and make student data even more available.

Would you ask other legislators and reformers to join you and write a letter opposing this national database?

Would you testify against this national database at the Commission for Evidence-Based Policy February 9  public hearing?

 

Parents are frankly exhausted by the semantics and  double-speak. Parents want to make decisions about their own children. Parents would welcome your honest answers and support those who put the well-being of children, and principles (not party) first.  Lastly, it certainly does seem that money is the driving force in politics, lobbying, and Common Core.  For the sake of transparency, and putting parents’ minds at ease, would you mind posting who funds your group?  And if you are a nonprofit, would you kindly post your EIN#  or 990 forms? 

Thank you.

*Correction:  As noted in this Breitbart post, Senator Bill Cassidy from Louisiana asked DeVos if she intends to coerce Common Core in the states. The nominee answered, “No.”  While parents and activists certainly appreciate the Senator’s question, this hardly begins to address OR ANSWER the questions posed above. Perhaps Senator Cassidy and others would be willing to ask these questions for America.

Cheri Kiesecker