magicmikeThere’s a new Magic Mike out there and he comes from the Fordham Institute. A number of op-ed pieces speaking out in favor of common core appeared around the country yesterday calling Common Core a “conservative win” for education. It would appear that finally conservatives from around the country have come out of the woodwork to endorse Common Core standards. There are voices out there who think the standards are great and have more than CCSSI’s talking point to give us. However, it doesn’t take long to figure out that every single one of these op-ed’s was written (and adapted) by Mike Petrilli of Fordham Institute. Common Core are the same conservative win for every state, regardless of the state’s individual economic circumstances or political leanings.

P-D op-ed:  Think tank president and St. Louis native Michael Petrilli:  Common Core is a conservative win for Missouri
Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel op-ed:  Think tank president and St. Louis native Michael Petrilli:  Common Core is a conservative win for Wisconsin
Deseret News op-ed:  Think tank president and St. Louis native Michael Petrilli:  Commond Core is a conservative win for Utah
News Observer op-ed:  Think tank president and St. Louis native Michael Petrilli:  Common Core is a conservative win for North Carolina
Greenville Journal op-ed:  Think tank president and St. Louis native Michael Petrilli:  Common Core is a conservative win for South Carolina

Mr. Petrilli is in fact a native St. Louisan who graduated from the Parkway School District. But this man’s local roots didn’t help his testimony at a recent House Interim Committee on Government Responsiveness, Efficiency and Accountability hearing. Nor did his pandering “Go Cards” outburst which went completely unacknowledged by everyone in the room, even though we were heading into the playoffs at the time.

To support his claim that Missouri needs common core standards he sites the Ed Week 2013 Quality Counts Report (which he did not properly reference in his article, calling it the Quality Center Report)  Ed Week is partially funded by the Gates foundation which has done nothing but support Common Core from the outset, but let’s assume that that funding did not sway Ed Week’s findings. Taking a look at one factor from that report  that is the single most sited argument for adopting Common Core in our state, College Readiness.

The Quality Counts 2013 Report grades Missouri a D in this category. What they  consider includes:

College-Readiness Definition: State has formal expectations for what students will need to know and be able to do in order to be admitted to the state’s postsecondary institutions and enroll in credit-bearing courses. Ibid.

College-Prep Required: State requires all students to take courses designed for students bound for four-year colleges or universities in order to receive a standard high school diploma. States receiving credit have defined a college-preparatory curriculum or identified its components. Ibid.

Course Credits Aligned: State has aligned course-credit requirements for earning a standard high school diploma with requirements for admission into the state’s postsecondary institutions. Ibid.

Aligning High School Assessments: State has aligned the content of high school assessments with academic expectations for two-year and/or four-year colleges and universities. Ibid.

I find it odd that Missouri is given a D in this category for two reasons:

1.  In 2007 the state legislature passed and the governor signed SB389 which said, among other things, that “all approved public two- and four-year public institutions shall work with the commissioner of higher education to establish agreed-upon competencies for all entry-level collegiate courses in English, mathematics, foreign language, sciences, and social sciences associated with an institution’s general education core…” This work was begun and a report was produced in June 2008 (Missouri Department of Higher Education Curriculum Alignment Initiative Report June 12, 2008 http://dhe.mo.gov/files/caifinalreport_0608.pdf) Included in this report were a set of competencies for mathematics which should have met Ed Week’s first and third requirements. Surely this work would garner our state a higher grade than D. However, a mere twelve months after this work began, our Governor signed us on to Common Core standards, and the work of the 400 Missouri college faculty and administrators, secondary school teachers, and representatives from both the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education and MDHE,  who worked collaboratively in developing this competencies model was shelved. Missouri’s supposed lack of such standards was surely not the result of an inattentive legislature, nor was it from lack of trying. Which leads us to reason #2 why Ed Week’s grade is perplexing.

2.   According to DESE representatives and Commissioner Nicastro, we have been implementing common core standards for three years. The state formally adopted them in 2009 via the Governor, committed to them in our 2010 RTTT application and again committed to them in our 2012 NCLB waiver. Are the standards not, by definition “formal expectations for what students will need to know and be able to do in order to be admitted to the state’s postsecondary institutions and enroll in credit-bearing courses?” How can we have common core standards and still be rated a D in 2013 on College Readiness?

Perhaps our deficiency is in the report’s #2 requirement “State requires all students (emphasis added) to take courses designed for students bound for four-year colleges or universities in order to receive a standard high school diploma.” Who, besides Ed Week and Bill Gates, thinks that ALL high school students should go to four year colleges and therefore should take courses designed for that path in order to graduate?

Back to the specifics of the Petrilli piece. He gives six “conservative” reasons why Common Core is a win for    insert state name here.

1. Fiscal responsibility. Really Mike? We have not had a financial accounting from our Department of Education for the cost of implementation of the standards OR the total cost of the associated assessments since we got into this three years ago. Where is fiscal responsibility in our state? What we do know is that the new standards, because they reach across subjects, will require much more teacher training than we currently do. Our normal stepped standards revision process will be happening all at once. We do know from Petrilli’s own Institute that our English and Math teachers, “must change classroom practice. In Common Core states, the shifts that these new expectations demand are based on the best research and information we have about how to boost students’ reading comprehension and analysis and thereby prepare them more successfully for college and careers.” This is not accomplished under a district’s normal PD programs and such programs don’t come for free.

We also know that the on-line tests being developed by SBAC, or delivered by McGraw Hill  whom we recently contracted with for a basket of state standardized tests, will cost considerably more than the old paper and pencil version, and no one has yet provided evidence that this will in fact produce better educated children. It can’t even be proven that this will produce higher test scores which themselves have little relation to a child’s education.

Magic Mike also trots out the frayed around the edges line about “setting world-class academic standards for student achievement” conveniently forgetting that a mere month ago he sat right next our our Commissioner who called them “the floor.” (That’s Petrilli sitting right next to Commissioner Nicastro on Oct. 7th, 2013)

2. Accountability. A fine “conservative” standard, but only when you consider accountable TO WHO and FOR WHAT. Conservatives have never supported accountability to a distant sovereign for things that only the sovereign wants (consider requiring all students to take precollege courses to graduate high school.) And in terms of accountability, where is CCSSI’s accountability for the standards themselves. Here is what they take responsibility for (From the CCSSI license page)

Representations, Warranties and Disclaimer:

THE COMMON CORE STATE STANDARDS ARE PROVIDED AS-IS AND WITH ALL FAULTS, AND NGA CENTER/CCSSO MAKE NO REPRESENTATIONS OR WARRANTIES OF ANY KIND, EXPRESS, IMPLIED, STATUTORY OR OTHERWISE, INCLUDING, WITHOUT LIMITATION, WARRANTIES OF TITLE, MERCHANTIBILITY, FITNESS FOR A PARTICULAR PURPOSE, NONINFRINGEMENT, ACCURACY, OR THE PRESENCE OR ABSENCE OF ERRORS, WHETHER OR NOT DISCOVERABLE.

Limitation on Liability:

UNDER NO CIRCUMSTANCES SHALL NGA CENTER OR CCSSO, INDIVIDUALLY OR JOINTLY, BE LIABLE FOR ANY DIRECT, INDIRECT, INCIDENTAL, SPECIAL, EXEMPLARY, CONSEQUENTIAL, OR PUNITIVE DAMAGES HOWEVER CAUSED AND ON ANY LEGAL THEORY OF LIABILITY, WHETHER FOR CONTRACT, TORT, STRICT LIABILITY, OR A COMBINATION THEREOF (INCLUDING NEGLIGENCE OR OTHERWISE) ARISING IN ANY WAY OUT OF THE USE OF THE COMMON CORE STATE STANDARDS, EVEN IF ADVISED OF THE POSSIBILITY OF SUCH RISK AND POTENTIAL DAMAGE. WITHOUT LIMITING THE FOREGOING, LICENSEE WAIVES THE RIGHT TO SEEK LEGAL REDRESS AGAINST, AND RELEASES FROM ALL LIABILITY AND COVENANTS NOT TO SUE, NGA CENTER ANDHComCeSSO

3.  School Choice. If all public schools are required to use these untested and unproven standards, and many private and parochial schools are also adopting them because of David Coleman’s promise to align the SAT to them and ACT’s statement that they already align to them, where is the choice? You will get the same end point in whatever school you go to. That isn’t really choice, is it?

4.  Competitiveness. The assertion is that the Business Roundtable and US Chamber of commerce support these standards because they will “help ensure that students are ready to succeed on the job.” That is what they have been promised by the promoters of common core, but even the average parent now sees, with process being so heavily relied upon in the math standards, that the students will have an even larger hill to climb when it comes to being ready for a job. I wonder if the businesses in the US Chamber are aware that children are being taught they don’t have to have the right answer, they just have to be able to explain how they got to the wrong answer. Is that the kind of worker they want – one who will be able to explain why the customer’s order is wrong instead of getting it right?

5.  Innovation.  This point references the latest thing that is supposed to save education – cyber teaching. Perhaps Fordham is not familiar with the Politico review of cyber schools which shows that many of them are flunking  (Cyber schools flunk, but tax money keeps flowing 9-25-13)  Innovation simply for the sake of providing a new business opportunity is not what is needed for education.

6. Traditional Education Values – Finally something that is in fact a conservative value. “They expect students to know their math facts, to read the nation’s founding documents.” Fine values but, ones that were already in Missouri’s standards.  He goes on to write that, “The standards are solid and traditional. They don’t give in to moral relativism, blame-America-first, or so many other liberal nostrums that have infected our public schools.” Magic Mike thinks that this kind of statement erases the presence of “The Bluest Eyes” in the exemplars list of literature in CCSSI Appendix B. And while his left hand is assuring us that these standards are pure as the driven snow, his right hand is asking us to ignore the course topics being taught next month at the National Council for the Social Studies conference on Common Core like these:

  • Susan B. Anthony’s Trial, Social Justice and Common Core Connections,
  • Reading and Listening with Purpose: Controversial Lyrics and the Common Core,
  • Common Core Reading and Writing Skills Taught through Fiscal Policy,
  • Gettin’ Crunk with the Common Core,
  • Creating Global Citizens,
  • To Repair the World: The Importance of International Humanitarian Law

Perhaps the standards themselves don’t promote such ideology, but their very national existence opens the doors to a host of suppliers who do have these leanings, and can now promote their products stamped with the “aligned to Common Core” motto on the box. CCSSI will not be policing the use of their name, so it is becomes the wild wild west of suppliers all claiming to have the cure for your educational woes.

An NGO developed the standards and then used the US Department of Ed to coerce/incentivize states into adopting them. The use of government to promote your business is not a conservative value. They were promoted by undocumented promises and false claims by people who received money from a single billionaire philanthropist. Lying is not a conservative value. They will leave children from poor backgrounds who cannot afford supplemental help in math out of the running for STEM degrees in college. Harming the poor is not a conservative value. It would be easier to pull a rabbit out of a hat than to pull conservative values out of common core.

Anne Gassel

Anne has been writing on MEW since 2012 and has been a citizen lobbyist on Common Core since 2013. Some day she would like to see a national Hippocratic oath for educators “I will remember that there is an art to teaching as well as science, and that warmth, sympathy and understanding are sometimes more important than policy or what the data say. My first priority is to do no harm to the children entrusted to my temporary care.”

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