Fib-o-Meter Friday: State Superintendents & Common Core Standards

Chances are your state has an education superintendent. Maybe they are called ‘commissioner’ instead. Regardless of the title, there is one person in charge of an entire state’s education decisions, regulations, etc. However, that one person rarely works alone. Usually an entire team is under his/her authority. Some states have very forthright leaders, and are open to interaction, while others, reign like a king or queen and want almost no interaction. Some of these leaders are appointed (really a bad idea when held up to the Constitution’s wording about power of the people), some are elected (exercises the Constitution’s wording about citizens power).

Given their important position and the huge number of people their decisions impact, it’s a good idea to hear, see and read what they are sharing. Now, I haven’t researched all 50 state leaders. Given the present day status of Common Core Standards in each state, it would take me days to find out what our leaders have said about Common Core. However, I did, for the sake of the post keep it to three. These 3 are either the state I live in or are directly to my south & west. Each has a unique position when it comes to CCS. As usual for each Friday, we’ll measure the statements on the “Fib-o-Meter”. If you’ve read how the Meter works, you know what to do. However, if you are new to the Friday’s “Fib-o-Meter”, it goes like this (click on the graphic to enlarge it. Read the sample statements & use those categories to place the statements shared in this post where you think they best belong.)

fibmaster

First up: North Carolina

This is the state I currently reside in. Currently, our state is set to begin a process that by law is to repeal Common Core, not re-brand or recycle it. SB 812 which is a law and as such should, no longer identified by its Senate Bill status. It’s Session Law 2014-78   signed into law. It is at the center of quite a mess. More will be shared  at a later time.

Onto the facts/fibs!! Our state superintendent has been serving here since 2005 as an elected official. Dr. Atkinson is a strong supporter of the Common Core Standards. She is part of one of the public/private partnerships which own the copyright to the Standards.  She is extremely protective of CCSS.

As far as State Education Superintendents, only 13 other states get to elect this particular position. In August of 2014, NC’s Superintendent was featured in an almost 8 minute address to NC teachers to give what looks and sounds like motherly advice to those listening.  Here are some statements made about Common Core during the presentation.

“Lawmakers made decisions that effect public schools in NC” (in regards to what she consistently refers to as SB812).  Bit of context here, yes, the NC General Assembly did pass SB812 and it became law. However, this is one of the more classic lines to disassociate the Dept. of Public Instruction and the General Assembly. Do some research on your own about how NC was saddled with Common Core Standards, it was the State Board of Education, not the General Assembly. So, while ‘Total Truth’ is correct, consider the context.

“IF you teach Math and English Language Arts.. will I have to throw away all the work I’ve done to develop quality lesson plans?” Total Fallacy’! Studies & a simple reading of the Standards show that all subjects are encompassed in Common Core. Dr. Atkinson does go on to say that those who teach other subjects MIGHT be impacted.

“IF Common Core is taught correctly…” Probably of all the statements, this is my ‘favorite’. Why? Well, how many times have we heard CCS is ‘just standards’?! Standards don’t teach, so therefore cannot be taught correctly or incorrectly. Which makes the  statement  of ‘taught correctly’ a ‘Total FallacyStandards are a set of guidelines by which you plan what you teach! I’m a teacher, I know this well. The guidelines are there to ‘guide’ you (henceforth the use of the word). This guidance leads you to your choice of curriculum or a method by which you use to express yourself in leading the student to understanding. Common Core proponents suggest such freedom, however, experts have shared the CCS is so behemoth with its standards, resources (which entail scripted lessons or curriculum) that no one truly has the time or energy for  freedom. Which means you won’t be ‘correct’.  It also, in my professional opinion, puts an insane amount of pressure on an already stressed out teacher.

“The Common Core Standards, like all the other standards are silent on testing, curriculum, and strategies.” Really? I guess all those CC branded instructional materials, digitized textbooks, etc. are figments of a disgruntled taxpayer then. As far as the testing. Dr. Atkinson freely shares that EOGs (End of Grade tests) have been given annually since 1993. Also shared, is that due to federal and state requirements ‘measuring of students’ must be done. Okay, so it sounds like not so big a deal..right? We’re talking maybe two or three assessments, tests. UNTIL you dig a bit. Here’s what I found, over 40 tests/assessments throughout the 2014-15 school year:

 http://www.ncpublicschools.org/docs/accountability/testing/calendars/1415optestcal.pdf  So, your answer? ‘Total Fallacy’

“SB812 is at the heart of what you do (teach).” This is another statement by Dr. Atkinson. Here’s a link to the law that states its heart(soul and body) is about REPEALING the Common Core Standards with these words “AN ACT TO EXERCISE NORTH CAROLINA’S CONSTITUTIONAL AUTHORITY OVER ALL ACADEMIC STANDARDS; TO REPLACE COMMON CORE; AND TO ENSURE THAT STANDARDS ARE ROBUST AND APPROPRIATE AND ENABLE STUDENTS TO SUCCEED ACADEMICALLY AND PROFESSIONALLY. “:

http://www.ncleg.net/Sessions/2013/Bills/Senate/PDF/S812v7.pdf   So the answer is “Total Fallacy”.

Related “Fib-o-Meter freebie for you: In section 2c, topic 4, teachers are directly mentioned. The Repeal Committee is to consider the impact upon them. (Later in the video, this conversationalist  statement is made by Dr. Atkinson)

Several other statements were made to allude to the power of the Dept. of Public Instruction and or the State Board of Education. Read the law (which by the way is no longer ‘SB812’). The power of the Repeal Committee is separate. The law also lays out specifically which entity is in power over which. Let’s remember one fact: State Government is above the departments established in order to serve the people. While the statements alluding to who’s more powerful have some shades of truth/fallacy, their general message is to throw a red herring into the mix.  Before I move on, I’ll also give you a hint, parents and the general public are also mentioned, but almost as an afterthought. Students? Almost totally left out of the entire message. Here’s a link to the video I’m highlighting so you can see for yourself. (mov, 21.7mb) See if you can use the law’s text to identify any other facts/fallacies.

Tennessee, it’s to My West:

This state appoints their Public Education top position. He is identified as Commissioner Huffman. He was featured in a TED Talk held in Nashville, TN in April of 2014. Here’s the link to the almost 22 minute talk: (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8IznMHnRH5c) Mr. Huffman is also a big supporter of the Common Core Standards. His background had him working for the ‘pro Core’ Teach for America program. He also is a member of ‘Chiefs for Change’, the non-profit arm of “Foundation for  Excellence in Education”. Both have pledged not only their support to Common Core, but will defend it to the end (see: http://chiefsforchange.org/chiefs-for-change-states-should-determine-what-is-best-for-their-students/ and http://excelined.org/common-core-toolkit/)

His statements from TED that can be measured on the Fib-o-Meter:
“I was explicitly brought in as a change agent.” This one’s ‘Total Truth’. He stated it in his TED Talk and was quoted by almost the same words in March of 2014. Makes me wonder who’s up to something in TN.

“Two prongs of priority: raising academic standards via Common Core and evaluations of everyone: principals, teachers, students.” TN has already been awarded Race to the Top funding in March 2010 with $500 million dollars.  Tim Webb was the TN Education Commissioner at the time of the initial $500 million award. “In Tennessee, the decision to adopt Common Core State Standards was made by the governor and the State Board of Education. On July 30, 2010, Common Core State Standards adoption was passed unanimously by the State Board of Education. The Tennessee legislature, all 136 local education agencies and local boards of education committed to the implementation of College and Career Ready Standards through the Race to the Top Application and Grant Award.” (source: http://www.tn.gov/sbe/FAQ_Page/Common_Core_Facts_History.pdf) What ties Webb/Huffman: “Tennessee was a founding member of the governing board of PARCC. The founding Memorandum of Understanding with PARCC was signed by Governor Bredesen, Education Commissioner Tim Webb, and State Board of Education Chair Fielding Rolston. After the election of Governor Haslam and appointment of Commissioner Kevin Huffman, an updated Memorandum of Understanding was signed by both individuals in June 2011.” (also from the above document) Huffman was appointed in March of 2011. In November 2011, Huffman submitted the ESEA Flexibility Waiver (see: https://www2.ed.gov/policy/eseaflex/tn.pdf) This waiver says it offers you flexibility in certain parts of No Child Left Behind & in exchange your state gets ‘rigor’ in comprehensive form. It commits your state to all kinds of data mining, assessments, and other ‘fun’ CCSS stuff. (by the way, NC is stuck with one of these waivers too. It’s what helps increase the number of tests/assessments we supposedly don’t have.) So, your answer, “Total Truth”, although it’s hard to discern where Webb began and left off and where Huffman picked up the baton.

Mr. Huffman compares US students to those in Singapore and South Korea. This, is one of the masterfully placed red herrings those who love the Core throw out to impress you. As has been written extensively about by others and research given to back up, when comparing Americans students to other nationalities it isn’t exactly a fair comparison. All US children are assessed. Those in the mentioned countries are not. So, impressive as Huffman’s statement is, it is in fact, “Total Fallacy” that our students are being ‘crushed by the students in Singapore/South Korea’.

“Building an education coalition for reform that means more work and harder work. We took 1800 schools to support 60,000 teachers to get 1 million kids to do more work and harder work.” Before I give you the Fib-o-Meter answer, consider this. In the rhetoric of Common Core, how many groups or how many times have we heard the world ‘coalition’? I’ve lost count. I wonder if those who speak it realize the definition. Webster’s Dictionary tells us “A group formed for a common purpose.” Look at the full definition, it’s another word for ‘union’. This one’s ‘Total Truth’. The push in TN to adhere to Common Core is super strong. In Mr. Huffman’s TED Talk he goes on to say many trendy things audiences love to hear about educational success. But, while most of what he says is true, consider how agenda driven to CC he is. As one of Huffman’s supportive teachers stated. “The juice is worth the squeeze.” Makes me wonder who’s been Kool-Aid drinking’ lately.

Lastly, South Carolina, my Southern neighbor: 

In a 35 minute speech given in June of 2014, Mick Zais, shares his vision for SC education, overall. (Mr. Zais has been in office since 2011.) He, like Dr. Atkinson, was elected to serve. Of the 3 speeches, his is the longest, yet the least ‘fluffy’. In fact, the presentation I watched, listened to,  I didn’t see his face at all. It is his vision for the state.(access it here:

https://ed.sc.gov/agency/superintendent/vision/index.cfm)

You’ll get a slide show of his points as he talks with you very conversationally. Now, officially, SC is in the midst of creating their own educational standards while still using the CCSS ones. From the State’s website: Pursuant to Act 200 passed by the General Assembly and signed by the Governor in June 2014, Common Core will only be the basis for instruction and assessment in the 2014-15 school year; SC has initiated the process to develop new, high-level College and Career Ready standards in English Language Arts and Mathematics with the intent of putting those new standards in place for the 2015-16 school year.” (source: http://ed.sc.gov/agency/programs-services/190/)

Now,  we will not be measuring his vision. Why not? While his vision entails much that sounds like CCSS, has some of the same players as CCSS, he is sharing a vision. Visions include desires based on facts, fibs, etc.  but until we see exactly HOW his vision is laid out and approved by others, we cannot accurately put it through our purposed “Fib-o-Meter” scale. DO listen to his vision & see where he sounds like CCSS.

What you CAN measure is from  the  school counselor’s guide on the SC State’s website. The guide is given to help diffuse the anxious student or parent. (see: http://www.counseling.org/docs/resources—school-counselors/common-core-state-standards.pdf?sfvrsn=2It is the Common Core Mission Statement that you will be putting to the Fib-o-Meter test.

I will leave you with this challenge to complete without  my providing the answers. Why? Remember: every Fib-o-Meter is designed for you to use to help educate others in the fight to stop Common Core Standards and the assault on our American students, families and local schools. It is my hope/goal that by you doing this with them, you can help them see just how fallacy based CCSS is.

CCSS Mission Statement: “Common Core State Standards provide a consistent{unwavering in change}, clear{easy to perceive} understanding of what students are expected to learn, so teachers and parents know what they need to do to help them. {think of all those parents who can’t or aren’t  able to help} The standards are designed to be robust {in this context, the meaning is ‘able to withstand’} and relevant {closely connected} to the real world, reflecting the knowledge and skills that our young people need for success in college and careers {research has shown you can be one or the other but not BOTH college/career readysuccessfully in the global economy.”

(source: CoreStandards.org)

Last words: What if my state isn’t one of these 3 featured? Questions you need to ask: What background or present conflicts of interest does my superintendent have? What is their stance on CCSS? Are they open and transparent? Do they welcome parent input or act like parents are only as good as their checkbooks? Is my state currently supporting, not supporting or somewhere in between with the CCSS? What can I do to get involved to help others? Do I notice a pattern that legislative, U.S. Constitutionally bound state Congresses were bypassed to receive Common Core Standards in the first place? While not the only national group for superintendents of all levels, Here’s a resource that may help you find answers to your state’s superintendents: http://www.aasa.org/

As always, comments are welcome, in fact, I hope we can get a discussion started about our states and their top educational officers.

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