Friday, October 04, 2013

Important Update on Common Core in Michigan

Action Item For Michigan Readers:  Call the Government Operations Committee members (names and numbers below) and let them know you want them to "do their job" and hold public hearings to discuss the serious issues with Common Core and HCR 11 and that you want an amendment to REMOVE Michigan  from the Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortia.

Legislative Recap of HCR 11 and why we need to defeat or amend HCR 11 NOW.
Hoping to meet the October 1 deadline for the new budget year, the Michigan House passed House Concurrent Reolution No. 11 authorizing funding on September 26  The resolution was then sent to the Senate for approval.  Senate Majority Leader Randy Richardville  didn't appear to be in any hurry to move toward passing the resolution before the deadline,
Richardville said that he was not concerned about the effect the October 1 deadline might have on efforts to implement the standards and continue the state's work in a national group developing tests based on the standards.
"We're going to do our job the way we see fit," Richardville said. "And I've heard about these panic things before, but actually I did have a talk with some of the folks in the department and don't believe that it's a risk at all."
Yesterday October 2, the Michigan Senate held a joint committee hearing to discuss Common Core but there was little discussion of the resolution.  In fact, when Senator Colbeck asked if the resolution was "non-binding" he was told that the committee was there to discuss Common Core and not the resolution.   (Video will be posted when available.)

However, the resolution is the "affirmative action"  Governor Snyder, the Michigan Department of Education, and the State School Board want passed to continue the funding and implementation of Common Core.   After 3 hours of testimony on Common Core the meeting was adjourned.  No action was taken on the resolution.   Oddly, Senator Majority Leader Richardville abruptly moved the resolution to the Senate Government Operations Committee this morning.    The committee is chaired by Senator Richardville.   Education or Appropriations seemed a better fit because HCR 11 is a resolution to restore education funding for Common Core.

Why a resolution on education funding would be referred to the Government Operations Committee is confusing to me but that's where it currently sits.   The Government Operations Committee typically meets on Tuesdays at 1 PM.   I could not confirm if the committee will take the resolution up in their next meeting.   The members of the committee must know that HCR 11 is NOT acceptable and we MUST leave SBAC.

1.   HCR 11 fails to remove Michigan from Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortia (SBAC). The SBAC assessments are being funded and developed with federal oversight.   The Federal Department of Ed. considers itself a "partner' with the consortia.  The resolution finds no constitutional role for federal involvement in education   If there is not federal involvement in education then leaving SBAC must be in the resolution.

2. HCR 11 puts  Michigan school officials in conflict with the SBAC agreement.   As a governing state in SBAC, Michigan is contractually required to develop an interoperability database and  share student-level data with the federal government or third-parties.

3.  HCR 11 does not secure student-level data.  Michigan could face stiff federal consequences if the break the SBAC agreement.  Given that the agreement required to share student data, the only way to insure privacy is to leave SBAC and develop our own assessments.

4.  HCR 11 does not protect local control of education.  The SBAC allows Michigan to have ONE vote among a multi-state consortia.  Our vote is further minimized with federal involvement. With this resolution we trade complete control of our standards and assessments for meager one vote.
Unless Michigan lawmakers resolve to get out of the Smarter Balanced Assessments and retain control of the tests and data, any resolution passed out of the Senate will be incomplete and unacceptable.

Here are the Committee members and their phone numbers:  CALL NOW!
The opposition is shocked and frustrated that we have gotten this far.  We are where we are because the grassroots is making a difference.  YOU are making a difference.   Thank you!

P.S.  And when you call Senator Richardville's office let him know you noticed and did not like the way he unilaterally moved HCR 11 out of Appropriations and into HIS committee.

Sunday, September 15, 2013

Constructing the P-20 Federalized Education Pathway

Michigan Governor Snyder said in 2011,
" It is time that we view our educational system which runs from pre-natal to lifelong learning. It’s time to start talking about P-20 instead of just K-12. We need to establish a system that focuses on real achievement for all of our children."
The P-20 education system has been in the making for over a decade.   Common national standards for K-12 was the first component but getting colleges to surrender to federal oversight and control was always part of the plan.
In 2006,  then Secretary of Education Margaret Spellings under President Bush convened a commission to study higher education.  The commission was charged with examining access, affordability, and accountability in higher education. All in an effort to make sure that students are adequately prepared to compete in the "global economy".   (You can read the report here. (PDF).   From page 6:
We propose to dramatically expand college participation and success by outlining ways in which post secondary institutions, K-12 school systems, and state policy makers can work together to create a seamless pathway, between high school and college. States K-12 graduation standards must be closely aligned with college and employer expectations,
Starting with the student loan takeover in 2009, President Obama bulldozed his way into higher education.  In 2010,  with federal incentives the Common Core was passed and the K-12 graduation standards of 45 states were nationalized with assessments under federal oversight.   It's now 2013, Obama is binding the seam between high school and higher education with the use of financial aid money.
Last month,  President Obama unveiled a proposal, "aimed at making colleges more accountable and affordable by rating them and ultimately linking those ratings to financial aid."
A draft of the proposal, obtained by The New York Times and likely to cause some consternation among colleges, shows a plan to rate colleges before the 2015 school year based on measures like tuition, graduation rates, debt and earnings of graduates, and the percentage of lower-income students who attend. The ratings would compare colleges against their peer institutions. If the plan can win Congressional approval, the idea is to base federal financial aid to students attending the colleges partly on those rankings.
States quickly bowed to federal pressure and adopted the Common Core in order to receive Race for the Top funds.  Will colleges and universities allow the federal government to bully them into conforming to the P-20 centralized education system?
If Grand Valley State University President Thomas Haas is any indication then the answer is "yes."  In an op-ed for MLive he said,
President Both President Obama and Governor Snyder have called on lawmakers to consider institutional performance when making appropriations and for participation in federal student loan programs. I agree.
Once colleges and universities seek a higher ranking to receive federal funding, the federal government will have all the leverage it needs to control the seamless pathway from P-20.   Most colleges and universities will conform and comply to whatever  the feds demand in order to get the federal funding.   Any guess where a conservative or Christian college will eventually fair on the federal rankings?   Will a student applying to Spring Arbor University be denied a student loan?
The test is part of a movement to find new ways to assess the skills of graduates. Employers say grades can be misleading and that they have grown skeptical of college credentials.
The standardized tests was also a recommendation by the Spellings Commission on Higher Education. The federal government knows that what is tested is what is taught.  What is taught is what is thought.   Linked with the Common Core the student data tracking will follow the student to higher education.  
Common Core + College Conformity =  P-20 education pathway.  
We must defeat Common Core or resign ourselves to a centralized federal system of education from cradle to life long labor.

Friday, September 13, 2013

Does Governor Snyder support porn in our schools?

Eric Owen, Education Editor at the Daily Caller, is asking a question that should make most parents cringe, "Fifty Shades of Gray:  how much porn is too much for high schoolers?"      Owen was prompted to ask because of a book recommended in the Common Core and read aloud in a tenth grade classroom in Arizona.   Owen cites where the book is found in Common Core.
“Dreaming in Cuban” can be found on page 152 among the many recommended texts in a very lengthy Appendix B of the “Common Core Standards for English Language Arts & Literacy in History/Social Studies, Science, and Technical Subjects.”
You'll have to go to the Daily Caller to read the disgusting text.   I refuse to reprint it here.   But this is what happens when a state outsources their education to unelected unaccountable "experts" who think they know what our children need to read.   Owen continues,
What “Dreaming in Cuban” is doing tucked in the midst of various classics such as Ernest Hemingway’s “A Farewell to Arms” and Thornton Wilder’s “Our Town” is perhaps a question only Jeb Bush and Arne Duncan can answer.
 More important than Bush or Duncan, I'd like to know what Governor Snyder has to say.   As the Governor of Michigan and a member of the National Governor's Association,   Governor Snyder do you support allowing porn to be read in Michigan's schools?

Sunday, August 04, 2013

A Sneak Peak at the new SAT and ACT

The NY Times posted a story about the SAT (owned by The College Board) and ACT and how they are changing in the next few years.

 Big changes are coming to the nation’s two competing admissions tests.

Mr. Coleman, who became president last October, is intent on rethinking the SAT to make it an instrument that meshes with what students are learning in their classrooms. Meanwhile, the ACT, which has always been more curriculum-based, is the first of the two to move into the digital age. In adapting its test for the computer, ACT Inc. is tiptoeing past the fill-in-the-bubble Scantron sheets toward more creative, hands-on questions.

In their own ways, both organizations are striving to produce something beyond a college admissions test. ACT plans to start yearly testing as early as third grade to help guide students to college readiness. One of Mr. Coleman’s goals is for the College Board to help low-income students see broader college possibilities.        
The changes to ACT are not necessarily just a result of Common Core Standards being released either,  ACT and College Board were early partner with the NGA and the CCSSO in the initiative before the standards were released. 

"The Common Core State Standards Initiative is led by the National Governors Association and the Council of Chief State School Officers, in partnership with ACT, the College Board, and Achieve."
So while the SAT and ACT may seem like competitors in the testing marketplace, they appear to be  more like companions on a journey toward one national P-20 college readiness testing track.    

As part of the Common Core, two assessment consortia, SBA and PARCC, were developed to design tests for participating states.  But is that the long term plan, given that ACT and SAT were both "partners" in the development of the Common Core?  

Consider the following:

1.  Chester Finn of the Fordham Foundation speculated that Smarter Balanced and PARCC Assessment Consortia may not be around forever.
"I expect that PARCC and Smarter Balanced (the two federally subsidized consortia of states that are developing new assessments meant to be aligned with Common Core standards) will fade away, eclipsed and supplanted by long-established yet fleet-footed testing firms that already possess the infrastructure, relationships, and durability that give them huge advantages in the competition for state and district business." 
2.  Cynthia B. Schmeiser former President and Chief Operating Officer of ACT, came out of retirement after 38 years at ACT., to take a new position as chief of assessments with College Board.  She also serves on the Nation Governors Association–Gates National Advisory Committee, among other committees focused on P–20 improvement 

Because education is a long-term process, a continuous process, we need to look at assessment as being in the service of education, by looking at it as a coherent system, not as just a point in time, but across time, within the whole educational process," 
A good system of assessment, Schmeiser said, would be used "earlier, to inform the educational process."
IF SAT truly were a competitor to ACT, they would need an "early" assessment system.  Education Week asked Schmeiser,  "Would the College Board seek to build a comprehensive system of tests, like the two federally funded state consortia [SBA and PARCC] are doing? (And like the ACT teamed up with Pearson to build?)

Schmeiser said only that the two consortia are doing "critically important work" that the College Board would "continue to support."
SBA and PARCC are doing "critically important" work like giving the appearance that the assessments are "state-led" and not driven by the ACT/SAT  partnership with Achieve and the NGA and the CCSSO    The NY Times called the Schmeiser move to the College Board a "defection" but might it foreshadow a merger?   She certainly doesn't act like someone whose company is being threatened by the ACT or the new state testing consortia. 

3.  ACT and SAT both bring distinct assets together to form a coherent P-20 student testing and tracking system.   ACT Aspire provides the "earlier" testing and data tracking component while the SAT provides the popular Advanced Placement Exams which Coleman sees as a "model" for testing.   Both companies have a college-readiness exam.  However, it has been noted that the SAT is losing market share to ACT and some believe the new SAT redesign wil look more like the ACT.  

Quoting from the NY Times, 
"With the new redesign, the SAT seems likely to inch even closer in content to the ACT, which focuses more on grammar, usage and mechanics than on vocabulary.
 It is also significant that the ACT is going digital with the help of Pearson but it does not appear that the SAT is making the transition away from pencil and paper. 

Will the SAT and ACT eventually merge and become the alternative "independent" testing powerhouse for the Common Core?  Has that been the plan all along?

Jindal's Naive on Common Core

Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal gave a speech at a Redstate gathering on Friday where he addressed the Common Core.   He said,
"We will resist any attempt ... to impose a national curriculum,"
But as the news story points out that "the Jindal administration has been supportive of the standards, with state Education Superintendent John White saying they will "put Louisiana's children on an even playing field with every child in America."
Jindal is naive.  Common Core IS a national standard with national assessments and in the national curricula to go along with it is in the works.
In 2012, Mike Cohen President of Achieve stated that Achieve is "already working with three states--NY, RI, and MA to that have "won Race for the Top funds" and were allocating a portion of that to develop model curriculum and instructional materials aligned to the Common Core."
"Model curriculum" that will like become a "common curricula" for states to "decide" to adopt.
From the State of Michigan FAQ on Common Core 
11. Q: Do the CCSS represent national standards? Will they lead to a national curriculum and common national assessment?
A:  The Common Core State Standards Initiative is being led by states, not by the U.S. Department of Education. The CCSS will allow for development of common assessments  that may be adopted by states. Such common assessments may provide opportunities for evaluation of progress toward college and career readiness.   Decisions about development and adoption of common curricula and assessments will continue to be left to state boards of education. Some states may decide to participate in the development and adoption of a common curriculum (definitions that go beyond standards and include units of instruction or required activities, problems, or readings). The CCSSI has developed standards which will be adopted by states and used as the framework for developing state-level curricula and assessments. Participation in the  CCSSI does not require that states adopt a common curriculum or that they participate in one common assessment.
I'm sure Arne Duncan and Achieve will be right their helping the states "find" a reason to participate and adopt them just like they did with the Common Core State Standards and the related assessments.
Governor Jindal, the time to resist national curriculum is NOW.   I call upon you to remove your name and support from the Conservatives for Higher Standards website and join the fight to Stop Common Core.  Only in defeating the Common Core can we insure that national curriculum will never become a reality in the USA.
Karen Braun is a homeschool mom from Michigan.  She also writes for StopCommonCoreinMichigan.

Friday, August 02, 2013

HSLDA and Common Core

This week, I was forwarded an email sent out by HSLDA President Michael Farris to members regarding a phone conversation he had with David Coleman.  Coleman is President of the College Board and a leader in the Common Core State Standards Initiative.  (Read more about Coleman here.)

Farris's recaps his conversation here.

I have no interest in questioning the motives of Mr. Farris.   He is free to talk to whomever he wishes for whatever reasons he chooses.  But the implications of such conversations impact homeschoolers and that aspect I would like to address.

Both Coleman and Farris appeared to find common ground in their mutual dislike for data collection.
When he asked me why I thought that the Common Core was worse than other standards, I indicated that one of my chief concerns was the  creation of the database that would track students throughout their educational career. 
His answer surprised me. He didn't like the database all that well. It was not originally part of the Common Core, but other people have  seized the opportunity to make a centralized data collection effort  through the implementation of the Common Core.
Coleman's dislike for databases is confusing given that he previously stated his support of data collection.   In fact, he sees student data as the key to Common Core and rescuing students "within our care."
The College Board--our philosophy is it's not just that we can see this data, but these stduents are within our care...I want to put it to you very simply: we see it on three levels—in Advanced Placement—if there are ten students who score ready for AP based on their PSAT score so they get a good enough score on their PSAT, that it predicts a sixty percent chance of them passing AP math.
Even more curious than their mutual dislike for student data collection,  Farris does not mention any discussion regarding their common interest in Advanced Placement (AP) and how AP tests might be affected by Common Core.  Coleman boasts that AP students are "within our care."  The same could be said for many homeschool students enrolled in Patrick Henry Online College Preparatory Academy associated with Patrick Henry College founded by Mr. Farris.  The online high school must submit its coursework for approval by the College Board to use the AP distinction.
When you see “AP” in a course’s name, you know that the course conforms to a college-level curriculum standard. All PHC Prep Academy courses pass the AP course audit before they are taught to students.
HSLDA offers a discount to members who enroll in prep school.  Clearly, HSLDA and Farris prize the AP distinction and believe it is a selling feature for the academy.   Did Coleman and Farris talk about AP and how it would be impacted Patrick Henry and homeschoolers who take the AP exams?

HSLDA recently unveiled a new website, that outlines many of the concerns related to the Common Core.   College Board testing was identified as an area of concern but there is no mention of AP Tests.
The final area of concern for homeschoolers is that national and other popular standardized tests across the country are being rewritten to be aligned to the Common Core. David Coleman, the president of the College Board, was one of the primary authors of the Common Core English Language Arts standards. He has announced that the SAT will be redesigned to fully implement the Common Core.6 The latest version of the Iowa Test of Basic Skills is based on the Common Core.7 The GED has been redesigned for the first time since 2002 to incorporate “practices and skills from the Common Core State Standards for Mathematical Practice.”8 Writers of the GED explain that they decided to revise the test now because “The shift to the Common Core standards is happening nationwide at the current time.”9
College Board is currently revising its AP tests to align with the Common Core.  Patrick Henry Prep Academy must submit its syllabi to the Coleman-led College Board in order to use the AP distinction.  AP is popular with many homeschool parents seeking to build a college-prep high school curricula for their children.

Homeschool parents deserve accurate information regarding the Common Core and that includes information regarding all tests, including the AP.   Many rely on HSLDA to inform them.

 Is it wise for a Christian to continue to seek their approval and validate the College Board/Coleman Standard of "excellence"?   Is it wise for parents to submit to AP tests knowing data collection is a part of Coleman's plan for the test?

As a Christian homeschooler, I reject the notion that we submit our coursework to any board for approval, especially one under the direction of David Coleman and his affection for the UN and global education.    I don't mind losing the AP distinction if it means we remain free of secular influence in our education. AP and the College Board do not validate my children or their education nor do they need my children's data.

I sent an email to HSLDA citing my concern and was told it will be forwarded on to others.  I also had concerns regarding their statements about the ACT  which will have to wait for another post.  I am not trying to demonize Mr. Farris or HSLDA, far from it. We're on the same side.  We both want to defeat Common Core and encourage educational freedom .

I hope some day to be able to have a similar conversation with Mr. Farris or a member of his staff and discuss how we can work together to accomplish that goal.  Stay tuned.

As an aside, I've been busy this summer with family and Michigan issues related to the Common Core.   Currently, I am writing much of the content for the Stop Common Core site in MIchigan site and working to halt Common Core in Michigan.   You can read more about that at

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Common Core and Homeschooling

The Heritage Institute blog, The Foundry, writes,
New information on Common Core “alignment” by the ACT, SAT, and even GED exams raises questions about the impact Common Core will have on private and homeschooled students and their ability to “opt out” of the federally incentivized standards if they want to apply for college.
    ...Proponents of the standards have tried to argue that Common Core is optional for states. But alignment of tests like the SAT, ACT, and GED poses new questions about the extent to which states, private schools, and homeschooled students will be compelled to accept national standards and tests.

It's not just in college admission through the SAT, ACT, and GED, but the validity of a high school diploma that is not aligned with the standards. Institutions of High Education are now under federal U.S. Department of Education rules which require them validate a high school diploma.    The National Association of College Admission Counseling issued the following policy brief in 2011,
Based on the GAO’s recommendations, the U.S. Department of Education drafted a new rule  defining a high school diploma. Under new Higher Education Act regulations (§ 668.16(p)),  institutions are required to develop and follow procedures for evaluation of the validity of a  student’s high school completion if the institution or the Department of Education has reason to believe that the high school diploma is not valid or was not obtained from an entity approved to provide secondary education. This regulation becomes effective July 1, 2011.
To help institutions identify diplomas that are suspect, the Department will establish and maintain  a list of public and private high schools, populated by surveys from the Department’s National  Center for Education Statistics. Also, the department added two questions to the 2011-12 FAFSA  (print and online) to assist institutions in identifying suspect high school completion.
The question added asks
27.  When you begin college in year 2011-2012 what will be your high school completion status?
High school diploma
None of the above
A homeschool student earning a high school diploma following the regulations in their state should be able to answer "high school diploma."  But instead they have to check homeschooled.  Why?  Because if they check high school diploma they get a box with Q 28.  that asks for the name of their high school and the state.    So by selecting homeschooled they are essentially admitting that they haven't completed high school and potentially flagged for review even if they have complied with the homeschool laws in their state.
Remember, in 2009 when President Obama consolidated student loans?  This is part of the reason why.   He who controls the purse, holds the power.   So along with ACT, SAT, and GED alignment student loans can potentially be tied to adhering to national standards.
Testing offers another opportunity for  diploma validation.  The Smarter Balanced Assessments or PARCC tests are an integral part of national common core standards,  will be a part of the credential process that will distinguish a "valid" diploma from other high school diplomas from home or private school.

Last year, ACT announced it was partnering with Pearson to develop the "Next Generation" assessments. 
The nonprofit leader in college and career readiness assessment, today announced its plan to launch a "next generation" assessment system spanning early elementary grades through high school. The new system will advance ACT's mission of helping people achieve education and workplace success by providing students, parents and educators with the information they need to know whether students are on track for success in college and 21st century careers."
The term "next generation" is also used for the new Next Generation Science Standards that were announced earlier this year, also heavily influenced by Pearson.    They are also involved in providing the curricula for the iPads just purchased by the Los Angeles School district. 
The curricula and testing component from early-elementary through high school leads to the  "valid" high school e-transcript and diploma that is portable and accepted by college and employers across the United States.   This portable credentialed diploma guides the student on the "P-20" seamless pathway from cradle-to-career.
Michigan has plans to offer an e-transcript through Parchment. 
"This service facilitates the electronic exchange of transcripts and other admissions documents for all Michigan public and private high schools and colleges. Transcripts and documents are sent through Parchment in a manner compliant with the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA).
In the words of Parchment e-transcripts are "Putting the Train on the Tracks."    An e-transcript is a  "critical project" in Michigan education reform.   Only those in the national P-20 educational e-system will get the e-transcript or the "ticket"  they need to jump on the train and move toward their final destination in the global e-conomy.  Homeschool and private schools are will be "voluntold" to align or be at a disadvantage in college and career advancement.   Not because home or private school students lack the knowledge but because they lack the ability to gain the coveted credential a national educational testing and tracking system provides to those that align and comply.
The goal of education in the era of Common Core  is to prepare students to become workers for a global economy.  Governor Snyder said,
"...exposing students to careers at an early age, starting with more elementary school tours of businesses. It also includes more coordination between schools and employers to make curriculum less theoretical and more practical."
That may be the highest goal of Governor Snyder for children but that is not the highest goal of many parents who choose to home or privately educate their children.
Hillsdale College Professor Coupland stated it well,
As long as students are told that the end of education is a job or a career, they will forever be servants of some master.
"If education has become –as Common Core openly declares– preparation for work in a global economy, then this situation is far worse than Common Core critics ever anticipated. And the concerns about cost, and quality, and yes, even the constitutionality of Common Core, pale in comparison to the concerns for the hearts, minds, and souls of American children.”

Monday, May 27, 2013

Michigan Battle is Intensifying

I ran into Michigan State Senator Colbeck this morning at a Memorial Day Parade.   I asked him about Common Core and how solidly he was against it.  The vote is coming up to de-fund it and he said the pressure is intense.  Governor Snyder is bringing in dignitaries to try and strong arm lawmakers.  Colbeck added, "But you don't have to worry about me."   I hope not but I am not taking any chances.     

Here's an email being sent out by the Michigan Association of School Boards get those in favor of Common Core to rally their troops. 
Support Common Core - contact your legislator
This week, the House and Senate will be voting on a Michigan Department of Education budget bill that will effectively prohibit Michigan from participating in the Common Core State Standards (CCSS) Initiative.  This language was inserted into the budget without ANY testimony or public input, or any consideration of the cost of students and schools.  There is a proposed compromise which would allow participation to continue while the Legislature commences a study of the Common Core.

Tell your Legislator that in order for students to compete in a knowledge-based, global economy, Michigan needs consistent standards that will provide appropriate benchmarks for all students.  Our schools are now four years and millions of dollars down the road toward adopting the CCSS.  Changing course now will put our students and schools at a severe disadvantage that could last for years.
What's almost laughable about this is that in 2010 Common Core was pushed through with NO debate and no cost analysis and now they are crying foul about it in a budget bill? 

Common Core advocates say it’s too late to de-fund the standards.
 ”This train has already left the station,” said Michael Yocum, executive director of learning services for Oakland Schools, the county’s intermediate school district. “We are so far down the road now.” Yocum is overseeing the implementation of the standards throughout the county’s school districts.  (Source: Detroit Free Press)
But when a train is headed in the wrong direction, it’s never too late.  It’s time for Michigan lawmakers to get off the Common Core train.   Our children’s futures are riding on their decision this Tuesday.

We can win it.  We must win it.     

Saturday, May 25, 2013

Huckabee Supports Common Core

To the shock of many in the homeschool movement, Mike Huckabee has voiced his support for Common Core.  
“Parents and people involved in their local schools should let it be known that core standards are valuable, and they’re not something to be afraid of—they are something to embrace.”
I"m not shocked at all.   I wrote a whole series of posts about Huckabee back in 2007 demonstrating why he was NOT a good choice for homeschoolers despite the endorsement of HSLDA-PAC
"It was a priority for me to develop more accessible and effective preschool programs and to make dramatic changes in both access and affordability in higher education. We developed a seamless curriculum from pre-K through college so that there was coordination and continuity throughout the educational process." (From Hope to Higher Ground, by Mike Huckabee, p. 43-45)
Education has been a signature issue for Mike Huckabee. While his resume is impressive, it signals that he has accepted many of the liberal reforms of those seeking to remove local control in education in favor of national curriculum and standards. The primer on P-16 was written in 2001 by the Education Commission of the States (ECS). Mike Huckabee was chairman of the (ECS) from 2004 to 2006. During his tenure, he did not challenge or attempt to undo any of these reforms, preferring to concentrate on music and art in education. In 2004, he participated in the task force for "Redesigning the American High School" chaired by Democrat Governor Mark Warner of Virginia. This task force was funded in large part by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation which seeks to align education standards both nationally and internationally.
These reforms which he was so much a part of creating, what are now known as Common Core.  I hope homeschoolers finally see him for who he really is, the Huckster out for what is best for Huckabee NOT homeschoolers.   

Hucakbee issued a "clarification" that is not any better.  
My statement on the Common Core has been misconstrued. While I believe such standards make sense for public schools in math and English, I support parents' freedom of choice to educate their children however they want, including homeschooling, regardless of the standards that are applied in a public school setting."
He either is lying or he does not understand the reforms he pushed through and they will impact every child in the US no matter where they are educated.   Either way his clarification does him no help at at all. 

Thursday, May 23, 2013

Common Core fight goes to Congress

Rep. Martha Roby, R-Alabama, introduced the The Defending State Authority Over Education Act, which would "prohibit the federal government from offering grants or policy waivers contingent on a state's use of certain curricula or assessment policies." 
"The executive branch has exceeded its appropriate reach where state education policy is concerned, and it's time to rein it in," Roby said in a press release.
The Defending State Authority Over Education Act, Roby said, will "prevent undue influence by the federal government."
"Local and state leaders -- those who have direct interaction with parents and teachers in their communities -- are best positioned to determine policies that affect Alabama's students," she said. "Washington bureaucrats are not."
This is something everyone, Republican and Democrat, who believe in local/parental control should get behind.  Call your Representative and ask him/her to support The Defending State Authority Over Education Act.  

Monday, May 20, 2013

Four Components of a National Education System

As I've been speaking about the common core it has become clear that people know a little bit about some of it but few understand how all the pieces fit together.    This post is by no mean comprehensive but it puts all four of the key components of education reform together and will hopefully help parents understand why this not just the Common Core but the entire reform is a problem.

There are four components to the "defacto" national education that together comprise the P-20 centralized system.   Common Core and the push for national standards is as much an economic reform as it is an education reform.  Anyone educated outside the P-20 system is at a disadvantage in college and career advancement. 

Michigan Governor Rick Snyder said in 2011, " It is time that we view our educational system which runs from pre-natal to lifelong learning. It’s time to start talking about P-20 instead of just K-12. We need to establish a system that focuses on real achievement for all of our children."

1. Standards: These are the Common Core (math and ELA) along with Next Generation
Science and C3 Social studies. Common Core has already been adopted by 45 states and the other two standards are being considered in many states right now.

2. Assessments: These are the tests to go with the new standards. What is tested is what is taught. What is taught is what is thought. Currently there are two assessments being implemented in 44 states. Smarter Balanced and PARCC. Combined these will eventually become a national test to be given to all students. SBA tests are computer adaptive. Which means that questions become easier for those that miss a question and harder for those that get it right. So that begins the tracking and filtering of kids toward a certain career based on testing.

3. Curricula: What is tested must be practiced 100 times. That's a paraphrase of David Coleman's statement. Coleman was chief architect of the Common Core and now is head of the College Board which runs the AP and the SAT test. Curricula is being developed to go along with the tests. And the AP and SAT along with ACT are all being aligned to the tests. curricula will follow. Pearson who wrote the science standards and the assessments is already developing much of it.

4. Data Tracking: This is the place where the teacher and student data is stored. Yes, data mining is a concern. But not the only one. Those outside the database will be at a disadvantage in college admission and employment. There curriculum will be challenged as not as rigorous to the high national standards and the curricula developed to those standards. Teachers will be "graded" and tracked on well they teach the new standards, insuring that they don't deviate too greatly from the script. Students will be graded and tracked on well they learn the new standards. All leading toward a centralized data system that crosses state lines and leads to a portable credential accepted by employers and colleges. Already many colleges are using a "Common Application" that is ONE application for over 400 colleges. A "valid" e-transcript is the ticket to travel to the next destination after high school. The only way to get a ticket to ride the P-20 system is to participate in their system. The data tracking includes over 400 unique identifiers that are not just academic. Any guesses where a Christian homeschooler might be placed on such a measure?
Common standards + Common tests + Common curricula + Common data tracking = P - 20 seamless educational system.

These four components outline a European-style national education system here in the US. 
This is where homeschooled and private schooled  who do not complete coursework not aligned with Common Core and are not "tracked" could potentially encounter problems.

Six students in a private Christian school were denied admission into college because some of their coursework (A Beka and Bob Jones) was not acceptable by the University of California system.  They lost their court battle.

But even those with children in the public school will be penalized if they hold certain beliefs. 

Consider the response to the just released Next Generation Science Standards by Richard Hull, executive director of the Text and Academic Authors Association,

"Students who are educated in accordance with them will have a better chance for success in college courses and in competition on the employment market than those steeped in creationism design, new earth theory, and other alternative accounts."
How much more clear can it be that this is about conformity of thought and not high academic standards?

For a more detailed analysis of Common Core and these various components, you can go to Common Core and click on the various posts I have written on the subject

Friday, May 03, 2013

MI Homeschoolers and Common Core

Common Core and related standards and assessments are a defacto national standard and are part of the process to create a P-20 seamless pathway from school to the work force.  Make no mistake about it, the standards and related assessments will affect homeschoolers.    Homeschoolers know this and are making our opposition known to lawmakers.

We must be making an impact because the Michigan Department of Education issued a special "fact sheet" about Common Core and homeschoolers (PDF).  to be distributed to state lawmakers who are apparently fielding a lot of calls about Common Core.
Are home school parents and students required to adopt the Common Core State Standards (CCSS) and develop a curriculum to align with the CCSS?  
No. Home school parents /guardians and students are not required to adopt, develop a curriculum, or follow the Common Core State Standards.
The fact that we are not REQUIRED to adopt or follow the CCSS does not mean that we are immune to the consequences of a defacto national educational system.  All students, regardless of where they attend school must be included in the P-20 seamless pathway.  Much to the frustration of the Michigan Department of Education,  homeschoolers are outside the pathway.

Homeschool students do not have to register with the state of Michigan unless they require special services.   MI Representative Stanley introduced a bill earlier this year to get homeschool students to report attendance but it hasn't gone anywhere. There is another avenue: assessments.

The Michigan Department of Education fact sheet curiously addresses the privacy concerns in the Smarter Balanced Assessments even though homeschool students are NOT required to take any assessment.
Student Data Collection
Will answers to Smarter Balanced Assessments be stored individually for each student?
Yes.  Answers to Smarter Balanced test items will be collected and securely stor for individual students.  This is necessary to compile and provide accurate achievement
reports for students, educators and parents.  
This "fact sheet" distributed to Michigan lawmakers is NOT factual at all.  Currently, Michigan requires the MEAP for grades 3-9 and MME for all high school students.  In a rhetorical slight of hand, the Michigan Department of Education transitions away from MEAP/MME to Smarter Balanced Assessment without any explanation.

Michigan homeschool students are exempt from state-mandated tests and that would include the SBA if it were to be adopted.  Replacing the MME with the Smarter Balanced Assessment (SBA) would require an act of the legislature, so why include it in a fact sheet when it currently does not apply to homeschooolers and SBA has not been adopted?

The SBA is one of two consortia developing a test to align with the Common Core.  There are 22 states in each consoritum the other is known as PARCC.  If  the Michigan legislature and the other states adopt a common test this creates a defacto national test.   It also easily ushers in a national, portable, credentialed "valid" diploma recognized by colleges and employers around the country.  They only way a homeschool student can earn that credentialed diploma is take the high-stakes state SBA offered solely by the state of Michigan.  A student who does not take the test could be perceived to be less qualified simply because they didn't take the SBA. So while homeschoolers won't be FORCED to align or test using the SBA, the consequences of NOT taking it are potentially significant.

Remember, education reform is also an economic reform.  Michigan  Governor Snyder views education as a mechanism to link children to their future careers.   Work force development depends on accurate testing and tracking data, P-20. All students must be in the system and that includes Michigan homeschoolers. 

Wednesday, May 01, 2013

Stop Common Core in Michigan (and every where else)

Citizens for Traditional Values has put together a great one page resource that is your one stop link to everything you need to know to get up on Common Core quickly.   Some of the information is specific to Michigan but it the general info is pertinent to every state.   Great to pass along in an email or on Facebook.

There is a Stop Common Core in Michigan Facebook page too. 

I'll be speaking on Common Core in Lansing, next week at the INCH Convention.   If you are a homeschooler,  Common Core and related standards and assessments will affect you too.

And if you're not from Michigan but want to find out where to get connected in your state visit Truth in American Education

Get informed and get active.  We're making a difference. 

The President of the American Federation of Teachers, Randi Weingarten, called for a moratorium on Common Core tests.   She's a proponent of the standards but this may help slow the process down and allow for more examination of the standards.   A good sign.

Tuesday, April 30, 2013

HIgh-Stakes Testing has to STOP!

You know that high-stakes testing is no longer about what is best for children when a New York teacher walks into the children's ward of a hospital with the hopes of testing a fourth grader suffering from seizures.
 Joey Furlong is a 4th grader in the Bethlehem School District. He has life-threatening epilepsy and his seizures can only be stopped with medication so his parents are considering brain surgery. In order to get to that point though, Joey needs to go through a series of tests which is what he is doing right now at the Cohen Children’s Medical Center on Long Island.
Thursday morning a woman walked into his room with a piece of paper that had his name on it and told my husband that she was a teacher from the New York City School District and that she was there to administer the 4th grade New York State test to my son,” Furlong tells CBS6. The family was shocked. 
This is outrageous and these are the people who want to set the standards for education?  We don't need Common Core in education we need a little more common sense!

This has to stop.  Parents and educators you don't have to be held hostage to high-stakes tests in the classroom or a hospital room.  It's time to protest the nonsense!


Parents and students are getting angry and getting the attention of state school officials. 

Texas moms halt testing.  
“We were not going to sit around and see our kids be potentially put at a competitive disadvantage,” said Dineen Majcher, whose daughter is in the first class affected by the new testing.
Chicago Students walk out of standardized tests
Hundreds of Chicago students are taking up the mantle in the fight against the role of standardized tests in public school closures as they walked out of a state exam Wednesday. Their message: "We are over-tested, under-resourced and fed up!"
The Washington Post reports that there is turmoil swirling with Common Core
The Common Core is in trouble,” said Randi Weingarten, the union president who is slated to speak Tuesday in New York about the issue. “There is a serious backlash in lots of different ways, on the right and on the left.”

Common Core and high-stakes testing cannot stand up to scrutiny so proponents typically resort to character assassination to deflect attention away from bad policy.  But there is power when parents and students on the left an right band together and say,  "Enough!"
“You tend to think you’re just an island on an issue until you meet up with another island and before you know it, you’re a continent,” said Susan Kellner, a former school board president in Spring Branch near Houston who has become a leader of the parent group.

Monday, April 29, 2013

Homeschoolers and AP in the era of Common Core

After David Coleman left his post commanding Common Core through 45 states, he took a new position as the President of the College Board.  College Board controls the SAT and Advanced Placement (AP).   When Coleman took the position in the spring of 2012 he said in an interview with the New York Times,  "The College Board should consider any student in an AP class a student in our care.” Clearly, Coleman has plans for the AP and students who take the exams. 

Since that time, AP announced a redesign.

Trevor Packer, senior vice president of College Board, discusses how the Common Core standards will influence Advanced Placement curriculum.
"Well we are really excited that the Common Core standards asks teachers to do a few things very well.  And we've been making similar changes in AP through a parallel process - the redesign of AP science and history courses; that do the same thing.  They ask teachers to concentrate on a smaller amount of content  in much greater depth with a focus on skills that are going to last into college and careers."
Homeschool parents of children in high school often seek out coursework that uses the AP distinction because it is widely perceived as a symbol for excellence in education.

Homeschool Legal Defense Association (HSLDA) offers its members a discount to the Patrick Henry College Preparatory Academy that advertises the AP distinction.
"Each course meets the College Board’s rigorous requirements for an official AP designation, fully preparing students for the related AP exam."
The Patrick Henry FAQ explains how a course earns the AP  designation?
Before an AP course is offered by a school, it must go through—and pass—a course audit.
“The AP Course Audit was created at the request of both secondary school and college members of the College Board... [to] provide AP teachers and administrators with clear guidelines on curricular and resource requirements that must be in place for AP courses.... [and] give colleges and universities confidence that [all] AP courses are designed to meet the same clearly articulated college-level criteria.... All schools wishing to label a course ‘AP’ must submit the subject-specific AP Course Audit form and the course syllabus for each teacher of that AP course.” (See this page for the reference and more information.) 
When you see “AP” in a course’s name, you know that the course conforms to a college-level curriculum standard. All PHC Prep Academy courses pass the AP course audit before they are taught to students.
College Board is very willing to accommodate homeschool students who want to take the AP  but all that glitters is not gold or in this case academically excellent. From the American Thinker blog,
Parents, beware!  Either a homeschooling parent will have taught any given subject with such a different focus that the student will have difficulty in taking the test, or the parent will find herself "teaching to the test" and depriving her child of the balanced information that is one of the hallmarks of a home-school education.
HSLDA disagrees and says that you can still use AP with a Christian worldview.   However, that was written in 2011 before David Coleman became President or their  pending AP redesign.  College Board requires all AP teachers to submit a new syllabus and audit form based on the new requirements.

Will College Board continue to approve syllabi that fails to align to Common Core, Next Generation Science Standards, or the C3 Social Studies Standards?   Is it wise for a Christian to continue to seek their approval and validate the College Board/Coleman Standard of "excellence"? 

As a Christian homeschooler, I reject the notion that we submit our coursework to any board for approval, especially one under the direction of David Coleman and his affection for the UN and global education.    I don't mind losing the AP distinction if it means we remain free of secular influence in our education. AP and the College Board do not validate my children or their education.

"For am I now seeking the favor of men, or of God? Or am I striving to please men? If I were still trying to please men, I would not be a bond-servant of Christ." Galatians 1:10

Work-force Science

Student data-tracking, an essential component of P-20 education reform, is getting lots of attention and much needed scrutiny.   Along with the obvious privacy concerns many wonder how the large amount of information or "big data",  will be used.   As always, it is helpful to remember the goal of public education:  cradle-to-career tracking and placement to meet the needs of employers in the global economy. 
That includes exposing students to careers at an early age, starting with more elementary school tours of businesses. It also includes more coordination between schools and employers to make curriculum less theoretical and more practical.
Michigan Governor recently said, "One of the key reasons we have an education system is to better connect kids and people to careers,”  That's what they mean when they "college and career" readiness standards or "School-to-Work" as it was formerly known.  And that's where the data tracking comes in real handy to education reforms. 

With the advances in technology and data collection for job placement has now been elevated to a  science, Work-force science.  
Work-force science, in short, is what happens when Big Data meets H.R.

The new discipline has its champions. “This is absolutely the way forward,” says Peter Cappelli, director of the Center for Human Resources at the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania. “Most companies have been flying completely blind.”

Today, every e-mail, instant message, phone call, line of written code and mouse-click leaves a digital signal. These patterns can now be inexpensively collected and mined for insights into how people work and communicate, potentially opening doors to more efficiency and innovation within companies.
Several start-up companies, such as Gild,  are developing systems that crunch big data ins search of employees.    Dr. Ming, Chief Scientist at Gild,  explains how big data helps recruit computer programmers    All the calculations lead to a "Gild score' a measure of what the person can do." Facebook, Amazon, Google, and Wal-Mart are either testing or using their service in search of employees.

The big data currently mined is from internet sources but imagine the potential data-mining after all 50 states have a fully integrated P-20 data tracking systems.   One of the objectives of the P-20 student data system is is to ensure that the data is:
" ...made available to state and local policymakers and residents of this state in the most useful format possible.
Private student data collected and crunched creates a powerful tool to guide government/industry partnerships in work-force development in the 21st Century. 

The big data is not just   GPA and ACT scores but other "noncognitive" fatctors such as  "grit".

The U.S. Department of Education’s Office of Educational Technology published a report back in February entitled “Promoting Grit, Tenacity and Perseverance: Critical Factors for Success in the 21st Century.”
"There is a growing movement to explore the potential of the “noncognitive” factors—attributes, dispositions, social skills, attitudes, and intrapersonal resources, independent of intellectual ability—that high-achieving individuals draw upon to accomplish success, (pg. v).
Work-force Science:  where social engineering meets big data for work-force development that will meet the demands of the state but not the dreams of the child.    Education is NOT about training workers.

The bible instructs parents to train up a child in the way he should go for eternity NOT  to train a worker for the global economy in the 21st Century.

Saturday, April 27, 2013

A Common App for the Common Core

As parents become educated about Common Core a common question is "What About College?"  As national standards unfold there is still much that could change but  it is helpful to remember that the ultimate goal is a "seamless pathway" from cradle to career.  That means potential "stopping points" traditionally experienced would be smoothed into one continuous path, that includes the most obvious break between high school and college or work. 

I've already written about the testing aspect and the possibility of a merger between ACT and SAT but one aspect that I have only loosely covered is the application process into .

There are a few breaks in the pathway that must streamlined to make this "seamless."  I'll highlight two of them here: the high school transcript and a common application.

Michigan has plans to offer an e-transcript through Parchment. 
"This service facilitates the electronic exchange of transcripts and other admissions documents for all Michigan public and private high schools and colleges. Transcripts and documents are sent through Parchment in a manner compliant with the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA).
In the words of Parchment e-transcripts are "Putting the Train on the Tracks."  For many students their next destination is college.  An e-transcript is useful for online college applications.  But the process is getting even easier.   If you go to a college that is a member of The Common Application consortia they'll do it for you. 

The non-profit group The Common Application, Inc. created the Common App.   It is designed to " to provide a common, standardized first-year application form for use at any member institution. "   The Common App began in 1975 with 15 institutions and now has more than 400 member institutions.   In 2007, they announced the "Next generation Common App Online System" and in 2011 accepted their first international institution.

Common App uses a "holistic approach" to the admission process. 
A holistic process includes subjective as well as objective criteria, including at least one recommendation form, at least one untimed essay, and broader campus diversity considerations. The vast majority of colleges and universities in the US use only objective criteria – grades and test scores – and therefore are not eligible to join. If a college or university is not listed on this website, they are not members of the consortium. Sending the Common Application to non-members is prohibited.
A college may still have their own application but as a member of the Common App they are required to give equal consideration to applicants using either form.  According to their website, "Many of our members use the Common Application as their only undergraduate admission application." 

A criticism of the Common App is that it eliminated the "topic of your choice" and that it's 500 word essay limit imposed through the use of a comment box, are stifling originality of thought and creating a homogenized student body.   What?  Common standards destroys originality and promotes conformity, who knew?!?

Another growing controversy is whether an applicant should declare their sexual orientation.  Some colleges would like to see it but for now Common App rejected the optional question.   That's the problem with educational standards, they are not common.    The Common App may revisit the issue. 

In the mean time, Common App is getting a make over.  The "next generation common application"  CA4 is set to launch in August of 2013 to handle the expected growth in use over the next decade.  According to the New York Times, "teachers, counselors and school administrators are expected to submit 10 million transcripts, recommendations and other school forms through the Common Application’s electronic pipeline this year." 

College Board
is encouraging students to take advantage of the Common App. They recently hosted Scott Anderson, Director of Outreach for The Common App, at their spring conference on Common Core and  "to explore the impact the Common Core Requirements will have on undergraduate admissions, financial aid and other aspects of the enrollment management processes in higher education institutions." 

Should college admission standards be "common" and decided by one non-profit organization?  Add in the data base that stores an amazing amount of student data and you have severe power and privacy concerns.   Some might even call it a  monopoly in college admissions.  It is and at the same time just another hurdle smoothed over in the quest for a national P-20 educational system and  a seamless pathway from cradle to career.

Thursday, April 25, 2013

What is a democratic republic?

Today, Shane Vander Hart at American Principles Project posted a copy of the the new C3 social studies standards.  He skimmed and found several places for concern and encouraged readers to read the text. So I did.

I didn't get very far before I hit a snag.  In the first paragraph of the Introduction on p. 4 ,
In the College, Career, and Civil Life (C3) Framework for Social Studies Standards the call for students to become more prepared for the challenges of college and career is united with a third element: a preparation for civic life.  Advocates of citizenship education cross the political spectrum, but they are bound by a common belief that our democratic republic will not sustain unless students are aware of their changing cultural and physical environments; know the past; read,write, and think deeply; and act in ways that promote the common good.  There will always be differing perspectives on these objectives. The goal of knowledgeable, thinking, and active citizens, however is universal.  
Democratic republic? The term confused me.  I knew the term Democratic, as in Democratic Party.  I knew the term, republic, as a form of government.  But I had never put the terms together. 

My mind instantly went to the famous quote by Benjamin Franklin when someone asked him at the close of the Constitutional Convention what form of government do we have - a republic or a monarchy?  He replied, "A republic if you can keep it."

I googled democratic republic, truly expecting to find a long list of places where I could find a definition.  The first that popped up was Wikipedia,
"A democratic republic is a country that is both a republic and a democracy. It is one where ultimate authority and power is derived from the citizens. However, in practice countries that describe themselves as democratic republics do not always hold free or fair elections."
Okay, I agree with what you're thinking--that's wikipedia and not exactly credible.  But that's the problem. There was no other source for a quality definition.   So I typed in "democratic republic definition": 

democratic republic  

Web definitions
People's Republic (also Popular Republic, especially in other languages) is a title that has often been used by Marxist-Leninist...
No much better and probably a little worse.  So I typed in "democratic republic United States" again expecting a long list of sources to help me out and received no help at all.

I went to World results found.  (Incidentally, you can search democratic republic Marx Engel and get quite a bit of information but I was sincerely looking for an "objective" definition.)

I gave up and scrolled the standards to find a definition.  I landed in the Civics section on  pg. 29 hoping from some clarity and maybe even a definition.  I didn't get either one. 
"In a constitutional democracy productive civic engagement requires knowledge of the history, principles and foundations of our American democracy. 
So is the United States a democratic republic, a constitutional democracy, or a democracy? 

Ben Franklin called it a Republic, can't we just keep it?

Moms Against Jeb Bush

Bless her heart,  Barbara Bush was asked if her son Jeb Bush should run for President and she bluntly said no, "We've had enough Bushes."
But Mom Bush isn't the only mom in America that thinks he shouldn't seek the nomination.    Moms across America are not happy with Jeb Bush and his education policies, specifically his support of Common Core.  Common core is causing a rift in the GOP and it's in large part because mothers across the nation are getting informed about the massive federal take-over of education and blogging, tweeting, and getting active in their states to oppose it.
A recent Twitter rally, was able to get #StopCommonCore to trend globally.   It was a one day event that made a huge impact.  #StopCommonCore is now trending in many state legislatures and with mothers across the nation.  Moms are getting active in their capitals and bills are being introduced and approved that halt Common Core in their states.    (See TruthinAmericanEducation for what's happening in specific states.)  Stop Common Core Facebook pages are active and growing in number as moms search for ways to network and share ideas.   Parents and Educators of across the political spectrum are uniting.
Common Core may have won the approval of 45 states in 2010 but it is losing the approval of moms across America in 2013.    Jeb Bush is one of the biggest GOP cheerleaders of Common Core and moms know it.  Bush's recent praise of  David Coleman, chief architect of the Common Core spread like wildfire among moms and strengthened our resolve against him and the Common Core.
Can Jeb Bush win in 2016 if he doesn't have the support of his mom?  Sure.
Can Jeb Bush win in 2016 if he doesn't have the support of moms across America?  Not a chance.