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Arne Duncan Tells Newspaper Editors How to Report on Common Core

Reader Comment: Arne Duncan is but a marionette performing as his puppeteers, the masters of money and power direct. Across America, contracts are signed forecasting great profits and control. The beast of CC will never be full. It is a jobs program for the well connected. There will be endless offerings of materials and workshops and leadership seminars all promising to improve test scores and ratings on assessments. Broad Academies and the like will be ready to produce CCSS super leaders with certificates of sorts printing in fancy gold lettering, and their proteges will be expecting plentiful paychecks. Marketing firms and future employers await computer compiled student profiles. 

Reader Comment: Liar, Liar pants on fire. Mr. Duncan why were FERPA regulations changed? They were changed so you can steal our children's information without those pesky parents interfering with your little plans. And Mr. Duncan you are in violation of 3 federal laws by paying PARCC and SBAC to create assessments and for setting up a technical review panel to monitor PARCC and SBAC. When you give the states only one choice of standards that is not a choice at all it is moral coercion. States are broke and needed the money and you know it so you used bribery and threats to get them to get in line. This is UNESCO running the show and we all know it. Why is Bill Gates funding education. Who died and left him King? He also has an agreement with UNESCO to deliver Universal Education. In 2007 it was Bill Gates and Eli Broad that started the mission toward nationalized standards. You and your boss have no credibility with the AMerican people so stop trying to convince us you had nothing to do with Common Core. And it is just not conservatives who see through your scheme. Democrats see it too. 

Reader Comment: So the Feds passed RttT, which requires the adoption of CCSS and student test scores as a significant part of teacher evaluation (better already-created things like MCPS's PAR be damned). The states *ostensibly* created the CCSS, though, so the Feds can pretend they have nothing to do with it. It's a game of semantics, and it's totally cheap and pathetic, especially from a Federal cabinet member. 

Even my 11-year-old can see through this. Yeesh. 

Ohanian Comment: We can hope that Valerie Strauss is right and that we've got Arne running "plenty worried." 

The Washington Post reporter introduces Arne's speech with this: 

The standards, which are rolling out in most states and will be in place by 2014, have been attacked in recent months by conservatives and tea party activists, who say they amount to a federal intrusion into local school systems.

The press loves to refer to tea party activists opposing the Common Core, never mention that political progressives also oppose it. They want to scare John Q Citizen into acceptance. After all, how could a regular guy possibly be on the same side as Glenn Beck?

by Valerie Strauss

It seems that a big part of Education Secretary Arne Duncan's job now is giving impassioned defenses of the Common Core State Standards, which he did Tuesday to a convention of American news editors (some of whom may not have even known it needed defending).

A few months ago, Duncan told Chamber of Commerce leaders that they had to be more supportive of the Common Core because it was coming under withering attack from the left and right, and some states were reconsidering implementing the standards. On Tuesday, he gave another defense to the editors as well as some tips on how to report the story:

So do the reporting. Ask the Common Core critics: Please identify a single lesson plan that the federal government created, or requires of any school, teacher or district.

Ask if they can identify any textbook that the federal government created, endorsed, or required for any school, teacher, or district in their state.

Ask them to identify any element, phrase, or a single word of the Common Core standards that was developed or required by the federal government.

If they tell you that any of these things are happening –– challenge them to name names. Challenge them to produce evidence – because they won’t find it. It doesn’t exist.

And he went after Core critics, saying that they were at best misinformed and at worst laboring under paranoid delusions.

The Common Core has become a rallying cry for fringe groups that claim it is a scheme for the federal government to usurp state and local control of what students learn. An op-ed in the New York Times called the Common Core "a radical curriculum." It is neither radical nor a curriculum. . . . When the critics can't persuade you that the Common Core is a curriculum, they make even more outlandish claims. They say that the Common Core calls for federal collection of student data. For the record, it doesn't, we're not allowed to, and we won't. And let's not even get into the really wacky stuff: mind control, robots, and biometric brain mapping.

If the news editors take Duncan up on his call for them to look deeply into the Common Core, they will find that Duncan didn't tell the full story.

There is some irony in the fact that Arne Duncan keeps saying that the Core is not the work of the federal government while he, the federal secretary of education, goes around attacking its critics. In fact, he just bowed to those critics, agreeing to give states an extra year to comply with federal mandates on using Core-aligned standardized tests to evaluate teachers.

He is certainly right to say that there are outlandish claims being made about the Common Core, which is a set of common standards adopted by 45 states and the District of Columbia designed to raise student achievement. Glen Beck, shouting that the Core is essentially an effort by the federal government to rip children out of the control of their parents, said recently:

You as a parent are going to be completely pushed out of the loop. The state is completely pushed out of the loop. They now have control of your children.

That's ridiculous stuff, for sure, but not all of the criticism is.

The Core initiative was started in 2007 by the National Governors Association and the Council of Chief State School Officers, a bipartisan effort to come up with a common set of K-12 standards in English language arts and math across states that would better prepare students for colleges and careers than in the past.

The standards were written by school reformer and entrepreneur David Coleman, who now heads the College Board, and Susan Pimental of Achieve Inc., an organization created to advance "standards-based" education. Starting in 2009, the Obama administration, in its main education initiative, required states that wanted to compete for Race to the Top reform dollars to adopt the standards. It also gave some $360 million to two consortia of states developing standardized tests aligned to the Core, exams whose results would be used to evaluate teachers, another controversial part of the Obama reform agenda.

For some time there has been concern about the Core. Educators and researchers questioned the way the standards were written (whether, for example, there was any or enough input from working teachers) and some criticized the content of the standards (while others praised it). Some critics don't believe in standards-based education, and others felt it usurped local authority. More recently, tea party members and even the Republican National Committee jumped onto the anti-Core bandwagon, accusing the administration of a federal takeover of public education, extreme right-wing rhetoric that clouded a real discussion about the Core.

This year some states led by Republican governors began to pull away from the standards. Protests by educators, parents, students and others began to grow as it became clear that the Core implementation was being rushed, and some students were being given tests said to be Core-aligned even though teachers hadn’t had enough time to create material around the standards. Randi Weingarten, president of the American Federation of Teachers, said in a speech that a survey of the members of the country’s second-largest teachers union found that 75 percent supported the Core but "a similarly overwhelming majority said they haven't had enough time to understand the standards, put them into practice or share strategies with colleagues." And she called for a moratorium on the high-stakes use of the test scores to evaluate teachers.

Last week, Duncan bowed to that reality, announcing that he was giving the 37 states plus the District of Columbia, which had won federal waivers from the most egregious mandates of the No Child Left Behind Act, an extra year to implement teacher evaluations linked to new assessments that are supposed to be aligned to the new Common Core State Standards. This means the states have until 2016.

Duncan, in his speech to the newspaper editors, said the federal government didn't start or write the standards, and that is true. He said that it wasn't mandated either, though critics argue that it was coerced. He was also right when he said the Core is not a curriculum (even though the Core authors released a book of criteria to education publishers about what should be in Core curriculum).

But he didn't mention the rushed implementation, nor the hundreds of millions of dollars the federal government has plowed into the testing creation effort. He has said for years that the Core-aligned tests would be "game changers" and be able to assess students much more broadly, but he didn't say Tuesday that that isn't true. It turns out there wasn’t enough time or money to create those kinds of tests.

On Tuesday, Duncan said he doesn’t think the Common Core State Standards initiative is "going to be derailed." But the thrust of his speech shows that he is plenty worried.

Valerie Strauss

Washington Post Answer Sheet

June 25, 2013

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Susan Ohanian

Susan Ohanian, a long-time public school teacher, is a freelance writer whose articles have appeared in Atlantic, Parents, Washington Monthly, The Nation, Phi Del...