Tag Archive | Common Core

#TNaintReady 2.0

by Horatio Bunce

Common Core “state” standards performance numbers for high school students are in. Commissioner McQueen had a press conference and bar graph to declare success as reported by the always- government-school-sympathetic Chalkbeat. Chalkbeat had set up the press conference the day before with another article stating that Tennessee students were struggling with the testing on the “UtahReady” tests because of the “rigorous” Common Core “State” Standards that students have only been using for two years. Convenient excuse isn’t it?

Remember how when back in 2014 (that’s 3 whole years ago for you Common Core Math students) when Stacey Campfield introduced a bill to stop implementing more Common Core “State” Standards, it was too late to turn back and lose all that ground? Apparently none of that counts, nor does the instruction happening between then and 2015 when we started paying millions of dollars to “lease” Utah Sage Assessment questions for TNReady tests. So the setup was that if we didn’t see improvement, it would be really bad news, therefore telegraphing that flat or any improvement at all is “success”. So, Candice makes up a bar graph that is really exaggerated to show improvement from 2016 to 2017.

I felt it necessary to edit her bogus graph to include the rest of the data set and illustrate how statistically insignificant the difference in the two years’ scores are. The educrats have changed the federally-driven testing language from the old “below basic, basic, proficient and advanced” terms to now only show us two terms called “on track” and “mastered”. There is a very significant data set (added by me in red) that does not fall in these categories. Not sure what that is called, since it is not “on track” or “mastered”. Maybe “obscured”, “obfuscated”, “ignored in press releases” or something similar would work?

 

 

 

A report from the #TNaintReady front lines

by Horatio Bunce

From a friend in the public school system (yeah, I have a few) with the names and places removed to protect the innocent:

“My wife is a teacher in xxxxxx County, and as such is at the point of the spear on this. I think the most succinct statement came from one of her 3rd graders; he asked, “Mrs. Xxxxxx, don’t they know that we are 8 years old?” Xxxxx has been spending scads of time teaching how to take the computerized test, rather than the curriculum. This, combined with the fact that her class has to share computers with the rest of the school, has essentially made the last two weeks a bust as far as classroom instruction is concerned.”

I guess Mrs. Xxxxx should have “expected more/achieved more” and said “Buck up son! How do you expect to compete in the global marketplace without these internationally benchmarked standards that haven’t actually been used anywhere else in the world ever?”

Just remember that back in late 2009 Achieve Inc. national co-chair Phil Bredesen, Tim Webb and B. Fielding Rolston were twisting the arms of your local directors of schools to sign a memorandum of understanding that they were familiar with all the trappings that came with taking the Race To The Top federal bribe (adherence with Common Core “State” Standards they couldn’t yet read because they didn’t yet exist, mandatory online testing and mandatory student longitudinal database expansion). The application was only about 1100 pages long. I’m sure they read it….aren’t you?

Here, you can still watch Bredesen and Jamie “we were going to do it anyway” Woodson lie about all the unanimous agreement right here:   https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ByuIlsf9ftY

#TNaintReady

YUNOby Horatio Bunce

TNReady tests to be given via paper, pencil after tech failure

Just wanted to comment on the repeated failures of the many media outlets that keep calling these the TNReady tests that we contracted with Measurement Inc. to produce for $108M. Measurement Inc. sub-contracted to the behavioral research company American Institutes for Research (AIR ) who also made the tests called the SAGE Assessments for Utah. Like Tennessee, Utah also took the federal bribe called Race To The Top which required mandatory online assessments (all the better to mine your human capital data with). Bribe-takers were additionally required to work through one of two federally-created, stimulus-funded, multi-state testing consortia for these online tests: PARCC or SBAC. After initially awarding an illegal, no-bid testing contract to PARCC (Kevin Huffman, governing board member) and their project manager Achieve Inc. (Bill Haslam board member, Phil Bredesen national co-chair), the testing contract was “rebid” (sic) with only one possible winner that meets our federally-mandated testing consortia requirement: SBAC. However the multiple middle-men of AIR and Measurement Inc. help to conceal this fact. But here is AIR’s press release from 2012 claiming their partnership with SBAC to deliver online testing to states, so make no mistake, Tennessee maintains her status as federal welfare queen pleasing Uncle Sugar. Federally mandated online testing right along with Common Core for taking that $500M+ bribe. The Common Core Whores can rename it all they want – it is still the same.

Tennessee is currently paying Utah $2.3M per year to rent test questions from their SAGE Assessments.

I hate to say I told you so on these tests, but from October 2013:

Note that some believe the sudden pullback from PARCC by these states is orchestrated, that other opportunists are now positioning themselves to create a “state-led” assessment model to test the same Common Core “state” Standards without the obvious, blatant, federal appearance that PARCC and SBAC have. Time will tell. Of course, this is merely treating a symptom and not the disease. They would likely rely on the same test makers – or copy “big” states like Florida, the same way they do with textbook selection.

I ask you to remember back to Bredesen/Woodson/Haslam/Frist et al rationalizing the Common Core “State” Standards and the wonderful multi-state testing consortia and how it was so hard to compare student achievement from state to state because we all had our different tests and how great this “common” thing was going to be (after they all cash in).

Doesn’t it seem, well, contradictory that now we are paying the same two Washington DC testing corporations to make different tests for each state that allegedly are all aligned to the same academic standards?

Remember, there is a $5,000 fine for leaking out any of Utah’s rented test questions – per question “regardless of whether the release is accidental, intentional or required by law.” It sure would be a shame if that happened, especially since it is now on paper.

A Utah teacher’s opinion of the SAGE test “items” TN is renting from Utah for $2.3M

by Eric Holcombe

Photo: Kelly Maher Poynter of her daughter working on "rigorous" Commie Core assignments

Photo: Kelly Maher Poynter of her daughter working on “rigorous” Commie Core assignments

As mentioned in earlier posts, Tennessee is leasing Utah’s Common Core, federal government-forced online testing “items” from their SAGE assessments provided by Smarter Balance Assessment Consortium (SBAC) via the behavioral research company American Institutes for Research (AIR). AIR is known for behavioral research, a.k.a. data mining, on public school students such as Project Talent in 1960 (also driven by the federal government). At the time of their implementation, the SAGE assessments were untested, that is, they were unpiloted on any students prior to them being foisted upon Utah students in spring of 2014. Utah students were the guinea pigs – and Utahns paid handsomely for the privilege to be the guinea pigs. In December of 2014, Achieve Inc. board member Bill Haslam announced that Tennessee would be renting test “items” from Utah for $2.3 million for the next couple of years until Measurement Inc. (via AIR, via SBAC) can develop the “TNReady” tests. Now keep in mind that like Tennessee, all states that took the Race To The Top federal bribe must choose between one of two federal-government created masters for their mandatory, online testing: PARCC or SBAC. Tennessee’s initial illegal, no-bid testing contract was awarded to PARCC (Kevin Huffman, governing board). Utah initially chose SBAC and after much public displeasure was expressed then did the same thing Achieve Inc. board member Haslam has since done: pretend to put the mandatory, federal-driven testing “out for bid”, say you are making “state-led” tests except they rigged the specifications so that ultimately only an SBAC subcontracted entity could “win”. So Utah ended up with the SAGE assessments by SBAC via AIR, the behavioral research company. In Tennessee’s case, we added yet another middle-man by hiring Measurement Inc. from North Carolina, who subcontracted to AIR, a Washington DC corporation (like Haslam’s Achieve Inc.) who works with SBAC from Washington State. And in the meanwhile, we are renting the tests that Utah has already paid them to create, thus TN students are really UtahReady.
Following is an editorial by Debbie Nichols, a recently retired Utah teacher of 34 years, who gives her view of the SAGE test (emphasis mine). This was published in the Deseret News on November 1 of 2014, about six months after the first application of the SAGE tests in Utah but still PRIOR to Tennessee’s contract to lease the test “items” for $2.3 million per year from Utah for the next two years and PRIOR to Tennessee’s $108 million contract to Measurement Inc. to produce the new tests from AIR/SBAC for the following five years.
You may find yourself asking who did the shopping for this and why did we decide this was a good idea for Tennessee (if in fact Commie Core and its mandatory online testing really is “state-led” and not forced by the federal government).

My view: A teacher’s opinion of the SAGE test
Many Utahns heard about the SAGE test for the first time this week as the test results were published. There is more to be concerned about than the scores. There are some things that taxpayers and parents need to know about the SAGE test.
I taught school for 34 years and just retired in June. I taught nine years at West Kearns Elementary and 25 years at Eastwood Elementary. I have watched the metamorphosis in education over these many years. Some changes have been good and some have not. The SAGE test is not a good change.

SAGE testing does not line up with the curriculum. It may tell you some things a child knows, but not necessarily what he or she learned in class. This style of test never measures what has been taught.

The math section of the SAGE test is really a reading test, which means one cannot distinguish computation from application from vocabulary knowledge. Can the child do the computation but not apply it? Could the child do the computation and apply it if he or she knew a different vocabulary term used in the word problem? The SAGE test won’t tell you, and educators are not given vocabulary lists or knowledge of content.
The SAGE test is simply not a good test. Last spring I saw a little boy stare at his screen for 30 minutes. He knew the correct answer was 1½, but he could not find a way to enter a mixed number to answer the question. It couldn’t be done on his computer.
The SAGE test is written so that as a student answers questions correctly, the test immediately takes the student to questions that aren’t just harder, but out of grade level. It overwhelms and frustrates elementary children. The students are not allowed to go on unless they answer each question. Last year I watched as 28 students stared at a screen until they gave up and guessed. The teacher is not allowed to give prompts during this test at all. Exasperated students soon give up. Low students stop reading altogether.
The SAGE test does not help teachers or students know student progress. This testing format is not age appropriate for grade school. For secondary schools, it is still not measuring if a student mastered the curriculum that they were taught.
Learning has to be measured in some way. So educators look at what the end goal is and set out during the year to try to achieve this goal. We make a curriculum that matches up with the final test to be given. This is not teaching to the test, this is teaching to the goal of mastery of a subject.
A runner knows that his race time does not improve by buying a new stopwatch. The runner knows that he needs to work harder and practice more. Students’ scores will not improve with a new test. It is not the testing we need to practice but the actual skill. More testing does not equal more learning. We need more teaching time in the classroom and less testing time. There is so much more that these students need to know for the future. Too much testing just desensitizes them. We should be striving for love of learning, not hate of testing.
Educators and society need to prepare our students for college and the real workforce. The SAGE doesn’t help, it just dampens the love of learning. We deserve more for our education dollar. More importantly, our students deserve better.

So what does UtahReady look like?

Brian Halladay, Alpine School District Board member, Utah County, UT

By Eric Holcombe
In my last post I explained how we are paying the state of Utah to “lease” test “items” that Utah has paid to have produced by the behavioral research company American Institutes of Research (AIR). Utah’s tests are called the SAGE Assessments and they began using them in 2014, because Utah, like Tennessee, also took the federal bribe in Race To The Top to implement the federally-provided Common Core “state” Standards and all electronic assessment testing provided via the federally created, multi-state testing consortia (PARCC and SBAC). So since Tennessee students will now be UtahReady, I thought you might be interested in the viewpoint of a Utah school board member regarding the SAGE assessments we are now paying Utah to lease “items” from. After all, we have been told by the Common Core Whores what a great idea this is because all the cool kids are doing it (emphasis mine):

The Reality Behind Your Child’s Test

By Brian Halladay, Board Member, Alpine School District, Utah

Sage test results were recently released that showed less than half of Utah’s students were proficient in math, English, and language arts. Taken at face value, this means that more than half our students are “not proficient.” So, what does this mean? Absolutely nothing.

The SAGE test is an unreliable, unverified test that our children from 3rd-11th grade are taking not just once, but up to three times a year. These tests aren’t scored by their teachers, but rather by the American Institutes for Research (AIR). This company is the one of the world’s largest social and behavioral research organizations. Your child’s proficiency is being scored by a bunch of behavioral researchers. 

No teacher is scoring, or has the ability to score, an individual child’s SAGE test.
Your child is taking a test for 8 hours (4 hours for math and 4 hours for English) that their teacher can’t see the questions to. This test is designed to have your child fail. Gone are the days when a student could feel a sense of achievement for getting 100% on a test. This test is touted to be “rigorous”. If your child gets a correct answer the test will continue to ask harder and harder questions until he or she gets it wrong (who knows if what is tested was actually taught in the classroom?) Put simply, this means that your child likely will come home grumpy, anxious, or depressed after taking this test. With over 50% non-proficiency, this will affect more than half  of the students that take it.

The teacher is almost as much of a test victim as the child. Having no idea of the test questions, teachers are still starting to be evaluated —on a test they can’t see. I believe we’re starting to see this leading to more experienced teachers leaving, and an increase in teachers with little to no experience not knowing the pre-SAGE environment.  

Points to consider: 

1. When did we allow testing to become more important than education?
 
2. Your child’s data is subject to being shared with people and organizations without your consent. There is nothing that prohibits AIR or any its multiple organizations from accessing your child’s data. As long as AIR doesn’t make a profit from the data without the USOE’s consent, they can use it for anything they want.
 
3. This test has no contractual provisions that prevent it from collecting BEHAVIORAL data. AIR has a long history of collecting behavioral data, and seeing they’re a behavioral research organization, don’t you think they will? (Just look up Project Talent).

Last year, two fellow board members and I wrote a letter to our State Superintendent asking him to address our concerns, for which we’ve had no response. If your parental instinct is kicking in, I would ask that you at least consider opting your child out of taking this test. State law allows any parent to opt their child out. Even if you don’t decide to opt out, talk with your teacher, know when your child is taking this test, and make sure your decision is in the child’s best interest.

Tennessee Students are now Utah-Ready?

TN is paying Utah for test questions

by Eric Holcombe
If you have been following Achieve Inc. board member Haslam and the state department of eduction’s more recent announcements regarding “TNReady” or “TNCore”, the alleged, “new”, “state-led” standards for K-12 education to “replace” Common Core (because those Common Core “state” Standards we were told were “state-led” by these same people were nothing of the sort), then you may have been hearing that everything is bright-shiny new and there are new “Tennessee” tests and new “Tennessee” standards. Well, that’s not exactly true.

While Achieve Inc. board member Haslam did let Kevin Huffman (governing board member of PARCC) go as education commissioner and PARCC did lose their illegal, no-bid, multi-million dollar testing contract to provide the Common Core “state” Standard aligned tests in Tennessee, there were absolutely no consequences for the apparent taxpayer-funded collusion between PARCC, their board members and the folks in TN State Board of Education letting the no-bid contract. Neither was there any repercussion for PARCC’s project manager, Achieve Inc. (Bill Haslam, board member). Instead, the same standards are rebranded “TNCore” and the second testing entity (like PARCC) created with $365 million in federal stimulus money will ultimately provide the Common Core “state” Standards aligned tests. This second company is Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium (SBAC). Joining a multi-state testing consortia was part and parcel of taking the federal tax dollar bribe in the Race To The Top federal grant application, and so was the adoption of the Common Core “state” Standards. Many states initially contracted with PARCC and many did with SBAC. We are simply changing federally-created test makers. We took and have already spent the $500+ million in the federal Race To The Top bribe, so you can be sure we will remain slaves to our federal masters, no matter what Nashville wants to rename it.

What you probably did hear about was a $108-million contract between the state of Tennessee and a company called Measurement Inc. to provide the “new” tests to replace the TCAP tests, now nicknamed/rebranded TNReady. You may have even read that Measurement Inc. isn’t really producing these tests, but is actually subcontracting the work to a company called American Institutes of Research (AIR) who is a partner to SBAC to provide the tests. That’s right. You are now paying for at least two middlemen. In the typical “but Mom, all the other kids are jumping off the roof, so why can’t I?” rationale, we were told how Utah, Arizona and Florida were already contracted with AIR so it must be good for Tennessee too, right? Don’t try too hard to remember all that selling that Achieve Inc. board member Haslam and Candice McQueen have been doing to convince you this time it really is “state-led” (by another state I guess). That is how we ended up in the PARCC boat with Florida to begin with.

AIR is primarily a behavioral research company, not a standardized academic assessment maker, i.e., they are well experienced in data mining. There is much speculation about what their motivation may be in the new business of data-mining public school students when combined with the bizarre data collection goals revealed in “Promoting Grit, Tenacity and Perseverance” published by the federal Dept. of Education. Like many of the players in the Common Core game, they too received millions of dollars from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. This is beginning to look like a prerequisite to get into the education “business” in Tennessee at this point. Nevertheless, AIR did produce Common Core “state” Standard aligned assessments for the state of Utah called SAGE assessments. So, did Florida, Arizona and Tennessee get their own “state-led” assessments made just for themselves for their alleged “state-led” standards? Nope. We are paying $2.3 million to lease two years’ worth of test “items” from the Utah tests. The defenders of this scheme claim that we are not paying for Utah’s “tests”, only “items” from the tests.
So to summarize, Tennessee students will now be Utah-Ready. But it’s all “state-led”….

Is this what Achieve Inc. board member Haslam means by “compete in the global marketplace”?

wages

From Zerohedge:

Want A Low-Wage Job? Go To College

 

Perhaps it is time to rethink the “college for everyone” meme as ‘fair’ and instead realize it is nothing more than government delaying the inevitable of a middle-class being down-trodden to debt-servitude for the good of the few at the top who need credit to be extended to any or everyone in order for the obvious unsustainability to be exposed for all to see.”

Commie Core repeal and replace – more GOP smoke and mirrors

by Eric Holcombe

http://rockytoppolitics.com/2015/04/28/part-three-barbarians-at-the-gate/
wolf_in_sheeps_clothing12This is the only realistic positive spin on the rebranded TN Commie Core that I have seen. Unfortunately, it also is one of the first pieces from RTP that makes them look like controlled opposition. Lipsticking the pig is not a victory no matter how you slice it. Republicans getting more say in the crooked “Tennessee Standards” review committee that shouldn’t even exist isn’t much of a win. Kind of like how we can no longer elect the judicial branch because they are better at picking them than us. Because they took the federal Race To The Top bribe and then Haslam took the NCLB waiver (which requires adherence to Commie Core), we are still shackled to following the fed direction on standards copywritten by two Washington DC corporations and Pearson “aligned” testing (and therefore “aligned” curriculum). They will not do anything to jeopardize the flow of their federal sugar daddy dollars.

There were real, actual, stick-a-fork-in-the-pig bills available for “conservative Republicans” to pass this session regarding Commie Core  – and they wimped out. Lots of conflicts with those bills, like Achieve Inc. board member Haslam couldn’t be a member of Achieve Inc. and (continue to) get paid by Bill Gates. Education Commissioner and illegal, no-bid-contract PARCC liaison, Candice McQueen would have to sever that relationship. The Commie Core whores at TNSCORE would be out of business, etc. Any future actions by state level actors of this sort would be prohibited. That means B. Fielding Rolston and the state board signing promissory notes to implement Commie Core before they can even read it (again).

I still am not convinced the state legislators who really understand the state’s rights issue here is much more than a handful. Anybody that has the mindset they will just do a better job of handpicking the oligarchs than Haslam doesn’t get the fundamentals of self-governance and liberty, or true diversity of thought across the state’s communities. They still believe we all are to be whitewashed widgets, they just want to choose the bucket of whitewash. The state has already shown it cannot be trusted. Rather than going to prison for accepting federal bribes in exchange for testing & curriculum contracts, personal data sales to foreign companies and standards adoption, they are put in charge of making the new standards. What could possibly go wrong?

But it isn’t just education, though that is a major financial chunk of business – about 45% of all state spending last I checked. You could look at the failure to repeal the Hall Income Tax (again) – even with the Republican “super” majority.

Or the failure to reinstate true 2nd Amendment rights according to the US Constitution (which appears to apply some of the time when they want it to: for overriding state laws). What did the “super” majority do with Constitutional Carry?

Or maybe “school choice” vouchers? Another failure. I only see Teach For America still in business under the Commie Core formed ISD – and the other public school choice parents had, Tennessee Virtual Academy, being closed. However Shelby and Davidson counties remain open at more than twice the cost with the same poor academics.

In case you have forgotten, this was all stuff that was promised when Republicans were in the minority. And just like Newt Gingrich’s Contract With America, they haven’t delivered a bit of it. Like Newt, I suspect they would use the excuse he did: “we only said we’d bring it to a vote – not that we would actually vote for it”.

They are still clinging to the same political club that just made Pigeon Forge liquor referendum king Ryan Haynes (not a Representative of Sevier County) their chairman. This is like some kind of battered wife syndrome. If there really are 50+ “conservatives” in TN legislature why are you still with this club?

You don’t need them.

If Ron Ramsey was against Pre-K…

Nice job on the pre-K redirect...they will forget all about that Islam social studies stuff!

Nice job on the pre-K redirect…they will forget all about that Islam social studies stuff!

by Eric Holcombe

Lt. Governor Ron Ramsey has been in print and on the airwaves recently with his anti-Pre-K message (which is largely true) that we now have paid for multiple studies of our own (because Georgia’s just wouldn’t do) that show pre-K has no lasting academic effect beyond 2nd or 3rd grade and broader implementation of this program is a waste of money. Remember back when Gov. Bredesen said Pre-K would be “voluntary”? Achieve Inc. board member Bill Haslam is still “leaving the door open” for more federal spending on Pre-K and wants to wait on yet another pre-K study by Vanderbilt  – while there didn’t seem to be nearly as much reflection on calling for the shutdown of Tennessee Virtual Academy (TVA) after only two years of operation and “almost” being in the bottom 10% academically (never mind the schools that actually were). This despite that TVA truly is voluntary, as no one forced any of those parents to enroll their children. On the contrary, Achieve Inc. board member Bill Haslam capped their exploding enrollment to prevent too many from having “school choice”.

There is one problem with this anti-Pre-K show. Lt. Governor Ramsey heartily endorsed Pre-K both as Lt. Governor AND as a then candidate for governor. What, you say? Yes, it’s true. Remember that Race To The Top application for over $500 MILLION in taxpayer dollars? All that mass plagiarism on those rubber-stamp letters endorsing the application and its contents? Well, Lt. Governor Ramsey had TWO letters in there. See Appendix A, pages 30 and 34.

He said as Lt. Governor on page 30:

We pledge to exercise the powers of our offices to vigorously support Tennessee’s Race To The Top proposal and commit to support the legislation required to achieve the goals stated therein, and assist in providing positive conditions for reform throughout the state.” (emphasis mine)

He and Achieve Inc. Board member Bill Haslam said as gubernatorial candidates on page 34:

If our state is successful in Race to the Top, it must also deliver on the proposed programs and investments in a manner that effectively spans the transition in January 2011 from the current governor [ed: Achieve Inc. board member] to the next governor [ed: Achieve Inc. board member]”. (emphasis mine)

So what, you say. That doesn’t prove anything about pre-K. Well, except that the Race to the Top application they are endorsing absolutely does on page 15:

In this application, we describe the ways in which we will….leverage other federal funds to create a P-20 statewide longitudinal database that encompasses data from education and social service sectors. We seek to organize our efforts and interventions around this data, enabling it to be used from the Capitol to the classroom. We believe that an expansion from a K-12 data system to a P-20 data system, as well as the creation of an early-warning system, will enable us to reach our graduation rate goal of 90%.”

That “P” means Pre-K. The “20” means year twenty, as in four more years after you have graduated from both high school AND a four-year university. We are going to be mining data from the human capital widgets for over twenty years of their lives via third-party testing contracts and selling it back to the federal government in violation of FERPA (before it was gutted by Obama’s executive order) *ahem*, so our children can “compete in the global marketplace”.

So why would Lt. Governor Ramsey write to Arne Duncan and promise to “vigorously support” this proposed Pre-K database expansion if we aren’t going to be spending more on Pre-K so we can have that “early warning” for the children? Why is he now backing out on his “must also deliver on the proposed programs and investments”? It would seem that Achieve Inc. board member Bill Haslam is keeping up his end of the bargain.

Ron did actually read the 1100-page application for Race to the Top before endorsing it….didn’t he? Surely he post-dated that letter, right? It would seem this might have come up in those recent super-secret Education Summit meetings.

Don’t fall for the anti-Pre-K rhetoric (even though the statements about no lasting improvement are true). The Common Core shackle is firmly around Tennessee’s neck, and so is the required P-20 Statewide Longitudinal Database System. We have already spent $500 MILLION of Uncle Sugar’s money. We will do whatever is necessary to prostitute our state for more.

If Lamar was against Common Core…

Lamar's coal-powered car - photo credit: US News & World Report

Lamar’s coal-powered car – photo credit: US News & World Report

by Eric Holcombe

Lamar has been busy lately (it is campaign season after all) trying to sell us on his convictions about president Obama’s “national board of education”, whatever that means.  He even tagged along recently with a group of Senators writing to U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan to declare:

“Federal law contains a number of general limitations on the federal government’s involvement in decisions concerning academic standards and curriculum.”

All this protest and new-found conviction has to do with Arne moving to count the NAEP test scores toward a state’s programmatic compliance with the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) as part of his “Results-Driven Accountability”.  I can think of at least two reasons for the recent change of heart:

1. Tennessee is not scoring well on the NAEP, even after spending $500 MILLION plus of fraudulently obtained Race To The Top federal tax dollars. We are still below average on every metric. This won’t jibe with our current state propaganda of highest, bestest, most improvingest scores ever.

2. If the federal government gets to decide (*wink*wink*) who the testing contractor is, uh, I mean which federal test we use to qualify for federal dollars, then that whole Achieve Inc./PARCC/Bill Gates enterprise may not pay off as planned.

I say if Lamar was really against Common Core and federal government control of education, he shouldn’t have sent that first letter to Arne Duncan heartily endorsing it. Remember, the one in Appendix A (page 32) of the Race To The Top application? The application that explicitly committed the state to the Common Core “state” Standards when they didn’t exist yet? The same application that committed us to the increased data-mining and soon-to-be PARCC assessments? In that letter Lamar said:

In utilizing these federal funds, Tennessee seeks to capitalize on its assets – a rich pool of data, a plan for revamped standards and assessments, increasing collaboration with high-tech firms and facilities, and an expanded charter school system. Tennessee’s RTTT proposal builds upon these assets and will accelerate reforms necessary to support educational achievement and excellence.”

So you see, it is all about the wrong fox getting to guard the henhouse. He sounds like Andrew Johnson, the “military governor” (just try to find that in your Constitution) of Tennessee for “honest” Abe Lincoln. It’s all sour grapes when you sold out your neighbors and now you aren’t getting the payoff you expected.

 

But see, Lamar isn’t really against Common Core. In this story from last year, you see the same objection to federal testing – well only as long as the federal government is getting to choose the test. How about this whopper:

“Referring to the Democratic education bill, the subject of today’s committee meeting, Senator Alexander said, “If your proposal passed, and the state of Tennessee – which adopted the ‘common core’ standards before the secretary ever included it in Race to the Top or anything else, and even helped write the standards – then wanted to change its standards, it would have to amend its state plan, send it to the secretary, he’d peer-review it, and he could approve it or disapprove it.”

 Uh, Lamar, please actually look at the 1100-page application for Race To The Top you endorsed with your letter to Arne Duncan, like maybe the first 10-12 pages is all it would take.
 “Senator Alexander said “Common core” standards “are the result of a state-led effort, driven by the National Governors Association and the Council of Chief State School Officers, and were meant to be a set of standards states could voluntarily adopt to improve their K-12 schools.”
In other words, they are not “state-led” (by actual residents of Tennessee) but driven by the two Washington DC corporations that hold the copyright to them and collected all that money from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. Since the first “confidential” draft of the Common Core State Standards did not even exist yet when Lamar wrote his letter endorsing them in the Race To The Top application, I am not sure where he gets the idea that they were ever anything else than a federal bribe in Race To The Top. That is the first time they ever appeared. NO ONE had implemented them prior to that – because they didn’t exist. Just like Lamar’s convictions.

$500+ Million and four years later, Common Core delivers below-average results

Copyright: Little Seed Productions

Copyright: Little Seed Productions

 

by Eric Holcombe

 

You are seeing plenty about Tennessee school achievement and the TCAP scores that are “closing the gap” or like last year were “exemplary” based only on changes in scores. Of course with Tennessee’s “waiver” from the No Child Left Behind requirements that we begged from Obama, it is incumbent upon the state to show progress. Some are using these reported changes in scores (but never the actual scores themselves mind you) to attribute the success to academic standards that were changed and as Gov. Haslam does in the first linked article, all these improvements seem to need to be compared back to 2010:

This is a very positive step for our state,” said Gov. Bill Haslam. “We’ve had steady growth and progress since 2010.

As readers of this blog well know, that was the year Tennessee lied on their application for Race To The Top federal funds, fraudulently claiming unanimous consent by all school districts and school board chairs to implement the yet-unwritten Common Core State Standards for math and English language arts. A little over sixty days later, we were rewarded with over $500 Million in public taxpayer funds which has now been spent implementing the so-called “state-led” standards. Public money was also used in the federal Race To The Top program to create two new, mandatory achievement testing firms: the Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers (PARCC) and Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium (SBAC). Joining a “multi-state” online testing consortium to measure your human capital widgets’ compliance with the Common Core State Standards was a federal requirement contained within the Race To The Top application (but keep telling yourself it is “state-led”). PARCC governing board member and Tennessee Education Commissioner Kevin Huffman and Assistant Commissioner of Curriculum and Instruction Emily Barton both testified in Senate hearings on SB1985 that Common Core is “fully implemented” and we are seeing such great results on NAEP assessments due to Common Core that somehow going back to only 2013 would be a step backward academically. Well, what do we have to show for our $500+ Million spent over the last four years?

Well, besides an illegal, multimillion dollar, no-bid testing contract with PARCC, not much. We can hide in the TCAP bubble for only so long. TCAP tests are not nationally-normed, meaning your Tennessee students’ scores only compare to other Tennessee students. Useful for ranking your in-state districts vs. one another, but not good for comparing ourselves to other states. We are told we needed (I mean we states created) Common Core so our children can “compete in the global marketplace”. It seems like we would be interested in academic performance comparisons outside our little TCAP bubble. But we are told that Common Core is “rigorous” and “internationally benchmarked”, so we should have nothing to worry about, right? Jamie SCORE Woodson claimed in the Senate Education Committee Common Core “fact-finding” hearings that one reason Common Core was implemented was because of TN’s poor performance on the NationalAssessment of Educational Progress (NAEP, a.k.a. the Nation’s Report Card) tests. These tests are not comprehensive of all grades, but test 4th and 8th grades (and now some pilot states participating in 12th grade) in several subjects, but not every subject every year:

“National Assessments​ include many subjects, including mathematics, reading, science, writing​, the arts, civics, economics, geography, and U.S. history. These assessments follow the frameworks​ developed by the National Assessment Governing Board, and use the latest advances in assessment methodology. Each subject is assessed at grades 4, 8, and 12, although not all grades are assessed each time.​”

Since TN does not use a nationally-normed achievement test like Iowa Basic Skills or Stanford Achievement, we only have the NAEP to let us know how we compare to the rest of the country. Since the testing schedule is intermittent in nature, it makes it even more difficult to reliably trend results. So how do we stack up after four years and $500 Million spent?

Unfortunately, Tennessee is still below average on every single metric for 4th and 8th grade students. We are almost nearly average on some, but not yet. Among the thirteen 12th grade pilot states, Tennessee is next to last in both mathematics and reading proficiency at 17% and 31% respectively. Just think, Gov. Haslam claims they have improved the last four years to get to that point. I don’t care how you slice it, that is an ugly score. How many more years will it take with “exemplary, closing the gap” years to get to say, 50% proficient?

Note that the last data point is 2013. Huffman and Barton claimed both that the gains up to 2013 were due to Common Core, and backing up to where we were in 2013 is a step backward in academic standards (which they claimed were already fully implemented, thus nothing to “delay”) even though they have ZERO test results. They can’t have it both ways.

In either case, we have spent four years and $500 Million extra and are still below average on every count. Tennessee should be the Common Core flagship, getting round 1 RTTT money, getting round 1 NCLB waivers and all those trips with Arne Duncan telling us how good we are, all those checks from Bill & Melinda Gates to Bredesen and Haslam’s Achieve Inc., Bill Frist and Jamie Woodson’s SCORE, the TN Dept. of Education, the City of Memphis and so on.

So when are we going to get the “World Report Card” to go with our Tennessee Report Card and Nation’s Report Card? After all, we are told that we states created Common Core so we could would have “internationally benchmarked” standards so our children can “compete in the global marketplace.” Or hasn’t Bill Gates sent a check for that yet?

Arne Duncan in his latest appearance with Gov. Haslam (reminding us that Common Core is “state-led”) asked “where’s the outrage” on education achievement gaps. What gaps Arne? We are told everything is great, we are improving every year. Don’t you read the paper? It’s just like Gov. Bredesen was telling us before we all-of-a-sudden “needed” Common Core.