Every person in America has a vital interest in stopping Common Core, a top-down, one-size-fits-all government takeover of our education system. Instead of teaching critical thinking and problem solving, Common Core stresses the lowest common denominator, punishes achievement, and forces all students to conform to government standards.

Monday, April 29, 2013

Growing corps anti-Common Core Naysayers seek to nullify new nationwide education standard

Brenda Gray-Johnson, right helps granddaughter Sienna Rai Johnson with school work. Both live in Bond Hill. Gray-Johnson believes Common Core tests will challenge students to work harder and level the playing field for students across state lines.

Written by
Denise Smith Amos


• Ohio, Kentucky and 43 other states and Washington, D.C., have agreed to a common set of academic standards for English-language arts and math. Two coalitions of states are creating two sets of common tests, due in the 2014-15 school year. Ohio also is unveiling social studies and science tests.

• The Common Core is not technically curricula; it’s a set of standards to guide curricula choices. A standard describes what students should know or be able to do for each grade and subject. Using standards, educators and schools devise or purchase curricula, textbooks and other materials. 

Examples of Common Core standards: 

• A 12th-grader in a science class must be able to analyze an author’s purpose in providing an explanation, describing a procedure or discussing an experiment in a text. The student also must identify important issues that remain unresolved. 

• A sixth-grader in a social studies class is supposed to be able to distinguish among fact, opinion and reasoned judgment in a text. 

• A third-grader should be able to give a report on a topic or text, tell a story or recount an experience with appropriate facts and relevant, descriptive details, speaking clearly at an understandable pace.

New Common Core reading and math standards are heading to a classroom near you. And trailing along is a growing chorus of critics and skeptics.

These opponents are hosting public forums, organizing phone trees and emailing elected officials. They’re texting and tweeting and signing Internet petitions.

And they’re having some impact:

• In the past two weeks, Ohio’s House removed $10 million in funds earmarked for Common Core-related technology from its budget proposal.

• Indiana’s legislators Friday voted to “pause” that state’s march toward the Common Core.

• Michigan’s House on Wednesday approved a budget bill banning the use of general funds for Common Core purposes.

• The Republican National Committee officially condemned Common Core as a federal attempt to usurp states’ rights.

• A number of conservative-leaning and Tea Party pundits dubbed it “ObamaCare for education.”

Meanwhile, U.S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan asked U.S. Chamber of Commerce members to speak up for the Common Core. And other proponents are reminding people that Common Core got its start in 2008 from a group of governors who are Democrats and Republicans.

In Ohio, parents and community members are increasingly divided over Common Core, which some say is necessary to measure student progress across state lines. But others say it’s better – and cheaper – for state and local boards to decide how to teach and test students.

Brenda Gray-Johnson, however, is not among their numbers.

Gray-Johnson, a Bond Hill grandmother, said Common Core gives her hope that her granddaughter, who attends Bond Hill Academy, a Cincinnati Public school, will receive as good an education as other students around the country, and maybe the world, because schools will have to teach to higher standards and kids will have to step up their academic efforts. “When children are challenged, they love it, because they’re very competitive,” said Gray-Johnson, who runs a training company. “It’s going to push all children (toward) those higher standards. They’ll be able to be competitive out there in the real world.”

But Tom Hahn, a Milford sales and marketing professional, is suspicious of the Common Core, which he says wasn’t widely publicized or discussed before 45 states, including Ohio and Kentucky, and Washington, D.C., approved of it in 2010.

“I just worry that the federal government is becoming pervasive in all aspects of our lives,” he said. “Frankly, they don’t run anything very well in my view, so I don’t necessarily trust them to run the schools.”

The Common Core refers to a set of educational standards for grades K-12 affecting math, English-language arts and reading. The standards are expected to be more rigorous than most current standards in Ohio, supporters say, and they’re supposed to result in more high school graduates who are ready for college and careers.
Who are the opponents?

Like its supporters, Common Core’s detractors hail from all parts of the political and educational spectrums: Education experts and non-experts, liberals and conservatives, TV personalities and nationally respected educators like Diane Ravitch, are all calling for an end to Common Core.

Among the most common objections:

• The Common Core is a “federally run, nationalized” education plan, foes say, rather than a product of state and local school board decisions.

Proponents counter that it comes from groups representing state governors and chief state school officers, and that states and districts, not the federal government, still choose whether and how to implement the standards. Several states have already declined parts or all of them.

• It’s a money-grab for testing, technology and textbook companies, opponents said. Hundreds of millions of federal education and Race to the Top dollars, as well as several billion dollars in private foundation money, is helping to pay for it.

Proponents point out that changes in state curricula and testing likely will profit education and technology companies; that’s not a reason to do it.

• The Common Core “lowers educational standards and severely limits” parental and local control over what’s taught in public and private schools, detractors say.

Proponents, including the conservative-leaning Thomas Fordham Institute, say Common Core standards are superior to many existing standards, including Ohio’s, drawn up under federal No Child Left Behind laws over the past decade or so.

• Opponents say the Common Core “exploits” children and families by allowing the dissemination of personal, private student data for research, political or commercial gain through data collection systems and databases.

Proponents, including Ohio education officials, say many states already keep much of that data, but have rules against disclosing information that identifies students.

Even on the question of whether enacting the Common Core is in danger, there’s disagreement. Opponents, including Ravitch and several Tea Party websites, are claiming victories and predicting waning support for Common Core among state legislators. But education officials, including Ohio’s Superintendent Richard Ross, say the Common Core is here to stay.

One of the strongest arguments against Common Core and its tests is that they are largely untested, Ravitch and other education experts say. Nobody knows what the test items will be, despite the release of some examples of test questions online.

“Part of the problem is the secrecy with which this is being done,” said Sandra Stotsky, a Massachusetts-based education expert who was on a Common Core validation committee.

The only states to have administered Common Core-related tests are Kentucky and New York, with mixed results. Kentucky last year designed and issued tests based on the Common Core. The number of elementary and middle school students deemed “proficient” was about a third lower than previous state tests. Yet that was better than expected, said state education spokeswoman Nancy Rodriguez, who added that more students than expected scored on the highest achievement levels of the tests.

“It’s a harder test,” she said. “The standards are harder, so the scores are going to go down ... But college and career readiness (based on high school test results) actually increased.”

Profits for test-makers

In recent weeks New York issued its own Common Core tests. Results have yet to be reported, but an education professor’s website drew a host of signed and unsigned complaints from teachers and parents.

Some said students had too little time to complete essays or to “read deeply” and answer the questions and reading passages on the tests. Others said English or math problems were inappropriately worded for students’ ages or grade levels.

A number of embarrassing gaffes also surfaced – product brand names appeared in some of the New York test questions and one teacher claimed she assigned her students to use Nazi propaganda to write persuasively about the “evil of the Jews” because of the Common Core standards.

Still, many experts say those problems won’t be part of the tests under development for Ohio and most of the other Common Core states. Two state consortia are working with nonprofit Achieve Inc. and for-profit test makers like Pearson on the new tests, which Ohio students will take in the 2014-15 school year.

Teachers’ unions in the past have not been champions of standardized testing, but this time they’re in Common Core’s corner. Union officials say the academic standards were developed with teacher input, and the tests are expected to measure higher-order thinking and problem-solving skills, what teachers want. They’re also expecting tests to be more valuable to teachers than the current bevy of achievement tests, because results will arrive during the school year, when teachers can still help students.

“In some ways, (the Common Core) takes our more-experienced teachers back to the way they taught before the testing mania got crazy and before No Child Left Behind,” said Randy Flora, director of education policy research at the Ohio Education Association.

That doesn’t mean teachers’ unions are happy with everything; they still object to tying up to a half of a teacher’s annual evaluation points to student test performance.

Stotsky said she disapproves of some English/Language Arts standards and its emphasis on non-fiction reading. She’s not convinced it will lead to more college opportunities.

“It’s a set of standards that, depending on where you pass the tests, you are qualified for admission to a non-selective or a community college,” she said. “Does that make us competitive with other countries?”

Some non-experts also predict that Common Core, like No Child Left Behind, may become another education “fix” that fails. “Every time our education profession comes up with something new, there’s a big ray of hope,” said John R. Myers, a consultant who lives in Springdale.

“Should it fail to improve our US education system, I'm certain that our education profession will promptly analyze its faults and construct a better, more expensive concept for our future ... It is what they do best.”

Friday, April 26, 2013

Is the Common Core Standards initiative in trouble? Washington Post April 24, 2013

Education Secretary Arne Duncan recently met with Chamber of Commerce leaders and urged them to be more vocal and forceful in defending the Common Core State Standards. Why?

Duncan made the appeal, which was reported by Education Week, because the initiative — a set of common standards adopted by 45 states and the District of Columbia designed to raise student achievement — has come under such withering attack in recent months that what once seemed like a major policy success for the Obama administration now looks troubled.

A handful of states (including Indiana, Alabama, South Dakota and Georgia) are either pulling back or considering it, and core supporters fear more states will too. A growing number of educators are complaining that states have done a poor job implementing the standards and are pushing core-aligned tests on students too early. And parents have started a campaign to “opt” their children out of the Common Core-aligned high-stakes standardized tests.

Both Republicans and Democrats have supported the initiative in the past, including the Obama administration and Republican Jeb Bush, former governor of Florida, both of whom were big players in the campaign to get some 45 states and the District of Columbia to approve the standards.

It is now both Republicans and Democrats who are questioning the Core, though the Republican voice is louder and more official: The Republican National Committee just passed an anti-Common Core resolution, saying that the initiative is a federal intrusion on states’ rights, and Sen. Charles Grassley of Iowa just started a bid to to eliminate federal funding for the core effort.

Many Democratic critics say that while they don’t oppose the idea of national standards, the Common Core is not based on research and that parts of it ignore what is known about how students learn, especially in the area of early childhood education. They also say that despite promises to the contrary, the core-aligned standardized tests won’t be dramatically better in assessing student achievement than the older tests. Some former core supporters, such as award-winning New York Principal Carol Burris, changed their minds after learning more about the standards and the core-aligned tests. (You can read some of her critiques here and here).

Supporters of the core — which include educators who are implementing the standards — are somewhat incredulous at the opposition, saying that the old system of each state having its own set of standards proved to be untenable because student achievement was uneven across the country. (This line of thinking presumes that standards themselves are real drivers of quality.)

Reflecting the growing schism over the Common Core are two different recent editorials in major newspapers: The Los Angeles Time editorial board urged city officials to delay its implementation to make sure that it is done properly, while the New York Times editorial board told parents not to be afraid of the new Common Core-aligned standardized tests and it blamed Republicans for the opposition.

The L.A. Times editorial said in part:

Experts are divided over the value of the new curriculum standards, which might or might not lead students to the deeper reading, reasoning and writing skills that were intended. But on this much they agree: The curriculum will fail if it isn’t carefully implemented with meaningful tests that are aligned with what the students are supposed to learn. Legislators and education leaders should be putting more emphasis on helping teachers get ready for common core and giving them a significant voice in how it is implemented. And if the state can’t get the right elements in place to do that by 2014, it would be better off delaying the new curriculum a couple of years and doing it right, rather than allowing common core to become yet another educational flash in the pan that never lives up to its promise.

The New York Times editorial said in part:

New York City parents are understandably nervous about tough new state tests that were rolled out last week. And some parents whose children have already taken the tests are outraged. They shouldn’t be: the tests, which measure math and English skills, are an essential part of rigorous education reforms known as Common Core that seek to improve reasoning skills and have been adopted by 45 states….New York deserves enormous credit for being one of the first states to carry out what is clearly the most important education reform in the country’s history.

Setting aside the questionable notion that the Common Core is the most important education reform in the country’s history, the editorial makes clear that the Times editorial is on board with pushing ahead with the Common Core despite problems.

Reversing the decision to implement the core won’t be easy and may be impossible in many places. States that have adopted the core have already spent many millions of dollars to create curriculum around them, implement them and create tests aligned to the standards. (The federal government chipped in some $360 million to help develop core-aligned tests.)

Not long ago, the core looked like it was an initiative that was steam-rolling through the states, with the strong support of Education Secretary Duncan and other players in the education world, including the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, which helped fund it.

Where this is going is anybody’s guess right now.

Sunday, April 14, 2013


Common Core, the controversial set of educational standards aimed at firming up students’ grasp of math and language, has already attracted criticism from sources both left and right. On the one hand, privacy advocates fret over the program’s data mining on students. On the other, teacherscomplain that the standards are overly rigid and won’t lead to a better education system. And now, parents angry over their students being tested on subjects they haven’t had time to learn are striking back as well — by giving their children a truly hands’ on lesson in civil disobedience.
WHEC Rochester reports:
 Some parents are really fired up over this. News10NBC talked with parents outside School No. 33 including city school board member Willa Powell. The New York State Education Department says students are obligated to take the state tests, just like any other test and cannot opt out. But parents say they have the ultimate authority when it comes to their kids. They’re going to tell their kids to not pick up the pencil and tell the teacher they don’t have to take the state test.
Willa Powell, City School Board Member, said, “Guide your child to tell them how they go about refusing. How they go about refusing is simply do not pick up the pencil. Do not put their name on the page and say I don’t have to take this test. It’s that simple.”
Beth Laidlaw, City School Parent, said, “My child would not take a test whose score is not reported to the classroom teacher so it can’t help the classroom teacher do her job better. The scores are not included in the report card grade so it can’t hurt the child not to take it. As a parent, as a U.S. citizen, it is wonderful that I am able to coach my child to refuse these tests.”
The station also produced a video report, viewable below:
These instances of civil disobedience may hold back the test’s administration, though the extent to which they have that effect will depend on how many students are induced to behave in this fashion. Otherwise, a few students may end up simply failing due to blank tests.

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

The Whole Story on Common Core

Monday, Apr 8, 2013 at 1:43 PM MDT

Read the sourced and footnoted response to the National Review Online and get all the facts you need to know about Common Core HERE. Compiled by American Principles project and Glenn’s research team.

Common Core is the new set of federal education standards being pushed by the Obama administration and several leftist organizations but it’s even seeing some support from some conservatives. National Review Online wrote a piece defending Common Core, and Glenn gave the definitive response on radio today.

“Common Core is something that we didn’t really get for quite some time and again it’s something we’ve learned from the 9/12 project and concerned parents all around the country that have been bringing this to our attention. When we started in on this work, we thought it was pretty bad. The more we do, the worse it becomes,” Glenn said.

Below are some of the points made by the National Review Online in defense of Common Core, followed by Glenn’s response.

National Review Online (NRO): Common Core is not “ObamaCore,” as some suggest. While President Obama often tries to claim credit, the truth is that the development of Common Core was well underway before he took office in January 2009.

Glenn: First of all, that’s just not true. Even though I’ve never called it Obama Core or alleged that it came solely from the president, the development of Common Core itself didn’t happen until 2009.

NRO: Some argue that states were coerced into adopting Common Core by the Obama administration as a requirement for applying for its Race to the Top grant competition (and No Child Left Behind waiver program).

Glenn: Okay. I would imagine when they say some are implying, that would be me. Yes, some argue that states were coerced because they were coerced. $4.35 billion was earmarked for states who would take the bait. The money was offered in the stimulus package and, of course, 45 states immediately jumped on it. We warned you not to at the time. We didn’t know why it was a bad thing. We just knew this was a bad thing: Don’t jump on that money. Now we know.

NRO: Education policymaking — and 90 percent of funding — is still handled at the state and local levels. And tying strings to federal education dollars is nothing new. No Child Left Behind — George W. Bush’s signature education law — linked federal Title I dollars directly to state education policy, and states not complying risked losing millions in compensatory-education funding (that is, funding for programs for children at risk of dropping out of school).

GLENN: Okay. So now what does this mean? That we’ve linked it and it’s been linked since George W. Bush. Yes. Yes. Progressives. Progressive steps. So you can always say it’s the frog in the water. Remember? You boil a frog, you just put them in there while the water’s cool and he never, he never ‑‑ but you throw him in the hot water and he jumps right out. Right? This is nothing new. You’ve been in that pot for a while. It was cold water. Sure, it might be getting a little warmer now but it’s the same pot. This is more of the, “George Bush did something sort of like this. So it has to be okay with you guys, right?” No. No. I and you should absolutely reject that line of thinking.

NRO: Perhaps the clearest evidence that states can still set their own standards is the fact that five states have not adopted Common Core. Some that have adopted it might opt out, and they shouldn’t lose a dime if they do.

GLENN: Seeing and hearing this kind of ridiculous nonsense, I can’t help but wonder if this was written by maybe a fifth grader that, you know, will be tested soon. The fact that 90% of the states took the money and the program, that’s your clearest evidence that states can still set their own standards? I mean, that’s frightening. I mean, I hope, I hope two of the, you know, experts that wrote this defense aren’t actually involved in the education of our children. The bribe kids worked for 90% for those who were offered the bribe and that proves that bribes don’t work.

First of all, Texas is one of those states that opt out. We got instead CSCOPE. Just as bad. And the Republicans are doing CSCOPE. Just because some have adopted might opt out. Listen to that. Some have adopted and they might opt out. And they shouldn’t lose a dime if they do. Okay. They might opt out, and monkeys might fly out of my pants. And if they do, I shouldn’t lose a dime.

Have the two of you right‑leaning educators seen a single news report in the last ten years? Because there’s a lot of stuff that shouldn’t happen that has.

“They deny in this article that there is any need for concern over the leftist indoctrination. Common Core is funded by Bill and Melinda Gates and Linda Darling‑Hammond, an education adviser for Barack Obama’s campaign. Oh. Well, pardon me if you got ‑‑ if you got Bill and Melinda Gates and the, what was it, the education adviser for Barack Obama, I mean, I don’t know why I’d be a tad skeptical of that group,” Glenn said.

Glenn also heavily criticized the emphasis on informational texts over classical literature.

New Republic Online: The most prominent criticism of Common Core is that it abandons classical literature and instead forces students to read dry government manuals. This claim reflects a profound and perhaps deliberate misunderstanding of Common Core literacy standards, which do encourage increased exposure to informational texts and literary nonfiction. The goal is to have children read challenging texts that will build their vocabulary and background knowledge, a strategy grounded in what education scholar E. D. Hirsch has shown: A broad, content-rich curriculum reduces the achievement gap between the middle class and the poor.

GLENN: Common Core also shifts away from classic literature and allows for the reading of informational texts. Now, what is informational texts? And by the way, it shifts as the years progress. When you’re in ‑‑ when you’re in first grade, you read fewer and fewer informational texts and you read more of the classic literature that is approved. But by the time you hit high school, I think you’re at 60%, or is it 80% of informational texts? And what are the informational texts? Those are ‑‑ those are handbooks from the EPA on how to make sure that your siding and your insulation is good in your house. Who in their right mind wants to read the government handbooks?

This will invite greater and greater indoctrination and bias in the selection and teachings of the texts. You’re narrowing things down. You’ve only got 20% or 40% that is going to be able to be a classic by the time they’re in high school, and what kid will learn love of reading from reading any, any government handbook? Who ‑‑ what kid will learn anything except to go dead inside? The article, co‑written by Kathleen Porter McGee, she’s a fellow at the Fordham Institute, she makes a ‑‑ she makes the claim, the Fordham Institute has carefully examined Common Core and compared it with existing state standards and it’s found that for most states Common Core is a great improvement with regard to rigor and cohesiveness.

“The battle, my friends, is on,” Glenn said. “The missiles are coming not just from the left but also the right. As we fight this insidious menace to our children and to our families ‑‑ and that’s exactly what it is ‑‑ we are going to have a difficult time discerning who our allies are.”

“This article appeared in the National Review Online, attacking me and Michelle Malkin for daring to speak out against Common Core, defending this horrific mess, a mess that is without any question the darling of Barack Obama. This article came from scholars who supposedly are right‑leaning. What is their motivation? I have no idea. I don’t know them. I’ve never heard of either of them. But the point is the shells will come from both sides. So you’re going to have to do your own homework unlike you’ve ever done before. You’re going to have to know what you’re talking about.”
“The defense of Common Core doesn’t even mention all of the data mining that will take place from Microsoft, the biowristbands they want to use on our kids, the FCAT scans that are in the Department of Education’s own paperwork. The rest of the 1984 tight monitoring systems, all of it, all of it of course is simply going to be done to help your children. It will help educators help your kids. It will make them safer, smarter, more secure. This is the progressive movement coming in for the kill. And believe me, if we don’t stop it, this will be the kill. But we can’t and we won’t allow it.”

Monday, April 8, 2013

What information is being collected about your kids through Common Core?


As a greater level of scrutiny is being placed on the controversial curriculum systems CSCOPE (in Texas) and Common Core Standards (nationwide), concerned parents spoke about their troubling experiences, revealing that not even home-schooling is beyond the reach of these encroaching systems.
Home-schooling not beyond the reach of Common Core?  
Keven Card, a former Marine from Houston who has home-schooled his children for the last six years, thought his family was safe from the reach of Common Core, but soon learned otherwise. As noted on his blog, two years ago Pearson Education, which is linked to Common Core, acquired Texas Connections Academy, the online charter school Card uses to homeschool his ninth-grader.
One lesson plan featured a video dubbed, ”China Rises,” that appears to tout the virtues of Communism over capitalism.
“It blew my mind,” Card told TheBlaze in an interview.
“They make kids watch a video that makes capitalism look bad and Communist China look good. It’s absolutely unbelievable.”
Below are several screenshots of the program, “China Rises,” along with a video that Card was able to record and save for his own records.
The captions below read:
The next time you go shopping for clothes, electronics, shoes, toys, or even food, check the label. There’s a good chance it says “Made in China.”
As you might guess, China has one of the most productive economies in the world, and it has been growing at a rapid pace in recent decades. This growth has brought great wealth to Chinese entrepreneurs and businesses and improved standards of living for millions of people.
Want to See What CSCOPE and Common Core (Even Homeschooling) Lessons Look Like? These Parents Opened Up to TheBlaze
The China Rises website provides preview clips and information on the content featured in the program. Notably, the “Party Games” and “Getting Rich” sections, Card explained, are of particular interest as they “address the changing politics and economy of China.”
It is also worth pointing out that the documentary was produced in partnership with The New York Times and Discovery Times.
Card notes that the video preview made available under the “Getting Rich” sub-section of the site talks about capitalism’s “cruelties” as it shows a man whose lost his hand in a machine. The section appears at the 1.12 mark.
Want to See What CSCOPE and Common Core (Even Homeschooling) Lessons Look Like? These Parents Opened Up to TheBlaze
When asked how long questionable lessons like China Rises have been on his son’s roster of studies, Card said he first noticed curriculum changing roughly a year or two ago when a religious studies lesson favored the Muslim faith over Christianity.
“I wrote a letter to the principal of the Texas Connections Academy, but never received a reply,” the concerned father said. Pearson acquired our school in 2011.
What is StudentGPS and what does it track, exactly?
A Texas mother whose child is enrolled in the fifth grade at a Texas public school told TheBlaze that while some of the lesson plans at her child’s school are worrisome, she is most concerned about data mining, especially in light of the fact that, come next year, her school will implement something called “StudentGPS dashboards.”
“I’m not sure if it will be just at our school or all of them,” the Blaze reader, who asked to remain nameless out of concern for her child and school faculty explained. “I have a feeling our school will be one the earlier ones to implement the StudentGPS.”
According to the StudentGPS website, the program is part of a partnership with the Michael and Susan Dell Foundation (MSDF), are particularly beneficial in identifying “at-risk students” by providing educators a “collection of reports and metrics that provide educators with access to historical, timely, and predictive information on all students to help improve education outcomes for all Texas students.”
The dashboards are said to “flag emerging issues such as problems in attendance, class work, and test performance as early as possible” as well as “provide instant access to analyzed data, instead of requiring requests to a data analyst for ad hoc reports.”
While the site states that “loading dashboard data to TSDS is strictly optional,” schools are encouraged  to do so as they provide a “rich, sophisticated, empirical approach to teaching that help schools, classes, and individual students get more from their educational opportunities.”
The Blaze reader said she found out about the GPS “dashboards” while on a call with the school principal about the district’s plan to allocate iPads to all students next year. She said that she was concerned about the kinds of data that would be tracked on the iPad, but that once she heard about StudentGPS, she was concerned “even more.”
Below are tutorial videos provided by the StudentGPS Dashboards official website, which is part of the “Texas Student Data System.”

Kids know about global warming and wars
Another item the concerned mother noted was that her 5th grader brought home a questionable homework assignment earlier this week. The parent told TheBlaze that the lesson (screenshots of which are featured below) is being used as practice for the State of Texas Assessments of Academic Readiness (STAAR) exam, which is to be administered by schools next week.
The lesson in this case was not produced by CSCOPE, but rather a independent company. Nonetheless, some of the language and themes will still raise eyebrows.
“The content seems designed to undermine parental authority,” the Texas resident said. “Adults are just too stupid to get anything right. I assume the intent is to drive a wedge between parent and child.”
The excerpts below ask why children are not permitted to vote, especially when (see section 3) they understand “global warming and war” and know that adults have only made the world’s problems worse.
The Texas mom said that while CSCOPE is implemented at her school, teachers are not forced to use its lesson plans. She added that while that may be a good thing, she has still “come to expect verbiage on global warming and fossil fuels” and believes CSCOPE’s influence will only increase. The Blaze reader also expressed concern over the fact that experienced teachers are growing tired of trying to overcome “the hurdles” and will likely leave the schools out of sheer frustration.
“We are part of a good, close community, which makes this [CSCOPE implementation] that much harder,” she explained.
Below is an excerpt of the homework assignment:
Want to See What CSCOPE and Common Core (Even Homeschooling) Lessons Look Like? These Parents Opened Up to TheBlazeWant to See What CSCOPE and Common Core (Even Homeschooling) Lessons Look Like? These Parents Opened Up to TheBlaze
Those cases cited above are but a fraction of the questionable lesson plans that seem to be par for the course with Common Core and CSCOPE. As a result of TheBlaze’s coverage, other concerned parents may also come forward to express their concerns and experiences with these controversial curriculum systems.

Literature or Technical Manuals: Who Should Be Teaching What, Where, and Why?

Sandra Stotsky, Professor Emerita of Education Reform, University of Arkansas

Paper presented at the Educational Policy Conference, St. Louis, Missouri, January 25, 2013
I.  Purpose 
Over 45 states adopted Common Core’s ELA standards in 2010, in some cases before they were even written. Only in 2012 did some discussion about their implications take place in the media. Discussion has centered mostly on what English teachers are doing to their classroom curriculum to address Common Core’s division of reading standards into 10 for informational texts and 9 for literary texts. Some teachers and parents believe students should spend more time in English classes learning how to read informational texts, chiefly because that is the kind of reading they will do in college and daily life.  Others deplore what they see as a drastic reduction in literary study, the traditional focus of high school English as well as the major focus of English teachers’ academic coursework as English majors.
Recently, some attention shifted to an appendix in Common Core’s ELA document that lists titles sorted by grade level and genre (stories, poetry, drama, and informational text). Concerns have been expressed about what lies behind some of these titles, especially the titles of government reports.
It is important to note that the purpose of Appendix B was to suggest the level of complexity that reading and English teachers are to seek in the texts they select to teach at a particular grade level. It was not intended as a list of recommended, never mind required, titles for classroom study, simply as “exemplars” of “complexity and quality” by grade level and genre. Appendix B was also not intended only for reading and English teachers. Some of the critics of Common Core’s 50/50 division of its reading standards for the English class have forgotten that the full title of this document is “The Common Core State Standards for English Language Arts and Literacy in History/Social Studies, Science, and Technical Subjects.”  But they are not alone in their neglect to examine the implications of this title. No reporters, state board members, parents, and other commentators on Common Core’s standards have paid more than cursory attention to what the architects of Common Core’s ELA standards suggest are “exemplars” of the informational texts high school teachers of other subjects are supposed to use in order to increase instruction in informational reading in their classes.
The lack of attention to this facet of Appendix B is unfortunate. It’s time to ask some questions about the kinds of informational texts the architects of Common Core think high school history, math, and science teachers should teach and then to consider what these teachers can actually teach, given their training, the academic level of their students, and the relevance of texts like these to their courses. When we do ask some questions, we find that the informational texts suggested as examples for high school teachers in Appendix B help us to see more clearly the damage these federal reading standards are doing to the entire school curriculum.
 II. What is New to English Teachers in Common Core?
First, let us review what Common Core requires of English teachers that is new to them.  The new and controversial requirement is the division of reading instruction at every grade level into about 50% informational reading and 50% literary reading. It seems quite logical to see this arbitrary division of reading standards leading simultaneously to a reduction in the study of imaginative literary works in high school and an increase in the study of informational or nonfiction texts. This division makes nonfiction a genre equal in value in the English class to drama, poetry, and fiction combined, a non-egalitarian approach that was not discussed in public beforehand with English teachers or literary scholars.
Despite the logic of this meaning for 10 standards on informational reading and 9 on literary reading for the construction of a classroom curriculum, the architects of Common Core’s ELA standards strongly insist that imaginative literature remains the emphasis of high school English classes in their standards. They point out statements in the document to the effect that while 30% of what high school students read overall should be literary and the other 70% informational, the informational material should be taught (for the most part) in other subjects. They further claim that the Common Core document and the ELA standards are a clear expression of their intentions.
However, this 30% figure raises important questions that have not been discussed, never mind answered.  Since students typically take 4-5 major subjects in high school and English is therefore responsible for only about 20-25% of what they read (assuming students read something in their science, math, history, and foreign language classes), wouldn’t this mean that just about all of the reading instruction in high school English classes should be literary so that students can achieve there most of the 30% quota desired by Common Core? Students would need about 5-10% more literary study somewhere else to satisfy Common Core’s quota, although Common Core’s architects don’t explain where else literary study is to take place or what kind of literary study elsewhere would satisfy their quota, especially if students don’t achieve most of the 30% quota in the English class.
There is some imaginative literature that students could read and discuss elsewhere in the curriculum, for example, in middle school science classes, how about Twenty Thousand Leagues under the Sea, to explore the impulses behind the beginning of science fiction in Europe?  Or, in the history class, Hitler’s Diaries (a hoax), Pedro’s Journal (the fictitious diary of Columbus’s cabin boy), or The Protocols of the Elders of Zion (a political forgery first published in Russia in 1903), to explore the differences in their purposes.  But Common Core’s architects would first need to clarify their intentions with that 30% figure.  The bigger question is what they really want in the English curriculum itself.
III. What Does Common Core Really Want in the English Curriculum?
To complicate an already confusing picture, Common Core also says that English teachers will need to increase nonfiction reading instruction. It is therefore still not at all clear what Common Core really wants English teachers to do. How can Common Core expect students to engage in literary study (or do literary reading) for 30% of their reading instructional time when they are in a high school English class for only about 20% of the school day or year (typically one period per day or a two-period block per day for one semester)?  How can English teachers at the same time increase the relatively small amount of nonfiction they already teach and have always taught?  It is obvious that they can increase the amount only by teaching informational or nonfiction reading 50% of English class time.  But how are they to do so when Common Core’s architects insist that the high school English class should continue to focus on literary study, and they expressly want students reading literature for 30% (not 20%) of their school reading experience?
Adding to the total muddle in the Common Core document is what English teachers (e.g., in Arkansas, Georgia, New York, Massachusetts) have been told to do to implement Common Core’s standards. State departments of education and local superintendents have told them to cut down on the number of full-length literary works they have typically taught, teach excerpts instead, and teach nonfiction for about 50% of their reading instructional time.  In other words, they want literary study reduced to what is logically suggested by Common Core’s 50/50 division of its reading standards.
But this doesn’t mean that literary study has been banished. In the last week of December 2012, prominent supporters of Common Core’s standards produced a barrage of blogs and op-eds claiming that its architects have been consistently “misinterpreted.”  The email blast from the Foundation for Excellence in Education—an organization led by former Florida Governor Jeb Bush, a major Common Core backer—was typical. It denounced the “misinformation flying around” about what will happen to literature under Common Core. “Contrary to reports,” it said, “classic literature will not be lost with the implementation of the new standards.” A glance at the standards’ own suggested text lists, it noted, “reveals that the common core recognizes the importance of balancing great literature and historical nonfiction pieces.”
In this flurry of blogs and op-eds, Common Core’s advocates simply set up a strawman. No critic had claimed that NO literature would be taught under Common Core. They have said only that fewer works than usual will be taught. What is more important, however is the question that wasn’t answered at all. Common Core’s advocates have not attempted to explain why almost all publishers, English teachers, school administrators, and policy makers at departments of education have “misinterpreted” Common Core’s document.  Why do teachers and administrators continue to think that the 50/50 division of reading standards at every single grade level means that about 50% of what English teachers teach in the classroom must be informational or literary nonfiction? Not one superintendent nationally has been reported as retracting the 50/50 directive and telling English teachers to emphasize literary study as usual.
In one sense, it is not surprising that no one is overtly retreating in the face of these conflicting statements, district policies, and percentages. English teachers know they are going to be held accountable for their students’ scores on common reading tests, no matter what their colleagues teach.  Moreover, they do know how to read. Anyone who talks to English teachers knows that they are reshaping their classroom curriculum to fit the 50/50 mandate, even if few are willing to speak to reporters and identify themselves, like Jamie Highfill, an English teacher in Arkansas. Fortunately, even one teacher’s voice tells us something. And her current experiences raise a huge hitherto unexplored question. What are students reading for their nonfiction quota in the English class and where are the titles coming from?
IV. Informational Text Exemplars in Common Core’s Appendix B
One major addition to Highfill’s grade 8 curriculum this past year, on the advice of a well-paid Common Core consultant to her school, was Malcolm Gladwell’s The Tipping Point. Where did this title come from? Common Core’s Appendix B, it seems. (It is important to recall (1) that Common Core’s English Language Arts document—66 pages long altogether—ends with a 9-page section on “literacy” standards for history, science, and technical subjects, and that (2) Appendix B groups “exemplar” informational titles according to whether they are for an English class, a history class, or a science, mathematics, or technical class.)  However, The Tipping Point is listed as an informational text in Appendix B for grades 11/12 and for science, mathematics, or technical classes, not for grade 8 or for English.  Moreover, Highfill had to toss out a 9-week poetry unit to make room for Gladwell’s book and a few related informational pieces, even though as an English teacher she is not an expert on epidemics, one of the three major topics in Gladwell’s book.
Let’s look more closely at this new can of worms. What else is in Appendix B for informational exemplars?  For English teachers in grades 9/10, we find Patrick Henry’s Speech to the Second Virginia Convention, Margaret Chase Smith’s Remarks to the Senate in Support of a Declaration of Conscience, and George Washington’s Farewell Address.  In fact, most of the “informational” exemplars for English teachers in grades 9/10 are political speeches. Why political speeches, and why these political speeches, as exemplars for English teachers?  How many English teachers are apt to understand the historical and political context of these speeches? How did such heavily historically-situated political speeches with few literary qualities come to be viewed as suitable nonfiction reading in an English class?  No explanation is given.
As puzzling as these particular titles may be to an English teacher, what about Common Core’s exemplars for history teachers in grades 9/10?  We find, among a few appropriate exemplars (on the history of indigenous and African Americans), E.H. Gombrich’s The Story of Art, 16thEdition, Mark Kurlansky’s Cod: A Biography of the Fish That Changed the World, and Wendy Thompson’s The Illustrated Book of Great Composers. It’s hard to see even a well-read history teacher comfortably tackling excerpts from those books in the middle of a grade 9 or 10 world history or U.S. history course.
But whoever compiled and sorted out the “exemplar” titles for informational reading in science, mathematics, and other technical classes in grades 9/10 wins the prize for the most fertile imagination and futile suggestions. What well-trained science teacher would toss out a unit on the Periodic Table or DNA in order to teach students in chemistry or biology classes how to read Recommended Levels of Insulation, a report released in 2010 by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency/U.S. Department of Energy? And what up-to-date science teacher would use Jacob Bronowski and Millicent Selsam’s Biography of an Atom, published in1965, for reading or science instruction in grade 9 or 10, regardless of the academic level of the chemistry or physics course?
The one selection presumably intended for math teachers is even more startling. What sane math teacher would ever use Euclid’s Elements of Geometry to teach reading?  Elements of Geometry is a classic textbook requiring students to develop proofs for increasingly complex propositions using an increasing number of axioms. It could still serve as the main textbook in a geometry course to help math teachers compensate for Common Core’s mainly non-Euclidean geometry standards. But for “literacy” instruction?
When we look at the titles recommended for history and science teachers in grades 11/12, we finally realize that Common Core’s goal of informational “literacy” for high school students is, in fact, a sad joke on high school teachers. Informational exemplars for English teachers include (along with writings by Emerson and Thoreau, who have always been taught in American literature survey courses) Thomas Paine’s Common Sense and the Bill of Rights. These titles can’t develop “informational literacy” in an English class. They contribute to knowledge about the American Revolution and the Constitution when they are studied (as they should be) in their historical and political context in a U.S. government or history class.
Now let us see what informational exemplars history teachers are given in grades 11/12. Along with a suitable text for excerpting, Tocqueville’s Democracy in America, we find Julian Bell’sMirror of the World: A New History of Art and FedViews, issued in 2009 by the Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco. These two titles clearly don’t fit into a standard grade 11 American history course or a grade 12 U.S. government course. What course does Common Core think they fit into or, again, doesn’t it matter? 
By the time we finish perusing the sample informational titles for grade 11 or 12 teachers of science, math, and technical subjects, we can only conclude that the architects of Common Core’s reading standards do not understand who high school teachers teach and what.  At these grade levels we find the following as exemplars of quality and complexity for classroom reading: Mark Fischetti’s “Working Knowledge: Electronic Stability Control” (Scientific American, April 2007); Executive Order 13423: Strengthening Federal Environmental, Energy, and Transportation Management, issued in 2009 by the U.S. General Services Administration; Ray Kurzweil’s “The Coming Merger of Mind and Machine” (Scientific American Special Edition, January 2008); W. Wayt Gibbs, “Untangling the Roots of Cancer” (Scientific American Special Edition, June 2008); and Atul Gawande’s “The Cost Conundrum: Health Care Costs in McAllen, Texas” (The New Yorker, June 2009).
Take a deep breath and ask yourself: Would any normal high school science teacher delete a physics unit on gravity or a chemistry unit on the components of an atom in order to try to teach students how to read a government policy report on energy, transportation, and the environment or articles like these from Scientific American?  Would any high school science teacher insert articles like these into the middle of such units for “knowledge-building” or use articles like these for “literacy” instruction?  Below-average readers can’t easily read (or don’t want to read) the science curriculum materials prepared especially for them. They certainly can’t manage the staggering vocabulary supporting the level of abstract thought in these “exemplar” materials, even if educated adults find most of them inherently more interesting to read (which is why they are in a journal or magazine, not a textbook).
There seems to be some confusion in the minds of Common Core’s architects about the subject matter English teachers are trained to teach. But the potpourri for high school history and science teachers indicates their profound misunderstanding of the purpose, content, and academic level of the entire high school curriculum.
V. Deeper Problems Suggested by the Exemplars for Informational Texts
I have just spent a lot of time highlighting some of the titles in Appendix B that are intended to serve as exemplars of the complexity and quality of texts high school teachers should be using to teach “literacy” in subjects other than English. I have done so because we need to explore why so many of these exemplars are out of place not just in the subject area Common Core placed them but in a high school curriculum altogether.
The idea behind Appendix B in Common Core’s document affects all the subjects taught in a typical high school curriculum, not just the English class. This was intentional, the standards writers indicate. They wanted to make teachers across the curriculum as responsible for teaching “literacy” as the English teacher, which at first sounds fair, almost noble. But to judge from the sample titles they offer to fill the demands they make for informational reading in other subjects but in the English class especially, informational literacy seems to be something teachers are to cultivate and students to acquire independent of a coherent, sequential, and substantive curriculum in the topic of the informational text.
The informational texts listed for teachers of other subjects in Appendix B of Common Core’s English language arts document reflect, ultimately, the consequences of giving free reign to people to write standards documents who are, apparently, insufficiently aware of three very important matters: the content of the subjects typically taught in regular public high schools, the academic background of the teachers of these subjects, and the academic level of the courses in a typical secondary curriculum, grade by grade, from 6 to 12. What makes the situation so counterproductive is that the intellectually and pedagogically unsound mandates of the authors of Common Core’s ELA and “literacy” standards—the major ones being their emphasis on informational reading in the English class and their injection of context-free informational texts into the other subjects—have been inflicted on all teachers in over 45 states by governors and members of state boards of education, none of whom apparently knew enough about the secondary school curriculum and the development of children’s minds to ask any questions about the many poisonous tentacles of this document before imposing it.
I am in no way suggesting that the ELA standards writers deliberately sought to make a worse conceptual mess of the secondary English curriculum than it now is and to damage the other subjects to boot.  They were acting from good intentions.  I believe that they truly believe that adequate college-level reading and writing comes from informational reading in K-12 and that more informational reading instruction in K-12 will make more students ready for college. Their approach, however, is based on a misunderstanding of the causes of the educational problem they sought to remedy through Common Core’s standards—the number of high school graduates who need remedial coursework in reading and writing as college freshmen and the equally large number of students who fail to graduate from high school and go on to a post-secondary educational institution.
The architects of Common Core assume that the major cause of this educational problem is the failure of our public schools to teach low-performing students in K-12 adequately or sufficiently how to read complex texts before they graduate from high school. That is, their English teachers have given them too heavy a diet of literary works and teachers in other subjects have deliberately or unwittingly not taught them how to read complex texts in these other subjects.
This assumption doesn’t hold up.  High school teachers will readily tell you that low-performing students have not been assigned complex textbooks or literary texts because, generally speaking, they can’t read them and, in fact, don’t read much of anything with academic content. As a result, they have not acquired the content knowledge and the vocabulary needed for reading complex textbooks in any subject. And this is despite (not because of) the steady decline in vocabulary difficulty in secondary school textbooks over the past half century, the huge increase of Young Adult Literature in the secondary curriculum, and the efforts of science and history teachers from the elementary grades on to make their subjects as text-free as possible. Educational publishers and teachers have made intensive and expensive efforts to develop curriculum materials that accommodate students who are not interested in reading much. “Graphic novels” (glorified comic books) are but one example in the English class today. These accommodations in K-8 have gotten low-performing students into high school, but they can’t be made at the college level. College-level materials are written at an adult level, often by those who teach college courses.
We hear almost every day of policies that urge all students to get a post-secondary degree or set quotas for college degrees in a state.  But there is no reason to expect students who read very little in or outside of class to become prepared for authentic credit-bearing courses in their first year of college if their secondary teachers spend more class time reading informational texts independent of a coherent and graduated curriculum in the topics of these informational texts.
Such a requirement does not address the unwillingness of many high school students to read or write much on their own. Experience-based narrative writing has been promoted in writing workshops as a way to develop writing because children will be eager to write about what they know best—themselves—and can more easily do so in narrative form. But this idea has led to a lot of poor though fluent writing because experience-based writing is not text-based and higher levels of writing are increasingly dependent on higher levels of reading. Students unwilling to read a lot do not advance very far as writers, even with a full diet of autobiographical writing. The attempt to get reading into the writing process by asking students to relate something in what they read to their lives (text-based autobiographical writing) leads to the same limited source of ideas—personal experience (sometimes fabricated)—not a higher level of analytical thinking.
The major casualty of little reading is the general academic vocabulary needed for both academic reading and writing.  The accumulation of a large and usable discipline-specific vocabulary (often called a technical vocabulary) depends on graduated reading in a coherent sequence of courses (known as a curriculum) in that discipline. The accumulation of a general academic vocabulary, however, depends on reading a lot of increasingly complex literary works.
It is well known that 18th and 19th century writers used a far broader vocabulary than modern writers do, even when writing for young adolescents (e.g., Treasure Island or The Black Arrow). The literary texts that were once staples in the secondary literature curriculum were far more challenging than the contemporary texts (or the Young Adult Literature) frequently assigned. And because the “literate” vocabulary that writers like Robert Louis Stevenson used was embedded in stories with interesting plots, students would absorb this literate vocabulary as they read these stories. Interesting plots kept them reading, and lots of reading has always been the main way the sense of most words is learned (those outside of daily life). The reduction in literary study will lead to fewer opportunities for students to acquire the general academic vocabulary needed for college work, especially if English teachers give them contemporary informational texts with a simplistic vocabulary to read in place of these older staples. They won’t be able to give them serious discipline-based informational texts outside the context of their own discipline-based curriculum because students (as well as their English teachers) won’t be able to handle them.
VI. Solutions
What is one solution to this dilemma?  Schools can establish secondary reading classes separate from the English and other subject classes.  English is a subject class, and literature is its content. Students who read little and cannot or won’t read high school level textbooks can be given further reading instruction in the secondary grades by teachers with strong academic backgrounds (like TFA volunteers) who have been trained to teach reading skills in the context of the academic subjects students are taking.  It’s not easy to do, but it is doable.
A better solution may be to expand the notion of choice to include what other countries do to address the needs of those young adolescents who prefer to work with their hands and do not prefer to read or write much.  Alternative high school curricula starting in grade 9 have become increasingly popular and successful in Massachusetts. There are waiting lists for most of the regional vocational technical high schools in the state. Over half of their graduates go on to a post-secondary educational institution. The occupations or trades they learn in grades 9-12 motivate them sufficiently so they now pass the tests in the basic high school subjects that all students are required to take for a high school diploma.
A third solution is for the Gates Foundation to provide funds for secondary English teachers to develop curriculum modules of about two-three weeks in length that supplement the literary works they choose with essays or informational excerpts from the same literary period and tradition. And to train consultants to provide examples to English teachers that do so. For example, the Common Core consultant to the English teachers in the Fayetteville, Arkansas schools might have recommended contemporary essays on the Soviet Union and Eastern Europe instead of Malcolm Gladwell’s book to a teacher like Jamie Highfill who had selectedAnimal Farm to teach her grade 8 students. Her 9-week poetry unit was gone, but essays by other mid-20th century English writers on life in a totalitarian society would have helped her students to better understand Orwell’s book.  Gladwell’s book has no intrinsic connection to her (or any grade 8 English teacher’s) classroom curriculum.
A larger point to consider is why intelligent and educated people (reporters, state board members, governors) were so eager to accept the opinions of standards writers who had no understanding of the K-12 curriculum in ELA and mathematics, and of organizations that they knew were being paid by the Gates Foundation to convince them of the “rigor” and “benefits” of this mess? Why didn’t they read Appendix B for themselves, especially in the high school grades, and ask how subject teachers could possibly give “literacy” instruction in the middle of content instruction. Most might not have had the time to ponder the implications of the titles for informational texts across the curriculum, but all of them?  Self-government cannot survive without some citizens who are able to read for themselves and who are also willing to ask informed questions in public of educational policy makers.
Intelligent people of all political persuasions need to demand a complete revision of these damaging national standards.  They should also demand the selection of academic experts and well-trained teachers to do so. We might then have before us an English language arts and mathematics curriculum that promotes, not retards, intellectual development in all our students.