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common core Tag

The Alt Right Has a Friend in Common Core

  Let’s say you’re a modern-day hipster Nazi. You’re bummed out. No one wants to hang out with you because of your bald head and your red suspenders and your commitment to the ideals of a defeated and disgraced totalitarian regime. What are you to do? REBRAND, son! It’s simple. No more National Socialist German Workers Party! That sounds too pinko! Now you’re simply a member of the Alt Right! It’s not racist! You’re just committed to traditional attitudes and values — if those traditional attitudes and values come from 1945 Berlin! Heck, you don’t even have to call yourself Alt Right. You can call yourself a White Identitarian. You aren’t over-concerned with any one side of the political spectrum or other. You just strongly identify with whiteness — and by extension increasing the political power of white people at the expense of all others. That’s all. It should be obvious that this isn’t merely rebranding. It’s propaganda. In today’s fast paced information age – where every fact is merely a Google away – that can be hard to get away with – UNLESS… Unless you already have a readymade tool to protect propaganda from the kind of informed critical thought that can pop it like a bubble. Something to insolate the ignorance and keep out the enlightened analysis. I am, of course, talking about Common Core. What!? How does Common Core have anything to do with white nationalism? Common Core is just a set of academic standards for what should be taught in public schools adopted by 42 of 50 states. Academic standards aren’t political. Are they? Actually, they are. Quite political. Just take a look at how the standards came to be adopted in the first place. The Obama administration bribed and coerced the states to adopt these standards before many of them were even done being written. Hold your horses. The Obama administration!? That doesn’t sound exactly like a friend of the Third Reich. And it wasn’t. It was a friend to big business. When first created, these standards weren’t the result of a real educational need, nor were they written by classroom educators and psychologists. They were written by the standardized testing industry as a ploy to get federal, state and local governments to recommit to standardized testing through buying new tests, new text books, new software and new remediation materials. It was a bipartisan effort supported by the likes of Obama, the Clintons and Bill Gates on the left and Jeb Bush, Betsy DeVos and Bobby Jindal on the right. After Obama’s success pushing them down our collective throats, many Republicans vocally decried the standards – often while quietly supporting them. That’s why after all this time very few state legislatures have repealed them despite being controlled predominantly by Republicans. Okay, so what does this have to do with the Alt Right? People like Steve Bannon and Donald Trump are engaged in redefining the conservative movement. Instead of circulating ideas with a merely racist and...

The Lone Voice of Dissent Against Standardized Testing

Everybody wants to fight the good fight. Until the battle begins. Then many of us are all too ready to give in to what was intolerable just a moment before. To paraphrase Thomas Paine: These are the times that try men’s souls. The summer soldier and the sunshine patriot will, in times of crisis, shrink from service, but those who stand up in time of need deserve the love and thanks of every man and woman. I see this almost every day in our schools. Ask nearly any teacher what they think about high stakes standardized testing, and they’ll complain until they’re blue in the face. They’ll give you gripes and grievances galore. The tests take too long. They’re not valid assessments. They narrow the curriculum. They’re dumbing down the teaching profession and ripping away our autonomy. To which I say – Amen, Sister! Standardized tests more accurately measure economics than academics – poor kids generally fail and rich kids pass. They’re culturally biased, poorly put together, unscientifically graded and demonstrate a gobbsmacking conflict of interest. Two conflicts of interest, actually. First, the people who make the tests, grade the tests and thus have a financial interest in failing the most students possible because that means we have to buy more remediation material which they also conveniently sell. Second, these test scores are used by the school privatization industry to unfairly label public schools failures so they can more easily sell fly-by-night charter and voucher schools. So, yeah. Almost all of us agree standardized testing sucks. But when there’s an administrator present, I too often find I’m the only one willing to speak that truth. My colleagues, who are pleased as punch to gripe in private, suddenly go quiet in the presence of their superiors. What’s worse, some of them don’t just stay quiet – they offer arguments to support whatever nonsensical test-based solution our boss has in mind today. Let’s say an administrator suggests we do something about the handful of students who opt out of standardized tests. We could just respect the rights of parents who have handed in their written intention to opt their children out under a religious exemption – the only option in Pennsylvania. Or we could do as the administrator suggests and force kids who’ve been opted out to take a standardized look-a-like assessment. I hear something like that, and I’m on my feet ready to fight. But I find myself standing there alone. “You can’t do that,” I say. “It violates state law. In particular, Pennsylvania Code Title 22 Chapter 4, section 4.4.” (Okay, I had to look up the particulars later, but I made sure the administrator got them.) Consider subsection (d) (4). And I quote: “If upon inspection of a State assessment parents or guardians find the assessment to be in conflict with their religious belief and wish their students to be excused from the assessment, the right of the parents or guardians will not be denied…” Or how about...

The Presumptive Presidential Candidates: What’s at Stake in Education

We’re approximately five months out from the general election for the presidency, and after a long and protracted battle for the nomination, we have presumptive candidates for both the Democratic and Republican parties. Both presidential candidates have strong opinions on issues that will affect our nation for the next four years of their potential presidency and beyond. It’s important to note that thus far, education hasn’t been a big topic of discussion in the presidential primaries, with debates focusing on issues related to the economy and immigration. Trump’s campaign website minimally addresses education in the “issues” section (and not the more visible “positions" section). Clinton’s website has two sections in the issues page dedicated to education (one for K-12 and one for early childhood education). Notably, in this election, because education hasn’t yet been a big topic of conversation, it’s up to the voter to pursue information on their own to try to get a feel for the reforms their preferred candidate might make. From their campaign websites, it’s easier to decipher Clinton’s education policy platform; Trump has been more reluctant to define his opinions on education aside from his strong support of moving away from federal oversight to more local control. The table below showcases some of the “hot button” issues in education of the moment, and the current standings (as of June 2016) of the two presumptive presidential candidates. Issue Clinton Trump Common Core In Favor Opposed ECE Supports universal pre-K Unknown Federal Oversight In Favor Opposed Free Community College In Favor Opposed School Choice In Favor (in public system) In Favor In February, Trump emphasized, “We need to fix our broken education system!” and he has previously advocated for school choice, saying “Competition is why I'm very much in favor of school choice. Let schools compete for kids. I guarantee that if you forced schools to get better or close because parents didn't want to enroll their kids there, they would get better. Those schools that weren't good enough to attract students would close, and that's a good thing.”* School choice is the most specific issue that Trump has recently addressed (aside from common core); it’s a fitting focus for him, given his background in business. Clinton has spoken on numerous education related issues recently. To compare their views on common core, Clinton recently said, "I know Common Core started out as a, actually non-partisan, not bi-partisan, a non-partisan effort that was endorsed very much across the political spectrum…What went wrong? I think the roll-out was disastrous…Remember a lot of states had developed their own standards and they'd been teaching to those standards. And they had a full industry that was training teachers to understand what was going to be tested. And then along comes Common Core and you're expected to turn on a dime.”* Trump strongly opposes common core and federal oversight in general. The biggest difference between the two candidates will likely come down to the struggle between local and federal control when it comes to supervising education reform and ensuring that every...

New York Regents Chancellor would Opt-Out

Controversies over the Common Core roll-out ultimately led former Chancellor of the New York Board of Regents Merryl Tisch to step down. To create more support for the Board of Regents, Betty Rosa was recently elected to replace Tisch as the chancellor. On her first day as Chancellor, Rosa said, “If I was a parent and I was not on the Board of Regents, I would opt out at this time.” Rosa stepped into office after 200,ooo New York students opted out of taking these standardized tests. Her job now is to bring together the Common Core opponents and supporters. Rosa herself is called a "renegade" because she and five other board members often vote against the majority on divisive issues. For example, she is against teacher evaluations because she, herself was once a special education teacher and a district superintendent. In a recent interview she said, “I’d like to get back to a system that is not one size fits all, a system that really is focused on children’s needs.” Rosa was also endorsed by the New York State Allies for Public Education, which organizes opt-out rallies and information forums, and is an organization The Franklin Foundation considers crucial to ensuring real change in the support for public schools in New York. But Rosa's success depends on how well she will work with others on the board. In the past, she had some issues with former Chancellor Tisch. In 2010, Rosa urged Tisch not to publish test results because she felt that they inaccurately portrayed a marked improvement in student performance. Now, Rosa is going to have to work with State Education Commissioner MaryEllen Elia, who had said that Common Core tests need to be tweaked, but not change completely. And at the press conference where Rosa was introduced as Tisch's successor, Elia and Vice Chancellor Andrew Brown stressed the changes to this year's tests, including that the tests will be shorter and students will have unlimited time to take them. And Rosa understands that this is going to be a problem.“When you have an institution as large as [the state education department] is and you have changes…you still have to proceed in a way that doesn’t create more turbulence in the field,” she said. “It’s going to be a process." For her first year, Rosa would like to work with the board to discuss how best to proceed....

support opt-out shirt

The Opt-Out Option

High stakes standardized testing is still a terrible thing, in case you were wondering. And more and more parents are starting to realize that since their policy makers aren't going to change things on their own accord, it’s time to take matters into their own hands to send a message. Active parents are finding the opt-out option to be the best choice for their children - protecting them from undue stress, and supporting their children's educators at the same time. [caption id="attachment_463" align="alignleft" width="300"] I love this shirt...


Are tests how we reform education?

Education reform is a big buzzword these days. Everyone is talking about efforts to reform education, yet the one thing that has seemed to change are the tests themselves. Underneath all the rhetoric, issues, and complaints, the question has to be asked, are tests how we reform education? With all the recent talk of standardized testing and how it’s a problem on all sides, I started thinking back on my own experiences with the standardized tests of my grade school days. I grew up in PA, so I had to take the Pennsylvania System of School Assessment (PSSA) tests in 5th, 8th, and 11th grades. I remember that the rest of the school had the day off so there were no other distractions for the grades involved. I remember in 5th grade that we were allowed to wear pajamas and bring snacks and other comfort items to school so we would feel relaxed while we were tested. I don’t remember much about the middle school testing, but in high school we had the building to ourselves for a few hours to take the tests a little at a time, and then have the rest of our school day as normal. Even though we were assured that these tests would not affect our grades, I remember the teachers seeming like they were a little more on edge, as though their jobs depended on the success of the tests (which they pretty much did). But with their silent stressing, the importance the school placed on providing an “appropriate” testing atmosphere, and the stress that naturally comes from being tested, it’s no wonder students hate it. And because students hate it, parents hate it. Teachers hate it because they are the ones being judged on the results; plus it cuts into valuable classroom time. I wouldn't say that school administrators like testing, but they do hold it in high regard since it’s basically their job to appease the state in order to get paid salaries that are in many cases, quite hefty. That leaves the test makers, who are the only ones who make a profit from this, so of course, they love it. We've mentioned many times how standardized testing should only be a measurement of students’ progress and retention, and not a corporate profit tool. And I think that this aspect should be the focal point on why we need a reformation on education assessment. Even though there are plenty of other reasons why standardized tests as they stand today are more of a hindrance than a help, the reason that makes me the most upset is that corporate greed is running American education, and not enough people are talking about it. Education policy makers state that Common Core standards need to be met, so teachers need to push a curriculum that caters to test results. The test-makers are then paid to create a new standardized test based on the new Common Core curriculum standards. If the tests show poor results, than schools need to revamp...

TN Common Core Rally

PARCC is inspiring a movement

The fight against standardization rages on after the first weeks of Common Core testing have gone underway. For many parents, however, this is just the beginning of a long battle against the Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College Careers (PARCC). You could say PARCC is inspiring a movement - parents and educators against Common Core and its related high-stakes assessment. This new movement has gained a lot of steam and that's a good thing for the education reform movement. [caption id="attachment_353" align="alignleft" width="300"] Children marching against Common Core in Harlem, NY[/caption] The new fight against PARCC and common core has developed into grassroots movement propelled by concerned parents who refuse to allow their children to take the “high-stakes Common Core tests,” according to the Washington Post. Common Core and PARCC testing seem to have become the single unifying issue that numerous education reform groups are united against. This would include teachers groups like The Badass Teachers Association, unions like the AFT, and parent groups like Ohioans Against PARCC. This movement is kept alive by concerned parents like Amy Broerman. For Broerman, this is not just an issue of whether standardized tests are proper measures of a student’s ability to perform, but it is also an issue of practicality. “The number of days that teachers spend preparing for it. The number of days that school will be disrupted so that kids can take the test…I’m opting out only because it sends the strongest message,” said Broerman in an interview with ABC9 (source). Parents like Broerman share their concerns about the test along with teachers and school district officials who claim that there could be negative effects when it comes to standardized testing on social media sites. These websites and Facebook pages hope to create a public forum for individuals to share their ideas. One of these sites is the widely popular fightthecore.com which queues up resources for parents to research Common Core and keeps a blog running for updates on standardized education. It also allows parents to contact state legislators via email. Veteran teacher Jennifer Philips from Colorado informs parents and other teachers about the harms of over-testing and the discrimination that comes along with Common Core in an interview on her YouTube channel. “Common Core is not built for everyone. [The PARCC] have a particular population in mind, and that is not okay,” said Philips. The PARCC test does not officially or explicitly have accommodations for students who do not speak English or have learning disabilities. Students who need more time on the test, larger print, or have instructions read to them will not receive the accommodations they need to be successful when taking the exam. Philips stands in solidarity along with other teachers and parents when it comes to standardized tests like Common Core. “Testing has gotten to the point that this is all our job as teachers is now: test preparers. Our students are learning mathematics, they aren't learning the beautiful grammar of our language. Instead, they’re learning how to take a test, and that is a huge disservice to our students and...

Common Core, Common Problems

As someone who is a bit out of the loop with American education standards for grade school, I've been doing some reading up on the Common Core Standards that have caused so much controversy. Personally, I’m torn on whether or not this is something beneficial. On paper the system sounds great as it hopes to do what I've mentioned in a previous article: to find ways to connect what kids are learning to real-world happenings. But in practice the system has been met with mixed reviews, as is expected when change happens. It seems like most of the issues are stemming from bridging the gap between previous standards and new ones, and that educators are having a hard time figuring out what lessons are best to achieve those curriculum standards. But the biggest fear with the Common Core is that people seem to be afraid of those ever-important test results. Now, we've already delved into the many flaws of standardized testing, so it’s no surprise that upcoming results are weighing heavy on people’s minds. If a school does well, does it prove that the system works? If a school does poorly does that mean the system failed? Again, none of that really matters, as standardized tests still can only measure so much depending on whether the individual child is a good test-taker. But the most jarring bit about the Common Core State Standards Initiative to me comes from the slogan on the webpage: “Prepping America’s Students for College and Career.” That’s a very generalized goal for millions of very different students. Not a bad one necessarily, but not readily achievable for everyone either, which brings me back to the issue of educational privilege. If a student isn't motivated to go to college, or doesn't have the resources, then it wouldn't matter to him or his family whether or not the school he attends meets state educational requirements. Also, what about the students who really want to go into a trade career where a high school diploma is enough? I know that higher education is a wonderful thing that people should experience, but I also know that college isn't for everyone. And as much as we hope to have a nation of higher-educated people, that just isn't a reality (yet?). The problem with a generalized standard goal is that we are ultimately forcing every student into one box, ready to be shipped out to some ambiguous place of “higher learning.” But not every college or career path is the same, and there are simply too many options out there to be able to include all subject possibilities. Ideally, having the capacity to apply real-world situations to homework problems would remedy this, but not every child will be able to find a way to relate to some situations. If, say, a student has no idea how the stock exchange works, and has no desire to want to know, than all those math problems that deal with relating statistics or economics are worthless to her. And if...

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