For the news and views you might have missed
Let’s start off with this gem:
A beloved annual kindergarten show at a New York school was canceled this week by administrators in an apparent effort to prepare the five-year-olds for college, probably by teaching them that you can’t trust anyone.
Administrators at the Harley Avenue Primary School in Elwood, New York, recently sent out a series of letters alerting parents that the annual song-and-dance show their children had been preparing for wasn’t good enough for their looming college applications.
“The reason for eliminating the Kindergarten show is simple. We are responsible for preparing children for college and career with valuable lifelong skills,” the letter says.
The administrators further explain that the five-year-olds would be better off learning to become “strong readers, writers, coworkers, and problem solvers,” all of which, ironically, are skills required to put on a show.
Yep, that’s education today.
Besides cancelling kindergarten performances and placing children in front of computers instead to take their tests, a lot has been happening in the wide world of education.
We’ll start in Chicago:
Today, members of the House of Delegates (HOD) of the Chicago Teachers Union (CTU) passed the following resolution that enjoins the city’s educators to growing national opposition to the Common Core State Standards, saying the assessments disrupt student learning and consume tremendous amounts of time and resources for test preparation and administration.
Now that the resolution has passed, the CTU will lobby the Illinois Board of Education to eliminate the use of the Common Core for teaching and assessment; and be it further and will work to organize other members and affiliates to increase opposition to the law that increases the expansion of nationwide controls over educational issues.
Common Core’s origins can be traced to the 2009 Stimulus Bill which gave $4.35 billion to the federal Department of Education which created the “Race to the Top” competition between states. In order to qualify for funding, the states needed to adopt Common Core with the added incentive that participating states would be exempted from many of the more onerous provisions of George Bush’s “No child left behind” program.
“I agree with educators and parents from across the country, the Common Core mandate represents an overreach of federal power into personal privacy as well as into state educational autonomy,” said CTU President Karen Lewis, a nationally board certified teacher. “Common Core eliminates creativity in the classroom and impedes collaboration. We also know that high-stakes standardized testing is designed to rank and sort our children and it contributes significantly to racial discrimination and the achievement gap among students in America’s schools.”
The official text of the resolution follows:
Resolution to Oppose the Common Core State Standards
WHEREAS, the purpose of education is to educate a populace of critical thinkers who are capable of shaping a just and equitable society in order to lead good and purpose-filled lives, not solely preparation for college and career; and
WHEREAS, instructional and curricular decisions should be in the hands of classroom professionals who understand the context and interests of their students; and
WHEREAS, the education of children should be grounded in developmentally appropriate practice; and
WHEREAS, high quality education requires adequate resources to provide a rich and varied course of instruction, individual and small group attention, and wrap-around services for students; and
WHEREAS, the Common Core State Standards were developed by non-practitioners, such as test and curriculum publishers, as well as education reform foundations, such as the Gates and Broad Foundations, and as a result the CCSS better reflect the interests and priorities of corporate education reformers than the best interests and priorities of teachers and students; and
WHEREAS, the Common Core State Standards were piloted incorrectly, have been implemented too quickly, and as a result have produced numerous developmentally inappropriate expectations that do not reflect the learning needs of many students; and
WHEREAS, imposition of the Common Core State Standards adversely impacts students of highest need, including students of color, impoverished students, English language learners, and students with disabilities; and
WHEREAS, the Common Core State Standards emphasize pedagogical techniques, such as close reading, out of proportion to the actual value of these methods – and as a result distort instruction and remove instructional materials from their social context; and
WHEREAS, despite the efforts of our union to provide support to teachers, the significant time, effort, and expense associated with modifying curricula to the Common Core State Standards interferes and takes resources away from work developing appropriate and engaging courses of study; and
WHEREAS, the assessments that accompany the Common Core State Standards (PARCC and Smarter Balance) are not transparent in that –teachers and parents are not allowed to view the tests and item analysis will likely not be made available given the nature of computer adaptive tests; and
WHEREAS, Common Core assessments disrupt student learning, consuming tremendous amounts of time and resources for test preparation and administration; and
WHEREAS, the assessment practices that accompany Common Core State Standards – including the political manipulation of test scores – are used as justification to label and close schools, fail students, and evaluate educators; therefore be it
RESOLVED that the Chicago Teachers Union opposes the Common Core State Standards (and the aligned tests) as a framework for teaching and learning; and be it further
RESOLVED, the Chicago Teachers Union advocates for an engaged and socially relevant curriculum that is student-based and supported by research, as well as for supports such as those described in the Chicago Teachers Union report, The Schools Chicago’s Students Deserve; and be it further
RESOLVED, the Chicago Teachers Union will embark on internal discussions to educate and seek feedback from members regarding the Common Core and its impact on our students; and be it further
RESOLVED, the Chicago Teachers Union will lobby the Illinois Board of Education to eliminate the use of the Common Core State Standards for teaching and assessment; and be it further
RESOLVED, the Chicago Teachers Union will organize other members and affiliates to increase opposition to the Common Core State Standards; and be it further
RESOLVED, that a copy of this resolution be sent to the Illinois State Board of Education, the Chicago Board of Education, the Governor of Illinois, and all members of the Illinois legislative branch; and be it finally
RESOLVED, that should this resolution be passed by the CTU House of Delegates, an appropriate version will be submitted to the American Federation of Teachers for consideration at the 2014 Convention.
And a Chicago public school teacher describes the process of developing the resolution:
Michelle Gunderson: How Chicago Teachers Union Decided to Oppose Common Core
Wednesday evening I stood before my brothers and sisters at the Chicago Teachers Union House of Delegates to speak in favor of our resolution opposing the Common Core State Standards. When I finished speaking, there was a call for the vote. It was unanimous. It was resounding – not a single voice raised in opposition.
There are times when the Chicago Teachers Union (CTU) seems like an engine; that we are able to accomplish great and difficult work seemingly overnight. I would like to pull back the curtain for a moment, and help others understand the purposeful and deliberate process we take in order to form our decisions and actions at CTU.
There are those in the media who contend we are being reckless and blindly following Karen Lewis, the president of our local. Nothing could be further from the actual case.
As much as we admire Karen Lewis and are grateful for her talents, this work was not generated from her. In fact, characterizing this event in such simplistic terms denigrates the social justice transformation of the Chicago Teachers Union, a long and hard-won struggle that involves many. We do not act on Karen Lewis’ behalf or her wishes. She acts on ours, with our guidance, and we love her for it.
It is hard to imagine a union in existence where a full democratic process is expected by everyone involved – leadership, rank and file, and union staff. Yet, in Chicago, we hold this ideal in such high regard we cannot imagine a union working any other way.
Several months prior to the passing of the resolution, the Caucus of Rank and File Educators began discussing and debating the Common Core in our open meetings. We read Diane Ravitch’s book The Reign of Error in small study groups. And many of us followed Anthony Cody’s work on this blog. Through conversations and study we came to a strong conclusion. The authors of the Common Core view the purpose of education as college and career readiness. We view the purpose of public education as a means for educating a populace of critical thinkers who are capable of shaping a just and equitable society in order to lead good and purpose-filled lives.
With our philosophical underpinning so drastically divergent from that of the Common Core we did not see any room for common ground.
That is why we say no to Common Core.
Some union locals have asked for a longer roll out of Common Core implementation. Others ask for the standards to be re-written. We say no. We are not asking the Bill Gates and Rahm Emanuels of our world to do a better job controlling the curriculum of our schools. We want them gone from the process.
Once we decided that we could not support Common Core Standards in any form, it was time to do the difficult work of taking action. I made a motion at our caucus meeting that we prepare a resolution fully opposing Common Core. It was approved after debate and careful consideration.
I wrote the first draft, but there is no way that I can be considered the author. It is crafted through conversations with dozens of educators in Chicago. It is an outcome of a movement among educators to countermand the negative impact of corporate education reform.
After a general resolution was in place, the tedious work of writing draft after draft, presenting the resolution through several union committees, and bringing the finished version before the CTU executive board and House of Delegates began. This process took months.
And there we have it: RESOLVED that the Chicago Teachers Union opposes the Common Core State Standards (and the aligned tests) as a framework for teaching and learning.
As we move forward, we need to come together to fight for what we do believe in. We have it in us to build a better education system for our children. Let us all consider saying no to Common Core and reclaiming our classrooms.
And teachers are to see no evil and speak no evil about Common Core. From Politico’s Morning Education newsletter:
UNION PROTESTS STATE TEST ‘GAG ORDER’: Representatives from the American Federation of Teachers will deliver a letter of protest from AFT President Randi Weingarten to Pearson shareholders attending a meeting in London this morning. Their beef: Confidentiality rules that block New York teachers and principals from discussing their concerns about specific questions on Pearson’s new Common Core exams. “We’re concerned that Pearson is using gag orders to cover up – rather than address – problems with its standardized tests,” Weingarten writes.
– Pearson’s response: A polite suggestion that the AFT direct its concerns to Albany, not London. The company says it does not write “gag orders” into its contracts and leaves decisions about test security and confidentiality up to state officials. What’s more, Pearson CEO John Fallon says he agrees with Weingarten that states should regularly release test questions.
– So what is Albany’s take on the matter? Dennis Tompkins, a spokesman for the New York State Department of Education, says the state requires teachers to keep test questions under wraps because it reuses some questions from year to year; it can’t afford to commission entirely new exams. He points out that the state published 25 percent of the questions from last year’s exams and plans to release even more this year. And he questions the very notion of a “gag order.” The state won’t allow teachers to divulge specific questions, Tompkins said, but “if they want to criticize the assessments in general they’re free to do.”
Bill Gates has been the driver behind the development and implementation of CCS investing millions into the program.
Here is one edu-blogger’s take on why Bill Gates will not to listen to educators, students and parents and instead continues down this path of creating a level of insanity in our schools.
…I don’t think for a moment that the Gates people are interested in the issues here. They are working out a business plan. Decades ago, Gates articulated a vision for the future of U.S. education: computer-adaptive software. He believes that such software will build in accountability, ensure mastery, personalize instruction, and enable schools to reduce, dramatically, the size of the teaching force and thus the costs of education. And so he invested heavily in the CC$$ because he needed a national bullet list to tag the assessments and computer-adaptive software to. And he tried to create a national database for the results that would act as a curriculum portal THAT HE WOULD CONTROL. Back in the day, WordPerfect had the lion’s share of the word processing software market, and Lotus 1, 2, 3 owned spreadsheets. So what did Gates do? He leveraged his monopolistic control over operating systems. He told computer manufacturers, if you want to use my operating system, you have to ship a “free” copy of Microsoft Office with each machine, and you have to pay me a hundred bucks for the privilege. WordPerfect and Lotus could not compete with free. He drove them out of business. Then he started charging for Office. Well, he tried to do the same thing with inBloom. There would be one national portal of student responses, and all computerized educational software, if it was going to make use of that database, would have to go through him. He would be the gatekeeper. A couple years ago, about the time that he was writing the check for the CC$$, Gates put out an RFP through his foundation directed at edupreneurs interested in developing computer-adaptive software. He and Pearson own equity stakes in a number of the companies that have resulted, and he and Pearson have collaborated in a new suite of CC$$-tagged educational software programs that are fully integrated with–guess what?–Microsoft Office. The Common Core was a business plan. The whole accountability program has been co-opted by Gates as part of a strategic plan. So, trying to convince the Gates Foundation that it is wrong is like trying to convince Exxon that solar is more sustainable. He’s in the accountability via computer-adaptive software business.
Now onto student data which is linked to the Common Core Standards:
Fueling growing unrest among some school officials regarding student privacy and a new assessment test, the state education department said it is not ready to release information on who has access to data collected on students.
The Massachusetts Association of School Committees last month asked the state Department of Elementary and Secondary Education for a list of vendors who receive student data collected through testing and by school districts. But the DESE said this is the first such request the department has ever received and that the information is not readily available.
“What I see here is a legitimate issue, and frankly I’d like to know the answers to, one, who gets access to the info, and, two, why aren’t they giving the answers out?” said Glenn Koocher, executive director of MASC, who said he was contacted by at least a dozen school committee members from across the state asking him to make a formal request for the information.
“This is student data and I would hope that it’s not going to marketers who will be bombarding them,” said Mel Webster, a member of the North Reading School Committee.
Jackie Reis, DESE media relations coordinator, declined to answer questions from the Globe regarding who has access to student data collected through assessment testing; how many vendors are under contract to receive student data; how vendors are vetted; how data are shared; if student data are sold and if so, for how much; vendor contract lengths; and who is ultimately responsible at the DESE for data collection, sharing, and vetting vendors. Reis said answers to these questions would have to wait till mid-May.
“The reason the list of vendors is taking a while to compile is because different vendors work with different sections of the department, and no one has ever asked for the full list before,” said Reis. “It should be available in mid-May, and as part of that release, we’ll explain how [vendors] are vetted.”
Peabody School Committee member Dave McGeney made the initial request concerning the availability of all student data collected by the DESE in late March after taking a closer look at the Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers , or PARCC test, which was rolled out for a test run this spring in some 1,000 school districts statewide. But he was unable to get any information about the availability of any student data collected by the state agency after repeated attempts through various DESE staff, he said.
“There’s no transparency and the answers raise more questions,” said McGeney.
Then this about Google:
Google has been rocked by another scandal – this time, it’s our children’s privacy under attack. The company is facing a lawsuit over data-mining student emails in a bid for advertisements in the company’s Apps for Education tool suite for schools, Info Docket reported.
The U.S District Court for the Northern District of California is currently hearing the complaint, in which nine plaintiffs allege the data-mining practices behind Google’s Gmail electronic messaging service violates federal and state wiretap and privacy laws. Gmail is a key feature of the Google Apps for Education which is used by schools and institutions of higher education through the world for free, boasting some 30 million users worldwide.
Google admitted in a sworn statement that it scans millions of students’ email messages to compile keywords for advertisements, despite not displaying any visual ads on its app. The company has also come under fire for allegedly using information from the scans to build “surreptitious” profiles of users that could be used for such purposes as targeted advertising.
The new developments raise major concerns about the compatibility between US child protection laws and “big data,” Education Week reported prompting major calls for the company to be more open about its policies.
Khaliah Barnes, a lawyer with EPIC, a Washington-based advocacy group said the case was highly troubling and likely to ignite concern that our children’s right to privacy is at risk.
“This should draw the attention of the U.S. Department of Education, the Federal Trade Commission, and state legislatures. Student privacy is under attack,” he said.
To read this article in full, go to AlterNet.
And an even more frightening development:
ConnectEDU, a data company that would have received personal student data through the now defunct inBloom cloud, went bankrupt last month and is being bought by a venture capital company. ConnectEDU received a $500K grant from the Gates Foundation less than a year ago.
Now the Federal Trade Commission is stepping in to see that the company doesn’t hand over all the personal student data it has accumulated to the new venture capital firm buying the company. There is nothing that would have stopped this if the FTC had not stepped in.
Check it out:
The potential sale of 20 million student records by ConnectEDU, an ed-tech company that filed for bankruptcy in April, has prompted the Federal Trade Commission to step in to protect the student data, the agency announced Friday.
Now, the FTC said that promise appears to be compromised by the potential sale of the company’s assets, includin the student data, to North Atlantic Capital, a Portland, Me.-based venture capital fund. As a result, the commission—by a vote of 5-0—authorized its consumer protection bureau to write a letter to the bankruptcy court that will rule on the asset sale.
“On the ConnectEDU website, students have built personal listings of their academic and personal interests, honors and awards, and work experience; employed resume builders, test preparation, and financial literacy tools; and engaged with networks of teachers, mentors, and potential employers,” Jessica Rich, director of the FTC Bureau of Consumer Protection, wrote in the letter.
Rich indicated that the FTC’s concerns would be “greatly diminished” if ConnectEDU provided users with notice of the sale of their personal information, and those users were given a chance to remove it, or if the personal information was destroyed.
Now this is the real gem:
The U.S. Department of Education applauded the move on Friday. “Users of online educational tools should be able to trust that companies will use their personal information in accordance with both the companies’ stated privacy policies and applicable federal legal requirements, including the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (commonly known as FERPA),” said Dorie Nolt, department press officer, in a written statement.
If it wasn’t for Arne Duncan, head of the Department of Education, this would have never happened. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan with President Obama’s approval, amended FERPA so that student information, no matter how private, could be handed over to any third party for any reason.
As Anthony Cody wrote in a post:
This level of data collection was made possible by the Department of Education’s 2011 revision of the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA). According to this report,
…in 2011, regulations issued by the department changed FERPA to allow the release to third parties of student information for non-academic purposes. The rules also broaden the exceptions under which schools can release student records to non-governmental organizations without first obtaining written consent from parents. And they promote the public use of student IDs that enable access to private educational records, according to EPIC, a nonprofit public-interest center based in Washington D.C.
At least someone in the Federal government had the sense to stop the unregulated flow of student information into the hands of those standing to make a profit from private student information.
At this time, the amendment that was made to FERPA that opened the gates for any company or corporation to use student information to their own financial benefit needs to be struck down.
Now on to opting out.
There are many reasons why parents are beginning to opt their students out of high stakes testing. One reason is because of the use of personal student information by corporations. Another reason is because they feel their students are being emotionally abused by way of the stress created by the overuse of standardized tests and the emphasis on test scores.
Let’s hear from some of these parents:
This video was brought to you by:
At Change the Stakes check out:
Sample Opt-Out Letters
Today I will leave you with a voice of reason, Diane Ravitch: