The Collaborative for Student Success (CSS) recently posted a particularly snarky piece blasting the moms who have been fighting back against the miseducation to which their children are being subjected under Common Core (CC). CSS is a propaganda outfit created by Common Core proponents such as the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and ExxonMobil to push the national standards. The anti-mom piece (along with a new article repeating the false talking point that the new fed-ed law, the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA), does away with CC) sheds no new light on the debate. In fact, it could have been written five years ago, as it ignores mountains of information that refutes its claims – but it does suggest that the moms’ success on social media is getting under the centralizers’ collective skin.
The CSS article contains so many flat-out deceptions that the most efficient way to address them is in bullet-point form. Here goes:
- CSS repeats the discredited claim that Patriot Journalist Network (PJNET) is a “bot” that manufactures anti-Common Core tweets. Nope. Every tweet issued via PJNET comes from a human, not a bot. It must really annoy Mr. Gates that the moms are using technology to outsmart him and his well-paid troops.
- CSS claims CC is merely a set of academic standards that some states have “chosen to adopt.” In fact, the U.S. Department of Education (USED) pushed the standards onto the states by tying their adoption to billions of dollars in federal Race to the Top money, during a time of deep recession when states were desperate for cash.
- CSS denies CC is a “data mining scheme,” but CC is, in fact, a large part of exactly such a scheme. In their rush to qualify for Race to the Top grants, states had to agree not only to adopt the standards but also to build out invasive student-data systems. CC also ushers in “digital learning,” through which corporations and the government collect the millions of data points students emit merely by using a sophisticated interactive software. This data can be used to build personal algorithms that have the potential to map a child’s brain and even dictate his future. When the government first standardizes education through CC and then joins with corporate Big Data to tag and collect every data point from children throughout their K-12 careers, the scheme is much larger and much more nefarious than CSS’s anodyne description of just “English and math standards.”
- CSS claims federal and state laws “ensure that only parents or a legal guardian can access their (sic) child’s academic records.” This one is a whopper. Even the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA) as traditionally interpreted wasn’t this protective, and since the Obama administration rewrote FERPA by regulation, the government may disclose personally identifiable student data to literally anyone in the world as long as it uses the right language to justify the disclosure. Parents need not even be informed this is happening. And parents have no idea that the interactive software promoted by CC is collecting billions of data points on their children’s performance and even on their personalities.
- CSS describes CC as “higher standards.” Wrong again. Among many other critics, the top two standards-content experts in the country (Dr. Sandra Stotsky and Dr. James Milgram) refused to sign off on the standards because they were so deficient. The standards dumb down English language arts (ELA) by diminishing classic literature and replacing it with less-demanding nonfiction “informational text” that teachers aren’t trained to teach. They dumb down math by, among other things, 1) requiring failed “fuzzy math” pedagogies, 2) delaying the teaching of Algebra I until 9th grade, thus making it impossible for most students to reach calculus in high school, and 3) stopping with only a partial Algebra II course, thus admittedly preparing students only for a non-selective community college.
- CSS claims “there’s not much President Trump can do about Common Core,” saying “nobody wants” him to issue a federal mandate that states ditch the standards. But “nobody” is saying he can or should do that. There are many actions his USED could take to relieve the federal pressure points that operate to lock states into CC. And because ESSA contains many of those pressure points, he can work to change or better yet repeal ESSA.
- CSS claims that students with CC training are making “significant improvements” in ELA and math on state tests. This claim is misleading. In the first place, in many states, such as Kentucky, the state-test scores are mixed, with slight improvement in some areas but decline in others. And as former USED official Ze’ev Wurman points out, even the modest improvements on the CC-aligned state tests may be attributable to students’ and teachers’ becoming more familiar with these relatively new tests. Second, the reality is that Common Core incorporated many of the discredited, progressive fads that many states already had embedded in their standards. Rather than adopting excellent, proven standards like those of Massachusetts, many states simply continued down the path of low-level standards by adopting Common Core.
- It’s obvious why CSS focuses on data from state tests rather than from the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP), a test that hasn’t yet been corrupted by aligning it to CC training. Math scores on NAEP have actually declined for the first time in 25 years. In fact, of the 26 states and D.C. that CSS praises for improvement on the state tests, fully 17 showed declines on NAEP scores for 4th-grade math. Only one of the CSS-cited states showed improvement on NAEP in this category. And the NAEP scores get worse the longer students are exposed to CC training. By senior year of high school, students in 2015 (compared with 2013) scored lower in math, about the same in reading, and lower in college-preparedness in both subjects.
An honest observer would at least acknowledge this negative trend, if only to try to explain it away. Could it be that CSS isn’t an honest observer?
- CSS scoffs at the correct statement that CC requires 50 percent of reading in elementary school, and 70 percent in high school, to consist of nonfiction “informational text.” CSS trumpets that the 70 percent figure refers to reading across all subject areas, rather than only in English class. It’s not clear what CSS is objecting to here, since the tweet CSS complains of is completely true. But CSS fails to note that CC requires at least 50 percent of reading in high-school English class to consist of nonfiction rather than classic literature. It’s beyond dispute that CC diminishes the study of the world’s finest literature and requires teachers to focus instead on newspaper articles, government regulations, etc.
- CSS bemoans the “completely false narrative” that CC “pushes learning at the expense of fun and playing” in K-2. Our youngest students, CSS implies, will thrive under CC’s workforce-development training. Tell that to the more than 500 early-childhood-development professionals who published an extraordinary statement decrying the developmental inappropriateness of the standards. Could this developmental mismatch be because the identified drafters of CC included not one K-2 teacher or specialist in early-childhood development? And CSS’s claim would come as a surprise to kindergarten teachers across the country, who are forced to push academic drills on little ones who are still learning to tie their shoes. Gotta get the kiddies ready for their entry-level jobs.
- Defending the indefensible, CSS lauds CC math for “encourag[ing] multiple approaches so that kids can how (sic) to find the answer, not just what the answer is using methods they don’t fully understand.” CSS claims “kids are definitely still learning math the way their parents did” but are privileged to learn other methods as well. World-renowned mathematicians Dr. James Milgrim and Dr. Marina Ratner disagree, pointing out that CC teaches the standard algorithms (the techniques that work first time, every time) at least two years later than they’re taught in the highest-achieving countries. Until then, children are forced to grapple with cumbersome “made up” math strategies that do nothing but confuse them and drive their parents to distraction. By the way, this is exactly the type of progressive math that was tried, and that failed miserably, in California during the 1990’s (after which Dr. Milgram was brought in to clean up the mess). To understand the scientific evidence about why this type of math “teaching” doesn’t work, read Daisy Christodoulou’s Seven Myths about Education.
CSS finds it appropriate to make fun of parents who want the best for their children’s education and who are struggling every day to wrest it from the talons of the Common Core centralizers – “experts” who just know this will all work if parents will only shut up and stop interfering. But belittling parents and ignoring the wealth of well-founded research that supports their arguments is a pretty poor method of persuasion. We’re not sure Mr. Gates is getting his money’s worth from CSS.
In the meantime, moms will keep using technology to outsmart the technocrats’ well-funded mouthpieces. Cosmic justice.