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Friday, January 28, 2011

Argument against CCSS; Support HB1891

[Updated Feb. 14, 2011 to reflect legislative changes.]

Thank you to everyone who has contacted legislators about voting no to the adoption of the Common Core State Standards (CCSS). If adopted, the CCSS will cost taxpayers a great deal of money, hand over our classrooms to national and federal interests, and they won't help our children learn better.

Ask your legislators to make sure HB1891 gets a hearing, and also to support it with their vote.

Keep those phone calls, emails and letters going to Olympia.

(If you can, please also speak out against SJR8212 and SB5522 and SB5639, which are separate but related. Collectively, these bills eliminate the elected position at OSPI (the superintendent) and replace it with a position appointed by the governor. They also eliminate several education agencies and replace them with one agency run by the governor. It's a complete centralization of authority.)

I've already spoken with several legislators. Some seemed to understand the issues, while others make arguments that are based on weak assumptions. It's helpful to have ready arguments. In a conversation with them, the sand can shift quickly.

I wrote myself some argumentation to help combat these weak assumptions, and to encourage legislators to closely examine what they've been told by others in Olympia who have a vested interest in the CCSS being adopted. If you would like to use these arguments, please do. Feel free to forward the arguments to other parents, teachers and advocates, and to legislators. If you have suggestions for improving them, please let me know.


Adoption of the Common Core State Standards: Debunking the Myths
By Laurie H. Rogers

Myth: The CCSS will provide stability.

This statement is made without support. It’s an assumption, not a conclusion based on evidence. It implies – illogically – that we should change everything in order to have less change.

If the CCSS are adopted, there will be more instability, not less, as the state is dragged into adopting another set of standards. This statewide instability would take place just a few years after taxpayers spent more than $100 million on the development and implementation of math standards (including materials, professional development and testing) that are clearer and more rigorous than those in the CCSS.

There also is indication that adopting the CCSS/common assessments – and perhaps someday common textbooks – will never provide stability. Supporters of the CCSS have called it a “living document,” indicating that change is expected. This will be change over which our state, districts, legislators, teachers and parents will have little or no control.

Myth: Adopting the CCSS will improve education in WA.

This is an assumption that is not based on evidence.

Public education is in a bad way. The future of our nation is in jeopardy because of our weak public education system. However, there is no data or history to support the idea that adopting common standards and common assessments will fix things.

According to the Thomas B. Fordham Institute, as well as various analyses done by professionals in Washington State, the CCSS for math are weaker and less clear than Washington State’s current math standards.

Some argue that the differences between the CCSS and our current math standards are negligible. That’s a subjective statement frequently made by people who haven’t compared the two, or who have a vested interest in seeing the CCSS adopted. The differences will not be negligible to teachers using them or to students.

It won’t be better for students or teachers if legislators adopt standards that are worse – particularly in math.

The CCSS are an untested, unproved product. There are no tangible, measurable results anywhere in this country, no evidence to support allegations of their efficacy. Our children and teachers are the subjects of this federal education experiment. It would be irresponsible to mandate that we all rush to adopt an untested product.

Myth: The CCSS/common assessments initiatives will bring money to the state.

This is another assumption, not based on strong evidence. Most states have not received money for Race to the Top, despite making many of the changes required by the federal government, including adopting the Common Core State Standards.

Even if Washington State adopted the CCSS and got all of the money it could get for Race to the Top, half of that money stays at the state level. The amount going to districts is a few dozen dollars per student per year, and there is no guarantee that ANY of the Race to the Top money will actually go to classrooms.

Myth: The CCSS/common assessments initiatives will cost less than the standards and assessments we have now.

This is another assumption, not based on the evidence. It is certainly an unknown. OSPI was directed by SB6696 to provide detailed reports and costs to the state legislature by January 1, 2011. OSPI failed to meet that legislated deadline, and – as of Jan. 26 – has not delivered all of that material. Why is OSPI having such a hard time supporting its claims with hard evidence?

Once a state signs on to “common” initiatives over which it has no control, it also will have no say in how much those initiatives cost. Whatever OSPI’s claims are for costs, they have no meaning down the road. Future costs won’t be up to Washington State.

One thing we know is that – in a time of tightened budgets – the CCSS/common assessments will cost the Washington State taxpayer a great deal of money. The $2.16 million asked for by OSPI to implement the CCSS is just the tip of an iceberg. This request does not include district costs, and it’s a small fraction of the taxpayer money spent on previous standards implementations. Adopting the common core state standards/assessments WILL cost taxpayers hundreds of millions of dollars in implementation, curriculum adoptions, professional development costs, and other related expenses. We simply can’t afford it.

Additionally, it must be noted that the money to build our current standards is already spent. The money to build our current assessments is already spent. There are no savings to be had – not until the state MIGHT make changes at some unknown point down the road. It’s “creative accounting” to call that nebulous assumption “saving money.”

Washington’s much-criticized assessments have been a money hog, it’s true. Ironically, the people in charge of that also are leading one of the consortiums of states developing common assessments for the CCSS! Inexpensive, rigorous tests already are developed and available to states. Washington State just has to agree to adopt them.

No taxpayer will understand spending hundreds of millions of dollars to adopt standards that are untested, expensive, and demonstrably less rigorous in math than what we have now.

Myth: The CCSS/common assessments will provide greater public accountability.

This is an assumption not based on tangible evidence. It doesn’t increase public accountability when we turn our public education system over to people we don’t know and with whom we likely will never be able to speak. Adoption of the CCSS will result in a dilution or complete loss of local decision-making and parent input on what our children are learning, and less real public accountability. Here is some evidence on that.

The process used in Washington State to “provisionally” adopt the CCSS cut the public out of the process until it was all but too late. The public was told one thing, even as a completely different thing was happening.

Gov. Gregoire and Superintendent Dorn signed a Memorandum of Agreement on the CCSS with no public notification. A few months later, they were pushing districts to sign on to RTTT (and the attendant CCSS) before the standards were even written.

When public input finally was solicited, it was after the CCSS had been provisionally adopted. OSPI’s public “surveys” were heavily biased toward their permanent adoption. Does the legislature have copies of feedback from OSPI’s public presentations on the CCSS? If so, there should be comments in there to the effect of “DO NOT ADOPT THE STANDARDS.” We who said that had to write in our comments. The OSPI survey was solely about adding 15% content, and not about the wisdom of adopting the CCSS at all.

I’ve been trying for 18 months to get answers from the national business and political interests pushing the CCSS, and from the U.S. Department of Education. I have not received responses from most of these people, much less answers. The Dept. of Ed appears to be ignoring a Freedom of Information Act request about the CCSS.

If Washington State adopts the CCSS, this is our future. The public will have no control over what happens with our children in the classrooms that we fund with our money.

Yes, our public education system is weak. The answer is not to give away more control – it is to regain control at local levels, and hold those local people accountable.

Something needs to be done, but not this. Not the CCSS. Not RTTT. Not the centralization and federalization of public education. Not the removal of the people’s voice and our vote. We need MORE voice, more choice, and more options for parents and teachers. Competition is good for education. The CCSS/common assessments will add to costs, lower standards, eliminate choice, and ultimately not help children learn better.

Adopting the CCSS will take Washington State’s public schools in exactly the wrong direction.

Legislators must vote for HB1891, and against SJR8212 and SB5522 and SB5639. Please help put a STOP to the adoption of the CCSS in Washington State, and to the complete centralization of our public education system.

Laurie H. Rogers
author of "Betrayed: How the Education Establishment Has Betrayed America and What You Can Do about it"

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