Friday, December 20, 2013

California: Common Core's last stand in 2014?

Of all the states, Common Core makes the least amount of sense for California… it’s the most absurd of all.

We have more to say about this after months of research, but, briefly here’s why:

- California’s current state standards, especially in math, have already been rated by the experts, and even the politically-appointed California standards evaluation committee, as being superior to Common Core. In math, most Common Core standards put our kids a about year behind where we have been with our CA state standards. We had some of the best standards in the nation and now are effectively “failing” every child, holding kids back almost an entire year. Next year under the new Common Core standards, our straight-A son will effectively be re-taking much of his 5th grade math all over again in 6th grade under Common Core. We have the data to show this, standard by standard, and it's public information that most of the public (and most in education or politics) have likely never seen. Look for more on this soon.

- California did NOT get any Race to the Top grants for K-12. Zero. So all the hoops California jumped through in 2009-10 were all in vain. Yet, defying all logic, we are still spending $1.25B+ taxpayer dollars (when voters did not intend the money to be used for this) and probably 10+ years of work, just to switch to LOWER standards.

- California already had very strong progress in public schools the past 10-12 years. Under our already truly "rigorous" state standards, curriculum and tests, our state test scores and college-readiness measures have been increasing steadily, across all demographics, DESPITE our huge influx on new, non-English speaking students and HUGE increases in class sizes. Where we live, our public schools have been rated as some of the best in the nation, despite also having grown to ~35 kids in a class (from ~20 just a few years ago).

- The $1.2B that is going to go to big publishers for new materials, countless re-education camps for teachers, testing administration, etc. could be used for SO MANY other things... pick your favorite: hiring more teachers, more pay for teachers, credentialing, technology improvements, etc. The opportunity costs for throwing out a decade of test results and progress is immeasurable.  Likewise is holding an entire generation of kids back a grade for an entire year.  What is the cost of this?!

Added (12/21/13):

- Apparently, Gov. Brown opposes Common Core.  He's made statements in the past he opposes gov. standards and tests, he did again just this past week.  However, its confounding that he's also asked for and got $1.25B to implement it.  Watch for him to now divert that money elsewhere and/or completely get rid of or delay any standardized testing or having it be used for ANYTHING.  Testing to appease some folks, while not using the tests for anything to appease others.

- California is a local control state, which means any school district may reject Common Core.  In an election year in 2014, watch the sparks fly in school board and local races, esp. in Republican dominated districts.  We have already seen many districts having fiery Common Core debates and forums.  Unfortunately for those districts, parent and teacher concerns have been ignored, possibly to the peril of those School Board members in future elections.

- California also has a voter recall (remember what happened to Gov. Davis 10 years ago?) and proposition process.  If unrest grows, it could turn into a recall or proposition seeking to defund or reverse Common Core implementation.

- The waivers from the Feds:  Schools in California, it seems, should be getting waivers from the DOE for not doing full testing in 2014 and using scores to measure teachers.  Some have already been granted.  How can the executive branch of the government "waive" a federal law?  Seems more and more common tactic of this DOE and the administration (just look to "amendments" to FERPA in 2008 and 2011).  Other states can't be happy about this. Turns out some Common Core fans are not happy about this either:

For California, Common Core makes absolutely no sense, regardless of your political views on other issues. It defies logic in every way. 

Yet, we have not heard any arguments from anyone in California justifying any of the above... let alone any good arguments. 

The California story is truly unique, not found in other states. Other state Common Core proponents may argue, “Well, Common Core increases our standards from where we were before and we need to compete Internationally.” Others with great state standards, like Massachusetts, at least got some of the federal money and RTT grants to help justify and mask the true dumbness of their moves. Other states have many schools that are very underfunded, struggling or just desperate. Not so in California. 

Furtrher, the California government (Democrats and Republicans) have shown some willingness to snub Sec. Arne Duncan and D.C. (see the fight over AB 484). We also have folks from all sides of the political spectrum willing to stand up against Common Core. 

If California were to opt out of Common Core (a long-shot, perhaps, but we are hopeful), COMMON CORE would be no more. It would completely collapse without California’s ~6M students. Our prediction: If Common Core loses at least 50% of the nation’s students (even if not 50% of the states), it would collapse and mostly die as national effort. 

Ironically, thanks to the media and school administrations being in the tank for CommonCore, California also likely has the lowest awareness among parents about all of the above and about all of the downsides of Common Core. We also have probably some of the heaviest PR campaigns coming from our Dept. of Ed and school administrations pushing Common Core. 

In 2014, when California parents and teachers wake up and realize the nightmare we are in and see through the PR campaign and story we've been sold, you can be sure there will be enough outrage to make many changes, especially in the 2014 election year. 

In a scan of ~16 California politicians running for office in 2014, not even ONE mentions Common Core on their websites. We intend this to change to be nearly 100% mentioning Common Core, pro or con, one way or another. If you are representing voters in our state and in your districts, at least be upfront and honest with those voters about where you stand on this important issue. We intend to work with others to produce voters guides making this information more clear and more available. 

Look for Common Core to be a defining issue in 2014, especially in California. It may be the sleeping giant that seals the fate of Common Core.

What do you think?

Merry Christmas, Happy New Year and keep putting our California children and their education FIRST in California. California kids are not common.

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