Monthly Archives: February 2015

An Educational Titanic, A Louisiana Edsel: Stand for Children Defends PARCC

Stand for Children Logo Red

A spurious web page is circulating throughout Louisiana from Louisiana branch of the organization Stand For Children. On this page, they warn that some parents are trying to convince other parents to pull their children from the upcoming PARCC tests. They urge parents to ignore these pleas and let the students take the tests because it’s the right thing to do for students.

“Parents with the courage to recognize an educational Titanic when they see one are wisely removing their kids from an untested experiment.”

Stand for Children, you want to do the right thing for students? How’s this for starters?

How about declaring how much money your organization accepted from the Bill Gates Foundation, the financial heart of Common Core and its accompanying tests. Savvy parents don’t accept anything at face value, and parents can’t trust you if they don’t know who paid for you. Transparency is all that they ask before you attempt to usurp the role of guardian to the next generation.

Next, how about researching this “new, better test” which your organization accepts blindly and without question. (Oh, yeah, that money issue.) From your tone, it’s obvious you know little about PARCC tests, which New York has used for two years. Do you honestly think a test that fails 2/3 of the New York testers is a “new, better test?” A test where 85% of African-American students and 81% of Hispanic students failed is a “new, better test?” All this proves is that it’s a harder test, or more likely, a poorly designed one, that’s all. In most cases, when people have been able to get test questions, they are worded in a most confusing manner and usually a couple of grade levels above the readers’ abilities. How is this a “better” test?

You claim that students will no longer be mindlessly bubbling, but will be able to show their academic growth. How? It’s the first time using this test in Louisiana, and the questions are not even coming from Pearson, the only company licensed to give the PARCC test. Louisiana has no contract with Pearson, no matter what John White says, so we are not comparing our students to anyone else in ten other PARCC-participating states. (It was once 24, but wiser states have been bailing the sinking ship.) And since it is the first time we’re giving this test, we can’t measure our growth because it’s so new. Only when the test has been given over many cycles can one judge growth or decline.

You claim these tests can help our teachers improve their teaching skills. How? The results won’t come out until next year, when the children will all be in the next grade, so how will this help the teachers better prepare the students they no longer teach? “If only I had tried this last year, I’d be so much better,” said what teacher ever? And why should tests from March take so long to grade, especially if they are so awesome? Even ACT tests don’t take this long, and they are a better indicator of being ready for college than these new, untried tests.

You fiercely defend this test as a great gauge for academic growth, but consider the ramifications of this monolithic test. One parish in central Louisiana has stopped “regular” teaching entirely and has been preparing their students for the PARCC-like tests for six solid weeks. Those six weeks of exploration and fascination over learning are gone as that parish “drills and kills” their students for a test that’s never been proven to do what it claims it will.

Perhaps worst of all is the unfortunate title Partnership for the Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers (PARCC). It’s grossly misleading: what third grader is ready for college? They’re not even ten! Of course they’re not ready. But when they hear that they have failed the test, they clearly understand that they are a failure and will never be ready for college. Who are these leaders designing this mess? Oh, wait, they aren’t teachers, that’s right.

So parents with the courage to recognize an educational Titanic when they see one are wisely removing their kids from an untested experiment. They refuse to lend their children as guinea pigs to the Louisiana version of the Edsel. Stand for Children may think it is standing for children, but it’s unnecessary. Parents are already standing up for their kids, and they do it for the right intentions, and without the benefit of Bill Gates’ money.

 

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The Chorus Grows: Sample Letter from the Lake Charles area

Stop Common Core

Calcasieu Parish, home to Lake Charles, has been fighting the good fight when it comes to Common Core and the PARCC test associated with it. Below is a letter written by Ganey Arsement in response to a pro-Common Core editorial which remarkably came out the SAME day as the Advertiser‘s pro-Common Core editorial. (I sense a pattern.) It was another example of an unnamed editorial blindly supporting a program based on no particular evidence other than retreaded arguments and soundbites provided by CC supporters. I responded to the Advertiser and Arsement responded to the Lake Charles paper. As paraphrased from a World War II saying, Common Core has awoken a sleeping giant.

Dear Editorial Board,

I am more than a little concerned that the editorial board has chosen to publish today’s opinion. I feel strongly that before forming an opinion on any matter, one is tasked with first reviewing the facts. It appears that the editorial board did not. If the board had taken the time to research the opposition to Common Core and PARC, they would have formed an entirely different opinion.

In addition, I challenge each and every member of that editorial board to take the 5th grade PARCC practice test. I hope you have the intestinal fortitude to post your results.

Let me start by saying that Common Core standards were not developed by a group of educators, administrators and governors. In fact, the writers of the standards have zero background in education. In general, the standards written at each grade level are astonishingly above the cognitive abilities of the children in that grade. A hundred years of research is proof of this. Despite esteemed educational researchers protesting the standards from the very beginning, 46 states adopted Common Core. As of this writing, 9 states have withdrawn and 4 are in the process. Some say that Governor Jindal’s attempt to withdraw is motivated by political aspirations. Perhaps, but I can tell you that his decision was greatly affected by the community efforts to stop Common Core in the this state. Why, you ask, are these states changing direction? It has nothing to do with not wanting standards. It is because the standards are inappropriate, and there is an enormous amount of unethical behaviors surrounding it.

Let me address the PARCC test that you proudly support in your editorial. Did you know that Louisiana does not have a contract with Pearson, the publisher of the PARCC test, and the test the children will be given is a “PARCC-like” test printed by another publisher. Your argument that this test will be a baseline is invalid. Next, the publisher, Pearson, promotes only one curriculum on its website to ready children for the PARCC test; Eureka Math (changed to Great Minds) and Core Knowledge ELA. Why does this matter? Because the curriculum is an atrocity. There are gaps in the lessons, misprints in the answers and it forces teachers to teach to the test. Here is something else you didn’t know. Of the three Common Core aligned curricula offered by the Louisiana Department of Education, only one provides money to districts to train teachers on how to use it. Guess which one.

Well, now we come to the money. Where does the money come from? In the last five years, the LDOE has received $10 million dollars from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. The BMGF funnels millions upon millions of dollars to agencies to help ensure that the Common Core standards are implemented and the Pearson Recommended text is used, and the PARCC test is administered. Why? Because full implementation would guarantee a very profitable future for Microsoft as it would require his operating system and applications in every classroom in America. Here is a history lesson. Do you know what the first multi-million dollar corporation was? The American Business Machines corporation became so profitable selling its tabulating machine to Nazi Germany that it changed its name to International Business Machines, also known as IBM.

Who else gets money from BMGF? Probably some of your biggest advertisers. The Better Business Bureau, the Council for a Better Louisiana, Stand for Children; these are just a few of the non-profit organizations being paid to promote Common Core and PARCC.

I’d like to inform you that the movement in Lake Charles and Louisiana to remove Common Core and PARCC from our schools isn’t going anywhere. To underestimate it, or easily dismiss it, would be a mistake. In fact, it would be worth your while to do your homework. I assure that we have. In addition, I challenge each and every member of that editorial board to take the 5th grade PARCC practice test. I hope you have the intestinal fortitude to post your results.


Ganey Arsement
Lake Charles, LA

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Could Not Have Said It Any Better: Quin Hillyer’s “Throw Common Core Out the Door.”

New Orleans native Quin Hillyer is a contributing editor for National Review. He published this article in the Baton Rouge Advocate, and it’s a damning indictment of the Common Core/PARCC debacle playing out on the Louisiana stage. I have included the link to his article below.

My favorite quote from the article is this:

“Louisiana ought to jettison all formal affiliation with these controversial, counterproductive, national “standards” for (mis)education. While students struggle with incomprehensible approaches to simple arithmetic and are poisoned with “Core-aligned” smut readings that would give Grandma the vapors, the Bayou State should produce its own indices of school success — and then encourage curricular innovation to ace those indices.”

The link to the article is http://theadvocate.com/news/acadiana/9187278-123/quin-hillyer-throw-common-core.

 

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An Honest Editorial, or a Shiller for PARCC and Common Core?

Stop Common Core

From the Advertiser came fluffy propaganda on Sunday, declaring that the PARCC tests were a “step toward progress.”

I have the courage of my convictions and am willing to put my name to my words. It’s a shame certain members of the editorial board lack that courage.

Whether intended or not, unnamed editorials tend to be seen more as a sign of cowardice than a statement of conviction. Instead of resembling a measured statement of rational minds, the editorial had more in common with pro-Common Core press releases.

A step toward progress? Really? It has been well documented that twenty-five authors, none of them teachers and lacking expertise in writing standards, wrote the Common Core Standards. In the validation process, the actual educators refused to sign it.

That’s progress?

This program was never tested or piloted, but it was presented as the cure for all ills. Forty-five states adopted it—Louisiana included—and federal bribes in the form of Race to the Top grants reinforced that adoption.

That’s progress?

Louisiana students will take PARCC-like questions in a few weeks. Other states like New York have been giving these tests for almost two years, and the results have been disheartening at best. They have produced increased anxiety in students, some to the point of crying, giving up, and even losing control of bladder and bowel functions.

That’s progress?

The authors of this editorial say that “PARCC fails to frighten us.” How brave of them; they’re not taking the test.

The authors say the test is “not intended to boost students’ self-esteem.” Really? What does a passing grade do, but bolster self-esteem, a vitally-crucial component to becoming a well-rounded contributor to society. New York presented some of the first PARCC tests, resulting in 70% of the students being labeled failures. The second year showed a slight increase with only 64% failing. I fail to see how labeling vast majorities of children as failures is somehow going to make them better human beings. These tests in their present form have incredible potential to crush an entire generation; that frightens me.

The authors claim the PARCC test will measure progress. Exactly how? Originally more than 20 states signed up to give these test, but that number has dwindled to ten, and Louisiana is NOT one of them. Mercedes Schneider has documented that Louisiana has NO CONTRACT with Pearson, the ONLY company giving the PARCC test. Data Recognition Corps is providing questions to Louisiana, not Pearson, so we can compare our students to what exactly?

That’s progress?

The authors contend that the governor’s bad behavior is creating anxiety among parents. The only bad behavior I’ve noticed is the authors’ blind acceptance of Common Core as some improvement for the educational system.

The authors state that the governor’s executive order was “nothing more than cheap grandstanding.” Standing up for our students or children is not cheap, and parents have the right to protect their children through an opt-out process. The authors denigrate these parents with the damning phrase “Are they teaching our children to quit?”

According to that train of thought, the Founding Fathers were merely trouble-makers who should have accepted British rule without question. Henry David Thoreau, author of Civil Disobedience, merely caused trouble for trouble’s sake, and Rosa Parks should have taken her seat in the back of the bus and shut up. Perhaps those individuals should just “buck up,” as the authors suggest safely from their anonymity.

Unlike these authors, I prefer to think of these parents as dealing with a difficult situation as best as they possibly can. I cannot walk in their shoes—I have no children of my own—but I will at least try to understand their issues and see their point of view, not dismiss them with arrogant words.

I have the courage of my convictions and am willing to put my name to my words. It’s a shame certain members of the editorial board lack that courage.

Vincent P. Barras

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