“New Report: Winners and Losers of Common Core”

 

Dear Friends,

A very informative and important article on Common Core. Written by Jane Robbins, an attorney and a senior fellow with the American Principals project. Shared by Donna Garner, a retired teacher and education activist.

Wgarner1@hot.rr.com

 “New Report: Winners and Losers of Common Core”

Teresa Mull of the Heartland Institute writes about a new report analyzing the enormous funding of the Common Core national standards — where the money came from, what it was used for, and especially, who benefited from the entire endeavor. Hint: It wasn’t the students.

The report, “Smart Money? Philanthropic and Federal Funding for the Common Core,” was produced by scholars at Penn State University. Unlike many academic discussions of Common Core, it recognizes that the national standards are designed for technical, data-driven outcomes rather than genuine education. It also recognizes the dearth of evidence that the Common Core-type of “standards-based reform” actually elevates student achievement.

The report combines these insights with a wealth of information about the federal programs (such as Race to the Top) and private foundation grants (such as the millions of dollars from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and others) that poured into the Common Core scheme from development to implementation. From this data the report draws conclusions about Common Core winners and losers.

Winners

  • Philanthropic foundations, which “further rooted their preferences for . . . metrics, big data, measurable growth, and competition, in the education sector. . . . Venture philanthropists’ broad and strategic funding enabled them to purchase increased influence over public policy and public institutions without incurring any accountability for the policies they advanced” — policies that have no evidentiary basis for success. And crucially, the report notes that the foundations’ expenditures “empowered them to install public policies without democratic processes.” No one has ever voted for Bill Gates, but as even Common Core proponents have admitted, his “agenda has become the country’s agenda in education.”
  • The federal government, whose showering of money on states during a deep recession enabled the U.S. Department of Education (USED) “to exercise unprecedented influence over nearly every state’s standards.”
  • For-profit grantees that provide Common Core tests, curriculum, or other resources. The report notes that vendors of educational software and digital content reported a 57 percent increase in their market between 2010-11 and 2012-13 — “even though it is not evident that such products improve teaching and learning and improve achievement gaps.”
  • Non-profits such as Achieve, Inc., and the Thomas B. Fordham Institute that received funding to promote Common Core. These organizations were able to add staff and expand their operations with help from the enormous flood they received from the Common Core spigot.

 Losers

  • The integrity of certain non-profits which, in exchange for grant money, jettisoned their supposedly objective and neutral analysis of education issues to become propagandists for Common Core. Here the report specifically mentions the Aspen Institute and the National PTA (“The relationship of [PTA’s] mission to the Common Core is tenuous, since [standards-based reform] does not typically raise achievement but often distorts teaching and learning . . . .”).
  • School districts and schools, the great majority of which have received no direct funding to implement Common Core and will be expected to collectively lay out billions to implement the standards — with no assurance of positive results for students.

 We could add our own losers:

  • Students, who are being subjected to a substandard “education” designed to train them to be worker bees for politically connected corporations rather than educated human beings and citizens of our republic.
  • Parents and other citizens, who have lost control over their local schools to unaccountable Washington bureaucrats and private foundations pushing their own agendas.
  • The Constitution and our federalist system, both of which were designed to protect state and local control over issues such as education.

The Penn State report ends by analogizing the Common Core scheme to the 19th-century Gold Rush, with profiteering by the vendors of mining equipment to work a claim that turns out to be empty. At least with the Gold Rush, the losses didn’t infect our children and our entire system of governance.

Respectfully,

 

Tincy Miller

SBOE, District 12

tincymiller35@gmail.com

www.tincymiller.com

Jay Leno’s Advice for My Dyslexia Son

 

Dear Friends,

A very inspiring story on dyslexia written by author, Liisa Ogburn, published in the New York Times. Liisa teaches, works with the elderly and writes in her spare time. She and her son Aidan Colvin recently completed a book “Looking for Heroes: One Boy, One Year, 100 Letters”, on what Aidan learned from successful people with dyslexia. Aidan met Jay Leno before a performance this spring in Fayetteville, N.C. Shared by my daughter Cynthia.

Jay Leno’s Advice for My Dyslexia Son

“Jay Leno here, calling for Aidan.”

This was the voice I heard when I picked up our home phone one day in April.

“One second,” I said, trying to sound natural, as if people like Jay Leno called our house all the time. I banged on Aidan’s door and whisper-shouted, “It’s Jay Leno!”

The call was not entirely out of the blue. We had met Mr. Leno the previous night for 10 minutes right before his performance in Fayetteville, N.C., about an hour from where we live. Bill Kirby, a writer for The Fayetteville Observer, had sneaked in my 16-year-old son, Aidan, to meet him when he heard about Aidan’s project. Over the last year, Aidan had written letters to successful dyslexics asking if they had any advice for a dyslexic high school student like him. He had written to Jay Leno three times.

“Did I answer?” Mr. Leno had asked him.

“No, but that’s O.K.,” Aidan had said.

Dyslexia, a neurological difference that impairs the ability to read, often greatly impairs performance in school.

Aidan had started the project in a moment of despair right after getting back his spring grades in ninth grade. They were disappointing. They didn’t reflect how hard he had worked. We were standing in his room at the time. I had pointed to a poster he had tacked up over his desk of successful adults who have dyslexia. “I wonder how they made it?” I had said.

“Probably smarter,” he had answered.

“You could ask,” I had said.

And so, over the last year, he had written to 100 successful dyslexics. Ten responded. Dr. Delos Cosgrove, a surgeon and chief executive of the Cleveland Clinic, was the first. He started his letter, “Dyslexia is an advantage in the fact that it makes us think more creatively.”

The second person to write back, the economist Diane Swonk, said among other things, “Success is the process of learning from failures, and I had more learning experiences than many.”

The sculptor Thomas Sayre said, “It appears that most dyslexics are improvisers. We have to be.”

Not one letter denied the challenges that come with having a significant learning difference. Instead, each letter provided the perspective that can only be gained over time. They all said, in their own ways, “Kid, you’re going to be O.K.”

My son pinned their letters up. He looked at these letters when preparing for a test or writing a paper or recovering from a bad grade. It would be nice to say that they provided the perfect antidote. They certainly did help, as did his academic accommodations. But midway through the year, his teachers called a meeting to see if anything more could be done.

Aidan’s principal, David Schwenker, wondered aloud whether taking one less class each semester might be the answer. “It would mean graduating one year later,” he said, “but then you could stay in honors classes.” Aidan was crestfallen.

It was fortuitous that the writer John Irving’s letter arrived around then. In it, Mr. Irving wrote, “You need to give yourself more time; it takes you longer to do things than it takes your friends. So what? If you do it well?” It helped to know that Mr. Irving, himself, had taken an extra year to finish high school. He graduated in 1961, when accommodations for disabilities were far less common. Aidan decided to do the same.

We are each born with different strengths and weaknesses, and learning to live with these is part of every life. What is regrettable is that often, far too early, the path some of us choose is shaped more by what we can’t do than what we can.

But back to Jay Leno.

By phone, he told Aidan many stories, including one in which his high school guidance counselor had recommended that he consider the training program at McDonald’s. Mr. Leno paused and chuckled. He obviously hadn’t listened to the guidance counselor. In fact, he went on to say, years later, he had invited this very guidance counselor to “The Tonight Show,” where he introduced him and they both laughed about that misguided advice.

The lesson Mr. Leno was trying to impart, I think, is that at the end of the day, Aidan is the one in the driver’s seat of his life. He can choose to follow or ignore any guidance offered. Mr. Leno also shared that the path he chose was not always easy — for a period early in his career, he slept in an alley in New York City at 44th Street and Ninth Avenue — while doing standup five or six nights a week for little pay.

 

Over the course of this past year, through conversations like this one and the letters he received, Aidan didn’t discover the secret to success for dyslexics. If anything, he discovered that there was no secret — except persistence, humor, improvisation and grit.

Was the project a waste of time? Far from it. Had he not had dyslexia and been in distress, Aidan would never have reached out for advice. He would never have connected with Mr. Leno or others who offered valuable insights, including the poet Philip Schultz and the explorer Ann Bancroft. He would not have written a book about this experience. And that book is opening doors he could never have imagined.

Respectfully,

 

Tincy Miller

SBOE, District 12

tincymiller35@gmail.com

www.tincymiller.com