Conservatives Erupt over Betsy DeVos Announcement: ‘Common Core Is Dead’

Dear Friends,

A very informative article written by Dr. Susan Berry, Dr. Berry is a conservative writer and contributor to, she has a doctorate in psychology. She writes about cultural, educational, and healthcare policy issues. Shared by Donna Garner, a retired teacher and education activist (

“Conservatives Erupt over Betsy DeVos Announcement: ‘Common Core Is Dead’”

U.S. Education Secretary Betsy DeVos continues to struggle with the conservative base of the GOP as she again declares, “Common Core is dead.”

“I agree – and have always agreed – with President Trump on this: ‘Common Core is a disaster,’” DeVos allied herself with Trump last week during a major policy speech at the American Enterprise Institute (AEI). “And at the U.S. Department of Education, Common Core is dead.”

The secretary’s statement led Alex Newman of the Freedom Project to write:

Despite blasting federal overreach in education and making other statements sure to delight conservatives and constitutionalists, U.S. Education Secretary Betsy DeVos continued to mislead Americans on Common Core last week. Indeed, despite the dumbed-down national standards still being in place in almost every state, DeVos falsely claimed that Common Core was “dead” at the Department of Education.

In yet another address that at least superficially put forward sound statements reflecting the Constitution’s lack of mention of any federal role in education, DeVos has again failed to convince the base of her party that she actually believes this fact.

…Indeed, the education secretary gave a good conservative run-down of the George W. Bush and Obama administrations’ contributions to entrenching the federal government further into education policy via No Child Left Behind (NCLB) and Common Core:

Where the Bush administration emphasized NCLB’s stick, the Obama administration focused on carrots. They recognized that states would not be able to legitimately meet the NCLB’s strict standards. Secretary Duncan testified that 82 percent of the nation’s schools would likely fail to meet the law’s requirements — thus subjecting them to crippling sanctions.

The Obama administration dangled billions of dollars through the “Race to the Top” competition, and the grant-making process not so subtly encouraged states to adopt the Common Core State Standards. With a price tag of nearly four and a half billion dollars, it was billed as the “largest-ever federal investment in school reform.” Later, the Department would give states a waiver from NCLB’s requirements so long as they adopted the Obama administration’s preferred policies — essentially making law while Congress negotiated the reauthorization of ESEA.

However, as Shane Vander Hart writes at Truth in American Education, the “reauthorization of ESEA,” i.e., the “bipartisan” Every Student Succeeds Act – engineered by Sens. Lamar Alexander (R-TN) and Patty Murray (D-WA) – essentially cemented Common Core into every state in the country:

Sure, the U.S. Department of Education is not actively pushing Common Core, they don’t need to. The standards and assessment consortiums don’t need to be funded anymore. The damage is done.

They don’t need to publicly push it because ESSA essentially codified Common Core.

At best, DeVos’s views on Common Core are murky, and conservatives have never been sold on her statement that she has “always agreed” with Trump that Common Core is a “disaster.” In fact, DeVos never was a fan of Trump and actually served as an at-large delegate of Common Core supporter John Kasich at the GOP convention in 2016.

American Principles Project senior fellows Jane Robbins and Emmett McGroarty write at Townhall:

Especially in her home state of Michigan, conservatives were discouraged by DeVos’s nomination because of her past support of Common Core and her efforts (through organizations she founded and/or funded) to thwart the parents who opposed them. She disavowed her previous support and then sought to put the issue to bed by simply declaringmistakenly, that “the Every Student Succeeds Act [ESSA] . . . essentially does away with the whole argument about Common Core.”

As Robbins and McGroarty note, in April 2017, the secretary actually said during a Fox News interview, “There really isn’t any Common Core anymore.” 

“The Every Student Succeeds Act, which is in the process of being implemented now, essentially does away with the whole argument about Common Core,” she added.

DeVos’s pronouncements that Common Core is “dead” seem disconnected from reality to parents across the country.

Education Week reported, “at least 37 states” are still using the Common Core standards or its “rebrands” – renaming the Core with a state-friendly title – as of the end of 2016.

Meanwhile, Education Dive notes Timothy Shanahan, a professor emeritus at the University of Illinois at Chicago – and one of the authors of the Core, says the standards are still in effect in 42 states.

“Even if Common Core were ripped out from the roots, the federally controlled government ‘education’ system in America would continue to dumb down and indoctrinate students on an industrial scale—literally threatening the future of the nation,” Newman writes.

In dulcet conservative tones, DeVos also announced during her AEI address that  federal mandates are not working to improve education. The thousands of parents fighting against Common Core in their states for years now have been saying that to establishment Republican and Democratic lawmakers – but to no avail.

DeVos herself, however, continues to plug ESSA – a federal mandate. “Under ESSA, school leaders, educators and parents have the latitude and freedom to try new approaches to serve individual students,” she said. “My message to them is simple: do it!” Vander Hart asserts DeVos should heed her own advice.

“That’s a nice sentiment, but what is Secretary DeVos going to do about it?” he asks. “If this is something she truly believed she would support the repeal of ESEA instead of touting it in its current form as the Every Student Succeeds Act.”

A big part of conservatives’ problem with DeVos is the fact that she has invited many followers of her close friend Jeb Bush to advise her. Bush has been a primary supporter of Common Core and school choice.

Robbins and McGroarty observe that while DeVos has declared Common Core “dead,” she has followed Bush’s lead in the areas of school choice – without detailing the mechanisms for bringing about the “choice,” and “digital” or “personalized” learning – which is a major platform for student data collection.

“She didn’t mention the central problem with [school choice],” the authors write. “[T]he danger that when the money follows the child, government regulations will be close behind to strip private schools of the characteristics that made them appealing to parents in the first place.”

The authors add:

[S]o-called personalized learning is actually depersonalized, computerized training rather than genuine education. It replaces a liberal arts education with pared-down workforce-development training that concentrates on “skills” corporations deem necessary for the (current) job market. It props children in front of computer screens that feed them curricula (probably not available for parental review) that children can click through without really learning anything. It indoctrinates children with government-approved attitudes, mindsets, and beliefs. It collects literally millions of data points on children that will allow the government and vendors to create profiles and algorithms that may control each child’s future life path. It minimizes human interaction, converting professional educators into data clerks.

Of course, ESSA is fully on board with digital learning and DeVos is fully on board with ESSA.

 Constitutionalists note that until DeVos can put into action the words she apparently believes make sense to Trump’s constituents, she will continue to have battles with both the left and the conservative wing of her own party.

“If DeVos is sincere about her philosophical rhetoric, she will devote her efforts to three things: freeing the states from all federal mandates to the extent she can under the law; working with Congress to revise ESSA to eliminate all mandates; and creating a workable plan to shut down her department,” Robbins and McGroarty write. “That would be something conservatives can cheer.”

Newman warns, however: “T]he fact that DeVos continues to dishonestly try to mislead Americans into believing Common Core is ‘dead’ should alarm everyone. It’s way past time to shut down the whole unconstitutional Education Department.”


Tincy Miller

SBOE, District 12

Historians Want to Put Events in Context. Common Core Doesn’t. That’s a Problem

Dear Friends,

Informative article written by Sandra Stotsky. Stotsky is a professor of education reform emerita at the University of Arkansas and holds the Twenty-First Century Chair in Teacher Quality. She served as editor of “Research in the Teaching of English” in the 1990s and has taught at the elementary, secondary, undergraduate, and graduate level. She is the author of The Death and Resurrection of a Coherent Literature Curriculum (Rowman & Littlefield, 2012. Shared by Donna Garner, a retired teacher and education activist (

“Historians Want to Put Events in Context. Common Core Doesn’t.

That’s a Problem.”

For an October 2017 conference sponsored by an affiliate of the California Association of Teachers of English, I was invited to give an informal talk on a chapter in my book, The Death and Resurrection of a Coherent Literature Curriculum. Chapter 8 centered on how English teachers could create coherent sequences of informational and literary texts to address civic literacy.

I presented initial remarks on Chapter 8 and then asked for questions. But instead of questions about Chapter 8, the concerns were mostly about the requirement in Common Core’s English language arts (ELA) standards for English teachers to teach Founding documents. In particular, one teacher expressed at length the problems she was facing in teaching “The Declaration of Independence.” She wanted to know why English teachers were compelled to teach historical documents. Her academic background was not in history, and she was not the only one in the audience upset about this requirement. But something had happened.

The dialogue now taking place was not about the literature curriculum but about English teachers being required to teach historical documents—and without context, if they followed guidelines from the standards writers on “close reading.” The dialogue also touched on the “literacy” standards that content teachers were to address in order to teach reading and writing in their classes.

Why were “literacy” standards for other subjects in Common Core’s ELA document and what had researchers found on English teachers teaching “informational” texts (required by Common Core’s ELA standards) and on content teachers teaching reading and writing (required by Common Core’s “literacy” standards)? I sympathized with both English teachers who didn’t feel comfortable teaching foundational historical documents and history teachers who had presumably studied the context for documents now being taught by their English colleagues. Common Core’s ELA document makes clear that the motivation for these standards and requirements was the standards writers’ concern about the low reading skills of many American students graduating from high school.

As a response to teachers’ concerns at this conference, this essay first clarifies how the K-12 study of history ever got tangled up in Common Core’s ELA standards. It then explains why reading in a history class is not like reading in a literature class.

The story begins with the rationale for the contents of a documenttitled, “Common Core Standards for English Language Arts and Literacy in History/Social Studies, Science, and Technical Subjects.” The bulk of the 66-page document is on English language arts standards. But the last seven pages provide “literacy” standards for the other subjects in grades 6-12. The introduction to the whole document justifies Common Core’s literacy standards on the grounds that college readiness means being able to read, write, and speak in all subject areas. That is the basis for entangling the study of history in the final version of Common Core’s ELA document.

The attempt to make English teachers responsible for teaching high school students how to read history, science, and mathematics textbooks relaxed after critics made it clear that English teachers could not possibly teach students how to read textbooks in other disciplines. Their criticism was supported by the common sense argument that teachers can’t teach students to read texts on a subject they don’t understand themselves, as well as by the total lack of evidence that English teachers can effectively teach reading strategies appropriate to other disciplines and thereby improve students’ knowledge in that discipline.

The absence of studies strongly implies there may be no credible research suggesting that subject teachers can effectively teach reading skills in their own classes in ways that improve student writing or learning. Not only are subject teachers reluctant to teach reading in their own classes (as the research indicates), there’s no evidence that even if they do, student writing or learning will be enhanced.

So how do secondary students learn how to read their history books or their science and mathematics textbooks? We will return to this hugely important question after we consider some possible reasons for the failure of the movement called Reading and Writing Across the Curriculum (RAWAC)—in the 1970s and later.

Common Core’s literacy standards are general statements of different purposes for reading and writing in any subject such as “Evaluate an author’s premises, claims, and evidence by corroborating or challenging them with other information.” The expectation is that subject teachers are to use the content of their subject to teach students how to read, write, and talk in their subjects, not the other way around.

Secondary school learning was turned on its head in 2010 without any public murmur probably because most subject teachers did not know they were being required to teach reading and writing in a document ostensibly designated for English and reading teachers. The National Council for the Social Studies apparently knew what the ELA standards writers intended, according to this History News Network article, but it did not communicate any concerns to its members so far as is known.

While the effort to make subject teachers responsible for assigning more reading to their students and/or teaching them how to read whatever they assigned sounded justifiable, it didn’t succeed for several reasons. First, why assign more reading if there were reasons for not assigning much reading to begin with (e.g., no textbooks available, students couldn’t read whatever textbooks were available on the topic, students wouldn’t do much homework)?

Second, history teachers were also unlikely to think in terms of “main idea” or “supporting details” in discussing what students had read about a specific topic. Instead, they would ask students to apply these general skills in topic-related language (e.g., what “claim” they are to evaluate) to expand students’ conscious knowledge base. Subject teachers use the specific content of their discipline in ways that require students to apply their thinking skills and prior knowledge to what they have been assigned to read or do.

Third, if students claimed they couldn’t read the assignment, other issues needed to be explored. How much reading had students been doing on the topic? Did they have any prior knowledge? Were they familiar with the vocabulary related to the topic? Students can absorb some of the vocabulary for a discipline-based topic by re-reading the material (as in history) or by working carefully with material named by these words (as in a science lab) without constantly consulting a glossary. But how to get students to do more re-reading is not the purpose of a standard. Getting students to address questions about particular topics in a discipline with adequate and sufficient information (i.e., to develop their conscious understanding of the topics) is one purpose of a standard.

Fourth, content teachers continued to see English teachers as teachers of writing (and literature), and themselves as teachers of specific subjects like math, science, or history.

Common Core’s literacy standards suggest that their writers do not understand the high school curriculum. That problem is also suggested by the titles offered in Appendix B of Common Core’s ELA Standards document as examples of the quality and complexity of the informational reading that history and other subject teachers could use to boost the amount of reading their students do and to teach disciplinary reading and writing skills.

While grades 9-10 English teachers may be puzzled about the listing for them of Patrick Henry’s “Speech to the Second Virginia Convention,” Margaret Chase Smith’s “Remarks to the Senate in Support of a Declaration of Conscience,” and George Washington’s “Farewell Address”—all non-literary, political speeches— grades 9/10 history teachers may be even more puzzled by the examples for them. Among a few appropriate examples (on the history of indigenous and African Americans), we find E.H. Gombrich’s The Story of Art, 16th Edition; Mark Kurlansky’s Cod: A Biography of the Fish That Changed the World; and Wendy Thompson’s The Illustrated Book of Great Composers. What history teacher would tackle excerpts from those books in the middle of a grade 9 or 10 history course?

The informational examples in Appendix B for grades 11/12 history teachers are even more bizarre. Along with a suitable text (Tocqueville’s Democracy in America), we find Julian Bell’s Mirror of the World: A New History of Art and FedViews, issued in 2009 by the Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco. These two titles clearly don’t fit into a standard grade 11 U.S. history course or grade 12 U.S. government course. These examples are out of place not just in a typical high school history class but in a typical high school curriculum.

Perhaps the most bizarre aspect of Common Core’s approach to literary study is the advice given teachers by its chief writer David Coleman, now president of the College Board, on the supposed value of “cold” or “close” (non-contextualized) reading of historical documents like the “Gettysburg Address.” Coleman categorically declared: “This close reading approach forces students to rely exclusively on the text instead of privileging background knowledge, and levels the playing field for all students.” Aside from the fact that “close” reading was not developed or promoted by Yale English professors Cleanth Brooks and Robert Penn Warren as a reading technique for historical documents, no history or English teacher before the advent of Common Core would have approached the study of a seminal historical document by withholding initial information about its historical context and clear language archaisms.

As high school history teacher Craig Thurtell states: “This approach [close reading] also permits the allocation of historical texts to English teachers, most of whom are untrained in the study of history, and leads to history standards [Common Core’s literacy standards for history] that neglect the distinctiveness of the discipline.” Thurtell goes on to say that the “study of history requires the use of specific concepts and cognitive skills that characterize the discipline—concepts like evidence and causation and skills like contextualization, sourcing, and corroboration. These concepts and skills are largely distinct from those employed in literary analysis. Both disciplines engage in close readings of texts, for example, but with different purposes. The object of the literary critic is the text, or more broadly, the genre; for the historian it is, however limited or defined, a wider narrative of human history, which textual analysis serves.”

Not only did the writers of Common Core’s English language arts standards profoundly misunderstand how reading in a history class differs from reading in a literature class, they basically misunderstood the causes of the educational problem they sought to remedy through Common Core’s standards. They assumed that many high school graduates needed remedial coursework in reading and writing as college freshmen because English teachers gave them too heavy a diet of literary works and that teachers in other subjects deliberately or unwittingly did not teach them how to read complex texts in these other subjects. This assumption doesn’t hold up.

High school teachers will readily acknowledge that many students have not been assigned complex textbooks because, generally speaking, they can’t read them and, in fact, don’t read much of anything with academic content. Consequently, they have not acquired the content knowledge and the vocabulary needed for reading complex history textbooks. And this is despite (not because of) the steady decline in vocabulary difficulty in secondary school textbooks over the past half century. Higher levels of writing are increasingly dependent on higher levels of reading. Students unwilling to read a lot do not advance very far as writers.

The accumulation of a large and usable discipline-specific vocabulary depends on graduated reading in a coherent sequence of courses (known as a curriculum) in that discipline. The accumulation of a general academic vocabulary, however, depends on assigning a lot of increasingly complex literary works with strong plots and characters to entice poor readers to make efforts to read them (like Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein). Otherwise, students will not acquire the general academic vocabulary needed for serious historical nonfiction, the texts that secondary history students should be reading.

Possible Approaches to Common Core’s Secondary ELA Standards

  1. Schools can establish reading classes separate from the English and other subject classes. Students who cannot or won’t read high school-level textbooks can be given further reading instruction in the secondary grades by teachers with strong academic backgrounds who have learned how to teach reading skills appropriate to the academic subjects students are taking. While not easy to do, it is doable.
  2. Schools can enable English and history teachers to provide professional development to each other in the same high school. The context and philosophical antecedents for our seminal political documents (e.g., Declaration of Independence, Preamble to the Constitution, Bill of Rights, Lincoln’s Second Inaugural Address, and Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address) can be explained/taught to English teachers by their colleagues in the History Department, while an analysis of their language and other stylistic features can be explained/taught to history teachers by their colleagues in the English Department.


Tincy Miller

SBOE, District 12

After Common Core: Achievement Gap Widens in U.S. as Lowest Performing Students Drop Further in Reading

Dear Friends,

A very informative article written by Dr. Susan Berry, Dr. Berry is a conservative writer and contributor to, she has a doctorate in psychology. She writes about cultural, educational, and healthcare policy issues. Shared by Donna Garner, a retired teacher and education activist (

“After Common Core: Achievement Gap Widens in U.S. as Lowest Performing Students Drop Further in Reading”

The scores of United States fourth graders dropped on an international measure of reading skills – with those of the lowest-performing students declining the most – following years of the implementation of Common Core.

According to results released by the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES) this week, in 2016, the average score in the U.S. on the Progress in International Reading Literacy Study (PIRLS) dropped to 549 out of 1,000 from the average score of 556 in 2011. The results translate into the nation’s decline from fifth in international ranking in 2011 to 13th in 2016 out of 58 international education systems.

 “The good news from the latest Progress in International Reading Literacy Study is that basic literacy is at an all-time high worldwide and a majority of countries have seen rising reading achievement in the last decade,” writes Sarah Sparks at Education Week. “The bad news is that students in the United States are bucking the trend.”

“We seem to be declining as other education systems record larger gains on the assessment,” said Peggy G. Carr, acting commissioner for the federal NCES, according to the Washington Post. “This is a trend we’ve seen on other international assessments in which the U.S. participates.” 

“[T]he PIRLS shows flattened achievement over time for the top-performing 20 percent of students taking the test, and declining scores for the lowest 20 percent of students, bringing the average score down,” writes Sparks. “While students at schools with poverty rates above 50 percent performed on average at least 20 scale points lower than wealthier schools, the schools with 10 percent to 25 percent poverty had higher average reading scores than the wealthiest schools.”

“Other education systems seem to be doing a better job of moving students through more levels of achievement to higher levels of achievement,” Carr said.

The results come five to seven years after most states adopted the Common Core standards – a progressive public-private partnership reform, the primary intent of which was to lower the achievement gap between upper and middle class students and those from the lower socio-economic levels.

Education Dive reports:

In the years since most states have adopted the Common Core standards, reading achievement has declined among America’s 4th-graders, both in terms of the average score as well as in comparison to their peers in other countries, according to the results of the Progress in International Reading Literacy Study (PIRLS), the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES) announced today.

In response to the news about U.S. PIRLS scores, Education Secretary Betsy DeVos – a supporter of school choice and charter schools – did not mention Common Core, but tweeted, “Our students can’t move ahead – in school or in life – if they’re falling behind in reading. We must do better for students, parents & educators. We must #RethinkSchool.”

Students in Singapore topped the rankings on the PIRLS, with Russia, Ireland, Finland, Hong Kong, Poland, Norway, and Latvia – one of the poorest nations in Europe – coming in ahead of the United States with statistical differences.

According to the Post:

The report adds to a worrisome body of evidence that academic achievement is stagnant or slipping among U.S. schoolchildren. Fourth-graders and eighth-graders continued to lag behind their counterparts in Asian countries in math and science, according to another international exam administered in 2015. That same year, high school seniors showed unchanged results in reading and slipping scores in math on the National Assessment of Educational Progress, an exam given every two years. Reading scores on that test for fourth-graders remained unchanged and dropped for eighth-graders.

As Breitbart News reported in April of 2016, only about 37 percent of U.S. 12th graders are prepared for math and reading at the college level, according to the 2015 NAEP – also known as the Nation’s Report Card.

In addition, results of the 2015 Trends in International Math and Science Study (TIMSS) and the Program in International Student Assessment (PIS) found American students showing, at best, mediocre performance in math, science, and reading.

Despite the clear drop in performance in U.S. students on a variety of measures, schools in the country nevertheless appear fixated on “social and emotional learning” (SEL).

…Ze’ev Wurman, a former George W. Bush U.S. Education Department senior policy adviser, tells Breitbart News the tumble in U.S. scores on PIRLS is “not surprising”:

We have had warning signs for it since Common Core was adopted and harshly criticized by leading literacy researchers. Peggy Carr, the acting NCES Commissioner, correctly said that we have seen this trend on other international assessments. Yet even when the recent drop in reading on our own NAEP is mentioned, the fact that the 2015 NAEP drop in 8th grade was the largest ever is rarely brought up. The 2017 NAEP results are delayed to early spring 2018 due to technical issues, yet they don’t promise to get any better.

Wurman adds that while U.S. educational achievement has a history of not improving at a fast enough pace, further damage has been done by implementation of the Common Core standards.

“What we see since the Common Core took over is that our educational achievement is actually deteriorating rather than just being unable to keep up,” he explains. “Yet all Martin West of Harvard could think of as the cause was the recession and poverty, but nothing about the elephant in the room — the massive deterioration of educational standards and expectations under Common Core.”

The Common Core was a federally promoted education initiative introduced in the Obama administration’s 2009 stimulus bill through a competitive grant program called Race to the Top (RttT). 

The program was developed by three private organizations in Washington D.C.: the National Governors Association (NGA), the Council for Chief State School Officers (CCSSO), and Achieve Inc., a nonprofit education organization that says it is committed to college and career readiness. All three organizations were privately funded by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, and none of these groups are accountable to parents, teachers, students, or taxpayers.

Though DeVos – who has supported organizations and individuals who are champions of the Common Core – has said, “There really isn’t any Common Core anymore” in the nation’s schools, Education Week reports, “at least 37 states” are still using the Common Core standards or its rebrands as of the end of 2016.

Education Dive notes Timothy Shanahan, a professor emeritus at the University of Illinois at Chicago – one of the authors of the Core – says the standards are still in effect in 42 states…

…Asked by Breitbart News about the possible relationship between Common Core and the continued decline in U.S. students’ performance on PIRLS, Neal McCluskey, director of the Center for Educational Freedom at Cato Institute, says he is cautious about making any definitive statements based on this one test – which does not provide a “longitudinal breakdown of informational reading scores.”

“That said, it does not bode well for the Core that we saw overall reading scores fall between 2011 and 2016—basically, the Core era—and that on acquiring and using information—the major emphasis of the Core–we were beaten by 15 systems, more than outpaced us on overall reading,” he tells Breitbart News.

Jane Robbins, senior fellow at the Washington, DC-based American Principles Project, observes the tendency by some experts to avoid naming Common Core as a major culprit in the continued decline in American education performance.

“It’s fascinating how many commentators ignore the elephant in the room,” she tells Breitbart News. “DeVos suggests school structure is the problem, others blame recession and poverty. No one admits the glaringly obvious fact that the downward spiral of academic performance coincides with the implementation of Common Core.”

“How much more evidence do we need that Common Core was a terrible idea from the beginning and should be scrapped?” Robbins adds.

Wurman agrees, referring to the narrative fed to states by Common Core supporters nearly a decade ago.

“One wonders for how long will the states – and Gates-funded educational researchers – keep the charade that Common Core standards are ‘rigorous’ and ‘demanding’ in view of the deteriorating reality hitting their faces,” he says. “At some point even all the Bill Gates billions thrown at propping up this mediocre and ill-conceived educational disaster should not justify harming the future of millions of children.”


Tincy Miller

SBOE, District 12

Chieppo and Gass: Education establishment ruining reform

Dear Friends,

An informative article on Common Core written by Charles Chieppo and Jamie Gass. Chieppo is a senior fellow and Jamie Gass directs the Center for School Reform at Pioneer Institute, a Boston-based think tank. Shared by Donna Garner, a retired teacher and education activist (

Chieppo and Gass: Education establishment ruining reform

New standards flunk as bid to cut MCAS testing gains

The history of education reform in Massachusetts over the past quarter century could be a case study in playing the long game. A 1993 law provided a massive increase in state funding in return for high standards, accountability and more choice. Teachers unions, school committees, superintendents and others in the education establishment liked the money, but not the reforms. They kept fighting, and less than 25 years later, little but the money remains.

The sad thing is that the establishment’s success at eliminating reforms has brought a steep decline in the quality of public education in Massachusetts.

Once the 1993 combination of money and reforms took hold, state SAT scores rose for 13 consecutive years. In 2005, Massachusetts students became the first ever to finish first in all four categories of the National Assessment of Educational Progress, or NAEP. They repeated the feat every time the tests were administered through 2013. Scores from the 2007 Trends in International Mathematics and Science Study, the gold standard international assessment, proved that the commonwealth’s students were globally competitive in math and science, with our eighth-graders tying for first in the world in science.

Then the retreat began. Accountability was the first domino to fall. In 2008, the Office of Educational Quality and Accountability, which conducted independent, comprehensive audits of school districts, was eliminated.

Standards were next. In 2010, Massachusetts adopted national English and math standards known as Common Core that were demonstrably inferior to the commonwealth’s previous standards. A 2017 rebrand has further weakened the mediocre Common Core standards, and recently revamped science standards are also vastly inferior to their predecessors.

Massachusetts has the nation’s best charter schools, which not only dramatically outperform their district counterparts, but do so among virtually every subgroup, such as low-income and special needs students. Last year voters rejected what turned out to be a politically unwise statewide ballot initiative that would have increased the number of charters.

Today most urban areas in the commonwealth are at or near the statutory cap on charter school enrollment. Diminishing competition from charters marks a return to the policy of granting the establishment a monopoly on public education and hopingthey will put our kids first. The failure of that approach is what triggered reform in the first place.

Results from the dismantling of education reform have been swift and predictable. Massachusetts students are no longer first in all four categories on NAEP. From 2011 to 2015, state NAEP scores fell in both English and math, with only nine states seeing a bigger drop in English.

SAT scores have also dropped significantly, especially in writing. And when it came time for the 2015 administration of the international assessment tests, Massachusetts chose not even to participate.

What’s harder to understand is how this precipitous decline has generated so little coverage. Perhaps lack of awareness explains why another bill that would eliminate high-stakes MCAS testing has more than 100 signatories in the Legislature. If it succeeds, the counter-reform work of the education establishment will be all but complete: They will have secured the increased funding that came with the 1993 reform, but without high standards, competition or accountability for outcomes.

If we allow that to happen, the deterioration will only accelerate.


Tincy Miller

SBOE, District 12

Charter and traditional schools find a common purpose in Texas


Dear Friends,

A very informative article written by Richard Whitmire, a veteran newspaper reporter and former editorial writer at USA Today. Author of several books concerning our education system. Whitmire spent a year as a fellow with the Emerson collective, which allowed him to visit many of the top charter schools in the country. This research continued as a Kauffman fellow, and the result is his latest book, The Founder, in which he shared untold anecdotes about the leaders, advocates, philanthropists and partners who helped spark an education revolution across the country. He continues his work using a grant from the Walton Family Foundation.

Charter and traditional schools find a common purpose in Texas

Charter-school operators and traditional school districts have long behaved like enemies. But an intriguing truce has emerged in an unlikely place: Texas. In the Lone Star State’s three biggest cities, charters and traditional district schools have discovered that collaborating to help their high-school graduates earn college degrees is a win-win.

Knowledge is Power Program, a national charter network founded in Houston more than two decades ago, helped eight charter operators in San Antonio, Dallas and Houston join forces with local public school districts. Together they formed a new organization, United for College Success. The group’s goal is to improve college graduation rates among alumni. In addition to sharing best practices, United for College Success has begun pressuring local colleges and universities to do more for their students, many of whom are the first in their families to pursue higher education.

This isn’t the only promising collaboration between charters and local districts. In 2015 KIPP San Antonio struck a deal with the San Antonio Independent School District, where the student population is 91% Hispanic and 6% African-American. More than 90% of kids in the San Antonio ISD are eligible to receive free and reduced lunch. By 2020, with KIPP’s help, the district hopes to boost the percentage of its students going to college to 80% from the current 50%. Both KIPP and the San Antonio district want to see half of the city’s graduates heading off to four-year colleges and 10% going to the top tier of schools ranked by U.S. News & World Report. Two years ago, 20% of San Antonio’s college-bound graduates were headed to four-year colleges. Only 3% were enrolled in selective schools.

Like most urban districts, San Antonio’s had never paid much attention to the college success of its graduates. Educators long viewed that as being up to students, parents and colleges—not high schools. But Mr. Martinez and his colleagues, to their credit, chose to take on the challenge, tapping into lessons learned from the now decade-old KIPP through College Program aimed at matching low-income minority students with the schools where they are most likely to succeed. The KIPP team follows each student until college graduation, making sure that everything from financial aid to course credits stays on track.

In New York and Houston, the percentage of KIPP graduates earning bachelor’s degrees within six years has risen steadily thanks to the Through College Program. In both cities, roughly half of the program’s graduates now earn their degrees in six years, up from about a third in 2011. Nationally only 9% of students from low-income families earn bachelor’s degrees in that time frame.

The San Antonio partnership, funded by a grant from Texas energy giant Valero, has already borne fruit. At Thomas Jefferson High, the pilot school where a KIPP adviser spent most of her time, 53% of 2017 graduates were accepted into four-year colleges, compared with only 26% in 2016. “We’re seeing a marked increase in the number of students who not only are graduating and going to college, but are being accepted to Tier One universities,” said San Antonio ISD Superintendent Pedro Martinez. KIPP has benefited as well from the chance to run their college-success playbook at scale, the kind you find only in big traditional districts.

There’s a reason why collaborations built around college success have proven popular with both traditional districts and charters. Unlike the annual enrollment competition, in which districts lose students and dollars to charters, only high-school graduates are involved. There are no losers, no lost dollars and no closed schools. In fact, traditional districts stand to gain.

Charters are public schools, and their operations are funded by taxpayer dollars. But in most places charter founders need to raise outside funding to launch their schools. For years, traditional school districts watched resentfully as philanthropists and foundations poured hundreds of millions of dollars into new charters. The imbalance prompted teachers unions to wage national revenge campaigns, accusing “billionaires” of “privatizing” public education.

Yet the sometimes hostile dynamic between charters and traditional districts shifts when the topic changes to fostering college success. In San Antonio, for example, Valero stepped up with a $3 million gift to KIPP’s college program, $700,000 of which was set aside for launching the collaboration with the San Antonio district. Early next month, Valero is expected to make an announcement of fresh funding for new, KIPP-trained college counselors for the district.

Much of what the college counselors do involves relatively simple data crunching. They look to see which universities in the San Antonio area have amassed a positive record helping low-income and minority students earn bachelor’s degrees within six years. St. Mary’s University, for example, has a far higher graduation rate for Hispanics than does the University of Texas, San Antonio. KIPP tracks college success data like that for hundreds of colleges, a repository of crucial information that San Antonio district counselors can now access.

Recently, the Houston Independent School District’s college-success program, Emerge, joined the United for College Success coalition with the charters. Among the questions they are exploring together: Is there a way to share the time-consuming task of checking in on students at their college campuses?

The participation of a large district such as Houston gives the coalition heft when pushing universities for changes to help first-generation college-goers. Collaborating with charter schools doesn’t bother Emerge founder Rick Cruz, a former fifth-grade Teach for America teacher. At the end of the day, he says, these are all our kids.  If only that attitude could spread nationally.


Tincy Miller

SBOE, District 12 

The Real Spirit of a True American

Dear Friends.

This is a very inspiring life story of Quang Nguyen, Mr. Nguyen immigrated to the United States in 1975 from Vietnam at age 13. He graduated from California State University, at Long Beach with a Bachelor’s degree in Fine Arts. Highly skilled and experienced in all aspects of marketing and design. Mr. Nguyen is a visionary and practical strategist. He has extensive experienced in higher education, in addition to the municipality and public sectors.

The Real Spirit of a True American

The town of Prescott Valley, AZ, hosted a Vietnam Veterans Day Freedom Rally. Quang Nguyen was asked to speak about his experience of coming to America and what it means.

He spoke the following in dedication to all Vietnam Veterans. Thought you should read what he had to say:

“35 years ago, if you were to tell me that I am going to stand up here speaking to a couple thousand people, in English, I’d laugh at you. Every morning I wake up thanking God for putting me and my family in the greatest country on earth. I just want you all to know that the American dream does exist and I am living that American dream. I was asked to speak>> to you about my experience as a first generation Vietnamese-American, but I’d rather speak to you as an American.

If you hadn’t noticed, I am not white and I feel pretty comfortable with my people.

I am a proud U.S. citizen and here is my proof. It took me 8 years to get citizenship, waiting in endless lines, but I earned it, I got it, and I am very proud of it….I don’t see myself as entitled to anything, but the chance to succeed.

I still remember the images of the Tet offensive in 1968, I was six years old. Now, you might want to question how a 6-year-old boy could remember anything.

Trust me, those images can never be erased. I can’t even imagine what it was like for those young American soldiers, 10,000 miles away from home, fighting for freedoms, on my behalf.

35 years ago, I left South Vietnam for political asylum. The war had ended. At the age of 13, I left with the clear understanding that I might not ever get to see my siblings or parents again. I was one of the first of the lucky 100,000 Vietnamese allowed to come to the U.S. Thankfully, my family and I were able to be reunited 5 months later, amazingly, in California. It was a miracle from God.

If you haven’t heard lately, this is the greatest country on earth, I am telling you that right now. It was the freedom and the opportunities presented to me that put me here with all of you tonight.

I also remember the barriers that I had to overcome every step of the way. My high school counselor told me that I could not ever make it to college, due to my poor communication skills. I proved him wrong. I entered and finished college.

You see, all you have to do is to give this little boy, and anyone like him, a challenge and an opportunity and encourage him to take it and run with it, then, get out of his way. Well, I took the opportunity and here I am, today.

This person standing tonight in front of you today could not exist under a socialist/communist environment. By the way, if you think socialism is the way to go, I am sure many people here will chip in to get you a one-way ticket out of here. And if you didn’t know, the only difference between socialism and communism is an AK-47 aimed at your head. That was my first-hand experience….one I will never forget.

In 1982, I stood with a thousand new immigrants, reciting the Pledge of Allegiance and listening to the National Anthem for the first time as an American. To this day, I can’t remember anything sweeter and more patriotic than that moment in my life.

Fast forwarding, somehow I finished high school, finished college, and like any other goofball 21 year old kid, I was having a great time with my life. I had a nice job and a nice apartment in Southern California….all a dream come true.   In some way and somehow, I had forgotten how I got here and why I was here.

One day I was at a gas station, I saw a veteran pumping gas on the other side of the island. I don’t know what made me do it, but I walked over and asked if he had served in Vietnam. He smiled and said yes. I shook and held his hand. That grown man began to well up. I walked away as fast as I could and at that very moment, I was emotionally rocked. This was a profound moment in my life. I knew something had to change in my life. It was time for me to learn how to be a good citizen. It was time for me to give back.

You see, America is not just a place on the map, it isn’t just a physical location. It is an ideal, a concept….a set of principles worth fighting for.

And if you are an American, you must understand this concept, you must accept this concept; most important, you have to fight and continually defend this concept….or it will be taken away from you.

This is about Freedom and not ‘free stuff’.. And that is why I am standing up here.

Brothers and sisters, to be a real American, the very least you must do is to learn English and understand it well. In my humble opinion, you cannot be a faithful, patriotic citizen if you can’t speak the language of the country you live in. Take this document of 46 pages – last I looked on the Internet, there was not a Vietnamese translation of the U.S. Constitution. It took me a long time to get to the point of being able to converse and until this day, I still struggle to come up with the right words. It’s not easy, but if it’s too easy, it’s not worth doing.

Before I knew this 46-page document, I learned of the 500,000 Americans who fought for this little boy. I learned of the 58,000 names inscribed on that black wall at the Vietnam Memorial. You are my heroes. You are my founders and my sponsors.

When I see all the groups of protestors, with their signs and slogans–some, not even legal immigrants of this great country–I cannot help but think how little they really comprehend or understand it’s constitution, its founding principles, or it’s tenets of freedom……paid for by others who did believe and understand. They think, just because they’re here and they can protest, that they’re entitled to everything you have. They are not, nor will they ever be! Citizenship for those not born here has to be earned, not demanded. All too often, those things freely granted are taken for granted and not fully appreciated, versus those things earned and paid for.

At this time, I would like to ask all the Vietnam veterans to please stand. I thank you for liberating my life. I thank you for your services, and I thank you for giving me the freedom and liberty I have today. I now, ask all veterans, firefighters, and police officers, to please stand. On behalf of all first generation immigrants, I thank you for your services on our citizen’s behalf, and may God bless you all as you defend and protect patriotic citizens and protestors, alike.”

Quang Nguyen


Quang Nguyen, Founder, President, Creative and Art Director, Principal Strategist
Caddis Advertising, LLC

“God Bless America”
“One Flag, One Language, One Nation Under God



Tincy Miller

SBOE, District 12






Dear Friends,

A very informative article on Charter Schools written by Richard Whitmire. Whitmire is a veteran newspaper reporter, author and former editorial writer at USA Today. His first book after leaving USA Today was Why Boys Fail: Saving Our Sons from an Education System that’s Leaving Them Behind. He spent a year as a fellow with the Emerson Collective, allowing him to visit many of the top charter schools in the country, resulting in his latest book, The Founders, in which he shared untold anecdotes about the leaders, advocates, philanthropists and partners who helped spark an education revolution across the country.  His focus is on the potential of Charter Schools and how they collaborate with traditional districts and what their next-generation school models tell about where all schools are headed. Whitmire is a member of the Journalism Advisory Board of The 74. The 74 is a non-profit, non-partisan news site covering education in America. Our public education system is in crisis. In the United States, less than half of our students can read or do math at grade-level, yet the education debate is dominated by misinformation and political spin. The 74 interviews the top thinkers, policymakers and leaders in American education.


The NAACP on Wednesday reported findings from its nationwide “listening tour” on charter schools, and there were no surprises: Charters must be stopped. The National Education Association, even less surprisingly, said the same thing earlier this month in Boston.

The nation’s oldest civil-rights organization and the largest teachers union worry about charters for similar reasons. Independently run charters generally don’t employ unionized teachers, and they pull students from traditional district schools to which the NAACP is deeply committed. In short, charters disrupt the status quo—for adults.

The timing of the intertwined anticharter campaigns, however, may prove awkward because of new data just released by The 74. The data comes from the first cohort of charter students, who are beginning to graduate from college. Here’s what we know now that the NEA and NAACP didn’t know when they adopted their anticharter positions: Graduates from the top charter networks—those with enough high school alumni to measure college success accurately—earn four-year degrees at rates that range up to five times as high as their counterparts in traditional public schools. These are low-income, minority students from cities such as Los Angeles, Chicago and Newark, N.J. Their college success is going to make bashing charter schools far more challenging for the NEA and the NAACP.

Before this revelation, charter-school gains were largely measured by upticks in student test scores. Critics often wrote them off as meaningless, suggesting that charters abandoned educating kids in favor of “teaching to the test.” But now we see that charter school gains in the K-12 years have real-world consequences. Higher test scores, along with a swarm of strategies charter networks employ to make their students more successful after they graduate, lead to actual four-year college degrees.

Roughly half the graduates of Uncommon, YES Prep and the KIPP New York schools—among the biggest and best known charter networks in the country—earn bachelor’s degrees within six years. About a quarter of the graduates of the lower-performing charter networks earn degrees within six years. That may not strike wealthy parents as something to brag about. Eighty percent of children from America’s wealthiest families earn four-year degrees within six years. But charters primarily serve low-income families, where only 9% of students earn such degrees. Charters make a difference for poor families.

Charter networks are doing something traditional school districts have never considered: taking responsibility, at least in part, for the success of their students after they receive their diplomas. Low-income and traditionally low-opportunity students, nearly all of whom are the first in their families to attend college, need special help: Which courses to sign up for? How many credits to juggle in a semester? How to be the only minority in an all-white class?

There are ways to address all those issues, as charter networks such as KIPP and Uncommon are discovering. And they are more than willing-even eager-to share what they have learned with traditional district schools. That, sharing needs to starts soon, but the aggressive anti-charter stances taken by both the NAACP and the NEA will only make that process harder.

It’s difficult to identify and anti-poverty program that has been as successful as charter schools, but don’t expect the NAACP or the NEA to acknowledge that. The teachers unions especially are more concerned with the needs of adults employed by school districts than the welfare of the students passing through them. But the charter movement’s success will make defending that position more difficult, especially for governors, legislatures and urban school officials under pressure from parents to open more of these high-performing schools.



Tincy Miller

SBOE, District 12



Dear Friends,


A very informative article in the Dallas Morning News on Monday June 26, 2017.  Written by Cathy O’Neil, a mathematician who has worked as a professor, hedge-fund analyst and data scientist.  She is the author of “Weapons of Math Destruction.” She wrote this column for Bloomberg.


School Tech

Many schools have partnerships with big tech firms that provide free tablets to students and in some cases access to student information to the companies.


Silicon Valley tech moguls are conducting an enormous experiment on the nation’s children. We should not be so trusting that they’ll get it right. Google has taken a big role in public education, offering low-cost laptops and free apps. Mark Zuckerberg of Facebook is investing heavily in educational technology, largely though the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative. Netflix head Reed Hastings has been tinkering with expensive and algorithmic ed-tech tools.

Encouraging as all this may be, the technologists might be getting ahead of themselves, both politically and ethically. Also, there’s not a lot of evidence that what they’re doing works.

Like it or not, education is political. People on opposite sides of the spectrum read very different science books, and can’t seem to agree on fundamental principles. It stands to reason that what we choose to teach our children will vary, depending on our beliefs. That’s to acknowledge, not defend, antiscientific curricula.

Zuckerberg and Bill Gates learned this the hard way last year when the Ugandan government ordered the closure of 60 schools — part of a network providing highly scripted, lowcost education in Africa — amid allegations that they had been “teaching pornography” and “conveying the gospel of homosexuality” in sex-ed classes. Let’s face it, something similar could easily happen here if tech initiatives expand beyond the apolitical math subjects on which they have so far focused.

Beyond that, there are legitimate reasons to be worried about letting tech companies wield so much influence in the classroom. They tend to offer “free services” in return for access to data, a deal that raises some serious privacy concerns — particularly if you consider that it can involve tracking kids’ every click, keystroke and backspace from kindergarten on.

My oldest son is doing extremely well as a junior in school right now, but he was a late bloomer who didn’t learn to read until third grade. Should that be a part of his permanent record, data that future algorithms could potentially use to assess his suitability for credit or a job? Or what about a kid whose “persistence score” on dynamic, standardized tests waned in 10th grade? Should colleges have access to that information in making their admissions decisions?

These are not far-fetched scenarios. Consider the fate of nonprofit education venture InBloom, which sought to collect and integrate student records in a way that would allow lessons to be customized. The venture shut down a few years ago amid concerns about how sensitive information — including tags identifying students as “tardy” or “autistic” — would be protected from theft and shared with outside vendors.

Google and others are collecting similar data and using it internally to improve their software. Only after some prompting did Google agree to comply with the privacy law known as FERPA, which had been weakened for the purpose of third-party sharing. It’s not clear how the data will ultimately be used, how long the current crop of students will be tracked, or to what extent their futures will depend on their current performance.

Nobody really knows to what educational benefit we are bearing such uncertainties. What kinds of kids will the technological solutions reward? Will they be aimed toward producing future Facebook engineers? How will they serve children in poverty, with disabilities or with different learning styles? As far as I know, there’s no standard audit that would allow us to answer such questions. We do know, though, that the companies and foundations working on educational technology have a lot of control over the definition of success. That’s already too much power.

Blindly trusting the tech guys is no way to improve our educational system. Although they undoubtedly mean well, we should demand more accountability.





Tincy Miller

SBOE, District 12

Resurrecting Handwriting


Dear Friends,

A very informative article on Handwriting and Common Core from the Education Reporter, The Newspaper of Education Rights, March 2017 issue.

Resurrecting Handwriting

New York state Assemblywoman Nicole Malliotakis attending a voter registration event where she encountered an 18-year-old student. She asked him to please sign his name instead of using block letters he’d put on the signature line of his form. But the young man replied, “That is my signature. I never learned script.”

Emily Ma is among the 2.7% of students accepted by New York City’s Stuyvesant High School, out of roughly 30,000 who take an annual exam they hope leads to admission. Emily, who is now a senior, believes handwriting is important but had to teach it to herself because it was never taught to her before she started high school.

Thanks to Common Core English standards, many students are no longer taught handwriting. They can only print or type.

The people who wrote the Common Core standards did not include handwriting because they believed that “keyboarding” alone is the way to prepare students for “college and career.”

Student Achievement Partners, consisting of David Coleman, Susan Pimentel, and Jason Zimba, were lead writers of the Common Core standards. Core, Coleman, admitted that his group was unqualified.

Coleman said about the group in 2011:

[W]e’re composed of that collection of unqualified people who were involved in developing the [Common Core] standards.  And our only qualification was our attention to and command of the evidence behind them.

Although he told the truth about being unqualified, Coleman still prevaricated because Common Core is in no way evidenced-based. One result of that is the failure to teach students handwriting.

Trying to defend handwriting’s exclusion from the standards, Susan Pimentel said, “One of the things we heard from teachers around the country – in some cases, obviously not all – was that sometimes cursive writing takes an enormous amount of instructional time.” It also takes an enormous amount of time to teach students to read; luckily Pimentel et al. didn’t drop that from Common Core.

Many parents and watchdog groups saw immediately the gaps in the federally promoted set of standards. But many school bureaucracies are still slow to understand the great disservice they have done students.

About 16 states have chosen to add handwriting back into their curriculum. New York City is adding handwriting thanks to efforts of Bronx Assemblywomen Malliotakis.

Brain research shows that many people retain more information or learn better when they write on paper, as opposed to when they type. Individuals who can’t read handwriting are unable to decipher documents like the original Constitution or do “research with literary papers and archival collections.” Letter from their grandparents will remain mysterious and they’ll be unable to sign contracts or voter registration forms.



Tincy Miller

SBOE, District 12 

Education Secretary Betsy DeVos Implies Common Core Are “High Standards”


Dear Friends,

A very informative article written by Dr. Susan Berry. Dr. Berry is a conservative writer and contributor to, she has a doctorate in psychology. She writes about cultural, educational, and healthcare policy issues. Shared by Donna Garner, a retired teacher and education activist (

“Education Secretary Betsy DeVos Implies Common Core Are ‘High Standards’”1 

U.S. Education Secretary Betsy DeVos says even though Common Core no longer exists – a controversial statement in itself – she hopes states will still “shoot high” when choosing their standards.

In an interview this week in her home state of Michigan, DeVos was asked by a CBS affiliate WWMT reporter whether she plans to repeal Common Core. The secretary responded, “Well, with the implementation of the Every Student Succeeds Act, in essence, Common Core is not a national program or mandate anymore.”

DeVos continued:

Power has been returned to state and local entities to be able to decide what standards and what expectations they are going to have of their students. Now I’m very hopeful that every state will set their expectations high. We want them to shoot high on behalf of their students, but the reality is there is no more federal Common Core and it’s not mandated from the federal level.

The secretary implies that the Common Core math and English Language Arts standards are “high” standards and that even though, according to her, states can create their own standards, she is hoping they will still “shoot high,” even if they choose not to use Common Core.

DeVos’s statement follows another recent interview in which she said, “There really isn’t any Common Core anymore” in the nation’s schools, even though, according to Education Week, “at least 37 states” were still using the Common Core standards as of the end of last year.


Those who have been studying the disastrous effects of Common Core for years now challenge the secretary’s comments implying the standards are “high.” 

“It is irresponsible for someone in a position of authority to imply that Common Core is of high quality,” Emmett McGroarty, senior fellow at American Principles Project, tells Breitbart News. “There is no way to sugar-coat it.”

He explains:

Common Core locks children into an inferior education. With respect to English Language Arts, as renowned experts such as Dr. Sandra Stotsky have demonstrated, it dictates a severe reduction in the amount of classic, narrative literature that children are taught. With respect to the math standards, it requires the use of fuzzy math strategies. This slows down students’ academic progression and puts them one to two years behind their peers in high-performing countries by eighth grade. It deprives them of practice time using the standard algorithms, and it perhaps also explains why Common Core omits certain important content.


Some of the nation’s most esteemed experts in academic standards have voiced grave concerns about the quality of the Common Core standards.

In a 2014 op-ed at the Wall Street Journal, Marina Ratner, renowned professor emerita of mathematics at the University of California at Berkeley, explained why the Common Core standards will make math education even worse in the United States and move the nation “even closer to the bottom in international ranking.”

Ratner said she began to study Common Core more closely as a result of observing the math schoolwork her grandson, who was then in the sixth grade, was doing.

“They were vastly inferior to the old California standards in rigor, depth and the scope of topics,” she observed about Common Core.

“Many topics – for instance, calculus and pre-calculus, about half of algebra II and parts of geometry – were taken out and many were moved to higher grades,” she wrote. “It became clear that the new standards represent lower expectations and that students taught in the way that these standards require would have little chance of being admitted to even an average college and would certainly struggle if they did get in.”

One of the lead writers of the Common Core math standards themselves, in fact, said as much to Dr. Sandra Stotsky during a meeting of the Massachusetts Board of Elementary and Secondary Education. Jason Zimba responded to Stotsky’s question about the Common Core math standards that they would not prepare students for STEM or selective four-year colleges:

[Please view the video within this article at: ]

Zimba said the criticism of the definition of “college readiness” as put forward by the creators of Common Core is “a fair critique.”

“It’s not only not for STEM; it’s also not for selective colleges,” Zimba agreed with Stotsky regarding the Core.

Similarly, Dr. James Milgram, a former professor of mathematics at Stanford University, told grassroots parent groups that were protesting therebrandingof Common Core by then-Gov. Mike Pence in Indiana at the time, that Common Core would prevent their children from moving into STEM careers.

“If you don’t have a strong background in mathematics then your most likely career path is into places like McDonald’s,”he said, reported Breitbart News at the time. “In today’s world … the most critical component of opening doors for students is without any question some expertise in mathematics.”

Milgram – who, like Stotsky, was invited to be a member of the Common Core Validation Committee but refused to sign off on the final product – explained that in the high-achieving countries, where about a third of the population of the world outside the United States is located, about 90 percent of citizens have a high school degree for which the requirements include at least one course in calculus.

“That’s what they know,” he said. “If we’re lucky, we know Algebra II. With Algebra II as background, only one in 50 people will ever get a college degree in STEM.”

 Milgram warned that with the Common Core standards, unless U.S. students are able to afford exclusive private high school educations that are more challenging, they will be disadvantaged.

“This shows that, from my perspective, Common Core does not come close to the rhetoric that surrounds it,” he continued. “It doesn’t even begin to approach the issues that it was supposedly designed to attack. The things it does are completely distinct from what needs to be done.”

In a guest column at Breitbart News in 2015, former senior policy adviser under President George W. Bush’s education department, Ze’ev Wurman, refuted the claims that the Common Core standards are “internationally benchmarked” and “rigorous.”

“Common Core standards were never validated before being published, and every serious piece of research that has analyzed them since found them lacking,” Wurman asserted, explaining further:

Common Core firmly placed the first Algebra course in the high school. It also doesn’t take an expert to observe that Common Core’s “college preparation” in mathematics amounts to a poor-man’s Algebra 2 and Geometry courses. The U.S. Department of Education’s own data shows that with only Algebra 2 preparation – even the full course – the chances of a student to end up with a Bachelor’s degree – any Bachelor’s degree – is less than 40% (table 5 here). According to the National Center for Education Statistics data, a student attempting a STEM degree with such preparation has only an alarming 1 in 50 chance of success (Table 7 here). In fact, one of the key authors of the standards, Dr. Jason Zimba, clearly acknowledged that Common Core is “for the colleges most kids go to but not that most parents probably aspire … it’s not only not for STEM, it’s also not for selective colleges.” Yet Common Core promoters still swear that they are “Career- and College-Ready.” 

“Parents are justified in their complaints about the strange and meaningless homework their children are bringing home, and they should distrust educators who uncritically praise them,” Wurman concluded. “More likely than not, those educators themselves have little experience and have been sold a bill of goods by Common Core’s Washington, D.C. promoters.”

Jane Robbins, a senior fellow at American Principles Project, who has also refuted the claims of the Common Core promoters for years, tells Breitbart News, “I hope Secretary DeVos is aware of the voluminous research establishing that the Common Core standards aren’t ‘high quality’ at all.”

“Instead, they dumb down both English and math to the level of utilitarian workforce training,” she adds. “The continual repetition of the ‘higher standards’ mantra is getting tiresome.”

To view the article online:



Tincy Miller

SBOE, District 12