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

Victory! State Board of Education Preserves Strong Science Standards

Dear Friends,

A very important and informative press release on April 21, 2017 written by Andy Hogue with Texas Values. Texas Values is a nonprofit organization dedicated to standing for faith, family, and freedom in Texas. More information is available at


Victory! State Board of Education Preserves Strong Science Standards

Students, Teachers May Continue Critical Discussion and Open Debate on Evolution

AUSTIN – Today, the Texas State Board of Education (SBOE) adopted streamlined science TEKS (Texas Essential Knowledge and Skills, the basic curriculum used by public schools) that ensures students and teachers may continue to have critical discussion and open debate on concepts regarding evolution, the origin of life, the fossil record, and cell complexity.

The board rejected a final attempt to have students and teachers merely “identify” scientific theories on the origins of life and instead approved the stronger language of “compare and contrast” and “examine.”

Texas Values testified at every meeting to ensure the streamlining changes honors the TEKS approved on a bipartisan basis in 2009 that protected critical discussion and open debate in the classroom for all scientific subjects and theories, including evolution.

Throughout the months-long streamlining process, liberal advocacy groups unsuccessfully attempted to weaken the biology standards to remove the ability of teachers and students to study and question all sides of the theory of evolution.

Said David Walls, Director of Operations for Texas Values who testified at the meeting:

“Today’s vote was another strong confirmation that Texas teachers and students retain the ability to have critical discussion and open debate on the theory of evolution and the origin of life. The streamlined biology TEKS protect and promote academic freedom and critical thinking for our students. We are thankful that the board once again rejected attempts to push a one-sided, dogmatic view and instead listened to teachers, parents, and students who favored preserving the ability to critically analyze scientific evidence regarding Darwinian evolution.”



Tincy Miller

SBOE, District 12 

Flipping the Script To combat illegibility, cursive making a comeback

Dear Friends,

A very informative and excellent article in the Dallas Morning News on (Wednesday April 5, 2017).  “Flipping the Script To combat illegibility, cursive making a comeback”

Dear teacher, thank you for teaching me how to write in cursive.

Yes, you read that correctly: One of the oldest human technologies — handwriting — is mounting a comeback.

Once a fixture in American classrooms, the ancient art of looping letters together began falling out of favor decades ago. It was nearly wiped out by the advent of modern technology, which made penmanship a decreasing classroom priority.

Cursive writing took another blow when most states adopted Common Core curriculum standards, which no longer required teaching it in public schools. Why? Because it takes precious time away from other subjects deemed more crucial in a world ruled by computers, laptops and smartphones.

Slowly but surely, however, penmanship is returning. Two states, Alabama and Louisiana, passed laws last year mandating that cursive writing be taught in public schools. That brings the total to at least 14 states, including Texas, that require proficiency in cursive writing.

Last fall, the nation’s largest public school system, up in New York City, rekindled the teaching of cursive writing. How the Big Apple got back on the bandwagon is intriguing, a lesson in both history and perseverance.

A New York state lawmaker, Nicole Malliotakis, was dumbfounded at a teenager’s inability to sign his name at a voter registration event. Instead, the 18-year-old printed his John Hancock in block letters. “That is my signature,” he said. “I never learned script.”

The Staten Island Republican took her concerns to education officials, who, wisely, charted a new course.

New York Schools Chancellor Carmen Farina dished out a handbook on teaching cursive and urged principals to use it. The manuals cite research “suggesting that fluent cursive helps students master writing tasks such as spelling and sentence construction because they don’t have to think as much about forming letters.”

Other research suggests learning to read and write in cursive can boost performance in other areas, too.

Yet, while researchers continue to debate cognitive and spill-over benefits from learning cursive, we were struck by a powerful, if plaintive, observation from Malliotakis: Students who aren’t trained in cursive won’t be able to readily digest many original historical documents.

“If an American student cannot read the Declaration of Independence, that is sad,” Malliotakis said.

We agree, although we also acknowledge that the hand-wringing over handwriting is overwrought in one respect: Few experts doubt that cursive writing will ever vanish; it’s simply too ingrained in our culture.

But what will it look like?

“When we don’t teach penmanship, the result is an ugly, unaesthetic and illegible script,” Steven Roger Fischer, a script expert and author of A History of Writing, once wrote in an article for Slate. “Ugliness is unimportant. Aesthetics are unimportant to many people. But illegibility defeats the purpose of writing. There must be a standard.”

So let it be written. And let it be done, please … in the classroom.



Tincy Miller

SBOE, District 12

Bills’ Aim Is Help For Dyslexia


Dear Friends,

Dyslexia is “near and dear” to my heart. My oldest son fell through the cracks with unidentified dyslexia. In 1984 I helped facilitate the passage of the first dyslexia law in Texas and the United States. This is a very informative article on dyslexia. Written by Julie Fancher, SMU graduate, reporter and staff writer for the Dallas Morning News.

Three dyslexia-related bills are pending in the Texas House, including one aimed at securing long sought-after funding for a decades-old law that requires public school districts and charter schools to identify and remediate students who have the common learning disability.

Rep. Rick Miller, R-Fort Bend, sponsored the bills, which address the licensing of dyslexia therapists, dyslexia testing for students and training for teachers, as well as the one dealing with funding.

This is Miller’s second attempt at trying to secure financing for a 1985 law — the first of its kind in the nation — that requires public school districts and charter schools to identify and provide remediation for students with dyslexia. A bill Miller filed last year that would have done that died in committee.

The current bill would allow districts to be entitled to “an annual allotment equal to the district’s adjusted basic allotment,” the bill said.

“We told the schools they need to do something to help these children who have dyslexia to identify them and work with them,” Miller said. “About 1 in 5 people are affected [with dyslexia], so we are trying to match up a requirement to help these children.”

But Miller cautioned that the Legislature’s tight budget might pose some problems.

“What we are looking at from a budget perspective is not healthy or robust like two years ago,” he said. “This might be more difficult this time around, but we will see if we can get support because it’s there. It exists, and these children have this issue, so we should be dealing with it in an effective way.”

Funding has long been sought to boost the mandated dyslexia programs in public and charter schools. But the way that dyslexia services are provided in schools complicates the funding process.

In Texas, dyslexia services are offered through general education, and accommodations are delivered through Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973. In many other states, dyslexia services are offered through special education, since dyslexia is identified as a specific learning disability in the Individuals with Disabilities Education Improvement Act of 2004 (IDEA).

However, dyslexia experts said that because federal guidelines to qualify for special education are so strict, many students with mild to moderate dyslexia were not being served.

“At that time, special education utilized a discrepancy model for the identification of children with learning disabilities,” said Gladys Kolenovsky, the administrative director of the Luke Waites Center for Dyslexia and Learning Disabilities at Scottish Rite Hospital, who helped write the state’s dyslexia law back in 1985. “What it meant was that particularly bright children, children whose parents worked with them every night, or children who had tutoring support did not fall far enough behind to be identified for special education — and federal dollars — until the third or fourth grade.

So in 1985, the Texas Legislature passed the nation’s first dyslexia law offering services through general education, which allowed more students to be served, Kolenovsky said.

But because Texas schools offer dyslexia services through general education programs, they do not have access to federal dollars. Instead, to fund those mandated services, districts and charter schools must pull from their limited general education funds. One exception is those students who qualify for special education and can receive federal funds.

District officials say the lack of funds is making it difficult to implement the best programs and hire trained teachers. Numbers analyzed by The Dallas Morning News last year showed local districts were falling behind in identifying and providing help for students.

Roxanne Burchfiel, Plano ISD’s coordinator of reading and dyslexia services, praised Miller’s funding bill, calling it “desperately needed.”

“As of now, districts do not have any extra funding and all dyslexia services are funded through district resources,” Burchfiel said by email. “This bill is desperately needed, especially since Texas has such a strong dyslexia law with mandates and requirements, but the state doesn’t provide any funding support for personnel, training, testing, or materials.”

The bill related to funding, House Bill 868, has been referred to the public education committee. The licensing bill, House Bill 1331, has been forwarded to the public health committee. No hearing has been held yet on either bil.

The third bill, House Bill 1886, was filed Feb. 23 and has not been taken up in committee yet.

Some parents said they were concerned that the licensing bills could be too costly and too difficult and could end up lowering the number of dyslexia therapists.

Burchfiel said she thought requiring a dyslexia therapist license would be “difficult to attain for all public school districts.”

Burchfiel noted that that license would require a master’s degree and at least 700 hours of supervised experience. It currently takes two years, 200 hours and 10 demonstration lessons to become a specialist.

“Realistically, many of our trained and competent specialists can never acquire 700 hours of instructional practice and may not be able to complete a master’s program for a myriad of reasons,” she said. “A more manageable requirement would be the dyslexia practitioner license, which would only require a bachelor’s degree and 60 hours of supervised experience.”

Miller acknowledged that it’s still early in the process, but he remains resolute.

“The issue has not changed, and it’s still important,” he said.



Tincy Miller

SBOE, District 12