The Federal Takeover of the Public Schools

6.4.10 – Donna Garner – The final Common Core Standards for (1) Math and for (2) English Language Arts & Literacy in History/Social Studies, Science, and Technical Subjects were released on 6.2.10. I have attached these two documents to this e-mail.

National standards  →  national tests  →  national curriculum → teachers’ salaries tied to students’ test scores  →  teachers teaching to the test each and every day  →  federal indoctrination of our public school children  


I believe the Common Core Standards and Race to the Top represent a federal takeover of the public schools.  Here are three articles (12.4.09, 2.23.10, and 5.10.10) that validate this statement:    


“The Timing of the National Takeover of the Public Schools”

by Donna Garner



The 48 state Governors (except for Texas and Alaska) signed the Common Core standards adoption agreements before the public was told about the national tests.  


U. S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan waited until the state contracts were signed before he made the rest of the plan clear:


  • At least 85% of states’ standards must be the Common Core.

  • National tests would be created based upon those 85%. 

  • To get the Race to the Top funds, states would have to be a part of the Common Core. 

  • To get the Race To the Top funds, states would also have to implement an elaborate tracking system (provided by none other than Bill Gates I feel sure) that would link student test scores to individual teachers.

  • This obviously means that teachers, whose merit pay will depend upon how their students do on the national tests, will teach their students a national curriculum to get them ready for the national tests.

  • The vendors/lobbyists will be only too glad to develop the national curriculum, and they will love having to deal with The Beltway crowd rather than having to get their wares vetted through individual state textbook/instructional materials adoption processes where the products are required to pass through public hearings with conscientious citizens who check for factual errors.   

  • States can fool around with the 15% in their state standards all they want to, but the reality is that their teachers will teach the 85% because their salaries will depend upon it.

In my mind, anyone who thinks the U. S. Dept. of Ed. Is not heavily guiding the development of the Common Core Standards is not “reading the tea leaves right.” This plan actually goes all the way back to the National Center on Education and the Economy (NCEE) and has been sitting on a shelf waiting to emerge when the right players were in place in Washington, D. C.


Here are excerpts from the EdWeek article on 10.20.09:

As 48 states charge ahead with plans to adopt common academic standards, the U.S. Department of Education will enlist experts and the public to help design a $350 million competition for the next step: the development of common tests…

Education Secretary Arne Duncan said as much in June, to some of the nation’s governors: “Some people may claim that a commonly created test is a threat to state control—but let’s remember who is in charge. You are. You will create these tests. You will drive the process. You will call the shots.”

…The $350 million that has been earmarked for assessments is a piece of the larger $4.35 billion Race to the Top Fund, which was created as part of the $787 billion economic-stimulus package passed by Congress in February. Earlier this year, Mr. Duncan announced he would peel off a chunk of Race to the Top specifically to help states develop common assessments that would piggyback on the common-standards effort. (“Stimulus Seeks Enriched Tests,” Aug. 12, 2009.)…

The Education Department is trying to usher along this effort, too, by linking a state’s participation in common standards—and the development of common assessments — to the separate competition for Race to the Top grants. Participation in both efforts for common standards and assessments would give states a competitive edge, according to draft regulations the department released in July. (“‘Race to Top’ Guidelines Stress Use of Test Data,” July 23, 2009.)




Published Online: February 23, 2010

Experts Lay Out Vision for Future Assessments

By Catherine Gewertz



A group of high-powered policymakers and educators gathered here yesterday to build support for a new vision of educational assessment that is less a snapshot of students’ one-time performance and more like good instruction itself.


Led by Stanford University professor Linda Darling-Hammond, a panel of experts outlined a comprehensive system that includes summative and formative tests of higher-order thinking skills, reflecting a marketplace that they say places increasing value on such skills. 


[“Summative and formative tests” is another term for high-stakes, subjectively scored tests based upon the value system of the evaluator -- a very disturbing way to evaluate students in this day and age of multiculturalism, political correctness, diversity, and social justice. -- Donna Garner]


They urged a move away from of multiple-choice tests that demand factual recall, toward the development of a set of deeper, more analytical questions, tasks, and projects that ask students to solve and discuss complex problems. One example is a problem that has been posed to Connecticut high school students: Figure out how to build a statue that could withstand the effects of acid rain, then describe, analyze, and discuss your findings.


[The question looks enticing, but just how would this question be scored?  With multiple-choice questions that are either right or wrong, the end score is much more accurate for comparing state-to-state, school-to-school, student-to-student. 


On the other hand, questions based upon a rubric depend a great deal upon the opinion of the evaluator; and opinions differ from person to person. 


Because Common Core Standards, national tests, national curriculum, and a national database definitely fall within the definition of “high-stakes testing,” it should scare parents to death to think that their child’s future will be based upon the “opinion” of some unknown evaluator.


I have been through the training for essay and open-ended responses (i.e., examples of subjectively scored test items), and I can tell you that it is very difficult to get two scorers to come up with the very same score.  No matter how explicit the scoring rubric is, people have different opinions, experiences, and expectations. 


Not only are subjective assessments open to indecisiveness, but they are also much more expensive to score.  Are taxpayers going to want to pay higher taxes just so their students’ tests can be scored in a subjective way?  -- Donna Garner]


Such assessments, Ms. Darling-Hammond said, can be “of, for, and as learning.” They can “embody” content standards, she said, not just approximate them. Because teachers would help create and score the assessments, and the assessments would be pegged to good-quality content standards, an aligned teaching-and-learning system would take shape that would help teachers adjust instruction in real time and help district and state administrators plot longer-term education strategy, the experts said.

Common Standards

The portrait of assessment, fleshed out in a paper by Ms. Darling-Hammond that draws on assessment practices in the United States and abroad, was presented at a discussion organized by two Washington-based groups, the National Governors Association and the Council of Chief State School Officers. They have enlisted the support of 48 states [except for Texas and Alaska] to devise common content standards designed to ensure college and career readiness.

The common standards are an “essential” but “inadequate” step toward improving education, said Gene Wilhoit, the CCSSO’s executive director. They must be accompanied by improved assessment, new types of curriculum, and better teacher preparation and professional development, he said. Dane Linn, who oversees the common-standards work for the NGA, said a vital part of next-generation assessments is the role they must play in learning. “The assessments we end up with have to inform instruction,” he said. If they don’t change educators’ practice, he said, “then what good are they?”

Even though they are still in draft form, the common standards have garnered the support of President Barack Obama, who has offered a better shot at $4 billion in Race to the Top Fund economic-stimulus money to states that embrace them.

This week, the president proposed tying Title I education dollars to adoption of those or other standards validated as rigorous enough to ensure college readiness. A special $350 million pot of Race to the Top Fund money is reserved for the development of common assessments. Six groups, or “consortia,” of states, proposing differing approaches to assessment, have formed to compete for that money. In a private meeting after yesterday’s panel discussion, leaders of those consortia met at the CCSSO’s office to discuss ways they might work together on summative assessments. (“States Rush to Join Testing Consortia,” Feb. 3, 2010.)

In one more potent public symbol of the administration’s support for common standards and assessments, the top education adviser in the White House, Roberto Rodriguez, appeared at the panel discussion and urged states to use the $350 million to build “transformative” assessment systems.

As Congress begins reconsidering the reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act, with the first hearing scheduled this week, Mr. Rodriguez said the administration views college and career readiness as a key objective in that legislation, but that aim requires revamped systems of assessment, professional development, and accountability.

Offering a glimpse of the White House’s priorities, he said that a good assessment system will measure individual student growth over time, include multiple measures of achievement, and provide summative information to inform both instruction and state and district policy. It will also integrate results into data systems to guide instruction and be well-integrated with curriculum and professional development.

Inseparable Pieces

Robert L. Linn, a widely respected authority on assessment who spoke on the panel, said that in designing new assessments, it is important to think of them as inseparable parts of systems that include the conception of standards and curriculum. If those are fused, he said, teachers can avoid the worst versions of “teaching to the test” because the tests are actually sound reflections of what the teachers know is important. “The test is bigger and closer to what you care about,” said Mr. Linn, a distinguished professor emeritus of education at the University of Colorado-Boulder.


[How long has it been since Mr. Linn and all the rest of these supposed “experts” have taught real kids in real classrooms?  Texas has already tried teaching broad, generic, inexplicit, non-grade-level specific standards (1997-2008); and it did not work.  The very same people and organizations that are presently behind the national standards and tests were the same people and organizations that pressured Texas into adopting their doomed plan in 1997.


For ten years, our Texas students and teachers wandered around in a frustrated daze because they were confused and did not know what it was that they were supposed to teach and learn. 


When the TAKS tests came along in 2003, then the only thing that teachers could cling to for direction was the tests themselves; and that is why they started “teaching to the test.” 


The Common Core Standards with their subjectively scored assessments (as recommended by Linda Darling-Hammond) is the same failed system that Texas had from 1997 - 2008.  Texas learned its lesson the hard way, and our state is now on the way to real education reform through new-and-well-written explicit standards and tests that are largely objectively scored.  For good reason, Texas and Alaska have chosen not to participate in the doomed Common Core Standards/Race to the Top plan. -- Donna Garner]


Another member of the panel, Edward Roeber, an adjunct professor of education, measurement, and quantitative methods at Michigan State University’s college of education, said new assessments must be paired with revamped teacher preparation. Part of studying to become a teacher must be learning how to use formative assessment in the classroom to guide instruction, and few teachers now receive that training, he said.

Mr. Roeber also addressed a key area of interest among those monitoring the debate about new assessments: the price tag. His work on a soon-to-be-published study will show, he said, that if 30 states work together to design assessments systems that embody the qualities panelists were discussing, they could be crafted for about the same cost as what states spend now on tests used for the current version of the ESEA, the No Child Left Behind Act, a figure Ms. Darling-Hammond put at $1.4 billion per year. 


[I do not believe you can take a spoiled apple, sugar-coat it, and expect it to taste unspoiled.  Nor do I believe that subjectively scored assessments can be graded inexpensively.  My common sense tells me that it is much cheaper and faster to run a student’s objectively scored test through a Scantron machine than it would be to train and hire evaluators to read slowly and carefully through millions of student responses. 


If test-makers really want to test comprehensive, higher-order thinking skills, multiple-choice questions can be carefully designed that require deep thought yet have right-or-wrong answers. 


I well remember one professor whose college exams demonstrated his mastery at developing very difficult questions that required much thinking on my part, yet these questions had right-or-wrong answers.  Surely these testing companies to whom the taxpayers pay billions of dollars can come up with objectively scored questions that will evaluate a student’s ability to think deeply. -- Donna Garner] 

Vol. 29, Issue 23


 “Do You Believe Us Now?”

by Donna Garner



Here it comes:  Pearson, the largest educational publishing company in the world,  has released its Common Core State Standards for Literacy and for Mathematics package: 


Basically this package is a national curriculum tied to the national standards (which on 5.10.10 had not even been finalized yet).  However, not to worry because Pearson is helping to write the standards.  Page 9 in the Pearson package states, “In fact, many of the program experts we have relied on wrote and reviewed what will now drive instruction across our nation.”  In other words, Pearson’s contacts are helping to write the Common Core Standards and, therefore, know what to put into the Pearson package.


In the Pearson package will be benchmark assessments that teachers will give to their students regularly to get them ready to take the national tests. This is called “teaching to the tests” and will be a necessity to give students a chance to figure out how to outmaneuver the national test scoring system.   


Of course districts will be only too glad to buy the Pearson package no matter how expensive it is.  After all, it is just taxpayers’ dollars, right?


I would not be surprised one little bit to see Pearson get the federal contract to design and publish the national tests.  I feel sure Pearson is licking its chops right now at the prospect of getting such a lucrative contract.  


The good thing for Pearson and its lobbyists is that instead of having to satisfy individual states and their constituencies, Pearson lobbyists will only have to appease entities at the

U. S. Department of Education in Washington, D. C.   The new slogan for Obama’s plan for  education will be “One size fits all.”

Pearson will not only provide the curriculum and test materials but will also provide teacher training and community support.  I cannot even imagine how much the entire Pearson package will cost a local school district, but it will undoubtedly be a small fortune.    


Teachers will be forced to utilize the Pearson curriculum and benchmark tests because their own teachers’ salaries, evaluations, and contracts will be based upon how well their students do on the national tests.


All of the information compiled on the national standards, national curriculum, and national tests will be carried on the national database.  This will cost another small fortune in technology and software to implement throughout each school district and then to link it to the federal database.


This national database will be very intrusive of all students’ and teachers’ lives.  Where is the ACLU when we need them to file a lawsuit because of the loss of personal privacy?


The people who are writing the Common Core Standards for Literacy and Mathematics (including the Pearson “experts”) are tightly linked to Secretary of Education Arne Duncan and the Obama administration, and it will be the Obama agenda that will permeate our public school classrooms in the coming years.  


My fear is that the tests themselves will be subjective in nature and that students’ test scores will be based upon how closely the students align their answers to what the Obama administration wants them to say.  


The federal carrot that was dangled in states’ faces was the Race to the Top funds.  Every state in the United States except for Texas and Alaska was fooled by the “carrot.”


All of this was achieved while the nation was engaged in fighting the federal takeover of the healthcare system and the other Obama initiatives that are turning our country into a socialized nation. 


Few people were watching as the Obama administration stealthily took over the public schools, and it was done without Congressional approval.   


Grover J. “Russ” Whitehurst, Senior Fellow, Governance Studies, Brookings Institution stated in an article entitled “Did Congress Authorize Race to the Top?” published on April 27, 2010: 



There is nothing in the text of the ARRA [Stimulus package], or in the portions of the two other statutes to which it points (the Elementary and Secondary Education Act and the America Competes Act), that authorizes, requires, or even suggests that states competing for funds would need to adopt common state standards, create more charter schools, evaluate teachers and principals based on gains in student achievement, emphasize the preparation of students for careers in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics, or restructure the lowest 5 percent of their schools.

Yet the grant program the administration designed to implement the provisions of the ARRA, the U.S. Department of Education’s Race to the Top initiative, included each of these policy priorities, and states had no chance of winning unless their applications were built around them…


Based on the ARRA itself, I don’t think Congress intended to give Secretary Duncan the carte blanche he took…


It used to be that Bill Gates was the most powerful education philanthropist in America. Thanks to the Race to the Top, that mantle has passed to Arne Duncan.


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June 3rd, 2010

Donna Garner EducationNews Policy Commentator

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