Saturday, October 18, 2014

Daddy on the Edge of The Common Core

Full Disclosure - I wrote most of this post in May, and I didn't publish it...because I thought it might be too crazy.  

Sometimes, even Daddy has an edit button - it's hard to see, and is oft forgotten in favor of the much larger, more used  "What's the Worst That Could Happen???" button, the "Fuck 'em if They Can't Take a Joke!!" button and the "Perhaps I should sober up a bit first...NAH!!!!" button, but it does exist, and sometimes I blow the dust off and ever so gently engage it's function, turning off my own mic, as it were.

So why publish now?  Because apparently, I am not alone in my theory.  Crazy loves company, but then again - so does sanity.  And the difference between sanity and insanity usually comes down to opinion.  so, you tell me - am I crazy?

Oh, and one more thing - WARNING:  This is probably the wordiest, most statistic filled Daddy on the Edge post you will ever see.  Sorry - it couldn't be helped.  There are lots of moving parts to this story, and I felt like the whole thing needed to be put out there. I'll make it up to you in the next post, I promise.  So, now that you have been aptly warned, 

Here we go....

Daddy on the Edge of The Common Core

Who doesn't like a good conspiracy theory?  They make you think.  They make you wonder.  They make you question.  Daddy loves 'em - the door to creativity opens with the key of "What If...?" and that is how every good conspiracy theory begins.

What if Lee Harvey Oswald wasn't the lone gunman? The grand-daddy of them all.  And No.  No, he wasn't.

What if the government is manipulating the weather using HAARP technology? Do we microwave the atmosphere? Hmmmm....

What if Congress is trying to force the Post Office to go broke?  I know - why would they do something like that?  Why?  Because Money, that's why.  Lobbyists from Fed Ex and UPS shelled out a whole bunch of money to Congressional leaders, and as a result, they passed a statute in 2006 that required of the US Post Office the early payment of 75 years of retirement benefits within ten years. I know, right?

Well here's Daddy's very own conspiracy theory - stop me if you've heard this one before...

What if Common Core Curriculum was implemented expressly to cause public school children to fail?

I know - that doesn't make sense.  But it does.  Why?  Because Money, that's why.

Money - really, really big money isn't made overnight.  To make "fat stacks", the smart money is on The Long Game.  When Warren Buffett talks about investments and anticipated future performance, he talks in centuries.  The game I describe isn't quite that long - this game starts to build steam in 2001.

In 2001, the No Child Left Behind Act was passed.  The thinking behind NCLB was, I think, in the right place - schools had to do well to receive funding.  If a school didn't do well, steps were taken to improve it.  Consistently poor scores met with increasingly harsher penalties and remedies.  If a school was marked "in need of improvement" for two consecutive years, parents had the option of relocating their child to a private or charter school.  Six straight years of school failure meant possible school closing, conversion to a charter school, hiring a private company to run the school, or asking the state office of education to run the school directly.  So basically, "Teach your children well, or go through hell, and kiss your school good-bye" (apologies to Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young).  We know the upshot to this - teachers began "teaching to the test"- training their students to become proficient at exactly what was going to be on the exams, but not a whole lot more.  The other unintended effect was...well, lying.  They didn't call it that, of course - they called it "creative reclassification".  For instance, at Houston's Sharpstown High School, 463 of it's 1,700 students left during the 2001-2002 school year, but not one was reported as a dropout, which makes Houston's dropout rate somewhere between 33 and 50 percent rather than the reported 1.5 percent.

Why do I bring this up?  Charter Schools.  From 1999-2000 to 2010-2011, the number of students enrolled in public charter schools increased from 0.3 million to 1.8 million students.  During this period, the percentage of all public schools that were public charter schools, based on schools that reported enrollment, increased from 2 to 5 percent, comprising 5,300 schools in 2010-2011.  As of September 2013, the number of charter schools in the US has grown to over 6,000, educating 2.3 million children.  They might have gone up more than that, if not for the individual states placing limits or caps on the number of charter schools that were allowed to exist in each state.

But let's rewind a little bit to 2009.  In 2009, Arnie Duncan (a big fan of charter schools when he ran the Chicago Public Schools) released the Obama Administration's "Race to the Top" initiative, handing out $4.4 billion in federal money to the states.  But "handing out $4.4 billion" isn't exactly correct - Race to the Top was not a law or a mandated federal program - it was a contest.  Schools had to do certain things to gain points - gain enough points, and you were eligible for the green.  Here's a quickie Wiki sample of the points system -

State applications for funding were scored on selection criteria worth a total of 500 points. In order of weight, the criteria were:[1]
  • Great Teachers and Leaders (138 total points)
    • Improving teacher and principal effectiveness based on performance (58 points)
    • Ensuring equitable distribution of effective teachers and principals (25 points)
    • Providing high-quality pathways for aspiring teachers and principals (21 points)
    • Providing effective support to teachers and principals (20 points)
    • Improving the effectiveness of teacher and principal preparation programs (14 points)
  • State Success Factors (125 total points)
    • Articulating State's education reform agenda and LEAs' participation in it (65 points)
    • Building strong statewide capacity to implement, scale up, and sustain proposed plans (30 points)
    • Demonstrating significant progress in raising achievement and closing gaps (30 points)
  • Standards and Assessments (70 total points)
    • Developing and adopting common standards (from the Common Core State Standards Initiative) (40 points)
    • Supporting the transition to enhanced standards and high-quality assessments (20 points)
    • Developing and implementing common, high-quality assessments (10 points)
  • General Selection Criteria (55 total points)
    • Ensuring successful conditions for high-performing charters and other innovative schools (40 points)
    • Making education funding a priority (10 points)
    • Demonstrating other significant reform conditions (5 points)
  • Turning Around the Lowest-Achieving Schools (50 total points)
    • Turning around the lowest-achieving schools (40 points)
    • Intervening in the lowest-achieving schools and LEAs (10 points)
  • Data Systems to Support Instruction (47 total points)
    • Fully implementing a statewide longitudinal data system (24 points)
    • Using data to improve instruction (18 points)
    • Accessing and using State data (5 points)
In addition to the 485 possible points from the criteria above, the prioritization of STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math) education is worth another fifteen points for a possible total of 500.[1]

So, as you can see, instituting Common Core Standards got you some points.  Another stipulation not mentioned here was that for a state to be eligible,  they had to lift their caps on the number of charter schools.  So certain states are gonna get massive moolah.  But they're not the only ones.

Fast forward to May, 2012.  President Obama grants eight states, including New York, waivers from the NCLB education mandates, bringing the total of states with waivers in 2012 to nineteen.  Waivers were needed because Congress wouldn't fix the law, and it was pretty clear by now that the 100% mandated success rate just wasn't going to happen.  But there was a catch - again, probably a well meaning one in some respect, but a catch none the less.  In exchange for the NCLB waiver, the states had to promise to implement "common core standards" for students.  Between the waivers and Race to the Top, we were sure gonna need a heckuva lot of new common core textbooks, huh?


It is estimated that national cost for compliance with common core will be between $1 billion to $8 billion and the profits will go almost directly to publishers.  Pearson Education is one of the big winners in this whole thing.

But that's not even where the real money is.  The real money - the truly fat stacks - they come if the scenario I am about to paint becomes fully realized.  What am I talking about?  I am talking about a perceived systematic failure of our entire public school system  - a ranking of "piss poor" due to the fact that our children will have lost the ability to do simple addition and subtraction - not because they are lacking in intelligence, not because teachers are not skilled in educating, but because the Common Core that was introduced was intended not to educate, but to confuse both children and parents alike.  Why?  Oh, come on - say it with me -

'Cuz Money, That's Why.

Here's a glimpse at what's already happening in our society as a result of the already existing charter schools (and remember, the more public schools fail, the more charter schools are "needed") -

Alan Singer,  a social studies educator in the Department of Teaching, Literacy and Leadership at Hofstra University in Long Island, New York, and the editor of Social Science Docket (a joint publication of the New York and New Jersey Councils for Social Studies) has taught at a number of secondary schools in New York City, including Franklin K. Lane High School and Edward R. Murrow High School. He is also the author of several books.  This appeared on his Huffington Post blog.

By Alan Singer
"Obscure laws can have a very big impact on social policy, including obscure changes in the United States federal tax code. The 2001 Consolidated Appropriations Act, passed by Congress and signed into law by President  Clinton, included provisions from the Community Renewal Tax Relief Act of 2000. The law provided tax incentives for seven years to businesses that locate and hire residents in economically depressed urban and rural areas. The tax credits were reauthorized for 2008-2009, 2010-2011, and 2012-2013.
As a result of this change to the tax code, banks and equity funds that invest in charter schools in underserved areas can take advantage of a very generous tax credit. They are permitted to combine this tax credit with other tax breaks while they also collect interest on any money they lend out. According to one analyst, the credit allows them to double the money they invested in seven years. Another interesting side note is that foreign investors who put a minimum of $500,000 in charter school companies are eligible to purchase immigration visas for themselves and family members under a federal program called EB-5.
The tax credit may also explain why Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerbergpartnered with the former mayor of Newark, New Jersey, to promote charter schools; donated a half a million dollars worth of stock to organizations that distribute charter school funding; and opened his own foundation, Startup: Education, to build new charter schools.
The real estate industry, which already receives huge tax breaks as it gentrifies communities, also stands to benefit by promoting charter schools and helping them buy up property, or rent, in inner city communities. One real estate company, Eminent Properties Trust, boasts on its website:

"Our investment portfolio of nearly $3 billion includes megaplex movie theatres and adjacent retail, public charter schools, and other destination recreational and specialty investments.  This portfolio includes over 160 locations spread across 34 states with over 200 tenants."
The Charter management group Charter Schools USA recommends that rental costs should not exceed 20 percent of a school’s budget. However theMiami Herald reported that in 2011, 19 charter schools in Miami-Dade and Broward exceeded this figure and one in Miami Gardens paid 43 percent. The Herald called south Florida charter schools a “$400-million-a-year powerhouse backed by real-estate developers and promoted by politicians, but with little oversight.” Its report found charters paying exorbitant fees to management companies and that many of the highest rents were paid to landlords with ties to the management companies running the schools.

According to The New York Times, the 10 highest-paid hedge fund operators with close ties to charter schools also includes David Tepper (No. 1 at $3.5 billion in 2013), founder of founder of Appaloosa Management and New Jersey based “Better Education for Kids”; Steven A. Cohen (No. 2 at $2.4 billion) of SAC Capital Advisors, which was forced to pay a $1.2 billion dollar penalty for insider trading, who has given over $10 million to the Achievement First charter school network; and Paul Tudor Jones II(tied for tenth at $600 million), founder of the Tudor Investment Corporation who has supported charter schools through his Robin Hood Foundation."

That last mention kills me - dude calls his scam, "The Robin Hood Foundation".  Is it still robbing from the rich and giving to the poor if the rich first stole from the poor, only to profit from their altruism when they return a bit of their ill-gotten gains?  You can't conspire to destroy public education in the United States for another few zeros at the end of your bank balance and call yourself Robin Hood, dude.  Honestly, I don't know how you do that and call yourself a person.

In the name of Capitalism, we have gone to war where we didn't belong, we have watched banks ruin the economy and be rewarded for it in bailouts, we have mortally wounded our planet.  In the name of Capitalism, we have vilified the poor and needy, malnourished the least and the youngest of us, we have practically forced many of our number into lives of crime, so that they might be locked for-profit prisons.

In the name of Capitalism have all these things been done, and now they have come for education.  Common core is not a solution - it was never intended to be a solution.  It is a virus, poisoning the Public School system until there is no alternative but to quarantine and kill it.

Does the US education system need re-vamping?  Yes, of course it does.  In the most recent analysis, the US ranks 36th in the world in education.  And before anyone spews all that crap about Asian countries working their kids to death to be number 1, let me just say that countries like Canada are also kicking our asses.  Canada.  Let that sink in for a minute.

So yeah - there need to be real, dynamic paradigm shifts in our educational process, but in a positive direction.  Common Core was never the answer to our education problem.  It was the answer to a profit and loss statement - and it's time that Wall Street's profits stopped coming from our children's losses.

I was gonna wrap this up with the 1984 music video, "What People Do For Money" by Divine Sounds, because it's "old school"  (see the hook?) and, well...'cuz money, that's why.

But in my YouTube voyaging, I encountered a paradigm shift of my own when I came across the spoken word of one Suli Breaks.  Check it -

So what do you think?  Do you think I'm crazy?


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