I posted the following comments and links on the April 1st NewsOK.com article, “Conspiracy theories about Common Core should be ignored.”

I agree the idea that the Common Core movement is a “UN black helicopter / world government agenda” is silly. That argument is unfortunately a “straw man” for issues and problems with Common Core and much of what passes for “Education Reform” proposals in our state and others, however.

There are many outstanding ideas in the Common Core State Standards which can certainly help us improve the quality of both learning opportunities as well as educational outcomes in Oklahoma. The issue which is NOT being talked about enough and many people are blind to, however, is the role corporate testing companies have played and continue to play in the CCSS and in “education reform” proposals generally.

Common Core in its current form now is a push to redirect millions of taxpayer education dollars into the coffers of educational testing companies. This testing effort isn’t about “research based methods” to improve student learning, it’s about a race to help corporations take our money instead of truly working to help improve learning and schools for Oklahoma students and teachers. Much of “School reform” today is being “driven” by a group who mistakenly believe the only way to effectively improve public education is through more high stakes testing, through fear, and with punitive “sticks” for both students and teachers. This is the wrong road and we have been on it too long in Oklahoma and the US generally.

Here are few articles I’d recommend, along with authors who are uncovering important issues related to “education reform” as it is manifested through Common Core, the Charter School Movement, A-F report cards, etc. As Oklahomans we need to be aware and savvy to these issues so we can help influence our state leaders to play constructive, rather than destructive roles, in improving public education. I’m prefacing these links with the “big ideas” we SHOULD be discussing and debating with regard to Oklahoma public education, instead of talking about “the UN and black helicopters” and Common Core.

1- Common Core Testing is Setup to Continue Educational Policies Designed to Brand All Public Schools and Public Educators as FAILURES

2- Corporate Reformers (and many on their ‘bandwagon’) are primarily seeking profits, not ways to sincerely help schools, students and teachers

3- The “Jeb Bush model” of educational reform championed by many current Oklahoma political and education leaders (“the Florida model”) is the WRONG blueprint for improving public education in our state:

I will be writing more on these issues in the weeks and months to come. We need to develop a non-partisan constituency in Oklahoma which will change our educational policy trajectory for the long term. We cannot allow our state educational policy and state education dollars to primarily serve the profit interests of testing corporations and other interest groups who are trying to destroy public education rather than improve it in our state.


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2 Responses to Speaking Out Against Common Core High Stakes Testing & Corporate Driven Education Reform

  1. llarry says:

    Wes, want to disagree with you on ” Common Core in its current form now is a push to redirect millions of taxpayer education dollars into the coffers of educational testing companies.”

    there’s just nothing backing up that claim.

    First, the Common Core were developed by states (facilitated by NGA and CCSSO) with input from teachers, curriculum directors, and other experts/researchers. Beyond that, there were public comment processes – at least 2 national ones which attracted more than 10,000 comments. And then many states asked for comments/feedback as part of their adoption. What were the concerns you raised back in 2009 about the standards being weak? Or how was there too much corporate influence in their development and adoption?

    Second, let’s take your argument at face value. Let’s say that the Common Core was a conspiracy among corporate entities and 46 Governors, state legislatures, and state chiefs to redirect funds to educational testing companies. Total education expenditures was over $605 billion (http://www.census.gov/newsroom/releases/archives/governments/cb11-94.html). Total assessment costs are estimated at somewhere near $1.7 billion (http://goo.gl/VgkKJ ). to give that some context, assessment costs are less than 0.3% of total expenditures on education. But here’s the thing. The new Common Core assessments are estimated to cost less because of the states purchasing them as a group instead of individually. the study above estimates some states will see a savings as high as 37%.

    If corporate entities wanted to drive more funding to them, promoting common core and the two assessment consortia doesn’t seem to be the best way to do it.

  2. Wesley Fryer says:

    Thanks for challenging me on this llary.

    Do you know where I can find the total number of dollars the Oklahoma State Department of Education and Oklahoma school districts spend together on mandated testing? I know a teacher who filed a FOIA request a few years ago to get those numbers but she didn’t get them. I’d like to know.

    The fact that CCSS were open for public comment doesn’t make it a grassroots movement. I understand why advocates for CCSS want to portray it that way. Please understand I’m supportive of many of the ideas of CCSS. I am absolutely not a supporter of high stakes testing and high stakes accountability, however, and that is currently part of the CCSS implementation. This is a continuation of policies which were nationalized under NCLB, of course, but now we have a push to make all kids take these tests on computers instead of with paper and pencil. These are destructive and counter-productive policies to those of us who work with children and teachers on a daily basis, and want to help improve the opportunities each have to learn in our public schools.

    In your first paragraph, are you asking me why I didn’t raise these concerns in 2009?

    In terms of your second paragraph, I recognize this is a complex situation with many actors and issues. I didn’t write and I don’t maintain that our state governors are knowingly acting as puppets for testing companies. Unfortunately, however, a large number of legislators have “bought the lie” that improving educational opportunities as well as outcomes in our schools today means threatening both students and teachers with dire consequences surrounding the results of standardized tests. This is at the heart of CCSS today, unfortunately, and it’s simply an immoral way for us to treat students as well as teachers. I oppose it. One of the results of this widely held misconception (about the necessity and alleged benefits of high stakes testing) is that millions of dollars go to testing companies instead of going to help students, teachers and schools. This isn’t a backroom conspiracy, it’s just the way things work today because many legislators (both state and national) have been deceived about what policies can help teachers and students learn better.

    Thanks for sharing those predicted percentages in cost savings for states under CCSS… what I want to see is the actual costs TODAY of what my state pays for high stakes testing. I maintain those dollars should be redirected to fund other educational expenses which actually help students and teachers learn. The time has come to leave the political path of high stakes testing and high stakes accountability. NCLB, RTTT, and how the high stakes testing components of CCSS were and are bad policies which we need to change as citizens.

    Perhaps one of the best ways to “test” my arguments here is to follow the money, in terms of how CCSS is funded. Can you (or others) provide links which shed light on the corporate dollars which have funded CCSS to date? I suspect those will be instructive.

    I commend to you and others Diane Ravitch’s April 10th post, “Is There a Corporate School Reform Movement?”

    CCSS isn’t just or ONLY”a push to redirect millions of taxpayer education dollars into the coffers of educational testing companies.” It’s a movement which has some excellent elements too, but that push to redirect (or continue to direct) taxpayer money into spending for high stakes testing clearly IS part of the agenda. Being outside the inner circle, it’s hard for me to know how much of a ‘driver’ behind the movement this is, but if we look at the funding dollars for CCSS I suspect we can get more clues.

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