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ANHPE: New Hampshire’s Common Core debate reaches a new low

The Common Core debate has entered a whole new stage. Exhibit A is an oped today in the Union Leader.  It’s by Betsy McCaughey, the fact-challenged author of the Obamacare “death panel” meme.  Here’s a sample:

“Move over Obamacare. Mid-term elections will also be referendums on ObamaCore.

“Contrary to what the public is told, Common Core is not about standards. It’s about content: what pupils are taught. In the Social Studies Framework approved on April 29 by New York state’s education authorities (but not parents), American history is presented as four centuries of racism, economic oppression, and gender discrimination. Teachers are encouraged to help students identify their differences instead of their common American identity. Gone are heroes, ideals, and American exceptionalism.”

If I understand Ms. McCaughey, the message is,”We failed to kill Obamacare so we’ll see if we can do a death panel thing on Obamacore.”  (Just for the record, there is no “Social Studies Framework” in the Common Core State Standards.)

Exhibit B is the windshield flyer left during the wonderful Common Core forum presented last night by Rep. Carolyn Gargasz (R-Hollis) and Rep. Melanie Levesque (D-Brookline).  Five amazing teachers, along with State Board of Education chair Tom Raffio, NHDOE’s Heather Gage, Nashua Community College president Lucille Jordan and business advocate Fred Kocher spoke about how well the Common Core is working in Hollis/Brookline and around the State.  I’ll post more about the forum itself, held at Hollis/Brookline High, when the video is available but here is the flyer:

Anti Common Core Windshield Flyer fin

Political opponents of the Common Core have lost five big votes in the Legislature. The debate now seems to have entered an entirely new stage.

UPDATE 6/17/14: My wife thought the tone I’d taken this morning was a “bit sharp,” as she put it.  And, really, I agree.  I apologize for the intemperate outbreak.  That’s just the opposite of how I think this debate should be carried on.  So I’ve edited this post to point out what I think are inaccurate assertions about the Common Core, but do it without quite as much attitude.

Bill Duncan of ANHPE, Response To A Barrington, NH, Middle School Teacher’s Critique Of The Common Core

Larry Graykin, Barrington Middle School English teacher, recently posted a guest editorial opposing the Common Core on NH Labor News.  He brings a lot of credibility as a teacher, but I do have questions about his post.

First, why does Mr. Graykin rely so much on secondary sources and outside experts when he could draw upon has his own classroom experience and that of his peers in Barrington and around the state?  He uses familiar references that are in general circulation but his classroom is more interesting and credible.  Mr. Graykin is in his classroom every day and can make a valuable contribution to the discussion based on the results he is seeing – or not – as he uses the new standards.

Here are some examples where I think Mr. Graykin’s own experience would have served him better than the experts.

Are the standards developmentally appropriate?

The debate about what’s developmentally appropriate to teach young children is decades old but it reappears these days framed as whether the Common Core is developmentally appropriate.

There is a fundamental reality to acknowledge here first.  The Common Core does set a higher standard.  Expectations for our students, especially those from low-income families, have been too low.  We see it in low graduation rates, high college remediation rates, low college completion rates…and, of course, in poor results on the international tests.

The changes we must make to meet these higher standards are difficult.  Not every school and every leadership team will be prepared or will have the support needed to make this transition easily.

So it’s not surprising that some think the new standards are too hard.

But why go all the way to Connecticut for  a quote from an elementary school principal concerned about the standards?  Mr. Graykin could just walk over to the Barrington Elementary School and write about what he finds there. Whatever he reports, pro or con, would be a contribution to the conversation because he could provide context and insight.

Teachers down the road at Sanborn Regional think that the standards are entirely developmentally appropriate – that it’s just a matter of how you teach.  Maybe he’d find that in Barrington and his concerns would be addressed.  Or maybe not.  Either way, readers would get some deeper insight from the exchange.

But are the new standards a big enough leap forward to justify these new concerns about developmental appropriateness?  New Hampshire’s previous set of standards, adopted in 2006, were called the Grade Level Expectations (GLEs).  When you compare the Common Core math standards to the GLEs, the new standards are clearly more focused on a smaller number of topics each year, but the topics themselves are not that big a jump in difficulty.

Kindergarten math:  Here is a comparison of the GLEs to the Common Core math standards.  Much of the concern about developmental appropriateness focuses on kindergarten,  so look at that comparison in particular.  The two standards look pretty close to me.

It is true that Dr. Milgram, whom Mr. Graykin cites as an authority,  thinks the kindergarten standards are a problem but when you look (here and here, for instance), Dr. Milgram’s argument doesn’t hold up.  In any case, experience in Barrington’s kindergarten classrooms would be more interesting than that of a retired California math professor.

Second grade writing: Mr. Graykin goes on to say makes that the writing expectations for elementary school children are too high.  He cites June 2010 commentary by UNH English Professor Tom Newkirk as his authority.  (Prof. Newkirk expanded on that in this 2013 essay.)

One of Prof. Newkirk’s major complaints about the Common Core is that the standards for “informational writing” in the second grade are not developmentally appropriate.

But how different are the Common Core standards from New Hampshire’s former GLEs.  Here is what GLEs said about informational writing for the second grade:

In informational writing (reports or procedures only), students effectively convey purpose by: Establishing a topic

  • students demonstrate use of a range of elaboration strategies by: Including details/information relevant to topic and/or focus
  • students demonstrate use of a range of elaboration strategies by: Using sufficient details/pictures to illustrate facts
  • students organize ideas/concepts by: Providing a concluding statement

And here is the equivalent informational writing Common Core standard, called “informative/explanatory writing” for the second grade:

“Write informative/explanatory texts in which they introduce a topic, use facts and definitions to develop points, and provide a concluding statement or section.”

The Common Core standards is much simpler, but the expectations of the second grader are clearly similar.  So Prof. Newkirk goes to an appendix to try to make his point.  He says,

“The target student texts in Appendix C [of the Common Core standards] are clearly those of exceptional, even precocious students; in fact, the CCSS has taken what I see as exceptional work, that of perhaps the top 5 percent of students, and made it the new norm. What had once been an expectation for fourth graders becomes the standard for second graders…Normally this would be the expectation of an upper-elementary report; now it is the requirement for seven-year-olds.”

If you look at the appendix, though, there is no sample informative/explanatory essay for second graders.  Here is one for the end of the third grade.  That would certainly represent “exceptional, even precocious” work for a second grader.

Prof. Newkirk is a respected teacher of writing and runs a well-regarded writing program at UNH.  But he has strained so hard to reach the desired conclusion in this case that he got his facts wrong.

Rather than drawing on this kind of academic debate about pushing second graders too hard, why wouldn’t Mr. Graykin just ask a Barrington second grade teacher?  Whatever she said would be a real contribution.

Poetry in middle school

Mr. Graykin says,

“There are NO standards for the writing of poetry.  None.”

That’s kind of true, but it’s a longer story.  The Common Core standards actually pay more attention to poetry than the GLEs did.

Here are the GLEs for writing poetry.  There are no poetry writing standards at all until the 7th grade and then there are only what’s called “local” standards.  That means that poetry is not tested on the NECAP, the statewide annual assessment.  And, when you think about it, how could the annual state assessment test the poetry writing proficiency of all students?  Would parents even want that?

The Common Core standards do make suggestions for poetry readings in every grade.  Here are the grade 6-8 reading “exemplars,” suggestions the standards make for the Barrington Middle School.  The actual selection is left up to Mr. Graykin but the list of suggested poets includes Longfellow, Whitman, Carroll, Navajo tradition, Dickinson, Yeats, Frost, Sandburg, Hughes, Neruda.  Not bad.

As the standards say here, although poetry writing is not part of the standards, the teaching of many types of poetry and other creative writing is left to the discretion of the teacher.

So the Common Core standards take pretty much the same position about poetry that the GLEs did – teach poetry but don’t make proficiency in writing poetry a testing goal for every American student.  Seems pretty logical to me.

In addition, while the NECAP did not use poetry readings in its eighth grade test, the Common Core test (in New Hampshire it’s Smarter Balanced) usespoetry readings throughout its testing.  So poetry actually plays a stronger role now that it did before.

Mr. Graykin says parenthetically that his school can’t change the standards because they are copyrighted and only 15% can be added.  The 15% rule is and urban myth.  Has anyone ever seen it acted upon?  How would that even happen?

Here is the very flexible copyright.  And teachers and school districts all over NH are using that flexibility to change their standards to meet local needs.  Here are Manchester’s changes, in process.  Sanborn Regional does it.  Many other districts do.

Mr. Graykin should feel free to assign as much poetry as he wants.

Narrative and fiction in middle school: Mr. Graykin’s assertion that there is no reference to fiction writing is incorrect.

Narrative writing –  defined as “creative fictional stories, memoirs, anecdotes, and autobiographies” – is an important part of the Common Core standards in every grade.

The 8th grade Common Core standard for the narrative writing says,

3. Write narratives to develop real or imagined experiences or events using effective technique, relevant descriptive details, and well-structured event sequences.

a. Engage and orient the reader by establishing a context and point of view and introducing a narrator and/or characters; organize an event sequence that unfolds naturally and logically.

b. Use narrative techniques, such as dialogue, pacing, description, and reflection, to develop experiences, events, and/or characters.

c. Use a variety of transition words, phrases, and clauses to convey sequence, signal shifts from one time frame or setting to another, and show the relationships among experiences and events.

d. Use precise words and phrases, relevant descriptive details, and sensory language to capture the action and convey experiences and events.

e. Provide a conclusion that follows from and reflects on the narrated experiences or events.

This standard clearly supports teaching as much fiction writing as the teacher decides is appropriate.  A teacher who thinks that fiction is more important than autobiography or memoir can make that choice.  The same techniques of narrative writing apply.  It’s the writing techniques, not the specific genres, that the standards want students to master.

For comparison, here is the GLE 8th grade standard for narrative writing:

In written narratives, students organize and relate a story line/plot/series of events by…

  • Creating a clear and coherent (logically consistent) story line
  • Establishing context, character, motivation, problem/conflict/challenge, and resolution, and maintaining point of view
  • Using a variety of effective transitional devices (e.g., ellipses, time transitions, white space, or words/phrases) to enhance meaning
  • Establishing and maintaining a theme
  • Providing a sense of closure

Could they be any closer?  So why all the new complaints about the Common Core?  Is it because New Hampshire developed its former standards with only a few New England states and participated, as hundreds of our teacher did, with many states to develop these standards?

Mr. Graykin and Prof. Newkirk may have criticisms about federalism, but the points they make about the standards themselves don’t hold up.  The standards will surely need to evolve, hopefully based on the experience of classroom teachers like Mr. Graykin.  But the political side of the debate doesn’t add much.

The Common Core is right for a STEM career

Common Core opponents use any hook they can for their critiques.  Recently, Dr. James Milgram, one of two former academics traveling the country to make the case against the Common Core, sent this testimony to the House Education Committee recently.

Here’s my response in the Concord Monitor.

Have you heard that the Common Core math standards don’t prepare our children for STEM careers?  Don’t believe it.

Preparing students for careers in science, technology, engineering, and math has been one of Governor Hassan’s highest education priorities. She emphasized the importance of the Common Core in her State of the State address and went on to announce her new STEM task force.

New Hampshire businesses thinks the new math standards get it right too.  The Business & Industry Association of New Hampshire (the BIA), the New Hampshire Coalition for Business and Education, New Hampshire’s Advanced Manufacturing Educational Advisory Council and many CEO’s have all endorsed the Common Core.

Thousands of educators and experts participated in developing the Common Core State Standards for math. Hundreds worked on and gave feedback to the various committees involved. Every major mathematical society in America is on record endorsing the standards.  The New Hampshire Teachers of Mathematics thinks so as well.

Actually, most every math teacher you talk to thinks provides the preparation our students need – except James Milgram, a retired math prof who travels the country opposing the Common Core.

Dr. Milgram recently submitted testimony to the House Education Committee in support of the several anti-Common Core bills.  He tells the committee some ancient history about the math standards in California and stories about who said what to whom as the Common Core standards were being developed.  But he does not actually critique the standards.

In fact, Dr. Milgram concludes by saying,  ”In spite of the issues raised above, it is true, first that Core Standards are considerably better than the old New Hampshire Math Standards, and second, that much of the material in them is very well done. In fact Core Standards are better than the standards of 90% of the states…”

Then he finishes that sentence by saying that all those political problems make the Common Core standards “entirely unsuitable for state adoption.”

His recommendation is that New Hampshire put together a few good math teachers from “top New Hampshire universities such as Dartmouth” and tweak the Common Core standards.

Actually, New Hampshire math teachers from schools around the State have already done that.  Guided by NHDOE, they commented on early drafts and saw their comments used.

And the process continues today. The annual conference of New Hampshire math teachers next month is entirely devoted to the Common Core.  Many math teachers share their teaching methods in statewide networks the New Hampshire Department of Education has set up.

Day-to-day, math and science teachers meet in their schools to figure out the best way to use the new standards in their classrooms.  And they’ll tell anyone who asks that they appreciate the Common Core standards.

As the Alton School Board was voting to reject the Common Core a few months ago, Richard Kirby, sixth grade English and mathematics teacher at Alton Central School, told the board that the Alton Teachers Association welcomes the Common Core standards, saying ”It offers new challenges to students to become problem solvers, critical thinkers and technologically literate,” he said. “It raises the bar for grade levels and individuals.” (Laconia Sun, 9/17/13)

Carol Marino, 6th Grade Math teacher at Sanborn Middle School, told me, “The Common Core is much more focused.  We can spend more time on a topic and really delve into it deeper.  And we have continuity across the grades.  It just makes so much more sense to me.”

As Dave Juvet, senior vice president of the BIA, said when a sponsor of the anti-Common Core legislation asked if he had read the critics of the Common Core, “My belief is they represent a small, small, small minority of those who worked on the development of the Common Core standards.”

via The Common Core is right for a STEM career | Concord Monitor.

5 Bad Bills: A Small Group Of Legislators Push To End High Academic Standards In New Hampshire

This week, the House Education Committee is finishing up hearings on five anti-Common Core bills  – bills that seek in one way or another to end New Hampshire’s use of the Common Core and any future academic standards, including the Next Generation Science Standards.

The push comes mainly from a small number of legislators (here is their recent press conference), established opponents of New Hampshire public education.  In the last Legislature, Lenette Peterson supported bills to abolish DOE, end compulsory school attendance, lower the dropout age and repeal universal kindergarten.  Al Baldasaro and J.R. Hoell were cosponsors or supporters most of those same bills.  As a member of the House Education Committee, Ralf Boehm supported bills to end universal kindergarten and lower the dropout age.  In addition, freshman legislators David Murotake andGlenn Cordelli are sponsors on most of the anti-Common Core bills.

HB 1508-FN (testimony here) is a one sentence bill that seeks to “terminate all plans, programs, activities, and expenditures relative to the implementation of the common core….any assessments and instruction based upon such standards.” Prime sponsor: Lenette Peterson Cosponsors: Alfred Baldasaro, Pamela Tucker, Patrick Bick, Jeffrey Harris, David MurotakeJane Cormier, Donald LeBrun, Jeanine Notter, William Infantine.

House Education Committee Chair Mary Gile recessed last Thursday’s packed public hearing on HB 1508 (here’s the Union Leader report) until next Thursday, February 13, 2014 at 3:00.

HB1432 will be heard by the House Education Committee Tuesday morning at 10:00 in LOB 207.  The bill effectively ends the Common Core by delaying use of the standards and the tests for two years.  It also requires a study of educational impact, privacy and funding issues and hearings in each Executive Council District.  While there is no fiscal note attached, there would clearly result in substantial costs and uncertainties.  Prime sponsor: David Murotake Cosponsors: Ralph BoehmGlenn Cordelli, John Kelley, Andy Sanborn.

HB 1496 would prevent the Smarter Balanced Assessment from being used.  The bill is a collection of blog quotes about what’s wrong with the Smarter Balanced test.  The sponsor is J.R. Hoell

HB 1397 (here is the public testimony) asks the Democratic House to establish a Republican study committee to investigate charges that NHDOE disobeyed the law by promoting the Common Core.  Prime sponsor: Jane Cormier Cosponsors: J.R. HoellGlenn Cordelli, Joseph Pitre, Sam Cataldo

HB1239 -FN-L (here is testimony on the bill) would establish a new process for adopting academic standards in New Hampshire, requiring benchmarking and implementation cost analysis based on extensive new data provided by each of New Hampshire’s 172 school districts.  Like HB 1432, the bill requires the department to hold hearings in each Executive Council District.  Prime sponsor: Glenn Cordelli.  Cosponsors: Ralph BoehmJ.R. Hoell, Jeffrey Harris, David Murotake, John Reagan, Sam Cataldo, Dick Marston.

The Smarter Balanced test makes good sense for New Hampshire

The NECAP served its purpose

When the federal No Child Left Behind act required annual assessments of all public school students in grades 3-8 and 11, New Hampshire joined Rhode Island and Vermont – two other small states with small education budgets – to create the New England Common Assessment Program (NECAP). It was a fill-in-the-bubble, multiple choice test first administered in 2005.  Since 2009, Maine has used the NECAP as well.

…but the new Smarter Balanced test is much better

Now New Hampshire is part of a much larger consortium of states – the Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium – developing a modern test aligned to the new Common Core standards.  This computer adaptive test (it adjusts the student’s questions to the students abilities) is far better than the NECAP and was judged in a major study by the Michigan Department of Education to be the best in the country.  And, instead of testing our students in the fall and getting the results in April, when they are no longer relevant, the Smarter Balanced test will be given in the spring and the results will be available almost immediately.

So we are getting a far better test as the same price as the old NECAP.  New Hampshire teachers I have talked to have been very impressed with the new test and are looking forward to using it in their classrooms.


Some large Republican states are writing their own tests, but that kind of inside baseball does not matter to New Hampshire

Common Core opponents have made much of the fact that some large states have chosen to write their own Common Core tests rather than participate in Smarter Balanced or the other national testing consortium, PARCC.  When you look at the states involved, two things stand out.  Every one of them has a Republican governor and Republican-controlled legislature.  These folks are making a political statement, not an educational statement.  And they are all from large states that can afford the luxury of writing their own tests, the quality of which is yet to be determined.

The important thing is to use the test to improve instruction

And, of course, the new tests they are (talking about) writing are Common Core tests.  No state has dropped its commitment to the Common Core.  In fact, it looks as if the tide has turned in that debate.  Even Diane Ravitch, a critic of the Common Core, now says, “Those that like them should use them…Most objections to the standards are caused by the testing….Use them to enrich instruction, but not to standardize it.”

That’s just what New Hampshire does.  Testing is used here primarily to improve instruction and very little for accountability.  In fact, the New Hampshire agreement with the federal government is that neither the 2015 test or the 2016 test will be used for evaluating teachers – and even after that it will get minimal use for accountability.

The State has taken a lead role in developing the test and, in any case, would not have fiscal capacity to develop its own test as some large states are doing.  The inside baseball about which Republican states have switched to a different test vendor makes no real difference to New Hampshire.

Original Posted on ANHPE.org

Tea Party Legislators Push Bill To Shut Down NH Dept of Education

Are Tea Party legislators on a “search and destroy mission” aimed at the NH Department of Education? You decide.

From Bill Duncan and Advancing NH Public Education

In 2012, the O’Brien legislature considered shutting down the New Hampshire Department of Education.  Now in the minority, opponents of public education have taken a different approach.  On January 28, 2014, Rep. Jane Cormier (R-Alton) presented her bill, HB 1397, to authorize a stacked study committee  to go after DOE.

The thesis is that that DOE has gone rogue, establishing an unauthorized new division to implement the Common Core in a stealth mode.

There can be no doubt about the intention of the bill.  The study committee would be made up of 2 House Republicans, 2 House Democrats and one Republican appointed by the president of the Senate, a guaranteed Republican majority.  The next section, about Duties, sends the committee deep into conspiracy land to ferret out law-breaking within DOE.

The hearing brought Common Core opponents out in force, as you see on this highlight reel:


That’s not a recognizable portrait to most who deal with NHDOE.  Long time disability rights advocate Bonnie Dunham testified about how responsive DOE has been to her concerns and characterizes the bill as a “search and destroy mission.”


And here is Heather Gage, Director of the Division of Educational Improvement and Chief of Staff, New Hampshire Department of Education, responding to each issue raised by supporters.


There is little prospect that this bill will get serious support, but it will serve as an early indicator of where legislators stand on the Common Core.

James Milgram’s Dishonest Critique Of The Common Core Math Standards

Most critiques of the Common Core don’t hold up to scrutiny. Dr. James Milgram’s critiques never do.  His criticism of the math standards is the basis for most of the rest of the math criticism you hear, but is fundamentally dishonest.

Milgram uses a willful misreading of the Common Core standards to say that California’s pre-Common Core standards for kindergarten math were better.  He claims that, in the Common Core standards, numbers are “nothing more than oral and reading vocabulary,” while the California standards pushed deep into the meaning of numbers.  Actually, the two standards are very similar – both good at guiding teachers to engender a deep sense of the real meaning of numbers.

And, since the California standards were actually so similar to the Common Core standards, Milgram manages to undercut claims that the Common Core math standards are not “developmentally appropriate” for kindergarteners  – a claim definitively put to rest by New Hampshire kindergarten teachers here.

The details

Common Core opponents frequently refer to James Milgram’s critique of the math standards to support their assertion that the standards are not rigorous enough – don’t prepare students for algebra in the 8th grade, etc. – even while complaining that the kindergarten math standards are too hard, “developmentally inappropriate.”


But the closer you look, the more confused this critique seems to be.  Jamie Gass of the Pioneer Institute referred me to this paper by Milgram and Sandra Stotsky as the foundation for this kind of critique.  Milgram, presumably, did the math sections and Stotsky the English sections.  But there are several problems with the math critique here.

First, Milgram seems to have started with the desired conclusion – “The Common Core is all wrong” – and worked backwards to create the evidence.  On page 4, he says,

California’s standards first focus on numbers as objects with special properties—they can be compared, they have magnitude, and they can be also be added and subtracted. But in Common Core’s standards, numbers are nothing more than oral and reading vocabulary in kindergarten.

Then, in the worst form of scholarship, he quotes selectively from the Common Core standards to make his point.  He says, correctly, that the first three Common Core standards are:

1. Count to 100 by ones and by tens.

2. Count forward beginning from a given number within the known sequence (instead of having to begin at 1).

3. Write numbers from 0 to 20. Represent a number of objects with a written numeral 0-20 (with 0 representing a count of no objects).

Then, as you can see in the paper, he cites the California standards.  But, actually, the Common Core standards go on to say this:

4. Understand the relationship between numbers and quantities; connect counting to cardinality.

5. Count to answer “how many?” questions about as many as 20 things arranged in a line, a rectangular array, or a circle, or as many as 10 things in a scattered configuration; given a number from 1–20, count out that many objects.

6. Identify whether the number of objects in one group is greater than, less than, or equal to the number of objects in another group, e.g., by using matching and counting strategies.
7. Compare two numbers between 1 and 10 presented as written numerals.

So, actually, the Common Core standards call for almost precisely the same approach to teaching numbers in kindergarten as California did in its widely respected standards.

This example illustrates the fundamental dishonesty of Milgram’s approach to critiquing the Common Core.  It gives advocates like the Pioneer Institute something to say when they travel the country railing against federalism, but it doesn’t stand up to scrutiny.

Beyond that, however, Milgram unwittingly undercuts the charge Common Core opponents make the that standards are not “developmentally appropriate.”  The only real difference between the California kindergarten math standards -widely regarded as “appropriate” and wise – and the Common Core is that the California standards had the kids counting to 30 (as New Hampshire and other states did) and now the goal is for students to count to 100, a goal that New Hampshire kindergarten teachers are finding entirely achievable.


From ANHPE post. 

Get this: Privatizers see the Common Core as a Distraction from school choice!

I always consider policy discussions about privatization – proposals to dismantle public education and replace it with charters, vouchers and home schools  – a distraction from the real project of making our public schools the best in the world.  But anti-Common Core activists have the gall to see the work needed to move our schools forward – like increasing expectations by instituting higher standards like the Common Core – as a distraction from their privatization goal!

Just think about that.

New Hampshire’s anti-Common Core activists express these very views (a point I first made here) but the American Principles Project further fleshed out this manifesto on its blog a couple of days ago.  Here’s an excerpt:

American Principles Project has been an advocate for school choice since our inception.  We have been alarmed how the Common Core State Standards  has been an intrusion for private schools and even homeschoolers.  In principle we desire greater choice in education as parents should have sovereignty over how their children learn.  The Common Core diminishes parental choice as they are confronted by “common standards” at every turn.  Robert Holland of The Heartland Institute gave a dire warning last month saying that the Common Core would cripple school choice.

Ultimately, disempowerment may be the main reason for parental angst. Unless it is stopped, Common Core will deliver a devastating blow to parental choice at all levels. The one, limited power possessed by most public-school parents is the ability to seek change at the local school board. Unfortunately, the corporate and foundation-funded sponsors of CCSS copyrighted the standards and set up no process for local amendment.

The greatest leverage for parents comes when they can use vouchers or tax-credit scholarships to transfer their children to private or parochial schools. But even in a state with as strong a voucher program as Indiana, the government requires schools accepting voucher students to administer the official test, which has opened the door wide to CCSS-style assessment. Thus will governmental creep dilute the liberating effect of school choice.

Nor will homeschooling parents be exempt if CCSS stands, because many states also require home educators to administer the official test. Even more insidious, Common Core lead writer David Coleman (formerly a testing consultant) now heads the College Board and has vowed to align the SAT with the nationalized standards. Thus any student—whether from public, private, parochial, or home school—will have to be Common Core-acclimated.


via Common Core Is a Distraction From School Choice.

So there you have it.  The privatizers see the Common Core as a threat to their goal of dismantling American public education.  Naturally.

Granite State Progress Asks ‘Who Is Really Funding The Josiah Bartlett Center and The NH Watchdog?’

New Report Reveals the Koch-Fueled, ALEC-Allied Corporate Agenda Josiah Bartlett Center and NH Watchdog Don’t Want Public to Know About

New Hampshire report part of multi-state expose on ALEC’s use of front groups to push national corporate agenda at the expense of middle class families 

Report highlights examples of Josiah Bartlett Center and NH Watchdog misleading policymakers, press, and public about role as paid lobbyists for corporate interests  

CONCORD, NH – This morning Granite State Progress and the Center for Media and Democracy formerly released the new report “Bad Bartlett: The Josiah Bartlett Center and NH Watchdog Answer the Call of the Koch Brothers” detailing how state-based Josiah Bartlett Center and the New Hampshire Watchdog are not independent and unbiased as they claim, and instead work hand in hand with the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) and other corporate-funded special interest groups to advocate for public policies designed to benefit their corporate funders.

“Our research shows how the Josiah Bartlett Center and the New Hampshire Watchdog work hand in hand with ALEC to act as paid lobbyists for controversial, corporate-driven policies, without disclosing those ties to the public and instead actually working to deflect increased public scrutiny of the corporate corruption of our legislative process,” said Zandra Rice Hawkins, executive director of Granite State Progress. “Josiah Bartlett Center and the NH Watchdog are just a different face for the same Koch-fueled, ALEC-allied corporate agenda that is attacking New Hampshire middle class families and hurting our communities.”

The new report details how the Josiah Bartlett Center and NH Watchdog falsely claim to be independent, local operators when in fact they are part of the State Policy Network, a national Koch-funded, ALEC-allied network of organizations. The Josiah Bartlett Center, NH Watchdog, and other State Policy Network member groups advocate for a national agenda driven by out-of-state corporate actors. Be it the economy, environment, education, workers’ rights or access to health care, State Policy Network member groups promote policies that are not only designed to fatten the bottom line of their corporate funders, but are consistently harmful to New Hampshire.

“Granite Staters need to know how these groups misrepresent themselves and their agenda, and how much influence they maintain over lawmakers,” said Rice Hawkins. “We will continue to shine a bright light on ALEC, front groups like the Josiah Bartlett Center and NH Watchdog, and the lawmakers who are doing their dirty work rather than acting in the best interests of our state.”

Key findings of the report include:

  • The Josiah Bartlett Center is a member of the State Policy Network and the NH Watchdog – embedded at the Josiah Bartlett Center – is run by the far-right Franklin Center for Government and Public Integrity. Both networks have close ties to the American Legislative Exchange Council, the Koch brothers, and the Heritage Foundation among others.
  • The legislative agenda of the Josiah Bartlett Center and NH Watchdog align closely with other Koch-funded groups such as Americans for Prosperity and ALEC, and the organizations play a specific role in the overall strategy for advancing these objectives.
  • Staff of both organizations lobby on legislation at the state level – spending time producing reports, creating statistics, talking points, “expert” testimony, videos, and a raft of other materials – yet refuse to file as lobbyists or disclose their ties. Former NH Watchdog staffer Grant Bosse even testified on legislation before a committee as a ‘reporter’ speaking on his own behalf without disclosing that he had been paid with corporate donations to issue reports attacking the policy in question.  (pages 20-21 of report)
  • Josiah Bartlett Center and NH Watchdog have received direct funding from the Koch family fortune despite their claims otherwise. The staff members for both the Josiah Bartlett Center and the NH Watchdog wrote opinion columns in the past two years in which they denied receiving Koch funding and attempted to deflect criticism of other corporate-funded entities such as the American Legislative Exchange Council. The Bad Bartlett report provides irrefutable evidence that the Bartlett Center and NH Watchdog intentionally mislead policymakers, press, and the public about the funding they receive to advocate for corporate-written legislation. (pages 8, 13-14, 32-35)

Lisa Graves, Executive Director, Center for Media and Democracy (CMD): “While State Policy Network members go on television and represent themselves as nonpartisan, objective scholars on issues of public policy, in actuality SPN is a front for corporate interests with an extreme national policy agenda tied to some of the most retrograde groups in the country, including the billionaire Koch brothers, the Waltons, the Bradley Foundation, the Roe Foundation, and the Coors family.”

“The bottom line is these organizations of the rich, by the rich and for the rich are representing themselves as groups that are looking out for the best interests of everyday, working class Americans and it’s just a blatant lie.  What we’re doing is trying to bring some transparency to the damaging work they’re doing on a daily basis.  From policies that promote polluting the air and water to the destruction of our public education system and a tax system that benefits their rich donors, what these organizations are doing is shameful and it’s time that someone brought this to light.”

Bill Duncan, Founder, NH Advancing Public Education: “New Hampshire residents have a right to know who is writing their laws and who is advocating for them. The Josiah Bartlett Center has a nice-sounding, local name, but the fact that they go to such great lengths to hide their connections to groups like ALEC or funders like the Koch brothers while advocating for the very policy agenda supplied by those groups and funders should raise the eyebrows of anyone.”

Today’s report was released as a follow-up to previous reports by Granite State Progress and the Center for Media and Democracy exposing how corporate-funded ALEC’s agenda is not based upon ideology, but rather upon financial rewards for its corporate funders. ALEC “model bills” that have been introduced in New Hampshire by ALEC representatives benefit corporations at the expense of everyday Granite Staters.

The report can be found online at www.GraniteStateProgress.org.


Are the Common Core math standards “developmentally appropriate” for Kindergarteners?

Are the Common Core math standards “developmentally appropriate” for Kindergarteners? It depends, as always, on who’s teaching.

Opponents say that the Common Core standards, especially the math standards, are not developmentally appropriate for Kindergarteners.

But many New Hampshire Kindergarten and early grade teachers are using the math standards successfully.  When I ask, they say that Kindergarteners can definitely achieve the goals set out in the standards, under the right conditions.  One condition is that the child is prepared – meaning that she’s attended high quality pre-K or her parents have provided a rich environment full of words and numbers.

The second requirement is that she must have access to full day kindergarten.  We know that frequently is not the case, particularly for low income students.  But it appears that, at least partly, it’s about preparation, not something inherent in a five year-old’s stage of development.  So a state’s early childhood development policies are the issue, not really the Common Core or any other standard.

“But,” many say, “5 year olds need to play and discover together.  They need social and emotional development, not academic instruction.”  This is not really a Common Core issue either.  It is a long-running debate that predates the Common Core and will probably go on for a long time.  Some schools, including many Montessori and Waldorf schools, are better at combining play and learning than others.  And some teachers are.  So there’s real pedagogy involved.  But it doesn’t appear to be an issue of what a 5 year-old is developmentally prepared to do.


Here’s a typical post from a Common Core opponent – blogger Anthony Cody, in this case – saying that the goals the standards set for Kindergarteners are inappropriate”

Error #2: The Common Core Standards violate what we know about how children develop and grow.

One of the problems with the blinkered development process described above is that no experts on early childhood were included in the drafting or internal review of the Common Core.

In response to the Common Core, more than 500 experts signed the Joint Statement of Early Childhood Health and Education Professionals on the Common Core Standards Initiative. This statement now seems prophetic in light of what is happening in classrooms. The key concerns they raised were:

1.            Such standards will lead to long hours of instruction in literacy and math.
2.            They will lead to inappropriate standardized testing
3.            Didactic instruction and testing will crowd out other important areas of learning.
4.            There is little evidence that such standards for young children lead to later success.

Many states are now developing standards and tests for children in kindergarten, 1st grade, and 2nd grade, to “prepare” them for the Common Core. Early childhood education experts agree that this is developmentally inappropriate. Young children do not need to be subjected to standardized tests. Just recently, the parents of a k-2 school refused to allow their children to be tested. They were right to do so.

Mr. Cody makes a common mistake here, confusing the Common Core with the way certain states implement it.  In New York, a state with among the worst education policies in the country, all the bad things he enumerates do happen – but they would happen with or without the Common Core.

In fact, if you are willing to risk depression, watch the video posted here showing a NY teacher drilling disengaged Kindergartners in counting.  And this is presented as a model by engageNY.org, the official  New York State Education Department website set up to support the state’s education reform agenda.

Notice that the blogger makes the same mistake Mr. Cody does – he attributes this offensive teaching strategy to the Common Core when it’s actually the result of New York’s dishearteningly misguided public education policy.

People concerned about the importance of play and discovery for young children refer to studies like these to make the case that the Common Core standards are inappropriate, but clearly what’s appropriate is a matter of how it’s taught.

I asked a young NY mom the other day whether her four year-old’s private school – known for its commitment to play, discovery and development of “the whole child” – would consider this sample Kindergarten math standard developmentally appropriate:

“Count to 100 by ones and by tens.”

She didn’t know for sure but emailed me a couple of days later, saying,

“Jason[a pseudonym] and his classmates decided yesterday to measure the length of their classroom. They are using small colored cubes like the ones we have at home, and they laid out several hundred of them in a line across the floor.  Their job today is counting them.

So take a guess what sign showed up on the wall this morning to facilitate the counting – a chart with numbers from 1 to 50 and then numbers by 10s to 100 after that…

So there you have it – teaching to the Common Core math standard by mind-numbing drill or by mind-expanding discovery.  And within a few feet of each other!

Mr. Cody and Mr. Cerrone are not alone in making this obvious error.  Most Common Core opponents do it: show bad teaching or kids under stress from NY or somewhere else and attribute it to the new standards.

Why would they do this?  Because they are using the issue as a political tool to scare parents about the Common Core rather than actually engaging in the early childhood development debate about what’s best for kids.

A commentator concerned about the issue instead of using it to make a political point would approach the question entirely differently.  Here is Daniel Willingham talking about whether a particular approach to teaching is appropriate for first graders.

…you can’t always wait until children are “ready.” Think about mathematics. Children are born understanding numerosity, but they understand it on a logarithmic scale–the difference between five and ten is larger than the difference between 70 and 75. To understand elementary mathematics they must learn to think of numbers of a linear scale. In this case, teachers have toundo Nature. And if you wait until the child is “developmentally ready” to understand numbers this way, you’ll never teach them mathematics. It will never happen.

In sum, I don’t think developmental psychology is a good guide to what children should learn; it provides some help in thinking about how children learn. The best guide to “what” is what children know now, and where you want their learning to head.

Dr. Willingham is not in some political fox hole lobbing out whatever ammunition he has to defeat the new standards that must be bad because Bill Gates supports them.  He’s just trying to figure out the best way to help kids learn.  Mr. Cody and Mr. Cerrone should come out of their fox holes and learn from Dr. Willingham.

Reposted from ANHPE Blog

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