Sunday, March 31, 2013

CCSS 7th Grade ELA: Cesar Chavez

Is it odd that Google chose to celebrate the birthday of radical community organizer socialist, Cesar Chavez, on Easter Sunday rather than the resurrection of the Savior, Jesus Christ?

Sadly, not really.

So, we felt it was a good time to point out the 7th grade Common Core ELA lesson plan involving Cesar Chavez.   First, the teacher makes a claim and then the student has to read the passage and find supporting evidence for that claim.  Then, they write their completely unbiased and unpolitical summary of the supporting evidence for the claim made by the teacher.

Friday, March 29, 2013

CCSS Data Mining Bedfellows: Children's Health Act of 2000

In 2000, President Clinton signed the Children's Health Act of 2000.  The program was fully implemented by 2007. Federal funding went from $69M in 2007 to $193M in 2012.  Here's why:

A new study under the Children's Health Act began in 2009 called the National Children's Study. 

"The National Children’s Study is a longitudinal birth cohort observational study with the overall goal to improve the health and well-being of children and to identify antecedents of healthy adulthood by examining the effects of a broad range of environmental influences and biological factors. The National Children’s Study will produce an unprecedented amount of pertinent information and provide a foundation to analyze factors that contribute to growth, development, health, and disease to guide science and policy...The National Children’s Study leadership is committed to a data-driven, evidence-based, and community and participant informed model for decision making."

The Study will look at all parts of our children’s environment—defined broadly to include not only the air and water, but also what they eat, how they are cared for, the safety of their neighborhoods, how often they see a health care provider—to find out how these factors affect children’s health.
Data collected in the Study could help researchers and health care providers learn more about birth defects and other pregnancy-related problems, injuries, asthma, obesity and diabetes, and behavior, learning, and mental health.

The National Children's Study is led by the Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development of the National Institutes of Health (NIH) in collaboration with a consortium of federal government partners such as the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences of the NIH, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and the Environmental Protection Agency.
The initial plan was to observe children in "underserved" and "underrepresented" communities and recruit women in select neighborhoods by going door to door.  This proved to be too difficult to find the necessary 100,000 participants, so the strategy was changed to recruit through health care providers.  This way, they could also collect information from routine health care visits by using electronic health records.  

Teaching hospitals and Universities, such as the University of Arizona, have been retained under a contract from the federal government to collect data for the program.  The federal government has also awarded contracts to organizations such as the Battelle Memorial Institute to help facilitate the study.

Battelle partners with the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, Carnegie Corporation of NY (who donates to groups like the Tides Foundation and Center for American Progress), and the Joyce Foundation.  Another interesting partner is Pearson, the company who is producing the scoring programs for the Common Core exams which will collect all kinds of data mining information.

Battelle is also a part of Achieve, which is funded by the same groups mentioned above, who created the Common Core State Standards in Math, ELA and the soon to be released Next Generation of Science Standards.

Arne Duncan's Chief of Staff, Joanne Weiss, did encourage different government organizations as well as states to use "data-mashing" as much as possible. With a group like Battelle working on both the National Children's Study and the CCSS and their tech-saavy partners (Microsoft, Pearson), they will be able to collect all KINDS of information on our children.  Especially those in underserved and underrepresented communites.

A reminder of the education goals from the United Nations in 2012:

"Improving data collection and developing capacity for its effective use, are essential for effective policy and governance.  Disaggregated data should be generated and used in addressing inequalities."

And the goals of the National Children's Study:

"The National Children’s Study will produce an unprecedented amount of pertinent information and provide a foundation to analyze factors that contribute to growth, development, health, and disease to guide science and policy...The National Children’s Study leadership is committed to a data-driven, evidence-based, and community and participant informed model for decision making."
Considering what information the government is already collecting, this can't possibly end well.

Thursday, March 28, 2013

Rich Crandall's Arrogance Is Showing

 Or should we say.....ignorance?

Our State Senator, Rich Crandall, responded to a constituents concern about the Common Core State Standards by emailing the following:

It is unfortunate that a few crazy folks have twisted so much what this bill did. There are four instigators (three in Arizona and one in Colorado) who are determined to undo the progress we have made the past five years on higher standards and a replacement for AIMS. I have met with them, so has John Huppenthal, and everyone else associated with Arizona education. No matter what we tell them they will not believe anything we say. They know the United Nations, Intel and Agenda 21 are brainwashing our children, all in the name of corporate profits. We have decided not to waste any more time since their minds are already made up. It doesn’t do any good to engage them because they are so filled with conspiracy theories. Not much more I can tell you. Sorry. If we are going to move to a new exam, whether it is Common Core, ACT, SAT or any other exam, we cannot have a requirement that it be required for high school graduation in its first few years of administration. That is all this bill did was eliminate the requirement that it be a high school graduation requirement and that we do not have to take a national norm referenced exam. It is not related to Common Core but the tin foil crowd will not believe anything John or I tell them.
Bill Gates and fellow billionaire Eli Broad spent $25M to put education front and center during the 2008 presidential election. When people were more interested in making fun of Sarah Palin than focusing on issues, their education effort was sidelined.
"Now Gates and Broad knew they were going to have to engage more directly with the school systems they hoped to change, by either influencing the elected officials and policymakers who ran them or getting their own people seats at the tables where the systemwide decisions were being made."
It's not a conspiracy if it's spelled out in black and white.  These same companies have already partnered with the United Nations to create a common core in Arab countries and the EU.  Just like they did in the United States.  Does Crandall think that corporations like Microsoft, Intel, and Cisco are developing the massive takeover of our education system for free?
But, what does Crandall care?  He did what he was supposed to do in the legislature to ensure that CCSS and the necessary testing was signed, sealed and delivered.
And like a true coward, is now retiring.

Alinsky's 5th Rule for Radicals: 
"Ridicule is man's most potent weapon."
There is no defense.  It's irrational.  It's infuriating.  It also works as a key pressure point to force the enemy into concessions.


Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Common Core Scoring By Pearson's "Experts"

Part of the required upgrades to implement Common Core will be for computer generated scoring of the exams.  One such program is the Intelligent Essay Assessor (IEA) by Pearson.  In fact, Pearson paid for three overseas trips in 2011 for our State Superintendent, John Huppenthal, involving the CCSSO.


With their partnership with the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, Pearson has developed an "Artificial Intelligence" scoring program.  They claim:

So, the "experts" tell the computer what to scan for in their IntelliMetric system.  The "experts" decide what information is important for a student to regurgitate and what is not.  Here is a sample values clarification question in our new "internationally benchmarked" curriculum on Population Distribution:


 This is the essay being scored:

 And this is a list of criteria that the computer will be programmed to look for and where the student will need to improve.  For example, this particular student needs to focus their efforts more on population distribution and the challenges of population growth.   
Luckily, the student will have six more tries to get it right.  Afterall, it IS a more rigorous curriculum.
Here is another Language sample essay on Community Service which dovetails nicely with Obama's new Executive Order to use young members of the taxpayer subsidized AmeriCorps to try and turn around failing schools:
So, even with an essay that would seem to encourage a student to write about an emotional and personal subject, Pearson admits that IEA can't evaluate creativity or reflective thinking.  Only "factual topics":
What key words and "facts" would the so-called "experts" look for in an essay such as the one listed above?  Will there be no recourse for a student who questions the results if the person who graded the exam wasn't even their teacher?  These aren't simple multiple choice answers.
Finally, we will be forced to use this kind of technology even though the company that created it admits that "while IntelliMetric seeks to model a human brain to score essays, it pales in comparison to the human brain."

Common Core Automated Scoring: e-Rater

One of the major requirements for full implementation of the CCSS is the technology necessary to score the assessments. 
Testing of the Common Core Standards will require enough computers or tablets for students to take the exams plus enough bandwidth to accommodate hundreds of students taking the same test at the same time.
Technology will also be required to create an automated scoring system for the Common Core Standards assessments.  Such companies as the Educational Testing Service (ETS) who partnered with Pearson and The College Board, developed a program called e-Rater. 

Just so you know what we're dealing with, in 2009, ETS produced a guide for "Fairness Review in Testing."  Here is the stated purpose for this guide:


The primary purpose of the ETS Guidelines for Fairness Review of Assessments is to enhance the fairness of tests. These guidelines are intended to help the people who design, develop, and review ETS items and tests to

• better understand fairness in assessment,
• avoid the inclusion of unfair content or images in tests as they are developed,
• find and eliminate any unfair content or images in tests as they are reviewed, and
• reduce subjective differences in decisions about fairness.
And here are some of the suggestions:

Now that we know what is NOT allowed to be tested, let's look at what IS tested:

While products such as e-Rater is capable of grading upwards of 16,000 essays in less than a minute, it doesn't "identify truth."  ETS even acknowledges that "e-Rater is not designed to be a fact checker.”  According to Les Perelman from MIT,  robo-readers like e-Rater is "easily gamed, is vulnerable to test prep, sets a very limited and rigid standard for what good writing is, and will pressure teachers to dumb down writing instruction."
The e-Rater’s biggest problem, he says, is that it can’t identify truth. He tells students not to waste time worrying about whether their facts are accurate, since pretty much any fact will do as long as it is incorporated into a well-structured sentence. “e-Rater doesn’t care if you say the War of 1812 started in 1945,” he said.

Mr. Perelman tested e-Rater's scoring capabilities using an essay about "why college costs are so high."

 Mr. Perelman wrote that the No. 1 reason is excessive pay for greedy teaching assistants.
“The average teaching assistant makes six times as much money as college presidents,” he wrote. “In addition, they often receive a plethora of extra benefits such as private jets, vacations in the south seas, starring roles in motion pictures.”
e-Rater gave him a 6. He tossed in a line from Allen Ginsberg’s “Howl,” just to see if he could get away with it.
He could.
Mr. Perelman takes great pleasure in fooling e-Rater. He has written an essay, then randomly cut a sentence from the middle of each paragraph and has still gotten a 6.
Two former students who are computer science majors told him that they could design an Android app to generate essays that would receive 6’s from e-Rater. He says the nice thing about that is that smartphones would be able to submit essays directly to computer graders, and humans wouldn’t have to get involved.
At least e-Rater allowed their product to be tested.  Other companies like Vantage and Pearson did not.
This doesn't sound like an "internationally bench marked curriculum."  Well, except for the part about making sure the United States doesn't come across as superior.
Next, we'll look at how companies like Vantage and Pearson plan to score the Common Core Assessments.

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Our Education Leaders Received "Gifts" From Groups Pushing CCSS

Some of our elected leaders have received some very generous "gifts" over the last few years from the very groups who have been shoving the CCSS mess down our throats.  These generous donors have been involved with writing the standards, coordinating for common testing and establishing a data collection system.  They also provide scholarship programs for low income and disadvantaged students and everything else in between.

For example, here is Rich Crandall's 2010 financial disclosure statement where he received over $2000:

Who are these donors?

National Conference of State Legislatures is the group allowing themselves to be used in an effort to make Common Core appear to be "state-led."  Our own Rep. Doris Goodale is also a member of the NCSL and who sponsored HB2047 to replace the AIMS testing with PARCC. When that bill failed, Rich Crandall was prepared to come up from behind and pick up the slack with his Crandall Amendment in HB2425. 

The Foundation for Excellence in Education is a "nonprofit, nonpartisan organization, focused on education reform, state-by-state."  A partner of the Foundation for Excellence in Education is Jeb Bush and Joel Klein's Digital Learning Council which Rich Crandall is a member.

Achieve, Inc was the organization tasked with writing the Common Core State Standards.  In fact, the Chairman of the Board is Dr. Craig Barrett, former CEO of Intel who Governor Brewer tapped to head her Arizona Ready Council in Arizona to push for the implementation of the CCSS.   Achieve's biggest donor is the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation along with other leftist donors such as the Hewlett Foundation, Lumina Foundation, and Carnegie Corporation, just to name a few.

College Board facilitates the common college entrance exams and focuses on aide to low income and disadvantaged students.  College Board is also pushing for the CCSS to go along with their "common" college exams and receive hefty donations from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.

Rich Crandall's 2011 "gifts"

(1) National Conference of State Legislatures

(2) Lumina Foundation who donates to groups such as the Center for American Progress, Brookings Institute and Aspen Institute.

(4)  West Ed whose Board of Directors include John Huppenthal and several Arizona School Superintendents.  Their funding comes from groups such as the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, Carnegie Foundation, and the Hewlett Foundation (who donates to the Soros' Tides Foundation and the United Nations).

(5) National Center on Education and the Economy  funded by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, Carnegie, Lumina, Annie Casey Foundation, etc.  It was the NCEE who produced the international education benchmark piece called Tough Choices or Tough Times funded almost exclusively by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.  Arizona's AIMS Task Force was introduced to this piece in March 2009. 

(6) Education Commission of the States.  Rep. Doris Goodale is a member of the ECS Committee and receives funding from many of the same organizations listed above.

(7)  Data Quality Campaign  who has been organizing the data collection for CCSS and assessments.  Major funding comes from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. 

(8)  American Diploma Project launched by Achieve in 2005.

(9)  Foundation for Excellence in Education  (see above)

Rich Crandall's 2012 "gifts"

Same groups as 2011 plus McGraw Hill, another company ready to implement CCSS.

How incredibly convenient that after the mess regarding the Republican Victory Fund, Crandall decides to quit.  Right after he helps push through the final important pieces of legislation to fully implement the  state-led  United Nations led CCSS.

Who else received "gifts"?

Newly elected State Superintendent, John Huppenthal in 2011: Trips to China, Brazil and Japan with the Pearson Foundation, a British education publishing company and partner of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation pushing for digital learning programs. Pearson donates to Jeb Bush's Foundation for Excellence in Education.  Why did Huppenthal have to travel to China, Brazil and Japan? 

Representative Doris Goodale in 2011 from Jeb Bush's Foundation for Excellence in Education.

Senator Kimberly Yee in 2012 for her participation as a judge at a Microsoft Partners in Learning Forum.  Partners in Learning is Bill Gates' global technology and digital learning initiative to basically encourage educators around the world to use his products.

Speaker of the House Kirk Adams in 2010 who attended meetings paid for by the Lumina Foundation and that Aspen-Rodel Fellowship.  Aspen's goals are to 
  • Continue to grow the leadership initiatives globally and expand public programs.

  • Provide opportunities for more horizontal integration across programs by linking public programs, leadership initiatives and policy programs. Environment, education, and health are the initial areas for cross- fertilization.

  • Representative Steve Court in 2010 received gifts from the NCSL and the Foundation for Excellence in Education.

    Representative Heather Carter attended a meeting in 2011 for the Data Quality Campaign.

    Senator Linda Gray who attended a bunch of education conferences in 2011 for the NCSL, Education Commission of the States, and the Casey Foundation who donates to the NCEE and other groups supporting the CCSS.

    Crandall, Goodale, Yee, Carter, Gray and Court were all members of the legislature's Education Committee at the time of the "gifts." Huppenthal, of course, had just been elected as the new State Superintendent.  Our Governor and Superintendent Horne had just signed the Memo of Understanding (MOU) to implement the CCSS in June 2010.  It would appear that our legislators were being schmoozed into supporting the necessary legislation in order to fully implement not only the CCSS but the important PARCC exams and data collection as well.
    Feeling a little taken advantage of yet?

    Monday, March 25, 2013

    United Nations, Microsoft, Data Collection And The Beginnings Of Common Core

    In April 2000, the United Nations Education, Science and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) met in Dakar, Senegal. UNESCO's goals are "to contribute to the building of peace, the eradication of poverty, sustainable development and intercultural dialogue through education, the sciences, culture, communication and information. Other priorities of the Organization include attaining quality education for all and lifelong learning, addressing emerging social and ethical challenges, fostering cultural diversity, a culture of peace and building inclusive knowledge societies through information and communication." 

    "Education for all", "lifelong learners" and "quality education" are all familiar buzz words used today.  

    Back in 2000, during his final days in office, Bill Clinton's Administration signed off on a UNESCO agreement known as the Dakar Framework for Action, "Education for All."  This was a set of education goals to be achieved by 2015.  In fact, Obama's National Economic Council Director, Gene Sperling, spoke at the UNESCO 2000 Conference.  At that time, Sperling was Clinton's NEC Advisor.  Some of the Dakar Framework commitments include: 

    Expanding and improving comprehensive early childhood care and education, especially for the most vulnerable and disadvantaged children; 

    Ensuring that by 2015 all children, particularly girls, children in difficult circumstances and those belonging to ethnic minorities, have access to and complete free and compulsory primary education of good quality; 

    Improving all aspects of the quality of education and ensuring excellence of all so that recognized and measurable learning outcomes are achieved by all, especially in literacy, numeracy and essential life skills.  

    (The first subjects of the Common Core State Standards were in English Language Arts and Math)

    The Dakar Framework directs participating countries to achieve these goals by investing in NATIONAL action plans.  Much of the Framework also includes the development of monitoring systems.

    Ensure the engagement and participation of civil society in the formulation, implementation and monitoring of strategies for educational development.

    Develop responsive, participatory and accountable systems of educational governance and management.

    Systematically monitor progress towards EFA goals and strategies at the national, regional, and international levels.
    Build on existing mechanisms to accelerate progress towards education for all. ..We affirm that no countries seriously committed to education for all will be thwarted in their achievement of this goal by a lack of resources.
    Undertaking more effective and regular monitoring of progress towards EFA goals and targets, including periodic assessments.

    It is...essential that new, concrete financial commitments be made by national governments and also by bilateral and multilateral donors including the World Bank and the regional development banks, by civil society and by foundations.

    Political will and stronger national leadership are needed for the effective and successful implementation of national plans in each of the countries concerned.

     Common Core was "state-led?"  Really?

    In 2006, UNESCO published a
    UNESCO-Private Partnership brochure emphasizing that working with the private sector is a necessity, not an option.  They state that "Responsible behavior, global citizenship, solidarity and peace are at the centre of UNESCO's value propositions.  They also make good long-term business sense by positioning the private sector and, in particular, the business community as key drivers of sustainable development." 

    Some of these private partners include Bill Gates' Microsoft, Cisco and INTEL.  The same companies who funded the writing of the CCSS, the assessments and data collection.

    In October 2012, the 6th UNESCO Collective Consulation of NGO's on Education for All meeting took place in Paris, France.  This was a meeting to discuss the final push for EFA by 2015.
    One of the final goals listed included:
    Improving data collection and developing capacity for its effective use, are essential for effective policy and governance. Disaggregated data should be generated and used in addressing inequalities.

    Member States guarantee institutionalized mechanisms for civil society participation in policy development and monitoring at the national level.

    UNESCO secures and disseminates quality data and analysis, and assists Member States to strengthen their database systems in order to inform policy development.

    Now, why would the United Nations be interested in collecting this kind of data?  Particularly, disaggregated data?  And why did our country sign off on this intrusion of our privacy?
    Is it any wonder why Bill Gates and Microsoft joined with UNESCO in 2004 to "support the use of technology to transform education, reduce poverty and help address the digital divide?"

    Would you be surprised to learn that Microsoft, Cisco, INTEL and the International Science and Technology in Education (ISTE) teamed up with UNESCO on an Information and Communication Techololgy (ICT) program to develop the ICT Competency Framework for Teachers (ICT-CFT) project?

    Which might be known under their other name...the Common Core

    You might recognize one of the goals:

     Knowledge Deepening:

    The aim of the knowledge deepening approach is to increase the ability of students, citizens, and the workforce to add value to society and to the economy by applying the knowledge gained in school subjects to solve complex, high priority problems encountered in real world situations of work, society and in life generally. Such problems might relate to the environment, food security, health, and conflict resolution. With this approach, teachers should understand policy goals and social priorities and be able to identify, design and use specific classroom activities that address these goals and priorities. This approach often requires changes in the curriculum that emphasize depth of understanding over coverage of content and assessments that emphasize the application of understanding to real-world problems.

    If only there was a way for other nations to compare THEIR standards to ours. 

    "The absence of a common internationally recognized standard in the area of ICT integration, as well as training based on those standards, prevents having a consistent method to assess teacher competency."

    Oh wait.  They're already working on that.

    Common Core in the Arab World