Category Archives: Pushed By Big Business

CCSS Is Pushed by Big Business

Jeremy Thiesfeldt’s Bill to Silence School Boards, Principals, and Administrators


If man is going to rescue himself from a future intolerable existence, he must first see where his unmindful escalation is leading him.” - Laurence J. Peter, The Peter Principle (1969)

Rising to the Level of His Incompetence

It pains me deeply to say this, but Jeremy Thiesfeldt, since his appointment as chairman of the Assembly Committee on Education, has become one of the Wisconsin State Legislature’s clearest illustrations of the Peter Principle, often summed up as “rising to the level of one’s incompetence.” Having jettisoned any shred of backbone that he had previously demonstrated, Thiesfeldt has now become little more than a shill, doing the bidding of education deformers in state government and their federal and corporate buddies.

The first major sign that Thiesfeldt had ejected his own backbone was his “authorship” and advancement of a deeply flawed accountability bill early this year. His defense of the bill before his own newly minted committee was nothing short of embarrassing. It was clear to everyone watching that he had little understanding of what was in his own bill, much less the mechanics or validity of what it proposed. He demonstrated even less comprehension of the bill’s detrimental implications.

His most recent actions, however, should cause more than alarm in parents, school board members, and others. To be frank, they should spark outright revolt.

AB 239, a bill Thiesfeldt introduced last spring–and which passed in the Assembly on October 27th in a troublingly amended form also submitted by Thiesfeldt–contains language that directly prohibits school board members, principals, administrators, and others from advising parents to opt their children out of standardized assessments.

Here’s the language. See for yourself…

Section 4. 118.30 (2) (b) 8. of the statutes is created to read: 118.30 (2) (b) 8. No school board, school district administrator, principal of a public school, operator of a charter school…or governing body of a private school participating in the [voucher] program may encourage or counsel a parent or guardian to make a request…to excuse a pupil from taking an examination.

“Helping Parents” by Gagging Their Local Representation

AB 239 (and its identical companion, SB 193, helpfully introduced by Senator Duey Stroebel) ostensibly began as a means of protecting parental rights. It was drafted last spring, after a Fond du Lac mother was told that she would not be permitted to opt her child out of Common Core-aligned assessments. Based on outdated and poorly worded language in state statutes, school officials insisted that only parents of children in certain grade levels had the right to say no to the assessments.

Thiesfeldt leapt to the rescue, drafting legislation that expanded the number of grades covered in statute. Yet, despite abundant evidence that children are being assessed at younger and younger ages, the proposed language failed to protect K-2 students and their parents.

While I would not call Thiesfeldt’s solution exactly damaging, neither was it particularly strong or valuable. In fact, it left room for precisely the same difficulties that had prompted Thiesfeldt to act in the first place. Moreover, it continued to frame opting out as a privilege granted by the state. Quite simply, opting out is a parental right. Thus, a far better approach would have been for Thiesfeldt to propose striking the problematic language altogether, replacing it with, if anything, a passage affirming the right of parents to opt their child out of any assessment at any grade level–at any time and for any reason.

In June, after Thiesfeldt’s bill had already been introduced and widely touted as a protection of parental rights (which, as I’ve already explained, it really wasn’t), Thiesfeldt quietly offered a substitute amendment. For those not familiar with that terminology, substitute amendments are significantly re-drafted bill language. They replace in full a bill’s original language.

The language cited above magically appeared in Thiesfeldt’s substitute amendment. Its effects are manifold, but none of them are positive. In fact, the language is the height of hypocrisy several times over.

Kicking Parents and Local Control in the Teeth

For starters, the bill claims to protect parental rights while simultaneously curtailing the rights of the very people elected to represent parents at the local level–their school board members. So, while Thiesfeldt claims to champion local control and parental rights, his language would actually deal a serious blow to both. It amounts to a state edict, prohibiting local school board members from achieving key aspects of what they were elected to do: consider and represent the best interests of local parents and taxpayers.

School boards aren’t a one-way street. They are a local manifestation of representative government. At least, that’s what they’re supposed to be. Not only are school boards elected to represent the will of parents and taxpayers, they have an ethical and fiduciary duty to communicate with those constituents when they have reason to believe that policies or initiatives would cause harm to a district’s students or to their educational opportunities and experience. Yet, Thiesfeldt’s language would curtail this necessary and ethical communication of school boards should it contravene or become inconvenient to the state’s desire to keep the assessment machine running and the stream of personally identifiable student data flowing. It’s one more example of the degree to which local control has become an utter fiction in Wisconsin and that its death has been shepherded not just by Democrats but with the full assistance and initiative of Republicans.

Moreover, the administrative staff of any given district are–in theory, if not current practice–supposed to be directly accountable to the local school board. If local administrative staff feel that opt-out is in the best interests of their students, teachers, and school/s, then they should absolutely be in communication with the school board and working with them to formulate a plan for responsibly advising parents. Should the school board disagree with those administrators, it should remain a matter to be hammered out locally. The state has exactly zero purview to enforce a gag order on any of these people.

Or are we now living in a soviet?

Are local school boards and administrators really just supposed to be consensus-building apparatchiks for a central authority?

Sure seems like that’s what Thiesfeldt’s legislation aims toward.

But fear not, I’m sure the state will do a far better job at graciously, wisely, and benevolently managing school boards, directing administrators, and representing parents…if they just all prostrate themselves low enough and beg quietly and politely enough.

Kicking the 1st Amendment in the Teeth

Thiesfeldt’s language is likewise a stark violation of First Amendment rights. What business does the state have telling anyone what they can and can’t say–much less what school board members, in particular, can say in the course of executing their responsibilities to a local electorate?

The managerialist impulse is clearly alive and well in Madison, and Thiesfeldt has quickly become one of its eager architects.

Kicking Germantown in the Teeth

And then there’s Germantown…the remarkable breakout school district that legislators, such as Representative Thiesfeldt and many of the Republican co-sponsors of his bill, have claimed to admire.

Germantown remains the only school district in the state to reject the Common Core in order to pursue the creation of its own higher, more developmentally appropriate, non-aligned standards. That stance would be admirable enough on its own, but the school board–yes, the SCHOOL BOARD–took the additional courageous step this past spring of sending a letter to parents, recommending that they opt their children out of Common Core-aligned assessments. That direct communication with parents resulted in the achievement of a district opt-out rate of 81 percent.

Under No Child Left Behind, a mere 5 percent opt-out rate invalidates assessment results and prohibits sanctions from being levied against the any school, district, or state where such invalidation occurs. An 81 percent opt-out rate in even one district–resulting from simple, honest, effective communication between school board members and parents–has unquestionably terrified the state’s education centralizers and standardizers. Why? Because it signals that local control could actually come back from the grave in which many state officials have so assiduously attempted to bury it over the years.

In fact, Wisconsin’s Department of Public Instruction attempted to deliver a smackdown to Germantown last summer, claiming that the school board had violated…wait for it…federal law. That’s hogwash, of course, designed to scare the district back into compliance. There is a seven or eight step sanctions process that would have to ensue before even a dime of federal funding would be lost by any state or local entity. In fact, to date, not one school, district, or state nationwide has experienced a loss of its funding. But the threat certainly gets waved around a lot to scare people into line.

DPI further insisted that Germantown take corrective action to get its assessment participation numbers back up. So far, thank goodness, Germantown continues to tell DPI it’s done nothing wrong and has no need to take any corrective action.

But let’s face it: this language is designed to discourage stories like Germantown’s and has the effect of pointing a gun at that district’s school board and administrators–even if the gun isn’t yet loaded. It signals to school districts across the state that Wisconsin is not interested in maintaining local control–or, indeed, any real, significant, or constitutional separation of powers.

Trading Principle for Status: The Sad Co-Option of a State Legislator

The transformation in Jeremy Thiesfeldt over the past year has been stunning to watch for those engaged in the fight for true education in Wisconsin.

An early champion of those pressing to safeguard what remains of local control and substantive learning in an increasingly top-down, standardized education environment, Thiesfeldt helped to press for and subsequently co-led 2013 legislative efforts to examine so-called education reform in Wisconsin.

Appointed chair of the Assembly’s Select Committee for the Investigation of the Common Core Standards, Jeremy earned true appreciation from many for his efforts to ensure that average citizens and a wide range of informed experts alike would have a chance to contribute to a crucial dialogue on how Wisconsin educates its children. Republican leadership had, in fact, only yielded on public hearings under massive public pressure; it was clear to anyone watching that they would have preferred to continue marginalizing and ignoring the matter. Nevertheless, Thiesfeldt lent a quiet dignity and determination to the investigative process, even though there were clear attempts to undermine his work and that of his fellow committee members.

So where did that Jeremy Thiesfeldt go?

What happened…?

Jeremy rose in rank. That’s what.

He was offered the plum of a standing-committee chairmanship. And in picking up that plum, he appears to have traded his spine, another couple of valuable-but-unnamed body parts, his principles, and his interest in true representative government, all in exchange for rather less noble aspirations and trappings.

I can’t see into Jeremy’s mind. Only he can know why he’s sold out to such a profoundly disappointing degree. But if I were to lay odds, I would bet that he is motivated by a fear of losing the status he’s now attained. He is likely attempting to avoid being relegated to the outer reaches of legislative space by Speaker of the Assembly Robin Vos, whose coercive tactics in controlling his caucus have become one of the worst-kept secrets in Wisconsin politics. All too many politicians have whispered to me about those tactics behind closed doors, always ending their alarming tales with, “But you can’t tell anyone I said this. I can’t afford to have it get out that I told you.”

There’s good reason to suspect, then, that the moment he accepted his Education Committee chairmanship, a few key folks started to tell Jeremy exactly what he’d have to do to keep it. In accepting a role he likely thought would enable him to assist people, he unwittingly donned his own choke chain.

If you think I’m going to let him off the hook and ask you to feel sorry for him, guess again.

Time to Grow a Set, Jeremy

When Jeremy Thiesfeldt was elected to office, he undertook constitutional and ethical duties to represent the interests of the constituents of his district. The people who voted for him did so in the belief that he would take difficult but principled positions on the issues. They trusted him to stand tall and represent, not cave in to bullying, not cower in a corner, and certainly not to sell out by doing other people’s bidding.

In these respects, “Representative” Thiesfeldt currently appears to have reached his level of incompetence. In any event, there’s no doubt that he’s failing. He is proving himself utterly unable to stand firm on principle. Quite bluntly, he is proving himself completely incapable of standing at all. The only thing he seems to be good at these days is serving false masters from a prone position.

As a measure of tough love and in a spirit of hope that he can turn himself around and get back on the right path, I would remind Jeremy Thiesfeldt that he wasn’t elected to serve Robin Vos. He wasn’t elected to serve Scott Walker (whose bullying tactics, usually via his legislative liaisons, are also an open secret). He wasn’t elected to serve Tony Evers. When it comes to education, he definitely shouldn’t be serving the pubic-private aims of special interests such as Wisconsin Manufacturers and Commerce.

Moreover, despite the messages that he’s undoubtedly received from leadership, the Republican caucus is not his family. He owes his caucus ZERO allegiance. The only people to whom he owes any loyalty whatsoever are his constituents and, in relationship to this specific bill, the parents and children of Wisconsin–all of whom he’s currently betraying.

The question is, will Jeremy find his courage? Will he finally remember his duty to higher ideals and principles such as local control, ethical representation, true education, parental rights, and free speech?

Or will he choose instead to continue his all-too-rapid descent into the bowels of a corrupt political machine?

Here’s the thing, Jeremy, if you are indeed reading this…

Bullies and manipulators don’t go away when you cower. They will continue to pull your strings and levers until you say, “No more.”

Even if it means losing a chairmanship, getting kicked off a committee, or having your bills blocked, isn’t it better to take those knocks while remaining true to your principles and the people you were elected to serve? When leadership starts dealing those blows, we will see you standing strong. Your principles will contrast sharply with the corrupt machinations of others…and they’ll matter. You’ll matter. True success isn’t about clinging to power. It’s about speaking truth to power. Often, it’s about being a monkey wrench in the machinery of power. When you stand up, when you resist, when we see you do it, it’s the start of something bigger. It lights a spark. It feeds a movement. There are plenty of examples out there–including some in your own back yard.

Right now, you’re part of the problem, not the solution. You look like leadership’s broken slave, not a confident champion of the people who’s willing to use his wits to buck a corrupt system.

What matters more to you, Jeremy? Is it your credibility and honor in the eyes of the people you were actually elected to serve? Or the tenuous figurehead status cynically given to you by people who are determined always to jerk you into their preferred line.

What’s it gonna be, Jeremy?

We’re watching, and our patience for the evils to which you are now contributing has run out.

Ten Year Sentence: Locked Into Common Core by Cronyism and Deception

Scott Walker Sentences Wisconsin Students to Ten Years on Common Core

Scott Walker Sentences Wisconsin Students to Ten Years on Common Core

We have reported here that, even though Scott Walker’s biennial budget contained language that says “no effect shall be given to Common Core standards,” the Wisconsin Department of Administration bidding process on the new Badger Exam made very clear that the new state assessments in mathematics and English language arts will indeed be Common Core aligned.

On September 10, 2015 the Department of Administration announced that a panel consisting of four Department of Public Instruction officials and one “other person” had chosen Data Recognition Corporation (DRC) as the winner of the bidding process on the new state assessment, now renamed the Wisconsin Forward Assessment. DRC had beaten at least two other companies, Pearson Education and ACT, Inc. and is in the process of negotiating a ten year contract valued at a reported $63 million with the state of Wisconsin.

Data Recognition Corporation – A Major Common Core Player

Though not as well known as some of the major players in the Common Core area, DRC collaborated with American Institute for Research (AIR) to develop the test delivery system for the Smarter Balanced Assessment.  Yes, this is the same test delivery system that ran into so many technical problems in the 2014-2015 school year that the Badger Exam needed to be scaled back and the results effectively ignored.  From the Smarter Balanced Assessment Consotium press release:

The test delivery system encompasses test registration, presenting the assessment items to students, and delivering the data from the test to reporting systems. Under this contract, AIR, in collaboration with Data Recognition Corporation (DRC), will modify its existing test delivery system to meet Smarter Balanced specifications for the Pilot Test of the assessment system in early 2013 and the Field Test in early 2014. AIR’s system is used by several states to deliver statewide online assessments. It is compatible with the range of technology in schools, including computers, laptops, and tablets—requiring only a secure Internet browser for administration. The system will be optimized for release in its open source version in fall 2014.

DRC describes its role in developing the Smarter Balanced Assessments:

Data Recognition Corporation (DRC), a leading provider of educational assessment, survey, and document services, today announced that it is part of a team selected by the Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium (Smarter Balanced) to develop the first set of nearly 10,000 student test questions for the new Common Core Assessments.

DRC will work collaboratively with five partners to develop the test items for the Smarter Balanced assessment system. DRC’s partners include the prime contractor, CTB/McGraw-Hill, The American Institutes for Research, The Council for Aid to Education, HumRRO, and The College Board.

“DRC is delighted to be part of this innovative partnership of six unique organizations dedicated to delivering Smarter Balanced’s next generation performance assessments and technology-enhanced items,” said DRC Chief Executive Officer and President Susan Engeleiter. “We will all work together to ensure Smarter Balanced’s vision for the next generation of student assessments is achieved.””

On June 30, 2015, DRC acquired the CTB assessment business from major Common Core player McGraw-Hill.  CTB is the creator of the Common Core aligned Terra Nova Common Core Tests and Assessments.  CTB has an 85 year track record in standardized testing.  With the addition of CTB, DRC has significantly deepened its commitment to Common Core. Many of the key players at CTB are now working for DRC.

DRC’s own website touts the company’s expertise in implementing Common Core:

DRC is a leader in helping states transition to new standards or to the Common Core State Standards (CCSS). In this role, we have been instrumental in helping our state clients implement a variety of transition strategies ranging from helping them design a new assessment system to helping them increase the rigor of an existing system.

Our tasks have ranged from serving as national content experts providing support to alignment of the common core to existing state standards to working with a given state’s educators to develop a new set of career- and college-readiness standards.  DRC’s work through the years in developing items and tests for numerous state testing programs and in conducting over 300 alignment studies has uniquely prepared our team to provide this support to states in transition.

The bottom line is that DRC has been a major player in developing the Smarter Balanced assessment, collaborating with other major players like CTB McGraw-Hill, the Student Board (creators of the SAT), and AIR.  With the acquisition of CTB from McGraw-Hill, DRC has doubled down on its commitment to Common Core.  They are heavily invested in getting states to transition to Common Core standards.

Ten Year Sentence

Now, we already knew that, despite Governor Walker’s claims to the contrary, defunding the Smarter Balanced assessment in Wisconsin did not prevent Wisconsin from implementing a Common Core aligned state assessment.  In fact, the three bids entertained by the Department of Administration were all by major players in Common Core assessment: Pearson Education, ACT, Inc., and Digital Recognition Corporation.  It has come to light that the Department of Administration will be negotiating a ten year contract with the winner of the bid process, DRC, for a reported $63 million.  This effectively locks down the Wisconsin state assessments to be Common Core aligned for the next ten years!

Bill Gates, whose foundation is a major funder of the Common Core State Standards Initiative, has said:

When the tests are aligned to the common standards, the curriculum will line up as well—and that will unleash powerful market forces in the service of better teaching. For the first time, there will be a large base of customers eager to buy products that can help every kid learn and every teacher get better.

Many agree that the assessments drive curriculum, especially when coupled with high stakes accountability measures like we are implementing in Wisconsin.  So, we have effectively sentenced Wisconsin students to ten years of Common Core curriculum.  Quite a contrast from the claims in Scott Walker’s budget that say “no effect shall be given to Common Core standards.” There is indeed an effect – A TEN YEAR EFFECT!

The Walker Effect

Why has Governor Walker said he is against Common Core and claimed he stopped Common Core in Wisconsin and yet failed to actually prevent the state from locking in a Common Core curriculum for ten years?  It might have a little to do with Walker’s campaign donors… well, it might have a LOT to do with Walker’s campaign donors.

Almost as soon as DRC was announced as the winner of the bidding process for the Wisconsin Forward Exam, it was revealed that DRC President Susan Engeleiter had donated $10,000 to the Scott Walker campaign during Walker’s recall election.  A spokeswoman for Susan Engeleiter of Data Recognition Corp. said the donation occurred months before the state issued its request for proposals and that DRC staff had no discussions with the governor or his aides about a potential contract.  The Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel posits:

Engeleiter contributed $10,000 to the Republican governor’s 2014 re-election campaign, her largest political contribution in nearly two decades, according to the Wisconsin Democracy Campaign. Before the Walker donation, Engeleiter had contributed $100 to $200 to legislative candidates and $500 to Wisconsin Superintendent of Public Instruction Tony Evers’ 2013 campaign.

This makes one wonder whether Ms. Engeleiter’s $10,000 contribution to the Governor’s campaign had anything to do with DRC securing the $63 million contract to produce the Wisconsin Forward Exam. (It should be noted that Ms. Engeleiter also contributed $500 to Department of Public Instruction Secretary Tony Evers’ 2013 campaign.  That surely didn’t hurt DRC’s chances to secure this contract.)

Cullen Werwie, spokesman for the Wisconsin Department of Administration, said neither the governor, nor his staff, was involved in the procurement process and that the selection was made by the Department of Public Instruction.  That may be, but the contribution may well have had an effect on the Governor’s clever wording of his budget proposals that made things appear he was against Common Core but left the door open for Common Core aligned state assessments.

However, there may be more going on here than just Susan Engeleiter’s $10,000 contribution…

Deeper Connections Between DRC’s Engeleiter and Scott Walker

The information in this section is quoted verbatim from wonderful research done by blogger lufthase at The Daily Kos in an article called WI Crony Capitalism: A Family Affair:

Susan Engeleiter’s father, Arthur W. Shannon, ran a Milwaukee-area flooring business. He was a well-known Republican fundraiser, rising to the ranks of State GOP Finance Chair in the 1970s. He had four children, Michael, Thomas, Dan, and Susan.

Michael S. Shannon is an investor in resorts and “leisure businesses.” He and his wife Mary Sue Goodspeed Shannon have donated $120k in “hard money” to Walker’s gubernatorial campaigns. Clearly that wasn’t enough to put their boy Scotty over the top, so they also kicked in a cool $1 million to the Republican Governors Association in 2014.   Eleven days after that contribution was made to the Republican Governors Association (RGA), “the RGA did transfer $1 million to its Right Direction political action committee, which is the entity running the ads in Wisconsin critical of Burke.“  Mary Burke was Walker’s Democrat opponent in the 2014 race for Wisconsin Governor.  Michael and Mary Sue Shannon have also pitched in $250k to Walker’s federal “Our American Revival” PAC so far this year.

Thomas M. Shannon is an investor in several WI businesses (more on that later) and has contributed a more modest $16,500 to Walker’s state campaigns. However, he and his wife Sue did show up to Scott Walker’s Presidential campaign kickoff event with the federal maximum $5,400 in hand. (Not for nothing, this 7/13 fundraiser would have been during the bidding process for the new state exams.)

Dan Shannon is a Senior Vice President at FIS Global (formerly Metavante, formerly the division of M&I Bank responsible for Wisconsinites referring to ATMs as “Tyme Machines”). He and his wife Lynn have contributed $3,450 to Walker’s state campaigns. They also attended Walker’s Presidential kickoff gala, contributing $1,000.

Of course this comes back around to WEDC…

With all this campaign cash flying around, you knew there would be some awards coming back the other way from Scott Walker’s slush-fund “job-creation” outfit, the Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation (WEDC).

Thomas M. Shannon has a personal ownership stake in at least four companies that have so far received $3.6M from WEDC:

  • Aver Informatics Inc    10/05/11    $525,000 Tax Credit
  • Okanjo Partners, Inc.    09/01/11    $2,000,000 Tax Credit
  • Shamrock Energy Corporation    06/05/13    $150,000 Loan
  • Somna Therapeutics, LLC    04/13/12    $1,000,000 Tax Credit

Additionally, all four siblings are founding partners in the BrightStar Wisconsin Foundation. This is a 501(c)(3) that gets its nonprofit status specifically because it “assists” and “reduces the burden” of WEDC. BrightStar’s leadership team includes out-going WEDC CEO Reed Hall and former WEDC VP Lisa Johnson.

It’s an interesting setup. BrightStar solicits tax-deductible donations from wealthy people and foundations and then they hand that capital to technology start-ups in WI. Despite the nonprofit label and philanthropic language, they do take ownership stakes in the businesses they fund. The hope is that somewhere down the line a few of these start-ups will have massive IPOs, and they’ll then be able to re-invest their profit in even more start-ups. I’ll leave it to the reader to ponder what happens if their investment success ever outpaces their ability to find new viable start-ups in WI.

BrightStar’s investment portfolio has benefited from over $17.5M in WEDC awards thus far:

  • Beekeeper labs, Inc.    10/16/14    $1,000,000 Tax Credit
  • Emopti, Inc.    03/13/15    $175,000 Tax Credit
  • Fishidy, Inc.    07/23/12    $1,000,000 Tax Credit
  • Forward Health Group, Inc    06/30/14    $2,000,000 Tax Credit
  • Modern Movement, Inc.    03/27/15    $125,000 Tax Credit
  • Okanjo Partners, Inc.    09/01/11    $2,000,000 Tax Credit
  • Pinpoint Softwares, Inc.    02/01/12    $1,000,000 Tax Credit
  • Protein Foundry, LLC    06/23/14    $1,000,000 Tax Credit
  • Quietyme, Inc.    07/15/13    $1,000,000 Tax Credit
  • SHINE Medical Technologies, Inc.    05/19/14    $2,000,000 Tax Credit
  • SHINE Medical Technologies, Inc.    12/12/13    $4,000,000 Loan
  • Swallow Solutions, LLC    02/02/12    $135,000 Loan
  • The Good Jobs, Inc.    11/07/12    $1,000,000 Tax Credit
  • The Good Jobs, Inc.    12/11/14    $70,000 Loan
  • WholeTrees, LLC    06/19/12    $1,000,000 Tax Credit
  • WholeTrees, LLC    06/11/14    $170,000 Loan

All totalled, Engeleiter and her siblings donated over $1.4 million to Scott Walker’s advancement.  The family is enmeshed in Republican politics for generations and heavily involved with Scott Walker’s WEDC.

Data Recognition Corporation in Need of Help

It should be pointed out that Data Recognition Corporation did considerable downsizing just one year ago (September, 2014) due to “revenue impacts from uncertainty in K-12 education, including test changes and ‘political battles’ at state education departments.”

It is certainly not beyond belief that the Governor left the door open to having the Wisconsin Forward Exam being produced by a company with ties to a powerful Wisconsin political family that had contributed very, very generously to his past and current campaigns.  Could this be why he called for the defunding of the Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium and for ending the Smarter Balanced Assessment in Wisconsin, but stopped just short of demanding that Wisconsin not have a Common Core aligned assessment.  This Governor and his Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation have moved heaven and earth for much smaller donations.

One has to ask whether or not Scott Walker came to the aid of a company run by a member of a family that contributed heavily to his political success.

Locked Into Common Core

It is now confirmed that the new Wisconsin State Assessment, the Wisconsin Forward Exam, will be Common Core aligned, produced by a Common Core powerhouse, and, with the Governor’s emphasis on accountability, curriculum will also necessarily become Common Core aligned.  Money has flowed into the Governor’s coffers and now money has flowed back to companies owned by contributors via the WEDC and now through a lucrative DPI contract.  Everyone wins, except the children.  Students are locked into Common Core curriculum and high stakes testing for ten years.

Long after the checks are cashed and politics has run its course the children growing up under the cronyism and deception exhibited by Governor Walker will be left lamenting their education.  Selfish decisions made today will impact our children’s futures dramatically. Scott Walker’s legacy will not be one of reforming education for the better.  Instead, Scott Walker is leaving a legacy of shameless self promotion, deception, trickery, and unabashed cronyism.


8 Reasons to Opt Out

Contributed by Dane County OptOut

  1. Currently, the focus on literacy and math Common Core Standards and testing for such standards is squeezing other subjects out of the daily curriculum.​This encourages schools to give less time to social studies, music, art, world languages, physical education, and science. For example, in some schools in Madison, only 150 minutes per week are allotted for science and social studies ​combined​, while in the past​t​hese subjects were allotted 150 minutes each p​er week. Furthermore, the concern of raising test scores is impinging considerably on recess time in many schools, which is a crucial component to children’s social, emotional, and physical well­being and growth.
  2. Thus far the tests have not been shown to be reliable measures of creativity, social justice, critical thinking, and cannot measure alternative understandings of any subjective content. ​They push learning into testable chunks of objective data that don’t allow for complexity or nuance, and certainly do not measure everything our children could or should be learning in school.
  3. Standardized tests continually perpetuate inequalities and have been shown to be particularly detrimental to poor students, students of color, students of differing abilities, and students with limited English proficiency. ​Though many of these tests purport to “illuminate” previously “hidden” achievement gaps between these students and better resourced middle­class and white students, in reality, these tests have never been solidly free of social biases, a​nd it may be that the very culture of this sort of testing is inherently biased against certain groups of children.
  4. Standardized exams are loaded with poorly written, ambiguous questions, and the implementation of these computer­based tests has been fraught with problems all over the country.​  Schools in Colorado, New Jersey, and Florida have reported wide­spread problems with hacking and other issues in using computer­based tests.​These tests are unlike any test your child has ever taken and often result in greater anxiety, thus invalidating the data. Check out sample items at­items­and­performance­tasks/
  5. The testing industry is basically the tail that is wagging the dog of the individual teacher.​For­profit companies like Pearson Education are making millions of dollars while Wisconsin public schools are getting hit with massive budget cuts. The tests have a price tag that includes the exam itself, the technology, as well as the scoring of the exam.  This is a national trend: States cut funding to public schools while pouring millions into new computer systems designed for Common Core tests.  Furthermore, collecting data on our children through these computer­based exams has created a “data­palooza” (as one Wisconsin school board member phrased it) for the government and for corporations. ​These companies are profiting on the backs of OUR children and teachers.
  6. In many places throughout the country, these tests are being used to evaluate and even influence teacher pay. ​In spite of the rhetoric of “value­added measures” (i.e., collecting pre and post test data to evaluate “growth” that can allegedly be attributed to teacher effort), ​the statistical extrapolation from test score to teacher effectiveness is a dangerous road to tread. ​Teachers cannot control what students walk into any given exam day facing: homelessness, hunger, heartbreak – all of which can affect a students’ performance on an exam, and hence a teacher’s evaluation.
  7. Parents are leaving public schools for private or charter schools that don’t have the same testing mandates, or because of their belief that public schools are failing.  ​A 2010 Gallup poll showed that Americans continue to believe their local schools are performing well, but the nation’s schools are performing poorly.  77% of public school parents give theIr child’s school an “A” or “B” while 18% of all Americans grade the nation’s public schools that high (­views­public­schools­far­worse­parents.aspx).  ​It’s time to reframe the conversation, support our public schools, and help them to fulfill their promise of education ALL students.

Now is the time to challenge the standardized testing regime.  Corporate driven education “reform” is DE-forming teaching and learning, and threatening the existence of public schools.
From the blog of the venerable Diane Ravitch, educational pundit and self­professed convert from pro­ test­based accountability supporter to anti­standardized testing crusader:

“The Opt Out movement is spreading like wildfire. It is led by parents…Parents understand that the tests are designed to fail most children. They understand that test prep and testing are stealing time from instruction. They aren’t commanded by anyone. They are listening to their children”

… and we would add, to their teachers and a growing number of administrators across the country too!

Introducing David Coleman, Lead Architect of CCSS

David Coleman, is the “lead architect” of Common Core State Standards.  Coleman also founded the non-profit Student Achievement Partners and developed the site AchieveTheCore to “guide” publishers in ways to shift their materials to meet the new standards. Coleman also took on the position as the head of the College Board, which runs the SAT college entrance tests. So we have the same person spearheading up standards, curriculum, and test. With an $18 Million grant from GE Foundation, Coleman is well-funded and ready to transform our educational system to create workers for a global economy.

Learn who David Coleman is and you’ll understand a lot about the Common Core.

Coleman said in 2011, “[A]s you grow up in this world you realize people really don’t give a shit about what you feel or what you think.

Pardon the language. These words guide the Common Core which places a greater emphasis on “informational texts” for utilitarian purposes rather than fiction or writing personal narratives for that matter.

In his words, “It is rare in a working environment that someone says, “Johnson, I need a market analysis by Friday but before that I need a compelling account of your childhood.

The Atlantic profiled Coleman in 2012,

“ David Coleman’s ideas are not just another wonkish trend. They have been adopted by almost every state, and over the next few years, they will substantively change what goes on in many American classrooms. Soon, as Coleman steps into his new position as the head of the College Board, they may also affect who applies to college and how applicants are evaluated. David Coleman’s ideas, for better or worse, are transforming American education as we know it.

With little debate, the “Gates-led”  Common Core Standards have been adopted by over 45 states. Coleman was right there writing those standards.  (Did you know the standards are copyrighted by a private group, the National Governors Association and the Chief Council of of State School Officers)

New assessments (See Smarter Balanced and PARCC) are currently being written to the standards and scheduled to be implemented in 2014/15 school year.  Coleman is right there making sure the tests match the standard.  He said,

“If you put something on an assessment in my view you are ethically obligated to take responsibility that kids will practice it 100 times.”

Next up, is the national Curriculum written to the standards so that children can “practice it 100 times” before they take the test.  (Look to Pearson for that.)

What is tested is what is taught.  What is taught, is what is thought.  Why parents and publishers are blindly giving up so much to one man’s philosophy of education is mind boggling. Just mind boggling.

Education policy expert, Diana Ravitch has spoken against the Common Core and asks the question that should be on the mind of every parent in America, “Is there not something unseemly about placing the fate and the future of American education in the hands of one man?”

Who Wins With Common Core State Standards?

„Just who wins if Common Core State Standards are adopted?

Those developing material and technology for use with CCSS

  • „Longitudinal Database Systems
  • „Touchpad Test Taking Devices
  • „Textbook Publishers
  • „Professional Development Training for Administrators and Teachers
  • „Testing Companies

„Big Business

  • „The players behind Common Core are large corporations aiming to massively grow profits by getting all students on the exact same new learning schedule. You could rename this Corporate Core.

„Big Government

  • „Cradle to Grave Tracking of Students
  • „End of Federalism and Local Control
  • Rise of Regionalization/Nationalization

Who Developed the Common Core State Standards?

Despite being called “State Standards”, Common Core State Standards were not developed by the states!  Two trade associations, the National Governors Association (NGA) and the Council of Chief State School Officers (CCSSO) together formed the Common Core State Standards Initiative (CCSSI) in 2009.  These trade associations are unelected associations based in Washington D.C.

In „spring 2009, 48 states signed a Memorandum of Agreement committing to voluntary participation in a process leading to adoption of the CCSS.  „In September 2009, a draft of College and Career Readiness Standards was released.  In March 2010, the first and only public draft of the K-12 Common Core State Standards for ELA and Math were released.   In June 2010, the final K-12 Common Core State Standards were released.

It’s important to point out that there were no Governors, State Superintendents of Schools, or State Legislators actively involved in the process of creating the Common Core State Standards.  There were also no state administrative or legislative staff involved in creating the standards.  The role of state governments was literally restricted to signing onto the standards created by the two trade associations, the NGA and the CCSSO.  Many of the states that did sign onto Common Core State Standards did so to receive waivers to No Child Left Behind requirements or to qualify for Race To The Top money.  They were literally bribed into signing onto the standards before they were even drafted.

So Who REALLY Developed Common Core State Standards?

Common Core State Standards were developed by individuals coming from interests in the testing, textbook, training, and student and teacher tracking industry.  Here are the major players:

„America’s Choice –

  • Senior Fellows Phil Daro (MATH) and Sally Hampton (ELA)
  • „Really Pearson Publishing – One of the largest providers of services and materials to help low performing schools raise their performance through professional development, technical assistance and high quality materials.

„Student Achievement Partners –

  • „Founders – Jason Zimba (MATH) and David Coleman (ELA) [now with College Board]
  • „Non-profit with goal to promote CCSS
  • „$18MM Grant from GE Foundation

„ACT, Inc. –

  • „Sara Clough (MATH and ELA), Ken Mullen (MATH), Sharri Miller (Math and ELA), Jim Patterson (ELA), Nina Metzner (ELA)
  • „One of the largest college testing and test preparation services

The College Board –

  • „Robin O’Callaghan (MATH),  Andrew Schwartz (MATH), Natasha Vasavada (MATH and ELA), Joel Harris (ELA), Beth Hart (ELA)
  • „One of the largest college testing and test preparation services (SAT)

„Achieve, Inc. –

  • „Kaye Forgione (MATH), Laura McGiffert Slover (MATH and ELA), Douglas Sovde (MATH), John Kraman (ELA),  Sue Pimental (ELA)
  • „P-20 Data Systems Consulting,  Student and Teacher Assessment Tools, Data and Accountability Systems with strong alignment to policies in post-secondary and economic development sectors

So, the Common Core State Standards were created by two trade associations by individuals who worked for interests with a great deal to gain by creating a national standard for education in the United States!