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Betrayal: The Common Core, Liberals, NCTE, BYOB, and the Media

Publication Date: 2011-03-10

While Rome burns, Nero fiddles, NCTE makes hay, and and Chicago teachers bring their own booze. Not to worry, teachers, lessons will be provided. You have only your professionalism to lose.

We've come to expect for the New York Times to offer up a peculiar definition for the word "bipartisan," but the behavior of NCTE, my professional organization for decades, is a relatively new phenomenon. As Sam Dillon notes in the article below, a bipartisan [sic] group is endorsing a common curriculum for states to adopt. This is what passes for "bipartisan": Randi Weingarten, Richard Riley, and Chester E. Finn, Jr. The article below looks like the New York Times version of Fox's "fair and balanced."

Dillon writes:

The proposal, if it gains traction, would go beyond the common academic standards in English and mathematics that about 40 states adopted last year, by providing specific guidelines for schools and teachers about what should be taught in each grade.

Specific guidelines sounds like a national curriculum to me, but don't worry, this group assures us it will only take up 60% of classtime. Still plenty of time left over for test prep--for the incessant regime of testing in the works by PARCC, which received $170 million of our taxpayer dollars.

And what do you think about the assertion that teachers need "a clear roadmap?" Here's an AFT editorial on the subject. And here they promote the new Core Knowledge Language Arts Program for K-2. What? You don't want to teach Early Asian Civilizations, Greek Myths, Westward Expansion, US Civil War,and Immigration to second graders? Stop whining: Charlotte's Web is also on the list. This curriculum snippet looks like a short version of the K12Inc homeschooler regimen promoted by William Bennett, which looked like a steroid-injected version of E. D. Hirsch's Core Knowledge rush-through-civilization offerings. I worked my way through every K-2 lesson, and you can read my research report. Here's an excerpt--just to give you a flavor of what these people are selling:

Is It History or Jerry Springer?

K12 provides a 13-minute CD recording of the legend of Perseus and Medusa that is straight out of Jerry Springer. Here's a recap: wanting to get rid of his daughter Danae and infant grandson Perseus (because he'd heard from the oracle that he'd be slain by a grandson), Acrisius put them in a chest and threw it into the sea. Danae and Perseus were rescued by a fisherman, who fell in love with Danae and married her, raising Perseus (the result of Danae?s seduction by Zeus) as his own son. When Perseus reached manhood, Polydectes, the local king, noticed that Danae, still married, was a fine looking woman. To get Perseus out of the way, Polydectes sent him on an adventure, telling Perseus if he killed Medusa he would be "the most famous in all the world."

Cold, cruel, uncaring Medusa lived with her two sisters, the Gorgons. Instead of hair, twisting, writhing snakes grew from her head. To make a very long story short, Perseus prayed to the gods for help, cut off Medusa's head, and carried it back to Polydectes in a bag. Along the way he killed a horrible sea monster that was going to eat Andromeda, a maiden who was chained to a rock and left to die because her mother had angered Poseidon. Back at Polyedectes' palace, Perseus took Medusa's head out of the bag, and held it high. Looking at the hideous head caused Polydectes and his army to turn to stone. And Perseus and Andromeda lived happily ever after.

What a story for a 6-year-old! And I left out the more gruesome details read with dramatic emphasis on the CD: boy born with no father, infanticide, adultery, magic, and multiple slaughters.

Then there's the Trojan War. Think about the
adultery and mayhem there. After studying Athens and the creation of democracy, first graders move on to the Greeks defeating the Persians at Marathon--seven pages of battle in the K12 online Reading Room! And on to the battle at Thermopylae in 480B.C. The first grader gets a coloring sheet of fierce warriors to color--two on horseback, two on foot.

But the study of Greece is not all perversions and war; first graders learn about Socrates, Plato, and Aristotle. They are asked to ponder: Suppose one of the Greek philosophers visited the world today. What new questions do you think he would ask?

After the brief philosophical respite, it's back to wars: Peloponesian Wars--with lots of warriors to color. Then we move on to India: Hinduism, Buddhism, Siddhartha Gautama, Asoka, Mohenjo-Daro, the Ramayana.

Certainly, it's no surprise that Chester Finn signed on to this. But you should ask Pedro Noguera and Linda Darling-Hammond why they signed on in support of the "sequential set of guidelines in the core academic disciplines, specifying the content knowledge and skills that all students are expected to learn" promoted by the American Federation of Teachers and their Standardisto bedfellows.

Ask them and to put their answers in context, read Death of the Liberal Class by Chris Hedges. Hedges documents that those institutions where we once looked for liberal leadership--the universities, media, church,and labor unions-- have sold out to corporate greed and unbounded capitalism.

In Education Week (3/9/110, Frederick Hess makes an excellent point:

They can't go on about a 'coherent, substantive, sequential' plan for the 'knowledge and skills' students need and still claim there is enormous room for people to come out with all kinds of instructional and curricular materials,” he said. "What they're pushing is a national model of instruction.

If you're confused by why the director of education policy at the conservative American Enterprise Institute is making a whole lot more sense on this issue than so-called liberals, do read Death of the Liberal Class for an explanation.

It remains to be seen where the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation-funded Common Core Curriculum Mapping Project fits into all this. Maybe Diane Ravitch, listed as "expert advisor" and co-chair of the board of trustees, knows. Antonia Cortese, secretary-treasurer of the American Federation of Teachers, is also an "expert advisor." Carol Jago, listed as President of NCTE in a 2010 Common Core Curriculum Mapping Project press release, is a reviewer.

A January 2011 press release concludes with this advisory: Despite the coincidence of name, Common Core and the Common Core State Standards Initiative are not affiliated. Some concidence. Both funded by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.

NCTE's Seat at the Table

Is NCTE worried about all this talk of "sequential set of guidelines?" No! They are too busy jumping on the bandwagon to cash in on the staff development possibilities offered by the imposition of Common Core Standards. Here is a letter sent out to all NCTE members, inviting us to sign up for a $175 Common Core experience. And note: They are publishing a Common Core book series.

Dear Susan Ohanian,

Keep students at the center of planning while meeting the learning goals posed by the Common Core State Standards (CCSS).

Throughout April 2011, join us for the
2011 NCTE Virtual Conference Series: Supporting Students in a Time of Core Standards

Sessions for separate grade levels Kâ€"2, 3â€"5, 6â€"8, and 9â€"12, include:

  • One whole-school connection to four interactive, online sessions

  • Recordings that school teams can revisit as often as needed

  • One copy of a book from the NCTE book series, Supporting Students in a Time of Core Standards

  • Extended online conversations with conference participants

  • Direct access to school plans for meeting the CCSS learning goals

  • Single Conference Registrationâ€"$175 for a whole-school connection

    K-12 Conference Package Registrationâ€"$500 for a whole-school connection (Best savings!)

    Recordings of every session from your chosen conference(s), are included. Ideal for bringing teachers together for collaboration and discussions at more convenient times.

    Sarah Brown Wessling, 2010 National Teacher of the Year, will kick off the conferences with a keynote address on April 5th. Further sessions within each conference will be co-presented by classroom teachers and authors of the NCTE Common Core Standards book series.

    Explore the conference details online and register today. Space is limited!


    Kent Williamson, Executive Director
    National Council of Teachers of English
    800-369-6283 (ext. 3601)
    Shape the future of literacy education by joining NCTE

    No wonder NCTE blocked us from presenting a resolution to the membership at the annual convention in Orlando.

    No wonder they ignored out Sense of the House motion.

    Sense of the House Motion
    November 19, 2010
    The NCTE expresses disapproval of the concept of national standards to be applied to all students and of the specifics of those written by the National Governor's Association.

    NCTE will alert its members to the dangers of expending major efforts on standards and tests, which make meaningful teaching impossible.

    Such motions are limited to 50 words. NCTE members vote at such gathering by waving an orange card. So there's no place to hide This motion provoked heated debate and passed by a considerable margin.

    And the result?

    The NCTE Executive Committee has not uttered a public word about this and did not mention the Common Core in their platform, which supports explicit skills instruction.

    The NCTE show is a bargain compared to what's going on in Chicago, where they are sending two busloads of teachers on a BYOB trip for Common Core training.

    Common Core Chicago Style: Bring Your Own Booze

    Junket will cost thousands of dollars while Chicago school board says it's broke... BYOB bus trip, resort accommodations for Area 26 new teachers to learn 'Rubicon Curriculum Mapping'

    Sharon Schmidt - March 06, 2011

    Several dozen Area 26 first-year teachers will be attending professional development in curriculum mapping Tuesday, March 8 through Thursday, March 10 at the Sawmill Creek Resort in Sandusky, Ohio. Sawmill Creek Resort in Ohio is where Chicago's Area 26 teachers will learn Rubicon Curriculum Mapping from March 8 through March 10. The trip begins Tuesday afternoon with a six-hour bus trip (two buses have been chartered) in which "adult beverages are allowed," according to Area officials who made the BYOB announcement in phone calls to participants last week.

    "I thought that was really weird," said a teacher who is going on the trip and asked for her name not to be used. New teachers from Area 26 high schools were told in an email from the Area that the event is mandatory. Participants were told to read extensively from prescribed material prior to the event.

    Col. Rick Mills, the Area 26 Chief Area Officer, did not return Substance’s phone call, nor did Abbie Finger, the Area 26 Director of Curriculum and Instruction. Substance called the office to find out the following:

  • How many teachers will be going on the trip?

  • What is the cost per teacher and the cost for substitute teacher replacements?

  • Despite CPS claims that it is facing a "deficit" of more than $700 million, Area 26 Chief Area Officer Rick Mills (above) has ordered new teachers from every high school in his district to attend the Ohio Curriculum Mapping/Rubicon training at the Sawmill Resort. Substance photo by George N. Schmidt.â€Â˘ Why the Sawmill Creek Resort in Sandusky, Ohio?

  • Why the encouragement to drink on the bus?

  • Comments on the likelihood of budget cuts eliminating positions or principals clicking off the PD participants in the coming year.

  • The agenda and speakers at the event.

  • Justification for the expense of multi-day, out-of-town trip to focus on simple Internet application (Atlas Rubicon) that other teachers in the Area schools learned from colleagues or in one or two two-hour PD sessions.

  • Curriculum Mapping Junket

    Cost: FEE- payable to CURRICULUM DESIGNERS, Inc.

    One Day Pre-Conference ONLY: $195

    Two Day Conference ONLY: $450

    All Three Days: $625

    Register 6 people & 7th is free.

    Plus lodging & food.

    7:30-8:30 AM Registration/Breakfast

    8:30-11:30 AM Sessions (includes break)

    11:30 AM-12:30 AM Lunch SERVED

    12:30 to 3 PM Workshop and work sessions.

    Title of Training: "Mapping to the Core: Integrating the Common Core Standards into Your School Curriculum K-12."

    Bipartisan Group Backs Common School Curriculum

    By Sam Dillon

    The New York Times

    A bipartisan group of educators and business and labor leaders plan to announce on Monday their support for a common curriculum that states could adopt for public schools across the nation.

    The proposal, if it gains traction, would go beyond the common academic standards in English and mathematics that about 40 states adopted last year, by providing specific guidelines for schools and teachers about what should be taught in each grade.

    For decades, similar calls for common academic standards, curricular materials and tests for use nationwide -- the educational model used by many countries in Europe and Asia -- have been beaten back by believers in America's tradition of local control of schools.

    But last year's successful standards-writing movement was a departure, leaving the outlook for this proposal uncertain.

    "We are well aware that this will require a sea change in the way that education in America is structured," says a statement the group intends to release on Monday. But, it adds, attaining the goals laid out in the new common core standards "requires a clear road map in the form of rich, common curriculum content."

    "By 'curriculum' we mean a coherent, sequential set of guidelines in the core academic disciplines, specifying the content knowledge and skills that all students are expected to learn," the statement said. "We do not mean performance standards, textbook offerings, daily lesson plans or rigid pedagogical prescriptions."

    The curricular guides "would account for about 50 to 60 percent of a school's available academic time," the statement says, with the rest added by local communities, districts and states.

    The three-page statement is to be published on the Web site of the Albert Shanker Institute, a research group associated with the American Federation of Teachers.

    Signers include Randi Weingarten, president of the federation, and prominent Democrats, including Richard W. Riley, secretary of education under President Bill Clinton.

    Several Republicans also signed, including former Gov. Tom Kean of New Jersey; Chester E. Finn Jr., an assistant secretary of education under President Ronald Reagan; and Susan B. Neuman, an assistant secretary of education under President George W. Bush.

    Last year's common-standards effort began as an initiative of the National Governors Association. The Obama administration endorsed it, and many states adopted the standards quickly because doing so conferred an advantage in the White House’s $4 billion Race to the Top grant competition. The administration is now financing the development of tests aligned with the common standards.

    A number of prominent Republicans, including Representative John Kline of Minnesota, chairman of the House Education Committee, believe in local control, are suspicious of the standards movement and seem likely to oppose the common-curriculum proposal.

    "The administration went from encouraging states to carry out common standards to funding the creation of the tests," Mr. Kline said in a recent interview. "I and my colleagues object vehemently. We do not want to politicize the curriculum."

    On the other hand, many corporate executives concerned about the nation's competitiveness endorsed the standards movement and are likely to support a common curriculum, several signers of the new statement said.

    "There were a number of Republicans who agreed to the common standards," Mr. Kean said, "and this is the next logical step beyond that."

    Deborah Wince-Smith, who was an assistant commerce secretary under the first President George Bush and is the president of the private, nonpartisan Council on Competitiveness, said, "Our K-12 system is not up to snuff."

    "As a nation, we need the human capital to compete," she said, "so there’s a consensus that setting a high standard and pushing a curriculum that prepares our children for a world of complexity is very important."

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