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Facts versus the Southern Poverty Law Center... Common Core debate turns strange, as some liberal groups claim that opposition to Common Core is part of a vast right-wing conspiracy while the Chicago Teachers Union moves against Common Core to the AFT national convention

In one of those delicious coincidences that often make public debate over important public issues so interesting, the Southern Poverty Law Center, which maintains some of the most reliable data bases on extremist groups (recently they provided background on the Kansas shooter) came out with an attack on opponents of the Common Core On May 7, 2014. That was on the same day the Chicago Teachers Union was debating and unanimously approving a resolution to go to leaders in Illinois the American Federation of Teachers 2014 Convention demanding an end to Common Core.

The 40-page report by the Southern Poverty Law Center provides the reader with some interesting facts about the right-wing attacks on public education and the promotion of home schooling, but ignores almost completely the fact that the corporate attack on public schools has been the most effective, and has been expanded radically by the Obama administration. To read the report, the opponents of Common Core are all right wing fanatics, while those who support Common Core are disinterested supporters of the public schools. The report completely ignores the fact that Common Core became part of a package deal forced on states by Arne Duncan and the Obama administration's Education Department, and that the package included bribes to expand charter schools, merit pay -- and Common Core... All of which are part of the corporate attack on public schools (and teacher unions). So... Has the union that led the most dramatic strike on behalf of the rights of teachers, other school workers, and some of the poorest children in the United States suddenly joined that right-wing conspiracy which SPLC regularly documents? Have Karen Lewis, and the leaders of the CTU (including all of the union's delegates) suddenly merited inclusion in the SPLC's "domestic terrorist" listing? Or does SPLC need to rethink its version of reality in relation to the Obama administration's policies and public education?

"The fierce grassroots campaign threatening to derail the Common Core State Standards is being fueled by far-right propaganda that relies heavily on distortions, outright falsehoods and demonizing conspiracy theories promoted by antigovernment extremists..." a May 7, 2014 SPLC press release states, in announcing the publication of a report attacking the opponents of Common Core.

So, the question arises, did the 800 members of the CTU House of Delegates who voted to demand and end to Common Core suddenly join a vast right-wing conspiracy that nobody told us about (disclosure, I participated in most of the internal CTU debates on Common Core and, satisfied with the debate at the May 7, 2014 House of Delegates meeting, was the one who moved to close debate and move on to the vote, which was unanimous among the teachers in opposition to the Common Core). The complete text of the CTU Common Core resolution is available, with many other things, at the CTU website: www.ctunet.com. Readers can judge for themselves.

Almost as soon as the report by SPLC was issued, Stephen Krashen issued a rebuttal, which we publish below as the first statement responding to the SPLC report. We add to that a Krashen reply to nonsense from Newsweek, which has also joined the Obama administration in trying to label Common Core opponents as right-wing nut cases. Finally, we provide our readers with a copy of the SPLC press release, which tells people how to get a copy of the complete (lengthy) report in defense of Common Core.

Ironically, the complete 40-page report gives in interesting (and somewhat balanced) review of the opposition to Common Core. Outlining the right-wing, anti public schools attack on Common Core, the report provides readers with a visit into places -- such as conservative church rallies where Common Core (and public schools) is depicted as the work of Satan -- where many of us might not usually go. And the report also outlines the criticisms of Common Core by Diane Ravitch and many of us who are not on the "far right." To get the entire report in PDF the reader can go to: http://www.splcenter.org/sites/default/files/downloads/publication/public_schools_in_the_crosshairs.pdf

If the report has one weakness, it is in a strange historical blindspot -- desegregation, and the abandonment of the promise of Brown v. Board of Education by the leaders of corporate (and political) America since the 1980s. While the intense joining of poverty and racial segregation have been increasing in public schools and many of America's cities since the 1980s, there is no mention of this in the SPLC report. It seems that the SPLC's fixation of right wing conspiracies (and there are many) and domestic terrorists (of which there are a number) has created a blindspot in the very location where a group calling itself the Southern Poverty Law Center (emphasis mine) should be strongest. I have a hunch that someone will comment and let Substance know that SPLC relies on some of the corporate world's most energetic proponents of Common Core among its funders. I don't have the time or care to know much more than that.

As usual, Stephen Krashen does a big job in reminding us of the obvious in his critique of the SPLC report. So now, for the documents...

KRASHEN TO SPLC HERE:

Saturday, May 10, 2014

Response to Southern Poverty Law Center Statement on the Common Core, by Stephen Krashen

Response to: Public Schools in the Crosshairs: Far-Right Propaganda and the Common Core State Standards (Southern Poverty Law Center).

http://www.splcenter.org/get-informed/publications/Public-Schools-in-the-Crosshairs-Far-Right-Propaganda-and-the-Common-Core-State-Standards

I agree that the debate about the common core must be rooted in the facts, and that the "propoganda machine on the right" has "polluted the debate" with outrageous accusations. There are, however, serious and legitimate arguments against the common core.

The stated reason for the common core is the supposedly poor performance of American students. But when researchers control for the effect of poverty, American students' international test scores are at the top of the world. Our overall scores are unspectacular (but not terrible) because we have so much child poverty, 24%, the second highest among all economically advanced countries. Poverty means poor diet, inadequate health care, and little or no access to books. All of these have devastating effects on school performance. The best teaching has little effect when children are hungry, ill and have nothing to read.

The common core not only ignores the real problem; it does nothing to protect children from the effects of poverty. It only offers us a an extremely expensive plan with no basis in the research: There is no research supporting "tough" standards or nonstop testing. Also, studies show that increasing testing does not improve school achievement.

The common core is a bad solution that is aimed at the wrong problem. Stephen Krashen

SOURCES:

Levels of poverty:

UNICEF Innocenti Research Centre 2012, ‘Measuring Child Poverty: New league tables of child poverty in the world’s rich countries’, Innocenti Report Card 10, UNICEF Innocenti Research Centre, Florence.

Control for poverty:

Payne, K. and Biddle, B. 1999. Poor school funding, child poverty, and mathematics achievement. Educational Researcher 28 (6): 4-13; Bracey, G. 2009. The Bracey Report on the Condition of Public Education. Boulder and Tempe: Education and the Public Interest Center & Education Policy Research Unit. http://epicpolicy.org/publication/Bracey-Report. Berliner, D. 2011. The Context for Interpreting PISA Results in the USA: Negativism, Chauvinism, Misunderstanding, and the Potential to Distort the Educational Systems of Nations. In Pereyra, M., Kottoff, H-G., & Cowan, R. (Eds.). PISA under examination: Changing knowledge, changing tests, and changing schools. Amsterdam: Sense Publishers. Tienken, C. 2010. Common core state standards: I wonder? Kappa Delta Phi Record 47 (1): 14-17. Carnoy, M and Rothstein, R. 2013, What Do International Tests Really Show Us about U.S. Student Performance. Washington DC: Economic Policy Institute. 2012. http://www.epi.org/).

“Poverty means poor nutrition, inadequate health care, and lack of access to books”:

Berliner, D. 2009. Poverty and Potential: Out-of-School Factors and School Success. Boulder and Tempe: Education and the Public Interest Center & Education Policy Research Unit. http://epicpolicy.org/publication/poverty-and-potential; Krashen, S. 1997. Bridging inequity with books. Educational Leadership 55(4): 18-22.

Increasing testing does not mean greater achievement:

Nichols, S., Glass, G., and Berliner, D. 2006. High-stakes testing and student achievement: Does accountability increase student learning? Education Policy Archives 14(1). http://epaa.asu.edu/epaa/v14n1/. OECD. Tienken, C., 2011. Common core standards: An example of data-less decision-making. Journal of Scholarship and Practice. American Association of School Administrators [AASA], 7(4): 3-18. http://www.aasa.org/jsp.aspx.

KRASHEN TO NEWSWEEK HERE:

Thursday, May 1, 2014. The common core: A bad solution that aims at the wrong problem, By Stephen Krashen

Sent to Newsweek, May 1, 2014.

Alexander Nazaryan ("Sorry, Louis C.K., but You’re Wrong About Common Core," May 1) says our schools need the increased "rigor" of the common core because they are so bad: "China, South Korea and Germany are leaving us in the chalk dust, most Americans can barely find America on the map ...".

Not so. When researchers control for the effect of poverty, American students' international test scores are at the top of the world. Our overall scores are unspectacular (but not terrible) because we have so much child poverty, 24%, the second highest among all economically advanced countries. Poverty means poor diet, inadequate health care, and little or no access to books. All of these have devastating effects on school performance. The best teaching has little effect when children are hungry, ill and have nothing to read.

The common core not only ignores the real problem, but also offers us a plan with no basis in the research: There is no research supporting "tough" standards, no research that justifies the bad math homework Louis C.K.'s children had to deal with. Also, studies show that increasing testing does not improve school achievement.

The common core is a bad solution that is aimed at the wrong problem. Stephen Krashen

Article appears at:

http://www.newsweek.com/sorry-louis-ck-youre-wrong-about-common-core-249313

Sources:

Levels of poverty: UNICEF Innocenti Research Centre 2012, ‘Measuring Child Poverty: New league tables of child poverty in the world’s rich countries’, Innocenti Report Card 10, UNICEF Innocenti Research Centre, Florence.

Control for poverty:

Payne, K. and Biddle, B. 1999. Poor school funding, child poverty, and mathematics achievement. Educational Researcher 28 (6): 4-13; Bracey, G. 2009. The Bracey Report on the Condition of Public Education. Boulder and Tempe: Education and the Public Interest Center & Education Policy Research Unit. http://epicpolicy.org/publication/Bracey-Report. Berliner, D. 2011. The Context for Interpreting PISA Results in the USA: Negativism, Chauvinism, Misunderstanding, and the Potential to Distort the Educational Systems of Nations. In Pereyra, M., Kottoff, H-G., & Cowan, R. (Eds.). PISA under examination: Changing knowledge, changing tests, and changing schools. Amsterdam: Sense Publishers. Tienken, C. 2010. Common core state standards: I wonder? Kappa Delta Phi Record 47 (1): 14-17. Carnoy, M and Rothstein, R. 2013, What Do International Tests Really Show Us about U.S. Student Performance. Washington DC: Economic Policy Institute. 2012. http://www.epi.org/).

“Poverty means poor nutrition, inadequate health care, and lack of access to books”:

Berliner, D. 2009. Poverty and Potential: Out-of-School Factors and School Success. Boulder and Tempe: Education and the Public Interest Center & Education Policy Research Unit. http://epicpolicy.org/publication/poverty-and-potential; Krashen, S. 1997. Bridging inequity with books. Educational Leadership 55(4): 18-22.

Increasing testing does not mean greater achievement:

Nichols, S., Glass, G., and Berliner, D. 2006. High-stakes testing and student achievement: Does accountability increase student learning? Education Policy Archives 14(1). http://epaa.asu.edu/epaa/v14n1/. OECD. Tienken, C., 2011. Common core standards: An example of data-less decision-making. Journal of Scholarship and Practice. American Association of School Administrators [AASA], 7(4): 3-18. http://www.aasa.org/jsp.aspx.

SOUTHERN POVERTY LAW CENTER PRESS RELEASE BELOW HERE:

05/07/2014. SPLC report: Extremist propaganda is distorting the debate over the Common Core State Standards • • Public Schools in the Crosshairs: Far-Right Propaganda and the Common Core State Standards The fierce grassroots campaign threatening to derail the Common Core State Standards is being fueled by far-right propaganda that relies heavily on distortions, outright falsehoods and demonizing conspiracy theories promoted by antigovernment extremists, according to a report released today by the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC).

Now being implemented in 44 states, the Common Core is a set of learning standards that identify the literacy and math skills children in America’s public schools, wherever they live, should master at each grade level.

But to Christian Right, Tea Party and antigovernment activists, the state-driven effort to lift student achievement is actually “Obamacore,” a nefarious, left-wing plot to wrest control of education from local school systems and parents. Instead of the “death panels” of “Obamacare,” the fear is “government indoctrination camps.”

“These claims may sound outlandish – and they are – but the fact is, millions of Americans are absorbing this extremist propaganda, and it’s having a very real impact,” said Heidi Beirich, director of the SPLC’s Intelligence Project. “These lies are being repeated in churches, legislative hearings and town hall meetings across the country.”

The report, Public Schools in the Crosshairs: Far-Right Propaganda and the Common Core State Standards, was researched by the Intelligence Project and the SPLC’s Teaching Tolerance program.

Many Christian Right activists claim the Common Core will indoctrinate young children into “the homosexual lifestyle” and instill anti-American, anti-Christian values. Their fight has been joined by radical antigovernment groups like the John Birch Society, which claims the standards are part of a global conspiracy to create a totalitarian “New World Order.” Glenn Beck, meanwhile, describes the Common Core as “evil” and “communism.” U.S. Sen. Rand Paul has called it “dangerous.”

What’s more, it’s clear that some of the opponents, including national groups associated with the billionaire Koch brothers, are exploiting the Common Core in their broader fight against the public education system in an effort to promote school privatization measures.

“The 50 million children in our nation’s public schools, and the dedicated educators who serve them, deserve better than a debate that focuses on falsehoods and demonizes the very idea of public education,” said Teaching Tolerance Director Maureen Costello. “There are legitimate concerns about the Common Core, but those very real issues are being obscured and distorted by the claims of extremists.”

Despite the claims of many critics, the standards do not mandate the use of any particular book or course of study. Those decisions remain with individual teachers and school systems.

The standards were developed under the auspices of the National Governors Association and the Council of Chief State School Officers. Forty-five states initially adopted the Common Core, but Indiana in March became the first state to withdraw.

CHICAGO TEACHERS UNION STATEMENT AND RESOLUTION ON THE COMMON CORE, MAY 7, 2014:

Chicago Teachers Union joins growing national opposition to deeply flawed Common Core Standards. BY CTU COMMUNICATIONS, 05/07/2014

CHICAGO – Today, members of the House of Delegates (HOD) of the Chicago Teachers Union (CTU) passed the following resolution that enjoins the city’s educators to growing national opposition to the Common Core State Standards, saying the assessments disrupt student learning and consume tremendous amounts of time and resources for test preparation and administration.

Now that the resolution has passed, the CTU will lobby the Illinois Board of Education to eliminate the use of the Common Core for teaching and assessment; and be it further and will work to organize other members and affiliates to increase opposition to the law that increases the expansion of nationwide controls over educational issues.

Common Core’s origins can be traced to the 2009 Stimulus Bill which gave $4.35 billion to the federal Department of Education which created the “Race to the Top” competition between states. In order to qualify for funding, the states needed to adopt Common Core with the added incentive that participating states would be exempted from many of the more onerous provisions of George Bush’s “No child left behind” program.

“I agree with educators and parents from across the country, the Common Core mandate represents an overreach of federal power into personal privacy as well as into state educational autonomy,” said CTU President Karen Lewis, a nationally board certified teacher. “Common Core eliminates creativity in the classroom and impedes collaboration. We also know that high-stakes standardized testing is designed to rank and sort our children and it contributes significantly to racial discrimination and the achievement gap among students in America’s schools.”

The official text of the resolution follows:

Resolution to Oppose the Common Core State Standards

WHEREAS, the purpose of education is to educate a populace of critical thinkers who are capable of shaping a just and equitable society in order to lead good and purpose-filled lives, not solely preparation for college and career; and

WHEREAS, instructional and curricular decisions should be in the hands of classroom professionals who understand the context and interests of their students; and

WHEREAS, the education of children should be grounded in developmentally appropriate practice; and

WHEREAS, high quality education requires adequate resources to provide a rich and varied course of instruction, individual and small group attention, and wrap-around services for students; and

WHEREAS, the Common Core State Standards were developed by non-practitioners, such as test and curriculum publishers, as well as education reform foundations, such as the Gates and Broad Foundations, and as a result the CCSS better reflect the interests and priorities of corporate education reformers than the best interests and priorities of teachers and students; and

WHEREAS, the Common Core State Standards were piloted incorrectly, have been implemented too quickly, and as a result have produced numerous developmentally inappropriate expectations that do not reflect the learning needs of many students; and

WHEREAS, imposition of the Common Core State Standards adversely impacts students of highest need, including students of color, impoverished students, English language learners, and students with disabilities; and

WHEREAS, the Common Core State Standards emphasize pedagogical techniques, such as close reading, out of proportion to the actual value of these methods – and as a result distort instruction and remove instructional materials from their social context; and

WHEREAS, despite the efforts of our union to provide support to teachers, the significant time, effort, and expense associated with modifying curricula to the Common Core State Standards interferes and takes resources away from work developing appropriate and engaging courses of study; and

WHEREAS, the assessments that accompany the Common Core State Standards (PARCC and Smarter Balance) are not transparent in that --teachers and parents are not allowed to view the tests and item analysis will likely not be made available given the nature of computer adaptive tests; and

WHEREAS, Common Core assessments disrupt student learning, consuming tremendous amounts of time and resources for test preparation and administration; and

WHEREAS, the assessment practices that accompany Common Core State Standards – including the political manipulation of test scores – are used as justification to label and close schools, fail students, and evaluate educators; therefore be it

RESOLVED that the Chicago Teachers Union opposes the Common Core State Standards (and the aligned tests) as a framework for teaching and learning; and be it further

RESOLVED, the Chicago Teachers Union advocates for an engaged and socially relevant curriculum that is student-based and supported by research, as well as for supports such as those described in the Chicago Teachers Union report, The Schools Chicago’s Students Deserve; and be it further

RESOLVED, the Chicago Teachers Union will embark on internal discussions to educate and seek feedback from members regarding the Common Core and its impact on our students; and be it further

RESOLVED, the Chicago Teachers Union will lobby the Illinois Board of Education to eliminate the use of the Common Core State Standards for teaching and assessment; and be it further

RESOLVED, the Chicago Teachers Union will organize other members and affiliates to increase opposition to the Common Core State Standards; and be it further

RESOLVED, that a copy of this resolution be sent to the Illinois State Board of Education, the Chicago Board of Education, the Governor of Illinois, and all members of the Illinois legislative branch; and be it finally

RESOLVED, that should this resolution be passed by the CTU House of Delegates, an appropriate version will be submitted to the American Federation of Teachers for consideration at the 2014 Convention.



Comments:

May 11, 2014 at 7:39 AM

By: Rod Estvan

Right wing and CTU opposition to the Common Core

The Southern Poverty Law Center's position basically arguing that all opposition to the Common Core is driven by the right wing and state's rights ideology is unbalanced. But it is true that there is a very deep right wing opposition to the Common Core which sees the standards as an educational harbinger to a world government linked to the United Nations, International Monetary Fund, and the World Bank.

Under Indiana Senate Bill 91 – authored by Sen. Scott Schneider, R-Indianapolis the State reverted back to education standards in place prior to June 30, 2010, when the Indiana State Board of Education first approved and started phasing in Common Core. There was nothing progressive about the old standards, and they were also largely test driven. The primary reason Indiana SB 91 passed was the ideological perspectives of Tea Party Republicans.

It is more than fair to say that the CTU's opposition to the Common Core is not coming from that perspective and shares very little with the Republican opposition to the Common Core. But the CTU or IFT really have not presented a serious critique of the Illinois learning standards which Illinois would revert to if a bill similar to Indiana SB 91 passed here in Illinois.

Rod Estvan

May 11, 2014 at 4:47 PM

By: Susan Ohanian

Southern Poverty Law Center

I recommend you read Ken Silverstein's Harper Magazine expose of Southern Poverty Law Center's dubious track record. As Silverstein notes, SPLC has a habit of casually labeling organizations as "hate groups"--and collecting a lot of money to fight such groups--most of which amount to a handful of people.

They use this same method of casually labeling opposition to the Common Core as nut cases. That is not my experiences. I communicate with a lot of conservatives who are opposed to Common Core (and I check out their websites). My website is recommended by a number of them. Hey, my work is also on the Socialist website.

I've been invited to speak at a number of conservative gatherings. Funny thing: No invitations have come from the mainstream or the Left. I guess I just don't meet the orthodoxies.

Ralph Nader has just published a new book: "Unstoppable: The Emerging Left-Right Alliance to Dismantle the Corporate State." Heed his message.

SPLC uses its typical smear tactics in its ugly characterization of conservatives and of course is totally wrong in ignoring Common Core opposition coming from the Left. That said, we should be very careful to avoid their tactic of putting all conservatives in the same basket.

I would caution CTU people against taking a holier than thou stance against other dissidents. A lot of those conservatives got into this fight LONG before you did, and a lot of them are very well-informed.

When will so-called progressives learn that you can share information and strategies against a common enemy without jumping off any ideological cliffs?

April 13, 2015 at 4:48 AM

By: George N. Schmidt

Racists try to post to Substance

I just deleted an email from the "NAAWP" ("National Association for the Advancement of White People") attacking a generally anti racist group. So here we'll reiterate our policy that we won't put up blatantly racist comments or comments from blatantly racist groups. The rest of our comment policy against anonymous or pseudononymous comments is still in place. It's our right to police our little portion of the Internet, whether the crazies are sex-obsessed former union delegates who sold out their schools to AUSL or thugs who wish they could night ride wearing sheets.

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