WV Against Common Core’s Presentation to the WV Legislature’s Joint Standing Education Committee 12.16.2014
Our group is WV Against Common Core. We are parents, grandparents, and citizens deeply concerned about our nation’s education system.
For the past two years, we have traveled the state raising awareness about concerns with Common Core. We have talked with many of you – to those of you who would take the time to listen – we thank you. We are also grateful to Senator Donna Boley. It was Senator Boley, who early on recognized this emerging educational crisis and our need to be heard. Without her, we would have no voice, and without her we would not be here today.
We have experts here today, Dr. Sandra Stotsky and Theodur Rebarber, to speak on the deficiencies of the common core standards. They come with no personal agenda, but only their own individual persistence to help save American education. They come with credentials and life accomplishments which compel us to seek out and utilize their advice. Dr. Stotsky’s accomplishments in the Massachusetts schools are indisputable and she is probably the most knowledgeable ELA expert in the world. We are privileged to have them here.
But Common Core is not just about standards. Common core was built on false promises, and deception.
Beginning in 2009, Governors and state boards began to sign common core related agreements and grant applications in exchange for federal stimulus money and NCLB waivers. The applications contained commitments to not only common standards, but to assessments, student data systems, teacher evaluations, and government intervention in low performing schools – Common Core is not just about standards.
And governors across the country, signed common core related agreements built on false promises and deception.
In 2009, in an agreement with the National Governors Association, the Governors agreed to adopt common standards with the promise of rigor, college ready, and internationally benchmarked – standards not yet developed, not seen, not tried, not tested. In effect, they bought a house before it was built based on promises that have never materialized.
One year later, the WV State Board adopted the Common Core Standards, before the standard’s final release (in June, 2010)…the final release not seen, not tried, not tested,..all based on false promises.
Next, to test students on the standards, the Governor joined the Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium, agreeing to bind WV to the decisions of that Consortium. In effect, the Governor relinquished our state sovereignty to a group allowing the group to make educational assessment decisions for us.
And that group, the Smarter Balanced Consortium, then turned around and entered into a contract with the U.S. DOE and agreed to make student level data from the assessments available to the DOE. The Consortium decided the federal government could access WV student data…but of course, it was subject to applicable privacy law.
Subject to applicable privacy law. ..This is the Deception, the bait and switch..
The US DOE’s big FERPA scam:
After we adopted CC standards, relinquished state sovereignty by binding ourselves to decisions of a group, a group that agreed to hand over our student data to the federal government, the Dept of Education altered the student privacy law, the very law Congress intended to protect student data.
Without going through Congress, without statutory change, the Department redefined who can have access to student data. Jane Robbins, of the American Principles Project put it this way: “The public is unaware of this intrusion on their child’s privacy. Not only will parents have no right to object to this sharing of their children’s data, they probably will never even know it happened.”
Thus, not only did the Governors relinquish our state sovereignty with these agreements, they also gave away our parental rights over our children’s private information, to the federal government.
There have been many challenges to the Department’s unconstitutional FERPA changes, notably: (During the public comment period on the changes 2010),
The American Association of Collegiate Registrars and Admission Officers, with 2,600 higher education members and 10,000 campus enrollment officials, with vast knowledge and experience with student data, in (an 11 page) statement to the DOE stated:
“…the proposed regulations have been overwhelmingly influenced by the single-issue lobbying of a well-financed campaign to promote a data free-for-all in the name of educational reform… the Department lacks the legal authority to implement these (changes) through regulatory action.”
(In 2010,U.S. DOE Family Policy Compliance Office,)
Paul Gammill, Director and chief official charged with protecting student data was fired by the Department. Gammill subsequently filed a Whistleblower Retaliation lawsuit against the Department, believing he was fired due to his objections to the FERPA changes.
In his legal complaint, he states,
“My FERPA attorneys, as well as the DOE attorneys familiar with FERPA, informed me that the proposal change required a statutory change in the law and that the proposed regulatory change was not legal.”
(In 2012) EPIC (Electronic Privacy Information Center) filed a federal lawsuit charging the DOE’s regulations amending FERPA exceed the agency’s statutory authority. (later dismissed for lack of standing without looking at the substantive claims)
(In April, 2013) Congressman Blaine Luetkemeyer (MO) wrote to Secretary Arney Duncan decrying the circumvention of Congress and the conditions placed on states in exchange for funding, such as the tracking of students using personally identifiable information.
Common Core is more than educational standards.
It is about controlling education in America. It is about student data collection, cradle to grave tracking, and data mining. The testing consortiums are the central data collection point. In WV, the Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium began collecting data last spring (2014) with its first field test, and is scheduled to begin full online assessments this spring.
The point is this: WV has agreed to allow access to our student data without parental consent.
Our student data is not safe…leaving parents with only one alternative to protect their child’s personal information… and that is to OPT OUT of state assessments.
This body should be aware of recent developments with Smarter Balanced. Apparently member-states must now pay membership dues to the Consortium. On November 20, (2014), in Missouri, a judge issued a temporary restraining order to prohibit the state from making those dues payments, amounting to over $ 1 million, to Smarter Balanced. The order states:
“Plaintiffs have made a preliminary showing of likelihood of success on the merits on their claims that the Consortium is an unconstitutional interstate compact to which Congress has never consented, in violation of the Compact Clause of the U. S. Constitution.”
This inevitably brings up our own questions : Is WV part of an illegal interstate compact? What are our Consortium dues and other Smarter Balanced expenses? Will we ever see a full accounting of the cost to the taxpayers for Common Core? Etc, etc ….
It has now been four years since the WV State Board adopted Common Core Standards and almost 2 years since we went before them with our concerns. Instead of addressing our concerns, board members have painted us as “right wingers” with a political agenda holding political events. Any of you that attended our Bridgeport forum with Dr. Stotsky surely did not see a political event.
I will submit to you today that our State Board is the political entity. It’s members are unelected political appointees, unaccountable to the people, and have lost the public trust.
Building 6 has become a little kingdom, behaving as the 4th Branch of Government. From the Independent Education Audit of 2012, “We have encountered no other state that insulates its education system so much from gubernatorial – or voter- control.”
A possible solution for this comes from the WV State Farm Bureau who recently passed a statewide resolution calling for the State Board of Education to become an elected body by the people of West Virginia.
As you know, it was Governor Manchin, now U.S. Senator Manchin, who signed us up for Common Core and the Smarter Balanced consortium. At a town hall in St. Marys with the Senator, I shared the FERPA information with him. He knew nothing about the FERPA changes made by the U.S. DOE. Quoting from The Parkersburg News and Sentinel article covering the event: “He (Senator Manchin) said programs such as RTTT and Common Core have gone horribly wrong.”
I will submit to you today that our current Governor has never, to my knowledge, publicly said the words “Common Core.” A year ago, we, publicly and by mail, requested the Governor impose a 2 year moratorium on the assessments so that we may study these common core issues. We received no response, not even a form letter.
This matter is urgent.
A world renowned Stanford mathematician and standards expert, Dr. James Milgram, tells us after 4 years under poor standards like Common Core, the damage to students is irreparable.
Governor Tomblin, today, I am calling you out. You have ignored our concerns and put WV children’s education in crisis. There will be anti-common core bills this next session. It is time for you to acknowledge and help fix this problem.
Chief Justice John Roberts said: “The states are separate and independent sovereigns. Sometimes they have to act like it.”
We want WV to act like it.
We realize no decisions will be reached today, and we thank this committee for the opportunity to speak. Today is the beginning discussion, it must not be the last.
Ultimately, we must recognize common core is the federalization of education.
We cannot piecemeal the eradication of Common Core. The standards, the assessments, and the data collection are all intertwined within the grants and agreements. We must get rid of it all to fix the problem.
We need legislation that will remove Common Core Standards from WV schools, withdraw WV from the SBAC, and stop this expansion, collection, and sharing of student data.
And we must restore and affirm WV’s commitment to parental rights naming parents as the final authority over their child’s education.
Today, we look forward to new committees, new leadership, fresh faces and new ideas in the WV Legislature, a legislature that we hope will act as true representatives of the people.
My head tells me to be cautiously optimistic. My heart leaps for joy at the promise of changes coming to West Virginia.
The Common Core war is a battle we can not lose. If we lose, we will lose our children. If we lose our children, we will lose our nation.