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Wednesday, July 23, 2014


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As I became aware of the implementation of the Common Core State Standards in North Dakota an interesting phenomenon became apparent. The supporters of Common Core want to talk about only “The standards”. At the March 27, 2014 Bismarck-Mandan Chamber of Commerce meeting billed to examine the “facts and fallacies of Common Core” the proponents would talk of nothing except “the standards” and the beauty of those standards which I have come to characterize using the descriptors of “unicorns, pixy dust, rainbows, and butterflies”. If you spend a few googley hours examining the N.D. Department of Public Instruction (DPI) website you will find plenty about the beauty of the standards but precious little about education “reform”.

It is quite amusing to wear a No Common Core button to initiate conversation. My favorite response to people’s observant comment about the button is to ask the simple question of, “So, what do you think about this Common Core business”? Their response is almost always to repeat the market tested talking point phrases related to “high standards”. Then I ask, “What about the rest of it”? They pause, perplexed, “The rest of it, what rest of it”? And, there is plenty of “rest of it” to explain.

What the North Dakota DPI neglects to mention in any way is that as a condition of adopting the beautiful “Standards” top-to-bottom, side-to-side education changes are underway. Why does no one supporting Common Core talk about this? Are education leaders not telling the Governor, the legislators, the principals, administrators, teachers and the citizens about the scope of Common Core? It does not seem so odd when you understand the substance and extent of those reforms. Are we dealing here with the COMMON CORE TROJAN HORSE, which is a complete, state wide SYSTEMIC EDUCATION REFORM? Are Common Core supporters silent ….for good reason …. on purpose?

The substance of the reform is complex and beyond this limited discussion so the question for today is, does ND DPI know that Common Core is system wide education reform? I started thinking about this when on the May 6, 2014 edition of the Jay Thomas radio show Dale Wetzel, spokesman of ND DPI denied that Common Core was “Systemic Reform”. ND DPI spokesman Dale Wetzel emphatically denied that Common Core was actually “Systemic Education Reform”.

I thought that perhaps ND DPI Superintendent Kirsten Baesler maybe did not know that Common Core State Standards was in fact the basis for education reform until I found a letter from early March of 2013 in which the Superintendent was aware that that Common Core was the basis of reform of the North Dakota education system. At a March 4, 2013 press conference related to the letter, Ms. Baesler state that, “The further we progressed through the waiver process, the more we felt we were being asked to adopt another national, one-size-fits-all model of education,” were she also stated her intent to continue to reform education.

Is there any literature, internet postings, or press releases in which the ND DPI or any school district even mentions the systemic reform of the state’s education system based on the Common Core State Standards? And…..why not?

DPI has to know that:

2008 – Hunt Institute publishes the first in a series entitled “The Hunt Institute’s Blueprint for Education Leadership” In Blueprint Number 1 the term “standards-based reform” occurs repeatedly and the table on page 5 lists all of the reform components that are exactly the same components of Common Core.

2008 – From the publication of the authors of the Common Core State Standards entitled “Benchmarking for Success: Ensuring U.S. Students Receive a World-Class Education”, A report by the National Governors Association, the Council of Chief State School Officers, and Achieve, Inc., in the Conclusions on page 39, :

“The United States will only achieve true international competitiveness when state education policies and institutions are restructured to meet 21st century realities”.

2009 – In an April, 16th announcement, entitled, “Hunt Institute Continues Push For Systemic Education Reform”, the institute states:

“… James B. Hunt, Jr. Institute for Educational Leadership and Policy is now encouraging state and local leaders to think strategically as they develop plans for an unprecedented amount of federal funding for education.”


“We cannot be satisfied with business as usual – it’s clear that we need urgent transformation of American education,” said James B. Hunt, Jr., chairman of the Hunt Institute and former governor of North Carolina.


2009 – At the June 14th Hunt Institute hosted 2009 Governors Education Symposium U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan gave keynote address to entitled, “States Will Lead the Way Toward Reform” in which he uses the word “reform” 22 times and states:

“So I am thrilled to be among the true education reformers who understand the stakes, want to see change and are determined to lift American education to a new level”.


“Perfect Storm for Reform:

• Obama effect

• Leadership on the Hill and the Unions

• Proven strategies for success

• The Recovery Act -- $100B”


“But if all we do is save jobs, we will miss this opportunity – which is why we are also using this recovery money to drive reform in four core areas”.


“The children in these schools can’t wait for incremental reform. They need radical change right now – new leadership, new staff and a whole new educational approach.”


“As you know, we have $5 billion dollars in competitive grant funding under the Recovery Act to help advance these four reforms.”


“After the set-asides for the Innovation and What Works fund and the money for the new assessments, we will have $4 billion dollars for states to drive education reform.


This is your opportunity to be bold, creative, think big and push hard on the kind of reforms that we know will create fundamental change.

But this money will only go to states that are absolutely pushing reform in real and measurable ways – states where great educators are turning around our worst schools, meeting the highest standards and producing career and college-ready graduates.


2010 – In the March publication from the U.S. Department of Education entitled, “A Blueprint For Reform: The reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act”, the word reform appears 23 times. In the preface, President Obama states:

“…..instead of investing in the status quo, we must reform our schools…”

Elsewhere in the text of the “Blueprint”:

“We will continue Race to the Top’s incentives for systemic reforms at the state level and expand the program to school districts that are willing to take on bold, comprehensive reforms”.


2010 - In the May the memo entitled “Title I Final Allocations” the author, ND Superintendent of Public Instruction Wayne Sanstead uses the word reform five times:

“A Blueprint for Reform” regarding the reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act from President Obama was released on March 13, 2010, and can be found at http://www2.ed.gov/policy/elsec/leg/blueprint/index.html on the USDE website.


If we look at the legislation passed in the ARRA, we can get a good idea of the scope of changes that will be a part of the reauthorized federal law. Listed below are some of the highlights:


What Stays:


• A Strong Focus on Standards – The new proposal continues to focus on the “common core standards initiative” to establish more uniform academic standards in reading and math to prepare students for college or a career.

• Annual Testing – The new proposal keeps the requirement for annual testing in reading and math in grades 3 through 8 and once in high school.


American Recovery and Reinvestment Act – The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) of 2009 provides approximately $100 billion for education, creating a historic opportunity to save hundreds of thousands of jobs, support states and school districts, and advance reforms and improvements that will create long-lasting results for our students and our nation including early learning, K-12, and post-secondary education.


Fiscal Stabilization – In order for states to get their phase two funding under the State Fiscal Stabilization Fund, they must submit an application. In the application, states must provide information in four key areas of education reform:

§  Achieving equity in teacher distribution,

§  Improving collection and use of data,

§  Standards and assessments, and

§  Supporting struggling schools.


Race to the Top State Application – The federal Race to the Top grant is a competitive, $4.35 billion education reform program enacted as part of the ARRA.


To qualify, applicants must address one of the four key areas that are driving President Obama’s education reform agenda: building common standards and assessments, using data to improve student achievement, supporting effective teachers and principals and turning around consistently low-performing schools. The deadline to apply is May 11, 2010.


2010 – In the June publication entitled “Theory of Action an excerpt from the Smarter Balanced Race to the Top Application” of the Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium (the consortium that N.D. is a member of), it is explicitly stated in the that:

“The Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium (Smarter Balanced) supports the development and implementation of learning and assessment systems to radically reshape the education enterprise in participating states in order to improve student outcomes”.


20911 – On June 20nd, ND DPI issues a press release authored by Standards and Achievement Director Greg Gallagher concerning “State Superintendent Approves New State Content Standards for English Language Arts and Mathematics, Based on the National Common Core State Standards”. The word “reform” is not found in this document.


2011 – On September 22nd, ND DPI issues a press release authored by Standards and Achievement Director Greg Gallagher concerning “Request for comments on the first draft of English Language Arts and Mathematics Content Standards”. The word “reform” is not found in this document.



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