For the first time in recent memory, K-12 education is emerging as a top tier issue in the coming presidential race, at least among Republicans. That, for people who care deeply about schools, is the good news.
The bad news is that the political conversation is almost entirely focused on the ever-more contentious topic of Common Core, and the rhetoric is so long on blanket ideology and short on specific policy that it often feels like politicians aren’t talking about what kids are learning, or not learning, at all.
The state-led initiative to create rigorous, grade-by-grade standards is the biggest thing to hit American schools in years, but as Common Core has spread across the country, resistance has too. Sure, some is fueled by the problems inherent in such a major rollout, some by union concerns or instinctive suspicions over unfamiliar teaching methods. The complaint that’s found a receptive audience among right wing politicians, though, is that Common Core is just one more example of big government intrusion, right up there with health care reform, contraceptive coverage mandates, tough new environmental standards and more.
The upshot is that in this GOP presidential preseason, Common Core has become a wedge issue, a vehicle for populist resentment toward Washington and the president, and a convenient stand-in for all that divides the party’s purist base from its less rigid, more corporate wing. As for the program’s educational merits? Well, they almost seem beside the point.
To understand how we got to this strange place, consider the journey of one likely White House aspirant.
For Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal, the first identifiable fork in the road appeared last August as he addressed the RedState Gathering, a meeting of conservative activists with tea party leanings, in New Orleans. What, one participant pointedly asked, was Jindal’s take on Common Core?
Jindal, a wonkish former Rhodes Scholar who had long since sought to establish himself as a cutting-edge leader in accountability-based education reform, had enthusiastically supported creating the new reading, writing and math standards as a way to teach students to think analytically, better prepare them to compete in a global economy, and quantify their progress using common tests. Yet he could easily read the mood of the room that day, and extrapolate to the larger movement. And so, brushing right past the fact that Common Core was created by states rather than the federal government and does not impose specific texts or lesson plans, Jindal vowed to fight any efforts to impose a “national curriculum.”
It wasn’t much, but it was the first step in what would become a slow motion but ultimately spectacular reversal.
As anger grew, Jindal gradually ratcheted up his professed concern until he finally renounced his earlier position this spring. From there, he was off and running, trumpeting his defiance in speeches to GOP groups, declaring on Twitter that Louisiana wouldn’t be “bullied by fed govt.”, and issuing rhetorically loaded statements like this: “Let’s face it: centralized planning didn’t work in Russia, it’s not working with our health care system and it won’t work in education.”
And after he failed to convince the Louisiana Legislature to follow his lead, Jindal went unilateral, announcing in mid-June that “we want out of Common Core,” and ordering his staff to invalidate the contract being used to pay the multi -state testing consortium called PARCC. The move set off chaos in schools, which suddenly didn’t know which tests they’d be using in the new year, and open warfare with Jindal’s longtime allies in reform, including the state’s top business leaders, a media-savvy education superintendent and a state education board that’s now mulling a lawsuit — all of whom accuse him of playing politics at students’ expense.
Despite the ostentatious flip-flop, Jindal’s underlying agenda hasn’t changed; he’s still fixated on positioning himself for national GOP prominence, just as he’s always been. The landscape, though, has shifted dramatically, and potential candidates eyeing the party’s 2016 presidential nomination — from Jindal to U.S. Sens. Ted Cruz to Marco Rubio — are recalibrating accordingly.
It wasn’t so long ago that Common Core was relatively uncontroversial, and under-radar. In 2009 the National Governors Association, under the leadership of Georgia Republican Sonny Perdue, Delaware Democrat Jack Markell and the Council of Chief State School Officers, set out to create guidelines outlining which skills students at each grade level should master. The U.S. Chamber of Commerce, the National Urban League, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and others backed them up, and nearly every state signed on. President Barack Obama jumped on board too; the administration didn’t mandate anything, but it used the bully pulpit and offered financial incentives to jurisdictions that adopted rigorous standards.
But it didn’t take long for the conversation to shift from workforce development and best teaching practices to the far more loaded topic of who controls what happens in local schools. Obama’s backing became a red flag to conservatives who perceived so many parallels to the hated Affordable Care Act that they dubbed it “ObamaCore,” or, alternatively, “Commie Core.” Many of the early supporters among GOP governors, Perdue included, left office, and their replacements proved far more skeptical, or at least more attuned to the party’s vocal tea party wing that, in many cases, had propelled them to office. These days, Jindal’s peers aren’t people like Indiana’s Mitch Daniels, another original Common Core advocate, but his successor Mike Pence, who has signed legislation pulling his state out.
Other GOP governors with larger aspirations are fleeing too, including South Carolina’s Nikki Haley, who also signed anti-Common Core legislation, and Wisconsin’s Scott Walker, who’s distanced himself but has not made a clean break.
Texas is one of a handful of states that never signed on, so Gov. Rick Perry gets to cater to opponents without having to worry about shifting gears at this late date, or just what state-specific standards and tests would look like — cost to develop. So can those who have no official role in deciding what should happen in their states, senators like Rand Paul and Rubio, plus former officials like Mike Huckabee and Rick Santorum. Cruz, among the biggest names in tea party politics, has taken to declaring that “we already have a common core. It’s called the Constitution of the United States.”
There are outliers, though, and their names say a lot about the politics of the pro and anti-Common Core movements.
There’s New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, who has attributed opposition to a kneejerk rejection of anything Obama supports. And there’s Jeb Bush, whose tenure as Florida governor predated Common Core but who has long been a missionary for the cause — and who’s showing no signs of wavering in the face of the uprising.
At a National Press Club appearance last year, Bush launched a rare full-throated defense of Common Core, as Jindal, still somewhere in mid-evolution at the time, quietly looked on. Rather than a national takeover, Bush said, Common Core is “45 states that have voluntarily come together to create fewer, higher, deeper standards, that, when you benchmark them to the best of the world, they’re world-class. I’m for that.”
Bush’s private foundation continues to spend millions promoting Common Core, and he told Fox News this spring that “I just don’t feel compelled to run for cover when I think this is the right thing to do for our country. And others have, others that supported the standards all of a sudden are opposed to it.”
Unlike most of their potential primary rivals, Christie and Bush hail from the branch of the GOP that may not particularly like the federal government but doesn’t see it as a bogeyman, and that doesn’t necessarily equate compromise with surrender. They also happen to come from states that Obama won twice, so they understand that not everyone demands or even cares for small government orthodoxy. A recent poll by NBC and the Wall Street Journal suggests Common Core isn’t so toxic in the electorate at large; it found that 53 percent of “Tea Party Republicans” oppose it, that the country at large is 59 percent in favor.
That suggests a pro-Common Core candidate could do just fine come 2016 — or at least swing the debate back to more substantive questions over how the new standards are playing out in classrooms across the country, and what American education policy should be. Provided that candidate can make it through the GOP primary gauntlet first.
Tuesday, July 29, 2014
This from the Hechringer Report:
This from Politics K-12:
Sen. Rand Paul, Potential Presidential Candidate, Talks Education—Sort Of
U.S. Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., a likely Republican contender in the 2016 presidential election, touched lightly on education issues—particularly school choice—when he spoke at the National Urban League's annual conference in Cincinnati on Friday morning.In other political news, this from Politico's Morning Education:
The speech had been previewed by some media outlets as "a major push on education reform." In reality, Paul dedicated less than one minute of his 18-minute speech to education issues, peddling policies that he's widely known for supporting: charters and vouchers.
Here's the entire education-related portion of his speech:
"They say education is the great equalizer, but all schools aren't equal. Many of the large schools in our cities are functioning with low standards. Many of the schools have become dropout factories. Some schools lack discipline and are unsafe. I saw the status quo is unacceptable. But Washington has no clue how to fix this problem. Washington has no clue how to fix education. Washington doesn't know whether you're a good teacher or a bad teacher. We should allow innovation to occur at the local level. I propose that we allow school charters, school choice, vouchers, competition. Competition breeds excellence and encourages innovation. And boy, we really need innovation. My kids went to great public schools. I went to great public schools. The president's kids go to great private schools. There are a lot of choices out there. I want to make it where all American get the option of choosing the best schools for their kids."Paul spent the bulk of his time pushing for criminal justice reform, which he's been drumming up support for by traveling around the country with Sen. Cory Booker, D-N.J.
Though he didn't give us the groundbreaking education speech we were looking forward to, the fact that he didn't break any news probably means his education platform—should he run for president—will by and large focus on policies he been espousing since he was elected to the Senate in 2010.
For starters, Paul, who sits on the Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee, has favored eliminating the U.S. Department of Education. His focus on limiting the role of the federal government is just one of his many tea- party-aligned political sensibilities.
Paul is an ardent champion for school choice policies. Lately, he's been teaming up with Sen. Lamar Alexander, R-Tenn., top Republican on the HELP Committee, to push proposals that would allow Title I dollars to follow students to the school of their choice, even a private school.
More recently, at an education roundtable at a Catholic school in Chicago in April, Paul said Title I funds, which are federal dollars allocated to public schools serving low-income students, are being sent to school district that "may not be deserving" of the investment.
He's right about there being some imbalance in Title I funding, and there are several reasons why the program's funding formula sometimes short-changes the neediest districts. We won't get into that now, but if you want a couple of great, wonky explainers, check out Alyson Klein's explainer here, and Lesli Maxwell's explainer here.
Paul is a staunch opponent of the No Child Left Behind Act, one of former president George W. Bush's biggest legislative legacies, and has used this to try to court teachers, who almost universally disliked the accountability model attached to the federal education law.
"Rand has emerged as our most effective advocate for freedom for teachers," said Alexander last summer.
The other half of Politics K-12, Alyson Klein, astutely noted in a blog post from June 2013: "Remember that quote, you may see it again on the future website of Rand Paul for America, sometime in 2016."
And every politician needs a stance on the Common Core State Standards, right?
Paul was one of 10 Republican senators to send a letter to Sen. Tom Harkin, D-Iowa, outlining their objection to federal money going to states in exchange for adopting certain academic standards, including common-core standards, or the development of assessments to go along with the common core, or any other set of standards.
Despite being a tea party darling, Paul is known for courting supporters from a variety of demographics that haven't traditionally supported Republican candidates. His speech to a crowd of about 100 people, mostly African-Americans, at the Urban League conference, highlights his out-of-the-box brand of politics and willingness to break away (and sometimes alienate himself) from his own party.
And...SENATE DEMOCRATS WORK THE STUDENT LOAN ANGLESenate Democrats are reviving the same campaign issue that helped Democrats win back seats in 2006 and catalyzed the "Occupy" movement - or at least, they're trying to. Powerhouse fundraiser (and potential 2016 presidential candidate) Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) has been making good on her promise to campaign for congressional candidates on the failed student loan refinancing bill she introduced earlier this year [http://politi.co/1s6jhAc ]. A refresher: Senate Democrats brought the bill to the floor in June knowing that Republicans would vote against it because it is paid for by taxing the wealthy. Senate Republicans blocked the bill, as expected, and Democrats vowed to bring it up again for a vote down the line.
Warren quickly hit the campaign trail for Alison Lundergan Grimes, the Kentucky secretary of state and Democratic opponent of Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, where she raised more than $200,000 for Grimes and attended a rally hosted by the Louisville College Democrats. Warren railed [http://bit.ly/1ugnlPz ] on McConnell for his vote against the bill, casting McConnell as choosing to "to protect the billionaires" and not students. "That's what this race is all about. It's about a man who stood up and filibustered the student loan bill," Warren said. "You send us Allison Grimes instead of Mitch McConnell, and you change the world." (McConnell and his staff have repeatedly pointed out that the minority leader has helped engineer student loan deals in the past.)
The National Education Association plans to focus on loans, too. The issue moves millennials, women and minority voters, NEA Political Director Karen White said. One of their first bites at the apple: A $490,000 ad buy against Arkansas Senate candidate U.S. Rep. Tom Cotton, who is challenging incumbent Democratic Sen. Mark Pryor. The ad features a retired teacher and guidance counselor criticizing Cotton for taking out federal student loans, but voting against lower loan rates [http://bit.ly/1A70V3Q ]. Bonus: Watch Patriot Majority USA's student loan buy against Cotton on the same subject: http://bit.ly/WEf3SO. (Keep reading for more about unions' plans.)
THE COMMON CORE PR WAR
Just five states - so far - have dropped the Common Core. Supporters of the standards consider it a victory: They've spent millions persuading state legislators to stick with the standards amid a firestorm of opposition. But who's winning the overall Common Core PR war? Top promoters of the standards say it's the other side - and it's time to devise a new strategy. Conservative commentators like Glenn Beck and Michelle Malkin took to the stage last week, simulcasting a fiery town hall meeting in 700 movie theaters across the country calling the Common Core a threat to local control of public education. About 10,000 aspiring activists have downloaded Beck's "action plan" for defeating the standards. His slogan, "We will not conform," still echoes across Twitter. On Monday, Melinda Gates tweeted a line from President Barack Obama's speech at the Young African Leaders Initiative: "Couldn't agree more: 'If you educate and empower and respect a mother, then you are educating the children.' - President Obama." Malkin responded [http://bit.ly/1znPCCR]: ".@melindagates Empower & respect moms? Yeah, tell it to mom-basher Arne Duncan! #stopcommoncore #wewillnotconform ==> http://bit.ly/1rYZwHV."
The response from Common Core backers just hasn't packed the same punch. For example, proponents recently released a pair of sedate videos featuring three former Republican governors - one of whom has been out of office for 11 years - sitting in front of a gray backdrop, eyes fixed on a point slightly off camera as they cycled through familiar talking points.
Perhaps Coach Rodrick Rhodes forgot he worked at a public school...
This from the Herald-Leader:
After a nearly yearlong investigation, the Kentucky High School Athletic Association has lowered the boom on the Cordia boys' basketball program, severely penalizing the small school in Knott County for a laundry list of violations.
The sanctions against Cordia include a ban on playing any boys' basketball games during the 2014-15 regular season or postseason, and the 2015-16 postseason.
Cordia also was assessed fines totaling almost $26,000.
KHSAA commissioner Julian Tackett said in a news release that Cordia's violations during the past few years indicated the school's lack of institutional control and illustrated "the most wanton and blatant disregard for association rules in its 97-year history."
Former University of Kentucky player Rodrick Rhodes has been Cordia's coach the past three years, and he built the Lions into a strong program with transfers from inside and outside the state.
The KHSAA's sanctions include the suspension of two members of the Cordia coaching staff for the 2014-15 season. It was unclear whether Rhodes was one of the coaches facing suspension.
When the Herald-Leader contacted Rhodes a few months ago when rumors were circulating that he was leaving Cordia, he replied via text message that he was staying put.
The Herald-Leader tried unsuccessfully Monday night to reach Rhodes and Cordia athletics director Cavanaugh Trent for comment.
Tackett noted that participation in high school sports is a "privilege and not a right. This is an important distinction. With this privilege comes responsibility."
He said a common theme in Cordia's disregard for KHSAA rules was the use of ineligible student-athletes.
Cordia's violations as listed by the KHSAA:
■ Falsifying records, or maintaining inaccurate records with regards to living arrangements of transferring student-athletes.■ Allowing a staff member to lease housing to the family of a student-athlete without ever receiving payment.■ Impermissible contact with multiple student-athletes with the intent to sway them to enroll at Cordia for the purpose of competing in athletics.■ Providing free transportation to relocate a student from an out-of-state school.■ Providing plane tickets on two occasions to a student-athlete so he could travel out of state.■ Facilitating housing for a student-athlete at no cost to him or his family.■ Providing money and clothes to student-athletes.■ Conducting tryouts for nonenrolled students.■ Paying the entire cost of education for two students on an F-1 exchange visa to attend Cordia.■ Providing housing to numerous students who participated on the boys' basketball team, as well as housing for their families.■ Allowing ineligible players to practice and compete in contests before they were cleared to participate.■ Requiring players to attend practice before the official (Oct. 15) start of preseason practice, and disciplining students who missed those sessions■ Holding "open gym" practices that were limited to the boys' basketball team and thus mandatory, following the elimination from the post-season.■ Failing to properly monitor the coaching requirements for individuals coaching in the boys' basketball program.
Cordia, which had a 23-9 record last season, also must forfeit all of those victories for using at least one ineligible player in all those games.
The KHSAA will allow Cordia's boys' basketball players with eligibility remaining to transfer without penalty to other schools.
Cordia has 30 days to appeal the ruling to the KHSAA Board of Control.
Cordia was in the headlines last winter when two of its transfer players, who were ruled ineligible by the KHSAA before the season, went to court in late January and won an injunction that allowed them to play.
Richard Chapman Jr. of Newark, N.J., and Josh Ortiz of Harlem, N.Y., suited up for the second round of the Touchstone Energy All "A: Classic in Frankfort. Cordia reached the finals of that small school state tournament before losing to Newport Central Catholic.
A few weeks later, Chapman sucker-punched Perry County Central player Justin Johnson during a game. Chapman was ejected and suspended for two games.
This from KyForward:
A new study of recent Kentucky high school graduates shows that approximately 60 percent of those who did not attend postsecondary education entered Kentucky’s workforce and earned less than $8,000 in the year following graduation.
The “No College = Low Wages” report by Kentucky Center for Education and Workforce Statistics shows that even three years after graduation, of the students who entered the state’s workforce but did not attend college, only one in three were working full time.
Charles McGrew, executive director of KCEWS and the author of the report, says the economic outlook for people who do not attend college or some other type of postsecondary school is not promising.
“Economic opportunities for the majority of our young high school graduates appear to be very limited. While high school graduates who found positions in manufacturing or energy and mining earned more on average than the others who were working in Kentucky, these segments accounted for a relatively small proportion of the graduates,” McGrew said.
The center used data from the Kentucky Longitudinal Data System to determine in-state employment rates and wages for high school graduates who did not go to college from the classes of 2011, 2012 and 2013. The remaining 40 percent of the high school graduates who did not attend college most likely moved out of state, joined the military, worked in agriculture or some other capacity which is not reported to the state, said McGrew.
“This report should be a wake-up call for high school students who are planning their futures, said Thomas O. Zawacki, secretary of the Kentucky Education and Workforce Development Cabinet. KCEWS is in the cabinet. “It is clear now more than ever that education is the key to being able to earn a sustainable income. The good news for those who have already graduated is that it’s never too late to go back to school and pursue a postsecondary education.”
“This is clear evidence that high schools must do a better job in preparing all graduates to enter postsecondary education, whether it is a one-year, two-year, or four-year diploma or certification program. Students must be prepared for credit-bearing work with the skills necessary to succeed in careers that pay a living wage,” said Education Commissioner Terry Holliday. “While we have made excellent progress in the last four years in addressing this situation, we have much more work to do to achieve our goal of college/career-readiness for all high school graduates.”
During fiscal year 2012-13, wages for those who had been out of school a year were less than $8,000. Graduates who had been out of high school for two years earned just short of $10,000, while those who had graduated three years before earned more than $11,500, according to the report.
“Even after three years out of the high school, only about one out of three of the employed graduates who did not attend college were earning as much or more than a person who worked full-time at minimum wage, which is $15,080 a year,” McGrew said.
According to the report, more than half of the group who did not pursue postsecondary school but found jobs in Kentucky was working in retail trade; accommodation and food service; and waste management and remediation services such as cleaning up hazardous waste, with average wages between $7,000 and $10,000 even three years after school. These industry categories account for three of the four lowest paying for these graduates.
“If ever there was a compelling reason to secure education beyond high school, this report says it all,” said Council on Postsecondary Education President Bob King, “Investing the time and modest funds to earn a certificate in any skilled trade, or an associate degree at KCTCS is a critical foundation for a middle class future.”
In addition, the wages are even lower for the high school graduates in the report who are females, African-American or come from lower income families, according to the report.
Some of the poorest populations had some of the lowest wages after high school suggesting that the inequalities between gender, race and social class are still very evident, the report said. On average, women and African-Americans in this group are earning nearly a third less than their counterparts. Graduates from low-income families, measured by their eligibility for free or reduced lunches in school, were less likely to be employed and earned less than other students.
According to McGrew, while wages for this group were disappointing overall, there were some positive findings in the report.
“People who complete postsecondary credentials earn considerably more than our students who do not go to college. However, when high school students take the opportunities to prepare themselves for the workforce and develop good work habits like good attendance while in school they can definitely improve their chances of making higher wages when they enter the workforce,” he said.
The report showed that graduates who did not go on to postsecondary school but began to prepare themselves for the workforce by having their skills accessed had noticeably higher wages than their counterparts who entered the labor force after high school. For example, graduates who passed the Kentucky Occupational Skill Standards Assessment (KOSSA), Work Keys, and completed industry certification earned more on average than the students who did not participate.From Kentucky Education and Workforce Development Cabinet