Wednesday, July 31, 2013

A Nation of Wimps

This from Psychology Today:
Parents are going to ludicrous lengths to take the bumps out of life for their children. However, parental hyperconcern has the net effect of making kids more fragile; that may be why they're breaking down in record numbers.
Maybe it's the cyclist in the park, trim under his sleek metallic blue helmet, cruising along the dirt path... at three miles an hour. On his tricycle.
 Or perhaps it's today's playground, all-rubber-cushioned surface where kids used to skin their knees. And... wait a minute... those aren't little kids playing. Their mommies—and especially their daddies—are in there with them, coplaying or play-by-play coaching. Few take it half-easy on the perimeter benches, as parents used to do, letting the kids figure things out for themselves.

Then there are the sanitizing gels, with which over a third of parents now send their kids to school, according to a recent survey. Presumably, parents now worry that school bathrooms are not good enough for their children.

Consider the teacher new to an upscale suburban town. Shuffling through the sheaf of reports certifying the educational "accommodations" he was required to make for many of his history students, he was struck by the exhaustive, well-written—and obviously costly—one on behalf of a girl who was already proving among the most competent of his ninth-graders. "She's somewhat neurotic," he confides, "but she is bright, organized and conscientious—the type who'd get to school to turn in a paper on time, even if she were dying of stomach flu." He finally found the disability he was to make allowances for: difficulty with Gestalt thinking. The 13-year-old "couldn't see the big picture." That cleverly devised defect (what 13-year-old can construct the big picture?) would allow her to take all her tests untimed, especially the big one at the end of the rainbow, the college-worthy SAT.

Behold the wholly sanitized childhood, without skinned knees or the occasional C in history. "Kids need to feel badly sometimes," says child psychologist David Elkind, professor at Tufts University. "We learn through experience and we learn through bad experiences. Through failure we learn how to cope."

Messing up, however, even in the playground, is wildly out of style. Although error and experimentation are the true mothers of success, parents are taking pains to remove failure from the equation.

"Life is planned out for us," says Elise Kramer, a Cornell University junior. "But we don't know what to want." As Elkind puts it, "Parents and schools are no longer geared toward child development, they're geared to academic achievement."

No one doubts that there are significant economic forces pushing parents to invest so heavily in their children's outcome from an early age. But taking all the discomfort, disappointment and even the play out of development, especially while increasing pressure for success, turns out to be misguided by just about 180 degrees. With few challenges all their own, kids are unable to forge their creative adaptations to the normal vicissitudes of life. That not only makes them risk-averse, it makes them psychologically fragile, riddled with anxiety. In the process they're robbed of identity, meaning and a sense of accomplishment, to say nothing of a shot at real happiness. Forget, too, about perseverance, not simply a moral virtue but a necessary life skill. These turn out to be the spreading psychic fault lines of 21st-century youth. Whether we want to or not, we're on our way to creating a nation of wimps.

The Fragility Factor

College, it seems, is where the fragility factor is now making its greatest mark. It's where intellectual and developmental tracks converge as the emotional training wheels come off. By all accounts, psychological distress is rampant on college campuses. It takes a variety of forms, including anxiety and depression—which are increasingly regarded as two faces of the same coin—binge drinking and substance abuse, self-mutilation and other forms of disconnection. The mental state of students is now so precarious for so many that, says Steven Hyman, provost of Harvard University and former director of the National Institute of Mental Health, "it is interfering with the core mission of the university."

The severity of student mental health problems has been rising since 1988, according to an annual survey of counseling center directors. Through 1996, the most common problems raised by students were relationship issues. That is developmentally appropriate, reports Sherry Benton, assistant director of counseling at Kansas State University. But in 1996, anxiety overtook relationship concerns and has remained the major problem. The University of Michigan Depression Center, the nation's first, estimates that 15 percent of college students nationwide are suffering from that disorder alone.

Relationship problems haven't gone away; their nature has dramatically shifted and the severity escalated. Colleges report ever more cases of obsessive pursuit, otherwise known as stalking, leading to violence, even death. Anorexia or bulimia in florid or subclinical form now afflicts 40 percent of women at some time in their college career. Eleven weeks into a semester, reports psychologist Russ Federman, head of counseling at the University of Virginia, "all appointment slots are filled. But the students don't stop coming."

Drinking, too, has changed. Once a means of social lubrication, it has acquired a darker, more desperate nature. Campuses nationwide are reporting record increases in binge drinking over the past decade, with students often stuporous in class, if they get there at all. Psychologist Paul E. Joffe, chair of the suicide prevention team at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, contends that at bottom binge-drinking is a quest for authenticity and intensity of experience. It gives young people something all their own to talk about, and sharing stories about the path to passing out is a primary purpose. It's an inverted world in which drinking to oblivion is the way to feel connected and alive.

"There is a ritual every university administrator has come to fear," reports John Portmann, professor of religious studies at the University of Virginia. "Every fall, parents drop off their well-groomed freshmen and within two or three days many have consumed a dangerous amount of alcohol and placed themselves in harm's way. These kids have been controlled for so long, they just go crazy."

Heavy drinking has also become the quickest and easiest way to gain acceptance, says psychologist Bernardo J. Carducci, professor at Indiana University Southeast and founder of its Shyness Research Institute. "Much of collegiate social activity is centered on alcohol consumption because it's an anxiety reducer and demands no social skills," he says. "Plus it provides an instant identity; it lets people know that you are willing to belong."

Welcome to the Hothouse

Talk to a college president or administrator and you're almost certainly bound to hear tales of the parents who call at 2 a.m. to protest Branden's C in economics because it's going to damage his shot at grad school.

Shortly after psychologist Robert Epstein announced to his university students that he expected them to work hard and would hold them to high standards, he heard from a parent—on official judicial stationery—asking how he could dare mistreat the young. Epstein, former editor-in-chief of Psychology Today, eventually filed a complaint with the California commission on judicial misconduct, and the judge was censured for abusing his office—but not before he created havoc in the psychology department at the University of California, San Diego.

Enter: grade inflation. When he took over as president of Harvard in July 2001, Lawrence Summers publicly ridiculed the value of honors after discovering that 94 percent of the college's seniors were graduating with them. Safer to lower the bar than raise the discomfort level. Grade inflation is the institutional response to parental anxiety about school demands on children, contends social historian Peter Stearns of George Mason University. As such, it is a pure index of emotional overinvestment in a child's success. And it rests on a notion of juvenile frailty—the assumption that children are easily bruised and need explicit uplift," Stearns argues in his book, Anxious Parenting: A History of Modern Childrearing in America.

Parental protectionism may reach its most comic excesses in college, but it doesn't begin there. Primary schools and high schools are arguably just as guilty of grade inflation. But if you're searching for someone to blame, consider Dr. Seuss. "Parents have told their kids from day one that there's no end to what they are capable of doing," says Virginia's Portmann. "They read them the Dr. Seuss book Oh, the Places You'll Go! and create bumper stickers telling the world their child is an honor student.

American parents today expect their children to be perfect—the smartest, fastest, most charming people in the universe. And if they can't get the children to prove it on their own, they'll turn to doctors to make their kids into the people that parents want to believe their kids are."
What they're really doing, he stresses, is "showing kids how to work the system for their own benefit."...

Parental anxiety has its place. But the way things now stand, it's not being applied wisely. We're paying too much attention to too few kids—and in the end, the wrong kids. As with the girl whose parents bought her the Gestalt-defect diagnosis, resources are being expended for kids who don't need them.

There are kids who are worth worrying about—kids in poverty, stresses Anderegg. "We focus so much on our own children," says Elkind, "It's time to begin caring about all children."

After 40 Years At EKU, President Doug Whitlock Retires

This from WEKU:
President Doug Whitlock concludes almost six years at the helm of the public university.  Whitlock’s long history with E-K-U began as a student worker, helping with the university’s public relations.

His first full-time position came in 1968, when he took over as director of publications.  Whitlock remembers studying the management styles of other EKU presidents…educators like Bob Martin, J.C. Powell, and Hanly Funderburk.

“You know they talk about filling shoes, you know I had this feeling, Can I handle this office?, because I knew what those guys had been through.  And then, after about a week on the job, it started sinking in on me. Hey I can do this,” said Whitlock.

The passage of higher education reforms in the late 1990’s brought with it an expectation of increased efficiency and less duplication at state owned colleges and universities.  There were also promises of increased government funding.

Instead, Whitlock watched as state support for higher education steadily declined.  As Kentucky’s colleges graduated more students and they earned larger salaries, Whitlock believes some lawmakers saw less need for state funding. 

“It’s caused a shift in the mindset from failing to recognize what a massive public good having a population with a high degree of attainment is and they see it more as a private good, as an individual good.  The individual is where the benefit is being reaped, so the mindset is ‘let the individual pay more,” added Whitlock.

The EKU campus is still adjusting to significant restructuring.  Hoping to cut expenses, the university’s regents ordered the administration to cut the workforce. Doug Whitlock admits it’s not something he relished, but feels it was necessary.

“Is this something that I might have preferred not to go through…yeah.  But, it was the right thing to do for Eastern, to get it ready for it’s next stage in its development,” explained Whitlock.

In the end, Whitlock says the reorganization resulted in hundreds of early retirements and voluntary resignations, as well as eleven forced layoffs.  The school also freed up over 19-million dollars to shift into other areas.  While a difficult pill to swallow, Whitlock didn’t want to place that burden on his replacement.

As on-line learning flourishes, some educators predict college classrooms, as we know them now, will not exist in 20 years.  Whitlock says he remains a ‘pathological optimist’ and predicts traditional college campuses will remain.

“I think there will always be the residential experience for the traditional age students, but the whole nature of higher education and the distribution of knowledge is changing profoundly,” said Whitlock.

Whitlock sees Eastern’s role in educating the residents of central and southeastern Kentucky as essential.  He adds recent work with public school systems and local governments on economic development should keep EKU relevant.  President Doug Whitlock retires just days before his 70th birthday.  While staying in touch with higher education, Whitlock also expects to do some traveling with his wife Joanne.

Core standards will unlock better future for kids, state

This from
Winning strong bipartisan support for a major initiative doesn't happen all that often in Kentucky. When it does, the matter is of great significance.

That was the case in 2009, when Kentucky's House and Senate — Democrats and Republicans — set the state on a visionary course to becoming a leader in better preparing our students to succeed in college and their careers. Since then, Kentucky's educators, advocates, students, and community and business leaders have been working successfully to implement and support the Kentucky Core Academic Standards.

While the state has finished its second round of testing on the new assessments developed to reflect the tougher standards, the college and career preparation of our students has shown measurable improvement, from 34 percent in 2009 to 47.2 percent in 2012.

And yet, some people would have Kentuckians think all this has been bad news and now, three years after the fact, are trying to politicize what educators are teaching.

A couple of key questions: How many opponents of the standards have actually read them? How many of them know what a standard is?

Simply put, a standard is just a sentence that specifies what a child should know and be able to do at the end of a school year. In kindergarten, students are expected to be able to count to 100 and do basic addition and subtraction. By the end of grade 12, they should be able to read and comprehend literature that can be in the form of informational tests, history, social studies and other areas.
The business community is no stranger to standards. Employees must meet certain expectations of performance and quality control to keep their jobs.

We also recognize what is good about the Kentucky Core Academic Standards and have been vocal in our support of them and the teachers who are making them a reality in classrooms.

■ The standards reflect what students are expected to achieve in countries that have some of the world's highest-performing education systems, meaning Kentuckians will be better equipped to compete in a global economy.

■ They establish the same expectations for academic mastery of subjects in the 40-plus states that have adopted them. Kentucky parents will truly know how their child is doing in comparison to their counterparts across the nation.

■ Significantly, especially in view of the misinformation that is being spread about the standards, they are not a curriculum but a set of common expectations for each grade. They do not dictate how teachers teach, what materials they must use or anything else about the classroom. That is left up to local decision-making, as it should be.

As Conservatives for Higher Standards have noted, "The call — and need — for raising standards is not new. President Eisenhower called for clearer education standards in response to the Russians launching Sputnik. President Ronald Reagan oversaw the landmark 'Nation at Risk' report that found school standards were too low. By 2008, consensus formed among governors and chief state school officers that raising academic expectations was a shared imperative. The result was the Common Core State Standards initiative." (The organization's website includes a long list of supporters and their rationales for raising standards:

The standards were conceived by and for the states. The federal government was not involved; the effort began long before the current administration took office. Gov. Jim Hunt of North Carolina started the discussion in 2006, engaging his colleagues through the National Governors Association to partner with the Council of Chief State School Officers. Kentucky and nearly four dozen other states were involved.

Many of the arguments voiced by critics are based on misinformation or manipulation of the facts. As partners in Business Leader Champions for Education and through our individual organizations, we urge Kentuckians to reject those arguments and join us in strongly supporting the continued efforts and excellent work of Kentucky educators to better prepare our students.

Kentucky cannot afford to step away from the tougher academic standards and this opportunity to create a world-class education system. That is what Kentucky needs to give our students the strongest possible foundation for meeting the state's challenges and succeeding in life and work. 

Dave Adkisson is president and CEO of the Kentucky Chamber of Commerce. James R. Allen is CEO of Hilliard Lyons and chair of Business Leader Champions for Education. Stu Silberman is executive director of the Prichard Committee for Academic Excellence.

Read more here:

Read more here:

Kentucky School Prayer Petition Links Prayer Ban With AIDS Epidemic

This from the Huffington Post:
One conservative religious group in Kentucky recently linked the Supreme Court's 1962 ban on school prayer to the AIDS crisis, falling SAT scores and the rise of teen pregnancy rates.

The American Family Association of Kentucky –- a fundamentalist Christian nonprofit that says its mission is to “oppose the barriers to the flow of God's love to all people” –- asked its members to sign a petition last week pushing for the legalization of prayer in local public schools.

The petition states that after the removal of prayer from public schools, teen pregnancy and violent crime rates spiked 500 percent, instances of STDs increased 226 percent and SAT scores plummeted for 18 consecutive years. Taken together, the petition said, these conditions "open[ed] the door for the AIDS epidemic and the drug culture.”

The petition notes that Florida and Mississippi have new laws allowing students to pray during school events. Indeed, a 2013 Mississippi law requires public schools to develop policies that allow students to initiate prayer at school events and over the school intercom; that law also prohibits school officials from instigating prayer. A 2012 Florida law allows students to read “inspirational messages” at voluntary school events.

The American Family Association petition calls on Kentucky Governor Steve Beshear (D) to enact legislation modeled after the Mississippi and Florida laws.

“Florida and Mississippi have already put prayer (religious speech) back into their schools!" the petition states. "Students praying again will eventually turn our country back to God!"

In response to the petition, Rebecca Markert, an attorney for the Freedom From Religion Foundation, an organization that works to maintain the separation of church and state, noted that the group's claims about falling SAT scores and teen pregnancy are unsubstantiated.

"The American Family Association of Kentucky doesn't cite to any authority backing up these statistics," said Markert in an email to The Huffington Post. She further stated that another of the petition's assertions -- that "prayer was in our schools for over 200 years before the anti-God forces took it out in 1962" -- is misleading.

"In 1962 when the landmark Engel v. Vitale decision came down from the Supreme Court, it was estimated that only half of public schools had any religious ritual in them," said Markert.

While the Supreme Court banned prayer in public schools more than five decades ago, some schools maintain a fairly thin line separating church from state. For example, one Alabama school district is under fire from the Freedom From Religion Foundation amid plans to initiate a prayer caravan involving district officials traveling to schools and asking for God’s blessings for the upcoming school year.

Other things that have happened since 1962 include...
Artificial Heart
Contact Lenses
The Fibre Tipped Pen
The Handheld Calculator
The Computer Mouse
Communications satellite

High yield rice
Smoke detector
Coronary bypass surgery
HIV protease inhibitors
IEEE 802.16
Vaccines for polio, rubella, mumps, measles, chicken pox, meningitis, hepatitis B, and lyme disease.
The Barcode Scanner
Silicone breast implants
Color TV
Longer life expoectancy
Stereophonic records
Space exploration
Embryonic stem cells

Personal computers...

How do we know which of these were caused by prayer being removed from the public schools?

ETS Report Warns of Child Poverty and its Consequences

This from ETS:

While the United States is among the 35 richest countries in the world, it also holds the distinction of ranking second highest in child poverty, according to a new report from Educational Testing Service (ETS). Such poverty comes with a price — $500 billion per year in lower earnings, less taxes paid, and other long-term economic and educational outcomes.

The report, Poverty and Education: Finding the Way Forward (PDF), was written by Richard J. Coley, Executive Director of the Center for Research on Human Capital and Education at ETS, and Rutgers University Graduate School of Education professor Bruce Baker. They provide an overview of how poverty is measured, describe how various levels of government attempt to address poverty through education, and review the relationship between poverty and student outcomes. The report also offers seven recommendations that are necessary to ensure that the public education system prepares every student to be successful in an increasingly competitive world.

"One aim of this report is to review the relationship between poverty and educational and other important life outcomes and to provide a clearer and more nuanced picture of poverty in America, as well as an understanding of how government attempts to address poverty — particularly from an education perspective," says Coley. "Another aim is to consider the important issue of how poverty is officially measured in the United States and explore several additional aspects of income and poverty that broaden the perspective."

According to the report, 46.2 million Americans (15 percent of the population) were in poverty in 2011. Other data show:
  • While White Americans comprise the largest number of people in poverty, the poverty rate for Hispanics and Blacks is significantly higher.
  • Twenty-two percent of the nation's children are in poverty.
  • While 6 percent of married-couple families were poor, the poverty rate for families headed by a single female was 31 percent.
  • 2.8 million children were in "extreme poverty," surviving on less than $2 or less per person per day in a given month.
"While education has been envisioned as the great equalizer, this promise has been more myth than reality," adds Baker. "Not only is the achievement gap between the poor and the non-poor twice as large as the achievement gap between Black and White students, but tracked differences in the cognitive performances of students in every age group show substantial differences by income or poverty status. These differences undoubtedly contribute to the increasing stratification of who attends and graduates from college, limiting economic and social mobility and serving to perpetuate the gap between rich and poor."

The report documents the negative effects of poverty on later life outcomes. For example:
  • Children growing up in poverty complete less schooling, work and earn less as adults, are more likely to receive public assistance, and have poorer health.
  • Boys growing up in poverty are more likely to be arrested as adults.
  • Girls growing up in poverty are more likely to give birth outside of marriage.
  • Costs associated with child poverty are estimated to total about $500 billion per year.
The challenges illustrated in the report represent systemic and structural inequalities that are particularly challenging in the current economic climate, Coley notes. Yet these challenges point the way toward strategies for moderating the influence of poverty on educational outcomes. The authors offer recommendations in seven areas that are within the purview of education policymakers, including:
  • Increasing awareness of the incidence of poverty and its consequences
  • Equitably and adequately funding our schools
  • Broadening access to high-quality preschool education
  • Reducing segregation and isolation
  • Adopting effective school practices
  • Recognizing the importance of a high-quality teacher workforce
  • Improving the measurement of poverty
Copies of the report can be downloaded from

You're doing a heck of a job, Tony.

What's that thing politicians always say right before they dump someone from their team?

For President George W. Bush it was, "You're doing a heck of a job, Brownie" - just before he booted him from his Homeland Security job.

Rand Paul defended his staffer known as "The Southern Avenger," right before he became a distraction.

Today, Florida Governor Rick Scott, stood by his guy. Stay tuned.

The governor had declined two opportunities to speak publicly on the matter Tuesday, saying he had not read the AP report. But with the 2014 governor's race looming, observers say Scott has a tough decision to make.
"If the governor wants to appeal to moderates across the state, he has to get rid of (Bennett)," said Brian Peterson, a professor at Florida International University and editor of the Miami Education Review newsletter. "If he doesn't, the message is that the game is rigged, and that public schools are going to be treated differently from charter schools."
On Tuesday, Bennett said he had received "really pretty strong support" from Scott's well as members of the state Board of Education which has the power to hire and fire him, but its members are appointed by the governor.

This from  the Tampa Bay Times:
After a couple days of radio silence about the scandal involving Florida's education commissioner, Gov. Rick Scott finally has something to say. He told Channel 5 in West Palm Beach that Tony Bennett is "doing a great job."

Scott praised Bennett for being "very focused on accountability" and reiterated how well Florida's students are doing. Scott didn't say whether Bennett's job is secure, however. See the interview here. Scott has been through several education commissioners during his tenure as governor.

Bennett has been defending himself all week against an Associated Press report that he changed the grade for a charter school in Indiana run by a prominent Republican donor. See our story here.

Bennett told reporters Tuesday that he's gotten a lot of support from legislators and those in the governor's office. Former Gov. Jeb Bush'statement of support Tuesday. Rick Hess posted Wednesday his own interview with Bennett.
s foundation put out a

Two Democratic lawmakers called Wednesday for Bennett to resign.

Scott's comments to Channel 5 are similar to a statement released by his communications director, Melissa Sellers: 

"Commissioner Bennett is clearly committed to making Florida’s education system the best in the nation. He has been a leader in increasing accountability, ensuring teachers are fairly evaluated, securing a teacher pay raise and investing an additional one billion dollars in education funding this year."

Mitch McConnell Explains Why Privatization Is Good for You

This from Diane Ravitch's blog:

I received the following email today from Senator Mitch McConnell.

He really needs to get some people on his staff who can read and understand education research.
It is not that hard.

So should Rand Paul, Lamar Alexander, and the other senators who are pushing vouchers.

He would learn, for example, that students in voucher schools have not outperformed students in public schools anywhere.

He doesn’t mention that in this letter, so maybe he does know it and doesn’t care.

He would learn that voucher schools appear to have a higher graduation rate because they have a huge attrition rate.

For example, in Milwaukee, 56% of the students who started vouchers schools in ninth grade dropped out before reaching graduation.

So, the 44% who did not drop out were more likely to have a higher graduation rate than the public schools that accepted the dropouts from the voucher schools.

Why do these so-called “conservatives” want to destroy their own community’s public schools?

There is nothing conservative about that.

Conservatives protect traditional institutions.

Conservatives protect their community.

Conservatives are not anarchists.

Funny they don’t mention that vouchers have never been approved in any referendum. Voters don’t want their public dollars to go to religious or unregulated private schools.

McConnell writes:
We, as conservatives, know that the government is not the best place to do a lot of things. Although, if government must take action, we prefer that the most local level of government addresses an issue.
Sometimes, every level of government creates obstacles to success. I consider it a priority in the United States Senate to remove those obstacles and help citizens, taxpayers and parents succeed.

That is why I am fighting hard for more choice and freedom in our schools.

School choice and parental control are issues I hold dear, which is why I am proud to join my friends Rand Paul, Mike Lee, Tim Scott, Lamar Alexander and others at an important school choice forum.
Every child, whatever their background and no matter where they live, deserves a great education and a chance to succeed in life. Unfortunately, Washington and the entire education establishment are failing our kids.

Every decision that Washington has made in recent years seems to bring more power to the federal government, leaving less control for local schools and parents.

However, school choice is working where it has been allowed to replace the education establishment. Here are a few facts about school choice and the positive consequences of a successful education:
In Washington, the voucher program increased the graduation rate by 21 percent.

By 25, the average high school dropout earns $18,796 per year. On the other hand, the average college graduate with a bachelor’s degree is earning $26,699 per year and will earn nearly 100% more over their lifetime than a high school dropout.

How do we get more young Americans to earn bachelor’s degrees instead of becoming another dropout statistic?

The answer is school choice, and I will continue to fight alongside my colleagues in the Senate to expand the control that parents have over their child’s education.

You can also help by making sure I can keep fighting in Washington. Fighting for choice in education. Fighting for local control of schools.
Fighting for parents and taxpayers.

Tony Bennett’s Grade-Rigging Lifted All Charter Schools

This from  Diane Ravitch's blog:
The emails unearthed by Tom LoBianco of the Associated Press show that Tony Bennett was desperately trying to rig the system to raise the grade of one charter school from a C to an A.
That charter happened to be the charter held by a major donor to GOP campaigns, including Bennett’s, which received $130,000 from her.

As a side benefit of the new formula, the grades of all charters were raised. As this morning’s editorial in the Fort Wayne Journal-Gazette shows, “The scramble to inflate Christel House’s grade also was successful in pushing more than half of the state’s charter schools to a letter grade of C or better, a claim Bennett couldn’t make before the formula was massaged.”

The editorial notes with alarm that Bennett’s rigged formula is still in place. Schools across the state will get phony grades. Will the state board of education allow Glenda Ritz to impose some integrity to this deeply flawed system?

To quote the editorial: 
“The disclosure settles the question why educators well-versed in test scores and evaluation systems couldn’t make sense of it.

“(I)t is not criterion based, it does not statistically make sense, it does not account for standard measure of error, it is unexplainable and difficult to understand, and it fails to comply with current law and administrative code,” Superintendent Chris Himsel of Northwest Allen County Schools told legislators in a letter last November.”

NCLB Waiver Implications From Indiana Grade-Changing Controversy

Regardless of what you think about Florida state chief Tony Bennett's decision to change the grading scale for schools when he held the same post in Indiana, there are some important questions from a federal policy perspective:

• Since his grading scale was part of Indiana's No Child Left Behind Act waiver plan, did he seek approval from the U.S. Department of Education to change how schools are graded?

• If he didn't, should he have sought permission?

• And finally, is this something the federal Education Department should look into further?
The first question is an easy one to answer. According to federal officials, Indiana did not consult federal officials before making those grading changes in 2012.

Answering the second question is far more complicated, and raises a whole 'nother set of issues. According to the department, "major changes" to a state's grading system—if those changes involve anything in a state's NCLB waiver plan—do require an amendment, and federal approval. Changes that are more technical in nature do not require approval.

So, were the changes Bennett made to his grading system major, or technical? Education Department spokesman Daren Briscoe said "it depends on what the actual changes were. If it involved changing the point values assigned to different levels of performance, yes—but it might have just been a technical amendment. Generally we want states to come to us when they're considering/making changes so we can help them decide if it requires an amendment."

But it seems very unclear exactly what was changed, so it may be impossible to tell at this point whether the changes were major or technical.

As my colleague Andrew Ujifusa described over at State EdWatch: As [the Associated Press story] points out, it's not entirely clear how the charter school's grade ultimately leaped from a C to an A, or how many schools were affected in the end by ex post facto changes initiated by the department."

These grading systems are a central part of the Education Department's NCLB law waiver plan, serving as a new, more-flexible way to hold schools and districts accountable—since AYP has been rendered virtually broken beyond repair. So whether the Education Department should look into this matter further could be up for debate. The charter school at the center of the Indiana controversy earned an A grade even though state data shows only 34 percent of students passed the Algebra I end-of-course test. (Is this the kind of grading system U.S. Secretary of Education Secretary Arne Duncan wants to see?) What's more, those poor Algebra test results don't appear to show up on the school's official accountability report card, even though the feds require all student-achievement data to be posted. (Is the federal department scrutinizing these new report cards?)

Certainly, states are experiencing growing pains as they seek to implement their waiver plans and new grading systems. More states than just Indiana are likely fine-tuning their formulas for judging schools. But an open question is just how aggressive federal officials will be in monitoring how these grading systems work.

How Teaming on School Choice Helps Rand Paul and Lamar Alexander but Hurts Kentucky

This from Politics K-12:
At first glance, GOP Senators Rand Paul and Lamar Alexander might seem like a bit of an odd couple. Although staunchly conservative, Alexander, of Tennessee, is often, ultimately, a dealmaker (witness his recent role in helping to broker a deal with Democrats on student loan interest rates, which ultimately got the support of nearly every Republican in the Senate).

On the other hand, Paul, of Kentucky, is a tea party superhero with a mixed record on compromise. Back in the fall of 2011, Paul used procedural maneuvers to gum up the works on a markup of bipartisan legislation to rewrite the Elementary and Secondary Education Act. He felt that negotiators hadn't included conservatives in their discussions of the measure. And he said the bill, which Alexander very reluctantly supported, went too far in maintaining the federal role in K-12.

Flash forward nearly two years, though, and it's clear Paul and Alexander have become buddies on a K-12 issue that unites most Republicans: school choice. And it's a political win for pretty much everyone—maybe even some folks who oppose vouchers. (More on that below).

Earlier this year, the two teamed up on a budget amendment that would have allowed Title I dollars to follow students to the school of their choice, even a private school. And more recently, Paul cosponsored Alexander's legislation to revamp the ESEA law, which would allow Title I money to follow students to charters and public schools, but not private schools.

How does it help Paul? He's considered a potential GOP presidential contender, and it's important for folks to see that he has expertise on key "kitchen table" issues, like education. Associating himself with Alexander, the Republicans' main man in the Senate on K-12, is smart politics.

For his part, Alexander is giving Paul plenty of credit for his efforts, including at a round-table discussion on choice up on Capitol Hill today featuring District of Columbia public school activists, parents, and students.

"Rand attracts a lot of attention wherever he goes these days, and I'm glad he is attracting attention on charter schools and school choice," said Alexander, who served as the U.S Secretary of Education. "Rand has emerged as our most effective advocate for freedom for teachers." (Remember that quote, you may see it again on the future website of Rand Paul for America, sometime in 2016.)

And Paul isn't alone here: Other up-and-coming GOP lawmakers are trying to grab the conservative mantle on education redesign generally, and school choice specifically. U.S. Rep. Eric Cantor, R-Va., the House Majority Leader, helped push through an amendment to the House GOP's ESEA bill that would allow Title I dollars to follow children to public schools, including charters (an idea that Alexander and Paul had already championed over on the Senate side). And another potential GOP 2016 contender, Rep. Paul Ryan of Wisconsin, recently met with a cadre of education groups to discuss K-12 funding issues, including Title I portability.

(It's worth pointing out that Title I portability was a key part of Gov. Mitt Romney's presidential platform—and it didn't land him in the White House.)

How does it help Alexander? Paul is a tea party rock star, and Alexander is facing potential tea party opposition in his home state (more in this Chattanooga Times Press story). It certainly doesn't hurt Alexander to show that Paul is happy to associate with him on education, an issue where the senator from Tennessee is seen as a party leader. (More here.)

How does it help the school choice movement? Who wouldn't want all this high-profile attention and new legislation?

How does it help some folks who aren't fans of school choice? Well, in terms of getting an actual deal on an reauthorization of ESEA, it's probably not so helpful. But, when it comes to ginning up opposition to the GOP on K-12 education, very few policies will get Democratic activists (particularly teachers' unions) more riled up than vouchers.
Diane Ravitch asks Rand Paul: Why Should Kentucky Copy Tennessee’s Unsuccessful Corporate Reforms?
A blogger in Tennessee notes that Rand Paul of Kentucky is excited about what is happening in Tennessee.
He wants Kentucky to follow Tennessee’s lead.

But this is very odd because by almost every measure, Kentucky is more successful in education than Tennessee.

Unlike Tennessee, Kentucky has no charter schools. It does not aspire to enact vouchers. It is doing none of what the corporate reformers love.

And yet, having not followed the reform path to privatization, this is what Kentucky does have:
– Higher scores on the NAEP (National Assessment of Educational Progress) than Tennessee in seven out of eight categories.
– A higher ACT composite average than Tennessee
– A larger percentage of its population with 4-year college degrees than Tennessee
– A lower unemployment rate than Tennessee
Please ask Senator Rand Paul why Kentucky should copy Tennessee.

Plain logic suggests that Tennessee should strive to be like Kentucky.

Monday, July 29, 2013

Tony Bennett: Grade Fixer

Florida Education Commissioner Tony Bennett
This from Jersey Jazzman:
One of Jeb! Bush's most prominent "Chiefs For Change," Tony Bennett got drummed out of Indiana last year when he lost reelection for state superintendent of education. No matter: Jeb! pulled a few strings and got him his current gig doing the same job in Florida, where he has presided over one disaster after another. As Bob Sikes points out, Bennett's role as the "fiscal agent" for the Common Core test consortium known as PARCC actually followed him from Indiana to Florida, compromising his role as an objective evaluator of the testing regime. So between his own conflicts of interest, the conservative backlash against the Common Core in Florida, and the growing distrust over Florida's "statistically invalid" school grading system, the last thing Bennett needs is another scandal. Well, as they used to say over at Warner Brothers: cue the anvil. - See more at: doing the same job in Florida, where he has presided over one disaster after another.

As Bob Sikes points out, Bennett's role as the "fiscal agent" for the Common Core test consortium known as PARCC actually followed him from Indiana to Florida, compromising his role as an objective evaluator of the testing regime. So between his own conflicts of interest, the conservative backlash against the Common Core in Florida, and the growing distrust over Florida's "statistically invalid" school grading system, the last thing Bennett needs is another scandal.
Well, as they used to say over at Warner Brothers: cue the anvil.

What Could a U.S. Sen. Cory Booker Mean for K-12 Policy?

This from Politics K-12:
Newark Mayor Cory Booker is one of the most prominent national Democrats to embrace private school vouchers. He's teamed up with his chief Garden State political rival, GOP Gov. Chris Christie, to help birth a new Newark teacher contract that includes merit-pay. And for good measure, he persuaded Mark Zuckerberg, of Facebook fame, to donate an astonishing $100 million to the long-struggling Newark City Schools.

Now Booker is likely to be the next U.S. Senator from New Jersey. Booker has a commanding lead in the August 13 Democratic primary against U.S. Reps. Rush Holt and Frank Pallone. And he appears likely to trounce his GOP opponent in the special election to fill the seat of the late Sen. Frank Lautenberg, a Democrat.

Years ago, Booker was one of the galvanizing forces in bringing together a cadre of high-powered, deep-pocketed Wall Street donors with an interested in education policy, who worked together to support his early races for city council and mayor. The group eventually became Democrats for Education Reform, which is today is the signature Political Action Committee for lefty politicians who are fans of less-than-traditional lefty policies, like charters and performance pay. (Early Edweek look at DFER and a more recent take here.)

"They knew each other before, but they got involved in politics together to support Cory Booker," said Joe Williams, the executive director of the group.

And now Booker is almost a kind of mascot for the group they formed. He was part of an event Williams described as its "coming-out party" at the Democratic convention in 2008. And today you can find Booker front and center on the organization's website, in a video talking about what it means to be a DFER.

The Political Action Committee, of course, continues to love him right back. In fact, the organization has poured some quarter-million dollars into Booker's Senate campaign, Williams estimates.

It's an investment, Williams says, in a candidate who would likely have an outsized influence on education policy in the U.S. Senate.

Williams described Booker as a prodigious fundraiser, and said, "the rest of the Senate will come to rely on his ability to help them raise money for their campaigns. That alone will raise the stature of the issues he supports, including education reform. I think it would make it mainstream."

U.S. Sen. Tom Harkin, D-Iowa, the chairman of the Senate education committee, has said he'd like to bring a Democrats-only bill to reauthorize the No Child Left Behind Act to the floor this year. If Booker wins his race, as expected, he could be in place in time to vote on the legislation.

Williams sees Booker teaming up with other prominent Democrats, including Sens. Michael Bennet of Colorado—the former superintendent of Denver public schools and the administration's go-to-guy on K-12 policy—as well as Sens. Chris Coons of Delaware and Mark Warner of Virginia.

"The Senate is becoming a place where discussions of education reform have actually gotten interesting," Williams added. "I think if you add one person into the mix, especially someone as persuasive as Cory Booker, it could be quite powerful for education reform."

"I do think the NJEA sees a difference among the candidates," he said. "I wish they were working to advance their interests more fully rather than sitting back and waiting for the results come what may."
As for DFER, Williams is disappointed that the organization had to choose between two Garden State politicians it really likes.

"Our folks [are] big fans of Rush Holt," he said. "My challenge is to go back and make him feel loved in the House."...

Sequestration Cuts Will Hit Kentucky Schools Hard, Officials Say

This from the Herald-Leader by way of Education Week:
The impact of the across-the-board federal spending cuts on Kentucky programs ranging from special education to social work is expected to be more devastating next year than this year, state education and human resources officials warned lawmakers Thursday.

They said the federal cuts, known as sequestration, will mean tough decisions for state legislators as they craft the state's next two-year budget in Kentucky's 2014 General Assembly that begins in January. The budget depends on state and federal tax dollars.

Education Commissioner Terry Holliday told members of the state legislature's budget committees that the federal cuts to education this state fiscal year that began July 1 will amount to about $26 million.

Meanwhile, Beth Jurek, budget chief for the state Cabinet for Health and Family Services, said the cuts to the cabinet amount to about $8.2 million in fiscal year 2013 and between $17.7 million and $18.4 million the following year.

Hiren Desai, the education department's associate commissioner for administration and support, said the impact of the cuts will be worse next year, particularly on school staffing, as school districts struggle with dwindling federal funds.

He predicted that "a perfect storm" will develop early next year when the public realizes the impact of the federal cuts and state lawmakers have to produce a balanced budget.

Jurek said the health cabinet that provides a number of social service programs had built into its budget this year cuts of about 8.4 percent but the sequestrations reductions actually are about 5 percent.

"It's not as bad as we initially thought but it's still bad and could get worse in the future," she said.
The education officials and Jurek outlined the impact of the cuts on several state programs.

For example, Title I federal dollars that help fund primary and secondary education will drop by $10.4 million, from $221 million to $210.6 million.

That means fewer student services will produce more students at risk of becoming academically unsuccessful, said Charles Harman, director of the education department's budget and financial management division.

Federal dollars for special education in Kentucky will dip about $8 million, he said, meaning fewer instructional staff such as occupational therapists and speech therapists who often work directly with individual students.

Teachers also may have to travel further to attend training, since federal dollars for Improving Teacher Quality will dip by $813,000, he said.

Also, an educational program to provide "supplemental enrichment" to students in literacy, math, science, technology, arts, nutrition and health education will drop by $1.4 million.

Jurek said the cuts to the health cabinet include $1 million to substance abuse prevention and treatment grants, $268,287 to community mental health service, nearly $9 million for low income energy assistance, about $2 million for support for social workers and $1.1 million to help old people.
Sen. Gerald Neal, D-Louisville, said he was "outraged" by the cuts. Rep. Bob Damron, D-Nicholasville, said Americans "need to know what these guys in Washington are doing."

Rep. Reginald Meeks, D-Louisville, asked Education Commissioner Holliday if he has contacted Kentucky's congressional delegation about the "harm of sequestration to Kentucky."
Holliday said he has, and each political party blames the other for the cuts.

The total sequestration cuts for the nation amount to about $85.4 billion, or about 2.4 percent of the $3.6 trillion federal budget for this fiscal year, which ends Sept. 30.

The cuts are split evenly by dollar amounts between the defense and non-defense programs. Some major programs like Social Security, Medicaid, federal pensions and veterans' benefits are exempt.
State Rep. John Will Stacy, D-West Liberty, said he is concerned that no one knows how long sequestration will last. "We could have a real crisis in two to three years," he said.

Scare tactics and science education

This from the Courier-Journal:
Critics of new science standards for Kentucky’s public schools made a spectacularly persuasive argument in favor of them last week at a hearing in Frankfort — although it wasn’t their intent and it’s unlikely they realize it.

The comments by some opponents at the hearing were worse than ill-informed. They were outright alarming and made the most compelling case yet that sound, fact-based public education of future generations is the only way for Kentucky to combat ignorance and unfounded fear.
At issue are a set of basic standards for schools to use to design a more sound and rigorous science curriculum meant to better prepare students for college and careers. They were developed over two years by a consortium of 25 states with input from scientists and educators across the nation.

Known as the Next Generation Science Standards, they have been adopted by the state Board of Education and endorsed as critical to public education by such prominent educators as Lee Todd, an engineer, scientist and the former president of the University of Kentucky.

They stem from a Republican-led state law in 2009 designed to upgrade Kentucky’s education standards and to try to pull the state out of the dark ages, education-wise.

But comments from a small but noisy band of opponents suggest Kentucky’s got a ways to go when it comes to science education, according to the account of the hearing by The Courier-Journal’s Mike Wynn. About the only things missing from Tuesday’s hearing held by the state Education Department were the torches and pitchforks.

Opponents called the science standards “fascist,” compared them to Soviet-style communism, repeated the totally-discredited and completely false claim that the voluntary standards are a “federal takeover” of education and even suggested better science standards promote a socialistic view with dire consequences.

“We are even talking genocide and murder here, folks,” a Louisville woman claimed at the hearing.

A Baptist pastor chimed in with one of the main objections of opponents — that the science standards include evolution, the science-based explanation for the origins of life but not creationism, the religious belief God created the world.

“Outsiders are telling public school families that we must follow the rich man’s elitist religion of evolution, that we no longer have the right to worship almighty God,” he said, offering the wholly unsupported claim that teaching evolution has led to drug abuse, suicide and other social ills.

(Climate change deniers also hate the science standards because they recommend students consider the impact of humans on climate).

Fortunately, there also were some more rational comments at the hearing, largely scientists, educators and others who echoed the recent comments of Dr. Todd in calling for more rigorous science-based education to help Kentucky students compete in the world.

Daniel Phelps, an environmental geologist, noted, “unlike many of the people who commented” he had “actually read” the standards and said they contain none of the menacing features cited by opponents.

Former Indiana Schools Chief Accused of Cheating to Boost Charter's Rating

GOP donor's school grade changed

This from WBTV:
Former Indiana and current Florida schools chief Tony Bennett built his national star by promising to hold "failing" schools accountable. But when it appeared an Indianapolis charter school run by a prominent Republican donor might receive a poor grade, Bennett's education team frantically overhauled his signature "A-F" school grading system to improve the school's marks.

Emails obtained by The Associated Press show Bennett and his staff scrambled last fall to ensure influential donor Christel DeHaan's school received an "A," despite poor test scores in algebra that initially earned it a "C."

"They need to understand that anything less than an A for Christel House compromises all of our accountability work," Bennett wrote in a Sept. 12 email to then-chief of staff Heather Neal, who is now Gov. Mike Pence's chief lobbyist.

The emails, which also show Bennett discussed with staff the legality of changing just DeHaan's grade, raise unsettling questions about the validity of a grading system that has broad implications. Indiana uses the A-F grades to determine which schools get taken over by the state and whether students seeking state-funded vouchers to attend private school need to first spend a year in public school. They also help determine how much state funding schools receive.

A low grade also can detract from a neighborhood and drive homebuyers elsewhere.

Bennett, who now is reworking Florida's grading system as that state's education commissioner, reviewed the emails Monday morning and denied that DeHaan's school received special treatment. He said discovering that the charter would receive a low grade raised broader concerns with grades for other "combined" schools - those that included multiple grade levels - across the state.

"There was not a secret about this," he said. "This wasn't just to give Christel House an A. It was to make sure the system was right to make sure the system was face valid."

However, the emails clearly show Bennett's staff was intensely focused on Christel House, whose founder has given more than $2.8 million to Republicans since 1998, including $130,000 to Bennett and thousands more to state legislative leaders.

Other schools saw their grades change, but the emails show DeHaan's charter was the catalyst for any changes.

Bennett rocketed to prominence with the help of former Indiana Gov. Mitch Daniels, former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush and a national network of Republican leaders and donors, such as DeHaan. Bennett is a co-founder of Bush's Chiefs for Change, a group consisting mostly of Republican state school superintendents pushing school vouchers, teacher merit pay and many other policies enacted by Bennett in Indiana.

Though Indiana had had a school ranking system since 1999, Bennett switched to the A-F system and made it a signature item of his education agenda, raising the stakes for schools statewide.

Bennett consistently cited Christel House as a top-performing school as he secured support for the measure from business groups and lawmakers, including House Speaker Brian Bosma and Senate President Pro Tem David Long.

But trouble loomed when Indiana's then-grading director, Jon Gubera, first alerted Bennett on Sept. 12 that the Christel House Academy had scored less than an A.

"This will be a HUGE problem for us," Bennett wrote in a Sept. 12, 2012 email to Neal.
Neal fired back a few minutes later, "Oh, crap. We cannot release until this is resolved."

By Sept. 13, Gubera unveiled it was a 2.9, or a "C."

A weeklong behind-the-scenes scramble ensued among Bennett, assistant superintendent Dale Chu, Gubera, Neal and other top staff at the Indiana Department of Education. They examined ways to lift Christel House from a "C'' to an "A," including adjusting the presentation of color charts to make a high "B'' look like an "A'' and changing the grade just for Christel House.

It's not clear from the emails exactly how Gubera changed the grading formula, but they do show DeHaan's grade jumping twice.

"That's like parting the Red Sea to get numbers to move that significantly," Jeff Butts, superintendent of Wayne Township schools in Indianapolis, said in an interview with The Associated Press.

DeHaan, who opened the Christel House Academy charter school in Indianapolis in 2002 and has since opened schools in India, Mexico and South Africa, said in a statement Monday that no one from the school ever made any requests that would affect Christel House's grades.

Current Indiana schools chief Glenda Ritz's office declined comment on the emails.

Ritz, a Democrat, defeated Bennett in November with a grass-roots campaign driven by teachers angered by Bennett's education agenda.

Bennett said Monday he felt no special pressure to deliver an "A'' for DeHaan. Instead, he argued, if he had paid more attention to politics he would have won re-election in Indiana.

Yet Bennett wrote to staff twice in four days, directly inquiring about DeHaan's status. Gubera broke the news after the second note that "terrible" 10th grade algebra results had "dragged down their entire school."

Bennett called the situation "very frustrating and disappointing" in an email that day.

"I am more than a little miffed about this," Bennett wrote. "I hope we come to the meeting today with solutions and not excuses and/or explanations for me to wiggle myself out of the repeated lies I have told over the past six months."

Bennett said Monday that email expressed his frustration at having assured top-performing schools like DeHaan's would be recognized in the grading system, but coming away with a flawed formula that would undo his promises.

When requested a status update Sept. 14, his staff alerted him that the new school grade, a 3.50, was painfully close to an "A." Then-deputy chief of staff Marcie Brown wrote that the state might not be able to "legally" change the cutoff for an "A."

"We can revise the rule," Bennett responded.

Over the next week, his top staff worked arduously to get Christel House its "A." By Sept. 21, Christel House had jumped to a 3.75. Gubera resigned shortly afterward.

He declined comment Monday.

The emails don't detail what Gubera changed in the school formula or how many schools were affected. Indiana education experts consulted for this article said they weren't aware the formula had been changed.
Links to the emails:,,,,

Kentucky's eTranscript To Ease College Admissions Process, Create Efficiencies

Kentucky high school seniors will soon be able to send electronic transcripts to Kentucky colleges and universities, as well as some out of state schools, using the free Kentucky eTranscript process, Lt. Gov. Jerry Abramson said today.
“The statewide adoption of electronic transcripts will streamline the college admissions process, in some cases allowing students to complete the process totally online,” said Abramson. “The eTranscript system will be easy for our students to use, and it will reduce costs and save time for all parties.”
Jefferson County will be the first to make the system available districtwide. By the end of the year, Kentucky eTranscript should be available to students in public and private high schools across the state, as school districts are phased in and go live with the system.
Kentucky’s eTranscript is provided free to high school students, school districts, colleges and universities by the Council on Postsecondary Education (CPE), the Kentucky Department of Education (KDE) and the Kentucky Higher Education Assistance Authority (KHEAA) which collaborated on the project. There is a nominal charge for students to send transcripts to non-participating colleges or universities.
“High school counselors and students will benefit by having a simplified request and delivery system available 24/7,” said Tommy Floyd, KDE’s chief of staff.
They’ll also be able to upload documents such as letters of recommendation for paperless delivery and track the entire transmission process, he said.
Transcripts and other materials are delivered in a PDF format to colleges and universities through a secure online portal.
Aaron Thompson, CPE’s senior vice president, said the electronic format will increase campus efficiencies.
“Colleges and universities will benefit by having one transcript format, less mail to process, and the potential to directly import transcript data into their student information systems,” said Thompson.
“This has truly been a collaborative effort that will benefit the students of Kentucky,” said Carl Rollins, executive director of the Kentucky Higher Education Assistance Authority. “Hopefully it will make the entire college admissions process easier and encourage more students to seek a postsecondary education whether that be at a two-year or four-year institution.”
The three state agencies worked with two private firms, Parchment and Infinite Campus, on the project. Parchment is the leader in eTranscript exchange in the U.S. and Infinite Campus is the largest American-owned student information system.
A list of participating colleges and universities is available here. An example of an eTranscript can be found here.
To learn how to plan and prepare for higher education, go to  
SOURCE: KDE Press release

Thursday, July 25, 2013

State Education Leaders Say Common Core Will Go Forward in their States

New Report from Center on Education Policy finds
Concern is high, however, about funding and support for Common Core implementation

This from the Center on Education Policy:

Education officials in a majority of states that have adopted the Common Core State Standards say it is unlikely that their state will reverse, limit, or change its decision to adopt the standards this year or next, a new report finds. The data, which come from a recent survey, also found that very few of the state leaders said that overcoming resistance to the standards posed a major challenge in their state.
The data were released today in “Year 3 of Implementing the Common Core State Standards: State Education Agencies Views on the Federal Role” by the Center on Education Policy (CEP) at The George Washington University. Forty states responded to the CEP survey about the Common Core State Standards (CCSS). The survey was administered in the spring of 2013. To date, 45 states and the District of Columbia have adopted the CCSS, in both English language arts and math. The survey respondents included 39 states that have adopted these standards in both subjects and one that has adopted the English language arts standards only.

“What we found is that, while there might be resistance to the Common Core, it isn’t coming from state education agencies,” said CEP’s Executive Director Maria Ferguson. “State leaders are more focused on finding resources and guidance to carry out the demanding steps required for full implementation.” Most of the 40 states that responded to the CEP survey also indicated support for particular legislative changes to the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA) that would directly assist state and district efforts to transition to the CCSS.

The Administration has been criticized by some for being too involved in or heavy-handed in its encouragement of the state-initiated and state-led standards through federal initiatives like Race to the Top and the No Child Left Behind waivers. But only two states in the CEP survey reported that they did not want any federal assistance with CCSS implementation. Thirty states or more responded that their efforts to transition to the new standards would be helped by changes to ESEA, accompanied by funding, for activities such as state and local implementation activities around the Common Core, CCSS-related professional development for teachers and principals, and implementing the soon-to-be released assessments aligned to the CCSS.

“It is pretty clear that state leaders see the federal government as having a role to play in Common Core implementation. Exactly what that role is and how that support is structured moving forward will represent a key decision point for both the Common Core and any future ESEA reauthorization,” said Ferguson.

The CEP study found that 30 states favored legislative revisions to the Title I of ESEA—which supports education services for low-performing students in high-poverty schools—to help teachers in Title I schools teach CCSS content. Additionally, 29 states expressed support for revisions to Title III—which funds instructional services for English language learners—to help teachers of ELL students teach the content of the new standards.

“With many states still recovering from the recession, state leaders may view the federal dollars associated with the legislative changes as a means to provide them with needed funds to implement the Common Core,” said CEP’s Deputy Director Diane Stark Rentner.

The report can be accessed free of charge at

Key Findings
Several key findings from the survey shed light on states’ views about the role of the federal government in assisting them with transitioning to the CCSS.
• In the vast majority (37) of the CCSS-adopting states participating in the survey, officials considered it unlikely that their state would reverse, limit, or change its decision to adopt the standards during 2013-14. In addition, very few respondents said that overcoming various types of resistance to the Common Core posed a major challenge in their state; at the time of the survey in spring 2013, most respondents viewed this as a minor challenge or no challenge.
• A majority of CCSS-adopting states indicated support for particular legislative changes to the ESEA that would directly assist state and district efforts to transition to the Common Core.
• Only two survey states reported that they did not want any federal assistance with CCSS implementation.
• The Obama Administration’s waivers of ESEA/No Child Left Behind Act provisions appear to have helped some states with their efforts to transition to the CCSS and meet federal accountability requirements.
• If ESEA is not reauthorized during the 113th Congress, many states that received waivers see the need for additional non-legislative actions on ESEA to help them implement the CCSS.
When NGA and CCSSO kicked off the CCSS Initiative, it was, by intention, a state-instigated, state-led activity that would produce national, not federal, standards. The Initiative continues to emphasize that “the federal government had no role in the development of the Common Core State Standards and will not have a role in their implementation” (Common Core State Standards Initiative, n.d.). In the three years since the standards were released, this state/national focus has aided the adoption of the standards by many states that would have been opposed to adopting any federal education standards. The only direct federal funding provided for the CCSS was $437.5 million in economic stimulus money to support the development of assessments aligned to the CCSS.1 

The Obama Administration, however, has encouraged the adoption of college- and career-ready standards in other ways. States applying for Race to the Top funds must adopt “internationally benchmarked standards and assessments.”  In addition, states seeking a waiver of key provisions of ESEA as amended by the No Child Left Behind Act (NCLB) must adopt “college- and career-ready standards” and “aligned, high-quality assessments” (U.S. Department of Education, 2009; 2012). While states could meet the requirements of either program by adopting the CCSS, both programs stop short of actually requiring states to do so. States could fulfill these requirements by adopting other sets of internationally benchmarked or college- and career-ready standards that meet program criteria. In fact, two states approved for waivers did use alternative standards: Virginia, which did not adopt the CCSS in either subject, and Minnesota, which did not adopt the CCSS in math.