Why I Just Asked My Students To Put Their Laptops Away

students using ipads 2

I teach theory and practice of social media at NYU, and am an advocate and activist for the free culture movement, so I’m a pretty unlikely candidate for internet censor, but I have just asked the students in my fall seminar to refrain from using laptops, tablets, and phones in class.

students using ipads 2I came late and reluctantly to this decision — I have been teaching classes about the internet since 1998, and I’ve generally had a laissez-faire attitude towards technology use in the classroom. This was partly because the subject of my classes made technology use feel organic, and when device use went well, it was great. Then there was the competitive aspect — it’s my job to be more interesting than the possible distractions, so a ban felt like cheating. And finally, there’s not wanting to infantilize my students, who are adults, even if young ones — time management is their job, not mine.

Despite these rationales, the practical effects of my decision to allow technology use in class grew worse over time. The level of distraction in my classes seemed to grow, even though it was the same professor and largely the same set of topics, taught to a group of students selected using roughly the same criteria every year. The change seemed to correlate more with the rising ubiquity and utility of the devices themselves, rather than any change in me, the students, or the rest of the classroom encounter.

Over the years, I’ve noticed that when I do have a specific reason to ask everyone to set aside their devices (‘Lids down’, in the parlance of my department), it’s as if someone has let fresh air into the room. The conversation brightens, and more recently, there is a sense of relief from many of the students. Multi-tasking is cognitively exhausting — when we do it by choice, being asked to stop can come as a welcome change.

So this year, I moved from recommending setting aside laptops and phones to requiring it, adding this to the class rules: “Stay focused. (No devices in class, unless the assignment requires it.)” Here’s why I finally switched from ‘allowed unless by request’ to ‘banned unless required’.


We’ve known for some time that multi-tasking is bad for the quality of cognitive work, and is especially punishing of the kind of cognitive work we ask of college students.

This effect takes place over more than one time frame — even when multi-tasking doesn’t significantly degrade immediate performance, it can have negative long-term effects on “declarative memory”, the kind of focused recall that lets people characterize and use what they learned from earlier studying. (Multi-tasking thus makes the famous “learned it the day before the test, forgot it the day after” effect even more pernicious.)

People often start multi-tasking because they believe it will help them get more done. Those gains never materialize; instead, efficiency is degraded. However, it provides emotional gratification as a side-effect. (Multi-tasking moves the pleasure of procrastination inside the period of work.) This side-effect is enough to keep people committed to multi-tasking despite worsening the very thing they set out to improve.

On top of this, multi-tasking doesn’t even exercise task-switching as a skill. A study from Stanford reports that heavy multi-taskers are worse at choosing which task to focus on. (“They are suckers for irrelevancy”, as Cliff Nass, one of the researchers put it.) Multi-taskers often think they are like gym rats, bulking up their ability to juggle tasks, when in fact they are like alcoholics, degrading their abilities through over-consumption.


This is all just the research on multi-tasking as a stable mental phenomenon. Laptops, tablets and phones — the devices on which the struggle between focus and distraction is played out daily — are making the problem progressively worse. Any designer of software as a service has an incentive to be as ingratiating as they can be, in order to compete with other such services. “Look what a good job I’m doing! Look how much value I’m delivering!”

This problem is especially acute with social media, because on top of the general incentive for any service to be verbose about its value, social information is immediately and emotionally engaging. Both the form and the content of a Facebook update are almost irresistibly distracting, especially compared with the hard slog of coursework. (“Your former lover tagged a photo you are in” vs. “The Crimean War was the first conflict significantly affected by use of the telegraph.” Spot the difference?)

Worse, the designers of operating systems have every incentive to be arms dealers to the social media firms. Beeps and pings and pop-ups and icons, contemporary interfaces provide an extraordinary array of attention-getting devices, emphasis on “getting.” Humans are incapable of ignoring surprising new information in our visual field, an effect that is strongest when the visual cue is slightly above and beside the area we’re focusing on. (Does that sound like the upper-right corner of a screen near you?)

The form and content of a Facebook update may be almost irresistible, but when combined with a visual alert in your immediate peripheral vision, it is—really, actually, biologically—impossible to resist. Our visual and emotional systems are faster and more powerful than our intellect; we are given to automatic responses when either system receives stimulus, much less both. Asking a student to stay focused while she has alerts on is like asking a chess player to concentrate while rapping their knuckles with a ruler at unpredictable intervals.


Jonathan Haidt’s metaphor of the elephant and the rider is useful here. In Haidt’s telling, the mind is like an elephant (the emotions) with a rider (the intellect) on top. The rider can see and plan ahead, but the elephant is far more powerful. Sometimes the rider and the elephant work together (the ideal in classroom settings), but if they conflict, the elephant usually wins.

After reading Haidt, I’ve stopped thinking of students as people who simply make choices about whether to pay attention, and started thinking of them as people trying to pay attention but having to compete with various influences, the largest of which is their own propensity towards involuntary and emotional reaction. (This is even harder for young people, the elephant so strong, the rider still a novice.)

Regarding teaching as a shared struggle changes the nature of the classroom. It’s not me demanding that they focus — its me and them working together to help defend their precious focus against outside distractions. I have a classroom full of riders and elephants, but I’m trying to teach the riders.

And while I do, who is whispering to the elephants? Facebook, Wechat, Twitter, Instagram, Weibo, Snapchat, Tumblr, Pinterest, the list goes on, abetted by the designers of the Mac, iOS, Windows, and Android. In the classroom, it’s me against a brilliant and well-funded army (including, sharper than a serpent’s tooth, many of my former students.) These designers and engineers have every incentive to capture as much of my students’ attention as they possibly can, without regard for any commitment those students may have made to me or to themselves about keeping on task.

It doesn’t have to be this way, of course. Even a passing familiarity with the literature on programming, a famously arduous cognitive task, will acquaint you with stories of people falling into code-flow so deep they lose track of time, forgetting to eat or sleep. Computers are not inherent sources of distraction — they can in fact be powerful engines of focus — but latter-day versions have been designed to be, because attention is the substance which makes the whole consumer internet go.

The fact that hardware and software is being professionally designed to distract was the first thing that made me willing to require rather than merely suggest that students not use devices in class. There are some counter-moves in the industry right now — software that takes over your screen to hide distractions, software that prevents you from logging into certain sites or using the internet at all, phones with Do Not Disturb options — but at the moment these are rear-guard actions. The industry has committed itself to an arms race for my students’ attention, and if it’s me against Facebook and Apple, I lose.


The final realization — the one that firmly tipped me over into the “No devices in class” camp — was this: screens generate distraction in a manner akin to second-hand smoke. A paper with the blunt title Laptop Multitasking Hinders Classroom Learning for Both Users and Nearby Peers says it all:

We found that participants who multitasked on a laptop during a lecture scored lower on a test compared to those who did not multitask, and participants who were in direct view of a multitasking peer scored lower on a test compared to those who were not. The results demonstrate that multitasking on a laptop poses a significant distraction to both users and fellow students and can be detrimental to comprehension of lecture content.

I have known, for years, that the basic research on multi-tasking was adding up, and that for anyone trying to do hard thinking (our spécialité de la maison, here at college), device use in class tends to be a net negative. Even with that consensus, however, it was still possible to imagine that the best way to handle the question was to tell the students about the research, and let them make up their own minds.

The “Nearby Peers” effect, though, shreds that rationale. There is no laissez-faire attitude to take when the degradation of focus is social. Allowing laptop use in class is like allowing boombox use in class — it lets each person choose whether to degrade the experience of those around them.

Groups also have a rider-and-elephant problem, best described by Wilfred Bion in an oddly written but influential book, Experiences in Groups. In it, Bion, who practiced group therapy, observed how his patients would unconsciously coordinate their actions to defeat the purpose of therapy. In discussing the ramifications of this, Bion observed that effective groups often develop elaborate structures, designed to keep their sophisticated goals from being derailed by more primal group activities like gossiping about members and vilifying non-members.

The structure of a classroom, and especially a seminar room, exhibits the same tension. All present have an incentive for the class to be as engaging as possible; even though engagement often means waiting to speak while listening to other people wrestle with half-formed thoughts, that’s the process by which people get good at managing the clash of ideas. Against that long-term value, however, each member has an incentive to opt out, even if only momentarily. The smallest loss of focus can snowball, the impulse to check WeChat quickly and then put the phone away leading to just one message that needs a reply right now, and then, wait, what happened last night??? (To the people who say “Students have always passed notes in class”, I reply that old-model notes didn’t contain video and couldn’t arrive from anywhere in the world at 10 megabits a second.)


I have the good fortune to teach in cities richly provisioned with opportunities for distraction. Were I a 19-year-old planning an ideal day in Shanghai, I would not put “Listen to an old guy talk for an hour” at the top of my list. (Vanity prevents me from guessing where it would go.) And yet I can teach the students things they are interested in knowing, and despite all the literature on joyful learning, from Maria Montessori on down, some parts of making your brain do new things are just hard.

Indeed, college contains daily exercises in delayed gratification. “Discuss early modern European print culture” will never beat “Sing karaoke with friends” in a straight fight, but in the long run, having a passable Rhianna impression will be a less useful than understanding how media revolutions unfold.

Anyone distracted in class doesn’t just lose out on the content of the discussion, they create a sense of permission that opting out is OK, and, worse, a haze of second-hand distraction for their peers. In an environment like this, students need support for the better angels of their nature (or at least the more intellectual angels), and they need defenses against the powerful short-term incentives to put off complex, frustrating tasks. That support and those defenses don’t just happen, and they are not limited to the individual’s choices. They are provided by social structure, and that structure is disproportionately provided by the professor, especially during the first weeks of class.

This is, for me, the biggest change — not a switch in rules, but a switch in how I see my role. Professors are at least as bad at estimating how interesting we are as the students are at estimating their ability to focus. Against oppositional models of teaching and learning, both negative—Concentrate, or lose out!—and positive—Let me attract your attention!—I’m coming to see student focus as a collaborative process. It’s me and them working to create a classroom where the students who want to focus have the best shot at it, in a world increasingly hostile to that goal.

Some of the students will still opt out, of course, which remains their prerogative and rightly so, but if I want to help the ones who do want to pay attention, I’ve decided it’s time to admit that I’ve brought whiteboard markers to a gun fight, and act accordingly.

7 Major Differences between No Child Left Behind and Common Core/Race to the Top

sandra stotsky

sandra stotsky

1. Focus of Accountability: Schools or Teachers

2. Source of State Standards: State Agencies or Private DC-Based OrganizationsUnder NCLB or earlier, standards were developed by state departments of education guided by education schools, national teacher organizations, teachers, and higher education academic experts.  They were approved through a public process applied to multiple drafts.

Under CC/RttT, standards were developed by private organizations with no transparent review and finalization process, and no public discussion of final draft. The March 2010 public comment draft went out for two weeks of comment, but the comments are not available to the public.

3. Control of Test Content: State Agencies or Federal Agency

Under NCLB, state tests were developed/contracted for by state departments of education and reviewed by a state’s teachers, consultants, and public agencies. Test items were also reviewed by independent sources before tests were given and/or after test administration.

Under CC/RttT, tests are developed by private organizations and unknown individuals, with limited public review of test items before tests given and no public release of all or most test items after use.

4. Control of Passing Score: State Agencies or Federal Agency

Under NCLB in each state, the process for determining passing scores was controlled by state departments of education, with parents and state legislators participating in the determination of passing scores by means of an open vote.

For CC-based tests, there seems to be a non-transparent process controlled by both state departments of education and the test consortia, with possible oversight by the USDE. While parents and others may be included, committee membership may be controlled by both state DoEs and the test consortia, with no participation in a vote permitted to parents and state legislators.  It is not clear how the passing score for all states will be determined and if there will be state-specific scores.  An announcement from one test consortium indicates that “recommendations from the Online Panel, the In-Person Panel, and the Vertical Articulation Committee” will be presented to the chief school officers in Smarter Balanced governing states for their consideration and endorsement, in order to establish a common set of achievement levels for mathematics and English language arts/Literacy across grades 3–8 and high school.

No involvement is indicated for the Congressional House of Representatives.

5. Purpose: High school graduation or college-readiness

Under NCLB, the goal of K-12 standards was graduation from high school based on passing tests based on state-developed standards. Under RttT, the goal after passing tests based on CC standards is enrollment in credit-bearing coursework at post-secondary institutions, with the further goal of a college diploma or certificate. Assumption: every student is judged on preparedness for college even though it is not clear that preparedness for that goal is equivalent to preparedness for an occupational career.

6.  Who benefits? Professional Development Providers or Technology and Global Education Companies

Who makes money from the public trough?  Under NCLB, professional development providers.  Under CC/RttT, high-tech companies that need to equip 50 million students for computer-based testing, and global/national professional development providers that can now provide the same kind of program to all teachers.

7.  Subject Expertise of Teachers: Assured by School District or State Licensure Test Only

Under NCLB, states and local school districts were to ensure the subject expertise of all teachers (via an undergraduate major, a teacher license, or HOUSSE plan to ensure “highly qualified” teacher).  Under RttT, teacher subject expertise is subsumed under teacher “effectiveness,” on the basis of which redistribution of teachers may take place if it can be determined that low-income students have a lower percentage of “effective” teachers than do other students.

Common Core: 95 Reasons why it is bad Public Policy

TEACHER ON BLACKBOARD

teacher Miami Dade

1. Common Core State Standards (CCSS), as an education reform policy, does not satisfy the four pillars of education reform:  1) Accountability 2) More State and Local Control 3) Focusing resources on proven educational methods and 4) Expanded choices for parents. Accountability for implementing the Common Core Standards (that were not properly piloted or vetted) unfairly rests predominantly, and without proper balance, in the hands of the classroom teacher.  State of Florida educators were not properly trained in the standards prior to rollout and implementation; State of Florida educators were not asked to provide input during the creation and development of the standards; and State of Florida educators are being forced to implement the Standards without allowances for feedback or changes.

State and local control of education is further removed by Common Core as it cements additional layers of bureaucracy before educational process improvements and timely changes to individual school district student needs can be implemented. Common Core is not focused on proven educational methods as it is not the return to classical education and, in fact, resembles and is more closely aligned with the failed outcome-based education policy. School choice is not an element of Common Core as it has been said on more than one occasion by Florida education legislators and policy experts –  Common Core will not cause the proliferation of charter schools, et al. In addition, Common Core has in practicum moved parents further away from the educational process – student learning and caring involvement in their child’s academic needs/strengths.

2.  Teachers are in fear of their jobs should they speak out against Common Core.  CCSS has created a hostile work environment and a growing mistrust between students, parents, teachers, and administrators. Classroom teachers are held to the highest level of accountability for individual test scores while administrators and superintendents shuffle resources and students around to inflate school grades and school grade improvement statistics.  Unjustifiably and unjustly, Florida teachers’ compensation is one of the lowest in the country particularly considering the volume of students (4th in  the country).

3.  Common Core was not piloted and therefore only exists as a hypothesis and our children are involuntarily being used as processors of non-subject matter experts ideas about their education. These non-experts do not have any vested interest or life connection to the potential failure of such untested standards and therefore will not have to pick up the pieces of frustrated and undereducated (to their potential) students. Common Core is a corporate driven education reform package.

4.  All the bandage bills to correct deficiencies in Common Core Standards, while still remaining in the Common Core Consortium and Initiative, are a process of legislative deception; the lack of passing Florida HB25 and SB1316 through Committee for a full House and Senate vote is a form of legislative deception; the Florida Department of Education and Florida legislators receiving, from education foundations, directives regarding the promotion of Common Core prior to and during the 3 state hearings on Common Core, and through this current legislative session, is a process of legislative deception as well as a breach of public trust on the basic principles of fairness and integrity.

5.  The numerous bills (bandages) in the FL legislature trying to provide remedy to the documented problems with the development, rollout, and implementation of CCSS indicate just how harmful the standards as developed and copyrighted are and will continue to be.

6.  CCSS had a complete lack of transparency during its development and implementation.  It was only after public outcry about the lack of parental and education experts input in the development of Common Core that Florida decided to “attempt” to correct the problem by holding 3 supposedly “unbiased” community hearings.  The hearings were strictly placebo and an attempt to placate an increasingly hostile parent community.  Given the numerous emails sent to the Florida legislative hierarchy and FL Department of Education officials, from special interest groups, one has no option but to conclude that all the players involved in the adoption of CCSS in the State of Florida had a singular lack of respect for parent, teacher, or subject matter expert input.

7.  Florida needs to pull out of the RACE TO THE TOP (RTTT) Memorandum of Understanding as it was bribed/coerced to adopt Common Core Standards in order to qualify for federal funds.  Florida was rejected as a contender for RTTT funding in Phase I because it did not stipulate accepting CCSS and only progressed to Phase II after accepting Common Core. The “contract” for Common Core was signed prior to final development of Common Core Standards and, as such, the Florida Department of Education and Florida legislators showed a willful disregard, and were quite negligent, to the educational well-being of Florida’s children. “Show me the money” is a phrase best used in film.  There are two groups of Americans who sit at the top priority of individuals whose well-being should never be sacrificed for money or profit – the American soldier and the American student. Such callous indifference and disregard for proper process and pedagogical soundness is disturbing.

8. Private schools should not be coerced or blackmailed to adopt Common Core Standards (CCSS) through Common Core’s linkage with the SAT, ACT, and other K-12 testing agents. Private schools have a mission that does not coincide with the mission implicit in CCSS.  By and large, the methodology employed by private schools is that students will be treated as individuals and individual learners.  Public schools in higher achieving and competitive cities (Example: Boston) have done well by adopting this methodology. Common Core is a step backward towards group thinking and group learning. We respect common minds but we should be ambitious for exemplary minds.  Common Core punishes private schools for this decades old philosophy of education and seemingly demands adoption of a less effective teaching curriculum and methodology to match the Common Core standards expectations.  Additionally,making adoption of CCSS linear with admissions tests for colleges and universities provides a stranglehold and almost virtually eliminates freedom “of adoption or not” because a variance in even 5% points in a college admissions test can be the difference between getting in a top-tier college or not.

9.  There was no input by early childhood experts in the development of Common Core.  Such a lack of emphasis on early childhood is as detrimental to education reform as a phony college and career readiness component. Kindergarten readiness is an extremely necessary program of education, particularly in diverse socio-cultural-economic metropolitan areas like Miami Dade, Tampa, and Orlando, were significant challenges arise in kindergarten when such readiness is not achieved.

10.  American Institutes for Research (AIR), the chosen education testing/assessment company for Common Core in Florida, is heavily involved in data collection and mining and Florida SB188 does not qualify as a STOP into such intrusion of privacy or a STOP to the potential for a student’s private personal identifiable information being able to be accessed by third party non-education related agents.  As such, the ACLU and other agencies are seriously opposed to the data mining and data collection components of Common Core.

11. Both testing companies considered by the Florida Department of Education (FLDOE), the Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium (SBAC) and AIR, as well as the dismissed PARCC (Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers), have requirements that they must share information “across consortia” and with the U.S. Department of Education.

12.  CCSS was not state designed, but rather designed by the National Governors Association (NGA), Council of Chief State School Officers (CCSSO), National Center on Education and the Economy (NCEE), Achieve, Inc., West End, and other private special interest organizations via federal and private grants.

The Florida Constitution calls for education policy to be determined in state.  Historical education reform research data validates that the most successful and effective programs for higher learning are managed, developed, and implemented with the input of local administrators, education experts, and parents.

13. Mark Tucker, one of the major developers of Common Core, became President of NCEE all the time working for national standards disregarding individual state Constitutions and legislatures.  Both Tucker and Lauren Resnick push for national standards based reform.  Outcome based education, of which Common Core is but a derivative or reincarnation, has been tried previously and was a pitiful failure.

14. The terminology “cradle to grave” is coined for education and the data collecting of student’s information under the guise of making “positive” changes and process improvements in education. Children’s data is collected and analyzed from cradle to grave.  Students’ mistakes become unforgiving in a data controlled business where data analysis is more important than process, individual circumstances, or personal ability.  The ends justifies the means is a repeated mantra.  The idea of a new generation committed and accepting to data collection and lack of privacy for children is born.

15.  The Goals Act of 2000 was a failure, the School-to-Work Opportunities Act was a failure, and the ESEA reauthorization No Child Left Behind was a failure. Education reform must be locally driven to both stop and prevent systematic abuses of children’s individual data, children’s individual mental health, children’s individual social and economic challenges, and children’s individual academic needs.  Education reform must be locally driven to assure advances in higher learning and academic achievement, as well as to provide timely assistance to those students with special needs.

16.  Florida has failed to provide a security network for protection of children’s data.  In an increasingly online education driven learning and teaching environment, extra scrutiny and security must be in place prior to adoption or implementation of any standards/testing of which results and student data could be easily corrupted or breached.

17.  Achieve, Inc., a for-profit business formed by the National Governors Association, corporate leaders and Mark Tucker, drove the development and implementation of Common Core.  Thusly, a lay person’s and dedicated parent’s assumption would be that Common Core was revenue driven for the benefit of reinvestment in schools, inclusive of continuous teacher training and classroom resource improvements. However, it is not revenue driven for reinvestment in local schools. The priority then becomes the commercialization of schools for profit and benefit of companies and industry and, as such, is an egregious violation of parent, student, and resident trust.

18.  Mark Tucker and Judy Codding create America’s Choice Removing parental input and local school input takes high priority as well as necessity in their reform movement, where local control and influence needs to be drastically reduced and minimized.  Uniform control becomes the order of the day vice individual uniqueness. Children are left to the educational mercy of corporate interests (America’s Choice partners with Pearson) and values as it relates to their education.

19.  The reauthorization of Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA) into No Child Left Behind was another failed national and centralized education policy that failed to deliver appropriate policy for the diverse and otherwise individual challenges and unique populations of each state, inclusive of child poverty rates.  Child poverty is the single most serious problem facing learning and achievement in schools. Common Core is more of the same, or an extension of the same, results driven education drivel that shortchanges both teachers and students in an ever increasing high stakes roulette wheel that has no correlation or acknowledgement to lifelong learning or success. Hitting targets marks and high school grades make administrators happy but is not synonymous to student success.

20.  Microsoft contracted with UNESCO for world education by “a master curriculum for teacher training information technologies based standards, guidelines, benchmarks, and assessments.” Corporate business interests disregard the critical fact that a master curriculum violates federal laws as well as State of Florida laws, inclusive of respective Constitutions.  In continuation of efforts towards a master curriculum, Bill Gates funds the New Commission on the Skills of the American Workforce, created by Mark Tucker. Prioritizing education commercialization and future company profits becomes the reform “policy of success for education, achievement, and for individual student needs, strengths, and opportunities”.  In truth, for-profit interests should have NO place in determining education policy except as an accountable and transparent education reinvestment strategy.

21.  Gates plus 2 others create Strong American Schools.  Businessmen with no subject matter expertise are determined to decide what is best for American children en masse formula versus an individual formula.  While Strong American Schools is non-profit, the policy results are anything but. Such prioritization of profit over individual needs, abilities, and desired skill sets is academic manipulation not for the individual student good but for the greater good of the commercial profiteers.

22.  State of Florida  SB864 affirming local control of textbooks is incomplete and thus lacking in comprehensive substance inasmuch as we know that the State of Florida, and their school districts, purchased, and obtained respectively,  their CCSS aligned textbooks prior to the effective date of 2014-2015, as rollout and implementation had already commenced. What allowances, both fiscally and administratively, have been made for previously purchased and obtained CCSS aligned fallacious textbooks?

23.  Florida decided to adopt CCSS prior to the standards being completely written.  Florida signed over the academic lives of children without knowledge of the content or quality of the standards.  Such negligence must stop and never be repeated.  Continuing to implement Common Core sets a dangerous precedent of neglectful behavior towards securing the educational protection and betterment of children.

24.  Florida parents, teachers, and administrators were ignored in the process of developing and implementing Common Core.  Process does matter and the means for obtaining the highest quality of standards for Florida students has never been fully investigated.  3 hearings organized simply to “correct” the mess that is CCSS does not qualify as sincerity by the Florida Department of Education or Florida Legislature to develop and implement the highest quality of standards SPECIFIC to Florida’s student needs, diversity, and academic abilities. Florida has 6 of the top 12 largest school districts in the country.  Such volume demands thorough investigation and input by the vast array of individuals within the state committed and qualified to give testimony regarding education, curriculum, instruction,standards, and careers. The State of Florida Department of Education and Florida Legislature should have been aggressive in seeking out these experts when considering reform instead of “you can come to a hearing or provide website comment” if you are concerned about Common Core.  I find this methodology of reform and engagement of experts to be woefully incompetent and lacking in sincere intent for the creation of the very best standards Florida can offer.

25.  Professors from a diverse group of colleges and universities have risen up in opposition to Common Core Standards.  They include, but are not exclusive to – Dr. Anthony Esolen (Providence College), Dr. Thomas Newkirk (University of New Hampshire), Dr. Daniel Coupland (Hillsdale College), Dr.Christopher Tienken (Seton Hall University), Dr. James Milgram (Stanford University), Dr. Sandra Stotsky (University of Arkansas), Dr. Alan Manning (Brigham Young University), Dr. Bill Evers (Hoover Institute at Stanford University), Dr. Terence Moore (Hillsdale College), Dr. William Mathis (University of Colorado, et al.

26. The Family Education Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA) is weakened as a result of Common Core, therein seriously damaging the protection of student information and data.  FERPA’s collusion with Common Core further decimates parental rights and harms children as a result of parental non-involvement.  FERPA’s removal of the requirement for parental permission before any data is collected or transmitted regarding children is dangerous. The Electronic Privacy Information Center (EPIC) is suing the U.S. Department of Education because of the weakening of FERPA and the loss of privacy as a result thereof.

27.  Some states data collection starts when a child is 24 hours old – hence the Common Core used terminology “cradle to grave”.

28.  Common Core is of mediocre quality and will not result in greater student learning as per the analysis of the #1 Think Tank in the world, Brookings Institute (Brown Center for Education Policy).

29.  Common Core threatens, coerces, and puts undue pressure and duress on private, religious, and homeschooling because of the stranglehold CCSS has on linear assessments, particularly the  SAT/ACT and other college admissions requirements.  Private, religious, and homeschooling students have traditionally scored higher in standardized tests and have higher percentages of student graduation rates and college admissions.  A consortium of Florida education experts from these 3 areas of schooling, as well as their public school counterparts, will do much more for student learning and success than any Common Core hypothesis.

30.  Common Core provides no process for ongoing teacher feedback and hence lacks a mechanism for process improvement in a timely and efficient manner.

31.  A small group of paid experts created Common Core standards with the philosophy “Corporate Interest Knows Best” versus local school and parent know best.

32.  Common Core was never pilot tested in any school or school district.  Such failure re-emphasizes that the priority was given to commercialization and/or special interests instead of validated and proven student learning techniques.

33.  Common Core puts an unequal emphasis on education as being solely for workforce training. (My professor father would have such loud opposition to such emphasis.)

34.  Teacher evaluations being tied to federal mandates represent a gross ignorance by the Common Core developers of the uniqueness and challenges of local populations – particularly in the areas of diversity, cultural needs, language, and poverty.  Teacher accountability standards should be determined at the state level.

35.  Common Core disregards local child poverty programs and does nothing to discuss/resolve the linkage between poverty and academic underachievement.  Consequently, even if it was education’s “eureka” moment, it is incomplete.

36.  Common Core seems to be more a campaign by millionaires and billionaires to achieve short and long-term company profit goals than a reform program prioritizing the maximization of individual achievement.  Measurement and data seem to be at the top of the new paradigm for education.

37.  Common Core has no component for educational supplemental services such as high-quality preschools, expanded summer school, and after school resources.

38.  Common Core fails to deliver a transparent and comprehensive strategic plan to make every student college and career ready. (Probably because it is a completely bogus component and only used for propaganda purposes.)

39.  Common Core developers, as well as the State of Florida, presented no cost analysis prior to approval of adoption and implementation of Common Core Standards. There is a major concern that such negligence for funding, especially given the anticipated dramatic increase in funding needed, will be another issue that interferes with student outcomes and performance.  Common Core’s lack of cost analysis is sure to lead to revenue shortfalls and eventual CCSS implementation failure as schools struggle for funding.  Uncertain funding will surely lead to some program shortages.  Uncertain funding will surely lead away from learning as a priority and towards funding as a priority.  As any parent that runs a household knows, it is hard to think about tomorrow’s “lesson” when you are trying to provide nourishment for today’s “lesson”.

40.  CCSS is nothing visionary, but rather the opinions of a few, and a desire by some, to be the next visionaries and founders of education’s “Eureka moment”.

41.  Standards should never be moved away from educators, schools, and parents then given to distant bureaucracies and politicians or special interest groups or companies.

42. Any potential positive of Common Core was completely undermined by bad process.  Political agenda, quid pro quo practices, favor giving, and commercial interests should never take precedence over student protection and respect, or teacher protection and respect.

43.  Common Core aligned textbooks and worksheets have been proven to be flawed.  Teacher training for the implementation of Common Core has been proven to be flawed.  Funding equity and resources per school has been proven to be flawed. (Example: If school district schools are allotted $ equally, but yet one school only employs one security guard while another has to employ four, are they both getting equal $ for classroom instruction?).  Common Core does nothing but institute more flaws inan already flawed system.  This is what the Florida legislature calls quality education reform? Common Core is not a problem solver, Common Core is a problem maker.

44.  There are states that adopted Common Core even though they are recognized to have had higher standards than Common Core. (Minnesota and Massachusetts by way of example) Why force, through stranglehold federal government monetary incentives and mandates, states to lower their standards? Such coercion speaks to the lack of sincerity in truly delivering higher learning for all.  Rather it speaks to COMMON curriculum and standards regardless of individual student needs and abilities.  Rather it speaks to corporate interests vice community/student interests being a priority.

45.  Common Core once claimed to be internationally benchmarked as a public relations selling point, but the CCSS website no longer uses that terminology as it was a total fabrication (lie). Rather, it now states CCSS “is informed by the standards of other countries”.  What exactly does that mean – informed by?

46.  Common Core does not necessarily help students who transfer from other states as there is no proven data to suggest the standards’ “uniformity” will help the students.  In other words, are the classes and curriculum going to be taught in the same sequence, at the same time, with the same teacher energy and expertise?  It is nonsensical to suggest transient students will benefit from such a “uniformity” of standards.  No classroom teacher or administrator would stipulate such guaranteed benefit.  There are too many ingredients/variables in student academic success to even suggest that national standards would even remotely be the “end all” of higher learning. It might play a part in better testing (eventually), but philosophically and theoretically cannot play a realistic part in higher learning.

47.  Less than 4% of the student population moves from state-to-state therefore any promotion of the idea that Common Core benefits moving students puts the other 96% of the student population in jeopardy.  Both are hypotheticals much like the standards themselves.

48.   Ethan Young, a high school student, has given a first-hand account of the problems with Common Core.  He should be listened to as many student accounts are now coming in as a result of states implementing CCSS and first person testimony finally being readily available.  The mathematics standards are of lower quality and the English Language Arts standards, particularly the informational texts, used as a priority in high school, is manipulative/subjective as well as not of pedagogical soundness.  If the informational text is geared towards college and career readiness, how do you determine student interests and talents? It appears as if career “interests” will be pre-determined.  That is offensive to individuality and personal skills.  Filling slots in workforce shortages was never and should never be the pre-eminent intent of education.

49.  High stakes testing is wrong for students and teachers and puts a grotesque priority/emphasis on grading/results versus learning and innovation.  Think Einstein.

50.  Common Core appears to be a power grab by private non-governmental institutions not answerable to parents. 

51.  Common Core institutes a feeling in parents (apparently true) that they are being ignored and that they should have little to no control over their children’s education.

52.  Common Core Standards are not owned by the State of Florida, and even though the FLDOE and the Florida legislature are calling CCSS by its new name Next Generation Sunshine State Standards or Florida Standards, all the while violating its own renewed commitment to transparency and ethics, Florida still remains in the Common Core Consortium and Initiative, and still has agreed to adopt Common Core State Standards.    Such duplicity has no place in constituent communication much less student education.

53.  The British education system showed a marked decrease in academic achievement after adopting Common Core-like standards.  If they are the pilot for Common Core, we should take notice.

54.  The negative impact of one-size-fits-all-standards is expected to be irreversible for at least one generation.  Even one generation being impacted negatively is unacceptable.

55.  Parents should decide, in combination with their local communities and education leaders, the best education policy and reform for their children.

56.  Parental input for educational process improvement was decimated during Common Core development and is continuing to be decimated during implementation.  Common Core limits parental voice in their child’s education.

57.  Teachers are given little control over their classroom.  Common Core Standards will impose a strict regimen of compliance, whether effective for each individual student or not.

58.  Teacher evaluation and pay is tied to student performance regardless of challenges in diversity, poverty, language, or disability.  Teachers are in effect forced to participate in a merit/accountability system that has triggers more for the benefit of administrators and education vigilantes than students.

59.  Common Core will hurt students as it is a one-size-fits-all education norm that assumes students all learn in the same way (what a gross travesty of reasoning) and gives no variance/allowance for individual student styles, preferences, and paces.

60.  The Race to the Top Memorandum of Understanding absolutely requires data mining of a student’s personal identifiable information.  The information collected is more than test scores and academic progress (parent political party affiliation, religion, marital status, etc. could be collected).  In Florida, parents have testified they feel coerced into “voluntarily” granting, signing on the dotted line, permission to transfer such personal information as part of the requirements to have their children’s assessment scores sent to award agencies and/or colleges and universities, as well as participating in the race to receive scholarships and grants.

61.  Sandra Stotsky, Professor at the University of Arkansas, and a member of the validation committee for Common Core, says Common Core dumbs down students at least two grades levels.

62.  Centralized education systems have a long history of not working and never will work as diversity and poverty, two areas which impact both student curriculum needs and learning ability, cannot be administered effectively, i.e. personally and individually, by remote control.

63.  300 prominent policy makers and education experts warn that Common Core will close the door on innovation.

64.  Common Core will drive curriculum, a fact which was admitted by both the U.S. Department of Education and Mark Tucker.  As we know, there is no best design for curriculum sequences in any subject.  Therefore, it is then highly questionable, given the diversity of adolescent’s interests, talents, and educational needs, that CCSS and its curriculum will be not be effective given its lack of understanding of the local population and their needs, which are necessary in order to effectively maximize student learning and achievement (scholars admit and understand learning and achievement are not necessarily the same).

65.  Common Core Standards are of insufficient quality to be deemed a “national” standard.

66.  Alaska, Nebraska, Texas, and Virginia refused to adopt Common Core.  Did anyone ask them their reasoning?   As such, because of their non-involvement, we cannot possibly have national standards, thereby negating any of the propagandistic elements used by Common Core’s developers in support of the benefits of national standards.

67.  Education administrators in Florida, educators in Florida, and parents in Florida did not hear about Common Core until after the FL State Board of Education had already adopted them.  The members of the Florida Department of Education board decided to adopt Common Core prior to comprehensively consulting lawmakers, education administrators, educators, education subject matter experts and parents.  Being on the FL State Board of Education should be more than a ceremonial job offered to “favored colleagues”.  Being on the FL State Board of Education should be more than a job” politik”.

68.  Some members of Florida legislature have circled the wagons, protected special interests, made decisions based on future jobs or careers, and aggressively circumvented the legislative process and responsibility, by not bringing HB25 and SB1316 up for a full House and Senate vote.

69.  All attempts to “play” quid pro quo politics, favor giving politics, and self-aggrandizement politics must be eliminated particularly in the education of our children K-12.

70.  Education standards are not curriculum but they do determine what children will and will not learn.  They define curriculum.  In the State of Florida, curriculum must be state driven.

71.  No state, Florida included, has analyzed how much the upgrade in technology for only online-testing will cost or know how effective it will be. What happens with audio learners or special needs students? What happens with testing security and computer malfunctions? Is Florida ready or is there a rush to implementation?  One student testified that online tests are already being given.  As a Magnet high school student in an International Baccalaureate Program, she had a situation where a computer malfunctioned during a timed test resulting in her having to start all over.  She was almost in tears as not only did she have to restart and then finish per the time guidelines, but any ability to re-check her work was impossible given the set-up procedures for online testing.

72.  Common Core ruins simple addition and subtraction by complicating easy problems.  In subtraction it forces students to visualize columns.  Supposedly, such “dissecting” helps with analytical skills.  The truth of that statement is unknown.  What is known is that a very small group of people got together and decided that “theorectically” the math standards by Common Core should prove to improve analytical skills.  Apparently, it was only proven to not improve theirs.

73.  A key Common Core creator, Jason Zimba, said that Common Core can prepare students for non-selective colleges but that it does not prepare students for STEM careers.  He said “I think it is an unfair  critique that it is a minimal definition of college readiness. . . but it’s not for the colleges most parents aspire to . . . not only not for STEM, it is also not for selective colleges.  For example, for U.C. Berkeley, whether you are going to be an engineer or not, you’d better have pre-calculus to get into U.C. Berkeley.”

74.  Do the Common Core Standards improve K-12 education?  No one knows because, once again, Common Core was unpiloted and untested.  As such it continues to be a hypothesis in word and in practicum.

75.  Dr. James Milgram (Stanford University emeritus professor who served on the Common Core validation committee) said this about Common Core, “I can tell you that my main objection to Core Standards and the reason I did not sign off on them was that they did not match up to international expectations.  They were at least two years behind the practices of the high achieving countries by 7th grade, and, as a number of people have observed, only require partial understanding of what would be the content of a normal, solid, course in Algebra 1 or geometry.  Moreover, they deliver very little of the context of Algebra II, and none of any higher level course. . . They will not help our children match up to the students in the top foreign countries when it comes to being hired to top level jobs.”

76.  Dr. Sandra Stotsky (previously mentioned as being on the validation committee and who refused to sign off on the English Language Arts standards) also had this to say about Common Core.“As empty skill sets, Common Core’s ELA standards do not strengthen the high school curriculum.  Nor can they reduce post-secondary remedial coursework in a legitimate way.  As empty skill sets, Common Core’s ELA “college and career readiness” standards weaken the base of literacy and cultural knowledge needed for authentic college coursework, decrease the capacity for analytical thinking. . ; and completely muddle the development of writing skills.” Common Core will not solve the English remediation problem currently existing for incoming college freshman.

77.  The General Education Provisions Act (GEPA) wisely prohibits the federal government from directing education – very clearly.

“No provision of any applicable program shall be construed to authorize any department, agency, officer, or employee of the United States to exercise any direction, supervision, or control over the curriculum, program of instruction, administration, or personnel of any educational institution, school, or school system, or over the selection of library resources, textbooks, or other printed or published instructional materials by an educational institution or school system.”

78.  The emphasis in English Language Arts on informational text – 4th grade splits Literacy and Informational 50/50; 8th grade splits Literacy and Informational 45/55; 12th  grade splits Literacy and Informational 30/70 – is not advantageous to literacy and vocabulary building sequencing. Informational text can be in the form of scientific writings, political writings, opinion pieces, or anything other than classic novels, poetry, plays, or other fictional works.  Such an emphasis on informational text damages unnecessarily literacy as the needed priority in reading and writing development.

79.  Common Core falsely advertises itself as more rigorous.  Nothing can be further from the truth especially in the math standards.  The National Center for Education and Economy (NCEE), one of the advisors and/or writers of CCSS, stated quite clearly that high math standards were not necessary in high school.

80.  The federal EDFacts Exchange collects data for local, state, and federal levels.  The federal government paid for states to build matching and interoperable State Longitudinal Database Systems. The U.S. Department of Education is listed as a partner of the Education Information Management Advisory Consortia (EIMAC) which does data collection of students and does promise to share biological and behavioral data. 

81.  132 professors of Catholic universities wrote a letter denouncing Common Core on both academic and moral grounds.

82.  Regardless of any legislation passed by the Florida legislature regarding data privacy, the stakeholders in Common Core have orchestrated state school systems to “voluntarily” agree to common data core standards to make data comparisons easy.  They do not care about the content of the standards, rather they care that the comparisons are easily documented and created into workable data, and are using CCSS as an accessory.  The CEO of Escholar Shawn Bay spoke at an event called Datapalooza and stated that Common Core “Is the glue that actually ties everything together” for student data collection.  Cradle to grave mentality is not just theory but a collusion between companies and government – placing children as subjects of data trafficking and worse.  The buying and selling of data is a multi-billion dollar business.

83.  Common Core manages teachers through intimidation.  Common Core will effectively discourage individuals from seeking a career in teaching.  (How is that for college and career readiness?!)  The increase in testing days demotivates teachers, abnormally stresses students, and puts an undue burden on “quick” instruction and the ever dreaded “teaching to the test”.

84.  Ze’ev Wurman (formerly a U.S. Department of Education official and currently a Professor of Mathematics at Johns Hopkins University) contends that Common Core math standards are not as promised.  Example:  As compared to California and Minnesota, who have higher math standards, Common Core is more numerous.  Minnesota has 42 pages of standards; California has 59 pages of standards; meanwhile Common Core has 73 pages of standards.  More standards are not necessary or efficient for higher achievement.

85.  The National Mathematics Advisory Panel, Foundations of Success, called for fluency in addition and subtraction of whole numbers by the end of 3rd grade, and fluency in multiplication and division by end of 5th grade.  California has the same fluency standards.  However, high math achieving countries like Singapore and Korea, Japan and Hong Kong, call for multiplication and division of whole numbers even earlier or by 4th grade.  However, Common Core refers fluency to 6th grade proving that Common Core’s math standards are not more rigorous.

86.  Andrew Porter, Dean of the University of Pennsylvania’s Graduate School of Education, recently evaluated the Common Core Standards with his colleagues and their conclusion was negative towards CCSS.  “Those that hope that the Common Core Standards represent greater focus for U.S. education will be disappointed by our answers.  Only one of our criteria measuring focus found that the Common Core standards are more focused than current state standards. . . We also evaluated international benchmarking to judge the quality of the Common Core standards.  High performing countries’ emphasis on “perform procedures” runs counter to the widespread call in the US for greater emphasis on higher-order cognitive demand.”

87.  The End of the Math Wars is nowhere in sight.  Professor William McCallum, one of the 3 main writers of the Common Core mathematics standards said this when speaking at an annual conference of mathematics societies.  While acknowledging the concerns about front loading demands in early grades, McCallum said “the overall standards would not be too high, certainly not in comparison with other nations, including East Asia, where math education excels.

88.  College readiness is defined by what colleges require as prerequisites for incoming freshman. Overwhelmingly, the enrollment requirements of four-year state colleges consist of at least 3 years of high school mathematics including Algebra I & II (and geometry) – including such elements contained therein as complex numbers, vectors, trigonometry, bionomical theorem, logarithms, logarithmic and exponential functions, ellipse, etc.  Common Core Standards do not include these elements and therefore cannot lay honest claim to “college readiness”.

89.  Common Core mathematics standards fail on rigor and clarity in comparison to better state standards and those of higher achieving countries.

90. The Florida Department of Education’s testing company American Institutes for Research (AIR) is the same as Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium (SBAC) – as AIR is developing the test for SBAC.  AIR is controversial as it involves itself in mental health analysis without having any subject matter expertise in health.

91.  The National PTA (Parent Teachers Association) and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce have been, as it appears, to be effectively bribed, through million dollar donations, to not only support Common Core but to propagandize it publicly.  The unfortunate exchange of money between the creators/developers of Common Core and self-promoting agencies is a violation of consumer trust and seemingly a corrupt manipulation of the very purpose/mission of any program or policy that affects our nation’s children.

92.   Career readiness as a component of Common Core can only be an advertising moniker because there is absolutely no way for academic standards to determine student interests and talents other than in general/common requirement terms and, as such, are not exclusive or unique to Common Core.  In the alternative, is Common Core a methodology to force students into fields for which they have no or very little interest but will nonetheless fulfill commercial workforce interests vice student learning interests?

93.  Where is the strategic plan for assuring career readiness?  Is career readiness going to be determined by college graduation rates?  Is career readiness going to be determined by school-to-work programs?  We know that traditional colleges have a graduate employment rate (measured by a graduate being employed within 6 months of graduation) at less than 30%; we know that career colleges can have a graduate employment rate of up to 80%.  Are Common Core Standards geared to the encouragement of increasing the participation of our student population in career colleges vice traditional colleges?  If it is career colleges, do students benefit from the implementation and assessments of Common Core Standards and are they necessary for career college success?  Historical data would show that career colleges are not influenced and will not be influenced by these “career readiness” standards.  Therefore, who is the target market?  WE DO NOT KNOW.  What we do know is who owns the profit market.

94.  Special need students have been largely ignored in the development and implementation of Common Core.  Despite bandage bills in the Florida legislature attempting to remedy this gross oversight, Florida public school students of special needs, and the teachers that are working their hardest to integrate them into the student population while still developing/implementing an Individualized Education Plan, will suffer unnecessarily by this oversight.

95.  Ultimately, Common Core is harmful to family structures as “it takes away power from parents, and de-incentivizes parents from a deep and abiding interest in their child’s education”.  Education is lifelong; Education begins and ends at home.

NATIONAL ASSOCIATION OF PRIVATE CATHOLIC AND INDEPENDENT SCHOOLS – NAPCIS Statement on the Common Core

COMMON CORE NO TO

NAPCIS exists to support schools that have chosen to operate as private entities: with autonomous educational philosophies, standards, pedagogical approaches, and curriculums.  These schools exist as institutions faithful to the Catholic Church and faithful to passing on the Catholic faith to the children entrusted to them.

NAPCIS recommends that Catholic faith-based schools not use the Common Core State Standards as the foundation for their educational efforts. As faith-based schools we have a different mission than public schools. Because a school’s mission drives its standards and these standards drive curriculum, we should not simply use the Common Core Standards as our base and then make some adaptations. The Common Core State Standards are explicitly and only “college and career” focused. In stark contrast, our schools are focused on comprehensive human formation and assisting our students to encounter Christ and to pursue truth, beauty and goodness in all subject areas. In the context of this larger mission our students are also better prepared for college and life beyond. NAPCIS believes that our schools must set their own standards animated by their own unique mission. Complementing this mission, our standards will determine the appropriate instructional strategies, curriculum, and assessment for our students, as well as how our schools are evaluated.

With this said, we acknowledge that there is a substantial amount of acceptable secular material in the Common Core State Standards that Catholic faith-based schools can reference as part of their much broader educational efforts. Careful use of these acceptable parts of the Standards for reference, rather than whole scale replacement of our own standards, is a prudent response to the reality of the Common Core State Standards. However, we recommend caution in interfacing with parts of the Common Core State Standards, as the animating philosophies and pedagogies behind them have not yet been fully vetted by research and may not be appropriate for all subjects and all grades. At this early, untested and controversial point in American public schools’ first attempts at nationalized standards, we believe Catholic faith-based schools should use their own standards to ensure proven academic excellence and fidelity to mission.

U.S. Bishops Acknowledge Common Core Concerns, Affirm Importance of Catholic Mission in Schools

CONFERENCE OF CATHOLIC BISHOPS

Students“Catholic schools must consider standards that support the mission and purpose of the school as a Catholic institution,” states the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) Secretariat of Catholic Education in a recent document answering frequently asked questions (FAQ) about the Common Core State Standards (CCSS).

In the FAQ, the bishops acknowledge the “growing concerns about the effect of these standards on Catholic schools in our country.”

While the bishops recognize the right of government to assist in education, they assert that the Common Core was developed for a “public school audience” and is “of its nature incomplete as it pertains to Catholic schools.”

“As our world becomes increasingly secularized,” the FAQ says, “it will be a task of the Church through an appropriate education to help parents and families sift through the realities and difficulties of the culture and provide a solid foundation and basis for living as disciples of Jesus Christ.”

The bishops strongly affirm the role of parents as the “first educators of their children as a God-given responsibility.”  It follows that, “Parents possess the fundamental right to choose the formative tools that support their convictions and fulfill their duty as the first educators.”

The Church aids parents in forming their children by establishing Catholic schools—and local bishops “employ… the gifts and talents of parents and the professional educational community at all stages of establishing and operating Catholic schools at the local level.”

In response to concerns voiced by Catholic parents over the Common Core, The Cardinal Newman Society developed Catholic Is Our Core.  The project provides Catholic parents, educators and Church leaders with guidance and resources in exploring the Common Core and concerns about its potential impact on Catholic schools and students.  The Newman Society has encouraged all involved in the implementation of the Common Core to pause until the standards are thoroughly and rigorously evaluated.

The bishops, too, emphasize the importance of cautiously evaluating the Common Core.  The FAQ states that the standards “should be neither adopted nor rejected without review, study, consultation, discussion and caution.”

The document dispels the misconception that Catholic schools are required to adopt the standards, while acknowledging that some schools have chosen to adopt or adapt all or part of the standards.

Following the principle of subsidiarity, the bishops place the responsibility to make decisions about the standards at the local diocesan level. Subsidiarity has also been a significant concern of teachers and especially parents, who note that as the primary educators of their children, they should be involved in decisions about the Common Core and the direction of Catholic schools.

Ultimately, the latest education trend should not be allowed to hinder schools from achieving the “aims of a true education,” according the FAQ.

“[T]he Church freely establishes schools that intentionally promote the Gospel of Jesus Christ with the purpose of forming Christian men and women to live well now so as to be able to live with God for all eternity,” the bishops state.

Catholic Education Daily is an online publication of The Cardinal Newman Society. Click here for email updates and free online membership with The Cardinal Newman Society.

THE USE OF IPADS IN COMMON CORE

students using ipads 2
students using ipads 2The Common Core gold rush is on. Apple, Pearson, Google, Microsoft and Amplify are all cashing in on the federal standards/testing/textbook racket. But the EduTech boondoggle is no boon for students. It’s more squandered tax dollars down the public school drain.

Even more worrisome: The stampede is widening a dangerous path toward invasive data mining.

According to the Silicon Valley Business Journal, the ed tech sector “is expected to more than double in size to $13.4 billion by 2017.” That explosive growth is fueled by Common Core’s top-down digital learning and testing mandates. So: Cui bono?

In North Carolina, the Guilford County public school district withdrew 15,000 Amplify tablets last fall. Pre-loaded with Common Core apps and part of a federal $30 million Race to the Top grant program, the devices peddled by News Corp. and Wireless Generation were rendered useless because of defective cases, broken screens and malfunctioning power supplies.

Last year, the Los Angeles Unified School District dumped $1 billion of scarce resources into a disastrous iPad program. Educrats paid $678 per glorified Apple e-textbook, pre-loaded with Common Core-branded apps created by Pearson. As I’ve reported previously, Pearson is the multibillion-dollar educational publishing and testing conglomerate at the center of the federally driven, taxpayer-funded “standards” scheme. Pearson’s digital learning products are used by an estimated 25 million-plus people in North America. Common Core has been a convenient new catalyst for getting the next generation of consumers hooked.

Students breached the LAUSD’s iPad firewalls and made a mockery of their hapless adult guardians. Despite hefty investments in training and development, many teachers couldn’t figure out how to sync up the tablets in the classroom. Taxpayers now realize they were sold a grossly inflated bill of goods, but the district wants to buy even more iPads for computerized test-taking. School officials recklessly plan to use school construction debt-financing to pay for the new purchases.

Los Angeles taxpayer Planaria Price summed up swelling outrage perfectly in a letter to the Los Angeles Times this week: “Cash-strapped LAUSD — which in 2012 cut libraries, nurses, thousands of teachers, administrators and support staff … is spending more than $1 billion on one of the nation’s most expensive technology programs. … I would say that ‘something is rotten in the state of Denmark,’ but few would understand because the teaching of Shakespeare has also been cut.”

By its own account, Apple dominates 94 percent of the education tablet market in the U.S. Microsoft is pushing its own Common Core-aligned Surface RT tablet and app suite, along with “Bing for Schools.” Rival Google wants in on the game on the taxpayers’ dime, too. The company’s “Chromebooks,” which use a cloud-based operating system mimicking the Google Chrome browser, are gaining market share rapidly. While they are cheaper than iPads, they depend on reliable WiFi. Google offers a suite of Google Apps for Education (GAFE) for “free.”

But is this really about improving students’ academic bottom line — or Google’s bottom line?

In one school district, the Google devices are used as glorified whiteboards. A recent news article touting Chromebook adoption in Iowa’s Council Bluffs school district described how kindergarteners drew “dots on the rubber-cased tablets clutched in their hands. Then they wrote what they’d done as a math equation: 3 + 3 = 6.” No one explained why pencil and paper were insufficient to do the elementary math, other than a teacher gushing that she likes to “mix it up” and provide a “variety of experiences.” The district is one of 50 across the country piloting Google Play for Education.

Google is building brand loyalty through a questionable certification program that essentially turns teachers into tax-subsidized lobbyists for the company. The GAFE enrollees are “trained” on Google products. They take classes, attend conferences and hold workshops (some, but not all, funded by Google). After passing GAFE tests, they earn certification. Next, the newly minted GAFE educators open up consultancy businesses and bill their school districts (i.e., the public) to hawk Google’s suite of products to other colleagues. And they tell two friends, who tell two friends, and so on and so on and so on.

Google can collect student/family data to target ads through related services outside the GAFE suite, such as YouTube for Schools, Blogger and Google Plus. These are not covered under the already watered-down federal Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act. Under the Obama administration, Grand Canyon-sized loopholes in FERPA have already opened data mining to third-party private entities.

One parent shared her kids’ experience with the Chromebooks online: “The biggest problems to date are that kids figured out quickly how to bypass security so they could look at non-approved web material and that kids have problems drawing figures when taking classes such as Chemistry or Physics. … Many preferred traditional textbooks; others resented the teachers being able to spy on them with the software embedded in the Chromebook.”

Another savvy mom noted: “If you think Google won’t be handing over any and all data it gets from your kids using their Chromebooks, you’re nuts.”

Let’s be clear: I am not opposed to introducing kids to 21st-century tools. My 13-year-old daughter taught herself Java, HTML and Photoshop. My 10-year-old son mixes music on Logic Pro. I support competent, focused and practical instruction exposing school kids to coding, 3D design and robotics. What I’m against are bungled billion-dollar public investments in overpriced, ineffective technology. Fed Ed’s shiny education toy syndrome incentivizes wasteful spending binges no school district can afford.

Top Common Core Critics Stotsky, Milgram and Robbins on Fed Led Education

DALLAS, Texas–Last week, Breitbart Texas sat at the education roundtable, so to speak, with three of the most prominent voices in the fight against Fed Led Ed — Dr. Sandra Stotsky, Dr. James Milgram, and Jane Robbins, JD. The trio spoke candidly about the ups and downs of Common Core, came up with a few solutions, and talked Texas education.

students using ipads 2The conversation began with Stotsky’s back-to-back speaking engagements, traveling from Albany to Austin and addressing everything from parents’ rights to recounting her Common Core validation committee experiences in 2009-10. Previously, Stotsky developed one of the nation’s strongest sets of K-12 academic standards and licensure tests for prospective teachers during her tenure as Sr. Associate Commissioner in the Massachusetts Department of Education (1999-2003).

After refusing to sign off on the Common Core ELA standards, Stotsky became a lightening rod for Common Core critics across the nation. Tirelessly, she continues to speak out about the inferior Common Core State Standards in the contentious minefield of Fed Led Ed.

On June 17, Stotsky spoke at the Common Sense Lobby Day held in the New York State capitol. Two days later, she was in Austin, Texas with Dr. James Milgram as part of the #CANiSEE conference. Other notables speaking included Dr. Peg Luksik (Founded on Truth) who was slated to retell the history of Common Core and Frank Gaffney (Center for Security Policy), who addressed Fed Led Ed as a national security issue. Also present was American Principles Project Senior Fellow Jane Robbins whose five-part series “Stop the Common Core” was among the first to make the convoluted Common Core understandable.

Event organizers Women on the Wall billed the event as a counter-conference to the national PTA’s annual convention that was held concurrently. Breitbart Texas previously reported that 2014 marked PTA’s first visit to Texas in its 117 year history.

Interestingly, Stotsky and Milgram have direct links to the Texas education standards. Stotsky co-wrote the 2008 English Language Arts (ELA) standards with Susan Pimental, who Stotsky recalled as a consultant from StandardsWork. Two years later, Pimental resurfaced on the Student Achievement Partners team with fellow Common Core authors David Coleman and Jason Zimba.

Similarly, Milgram, the internationally acclaimed mathematician and professor of mathematics at Stanford University, also served on the Common Core validation committee. He refused to endorse the final version of the Common Core math standards. Then, in 2011, he testified before the Texas legislature on behalf of HB 2923, which was written to prevent Common Core from being adopted in Texas.

Milgram was a national reviewer and content expert for the first and second drafts of the Texas math standards. Hopeful that the early drafted versions held “every indication of being among the best, if not the best state standards in the country,” Milgram praised Texas for preparing students for the workforce and “the approaches to mathematics education that underlie the results in the high achieving countries.”

Unfortunately, the promise of those math standards never came to fruition. They were scrapped. Milgram told Breitbart Texas, “Standards could have been much better.”

Like in the Common Core states, Texas math standards drop off at Algebra II. The plain-spoken Milgram explained to Breitbart Texas that his frustration with math standards and math educators is far from Texas-centric. It’s coast-to-coast. Nor is this only about Algebra II, per say. Milgram’s math concerns are rooted in the economic survival of American society.

He explained that it’s about the principle of compound interest, a mathematical concept that hasn’t been taught in many years yet it’s vital to understanding money, according to Milgram.

“If you don’t understand the principle, what it is and how it works (it means) you don’t understand money and, at a minimum, when you go in with bankers to do a mortgage, you are just asking for trouble,” he emphasized.

“This was the only kind of defense we would have had against the mortgage crisis,” Milgram told Breitbart Texas, certain that the 2008 subprime home loan debacle would have been avoided if people understood how money worked before they signed on the dotted line.

Although he succeeded in briefly reinstating the principle of compound interest into California’s 7th grade math standards (1998), Milgram learned to his disappointment that “the teachers didn’t teach it.”

Math also matters to other knowledge areas including biology, physics and engineering. He told Breitbart Texas,  “Too many of those kids that go into (engineering) do not understand enough of the math to understand the engineering they do and they start to make mistakes.”

He cited incidences of US automobile manufacturer failures, the Mississippi River Bridge collapse in Minnesota, and even the destruction of the Oakland Bay Bridge in California during the 1989 San Francisco earthquake.

“Mistakes cost lives,” he said, emphasizing that the failure of our citizenry to do basic mathematics is extremely dangerous.

This raised the question of how Fed Led Ed may hurt America’s children in other ways. Stotsky warned that Common Core standards cheated students out of the education they should be having.  She said, “if your children are in grade 8 or 9, they are going to be the victims of Common Core.”

Robbins, who was scheduled discuss data-collection at the Austin event, told Breitbart Texas, “What may develop in states that are committed to Common Core is the rise of homeschooling and home school communities for families where both parents work.”

She believes the education establishment is “monolithically in favor” of Common Core and likens the fight ahead as “a hard flog.” Even with states like Oklahoma, South Carolina, Indiana and Louisiana working on exiting the federal mandate, Robbins recognizes that the strength is in the numbers.  More people need to open their eyes and see that what’s happening in public education is “recycled failure.”

“It’s like they said, let’s take all the things that didn’t work (for the last 50 years) and do more of it. Maybe it’ll work this time,” she told Breitbart Texas.

Perhaps most troubling for Robbins is the technology, not necessarily the “filing cabinet” data (i.e., names, addresses and test scores) but the “more fine grained data” culled when a child interacts with a digital learning platform.  She noted, “They can gather billions of pieces of evidence – what the child can do, how his mind is working – that is the brave new world of data collection.”

Robbins addressed these issues in the May 2014 Pioneer Institute white paper “Cogs in the Machine” which she authored with Emmett McGroarty, Esq., education director at the American Principles Project, and Joy Pullman, research fellow at the Heartland Institute.

“When it comes to getting the digital learning data, they can get that without the parents ever knowing they’ve got it. (Parents) just think this is a new, cutting edge 21st century learning technology and this is going to be great,” she stated.

Robbins also pointed to the importance of understanding the mindset of the education establishment and the ideologues behind the curtain. She said, “There’s a reason that the 1960′s radicals all went into education.  Look at what they’re doing now. So many of them are teaching at education schools.”

Milgram concurred. Although he loudly applauded Southern Methodist University in Dallas as one of the really exceptional schools in the nation, he told Breitbart Texas that it’s only one of three or four schools putting out quality math educators in America which is not enough to make an impact.

“I haven’t lost hope that Common Core is going to go away at some point,” Robbins admitted, adding, “Robert Scott, who was the Commissioner of Texas Education, has said all along that Common Core is going to fail because you cannot standardize education for 300 million people.”

It may not have to come down to an epic fail, though. Stotsky already introduced several savvy solutions during the Lobby Day press conference which she spoke to in greater detail with Breitbart Texas. The first of these ideas was optional “accelerated sequences.” It’s a simple premise. A school system would add multiple sets of secondary standards and no longer be solely based on Common Core which Stotsky called “baseline and inadequate.”

Even if a state was “stuck with Common Core” because of a statute, Stotsky indicated that the beauty of these new pathways would be that they’d add “accelerated” levels of learning.  She said, “It’s got to be more than Common Core, different than Common Core and one can’t have the Common Core-based sequence unless a school district has all the others available.”

Stotsky envisioned that students would be able to apply for the optional accelerated level coursework in ELA, Math and US history after grade 5; they could change pathways at  any time until grade 12, with summer school classes available for missed work resulting from a switch.

It’s “something every state could be aiming for, including Texas,” she said.

“I know the Common Core is illegal in Texas,” she told Breitbart Texas, noting that even Texas “needs multiple sets of secondary standards for grades 6-12.”

She has a point.  There may be a Common Core shield law and an Attorney General opinion reiterating “no Common Core in Texas,” but there’s also a No Child Left Behind waiver, College and Career Readiness Standards, and Race to the Top winner Houston Independent School District.

The lone star legacy of the controversial curriculum management program CSCOPE rebranded as the Texas Essential Knowledge & Skills (TEKS) Resource System, Common Core materials seeping into schools, questionable teacher professional development, and curious intentions of the Texas Association of School Administrators’ (TASA) School Transformation Network fuel Texans increasing fears about Fed Led Ed in the classroom.  Adding accelerated Stotsky-styled sequences might just calm a lot of nerves.

Another thing Stotsky recommended changing is K-12 testing.  She told Breitbart Texas, “We’ve got to get rid of the testing framework from No Child Left Behind and Common Core.  There isn’t any need to test kids at every single grade level from (grade) 3 through 8. Maybe they can do it three different times like once at the end of grade 5, and at the end of grade 8 and then in high school.”

She saw no reason to have so many statewide tests consuming so much valuable learning time. “Teachers should not be teaching to the test,” Stotsky stated.

Under Stotsky’s recommendations, however, different levels of high school end-of-course and college entrance exams would be designed for different college pathways — community colleges, four-year and state universities. She told Breitbart Texas that the only way to ensure college-readiness is for the tests to be developed by teaching faculty at state institutes of higher learning. They are the ones who know what incoming freshman need to know.

As she continues to flesh out these education recommendations, Stotsky emphasized the importance of high school students taking a more proactive role in their educations. She told Breitbart Texas this could mean petitioning their schools for the kinds of courses they want to take, especially when it comes to “first rate courses in Math, English and other subjects.”

Most importantly, Stotsky stated that the battle to take back public education begins in everyone’s backyards.  Earlier in the week she said, “In moving forward, we need action at the local level because that is where there is still statutory authority for legally elected representatives of the people — your local school board. It’s a basic principle in American democracy that goes back to colonial times. It doesn’t exist in most other countries in the world but you have legally elected school board members.”

It’s the power to push for change and it’s up to parents, teachers, school board members and legislators to “request and demand several different sets of secondary standards with an exam at the end of each one of them” because, as Stotsky told Breitbart Texas, this is what exists in most other countries.