On October 25th, I attended No Common Core Maine's conference in York. I learned many things that day, but there is one specific item I would like to share with you today.
But first, I need to take a step back. This summer, I researched Race to the Top in Maine. Eventually, I pieced together Maine's legal time line for adopting the Common Core State Standards. But what remained a mystery to me was why, if the government awarded Maine no grant money, did we continue forward with the RTTT requirements? Late in the summer, I met with Mr Hood and he was the only person out of about forty Mainer's (including this committee) that I contacted over the summer to give me an explanation. He said it was about Title I money.
Fast forward to the conference when Erin Tuttle of Indiana presented. She explained that states adopted RTTT initiatives not only for the chance at grant funds, but to get the NCLB waiver which would alleviate schools from increasing annual yearly progress towards 100% proficiency. Then, she explained that NCLB never actually states that 100% is required, only a plan to continue towards that goal, so there can be no penalty for not making AYP.
After the conference, I continued to search. I found Sandra Stotsky addressing this issue. I found information on Oklahoma and Washington state having their NCLB waivers pulled and the effects. These sources all concurred that there is no loss of Title I funds when a NCLB waiver is lost. Instead, state's lose flexibility in how to spend 20% of Title I funds. The question is of how much consequence this loss of flexibility is.
RTTT and NCLB waiver's forced the state to change its standards, testing, teacher evaluations, school rankings, and methods of data collection, all of which are controversial and have been argued to be inferior to what we had previously. We should not stand for stick and carrot tactics to dictate our educational practices and policies. Mainer's, such as you as school committee members, the teachers in our schools, and parents such as myself, did not have a say in any of the reforms made when we applied for Race to the Top. What exactly will happen if Maine loses its NCLB waiver? How much impact would this have on schools? And is the cost worth it to regain control of how Maine children are educated?
At the conclusion of Ms. Tuttle's presentation, she implored us to push our state's to question the authority the federal government has over telling state's how to spend Title I funds. She encouraged us to look at the law directly, citing specifically section 1111 of NCLB. I have begun to do this, and I am now challenging you to do the same, and in turn to pressure those working at the state level to investigate as well.
This list of sources I emailed to the school committee:
Erin Tuttle's presentation at the conference on YouTube. It is only 27 minutes long, but the information discussed above is the first 15 minutes. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BXt4OBlc5nM
Sandra Stotsky's information on this topic http://www.breitbart.com/Big-Government/2014/03/06/How-States-And-School-Districts-Can-Opt-Out-of-the-Common-Core-Standards
This source discusses the loss of the waiver in Oklahoma for overturning CCSS. http://newsok.com/oklahoma-loses-ability-to-use-federal-funding-as-state-sees-fit/article/5336622
And this source discusses Washington state's lost waiver for refusing to link teacher evaluations to testing data. http://seattletimes.com/html/localnews/2023454246_statewaiverxml.html
The following are a summary of the points I made about the discussion on profiency based learning:
- I explained my teaching experince with standards based learning. In particular, I addressed my experiences with high acheiving students struggling to accept the change in thinking from all A's to something else. I cited specifically PD who his first essay freshmen year was upset he did not get an A, but he was not meant to the way the rubric was designed, yet he still went to Harvard.
- I agreed with another commenter that the teachers for the years that would be adopting PBL next year need to start working on it now.
- I spoke to the need for a solution. If a waiver was no longer an option, the only choice I saw was stipend time for teachers for after school or weekends. As it was, they have zero individual planning time and contractually don't even have time to get that work done!
- I raised a question about how grades throughout the year are being translated into the final grade. From the presentation I heard, it sounded like if a student was scored on a summative assessment at the start of the year on a specific standard and scored a 2, as expected because they were still in the process of learning, then that 2 and all scores throughout the year, were averaged into the scores the child receives on summative assessments of the same standard in June. To me, this is not how the system is supposed to work. There should not be penalty for the speed at which one learns as mastery is the goal.
- And one final thought that I did not have time to share was that almost all of the problems raised are problems that have always been present in education, but with a new system they are coming to light. (The superintendent, I think it was, stated a sentiment along these same lines). The concerns about fairness amongst how teachers grade, differentiating learning for both high and low achieving students, professional development and collaboration time for teachers, rewards and sanctions for behavior, student anxiety, how initiates conversations about remediation -- these were all present in the traditional way we ran things.