Common Core another measure in the surrender of Kentucky education

Posted by on January 27, 2015

Photo: Education News

Photo: Education News

In 1990, the Kentucky General Assembly, as a part of the Kentucky Education Reform Act (KERA), adopted the policy known as Site Based Decision Making (SBDM) for all Kentucky schools.

The intention of SBDM was to empower each school individually, giving further localized authority for decisions on school operational procedures, and curriculum to a body within each individual school. The body is composed of the principal, teachers (who report to the principal), parents, and a minority parent (if one is available and willing).

Unlike the county school district school board members, these positions are not elected in an at-large election. The principal of each school is responsible for oversight; a distraction from their administrative role of the facility.  Teachers must submit their names for consideration, and are elected by teachers within the school.  There is no limitation of residence for the teachers and their votes; they do not have to live within the district to select the teacher representatives.  Parental members submit their names for consideration to the school PTA, and are elected by parents with a child enrolled in the school.

The SBDM council makeup is:  the principal, three teachers, and two parents as a voting body.  In the event a school has a minority population exceeding a defined threshold, a minority parent and minority teacher must be elected as well, so long as they are willing and available.

All responsibilities of the SBDM councils were previously on the shoulders of the generally elected school board members, serving four-year terms.  For the taxpayer, school decisions were removed from the hands of a taxpayer elected representative, and placed to the trust of staff elected in a closed session election, not necessarily consisting of voters from the school district.  It is also noteworthy that parents are immediately the voting minority in the council; teachers aren’t apt to vote against their boss.

In November 2014, doing an in depth analysis of each of the 24 schools in Boone County, Kentucky, (the third largest school district in the state), I discovered that 22 were not adhering to very clearly stated guidelines defined in the KRS.  The violations all concerned appropriate reporting measures for meeting minutes, setting reasonable meeting times (these are open meetings) and reasonable meeting facilities.  I found only two of the schools were reporting their minutes promptly, and after every meeting, as well as hosting their meetings after 5 p.m. in a venue that appropriately could facilitate parental attendance.

This was reported to the director of the state office of education accountability, who escalated the complaint to state school oversight staff.  The only reply received was an assurance that the state had  “recommended that the district incorporates best practices and use various ways to disseminate information.”

Traces of outdated data still being shared by several of the schools show these practices span many years.  In Boone County, our school leadership have been in control for more than a decade, with the most senior members approaching 20 years in control. Not coincidentally, the schools with the most glaring violations were generally the lowest performing schools in the district.  While Boone County will promptly tout their composite school test score ranking as generally among the best in the state, there are several schools in the county consistently scoring in the 30th-40th percentile.

The state, and local board are complacent that these SBDM meetings are not being properly communicated to parents, not facilitating attendance of parents, and not reporting their content to parents. One might question why have the meetings at all, if the decisions being made are subject to no review or scrutiny.  It’s equally apparent that the policies implemented at the lower performing schools are not having appropriate corrective impact, however, no corrective action has been documented or made public by the school district.

Once one is familiar with these practices on the local level, it should come as no surprise that Kentucky stood first in line for the adoption of the nationalized Common Core State Standards (CCSS).


AP Photo


What is Common Core?

In 2009, the Kentucky General Assembly passed Senate Bill 1.  The education bill mandated new academic standards, with a focus on “critical knowledge, skills and capacities needed for success in the global economy.”  It was by no coincidence that this legislation corresponded directly with federal initiatives of the same literature, offering dollars to any state that adopted the approved curriculum, including “Race to the Top” federal dollars, which were derived from federal stimulus package that was never passed by congress.

The short version of Kentucky adopting CCSS is this:  Dr. Terry Holliday in 2008 was the president elect of the CCSSO, and aware of the actions taking place that would eventually become the Common Core Standards.  Senate Bill 1, was designed to match the proposed CCSS.  Dr. Holiday hand picked educational representation to speak on behalf of the standards being superior to the abysmal KERA standards (in place at the time), and sell the deal as a major improvement.  The standards were promptly adopted, resulting in the forfeiture of the ability of state or local elected officials to offer input or guidance on the materials, methods, topics, and subjects the school systems utilize to educate our students.

It would, on the surface, appear this is contrary to SBDM, where placing localized control of education was the goal.  Ultimately, they are more similar, by virtue that through legislation,  all decision making and leverage on curriculum to a private, copyrighted educational standards were removed from state and local control completely, surrendered to a private third party, not chosen in a general election.

Let that sink in for a minute.

Your local teacher, principal, school board, ALL the way up to the state level, have no real voice in how, why, and what your children are being taught.  Many educators towing the union line would, (and have) argued the contrary, but undeniably, the standards are not open for discussion.  In a curriculum that values the method above all results, there is only so much leeway for how something can be taught.  A requirement for collecting the “federal rewards” is submitting the standardized test result data.  The ultimate goal is to utilize the data to profile children and their learning capacity from an early age, creating an adaptive educational track for each type of student to prepare them for further education or an occupation best suited for them (according to the test scores).

The standards are copyrighted and wholly privately owned.  The corresponding educational materials are only available from a limited selection of sources, effectively creating a monopoly on the education industry for the selected suppliers.  Without free market competition, the supplier and their constituents can begin to have an influence upon the material, up to the point of effectively re-writing history and inserting influential literature as they might be inclined.  You can see where this might be a problem.

The standards were commissioned, and are overseen by The National Governors Association (NGA) and the Council of Chief State School Officers (CCSSO).  While these sound like formal government organizations, these are privately funded “non-profit” entities.  Former Kentucky Education Commissioner Gene Wilhoit while serving as Executive Director of the CCSSO in 2008, personally lobbied Bill and Melinda Gates for the funding to start the Common Core initiative, receiving several million dollars from their foundation.  Current Kentucky Education Commissioner Dr. Terry Holiday, has long served as president of the CCSSO.

Common Core is private funds, supporting private organizations that profit substantially from the monopoly of educational and testing materials, utilizing state appointed officials, to implement their idea of an educational system, and reward their adoption with additional taxpayer funds for the state.  The “reward” federal funding does not cover the additional cost of materials, resources, or testing above the prior state standards; the state taxpayers are left to cover the additional expense.

“Kentucky students are not headed for STEM (science, technology, engineering, mathematics), but they are headed for careers which pay a ‘living wage’.  They are not headed for an elitist university degree.”

— Dr. Terry Holliday, Kentucky State Education Commissioner, President CCSSO,  March 13, 2014

Dr. Terry Holliday believes in a Kentucky where your children should be conditioned to pursue a living wage, not pursue their interests or passion.  The educational system he has overseen, serves the interests of a conglomerate of private organizations who share in this opinion.  As their president, while serving as Education Commissioner, he has ensured that this approach is being implemented in our schools.

Massive Opposition to Common Core in Kentucky

State Senator John Schickel (R-Union) and Representative Tom Kerr (R-Taylor Mill) both filed bills during the 2014 state legislative session to repeal common core and return education decision-making back to the state.  Senator Schickel’s bill, ultimately received a hearing in Frankfort.  The Common Core opposition enlisted the voluntary help of Dr. Sandra Stotsky, professor at the University of Arkansas, and Dr. James Millgram, professor at Stanford University, whom were both on the approval committee for CCSS and refused to approve the standards.

“They stress writing more than reading, which is the opposite of what we know…reading is the basis for good writing. All good writers have been good readers, and unless our schools everywhere do that at all levels of proficiency, we will not have high-leveled graduates coming out of our high schools.”

— Dr. Sandra Stosky, Professor, University of Arkansas, March 13, 2014 – Kentucky Legislative Session Common Core Hearing

Another bill has been filed this year, in the Kentucky House of Representatives, effectively echoing the logic of the past two attempts to repeal the educational standards.  Kentucky HB33 calls for new standards for the state of Kentucky.

Common Core was a central focus of the 2014 election cycle, and remains a central topic of the 2016 Presidential race.

Both the Republican National and Kentucky State Republican caucus, have passed anti-common core resolutions.  Sponsoring this bill currently, are Tom Kerr (R-Taylor Mill), Lynn Bechler (R-Marion), Regina Bunch (R-Williamsburg), Kenny Imes (R-Murray), Tim Moore (R-Elizabethtown), Sal Santoro (R-Florence), and Diane St Onge (R-Lakeside Park).  I have also been informed additional leadership has signed on, but that information will not be public until the session opens next week.

With the party referendum dictating very clearly that common core is not in the interest of the commonwealth, the voters and taxpayers are certainly entitled to be upset if their elected representation have not signed on to fully support this initiative.

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Aaron Gillum

Aaron Gillum

Aaron Gillum is a journalist for ANM News and a 20 year tenured IT Professional, car enthusiast, amateur musician, skilled marksman, police volunteer and holds the titles of Kentucky Colonel, and Duke of Hazard, Kentucky.