For the past 20 years, our out of control legislature has not only refuses to fully fund our schools, but adding insult to injury, they have passed more than one hundred unfunded mandates - placing billions of dollars of additional rules on our schools - and forcing our schools to hire thousands of administrators to deal with these rules rather than hiring thousands of teachers to help our kids. In this article, we will look at just one of these unfunded mandates, Common Core. This unfunded mandate has cost local school districts more than 10% of their entire budget, costing Washington school districts more than one billion dollars to implement. But instead of paying for Common Core, the legislature transferred the burden onto the backs of local homeowners who have seen their local property taxes rise by more than $1,000 per year in the past 10 years.
The transfer of this funding burden from the State to local home owners via an increasing dependence on local school levies which have led to a rapid rise in local property taxes. This unfair tax burden increase on middle class homeowners is as high as $2,000 additional dollars per year on the average home in King County in the past 20 years. For example, in 2014, residents in King County paid on average $4,507 annually in property tax. This is more than twice what we paid in property taxes in 1996. This dramatic rise in property taxes can best be seen in the chart of total King County Taxes since 1996. The total property tax collected has more than tripled even as funding for schools and other services have been slashed:
Source: 2015-2016 King County Issue Paper General Fund Financial Situation
Unfunded mandates are also a major reason that class sizes have exploded in Washington state in the past 20 years. The solution to this problem is for the State Superintendent of Public Instruction to authorize school districts to waive any mandates passed by our legislature that the legislature has refused to pay for. In short, we must end unfunded mandates.
What is an Unfunded Mandate?
An unfunded mandate is any law, rule, or regulation that requires expenditures by a school board and that does not provide funds to offset the additional expenditures required to implement the law.”As the following graph from Illinois shows, unfunded mandates have become an increasing problem for school districts all across America. The Illinois Association of School Boards documented the enactment of 145 state mandates imposed on schools since 1992, more than six unfunded mandates per year.
To better understand the harm of unfunded mandates in Washington state, let's look at the havoc created by Common Core.
Unfunded Mandates not only lead to higher taxes but also to higher class sizes and greater burdens on students, teachers and administrators
It is ironic that many of the same people who advocate for smaller class sizes have also promoted Common Core - failing to realize that class sizes would have to increase in order to pay for this new program. The burden of paying for unfunded mandates has not only been placed on local homeowners, but also on our kids who are forced to deal with higher class sizes and teachers who have to deal with an increased reporting and assessment workload. This huge diversion away from authentic learning to robotic learning is most evident with a one-size fits all set of standards called Common Core.
How Common Core Harms Our Kids
One of the biggest complaints about Common Core is that most of the standards are not even remotely age appropriate. Asking young students to perform tasks that their brains are not ready to do causes kids to hate learning and hate school. The damage begins on the child's first day of Kindergarten when he or she is subjected to a Common Core assessment program called WAKIDS. This assessment program requires teachers to observe 5 year olds and assign a series of subjective numerical ratings to each child. The claimed purpose of WAKIDS assessments is to close the achievement gap. However, because WAKIDS does not actually lower class sizes and because it focuses on assessment rather than authentic learning, it increases the achievement gap (just as Common Core has increased the achievement gap in Kentucky and New York - the two states that have been inflicting Common Core on their students the longest). Here is what happened to NAEP 8th Grade Math scores in the two states that have used Common Core and Common Core high failure rate tests the longest (New York and Kentucky):
In every state, Common Core high failure rate tests have lowered student achievement. It is time to end the disastrous experiment with Common Core and Common Core high failure rate tests. In short, an extreme focus on Test Til You Drop has been a complete failure. Weeks upon weeks and year after year of toxic high stakes testing is not the cure for our schools. Even in Washington state, after 3 years of this WAKIDS nonsense, there has been no increase in scores for any of the 6 areas being measured:
The real purpose of WAKIDS is to generate an huge array of 11 reports based on the teacher observations of each 5 year old in their class. Here is a link to a summary of these 11 reports. http://www.k12.wa.us/WaKIDS/Materials/pubdocs/TeachingStrategiesReportsWaKIDS11-5-2015.pdf
Here are some of these reports:
The reports tell the (robot) teacher what the (robot) 5 year old needs to do next in order to be career and college ready:
Some but not all of the data will eventually show up on the Washington State Report Card:
Go to the OSPI website, k12.wa.us. Then click on the Research and Results. Then click on School Report State Card. Then click on WAKIDS. Here is the table of how our 5 year olds are doing on their math skills:
You can see that only 31.5% of our 5 year olds are career and college ready. Actually, since we have about 88,000 five year olds, data is missing on about 30,000 of them. But of the 58,000 tested, only 31.5% are career and college ready. 40.9% are one year behind (at least according to the ridiculous Common Core Kindergarten Standards).
But here is the problem with the above data. The WAKIDS Math Standards and Assessments are fundamentally flawed because neither of them are based on any actual research on Child Development. In fact, we know from actual research that very young children have huge natural differences in terms of brain development. Young children develop at different rates and do not have similar developmental paths until at least the 5th grade. In Kindergarten, the brain development of little girls is likely to be one year ahead of little boys. Eventually, the boys will catch up. But expecting little Kindergarten boys to meet the same standards on cognitive and emotional development as little girls in Kindergarten is absurd. Common Core makes no allowance for late bloomers or differences in brain development.
Common Core also ignores the fact that both teachers and students are human beings and not robots. Teachers can and should have different teacher styles. Students can and should have different learning styles. Both students and teachers come into Kindergarten with different past experiences. The key for authentic learning is for the teacher to build an authentic relationship with the child. Any experienced Kindergarten teacher knows that each child is unique. No child is a robot. Each child has different interests and motivations.
A good teacher will adjust their methods to meet the individual needs and interests of each child. This is why small class sizes are so essential. Small class sizes allow teachers to interact and build relationships with each child. Recognizing the unique value of each child, Howard Gardner pioneered the concept of Multiple Intelligences. Some children may be good at math and science while others may be good at English, History, Art, Music, Business, Communication or any of a dozen other fields.
The important thing is not to get every child to think the same or act the same but to value, respect, honor, treasure and nurture each child's differences and uniqueness. This is why hundreds of our nation's leading child development specialists oppose Common Core.
Early Childhood Educators Speak Out Against Common Core
Common Core promotes a military boot camp style of instruction called Direct Instruction also known as Drill and Kill. Two recent studies show that direct instruction can actually limit young childrens learning by turning them against school at an early age. More than 500 early childhood professionals signed a statement opposing Common Core. The Joint Statement of Early Childhood Health and Education Professionals on the Common Core Standards Initiative was signed by educators, pediatricians, developmental psychologists, and researchers, including many of the most prominent members of those fields. Their statement reads in part: “We have grave concerns about the core standards for young children…. The proposed standards conflict with compelling new research in cognitive science, neuroscience, child development, and early childhood education about how young children learn, what they need to learn, and how best to teach them in kindergarten and the early grades….”
The statement’s four main concerns are based on abundant research on child development—facts that all parents and policymakers need to be aware of:
1. The K-3 standards will lead to long hours of direct instruction. This kind of “drill and kill” teaching will push active, play-based learning out of many kindergartens.
2. The standards will intensify the push for more standardized testing, which is highly unreliable for children under age eight.
3. Didactic instruction and testing will crowd out other crucial areas of young children’s learning: active, hands-on exploration, and developing social, emotional, problem-solving, and self-regulation skills—all of which are difficult to standardize or measure but are the essential building blocks for academic and social accomplishment and responsible citizenship.
4. There is little evidence that standards for young children lead to later success. Many countries with top-performing high-school students provide rich play-based, nonacademic experiences—not standardized instruction—until age six or seven.
The National Association for the Education of Young Children is the foremost professional organization for early education in the U.S. Yet it had no role in the creation of the K-3 Core Standards. The Joint Statement opposing the standards was signed by three past presidents of the NAEYC—David Elkind, Ellen Galinsky, and Lilian Katz—and by Marcy Guddemi, the executive director of the Gesell Institute of Human Development; Dr. Alvin Rosenfeld of Harvard Medical School; Dorothy and Jerome Singer of the Yale University Child Study Center; Dr. Marilyn Benoit, past president of the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry; Professor Howard Gardner of the Harvard Graduate School of Education; and many others.
The harm that Common Core is inflicting on children and elementary schools is enormous. Dr. Carla Horwitz of the Yale Child Study Center notes that many of our most experienced and gifted teachers of young children are giving up in despair. “They are leaving the profession,” says Horwitz, “because they can no longer do what they know will ensure learning and growth in the broadest, deepest way. The Core Standards will cause suffering, not learning, for many, many young children.”
This is a 25 minute video by Dr. Megan Koschnick a Child Developmental Psychologist at Notre Dame explaining why Common Core standards are not developmentally appropriate for young children.
But instead of honoring individual differences, Common Core forces teachers and students into a Cookie Cutter approach to learning with an endless series of checklists. Here is a handy 3 page checklist to prepare teachers for this task. You can download the teacher checklist at the following link: http://www.k12.wa.us/WaKIDS/Materials/pubdocs/WaKIDS101ChecklistforTeachers.pdf
The Teacher is expected to read and know something called the GOLD™ Objectives for Development and Learning for WaKIDS. This is an 86 page guide available at the following link: http://www.k12.wa.us/WaKIDS/Collaboration/pubdocs/AlignmentTeachStrategiesGOLDandEarlyLearningGdlns2012.pdf
Here is a link to the Common Core Kindergarten Math standards. There are 22 math standards.http://www.k12.wa.us/WaKIDS/Materials/pubdocs/MathematicsObservationalActivities.pdf
The Bellingham School District has also produced a handy guide at this link:
Here is some advice from Page 28 of the Bellingham Guide: Mathematics Provide opportunities for children this age to: Count and sort; make sets; do simple addition and subtraction using real materials; make graphs Practice writing numbers Do simple equations.
That's right. WAKIDS AKA Kiddie Common Core expects 5 year olds to do "equations." But thankfully, they are only expected to do simple equations. The harder equations are not introduced until 3rd grade.
The following are a couple of slides from an OSPI November 15 2015 training presentation on WAKIDS. The complete slideshow is available at the following link: http://www.k12.wa.us/WaKIDS/Materials/default.aspx
The claimed goal of Common Core is to determine whether the 5 year old boy above is "on-track" to be career and college ready. The fact that he might not be able to hold a pencil or tie his shoes will be counted as two strikes against him - even though school has not yet even started! In fact, the real goal of Common Core is all about data mining.
Note that WAKIDS includes a group called Thrive Washington. Never heard of them? Well, they are one of more than one thousand fake education groups paid for by Bill Gates and the Gates Foundation. Here is a $2.6 million grant:
Another group is the Washington Early Learning Fund - another fake Bill Gates group:
Not to be left out, Gates also runs the State of Washington Department of Early Learning
Most revolting of all is that the WAKIDS program is actually a Copyrighted program called GOLD which is sold by a Washington DC for profit corporation called Teaching Strategies:
So instead of hiring more Kindergarten teachers and lowering class sizes, each local school district must spend millions of dollars to buy the copyrighted GOLD program and materials in order to assess their Kindergartners on whether they can do simple equations. But this is just the beginning of the corporate money grab. By the time your child reaches 2nd Grade, they will be subjected to complex equations involving three variables. But before they get to complex Algebra in the Second Grade, here is the "New Math" they are subjected to in the 1st Grade.
An Introduction to Common Core 1st Grade New Math
As many parents and teachers have discovered, the new Common Core math standards and curriculum are often quite different from prior math standards and curriculum. For example, the following is a new math instructional method for elementary schools based on the Common Core Elementary School Math Standards:
This new math method is based on something called set theory which is used a lot with Computer Programming. Sets are any group of numbers... for example, even numbers are one set of numbers and odd numbers are another set of numbers. Any group of numbers can be a set and you can define a series of any operations for any set of numbers. This process is also called Number Transformation. For example, understanding that the number 8 can also be expressed as “10 minus 2.” The problem with math transformations is that they are abstract and beyond the cognitive development of young children.
More is Less... Subtracting by Adding
Another confusing part of Common Core Math is that to subtract you need to add and to add you need to subtract. Here is an example.
George Orwell warned us that “New Think” would involve convincing us that war is peace and bad is good. With Common Core New Think, now to subtract, we must add and to add we must subtract. Welcome to the insane world of Common Core math!
Set theory is not merely limited to real world examples. This is what makes set theory so useful for computer programming. The problem is that set theory is extremely abstract and well beyond the brains of most young children to understand. Remember that young children are “concrete thinkers.” The old style of teaching math is based on concrete thinking and concrete reasoning. Even many adults (parents) are not able to understand the new type of abstract math. It is not merely children who are forced to start crying when confronted with this new form of math, it is also their parents. This new math is not supported by any child development research.
An Introduction to Common Core 2nd Grade Algebra
Here is aCommon Core math question taken from the nation's most popular Second Grade Common Core Math Book, called Math Expressions). According to the publisher, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, "Math Expressions Common Core focuses on the priority core concepts at each grade level, identified by the Common Core State Standards, to build in-depth understanding of major mathematical ideas."
In Unit 6, Lesson 5, Problem 4 is the following question for Second Graders:
The Paper Clip question requires several levels of abstract reasoning. First, the child must imagine an unknown number of boxes that have ten paper clips in them. This number could be any number between one and one million (even though many Second Graders have no experience with numbers greater than 100). We will call this abstract number Z.
Second, the child has to also imagine an unknown number of boxes that have 100 paper clips in them. This number also can be between one and one million. We will call this abstract number Y.
Third, the child has to imagine an unknown number of loose paper clips that are not in either any of the boxes of ten paper clips or the boxes of 100 paper clips. The number of loose paper clips can also be any number between one and one million. We will call this abstract number X.
Then, the child has to consider the relationships between these three imaginary numbers. These relationships are are really algebraic equations such as:
X (the loose paper clips) = Y (the number boxes of 100 paper clips) minus two.
Another equation is Y (the number of boxes of 100 paper clips) = Z (the number of boxes with 10 paper clips) plus 3.
Because one cannot solve for three unknowns with only two equations, there is also a hidden equation not even mentioned in the problem. The hidden equation is that X, Y and Z must all be positive numbers. Therefore if Z = 1, Y must equal 4. If Z= 2, then Y must equal 5. If Z = 3, then Y must = 6.
This presents us with an infinite series of correct answers. The idea of an infinite number of correct answers is also an abstract concept well beyond the ability of most Second Graders. But even if the child is able to solve each of these equations, the child needs to add all three answers together as the question is not asking for X, Y or Z but yet a fourth algebraic equation: A (answer) = X + Y+ Z Each of these steps requires abstract reasoning far beyond the ability of most Second Graders and in fact, beyond the ability of most adults and most state legislators!Even knowing all of these clues, which a small child is not likely to understand, most adults and most state legislators still could not solve this problem.
We have given this problem to state legislators who were unable to solve it. The fact that state legislators are requiring Second Graders to solve math puzzles that legislators themselves cannot solve is an indication of how inappropriate the Common Core tests are for very young children. The authors of Common Core, and the SBAC test are apparently not aware that Second Graders and Third Graders are still in the concrete thinking stage of brain development and are not capable of abstract reasoning.Children are not capable of Abstract Reasoning until about the Sixth to Eight Grade. So this question is at least four to six years beyond the brain development of a Second Grader.
Asking small children to solve complex equations harms children because they will blame themselves for not being able to solve the equation.
Not even some of the greatest minds in human history did well on high stakes tests:
In fact, in November 2015, the Oregon Education Association released a poll of teachers in Oregon. Sure enough, 95% of Oregon teachers protested that the SBAC test took too long and disrupted the education of their students. Here is a link to negative comments made by 400 teachers after watching their students suffer through 9 hours of SBAC testing: http://media.oregonlive.com/education_impact/other/Educator%20Comments.pdf
Here was the result for just one of the poll questions:
Loss of instructional time was the top concern expressed by hundreds of teachers. Teachers reported spending 16+ hours of class time on preparation plus an additional 8+ hours on each test. One teacher complained: “Administering the Smarter Balanced Assessment at our school consumed our computer lab for two months.” Another observed: “The test is too long and many students just quit trying after a while. Even bright students who were really trying became very tired about an hour in and just stopped caring.”
80% of the teachers also felt that the SBAC test was unfair to lower income students who lacked access to a computer in their home and therefore lacked good key boarding skills: “The tests themselves are unfair. Students like mine who do not have regular access to computers are at a clear disadvantage." The teachers in Washington State are likely just as angry about the SBAC test as the teachers in Oregon.
Conclusion... How Can We End Unfunded Mandates?
Common Core is not the only unfunded mandate that the legislature has imposed on our kids and our schools. Recently, the legislature passed a law increasing the number of credits required to graduate from 20 credits (5 credits per year) to 24 credits (6 credits per year). This is a 20% increase in the number of courses that our high school students have to complete and a 20% increase in the number of courses that a school district has to offer which means that each school district has to hire 20% more high school teachers. But the legislature did not provide any money to pay for the thousands of additional teachers. Actually, the legislature claims they increased school funding by $2 billion per year during the past 4 years. But in fact, the legislature cut school funding during the past 4 years requiring school districts to fire more than 1,000 teachers.
So how do we stop the legislature from imposing billions of dollars of unfunded mandates on our local schools and local tax payers? Thankfully, the drafters of our state constitution realized more than 100 years ago that the legislature was not the best group to put in charge of our schools. They therefore created an independently elected Superintendent of Public Instruction and put the Superintendent in charge of supervising our public schools. Article 3, Section 22 of our state constitution says: "The Superintendent of Public Instruction shall have supervision over all matters pertaining to public schools."
The term "all matters" means that the Superintendent of Public Instruction, as a separately elected branch of state government shall supervise each and every aspect of our public schools - including the matters of age appropriate learning standards and assessments and how many credits a student needs to graduate from high school. To make this point abundantly clear, the drafters of our state constitution included a clause to Article 2, Section 28 prohibiting the legislature from interfering with the management of our public schools.
The reason the drafters of our constitution did not want the legislature passing special laws regarding the management of our public schools is because they feared legislators would pass laws that harmed rather than helped schools. This is also exactly what has happened in the past 20 years - with the legislature passing literally hundreds of unfunded mandates that have created a bureaucratic nightmare of oppressive regulations for teachers and administrators.
So all we really need to do to end unfunded mandates is elect a superintendent willing to stand up to our out of control legislature and enforce our state constitution. If I am elected Superintendent, I will review each and every unconstitutional law and unfunded mandate that is illegally passed by our legislature. This review will ask two important questions. First, did the legislature provide 100% of the actual cost of carrying out the new law? If they did not, I will give the legislature the opportunity to provide this funding. But I will make it clear that there will be no more unfunded mandates imposed on local school districts. Second, is the new law based on scientific research on child development? If not, I will give the legislature the opportunity to provide the research. But I will make it clear that our children are not their guinea pigs and will not be subject to any more ed reform schemes that are not supported by scientific research.
Our legislature has not only ignored its Paramount Duty to fully fund our schools, it has ignored several other sections of our constitution in forcing unfunded mandates on our schools. It is time to enforce our state constitution and end these unfunded mandates, end the harm to our kids and return to real teaching and authentic learning.
As always, I look forward to your questions and comments.
David Spring M. Ed.
Candidate for Superintendent of Public Instruction