Top Common Core Cheerleader Arne Duncan Coming to Texas

Top Common Core Cheerleader Arne Duncan Coming to Texas

U.S. Department of Education Secretary Arne Duncan is coming to Austin and the Texas PTA (Parent Teacher Association) is delighted to have him.  Yes, Duncan, the chief cheerleader of the Common Core State Standards will be the headliner at the 2014 PTA national convention, June 19-22, at the Austin, TX Convention Center.

PTA is the nonprofit association that defines itself on its website as a “powerful voice for all children, a relevant resource for families and communities, and a strong advocate for public education.” It was founded in 1897 as the National Congress of Mothers. Their motto is “every child, one voice.” 

In the spirit of that one voice, the voice everyone will hear at this convention will be none other than the very man who trashed “white suburban moms who think their child is brilliant” and PTA moms will pay the big bucks to hear him speak.

It is interesting that PTA decided to bring the event to Texas, one of the very few states to reject the Common Core state standards, although Breitbart Texas has reported on incidences of Common Core materials appearing in classrooms throughout the state.

Texas PTA board member Kyle Ward told Breitbart Texas in a phone interview that Texas PTA is the second largest PTA in the country and that “no matter who the education secretary is, Texas PTA is delighted to have the event” in Austin. Ward also was clear in stating that PTA is non-partisan. 

Party-wise, maybe.  Issue-wise, not necessarily. The national PTA is the umbrella organization and governing body over “more than 20,000 local units in all 50 states, the District of Columbia, U.S. Virgin Islands, Puerto Rico and the Department of Defense Schools in Europe,” according to its website.  

National PTA advocates for U.S. Department of Education (DOE) programs like the Common Core and College & Career Readiness Standards. As an example of its advocacy, national PTA lists an array of pet policy issue briefs (2009-2011) on its site. Topics like family engagement are at the forefront. According to PTA, it is their mission to teach “educators to engage families for student achievement.” 

The 16 page “Breaking New Ground: Data Systems Transform Family Engagement in Education” prepared by the Harvard Family Research Project, is a PTA document that, in a nutshell, helps bring mom and dad onboard with the value of data-collection of their children.  

Specifically, on page two, the purpose of the issue brief is stated as “to establish a vision of family engagement in the context of data-driven education reform.” It is a “data pathway that provides families with measurable benchmarks for children’s learning, beginning in early childhood and continuing through young adulthood, helping students stay on the right track to graduation and college- and career- readiness,” the article continues to state.

National PTA also champions the related proposed federal legislation — Family Engagement in Education Act of 2013 (S 1291/HR 2662).  It is part of PTA’s Take Action Network where PTA representatives are coached on how to move beyond the bake sale and into lobbying. Among other skills, taking control of the conversation with legislators is depicted in a series of PTA online vignettes. 

These are among the many things the national PTA now does and parents pay for in the member dues in all 50 states. In Texas, of those $4.50 annual membership fees, $2.25 goes to fund these national PTA initiatives and goals, according to the Texas PTA website.

Now, they are bringing the national agenda to Austin for a long weekend and key to national PTA advocacy is the Common Core State Standards. Workshop 303 is “Communicating about Common Core and PTA.” 

The workshop description reads:

The Common Core ‘train’ has left the station, and is arriving soon at your PTA.  This workshop will provide the tools that will help your unit anticipate and respond to questions about Common Core and PTA.  There is already a degree of controversy and debate surrounding Common Core, particularly PTA’s support of this major national initiative.  Presented by National PTA’s Communications and Governmental Relations committees, this interactive session will focus on developing a strong communications plan with key messages and tactics so your local unit can discuss Common Core effectively.

This is not the only Fed Led Ed related workshop. Number 406 is “The Amazing National Standards Race,” and it’s about families and schools working together with the “National Standards for Family-School Partnerships.”

In this purported highly interactive session, local PTA leaders can bring the standards to life in their own schools. Those “national” standards, as indicated in workshop 303, appear to be the Common Core State Standards.

This then dovetails into workshop 606 “National PTA School of Excellence: Leading the Way,” a PTA signature program where participants will understand how to use the National Standards for Family-School Partnerships to engage families.” More Fed Led Ed.

The website also touts that the Freedom Writers recently partnered with Scholastic, the book fair people who now offer Primary Sources, their project with the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, the major funder of the Common Core, as has been reported by Breitbart News.

However, the Freedom Writers also created On the Record, a Common Core aligned learning program for middle and high school aged students. In addition to the Common Core toting Gruwell at Texas PTA’s weekend retreat, this year’s Texas teacher of the year was there to speak on the importance of “the village” according to the Texas PTA website. If it was Hillary Clinton’s village or Melissa Harris-Perry’s village is anyone’s guess.

Over the four-day national PTA event, there will also be a workshop that addresses “disruptive” board members, those squeaky wheels who allegedly have “uncooperative behavior” and apparently are not creating a “positive environment” on their local PTA boards. According to the description for workshop 103: Trouble on Board, those rotten apples are apparently putting some “PTAs at risk.”

Other workshops encompass PTA initiatives such as special education, child health and nutrition, and juvenile justice, diversity, teen alcoholism, school safety, poverty, health and wellness; Title I, and bullying. There is also male engagement, formerly known as “dads and donuts” in some local PTAs.

There will be a seminar that focuses on empowering a “generation of good digital citizens.” This is in preparation for October’s Digital Citizenship Week followed by February’s annual Safer Internet Day, which started as a European Union (EU) initiative in 2004, and now is observed by the PTA.

Certainly, PTA has come a long way from just sponsoring Reflections art contests and teacher appreciation weeks.

With such a heavy federally led educational hand on this event,  Breitbart Texas contacted national PTA to question why Texas, a state that did not adopt the Common Core state standards, was even considered, let alone, chosen to host the 2014 national convention. No response was received before deadline. 

Interestingly, the conference will offer a few workshops that teach PTA attendees how to “answer tough questions from the media and use social media as a tool.” Perhaps, PTA’s national leadership should attend these classes.

All workshops are listed online for the convention.

Follow Merrill Hope on Twitter @OutOfTheBoxMom


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