Common Core Change Agents Operating in Texas

Common Core Change Agents Operating in Texas

Picture a state that rejected the Common Core State Standards, yet strangely, Common Core conferences convene around the calendar with some of the biggest names in progressive education reform.  Yes, that state would be Texas.

In fact, Common Core kick-offs the summer in the Lone Star state when Texas ASCD and ignite14, the “innovate with technology and curriculum conference,” come to the Dallas suburbs on June 16-18.  ASCD will hold their even grander 2014 Conference on Teaching Excellence in late June. 

Ignite14 attendees will get to hobnob with “internationally recognized digital age entrepreneurs” like 2012 Iowa Secondary Principal of the Year Jimmy Casas, who hails from a Common Core state, along with  Dr. Andrew Berning, the Waxahachie-based education tech advisor and STEM/STEAM proponent Max Brooks.

STEM is part of the College and Career Ready pathway of the Common Core.  However, in Texas, it is the result of college and career legislation, House Bill 5.  While STEM is short for “Science, Technology, Engineering, Math,” STEAM adds the “arts” to the mix.

The potential saving grace of this shindig is Ewan McIntosh, who has been critical of certain aspects of the Common Core in his blog.  His company, NoTosh Learning is a global education consultancy based in Edinburgh and Melbourne.

Immediately following ignite14, all the Fed Led Ed action will move down to Austin for the Parent Teacher Association’s (PTA) national convention, June 19-22.  This year, Arne Duncan, Fed Led Ed chief, will be the keynote speaker for the Common Core pushing PTA.  

Breitbart Texas reported on how PTA was mysteriously drawn to Texas for this year’s convention.  2014 will mark the first time in its 100-plus year history that PTA will hold its annual extravaganza in Texas.

On June 27-29, it’ll be time to head back to Dallas for the larger ASCD Conference on Teaching Excellence.  ASCD is an Alexandria, VA based think tank, the global leader in developing and delivering innovative educational programs according to the website.  ASCD stands for the Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development.

ASCD shepherded the Common Core integrated “Whole Child Initiative.”  They’ve also published education materials and books from leading education thinkers.  Their top pick on a short reading list was “The Core Six: Essential Strategies for Achieving Excellence with the Common Core.”

Since 1943, ASCD has been around and they claim to be the global leader in developing and delivering innovative learning programs, products and services with 140,000 superintendents, principals, teachers, professors and advocates from more than 138 countries, according to the ASCD website.

Among the sessions at the upcoming three-day bonanza are “Fostering Grit” whose author Tom Hoerr will tout the importance of grit “with the increase rigor intended by the Common Core State,” according to MiddleWeb. 

“Grit” comes from “Promoting Grit, Tenacity, and Perseverance: Critical Factors for Success in the 21st Century, the infamous U.S. Department of Education document that set off a firestorm for its macabre Clockwork Orange style student engagement tactics that included facial expression cameras, posture analysis seats, wireless skin conductance sensors, and pressure mouse, all on page 44.

Another presentation will be Common Core “Habits of the Mind” to help Texas teachers to “reframe your mental maps to focus on the real purposes of 21st Century education,” according to the speakers roundup.

Others will include “Common Core State Standards Have Pushed Us To Redefine What Listening Means in the Digital Age;” “Common Core, Student Inquiry, and Learning for the 21st Century;” “Strategies for Understanding and Addressing the Common Core Tapestry;” “Practical Tools for Enhancing Instruction for Assessment” within the context of the Common Core; “Technology and the English Language Arts Common Core Standards;” “Planning for Excellence for all Learners with the Common Core Standards;” “Aligning the Common Core Standards for Students with Disabilities;” “What Underachievers Want Teachers to Know and do to Achieve Common Core State Standards;” “Common Core Content Literacy Strategies that Rock!;” “Designing Summative Assessments to Meet Common Core Demands;” “A Real-World Application for the English Language Arts Common Core Standards;” “Teaching Writing for Audience and Purpose: Getting to the Core (of the Common Core);” “Lesson Planning for High-Quality Curriculum Aligned with Common Core Standards;” and “Mapping to the Core: Development Integrated Units for 21st Century Learners.”  These are only from Days 1 and 2

On day 3, there will be “Common Core Literacy Skills Across Content Areas,” and “Modernizing the High School English Curriculum to Meet Common Core Standards.” 

Throughout the conference, there will be presentations on differentiated learning strategies, Common Core elementary, middle and high school math and topics like higher-order thinking, data use, standards-based grading, achievement gap, juvenile justice, collaborative teaching planning, project-based learning, flipped classrooms, best practices, blended learning, response to intervention (RTI), and equity, all couched by the Common Core Standards. 

But, of course, they will all be discussing the TEKS.

Jay McTighe, leading Fed Led education writer of such materials as “From Common Core Standards to Curriculum: Five Big Ideas,” and “Unpacking the Common Core Standards Using the UbD Framework” will open the pre-conference on June 26.  UbD stands for “Understanding by Design,” a methodology commended by charter school maven Michelle Rhee and which he co-wrote with Fed Led Ed fanatic Grant Wiggins.

McTighe has also been credited as part of the CSCOPE curriculum design and instructional design teams.  CSCOPE, the controversial Texas education product that made headlines for its questionable curriculum content, has since been rebranded as the Texas Essential Knowledge and Skills (TEKS) Resource System.  Other CSCOPE collaborators include Common Core proponents Robert Marzano and Heidi Hayes Jacobs, who spoke at the 2013 Texas ASCD.

For this year’s conference, Ayinde Rudolph will jet in to present on teaching excellence.  He hails from the Bill and Melinda Gates’ funded “small” school.  Today, he’s the Director of Transformation for the Buffalo Promise Neighborhood.

A promise neighborhood is part of the federal education grant program that offers “cradle to career” services for children and families, according to the U.S. Department of Education.  It’s intended to improve academic performance of students in high-poverty neighborhoods.  According to the Associated Press, then Senator Barack Obama (D-IL) championed the idea of funding promise neighborhoods.  Approximately $160 million has been awarded to at least 20 states, to date.

It just so happens that the American Federation of Teachers (AFT), the nation’s largest teacher’s union, has its own Reclaim the Promise for public education “not as it is today or it was in the past but as we imagine it for our children — to fulfill our collective obligation to help all children succeed” in impoverished neighborhoods as an “economic necessity, an anchor of democracy, a moral imperative and a fundamental civil right…” It says so right on the AFT website.

Among the few Texas-centric presentations listed on the ASCD schedule are “Leveraging Assessment (STAAR) and Accountability to Create Systems of Support” and “What did the 83rd Legislature Do To Us?” which calls House Bill 5 “a far reaching bill” that affected assessment, instruction, and accountability.  Tom Jaggard, Education Service Center (ESC) Region 2 Testing Coordinator will reprise his 2013 ASCD presentation on Texas’ changing education system.

Breitbart Texas asked the Texas Education Agency’s (TEA) Director of Media Relations Debbie Ratcliffe about this conference.  Although she was aware of it, Ratcliffe emphasized that TEA is in no way connected or affiliated with it. 

Certainly, the ASCD event will be brimming over with the Common Core but it’s not the first time.  Last December, Learning Forward came to Dallas.  The main attraction was Linda Darling-Hammond, who was also named among the 2013 Top Ten Scariest People in Education Reform by Common Core: Education Without Representation. Here’s why:

Since 2006, Darling-Hammond has been an advisory group member of the Council of Chief State School Officers (CCSSO) which, along with the National Governor’s Association (NGA) are the founding Fed Led non-profit education partners who hold the copyright to the Common Core State Standards Initiative.

Darling-Hammond has consulted for Common Core test provider AIR and pushed for federally mandated equalization in the classroom in her book “A Flat World and Education: How America’s Commitment to Equity Will Determine Our  Future.” 

Darling-Hammond was also credited as a part of the CSCOPE professional development team.  Her personal friend, William Ayers, 1960’s radical turned professor and now Empathy Educates partner petitioned President Obama to replace Arne Duncan with Darling-Hammond. 

Regardless, all the budding change agents flocked into Dallas to see Darling-Hammond speak.  Learning Forward attendees were also treated to “Opening the Common Core State Standards: How to Bring Students to College and Career Readiness,” “Literacy at the Core of all Curriculum,” “Cultural Literacy for the Common Core State Standards,” “Addressing Common Core State Standards Text-Complexity through Professional Learning Communities” and “Mathematics tools for Implementing the Common Core State Standards.”

All in Texas.  All for Texas teachers.

One such teacher hailed from the Frisco Independent School District (ISD), a second grade teacher and a 2011 graduate of Learning Forward’s master degree program, according toMind, Brain, Learning & Teaching With Donna Wilson, PhD.” Wilson blogged about Frisco teacher Diane Dahl. 

“At Learning Forward 2013, we teamed up for an upbeat, practical presentation entitled ‘Toward Joyful Implementation of Common Core State Standards’ for an audience of teachers and unnamed professional learning community members.”

Wilson also wrote “we tied implications from mind, brain, and education research to the practical challenges of implementing the Common Core State Standards with the goal of creating more thoughtful and effective classrooms.

But there is no Common Core in Texas.

No doubt, these kinds of conferences appear to be far removed from the TEKS and there’s more of them coming.  The Leadership and Learning Center will be in Austin this October.  Time for Data Teams 4 Learning Seminar and Common Formative Assessments Seminar by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, a proud content provider with McGraw-Hill and Pearson, just a little slice of Apple’s online Fed Led Ed family.

All in Texas.  All for Texas teachers. 

One such teacher hailed from Frisco ISD, a second grade teacher and a 2011 graduate of Learning Forward’s master’s degree program, according to “Mind, Brain, Learning and Teaching with Donna Wilson, PhD.” Wilson wrote about Frisco Teacher Diane Dahl, “At Learning Forward 2013, we (she and Dahl) teamed up for an upbeat, practical presentation entitled ‘Toward Joyful Implementation of Common Core State Standards’ for an audience of teachers and unnamed professional learning community members.”

Wilson also wrote, “we tied implications from mind, brain, and education research to the practical challenges of implementing the Common Core State Standards with the goal of creating more thoughtful and effective classrooms.”

These educator professional development conferences appear to be far removed from the TEKS. Who knows how much of it hinges on mandatory teacher attendance to receive credentialing points that are vital to educators retaining their licenses.  There’s more coming, too. 

The Leadership and Learning Center will descend on Austin in October.  Time for Data Teams 4 and Common Formative Assessments Seminar by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, a proud content partner with McGraw-Hill and Pearson for Apple’s online Fed Led Ed family.

But there is no Common Core in Texas.


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