Response to Kentucky Core Academic Standards (“KCAS”) Challenge

MEMORANDUM

TO: Kentucky Department of Education (“KDE”)
Terry Holliday, Commissioner
Kentucky Board of Education (“KBE”)
RE: Kentucky Core Academic Standards (“KCAS”) Challenge

DATE: April 20, 2015

BACKGROUND: The KDE has issued a Challenge to citizens of the Commonwealth to 1) increase awareness of KCAS, adopted in 2010, in language arts and mathematics, and 2) solicit “actionable” feedback. The KDE is only allowing comments tied to a specific standard for a comment to be considered for recommendation to the Kentucky Board of Education (“KBE”). Several “Guides” for reviewing KCAS are provided online.

CONCLUSION: The online response format is not conducive to reasoned review. The KCAS is not readily evaluated by examination of individual standards alone, as the Challenge invites. Rather, as a whole, copyrighted as they are, the standards are incapable of dissection since they are all tied together, in math, for example, by conceptual categories, and are categorized into domains. Each domain contains groups of standards called clusters. Clusters and domains are organizational tools. Trying to isolate a standard for comment is like trying to untie a Gordian knot. The scheme as a whole must be analyzed; the parts cannot be separated from the whole for meaningful evaluation. A thoughtful review of KCAS as an aggregate of specific standards, does not produce a set of standards which meets the requirements of Kentucky Revised Statutes (“KRS”), specifically, but not limited to KRS 158 and 156, and especially KRS 158.6451. The KDE should recommend to the KBE that KCAS, as presently constituted, should be replaced in toto.

DISCUSSION: In 2008, Mr. Gene Wilhoit and Mr. David Coleman sought funding for their education reform idea package to improve education in America. The key to changing education in America and in Kentucky was money. Thus, the pitch to the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation (“Foundation”) was successful and the Foundation provided grants over time to write new standards. By 2010, the Foundation had funded political support to persuade Kentucky and other states to adopt expansive, untested changes. The Kentucky Department of Education, NOT the Kentucky legislature, was first in line to accept the new standards, and the money, or to accept the excuse from having to spend money, that went with it. Kentucky was perhaps too eager, as the KDE accepted Common Core standards before they were even finalized. The sell? The new standards were free, or so they thought. Kentucky got what it paid for, and without the Gates’ money, “we wouldn’t have been able to do this.” Terry Holliday, quoted in Layton, Lyndsey, “How Bill Gates Pulled Off The Swift Common Core Revolution,” The Washington Post, June 7, 2014. See, Footnote 1, below. For the KDE to ask citizens to comment only on “specific standards” to be heard is too little, too late and violates the spirit and the letter of our due process and public input laws. The problems with the KCAS dwarf this Challenge.

To illustrate the magnitude of problems, the following examples demonstrate how it is impossible to comment on a few specific standards. While one might comment that cursive writing should be mandatory in the KCAS at the developmentally appropriate grade level, it appears that KDE is not interested. After all, the developmental appropriateness of so many standards which are requiring very young children to write copiously, are now being questioned, especially at the early primary level and it appears that the standards were not written by people with this expertise. While many parents and teachers are finding that math problems, which used to be solved in two or three steps, now require a dozen steps with no perceivable advantage to most learners, the KDE is not interested. This failure to acknowledge problems seems to be the case, despite the fact that one original committee member reviewing math standards, refused to validate the standards and stated that they left students two years behind other learners’ achievement by the 7th Grade. While the KCAS eschews classic works of fiction in their entirety, or require only parts of texts, the KDE is perfectly happy to roll the dice, without benefit of scholarly evaluation, that replacing demonstrated classics with regulations and informational texts to read will somehow enhance college readiness.

Many citizens, parents and teachers are not willing to exchange rigorous standards for untested universal standards, just for the sake of doing so. When parents and teachers have questions about the standards, who are they going to call for answers? There is no one at the federal Department of Education who will answer, and there is certainly no one at other government offices since the standards are copyrighted by non-governmental groups and not subject to meaningful change. Who, then, is in charge of the new, untested standards? No one. Kentucky needs to take responsibility for its own standards.

It is time that the KDE take responsibility for the KCAS, which is not producing the intended results—a more rigorous set of standards that reduce the need for remedial classes at the college level—unless the primary intended result was to accept a product simply because it was free, then hope for the best. It is time to make a more thorough review. The current KCAS specific standards are deficient as implemented, and the standards must be reviewed by Kentucky educators now, as a whole. In the interim, a good set of standards should be recommended to the KBE to remedy the English/language arts standards: the 2013 Revised Massachusetts standards provide one of the best templates for Kentucky to use until a complete replacement can be finalized for both English/language arts and math in Kentucky. See, Footnote 2, below.

FOOTNOTES

1 Layton, Lyndsey. “How Bill Gates Pulled Off The Swift Common Core Revolution,” The Washington Post, June 7, 2014.

2 http://alscw.org/news/wp-content/uploads/2013 ELA_Curriculum_ Framework.pdf

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