THE HIDDEN COMMON CORE TRAP IN ESSA

money-trap
By Mary Byrne, Ed.D.
Edited by Michael Gendre, Ph.D., Massachusetts Parents Involved in Education President

In December 2015, Congress passed the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) promising that the new federal law would return authority over education to the states and parents, and remove the federal government’s role from states’ adoption of the Common Core State Standards (CCSS). [1] Then, in the first quarter of 2017, Congress repealed midnight regulations Secretary John King promulgated in an effort to implement as much of the Obama administration’s agenda as possible before the end of his presidency. [2] Echoing the intent of Congress to reduce federal intrusion in education, President Trump signed an Executive Order in April 2017, Enforcing Statutory Prohibitions on Federal Control of Education. [3]

Specific language in Sec. 1111.(j)(1) of the act prohibits the U.S. Secretary of Education from attempting,

. . . to influence, incentivize, or coerce State— ‘‘(1) adoption of the Common Core State Standards developed under the Common Core State Standards Initiative [CCSSI] or any other academic standards common to a significant number of States, or assessments tied to such standards; or ‘‘(2) participation in such partnerships. [4]*

President Trump’s Executive Order Section 1 states,

It shall be the policy of the executive branch to protect and preserve State and local control over the curriculum, program of instruction, administration, and personnel of educational institutions, schools, and school systems, consistent with applicable law, including ESEA, as amended by ESSA, and ESEA’s restrictions related to the Common Core State Standards developed under the Common Core State Standards Initiative. [5]

The intent of Congress and President Trump is clear: to assure the American public that the regulations promulgated by the Secretaries of Education in the Obama administration will be reversed, and local control of education restored.

AN UNDERBELLY REQUIREMENT OF THE OMNIBUS BILL/ACT ESSA

In spite of the seeming intent and declaration of the Act, several other sections of ESSA were crafted in such a way as to contradict the intent of Congress to devolve decisions to the states. For example, earlier in the statute, Sec. 1111 (a)(1)(B) mandate states to submit state accountability plans to qualify for Title I grant funds that are “coordinated with other programs under . . . the National Assessment of Educational Progress Authorization Act (20 U.S.C. 9621 et seq,). . .

Despite explicit messaging of the intent of ESSA and reinforcement of that intent by President Trump’s Executive Order prohibiting the Secretary of Education from promoting the implementation of CCSS, we observe ESSA’s “underbelly” requirement entrapping states to coordinate their state accountability plans with the National Assessment of Educational Progress Authorization Act.  This is tantamount to a hidden loophole that will result in states having to retain Common Core State Standards (CCSS) and assessments tied to them in order to receive Title I funds.  In other words, Sec. 1111 (a)(1)(B) circumvents prohibitions on the Secretary in Sec. 1111.(j)(1).

THIS UNDERBELLY REQUIREMENT IMPLICITLY ENSURES THAT NAGB RATHER THAN THE PEOPLE OF THE STATES CONTROL EDUCATION BY CONTROLLING THE CONTENT AND ADMINISTRATION OF THE NATIONAL ASSESSMENT OF EDUCATION PROGRESS

The National Assessment of Educational Progress [NAEP] Authorization Act authorizes federal funding for an independent National Assessment Governing Board (NAGB) to oversee the content and design of the NAEP.  NAGB acts independently of the U. S. Department of Education (USED) and is presumably not affected by ESSA’s prohibitions and directives as the Secretary of Education.

Yet meeting minutes posted on the NAGB website document NAGB’s Strategic Vision goals and discussions of the board considering alignment of the NAEP with the goals of the CCSSI[6] and international assessments that include surveys of family perceptions and interactions with their child,[7] as well as soft skills and values (e.g., same sex marriage), [8] all of which are outside the scope of objective measures of academic knowledge and skills authorized by law.[9]

Some context information is in order: current NAGB members who are CCSS proponents were appointed by the Secretaries of Education during the Obama administration. They began initial discussions of NAGB’s Strategic Vision (SV) goals in 2014 and formally approved the vision statement in November 2016 as the Obama administration was ending.[10],[11] In addition, contracts for the design and implementation of the NAEP project are given to vendors and researchers who have close ties to the CCSSI inner circle and make recommendations to align the NAEP to the CCSS. [12] The Common Core standards are thus kept in place in the very belly of the independent metric by which we, the American People and taxpayers, should be able to detect how well or poorly those standards, surreptitiously introduced without a vote from Congress, are serving the nation.

The reasons are simple and they combine to push CCSS into the curriculum. Simply put, left unchecked, implementation of the NAGB’s SV will implicitly require states to retain CCSS in order to score well on the NAEP and NAGB will spend federal funding to:

  • Violate restrictions in NAEP content as specified in the National Assessment of Educational Progress Authorization Act to academic knowledge and skills;

  • Violate Congress’s intent when passing ESSA and President Trump’s April 2017 Executive Order by influencing states to maintain CCSSI standards and assessments tied to them to qualify for Title I funds;

  • Effectively conceal from Congress and the public information about the effects of the CCSSI on the academic performance of America’s students since the implementation of the CCSS and assessments tied to them;

  • Continue the conflict of interest and cronyism of board members, assessment vendors, and consultants as they work together to expand the infiltration of CCSS in America’s K-12 settings through ESSA’s Title I grant award program; and

  • Nullify the U.S. Constitution and result in states’ surrender to the centralized bureaucracy of the U.S. federal government or global entities with no accountability to the American people.

In conclusion, the entrapment of states in the ESSA is subtle, nonetheless, it is entrapment –that is, “nudging” state officials to abandon the constitutionally protected sovereignty of the people of their state and, in some cases, unlawfully alter their state’s constitutional definitions of the purpose of publicly supported education in exchange for federal dollars. A similar form of coercion by the Department of Health and Human Services effecting 10% of states’ Medicaid budget was exposed and deemed unconstitutional in National Federation of Independent Businesses v Sebelius.

The strategic secrecy and timing of the release of the final omnibus bill, sponsored by one U.S. Senator (no public record is available to identify who crafted the bill) mocked the legislative process. No public hearings were held before the passage of the bill and legislators were excluded from providing input to the bill throughout its development.[13], [14] Parents and critics are proven right, CCSI is a Trojan horse introduced by elitists through non-governmental organizations yet funded by taxpayers, to promote a national agenda controlled by elitists.  It seems that the solution to the crafty requirements of an unconstitutional bureaucracy can only be thwarted when Congress simultaneously (1) investigates the Gates Foundation and partnering non-governmental organization for their roles in CCSI and ESSA and (2) returns USED to the level of a bureau with no enforcement mechanisms on testing and content.

[1] https://www.majorityleader.gov/2015/12/02/congress-restores-local-control-in-education/

[2] https://www.nytimes.com/2017/03/09/us/every-student-succeeds-act-essa-congress.html

[3] http://blogs.edweek.org/edweek/campaign-k12/2017/04/trump_executive_order_local_control_education.html

[4] https://congress.gov/114/plaws/publ95/PLAW-114publ95.pdf

[5] https://www.whitehouse.gov/the-press-office/2017/04/26/presidential-executive-order-enforcing-statutory-prohibitions-federal

[6] https://nagb.gov/what-we-do/board-committee-reports-and-agendas.html

[7] https://www.nagb.gov/content/nagb/assets/documents/what-we-do/quarterly-board-meeting-materials/2013-12/tab07-using-naep-for-education-indicators.pdf

[8] https://www.nagb.org/content/nagb/assets/documents/what-we-do/quarterly-board-meeting-materials/2015-11/02-august-2015-meeting-minutes.pdf  (As of this writing, the NAGB Committee Reports had not been updated since May 2016)

[9] https://www.nagb.org/naep/naep-law.html

[10] https://www.nagb.gov/content/nagb/assets/documents/what-we-do/quarterly-board-meeting-materials/2016-11/08-strategic-vision.pdf 

[11] https://www.nagb.org/content/nagb/assets/documents/newsroom/press-releases/2016/nagb-strategic-vision.pdf

[12] http://www.air.org/sites/default/files/downloads/report/Study-of-Alignment-NAEP-Mathematics-Items-common-core-Nov-2015.pdf

[13]   http://www.regulations.gov/#!documentDetail;D=ED-2015-OESE-0130-0001

[14] http://www.lee.senate.gov/public/index.cfm/speeches?ID=5351BB18-A58B-4DE8-B95F-013C50EA5D7C

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