By:  Pat Austin

SHREVEPORT —  Despite what anyone tells you, Common Core is alive and well across the country.  It’s not always called Common Core anymore because of all the negative connotations and observations after its launch, but it’s still there.

Some states have renamed the program.  In Louisiana, it’s called Louisiana Believes.  In New York, it is now called Next Generation.  Iowa now calls it The Iowa Core.

It’s still Common Core; the standards and tenets are still there.

It is an endless barrage of scripted lessons, mindless graphic organizers, and multiple standardized tests.  It’s mind-numbing.

In districts with scripted lessons, teachers must follow the script, use the pre-written slides, and read prescribed texts.

Yes, they’re called simply “texts” now, not stories, novels, or literature.  Students read predominately non-fiction now; treatises on how microbes work in the human body (in an ELA class), or foundational speeches.  There are a few token fiction pieces, but there is little opportunity for students to read “stories,” to get lost in the prose of Eudora Welty or Harper Lee.

Even worse, under a scripted curriculum, teachers lose the freedom to be inspiring.

Note this article in The Atlantic by one teacher about her experience. Her district was using a strict curriculum:

The sense of urgency in the building was palpable, and the pressure on teachers to increase student achievement was often overwhelming. The district required us to teach a curriculum rigidly aligned with a 15-year-old reading textbook containing outdated articles about Ricky Martin, ice fishing, and cartography in an attempt to provide relevant, entry-level reading for students. I refused to teach from this text on the grounds that it was both condescending and uninteresting. But district personnel insisted that teachers use the textbook, citing evidence that it brought up test scores.

And she rebelled.  She and her co-teacher used a variety of outrageous, engaging strategies to inspire their students:

A body of research illustrates the self-evident reality that students’ interest in what they’re learning is critical to their achievement. And student engagement, according to various studies, is often a direct result of teacher engagement. When Alice and I decided to teach outrageously, our attitudes about our work improved, which data suggests improved our students’ attitudes.

Scripted curriculums are proving to be a large cause of teacher burnout and contributing to an exodus of veteran teachers from the profession as it becomes clear than anyone can read a script and their veteran experience is no longer valued:

“…letting an ill-equipped teacher do what she pleases isn’t smart policy. But does a top-down trickle of scripts and mandates detached from students’ day-to-day lives really improve a teacher’s effectiveness? It could have the reverse effect, forcing educators who might otherwise gain a real knack for teaching over time come to rely on others to make decisions for them and become stunted in their ability to improve.”

There’s nothing wrong with rigorous standards or high expectations for both students and teachers, but these scripted curriculums should be used as a platform for teachers to pull from rather than as a rote teaching experience.  Students don’t all learn the same way and teachers don’t all teach the same way. After years of Harry Wong and Kagan, Jane Schaffer models and others, it’s clear that this is just another fad or flavor of the month in education, but at what cost?

Even the creator of LearnZillion indicates that teachers should retain some autonomy in their classrooms and that these scripted curriculum programs should be used to ease the burden of creating a curriculum rather than stifle teacher creativity, but not all districts use it that way.

The endless testing in and of itself is stifling to kids.

As parents we need to be aware of what’s happening in the classroom.  Just because it doesn’t say Common Core doesn’t mean that it isn’t.

Pat Austin blogs at And So it Goes in Shreveport.

Two Dangerous White Supremacists

With the cancellation of the radio and TV promotional events earlier in the week Stacy McCain’s appearance at the Friday Morning Group became vitally important as the only promotional event before our day at Tang and that speech before a closed audience was only possible because the good folks in charge had graciously added Stacy to the program when I informed them he was here and adjusted the schedule to make sure both of us had speaking slots.

We had gotten home late from Harvard and stayed up to watch the utter destruction of the New England Patriots (much to DaWife’s consternation) the gap for getting a post up and getting sleep while still getting up on time for the Lexington event was tight.

Things initially looked good as we managed to get out of the driveway by just after 8:30 AM late enough to miss rush hour traffic but early enough to make the event with time to spare even with planned stops to fill up the tank and grabbing some coffee for Stacy but unexpected lines at Montouri’s fuel and Dunkin ate up some time and to my shock the backup from the Concord rotary, usually minor at best by 9 AM particularly on a Friday was backed up as if had been 8 AM on a Wednesday.

The delays took their toll and while we were at the building by 9:30 the parking being completely full meant that we walked though the door during the first presentation on the newly proposed increases in income taxes.

As I set up my stuff and pulled out the copies of my book that I didn’t have the previous month and set up I looked at the speaker list.  I was up 6th scheduled to talk about what I had seen on the Boston common while Stacy was set up to follow.  I found the various speakers engaging but I couldn’t help but worry that Stacy’s topic was outside the normal fiscal conservative wheelhouse of the audience of activists. Stacy being Stacy seemed unconcerned. He had spent the drive in discussing feminist theory and was busy in the zone both checking news stories and listening to speakers, given our experience at Harvard he was particularly interested in the presentation by the head of the Massachusetts College.

I must confess when my time came to speak my mind was still on Stacy’s speech to follow. While several people approached afterwards complementing me on the coverage of events on the common I thought it wasn’t as good as my previous speech the month before (I have no audio or video as Stacy still in the zone wasn’t filming).

As I wrapped up my speech, plugged Saturday’s event and finished taking question Stacy was already coming down the stairs (we were in the upper left corner of the room and took the stage and all my concerns were immediately found to be unwarranted.

Note the reaction when he mentioned the SPLC. When the speech was done he took questions:

and it was clear that the audience who were not acquainted with what is actually being taught in woman’s studies classes around the country, was enthralled. If Stacy had been Tom Jones he would have been buried in knickers.

When the event was over several people approached him to buy his book and he found himself approached by many to discuss his presentation further. One of those people was a person of color who had been on that Gazebo on the common. After posing for a picture with fellow evil white supremacist Robert Stacy McCain he agreed to an interview describing the danger he faced.

As Stacy Continued to smooze I grabbed interviews with the head of Camp Constitution Hal Shurtleff

The Head of Massachusetts College Republicans

and Carlos Gonzalez the GOP candidate in Ma-6

By the time I was done with the Interviews Stacy was nowhere to be found, I searched around and he had apparently found a cafeteria around the corner of the room we were in (the building is shared by several companies) and had stopped for a bite. Our friend Matt O’Brien of the Worcester Tea Party was stuck in a meeting and would not be avaialble to meet so we headed back to the house having to take a bit of a detour to avoid an accident on route 2.

When we got there both of us found our tiredness from the previous day catching up to so he napped briefly while I grabbed our dry cleaning for the big day. By 5 pm Stacy, my family and one of my son’s friends headed to Happy Jacks for a bite. The owner, who had been an advertisers on my radio show back in the day, remembered Stacy from the old Boarder Grille when he had held court with friends and admirers when last in town and picked up a pair of tickets for Saturday’s event.

If we hadn’t been inclined to nap before after that full meal we were ready to crash knowing that we had a big day ahead alas for myself because I’d been on the go with Stacy for days I didn’t have a chance to get the event outline done and submitted to the emcee. I had it done and out by 10 but discovered that there was a question concerning the projector or the supposed lack thereof for the event but by then I found I simply needed to crash myself.

At 2 AM I found myself up and saw Stacy working on his presentation. I mentioned the projected business and he remarked that as he recalled the Granite Grok crew had it covered but as there had also been some issues concerning who would be making it we decided that plan B would be a 39 inch flat screen for gaming. I hit the sack again but was up a 3 and found Stacy still typing away preparing his slides completely in the zone. At this point there was nothing left for me to do but to try and get some sleep because regardless of any questions about what tomorrow or rather later that day would bring, events themselves would answer them.

To answer the first question that pops up in the minds of those reading the headline, I’ve believed since just after Donald Trump won the election that actor George Clooney would be pressed to enter the presidential race, particularly if President Trump has a successful first term. I’ll go into detail about how he’s been preparing himself for such a run shortly, but first let’s look at California itself.

Despite my attempt at predicting the future, it’s a long shot. Assuming Clooney doesn’t run, the more likely and mainstream choice of Senator Kamala Harris is poised to be the nominee. She’ll win California if she’s even a blip on the radar. Her opponents would have to eliminate her from contention altogether for her to lose this state where she is extremely popular.

Unfortunately for other hopefuls, the only way to eliminate her from contention will likely be through scandal because if California’s current plan passes, she’ll only have to go through Iowa, New Hampshire, South Carolina, and Nevada. The state is pushing to move their primary to early March, making it the kingmaker it has always wanted to be.

As Politico points out, her opponents would be hard-pressed to mount the fundraising efforts necessary to blitz the most populous state in the nation with enough juice to derail her. That’s not going to happen unless Mark Cuban or some other self-funded billionaire enters the race. Harris will be the Democratic nominee and the DNC will wholeheartedly embrace her as the Trump-slayer.

Back to Clooney. It’s no secret that he’s had political aspirations based his conspicuous half-hearted attempts to deflect the question. In fact, he doesn’t get asked anymore in formal interviews which is a sure sign that his PR team makes the question taboo. He’s the ideal choice for a party that needs star power to trump Trump. Likable, attractive, well-spoken, and inspiring, Clooney has the aura that Ronald Reagan invoked in his early days in politics.

He served as a host multiple times for Democratic donors, giving his time and home over to both Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton. During these gatherings, he gave “subtle but noteworthy” indications that he may have an interest in the future, according to a source who has attended multiple fundraising events with Clooney present.

He has the perfect Democratic candidate’s spouse, the perfect campaigner’s friends, and enough clout in Hollywood to bring the full power of the entertainment world to bear on his behalf. Throw in an experienced political VP (Elizabeth Warren?) and you have the makings for an interesting 2020 Battle of the Stars.

For her part, Harris is extremely formidable on paper. While she hasn’t been impressive as a Senator (she’s actually been quite laughable), her moves have made it clear she’s very interested. She’s the female version of candidate Barack Obama – 1st term Senator with a history in law, minority (daughter of a Tamil Indian mother and an African American father of Jamaican descent), and charming. The difference will become more apparent when she’s actually campaigning, especially during debates. One thing I’ve noticed that she can’t do as well as Obama is rally the crowd. She’s not nearly as flashy as Obama… or Trump. The closest comparison to her lack of passion would be the last Democratic nominee.

California is making its move to be the winner-take-all state in the next presidential election. If it happens, this may be the shortest primary season in modern history.