It was highly recommended that Momma Bears be in the Twitter Universe. So, we did it. Momma Bears is now on Twitter! Follow us! @MommaBears4edu
There are some really interesting nuggets to be found in this old 2010 report by Fordham Institute that compares the Common Core standards with each of the 50 states + DC's former standards. Even though Fordham Institute is heavily funded by The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, their 2010 report seems to be fairly objective, unlike the more recent reformy propaganda that Fordham Institute has been spewing out. Momma Bears figured out why they've changed their tune...
In the past few years, Fordham Institute leaders seem to have forgotten their own research and have been traveling the country as cheerleaders for Common Core to states that are trying to drop out. Hello, do you not remember what you wrote??? Like a fly who can’t resist a pile of youknowwhat, the Fordham Institute regurgitates whatever their donors pay them to say, which also comes out as a pile of youknowwhat. Yessiree, these guys know which side their bread is buttered on. The Curmudgucation blogger called Fordham Institute "the best thinky tank money can buy." Keep reading and you'll see why.
Here are some ironic nuggets that Fordham reported in 2010, and is now conveniently ignoring in 2014:
On the first page, Fordham Institute proudly announces that its very first publication, released in July 1997, was Sandra Stotsky’s "State English Standards."
Connect the dots... Sandra Stotsky, a professor at University of Arkansas, was one of 2 educators on the Validation team for Common Core Standards. She refused to sign her name on the Common Core. Not only did she refuse, Stotsky now travels the country speaking against Common Core.
So... Fordham Institute respected Sandra Stotsky enough to give her the honor of being their very first publication, but conveniently ignores her professional assessment and vocal opposition to Common Core now? Hmmm...
This statement on p.2: "it’s no great surprise that serious analysts, recently including the Brookings Institution’s Russ Whitehurst, have found no link between the quality of state standards and actual student performance."
Then why the heck are you forcing Common Core on our states?
This admission on p.3: "The Common Core math standards earn a grade of A-minus while the Common Core ELA standards earn a B-plus, both solidly in the honors range. Neither is perfect."
So you’re supporting these standards, which you admit are not perfect. These standards may not be perfect, but shouldn't our standards at least be worthy of making honor roll (all A's)?
On page 6 and several times throughout your research, Fordham Institute admits: Some states had superior standards to Common Core. Some had standards that were “too close to call”.
Why aren't you supporting for those standards that are superior to Common Core, then? Don’t you want the BEST for children in America? Why are you pushing states to completely swap their standards, purchase new curriculum and tests, and spend a ton of money to implement standards that you categorized as "too close to call." That doesn't make sense and you know it.
This nugget on p.4: “States will do their kids no favor if they mess up this decision or just go through the motions of embracing new standards, maybe only long enough to qualify for RTT funding. In short order, everyone in those jurisdictions will recognize that this was a false messiah – and educators and voters alike will grow even more cynical about standards-based education reform.”
Fordham Institute, you said it: “A false messiah”. And you were right about us being even more cynical.
Fordham Institute rated Tennessee's prior English Language Arts standards = A minus.
They scored Common Core's ELA standards = B plus.
Does that sound like Tennessee is raising our standards to go from A- to B+? Um, no. We'll keep the A- over the B+ thankyouverymuch, plus save a bunch of money not having to buy new curriculum. Many other states are in the same predicament. Like a broke salesman with no morals, you're selling standards they don't need and can't afford.
THE biggest nugget and the most important fact about this report and every word that comes out of the mouths of Fordham Institute well-paid staff:
the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation
Bingo!!! Continual funding by the Gates Foundation has paid your paychecks. How much have you received from Daddy Gates? This link will show at least $3.5 million in grants from Gates so far. And considering the method that the Gates Foundation pays their grants out over monthly installments (not in one big check, how stupid would that be?), we see you’re now under at least a 6 year commitment, with the possibility for more if the Bossman is happy with your "performance". That $1 million grant for "general operating support” is especially suspicious... Is that to pay for your travel expenses to all these states who are backing out of Common Core? Hey, if we paid you $3.6 million to support different standards, would you change your tune?
Not only that, if you look at the list of Fordham donors, you'll find all the usual Common Core supporters like: GE, the College Board, Amplify Learning (makes expensive Common Core technology products), and the Walton Family Foundation. And if you look at Fordham Institute's finance report, you'll see they are largely dependent upon their donors to exist. In fact, donors cover 2/3 of their expenses. That is hard to ignore. Everyone knows not to bite the hand that feeds you.
If you don't believe Momma Bears and all the flip-flopping facts and money stats we've linked above, then hear it from their own mouth in this video below made by Michael Petrilli, the Executive Vice President at Fordham Institute.
In the video, Petrilli is kidnapping another reformer, Frederick Hess (who can be also bought if you ever need a research paper to support your agenda and have an extra $30,000. In fact, click here to how Hess has hurt TN). Petrilli kidnaps Hess to give him a makeover at Brooks Brothers. Apparently, Hess likes to wear shorts year-round, and shorts just aren't appropriate attire for an exclusive black-tie event called "The Eddie Awards". Fast-forward to the 2 minute mark and you will hear Petrilli say this:
"Alright, now come on Shug, where are ya?" (looking for his chauffeur)
"I got a 2:30 conference call with Gates, and I don't wanna miss it.
BIG money on the line, baby, BIG money!"
Watch the video and hear it for yourself. Even though the video is supposed to be humorous, Petrilli is dead serious about the money.
It doesn't take a professional researcher to tell you the obvious: if you don’t keep your donors happy, they will just kick you off the gravy train and replace you with some other desperate researcher. It is in your best interest to keep on chugging out the stuff they want to see and hear. As Petrilli said, "Big money on the line, baby, BIG money!"
NOTE: Fordham Institute (formerly Fordham Foundation) is not the same organization as Fordham University at all. Fordham Institute doesn't have any students, it is not a college or school; it is a think tank funded by corporate interests to promote their reform agendas. So, don't let the "Fordham" part confuse you. Fordham University is a real University with real students and real teachers. They two Fordhams are not affiliated.
Also, just because an organization is a 501c3 non-profit, it does not mean someone isn't getting rich.
One of our Momma Bear bloggers was flattered to be invited to speak at the State Education Editors convention in Denver, Colorado last week. You'll never guess who she sat next to on the flight home... a charter school teacher who just quit! Divine intervention? You decide. Here is her blog about the trip:
Thursday, I was cleaning up macaroni and cheese noodles. 24 hours later I was in a 4-star hotel giving a speech to a convention room full of really important people. I kept thinking "somebody pinch me" so I would wake up. All these people seemed to want to hear what I had to say (or if they didn't, they were really good at hiding it).
My speech was called "Listen to your Mommas!". This was my first real public speaking engagement. To say I was nervous is an understatement! Even though my presentation was an hour and fifteen minutes long, I didn't see anyone's eyes glazing over or notice anyone playing candy crush on their phones. The audience members were all smiling and nodding along with the things I said. Since technology and I sometimes have issues, I was thankful that my PowerPoint presentation worked flawlessly. I don't think I stammered or said "like, um, like, uh, ummm..." (I was like really scared I would umm like end up like doing that like some people do when, uh, you know, they like get nervous). I made it through my presentation and was flabbergasted to receive a standing ovation.
So, what did I talk about?
I told them about the magical way that some ordinary moms in Tennessee came together and how we started Momma Bears. Less than one year ago, we launched our Momma Bears website & blog. The first month, we were ecstatic to reach 50 readers on our blog... Now, 11 months later, we are amazed to have had over 800,000 readers! Seriously, we're just moms who have no clue what we're doing. We've spent a whopping $17 total for the website domain name. That's it.
I also spoke about what we've accomplished through our blog and social media... how we've educated parents on many issues and forced inappropriate surveys to be stopped in school districts. We've encouraged parents to take action with easy steps and links to contact elected officials. We've supported teachers and shared their voices when they do not have the freedom to speak up. We've been a voice for students, parents, & teachers.
(*I'll post a link to my PowerPoint presentation at the end of this blog so you can see my mastery of PowerPoint. If you want, you can click through the slides and pretend you were there.)
A few were astonished to learn that Momma Bears are opposed to Common Core, so they asked quite a few questions about why. They seemed surprised that we're not extremist, radicals, Tea party, crazy, misinformed, or ignorant like the politicians portray opponents of the core to be. We just don't fit in to that stereotype that Arne Duncan and the reformers have labeled us to discredit us. We're normal moms concerned about our children's education. I supported our positions against common core with evidence and facts. And I told them, "Don't believe me: read the Race to the Top agreement (and especially Appendix C) and decide for yourself." One person joked that I knew more facts and information than their company's research department, and asked me how on earth I knew all of this. I told them it was because the Momma Bears research and share information. We read a lot of other bloggers, too, and I told them about the many awesome ones out there (they are listed on the PowerPoint). I even quoted some of our favorite bloggers including: Diane Ravitch, Mercedes Schneider, Mother Crusader, Edushyster, and my new personal favorite: Curmuducation.
I couldn't talk about the Momma Bears without talking about the BATs. If you don't know about the BATs, you should. Don't let the name scare you, BAT is an acronym for "Badass Teacher Association." The BATS are a force to be reckoned with and they won't be ignored. The BAT movement started about the same time as Momma Bears last summer and has since grown to nearly 50,000 members! There are now groups for special BATs, State groups, secret BATs, retired BATs, and even BAT Parents! Like the Momma Bears, the BATs have advocated with little or no money. Our success has come thanks to the power of social media and people who put their foot down and said "Enough!" Warning: if you see a teacher with a BAT symbol in her classroom or on her clothing, you know she's committed to fighting for her students and her profession. Momma Bears have the utmost respect for the BATs.
I also talked about bad teachers. I asked the audience to think of the worst teacher they ever had. Did you learn something from him/her? Did you learn how to deal with difficult people? (because we're all going to have to deal with a difficult person at some point in our lives whether it is a teacher, boss, family member, neighbor, IRS agent, 3 year old toddler throwing a tantrum, etc.) Did you learn patience, tolerance, compassion, or that you're not as smart as you thought you were from your "bad" teacher? Was your worst teacher someone else's favorite teacher? (mine was). You just can't put a numerical rating on the worth of teachers. I spoke about how teachers are unfairly targeted and blamed in our society, and how we need to elevate and respect the teaching profession. We need to give them the support they need to teach. Lots of heads nodded, so I am pretty sure I was preaching to the choir. I think someone even said "Amen!" (or maybe it was a cough?)
To close out my presentation, I quoted one of my brave BAT friends who said, "We enjoy the shade of trees that we did not plant". The public schools are our trees. They were created before we were born with the intention of them lasting indefinitely for future generations. The reformers are chopping down those trees, though. When you chop down trees, you can't just put them back and have shade again. We must protect our public schools for our children. Don't let the reformers chop them down to make a quick buck. Public schools belong to the public.
MY AWESOME BUMPY FLIGHT HOME
So, after nearly missing my flight home because of the crowded airport and, of course, being selected for a random security check (because I guess I looked like someone who builds bombs?) I rush like a BAT out of youknowwhere to get to the plane (because the gate is of course at the very end just my luck), and made it in the nick of time only to find out our flight was delayed due to thunderstorms. We eventually took flight and, of course, the plane started bumping as it went through turbulence. Now, I'm not fond of roller coasters, but I am usually okay if I keep my mind on something else. The young woman next to me seemed to be a little worried, though, so I struck up a conversation with her to get her mind off the flight. Lo and behold, I find out she is a teacher! or, she WAS a teacher. Sadly, she burned out after 5 years of teaching, some in public schools and some in charter. She did not seem to mind that I asked her a bunch of questions. She even said I could blog about her if I didn't use her name. So, here is the sad, but hopeful, story of the teacher I flew with.
Picking her brain...
Why did you leave teaching? Is there anything that would convince you to stay? What would you change if you could? "Support" was her answer. She told about having virtually no support, from administrators in the building or from the program she went through to get a job (TNTP). She said she broke away from the teacher placement agency as soon as she could, and continued to teach for several years. She told of the bad leadership at the charter school she worked for, and the extremely strict discipline. She said she tried to talk to students, to relate with them on a personal level, and she believes that because she did that, she didn't have the behavior problems like other teachers seemed to have. Even so, she said students at that charter school were not allowed to talk, it was like they were little prisoners. She told me how kindergartners in the charter school were held back a grade level due to mediocre test scores, but how those kindergartners were really ready for first grade. She suspected the charter school just did it to boost their test scores.
Her eyes lit up when she talked about wanting to help students with special needs, just like her nephew. I felt her pain when she told about how frustrated she was that she couldn't get the help for students that she knew they needed. I wanted to give her a high-five when she told me how she secretly talked to parents after IEP meetings and told them they needed to keep fighting and what to do to help their child... because parents just don't know the system or what their child is entitled to.
After 5 years of teaching and high evaluation scores, she was just burned out. She was moving north to accept a job working as a consultant, and she was also seriously considering returning to law school to become a lawyer to fight for SPED students. I hope she does. They need her voice. And I hope our paths cross again someday. I believe it wasn't a coincidence that she was on that flight in that seat next to me.
These two videos were embedded in the presentation:
The Momma Bears were honored to be invited to speak at a convention of important people that is happening this weekend. After much debate, the secretive Momma Bears decided to do it. As much as the Momma Bears don't want to be in the public limelight (to protect our children and our sources), Momma Bears decided to send one of us to speak on our behalf.
We are happy to say that this Momma Bear has THE answer everyone has been seeking. Here is a preview of her presentation:
Deep, isn't it? So simple, yet so true. We MUST support the teachers who support our children. Teachers have the power, knowledge, and hearts to make things better. Leaders need to listen to them, work with them, and give them the respect they deserve.
The rest of the presentation is pretty kick butt, too. We wish our fellow Momma Bear safe travels to the convention!
Just some moms who realize their children's public school systems in TN, as well as public schools across the country, have major threats to their survival. We research, we write, we share, and we advocate.