Coup d’ecole Common Core

Coup d’ecole Common Core was sent to us courtesy of Joanne Y.

By Bruce Deitrick Price

Bill Gates is among the richest, most successful people on the planet. He enjoyed a lot of victories until he ventured into a dangerous part of town called Education.  He squandered a few billion dollars by becoming entangled with a shady character named Common Core. 

Since 2010, Gates endured a long, slow defeat, as more people turned against Common Core, and he himself realized that it was not what he had dreamed of.

So how did Bill Gates lose his golden touch?

Gates, computer man and businessman, trusted data neatly arrayed on monitors.  Digital tools could give predictability, consistency, and control.  Add standards that everyone agreed on.  Not only would children learn more efficiently, and be tested and tracked more accurately, but his companies could market educational services by the cubic mile because every school would welcome the same products.  Gates could make a new and separate fortune.

So this digital leviathan abruptly became the law of the land.  Local control of schools, long an American tradition, was euthanized without mercy.  But victory was temporary.  Common Core seemed to have one objectionable feature after another.

Surely, we can stipulate that Gates is too smart to be a useful idiot, too patriotic to be a secret leftist trying to destroy the country.  So why did he align himself with what many consider blatant malpractice?  Was he blinded by predictions of a giant payoff?  Or was it a case of trusting the wrong people? 

Perhaps Gates, a college dropout, assumed that the professors at the top of the Education Establishment (many of them at his alma mater, Harvard) were smart guys who knew their business.  However, these were the same people who had been mismanaging American K-12 for a long time — so much so that McKinsey and Company, the super-consultant, summed up the situation in 2007: “The longer American students remain in public schools, the dumber they get.”  This is not a track record that a shrewd person would invest in.

There were warning signs from the start.  Never mind all the blather about a state-led initiative.  Common Core is best understood as a coup d’état, or more exactly a coup d’ecole.  This vast, top-to-bottom takeover of American public education was achieved by the old-fashioned tactic of throwing grants (some would say “bribes”) at the politicians in charge, state by state, even as Obama lent some dignity to the shenanigans.  Obama had just swept into office and was in his honeymoon phase.  Common Core was effectively ObamaEd, and nobody wanted to say no to the first black president. 

Coup d'ecole Common Core

But Bill Gates should have felt some uneasiness.  Common Core was untested, unproven, and micromanaged by David Coleman, a man with limited credentials but reliably far to the left.  Nobody in the business world launches a big new product without years of research and refinement.  Instead, Common Core was wrapped in $1 billion’s worth of propaganda and dumped on the country as a fait accompli.

The late, great Siegfried Engelmann, a real educator, was asked what he thought of this approach: “A perfect example of technical nonsense.  A sensible organization would rely heavily on data about procedures used to achieve outstanding results; and they would certainly field test the results to assure that the standards resulted in fair, achievable goals.  How many of these things did they do?  None.”

Did Gates realize that Common Core, supposedly a new and higher instruction, incorporates all the dubious ideas from decades prior?  New Math and Reform Math were the basis for Common Core Math.  Similarly, Whole Language and Balanced Literacy were rolled into Common Core’s English Language Arts (jargon for reading).  Constructivism, which prevented teacher from teaching, has been undermining American schools for decades.  Nothing new and higher about these clunkers.

An earlier generation of Gates’s business partners had created so much illiteracy that Rudolf Flesch had to write a book to answer every American’s favorite question: “why can’t Johnny read?”

Did Bill Gates reflect empathically on the proposals in his billion-dollar baby?  Everyone should try to imagine he’s eight years old and has to struggle with Common Core every day.  The verbiage is convoluted and pompous; at every step, there are absurdly unnecessary steps.  Only one way to tie your shoes?  Don’t be silly.  Every student needs to learn at least four or five!  Finally, the kids are encumbered by a backpack full of bricks and not much else.  One has to suspect that this mumbo-jumbo was never intended to improve education, but to stupefy a generation.

There are hundreds of videos made to show how wonderful Common Core is.  Instead, they show the opposite. Here’s a single abominable video that can stand for all the others.  The title is “Strategies for Addition and Subtraction.”  Notice the new layer added there.  Instead of learning to add, children learn strategies for adding — five of them, no less.  Everything will now remain in first gear as children struggle with Regroup or BorrowDecomposeCross Number PuzzleUse or Draw Base Ten Blocks, and Solve Using Money.  Think how many hours you can waste debating which strategy to use in each situation.

We have to wonder if Bill Gates performed due diligence, that being the care that a reasonable person exercises to avoid harm to other persons or property.  In other words, before putting your business funds to work on anything, you should make yourself an expert.  That’s what we need in this country: everybody becomes an expert.  For sure, nobody should trust the official experts.  If Bill Gates had observed that simple rule, he would still have a billion or two he doesn’t have now.  And the country would have tens of millions of better educated students it doesn’t have now. 

It’s annoying to study Common Core because, it seems to me, it’s on the same intellectual level as the food fight in Animal House.  Did Gates fly to Hong Kong to buy a new operating system from the local bazaar?  Or did he fly to Russia to buy something sinister from the Pavlov Neuro-Disruption Institute?  Point is, the resulting curriculum is way overpriced and relentlessly dysfunctional — a pig in a poke that you never stop paying for.
The teacher in the video actually admits that you may find this or that strategy “confusing at first.”  But that’s all right, because Common Core recommends frustration and difficulty.  The premise is that students respond to doing things the hard way — exactly the opposite of what’s true.

For years, people have tried to sue school systems when their children don’t learn to read.  It would be helpful if such lawsuits went forward.  Next, parents could sue the system for introducing Common Core, which is arguably a fraud designed to lower academic standards.  If parents can’t succeed with those lawsuits, they can start demanding an IEP (Individual Education Plan) for their children, an IEP that emphatically excludes Common Core.

Trump said he would cancel this preposterous thing, and he should.

Bruce Deitrick Price’s new book is Saving K-12: What happened to our public schools? How do we fix them?  He deconstructs educational theories and methods at

Coup d’ecole Common Core was sent to us courtesy of Joanne Y.

Defies Measurement Screening At Villanova

Defies Measurement Screening At VillanovaDefies Measurement Screening At Villanova — Defies Measurement, a film revealing how the worship of standardized testing is ruining schools, will be screened, 7 p.m., Feb. 2 in the cinema at Villanova University’s  Connelly Center.

The event is being co-sponsored by Parents Across America (Suburban Philadelphia). There will be a panel discussion following the one-hour movie.

Among those featured in the film is a Lower Merion parent.

Pro-education activist Joanne Yurchak of West Chester is strongly promoting the movie.

“It is time to start thinking about opting as many children out of these standardized tests as we can,” she said. “Some parents are actually putting up yard signs to publicize this issue and I have been told that folks who come to the screening can take one home.”

Defies Measurement Screening At Villanova

Peg Luksik Teleconference Sept. 8

Peg Luksik Teleconference Sept. 8 -- Joanne Yurchak informs us that Dr. Peg Luksik will host a free teleconference, 8 p.m., Sept. 8 concerning the political agenda of Common Core and how "cut scores" are being used to manipulate results.
A Common Core math problem

Joanne Yurchak informs us that Dr. Peg Luksik will host a free teleconference, 8 p.m., Sept. 8 concerning the political agenda of Common Core and how “cut scores” are being used to manipulate results.

Call 641-715-3580 with code 249-850 to join.

Information on Common Core and what it entails can be found on Dr. Luksik’s website

Peg Luksik Teleconference Sept. 8

Common Core Opposition Creates Strange Bedfellows

Outspoken Common Core and PSSA opponent Joanne Yurchak of West Chester sent the below email with a request for broadcasting it expressing her concerns regarding United Opt Out which will be hosting its Fifth Annual conference in Philadelphia, Feb. 26-28. Common Core Opposition Creates Strange Bedfellows

If you click on the link for it, one will understand her concerns.

When one finds oneself allied with Bill Ayers, one does start to question one’s precepts.

Anyway here is Joanne’s email:

At the outset I will tell you that some of you receiving this E-Mail might disagree with my statements.  If ANYONE wishes to be off my distribution list, please let me know.

As you know, I and many others have been active in encouraging students to opt out of the PSSA’s and Keystones for a variety of reasons.  I am attaching a Letter to the Editor that was published in three local newspapers that encourages parents to opt out of these tests, which could, if enacted in large numbers, prompt Harrisburg to “devise a less disruptive and more appropriate assessment system in which students are the prime beneficiaries, in contrast to the current system which exploits students and uses them as unwilling “operatives” for rating educators and schools.”

So…that’s where I’m coming from.  There are different groups with very diverse political viewpoints working on this worthwhile opt out movement.  Political agendas should NOT be involved in an educational effort of this sort which is why I thought it would be no problem for all of us to work together.  Something that came to my attention yesterday changed my mind.  I will explain below.

I was sent an E-Mail yesterday by an activist in the Philadelphia opt out movement that stated: “UOO (United Opt Out) will be hosting its fifth annual meeting here in Philadelphia in February. We’re coming to the issue from a pretty radical left position, which might not be everyone’s cup of tea, but if you are interested, here’s the link to the event:

There will be keynote speakers, panels, and working groups on a variety of topics and it will draw education activists from across the country.”

The phrase “radical left position” got my attention and after accessing the web site for United Opt Out I found that the description of UOO was an understatement.  I urge you to read information on the web site so you can decide for yourself.  The event has the inflammatory title “Transcending Resistance, Igniting Revolution,” and on the fundraising page ( has such seditious comments as: “It is time for revolution,” and “It is time for non-negotiable demands.”  Although I realize that Bill Ayers has had his hands on educational “reform” for years, eschewing individualism and promoting collectivism, the fact that this domestic terrorist was selected as a Keynote speaker is simply beyond my comprehension.

I will say that I agree with many of the contentions of UOO such as the inappropriateness of the massive testing and their well-founded assertions and concerns that educational (and other) corporations are making huge profits on the backs of our children.  That said, after reviewing the biographies of the speakers, the titles of the breakout sessions and the terminology on the web page, it is apparent to me that United Opt Out is just one of a variety of radical-Left groups that have political agendas that extend beyond education and that are collaborating to break down our current political system as we know it.  Believe me, I’m NOT saying there aren’t problems and deficiencies in our system that need to be addressed, but these groups, in my opinion, are out to demolish it and remake it to fit their far-Left agenda.  I believe that continuing to work together with revolutionary groups such as this, even for an issue on which we agree, could facilitate their efforts in other areas which is why I have determined not to do so.

Thanks for listening.  I have provided the resources and web sites for you in this E-mail and urge you to read them and make your own decision about this group — United Opt Out.   It is truly a shame that individuals in Philadelphia and elsewhere, in conjunction with UOO, have interjected such far-Left partisan agendas into the legitimate opt out effort.

Joanne Yurchak
West Chester, PA

Here is the attached letter.

It is crucial that our state legislators and the PA Department of Education (PDE) immediately address the numerous problems created by the excessive testing that is currently inflicted on our public school students – the PSSA’s for grades 3-8, and the three Keystones for the higher grades (Algebra I, Literature and Biology, which students in classes of 2017 and beyond must pass to graduate from high school).  The deleterious educational and fiscal impacts of the Keystone graduation requirement leave no doubt that it must be removed ASAP, but that is a discussion for another day.  The purpose of this current letter is to clarify issues related to the PSSA’s – the testing procedures, the makeup of the tests, and how they are used.
The primary function of these Common Core-aligned, time-consuming assessments is to satisfy the federal government’s mandate for evaluation of teachers, principals and schools;  providing educational feedback regarding students’ strengths and weaknesses is secondary and minimal.  There is no transparency or “audit” of the PSSA test questions and scoring.  Teachers and school administrators can NEVER see these tests, even after they’ve been administered and graded.  Also, the individual Student PSSA Report provided to parents months after the test presents only a negligible educational analysis of their child’s academic progression and skill sets which precludes them from recognizing specific areas in which their child needs help.
The inordinate amount of lost instructional time and the extra personnel required for administering the tests are extremely disruptive to the learning process and to school districts.  Most school calendars have four testing weeks blocked out for Grades 3-8 PSSA’s.  Moreover, a large amount of class time is often necessary to prepare students for the tests.  The stressful effects of the PSSA’s are illustrated on the website [] which presents pictures and descriptions of the toxic atmosphere that permeates PA’s schools during this lengthy testing period.
The fact that the English Language Arts (ELA) and math PSSA’s have been aligned to the Common Core for the first time this year has made them far more ambiguous, complex and developmentally inappropriate, according to math and English specialists.  A Sampler posted on the PDE’s web site reveals many questions that are likely to cause frustrations and distress to young test-takers.  One reading passage in the third grade ELA PSSA is THREE PAGES LONG and contains different types of multiple choice questions, some of which have more than one correct answer and depend upon answering a previous question correctly.  Try explaining THAT to a third grader!  Many of the sample third grade math problems are extremely wordy, and some require written explanations which could cause a child with language arts deficiencies to be inaccurately assessed in math.  One subjective (non-multiple choice) four-part math question contains over 150 words!  In addition, some of the problems require abstract algebraic-type thinking that is well beyond a third grader’s developmental age.
Who grades the subjective portions of these tests that are used to evaluate teachers and schools?  Astoundingly, it is not teachers, but college-degreed, temporary employees who are reported to earn $11-$14/hour.
It is puzzling that although the adverse effects of this excessive testing on our students, teachers and educational system are irrefutable, objections from the PSEA (teachers’ union) have been noticeably absent.  Why???  Their silence is both deafening and disturbing!
PA must devise a less disruptive and more appropriate assessment system in which students are the prime beneficiaries, in contrast to the current system which exploits students and uses them as unwilling “operatives” for rating educators and schools.  To put a stop to this fiasco, parents should opt their children out of these tests.  For information on PA’s opt-out procedure, contact
Joanne Yurchak, West Chester, PA
Common Core Opposition Creates Strange Bedfellows

Common Core Forum Is Thursday

Joanne Yurchak has informed us that there will be a Common Core Forum, 6:30-8 p.m., Thursday, May 7 on the third floor of the Radnor Middle School, 150 Louella Ave., Wayne, Pa. 19087. Common Core Forum Is Thursday

It is being presented by the Leagues of Women Voters of Chester County, Haverford, Lower Merion, Narberth and Radnor and supported by the Radnor Township School District.

On the panel will be Fred Brown, K-12 math supervisor of Haverford Township School District; Jon Cetel, education reform agent of PennCAN; Mary Beth Hegeman, Lower Merion School District middle school teacher; Cynthia Kruse of the Delaware County Intermediate Unit; Susan Newitt, a retired Lower Merion School District, elementary teacher; Wendy Towle, supervisor of language arts and staff development of Tredyffrin/Easttown School District; and Larry Wittig, chairman of the State Board of Education.

Common Core Forum Is Thursday

Keystone Exams Waste Time And Children

By Lisa Esler

There is strong opposition to the new graduation requirement mandated by the Pennsylvania Board of Education. Keystone Exams Waste Time And ChildrenEffective with the Class of 2017, every high school student must pass the Keystone Exams in algebra, literature and biology in order to graduate.

This gives a whole new meaning to what is known as “teaching to the test.” Testing has turned teachers into technicians who are forced to educate in a one-size-fits-all approach. That is the reason so many talented, discouraged teachers have left and will continue to leave the profession. Whatever happened to trusting the teacher to evaluate the child’s progress? Furthermore, when students do not pass the Keystone Exams, financially strapped school districts then have to bear the cost of hiring remedial teachers and or providing alternative project-based assessments. Also, students who might have had above average classroom achievement, but somehow didn’t do well on the test, must take that course again the following year, forgoing other electives or needed credits.

There must be push back against the state Board of Education for declaring another unfunded mandate that hurts the school districts financially and, even worse, undermines the teachers and students by evaluating their success solely by a standardized test score.

Time, money and the children are too precious to waste on yet another unfunded mandate demanded by those unelected, unaccountable regulatory bureaucrats in the state Department of Education who bypass the legislators whenever they can with their so-called “cost-neutral” experiments.

Our elected legislators need to enact common-sense education reforms about standards, testing and student privacy rights. Plus they must return control to the local level where it belongs with teachers, parents and school boards determining what is best for their children.

Alert other parents, grandparents and taxpayers. We must sound the alarm bell in Harrisburg and demand meaningful, sensible education reforms. Now!

Mrs. Esler is a member of the Penn Delco School Board in Delaware County, Pa.

Keystone Exams Waste Time And Children


Religious Specifics Unnecessary For PSSA Opt Out

Joanne Yurchak has sent us the following for those parents wishing to opt-out of the PSSA and/or Keystone exams:

It is well known that the only reason available for parents to opt their children out of the PSSA’s and/or the Keystone exams is if they find that the test(s) are in conflict with their religious beliefs. Religious Specifics Unnecessary For PSSA Opt Out In order to establish this, the parent has to follow a specified procedure that involves (1) contacting the school administrator; (2) viewing the test; (3) signing a confidentiality agreement; and finally, (4)notifying the district Superintendent that you are opting out your child because of religious beliefs.  The opt-out procedure is detailed on the web site:

The parent is NOT required to note any specific religion or specific objections.  In fact, a reputable attorney associated with legislators in Harrisburg has said that it is ILLEGAL for districts to demand to know specific religious objections and for them to “validate” other people’s religions.

Unfortunately, there are many school districts who are misinforming parents as to proper procedures for opting out.  Many are telling them that they have to cite specific religious reasons for opting out, while others are telling the parents that they must explain why specific problems on the tests conflict with their religious beliefs.  The latter instruction could actually put parents in legal jeopardy since a part of the test-viewing procedure requires that parents sign a confidentiality agreement promising that they will not divulge the contents of the test to anyone!

Religious Specifics Unnecessary For PSSA Opt Out

PSSA Opt Out Map

Joanne Yurchak has informed us that Alison McDowell has has prepared an online form for parents to register their intent to opt out of the PSSAs, Keystones, and/or Benchmark Testing.  It goes to a Google spreadsheet. PSSA Opt Out Map

The link is here.

Mrs. Yurchak notes that there  is an option to provide an email She says the email will not be public, but can be used to connect with other opt out parents in your immediate vicinity upon request.

She says the map will help show where there is momentum and to build those local connections

PSSA Opt Out Map

Standardized Tests Defended

CHRIS FREIND Standardized Tests Defended
By Chris Freind

When convicted cop killer Mumia Abu-Jamal was asked to be the commencement speaker for Goddard College in Vermont, most people had two reactions:

1. Goddard’s invite was classless.

2. What kind of school doesn’t administer tests or give grades?

Goddard became the butt of jokes, as people asked why anyone would pay money to attend a college that didn’t quantifiably rate student progress.

College is a huge investment, so parents want to know how effectively the institution is educating their child. Plain and simple, the best way to gauge that is through tests. Yet, that same logic is increasingly under attack when applied to standardized tests in our elementary and high schools. Movements are underway to decrease or eliminate such tests, alleging they are ineffective and too stressful on the students.

Taking a test is stressful? And that’s bad?

Of course taking tests has an element of stress! That’s a good thing, as it teaches how to work effectively under pressure. Despite the misguided souls who believe such a concept is passé, it’s a timeless lesson that will help our children succeed in that thing called “The Real World.”

Leading the charge against “high-stakes standardized testing” is the New Jersey Education Association, which has unleashed a six-week ad campaign, with parents and teachers discussing how detestable such tests are.

Gee, what a surprise. A teachers’ union (just like those in Pennsylvania) whining that things are unfair and that the system is stacked against them. Who’d have thought?

Here are some gems from the commercials:

— “We are setting our kids up to fail.”

— “All of the other things that make you a great human being are not important anymore … what’s more important is can you answer A, B, C, or D.”

— “My first grader cried” after preparing for a test.

— “Standardized testing has gone from a nuisance to a concern to a crisis.”

— “Education is supposed to be about our students, and it’s becoming about a test.”

Where do we start?

First, glad to see the union finally realizes education should be about the student, since that’s never been a priority. Instead, its focus has always been gaining teacher tenure as quickly as possible while keeping the public schools a monopoly, crushing any attempt at competition.

Since monopolies, by definition, are responsible to no one, it’s easy to see why the union staunchly opposes testing. It’s petrified of being held accountable.

Testing provides a quantifiable benchmark to measure both student and teacher performance, which, in turn, creates accountability. Isn’t that what we should want for our children? How could this possibly be a “nuisance” or “crisis?”

The real crisis is people burying their heads in the sand, thinking everything will be just peaches if we coddle our kids by eliminating yardsticks for success. It’s just the latest in the “everyone gets a trophy” homogenization of America, which is destroying our children.

And how does taking a test make someone less of a “great human being?” Talk about insane pyscho-babble. Standardized testing doesn’t make children less nice, nor does it degrade their skills at baseball, violin or karate. One has absolutely nothing to do with the other. In fact, despite our politically correct society, all of those activities have “tests” of their own. Not hitting the correct notes on the musical instrument? Practice more. Having trouble catching the ball? You won’t play until you improve. Can’t master karate techniques? Sorry — no black belt until you do.

Critics are turning a blind eye to the indisputable fact that we are constantly tested: in college, the workplace, sports, friendships, family, marriage. Tests are impossible to avoid for the simple reason that life itself is one giant series of challenges. How we deal with them — our successes and failures — is how we are evaluated.

Critics claim that school programs are being eliminated to fund, and prepare for, the tests. Two points: A.) gaining knowledge in math, science and reading is far more important than extracurricular programs, which, while nice, aren’t going to equip students to compete in the real world, and B.) that’s an issue less about testing than it is about public schools squandering billions. With better stewardship of that money, there is no reason students can’t have both.

Standardized tests are not the be-all and end-all. Admittedly, some schools are testing their students too often, and, in the process, placing an undue amount of pressure on them, which becomes counterproductive. Nonetheless, testing remains an absolute necessity.

Let’s keep this in perspective. These tests are not to land a great job or get into college. They are simply designed to ascertain what subject areas need to be improved upon, and ultimately, to incentivize us to better educate our children. And as to “teaching to the test,” that’s not a bad thing so long as the test is seeking answers to relevant material. Students need to know certain things, period. So why would a reasonable person oppose a test that quantifies how well they understand those concepts?

And if not tests, then what? What is a viable alternative to measuring our children’s knowledge? Individual evaluations by teachers? Sorry, but that doesn’t cut it. There are many fantastic educators, but also many who, armed with tenure, are content doing the bare minimum. After all, why go the extra mile when they’re making the same money regardless of effort (teacher pay is virtually never linked to student performance), and have guaranteed job security?

Clearly, many factors related to student achievement are out of teachers’ control. But so what? That’s not an excuse to walk away from seeing where our children rate on the knowledge scale.

Standardized tests expose the unions’ dirty secret that the pubic school system isn’t working. It’s not working in the cities or suburbs. It’s not working when more money is poured into less affluent schools, and it’s not working in schools flush with cash. Color, race, creed and socioeconomic status all are irrelevant. Sure, there are different levels of achievement, but when we stack our best and brightest against the global competition, we not only lose, but continue to fall farther behind.

The crisis we face is of epidemic proportion, one that cannot be solved by throwing more money at the problem or instituting feel-good fairytale solutions. We cannot afford to waste another decade, forsaking our children because some choose to ignore the widespread failure occurring year after year. Our children are no longer competing against those in Seattle and San Francisco, but Singapore, Stockholm and Sydney. Compared to our industrialized competitors, America ranks near the bottom of all educational categories.

It’s bad enough we have fooled ourselves into thinking dumbing down standardized tests, such as the SAT, is a good thing. But taking it further by allowing parents to opt their children out of standardized tests, and eliminate such tests altogether, is a colossal failure in the making.

We have been failing our children for far too long. Let’s not compound that by teaching the wrong lesson about life’s tests.

Standardized Tests Defended

Testing Ruining Public Education Film

Joanne Yurchak tells us that the documentary Standardized – Lies, Money, and Civil Rights: How Testing is Ruining Public Education will be screened, 7-9 p.m., Wednesday, Feb. 25 at Episcopal Church of the Redeemer Parish House, Assembly Room, 230 Pennswood Road, Bryn Mawr, Pa. 19010. Common Core Answers Testing Ruining Public Education Film

The screening will be followed by a question and answer session with parents who have been researching this topic for over a year. All are welcome and invited to bring a friend.

RSVP by Feb. 23 to Cheryl Masterman —

Testing Ruining Public Education Film Will Be Screened Feb. 25 At Epsicopal Church of the Redeemer in Bryn Mawr.