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Talking “Common Core” with Patricia Levesque

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HH: Welcome back, America. It’s Hugh Hewitt. Thank you for listening today. Joined now by the CEO of the Foundation for Excellence in Education Patricia Levesque. Ms. Levesque, welcome. It’s great to have you on the Hugh Hewitt Show.


PL: Thank you, Hugh, for having me.


HH: I have been spending a great deal time this week diving into the Common Core with a whole bunch of different voices those who are enthusiasts, those who are opponents and I am at the end of the week or getting close to the end of the week, confused over where its headed. What do you think is the situation right now concerning the Common Core controversy?


PL: Well, I think states the 40 something states that are still participating in Common Core are moving ahead with implementation which means teachers are being trained in how to teach certain standards more deeply like spending more time on getting fractions right and so that process of implementation in getting ready to go back to school is what’s going on right now.


HH: Now, yesterday, Michael McShane of AIE was on. He’d been testifying in Michigan about a pause up there. I got a note last night on an email from an Indiana legislature who said that Indiana is taking a pause. What, in your opinion, is driving the reticence in places like Michigan and Indiana and various districts and certainly in tea party grassroots among some teachers unions?


PL: Sure. Well, I think one of the things that is going on in the states is not really a pause on the standards but states are taking a look at what type of assessments and what process they are going to use to assess the standards. Not really that many states are going through a pause on actual implementation of the standards, and certainly school districts are moving ahead even in Indiana if the state legislature is not. Teachers have to teach two certain standards. They have to know what they are going – what they are expected to teach students and, I think, most across the country it’s still moving forward.


HH: All right. Patricia, I’m so glad you came on today. I’m up in Sacramento for an event tonight and I walk into my studio which is AM 13 The Answer and one of the Senior Exec’s handed me a piece of paper from his spouse who’s been listening all week and it says the following: Common Core is coming to your child’s school in 2014 and you’re not going to like it and here are some of the bold points: Common Core is the latest national federal one-size fits all educational program for all K-12 school children; When did you vote for this new mandatory school regime?; A federal takeover of all the schools and hardly anyone knew?; Algebra has been pushed from the 8th to the 9th grade; California costs is estimated at 1.6 billion. That’s just a few lines of what was handed to me. What are you are guys doing to respond to critiques or concerns?


PL: Sure. I think if you talk to most parents what’s still most parents have not heard about is Common Core and so a responsibility that we have and others who do support the higher standards is to make sure parents and teachers really do know what’s coming. And what is coming is a set of state adopted, because states individually adopted through their constitutional or legislative or executive branch process, these academically standards and they have been adopted in most states for a couple of years. Parents needs to understand how fantastic these standards are going to be for their children, because for the first time we actually started by looking at college and career readiness. Where do we want students to be when they exit high school and then let’s work backward. What does that mean then that kids needs to know in kindergarten to be prepared for first grade? I talk to parents and one of examples that I give them of old standards vs. new is in kindergarten math. In many states across the country, including mine, the old kindergarten math standard was students needed to be able to count from 1-10. And the new math standard is kids need to count from 1 to 100 starting at any number and from 36-0 backwards. That puts my child on a better playing field so that when he graduates in the future, he will be able to be competitive with kids with China and Hong Kong and it finally gives us a standard where we will not have, 25% of the students right now in our country who earn a high school diploma, only 25% are ready for college course work. Every year families and taxpayers spend 3 billion dollars on remediation. Basically, we re-teaching high school level course work to college students and these standards are not going to solve every row in the public education system, but they put us—it’s one tool in the tool box that will get our students better prepared so that we’re not remediating, spending 3 billion dollars on remediation on kids who actually achieved a high school diploma


HH: I’m a—


PL: it’s a great first start.


HH: I’m talking with Patricia Levesque who is the Chief Executive Officer of the Foundation for Excellence in Education, big proponent of the Common Core. So, Ms. Levesque, again, if we go back I don’t think anyone would disagree that American public education in many places in the country is in deep, deep, deep, trouble and that something has to happen, but the Common Core has elicited a great deal of opposition based upon the fear that the federal government is taking over. In fact, I’m holding again the opposition piece that was given to me when I arrived at my Sacramento studio today and it says, that if your state is not enrolled in Common Core, no federal money, some of which, some would call that blackmail money in exchange for your child’s mind. The fed’s no longer think we need to read the traditional classics for the values that they have taught. How are you responding to parents who get this information, this opposition and say, hey, the feds are taking over?


PL: Well, you know, that’s the fear of federal government take over is a justified fear, and let’s face it, in light recent events [laughing] in Washington and things that the federal government has completely been wrong in their actions, from my opinion, it’s good and it’s important for parents to have a very healthy skepticism of federal government takeover. We should, we—the price of liberty is eternal vigilance and parents we don’t want the federal government to tell teachers what textbooks to use and how to teach. Those are good and honest and justified fears. They happened to be completely incorrect when it comes to these state adopted standards.


HH: And, so –


PL: Go ahead—


HH: So, in terms of well, stick with me after the break if you will because I wanted to ask, not only about where parents go to find good information, is there a website you recommend that they go to?


PL: We would recommend which is a place where parents can find out accurate information, where they can see why conservatives really do support these higher standards and we’re happy to answer their questions directly from that website as well.


HH: and when we come break, we’re going to talk about data mining with Patricia Levesque who is the CEO of the Foundation for Excellence in Education, a true, true, conservative reformer who served 6 years in the Florida legislature in the Speaker’s Office as the Staff Director for Education Policy. She knows of which she speaks.




HH: I’m finishing up this half-hour with Patricia Levesque who is the Chief Executive Officer of the Foundation for Excellence in Education and we told you where to go for more information on the Common Core from the conservative reformers perspective. Patricia Lesvesque, one of the arguments that I’ve discovered this week is that many conservative activists are afraid that the Department of Education is going to be using the Common Core enrollment process to data mine local district information on students. What do you say to that?


PL: Well, I say parents need to be the joint now and they need to be diligent in the future to make sure that that doesn’t happen. The federal government should not be taking students private personal information and using it for any reason as far as I’m concerned, but Common Core, the data still stays at the state level. It’s the states that run accountability systems now. It’s the states that will be responsible for controlling and reflect—protecting that data in the future.


HH: But has it happened? I know over at Higher Core Standards, for example, it says fighting federal overreach.  There’s a whole line there and debunking against the whole line, but is the federal government trying to get a hold of that data?


PL: Not, not through Common Core. I mean, Common Core is a set of standards. I think there are other research pieces of things—this particular notion of data mining came from a research report that was done completely not associated with Common Core by some researchers in the U.S. Department of Education with consensual, you know, approval from parents to study certain aspects about student learning. And so, but unfortunately, that, you know, those urban myths kind of get spread and that’s what happened in this case.


HH: Yeah. I got sent that report many times last night. Page 41, I think, it has all the references to data mining the local district data and I was a little bit stunned that these researchers put into that thing. What does, for example, higher core say to parents about that? That they should go to go their school board and say not now, not ever, never?


PL: What they should be very active locally. They should pay attention to what their school boards are doing and parents should want to have reports on who has access to my child’s data and those are healthy skepticisms and we have to remain vigilant over it. You know, the thing that I would want every parent to understand and know about Common Core standards is that the standards are going to better prepare your child in the future to be college and career ready. They are hopefully going to save you money because you won’t be paying remediation costs out of your pocket when your child goes to higher ed and really wasn’t prepared in high school. The standards are going to be better in that teachers now, especially with mobility, with our military across different state lines, with our students who are mobile. We will now have, it’s almost like having a common electrical grid. Now you have innovation that can be tied to the actual high standard that we want to make sure that students learn.


HH: Patricia Levesque of the Foundation for Excellence in Education, thank you for joining me. I’ll be right back, America. Stay tuned. Follow me, or at HughHewitt@twitter.


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