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Written Testimony of Andrew Pudewa to Common Core Interim - OK

Written Testimony of Andrew Pudewa to Common Core Interim - OK

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Published by RestoreOKPublicEd
Mr. Pudewa is a very successful, local curricula writer and developer. Products from his company, Institute for Excellence in Writing, are used by thousands of home schooling families, as well as many public schools. Mr. Pudewa explains why Common Core is not only bad for students, but also for businesses like his trying to compete in a so-called free market economy.

Andrew Pudewa is the founder, principal speaker, and director of the Institute for Excellence in Writing. Presenting throughout North America, he addresses—with clarity, insight, practical experience, and welcome humor—issues relating to teaching, writing, thinking, spelling, and music. His seminars for parents, students, and teachers have helped transform many a reluctant writer and have equipped educators with powerful tools to dramatically improve students' skills.

Although he is a graduate of the Talent Education Institute in Japan (Suzuki Method) and holds a Certificate of Child Brain Development, his best endorsement is from a young Alaskan boy who called him "the funny man with the wonderful words." He and his beautiful, heroic wife Robin are parents of seven, grandparents of five, and educators of their two youngest children at home in Oklahoma’s Green Country.
Mr. Pudewa is a very successful, local curricula writer and developer. Products from his company, Institute for Excellence in Writing, are used by thousands of home schooling families, as well as many public schools. Mr. Pudewa explains why Common Core is not only bad for students, but also for businesses like his trying to compete in a so-called free market economy.

Andrew Pudewa is the founder, principal speaker, and director of the Institute for Excellence in Writing. Presenting throughout North America, he addresses—with clarity, insight, practical experience, and welcome humor—issues relating to teaching, writing, thinking, spelling, and music. His seminars for parents, students, and teachers have helped transform many a reluctant writer and have equipped educators with powerful tools to dramatically improve students' skills.

Although he is a graduate of the Talent Education Institute in Japan (Suzuki Method) and holds a Certificate of Child Brain Development, his best endorsement is from a young Alaskan boy who called him "the funny man with the wonderful words." He and his beautiful, heroic wife Robin are parents of seven, grandparents of five, and educators of their two youngest children at home in Oklahoma’s Green Country.

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Published by: RestoreOKPublicEd on Nov 05, 2013
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05/31/2014

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 1 Andrew Pudewa Founder and Director Institute for Excellence in Writing Locust Grove, OK November 5, 2013 Mr. Chairman and Committee Members, Thank you for allowing me to speak today. I come as an Oklahoma resident, a homeschooling parent, an educational curriculum publisher and trainer, and somewhat of a leader in the home education community. I would like to express my concerns about the Common Core State Standards Initiative. My immediate concerns are three-fold: 1) The historical failure of centralized education, 2) the origins of CCSSI, the motives of its creators, and the potential for ideological abuse, and 3) the problematic concept upon which the idea
of “standards” currently exists
in modern education. As a long-time homeschooling parent and someone who speaks with hundreds of home educating families across the country every year, I am intimately aware of the potential of entirely decentralized education. Each family serves as its o
wn “school district” often with the father as the “superintendent” or “principal” and the mother as the “homeroom teacher.” Although registration and reporting
requirements for homeschoolers vary by state (with Oklahoma being one of the least restrictive), even in states that require direct supervision by a government-run school district and mandatory standardized testing requirements, homeschooling families exercise a great deal of freedom as to their curriculum choices and teaching methods. Therefore it is somewhat of an experiment in ultimate decentralization and complete local control. So how do homeschooled children do? In any demographic category (from family income, to parental education, to geography), homeschoolers meet or exceed their peers in tests of basic skills, ACT/SAT, and college acceptance. Now, while we must admit that public-schooled children who live in two-parent homes with above poverty-level incomes are also likely to score in the upper half of the percentile ranges (thereby indicating the critical importance of parental involvement in education), we cannot find any statistical advantages of centralized curriculum control. In fact, there is absolutely no historical precedent indicating that top-down dictated curriculum has any effect at all on basic skills anywhere. In fact, the last few decades might indicate at least an empirical correlation between increased efforts by U.S. states to create more rigorous standards and the decline of basic mathematics and language skills of U.S. students. Even in my short time of sixteen years working professionally with various public school districts in California, Washington, and Alaska, it is quite evident that the push for standards in these states has had little, no, or possibly a negative effect, at least in the area of my
 
 2 expertise
basic writing skills. In her 1990 book,
Why Johnny Can’t Write
, Myrna Linden cited several studies that indicated writing skills had been declining for twenty years. In 2005, a Carnegie Foundation Report indicated no improvement,
and I don’t think there are many university teachers or businessmen who will argue
that things have improved in the last decade. So while we certainly cannot blame an increase in legislated educational standards for the decline
other demographic factors are likely responsible
, we certainly cannot expect, based on historical precedent, that centralized standards or curriculum can have much effect on the problem of declining abilities. For these reasons, I cannot see any advantage for the State of Oklahoma (or any state) to continue to require implementation of the Common Core Standards.
Any benefits these “new” standards might have cannot possibly outweigh the
harms: expense to the state and its public schools, an added burden to administrators and their staff, and the further suppression of teacher initiative and ingenuity. I think we can all attest by personal experience (and it is supported by much research) that the quality of the teacher makes the greatest difference in student performance. Centralized curriculum, in its effort to make all classrooms similar, ends up handicapping great teachers, for whom innovation and enthusiasm go hand-in-hand. Although revoking Common Core Standards will not solve the problem of declining basic skills, it may allow Oklahoma schools freedom to pursue with greater autonomy curricula and methods that do work, and, as is always true in our free-market economy, success will be imitated. Less central control over education will encourage schools to innovate, attract talented teachers, and strive for excellence. There are many versions of how the Common Core Standards came into being; one only has to start reading reports, watching YouTube videos and reading political
blogs to realize the complexity of the story, and I don’t purport to have
studied the issue enough to know the whole truth, but certain things do appear to be the case. Funding for the
Hunt Institute for Educational Leadership
 came from several sources, chief among them the
Gates Foundation
. Various educational publishers supported the efforts indirectly, and the
U.S. Department of Education
 set created financial incentives for states that would adopt the new standards. I believe that you have already heard detailed reports on this, perhaps more than you wished.
As a private citizen, my tendency in investigating this is to “follow the dollars.”
Who might benefit from nationwide adoption of the CCSSI? Since the standards are technology-heavy, perhaps the tech industries would benefit. Because of a need for completely revamped curricula (from textbooks to consumables to multi-media supplements) the publishers would definitely benefit. And I think we all see how the federal government tends to grow anywhere and everywhere it can, even in areas of questionable jurisdiction. While I cannot buy into everything said by Glenn Beck and other very vocal objectors to the Common Core, I do see the potential for increased control over education
not just in the areas of math and language skills, but in actual content as well. Already you have heard from experts concerned with the degradation of the literature in the Common Core language guidelines. I believe you have also heard from others about the possible expansion of Common Core to
 
 3 include social studies and science standards, thus moving into areas of potential ideology and even propaganda. I formerly resided in California, and have been both amused and saddened by how the state educational standards there have resulted in publishers providing
textbooks that distort history (by redefining a “missionary” as “someone who comes from a far away place and tries to change the lifestyle of a group of people”) and
disrupt traditional values (by removing all re
ferences to “mother, father, mom, or dad” from all approved textbooks). Of course the California legislature has passed
other almost unbelievable anti-
common sense laws, but I won’t go into that…
Additionally, because of the virtual monopoly of textbook publishers (Pearson, McGraw-Hill, Houghton-Mifflin), schools required to conform to the Common Core standards will have little choice when it comes to curricula, and the
publishers’ largest customers (California, New York, Florida, and Texas) do have a
great input on textbook content. In fact, CCSSI is a huge windfall for education publishers, since most districts in most states are being forced to replace their existing texts with CCSSI conforming texts, and any differentiations by state standards have been superseded by the Common Core standards. Consequently, the big publishers can now sell the same or very similar books to all the states, further increasing profitability. This, of course, makes it even harder for small publishers such as myself to keep a toehold in the public education market. Again, centralization and standardization eclipses initiative and creativity; we are not only up against the marketing and PR juggernaut of the big players, we now have to jump through ridiculous hoops to show that what we do
and have always done
not only builds
basic writing skills better than most anything out there, but somehow “meets or exceeds” the Common Core standards. Oddly, there are some people in the
homeschool world who are so politically opposed to the CCSSI that they will boycott any homeschool publisher who claims to be Common Core aligned. This puts me in an odd double-bind position. But I
don’t mean to complain to you about
my publishing and marketing challenges
—that’s the vicissitudes of bu
siness. I mention it only so you can see how the CCSI adoption limits curriculum options for teachers and schools, and erodes the benefits of a free market in educational materials. Lastly, I would like to make an appeal to common sense (as opposed to co
mmon core), and point out a fundamental problem with all “standards”, and that
is the meaning of the word itself. The Common Core, along with all state standards, dictates what should or must be taught at every grade level in math and language. Although some people are very good at dissecting and analyzing the language of the standards, I ask just one simple question. How can standards be standards if there are no consequences for failing to meet those standards? A teacher can teach, but
she can’t force a s
tudent to learn. What happens if a fifth grade student does not acquire the skills taught, for example,
in standard Gr. 5, L.1.a.: “Explain the function
of conjunctions, prepositions, and interjections, in general and their function in particular sentences
.”
As we all know, nothing will happen. There are no consequences. That student will go on to sixth grade, seventh grade, and into high school whether he or she has any idea what a conjunction or preposition is or what it does. Therefore this is not a stan
dard that means anything; it’s a suggestion as to

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Laurie Hurlburt McDonald added this note
Wonderful and most comprehensive overview of Common Core that I have seen. Thank GOD more people are speaking out and sharing intelligent counterpoints to this evil in our education system!
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