by Karen R. Effrem, MD
While Governor Ron DeSantis is taking Florida away from Common Core, California Governor Gavin Newsom is bitterly clinging to the failed standards and pushing that state farther into the fuzzy, unscientific, invasive social-emotional learning (SEL) as well. Newsom appointed radical Stanford professor emerita Linda Darling-Hammond to lead the California State Board of Education.
Hammond, as you may remember, was terrorist and close Obama friend, Professor Bill Ayers’ choice for secretary of education during the first Obama administration. Hammond served as an education adviser and transition team leader in 2008. When Arne Duncan was chosen instead and took on the role of bribing/coercing 45 cash-strapped states to accept the Common Core standards during the Great Recession, Hammond got to work developing and implementing the Smarter Balance Assessment Consortium (SBAC) national Common Core assessment.
SBAC started out with 24 states plus the U.S. Virgin Islands and have now decreased to 13 states plus the U.S.V.I. However, some of the states formerly in SBAC like Utah and West Virginia have gone on to adopt the American Institutes for Research (AIR) test, which admits in it contract with Florida that it also develops the computer adaptive testing platform for SBAC, so it is likely that the two tests are quite similar, at least in format. AIR admits on its website that it “delivered online tests for 19 states and had contracts with 22 states in 2015-16” but does not list which states use their tests. It is also important to note that AIR describes itself as “one of the world’s largest behavioral and social science research and evaluation organizations.”
The reason it is important to understand the connections between Common Core, AIR, SBAC and Linda Darling-Hammond is that she also is an extremely strong proponent of non-academic issues like “equity” and SEL. She believes that the U.S. has “one of the most unequal educational systems in the industrialized world.” Hammond serves on the board of the Collaborative for Academic, Social, and Emotional Learning (CASEL), the godfather of SEL in the U.S. and co-chaired the Aspen Institute’s National Commission on Social, Emotional and Academic Learning that just completed their final report that is loaded with problems and contradictions.
These problems include:
Despite the Commission and “grit” guru, Dr. Angela Duckworth, stating that SEL parameters and school climate surveys should not be used to judge students, teachers, and schools for accountability purposes, California has been piloting an effort to do just that among a large consortium of districts over the past several years. With her strong SEL involvement, will Hammond heed the Commission and stop that effort or will she find a reason to continue the subjective and invasive data collection involved?
Hammond is also a strong proponent of the ineffective and dangerous Obama-era school discipline policy that has been so wisely rescinded by the Trump administration. This policy is also being rejected in Florida, where Arne Duncan mentee from the Chicago school district, Robert Runcie implemented the idea in the Broward County Public school district. This failure to maintain discipline and heed clear warning signals from a very troubled former student are felt to be large contributing factors in the tragic massacre of 17 innocent people at the Marjorie Stoneman Douglas High School one year ago. Some of the many legal, policy, and safety flaws with that guidance are discussed here.
Finally, Hammond was the co-founder of two Palo Alto charter schools that were dismal failures academically as described by Donna Garner at Education Views based on local reports. This does not inspire confidence for the future of California’s public schools.
Although it is tragic for California students, the contrast between failed philosophies espoused by Linda Darling Hammond and the efforts of Governor DeSantis to listen to parents and get rid of Common Core could not be clearer. Let us work to make the Florida efforts so successful that it inspires an even stronger parent rebellion in California that sets those poor children free.