Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Left-Right Alliance for Education: Reclaiming Freedom in Education

The Left-Right Alliance was formed as a spontaneous gathering of education advocates. Each of the participants volunteered their time to work toward our purpose and process, the effort received no funding. Our hope is that the work we have completed here will be a message that Stop Common Core efforts nationwide can endorse and utilize. The report below is the result of our efforts. (For more on our purpose and process see our "About Us" and "Purpose and Process" tabs)

We oppose the CCSSI because it continues the failed education reforms of the past and violates privacy rights as it builds a system for centrally managed student training for the future workforce of the “Global Economy.” This central goal will dismantle liberal arts education, which most contributes to the development of mature thinkers who are prepared to thrive in any chosen life path and sustain a free civilization.

After weeks of deliberate, methodical discussions on key points of current education reforms in the U.S., the Left-Right Alliance for Education has concluded that there is a solid foundation for multi-partisan opposition to the Common Core State Standards Initiative. Below are our statements of opposition to the CCSSI and the rationales for them.
  1. We oppose the philosophy of standardization built into all federal education initiatives, including the Common Core State Standards Initiative.
  2. We oppose high-stakes testing.
  3. We oppose a national student data system.

Our Rationale:

1. We oppose the philosophy of standardization built into all federal education initiatives, including the Common Core State Standards Initiative.
  • The CCSSI will expand the failed philosophy of standardization in an attempt to build a workforce-oriented school system at the expense of the greater characteristics of sound education.
  • Education policies based on the philosophy of standardization lead to a hyper-focus on quantifiable skills that fail to provide students with the instructional supports that develop mature thinkers prepared to thrive in any chosen life path.
  • These policies ignore accepted scientific research on human development and correlate education with the processes applied in the manufacturing sector; deluge kids with test taking and assignment rubrics; bore and frustrate; squash the love of learning; impede quality teaching; pit schools against parents, and fail to develop creative, mature human beings.
  • The standardization intrinsic in the CCSSI, and others like it, causes great harm to the development of children and is especially detrimental to disadvantaged children.
  • Local decision making for education and educational choice serve both students and teachers better, facilitating individualized learning and teaching styles instead of putting every child and teacher in the same box.
2. We oppose high-stakes testing.
  • The CCSSI high-stakes assessments lead to a hyper-focus on a narrow set of quantifiable skills at the expense of the greater characteristics of education founded in a broad curriculum.
  • These assessments rely on computer-generated testing, excludes other ways students demonstrate proficiency and progress, and ignore the fact that teachers and parents are best able to judge a student's progress.
  • The infrastructure and technology demands divert school and classroom resources away from those components that most impact student success.
  • High-stakes testing has transformed schools into centers for test preparation and chip away at a child’s innate love of learning.
  • Federal and state mandated high-stakes tests lead to excessive pressure on students and teachers and to bullying and punitive actions when parents choose to opt their children out of testing.

3. We oppose national student data systems.
  • We oppose the CCSSI P-20 State Longitudinal Data Systems being integrated across state lines with some data available to government agencies and research organizations without parental consent via U.S. DOE regulatory change.
  • We are concerned that these databases are not secure and unnecessarily expose student data to hacking, misuse, and publication, and violate the intent of protecting student privacy provided under FERPA.
  • The rush to implementation is enticing for-profit companies to provide products and services without accountability to parents, individual students, and taxpayers.
  • When coupled with highly predictive computer testing and learning data, which includes psychological and behavioral profiles, the database will store a “learning profile” that will follow students into their adult lives and may negatively impact future opportunities.
  • When commercial interests are combined with the core vision of the CCSSI to build a system for centrally managed student training with the purpose of fitting the future generation in a managed workforce for the “Global Economy,” the data systems may be the component that most concerns parents.
Our Purpose and Process:

“The Left-Right Alliance for Education” was formed out of a spontaneous gathering of education advocates from across the political spectrum, and across the nation, to determine if it is possible to construct a multi-partisan message for countering the current federal/corporate message driving education reform policy. Each of the participants volunteered their time to work toward our purpose. The effort received no funding. Our hope is that the work we have completed here will be a message that Stop Common Core efforts nationwide can endorse and utilize.

The catalyst for creating the Left/Right Alliance for Education was a widespread realization among education advocates opposed to the CCSSI that the CCSSI was winning the messaging war. There was also recognition that opposition to CCSSI is being widely mischaracterized as limited to only one side of the political spectrum, which is hindering the effort to get the opposing message a fair hearing in the public discourse. While the CCSSI is advertising its mission in a clear and consistent way, grassroots opposition has been fractured between political poles and uncoordinated between voluminous websites, bloggers, and local groups. It is very difficult for most parents and teachers, who can't devote so much time to sifting through the arguments, to discover the central points of opposition to the Common Core.

CCSSI has this simple message under its logo, “Preparing America’s Students for College & Career.” What parent doesn’t want their child to go to college and have a career? What parent doesn’t want a “consistent, clear understanding” of what their child is expected to learn? What parent doesn’t want a child “fully prepared for the future?” We all do. But what parent wants a “career ready” child who is a simple cog in a managed workforce? What parent would believe that workforce preparation as the central goal of education would “fully” prepare their child for the future? What parent isn’t concerned that the current education agenda is devastating their child’s innate love of learning?

The members of the Left/Right Alliance for Education understood on a basic level that to be successful in countering the CCSSI we needed to, 1) unite to support multi-partisan points of opposition, 2) create a clear and succinct message of mutual opposition to Common Core, 3) make it clear that these points of opposition are shared by people from all over the political spectrum, and 4) appeal to the universal desire that all parents have for their children’s education, which is not just to be “career-ready”, but more importantly to become mature thinkers who are highly-motivated, self-disciplined, hard-working, creative, ambitious, happy individuals who know their own minds and who are prepared to thrive in any life path they choose.

To answer these needs we formed an unusual group in the Facebook platform to facilitate a coast-to-coast discussion that could accomplish the task at hand. Our process started with a discussion of the Common Core State Standards Initiative. From there we methodically discussed the various points and their nuances in an attempt to discover our common ground and our limitations. Our goal was to construct a clear and concise statement of what we oppose and support about current education reforms in an attempt to form a message that could cut across the political spectrum and reach the majority of American parents, teachers, and students.

Considering the fact that the CCSSI is currently the most prominent education reform taking hold in our nation, our first discussion asked members to tell us their thoughts about “Why they oppose the Common Core.” When the discussion was completed we analyzed the comments and boiled it down to common themes ranked by the number of times they were mentioned and “liked”. The top ranking themes became our starting point for discussion boards that helped to define our alliance.

Our second discussion explored "Standardization and Conformity; their effects on teaching and learning." With this specific question: “What does this mean to you in relation to your opposition to a national curriculum?” This was chosen as our first discussion because it was our #1 point of common opposition to CCSS from discussion #1, and our most vague point. We wanted to better define the concept. What is standardization? How does it affect education? How is it used in the CCSS initiative? Is it harmful overall? Our third discussion explored High-stakes testing and P-20 Student Databases (SLDS). The question we discussed was phrased this way, "-High Stakes Assessments and Student Databases: Do you oppose these elements of current national education reform initiatives? Why or why not?"

Each discussion summary was saved until we completed the points of discussion phase. During this phase, we constructed two or three paragraph summaries of the discussions and then put these paragraphs to the whole group to revise. When we finalized the wording we put it forward to a group vote for agreement. This body of information was used to pound out a tag line as quick and catchy as "college and career readiness," and a clear and concise statement of opposition and our rationale behind these statements.

Political Alignment:

Participants in group effort were from a well-balanced a broad political spectrum. Participants were asked to classify their politics so that we could be certain that our efforts would reflect people across the political spectrum. The graph below was the result:


Braden Bell
Braden Bell is a middle school teacher, author, and the parent of three children who spent time in public schools. He holds a PhD in Educational Theatre from New York University's Steinhardt School of Education.

Andrea Noveroske Bergenham
A married stay at home mother of 2 daughters and small business owner, Andrea lives in a small township in Southwest Michigan.

Michael Bohr
Michael Bohr is a Logistics and Operations Consultant in the Transportation Industry for 28 years. The Founder and Exec. Dir. of Great Effen Ideas, Policy and Marketing Strategies for 21st Century Politics. A political activist and most recently an education activist. Michael is also a military veteran and father of two.

Danielle Boudet
A busy stay-at-home-mom of two and a wife, Danielle is an artist with an MFA in painting. She lives in a small village in upstate NY. Danielle is concerned for the future of education in our nation because she feels that young children are being robbed of their childhood and that their natural tendencies towards free-play and curiosity-driven learning. She is concerned that we have traded the most valuable components of education for those that tend to train compliant workers rather than inspiring innovative creative problem-solvers. Danielle has great respect for teachers and believes in authentic teacher assessment and parent-teacher collaboration. Politically Danielle is a registered democrat, but sees herself as nothing but ordinary, and hardly a good fit for a political label in a two-party system.

Laura Kelly Bowman
Laura Bowman is a stay-at-home mom residing in Roanoke, VA. As President of the Roanoke County Council of PTAs, she oversees twenty three PTAs. Laura is the leader of the public school advocacy group Parents Across America-Roanoke Valley. Her main educational focuses are advocating for an end to high stakes testing as well as advocating for proven reforms such as proper funding, smaller class sizes, and the use of certified teachers in the classroom. She is opposed to the corporate education reform movement and is a strong proponent of democracy and equity in our nation's public schools.

Sandra Brevard
A private sector Human Resources professional, Sandra became interested in ED reforms 4 years ago during education debates in Florida. Sandra delved into her own independent research to understand the subject more fully. She became interested in observing the ed reformer narrative propelling the initiatives, and also documented parent concerns and opposition in a blog for over a year to bring those concerns into the light.

Kristen Chevrier
A mother of five children with an M.A. in English, Kristen has taught English, History and Theater for private schools and homeschool groups. She has homeschooled her own children for the past 22 years and in addition to homeschooling, she teaches community classes on political involvement, parliamentary procedure, and teaching. Her personal blog is: homeschoolwise.com

Autumn Cook
A co-founder of the Nebraska Family Forum, Autumn is a full-time mother and part-time writer and editor. Her experience includes working for an NGO at the United Nations and serving in multiple positions in the Republican Party in Utah and Nebraska. After learning to navigate the Nebraska legislature as a founder and chairwoman of the Nebraska Friends of Midwives, Autumn passed along her talents as a political mentor to Stephanie Smith Morgan and helped organize the NFF. Her work with the NFF was her crash course in education politics. Now in Utah, Autumn has added her political experience to the efforts of teachers and parents who are fighting the corporatist education reformers. Her personal blog is Admoneo

Clyde Gaw
M.A.E., Has taught elementary art for the past 30 years. Clyde is an active member of the National Art Education Association, has done extensive research on curriculum development, cognitive science and creativity. He contributes to several blogs, such as “Indiana Art Education” blog.

Linda Gower
Linda Gower is currently an elementary music teacher for Spokane Public Schools. She became tired of watching NCLB reforms fail both students and teachers and decided it was time to speak out. Wanting to become an ally with parents, she joined a nonpartisan grassroots group "Parents Across America", which opposes top-down forces privatizing schools, while also advocating for small class size, increased parent involvement and an end to high stakes testing. She took part in the "Save Our Schools March and National Call to Action" in 2011 and is a fan of many of the educational activists who attended and spoke at the rally, including Diane Ravitch.

Wendy Hart
Wendy Hart is the mother of three children, currently residing in Highland, Utah. She grew up in Cupertino, CA, and received her B.S. in Mathematics from Brigham Young University. She became politically active upon the birth of her first child. She has been following education-related issues since her kids entered school. She is a database specialist by trade, and currently serves on the Alpine School District Board of Education, the largest school district in the State of Utah.

Rosemarie Jensen
A former elementary teacher and literacy trainer, Rosemarie has a Masters degree in Elementary Ed with specialization in reading and early childhood education. She is the mother of two children in public schools and has been advocating against high stakes testing and privatizing education for 15 years.

Bob Laird
A passionate choir/band parent of public schooled children and major in music ed, Bob is concerned for preserving arts education as an intricate part of a sound education. Most of us too often talk about education in terms of the 3’R’s but Bob wisely reminds us that a good education is built on the 4’R’s, Reading, wRiting, aRithmetic, and aRt! Bob has become concerned that Common Core will further narrow the curriculum and push Art as an intricate component of human development and learning.

Gretchen Logue
Gretchen Logue is a wife and mother of two adult children. Her interest in education began when her oldest son was diagnosed as severely/profoundly deaf and she learned about the special education services offered to deaf children in Kansas public schools. The lack of appropriate services led the family to oral deaf schools in St. Louis. How special education students particularly will be affected by Common Core concerns her greatly and she began a blog, Missouri Education Watchdog in 2010 to alert citizens on Race to the Top/Common Core issues. No child is "common" and neither is educational development/direction.

Donna Yates Mace
An elementary public school teacher in Jacksonville, FL, Donna has been in education for 37 years, the last 34 in public schools. Donna and her husband have raised 6 children and now have 16 grandchildren, 13 of whom are in public schools. Donna has been actively involved in fighting for public education for the past few years and helps admin several Facebook pages.

Stephanie Smith Morgan
A conservative stay-at-home mother of two boys, one public schooled and the younger homeschooled, Stephanie is a passionate advocate for family centered education policy. Stephanie taught in a very challenging South Omaha 3rd grade ESL classroom as a "Para-educator" (a co-teacher). Stephanie’s community involvement started as grassroots organizer of a parents group in her school district in Nebraska, the Millard Parents Society, when families in Nebraska faced troubles brought on by changes made to Nebraska's law prompted by Race to the Top she founded a statewide grassroots movement and became the director of the Nebraska Family Forum. She has since moved to Maryland and has joined with others who oppose the CCSSI.

Tiffany Mouritsen
Tiffany Mouritsen is a wife, mother, artist and activist with a B.A. in English Literature.

Anne Ryan Pritchett
Anne is a Special ED teacher in an urban district that has been labeled as 'failing' by the state for many years. Her school is close to 100% free lunch and over 50% ELL (English Language Learners). She grew up in a Beaver Cleaver suburban middle class community and attended Catholic and independent schools. Her dad was a teacher, coach and administrator in area Catholic and independent schools. Her mom was the only working mom in her neighborhood. Anne grew up in a large Catholic Democrat family and her parents were involved in political campaigns, one of her earliest memories was working on the Kennedy campaign in 1960 with her mom. Anne is a registered Democrat and considers herself a far left Democrat. She is active in her local Democratic party and has served in leadership roles for several area progressive organizations. She is currently the co-chair of her states Progressive Caucus and the president of her local NOW chapter. She is also the Legislative Chair for her AFT local and serves on the AFT national Community Engagement task force.

Merrijane Barton Rice
A professional technical writer/editor, Merrijane has four children in the public education system, ranging from ages 8 to 16.

Lani Bond Stott
Mother of five, Lani decided to homeschools her youngest two because big changes in the education system since her oldest started school 14 years ago. Besides a mother of public schooled children, Lani has worked as a substitute teacher and a classroom aid. Lani has always been involved in her community but became passionate about education two years ago when she saw even bigger changes in education after her state adopted the Common Core.

Melanie Williams-Smotherman
The executive director of the Family Advocacy Movement - a grassroots non-profit out of Nebraska that advocates for families and their children who are caught up in the child welfare and juvenile court systems, Melanie works with other national groups to reform these systems systemically. As part of her work, she has joined other related efforts, such as working with social justice groups and the Nebraska Family Forum to fight over-broad "excessive absenteeism" laws, Common Core and other harmful education reforms that attack public education and threaten families and kids. Melanie is also a mother and publisher of a magazine for and by Omaha area children. Along with her husband - has taught chess to kids in the public schools for 11 years.

John Stoffel
A 20 year veteran elementary teacher in Indiana. Enough said.

Dr. Gary Thompson
Dr. Gary Thompson is Director of Clinical Training & Community Advocacy at Early Life Child Psychology & Education Center in South Jordan, Utah. He is also on the Board of Trustees at the Utah Law & Disability Center. Dr. Thompson is the proud father of 4 diverse children of multi-cultural heritage. www.earlylifepsych.com

Gary Valiant
A former public school teacher, school technology coordinator, building administrator, and ESD bureaucrat and most importantly husband to a fantastic Washington State parochial school teacher. Gary describes himself as an anarchist and yet he acted as the primary moderator of the Left/Right Alliance for Education. His vision was to use Facebook as a private meeting place in order to engage discussion in a politically diverse group of highly passionate education advocates. He put together a methodical process for pinning down our primary purpose, which was to discover if a multi-partisan alliance for education is possible.

Robert Valiant
Robert Valiant, Ed.D. is an educator with over 40 years experience as a high school physics/advanced math teacher, district level administrator and college instructor. He has worked in the private sector where he managed the education division of a design firm and founded his own consulting business. Bob is nationally known as a presenter on teaching higher order thinking, brain research and its applications in public education, and school design. Now retired, he blogs at Valiant, ETC: News and resources for thoughtful educators, and devotes his time to educating the public on the problems associated with current federally mandated school reform efforts through several Facebook groups including “Dump Duncan,” Kennewick School District Citizens, and Public Schools: Seeking Common Ground.

Alyson Oldham Williams
A politically active mother of four, Alyson has a B.S. in education. Alyson became involved in education policy after venting her frustrations in "Children for Sale: A mother speaks out" – a widely read blog post criticizing the development of Common Core that put corporate interests and centralized reform agendas ahead of the best interests of children, local schools, and families.


  1. Awesome group! I hope this message gets louder...

  2. This is a group I would like to be a part of! Thank you all!

  3. Hallelujah for this group. Where do we sign up?