In this article, we will explain how the embrace of the fatally flawed Common Core learning standards and the toxic Common Core SBAC High Failure Rate test by leaders of the Washington State Democratic Party has led to election defeats in swing districts in Washington State - and will continue to lead to defeats as long as the leaders of the Democratic Party continue to blindly follow party politics instead of evidence based decision making.
On February 15, 2016, I was at a meeting with several important leaders of the Washington State Democratic Party. There was a lot of soul searching over why the Washington State Democratic Party has lost the majority in the Washington State Senate and could lose the majority in the Washington State House in the 2016 election.
Here are graphs of the distribution in the State Senate and State House since 2008:
The Republican Party won another House seat in the 30th Legislative District in a 2015 special election putting them within 2 votes of controlling the State House in 2016:
Precinct by precinct analysis has shown that there are not more people voting for the Republican party in swing districts in Washington state. However, huge numbers of Democratic leaning voters have simply not voted in the 2010, 2014 and 2015 elections.
Below is the voter turn out in the 30th Legislative District since 2008. The 30th Legislative District covers Federal Way which is a bedroom community just north of Tacoma and south of Seattle. It is a typical swing district community with a lot of families, a lot of kids and a lot of poorly funded public schools.
Set aside the two national Presidential elections in 2008 and look closely at the three local elections. While national elections are decided on national issues, local elections are decided on local issues - like public schools. Comparing the 2014 election to the 2010 election, there was a slight drop in the Republican party vote - but a huge drop of more than 20% in the Democratic Party vote. Comparing Democratic Party Voter Turnout from the 2010 election to the 2015 election saw a drop from 20,000 to 10,000 - for a decline of 50% in just 5 years.
What is particularly disturbing about the drop in Democratic voter participation in the 2015 race is that both parties spent a record one million dollars on this single 30th LD race. So it is not like the voters in the 30th LD did not know there was an election going on. The Democratic Leaning voters simply failed to turn in their ballots. A similar pattern occurred in several other legislative swing districts here in Washington state. The big question is why these Democratic leaning voters are not voting. It was not that the Democratic Party lacked a good candidate in Federal Way. Their candidate, Carol Gregory was a former teacher, the former head of the Washington Education Association and a School Board Director for the Federal Way School District.
Having knocked on more than 20,000 doors in East King County since 2008, I think I know the answer. Parents know that the Democratic Party has been in complete control of the Washington State legislature since 2005. They controlled the Senate, the House and the Governor's office. During this time, leaders of the Washington State Democratic Party cut billions of dollars in funding for public schools and higher education.
At the same time, leaders of the Democratic Party gave billions of dollars in tax breaks to wealthy corporations such as Boeing and Microsoft - both of whom fired thousands of Washington state workers and shipped our jobs to sweat shops in other states and China. This is not going to get Democratic voters to vote for Republican candidates. But it will convince many voters to stay home and not vote for any candidates.
This is in part what happened. For example, in another swing district bedroom community, the 26th Legislative District of Gig Harbor, the Democratic Chair of the House Higher Education Committee, Larry Seaquist was defeated in the 2014 election by a Republican "political newcomer" Michelle Caldier who had no name recognition but won by pointing out that Seaquist had gutted funding for Higher Education while he was chair of the Higher Education committee, which "doubled the tuition" for college students.
During Larry's time in office, State support for Higher Education fell from 45% to 20% and tuition costs skyrocketed – all to pay for billions in tax breaks for millionaires and multinational corporations. For example, in 2006, Washington State University tuition was $6,218. By 2012, it was over $11,000 per year. Here is what happened to tuition costs while Larry was in office:
Caldier correctly noted that these massive tuition increases were a huge hidden tax increase on middle class and working families. On June 27 2013 Seaquist and other leaders of the Washington State Democratic Party also voted for House Bill 2043 to suspend Initiative 732 cost of living increases for public school teachers costing public school teachers $320 million. https://apps.leg.wa.gov/billinfo/summary.aspx?bill=2043&year=2013
But there is another mistake by Washington State Democratic Party leaders which raised its ugly head at the Democratic Party meeting on February 15 2016. I presented evidence that the Democratic Party embrace of Common Core, the SBAC test and the Pearson GED test has destroyed the lives of tens of thousands of students in Washington State and more than one million students nationwide. Here is the chart I presented showing the drop in the pass rate of the Pearson GED Common Core test in Washington state:
Here is the chart I presented showing the drop in the pass rate of the Pearson GED Common Core test in Oregon State in the past three years:
The Common Core Pearson GED test is so difficult and so unfair that almost no one in the State legislature can pass it!
Another Common Core high failure rate test called SBAC test has unfairly labeled hundreds of thousands of students in Washington state as failures even though these children are performing at grade level! Here is a comparison of the SBAC 8th Grade Math Test to the prior Washington State End of Course (EOC) math test and the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) 8th grade math test:
How did these terribly unfair Common Core tests come about?
The answer is that in June 2013, the leaders of the Washington State Democratic Party passed House Bill 1450 which formally authorized both Common Core and the High Failure Rate Common Core test called SBAC. https://app.leg.wa.gov/billinfo/summary.aspx?bill=1450&year=2013
Common Core and SBAC were both adopted before there was any research of their effectiveness. No field tests, no norming studies - in fact no research of any kind supported these standards and tests. In fact, they were approved before the SBAC test was even written! The legislature completely ignored a statement by hundreds of our nation's leading child development experts opposing Common Core.
Among the leaders of the Washington State Democratic Party who voted to adopt Common Core and SBAC sight unseen were Larry Seaquist and Chris Reykdal. I mention these two names because both of them are currently running for Washington State Superintendent of Public Instruction.
Also in 2013, both Larry Seaquist and Chris Reykdal were sponsors of House Bill 1686 - the bill that created the Pearson GED Common Core Test Monopoly. This in turn has destroyed the lives of tens of thousands of low income Washington citizens. https://app.leg.wa.gov/DLR/billsummary/default.aspx?Bill=1686&year=2013
It is difficult to imagine any parent voting for either of these candidates once they find out how much harm leaders of the Democratic Party have inflicted on the students of Washington State. First, they gutted funding for public schools and public colleges. Then they imposed poorly written Common Core standards and unfair Common Core tests on students that have harmed students by the thousands all across our state.
All of which brings me back to the meeting with leaders of the Democratic Party on February 15 2016. These are good people. Many of them are long time friends of mine. They protested that they did not intend to destroy the lives of any students. They were merely trying to help students get "career and college ready." They protested that the Common Core standards were not linked to the unfair SBAC and Pearson GED tests. They said that the National Education Association was in favor of the Common Core standards.
But here is the problem. The National Education Association was bribed into supporting Common Core with millions of dollars by Bill Gates. As for getting kids "career and college ready," this was nothing more than a cheap trick and false marketing slogan. In fact, here are the actual results after several years of Common Core in New York and Kentucky (the first two states to adopt Common Core):
Note that the scores of students on the 8th grade NAEP math test went down in all three states after adoption of Common Core. This is because Chris Reykdal and Larry Seaquist's Common Core and SBAC Plan is an utter disaster.
Here is a Common Core question that is included in the most popular Second GRade Common Core math book and might therefore appear on the Third Grade SBAC math test:
"Brian has some boxes of paper clips. Some boxes hold 10 clips and some boxes hold 100. He has some paper clips left over. He has three more boxes with 100 paper clips than he has boxes with paper 10 paper clips. He has two fewer paper clips left over than he has numbers of boxes with 100 paper clips. What number of paper clips could he have?"
Can you answer this question??? Do you think this is an age appropriate question to be forcing on 2nd Graders???
As for the claim that Common Core is not related to the SBAC test, here is a quote from the first sentence on the home page of the SBAC website: "Smarter Balanced (SBAC is) a high-quality test strongly aligned with the Common Core State Standards."
As for the claim that Common Core is not related to the Pearson test, check out this five book series from Pearson to help prepare for the Pearson Common Core aligned GED test. The entire set can be bought from the Pearson GED store for only $274!
In fact, the whole point of Common Core was to open the door for a new series of high failure rate tests. It is time to end this disastrous experiment with Common Core in our schools and with the common aligned high failure rate SBAC andPearson GED tests!Sadly, instead of admitting their error and apologizing to the parents and students of Washington state for the disastrous experiment with Common Core, the leaders of the Washington State Democratic Party are making a bad situation even worse by promoting a bill that would make the SBAC test a graduation requirement in Washington State. House Bill 2214, whose prime sponsor is Mr. Common Core Chris Reykdal, would impose the most draconian graduation requirements in the nation on Washington state students. This bill has passed the House and is sitting in the Senate. If it passes the Senate, it would require students to pass the unfair SBAC math test - a test that few members of the state legislature could pass and a test that more than 50,000 high school Juniors would fail - requiring them to take another year of advanced math during their Senior year in order to graduate.
Our students deserve better than this. They deserve standards that are age appropriate and an assessment system that is fairly normed and field tested. Instead of promoting House Bill 2214 - a bill that only benefits the wealthy corporations that make the tests - Democrats should be promoting Senate Bill 6093 - a bill that would add $4 to $6 billion per year to our public schools so we could lower class sizes so struggling students could get the help they need to succeed in school and succeed in life. Instead, if leaders if the Democratic Party continue to terrorize students with bills like House Bill 2214, then don't be surprised if the Republican party takes over bedroom community legislative districts from Kirkland and Bellevue to Kent and Enumclaw. This is what happens when you blindly follow party politics instead of evidence based decision making - and adopt policies that harm kids. As always, we look forward to your questions and comments.
David Spring M. Ed.
Director, Coalition to Protect our Public Schools