Two days ago, I received the following email from a high school student in the State of Maine:
“Dear Dr. Thompson,
I’m a student from ____________ High School in Maine. In a journalism class I’m taking, I’m doing a multimedia story on Common Core. The focus of the story is Common Core and whether or not it is harmful to student learning. “Common Core Standards Negatively Impact Student Learning”I read the letter you wrote to Mr. Beck and Mrs. Swasey, and I thought the points you made were very interesting.I have a few questions I’d like to ask you for my research, and if it’s okay with you, I’d like to use your answers in my story. I would be sure to let you review the pieces including your answers before submitting my work. I’ve enclosed the questions below.1. How did you first hear about Common Core? What were your initial thoughts?2. What inspired you to research more about Common Core?3. What were the most surprising things you learned from your research?4. Do you feel that education in states that have adopted the use of Common Core Standards will be affected negatively or positively? Why?5. In your opinion, what makes Common Core so popular? Why have all but four states adopted it?6. What are the most important things to know about Common Core?Thank you so much for your help. I look forward to hearing back from you.Sincerely,“Jane Doe”
“Dear Ms. Doe:
However, if your goal is to become to the most loved and popular by administration and (many) teachers at ___________ High, you may wish to change your topic. :).”
I vowed to get off the common core advocacy train, which includes denying any and all interview requests and speaking engagement on the subject. The entire country has completely lost their collective minds when it comes to the subject of Common Core. Many have lost their collective souls. I’m a Dad and a Doctor, and my firm desire at this point of my life is to focus on my clinic, as well as the homeschooling of my four year old daughter. When I walked off the podium in Idaho on November 1, I left the Common Core Wars with a sense of accomplishment, as well as peace.”
I know many of you are also “sick and tired” of the Common Core debate, so I apologize if I digress with this subject on this post. However, I imagined my own Senior in High School requesting assistance from a profession for a education project, and it broke my heart with the thought that she would be rejected or ignored.
Telling MSNBC to “go to hell” was easy. Saying the same thing to a 17 year old kid with the guts enough to do this project in a public school already deeply engaged in Common Core, was another issue.
I simply could not say “no”. Below is the written responses I gave to this brave (“crazed”?) teenager. Ignore it if you must, I do not blame you. The purpose of this blog is to explore my journey into homeschooling with daughter, not Common Core. However, this may serve as “background” regarding the choices I will make regarding “Baby Zoey” and her education journey, and may help you understand my “mindset”. Enjoy.
“Interview With Dr. Gary Thompson”
Professional Bio of Dr. Gary Thompson
Dr. Gary Thompson is a clinically and educationally trained doctor of psychology. Dr. Thompson is a proud supporter of public school teachers, and the mission and goals associated with public, private, charter and homeschooling of our nation’s children.
Dr. Thompson has previously used his expertise assisting parents navigate the complex public/private school maze of Individual Education Plans (IEP) and 504 accommodation meetings. He has represented over 500 children in various public school IEP/Consultation settings in 25 different school districts in multiple states. Dr. Thompson received both his Doctor of Psychology (Psy.D.) and Master’s Degree (MS) from Phillips Graduate Institute in Los Angeles, California, and completed his award winning doctoral training Internship and Residency requirements at A Better Way Child & Family Services located in Berkeley, California. He attended both Brigham Young University, and University of Utah for his undergraduate degree in Communications/Pre-Law.
In addition to his extensive clinical experience, Dr. Thompson also received two years of pediatric neuropsychological assessment clinical training from the renowned Drake Institute of Behavioral Medicine based in Irvine, CA. Dr. Thompson is also a certified civil litigation paralegal with 10 years of litigation experience in a wide variety of legal settings.
Dr. Thompson now exclusively devotes his time consulting with parents about education options and interventions for gifted and special education children, and is currently homeschooling his own special needs, “divergent learning” four-year-old daughter. His wife, Dr. Frances Thompson, is a licensed clinical psychologist and current CEO of Early Life Child Psychology & Education Center based in Salt Lake City, Utah and Valencia, California (www.earlylifepsych.com). They are the parents of four children ranging from the ages 4-25, with three fairly recent graduates from public schools in the State of Utah.
- Interview Question: “How did you first hear about Common Core? What were your initial thoughts?”Dr. Thompson: “In early 2013, I received multiple emails from a “activist” mother in Utah (Chrystal Swayze, founder of Utahans Against Common Core) and a producer from the Glen Beck/Blaze T.V. Show, who forwarded me original source materials from the Utah State Office of Education regarding the new standards, data gathering procedures, as well as the proposed new Common Core computer adaptive testing programs. I replied that as registered Democrat, and proud supporter of the general political platform of President Barack Obama, I was not interested in participating in “activist” related activities as professional. In addition, I bluntly stated that I was not a “fan” of either Glen Beck, or his politically based T.V. talk show. After continued “hounding” from Ms. Swayze, I finally read the material, and forwarded a professional opinion authored by myself and our clinic’s extremely Progressive attorney, Edward D. Flint, to both Ms. Swayze and the Glen Beck Producer.
Both Mr. Flint and I were “puzzled” about the many aspects of educational change along the lines of data privacy and achievement/psychological that were about to happen in our community public schools. We outlined our professional concerns both as a doctors and lawyers, as well as parents of “divergent” learners that were currently enrolled in Utah public schools. I naïvely published the letter on my personal Facebook page, and I was surprised to find that the letter “went viral” around the nation, where it apparently has now been found, two years later, by a high school student in Maine.”
- Interview Question: “What inspired you to research more about Common Core?”Dr. Thompson: “I’m not a professional educator by any means. I have zero expertise in the areas of “Standards” or “Curriculum” as such applies to public school students. I have never commented professionally on “Standards”, “Curriculum”, or politically toxic issues associated with “State vs. Federal Control” in public school issues. I’m not a teacher/administrator or a politician. I briefly taught first year graduate students during the later part of my graduate school years, but that is the extent of my “teaching” experiences. Politics? I hate politics, and I’m not exactly a fan of politicians or the political process. They both give me headaches. I will never run for public office. It’s just not “my thing.”
However, I do have professional, doctoral level training and experience along the lines of HOW kids learn, and the best practices associated with measuring (testing), developmental learning processes along the lifespan of kids, and the constructs associated with learning (achievement, cognitions, and emotions). In addition, as a founder of a clinical psychology clinic, I was also very well versed with privacy laws associated with medical/psychological/education data, and the importance of keeping such data as private as possible. Finally, as a parent of kids in public schools, I was VERY motivated to find out exactly what these new changes were exactly all about, and how the proposed changes would affect the public school experiences of my very diverse set of “dual exceptional” (gifted and learning “disabled”) kids.
After my infamous letter went viral, and my subsequent reluctant T.V. appearance on the Glen Beck Show, Mr. Flint and I were invited by the Utah State Superintendent of Public Schools to visit with him to clear up any “misconceptions and fears” we had concerning Common Core, as such applied only to Common Core testing, developmental practices, and psychological/academic testing data privacy practices. After a three hour long meeting, it was fair to say that none of my concerns as a doctor of clinical psychology, or as a parent, were answered with any degree of certainty. Mr. Flint and I left the meeting scratching our heads in confusion.
Politics aside, both Lawyer Flint and I knew that if the Common Core “reforms” were adopted as outlined in the materials presented to us, and explained directly by the State Superintendent of Public Schools, both sets of our children, and many others in Utah, would be in for a very rough ride. As such, I became a very reluctant “advocate” for special needs and divergent learners in public schools wishing to adopt the Common Core philosophies of education delivery and testing.”
Interview Question: “What were the most surprising things you learned from your research?”
Dr. Thompson: “How the most far reaching changes in our nation’s public schools were reached with little to no backing of independent peer reviewed research in the areas of clinical psychology, educational psychology, developmental psychology and cognitive psychology. Most “studies” supporting Common Core were published either by public school associated (and paid) “think tanks”, or non profit organizations that received direct funding from either the federal government, or private billionaires (e.g., Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, etc.) who stood to make a financial profit from the proposed changes. As someone professionally trained under the “local clinical community scientist model” of clinical psychology, I was appalled that science related choices were being made almost entirely with profit and/or political agendas taking the forefront.
Regardless of one’s stand on high stakes testing, most can agree that psychological/achievement testing is occurring at unprecedented level. In the private sector, our child psychologists make a living via the gathering and interpretation of data from multiple sources. The assumption is that the more data there is to analyze and interpret, the more informed decisions will be when it comes to choosing what practices should be implemented into public school systems, or as part of a clinical treatment plan or education evaluation.
It is the inaccurate and unethical interpretations of this data that is fueling the chaos, damage and despair at the ground levels of public schools in the nation. Public school policymakers’ orgy-like thirst for the gathering of data (fueled by millions of dollars invested by private corporations) has resulted in little to no focus on how this data is being utilized on the ground level. “Ground level” is defined as our kids. Public schools have replaced the intimate art form of assessment with a dangerous over reliance on numbers. The arrogance of assuming that science has advanced to the point where we think that standardized testing of any nature can capture the complex essence of a child’s cognitive, emotional, academic, developmental, and cultural qualities, forms the basis of the scientific half-truth that Common Core testing can measure “career and college readiness.”
Moreover, simply put, we have never utilized the experimental concept of computer adaptive testing on a mass level in the history of our nation. As with all experiments, we simply have no ideal what Common Core tests will measure, or how traditionally low-performing; vulnerable groups will be affected by this experiment.
It seems every local school district website in the nation affirms emphatically that this test is basically the end all, be all, “Holy Grail” savior for the next generation of diverse learners in America. Making this bold claim of test efficacy to parents and ground level teachers without documented validity data is unprecedented. Psychology has a long and storied 150-year history documenting the many abuses that have happened to people when organizations or practitioners play fast and loose with ethical guidelines associated with testing.
My recent presentation given in several states (“When Agendas Trump Science: Stick Happens http://vimeo.com/110738936) is a wake-up call to the education community regarding the importance of following best practice ethics, and the consequences to children when such are ignored.”
Interview Question: “Do you feel that education in states that have adopted the use of Common Core Standards will be affected negatively or positively? Why?”
Dr. Thompson answer: “Again, I have no comment on the “Standards” issues associated with Common Core. Common Core is a lot more than a “set of standards.” (Everybody wants and desires appropriate “high standards”. What exactly those “Standards” should be is best left for educators, politicians and parent ground level activist to figure out as far as I’m concerned.) Those who do not support Common Core, often state, “One size does not fit all.” On the flip side, “one size” DOES fit SOME kids, and for those kids who are adjusting well to the education reforms, I say, “Great!” I’m happy for their positive progress. However, peer reviewed research clearly states that a very large statistical contingency of diverse learning kids in public school settings (e.g., black, Latino, gifted, learning disabled, autistic, ADHD, depressed and anxious kids, to name a few) will most likely struggle significantly under many of the Common Core teaching and testing practices. There has been a long and storied history in education psychology circles regarding the tendency to assess African-American and Latino children against the standards of Euro-Americans (Campbell, 1996; Sternberg, 2004). This ethnocentric tendency has lead to inaccurate and invalid interpretations of cognitive and achievement test results as well as the cognitive/achievement competencies in ethnic minority children and teens (Campbell, 1996; Sternberg, 2004). The vast majority of peer reviewed research into cognitive/achievement testing of African American and Latino children has been devoted towards alleged or perceived test bias of the instruments used to measure the constructs of achievement/intelligence, or the extent of tests’ predictive abilities in regards to academic functioning (Brody, 1997; Buss, 1996; Castenell, 1998; Fabio, 2005; Francis, 2005; Kim, 2003). To my knowledge, no test designer has yet to solve this issue.
If it is the claim that PARCC, SBAC and the U.S. Department of Education have solved the puzzle related to test bias and validity for these populations of children, then it truly is a time to celebrate one of the most impressive discoveries in assessment in the history of mankind.
In addition, peer-reviewed research is replete with examples and double-blind studies of how learning disabilities and diagnosed mental health issues along the range of depression, anxiety, and trauma can dramatically alter the validity of testing results under any setting. If it is the claim of education officials that they have also solved this puzzle, I look forward with anticipation of their publication and peer-reviewed statistical assurances that these issues have been properly accounted for.”
- Interview Question: “In your opinion, what makes Common Core so popular? Why have all but four states adopted it?”
Dr. Thompson answer: “It is beyond my scope of expertise to comment on why a experimental program the size and scope of Common Core is “popular” amongst the politicians and State level education suits. You would be best served to ask those folks directly. In my spare time, I have found an interest in “following the money” that is associated with the implementation of Common Core. The acquisition of money and associated power regarding education seem to be very “popular” and all consuming in American political and education circles of both major political parties. When you find a logical and coherent answer to your question from the brain trusts associated with the implementation of Common Core, I would appreciate that you forward it to me in your spare time.”
Interview Question: “What are the most important things to know about Common Core?”
Dr. Thompson: “Again, the term “Common Core” is very broad in scope comprising, at a minimum, Standards, Curriculum, teaching practices, high stakes testing, and privacy issues associated with learning data. In my areas of expertise, I will bluntly summarize the “most important” things to know about Common Core in the areas of testing, developmental teaching practices, and data privacy issues:
1. High Stakes Testing: A highly experimental process that has absolutely zero independently reviewed and openly disseminated validity studies. Children are being subjected as experimental guinea pigs via the wishes of private testing corporations without the explicit informed consent of their parents/guardians.
2. Developmental Practices: Many “standards” and accompanied Common Core curriculum practices and philosophies do not conform to 100 years of peer-reviewed science in the area of cognitive development.
3. Data Privacy: There is no such thing as “data privacy”. Opening the doors of having intimate psychological, achievement, and cognitive data on students on State/Federal/Testing Company computer servers is a “Pandora’s Box” that we will someday wish was never opened. We have a long history in America with struggling how to match our laws and ethical practices associated with rapid innovations in technology. It appears that we are ignoring our history at the expense of political agendas and profits for private corporate interests…. all at the expense of our children…. my clients…and my own children.”
Next Blog: “Education Wars In The Home: Our Struggle With Have Differing Views Regarding Education Directions”.