Archive for the ‘Transparency’ Category

Where’s Earl? Part 2
by Silence Dogood

Last October, I was looking up someone on campus. After I found what I was looking for, I did a search for Potter just to see what would come up. I was surprised to see the response that came back:

Just for fun I recently went to the other six MnSCU universities to see what would come up if I put the name of their university President into their directory search engine. The results are shown below.

At Bemidji:

At Metro:

At Mankato:

At Moorhead:

At Southwest:

At Winona:

As you can see, all of the websites look very different. However, each one of them found the university’s president. A phone number was listed for each of the presidents. For five there was an office address and for five there was an email address.

It is surprising that the president at SCSU, a person who has been president for more than seven years, couldn’t be found then and still can’t be found now by the university’s search engine. Based on the results from the other six MnSCU universities, this makes Earl H. Potter something of an outlier. Clearly, he doesn’t want to be found.

A ton of research highlighted Charting the Future’s deceptions. CtF isn’t Chancellor Rosenstone’s vision for MnSCU. It’s a collaboration of major corporations through the Minnesota Business Partnership, a powerful trade organization (MHTA), a Minnesota-based consulting firm (McKinsey & Co.) and a well-connected former Minnesota politician (Margaret Anderson-Kelliher). Mostly, it’s the work of McKinsey & Company under the title of the Itasca Project.

First, McKinsey & Company isn’t “New York-based” like Chancellor Rosenstone described them as. Here’s the truth:

Based on this map, McKinsey & Co. is a Minneapolis-based consulting firm. Further, MHTA is tied into CtF. Here’s a little information on MHTA:

The group identified a four-part strategy:

  1. Align academic offerings with workforce needs
  2. Foster an ecosystem of research and innovation
  3. Form new collaborations across higher education to optimize system-wide intellectual assets and efficiency
  4. Graduate more students with the foundational and technical skills needed to drive Minnesota’s prosperity

First, government bureaucracies don’t “form new collaborations” to “optimize system-wide intellectual assets and efficiency.” It’d be great if they did but bureaucracies don’t do those things unless they’re forced by the changing of state statutes.

That raises red flags. If CtF’s goal isn’t to make MnSCU more efficient, what is CtF’s goal? Is there an ulterior motive behind CtF? If there is an ulterior motive driving CtF, what is it? According to IFO’s letter to Dr. Rosenstone, the savings from CtF are imaginary:

In the past decade, MnSCU has spent money by the tens of millions on IT consultants that claimed they would create efficiencies that would result in efficiencies for students — student tuitions still continued to skyrocket. The only savings we have seen for students in recent years came from the legislative buy down of tuition rates.

When lobbyists, corporations and consultants put a plan together, nothing good will come of it.

According to this webpage, Margaret Anderson Kelliher is the president & CEO of the Minnesota High Tech Association, aka the MHTA. She’s also the vice-chair of the MnSCU Board of Trustees Executive Committee.

In other words, McKinsey wasn’t hired by MnSCU to implement CtF. They were hired by MnSCU to create, then implement, CtF. That’s definitely a significant deception.

I didn’t have high hopes for CtF prior to this research. I have less faith in it after doing the research.

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Let’s have a hypothetical discussion about whether it’s possible to hold a private meeting where public information is being disseminated to the public. Let’s view this within the context of Minnesota’s open meeting laws.

Isn’t it impossible to argue that an organization that accepts money from Minnesota’s general fund budget isn’t subject to Minnesota’s open meeting laws? Isn’t it impossible to argue that that institute of society isn’t subject to pubic scrutiny?

Let’s stipulate that a public entity that’s subject to Minnesota’s Data Practices Act is also subject to Minnesota’s open meeting laws. If I can get information on a university’s budget through a Minnesota Data Practices Act request, shouldn’t I also be able to get that information by attending that university’s meeting where that information is handed out? If not, why not?

Here’s the specific language of Minnesota’s Open Meetings Statutes:


Subdivision 1.In executive branch, local government. All meetings, including executive sessions, must be open to the public

(a) of a state

(1) agency,

(2) board,

(3) commission, or

(4) department,

when required or permitted by law to transact public business in a meeting;

(b) of the governing body of a

(1) school district however organized,

(2) unorganized territory,

(3) county,

(4) statutory or home rule charter city,

(5) town, or

(6) other public body;

(c) of any

(1) committee,

(2) subcommittee,

(3) board,

(4) department, or

(5) commission,

of a public body; and

(d) of the governing body or a committee of:

(1) a statewide public pension plan defined in section 356A.01, subdivision 24; or

(2) a local public pension plan governed by sections 424A.091 to 424A.096, or chapter 354A, or Laws 2013, chapter 111, article 5, sections 31 to 42.

Subd. 2.Exceptions. This chapter does not apply

(1) to meetings of the commissioner of corrections;

(2) to a state agency, board, or commission when it is exercising quasi-judicial functions involving disciplinary proceedings; or

(3) as otherwise expressly provided by statute.

Subd. 3.Subject of and grounds for closed meeting. Before closing a meeting, a public body shall state on the record the specific grounds permitting the meeting to be closed and describe the subject to be discussed.

Subd. 4.Votes to be kept in journal. (a) The votes of the members of the state agency, board, commission, or department; or of the governing body, committee, subcommittee, board, department, or commission on an action taken in a meeting required by this section to be open to the public must be recorded in a journal kept for that purpose.

(b) The vote of each member must be recorded on each appropriation of money, except for payments of judgments, claims, and amounts fixed by statute.

Subd. 5.Public access to journal. The journal must be open to the public during all normal business hours where records of the public body are kept.

§ Subd. 6.Public copy of members’ materials. (a) In any meeting which under subdivisions 1, 2, 4, and 5, and section 13D.02 must be open to the public, at least one copy of any printed materials relating to the agenda items of the meeting prepared or distributed by or at the direction of the governing body or its employees and:

(1) distributed at the meeting to all members of the governing body;

(2) distributed before the meeting to all members; or

(3) available in the meeting room to all members;

shall be available in the meeting room for inspection by the public while the governing body considers their subject matter.

(b) This subdivision does not apply to materials classified by law as other than public as defined in chapter 13, or to materials relating to the agenda items of a closed meeting held in accordance with the procedures in section 13D.03 or other law permitting the closing of meetings.

I highlighted the part titled “other public body” because the other descriptions don’t fit a university on point. There’s no question, though, that a university is “a public body.” Then there’s this:

Subd. 6.Public copy of members’ materials. (a) In any meeting which under subdivisions 1, 2, 4, and 5, and section 13D.02 must be open to the public, at least one copy of any printed materials relating to the agenda items of the meeting prepared or distributed by or at the direction of the governing body or its employees and:

(1) distributed at the meeting to all members of the governing body;

(2) distributed before the meeting to all members; or

(3) available in the meeting room to all members;

shall be available in the meeting room for inspection by the public while the governing body considers their subject matter.

At this not-totally-hypothetical meeting in question, budget documents were handed out, which makes sense since it was an informational meeting on this university’s budget. There’s no question that I could get a copy of these budget documents if I wanted a copy of them simply by submitting a Data Practices Act request.

Shouldn’t I be permitted to gather that information simply by attending this informational meeting? I’d love hearing the twisted, tortured logic explaining why I shouldn’t be able to gather this public information by attending but that I could get through a DPAR.

The spin on that explanation would make a Clinton dizzy.

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This article highlights what’s wrong with Steven Rosenstone’s administration of MnSCU. It also highlights what’s wrong with administrators’ practice of cronyism. Here’s a prime example:

Citing suspicions of administrative secrecy aroused by the system’s initially undisclosed hiring of McKinsey & Company, a prominent consulting firm, the leadership of the two unions voted unanimously on Thursday to tell the system’s chancellor, Steven J. Rosenstone, that the unions would no longer participate in the planning of Charting the Future, a systemwide reorganization effort.

The Inter Faculty Organization and the Minnesota State College Faculty, “which represents faculty members at two-year institutions”, have legitimate concerns about Chancellor Rosenstone’s secrecy. If this happened to me, I’d be both paranoid and upset:

When union officials sought a copy of the contract given to McKinsey, the system provided them with a version that was heavily redacted at McKinsey’s request, saying the system needed to respect the firm’s desire to protect trade secrets.

That isn’t all of it. Here’s more:

The system subsequently offered to let university officials see the full contract in private, on the condition it not be relayed elsewhere, but they refused to view it under such a restriction.

I hope the IFO and the MSCF take MnSCU and McKinsey to court to have a judge determine what parts of the contract contain McKinsey’s legitimate trade secrets and how much was improperly redacted. It’s just a hunch but I suspect that the contract’s redactions don’t have much to do with trade secrets, just like the US Department of Justice isn’t releasing documents on Fast and Furious because of executive privilege.

With the Fast and Furious documents, I suspect that the documents aren’t getting turned over because they’re embarrassing to President Obama and AG Holder. The suspicious side of me thinks that MnSCU isn’t releasing the unredacted contract because they’d be ridiculed for the provisions Chancellor Rosenstone agreed to. I’m suspicious that a contentious document has more information redacted than it has readable information:

In the McKinsey proposal, most of the 133 pages were blacked out as trade secrets, including information about past projects, employee bios and a section that starts, “McKinsey is the best partner for MnSCU because of our …” Experts on the state Government Data Practices Act such as former state information policy director Don Gemberling said “there’s no way” so much of McKinsey’s proposal fits the state’s narrow definition of a trade secret.

That’s just part of it. Here’s why I’m particularly suspicious:

Dean Frost, a professor at Bemidji State University and a former management consultant who reviewed some of the documents McKinsey produced, said the playbooks feature general, common-sense instructions on conducting a task force. He said the supporting research mostly includes publicly available materials rather than reports generated specially for MnSCU.

Based on MnSCU’s past actions, the IFO and MSCF have legitimate reasons for not trusting Chancellor Rosenstone.

Trust is earned. At this point, Rosenstone has lost more trust than he’s gained. This incident alone justifies people’s suspicions:

Kari Cooper, president of the Minnesota State University Student Association, said Rosenstone and a campus president attacked her suggestions and questioned her leadership at a recent meeting. “I left that meeting in tears,” she said. “I wasn’t going to sit there as a student and be talked to like that from people who are supposed to be supporting me and supposed to be collaborating with me.”

I won’t accuse President Potter of being that “campus president” who “attacked [Kari’s] suggestions and questioned [Kari’s] leadership because I haven’t confirmed that information. I certainly can’t say it wasn’t President Potter, though. It wouldn’t be the first time President Potter viciously attacked a student.

Rosenstone is secretive. He’s hired companies that think they’re out of the Minnesota Data Practices Act’s reach. What’s worst is that he’s kept people hired who verbally attack students. That’s the type of cancer than needs to be eradicated ASAP. If it isn’t eliminated ASAP, the Rosenstone cancer will metastasize.

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Where’s the Budget?
by Silence Dogood

According to Wikipedia, Clara Peller (August 4, 1902 – August 11, 1987), was a retired manicurist and American character actress who, at the age of 81, starred in the 1984 “Where’s the beef?” advertising campaign for the Wendy’s fast food restaurant chain. Clara became a phenomenon asking the all too obvious question.

Three months into FY15, there is no budget document whatsoever on the website for the Office of Finance and Administration. Even the budget document from last spring has been removed.

Apparently, promises have been made by the administration that a budget will be provided within the next few weeks. The obvious question is “Where’s the beef, I mean budget?” It’s simply incredible that more than 25% of the way through the fiscal year there is no budget for a $200,000,000 enterprise.

How can anyone think that, three months into the fiscal year, it is appropriate not to have a budget document available for discussion? Does anyone really believe that the administration is so incompetent that more than 25% of the way through the budget year there is no budget? Not even a “draft” budget? It’s sad to admit but we know that there is a budget—the administration just doesn’t want to show it to anyone.

Last spring, the declining enrollment at SCSU had been going on for four years it certainly can’t come of as a surprise. From FY10 through FY14, the FYE enrollment has fallen a staggering 18.0%. SCSU’s $6,400,000 loss on the Coborn’s Plaza apartments has been well documented. The university spent nearly half million on a “branding” makeover. SCSU has been hemorrhaging cash. Little, if anything, has been done about it.

President Potter even admits it in a St. Cloud Times article on August 29, 2014!

The curious thing about the timing of this article is that President Potter didn’t mention anything about an impending $10,000,000 shortfall, a 5% across the board budget reduction, or a ‘flexible’ hiring freeze in his convocation address nine days earlier. Here is a portion of an August 19, 2014 news release describing his address.

To top it off, President Potter held a real ‘feel good’ event after his address.

Are we to believe that nine days later, there is a looming financial disaster? T. Boone Pickens once said

Does anyone believe that President Potter was not aware of the financial situation of the university before his convocation address? If so, his Vice President for Finance and Administration, Tammy McGee, would probably be looking for work right now. Of course he knew!

The reason that there is no budget document is because as soon as a budget document is provided, there will be discussion. As of right now it’s only smoke and mirrors about a ‘flexible hiring freeze’ and a 5% across the board cut.

Whenever you make a prediction, you typically make a fool out of yourself. Last March 19, 2014, a Silence Dogood article published on the Let Freedom Ring Blog entitled More on State Appropriations ended with the quote “The truth will be evident as enrollment numbers come in for next fall and budget cuts are announced.” I guess Silence got it right.

The enrollment debacle President Potter has directed for the past seven years has finally run the “Flagship” of MnSCU aground and a shortfall of $8,000,000 to 10,000,000 is the consequence of his inaction. The captain of the Costa Concordia made a bad decision and we saw how well that worked out.

Unfortunately, President Potter’s only solution seems to be is to now ask the very people who are going to suffer the most as a result of his decisions to roll up their sleeves and help overcome this latest challenge. Or perhaps he’ll just hire another consultant—it’s worked so well in the past. What could go wrong?

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This LTE in the St. Cloud Times shows the growing discontent with Common Core from across the political spectrum:

Sandra Stotsky was a member of Common Core’s Validation Committee from 2009-10. She is professor emerita at the University of Arkansas. She wrote that Common Core’s K-12 standards, instead of emerging from a state-led process in which experts and educators were well represented, were written by people who did not represent the relevant stakeholders and included no English teachers.

Common Core is supported by lots of supposedly well-meaning politicians. Chief among those politicians is Jeb Bush, a potential Republican presidential candidate in 2016. The Gates Foundation is the chief funder of CCSS.

That’s one of the problems with CCSS.

“Because Common Core is run by private corporations and foundations, there can be no Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) filings or ‘sunshine laws’ to find out who got to choose the people who actually wrote the standards. It’s completely non-transparent and rather shady.”

That’s just the tip of a rather disgusting iceberg. A significant part of CCSS, aka Common Core State Standards, is data collection on families. I spoke recently with a friend who has a 3-year-old. The school district sent her a questionnaire asking things like whether there were guns in the house, whether they planned on home-schooling their child and other questions totally unrelated to the education of her child.

I wrote this post last fall to alert people to the threat CCSS poses. Here’s part of what I included in my post:

What did this Work Group look like? Focusing only on ELA, the make-up of the Work Group was quite astonishing: It included no English professors or high-school English teachers. How could legitimate ELA standards be created without the very two groups of educators who know the most about what students should and could be learning in secondary English classes? CCSSI also released the names of individuals in a larger “Feedback Group.” This group included one English professor and one high-school English teacher. But it was made clear that these people would have only an advisory role – final decisions would be made by the English-teacher-bereft Work Group.

The woman that wrote that paragraph is Dr. Stotsky, the woman quoted in the Times LTE. The fact that the working group putting together the standards for English language arts didn’t include any English professors or high school English teachers should automatically disqualify them as a serious working group. They certainly shouldn’t be considered an authority on school standards on any subject.

The American Federation of Teachers is calling for a “moratorium on using Common Core test scores to determine whether students deserve to advance to the next grade — or teachers deserve to keep their jobs,” according to Politico.

When conservatives and progressives agree that something is bad and they can list their substantive objections as to why they think it’s bad, that’s proof CCSS should be totally scrapped.

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In the aftermath the Great Place to Work Institute’s Trust Survey, President Potter announced that he’d be holding listening sessions. He’s sent out an email prepping people for those meetings. Here’s part of the text of that email:

To the Campus Community:

I know that many of you have taken time to review the data released earlier this month generated by the Great Place to Work survey. While the documents bring to light some difficult and sensitive issues, there are clearly some emerging themes represented in the data sets that warrant our collective attention as we seek to improve our work environment.

There are three primary phases of our work as we move forward: (1) Share; (2) Listen; and (3) Act. We have completed the first phase through the four town hall meetings that were held earlier this semester and through the creation of the “Campus Conversations” SharePoint site (, which contains all of the data we have received from the Great Place to Work Institute. Together we will now embark on the next stage of this important work, the listening phase.

Our next steps include a series of Campus Conversations and the President’s Listening Tour, beginning early April and continuing into the fall term. We recognize that the hectic schedules in April and May will make it difficult for many of you to engage in this process during this academic year; therefore, we will be scheduling sessions into next fall to facilitate full engagement from all faculty and staff.

It isn’t surprising that President Potter hid the GPTWI survey data on a password-protected webpage. President Potter isn’t into transparency. He doesn’t want people to find out that faculty don’t trust him to make sound financial decisions. President Potter doesn’t want the community to find out that the vast majority of the faculty don’t think that President Potter’s words match his actions.

President Potter, if you desire true openness, if you seek true transparency, put that data on a webpage that’s open to the public. If you keep this information hidden, we’ll know through your actions that you’re putting a higher priority on hiding this information than on making it public.

While I understand that significant portions of the survey don’t help you look good to the media, the reality is that this information is public information. That’s why I submitted a DPAR over the weekend. Our taxes paid for this survey. We have the right to know what’s in the survey. We shouldn’t have to submit Data Practices Act requests to find out what’s in it.

FYI- The information will be published.

President Potter, here’s a little unsolicited advice. The secrecy isn’t helping build trust with the faculty. Stop trying to hide the bad news. It’s time you stopped hiding public information. It’s time you started acting with integrity. Men of integrity don’t hide bad news because they don’t want their image stained.

President Potter, you’ve tried hiding the transcript scandal. You’ve done everything possible to hide the financial losses on the Wedum Foundation contract.

The GPTWI Trust Survey isn’t surprising to people who’ve paid attention. It’s still quite possible that it surprised the St. Cloud Times, which spent time playing ostrich before switching to being President Potter’s off-campus PR firm.

It’s beginning to look like transparency and integrity are four-letter words in President Potter’s vocabulary.

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If anything is gaining traction as a totally unexpected issue, it’s the DFL’s palace, aka the Senate Office Building. In January, Joe Soucheray wrote this blistering piece about the SOB foolishness. He wasn’t finished. He’s written this article to blast the foolishness again.

The duplicitous DFLers in the state Senate are moving the marble around under the thimbles. Again. Watch it. Keep your eyes sharp.

As near as I can understand it, they are now informing us that a new Senate office building they want to build for themselves has always been a part of the plan to renovate the Capitol building.

We didn’t know that. Most of us are on board to renovate the Capitol, but we didn’t sign on to build a new office building for 44 of the 67 senators as part of the project. No, they tossed that new building into a tax bill in the closing minutes of the last legislative session and are now trying to sell us on the idea of how desperately they need the new space and that was the plan all along.

Let’s cut through the DFL’s spin. It’s entirely possible that Democrats, starting with Sen. Bakk, always planned on building this monument. Before you get upset with me, take time to think of it from an Obamacare perspective. After President Obama said that people could keep their health plan if they liked it, they followed that up by saying it was never their intent to let people keep their “substandard health insurance plan.” There’s no disputing that.

Pay attention to this thinking. President Obama and DC Democrats always planned on quietly pushing people out of the health insurance plans that they liked. Likewise, it’s totally plausible that Sen. Bakk and the Democrats supported this ill-advised project if it was done quietly.

If you need to seriously remodel your house to the point where you have to move out, it is unlikely that you are going to build a new house for yourself in the interim. No, you would rent a house.

The senators can rent office space in St. Paul. They don’t need an opulent $63 million building with a $27 million parking ramp on the side. That parking ramp is a beautiful window into the minds of the people who brought you light rail. In fact, light rail will swing right by the Capitol. So they should put their mouths where your money is, rent some of the extraordinarily available office space in St. Paul, hop on the train and get dropped off at the Capitol for votes and meetings and whatnot. Why would they need a parking ramp? They don’t even like cars.

Let’s get to the heart of this. Had the Capitol press paid attention and if they were in touch with Main Street Minnesota, they would’ve highlighted this foolish spending. Rather than actually reading bills and asking questions about whether the bills working their way through the legislature, the Capitol press spends most of its time tracking down quotes from legislators.

That isn’t journalism. That’s stenography. If newspapers want to increase readership, they should require their reporters to read the bills that are getting passed.

Part of the problem, unfortunately, is because people don’t care until after the outrage has happened. If people don’t want money to be spent foolishly, the citizenry should be eternally vigilant. Then, if politicians spend money this foolishly, the citizens should boot their arses out.

Finally, let’s have a straightfoward discussion about what Sen. Bakk perpetrated. Sen. Bakk didn’t want anyone to testify about his ill-advised initiative. That’s why he slid the proposal into the Tax Bill as an amendment in the final weeks of the session. If you look, Sen. Bakk didn’t author legislation proposing construction of the Senate Office Building.

It’s time for Minnesotans to step forward and speak with a loud, passionate and unified voice that any politician that isn’t willing to stop this project dead in its tracks will be targeted and defeated this November. Legislators who aren’t the taxpayers’ watchdog are utterly worthless. They should be fired this November.

That’s the only remedy for this disease. When people get re-elected after spending money foolishly, citizens are sending the signal that they’re ok with foolish spending. I’m not ok with this foolish spending.

Defunding this project is imperative to good governance and protecting the taxpayers’ pocketbooks. The House Rules Committee can stop this ill-advised project with a simple vote. Here’s the committee website. All of the GOP legislators will vote against the project so it’s imperative to call or email the DFL committee members and politely but firmly tell them that a vote to approve this project is a vote that will be remembered this November.

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Saturday afternoon, Mitch Berg interviewed Kirsten Block and Linda Bell of Minnesotans Against Common Core to talk about the disruptive nature of Common Core. (Make sure to check out MACC’s website.) The information these ladies shared was stunningly Orwellian in nature. Here are some of the facts about Common Core:

Top 5 Facts about Common Core

  1. National student database – over 400+ data points collected, including child’s medical history and parent’s political and religious affiliations.
  2. Federally mandated – no local or parental control
  3. Curriculum not written nor approved by educators:
    1. English classic literature is greatly diminished;
    2. Math skills delayed by 2 years;
    3. Untested (no field test) curriculum;
    4. More testing, high-stakes tests, including biofeedback
  4. Local tax dollars will have to pay the bill: Approximately 13.7 million for the state of Minnesota

  • Brought in by the 2009 Stimulus Package through RTTT funding. Common Core was not reviewed nor voted on by Congress or State Legislatures.
  • That’s just the tip of the proverbial iceberg. If you don’t do anything else this weekend, reading this letter is essential. Dr. Sandra Stotsky put the letter together for a conference at Notre Dame. Here’s part of what Dr. Stotsky wrote about Common Core:

    What did this Work Group look like? Focusing only on ELA, the make-up of the Work Group was quite astonishing: It included no English professors or high-school English teachers. How could legitimate ELA standards be created without the very two groups of educators who know the most about what students should and could be learning in secondary English classes? CCSSI also released the names of individuals in a larger “Feedback Group.” This group included one English professor and one high-school English teacher. But it was made clear that these people would have only an advisory role – final decisions would be made by the English-teacher-bereft Work Group.

    It’s astonishing that the people putting the standards and curriculum for subjects together aren’t experts on the subject. That’s foolishness. Again, that’s just the tip of the iceberg:

    The lead ELA writers were David Coleman and Susan Pimentel, neither of whom had experience teaching English either in K-12 or at the college level. Nor had either of them ever published serious work on K-12 curriculum and instruction. Neither had a reputation for scholarship or research; they were virtually unknown to the field of English language arts. But they had been chosen to transform ELA education in the US. Who recommended them and why, we still do not know.

    It’s worth asking what these people’s qualifications were. It’s also worth asking who picked them to be the lead writers of the curriculum. If these questions don’t raise red flags, Dr. Stotsky’s opening paragraph will:

    Common Core’s K-12 standards, it is regularly claimed, emerged from a state-led process in which experts and educators were well represented. But the people who wrote the standards did not represent the relevant stakeholders. Nor were they qualified to draft standards intended to “transform instruction for every child.” And the Validation Committee (VC) that was created to put the seal of approval on the drafters’ work was useless if not misleading, both in its membership and in the procedures they had to follow.

    Everything was done behind closed doors. Open meeting laws didn’t apply. The people writing the curriculum weren’t experts in their assigned subjects. Again, there’s more to this. Does this sound like a collaborative effort?

    In a private conversation at the end of November, 2009, I was asked by Chris Minnich, a CCSSI staff member, if I would be willing to work on the standards during December with Susan Pimentel, described to me as the lead ELA standards writer. I had worked with her (working for StandardsWork) on the 2008 Texas English language arts standards and, earlier, on other standards projects. I was told that Pimentel made the final decisions on the ELA standards. I agreed to spend about two weeks in Washington, DC working on the ELA standards pro bono with Pimentel if it was made clear that agreed-upon revisions would not be changed by unknown others before going out for comment to other members of the VC and, eventually, the public.

    A week after sending to Minnich and Pimentel a list of the kind of changes I thought needed to be made to the November 2009 draft before we began to work together, I received a “Dear John” letter from Chris Minnich. He thanked me for my comments and indicated that my suggestions would be considered along with those from 50 states and that I would hear from the staff sometime in January.

    In the second week of January 2010, a “confidential draft” was sent out to state departments of education in advance of their submitting an application on January 19 for Race to the Top (RttT) funds. (About 18 state applications, including the Bay State’s, were prepared by professional grant writers chosen and paid for by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation—at roughly $250,000 each.) A few states included the watermarked confidential draft in their application material and posted the whole application on their department of education’s website (in some cases required by law), so it was no longer confidential. This draft contained none of the kinds of revisions I had suggested in my December e-mail to Minnich and Pimentel. Over the next six months, the Pioneer Institute published my analyses of that January draft and succeeding drafts, including the final June 2 version. I repeatedly pointed out serious flaws in the document, but at no time did the lead ELA standards writers communicate with me (despite requests for a private discussion) or provide an explanation of the organizing categories for the standards and the focus on skills, not literary/historical content.

    That isn’t a collaborative effort. That sounds more like a rubberstamp operation than a collaboration. Ignoring all of the recommendations of a professor is one thing. To be invited to work on developing standards one week, then essentially being told a month later that your help isn’t needed is a slap in the face. To then pass up opportunities to communicate with this professor indicates that the standards were predetermined and that she was being invited to be window dressing.

    The VC members who signed the letter were listed in the brief official report on the VC (since committee work was confidential, there was little the rapporteur could report), while the five members who did not sign off were not listed as such, nor their reasons mentioned. Stotsky’s letter explaining why she could not sign off can be viewed here, and Milgram’s letter can be viewed here.

    This was the “transparent, state-led” process that resulted in the Common Core standards. The standards were created by people who wanted a “Validation Committee” in name only. An invalid process, endorsed by an invalid Validation Committee, resulted not surprisingly in invalid standards.

    It’s understatement to say that the process left much to be desired in terms of transparency. It didn’t set high standards, either. The public is entitled to know more about Common Core than we know currently. If they aren’t willing to waive the privacy agreements, for instance, Common Core should be either rejected or repealed. If the working groups aren’t willing to testify about their discussions and deliberations, state legislatures should either reject or repeal Common Core.

    I’m sending special thanks to Mitch Berg for addressing this issue. Thanks also go out to Kirsten Block and Linda Bell for explaining the dangers of Common Core.

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    In the past, demented Michele Bachmann haters argued that she didn’t care about her district. While it’s true she took time to run for president, it isn’t true that she doesn’t care about what’s best for her district. Her getting a new Stillwater Bridge built is proof she cares about the Sixth District. This Pi-Press article offers more proof that Rep. Bachmann cares about the Sixth District:

    Republican Rep. Michele Bachmann sought Monday to muster support in Minnesota and Washington for money to add a new Interstate 94 lane in each direction between the western Twin Cities suburbs and St. Cloud.

    The congresswoman came to the state Capitol along with supporters from local government and businesses to talk about the project, as well as a related push to upgrade U.S. 10 that runs parallel to the heavily traveled interstate. Backers of the I-94 project are trying to amass $25 million for the first construction phase of an expansion that could reach $100 million when fully complete. The improvements to U.S. 10 are priced at $300 million.

    Of course, the Dayton administration sought to diminish the importance of the I-94 project:

    But Minnesota Department of Transportation spokesman Kevin Gutknecht said the I-94 widening doesn’t rank high on the agency’s long-term list of priority projects. “There are projects like this all across the state — really good projects, really important projects, projects that have tremendous support like this,” he said. “It all really boils down to the funding piece.”

    It’s interesting that MnDOT spokesman Kevin Gutknecht hints that widening I-94 isn’t a good project or an important project. The notion that one of the two busiest highways in the state doesn’t qualify as an important project is utter nonsense.

    This stinks of political gamesmanship on behalf of the Dayton Administration. Sixth District voters will remember that when Gov. Dayton asks for their support in 2014. I’m betting they won’t like it that his administration prefered playing political games rather than doing what’s right for economic development in central Minnesota.

    The other thing that’s worth noting is that Michele didn’t airdrop an earmark into a transportation bill conference committee report. She’s putting the project through the committee where it can be researched in the light of day. Michele’s projects, including the Stillwater Bridge project and this project, both went through the committee process. The Stillwater Bridge project was signed by President Obama because it withstood the scrutiny of the House and Senate transportation committees.

    Years ago, Rep. Bachmann pledged not to be a porkmeister like the late Jack Murtha or Minnesota’s Jim ‘Bike Path’ Oberstar. She’s kept that promise while still looking out for what’s best for her district. Minnesota needs more politicians who are committed to doing things in the light of day rather than away from the people’s scrutiny.

    I expect this post to get tons of comments from Michele’s left wing haters. Their comments will expose them for the partisan haters that they are. Remember their hate-filled comments the next time you enter a voting booth.

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