Archives for category: Coleman, David

Joanne Yatvin, who served for many years as a teacher and principal in Oregon, is a literacy expert. She here expresses her view of the Common Core English Language Arts standards.

 

What the Dickens is Education All About?

Did you know that Charles Dickens denounced the Common Core Standards more than 150 years ago and didn’t think much of the value of higher education either? In his 1854 novel, Hard Times, Dickens devotes the first two chapters to satirizing education in the grade schools of his era, and it looks a lot like teaching in our schools today.

Right away, Dickens introduces Thomas Gradgrind, owner of a small school in an English industrial town, who makes clear what he thinks education should be: “Now what I want is, Facts. Teach these boys and girls nothing but Facts. Facts alone are wanted in life. Plant nothing else, and root out everything else. “

Next, Gradgrind, an unnamed visitor, and the schoolmaster, Mr. M’Choakumchild enter a classroom and lessons begin with Gradgrind in charge. He looks around the room and points to a young girl: “Girl number twenty” he calls out. She stands up and gives her name: “Sissy Jupe, sir.” “Sissy is not a name,” charges Gradgrind. “Don’t call yourself Sissy. Call yourself Cecelia.”

After learning that Sissy’s father performs with horses at the local circus, Gradgrind demands, “Give me your definition of a horse.” When she doesn’t answer, he turns to a boy named Bitzer and repeats the order. Bitzer says, “Quadruped. Graminivorous. Forty teeth, namely twenty-four grinders, four eyeteeth, and twelve incisive. Sheds coat in the spring; in marshy countries, sheds hoofs, too. Hoofs hard, but requiring to be shod with iron. Age known by marks in mouth.” “Now, girl number twenty,” gloats Gradgrind, “You know what a horse is.”

Later, while lecturing the class on the foolishness of using representations of horses and flowers in home decorations, Gradgrind calls on Sissy again, asking her why she would have such pictures on carpets where people would step on them. Sissy, no longer tongue-tied, replies, “It wouldn’t hurt them, sir. They would be the pictures of what was very pretty and pleasant, and I would fancy….” “ But you mustn’t fancy,” cries Gradgrind. “That’s it! You are never to fancy.”

Having humiliated Sissy once again, Gradgrind turns the lesson over to M’Choakumchild, who, Dickens tells us, has been thoroughly trained for his job: “Orthography, etymology, syntax, and prosody, biography, astronomy, geography, and general cosmography, the sciences of compound proportion, algebra, land-surveying and leveling, vocal music, and drawing from models, were all at the end of his ten chilled fingers ……He knew all about all the Water Sheds of all the world (whatever they are), and all the histories of all the peoples, and all the names of all the rivers and mountains, and all the productions, manners, and customs of all the countries, and all their boundaries and bearings on the two-and-thirty points of the compass. Ah, rather overdone, M’Choakumchild. If he had only learnt a little less, how infinitely better he might have taught much more.”

Dickens then ends the chapter with a metaphorical musing that compares M’Choakumchild’s teaching to Morgiana’s actions in the story, “Alibaba and the Forty Thieves”:

“Say, good M’choakumchild. When from thy boiling store,

thou shalt fill each jar brim full by-and-by, dost thou think that thou wilt always kill outright the robber Fancy lurking within—or sometimes only maim and distort him.”

While these excerpts from Hard Times are fresh in our minds, let’s consider their connection to today’s Common Core English Language Arts Standards. Below is a key statement from the official CCSS guide for teaching reading.


.The Common Core emphasizes using evidence from texts to present careful analyses, well-defended claims, and clear information. Rather than asking students questions they can answer solely from their prior knowledge and experience, the standards call for students to answer questions that depend on their having read the texts with care.

Although this statement does not include the word “facts,” it argues for the type of education that Gradgrind championed. Incidentally, neither “imagination” nor “creativity” is mentioned anywhere in the Standards documents.

To further emphasize the place of factual information in standards-based education, David Coleman, the primary architect of the Standards and now President of the College Board, has repeatedly asserted his view that students’ experiences, beliefs, and feelings should not be part of their educational journey. Below, is his explanation of how Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address should be taught:

The idea here is to plunge students into an independent encounter with this short text. Refrain from giving background context or substantial instructional guidance at the outset. It may make sense to notify students that the short text is thought to be difficult and they are not expected to understand it fully on a first reading —that they can expect to struggle. Some students may be frustrated, but all students need practice in doing their best to stay with something they do not initially understand. This close reading approach forces students to rely exclusively on the text instead of privileging background knowledge, and levels the playing field for all students as they seek to comprehend Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address.

Since I had not seen any lessons that fit Coleman’s criteria in my visits to classrooms, I turned to a website called “America Achieves” and viewed the only video there that portrayed the Common Core concept of proper teaching of a complex text.

That video shows a 9th grade teacher teaching a lesson on Shirley Jackson’s short story “The Lottery” that depicts a yearly event in a small rural village in which every family must participate. In this “lottery” the person who draws the one paper with a black dot on it is stoned to death by the crowd. Clues throughout the story let mature readers know about the lottery’s ancient origins and its initial purpose to persuade the gods to provide a good food harvest for the community, information that the story’s characters are never aware of.

At the video’s beginning the teacher describes her class to the audience as low-level readers with several English Language learners among them. She explains her choice of “The Lottery” as a complex text, yet within the range of suitability for ninth graders. The classroom scenes that follow show her asking students to locate specific bits of information and explain their literal meanings. She never asks why the story’s characters speak or act as they do. Also included in the video are short breaks where the teacher addresses viewers directly explaining her teaching further.

My response to the video was strongly negative. I felt that the teacher’s approach was mechanical and shallow. Without background information the students missed the author’s clues and failed to see the significance in the characters’ comments and behaviors. For them this was just a fairy tale without rhyme or reason. As a seasoned educator I could not accept the teacher’s choice of a text for this class or her failure to give them sufficient information beforehand and guidance during reading

It’s probably not fair for me to pass judgment on the Standards teaching methods after seeing just one video. But, if this new approach to K-12 education is so powerful why aren’t there more videos on this site—or elsewhere–showing teachers practicing more sophisticated teaching? Without research, field-testing, or evidence of student improvement, the case for the Standards right now is weak at best. Yet, most of our states’ governors, policy makers, pundits, and school officials have fallen for it. What we need is a reincarnation of Dickens to give us a picture of a modern classroom with a gifted teacher and a new Bitzer and Sissy to show us the difference between spouting “facts” and demonstrating genuine learning.

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Civil rights lawyer Wendy Lecker writes that Arne Duncan has sold the American public a bill of goods, a false narrative. He and David Colemn think that national standards will fix all the problems of American education. She says they are wrong. Their bad ideas are the problem. They are wrong.

She writes:

“Before the Common Core, according to Duncan, high school success was a “lie” — it certainly did not mean that students were “college ready.”

“What a compelling, but false, narrative. A new peer-reviewed longitudinal nationwide study confirmed that the most reliable predictor of cumulative college GPA and college graduation is a student’s high school GPA.

“The study, co-authored by former Bates College Dean of Admissions William Hiss, examined more than 123,000 student records at public and private universities across the country, universities serving predominately minority students and art schools. It compared those who submitted SAT or ACT scores for admission to those who did not.

“The authors found students with strong high school records succeeded in college, despite lower standardized test scores. Strong testers with lower GPAs had lower college performance. Non-submitters tended to be women, first-generation college students, PELL grant recipients, students of color and students with learning disabilities. The authors found a broad geographic appeal to non-submissions.

“All of the students in this study attended school prior to the adoption of the Common Core State Standards. Many began school well before the No Child Left Behind Act. They graduated from a variety of schools across the country, learned different curricula in states with different standards. Their GPAs did not depend on standardized tests. Yet consistently, their high school GPAs were reliable predictors of college success. If these students succeeded in American high schools, no matter what the curricula, standards or assessments, they succeeded in American colleges, public or private, large or small.

“This fact undermines the claims that American students need national standards, standardized curricula and nationally standardized tests in order to be “college and career ready.” The high school teachers of students in this study accurately assessed their achievement, and taught them what they needed to know to do well in college — without common standards, scripted lessons or a nationalized test. In fact, the data show that the two national standardized tests, the SAT and ACT, were poor predictors of college success.”

Turns out that teachers’ grades are better predictors of college success than the SAT, the ACT, or other standardized tests.

Peter Greene teaches high school in Pennsylvania so naturally he is very interested in the redesign of the SAT.

So, in a well-used journalistic tradition, Greene assumes the voice of David Coleman–president of the College Board–to explain the reasoning behind the changes.

This is his conclusion. You get the drift. Open the link and read it all.

“Yes, the SAT was a biased test. It still is– but now it’s biased the right way. My way. We’ve got the CCSS and the SAT lined up. Next we’ll get your three-year-olds properly rigorized, and once that’s happening colleges won’t be able to keep from becoming the proper vocational training centers they’re supposed to be. Quality of life? Quality of life comes from money, baby. Education has something to do with a greater understanding of our world and our humanity and how we make sense of them, how we express our deepest connections to each other and the universe in a process of discovery, expression and wonder that continues our whole life? You’re killing me.

“Look, an educated person is one who can do well the tests assigned by his betters, can fulfill a useful job for the corporations that hire him, and will behave properly for the government that rules him. If you wanted something more out of life than that, you should have arranged to be rich. In the meantime, enjoy the new SAT.”

Robert Shepherd, a frequent contributor to this blog, has started his own blog.

Our of our brilliant friend’s first contributions is a “Reformish lexicon
” in which he attempts to translate the language of “reform” into plain English.

If you have more words for him, send them in. There are many more. He has only scratched the surface.

Joy Resmovits has posted an admiring article about David Coleman, architect of the Common Core standards and now head of the College Board.

It tells you much of what you need to know about the man whose ideas are reshaping what almost every public school students in the United States will know and be able to do.

Note that Coleman tried to be a teacher, he says, but didn’t get hired. And now he will direct almost every classroom in the nation!

Since he couldn’t be a teacher, he went to work for McKinsey, where Big Data is a religion.

Then he founded the “Grow Network,” a company that provided data analysis about assessments.

McGraw-Hill purchased the Grow Network, for what insiders say was $14 million.

Then Coleman founded Student Achievement Partners, which played the leading role in writing the Common Core standards, which received $6.5 million from the Gates Foundation for this work.

At the same time that he was writing the Common Core standards, Coleman was treasurer of Michelle Rhee’s StudentsFirst in its first year of operation. The board had two other members: Jason Zimba, who wrote the Common Core math standards, and a third person who was an employee of David Coleman’s Student Achievement Partners.

Now, Coleman is reshaping the SAT and the AP tests to align with the Common Core.

Obviously, Coleman is an incredibly brilliant and well-educated man. He went to the very best universities. His parents were highly educated (his mother is president of Bennington College).

Since he has never been a teacher, what we must wonder about is his ability to understand that not all children will score over 700 on their SAT, no matter how hard they try. Not all children will go to Harvard, Yale, or Princeton. Not all children will go to Oxford.

We have a federal policy today that seems to have been written by people who got very high scores on their standardized tests and lack empathy for those who can’t do the same.

For months, school officials in many states have warned parents to expect proficiency rates on Common Core-aligned tests to plummet.

They have warned that the proportion of students rated proficient was likely to drop by as much as 30%.

When this happens, it will make public education in America look just as bad as the corporate reformers have been claiming.

When New York administered the first Common Core tests last spring, a copy of one fifth grade test was leaked to a Daily News reporter. She sent it to me and I studied it and concluded that the test questions were similar in difficulty to what was typically seen on an eighth grade NAEP test. I went to the NAEP website, looked at the released items and questions, and ranked the fifth grade test as “difficult” for an eighth grader.

Here is a report that I just received from the testing coordinator of a high-performing school in one of the best districts in New York:

“Just to let you know that because I am my school’s test coordinator I just looked at the scores for the ELA.  We are a “high achieving” school.  Last year only 5 students in grades 3, 4 and 5 got a level 1.  Now it is 32. Approximately 40% of our students scored levels 3 and 4 this year down from about 80% last year.  What does this mean?  Nothing because a test that measures skills that could not possibly be taught and is developmentally too hard is INVALID.”

So why the rush to make the tests so hard that more students will fail?

Rick Hess wrote last fall that many of the “reformers” believe that the terrible results (eagerly anticipated by them) will cause suburban parents to demand “reforms” and an escape from their neighborhood schools.

I can’t help but recall that David Coleman, the architect of the Common Core standards, was the treasurer of the board of Michelle Rhee’s StudentsFirst in its first year. If the Common Core tests produce a collapse of proficiency rates, then it makes Rhee and her attacks on public schools look good. Will everyone run for the exits and demand charters and vouchers?

Sick thought, but inescapable.

 

At a panel discussion in New York City, Bridgeport Superintendent Paul Vallas made a startling admission. He said that the efforts to develop a teacher evaluation metric was a huge mess and that no one understands it.

He said:

“The Bridgeport, Conn. superintendent — who has served stints in Chicago, Philadelphia, and New Orleans and earned a reputation as a turnaround consultant for struggling districts with big budget gaps — said reforms he backed were at risk of collapsing “under the weight of how complicated we’re making it.”

“We’re working on the evaluation system right now,” Vallas said of Bridgeport. “And I’ll tell you, it is a nightmare.” Vallas went further and said: ““We’re losing the communications game because we don’t have a good message to communicate,” he said. In separate comments, Vallas criticized evaluations as a “testing industrial complex” and “a system where you literally have binders on individual teachers with rubrics that are so complicated … that they’ll just make you suicidal.”

A nightmare, yes. A testing-industrial complex, yes.

Professor Audrey Amrein Beardsley at Arizona State has written extensively about teacher evaluation and in her most recent study–not yet published–she reports the results of a 50-state survey. Not a single state has figured out how to use the value-added data to help teachers, and–get this–in every state the formulae are so complex that no one understands them other than those who created them. And the billions invested in this nutty endeavor are supposed to improve education!

David Coleman, as is his wont, was provocative. “Coleman was perhaps the night’s most outspoken panelist, at one point suggesting that those who believe that poverty is an insurmountable obstacle to improving student achievement should offer to cut teacher salaries and redistribute those funds to the poor.”

Why would he suggest cutting teachers’ salaries to reduce poverty? Why not start with the billionaires? I don’t understand this comment or his logic at all. Do you?

This is a very interesting story on NPR that pits one education expert against another.

On one side, David Coleman, the acknowledged architect of the Common Core standards. He thinks the standards will make all students ready for college or careers.

On the other, Karl Krawitz, the principal of Shawnee Mission East High School in Kansas. His school sends 98% of its graduates to college. He says his school doesn’t need Common Core.

Coleman: “The most important thing to know is that it was actually teachers who had the most important voice in the development of the Common Core standards,” he says.

Krawitz: “In fact, I think Common Core [is] going to set education back even further because you’re dictating curriculum,” he says, “what people are supposed to regurgitate on some kind of an assessment that’s supposed to gauge how well kids have learned the material and how well teachers have taught the material. The reality is tests don’t do either one of those things.”

Coleman: “Those kids who scored 30 percent lower, that’s the number of kids who are on their way to remediation in college,” Coleman says. “So they may have been passing previous state tests, those tests were presenting kids as ready who were not.”

Krawitz: “Kansas is struggling right now. I mean, my goodness, we’re still trying to figure out whether or not evolution should be taught,” he says.

Coleman: “Coleman says it is worth it because too many students, especially poor minority children, aren’t being challenged. “These standards are the most serious attempt this country has yet made to come to grips with those early sources of inequality,” he says.

Krawitz: He worries that the standards ran more testing. “I would do everything I can to keep Common Core out of this school,” he says.

What do you think?

David Coleman, widely acknowledged as the “architect” of the Common Core standards, was selected last year as CEO of the College Board. He announced recently that the SAT will be redesigned to reflect the Common Core.

Get to know David Coleman.

He is now the de facto controller of American education. He decided what your child in kindergarten should know and do. He decided what children in every grade should know and do. He has decided how they should be tested. Now he will decide what students need to know if they want to go to college. He had some help. But make no mistake: he is the driving force that is changing what and how your children and your students learn.

Coleman, whose mother is president of Bennington College, graduated from Yale and Oxford, where he was a Rhodes scholar. He then worked for McKinsey.

He created the Grow Network, an assessment program that he sold to McGraw-Hill in 2005, reportedly for $14 million.

He left McGraw-Hill in 2007 and founded Student Achievement Partners, funded by the Gates Foundation and others, which led the writing of the Common Core standards.

He was chosen to lead the College Board in 2012. The NewSchools Venture Fund, a leading corporate reform group that supports the expansion of charter schools, named Coleman as one of its “Change Agents of the Year” in 2012.

He was a founding board member and treasurer of Michelle Rhee’s StudentsFirst, along with Jason Zimba, who led the writing of the Common Core math standards. The only other member of Rhee’s board was also a member of Coleman’s staff.

In the history of American education, there has never been anyone like David Coleman. He has fashioned the nation’s standards and curriculum. Others have tried and failed. Will his vision change the schools for the better? We will know more later.

A reader posted a comment yesterday wondering why so many who read this blog are opposed to reading non-fiction, or in the jargon of the day, “informational text.”

This is a reference to the debate about the Common Core standards, which mandate a 50-50 split between literary/informational text in lower grades, and a 70-30 split in high school grades.

Let me clarify my own view, as well as what I have derived from hundreds of comments by parents and teachers. No one opposes reading non-fiction. You are reading an informational text right now! Teachers of science, history, and mathematics have always assigned informational texts. Few such classes read fiction. So the question comes down to what the English teacher assigns. Probably, if the English teacher assigned 100% fiction, the student would still be reading far more informational text in the course of a week than literature, because of the texts assigned in every other class.

The part that puzzles me is why a quasi-official body, the group that wrote the standards, whose edicts now have the power of the state to enforce them, thought it necessary or wise to create a numerical formula for English teachers. No one else teaches literature. The math teachers don’t. Neither do the civics teachers. (Frankly, it would be great if history teachers introduced fiction–like “Grapes of Wrath”– into their classes to help students get a sense of the lives that people led in other times.)

But sorry, I just don’t get the metrics. Whose wisdom decided on 50-50 and 70-30? Who will police the classrooms? Where is the evidence that these ratios are better than some other ratio or none at all?

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