Archives for category: Coleman, David

Steven Singer is a teacher. This post comes from his blog. It was tweeted by the Badass Teachers Association.

He writes that the best evidence against the Common Core can be found in the classroom. The Common Core is based on close reading and the “New Criticism,” which discounts the thoughts, feelings, and life experiences of the reader.

Visit Singer’s classroom in this post and find out how his students interact with what they read. Close reading is meaningless to them. They react from their heart and their gut. They think and they feel, and that is how reading comes alive for them.

Singer leads a Socratic Seminar for troubled teens.

He writes:

“If Coleman and the architects of Common Core could be in my classroom, they might see the error of their ways.

“Allowing students ownership of the text – allowing them to take their proper place as part of a complex relationship between the text, author and the world – is so much more engaging an experience than just being an authorial archeologist.

“When we insist on strict adherence to the author’s message – and only that – we create a false objectivity. Language Arts is a subject that is at most times open to interpretation. But Coleman makes it a guessing game to get the “right answer.”

“Literature is not math. We shouldn’t try to turn it into something it isn’t.

“This is why at the beginning of the year, my students take my innocent questions about the meaning of a text as an affront. They see me as just another adult trying to trick them. They assume I’m trying to get them to guess what I’m thinking – about what the author was thinking. There has to be only one true answer, they suppose, and if they haven’t been good at guessing it in the past, why try now?

“It takes a while, but through lessons like the Socratic Seminar, I try to broaden their horizons, to show them that they have a vital place in this dynamic. Without a reader, a text is nothing but words on paper. Without a larger societal context, those words lack their full meaning……

“Coleman and the Common Core designers would know that if they had ever led a classroom of students. But hardly any of them are educators. They’re bureaucrats, politicians and millionaire philanthropists.

“They’re missing the true picture.

“Because the best evidence against Common Core is denied them.

“Because the best evidence against Common Core is in the classroom.”

David Coleman, as everyone knows, is the architect of the Common Core. He is hot stuff.

Peter Goodman, observer of Néw York politics, saw Coleman strutting and preening. He says he wanted to be a high school teacher, but went to McKinsey instead. Then he became an eduentrepreneur and started the Grow Network, which was a way to track student performance data. The word on the street is that he sold it to McGraw-Hill for $14 million. Then he started Student Achievement Partners, which played the lead role in writing the Common Core.

Goodman attended the famous meeting at which Colemanade his infamous statement. Goodman writes:

“As my mind was wandering I was jolted upright, Coleman told us,

“…the most popular form of writing in American high schools today …it is personal writing. It is either the exposition of a personal opinion, or, it is the presentation of a personal matter. The only problem, forgive me for saying this so bluntly, the only problem … as you grow up in this world you realize that people really don’t give a shit about what you feel or what you think.”

Goodman recently heard Coleman—now CEO of the College Board–describe the new and redesigned SAT.

Goodman said:

“The revolution that rolled over New York State over the results of the Common Core state tests will be dwarfed by the tsunami of parent anger if hordes of students “fail” the redesigned SAT. As the SAT team projected “old” SAT questions and “new” SAT questions eyes rolled. The room was packed with principals and superintendents and scores of people with PhDs after their names. Had we all suddenly undergone a plague of “dumbness” or is it the new SAT?

“How many thousands of dollars in tutoring fees will parents have to spend to prepare their urchins? And, how about the kids who can’t afford $100 an hour tutors? The current yawning achievement gap will become a chasm.

“Regent Tallon is fond of referring to the “folks cross the street,” on the other side of Washington Avenue, where the legislative and the executive branches of state government are housed. As parents railed against the state tests legislators and the governor squirmed, the public’s angst was directed at government officials who have to stand for election every two years.

“As College Board revenue shrinks and colleges and state governments retreat the overseers of the SAT will be looking at the bottom line.

“One of the lessons of history is that reforms imposed from above without buy-in from below are doomed and ignoring history has dire consequences.

“Perhaps David Coleman should consider his original career choice – a high school teacher.”

Although Peter Greene teaches in Pennsylvania, he decided to review New York state’s curriculum guides about the Common Core standards. He pulls them apart and shows that they tell teachers to do what they were already doing, or they make demands that have no evidence to support them.

It is a hilarious deconstruction of engageNY, the state education department’s prized curriculum.

Greene concludes:

“So there you have it, in brief. EngageNY’s interpretation of the Core– one part useless foolishness, one part stuff that isn’t actually in the CCSS, and one part pedagogy that any non-brain-dead teacher was already using. Thank goodness the CCSS are here to save us.”

Peter Green watched a 30-minute interview of David Coleman at the Aspen Ideas Festival.

The big news from the interview is that Coleman doesn’t demonized critics of the CCSS and thinks it’s a big mistake to treat all critics as crazies and/or liars.

But what fascinates Green is Coleman’s self-regard, and also his strange idea that it is up to certain special people to fix our institutions.

Coleman trsponds to a question by interviewer Jane Stoddard Williams about Bill Gates’ admission that despite his best efforts, he has not yet reformed education:

“Coleman imagines that Gates is bothered that he hasn’t moved the needle enough, and Coleman thinks it’s very brave and decent to admit that. And for those of you hoping to see Coleman 2.0, I’ll point out that neither Coleman nor Williams addresses the question of why, in a democracy, a really rich private citizen should be taking on personal responsibility for a function of federal, state and local government without the benefit of, say, voters asking him to do so.”

David Coleman, the architect of the Common Core standards, believes that students should analyze difficult text as written, without reference to context or their personal reactions. This blogger disagrees. His blog is vigornotrigor, though you might be tempted to call it Wag the Dog. However, if you google Wag the Dog, you will never find it.

He includes a video of David Coleman, New York State Commissioner John King, and a member of the State Education Department staff named Kate Gerson discussing how to teach Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s famous Letter from a Birmingham Jail.

Coleman, who has never been a teacher, says:

“The first question is for kids as readers, how much can they draw from the text itself, you always want to ask yourself, how can they make do…I think we as readers often decide what can I skip. In other words, I don’t fully get this, but I get it enough to keep moving. I think it’s Ok to say that because you can’t read complicated things without choosing, there are some references that you don’t quite get, that you are not going to follow up on.”

And further:

“These speakers clearly do not realize that many of our slow learning, at-risk, and learning disabled middle school students are not developmentally ready and experienced enough independent readers to make such critical judgment calls when it comes to complex informational text.

“Coleman and crew also fail to grasp that students’ thoughts and feelings matter a great deal. Successful teachers at any grade level are genuinely interested in their students’ lives and the classroom is a safe and welcoming environment where each person’s thoughts and feelings are highly valued and respected.

“Trust is an essential ingredient of good teaching and it will flourish in the classroom when the teacher takes time to learn about the individual needs and interests of each student…..

“Learning unfolds in a safe environment that rewards and values curiosity, innovation, imagination, and risk-taking. A properly designed and implemented education program will nurture student confidence rather than fear, and cultivate hope rather than despair.

“The CCSS close reading strategy demands that all students independently “dive into” and master complex informational text and teachers are discouraged from answering student questions or introducing and reviewing prior knowledge with them.

“This unproven approach directly contradicts Bloom’s Taxonomy which has clearly demonstrated that students will first acquire knowledge before they can progress to comprehension and understanding.

He concludes:

“From an educator’s perspective, the importance of text is not simply how well students can comprehend a reading passage, but how the ideas, ideals, and values expressed in the text are internalized and then implemented by students in real life situations.

“Another way of looking at this issue is to simply ask, what would Martin Luther King, Jr. want our students to do?

“Spend two weeks deconstructing and dissecting the nuance and subtlety of his words and how well he supported his claims, or two weeks applying and teaching his principles in our schools and local communities?”

New York City and Néw York State have enthusiastically embraced the Common Core standards.

In the background, however, is a simmering–one might say boiling battle between literacy guru Lucy Calkins of Teachers College and Common Core architect David Coleman about teaching reading. Calkins supports balanced literacy, Coleman supports close reading.

The city and state adopted materials based on Coleman’s model lesson about teaching the Getysburg Address by analyzing the text.

Calkins described Coleman’s model as “a horrible lesson.” She called him “an expert in branding.” She points out that Coleman is not an educator and has never taught.

NYC Chancellor Carmen Farina has experience with balanced literacy. Her support may tilt the balance to Calkins, who has a devoted following and whose work was in favor during the Klein administration when Farina was deputy chancellor.

From our friend Robert Shepherd, who may have watched the famous video in which David Coleman–architect of the Commin Core standards, now President of the College Board, which administers the SAT, original treasurer if Muchelle Rrhee’s StudentsFirst–uttered his immortal line about how no one “gives a &@(@” what you feel or think. This was his strong denunciation of personal expository writing. One of the best responses was written by Rebecca Wallace-Segall, a teacher of creative writing, who explained how important it is to allow and encourage young people to find and use their own voices. She wrote: “And where will we be as a nation if we graduate a generation of young people who can write an academic paper on the Civil War but have no power to convey the human experience?”

For David Coleman, in Honor of Shakespeare’s 450th Birthday

The very talented Peter Greene recently posted a humorous piece comparing Rheeformish language to a poop sandwich–nastiness wrapped in glowing phrases (e.g., “higher standards”). I generally love Peter’s writing, but I’ve never been fond of scatological humor. I’m not sure why I have this distaste (other than for the obvious reasons), since I consider swearing one of the most useful and engaging of the many boons conferred upon us by speech.

I once read, in “The American Scholar,” I think, or perhaps it was in “Verbatim,” a tragic report on the paucity of dedicated swear words in classical Latin. The Romans were always envious of the subtlety of the Greek tongue, of its rich resources for philosophical and literary purposes, but the Greeks were even less well endowed with profanities than the Romans were. The poor Romans had to result to graffiti, which they did with wild and glorious abandon, while the Greeks stuck to salacious decoration of vases.

I have a nice little collection of books on cursing in various languages. French, Spanish, German, Italian–the modern European languages, generally–are rich mines of lively expressions. But our language, which has been so promiscuous through the centuries, has to be the finest for cursing that we apes have yet developed. We English speakers are blessed with borrowed riches, there, that speakers of other tongues can only dream of.

So, when I watch a David Coleman video, there’s a lot for me to say, and a lot of choice language to say it with.

Those of you who are English teachers will be familiar with the Homeric catalog. It’s a literary technique that is basically a list. The simple list isn’t much to write home about, you might think, but this humble trope can be extraordinarily effective. Consider the following trove of treasures. What are these all names of? (Take a guess. Don’t cheat. The answer is below.)

Green Darner
Roseate Skimmer
Great Pondhawk
Ringed Cascader
Comet Darner
Banded Pennant
Orange Emperor
Banded Groundling
Black Percher
Little Scarlet
Tau Emerald
Southern Yellowjack
Vagrant Darter
Beautiful Demoiselle
Large Red
Mercury Bluet
Eastern Spectre
Somber Goldenring

Back to my dreams of properly cursing Coleman and the Core, of dumping the full Homeric catalog of English invective on them.

I have wanted to do so on Diane Ravitch’s blog, but Diane doesn’t allow such language in her living room, and I respect that. So I am sending this post, re Coleman and the Core, thinking that perhaps Diane won’t mind a little Shakespeare. (After all, it’s almost Shakespeare’s birthday. His 450th. Happy birthday, Willie!)

Let’s begin with some adjectives:

Artless, beslubbering, bootless, churlish, craven, dissembling, errant, fawning, forward, gleeking, impertinent, loggerheaded, mammering, merkin-faced, mewling, qualling, rank, reeky, rougish, pleeny, scurvie, venomed, villainous, warped and weedy,

And then add some compound participles:

beef-witted, boil-brained, dismal-dreaming, earth-vexing, fen-sucked, folly-fallen, idle-headed, rude-growing, spur-galled, . . .
And round it all off with a noun (pick any one that you please):

Bum-baily
Canker-blossom
Clotpole
Coxcomb
Codpiece
Dewberry
Flap-dragon
Foot-licker
Hugger-mugger
Lout
Mammet
Minnow
Miscreant
Moldwarp
Nut-hock
Puttock
Pumpion
Skainsmate
Varlet

Or, if you want whole statements from the Bard himself:

“Thy tongue outvenoms all the worms of the Nile.” (worms = snakes)

“Methink’st thou art a general offence and every man should beat thee.”

“You scullion! You rampallian! You fustilarian! I’ll tickle your catastrophe!”

“You starvelling, you eel-skin, you dried neat’s-tongue, you bull’s-pizzle, you stock-fish–O for breath to utter what is like thee!-you tailor’s-yard, you sheath, you bow-case, you vile standing tuck!”

“Thou sycophantic, merkin-faced varlet.”

“Thou cream-faced loon!”

There. Glad I got that out of my system.

BTW. Those are names of dragonflies, above. Beautiful, aren’t they? Shakespeare loved odd names of things. Scholars have shown that he used in writing a wider vocabulary than any other author who has ever wrote in our glorious tongue. Again, happy birthday, Willie. What fools those Ed Deformers be!

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.”

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