Archives for category: Common Core

Mercedes Schneider actually read the bulky contracts between states and the Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium.

Her most surprising discovery:

SBAC promises: “Passing an SBAC high school summative assessment assures that students will not need remediation. SBAC really ensures college readiness!”

How do they know? When this was written into the contract, SBAC had not yet been created. Like PARCC, It was never tested.

Schneider concludes:

“This rushing to prematurely-declared success is a corporate reform hallmark.

Here we go again”

Vicki Cobb writes books about science for children. In this post, she says that children are “learning to read” from dull and disjointed textbooks. They should be reading lively well-written trade books by accomplished writers.

“Each book is extensively researched and vetted for accuracy and beautifully designed and illustrated. If it is a narrative, the story is told in a compelling, page-turning manner. If it is a how-to book, directions are clear and motivation is embedded in the exposition. History, geography, sports, science, nature, art and music are all represented in this small library. Yet, for the most part, these engaging books never make it to the classroom. Instead, children read flat, dry, “informational” material that comes with work sheets and lesson plans. Teachers do not know that these books exist, that they cover the same topics that are in their curriculum, and even if they do know about them, they are not sure of how to use them in the classroom.

“You know who does know about these books? The standardized testing companies. They excerpt passages (paying licensing fees) for the test questions. So if this writing is good enough for the tests, don’t you think kids should read them in the classroom?

“Without experience in reading high-quality nonfiction, children are not building a foundation of knowledge, not learning to think in a disciplinary way, and are not preparing to be informed decision makers. The main difference between these books and those written on these subject for adults, is that children’s authors assume that their readers have little to no prior knowledge. Concepts are carefully introduced and reinforced so that the content is not overwhelming to the reader. Authors honor their readers and assume they are writing for intelligent human beings who may be uninitiated in the subject matter. The authors’ voices, their humor, wit, passions, inform the books. As an author of science books for children, I have often said that if one of my books is the first book on a subject a child reads, I have failed if it is the last.”

Bill and Melinda Gates told Nicholas Kristof that they have poured billions into education reform, but there’s been “no dramatic change.”

Although the Gates’ normally pay attention to results, in the case of education reform they are unfazed by failure.

As Inside Philanthropy reports:

This is significant for a bunch of reasons, not the least of which is that the Gateses still have not tapped the bulk of their personal fortune for philanthropy, as we’ve discussed in the past. While the Gates Foundation lists assets of $43 billion, Forbes pegs Bill Gates’ personal fortune at nearly $80 billion—most of which will likely go to philanthropy eventually.

This is actually a fatuous and unknowing article, as it praises the widespread adoption of the Common Core standards without mentioning how many states have dropped them or dropped the tests aligned with them or how they have become an issue in state and national campaigns. It also states that Gates spent “tens of millions” on the CCSS, when it was long ago reported by the Washington Post that Gates paid about $200 million to underwrite the effort, and some think it may have been ten times that amount. To discuss CCSS without referring to the controversy surrounding the standards is lazy (or star-struck) journalism.

The writer predicts that the Gates will shift their focus to early childhood programs, like the one run by Illinois Governor Rauner’s wife (Ounce of Prevention), and to teacher preparation programs. Again, no mention of the meager results from the Gates Foundation’s efforts to quantify teacher quality.

More testing on the way. If it can’t be measured, it doesn’t count. But don’t expect accountability; accountability is for the little people, as the super-wealthy Leona Helmsley once said about paying taxes.

Mercedes Schneider teaches high school English in Louisiana. She has ten weeks of unpaid vacation. What did she do on her vacation? She wrote a book about school choice. She set herself a goal of 1,000 words a day, and she stuck to it. She has written three books in three years. The first one was a bestiary of corporate reformers called “A Chronicle of Echoes: Who’s Who in the Implosion of American Public Education.” The second was “Common Core Dilemma: Who Owns Our Schools?” A book a year! My first book took seven years. I am impressed.

Arthur Camins left the following insightful comment on Rick Hess’s analysis of “What Went Wrong with Common Core.” I agree with his claim that the purpose of setting a totally unrealistic goal was to make public schools fail, thus destroying public confidence in them and setting them up for privatization. It is also manifestly correct, based on Joanne Weiss’s comments posted here earlier, that the intention of the Common Core standards and tests was to create a large, unified national marketplace for products and consultants, thus spurring entrepreneurs to enter the “education market.”

Rick Hess highlights many important points about what “went wrong” with the Common Core State Standards, laying the blame on the Obama administration and inside the beltway technocrats. Missing from his analysis is exposure of any of the behind-the-scenes role for companies looking to profit from a more coherent and less fragmented market and the hopes of market ideologues searching for tools to undermine the power of teachers unions in particular and public education in general. The 100% proficiency demands were designed to undermine confidence in public education, as was the connection between teacher evaluation and common core testing in Race to the Top and School Improvement grants.

Absent from much of the media attention to the strident debates about federal v/ local control is the simple fact that no system in the world has made significant improvement based on standards and high-stakes testing. We are, I think stuck in a debate within an autonomy and control framework, while ignoring the great potential for mutual responsibility.

I wrote about this several years ago here:

New York State Commissioner of Education MayEllen Elia has been on the job since July 6, and she has won over many–but not all–critics.

Whereas Her predecessor John King was young, inexperienced, and had worked for a brief time in a charter school, Elia has many years as a teacher and administrator. She gets points for that.

But her agenda is the same as Cuomo, King, and Tisch: high-stakes testing, school closings, teacher evaluation by scores.

The one group not yet charmed by Elia are the opt out parents and educators at Néw York State Allies for Public Education. It is the agenda they oppose, not the messenger.

Rick Hess directs education studies at the conservative, free-market American Enterprise Institute. We often disagree but I am often impressed that he doesn’t follow “the party line” of free-marketeers. This article is a good example of Hess demonstrating his sharp intellect and his willingness to stray from the rightwing corral.

When it comes to the Common Core, Hess has always been skeptical, though not opposed. In the linked article he explains that the Common Core went wrong because Washington insiders convinced themselves that the nation needed rigorous common standards. Those standards were being developed as the Race to the Top was announced. States couldn’t be eligible for a slice of the federal billions unless they adopted “common college-and-career-ready standards,” shorthand for the Common Core standards. Consequently, dozens of states signed on without even reading the CCSS.

The bottom line is that the D.C. insiders thought they could pull a fast one. They thought the public might not catch on that their state had surrendered its power over its own curriculum and testing. They thought that people might be swayed by a massive propaganda campaign to fall quietly in line.

They were wrong.

Peter Greene reports that Bill Bennett went to Campbell Brown’s new site “The 74″ to defend the Common Core standards and to chastise Republican governors who are withdrawing their support, especially Chris Christie. Of course, Christie pulled a fast one by dropping the standards but keeping PARCC, which is aligned with CCSS.


Fortunately, Jeb Bush is still aggressively standing up for CCSS.


But Greene shows that Bennett really doesn’t understand how the standards were developed or the conditions of their adoption. He doesn’t know that most states adopted them before they were finished. He just thinks they are awesome.


He doesn’t know that the standards were not internationally benchmarked, he just knows that they are supposed to be “hard,” and that is a very good thing. He says that the public wants “high standards,” but the polls he cites never mention the term “Common Core.”


He thinks that states can improve upon the standards but does not know that they were copyrighted and cannot be changed one bit, other than to add more to them. The CCSS came down from some mountain like stones with writing on them. And no one can revise them. But Bill Bennett doesn’t know that.

The principal of the Teachers College Community School in West Harlem in New York City jumped in front of a subway train and died of her injuries. She was under investigation for changing test scores. The investigation has been closed.

Jeanene Worrell-Breeden, 49, of Teachers College Community School, jumped in front of a B train in the 135th Street station on St. Nicholas Avenue on April 17, police said.
She was pulled out from under the train and taken to Harlem Hospital, where she died eight days later. The city Medical Examiner’s Office ruled it a suicide.
The leap came at 9:20 a.m., less than 24 hours after her 47 third-graders wrapped up three days sweating over the high-stakes English exam — the first ever given at the fledgling school.
It was also the same day a whistleblower reported the cheating to DOE officials….

The tough Common Core exams have raised anxiety. In 2014, only 34.5 percent of city students passed the math tests, and 29.4 percent passed English tests.

Sadly, the scores on the Common Core exam seem to be more important than life itself.

A reader sent this seventh grade question that was released by the New York State Education Department. It appeared on the 2014 English Language Arts test. Test yourself. How would you do?


Read this article. Then answer questions XX through XX.

On the Roof of the World by Benjamin Koch

A few summers ago, I was lucky to travel to Tibet, the “roof of the world.” Tibet is a small country surrounded on all sides by gigantic snowy mountain peaks. For thousands of years, these towering mountains acted like a fence, keeping people from entering the country. That’s one reason why explorers and writers have called Tibet the roof of the world. It’s hard to get to. The other reason is Tibet’s high elevation. When I climbed mountain passes over 17,000 feet above sea level, I gasped for air. I was more than three miles high!

Years ago, the people of Tibet were nomads—people without permanent homes. The ground in Tibet is much too rocky and thin to grow crops, so Tibetans centered their daily life and survival on the yak. The yaks provided the nomads with nearly everything they needed—milk, butter, meat, and wool for clothes and ropes. Even yak dung was used for fires.

Tibetan nomads would lead their herds of yak and sheep across pastures, valleys, and mountainsides in search of the best grazing lands. They did not live in permanent homes made of wood, brick, or stone.

Times are changing in Tibet, and more and more people live and work in villages and cities. But there are still nomads who survive on the high plateau just as their ancestors did. Becoming a Modern Nomad Some friends and I were traveling with our teacher, Dudjom Dorjee, to Kham, in the eastern part of Tibet. Dudjom was born in Tibet and lived the first years of his life as a traditional nomad. Because of political problems, Dudjom’s family had to flee to India when he was still young. We were following Dudjom back to his birthplace and getting a taste of that ancient, nomadic way of life—with a few modern updates. The yak provides the nomads with food and clothing. 1

We had the advantage of automobiles—a luxury that nomads have happily survived without. When it comes time for a nomad family to move, they pack all their things into large backpacks that they strap over their yaks. A typical family might need from 30 to 50 yaks to carry all their supplies. My friends and I had more than 50 bags to carry. We stuffed them into a bus, while we piled into four-wheel drives.

Problems Along the Way

When it comes to crossing rough country, yaks are the true all-terrain travelers. Many times, the nomads have to cross raging rivers. For the loyal and determined yaks, crossing is not a problem. But when we had to cross a river, our four-wheel drives turned out to be not so loyal and reliable. We got stuck in the muddy banks of the river, and it took at least a dozen people pushing to get us out. When nomads arrive at their destination, they are so skilled at setting up their large yak-hair tents that they have them up in minutes.

My friends and I, with our fancy supermodern tents, weren’t quite as quick. At one campsite, I remember wrestling with one of my tent poles trying to pass it through the loops of my tent. Some smiling nomad kids approached and had me set up in no time, though they’d never seen a tent like that before. It’s Cold Up There! The weather in Tibet is cold, and the brutal wind seems to show no mercy.

Sitting inside a nomad tent, though, you’d never know it. With a warm fire burning in the mud stove and the snug black walls of the tent, you are as comfortable as can be. This was not the case in the fancy modern tents my friends and I slept in. I remember shivering through my four sweaters, three pairs of pants, and blanket, listening to the chill rain hit my tent. Having the Right Attitude On this trip, I learned that it takes much more than snug tents and thick, hearty tea to survive. You need the right attitude.

Everywhere we traveled, the Tibetans were generous, happy, and curious. It might be a monk warming my frozen hands in his fur robes. It might be a family of nomads taking a break to dance and sing in a circle, or a handful of kids watching me with beaming smiles. Though their lives are full of challenges, the nomads never take their day-to-day problems too seriously. They know how impermanent things are, including their homes. We modern nomads learned some of these lessons. Perhaps when we cross the raging rivers or face the cold bitter days of our lives, we’ll do it with a lot more of the right attitude—the same attitude that shines from the bright smiles of the Tibetan noma


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