Archives for category: Common Core

Carol Burris, high school principal in Long Island, New York, writes here about the sudden shift in tone of the high-stakes testing cheerleaders.


Arne Duncan throws his support to the Beltway groups that say that there is too much testing and there should be less. Don’t believe it, writes Burris.


Of course, they hope to pacify and quiet the growing movement against high-stakes testing.


She writes:


Education Secretary Arne Duncan must believe that those “suburban moms” he talked about back in 2013 are an awfully gullible bunch. In response to continued pushback on testing, Duncan and the Council of Chief State School Officers are now saying that they, by golly, are against excessive standardized testing, too.

Duncan recently wrote an op-ed published in The Washington Post in which he expressed support for a statement issued by the Council of Chief State School Officers along with the Council of Great City Schools saying that it was time to rethink standardized testing.

Readers may recall how Duncan characterized pushback on the Common Core as coming from “white suburban moms who — all of a sudden — their child isn’t as brilliant as they thought they were” when he addressed the State Chiefs last year. His disdainful dismissal of the genuine concern of parents fueled the already growing anti-testing movement.



And more:


So now Mr. Duncan and the Chief State School Officers need to convince parents that they are listening, too. Their strategy is to say that “we are only for good tests, not the bad tests, and we will make all the bad tests go away.” It is disturbing that they believe that parents would not see through the ruse.

Parents are not protesting weekly spelling quizzes. The tests they do not like are the very tests that Duncan and the Chiefs want to save. In his recent op-ed, Duncan refers to “high-quality tests” as ones for which, “the Education Department has provided $360 million dollars.” The money went to two multi-state consortia, PARCC and Smarter Balanced, designing new tests to align to the Common Core State Standards. All the while, both Duncan and the Chiefs were careful not to mention the Common Core in their statements. The Common Core is now their Voldermort–“he who cannot be named.” Instead they declare themselves the warriors of the bubble test, as though answering multiple-choice questions with a mouse is a game changer.

Perhaps the most bizarre declaration in favor of annual testing came from Louisiana’s Chief John White who said that it is “an absolutely essential element of assuring the civil rights of children in America.” Meanwhile, 40 of the 70 districts in White’s state are still under desegregation orders, having not achieved unitary status after more than 40 years. When the U.S. Justice Department sued Louisiana to block 2014-15 vouchers for students in schools under federal desegregation orders, John White characterized the order as “a little ridiculous.”. The heck with Brown v Board of Education—as long as kids have the civil right to be tested each year, social justice is served.


Imagine that! Kids don’t need desegregation, but testing is a “civil right”? Yes, he really said that.


Burris concludes that Duncan and the cheerleading Chiefs don’t believe in democratic control of schools. That’s why they love standardized testing. Teachers and principals can’t be trusted to do what is right for children.


And that really sums up the thinking of Duncan and his cheerleading Chiefs. Their distrust of public schools and the democratic control of schooling run deep. It colors every solution that they propose. They have no idea how to effect school improvement other than by making tests harder and making sticks bigger. When punishing the school did not work, it morphed into punish the teacher through evaluations based on test scores. The reality that no country has ever improved student learning using test and punish strategies is lost on those who refuse to address the greater social issues that we who do the work confront every day.
When one argues that testing 8-year-olds for nine hours is the way to give a child his civil rights, then moral authority is surely gone. The public knows it. Moms, of all colors and neighborhoods, are a heck of a lot smarter than Mr. Duncan and his reform supporters believe.








Iris Rotberg, Research Professor of Education Policy at George Washington Policy, critiques the endless search for the silver bullet that will close the test score gaps among children from low-income and high-income groups.

In 2009, a study claimed that attendance at a charter school in New York Cityfor several years would virtually close that gap. We now know, Rotberg shows, that this was an exaggeration and in fact, based on the latest state tests, untrue.

She predicts that Common Core will turn out to be yet another distraction.

“The supporters and opponents of the Common Core are now engaged in an escalating debate about whether the Common Core will strengthen U.S. education or, instead, become a dangerous intrusion by the federal government to control the content of the curriculum. Most likely, as in the case of previous reforms of curriculum standards, it will turn out to be irrelevant to any real change in the opportunities available to low-income students, and it is certainly unlikely to become the silver bullet that narrows the achievement gap.

“It is often assumed that the Common Core’s emphasis on reasoning will make it difficult to cram for and, therefore, test preparation will no longer be useful. That is the claim initially made by the College Board when cram courses were first used to prepare for university entrance exams (College Entrance Examination Board, 1965). The SAT, GRE, LSAT, and MCAT all emphasize inductive and deductive reasoning, yet affluent families figured out how to cope: They spent thousands of dollars on their children’s cram courses or tutors because they saw that the preparation was effective in raising test scores. If we continue to reward and punish teachers based on the test scores of their students—even if these scores are based on Common Core tests—educators in low-income communities will continue to have little choice but to narrow the curriculum to give more time for test preparation. Rather than reducing the achievement gap, the risk is that the Common Core test, like those that preceded it, will lead to fewer opportunities for children in high-poverty communities. And the rhetoric surrounding it will continue to detract attention from the policies needed to address the societal inequities that have led to the achievement gap.”

She concludes:

“It has been argued that to critique current policies is equivalent to saying that nothing can be done for low-income children. Just the opposite: we know that economic, social, and educational policies in areas of employment and wages, taxation, housing, health, school integration, school finance, and access to higher education can be effective in addressing the fundamental problems of poverty. Meanwhile, however, we can work to ensure that our current policies do not make matters worse for the most vulnerable students.”

Anthony Cody recognizes that “reformers” are back-pedaling from test-test-test because 1) the results have been disappointing; and 2) the anti-testing backlash is turning into a mighty roar.

So, of course, they need a new paradigm that redefines accountability. In this post, Cody reviews the latest effort to make accountability palatable and concludes that any paradigm that preserves high-stakes testing will preserve the flaws and misguided incentives of the current system.

He writes that every effort to shift to a new paradigm is trapped in the stale thinking of the old paradigm:

“We are stuck in a model that says learning must be measured to be managed, and management is the overriding systemic imperative. This necessitates top-down systems, even as those systems are incapable of delivering the sort of change advocates insist upon….

“A truly new paradigm would invest confidence in students and teachers, rather than constantly require them to demonstrate their adherence to standards and predetermined curricula and assessments. A new paradigm would refocus our schools on the needs of local communities, and require educators to work closely with parents and community leaders to set goals and share evidence of student progress. Accountability invested in centralized authority is inherently top-down. New paradigm? Not there yet.”

Joseph A. Ricciotti, a former professor at Fairfield University in Connecticut, wrote the following post:


One of the most alarming reports concerning the corporate education reform movement and the growth of Common Core in the country was published by Lee Fang in the Nation magazine. Fang’s report highlights how public education is now considered as the last “honeypot” for venture capitalists and Wall Street investors. Investors’ interest in public education as a money making venture was made crystal clear by attendance at the recent annual investment conference in Scottsdale, Arizona which skyrocketed from 370 people the previous year to over 2000 this year. Likewise, the number of companies presenting at the conference increased from 70 to 390, mostly technology companies. It is also no surprise that Jeb Bush, one of the leading advocates of Common Core in the country, was the keynote speaker at the conference. According to Fang, venture capitalists and for-profit education firms “are salivating over the potential 788 billion dollar K-12 education market.”

More and more politicians are learning that, based on the type of corporate reform education policies that they are espousing, these policies will more than likely also impact and lessen their chances of reelection. Take, for example, Governor Dannel Malloy in Connecticut and Mayor Rahm Emmanuel of Chicago, two Democrats who will be seeking reelection in the near future. Both of these political leaders have chosen to advocate typical corporate education reform policies that are basically anti-teacher in nature and have implemented education policies such as advocating charter schools over traditional public schools. Not surprisingly, we may be in for some stunning upsets in the upcoming elections.

In Connecticut, Governor Malloy chose Stefan Pryor as his Commissioner of Education who is not an educator and who has had a history as a charter school advocate. Hence, as a result, we have seen in Connecticut an unprecedented growth of Charter Schools over the past four years with dismal results as well as scandals involving some of their leaders. The appointment of Paul Vallas in Bridgeport as superintendent was another fiasco.


Pryor’s abrupt resignation with no appointment of a replacement in the cards until after the election does not bode well for any indication of change in Malloy’s corporate education policies. Moreover, Malloy may have dug himself into a hole based on the most recent poles and could face extinction come the November election.

Rahm Emmanuel’s actions in closing fifty of Chicago’s public schools has been the catalyst in generating numerous protests from parents and teachers. His battles with the head of the Chicago Teachers Union (CTU), Karen Lewis, may have resulted in a challenge emanating from the CTU against Rahm Emmanuel for the mayoral seat in the next election. The many protests in Chicago are conveying a message to Rahm Emmanuel that, although he is the mayor, he is not really the leader of the people in Chicago as the protestors themselves are the real leaders. As Naomi Klein has said as an outgrowth of the recent climate change march in New York City, when the leaders refuse to take the appropriate action, the people will become the leaders and take whatever action is needed to bring about necessary change.

This is what is happening today with accountability- based reform or a better term is corporate education reform. These policies throughout the country and especially with the less affluent children in urban schools where the Common Core State Standards are being implemented we find that parents are seething with discontent as they observe and witness the massive failure rate of their children on Common Core tests. As more and more Common Core tests are administered with massive numbers of children failing these tests, there will be a revolution that may serve as the catalyst for change.

Unfortunately, teachers cannot be a part of the Common Core revolt as any dissatisfaction or criticism on their part could be construed as insubordination with possible loss of employment. Hence, the parents of students in public schools will have to be the ones leading the revolt. We have in public education today many non-educators with leadership positions who place the interests of Wall Street and the Corporate sector above the interests of students. And, unfortunately, the corporate reform industry has a stronghold in Connecticut as an outgrowth of Governor Malloy and Stefan Pryor’s corporate reform policies. However, according to Diane Ravitch, author of best selling “Reign of Error,” the corporate education reformists may have all the money but we have the teachers and parents and “we will win” the battle for public education.

Jaime Franchi of the Long Island Press provides here a succinct and accurate summary of the first ever Public Education Nation. The event was held on October 11 at the Brooklyn New School, a public school where 80% of the students opted out of state testing.


The discussions were lively and included people who were watching on live stream. This is the first of what we hope to make an annual event. We is the Network for Public Education.


Go to the website and  you can join (oops, I see it has not been updated to include links to the panels yet). Keep watching and you will be able to see our great presenters.

The New York State School Boards Association is supposed to be the voice of the state’s local school boards, but some of those school boards believe that their association has become a voice for the New York State Education Department.


School boards in the Lower Hudson Valley are leading the charge, claiming that the NYSSBA is not representing them when it advocates for Common Core or for test-based evaluations of teachers and principals.


The NYSSBA is holding its annual conference right now in New York City, and a number of resolutions will be voted up or down.


Most people think of Long Island as the center of the resistance to Common Core because it has a large contingent of parent activists and a large number of students who opted out of state testing. But the “Lohud” (Lower Hudson Valley) school boards and parents are equally resistant to the state and federal mandates coming from Race to the Top. One even stopped paying dues to the state school boards association.



Gary Stern writes:



“Critics in the Lower Hudson Valley are calling out the School Boards Association for embracing the Common Core, the new teacher-evaluation system and other state-mandated reforms. Some say the group has become too cozy with the state Education Department at a time when many school board members and educators in Westchester, Rockland and Putnam counties are resistant to the state’s agenda.

“They don’t seem to be representing us or our region,” Pleasantville Board of Education President Shane McGaffey said. “It feels like they’ve become a mouthpiece for the state as opposed to their members.”

The Pleasantville school board took the unusual action this month of halting its dues payments to NYSSBA. Board members from other districts are watching to see how the School Boards Association responds.

NYSSBA is set to hold its 95th annual convention from Sunday to Tuesday at the Sheraton in Times Square. Delegates will vote on several resolutions that Timothy Kremer, NYSSBA’s executive director, said are “surprisingly controversial because, I think, the words ‘Common Core’ are in the resolutions.”
One resolution, in particular, that has galvanized critics supports the controversial teacher-evaluation system, including the use of student test scores to grade teachers. The Lower Hudson Council of School Superintendents has called for the system to be killed, saying it is irreparably flawed, but NYSSBA’s official “rationale” for the resolution chides opponets who have “fought relentlessly to roll back” the system.

A school board member from the New Paltz School District, Steve Greenfield, has written several tough criticisms of NYSSBA that have been widely shared through social media. He has tried to focus attention on NYSSBA’s acceptance of a $250,000 grant from the state Education Department to provide training to school board members on implementing the current reforms.

“NYSSBA is supposed to be our lobby before government bodies,” Greenfield said. “It’s an incredibly important organization. But they are accepting money and curriculum from the very agency they are supposed to be lobbying.”
The School Boards Association, based in Latham, outside Albany, represents 658 school boards or 93 percent of those in the state. It has a budget of about $9 million, 60 percent of which comes from school board dues, and a paid staff of 56 people.



Even critics say that it is a steep challenge for NYSSBA to represent urban, suburban and rural districts that often have different priorities. And it’s well known that criticism of the state’s reform agenda is more concentrated in the Lower Hudson Valley and Long Island than elsewhere in New York.
Kremer, the group’s executive director since 1998, acknowledged that the Westchester/Rockland area is “ground zero” for opposition to programs tied to the Common Core. He said he is in regular touch with local school board members and educators about their concerns. In fact, he plans to visit the Pleasantville school board on Nov. 18.

“We’re trying to say ‘Look guys, we want to hear from you and we want to be open,’ ” Kremer said. “To some extent, they want to work with us.”

Kremer emphasized that NYSSBA’s resolutions are not fixed positions but starting points based on surveys of members and months of reviews. He said he wouldn’t be surprised if the resolution on teacher evaluations gets rejected by delegates.

“If it gets voted down, our official position will be that we no longer support the use of student performance data in (evaluations),” he said. “People somehow think a resolution is our position. It is not.”

But some board members in the Lower Hudson Valley want NYSSBA to take a more critical initial stance.

“They’ve glossed over our fears and trepidations,” said Lawrence Boes, another Pleasantville board member. “There is a general feeling that we’re whining, that we’re these wealthy school districts that should acquiesce to the desires of the state Education Department.”

Frank Hariton, president of the Ardsley Board of Education, said he expects his board to review NYSSBA’s performance after the convention.


“We think the state is diluting the great stuff we did before,” he said. “I think that the state Education Department has become almost a subsidiary of Pearson (Inc.) and that NYSSBA is becoming an apologist for SED. I find it to be terrible.”
Members of other local school boards had similar concerns but said they would wait for the outcome of the convention before criticizing NYSSBA.

Of the general tenor in the region, Susan Elion Wollin, president of the Westchester Putnam School Boards Association, which is independent of NYSSBA, said: “It would be fair to say that Westchester Putnam members would enjoy the opportunity to have a deeper conversation with NYSSBA about issues we feel are important to us.”

Kremer said that the state’s school reforms are written into state law, and that NYSSBA’s role is to help school boards implement policies effectively.

“Whatever one thinks of the Common Core, as we sit here today, it is the law in New York state,” he said. “Our job is to make sure that school boards we represent have the information they need to make smart local decisions.”

One resolution on tap for the convention calls for more state funding for professional development tied to the Common Core. Another supports new teacher certification exams aligned with the Common Core.

Kremer said NYSSBA accepted a state grant to provide training because “Everyone has been trained in the reforms except for board members.” NYSSBA is using the grant to hold seven workshops around the state featuring speakers who support the Common Core.

Chicago Superintendent Barbara Byrd-Bennett wants to delay the adoption of the PARCC test for Common Core.


“”At present, too many questions remain about PARCC to know how this new test provides more for teachers, students, parents and principals than we are already providing through our current assessment strategies,” Byrd-Bennett said.


“Her request comes amid rising concerns over new tests based on more rigorous Common Core standards. Critics have questioned the cost of the new exams, the quantity and time involved in testing, and the loss of local power over standards and testing.”


States and districts in PARCC are expected to set aside 9-11 hours for PARCC testing, which must be done online (the same for the other federal testing consortium), with costs that are expected into the billions across the nation.


Stephanie Simon of Politico sees Chicago’s step back from PARCC as part of a growing national revolt that is now reaching into districts, even the one most closely associated with Arne Duncan. Defenders of the tests express concern that the revolt could catch fire (note: it already has).


Valerie Strauss writes on The Answer Sheet blog in the Washington Post that the federally-funded PARCC consortium might be in big trouble. It initially had 26 states signed up. The number has dwindled to 12 plus DC.


These tests, Arne a Duncan predicted in 2010, when he paid $360 million for them, would be “an absolute game-changer.” What he calls a “game-changer” looks more and more every day like a card game of 52 Pick-Up or an amusement park ride called “Wreck-EM cars.” Unfortunately, it is not a card game or an amusement park that he is toying with, it is our nation’s system of public education.

Hi Dr. Ravitch,

I’ve been glad to see a couple of blog posts in the past few days about CCSS and early childhood. I am the mother of a kindergartener, and have been on a slow simmer about this since my daughter started school in Sept. My daughter is four, she’ll turn five Thanksgiving weekend. She woke up crying in the middle of the night last night from a dream, worried about not being able to learn to read.

She is in our very well rated zoned NYC school (Queens). Her homework load is ridiculous! As I am a working single mom, she goes to an afterschool program. I had to put my foot down with them about the amount of time spent doing homework. Capping it at about a half an hour. The pressure about learning to read is not coming from me. I don’t believe there’s anything that can be done to change the curriculum soon enough to help my daughter, but I would love to hear from you and maybe your readers about how to deal with this as a parent of a young child.

Thanks so much,

Rose XX

Mercedes Schneider, no fan of the Common Core standards, here reviews a new proposal for Common Core accountability, this one funded by the Hewlett Foundation. We are supposed to believe that the ideas are new, but almost everyone involved was a key player in the creation of the standards or the federally-funded CC tests.


Schneider says that what is needed is not more accountability for standards that have never been reviewed, revised, or piloted, but accountability for a dozen years of testing post-NCLB.


Why no piloting for CCSS? She writes:


Piloting was needed for CCSS, and it never happened. Instead, overly eager governors and state superintendents signed on for an as-of-then, not-yet-created CCSS. No wise caution. Just, “let’s do it!”

That word “urgency” was continuously thrown around, and it makes an appearance in the current, Hewlett-funded report. No time to pilot a finished CCSS product. Simply declare that CCSS was “based on research” and push for implementation.

This is how fools operate.

America has been hearing since 1983 that Our Education System Places Our Nation at Risk. I was 16 years old then. I am now 47.

America is not facing impending collapse.

We do have time to test the likes of CCSS before rushing in.


She identifies where accountability is needed most, and that is for programs that have been tried and obviously failed:


How about an accountability report on No Child Left Behind (NCLB) and its strategic placement on a life support that enables former-basketball-playing US Secretary of Education Arne Duncan to hold states hostage to the federal whim?

The Hewlett-funded report notes that between 2000 and 2012, PISA scores have “declined.” Those are chiefly the NCLB years and beyond, with the continued “test-driven reform” focus. It is the test-driven focus that could use a hefty helping of “accountability.”

And let us not forget the NCLB-instituted push for privatization of public education via charters, vouchers, and online “education.” An accountability study on the effects of “market-driven,” under-regulated “reform” upon the quality of American education would prove useful.

There is also the very real push to erase teaching as a profession and replace it with temporary teachers hailing from the amply-funded and -connected teacher temp agency, Teach for America (TFA). A nationwide accountability study on the effects of the teacher revolving door exacerbated by TFA would be a long-overdue first of its kind.







Rosa Rivera-McCutchen participated in a panel discussion about the Common Core and testing at Public Education on October 11 at the Brooklyn New School. She gave a powerful presentation about race, power, and privilege. The event was sponsored by the Network for Public Education. Read the transcript and see the video here.

She used Dr. King’s Letter from a Birmingham Jail as the framework for her discussion:

“In thinking about my remarks for today’s panel, I thought it useful to draw upon Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr’s Letter from Birmingham City Jail because it’s an incredibly powerful way of framing the role of school leadership in the face of testing and the Common Core, and the impact they have on economically disadvantaged students and students of color. In the letter, King responds to 8 white clergymen who were supportive of desegregation, but were critical of the methods Dr. King was employing in Birmingham.

“The letter is meaningful in a number of historical ways, but it’s especially meaningful for me in the work I do as a researcher and as educator of future school leaders, because it really is powerful example of moral leadership in the face of not only troubling educational policy and also in thinking about well-intentioned resistance to the policies.”

“King wrote in the letter: “In any nonviolent campaign there are four basic steps: collection of the facts to determine whether injustices exist; negotiation; self-purification; and direct action.”

“To King’s first point: collecting facts to determine whether injustices exist. Here, school leaders have to examine not just the intended goals of the policy; it is their responsibility to examine the application and the consequences of the policy.

So school leaders must ask themselves:

“How do the standards and the high stakes tests help my students? What is the impact on the curriculum? On the teachers? And equally important, school leaders must ask, are they equitable and just for all students?

“After determining, as all of us here know, that the answers to these basic yet critical questions are quite troubling, we move to the next step in King’s framework: negotiation.

“In the case of testing and the CC, it is clear that there have been numerous efforts to negotiate locally with the NYC Chancellors as well as with Commissioner John King and Secretary Arne Duncan. But when those negotiations become nothing more than stalling tactics and smoke in mirrors, as with the civil rights movement, school leaders must come to a point where they step away from the table and move closer towards direct action.

“But prior to the direct action, comes the third step, which Dr. King called, “self-purification.” This is arguably one of the most important steps in King’s framework for mounting a resistance. That’s because it demands that the resister, in this case the school leader, be reflective and consider the extent to which she or he has been complicit in perpetuating the oppression. They have to be honest with themselves about the extent to which their continued support of flawed policies has contributed to the harm. The school leader has to search inward to determine whether she or he is ready to face the consequences of resisting policies mandated from above, But beyond this, the school leaders particularly in communities that are more privileged have to look inward to determine whether their resistance will extend beyond their individual communities; whether they’re ready to engage in the kind equity work that will benefit ALL communities.”


Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 114,342 other followers