Archives for category: Common Core

Ken Previti explains Governor Rick Scott’s Dilemma: he wants to denounce Obama and disassociate from the Common Core, but he wants to keep everything about the Common Core because his mento Jeb Bush loves it.

So what does he do? He rebrands Common Core and calls it something else. But everything remains “aligned” with Common Core.

To avoid offending my sensibilities, Ken referred to “poo-poo” rather than use that familiar four-letter word, which is derived from Old English and Middle English.

Mercedes Schneider, high school teacher, debates Common Core with a state representative and a representative of the pro-voucher group Black Alliance for Educational Options. Mercedes explains who BAEO is, then engages in 6 minutes of debate in which the two men were pro-Common Core and Mercedes was critical. Does 2 vs. 1 sound unbalanced? At least there was some disagreement. A few days ago, there was a well-publicized forum on Common Core that included Merryl Tisch, chair of the Board of Regents; John King, state commissioner; Michael Mulgrew, president of the United Federation of Teachers; Carmen Farina, Chancellor of the New York City public schools; and one or two others. Every member of the panel supported Common Core. Some debate.

Mercedes Schneider has discovered a new public relations campaign to sell the Common Core, especially in California, where the state has not jumped head first into testing, as New York did.

Since public support, especially teacher support, for Common Core appears to be evaporating, it makes sense to hire a sophisticated group of communications experts to redesign the sales campaign.

No more crisis talk (quick, someone tell Arne and Bill)!

No more bad-mouthing our kids. After all, if they are so far behind, how can they meet new standards?

Downplay the blame game, downplay the importance of competition, downplay the high-stakes testing. Those tropes don’t work. They discourage support.

The good words are innovation, excellent teaching, systemic, etc.

As a teacher, Schneider is not convinced: “Just because someone hands me a tablecloth, calls it a cape, and tells me to tie it to my back does not mean that if I jump from my roof, I will fly.”

She could have used that great line about putting lipstick on a pig. It’s still a pig.

As for Common Core, no amount of high-priced PR can save it. The more that teachers learn about it, the less they like it. How else to account for teacher support falling from 76% to 46% in a single year?

Common Core is not simply a toxic brand, as some of its defenders believe. It got one of the greatest send-offs in history, adopted by 45 states even though no one was sure exactly what it was. It came wrapped in such grandiose claims that it was bound to flop. There was no evidence that Common Core standards would improve education, raise test scores, narrow the achievement gaps, make children globally competitive or college and career-ready.

If there is a lesson to be learned from this fiasco, it is that process matters, evidence matters. Money can buy elections, but money alone is not enough to buy control of American education. A change as massive as national standards requires the willing and enthusiastic by educators, parents, and communities. Arne Duncan and Bill Gates thought they could bypass those groups, if they funded enough of their leadership organizations. They thought they could design the standards they thought best and impose them on the nation. It is not working. As New York high school principal Carol Burris said recently about Common Core, stick a fork in it, it’s done.

Veteran educator Michael Deshotels filed a public records request last June to find out how the state tests were scored. The state claimed that the tests were harder but the scores held steady. Deshotels got the records and concluded that the state had manipulated the scoring of the tests.

He writes:

“It turns out that the number of correct answers required for a passing score (or a level of basic) was significantly reduced for three out of four categories of the LEAP high stakes testing. Once one knows how the passing scores are routinely manipulated it’s no surprise that the percentage of students scoring basic or above remained steady. The test grading scale for LEAP was adjusted or “equated” (to use the lingo of testing experts), apparently to make certain that the perceived performance of students on the new Common Core aligned tests remained steady.”

Crazy Crawfish (aka Jason France, who was a data analyst for the Louisiana Department of Education) wrote a post about the same scores called “Standardized Lying.”

He writes:

“Student performance in Louisiana is dropping rapidly. The decline started just about the time John White became superintendent of Education and has accelerated rapidly with the introduction of Common Core in Louisiana schools. Based on a sample analysis of the very meager data LDOE finally released under threat of lawsuit it is clear that not only is student performance not increasing or staying steady, it Is in fact declining, and being masked by a lowering of the number of correct answers required to pass LEAP and iLEAP tests….

“I don’t have magical powers, but I can confidently predict this is something you will find and see happening across the nation, especially in education Reformer infested territories. There is nothing standardized about the testing of Common Core, the only standardization comes in in the form of lying about it.

“Proponents of Common Core, and the High Stakes testing required by it, have claimed the comparability of test scores across states will make for meaningful comparisons. To have this meaningful comparison, all states must teach the same curriculum and all must administer identical tests from one of the two federally funded consortiums (Smarter Balanced and PARCC). However neither consortium controls the cut scores; those are entirely in the control of the states. These scores can go up or down as local politics require.

“Let me spell this out for you. If you want to show progress in your state you can artificially inflate the scores to show improvement. If you need to make a case for more charter schools and school closures simply lower the scores and take them over and then raise the score back to show that reform worked. That is exactly what Louisiana has done and no doubt other reform markets as well. The actual data shows the Reforms, including Common Core, have had the exact opposite effect, and a very dramatic one.
Even though the proposed tests are identical, even though the curriculum is identical, the actual scores and their meanings are left up to individual states to determine. That fact nullifies the argument for identical standardized tests and even the need for a standardized curriculum. Our scores, our levels of achievement, will not be and are not comparable to scores in other states. These tests are actually the opposite of comparable. NAEP and DEIBELS are national tests that are comparable, and neither of them requires a standardized curriculum nor extensive, expensive, technology intensive, obsessive testing, like Common Core does.”

Secretary of Education Arne Duncan decided to punish Oklahoma for revoking the Common Core standards, according to Caitlin Emma in Politico. Oklahoma will lose its federal waiver from the structures of No ChildLeft Behind, which mandates that all students in grades 3-8 must be proficient in math and reading by this year. Since this is in fact an impossible goal, all public schools in Oklahoma will be “failing” schools and subject to a variety of sanctions, including state takeover, being turned into a charter school, or closed.

Indiana, which also revoked the Common Core standards, received a one-year extension of its waiver because it has not yet replaced the Common Core standards.

““It is outrageous that President [Barack] Obama and Washington bureaucrats are trying to dictate how Oklahoma schools spend education dollars,” Oklahoma Gov. Mary Fallin said in a statement. “Because of overwhelming opposition from Oklahoma parents and voters to Common Core, Washington is now acting to punish us. This is one more example of an out-of-control presidency that places a politicized Washington agenda over the well-being of Oklahoma students.”

“This marks the first time the Education Department has stripped a state of its waiver on the grounds of academic standards, said Anne Hyslop, a senior policy analyst for Bellwether Education Partners.

“This is obviously dicey water for the Secretary [Arne] Duncan, given growing opposition to Common Core,” she said.
States had to adopt so-called college- and career-ready standards to escape some of NCLB’s requirements, including offering school choice and tutoring or reconfiguring schools that are considered failing under the law. But most states with waivers adopted the Common Core.

“Fallin did an about-face on her support of the standards this year and signed a bill in early June repealing the Common Core after previously supporting the standards. The state reverted to its old academic standards, the Oklahoma Priority Academic Student Skills standards.”

Even Michael Petrilli of the conservative Thomas B. Fordham Institute, a fervent supporter of Common Core, denounced Duncan’s decision:

“Fordham Institute President Michael Petrilli called the Education Department’s move a “terrible decision.”
“While Bobby Jindal doesn’t have a case against Arne Duncan, Oklahoma Gov. Mary Fallin sure as heck does,” he said. “I hope she sues. Nothing in ESEA gives the secretary of education the authority to push states around when it comes to their standards.”

Whatever your opinion of the Common Core, Duncan’s actions make clear that the U.S. Department of Education is coercing states to adopt them through the waivers, and that Duncan is asserting federal control of state standards, curriculum, and instruction, all of which are interwoven in the Common Core standards and tests. The fact that this role is forbidden by federal law should concern someone somewhere.

Read more: http://www.politico.com/story/2014/08/oklahoma-common-core-no-child-left-behind-waiver-110421.html#ixzz3BmReC5XW

I received news from England that a letter written by Rachel Tomlinson, the head of Barrowford, a primary school in Lancashire, went viral.

The letter was a clone of one written by American teacher Kimberly Hurd Horst on her blog.

No claims of plagiarism here. Maybe every principal and teacher should send the same letter home when students get their Common Core test scores, saying they failed. Remind parents that children are more than a test score. Tell them that the passing mark was set unreasonably high. Tell them that the tests failed, not the children.

In October last year Hurd Horst wrote on her blog: “There are many more ways to be smart than what many schools are currently allowing. The current testing culture personally drives me crazy. It does not tell students that they matter. Tests do not always assess all of what it is that make each student special and unique. The people who create these tests and score them do not know each student the way I do, the way I hope to, and certainly not the way the families do. They do not know that some of my students speak two languages. They do not know that they can play a musical instrument or that they can dance or paint a picture. Doesn’t that matter more?”

The school seemed to acknowledge debt to Hurd, retweeting a comment from someone linking to her blog.

Arizona State Superintendent John Huppenthal was defeated by Diane Douglas, a very conservative former school board member who ran on a single issue: rolling back Common Core. Huppenthal embarrassed himself a few months ago when he admitted using a pseudonym to write disparaging comments about other people and groups on blogs.

Douglas is a big supporter of school choice.

“In the November election, Douglas will face David Garcia, an Arizona State University professor who defeated high school English teacher Sharon Thomas in the Democratic primary.”

This morning, Carol Burris had a post on Valerie Strauss’s Answer Sheet in which she tried to decipher the New Common Core test scores in New York. The first thing she noticed was that the state did not release the mean scores, which it usually does. So she calculated them herself for several key counties.

English language arts scores were flat, math scores were up. In several of the counties, ELA scores declined by three or four points. The only grade that held steady in ELA was grade 8. No gain.

“The only good news for ELA was that the achievement gap between white and black proficiency rates narrowed a bit. However, a narrower gap, achieved predominantly through lower scores of the higher performing group, is not the strategy of choice. The proficiency rate for white students dropped two points (38 percent), and the proficiency rate for black students went up one point (17 percent).”

Math scores were up, but the black-white gap may have grown.

“The lack of success of the state’s most vulnerable children on tests that are inappropriate measures of learning is breathtaking. The ELA proficiency rate for students with disabilities who are economically disadvantaged is only 4 percent. Seventy-six percent of such students remain in the lowest of the 4 score bands, 1. This is not a small group of students; they comprise 123,233 of New York’s public school children in Grades 3-8. The news was equally bad for the nearly 78,000 English Language learners whose ELA proficiency rate remained stuck at 3 percent.”

Given the inappropriate choice of “proficiency” as a passing mark, the majority of students “failed” both tests, despite increased familiarity with the standards, the curriculum, and the tests. As I have explained before, New York selected the NAEP definition of “proficient,” which is a very high mark, not grade level, and certainly not pass-fail. So long as the state insists on NAEP proficient as its passing mark, a majority of students will fail and students with disabilities and English learners will remain far, far behind. What plans does the state have for the many pupils who will not ever earn a high school diploma?

Crazy Crawfish (aka Jason France, who was a data analyst at the Louisiana Department of Education) offers a fascinating insight into the political machinations behind Governor Bobby Jindal’s effort to ditch the Common Core.

Jindal was an enthusiastic supporter of CC until last June, when he suddenly became an opponent. The state commissioner of education, John White, a steadfast ally of Jindal, announced that he would fight the governor. The state board of education joined White, including two of Jindal’s appointees.

In Louisiana, Jindal is known as a governor who does not tolerate disloyalty. He swiftly punishes dissidents in his ranks. Yet no one of Jindal’s former allies faced retribution for opposing him. Something smelled fishy.

Then came the trial of Jindal vs. White on the Common Core, and Jindal’s lawyer didn’t call any witnesses. Jason France thinks he threw the fight. He thinks the fix is in. Jindal doesn’t want to get rid of the Common Core, he wants to appear to be trying because Common Core is a liability among the conservative voters that Jindal needs for his presidential aspirations.

France concludes:

“The chaos we are experiencing was intentionally fomented by John White, Chas Roemer and Bobby Jindal to distract people and wear them out. This betrayal was planned.

“Sadly, this is just another ruse perpetrated by those in power to avoid listening to parents’ real problems, and another reason parents are right to fear and fight Common Core. I expect this distraction to last until Jindal leaves office. John White and Chas Roemer were correct when they stated Jindal’s opposition to Common Core was politically motivated. The irony is that they were quite likely complicit in the deception from the get-go; to increase all of their profiles. That ploy has worked. Now we get to decide if their profiles are ultimately positively or negatively impacted by this fiasco.”

Fred Smith, a testing expert who worked many years at the New York City Board of Education, has become a mentor to the opt-out movement in New York. In this article, which was published in the New York Daily News, Smith writes, “Do you solemnly swear to tell the half-truth, the partial truth and nothing like the truth? Apparently, that’s the vow press officers who work for the New York State Education Department take.”

“Why was half of Thursday’s announcement of the 2014 test results devoted to testimonials, mainly from selected superintendents, on how educational gains are being made due to implementation of the Common Core?”

Smith writes that:

“The 2014 tests were given in April and scored in May, with the results and press release issued in August. Why the delay. The same pattern was followed in 2013.

“The delay is unexplained, and it feeds suspicions that the state is sitting on the results trying to figure out the most advantageous way to package them.”

Under pressure from parents, the state released half the test questions. Smith wonders, why not release them all? By the time teachers get the test results, the children are no longer in their class. Nor do teachers learn which questions their students got right or wrong. If teachers can’t learn anything about their students other than whether he or she was rated as a 1, 2, 3, o4, of what value is the test?

The state’s contract with Pearson stipulates that test questions may not be used again, so why not release to the public the entire test that the public paid for?

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