Archives for category: Common Core

News flash! There is a national test that enables us to compare reading and math scores for every state! It is called NAEP. It reports scores by race, ELLs, poverty, gender, disability status, achievement gaps. This is apparently unknown to the Néw York Times and the Secretary of Education, who has said repeatedly that we need Common Core tests to compare states.

The New York Times, America’s newspaper of record, has a story today about Massachusetts’ decision to abandon PARCC, even though its State Commissioner Mitchell Chrster is chairman of the board of PARCC. True or Memorex? Time will tell.

But the story has a serious problem: the opening sentence.

“It has been one of the most stubborn problems in education: With 50 states, 50 standards and 50 tests, how could anyone really know what American students were learning, or how well?”

Later the story has this sentence:

“The state’s rejection of that test sounded the bell on common assessments, signaling that the future will now look much like the past — with more tests, but almost no ability to compare the difference between one state and another.”

What happened to the National Assessment of Educational Progress? It has been comparing all the states and D.C., as well as many cities, since 1992. Has no one at the New York Times ever heard of NAEP?

Across the nation, states are dropping out of the Common Core testing. Most have decided that the tests are too long, too expensive, and provide no more information than the tests they had before.


But Iowa, among the high-scoring states in the nation, has decided to adopt the Smarter Balanced Assessment at the same time that others are backing out. The new tests will begin in the 2016-17 year.


The irony is that Iowa has long been one of the nation’s high-performing states even though it had no state standards or assessments.


But the state board of education has decided to follow everyone else, even as others are dropping out.

Susan Ohanian has written a scorching article about the New York Times coverage of education.

She documents the newspaper’s lack of attention to big issues, its reliance on a small number of conservative commentators as experts, and its consistent editorial support for high-stakes testing, No Child Left Behind, Race to the Top, and other failed policies.

“The Times Editorial Board, like the legendary Boston Brahmin Cabots, who spoke only to God, finds no need to communicate with education practitioners or researchers to reinforce their claim that the Common Core is necessary for the economic well-being of the country. The board is joined by staff op ed writers in insisting that the Common Core is heavily researched and jam-packed with critical thinking and problem-solving skills that workers need to keep the nation competitive in the Global Economy. Like people waiting for Senator McCarthy to open his briefcase at the House UnAmerican Activities Committee meetings, Times readers wait for even a snippet of a study by one education researcher providing evidence for all this phantasm.

“It just isn’t there.

“The New York Times education coverage has become quasi-governmental, promoting the corporate push for standardization of public schools. Not only are readers not informed that the Common Core was developed and heavily promoted with hundreds of millions from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, the oft-repeated selling point that these “standards that have been adopted by 45 states and the District of Columbia” fails to acknowledge that the states did it for the money, accepting the Common Core for the Race to the Top financial bribe handed out by the US Department of Education, most definitely not for the pedagogy. Savvy readers keep a count of how often the Times intones unproven key phrases right out of the press releases from Common Core headquarters: “the Common Core sets a national benchmark for what students should should learn”[10]; “a focus on critical thinking and primary investigation”[11]; “set more rigorous classroom goals for American students, with a focus on critical thinking skills, abstract reasoning in math and reading comprehension”[12]; “emphasize critical thinking”[13]; “emphasis on free-form thinking”[14]; “emphasize deep analysis and creative problem-solving”[15]; “written by a panel of experts … focus on critical thinking and analysis”[16]; “modeled on the teaching strategies of countries, especially in Asia, that perform better on international comparisons”[17] ; “a more rigorous set of standards”[18]; “heightened expectation of student progress. . . ideal of a rigorous national standard”[19]; “tougher learning standards taking root across the country”[20]; a set of rigorous academic standards”[21]; “the new, more rigorous academic standards”[22]; “a set of rigorous reading and math standards”[23]; “a tougher set of standards”[24]; “the standards were written by a panel of experts convened by a bipartisan group of governors and superintendents to emphasize critical thinking over memorization, to better prepare students for college and jobs”[25]; “new benchmarks for what students need to know and be able to do”[26]; “new and more rigorous set of academic standards”[27]; “more rigorous academic standards.”[28]

“As we read this over-the-top legerdemain about the Common Core—verified by absolutely no evidence from research or classroom practice—we have to wonder about the absence of those reportorial strategies so clearly outlined by the Pulitzer science reporter:

* Interviewing researchers

* Interviewing unconnected experts

* Talking with real people and relevant experiences”

David Whitman wrote a paper for the Brookings Institution called “The Surprising Roots of the Common Core: How Conservatives Gave Rise to ‘Obamacore.'” The goal of the paper is to persuade readers that conservatives, starting in the Reagan administration, laid the groundwork for national standards and tests. As a participant in some of the events he describes, I have a somewhat different take on the past.

Whitman was Arne Duncan’s speechwriter from 2009 to 2014. He is the author of a 2008 book for the Thomas B. Fordham Institute calling “Sweating the Small Stuff,” which praises “no-excuses” charter schools. His prime example was the American Indian Charter School in Oakland, whose leader subsequently resigned after $3.8 million went missing in a state audit. Given Whitman’s admiration for “no excuses” schools, it makes sense that he wrote speeches for Arne, who believes in them as an effective answer for the educational crisis of African American students who live in poverty.

There are several major differences between the advocacy for national standards in the Bush 1 administration and in the Obama administration.

First, the effort to develop voluntary national standards in the early 1990s did not take place in secret, as did the drafting of the Common Core standards.

Second, the mechanism of the Bush administration was not to convene a secret and unaccountable committee to write standards but to award grants to the nation’s leading organizations that represented teachers and scholars in each field. There was no federal involvement in the writing of the standards; each field wrote its own document about what students should know and be able to do.

Third, the Bush 1 effort was not limited to reading and math. It included the arts, science, foreign languages, history, economics, civics, and physical education.

Fourth, the Bush 1 effort did not direct any teacher about how to teach. The standards were guides, not directives.

Fifth, the Bush 1 strategy was a low-cost effort, as compared to the CCSS. The Bush 1 administration spent about $10 million, as compared to the $200+ million spent by the Gates Foundation to subsidize the CCSS.

Sixth, unlike CCSS, the Bush 1 push for voluntary national standards did not include any element of coercion. Teachers, schools, districts, or states could use them or not. The standards were truly voluntary. The theory of action was that if they were good, states would copy them, or parts of them, if they so chose.

Seventh, unlike the CCSS, there was no national public relations campaign to promote them on national television and in the print media.

Eighth, the Bush 1 voluntary national standards quickly failed after the U.S. history standards became a nasty, politicized national controversy in 1994. But when the standards failed, they didn’t drag anyone down with them, because so little was expended to create them. The Bush 1 standards did not take billions away from other purposes of schooling. They did not suck up education dollars as schools were forced to absorb budget cuts. They did not lead to increases in class sizes and billions spent on consultants and technology.

At the time the Bush 1 standards were written, Senator Lamar Alexander was Secretary of Education. He does not believe that the federal government should force states and districts to reform their schools to satisfy federal mandates. He has always opposed a “national school board.” Even as Secretary, he did not want that power. He believes in federalism.

Unfortunately, the Obama administration and the Department of Education do not understand federalism. They do not understand that federal laws specifically prohibit any federal official from attempting to influence or control curriculum or instruction. They recklessly promoted the Common Core standards, and they paid $360 million for testing the Common Core standards. Secretary Duncan pretends that the setting of national standards and the creation of tests aligned to those standards have nothing to do with either curriculum or instruction. What the federal government, and Secretary Duncan in particular, have done in trying to establish national standards and tests violates federal law. It is not only illegal, it is impractical. The theory seems to be that if everyone studies the same subjects and has the same tests, everyone will become equally successful. This is absurd. And the test results prove that the theory is absurd on its face.

Defend the Common Core standards if you wish. Use them if you choose. But please don’t say that they are a direct descendant of the failed effort in 1991-92 to create voluntary national standards, written by teachers and scholars. The Common Core standards will fail, not only because they cost billions to implement, but because of their indifference to teachers and to democratic processes.

Maybe it is just me, but I find myself outraged by the “reformers'” incessant manipulation of language.

“Reform” seldom refers to reform.

“Reform” means privatization.

“Reform” means assaults on the teaching profession.

“Reform” means eliminating teachers’ unions, which fight for better salaries and working conditions.

“Reform” means boasting about test scores by schools that have carefully excluded the students who might get low scores.

“Reform” means using test scores to evaluate teachers even though this practice has negative effects on teacher morale and fails to identify better or worse teachers.

“Reform” means stripping teachers of due process rights or any other job security.

“Reform” means that schools should operate for-profit and that private corporations should be encouraged to profit from school spending.

“Reform” means acceptance of privately managed schools that operate without accountability or transparency.

“Reform” means the incremental destruction of public education.

I am reminded of George Orwell’s lines from his prophetic novel 1984:

“War is peace.

“Freedom is slavery’

“Ignorance is strength.”

The goal of the leadership in the novel was to teach the population “doublethink.” To believe in contradictory ideas.

So we see schools closed, teachers and principals fired, and we are supposed to believe this is “reform.”

The media, with few exceptions, say that what is happening almost everywhere is “reform,” so it must be reform to replace public schools with privately managed charters, and to fire experienced professionals and replace them with newcomers, with untrained and inexperienced teachers and with principals who taught for one or two years.

It must be reform to allow out-of-state billionaires to buy local and state school board elections so they can control the schools of a state they don’t live in.

I confess I am also irritated by the habit of referring to young children as “scholars.” To me, a scholar is someone who has devoted his or her professional life to the advancement of knowledge. If a five-year-old is a “scholar,” what do you call a distinguished university professor who is widely recognized for her research and publications?

Has the public been suckered into believing that the destruction of public education is “reform”?

Does the public willingly accept the idea that hedge fund managers and equity investors are taking control of what is supposed to be a public responsibility?

Will we let them monetize our children and their public schools?

Does the public understand that a small group inside the Beltway wrote the “national standards” behind closed doors, that one billionaire (Bill Gates) paid for them and paid millions to national education organizations to advocate for them, and that the federal government bribed 45 states to endorse them?

How long will the public tolerate tests tied to those standards that are designed to fail 65-70% of the nation’s children?

How much longer will we allow the nation’s children to be labeled and sorted by standardized tests whose outcomes may be predicted by family income?

When will the public realize that test-based accountability does not improve education, does not promote better teaching, and actually reduces the quality of education?

How long can the Emperor parade through the streets before someone tells him he is naked?

How long can a charade persist before the public knows they have been conned?

How long will it take to unmask this great theft of a democratic institution that belongs to the public, not to entrepreneurs, foundations, rightwing ideologues, hedge fund managers, or their compliant politicians?






Lisa Rudley, the leader of the New York State Allies of Parents and Educators and a prominent proponent of Opt Outs, here presents to the Cuomo Commission to review the Common Core standards and tests. Lisa is a public school parent in Ossining, New York.

She explains the origins and flaws of the Common Core standards, and she explains the critique of them.

She also offers specific recommendations to improve education in the state.

She expresses the impact of the standards and high-stakes testing on children with disabilities and students who are new to English.

She demands a thorough review and changes in standards, assessment, curriculum, and teacher evaluation.

She says, “When you hurt teachers, you hurt kids. And when you hurt kids, parents get very angry.”

With leaders like Lisa and NYSAPE, parents are leading the way to a much better, far richer, quality of education than the one offered by the “reformers.”

But whoa! Hang on. Don’t turn it off when Lisa finishes. She is followed by the informed and eloquent Jamaal Bowman, principal of the Cornerstone Academy for Social Action. He has a series of clear and pragmatic recommendations on truly reforming the public schools.


Vermont continues to be amazing.


It recently issued a letter to parents telling them not to worry about the Common Core tests because the passing mark is set so high that they are meaningless. No national the world has ever reached the level expected of students on these tests.


This is an excerpt from the letter:


These tests are based on a narrow definition of “college and career ready.” In truth, there are many different careers and colleges, and there are just as many different definitions of essential skills. In fact, many (if not most) successful adults fail to score well on standardized tests. If your child’s scores show that they are not yet proficient, this does not mean that they are not doing well or will not do well in the future. 


We also recommend that you not place a great deal of emphasis on the “claims” or sub-scores. There are just not enough test items to give you reliable information.


The Vermont Board hits on a bizarre aspect of the Common Core and the associated tests: There is no single curriculum or test that can test for both college and career readiness. The student who plans to go to an Ivy League school, the student who plans to be an electrician, and the student who plans to join the military, the student who plans to be a farmer, cannot be judged by a single measure.





Obviously not. But as Jonathan Pelto writes, the new SAT will be much harder than the old SAT, including content that many students have never been exposed to. Since Jon lives in Connecticut, he notes with dismay that the state legislature has mandated that all eleventh grade students take the new SAT. He predicts disaster.

He writes:

A New York Times article last week entitled, Everything You Need to Know About the New SAT, laid out the facts about the NEW SAT including the news that,

“The addition of more-advanced math, such as trigonometry, means the test will cover materials from a greater number of courses. That will make it more difficult for students to take the SAT early. Some questions will require knowledge of statistics, a course relatively few students take in high school.”

Thanks to Democratic Governor Dannel Malloy and the Democrat and Republican members of the Connecticut General Assembly, a new state law adopted last spring mandates that high school students now take the SAT in their junior year.

The test results will be used to judge both students and teachers.

However as high schools students (and parents) know, most high school juniors are, at best, tackling Algebra in 11th grade and many are still working to master Geometry.

But that coursework won’t be enough for high school juniors to succeed on the NEW SAT.

Even in academically successful Connecticut, few students will have even taken the courses needed to master the SAT and the majority of juniors may not have been provided with the math content to even survive the NEW Common Core aligned SAT.

According to most recent data published by the United States Government’s National Center for Education Statistics, only 16% of high school graduates in the country had taken a calculus course, 11% a statistics course and only a third had even come in contact with pre-calculus concepts, all of which they will be expected to answer if they want to master the NEW SAT.

And that was graduating seniors, not juniors!

Of course, you know that David Coleman, architect of the Common Core, is now president of the College Board, which sponsors the SAT. So the SAT had to be aligned with the Common Core.

Soon we can expect to hear that Connecticut, one of the leading states on NAEP, has a failing school system. We can expect the charter industry to rush in to the rescue and the revenue.

Governor Cuomo’s Common Core task force held its first meeting on Long Island–the epicenter of the Opt Out Movement–and it got an earful. Parents, teachers, even superintendents turned out to tell the task force that testing should be delinked  from teachers’ job ratings; that testing was overwhelming the school calendar; and that the Common Core should go.

Jeanette Deutermann, leader of the opt out group on Long Island, predicted that opt outs might double (from 220,000 in 2015 to 500,000 in 2016), if real changes do not happen.

The reporters pointed out that the hearing was very different from the one conducted by State Commissioner John King in 2013, when the audience was angry and rowdy, and King canceled future public meetings.

Lesson: ignoring parents makes them angry. Patronizing them and condescending to them will energize the opt outs.

PS: when I opened the article, I read it in full. When I went back to open it again, it was behind a  paywall. Hope you are lucky.

Dr. Yohuru Williams, historian at Fairfield University in Connecticut, recently delivered a blockbuster speech to a conference on educational justice in New York City.

He begins by quoting FDR on the Four Freedoms, then moves on to weave together the current movements and issues of our day. It is eloquent and powerful rhetoric on behalf of children, justice, and equity.

I promise if you start watching, you won’t be able to stop.


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