Archives for category: Common Core

Peg Robertson is a teacher and a founder of United Opt Out, a national group that encourages parents, students, and other educators not to take or give the state tests. She writes here that though she has refused to administer the PARCC assessments, someone else will do it. Try as she might, she admits, she cannot protect the children from endless test prep and the age-inappropriate practices introduced into the early grades by Common Core.

She writes:

“Across the nation teachers are fighting back hard. Across the nation – actually across the world – teachers will shut their doors and do their best to protect children from high stakes testing, test prep, nonstop district and state mandated testing and more. But – the truth is this, our best is not good enough, because in order to attempt to do our best we are jumping through hoops, shutting our door to secretly do what is right for children, spending our own money on resources for our classrooms and on supplies for children who have none, and we are spending hours and hours gaming our way through “teach to the test” curriculum and massive amounts of mandated corporate formative and summative assessment – in order to attempt to “do our best.”

“So, I’m going to be blunt here. I cannot do my best under these conditions. I can attempt to do my best, but my best under these conditions is not good enough. And my attempts to play the game and resist where I can will not be enough to protect your children from what is happening….

“And I cannot protect children from certain non-negotiables within common core curriculum and on-going assessment. We cannot protect the children from the common core professional development which takes us away from our buildings and leaves children with substitute teachers. As a literacy coach, I do what I can to rephrase and rid my school of corporate reform language such as rigor, grit, calibrate, accountability, no excuses and college and career ready. I can even replace these words with language that represents inquiry, heart, relationships, community, equity, creativity and more. But ultimately, all of my attempts are simply band aids.

“Even though I have done my best to make writing “on-demand” prompts developmentally appropriate for kindergarten (let’s face facts -there is NO such thing), it is still an “on-demand” writing prompt for kindergarten. Even though I will do everything in my power to support children in their inquiries about bugs, outer space, poetry, sports, cooking, their favorite authors, music, art, history and more; I cannot stop the testing train which makes stops in every classroom every week in some shape or form. The classroom is no longer driven by the rhythm of learning, it is driven by the testing schedule which continually interrupts our children’s talk and exploration of their interests – the testing schedule extinguishes the passion for learning. It makes all of us tired with the constant stop. start. stop start. as we try to regroup and get back on track with the real learning that is occurring in the classrooms. I can’t tell you how many “ah ha” moments have been lost for children as they had to break away from their projects, their thinking, their conversation, in order to hunker down over an assessment as they labor for the corporations…..

“Some days I feel like a nurse inside a war tent with wounded soldiers. And no matter how brave I am, no matter how much I stand up to these reforms, it is not enough – they have taken away so much of my power, and my ability to make professional decisions in order to protect children and do what is right for all children.

“I teach at a school with 73% free/reduced lunch. Over 40 languages are spoken within my school. I know what our children need – they need wrap around services for poverty, books, librarians, small class size, health care, nurses, counselors, recess, quality food, and the opportunity to express their interests as they talk, read, write, play, sing, dance, create and smile. But you see, that doesn’t create corporate profit. Poverty must be ignored in order to keep corporate profit churning.

“Parents, I cannot protect your children. I must be honest in telling you that the war is alive and well in our classrooms, and children are being harmed every day. What is happening is evil, cruel and abusive. Refuse the tests and deny the corporations the profit, deny the district, state and federal government your child’s data (which they can share with corporations), deny the publishing companies the opportunity to create more common core products. Without the data, the profit ends and we have an opportunity to reclaim our public schools, our profession. We have an opportunity to do what is right for all children. I am done smiling and saying, I am doing my best. I’m not.”

Joseph Ricciotti, a former professor at Fairfield University in Connecticut, wrote a powerful article in which he describes the sinking morale of teachers, weighed down by the dehumanizing and demoralizing policies of George W. Bush’s No Child Left Behind and Barack Obama’s Race to the Top.

He writes:

“The war on teachers began with the “No Child Left Behind” (NCLB) program when George W. Bush was president and has continued with “Race to the Top” (RTTT) with President Obama and his non-educator, Secretary of Education Arne Duncan. Basically both programs are what is commonly referred to by public school educators as “test and punish” testing programs that are used primarily for closing schools, ranking students, demonizing teachers and for assessing teacher effectiveness. These programs have now morphed into the Common Core State Standards (CCSS) in which the federal government has, in essence, usurped local control of education in the United States.

“Hence, the purpose of these so-called education reform movement with its high-stakes tests has been to rank students, not to educate them. The ranking consists of “winners”and “losers” which extends beyond the students to also include schools that are “successes” and “failures.”

Why the teacher-bashing?

“Both George W. Bush and Barack Obama as well as the political establishment in Washington, D.C. realized that the true culprit in the achievement gap of many urban schools and their suburban counterparts was poverty. Moreover, both presidents decided that a war on teachers would be cheaper than a war on poverty. At a time when poverty of children in the country has reached epic proportions and has become a national crisis, politicians from both parties have refused to deal with poverty in a meaningful manner and have, instead, decided to scapegoat teachers.”

The attacks on teachers by the corporate reformers is a smokescreen for their unwillingness to do anything meaningful about poverty. Under steady attack from the reformers, the professionalism of teachers was steadily eroded. Reformers, they of high status in the world of politics and philanthropy, never really understood why anyone became teachers and often suggested that teachers were drawn from the lowest academic rungs, an outright falsehood:

“Public school teachers today are considered by the corporate education reformers as merely “clerks” whose expertise, craft and artistry are no longer valued. As an outgrowth of Common Core, teachers no longer have any say or voice in the curriculum and can no longer function as reflective practitioners as the corporations and testing companies now determine what is taught and how it is taught. Educators realize that Common Core is a top-down reform movement developed by non-educators and supported by Bill Gates. It is, in essence, sheer politics with no chance of succeeding. Is it any wonder why teaching has been dehumanized when teachers must adhere to the mandates of the corporate reformers even though they know that these mandates run counter to the interests and needs of their students? It is time for teachers and parents to push back against these corporate education reformers and to help restore the dignity of teaching and public education.”

Fortunately, I am on Angie Sullivan’s email list, which has scores of recipients. Most seem to be teachers, legislators, and journalists in Nevada. Angie keeps all of us up-to-date with education events in Nevada. We learned first from Angie that the public schools in Nevada are poorly funded. In fact, the Education Law Center says that Nevada has one of the most inequitable funding formulas in the nation. Angie also let me know about the Governor and Legislature’s grant of $1.3 billion in tax incentives to Tesla to build a battery factory in Nevada. And now she reports on an effort to portray Nevada as the one place in the nation where there is no controversy about the Common Core. Angie takes issue with that claim. She is a teacher.

Here is what a reformer says about common core in Nevada.

Here is what a Nevadan says about common core.

Angie Sullivan comments:

“Echo Chambers are dangerous things unless you earn money making them. I commented on the first article but the comments disappeared.

“Ask a teacher in a safe place what they really think – if you can handle the truth.”

Tennessee is one of Arne Duncan’s favorite states because it was one of the first states to win Race to the Top funding, it has a rightwing governor and legislature, and an experienced, TFA-trained state commissioner. Thus, the state is committed to charters, to privatization, and to eliminating tenure (it already abolished collective bargaining). This is Arne’s kind of state, a state where Democrats are powerless.

But, trouble! A new poll by Vanderbilt University finds that after three years of experience with the Common Core, 56% of teachers want to abandon it. Not fine-tune it. Abandon it.

Read the story and watch the politicians try to spin the collapse of teacher support.

“Support for Common Core among Tennessee teachers has waned so much since last year that a majority now opposes the academic standards, a new statewide survey shows.

“With the future of Common Core under fire in Tennessee, a new report from the Tennessee Consortium on Research, Evaluation and Development could provide more ammunition to those who want to roll back the standards.

“The new 2014 survey, undertaken by a group led by Vanderbilt University’s Peabody College of Education and Human Development and released Wednesday, found that just 39 percent of respondents believe that teaching to the standards will improve student learning — compared with 60 percent who said the same last year.

“It also found 56 percent of the 27,000 Tennessee teachers who responded to the survey want to abandon the standards, while 13 percent would prefer to delay their implementation. Only 31 percent want to proceed. The 2013 survey did not ask questions in this area.

“There’s been a pretty big drop of support for the Common Core,” said Dale Ballou, a Vanderbilt professor and director of the consortium.

“But there doesn’t seem to be any single symptom or explanation for that change. It’s a lot of different factors that seem to be playing into this. The one thing I would caution people against is jumping to the conclusion that this means now that teachers are actually trying it, they’re discovering that it doesn’t work.”

Gosh, no, don’t jump to that conclusion, the one that common sense suggests. Don’t conclude that “now that teachers are actually trying it, they’re discovering that it doesn’t work.” There must be another explanation. If I think of one, I will let you know.

Robert Pondiscio, who now works for the Thomas B. Fordham Institute, shows here how a Common Core lesson can be deadly dull. New York put one of its “experts” on NPR to demonstrate how exciting a Common Core lesson was . But it wasn’t.

“I referred my listeners to a recent NPR effort to get “super-specific about what makes a good Common Core–aligned lesson.” The reporter enlisted the aid of Kate Gerson, who works with EngageNY, a New York State Education Department’s web site. She’s one of the leaders of New York State’s transition to Common Core; NPR asked her to walk through a supposedly exemplary ninth-grade lesson—a close reading of a short story by Karen Russell entitled, “St. Lucy’s Home for Girls Raised By Wolves.”

Pondiscio didn’t think much of the lesson. It was the same old skills-based lesson. Same old, same old.

Peter Greene knows, unlike Bill Gates, that children are not like toasters that Ned to be plugged into an electrical outlet that is everywhere the same. But then Gates brings in the metaphor of a railroad gauge. Ah! A fresh metaphor! New writer? Who knows?

Greene explains why it is a bad metaphor that has nothing to do with students or teaching. And he asks the $64 question: if standardization and uniformity are so great, why does Gates love charter schools?

And now the big question: what metaphor will Gates use next to make the case for standardization of learning?

As we noted previously, Bill Gates compares the Common Core to standardization of electrical plugs and outlets, and to the gauge of railroad tracks. This is not a new metaphor from him. He used it several months ago when he explained the need for Common Core to the National Board for Professional Teaching Standards.

The question of the day, therefore, is this: is your child an electrical outlet, an electrical plug, or an electrical appliance? Is she a toaster or a lamp?

Here is the standard I want for my grandchildren and your children: the standards at Lakeside Academy in Seattle, where Bill sends his children. The school has small classes, experienced teachers, a beautiful campus, a wonderful arts program, foreign languages, a fabulous gymnasium, a well-stocked library, the latest technology. That’s where I want our children educated. Not as toasters but as human beings.

Stephanie Simon reports on Bill Gates’ latest explanation of why the Common Core standards are a wonderful idea. We need standardization. Maybe we need a national curriculum so that everyone learns exactly the same thing at the same time. Bill Gates loves the Common Core because it is like a standard electrical outlet that we can plug children’s brains into and get standard electrical current. That explains why he paid out at least $200 million to create Common Core, so everyone could have a standard mind and be just like everyone else. Some people, like Emeritus Professor Jack Hassard of Georgia State University, think that Gates has actually pumped $2 billion into Common Core. Really, without standardizing the minds and hopes and dreams and aspirations of everyone everywhere, how can we hope to compete with the standardized minds in other nations?


This is not news. We knew that, didn’t we?


Here is some more not-news: Bill Gates thinks Arne Duncan is wonderful because Arne Duncan wants to standardize everyone’s minds just like Bill Gates. And he wants to pay teachers based on the test scores of their students, just like they don’t do at his children’s private school.


They can’t understand why the more parents learn about Common Core, the less they like it. That’s what the polls show.


Here is an anecdote, not a poll, not scientific. I spoke to a friend who is a retired New York City principal. She had a distinguished career for many years in a middle school. Her grandson came home from his first day in kindergarten. He had work sheets for homework. When she asked about his day, he said there was no recess because they had to work on reading and math problems. This is ridiculous. The children will learn to hate school.


Common Core will never be “national standards,” no matter how much money Bill spends, no matter how much the U.S. Chamber of Commerce pushes it, no matter how many states lose Arne’s waivers. It might survive in half the states. But it will never stop being a source of controversy. It didn’t have to be this way. The lesson is that you don’t get “national standards” by writing them in secret, then using federal funds as a lure to shove them down the throats of parents and children. If we ever have national standards, it will come about as the result of a democratic, open process, not a secret deal among oligarchs and the feds.

Yesterday I learned that the New York State School Boards Association was running a poll about the Common Core. When I logged on, responses were running heavily against the Common Core. Most respondents said that CC “hinders” education instead of improving it. Some 85% said that it was not liked by local parents.


I posted these results, and the NYSSBA canceled the poll on grounds that the response rate was so high that the results were not accurate. But before I posted it, the results were already overwhelmingly opposed to the Common Core. Don’t blame me for the opposition from school board members who answered overwhelmingly in the negative before I read the results or posted about them.

There’s is a lot of money to be made in education but not by teachers.


“In the Publiic Interest” reports on privatization scams. Today it wrote:


“Politico reports that the National Urban League “is stepping up its advocacy in support of the Common Core with new radio and TV spots narrated by CEO Marc H. Morial.” In July, Black Agenda Report reported that “the National Urban League got a $1 million check from now-doomed Corinthian Colleges after president Marc Morial wrote a favorable op-ed in the Washington Post. Morial then joined Corinthian’s board of directors, a sinecure that is worth between $60,000 and $90,000 a year in cash and deferred stock.”


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