Archives for category: Common Core

Lots of buzz on the Internet about the new ad that allegedly is trying to rebuild the image of Common Core. The reaction is overwhelmingly negative, not just on this particular website but in a flurry of emails that I have received for the past few days.


Here is Peter Greene’s take on this truly bad piece of propaganda.


The ad shows a grandfather who brings his grandson to school and asks about Common Core. Grandpa is portrayed as a blustering buffoon. He makes some derogatory comments about Bill Gates. He boasts about his military service. The teacher and the boy look at him in a condescending way. Some people think the ad was really made by people who oppose Common Core. See what you think.


Because of the overwhelmingly ridicule heaped on the ad, it was taken down. However, in this age of technology, someone copied it and posted it on YouTube.  There it is if you want to have a good laugh and see a stupid old grandfather making dumb remarks about Bill Gates and Common Core, while his grandson is embarrassed by him and the teacher looks at him pityingly.

Laura H. Chapman, a reader who is an expert curriculum consultant in the arts, wrote the following in response to studies that say that “grit” is unrelated to creativity:

“This discussion about creativity should include mention of theoretical and empirical work from the 1950s and 1960s such a J.P. Guilford’s broad view of human intelligence, reworked by Howard Gardner; Getzels & Jackson, “Creativity and Intelligence:

Explorations with gifted students;” and the legacy of E. Paul Torrence who developed still-in-use tests of creativity translated into 36 languages and being studied for cultural bias. More at

Here is a little-known back story on the fate of talk about “creativity” in the midst of the roll-out of the CCSS and the desire of Achieve and the Council of Chief State School Officers to bury this concept (along with other phrases popularized by tech-lobbyist Ken Kay under the banner of 21st Century Skills.)

In July, 2010, Newsweek featured a report called “The Creativity Crisis,” citing a steady decline in scores on the Torrance Tests of Creativity since 1990. The tests have been respected and widely used, in part, because data has been kept on multifaceted accomplishments of each cohort of test takers since the late 1950s. A secondary analysis of the longitudinal data indicated that lifetime creative accomplishment (patents, publications, awards and other indicators) is more than three times stronger for childhood creativity than for traditional childhood measures of intelligence.

In response to inquiries, the CCSSO issued a press release that dismissed the Torrance tests and referred its own work on creativity. This work included a program of individualized instruction via computers (a stretch); some activities in the Arts Education Partnership (not relevant); and EdSteps, the latter described as a project to help “advance creativity to the highest possible international standards, and measure creativity in a way that is situated in a context of actual activity.”

EdSteps is a web-based standard setting and assessment project funded by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. It is operated by the CCSSO. Although the Common Core State Standards are separate from EdSteps, the CCSSO says the two initiatives complement one another. “EdSteps was created to find new ways to assess vital skills—those that contribute to college and career readiness—that are not currently assessed on a broad scale for reasons of difficulty and cost.”

“EdSteps defines creativity as the valued uses and outcomes of originality driven by imagination, invention, and curiosity.” In order to create a novice-to-expert scale for creativity, EdSteps started soliciting work for an online data bank. ….”from students in early childhood and elementary, middle, high school and from college and graduate students; from individuals in the workplace; from teachers of all subject areas; for any audience or purpose, both within the United States and globally; in any form, genre, or media. Creativity samples can include anything – writing, videos, images, charts, or other graphics – in any subject area.”

Anyone can submit work through EdSteps’ website. The submitter must agree to give up all rights to the work, and permit EdSteps to alter, edit, and otherwise modify the work for its purposes. That freedom of action may be a concern to persons in the arts who think that the integrity of a performance is in the whole work, not a snippet.

I was unable to determine how the proposed scale will address the fact that, in some arts, novice performances by children and untutored adults are sometimes judged more original and imaginative than expert performances by well-trained adults (e.g., a quote attributed to Picasso: ”It took me four years to paint like Raphael, but a lifetime to paint like a child”). Nor was I able to determine whether EdSteps assumes that a single scale of creative achievement can be constructed from the heterogeneous samples of work.

The process of constructing the scale is fairly technical, but it relies on comparing two works and deciding which of the two is the most “effective,” The paired comparisons are carried out in multiple iterations, by multiple judges, with multiple samples. Submissions are coded to permit analyses based on factors such as age, gender, ability level, geographic region, type of work, and the like. In theory, a scale representing a progression of achievement from novice to expert can be constructed without the need for written criteria or explanations, “although these may be added.”

This all sounds like a crock to me, perhaps because I had more than one conversation with Torrence as a young scholar and, as a worker in arts education, have relied on his vocabulary—fluency, flexibility, elaboration, humor, elaboration, and the like—to teach others that some qualities of creative thinking are not entirely a mystery.

Gates paid for some high profile talent to consult on EdSteps, including Howard Gardner. I can’t imagine that they endorced what the website has become.

Judge for yourself. Samples of work and the rest are posted on the glitchy EdSteps website.”

Peter Greene has been following the conversation at EducationPost, the blog funded by Broad, Walton, Bloomberg et al for $12 million, he says that the new spin from reformsters is that education is too politicized. He agrees but asks how it got that way. Who took the decision making power away from educators and gave it to legislatures, governors, the President, and Comgress? Not educators.

Peter Greene knows who did it:

“As it turns out, I think I have an answer for this one. Asking why the Common Core are wrapped up in politics is like asking why human beings are so involved with blood.

“The Common Core were birthed in politics. They were weaned on politics. And every time they have looked tired and in trouble, they have been revived with a fresh transfusion of politics.

“When David Coleman and Gene Wilhoit decided they wanted to standardize American education, they did not come up with a plan to sell such a program on its education merits. They called on Bill Gates to use his money and power to convince state governments to legislate systemic changes to education.

“The states signed on to a Memo of Understanding (a political tool for out-politicking politics) and many of them did it before there were even any standards to look at. This was a political move, using the political power of legislatures and governors’ offices to impose rules on educational systems– in many cases, before educators in particular states even knew that such a systemic overhaul was being considered.

“Common Core’s Pappy, No Child Left Behind, was a creature of politics, right down to its spin-ready title. It was created to put a glossy shine on bipartisan action for the kids. Educators (and other people with rudimentary math skills) pointed out early on that the NCLB end game of 100% above average was ridiculously improbable, but the political shininess plus the political notion that future politicians would find a political solution drowned out good sense. Because, politics.”

He concludes:

“At no point in all this reformy baloney have we seen the spectacle of bottom-up reform, a reform movement driven by teachers and other educators saying, “Hey, we have some ideas that are so revolutionary and so great that they are spreading like wildfire strictly on their educational merits!”

“No– Common Core and its attendant test-driven high stakes data-glomming VAMboozling baloney have come from the top down, by politicians using political power to impose educational solutions through the political tools applied to the political structure of government. Why do people get the idea that all these reformy ideas are linked? Because they all come from the same place– the linkage is the political power that imposed them all on the American public education system.

“Look. We live in the real world and politics play a part in many things. But for some reformsters to offer wide eyes and shocked dismay and clutched pearls as they cry, “Oh, but why does it have to be so political!” is the height of hypocrisy. It’s political because you folks made it political, every step of the way, and it’s not humanly possible for you to be too dumb to know that (particularly at a site like Education Post that is larded with career political operatives). So if you want to have a serious conversation about any of this, Step One is top stop lying, badly, directly to our faces. I can’t hear you when my bullshit detector alarm is screaming in my ear.”

Caitlin Emma has a great story about Bill Bennett’s new-found advocacy for the Common Core standards in the Morning Edition of

“CONSTERNATION OVER COMMON CORE: The Wall Street Journal published an op-ed [] this week supporting the Common Core – and it wasn’t long before the author, Reagan administration Education Secretary Bill Bennett, was targeted by critics. Chief among them: the libertarian Cato Institute, which said [ ] Thursday that Bennett’s piece is rife with spin and contradictions. For example, Bennett writes: “When I was chairman of the National Endowment for the Humanities in the 1980s, I asked 250 people across the political spectrum what 10 books every student should be familiar with by the time they finish high school. Almost every person agreed on five vital sources: the Bible, Shakespeare, America’s founding documents, the great American novel ‘Huckleberry Finn’ and classical works of mythology and poetry, like the Iliad and the Odyssey.” But Cato’s Neal McCluskey writes that no such mandates are mentioned in the Common Core standards. “Presumably, the Core includes these readings that almost everyone Bennett polled agreed students should tackle. Right? Um, no.”

- Bennett told Morning Education that the op-ed was simply suggesting that such literature makes up the ‘intellectual roots’ of the Common Core. (The fundamental idea behind a core curriculum is “preserving and emphasizing what’s essential, in fields like literature and math, to a worthwhile education,” the op-ed says. “It is also, by the way, a conservative idea.”) But when it comes to curriculum or required reading lists, he told Morning Education, “I think that’s a decision that ought to be made at the local level.”

- Bennett said he wrote the op-ed because the Common Core has “taken a beating that’s been unwarranted.” And he’s planning to write more in support of the standards, he said. He also acknowledged that the public relations, lobbying and business consulting firm DCI Group paid him for the op-ed. “I’m compensated for most of the things that I do,” he said.

Rick Hess quickly dashed off a piece for National Review questioning Bennett’s “tepid defense” of CCSS. He says, conservatives believe in standards so these standards must be good.

So, conservatives can feel reassured about the value of the CCSS because Bill Bennett approves them. Whether he has actually read them is another issue. What he does not touch on is whether a national curriculum, enforced by the power of the federal government (e.g. Threatening to withdraw federal waivers from states that repeal the Common Core [Oklahoma] or states that won’t evaluate teachers by test scores, which is probably illegal in itself) is legal, constitutional or wise.

Laura H. Chapman is a frequent contributor to the blog and a curriculum consultant in the arts.

Shortly after releasing the Standards with much publicity about international benchmarking, the CCSSO helped to fund a study that shows the Standards are not, in fact, closely aligned with the standards of nations that score higher on international tests.
In mathematics, for example, the nations with the highest test scores—Finland, Japan, and Singapore—devote about 75% of instruction to “perform procedures” compared to the CCSS emphasis at about 38%.

These same nations give almost no attention to “solve non-routine problems” compared to the CCSS.

In ELA, countries that score at the highest level also have patterns of emphasis in different grade spans that differ substantially from the CCSS, with a greater emphasis overall on “perform procedures” than in the CCSS.

The big surprise is that a significant part of “perform procedures” in mathematics and ELA is following directions and completing highly conventional assignments, free of elaborated analysis and generalization.

In other words, compliance with the conventions of schooling has a strong association with higher test scores. Wowzie. Who would have guessed that learning to follow directions mattered so much?

Note also that the former president of the American Educational Research Association, Andrew Porter, was among others who did this study and made the connection of the CCSS to the “new US intended curriculum. See: Porter, A.; McMaken ,J.; Hwang, J. ; & Yang, R. (2011). Common core standards: The new U.S. intended curriculum. Educational Researcher, 40(3). 103-116. DOI: 10.3102/0013189X11405038

I am not exactly sure what “Intelligence Squared” is, but it sponsored an interesting debate about Common Core. Here is the transcript. Here is the video.


Speaking for Common Core was Mike Petrilli, president of the conservative Thomas B. Fordham Institute, and Carmel Martin, formerly assistant secretary for civil rights in the U.S. Department of Education and a strong enthusiast for Race to the Top as well as the Common Core.


Speaking in opposition to the proposition of embracing the Common Core was Carol Burris, principal of South Side High School in Rockville Center in New York, and Rick Hess of the conservative American Enterprise Institute.


I found Burris and Hess far more persuasive than Petrilli and Martin.


Petrilli assured us that we need high standards, and that the Common Core standards are the best standards around. Martin offered an anecdote about a student she met who thought she was well-prepared but learned she was not when she got to college. Both said they had talked to teachers. They also insisted that the Common Core was not top-down, but was bottom up. They claimed that the standards could be changed, apparently unaware that they are copyrighted and allegedly cannot be changed, only added to.

Petrilli and Martin had the talking points one would use to persuade legislators. But it was clear that neither know much about the mismatch between the cognitive demands of the CCSS and the developmental readiness of children. They seemed to believe that school can never be “too hard,” that notated how high you set the bar, all children will reach it. This, if you push fourth grad material down to first grade or even kindergarten, kids will learn it.

Burris, the only real workaday educator among the group, said she initially supported the Common Core but turned against them as she realized that so many of them were just age-inappropriate and wrong. She had facts and experience. She gave examples from the standards, and the audience laughed. She spoke knowledgably about the math standards. She is an educator.


Hess expressed his doubts about the value of having a single way of teaching reading and math to 50 million students. I was impressed by his reasonable conservatism. He doesn’t hate the Common Core. He just thinks that too many people are embracing them without any real evidence that they will do what they claim to do.


From what I heard and read, this was a big win for Burris and Hess. They were right on the facts, right on the concerns, right on the cautions. Burris was especially informed, because she speaks from real-life experience as a working principal.


The studio audience voted for Petrilli and Martin. The online voters supporters Burris and Hess. Watch, read, cast your ballot.

Mercedes Schneider wrote a book about the origins of the Common Core this past summer, and she continues to keep a close watch on Bill Gates’ investment in the purchase of American education. In this post, she recounts Bill’s infatuation with the idea of standardizing every classroom, because he believes in the glories of standardization. And if he believes in it, so should everyone else.

You know how Arne Duncan and his echo chamber say again and again that the Common Core is not a curriculum? Mercedes says that the Gates Foundation made a grant to “hardwire” the CCSS curriculum. Oops! They didn’t mean to use that word! Maybe by the time this post goes public, they will change the word and call it “standards,” not “curriculum.”

But what’s with the “hardwiring”? Does the Gates Foundation really believe they can hardwire every school to the standards or curriculum of their choosing? This is America. We believe that our states are “laboratories of innovation.” A top-down set of standards, written in D.C., imposed by the lure of federal dollars? Never gonna happen. Ten years from now, maybe sooner, some states will stick with them, others won’t. Whatever they are, they will not be national standards. Americans don’t like to take orders. We don’t want to be hard-wired. We dissent. We debate. We question authority. We march to our own drummers. Or at least enough of us do to make trouble for anyone who wants to standardize us and hardwire us. Bill Gates will have to find a new plaything.

Wendy Lecker, senior attorney for the Education Law Center, writes here that our most important national standards are found in our obligation to provide a high-quality education, adequately funded, to all children.

She was reminded of this by the recent court decision in Texas, where Judge John Dietz ruled that the schools were inadequately funded.

“Dietz found that to prepare children for citizenship, every school must have a basic set of essential resources: pre-K, small class size, enough teachers, libraries, books, technology, support staff — including counselors, social workers and paraprofessionals — and extra services for children with extraordinary needs, adequate facilities and a suitable curriculum. After a lengthy trial, the judge ruled that Texas’ school-finance system failed to ensure schools had these basic resources and that, as a result, children in these schools were being denied their constitutional right to an education.”

“Across this nation, courts in school funding cases have found that these same resources are essential to a constitutionally adequate education in their states. Like Dietz, they heard evidence from national educational experts and local educational experts — superintendents and teachers who work with public school children every day. These judges heard what children need and what works best to help children learn. From Kansas, to Washington, to New Jersey and beyond, these far-flung courts ruled that their states are responsible for providing schools with this nearly identical basket of educational goods.

“So-called education “reformers” push a different and lesser vision of education — perhaps most honestly expressed by the Dayton, Ohio, Chamber of Commerce:

[whose spokesman said] “The business community is the consumer of the educational product. Students are the educational product. They are going through the educational system so they can be an attractive product for business to consume.”

“This diminishment of children as being in service to business is echoed by U.S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan, who lamented that because of our public education system, “we are falling further behind our international competitors.”

“Not only is this vision offensive, it is wrongheaded. It has been proven over and over that U.S. students’ scores on national or international tests bear no relation to America’s economy or worker productivity.”

Our national standard ought to be, and until recently was: equality of educational opportunity. That standard cannot be met until all children have access to a good public school with experienced teachers and adequate resources. We must hold state governments accountable for supplying the schools that children need.

Reader Laura H. Chapman has read the CCSS, unlike many others who support or oppose them. She writes:

“Anyone who had READ the CCSS all the way to the footnotes, or looked at the website, and otherwise done due diligence before buying the spin would determine it is a fraud.

“Consider this: Between 2000 and 2002, Achieve conducted interviews with prospective employers and higher education officials in a few states to gather examples later cited as “evidence” to support various claims about college and career readiness.

“This work, undertaken, under the banner of American Diploma Project, is dated and limited in scope. For information about Achieve’s Research see

“For the list of studies “consulted” in support of claims that the Standards are internationally benchmarked, see the CCSS for Mathematics (pp. 91-93). A high proportion of these studies are not peer reviewed publications, and some are not fully annotated. Comparable information on international benchmarking of the ELA Standards appears in Appendix A, p. 41.

“The benchmarking is entirely for show and to boost the “credibility” of we must do more to be globally competitive. However, during the roll-out of the CCSS, the World Economic Forum published The Global Competitiveness Report, its annual ranking of over 130 countries on 12 “pillars” in an economy. The pillars are: institutions, infrastructure, macroeconomic environment, health and primary education (pre-collegiate), higher education and training, goods market efficiency, labor market efficiency, financial market development, technological readiness, market size, business sophistication, and innovation. In the 2010-11 report, Switzerland topped the overall ranking, followed by Sweden, Singapore, and the United States. The United States fell two places to fourth position due to the failure of financial institutions, not educational performance. See

“I constructed a spreadsheet to map the major and subordinate categories in the CCSS and to place the quantity of the standards to be met at each grade level, in math and ELA, and the Literacy standards (including parts a-e).

“The result was a total of 1,620 standards to be met, with absolutely no rationale for their distribution by grade level.

“One of the examples for a grade 9/10 ELA standard was a direct lift from a community college assignment.

“Geometry is the only math topic treated in every grade.

“There is no explanation for labeling and grouping all studies in the arts under ” technical subjects”

“The average number of standards to be met verbatim in just two subjects is 91 for grades K-2; 109 for grades 3-5; and 147 for grades 6-8. In theory, one lesson, unit, or course can treat multiple standards–but these standards were written with no regard for the rollout of new standards in the sciences, or the arts, or the disciplines grouped under social studies, or the incessant calls for more standards bearing on tech savvy and financial savvy, and so on.

“Drowning the nation’s students and teachers in a sea of standards is not a solution to anything. We do not need more standards. We do not need the CCSS sucking up the time and resources for a complete education with a balanced program of studies in the arts, sciences, and humanities, including at least one foreign language still the gold standard for curriculum excellence.”

Superintendent Mark Cross joins the honor roll for his willingness to stand up and be counted on the side of students.

Cross sent a letter home to parents in which he criticized high-stakes testing and Common Core. He spoke critically of federal and state initiatives whose purpose is to rank students rather than educate them. Many educators are fearful of saying what Mark Cross said because they are supposed to be docile and keep their professional ethics to themselves. A test score is like stepping on a bathroom scale, he said. It tells you something but not everything you need to know about your wellness. So, he told parents, we won’t be talking much about PARCC or Common Core. We will continue to focus on helping them become well-rounded people, with time to develop their creativity.

Read his letter. He makes clear that he and his staff take their responsibility to the children and the local community very seriously, and they will continue to do so.

If every school board, principal, and superintendent were equally willing to speak their convictions, there would be a genuine conversation about education, rather than the current top-down authoritarianism that typifies relationships between the federal government and everyone else.

The original letter can be seen here.

August 20th 2014

Dear Parents,

Today is the first day of the 2014-15 school year and I wanted to take the opportunity to share some personal thoughts regarding the current state of education at the national, state and, most importantly, local levels. I am very fortunate to serve as the superintendent of this great district and we are all very proud of the incredible progress we have made in recent years, building on previous years of excellence. At the end of the day, our kids and their safety and educational growth are all that matters to us. We work hard to keep anything from distracting us from these priorities.

Unfortunately, there are many federal and state education initiatives that can very much be a distraction from what matters most These initiatives are based on good intentions and are cloaked in the concept of accountability, but unfortunately most do little to actually improve teaching and teaming. Most are designed to assess, measure, rank and otherwise place some largely meaningless number on a child or a school or a teacher or a district. That is not to say that student growth data is not important, It is very critical, and it is exactly why we have our own local assessment system in place. It is what our principals and teachers use to help guide instruction and meet the needs of your kids on a daily basis. In other words, it is meaningful data to help us teach your child.

But no more than a number from a bathroom scale can give you a full assessment of your personal wetness, a test score cannot fully assess a student’s academic growth. Does stepping on the scale tell you something? Of course. But does it tell you everything? Absolutely not.

As one specific example, Peru Elementary District 124 puts great value on the fine arts. We believe that music and art enhances cognitive growth, creativity and problem solving. In fact we know this, and this is exactly why your children have access to an outstanding fine arts program with five music and art teachers from PreK through 8th grade. The state does not assess music or art or science or social studies for that matter. Only language arts and mathematics are assessed with the state’s new Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers (PARCC) assessment.

This is why I wanted to let you know that we will not be talking to you that much about the PARCC assessment or Common Core or other initiatives that have some importance, but they are not what matters most to us. YOUR CHILDREN are what matter most and we believe that kids should be well-rounded, with an emphasis on a solid foundation for learning across all subjects by the time they get to high school and later college. We believe that kids need to be creative and learn to solve problems. We believe that exposure to music and art science and social studies, physical education and technology and a wide variety of curricular and extracurricular activities will serve them very well as they grow into young adults.

We further believe that there is no replacement for high expectations, and we must expect our students to achieve to the best of their individual ability. We believe that all children can learn, but not all at the same pace or in the same way. We believe that reading and literacy are the foundations of learning. We believe that children are each unique and have a wide variety of talents and skills, very few of which can be measured on a state assessment

The state and federal government have failed epically in their misguided attempts at ‘reforming’ public education. Public education does not need reformed. It may need intervention in school districts that are not meeting the needs of students on a grand scale, but it needs to be accountable to and controlled by our citizens at the local level. And in Peru Schools, this will continue to be very much the case.

So, I wanted to let you know that we will not let these other things serve as a distraction from educating your children in Peru Schools. When appropriate, we will use these opportunities as a chance to improve but we will not let political nonsense distract us from our true mission, which is to keep your kids safe and to provide them with a world class education. One of my favorite quotes is,

*Things which matter most must never be at the mercy of things which matter least’

And the ‘things- which matter most here are your kids and their education. Nothing you read or hear about will distract us from that effort.

Thank you for your support of our children and our schools and as always, please let me know if you have any questions or concerns at all as we start the new school year!


Mark R. Cross Superintendent


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