Archives for category: Common Core

David Coleman, the architect of the Common Core standards, believes that students should analyze difficult text as written, without reference to context or their personal reactions. This blogger disagrees. His blog is vigornotrigor, though you might be tempted to call it Wag the Dog. However, if you google Wag the Dog, you will never find it.

He includes a video of David Coleman, New York State Commissioner John King, and a member of the State Education Department staff named Kate Gerson discussing how to teach Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s famous Letter from a Birmingham Jail.

Coleman, who has never been a teacher, says:

“The first question is for kids as readers, how much can they draw from the text itself, you always want to ask yourself, how can they make do…I think we as readers often decide what can I skip. In other words, I don’t fully get this, but I get it enough to keep moving. I think it’s Ok to say that because you can’t read complicated things without choosing, there are some references that you don’t quite get, that you are not going to follow up on.”

And further:

“These speakers clearly do not realize that many of our slow learning, at-risk, and learning disabled middle school students are not developmentally ready and experienced enough independent readers to make such critical judgment calls when it comes to complex informational text.

“Coleman and crew also fail to grasp that students’ thoughts and feelings matter a great deal. Successful teachers at any grade level are genuinely interested in their students’ lives and the classroom is a safe and welcoming environment where each person’s thoughts and feelings are highly valued and respected.

“Trust is an essential ingredient of good teaching and it will flourish in the classroom when the teacher takes time to learn about the individual needs and interests of each student…..

“Learning unfolds in a safe environment that rewards and values curiosity, innovation, imagination, and risk-taking. A properly designed and implemented education program will nurture student confidence rather than fear, and cultivate hope rather than despair.

“The CCSS close reading strategy demands that all students independently “dive into” and master complex informational text and teachers are discouraged from answering student questions or introducing and reviewing prior knowledge with them.

“This unproven approach directly contradicts Bloom’s Taxonomy which has clearly demonstrated that students will first acquire knowledge before they can progress to comprehension and understanding.

He concludes:

“From an educator’s perspective, the importance of text is not simply how well students can comprehend a reading passage, but how the ideas, ideals, and values expressed in the text are internalized and then implemented by students in real life situations.

“Another way of looking at this issue is to simply ask, what would Martin Luther King, Jr. want our students to do?

“Spend two weeks deconstructing and dissecting the nuance and subtlety of his words and how well he supported his claims, or two weeks applying and teaching his principles in our schools and local communities?”

The Badass Teachers Association issued the following press release:

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: July 14, 2014

More Information Contact:

Marla Kilfoyle, General Manager, BATs

Melissa Tomlinson, Asst. General Manager, BATs

contact.batmanager@gmail.com

“The Badass Teachers Association, an organization that is nearing 50,000 members, is releasing this statement to express our outrage over Resolution #2 (AFT Common Core) that passed on the floor of the AFT Convention this past Sunday. The decision to support the Common Core will further erode the confidence of parents, students, and teachers who have watched the chaos that has unfolded in our schools as a result of standards that were never researched , tested, or piloted.

“The AFT stated that the promise of the Common Core has been corrupted by political manipulation, administrative bungling, corporate profiteering and an invalid scoring system designed to ensure huge numbers of kids fail the new math and language arts exams that will be rolled out next spring.” “Why in the world would they support keeping them?” asks Marla Kilfoyle, General Manager of BATs.

“BAT Asst. General Manager Melissa Tomlinson states, “BATs do not dispute the need for high level standards that will encourage our students to develop and apply higher-order thinking skills. BATs does dispute the standards as the panacea for what is actually wrong with our educational system. The Common Core has become a distractor to veil the real issues of fair funding and access to equal resources that will not be solved as school districts struggle to align curriculum to the standards through purchasing of Common Core materials, mainly from the Pearson monopoly.”

“BATs are dismally disappointed with the results of the convention and will fight to have CCSS disbanded and Arne Duncan removed as Secretary of Education. We will not give up the fight for ALL children”, said BAT Jo Lieb.

“Co-founder Mark Naison states, “The new AFT position on Common Core is going to disappoint many parents and teachers who were looking for relief from uncontrolled testing and intrusive federal mandates.”

“This CCSS “baby” was created by people with NO classroom experience (ELA) and very little classroom experience (Math). They are developmentally inappropriate for the younger grades, for kids with disabilities- they defy every best practice and research we know about how children learn. The CCSS are copyrighted and cemented in place to high stakes testing, VAM, and rigid annual benchmarks. Throw out this toxic baby and the bathwater now!” exclaimed BAT and Special Education advocate, Terry Kalb.

“BATs look forward to continuing our work with parents, students, and education policy makers to take back public education and end the FEDERALLY MANDATED Common Core State Standards! Further, we fully support NEA’s resolution to ask for Secretary Duncan’s resignation. Unions MUST return to the important role of educating the rank and file about specific and significant changes implemented in order to qualify for RttT funding; and most importantly, stand up for a complete and thorough analysis of implementation, specifically as they relate to individual states, localities, and communities manpower decisions.”

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Every state that has adopted Common Core tests has seen a sharp decline in test scores.

Maryland is the latest to discover that its scores fell thanks to Common Core tests.

“Reading and math scores on state tests for Maryland elementary and middle school students have dropped to their lowest levels in seven years, according to a Washington Post analysis of 2014 test data released Friday. Some Maryland officials expected the drop because schools are transitioning to new national academic standards that do not align with the tests.

“State and county educators said the across-the-board decline on the final Maryland School Assessment (MSA) was largely a result of the state’s move to a curriculum aligned with the Common Core State Standards. The new curriculum shifts some academic topics to different grade levels, especially in math, making the MSA obsolete.

“Students’ scores had been steadily inching up until 2013, when there were sharp declines in reading and math scores, a slide that continued this year. In 2014, overall proficiency scores in reading and math among elementary students fell 5.2 percentage points to 80 percent proficiency. Middle-schoolers fared worse — 71.4 percent proficiency, a drop of 6.5 percentage points. Drops in Montgomery and Prince George’s counties roughly mirrored the state averages.

“During the past two years, the state has shifted its instruction to prepare for the tests by the Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers, which are aligned with the Common Core and were recently field-tested in Maryland.”

The two federally-funded tests used NAEP “proficient” as their passing mark, a standard that is equivalent to high performance, not grade-level performance.

One reason–perhaps the main reason–that so many conservatives and entrepreneurs like the Common Core testing is that they hope it will convince suburban parents that their schools are no good and create new markets for charters, vouchers, and expensive new software. In other words, the Common Core tests are designed for failure.

Jay Nixon, Governor of Missouri, signed a bill to review and revise Common Core. It will remain in place for next two years,

Stephen Sawchuck did a good job reporting the heated debate about the Common Core standards at the AFT convention. The Chicago Teachers Union wanted to dump them. The head of the New York City United Federation of Teachers mocked the critics of the standards. One union official said that the critics represented the Tea Party. That’s pretty insulting to the Chicago Teachers Union and one-third of the AFT delegates, as well as people like Anthony Cody, Carol Burris, and me.

As far as I can tell, no one explained how states and districts will find the hundreds of millions of dollars to pay for hardware and software required for “the promise of Common Core.” Early estimates indicate that Pearson will have a contract of $1 billion to develop the PARCC tests. Who will pay Pearson? Who will be laid off? How large will class sizes go?

There were no Martians on the committee that wrote the Common Core standards, but there were also no classroom teachers, no early childhood teachers, no special education teachers. There were a number of testing experts.

Frankly the best and only hope for the future of these standards is that they are totally decoupled from testing. It is not likely to happen because doing so would deny the privatizers the data to prove that schools are failing and must be closed at once. That’s where the next big fight will occur.

Will they prepare all children for college and careers? Nobody knows. Will they help prepare our children for “global competition?” Not likely if the global competition works for $2 an hour for 18 hours a day under unsafe conditions.

The Common Core standards will never be national standards. They were developed in haste, paid for by one man (the guy is Seattle who thinks he knows everything), sold to the public via a slick PR campaign. They were never tried out. The tests connected to them are designed to fail most kids. Arne Duncan and Bill Gates thought they could pull a fast one and bypass democracy. Sorry, boys, you are wrong. Public education belongs to the public. Children belong to their parents. Neither public education nor children are for sale.

Mercedes Schneider was unimpressed by the AFT resolutions.

Plaintively, she writes: “It sure would be nice if a national union would aggressively confront the pro-privatization education agenda emanating from the Oval Office.” Neither NEA nor AFT would take on that Herculean task.

She expects that nothing will happen to Duncan, no matter how many absurd things he says or does. He is coated with Teflon.

She sees no point in clinging to the “promise” of the CCSS standards, which are dying the death of a thousand cuts.

She sees much ado about nothing. Duncan stays. The CCSS remains, no matter how troubled and lifeless it may be.

In a day of debates, the American Federation of Teachers voted to continue its support for the controversial Common Core standards while complaining about its faulty implementation. The delegates also voted for a resolution to put Secretary Duncan on a remediation plan that would be monitored by President Obama (ha-ha, when he is not busy with foreign crises). Politico.com wrote: “The “improvement plan” would include the requirement that Duncan enact the funding and equity recommendations of the Equity Commission’s “Each and Every Child” report; change the No Child Left Behind and Race To The Top “test-and-punish” accountability system to a “support-and-improve” model; and “promote rather than question” teachers and school staff.”

After the NEA passed a resolution calling on Duncan to resign, the AFT rebuke seemed like mockery of Duncan, a bureaucrat who demands accountability of everyone but is never held accountable for his own missteps. Of course, his missteps are not mistakes but reflect his contempt for teachers and public schools. In his world-view, everyone lies about how terrible schools are except him.

This is the press release in which AFT explained its continued support for the Common Core, which will drain states and districts of billions of dollars for the testing industry while teacher layoffs increase:

“LOS ANGELES— AFT members today passed a resolution at the union’s national convention reaffirming the AFT’s support for the promise and potential of the Common Core State Standards as a way to ensure all children have the knowledge and skills they need to succeed in the 21st century while sharply criticizing the standards’ botched implementation. The AFT’s resolution lays out key actions needed to restore confidence in the standards and provide educators, parents and students with the tools and supports they need to make the standards work in the classroom.

The resolution, “Role of Standards in Public Education,” resolution passed following an intense, extended debate on the convention floor. Educators expressed their frustrations and anger with how the standards were developed and rolled out, without sufficient input from those closest to the classroom and without the tools and resources educators need to make the transition to the new rigorous standards, even as states and districts rushed to test and hold teachers and students accountable. AFT members also voiced their distrust of efforts by those seeking to make a profit off the new standards. No matter where members stood on the issue, there was clear anger over the deprofessionalization of teachers throughout the implementation process. At the same time, however, many educators shared how they’ve witnessed, when done right, how these standards more from rote memorization to provide children with the deeper learning the standards were designed to produce and that the standards remain the best way to level the playing field for all children. Proponents of the resolution made clear that it resolution offers solutions to fix the poor implementation and includes a call for greater teacher voice.

“We heard a lot of passion today—all in support of student needs and teacher professionalism,” said AFT President Randi Weingarten. “And where our members ended up is that we will continue to support the promise and potential of these standards as an essential to tool to provide each and every child an equitable and excellent education while calling on the powers that be in districts and, states and at the national level to work with educators and parents to fix this botched implementation and restore confidence in the standards. And no matter which side of the debate our members were on, there’s one thing everyone agreed on—that we need to delink these standards from the tests.”

The resolution lays out key action steps the AFT is taking to make the standards work for kids and educators, including:

• Rejecting low-level standardized testing in favor of assessments aligned with rich curricula that encourage the kind of higher-order thinking and performance skills students need;

• Supporting efforts by affiliates to hold policymakers and administrators accountable for proper implementation;

• Advocating that each state create an independent board composed made up of a majority representation of teachers and education professionals to monitor the implementation of the standards;

• Fighting to ensure that educators are involved in a cohesive plan for engaging stakeholders, and, that they have a significant role in the implementation and evaluation of the standards in their schools, and that there are adequate funds provided by all levels of government to ensure successful implementation of the standards; and

• Reaffirming the call the AFT made more than a year ago for a moratorium on the high-stakes consequences of Common Core-aligned assessments for students, teachers and schools until all of the essential elements of a standards-based system are in place.
“What educators and parents are saying is,: ‘Yes, we want our children to have the knowledge and skills they need for life, college, career and citizenship.’ But to make that a reality, our voices need to be involved in a meaningful way, and we actually have to focus on the learning, and not the obsession with testing,” said Weingarten.

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Here are my thoughts;

If the standards are decoupled from the tests, as the AFT hopes, the standards will be a very costly and very toothless tiger. With or without the tests, they will drain every district of desperately needed resources.

One very promising idea to emerge from the conference was Randi Weingarten’s proposal to give grants to groups of teachers to revise the standards. This makes sense, especially in light of the fact that the writing committee for the Common Core standards did not include a single active classroom teacher nor anyone who had experience teaching early childhood edition nor anyone who had taught children with disabilities.

To those who say that the standards can’t be revised because they are copyrighted, I say nonsense. Let’s see if the National Governors Association or Achieve or the Council of Chief State School Officers has the gall to sue the AFT or its surrogates for trying to fix the CCSS. Bring it on.

No matter how many resolutions are passed at this or any other convention, the Common Core standards are going nowhere. State after state is dropping them or the federal tests or both. The standards ignore the root causes of low academic achievement: poverty and segregation. There is no proof that they will fulfill their lofty goals. They will end up one day as a case study in college courses of the abuse of power: how one man tried to buy American education and bypass democratic procedures. Even in states with high standards, like Massachusetts and California, there are large achievement gaps. Even in the same classrooms with the same teacher, there are variations in test scores.

We live in an age of magical thinking, of unrealistic expectations and of lies dressed up as goals and promises. For more than a dozen years, politicians have insisted that testing and accountability would leave no child behind. Then in 2009, the politicians said that testing and accountability would create a “race to the top.” Now we are told that common standards and common tests will bring about equity and excellence. What fools these mortals be. The politicians never run out of excuses or slogans. At some point, the public will tire of their know-nothing meddling. Let us hope that day will come soon.

There is something about corporate education reform that encourages chutzpah. Chutzpah is a Yiddish word for arrogance. Reformers think they are on the front lines of the civil rights movement. They think that making tests harder helps kids who are already struggling. They think that if the failure rate for black and Hispanic kids goes higher, these kids are getting the help they need. Please don’t ask me to explain the logic behind their train of thought. I suppose their inflated opinion of themselves leads the corporate reformers to reach absurd conclusions.

Take New York State Commissioner John King. His teaching experience is limited to three years in a no-excuses charter school where poor kids were expelled for minor infractions. Having been chosen to lead the Empire State, where only 3% of children are in charters, he has decided that the Common Core standards are his heroic mission. He has compared himself to Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. And just a few days ago, he said that the advocates for the Common Core were like the all-black World War II unit called the Tuskegee Airmen.

Please don’t ask me to explain the logic. There is none. In the first administration of Common Core testing, 95% of children with disabilities failed. More than 80% of African-American and Hispanic children failed. These tests have passing marks designed to fail most kids, and the burden falls most heavily on minority children. Instead of help and reduced class sizes, they get more tests. What part of this scenario would be supported by Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr? What part is similar to the bravery of the Tuskegee Airmen?

It makes no sense. But then, Common Core makes no sense. It was underwritten by one man, Bill Gates. It was imposed by making it a condition of Race to the Top. The tests were federally funded (an act of dubious legality). It eviscerates state and local control of education. It sets poor kids, black kids, Hispanic kids, and those with disabilities on a road to failure. What part of this terrible scenario resonates with the civil rights movement?

The only thing Dr. John King has in common with Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., is his last name. The current Dr. King should have the decency to refrain from comparing himself to a man who distinguished himself by his humility, his compassion, his decency, his astonishing intellect, and his genuine concern for those who had the least. He sought equity. He fought for unions, good jobs, good housing, fair wages. In my reading of Dr. King’s work, I never once encountered a passage in which he said that what black children need most is testing.

Peter Goodman regularly blogs about education in New York. He is close to the UFT leadership in New York City and thus has good sources. Here is his update from inside the AFT convention.

Reading this, I conclude that the AFT will not call for Arne Duncan’s resignation. This is the first time in my memory that the AFT was less militant than its larger brethren and sisters in the NEA.

It appears that there will be a floor debate about the Common Core. The Chicago Teachers Union is opposed to it. If my reading of the tea leaves is right, the New York City delegation is prepared to shoot that resolution down too. CTU is the outlier in this convention, battle-scarred and ready to fight. The NYC delegation has the numbers to vote them down.

Readers of this blog know my views. Arne Duncan is the most anti- teacher, anti-union Secretary of Education in the history of the Department. He was the guy who said that Hurricane Katrina was the best thing to happen to education in New Orleans, having swept away public schools and teachers’ unions (forget the death toll). He was the one who cheered the firing of the entire staff of Central Falls High School in Rhode Island. He was thrilled when the Los Angeles Times posted teachers’ (inaccurate) VAM ratings. He required states to adopt VAM ratings, which Randi wisely called “a sham” in her speech to the convention. He spoke admiringly of the Vergara decision. He should not be Secretary of Education. He should be Ambassador to some very small nation, where he can’t do much damage. Or teach basketball.

As for Common Core, I agree with CTU. Teachers don’t need scripts. They don’t need “standards” written by a committee that included not a single classroom teacher. They need class sizes they can manage. Their schools need equitable funding. They need tenure to protect them from political reprisals. They need due process and speedy resolution of complaints. They need respect. Common Core does nothing to alleviate the poverty in which nearly one-quarter of our children live. It does nothing to restore the art teachers, librarians, nurses and counselors who have been laid off. It does nothing to address the root causes of poor academic performance: poverty and segregation. It will die no matter what the AFT does because, frankly, it doesn’t matter.

This teacher laments the explosion of testing in school, which has reduced or eliminated time for play, recess, and activities. This is the brave new world of Common Core and PARCC:

H/she writes:

“The Common Core and PARCC will ruin education as we know it..And, of course, it is all part of the overall plan. My school starts PARCC this next school year. My 2.5 hour paper and pencil test (in only one subject).. will be replaced by three (3) two hour “tasks” in February. (My students will have to sit down at a computer THREE times at 2 hours each in February.) I’m not done yet….In May my students have to sit down at the computer for two (2) hour tests on the computer. My 2.5 hour paper and pencil test is now replaced by 10 hours of testing for only one subject. My students will also do the same amount of testing in three (3) other subjects. My students now will be completing 40 hours of testing on a computer in a given year. Oh, and my students are only 11 and 12 years old. They yearn to go outside and play kickball and basketball at recess. But, they have no recess. They only have 10 extra minutes after they finish lunch to play outside.

“I was blessed to teach in the what I now know were the “good ole days” of yesteryear. I dearly miss and mourn for those years. I was able to teach through fun and meaningful learning activities! We had TIME! (: As I go through my files over my almost 30 year career in the same subject and grade level, I don’t begin to get the material taught and covered as what I used to. I have thick files of learning activities that I never get to anymore. The curriculum director at our school has already said that he has no clue how he will get all that testing done for all of our kids. He said there is a 4 week window in February and April/May, so students will be gone at different times in my classroom. It will be a nightmare.

“It’s a shame that Pearson has to take away the childhood of our children, so they can earn their millions. I teach children. They are children. They love to run, play, draw, make faces, jump up and down, play tag, tease each other, hide, run around, make jokes, and enjoy being a child. With all of these hours of testing, I will not have time to teach anymore. The test preparation for a 2.5 hour test was bad enough, but this is totally ridiculous. Then, take the time to read over the Common Core and you will laugh to yourself. In Language Arts, they will be teaching adverbs to 3rd graders, with not much more emphasis on it after that. I think they know the Common Core will be the bullet that finally kills all public education in the U.S. The kids will not score well on this silly curriculum, which will be recorded on the teacher’s evaluation . . .and teachers will be let go. Yes, it’s all a part of the sad overall plan. It’s evident that the Common Core was created by people who knew very little about the developmental stages of our children. No one ever mentions Piaget anymore. It’s all so sad. But, Sasha and Alieah don’t have to follow these communist socialist education rules. Do they?”

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