Archives for category: Common Core

Chiara Duggan, a teacher in Ohio and regular contributor to our blog’s discussion, writes the following, which is a great example of educating the public:

 

I did two full days of community discussion on our local schools this week. It’s amazing how many new ed reform mandates they have, just this year.

School grading system, A-F (replaces the old grading system) teacher grading system, Third Grade Reading Guarantee and of course the CC.

That’s with millions of cuts in state funding. Next year they lose state (personal) property tax funding, because it’s been zeroed.

No one could do all these things (well) with less funding at the same time. No one. They’re drowning. My sense was they’ve been in this reform system for so long (more than a decade now) that they don’t even recognize how ludicrous the demands sound to an “outsider”.

They need more forums to explain this to the public. The members of the “business community” who were in attendance got it immediately.

Professor Jack Hassard of Georgia State University concludes, after reviewing Tom Loveless’s report for Brookings, that the Common Core Standards have had little or no effect on NAEP math scores, as Loveles predicted a few years ago.

 

The states most aligned with CCSS had the smallest gains.

 

Overall, eighth grade math scores show very little improvement since the Common Core was rolled out in 2010.

 

He writes:

 

Between 1990 – 2013 there was a 22 point increase in 8th grade math. Over the 23 years this amounts to about a 1 point increase per year. However, the average score increase from 2009 – 2013, the years the Common Core has been used, has only increased 0.30 points per year, much less than before the roll out of the Common Core.

 

Well, four years is too soon to see the radical improvements that Bill Gates and others have promised. Maybe we will have to wait a full decade to know whether the billions spent on CCSS were well spent.

 

 

Peter Greene nails it with this post.

 

Students are not assets. Students are not
global competitors. Students are… well, children? People? On a
Gates Foundation website, seeking to persuade bussinesses how much
America needs the Common Core–even though it has never been
field-tested to gauge its real-world consequences–Alan Golston
wrote this execrable sentence: “Businesses are the primary
consumers of the output of our schools, so it’s a natural
alliance.”

 

Greene almost jumps through the page–or, the
Internet–shouting NO!

 

He writes: “Output of our schools. Students
are not output. They are not throughput. They are not toasters on
an assembly line. They are not a manufactured product, and a school
is not a factory. In fact, a school does not create “output” at
all. Talking about the “output” of a school is like talking about
the “output” of a hospital or a counseling center or a summer camp
or a marriage. When talking about interactions between live
carbon-based life forms (as in “That girl you’ve been dating is
cute, but how’s the output of the relationship?”), talking about
output is generally not a good thing. Primary consumers. Here’s
another thing that students are not– students are not consumer
goods. Businesses do not purchase them and then use them until they
are discarded or replaced. Students are not a good whose value is
measured strictly in its utility to the business that purchased
it.”

 

How to say it nicely: the utilitarian view of education is
getting out of control, warping the ability of intelligent people
to see students as humans like themselves, not as economic goods
for the marketplace. Corporations are not people, but students are.
Each one is unique.

Sol Stern of the rightwing Manhattan Institute is a fierce advocate for the Common Core Standards. He is a journalist of great rhetorical skill, not a classroom teacher or a scholar or researcher. Stern is a devotee of E.D. Hirsh Jr.’s Core Knowledge curriculum, and he thinks that Common Core will install CK in every school in the nation. He cant accept the reality that CCSS is not the vehicle to impose CK. It must be puzzling to him, if not infuriating, that his arch-enemy Lucy Calkins and her colleagues have written the best-selling book about the Common Core, called “Pathways to the Common Core.” That sort of thing can make a person cranky.

In his piqué, Stern wrote an article excoriating me for abandoning this great national experiment. He didn’t seem to notice that my major objection to the CC was not substantive but procedural–that is, the absence of participation of knowledgable parties in the drafting process, the lack of any effort to include early childhood educators or experts in educating students with disabilities or any classroom teachers, the absence of any means of appealing or revising the standards, the failure to try them out before imposing them nationwide–all of which made their implementation speedy but built distrust. Process matters. Democracy matters. I have consistently maintained that it is better to go slowly and get it right than to move fast and sow dissension and suspicion. Back when I was on the dark side, Sol was a friend, so I decided not to be offended by his unprovoked attack on me.

However Mercedes Schneider, who probably knows more about the Common Core than anyone else, decided to respond to Stern and set him straight. He responded to Schneider, dismissing her, a mere classroom teacher in Louisiana, with disdain. And here, in this new post, Mercedes Schneider–who is not only an experienced classroom teacher but holds a Ph.D. In research methods, again corrects Stern’s fundamental misunderstanding of the Common Core.

The states are roiled with pushback and rebellion against the Common Core, and wise heads say the problem is the implementation.

If only the implementation had been slower; if only it had left out the testing until much, much later; if only, if only.

But Peter Greene says the problem goes beyond implementation.

He gives a multiple-choice question to explain why CCSS is in big trouble.

It has nothing to do with the Tea Party or people in tin-foil hats.

He offers three possible reasons.

I choose Answer C.

What do you choose?

 

Principals, teachers, and parents in New York state complained that the Common Core tests for grades 3-8 were too long. The tests for math and reading together take about 7 hours. Commissioner John King responded in a recent speech at New York University that students were spending “less than 1%” of the school year, which is sort of an odd way to explain (defend) 7 hours of testing for little children.

 

One of our readers decided to compare the amount of time required foe Common Core testing to the amount of time required for other examinations typically administered to college applicants or adults:

 

So I was curious about other standardized tests and how they compare to the tests they expect 8-13 years olds to do. Why would an 8-year old need to sit for longer than 7 hours to see if they can read and do math which is longer than every test until you get to the NYS bar exam.

 

GRE:
The overall testing time for the computer-based GRE® revised General Test is about three hours and 45 minutes. There are six sections with a 10-minute break following the third section. https://www.ets.org/gre/revised_general/about/content/cbt/

 

SAT:
The SAT is made up of 10 sections:

A 25-minute essay
Six 25-minute sections (mathematics, critical reading and writing)
Two 20-minute sections (mathematics, critical reading and writing)
A 10-minute multiple-choice writing section

Total test time: 3 hours and 45 minutes

You’ll also get three short breaks during the testing, so don’t forget to bring a snack!

http://sat.collegeboard.org/about-tests/sat/faq

 

LSAT:

The test consists of five 35-minute sections of multiple-choice questions. Four of the five sections contribute to the test taker’s score. These sections include one reading comprehension section, one analytical reasoning section, and two logical reasoning sections. The unscored section, commonly referred to as the variable section, typically is used to pretest new test questions or to preequate new test forms. The placement of this section in the LSAT will vary. The score scale for the LSAT is 120 to 180. A 35-minute writing sample is administered at the end of the test. The writing sample is not scored by LSAC, but copies are sent to all law schools to which you apply.

http://www.lsac.org/jd/help/faqs-lsat

 

MCAT (Medical school)

Total seated time 5 hours and 10 minutes and total content time 4 hours and 5 minutes.

https://www.aamc.org/students/download/63060/data/mcatessentials.pdf

 

NY Bar Exam:

Schedule for First Day of the Examination (Tuesday):
In the morning session, which begins at 9:00 A.M. and ends at 12:15 P.M., applicants must complete three essays and the 50 multiple choice questions in three hours and 15 minutes. Although applicants are free to use their time as they choose, the Board estimates an allocation of 40 minutes per essay and 1.5 minutes per multiple choice question.

In the afternoon session, which begins at 2:00 P.M. and ends at 5:00 P.M., applicants must complete the remaining two essay questions and the MPT in three hours. Again, although applicants are free to use their time as they choose, the National Conference of Bar Examiners developed the MPT with the intention that it be used as a 90-minute test. Therefore, the Board recommends that applicants allocate 90 minutes to the MPT and 45 minutes to each essay.

 

Schedule for Second Day of the Examination – MBE (Wednesday):
The second day of the examination is the Multistate Bar Examination. The Multistate Bar Examination (MBE) is a six-hour, two-hundred question multiple-choice examination covering contracts, torts, constitutional law, criminal law, evidence, and real property. The examination is divided into two periods of three hours each, one in the morning [9:30am to 12:30pm] and one in the afternoon [2:00pm to 5:00pm], with 100 questions in each period.

http://www.nybarexam.org/TheBar/TheBar.htm#descrip

Joanne Yatvin, who served for many years as a teacher and principal in Oregon, is a literacy expert. She here expresses her view of the Common Core English Language Arts standards.

 

What the Dickens is Education All About?

Did you know that Charles Dickens denounced the Common Core Standards more than 150 years ago and didn’t think much of the value of higher education either? In his 1854 novel, Hard Times, Dickens devotes the first two chapters to satirizing education in the grade schools of his era, and it looks a lot like teaching in our schools today.

Right away, Dickens introduces Thomas Gradgrind, owner of a small school in an English industrial town, who makes clear what he thinks education should be: “Now what I want is, Facts. Teach these boys and girls nothing but Facts. Facts alone are wanted in life. Plant nothing else, and root out everything else. “

Next, Gradgrind, an unnamed visitor, and the schoolmaster, Mr. M’Choakumchild enter a classroom and lessons begin with Gradgrind in charge. He looks around the room and points to a young girl: “Girl number twenty” he calls out. She stands up and gives her name: “Sissy Jupe, sir.” “Sissy is not a name,” charges Gradgrind. “Don’t call yourself Sissy. Call yourself Cecelia.”

After learning that Sissy’s father performs with horses at the local circus, Gradgrind demands, “Give me your definition of a horse.” When she doesn’t answer, he turns to a boy named Bitzer and repeats the order. Bitzer says, “Quadruped. Graminivorous. Forty teeth, namely twenty-four grinders, four eyeteeth, and twelve incisive. Sheds coat in the spring; in marshy countries, sheds hoofs, too. Hoofs hard, but requiring to be shod with iron. Age known by marks in mouth.” “Now, girl number twenty,” gloats Gradgrind, “You know what a horse is.”

Later, while lecturing the class on the foolishness of using representations of horses and flowers in home decorations, Gradgrind calls on Sissy again, asking her why she would have such pictures on carpets where people would step on them. Sissy, no longer tongue-tied, replies, “It wouldn’t hurt them, sir. They would be the pictures of what was very pretty and pleasant, and I would fancy….” “ But you mustn’t fancy,” cries Gradgrind. “That’s it! You are never to fancy.”

Having humiliated Sissy once again, Gradgrind turns the lesson over to M’Choakumchild, who, Dickens tells us, has been thoroughly trained for his job: “Orthography, etymology, syntax, and prosody, biography, astronomy, geography, and general cosmography, the sciences of compound proportion, algebra, land-surveying and leveling, vocal music, and drawing from models, were all at the end of his ten chilled fingers ……He knew all about all the Water Sheds of all the world (whatever they are), and all the histories of all the peoples, and all the names of all the rivers and mountains, and all the productions, manners, and customs of all the countries, and all their boundaries and bearings on the two-and-thirty points of the compass. Ah, rather overdone, M’Choakumchild. If he had only learnt a little less, how infinitely better he might have taught much more.”

Dickens then ends the chapter with a metaphorical musing that compares M’Choakumchild’s teaching to Morgiana’s actions in the story, “Alibaba and the Forty Thieves”:

“Say, good M’choakumchild. When from thy boiling store,

thou shalt fill each jar brim full by-and-by, dost thou think that thou wilt always kill outright the robber Fancy lurking within—or sometimes only maim and distort him.”

While these excerpts from Hard Times are fresh in our minds, let’s consider their connection to today’s Common Core English Language Arts Standards. Below is a key statement from the official CCSS guide for teaching reading.


.The Common Core emphasizes using evidence from texts to present careful analyses, well-defended claims, and clear information. Rather than asking students questions they can answer solely from their prior knowledge and experience, the standards call for students to answer questions that depend on their having read the texts with care.

Although this statement does not include the word “facts,” it argues for the type of education that Gradgrind championed. Incidentally, neither “imagination” nor “creativity” is mentioned anywhere in the Standards documents.

To further emphasize the place of factual information in standards-based education, David Coleman, the primary architect of the Standards and now President of the College Board, has repeatedly asserted his view that students’ experiences, beliefs, and feelings should not be part of their educational journey. Below, is his explanation of how Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address should be taught:

The idea here is to plunge students into an independent encounter with this short text. Refrain from giving background context or substantial instructional guidance at the outset. It may make sense to notify students that the short text is thought to be difficult and they are not expected to understand it fully on a first reading —that they can expect to struggle. Some students may be frustrated, but all students need practice in doing their best to stay with something they do not initially understand. This close reading approach forces students to rely exclusively on the text instead of privileging background knowledge, and levels the playing field for all students as they seek to comprehend Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address.

Since I had not seen any lessons that fit Coleman’s criteria in my visits to classrooms, I turned to a website called “America Achieves” and viewed the only video there that portrayed the Common Core concept of proper teaching of a complex text.

That video shows a 9th grade teacher teaching a lesson on Shirley Jackson’s short story “The Lottery” that depicts a yearly event in a small rural village in which every family must participate. In this “lottery” the person who draws the one paper with a black dot on it is stoned to death by the crowd. Clues throughout the story let mature readers know about the lottery’s ancient origins and its initial purpose to persuade the gods to provide a good food harvest for the community, information that the story’s characters are never aware of.

At the video’s beginning the teacher describes her class to the audience as low-level readers with several English Language learners among them. She explains her choice of “The Lottery” as a complex text, yet within the range of suitability for ninth graders. The classroom scenes that follow show her asking students to locate specific bits of information and explain their literal meanings. She never asks why the story’s characters speak or act as they do. Also included in the video are short breaks where the teacher addresses viewers directly explaining her teaching further.

My response to the video was strongly negative. I felt that the teacher’s approach was mechanical and shallow. Without background information the students missed the author’s clues and failed to see the significance in the characters’ comments and behaviors. For them this was just a fairy tale without rhyme or reason. As a seasoned educator I could not accept the teacher’s choice of a text for this class or her failure to give them sufficient information beforehand and guidance during reading

It’s probably not fair for me to pass judgment on the Standards teaching methods after seeing just one video. But, if this new approach to K-12 education is so powerful why aren’t there more videos on this site—or elsewhere–showing teachers practicing more sophisticated teaching? Without research, field-testing, or evidence of student improvement, the case for the Standards right now is weak at best. Yet, most of our states’ governors, policy makers, pundits, and school officials have fallen for it. What we need is a reincarnation of Dickens to give us a picture of a modern classroom with a gifted teacher and a new Bitzer and Sissy to show us the difference between spouting “facts” and demonstrating genuine learning.

.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Today, parents and students rallied against the state tests at dozens of schools across New York City, unassuaged by State Commissioner John King’s claims that the tests were better this year and consumed less than 1% of the year. Little children that had sat for three hours of reading tests did not take comfort in his words, and parents demanded transparency.

“The protests, which drew hundreds of people to some schools before the start of classes, followed a speech Thursday by New York State Education Commissioner John King, in which he fiercely defended the state’s education initiatives, including the new standards and tests.

“He described recent debates over those efforts as “noise” and “drama,” and attributed some of the outcry to “misinformation.” And while acknowledging that some schools spend too much time preparing for tests, he insisted that the state had worked to reduce testing time. He added that the new Common Core exams “are better tests” than previous ones.

“His comments struck a nerve with some of the principals, who usually avoid getting involved in education’s political fights, but felt impelled to refute the notion that misinformed members of the public were stirring up unrest about the tests.

“P.S. 59 Principal Adele Schroeter said the hundreds of parents and students who filled the streets around her Midtown school Friday morning were “more than noise and drama, in spite of what John King might say.””

Tomorrow, dozens of Manhattan principals plan their own protests. One of them wrote in a letter to parents: ““I have never seen a more atrocious exam.”

“Echoing criticisms of the exams that other educators have posted online, the Manhattan principals said the tests did not measure the type of analytical reading and writing they associate with the Common Core standards. They also argued that the tests were too long and many of the multiple-choice answers were bafflingly similar.

“I have a double masters and some of them could be A or C,” said Medea McEvoy, principal of P.S. 267 on the Upper East Side, one of the schools planning to protest.

“The principals also said that confidentiality rules shield the test maker, publishing giant Pearson, from public scrutiny. And because only a portion of the test questions are eventually released, they said, teachers cannot rely on them as instructional tools.
The school leaders added that, considering all the flaws they found in the exams, they do not trust the state’s new evaluations that rate teachers partly on their students’ test scores.”

The Peabody School Committee unanimously passed a resolution calling for an investigation of whether State Commissioner Mitchell Chester has a conflict of interest as national chairman of the PARCC governing board.

Some people in the Bay State are still angry that school officials dropped the state’s successful standards and assessments in exchange for $75 million in Race to the Top funding. Some wondered why RTTT didn’t adopt Massachusetts as the national model.

The article says:

“Committee member Dave McGeney, an outspoken critic of Common Core, believes there is a major conflict and Chester should be booted out of office. He said he’s had it with Chester, who’s been “utterly” disingenuous during the rollout of the new Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers (PARCC) trial test, and who, in fact, has a vested interest in Massachusetts jumping aboard the Common Core bandwagon. McGeney also says there’s no evidence to back up many of Chester’s statements on the benefits of PARCC.

“Chester is the national chairman of the PARCC Governing Board for the third year and was instrumental in developing the standards.

“He’s been running around the state portraying the PARCC test as a two-year trial, and there’s all kinds of literature with his name attached to it and statements that it’s a trial … but his actions belie that,” McGeney told The Salem News prior to Tuesday’s committee vote.

McGeney said what “pushed him over the edge” was when he learned Chester was due to speak to executives in Washington, D.C., on “how to handle Common Core dissenters,” according to McGeney. “That’s what we are now; we’re labeled as ‘dissenters,’” he said. “The deck is stacked, the game is rigged, and I don’t like it. We have the least to gain and the most to lose.

“When we took the Race to the Top money … the federal government said, ‘We’ll give you this money, and you have to agree to adopt the Common Core standards’” McGeney said. “The standards hadn’t been written yet. It’s the same deal as Obamacare. We signed on to the deal and didn’t even know what it was.”

“The committee unanimously agreed on Tuesday to send a letter to Gov. Deval Patrick and other officials that says that the MCAS has led to “unprecedented improvement in student achievement in Massachusetts” since 1993, and to consider abandoning it in favor of a still “unproven and theoretical” test that may hold promise is a “monumental decision” that “demands objectivity, fairness and the impartial scrutiny of empirical data to determine the outcome.

“We believe that Mitchell Chester, by virtue of his role as National Chair of the PARCC Governing Board and other actions, represents a serious breach of trust, which is at odds with his primary duties and responsibilities, and at the very least gives the impression of bias towards PARCC and compromises the decision-making process,” the letter reads.

“There are some very intelligent people who think it’s (Common Core) great, and there are some very intelligent people who think it’s going to be lousy, but there are 90 percent of the people who don’t have a clue,” McGeney said.”

A teacher describes a new start up–open the link and see if you can find a teacher in the lineup of leaders–funded by Rupert Murdoch and aligned with the Common Core. Thar’s gold in them thar hills!

She writes:

“You probably know about this outfit already, but take a look at the team members of Teach Boost. Quite telling. I am enraged.

(By the way, we are not K-12 educators. We teach at-risk youth between 17-21 with the goal being passing the Test Assessing Secondary Completion (TASC) and college and career readiness. Of course, the test is Common Core-aligned, ensuring significant failure and dropout rates as we go forward.

Note in particular the connections to corporations, particularly Wireless Generation/Amplify:

https://teachboost.com/company/team

The TASC:

http://www.tasctest.com

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