Archives for category: Common Core reported that the National Urban League is aggressively supporting Common Core. Politico neglected to mention that the National Urban League has received more than $5 million from the Gates Foundation in recent years. Anytime that any group advocates for the Common Core, publications should report whether they are funded by the Gates Foundation. The oversight is comparable to giving the results of a study showing that smoking does not cause cancer, yet failing to report that the study was funded by cigarette companies.

Here is the politico report:

“URBAN LEAGUE STEPS INTO CORE WARS: 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 one ad, an African-American student flips through a textbook and imagines great possibilities for his life, as images flash by depicting him as a judge, a soldier and an astronaut. “When we put our children first with Common Core, there’s no telling how far they can go,” Morial says. The other shows girls and boys of several races, ages and sizes lining up for a race – which, a bit perplexingly, they all end up winning, thanks to “equitable implementation of Common Core.” The ads were created by the National Urban League in partnership with Radio One, a media company that focuses on African-American audiences. Both will run through Nov. 22 on Radio One, TV One and REACH Media shows, which include broadcasts headlined by the Rev. Al Sharpton, Bishop T.D. Jakes and others. The ads:”

Now what is sad about this is that there is zero evidence that the Common Core and the “harder” tests will reduce the achievement gap or help black students. In New York, where Common Core tests have been offered twice, a large majority of black students “failed” the tests. Eighty percent or more of black students in NewYork did not meet the state’s “proficient” standard. What will happen to them? Will they get a diploma? Will continued “failure” increase the dropout rates? According to this study, dropout rates are likely to double under Common Core’s “rigorous” demands. The study is called”Opportunity By Design,” but it might also be called Failure by Design.” Is this what the National Urban League wants?

A teacher left this thoughtful comment:

“I recently participated in professional development on the Smarter Balance test (SBAC), the newest of the assessments to measure student proficiency in competencies aligned with the Common Core State Standards (CCSS). One of my responsibilities as a language arts teacher of high school juniors is to prepare students for this high-stakes assessment. I also provide my students with SAT and ACT test-taking strategies.

“I left the workshop convinced that the classroom teacher has not had a meaningful voice in the assessment process. Let me explain: For SBAC’s multiple choice section, students must identify all possible correct answers or receive no credit. For the SATs, ACTS, and some AP multiple-choice sections, students choose the best answer. Furthermore, SBAC results seem to be tied to federal funding, high school rankings, and teacher performance. How does SBAC and related test preparation benefit my students?

“I asked the facilitator how much the state had to pay to administer this test. (Students also require computer access because the test is administered online; for schools where technology resources are limited, scheduling can be a nightmare). The facilitator did not know how much the test cost; she did advise that for schools which adopted the Common Core, federal funding was an incentive. It is my understanding that a school which opts out of adoption of the CCSS and test administration risks losing those coveted federal funds. In the corporate sector, such incentives would be considered extortion. Since when is extortion a permitted practice?

“Let me offer a portrait of the classroom from a practitioner’s standpoint. Most secondary Language Arts instructors focus on teaching critical read of texts—fiction and nonfiction—encouraging students to corroborate every statement with textual evidence. Often at the high school level, we have to push them beyond the reader-response model common in middle school where students often discuss about what the text means to them. The more advanced critical reader asks what is the author’s purpose and how does the author convey that message. We also emphasize analytic and argumentative writing. However, I have students, who at the high school level cannot write a complete sentence. When I explain to them every sentence needs a subject and a verb, too many stare blankly at me.

“I reference young people’s lack of grammatical and syntactical awareness because this deficiency is addressed in the CCSS. The foundations of our language—the parts of speech—are taught from the early grades. Nine years from now, my students should be well acquainted with the building blocks of our language. But today, especially at the secondary level, CCSS represents more of a catch-up paradigm. Education is a process that involves human beings. Even manufacturers don’t begin production in the middle of a process; why are people asking teachers to do so and then evaluating us on our success based on student performance data? Why not launch the CCSS systematically—allow the foundation to be built K-2; 3-5, and so on?

“I chose Teaching because I love language and literature; I am committed to nurturing a similar excitement in my students. I view Education as big business; many of the acronyms one encounters in the field today come straight from the corporate sector. A manufacturing model is antithetical to the process that is education. For example, when a manufacturer receives defective materials from a supplier, it returns those materials. Its final product must meet specifications. I have no control over who enters my classroom; i.e., my “materials.” Teaching cultivates; education produces. I believe the two processes conflict; and yet, it seems to me that a manufacturing/business model predominates in my profession.

“Here is the reality, at least in my classroom: sometimes, my students lack parental support or engagement; have emotional and cognitive disabilities; or are simply uninterested in academics at this juncture in their young lives. Some come from homes where providing the necessities such as food and shelter are a challenge. Finally, some young people do not connect to academics in high school; some prefer a vocational track; others blossom in college. There is no template or prototype for the student. There is no fixed path for a young person—teachers do their best to model, guide, support, and nurture intellectual and personal growth amidst a wide range of cognitive abilities, emotional maturity, and outside-school circumstances.

“When will those who have never taught acknowledge the human component in education and its inherent complexity and variability? The majority of teachers with whom I have associated are dedicated professionals who view their position in the classroom as a vocation versus a job. Of course there are some bad teachers! Our profession is not unique in that reality. There are ineffective practitioners in all professions. Welcome to humanity and the real world.

“In conclusion, can student performance on SBAC measure my success in the classroom? Will the latest curriculum design improve my instruction and relationship with my students? Can a high-school student amass eight years of prior instruction that was not in place until recently, so that he or she can master the CCSS objectives specified for grades 9-12? Are the massive amounts of money—garnered from taxpayer dollars—lining the pockets of those affiliated with the business of education, or are they merely an expensive camouflage that will, in a few years, disintegrate, leaving both teachers and students amidst the rubble of yet another pedagogy?”

David Coleman, as everyone knows, is the architect of the Common Core. He is hot stuff.

Peter Goodman, observer of Néw York politics, saw Coleman strutting and preening. He says he wanted to be a high school teacher, but went to McKinsey instead. Then he became an eduentrepreneur and started the Grow Network, which was a way to track student performance data. The word on the street is that he sold it to McGraw-Hill for $14 million. Then he started Student Achievement Partners, which played the lead role in writing the Common Core.

Goodman attended the famous meeting at which Colemanade his infamous statement. Goodman writes:

“As my mind was wandering I was jolted upright, Coleman told us,

“…the most popular form of writing in American high schools today …it is personal writing. It is either the exposition of a personal opinion, or, it is the presentation of a personal matter. The only problem, forgive me for saying this so bluntly, the only problem … as you grow up in this world you realize that people really don’t give a shit about what you feel or what you think.”

Goodman recently heard Coleman—now CEO of the College Board–describe the new and redesigned SAT.

Goodman said:

“The revolution that rolled over New York State over the results of the Common Core state tests will be dwarfed by the tsunami of parent anger if hordes of students “fail” the redesigned SAT. As the SAT team projected “old” SAT questions and “new” SAT questions eyes rolled. The room was packed with principals and superintendents and scores of people with PhDs after their names. Had we all suddenly undergone a plague of “dumbness” or is it the new SAT?

“How many thousands of dollars in tutoring fees will parents have to spend to prepare their urchins? And, how about the kids who can’t afford $100 an hour tutors? The current yawning achievement gap will become a chasm.

“Regent Tallon is fond of referring to the “folks cross the street,” on the other side of Washington Avenue, where the legislative and the executive branches of state government are housed. As parents railed against the state tests legislators and the governor squirmed, the public’s angst was directed at government officials who have to stand for election every two years.

“As College Board revenue shrinks and colleges and state governments retreat the overseers of the SAT will be looking at the bottom line.

“One of the lessons of history is that reforms imposed from above without buy-in from below are doomed and ignoring history has dire consequences.

“Perhaps David Coleman should consider his original career choice – a high school teacher.”

This is the most important article you will read this week, this month, maybe this year. Lee Fang, a brilliant investigative reporter at the Nation Institute, documents the rise and growth of the new for-profit education industry. They seek out ways to make money by selling products to the schools, developing new technologies for the Common Core, writing lucrative leasing deals for charter school properties, mining students’ personal data and selling it, and investing in lucrative charter schools.

Their basic strategy: disrupt public education by selling a propaganda narrative of failure, which then generates consumer demand for new, privately managed forms of schooling (charters and vouchers), for new products (a laptop for every child), and for new standards (the Common Core) that require the expenditure of tens of billions of dollars for new technology, consultants, and other new teaching products. The Common Core has the subsidiary effect of reducing test scores dramatically, thus reinforcing the failure narrative and the need for new schools and new products. Meanwhile, absent any evidence, the boosters of the Common Core promise dramatic results (“bigger better cleaner than clean, the best ever, everything you ever dreamed of, success for all, no more achievement gap, everyone a winner”), while reaping the rewards.

The end goal is the reaping of billions in profits for entrepreneurs and investors.

The crucial enabler of the entrepreneurial takeover of American public education has been the Obama administration. From the beginning, its Race to the Top was intended to close schools with low scores, require more charter schools, all to create a larger market for charter organizations. Its requirement to adopt “college-and-career-ready standards” established the Common Core standards in 45 states, thus creating a national market for products. Its funding of two national tests guaranteed that all future testing would be done online, thus generating a multi-billion dollar market for technology companies that produce software and hardware. At the same time, the Obama administration was curiously silent as state after state eliminated collective bargaining and silenced the one force that might impede its plans. Neither President Obama nor Arne Duncan made an appearance in Wisconsin when tens of thousands of working people protested Scott Walker’s anti-union program.

Lee Fang has connected the dots that show the connection between entrepreneurs, the Obama administration, ALEC, and Wall Street. We now know that their promises and their profit-driven schemes do not benefit students or teachers or education. Students will be taught by computers in large classes. Experienced and respected teachers do not like the new paradigm; they will leave and be replaced by young teachers willing to follow a script, work with few or no benefits, then leave for another career choice. Turnover of teachers will become the norm, as it is in charter schools. “Success” will be defined as test scores, which will be generated by computer drills.

This is the future the entrepreneurs are planning. Their own children will be in private schools not subject to the Common Core, or large computer-based classes, or inexperienced teachers. The public’s children will be victims of policies promoted by Arne Duncan to benefit the entrepreneurs.

We see the future unfolding in communities across the nation. It can be stopped by vigilant and informed citizens. If we organize and act, we can push back and defeat this terrible plan to monetize our children and our public schools.

Wendy Lecker, civil rights attorney, takes Connecticut’s Governor Dannel Malloy to task for his empty rhetoric about testing. He has consistently been a fervent support of standardized, high-stakes testing. Yet now he wants to roll back one test, in the 11th grade. Who is he fooling?



Throughout his administration, Gov. Dannel P. Malloy’s education policies have been characterized by a disdain for evidence of what helps children learn, and a refusal to listen to those closest to students — parents and teachers. While it has been proven that test-based accountability has done nothing to help learning, and has increased stress in children of all ages, Malloy callously maintained, “I’ll settle for teaching to the test if it means raising test scores.”


Now, weeks before the gubernatorial election, the governor has suddenly declared an interest in the welfare of children — or some children. In a self-congratulatory news release, the governor announced that he wrote to U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan to begin a “dialogue” about how to reduce one standardized test for 11th graders.


Malloy’s newly discovered concern for over-testing for one grade must be understood against his record on standardized testing. Just two years ago, the Malloy administration rushed through an application for an NCLB “waiver,” which exchanged some of NCLB’s mandates for many other mandates — including massively increasing standardized testing. The waiver obligated the state to administer the Common Core tests, including moving the high school test from 10th to 11th grade, and to use the widely discredited method of including standardized test scores in teacher evaluations.


Recognizing the potential for an explosion in standardized testing, parents, school board members and teachers implored the Malloy administration not to apply for the NCLB waiver until it assessed the impact on our children and the cost to taxpayers. Yet, the Malloy administration ignored these warnings and submitted the application….


Though Malloy professes concern about over-testing 11th graders, in reality he plans to increase testing for everyone. In May, his PEAC commission announced a plan to use multiple standardized tests in teacher evaluations going forward. Not only does this plan double down on the flawed practice of using standardized tests to measure a teacher’s performance, it also vastly increases testing for children. The SBAC interim tests, which the Malloy administration recommends, will likely double the standardized testing that already exists.

Against the reality of his policies, Malloy’s letter to Duncan proves to be nothing more than political posturing.






Our regular reader and commenter Laura Chapman offers us another nugget of informed analysis and wisdom:

She writes:

A press release dated NEW YORK, Oct. 28, 2013 /PRNewswire/ announced that The Leona M. and Harry B. Helmsley Charitable Trust was investing $3 million “to establish a rigorous research project to modify and align the Framework for Teaching with the Common Core State Standards (CCSS).

This project will happen in four districts. One of these (unnamed) is in NY state.

You can find the application to market the 2013 Danielson Framework in NY state at

There you will see that the application required empirical evidence in support of “each rubric.” Whatever that “each rubric” meant, the application was approved with very brief references to eight “empirical” studies, three with more elaborate descriptions of the methodology.

In addition to the questions I asked about the full spectrum applicability of the Danielson protocol, I should have asked about studies that paid attention to the “demographics” in the classrooms observed—the proportional composition of students who qualify for lunch programs, those in gifted programs, special education, students still learning English, recent transfers, and so on.

Every teacher knows how these distributions shift from class to class and make a huge daily difference in what is taught, how, and so on.

For a recent summary of the many problems with this and related high stakes evaluation schemes see Leading via Teacher Evaluation: The Case of the Missing Clothes?
(July, 2013) Joseph Murphy, Philip Hallinger and Ronald H. Heck

See also a 2014 VIP article by David C. Berliner in Teachers College Record. His online summary of the craze to evaluate teachers by flawed methods closes with this great sentence:

“In fact, the belief that there are thousands of consistently inadequate teachers may be like the search for welfare queens and disability scam artists—more sensationalism than it is reality.”

Matthew Di Carlo of the Shanker Institute says that the reformers cannot succeed, despite their best intentions, because they over promise what they can accomplish. Whether it is a promise of closing the achievement gap in short order, turning around 1,000 schools a year for five years, college for all, or making every single child proficient by the year 2014, they set goals that might–if all goes well–be achieved in decades, but cannot be achieved in a few years. They say “we can’t wait,” as if their sense of urgency will surely cause obstacles to crumble. But the obstacles are real, and genuine change requires time, patience, will, and the collaboration with teachers that reformers think they can bypass.

Hubris has its limits.

Educators in Worcester, Massachusetts, spoke out against the school committee’s decision to adopt the federally-funded Common Core test, at least partially, splitting the district between PARCC and the established Massachusetts Comprehensive Assessment System (MCAS). PARCC was field-tested last year in Massachusetts. See what the teachers say about it. The Commissioner of Education in the state, Mitchell Chester, is chairman of the PARCC governing board, which the teachers consider a conflict of interest.

The following is a Press Release from the EAW. Please Read.


The Worcester School Committee, in 5-2 vote, recently elected to split Worcester Public Schools (WPS) between two different standardized tests: the established MCAS test; and the PARCC pilot test. This “Yes on PARCC” vote goes against the Educational Association of Worcester (EAW)’s publicized March 2014 vote of No Confidence on PARCC and its vote to pause PARCC.
The EAW, comprised of WPS teachers, is not alone in its public position on pausing PARCC. In May 2014, delegates of the Massachusetts Teachers Association (MTA) passed items calling for a three-year moratorium on PARCC testing at its annual convention.

Also, over 66% school districts in Massachusetts have chosen the MCAS test option over the PARCC pilot test for 2014-2015.
PARCC started with 23 states in their consortium; four years later, 13 states have dropped out. That’s a drop of 44 percent.
The EAW stands behind its vote of No Confidence on PARCC, and believes Worcester Public Schools should put a three-year pause on PARCC and re-assess high stakes testing.

In light of the Worcester School Committee’s recent “Yes on PARCC” vote, the EAW supports parents/guardians and students who choose to refuse the PARCC pilot tests in their respective schools. Because PARCC is still in a test year, Worcester students can to refuse to participate in the PARCC “research study” without punishment; and designated PARCC schools will not be penalized for any pilot test refusals.

Note that the Worcester School Committee, in March 2014, voted to allow parents/guardians of WPS students selected to take PARCC to refuse the test. WPS Superintendent Dr. Melinda Boone informed parents/guardians of their right to refuse the PARCC pilot test via letter.

MCAS was developed and vetted by Massachusetts teachers. Massachusetts DESE Commissioner Mitchell Chester is also Board Chairman of PARCC, Inc., the organization controlling the development and promotion of the PARCC test – a clear conflict of interest for the children and schools of Massachusetts, because he has a completely biased opinion towards implementing PARCC in the Bay State.

Massachusetts currently has the best standards in the country. By moving to PARCC, a national test, our schools will be forced to lower standards to make it fair for all states involved.

During the 2013-2014 school year, PARCC was field tested on numerous children around Massachusetts. Identified issues include:

· 72% of schools need more devices to test all students

· Almost 50% of teachers said their training was inadequate for administering PARCC on computers.

· 61% of students reported that the Math test was more difficult than their school work (28% for ELA)

· only 70% of students said the test questions asked about content they had learned in Math (87% in ELA)

· 41% of kids said it was hard to type answers for Math

· 46% of kids experienced tech-related problems with Math (31% ELA)

Student scores on the PARCC pilot tests are not be shared with students, parents/guardians, schools, or states. PARCC Inc. uploads student scores for use in data mining and storage.

If Massachusetts eliminates MCAS and moves toward PARCC, the state will no longer control its own assessment system. The PARCC test will be controlled by multiple other states and management that the citizens of Massachusetts did not elect.

Again, the EAW stands behind its vote of No Confidence on PARCC, and believes Worcester Public Schools should put a three-year pause on PARCC and re-assess high stakes testing. All parents/guardians and students should, once again, be notified in writing by WPS Superintendent Dr. Melinda Boone on how to refuse the PARCC pilot test.

Alan Singer, a professor of social studies at Hofstra University on Long Island, New York, adopts the close reading strategy of the Common Core to critique the “great debate” about Common Core. You may recall that the debate pitted educator Carol Burris and Rick Hess of the American Enterprise Institute against Mike Petrilli of the Thomas B. Fordham Institute and Carmel Martin of the Center for American Progress. The most unusual aspect of the debate was that it included one person who actually works in a public school (Burris, who is a principal). Typically, these forums and debates include only people who work for DC-based think tanks.

Singer goes through each of the presentations and makes sharp observations.

Here is a sample:

“Hess: Common Core is also about series of hypotheses about how kids will learn better. These hypotheses are baked into the Common Core, into the tests that have been designed to support the Common Core, and they have received shockingly little debate, given how radical they are. One is a fascination with what Common Core advocates called close reading. This is the idea that students ought to learn to read by deciphering the text — preferably nonfiction, by deciphering the text without regard to other knowledge and without any personal reaction to the text.

[Alan: Close reading of text without attention to student and teacher background knowledge has produced some disturbing curriculum suggestions. Because readings are assigned based on "text complexity" as determined by a mysterious algorithm, New York State's Common Core website proposes that students be introduced to the European Holocaust using the novel 'The Book Thief' before they actually learn about it in social studies classes. On a lighter note, David Coleman, one of Common Core's major champions, proposed a close and careful reading of Federalist #51, written by James Madison during debate over adoption of the new federal constitution "to teach students and teachers about carefully reading primary sources like Madison's work and how to understand concepts like 'faction' as the authors themselves understood these terms." The problem with Coleman's suggestion is that Federalist # 51 is principally about checks and balances and the separation of powers in the new nation. Its title is "The Structure of the Government Must Furnish the Proper Checks and Balances Between the Different Departments." Factions, what we now call political parties, are actually the major topic in Federalist #10 which was also written by Madison.]“

Joanne Yatvin, now retired, wrote the following commentary in 1990, almost 25 years ago. It was published in Education Week. It remains as pertinent today as it was then. In fact, with the Common Core adopted by most states, it is even more pertinent today than it was in 1990. Special thanks to Education Week for granting permission to reprint the article in full.




Published: September 19, 1990


Let More Teachers ‘Re-Invent the Wheel’


By Joanne Yatvin




As a young teacher, I served from time to time on committees charged with writing curricula and selecting new materials for teaching language arts and reading. Often, during committee deliberations, someone would come up with an idea that involved having teachers produce their own classroom strategies and activities. There was something very appealing about many of these ideas–at least to me–and we would spend a lot of time exploring their possibilities.


Invariably, however, some old hand on the committee would haul us up short and remind us that Faraway Publishers had already produced the kinds of materials we needed and that Next Door School District had already developed an efficient method for teaching what we wanted to teach.


“Let’s not re-invent the wheel,” Old Hand would say, and we wild-eyed visionaries, sobered at last, would agree. We stopped talking, adopted the publisher’s materials, accepted the other district’s method, and went our separate ways.


Nowadays, I am not so compliant. Maybe that’s because I have become an old hand myself and an administrator to boot. But I prefer to think it is because I have learned something along the way: You have to re-invent the wheel, whether you want to or not, because nobody else’s wheels will work on your wagon.



I recount this personal reflection now because it bears on a key issue in education today: Should we use “top-down” or “bottom-up” models for improving our schools? Which way works better for school districts, particularly large and troubled ones where a few people at the top are bright, capable, dedicated, aware of the newest research and theory, and well paid; and the masses at the bottom may not be any of those things?


Under such circumstances, wouldn’t it be better–no, the only way–to give those folks at the bottom a well constructed6wheel, teach them how to use it, and make them accountable? Of course, some clods would never catch on but, at the very least, every teacher would be using a proper wheel, so the kids would be sure to get some benefit.



My answer to the question is swift and unequivocal: No, dammit! For three good reasons. The first has to do with the so-called “Hawthorne effect” that all those bright, well paid types may have heard about in graduate school but, in my opinion, didn’t quite understand. In that famous experiment in an Illinois manufacturing plant, dimming the lights so it was harder for workers to see was found to increase production.


Many graduate students (and unfortunately, some of their professors) think that the Hawthorne anomaly illustrates the fact that human subjects who know they are part of a scientific experiment may sabotage the study in their eagerness to make it succeed. What it really shows is that, when people believe they are important in a project, anything works, and, conversely, when they don’t believe they are important, nothing works.


The second reason for championing greater creativity for all is that, through the process of inventing, people learn to understand what their inventions can and cannot do. They learn how to fine-tune them for optimum performance, and, maybe, figure out what changes are needed to produce even better models in the future. In short, they acquire the intimate knowledge of object, system, and use that makes an invention truly their own.


The third reason is simply that a big part of teaching is inventing. Good teachers invent successfully all day long, every day. They invent better ways to explain lessons, to entice reluctant learners, to bring unruly classes under control, and to fire children’s imaginations. When teachers won’t or can’t invent, believe me, the kids will–100 ways to shoot their teachers down. If we want good teaching at the bottom of the pyramid, we’ve got to let all teachers learn their craft.


But given the structure of schools and school districts we now have, changing to an inventing mode is extremely difficult. The model of school operation in use for more than 50 years rests firmly on premises of industrial efficiency, institutional uniformity, whole-into-parts logic, and worker obedience that are completely antithetical to the concept of invention. That model never takes into account the fact that the people who make up the mass of the school pyramid have professional and personal needs that–however we try to suppress or sublimate them–will screw up efficiency and logic every time.


Ultimately, the only way to improve American education is to let schools be small, self-governing, self-renewing communities where everyone counts and everyone cares. Yet the people who have the power to make that happen–legislatures, state departments of education, superintendents, and school boards–will not. Convinced that they are the only intelligent, competent, and caring people around, they fear those barbarians in the classroom, teachers and children, who, if allowed, would dissipate all our public treasure of time and money hacking away at rough stone wheels as our nation sank into chaos.


They are, of course, dead wrong. But even if they were right, those rough stone wheels, forged by people who needed to use them, would roll and carry the load of learning, while the smooth round ones sent down from the central office would languish in classroom cupboards.



Joanne Yatvin, a former elementary-school principal and classroom teacher, is now superintendent of Clackamas County School District 107 in Boring, Oregon.

Update: Yatvin is a former teacher, superintendent, and president of the National Council of Teachers of English. She is retired but remains concerned about education issues.




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