Archives for category: Common Core

In case you missed, here is my interview with Tavis Smiley from September 8. It is about 12 minutes. Tavis asked about the Vergara decision and teacher tenure, about the attacks on teachers and public education, about the goals of the current “reform” movement, Common Core, and my judgment of Race to the Top.

All in 12 minutes!

By the way, if you wonder why I was holding my head in last minutes of show, I should explain that I didn’t have a toothache. My earpiece with the audio feed was falling out, and I was holding it in my ear.

A letter from a public school parent:

“Hi Diane –

I am an avid follower of you, Carol Burris, and other brilliant experts who have helped me understand the state of education today.

A lot has been written about CCSS, and we know that advocates love to say “It’s standards, not curricula” and “States are free to teach the standards their own way; it’s not prescriptive.”

What I don’t see addressed is the reality that, across the nation, CCSS curricula from every publisher is frighteningly similar. From viral post from the engineer dad who wrote the letter in his son’s homework to “tell Jack what he did wrong,” to the coffee cup conundrum Carol Burris outlined in WaPo, I find it eerie that these are nearly identical to the questions my kids are having to tackle in workbooks at their NYC public elementary school. I have also compared notes with my mom friends in Colorado, California, Idaho and Texas, and we are finding that questions are nearly exactly the same — in both ELA and math. And incidentally, we are all also struggling with badly written, error-filled material that clearly has not been proofed, fact-checked or reviewed/edited. Insult to injury!

I realize my observation is strictly anecdotal, but it nags at me. How can there be such marked similarity on a national scale? Were they all written by one shadowy non-profit funded by Gates and then licensed out to publishers? How can it be that they all are filled with so many errors? My children (going into 2nd and 4th grade at a public school in Brooklyn) use workbooks published by Curriculum Associates. That company doesn’t seem to have any connection to Pearson or any other big education publisher. So why is their curricula content the same as all the others? Clearly what’s happening on the ground doesn’t jibe with what CCSS advocates keep saying.”



This report from the Pew Charitable Trusts says that many states are reconsidering the costs of Common Core testing, and a small number have withdrawn from participation in the two federally-funded tests, PARCC or Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium.

“But as controversy over the Common Core has challenged some states’ commitment to the standards, a number of states have decided to withdraw from PARCC or Smarter Balanced or to use alternative tests, raising questions about the cost of the tests and the long-term viability of the multistate testing groups, which received $360 million in federal grants to develop the tests. The federal grants will end this fall, and it is unclear whether the testing groups will continue past that point.

“What gets tested is what gets taught,” said Joan Herman, co-director emeritus of the National Center for Research on Evaluation, Standards and Student Testing at UCLA. “To the extent that the assessments well represent the spirit and meaning of the standards, the spirit and meaning of the standards will get taught. Where the assessments fall short, curriculum, instruction and teaching will likely fall short as well.”

Federal law prohibits any officer or agency of the federal government from attempting to influence or control curriculum or instruction in the nation’s public schools. It is axiomatic that “what gets tested is what gets taught,” so it is surprising that the U.S. Department of Education funded these two testing consortia; private foundations should have done it.

In the article, several “experts” are quoted about the minimal costs of switching to the new tests, but at least one of them points out that the low-ball estimates rarely include the costs of new technology and additional bandwidth.

At a time when many states are cutting education budgets and increasing class sizes, some states will find it challenging to increase their spending on assessment.

Unmentioned in the article is the issue of computer-scored testing. Students in theory will answer questions by explaining why they answered as they did. Computers will evaluate their “deeper thinking” as well as their essays. Les Perelman of MIT has demonstrated that robo-graders are unable to tell the difference between sense and nonsense so long as the sentences are structurally sound. Yet millions of students will be judged by computers that are unable to discern irony, wit, creativity, humor, or even fact.

Whose idea was it to put all testing online? Dumb idea. In my view, which doesn’t count as much as Arne Duncan’s or Bill Gates’, most tests should be written by teachers (they know what they taught) and graded by teachers (so they can discover immediately what students learned and did not learn).

Levi Cavener, a teacher of special education in Idaho, learned that Idaho will give the Common Core test SBAC) to tenth graders even though it includes eleventh grade content.

“However, I was shocked during this exchange when the Director told me that the decision was due to the fact the state was worried students wouldn’t take the test seriously, and they didn’t want their data set tainted…because, you know, then the results wouldn’t be valid.

“Here is the Director’s response to my question of the logic in giving 10th graders the SBAC instead of 11th graders:

[The director said “Grade 11 is optional this year as your juniors have already met graduation requirements with the old ISATs and might not take the new tests seriously if they were used for accountability.”
Well, that’s convenient. I’m glad the State Department can cherry-pick the students who take the SBAC “seriously” and which students will not; I’m sure they will give that same privilege to teachers…oh..err…I guess not.]

See, here’s why my jaw was left open: The Director of Assessment admitted, rightfully and logically, that if students won’t take the test seriously, then there is no point in assessing them because the data will be invalid. And, if that’s true, let’s not assess those kidos because it would be a total waste of time and resources, not to mention the fact that the data would be completely invalid.

Thus, it would be logical to conclude that if the data is not accurate, then the SDE surely wouldn’t want to tie those scores to something as significant as a teacher’s livelihood.

Oh wait…they want to do exactly that? Shucks!

According to the the Idaho State Department of Education’s recent Tiered Licensure recommendations, SBAC data will be tied directly to a teacher’s certification, employment, and compensation.

Yet, If the Dept. of Ed admits SBAC data isn’t accurate, then what in the world are they doing on insisting that the data be tied to a teacher’s certification, employment, and compensation?

The insistence of tying data that is admittedly invalid is synonymous to tying a fortune cookie to real-world events. I don’t know about you, but my lucky numbers haven’t hit the lottery; what a scam!”

The test is more than eight hours long.

Writes Levi, “Isn’t it logical to conclude that at some point that kidos decide they would rather go outside to recess rather than reading closely on a difficult text passage or spending more time editing a written response? When the kido makes that decision, do we hold the teacher responsible for the invalid data?”

And what about special education kids? “Let’s compound that scenario for special education teachers who work with a population of students qualifying for a special education eligibility under categories of Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorders, Emotional Disturbances, and Autism Spectrum diagnosis.

“Yup, I’m sure these students will always take the multi-day SBAC with the utmost earnestness; it’s not like the very behaviors they demonstrated to qualify for special education services to begin with would impede their ability to complete the SBAC with total validity of the results?”

Which is the most powerful player behind the scenes in corporate reform?

This article says, without doubt, McKinsey.

Where did David Coleman, architect of the Common Core standards, get his start: McKinsey.

Which firm pushes the narrative of a “crisis in education”: McKinsey.

Which firm believes that Big Data will solve all problems? McKinsey.

Look behind the screen, behind the curtain: McKinsey.

Chiara, a frequent commenter, sent the following summary of the Common Core fight in Ohio:

“Meanwhile, the Common Core fight in Ohio continues. It’s the Tea party lawmakers versus the Republican lawmakers.

“I have no idea why either group cares at all what is taught in Ohio public schools, because of both parties had their wish, there wouldn’t be any public schools at all.

“I’m flattered by all this sudden concern, but since the second this political battle is over they’ll be returning to either bashing public schools or selling them, I don’t care which side “wins”. I’m rooting for injuries.”

Whoever thought it was a good idea to turn education into a political issue should hang his or her head in shame.

In the midst of a heated gubernatorial race, Connecticut Governor Dannel Malloy, heretofore an admirer of testing and the Common Core and more testing, has written a letter to the U.S. Department of Education saying that students are tested too much, especially in the 11th grade.

“Gov. Dannel P. Malloy appealed to the U.S. Department of Education on Friday to consider whether juniors in Connecticut really need to take a statewide standardized test in the same year that they have SATs, ACTs, AP exams and finals.

“Federal law requires states to test students from grades 3-8 and again in 10th grade. But the new high school test for the Common Core standards is given to 11th graders, with the thinking it yields better data on student learning. This was the first year the test was given to juniors, causing an uproar from some parents.

“I am eager to explore solutions for the students who may be our most overtested: our 11th graders,” Malloy said in the letter to the U.S. Education Department.”

You can’t blame New York parents for feeling baffled and angry at state education officials.

From 2006-2010, the state told them that their children were making incredible gains on the state tests.

Many people thought that the gains were so high that it couldn’t be true.

So state education officials brought in Professor Daniel Koretz of Harvard and Professor Jennifer Jennings of New York University to review the tests and the scores. They reported that the tests had become too predictable, that too few standards were tested, and that the results were inflated. So in 2010, scores dropped across the state as the scores were adjusted.

Then came the switch to Common Core, and the scores across the state collapsed in 2013. Two-thirds of all students “failed” to reach what the state called proficiency. Parents were furious, especially in districts where the graduation rate was well over 90%, and most students were accepted at good colleges. How did their children go from success to failure in such a short time? How could their children be both college-bound yet not, in the state’s telling, “college ready.”

Well, the main reason scores collapsed was that the state education department insisted on aligning New York’s “proficiency” mark with that of the federal NAEP. This was a huge error. NAEP proficiency is a mark of “solid academic achievement.” It is not a grade-level mark; it is not a passing mark. Typically, only 35-40% of students in every state reach NAEP proficient. In my seven years on the governing board of NAEP, I considered it to be akin to an A or a B+. The only state where as many as 50% of students achieve NAEP proficient is Massachusetts.

So if the Common Core tests are not only harder but have a grading scale that is sure to “fail” more than 50% of all students—including 80% of black and Hispanic students, 97% of English learners, and 95% of students with disabilities–what will the state do with all those kids who are not college and career ready?

Want to know more about how the New York State Education Department has fiddled with the test scores? As activist Leonie Haimson says, “do not trust data from the New York State Education Department.”

Blogger Perdido Street calls for an investigation.

Blogger Lace to the Top expresses frustration at the fluctuation in scores.

Many parents are angry at the state and angry at Pearson for concealing 50% of the questions and for the poor quality of many of the questions that were released.

What a mess!

In response to a post about the Common Core, contemplating whether the ship had already sailed, our resident poet “SomeDAM Poet (Devalue Added Model) wrote these lines:

from the old folk song

Oh, they built the Common Core, to sail the ocean blue.
For they thought it was a standard that Gates could ram right through.
It was on its maiden trip, that a teacherberg hit the ship.
It was sad when the Common Core went down.


It was sad, so sad.
It was sad, so sad.
It was sad when the Common Core went down (to the bottom of the….)
Duncans and Rhees, Pearson Testing lost their fees.
It was sad when the Common Core went down.

Oh Obama smiled and winked
As the ship began to sink
And he said “The scores are surely going to stink”
So he S.O.S.ed Bill Gates
And he sealed both of their fates
It was sad when the Common Core went down

Repeat chorus

They were not far from the shore, ’bout a thousand miles or more,
When the states refused to teach the Common Core
So they canceled all their waivers, and burned up all their “savers”
It was sad when the Common Core went down.

Repeat chorus

Oh, the teachers saved the weak, as the ship began to leak.
And a band of VAMmers played their mathy hymns
With, “Nearer my God to Rhee”, they were swept into the sea.
It was sad when the Common Core went down.

Some say the ship has already sailed. Some say the train has left the station. But others say they never knew the train was in the station, and they wonder why they are passengers on a train they never booked tickets for, and how it could leave the station when no one knew it had arrived except the drivers.

Still others say that the ship is in trouble. When it sailed, the skies were clear. But uh-oh. Is the crew rebelling? Are the passengers? What about those rough seas?


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