Archives for category: Common Core

This post would be comical if it were satirical, but unfortunately it is factual and pathetic. Arthur Goldstein describes the tests that the Néw York State Education Department inflicts on his ELL students.

Read it and weep for the students and their teachers.

“And what a test it is, folks. Yesterday, a young man asked me why the essay specifically called for an introduction, body, and conclusion but only two paragraphs. This was the same young man who, the first day of the test, asked why the students had to stay until the bell rang if they had already finished their tests. Why do we have to sit here and do nothing? And why do they ask us for a basic structure that demands three paragraphs and then asks for two?”

“I’m not at all sure that particular student is in need of Common Core. He’s critical all by himself without it. Oddly, folks like Arne Duncan and John King get pretty churlish when people question the Core. They attack soccer moms and call teachers, parents and students “special interests.” Those who spend billions imposing their will on our children, of course, are philanthropists, heroes to be lauded on test passages.

“The second day, I stopped the CD because the listening activity was identical to that of the first day. It turned out that the geniuses at NYSED, or whoever they paid to design this thing, decided to repeat the same sample question three days in a row. I’m sure the students were as inspired as I was by that bold move, once I figured out it was not, in fact, yet another error. On part one of this review, a commenter offered:

“The Speaking Subtest was just the tip of the iceberg. This new CCLS-aligned NYSESLAT is the worst sort of rubbish: inappropriate, riddled with errors, and designed for failure. The CCLS cancer is spreading, my friends. Take heed.”

“Sounds ominous, but I’m not persuaded. I have no idea whatsoever what the NYSESLAT was designed for. Certainly it was an effective device in torturing beginning students. I watched a girl from El Salvador who’s been here maybe six weeks suffer through it for no good reason. She’s a rank beginner who will likely need to start from the beginning in September, and I don’t need a three day test to tell me that.

“But I have no idea what the test will say about her or anyone You see, after we grade the test at the school, we have to send it to Albany for the next part, The Rigging of the Scores. That’s when Albany decides which percentage of kids should be at which level, and sets the cut scores so whatever they predict comes true. After all, how can you be all-knowing unless you force your predictions on the entire populous? There are reputations to protect, and now that you’ve cut English learning in half, there’s gonna be a lot less of it anyway.”

New York State has bumbled into bizarre-O land. Chalkbeat reports that Néw York’s Common Core tests are more difficult than NAEP.

The NAEP tests are supposed to be internationally benchmarked. NAEP proficient is a very high standard that most students have never met (except in Massachusetts, where barely 50% reach proficient).

“In eighth-grade math, 22 percent of students earned what New York state called a passing score last school year, while 32 percent were deemed proficient on the NAEP exams. In fourth-grade reading, 33 percent passed the state test, while 37 percent of students earned a proficient score on the NAEP test. (Massachusetts was the other outlier, with more students earning a proficient score on the eighth-grade math NAEP test than on the state’s own tests.)”

State officials are pleased that their standards are beyond the reach of most students. For some strange reason, high failure rates are a source of pride. Bizarre.

The more they design tests to fail most students, the more the Opt Out movement will grow. When did education fall into the hands of technocratic sadists? They think education is a test of endurance, where only the stirring survive. Parents see education as a process of development, not a cruel race.

Wendy Lecker, a civil rights attorney, contends that the Common Core standards–not just the testing, but the standards as well–are bad for education.

Humans are born with the desire to learn. The job of parents and teachers is to foster and nurture that desire to learn, not stifle it.

“As child development expert Diane Levin of Wheelock College told me, through play, children develop the foundation for reading. When a child builds with blocks or engages in socio-dramatic play, s/he is making a representation of something in a different form — a step toward abstract thought. By painting and drawing, a child begins to understand that two-dimensional lines can represent three dimensional objects — a precursor to comprehending that letters can represent sounds and words can represent objects or ideas. By telling stories or putting on plays, a child understands sequencing. In playing with objects, s/he learns to categorize. These activities are intentionally designed to help children build a strong foundation for the kind of skills required for formal reading instruction later on. Children need to first build this foundation experientially, in the concrete world in which they live, in order for the skills to have meaning for them.

“During the above-described play, children may start to recognize letters and words. However, for most children, formal reading instruction at this age is not meaningful or engaging. They may learn to mimic and comply with instructions, but without the necessary foundation, they will not integrate the lessons. In fact, studies show that children who begin formal reading instruction at age seven, having first developed strong oral language skills in a play-based environment, catch up to children who learn to read earlier and have better comprehension skills by middle school.”

Blogger Louisina Educator writes of the combination of forces fighting for Common Core:

“These heavily promoted standards pushed by an alliance of so called education reformers such as the Gates Foundation, The Broad and Walton Foundations, the Pearson education publishing conglomerate, and the Obama administration are also supported by the Charter School Association, big business interests LABI, CABL, the Baton Rouge Area Chamber of Commerce and two astro turf groups (phony grassroots organizations funded by the big foundations). All of these groups will also be fighting hard to kill HB 21 and 340 that would only modestly curtail the expansion of New Charter schools in Louisiana.

“The dedicated and informed parents and educators who oppose Common Core and PARCC testing are so outgunned by the privatization and Common Core promoters that the battle this week could be compared to confronting an Abrams tank with a BB gun.”

Carol Burris, principal of South Side High School in Rockville Center on Long Island in Néw York, is retiring to spend her time fighting phony and harmful “reforms.”

Burris has been one of the most effective critics of Common Core and high-stakes testing. The straw that broke the camel’s back was the legislsture’s passage of Governor Cuomo’s anti-teacher, anti- public school evaluation plan based on test scores.

Burris is a brilliant writer and a terrific organizer. She will be a tremendous addition to the struggle to save public education and protect children.

Our blog poet:

“The Billionaire and the Reformer” (parody of The Walrus and the Carpenter, by Lewis Carroll)

The pol was pining for a charter,
pining with all his might:
He did his very best to make
The regulations sleight —
Which wasn’t hard, because the gov
Was charter acolyte

The public was pining sulkily,
Because they thought the pol
Had got no business to be there
After the charter stole —
“Incredible of him,” they said,
“To work for charter dole”

The money was tight as tight could be,
The coffers were bare as bare.
You could not see a dollar, cuz
No dollar was in there:
No Race was funding overhead —
There was no Race to fund.

The Billionaire and the Reformer
Were talking under bleachers;
They wept like anything to see
Such qualities of teachers:
If these were only cleared away,’
Our schools would be like peaches!’

If seven Chetty’s with seven VAMs
VAMmed for half a year,
Do you suppose,’the Billionaire said,
That they could get them clear?’
I doubt it,’ said the Reformer,
And shed a bitter tear.

O students, come and walk with us!’
The Billionaire did beseech.
A pleasant walk, a pleasant talk,
A better way to teach
We cannot do with more than four,
To give a hand to each.’

The eldest student looked at him,
But never a word he said:
The eldest student winked his eye,
And shook his heavy head —
Meaning to say he did not choose
To go with Bill, and fled

But four young students hurried up,
All eager for the fest:
Their hair was brushed, their faces washed,
Their shoes were clean and best —
And this was odd, because, you know,
They’re going to a test.

Four other students followed them,
And yet another four;
And thick and fast they came at last,
And more, and more, and more —
All hopping through the student waves
And scrambling to the door.

The Billionaire and the Reformer
Walked on a mile or so,
And then they rested on a rock
Conveniently low:
And all the little students stood
And waited in a row.

The time has come,’ the Billionaire said,
To talk of many things:
Of Common Core — and standard tests — of passing scores — and VAMs —
And why the schools are failing [Not!] —
And whether pigs have wings.’

But wait a bit,’ the students cried,
Before we have our talk;
For some of us are out of breath,
And some of us can’t walk!’
No hurry!’ said the Reformer.
As patient as a hawk.

A lot of bread,’ the Billionaire said,
Is what we chiefly need:
Testing and Common Core besides
Are very good indeed —
Now if you’re ready, students dear,
We can begin to weed.’

But not with us!’ the students cried,
Turning a little blue.
After such kindness, that would be
A dismal thing to do!’
The day is fine,’ the Billionaire said.
Do you admire the view?

It was so kind of you to come!
And you are very nice!’
The Reformer said nothing but
‘That cut score won’t suffice:
I wish you were not quite so deaf —
I’ve had to tell you twice!’

It seems a shame,’ the Billionaire said,
To play them such a trick,
After we’ve brought them out so far,
And made them test so quick!’
The Reformer said nothing but
The testing’s spread too thick!’

I weep for you,’ the Billionaire said:
I deeply sympathize.’
With sobs and tears he sorted out
The scores of biggest size,
Holding his pocket-handkerchief
Before his streaming eyes.

O students,’ said the Reformer,
You’ve had a pleasant run!
Shall we be trotting home again?’
But answer came there none —
And this was scarcely odd, because
They’d flunked out every one.”

Parents Across America issued a statement opposing Common Core, PARCC, and SBAC.

1) PAA is NOT opposed to learning standards or assessment. We believe it
is important for school communities to have a shared vision and goals
for student learning, and effective tools for monitoring student

2) PAA is NOT opposed to federal involvement in public education. We
believe that the federal government and the U.S. Department of Education
have an important role monitoring and addressing issues of school
resource equity and student civil rights, and researching and promoting
best practices in education.

3) PAA recognizes that the push for national standards and tests did not
start with CCSS/PARCC/SBAC. We acknowledge the real desire of many who support CCSS/PARCC/SBAC to improve the quality of education, especially for some of the nation’s neediest children. However, we believe such efforts are based on a faulty analysis of the challenges facing public
schools and a disregard for the harmful and ineffective results of
standardized test-based accountability.

We oppose the CCSS because they are not derived from any community’s
shared vision of a quality education. We oppose the PARCC/SBAC
assessments because they are products of the same companies whose tests are being rejected daily as time-wasting intrusions on real learning by growing numbers of parents, teachers, students, and administrators
across the nation.

We oppose CCSS/PARCC/SBAC because we believe that they were designed to allow corporate interests easier access to the “educational marketplace”
and to private student and family data. CCSS/PARCC/SBAC will provide new
ammunition for the attack on teachers and the teaching profession when
scores show even more “failing” students and schools. Ultimately, this
new, even more coercive version of top-down, test-focused education will
deprive too many of our most vulnerable children – children of color,
children living in poverty, special needs students, English-language
learners – of the empowerment and opportunity that deep learning and
strong schools can offer them.

PAA calls for an immediate nationwide moratorium on implementation of
CCSS/PARCC/SBAC. This moratorium will provide states and local districts
the opportunity to step back from CCSS/PARCC/SBAC, allow for extensive
public review and input on these programs, and decide for themselves,
without federal intrusion, if or how these materials will be used.

We believe that, if used at all, CCSS should be considered as
recommendations only in the development or revision of local standards,
and that, if used at all, PARCC/SBAC tests should be voluntary for
schools, teachers and students, and have no high stakes.

For more information, please see our fact sheet, “Common Core Basics,” and “Annotated References,”

which provides extensive background information on our CCSS/PARCC/SBAC

PAA has very different ideas about what’s needed in education than those
embodied in CCSS/PARCC/SBAC. Please see our position paper, “What is a Quality Education?”

A reader sent this email to me:

At the 6:43 mark of this latest Fordham podcast, Mike Petrilli says:
“If this [opt-out] thing goes national, the whole education reform
movement is in serious trouble.”


According to a news story from Minneapolis, scores plunged at some of the best high schools in the city due to students who opted out of the testing.


The acting superintendent is upset by the falling scores, but parents are making their voices heard against the deluge of testing that has overtaken their schools. They are protesting the “reforms” based on test scores in the most effective way possible: by not letting their children take the tests.


With so many missing scores, the scores are invalid. Before the students opted out, the tests were invalid and unreliable, not available for review by independent experts. Parents know that the absence of transparency by the test-makers in not in the interest of their children and that the tests are designed to fail the majority of students because their passing score is set unrealistically high. Some parents understand that the tests provide little or no diagnostic information about their children (most Common Core tests provide NO diagnostic information, just a score.) Some are protesting the Common Core,  some are protesting the federal takeover of their state and their local schools. Some are protesting the tests themselves. As more students take the tests, the opt out movement will grow.

Arne Duncan once made an insulting comment about “white suburban moms” who got angry about Common Core tests because they were disappointed to learn that their child was not as brilliant as they believed.

This white suburban mom has written a response to Arne.


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