The pundits of the New York Times are united in their love of the Common Core standards, and none seem to understand why anyone questions the standards. In order to explain a point of view, one must make the effort to hear the voices of critics without caricaturing them.

Unfortunately, David Brooks has no idea why anyone would not embrace the Common Core standards. All he knows is what Arne Duncan says about them.

He actually believes that CCSS was a response to some sort of economic crisis (surely not the one where financial institutions nearly collapsed our economy in 2008, a catastrophe that was not caused by the schools or their standards). He is under the impression that having a diversity of state standards causes low academic performance, despite the lack of evidence for that assertion.

He does not understand how the standards were written or funded or quickly adopted.

He writes:

“This was a state-led effort, supported by employers and financed by private foundations. This was not a federal effort, though the Obama administration did encourage states to embrace the new standards.”

The standards were in fact written behind closed doors by a group of 27 people, a group that included a large number of people from the testing industry but not a single classroom teacher, not a single person knowledgeable about early childhood education or children with special needs or English language learners. The writing, development, evaluation and everything else was financed by the Gates Foundation. The Obama administration did not just “encourage states,” but told states they would not be eligible to compete for $4.35 billion in Race to the Top funding unless they adopted “college-and-career-ready standards,” which everyone understood to mean Common Core. Why else would 45 states suddenly adopt these unknown standards? why else would Massachusetts drop its own proven standards for untried new standards?

Brooks, like Duncan, ridicules those who are skeptical about the CCSS. He scorns them as clowns of the right and the left.

Aaron Barlow, an English professor at the City University of New York, wrote the best critique of Brooks’ naïveté. Writing on the blog of “Academe,” Barlow describes Brooks’ column as “backseat driving in the clown car.”

Barlow writes that Brooks believes that

“….those who disagree with him…have the red noses and squeeze horns. He mounts a defense of Common Core State Standards (CCSS) based on the idea that those he shills for are the wise and considerate and caring–and that everyone else is either raw material or the lunatic fringe (both left and right).

“Education, to Brooks, “is to get students competitive with their international peers.” What the students need in their personal lives, or want, these don’t matter. What communities need, in terms of citizens and contributing members, doesn’t matter. And anyone who disagrees with Brooks and those he advocates for is a nut. A clown.

“As he does with his own person, Brooks does a good job of dressing CCSS in gowns of gravitas, covering the pretense and parody at its heart, hiding the large, floppy shoes and bulging, striped pants.

“If it weren’t the result of clowning, CCSS would have been developed in an entirely different way. As it is supposed to prepare students to be “college ready” and as potential employees, creation should have been in the hands of college professors and representatives from business–as well as public-school teachers and administrators, providing both understanding of needs and goals and of the practical aspects of education. Parents should be consulted, as well. As it is, CCSS was the creation of politicians and their lackeys, as even Brooks describes it:

“The National Governors Association and the Council of Chief State School Officers set out to draft clearer, consistent and more rigorous standards.

“Politicians and their top appointees: that’s who created CCSS. These aren’t people who understand either the needs of education, its goals, or the ways students learn as they grow. And… ha, ha, ha… “consistent and rigorous standards”? That’s like calling a clown’s yardstick adequate measurement. Only a clown can tout “standards” developed by people with no knowledge of the subject matter as “consistent and rigorous,” at least not with a straight face. The rest of us should simply laugh–and would, if this weren’t so deadly serious.”

He adds:

“The tragedy of all of this is that Brooks actually believes what he is writing. He has no idea that it is he who is the real clown. And not even a significant one. He’s simply another red nose crammed into the back seat.

“This is too bad. Education should not be a circus.”

Read it all. It is a terrific column.

The Los Angeles Times tells us what we should already know: The higher the stakes on exams, the more bad consequences will follow.

In India, there are crucial exams, and cheating is a persistent problem. Ingenious students us their ingenuity not to answer the questions, but to find ways to get the right answer, either electronically by remote device or by sneaking in old-fashioned crib sheets.

In the United States, we have seen numerous examples of cheating by administrators and teachers, as in El Paso, Atlanta, and Washington, D.C. We have also seen narrowing of the curriculum to make time for more test preparation and loss of the arts, libraries, physical education, and even recess. We have seen teaching to the test, a practice once considered unprofessional. We have seen states game the system, dropping the pass score to artificially boost the passing rate.

The story in the L.A. Times describes a business that sells electronic devices to text exam questions to someone outside who responds with the correct answer. Officials are aware of the problem:

“At a test center in northern India’s Bareilly district, state-appointed inspectors making a surprise visit last month found school staff members writing answers to a Hindi exam on the blackboard. When the inspectors arrived, the staff members tried to throw the evidence out the window.

“Sometimes the stories are horrifying. A 10th-grader in Uttar Pradesh, India’s largest state, accused his principal last month of allowing students to cheat if they each paid about $100. The student’s impoverished family could barely manage half the bribe. Distraught, he doused himself with kerosene and set himself on fire in the family kitchen. He died the next day.

“At the well-regarded Balmohan Vidyamandir school in central Mumbai, 10th-grade teacher Shubhada Nigudkar didn’t notice the math formulas written on the wall in the back of the classroom in a neat, tiny script until days after the exams concluded.
“There is nothing we can do at that point,” the matronly, bespectacled English teacher said. “I can’t prove anything. So we move on.”

“The problems have prompted education officials to take preventive measures that at first blush might seem worthy of a minimum-security prison. Some schools installed closed-circuit cameras to monitor testing rooms. Others posted armed police officers at entrances or employed jamming devices to block the use of cellphones to trade answers.”

The problem is high-stakes testing. Our own officials in the United States can’t get enough.

The best antidote would be to require them to take the exams they mandate. If they can’t pass them, they should resign.

Someday, in the not distant future, when the history of this era is recorded, No Child Left Behind and Race to the Top will be recalled among the biggest policy failures of our times. They will be remembered as policies that undermined the quality of education, demoralized educators, promoted the privatization of schools, and destroyed children’s love of learning.

http://www.latimes.com/world/la-fg-c1-india-cheating-20140416-dto,0,165573.htmlstory#ixzz2z3whGNKt

Laura H. Chapman left the following comment. The word “desperate” to describe this quest for a scientific, data-based means of judging teachers is mine. Something about it smacks of anti-intellectualism, the kind of busywork exercise that an engineer would design, especially if he had never taught K-12. This is the sort of made-up activity that steals time from teaching and ultimately consumes a lot of time with minimal rewards.

Chapman writes:

Please give at least equal attention to the 70% of teachers who have job assignments without VAMs (no state-wide tests). For this majority, USDE promotes Student Learning Objectives (SLOs) or Student Growth Objectives (SGOs), a version of 1950s management-by-objectives on steroids.

Teachers who have job-alike assignments fill in a template to describe an extended unit or course they will teach. A trained evaluator rates the SLO/SGO (e.g. “high quality” to “unacceptable” or “incomplete”).

The template requires the teacher to meet about 25 criteria, including a prediction of the pre-test to post-test gains in test scores of their students on an approved district-wide test. Districts may specify a minimum threshold for these gains.

Teachers use the same template to enter the pre-and post-test scores. An algorithm determines if the gain meets the district threshold for expectations, then stack ranks teachers as average, above or below average, or exceeding expectations.

1. The Denver SLO/SGO template is used in many states. This example is for art teachers—-Denver Public Schools. (2013). Welcome to student growth objectives: New rubrics with ratings. http://sgoinfo.dpsk12.org/
2. One of the first attempts to justify the use of SLOs/SGOs for RttT—-Southwest Comprehensive Center at WestEd (n.d.). Measuring student growth in non-tested grades and subjects: A primer. Phoenix, AZ: Author. http://nassauboces.org/cms/lib5/NY18000988/Centricity/Domain/156/NTS__PRIMER_FINAL.pdf

3. This USDE review shows that SLOs/SGOs have no solid research to support their use—-Gill, B., Bruch, J., & Booker, K. (2013). Using alternative student growth measures for evaluating teacher performance: What the literature says. (REL 2013–002). Washington, DC: U.S. Department of Education, Institute of Education Sciences, National Center for Education Evaluation and Regional Assistance, Regional Educational Laboratory Mid-Atlantic. http://ies.ed.gov/ncee/edlabs.

4. The USDE marketing program on behalf of SLOs/SGOs—-Reform Support Network. (2012, December). A quality control toolkit for student learning objectives. http://www2.ed.gov/about/inits/ed/implementation-support-unit/tech-assist/slo-toolkit.pd

5. The USDE marketing campaign for RttT teacher evaluation and need for district “communication SWAT teams” (p. 9) —- Reform Support Network. (2012, December). Engaging educators, Toward a New grammar and framework for educator engagement. Author. http://www2.ed.gov/about/inits/ed/implementation-support-unit/tech-assist/engaging-educators.pdf

6. Current uses of SLOs/SGOs by state—-Lacireno-Paquet, N., Morgan, C., & Mello, D. (2014). How states use student learning objectives in teacher evaluation systems: a review of state websites. Washington, DC: US Department of Education, Institute of Education Sciences. http://ies.ed.gov/ncee/edlabs/regions/northeast/pdf/REL_2014013.pdf

7. Flaws in the concepts of “grade-level expectation” and “a year’s worth of growth” —-Ligon, G. D. (2009). The optimal reference guide: Performing on grade level and making a year’s growth: Muddled definitions and expectations, growth model series, Part III. Austin, TX: ESP Solutions http://www.espsolutionsgroup.com/espweb/assets/files/ESP_Performing_on_Grade_Level_ORG.pdf

Here is a guide to setting yourself up as a pundit who writes for major newspapers and is called for quotes by reporters:

Robert Shepherd writes:

 

Becoming an “EdDeform” EduPundit Made EZ

The nineteenth century was the era of the traveling medicine show. Grifters slithered from town to town in rural parts of the country, peddling magical elixirs. John D. Rockefeller’s father was one such. He would show up in a town, put on a little spectacle, sell some bottled cures for cancer and lameness, and then skeddadle off just ahead of the law.

Today, in place of the Snake Oil Salesman, we have the EduPundit.

The EduPundit doesn’t sell magic elixirs. He or she sells Magic Formulas for learning. Now, how does the Aspiring EduPundit come up with a Magic Formula to sell? Well, that’s the easy part. Magic Formulas are lying around all over the place.

The secret to becoming a well-remunerated Edupundit is to take a blindingly obvious idea and make it into a Magic Formula by giving it a Brand Name. Or, if you are in a hurry, start with the Brand Name and then come up with the Magic Formula based on that. I’ve done some of this work for you. Just choose items from the following lists. Note: The Brand Name for your Magic Formula doesn’t have to have an item from List Three. Those are optional. And it can have an item from List Four OR List Five OR both.

List one:
Degrees
Design
Dimensions
Foundations
Paths
Program
Strategies

List two:
of
for

List three:
Close
Collaborative
Critical
Diagnostic
Disruptive
Effective
Empowering
Formative
FUNdamental
Innovative
Multidimensional
Peer
Performative
Positive
Rigorous
Successful
Total
Value-Added

List four:
Knowledge
Learning
Portfolio(s)
Reading
Teaching
Thinking

List five:
Assessment
Evaluation
Growth
Motivation
Outcomes
Performance
Power
Success

If you would like the complete Aspiring EduPundit iPhone App for Choosing Your Aspiring EduPundit Brand, which includes many more lists like the one above (Jump Starting Formative Engagement! Engaging Formative Jump Starting!) just sign up at our website or write your name on a stack of hundred dollar bills and send them to yours truly.

Of course, in addition to the Brand Name, you will need a “Key Graphic” or “Concept Map.” This you can very easily create yourself using Smart Art in Microsoft Word. A circle made of three arrows, an idea pyramid, a web—these are all standard. You know the shtick. Remember: In presentations, you must always unveil your inane graphic with great drama, as though it were the Holy of Holies. It is THE REVELATION.

2014 update: Be aware that the great river of Edupundit green is now running almost exclusively from the bank accounts of a few Ed Deform Plutocrats and from the coffers of those Plutocrats’ wind-up toys in foundations, think tanks, state departments of education, and the USDE. So, if YOU want to be a big barker on the educational midway this carnival season, if you want to be invited to speak at conferences, to write professional books for teachers, to be invited to chair committees, and to get paid for putting your name on textbooks you didn’t actually write or edit—if you want to be a PLAYAH—you will have to PRACTICE YOUR EQUIVOCATION. Hold your nose and learn to collaborate with Ed Deform, but do so with sufficient finesse that you can deny your collaboration when actual classroom teachers seem ready to identify you as Vichy swine.

For a copy of Equivocating on the Common Core and Standardized Testing for Aspiring EduPundits, sign up for my course at Anyone Can Be an InstaEdupundit dot com.

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.

This alert comes from Bill Phillis of the Ohio Equity and Adequacy Coalition.

“Thorough and Efficient System of Common Schools”: A right given Ohio schoolchildren that must be protected by all citizens

One hundred sixty-years ago, Ohioans voted to give schoolchildren the right to a thorough and efficient system of common schools. Ohio citizens must be alerted to the potential that this right embedded in the Ohio Constitution (Article VI, section 2), is under assault. This right is to Ohio schoolchildren what the Bill of Rights in the U.S. Constitution is to the citizens of the United States. This right is as precious as freedom of religion, right to assemble, etc. There are those in our midst that wish to take this right away. Particularly, there are those on the Ohio Constitutional Modernization Commission that would do so. Perhaps they are just not aware of the damage that would accrue from such action.

Charter school advocates are most certainly behind the removal of this right. Shameful! Persons serving on the Commission should be debating how to strengthen the right of children to high quality educational opportunities. They should be elevating the “T & E” standard by adding language that guarantees schoolchildren the fundamental right to a high quality public education.

While the language of what became Article VI, section 2 of the Ohio Constitution was debated during the 1850-1851 Constitutional Convention, Delegate Archbold said he wanted a system “as perfect as could be devised.” (2 Debates at 698)

“Thorough” was defined by the 1828 American Dictionary of the English Language as: “literally, passing through or to the end: hence, complete; perfect.”

“Efficient” was defined by the same dictionary as: “causing effects; producing; that causes anything to be what it is. The efficient cause is that which produces; the final cause is that which is produced.”

Those words defined, and still define the system as one of perfection to which children should have a fundamental right. The Commission should just do it-add fundamental right to make Article VI, section 2 even more explicit.

Please advise all of your contacts that they must get involved in this debate with the vision that the constitutional provisions for public education will be strengthened to include the fundamentality of public education.

Sincerely,

William Phillis

Ohio E & A | 100 S. 3rd Street | Columbus | OH | 43215

Read this disturbing article by Maggie Terry, who teaches at Locke High School in the Watts section of Los Angeles, and stop and think.

She describes the day that the tenth grade students were scheduled to take the math portion of the state’s exit exams.

The morning was disrupted by gunfire outside, and the school went into lockdown. The teachers immediately sheltered their students:

“When my colleagues and I began ushering kids into our school’s main hall, away from the outdoor lunch tables where they’d been chatting and eating their breakfasts, we held our arms wide like wings, like we knew exactly what was going on and that there was nothing to be scared or worried about.”

As if their arms were shields that were bullet-proof.

One commenter wrote that teachers like to whine about testing, but he missed the point.

I saw a different point altogether.

I see a snapshot of a society where the powers that be ignore the poverty and violence in children’s lives and think they are helping students if they take away any job protections for their teachers. The Vergara trial is about the claim that any due process rights for children violates the civil rights of their students. Garden-variety millionaires and billionaires agree with this assertion.

Maggie Terry, sheltering her children with her outstretched arms, understands the challenges these children face. Suppose they get a low score on their math test because of what they experienced that morning. Should Maggie Terry be fired? Is she a bad teacher?

Or should those millionaires and billionaires address the poverty, segregation, and violence that mar the lobes of the students?

I think they should. But it is easier to fire teachers. And cheaper.

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