Marc Tucker has written two posts on his blog saying that I am wrong not to support the Common Core standards.

Stephen Krashen, the eminent literacy scholar, disagrees with Tucker. He posted this response on Tucker’s blog and shared it with me.

Krashen writes:

We need to distinguish discussion (1) of the content of the standards and (2) whether we should have standards.

The content of the standards

Contrary to Tucker’s assertion, it is easy to field-test the standards. If standards are simply “what we want students to know and be able to do,” we could see if any students meet the standards. This is called “known-group” validity: Can those who experts regard as well-educated students pass the tests? Let teachers (or anybody else) select students at various levels considered to have the skills and knowledge considered to be satisfactory for students at that level. See if they can pass the tests.

The real issue

But the content of the standards is not the real issue. The real issue is whether we should have standards and tests based on standards. In his post of March 14, Tucker insisted that “We will not improve the performance of poor and minority students by suppressing standards.” I think we will.

The common core standards and the tests that are their spawn will cost billions. The big money is being spent on getting all students connected to the internet so they can take the tests. And there are a lot of tests and there will be a lot more, far more than we need (Krashen, 2012). And once the tests are set up, there will be constant upgrading, new equipment (remember Ethernet?), and of course revision of the tests when it turns out that the CC$$ are not improving achievement. This is one of the greatest boondoggles of all time (Krashen and Ohanian, 2011).

There is a great deal of evidence that the real problem in education in the US is our high level of poverty: When we control for poverty, our international test scores are near the top in the world (Carnoy and Rothstein, 2013). Poverty means food deprivation, poor health care, and lack of access to books (Berliner, 2009; Krashen, 1997), and improving diet, health care and providing access to books (libraries) improves school performance (for recent research on the impact of school libraries, see Krashen, Lee and McQuillan, 2012). The billions we are investing in testing should be used to help solve the problem, not just measure it. A most investment in food programs, school nurses, and school libraries will have a huge impact, not just on test scores but on children’s well-being as well.

Tucker’s position is that tough standards, tough-minded accountability, will finally get
educators moving, and force them to teach effectively. This is an insult to the teaching profession, and is not supported by the evidence: As noted above, when we control for poverty, our students do very well. Middle class students in well-funded schools score at or near the top of the world. This strongly suggests that the problem is not teacher quality (or schools of education, or unions). Of course we are always interested in improving teaching, but there is no crisis. The problem is poverty.

Some sources:

There are a lot of tests: Krashen, S. 2012. How much testing?­‐ krashen-­‐how-­‐much-­‐testing/

Boondoggle: Krashen, S. and Ohanian, S. 2011. High Tech Testing on the Way: a 21st Century Boondoggle? dialogue/2011/04/high_tech_testing_on_the_way_a.html

Control for poverty: Carnoy, M and Rothstein, R. 2013, What Do International Tests Really Show Us about U.S. Student Performance. Washington DC: Economic Policy Institute. 2012.

Food deprivation, poor health care, lack of access to books, Berliner, D. 2009. Poverty and Potential: Out-of-School Factors and School Success. Boulder and Tempe: Education and the Public Interest Center & Education Policy Research Unit.; Krashen, S. 1997. Bridging inequity with books. Educational Leadership 55(4): 18-22.

Impact of school libraries: Krashen, S., Lee, SY, and McQuillan, J. 2012. Is The Library Important? Multivariate Studies at the National and International Level Journal of Language and Literacy Education: 8(1).