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Topic: "Why I Cannot Support the Common Core Standards"

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This blog post (originally posted at e-standards ) was submitted to MSPnet by David May.
We feel this is a view worth discussing. We look forward to an interesting, interactive discussion.

Excerpt from Diane Ravitch's Blog:
"I have thought long and hard about the Common Core standards.
I have decided that I cannot support them.

In this post, I will explain why.

I have long advocated for voluntary national standards, believing that it would be helpful to states and districts to have general guidelines about what students should know and be able to do as they progress through school.

Such standards, I believe, should be voluntary, not imposed by the federal government; before implemented widely, they should be thoroughly tested to see how they work in real classrooms; and they should be free of any mandates that tell teachers how to teach because there are many ways to be a good teacher, not just one."

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This topic has 35 posts, showing: 21-35
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The Station is never far away

posted by: Frank Gardella on 3/18/2013 9:05 am

Andy Zucker stated: Haven't the Common Core and NextGen Science Standards trains left the station already?

In mathematics in the late '60's, we had the New Math. By the early to mid 1970's, that 'train' was being slowed (if not stopped) as we found ourselves in the middle of the 'Back to basics movement. In 1989, we had the NCTM Standards. By 1995, that 'train' was in the middle of the Math Wars. I am sure that those who know the history of other content fields can tell a similar story.

The difference here with the CCSS is that they are very 'government controlled' meaning that there is a lot of high ranking influence and funding behind them. Making substantive changes means that government funded organizations (Governors' Group, PARCC and Better Balance) must admit that it did something incorrectly. And we know from history how that never happens in reality. (The idea of 'government control' is not said lightly. However, with the lack of participation of the NCTM and NCTE, I do not see any across the board professional input into the CCSS. However, I am sure that the developers can show you input from many individuals which can be set aside more easily than that of the professional groups I just mentioned.)

Also I believe that much of the disagreement is coming now after educators have begun to see the associated assessments. Remember, many times it is not a law but the administrative code that creates the problems. In education, it is the assessments. At a moments notice, a change of assessment protocol or structure can make our children seem either proficient or not proficient. It depends not on the standards but on the writers of the assessments.

Lastly, if we wanted to insure a well-rounded education for our children, then the drivers of the curriculum should be science and social studies. Teaching science and social studies means you have to teach mathematics, language arts, reading and writing. We obviously see that when the drivers of the curriculum are mathematics and language arts, then science and social studies can be easily overlooked. This is especially true at the elementary level where it is easy to skip science and social studies because they are not 'in the schedule.'

Frank Gardella
Hunter College

CCSS and the anticipated assessments are not the problem!

posted by: Larry Leverett on 3/19/2013 9:53 am

I believe that the Common Core and NextGen Science Standards are on point. Yvette Jackson, educator, author, researcher, makes the point that all learners are capable of being successful performing high cognitive tasks. It is time we set the achievement bar high for ALL students. The rigor of the Common Core and NextGen Science Standards are the right level of challenge for ALL of the nation's children.

Bob Peterkin, HGSE professor emeritus, challenges all of us in the educational system to do what it takes to "Make good teaching happen for every child, in every classroom, every day.... "/ The problem is not the rigorous standards, nor the anticipated PARCC pr Better Balance assessments.

I think we lack the collective will as a nation to do what we know needs to be done to ensure that children who have been treated as disposable for decades. Adult efficacy and high expectations for ALL children have long been a pernacious obstacle to setting a bar for children of color, poor children, children with limited english language proficiency, and children with special needs.

Embrace the standards, raise the expectations, demonstrate a strong sense of efficacy and a 'can do" disposition toward teaching children what they need to know and be able to do. Support ALL learners by ensuring they have effective teachers consistently in their k-12 experience; provide high quality curriculum that engages students in rigorous and relevant tasks; ensure student access to comprehensive academic and social/emotional support system; provide "just-in-time" interventions; and incorporate the growing body of knowledge on cognition into the everyday environment of schools and classrooms.

Stop railing on Common Core and NextGen Science standards and related assessments. They are not the problem! Let's take a look in the nearest mirror and then consider the possibility that the "problem" may just be us and our failure to use the knowledge we have to effectively educate every child.


posted by: Tamar McPherson on 3/20/2013 4:33 pm

I think the Common Core Standards are the start to creating a national benchmark. Unfortunately, our current state standards are inconsistent regarding levels of proficiency. That which is considered proficient in one state may not even meet basic understanding in another state. We are moving in the right direction, but I sometimes question why we need another set of standards when NCTM, NTSA, and NCTE had national standards for years prior to CCSS. Refining and revision are perfectly good practices...reinventing the wheel gets old.

Our obsession with testing is creating a culture where data driven decision making is being overrun with copious amounts of data, most of which isn't being used for meaningful purposes. Students are being left with holes in their conceptual framework of understanding because we feel a need to teach to the test in order to improve scores and get satisfactory evaluations. By the time our students reach high school, the holes are so large that students are unable to make connections between and within the abstract concepts taught in high school. Because of all of this, colleges are forced to create remedial math courses, which do not count toward matriculation and those who fail are discouraged from continuing their college education. We are losing our edge in this global economy because we cannot produce enough quality graduates in fields such as STEM.

This is not just a matter of establishing high standards and utilizing research-based pedagogical practices, it is a matter of community outreach. The old adage states, "It takes a village to raise a child". We all have our part. Standards, teaching, and assessment have a place as do parents, private industry, and the community at large.

I agree with Tamar

posted by: Josephine Pasquarelli on 3/21/2013 1:29 pm

Tamar you are spot on. I recently had a high school student say to me, " How did I go from the top of my Math class in 5th grade to being so stupid in 12th?" (Her words, not mine. This is not a stupid child, but she has holes in learning from just the things you mentioned. ) This is a child who began life in elementary grades looking like an engineer and grew to despise and fear Math. This happens when you take a child who questions everything and tell them to question nothing - just follow the pattern to pass the test.
This is not what standards were supposed to acheive.

Why I can't support common core?

posted by: William Harper on 4/20/2013 9:14 am

In all of the opinions posted re "not supporting" commmon core math standards, none have identified specific standards that are bad for kids or mathematics eduation, unattainable, or lacking in substance. The objections seem to have more to do with groups that support them (the feds being the arch-enemy) or assessments that will measure student attainment of the standards (though none are identified by writers). In our district we are pushing ahead to implement the standards in a manner that emphasizes authentic, problem -based learning of mathematics concepts. Our teachers have poured over the CCCR standards and compared them to the NCTM standards as well as state standards of the past several years and found them to be an improvement. They are anxious to implement them. Doing so, they believe, will improve rigor, student motivation (based on the emphasis on depth instead of breadth) and ultimately support students whose numeracy skills will be broadly developed and utilized in a variety of other disciplines. Our district and teachers know there will be state assessments down the road (not federally mandated assessments); however they fear them not. They are already developing their own criterion-referenced formative assessments based on their knowledge of the standards, math, and their students. They don't see themselves as victims, but active participants in our efforts to improve mathematics k12 education. I humbly suggest we all approach the standards on a much more pragmatic and empirical basis.

one last thought

posted by: William Harper on 4/20/2013 9:20 am

After many years in high school and middle school classrooms, as both a teacher and administrator, what seems more important than the actual content standards of a discipline (math or science, or ...) are how our teachers actually implement them. This is not to denigrate any set of standards, rather to remind us that, as several comments have noted, the teacher's utilization of standards to facilitate learning is paramount in each and every classroom. No set of standards is a panacea. This is why each generation of teachers MUST be intimately familiar with the standards (both content and learning process) of their discipline.

Are PARCC and Better Balance Federal Assessments???

posted by: Frank Gardella on 4/21/2013 11:22 am

William Harper stated, "Our district and teachers know there will be state assessments down the road (not federally mandated assessments)"

If states agree to use the PARCC or Better Balance assessments, then they are agreeing to use 'federally developed assessments' since the USDOE offered financial support to these developments. In fact, when I inquired why PARCC could not give more time for feedback to something they had sent out, I was told that the timeline was based on their need to report to the USDOE.

I believe what some are objecting to is the heavy handedness of the way it was done. "Adopt the CCSS or you are not eligible for Race to the Top funds." With politicians (and I include State education officials in this group) there is a tendency to follow the money with all good intent, that we need the money to help the children. But at what cost to state's ability to say, 'No' down the road.

Decisions today are not only about today but what they set up in the future when many of us will still be around.

'federally developed assessments'

posted by: BRUCE HARRIS on 4/22/2013 10:59 am

In Texas we are used to heavy handed government involvement in education from our own state. Texas has continuously cut funding for publec education while at the same time implementing more tests and more rigorous tests. The intent seems to be to prove that public education can't work, rather than seek ways to make it work. The current pwoer holders in Texas are not interested in working with teh federal gogernemt in any way, and I doubt we will ever adopt core standards and federally developed assessments. But then again why should politicians who send their kids to priavte schools already anyway, worry about the general welfare of the citizens? Maybe the should read the constitution [sic]

Federal Assessments

posted by: BRUCE HARRIS on 4/23/2013 2:00 pm

My apparent lack of proofreading skills and inability to curtail my emotions has caused me some reflection. My response was fired off in a quick fit of passion, however I still believe we should reconsider state vs. federal power in regards to education. We live in a much more connected world today, students taught in any state ought to be able to travel to another state and be more or less on the same grade and ability level in another public school. I do agree that the way we are testing students today is wrong and I think we may be doing more damage than good to students and to our educational system.

PARCC & Smarter Balanced Consortia

posted by: Howard Everson on 4/25/2013 1:15 pm

There appears to be a genuine level of confusion and misunderstanding about the role of the US DOE in the development of the PARCC & Smarter Balanced assessments. Though it is true that the US DOE has invested in the development of these Common Core State Standards (CCSS)-aligned assessment efforts, they are by no means the only investors. The Gates Foundation as well as the states in the consortia (and the majority of the states belong to one or the other consortium) have also invested in the design and development of these assessment programs. In the view of many, and I am in this camp, the states and their representatives are driving the design and development efforts---not the Federal government.

It is important to keep the facts in front of us during these discussions. The CCSS were conceived and developed, early on, by the National Governors Association and the Commission of Chief States School Officer,and the efffort was spearheaded in those early days by Lamar Alexander who served as Secretary of Education under George H.W. Bush in 1989. The move was always intended as a state driven initiative.

The PARCC and Smarter Balanced consortia remain true to that intent----you can look-up the states participating in the two consortia. It is also the case that many states competed for Race to the Top funding, but not all were successful. So to characterize these new assessments as being federally mandated does not comport with the history or the intent of how the CCSS were developed, nor is it an accurate depiction of how the movement toward common assessments has developed over time.

PARCC & Smarter Balanced Consortia

posted by: F. Joseph Merlino on 4/26/2013 7:38 am

For every lie told, the truth must be told 100 times to overcome it, and even then some still will not believe, prefering to hold to their prejudices.


posted by: Frank Gardella on 4/27/2013 6:50 am

It was not stated that the assessments are federally mandated. However, if the USDOE had a large influence in the establishment and continued support of PARCC and Smarter Balance, then the states mandating either of these sets of assessments for students would indirectly be acceding to having 'federally sponsored' assessments. This may be a difference without distinction.

There seems to be a simple solution to find out the influence of the groups involved (USDOE, GATES Foundatiion, the States involved) by simply listing how much money each group has contributed to the development of PARCC and Smarter Balance Assessments.

These figures should be in the public record. It would be somewhat more difficult to find out if the states' contributions were 'State generated' funds themselves or flow through funds from the USDOE. So let's just focus on what the 'books' say.

Does anyone know where to find such information?

Response to Andy's comments

posted by: Arthur Camins on 3/18/2013 11:52 am


You raise many important issues. Here are a few quick thoughts:

1) The Common Core train has certainly left the station and NGSS is about to leave. However, given the magnitude of the changes these portend and the looming 2014 threat of consequential CCSS assessment, what happens at the train's destination in now coming into sharper focus. Hence, we have continuing debate. And, of course, as you know in science reconsideration based on emerging evidence is always warranted.
2) I certainly agree that assessment is an inseparable dimension of a systemic approach. However, that doesn't mean that the overemphasis on consequential assessment, in contrast to daily diagnosis and response to evidence of the range of student learning, is a good thing or a given. Even assessment at the program level can be used in productive and multiple ways other than as a bludgeon.
3) I agree that the emphasis on reading and math assessments has crowded out a host of subjects (e.g. science, social studies, the arts) and important non-cognitive features of school. But, that doesn't imply that consequential testing in science would be a positive development for science learning.
4) I've commented elsewhere, including here: for-president-obama-to-change-course-on-education/ and here: blem-with-our-first-in-the-world-obsession/ and here: year/
as have others, on the reformers' theory of change. It relies heavily on the application of market-based strategies to the public sector. I think it is a flawed theory that is contraindicated by evidence.


Common Core

posted by: Josephine Pasquarelli on 3/19/2013 12:04 pm

Very true, Andy. But it appears that the reigns of education have been handed over to politicians and theorists with very little, if any, classroom experience or knowledge of child development. I have a graduating teen myself who I am glad is exiting the system. She is one of those children who makes sense of the world from the perspective of Art and school has become an increasingly negative experience for her. We are, after all, dealing with individuals. When did we lose sight of this?
My mother - age 85- recently said, "They treat these kids like animals." It gave me quite a jolt, coming from someone who has seen a lot of history.

Two useful references

posted by: Andy Zucker on 3/21/2013 8:11 am

There are many insightful comments in this discussion of the Common Core standards. I appreciate the high level of discourse.

For those interested in a longer exploration of education reform strategy, I found these two books valuable. The first is "The Death and Life of the Great American School System" by Diane Ravitch. This is the book in which she recanted her support for No Child Left Behind and related policies, such as school choice. It's a well-written book. The other, fatter, denser volume is Linda Darling-Hammond's "The Flat World and Education" that describes the many elements she believes are needed for successful K-12 education reform. For example, Darling-Hammond criticizes the widespread use of multiple-choice high-stakes tests and what she calls "testing without investing." Her book is based on a massive set of studies and includes hundreds of footnotes and references.