Tuesday, January 28, 2014

CTU Common Core Meets

CTU Discusses Common Core with Teachers
By Jim Vail

The Chicago Teachers Union held a meeting last week on Jan. 24 to discuss the implications of the new Common Core curriculum which was designed and promoted by the corporations to further standardized testing and a national curriculum.

A crowd of roughly 50 teachers and activists met at Wells High School on the north side to hear a panel of five academics and teachers discuss the Common Core curriculum and then answer questions from the crowd, according to observers at the meeting.

The first speaker was DePaul professor Barbara Radner, who observers say, appeared to support the Common Core standards when she equated South Carolina's decision to reject the Common Core to its decision to be the first state to leave the union before the Civil War.

Radner had been a favorite source to quote in the Chicago Tribune and other corporate media concerning city education matters such as school closings and privatization.

The next speaker was UIC professor Tim Shanahan, who has helped develop the Close Reading that emphasizes a deeper analysis of higher-level texts. Shanahan told the participants he first did not like CC, but now thinks it is appropriate in terms of standards, but not the testing, an observer told Second City Teacher.

The next speaker was David Stovall, a UIC associate professor of educational policy studies and African-American studies. Stoval was mostly against the Common Core, noting there is no focus on special education and English language learners and asked the question what happens when the under-funded struggling city schools don't get the help they need as the rigor increases, the observer noted. Stovall said the Common Core will be used to kick people out of the teaching profession.

UIC professor Rico Gutstein and the founder of Teachers for Social Justice, was also critical of the Common Core, the observer said.  He said it is a business plan, noting the future will need about 30% of the population with a high school or higher degree for jobs.

It is interesting to note that only 30% of the students in NY passed the first round of Common Core tests.

Two teachers at Chicago Public Schools rounded out the panel.  A teacher at Uplift in Uptown said he liked some of the Common Core strategies and the inclusion of science standards, while a teacher at Morrill Elementary was mostly critical of the Common Core, noting students already struggling in the public schools are just going to do even worse, the observer said.

The crowd of teacher observers had about 30 minutes to ask questions and were mostly critical of the Common Core, the observer said.

The CTU's parent union - the American Federation of Teachers or AFT - has been very supportive of the Common Core, while Diane Ravitch, one of the leading public education historians who worked in George Bush's education department to implement the No Child Left Behind, is extremely critical.

Ravitch has noted in editorials and on her and this website that the Common Core was drafted and funded by corporate entities such as billionaire hedge funds and the Gates Foundation with little public input.

Many in New York where the dismal CC test scores came out are upset with the new curriculum because of its heavy emphasis on standardized testing and punitive measures against teachers and public schools.  

Saturday, January 25, 2014

Burns Burned by Scots?


By Stephen Wilson

(Moscow, Russia) -  Scots have long lamented this dreadful situation. Scottish school students on English literature can't find Scotland's most famous poet on their assigned reading list! Yes, they can find the works of, say, Shakespeare, Dickens or Wildfred Owen, but not Burns.  And yet he is one of the most widely quoted         and sung poets all over the world!  The song 'Auld Lang Syne ' is sung at many New year celebrations all over the world! The poet's birthday is set to be celebrated on the 25th of January. His poetry has already been recited at a Scottish festival in Moscow last December at the House of Art!

If Pushkin was omitted from the Russian literature programme it would be deemed blasphemy. Yet this is exactly the situation in Scotland.  The Russians are always shocked when I explain this dire state of affairs! Why do we have a situation where almost every Russian pupil can recite 'My love is like a Red ,Red, Rose' while Scots children learn him more informally or accidently? It certainly has nothing to do with the literary genius of the poet which both Goethe and Marshak ardently affirmed without hesitation.

Robert Burns (1759-96) was not only a poet, but a song-writer and collector of old ballads. His poetry was deeply inspired by the beauty of nature and the country around him. His poetry could be in turn satirical, witty and uncompromising. His poem 'Honest Poverty' pays homage to a new brotherhood of man not based on any rank or position in society. His poems have even left a deep imprint on American Literature. The title of Salinger's 'Catcher in the Rye' was inspired by Burn' s song 'Coming through the Rye' and John Steinbeck's work 'On Mice and men' was moved by Burn's poem 'To a Mouse.' Both poems comment on the frail vulnerability of the weakest members of society who suffer the most in any economic or political turmoil.

So why has Burns been pushed to the sidelines of the education system? Some Scots speculate that the sentiments of his poetry are too radical! Yet this all depends on how you interpret his poetry, as a lot of conservatives adore Burns for all kinds of sentimental and romantic reasons.

It might well be the fact that Burn's poetry is written in a Scottish dialect which educators are under pressure to contain or control in favour of standard English. But if this is so, then why not stop Shakespeare as his English is very archaic and almost obsolete. Students require a glossary to make full sense of both poets.

It might well be due to an ingrained snobbery which rejects Burn's on the basis of some sentimental songs or the fact that educators think the informal education system in the form of Burn's societies takes care of things. But it is not only Burns who tends to get a bad deal. It is fair to say that there is a strongly crass and snobbish attitude to refined culture in Britain. The study of literature,poetry and philosophy is despised by not only many British, but even those attempting to mold the education system into a purely utilitarian society obsessed with the values of economics, efficiency and enterprise. The powers that be want dazed and active consumers and not poets. In their view poetry is not practical. It won't boil the pot!

The problem is that when some of those 'practical and useful' people go on business trips they are asked by Russians' What do you  think of Byron,Shelley and Burns?' When they answer they have not read them or are not interested in them, they have unwittedly offended their Russian host who just might respect Burns as much as Pushkin!

When I asked Russians 'Why is Burns so popular in Russia?' they answered 'That is easy to explain. We had a great translator called Samuel Marshak who did a great job of translating him from English into Russian. Burns is also a great lover of women, drink and nature. So we have no problem understanding him' answers a Russian linguist Marina! The idea of having a get together to celebrate the poet's birth on the 25th of January also strongly appeals to Russians who adore a celebration. Many Russians still celebrate New Year's day twice on the first and on the old New year's date of the 13th. And if that is not enough; they can top it up with a Robert Burns's supper!

Perhaps when the schools overlook Burns it is a blessing in disguise! I remember my late aunt telling me that when the primary school teachers forced her to learn Burn's by heart, she told me, 'I hated it. It was torture'.   (This happened over 70 years ago when some teachers tried to teach him in Scotland.)

It put her off Burns! As one American English teacher told me, 'If they teach it at school it sucks!' Now if Burns is seen as almost 'forbidden' by the curriculum, it might even end up encouraging pupils to read him.

It really all depends on how the schools teach poetry! Learning Wildfred Owen's poetry at school never killed my interest. What does require challenging is the short-sighted and narrow view that studying poetry is just a waste of time. On the contrary, the reciting of poetry has been known to heal the wounds of those suffering from post traumatic stress syndrome, as well as preserving the sanity of captives. It also enhances pleasant conversation which strengthens the bonds of friendship and affection. And Robert Burn's poetry has done a great job in this. His poetry may well have saved the sanity of a child from falling off a cliff. In this sense, Robert Burns was a kind of 'Catcher in the Rye' which Salinger truly appreciated.

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Ravitch & Common Core

Everything you need to know about Common Core — Ravitch

Diane Ravitch (Network for Public Education)
Diane Ravitch
(Network for Public Education)
Diane Ravitch, the education historian who has become the leader of the movement against corporate-influenced school reform, gave this speech to the Modern Language Association on Jan. 11 about the past, present and future of the Common Core State Standards.
Here’s her speech:
As an organization of teachers and scholars devoted to the study of language and literature, MLA should be deeply involved in the debate about the Common Core standards.
The Common Core standards were developed in 2009 and released in 2010. Within a matter of months, they had been endorsed by 45 states and the District of Columbia. At present, publishers are aligning their materials with the Common Core, technology companies are creating software and curriculum aligned with the Common Core, and two federally-funded consortia have created online tests of the Common Core.
What are the Common Core standards? Who produced them? Why are they controversial? How did their adoption happen so quickly?
As scholars of the humanities, you are well aware that every historical event is subject to interpretation. There are different ways to answer the questions I just posed. Originally, this session was designed to be a discussion between me andDavid Coleman, who is generally acknowledged as the architect of the Common Core standards. Some months ago, we both agreed on the date and format. But Mr. Coleman, now president of the College Board, discovered that he had a conflicting meeting and could not be here.
So, unfortunately, you will hear only my narrative, not his, which would be quite different. I have no doubt that you will have no difficulty getting access to his version of the narrative, which is the same as Secretary Arne Duncan’s.
He would tell you that the standards were created by the states, that they were widely and quickly embraced because so many educators wanted common standards for teaching language, literature, and mathematics. But he would not be able to explain why so many educators and parents are now opposed to the standards and are reacting angrily to the testing that accompanies them.
I will try to do that.
I will begin by setting the context for the development of the standards.
They arrive at a time when American public education and its teachers are under attack. Never have public schools been as subject to upheaval, assault, and chaos as they are today. Unlike modern corporations, which extol creative disruption, schools need stability, not constant turnover and change. Yet for the past dozen years, ill-advised federal and state policies have rained down on students, teachers, principals, and schools.
George W. Bush’s No Child Left Behind and Barack Obama’s Race to the Top have combined to impose a punitive regime of standardized testing on the schools. NCLB was passed by Congress in 2001 and signed into law in 2002. NCLB law required schools to test every child in grades 3-8 every year; by 2014, said the law, every child must be “proficient” or schools would face escalating sanctions. The ultimate sanction for failure to raise test scores was firing the staff and closing the school.
Because the stakes were so high, NCLB encouraged teachers to teach to the test. In many schools, the curriculum was narrowed; the only subjects that mattered were reading and mathematics. What was not tested—the arts, history, civics, literature, geography, science, physical education—didn’t count. Some states, like New York, gamed the system by dropping the passing mark each year, giving the impression that its students were making phenomenal progress when they were not. Some districts, like Atlanta, El Paso, and the District of Columbia, were caught up in cheating scandals. In response to this relentless pressure, test scores rose, but not as much as they had before the adoption of NCLB.
Then along came the Obama administration, with its signature program called Race to the Top. In response to the economic crisis of 2008, Congress gave the U.S. Department of Education $5 billion to promote “reform.” Secretary Duncan launched a competition for states called “Race to the Top.” If states wanted any part of that money, they had to agree to certain conditions. They had to agree to evaluate teachers to a significant degree by the rise or fall of their students’ test scores; they had to agree to increase the number of privately managed charter schools; they had to agree to adopt “college and career ready standards,” which were understood to be the not-yet-finished Common Core standards; they had to agree to “turnaround” low-performing schools by such tactics as firing the principal and part or all of the school staff; and they had to agree to collect unprecedented amounts of personally identifiable information about every student and store it in a data warehouse. It became an article of faith in Washington and in state capitols, with the help of propagandistic films like “Waiting for Superman,” that if students had low scores, it must be the fault of bad teachers. Poverty, we heard again and again from people like Bill Gates, Joel Klein, and Michelle Rhee, was just an excuse for bad teachers, who should be fired without delay or due process.
These two federal programs, which both rely heavily on standardized testing, has produced a massive demoralization of educators; an unprecedented exodus of experienced educators, who were replaced in many districts by young, inexperienced, low-wage teachers; the closure of many public schools, especially in poor and minority districts; the opening of thousands of privately managed charters; an increase in low-quality for-profit charter schools and low-quality online charter schools; a widespread attack on teachers’ due process rights and collective bargaining rights; the near-collapse of public education in urban districts like Detroit and Philadelphia, as public schools are replaced by privately managed charter schools; a burgeoning educational-industrial complex of testing corporations, charter chains, and technology companies that view public education as an emerging market. Hedge funds, entrepreneurs, and real estate investment corporations invest enthusiastically in this emerging market, encouraged by federal tax credits, lavish fees, and the prospect of huge profits from taxpayer dollars. Celebrities, tennis stars, basketball stars, and football stars are opening their own name-brand schools with public dollars, even though they know nothing about education.
No other nation in the world has inflicted so many changes or imposed so many mandates on its teachers and public schools as we have in the past dozen years. No other nation tests every student every year as we do. Our students are the most over-tested in the world. No other nation—at least no high-performing nation—judges the quality of teachers by the test scores of their students. Most researchers agree that this methodology is fundamentally flawed, that it is inaccurate, unreliable, and unstable, that the highest ratings will go to teachers with the most affluent students and the lowest ratings will go to teachers of English learners, teachers of students with disabilities, and teachers in high-poverty schools. Nonetheless, the U.S. Department of Education wants every state and every district to do it. Because of these federal programs, our schools have become obsessed with standardized testing, and have turned over to the testing corporations the responsibility for rating, ranking, and labeling our students, our teachers, and our schools.
The Pearson Corporation has become the ultimate arbiter of the fate of students, teachers, and schools.
This is the policy context in which the Common Core standards were developed. Five years ago, when they were written, major corporations, major foundations, and the key policymakers at the Department of Education agreed that public education was a disaster and that the only salvation for it was a combination of school choice—including privately managed charters and vouchers– national standards, and a weakening or elimination of such protections as collective bargaining, tenure, and seniority. At the same time, the political and philanthropic leaders maintained a passionate faith in the value of standardized tests and the data that they produced as measures of quality and as ultimate, definitive judgments on people and on schools. The agenda of both Republicans and Democrats converged around the traditional Republican agenda of standards, choice, and accountability. In my view, this convergence has nothing to do with improving education or creating equality of opportunity but everything to do with cutting costs, standardizing education, shifting the delivery of education from high-cost teachers to low-cost technology, reducing the number of teachers, and eliminating unions and pensions.
The Common Core standards were written in 2009 under the aegis of several D.C.-based organizations: the National Governors Association, the Council of Chief State School Officers, and Achieve. The development process was led behind closed doors by a small organization called Student Achievement Partners, headed by David Coleman. The writing group of 27 contained few educators, but a significant number of representatives of the testing industry. From the outset, the Common Core standards were marked by the absence of public participation, transparency, or educator participation. In a democracy, transparency is crucial, because transparency and openness builds trust. Those crucial ingredients were lacking.
The U.S. Department of Education is legally prohibited from exercising any influence or control over curriculum or instruction in the schools, so it could not contribute any funding to the expensive task of creating national standards. The Gates Foundation stepped in and assumed that responsibility. It gave millions to the National Governors Association, to the Council of Chief School Officers, to Achieve and to Student Achievement Partners. Once the standards were written, Gates gave millions more to almost every think tank and education advocacy group in Washington to evaluate the standards—even to some that had no experience evaluating standards—and to promote and help to implement the standards. Even the two major teachers’ unions accepted millions of dollars to help advance the Common Core standards. Altogether, the Gates Foundation has expended nearly $200 million to pay for the development, evaluation, implementation, and promotion of the Common Core standards. And the money tap is still open, with millions more awarded this past fall to promote the Common Core standards.
Some states—like Kentucky–adopted the Common Core standards sight unseen. Some—like Texas—refused to adopt them sight unseen. Some—like Massachusetts—adopted them even though their own standards were demonstrably better and had been proven over time.
The advocates of the standards saw them as a way to raise test scores by making sure that students everywhere in every grade were taught using the same standards. They believed that common standards would automatically guarantee equity. Some spoke of the Common Core as a civil rights issue. They emphasized that the Common Core standards would be far more rigorous than most state standards and they predicted that students would improve their academic performance in response to raising the bar.
Integral to the Common Core was the expectation that they would be tested on computers using online standardized exams. As Secretary Duncan’s chief of staff wrote at the time, the Common Core was intended to create a national market for book publishers, technology companies, testing corporations, and other vendors.
What the advocates ignored is that test scores are heavily influenced by socioeconomic status. Standardized tests are normed on a bell curve. The upper half of the curve has an abundance of those who grew up in favorable circumstances, with educated parents, books in the home, regular medical care, and well-resourced schools. Those who dominate the bottom half of the bell curve are the kids who lack those advantages, whose parents lack basic economic security, whose schools are overcrowded and under-resourced. To expect tougher standards and a renewed emphasis on standardized testing to reduce poverty and inequality is to expect what never was and never will be.
Who supported the standards? Secretary Duncan has been their loudest cheerleader. Governor Jeb Bush of Florida and former DC Chancellor Michelle Rhee urged their rapid adoption. Joel Klein and Condoleeza Rice chaired a commission for the Council on Foreign Relations, which concluded that the Common Core standards were needed to protect national security. Major corporations purchased full-page ads in the New York Times and other newspapers to promote the Common Core. ExxonMobil is especially vociferous in advocating for Common Core, taking out advertisements on television and other news media saying that the standards are needed to prepare our workforce for global competition. The U.S. Chamber of Commerce endorsed the standards, saying they were necessary to prepare workers for the global marketplace. The Business Roundtable stated that its #1 priority is the full adoption and implementation of the Common Core standards. All of this excitement was generated despite the fact that no one knows whether the Common Core will fulfill any of these promises. It will take 12 years whether we know what its effects are.
The Common Core standards have both allies and opponents on the right. Tea-party groups at the grassroots level oppose the standards, claiming that they will lead to a federal takeover of education. The standards also have allies and opponents on the left.
I was aware of Common Core from the outset. In 2009, I urged its leaders to plan on field testing them to find out how the standards worked in real classrooms with real teachers and real students. Only then would we know whether they improve college-readiness and equity. In 2010, I was invited to meet at the White House with senior administration officials, and I advised them to field test the standards to make sure that they didn’t widen the achievement gaps between haves and have-nots.
After all, raising the bar might make more students fail, and failure would be greatest amongst those who cannot clear the existing bar.
Last spring, when it became clear that there would be no field testing, I decided I could not support the standards. I objected to the lack of any democratic participation in their development; I objected to the absence of any process for revising them, and I was fearful that they were setting unreachable targets for most students. I also was concerned that they would deepen the sense of crisis about American education that has been used to attack the very principle of public education. In my latest book, I demonstrated, using data on the U.S. Department of Education website that the current sense of crisis about our nation’s public schools was exaggerated; that test scores were the highest they had ever been in our history for whites, African Americans, Latinos, and Asians; that graduation rates for all groups were the highest in our history; and that the dropout rate was the lowest ever in our history.
My fears were confirmed by the Common Core tests. Wherever they have been implemented, they have caused a dramatic collapse of test scores. In state after state, the passing rates dropped by about 30%. This was not happenstance. This was failure by design. Let me explain.
The Obama administration awarded $350 million to two groups to create tests for the Common Core standards. The testing consortia jointly decided to use a very high passing mark, which is known as a “cut score.” The Common Core testing consortia decided that the passing mark on their tests would be aligned with the proficient level on the federal tests called NAEP. This is a level typically reached by about 35-40% of students. Massachusetts is the only state in which as many as 50% ever reached the NAEP proficient level. The testing consortia set the bar so high that most students were sure to fail, and they did.
In New York state, which gave the Common Core tests last spring, only 30% of students across the state passed the tests. Only 3% of English language learners passed. Only 5% of students with disabilities passed. Fewer than 20% of African American and Hispanic students passed. By the time the results were reported in August, the students did not have the same teachers; the teachers saw the scores, but did not get any item analysis. They could not use the test results for diagnostic purposes, to help students. Their only value was to rank students.
When New York state education officials held public hearings, parents showed up en masse to complain about the Common Core testing. Secretary Duncan dismissed them as “white suburban moms” who were disappointed to learn that their child was not as brilliant as they thought and their public school was not as good as they thought. But he was wrong: the parents were outraged not because they thought their children were brilliant but because they did not believe that their children were failures. What, exactly, is the point of crushing the hearts and minds of young children by setting a standard so high that 70% are certain to fail?
The financial cost of implementing Common Core has barely been mentioned in the national debates. All Common Core testing will be done online. This is a bonanza for the tech industry and other vendors. Every school district must buy new computers, new teaching materials, and new bandwidth for the testing. At a time when school budgets have been cut in most states and many thousands of teachers have been laid off, school districts across the nation will spend billions to pay for Common Core testing. Los Angeles alone committed to spend $1 billion on iPads for the tests; the money is being taken from a bond issue approved by voters for construction and repair of school facilities. Meanwhile, the district has cut teachers of the arts, class size has increased, and necessary repairs are deferred because the money will be spent on iPads. The iPads will be obsolete in a year or two, and the Pearson content loaded onto the iPads has only a three-year license. The cost of implementing the Common Core and the new tests is likely to run into the billions at a time of deep budget cuts.
Other controversies involve the standards themselves. Early childhood educators are nearly unanimous in saying that no one who wrote the standards had any expertise in the education of very young children. More than 500 early childhood educators signed a joint statement complaining that the standards were developmentally inappropriate for children in the early grades. The standards, they said, emphasize academic skills and leave inadequate time for imaginative play. They also objected to the likelihood that young children would be subjected to standardized testing. And yet proponents of the Common Core insist that children as young as 5 or 6 or 7 should be on track to be college-and-career ready, even though children this age are not likely to think about college, and most think of careers as cowboys, astronauts, or firefighters.
There has also been heated argument about the standards’ insistence that reading must be divided equally in the elementary grades between fiction and informational text, and divided 70-30 in favor of informational text in high school. Where did the writers of the standards get these percentages? They relied on the federal NAEP—the National Assessment of Educational Progress-which uses these percentages as instructions to test developers. NAEP never intended that these numbers would be converted into instructional mandates for teachers. This idea that informational text should take up half the students’ reading time in the early grades and 70% in high school led to outlandish claims that teachers would no longer be allowed to teach whole novels. Somewhat hysterical articles asserted that the classics would be banned while students were required to read government documents. The standards contain no such demands.
Defenders of the Common Core standards said that the percentages were misunderstood. They said they referred to the entire curriculum—math, science, and history, not just English. But since teachers in math, science, and history are not known for assigning fiction, why was this even mentioned in the standards? Which administrator will be responsible for policing whether precisely 70% of the reading in senior year is devoted to informational text? Who will keep track?
The fact is that the Common Core standards should never have set forth any percentages at all. If they really did not mean to impose numerical mandates on English teachers, they set off a firestorm of criticism for no good reason. Other nations have national standards, and I don’t know of any that tell teachers how much time to devote to fiction and how much time to devote to informational text. Frankly, I think that teachers are quite capable of making that decision for themselves. If they choose to teach a course devoted only to fiction or devoted only to non-fiction, that should be their choice, not a mandate imposed by a committee in 2009.
Another problem presented by the Common Core standards is that there is no one in charge of fixing them. If teachers find legitimate problems and seek remedies, there is no one to turn to. If the demands for students in kindergarten and first grade are developmentally inappropriate, no one can make changes. The original writing committee no longer exists. No organization or agency has the authority to revise the standards. The Common Core standards might as well be written in stone. This makes no sense. They were not handed down on Mount Sinai, they are not an infallible Papal encyclical, why is there no process for improving and revising them?
Furthermore, what happens to the children who fail? Will they be held back a grade? Will they be held back again and again? If most children fail, as they did in New York, what will happen to them? How will they catch up? The advocates of the standards insist that low-scoring students will become high-scoring students if the tests are rigorous, but what if they are wrong? What if the failure rate remains staggeringly high as it is now? What if it improves marginally as students become accustomed to the material, and the failure rate drops from 70% to 50%? What will we do with the 50% who can’t jump over the bar? Teachers across the country will be fired if the scores of their pupils do not go up. This is nuts. We have a national policy that is a theory based on an assumption grounded in hope. And it might be wrong, with disastrous consequences for real children and real teachers.
In some states, teachers say that the lessons are scripted and deprive them of their professional autonomy, the autonomy they need to tailor their lessons to the needs of the students in front of them. Behind the Common Core standards lies a blind faith in standardization of tests and curriculum, and perhaps, of children as well. Yet we know that even in states with strong standards, like Massachusetts and California, there are wide variations in test scores. Tom Loveless of the Brookings Institution predicted that the Common Core standards were likely to make little, if any, difference. No matter how high and uniform their standards, there are variations in academic achievement within states, there are variations within districts, there are variations within every school.
It is good to have standards. I believe in standards, but they must not be rigid, inflexible, and prescriptive. Teachers must have the flexibility to tailor standards to meet the students in their classrooms, the students who can’t read English, the students who are two grade levels behind, the students who are homeless, the students who just don’t get it and just don’t care, the students who frequently miss class. Standards alone cannot produce a miraculous transformation.
I do not mean to dismiss the Common Core standards altogether. They could be far better, if there were a process whereby experienced teachers were able to fix them. They could be made developmentally appropriate for the early grades, so that children have time for play and games, as well as learning to read and do math and explore nature.
The numerical demands for 50-50 or 70-30 literature vs. informational text should be eliminated. They serve no useful purpose and they have no justification.
In every state, teachers should work together to figure out how the standards can be improved. Professional associations like the National Council for the Teaching of English and the National Council for the Teaching of Mathematics should participate in a process by which the standards are regularly reviewed, revised, and updated by classroom teachers and scholars to respond to genuine problems in the field.
The Common Core standards should be decoupled from standardized testing, especially online standardized testing. Most objections to the standards are caused by the testing. The tests are too long, and many students give up; the passing marks on the tests were set so high as to create failure.
Yet the test scores will be used to rate students, teachers, and schools.
The standardized testing should become optional. It should include authentic writing assignments that are judged by humans, not by computers. It too needs oversight by professional communities of scholars and teachers.
There is something about the Common Core standards and testing, about their demand for uniformity and standardization, that reeks of early twentieth century factory-line thinking. There is something about them that feels obsolete. Today, most sectors of our economy have standards that are open-sourced and flexible, that rely upon the wisdom of practitioners, that are constantly updated and improved.
In the present climate, the Common Core standards and testing will become the driving force behind the creation of a test-based meritocracy. With David Coleman in charge of the College Board, the SAT will be aligned with the Common Core; so will the ACT. Both testing organizations were well represented in the writing of the standards; representatives of these two organizations comprised 12 of the 27 members of the original writing committee. The Common Core tests are a linchpin of the federal effort to commit K-12 education to the new world of Big Data. The tests are the necessary ingredient to standardize teaching, curriculum, instruction, and schooling. Only those who pass these rigorous tests will get a high school diploma. Only those with high scores on these rigorous tests will be able to go to college.
No one has come up with a plan for the 50% or more who never get a high school diploma. These days, a man or woman without a high school diploma has meager chances to make their way in this society. They will end up in society’s dead-end jobs.
Some might say this is just. I say it is not just. I say that we have allowed the testing corporations to assume too much power in allotting power, prestige, and opportunity. Those who are wealthy can afford to pay fabulous sums for tutors so their children can get high scores on standardized tests and college entrance exams. Those who are affluent live in districts with ample resources for their schools. Those who are poor lack those advantages. Our nation suffers an opportunity gap, and the opportunity gap creates a test score gap.
You may know Michael Young’s book The Rise of the Meritocracy. It was published in 1958 and has gone through many editions. A decade ago, Young added a new introduction in which he warned that a meritocracy could be sad and fragile. He wrote:
If the rich and powerful were encouraged by the general culture to believe that they fully deserved all they had, how arrogant they could become, and if they were convinced it was all for the common good, how ruthless in pursuing their own advantage. Power corrupts, and therefore one of the secrets of a good society is that power should always be open to criticism. A good society should provide sinew for revolt as well as for power.
But authority cannot be humbled unless ordinary people, however much they have been rejected by the educational system, have the confidence to assert themselves against the mighty. If they think themselves inferior, if they think they deserve on merit to have less worldly goods and less worldly power than a select minority, they can be damaged in their own self-esteem, and generally demoralized.
Even if it could be demonstrated that ordinary people had less native ability than those selected for high position, that would not mean that they deserved to get less. Being a member of the “lucky sperm club” confers no moral right or advantage. What one is born with, or without, is not of one’s own doing.
We must then curb the misuse of the Common Core standards: Those who like them should use them, but they should be revised continually to adjust to reality. Stop the testing. Stop the rating and ranking. Do not use them to give privilege to those who pass them or to deny the diploma necessary for a decent life. Remove the high-stakes that policymakers intend to attach to them. Use them to enrich instruction, but not to standardize it.
I fear that the Common Core plan of standards and testing will establish a test-based meritocracy that will harm our democracy by parceling out opportunity, by ranking and rating every student in relation to their test scores.
We cannot have a decent democracy unless we begin with the supposition that every human life is of equal value. Our society already has far too much inequality of wealth and income. We should do nothing to stigmatize those who already get the least of society’s advantages. We should bend our efforts to change our society so that each and every one of us has the opportunity to learn, the resources needed to learn, and the chance to have a good and decent life, regardless of one’s test scores.

R Hatton
The country with the best educational outcomes in the world, by any measure--Finland--doesn't test students or even give grades until high school. Their education dollars go into training & paying teachers. Does anybody teach logic any more?
Reteach 4 America
Excellent, Diane! Right on target. Thank you for standing up for America's children. (Ignore the haters and the misguided.)
Diane, You have a very broad view of the history of education and its many reform efforts, and I respect that. However your arguments against Common Core State Standards are weak if we are talking about just the standards. Your concerns are on how states will test and measure student achievement (which they will do no matter what standards are used), and how teachers will be evaluated on the state's test. You also mention concerns on how the standards were developed and the lack of 'field testing.' While these are valid concerns, they have now been implemented for the past two years in most states, and the feedback from teachers that have taken the time and effort to understand and implement them effectively is very positive. As with any testing methods, there will be concerns. However, please don't attack the standards themselves. States still maintain the sole power of adopting whatever standards they choose, use whatever testing methods and mechanisms they choose, and local teachers actually have even more freedom to develop curriculum and choose materials that they decide are best for their students. I admire your passion on protecting the most important and vital profession -- teaching. Teachers and students need community and policy support - not more mandates and punitive actions for the sake of financial accountability. But the Common Core State Standards are not the villain here and do not deserve to be attacked or repealed. I couldn't agree with you more that public schools need consistency, support and time to implement effective efforts -- not constantly change expectations and mandates. Since we now have 45 states implementing consistently high standards, let's not stop that train and turn them around again. Let's support the teachers, provide the funding necessary for the best implementation and professional development, and let the teachers do what they do best.
1/21/2014 10:44 AM CST
The standards themselves have grave weaknesses: they are developmentally inappropriate for the early grades, making academic and neurological demands on children who are not all developmentally ready for such work (but would likely be in another 2-3 years, at least for most of it), while at the higher grades, they are actually WEAKER than many states' standards were before the change.

We can't stop this train soon enough.
1/21/2014 6:24 PM CST
Can you give an example?
1/21/2014 6:25 PM CST
Can you give an example?
1/21/2014 6:59 PM CST
Thank you, Diane Ravitch!

I feel more thankful to have completed my 40-year career as a high school teacher of literature and composition every time I read another article about the Common Core.

From the lack of actual practitioner involvement in the Common Core development to the ridiculous factory-line approach to assessment, this Common Core is a not-very-well-disguised attempt to destroy the entire concept of universal public education.

And I very much appreciated your including the ridiculous diversion of scarce resources from actual instruction to facilitation of online testing.

Please, keep up the good fight!
In this quotation she mistakes curriculum and methods with standards. Let the methods vary, but let the tests be standard or else they aren't standards. As for me when I have surgery, I want the surgeon who knows her trade and not someone who feels good but doesn't perform.

"It is good to have standards. I believe in standards, but they must not be rigid, inflexible, and prescriptive. Teachers must have the flexibility to tailor standards to meet the students in their classrooms, the students who can’t read English, the students who are two grade levels behind, the students who are homeless, the students who just don’t get it and just don’t care, the students who frequently miss class. Standards alone cannot produce a miraculous transformation."
Ryan Westler
1/21/2014 8:46 AM CST
@g8orade: I believe what you're looking for would be a standard placed on teachers for licensing, not really on students for learning. I think it would make more sense to place a standard on colleges preparing our future teachers and demand a nationalized testing system so we can be sure that our teachers are ready-like surgeons. When it comes to students and learning, there are way too many factors to account for that impede and enhance a student's learning experience to truly create an equal standard-no two students are alike. I think Diane was right on with what she said about flexibility and change of the standards.
As an educator for over 25 years, I have seen too many programs come and go. Every one of those programs was the "fix" for our education woes. Yet, not one of them was a success. Common Core will not be successful either because the problems do not lie within the curriculum. The major problem for schools is social promotion and the lack of discipline. Students do not have any real consequences for their behavior or their apathy. Failing means nothing because of social promotion. Behaviors that make teaching impossible are not considered bad enough to remove the student so that others can learn. If too many students are suspended, then the school is punished. The teachers and administrators must attend meaningless workshops that show ideas that only work in small, selected settings. If the school continues to have too many suspensions, then the state steps in and the ridiculous paperwork and threats begin. However, there is NO punishment for the students who exhibit the poor behavior. Removing these students from the classroom would greatly increase our teaching time. The majority of students who choose to learn will benefit, the test scores will improve, and we will be ensuring a viable workforce for the future. Until then, no program will work.
1/21/2014 4:34 PM CST
Your points are a good part of the problem. But we also have an education system meant to teach that one perfect kid in the middle. We leave out the low end and the high end. The CCS will not address these deficiencies, only drag us farther down. If we truly mean to educate "all" our children we need a system that addresses them as individuals with strengths and weaknesses. We have a system that needs to be changed to make the two major deciding factors learning rate and individual intelligence not riding time. A child should be able to come into our systems and advance at his or her pace, if they have a high learning rate, they should advance quickly, if they have a slower learning rate, they should be given the time to succeed. Standardized testing acknowledges none of this. Child should be able to graduate at 16 if they can or at 20 if they need it. Right now the 16 year old would be a 'freak' and the 20 year old a failure. Funny or sad thing is that the child with the slower learning rate could be more intelligent. All the changes needed would be fought tooth and nail. But our ridiculous answer is testing. I have had the disruptive in my own classroom and that issue needs to be addressed for they do no have the "right" to subtract from the education of others. WE have to do better and the shills and Corpse are no help.
I think the author dearly loves kids and learning, and we should fear testing that punishes rather than enlightens. I support common core because it is a real attempt to deal with the staggering issues of inequality, false achievement, authentic parent information, and making a high school diploma actually mean something something understandable and real across the nation. I have taught for 35 years and I do not think/believe students will be crushed by having higher expectations. The teachers I know really like what Common Core means for their kids. The parents I know want clear and reliable information about how their children are doing in school. The reality of whqt is going on now in education is far worse that the "potential" fears expressed in this article. Teacher will not be forced to stop caring about, and educating their kids --they will use the standards as a a starting point to build better learning experiences and lessons in their individual classrooms. I already see it happening. Textbook compaines will not usurp local control. Technology is coming our way not matter what we say or do --better to get with it now and learn how to use it to help kids. This constantly playing to fears of what "could happen" denies us the opportunity to actually make something good happen. I love that last paragraph and agree; I just do not think Common Core will "stigamtize" -- -the system we have now already does that all too well.
1/21/2014 10:51 AM CST
Then know that there are parents - and I am just one of many many such parents - who are dismayed at the developmentally-inappropriate academic demands placed on our children because the standards weren't created by actual educators, and who are NOT seeing "clear and reliable information" due to RttT/CCSS, and who are in fact seeing a significant INCREASE in the "staggering issues of inequality in our schools" due to no-excuses lock-step standards dictating that children WILL learn [X] in grade [Y], developmental readiness or school support or parental resources be damned. My younger child is a constant lesson to me in the resilience of children but this year especially she has been wilting and wilting HARD under inappropriate expectations and far too much plain old drudgery masquerading as "learning." The expectations aren't just "higher" - they're inappropriate, like expecting Kindergarteners to run a 5-minute mile! Those are "high" expectations, but nobody would argue that it'll happen just because we've set a high bar.

And yes, technology is coming - or here - but to be forced to invest in this MUCH technology at the expense of true deep learning - there is plenty of life that is not-computer-dependent! - is cutting resources especially deeply in higher-poverty schools.
A major issue/fact that is being ignored here is that math has been tracked in most schools in the US since the 50s. It is not ability grouped. It is tracked by social power which highly correlates to race and income and parent education. Regardless of demonstrated mastery, students in certain demographic subgroups have traditionally been tracked low when tracking begins. Then they are not prepared for advanced math and science courses because the curriculum of the lower track does not prepare students for advanced courses. All 8th graders generally take the same state standardized test regardless of track. Those in the highest track, who are taught the rigorous curriculum score higher. In North Carolina, Wake County passed a Board Policy in 2012 that required tracking all students whose academic achievement data predicted they would succeed in advanced track math into the top track. They went from 2000+ students to nearly 8000 students in the top track and both proficiency and growth rose. Common Core was supposed to mean all students, regardless of track placement, would get the rigorous curriculum. This is where the equity idea comes in. That is not happening. It is explained as Kentucky getting same as Montana. The Common part is supposed to also mean that all the kids get the rigorous curriculum. You can't leave this part out. This is the most important part. In NC alone we have tens of thousands of kids who have demonstrated their mastery of STEM courses but they have no access to the rigorous courses, because rigorous STEM has become a status symbol and they cannot get in.
James F. Bish
Excellent analysis. The issue of what happens to the 50% who don't cut the mustard is raised. My answer to this question is that the formulation of common core with its standardized testing is to create a mechanism to weed out those who are not thought to be candidates for further education and training needed for the new electronic and high tech jobs. (by and large poor children and children of colour) These are the throw away students. By eliminating them from the pool of applicants, the competition for the ever shrinking number of jobs is manageable and those favored for those jobs can be assured a future. (The term "jobless recovery " wasn't coined by accident.) So the question of what happens to this 50% who "can't cut the mustard? Common Core advocates are not interested in discussing the issue. Those of us who live in the communities are left to deal with the aftermath.
.....Imagination and creativity in primary schools have been replaced by stress, anxiety and fear of failure. America is turning itself into Japan, a nation that has a distinctively high suicide rate among young children who fail to meet some very competitive standards, and where life at home has all but eliminated normal childhood......
Thank you, Diane Ravitch. Everyone should read this! 
"Today, most sectors of our economy have standards that are open-sourced and flexible, that rely upon the wisdom of practitioners, that are constantly updated and improved."

Thank you, Diane. We agree:

Angel Cintron Jr
Stop me if you’ve heard this one before: the Common Core is “Obamacore.” No? What about this one: the Common Core is Bill - the “Brain” – Gates’ plan to take over the world? Still no? If you haven’t, then you’ve been living under a rock, somewhere. Yes, the infamous Common Core State Standards (CCSS) has drawn criticism from the political left, and the right. It’s fascinating to witness both sides of the political spectrum unite against the CCSS. If only they could do the same for a host of other issues and policies. Nevertheless, the CCSS is the most controversial, yet distracting, piece of education reform. It literally consumes almost all education reform discussions and debates via social media. This is why I call the CCSS: The Black Hole of Education. http://ward8teacher.wordpress.com/2014/01/04/ccss-...
The fundamental assumption that these "reformers" make is that our educational system is terrible and we are going to hell in a handbasket. But what is their evidence for this? They don't say. They cite PISA scores but fail to recognize this years scores put the U.S. where they have always been. Some "reformers" are out to make money such as Pearson and Rupert Murdoch, and, Michelle Rhee. It would be amusing if all she did was fleece millionaires and billionaires but she has done much harm in D.C. And, notwithstanding the conservative principle of individual responsibility and accountability she got off scott free on the D.C. cheating scandal unlike Atlanta where people went to jail. Others want to destroy unions, again, notwithstanding the fact that the states with unions do much better than the states that do not, and, Finland is all unionized.

While our educational system is not broken as the "reformers" say without evidence, we do have a problem. That problem is 21.8% child poverty. You can tell how a child is going to do in school based on the income of the parents because that is a proxy for other factors such as education of the parents. If a child wants to be successful that child should choose to be born in a family where both parents have college educations, and, not in a single parent family with income below the poverty level. Alas, children don't have a choice and the genetic pool is random. The truth is that there is no silver bullet to enrichment of education. The one thing that has proven successful is having classes which have 20 middle income kids and 5 low income kids(race has nothing to do with it). James Coleman, a half a century ago, demonstrated that the middle income kids are not harmed, and, while not all 5 low income kids succeed, 3 or 4 do.

I have never seen the kind of attacks on teachers as the present time. We are on our way to destroying public education in the U.S. This is a most unfortunate time in American history
Ravitch and Common Core are like oil and vinegar. All I have to see is her name and I know what the article will entail. She just regurgitates the same points over and over and over again.
Dryly 41
1/18/2014 7:12 PM CST
You obviously have not understood anything she says. Nothing substantive here just ad hominem attacks on a very intelligent person. Not much here.
1/19/2014 9:53 AM CST
The points are valid and that's all that matters.
1/19/2014 3:04 PM CST
Because a lot of people haven't heard it yet! And the pro-Common Core types have most of the funding and dominate the media on the subject..