By Jim Vail
The Chicago Teachers Union distributed a working paper about the Common Core that finds a lot of faults about the new set of educational standards for the nation.
The position paper begins by stating the CTU supports teachers to implement the Common Core standards via professional development.
"However, as educators, we are also obligated to question the true purpose of CCS, and expose flaws in the standards themselves, their developmental appropriateness, the testing requirements, uses of test results, and implementation... the CCS reflects a far narrower vision of what it means to educate a child than we see in (John) Dewey and (Martin Luther) King. This paper's purpose is to stimulate thought and discussion about the context in which Common Core Standards are rolled out across the country."
The first problem of CCS, according to the CTU, is it will "likely increase the opportunity gap experienced by students of color and low-income students; exacerbate the over-use of standardized tests; and to increase the influence and market share of vendors, private consultants, and other education profiteers in the public schools."
The Common Core ignores the documented fact that the root cause of educational failings is poverty and racism, the paper states.
CTU noted that only 26 percent of students passed the English CCS aligned tests in NY last year, and only 30 percent in math, while only 15 percent of black students passed the math test, compared to 50 percent of white students. Only 3 percent of ESL or bi-lingual students passed the English test, while only 6 percent of students with disabilities passed the test.
"The rhetoric about 'failing schools,' justified largely on these test scores, helped NY state close or phase out 50 schools and cut education spending by 14%, leading to larger class sizes and fewer textbooks."
The CCS features the Close Read when students are expected to read the text three times. The first time students read to understand key ideas and details; the second time is to understand the craft and structure of the text and the third is to critically evaluate the text and compare its ideas and approach with those of other texts. While Close Reading is a useful skill, it "pushes out other useful purposes for reading."
The CTU states students should learn to read for pleasure to development imagination, worldliness and vocabulary skills, nothing mentioned in the CC standards.
The focus on "text dependent" questions narrows the scope of classroom discussion, the CTU paper argues.
According to Coleman, "'80 to 90 percent of the reading standards require text-dependent analysis, aligned curriculum materials should have a similar percentage of text-dependent questions.' The narrow view of close reading emphasized by Coleman and other Common Core authors may make students better test takers, but it is unlikely to make them better readers."
Perhaps one of the biggest criticisms of the CCS is at the early childhood level. The CCS require kindergarten children to master more than 90 skills, although research shows naming letters does not correlate to later reading proficiency, the CTU states.
According to the CTU, more than 500 early childhood professionals, including prominent members, signed a joint statement of early childhood health and education professionals on the Common Core Standards initiative (2010) that points to the need for active hands-on learning and play. They say the CC narrows the curriculum, and overuses standardized tests.
The CTU paper states that the CCS is part of the corporate "education reform" agenda, with a heavy emphasis on standardized testing, competition, ranking and sorting of teachers and to the position that hardships in students' lives are irrelevant to education policy. They point out that some of those behind the new standards stand to gain financially, selling educational software or online testing materials.
The CTU also refutes its parent union the American Federation of Teachers who parrot Bill Gates line that the CCS are backed by teachers and was democratically selected. The CCS validation committee that supposedly adopted the standards was little more than a "rubber stamp" whose requests "were ignored."
"Teachers were not part of CCS development, but Pearson, the company that stands to make millions on Common Core, is using their position on the development group to sell its products."
Some of the largest corporations are strong advocates of the CCS, while multi-billionaire Bill Gates, a big supporter of charter schools and ending pensions for teachers, has paid a total of $173.5 million to implement the CCS, the CTU stated.
While the AFT and Gates state that the CCS does not mandate high stakes testing; in fact, the "Common Core places even more emphasis on testing." (CTU paper)
Perhaps the most troubling part of the CCS, as has been pointed out repeatedly by education historian superstar Diane Ravitch, is that it has no supports for students who are not on grade level, English learners, or students with special needs or circumstances.
The paper concludes:
"While Common Core Standards may appear to be benign or even helpful, they are part and parcel of the corporate reform strategy. Standards, coupled with testing and evaluation tied to student test scores, set the stage for greater control of what is taught in each classroom -- destroying teacher discretion, and pressuring teachers to ignore the needs of the students in front of them by focusing on the fulfillment of requirements set by the school district."