Opinion > Commentary

Common Core is latest front in decades-long education wars



It’s déjà vu all over again.

Peter Schrag

Peter Schrag

Nearly 20 years ago, after the Clinton administration proposed a program of voluntary national student testing, Chester Finn, then a senior fellow at the conservative Hudson Institute, warned that if it failed it would be because “liberals hate the word ‘testing’ and conservatives hate the word ‘national.’” He was right.

The growing national backlash this spring against the Common Core State Standards and the testing programs linked to them – in California, the testing program has the clumsy name of Smarter Balanced – fits not only Checker Finn’s diagnosis but belongs in a longer national history of controversies and uncertainties about what and how to teach our children, and who should decide.

In the decades before and right after World War II, the battles centered largely on progressive education, which in the eyes of some on the right during the Cold War was a communist plot.

In 1962 our own Max Rafferty was elected state superintendent of public instruction with his attacks on progressivism and his call for a return to “the fundamentals.” His recipe was phonics, memorization, drill and patriotism.

At nearly the same time schools around the country were buffeted by battles over the “new math,” the “new physics” and the “new biology,” school curricula that were themselves responses to the launching of Sputnik in 1957 and the resulting national panic that the Russians were about to beat our technological brains out.

The new curricula brought their own backlash, some from conservatives, some from parents who couldn’t understand what their kids were being asked to do. All that fancy new stuff, but my child can’t spell (can’t add, doesn’t know who Lincoln was). Let’s get back to the basics.

For a variety of reasons California so far has been largely immune to the Common Core backlash. Indiana this spring became the first of the 44 states that embraced Common Core standards three years ago to formally abandon them – now there will be fights about the replacement, “written by Hoosiers for Hoosiers.”

But Wisconsin, Louisiana, Georgia, Oklahoma and a number of other Republican-dominated states may be heading in the same direction. In New York, meanwhile, the teachers unions have been battling, with some success, to prevent any attempt to link Common Core assessments to teacher evaluations.

The fact that Common Core was created under the aegis of the nation’s governors and state school superintendents for voluntary adoption by the states hasn’t kept conservatives from describing it as yet another attempt by the administration to expand federal control. In some circles, it’s now become “Obamacore.”

California has escaped most of that because, in the words of Stanford Education Prof. Linda Darling-Hammond, “California has done it better, with care and focus, in a logical order and without punitive stakes.”  Which is to say that since test scores have no bearing on teacher evaluations here, the teachers unions have been neutralized.

California Deputy State Superintendent of Public Instruction Deb Sigman, California’s testing honcho and co-chair of the Smarter Balanced Testing Consortium, also credits the transparency of the adoption process. In the past few months, nearly 2 million California students have been part of the Smarter Balanced exam field-testing regimen – testing the test – which, Sigman said, has “gone incredibly well.”

Combine that with the weakness of the state Republican Party and the strong support here for the Obama administration and there may not be much political gold to be mined in this vein. CUACC, Californians United Against Common Core, the most visible organization opposing the new standards in this state, is a rickety collection of Tea Party, Eagle Forum and local Republican groups.

No doubt Common Core, with its emphasis on problem solving and its de-emphasis of rote learning and bubble tests, seems like a refreshing step in education.

But for the better part of a century, Americans have swung between extremes in education; they’ve been offered one promising program after another, and then rejected it. David Tyack and Larry Cuban, both now retired from Stanford University, called it “Tinkering Toward Utopia.” If history is any guide, the Common Core honeymoon may not last forever, even in California.

Anyone who’s watched America’s schoolhouse fights since Sputnik – battles about how to teach reading and math, about homework, about social promotion, about evolution and creationism, about “secular humanism,” about vocational ed and tracking, even about the use of calculators – may have uneasy recollections of all the great new programs that came to naught and all the great ideas that crashed.

Some fell of their own weight; some were shot down in some great ideological battle, now long forgotten. There was even a time in the late 1960s when some liberal educators and school critics, wanting to get out of the “lock-step” of traditional schooling, supported vouchers. I was one of them.

Maybe Common Core and Smarted Balanced will do better. Sigman thinks even poor and minority students will do better with Common Core. But will kids who come from socially disadvantaged backgrounds have what E. D. Hirsch called the “cultural literacy” to master the higher-order skills that Common Core presumably requires? Will they even have the computer experience that the tests require?

What of teachers? Some will thrive on it. Maybe Common Core will also draw better people into a profession that’s always drawn disproportionately from the lowest-scoring college graduates. But what about those who’ve long relied on all the old ways? Can they adapt?

There’s lots of potential out there for yet another flameout. Our schools, like our politics and much else, have always been plagued by our historic anti-intellectualism. Can Common Core live through all that?

Peter Schrag is the former editorial page editor and columnist of the Sacramento Bee. He is the author of “Paradise Lost: California’s Experience, America’s Future,” and  “California: America’s High Stakes Experiment.” His latest book is “Not Fit for Our Society: Immigration and Nativism in America” (University of California Press).

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Filed under: Commentary, Common Core, Reforms

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47 Responses to “Common Core is latest front in decades-long education wars”

  1. Hcat said

    on May 5, 2014 at 4:34 am

    Mr Schrag, if you supported vouchers 50 years ago, where are you on them now?

    • Peter Schrag replied

      on May 5, 2014 at 2:16 pm

      I’m against them, but in the right circumstances I could change my mind again.

      • Floyd Thursy replied

        on May 6, 2014 at 3:40 pm

        The studies show in terms of GPA, most teachers are below average students. You ask how do you measure it saracastically, like any way I suggest you’ll criticize. I would take weighted GPA, meaning a 3.5 at SF State would equal maybe a 2.8 at UC Berkeley, a 3.1 at UC Davis. SAT is another good measure, but is earlier. I feel this is why so many on the dogmatic far left oppose testing, so they can sarcastically ask how you measure things and undermine any universal morally neutral measure of human goodness like the SAT which can show us.

        Many ways can be used. However, the biggest problem is that the below average grad fact is exacerbated by an almost guaranteed job for life, LIFO. Take any group in the world and grant LIFO and you will see a poorer work ethic. 12% of teachers called in sick the Tuesday before Thanksgiving in San Francisco and the union leaders didn’t speak out against this at all. This is after they gave the Wednesday of so that they wouldn’t have a day like this. Show me any other profession where this happened. You won’t find one. It is because no one can call them on it that this abuse occurs. Find any profession where 12% call in sick the Tuesday before Thanksgiving. You won’t. It is a direct result of LIFO.

  2. David McAdams said

    on May 5, 2014 at 1:18 pm

    Sir,

    I hope you refer to that virulent strain of anit-intellectuallism which pervades our institutions of higher education (and Government) and is characterized by thinking that is indeed the antithesis of the “liberal” mind. Most folks who actually work for living are not anti-intellectual or anti-liberty just a bit skeptical of those who want to “help”.us so much.

    • Beverly Pennington replied

      on May 5, 2014 at 4:29 pm

      With Common Core, “we the people” are giving our rights away to be heard. School systems need to be kept on the State, educators and parents level. School does not need to be nationalized! Also, the standards are below sub. The materials that will be taught are anti-American and inappropriate. There’s a lot wrong with this program and the children will be dumbed down. Please do your own research to make your own decisions and while you are at it, please google “Common Core Sex-ed for 4th graders”…it is pure trash. Need I say more?

      • Jeff Krause replied

        on May 5, 2014 at 10:21 pm

        This is what comes from getting your information from Fox News and Rush Limbaugh!

        • Don replied

          on May 6, 2014 at 11:43 am

          Jeff, in Beverly’s defense, while she’s painting with a broad brush, her concerns for the morality and appropriateness of the content are the legitimate concerns of most vigilant parents who, apparently unlike you, don’t feel it is appropriate to teach a 4th grader to contemplate whether to masterbate. I am familiar with p.48 of the book.

          Really, Jeff, that’s a cheap shot just because she has a patriotic attitude you clearly hold in disdain.

          • Floyd Thursby replied

            on May 7, 2014 at 12:55 pm

            Puritanism has no place in a modern society with open and permissive attitudes, gay marriage, and the average kid starting at 16. We need to make sure kids know about and practice safe sex and learning early makes them feel comfortable and not embarrassed to ask questions. Patriotism is OK, but it isn’t automatic. When we attack Iraq, a country which did nothing to us, in my view, and Ron Paul’s, a Republican, it is more patriotic to protest than to salute. We haven’t had a just war since 1945, maybe 1953, but that’s the last one.

      • FloydThursby replied

        on May 8, 2014 at 1:01 pm

        Beverly, the government researched this extensively and Common Core will be a good thing. The reason they teach it to 4th graders is it was found some years ago we were way behind Europe and the rest of the advanced world on issues of sexuality, way too Puritan, we try to control sexuality too much. We’ve made a lot of progress since 2005 but notice how the government and media are working together. Racism ended slowly, you had the period of the “lovable bigot” in All in the Family and it took 30 years from the passage of the Civil Rights Act for a majority of Americans to support interracial dating and marriage. Now very few oppose it but lest we forget, in 1990 under 40% of Americans supported it and it wasn’t until 1995 in which a bare majority favored it. Now fast forward to gay marriage, which I support but am sometimes appalled at the opposition tactics. The majority of Californians opposed it in 2008, yet on Huffington Post and other press, we daily see articles shocked that some individual opposed it, wanting to boycott them, call them a bigot, expressing outrage at their point of view. I’ve been for gay marriage since before 1988, when only 11% of Americans were for it. I’m just amazed how quickly we are condemning a whole subsection of America as extreme bigots who were quite recently in the mainstream.

        They have to do it in 4th grade so that sex seems normal, natural, and we lose our Puritan attitude towards it and have a healthier, more modern, worldly attitude towards sex. No more double standard towards girls, calling them names and praising boys for the same thing, no more judging, no more rape and violence against women and girls. Let everyone be free and consenting adults do what they wish.

        National tests will raise standards for all. Obama knows it.

  3. Chester Finn said

    on May 5, 2014 at 1:53 pm

    Peter Schrag is one of the wisest education observers in the land, but this time I believe he’s only observing the education part of the Common Core “battles”, which I see as a minor skirmish alongside the real battle that’s underway in America. This turns out to have little to do with education. Rather, it’s about macro-politics and the battle for control of the levers of power and the hearts and minds of the electorate.
    I find considerable education merit in the Common Core standards–yet what’s actually in them isn’t what this fight is about. (Lots of the fighters have never even read the standards.) Nor is it about what’s good for kids. It’s about adult interests. The standards are another ball on the playing field–along with health care, immigration, the deficit, climate change, taxes, defense policy and more–in a vast kickball game. Oversimplified, one team wants more and bigger government, more centralization, more uniformity. The other wants less government, more freedom, greater reliance on markets, individuals, family and local community. One side asks “can we use Common Core to help bring down Obama and all that he represents?” The other asks “Can we use Common Core to blunt the forces of localism, sectarianism and inequality–and kill off the Tea Party while we’re at it?” This isn’t about education. It’s about politics. So is the teacher part–not about what’s good for kids (or national competitiveness) but about how to ease the burden on (and risk to) teachers that will inevitably follow from more rigorous learning expectations.
    Peter Schrag is surely correct about the past and I have no doubt that education wars will also continue. But that’s not really why we’re fighting over the Common Core.

    • Gary Ravani replied

      on May 5, 2014 at 5:43 pm

      Two other studies done by ETS that are worth looking at at are: “Parsing the Achievement Gap” and “The Family: America’s Smallest School.”

      In “Parsing” ETS describes 14 correlates involved in the “achievement gap.” Of the correlates 6 are school related and 8 are family and community oriented.

      In “Family” ETS asserts about 2/3rds in the difference in indicated achievement on the NAEP can be attributed to family and community conditions outside the control of schools and teachers.

      The conclusions to be drawn form the studies include many that will not “ease the burden” of conservative critics of public education to justify their continually pointing fingers at schools and teachers as being responsible for US achievement differences. Those truly concerned about “national competitiveness” will need to address those fundamental disparities in economic and social well being of America’s children.

      It is indeed “about politics.” Just not quite the kind of politics Mr. Finn is likely to support.

      (The CCSS” are about killing “off the Tea Party.” Really?)

    • Dond replied

      on May 5, 2014 at 7:49 pm

      Mr. Finn, Very interesting take on the larger forces at play, but I ask you this: if the CCSS is about winning over the “hearts and minds” of the electorate vis-a-vis a more liberal-minded curriculum, why would the fight not be about what’s actually in them? Certainly many critics of CCSS point to the content as the problem while others are critical of the processes of learning that are redefined within them, though we begin to mix SBAC with CCSS joined at the hip as they are. Whether there is educational merit in them or not, a nationwide roll-out of a yet unproven national standard is very dangerous indeed, irrespective of one’s position on the merit. Ms. Ravitch, who is no stranger to matters of curriculum and standards has made exactly this case. Why was a researched-based approach discarded to expedite the roll-out? I can imagine who would win with a quick adoption and shortened pushback.

    • CarolineSF replied

      on May 5, 2014 at 11:51 pm

      Here’s Education Week, February 2014, on teachers’ unions attitudes about Common Core:

      “From the early days of the Common Core State Standards, the two national teachers’ unions have been among the initiative’s biggest boosters, helping to make the case to the nation’s 3.5 million teachers for the tougher expectations and putting significant money into the development of aligned curricula and tools.

      “But in some union quarters, that support is starting to waver—the product of flawed implementation in states, concerns about the fast timeline for new testing tied to the standards, and, in at least one instance, fallout from internal state-union politics.”

      http://www.edweek.org/ew/articles/2014/02/19/21commoncore.h33.html

      And here’s one dissection of the “teachers are stupid” propaganda:

      http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/answer-sheet/post/do-teachers-really-come-from-the-bottom-third-of-college-graduates/2011/12/07/gIQAg8HPdO_blog.html

      • CarolineSF replied

        on May 6, 2014 at 12:11 am

        John, Louis — I posted links to back up my accuracy-cop comments that the “teachers are stupid” propaganda is not borne out by facts and that teachers’ unions have strongly supported Common Core. That post is awaiting moderation; please approve it!

        • John Fensterwald replied

          on May 6, 2014 at 7:36 am

          Caroline: Sometimes links will catch the attention of our spam filter regardless of who submits them (it apparently doesn’t distinguish regular contributor CarolineSF from regular spammer Louis Vuitton Sweater Outlet, though it would great if it did. I am curious if frequency of comments — you submitted several — is also a trigger). How fast we approve comments awaiting moderation is a function of who’s watching when. We’re sorry when hours go by before one of us doesn’t approve them.

          • el replied

            on May 6, 2014 at 9:21 am

            My experience is that it will usually set any comment with more than one link into moderation. You guys seem to do a good job of monitoring it, though it is of course hard to be patient.

            While we’re in meta, it used to be the links to recent comments on the side would take you directly to that comment, and it doesn’t seem to be working these days.

          • Manuel replied

            on May 6, 2014 at 9:51 am

            Also, John, I and others have noticed that the server often produces stale content as well as no longer providing links to the “second” (or third or…) page of comments. It seems that some tweaks to the WordPress software caused this undesired behavior.

            TIA!

          • CarolineSF replied

            on May 6, 2014 at 4:17 pm

            Yes, sorry to nag — I just really wanted my sources posted. (Any good deals on those Louis Vuitton sweaters?)

      • Floyd Thursby replied

        on May 8, 2014 at 1:30 am

        Caroline this is the kind of disingenuous argument that is intended to mislead. If we all want to know the truth, why not require the state to release the transcripts, we can average GPA and school, SAT Scores, all the information is there. They won’t, they’ll hide it and release disingenuous studies accusing the other side of not having all the facts, while hiding the facts.

        The bigger problem is that we have LIFO, any profession will slack off with LIFO, even the smartest. It’s just human nature. 12% absence the Tuesday before Thanksgiving will happen with any group given LIFO. Teachers aren’t unique here.

        The info is available. If the teachers’ union wants to deny it, ask them to gather the information, compile it, and publish it. I’ve been surprised that many teachers’ kids have mediocre grades. I would think teachers would be best able to raise kids to thrive in school. That part has really surprised me.

  4. Gary Ravani said

    on May 5, 2014 at 2:10 pm

    A reasonable, if flawed, presentation of the issues.

    The turmoil around Sputnik and its “implications” for what an appropriate curriculum to confront the Soviet menace is still symptomatic of the education debates today.

    As the late, great, Jerry Bracey (of Phi Delta Kappan) often recounted, the US was fully capable of putting a satellite into orbit before the Soviets did. The US did not do it because of a decision of the Eisenhower Administration that to do so with the available rocket platform at the time would be likely to “militarize” space. So the threats of Soviet technological superiority were overblown and a typical strand of yet another US “historical” trend outlined by the historian who best talked about “Anti-intellectualism in American Life,” Richard Hofstadter. That trend was developed by Hofstadter in his book, “The Paranoid Style in American Politics.”

    So then, much of what passes for informed debate in education policy is often based on mythology. Mr Schrag goes on to perpetuate several myths in his article.

    The CCSS emerged from a process mostly funded by the Gates Foundation and reflects Gates’ ideas. The standards were put together pretty much devoid of input from actual teachers and it was only after the two national teachers’ unions objected that groups were formed to review an already developed product.

    The CCSS may well turn out to be a sound set of standards; however, more confidence could be placed in that supposition if the CCSS had been given a trial run over the course of several years to see if they had the desired instructional effects. That was not done.

    It was not just the teachers’ union in NY that objected to the way the CCSS and assessment were rolled out it was parents and communities. The program was rushed and implemented without sufficient professional development for teachers, materials, or time for instruction. That state has decided to start over with a rollout taking several years.

    (Continued)

    • Gary Ravani replied

      on May 5, 2014 at 2:23 pm

      Then there is the ever present canard about teachers coming from a population “that’s always drawn disproportionately from the lowest-scoring college graduates.” Lowest scoring in what? The NAEP? SAT? ACT? State tests? Again, the most comprehensive study to be found on teachers’ academic abilities was done by ETS, who found little difference between teachers’ academic prowess and that of any other profession. (See ETS: How Teachers Compare). In CA teachers have an “academic” BA prior to entering a 5th year of a teacher preparation program. (That may be changing in the near future based on CTC deliberations.) mr. Schrag’s statement is just careless.

      Vouchers have been in place for around two decades in a couple of US cities and are fundamentally doing nothing if, that is, you read beyond press releases (called “studies”) done by conservative “think tanks” (sic).

      • CarolineSF replied

        on May 5, 2014 at 11:45 pm

        The crap about teachers coming from the lowest ranks of blah-blah- whatever comes from the right-wing think tanks’ sound-bite machines and has been discredited whenever anyone takes the trouble to burrow into it.

        Also, teachers’ unions have strongly supported Common Core, and their support is just now recently being shaken by the evaluation and implementation issues.

        Mr. Schrag, I’ve admired much of your work, but you fell down on your research here.

          • Gary Ravani replied

            on May 6, 2014 at 1:22 pm

            Paul:

            Your link is not to anything prepared by the College Board, it goes to a blog site of someone who calls himself a “private investor.”

            That being said, it is a very valuable link because it goes to the heart of the myth about teachers and academic ability. If you read the post you find the author has identified SAT scores and…intended
            majors. That is where the myth started. Testers collected anecdotal data about what those about to take the test “intended to do”…not what they necessarily did. It turns out many of those with low scores did not complete college, let alone get into teaching. I believe there are links in other posts that describe this.

            In CA there is, currently, no undergraduate education major I am aware of. All prospective teachers complete a regular BA program and then get into a 5th year credential program, though I understand some programs allow a person top complete a BA and a credential within 4 years. There are discussions about changing the credential program and BA requirements, mostly to increase the time available to get a credential which the law had limited to 1 year.

          • Paul Muench replied

            on May 6, 2014 at 4:51 pm

            My bad, seems I pasted the wrong link. Here’s what I intended:

            http://www.joshuakennon.com/sat-scores-ranked-by-intended-college-major-show-teachers-are-below-average/

            And yes it clearly has problems. For example the second highest average scorers were those intending to major in “English Language Literature/Letters”. If one actually pursues that interest then there seems to be a reasonable chance one could become a teacher.

            BTW, there is a link to the college board report on that page. The table directly on the web page is not directly from the report. The author has sorted the table differently than the report. I checked a couple rows so I assume it is accurate.

        • CarolineSF replied

          on May 6, 2014 at 7:21 am

          And here’s Ed Week on teachers’ unions’ support of Common Core:

          From the early days of the Common Core State Standards, the two national teachers’ unions have been among the initiative’s biggest boosters, helping to make the case to the nation’s 3.5 million teachers for the tougher expectations and putting significant money into the development of aligned curricula and tools.

          But in some union quarters, that support is starting to waver—the product of flawed implementation in states, concerns about the fast timeline for new testing tied to the standards, and, in at least one instance, fallout from internal state-union politics.

          http://www.edweek.org/ew/articles/2014/02/19/21commoncore.h33.html

  5. Michael Dominguez said

    on May 5, 2014 at 10:08 pm

    I’m not buying any of his argument.
    Schrag completely ignores the involvement of the privateers such as Murdoch, Gates, Broad and the Waltons. He tries to trace an ideological line back to differences of approaches to education, i.e. progressives vs conservatives but this is about money pure and simple. As Murdoch puts it, it’s a great untapped revenue source.

  6. Frances O'Neill Zimmerman said

    on May 5, 2014 at 10:26 pm

    1) Taking the Common Core test on a computer requires typing proficiency — which many California youngsters lack. Ditto in spades for widespread reading proficiency.

    2) While California kids are trying out the Common Core test, there will be no accountability from schools for what has been learned and tested over a year’s time. It looks like there will be no accountability for two full years — 2014 and 2015.

    3) Two years is a long time for parents not to know anything substantive about the academic achievement of their children or their kids’ schools in relation to peers or comparable schools in meeting state standards. Everybody in the dark?

    4) The California teachers union is doubtless happy about this, as no test scores at all mean test scores cannot be used to evaluate teacher effectiveness, as has been threatened in places such as Los Angeles.

    5) The Common Core has increased the amount of fact-based reading and downgraded classic literary texts. I understand that Mark Twain’s “Huckleberry Finn” does not appear on any Common Core recommended reading list. Using evidence to back up written observations from reading is fine, and can be applied to analysis of op-eds as well as great fiction, but less literature in an age of screens is a bad idea.

    6) The Obama Administration has essentially paid cash-strapped states with reprieves from the strictures of No Child Left Behind with “Race to the Top” money if they would embrace Common Core, a long-cherished notion of businessmen like Bill Gates to get the US of A competitive with places like Singapore.
    It is so Totally Now — and short-sighted — to lionize the educational ideas of the richest businessman in the world who was a single-minded tech whiz-kid/college dropout.

    7) Sadly, none of this seems focussed on developing the best ideas to help children learn to love learning and to mark continuous academic progress from one school year to the next.

    • el replied

      on May 6, 2014 at 9:23 am

      Is there a set place in the elementary curriculum yet for teaching typing skills?

  7. Carol Burris said

    on May 6, 2014 at 2:22 am

    The issues with Common Core are far more complex than you describe. The issues in New York go far beyond teacher evaluation. You commentary parrots what supporters want the public to believe. The greatest pushback in New York is from parents whose children have experienced all aspects of reform, especially Common Core testing, and they do not like it. These parents are suburban, well educated and far from tea partiers. We in New York are canaries in the mine. California, just wait.

  8. Bea said

    on May 6, 2014 at 8:00 am

    Perhaps one can make a distinction between the pedagogical aspects of the common core curriculum, which has promise, and the implementation side driving by the test & text industry.

    Common Core was pushed politically, not for the causes listed by Finn, but for the profits pushed by Pearson, et al., who saw the sunset of NCLB as an opportunity to gain tremendous leverage in a trillion dollar sector. Creating a national curriculum (standards, my hoo-ha, it’s a curriculum) means test and text producers aren’t negotiating and producing separate products for CA, TX, MA, etc. One national common standard = massively reduced costs = massive windfall profits.

    Now stand back and watch the College Board align the SAT and AP with CC which in turns drives a wholesale turnover in that test and test prep industry, refreshing courses, materials and forcing schools and families to invest all over again.

    Keep an eye on higher ed too. The pressure to measure outcomes for college grads and attach stakes to higher ed institutions also includes a test and measure component not fully rolled out yet. It’s coming. An it has nothing whatsoever to do with students or their success, but everything to do with selling tests, professional development, etc.

    I believe there were some good people and good ideas at the heart of common core. I also believe that it isn’t going away anytime soon because it’s sending billions to those profiting so handsomely from their strategic political donations.

    • Don replied

      on May 6, 2014 at 12:09 pm

      It isn’t clear, Tracy, that windfall profits are assured. It may well be that costs are reduced and curriculum products are vastly cheaper to purchase – no doubt a positive for cash strapped LEAs. I understand the concerns you have, but despite my previous comments on the Orwellian potential of a universal education system, it isn’t written in stone that content and assessment providers will be raking it in, especially in California where ed dollars remain near inflation-adjusted lows per pupil.

      • Don replied

        on May 6, 2014 at 12:12 pm

        I’m sorry, Bea, not Tracy.

      • el replied

        on May 6, 2014 at 3:37 pm

        There is no way the major publishers are going to reduce the price of their content because it is delivered via computer. Instead, they will move towards a per seat per year cloud model to eliminate the tendency of districts to put off buying new textbooks to save money, and when they change the curriculum, schools will have no choice but to go along. Over time, there will be some open source/free materials available, but it’s unlikely they’ll be comprehensive unless the entity producing them is funded somehow.

        • Floyd Thursby replied

          on May 6, 2014 at 4:29 pm

          We need competition to drive down prices. El, want to start a test prep company? It ain’t rocket science. I do these every year with my kids and the oldest two have made it to Lowell, so it works. The people who tend to criticize testing all the time in SF, their kids don’t generally do as well in grades or tests. As in all things, you have to sacrifice a lot of time to dominate in school, but you neer get a second chance so if you don’t, you are toast, probably end up moving to another state. Most of the Californians of the future will be those who grew up elsewhere because we have a #1 economy and a #47 educational system and many parents still complain their kids work too hard when the average kid in the State studies a paltry 5.6 hours a week and watches over 40 hours of TV. These are the facts, and they are undisputed.

        • Manuel replied

          on May 6, 2014 at 9:44 pm

          El, I believe that the solution is, drum roll, please, for the state to create its own text books. Sure, some out there will complain that the state is competing against free enterprise, but since free enterprise is taking the state taxpayers to the cleaners, what is there to lose?

          Yeah, it will take some time to get up to speed, but crowd-sourcing this and vetting it through teacher and administrator committees will be cheaper and more efficient in the long run.

          What’s going on with LAUSD and the iPads gives us an idea of what is to come. LAUSD keeps talking about savings on textbooks but that’s a mirage since, as you point out, the cloud model won’t be cheaper than the paper-based system once you consider the cost of the infrastructure needed to support it.

        • Don replied

          on May 7, 2014 at 8:39 am

          There’s a long history of lower costs for online and software content versus high cost printed text. If you factor in the costs of infrastructure the savings goes away. But the debate over whether schools need to be wired is over.

          • el replied

            on May 7, 2014 at 9:12 am

            Now all we have to do is actually get the schools wired.

            Broadband and devices are clearly where we need to go, especially for grades 5 and up, no question. But anyone who says this saves money is deeply mistaken. What it does is create new options and new vistas and the opportunity for richer and more differentiated instruction.

          • Don replied

            on May 7, 2014 at 9:46 am

            Before there were textbooks there were chalkboards. Textbooks became a necessary expense in the early 20th Century. Technology is a necessary expense in the early 21st Century. Controversy over the cost and quality of instructional resources, curriculum and standards will continue as it is the nature of people to disagree over what constitutes “an education”.

            CCSS has extinguished the Federalism-inspired concept of states as laboratories of innovation. It is technology that is driving mass consumption of instructional products – meaning those corporations that constitute the various tech industries. The watchdogs are the SEAs and LEAs. Tech giants did an end run around state and local entities and bought in at the top – the US Department of Education – the branch of government least connected to the end user and most connected to the giants of industry. I don’t see much opportunity for competitive price reductions under these circumstances.

          • Manuel replied

            on May 7, 2014 at 10:19 am

            Don, that’s all fine and good. We must go forward with tools at hand, etc., etc..

            And, yes, the Usual Suspects are driving this bus in order to make money, not to educate children.

            But, and this is a big “but,” the SEAs and LEAs are either asleep at the wheel or are in collusion with the tech giants and the Billionaire Boys Club cheering them from the sidelines (and often actually in the field of play). The LAUSD iPad debacle has become a case study in how not to introduce technology into the classroom. I could write pages and pages on how the program has been botched. Hence, my reluctance in blindly endorsing technology use in this case.

            Since technology is essential for the success of CCSS and the assessments tied to it, it is to me a no-brainer to not jump into CCSS until the introduction of technology has properly been implemented and managed. As el wrote, it won’t save us money and will surely increase costs but it will create new options and possibly a better education.

            But the obstacles to get there are 1) our public servants have bungled the job and 2) we don’t trust them with the money anymore. Fool me once, shame on you, fool me twice… I won’t get fooled again.

    • Gary Ravani replied

      on May 6, 2014 at 1:33 pm

      Bea:

      Much of what you say are opinions that could be held by a reasonable person; however, CCSS are not a curriculum Standards outline the potential outcomes of a curriculum. One of the problems in New York was they rolled out the standards and assessment without providing the teachers with materials, professional development, and time to create the curriculum and then translate it into classroom instruction.

  9. Don said

    on May 6, 2014 at 11:00 am

    What does Gates himself have to say about CCSS?

    GATES: Fortunately, the state-led Common Core State Standards Initiative is developing clear, rigorous common standards that match the best in the world. Last month, 46 Governors and Chief State School Officers made a public commitment to embrace these common standards.
    This is encouraging—but identifying common standards is not enough. We’ll know we’ve succeeded when the curriculum and the tests are aligned to these standards.

    GATES: — to create just these kinds of tests—next-generation assessments aligned to the common core. When the tests are aligned to the common standards, the curriculum will line up as well—and that will unleash powerful market forces in the service of better teaching.

    GATES: For the first time, there will be a large uniform base of customers eager to buy products that can help every kid learn and every teacher get better.

    No doubt Gates will be producing core software and other technological tools to advance the interests of “the core”. When he says that success is aligning tests with curriculum he’s not talking about student or teacher success. He’s talking about success for industry in creating a vast uniform market for educational products.

    That a national standard is at its core (pun intended) unconstitutional is really a quaint idea in Obama’s America. Yet, many progressive-minded adherents of this administration, the NEA and the NFT both of which were early adopters of CCSS find themselves in the rather delicate position of supporting exactly what Tea Partiers support – a constitutional reading of what is in effect an unlawful national standard.

    I imagine all these kids getting sucked into “the core” – a place where all students are customers who are fed a corporate diet designed to make them ready to produce for “the core”. It’s an Orwellian vision. The framers understood the potential of unfettered national control.

    Reject national standards on principle.

  10. Educator said

    on May 9, 2014 at 10:37 pm

    It seems like there’s a large group of reformers who believe that Common Core will ultimately lift up the achievement of poor students, as all students will be held to the same high standard in the states that have adopted it. It’s a little twist on NCLB (major difference being states set their own standards, so they varied across different states). It’s a big gamble.

  11. Sam said

    on May 13, 2014 at 10:30 pm

    The issue is that Common Core has been around for 20 years however NCLB completely reformed in to what this nightmare is as of this moment. It’s a disaster and as a teacher I abhor the new reformed standards, it’s the pressure to do well is what is focused on and that is a huge problem. Not all kids are test takers because many factors can prevent them from doing well.

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