stephanie jones

We Should All Be Critical of the Common Core

In Uncategorized on March 5, 2013 at 12:36 am

And I say this not just because I prefer a critical stance to nearly everything, but because most educators, parents, students, and citizens, don’t know anything about the Common Core or how it was conceived.

Do you remember that song “I used to love her, ooh yeah, but I had to kill her”? Well, let’s replace “had to kill her” with “now I hate her” and you’ve got the scenario of the political and economic architects of our massive testing policies and standards-based killing of education and how they must feel about Diane Ravitch.

Here is a piece by Diane – that standards-loving, test-hugging NCLB advocate-turned critic who is using her smarts to make us all open our minds and eyes when it comes to education and the massive neoliberal mess we’ve gotten ourselves in. She was as “insider” as you can get for the entire standards-based movement, a place most of us can never imagine, but her insight and thank goodness finally her questioning, can help us all.


By Diane Ravitch

I have thought long and hard about the Common Core standards.

I have decided that I cannot support them.
In this post, I will explain why.
I have long advocated for voluntary national standards, believing that it would be helpful to states and districts to have general guidelines about what students should know and be able to do as they progress through school.
Such standards, I believe, should be voluntary, not imposed by the federal government; before implemented widely, they should be thoroughly tested to see how they work in real classrooms; and they should be free of any mandates that tell teachers how to teach because there are many ways to be a good teacher, not just one. I envision standards not as a demand for compliance by teachers, but as an aspiration defining what states and districts are expected to do. They should serve as a promise that schools will provide all students the opportunity and resources to learn reading and mathematics, the sciences, the arts, history, literature, civics, geography, and physical education, taught by well-qualified teachers, in schools led by experienced and competent educators.
​ For the past two years, I have steadfastly insisted that I was neither for nor against the Common Core standards. I was agnostic. I wanted to see how they worked in practice. I wanted to know, based on evidence, whether or not they improve education and whether they reduce or increase the achievement gaps among different racial and ethnic groups.
After much deliberation, I have come to the conclusion that I can’t wait five or ten years to find out whether test scores go up or down, whether or not schools improve, and whether the kids now far behind are worse off than they are today.
I have come to the conclusion that the Common Core standards effort is fundamentally flawed by the process with which they have been foisted upon the nation.
The Common Core standards have been adopted in 46 states and the District of Columbia without any field test. They are being imposed on the children of this nation despite the fact that no one has any idea how they will affect students, teachers, or schools. We are a nation of guinea pigs, almost all trying an unknown new program at the same time.
Maybe the standards will be great. Maybe they will be a disaster. Maybe they will improve achievement. Maybe they will widen the achievement gaps between haves and have-nots. Maybe they will cause the children who now struggle to give up altogether. Would the Federal Drug Administration approve the use of a drug with no trials, no concern for possible harm or unintended consequences?
President Obama and Secretary Duncan often say that the Common Core standards were developed by the states and voluntarily adopted by them. This is not true.
They were developed by an organization called Achieve and the National Governors Association, both of which were generously funded by the Gates Foundation. There was minimal public engagement in the development of the Common Core. Their creation was neither grassroots nor did it emanate from the states.
​ In fact, it was well understood by states that they would not be eligible for Race to the Top funding ($4.35 billion) unless they adopted the Common Core standards. Federal law prohibits the U.S. Department of Education from prescribing any curriculum, but in this case the Department figured out a clever way to evade the letter of the law. Forty-six states and the District of Columbia signed on, not because the Common Core standards were better than their own, but because they wanted a share of the federal cash. In some cases, the Common Core standards really were better than the state standards, but in Massachusetts, for example, the state standards were superior and well tested but were ditched anyway and replaced with the Common Core. The former Texas State Commissioner of Education, Robert Scott, has stated for the record that he was urged to adopt the Common Core standards before they were written.
The flap over fiction vs. informational text further undermined my confidence in the standards. There is no reason for national standards to tell teachers what percentage of their time should be devoted to literature or information. Both can develop the ability to think critically. The claim that the writers of the standards picked their arbitrary ratios because NAEP has similar ratios makes no sense. NAEP gives specifications to test-developers, not to classroom teachers.
I must say too that it was offensive when Joel Klein and Condoleeza Rice issued a report declaring that our nation’s public schools were so terrible that they were a “very grave threat to our national security.” Their antidote to this allegedly desperate situation: the untried Common Core standards plus charters and vouchers.
Another reason I cannot support the Common Core standards is that I am worried that they will cause a precipitous decline in test scores, based on arbitrary cut scores, and this will have a disparate impact on students who are English language learners, students with disabilities, and students who are poor and low-performing. A principal in the Mid-West told me that his school piloted the Common Core assessments and the failure rate rocketed upwards, especially among the students with the highest needs. He said the exams looked like AP exams and were beyond the reach of many students.
When Kentucky piloted the Common Core, proficiency rates dropped by 30 percent. The Chancellor of the New York Board of Regents has already warned that the state should expect a sharp drop in test scores.
What is the purpose of raising the bar so high that many more students fail?
Rick Hess opined that reformers were confident that the Common Core would cause so much dissatisfaction among suburban parents that they would flee their public schools and embrace the reformers’ ideas (charters and vouchers). Rick was appropriately doubtful that suburban parents could be frightened so easily.
Jeb Bush, at a conference of business leaders, confidently predictedthat the high failure rates sure to be caused by Common Core would bring about “a rude awakening.” Why so much glee at the prospect of higher failure rates?.
I recently asked a friend who is a strong supporter of the standards why he was so confident that the standards would succeed, absent any real-world validation. His answer: “People I trust say so.” That’s not good enough for me.
Now that David Coleman, the architect of the Common Core standards, has become president of the College Board, we can expect that the SAT will be aligned to the standards. No one will escape their reach, whether they attend public or private school.
Is there not something unseemly about placing the fate and the future of American education in the hands of one man?
I hope for the sake of the nation that the Common Core standards are great and wonderful. I wish they were voluntary, not mandatory. I wish we knew more about how they will affect our most vulnerable students.
But since I do not know the answer to any of the questions that trouble me, I cannot support the Common Core standards.
I will continue to watch and listen. While I cannot support the Common Core standards, I will remain open to new evidence. If the standards help kids, I will say so. If they hurt them, I will say so. I will listen to their advocates and to their critics.
I will encourage my allies to think critically about the standards, to pay attention to how they affect students, and to insist, at least, that they do no harm.

Chron of Higher Education
  1. OUR GOVERNMENT AT WORK AGAIN! Having a 3rd grader with some ADHD challenges, I became aware of this end of last school year. I predicted that our children’s test scores will be down at least 50% across our country. This is for children in 3rd grade and up. I believe that 20% or better will not progress to their next grade. It is an outrage when our government is dictating how a teacher has to teach and how much time to teach a specific program. Triston is in 3rd grade, for math alone he has got to be proficient in, all multiplication tables, fractions, division, geometry, word problems….. This is an example of a question on Triston’s test first week of February. Now, keep in mind, they don’t have their own math book and they aren’t allowed to bring them home. I never saw anything like this in any of his homework and believe me I would remember it because I have NO IDEA about any of it. And the geometry lesson was started right before Christmas.

    The test question is ” A given parallelogram has 4 congruent sides and one pair of opposite acute angles. What is the correct name for this parallelogram?

    A. Trapezoid B. Rectangle C. Rhombus D. Square

    My first thought was………. What the F____ does “congruent” mean? Yeah its funny, but no it isn’t. This is a 3rd graders test question that had approx 4-6 weeks of learning. Don’t forget about his other lessons, spelling, writing, reading, social studies (ha our government) that he has to know for these CRCT tests and if he fails he does not go to 4th grade. I asked the teacher, how am I supposed to help him with his homework when I don’t understand what your teaching, with no math books or any reference material what so ever? But tell me please what 3rd grader knows what the word “congruent” means? I didn’t know and that word is used in the question for a 3rd graders test? Congruent hasn’t even been one of his spelling words. Please help me out with this??!! The teacher’s response was, As for the math assessment: congruent is one of the math vocabulary words for third grade per the common core standards. It has not been a spelling word because they only have to know the meaning not how to spell it. It is something that has been discussed in class since the beginning of our geometry unit. Yeah, couple of weeks, with Rhombus, Trapezoid, and “ONOMATOPOEIA”. Who, knows what this word means, ONOMATOPOEIA? This was another word, (I had no clue) that was in his writing homework. The homework was: Writing work is to “practice writing exciting leads for the following topics. You Should write three different leads.” Now on the actual work sheet it says, “choose either dialogue, action, sound effect (onomatopoeia), snapshot, question, flashback. FOR MONDAY (he had this): Informational Paper about Heat and Energy.” WHAT THE F___???!!!!! Again, no reference material nothing. I can keep going and going. Don’t get me wrong, it is a great thing to give our children more and to push them and encourage them. But when it is mandatory to slam this information in such a short time to 8 year olds, and expect them to retain all this for a “TEST” at the end of the year is CRAZY. They don’t have review of material or study guide of all material covered from beginning of the year. The test is based on ones retaining the information they so called learned in 2 weeks, no studying, no reference material…..I was told by a Dawson County School Administrator that it doesn’t matter what the child does thru out the year in classwork, weekly tests scores, etc. What it comes down to is the CRCT test results and what the child has retained thru out the year. If they fail the CRCT test they get left back, and this starts in 3rd grade on up. Again, WHAT THE F___???!!! WE ARE ALL DIFFERENT, EACH OF US; CHILDREN OR ADULT, LEARN DIFFERENTLY! FOR A TEACHER TO HAVE TO TEACH ONE WAY AND ONE WAY ONLY INHIBITS THEIR TEACHING SKILLS AND RESTRAINS OUR CHILDREN!

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