Common Core Collaborators: Six Organizational Portraits

Richard Phelps, via a kind email: Historical, financial and media analyses of the organization that spawned the Common Core Initiative, the two copyright holders, two of the paid proselytizers, and the delivery vehicle, where the reputed CC “architect” now runs things (for a cool annual salary of well over a $million). Real Clear Propaganda: Bellwether’s … Continue reading Common Core Collaborators: Six Organizational Portraits

The Dangers of Common Core

Mark Bauerlein: The latest installment in an ongoing interview series with senior editor Mark Bauerlein, featuring Nicholas Tampio on his book Common Core: National Education Standards and the Threat to Democracy. You can follow Tampio on Twitter @NTampio.

Nation’s Report Card: Common Core Delivering Education Stagnation

Richard Phelps, via a kind email: The National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) boasts a long and proud history. First administered in 1969 to national samples, NAEP typically tests students in 4th, 8th, and an upper high school grade in a variety of subjects. Mathematics and reading are tested most often, but other periodically tested … Continue reading Nation’s Report Card: Common Core Delivering Education Stagnation

Will Fitzhugh: Common Core, Close Reading, and the Death of History in the Schools

Diane Ravitch: He writes: A few years ago, at a conference in Boston, David Steiner, then Commissioner of Education for New York State, said, about History: “It is so politically toxic that no one wants to touch it.” Since then, David Coleman, of the Common Core and the College Board, have decided that any historical … Continue reading Will Fitzhugh: Common Core, Close Reading, and the Death of History in the Schools

Will Fitzhugh: Common Core, Close Reading, and the Death of History in the Schools

Will Fitzhugh is founder and editor of The Concord Review, which publishes outstanding historical essays by high school students. I have long been an admirer of the publication and of Will for sustaining it without support from any major foundations, which are too engaged in reinventing the schools rather than supporting the work of excellent … Continue reading Will Fitzhugh: Common Core, Close Reading, and the Death of History in the Schools

Common Core is dead at U.S. Department of Education

Betsy DeVos: To a casual observer, a classroom today looks scarcely different than what one looked like when I entered the public policy debate thirty years ago…The vast majority of learning environments have remained the same since the industrial revolution, because they were made in its image. Think of your own experience: sit down; don’t … Continue reading Common Core is dead at U.S. Department of Education

Historians Want to Put Events in Context. Common Core Doesn’t. That’s a Problem.

“The dialogue now taking place was not about the literature curriculum but about English teachers being required to teach historical documents—and without context, if they followed guidelines from the standards writers on ‘close reading.’…. As high school history teacher Craig Thurtell states: “This approach [close reading] also permits the allocation of historical texts to English … Continue reading Historians Want to Put Events in Context. Common Core Doesn’t. That’s a Problem.

Is There Anything Common Core Gets Right?

Sandra Stotsky, via Will Fitzhugh: Most books on public education in any country do not favor workforce preparation for all students in place of optional high school curricula or student-selected post-secondary goals. Nor have parents in the USA lauded Common Core’s effects on their children’s learning or the K-8 curriculum. Indeed, few observers see anything … Continue reading Is There Anything Common Core Gets Right?

Tony Evers seeks a third term after battles with conservatives, cancer and Common Core

Molly Beck: “The ability for school boards to use charters as kind of an incubator — I think that’s great,” Evers said, who lamented that the public often conflates private voucher schools with charter schools. Evers, who now opposes the expansion of taxpayer-funded school vouchers in Wisconsin, also once voiced support for them in 2000 … Continue reading Tony Evers seeks a third term after battles with conservatives, cancer and Common Core

Can High Standards and Accountability Co-Exist? Lessons From the Common Core Assessment Consortia

Ashley Joachim & Patrick McGuinn The Common Core State Standards Initiative was designed to solve a problem that has plagued past standard-setting efforts. Many states responded to earlier efforts by watering down their standards for learning and lowering expectations for students in an attempt to artificially boost the number of students that reached proficiency. By … Continue reading Can High Standards and Accountability Co-Exist? Lessons From the Common Core Assessment Consortia

Love It or Hate It, Common Core is Giving Us Interesting Data About Black Student Achievement

neeravkingsland: table below to compare New Orleans African-American students and economically disadvantages students against the same subgroups in other places across all subjects in grades 3-8, with the hope that looking across grades and varied proficiency differentials might illuminate trends. It should be noted that New Orleans students used paper and pencil versions, so in … Continue reading Love It or Hate It, Common Core is Giving Us Interesting Data About Black Student Achievement

Louisiana Teachers Show How Common Core Advances Classroom Learning 

Get it right: For example, Ms. Richard notes that the previous English/language arts standards might have asked students to identify a main character in a story. “Now, I may ask my students, ‘How do the actions of the main character affect the plot of the story?’” she said. “They’re going so much deeper. They’re having … Continue reading Louisiana Teachers Show How Common Core Advances Classroom Learning 

Estimate: Common Core To Cost California Nearly $10 Billion, Nation $80 Billion

Joy Pullman: A California commission has just decided the technology costs for Common Core tests are an unfunded mandate, which will require state taxpayers to cough up approximately $4 billion more to local school districts, Californian and former U.S. Department of Education official Ze’ev Wurman tells The Federalist. This adds to the extra $3.5 billion … Continue reading Estimate: Common Core To Cost California Nearly $10 Billion, Nation $80 Billion

How the Common Core Is Transforming the SAT

Emmanuel Felton: High-school students who enjoy obscure vocabulary and puzzle-like math problems might want to sign up for the SAT now, before the 89-year-old college-admissions test is revamped this March to better reflect what students are learning in high-school classrooms in the age of the Common Core. While other standardized tests have also been criticized … Continue reading How the Common Core Is Transforming the SAT

N.J. PARCC Drill-Down: Reality Hurts and Common Core Works

Laura Waters: The New Jersey Department of Education released the state’s first PARCC results yesterday afternoon. No surprises here: student proficiency scores were lower because the tests are actually aligned with grade-appropriate content, unlike N.J.’s now-defunct ASK and HSPA assessments. As NJ Spotlight reports, “The numbers were stark: Just 44 percent of third-graders and 36 … Continue reading N.J. PARCC Drill-Down: Reality Hurts and Common Core Works

Common Core Flop/Flip & Flip/Flop

Wheeler Report (PDF): For this reason, many of us were initially encouraged when you indicated that you would defund Wisconsin’s participation in the Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium (SBAC) via your proposed 2015-2017 biennial budget. We hoped for substantive movement, at long last, on an issue that affects most children, parents, and teachers in Wisconsin. However, … Continue reading Common Core Flop/Flip & Flip/Flop

Don’t Shrink Fiction In America’s Common Core Reading Lists

Warren Adler: There is nothing wrong with providing young students with more access to non-fiction and its many manifestations that include all the documentation of historical facts, biography, science, government, analysis, travel, real life adventure and anything else in this category. Any scrap of informational reading is absolutely essential to a well-rounded education and deserves … Continue reading Don’t Shrink Fiction In America’s Common Core Reading Lists

Common Core Is Leaving My Students Behind

Brian Zorn: The mission of American education is “No Child Left Behind.” For me as a special-education teacher in New York state, that means making my students feel worthwhile and giving them the confidence they need to succeed—academically and socially. Yet New York’s statewide English language arts (ELA) and mathematics exams unduly humiliate children in … Continue reading Common Core Is Leaving My Students Behind

Common problems with Common Core reporting

Alexander Russo: “Something big is happening in New Jersey,” PBS NewsHour special correspondent John Merrow intones ominously at the start of last week’s NewsHour segment on standardized testing in New Jersey and elsewhere. “It’s happening in Newark … . It’s happening in Montclair … . And it’s happening in the state capital.” The “something big,” … Continue reading Common problems with Common Core reporting

Latest glitch delays Common Core exam in Wisconsin

Erin Richards: The new standardized state achievement exam has been in the works for years, and is expected to be a much better gauge of student performance than the old pencil-and-paper, fill-in-the-bubble Wisconsin Knowledge and Concepts Exam. The Badger Exam will be taken online and should be tougher, because it will align with the more … Continue reading Latest glitch delays Common Core exam in Wisconsin

Wisconsin students will take scaled back Common Core-aligned tests this spring

Molly Beck Wisconsin students are set to take a new kind of standardized test next month — one that is online, interactive and expected to be more rigorous than the annual pencil-and-paper exam given to students for years. But a technical glitch in the creation of the new test for students in third through eighth … Continue reading Wisconsin students will take scaled back Common Core-aligned tests this spring

Who was behind the Common Core math standards, and will they survive?

Sarah Garland: Every Saturday morning at 10 a.m., Jason Zimba begins a math tutoring session for his two young daughters with the same ritual. His youngest, Claire, 4, draws on a worksheet while his oldest, Abigail, 7, pulls math problems written on strips of paper out of an old Kleenex box, decorated like a piggy … Continue reading Who was behind the Common Core math standards, and will they survive?

The Man Behind Common Core Math Standards

Sarah Garland: Every Saturday morning at 10 a.m., Jason Zimba begins a math tutoring session for his two young daughters with the same ritual. Claire, 4, draws on a worksheet while Abigail, 7, pulls addition problems written on strips of paper out of an old Kleenex box decorated like a piggy bank. If she gets … Continue reading The Man Behind Common Core Math Standards

Jeb Bush speaks up for Common Core

Chloe Sorvino: “In my view, the rigour of the Common Core state standards must be the new minimum in classrooms,” Mr Bush said. “For those states choosing a path other than Common Core, I say this: Aim even higher. Be bolder. Raise standards and ask more of our students and the system, because I know … Continue reading Jeb Bush speaks up for Common Core

On Common Core Reading

NPR: All week we’ve been reporting on big changes in reading instruction brought on by the Common Core State Standards: a doubling-down on evidence-based reading, writing and speaking; increased use of nonfiction; and a big push to get kids reading more “complex texts.” Whatever you think of these shifts, they’re meaningless ideas without a classroom … Continue reading On Common Core Reading

Fight Is On for Common Core Contracts

Caroline Porter: As states race to implement the Common Core academic standards, companies are fighting for a slice of the accompanying testing market, expected to be worth billions of dollars in coming years. That jockeying has brought allegations of bid-rigging in one large pricing agreement involving 11 states—the latest hiccup as the math and reading … Continue reading Fight Is On for Common Core Contracts

Dormant for now, expect Common Core to flare in next Scott Walker term

Alan Borsuk: January approaches and so, presumably, does the first hot round of education action of the second term of Republican Gov. Scott Walker. There will be many other rounds, especially by the time the state budget is completed in June. In solidly re-electing Walker on Tuesday, Wisconsin voters made clear which side is going … Continue reading Dormant for now, expect Common Core to flare in next Scott Walker term

A Math Teacher on Common Core

Brooke Powers: Before Common Core I was a typical math teacher. I had my curriculum maps and and state standards which read like a skill and drill check list that I marked off one by one whether the kids understood them or not. I used really “great” methods and math terminology like “butterfly method”, “keep … Continue reading A Math Teacher on Common Core

Rejecting Common Core & Rigor?

Stephanie Simon: “We should be completely prepared for lots of folks to get cold feet starting now,” said Andy Smarick, a policy analyst at Bellwether Education Partners. States that have already moved to Common Core tests have seen student scores plunge and parent protests soar — and as the spring testing season creeps closer, similar … Continue reading Rejecting Common Core & Rigor?

Common Core Math Will Reduce Enrollment in High-Level High School Courses

Pioneer Institute via a kind Richard Phelps email: Study Finds Common Core Math Standards Will Reduce Enrollment in High-Level High School Math Courses, Dumb Down College STEM Curriculum Lower standards, alignment of SAT to Common Core likely to hurt low-income students the most Common Core math standards (CCMS) end after just a partial Algebra II … Continue reading Common Core Math Will Reduce Enrollment in High-Level High School Courses

Undoing the ‘Rote Understanding’ Approach to Common Core Math Standards

Barry Garelick, via a kind email: A video about how the Common Core is teaching young students how to do addition problems is making the rounds on the internet: http://rare.us/story/watch-common-core-take-56-seconds-to-solve-96/ Much ballyhoo is being made of this. Given the prevailing interpretation of Common Core math standards, the furor is understandable. The purveyors of these standards … Continue reading Undoing the ‘Rote Understanding’ Approach to Common Core Math Standards

For the Common Core, A Different Sort of Benchmark

“But we do have an example of the kind of approach to standard-setting I admire that should be getting much more attention than it has yet received: the work of Will Fitzhugh, publisher of The Concord Review”—It was [is] the examples, not the declarative statements of the standards, that really ‘set the standard.’” Marc Tucker: … Continue reading For the Common Core, A Different Sort of Benchmark

Melinda Gates On Common Core Concerns

WBUR: The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation is perhaps best known for funding global health programs, but in the U.S., it has focused largely on education. The foundation has strongly backed the national education guidelines known as the Common Core. The standards in math and English that specify what skills a student should have for … Continue reading Melinda Gates On Common Core Concerns

Politics, Wisconsin & The Common Core, Part 34

Alan Borsuk: Here’s a suggestion for something to include in Wisconsin-specific education standards for Wisconsin children: By the end of first grade, children will know that two Badgers plus two Badgers equals four Badgers. You want Indiana-specific standards for Indiana kids? By the end of first grade, children will know that two Hoosiers plus two … Continue reading Politics, Wisconsin & The Common Core, Part 34

Politics, Wisconsin & the Common Core

Erin Richards & Patrick Marley: Gov. Scott Walker’s call to drop the Common Core State Standards in Wisconsin threw a new dart at the beleaguered academic expectations this week. But his plan to have lawmakers pass a bill in January that repeals and replaces the standards might be easier said than done, especially because the … Continue reading Politics, Wisconsin & the Common Core

A new front has opened in the Common Core wars — over testing contracts.

Stephanie Simon & Caitlin Emma: The high-stakes battle is undermining one of the Obama administration’s most prized initiatives: its vision, backed by more than $370 million in federal funds, of testing students across the country on a common set of exams in math, reading and writing. The administration wants children in Mississippi to be measured … Continue reading A new front has opened in the Common Core wars — over testing contracts.

One-time Jindal ally blasts Common Core move

Stephanie Simon: A longtime ally of Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal is accusing the governor of violating the civil rights of poor children with his abrupt decision last week to renounce the Common Core academic standards. State Superintendent John White has previously said the governor had no authority to scrap the Common Core or to pull … Continue reading One-time Jindal ally blasts Common Core move

Common Core, in 9-Year-Old Eyes

Javier Hernandez: He could have written about the green toy truck he kept hidden in his room, a reminder of Haiti, a place he did not yet fully understand. He might have mentioned the second-place trophy he had won for reciting a psalm in French at church — “le bonheur et la grâce m’accompagneront tous … Continue reading Common Core, in 9-Year-Old Eyes

How Bill Gates pulled off the swift Common Core revolution

Lyndsey Layton: The pair of education advocates had a big idea, a new approach to transform every public-school classroom in America. By early 2008, many of the nation’s top politicians and education leaders had lined up in support. But that wasn’t enough. The duo needed money — tens of millions of dollars, at least — … Continue reading How Bill Gates pulled off the swift Common Core revolution

Big Data, Common Core, and National Testing

Pioneer Institute: May 2014 A Pioneer Institute White Paper by Emmett McGroarty, Joy Pullmann, and Jane Robbins New technology allows advocates for education as workforce development to accomplish what has long been out of their reach: the collection of data on every child, beginning with preschool or even earlier, and using that data to track … Continue reading Big Data, Common Core, and National Testing

2+2=What? Parents rail against Common Core math

Michael Rubinkam: What could be so horrible? Grade-school math. As schools around the U.S. implement national Common Core learning standards, parents trying to help their kids with math homework say that adding, subtracting, multiplying and dividing has become as complicated as calculus. They’re stumped by unfamiliar terms like “rectangular array” and “area model.” They wrestle … Continue reading 2+2=What? Parents rail against Common Core math

Parent to Obama: Let me tell you about the Common Core test Malia and Sasha don’t have to take but Eva does

Rebecca Steinitz: We have something very important in common: daughters in the seventh grade. Since your family walked onto the national stage in 2007, I’ve had a feeling that our younger daughters have a lot in common, too. Like my daughter Eva, Sasha appears to be a funny, smart, loving girl, who has no problem … Continue reading Parent to Obama: Let me tell you about the Common Core test Malia and Sasha don’t have to take but Eva does

Social Studies Standards: “Doing” Common Core Social Studies: Promoting Radical Activism under the Obama Department of Education

“Were the Common Core authors serious about ‘college-readiness,’ they would have taken their cue from publisher Will Fitzhugh, who for decades has been swimming against the tide of downgraded writing standards (blogging, journal-writing, video-producing). To this end, he has been publishing impressive student history papers in his scholarly journal, The Concord Review. The new (CC) … Continue reading Social Studies Standards: “Doing” Common Core Social Studies: Promoting Radical Activism under the Obama Department of Education

Wisconsin Sen. Olsen unbowed by pressure from Common Core opponents

WisPolitics Olsen said he sees the Common Core standards as an improvement over Wisconsin’s old standards and points to support from the conservative Fordham Foundation and business leaders like Bill Gates, who argue the standards are needed to remain competitive in a global economy. He wants to avoid a situation similar to Indiana, which dropped … Continue reading Wisconsin Sen. Olsen unbowed by pressure from Common Core opponents

The Common Core makes simple math more complicated. Here’s why.

Libby Nelson: You might not know what a number sentence is. Neither does Stephen Colbert, who recently suggested “word equation” and “formula paragraph” as nonsensical synonyms. But millions of American students soon will. Math education is in the middle of big changes — including new ways of learning that might frustrate parents even more than … Continue reading The Common Core makes simple math more complicated. Here’s why.

We Need to Talk About the Test: A problem with the common core

Elizabeth Phillips I’D like to tell you what was wrong with the tests my students took last week, but I can’t. Pearson’s $32 million contract with New York State to design the exams prohibits the state from making the tests public and imposes a gag order on educators who administer them. So teachers watched hundreds … Continue reading We Need to Talk About the Test: A problem with the common core

A Progress Report on (math &) the Common Core

Tom Loveless: William H. Schmidt of Michigan State University presented research on the Common Core State Standards (CCSS) for Mathematics at the National Press Club on May 3, 2012.[1] A paper based on the same research, co-authored with Richard T. Houang, was published in Educational Researcher in October 2012.[2] Schmidt and Houang’s study (also referred … Continue reading A Progress Report on (math &) the Common Core

Educators launch defense of Common Core at Senate hearing

Erin Richards: More than more than 100 superintendents and school board members packed a Senate chamber Thursday in opposition to a bill that could derail the transition to new educational standards in Wisconsin. At issue are the Common Core State Standards, a set of expectations for English and math instruction that most states have adopted … Continue reading Educators launch defense of Common Core at Senate hearing

Kill the bill that would let politicians muck around with Common Core standards, says education dean

Pat Schneider Tim Slekar, the dean of education at Edgewood College and outspoken critic of corporate-driven education “reform,” couldn’t read another word about Wisconsin GOP legislators’ plan to rewrite the state’s educational standards without saying something about it. “Someone has to say it: Any bill that would allow politicians the ability to directly and/or indirectly … Continue reading Kill the bill that would let politicians muck around with Common Core standards, says education dean

Union Leaders Put Common Core in the Cold

Tim Daly:

This week, National Education Association (NEA) president Dennis Van Roekel released an open letter to his members criticizing the implementation of the Common Core State Standards and demanding a series of “course corrections,” without which NEA will no longer back the initiative.
Van Roekel joins Randi Weingarten, the president of the smaller and more urban American Federation of Teachers, in turning his back on the new standards, which were voluntarily adopted and designed to establish a more credible and consistent definition of proficiency across academic subjects.
It’s worth keeping a few things in mind.

Proposed Wisconsin Academic Standards Bills (Replacing the “Common Core”)

The Wisconsin Reading Coalition, via a kind email:

The following links provide a lot of additional details on the legislation that would replace the Common Core State Standards within 12 months with model academic standards created in Wisconsin. Please stay informed and contact your legislators with your thoughts.

2013 Senate Bill 619.
Assembly Substitute Amendment 1 to Assembly Bill 617 (ASA1/AB617)
.
Video message from Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction Tony Evers.
Related:
Governor Scott Walker staff drafted bill aimed at Common Core State Standards.
A Critique of the Wisconsin DPI and Proposed School Choice Changes.

After the heat, will Common Core standards shed light?

Alan Borsuk:

The Common Core standards call for fifth graders to understand metaphors. So here’s a story from my life last week that I fear may end up being a metaphor for the Common Core campaign.
I had a flat tire. AAA came promptly, put on that weird little spare in my trunk, and didn’t charge me anything. It turned out there was a nail in the tread.
The tire was repaired and put back on my car. In a pleasant surprise, I didn’t have to pay for the repair because the tire was under warranty.
I was quite pleased to have this fixed for free. But then I thought how I really had paid, both with my AAA dues and with the money the tire cost me. Furthermore, I realized things had been returned only to where they started — I had the same tire on the car and nothing was actually any different than before I ran over the nail.
Are you paying attention, fifth graders? Here’s the metaphor: The tire episode was a fair amount of hassle, it’s over now, I dealt with it, but nothing was really better in the end.
Is this where we’re headed with the Common Core? A lot of work for the same results?

Teacher teams, instructional materials bring Common Core to Madison students

Nora Hertel:

Fourth grade teacher Carissa Franz starts her lessons by outlining the Common Core standards she and her students will focus on. Franz is in her second year at Ray W. Huegel Elementary School, and uses the standards to drive her teaching this year.
She and teachers throughout Madison are integrating the new Common Core State Standards, adopted by State Superintendent Tony Evers in 2010, into their curriculums with the help of new Common Core-aligned materials and district-supported teacher teams
The changeover to Common Core is a deliberate process. Franz meets monthly with the superintendent as part of a teacher advisory board that shares the “voice of the teachers” with the district, she said.
Every week, she meets with a group of teachers representing each grade level in her school to discuss how to align the standards and the math materials used district-wide with the needs of Huegel’s classrooms.

Common Core Doesn’t Add Up to STEM Success

Sandra Stotsky:

As a former member of the Common Core Validation Committee and the Massachusetts Board of Elementary and Secondary Education, I am one of the few mothers to have heard the full sales pitch for this latest educational reform, which has been adopted by 45 states.
I know the Common Core buzz words, from “deeper learning” and “critical thinking” to “fewer, clearer, and higher standards.” It all sounds impressive, but I’m worried that the students who study under these standards won’t receive anywhere near the quality of education that children in the U.S. did even a few years ago.
President Obama correctly noted in September 2012 that “leadership tomorrow depends on how we educate our students today–especially in science, technology, engineering and math.” He has placed a priority on increasing the number of students and teachers who are proficient in these vital STEM fields. And the president’s National Math and Science Initiative is strongly supported by people like Suzanne McCarron, president of the Exxon Mobil XOM -0.24% Foundation, who has said she wants to “inspire our nation’s youth to pursue STEM careers by capturing their interest at an early age.”
Yet the basic mission of Common Core, as Jason Zimba, its leading mathematics standards writer, explained at a videotaped board meeting in March 2010, is to provide students with enough mathematics to make them ready for a nonselective college–“not for STEM,” as he put it. During that meeting, he didn’t tell us why Common Core aimed so low in mathematics. But in a September 2013 article published in the Hechinger Report, an education news website affiliated with Columbia University’s Teachers College, Mr. Zimba admitted: “If you want to take calculus your freshman year in college, you will need to take more mathematics than is in the Common Core.”

Commentary: The Idiot’s Guide to the Common Core Standards

Ellie Herman:

How much do you know about the Common Core Standards? Choose all that apply. The Common Core is:
a) a new set of nationwide standards that will encourage deep thinking instead of rote memorization
b) a new round of edu-crap, like No Child Left Behind
c) replacing state standards in 45 states including California
d) causing surprisingly large numbers of students to freak out and start weeping uncontrollably during initial tests all across the East Coast
e) causing Arne Duncan to infuriate opponents by dismissing them as “white suburban moms”
f) going to push fiction out of English classrooms
g) going to have no effect on the teaching of fiction
h) going to change everything
i) going to change nothing
j) going to make testing companies billions of dollars

Wisconsin DPI collecting testimony on Common Core

Wisconsin Reading Coalition, via a kind email:

DPI held public hearings on the Common Core State Standard today, December 19, in Milwaukee, LaCrosse, and Ashland. The public may submit written testimony on the CCSS to DPI until January 3, 2014. Testimony may be send via email to CCSSTestimony @dpi.wi.gov or mailed to DPI at P.O. Box 7841, Madison, WI 53707-7841.
This is separate from the legislative hearings on the CCSS which were held in October. The following information has been provided by DPI to update us on developments since the legislative hearings.
NEW Developments since October Hearing Opportunity
On December 11, the Assembly special committee on CCSS released the following report and on December 12, voted on eight recommendations crafted after hearing public testimony at the four hearings in October. Read more about the outcome of that vote from the committee chair press release here or view the Wisconsin Eye video of this vote and discussion here (120 min).
On December 11, the Senate special committee released their report and recommendations. It is unclear whether the Senate committee will also vote on their recommendations.

Comments made by Wis. superintendents on Common Core standards released

channel3000.com:

Responses from nearly 100 school superintendents across Wisconsin with their feelings about the Common Core academic standards have been released by a legislative committee.
The special panel created by Republicans to study the standards released results of the four-question survey on Tuesday. The committee is expected to release its recommendations related to the Common Core curriculum on Wednesday and vote on it Thursday.
The survey was sent to all 426 public school districts in Wisconsin and 94 superintendents responded. Their comments can be seen online.

View the complete report, here (24mb PDF).

Politics & Common Core

Jessica Vanegeren:

When asked if politics and the resistance from the tea party had eroded the chances of Common Core moving forward in Wisconsin, Evers said the politics surrounding the issue have created a lot of misinformation.
“It’s important for everyone, including those on these committees, to realize that this is about our students being college and career ready,” Evers said. “These standards have been embraced by districts across the state for the past three years. I think it is the right thing to do for the kids to keep the standards in place. That’s the bottom line.”

‘White moms’ remark fuels Common Core clash

Stephanie Simon:

“Do we want more for our kids, or do we want less?” Duncan said. “Do we want higher standards or not?”
That’s the debate that Duncan dearly wants to have.
It’s not, however, the debate he’s getting.
To the immense frustration of Common Core supporters, an eclectic array of critics have raised sustained and impassioned objections about the new standards. From New York to Florida to Michigan to Louisiana, their voices are so loud and their critiques so varied that they have muddied the narrative around Common Core. It’s no longer a focused national debate about high standards; it’s hundreds of local debates, about everything from student privacy rights to cursive handwriting to computerized testing to the value of Shakespeare.
Over the summer, Duncan complained that opponents were “fringe groups” who make “outlandish claims” about “really wacky stuff” such as “mind control, robots, and biometric brain mapping.” There is undoubtedly some of that.

Schools expert Diane Ravitch warns Wisconsin off Common Core standards

Catherine Capellaro:

Less than a decade ago, Ravitch promoted many of the same policies she now rails against. As assistant secretary of education under George H.W. Bush, and then as head of the federal testing program, she led the charge for state and national academic standards and supported ideas of “choice” and merit pay. “I believed in those things because in theory they made a lot of sense,” Ravitch says when I ask about her dramatic about-face. “It sounds right that if you pay teachers a bonus they’ll get higher scores. It just doesn’t work.”
Ravitch went public with her change of heart in her 2010 book The Death and Life of the Great American School System: How Testing and Choice Are Undermining Education. In her new book, she uses data to rebut arguments for market-based solutions to education problems.
“When you look at the data, the test scores have never been higher in the last 40 years,” says Ravitch. “Dropouts have never been lower than they are today.”
Real gaps
“The achievement gap is real,” Ravitch told me when I brought up Madison’s racial and economic disparities.
She points to research showing the only time the black-white achievement gap has narrowed was in the late 1970s and early 1980s because of concerted efforts to desegregate schools, reduce class size, increase access to early childhood education and target federal resources to schools with low-income students.
But today’s leaders have abandoned solutions that work, says Ravitch, who comes down as hard on President Barack Obama and Education Secretary Arne Duncan as she does on conservatives. “Our policymakers have given up on reducing class size,” she adds, saying she visits classes with up to 40 students. “Are there expanding opportunities for African American families? Our society has thrown up its hands, and we’re resegregating

A ridiculous Common Core test for first graders

Carol Burris:

My speech teacher came to see me. She was both angry and distraught. In her hand was her 6-year-old’s math test. On the top of it was written, “Topic 2, 45%”. On the bottom, were the words, “Copyright @ Pearson Education.” After I got over my horror that a first-grader would take a multiple-choice test with a percent-based grade, I started to look at the questions.
The test provides insight into why New York State parents are up in arms about testing and the Common Core. With mom’s permission, I posted the test here. Take a look at question No. 1, which shows students five pennies, under which it says “part I know,” and then a full coffee cup labeled with a “6″ and, under it, the word, “Whole.” Students are asked to find “the missing part” from a list of four numbers. My assistant principal for mathematics was not sure what the question was asking. How could pennies be a part of a cup?

Commentary on the Common Core & Madison Schools

Madison School Board President Ed Hughes:

As I hope someone might have noticed, I have not been posting much lately. Part of the reason is that I have another outlet. I have been writing a column in the school district’s bi-weekly family newsletter.
My latest column focused on a recent School Board retreat where we learned more about the Common Core State Standards. Even though the family newsletter is a district publication, I should point out that the views I express in the column (as well as in this blog) are my own and do not necessarily represent the views, positions or policies of the Madison Metropolitan School District. But however unofficial my words may be, here is what I wrote:
On Saturday, September 28, the Madison School Board held the first of our quarterly board retreats. We get together on a Saturday for an extended discussion of a few topics of particular interest. Our focus this time was on the much-misunderstood Common Core academic standards for literacy and math.

Wisconsin’s Common Core education standards face public, GOP scrutiny

Jon Swedien:

Tom Larson is one of the legislators responsible for reviewing the set of academic standards for public schools in Wisconsin, yet the rural Colfax assemblyman admitted last week that he was still trying to catch up with the arguments swirling around the “Common Core.”
In 2010, state schools Superintendent Tony Evers voluntarily agreed to adopt the Common Core State Standards, which cover math and English and promote literacy in history/social studies, science and technical subjects for students from kindergarten through high school. According to the Common Core website, the standards also define a vision of what it means to be a literate person in the 21st century.
On paper, that all sounds good, but, in the real world, the Common Core standards have sparked a firestorm of controversy in the Badger State and elsewhere.
Speaking Monday before a group of local education officials in Eau Claire, Larson said he had been selected as one of nine representatives to sit on the Assembly Select Committee on Common Core Standards.

Related: the oft criticized WKCE.

Common Core & “Local Control”

Michael Hancock and Kevin Johnson, Angel Taveras and Julian Castro:

Lagging far behind their international peers. Shamefully low reading and math competency. A staggering achievement gap. We’ve heard the alarming statistics about the trajectory of American students. After 10 years, No Child Left Behind has failed to put American children back on a competitive academic track.
But we are beginning to see real results in America’s cities, the epicenters of innovation, including the four we lead: Denver; Providence, R.I.; San Antonio; and Sacramento, Calif.
Long before we entered the political arena, each of us lived in the city we now lead. We attended public schools and sat at those desks — and through that connection, we know that public education can work.
One lesson is that education doesn’t need to be a partisan battleground. Far from Washington, smart education policy is uniting even the most strident opponents.
Take the Common Core curriculuma which was first promoted by the National Governors Association and has now been adopted by 45 states. Common Core improves on NCLB by putting more influence into the hands of those on the ground, breathing new life into an old Tip O’Neill axiom: Not only is all politics local, but effective education policy is even more local.

Move to Common Core standards brings more questions than answers

Alan Borsuk:

A lot of the currently hot controversy over the Common Core State Standards for kindergarten through 12th grade has to do with the role of standardized testing. Being a contrary kind of person, that leads me to offer this highly unstandardized test, including a few comments on some of the questions:
One: Do you have any idea what we’re talking about?
This really interests me. Just about every school in Wisconsin is deep into some pretty important changes in the goals for what kids should learn and how they should be taught when it comes to reading, language arts and math. This is part of a nationwide effort called the Common Core State Standards, launched several years ago by the National Governors Association and the organization of education chiefs of each state, with backing from major business leaders. Forty-five states are taking part. But opposition to the standards has been rising. An eight-hour public hearing Thursday before a legislative committee in Madison was called largely so foes of the standards could air their views. Three more hearings around the state (none in the Milwaukee area) are scheduled this month.

Common Core’s enemies are another reason to support it

Chris Rickert

There’s a pretty good chance Scott Walker doesn’t know much about Common Core, the new set of education standards for kindergarten through high school being adopted by states and school districts across the country.
It’s not surprising, then, that when his spokesman was asked Tuesday to explain what his boss meant when he said the standards might be too weak, this newspaper got no response. It’s likely that Walker doesn’t know what he meant.
He’s not alone — a poll recently found that two-thirds of Americans hadn’t even heard of Common Core — and that’s unfortunate because it leaves the door open for those at the extreme ends of the political spectrum to step into the vacuum.
In May, state tea party groups sent a letter to Walker and the Legislature accusing the Common Core of being all sorts of bad things, including an “educational fraud” and something of a federal takeover of education.

I welcome Common Core education standards, but let’s not forget creativity

Ashley Lauren Samsa:

Across the nation, students and teachers are headed back to school. Teachers, such as myself, are furiously preparing their classrooms to welcome students and planning new lessons to ensure that this year is an educational one.
For many across the country, the planning and preparation has taken a new turn with the official adoption of the Common Core education standards – President Obama’s replacement for No Child Left Behind. The Common Core includes new definitions for school success as well as new national standards for core subjects such as reading, writing and math. Before the Common Core, states had the ability to create their own standards, meaning a student in Illinois might be held to one level of expectations while a student in Arkansas might be held to another. This caused many problems in education, especially when students moved from state to state. The Common Core now unites all of the participating states with the same standards that are both rigorous and skills-based with a focus on utilizing technology in the classroom.
In many ways, this is a great thing both for students and for teachers. Main subject classes have long been behind the curve when it comes to utilizing technology in the classroom. Being technologically competent is now considered a vital life skill, not to mention something today’s students need if they are ever going to be employable. English classes in particular have been a little lost in the digital age; when we English teachers went to school, we had been taught to teach literature as an art form for the sake of the appreciation of beauty. Now, with fewer and fewer students going on to study the humanities, we have been tasked with making our classes relevant to the masses. The Common Core’s skills based standards could help us do just that. With the focus no longer on content, we can teach whatever pieces we want in our classroom, as long as students are being taught how to read, write, and think critically.

Despite Common Core, States Still Lack Common Standards

Paul Peterson & Peter Kaplan:

Only 35 percent of U.S. 8th graders were identified as proficient in math by the 2011 National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP). According to the most recent calculations available, the United States stands at the 32nd rank in math among nations in the industrialized world. In reading, the U.S. ranks 17th in the world (see “Are U.S. Students Ready to Compete?” features, Fall 2011).
The low performance of U.S. students has been attributed to low expectations set by states under the 2002 federal law, No Child Left Behind (NCLB), which expects all students to reach full proficiency by 2014. In this, the fifth in a series of Education Next reports, we compare the proficiency standards set by each state to those set by NAEP, which has established its proficiency bar at levels comparable to those of international student assessments.
Most states have set their proficiency bars at much lower levels, perhaps because it causes less embarrassment when more students can make it across the proficiency bar, or because it was the easiest way for states to comply with the NCLB requirement to bring all students up to full proficiency.
Unhappy with the low level and wide variation in state standards, the National Governors Association and the Council of Chief State School Officers, with the financial backing of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and the political support of the U.S. Department of Education (ED), formed a consortium in 2009 that invited each state to join in an effort to set Common Core State Standards (CCSS). Those states that take that step and institute other education reforms improve their chances of receiving an ED waiver of onerous NCLB regulations. That waiver, which has been granted to 37 states and the District of Columbia, provides a strong incentive to participate in CCSS. (Virginia is the only state to receive a waiver without adopting the standards.)

Five Complications for Common Core Education Standards

Mike McShane:

Last week, Secretary of Education Arne Duncan gave a speech to the Society of News Editors that Education Week called “The strongest defense yet of Common Core Standards.”
In it, he said that the Common Core – educational standards that are being adopted by most states – “has become a rallying cry for fringe groups,” that opposition has been “misguided” and “misinformed” and that legislation in state houses across the country aimed at stopping the standards is “based on false information.”
While it is true that some criticism of the Common Core has been over the top, it is also true that the Common Core does not have to be a malign conspiracy to be problematic.
Even if you believe that the standards are a “boon” for schools, as the Washington Post’s and USA Today’s editorial boards do, it is important to recognize that the Common Core’s ultimate success will hinge on its implementation. As such, several issues loom large.

Stop the Rush to the Common Core

Neal McCluskey, Williamson Evers and Sandra Stotsky:

The Common Core — effectively national math and English curriculum standards coming soon to a school near you — is supposed to be a new, higher bar that will take the United States from the academic doldrums to international dominance.
So why is there so much unhappiness about it? There didn’t seem to be much just three years ago. Back then, state school boards and governors were sprinting to adopt the Core. In practically the blink of an eye, 45 states had signed on.
But states weren’t leaping because they couldn’t resist the Core’s academic magnetism. They were leaping because it was the Great Recession — and the Obama administration was dangling a $4.35 billion Race to the Top carrot in front of them. Big points in that federal program were awarded for adopting the Core, so, with little public debate, most did.
Major displeasure has come only recently, because only recently has implementation hit the district level. And that means moms, dads and other citizens have recently gotten a crash course in the Core.
Their opposition has been sudden and potent — with several states now considering legislation to either slow or end implementation, and Indiana, Pennsylvania and Michigan having officially paused it.

The UnCommon Core of Learning: Researching and Writing the Term Paper

Michael F. Shaughnessy
Eastern New Mexico University
Portales, New Mexico
1) Will, you have been advocating for the high school term paper for years–why the persistence?
I have worked on The Concord Review for 26 years for several reasons. It pays almost nothing, but we have no children, the house is paid for and my wife has a teacher’s pension. Most of all, I am constantly inspired by the diligent work of high school students from 39 countries on their history research papers. I thought, when I started in 1987, that I would get papers of 4,000, words. But I have been receiving serious readable interesting history research papers of 8,000, 11,000, 13,000 words and more by secondary students, who are often doing independent studies to compete for a place in this unique international journal.
2) I remember with fondness, my term papers in both high school and college–and the feeling of accomplishment I received. Am I alone in this regard?
We did the only study done so far in the United States of the assignment of term paper in U.S. public high schools and about 85% of them never assign even the 4,000-word papers I had hoped for. Most American high school students just don’t do term papers. Teachers say they are too busy, and students are quite reluctant to attempt serious papers on their own, so they arrive in college quite unprepared for college term paper assignments. Many of our authors say that their history papers were the most important and most satisfying work they did in high school.
3) People write and talk about “curriculum issues”–are there any curriculums that you are aware of that focus on library research and writing?
As you know the hottest topic in American education now is “The Common Core Standards,” which are quite explicit in saying over and over that they are “not a curriculum.” They say that nonfiction reading is important, but they recommend no history books, and they say nonfiction writing is important, but they provide no examples, of the kind they might find, for example, in the last 97 issues of The Concord Review. To my mind, the CC initiative is “full of sound and fury, signifying nothing” as the man said. As you know, by a huge margin, the focus for writing in our schools is on personal and creative writing and the five-paragraph essay, even for high school students.
4) Let’s discuss some of the skills needed to write a good term paper–what would you say they are?
The most important skill or effort that leads to a good term paper is lots and lots of reading. Too often our literacy experts try to force students to write when they have read nothing and really have nothing to say. So the focus becomes the students’ personal life, which is often none of the teachers’ business, and there is little or no effort to have students read history books and learn about something (besides themselves) that would be worth trying hard to write about. Many of our authors learn enough about their topic that they reach a point where they feel that people ought to know about what they have learned–this is great motivation for a good term paper.
5) You have been publishing exemplary high school research papers from around the world for years–how did you get started doing this and why?
I had been teaching for enough years at the public high school in Concord, Massachusetts to earn a sabbatical (1986-1987). That gave me time to read What Do Our 17-Year-Olds Know, Horace’s Compromise, Cultural Literacy and some other books and articles that helped me understand that a concern over students’ knowledge of history and their ability to write term papers was not limited to my classroom or even to my school, but was a national issue. I had usually had a few students in my classes who did more work than they had to, and it occurred to me that if I sent out a call for papers (as I did in August, 1987) to every high school in the United States and Canada and 1,500 schools overseas, I might get some first-rate high school history essays sent to me. I did, and I have now been able to publish 1,066 of them in 97 issues of the journal. [Samples at www.tcr.org.] No one wanted to fund it, so I started The Concord Review with all of an inheritance and the principal from my teacher’s retirement.
6) Has the Internet impacted a high school student’s ability to research? Or is it a different kind of research?
I read history books on my iPad and so can high school history students. I also use the Internet to check facts, and so can students. There is a huge variety of original historical material now available on the Web, as everyone knows, but I would still recommend to students who want to do a serious history research paper that they read a few books and as many articles as they can find on their topic. This will make their paper more worth reading and perhaps worth publishing.
7) It seems that getting a paper into your Concord Review almost always guarantees admission to a top notch college or university–am I off on this?
Thirty percent of our authors have been accepted at Harvard, Princeton, Stanford, and Yale, but I have to remember that these serious authors doing exemplary papers for my journal are usually also outstanding in many other areas as well. A number of our authors have become doctors as well, but at least at one point in their lives they wrote a great history paper!
8) I was recently on the East Coast and was reading The Wall Street Journal and the New York Times. I was astounded by the quality of writing. There are still good writers out there–but do we treasure, promote and encourage good writing?
Those papers can hire a teeny tiny percent of those who want to make a living by their writing, and they provide a great service to the country, but for the vast majority of our high school students, reading and writing are the most dumbed-down parts of their curriculum. Many never get a chance to find out if they could write a serious history paper, because no one ever asks them to try. And remember, we have nationally-televised high school basketball and football games, but no one knows who is published in The Concord Review and they don’t ask to know.
9) What have I neglected to ask?
My greatest complaint these days is that all our EduPundits, it seems, focus their attention on guidelines, standards, principals, teachers, and so on, and pay no attention to the academic work of students. Indiana University recently interviewed 143,000 U.S. high school students, and found that 42.5% do one hour or less a week on homework. But no one mentions that. Our education experts say that the most important variable in student academic achievement is teacher quality (and thus all the attention on selection, training, assessment and firing of teachers). I maintain that the most important variable in student academic achievement is student academic work, to which the experts pay no attention at all. But then, most of them have never been teachers, and so they usually do not know what they are talking about.
www.tcr.org
fitzhugh@tcr.org
The Concord Review

Reconciling the Common Core State Standards with reading research

Wisconsin Reading Coalition, via a kind email:

During her recent visit to CESAs 1 and 6 in Wisconsin, Louisa Moats recorded a podcast on the topic of reconciling the Common Core State Standards with reading research. This podcast, which comes in three parts for viewing, is an excellent source of information on what is necessary to effectively implement the CCSS in the area of reading. You can access the podcast at either of the following sets of links, depending on your computer system.
PART 1 –
aasaonline.mediasite.com/mediasite/Play/c70686d007f74391bc2bebe7c1ed
PART 2 –
aasaonline.mediasite.com/mediasite/Play/5352ade16e8549809f88db8397b1
PART 3 –
aasaonline.mediasite.com/mediasite/Play/ea05e4041b314797a8e7ad2efc8b
OR
PART 1 –
http://aasaonline.mediasite.com/mediasite/Play/c70686d007f74391bc2bebe7c1ed
8aea1d

PART 2 –
http://aasaonline.mediasite.com/mediasite/Play/5352ade16e8549809f88db8397b1
ede11d

PART 3 –
http://aasaonline.mediasite.com/mediasite/Play/ea05e4041b314797a8e7ad2efc8b
1f9d1d

The End of the Beginning for Common Core

Jay Greene:

The folks at Pioneer have landed another blow against Common Core in the mainstream Conservative press. This time Jim Stergios and Jamie Gass have a lengthy piece in the Weekly Standard detailing the start of troubles for Common Core, both substantively and politically. This follows on a piece by Gass and Charles Chieppo in the Wall Street Journal earlier this week. A central part of the strategy for Common Core was to create the impression that it was inevitable, so everybody might as well get on board. That aura of inevitability has been shattered.
My reasons for opposing Common Core are slightly different from those articulated by the folks at Pioneer, but we agree on the political analysis of its fate. To become something meaningful Common Core requires more centralization of power than is possible under our current political system. Pushing it forward requires frightening reductions in parental control over education and expansions of federal power. These are not the unnecessary by-products of a misguided Obama Administration over-reach. Constraining parental choice and increasing federal power were entirely necessary to advance Common Core. And they were perfectly foreseeable (we certainly foresaw these dangers here at JPGB).

Opposition to Common Core standards defies political lines Tea party activists, union leaders form strange bedfellows

Erin Richards

or the past three years, teachers in Wisconsin’s public schools — and some private schools — have been changing curriculum and practices to make sure what’s taught in class fulfills the expectations of a common set of national standards in reading and math.
West Bend School District Superintendent Ted Neitzke calls them the highest standard he’s seen as a teacher.
“West Bend is now benchmarking itself against some of the best school districts in the country, such as Montgomery County, Md., because of the impetus of the Common Core State Standards,” Neitzke told a committee of legislators earlier this month.
“This is putting us in a position to move forward,” he said. “Whatever happens, we can’t go backward.”
But a growing movement of national resistance to the common core threatens to derail a movement that many Wisconsin education leaders say is a big step forward for the state.
Recently lawmakers in at least nine states have introduced legislation that would pause or block implementation of the common core. And last week the Wisconsin Legislature’s Joint Finance Committee made a less aggressive move, voting to implement a more rigorous review process for any new standards introduced.

The GOP and the Common Core

Chester E. Finn Jr.:

Though few Americans have ever heard of the “Common Core,” it’s causing a ruckus in education circles and turmoil in the Republican Party. Prompted by tea party activists, a couple of influential talk-radio hosts and bloggers, some disgruntled academics, several conservative think-tanks, and a couple of mysterious but deep-pocketed funders, the Republican National Committee recently adopted a resolution blasting the Common Core as “an inappropriate overreach to standardize and control the education of our children.” Several red states that previously adopted it for their schools are on the verge of backing out. Indiana has already hit the “pause” button.
What, you ask, is this all about?
Thirty years after a blue-ribbon panel declared the United States to be “a nation at risk” due to the weak performance and shoddy results of our public-education system, one of the two great reforms to have enveloped that system is the setting of explicit academic standards in core subjects, standards that make clear what math youngsters should know by the end of fifth grade, what reading and writing skills they must acquire by tenth grade, and so on. (The other great reform: school choice.)
Up to now, individual states set their own academic standards. A few did this well but most, according to reviews undertaken by the Thomas B. Fordham Institute and others, faltered badly, putting forth vague expectations that lack content and rigor, are unhelpful to teachers and curriculum directors, and often promote left-wing dogma. Even the good ones differ so much from state to state that school and student performance cannot be compared around the country, much less with other lands.

Common Core Education Is Uncommonly Inadequate

Jamie Gass & Charles Chieppo:

Massachusetts student test scores on the National Assessment of Educational Progress and SATs were unremarkable in the early 1990s. Then, after a landmark educational reform in 1993, state SAT scores rose for 13 consecutive years. In 2005, Bay State students became the first to score best in the nation in all grades and categories on the National Assessment of Educational Progress. The students have repeated the feat each time the tests have been administered.
How to explain this turnaround? The state’s educational success hinged on rigorous academic standards, teacher testing and high-quality tests that students must pass to graduate from high school. All locally developed, these three factors aligned to produce amazing results.
Unfortunately, Massachusetts dropped its own standards in 2010 to join 44 other states (and the District of Columbia) in adopting the flawed standards of the Common Core. This is an educational program sponsored by the National Governors Association and the Council of Chief State School Officers that has been championed by the Obama administration.
Common Core recycles a decades-old, top-down approach to education. Its roots are in a letter sent to Hillary Clinton by Marc Tucker, president of the National Center on Education and the Economy, after Bill Clinton’s presidential victory in 1992. The letter laid out a plan “to remold the entire American system” into a centralized one run by “a system of labor-market boards at the local, state and federal levels” where curriculum and “job matching” will be handled by government functionaries.

Common Core school standards ruffle feathers among strange bedfellows

Pat Schneider:

Although Common Core state standards for public schools were adopted in Wisconsin back in 2010, they by no means have been readily accepted by groups with an interest in education.
That was vividly apparent Wednesday when voices from the right joined teachers unions in questioning the “reform” standards and how they are being implemented.
It’s not surprising that questions about Common Core are emerging now, Daniel Thatcher, a policy specialist at the National Conference of State Legislatures, told a joint session of the committees on Education, which held an informational hearing at the Capitol.

Common Core Needs More Debate

Neal McCluskey:

Parents in Michigan, like those across the country, want their children to have the tools they need to excel in school and beyond. The Common Core national curriculum standards were sold as the way to give students those tools. But with the standards now being implemented, a growing number of Michiganians — as evidenced by the recent House vote to withhold state funds from Common Core — are having buyer’s remorse. Republican Gov. Rick Snyder’s support for the Core notwithstanding, they’re right to be wary, especially since Core supporters have too often ridiculed dissenters instead of engaging in honest debate.
Supporters of the Core tout the fact that 45 states have adopted the standards, but don’t mistake that for enthusiastic support. Before the standards had even been published, states were coerced into adopting them by President Obama’s Race to the Top program, which tied federal dough to signing on. Even if policymakers in recession-hobbled states like Michigan would have preferred open debate, there was no time. Blink and the money would be gone; which is why most people hadn’t even heard of the standards at adoption time.

Republicans Should Love ‘Common Core’ National standards can revive the way we teach math and science.

Edward Frenkel & Hung-Hsi Wu:

The Common Core State Standards are a set of rigorous academic standards in mathematics and English language arts. They are the culmination of a meticulous, 20-year process initiated by the states and involving teachers, educators, business leaders and policy makers from across the country and both sides of the aisle.
The standards form a foundation for a high-quality education, have been adopted by 45 states and the District of Columbia, and are slated for full implementation in 2014.
Unfortunately, the Republican National Committee recently adopted a resolution rejecting the Core Standards, calling them a “nationwide straitjacket on academic freedom and achievement.” This resolution and efforts under way to repeal the Core Standards in several states are misguided and have to be resisted.
Mathematical education in the U.S. is in deep crisis. The World Economic Forum ranks the quality of math and science education in the U.S. a dismal 48th. This is one of the reasons the 2010 report “Rising Above the Gathering Storm” by the National Academies warned that America’s ability to compete effectively with other nations is fading.

Three part article on the Common Core “Standards for Mathematical Practice”

Barry Garelick, via a kind email

The tendency to interpret the standards along the ideological lines of the reform movement can be seen most readily in how the Standards for Mathematical Practice are interpreted. The SMP themselves are sensible and few mathematicians or teachers would disagree with their principles. Their interpretation and implementation is another matter, however.

Standards for Mathematical Practice: The Cheshire Cat’s Grin.
Standards for Mathematical Practice: Cheshire Cat’s Grin, Part Two
.
Standards for Mathematical Practice: Cheshire Cat’s Grin, Part Three

Turmoil swirling around Common Core education standards

The Washington Post:

As public schools across the country transition to the new Common Core standards, which bring wholesale change to the way math and reading are taught in 45 states and the District, criticism of the approach is emerging from groups as divergent as the tea party and the teachers union.
The standards, written by a group of states and embraced by the Obama administration, set common goals for reading, writing and math skills that students should develop from kindergarten through high school graduation. Although classroom curriculum is left to the states, the standards emphasize critical thinking and problem solving and encourage thinking deeply about fewer topics.
But as the common core shifts from theory to reality, critics are emerging. State lawmakers are concerned about the cost, which the Fordham Institute estimated could run as high as $12 billion nationally. Progressives fret over new exams, saying that the proliferation of standardized tests is damaging public education. Teachers worry that they haven’t had enough training and lack the resources to competently teach to the new standards. And conservatives say the new standards mean a loss of local control over education and amount to a national curriculum. They’ve begun calling it “Obamacore.”
On Tuesday, the head of the American Federation of Teachers and a strong supporter of the Common Core standards will warn that the new approach is being poorly implemented and requires a “mid-course correction” or the effort will fall apart.
“The Common Core is in trouble,” said Randi Weingarten, the union president who is slated to speak Tuesday in New York about the issue. “There is a serious backlash in lots of different ways, on the right and on the left.”

Tracking Measures, Common Core Materials, and Other Timely Topics in Education

Whiteboard Advisers [PDF]

Why or Why Not?

  • “Possibly–I think it depends on the size of the state and who they work with to develop the materials. Broader adoption would depend on them being externally validated in some way.”
  • “The Common Core creates a national market for effective curriculum, and it supports efficient scaling. The Common Core will therefore democratize curriculum development and adoption processes in a manner that will disrupt the current order.”
  • “Ultimately this is all about standardizing America’s classroom and what goes on within it. Like anything else mandated from the top, the first to market are going to have the advantage of stories being written about what they’re doing and then all of a sudden other state [leaders] are going to latch on, thinking A) this must be good for my kids, too, and B) they won’t have the time or the will to tell people they represent why they’re behind the curve.”
  • “First to market will rule the roost. The laggards will simply model on those who come before them, hoping to save money and time.”
  • “It’s too soon to tell. The disappointment here is that states have been unable to coalesce. There is less ‘common’ in the Common Core than people imagined.”
  • “Unless CA, TX, and FL are the ones furthest ahead forget about it. The primary concern of the publishers is making sure the largest states and their state contracts are happy.”

The school standards (common core) debate: time for tech to weigh in

Steve Wildstrom:

Tech people are very fond of whining about the U.S. educational system, complaining that it is not producing the sort of workers they need. With a few notable exceptions-Bill and Melinda Gates and Dean Kamen come quickly to mind-the are much less good when it comes to doing anything about the problems of schools.
OK, here’s your chance. It won’t even cost you anything-calls for better education seem to die quickly in places like Silicon Valley when the talk turns to taxes-except some leadership.
The Common Core State Standards are the most important school reform to come along in many years. The standards fo mathematics and language arts lay out what we expect students to learn, year by year, from kindergarten through high school. They are not a curriculum, but a set of mileposts for what curriculum should cover, and they inject a badly needed dose of rigor into education. If you have any interest in K-12 education, you should take the time to read them here.
Despite a studied effort by their authors and sponsors at the National Governors’ Association and Council of Chief State School Officers to avoid political pitfalls, the standards have come under increasing attack from both the left and right. CCSS was initially adopted by 48 states and the District of Columbia, but three states have withdrawn their support and their is pressure in many others to do the same.
On the left, opposition to CCSS is closely tied to opposition to standardized testing, based on the assumptions, not necessarily warranted, that the standards will lead to increased testing. The anti-testing advocacy group FiarTest argues:

Common Core education standards sweeping Wisconsin schools

Alan Borsuk:

Vouchers, charters, public school spending, treatment of teachers – isn’t there something we’re not fighting about when it comes to education?
Why, yes, and last week’s quiet end to a boring race for state superintendent of public instruction underscores one of the biggest examples of that: The Common Core learning standards initiative.
The Common Core is the biggest thing in Wisconsin education that you hardly ever hear about, unless you’re employed in the school world. Then you hear about it all the time. For a lot of schools, teachers and students, it’s bringing clear, significant and, let us hope, ultimately productive changes in what goes on daily.
Take a tour of a school or talk to school leaders about what they’re up to anywhere in the state and two out of every three sentences you hear include the phrase “Common Core.” At least it feels that way.
In many classrooms, each student now has explicit goals to work on daily (“Use place value understanding to round whole numbers to the nearest 10 or 100,” for example, from the third-grade math standards) and will gladly tell you what standard they’re focused on at the time you ask (I’ve asked). Or perhaps show you the standard and their work on it on their iPad. If this hasn’t come to your child’s school yet, look for something like this soon.
The Common Core movement has swept across the nation in the last five years. It arose largely from among governors, state education chiefs, corporate leaders and education advocates who believed the nation as a whole was not aiming high enough in education and that the wide variation from state to state in defining good achievement and what it takes to get a high school diploma was a problem.

Poor Implementation Undermines Promise Of The Common Core

Stephen Lazar:

The Common Core Learning Standards (CCLS) seek to define “college and career readiness expectations.” Forty-five states have adopted them, and are moving briskly towards full implementation in the coming year. Last January, I wrote that the standards “represent the greatest opportunity for history teaching and learning to be widely re-imagined since the Committee of Ten set the basic outlines for American education over a hundred years ago.”
While I stand by that statement, with each step towards implementation I see the opportunity being squandered. We cannot possibly continue to move solely in the direction of “college and career readiness” in History & Social Studies education without ensuring that “civic” readiness is valued equally. Additionally, we need to ensure that as states write new curricula, that they contain the proper balance of content, skills, and understandings. New curricula will need to ensure students use an inquiry-based approach to go in depth with a smaller amount of content to gain the wider breadth of skills and dispositions required for civic, college, and career readiness.
All teachers working in Common Core states are currently engaging with the changes demanded by the Common Core. In too many places, this is happening without sufficient time and supports, but it is happening very quickly nonetheless. The U.S. and state Departments of Education have poured over half a billion dollars into the assessments already, and, beginning this year, the results will be high-stakes for students and teachers. All systems are moving full speed ahead to assess core skills without sufficient consideration of the end to which these skills are applied. Two things need to happen to avoid driving off a cliff.

Indiana unlikely to shift from Common Core school standards

Tom Davies:

Some parents and others have succeeded in stirring up debate in the Statehouse over whether Indiana should withdraw from uniform reading and math education standards that most states have adopted.
It seems, however, that they’ll have a much more difficult time winning their cause against the Common Core State Standards education initiative.
A bill that could be voted on by the state Senate in the coming week would suspend implementation of the benchmarks at Indiana schools until after the state Board of Education has finished a new review of the standards it adopted in 2010.

Straight Up Conversation: Common Core Guru Jason Zimba

Rick Hess, via a kind reader’s email:

You didn’t think the ferment around Common Core could keep building? Hah! Prepare for several more years of increasing wackiness. In the middle of it all is Jazon Zimba, founding principal of Student Achievement Partners (SAP) and the man who is leading SAP after David Coleman went off to head up the College Board. SAP is a major player in Common Core implementation, especially with the aid of $18 million in support from the GE Foundation. Zimba was the lead writer on the Common Core mathematics standards. He earned his doctorate in mathematical physics from Berkeley, co-founded the Grow Network with Coleman, and previously taught physics and math at Bennington College. He’s a private dude who lives up in New England and has not been part of the Beltway policy conversation. I’d never met Zimba, until we had the chance to sit down last week.
Now, I think readers know that I’m of two minds when it comes to the Common Core. On the one hand, it does have the potential to bring coherence to the education space, shed light on who’s doing what, raise the bar for instructional materials and teacher prep, and so forth. On the other, there are about 5,000 ways the whole thing could go south or turn into a stifling bureaucratic monstrosity-and one rarely goes wrong when betting against our ability to do massive, complex edu-reforms well. Given all this, like many of you, I’m carefully watching how all this is playing out. In that spirit, I enjoyed meeting Zimba; found him smart and engaging; and thought you all might be equally interested in hearing from him. In particular, I’d love to hear how much Zimba’s responses do or don’t assuage various concerns about the Common Core. Here’s what he had to say (in an email interview that followed our conversation):
…..
RH: How confident are you that teacher preparation programs are ready and able to alter their practice in light of the Common Core?
JZ: There is a long tradition of mathematicians partnering with education schools and local districts to enhance the mathematical education of teachers. The first thing I ever read about this was Richard Askey’s 1999 article in American Educator. The National Math Panel also made recommendations to improve teacher preparation in mathematics. But the fact that mathematicians have been working on the mathematical preparation of teachers for so long is really a good-news/bad-news story. The Common Core could bring some much-needed scale and impetus for change here.
I’ve heard about some of the alternative certification programs basing their training on the Common Core, and that makes sense because these programs tend to have national reach. As for traditional universities, I assume change will happen faster in some places but slowly in most. I would love to see some creative thinking about this from the universities themselves, but also from the states and districts who are their clients.

Teaching the Common Core: Debate Continues

Alice Mercer:

Fellow Sacramento teacher (and friend), Larry Ferlazzo, asked me to help him out by contributing to an article at EdWeek on “implementing Common Core”. Little did I know the minefield I was stepping into. The article has morphed into a fight between the “agnostics” (Common Core skeptics like myself and Larry), and the atheists (folks who view Common Core with the same suspicion and loathing that Richard Dawkins has for Creation “Science”).
Here is the original article on EdWeek. You’ll really need to go down to the comments to see the fireworks. Then David Cohen chimed in and the discussion continued here. Two commenters in particular are leading the charge on this, P.L. Thomas, and Stephen Krashen, who argue with the point that Common Core implementation is “inevitable”. Their argument boils down to “only if you agree that it is”.