Richard Phelps, via a kind email:
“The federal Department of Education’s coercion of states to join Common Core sought to preempt a necessary debate at the state and local level. Nevertheless, that debate is now raging in state capitals across the country and Pioneer has been at the forefront of the discussion with thoughtful critiques on every aspect, from the notion of common standards, to the specific standards as written, and the process by which they were adopted. This book is a valuable resource for parents or anyone else who wants to understand the criticisms of Common Core.” – U.S. Senator Charles Grassley
The Common Core K-12 standards have gone from “inevitable” to “poisonous.” A new book adds to the woes of Common Core’s supporters by bringing together academic critiques from over a dozen scholars who provide an independent, comprehensive book-length treatment of this national standards initiative. The book arrives at a moment when popular support for the Common Core is declining.
Two national polls show widespread opposition; repeal and rebranding efforts are underway in numerous states; it has become toxic for presidential candidates; and the number of states participating in Common Core-aligned testing consortia has dwindled. The Common Core standards have lost credibility with the general public, parents, and teachers.
Common Core math standards (CCMS) end after just a partial Algebra II course. This weak Algebra II course will result in fewer high school students able to study higher-level math and science courses and an increase in credit-bearing college courses that are at the level of seventh and eighth grade material in high-achieving countries, according to a new study published by Pioneer Institute.
Study Finds Common Core Math Standards Will Reduce Enrollment in High-Level High School Math Courses, Dumb Down College Stem Curriculum
The framers of Common Core claimed the standards would be anchored to higher education requirements, then back-mapped through upper and lower grades. But Richard P. Phelps and R. James Milgram, authors of “The Revenge of K-12: How Common Core and the New SAT Lower College Standards in the U.S.,” find that higher education was scarcely involved with creating the standards.
The Fordham Institute has long been at work on a study of the relative quality of tests produced by the two Common Core-aligned and federally funded consortia (PARCC and SBAC), ACT (Aspire), and the Commonwealth of Massachusetts (MCAS). What Fordham has produced is only in the most superficial way an actual analysis – in fact, it reads more like propaganda and lacks the basic elements of objective research.
It takes only a little digging under the surface to reveal pervasive conflicts of interest, a one-sided sourcing of evidence, and a research design so slanted it cannot stand against any scrutiny. In developing their supposedly analytic comparisons of PARCC, SBAC, Aspire and MCAS, the authors do not employ standard test evaluation criteria, organizations, or reviewers. Instead, they employ criteria developed by the Common Core co-copyright holder, organizations paid handsomely in the past by Common Core’s funders, and predictable reviewers who have worked for them before. The authors also fill the report with the typical vocabulary and syntax of Common Core advertising – positive-sounding adjectives and adverbs are attached to everything Common Core, and negative-sounding adjectives and adverbs are attached to the alternatives.
“If too many students fail to reach the new threshold and are denied diplomas, our education system seizes up,” said Dr. Richard P. Phelps, author of “Setting Academic Performance Standards: MCAS vs. PARCC.”
Massachusetts’ bar for scoring “proficient” on MCAS is currently the second highest in the nation for 4th grade math, third highest for 4th grade reading, fourth highest for 8th grade math and 23rd for 8th grade reading. The composite rankings for rigor associated with definitions of proficiency in the 11 states that were still part of the PARCC consortium in August (it has since dropped to seven states and Washington, D.C.) was 27th in 4th grade math, 20.5 in 4th grade reading, 25.3 in 8th grade math and 25.1 in 8th grade reading.
In this case, the inevitable reversion to the mean would translate to a one-half year drop in performance expectations for 4th grade math and reading and 8th grade math in Massachusetts.
Many billions have been spent, and continue to be spent, promoting the Common Core Standards and their associated consortium tests, PARCC and SBAC. Nonetheless, the “Initiative” has been stopped in its tracks largely by a loose coalition of unpaid grassroots activists. That barely-organized amateurs could match the many well-organized, well-paid professional organizations, tells us something about Common Core’s natural appeal, or lack thereof. Absent the injection of huge amounts of money and political mandates, there would be no Common Core.
The Common Core Initiative (CCI) does not progress, but neither does it go away. Its alleged primary benefit—alignment both within and across states (allegedly producing valid cross-state comparisons)—continues to degrade as participating states make changes that suit them. The degree of Common Core adoption varies greatly from state to state, and politicians’ claims about the degree of adoption even more so. CCI is making a mess and will leave a mess behind that will take years to clean up.
How did we arrive in this morass? Many would agree that our policymakers have failed us. Politicians on both sides of the aisle naively believed CCI’s “higher, deeper, tougher, more rigorous” hype without making any effort to verify the assertions. But, I would argue that the corps of national education journalists is just as responsible.
Too many of our country’s most influential journalists accept and repeat verbatim the advertising slogans and talking points of Common Core promoters. Too many of their stories source information from only one side of the issue. Most annoying, for those of us eager for some journalistic balance, has been some journalists’ tendency to rely on Common Core promoters to identify the characteristics and explain the motives of Common Core opponents.
An organization claiming to represent and support all US education journalists sets up shop in Boston next week for its annual “National Seminar”. The Education Writers Association’s (EWA’s) national seminars introduce thousands of journalists to sources of information and expertise. Many sessions feature journalists talking with other journalists. Some sessions host teachers, students, or administrators in “reports from the front lines” type panel discussions. But, the remaining and most ballyhooed sessions feature non-journalist experts on education policy fronting panels with, typically, a journalist or two hosting. Allegedly, these sessions interpret “all the research”, and deliver truth, from the smartest, most enlightened on earth.
On November 17, the Massachusetts Board of Elementary and Secondary Education (BESE) will decide the fate of the Massachusetts Comprehensive Assessment System (MCAS) and the Partnership for Assessment of College Readiness for College and Careers (PARCC) in the Bay State. MCAS is homegrown; PARCC is not. Barring unexpected compromises or subterfuges, only one program will survive.
Over the past year, PARCC promoters have released a stream of reports comparing the two testing programs. The latest arrives from the Thomas B. Fordham Institute in the form of a partial “evaluation of the content and quality of the 2014 MCAS and PARCC “relative to” the “Criteria for High Quality Assessments”[i] developed by one of the organizations that developed Common Core’s standards—with the rest of the report to be delivered in January, it says.[ii]
Much more on the Common Core, here.