What is Common Core

       PA. Common Core from an Educational Consumer Perspective

 

How many consumers would ever consider purchasing a car without seeing it, or test driving it?  For smart consumers that would never be an option, but that is exactly what was done with the implementation of the Common Core Academic Standard’s framework within Pennsylvania and other states. The states jumped on board and committed to the standards sight unseen in order to receive federal dollars. What kind of educational consumer does that make a state like Pennsylvania? The Common Core movement clearly places money and control before a quality education for each of our students. This national academic initiative is a massive experiment with students across Pennsylvania, and the country being the guinea pigs.

IS COMMON CORE A STATE INITIATIVE ?   

Common Core is not a state initiative. A real state initiative would have involved the use of the existing state standards, which had a track record in the classrooms across this country. The states could have shared this information with each other and learned from

what the other states were doing.  That did not happen, and instead they agreed to a set of Common Core Standards that have no track record, or research to back them up.  Pennsylvania hired the University of Pittsburgh to do an alignment and integration of the National Common Core framework with our previous state academic standards. 85% of our standards were required to be in alignment to Common Core. In order to say the states had some say in this movement, the states were given 15% flexibility in the standard changes. This is more about semantics and marketing than what good state standards really should look like.  Besides a flawed process that gives us PA Common Core Standards (states have changed the name of the standards in order to sell them to the public), the real question should be are these standards best for all students?

ARE THEY RIGOROUS ?

Pennsylvania had existing educational standards, and when looking at the record of those previous standards they were deemed rigorous by the state.  Now we are being told they were not. Meanwhile we now are being told we have rigorous academic standards due to the integration of the Common Core framework. Thousands of students were educated under those old standards with many students being successful while clearly some students were not as successful. This begs the question does the state know what real rigorous standards look like given they use that term for marketing purposes every time they want to make a change, and are standard changes the answer for students struggling in school?

ARE THEY INTERNATIONALLY BENCH MARKED ?

One of the selling points used by the National Common Core supporters, and our own Pennsylvania Department of Education is these standards are now supposed to be internationally benchmarked. What country are we benchmarked to?  Germany and China use a national school to work model where students are channeled very early towards specific jobs. Canada and Australia have provincial systems similar to what we had when states controlled their own academic standards. Finland gives the teachers a generic outline of expectations allowing them the flexibility to teach to the individual needs in their classroom with very few state or national assessments. Clearly countries vary with what they do in their schools, so internationally benchmarked is nothing more than Common Core supporters using words that sound good in order to sell their agenda.

 

HOW DO THEY IMPACT EARLY LEARNERS, AND SPECIAL NEED STUDENTS ?

One of the major flaws in Common Core stems from the lack of consideration for how young children learn, and also the needs of students with learning issues.  No early learning experts were part of the writing of the National Common Core Standards. All early learning specialists refer to the developmentally appropriate practices based on the cognitive development of young children (K to 3rd grade). In simple terms, young children’s brains are developing. Certain educational concepts can, or can’t be processed and mastered by the average early learner at varying times based on that development. There is also research that indicates boys’ brain development happens at a slower rate than girls. Even a boy’s senses respond differently. Technology, such as the MRI, gives us a better understanding of a child’s development, which impacts their ability to learn. That is why many early learning educators across the nation and state have expressed deep concerns with these standards. The architects of the Common Core framework, which PA used to align their standards, were not teachers, curriculum, or standard experts. The standard and testing changes drive curriculum no matter what the supporters of Common Core/Pa Common Core say.

 

There are also people stepping forward expressing the same concerns with these standards and children with learning issues. More is happening than just the standards.  The process by which subjects like math are being taught is also changing, and then there are the assessments, which are being aligned to the standards. During the summer of 2012, the Pennsylvania Department of Education submitted to the US Department of Education a transition report showing the rollout schedule of the changes to the PSSA, the Keystone Exams, and the embedding of the standard changes into the tests. In the beginning of the report, Pennsylvania is asking the federal government for permission to make these changes. Children with special needs must have the flexibility to learn the best way they can, which does not mean they need a rigid bureaucratic system designed by people who know nothing of their needs. As these standard changes are showing up in our schools, more and more people involved with children with special learning needs are expressing concerns. Students with school anxiety do not need further stress placed on them by these poorly implemented and poorly researched standards.

ARE THEY REALLY COLLEGE AND WORFORCE READY ?  

 One of the selling points to the business community is the standard changes are college and workforce ready. There is no research to indicate that a set of standards can be both college and workforce ready at the same time. Common sense will tell us the requirements to be accepted by the College of Engineering at Penn State are not the same as the requirements for a community college. The job requirements to be an electrical engineer are not the same as the requirement to be a technician working for the cable company. This does not mean both jobs are not important, but they both require a different type of post-secondary training and workforce skills. The Common Core/ PA.Common Core Standards are not being sold as minimal acceptable standards. They impact every student no matter what their abilities, or future interests.

While attending an Allegheny Intermediate Unit presentation, their staff tried to explain the standards as they relate to STEM (science, technology, engineering and math). Teaching less levels of math, as they indicated in their presentation, is not going to produce more physicists or medical researchers. They also agreed with the proposal by David Coleman (one of the architects of Common Core and the head of the College Boards) to eliminate the AP Calculus test, since Calculus is not part of the Common Core math sequence. This decision does not help to produce more engineers or scientists either.

At the annual meeting of the Pennsylvania mayors last summer, it became clear that these standard changes are not going to correct many of the problems businesses are having in their communities. Consider some of their expressed concerns, and how that relates to standards.

  • How will these standard changes teach a student that showing up to work on time is critical?
  • How will this correct the problem of people not being able to pass drug testing?
  • How will these changes advance vocational training when public schools are promoting college as the best choice for almost everyone?
  • How will these standards teach students what it means to dress for success, or how to speak correctly in an interview?
  • How will these standards help children already struggling in poorly performing and unsafe schools in the Commonwealth?
  • Are the current changes promoted by people like Bill Gates a business move given education is a billion dollar a year industry?
  • Do we want the German or Chinese model of education, school to work, where students are tracked into career paths by bureaucrats, which is known to stifle

creativity, allows for fewer personal choices, and does not promote innovation?

  • Should education be about the agenda of adults, or the needs of students to reach their highest potential?

 WHAT ABOUT FUNDING ?

Lastly, there is the issue of funding.  Education spending is a major part of Pennsylvania’s budget. As we continue to spend more in education, we are getting less for our tax dollars. The legislators did not vote on these standard and testing changes, yet they will be expected to appropriate education funds to help subsidize these changes.  Meanwhile, many of the legislators continue to be clueless about the ramifications of these standards.

These changes are called Chapter 4 regulations, and went through a regulatory process. The PA Independent Regulatory Review Commission submitted questions after their review, and noted the cost to implement these changes are not cost neutral as indicated by the Department of Education and State Board of Education. The initial costs for implementation and ongoing execution of the standards and assessment will be prohibitive, resulting in massive unfunded mandates at a time when our Commonwealth is facing severe budgetary problems, including an unresolved pension problem. Some of these costs will involve the hiring of countless additional staff, extensive training of both  new hires and current teachers, purchasing new instructional materials and additional technology., developing and aligning curriculum to these changes, providing remediation and project-based assessments for struggling students, and administering and grading the innumerable mandated tests. Many of these costs will become the responsibility of the already cash strapped school districts.

The Senate Education Committee asked the PA. Secretary of Education about the costs to implement the PA Common Core and related assessment changes during two hearings. Not once did the committee receive a precise answer. Why is it that changes like this can come through the Department of Education/State Board of Education without a comprehensive cost analysis for their own department and the 29 Intermediate Units, including an additional cost impact study on the school districts?

Before making such a massive shift in the direction of education in this country, should there not have been a more transparent debate about these standards and the direction they are taking our students? This conversation should have happened both nationally and within the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania prior to any changes being made. Does anyone wonder what Bill Gates ( he has spent $200 million to promote Common Core nationally with some of his grants coming into PA.) would say if we defined the direction of education for his three children, and we used our money to influence that direction?

WHAT YOU CAN DO TO HELP ?

Talk to your schools and find out how they are handling these changes?  Talk to your school board members, and legislators!  Contact the Governor’s office!  Contact the State School Board Association and express your concerns! Contact your US Congressman and Senators! Become better informed, and help to educate your friends and neighbors!  You have every right to ask questions, and to expect good answers! You have every right to express your thoughts and concerns! Remember these are our children, our schools, and our tax dollars!

Nationally Mandated Education Standards: Common Core in Pennsylvania

On March 14, 2013 the PA State Board of Education (with Governor Corbett’s approval) voted to put into place Common Core Standards (CCS) in English and math. It sets into motion nationally mandated common course standards for all K – 12 students so that education will be standardized across the country. This effectively eliminated the ability of parents and local school boards to influence content standards to suit local needs.

Why is Common Core wrong for Pennsylvania?
•    National control of school standards
•    $645 million required to implement in PA
•    CCS math standards will put PA’s students two years behind their peers in high-performing countries
•    Parents and school boards will have no recourse to influence content or standards
•    Undermines the US Constitution’s 10th Amendment authority of states over education
•    Massive federal student tracking initiative instituted

Common Core is the culmination of many years of the expansion of national controls over what should be local educational issues. In the 1990’s proponents of national standards put forth a proposal that was so revisionist and politically correct that the US Senate voted 99 -1 for a bill (SR 66) that prevented its implementation. The proponents learned that in order for them to get new standards imposed they would need to impose the standards quickly and quietly and to start with less controversial subjects.

The current standards are limited to English and Math, but will expand to include all subjects in coming years.

The origins of Common Core can be traced to the 2009 Stimulus bill which gave $4.35 billion to the federal Department of Education which then created the “Race to the Top” competition between states. In order to qualify for funding, the states needed to adopt Common Core sight unseen. An added incentive to adoption of CCS was that participating states would be exempted from many of the more onerous provisions of George Bush’s “No child left behind” program.

The recommendation by the PA Board of Education to adopt the standards is an end run around the legislature. This was completed with no public hearings and has been unknown to most of our legislators. This end run was enabled by a determination by the Board of Education that no additional funds would be required for implementation. However, the Regulatory Analysis Form Regulation 2976 saying:  “the State Board documents did not adequately address the fiscal impact.” A detailed analysis completed by the Pioneer Institute projects that full implementation will cost $645 million.

These Common Core standards have been very quietly accepted by 45 states, but exposure of the consequences of this intrusion into local and state control of education has caused a groundswell of opposition to adoption of the bill. The opposition has created an unusual alliance of school boards, school choice proponents, teachers’ unions and grass roots freedom groups. Opposition to Common Core is developing in many of the states already planning to implement CCS including Utah, California, Indiana, and Missouri to name a few.
There is no evidence to justify a single standard for all students, given the diversity of interests, talents and needs among students. A one size-fits-all model assumes that we already know the best standard for all students; it assumes that one best way for all students exists.

Curiously, Governor Corbett is actually proud to implement Common Core. His Secretary of Education stated “Governor Corbett believes these changes will ensure that Pennsylvania’s students are prepared to succeed in higher education as well as the increasing rigorous requirements of our workforce”.

To find out who to contact and what to do please go to our Take Action page.

 

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KEENE: Editing out an enlightened history of America

In the early days of the American Republic, Thomas Jefferson was perhaps the staunchest advocate of public education. Jefferson authored a plan for public primary and secondary schools and is father of the University of Virginia. He would be appalled at the state of public education today.

Jefferson loved reading and knowledge for its own sake, of course, but believed the success of the American experiment depended on an educational system that would instill a knowledge of history and values in the citizenry. He was not alone among the Founders in this belief, but few expressed themselves better. Jefferson was eloquent on the study of history as especially important because, as he put it, "apprising [students] of the past will enable them to judge of the future."

Enemies of free government have always recognized this simple truth and have tried to recast history to lead the next generations to believe as they do. Kings and emperors, Soviets and Nazis of the past, and extremist Muslims today employ court historians, forever mingling history and politics. They know they can shape the policies of today and tomorrow by creating a past of their own.

Howard Zinn, perhaps this country's most successful radical or progressive historian, put it best when he said he wrote history "to change the world." He understood history as indoctrination and felt it vital that the next generation be indoctrinated, or educated by learning his version of history. Like Jefferson, Zinn knew that the values passed on to future generations through the educational system shape the future by dictating political choices. There the similarities end — Jefferson and his contemporaries were products of the Enlightenment, assuming education to be a search for truth rather than a means of dictating the future. Zinn intended — and today's liberal progressives seek — to replace the traditional view of American history with a dark view of a nation built on aggressive racist imperialism, theft and genocide. They would drive those who do not agree from the public square, or at least from the classroom.

David Horowitz and others have sounded the alarm about our college campuses for decades, but the bubbling controversy is now focused on the College Board. Headed by David Coleman, who most consider the architect of Common Core, the College Board is a private, nonprofit that for more than a century has set standards for college admissions. It essentially dictates what high schools need to teach their best students in disciplines from math to history to English in preparing them for college. Teachers who used to teach from a five-page framework, now receive a 98-page, detailed set of instructions on what history should be taught.

Zinn might have written the framework. Gone are most of the Founders and their ideas, as is their vision of a country dedicated to freedom. Major historical figures such as James Madison and Benjamin Franklin are ignored. As James Robbins and Larry Krieger of the American Principles Project put it, the framework distorts history and advances a consistently negative view of America.

They claim with justification that the College Board in advancing an ideological framework is operating as a "de facto legislature for the nation's public and private high schools" with the power to essentially dictate what will be taught to students studying American history. Mr. Robbins and Mr. Krieger call it a "coup." The National Association of Scholars essentially agrees with them, calling the framework a "dispiriting document."

The Association study points out that while defenders of the new framework argue that high schools can go beyond the framework and teach students about Madison and others or expose them to different perspectives on the nation's history, few will. They will "teach to the test" to make sure their students do well on college admissions tests without realizing that in the process, they will be indoctrinating generations of college-bound students.

Local control of primary and secondary education has been steadily wrested from the hands of parents and local authorities in the name of standards and quality by a federal government susceptible to pressure from ideological special interests. Those same interests dominate supposedly private groups more focused on indoctrination than educational excellence.

The Founders' grand experiment is being put at risk by liberal progressive educational ideologues intent upon creating a citizenry ignorant of its real history, but indoctrinated to hate its country, its history and those who founded it.

David A. Keene is opinion editor of The Washington Times.

© Copyright 2014 The Washington Times, LLC. Click here for reprint permission.

http://www.washingtontimes.com/news/2014/jul/14/keene-editing-out-an-enlightened-history-of-americ/print/


Anti-Common Core fervor reaches the silver screen

July 14, 2014 by Alisha Kirby

(Texas) The momentum behind the anti-Common Core State Standards movement is coming to a theater near you later this month in the form of an interactive experience hosted by conservative author and radio personality Glenn Beck.

Audiences of We Will Not Conform can actively engage with Beck and other speakers on July 22 via social media to “develop tangible strategies in the pursuit of enacting real change in our schools” and “form a comprehensive plan to fight back against Common Core crafted in real time,” according to the event page.

“Parents in states where Common Core has been implemented are seeing the results firsthand,” Beck co-wrote with fellow conservative Kyle Olson in his book Conform: Exposing the truth about Common Core and Public Education.  “All of the backlash we’re starting to hear about isn’t a result of the Tea Party enraging people; it’s because parents ultimately aren’t dumb. Unlike their kids, they actually can put two and two together, and they see that things aren’t adding up.”

The event follows the already mounting opposition to the Common Core including New York, Indiana, South Carolina, Maryland, Oklahoma, Georgia and Tennessee, which have all introduced or passed legislation to delay, modify or completely drop out of the adoption of the standards.

Though the U.S. Department of Education didn’t require that states adopt the Common Core, financial incentives were offered through the federal Race to the Top competition and the Obama administration also provided over $350 million to two state consortia – Smarter Balanced and PARCC – to develop new assessments aligned to the standards.

Still, complaints have risen on both sides of the isle.

Union leaders, for instance, have claimed a lack of curricula and time for proper training for teachers. In some cases, the lack of financial resources for implementing the standards is a key issue as well.

Conservatives have been more concerned with federal intrusion into education, which, historically, has been a state matter.

Yet despite the apparent shift in attitude toward the standards, Michael Brickman, the national policy director at the Thomas B. Fordham Institute in Washington, a think tank which backs the standards, told Education Week that most of the energy behind the movement comes from "a small group, on the left and the right, of very passionate people" who rarely address what constitutes good or bad standards.

"The facts have not always aligned with some of the things you're seeing out there in social media and elsewhere," Brickman said.

Examples of more extreme statements can be found in media reports across the country. Florida Rep. Charles Van Zant, R-Keystone Heights, said at an education conference in March that the new testing would “attract every one of your children to become as homosexual as they possibly can.”

Alabama Tea Party leader Terry Bratton, during a state Senate Education Committee hearing earlier this year, claimed the tests promoted "acceptance of homosexuality, alternate lifestyles, radical feminism, abortion, illegal immigration and the redistribution of wealth."

Yet Beck, who hosts the Glenn Beck Radio Program, a nationally syndicated talk-radio show, has concerns often directed toward what he considers control and manipulation of the states by the federal government, and test publishers making money off children.

As a media personality Beck has also hosted his own television show - Glenn Beck – which aired on HLN and Fox News Channel, and has authored six New York Times–bestselling books, including Conform.

However, the book has received criticism even from those who also critique Common Core.

“This is crazy stuff, and it makes it difficult if not impossible to have a reasonable discussion about the pros and cons of the Common Core,” Diane Ravitch, a professor, historian and author, wrote on a blog for the Huffington Post.

Others such as Hilary Tone, Education Program Director at Media Matters, say the book is full of “bizarre” assertions; like that Common Core helps progressives create a wedge between parents and their children. Tone quotes two paragraphs from the book in her review:

“Since most parents don't understand the Common Core techniques, students are becoming more dependent on their schools and teachers for their education, and less on help from their parents. This is like a dream come true for progressives who hope to continue to minimize the role of parents in the lives of their children.” [Conform, pg. 93]

“Do these really sound like "rigorous" changes to you? Or does it sound more like a systematic approach to dumb down our kids and further remove parents from the process so that students will be easier to indoctrinate and control?” [Conform, pg. 95]

Despite the criticism he’s received, Beck says the event will make Common Core history.

According to the event page, this is “a rare opportunity to make a real difference in America’s education system.”

“You are going to have to come with a basic understanding of Common Core,” Beck said on his radio program in May. “But what we are going to do is give you not just the, ‘what is Common Core, how does that all work.’ We are actually going to take you through a live creation of a plan.”

According to Beck, activists, teachers and legislators have been meeting at his Texas studios to “hammer out” what is effective in the fight against Common Core for over a year and are ready to share what they have found that will help each individual’s voice be heard.

Tickets are available at Fathom Events.

https://www.cabinetreport.com/human-resources/anti-common-core-fervor-reaches-the-silver-screen


MINORITY PARENTS ALSO OPPOSED TO 'WORKFORCE' COMMON CORE CURRICULUM

Both Republican and Democratic governors need to know that minority parents with children in the public schools express similar concerns to those of non-minority parents. They, too, don’t understand why Common Core seems to assume that all children will benefit from the low academic expectations embodied in Common Core’s college-readiness standards.

A panel at the National Principals Leadership Institute (NPLI) meeting in Manhattan last Sunday was asked to focus on Common Core. As a member of the panel, I had the opportunity to explain how Common Core’s standards had failed the real equity test.

An audience filled with African American and Hispanic educators got it right away. No one had told them that Common Core’s standards don’t prepare American kids for some of the best jobs in the 21st century—STEM-related jobs. Nor had they been told that the Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS) leave out high school chemistry and the lab-based physics course on the grounds that they constitute “advanced work in the sciences," and that "students wishing to move into STEM fields should be encouraged to follow their interest with additional coursework" (page 5 of 11 in second section of NGSS "Front Matter").

When the panel discussion ended, one African American elementary principal rushed right up to me to talk about her bright young daughter who is a good reader. Why was her daughter, however, assumed to be unable to handle advanced mathematics and science in high school?

She and the other African American and Hispanic administrators in the audience want their children in the public schools to have the same opportunity to get into a selective college as kids whose parents can afford to hire math and science tutors to make up for the deficits in their public school curriculum—or to send them to a private school that will teach their kids what Bill Gates’ kids learn in the private school they attend in Seattle.

In a recent Washington Post interview, Gates admitted that the primary goal of the Common Core was to socially engineer the “huge problem that low-income kids get less good education than suburban kids get.” However, in attempting to make it possible for low-income and minority children to be declared “college-ready,” black and Hispanic parents see that the low-quality Common Core standards do a disservice to their academically strong and ambitious children wanting to aim for a STEM career.

These parents wonder why the writers of Common Core’s standards assume that all African American and Hispanic kids can’t get beyond community college and can’t be expected to aim for a STEM career. That is the only reason they can come up with for the absence of mathematics standards in Common Core that would prepare high school kids for the third “pathway” (the one to calculus).

Sandra Stotsky, Ed.D. is Professor Emerita, University of Arkansas.

http://www.breitbart.com/Big-Government/2014/07/14/Minority-Parents-Don-t-Want-a-Workforce-Common-Core-Curriculum-for-their-Kids-Either


When Will We Ever Learn?

Dr. Bertin:   What did you see as potential benefits of establishing the CCSS when you first became involved?

Dr. Moats:  I saw the confusing inconsistencies among states’ standards, the lowering of standards overall, and the poor results for our high school kids in international comparisons. I also believed that the solid consensus in reading intervention research could be reflected in standards and that we could use the CCSS to promote better instruction for kids at risk.

Dr. Bertin:  What has actually happened in its implementation?

Dr. Moats:  I never imagined when we were drafting standards in 2010 that major financial support would be funneled immediately into the development of standards-related tests. How naïve I was. The CCSS represent lofty aspirational goals for students aiming for four year, highly selective colleges. Realistically, at least half, if not the majority, of students are not going to meet those standards as written, although the students deserve to be well prepared for career and work through meaningful and rigorous education.

Our lofty standards are appropriate for the most academically able, but what are we going to do for the huge numbers of kids that are going to “fail” the PARCC (Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers) test?  We need to create a wide range of educational choices and pathways to high school graduation, employment, and citizenship. The Europeans got this right a long time ago.

If I could take all the money going to the testing companies and reinvest it, I’d focus on the teaching profession – recruitment, pay, work conditions, rigorous and on-going training. Many of our teachers are not qualified or prepared to teach the standards we have written. It doesn’t make sense to ask kids to achieve standards that their teachers have not achieved!

Dr. Bertin:   What differences might there be for younger students versus older students encountering it for the first time?

Dr. Moats:   What is good for older students (e.g., the emphasis on text complexity, comprehension of difficult text, written composition, use of internet resources) is not necessarily good for younger students who need to acquire the basic skills of reading, writing, listening, and speaking. Novice readers (typically through grade 3) need a stronger emphasis on the foundational skills of reading, language, and writing than on the “higher level” academic activities that depend on those foundations, until they are fluent readers.

Our CCSS guidelines, conferences, publishers’ materials, and books have turned away from critical, research-based methodologies on how to develop the basic underlying skills of literacy. Systematic, cumulative skill development and code-emphasis instruction is getting short shrift all around, even though we have consensus reports from the 1920’s onward that show it is more effective than comprehension-focused instruction.

I’m listening, but I don’t hear the words “research based” as often as I did a decade ago – and when CCSS proponents use the words, they’re usually referring to the research showing that high school kids who can’t read complex text don’t do as well in college. Basic findings of reading and literacy research, information about individual differences in reading and language ability, and explicit teaching procedures are really being lost in this shuffle.

Dr. Bertin:  What benefits have you seen or heard about so far as the CCSS has been put in place, and what difficulties?

Dr. Moats:   The standards may drive the adoption or use of more challenging and complex texts for kids to read and a wider sampling of genres. If handled right, there could be a resurgence of meaty curriculum of the “core knowledge” variety. There may be more emphasis on purposeful, teacher-directed writing. But we were making great inroads into beginning reading assessment and instruction practices between 2000-2008 that now are being cast aside in favor of “reading aloud from complex – which is not the same as teaching kids how to read on their own, accurately and fluently.

Dr.  Bertin:  What has the impact been on classroom teachers?

Dr. Moats:  Classroom teachers are confused, lacking in training and skills to implement the standards, overstressed, and the victims of misinformed directives from administrators who are not well grounded in reading research.  I’m beginning to get messages from very frustrated educators who threw out what was working in favor of a new “CCSS aligned” program, and now find that they don’t have the tools to teach kids how to read and write. Teachers are told to use “grade level” texts, for example; if half the kids are below grade level by definition, what does the teacher do? She has to decide whether to teach “the standard” or teach the kids.

Dr. Bertin:  You’ve raised concerns elsewhere that CCSS represents a compromise that does not emphasize educational research.  How do the CCSS reflect, or fail to reflect, research in reading instruction?

Dr.  Moats:   The standards obscure the critical causal relationships among components, chiefly the foundational skills and the higher level skills of comprehension that depend on fluent, accurate reading.  Foundations should be first!  The categories of the standards obscure the interdependence of decoding, spelling, and knowledge of language. The standards contain no explicit information about foundational writing skills, which are hidden in sections other than “writing”, but which are critical for competence in composition.

The standards treat the foundational language, reading, and writing skills as if they should take minimal time to teach and as if they are relatively easy to teach and to learn. They are not. The standards call for raising the difficulty of text, but many students cannot read at or above grade level, and therefore may not receive enough practice at levels that will build their fluency gradually over time.

Dr. Bertin:  How about recommendations for writing?

Dr. Moats:   We need a foundational writing skills section in the CCSS, with a much more detailed progression. We should not be requiring 3rd graders to compose on the computer. Writing in response to reading is a valuable activity, but teachers need a lot of assistance knowing what to assign, how to support writing, and how to give corrective feedback that is constructive.  Very few know how to teach kids to write a sentence, for example.

Dr. Bertin:   In an article for the International Dyslexia Association, you wrote “raising standards and expectations, without sufficient attention to known cause and remedies for reading and academic failure, and without a substantial influx of new resources to educate and support teachers, is not likely to benefit students with mild, moderate, or severe learning difficulties.”   You also mention that 34% of the population as a whole is behind academically in fourth grade, and in high poverty areas 70-80% of students are at risk for reading failure.

How does the CCSS impact children who turn out to need additional academic supports for learning disabilities, ADHD or other educational concerns?

Dr. Moats:   I have not yet seen a well-informed policy directive that addresses the needs of these populations. There are absurd directives about “universal design for learning” and endless accommodations, like reading a test aloud, to kids with learning disabilities. Why would we want to do that? The test itself is inappropriate for many kids.

Dr. Bertin:   How does it relate to concerns you have about teacher training in general?

Dr. Moats:   What little time there is for professional development is being taken up by poorly designed workshops on teaching comprehension of difficult text or getting kids to compose arguments and essays. This will not be good for the kids who need a systematic, explicit form of instruction to reach basic levels of academic competence.

I’ve been around a long time, and this feels like 1987 all over again, with different words attached to the same problems. When will we ever learn?

*             *             *

In addition to the LETRS professional development series, Dr. Moats’ books include Speech to Print: Language Essentials for Teachers (Brookes Publishing); Spelling: Development, Disability, and Instruction (Pro-Ed); Straight Talk About Reading (with Susan Hall, Contemporary Books), and Basic Facts about Dyslexia.  Dr. Moats’ awards include the prestigious Samuel T. and June L. Orton award, in 2013, from the International Dyslexia Association, for outstanding contributions to the field.

http://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/child-development-central/201401/when-will-we-ever-learn


THE COLLEGE BOARD’S ATTACK ON AMERICAN HISTORY

by 

This story comes from Breitbart.com

Imagine having your teenager emerge from a U.S. history course with only a vague recognition of the name “George Washington.” Suppose that course mentioned the father of our country with reference to only one speech – no discussion of his military leadership and triumphs, his personal sacrifice to accept the call to become the first President, or his wise and steady leadership during the tumultuous first years of our nation.

To put this into perspective, imagine how South Africans would respond if an unelected agency issued a history of their country that contained just one reference to Nelson Mandela.

Beginning in August, such a course will be offered to 500,000 of America’s most talented high-school sophomores and juniors – the College Board’s new AP U.S. History Framework. The new College Board Framework will replace the traditional 5-page topical outline with a 98-page document that dictates how teachers should cover the required topics. George Washington gets one brief mention; other founders, such as Benjamin Franklin and James Madison, none. The Declaration of Independence is referred to in passing in one clause of one sentence.

If the Framework virtually ignores the most important men and documents in American history, what does it find worthy of attention? The answer is, pretty much anything that casts a negative light on our country. The redesigned Framework inculcates a consistently negative view of American history by highlighting oppressors and exploiters while ignoring the dreamers and innovators who built our country.

The Framework asserts that the British-American colonies were characterized by the development of “a rigid racial hierarchy” (page 27) that was in turn derived from “a strong belief in British racial and cultural superiority” (page 29) – and teaches that much of the rest of American history was shaped by those beliefs. There is much emphasis on mistreatment of slaves and native people, but none on truly revolutionary founding principles that laid the groundwork for the freest nation on earth (consent of the governed, development of democratic institutions, religious liberty). World War II was a time of racial discrimination and other inequities, not of massive sacrifice and achievement by soldiers and civilians alike.

These omissions reflect not only a leftist slant on our history but also a general view that academic historical knowledge is unnecessary. At a conference recently held in Atlanta, Lawrence Charap, head of the College Board’s History and Social Sciences Content Development Group, told high school teachers that the new AP U.S. History course and exam will eliminate the unnecessary memorization of irrelevant facts and replace actual knowledge with “historical thinking skills.” Mr. Charap then cited America’s Lend-Lease program -- which provided over $50 billion in military equipment to help our allies defeat Hitler -- as an example of an irrelevant fact that should no longer be taught. Unlike the myopic Mr. Charap, Stalin recognized the Lend-Lease program’s vital contribution to the war effort when he offered this toast: “To American production, without which this war would have been lost.”

The College Board has a responsibility to provide a balanced curriculum that acknowledges both America’s founding principles and its continuing struggles to be faithful to these principles. Instead, the new College Board Framework seems determined to create a cynical generation of what it calls “apprentice historians” – students who “know” everything bad about their country but very little that is good.

The redesigned Framework is best described as a curricular coup that sets a number of dangerous precedents. By providing a detailed course of study that defines, discusses, and interprets “the required knowledge of each period,” the College Board has in effect supplanted local and state curriculum by unilaterally assuming the authority to prioritize historic topics. The Framework establishes the priorities, and anything that doesn’t fit with its leftist, revisionist view of American history is either minimized or omitted.

College Board spokespeople insist that the new Framework will allow teachers the flexibility to teach the Lend-Lease Act or any other state-mandated topic or person they wish. But the College Board’s own website confirms that the AP exam will focus exclusively on content specified in the Framework. In short, what isn’t tested won’t be taught.

The redesigned Framework is thoroughly biased, poorly written, ineptly outlined, and consistently negative in tone. These egregious flaws must be corrected. Teachers, parents, and school officials have a responsibility to demand that the College Board address these issues before the new school year begins. And legislatures and governors should eliminate this course from the schools.

Jane Robbins is the senior fellow of APP Education of the American Principles Project, a conservative advocacy organization based in Washington, D.C.

Larry Krieger is a retired AP U.S. History teacher from Pennsylvania.


Nevada School to Dad: Pay $10K to See Data Tracking on Kids

This story appeared on TheBlaze.com by  on May. 13, 2014 8:30pm

When a Nevada father of four tried to get the state education board to turn over years of data collected on his children, he was told it would cost thousands of dollars.

A whopping $10,914 to be exact.

John Eppolito, a former math teacher turned education advocate, is concerned about the data gathered on his children and whether it is accurate. He doesn’t think Nevada — or other states — should collect educational data on students without prior parental consent.

“We’re opening the flood gates; we don’t know the implications or how this data will follow these children — and most parents don’t know anything about it,” Eppolito said.

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When he heard that Nevada is planning to share the data with other states as part of a larger consortium, he began his hunt for the information; nearly 400 to 800 data points that could be tracked on individual students, depending on the state. He first called the local school district, but when those officials said they “weren’t sure who got the data” he tried calling the Nevada State Education Board.

That’s when Judy Osgood, a spokeswoman for the Nevada Department of Education, told Eppolito it would cost thousands of dollars to deliver the data. According to Fox News, the costs topped $10,000 because the education board would have to write a program to extrapolate the data on individual kids.

“Because the SAIN system is not designed to create reports that display individual student data in a readable format, the parent was initially told that the requested reports do not exist and cannot be produced,” the Nevada education department document reads.

“Upon continued insistence from the parent, [Nevada Department of Education] staff assessed how much programming time would be required to write new queries and develop a data table to create readable reports for the parent. Staff determined that it would take at least 3 weeks (120 hours) of dedicated programming time to fulfill the parent’s request. At the applicable wage rate of $84.95/hour, the requested work resulted in a $10,194 price tag.”

But the Data Quality Campaign — a non-profit that works with states to ensure data gathered is actually used for educational improvement — disagrees. They report all 52 states have implemented “a unique statewide student identifier that connects student data across key databases across years (a single, non-duplicated number assigned to an individual student that remains with that student from kindergarten through high school).”

The DQC also argues each state should be working harder to ensure parents have easy access to any information collected on their children, so they can lead the efforts in helping their children graduate.

“States and school districts must redouble their efforts to make sure that those who are working with information are very clear about the rights that parents have and are complying with those laws,” Dakarai I. Aarons, Communications and External Affairs director for the Data Quality Campaign, said.

The Federal law that protects parents right to access data is the same one that allows schools to track the students to begin with; the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA) says parents can see the data gathered on their children and small fees are allowed to be issued for records, unless they — in any way — prevent the parents from obtaining them.

But Aarons said there is also a need for going beyond merely complying with the law and making an attempt at “good customer service,” on behalf of the education boards.

“States and districts need to train their staff … we’re leaving compliance behind and thinking about customer service, which is a bit of a new role, unfortunately, for many of our government agencies in this country,” he said.

Currently, only 14 states claim to have “easily accessible” data for parents so they can retrieve the information the state has gathered about their children, and just ten of those said they are creating databases that are customized to a student’s “individual learning path.”

states records

“I want to see what data is out there about my kids … and I don’t think Nevada should be sharing this information with the Smarter Balanced assessment consortium,” Eppolito said.

Smarter Balanced is “a state-led consortium working collaboratively to develop next-generation assessments aligned to the Common Core State Standards that accurately measure student progress toward college and career readiness,” according to the organization’s website.

So why is the data shared to begin with? Aarons said tracking some data points, such as when a student has had a number of absences has assisted teachers with helping students who may be getting off track. 

The Nevada State Education department did not immediately respond to TheBlaze’s request for comment; Eppolito plans to reengage with the department on the grounds that he has legal authority to access the individual student data.

(H/T: Fox News)

Follow Elizabeth Kreft (@elizabethakreft) on Twitter.


common-core-student

MY CHILD IS NOT COMMON

by 

"My Child Is Not Common" are the words on the attention-getting signs carried by a group of white and African-American mothers protesting the adoption of the aggressively promoted Common Core standards. Common Core is scheduled to take over the testing of all U.S. kids, pre-K to 12, but parents are saying "no way" in every way they can.

Common Core was rapidly adopted by 44 states and the District of Columbia before any read the standards. Four states rejected it from the outset: Alaska, Nebraska, Texas and Virginia.

Those of us who have been speaking and writing against national control of education for years are amazed at the way parents are coming out of their kitchens to protest. None of the previous attempts by the progressives to nationalize public school curriculum created anything like this kind of grassroots uprising.

Bad education fads started some fifty years ago with Whole Language, which cheated generations of school kids out of learning how to read English by phonics. Call the roll of the fads that followed: Values Clarification, Goals 2000, Outcome-Based Education, School-Based Clinics, Sex Ed, Suicide Ed, Self-Esteem Ed, New Math, History Standards, School to Work, Race to the Top, and No Child Left Behind.

Our powerful and erudite articles against all those fads never aroused the angst caused by Common Core. Those of us who for years have been criticizing the mistaken courses that kept kids from learning are flabbergasted at what we see erupting among the grassroots.

Former Education Commissioner Robert Scott was the Texas official who articulated that state's rejection of Common Core. He pointed out how the feds tried to bribe Texas into going along.

Scott said, "We said no to Common Core and they said, 'you want Race to the Top money?' That was $700 million. They said, 'do it.' Well, we still said, no thanks. The feds also asked if Texas wanted a No Child Left Behind waiver and again, Texas said no."

Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal recently came out with a strong statement against Common Core: "As we have seen in Obamacare, President Obama's Washington believes it knows better than the peasants in the states. But centralized planning didn't work in Russia, it's not working with our health care system, and it won't work in education."

No wonder the grassroots have dubbed Common Core Obamacore. That's a play on the Obamacare health plan that is so widely despised.

Indiana became the first state to opt out when its Senate voted 35-13 to withdraw Indiana from Common Core standards on March 12, 2014. But Indiana Governor Mike Pence appears to have backtracked and just renamed it, a bureaucratic trick that doesn't fool either side, and is a disappointment to the Indiana moms who started the national revolt against Common Core.

Pence's action is particularly baffling because pre-Common Core Indiana was known to have one of the highest standards of all the fifty states. Hillsdale College professor Terrence Moore said that Common Core's English standards deserve an "F" and even omits teaching phonics, and Stanford University math professor James Milgram, who served on the Common Core math validation committee, charged that the math standards are so "incomprehensible" and complicated that they should be called "bizarre."

As Common Core keeps plodding right ahead in most states, parents are finding plenty to criticize in the curriculum. Parents think that the math questions children bring home are incomprehensible and stupid. New York parents are objecting to the fact that Common Core social studies standards say America is founded on the democratic principles of equality, fairness and respect for authority but don't mention liberty, and Alabama parents are objecting to the pornography in assigned readings.

There's no mention of education in the U.S. Constitution because the Founding Fathers believed education is a parental and a state issue. Our laws still reflect that assumption, but that concept has been widely violated in recent years by the flow of federal money with strings attached.

Parents are also suspicious of the gigantic amount of money that is being spent to promote the use of Common Core-aligned books and teacher training. Emeritus Professor Jack Hassard of Georgia State University estimates that billionaire Bill Gates has spent $2.3 billion on Common Core.

Some say Gates is a promoter of "global sameness of education as defined by UNESCO and the United Nations." Gates has expressed agreement with UN policies that many Americans oppose such as Agenda 21, which promotes global governance at the expense of private property and national sovereignty.

Phyllis Schlafly is a lawyer, conservative political analyst and author of 20 books. She is the co-author, with George Neumayr, of the New York Times Best-Seller titled "No Higher Power: Obama's War on Religious Freedom." She can be contacted by e-mail at phyllis@eagleforum.org. To find out more about Phyllis Schlafly and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate Website at www.creators.com.


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Dept. of Education Erects Obstacles to Keep States in Common Core

By David Craig | May 12, 2014

When someone hears bureaucratic terms like “compliance, mandates and penalties,” they might think of the EPA, the IRS, or these days, the Department of Health and Human Services. But another federal government department is fast adopting the language of strict and onerous regulation. Annoyed that Indiana wants to extricate themselves from the Common Core education standards, the U.S. Department of Education is erecting procedural obstacles to make this as difficult possible.

At stake for Hoosiers is $200 million in federal education funds. The Obama Administration is using “No Child Left Behind” waivers to warn Indiana officials of the penalties they face for non-compliance with Common Core. In a political scheme that could only be hatched in Washington, one federal program enacted under George W. Bush and widely derided for undermining local school authority, is pitted against another federal program even more derided for the same reasons.

Horror stories about Common Core are increasing by the day. Police are ejecting or arresting parents from public venues for voicing opposition to Common Core. Social media depicts test questions that make young pupils burst into tears, because they are impossible to answer and make them feel like failures. Meanwhile, elected officials like me are concerned about yet another federal government mandate that dangles $4 billion in federal Race to the Top education grants for local schools under the condition of adherence to Common Core.

Indiana is the first state to officially back out of Common Core. Governor Mike Pence signed into law legislation this spring requiring the state to adopt its own standards and opt-out of Common Core. “I believe our students are best served when decisions about education are made at the state and local level,” Pence said. That sounds simple and agreeable enough.

Hoosiers Against Common Core, however, an advocacy group drawing attention to test questions, data tracking on students and the notion that the standards could morph into a national curriculum, are far from declaring victory. Their concern is that Indiana is simply re-branding the standards, essentially cutting and pasting them into a state-based version of Common Core. There are similar concerns in Arizona, Florida and Utah which are in varying degrees of trying to rid themselves of the politically toxic Common Core. Parents and teachers are not waging this fight only to see an Arizona Common Core, a Florida Common Core or an Indiana Common Core.

This leaves Indiana education officials in the difficult position of having to explain to the U.S. Department of Education why it should keep its waiver, while actually returning decision-making to the state and local level, as the governor promised. Concerned parents are looking for a clean break from Common Core. How did our public education system turn into such a mess?

Retired General Motors executive Bob Lutz recently wrote a book entitled “Car guys vs. Bean Counters…” When Lutz got into the auto business in the 1960s, management knew that to capture the public’s imagination required innovative car design. According to Lutz, the decline of GM began when executives put their faith in numbers and spreadsheets. With the bean counters firmly in charge, decline soon followed.

If Bob Lutz is a car guy, then you can call me an “education guy.” I spent 34 years in Maryland’s public schools as a teacher and an assistant principal. My career started as our nation was on top, coming off an age when we sent men to the moon and returned them safely to the earth. There were no waivers, no Common Core, no ‘No Child Left Behind,’ and no U.S. Department of Education.

What I had back then, and what Governor Pence needs now, and what my home state of Maryland urgently needs, is to give control to teachers in the classroom. Maryland has rushed head first to adopt every federal program in the last several years including Obamacare, Common Core and EPA stormwater regulations, to name a few. The results are always the same – poor execution, millions of dollars wasted and excessive regulation and taxes.

Here is a simple message to anyone concerned about making education work for students and not education bureaucrats. Let teacher’s teach, let them do their job.

Nobody will ever capture a child’s imagination in the classroom from Washington D.C. Common Core is bean counters and bureaucrats run amok. They will destroy our education system. No amount of tinkering or re-branding will ever fix it. End it and return control of the classroom to teachers and local school boards.


The Trouble With Common Core

By: Peggy Noonan

 

George Will made an incisive and spirited case against the Common Core on Tuesday’s “Special Report With Bret Baier. Earlier in the broadcast Michelle Rhee, whose efforts in education have earned her deserved admiration, was invited on to make the case for Common Core. She reverted to the gobbledygook language that educators too often use, and failed to make a persuasive case that the Core is good for public-school students, and will help them, and our country, in the long run.

My conversations with several Core proponents over the past few weeks leave me with the sense they fell in love with an abstraction and gave barely a thought to implementation. But implementation—how a thing is done day by day in the real world—is everything. There is a problem, for instance, with a thing called “ObamaCare.” That law exists because the people who pushed for it fell in love with an abstract notion and gave not a thought to what the law would actually do and how it would work.

The educationalists wanted to impose (they don’t like that word; they prefer “offer” or “suggest”) more rigorous and realistic standards, and establish higher expectations as to what children can be expected to have learned by the time they leave the public schools. They seem to have thought they could wave a magic wand and make that happen. But life isn’t lived in some abstract universe; it’s lived on the ground, in this case with harried parents trying, to the degree they can or are willing, to help the kids with homework and study for tests. The test questions that have come out are nonsensical and impenetrable, promise to get worse, and for those reasons are demoralizing. Louis CK was right “Late Show With David Letterman,” when he spoofed the math problems offered on his daughters’ tests: “Bill has three goldfish. He buys two more. How many dogs live in London?”

There sure is a lot of money floating around. Who is watching how those who’ve contracted to do Common Core-related work are doing their jobs?

George Will focused on the higher, substantive meaning and implications of the Core, but the effort has also been psychologically and politically inept. Proponents are now talking about problems with the rollout. Well, yes, and where have we heard that before? One gets the impression they didn’t think this through, that they held symposia and declared the need, with charts and bullet points, for something to be done—and something must be done, because American public education is falling behind the world—and then left it to somebody, or 10,000 somebodies, to make it all work.

The people who developed and created Common Core need to look now at themselves. Who is responsible for the nonsensical test questions? Who oversees the test makers? Do the questions themselves reflect the guidance given to teachers—i.e., was the teaching itself nonsensical? How was implementation of the overall scheme supposed to work? Who decided the way to take on critics was to denigrate parents, who supposedly don’t want their little darlings to be revealed as non-geniuses, and children, who supposedly don’t want to learn anything? Who among these serious people chose sarcasm as a strategy? Who decided the high-class pushback against the pushback should be defensive and dismissive? Did anyone bother to get actual parents in on the planning and development? Were women there, and mothers? Maybe parents with kids in the public school system? Who even picked the ugly name—Common Core sounds common, except to the extent to which it sounds Soviet. Maybe it was the people who dreamed up the phrase “homeland security.”

The irony is that Core proponents’ overall objective—to get schools teaching more necessary and important things, and to encourage intellectual coherence in what is taught—is not bad, but good. Why they thought the answer was federal, I mean national, and not local is beyond me. Since patronizing people you disagree with is all the rage, I’ll have a go. The Common Core establishment appears to be largely led by people who are well-educated, well-meaning, accomplished and affluent, and who earnestly desire to help those in less fortunate circumstances, but who simply don’t know enough about normal people—how they live, how they think—to have made a success of it. Also they don’t seem to know that intelligent Americans, exactly the kind who quickly become aware of and respond to new federal schemes—sorry, I meant national ones—have become very, very wary of Washington, and the dreams of its eggheads. How they could have missed that is also beyond me.

http://blogs.wsj.com/peggynoonan/2014/05/07/the-trouble-with-common-core/tab/print/


State Political Rifts Sap Support for Common-Core Tests

http://www.edweek.org/ew/articles/2014/05/07/30tests.h33.html?cmp=ENL-CM-NEWS1

State Political Rifts Sap Support for Common-Core Tests

Published Online: May 6, 2014

Published in Print: May 7, 2014, as State Political Rifts Sap Support for Common-Core Tests

Assessments drawing fire as target in standards fight

By Andrew Ujifusa

While nearly every state that adopted the Common Core State Standards appears to be sticking with that commitment, political pressure is fragmenting the environment for tests aligned with the common core and the two federally funded assessment consortia producing them.

The most recent tally shows that 13 states do not belong to either the Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers or the Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium. At the peak in 2010, PARCC claimed the membership of 26 states, and Smarter Balanced had 31. Currently, 16 states and the District of Columbia are sticking with PARCC, and 22 are in Smarter Balanced.

And in some cases, states appear to be willing to sacrifice the tests to keep the standards themselves. For example, a bill in Tennessee that's heading to Gov. Bill Haslam, a Republican, would stop the administration of the PARCC test for the 2014-15 school year and require the state to solicit new test proposals after that. The legislation has been viewed in Tennessee as a compromise following a push by some conservative lawmakers to halt the common core's implementation.

Recent fights over the consortia's common-core tests have also taken place in public in Louisiana and South Carolina. The latter state left Smarter Balanced on April 14, after a dispute between state Superintendent of Education Mick Zais and the state board of education.

In Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal, a Republican, has expressed a desire to leave the PARCC consortium. But John White, the state schools' chief, said the governor's position threatens to subvert the state's intent for how the tests will be used: "We have a plan that is a long-term, 12-year plan. It was vetted through months of public discourse," Mr. White said.

At the same time, testing providers such as ACT and the American Institutes for Research threaten to cut into the market share of the two consortia by offering their own alternative tests, which could affect both the number of students they reach and the cost efficiencies for remaining consortia members. (However, PARCC announced last week that it was lowering the price of its assessments per student from $29.50 to, at most, $24.)

"I don't think it's ideal," said Jeff Gagne, the director of education policies at the Southern Regional Education Board, an Atlanta-based policy and research group, about the uncertain common-core testing environment. "The problem is that you can't [disentangle] politics and policy. To think you can is foolhardy."

'Speed Bump' or Setback?

Tennessee offers a good example of the politics surrounding the common-core tests. The state has won praise from U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan and analysts for how it has prepared schools and teachers for both the common core and the PARCC assessments.

But that backdrop didn't stop the Tennessee General Assembly, which is controlled by Republicans, from putting the state on the path to delaying and potentially dropping the tests, assuming Gov. Haslam, a common-core supporter, signs the bill. (The bill could also become law without his signature.) The Tennessee House previously had approved a bill to delay further use of the standards.

Common-core supporters in the state are putting a positive spin on the situation. The measure passed by the legislature is a "reaffirmation from the General Assembly that rigorous academic standards for students in Tennessee are important," said David Mansouri, the executive vice president of the Nashville-based State Collaborative on Reforming Education, a nonprofit group that supports the common core. He called any delay of PARCC testing a mere "speed bump," adding that a variety of policy changes have contributed to the state's recent run of success on the National Assessment of Educational Progress.

Mr. Mansouri also said that the PARCC tests and the state's own assessment program under the No Child Left Behind Act are "not the only way to know how students are doing."

But both Kevin Huffman, the state's education commissioner, and Mr. Mansouri stridently oppose any halt to the use of teacher evaluations informed in part by scores from whatever test is used, a practice the Tennessee Education Association is suing to stop.

Morgan Polikoff, an assistant professor at the University of Southern California's Rossier School of Education, who has studied the use of common-core-aligned tests, said that while the sky won't fall in Tennessee if it goes without the consortia test for a year, he is skeptical that vendors could truly match the consortia's work.

"It really does matter what that test looks like in terms of format and content and alignment and quality," Mr. Polikoff said.

Process and a Pawn

In South Carolina, Barry Bolen, the chairman of the state school board, argued that he would be satisfied with dropping the Smarter Balanced tests if the state could keep the common core.

In early April, the state board and Mr. Zais engaged in a tussle over the standards.

Mr. Zais' department told school districts April 3 to halt field-testing on the common-core-aligned assessments, only to have the board reaffirm its commitment to the tests in an April 9 vote.

Saying that the state should enter a competitive marketplace for common-core tests, Mr. Zais then announced April 14 he was unilaterally withdrawing the state from the Smarter Balanced consortium to seek a new test, an action that Mr. Bolen has contested.

Smarter Balanced tests became a pawn in a fight led by common-core opponents like Mr. Zais, a Republican, and GOP state lawmakers responding to political pressure from tea party activists, Mr. Bolen argued.

The fight itself, however, left teachers and schools up in the air about which direction their state would head, he said, without opponents to Smarter Balanced presenting distinct alternatives.

"This isn't really about the Smarter Balanced. This is about the process and the tactics and the way this whole thing has gone down," Mr. Bolen said.

An Issue of Commonality

Even among the remaining members of both consortia, some states won't use PARCC and Smarter Balanced tests for all the relevant grade levels. Wisconsin, for example, will only use Smarter Balanced tests in grades 3-8, while relying on ACT tests in high school. Missouri plans to use Smarter Balanced only for the 5th and 8th grades.

Regardless of which states will use certain tests for certain grades, the broad use of consortia tests would not in any way ensure strong implementation of the common core itself, or that good curricula and resources will be developed to build a bridge for students between the standards and the tests, said Dennis Van Roekel, the president of the 3 million-member National Education Association.

"We don't need a high-stakes standardized test to do that," he said.


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