"I know no safe depository of the ultimate powers of the society but the people themselves; and if we think them not enlightened enough to exercise their control with a wholesome discretion, the remedy is not to take it from them, but to inform their discretion by education. This is the true corrective of abuses of constitutional power." - Thomas Jefferson 1820

"There is a growing technology of testing that permits us now to do in nanoseconds things that we shouldn't be doing at all." - Dr. Gerald Bracey author of Rotten Apples in Education

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Friday, July 22, 2011

Didn't They Tell Us Common Core Standards Wouldn't Create a Common Curriculum? Is This a Shell Game?

Common Core standards have been adopted by more than 40 states. While it has been heralded as voluntary, Title I funding was threatened to be withheld if states did not sign onto the standards. Critics of the standards have been vocal about the adoption process and the standards themselves. Here are some issues about the standards from Truth in American Education:

The CCSS Mathematics Standards:

  • Delay development of some key concepts and skills.
  • Include significant mathematical sophistication written at a level beyond understanding of most parents, students, administrators, decision makers and many teachers.
  • Lack coherence and clarity to be consistently interpreted by students, parents, teachers, administrators, curriculum developers, textbook developers/publishers, and assessment developers. Will this lead to consistent expectations and equity?
  • Have standards inappropriately placed, including delayed requirement for standard algorithms, which will hinder student success and waste valuable instructional time.
  • Treat important topics unevenly. This will result in inefficient use of instructional and practice time.
  • Are not well organized at the high school level. Some important topics are insufficiently covered. The standards are not divided into defined courses.
  • Place emphasis on Standards for Mathematical Practice which supports a constructivist approach. This approach is typical of “reform” math programs to which many parents across the country object.
  • Publishers of reform programs are aligning them with the CCSS Standards for Mathematical Practice. The CCSS will not necessarily improve the math programs being used in many schools.
  • Unusual and unproven approach to geometry.

The Standards for English Language Arts and Literacy in History/Social Studies, Science, and Technical Subjects (ELA):

  • Use confusing language in some standards.
  • Are not always clear or measureable on expected student outcomes.
  • Are not always organized in a logical way and are difficult to follow.
  • Treat literary elements inconsistently.
  • Have some writing standards that are general and do not specify what a student should be able to know or do.
  • Focus on skills over content in reading.
  • Do not address or require cursive writing.
Truth in American Education also points out these concerns about the standards:

The move towards Common Core State Standards and the two consortia developing assessments have led some to advocate for a common core or national curriculum, as called for by the Albert Shanker Institute in A Call for Common Content: Core Curriculum Must Build A Bridge From Standards to Achievement. A national curriculum would further erode local control and raises other serious issues as indicated in Closing the Door on Innovation: Why One National Curriculum is Bad for America. This response includes the following concerns:
  1. No constitutional or statutory basis for national standards, national assessments, or national curricula.
  2. No consistent evidence indicates that a national curriculum leads to high academic achievement.
  3. Developed national standards are inadequate for basing a national curriculum as planned by the administration.
  4. No body of evidence recommends a “best” design for curriculum sequences in any subject.
  5. No body of evidence justifies a single high school curriculum for all students.

So why the rush to adopt unproven and unfunded standards? As one of the main sponsors and financial supporters of the Common Core standards (who also will benefit financially from this educational arrangement), this statement comes from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation as noted by EdWeek:

The Gates Foundation expressly admits that its intention is to align learning tools with the Common Core State Standards and “to fundamentally change the way students and teachers interact in the classroom, and ultimately, how education works in America.”

Why should the Gates Foundation determine the educational direction of ALL American students? Why is the DOE and Arne Duncan cozying up with the Gates Foundation allowing a private company to dictate education services? Why should the Gates Foundation and other private organizations such as the National Governor's Association (NGA) and CCSSO (Chief Council of State School Officers) direct the standards for American students?

Administrators and teachers are beginning to ask these type of questions:

New guidelines on crafting curriculum materials for the common standards in English/language arts are reigniting debate about how to ensure a marketplace of good instructional materials for the new standards without crossing the line into telling teachers how to teach.

The two publishers’ criteria documents, totaling 24 pages, land in a swirl of discussion about how to create good curricula for the common-core standards, which emerged from an initiative led by the nation’s governors and state schools chiefs. One central tension in the discussion has been trying to address the need for instructional tools without dictating pedagogy; another has been the question of who should shape curriculum design.

Why should you, as a taxpayer who may have a child in the public school system, be concerned about pedagogy or curriculum design? Here is a statement of "philanthropic" intent from the Gates Foundation:

The Gates Foundation, for instance, has convened conversations that included representatives from other sectors, among them the environmental-protection and food industries, to talk about how their certification processes might inform parallel work in the curriculum world.

Jamie McKee, who helps lead common-standards work for the Seattle-based Gates Foundation, said that while the foundation “cares deeply about the quality of the [instructional] materials that come from the common core,” it hasn’t yet decided whether it favors a panel or process for validating such materials.

The foundation continues to listen to a range of views about “what comes next for the standards, and how to find the right balance” between helping the field produce a range of sound instructional materials and wading into judgments about products, she said.

Think about it. You now have common core standards directing the teaching of whatever social issue the Gates Foundation thinks important! The Foundation wants to "align learning tools with the common core curriculum". What control and what power over student learning certain crony capitalists possess.

Concern also arises about how and what teachers can teach:

“The very people writing [the standards] are the ones telling everyone else how you’re supposed to comply,” said Walt Chappell, a member of the Kansas state board of education. “What we have is a group of people dictating to everyone else what’s to be taught in every classroom, to every student.”

Can the designers of the common core standards continue the shell game routine and keep pretending they can set standards for the majority of American students without telling teachers how to teach? Maybe even the Gates Foundation can't pull off this sham much longer. Just remember their goal: it's looking into combining standards into curriculum it deems important. Tell us again how you can combine standards and curriculum and insist you're not telling teachers how/what to teach?

And again, we ask: why does a private organization have such power to make public policy?

1 comment:

  1. "And again, we ask: why does a private organization have such power to make public policy?"

    Another question that goes unanswered. Where's the accountability?


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