"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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Saturday, July 14, 2012

Common Core Standards and Sofas. Slipcovering vs Reupholstering Education.

Can we slipcover or do we need to reupholster education?

We just had our sofa recovered and it looks fabulous. The "bones" of the sofa were good.  It was just the outside fabric that was old and tired and needed to be replaced.  We didn't have to strip the sofa down to its wooden frame and use new stuffing and material for the sofa to be useful.  This analogy of sofa stuffing and slipcovering can be used in reference to the education reform facing the majority of states via Common Core standards and the NCLB/ESEA waivers so "graciously" granted by the Federal government to states agreeing to the Federal guidelines.

Think of common core standards as stuffing in a couch.  Common Core standards replace state standards.  If you lived in a state such as Massachusetts that had exemplary standards, it's as if your stuffing in your very usable couch has been ripped out and replaced with stuffing of lesser quality.  The CCS stuffing has not been tested or even "manufactured" in final form, so it is uncertain whether or not they will "sit well".  This new stuffing will require a significant cost in material and labor for implementation, when the prior stuffing was fine and even superior to the new and "improved" stuffing.

The waivers are stuffing as well.  The NCLB/ESEA mandate stuffing didn't work so what did the Federal Government do?  It just replaced it with other mandated stuffing.  It didn't matter what the states/districts needed for their individual couches, the DOEd instructed them what stuffing to use and how to use the stuffing.  One state may need firm stuffing, one may require softer stuffing.  Not every couch or type of stuffing works for every household, just like a "one size fits all" education doesn't  fits every state, district, or school, much less every student.

Questions.  If 93% of the schools in Missouri were successful, then why has the stuffing (Common Core and waivers) been replaced and mandated for 100% of the schools?  If 7% of the schools were failing, why have ALL the schools been reorganized under unproven, untested and underfunded mandates?  If the vast majority of the schools had good foundations, why are they required to be overhauled?

Why should all couches be stripped and rebuilt because some were broken?  Why should all schools be under the same mandates to ostensibly "fix" the minority of failing schools?

1 comment:

  1. Note: Posted by administrator as the posting from the reader failed.


    Just found your blog and have read your postings on Diane Ravitch's blog. I post there frequently also, as myself, Duane Swacker. I posted anonymously on one of your previous blog entries about common core because I couldn't post by using my name as it said that there were illegal characters in the url. Oh well!

    This entry with the upholstery analogy caught my eye because prior to becoming a high school Spanish teacher (18 years now) I worked in the furniture sector for about 10 years (I've also done inventory control in a hospital pharmacy, customer service work-furniture and metal building manufacturer, and production scheduling and materials management-metal building manufacturer).

    I am a master upholsterer, meaning that I can take a piece apart, even going so far as to be able to reglue and or replace broken frame parts, install zigzag and or coil springs and properly tie coil springs, repad the frame, make patterns, layout and cut the fabric so that all patterns match as much as possible, sew the parts that need to be sewed and then reapply the fabric-in other words do it all. You don't learn to do that in a year or two. It takes many years, minimum five to begin to really get the hang of it.

    I also consider myself a master teacher, not just because I got a masters degree but because I've been "practicing" teaching for 18 years and I believe that to become a master teacher it takes a minimum of 10 years of experience. Even now, every year something unexpected happens in the class room.

    Now to your analogy or more to my upholstery to education analogy. The frame work, wood and springs are the curriculum that one teaches. Now what to do with that frame work, how it gets padded out and the fabric cut, sewed and applied is what the teacher does everyday in the class. Each piece of upholstered furniture is different, the processes of doing them different (although similar), and the results different (final look and feel of the piece). And that is what happens each class as the curriculum is "padded out", that is laid out, explained, shown to the students by the teacher. Now a significant difference is that the students take in what the teacher does and adjusts their thinking/being whereas a piece of furniture is just a passive object.

    We can have in mind the final "product"-what the students learns, but we can never know if it comes out the way we want as one can when upholstering because teaching and learning is a very fluid, amorphous experience.

    What the Common Core standards attempt to do (failing miserably) is to "control" the process and final "product" (and I hate referring to students as "product" but am just using the term here for the analogy). Common Core attempts to be the frame, padding, cutting, sewing and application of fabric and the final "product" itself as "measured" or "judged" by the standardized test which go hand in hand with educational standards. Teaching and learning really aren't like upholstering after all!!

    To better understand the fallacies that are educational standards, i.e., Common Core, grading and standardized testing please read and understand Noel Wilson in “Educational Standards and the Problem of Error” found at:
    http://epaa.asu.edu/ojs/article/view/577 or Wilson's review showing the invalidities involved in standardized testing, “A Little Less than Valid: An Essay Review” found at:


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