"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, December 14, 2012

Wading Into The Standards Weeds

This week Diane Ravitch took on David Coleman (drafter of the CCSS English Language Arts [ELA] standards and President of the College Board) over his explanation of the Common Core ELA standards. Advice to David Coleman: Revise the Common Core Standards At issue is some confusion and angst over the 70/30 requirement in the ELA standards which states that teachers use 70% literary text and 30% informational text when teaching. Does it mean out with The Great Gatsby and in with GM's manual on do-it-yourself oil changes?  There is great wailing and gnashing of teeth from some that this is "anti-intellectual, anti-literary, anti-the things of the mind that can’t be quantified." There are equally vociferous claims from the other side, e.g. Coleman, that informational texts would instead include things like the speeches of Lincoln and MLK and that a significant portion of them would be used in other classes like science and social studies. Many experts and pundits have weighed in with different conclusions. Welcome to the morass that is the Common Core Standards themselves.

Ravitch notes that state and district officials have no way of monitoring whether teachers are complying with any type of category split. Are we going to assign yet another administrative staffer to count the number of books in each category being used by each teacher to make sure there is compliance? Let's hope not. If we did, would that counting to be done by teacher or across an entire school, or district wide? Should teachers, principals, school boards be spending time deciding whether or not a written piece falls into one category or another? The literary category has been under debate for years. What constitutes quality literature? Do we really need to add, what is good informational text?

A few examples of the latter have been bandied about and debated about whether they would fit into this category. One is EPA guidelines which Coleman quickly, almost too quickly, dismissed. Stanley Kurtz of the National Review looked at what is actually given as examples in the Common Core documentation. One of the suggested texts is Executive Order 13423: Strengthening Federal Environmental, Energy, and Transportation Management.You must read Kurtz's piece to understand why this is not nearly as propagandistic as it appears on first blush. The important thing is that CC actually cited environmental regulation as an appropriate informational text.

Stepping further into the weeds, we uncovered a presentation given by EPA Region 3 (mid-Atlantic states) that says EPA's goal is an increased understanding of how their Environmental Education
"integrates with common core standards," (p. 2) and how EE can "support common core." (p. 3)  Does this not show an assumption on EPA's part that they will be producing materials for schools to use in Common Core?  They also see a role for themselves in providing Formal and Non Formal Educator Professional Development (p. 6). [Sidebar: EPA will also be concerning themselves about the greenness of our schools p. 7]

Of greater concern is the assertion  that EE will "integrate with emerging new science framework/ standards." If it will be so easy to integrate EPA's view of the environment into science standards, is there any doubt what those standards will look like? Put another way, which is more likely to change for the other - EPA to conform to peer reviewed scientific standards or classroom science standards to change to align with EPA's ideology?

The likes of Coleman, Duncan and Bennett can say that the specifics of what is actually used in the classroom are up to the individual teachers or districts. Technically this is true. But as Kurtz points out, in the real world many schools will simply adopt the recommended Common Core exemplars as the path of least resistance. The mere existence of a national set of standards, prepackaged and ready to go, is all that is needed for many schools to adopt them. Pushing them through RTTT just gave them a nudge under everyone's nose.

It is easy to get lost in the argument of whether the standards themselves are good or not.  Are they too easy, too rigorous, to heavily weighted this way or that, better or worse than what schools use now? Once set in place, with everyone used to where their marching orders come from they will be hard to dislodge. The crafters knew this. Whether we like or dislike them now is not the point. If they change in the future because, say, more federal departments are having a say in how they are written, we will have lost the right to change them locally. The focus must remain on where the locus of control for our schools resides.


  1. There is nothing clean or constructive that can be said about this plot to globalize our children. Drive them away from God, family and America. I don't know how these criminals sleep at night.

  2. Are standards a problem or is it the Common Core Curriculum? Besides the questionable math curriculum, Common Core Curriculum is the Institutionalization of the Liberal Progressive Socialist Political Propaganda that has been creeping into our education system for decades. There are many instances of this type of propaganda throughout the text books and especially the online curriculum that parents likely will never see.

    In England they outlawed political propaganda in public schools. In America it is being institutionalized to effectively brainwash our kids. Teaching sexual diversity in preschool? Teaching “the government is your family” with a questionnaire for kids to fill out with questions like “How do your parents protect you? How does the government protect you? How do your parents punish you? How does the government punish you?” Curriculum that “helps kids to understand who they are” that has a questionnaire that creates a peer pressure with loaded questions directed at supporting a liberal agenda, and the children are told to answer the questions in class and NOT to do it at home.

    Other curriculum is designed to make students feel guilty and personally responsible because of slavery. Still more describe the Founding Fathers as extremists and terrorists which suggests to our children that we should treat terrorists as we would treat the Founding Fathers. Widely used text books twist the 2nd Amendment to parallel the liberal agenda. Deceptive Political left wing propaganda at its best. These are only the tip of the iceberg. There are many more examples.


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