"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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Thursday, December 20, 2012

Whose Side are you on in the Common Core Standards War?

The Common Core Wars are heating up.  Today we will write about one battle brewing over at Diane Ravitch's site.  Ms. Ravitch published a small posting entitled In Defense of the Common Core Standards:

Roz Linder is tired of reading uninformed rants against the Common Core standards. She says most of the comments come from people who have never read them.

She says that it would be a worthy exercise to read the Common Core standards as informational text before making unfounded claims about what they recommend.

You can find them here. Please read them.

Dr. Linder writes:

Throw in the opportunity to read informational text about his plays, to explore themes and central idea, to stop being told what to think and just be given the tools to think. We have those tools nicely packaged…Common Core.

With stories emerging every day about teachers lamenting having to use them and questioning their effectiveness, I wondered why Dr. Linder (a former teacher according to her biography) supports them.  It looks as if she has become a capitalist offering her services to district so teachers/administrators can learn implementation techniques.  From her website:

Ready to bring professional learning to your city, school, or district? Email us at scheduleme@rozlinder.com for a customized quote or info@rozlinder.com for more information or questions.

I didn't see any of Ravitch's readers writing about this possible conflict of interest in her positive reviews of CCSS I applaud Dr. Linder for her enthusiastic support of the standards and that she can now be paid for helping districts to implement them.  The readers took her to task for her views on Common Core in the comment section.  An interesting comment came from a now famous ex-teacher in the education reform circles:

Kris Nielsen
Read them and was named a “specialist” at one of my schools. Here’s my take…freshly pressed: http://mgmfocus.com/2012/12/18/this-is-how-democracy-ends-an-apology/

Mr. Nielsen was the teacher who garnered much attention from his resignation letter sent to his North Carolina school district.  He entitled it "I Quit" and he spelled out the reasons which included his inability to teach students utilizing Common Core standards.  He speaks to Dr. Linder's praise of Common Core standards with his experience as a teacher and former CCSS facilitator. He DID read the standards.  He was "for the standards before he was against them" and he explains how he came to the realization that CSSS is misguided in This is How Democracy Ends--An Apology:


Almost a year ago, I offered my time to the middle school at which I was employed to give a two-night presentation that promised to ease parents’ concerns about the Common Core State Standards (CCSS) and the Connected Mathematics Program (CMP).  I was given kudos by my boss, my coworkers, and many of those parents.  We talked about the future, the upcoming tests by the Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium (SBAC), and we even did some hands-on math demonstrations.  It was a good time for me, and I hope those parents can say the same.  My message was simple: trust us–we got this!

Some of them were still skeptical, and they should be praised for that skepticism.

First, I want to offer you my apologies.  It wasn’t long after my presentation that I had a crushing realization that the entire thing (minus the hands-on stuff) was completely misguided.  I felt like a flip-flopper, but I’ve always valued the truth more than feeling good.  So, I’m here to clear the air.  The truth hurts and it should start scaring the hell out of you, because your children are your most precious gift and you will do anything to protect them.

The whole reason I was part of the team that put those presentations together was to ease your worry about the changes that were coming.  I’m here to retract everything I said.  You should be worried.  Very worried!

I was wrong.  The Common Core State Standards is a sham, the Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium is an instrument of devastation, and it’s all run by the process you see in the following Venn diagram (don’t you love Venn diagrams?):
(MEW note: For better diagram clarity, visit Nielsen's website).

Before I start sounding too nutty, let me get down to the reality.  You’ll see that I’m not exaggerating.

America has long been known–despite our problems–as the country of freedom, innovation, and wealth. 

There are several reasons for this, not the least of which is our democratic and free public education system. Prior to NCLB in 2002 and Race to the Top eight years later, standardization was limited to SAT and ACT tests, NAEP and PISA tests, and graduation exams for Advanced Placement courses.  We valued music, art, drama, languages and the humanities just as much as valued science, math, and English (for the most part).  We believed in the well-rounded education.

Now, the Common Core State Standards has one goal: to create common people.  The accompanying standardized tests have one purpose: to create standardized people.  Why?  Because the movers and the shakers have a vested interest in it.  It’s about money and it’s about making sure all that money stays in one place.

It’s been happening for a few years already.  StudentsFirst, ALEC, the Walton and Broad and Gates Foundations, and other lobbying groups have created a false crisis in American education.  They want you to believe that America is in sad educational shape so that they can play the hero.  However, what they’ve begun is a snowball effect of legislation that devastates public education, teachers, and an already underfunded school system so that they can replace the public system, the unions, and the government employees with private systems that promise to pay less, bust unions, and remove benefits and pensions.
Teach For America is a prime example of a way to steal government funding, place it in the hands of private corporations, and remove that pesky career (tenure) teacher problem.  It’s worked like a dream–the average TFA teacher stays in the classroom for about 2-3 years.  Only a few remain for 5 or more years.  So, the new American teacher is a mass-produced, temporary worker in an ongoing assembly line.  Cheaper?  Usually.  And they don’t complain about pay, pensions, or benefits, since this is just a step in their career ladders.

Which means that students don’t have highly-qualified and seasoned teachers leading their learning anymore.  Even worse that that, TFA teachers are prepared and trained with test data as the be-all-to-end-all of priorities.  These teachers only know effectiveness by the scores their students receive on standardized tests.

Cooperation? Collaboration? Creativity? Communication? Critical thinking?  Life skills?  Only if there’s time (which there isn’t) and don’t expect it to be integrated or cohesive.  That’s not what the training is for.  Our students are now part of a larger plan–to prepare them for the “college and career readiness” laid out by the “job creators” on Wall Street–the ones that want your kids to understand that a job is what they’re trained for and that they are lucky to have, so stop whining about your pensions and benefits.  And forget about belonging to one of those pesky unions–we will have outlawed them completely by then.

But more importantly, all of the skills linked above lead our students to be profound, critical, and meaningful participants in a modern democracy.  Some would argue that our days as a free country for the people and by the people are limited, and running out fast.  If we continue to support the path that our nation’s educational system is on, we will speed up the end of our democracy.  When students are forced to learn for the sake of a score and are denied the opportunity to think and reason and question and appreciate the world in which they live, they are all the more easy to control and deny basic rights.

It’s already happening.  I despise watching people discuss and debate issues in this country these days.  No one knows how to do it.

America did not become what it is today because of common people.  We celebrate our diversity, exceptionality, and bravery at the same time that we are attempting to bury those traits.  The world is following our educational models of the past few decades at the same time that we are turning our backs on those successful models.  We are digging a grave for our democratic process at a time when we should be paying extra special attention to keeping it healthy.

Our next generation of learners can save us and keep us strong through their diversity, ingenuity, creativity, friendliness, cooperation, and forward thinking.  And their dreams.  The Common Core State Standards, standardized tests, and privatized teacher corps are stifling those dreams.  Our democracy will ultimately be the victim.


In the Common Core Wars, I think I'll join Mr. Nielsen's army.  Skepticism about unproven/untested theories being taught to students while others cash in on questionable practices should be forefront in these battles.


  1. Interesting article. Thanks for sharing my post in your analysis!

  2. Thanks to you, Kris. I've bookmarked your blog. Will be interesting to see how this all plays out. I hope teachers and parents will unite against the standards. Love the Venn diagram, btw.

  3. How ironic that before posting this comment, I had to agree to be "clean and constructive" when this blog article is neither. This was a very unprofessional attack on a colleague. I don't know Roz or Kris but I am ashamed to see someone instigate a personal argument between educators.

  4. atlteacher:

    The CCSS standards war has been brewing for the last 2-3 years and I would suggest you have not seen the beginning of the CCSS war between teachers, administrators and taxpayers. Did you read by chance the comments from fellow teachers on Dr. Linder's position? From

    Just a teacher
    December 18, 2012 at 6:36 pm

    I hate to sound like a “grammar Nazi,” but I can’t take seriously the objections of a person who presents herself as a Language Arts Specialist, but whose own bio includes incredibly confusing language, typos, mistakes in punctuation, and grammatical mistakes. Had these errors appeared in individual posts, they might have been more understandable, since individual posts are sometimes written under time constraints, but when the bio that appears alongside every post is written so poorly, I question whether that writer has the right, or indeed, the skills, to assume responsibility for teaching other English/Language Arts teachers how to do their jobs.

    I then took a look at some individual posts, and it didn’t take long to find many examples of the same language problems. Here are just three:

    “We want them to focus their time on interrogating multimodal text and analyzing what the text is doing and how it is positioning them.”

    “Students are expected to handle the 5ws and Hs as the form their own questions with an enhanced focus on details. This is where a rich text with extensive vocabulary, adjective use, or multifaceted information offer students opportunities to do just that.”

    “As Common Core demands multiple cultural perspectives and a critical cultural examination of text, a pedagogical shift seems to be looming. Often defined as a dominant culture of White men, few minorities see themselves as any more than a sidebar or window dressing for this worldview.”

    I really don’t think I am picking petty examples of such things as overlooked typos, but rather, examples of problems with structure and diction, as well as mechanics and conventions.

    Physician, heal thyself.
    kindergeek (@kindergeek)
    December 18, 2012 at 8:08 pm

    Diane says “You can find them here. Please read them.”

    Wonder if her tongue was in her cheek as she typed that :) Or if she’s waiting patiently for the next several days for people to slog through the massive documentation of the CCSS (sic – they are NOT state standards. They are federal standards purposely misnamed).

    Most teachers have read them as part and parcel of preparatory professional development. And we will be tasked with rereading them numerous times as they roll-out.

    Frankly, I’m sick of the Common Core buzzword “unpack.” Give me a smaller suitcase, please, Mr. Coleman. Maybe a carry-on? A handbag? Coin purse?

    CCSS is a pushdown of content to earlier grades and the selling of “merch” to cash-strapped districts. And then there are the tests…

    You might just want to contact all these teachers and tell them you are concerned about their unprofessional behavior. "Clean and constructive" means we can have differing opinions if these standards will help teachers/students and we have the opportunity to explain our positions. If Dr. Linder wants to come out in favor of these standards without them being tested and proven to help students, that is her right.

    It is also the right of other teachers who have to teach the standards and the taxpayers who are paying for the implementation and other associated costs to disagree with her.


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