Tuesday, May 27, 2014

My Common Core FAQ Part 1

Please read this piece of much misinformation first and then you can read my thoughts. I am just answering 14 questions today, more for tomorrow. I can probably write a whole blog entry on question #15.


The educators that supposedly wrote the CCSS had not spent much time teaching school. None were current school teachers. College experience doesn’t count. The two profs when were experts in their fields refused to sign off on the standards because they felt they needed tweaking. They forgot in mention that among the “experts” were 16 representatives of the standardized testing industry. No elementary/middle school teachers were involved in writing the standards, only approving them. No early childhood ed teachers were involved in either writing or approving them.

1) What is the Common Core? Yes the states adopted them because they were told it was the only way to get the Race to the Top Money.  They were written because the corporate education big-wigs decided they were needed. Same reason why they adopted VAM, PARCC, etc. Can’t get federal money without paying the bribe of approving the CCSS, which includes the VAM evaluation of teachers and the standardized testing.

2) OK, so what is the relationship between Common Core and my kid's math homework? New math standards have been on place for 40 years. The NCTM standards are good. The new math is not new, indeed, some methods have been around for centuries, just not here in the USA. The problem with the math standards are that many of them are totally inappropriate for the K to 3 kids. They just don’t have the brain maturity to think in the ways the CCSS wants them to think. This is why Early Childhood Ed teachers should have been on the committee that established the standards. The math questions are like those on the standardized tests associated with the CCSS. The same people who made the standards, make the tests and are in charge of the computer programs connected to the CCSS.

3) Why do we need the Common Core? In the grand scheme of things, not that many students are moving state-to-state, most move in-state. Not speaking against the military kids, just pointing out that it doesn’t justify a whole new set of standards and therefore a whole new curriculum. And the federal government is supposed to leave the standards up to the states, not make money contingent on their adoption of standards that they really had no big part of. States already had standards in place and in many cases replaced superior standards with inferior CCSS ones.

4) Where did the Common Core come from? They came from many CORPORATATIONS, the ones that are trying to close public schools and privatize education with charters and vouchers. The so-called “reformers” who have done nothing more than DEform public schools. Notice in the Family Tree, how big a part educators played. Hardly any input was from K-12 educators who know their students’ psychological, physical, and maturational abilities. And, as mentioned before, there was NO input from current teachers of grades K-3. The union heads approved the standards without seeking opinions about them from their union members. They have since changed their minds about much of the CCSS since their membership is up in arms about them.

5) What was the federal government's role in creating the Common Core? The Federal government made sure all the players understood that approving the standards would get the states’ money. That the people they appointed to the committee would rubber stamp the standards is a given.

6) What do "standards" mean? Are they the same as curricula?New standards begot new curricula written by the people who wrote the standards. New standards begot new standardized tests written by the writers of the standards. Schools’ performance depends on test results of the new standards, and so new curricula aligned with them. Which came first, the chicken or the egg? New curricula would not have been necessary if the standards and tests remained the same.

7) What are the standards replacing? The standards are replacing other standards previously written by educators in each state. Yes, some states had “inferior” standards, but others had to give up their superior ones to comply with the “incentive” for federal money. It is true that some states adjusted their standards to have some way to make the impossible No Child Left Behind goal of 100% of the kids scoring at proficient and advanced levels. The current addendum to NCLB, Race to the Top, has the same impossible goals, especially for ESL, Learning Disabled, and Pervasive Developmentally Disabled kids.

8) Are the Common Core standards harder than my state's old standards? See above.

9) Do other countries do this? Not all high performing countries do this. In fact, you really cannot compare the PISA scores of kids in other nations whose poverty level can be only 4%, while ours is 23%. When you remover the schools with more than 10% poverty levels, the USA is either first or second in all categories. In fact Singapore is talking about pulling out of the PISA tests because of the pressure associated with the tests.

10) What do the standards mean for math? For math, the CCSS mean that everyone will now be totally confused about what the kids are learning in math. Like I said above, “reform” math programs and methods have been around for at least decades, the idea being that each child should have the opportunity to take calculus in high school, and algebra by 8th grade. A lofty goal, but it is possible for those who have been taught to think like a mathematician. You cannot implement these methods and strategies for solving in one year, or even in 5. Each year, another layer should be added, with the teachers in elementary and middle school given extensive, intensive, on-going professional development. At the same time, parents should also be given opportunities to be taught new methods and invited to attend their children’s class during math.

11) What do the standards mean for English? The writing portion of the CCSS is the most troubling to me. Elementary students are very egocentric. It is perfectly normal for them to be like this. They find it hard to be understanding of someone else’s point to view. Maturation will take them there, but certainly not at third grade age. Children should learn to write what they know first, to form coherent thoughts and expound on them through telling their own experiences. Third graders are still learning how to read, not reading to learn yet. Same with writing, learning how to form a story of several paragraphs which has a sequence, a beginning, middle and an end. To ask them to write an argumentative essay is asking too much according to ther child development milestones. The books that they list for children to read are also ridiculously hard for the younger grades. The words may not be too difficult, but the themes are meant for older, more mature kids. To require a 2nd grader to read and understand the nuances of Charlotte’s Web is ridiculous. And although Dr. Seuss books are popular with the younger set, the vocabulary in them is not at a first grade level. Most picture books are actually written at a 4th-5th grade level, but meant to be read to young people. A 50-50 balance of fiction and non-fiction is probably not going to make smarter kids, but ones that are reluctant to read for pleasure.

12) What's an "informational text"? Kids have been reading informational for centuries, especially Science and Social Studies texts.

13) How are Common Core standards affecting state tests? CCSS is affecting the state tests in hat it will be replacing them, except ion those states that have backed out of it for 2014-15. The two new tests, PARCC and Smarter Balance, are meant to be taken on the computer and/or computer graded. Many problems have arisen this year with states administering the tests via computer. Some crashed, some did not perform the way they were supposed to, some of the tests required computer skills which many kids did not have. The length of the tests were not developmentally appropriate for young children – some kindergarteners spent FIVE HOURS completing their computer tests. Almost all of the grades spent more time on the tests than are asked of the bar exam, medical boards, etc.

14) What is the "assessment cliff"? The assessment cliff is a totally arbitrary line of proficiency, drawn so the results would show failure in the beginning to prove that schools were not doing their jobs. It’s very strange that they were able to predict how many would fail. How can you do that with a test no one has taken yet? Unless you have rigged it that way...

Still learning!

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