GOLD STANDARD OR LATEST SILVER BULLET
The Common Core State Standards to ensure college success and career readiness for all.
A program for English Language Arts and Mathematics for grades k-12. Developed through a state-led (not Federal) effort coordinated by the National Governors Association, the Council of Chief State School Officers and other educational associations and based on national and international benchmarks that have been used to determine what students should know and be able to do in ELA and Mathematics by the time of high school graduation in order to be successful in college and career ready. A program adopted by and introduced in 45 States. The first time in American education such a single nationwide program in any subject has been designed and adopted.
Wow! This sounds like the gold standard. Designed to fix forever the dismal failures in English and math that pull down our educational standards year after year after year; that kill college readiness and make a mockery of career readiness. Our kids can’t read or comprehend at grade level, can’t make change, can’t think critically.
Massachusetts jumped at it several years ago; introduced it to students and teachers correctly and now leads the nation and competes with the top countries in the world. New York and the rest of America? Not even close.
The Common Core State Standards for ELA and Mathematics bring large changes in what is expected from a teacher’s instructional approach. In English there is an intense focus on complex, grade-appropriate non-fiction and fiction books that will require the application of academic vocabulary and other key-college and career-readiness skills. In Math, the Standards demand that teachers focus their instruction on fewer more central standards, thereby providing room to build core understandings and linkages between math concepts and skills.
We can go on and on with details but those are readily available by clicking the image to your right. What is obvious is that this is a major new way to teach and learn. And a major opportunity to test and test and test seeking a new level of results.
Got it? Tests and more tests. And tougher tests because more is expected.
A gold standard and not just a silver bullet. So why is it shooting blanks?
Principals are calling it a “disaster” and complaining that kids don’t want to come to school anymore.
Parents are complaining so loudly and continuously over the staggering failure rate on standardized tests based on the Common Core, that Secretary of Education Arne Duncan lost it by saying that white Moms are acting badly because maybe their kids aren’t as smart as they thought…and then apologized.
Teacher union President Randi Weingarten asked that certain conditions written into the Core Curriculum regarding test scores and teacher evaluations be delayed and that the full program be permitted to “work” for the next several years before all conditions are a go…to help teachers and kids. The New York Teacher’s union withdrew its support until “major corrections” took place.
New York Governor Andrew Cuomo after fully endorsing the program now realizes that it is failing at many levels and asked for a reevaluation of its worth. He criticized the state’s execution of the standards and appointed a panel to recommend changes.
What happened? This program took eight years to design and develop. Hundreds of millions of dollars in new materials and tests, tests, tests were developed and then purchased from what we call the educational-industrial complex and the program was then accepted by 45 States and dropped into schools across the country without any fanfare. Mistakes can be outlined this way:
1. The Common Core was installed without a single instance of trying to find out if the program would work. Not a single test program was scheduled or conducted. The program was introduced nationally without anyone knowing if it would work.
2. No one tested it to find out if teachers had the necessary subject knowledge to know how to teach the more ‘advanced’ material. Not a single such inquiry was made or tested.
3. No one knew how much training teachers would need to teach it. And to multiply this lack of information, the program was introduced without any prior teacher training at all.
4. No one knew whether children could immediately adopt these new methods of acquiring knowledge and be able to succeed on the standardized tests which were based on the new techniques and information. No prior testing was conducted to learn how quickly children could internalize the changes.
And so the Common Core, as good a gold standard and silver bullet as it may be, is causing a staggering disruption, political fall-out at various levels (you don’t hear much about it in NYC because the New Mayor and his New Schools Chancellor seem to only have Pre-K on their minds) and not much good anywhere.
Two other things to keep in mind: This is not a Federally-mandated program as part of Race to the Top. BUT if your school system adopts the Common Core you get funding accordingly. If not, you don’t.
And like the military-industrial complex which never apologizes for building new a billion-dollar fighter plane which doesn’t work, is years behind schedule and hundreds of millions over budget, neither does the education-industrial complex which has supported the development of the Common Core and is making hundreds of millions of dollars on tests alone (as well as many new materials and texts) and has clearly ignored all of the mistakes outlined above.
TESTING IS THE CORE OF THE CORE
There is a national consortium presently developing exams based on the standards…exams that will be available in 2015. Some States across the country like Georgia and Oklahoma have stepped out of that consortium although not a single one of the 45 States adopting the Common Core has withdrawn from it.
Many teachers and parents in New York State have been shocked that testing has been based on the standards knowing full well that teachers have not been trained in the new curriculums, and have not even received new textbooks and teaching materials prepared for them. As the content of the tests changed – admittedly far more difficult and based on a different set of needs – scores plummeted. Less than one-third of New York State’s students passed the first round of tests in English or math.
In the latest comparison of countries and States New York students in eighth grade trail their counterparts in Russia and in several Asian countries on math tests – and their standing in science is even worse.
The US government’s National Center on Education Statistics ranked 8th graders in NY State only 17th among states and countries studied.
Nine American States also beat out New York including Massachusetts which led the nation in math scores based on 2011 tests.
In science, New York State students ranked 28th overall.
The general consensus among US education experts is that successful implementation of the Common Core standards will eventually see US students begin to compete far more successfully on standardized tests worldwide.
What should be of deep concern to those who care about our future, is that American knowhow is so easily corrupted by the thirst for success and money that we can so easily bungle a national effort that has success written into it.