Tuesday, May 06, 2014

Common Core; An Overview

You know how you really need to get something done but drag your feet because of time, overwhelming amounts of data/research and just plain organization?  That's been me with an overview of Common Core.  It took a nudge from a member of one of the City's Commissions to kickstart me and get it done.

It's much longer than I had hoped but this is not a simple subject.  I also do not offer an alternative vision of what I believe should happen but, at the least, I think:
  • there should be a moratorium on assessments for at least three years, 
  • K-2 needs to be reviewed for developmental appropriateness and 
  • the high school math standards need revision (they are not "college ready" in their current form).
I have done my research and I believe I have the facts correct.  I did throw in a bit of editorializing in trying to give focus to rising issues around Common Core but overall, I tried to stick to the facts.

Common Core Overview 

Here are what I consider the key issues to problems with Common Core:

--> Key Issues

· Too Much, too fast, too soon with little transparency

· Who wrote the Standards?

· Testing concerns

· Teaching concerns

· Influence of the Bill Gates and the Gates Foundation

· Effects on Early Learners

· Costs to States and Districts

· Student data privacy

All of this, in its totality, should give pause to any parent or educator or taxpayer.

Other good reading on this topic includes:

The best overview by educator, noted public education historian and former Deputy Sec'y of Education under the Clinton Administration, Diane Ravitch.

Examples of Common Core homework from the National Review
A very good (and fair) assessment by a public school administrator

Dr. Sandra Stotsky, a member of the Validation Committee (and the only reading expert on the committee) who refused to sign the final standards.  (Professor John Milgram, the only math expert on the Committee refused to sign the final standards as well.)  

FairTest FAQs on Common Core
Developmentally Inappropriate for K-2
Gates Money and Common Core
Development of Common Core (YouTube video)


Anonymous said...

Melissa, this overview is very good. Very good. This is quite impressive.

I do have a couple of corrections to suggest, though, which you may take or leave as you see fit.

(1) States did not/do not have to pay to license the use of the CCSS. The public license information on the CCSS website clearly states that entities are granted a "royalty free" licence copy, distribute, etc. the standards as long as they provide attribution. States and territories, however, are exempt even from providing attribution. See http://www.corestandards.org/public-license/.

(2) PARCC has not been testing for two years. PARCC, like Smarter Balanced, has just completed its field testing. There are PARCC member states, NY in particular, that have tested the CCSS for two years; however, PARCC will not provide its first "real" (i.e., operational) test until next school year. Smarter Balanced has just completed its "field" testing. Both PARCC and Smarter Balanced completed "pilot" testing last year. Pilot and field testing are different, i.e., these terms are not interchangeable.

Again, Melissa, this is very good work. I for one appreciate the time you took to assemble this overview.

--- swk

Melissa Westbrook said...

Thank you SWK. I had not seen the public license page. I did have to smile, though, as I read it.

"NGA Center/CCSSO shall be acknowledged as the sole owners and developers of the Common Core State Standards, and no claims to the contrary shall be made.

Any publication or public display shall include the following notice: “© Copyright 2010. National Governors Association Center for Best Practices and Council of Chief State School Officers. All rights reserved.”

States and territories of the United States as well as the District of Columbia that have adopted the Common Core State Standards in whole are exempt from this provision of the License."

You see that first paragraph? Nothing about states. And yet most CC supporters say they were developed by "states." I'd like to see that in court.

Then the last paragraph? Well, of course, they don't want the CC copyright on the bottom of any kind of page because it would wreck the narrative that "states" created these standards.

Also, the freedom to use the standards is checked by several statements on the licensing page like:
- You can only use the standards “for purposes that support the Common Core State Standards Initiative”.
- as blogger Eric Matthes says (in thinking about how curriculum gets developed around these standards):
"A company or organization wants to build a tool that allows teachers to develop curriculum efficiently, using the Common Core standards as a way to structure the curriculum. What happens if the Common Core decides this tool does not “support the Common Core State Standards Initiative”?

I also found this:

"You hereby grant to NGA Center and CCSSO the royalty-free, perpetual, irrevocable, worldwide, non-exclusive right and license to use, reproduce, modify, adapt, publish, translate, create derivative works from, distribute, perform, and display all content, remarks, suggestions, ideas, graphics, or other information communicated to NGA Center and CCSSO through this site, and to incorporate any submission in other works in any form, media, or technology now known or later developed. NGA Center and CCSSO will not be required to treat any submission as confidential, and may use any submission in their business without incurring any liability for royalties or any other consideration of any kind, and will not incur any liability as a result of any similarities that may appear in future NGA Center and CCSSO operations."

So kids, don't put ANY comments or suggestions at their site or they will use them at will (unless such comments or suggestions exist under copyright).

As well, who is going to enforce this stuff? That's still a mystery because the governing body for the management of Common Core has not been named.

Could be a couple of court cases in the future over this. But there are 50 states so maybe more than a few.

Eric M said...

Make no mistake, Seattle Public Schools has already committed 100% to CCSS.

The (absolutely mandatory, soldier) training I just suffered through started with the the claim that CCSS WILL (emphasis mine) better prepare students for college and career. Strange that in 2014, anyone would be bold enough to make a claim like this with no data, proof, or track record.

For my part, I found the training completely focused on the minutia of textual analysis (it was a language-directed task). What was missing, when I came to the end, was any acknowledgement whatsoever that language can possess beauty. Beauty to inspire, to create, to live.

Beauty? Phhht. None of that here. Language is a box of plumbing parts, put together to deliver water to the sink. How very, very sad, this brave new world is, if you're a creative person.

Also, get this. One of the tasks I had to involved working with a "Cognitive Rigor Matrix", as if those 3 words put together was something good.

Anonymous said...


Did anyone make the obvious joke about that task you did? How could Cognitive Rigor Matrix become cause anything other than Cognitive Rigor Mortis?

The more I read about CCSS, the more pessimistic I get. I don't see how it's going to do anything other than fail. All the money spent on marketing and ridiculous phrases could actually have been used to do real things.


ben said...

This is a topic I've been trying to coalesce all my feelings about as well. Watching as an elementary school parent, much of the effect of Common Core has been negative so far for me.

1. Common core has reinforced the already existing trends that de-emphasize everything beyond math, reading and writing. CCCS only has math and ELA standards and these are tied to assessments and metrics with real consequences. Its only natural that the school system pivots to sacrifice subjects like social studies or school plays or cuts back on recess or lunchtime. What kind of crystallized it for me was my son asking me why don't we study any history in school?

2. Moreover even within the favored subject areas the scope has been narrowed. So in english, creative writing or poetry has been marginalized to a month or two of the year. Tie this in again to an over emphasis on testing and if a portion of the standards can't be tested via a computer, it also suffers.

3. There is a bizarre and overly bureaucratic flavor to how the standards show up in the classrooms. How exactly is requiring an exact copy of a particular standard on a textbook or the blackboard of a classroom going to aid in learning? Or why should an after school math night have to directly reference a CCSS standard when asking for posters?

I have more general qualms about whether its realistic to set testing and achievement bars at levels which guarantee high failure rates without any evidence we know how to reach them but we won't start to see if that comes to fruition until next year.


mirmac1 said...

Another joy of online standardized testing:

High user traffic interrupts online testing in some schools

"...the company that handles testing for several states, including Washington’s online administration of the Measurements of Student Progress tests, told the state that an unexpected surge of traffic overwhelmed the company’s servers..."

Well, they're not even at Basic.

Anonymous said...

Melissa, thank you for your work on this. The next step might develop into an alternative diploma for students who don't follow CCSS, from schools that will decide after a few years to say 'No.'


Anonymous said...

If I remember correctly, you teach high school right? It worries me that our K-2 teachers sat through the same CC Language Arts training as you. I inquired about why we were spending ALL day learning how to form comprehension questions using the Cognitive Rigor Matrix, while ignoring the bulk of the primary standards, which are heavy in phonics/phonemic awareness, and for which we have no curriculum at this time. I was told, "We're going to meet about that soon. There is no talk of an adoption at this point."

If they provided us with the training we actually need, they'd have to do something about the fact that Readers Workshop does not address a huge portion of the CC K-2 standards. Instead, we spent an entire day learning to to teach "Close Reading"- something kids aren't expected to do independently until 3rd grade. Such a colossal waste of public funds.


Stop CCSS in WA said...

check out the closed group on Facebook
Washington State Against Common Core State Standards

or go to stopcommoncorewa.wordpress.com