Wednesday, July 29, 2015

Speaking of Common Core

From Diane Ravitch:
Rick Hess directs education studies at the conservative, free-market American Enterprise Institute. We often disagree but I am often impressed that he doesn’t follow “the party line” of free-marketeers. This article is a good example of Hess demonstrating his sharp intellect and his willingness to stray from the right-wing corral.
I absolutely echo Ravtich's comments.  Hess may be a right-wing thinker but he's an honest one.  He is willing to call out BS on BOTH sides.  He is also willing to say it like it is which probably makes a lot of people on the right wring their hands.

His piece is long but worthy reading.  In a nutshell:

The trouble with the Common Core is not that it was the handiwork of anti-American ideologues or anti-teacher dogmatists, but that it was the work of well-meaning, self-impressed technocrats who fudged difficult questions, used federal coercion to compel rapid national adoption, and assumed that things would work out. When critics of the Common Core hyperbolically accuse the program's architects of harboring a hidden agenda, they obscure this reality and leave moderate observers inclined to trust the relatively calm, rational, and polished voices of those defending the Common Core. In reality, the disingenuous manner in which the enterprise has been pursued has ensured tepid buy-in. This, coupled with the entirely foreseeable politicization of the issue, has created a mess for America's students.
The Common Core's flaws are due less to ideological agendas than to hubris and a lack of intestinal fortitude among proponents. Advocates believed that their handiwork was good and right, but they didn't trust the public's judgment or their own ability to sway potential skeptics. So they opted for a stealth adoption, powerfully abetted by the federal government, with whispered reassurances that their ambitious effort really was just technocratic tinkering and wasn't that significant after all. But it turns out, of course, that the implications are much bigger and less certain than initially advertised.
Although that original vision still offers a potential path forward, the odds of the necessary course correction actually taking place seem slight. Indeed, self-confident Common Core advocates have not been inclined to acknowledge missteps or problems and are instead more disposed to double down on clumsy political machinations, attempts to impugn skeptics, and an insistence that everything is working out just as they intended. At this point, however reasonable the rationale for the Common Core, it seems increasingly clear that American education would be better off if this unfortunate, quasi-national enterprise had never made it off the drawing board.
About Common Core itself (partial):
Common Core advocates billed the standards as "internationally benchmarked," "evidence-based," "college- and career-ready," and "rigorous." The truth was something less than advertised. The claims were not so much false as grossly overstated. For instance, "internationally benchmarked" actually meant no more than that the committees that wrote the Common Core standards looked at the standards in countries that score well on international tests. Advocates don't even claim that the Common Core mimicked these standards, just that they consulted them. 
Vanderbilt education professor Lynn Fuchs has put it well, noting there is no "empirical basis" for the Common Core: "We don't know yet whether it makes sense to have this particular set of standards."
 When advocates claim the Common Core ensures that students are "college- and career-ready," it is again worth reading the fine print. Achieve, Inc., one of the progenitors of the standards, explains that they are designed to make sure that students can pass "entry-level, credit-bearing postsecondary coursework" in "community college, university, technical/vocational program[s], apprenticeship[s], or significant on-the-job training."
The standards appeared perfectly passable, but claims about their remarkable virtue were gross exaggerations.
Advocates have echoed the administration line, lamenting that critics have "politicized" an apolitical enterprise. This complaint would be more convincing if Democrats hadn't already eagerly taken credit for the standards, with the 2012 Democratic National Platform applauding Obama for the widespread adoption of the Common Core and the president crediting himself in his 2011 and 2013 State of the Union remarks for the same thing. The studied disingenuousness of devotees would fuel backlash among skeptics who saw steady federal encroachment and believed the Common Core was sold under false pretenses.
Despite the Common Core's rapid, widespread adoption, it received surprisingly little attention in the mainstream media. A LexisNexis search shows that, between 2009 and 2011, as more than 40 states with more than 40 million students signed on, all American news outlets combined featured fewer than 4,500 mentions of the Common Core. In 2011 alone, by comparison, school vouchers — which affected fewer than 200,000 students — received more than 5,500 mentions. That media silence was due in large part to a calculated strategy among Common Core supporters: Advocates took pains to stay under the radar, avoid public debate, tightly coordinate their messaging, ridicule skeptics rather than respond to them, and ride the wave of support provided by the Obama administration in those years.

But the wins produced by a stealth strategy that bypassed a distracted public turned out to be unsustainable. Once the public started to pay attention, and the advocates' carefully crafted talking points were exposed to the harsh reality of implementation, support for the Common Core began to unravel.

First, the Common Core is neither necessary nor sufficient for fixing the problem it was designed to solve. The critical rationale for the Common Core was concern that states had gamed and manipulated testing under NCLB. But a more modest solution was already available. Every state has long participated in the National Assessment of Educational Progress, which tests students in reading and math (and sometimes in other subjects) in grades four, eight, and twelve under carefully controlled conditions and provides a rock-solid means for comparing performance. In fact, NAEP results were already being used to flag states that appeared to be gaming their NCLB tests. Common Core advocates, however, thought that relying on NAEP was an unsatisfactory, makeshift solution. Instead, they embraced the Common Core standards.

Second, the standards are set to be implemented quite poorly in many states and thousands of school districts. The decision to quietly but swiftly convince dozens of states to adopt the Common Core ensured that many did so but with little commitment. As a result, many Common Core states just aren't that into the Common Core. This virtually ensures lackluster implementation in most states, especially given the rushed, impractical timeline dictated by the spending requirements in federal law and the arbitrary wishes of the Obama administration. States committed to implementing new tests, technology, and materials at a pace that made little practical sense.

Third, the Common Core push has done all sorts of damage to other priorities of the broad coalition for school reform. The Obama administration's insistence that the new tests be used to evaluate teachers and schools in 2015 means that new tests of uncertain quality will form the backbone of brand-new evaluation systems that will dictate high-stakes decisions about teachers' job security. An added gem is that Common Core advocates excitedly announced that the new tests will be harder to pass, giving even open-minded teachers reason to fear that the combination of new tests, stricter scoring, and new high-stakes evaluations was designed to put them in the crosshairs. It's hard to envision a strategy more likely to sabotage support for both the tests and teacher evaluation.

At this point, the Common Core looks to be a standing invitation to further federal involvement in schooling.

1 comment:

dan dempsey said...

From Brookings : The Brown Center Chalkboard Series

Implementing Common Core: The problem of instructional time

One particular aspect of the Common Core math standards —the treatment of standard algorithms in whole number arithmetic— will lead some teachers to waste instructional time.

The standard algorithm is the only algorithm required for students to learn, although others are mentioned beginning with the first grade standards. Curiously, though, CCSS-M doesn’t require students to know the standard algorithms for addition and subtraction until fourth grade.