Friday, December 18, 2015

Common Core Updates

(Editor's note: I seem to recall that some were saying that "Common Core was here to stay." Read on.)

This reads like it's from The Onion but nope, it's from the NY Times regarding a taskforce that Governor Cuomo of New York created around Common Core:
A task force Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo created is calling for changes in what New York State students learn and how they are assessed, in a set of recommendations released on Thursday.


The task force, which Mr. Cuomo convened in response to the concerns of parents and teachers, is also calling for the state not to use its test scores to evaluate teachers through the 2018-19 school year, to allow time to develop the new standards and tests.
Why does this appear to be happening?
It comes in the wake of a rebellion by parents against testing; one-fifth of students did not sit for the state exams this year, a fourfold increase from the previous year.

Mr. Cuomo, a Democrat, appeared to be heeding this anger when he created the task force in September and charged it with making recommendations “to overhaul the Common Core system — to do a total reboot.”
It is unclear how different the new standards will be from the Common Core. The task force’s report calls for enlisting educators and parents to help create them, and it recommends modifying the standards for kindergarten, first grade and second grade so that they are more age-appropriate. 
 Another hugely interesting article comes from Catholic Education Daily where there was concern over how Catholic school students (who don't generally use the Common Core standards) will do on the SAT and AP exams.
David Coleman, president of the company responsible for the Scholastic Aptitude Test (SAT) and Advanced Placement (AP) exams and a chief architect of the controversial Common Core Standards, told The Cardinal Newman Society in an exclusive interview that students educated in traditional Catholic schools have nothing to fear about the Common Core-driven changes to the SAT and AP exams.
Moreover, Coleman praised religious liberal arts schools, “the beauties and distinctive values of a religious education” and even the new trend toward classical Catholic schools and homeschooling, insisting that the Common Core Standards should not be a reason for Catholic educators to abandon what is unique about a traditional Catholic education.
 “As president of The College Board it is my conviction that a child excellently trained in traditional liberal arts will do superbly on relevant sections of the SAT and other aspects of Advanced Placement work, ”Coleman said. “Rest assured.”
- See more at: http://www.cardinalnewmansociety.org/CatholicEducationDaily/DetailsPage/tabid/102/ArticleID/4557/EXCLUSIVE-Common-Core-Architect-Says-Don%E2%80%99t-Abandon-Traditional-Catholic-Education-Students-%E2%80%98Will-Do-Superbly%E2%80%99-on-New-SAT-Exam.aspx#sthash.S1JCWwYx.dpuf
 David Coleman, president of the company responsible for the SAT and AP exams and a chief architect of the controversial Common Core Standards, told The Cardinal Newman Society in an exclusive interview that students educated in traditional Catholic schools have nothing to fear about the Common Core-driven changes to the SAT and AP exams.

Moreover, Coleman praised religious liberal arts schools, "the beautifies and distinctive values of a religious education" and even the new trend towards classical Catholic schools and homeschooling, insisting that the Common Core Standards should not be a reason for Catholic educators to abandon what is unique about a traditional Catholic education.
According to Coleman, such revisions to The College Board tests will reward "the traditional trainings of a religious education."  He also said that "The vulgar implementation of anything can have a reductive and destructive effect." "I just want to tell you how emphatically I'm trying to agree with your premise, which is a stultifying sameness is not the intention here."
The Newman Society launched its Catholic is Our Core program to identify and respond to the many problems that the Common Core poses to faithful Catholic education.
There's a whole separate article on those issues especially around Language Arts.

Maine is leaving the SBAC/PARCC behind and awarded their state assessments to someone else.

The National Review has an article discussing how Massachusetts is also dealing a blow to Common Core and PARCC.
Massachusetts has announced the intention to abandon its steadfast commitment to the Common Core K–12 curriculum standards. Last week, on the recommendation of state education commissioner Mitchell Chester, the state’s education board decided to revamp its famed Massachusetts Comprehensive Assessment System (MCAS) and drop plans to retire MCAS for the Common Core–aligned PARCC test.
This reversal is a bruising blow to the Common Core, given Massachusetts’ iconic status as the nation’s longtime K–12 leader on the National Assessment of Educational Progress. In fact, even though Common Core advocates conceded that Massachusetts’ standards were at least as good as those of the Common Core, they mounted a furious (and successful) push in 2009 and 2010 to get Massachusetts to adopt the Common Core — precisely because of the state’s symbolic importance. So even though plenty of states have abandoned the two Common Core–aligned tests (PARCC and Smarter Balanced), Massachusetts’ announcement drew national notice.
With the board’s decision, New York Times reporter Kate Zernike told PBS that the Common Core loses its “gold, Good Housekeeping seal of approval.” Adding insult to injury, Chester is the chair of the PARCC governing board — meaning that one of the two federally funded Common Core test providers has just been thrown over by one of its own.
Another great article, this one from The Atlantic on CC math "Common Core-era rules that force kids to diagram their thought processes can make the equations a lot more confusing than they need to be."
The girl threw her arms up in frustration and said, “Why can’t I just do the problem, enter the answer and be done with it?”
From the Baltimore Sun, an op-ed on Common Core and child development and "kindergarten readiness:"
Why do we have educational standards that are not aligned with even the most basic facts of human development? Clearly these test results show that the problem is with the standards, not the children.
Educational attainment is part of human development, and fundamentally this is a biological process that cannot be sped up. We cannot wish away our biological limitations because we find them inconvenient. 
However, for skills in what Bloom calls the "cognitive domain," the school curriculum has become blind not only to the progression of normal child development but also to natural variations in the rate that children develop. It is now expected that pre-school children should be able to grasp sophisticated concepts in mathematics and written language. In addition, it is expected that all children should be at the same cognitive level when they enter kindergarten, and proceed through the entire grade-school curriculum in lock step with one another. People, who think that all children can learn in unison, have obviously never worked with special needs children or the gifted and talented. 
I will allow the authors of the article in The National Review - conservatives Rick Hess and Jenn Hatfield to have the last word:
The Common Core lobby has failed massively at fostering the requisite confidence. Its pursuit of stealthy, under-the-radar adoption and its enthusiasm for federal inducements raised concerns. Its arrogant dismissals of the ensuing questions raised hackles. Goofy homework, bizarre new math, and an assault on fiction haven’t helped the cause. The results are apparent in plunging poll numbers.
The news from Massachusetts is just the latest reminder that federal coercion and supercilious intimidation may not be a winning strategy for pursuing that kind of change.
David Coleman, president of the company responsible for the Scholastic Aptitude Test (SAT) and Advanced Placement (AP) exams and a chief architect of the controversial Common Core Standards, told The Cardinal Newman Society in an exclusive interview that students educated in traditional Catholic schools have nothing to fear about the Common Core-driven changes to the SAT and AP exams.
Moreover, Coleman praised religious liberal arts schools, “the beauties and distinctive values of a religious education” and even the new trend toward classical Catholic schools and homeschooling, insisting that the Common Core Standards should not be a reason for Catholic educators to abandon what is unique about a traditional Catholic education.
 “As president of The College Board it is my conviction that a child excellently trained in traditional liberal arts will do superbly on relevant sections of the SAT and other aspects of Advanced Placement work, ”Coleman said. “Rest assured.”
- See more at: http://www.cardinalnewmansociety.org/CatholicEducationDaily/DetailsPage/tabid/102/ArticleID/4557/EXCLUSIVE-Common-Core-Architect-Says-Don%E2%80%99t-Abandon-Traditional-Catholic-Education-Students-%E2%80%98Will-Do-Superbly%E2%80%99-on-New-SAT-Exam.aspx#sthash.S1JCWwYx.dpuf
David Coleman, president of the company responsible for the Scholastic Aptitude Test (SAT) and Advanced Placement (AP) exams and a chief architect of the controversial Common Core Standards, told The Cardinal Newman Society in an exclusive interview that students educated in traditional Catholic schools have nothing to fear about the Common Core-driven changes to the SAT and AP exams.
Moreover, Coleman praised religious liberal arts schools, “the beauties and distinctive values of a religious education” and even the new trend toward classical Catholic schools and homeschooling, insisting that the Common Core Standards should not be a reason for Catholic educators to abandon what is unique about a traditional Catholic education.
 “As president of The College Board it is my conviction that a child excellently trained in traditional liberal arts will do superbly on relevant sections of the SAT and other aspects of Advanced Placement work, ”Coleman said. “Rest assured.”
- See more at: http://www.cardinalnewmansociety.org/CatholicEducationDaily/DetailsPage/tabid/102/ArticleID/4557/EXCLUSIVE-Common-Core-Architect-Says-Don%E2%80%99t-Abandon-Traditional-Catholic-Education-Students-%E2%80%98Will-Do-Superbly%E2%80%99-on-New-SAT-Exam.aspx#sthash.S1JCWwYx.dpuf

19 comments:

Anonymous said...

I like your spunk, kid. Trying to rally the troops --- Keep your chins up there, CC warriors.

I predict as I did back in October that CCSS will emerge no worse for wear, especially here in the Evergreen State.

NY State will simply slap on a fresh coat of paint, essentially keeping the CCSS (with a few minor tweaks) and giving them a different name. Both armies will declare victory and depart the field. But CCSS will remain in NYS.

Maine quits SBAC, retains the CCSS as their state standards, but hire a new testing vendor to assess the CCSS. End result = more expensive testing system.

Citizen Kane

Melissa Westbrook said...

And I admire that you don't seem to see the early writing on the wall. CC may never go away entirely but it is weakened and its brand name is, well, sad.

Anonymous said...

I'm happy we agree on something. The CCSS brand is indeed toxic.

Citizen Kane

Outsider said...

This subject always confuses me. The politics in New York suggest that people perceive "common core" to be the equivalent of "standardized testing" and it's "standardized testing" that they particularly don't like. Is it a misconception that common core = standardized testing? Or is the problem that common-core-aligned tests are much tougher than whatever came before, causing schools to stress more and "teach the test" more? Is the problem that common core standards are somehow bad, or just too high?

I have only ever looked at the lower grades, and they seem to be sensible if sometimes abstract or vague -- but they are definitely ambitious. Seattle schools make no effort to reach first grade common core standards in first grade, judging from my son's experience. (Too bad; I wish the opportunity actually existed to aspire to those standards.) It would be fair to say the first grade standards are flat impossible for most students and therefore unreasonable. Is that the problem?

Also, if there is such a thing as "teaching the test," and it's a bad thing, what does it look like? It's possible to imagine kids facing impossibly difficult tests who are taught methods to game the test without really understanding the material, and that would be a poor use of time. But some concrete example would be interesting. If the test is well-conceived, and students are taught with an intent of real mastery of the material, there would be nothing wrong with "teaching the test."

We have no experience with SBA tests, but most of the complaints from the upper grades seemed to be about the computer platform, with little mention of the test content.

Anonymous said...

Two things:
Aspiring is always happening but aspiration does not necessarily lead to mastery. Don't confuse aspiration with achievement.

Also, teaching to the test is simply teaching the content the test tests. With only so much time in a school day, why wouldn't one be teaching what the test prioritizes?

For me, the common core sets an unrealistic standard in the area of abstract thinking for brains which are not yet developmentally ready to think abstractly. Of course the words "concrete" and "manipulatives" appear in all curricula claiming to be aligned with the common core but only because educators know those are important for teaching young learners. Abstract understanding still seems to be the goal of the CC. Young learners include at least through grade 3. Grade 3 is about where I see making connections(metacognition)becoming visible.

I wonder what other teachers think about this?

wondering

Melissa Westbrook said...

Outsider, that's a lot of questions and ones that need deeper answers than I can provide right now. I'll try, after the first of the year, to provide links to many articles that go in-depth.

1) Is it about standardized testing? It is and it isn't. I think many parents were already - before CC - getting frustrated between the length of the tests, the time out of the school year to take those tests, the number of tests in any given district and now, the tests themselves.

Many parents, in many states, had had enough and rose up in enough numbers to opt-out and gain attention. What it means to the CC tests, SBAC and PARCC, is unclear but the mistrust of CC doesn't help them.

For many of us, HOW Common Core came into being is the main issue. It's not about higher standards - I think we all agree that rigor is good for all kids and it's the 21st Century.

2) I think there was a "teach to the test" mentality long before Common Core. Much of that has to do with punishing schools/districts/states that didn't do well as well as using test scores to evaluate teachers. It raised the level of tension for educators who felt they had to do everything they could to raise their test scores. (It's quite a thing for some charter schools who do uber-prep.)

When the testing is not about "how is this child doing and, if we gauge a teacher's classroom overall, how is that teacher doing in teaching these concepts and skills to kids" but how schools get ranked, money issues, etc., then the testing becoming skewed.

3) You hit a major issue with your question on early grades and CC. There are many, many early childhood experts who believe that CC is developmentally inappropriate for younger kids. (Read the article from the Baltimore Sun in my thread.) In the name of "readiness" we are asking young children to process in a way that most cannot because of developmental reasons and not reasoning issues.

I think many teachers know this and worry about it. This might be part of a two-fold reason why teachers are slow to CC in earlier grades. They know the standards are not appropriate for these children AND they have not been given the time or supports to make sure THEY can deliver these standards properly. (And that's why Mayor Cuomo is delaying using those test scores until teachers have had adequate time and PD.)

4) I'll put a link up to "teaching to the test" and you can see how bad it gets. What the issue becomes is that much gets pushed off or even not done, in the name of testing. Less PE time, fewer arts, even less time on social sciences. You teach what you test and when you have a lot to plow thru in a short time, what isn't tested will get put off.

5) Test Content. There are literally hundreds of articles on CC and how it plays out in the tests. Part of the issue is parents do not recognize some of this (when they are helping their kids with homework especially math) and there's a frustration level of parents who want to help and kids who need the help.

Again, any rollout should have included resources and help for parents.

Anonymous said...

As a Teacher I have some good things to say about the Common Core and some bad things.

It depends largely on the curriculum subject matter, grade level and of course other extrinsic factors that affect the overall concepts that CC is trying to do.

A good example of absurdity is the CC with ELL students. I watched a group struggle over the book, the need to annotate and cite three facts and provide an "analysis" of the text. That was a WTF moment if any. Several languages, several levels of grades and this is required?

Then there are great things even in Math as some kids thrive on it others don't so having options to teach the same subject cannot be a bad thing. And the "over" emphasis on reading is not a bad thing. I recall the New Math and it too was dumped after much acclaim but it is still around. We have Singapore Math, etc.. there can never be enough ways to approach a subject.

I would like to see a true emphasis on bi-lingual education in reverse. Actually teaching Math, etc in a second language as a way of developing mastery and in turn offer those kids who are ELL to build on a strength vs a weakness and imagine them having the upper hand with their peers to tutor them.

But this all costs money. We can't fund the level of incompetence we have now.

- Foot Soldier

Charlie Mas said...

The problem with "teaching to the test" isn't that the students are taught and learn what they need to know to pass the test. That isn't a bad thing at all.

The problem with "teaching to the test" is that the students are NOT taught anything that is NOT on the test. Music isn't on the test. Art isn't on the test. P.E. isn't on the test. History isn't on the test. Many areas of science are not on the test. Some types of writing are on the test, but other types of writing are not. Teaching to the test denies students a well-rounded education and exposure to valuable knowledge and skills that are not tested.

Outsider said...

Charlie --

Following what you wrote, it must be either:

1) the test is too hard, and requires too much time to prepare students, squeezing out other topics, and the standard in a given grade should be lower; or

2) it's another symptom of refusal to differentiate in the general ed classroom. Class time is allocated entirely with a view to the 30th percentile student who might or might not pass the test, so higher achievers who could pass the test with much less explicit preparation or none at all are still forced to sit through the test-oriented curriculum.

To me, the public schools have become one giant lemon patch, but perhaps there is another way to make lemonade here. Rather than happening at a fixed time in a student's Nth year, perhaps standardized tests could be taken whenever the student chooses. And whenever the student passes, he or she is immediately exempt from the general ed classroom. It could be a very simple alternative to the rat-maze AL process that SPS now uses.

Charlie Mas said...

Outsider, you're close to my meaning. As I have often written, the Standards, intended in theory as a floor, operate in practice as a ceiling. The relentless focus on getting every student to Standard puts all of the focus - resources, time, instruction, and management energy - on those students who are working just below the Standard. There is no support for any students working beyond Standards. Also, there is no support for any students who are working so far below Standards that there is little hope they will reach them.

But the Standards are not the villain here. This is not a fair representation of Standards-based education.

In its pure form, Standards-based education says that students should be promoted when they meet the grade level Standards, not exclusively in June and regardless of their progress. In a real Standards-based education system students who do not meet grade level Standards are not promoted. In a real Standards-based education system student move on to working on the next set of Standards when they meet the set they are working on - even if that occurs mid-year. Clearly that is not the system at work in Seattle or in very many (if any) of the school systems that claim to be Standards-based.

So let's explore your idea a bit. Suppose that students could choose, at the end of any month, to take the state proficiency test and, if they pass it, move on to something else. And those students who did not pass it would remain in the current grade until they could pass it. That would be something.

What would be the "something else" that students did instead after passing the state test? I don't think it would be practical for them to enter the next grade. They would have to go into some sort of multi-grade ALE classroom. And, depending on how students tested and advanced, the school would go from 30 in the general education class and 0 in the ALE class at the start of the year to very few in the general education class and most of them in the ALE class at the end of the year. Grade level classes would be consolidated as they de-populated and the ALE class would split into multiple classes it grew.

Is there any education system that works this way?
This idea is pretty intriguing.

Anonymous said...

Charlie Mas wrote "Is there any education system that works this way?"

My children's K-8 school district in CA worked this way (sort of). For example, when my oldest child was in a regular 4th grade classroom, he was doing 5th grade history and 6th grade math. But he was expected to teach himself by reading the textbooks, and the teacher just checked now and then by giving him an exam. I guess this is the dreaded "personalized learning" that people complain about in WA.

LisaG

Outsider said...

Charlie, there is no school system that works that way, nor will there ever be, because that is not what the PC equity faction wants to happen. That goes way way too far toward letting all students realize their full human potential. It is now a fundamental part of the public school mission to hold back some students to achieve social justice.

After the Washington charter school initiative passed, I had an idea for a proposed charter school. After students mastered the material for their grade levels, they could peel off into their choice of enrichment courses in sports, art, music, advanced academics, etc. for the rest of the year. Most teachers would have a secondary passion that they liked to teach, and would shift over after a critical mass of interested students had met their requirements for the year. The next fall it all starts over. The enrichment subjects would not be just all-day recess, but real, age-appropriate but serious study of the disciplines. This would allow working class and middle class students to learn arts and other subjects normally reserved for the rich who can afford private lessons. School would be done for students, not to them.

Alas, I have no educational qualifications and would be laughed out of the room, and the PC bouncers would make sure I didn't get back in. Nothing like that can happen -- see above.

Anonymous said...

I agree with Outsider that Charlie's common sense approach will never happen. Parents of kids who don't progress as quickly will claim that it's not "fair" and that it's "tracking." It's perfectly fair for those other kids to sit on their butts and learn nothing for a year, but acknowledging that there are different types of kids in a room - no way.

I don't know why there are parents who work so hard to try and raise their kids in a world where everything is their idea of "fair." The adult world is nothing like that and those kids are in for a rude awakening. These parents are probably the ones you hear about who call their kid's college professors to complain about grades. Plus, this nonsense fools no one. All of the kids know which kid has which skills. We are all just forced to pretend that no one knows.

-Ripley

Anonymous said...

Looking at how the results of testing are used or "not used" by those "edu-experts" in power to push around others is very interesting. Consider Arne Duncan's NCLB waivers for states but not WA State for an example of abusive power.

The supposed justification for all this CC push was that the schools of our great nation were doing poorly and not making adequate progress so big changes were needed. Thus Gates Foundation funded CC to improve the sorry state of affairs. Except adjusted NAEP data shows:
1) USA schools had improved substantially from 2003 - 2013

Also the most recent 2015 NAEP changes from 2013 revealed
2) Common Core to be a likely culprit in the first ever wide spread decline in NAEP 4th and 8th grade scores.

Check out those adjusted NAEP scores at the Urban Institute.
NAEP adjusted Results.

Arne Duncan never used NAEP results for anything but posturing.

Do not mistake WA DC federal education bureaucrats for positive leaders in education. The Test revolt was certainly a merited response to WA DC idiocy.

Interesting that few if any vested interests care to acknowledge the 2003-2013 improvement in the NAEP scores…. I guess if the schools can not be attacked in the interests of producing private profits there is nothing to discuss. {{Good Job teachers - well done, your efforts and accomplishments are appreciated}}

-- Dan Dempsey

Anonymous said...

Dan Dempsey wrote "Interesting that few if any vested interests care to acknowledge the 2003-2013 improvement in the NAEP scores"

I'm not sure who the "vested interests" are, but I've seen lots of acknowledgment of NAEP score improvement thanks to the efforts of schools and teachers.

However, an argument could be made that these improvements would not have happened if NCLB (with all its many problems) did not force schools to stop hiding behind the average performance of their students and confront "the soft bigotry of low expectations".

LisaG

Anonymous said...

Fortune Magazine Special Report on Common Core
How Business Got Schooled

Business Got Schooled

-- Dan Dempsey

Anonymous said...

I just read the Baltimore Sun OpEd, and I really wish that writers who say things like "For example, a child entering kindergarten is now expected to know the difference between informative/explanatory writing and opinion writing." would be more specific about who is expecting the child to know this.

The Common Core standards start with kindergarten, so I don't think they can be saying what a child should know when entering kindergarten. The standards do expect a child to become a beginning reader in kindergarten (which some might consider inappropriate?). There are things like:
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RF.K.1.a
Follow words from left to right, top to bottom, and page by page.
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RF.K.1.d
Recognize and name all upper- and lowercase letters of the alphabet.
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RF.K.3.a
Demonstrate basic knowledge of one-to-one letter-sound correspondences by producing the primary sound or many of the most frequent sounds for each consonant.

"opinion" is mentioned for kindergarten in this standard:
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.W.K.1
Use a combination of drawing, dictating, and writing to compose opinion pieces in which they tell a reader the topic or the name of the book they are writing about and state an opinion or preference about the topic or book (e.g., My favorite book is...).

Common Core might be developmentally inappropriate, but this OpEd doesn't make a very good case.

LisaG

Anonymous said...

From Education News, December 24, 2015

How State Departments of Education Have Deliberately Deceived Parents about Common Core: Does the End Justify the Means?

From the linked article =>

As Delk further commented, “It is one thing to have a legitimate disagreement and debate about state education standards. It is another thing for government officials to engage in deceptive practices to implement education policy.” His point could be applied to departments of education (DoEs) in many other states. Not surprisingly, it has not been explored by any reporter in West Virginia or elsewhere.

Although the states adopted Common Core’s standards (CC) legally (usually by a vote of their state board of education), deliberate deception was practiced by DoEs in many states to minimize public awareness of what their board was voting for (no hearings on the meaning or implications of “college readiness,” for example), to pre-empt discussion of the standards’ academic deficits before and after widespread parent complaints and student opt-outs, or to implement tests based on them (i.e., without any information to parents on test item authorship, pilot testing, or public review by content experts). Sometimes state officials chose to deceive the public in outright defiance of the expressed will of the legislature to revise or eliminate CC’s standards (e.g., SC, OK, LA, NC, NJ). They also did so in most states with the cooperation of state and national media. (The media weren’t bribed; other forces were at play, a topic beyond the scope of this essay.)

-- Dan Dempsey

Anonymous said...

Continued from above ---

end of article paragraph =>

Lest anyone think that acts of deception about Common Core have come only from only one side of the political aisle or from state departments of education, perhaps the greatest act of deception is the preposterous claim about the thrust of the recent re-authorization of ESEA by its major author Senator Lamar Alexander. In an op-ed in The Tennesean on December 12, 2015 (http://www.tennessean.com/story/opinion/contributors/2015/12/11/law-ends-common-core-mandate-strengthens-local-control/77117180/), Senator Alexander implied that he had “repealed the federal Common Core mandate and reversed the trend toward a national school board.” Instead, as Peter Cunningham, a former official in the USDE points out, “the new law that the senator from Tennessee is so proud of, the Every Student Succeeds Act, now mandates the very thing he rails against. Under the new law, every state must adopt “college- and career-ready” standards. Thus, the new law all but guarantees that Common Core State Standards—or a reasonable imitation under a different name—will likely remain in place in most states.” http://educationpost.org/senator-alexanders-misleading-victory-lap/ Senator Lamar Alexander, former president of the University of Tennessee, has managed to deceive not only his constituents in Tennessee and the entire country but also himself.

-- Dan Dempsey