Common Core: Arne Duncan's Foot in the Mouth Problem

Update: from The Blaze a story about a very smart and brave high school senior who testified to his school board about Common Core.  He says:

If everything I learn in high school is a measurable objective, I have not learned anything,” Young proclaimed. “I’d like to repeat that. If everything I learn in high school is a measurable objective, I have not learned anything.”
Government bureaucrats will never be able to measure “creativity, appreciation, inquisitiveness” but they are the “purpose of education,” he lectured.
“Somewhere our Founding Fathers are turning in their graves — pleading, screaming and trying to say to us that we teach to free minds. We teach to inspire. We teach to equip, the careers will come naturally.”

From Ed Week's Anthony Cody - Common Core Standards: Ten Colossal Errors.

As for Arne Duncan, here's what he is doing in service of Common Core.  Understand that there is tremendous pushback across the country and getting louder.  Hence his over-the-top remarks.

From the Network for Public Education:

 He also said:

- Foes of Common Core b/c scores plummet, white suburban moms realize local schools not 'as good as they thought'
- To get suburban moms on board w/Common Core, @arneduncan says remind them their kids are competing globally, need higher standards.

Perdido Street School blog lays this all out and includes conservative public education writer, Rick Hess' thoughts and how Hess called this tactic out before Duncan used it.  (Hess is far too conservative for me BUT he absolutely is dead-on in his assessments of how ed reformers shoot themselves in the foot.)

From the Washington Post:
In June, he told a convention of newspaper editors that Core critics were misinformed at best and laboring under paranoid delusions at worst. Duncan said:
The Common Core has become a rallying cry for fringe groups that claim it is a scheme for the federal government to usurp state and local control of what students learn. An op-ed in the New York Times called the Common Core “a radical curriculum.” It is neither radical nor a curriculum. … When the critics can’t persuade you that the Common Core is a curriculum, they make even more outlandish claims. They say that the Common Core calls for federal collection of student data. For the record, it doesn’t, we’re not allowed to, and we won’t. And let’s not even get into the really wacky stuff: mind control, robots, and biometric brain mapping.
There are people on the political fringe, right and left, who oppose the Core initiative for different reasons, but that’s not where most of the substantive opposition is coming from.

 Educators and researchers questioned the way the standards were written (whether, for example, there was any or enough input from K-12 classroom teachers) and some criticized the content of the standards (while others praised it). 

Some critics don’t believe in standards-based education, and others felt it usurped local authority. 

More recently, tea party members have accused the administration of a federal takeover of public education, extreme right-wing rhetoric that clouds a real discussion about the Core. This year some states led by Republican governors began to pull away from the standards.

Protests by educators, parents, students and others began to grow as it became clear that the Core implementation was being rushed, and some students were being given tests said to be Core-aligned even though teachers hadn’t had enough time to create material around the standards.


Anonymous said…
I was actually looking forward to the Common Core (CCSS) implementation in SPS because I thought it would spell the end of Readers and Writers Workshop (RWW) with their "just right" texts and self-focused writing. Common Core was supposed to shift the focus to grade appropriate complex texts. Unfortunately, all I've seen is a twisting of the CCSS to fit the same RWW assignments. It's depressing.

The English Language Arts (ELA) standards are supposed to extend to science and history reading/writing, but we are seeing a disconnect with the SPS implementation. In our child's class they are doing a "nonfiction" unit that has no relation to their current history topics. They are simply reading random nonfiction books and discussing how to "read" nonfiction. This is in middle school. Seriously?

I think the intent of CCSS was to help students tackle material that supported whatever grade level content they were studying, whether it be the Gettysburg Address, a primary source document, a biography, or whatnot.

Another thing we've seen are rubrics that list certain CCSS standards to be graded for a given assignment, but they aren't always explicitly taught. Students are just expected to cover the standard and what, figure it out on their own?

-losing hope
Anonymous said…
Oh, Arnie. If only Mrs. Duncan had realized the same thing about her own son, we could have been spared.

Anonymous said…
To hear such nonsense from such a non-achieving political crony is the epitome of deluded ignorant arrogance on par with the likes of Sara Palin, Dan Quayle or W. It would be laughable if only it weren't so scary.

Losing hope, here's the thing.

- our district has not really lifted a finger to explain this to parents. I know the PTA has done some explanation - anyone care to say what this looks/sounds like. I will say that the state/national PTA has left out a LOT and again, not fair to parents.
- this is all being rushed. I'm not saying the standards are a bad idea. Not at all. But not in this manner.
Anonymous said…
Stevens PTA meeting this week will be covering how the school is implementing Common Core. All are welcome to attend. Enter from the 18th Avenue E entrance and head one floor up to the library.

Stevens Elementary PTA - November Meeting
Wednesday November 20th, 6:30 pm

Ann D.
Anonymous said…
Well since Readers and Writer's Workshop were implemented in a way that allowed schools to continue using Whole Language (in disguise as balanced literacy) it only comes natural to continue to bend and shape RRW to the new standards. The most disheartening thing to me about all of this, is that most teachers actually think they are using scientifically based instruction because they do "Word Work" during their RRW time.

Here are some of my favorite articles that help explain what is happening- why teachers and administrators will continue to extrapolate the least effective methods of teaching reading, even with new standards.

Anonymous said…
Related to state testing -

OSPI has posted 2013 testing statistics for state tests. You can take your child's raw score from an individual test (posted on the SOURCE) and see how that score correlates to a percentile when compared to all WA State students that took the 2013 test.

Based on my child's writing score, I'd say RWW is not adequately covering writing skills.

Anonymous said…
A discussion of Common Core vs balanced literacy (RWW):

Common Core vs the false promise of leveled literacy

-losing hope
Anonymous said…
And on the more humorous side:

Read how Lucy Calkins Ruins a Life in 2023

(warning: language not appropriate for the young'ins)
Anonymous said…
I wouldn't call Arne Duncan "The Education Leader in our country."

--- local schoolmaster
Anonymous said…
After reading the blog and article referenced above as well as the comments, my take-away is that there is nothing wrong with RWW per se, it's that some teachers follow it blindly and ignore grammar and spelling instruction completely. The same way teachers I had as a kid rammed grammar down our throats so we all hated writing. There needs to be some of both.

Still Learning
Anonymous said…
Ah well, my favorite writer died today and in her words:

“Ideally, what should be said to every child, repeatedly, throughout his or her school life is something like this: 'You are in the process of being indoctrinated. We have not yet evolved a system of education that is not a system of indoctrination. We are sorry, but it is the best we can do. What you are being taught here is an amalgam of current prejudice and the choices of this particular culture. The slightest look at history will show how impermanent these must be. You are being taught by people who have been able to accommodate themselves to a regime of thought laid down by their predecessors. It is a self-perpetuating system. Those of you who are more robust and individual than others will be encouraged to leave and find ways of educating yourself — educating your own judgements. Those that stay must remember, always, and all the time, that they are being moulded and patterned to fit into the narrow and particular needs of this particular society.”
― Doris Lessing, The Golden Notebook

Anonymous said…
Fact is Jason Zimba a Common Core Math Standards writer admitted that CCSS Math does not make students ready to pursue STEM studies in college and does not prepare students for admission to highly selective colleges. ..... Wow Arne do you suppose that might be a reason parents are upset?

K-7 math content standards are fairly good. High School are hardly internationally competitive..... ... This dumbing down comes to you with assistance from the Gates Foundation.

-- Dan Dempsey
Anonymous said…
Losing hope, I definitely agree that is better to teach non-fiction reading with relevant content area texts. However, it can be very helpful for students to learn text structures, central idea, and text features with non fiction books that actually interest them and then transfer those skills to their grade level content, especially if they haven't had that kind of instruction previously. In fact, for some students, without this kind of work, they will stare blankly at their textbook or the Gettysburg address and tune out everything you are trying to teach them. Without some foundational prerequisite skills, grade level content is not accessible.

I imagine your child's teacher is trying to work on those fundamentals. With respect to the lack of explicit teaching, perhaps the teacher is still learning. All of us are trying to figure out the CCSS, what they are asking students to do and what we need to do to help the students get there. I have personally been studying and developing units and lessons for 2 years now yet can say honestly that I am still far from where I want to be.

Regarding the links you shared...the Fordham Institute is unabashedly on board with corporate ed reform, which you may support, but they certainly have an agenda. I've read a number of posts from that Bronx blogger and am a little concerned about their sanity. If he/she ends up in that infamous padded room in NYC for teachers on administrative leave, I would not be at all surprised. Employing hyperbole to make a point is one thing, but suggesting that the workshop model dooms students to homelessness and utter destitution is a little much.

If you haven't read it yet, Anthony Cody's piece on the Common Core is well researched and well written. Highly recommended.

Anonymous said…
Arne Duncan is the single worst member of the Obama administration. A basketball buddy of Obama's and a failure as "CEO" of the Chicago Schools (the 2 main reasons he seems to have gotten his job) he has achieved what Republicans themselves haven't been able to do: exemplify a reason to get rid of the Dept. of Education.


Roll up your sleeves (but I still loath what it does to literature) said…
Our school is doing a tremendous amount of work around common core, particularly with reading and language arts.

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