Common Core Roundup (with trends and memes)

 Update: Finally! An thoughtful piece about why Common Core is failing (and likely will be weakened).  It's by Jay P. Greene at Education Next and he has it right. 

Supporters of Common Core have made some of the same political mistakes that opponents of gay marriage did.  They figured if they could get the US Department of Education, DC-based organizations, and state school chiefs on board, they would have a direct and definitive victory.  And at first blush it looked like they had achieved it, with about 45 states committing to adopt the new set of standards and federally-sponsored standardized tests aligned to those standards.  Like opponents of gay marriage, the Common Core victory seemed so overwhelming that they hardly felt the need to engage in debates to defend it.

But in the rush to a clear and total victory, supporters of Common Core failed to consider how the more than 10,000 school districts, more than 3 million teachers, and the parents of almost 50 million students would react.  For standards to actually change practice, you need a lot of these folks on board.  Otherwise Common Core, like most past standards, will just be a bunch of empty words in a document.

It’s not as if local officials, educators, and parents are unaware of the existence of informational texts or just waiting to be told by national elites about when they should start teaching Algebra.  They have interests and values that drove them to the arrangements that were in place prior to Common Core.

Having the Secretary of Education, state boards, and a bunch of DC advocacy groups declare a particular approach to be best and cram it into place in the middle of a financial crisis with virtually no public debate or input from educators or parents did not convince local officials, educators, and parents to change their minds.  These are the folks who need to be on board to make the implementation of Common Core real.  And these are the folks who are organizing a political backlash that will undo or neuter Common Core.  

A direct path to victory by Common Core supporters sowed the seeds of  its own defeat.

To which I say:

Too many of our public education reforms are coming from people who have what I call, "I'm the smartest person in the room" syndrome.

Keep the "public" in public education or your outcomes will NOT be what you think they will be.

And lastly:

Power to the people (right on).

End of update.

I'd been meaning to do this for awhile but every single day - in multiple news outlets - there are stories about Common Core.  I occasionally see some "good news" ones but frankly, those mostly come from Gates Foundation funded groups (or more often than not, seriously, in Forbes magazine).

Let's be clear - this is not some small-scale, scattered uprising.  It is happening everywhere in this country and there are those with a lot to lose.  The loss is time, effort, resources and, of course, revenues.

Never, ever doubt the will of people who have a lot of money to lose.

Problem is, you can never, ever doubt the will of parents to protect their children.  And voters to protect constitutional guarantees.

Quite the deathmatch, no?

Here' the latest one that caught my eye.  This weekend was the "New Hampshire Freedom Summit" co-sponsored by no other than the Koch brothers and their "Americans for Prosperity" group.  (I know I make Bill Gates sound like a problem - these brothers are magnitudes of scale much worse and more dangerous to public education and this country.  I'm not kidding.)

This story was in service to the idea that the Bushes as a political family are going to have a fight on their hands if they push Jeb Bush (but I'm going out on a limb - right now in 2014 - to say the next Bush with a real chance is Jeb's son. He's also - God help us - another George Bush.  Young, smart and part Hispanic.)

So the "summit" was a round-up of likely conservative candidates for the 2016 Republican nomination for president.  And a more hilarious bunch you cannot find - Ted Cruz, Mike Huckabee, Rand Paul, etc.  (Honestly, I think the next election will be more fun than a chameleon in a bag of Skittles.)

And what got criticized a lot?  Common Core.  One House Representative said, "We need to replace Common Core with some common sense."

NBC’s Kasie Hunt says Common Core was the loudest applause line at the confab. 

The Bushes support Common Core education standards, but at the New Hampshire Freedom Summit, Common Core is seen as a dangerous part of a government conspiracy. 

This was also noted:

The Bush administration launched expansive government surveillance programs as part of a sweeping counter-terrorism agenda, but at the New Hampshire Freedom Summit, the right has suddenly decided it finds such efforts outrageous.

Well, if conservatives don't like expansive government surveillance programs, they are NOT going to like the tracking their kids in public schools from preschool to 20 a la Duncan's new idea.  (Works for me as that will only gain more calls for student data privacy.)

So what else is new with CC? (I'll also have a "learning about CC" roundup soon.)

- will the uprising against Common Core be news for the mid-term elections?    

"You really have a populist reaction, and that's true on the left and the right," says Tom Loveless, a senior fellow with the Brown Center on Education Policy at Brookings Institute in Washington, D.C.

"Those populist candidates are running against the Common Core, and they are going to say Washington is interfering with children's schooling and that teachers, parents and principals at the local level are better equipped to decide on what kids learn," he said.

Indeed, U.S. Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.), who faces a primary challenge from four candidates, wasn't even aware of the Common Core when asked about it at a Republican Party meeting last year.

Now do I ever quote or even believe much of what Fox News has to say?  I do not.  But on this point - a populist uprising against Common Core is happening - they do happen to be correct.

- what is happening legislatively - state by state?  Here's a handy round-up of bills from Ed Week.  (Does not include all the student data privacy bills rising up from Common Core including NY State, Georgia, Colorado and others.  Here's hoping next Washington State legislative session, there will be a student data privacy bill.) 

- so you might have seen Stephen Colbert's take on Common Core.  It was funny and, as Melinda Gates pointed out in a tweet, not entirely accurate.  (No kidding, it's a comedy show.)  But boy, did he get the confusion aspect of it right.  Gates tries to say there is no CC curriculum (true) but sorry, any company can put CC on their sheets if it follows the standards. 

Colbert said that Common Core, "prepares our kids for what they will face as adults - stress and confusion."  

What's also funny is how the Gates Foundation - via its myriad of groups they fund including Ready Washington - is saying, "don't listen to those people who don't like Common Core" and "don't repost any of these bad stories on Twitter or Facebook."  Why?  Because it might give people pause on Common Core and ask more hard questions? 

There's a published article on this issue that's been going around.  The first example in the list of why you shouldn't spread "misinformation that could harm your child's math education" is "credentials are not a trump card."  (One link was to a math problem that a person calling him/herself "frustrated parent" chimed in on, saying he/she has a bachelors of science in electronics engineering and he/she can't explain this math thinking.) 
Well, if someone with a college degree, in science, can't use their degree or background as a trump card, neither can Bill Gates in his push for Common Core (and he doesn't even have a degree).

Then there's "it might be a bad worksheet" but not that the standards are bad. If the curriculum is bad, it doesn't matter how great the standards are (see Everyday Math).

Did you see Mad Men last night?  I haven't watched the latest episode yet but I do know that in advertising you rebrand and rename all the time.  So it is with Common Core.  This from The Foundry.

Florida is renaming it “Next Generation Sunshine State Standards;” the Hawkeye State is going with “the Iowa Core.” Arizona simply removed the words “Common Core” from its standards altogether, and Louisiana is considering following suit.

To correct the image problem, “we will probably do something really silly like changing the name of it to something else,” Rep. Walt Leger, a Democrat from New Orleans, remarked at a legislative breakfast earlier this month, according to The Louisiana Times-Picayune. Former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee suggested a similar path to pacify parents during remarks to the Council of Chief State School Officers, advising them to rebrand Common Core, The Washington Post reports.


Anonymous said…

How is the youngest George Bush "part" Hispanic? He is just as Hispanic as Barack Obama is black.

Get it right.
mirmac1 said…
And let the routs begin:

State Senate Majority Leader Rodney Tom drops re-election bid

Couldn't happen to a more deserving blowhard
Well, half is "part" but okay, he's half Cuban.

Mirmac1 - yes, yes and yes. (But as someone who took care of an elderly parent, kudos to him.)
More Common Core news (see, I told you it was coming every day): South Carolina first was in with Smarter Balanced, then out, then their Board of Ed voted to stay in but now their legislature wants out.

Very confusing.
Po3 said…
Common Core is the new NCLB and will do nothing to improve our children's education - it will however improve the bottom lines of a lot of corporations lucky enough to get in on the gig.

I parted ways with Obama and education long ago.
Anonymous said…
Half Cuban? I thought Jeb's wife was Mexican (not what you expect in Florida, I understand).
Anonymous said…
More commentary on Common Core:

A common Core Lesson Gone Wrong

And the scary reality as told by an educator:

We have been told that we don’t teach content any longer, just “skills.” So every PD meeting and focus group is only about teaching “skills” – same goes for the observations we are undergoing. What skills were you teaching? Did the students learn the skills? How did you assess that they learned the skills? We taught that very WW poem you wrote about last year as part of a CCSS project – but the content of the poem was superfluous. We were teaching “close reading” skills. Very demoralizing to everybody in my department. But that’s what reform has brought us these days.

This is what I see happening in my kids classrooms. The language arts curriculum has lost any coherence or purpose. Videos are referred to as "texts."

reprinting for Anonymous (because we don't accept anonymous comments):

"Half Cuban? I thought Jeb's wife was Mexican (not what you expect in Florida, I understand)."

I honestly thought I had read she was Cuban but Anonymous is right; she's Mexican, born and raised.
mirmac1 said…
Hey Anonymous/Get it right

How about get out the wet noodle? I'm surprised anyone knows George H Bush had "little brown" grandchildren. (I suppose you remember his infamous characterization of his grandkids on the tarmac...) Who does that?
Charlie Mas said…
Change cannot come without the buy-in of the people who actually have to make the change.

This is the story for every education fad that has ever come down the river. Teachers give it that bored look, nod, sigh, and go back to doing what they know works.

When will these folks - whether they are at the federal, state, or district level - ever learn that teachers are professionals who are required to exercise their professional judgement, improvise, and adapt to the students, not to follow top-down instructions. Also, given the utter and complete absence of any kind of enforcement anywhere in the public K-12 education system, there is no way to compel the implementation of any top-down orders.

The folks in the offices can say whatever they want; the teachers are going to do what they know needs to be done.
Anonymous said…
Melissa, what is your evidence that Common Core "is failing (and likely will be weakened)"? I'm still counting 44 states plus a few territories using CCSS as their state content standards.

As for South Carolina, there's some background that you are leaving out or are unaware of. The current state superintendent, who is not an educator but rather an ultra-conservative, ex-military administrator, is staunchly anti-CCSS as is the ultra-conservative governor Nikki Haley. Only one house of the legislature has moved forward to dump CCSS and Smarter Balanced --- the Senate --- while the House refuses to even vote on it. The State Board of Education is in support of the CCSS and Smarter Balanced. It is the educators in the state who want the CCSS and the Smarter Balanced assessments. They are represented in Columbia by the SBE.

--- swk
Anonymous said…
Po3, how is it that you think the Common Core will improve the bottom line of corporations (other than the behemoth Pearson)? The Common Core and the consortia are a disaster for testing companies, student data systems, etc. (again, other than Pearson).

Testing companies, etc. stand to make a lot more money selling content standards, assessments, and student data systems to individual states than losing market share to the consortia. So, testing companies would be thrilled at your efforts to get rid of the CCSS, Smarter Balanced, and PARCC. They are quietly cheering you on.

--- swk
n said…
From what I heard in the report, Tom was originally voted in as a republican but switched to democratic. So, is his district republican? That may not bode so well.

Curious about it all.
SWK, I knew you would say that. Do you really want me to cite all the evidence? I can but I think what I've put forth shows that at least a very dramatic and strong conversation is going throughout the country and very much among lawmakers. Lawmakers who, like parents, feel had.

Sorry, the tide IS turning. It may not stop CC but CC is very likely to be weakened. Let's see how many parents start opting out in SPS in the coming weeks.

N, I don't know for sure but I believe Tom's district is Dem.
Anonymous said…
Oh, Melissa, you know me so well. ;-)

I would hope that "a very dramatic and strong conversation is going throughout the country." I couldn't be more pleased about that. We should have such conversations. Our communities are better for it. People should challenge the CCSS and the consortia. They should educate themselves on what they are and what they aren't. But they should do so honestly (and I'm not saying or even inferring that you have been dishonest).

But until the CCSS themselves (and not all of the other stuff people like to lump together and call "Common Core") have been dropped by a majority of states, I see no evidence that they are failing.

And, the consortia are still fairly strong. The majority of states have remained members and have processes in place to administer the consortia assessments starting next year. Again, until we see a majority of states dump the consortia assessments, I see no evidence even they are failing --- at least in the sense that states are moving forward with implementation, not in the sense that the field tests have not failed as such.

--- swk
Benjamin Leis said…

Here's the latest example of what's occurring on a daily basis right now. This story is out of Louisiana.

Indiana was only a harbinger its a reasonable bet that by a year from now most of the Southern states will have broken off at least from the testing consortia.

Anonymous said…
Ben, given that nearly half of the southern states are either not in a consortia or are a member of PARCC (like Indiana) rather than Smarter Balanced, that's a pretty safe bet.

(1) The consortia assessments on the whole are more expensive than southern states' current assessments. Southern states are typically poor states. They can't afford more expensive tests and may dump them for purely budgetary reasons. (2) Southern states are conservative, Republican states. They are opposed to federal action regardless. They view CC and the consortia as federal intrusion. They may dump the consortia for political reasons. (3) The PARCC assessments are inferior to the Smarter Balanced assessments IMO. Pearson has built an inferior product compared to the product being build by the more democratic, collective processes of Smarter Balanced. PARCC is being led by Laura Slover, who has no background in assessments (although she was a teacher). Smarter Balanced is being led by Joe Willhoft, who is considered an expert in assessments and who also was a former teacher (and married to a recently retired teacher). I would be surprised, however, if this is the reason most states use for dumping the PARCC assessments.

What is happening in LA via Bobby Jindal is political theater. If you read the article closely and have more knowledge of what's happening there, you would not be so confident that LA will drop PARCC.

Finally, by this time next year, I posit that Smarter Balanced will have retained nearly all of its members. I am not as confident that PARCC will be able to retain its.

--- swk
Anonymous said…
A comparison of Smarter Balanced and PARCC:

CCSS assessments

I hadn't realized that Smarter Balanced assessments will be adaptive (like MAP?) while PARCC assessments will be like MSP in that all students see the same test questions.

"We should have such conversations."

Ah, but you miss the point. Those conversation should have happened YEARS ago. There should have been community conversations about standards. Those didn't happen.

SWK, and you are also trying to make it sound like it's the poor Southern states that don't like CC. It's not. The movement against CC in Colorado, Indiana, NY state is huge.

CC seems to have hit a nerve - in many states, among many different people from Tea Partiers to regular Democrat parents.

Anonymous said…
Melissa, I was responding to Ben's assertion specific to southern states so only addressed those states. I did not intend to discount the pushback in other states and reasons behind those.

And to your point --- Colorado, Indiana, and New York are all PARCC states. Unlike Smarter Balanced, which authentically involved at least staff from state departments of education and got buy-in from these folks, PARCC (which is essentially Achieve) foisted Pearson on the states. Why did PARCC/Achieve even both with state involvement at all? It was a foregone conclusion that they were going to go with Pearson and Pearson alone from the very beginning.

Why didn't the community conversations happen years ago? Your assertion from a couple of days ago that Superintendent Dorn brought CC to the state under the cover of darkness made me chuckle when I read it. The man puts out a press release every time he sneezes. He put out a press release when the legislature gave him provisional authority to adopt the CCSS and he put out a press release when formally adopted the CCSS. I don't know the reason(s) the conversation didn't happen years ago but it wasn't because Dorn was being covert.

--- swk
involved at least staff from state departments of education and got buy-in from these folks

Again, missing the point. There was NO authentic engagement of parents or the public. That will always be the Achilles heel of CC.

Press releases? Please, like parents read those.

Does not matter. Will not matter.

Much as when SPS claims "engagement."
Anonymous said…
Melissa, I'm not suggesting that parents read press releases --- they are not sent to them --- they are sent to the press. And the press wrote stories about the CCSS. Parents could have read the stories. Maybe they did, maybe they didn't, but the word was out there. That was my point.

I'm truly asking, not being sarcastic: What would authentic engagement of parents and public look like when it comes to the adoption/revision of state content standards? Should parents have been involved in the comparative analyses of the EALRs/GLEs to the CCSS? Should there have been town hall meetings with copies of the CCSS available?

Finally, my statement regarding staff from state departments of education was in reference to the development of the Smarter Balanced assessments. Should parents have been members of the work groups who oversaw the work of the testing companies?

--- swk
SWK, oh, so I'm supposed to have all these answers. I don't.

What I do know is that I'll bet if I went back and looked at the press releases and then where they ended up getting press, it would not be a lot.

Districts should have been telling parents about this years ago - in a big way - and they did not. I know parents who, to this day, do not know about CC.

No, parents, unless qualified, should not have been involved in the making of CC. But yes, parents and teachers should have been told and maybe even asked (in focus groups) what they thought.

I have been around a long time. I know many ed groups and been in PTA as well.

We got very little information on this. There is no evidence to prove otherwise.
Anonymous said…
Here's all the press it got at the time

Ann D

Anonymous said…
Authentic engagement of the public on CC? There was none. There were a few poorly-publicized "community meetings" in which a person from OSPI cast CC in a rosy glow and told us how it was being adopted by the state and spent most of the time reading bullet points on a Powerpoint. The bulk of the audience members at the one I attended were WWU students and their professor.
There were several of us in attendance who tried to ask questions and raise concerns (not the least of which is how can you adopt something that you haven't seen because they haven't even been written yet, also why adopt something that hasn't been field tested - not good policy) and we were pretty much blown off by the OSPI person, who was more interested in making it through her full Powerpoint than addressing anything. At times, she responded and said she didn't know, but most times she had some BS propaganda phrase and then refused to address that topic again, told us to write our question down and provide contact info and she'd get back to us. Never heard from her. There was also a state PTA person in attendance who told us to shut up because CC meant he could move to another state and his kids would have the same standardized education from state to state.

CC should NOT have been adopted by the state until it was a finished product and had been tested and revised extensively. When someone in the UK - Scotland, I believe - redid their national standards some time ago, it was a 7 year process. Yet here we are facing a rush job, shoving inappropriate and untested (and copyrighted!) standards on kids. Their process involved all stakeholders at all parts of the process. Ours? Written by a bunch of ivory tower think-they-know-it-alls, most with corporate (like ALEC) interests, none of whom were K-12 classroom teachers, none of whom had ANY early childhood experience, but all of whom felt, somehow, that it was OK for them to dictate their version of American education to the public. Once they started to get some negative feedback, then they started trying to use the BS about "teachers included in the creation of the CC" and all the other falsehoods that have been thrown around. Reality is that ONE teacher - a HS math teacher named Vern Williams - was included on one of the FEEDBACK committees. The standards had already been written.

Stories like this:
are pretty commonplace for those wanting to make it sound like teachers were completely involved in all steps of the process.

Even on the common core website FAQ, when they attempt to address some of the criticism, they wordsmith things very carefully. In response to the question "Were teachers involved in the CREATION of the standards?" They respond with Yes, teachers have been a critical voice in the DEVELOPMENT of the standards.

More here:
and of course, Anthony Cody's article on the "secret 60"

mirmac1 said…
"It was another step in a strange dance around a big, national push ..."

Oh. Well. That's clear as mud.
Anonymous said…
CT, I cannot comment on the community meeting you attended, as I wasn't there, but let's look at a few things.

(1) Do you think the EALRs and GLEs are developmentally inappropriate? A large group of your peers conducted comparative analyses between the Washington standards and the CCSS and found them to be aligned, especially in mathematics. The math EALRs and GLEs had been revised in 2008, so there was no surprise there was alignment. The reading/writing standards were set to be revised in 2010, so the adoption of the CCSS ELA standards followed the same process that Washington would have used to revise those. If the math and ELA CCSS were only a minor modification from the EALRs and GLEs, then why are the Washington standards now developmentally inappropriate? FYI - You can find the names and districts of your peers who participated in the comparative analyses on the last page of each comparative analysis report at

(2) Since when are content standards field tested? Content standards are not field tested. Assessment items are field tested. And the assessment items are being field tested in Washington right now via the Smarter Balanced field tests.

(3) This common refrain of yours and others that the CCSS were adopted before they were even written is false. I don't know from where or from whom this anti-CCSS talking point comes, but it's simply not true. The CCSS drafts were sent out to the field for input during the fall of 2009 through spring 2010 and were not final until June 2010. Washington provisionally adopted them in August 2010 (after they were final). Washington then officially adopted the CCSS in July 2011. Again, to claim that Washington adopted the CCSS before they were written is false.

(4) And yes, the CCSS are copyrighted! But what is your point? If you read the copyright language, states who have adopted the CCSS are free to do with them as they please and have no need to attribute the CCSS in any way. However, commercial enterprise (like textbook publishers) are required to use attribution if they use the CCSS. Again, what is the problem with this?

(5) Finally, your inference that the CCSS are, on their face, invalid because K-12 teachers didn't write them is your professional opinion and is a valid opinion. But it is an opinion nonetheless. Many of your peers share a professional opinion that they are valid. But for you to engage in innuendo, conjecture, and derision regarding their "interests" undermines your professional opinion as I see it and is unfortunate. It is a good strategy in the court of public opinion to disparage another's character when your arguments are unsound, but it is a fallacy regardless of its success rate.

--- swk

SWK, I think this will be the last time I engage with you because I think I understand where you are coming from.

I actually don't have time now but there is a lot more documentation out there about when and how the standards were drawn up.

You cannot keep saying "since when are content standards tested." When they are being rolled out nationally and if is the first time, then that's what should be happening.

You do not fundamentally change teaching and learning for all of public education without a better organized effort.

Sorry, the copyright issue means someone is making a lot of money off of something you claim was publicly done.

As I say, I'm not going to argue anymore. I'll just put up the proof and let it speak for itself.

OSPI or whoever can get their own blog to fight back with.
Anonymous said…
Thanks, Melissa, for the engaging with me as long as you have. It's been challenging and rewarding for me. These are important topics and I hope others have found our arguments helpful in making up their own minds. I appreciate this blog more than you know.

--- swk
Anonymous said…
I hope that swk does not stop posting, even if Melissa stops engaging. I have found swk's input very helpful.

- Many thanks!
Benjamin Leis said…
@SWK - I think you're down playing the extent of the political push-back against the Common Core. The example I picked yesterday was chosen just because it was the most recent one in the last 24 hours. Not every effort is going to be successful but they are part of a trend and its enough to be evidence that something more is afoot than just wishful thinking on the part of education activists.

There are a lot of unknowns here but given the growing resistance its also not unreasonable to expect there will be more changes over time. I'm mostly cautious in making predictions but (as you agreed) I think mine from yesterday was fairly easy to make.

I also want to point out that if you reread my post I made no distinction about which test was being used so your discussion about PARCC vs SBAC while interesting is also a bit off topic.

Stepping back, however, the opposition has made for some strange bed fellows. Where its made the most progress so far are also often states that are pushing forward strongly on other ed-reform efforts like charter schools. So just if say for example South Carolina did go off on its own I don't view that as being much of an improvement for public education there. What I'm watching most closely is what happens in states like NY or CA and especially here. Its just too soon to tell at this point where they are going to end up.

Anonymous said…
Swk - their corporate interests are quite well documented - not innuendo and conjecture. Follow the money.

As for my peers, who are evidently not your peers, I do know a couple of people who were on there, and they found it to be a frustrating experience. Their take on it was that they were brought in to provide "legitimacy" on paper, but that things were already decided on before they got there.

I will say there is no universal agreement among teachers or parents. We can all find people who do not agree and who do agree.

That's the truth.

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