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Some Observations about Common Core

professor-teaching-cartoonI am not an expert on Common Core, nor am I claiming to be one in this post.   By that I mean that I do not have anything definitive to say about the success or failure of the program in any empirical sense.  However, I will admit that I am professionally and geographically in favor of raised educational standards (after all, I am a professor and I live in Alabama).

My basic exposure to this topic is twofold.  First, my wife is a middle school teacher and our state adopted the Common Core standards (and she tells me that these standards are an improvement over the previous state standards in her professional opinion as a math and social science teacher).  Second, as an observer of electoral politics I have watched with interest as the matter of Common Core has become an increasingly political issue.

I will say this:  I have taken the effort, more than once, to go to the Common Core website to try and figure out what it is that people are finding so objectionable.  To date, however, I have been unable to corroborate that there is, in fact, something to get upset about.  This not to say that these standards are perfect or that there is nothing that can be improved–far from it, as nothing is perfect.  However, what I do mean is that I cannot see something uniquely objectionable or worthy of special critique above and beyond whatever critique that one could level in general at public schools.  (I will note that I have often over the years been frustrated by work sent home with my kids, but since at least one of my kids has been in school since 2002 my various frustrations could not have been because of Common Core. Further, I still have had frustrations and objections as some of my kids have moved to private schools over the years).

Having said all of the above, one thing is clear:  most people really do not know what Common Core is (as well as what it isn’t). As such, here are some things that I think really ought to be taken into consideration when one discusses these issues:

1. This is not a plot of the Obama administration, nor of the the federal government.  The initiative started in 2009 (which was the year Obama took office, yes) but it was launched via state-level cooperation by the National Governor’s Association and other inter-state groups.  One thing is clearly is not is an attempt by the federal government to control local schools.

As a side note, some level of standardization does make sense.  For example, math is math whether one lives in Idaho, Georgia, or California.

2.  Not everything frustrating that comes home from school is the result of Common Core.  I think that this is my main inspiration:  in reading Facebook, Twitter, and news stories that reference parental frustration with Common Core, it has become quite clear to me that the words “Common Core” have become a blanket category for “stuff I don’t like about my kid’s education.”  Is the book confusing?  Blame Common Core.  Is there a mistake on this worksheet? Common Core is stupid!  Is my kid’s teacher not as bright as I would like?  Well, you know who to blame, etc.

Odds are, for example, that a large number of the text books our kids are using were published pre-Common Core (and even those published after 2009 were likely written without Common Core in mind, even if they were later adapted to CC in some way).  And, as any teacher or teacher’s spouse will attest:  the materials being used are almost certainly well older than a 2009 vintage (it isn’t like teachers get all new materials every year).

3.  Common Core did not invent standardized testing.  For one thing, I remember taking regular standardized test to measure student and school achievements back in elementary school in the late 1970s.  This is not a new phenomenon.  Further, if one is looking for a recent impetus to increase the amount and significance of standardized tests, look no further than No Child Left Behind.

I will note that I am skeptical, in many ways, of standardization, testing, and measurement.  I also know (and in this area I have some expertise) that when dealing with mass education it is impossible to utterly avoid such things.   Indeed, I think a lot of the frustration that is being expressed is far more about the challenges of mass education (and figuring out if it is working or not) than it is about any specific policy or set of standards.

One parting thought that helps to explain my inspiration for this post:  when I see political ads here in Alabama for candidates who say that if they are elected that they will repeal Common Core in Alabama all I see are opportunists who know that this issue has become a cause célèbre  in some quarters and they are, therefore, willing to promise lowering education standards in the state in exchange for some votes and this strikes me as a shame.

Do I think, in fairness, that some people think they have principled objections to these standards or, even, that there are some good arguments against CC?  Sure.  But I also know that most of them have not taken the time to research them and figure out what it is that they are actually objecting to.

At a minimum, it would be useful to take a breath and figure out what it is that so many think is the problem here.

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About Steven L. Taylor
Steven L. Taylor is Professor and Chair of Political Science at Troy University. His main areas of expertise include parties, elections, and the institutional design of democracies. He is the author of Voting Amid Violence: Electoral Democracy in Colombia and is currently working on a comparative study of the US to 29 other democracies. He earned his Ph.D. from the University of Texas and his BA from the University of California, Irvine. He has been blogging at PoliBlog since 2003. Follow Steven on Twitter

Comments

  1. Grewgills says:

    The main complaint I’ve seen on FB re: common core is something on teaching math using a grouping technique. No matter how many times I try to explain to the friends and ”friends” posting this that common core is about standards not methods, nothing seems to get through.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 6 Thumb down 0

  2. MarkedMan says:

    Common Core joins vaccines as something people from all sides of the political polygon can hate. As for me, I think we have to measure. I don’t want the pendulum to swing so far that kids lose all ability to think creatively (think Asia) but we have a long way to go before that happens.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 5 Thumb down 0

  3. What’s more, just because something is labelled “Common Core” does not mean it is problematic.

    We recently had a family near here go nuts on Facebook over a worksheet that their child’s teacher pulled from a site that included “Common Core” in its name. They claimed that using it was evidence that the district was illegally adopting Common Core even though the state had decided not to adopt it. What they would not answer is what they found to be wrong with the worksheet itself beyond the website name — and they eventually conceded that there was nothing wrong with the content and that their objection was “letting Common Core get its foot in the door”. Thus they managed to get the school district to forbid the use of resources from the site with threats of a lawsuit despite the fact that the content of the worksheet was acceptable and aligned with the state standards for their child’s math class.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 11 Thumb down 0

  4. G.A.Phillips says:

    This might give you a better understanding Dr. Taylor, and anyone else that is interested. This is why a lot of us are against it and what many of us that are of know. It is a bit over two hours

    https://search.yahoo.com/yhs/search?p=you+tube+Duke+Pesta&fr=ymyy-t-999&hspart=att&hsimp=yhs-att_001&type=att_pc_my_portal

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 10

  5. Yolo Contendere says:

    @G.A.Phillips: I don’t have the wherewithal to view video right now, but everything I’ve found in print leads me to believe that guy is either a liar or delusional. He’s the Jenny McCarthy of Anti-CC. The people following him are loons. He sounds like he’s a good teacher in his subject area, but outside that he comes off as bat-shit insane.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 15 Thumb down 1

  6. Grewgills says:

    @G.A.Phillips:
    He’s spreading inaccurate about common core to sell his online home school product. Among others

    A couple of weeks later, Pesta is working the room again — only this time he’s in front of 125 people packed into a Republican gathering at an American Legion hall in Cedarburg. He becomes animated when he speculates that “sexuality skills” will be rolled into Common Core State Standards. His audience is with him, shaking their heads, rolling their eyes.

    @Yolo Contendere:
    Jenny McCarthy is a dupe, this guy knows what he is doing.
    From his home school program website

    FPE is registered as a private school in Wisconsin and considers accreditation to be a governmental “stamp of approval” and not a measure of quality. FPE will seek accreditation by an appropiate private-school organization in time, but will not compromise on truth or curricula to obtain it.</bloor, and Christian values.

    and

    FPE is in no way influenced by teachers’ unions or answerable to the Department of Education, or state Departments of Public Instruction. We don’t indoctrinate students or promote a liberal agenda. And we don’t advocate for the removal of God from contemporary culture. We teach truth, rigor, and Christian values.

    The talk against indoctrination is rich coming from this lot.

    Highly-rated. Helpful or Unhelpful: Thumb up 27 Thumb down 0

  7. OzarkHillbilly says:

    It’s about the right to be stupid and ignorant, that’s all.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 6 Thumb down 0

  8. rodney dill says:

    Below is a decent pros vs cons of common core.

    http://teaching.about.com/od/assess/f/What-Are-Some-Pros-And-Cons-Of-The-Common-Core-Standards.htm

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 4 Thumb down 0

  9. C. Clavin says:

    I saw Duke in the link above and assumed it was the University…not a grifter.
    My bad…should have known.

    In any case…I’m sure it’s just another conspiracy to indoctrinate your kids by the weak feckless socialist Muslim tyrannical megalomaniac President in his quest to single-handedly destroy the country.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 6 Thumb down 1

  10. G.A.Phillips says:

    Yeah, every one lies but the liberals. I like how you don’t view it and then go to some liberal hack for your infromation.

    Whatever, it is there for anyone that whats to learn from an expert on it. There are more and many “liberals” against it, things you would have learned if you botherd to take a look.

    But why learn anything for yourself when you google the nearist liberal hack and get a talking point or two.

    Forgive me for forgeting how people oporate around here

    .

    Poorly-rated. Helpful or Unhelpful: Thumb up 3 Thumb down 26

  11. C. Clavin says:

    We teach truth, rigor, and Christian values.

    Sort of an oxymoron, no?

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 16 Thumb down 3

  12. Rick DeMent says:

    I dunno anytime i start hearing about Anti-American views my spidy senses go off the charts … I mean what are anti-american views anyway? I always ends up being something that offends a very specific set of, mainly, WASP sensibilities and frankly I have zero use for it. I mean for god sake, there are many legitimate reasons to oppose any scheme you want to put out there, but when you kick off your pitch citing “liberal” collage professors you are, in a word useless for gaining any understanding of the issue. The ask.com link is a much more reasoned and balanced look at thee issue.

    This guy is so full of it, when I was in school I took everything the professors said with a huge grain of salt and so did everyone I know, I don’t know, maybe conservative kids are just more gullible after years of indoctrination about shy daddy’s. I mean once you buy the virgin birth thing any silly idea becomes plausible. But my god, I couldn’t get past the first two minutes without knowing everything I need to know about this Pesta guy. He’s a grifter plain and simple.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 9 Thumb down 0

  13. Matt Bernius says:

    @G.A.Phillips:
    Here’s an article that provides some background on Professor Pesta and outlines a few more of his claims that have very little grounding in actual fact:
    http://www.jsonline.com/news/education/outspoken-uw-oshkosh-professor-dukes-it-out-over-common-core-b99239370z1-255047301.html

    @Steven:

    The initiative started in 2009 (which was the year Obama took office, yes) but it was launched via state-level cooperation by the National Governor’s Association

    Which should be noted is a bipartisan organization and that the Common Core standards started while Republican Jim Douglas of Vermont was Chairmain. Common core has always been a bipartisan initiative.

    Highly-rated. Helpful or Unhelpful: Thumb up 18 Thumb down 0

  14. G.A.Phillips says:

    weak feckless socialist Muslim tyrannical megalomaniac President

    Well you got one thing right in your trained reactionary one size fits all bit of braying form your stall.

    It’s about the right to be stupid and ignorant, that’s all.

    Nope totally the exact opposite but what would you care. You got to make a non funny about the evil stupid Christian/conservatives. So wrong, Total fail, and his research partner is a democrat form the left coast to boot.

    Man talk about high jacking a thread with off subject baseless partisan attacks for no other reason than high jacking a thread with off subject baseless partisan attacks.

    And what is the point of hate voting information that you have not viewed or was that just because you all love me so much?

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 14

  15. beth says:

    @Rick DeMent: His use of “Democrat Party” is a clear tip-off. If you’re going to start off using Limbaugh terms don’t expect me to listen.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 13 Thumb down 1

  16. Matt Bernius says:

    @rodney dill:
    And if you look at the cons on the the list, they are mostly *fear* based/aversion to change versus actual pedagogical concerns.

    It’s also worth noting that one of the cons is a reminder of the degree of local control that remains in the Common Core (in other words, for opponents of CC, this is acutally a *pro*):

    The Common Core Standards currently only have skills associated with English-Language Arts (ELA) and Mathematics. There are currently no science or social studies Common Core Standards. This leaves it up to individual states to have to develop their own set of standards and assessments for these topics.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 10 Thumb down 0

  17. Matt Bernius says:

    @G.A.Phillips:

    There are more and many “liberals” against it, things you would have learned if you botherd to take a look.

    And if you look at their rational as well, you’ll find that many of them are wrong about Common Core as well.

    Look, here’s the best argument against it — the plans for pegging Teacher performance to standardized testing are going to cause problems in the short terms due to the transition. IMHO the only teachers who should be directly measured are teachers who students started Common Core from the beginning.

    Beyond that an argument can be made that the Common Core is still to rooted in a model of education that expects a stable home environment for students and overemphasizes the idea of “homework.”

    That’s about it.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 12 Thumb down 1

  18. DrDaveT says:

    @G.A.Phillips:

    It is a bit over two hours.

    Then it’s in desperate need of a concise summary. Could you provide one? Or a link to one?

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 5 Thumb down 0

  19. Matt Bernius says:

    BTW, @G.A.Phillips, compliments on the new avitar. While not quite as hypnotic as your last one, it’s much nicer to look at.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 6 Thumb down 0

  20. G.A.Phillips says:

    Here’s an article that provides some background on Professor Pesta and outlines a few more of his claims that have very little grounding in actual fact:

    Matt, with all do respect.

    I like how you don’t view it and then go to some liberal hack for your infromation.

    I have seen his presentations and heard him myself. I have also seen the madness of common core myself. Matt you’re asking me to take the word of a news paper that I have read most of my life. Sorry but that paper has proven it’s self to be uselss when it comes to politics. It is all one sided. And a tool of the unions. Not much more save the Packer coverage.

    And yes I did read the article.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 8

  21. G.A.Phillips says:

    BTW, @G.A.Phillips, compliments on the new avitar. While not quite as hypnotic as your last one, it’s much nicer to look at.

    Thanks man… Not that many will be able to tell the difference but I am not that into doing my troll thing anymore. I have come to talk :)

    But I am sure he will make an appearance here and there.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 4 Thumb down 2

  22. G.A.Phillips says:

    Then it’s in desperate need of a concise summary. Could you provide one? Or a link to one?

    Hmm, I think the man needs to be heard so that one can understand him fully(you truly need to see the slides) but there are many more clips on the side of that You Tube link. Take a look you might get lucky.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 1

  23. OzarkHillbilly says:

    @G.A.Phillips:

    Nope totally the exact opposite but what would you care. You got to make a non funny about the evil stupid Christian/conservatives. So wrong, Total fail, and his research partner is a democrat form the left coast to boot.

    Man talk about high jacking a thread with off subject baseless partisan attacks for no other reason than high jacking a thread with off subject baseless partisan attacks.

    HAHAHAHAAAHAAAHAAA….. Where in my very short post did I say anything about Republicans or Dems???? Sounds like more than a little bit of partisan projection on your part. As to Christian/conservatives being evil and stupid, I have never said they are evil, or stupid, just that there sure are an awful lot of them who act evil and stupid. Of course, I have said the same thing about some liberal atheists as well but they don’t get talked about much around here.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 7 Thumb down 1

  24. Matt Bernius says:

    @G.A.Phillips:

    I have also seen the madness of common core myself.

    Please explain this comment. What is the “madness” of Common Core?

    And how have you “seen” it for yourself — by that I mean beyond what Professor Pesta is presenting?

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 11 Thumb down 0

  25. Rick DeMent says:

    @G.A.Phillips:

    It is all one sided. And a tool of the unions. Not much more save the Packer coverage.

    … which is so much worse then being a tool of reactionary conservatives. This “evaluation” would dismiss out of hand anything that public school teachers had a hand in because you know that are all just union tools. A nice handy way to dismiss anything that comes from an entire class of educators. I understand that unions have an agenda, so does every other group on the face of the planet. that observation is so banal that discussing it is useless because it’s a universal truth about everything. You can say the exact same thing about Christian conservatives, radical Muslims, the Masons and your local chamber of commerce. but what such observations don’t do is promote substantive discussion. I don’t care if it’s a tool of the unions, the national chamber of commerce, or the B’Nai B’Rith of the upper Sandusky Ohio. I only care about objective criticism as to the pros and cons of the proposal, and I also understand that anything that is put forward will have it’s share of problems. Why should I listen to anyone who sounds as if they want to destroy public education on matters of public education?

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 11 Thumb down 0

  26. mantis says:

    Grifters gonna grift. Marks gonna get duped.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 6 Thumb down 1

  27. Yolo Contendere says:

    @G.A.Phillips: I never said liberals don’t lie. Liberals can be just as insane as conservatives on CC. And while last night I didn’t have the ability to view it, I’m choosing not to view it now because I don’t have 2 hours of my life to give to this loon.

    Oh, and I didn’t go to a liberal website to get a talking point. I was hard-pressed to even find a liberal website that references him. My opinion is based on the conservative websites that laud him. For God’s sake, the man preaches that CC uses explicit materials in teaching sex ed in all grades K-12, sex ed is incorporated in ALL subjects, so it can’t be avoided, and “Washington Bureaucrats” are keeping track of it all. His evidence is a website having nothing to do with CC, which apparently lists learning objectives for sex ed. So therefore “someday” it will be included. And “Washington Bureaucrats” keeping track of every child in America and their level of indoctrination? Batshit. Or grifter. You pick.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 11 Thumb down 1

  28. wr says:

    @G.A.Phillips: I do love the way you fight so ferociously for any crook who’s out to make a sucker of you. It’s kind of touching.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 6 Thumb down 0

  29. G.A.Phillips says:

    Please explain this comment. What is the “madness” of Common Core?

    I have seen the clips and the school work and I have many personal friends that work on exposing it. I have seen it’s madness. I even know teachers Oooo.. Plus I live in Wisconsin, a ground zero.

    Where in my very short post did I say anything about Republicans or Dems????

    You think I am stupid right? I know you bro. You can rationalize it all you want.

    Learn this one thing if you can everyone: I am not bound by your rules of debate. And mostly I reject them.

    Why should I listen to anyone who sounds as if they want to destroy public education on matters of public education?

    I for one think it needs to be destroyed. The Ph.D. expert that put out there doesn’t, but he makes a good case that Common core has been doing just that for some time now.

    I could care less if you want to give him a chance or not. Dr. Taylor seemed as if he wanted to know way many of us are against it I tried to show him. Forgive me.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 11

  30. wr says:

    @G.A.Phillips: “Hmm, I think the man needs to be heard so that one can understand him”

    Here’s a hint: If you come across anyone who needs two full hours to be “understood” — he’s a fraud. If he can’t make his basic theory understood in five minutes — even if he then takes two hours to work through details — it’s because the basic theory is a lie, and he needs the time to spin his web of obfuscation.

    I might make an exception to this rule for anyone talking about string theory or other scientific concepts that are so far removed from any observable, common phenomena that the entire foundation has to be laid out first… but that’s sure not the case with education.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 7 Thumb down 0

  31. beth says:

    Speaking as someone who moved a lot during my daughter’s elementary and middle school years, I can testify to the frustration of finding out your kid wasn’t taught the same grade level skills in different states and I paid numerous tutors to rectify that. I can applaud Common Core for at least trying to solve that problem.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 10 Thumb down 0

  32. Andre Kenji says:

    Diane Ravitch makes good arguments against the Common Core:

    http://dianeravitch.net/2013/02/26/why-i-cannot-support-the-common-core-standards/

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 0

  33. G.A.Phillips says:

    @G.A.Phillips: I do love the way you fight so ferociously for any crook who’s out to make a sucker of you. It’s kind of touching.

    I got your back too brother :)

    So I take it you let the man speak wr? and are not just calling him a crook because perhaps some pro common core hack gave you that talking point?

    What I am fighting is mostly town city folk with pitchforks and torches it seems today.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 4

  34. Matt Bernius says:

    @Yolo Contendere:

    For God’s sake, the man preaches that CC uses explicit materials in teaching sex ed in all grades K-12, sex ed is incorporated in ALL subjects, so it can’t be avoided, and “Washington Bureaucrats” are keeping track of it all.

    Correct. For the record, the only three topics that common core covers are:
    Math, Science, and English Language Skills

    The entire “sexual skills” thing is a complete fabrication. Here’s the core document that everyone cites as “proof” which contains only a single reference to “Common Core” — and only as a basis for the framework of the document:
    http://answer.rutgers.edu/file/national-sexuality-education-standards.pdf

    Likewise, @G.A.Phillips, while you are concerned about “Liberals” making up facts about Common Core, let’s point out that conservative opponents do the same thing. See this website on the “Sexual Skills” portion of Common Core:
    http://drrichswier.com/2014/06/22/dr-duke-pesta-shocking-k-12-common-core-sexual-education-standards/

    Here’s an example of shoddy “facts” to back up the “common core = bad” argument:

    David Zimba who was responsible for developing the new math curriculum in Common Core, said Common Core math “will not” prepare students for college.

    There was *no* David Zimba who worked on Common Core Maths. There is a Dr Jason Zimba who helped develop the Math components. And *surprise* he thinks common core *does* prepare students for college. Read an interview with Dr Jason Zimba here:
    http://blogs.edweek.org/edweek/rick_hess_straight_up/2013/02/rhsu_straight_up_conversation_sap_honcho_jason_zimba.html

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 11 Thumb down 0

  35. Sccatott says:

    Another site to go to to follow issues of common core as well as teacher evaluations and testing and education policy is dianeravitch.net

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  36. Mikey says:

    @beth: My thinking was similar–as a member of the Air Force, we moved several times during my daughter’s childhood and there were big differences in standards at every school. It was frustrating at times. Even after I left active duty, we moved one more time, and the same was true.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 4 Thumb down 0

  37. @Andre Kenji:

    Diane Ravitch makes good arguments against the Common Core:

    This strikes me as a reasonable set of critiques. But, of course , they are based on methodological reasons and not claims about sex education or federal takeovers (or even specific contents of the standards).

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 11 Thumb down 0

  38. Rick DeMent says:

    @Andre Kenji:

    Diane Ravitch makes good arguments against the Common Core:

    Not really she makes no arguments about common core. She really doesn’t give one example in the entire piece about what is wrong with Common core itself. She complains that it should be voluntary, that teachers should not be held to mandates, she is against it because it will take too long to see if test scores improve (as if test scores are the one an only measure of success). She objects to how they were developed and how some states had higher standards (yet for other states it was too rigorous) and a whole host of “meta” issues with the standards but not one word about the problem with the standards themselves. Again this will only sway people who are already against it to be against it or sway people who don’t know what it is to never try and find out.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 6 Thumb down 0

  39. @G.A.Phillips:

    the madness of common core

    If one is going to make such a claim, then I think it is incumbent upon one to be specific. “Madness” (especially in the context of educational standards) ought to be easy to define.

    I appreciate you attempting to share what you consider evidence for your position, and I will look into the individual in question. Investing two hours into a video, however, is asking a bit much when it should be easy to provide at least enough of an argument to convince us that viewing the video would be worth our time.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 8 Thumb down 0

  40. G.A.Phillips says:

    And *surprise* he thinks common core *does* prepare students for college.

    This guy?

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eJZY4mh2rt8

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  41. @Yolo Contendere:

    For God’s sake, the man preaches that CC uses explicit materials in teaching sex ed in all grades K-12, sex ed is incorporated in ALL subjects, so it can’t be avoided, and “Washington Bureaucrats” are keeping track of it all.

    This is a huge red flag, as there is a subset of the population that is extremely concerned about this topic. Indeed, this just sounds like a marketing ploy to appeal to certain segments of the home schooling community.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 13 Thumb down 0

  42. Matt Bernius says:

    @Rick DeMent:

    Not really she makes no arguments about common core.

    Correct. Here issues have to do with the implementation/roll out of Common Core. And I think there is a lot to debate on that topic.

    Unfortunately, the fundamental challenge of implementing Common Core is the challenge of American Education: do we want an explicitly centralized approach or a decentralized approach.

    The current decentralized* approach works great for some districts and terribly for others.

    * — We can also question how decentralized the approach is when the entire “textbook” industry — and statewide textbook adoption — has its own centralizing effect.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 9 Thumb down 0

  43. @Matt Bernius: Indeed. As I making passing reference to at the end of my post, there are huge challenges to mass education and determining whether or not one is actually being successful at the process.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 3 Thumb down 0

  44. G.A.Phillips says:

    I appreciate you attempting to share what you consider evidence for your position, and I will look into the individual in question. Investing two hours into a video, however, is asking a but much when it should be easy to problem at least enough of an argument to convince us that viewing the video would be worth our time.

    Like I said, if you are interested. My position was that you seemed to wonder why so many of us are against it, so I put up an expert. You don’t have to watch it if you don’t want to. I was just trying to provide what I thought you where looking for I guess.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 2

  45. grumpy realist says:

    My major complaint about a lot of standards is that they don’t challenge the students enough.

    Do they still have tracking in schools? I remember getting shoved in a “Track 3″ class for English at one point (schedule to get me in the Track 4 wasn’t working out because I was taking both Latin and German) and being bored out of my mind.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 0

  46. @G.A.Phillips:

    This guy?

    If you are assuming that that clip is an argument for your side of this discussion, I think you need to re-assess. The clip actually is an attempt to argue that the CC standards are high enough in terms of math.

    The way to fix that would be higher standards and more centralization and enforcement.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 3 Thumb down 0

  47. @G.A.Phillips:

    so I put up an expert.

    This is a questionable assertion (to be polite).

    And, as has been noted, it should be easier than a 2-hour video to explain your basic opposition.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 8 Thumb down 0

  48. Matt Bernius says:

    @G.A.Phillips:
    Yes. That’s him. Note his name is *Jason.*

    Second, the clip is a decontextualized minute and seventeen seconds of a person attempting to score points and Zimba carefully and accurately responding.

    What he’s saying is two things:
    (1) that the base Common Core math is designed to prepare all students for the majority of colleges (i.e. community, professional programs, and liberal art schools).
    (2) that base Common Core math *is not* enough for Engineering Schools and elite institutions — advanced math is required.

    This reflects the current system sir. The current standards across districts stop at Algebra in most cases. Pre-Calc and Calculus are *not* required math courses in most districts.

    And for the record, common core allows advanced math tracks for students. All it’s doing is setting the base expectation.

    BTW, here is *JASON* Zimba responding to this and other critiques about the math section of the Core:
    http://edexcellence.net/commentary/education-gadfly-daily/common-core-watch/2013/critics-math-doesnt-add-up.html

    I appreciate the argument that the cirricula is not STEM enough. But that ignores that the present “core” of most districts is not *STEM* enough either. Further this seems in conflict with the complaints that CC *expects* too much of low performing students (or that forcing low performing students into difficult subjects will restrict the progress of higher performing students).

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 6 Thumb down 0

  49. G.A.Phillips says:

    Easy to read at your leisure and about the battle in Wisconsin. Note: I am doing this for information. I am not interested in attacks.

    http://stopcommoncoreinwisconsin.com/

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 3

  50. C. Clavin says:

    @G.A.Phillips:
    Yeah…sorry I didn’t spend two hours watching a video that 30 seconds of Googling makes clear is a bunch of bunk.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 0

  51. Matt Bernius says:

    From @G.A.Phillips’ website, here’s the relevant page:
    http://stopcommoncoreinwisconsin.com/reasons-for-opting-out-of-common-core-state-standards/

    Out of 13 points, only two directly deal with pedagogical issues (neither providing links to data to support the arguments). The rest are largely composed of a bunch of movement conservative talking/conspiracy points such as.

    CCSS give the federal government authority to determine what will be taught in every subject in every classroom across the U.S. This federalizes education and limits local control of schools.

    The federal government will be creating assessment tools including some tests.

    According to the International Baccalaureate Organization, the CCSS and International Baccalaureate curricula share standards shaped by many UN treaties including the Universal Declaration of Human Rights with an emphasis on Article 26. This declaration was adopted in 1948. The IBO partnered with UNESCO in 1996.

    CCSS are the curricula standard created by Benjamin S. Bloom in 1956. His taxonomy also followed the UN Universal Declaration of Human Rights. CCSS is simply a much more aggressive form of Bloom’s educational goal of creating a population with a “world philosophy.”

    The CCSS undermine our American republic, its values and traditions.

    So, the answer is *feds* and *UN* control.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 12 Thumb down 0

  52. @G.A.Phillips: I will say this: if you cannot articulate, even in incomplete form, why you personally find CC to be “madness” and so forth, then I would sincerely suggest that you really don’t have a well developed opinion and probably ought to give the matter some additional thought. If all you can do (on this or any other subject) is point to an alleged authority figure, then I would submit you do not have a clear idea on a subject.

    Out of curiosity: do you have school aged children (or grandchildren, nieces, or nephews?).

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 11 Thumb down 0

  53. @Matt Bernius:

    The CCSS undermine our American republic, its values and traditions.

    This does seem to motivate a lot of the opposition.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 7 Thumb down 0

  54. G.A.Phillips says:

    Second, the clip is a decontextualized minute and seventeen seconds of a person attempting to score points and Zimba carefully and accurately responding.

    I see a guy being honest.

    If you are assuming that that clip is an argument for your side of this discussion, I think you need to re-assess. The clip actually is an attempt to argue that the CC standards are high enough in terms of math.

    Perhaps, and I will go do just that.

    And, as has been noted, it should be easier than a 2-hour video to explain your basic opposition

    Um, I will just make people made If I condense my basic opposition. :)

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 2

  55. Matt Bernius says:

    @G.A.Phillips:

    I see a guy being honest.

    So do I. And its a guy honestly saying that Common Core gets all student prepared to enter basic, non-STEM college programs. Which, btw, are the *majority* of college programs.

    BTW, it’s probably good enough for a number of professional STEM Technology programs (which don’t require pre-calc/calc either).

    Again, this is *no change* from the current system in most places. And again, he’s not saying what you claim he’s saying (i.e. that Common Core *doesn’t* prepare you for college.)

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 7 Thumb down 0

  56. Andre Kenji says:

    @Matt Bernius:

    The current decentralized* approach works great for some districts and terribly for others.

    No, that´s more complicated because in a country like the United States you SHOULD have a decentralized approach. A classroom full of poor whites in the Appalachia requires completely different solutions than a classroom in the Bronx, and obviously, it´s naive to think that simply raising standards is going to make performance follow it.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 3 Thumb down 0

  57. @Steven L. Taylor: @G.A.Phillips:

    Correction on my part, I left out a key word (bolded here):

    The clip actually is an attempt to argue that the CC standards are not high enough in terms of math.

    See also@Matt Bernius:

    This reflects the current system sir. The current standards across districts stop at Algebra in most cases. Pre-Calc and Calculus are *not* required math courses in most districts.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 3 Thumb down 0

  58. G.A.Phillips says:

    I will say this: if you cannot articulate, even in incomplete form, why you personally find CC to be “madness” and so forth, then I would sincerely suggest that you really don’t have a well developed opinion and probably ought to give the matter some additional thought. If all you can do (on this or any other subject) is point to an alleged authority figure, then I would submit you do not have a clear idea on a subject.

    And as I have clearly stated I was trying to give you some proper information. I don’t see how you can’t get that?
    You can tell me your rules for debate as you see them as many times as you want I don’t agree with them and I explained my purpose for doing what I did.

    I put up information for people to look at from an “expert” it is that simple.

    Out of curiosity: do you have school aged children or grandchildren, nieces, or nephews?).

    Yes, many.

    The CCSS undermine our American republic, its values and traditions.

    This does seem to motivate a lot of the opposition.

    You want me to write “just seems”? So I don’t have to get all the grief I am getting?

    Can we get past the point that this was not good enough or what you expected. I already apologized and made clear that you can just ignore it.

    The madness I have seen is in the many school work assignments I have seen with my own to eyes, the clips I have seen with mind numbing lessons given by the teachers that I have seen with my own two eyes and the first hand testimony I have heard with my own two ears.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 2

  59. Matt Bernius says:

    @G.A.Phillips:

    mind numbing lessons given by the teachers

    Ok that’s something that we can work with… what are examples of the supposed mind-numbing lessons?

    And if it’s in the “clip” point us to the time to jump to.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 4 Thumb down 0

  60. PD Shaw says:

    I had two issues with Common Core this past year, with respect to my 4th grade boy.

    One was that at the beginning of the year the teacher promised that with CC we would be receiving more information about his learning because CC requires a greater variety of evaluations. And she did mention several times in passing that it has created more work for her. At the end of the year,we had less information in the report car that in past years, including his older sister’s.

    The other was that there was hardly any science this year. This is part of a trend to spend more time on English and Math, crowding out other subjects, but it seems to have gotten worse this year.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 3 Thumb down 0

  61. Just Me says:

    I don’t have time right now to read all the comments but wanted to point out a few objections I think are legitimate.

    First I want to say that I have no real objections to having common objectives for education that work locally, at the state and national level. I also think having clear objectives can make educating students easier at the district level.

    But I have some objections:

    First-common core for the lower elementary level has stated standards that are not developmentally appropriate for young children. Anyone familiar with child development would understand that some of these standards just aren’t developmentally appropriate for first and second graders.

    These goals turn school into a daily frustration for kids who are developmental laggers (kids who can and will catch up but are being asked to do more than they are ready for).

    Second I don’t like the fact that common core has pushed standardized testing into the lower grades. Before Common Core and under NCLB students in kindergarten, first and second grade were not tested. Now they are.

    Third while think Common Core provides solid guidelines for middle and high school, I also see that curriculums designed to meet common core standards are often poorly written (curriculum choice and curriculum problems are not necessarily a common core standard problem but these do come with common core goals). I used to work full time at the first grade level but currently substitute at the middle and high school level. I have com across curriculums with “common core standards” stamped on them that are confusing. I would like to see a better curriculum structure that meets standards. Right now they are a hodge podge.

    Last from a teaching perspective at times the pressure on teachers from the administration is frustrating. Teachers often feel like their creativity is being stifled and while this isn’t a Common Core created problem this pressure became an issue more when Common Core became the standard.

    I also am not a fan of high stakes testing. I think the benefit of testing should be “did student A meet the goals from least year to this year” and that teacher’s jobs should not ride on how students perform.

    I’ve seen enough students put no effort into testing because for them it means nothing to know it isn’t fair for teachers to be judged solely on test scores or even heavily on test scores.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 9 Thumb down 0

  62. G.A.Phillips says:

    Sigh, I don’t have time right now look them up at the moment but there are some in the 2 hour video no one wants to give a chance :)

    Also If I try to explain them to you, I will get called a right wing kook and such and slow and this discourse down more them I already have.

    I will look them up if I get a chance, later.

    I gots to roll out.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 2

  63. Neil Hudelson says:

    @G.A.Phillips:

    The madness I have seen is in the many school work assignments I have seen with my own to eyes, the clips I have seen with mind numbing lessons given by the teachers that I have seen with my own two eyes and the first hand testimony I have heard with my own two ears.

    The Common Core does not create the school work assignments or the lessons. They create standards. Teachers, text books, past teachers–really a whole host of different factors–create the lessons, presentations, and homework.

    If you have a problem with the homework you’ve seen (and, buddy, I’m with you–I’ve seen absolutely batsh*t assignments come home with my nephews) it’s not because of common core. It’s because of subjectively* poor teachers.

    *Based on the above thread, I will withhold judgment as to how poor these assignments actually were until seeing them for myself.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 6 Thumb down 0

  64. @G.A.Phillips:

    The madness I have seen is in the many school work assignments

    Common Core does not create assignments. That is part of the point.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 10 Thumb down 0

  65. Neil Hudelson says:

    @G.A.Phillips:

    Also If I try to explain them to you, I will get called a right wing kook and such and slow and this discourse down more them I already have.

    There has been only one person in this thread who has dismissed others’ arguments because of politics. That’s you buddy. :)

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 11 Thumb down 0

  66. @G.A.Phillips:

    I will get called a right wing kook

    Well, perhaps. But then again either a) the claims aren’t kookish and therefore can be defended, or b) perhaps they are kookish and exposure to actual discussion would cause the defender of the claims to re-evaluate.

    If one’s claims cannot withstand a reasoned argument (and I don’t mean just attacks), then they ought to be re-examined.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 8 Thumb down 0

  67. @Neil Hudelson:

    The Common Core does not create the school work assignments or the lessons. They create standards. Teachers, text books, past teachers–really a whole host of different factors–create the lessons, presentations, and homework.

    Exactly. Indeed, as I noted in point #2 above, my main frustration with CC critics is not that they shouldn’t be criticizing things, it is that they do not understand what it is that they are criticizing.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 7 Thumb down 0

  68. @Just Me: These are reasonable points for discussion.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 4 Thumb down 0

  69. Blue Galangal says:

    @Just Me: Indeed – these are some valid pedagogical objections. I would add that one of the most effective ways to teach the kind of thinking needed for engineering and other STEM subjects is CBL/PBL (challenge/problem based learning). However, since CBL requires 1-2 weeks of problem/solution/test/feedback loops, and is often not aligned with any curriculum except a very specific experimental type of curriculum, teachers despair of fitting it into their curriculum/testing schedule. When we lose kids in science it’s because there’s no clear idea what scientists do, nor is how scientists *think* able to be taught out of a text book. If/when the student gets to college in a STEM major, CBL is going to form a large part of his or her experience. It’s quite a culture shock. And a lot of potential STEM majors dismiss STEM subjects out of hand because they don’t know how scientists and engineers work – and think.

    The answer is not more testing in lower grades. I’d argue conversely the answer is a whole lot less testing, at least up until 10th grade or so, except for a yearly rubric to see if they’re on track. Give the teachers training in CBL teaching, and then give them time and space to execute it.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 4 Thumb down 0

  70. Matt Bernius says:

    @G.A.Phillips:

    Also If I try to explain them to you, I will get called a right wing kook and such and slow and this discourse down more them I already have.

    Look at comments from @Just Me, @Blue Galangal, and those outlined at links by @rodney dill & @Andre Kenji. These all deal with either pedagogical and roll out issues with Common Core. They’re all grounded in the actual curriculum and its teaching and administration. These are not kooky ideas.

    Then look at the criticisms that your sources have brought up – inclusion of sex content *that’s NOT* in the Common Core, concerns about Federalism and the possible UN take over of American Education, or that it’s somehow antithetical to good Christian values.

    Tell me which side sounds “kookier.” Thats before we get to intentionally misinterpreting/misrepresenting what people are saying.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 11 Thumb down 0

  71. DrDaveT says:

    @Andre Kenji:

    A classroom full of poor whites in the Appalachia requires completely different solutions than a classroom in the Bronx

    Indeed. Fortunately, the Common Core only specifies what you should know and be able to do, and not how to get to that level of proficiency.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 8 Thumb down 0

  72. PD Shaw says:

    @Just Me: “common core for the lower elementary level has stated standards that are not developmentally appropriate for young children.”

    I don’t know much about the lower-level. I have a related concern about pushing Algebra too early for kids who could use a year or more developing greater math confidence. The tendency has been to push Algebra earlier and earlier, and I’ve seen a study that found this to be counterproductive for the highest achievers.

    This is independent from Common Core; at least in our schools Algebra had already been taught starting at 6th grade, which is almost three years sooner than I was taught.

    “first and second grade were not tested.”

    I don’t think my school or state has added any tests at those grades. The big test that everybody goes crazy about starts at 3rd grade here.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 0

  73. Matt Bernius says:

    @Just Me & @Blue Galangal:
    I’m really sympathetic to the anti-testing arguments — especially at lower levels. That said, I think its easy to see how and why testing is such a focus. Beyond the desired to demonstrate “results based” learning, the fact is that Americans (in particular the most rabidly CC folks) tend to be distrustful of teachers. See all the discussions of grade school teaching as an “easy job” and how tenure protects bad teachers.

    People also decry how no one realized that students weren’t able to read before they got to high school.

    Again, regardless of how true or untrue these concerns were, the testing (and relating it to teacher performance) is definitely tied into addressing these concerns.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 7 Thumb down 0

  74. Matt Bernius says:

    @PD Shaw:

    I have a related concern about pushing Algebra too early for kids who could use a year or more developing greater math confidence. The tendency has been to push Algebra earlier and earlier, and I’ve seen a study that found this to be counterproductive for the highest achievers.

    I think this illustrates some of the conflicting concerns about STEM math preparation in the CC.

    I’m not an expert in elementary level learning phases, but I think its worth noting that one the one side, folks are saying that CC doesn’t go far enough (making pre-calc part of the ‘common core’ for all students) and other the other side there are concerns that things like Algebra are started too soon.

    Actually, out of all of the concerns on this thread, PD your point that common core may be further deemphasizing science (versus Math education) is the most problematic.

    As far as @Blue Galangal’s point about CBL and CC — again the common core doesn’t actually deal with *how* things can be taught, so much as *what needs* to be taught. And while I realize these are not wholly separate issues, there is a lot of leeway for teachers.

    The broader problem is the degree to which teachers are trained to effectively craft CBL lessons.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 0

  75. DrDaveT says:

    @Blue Galangal:

    When we lose kids in science it’s because there’s no clear idea what scientists do, nor is how scientists *think* able to be taught out of a text book.

    For a while, my father was teaching a once-a-week after-school supplemental lab science program at a local elementary school. The kids performed actual physical experiments, collected data, analyzed results, drew inferences. It required enormous amounts of preparation on his part, even working from an allegedly professionally-designed “kit” of lessons. (He had to retool most of them considerably to get something that was both likely to work and worth doing.)

    Of course, the school no longer has funds for a program like that, so it was cancelled…

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 6 Thumb down 0

  76. G.A.Phillips says:

    There has been only one person in this thread who has dismissed others’ arguments because of politics. That’s you buddy. :)

    lol…ok.

    Sigh…

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 1

  77. C. Clavin says:

    I’m not dismissing anyones arguments because of the politics…and full disclaimer: I don’t have kids…never gonna have kids.
    However, as a disinterested party, I find it fascinating that a bi-partisan program initiated by Governors has been morphed by Republicans into a Federal Program designed by Obama to indoctrinate the nations youth…The official RNC position calls it a federal intrusion on states’ rights.
    If you look at the position of politicians it pretty much follows the divide of the Republican civil war. Kooks like JIndal, Pence, Walker, Haley and Perry are all against it. Moderates like Jeb Bush and the Bridge-Tender from NJ are for it. A recent poll by NBC and the WSJ found that 53% of Tea Baggers oppose it and that 59% of the general population are in favor.
    Jindal, oddly enough was for it…until he went to a RedState gathering of the faithful and read the tea-leaves (pun intended)…at which point he quickly changed his mind. Gotta get thru the primaries, right?

    “Let’s face it: centralized planning didn’t work in Russia, it’s not working with our health care system and it won’t work in education.”

    So Common Core is really the same as Obamacare? OK then.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 4 Thumb down 0

  78. C. Clavin says:

    @C. Clavin:
    If Common Core works as well as Obamacare…by definition it will be a success.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  79. Matt Bernius says:

    @C. Clavin:

    that a bi-partisan program initiated by Governors has been morphed by Republicans into a Federal Program designed by Obama to indoctrinate the nations youth…The official RNC position calls it a federal intrusion on states’ rights.

    I don’t see the issue with on the one hand supporting *voluntary* adoption of the Common Core at the State level AND object to it becoming a Federal Mandate. In fact, that’s pretty close to one of Dianera Vitch’s Diane Ravitch’s issues and I’m pretty sure she isn’t a Republican.

    That said, people taking this position should make it clear that the issue is with the Federal Role Out/Mandate, not specifically with Common Core itself.

    The indoctrination stuff is laughable BS. But the federalism aspect has something to it — regardless of whether you agree or disagree with the Federal role out.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 6 Thumb down 0

  80. Just Me says:

    PD Shaw-I think offering algebra to kids who are ready is a good way to differentiate instruction, but pushing it downward for everyone is a mistake.

    One of my daughters and one of my sons took algebra in 7th grade and that daughter is an engineering major at a school with a challenging engineering program. Math is and always was very easy for her. My son also has always had math logic and often amazes me at what he knows (he isn’t very good at helping his friends with their math because he can’t explain well what he sees and does in his head). But I think pushing academics downward for all before there is developmental readiness is more harmful than good and can very well turn kids off from school or certain subjects due to frustration.

    Matt Bernius-I am not a fan of standardized tests for lower levels but I do know a test that they used prior to the move to common core in our district (they went with a different testing system believing it would be a better fit but this testing system is something students and teachers hate in high numbers).

    Our district did a computerized tests (MAP) that wasn’t standardized in that everyone got the exact same questions. It was standardized for scoring. Students would answer a question in a given area and based on whether they got it correct would get either a harder or easier question. The tests were done 2-3 times a year and the results were individualized. Teachers could look at test results and pinpoint areas of weakness in individuals or groups and target them. They could also look at strengths and work out ways to challenge higher performing students so they weren’t bored or doing things they already mastered. As a parent what I liked was that I could look at the graph from year to year and easily see where my children were making progress. It was one of the most parent friendly test reports I have ever seen.

    These tests are still used in school districts so aren’t particularly a common core problem but my point is that I think this style of test does two things-it tests a child’s progress I. Relation to mastery of the goals and can actually be useful in real time for teachers to adjust, re teach the information because MAP test results are immediate (scores can be searched and applied as soon as the test is completed) vs other tests where results are often unavailable for 6 months to a year often too late for a teacher to adjust lesson plans.

    I only blame common core in that it led our district to move to a different system (expense was similar so the budget wasn’t a factor).

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 5 Thumb down 0

  81. Matt Bernius says:

    @Just Me:

    Our district did a computerized tests (MAP) that wasn’t standardized in that everyone got the exact same questions. It was standardized for scoring.

    They make MAP tests for the common core:
    http://www.nwea.org/node/13879

    Built on the same equal-interval measurement scales as our state-aligned tests, Common Core MAP brings continuity to your student data as you make the transition to the Common Core State Standards.

    That’s the thing — there isn’t one particular “test” that everyone takes with Common Core. And, based, on what I know about computer based testing, I don’t see why the Common Core couldn’t use standardized for scoring — but different questions — tests. That’s pretty much the way that everything is moving anyway.

    This tends to get us to part of the problem with a lot of the resistance to common core. Assumptions are made about what terms like “standardized testing” mean. Those assumptions may or may not be correct.

    I only blame common core in that it led our district to move to a different system (expense was similar so the budget wasn’t a factor).

    I suspect there may be more to it than this. Districts sign contracts with testing companies. As noted MAP apparently has CC test packages. So there might have been other decisions driving the switch in programs.

    Again, that doesn’t seem so much to be a Common Core federal issue as a decision made at the *local* level based on the needs and desires of your school district.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 3 Thumb down 0

  82. Just Me says:

    Oh and one thing I think is a positive move with common core is that our district has all grade level subject team meetings (eg every science teacher grade k-12 meets, ELA, math etc) and they work out what should be covered when and especially what information students seem to be missing when they hit say high school biology or American government and why and how they can address it.

    A good example-students were coming to the high school without a working, easy knowledge of writing a research paper with proper cites. This was taught in middle school but not enough for kids to confidently use it in high school. So the social studies teacher did more work with proper writing when her students wrote.

    Some things are easier addressed than others but the whole school all grade team approach seems to be a good result.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 4 Thumb down 0

  83. @Matt Bernius:

    This tends to get us to part of the problem with a lot of the resistance to common core. Assumptions are made about what terms like Standardized testing mean. Those assumptions may or may no be correct.

    Exactly. Here in Alabama there was a last-minute spate of people who wanted to opt-out of standardized testing on Common Core-related objections. The state superintendent said that students were not allowed to opt out, but the governor issued a blanket permission for opting out at the last minute (which cause school-level problems, as my wife observed first hand),

    One of the annoying things about this is that there has been some sort of standardized test annually for decades. Now, however, because there is this tempest in a teapot over “Common Core” some parents want to opt out of testing. I am not even sure they know why they are doing so save that they have heard how awful CC is.

    The nonsensical nature of it is all is rather amazing to behold.

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  84. rudderpedals says:

    Enjoyable Ingesting these excellent comments but I don’t remember why Common Core is around. Was the idea behind CC to create curricula that allows kids and teachers to pass the No Child Left Behind testables?

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 3 Thumb down 0

  85. Deserttrek says:

    common core is bs and should be dumped. ….. a plan by bill gates and the establishment to turn everybody into good little third world workers…… i have seen curriculum and do not think it is good for the Republic.. the math is totally screwy and the text books i have seen whether related or not are anti American and anti intellect ……

    no thanks let bill gates warp his own kids

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  86. Just Me says:

    Matthew Bernius-

    Oh I am sure there were other reasons (one of them very political in that a new superintendent famine with Study Island liked that program and pushed for the switch). There were things you could do with Study Island that were and aren’t available with MAP but in the end students, teachers, and most parents I’ve talked to prefer MAP to Study Island.

    I don’t think it was a “they don’t do Common Core” reasoning although at the time of the switch the superintendent did make the argument. Many of the teachers joke that she must have had money invested in Study Island.

    Personally I like the way MAP is set up and the fact that it is easy to follow and understand.

    I do think Common Core has resulted in a lot of curriculum/program pushing. These companies want to make money and they want your district to drop X company for them and like many things there is high pressure to switch and some districts get suckered into buying a curriculum that isn’t good for them or isn’t what it is being sold to them as.

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  87. Matt Bernius says:

    @Just Me:

    Oh I am sure there were other reasons (one of them very political in that a new superintendent famine with Study Island liked that program and pushed for the switch).

    Exactly. This is precisely the type of stuff that happens as part of the current system. Especially when new Superintendents come to a district. This is *nothing* new and has *nothing* to do with Common Core. It’s just Common Core becomes a convenient scape goat.

    I do think Common Core has resulted in a lot of curriculum/program pushing. These companies want to make money and they want your district to drop X company for them and like many things there is high pressure to switch and some districts get suckered into buying a curriculum that isn’t good for them or isn’t what it is being sold to them as.

    ,This is nothing new. This has been part of the eduction system for YEARS! From textbook salespeople to testing sales folk. The idea that Common Core is somehow the origin of curriculum peddlers (or that these folks didn’t already have a great deal of influence in your district) is simply false.

    Again, this is nothing new and has very little to do with Common Core, beyond the fact that the implementation of Common Core created a hard *reset* point for everyone where they *had* to make new investments. But the specifics of those investments were left to the districts. And even if the districts had not made those decisions immediately, they would have been making most of them within a few years based on where they were in existing contracts and cycles.

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  88. @Matt Bernius: Exactly. What has happened is that some people are discovering some of these for the first time and have a label to attach to it.

    For that matter, the claims of ideological indoctrination or over-selling of sex in the schools is not a new claim, it is just that there is now a label to apply to those fears.

    What I find interesting in the Alabama context is that there are groups opposed to Common Core on ideological grounds but the teachers, many of whom are quite conservative themselves, support CC.

    There is a major disconnect: just like there are a lot of people in AL who are convinced that God is actively attacked in the local public schools even though they probably go to the same church as their kid’s teachers.

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  89. PD Shaw says:

    @rudderpedals: I think its an attempt to nationalize the curriculum and testing regime that No Child Left Behind mandated, but allowed states to create their own standards. The laws haven’t changed, but the states are volunteering with some hidden financial incentives

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  90. Matt Bernius says:

    @rudderpedals:

    Was the idea behind CC to create curricula that allows kids and teachers to pass the No Child Left Behind testables?

    This is always the biggest problem here a lack of basic understanding of the Common Core and its stakes.

    Quick answer: Common Core was designed to create national learning standards (completing an idea started under No Child). In other words, specific skills and knowledge groupings, that every child in the US should theoretically have. Further, it set specific periods for skill acquisition. I.e. that by grade X all students should have Y skills.

    HOWEVER — AND THIS IS IMPORTANT — COMMON CORE HAS NEVER SET CURRICULA.

    From the Common Core website:

    The actual implementation of the Common Core, including how the standards are taught, the curriculum developed, and the materials used to support teachers as they help students reach the standards, is led entirely at the state and local levels.

    http://www.corestandards.org/about-the-standards/frequently-asked-questions/

    Now, its true that standards restrict curricula in that they specify certain teaching parameters and testing methodologies, the fact remains that counter lots of folks arguments, states and districts have a high degree of autonomy in deciding how things will be taught.

    Now whether or not the States or the Districts pass on that autonomy to their teachers is a different issue. But,it’s not a *federal* issue — it’s one that’s on the State or Local level. Which is where everyone says that these issues should be decided in the first place.

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  91. PD Shaw says:

    @Steven L. Taylor: I believe in Chicago the teachers are opposed or want more money because of CC.

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  92. Matt Bernius says:

    @PD Shaw:
    Just to be exact, we need to flip two key words:

    I think its an attempt to nationalize the curriculum standards and testing regime that No Child Left Behind mandated, but allowed states to create their own curriculum.

    I believe in Chicago the teachers are opposed or want more money because of CC.

    This isn’t surprising (or necessarily unwarranted) for a few reasons. The switch-over requires a lot of additional work. Adopting Common Core is going to require a lot of retraining and the development of many new materials. For example, there are very specific rules around the creation of lesson plans. Teachers will have to do this to ensure that their districts remain compliant and still get funding. That’s a lot of additional work on top of their existing jobs.

    Additionally, for lower performing schools, there is going to be a LOT of concern about how the testing mandates are going to be tied to performance. One of the issues I have with testing and the set up of work within Common Core is that it still seems optimized for the expectation that kids have a stable homelike and will be doing homework. Call me cynical, but I’m not sure that will work in low-income school districts any more (if it ever did).

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  93. G.A.Phillips says:

    The Common Core does not create the school work assignments or the lessons. They create standards. Teachers, text books, past teachers–really a whole host of different factors–create the lessons, presentations, and homework.

    So then , the Common Core does not approve the text books and lessons and give teachers training on how to meet it’s standards?

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  94. @G.A.Phillips:

    So then , the Common Core does not approve the text books and lessons and give teachers training on how to meet it’s standards?

    How could a set of standards approve text books and train teachers? Common Core is not a group of people.

    School boards select text books and set curricula. This has not changed. Likewise teacher training is handled at the district level under state supervision.

    For example: everything my wife does is linked to the school where she teaches, which is part of a district, which is governed by the state. While the state adopted the Common Core standards, there is no Common Core entity to report to.

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  95. C. Clavin says:

    @Matt Bernius:

    AND object to it becoming a Federal Mandate.

    It’s a federal mandate?
    I know it’s tied to Race-To-The-Top funding…but is it mandated?

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  96. Matt Bernius says:

    @G.A.Phillips:

    So then , the Common Core does not approve the text books and lessons and give teachers training on how to meet it’s standards?

    Breaking the question into two parts:
    [1] “the Common Core does not approve the text books” – correct. There is not approval/review mechanism in the Common Core, at the Federal Level, for textbooks. Textbook publishers can choose to “align” to common core. However, their is presently no certification body that approves texts.

    In fact, recent research suggests that a number of textbook publishers have simply been putting “common core aligned” stickers on books whose content is *not* aligned with Common Core. If there was a central certification agency this would probably happening less frequently.

    Now, certain States might have implemented their own certification. But again, that’s a State issue, not a federal one. And further, that’s the same way the system currently works. So that’s not a change.

    [2] give teachers training on how to meet it’s standards

    I don’t believe the federal Common Core does any form of training. But this probably happens at the State and local level.

    But the thing is that this happens every time there is a major circular change (and again, cirriculumn is set at the STATE/LOCAL level). Pretending this is something new is false.

    In other words, nothing here is new. It’s the way public schools have done business for decades. And it’s still set at the State and Local level — not the Federal Level.

    Again GA, the reason we find your concerns kooky is that it’s pretty clear that you don’t have enough knowledge of the actual Common Core standards to be able to form an informed opinion of it.

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  97. Matt Bernius says:

    @C. Clavin:

    I know it’s tied to Race-To-The-Top funding…but is it mandated?

    It’s a soft mandate.

    For all intents and purposes, its like setting the drinking age at 21 versus 18. It’s entirely possible for a State to opt out — but the penalty for opting out is so great that it’s all but impossible to do so.

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  98. G.A.Phillips says:
  99. Matt Bernius says:

    @G.A.Phillips:

    Steven L. Taylor, I guess I don’t get it.

    No. You don’t.

    Find a single “seal” of certification on either of those pages. Something that says what they are doing is “approved” by the Common Core (the National Governors Association Center for Best Practices and the Council of Chief State School Officers).

    Again, here’s your comment:

    the Common Core does not approve the text books and lessons and give teachers training on how to meet it’s standards?

    None of that material is being approved by a Federal Agency or the Common Core (National Governors Association Center for Best Practices and the Council of Chief State School Officers) itself.

    Both your links represent Pearson’s (a 3rd party education company) attempt to create its own curricula based on its understanding of the Common Core standard. This is what Pearson has done for YEARS btw. They create curricula (textbooks, lessons plans, etc) and then sell it and training to State and local school districts.

    Again, this is how curricula has worked for at least the last 40 years if not longer.

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  100. @G.A.Phillips: I guess you don’t. See Matt’s comment above.

    I will try to help out as follows: if I make up a set of standards and call them Awesome Standards and in my Awesome Standards all books must mentioned ducks, golf clubs, and dinosaurs then a publishing company could sell books that meet the Awesome Standards if they mentioned ducks, gold clubs, and dinosaurs. That does not mean, however, that some Awesome Standards body approved the book. Heck, the story of Donald Duck goes golfing with Rex from Toy Story may have already been written, but it just so happens to meet Awesome Standards!

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  101. Neil Hudelson says:

    @G.A.Phillips:

    Houghlin is a text book publisher offering, for a nice fee, training they created and marketed to help teachers and schools reorient themselves to CC. This is not “common core” creating or mandating training.

    Pearson is a company that offers continuing training for school administrators and teachers on a variety of subjects, including many regarding Common Core. Again, its not “Common Core” as an organization that’s creating these trainings. This is the private market doing it.

    And neither of those are mandated.

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  102. Matt Bernius says:

    @Steven L. Taylor:

    Awesome Standards all books must mentioned ducks, golf clubs, and dinosaurs then a publishing company could sell books that meet the Awesome Standards if they mentioned ducks, gold clubs, and dinosaurs.

    Actually, in the case of Common Core, it’s worse than that.

    Like “Low Fat” or “Low Calorie”, any publishing company can slap “Common Core Ready!” or “Common Core Aligned!” to any textbook regardless of its contents, because there is no actual approval process.
    See:
    (updated) http://www.npr.org/blogs/ed/2014/06/03/318228023/the-common-core-curriculum-void

    (update: The NPR story is the best *free* resource I could find that references Schmidt’s study of common core math books.)

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  103. wr says:

    @C. Clavin: “However, as a disinterested party”

    I think you are the first person in history to use the word “disinterested” correctly (rather than as “not interested”) on the internet. Thank you!!!

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  104. PD Shaw says:

    @Matt Bernius: Chicago school teachers have the highest compensation of public school system in the country, and given the city and state’s dire finances, any raise will result in more layoffs. I don’t know if those problems can be answered in this thread, but if CC requires so much additional work on the part of teachers in terms of additional training and after-school time, then that’s a pretty big objection right there: unfunded (soft) mandate.

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  105. @Matt Bernius: Good point. I almost used an example along those line (e.g., “low fat”). It reminds me of things like candy being labeled as “low fat” because they were.

    A good recent analog would be the current protein craze.

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  106. @PD Shaw: Just based on my wife’s experience, CC has not created new training requirements (stress on the “requirements” part), but NCLB did (they have to have so many hours of ongoing training over time to maintain certifications).

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  107. wr says:

    @Matt Bernius: “Actually, in the case of Common Core, it’s worse than that. Like “Low Fat” or “Low Calorie”, any publishing company can slap “Common Core Ready!” or “Common Core Aligned!” to any textbook regardless of its contents, because there is no actual approval process.”

    Yes, just like the label “all natural” on various foodstuffs. You can’t call your food “organic” without meeting certain standards because there is now a legal definition of what that means — but “natural” means nothing, so you can slap it on a Big Mac. That’s what it’s like to say “Common Core Ready.”

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  108. Vast Variety says:

    I remember taking the Iowa Test of Basic Skills in kindergarten, that was the early 1980’s.

    The problems I see with education today are not with the standards that are being set, except when religious nuts try to add in their “teach the controversy” bs. The problem I see is in the teachers themselves, they are soft, and not up to task in many cases. In lower level grades they are glorified babysitters. They don’t teach, and there is no real solid evaluation process for teachers. There needs to be an easier way to get rid of bad teachers and the good ones should be getting paid uch much better.

    As a nation and a culture our education priorities are all out of whack. We spend far too much time and money on athletics and not enough of either on academics. When a High School in Texas spends $60 million dollars on a football stadium then someone in authority doesn’t have their head on right.

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  109. Matt Bernius says:

    @PD Shaw:
    To be clear — I’m not advocating for pay increases. I’m simply saying that implementing Common Core does require a significant amount of work for teachers. Whether or not their existing compensation should cover said work is a local issue.

    I don’t know much about the specifics of the Chicago Teacher’s situation — its been a decade since I lived there.

    I don’t know if those problems can be answered in this thread, but if CC requires so much additional work on the part of teachers in terms of additional training and after-school time, then that’s a pretty big objection right there: unfunded (soft) mandate.

    This is a fair issue — but again its generally speaking a *role-out* issue versus a fundamental problem with CC’s construction.

    A point that could be pedagogical/curricular is whether or not its fair to expect students to be able to do all the work necessary to meet the standard.

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  110. grumpy realist says:

    All of this sounds like a tempest in a teapot to me. I grew up in the 1960s-1970s, where it seemed every other week we had some new testing or program inflicted on us. I remember being a guinea pig for at least five different educational programs during my wending through the school system, not counting the absolute shocks to my educational system by years in Japan, France, and Austria.

    In fact, in light of what I went through in other countries, I find the squawking about “centralized education decided by the Feds!” to be hilarious. When I was in France, every single school would have been teaching the same material at the same time in a particular grade. Ditto for Japan. Now THAT”s centralized!

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  111. Tillman says:

    Wow, an actually rather good and informative comment thread over 100 comments. Who’da thunk?

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  112. pylon says:

    “So then , the Common Core does not approve the text books and lessons and give teachers training on how to meet it’s standards?”

    I hope they teach the use of the apostrophe.

    Sorry, I couldn’t resist.

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  113. Matt Bernius says:

    @pylon:
    (Unfortunately for many of us) Pointing out typos is clearly allowed under the TOS.

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  114. Grewgills says:

    @Andre Kenji:

    A classroom full of poor whites in the Appalachia requires completely different solutions than a classroom in the Bronx

    Common Core sets grade level standards, it does not force a particular approach to reaching them. There is no reason that people from Appalachia and the Bronx can’t have the same basic understanding of math concepts and skills at 5th, 8th, or 12th grade.

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  115. Grewgills says:

    @Just Me:
    I was going to come back and write about my objections to CC, but you hit every point I wanted to. The lower grade expectations are in some cases ridiculous. This has been a problem that preceded CC, but I don’t want it institutionalized at a broader level.

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  116. Blue Galangal says:

    @DrDaveT: That’s a thing of beauty. We’re currently evaluating an NSF program designed to introduce CBL to 6th and 7th grade students in a low performing urban district. At the same time, the state is adopting CC standards. The teachers seem to be caught in the middle vis-a-vis budget, time, and even understanding from the school administration and the school board.

    And when the grant money goes away – so will the labs. It’s very disheartening. We know throwing money at, say, chemistry laboratories in high school so the kids can do experiments (more than once! with filter paper they don’t have to tear into smaller pieces!) works. But we also face the perennial issues of school funding and the rise of “non” profit, non-accountable charter schools that exacerbate those same funding issues.

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  117. Blue Galangal says:

    @Matt Bernius:

    As far as @Blue Galangal’s point about CBL and CC — again the common core doesn’t actually deal with *how* things can be taught, so much as *what needs* to be taught. And while I realize these are not wholly separate issues, there is a lot of leeway for teachers.

    The broader problem is the degree to which teachers are trained to effectively craft CBL lessons.

    To that latter point, it’s all about “replicability” now. Ha.

    But I agree, I think – CC is not the problem per se, except in that it’s being used as a convenient receptacle for excuses to further undermine the system of public education. Slap a scary label on it, throw in some woohoo about the UN and federalism, and Michelle Obama telling you what you can eat, and you’ve got a great political football ready to throw.

    Teachers already were being squeezed in terms of timing and testing by NCLB in their ability (or flexibility) in teaching, say, CBL type modules in science classes. One pilot we evaluated was working across several disciplines – social studies/geography/science/math and maybe even English – working on, say, a traffic project. It was effective, test scores were increasing, and the kids loved it. Teachers enjoyed teaching it – some even said that it gave the kids who weren’t academic superstars a chance to think, design, participate, which is another whole issue. But the issue of timing came up again – they had standardized testing at the beginning of the year and then achievement assessments in March, which left basically November and January to do the CBL AND they had administrators and observers in their classrooms – again, even before CC – saying, “this doesn’t look like teaching!” (One teacher told us, “No. It looks like *learning*.”)

    I feel for the teachers, esp. public school teachers. Sure, there are some out there marking time, some who just don’t care, some who are scared to death to set foot in an urban middle school. But then you have teachers who do show up, who do care, who are trying, and they’re held accountable for the results of a science test for kids who came in from an urban elementary school and here the 6th grade teacher is suddenly having to be responsible for all the scientific knowledge this student was supposed to have learned in 4th grade and didn’t.

    This is why CC could be a great thing, if it works. Every 4th grader ought to know, say, the elements of photosynthesis before they go on to 5th grade. At the same time I can see why teachers, who’ve been held to crazy and conflicting and even seemingly impossible standards for years now are all, like, “Eh, whatever. Another crazy idea, it’ll go the way of the last seven.”

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  118. Matt Bernius says:

    @Blue Galangal:

    But the issue of timing came up again – they had standardized testing at the beginning of the year and then achievement assessments in March, which left basically November and January to do the CBL AND they had administrators and observers in their classrooms – again, even before CC – saying, “this doesn’t look like teaching!” (One teacher told us, “No. It looks like *learning*.”)

    This gets to an important point — teachers need supportive administrators. And the continued professionalization of academic administrators — which has led to people getting fast tracked into administration versus spending years teaching first — often has helped create an adversarial environment between the teachers and their administrators.

    The net result is that teachers don’t feel supported (and often are *not* supported).

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  119. grumpy realist says:

    @Matt Bernius: Not just there–they need to be supported by the parents, as well.

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  120. C. Clavin says:

    @Matt Bernius:
    Well you can say the same thing about the Medicaid expansion…and yet some states insist on screwing over their citizens in order to take an ideological stand, no?

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  121. just me says:

    Not sure about implementation in other states or honestly districts in my state but this is ow they transitioned to common core here.

    For year one it was all about subject oriented team meetings. Every month each core subject area met (Eg all science teachers on the first week, all math the second etc) each elementary grade sent a rep for a specific subject area. The biggest complaint that year was the teaching hours lost (due to substitutes). At. These meetings they looked at what was taught, when and what they needed to teach to meet the new goals.

    In year two they met about once a quarter and depending on the subject reviewed curriculum materials and gave input (teachers didn’t choose curriculum but did have some input).

    Now they meet may be twice a year.

    Much of the training/professional development is designed to help them meet standards-like anything some training is more useful than others.

    Also I know the state has some oversight with test results and training requirements although I am unaware of the specifics. The state is switching from the NECAP to a computer based test. Next fall they will use the computer test. Our school did a test run this spring and most kids preferred the computer test to the written but that doesn’t necessarily mean they did better.

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  122. Anonomouse says:

    @Matt Bernius:
    “Dianera Vitch’s issues”
    Spectacular typo. Like Adele Nazeem.

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  123. G.A.Phillips says:

    Thanks for clearing that up for me.

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  124. Matt Bernius says:

    @Anonomouse:

    “Dianera Vitch’s issues”
    Spectacular typo. Like Adele Nazeem.

    Gah! You are totally right — Apologies to Diane Ravitch!

    @G.A.Phillips:

    Thanks for clearing that up for me.

    No problem sir. Thank you for being open to reading our explanations.

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  125. Tyrell says:

    @Just Me: Yes, writing, grammar, and spelling are not taught much . Gone are the days of twenty spelling words a week, learning parts of speech, writing one page essays, and verb conjugations. High school students don’t know a preposition from a metaphor. Most schools don’t even have a spelling book. Common Core was implemented in most states very poorly: hastily, little planning, and scarce input from teachers. States spend a lot of money on it.
    Other thoughts: everything is geared toward multiple choice tests. Most states treat teachers no better than unskilled labor. These are people with years of experience, training, and many have advanced degrees. Yet most of their time is spent on such things as bus duty, directing traffic, lunch duty, supervising dances and carnivals, and fund raising activities. One teacher told me that she spends thirty minutes on most mornings collecting, receipting, and counting money for ice cream and candy sales.
    There is big money in the testing “industry”: pencils, scoring machines, test books, practice books. Imagine the contracts on that.
    Schools today are ran by politicians, bureaucrats, and judges. Most of whom have not worked in a classroom and won’t go in one.

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  126. Neil Hudelson says:

    @Tyrell:

    Yes, writing, grammar, and spelling are not taught much . Gone are the days of twenty spelling words a week, learning parts of speech, writing one page essays, and verb conjugations. High school students don’t know a preposition from a metaphor. Most schools don’t even have a spelling book.

    What schools have you been in? This is patently false.

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  127. @Tyrell: @Neil Hudelson: I have to concur with Neil: while there are areas one could critique (e.g., more writing would be nice), my kids had to do all of the things you mentioned.

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  128. Just Me says:

    Steven-I think it varies.

    Our school district for a while sacrificed writing and grammar to focus on reading and reading comprehension. At some point they recognized that students weren’t able to write-especially formally (they could do more creative type writing).

    The school is currently trying to address this but there are about 6 years of students (current rising 7th to 11th) who are deficient in writing and grammar. There are still teachers who put little emphasis on writing, but most have begun to focus more on this.

    I am amazed at the number of students who have no idea what prepositions or prepositional phrases are. My kids knew them mostly because I told them. I remember learning prepositional phrases in 4th grade. Things are changing but there are a lot of kids who have huge gaps in writing skills because the district didn’t focus on teaching it.

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  129. Just Me says:

    Also, with the move to common core 7th to 12th grades don’t have any spelling as we remember it but it is set up more as vocabulary. Students aren’t asked to spell words correctly but they are given words and have to define it.

    Expanding vocabulary seems like the better goal although when I was in high school we had to spell, define and use the word in a sentence.

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  130. @Just Me: I think the thing is, a lot of this varies. For example:

    Also, with the move to common core 7th to 12th grades don’t have any spelling as we remember it but it is set up more as vocabulary.

    I stopped having spelling tests definitely by 9th grade (and maybe even as early as 7th) so I am not sure this is new, and am especially not sure it is CC specific. I graduated highs school in 1986.

    I am amazed at the number of students who have no idea what prepositions or prepositional phrases are.

    That may, or may not be the fault of the curriculum (i.e., it may or may not be because it is not being taught). I am constantly amazed at things that are in the books I use and that I repeatedly state and discuss and still the students don’t know it.

    But, really, in all of these areas, these are long-term and not CC-specific issues (e.g., students with poor grammar, who write poorly, etc.). Indeed, the reason we keep having curriculum and standards talks is because Johnny don’t reed and spel gud, yes?

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  131. As a side note: I actually prefer an emphasis on vocabulary over spelling, especially since the vagaries of English mean that spelling is often less about rules linked to pronunciation than it is to simple memorization.

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  132. Grewgills says:

    @Steven L. Taylor:
    I would like to see us simplify our spelling like some other countries have done, although that would create its own problems turning more homophones into homonyms.

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  133. @Grewgills: Agreed.

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  134. Tyrell says:

    @Steven L. Taylor: Neil, and Steven: while these may be taught some in the area school districts, they have been de-emphasized, due to the mandate given out some years ago to teachers: “if it is not on the test, don’t teach it”. So spelling, grammar, and writing are given short shrift (“teach it if you have time”) and take a back seat to reading and math. It is the “testing is everything” approach in the schools now a days. Also, this is a generation brought up using spell check. Cursive? A lost art. I hear a lot of people, parents and older folk especially , really get riled up about kids not knowing how to write in cursive.
    Common Core also seems to de-emphasize memorization of multiplication tables, so students get to high school and do not know what 7 x 6 =. Teachers go crazy.

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  135. @Tyrell: I am curious: upon what are you basing your observations?

    And in re: cursive, I would rather they spend time teaching oh, just about anything else. Cursive strikes me as largely a waste of time.

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  136. Tyrell says:

    My observations are working some in classrooms of various grades, helping relatives’ kids with homework, talking to teachers, and what I hear parents saying. If you want to start a lively discussion around here, just mention cursive writing. I agree it is a lost art, along with manual typewriters, rotary dial phones, land line phones (well, almost), parallel parking, and writing a check.

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  137. Just Me says:

    Steven-in my high school we had vocabulary but as part of the vocabulary we learned to spell it, had to define it and use it in a sentence in context (eg “I don’t know how to spell brouhaha” wouldn’t work). Now there is an emphasis on vocabulary but not necessarily how to spell it and often not on how to use it in context. Just knowing what it means passes the test.

    And I can speak pretty specifically to our district in regard to grammar.

    Tyrell is correct in that there was a shift to focusing 90% of instruction time to what was being testing (reading and comprehension and math). Our elementary school dropped science and social studies completely and stopped teaching cursive and didn’t teach much writing beyond penmanship and didn’t touch on grammar. This shift actually came with NCLB so it isn’t a common core issue but my point is that kids in certain grades in our district have huge educational gaps in writing and grammar as well as deficits in science and social studies.

    After complaints from the high school about the lack of writing skills the school shifted some focus back on to writing as well as the elementary school reintroducing science and social studies (although still kind of short shifted).

    But this isn’t really about the standards either but more about the tests and how education has focused on teaching to the test to the point that other things become less important. That is a problem in application and evaluation of the standards and not so much what the standards are.

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  138. @Just Me:

    But this isn’t really about the standards either but more about the tests and how education has focused on teaching to the test to the point that other things become less important. That is a problem in application and evaluation of the standards and not so much what the standards are.

    I agree that this is a very real problem. I likewise am concerned about the overemphasis on testing.

    (But, of course, this is not a new problem).

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  139. Just Me says:

    Steven-before you ask me-I have worked in education for 10 years-6 in lower elementary classrooms mostly working with below grade level kids in reading and math and the past 4 years as a substitute teacher at the mostly middle school level with some high school tossed in. I have long term subbed a few times in science and ELA and Social Studies (no math).

    I also have 4 children who attended the district I work in and who are now college or high school students. I understand well what they’ve been learning and where their gaps are. Having a childbirth autism I also have a pretty good understanding of the SPED process and application from the other end.

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  140. @Just Me: It was pretty clear from earlier in the thread that you had some specific experience with public education. Thanks for the elucidation.

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  141. DrDaveT says:

    @Steven L. Taylor:

    Cursive strikes me as largely a waste of time.

    I’m guessing that genealogy isn’t one of your hobbies? The day is not far off when ordinary folk will have to hire a specialist to read old census books for them.

    Cursive has a couple of advantages. It works even when your battery is dead. It is faster than typing on a phone or tablet (though not as fast as typing at a full keyboard). And, now that the art curriculum has been eliminated from most schools, it would be the closest thing that most kids get to fine-motor skill drills. Those are “use it or lose it” skills — you can’t suddenly become deft as an adult if you never were as a child.

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  142. @DrDaveT: Well, there is printing.

    Seriously: I understand your point. But, the issue is finite time. Is it really worth the the time needed given how little the skill is actually used? (And relative to other skills that are more important).

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  143. (I would note that a large percentage of my students print their handwritten exams, so I just don’t see the big deal).

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  144. DrDaveT says:

    @Steven L. Taylor:

    Well, there is printing.

    Much slower than cursive — there’s a reason it’s from the Latin for ‘running’. Your students who print their exams are wasting a ton of time on the mechanics of writing letters. (Trust me — as someone who generally printed exams because my cursive sucked, I know this.)

    Seriously: I understand your point. But, the issue is finite time. Is it really worth the the time needed given how little the skill is actually used?

    I’m not sure you do understand my point, if you think fine motor skills are rarely used. It’s not just cursive (which I will admit is only useful in limited domains) — it’s the lack of ANY fine-motor training at critical ages.

    Frankly, the substantive knowledge required of a 5th grader does not comprise anything like five entire academic years of content. All of that babysitting time in elementary school could be put to much better use than we currently do, while at the same time reducing stress on the kids. If they come out able to read easily, write easily, do basic arithmetic easily — and wanting to learn — we’ve succeeded. If they don’t come out wanting to learn, it doesn’t matter what they were taught, or even what they know.

    As a tangent, if you’ve never run across R.A. Lafferty’s classic story “Primary Education of the Camiroi“, you really should read it. It’s hilarious, but pointed.

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  145. Grewgills says:

    @DrDaveT:
    I would much rather see art and music returned to schools for fine motor skills than cursive and their additional benefits.

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  146. Just Me says:

    Also-cursive actually may be more beneficial for children on the autism spectrum.

    My son’s cursive was much better than his print (his OT actually taught him cursive not a teacher in the classroom). The problem was that as he aged through elementary his teachers stopped having him use it or encouraged print.

    On the one hand I can see where cursive can be seen as a waste of instruction time, but there is value in developing fine motor skills.

    There is a very good article that has been making the rounds on Facebook about the lack of gross motor movement causing students become much more fidgety and in some cases disruptive (some fidgets aren’t quiet). In the name of putting more information in a child’s brain schools have been cutting time for opportunities for gross motor movement. The same can be said for fine motor movement.

    One interesting thing about having a child on the spectrum is you become very atuned to how important the development of gross and fine motor skills are.

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  147. @Just Me: My oldest in the spectrum and his school did have a cursive class for at least partially these reasons.

    Although I am not sure that that is, in and of itself, a reason to keep it as part of the overall public school curriculum.

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  148. DrDaveT says:

    @Grewgills:

    I would much rather see art and music returned to schools for fine motor skills than cursive and their additional benefits.

    I would love to see that too, especially music — but neither of those really does as much fine motor drill as handwriting.

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